042: The Last Great Adventure of Summer Review

Episode: 042: The Last Great Adventure of Summer
Originally Aired: September 3, 1988
From Album: Volume 2: Stormy Weather

Buy album from Amazon!

Rooftop Escape “The Last Great Adventure of Summer” is a milestone for Odyssey. Not a milestone in the same way “Connie Comes to Town,” which introduced Connie, “Connie,” which introduced Eugene and in which Connie got saved, and “The Imagination Station,” which introduced the Imagination Station, were milestones. But a milestone nonetheless.

“Great Adventure” marked a radical departure in terms of tone and genre from what Odyssey had done before. For the first forty episodes or so (I’ll get to the episode number issue in a moment), Adventures in Odyssey had been a small town sitcom similar to The Andy Griffith Show or reminiscent of old-time radio (OTR) sitcoms like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and The Aldrich Family. “Great Adventure,” on the other hand, is more reminiscent of OTR adventure series like The Shadow and The Green Hornet.

Paul McCusker, the writer of this episode, could have made it a spy parody. Odyssey does many—quite successful—parodies in the future. He makes the riskier choice of a straightforward spy adventure. And it pays off. All the production staff do a great job: Phil Lollar as director should get credit for getting the pacing just right. According to AIO: TOG, it was Dave Arnold’s first episode doing the complete postproduction solo. It also said it featured some of the most complicated sound design in Odyssey up to that point, but Arnold pulled it off with style. John Campbell’s influence—from composing the theme all the way down to composing the majority of the music for the individual episodes—on Odyssey has been immense. I loved his score for this episode. It was different than his normal score and brought to mind classic spy adventures.

There’s some more reordering of the episodes going on here. I’d already noted, “V.B.S. Blues” was moved to after “Kid’s Radio” to (it appears) keep Ned’s episodes together. Now “Great Adventure” is moved before “The Case of the Secret Room” and “Return to the Bible Room.” Since neither of those episodes have an explicit summer theme, maybe it was moved to turn “V.B.S. Blues,” “Camp What-A-Nut,” and “Great Adventure” into a block of summer-themed episodes.

Despite that the bulk of the episode is about two characters we’ve never heard before and will never hear again, this episode makes one of the most concerted efforts thus far in the series to establish continuity. The episode begins with Whit recapping the summer: He recalls a tornado, VBS, trying to start a radio station, vacations, and camp. Little touches like this are a nice reward for dedicated listeners.

Odyssey, being a children’s series, inserts a kid into the spy action. Inserting a kid into a spy adventure—especially when it’s played straightforward instead of as a parody—is a tricky proposition. Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks have both tried it with varying degrees of success (though it should be noted “Great Adventure” predates both of those movies by over a decade). Plus, Odyssey’s previous attempts at action adventure (the ditch in “My Brother’s Keeper” and the bear in “Camp What-A-Nut”) have been less than stellar. Terry in “Great Adventure” works and provides a character to describe some of the action you can’t see since it’s radio. Spy-fi is an inherently romantic genre anyway, and you can get away with a lot that is not realistic.

“Great Adventure” is a notch above your standard spy adventure. The typical spy adventure today is cynical: Your government is just as likely to kill you as it is to protect you. “Great Adventure” is sincere and patriotic. When Terry asks his dad why he became a spy, Catspaw replies, “I love my country, and I want to defend it against people out there who want to hurt it.” Contrast that with the antagonist, the “man in black” chasing them who is a “man with no county at all,” and he works for an international syndicate that sells military secrets to the highest bidder.

The climatic scene has an example of Chekhov’s gun. Chekhov’s gun is the technical term for when a seemingly irrelevant detail turns out to be central to the plot. When they enter Maxim’s (oddly pronounced so that it almost sounds like they’re calling the villain Maxine) lair, Terry notes the window washers, a seemingly irrelevant detail. The window washers turn out to be agents who save Catspaw’s life and assist in capturing Maxim.

The climatic scene also includes another spy-fi trademark: the twist ending. It turns out Catspaw’s capture was planned all along. A great episode. You can see why Terry said, “You mean, I just had the greatest adventure of the summer, and I can’t tell anyone about it.”

Matthew's Rating: 8 (out of 10)
More info about 042: The Last Great Adventure of Summer:


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