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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Apologies, But...

the episode titles for Album 54 are out, as of today!!

The "My Apologies" part is about the fact that I still don't have my review of Part 12 of the Green Ring Conspiracy out yet. I've had a very busy Memorial Day weekend, as I suspect some of you have had, so please forgive me. I'll try to get the review out either tomorrow morning or Thursday morning.

But there's huge news! On a brand-new video podcast out today at the Official Podcast website, Brock secretly reveals the episode titles for the entirety of Album 54: Clanging Cymbals and the Meaning of God's Love! He only showed them for a split-second before Bob and Jesse cut him off, but I paused it, and here they are:

1. Wooton Knows Best
2. A Penny Saved
3. The Amazing Loser
4. Anger Mismanagement
5. Forgiving, More or Less
6. You're Two Kind
7. A Penny Earned
8. Never for Nothing
9. Emily the Genius
10. How to Sink a Sub
11. Unbecoming Jay
12. Childish Things

Honestly, to me, some of those seem a little fake, and it's hard to trust Brock sometimes, but I guess they look real enough that those are most likely the genuine titles. I have to admit, I'm not that excited about this album, because so far, since the relaunch, I don't think the issue of "love" has been dealt with all that well. Barrett and Priscilla in When You're Right, You're Right, Michael Butler and Wendy Jennings in The Mystery of the Clock Tower, and Buck and Emily and Wooton and Penny throughout Album 53. So I'm hoping that the AIO team redeems themselves with a more proper view of the sacred subject of love between a male and a female. Maybe they'll use the album to give a better portrayal of true love, whether it's agape love (unconditional love for others as neighbors), storge love (general affection for someone, usually as a family member), philia love (general love between friends--enjoying company), or eros love (romantic love between a male and a female--most specifically the emotional connection of the relationship). I hope they will handle the subject delicately, as it should be handled, and not flippantly, as I fear.

But episodes like #s 2, and 7, which are known to be episodes in the Wooton/Penny saga are giving me concerns. And I'm hoping Unbecoming Jay isn't something even remotely along the lines of the fake (or at least I think it was fake) description it was given for a short amount of time at AIO Wiki. It described Jay as wanting to improve himself for his girlfriend, so Emily and Matthew had to help him out--similar to Changing Rodney, except that episode didn't have a girlfriend in it. I wish AIO would stop putting those kinds of relationships in their shows. I actually liked the Trent and Mandy saga, because their love for each other was portrayed as something special and almost sacred, especially in A Class Reenactment. But in this new season, those kinds of relationships are tossed around with no honor or respect whatsoever, so I'm concerned and not sure what to expect from Album 54.

Please comment and tell me what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this subject!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

...And So It's on the Edge of Its Conclusion...

Boy. This episode was probably one of the best yet. We didn't learn a whole lot, but there was enough new information and action to hold my attention the entire time. When it finished, I couldn't believe it was already done! It's going to be so hard to wait all this week until I can hear Part XII next Saturday. It's so difficult to be patient when I have the means to hear the end of the saga in my possession right in my bedroom where I could pull it off the shelf at any time! But I promised that I would listen to the episodes as they aired and not take advantage of the fact that FOTF has done things differently this time around, so I'm going to do my best to keep that promise. But it's so hard!

I probably could review this episode in a short form, but I got up extra early this morning to get it done today, and I've had a couple of people tell me they really enjoy reading my reviews, so I'm going to do my best to do another long one. Here goes.

This episode begins with Penny and Connie on their planned hike together. But Connie isn't enjoying it very much she was expecting more of a leisurely stroll than a rock-climbing expedition. But Penny encourages her to keep on because it will be worth it when they reach the top and see the view. Connie asks her how she found the area, because she didn't know there was such a place in Odyssey. Penny says that she and some of the class have come up a few times with Dr. Trask to "meditate on the beauty of God." Connie remarks that Dr. Trask must really know his way around the area. That will become important later in the episode. Penny ironically remarks that she's not a big fan of trip like this though. She'd rather go skeet-shooting. I had to look that up. It's a recreational game involving the shooting of clay disks that have been flung into the air. Here's the link to Wikipedia's explanation. I've done something similar called pigeon shooting before. It's pretty fun; I don't know whether I'd rather do it over rock climbing though. Both are moderately fun activities to me. I'm not that outdoorsy of a person.

Anyway, the next scene finds us at Uncle Archie's Carnival where the auction is just starting. A funny-sounding man who's obviously played by Jess Harnell named Hubbard Gutman is the auctioneer. We hear him throughout the rest of the show whenever there's a Whit-Detective Polehaus scene because they keep watch at the auction for the entire episode. By the way, I wanted to mention that I think I trust Polehaus now. I'm done thinking that he's secretly working for the other side. Especially after the events in the last episode and this episode, I don't think there's any way that he's involved with the counterfeiters. In this scene, Polehaus tells Whit that he's been trying to find the Stiletto in the crowd. Whit quickly changes the subject, and asks the detective if he's had anyone see what went on at Trickle Lake Concrete the day before. But Polehaus says it's not his top priority. That pretty much tells us that something big must have happened there, because obviously Whit is smarter than Polehaus, and the pickup truck wouldn't have stopped there for no reason. Plus, Sullivan (Archie Haggler's Goon #1) non-subtly told us last time that the engraving plates were dropped off there.

Well, after that exchange, Whit gets a call from Monty who informs him that Derk Begs (I found out I've been spelling it wrong this whole time.) is finally out of his coma. It feels like it's been forever since that first episode when he was taken to the hospital, but I think it's actually only been two or three days! Monty wants in on the action, so he tells Whit that he's going to go try to get some information out of Derk. Whit tells him to ask about the numbers on the paper in the backpack that matched the ones sent in a text message. Then he started to tell him something about the Stiletto--I would guess he might have mentioned Jason--but the nurse started to come into the room, and all Monty got before hanging up was that the Stiletto is in town. He's able to use that information to threaten Derk later.

