This episode introduces us to Terry Johnston, yet another one-off kid character. Terry, however, doesn’t appear to have a very interesting distinguishing characteristic. All we know about him is that he’s bored, which isn’t an original premise for an Odyssey episode. In Connie Comes to Town both Connie Kendall and Bobby Novak were bored of living in a small town and in The Day After Christmas Annie McNeal was bored of playing with her toys. Terry’s dad is named George. Again, not very original considering we were just introduced to the Barclay family’s father, also named George, just a few episodes ago. And his last name, Johnston, is one of the least exciting names you can find. But all these ordinary circumstances at the beginning work together to lure the audience into a false sense of security that this will be another slice-of-life show. This turns out to be our first glimpse into the almost unlimited potential AIO has for storytelling.
George Johnston is really Catspaw (not Cat Spa) which fortunately doesn’t turn out to be a spa for felines but is an alias for the CIA. This is not only Odyssey’s first international show, but also the beginning of its many encounters with espionage. The pursuit of the “formula” strikes me as amusing considering this episode is very clearly pursuing the basic formula of a classic action-adventure spy story. It has a car chase, a man in black gloves, a trade ride, sleeping gas, kidnapping and a trip to a foreign country. What more could you want?
George makes clear that the man in black gloves, Nigel, isn’t a Russian and isn’t loyal to any country at all. If this was an attempt to avoid characterizing Russians as the enemy, it is undermined by Nigel’s boss Maxim, who speaks with a Russian accent and uses the Russian word for “yes.” He is a classic villain and his apartment suite even features a tank of piranhas. That is another aspect of the action-adventure formula: the bad guy needs to own dangerous pets. Considering how much Nigel celebrates George’s death, it’s interesting that he didn’t look over the edge to watch George fall after he had pushed him. This plot point relies a little too much on coincidence. But I guess the hero needs to outsmart the villain in the end in these types of stories.
For a first attempt at a story of undercover agents and international espionage, Adventures in Odyssey does a great job. This episode was unexpected and widened the scope of the whole show into new and exciting territory, which is probably one of the reasons AIO has lasted for so many years. It was a ground-breaking episode when it was released and it remains compelling today. It gets 5 out of 5 stars.