In the episode Suspicious Minds we spend the whole time learning that it is wrong to mistrust the people of Odyssey or accuse them of stealing. But An Act of Mercy pushes back against that idea, making it clear that there are indeed some nefarious characters in town. Rodney Rathbone, who was introduced in his first show as a bully and a gang leader, is now re-introduced in his second show as a petty thief. He claims he’s “a victim of circumstance,” which later becomes the title of another Rodney episode in Album 23. He tries to evade responsibility and calls the whole situation an accident, but he’s totally unconvincing. Rodney resorts to whining and doesn’t even attempt to come up with a coherent explanation for his actions. If he had the lawyer Howard J. Weizel at his side, maybe Tom would have had a problem. He could have sued Tom for his fence being a hazard. But Rodney on his own isn’t much of a threat. Tom explains that his apples aren’t ripe yet and that eating them would make Rodney sick. It’s interesting to note that just six episodes later, One Bad Apple aired (even though it was placed in the previous album). That means that Tom’s apples might already be laced with arsenic at this point due to the contaminated creek. If Rodney had eaten them he would definitely have gotten sick and then any lawyer would have had a much stronger case against Tom if any trace of poison was found in the apples. On the other hand, the main sticking point in the episode A Victim of Circumstance was that Whit’s End did not have a sign indicating that people weren’t allowed to climb on the roof, and Tom mentions that he does have a “No Trespassing” sign for his apple orchard. So maybe it still would have worked out after all.
Meanwhile, while Tom is showing mercy to Rodney, absolutely nothing is going on at Whit’s End. The customers have vanished and Whit and Connie are taking a break in the kitchen. You would think the Whit and Connie storyline would tie into the theme of mercy somehow, but no connection is ever made. When it comes to the game of checkers, neither player is prepared to show any mercy. But Whit and Connie are still pretty funny, and their banter in this show closely resembles Connie and Eugene’s banter. Their checkers game serves as some much needed comic relief, but Whit also helps to move the main story along by coaxing details out of his friend Tom. Whit mentions he heard about “the excitement” at Tom Riley’s farm, which underlines the fact that very little is happening at Whit’s End by comparison. Maybe Connie is acting a little more immature than usual, but that’s to be expected for an episode which is a remake of The Quality of Mercy, which took place in Connie’s early days in town before she was a Christian. The most exciting thing to happen at Whit’s End is for Rodney Rathbone to walk inside and start talking to Peter Holt, a conversation which goes unheard by Whit, Connie and Tom.
And speaking of Peter Holt, he seems to be this episode’s major weak point. Of course he’s not supposed to be an intimidating figure, but he’s so fragile that he fails to be believable. First of all, his voice doesn’t sound right. It’s basically a caricature of what a scared kid sounds like. And not only does he slip in and out of his accent, but when he raises his voice it changes completely. Secondly, as a character he has no drive to accomplish anything. If he had a massive debt then I could understand his feeling of helplessness. But all he needed was a dollar to pay Rodney. Just one dollar bill, and yet he makes no effort to get the money. Is there really no one is Odyssey who could give him an odd job to do? Peter even admits the reason he didn’t have the money was because he didn’t clean his room, which is why he didn’t get his full allowance. Peter probably should have been replaced by someone else, like Peter Dillon from Isaac the Courageous, who would have actually shown some initiative. Predictably, Peter Holt gets confronted by the violent Rodney. He is a literal pushover who Rodney can take advantage of by pushing him into a trash can. This scene would have been much more powerful if Peter had been replaced by a more likeable character.
After going for a walk, greeting everyone with a smile and whistling as he goes, Tom soon finds the dishevelled Peter and learns something everyone in the listening audience has known for some time: Rodney is a bully. When Officer O’Ryan arrives to take Rodney away, Bart Rathbone makes his grand debut. But Bart isn’t yet the Bart we know him as today. He’s actually quite reasonable and he cooperates with the police fully. He seems to want what’s best for Rodney and allows him to go over to Tom Riley’s farm to pay Tom back for the damage. This is probably because his character was written for this remake to replace the father from The Quality of Mercy, Bill Williams. Bart shows absolutely no animosity towards Tom, which becomes a strong feature of his character in later shows. It isn’t until Bart’s third episode, The Winning Edge, when he is revealed to be a scheming cheat, just like his son. Interestingly, that is also the first time he appears not in a remake replacing a previous character, but in an original episode. His crooked nature is later solidified forever in the construction of The Electric Palace in Album 11.
This show ends with some comedy as Rodney gets what he deserves. Tom and Officer O’Ryan have a fun little exchange as they decide what Rodney’s punishment will be after they discover in a shocking turn of events that Rodney can’t pay Tom back, as if they didn’t already know he didn’t have the money. O’Ryan jokingly suggests threatening him and pushing him into some trash cans, but Tom’s solution is again the more merciful one, allowing Rodney to pay off his debt by fixing the damage he caused. Then back at boring old Whit’s End where nothing happens, Mr. Whittaker astutely coaxes more information out of Tom, going so far as to find a biblical parable which ties in nicely with the episode’s main story. And then the episode ends on another moment of comedy as everyone falls on the floor and the game of checkers is ruined. I guess Whit’s End does have some excitement from time to time. This is an average episode which predictably follows the rigid structure of the biblical parable it’s based on. It’s a simple, quiet story which would have benefited from stronger performances, but unfortunately Peter Holt doesn’t pull that off. But it does have its fun moments and at least it keeps the character of Rodney consistent despite this being a remake which originally featured a different character in his place. This episode gets 3 out of 5 stars.