Isaac Morton is introduced in this episode and it’s immediately clear that he’s a great character. So how does his grand debut wind up as an average episode instead of aspiring to greatness? Mostly because it’s a little boring. It alternates between two settings, school and the library, and it doesn’t have any of the regular adult characters like Connie, Eugene or Whit. Coach Fred Zachary is the first adult character we hear and is probably the best in the episode, but he is only in the first scene. Since he’s quite funny, I would have liked to have heard me a few more times in this story. Wherever Coach Zachary goes, there’s incompetence, and not necessarily his own. He just winds up with hopeless students sometimes. He kindly points out to Isaac that his goal is in the other direction that he was going and that he had been playing the game of soccer horribly wrong. This reminds me of Connie Goes to Camp, in which Coach Zachary hilariously fails to teach the boys anything. They’re constantly doing the opposite of what they’re supposed to do. They point the arrows the wrong way, they put their paddles in the water the wrong way, and they don’t untie their canoe from the dock and can’t figure out why they aren’t moving anywhere. Isaac would have fit right into that group of boys.
Since insecurity exists in one’s own mind, Isaac Morton manages to pull off the feat of being an interesting character in an otherwise uninteresting story. Everything he says to others or to himself adds to the show while other characters contribute little or detract from it. The scene with Jack stumbling to answer a math problem in front of the class would have been nothing without Isaac’s valuable commentary. He reshapes the scene before the audience to make Jack look like the cool guy who is just playing around and having fun, rather than actually being genuinely nervous. It is obvious that Isaac’s perspective is skewed and inaccurate, which adds to the entertainment value and shows him to be an original and likeable character. Even when he insults Lucy by saying “people like you and me” are “goofy-looking, bland, [and] clumsy,” you can tell he hurts her feelings by accident and is completely oblivious to the reality of the situation. Isaac has no bad intentions in this episode. He even comes right out and says to Lucy that he just wants to be like Jack Davis. You have to admire him for being so honest.
Of course Isaac picks C.S. Lewis as the author to do his project on. Lewis’ nickname was “Jack” after all, so Isaac can’t help but be drawn to him. He makes an interesting comparison between himself and Jack Davis. He calls Jack “popular and cool,” compared to himself who is “plain, ordinary and boring.” This self-description so obviously does not fit the facts from the audience’s perspective. In this episode Jack Davis is one who seems boring compared to this new and thoughtful character called Isaac Morton. He is anything but plain. Jack doesn’t come across as cool, but as cold. He comes to the library late and then says, “You look like you have the situation under control. Maybe I should let you get started and I’ll pick up as we go along. No sense doubling our effort.” When I hear that line I think there is no reason whatsoever for Isaac not to believe that Jack is slacking off and planning to force Isaac to do the whole project himself. Isn’t getting out of work what Jack does? He’s the boy who tried to skip church cleanup day by hanging out at Whit’s End with Lucy. Isaac had every right to be suspicious of Jack’s intentions.
Isaac has two strong characteristics in this episode. He admires Jack and he wants to do what’s right. Naturally, these two feelings come into conflict when Mrs. Rush confronts him and starts asking questions. Isaac wants to stand up for Jack, but he also wants to do what’s right and tell the truth. Isaac shows off his strengths as a likeable character through his weaknesses. He is not a very convincing liar. He is hilarious as he tries to worm his way out of answering the teacher’s questions and is totally unable to hide his obvious nervousness. Mrs. Rush asks what things he has been researching for the project and Isaac replies that he’s been looking up “interesting stuff,” but can’t be more specific about it. While this line seems to have been written to give Mrs. Rush a big clue that something isn’t quite right here, it doesn’t make sense for Isaac to say. Why would Isaac, the boy who is convinced that he has to research this project on his own and has spent countless hours in the library doing just that, not be able to specify anything that he’s looked up about C.S. Lewis? If he had been slacking off, I can understand that answer from him. But Isaac clearly hasn’t and so you would expect him to be able to say something more than just “interesting stuff.”
My biggest problem with this episode is the conclusion. Isaac suddenly stumbles across Jack and finds out he was working in another part of the library the whole time. Jack says was going to call Isaac later to compare notes. Sure, Jack and Isaac never exchanged phone numbers and Jack decided to wait until the last possible day to compare notes on this major project, but that’s not a problem, right? Wrong. You can’t possibly collaborate to create a single report by not working together; otherwise there would be huge overlap in the details covered. And the last day is not a great time to start trying to put together a cohesive report. Jack says he figured Isaac didn’t want to do the report with him, but I don’t believe that for a second. Isaac gave no indication of this whatsoever, but Jack definitely did hint that he didn’t want to do the project with Isaac. Therefore, I don’t buy this happy ending, which is too quick, easy and simplistic. Overall, the story is just average. Isaac has a strong performance but Jack, who is usually strong as well, is surprisingly weak and uninteresting this time. This episode gets 3 out of 5 stars.