When the AIO team titles an episode “The Nemesis,” they aren’t joking around. Dr. Blackgaard truly is a villain and a serious threat to our friends at Whit’s End. Adventures in Odyssey proves again in this episode that it is not just a show for kids. It has something for the whole family to enjoy. Album 5 is a strong album because of its wide appeal, not only to different age groups but to people with different levels of experience with the show. New listeners will be thrown directly into the action but those who have listened from the beginning will appreciate how well this story ties into earlier episodes such as Recollections from Album 1. The city council scene in particular should bring back memories because it is dominated by a dispute between Tom Riley and Mr. Glossman. Except this time Glossman makes the bizarre move of trying to support Blackgaard by comparing Blackgaard’s Castle to Whit’s End. The fact that the episode opens with Glossman creates the possibility that a first time listener might be tempted into thinking Glossman is the nemesis that the episode title refers to. The way he tries to antagonize Tom and manipulate the discussion to go his way is so obviously calculating. But then Dr. Regis Blackgaard, played by the amazing Earl Boen, speaks in his deep, powerful and slightly sinister tone and removes all doubt about who the real nemesis is. The writing and the acting come together to create a truly superb character in Blackgaard.
This episode spends a lot of time on Richard Maxwell’s corrupting influence on both Lucy and Connie. And so much of it could have been avoided if there had just been better communication. When Richard shows up at Whit’s End he takes a shine to Lucy and Eugene tries to protect her by sending her away without explanation. Eugene is perfectly aware of Richard’s crimes and how he is capable of manipulating kids. But Eugene never once actually tells Lucy what kind of a person Richard is. This rather large oversight on Eugene’s part can be explained. When Eugene is in the presence of his own nemesis, Richard Maxwell, he can’t turn his focus away. In Eugene’s mind Richard is a villain who must be combatted with his full attention and as much aggression as he can muster, so he simply pushes Lucy aside instead of making an attempt to explain why. This fits well with Eugene’s sense of intellectual superiority he sometimes has around people. When Connie is around, Eugene sometimes laughs at her and says “Oh, Miss Kendall” in a condescending manner. Now, you never hear Eugene chuckle and say the words “Oh, Miss Cunningham-Schultz, why tax yourself with such information?” Such humor wouldn’t be appropriate with his nemesis in the room. But he does say, “Run along now, Lucy.” The dismissive sentiment is there beneath the surface. In contrast to the terse and uptight Eugene, the laidback Richard shows Lucy more attention than she asked for.
It seems Eugene’s cold attitude to Lucy must have contributed to Lucy’s cold reaction to Connie. Lucy is surprisingly unfriendly to Connie. Suddenly she blames Connie for what happened at camp and she even calls the camp rules stupid. She has lost all respect for Connie’s authority in a very short space of time. And she says her change in attitude is all because her parents decided to put her on restriction for the rest of the week, an unconvincing reason in my opinion. I would guess Whit’s End hasn’t been very accessible in the past while. With both its employees gone and with Whit having to pick up the slack while also attending Eugene’s hearing at the college and then later the city council meetings, there were probably a few days when Whit’s End was closed. And when Eugene and Whit were around their minds were probably preoccupied with other things. This is only speculation but it’s possible Lucy felt very isolated during this time. Now suddenly the “nice-looking” and fun-loving Richard Maxwell shows up and takes a real interest in her. It’s easy to see how this could cause her to react strongly against Connie and push her towards Richard. Of course, Lucy’s reaction to Connie further isolates Connie, which plays right into the hands of the manipulative Richard Maxwell. The downward spiral into a worse and worse situation continues to flow naturally after that.
Dr. Blackgaard says Connie was fired for simply being curious. Well, clearly he doesn’t know Connie because if she was fired every time she got curious she’d have been let go from Whit’s End a long time ago. And what’s more, Blackgaard also uses the word “curious” to describe his interest in the computer program Applesauce. That should be big clue that he’s hiding what’s going on beneath the surface and trying to make something serious seem trivial. No wonder he doesn’t blame Connie for simply trying to turn Applesauce on if his idea of curiosity is trying to steal it. And speaking of Blackgaard’s motives, I don’t think I fully understand why he doesn’t just come up with a really convincing presentation for the city council so he can get his business license. Why does he feel the need to take drastic measures and keep Whit and Tom from coming to the city council meeting? My best guess would be that it’s quite possible Blackgaard feels entitled to a business license after all the years he put into trying to gain access to the town of Odyssey. And of course the business Blackgaard’s Castle is just a front for the real reason he’s here. Ultimately this episode seems to be more concerned with showing us the kind of dirty tactics Blackgaard is willing to use rather than giving much explanation at this point, which makes for a faster-paced and thrilling story.
The three scenes that play during the climax were woven together particularly skillfully and tie up the loose ends in an exciting way. We hear Glossman wondering where Tom Riley is and Blackgaard telling him to start the meeting without him, followed by Tom starting to drive away but suddenly noticing smoke coming from his farm. The scene which has Connie meeting with Whit and working things out flows well into the next scene where they have to rush to save Tom and his horses from a burning barn. And then we jump back to the city council meeting where Dr. Blackgaard is giving his sinister victory speech, followed by applause. All those scenes with the quick cuts between them were done to perfection and really make the episode shine as an exciting drama. This episode gets 5 out of 5 stars.