Then we hear the little ditty informing us that a Skint-scene is up next. He's preparing to leave to go check on things at the auction and then head over to the compound. He tells Buck his plans, warns him to keep a low profile, and leaves. No sooner has he exited than Ms. appears. She explains how she found him, but he's still surprised--especially when she explains that she's come to rescue him. He strongly hesitates, and she tries to persuade him by telling him that given a chance to get away from Mr. Skint's influence, he'll see what a "good heart" he has. Now, not to pick on her theology, but what's that verse in Jeremiah 17:9? "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Umm...that's pretty straightforward and clear. It's things like this, along with episodes like Opposite Day and When You're Right, You're Right that convince me that Odyssey is slowly moving toward the liberal side of the scale.

Anyway, when Buck argues that life isn't about good hearts or bad hearts, but rather about survival, Katrina responds that life is about the choices you make--you can choose evil or you can choose good. I guess you could say that, but in my Calvinistic point of view, life is about the choices God has made. That gets into the issue of free will vs. God's predestination, and I don't want to get into that, so I won't elaborate. She then implores him to choose God. Again, I'm pretty biased, but doesn't Jesus say, "You did not choose me, but I chose you"? Buck says he doesn't know anything about God, so Katrina tells him to come with her so she can explain it to him. They start to argue because Buck says he can't go, but then Skint appears and says that no, Buck can't go. (I'm sorta glad he popped in, because otherwise, there might have been a scene where Katrina explained "salvation" to Buck, and then I suspect I would have had a lot to complain about. But, unfortunately, Chris had a lot to say at the end of the episode, so I guess I'll have to say something when I get to that.) Mr. Skint had come back for his car keys, and he commands Buck to tie and gag her.

Back at the hospital, Monty goes to visit Derk Begs. After he walks in, Derk expresses his frustration over the fact that Monty double-crossed him. If this was a movie, the exchange probably wouldn't have been G-rated, but I'm glad it stayed that way. :) After they discuss German jazz bands, Monty cuts right to the chase and asks Derk about the numbers. Derk says they should be self-explanatory if the phone's working, so he suspects that Monty is bluffing. He starts to make a deal, but the nurse (who doesn't even care if he's the king of Siam) comes in and orders Monty to return to his room. Monty leaves Derk with the wonderful thought of what the Stiletto might do to him now that he's in town.

Now we go to one of the most pivotal scenes in the episode. Matthew and Emily decide they've collected enough information from the library, and Emily calls Eugene on the walkie-talkie thingamabob. She tells him that she's searched through any instances in Odyssey's past that involved counterfeit money, and then she cross-referenced those dates with national archives. She discovered that pretty much any time the subject popped up, Uncle Archie's Carnival was nearby. (What a surprise!) Matthew discovered a picture taken 20 years before featuring Archie Haggler and Benjamin Trask together, celebrating the beginning of The Consolidated Arts Company. Then comes the surprise (unless you were already expecting it like I was). Matthew went way back in the history of Dr. Trask, and found an article about him from 30 years before when he first came to Odyssey. The kids send the information to Eugene, and when he sees what the professor's occupation was before coming to town, he exclaims, "Unbelievable! Excellent work! I have to contact Mr. Whittaker right away!!"

Thankfully, we aren't kept in suspense for very long, because right in the next scene, we come across Whit telling Eugene to slow down because he can't understand what Eugene's saying. He slows down and tells Whit that the e-mail the kids sent him told him that Benjamin Trask was formerly a template engraver for the U.S. Mint! He was one of their top designers! The only reason he stopped was that he had to retire because the fumes were having a negative effect on his system. Hey, I wonder if that's why his mind has conjured up so much fluffy junk about meditation and God. ;) Eugene lastly counsels Whit to call and warn Connie to tell her that Penny could be involved in the conspiracy along with Dr. Trask.

Back at Trickle Lake, Connie and Penny are climbing down from the "small pile of rocks" remarking about how beautiful the view was. Just as they're starting to discuss the beginning of their business partnership in copying paintings, Connie's cellphone rings. (Even though she's changed the ringtone since A Thankstaking Story, it still might be too rocky for conservative listeners.) We hear Whit tell her to make sure she doesn't react, but that he has important news for her. She walks away from Penny who figures she must have left the cash register open again. We then hear a "WHAT?!" in the background, and Penny remarks, "Oooh. There must have been a lot of money in that drawer. :D

Over at the auction, Whit fills Detective Polehaus in off-air about Dr. Trask. He says he'll send one of his men up to his place. I don't know about you, but he seems awfully calm about the situation. You'd think having figured out the identity of a thirty-year counterfeiter would get him excited. Nope. He's more concerned about what he sees at the carnival. He tells Whit that he's noticed that everyone at the auction is winning equally; no one person is getting the top bid on any of the equipment. It's rigged. Whit deduces that that must be how the counterfeiters conveniently get the money distributed all over the country. But Polehaus assures Whit that the trucks holding the equipment and money won't get past their roadblock. He then makes a comment about the smell of victory. He's really getting out of character here. Usually he's totally suspicious and pessimistic that anything could go right for him, and now that he's at the pivotal point of the whole conspiracy, he sits back and talks about how superior and victorious he feels. Give me a break.

Now we get back to Connie and Penny's hike which, according to Penny, has turned into a "marathon" because Connie is so bent on getting back into town to talk to Whit. And Penny wants to know what in the world Mr. Whittaker could have said to her to get her heading back so quickly. But before Connie can say anything, lo and behold...Wooton pops out from the bushes! Oh joy! Rapture! (More like "Oh, migraine headache!" which I happen to have right now.) While Penny is amazed at the coincidence that Wooton was hiding in the woods just as they were going past, Connie scolds him for scaring them. He reminds her that he was planning a picnic at Montague Point. (I think that name is an allusion to the last name of the character Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. I just read that for Literature this year, and it's usually a word used when referring to a forbidden relationship. [Romeo and Juliet had a forbidden love.] I think it might be a reference to the fact that Wooton and Penny are forbidden by the Bible to have an intimate relationship because Penny isn't a Christian. That's probably a longshot though. But maybe that's why they never make it to Montague Point. Does any of that make sense?) Connie tells Wooton that she forgot about the surprise, but that they need to get back to town.

