Ahhh Brat Camp. Where 9 supposedly bratty, definitely troubled teens are sent to Sagewalk, a wilderness experience set in the wintry desert of central Oregon. While at camp for at least 40 days, usually more, they will learn discipline, communication, and hopefully look inside themselves and learn to deal with their emotional issues. Is there conflict? Is there drama? You know it!
Face the Consequences
It’s day 15 out in the scrublands of Oregon, and every single Sagewalk “student” is still defying authority with every single breath. Most notably, problem child Frank and uber liar Jada are learning how to really push the instructors’ buttons. Jada does every single one of her chores with a chip the size of Rhode Island on her shoulder. Little Big Bear won’t have any of that, and clues her into the big picture. All you have to do, Jada, is follow the very simple, very straightforward rules that were set out for you from the beginning. And don’t be giving lip and attitude while you do them. Easy.
Little Big Bear goes over the rules again that morning, so the entire camp knows what the score is. He tells them all that today is the real deal—they are going to be held responsible for their actions and face consequences when their actions go against the rules. So, let me get this straight…it’s day 15, and consequences are just coming into effect? Man, if it took even a day for consequences to be in full effect at my house growing up, I would have run rampant at my house. No, at my house, you felt the consequences of ill-advised actions instantly. Like the time I swore in front of my mom. I had a bar of soap down my throat faster than you can say “Ivory”.
Run, Forrest, Run
Heading out on their morning water run, the group gathers around the water supply depot—a couple of 55 gallon drums of water with spigots somewhere out in their wasteland camp—to fill up their bottles. One of the rules at Sagewalk is the “No Low Talking” rule. Basically, you can’t whisper or talk low with other students. This is to prevent plotting and ganging up on the instructors. This show really IS the exact opposite of Survivor….No one gets voted out, no plotting is allowed, and it’s so freaking cold where they are, everyone is wearing stocking hats and neck gaiters all the time. While the instructors are semi-distracted, Jada tells Lauren under her breath that some of the guys have seen car headlights and heard horns on a road somewhere nearby. She then tells the viewers in a side interview that she has thought about running. She has been thinking about it the whole time, almost talking about it as if it would be some romantic adventure. You see, she wants to grab her backpack in the middle of the night and hitchhike her way to the Oregon airport. Boy, I would have given Jada the benefit of the doubt on her adventure…if only she could have named ONE town in Oregon, which I’m betting she couldn’t do if she were standing in front of the “Welcome to Portland, Oregon” sign at PDX. The girls are busted for low talking, and Glacier tells us that a runner is their biggest concern.
Isaiah is their biggest concern for running away. He has already been continuously pushing his boundaries around the instructors. Little Big Bear even warns the other instructors that the kids are wandering too much…getting further and further out of reach every day. He tells us about the 2 types of runners from his experience. The “spur of the moment” type, who sees an opportunity and leaps, well, runs, at the chance, and the “intelligent planner” type who plots and schemes, and waits until they have some trust from the instructors. As the group convenes around the morning fire, Isaiah asks for permission to go water a bush. He is granted permission, but he must call out his camper number every 3-5 seconds so that the instructors can keep track of him. He walks away as he yells his number again and again. But suddenly, he’s not yelling anymore, and the instructors start yelling to hear his number. Still unable to hear him—since he’s not yelling—Glacier and Boulder jump up quickly and follow Isaiah in the direction he left in. Finally catching up to him at the porta potty Sagewalk has set up for them in the backcountry. Isaiah apologizes, saying he felt sick all of a sudden, and went to vomit in the latrine. Apparently, it was a false alarm—this time.
The Changing of The Guard
All of the students are in bad moods today, and I am beginning to see where the brat in “Brat Camp” comes from. When they are ordered to form a straight line—a straight line, something I learned to do in kindergarten—you can hear one of the campers say “I don’t wanna form a straight line”, in the brattiest voice ever. In order to prevent the kids from manipulating the instructors, Mountain Wind and LBB are heading to town for some rest, while they are being replaced for the time being with some fresh but tough new field instructors. Shimmering Aspen is a hardliner with the kids, and is very strict and assertive. Hunting Fire Shaper is all about the rules. He is tough compared to most of the other instructors, and won’t back down when faced by a student.
