Vacation Bible School can sometimes get quite hectic and this is well represented in the episode VBS Blues. Adventures in Odyssey in general likes to be a bit lively and that certainly wasn’t out of place in this situation. It turns into a solid slice-of-life show that manages to be interesting without being unrealistic.
We are introduced to Ned Lewis as a VBS teacher who is in despair. He has lost all hope that his students will learn anything about the Bible during his class. It’s a simple and relatable story. Ned complains to Mr. Whittaker about Mugsy’s gang and their disrupting of his play’s rehearsals. It’s ironic that while Ned is annoyed about the kids not being invested in creating a good performance, the actor voicing Ned could use some time to spruce up his own acting skills. He doesn’t do nearly as good a job as the actors playing Mugsy and his gang.
Eugene Mumford, whose name seems to foreshadow the appearance of Eugene Meltsner in the next album, is actually pretty funny. Despite being played by the same actor as Craig Moorhead from The Life of the Party, Mugsy doesn’t need to resort to telling corny jokes. Between references to Rambo and Star Wars the three boys have a great time and the audience enjoys their fun along with them. Mugsy and his gang’s humor is contrasted with Ned’s bored frustration. Ned becomes more apathetic and cynical as his class progresses and it becomes clearer to the listener exactly what kind of lesson his character will have learned by the end of the episode.
Ned’s narration during the play sounds a bit off and at certain points it’s hard to tell whether his character is supposed to sound nervous or overly dramatic. Meanwhile Mugsy and his gang sound perfect, as usual. You can tell exactly when they’re reciting from the script and when they break away to do some ad-libbing. The play would have been terribly dry without the boys’ humor. Their jokes come naturally and fit in well.
After the play, Ned still thinks the performance was terrible. Apparently he didn’t hear the laughter, applause and constant cheers from the audience that was added to the episode in post-production. This shows how biased Ned is against Mugsy and his gang. He assumes they turn will his play into a disaster and so he doesn’t see its success. And he also assumes they won’t learn anything so he doesn’t notice when they do. It isn’t until the pastor congratulates him that he begins to see reality.
This episode was enjoyable mostly because of the appearance of Mugsy’s gang. They are the stars of the show and Ned simply tags along to be the victim of their disruptions. I also liked how Whit managed to tie Ned’s play “The Fiery Furnace” into the lesson Ned learned at the end. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.