A mysterious stranger has come to Odyssey and who should he find behind the counter at Whit’s End but Connie Kendall? Yes, Connie, the girl who was so curious in the previous episode about Whit’s letter from a foreign country finds herself face to face with sender of that same letter. The stranger doesn’t give his name but by his English accent you should automatically know who he is after hearing the previous episode, Rescue from Manatugo Point. Within the context of this two-part story, it is obvious that he must be Sir Reginald Duffield. Just as actor Nathan Carlson does a great job playing the young Duffield, actor Parley Baer also does a fantastic job playing the older Duffield. He maintains some consistency with younger version of Duffield while also portraying the older version as a more tired and mature man. With the arrival of Duffield at Whit’s End, Connie’s curiosity becomes impossible to ignore. But Whit doesn’t tell her the story of how the two men met in the navy. Instead, he continues where he left off from last time. The fact that the two main characters have already been established for the audience is what allows Whit to jump straight back into the action in the South Pacific during World War II.
Whit’s story begins and we are quickly reminded about Duffield’s character when he complains about leaving his tea behind at Manatugo Point. And then this episode takes a turn to push the story in a new direction, different from the show before. Duffield realizes that Whit is a Christian and remarks that he used to go to church but doesn’t anymore. Whit replies that it’s never too late to go back and Duffield proposes they talk more about this topic after the battle. In just a few lines this already provides a deeper level of meaning for this episode which is lacking from the previous one. This is Adventures in Odyssey after all, so you can’t just have a long action sequence without a more meaningful point behind it. Mr. Whittaker’s reliance on his faith in God to help him through the fighting was below the surface before and now it becomes an important element of the story. Whit studying the Bible and then having it transition to him reading the Bible to the men right before they go out into battle is a nice touch and again helps to frame the experience along spiritual lines.
The mission itself is very different from the previous episode. Instead of launching a rescue mission, the Americans are invading a Japanese-held island. But they share one important characteristic: they both depend on stealth. Rescue from Manatugo Point is all about wandering through the jungle under cover of darkness and the fear of being followed or discovered is a menacing danger throughout. This fearful possibility is redoubled in Operation Dig-Out, which involves a lot more men, making the surprise attack by the Japanese this time even more terrifying. And what makes it all worse are the tactics the Japanese use to deceive the Americans, co-opting their signal and making it seem like the beach is safe. Of course, the signalman Mr. Whittaker is the one to figure this out just before the Japanese make a surprise attack. The scramble that ensues after the first shells strike reminds one of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The moment where Whit and Duffield rush to open the jammed door on a transport in order to rescue the men trapped inside is similar to the horrifying events at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 in which some men were trapped in damaged or sunken ships as a result of the Japanese attack. Some were rescued, but others died trapped inside. Getting to see Whit as a fearless action hero is not something that happens very often and it works well in this scene.
We meet Duffield again at Trickle Lake and, true to character, he brings a tea set with him. Duffield remarks that he brought mosquitoes with him but they flew away, which might be a joke or an allusion to the famous mosquito boats that were able to quickly escape from Manatugo Point. As Duffield and Whit talk as older men, it becomes increasingly clear how they have led very similar lives. Like Whit, Duffield’s wife has passed away and his children have all grown-up and moved away. Duffield tells Whit that he spent the last twenty-five years pastoring a church in a little village called Sunninghill. Granted, Whit is not a pastor, but he as well moved to a small town where he has spent his life helping kids and adults develop a relationship with God. What if Adventures in Odyssey hadn’t been about Whit at all but Duffield instead? I wonder what “Adventures in Sunninghill,” AIO’s British equivalent, would have been like. It’s a fascinating idea. If you’re interested in something like that, you might want to check out Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s Father Gilbert Mysteries, which is about an Anglican priest living in a small English village.
Operation Dig-Out includes the second and third acts in the Reginald Duffield story arc and therefore has the payoff that was set up in Rescue from Manatugo Point. As a result, this episode is a stronger story. It’s interesting to see how Whit had no idea the impact he had on Duffield. He almost forgot their conversations but Duffield kept thinking about them over and over. The theme that only God knows what becomes of the seeds we plant is an interesting way to look at these episodes. If Rescue from Manatugo Point is the seed, Operation Dig-Out is the harvest. Although it’s important to note that most of the seed-planting actually takes place in the first half of Operation Dig-Out, making Rescue from Manatugo Point a slightly unnecessary and lengthy prologue. Operation Dig-Out is where everything comes together perfectly and could probably have been made into a self-contained story. This episode gets 5 out of 5 stars.