Album 39: Friends, Family, and Countrymen
After the conclusion of the NovaCom saga, AIO knew they needed an album that would get the listeners back into the groove of old time AIO. This album serves that purpose in a good way. It isn't as good as album #35, but it's still a good addition to the AIO collection.
We start of with "Between You and Me", which continues the Connie/Mitch storyline. I was a little shocked at the ending, as most people are apt to think what Connie and Mitch experienced was completely acceptable and normal. The show does fall a little short in my opinion though, it just isn't realistic for anyone, even a fictitious character, to put their feelings on "hold." Connie and Mitch will either have to break up permanently or move on with their relationship.
"Aubrey's Bathrobe" lets us check in with Aubrey's spiritual growth. I think this is a good thing; we haven't had a chance to look into the details of Christian growth for a new Christian in a very long time. I hope AIO continues to have these sorts of episodes that follow Aubrey around and let us see how she's doing. Seth is an interesting addition to the cast; we'll see how he develops in future episodes.
"The Popsicle Kid" is Wooton's first episode in this album. Again, I have trouble liking this character. He really rubs me the wrong way, why does he seem to delight in having a trashy yard? Now I don't believe all Christians should have finely manicured lawns, but if even Bart Rathbone has a problem with the way his yard looks, might that not be reflecting poorly on Christians? The other storyline of this episode was quite good. It almost felt like this episode, with the exception of Wooton, would fit very nicely in albums 1-7. It had a certain 'vintage' feeling to it, which I liked. This episode also introduced some new characters. While the character of Austin seemed a little weak, I'm looking forward to hearing more from Ashley Jenkins and Colby Cabrera.
Despite the implications from the name, "The Toy Man" does not feature Wooton at all. It actually introduces us to the Washington family, the new "central family" of AIO. I like the idea of the Washingtons but I do have some reservations about them. Like Ed, I don't want their lives to be some sort of political statement. This episode also lets us know how Whit is going to handle the new Whit's End in Connellsville.
"For Trying Out Loud" is another Wooton show, which actually isn't too bad, mostly because Edwin is in it. Some of the scenes between him and Wooton are hysterical, almost classic. Wooton isn't near as annoying in this episode as he has been previously, I think mostly because he is used as a comic character, not actually teaching kids things and being held up as a role model. The Liz/Ashley storyline was also very good. The school paper is a good element that can be used in a lot of great ways, as we saw with Lucy so many years ago.
Many fans, myself included, looked forward to "The American Revelation" with a lot of anticipation. It is the first historical show since "Telemachus," way back in album #32. Unfortunately, the episode turned out to be a big disappointment. The first scene is a rather perplexing conversation between Whit and Marvin Washington. Marvin says that the Revolutionary War isn't important to him because he's black and everyone who fought in it was white. Instead of correcting this mindset, Whit sends him off in the new-and-improved Imagination Station to find out that African-Americans DID in fact fight in the Revolutionary War, and therefore Marvin should care about it. I guess it's a good thing the Washingtons aren't of Asian decent or Marvin could still have an excuse for not being interested in the Revolutionary War. I find the underlying point of this episode disturbing, even if the acting, music, sound effects, etc. were all excellent. It did present some interesting historical facts, I just think AIO could have been wiser about the way this issue was handled. Skin color is unimportant and irrelevant to being an American or being interested in American history. Christians especially should know that.
"BTV: Obedience" is the first BTV show on an album since album #32. Most fans agree that it is the best BTV show ever. The team approach was a very good idea, each of the team members wrote a skit (or two) instead of only one member writing the whole show. This gave us more variety to the show and made the overall quality very nice. For fans who don't know when this episode originally aired, Connie and Bernard's remark about Eugene seems out of place and inappropriate, but it wasn't at the time. This episode really should have been included in album 35 but it was glossed over. One major disappointment in this episode was the lack of additional material. There was supposed to be about 5 minutes added back into the episode, including more of the shorties from past seasons. The poetry corner is the only thing that was added for the album release which makes us wonder, what happened to the rest of the material? I think the idea of incorporating the shorties into an actual episode is a good one. I would hate to see them permanently lost. I hope more of them are incorporated into future episodes.
"Relatively Annoying" is another normal slice of life show. It's a good one, told in the same way as "Snow Day". There are a lot of humorous scenes and stuff of that nature, but then the episode turns more serious and Alex discovers that his grandparents are really interesting people, a lesson that is very important in today's society. It's a good show with a good point.
Lastly, "The Pact" is an intriguing mystery. It gets us up to date with Agnes, who is apparently doing a little better than she was last time we heard from her. The acting in this episode is better than average and all of the pieces tie together in a touching and very nice ending. The final scenes were some of the most emotional in the last few years. This episode is made especially for the fans. One gripe about this show: where is the scrapbook that was aired on the broadcast version? It should have been included on the album version.
This album gets us back up to speed with most of our favorite characters and continues most of the storylines started previously. While there are no outstanding episodes on the album, all of them are good. It's a nice "welcome back" to normal Odyssey; I can't wait to see what AIO has in store next.
Favorite Episode: The Pact
Rating: 3 stars
This album comes out May 2003.
The release sketch of this album is shown at right.
the CD from Amazon.
Order the cassette from Amazon.