Penny practically begs Connie to tell her why they're suddenly in such a hurry, so she gives in because she trusts Penny (oh, and we'll assume Wooton too). When Connie finally spills the beans that Penny's mentor might be the crime boss of the whole counterfeiting ring, Penny is shocked and immediately changes her mind and, to the dismay of Wooton, sides with Connie about going back to town. Penny leads them on a shortcut that will take them "to the truth."

*insert Skint music*

But, *gasp*, it's not a Mr. Skint scene! Marvin was wrong! Well, while he did say that it was always there when a Skint scene was coming, he didn't say that whenever it came, a Skint scene was coming. But this is a Buck scene, so it's pretty close. Buck has just finished tying and gagging Katrina, but she has something to say to him. After she promises not to scream, he takes the gag off. She tells him that he still has a choice as to whether or not he's going to follow Skint. She promises to pray for him every day, and then she gives him a talk about Mr. Skint. She tells him that though he may be loyal and that may seem like love, if he really loved Buck, he'd do the right thing. But that strikes a nerve, and Buck tells her that's enough talking for now. I have to commend Buck for his loyalty; even though Skint is doing the wrong thing for him, Buck, I think does love him, and he doesn't want to think of leaving him. But I think he'll eventually come to his senses, and that's when he'll leave Mr. Skint. The question is, what will he do then? He has nothing. That's why I think that it's perfectly plausible that the Meltsners will adopt him. It is a weird idea, and it'd take a lot of getting used to, but what other option is there? I mean, he could just go along with the counterfeiters, but that would contradict everything to which the Katrina-Buck saga seems to be leading. I don't know.

After a commercial break (I'm not sure if it was the first or second one), we get back to Whit and Polehaus where the auction is over and the trucks are leaving. Detective Polehaus is disappointed that he hasn't gotten to see the Stiletto, and Whit nearly ruins things when he says that he's been looking for him all day and he's concerned. But after a double-take by Polehaus, Whit quickly corrects himself, and the detective tells him he might be spending too much time in the sun. Whit changes the subject, drawing the attention to Uncle Archie, who's looking very pleased with himself. Polehaus remarks that he's confused about how they got the money into the trucks. We know from a few episodes ago that the plan was changed because of the Stiletto's suspected treachery, so that's not how the exchange is going to happen. Polehaus then speculates that maybe the trucks are headed to a rendezvous point, but then he chuckles because he "knows" that the roadblocks will get them.

Back in the woods with the three wheels (of which Connie was originally the third, but now, since the tides have changed, of which it seems Wooton has claimed the title), Penny claims they're almost to the place where the truth will be revealed. Judging by the barbed-wire fence, Penny says that they should be right about to Dr. Trask's property. Connie is shocked and frustrated that Penny brought them to his house, but Penny says that they need to get to the bottom of the issue, and this is best way to do it. However, a guard, who has a voice strikingly similar to Mr. Dosh from the Old Ross Compound, comes to them before they enter the property and informs them that this isn't Dr. Trask's house, but rather, they should go down a road over to the other side of the property where they will find him. Unfortunately, Mr. Skint picks that time to walk up, confirming to us that this is the Old Ross Compound and that is Mr. Dosh. He asks Mr. Dosh what the trouble is, and at that moment, Penny decides that she recognizes Skint--even though he's shaved his entire head and face. (She'd know his dreamy blue eyes anywhere!) Mr. Skint acknowledges her then, but at that time, Connie realizes the danger and starts leading the group away. Therefore Skint commands Dosh to get out his weapon and take them to the bunker and lock them up. He, not unlike Wooton, doesn't trust awfully strange coincidences. ;) By the way, I absolutely loved Phil Lollar's (Dosh) "You'll see" at the end of the scene.

Over at another yelling-detective scene, Polehaus is radioing Martin for a progress report on the blockage of the trucks. He redeems himself from any doubt I had that his heart is in this chase, because as soon as Martin describes the situation of eight trucks going in separate directions, Polehaus yells nearly at the top of his lungs to pull them over. However, the truck-drivers have lost their minds and are speeding on. But have they lost their minds, or are they quickly headed to the rendezvous at the Old Ross Compound. I'm going for the latter.

At the compound, Wooton, Penny, and Connie are locked in the bunker (reminding me of The Other Side of the Glass) which, relievingly, has both a light, and more than enough space for the picnic blanket. Wooton starts getting out the food, while Connie desperately tries to figure out how to escape. Okay, maybe not desperately, but she's pretty stressed. Wooton says that even though there's only one way out, there'll be another chance to leave because the bad guys will have to come back for all the boxes of money. And of course, the boxes have to be full of money, because who would go to all that trouble to package Cabbage Patch Dolls? Connie rips open a box and finds that it is full of money, and she concludes that adding that with all the other boxes in the bunker, there must be millions of bills! Penny remarks, "How could this happen?" But of course she doesn't mean, how could she be duped into helping Trask with this scheme--she means, how could she lose her taste for raspberry soda! *sighs* Seriously. To quote Marvin, "DIE...PENNY! DIE!"

So they're stuck. But maybe not! Wooton exclaims, "This is a job for Captain Absolutely!" But Connie quickly shoots back, "No it's not." Man! I totally believed him. I thought maybe the counterfeiters were going to come in and maybe he'd do some kung fu and make it out and tell the police and apprehend them all. But, then again, that'd be totally unrealistic and...unrealistic, so I'm glad it didn't happen that way. Instead, Skint barges in with some goons and they begin taking out the boxes. Dr. Trask then comes in and, after Wooton and he have a nice little exchange about the wonderful Montague Point, Penny starts into him. First she asks how he could do all this with all of his classes and talks about the beauty of God; they were just lies! But he says that everything he taught he believes is true. (That's awfully comforting.) So she digs further, making her first very good point of the season, saying that he didn't live it; none of that talk is any good if he doesn't live it. Dr. Trask commends her for making that point, and says he'll consider it...while he's living off of his millions of dollars. Finally we see the bad side of the professor. That seemed so out of character, but I guess the real time he was out of character were any of the times he was acting innocent. Then Penny takes the opportunity to make a very thoughtful observation: "You are not a very good person at all!" "Oh, good, bad," says Dr. Trask, "they're all a state of mind." Yeah, sure. Depravity of man--right there. Even the worst of criminals can't admit that they're bad. Anyway, the episode ends with Dr. Trask letting them know that they aren't getting away; they're getting moved with the money--and they're not using the roads! *Dun-dun-dun*

Okay, that's it! Well, not exactly. Chris said some interesting things during the ending segment about how we receive "salvation." (I put it in quotations because I don't believe doing what she said gets us true salvation.) I won't bore you with all that I think about what she said, because I'd probably spark a theological debate, which I don't want to do, so I'll just say I don't agree with her, and that's that. (Though you're perfectly welcome to ask me about it; I just don't feel like writing anything else now.)

