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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mr. Meltsner (Jr.)

Eugene Meltsner--probably Odyssey's most popular character next to Wooton Bassett. Probably because he is so extremely unique. We'd never seen anyone like him before, and haven't seen anyone else like him yet (unless you include Katrina and/or the "Room Full of Eugenes".) He is a know-it-all who can be arrogant, but he has a big heart, and has gone through some big changes throughout the years. Although I wish I could, I won't be able to cover all of the many adventures he has with Bernard and Whit and Connie, but I'll try to hit the biggest highlights.

We first meet Eugene in Connie, Part I, when he is looking for a job for credits at Campbell College. And he shows us his geekiness when one of the first things he does after getting the job is to computerize everything in the shop, even things Whit didn't know could be computerized. He soon gets everything back to normal, but that episode introduced us to aspects of his character that are still going strong after over 20 years.

As the years go by, one of the biggest parts of Eugene's character was his argumentative nature, especially around Connie. That received two kinds of feedback from fans of the show. Most people really liked those parts of the show, when he and Connie would go on and on about ridiculous things, and have to be stopped by Whit. But some people, like I mentioned in Connie's review, didn't like it that Connie, a brand-new Christian, got into so many disputes with Eugene that ended up coming to nothing; and they never seemed to learn! I don't really mind the arguing. I'm often very entertained by it, and it reflects a lot of how my younger brother and I argue some of the time, so I don't think it's necessarily un-Christian.

The first big event in Eugene's life as we know him comes in Truth, Trivia, and 'Trina, when he meets Katrina Shanks at the college library. They immediately hit it off when they realized that they both had heads full of knowledge about the same nerdy things. However, later in the episode, Katrina is annoyed with Eugene's trying to impress her with all his knowledge. And she continues to work on him for the many years to come as their relationship develops. Katrina cuts off the relationship when she becomes a Christian, and realizes that she cannot continue with Eugene as long as he isn't a believer. These events along with many other things said by Whit and Connie lead to Eugene's conversion during the dark Album 25, Darkness Before Dawn. And slowly, he and Katrina get back together. But in Album 28, after Eugene comes back from his trip to the Middle East, they have a big misunderstanding, and Katrina starts seeing a different guy. By the end of the two-part episode, Katrina is going back home to Chicago, and she has said that her heart wants her to be with Eugene, but her head wants her to be with Brandon, but she tells them both that she will not marry them. But by the end of the next album, she is back with Eugene, and they get engaged after she has an accident with a football and a German toddler.

Their marriage takes place under very suspicious circumstances when Katrina's father is on his deathbed after a very sudden struggle with a mystery virus. Eugene believes that his father-in-law's death was a result of his support of Eugene's work at Campbell County Community College. He was working on a top-secret project that involved experimenting with turning brain waves to radio waves. But Eugene, through Armitage, discovers a plot to reverse the process with the ultimate goal to take over the world with mind control. So the night of Mr. Shanks's death, he goes back to the college, steals all the research and puts it on a disc. Then he mails it to Jason Whittaker in Alaska and goes into hiding. The rest of the Novacom saga goes on without him, but later we learn that while the gang at Whit's End is solving that dilemma, Andromeda seeks him out, and tries to give him the same virus as killed Armitage Shanks. It results in Eugene developing amnesia, and he has to return to Odyssey under the cover of darkness, looking for help from Mr. Whittaker. After three very moving episodes that are some of my personal favorites, Eugene's memory is restored, and he and Katrina stay in Odyssey.

Very soon after that escapade, the writers introduce the first few episodes in a fairly long series about Eugene's father, Leonard, called Prisoners of Fear. In these episodes we learn many things about Eugene that were only touched upon in past episodes. His father and mother were archaeologists near the Ashanti tribe in Africa, but were then kidnapped and forced to be slaves to Dalton Kearn, a rival archaeologist. While at the site, both Everett, Eugene's younger brother, and his mother are said to have died in captivity. But Leonard devised an escape plan and has gotten away just three months before Eugene and Katrina's visit. This saga continues for five albums, and we learn that Leonard believes both his sons to be dead, leaving him alone in the world, so he retires to be a homeless man in Connelsville where his father recently died (Last of a Long Line). Throughout Album 47, Leonard is living in hiding from Dalton, and he and Eugene find each other, eventually leading to Leonard's moving in with Eugene and Katrina. In Album 48, Eugene's relationship with his father deepens as they go on an adventure with Whit and Jason to New York to retrieve a crucial video recording from Dalton's house. Throughout these episodes, Leonard confronts Eugene about his religious beliefs, and tries to convince him to trust science, rather than a "mythological God". And Eugene tries to witness to his father and show him that Christianity is not just a superstition. Also in this episode, we find out that Everett did not actually die in Africa, and the family is reunited after Dalton Kearn is convicted and sent to prison. Then at the beginnning of Album 49, we learn a lot more about Leonard and his struggles between archaeology and family. In fact, this struggle was so strong that he almost made his wife abort the child that was to be Eugene. This fact rocks Eugene's world, but when his father falls very ill because of a bad kidney, he decides to undergo the operation to donate his own kidney to his father. This act of sacrifice, especially in light of what has just been revealed about his early intentions, changes Leonard's heart, and he surrenders his life to Christ. And he decides to use his life for the Lord as a missionary to the Ashani tribe.

After this saga was over, the Best Small Town album aired, and Eugene was very involved with getting the town ready for the judges and convincing Mayor Faye that Mr. Whittaker owned the land where Whit's End sits. But in the newest albums, the writers seem to have nothing for Eugene to do. Especially in Album 51, he appears in only a few episodes, and doesn't seem to be doing much of anything anymore. At the beginning of Album 52, in The Mystery of the Clock Tower, he is the main character in a very engaging mystery, but after that, he is not present, or a very small character. I'm hoping that he gets to play a big part in The Green Ring Conspiracy.

So, in summary, Mr. Meltsner Jr. is an amazing character who has grown greatly as he's been on the show, and I look forward to seeing him grow more in the future. Please comment!

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