"The Time Has Come Again"
Written By: Shadowpaw
Greetings and salutations! For the past five years I've received countless emails, private messages, and posts asking when and even if Eugene Meltsner would ever return to Odyssey. Not to mention that every season, the AIOHQ and The Soda Fountain hold an End of Season award ceremony where we ask fans what they would like see to happen in the future. The number one response is always the same: "Bring back Eugene!". Odyssey's resident geek is undoubtedly the most cherished and well-liked character from the town of Odyssey and, at least for myself and several other fans, one of the most memorable characters across any medium of entertainment. Will Ryan's performance is one that has delighted and entertained fans for over a decade and now, after a nearly five year absence, Eugene Meltsner has returned. Adventures in Odyssey just hasn't been Adventures in Odyssey without his complex yet captivating manner of speaking.
And this three part adventure is Focus on the Family's way of bringing him back to not only the fans, but the townsfolk as well. Amazingly, as we learn at the beginning of the second part, Eugene has amnesia and doesn't actually remember his life in Odyssey. Which of course is the premise of the entire trilogy as the gang attempts to reprogram their hero and help him to get his memories back! It was obvious these shows were going to be big when Focus on the Family started promoting them two months in advance, with theories circulating that Novacom could be returning or a similar story arc would be starting up. But what nearly every fan really wanted deep in their hearts came true instead... a shocking revelation at the end of part one when Eugene emerges from the Imagination Station and utters the words "Nocturnal Felicitations."
While that ending came flying out of the blue, it still made sense after hearing part two. And there was so much about part one to like. The mysterious experiments Whit was performing, hearing Tom and Bernard fishing out at Trickle Lake, Connie once again letting her curiosity get the best of her and, of course, hearing Eugene speak real lines for the first time in five years. I also loved the spooky "mirror" sequence where Connie and Bernard had flashbacks to previous episodes which turned out to be but a sample of the flood of flashbacks to come in part three. In fact, quite likely the only fault I can find in part one would be casting Matt Hurwitz as Dr. Foster. Unfortunately, Hurwitz's voice is too familiar to make this "mysterious" Dr. Foster appear all that enigmatic when we've heard his voice in several dozen other shows. And for those who tuned in to The Last Chance Detectives: The Day Ambrosia Stood Still, they will recognize Matt used the same voice for the villain. I've mentioned in past reviews that California has many actors to pick from, and while I understand the team is familiar working with certain actors, I think an "unknown" is always better in cases like this. Otherwise it draws people out of the episode as they wrack their brains trying to remember where they've heard the actor before. I should also mentioned that Dr. Foster's character really didn't go anywhere. He seemed like a major focal point of part one and then went into the background for the other two shows. He didn't even put up a fight when Whit refused to let him use the Imagination Station technology. It just seems like Dr. Foster could have played a more active role in the events that transpired later on, but instead, the focus was shifted entirely unto Eugene and Katrina.
Now, the second part was certainly the weakest of the three. The sequence where Maude calls up Bernard so the gang can fill her in felt so wrong for so many reasons. Obviously Maude was simply a device used by the writers to get listeners up to speed, but it felt so forced and awkward. We couldn't hear her on the other end, which made the scene feel hollow, and it was moments before that Whit insisted everything "stays between us", and yet didn't hesitate in letting the gang share the private details of Eugene's life over the phone. The whole thing felt silly and unnecessary. Why not simply have a scene where Whit sits everyone down and explains what Eugene was doing while in hiding and how he lost his memory? Having input and reactions from the trio would have been far more engaging and dramatic. Instead we get zero reaction from a silent phone and lame attempts at comedy (just how many times is the "Mime Control" line going to be used? It fell flat the first time in "Between You and Me" and it fell flat again here). Considering Eugene's incredibly long absence, I would have liked his "story" to be dealt with a little more seriously and given more air-time than it actually was. As it is, Eugene's absence seemed to be explained away in an incredibly weak scene that felt out of place.
Shortly after, we hear Katrina for the first time in years and discover she's not the same Katrina we used to know and love. You can't fault the new actress for coming into a situation where she has mighty big shoes to fill, but there were moments between Connie and Katrina that seemed fake and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it's a reality we have to live with. At the last minute, Pam Hayden was unable to make the recording sessions, due to some rather unavoidable circumstances, and as result of her being recast in this pivotal show (as well as the season finale), Audrey Wasilewski will be Katrina Meltsner from this point forward. I wish it wasn't the case, but what's done is done.
And then we have Eugene, who thankfully is the same actor we grew up with. Oddly, his scene was the only scene of part two that was actually scripted to feel awkward... whereas the first half of part two just felt that way naturally. I'm extremely happy that Will Ryan hasn't lost his touch and it was a joy to hear him playing his ukulele again! There's just something about his presence that adds a tremendous amount of depth to the show and no fan can argue (at least successfully) that AIO is better without him.
The rest of part two was quite fun, especially with Tom and Bernard trying to "reprogram" him into a plain speaking person. It's too bad it wasn't played out a little bit more, as there's never going to be an opportunity for Eugene to speak like a normal person again. Though that's not necessarily something that needs to be done, but it would have made for any interesting contrast and some comic relief. If some comic relief during this time of crisis is what the writers were going for, something along these lines would have been a lot more entertaining then the Maude scene. But I digress.
Everything seemed to culminate in the finale, which was a direct parallel to "The Time Has Come". Considering how similar the two shows are, it actually seemed to hurt part three in the sense it felt like it a forced attempt to recreate that classic (and favorite amongst many) episode. It didn't help that many of the clips were the same as the ones used in that show, but I can forgive how similar everything was considering it turned out to be that similarity that unlocks Eugene's dormant memories. There's also this comforting feeling knowing that Eugene's saga has been tied up so nicely. Jack, Tom, Connie and Bernard were all present with Eugene when he decided to become a Christian in "The Time Has Come" and here, Whit is the only the one praying with Eugene. The two shows complement each other so well. Besides, there's no denying it was a terrific way to introduce Eugene to fans new and old alike. There's just this warm feeling when you are hearing clips from past shows. It's not only Eugene's history, but our history. Many of us have grown up on AIO and hearing clips of the past are like listening to clips of our own.
Fans everywhere will rejoice that Eugene has returned to the series and AIO can only improve with Will Ryan back in the lineup. As for the Eugene amnesia story line, I (like many fans) would have preferred it to be played out more than it was. I definitely think there was the potential there for maybe several episodes where we check up on Eugene and his struggle to regain his memories, but this three-parter was still entertaining and I think fans will look back on it as a pivotal moment in the series. Welcome back Eugene... we've missed you!