Connie Kendall was there in the episode Recollections when we learned how Whit’s wife died and how Whit’s End was started, and she also appeared in the episode Thank You, God when Whit told the story of his stepmother and how he accepted Christ. So it makes sense that she would show up again in the next episode which explores Whit’s past, Rescue from Manatugo Point. Whit’s storytelling is one of the ways that the small town of Odyssey keeps from being boring. Without Whit’s presence Connie would have left for California a long time ago. Connie, being prone to boredom, tends to look for excitement by nosing about in other people’s business. Her curiosity is a nice addition to this episode. Whit makes a reference to how she went too far in A Bite of Applesauce, but this time Connie’s curiosity is pretty funny and makes the opening scene perfect. She wants to know what Whit is working on and then hangs around and whistles casually, waiting to find out what he’s received in the mail. The mysterious letter from a foreign country turns out to be from England. Whit remarks that he doesn’t know anyone in England who would write to him, which is quite shocking. Really, Mr. Whittaker? He knows everyone and could call up a close friend in just about every country in the world. But not anyone in England? Maybe he wasn’t as well-connected then as he is in later seasons, but that line still sounds out of place.
Like the previous stories from Mr. Whittaker’s history, this episode is another intense one. But this time Connie doesn’t get to hear the exciting story. Instead, Whit reads his journal alone in his study. It’s understandable at some level for a war veteran to reminisce alone, but at the same time it’s not the most imaginative way to tell a story. Thankfully the drama of the story itself makes up for that. The voice of young Mr. Whittaker, Jim Custer, does a great job in this episode taking on the persona of Whit. He doesn’t overdo it like he’s doing an impression of the grandfatherly advice-giving Whit we already know, but instead plays the character as he should be played, with subtle hints as to the person he would later become. And I’m glad this third episode from Whit’s past looks at a completely different era in his life. We’ve had flashbacks to him as a boy and as an older man. Now it’s finally time to hear him as a young man. And Adventures in Odyssey’s first World War II episode is the perfect opportunity for it.
The excitement element in Whit’s story is obvious. Upbeat and dramatic music plays as news flashes about the war zoom by. Whit is tasked with a potentially dangerous mission to help find the missing Lieutenant Reginald Duffield during the middle of the night in enemy territory. And it’s even scarier when the possibility of being captured and tortured by the Japanese is hinted at. We of course know Whit will survive this journey, but the danger of him being wounded or being taken by the Japanese to a prisoner of war camp is never out of the question. This keeps the suspense going. A good explanation is given of the torpedo-equipped mosquito boats which are especially fast and maneuverable. In a good story you need certain memorable images which are well described. And taking the time to explain the function of these U.S. navy ships helps the audience to visualize the action of the audio drama. I also like how the function of the coast watchers during the war in the South Pacific is explained. That adds a new level of realism to the story.
Unfortunately, this episode’s realism is weakened by the character of Malanga, the native boy. And it has nothing to do with how his lines are written; it has all to do with how he is acted which takes me out of the story. Malanga is played by Katie Leigh, the voice of Connie, and he doesn’t sound quite right as a result. He certainly doesn’t sound like a native boy. At best he sounds like a native girl, and at worst he sounds like an American adult trying to put on a foreign accent. This is particularly evident when Malanga starts crying. He wails loudly that “Sir Reggie gone!” and he immediately loses his fake accent and begins to sound just like Connie Kendall. In contrast to Malanga, actor Nathan Carlson and the voice of Richard Maxwell does a great job voicing the character of Reginald Duffield. He’s stereotypically English and he’s incredibly funny. He identifies his rescuers as definitely “yanks,” complains about his broken radio and then goes on and on about his love of tea. He then has an emotional moment with Malanga when he tells the boy that he’s leaving and can’t go with him. This scene partially redeems the character of Malanga despite his unnatural voice.
Unlike Recollections and Thank You, God, Whit doesn’t have much of a story arc in this episode. In fact he doesn’t even remember what happened at first and has to read it in his journal. Sure, it turns out to be exciting, but it’s really just part one of a two-part story. That makes it difficult to judge on its own. This is the beginning of a story which introduces its two main characters, Whit and Duffield. It is little more than a tale of action and adventure and would be incomplete without its follow-up, Operation: Dig-Out. But Rescue from Manatugo Point still remains a compelling beginning in Duffield’s story. It has a good pace and doesn’t try to accomplish too much by cramming in a lot of different battles, which the writer of a war-themed episode might have been tempted to do. And its two main characters, young Whit and Duffield, are perfectly cast. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.