Thank you for reading the review! I know it must take a long time, so I appreciate those of you who do. Please comment!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

...And So It Nears the Finish Line...

This episode was a little disappointing. We didn't learn much of anything new at all, but it was more that the good characters were really frustrated over the fact that they weren't getting anywhere with the mystery. And while they are still trying to fit the pieces together, the bad guys are getting ready for the big operation.

I'm going to do the review much the same way I did last week, because if I didn't, I'm not sure there would be much for me to say. This episode didn't really have much to it, so I'm going to try to go through it scene by scene, without making it too incredibly long.

The episode starts out with Detective Polehaus frustrated with Buck because he refused to give any information about the counterfeiting ring. He claims not to know anything about counterfeit money, the green ring, what was on the AppleBerry, or whom it was that knocked out and captured Monty. But my question is, what else did he think all of the printing equipment that he was around so often was? And back when he was first commissioned by Mr. Skint to get the phone, Mr. Skint made it seem like Buck knew what was on the phone and how bad it would be if it got into the wrong hands. I believe him that he doesn't know about Monty, but Polehaus obviously isn't going to believe him since his DNA was found at the spot. He's convinced that Buck may look like a kid, but he's actually a criminal genius who's playing a big part in the conspiracy. Then he takes a shot at Buck's relationship with Mr. Skint, saying that it doesn't seem very nice of Skint to leave him like this. But we find out later that Buck knew all along that Skint hadn't abandoned him, and that he was set to meet up with him ASAP.

But because Polehaus thinks he's gotten an emotion out of Buck, since he suddenly goes quiet, he tries to retrieve some information about the compound and the truck that showed up. Buck doesn't give him anything though; he just says it was probably taking stuff to the carnival from their big storage area. Polehaus says Dosh showed him that area, and there wasn't anything there. Buck is at a loss for words and says he doesn't know anything about it. I'm not sure what to believe about what Buck knows. His actor does a good job of hiding whether or not he's telling the truth or not. But from what he says to Mr. Skint later on, it seems that he knows more than he was letting on. Something still tells me though that he doesn't know much about the counterfeiting ring.

Anyway, Katrina saves Buck from having to give Polehaus a real answer because she's playing Ms. Over-Sympathetic again, concerned that Polehaus is questioning him too long and hard. Apparently, as a minor citizen, Buck has rights to having a guardian or a lawyer or somebody with him if the questioning goes on for too long, so Katrina's concerned that this conversation might not hold up in court because Polehaus didn't obey the law. I guess it's a legitimate concern, but since when has Katrina been so interested in the law, and why is she still being so sympathetic toward an obvious criminal. I know this is supposed to go along with the story about how the people at Whit's End are being so compassionate and loving to Buck, but I think this takes it a little too far. We should be loving, but not so much so that a criminal might get out of a punishment. Surprisingly, however, the "very compassionate" Detective Polehaus decides to let Buck go. But compassionate nothing. He just wants to get the boy headed back to Mr. Skint so the policemen can follow him.

Then there's one more little exchange between Katrina and the detective right before he leaves. Polehaus warns her, "Look, this is not a kid you wanna get attached to." After he leaves, she says under her breath, "No, of course not." I'm not sure, by the tone of her voice, if she meant that sarcastically, or if she was actually considering taking his advice for once. I think she's really torn emotionally over him, because she genuinely cares about him, but she's disappointed that he's gotten himself into this mess. I don't remember if I've mentioned this before, but my theory is that when all this is over, Buck is going to be found not guilty of knowing much about the conspiracy, and then he's going to need a guardian because Skint is in jail. So I think that Eugene and Katrina are going to adopt him. That's just a thought--one that doesn't have much evidence behind it--but I think it would be interesting, to say the least. I've always thought Eugene and Katrina should have a kid, and I think it works out better for them to adopt one than for them to have a biological one.

Anyway, the scene finally changes, and we go to the basement of Whit's End where Whit is coming down to check on Eugene, who's working on the broken AppleBerry. He says that although the phones are supposedly known for their durability, he's not getting anywhere very fast, so they won't be getting any information out of it for now. Whit tells him that Detective Polehaus is counting on him to be the one to fix the phone, so if they're going to get anything from it, it's up to him. Whit goes to leave for the hospital, and you can tell by the change in music that Eugene's about to start the short, spiritual conversation of the episode. He stops Mr. Whittaker to tell him that he has a strong sense that they're losing this battle to the bad guys. Whit, of course, reassures him that he's sure there are key pieces to the puzzle that they just haven't found yet, and God knows where they are. This implies the idea that if it's in God's will for them to solve the mystery, He will give them help in just the way He's always planned to. This is a timeless message that all of us need to hear at some point in our lives. I know I've had my share of trying times--Marvin's going through one right now--and I'm sure that all of you readers have known days where you feel like the devil is winning the war for your soul. All we can do when we're in those situations is trust that God has us in His hands and he won't ever let us go. He knows what we're going through, and He, if you are truly His, is working everything together for your greater good, and for His glory. So this story actually had a pretty good spiritual application, if you elaborate on it like that.

