007: Promises, Promises Review

Episode: 007: Promises, Promises
Originally Aired: January 2, 1988
From Album: Volume 1: The Adventure Begins

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Connie Kendall “Promises, Promises” is my favorite episode of Odyssey yet. And I don’t mean my favorite out of just the first few episodes. Although I’ve only reviewed through the first nine episodes (following the album order), in my personal listening, I’ve listened to the first nineteen albums (approximately 228 episodes). It is my favorite episode out of all the episodes I’ve listened to so far. I hesitate calling it my all-time favorite, because even with nineteen albums, I’ve listened to less than half of the complete Odyssey library (fifty-three albums and expanding). Until I’ve listened to a more significant portion of the entire library, I don’t feel comfortable declaring an all-time favorite. When that times comes though, this episode will definitely be a candidate.

The medium of radio allows Adventures in Odyssey to experiment with a number of framing devices. “Gifts for Madge and Guy” is Whit narrating a story. This episode is Connie writing a letter to her friend Marcy back in California.

This framing device allows Odyssey to continue doing the early episode reintroduction tango. We’ve already seen the new kid on the block strategy employed more than once. Davey was new to Whit’s End in “Whit’s Flop.” Craig was new in town in “The Life of the Party,” and Connie had just arrived in Odyssey in the appropriately titled “Connie Comes to Town.” I briefly discussed in my review of “The Life of the Party” that it is often necessary to reintroduce characters and reestablish the premise of a series multiple times during the beginning episodes of a series—what I call here the early episode reintroduction tango. It is safe to assume only seven episodes in that many people listening back in 1988 were catching the series for the first time with this episode. Connie’s no longer the new kid on the block, but writing a letter to a friend from California who doesn’t know anything about Odyssey enables her to briefly discuss how she came to Odyssey, reintroduce Whit, explain the purpose of Whit’s End, and reintroduce Tom Riley.

It has been said that original sin is the one doctrine we have empirical evidence for. Connie comments that she believes people are basically good deep down inside. Whit tells her that’s a noble and wonderful sentiment, but unfortunately, it is also one of the most ridiculous things he has ever heard.

Whit explains, “I don’t mean to offend you, but you’re way off when you say that people are basically good deep down. That’s not our nature. For proof all you have to do is look at any one of these youngsters running around here. Now, I don’t have to tell any of them how to misbehave. They already know that. But I sure do have to teach them how to be good” (emphasis added). This is deep theology. But never does it seem forced. It is an organic part of who these characters are. If you, like me, grew up in an environment not too unlike Odyssey, this is a conversation you can imagine occurring a hundred times over. Like I mentioned in my review of “Connie Comes to Town,” the producers of Odyssey aren’t fabricating a universe that bears no semblance with reality. Rather, they are reflecting a culture that is reality for millions of Americans.

That’s not to say that violence and poverty aren’t a part of reality too. Unfortunately, they are. As Whit would remind us, they are a consequence of the Fall. Are there things that we, as Christians, can do about those parts of reality? Connie insists “we need to do something” (although she’s not speaking as a Christian at this point in the series). Whit replies, “I am. I’m going to spend some extra time in prayer.” To which Connie counters, “No, I mean really do something.” It is a common misconception even among Christians that prayer is not action. We should not use this as an excuse not to provide material aid when we can, but we must not forget that prayer is the most important aid we can offer.

Matthew's Rating: 10 (out of 10)
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Wonderful site! You have superb insight into many different aspects of the series!

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