"When Jason Whittaker finally returns to Odyssey for peace and quiet, the excitement around his return makes it hard to find either."
It's January. It's time for you to head back to school. You're really excited about seeing your group of friends because you had such a blast with them last year―the pranks you guys played, the chemistry you had, the overall group dynamic. However, this year, you noticed things have changed. Why? There's a new kid at school. She's started to hang out with you and has become "part of the gang". Your friends seem to like her, but things just don't feel the same anymore. For one thing, everything revolves around her now. And now you're wondering, "Why can't things just go back to the way they used to"?
This is how I felt while listening to "Home Again", the long-awaited episode about Jason's return to our lovable town of Odyssey. I was happy to hear that an old group of friends had finally gotten back together: Jason, Whit, Connie, Eugene, Joanne, Jack. I had even accepted that Wooton was now part of that gang, too. And as the episode starting rolling, it felt like old times. Unfortunately, the magic of the reunion was destroyed by the show awkwardly trying to stuff Penny Wise into it.
The biggest mistake this script made was giving Penny so much attention in an episode that should have focused on the people who knew and cared for Jason the most. Did Adventures in Odyssey populate the episode "Home, Sweet Home" with characters like Jared, Cody, or Mandy? Of course not! It wisely brought in characters that had previously interacted with Whit and/or great stakes in his return. In the same way, "Home Again" should have made characters who were emotionally invested in Jason's return drive the action. I wouldn't have minded Penny's presence if she hadn't driven the action as much as she had.
You see, I couldn't really buy the character's motivations from the start. From the beginning, Penny asks Connie, "So, when do we see Jason? I don't think it's very nice of him to come back and hide under your nose. [...] I'm sure he wouldn't mind if you happened to drop by." Penny admits that she doesn't know who Jason is, yet continues to speak of him as if she does for the remainder of the episode. Since she had barely any interaction with Jason in the past―and was even told by Connie not to go look for him―I kept wondering why on earth she was so eager to go look for him throughout the entire episode. Was she simply bored? To me, this obsession rang false from the start.
You would have thought that an episode about re-introducing Jason back to the show would have made Jason the star of the episode. Honestly, the sub-plot involving Eugene and the diamonds evolved into something greater than I expected it to. And it turned out to be more distracting than entertaining. In an episode that was supposed to be about Jason returning to everyday life, I wondered why it was necessary to have him get entangled with another mystery―especially since it had very little to do with the main story, at all. It felt like Jason's desire to rehabilitate into the world of Odyssey should have been its own one-parter episode while Eugene's crisis with the Karazinsky boys could have been its own thing.
So, forgetting everything else, what do I think of the Jason that is given to us? If you're a habitual reader of my reviews, you'll know I've often reviewed episodes featuring Jason with a degree of frustration. In my review of "The Green Ring Conspiracy", I wrote:
As most fans may remember, what made Jason Whittaker such a strong, memorable character wasn't his run-ins with villains, or his Indiana Jones-like persona, but his need to suppress his inner recklessness. [...] we see how Jason's inability to see straight when his own emotions got in the way made him such a fascinating character. What ever happened to his missionary gig? Why has Jason returned to being Agent Ethan Hunt in "No Way Out", "The Top Floor", and the atrocious "Accidental Dilemma"? More importantly, what ever happened to the conflicted Jason who once had to wrestle with his inner demons?
A year later, in my review of "The Labyrinth", I wrote:
I was looking forward to "The Labyrinth" because I expected the episode to finally explore Jason on a more intimate level than it had in the past 10 years since "Shining Armor" or "Sheep's Clothing". Once again, however, Jason's personal story arc wasn't touched upon in any way until the end of the episode once Agent Billings forces Grote inside the coffin and Jason is forced to talk with Dale about what happened. Up until this point in the episode, he's really just your one-dimensional action hero.
Time and time again, I've criticized the way Jason's character was been handled. It's not that I don't like the action-packed episodes, it's just that incessant action and little character development gets repetitive for over ten years. Although Jason yet again fails not to get involved in a sinister plot, we see how "Home Again" got things at least half-right; Jason literally had to struggle with "suppressing his inner recklessness" in the cabin while trying to spend time with God. These are nice scenes―although, somewhat reminiscent of moments in "Solitary Refinement". At long last, I felt like I had gotten a glimpse of the old Jason we used to know and love, and now that he's armed with the keys to the J&J Antique shop, I'm sure we're going to witness all sorts of neat adventures in the upcoming years.
The episode's most memorable moment is certainly worth mentioning. "Home Again" signified the departure of characters Jack and Joanne, two of the show's greatest characters. It was bittersweet. I assumed the reason Jack Allen was "off visiting relatives in Scotland" had something to do with the actor's availability; the truth is, Alan Young and Janet Waldo are getting older―like we all are. The last scenes with all of the characters huddled around the phone is one I'll remember for a long time. Although I certainly hope this isn't the last time we hear from these two characters, it's a fitting end to their time on the show. After all, most departing characters don't get to have the luxury of even having an ending.
Having Jason, Jack, and Joanne together again helps us to ignore "Home Again"'s inadequacies. It's just too bad there are so many distracting bits that pull us away from getting to the meat of the episode. It's entertaining, and there are some nice moments here and there, but I found the finish line much more rewarding than the journey. At long last, welcome home, Jason!
Writer: Paul McCusker
Director: Paul McCusker
Sound Designers: Christopher Diehl, Jonathan Crowe
Music: John Campbell
Original Airdate: 12/08/12 - 12/15/12