Well, now we switch gears and head over to a story that we haven't heard much from recently. Connie is visiting Wooton at what sounds like late at night while all the other stuff is going on. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this either, but the chemistry between Connie and Wooton has always been amazing. Whenever Connie's bothered about something, Wooton (unless she goes to Whit) has always been able to help her get in a good mood. Penny's entrance into the picture has almost totally destroyed that connection, and now the Connie-Wooton scenes have become uncomfortable and...just...out of character for both of them, I guess. With all of the episodes that they've been in together, I think they'd make a great pair--much better than Penny and Wooton. Yeesh. Anyway, after a somewhat humorous, but unneeded and distracting exchange about Wooton's doorbell, the two of them sit down on Wooton's porch swing to talk.

Connie starts to try to tell Wooton what I assume was going to be her advice about not getting too close with Penny because of her strange beliefs, but the fingernailless, nervous wreck-Wooton assumes that she must be bringing the bad news that Penny doesn't like him the same way he likes her. With the subject slightly changed, Connie reassures him that everything's fine, and Penny and she are just going on a hike together. Then she tries to get back to her original reason for coming, but Wooton takes the ball and runs with it, inviting himself to their outing and making plans for an all-out surprise picnic. Connie tries to tell Wooton that she's concerned, probably because 1. she'll end up as a third wheel again, and 2. she still hasn't talked to him about being careful with Penny because of her strange "Christianity." But Wooton, in his always-jovial food-based mind, thinks she must be concerned about what food to bring. She tries one more time, but there's no getting a word in when the smitten Wooton has a chance to be with Penny. *sighs*

After a commercial break, we finally get back to Buck and Polehaus. Polehaus having set up a meeting between himself and Mr. Skint the next morning, Buck is free to go back to the compound, and he's going to be escorted by a police officer. After he leaves, Katrina expresses her doubt that they'll show up for the meeting the next morning. Polehaus agrees, adding that he doubts Buck will even go home in the police car. So he's set up agents all over the area who he's sure will follow Buck wherever he may run off to. Katrina asks him if he's sure about that--Buck's a shrewd young man, she says. But Polehaus is counting on his team of experts to be able to track a fourteen-year-old. Oh...what's that old, biblical Proverb? Pride comes before a fall? :D I knew this next part was coming.

Polehaus slams his fist down as the next scene cuts in. Of course, his men call and tell him that they've lost Buck. He yells at them to find him, hangs up, and mutters that he's "got the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and the Keystone Cops all rolled up into one unit!" Katrina practically tells him that she told him so, and then Whit appears out of nowhere, probably having just come up from the basement and states the obvious: that Buck is probably headed back to Mr. Skint. But no one knows where Skint is, so that's no help. Polehaus storms out of Whit's End ranting about his bad fortune and screaming for Martin.

Eugene enters from the basement, and is surprised to see Katrina still there. The two have a husband-wife chat, where Katrina admits to Eugene that she has to prove that Buck is a willing accomplice to Skint before she believes it. She says she'll find him one way or another, and then she's really going to get to the bottom of all this.

Marvin mentioned somewhere that he thinks Mr. Skint has his own music that always starts the scenes that he's in. Having listened to the first six episodes of Album 53 again now that I have the CDs, I agree. We hear that little ditty as we go to the next scene where, sure enough, Buck meets up with Mr. Skint at Trickle Lake. Buck updates him about what happened in Whit's office. He's proud of himself (which means he inserts his annoying southern laugh into every other sentence) for not letting any new information out, and for getting away without being followed. Skint is very happy with him. And again, I find it hard to believe that Buck could know nothing about what Skint is up to, because, especially in this scene, they seem to have a very close relationship. Mr. Skint doesn't at all seem to be involving him in this by force, so I don't see how Buck could end up being innocent of anything.

Well, now, to Skint's surprise, Uncle Archie walks up, commenting on Skint's use of the word excellent to describe the current situation. I really like the chemistry between the two of them in this scene, and I think it's great to finally see Skint as not the one in ultimate control of everything. Anyway, Archie is concerned that Skint is endangering the success of the next morning's operation with his incompetence, but Skint assures him that everything is going according to plan. And I think he's right--so far anyway. The folks at Whit's End are at a dead end. They have absolutely nothing to go on currently. Archie isn't satisfied though, because, he says, the benefactor is not happy. But Mr. Skint is sure that by the end of tomorrow, they'll all be laughing about any doubts they had that the maneuver would go off without hitch. Buck adds, "Yeah, all the way to the bank!" (Again, I really think he knows more than anyone thinks.) Archie warns that the alternative is, of course, crying all the way to jail. He then tells Skint to clean himself up for the big day tomorrow, to ditch Archie's pickup truck that they've been using, and not to go back to the compound, but rather to sleep at the carnival. Finally, he leaves them with one final direction: Get rid of Whittaker and Polehaus--by whatever means necessary!

The next morning, Whit goes down to check on Eugene, who's gotten an early start in the basement again. Eugene reports that he's retrieved a few bits of information, but the one thing that caught his attention was a text message consisting of a string of numbers that looked familiar to him. He remembered that they were on the piece of paper they found in the backpack with the money. (Does anyone else remember that, because I don't!) Whit acknowledges that it's the best lead they have, so they should see if it leads somewhere.

But then Matthew and Emily come in, and Emily's whining about how she missed all the excitement yesterday. Matthew shoots back at her that it was her fault, because she didn't want to be embarrassed. Then Emily shoots back that he's the one who--Whit interrupts them, and gets back to what he was saying when they came in. He was thinking that since the counterfeiters have been working out of this area for so long. They need to figure out the identity of the man (I assume the "benefactor") who's been in town all along making the counterfeit money. He says that there should probably be a little something in newspaper archives at the library, and of course the kids immediately volunteer.

While Eugene goes to get his and Mr. Whittaker's new walkie-talkie/earphone invention that should help them stay in contact, Emily asks Whit if he really thinks Buck is in trouble because she's worried about him. She wants to believe that she can trust him. Whit says that he doesn't know either way, but that he understands how she must feel. She opens up about how horrible she feels about how he used her to accomplish his evil purposes. (Anybody thinking of Richard Maxwell?) I hadn't really thought about how she would be feeling after finding out what he did. Whit advises that they should pray for Buck, and for themselves--that God would give them the grace to forgive him.

