031-32: The Family Vacation (Parts 1 and 2) Review

Episode: 031-32: The Family Vacation (Parts 1 and 2)
Originally Aired: June 18, 1988
From Album: Volume 2: Stormy Weather

Buy album from Amazon!

Barclay Road Trip According to AIO Wiki, this is the second best-selling album. It’s not hard to imagine why.

Not everyone buys every album and obsessively listens to each episode like me and the three people reading these reviews. Many who buy albums are probably parents who are about to embark on a two-day road trip like the Barclay’s in the opening two-parter and just want something to keep their kids quiet on the road. They go to the local Christian bookstore, browse through the CDs, and come to the display of Adventures in Odyssey albums. They flip this album over and read:

“Sweetheart, look at this one. The first two episodes are about a family vacation just like we’re going on,” says Mr. Busy Parent to Mrs. Busy Parent. She skims the episode list herself and exclaims, “And look here. ‘V.B.S. Blues’ and ‘Camp What-A-Nut.’ You know the kids have VBS next week and camp the week after that.” Then Mr. Busy Parent points out, “This one, ‘The Last Great Adventure of the Summer,’ has ‘summer’ in the title. I know these are children’s programs, but this ‘The Case of the Secret Room’ sounds pretty exciting.”

In fact, my family went camping about this time last summer. The campgrounds were about three hours away. Three hours there and three hours back—the perfect amount of time to listen to one six-hour Adventures in Odyssey album in the car, but which one? I chose this album because of the road trip episodes and because it simply seemed like the perfect album to listen to at the beginning of summer.

Ideally, I would be able to review these episodes as someone who was hearing it for the first time in 1988. I’m not talking about that it would be weird in 2011 for Donna to bring along a cassette player instead of an MP3 player. If I was hearing this for the first time in 1988, I may think “The Family Vacation” is another “A Change of Hart” (at least, unlike “Hart,” Whit makes a brief appearance). Already being familiar with the Barclay’s, it feels like a serialized episode to me, whereas it may have felt more like an anthological episode if the calendar was turned back two decades. At first, it was somewhat of a shock to hear prepubescent Jimmy again!

The framing device in this episode is Jimmy journaling the vacation for school. This is the first time an episode has actually been told from a child’s point of view rather than just being targeted at children. “Promises, Promises” was told from Connie’s point of view (that episode used Connie writing a letter as the framing device), but Connie is a teenager (or young adult) not a kid.

I felt the episode leaned too heavily on Jimmy’s narration in the second part, but otherwise it was an effective framing device. It perfectly captures the mentality of a nine-to-ten-year-old boy. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Bible teacher at a camp for 9-14 year olds each summer. I also went to this camp when I was a kid. The first two years after I returned as an adult, I served as both a counsellor and a Bible teacher. Now I’m just a Bible teacher, because I found it too stressful to have two jobs at once. But those first two years I was also a counsellor for the nine-year-old boys. I know from first hand experience that a nine-year-old boy will go the whole week of camp without showering or changing clothes unless you make him. I laughed out loud when Jimmy told his mom that he was already wearing the clothes he would wear on vacation. Jimmy narrates:

It took three more tries before Mom would let me leave. And I had to take out most of the good stuff too—like half of the comic books and the army boots. Just for some clean underwear, socks, and shirts that make my neck itch.

Two-parters are not simply stories-too-long-for-a-single-episode-so-they-had-to-be-split-in-half. If a story is too long for a single installment in whatever medium you’re employing, then you’re probably using the wrong medium or you should modify the story so that it can be told in one installment. If a comic book story can’t be completed in twenty-four pages, then you should probably consider writing a graphic novel rather than just splitting the story up into two or three issues. If a TV episode can’t be completed in forty-two minutes, then you should consider making a movie rather than just splitting the story into two episodes. A two-parter is two separate and complete—yet tightly integrated—stories that, when combined, form a whole story but can stand alone as coherent stories on their own.

A lot of people who script TV shows and comic books today fail to grasp the purpose of a two-parter. “The Family Vacation” employs the two-parter correctly. There are two stories being told here: (1) preparing for and leaving on vacation and (2) the unexpected events that transpire on the vacation. The first part is the stronger of the two. It is also the more original of the two. We’ve all seen vacation gone awry a million times before. The first part is the slice of life storytelling that Odyssey excels at.

The second part features diegetic use of the Odyssey theme song. Non-diegetic music is music that the audience can hear that the characters can’t. The transition music between scenes is non-diegetic. The theme song, when played at the beginning of each episode, is also non-diegetic. Diegetic music is music that is actually part of the story. In other words, music the characters of the story—not just the audience—can hear. When the Barclay’s sing praise songs in the car or when Donna plays her cassette player, that is diegetic music. Whit’s Boredom Buster playing the Odyssey theme song was a nice creative touch.

Matthew's Rating: 5 (out of 10)
More info about 031-32: The Family Vacation (Parts 1 and 2):


That was honestly probably your best review so far. Great job! Your reviews are almost always very interesting to read, and they always give me a new view of the episode. Keep up the good work!

I love this episode!! I have the Drive Time album. It's a special collection of episodes. This, along Our Best Vacation Ever! are my favorites in this album. I think it's a bit better than that, but I am a kid. I love nearly every episode and rarely come across a episode I havn't listened to or liked!

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