Album 40: Out of Control
For the Fun of It
Odyssey is still trying hard to get back to normal in this album; wrapping up and continuing some of the story lines left over from the Novacom series. There really isn't a major dud in the whole album and the stories become slightly more developed than album #39. AIO is maturing, getting past the Novacom story line and proving that it can have a strong life without any major, life or death story lines. While huge story lines are cool and always good to listen to, normal albums like this should receive a lot of credit for being just that: Normal. Not bad but not earth-shattering either, something most people can really enjoy after multiple listenings without having to hear every episode in the album to make them make sense. Several smaller, more realistic arcs take place in this album as well as a lot of character development. It seems that a few characters got swept under the rug in albums 35-38, being there only to serve a story point. In this album, those characters begin to develop, we learn a lot more about them, and they become a lot more realistic.
Throughout this album, many mentions of past events are made, usually recent ones, such as Novacom. It's always good to hear references to the past that won't confuse new listeners but recognize that AIO is an ongoing series. I think most of the episodes in this album do that quite well.
"For the Fun of It" and "Bassett Hounds" are Wooton's episodes on this album. Some fans, myself included, have such a low opinion of him, that we expect bad episodes if it features the character of Wooton. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed these two episodes. Giving Wooton a family makes him seem a little more understandable. I can't tell if the character actually changed some in these two episodes or if it was just my view of him, but I believe AIO did a good job at fleshing his character out, making him three-dimensional, and for the most part, making most qualms about him disappear. I'm actually looking forward to the next episode about Wooton!
"Room Enough for Two" is an exceptional episode. Never before, as far as I remember, has AIO taken a current political situation and done an episode about it. Of course, years from now people may not remember that the war in Iraq was going on when this episode was aired, and since the producers chose to use a made-up country's name instead of a real one, many won't equate it with that time period. However, it seems obvious that AIO was indeed giving at least a small nod toward the war, not necessarily condoning it or condemning it, but recognizing the fact that it is there, and some listeners may have a family member that is involved in it. I like the character of Mark. He seems mature and very reminiscent of Jerry Whittaker from "Memories of Jerry", a strong older brother with a lot of good advice and a loving relationship with his younger siblings. I hope to hear more from him in the future.
There is one bittersweet episode in this album, though it may not seem so at first. "BTV: Behind the Scenes" seems like a normal, comical, BTV episode, only done from behind the scenes. We don't hear a lot of the skits that are being done for the actual show so it would have been interesting to have the very next episode called "BTV: Unity" and have it be the 'final product' of this show. The production on this episode was great, making it sound like we were actually listening to Alex's tape of his experience. I also really appreciated the theme. Unity is something that is, more often than not, lacking in today's Christian community and, unfortunately, in most Christian organizations and projects. Having worked on live production before, I can understand and relate to the confusion and chaos that goes on behind the scenes. As always, Edwin is hysterical in this episode, as are many of the other characters and situations. The only sad thing about this episode is that it was Alex Jefferson's last appearance on AIO. Alex was a highly popular character, one that had remained for quite sometime, and it's a shame to see him go.
"It's All About Me" continues the Connie/Mitch relationship. Connie's reservations about the FBI are understandable. The show is a clever and comical way of teaching the lesson of receiving credit. Connie's insistence on receiving some of the credit for the show wasn't out of character, and for most people would be a normal desire, so some of the immature things she does as a result are understandable. Jared is also re-introduced to Odyssey, seeming as if he never left. We are also introduced to his younger brother, who was mentioned in an episode or two in the past but never heard from. Trent is a great addition to the cast, seemingly the complete opposite of his brother; they make a hysterical duo.
The mystery show for this album is a little strange, but still a good episode. "The Case of the Disappearing Hortons" follows Mandy and Jared as they try to find out what happened to Liz and her family. It's a fun episode with a good message. It did seem a little far-fetched, though. Who is going to get evicted with no notice and absolutely no time to pack anything? Anyway, it made for a nice mystery and gave us some character development for Jared. While he's matured a little, he still is the same old conspiracy-minded Jared, though in this episode his conspiracies makes a lot of sense and even Mandy admits that they might have merit.
There are two shows with the new central family, the Washingtons on this album. The first, "The Defining Moment", is the weakest episode on the album, though it's not all that bad of an episode. We get some character development for the Washington family and they start to seem like normal people, even if the situations seem more appropriate for the 1980's. I haven't heard of a community baseball team in ages, and I live in a rural part of the US!
The second Washington episode, "Mystery at Tin Flat," is another interesting mystery, even if it is somewhat reminiscent of an old Scooby-Doo episode minus the ghosts. Xavier's character receives the most development in this episode and, after their rocky start, I can accept that the Washingtons are normal people and I can begin to relate to them. Of course no one could ever replace the Barclay family, but they are a much better attempt than the Mulligans or Shepherds.
The album closes with the three-part "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?" which marks the return of June Kendall to the show. Her last episode was so long ago, album #27 to be precise, that it seems a little strange at first to hear from her as if Connie has been living with her all along. I always liked June and Maggie Malloy does a great job with the character. I hope she sticks around for awhile.
While it seems a little early to have some of the Novacom "baddies" return so soon, the way it is handled is nice. The mystery in this episode is on par with some of the classic episodes ("The Perfect Witness", etc.). Kathy Buchanan did a great job. This is also another (seemingly) good ending to the Connie/Mitch story line. While there have been certain episodes in that story line that I liked, I have never been a big fan of it at all, and it's nice to see it end in a good, realistic way. Now maybe Connie can get on with her life?
This story was originally supposed to only be a two-part episode. The AIO team made a very wise choice the week before recording and decided that it should be expanded to a three-part show. I wish this would be done more often, there are dozens of episodes in the last few years that should have been expanded but were cut short because of having to be limited to one or two 25-minute slots. I commend the AIO team for seizing upon one of the times an episode should have been expanded and doing so, especially on such short notice! I believe "The Pact" was also done this way so I hope AIO makes a habit of doing so when needed.
This album is another great album to return us to 'normal' Odyssey. The stories, production quality, and general feel of the whole album are back to where we were with albums 29-32, which is one of my favorite periods of AIO history. It leaves me anxious for the next album!
Favorite Episode: "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?"
Rating: 4 stars
This album came out September 2003.