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.
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.
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!