At the campfire that night, the new instructors call a group in order to introduce themselves and try to win over the campers. The kids don’t seem very interested, and actually show signs of disrespect for their new leaders. Frank pushes the limits of the new instructors right away by asking if he can snack, right after the group was told “no snacks tonight”. It is exactly what gets Frank heated, and he shows his frustration by angrily packing up his snacks and snapping at the leaders. Fire Shaper confronts Frank about his communication issues, and tells him he needs to relax, and go with the group.
The Cold, Hard Truth
The next morning, at an impromptu group session, Glacier thinks it is time to lay down the facts for the campers. He addresses each camper individually about the likelihood of their being home for Christmas. He tells Jada straight up-“You will not be a movie star”, and that she needs to stop with the drama, as it isn’t working. Lexie was Glacier’s favorite at first impression, but the fire and passion she had needs to come back so she can work out her issues. Isaiah is obviously having troubles at home with his mother, but he needs to take advantage of this opportunity he has to become the leader he can be. Nick is told that it’s nice to hear his voice. Nick has been mostly quiet in the camp, and he needs to be himself and stad up for himself. Derek needs to focus. From reading his journal entries, Glacier thinks Derek is a really bright kid, and he needs to start using those tools and be more vocal. Shawn needs to start looking at why he is here. Frank(as he combs his hair menacingly) is told that he seems to be of two differing personalities…one that seems totally accepted, and one that seems totally hostile. He needs to get it under control. Lauren needs to look inside herself. She needs to understand why she is in this place. Heather is a camper who is under the radar. She needs to face the facts in her life, instead of running from them all the time.
Letters From an Exhibition
The only communication from or with the outside world while at Sagewalk is through handwritten letters. Yeah, it’s a dying art. The campers are required to write at least 1 letter home each week that they are there. The first letters home are known to the instructors as “Rescue Letters”, and they are basically letters from each kid trying to convince their parents to let them come home. The kids tell horror stories—such as Jada, who says the instructors force feed them until they puke, and that she can’t write any more because her hand is broken—in order to make their parents’ second guess their sending of their kids to Sagewalk. All of the parents are shown reading the letters, and all are visibly upset. Obviously, some parents just don’t have the stomach to hear that their kids are not doing well so far at a “brat camp” for troubled teens that they sent them to.
Obviously, at least to me, the instructors and the therapists read every letter that is sent home. After delivering the letters to the parents, the therapists make a weekly follow up call to the parents to allay any fears they may have. Jada’s parents think that her lies are really true. Jada’s mom claims to be a good judge of people, and she gets fooled every time. I’d have to actually believe that you’re not all that good at reading people, Jada’s mom.
Everybody Has a Good Cry
It’s time for semi-weekly therapy again, as the therapists all arrive at camp. Remember, it will be the therapists that decide who gets to go home and when. Flying Eagle meets with Jada, and confronts her about her drug use. She still claims that she doesn’t use cocaine, even though her tox screen showed recent use. She cries and denies her substance abuse to FE, and then decides to change the tack of her lie. Instead, she tells her therapist that she didn’t know she was using coke. Yeah, and that rolled up twenty in your pocket was really for use as a drinking straw! Her tears will get her nowhere with these therapists. Frank always seems confrontational whenever anyone talks to him. Even a gentle person such as Flying Eagle gets Franks neck hairs up. FE thinks that Frank really wants to be close to people, but his upbringing as an only child won’t allow him to do that. Shawn tells Mother Raven that he was diagnosed with situational depression after he found out he was adopted. Shawn has some real abandonment issues, and it is quite obvious from his sessions. Nick, who always acted like the tough guy back at home, is crying in disbelief that his parent’s won’t let him come home. His tough guy exterior totally disappeared when he came to Sagewalk They know how hard this was going to be on Nick, but they believe he will come through with flying colors.
