"Two Sides to Every Episode"
Written By: Shadowpaw
Because Oneplace wasn't able to upload "Called on in Class" at it's regular time, I was left with an interesting situation. In the past, I always listen to the new episode late on Friday night and then write my review before I head to bed. That way, my opinion is available first thing Saturday morning for fans who are curious what I had to say. Due to this routine, my opinions in the past have always been uninfluenced by what others think... as I always write my review without a clue how the fans will react to the same episode. This time around however, things were a little different.
I went to bed early Saturday morning after spending most of the night getting some school work done. My computer was left running to record several hours of a radio station that carried AIO so I would be able to hear the episode first thing when I got up. And I did. After listening to the episode, I went online, curious if people felt the same way about the episode as I did and I was amazed to find the majority didn't. Well not so much amazed as perhaps disappointed that people didn't find the episode nearly as enjoyable as I did. It may even be hard to understand coming from the guy who hailed simple episodes over those "over the top" shows anyday in my review of "Stubborn Streaks". But no, I haven't changed my stance... it's just this show is a perfect example of a zany story that doesn't need to be realistic to be enjoyed.
After reading the reviews and discussing with other people their thoughts on the show, I was prompted with a dilemma. Do I avoid tainting my (cough) good name (cough) by agreeing with what other people had said about the episode? Or do I go against the grain and brand myself as a lunatic? Obviously, the answer was pretty clear to me... as it would be to anyone who's listened to Odyssey for as long as most of us have. So after listening to the episode one more time to ensure I wasn't mistaken, I set about writing a review for an episode I thoroughly enjoyed.
Many people are drawing obvious parallels to "Snow Day", in which Alex Jefferson narrates his adventure to deliver cookies to his grandmother. The episodes are similar in style, yet I didn't like "Snow Day" very much at all. What makes this episode work is that Trent's fear of public speaking is something a lot of people can relate to. He's articulate, well liked and not unpopular.. but the show isn't about his inability to speak in front of an audience, but his fear of speaking in front of that audience. "Snow Day" was about an adventure to deliver cookies to his grandmother, which not many people do on a regular basis. I know a lot of kids, me included, feared doing presentations in front of the class and it's great to take a look at that fear in a satirical light. Especially when it ties into Odyssey's past so well.
Remember way back in "The Ill Gotten Deed" when the McCalisters were informed that the land they were inheriting was known for it's flooding? Or even in "The Curse" when Eugene discovers that the McCalister family has a cursed history on days that Odyssey made great advances in communication? Well, this episode brings those floods and the curse on communication (albeit a tad loosely) and combines them for a rather interesting and welcome look at Odyssey's foundation. The characters are a little strange, sure, and it's more of a childlike view of his ancestors rather than being historically accurate, but it's a welcome nod to Odyssey's past.
And another nice touch is Marvin in the show. If we're to embrace the Washington Family even remotely similiar to the way we did The Barclays or the Jacobs, we need to see the members of the family properly integrated into the community. The Shepards failed... due in no small part to the fact Aubrey and Bethany were homeschooled and only interacted with the other kids outside of school. The Mulligans were miserable failures as they don't even live in the town of Odyssey. But here we have one of the Washington kids in class just being a kid and not having to be the focal point. His shared fear of public speaking was nice and he never once uttered the word "oink". It was just good to hear a kid being a kid in an otherwise bizarre episode. Even Brenda, whom we heard briefly before in "For Trying Out Loud", seems to be a strong addition to the cast. I'd like to hear more of her and this trio... rather than be forced to learn new people's names and recognize their voice every other week.
However, while all these points I made are valid reasons for me liking the episode... the crux is the unique style this episode is told in. We take a trip into the mind of Trent deWhite and hear what's going on in his head. Considering he's the younger brother of Jared, the fact he has a wild imagination should come as no surprise to anyone. Though rather than aliens and conspiraces filling his mind, he's got the fear of speaking in front of his class. He's a smart kid, as evidenced by "It's All About Me" (and notice his original report was going to be the "Skeletal System"?), and likely has no problem putting words down or paper or speaking with his friends. But to actually talk in front of the class is an entirely different story. Even I got afraid speaking in front of my class and I was heavily into drama at my school. The things he imagined are all quite wild, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Obviously the Governor isn't going to sit in on his class, Trent and Marvin aren't going to tunnel out of the bathroom, and he's not going to forget his pants. But as none of these events really occured, it's really a moot point. It's all in his imagination. Though as revealed in the twist at the end, the entire time he was reading to the class. His presentation was about the fear of public speaking.
However, everything was brought to life with the terrific sound design. It was an extremely immersive experience, with top notch production elements across the board. Music, voice tracks, and background ambience all combined to create the best production so far this season. I don't know if 10 seconds went by without some new effect being introduced. And I very well could be alone on this... but the scene with Trent approaching the desk, finally being forced to present, had my heart pumping. Todd Busteed and his team were able to take such a simple scene from the script, and turn it into an incredibly dramatic moment. Kudos to everyone involved.
So that's all I have to say. My score may seem high to some, but I feel it's well worth the rating. Check it out for yourself, and let me know what you think. Fans can agree to disagree! :o)