We’ve heard Robyn Jacobs struggle with work in previous episodes. In A Worker Approved she has trouble studying her Bible and in The Greatest of These she has trouble working with Oscar on a science project. And the trend continues in this episode, which is great for continuity. But this latest story is not without originality. What’s interesting about Robyn’s struggle this time around is that she’s doing it for money now. And for her, money is a big motivator, too much of a motivator in fact. She gets greedy and she pushes herself too far. Now, the theme of greed will come up later in this album in the episode The Treasure of LeMonde. But this is a good prelude to that story and develops the character of Robyn, while at the same time keeping her relatively consistent.
When we first meet Robyn in this episode she isn’t doing much. She’s bored, sitting in the living room doing absolutely nothing. That sounds like the perfect place to start an exciting adventure in Odyssey. Or maybe not. But thankfully Dale Jacobs comes on the scene to kick-start this episode. The bored kid seems to be one of AIO’s favorite stock characters. But whereas Annie McNeal and Terry Johnston go off on adventures to totally new places to deal with their boredom, Robyn takes the Connie Kendall route and gets a job. Dale suggests she get a paper route, by Robyn immediately shuns the words “work” and “job.” They’re foreign concepts. But the concept of money is not so foreign to her. Her problem seems to be that she wants to make money without having to work for it. And, ironically, she doesn’t realize that not having any work to do is just going to make her bored once again. The scene with Robyn delivering newspapers was unnecessary and was probably only included because the dog barking at her was supposed to be funny. This scene could have been cut and replaced by one line mentioning she had given up on the paper route. If you’re going to show Robyn quit her job delivering papers, why not create a whole montage of her giving up on certain jobs around town? But since this story is supposed to be all about Robyn’s business, I wish she had started it earlier on in the episode instead of wasting valuable time at the beginning.
The episode really starts heading somewhere when Robyn gets paid $10 for an hour’s work mowing the lawn. That’s not an insignificant amount. $10 an hour is still above today’s federal minimum wage. And when you consider inflation, Robyn’s paycheck gets even better. This episode came out in 1989. According to the United States Department of Labor’s inflation calculator, $10 in 1989 is worth about the same as $19.20 in 2014. That is quite a generous amount to get paid. And Robyn probably isn’t even using her own lawnmower or paying to fuel it. Those costs are covered by the people paying her. Plus she gets free lemonade on the side. That’s not a bad deal. It fits perfectly into Robyn’s ideal of doing as little work as possible for as much money as possible. It’s no surprise that this influx of cash causes her to create Robyn’s Rotor Company. Now when Dale hears about Robyn’s ambitions, he says to himself, “Do I try to calm her down and give her some cautious advice or do I watch and let her learn by herself? I think I’ll just watch this time.” This is what AIO episodes are made of. Thank you Dale for your considerate action, or inaction I should say. Without you this entertaining show would not have been possible. And thank you, Robyn, for being the guinea pig in this little experiment. You learn lessons for yourself so that we in the audience don’t have to repeat your mistakes.
After Robyn overworks herself, she goes to Whit’s End and says, “This isn’t what I wanted at all…I hate to quit, but I didn’t take these jobs to have to work for a living.” It’s a funny line because of course working for a living is the purpose of a job. But it also has truth in it because Robyn is not an adult and shouldn’t be expected to be self-sustaining. She’s dependent on her parents who work for both their living and hers. But at a moment of despair who should come along but Jack and Oscar, two guys who are ready to do Robyn’s work for her. Funny, she doesn’t like Oscar working on her school assignments, but she’s fine to push off work onto him when it suits her. And her greed leads her astray, causing her to be deceptive. Robyn reels in her new employees and tells them they can make $5 an hour, all the while being very careful to avoid telling them the amount she gets paid. One of my favorite parts in the episode is listening to Robyn work the phones. She’s really brilliant when she talks on the phone. She says, “Hello? Robyn’s Rotors. A lawn treatment on Thursday at 4? One of my employees can be there.” She’s so professional as she runs her business. It’s a real contrast to the tired and bored Robyn from the beginning of the story.
Another entertaining part is when Oscar and Jack unionize and try to negotiate a better contract. It ends up taking a difference of just 25 cents for them to go on strike. If you’re going to bring unions into a kid’s business, what about things like income tax, insurance or employment taxes? I bet Robyn doesn’t even have a business license. Jack and Oscar should have called her out for employing minors. But that might not have worked out too well for them. Ultimately, this story is all about doing an honest day’s work. And Robyn simply is not honest with Jack and Oscar and she was right to compromise with them in the end. But I was confused with her decision to give them the full $10. I’m not sure I agree Robyn should get no money. After all, her employees are using her company’s name and she is still answering phones and scheduling the lawn mowing. If she is still doing work and adding value, she should get paid something, but obviously not 50% of all the earnings. This was an average slice of life episode. It gets 3 out of 5 stars.