Total Drama Review Week 11: Basic Straining
By: Justin Cummings
Finally we’ve made it to “Basic Straining!” This episode is one of the most famous in the show’s history, and easily recognizable by casual fans. It also officially starts one of the show’s biggest couples. Most of this discussion will be dedicated to Courtney and Duncan but we’ll digress a little.
So after all this time Courtney finally realizes she likes Duncan. Most people saw this coming a mile away, as far back as “The Sucky Outdoors.” The way the show slowly built up this couple instead of rushing it in one episode, like they do in later seasons, is really quite brilliant. It wasn’t always set in stone that these two would be a couple; fans actually wondered for weeks. When the episode first aired I was shocked they actually went through with it and they had their first kiss.
This is one of those episodes where the challenge takes a backseat to the real plot, with the various aspects just serving to keep Courtney and Duncan’s new relationship moving. All the little things, from Courtney visiting him, to them stealing the food, even Duncan’s skull, was all so cute and perfect for a summer camp romance.
On the flip side we have the culmination of Harold being bullied. I’m divided on this, as is most of the fandom. Some people fall into the camp that Harold did the right thing, or was at least justified, others thought he was completely out of line. In this episode we see the pranks finally push Harold over the edge and so Harold wanting revenge makes sense. Here’s why I fall into the out of line camp though. It was never just Duncan picking on Harold. It was Geoff and DJ just as often. Harold solely focused on Duncan as he was considered the ringleader, but unlike Duncan, Harold broke the rules of the game. He also ended up getting an innocent person kicked off the show, which ultimately could make him worse than Duncan. It’s a sad morality tale where the only person whose hands were clean was the one who paid the price.
Finally, as always, props to Gwen. The girl is a challenge beast in this season, and never really gets recognized for it.
At the end of the day, “Basic Straining” was an unforgettable episode, and one that still affects the franchise to this day.