We heard Connie go to Camp What-A-Nut after she was fired and now it’s time to see what Eugene was up to after he left Whit’s End. His adventure is quite a bit different, especially since he isn’t narrating it. In Connie Goes to Camp we were able to hear everything Connie was thinking and feeling as she reacted to her firing. But who knows if Eugene even has feelings because he sure keeps them hidden well. Instead of spending his time at a summer camp, Eugene opts for working with Campbell County Community College’s computers, which makes sense for his character but seems a little too close to how he was fired last time. In fact, there are clear parallels to when Whit was showing the computer Mabel to Eugene in the episode A Bite of Applesauce. In Eugene’s Dilemma, Mr. Burglemeister shows Eugene a locked room which he describes as “very top secret” and “very confidential.” It has computers in it which contain sensitive information such as finances, grades and other reports. Eugene calls it “very impressive,” which is his same reaction to Mabel. (His exact words in A Bite of Applesauce are “I’m very impressed.”) It was a great idea to make this connection between the two episodes. This is Eugene’s second chance to do the right thing.
There seem to be a lot of comparisons to be made in this episode. Nicholas Adamsworth, whose last name may or may not be a reference to the Garden of Eden story so clearly evident in A Bite of Applesauce, is very much like Eugene. He is highly intelligent and only started college at age eleven. And he must be very far ahead of his classmates if he’s already at college during the summer months even before the fall semester begins. Nicholas is also an orphan, his parents having died when he was young, which is similar to Eugene’s own experience. And then there’s the rude and nasty Richard Maxwell who, despite his attitude problem, is also similar to Eugene. Both Richard and Eugene are very good with computers, maybe too good for their own good, and are familiar with trying to access secret programs. Richard is very interested when he hears Eugene mention the computer program Applesauce, which was a major mistake on Eugene’s part. Richard, who already has a job lined up for him at Blackgaard’s Castle at this point, seems to know a lot about Whit’s End and I’m surprised Eugene was so unprofessional as to actually name Whit’s top secret program in front of him.
Eugene’s dilemma in this episode is the same as his dilemma in A Bite of Applesauce. He has to decide whether or not to tell the truth. He can either tell on Richard and risk getting Nicholas sent back to the orphanage, or he can keep quiet. Eugene decides to keep quiet and pretend it never happened, which is very similar to what he wants to do in A Bite of Applesauce. (He says Mr. Whittaker “need never know.”) And yet this time is different. This time Eugene’s conscience starts to nag at him. He decides to change the grades back, heaping guilt upon himself and away from Nicholas. When Mr. Burglemeister asks for a plausible explanation for his changing of the grades, Eugene gives none. This complete shift to an attitude of unselfishness was perfectly executed in this episode and shows a clear divergence from A Bite of Applesauce. Now, this of course all relies on the fact that Mr. Burglemeister doesn’t seem tech savvy enough or determined enough to dig a little deeper and discover that the grades had actually been corrected to what they were originally, but it’s very possible that wouldn’t have been discovered until much later after Eugene was long gone if Whit hadn’t intervened.
When Mr. Whittaker arrives Eugene’s newfound sense of humility and unselfish has grown even further. Not only does he take responsibility for the breach of Applesauce, but also for damaging Whit’s relationship with Connie in the process. He’s finally made the connection with his past mistakes and applying what he’s learned. This is a great moment. Eugene, the walking computer and encyclopedia, has a heart. He is acting out a scene of sacrificial love which, whether he knows it or not, points to the God of Christianity who he can’t accept at this point. Eugene could have turned out like Richard. If things had gone differently he might have been hired to work at Blackgaard’s Castle. Eugene has the computer expertise necessary and he’s familiar with Whit’s End and Mabel. Plus he knows Whit personally. He would have been the perfect candidate for Blackgaard to recruit. But as Eugene says in this episode, everyone has a choice. This time he chooses to forget about himself and his career and look out for others. Connie learned a similar thing when she first came to Whit’s End. She had to realize that she couldn’t live for herself and always look out for number one. But of course Eugene doesn’t explain any of this. The normally talkative Eugene has nothing to say. Unlike Connie, he gives us no narration. That’s what makes it so powerful. Instead of telling us what he learns, he lives it out.
Although this episode has a powerful and satisfying finale, it is ultimately less entertaining than the episode Connie Goes to Camp. It’s quite a different story. It has a much slower pace to it and has no subplots or scenes of comic relief. It’s basically just Eugene working on a computer for the first half of the episode and then for the second half it’s just Eugene being questioned at a hearing before the College Board of Inquiries. I could imagine this episode being told in reverse or even through flashbacks to spice it up. Can you imagine starting the episode and out of the blue hearing that Eugene has been charged with changing college students’ grades for money? That would have been a great opening. But alas, this story stays very linear and feels a bit sluggish as a result. That’s why I can’t give it a perfect rating. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.