This episode is Isaac Morton’s second appearance on the show and it’s noticeably better than his first. Not that his earlier episode’s lower quality was Isaac’s fault or anything. He is a strong character, but Isaac the Insecure still ended up having a pretty boring plot. There wasn’t much to do. For some reason studying books at the library doesn’t work well in an audio drama. For an episode on doing a report about C.S. Lewis, you would think it would have presented one or two interesting facts about the author. Isaac the Courageous, on the other hand, is full of excitement. It jumps from scene to scene, building its way up to the climax. And that’s partially because of the introduction of another character, Rodney Rathbone. Rodney is the perfect way to add some energy to show. The last person Isaac admired and wanted to be like, Jack Davis, wasn’t his usual self in Isaac the Insecure and didn’t show himself to be very entertaining. But here comes take two, Isaac the Courageous, in which the person Isaac wants to be friends with actually shows some personality. Plus, the episode throws in a series of challenges which the kids of Odyssey will have to get through. It’s a much more compelling story.
The episode begins with gym class, just like Front Page News. Except this time Coach Stubbs has been replaced by a gym teacher who isn’t mean and horrible all the time. When Isaac is stuck at the top of the climbing rope, the coach calls the fire department to help him and says, “Help’s on the way, Isaac. Just hang on.” Coach Stubbs would have just yelled at him and called him names. But that’s obviously not what this episode required. We don’t need a mean coach telling Isaac he’s a coward. That’s already pretty clear from all his moaning and whimpering as he hangs on for dear life like a cat trapped in a tree. You’d be hard-pressed to find a funnier way to open an episode about courage. This particular show doesn’t happen to be a comedy, but it still has a sense of humor. And between the strong characters of Isaac, Lucy and Rodney, it stays entertaining even when there’s nothing to laugh about.
Rodney is introduced as the head of a mysterious club called the Bones of Rath. What do we know about him? Well, he likes making other people perform daring feats like climbing high up and he likes causing pain in others by snapping rubber bands against their skin, which leads to bruising. But just in case you didn’t catch the subtly there, Lucy has to explain for the audience the kind of person Rodney is. She says, “He’s a nasty, mean, rotten person!” Isaac still doesn’t get it, and asks, “What’s your point?” And so Lucy just comes right out and says “Rodney’s a bully!” But even with that huge mountain of evidence, which makes it perfectly obvious to everybody listening that Rodney isn’t a nice person, the main character Isaac isn’t convinced. But that’s not such a bad thing for the purpose of this story. And not only does it fit with Isaac’s character, but it also fits with a lot of people who are willfully blind to the flaws of people they admire. It’s quite a common thing and in some situations can be dangerous. It was a great idea for the episode to touch on this topic.
Isaac can’t help being honest. He confesses to Lucy that he wants to join Rodney’s gang so he can gain “fame, prestige, [and] power,” something to fill the insecurities that he still struggles with. But I appreciate how this episode stays true to Isaac’s character and doesn’t let him go too far in his quest for acceptance. He is stopped by the Line of Bravery, unable to continue listening to the crazy things Rodney says. But realistically, Rodney should have banned Isaac earlier. Rodney apparently rejects kids that cry, so you’d think he would have rejected Isaac when he heard that he was trapped crying at the top of the rope in gym class and had to be helped down by a detachment of firefighters. Lucy said the whole school was talking about it. Apparently someone who does that still has a shot at becoming a Bone of Rath, at least in theory. But what’s even worse than the sound of kids crying is Rodney’s squeaky voice. Rodney first reveals his screechy side when he tries to imitate Isaac and humiliate him. This soon devolves into him simply making chicken noises. This may not have made Isaac very happy, but it was pretty funny to listen to.
In keeping with the theme of this episode, Mr. Whittaker tries to explain courage to Isaac. But in the process he uses a bizarre umbrella analogy, and Isaac isn’t impressed. It’s kind of like how Monty wasn’t too impressed with Whit’s snowflake analogy a few shows back. But just in case you thought Whit had lost the touch, he redeems himself by going back to the Bible and talking about Joshua. And it works because Isaac suddenly finds himself out on the ice, saving the life of a boy while risking his own life. He doesn’t have access to a climbing rope this time, so he organizes the other kids into a human chain. After it’s all over, Isaac says he isn’t sure he was courageous because he felt scared, to which Whit offers a perfect line: “Courage doesn’t have anything to do with how you feel, but what you do.” That’s a great point. Courage doesn’t mean never being afraid. It means doing the right thing even when you do feel afraid. To try to transition Isaac from someone who feels fear to someone who is fearless would have totally changed his character, not to mention be totally unrealistic. But this episode takes the better path by transitioning Isaac from someone who panics when he’s afraid to someone who keeps a level head and does what he can to help the situation even in the midst of his fear. It’s a great show which, despite some over-the-top moments, tells a relatable story with a simple yet important message. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.