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Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Qur'an Connection

Hopefully that title doesn't offend anybody.  I racked my brain for some other fitting antonym to "Bible," but I really couldn't think of one. It's a little extreme, I guess, but hopefully there are no Muslims who are browsing my site who will seek me out and kill me for using their holy book's name irreverently.

Well, I said I would have a controversial review for you this week. You would think, with a name and a theme so centered around the Bible, the Odyssey writers couldn't go wrong. That's what I thought as well. And that's what I continued to think as I listened to the first two sections of the show. I was actually very pleased with the first one; the second one was a little cheesy and drawn-out, but I didn't have much of an issue with it. But I was sorely disappointed when it came time for the third section. It was an entertaining enough story, and I think the writers were well-intentioned with it, but it had a very major theological flaw in it. And you know how I am about theological flaws. I'll get to that later in the review though. First, I'll tell you what I liked about the episode.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty decent format. I liked how 2 Timothy 3:16 was the basic framework for the skits, mainly because it's one of the most foundational texts for the Christian faith, since it deals with the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture. (It was also, along with Verse 17, the focus verse for this past year's Bible Bee. So I know it very well.)  This started the episode out on the right foot for me, because I prefer the Bible to be the starting point for an episode, rather than just a point we try to pull out from the episode once all of the entertainment is over. If you remember, that's what I liked so much about Album 54:  the writers started with a moral, an aspect of love from 1 Corinthians 13, and made a story out of it, rather than coming up with an entertaining story idea and trying to fit a moral into it.  This episode almost didn't feel like AIO at first, because it was so Bible-oriented.

Then we get to the first call/"letter". Now, don't get me wrong, I understand the main concern of this caller, and I understand why Connie answered it the way she did, but the way it was handled may have resulted in some misconceptions. The caller said that her friend was telling her that what she needed to do to get to heaven was follow the Ten Commandments. Connie responds by offering a skit that shoots down that idea by presenting a caricatured guy who advocates doing your best to follow the Moral Law and hoping that your good ends up outweighing your bad. That's moralism. And it is a part of the basic philosophy of today's culture. It's called "moralistic therapeutic deism," which means that there's a god somewhere out there; he's not really involved with our lives, but he got this place going. Since we're his creation though, he wants to see us do what's right, so he has some rules; and he's okay if we don't obey them all the time, but as a general principle of life, we should try to follow the Golden Rule and stuff like that. And when we're depressed or needing love or self-worth, he's there to give it to us. Therefore, it's a combination of deism, the belief that god never interferes with humanity, he just started the universe and watches to see how it'll all play out; moralism/legalism, the belief that all god requires of us is that we do what's right when we can and when it serves our needs, and that'll be enough to please him; and therapyism, the belief that god is here just to make us feel loved and give us a sense that we have purpose in life, that we were made for something more--we're all his children and he's our father who will always try to make us happy.

Notice I used a lowercase "g" to describe the god of those worldviews. Each one has a false god as its object of worship. Therefore, when all of these philosophies are molded together into the ever-popular moralistic therapeutic deism worldview, it is absolutely correct that one cannot get to heaven by following that system. The writers were right in shooting that down. However, in doing so, they may have undermined the Moral Law of God in a way. God didn't give us His Law and then not expect us to obey it. He expects every human being to obey the Ten Commandments, down to every last detail and heart attitude. Unfortunately, none of us are able to obey even one of them, by nature. We are slaves to sin from birth and can't do anything but disobey His Law. So, in that sense, none of us can enter Heaven by obeying the Ten Commandments, because we've been born with a soul already imputed with the sin of Adam, and therefore a nature that cannot obey the commandments perfectly. In addition, God says that all of our "righteous deeds" are filthy rags because of the corrupt heart that they come from. But, the important point I'm getting to is, there was One who was able to keep all of the Ten Commandments perfectly. In fact, it is because of Him that we go to Heaven. Jesus was born of a virgin, shielded by the Holy Spirit, so that He was born without the sin of Adam, without that originally corrupt nature. As a result, He was able to never sin once, throughout his entire life on Earth. And He did go to Heaven based on His righteousness. And we go to Heaven based on His righteousness. Therefore, in that sense, we are saved by obedience to the Ten Commandments--but not our obedience, Jesus' obedience!

Okay, so... all that was to say that the statement that we don't get to Heaven by obeying the Ten Commandments could have been better clarified. But I didn't say all of that for nothing. The previous paragraph will become more important when I get to the problem I had with the third skit. 

Other things I enjoyed about the first skit were Jess Harnell's impersonation of the spiritualist who believes that Heaven is a state of being or something like that, the quick dismissal of the guy who said we're "all good" and "made of the same stuff," and, of course, I was very excited to hear the fifth panelist's answer to the question. It was nearly exactly what I would have said. I almost felt like the writers did it for me or something, after all of the complaining I did during the Green Ring Conspiracy about what the true Gospel message should have been. His definition included repentance and surrendering to Jesus as Savior and Lord--a part that many people leave out these days. Now, the contestant was a bit sketchy on how she explained salvation; she said that it's our faith in Jesus that saves us, while I would contend that it's God Who saves us, not anything we do, like the verse says.  But that was minor, and I was so impressed that she was going through a passage verse by verse that I didn't really care about the specifics of what she was saying. To me, this was a major step in the right direction, even if it was just a part of a little skit.

Then we come to the second skit. I appreciated Connie's introductory remarks to the caller. It drew out another primary function of the Law of God: to show us our sin. Because none of us can live a perfect life, none of us are good, we need the law to show us how we have utterly failed to please God. The BSI skit was a cheesy way of showing that, but I don't really have any theological axes to grind with it, so I guess it was alright. It was sufficiently entertaining the first time I heard it, but listening to it the second time, it felt a bit empty, so it didn't really have much value as something that can be enjoyed over and over again.  Surprisingly, that's about all I have to say about that one. :P   Now on to the biggest problem with this episode.

Right from the get-go there's a problem. The caller says that his friend tells him that he gets to decide what is right and what he wants to do to please God, basically. To me, this sounds like an issue of absolute vs. relative truth. Obviously, we as Christians believe that the Bible is the source of absolute truth and that only it is the final authority in telling us how we are to live. Connie does seem to go that direction with her answer. But then she makes a wrong application. She says that we need to follow the Bible "if we want to be righteous."  Now, just a few years ago, or maybe even a shorter time ago than that, I would have been totally fine with that statement. In fact, there's a VeggieTales episode that teaches the same thing: if we do what God wants us to do, we will be righteous, and God will be pleased with us.  Let's follow that idea to its logical conclusion though. If we become righteous before God by our works, what we accomplish, then we are earning our own salvation. You see, it is only the righteous who will enter Heaven. (Being righteous means that there is no fault in you.) If we can be righteous on our own, then there was no reason for Jesus to live a righteous life for us.  The reality is that it's exactly the opposite from the way this episode presents it. We don't follow God's commands to become righteous. We follow God's commands because we have been made righteous, because the perfect life Jesus lived has been credited to our account. There's a big difference.

In fact, the difference is bigger than you might realize. This issue is what caused Martin Luther to post his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517. He was taking a stand against the Catholic understanding of justification--that we become righteous before God primarily by improving upon the goodness of Jesus imparted to us. Jesus is not the sole source of our righteousness; we play a part in pleasing God as well. This is why I had such a big problem with this episode. This is an issue central to the Christian faith, central to our salvation. The episode presented us with Catholic doctrine, disguised as Biblical truth. The problem is, most Protestants are too theologically illiterate to have picked up on that. As a result, it appeased Catholic fans, and Protestant fans weren't paying close enough attention (or didn't care enough) to know what they were really hearing.

Now, to give credit to the writers, none of the things that the "soldiers" were doing in the skit were wrong; it's perfectly good for Christians to read their Bibles and memorize passages, to meditate on Scripture day and night. But that's just it, it's good for Christians.  Christians do it because their hearts have been changed and they desire the Word of God because of how great a Savior has saved them; they want to know what He would have them to do--not to gain them a good standing before Him, but to express their gratitude for what He has done for them. Unbelievers would have a wrong motivation behind engaging in such exercises. They would be doing it to try to please God, to try to earn their own salvation. That's why this sort of teaching is so dangerous; it gives the idea that doing things commanded by the Bible are means by which we may be made righteous before God. But the only way we become righteous before God is through His Son, Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God who was fully obedient both in His life and His death. Unfortunately, Jesus was only briefly mentioned in the first skit, and His righteousness was not addressed at all. Instead, the emphasis was on our need to be righteous and to please God.  That was very disappointing to me.

So, there's the big controversy. Do what you want with it. If you are the type who believes that Catholicism is merely another brand or denomination of Christianity, then you will probably discard this issue as unimportant and "arguing over semantics." But if you truly care about the truth of God as revealed in His Word, you will realize that this is really an important issue, and it is our duty as Christians to contend for the truth and to oppose falsehood. That's what I've striven to do here, cleverly disguising it as the review of an Odyssey episode. I tried to present it in an inoffensive way, but I can't please everyone.

I guess you'd probably like to know what I really thought about this episode overall.  Honestly, I have very mixed feelings. As I said, I really liked the first skit, and I liked the framework for the episode. But then the contention I have with the third skit is so great that I think it overrules the goodness of the first part. I can't listen to this episode and enjoy it, because there's such a wrong philosophy behind it.  So, I guess, overall, I don't have a very approving opinion of this episode. I know there will be those of you who disagree, so I would like to hear your opinion as well. Please comment and tell me everything you thought about what I said.