Then the scene skips over to Mr. Skint who's trying to wake Buck up. Buck hesitates, and then nearly jumps out of his skin when he opens his eyes and sees Skint. He's shaved, and cut his hair, and...he's wearing a tie!! After calming down, Buck reveals his thoughts to Skint about what Archie said the night before. He doesn't like the idea of hurting Mr. Whittaker or any of the other "good people" at Whit's End. But Mr. Skint tells him that they need to be looking out for themselves, not caring about anyone else. Buck says that if it comes to hurting anyone, he won't do it. Skint returns, "Not even to protect me?" Then Buck does one of the smartest things he's done all season: He turns that back toward Mr. Skint and asks if he would have come to help him if he'd gotten caught by the police the night before when he ran. But Skint dodges the question and changes the subject--he reminds Buck that everything they've worked for gets paid off today.

The end of the second commercial break brings us to Detective Polehaus giving his team a synopsis of the day's coming events. He delivers a speech reminiscent of an army general addressing his soldiers before a battle, directing them to watch every bit of activity at the carnival, because it's usually on the big day that the bad guys get careless. He ends telling them that they must report anything and everything--no matter how unusual, and then the team heads out. Meanwhile, Whit comes in to tell Polehaus about something he found in his office.

The scene switches over to the office, where Whit tells the detective about the numbers that Eugene found in the AppleBerry which match the ones on the sheet that was found in the backpack. Then he advises Polehaus to check the traffic cameras around town to see where the pickup truck went. But Polehaus tells Whit that he's a step ahead for once, and Martin's on the job right now. As if like clockwork, Martin walks in the door and shares what he's found--the truck went into the city from the compound, going to first, the Burger World Drive-In, and then to Trickle Lake Concrete, before finally ending up at the carnival. But there's one more very interesting piece of information that could finally turn the whole case around--the Old Ross Compound is owned by The Consolidated Arts Company, which also owns Uncle Archie's Carnival. I knew Dr. Trask had to be involved! What else could it mean? Maybe Whit and the gang will finally get to the bottom of this. The scene ends with Whit telling Polehaus he'll have his "Crack Investigative Team" check out the Consolidated Arts Company.

Of course, that team is Matthew and Emily at the library, which is where we go next. It's a short little scene where they make contact with Eugene via their walkie-talkie-earphone thingies, and they tell him what they'll be looking for in the database. Eugene calls Emily a super-sleuth, and Emily is surprised. After they sign off, Emily asks Matthew about it, and he *gasp* confirms the compliment! And he did it in an almost flirty way, because as soon as she tried to pursue it, he changed the subject. Hmm... I'm not sure if I should be happy with this or not. At least Emily seems to have let go of Buck!

Then we finally get back to the Stiletto storyline. In this last scene, Jason comes to Archie in what I assume to be his office at the carnival. Archie had apparently sent him a message that he wanted to talk to him. So Jason came, and now Archie is breaking the news to him that his services are no longer needed--of course, this is because somehow Jason's cover has been blown. At this point, Archie's goons come in and, at his command, start tying Jason up with duct tape. Jason tries to fight, but stops when Archie points six "good reasons" at him. :) He tells Jason that Mr. Groat (or Grote, as Marvin spells it) wants to meet with him, and he's not happy. My guess is that this is when Jason is going to be disposed of. I still can't figure out who could have blown his cover though. But it doesn't help anything that Jason is so ignorant of anything. Maybe that's what showed him to be phony to begin with.

The last bit of interesting information in this episode is given by one of the goons taking Jason out the door. Archie asked if he took care of the business, and he basically says that he took the engraving plates to TLC--which I assume to be Trickle Lake Concrete. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next episode. I can tell it's going to be exciting!

Okay, so I guess that wasn't a very short review at all. I actually think it was quite a bit longer than last week's. Oh well. Hopefully you read the majority of it. I'll try to get the review of Part 11 out earlier than I did with this episode. Thank you for reading! Please comment!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Penny Saved

I've picked up around different Odyssey sites that a new title has been released for Album 54: Clanging Cymbals and the Meaning of God's Love. The episode, which I think is going to be three parts, is called A Penny Saved.

It will deal with the Wooton-Penny-Connie storyline started in Album 53. People speculate that it will probably feature the clearing-up of Penny's bad New-Age Pan-En-Theistic theology. Who knows? Maybe she'll become a Christian. But I really don't think, even if she does, that I want her to remain a regular on the show. That is, unless she becomes way less annoying. She and Wooton, however similar they may be, don't fit together, and she's doing bad things to Wooton's character rather than improving him like a spouse is supposed to.

Anyway. That's all I have for now. I still haven't gotten to that review yet. I'm sorry. I'll do my best to get it out tomorrow. But I'm nearing the end of the schoolyear, and I have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Look What I Got!

Well, I didn't get it, again, but my younger brother just did for his birthday!

I promise I won't listen to Parts 11 or 12 before they air on the radio, although I'm not sure my siblings are in agreement with me. But I gave my word when the album was first available that I wouldn't take advantage of that, so I'm sticking to it.

Sorry I still haven't gotten a review out. It was a pretty uneventful episode, so I'm working on going through every scene again. But that takes a lot of time, and I've been pretty busy, so I decided to post this as something for you guys to enjoy while you're waiting. I'll do my best to get the review out either tomorrow or probably Thursday at the latest. I don't want to have to combine my reviews of Parts 10 and 11, but unfortunately, it may come to that.

Thank you for being faithful readers! I greatly appreciate it!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

...And So It Approaches Its Termination...

This was another pretty good episode. It didn't seem as long as I would have liked it to be, but it did have quite a bit of new information, and things really are starting to come together. I'm going to take this review in the direction that Marvin usually does--going through each scene--because every part was important, and I want to make sure I don't forget to mention anything.

It's so good to have Jason back! He's one of my favorite characters, and Townsend Coleman does an amazing job with his voice. Just having Jason in an episode makes everything seem as if it was thrown into action/adventure/mystery mode. It's great to have someone on the inside whom Whit can talk to to get information about the counterfeiters.

