This episode introduces the Barclay family, with Jimmy clearly as the star. His narration of the story not only gives it structure but it allows the audience to better connect with him. As he describes the events he sounds like a real kid. At the beginning of this story we are promised a trip to Florida but things don’t go as planned. Instead we get an unexpected road trip to Hopwood and the characters learn an unexpected lesson about preventing boredom. Jimmy’s narration helps to keep this episode from getting boring.
The first thing that Jimmy writes about is his sister Donna getting mad at him for no particular reason. She doesn’t want to go on vacation but can’t think of a good explanation for why she wants to stay home. Jimmy paints a picture in this episode of Donna as constantly whining and complaining about everything. Meanwhile, he only briefly touches on his own disagreements with his mother over what he should pack. One could argue that Jimmy may not be a completely reliable narrator. As we see in Two Sides to Every Story in Album 9, he does have his own perspective on things. I wonder what this episode would sound like if it was told from Donna’s perspective.
Jimmy must have thought his father being incompetent at fixing cars was pretty funny because he includes so many comments about it in his journal. One particularly bizarre event is when George tries to turn the car on and the radio turns on instead. Then when the radio button is pressed the horn starts blasting. Only when the horn is pressed does the car finally start up. While this is comedic, it’s hard to imagine this happening in real life. I think it’s safe to assume Jimmy is using artistic licence. He’s exaggerating the situation to make a point. We see this humor again when George wakes up Donna and Jimmy while a military trumpet call plays in the background.
Part 1 ends with a sudden display of dramatic music and an unexpected cliff hanger, leaving us wondering whether the Barclay family will be attacked by a crazy hitchhiker. This seems like a superficial way to get the audience to tune in for the conclusion and I don’t think it needed to be included.
Jimmy does a good deed near the end of the episode and gives Whit’s Boredom Buster to Donna. Jimmy’s likability increases and we are reminded once again that Whit is an inventor. When Donna finally turns the invention on, we hear a message from Whit with the Odyssey theme song in the background. Maybe we should add composer to Whit’s resume, unless of course he licensed the music from Focus on the Family.
This episode does a good job of introducing us to the Barclay family and deliberately gives us a special appreciation for Jimmy in particular. The road trip plot is something most people can relate to and it was told well. All the details Jimmy gives to us in his journal help us feel like we’re there along with him. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.