The opening scene introduces us to Olivia Parker's story where she communicates how angry she is at Valerie Swanson for taking the spotlight away from Amber. When and where did this all happen, you wonder? I'm not too sure really. This important set-up has taken place before the episode began and thus summarized quite quickly for the listener in the opening scene. As a listener, I felt confused. What had happened to the first part of this story? Why are we dropped the middle of a story, and Amber, the person responsible for the "hard work" nowhere to be found? I guess she wasn't worth including in the episode.
After a conversation with Whit summarizing her frustrations, what do you think Olivia's next step is? Meeting up with Wooton Bassett, of course! That's how most kids in Odyssey solve their problems these days. These Wooton scenes are sprinkled throughout the remainder of the episode and I'm not quite sure I understood their relevance. I guess "Anger Mismanagement" was trying to be like "For the Fun of It"; a girl can learn about Wooton's perfect and selfless lifestyle by spending the day with him, and then see the error of their ways and change themselves. I suppose I just didn't care. Would it not have better to merely add to Olivia's main conflict, develop it further, instead of brushing it aside and introducing another story in hopes of using it to resolve the conflict of first? In an earlier review, I called Wooton "egotistical". That insult still fits. I saw no reason why he needed to be here.
Luckily, the episode had better moments. While Olivia's ordeal failed to captivate me, the show's third story gave me something worth listening to. Mr. Parker gets pushed around by both his wife and Grandma Lucia and then misses his football game. Now, this is all quite simple, and a little silly, but also very amusing. Mr. Parker, with his somewhat dry humor and awesome father-knows-best wisdom, is officially one of the best new characters on Adventures in Odyssey; there was good energy that came from his scenes with his wife and mother-in-law. And those scenes were the highlight of the episode.
My second favorite part of "Anger Mismanagement" is the brief interaction between Whit and Olivia at the beginning of the episode. If you don't remember that scene, go back and listen to it again, because there's some good, classic AIO stuff there. Whit tells Olivia, "It's not the anger itself that's a sin. It's how how you choose to behave in response to your anger". It's a topic I hadn't thought about much before, and Whit's words stayed with me after listening to the show...as they should.
Despite those nicer moments, the episode never quite comes together, and never feels like the full-fledged episode fans are entitled to after purchasing an Adventures in Odyssey album.
Sometimes large amounts of characters and plots can be weaved together well, and have even become classics as a result (Do Or Diet, A Lamb's Tale) but it doesn't always work. For instance, episode such as "Buddy Guard, Wooing wooton, Potential Possibilities could have been much better if they hadn't had competing storylines. Thankfully, most of these post-hiatus episdoes have concentrated on carefully developing only one story-line per episode, with the occasional sub-plot that compliments, instead of takes away from, the larger story.This quote is taken from my "Fast as I Can" review. "Anger Mismanagement", likewise, had multiple story-lines that don't quite fit together. They may work, thematically; however, the episode feels too cluttered and doesn't know what it should be focusing on. Quality is more important than quantity; I'd rather hear one really good story than three mediocre ones.
I'd be skeptical about anyone who claims they know how to write an Adventures in Odyssey episode better than its amazing writers. To be clear, I do not know how to write an Adventures in Odyssey episode. However, I'll just offer my opinion of how I think "Anger Mismanagement" could have worked. The show's main problem is that we never see Olivia Parker interact with her own family throughout the entire episode. Instead of interacting with Wooton, could she not have simply become involved with the situation at home and learnt a lesson about controlling anger from "watching" the parent's situation? This simple interaction would have cut away the need for Wooton to be in the show; and with one story line gone, the show would have had more time to include a clearer, lengthier set-up (i.e. Amber is shown working hard on the float with Olivia), and a clear conflict would have arisen (i.e. Olivia then discovers Valerie's treacherous lies, and must learn how to control her anger while working on the float), and a nice complementary B-plot could have entertained us between Olivia's scenes (i.e. meanwhile, Mr. Parker helps Grandma Lucia with her hairdressing business). The result would have been a tighter, sleeker and possibly even more interesting episode.
As is it, Olivia, Amber, and Valerie get pushed aside so that Wooton can have his time in the sun. We hear Olivia mumble and grumble about Valerie for the remainder of the episode, but she's not really doing anything. She has no story. She has no real conflict. Our protagonist is not even attempting to solve her own problems. "Anger Mismanagement" simply forgets the problem for a while and then--hey look!--it's Wooton! I understand that the point of the episode was to show how wallowing in her anger ultimately took her away from the pleasures of the working on the float; however, I kept thinking there must have been a more interesting way of presenting this.
In the end "Anger Mismanagement" is an example of mismanaging Wooton. It fails to realize family-centric shows can be excellent while focusing strictly on family members themselves. Throwing in Wooton for comic relief, and in order to entertain us, is forgetting all the great episodes that were created using solely Barclay and Jacob family members. They didn't need Wooton to make their episode successful; all they needed to do was to show families with good, natural chemistry. "Anger Mismanagement", despite a solid B-plot, starts off promising but ultimately feels bloated. Whit summarizes my thoughts nicely at the end: "I have a feeling this is all connected somehow, but I have no idea how." I share his confusion.