Mr. Whittaker is a storyteller. He’s written plays, short stories and books. And sometimes his stories even end up on Odyssey. The last time he narrated an episode was Operation Dig-Out, in which Whit recounted the true story of his experience in the U.S. navy during World War II. And now for the episode Scattered Seeds, Whit has written a play entitled “The Sower and the Seeds.” But the plot of the play isn’t really the focus on the episode. We only hear a few snippets from the play and get nothing close to the full story. And Whit isn’t really the narrator either because Connie fills that role. Instead, Whit helps Connie recall the events of the rehearsal so she can arrange it into her own story. And low and behold, she finds a modern version of one of Jesus’ parables right there in her everyday life. So this show is basically a parable within a play within a story within an AIO episode, or something like that. That’s a lot of layers, but each new layer adds something and helps to emphasize the central theme of the show. In particular, the insertion of commentary from Whit and Connie shapes the story like a skillful writer would.
While talking to Whit, Connie asks, “How come the lessons I learn aren’t as exciting or adventurous or funny as the lessons you learn?” Connie obviously doesn’t listen to Adventures in Odyssey. If she did she’d remember all the entertaining lessons she’s learned over the years. Whit on the other hand doesn’t seem to learn new things very often. He’s usually the one teaching other people what they should know. And the few times when he does encounter something he can’t handle, like in A Member of the Family, it’s not entertaining as much as it’s just a broken, sad situation. And speaking of the Whittaker family, is there any particular reason why Monty and Jenny are still hanging around in this episode? The main reason I could come up with for their inclusion is that it helps to place the show at a specific point on the Odyssey timeline. Whenever someone tells a story, they are referencing a previous time, which can be very ambiguous. In this episode, Connie and Whit tell a story about a play that took place some time ago. When exactly did it happen? Well, because Whit’s grandkids appear, we know this story takes place during their extended Christmas vacation in town. This keeps the story feeling recent and realistic, rather than a convenient reworking of the past. It also helps to transition the Whittaker grandchildren out of the show again, as they now exist only in a story recalling their visit to Odyssey as if it is part of times gone by.
Good old Tom Riley. He was great in Ice Fishing and he’s great in this too. He fancied himself an experienced outdoorsman in the previous episode, and now he fancies himself a lead actor with “considerable talent.” Expect this time for some reason he’s disappointed to learn that he’s playing a farmer. Maybe after Eugene beat him at his own game Tom’s since realized that he’s not the outdoorsman he thought he was. Meanwhile, Jenny plays Weeds and she knows absolutely everything about her character. She even recognizes the influence of author George Orwell and the Greek mythological figure Persephone in Whit’s writing, which is a nice reminder that not only are the Whittakers well-read, but so are the Odyssey writers. The character of Weeds sounds like the perfect role for its complexity and stage presence. And then there’s Lucy’s role of Goody, which is pretty much the exact opposite. Connie and Whit accidentally belittle Lucy’s part to the point of absurdity, with Connie even mentioning that a cardboard cut-out would be better. This is hilarious and makes you feel really sorry for Lucy. And it makes it all the more meaningful that she of all people decides to stick with the play even as other cast members leave.
And finally, Eugene Meltsner arrives. For the first time he brings his ukulele with him, and some catchy songs as well. Eugene, who’s usually busy showing off his extensive vocabulary, is suddenly a folk singer. He’s obviously taken his victory over Tom Riley in the previous episode to an extreme. And it’s pretty funny when he tries to get people to sing along to his ukulele songs while everyone else is in a middle of a loud argument. But Eugene’s distractions aren’t enough to hide the group’s lack of cohesion and soon the Whittaker kids drop out of the play, and right out of the town of Odyssey too, which is where this episode makes a mistake. Jenny says she doesn’t want to do her monologue because it isn’t perfect yet and she doesn’t want to risk making a mistake in front of an audience. That doesn’t seem in character for Jenny. In The Reluctant Rival she didn’t have any trouble humiliating herself in front of a crowd by playing her violin horribly, but now all of a sudden she can’t practice something in front of Connie? Jenny leaves sounding like an immature, spoiled child who can’t get her way, which runs totally counter to the mature person she’s proven herself to be in previous episodes. Unless of course Jenny’s stubborn withdrawal from the play was all an act and she was simply bowing out to allow Lucy to take the role, similarly to how she allowed Sandra to take her violin solo. But that explanation doesn’t fit well with the parable.
The main reason this episode doesn’t get five stars is because it gives Whit’s grandchildren a mediocre send-off. They storm out of the show in a huff and aren’t heard from again. When Monty goes, Connie says, “Monty, you can’t leave!” And I agree. Monty and Jenny did not deserve to leave in this manner. They should have had a proper departure episode which included their mother Jana, who for some reason only appears in the first two episodes of the grandkids’ visit to Odyssey. After this disaster, much is skimmed over in the storytelling process. Whit simply reminds Connie that they still went ahead with the play and it was “a smashing success.” But I don’t really mind speeding up the episode at the end because hearing the play’s performance obviously was never supposed to be the focus of Connie’s story. It was supposed to parallel Jesus’ parable, which this episode does well with the help of Whit and Connie’s narration. It gets 4 out of 5 stars.