If you haven't figured out that you shouldn't like Buck yet, this next scene should convince you. He is really bad at play-acting. "What's the password?" "I'm not going to tell you!" That's like the universally understood way to tell someone that you don't know the password. It's again like he's trying to make himself look as guilty as possible. And when Matthew and Eugene get too "nosy," he whines that he thought this town was all about "love and trust and friendship." He's really disappointed. :P But I love that the other guys finally start to see through it. Eugene came back at that with exactly what I wanted to say: "Love, trust, and friendship aren't the same as blind stupidity." :D But then the computer bleeps that it has found the password, and we finally get to see to whom it belongs! (Well, I guess we already know, but we can be excited for the characters who finally get to find out!)

Now we skip back to Jason and Whit for one of the most revealing scenes so far in the season. We learn that years ago, the real Stiletto was captured by the police, and the government decided to take advantage of the fact that no one knew who he was to turn it into an undercover operation. Jason discovered this while vacationing in Hong Kong, where he ran into a group of terrorists who wanted to destroy America through technological and financial attacks. He took the cover of the Stiletto, and used that cover to meet with the ringleader of that espionage group, Mr. Groat. Jason told him that he was bringing together a ring of counterfeiters across America and was going to distribute tons of fake money. He does that via Uncle Archie's Carnival, which travels all over the country, and on the last day in a city, it auctions off equipment, and then transports the money in the same trucks as the equipment.

Then we learn that Agent Tanner is trying to work on the inside, but she started late, doesn't know much, and just wants a piece of the fortune. However, Jason may think that she really is a rogue agent, but she might actually still be on the good side, but she's really good at faking it. Or she could be lying to Whit, and she really is just in for the money, and she's working against the good guys. But it turns out that both she and Monty were making Jason's job a lot harder, so he has put both of them out of the picture for now. Whit wonders how Jason keeps everything straight without getting "lost in this labyrinth of lies." But Jason argues that if he doesn't do it, who will? Whit says that they'll have to talk about that some other time. That made me smile. Whit is still Jason's dad, so he can tell him what to do. The chemistry between the two actors actually strikes me as pretty decent. I wouldn't have thought that Andre would have done that great of a job talking to Jason as his father, but he was actually pretty good. I look forward to seeing them together more in the episodes and seasons to come.

The next scene is one of the most disturbing of the season. First, Penny discusses meditation with Connie. She shows her how to look past things of an imperfect nature to the perfection beyond them (i.e. beyond the crack in the ceiling to the beautiful bird's nest outside). The subject of meditation is a touchy subject. While it's not necessarily wrong to meditate (a godly example is given to us in Psalm 19:17), it is usually associated with Eastern religions and mysticism such as Hinduism, Buddhism, or New Age. It is normally used to clear one's mind, to rid oneself of one's affections and/or desires in order to be filled with the spirit of whatever god you are thinking you want to be filled by, or to set your mind on whatever singular thing it needs to be set on. Yoga is the most common example of meditation that people use today. By definition, it is used to liberate oneself from the world and unite oneself with the supreme being. Meditation is a dangerous subject that is best not to be tampered with by Christians.

As if that wasn't bad enough however, Dr. Trask presents to his art class for exploration and meditation a work by Salvador Dali called La Muerte (which means "death" in Spanish). It is described as being an evocative series of paintings he did as part of his "Tarot" collection. Salvador Dali is described on Wikipedia as being best known for the "striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work." He had "an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior." That doesn't seem like a guy whose paintings I'd explore and meditate upon in something like a Bible study. And then there's what Connie mentioned: Tarot--as in tarot cards. Tarot cards, again according to Wikipedia "are used throughout much of Europe to play card games. In English-speaking countries, where these games are largely unknown, tarot cards are now used primarily for divinatory purposes." But in the 18th and 19th century, the cards were adopted by the occult for use with mysticism and magic. Now, all this isn't to say that Dr. Trask is involved in Eastern religions or the occult, but he obviously easily tolerates them and the things they propagate, so he isn't someone I would put in the position of spiritual mentor. But he does say that God is in everything because He created everything. That is outright Pan-En-Theism. God is separate from His creation. And it doesn't help anything that Dr. Trask "appeals" to God only as "Oh Great Creator", and he says that God is "in us and through us and beyond us." If we are Christians, God is in us, He works through us, and He is far beyond us, but I doubt that's what Dr. Trask means.

Well, with that said, now we jump back to Whit, who's on the phone with Dr. Graham. He is somewhat frustrated that she won't let Monty out of the hospital, but she makes a good point that despite what movies seem to show us, a blow to the head that knocks someone out is very serious. She scolds him for making this mystery more important than the well-being of his grandson, and he secedes. I don't know about anyone else, but I really like the character of Lilly Graham. She has really good chemistry with other characters, especially Whit, and I just really like her voice. Hopefully she can become the new regular Odyssey doctor that Dr. Morton was.

Anyway, as soon as Whit's off the phone, Detective Polehaus barges in, and Whit gets to try to convince him of the disappearance of Agent Tanner like Jason told him to. I'll just go with an understatement and say that Whit doesn't do a good job. ("You haven't seen my sneer!") Whit tells him everything he knows (or knew before he met the Stiletto), and Polehaus tells him everything he and Eugene have found out about Buck. Then the detective tells Whit that he's off to another lead that he got saying that the main hideout of the counterfeiters is The Old Ross Compound near Trickle Lake. (Why have we never, ever heard of this place before?) Then Polehaus gets a call saying that a truck--"a big truck" has just pulled in to the compound. And he's off to catch the counterfeiters. But we know that since there are still three-and-a-half shows left, there's no way he's already going to be able to apprehend everybody.

Now we head back over to Whit's End where Katrina comes across Jay as he "watches the counter." He tells her that Buck is trying to get the phone from Eugene and Matthew in the basement, but that she shouldn't trust Buck any farther than Jay can throw him. But then Whit calls, and Katrina updates him. Whit therefore learns for the first time that Dirk Beggs's phone has been found, and then warns Katrina not to let Buck get anywhere with that phone.

