Freeform’s Dead of Summer
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Dharma Bums”
Directed by Michael Schultz
Written by Richard Hatem
* For a review of the previous episode, “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Townie” – click here
At Camp Stillwater in 1970, a young Deb and a young man named Keith obsessed with Jack Kerouac are out in the woods burying a book by the author, so that if they ever need to remember they can just dig up their greatest summer. The episode’s title comes from the Kerouac book, The Dharma Bums.
Back to their present – 1989. Cricket (Amber Coney) is dead, her things are being cleared out. A grown up Deb (Elizabeth Mitchell) counsels everybody, allowing them to call anybody they need to, whatever’s necessary. Poor Cricket’s family is left devastated. As are Amy (Elizabeth Lail), Joel (Eli Goree), Blair (Mark Indelicato), Alex (Ronen Rubinstein), Jessie (Paulina Singer), and Drew (Zelda Williams). But Deb blames herself, for not leaving “the past in the past” and trying to recapture her own glory days.
Then in her cabin, Deb finds Keith (Dylan Neal). He’s turned up after all these years? Something is definitely afoot at Camp Stillwater.
Joel still thinks Holyoke is the culprit responsible for Cricket’s death. The others sceptical, though anything is possible. Blair and Alex look throughan old cellar until they come across an old Ouija board. There’s talk of Santería, Blair’s abuelita was into the whole thing. They all agree to meet back there later to try talking to Cricket beyond the grave.
With Deb, she’s not particularly interested in having Keith around. Although it’s what drove her back to Stillwater that part of her life is over. At least that’s what she feels in the moment.
We flash back to Deb at a Children’s Defence League table outside a building. She reads poetry by Keith, asked by a friend about him. Deb gets a little sass from a lawyer, before being hit on. We see that she’s very passionate, in many ways. Another flashback later, Deb is in a big office, and the lawyer that sassed her is now her man. She went from hippy to big shot lawyer, married to another lawyer.
Finally we’re back to Deputy Garrett Sykes (Alberto Frezza). He’s asking his mother (Janet Kidder) about what his father may have been investigating out at the cabin in the woods. In the cuff link Garrett found, there’s a tiny piece of paper with a file number on it. Something that likely got him killed. After Garrett starts looking he comes across the file. It’s filled with creepy drawings, and an ominous note left by his father to warn anybody that might be following “the trail” like he once did.
Blair gets a bunch of things together – like ginger, chicken blood. Y’know. Santería-type shit. When Deb shows up, he gets a bit pissed. He throws everything in her face, figuratively, and runs off. So we get another look at the old Deb, or the new Deb that came after the old one. She and Keith run into one another. He’s having a rough time financially. Being a poet isn’t proving much for the wallet. Keith wants them to run off and dig up their time capsule. Or really, he just wants to sleep with her. The conflict is clear in her. Perhaps why seeing him again at the camp in ’89 is more thrilling. Yet she’s still conflicted: “I don‘t deserve to be this happy,” she tells him while they dance next to the fire together.
In their cabin, Blair starts the Santería ceremony – he sets out three candles, brings out a white rose, then begins a recitation involving the chicken blood. “Don‘t do this,” Joel begs him quietly. But the boy is determined to contact his friend Cricket in the afterlife.
When nobody feels it’s working, the Ouija board rocks, the fire lights up. And something makes its way inside Amy, possessing her, nearly cracking her back in half. Through Amy, the voice of Cricket speaks to them. Blair weeps for answers. All they get is a cryptic message, someone coming for her. Then it’s Holyoke, possessing Amy to try and kill some more. Blair manages to quell the magic. However, Jessie gets a bit possessed, too. Her hand unwillingly scribbles an eerie Satanic drawing before the pen whips from her fingers, pinning it to the wall. Awesomely creepy stuff. A little while later they all try to figure out what to do next. Joel is optimistic that at least they’ve got a better idea of what’s going on, but there’s still plenty they don’t know.
Deb’s busy getting down in the woods with Keith. They’ve had quite a good reunion. Of course he’s ready to up and take off, which doesn’t feel too good after their romantic night. He basically disappears into the woods.
Simultaneously, Jessie goes to Sykes. He reveals what he’s found so far, about Holyoke, Satanic rituals, all that nasty stuff. He thinks he’s an idiot, that none of it is really happening. Once she hands over the drawing from their seance, this only helps compound all those weird things Garrett’s uncovered so far. When he puts the drawing over the map, there’s a suggestion of where the cult may be operating.
Worse is our flashback to Deb, going up to meet Keith. That’s where she finds him on the floor, drugs in his arm. Next to him a map of where they buried their capsule, the Kerouac book.
It’s now we finally understand that Keith is a ghost, an apparition. He’s there to remind her: “You have to stay here for them.” She wants to go with him, into the darkness of death. The ghost of her old lover reminds her that he’s always there for her. Although he warns of “dark things” on their way, coloured with a slight optimism that she may be able to help the kids under her care now. Another flashback shows us that Keith’s ashes were poured on the grounds of Camp Stillwater. So are there more ghosts to come? And what about Cricket, Blotter, will they turn up somewhere eventually?
In ’89, Deb has decided to take initiative. She admits her own faults, as well as the fact that talking to ghosts isn’t the best way; something she and Blair now fully understand. Deb uses the idea of the time capsule to preserve their memories of Cricket, everybody placing an object in the old box where once Deb and Keith kept their own memories. It’s a beautiful, highly emotional scene. One that also sees Blair and Drew get a bit closer in a sweet way. But everyone gets a chance to try moving on.
Elsewhere in the woods, Sykes and Jessie find a box with an unmentionable item inside. Furthermore, Garrett notices the points of the pentagram with the skull in it from Jessie’s drawing have numbers on it, each corresponding to where Cricket was found, Dave, et cetera. This leads them to the next number where they find a hole seeping blood.
Funny enough, the weird biker Satanists are watching, and even they don’t know who moved their bloody little treats. In another hole, a masked cult member buries what looks like Blotter’s head, or could be any head. The madness is getting madder.
Plus, there’s the next number on the pentagram. Who will meet death next?
A pretty intense, fun episode. I like the Deb storyline, as it sorts of amps up the ghostly aspects of Camp Stillwater more. Excited for the next episode titled “Townie” because I bet, by the name, we’ll get more on Sykes, and hopefully on his father’s connection to the investigation into Holyoke and the Satanist cult.