"As Emily pursues her hopes and dreams, she journeys in the Imagination Station to see Whit as a young boy." -AIOC
John Avery Whittaker, like many species in the animal kingdom, is no stranger to "molting", casting off a layer of skin every so often. That's the only explanation within the realm of Adventures in Odyssey for why John Avery Whittaker can look and sound so different every decade or so. The problem, however, is that with every re-birth, audiences must ultimately re-invest themselves into loving a new version of Whit. And it's not always so easy.
Thus far, Andre Stojka had done a spectacular job portraying Whit. He's captured the personality and spirit of the character well. But there was still one thing Andre Stojka was missing that Paul Herlinger had the advantage of right away. When Paul arrived, he had nearly forced us to like him by not only taking on Whit's history, but adding to it through "The Search for Whit", "Clara" and "The One About Trust". Andre Stojka, on the other hand, had filled Whit's shoes, but he hadn't really added to them; in other words, he hadn't been a part of any significant character revelations.
What can I learn about Andre Stojka's Whit that makes me care about him? In "Great Expectations" we find out that Whit once made a list that included finding the source of the Nile, witnessing a solar eclipse from a pacific island, and visiting all U.S State Capitals. We also learn that it was the kids of school who gave him the name "Whit", his interest in interning with National Geographic, and, to my surprise, the time he wanted to become a screenwriter. Who knew? But, as cool as all of these revelations were, I gave a great big grin―as Jack did―when I learned that Whit is taking flying lessons. Could this mean that he'll soon be unveiling the Strata-Flyer in a future episode?Most of the other snapshots, of course, simply filled in what we already know about this character. We got to hear about the time he was called off to the war, moved into his apartment with Jenny, and retired from teaching. These were all nice moments―each featuring a solid performance from Jim Custer. If I had any criticism, I would say that young John Whittaker sounded a little too similar to Eugene's childhood self in "A New Era". Whit, to my knowledge, was never a creepy brainiac as a child―at least, not according to what we know of him in "Thank You, God" and "Blackbeard's Treasure". A slight inconsistency, I think.
"Great Expectations" provided a theme relatable to both young and old fans of Adventures in Odyssey. Older listeners can relate to Whit; we can all think back to these particular moments of our lives and see how we arrived at where we are today―how we had certain dreams, gave up others, and slowly inched towards here and now. Young listeners can relate to Emily; they may dream and plan but, as "Great Expectations" teaches, our skills and circumstances may not allow us to accomplish those dreams. And that's okay.
At first, it seemed inevitable that the episode's biggest drawback would be that Emily Jones is the star of it. You may have wondered why Matthew Parker, Barrett Jones, or anyone else couldn't have been picked to star in this episode. However, Emily Jones was really the most logical choice. As was shown in "When You're Right, You're Right", this is a character who loves to tell people how to live their own lives; here, however, she's come to the horrifying realization that she may not even be in control her own life. Cristina Pucelli, quite smartly, tones down the character's usual pompousness and over-assertiveness and provides the perfect amount of emotional angst for me to relate to her.
To further prove how mindful "Great Expectations" was of its characters, they make a smart decision regarding the future of two of the show's most beloved individuals, Jack and Joanne. It turns out that they're packing their bags, selling J&J Antiques, and heading towards the runway. Was I sad when Joanne first broke the news to Emily? Absolutely. But it was a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand, it's sad to hear that two of the most beloved characters on Adventures in Odyssey are finally bidding "adieu". On the other hand, those who had grown up loving their presence on the show appreciate the fact they'll be getting some sort of closure. This was a smart, respectful move and I applaud the decision.
Despite all the characters and moments vying for attention, in the end, the star of this episode is Whit. We see how Whit is still as animate, richly-drawn, and mysterious as he's ever been. "Great Expectations", with its important theme, pitch-perfect execution, and absolute respect for its own history and characters, is―I dare proclaim―an Adventures in Odyssey classic.
Writers: Nathan Hoobler, Paul McCusker
Director: Nathan Hoobler
Sound Designer: Rob Jorgensen
Music: John Campbell
Theme: Goals, aspirations
Scripture: Proverbs 16:9
Original Airdate: 10/20/12