Back down in the basement, Buck insists that they give him the AppleBerry. Eugene refuses because he won't tell them the password. Then Buck "admits" that he doesn't know it, but as soon as Matthew reports the computer's findings that it is "stiletto", he suddenly remembers that he named it that because of his knife collection. Sure, Buck, we believe you. (I would expect something more like a toothpick collection. When have we ever seen him with a knife?) I wonder how much Emily would like him if she knew he had a knife collection. :D Anyway, when Matthew has entered in the password, Buck tries to grab it from him. Just then, Katrina comes down to talk to him, but sees the fight. So she yells at the top of her lungs, stopping everyone in their tracks. I definitely would have stopped dead still because that didn't sound like Katrina to me at all. Connie sounded weird in Grandma's Christmas Visit with all her over-the-top yelling, but that was ridiculous! In any event, it stopped the commotion, and Katrina then tells Buck that she needs to make a citizen's arrest on him. Buck, who apparently has anger problems, throws the phone to the floor, making it shatter into several pieces. (Oh how badly I wish Emily was there to see that. She probably won't even believe Matthew when he tells her that Buck did that.) I totally wasn't expecting that, and it was a really good surprise. I guess we had already gotten enough information about Groat, Skint, Beggs, Tanner, and the Stiletto with Jason's help, so we didn't need it anymore and the writers decided to resolve it all that way.

Buck runs upstairs, and despite Jay's attempts to shoot him with an ice cream scoop, he makes a clean getaway...until he runs into Mr. Whittaker who doesn't let him go anywhere. Finally Buck gets what was coming to him, and Whit sends him to his office. I'm glad Emily wasn't at Whit's End at the time or she might have come to Buck's rescue and run away with him or something. Yeesh.

Back with the real counterfeiters, Mr. Skint and Mr. Dosh (who is, interestingly enough, played by Phil Lollar) have a short but sweet conversation about Martin, the policeman down the road watching. Mr. Dosh is concerned that he might compromise their operation. But Mr. Skint assures him that everything will be fine, and he'll send one of his guys to give him some "special coffee" because it's the neighborly thing to do. ;)

Then we get back to Connie and Penny. Penny tells Connie that she needs to ask her a question. Connie says she already knows what Penny's going to say, and then she goes off on a lengthy explanation for why she felt uncomfortable sitting through Dr. Trask's lecture that afternoon. And it was nearly exactly what I would have said! Yes, Connie actually did a good job for once! Well, not for once, but for the first time this season. Then Penny admits that all she wanted to know was if Connie wanted her french fries. Boy, she and Wooton really were made for each other--silliness in the midst of seriousness. I wouldn't be surprised if they are both diagnosed with ADHD someday. Then Penny assures Connie that they'll discuss these things tomorrow when they go on their hike. (I can't wait for that conversation!) And then the scene ends with Penny asking Connie if she's going to eat her pickles. *faceslap (to borrow Marvin's lingo)* Seriously!

Back at the compound, Polehaus takes a call from Whit informing him that Buck is in his office ready for questioning. He tells Whit to stay put until he can send someone over. After getting off the phone, he comes across Martin who has fallen prey to the effects of Mr. Skint's "special coffee." When Polehaus has shaken him awake, Martin tells what he knows about what's transpired so far. All he can really tell us is that a pickup truck drove in, and they gave him coffee. One of the guys from the compound came out and said that he knew how hard it is to stay awake on a stakeout, so he gave Martin some coffee, which Martin thought was a pretty nice thing to do. Honestly, Detective Polehaus, what kind of people do you have working for you?! Well, we can give him some credit; he took down the license plate number of the pickup, and after running it through headquarters, he found out that it belongs to Uncle Archie's Carnival. That does it for the detective, and he leaves to go have a talk with the people at the compound.

Meanwhile, at the edge of McAlister Park, Mr. Skint gets a call from Buck, who is wondering what he should do now that he's been caught and cornered in Whit's office. Skint tells him that "this is just like Detroit--just like it," that the people at Whit's End are trying to use Buck to lure him in. Therfore, he tells Buck goodbye and shuts the phone. We're left wondering what this means for Buck. Mr. Skint has abandoned him, so what can he do now? I can't see any other way he can go than to tell Whit the truth. What else can he say? But what will happen to him now that he no longer has a guardian? Hey, maybe Eugene and Katrina will eventually take him in! Now that's an interesting thought.

In the last scene, the Stiletto meets with Archie to "confirm the plan." I have to admit, Jason isn't going about this in a very convincing way. If he's the big boss that he's supposed to be, why does he need Archie to tell him the plan? Things have changed since Jason got the debrief from Mr. Groat. The benefactor (please tell me if you know who that's supposed to be) decided that the money will not be transported to the rigged winners of the auctioned equipment by truck, but Archie won't tell what the new plan is. The plan was changed because the benefactor caught wind of an undercover operation in Chicago--right in the Stiletto's area, and supposedly, Dirk Beggs was told the change of plans, and he was supposed to tell Jason. But he didn't. Nor did Jason know that Mr. Groat is actually in town. So Jason concludes that he's going to be in suspense until the next day, and he bids Uncle Archie goodnight. As soon as Jason leaves, Archie does exactly what I knew was going to happen--he calls somebody (probably the benefactor), and tells him that the Stiletto needs to be removed from the operation--no, better yet, removed altogether! Oh boy! So there's going to be an attempt at murder before the season is done? *rubs hands together in excitement and cackles*

Well that's my review. Sorry it got so long. I probably won't be doing that again. But I hope you read it. Please tell me anything you think about it, and let me know if you like my reviews better this way or the way I usually do them.

Thank you for taking the time to read the post! Come back next week as the events of Album 53 draw to a close!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Album 55 Cover?

Brock just released this picture on the AIO Facebook Page, and I saw it on AIO Wiki. But I can't really tell what anything in it is because it's so small!

I was able to zoom in with a program on my computer, but I couldn't post the picture that way, so you'll have to try to do that yourself. I think the piece of paper by Mr. Hoobler's arm is the cover for Album 55, but I can't figure out what's on his computer!

Please tell me what you think!

P.S. I'm having surgery today at 11:00 AM (EST), so if you think of me, please pray!