Mary Barclay is back and, unfortunately, she hasn’t changed much since her appearance in A Good and Faithful Servant. In that episode she said things only a kid would say, and now she seems to be doing that again. She has good intentions, trying to protect Donna from bad influences, but for some reason Mary doesn’t sound quite right. When talking about Rachael she says, “From what I understand, she spends more time in the principal’s office then in her classes.” Not only is that an obvious exaggeration, but why is Mary spreading gossip about people at all? Donna even scolds her, telling her not to believe everything she hears. Just because there’s truth behind these rumors, doesn’t make wild speculation and gossip an acceptable practice. This issue could have easily been fixed if the writers had just replaced Mary with a kid character like Lucy. Actually, it probably wouldn’t fit for Lucy’s character, considering that she learned not to spread rumors about people in the previous album in the episode Rumor Has It. Maybe a kid character like Pamela or Oscar would have worked—anyone but an adult who is supposed to be mature. Mary Barclay doesn’t deserve to be mischaracterized in this way.
Connie, Odyssey’s resident new Christian, cannot get enough of studying the Bible. At first she just did it on her own, then she started a Bible study with some kids, and now she wants to go to yet another Bible study regularly with people her own age. Her enthusiasm is inspiring and fits perfectly into the larger narrative of AIO. But she is still new to Christianity. My favorite line from her in this episode is when Connie says, “It’s a Bible study, Whit. How can they teach the wrong things?” It’s easy to see where she’s coming from and I’m glad Whit is nearby to develop her spiritual discernment. This reminds me of the group Dr. Trask leads in Album 53, by which time it is much easier for Connie to spot even the subtlest of counterfeit versions of Christianity. But in the episode Bad Company, the heresy is not so subtle. Not only does the leader of the Bible study have the same voice as Mr. Glossman, which I’m sure Paul McCusker was thrilled about, but Jesus’ divinity is flatly denied and the Bible is seen as a book of lies. And, just like Mr. Glossman, the Bible study leader Mr. Grayson has an argument for everything Connie says. In the end, Connie creates yet another Bible study, this one also at Whit’s End because apparently Whit’s End must maintain a monopoly on all the Bible studies in Odyssey.
Rachael Woodworth is voiced by Stacy Alcorn, who frequently plays bad characters. She plays Michelle Terry in both The Case of the Missing Train Car and its remake, What Happened to the Silver Streak? She later plays the bully Shannon Everett in a few episodes. It seems Alcorn was typecast in these kinds of roles because she does such a good job playing the villain. And as soon as you hear Rachael’s voice, you can tell she isn’t a very nice person. The contrast between her voice and Donna’s voice is very evident. This has all to do with acting, of course, not with the actors’ natural personalities. If the characters’ roles had been reversed, Donna’s voice would have been the harsh-sounding one and Alcorn could have played Rachael with an uplifting and good-natured voice. As it happens, Rachael is not a very good friend. She leaves Donna behind to deal with the mall security and then makes Donna pay for the earrings she stole. Plus, she hangs out at the bowling alley, which is obviously where teen delinquents hang out. I wonder if Connie ever saw her there whenever she went bowling. But she must have given up that practice when she became a Christian. I know I seem to bring this up every time AIO mentions bowling, but this can serve as yet another explanation for why Connie is so astonishingly terrible at bowling when she goes out with Mitch.
Now, onto more serious matters. There’s a common denominator between the “bad company” that Donna and Connie have in this episode. Neither Rachael nor Mr. Grayson is a Christian. I’m sure the showrunners weren’t intending this, but that could be misinterpreted by some that we should avoid having non-Christian friends. Not every non-Christian is a shoplifter or false teacher. In fact, they probably haven’t taken the time to think very much about spiritual matters at all and could be open to learning more. That’s why I wish this episode wasn’t such a downer. It gives us all the examples of people to avoid. Where were the positive examples? The episode could have ended with Donna meeting a non-Christian who she could have the chance to become truly good friends with. That way she could have a good influence on them. But Bad Company gives us no such ending. Donna reads a Bible passage which summarizes what the Christian life should look like, but it doesn’t fit totally with the feel of the episode. The Bible passage in Psalm 1 talks about two ways of living: what you should do and what you should not do. In contrast, this episode is almost exclusively focused on what you should avoid doing. It is not well-rounded enough. It gets 3 out of 5 stars.