A clone episode, huh? It’s almost like there are a ton of those. Clones, even.
Cameron Campbell mischievously introduces the campers to a mysteriously used 3D printer, egging the kids on to create whatever they want with it. Everyone makes all sorts of toys and gadgets, except for Nurf, who literally just makes a copy of himself. He initially uses it as a springboard for his emotions, prompting the clone to make his own copy for his emotional needs. The three Nurfs cause havoc as BFFs, and Nurf renounces bullying because of his new support system, who he wishes there were more of.
The clones create dozens of Nurf clones (each more low-quality than the last) and begin to take over the camp. The campers encourage Nurf to bully the Nurfs into submission, but Nurf struggles with his newly found morality. He quickly gets over it, though, and picks on all their insecurities in order to lure them into Neil’s Hadron Collider. The event horizon sucks them in, the gang saves the real Nurf from the same fate, and Cameron thanks the kids for putting their fingerprints all over the 3D printer, so that the firearms he prints can never be traced back to him.
Okay, lets all just get it out of the way: “Ugh, a copy episode.”
No amount of meta joking can take away the fact that nobody likes clone episodes. Even with five-star shows like Gravity Falls tackling the trope, it always inevitably follows the same betrayal formula. It’s no one’s favorite episode, and everyone is sick of it. So, why even do it?
Tradition is the most likely answer. Camp Camp tends to take a satirical route on classic cartoon plot points/pop culture (such as the twists-of-tone with anti-morals at the end of every episode, references like The Shape of Water, etc.) Since Camp Camp is a show that likes to lure people in with its cutesy cartoon vibe, only to take viewers by surprise with its adult humor. Naturally, it would seem that a show like that should have pretty decent practice in taking a trope such as “the copy episode” and doing something unexpected with it. Right?
For the most part, it was pretty standard. The outcome of having to somehow retcon the Nurfs was expected, but Neil’s Hadron Collider was a great tool that allowed all the campers to get involved. The unexpected and heartwarming drama actually came from watching the kids pull Nurf away from the event horizon (which had a shot that seemed lightly reminiscent of Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure, starring Nikki as Pikachu, desperately clinging onto a tree with her teeth.) It’s moments like these that really make the characters feel more interlinked, and less like a hodgepodge of character archetypes.
Side note: the animation upgrades were way more apparent in this episode. Character expressions and movements seemed much more imaginative and fluid (Neil’s starry eyes, for example.) The added details even make the colors within the world pop more, making it feel less mundane. There have definitely been some visible improvements since season one.
On a non-Nurf topic, there’s a sort of concern with David’s character development that needs to be eyed. Where the last season left off, David seemed to be more inclined to stand up to Cameron, but in this episode, he’s afraid of the possibility of Cameron scolding him, and feels the need to explain the kids’ actions to him — as if he was still in charge. It’s not to be forgotten that Cameron is supposed to be answering to David, now — that was made clear by FBI and narrative structure. Are we just taking five steps back with David’s development, now? It was also surprising to see him leave while Nurf was opening up. This could have just been done for comedic effect, but how out-of-character are the writers willing to go for a joke? Or is David really just that Max-y now?
Two pieces of advice, writers: twist these tropes and keep good boys good.