One of the most anticipated moments of Album 55 was finding out what precisely Eugene and Katrina's "unsettling" news was. And now we know.
A few weeks ago, I briefly mentioned to someone that there was an online rumour going around that Eugene and Katrina can't have kids together. I was curious to know how the show was going to tackle such an issue. That person answered, "Knowing Focus on the Family they'll probably have [Eugene and Katrina] see it as a sign from God to adopt". I sighed, then agreed. This wasn't an attack against Focus on the Family, mind you; the show has simply brought up the subject of adoption countless times, from The Mulligan episodes, to "Clara", to "The Chosen One".
You see, many people believe that they can fill the void of being childless by adopting. Some Christians may see it as a sign from God. Others may see it as a way to bury their pain. However, adopting a child should not be for yourself. The decision should be made by putting the needs of the potential child first. Grieve properly, and only once you have, then begin to consider something like adoption, if you truly believe it's the right thing to do.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find out that not only did Adventures in Odyssey not even mention the word "adoption", or the idea that Eugene and Katrina's predicament was somehow God's will, but instead chose to tackle issues such as grief and friendship. As both Eugene and Barrett find out, being a good friend means to be be aware of the needs of others. And as the listener finds out, we should place our grief in God's hands. Friendship, grief, and infertility...it's a mishmash of themes and messages; however, having a cornucopia of themes just makes this episode all the more bountiful. I walked away reflecting on many things. Essentially, "To Mend or Repair" handles its issues terrifically, hitting just the right note in every scene.
Bob Hoose, who directed this episode, really knew which direction to take the show in terms of tone. Many scenes sounded softer, less rushed, and more in-tuned with the personalities of its characters; Eugene, Whit, and Katrina sounded natural and performed their roles quite well; Jay, Barrett, and Mrs. Kramer, piloting the show's lighter moments, seemed conscious not to go too over-the-top with the comedy, noticeably aware of the seriousness of the A-plot. Collaboratively written by Marshall Younger and Paul McCusker, "To Mend or Repair" finds the right balance between that moment to cry and that moment to laugh, while rarely giving the impression that the different scenes don't fit together.
And while I would have preferred if the topic of infertility/miscarriage was made the central focus of the episode--like death "The Mortal Coil", abortion in "Pamela has a Problem", or divorce in "Life in the Third Person", I understand why this decision was made. Imagine the discussion that must have gone on in the writer's room. On the one hand, you could argue that splitting this episode into an A-plot and B-plot diminishes the seriousness of Katrina and Eugene's predicament; on the other, how many children ages 8-12 can truly relate to this issue? Only a few teenagers and some adults, married or considering marriage, can really appreciate the travesty of being unable to have children. Adding a storyline about Barrett and Priscilla is not my personal preference, but it is undoubtedly a logical one. It simply provides children with something relatable to listen to.
Together, these stories don't merely give advice about friendship but communicate that tragedy strikes us all at one point or another. Sometimes the difficulty can be as tiny and short-lived as what Priscilla had to deal with (she'll be over it by the next episode, certainly); other times it will be huge like what Eugene and Katrina went through (no, this won't be the last time we'll hear about it). Teaching children that things do eventually get better is important, but teaching them how to deal with the hurt, what we should do to help others, and, ultimately, Who we should draw our help from, is an invaluable lesson to be learned.