And then, as you know, you should come back next week to read my next review, the next episode being "Happy Hunting." I'm definitely going to have to listen to that episode again, but right now I'm not thinking that my review is going to be very favorable. My thoughts are very similar to what Ben Warren had to say about the episode on his website. But I will still try to keep my review fairly original. Either way, make sure you visit next Saturday and see what I have to say.  Thank you for reading!

-- Christian

Saturday, December 1, 2012

With Six Cents Less

Well, I have to say, it's a little disheartening having to review this episode today. I just got done listening to "Groundhog Jay" and would love to review that episode. In short, I thought it was near excellent. But, alas, that review will have to wait for over a month. :(  It's not that "Three Dollars More" was a bad episode, it's just that today's episode was considerably better, and it's going to take some extra thought to review an episode that came out over a month ago. I'm listening to it again, but it's a little hard to remember now the thoughts I had when I first heard the episode.  However, the more of the episode I listen through, the more things I think of that I can address, so this might be a fairly full review nevertheless.

Overall... I think I liked this episode. Originally, when I first listened to it, I had some complaints. I thought it was a little rushed, like "Great Expectations," and I concurred with Alex Jefferson (the blogger) when he said that it seemed a little unnecessary to have two separate failed attempts at an RoC adventure before finally bringing Whit in to help. Also, because of the two silly adventures, I got the impression that the episode was a little bit too focused on entertaining, rather than bringing across the point about tithing.

However, after listening to it again, I've formulated a different opinion. I still have some minor complaints, and I'll get to those later, but I think this episode was actually very well done. Once Whit came on the scene, I thought the moral lesson came across very strongly. Obviously there was a good bit of silliness thrown in for the first half of the episode, but I suppose that can be disregarded, as it was likely designed to keep the younger listeners attentive. But I could use Barrett's words and say, "It was absurd!" or "This is ridiculous!" :P  I thought the acting was good--better than usual, even--and the plot, especially of the last adventure, was very well constructed.

When the episode descriptions for this season surfaced over the summer, I was excited to see that we'd be hearing from the Room of Consequence again. Without looking on AIO Wiki, I guessed that the last time we heard from it was when Liz Horton experienced the adventure backwards in "Hindsight." And I was right. I was wrong, however, when it came to my guess about how many RoC episodes there have been in Odyssey history. My guess was that there were around three or four total. I could think of "Into Temptation," "Hindsight," and "The Eternal Birthday." I guess that just shows how big of an Odyssey geek I am. There are 12 total episodes (including the two from this season) that feature the Room of Consequence! (There are also two Odyssey videos that featured it, I see.) We could have a whole special album full of these episodes! Looking back through the list, I remembered all of the episodes, but I forgot that most of them featured the RoC. It's funny, because I seemed to remember only the very unique RoC adventures. I remembered the very first one, "Into Temptation"; the one where Liz experiences the same day multiple times, "Eternal Birthday"; and the one where the machine runs backwards, "Hindsight." Many of the rest of them, I remembered as Imagination Station adventures, I guess. Most of them are very good episodes. The only one I don't remember very well is "Thy Kingdom Come." Maybe that's just because I haven't listened to it as often; it just seems like that was one of the more forgettable RoC adventures. It's probably different for different people.

Anyways... all that was to say that I was glad to see the return of this machine. It's been odd for it to have disappeared for these 15 albums, since we've last seen it.  And it did seem to run a little differently. It took Matthew and Connie mere minutes to program a somewhat elaborate adventure for Barrett to experience. I don't remember there being much programming involved in the other episodes. I thought it was all based on the user's own mind, as in the case of the Imagination Station.  But, I suppose I can think of an instance or two where the adventure needed to be programmed. Jason programmed Heather's (or was it Erica's?) adventure in the soap opera TV show in "Soaplessly Devoted," and Whit and Eugene had to program Liz's adventure in "The Eternal Birthday."  But those are the only ones I can think of where it was specifically mentioned that the adventure was pre-programmed. It just seemed more like a game than an epic adventure into your possible future when Matthew and Connie were able to manipulate it so drastically with a few keystrokes. Plus, weren't these adventures always supposed to be plausible outcomes of choices? I don't remember there ever being an option where the user would experience a completely ridiculous future, as Barrett did in this episode.

All that aside, I really was happy that we got to see the RoC in action again. We'd had two/three Imagination Station episodes in this season already, so it was time for a change.  The Room of Consequence has always seemed to be very effective in its persuasion of the conscience of the user. This time, the writers decided to utilize the machine to teach a lesson that, surprisingly, hasn't really ever been touched on in Odyssey history. And I thought they did it quite effectively. But I'll get to that later. Right now, I'd like to get out of the way the few minor problems I had with the story:
  • As was the case with scenes featuring several tween girls in Albums 51 and 52, particularly, I had a little bit of a hard time following the scenes with the older Matthew and Barrett the first time I listened. It was a little difficult to distinguish the two voices. But, eventually, I got the difference between their voices, and it was no longer a problem. So that was only a very minor complaint.
  • One more important problem I had was that on at least two occasions, Mrs. Meltsner spoke in front of the church during a Sunday morning worship service. Now, granted, these events took place during the fictional RoC adventures, but I seemed to me that they were representative of what would be a perfectly normal occurrence. Now, as was the brief complaint I had last week about Emily and her feministic dreams, this is a personal belief and preference that I try to support with Scripture. And this time, I'm backed by my whole denomination at least. 1 Timothy 2, as well as 1 Corinthians 11, I believe, say that a woman should not speak in the church, but that they should remain silent during the worship service. They shouldn't speak up, but should address their husbands with any questions and comments they have later. I know that's just as controversial as what I said last week, what with all of the female pastors and worship leaders and such. But that's what I believe, so that's just something I wanted to add.
  • My final complaint is the most relevant to the actual story of the episode. I didn't really like how much Barrett seemed to have backslidden in the future. I know it was all fiction, but Barrett wasn't like, "Hey! I know I'm a Christian now, so there's no way I could act like that and lose my salvation." I just thought it was very odd that Barrett totally gave up on going to church, helping people, and making God a priority, but Matthew still treated him as if he was a Christian and didn't really address that issue.  And then what struck me as most weird was that when Matthew told Barrett that Joey, the kid at the recreation center, had recently "given his life to Jesus," Barrett was like, "That's awesome!"  On the one hand, he seems to have no care about spiritual things whatsoever, but then he's still excited when someone gets saved.  From my point of view, and from the Bible's point of view, if you've been saved, God has changed your heart and your desires, so that you will never ultimately rebel against Him again. You will sin, sure, but He's sealed you with the Holy Spirit. Nothing you could do could separate you from His love, and because of that love, you're not going to want to live in unrepentant sin. Jesus died for your sin, to take the wrath of God away from you. If His wrath no longer abides on you, you could never backslide so much so that you would end up in Hell, with His wrath on you again.  I know many people don't share that conviction either, but that was something that bugged me about this episode, so, again, I just had to bring it up.
Alright. Now to the good stuff.  I really liked the message of this episode. I think my family differs a lot from the traditional view of tithing, in that we don't believe that God requires a rigid ten percent, as He did in the Old Testament. There's no rehashing of that commandment in the New Testament. But there are several passages--particularly in 2 Corinthians 9--that talk about giving cheerfully to the church, supporting your local pastor, and stuff like that. So we believe that Christians are not absolutely obligated to give ten percent of their earnings to God, as is the majority view today. We believe that ten percent is a good starting point, but that it's really about your heart and what's going on inside of you when you're giving your money.

I was surprised to hear that that was basically the main point of this Odyssey episode as well. Whit specifically says to Barrett at the end of the show that he probably figured out by now, tithing is not so much for God's benefit, but for our benefit. It shows us our heart condition and when we're not trusting God to provide for us. When we don't trust God enough to give Him just a portion of our income, it's showing that we probably don't trust Him in other areas either.  So, yeah, I thought the writers handled this topic very well. Better than I was expecting, for sure.
That brings me to another positive. I actually found myself liking Whit in this episode! Andre Stojka's performance in this episode really made me think back to the old days of Whit, where he was the grandfatherly character with good advice and biblical values to teach the kids. And this wasn't just a generic moral lesson, this was a teaching straight from the Bible. And he even made a Gospel application when he said that we should be willing to sacrifice for God, because of how much He sacrificed for us.

And, on the subject of actors, I realized the second time I heard this episode that, Brandon Gilberstadt is back!  I knew I recognized old Matthew's voice the first time I heard the episode, but I couldn't pinpoint it. This time, it came back to me, and I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't know he was still around and willing and able to do a voice for Odyssey like this. I mean, he was in that one episode in Album 50, but I thought that was just a one-time thing--especially since they had to get him over the phone. But yeah, it was nice ot hear from him again.

Oh, and one final thing!  Am I the only one who thought that the pastor of Barrett and Matthew's church sounded a whole lot like Paul Herlinger? There were a couple of scenes that started off with him talking, and I was shocked when it sounded so much like the old Mr. Whittaker. I was thinking, why didn't they just use this guy instead of Andre Stojka? I think he could have done a great job sounding like Whit.  But what's done is done, I guess. I really would have liked to see how he would have done though. I'll have to look up who that actor was.