A Hiking We Will Go
It’s the next morning at base camp, and the kids are told to get up and prepare for a hike to another camp. It’s a cold and snowy morning, and the campers are all disgruntled at the thought of a hike through the snow and cold. As the temperature drops, the group stops to fill their water bottles, and finds the water drums frozen. Most of the kids help to get the drums on their side so they can at least get some water in their bottles, but Shawn is refusing to help, claiming that he is helping by carrying a bunch of stuff for the other campers. You see, Shawn doesn’t follow the rules of other people. He doesn’t think he has to follow the rules at home, so why should he here? Fire Shaper doesn’t back down, and convinces Shawn that if he wants water, he better help out.
This hike will be another 7 mile hike on a slight incline to a deserted clearing known as Eagle Camp. As usual during a strenuous hike, emotions come to a head. Shawn, who is carrying more than anyone else yet is still leading the pack on the hike, is getting upset that everyone else is going so slowly. He continually tries to intimidate the others into hiking faster, usually by yelling in his annoyingly whiney voice. Fire Shaper talks with Shawn as they hike and basically points out that you can catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. Perhaps if you calmly made your point that the slower everyone goes, the longer they will be hiking, everyone might pick up the pace a little. Shawn admits in a side interview that he does put up communication barriers with people, mostly because of his fear of not being accepted.
Romance in Bloom? Crush That Flower!
When the group stops for lunch, Frank and Heather start talking with each other while they eat their lunch. Frank seems to be flirting with Heather, and she is digging it. In an aside, Heather tells us how she really likes “bad boys”, and we are treated to a montage of some of her friends pulling knives, and generally laughing at authority. And I wonder aloud again about why her friends aren’t hiking right next to her? At Sagewalk, romance is highly discouraged, since this is supposed to be about dealing with your own individual issues. When the counselors see the flirting start up, they quickly quash it by sending Frank to his “corner” by his stuff.
Isaiah: The Last Contender
The group continues on their hike, and Fire Shaper hangs around Isaiah to get to know him and his issues a little better. Isaiah of course believes he doesn’t belong at Sagewalk (yep, everyone’s innocent in jail). Yeah, he’s got anger issues, but doesn’t everyone? Well, actually, no, Isaiah, we don’t. Isaiah tells FS that he gets in fights just about every day. With the jocks. Even at my most aggressive, even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have gotten in a fight everyday. Not even once a week. FS makes a great point that Isaiah needs to learn to control his temper, especially around those that provoke him.
A “Hellish” Blizzard?
The group has only hiked 3 of their 7 miles today, and already Derek is showing signs of exhaustion. He feels sick, and just looks so downtrodden that Shawn starts to talk with him. Shawn tries to show Derek that the fatigue is really all in his mind, and if he tells himself he’s tired, then he will be. Derek won’t buy into that theory, and starts to hold up the group. Frank thinks Shawn is kind of bullying the tiny Derek, and starts to stand up for Derek and help him out by lightening his load. Still, Derek keeps falling down and holding up the group. Frank is suddenly becoming Derek’s “big brother”. He takes Derek under his wing and helps him stand up whenever he falls down. It is a significant breakthrough for the tough and combative Frank, and the instructors are glad to see it.
The snow has been falling all day, but suddenly it intensifies on the group. This “hellish blizzard” as the voiceover guy calls it(is that really the right word to describe a cold, snowy mess? I mean, if there really are blizzards in hell, I would have to believe the Cubs have won the World Series) blows snow over the group and really lowers the outside temperature. Derek continues to fall over and into the snow. But everyone is now helping him to get up and carry his load. Finally, Derek finds the will to carry on and get this hike over with. He is now hiking faster than the rest of the group, and he leads them all into Eagle Camp.
A Triumphant Group
After the cold hike, the group is ecstatic to be in camp. They all are comparing hiking to what they are each going through in their home and daily lives. The entire group seems to be coming into their own. They all circle up and have a little group hug, and they discuss the fact that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.
The Brats learn to rappel, and face more fears. Lexie faces her emotions about the death of her father, and Isaiah learns how to make one of his favorite things without the use of a lighter.
Stuck in a hellish blizzard? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org