Bad Luck is another average Robyn Jacobs episode. There’s nothing special about it. Just like the episodes Good Business and But, You Promised, this story has a very simple lesson and is plagued by a boring plot which moves along at a slow pace. Robyn can be a strong character sometimes, like in The Greatest of These and Elijah. But that’s a little difficult when she gets stuck with a story which doesn’t go anywhere and leaves no room for its characters to breath or develop outside of its constraints. This time the lesson is about superstition. Probably because this was made recently after the Officer Harley episodes had been pulled from the radio and one of them, called Gotcha!, has a very similar theme. It’s all about a rabbit’s foot after all, which one of the kids uses as a good luck charm. But the episode Gotcha has a much wider in scope than you might think. It deals with horoscopes, the occult, the creation of the Bible Room, practical jokes, and of course has an appearance from the hilarious Officer Harley himself. Meanwhile, Bad Luck is so focused on its narrow theme that it ends up being repetitive and tiresome.
Robyn gets some junk mail and goes looking for somebody to talk to—anybody to help her decide what to do. She mentions that she couldn’t talk to her parents about it because they haven’t come home from work yet. So she goes to Whit’s End, but can’t find Mr. Whittaker there. If she had stumbled upon at least one responsible adult, then this whole thing could have been avoided. But instead she bumps into her friend Jessie and soon falls down the rabbit hole. And yet Robyn is never completely taken in by superstition. She never believes it to the extent that Jessie does; in fact she spends pretty much the entire episode arguing with Jessie about it. I understand the need to create some tension between Robyn and Jessie on this issue, but it’s still surprising just how strongly Jessie defends superstition and advocates Robyn give into blackmail. At least she’s motivated by wanting what’s best for her friend, which fits perfectly into what we heard from her character in The Very Best of Friends. But it’s still troubling that she would be so misguided.
This is Bernard Walton’s second episode and he seems to arrive mainly because the scene calls for a ladder and a bucket. And when you’re looking for those items in Odyssey, Bernard the window washer is your man. Even though Bernard only gets a few lines, he is one of the best things about this episode. He’s funny and yet a bit gloomy, which works well for an episode about being unlucky. He obviously doesn’t believe in superstition, but at the same time he’s pessimistic and would be more inclined to predict that something bad will happen rather than something good. So with Bernard’s odd mix of humor and misery, we get a quick scene which is both fun and unfortunate. Robyn stands under a ladder and a bucket falls on her head with perfect comedic timing just as Bernard is warning her about it. And from the sound of her voice it’s clear that the bucket not only hits Robyn’s head but fits over it completely, covering her face from view. But with that incident of silliness out of the way, prepare for a long and dark road towards an obvious lesson which could have easily been reached in five minutes rather than being stretched to a full-length show.
Jessie is back in the next scene and brings along a book about some of the ridiculous origins of superstitions, such as the old belief that walking under a ladder would stop a spirit from getting into heaven. Somehow she gets the idea that the book is actually advocating belief in bad luck and its supposed consequences, which I highly doubt is the case. Robyn argues with Jessie until she smashes her mirror, which is actually a welcome accident because it finally ends the scene. But in the very next scene, Jessie returns and it’s the same scenario all over again. It’s another argument which involves Jessie trying to convince Robyn that bad luck is a real thing. Could this episode have a bit more variety, please? It’s getting monotonous. At least this conversation ends with Robyn spilling the salt rather than another broken mirror. Jessie also gives Robyn a rabbit’s foot, which is the third gift Robyn has received during this episode. First was the chain letter, then the book and finally the foot. Robyn should know by now that people bearing gifts should be treated with skepticism.
The only real excitement in this show is when Robyn is nearly hit by a car but swerves on her bike to hit a tree instead. Her father Dale is concerned about the appearance of the rabbit’s foot and says he wants a talk with Robyn about it, but he decides to delay it until the end of the episode. Could you just give her the lesson now, Dale? That would save some time. Then Jessie shows up and brings up the topic of the chain letter all over again. Robyn responds, “Will you quit saying that?” I agree with Robyn wholeheartedly. And then during Robyn’s creepy nightmare, Jessie shows up yet again because for some reason she has to be in practically every scene. Both Dale and Jessie list off as many superstitions they can think of, basically all the ones that weren’t stuffed into the episode earlier. It has a similar feel to the nightmare in Nothing to Fear. Robyn wakes up from the dream to find herself digging around in a dumpster and is rescued by none other than Bernard Walton, the hero of this episode. Dale then finally has his talk with Robyn, which is actually a great discussion about superstition and would be very valuable to audience members. I like how Dale is able to easily explain away each incident of Robyn’s “bad luck” using common sense and logic. But despite Dale’s strong moment at the end, this episode takes us down a bit of a long-winded and dreary path to get there. It gets 3 out of 5 stars.