Wow. That was a long review. I had even more to say than I thought. Are you guys liking these long reviews?  If you're not, and they're taking too long to read, I can try to shorten them, so let me know. Thanks for reading it if you did, though.  I appreciate your appreciation of my hard work. :)   Make sure you come back next week for my review of "The Bible Network"!  I have a lot to say about that one. ;)   Please comment!

-- Christian

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Low Anticipations

Well, I said I'd be back today. And I am. I can't promise that I'll be up to my usual standards, but I'm here. The past couple of days, being Thanksgiving vacation days, have not been very organized or work-oriented, so it's a bit difficult to get back into the mindset of doing something constructive that will actually look good. ;)  But I shall try.

Thankfully, I wrote down several thoughts about "Great Expectations" after I heard it, so almost none of this is going to come straight from my memory. I listened to the episode online early on the morning it was released, and then I heard some of it on the radio as it was airing. So it's been a while. If there are any points you feel like I missed or misrepresented, please let me know.

Overall... I had mixed feelings about this episode.  In one sense, it was nice to hear from the old Whit and do some traveling of sorts back into the old years of Odyssey. But, although I liked the premise of the episode, I didn't think it was conducted very well. I wish it would have at least been two parts. An important Imagination Station adventure like that deserves more time than it was given, I think. It's rare that an IS show takes place over only one episode, and when it does, it's not all that memorable. There are exceptions, I know, but it seems to me that after such a long gap where we'd seen no IS adventures--until the season-opener which, I need not remind you, was two parts--if they were going to pull off another successful IS show, it needed to have more to it than a fast-paced, slightly confusing, whirlwind episode like the one we were given.

That said, I did like the theme of the episode, to an extent. I like the idea that we never know where exactly God will take us on the journey of our life. It's fairly useless to make long-term plans, if we don't supplement it with the knowledge that God could swiftly and easily change everything for us. I personally have learned this lesson quite recently--actually more recently than the episode aired. At the time of the episode's airing, I would have thought it was ridiculous that God would work in my heart so much to change my thinking as He did, but now, I'm glad He did, because I'm more in His will than I have been in a long time. So, in that sense, the episode rings true for me, so I don't have all bad things to say about it.

One complaint I had about the premise of the episode was something that I didn't get to mention back in Album 54, because I didn't review "Emily, the Genius."  See, I am not all that fond of the idea of women in the workplace. I know, it's a very unpopular viewpoint right now, and I know most of you will disagree with me on this. But, as far as I can tell from the Bible, the main occupation of a woman is to raise children, submit to her husband, and manage the house while he is gone at work as the breadwinner of the family. Therefore, all of this story about Emily wanting to follow in the footsteps of her dad and become a judge (though she did change her mind about that) just doesn't sit well with me. Ideally, she should be wanting to be following in the footsteps of her mom--to have children and raise them in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord." I found it quite interesting that at one point in the episode, Whit himself says, "My wife and children were far more important than a pilot's license."  Why then does Emily give no thought to having a family, rather than pursuing her own career?  I mean, we're talking about a product from Focus on the Family here. :P   But, I know it's the majority view among Christians these days that women should have just as much an opportunity as men to earn a living for themselves, and it doesn't matter if children get in the way. We have birth control and daycare and public schools to take care of that issue, right?  You guys know me well enough that I'm not much of one for following the crowd with my Christian values and beliefs. So, it's quite inevitable that I'm going to disagree with the people who write these episodes. But it just seems to be happening more and more often these days....

Now I just have a few random points I'd like to make about various things in the episode:
  • I was sort of hoping that, at some point in the Imagination Station adventure, a connection would be made between Emily and Jack Allen's first wife. I thought maybe she would turn out to be a bigger part of the story than she thought, since Whit kept acting like she was a good friend of his. And I was at least hoping that we would hear from Marshal Younger as Jack. But, alas, no such luck.
  • With regard to things going on in Whit's life throughout the adventure, I was hoping more would have been said about the war. It was rushed through, even though I would think it was a big turning point in his life that he had been called to service. And when he came back from the war, it would have been nice for there to have been some talk about it, rather than just totally forgetting about it. I mean, wouldn't it have been great if Emily said something like, "Oh! What happened to your ear? There's some sort of nick in it!"
  • I was glad to hear from Jim Custer again as the voice of young Whit. I liked how much flexibility he was able to use in his voice. It really did sound like Whit was getting older as the adventure progressed. And one thing I noticed that was interesting to me was that Jim Custer's Whit seemed to fit better with the Andre Whit than with the other two actors' Whits. I guess the case could be made that he sounds like Paul Herlinger a little bit, but I was very surprised to observe that Jim Custer's and Andre Stojka's voices are quite similar.
  • I just wanted to say quickly that I loved the scene where Whit finds out that Jenny is pregnant. I thought it was just perfect, and the emotional atmosphere was terrific. I was so glad to hear that both of them were so excited at the prospect of having a child, even though it would interfere with their plans for the future, as opposed to, say, the scene between Leonard and Thelma Meltsner in "A New Era."  I was just thinking as I listened that I long to have a moment like that with a wife someday; I can't wait to experience the joy of that moment.
Well, I guess I should come to concluding comments. That was a lot more than I was expecting to write. I guess I had more to say than I thought I did. It really helped that I took notes while listening to the episode. I doubt next week's review will be as good, because I didn't take notes as I listened to "For Three Dollars More."  But, I hope you liked what you read, even though you probably disagree with what I said at some points.  When it comes down to it, on the one hand, I'm glad the episode didn't go the direction of saying, "Follow your dreams, no matter what, and God will give you what you wish for." But while the moral was good, the episode just really left me wishing that there was much more to hear. I was surprised when the episode was over.  With the way the episode started, with all of the talk about Emily's future, I was hoping that the Imagination Station part would redeem the episode. And, while it did do some to improve the show for me, it wasn't great. So, it wasn't a bad episode, but I think it could have been better, and I wish it was.

That's it for this week. Be glad I got it out for you. ;)  I didn't really have the time to write all that, but I did it anyway. Now I'm off to wash the kitchen floor and then go to work for the afternoon. I will do my best to get a review out next Saturday, but it will be difficult, so I don't think I can make any sure promises. Anyway, thanks for reading! And please comment!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taking a Short Break

Okay, as most of you probably noticed, I have gotten behind in reviewing this season's episodes.  I wrote a draft last week for "Great Expectations," but I got up too late to finish it before we left to help a family from our church move. And, of course, I had no time to get around to it during the regular week.  Well, today, I got up late again, even though I purposely went to bed early, so that I could wake up to either one of my very early alarms and try to finish both reviews before the day officially started.  Somehow, I missed both alarms and didn't get up until after 7:30. I know, for some of you, that's way too early on a Saturday morning. For me, that's terrible; that's about the latest I ever let myself get up. ;)

Anyway, I've changed my plans. The Bible Bee is becoming time-consuming enough for me that I cannot keep trying to focus on getting these reviews out for you guys. Therefore, since I have several more months than usual to review the episodes (the 57th season has been put off until Fall 2013, if you haven't heard), I'm going to stop reviewing until after the Bible Bee. Consequently, the first day I'll be available to review an episode will likely be November 23rd....a little less than a month.  Sorry I had to do this. Hopefully you guys are fine with waiting a few weeks to get my thoughts on more of this season's episodes.

Thanks for understanding, y'all!  Don't forget to comment. :)   And be sure to come back on the 23rd for my next review!

-- Christian

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Imperfect Body, Part II

Well, we come now to the conclusion of Matthew's Imagination Station adventure. And I liked it just as much, if not more than I liked the first installment. The acting was, again, very well done, and the plot, though more heavily reliant upon Scripture this time around, was just as good. I'm taking a little bit of a different direction in my approach to reviewing this week. I'm going to give commentary after listening to each section of the episode, rather than summarizing all my thoughts after I've listened to the whole thing. It'll be similar to what my reviews were like during the Green Ring Conspiracy, but not exactly the same. Anyway, here it is:

I was confused by the first scene of the episode, because I didn't remember the story about an angel of the Lord coming and releasing the apostles from prison. But when I looked it up in Acts, I saw that it was after the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Chapter 5. Then I was more confused, since the events regarding that couple hadn't transpired in the episode yet. Obviously, that was quickly resolved with the recap from Rhoda. And again, I was very impressed with how closely the Odyssey team stuck to the accounts and the chronology in Scripture.

I really enjoyed the argument that Seth had with the Hellenist Jew. Everything they discussed was so historically and culturally accurate and relevant. I really love how much thought was put into the conversations and the struggles of the characters in these episodes.

And then if those intricacies weren't enough, during the feud, Peter and the other apostles return, giving account of the beatings they received in Chapter 5:40-41, connecting Chapter 6 very nicely to the previous events. As I said last week, it's really opening up a whole new world for me to have all these stories connected together in such an incredible way. I'm learning along with Matthew that the church back then was just as closely-knit and personal and real as my church is now. I should never think of it as this stoic, unemotional, passionless entity that God wrote about and worked through, but that didn't really experience things like we experience them today. These were real people, like Seth, Deborah, and Rhoda, who had hopes, hurts, struggles, and joys--just like we do today. It's a refreshing reminder to know that we as Christians today are not alone; thousands have walked the road before us; even those thousands of years ago struggled with doctrines they didn't understand, Providences that they didn't know how to take, and persecutions that they felt like they couldn't endure.

