This is an interesting episode because we get to see an entirely different side of Whit. Normally we see him as the friendly, grandfatherly figure always giving the perfect advice and always knowing how to communicate with others. But in this Adventures in Odyssey show his character gets another dimension we weren’t aware existed. When we see him actually acting as a grandfather he becomes a real person with faults and imperfections.
While they’re waiting in the airport Whit remarks to Tom that he hasn’t seen his grandson in three years. Given that Whit is a widower, I would have thought he spent Christmas together with his grandkids every year, but perhaps this is already a sign of how splintered the family is. Also, the only reason Monty is coming is because Jana is going to a conference. It seems Jana doesn’t want to visit her father herself.
As soon as Monty arrives on the scene, it becomes clear to the audience that something is wrong. He’s uninterested in talking to either Tom or Whit and when he sees his luggage he rudely tells Whit to hold his heavy bag and runs off to get the rest of his luggage. Whit is patient as Monty resists frozen pizza and even when he has a tantrum over brownies. But when Monty repeatedly asks whether he’s going to get an allowance, Whit arguably becomes a little irrational as well and needs time to cool off.
As a punishment for stealing money from the cash register at Whit’s End, Whit spanks Monty. Since Monty has never been spanked before, it’s understandable that he would be shocked and angry about it. But I think Whit does a pretty good job of explaining himself. He goes into storyteller mode and tells a story about a boy who lets his puppy off the leash to let it run free. Without the proper restraints the puppy runs out into traffic and is killed. It seems to me that Whit must have told this story before to one or more of his children to explain why he disciplined them.
Then we get a humorous transition to lighten the mood. The icing on the Coyotes’ cake has been smudged by Tom’s carelessness and Whit is trying to help him fix it. Monty has been quickly transformed and is getting along nicely with everything. When Jana returns she is confused that Monty calls Whit “Grandpa Whit.” When Jana questions why Whit spanked Monty, Whit immediately gets very defensive about it and accuses her of not knowing how to properly discipline her son. Whit apologizes afterwards of course, but he still revealed his temper. All three generations of the Whittaker’s have their own angry outbursts in this episode and Whit is no exception. We also get a closer look at the dynamic between Whit and Tom when they have a talk afterwards. Whit admits to always having troubles with Jana and Tom points out that Whit can indeed become unreasonable when she’s around. Tom helps him uncover his true feelings so he can be prepared to work through them, which in the process helps the audience better appreciate Whit and Tom’s friendship.
Listening to Whit and Jana’s fighting drives Monty to break a window at Whit’s End. He’s obviously gone through a lot of turmoil in his family and had to listen to his parents fight before they got divorced. This shows how deeply broken relationships can affect the kids involved. At the end of this episode Whit and Jana forgive each other and are ready for a fresh start. This is definitely a more mature and realistic look at families. They are full of sinful, damaged people but with the help of Jesus Christ they can learn to forgive, reconcile and move forward together. A Member of the Family, while it was hard to hear in some places, handled its subject material well and was very honest about the challenges families face. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.