"Bernard and Job"
Written By: Shadowpaw
Remember episodes long ago when Whit, Jack, or Jason would dispense advice over the counter? When Bernard Walton would clean windows and fumble with the technological advances of our world? A time when the adults were forced to learn a new lesson just as important as a lesson the kids needed to learn? An era when Bernard would use new catch phrases that weren't the stupidest things you've heard?
Well, you're in luck. This episode is for the nostalgic fan. It's got all the ingredients of what makes a normal slice of life episode a fun episode to listen to, with enough substance in the plot to satisfy even the most picky of fans. And who doesn't love hearing references to old characters like Fred Holstein, Joe Finneman, or even Sarah Pratchet, who likely won't be reappearing anytime soon. Not to mention Jack's hilarious new addition to the menu called a "LocNonStrawMal"... otherwise known as a "Locally Known Strawberry Malt"? Nathan Hoobler has a knack for reminding listeners that Odyssey is a living and breathing world of it's own, where beyond the radio a place exists and time marches on. It may sound odd, but by paying homage to past episodes, characters, and places, you get the feeling Odyssey isn't a static place... this world is a real world, where the stories we hear are but a small excerpt of a much larger book. It's clear this writer knows Odyssey like the back of his hand... and the episodes are that much richer because of it.
But one element that makes this episode great is something I once took for granted: Jack giving advice to Liz. Now, on the surface that isn't so uncommon... hundreds of episodes deal with one of the wise people in Odyssey giving advice to kids in need. And, I'll be the first to admit that when Jack and Jason first started running the show at Whit's End, I didn't care for either of them. I was brought up on Hal Smith's Whit and wasn't aware what the circumstances were for him leaving the show. But, as I've grown older, I realize what a great addition those two were to the cast. And now, hearing Jack behind the counter of Whit's End, I wish he had never left. I miss that kind gentle voice guiding the children to make the decisions on their own... but still doing what he's supposed to be doing, which in this case, dishing out ice cream and drinks.
Now, we've had a lot of episodes in the past couple of years where some wild and zany things happen and a lesson is learned in a rather goofy way. Those are fun once in a while, but they just don't feel real. It's nice hearing a simple story where people go about their daily lives and nothing extraordinary occurs. You still get that great lesson and an enjoyable episode, but don't wince at things that may make you embarrased to call yourself an AIO fan. Simplicity is different from being boring. You can have a simple episode that is extremely exciting, and you can have a wild and complicated plot that is anything but. This is why I feel many of the slice of life episodes in the past year have been less than stellar: the episodes went over the top in an attempt to make them more enjoyable, which resulted in average plot lines with too many comical characters. Odyssey's success is built on realism. Sure, we have the Imagination Station and the Room of Consequence among other things that just aren't physically possible in our world, but it's the real situations the characters find themselves in that we can relate to.
And this is what this episode pulls off. So what makes this episode simple, yet enjoyable? Liz and Mandy in a fight over Seth. Ok, I personally think it's a stupid fight and Seth is a terrible, awful character... possibly worse than Danny Schmidt and I don't just throw that name around. But it's something that does really happen, girls fighting over a guy (I mean it happened to me all the time :o)), and not something that can easily be resolved. So here we are, several episodes after their big fight and they're still at odds. Liz sees a play of Mandy's she needs to review and thinks it's terrible. But does she write a bad review where people will think she's getting revenge? Or does she write a good review? We can all relate. And thus, we care what will happen to the characters. And for Jared fans, isn't it great to hear him actually doing the right thing for once? He sure has grown as a character... and I don't just mean his voice. But on that note, I certainly feel he fits right in with the cast regardless of how old he sounds. Mandy, Liz and Jared have all been around Odyssey long enough that it's only natural for him to be at that point in his life. I certainly have no issues with him popping his head in every now and then, especially considering how many fans he has.
So how about Bernard and his numerous jobs? Bernard is a great character when used correctly, and I think (besides the B-TV shows of course) that "Bassett Hounds" is the only time he's been used correctly in the past few years. Until now. It was great hearing Bernard not being used only as a device to make people laugh, but as a character who needs to learn a lesson. And if you can't have Eugene giving 'ol cousin Bernie a hard time, than at least you have Bart Rathbone dishing out the insults. When you have characters who have been around as long as these guys have, things just seem to flow so naturally. Great scenes between those two, and Jack and Bernard as well.
So far, this has been a very strong start to the season.