The short conversation that Matthew had with Stephen was excellent. It didn't feel like something read off of a script. It felt to me like a re-telling of an actual account, full of things Stephen really would have said. And then that carried over beautifully into the words that Rhoda spoke to Matthew concerning the sacrifice of Jesus in His crucifixion on Golgotha. It was great to see early Christians making connections in biblical doctrines before Paul explained them in his epistles--even before he was Paul!

And then, the climax of the episode, the discourse of Stephen in the temple. At first, I was a little puzzled as to why the writers would portray the entire speech, as, to me, it always seemed a little disjointed and all-over-the-place. I sort of sympathized with the Jews who were asking him why he was telling them so many things they already knew. But then, chills went down my spine as, for the first time, I understood what connections Stephen was trying to make about the temple and the dwelling of God and idolatry. This was the first time in a long time that I felt I truly learned something from an Odyssey episode that I didn't realize before. The whole scene was superbly carried out, and it flowed together logically so well. And yet it all came from the pages of God's Word!

And the adventure ends in basically an exposition of Acts 8:1-4, a passage I recently memorized for the National Bible Bee. All the points in these verses were covered in the closing minutes:
Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
And, what do you know, I actually found myself really enjoying Mr. Whittaker's words to Matthew at the end. He actually sounded like a wise old man, full of knowledge gained through life's experiences. And through his words, we receive the moral of the episode--and a very good one at that. The church is just as full of problems today as it was back in the first century; and yet, because the true, universal church is made up of believers, it is just as much important to and loved by God as was the church two thousand years ago. Now, that's not to discount that there are errors, and even heresies and false teachers in the church (very many of them, in fact), and we are told by Paul to "mark those who cause divisions and avoid them" and "contend for the faith" and "take heed to the doctrine." So, in that sense, we must always strive for truth. As Martin Luther said, "Peace, if possible, but truth at any rate."  We can minimize the arguments over what type of music, what type of baptism, what type of ministries and programs to have;  but when it comes to the Word of God, the everlasting truth, we are to stand firm and fight to preserve the faith handed down to us by those who have gone before us. The church is "the temple of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," and that is how we are to act. It's not primarily a mission to save the lost, or to sing good songs, or even to edify the saints--thought those things are definitely very important. No, we are foremostly called to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. We do that by defending His Word, preaching it in season and out of season, exhorting others to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died to save us from the wrath of a holy God. If our message becomes anything more or anything less than that, we have missed the mark of being a faithful and pure church.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. :P  As you can tell, I really liked this episode. I love the Bible, so I love episodes that stick so closely to it and accurately teach it. And it was so wonderful how these shows wove together and connected key stories from the Book of Acts to so effectively portray the life and times of the early church. In fact, the only complaint I have against these episodes is that they didn't last longer, that it wasn't a 4-, 8-, or 12-part episode. Actually, I was really hoping that it would at least go to Acts 12, since that's where Rhoda is mentioned. She's the servant girl who answers the door when Peter comes to the house of Mary and John Mark after being released from prison by an angel. I read that portion of Scripture this morning, and I was surprised at how much I could see the fictional character of this show in the character of Scripture. They fit together so perfectly.

But anyway, I really hope that this isn't the last of the great episodes this season. Episodes like this are why I still listen to Odyssey. Amidst the legalistic moralism and worldliness that creep into the episodes at times, I still listen because I know that the Odyssey writers aren't totally unable to write great episodes like this. When they stick to Scripture like this, they can't go wrong. I hope they go this route more often in the future.

Well, thank you for reading my review. I really appreciate it. And I also appreciate feedback, so be sure to make a comment before leaving. And come back next week for my review of "Great Expectations"!

-- Christian

Saturday, October 6, 2012

An Imperfect Body, Part I

We finally made it to the new season! Or should I say, the new season finally made its way to us? Either way, I'm very glad that it's finally here. It seems like it's been a really long time since Album 55 started airing. Yet, at the same time, it feels like it was just last week. I don't know. I guess that's usually the way things are. Anyway, I think I may be looking forward to this album more than any album since the relaunch. Now, it's easy to say that, since it's the one I'm currently excited about, but I really do think this album seems to have more potential than any that's come so far since Album 51 began. I can't wait to see the different directions all of the episodes will take and how they will utilize Whit's many inventions.

But, no matter what the rest of the season holds, if it's anything like this first episode, I will be greatly pleased. I loved this episode. But I loved it in a different way than I've loved episodes that have come before. In previous seasons, I've appreciated episodes because of how they furthered character development, or how they had entertaining story lines; but this episode was incredible, because it took its general story from the Bible! And, like all the Imagination Station adventures we've come to know and love from Odyssey's past, it made the stories that we read in the pages of Scripture, which may at times seem dry and static, come to life! It was amazing to see/hear so many different accounts that I've read and heard over the years come together into a unified whole to tell the story of the early church. It makes me wish that this episode wasn't only two parts, but that it filled the whole album and covered the entire Book of Acts!

See, I'm sort of a Bible geek. Before moving to the church that my family are currently members of, I was known as the "smart kid" because I knew so many facts about the Bible and the accounts it contains. I did Bible quizzing for a number of years, and for a couple of those years, the book we studied fairly extensively was Acts. So I know a lot about the characters and events of the early church. Therefore, this episode was all the more meaningful to me. It was great to see how different parts of the story found their ground in major parts of the book, as well as to pick up on how minor plots tied in with more generic parts. For example, I thought it was very clever to have the main characters, Seth's family, be the ones who bought the land of Ananias and Sapphira and gave them the money, which, as most of you will know, they dealt with dishonestly, and they later paid the price for it. This aspect of the storytelling also makes it nice, in that we don't have to wonder so much about what's going to happen in the next episode. However, at the same time, the writers took enough liberty in creating the different story elements that we have a good amount to speculate and wonder about--such as what's going to happen to the church now that Saul is in the picture.

I'm also wondering how far ahead the next episode is going to go, because in Acts 12, when Peter has escaped from prison and he comes to the door of the house where members of the church are praying for him, he encounters "a servant girl named Rhoda." That was immediately who I thought of when Rhoda appeared in this episode. I doubt it's a coincidence that she has the same name as another character of her age in the Book of Acts, so I think either the story will jump ahead a little bit and give that account, or it will at least be hinted at, so that we know that Rhoda actually fits in in Scripture somewhere.

Well, all that said about the story, I'll go on to the characters and the acting. I thought the acting was very top-notch. Usually, with Odyssey, we're used to hearing the same actors voice the same characters week in and week out. But the great thing about Imagination Station adventures is that we get to hear a variety of more general actors who we don't hear nearly as often, and they always do an excellent job voicing their individual characters, even though they don't get much air time. I was particularly interested with the lame man who was healed by Peter and John, because I thought he sounded very much like a mix between Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and King Lawrence from Darien's Rise--meaning then that he could only have been voiced by one person: Jim Cummings! It was cool to have him back, albeit for a short amount of time. But that's what I'm talking about. These actors are talented enough that they bring a superb performance and life to their characters in only the short amount of time they are given.

It was interesting to hear from the actor who played Sue in "The Labyrinth" again. I thought she did a very nice job. Obviously, I could tell it was her, but she pulled off the American accent very well (unlike when she tried to impersonate an American in the previously-mentioned episode :P). I thought she had a very sweet-sounding voice, and the chemistry between her and Matthew was pretty good. Though, at times, she reminded me of Emily, so at those points I wasn't appreciating her voice so much. ;)

I'll touch on this a bit more later, but I thought Eugene was a very good narrator. I didn't find myself missing the old, computerized "Mabel" voice at all. Will Ryan did a great job, and I would hope to hear more from Eugene in this role in the future. Then there's Whit. You all, I'm sure, know how I feel about Andre Stojka doing the voice of this timeless, beloved character. But actually he wasn't all that bad in this episode. Granted, he only had a few lines at the beginning (which I thought was for the better), but he actually did pretty well with what he had. I didn't feel so much like I was hearing Andre, but more like I was hearing Mr. Whittaker. I surprised myself. We'll see how he does in the coming episodes later on this season.

Moving on to the workings of the new Imagination Station: I was impressed. Although there was a somewhat radical change in the way things operated, I really liked it. The changes felt more like an update to the machine, rather than a fundamental adjustment. As I said before, I really liked Eugene as narrator at the outset, and then as a general commentator throughout. I laughed the first time he cut in, with the definition for "Gentile," and throughout the episode it was a believable way for Matthew to receive necessary information on the culture and the era, rather than being completely confused like some characters have ended up in the past. In addition to Eugene's overall narration, I specifically appreciated his reading of Scripture at the beginning. I thought that was very powerful, and I would definitely like to hear more of that in the future.  Oh, and then one more thing. I also liked how the Imagination Station transferred Matthew from one setting to the next. It reminded me of Kelly's adventure in "The Imagination Station, Revisited" with the doors; but this was even better. I chuckled every time Matthew was hurled about through time and dropped into each particular environment. Hopefully all of these modifications to the Imagination Station will stick around through the rest of the season.

Well, I guess I should bring this review to a close, as it's become quite lengthy. We hadn't heard an episode totally devoted to an Imagination Station adventure since the close of Album 50, and the only other episode it's been a part of since the relaunch was "Fast As I Can," where many fans complained that it just wasn't the same, that it was operating differently that it always has over the years. It has also been referenced briefly in a few episodes over the more recent seasons, one of the more notable ones being "Child's Play," but this is the first time we've really seen it since Odyssey was "redesigned." And it was a very refreshing reminder of the past. However, at the same time, it wasn't stuck in the past. It was definitely an improvement on adventures that were previously experienced within the doors of the machine. The writing and dialogue were excellent, and the correlation between the plot and the accounts in the Bible, as I mentioned, were wonderful as well. I was also very impressed with the variety of great themes touched on in the episode. Among the things briefly mentioned were the inexplicable blindness of the hearts of the Jewish leaders, the inevitability of persecution of Christians, the inclusion of the Gentiles, speaking in tongues, Jesus taking God's wrath on the cross, and the conundrum about Jewish traditions and the Law of Moses. All of those things are very important, so it was great to see the Odyssey writers incorporate those themes into the story.

That's just about all I have to say about the episode. Hopefully that wasn't too long. I hope you enjoyed it! I look forward to hearing and reviewing next week's episode. I think we can expect some good action--probably along the lines of the trailer for The Lyin' Thing in "I Want My BTV." There may also be some sober plot elements as well, as the death of Stephen and the great persecution of the church come in Chapters 7 and 8 of Acts.  Anyway, thank you so much for reading my review! Please tell me what you thought about it in the comments. And be sure to come back next week for my analysis of Part II!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Get in the Show Finalists!

Okay, I have to admit, I haven't been all that involved with giving updates on the "Get in the Show" contest and its various offshoots over the last couple of months. Mostly, that's been because I'm busy. But I also wasn't all that excited about it. Recently, however, I don't remember where, but I saw somewhere that referenced "making Odyssey history" by making sure you're a part of the GitS contest in some form. And it hit me that voting for these finalists really is going to make a difference the future of Odyssey. All that is to say that voting for the finalists is finally up on the Official site.

I thought there was some very good talent displayed in many of these videos. Some of the actors/actresses were a little over-the-top, but a few of them really struck me as kids with great abilities. The girl Annaliese, in particular, was my favorite of all of them. She was very genuine, and yet still very forceful in the way she delivered her lines. She was an easy pick as one of of the three I voted for. The other two were tougher, but I finally narrowed it down to Hannah and the last boy Timmy. (Hopefully I have those names right.)  And, don't forget, you can vote once a day! So make sure you get over there and have a say in the future of Odyssey!

Also, I wanted to mention that I was very impressed by a recent podcast (or should I say, blogcast?) that I heard on the Adventures in Odyssey Blog. Austin and Natasha interviewed Josh, Jordan, and Kelli Taylor from Blimeycow. If you don't know who those people are, you must look them up! Their videos are full of Christian satirical comedy about today's materialistic and contemporary Christian society. You can check out their YouTube page here.  But even if you don't know who the Taylors are, you should still listen to the podcast. It's a great interview, and it's also one of the last blogcasts that the Peacheys plan to do, as they've announced that this is their final season.

Well, I guess you got another post out of me before the end of the summer. Oh, I guess summer is over. But it doesn't feel like fall until the new Odyssey season begins to air! Which, as many of you know, is happening this weekend, finally! And I can assure you that I will do my very best to keep up with putting out reviews every week. You can expect the first one on "The Perfect Church, Part I" this Saturday bright and early! Or maybe I should wait until Part II airs before I post a review...  No, just kidding. ;)  You've waited long enough, and I am going to deliver!  Make sure to check in later this week for the review!  Thanks for reading!

-- Christian

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another Month Gone By...

Sorry!  I just came on today and realized that my last post was on August 14th, so since today is September 14th (my birthday, by the way), I decided I'd probably better post something.

As you probably guessed, my life is a little hectic right now. I qualified for the National Bible Bee again, so there's lots of stuff to memorize and study. But then also, I started taking a time-consuming computer class at a local vocational high school, in addition to taking some twelfth grade subjects. So, yeah, I have very little time to dedicate to this blog. Unfortunately for you guys, this isn't all that high on my priority list right now. But I promise that when the new season starts, I will do my very best to keep up with reviewing every episode, so you should get at least one post a week from me.

In other news, you know how I said in the interview that Album 41: "In Hot Pursuit" was my favorite album, but that I've never owned it? Well, now I do! One of my very good friends (who I recently learned reads this blog [Hi, Sam!]) was in Colorado last week, and went to Focus on the Family, and, being the good friend that he is, bought me Album 41!  I don't know if it was in connection with my birthday, or just because he wanted to make me happy, but I now own my favorite album. :)

Well, hopefully this short post will hold you guys over until October 6th. I'll be honest and say that I probably won't write again until the new season starts. I may...maybe. But don't count on it. ;)  Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I've Been Interviewed!

A couple of weeks ago, The Old Judge, webmaster of Twists and Turns, asked me in the comments on my blog if he could do an interview with me. I suggested we do it through PMs on The Town of Odyssey, but since he wasn't on The ToO, we conducted it through The Odyssey Scoop's new forum, The Soda Shop. He sent me a list of 19 questions, and I did my best to answer them as thoroughly as I could. He posted them on his blog on Sunday evening, about a week after we did the interview, and already there's been a great response. So I've gotten his permission to also post the interview on my blog. Hope you guys like it!

The Old Judge: Whe did you first start listening to Adventures in Odyssey?

Christian A.: I'm not sure of the exact age, but I was around six or seven when my mom got me my first set. It was the special, limited-edition 10 CD set, which you can see here on The Odyssey Scoop.

The Old Judge: What was the first episode you ever listened to?

Christian A.: Well, since my first set was the one mentioned above, I believe the first episode could have been "Connie Comes to Town". But that may not be totally accurate, because I think I may have known about Odyssey from the radio or tapes from Chick-fil-A before that. So I can't really say for sure.

The Old Judge: What inspired you to start The Voice of Odyssey?

Christian A.: Oh, boy. Well, it was really inspired by Josh from The AIO Fan's Life. He and I met on The Odyssey Scoop comments and had all of our conversations there until he showed me his blog. And eventually, he urged me to ask my parents if I could start my own blog, since I felt that I had so much to say about thte Album 51 episodes that were coming out. So I asked, and my parents totally surprised me by saying yes! And the rest is history!

The Old Judge: Does anybody help you on your blog, or do you do it solo?

Christian A.: Nope, I do it all myself. I do get some of my ideas and points for my reviews for others on occasion, but the vast majority comes from my own feeble brain.

The Old Judge: Do you have any future plans for your blog, and if so, what are they?

Christian A.: Gee, I really don't want to think about the future. I just hope I can keep it going. Life continues to get more and more hectic for me, and it's all I can do to post an update every couple of weeks. I just hope that I can keep reviewing every episode as it comes out. That's really my only goal.

The Old Judge: What is your favorite Adventures in Odyssey episode of all time, and why?

Christian A.: Why does everyone always ask this question?! No, it's alright. It's just hard. The episode that always comes to my mind is when I'm asked this question is The Search for Whit, Parts I, II, and III. I'm not entirely sure, but I've always liked this show, and I never really get tired of it. You're not going to get much more out of me than that.

The Old Judge: What is your favorite Adventures in Odyssey album of all time, and why?

Christian A.: My favorite album... I'm not sure if anyone has ever asked me that one. Good question. Although I don't own it, I really like In Hot Pursuit--Album 41, where Connie and Joanne go on a roadtrip to Washington D.C. where she ends up almost marrying Mitch. It also has some great single episodes like Do or Diet and The Mailman Cometh. Yeah, I think I'd have to say #41.

The Old Judge: What is your favorite Adventures in Odyssey saga of all time, and why?

Christian A.: Well, although Backgaard comes close, I think I have to agree with almost everyone else and say Novacom. It was an amazing accomplishment by the AIO team, and it really hasn't been matched by anyhting else they've ever done. Great plot, great characters, great suspense, great ending. Maybe they can make something like it in the future, but I think Novacom will always hold a special place in every AIO fan's heart.

The Old Judge: Who is your favorite actor to voice Whit?

Christian A.: Oh, boy, this is a tough one. I can definitely say--NOT Andre Stojka! But choosing between Paul Herlinger and Hal Smith is harder. I suspect that if I had been a fan of Odyssey earlier on, I would say Hal Smith, but the time I was born, Paul Herlinger was already in place. So while I really like Hal Smith's Whit, I guess I would have to say Paul Herlinger. He was always great at giving wisdom and advice, and he was amazing in all the action/adventure episodes he acted in.

The Old Judge: What do you think of the current era of Adventures in Odyssey?

Christian A.: Egh. I mean, the Odyssey writers have shelled out some great stories for us. But there hasn't been much heart. There have been good episodes in every album, but there have been few GREAT ones. And another problem I've had is that the episodes are all about morals. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but when it's all morals and laws and legalism, and there's no talk about how we cannot naturally obey and pleae God, and Jesus had to please God for us, you can end up with hypocrites or Pharisees who think that they're pleasing God by keeping the law. AIO needs to be careful that it doesn't seperate the moral message of the Bible from the gospel message of the Bible, which tells us that we can never be good enough for God. Our hearts are corrupt by nature, and we need Jesus to be good enough for us. We need His righteousness, and nothing else will please God. APart from Him, we face eternal damnation. Well, that was a long, complicated answer. Sorry if that was more than you were asking for.

The Old Judge: What are your opinions on Andre Stojka? Has he gotten better in the role, worse, or what?

Christian A.: Boy, Andre Stojka. I suppose he's grown into the role a little with the 5 albums he's worked on. But he hasn't really grown on me. Eever since I became convinced he isn't a Christian, I've not been able to genuinely like him. I mean, if you're playing Mister Whittaker, you should at least share his faith if you're going to add any heart and soul to the role. But from what I can tell, Andre makes no Christian profession, so I can't get over that, and I don't know if I'll ever like his job as Whit.

The Old Judge: What are your thoughts on upcoming Album 56:The Grand Design?

Christian A.: I'm pretty excited for it. Some of the episodes really intrigue me. (See my latest blog post for more on that.) I was pretty pleased with Album 55, so while I'm hoping that Album 56 will continue the gradual improvements, I'm not getting my expectations too high, because I don't want to be disappointed. But so far, everything looks good, and I think we're in for an enjoyable new season of episodes.

The Old Judge: Who is your favorite Adventures in Odyssey character, before and after the hiatus?

Christian A.: Oh, man. Another hard question. This one I really don't know if I can answer. I think I've said before that Jimmy Barclay is one that stands out. Believe it or not, Connie is actually a very relatable character for me. She seems to struggle with a lot of the same things I do, so I am usually helped greatly when she receives advice from Whit. (At least, in the old days, before Andre.) After the hiatus.....I guess Matthew Parker is a pretty good character. Ryan Cummings as well. I guess if I had to pick one, I'd say Ryan.

The Old Judge: Who is your least favorite Adventures in Odyssey character, before and after the hiatus?

Christian A.: Now this could be a bit easier. After the hiatus....(drumroll please)....Penny Wise! She seems to bring out the worst in everybody. She makes Wooton forget his values and fall for someone he knows next to nothing about, and she brought Connie's guard down when it came to meditation and the false teachings of Doctor Trask. I just don't think she's good for Odyssey. I don't know what prompted the writers to make her such a big character. Before the hiatus is a little more difficult. There were always minor characters that rubbed me the wrong way: Erica Clark, Courtney, Kim, Jeff.....But I can't really think of any specific character who I thought was totally unnecessary, as in the case of Penny.

The Old Judge: Are there any Adventures in Odyssey fan podcasts you listen to?

Christian A.: Oh, I LOVED the Unofficial Podcast back in the day when they were up and going. I was so sad to see them go. All other fan podcasts pale in comparison to that one. The Ceiling Fan is a bit too silly for me. The Whit's End Podcast I just really don't listen to, for personal reasons. I like Dave's AIO review podcasts. His thoughts are fun to listen to. And then there's always the Official Podcast, which is mildly entertaining, but I don't even listen to every episode they release. It probably boils down to the fact that I don't have time to listen to podcasts anymore. Unless it looks interesting enough that I put it on my mp3 player, I probably won't listen to it.

The Old Judge: Are there any Adventures in Odyssey fan sites that you frequent?

Christian A.: Well, the ones that I frequent a lot include The Town of Odyssey, The Odyssey Scoop, AIOWiki, and The AIO Fan's Life, (when it's being updated), and The Changing Times. All the rest I visit semi-frequently, but I'm not really attached to any of them.

The Old Judge: What are your opinions on my site, Twists and Turns?

Christian A.: Well, I won't lie and say that I go there very often. But I just gave it a full once-over this morning, and I was genuinely impressed. Your "Imagination Station" page is very thorough, and I like how you include an icon with every site. Your features are interesting and very well-formatted. And your blog posts are very inclusive---meaning you cover absolutely everything. Kind of like how I was when I started my blog..... Anyway, it is a very good website. It stands out, and it's obvious you're a big fan of the show and you care about its future. My advice to you would be just to keep trying to improve your writing skills so that you can write reviews that people will look forward to. That's really the key to maintaining a great website.

The Old Judge: If you could write an Adventures in Odyssey episode, what would it be about?

Christian A.: I wouldn't really know where to start. If you're interested, I wrote this "Episode Idea" for the "Chicken Soup" section of The Odyssey Scoop about a year ago.

"Falling Up"

Matthew Parker starts noticing disappearances all over town. First, it's only streetlights and stop signs here and there. Then, plants and trees start vanishing from right where they were standing. But the trouble comes when one of the kids in his class at school disappears completely. So Matthew convinces Emily to help him interview the kid's parents about the vanishing. But, after a few days, more kids and even adults start disappearing. The Jones & Parker Detective Agency is forced to go on a stakeout. All the facts point to Mister Whittaker as the next victim. They keep watch in the bushes at his house, particularly looking for anything above his house. And just as the clock tower in the middle of town strikes 12 A.M., a UFO appears at the top of Whit's house. Matthew struggles to wake Emily up as a strange white beam shoots out of the middle of the strange floating spacecraft. Whit is pulled up through the air into the ship, and then the whole thing disappears. The next morning, Connie hears from Lawrence Hodges and Jared DeWhite that they plan to come back to town and disprove all this nonsense. Coming soon to a radio near you.

The Old Judge: What are your opnions on Wooton and Penny as a couple?

Christian A.: Oh, don't even get me started. I already stated that I really don't like Penny as a character. So when she's paired with one of Odyssey's most beloved characters, thats'one of the worst mistakes the Odyssey team could have made. She and Wooton just aren't a likable couple. And I'd really like to hear more about her religious beliefs before I could become comfortable with Wooton, a Christian, entering a relationship with her. That's all I'll say for now. I may write a blog post about this in the future. 

So...a little on the long side. :)  But hopefully you guys enjoyed reading it, and maybe you learned some new things about me. Please comment and tell me what you thought! And be sure to visit The Old Judge's website at  Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Clip from Album 56

Normally I'm hesitant to listen to a clip from an upcoming album, since I usually like to wait until I can hear the episode as it airs, but whenever the Official Podcast releases a clip, I allow myself to listen. In their most recent podcast, Bob and Jesse released a 2-minute long clip from "The Perfect Church," which, if you recall, was one the episodes I said I'm highly anticipating in the new season this fall. And I was very impressed with the clip, so if you haven't heard it, make sure you go give it a listen.

It really hearkens back to the old days of Odyssey. We haven't had a full-length Imagination Station adventure since before the relaunch, so that helps things, but I really like the direction this episode seems to be going. In fact, I'm excited about the direction the whole album is taking. Dave at "Dave's AIO Blog" recently expressed his concern that the overload of episodes featuring Whit's inventions in this album might leave fans "machined-out," but I'm looking forward to it. Yes, the inventions may get just a little old, after we hear from them multiple times this season, but I think that makes up for their absence over the last several seasons.

What are your thoughts about the upcoming season? Do you agree with Dave that there should have been fewer "invention episodes," or are you looking forward to hearing from all of them again? Please let me know in the comments!  Thanks for reading, even though this post was on the shorter side.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Album 56 Episode Titles and Summaries!

They're finally here! Well, I guess I shouldn't say "finally." I actually wasn't expecting them this soon. But I wasn't nearly as surprised to see that these were released as I was to see that Album 56 is now available for download! The time just flies by so fast. It doesn't seem like it's been very long at all since Album 55 finished. But I guess next month is September, so I must just be slow. ;)

Here are the brand new titles and descriptions for the shows on Album 56:

The Perfect Church, Parts I and II: After Matthew sees the problems and conflicts at his own church, Whit sends him on an Imagination Station adventure to witness the very first church in the book of Acts.

I think I'm looking forward to this episode more than any others. For one thing, we haven't heard from the Imagination Station at all since the relaunch (except for Matthew's short journey in "Fast As I Can"), so I'd like to see how the writers will handle it. But more importantly, I am very intrigued by a storyline involving the early church--and presumably it will be a story about all the problems it had. And especially because it's a two-part episode, I really can't wait to see where the writers are going to take this.

Great Expectations: As Emily pursues her hopes and dreams, she journeys in the Imagination Station to see Whit as a young boy.

I can't say that I'm as excited to hear this episode, namely because it involves Emily. But I'll probably get over that when she first meets Whit as a young boy. That will be very interesting. Also, I really like the title for the episode. Hopefully the episode will live up to its name, but I don't have very great expectations. :P

For Three Dollars More: When Barrett questions the value of tithing, Matthew, Connie, and Whit send him on trips in the Room of Consequence to see the results of his actions.

I'm not sure what I'll think about this episode. I have different views on tithing than do most Christians, so I doubt I'll agree with it. But I'll probably get into that more when I review the episode. Aside from that, however, I really look forward to hearing from the RoC again!

The Bible Network: Kids' Radio plays out the value of reading Scripture in three acts - a game show called "Who's the Real Sheep," a crime drama "BSI: Bible Study Investigation," and an intensive training regime called "Bible Boot Camp."

We already knew this episode title, but we hadn't received a summary for it yet. I'm very intrigued by it. It seems to me like a BTV episode, though not under that name. I'm interested to hear the "Who's the Real Sheep" game, which sounds like it could be about true and false conversion. But I won't get my hopes too high. ;)

Happy Hunting: Penny Wise embarks on a frantic search to find happiness, but in the process she makes everyone around her miserable. 

I released this one the other day, and it's still available for free download if you're interested, but I haven't gotten really excited about it. I don't really like the premise that Penny is seeking happiness. If she's a Christian, which we've been led to believe, why does she not already have happiness? And shouldn't she be looking for lasting joy, not just a shallow happiness? Anyway, I just hope this episode doesn't leave me miserable while Penny is making everyone in Odyssey miserable.

The Holy Hoopster: Ryan Cummings makes a series of seemingly miraculous last-second shots for his basketball team which makes him a celebrity - both for the hoops and for acknowledging Jesus.

Now this is more like it. Not only do we get to hear from Ryan again, but it sounds like he's going to become Odyssey's Jeremy Lin! I'm excited to hear a sports episode again, and maybe we'll get to hear from Coach Fang! This will definitely be one of my most-anticipated episodes of Album 56.

The Lost Riddle:Emily and Matthew discover a series of riddles from decades past stuck in the corner of her locker.

This episode has the potential to be pretty good. But I don't think I'll get my hopes up, just because there hasn't really been a Jones and Parker mystery that I've liked much since the relaunch. But who knows, maybe I'll be surprised. It's certainly intriguing.

Groundhog Jay:After Jay pushes Priscilla into an unexpected trip in the Room of Consequence, the two of them experience the same event over and over again.

Oooh, this one sounds really good. I'm not thrilled about an episode where Priscilla is so prominent, but I'm sure I'll get over it. Hopefully this episode will maintain a better story than "The Eternal Birthday." Whatever the show delivers, I'm sure it will become a favorite of my younger siblings, because they LOVE "The Eternal Birthday."

Home Again, Parts I and II: When Jason Whittaker finally returns to Odyssey for peace and quiet, the excitement surrounding his return makes it hard to find either.

Now this is another one where things could go either way. Hopefully the writers have a good story for this episode. I'm not sure how they'll deal with the fact that most of the town thinks Jason is dead, so that should be interesting. But I'm primarily looking forward to this episode because there's another old character returning. Yes, I was spoiled. But I don't want you to be spoiled, so I won't tell you who it is. And I would urge you not to try to find out, because I think if you don't know it's coming, you'll be very pleasantly surprised.

Well, that's The Grand Design. Hopefully it will live up to its episode summaries and be a very impressive album. I'm holding out hope that it will follow the pattern of ever-improving albums. So hopefully this album will be even better than 55!

What are your thoughts about the episodes? Are there any that you're particularly looking forward to? Tell me about it in the comments!  Thank you all for reading!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Push the Red Button!

I can't write much, since my allotted Internet time is almost up, but I thought you guys deserved something from me, since I haven't written anything in a couple of weeks.

I was on AIO Wiki just now and saw this new episode title and summary that have been released:

Push the Red Button:
Eugene creates an invention that will merge all the programs into one...and something goes wrong.

This sounds exciting! And I really love the title. I hope we get some more titles and summaries in the near future!

Oh, and for those of you who would like to take advantage of it, AIO Wiki has a link on the main page to a free download of an Album 56 episode called "Happy Hunting." I won't be downloading it, but if you'd like to, feel free. :)


Monday, July 16, 2012

Mealtime Moments

I know I haven't posted any news in, like, forever, and I used to post every little thing that ever happened in the Odyssey blogosphere, but I thought this was pretty newsworthy, particularly because I just saw it a couple of minutes ago. ;)

Apparently Odyssey is releasing another devotional, right on the heels of the first one they ever released. This one is called "Mealtime Moments," and will be written from the sole perspective of Whit, rather than various Odyssey characters, as in the first devotional. However, I was especially interested by the artwork for this new devotional. Rather than the typical Wooton-Connie-Eugene-Whit picture, this one features Whit, but also the entire Jones family!

I really like how everyone looks in this picture. Mr. and Mrs. Jones look perfect, Barrett looks great as well (he needed a nice haircut), and even though Emily looks starkly different than she ever has previously, I like the change, for the most part. Her face is more kiddish, and while it doesn't necessarily fit her voice, it fits her character and her supposed age better. Plus, there's no longer any makeup, which I always had a problem with. :P

What do you think of the picture? Please comment and tell me!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Nothing New, Nothing Old

Yes, I'm finally going to get around to my last review of the season. Although I was expecting to write it tomorrow, I found out that I won't have the opportunity to sit down and write for a half hour tomorrow morning, so I figured my only time, if I'm going to keep my promise, is this morning. So, here's my review of Something Old, Something New!

Contrary to most people it seems, I actually liked this two-parter. Now, let me qualify that by saying that it did have problems. But I don't think those problems were too big to make it a terrible episode, like others were portraying it. I think I already mentioned here that Mitch's return was a total surprise to me. For once, I had no idea that a surprise was coming. I was expecting a so-so episode about Connie, Penny, and Wooton and "Dreams by Constance."

I hadn't had time to listen to the episode early in the morning like I usually do, so I was tuning in to the radio broadcast with my whole family on the way to soccer. And I was liking what I was hearing. It was an original  episode idea, and it was intertwined with a fairly engaging Jones and Parker mystery. It wasn't the best premise in the world, but I was interested enough that I'd look forward to the next week to see how the stories would connect. And Wooton wasn't even all that annoying! Then, as I'm getting out of the van when we get to soccer, I'm about ready to walk away, because the episode's almost over, and I'm already a little late. But as I retrieved my water bottle (which I always forget) from the van, I heard Connie taking calls on Kids' Radio with Wooton. I was intrigued, so I listened. When the second caller started talking, I literally said to my brother, "Heh, that almost sounded like Mitch for a second." Imagine my shock when five seconds later I learned that it was Mitch! I was ecstatic. So much so that I immediately went and told one of my friends with whom I play soccer, but who knows next-to-nothing about Odyssey, all about what had just happened. :P

So maybe now you can see at least a little bit of why, despite how anticlimactic the second part of this episode was, I still really enjoyed it because of my experience with the first part. But then the second part really wasn't all that bad. There were a lot of plot twists. But I didn't think that was necessarily a bad thing. The writers actually had my dad and me totally believing one of the plot twists. I was sure that Maureen was a counterfeit painter, that she was secretly going out with another man ("Cute Guy"), and that Mitch was posing as her fiancee, but was really on an undercover operation to expose her. And my hypotheses seemed to be bolstered by the fact that I thought Mitch's acting sounded quite fake.

But then, as you know, the story took an unexpected turn, and not only were Mitch and Maureen truly going to get married, but they were both agents, working together to expose Jacques Henri, and Maureen wasn't doing anything illegal. So, in that sense, it was pretty anticlimactic for me, since I had all those ideas about Maureen being a fake. And I think, as a 7/8-year Odyssey fan, I still subconsciously wanted Connie and Mitch to be together, despite the fact that I knew it wouldn't work and that their previous failed attempt at marrying should have solidified in my mind that it wouldn't happen.

I think most fans, whether they like to admit it or not, were satisfied with the way things turned out with Connie and Mitch. Not only did it make for a more interesting story when they didn't get married, but it also kept Connie on the show. I mean, do we really think that the writers would have given us stories from Budapest about Mitch's adventures and Connie's trials at home? I, for one, am glad the decision was made to let Connie stick around and to let Mitch go. Yes, I, like everyone else who was very involved in the Novacom Saga and Connie and Mitch's dating relationship, really wanted them to get married. But I think I, like most fans, didn't consider all the implications of what would happen if they did. And now that I have thought about it more deeply, I don't want it to happen. Hopefully sometime in the future, we'll get to hear that Connie got an e-mail or something from Mitch saying that he and Maureen got married, so that we won't have any room left for "hoping" that Connie and Mitch have any chance together.

So that was another reason I liked the episode as a whole. Part I got me really excited that Mitch was back in town. And then Part II gave me time to think logically through the situation, resolved the situation by ensuring me that Maureen and Mitch were together for good, and satisfied me by finally concluding the Connie and Mitch saga.

Now, all that said, I don't think this was the absolute best way to resolve everything. There could have been a better story. Maureen could have been a bit more likeable, Steve Burns could have done a better job acting, so as to make me sympathize more with Mitch and make him feel like less of a dry character, but overall, I think it was a decent, if not good, conclusion. Fans should be moderately pleased with it.

As for other things I have to say about the episode, it was a little overly silly in some parts. I think less time could have been spent with Wooton and his unneeded preparations for the "wedding." And in that sense, I thought Wooton was distracting in this episode, but he wasn't as bad as he has been recently. He was more silly than intrusive and annoying, so I was okay with him. Plus, there wasn't much between him and Penny in the episode, so that was a relief.

This episode made me realize how very detached Andre Stojka's Whit feels from Paul Herlinger and Hal Smith's Whit. When Whit told Mitch, "Nice to see you again," I felt like he had no right to be saying that. I didn't like it. Andre as Whit still seems like a new character who was introduced with Album 51, who really doesn't have much of a connection with the Odyssey before that album. For the most part, I like his interactions with the newer characters--even Monty and Jason, to an extent. But something about his interactions with Mitch in this episode made me really miss Paul Herlinger.

I know the computer virus thing was something else that bothered people. But I didn't really care about that dropped plot line. It seemed like it was only needed in order to send the Wooton-and-Connie e-mail out to the whole town, and it served its purpose. Some people apparently thought it should have come into play as part of the FBI investigation in the second part of the episode, but I really didn't feel like it was a part of the plot that needed a resolution. Maybe it was just me, though.

Well, I think that's about all I have to say. I was very pleased with Album 55--with pretty much every episode--and this was a good way to end it. Maybe not the best way, but a good way. I was satisfied; I think most fans were satisfied in some way or another, so everything is okay. And now I really look forward to Album 56! Who knows, maybe this one will be better than 55? It's certainly looking like it has that potential.

Thank you for reading my review! Sorry it took me such a long time to get it out. I hope you enjoyed it!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

So Very Sorry

For those of you who have been wondering, I didn't fall off the face of the earth, and I didn't totally forget about this blog. I realize it's been over a month since I last posted. I actually come on here nearly every day to check for comments. :P  But I've been too lazy to post anything. However, I'm hoping to change that next week. I've been formulating a review in my head for "Something Old, Something New" ever since it aired, so it's not like I don't have material for a post. And I actually don't have a problem with time either. I'm just a professional procrastinator, so I haven't made myself get around to it yet.

I'm going to post within the next week though! And because I said so, unless something big comes up, I should definitely be able to follow through. Hopefully I will. :}

Thanks for sticking with me even when my posts are months apart!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Parent's Work

I guess I'm finally going to get around to reviewing this episode. I probably shouldn't have read so many others' reviews before I decided to review the episode, because now I'm afraid my thoughts aren't going to be very original. But I'll do my best to at least put things basically in my own words.

However... I will start out with this quote from Ben Warren from his review at The Changing Times. I thought he summed up my core feelings about this episode very well in this paragraph:
Ultimately, "Child's Play" is significant because it delves a little more into Eugene and Katrina's married life, and these sorts of stories are always more worth telling than stories about children or characters we may never hear from in 5 years. It also included scenes that highlighted the beauty of marriage; there's something very nice about listening in as they sit in their bedroom, getting ready for bed, discussing their concerns and fears with one another. That's the point where Eugene and Katrina feel, not only interesting, but real.
And that's what I thought made this episode another great story to add to the other excellent stories in Album 55. We haven't had an episode totally focused on Eugene and Katrina since their wedding episode "For Better or for Worse" in Album 44. And I thought it was very nice. The episode was slow-paced, and it gave us a look at what Eugene and Katrina's relationship is like behind closed doors. We got tastes of this in "How to Sink a Sub" and "You're Two Kind," and we got a closer look in "To Mend or Repair," but since this was a whole episode dedicated to their experience with babysitting children, it felt different, like we got to learn more about them than we have in a long time.

I really liked the kids in the episode. They were both very realistic, and they had great actors. Unless I'm a terrible judge of this, I was pretty certain that adult actors were not used for the kids. ;) That was a great choice. I don't think I would have liked the episode as much if the kids weren't played by real kids. I also liked the distinct, different personalities each kid had. It was a humorous situation for Eugene to have to keep up with such an active Kyle, and it was an interesting challenge for Katrina to stay sane while Joy asked her so many questions.

I thought Wooton was great in this episode. For once, I didn't think Wooton was annoying. He did his part, and he didn't intrude into anyone else's part. He felt like the old Wooton to me. You know, the one that was around at the same time as...Cal Jordan! Oh, it was so great to hear an old character mentioned! No longer do we have to think that all of the people at Whit's End suffered some sort of amnesia that caused them to forget everything and everyone that came before Album 51! But, yeah, it was nice to see that nod to the last generation of Odyssey kids...even though Cal's record was beaten about five minutes after we know it existed.... :P

Connie was also interesting. I thought it was, again, realistic, that she got tired of Joy's questions really fast. I would have been the same way. Which is why it was all the more admirable that Katrina was able to cope with them for so long. It almost leaves you wondering why the writers teased us with this episode, when you know the Meltsners won't be getting any kids of their own, apart from a miracle. Eugene and Katrina seem like they'd be so good with kids, but they can't have their own kids, so what's the point of knowing that?

But aside from that, I really liked this episode. It was entertaining, and yet not silly or too fast-paced. Just seeing a husband and wife, whom we've grown to love over the years, grow together and love each other was material enough for a superb episode. I hope there are more stories like these in the future. But...then again, I don't, because I think it was the uniqueness of this episode that made it so good. :)

What did you think of the episode? What did you think of what I thought of the episode? I'd love to hear about it! You can write me at Adventures in Odyssey Colorado Springs, Colora.... No wait, you can write me right under this post! ;)  Please comment!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two New Episode Titles

I was browsing the Town of Odyssey recently and saw a thread discussing the release of a new episode title and summary on the Album 56 page on AIO Wiki. The episode is called Home Again, Parts I and II, and the description is simply "Jason returns to Odyssey." As a warning however, I would highly advise you not to find out too much about this episode, because I already had a surprise spoiled for me by viewing that thread. I'm not sure how big a surprise it was supposed to be, but someone clicked past the spoiler alert and declared to everyone what he found there. So if you don't want to know, don't go looking, and be careful. ;)

In addition to that episode title, I also found out some information about Album 57 on the "Future" page at AIO Wiki. Do you guys remember the "Odyssey College Writer's Scholarship Contest"? I don't know if I ever said anything about it, since I didn't think many of my readers were eligible for the contest, but it was a contest for college-age kids who wanted to write a script for an Odyssey episode, to be used in a future album. Well, there's a winner named Angela Phillips from Minnesota, who won first place with the episode script called "A Jay in the Life."

Both of these episodes sound interesting to me. I can't say I'm as excited for these upcoming albums as I was for Album 55, but with all of the information that has been released so far, I'm looking forward to Album 56. I'm especially looking forward to this episode: "An episode takes place in the future with Jay, Matthew and Katrina, Jeremy Pessoa (Andy Pessoa's brother) player older Barrett and an actor from the past plays old Matthew." I had forgotten about that story until the other day when I was looking at the future page.

Anyways, what are you looking forward to in the future of Odyssey? And what do you think about these three new episodes? Please comment and let me know!

Friday, May 18, 2012


I was planning on writing and posting this earlier in the week--preferably not the night before Something Old, Something New, Part II comes out--but if you know anything about me, you know that some of my worst traits are laziness and procrastination. So, like a true procrastinator, I've waited until just about the last minute to get this out. Since I'm not writing a formal review of Something Old, Something New, Part I, I did want to talk about what I think might happen in the next part before it is officially released.

As you could probably tell from my previous post, I was really excited that Mitch came back in last week's episode. I even expressed to friends of mine who don't know much about Odyssey at all my excitement. Hopefully all of my excitement won't give me an expectation that is too high for tomorrow's episode to meet.

My first prediction, which I think makes the most sense of anything I'm conjecturing, is that Mitch is back in town because of the allegedly illegal activity going on involving "Cute Guy" and "Mystery Woman" Some have said that maybe Mitch and his fiancee are those two's true identities, which could be possible, since thus far only Matthew, Emily, and Penny have seen them. However, I think that's unlikely. It really seems like the mystery couple are doing something illegal with their paintings, so unless that impression is totally wrong, I don't think Mitch is involved in that.

A second thing I wanted to express was that although on the one hand, it would be nice and somewhat emotionally satisfying for Connie and Mitch to get back together, I don't want that to happen. For one thing, I don't think he's going to ditch his fiancee so quickly, even though we might hope that he would. And secondly, as I believe someone else has said, Mitch and Connie already determined that it was not God's will for them to get married. If, all of a sudden, God reveals to them that they are supposed to be together, it would not make a lot of sense to listeners who already have a hard time figuring out God's will and how all of the specifics of that should play out. If the relationship wasn't meant to be before, I don't think that should ever change, no matter how much we fans might want the two to be together.

My dad, on the other hand is a different story. He thinks that these two episodes are a setup for several episodes to come in Album 56 which will rebuild Mitch and Connie's relationship. I informed him that Paul McCusker (wasn't it?) had said that they wouldn't get back together until Eugene and Katrina had kids, and that since it's obvious now that they can't have kids, Connie and Mitch won't ever get married. Therefore, he now thinks that not only will Connie and Mitch renew their relationship, but Eugene and Katrina, in tomorrow's episode, will receive the news that, despite all odds, by a miracle of God, they're expecting a baby. And so, he thinks, with that obstacle removed, the next logical step will be for Mitch to somehow dump his fiancee and marry Connie. I don't think he's right at all, but I thought I'd amuse you by sharing that.

So my expectations are high for tomorrow's episode, despite my fears that it may not be that great of a resolution. I hope there is a very satisfactory ending if this plot will not be carried on into Album 56. I don't really see how much can be fit into one small 25-minute time slot, but I'll hold out hope just the same.

If you haven't listened to Part II yet, what are your expectations? Your fears? Your predictions? I'd love to hear them! Please comment!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I'm not going to review any episodes today, because I woke up late and now, after soccer, I don't have enough time before I go to work, but I still wanted to post something about how awe-stricken I was after hearing the episode today.

Almost three hours after hearing the end of today's episode on the radio, I'm still in shock about the surprise at the end. This was the best surprise ever! Or, at least since the relaunch. I'm so glad I didn't catch wind of this before hearing the episode, because it was so great to experience the surprise with my siblings and parents.

I can't believe Mitch is back! I didn't see it coming at all! When I heard his voice on the phone, I said to my brother, "Wow, that almost sounded like Mitch." And then it was! I am sooo excited. I liked just about everything about this episode. But I won't review it now. I can't wait for next week! Could Album 55 get any better?