Episode Reviewed: Emily the Genius (699)
Writer: Bob Hoose
Director: Bob Hoose
Sound Designer: Christopher Diehl
Music: John Campbell
Love always perseveres
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:7
Original Airdate: 11/26/11

Review Written by: Ben Warren, Staff Writer

Rating (out of 5):


Episode Summary

Emily is overwhelmed when a school test shows that she is a genius.


The Review

Emily the Genius isn't genius...and when it works, it works for reasons I don't think were on purpose. At first, Emily Jones seems like an odd choice to play the lead role. In previous episodes, such as Stage Fright and The Malted Milkball Falcon, she's been the bossy, know-it-all. I'm surprised she didn't flaunt her test results in front of everyone's faces or tell Matthew or Barrett they could be as smart as she was if only they worked a little harder. And yet, today's episode takes the stronger and more attractive sides of her personality--her dedication, her willingness to persevere--and combines it with a dash of much needed humility, giving someone I could easily empathize with for 25 minutes.

While I enjoyed Emily, the main problem is that this episode does a sloppy job with Mr. and Mrs. Jones' characters. All throughout, the parents are portrayed as out-of-touch, shallow dummies. Early in the episode, for instance, as they are about to announce the news about Emily's aptitude test to the family, Mrs. Jones, somewhat pathetically, says: "...I don't think I can say it without crying" while Mr. Jones rejoices "it seems our Emily is A GENIUS". This overblown reaction doesn't quite match up what Mr. Jones says in the next scene, "let's not get carried away about one set of test scores", which is, ironically followed a few seconds later by, "you'll get the edge on the upper level classes in high school and college scholarships! [...] I always suspected that our family would produce brilliance!" Didn't you just suggest to the others not to get carried away, Mr. Jones?

Furthermore, I don't know what was weirder: the parents saying "I always suspected that our family would produce brilliance" in front of Barrett or the fact that he remained so quiet the entire episode. It seemed like he was perfectly OK with the attention being given to Emily, and felt no jealousy whatsoever. You'd think he would have been a little upset considering Mr. Jones' later lectures him about wasting his time in front of video-games after spending several scenes "praising" his daughter. I was a little surprised the episode never addressed Barrett's feelings.

Would most families have a family meeting to announce such a thing? And would many parents even hold the aptitude test in such high regard? You'd think after 12 or so years, one wouldn't start treating their child any differently because of one set of test scores. Mr. and Mrs. Jones certainly didn't give very good impressions of themselves after this episode. The episode might have worked better if one replaced the Jones with the Rathbone family, and if Bart and Doris Rathbone discovered that their son, Rodney, was a genius; that would have made the preposterous way the parents reacted in today's episode make a little more sense.

Obviously Mr. Jones' level of enthusiasm was supposed to make the audience easily understand how Emily might feel pressured to do well. However, I found it all too much. In real life, parents just need to say one simple, slip of the tongue, or one slightly insensitive comment, and that's enough to make any child feel pressured. And that would have been enough in today's episode too. There were just too many insensitive moments that came out of Mr. Jones' mouth ("I figured that you'd think [the courthouse] was boring, but now that...well...") that his final "apology" seemed unfitting and underwhelming. Although he assures Emily that "I don't ever want you to feel that our love is bound up in some false expectations about what you'll be when you grow up. It isn't.", because of the way he behaved throughout the episode, I didn't believe him.

Many fans evaluate the strength of an episode by the strength of its theme. Personally, I just want to be entertained by a good story. However, for a season that is intentionally attempting to illustrate different aspects of "love", one of two things should have been done with
Emily the Genius. First, this "love always perseveres" theme did not fit the episode at all. Chris makes it sound like Emily did what she did because of some selfless love she had for her parents. However, her "perseverance" was motivated by an insecurity that she had. This isn't exactly the best metaphor for "love always perseveres". Laura Ingalls, from the Town of Odyssey phrases it perfectly:
"I think the theme of love worked for her parents, unconditionally loving her no matter what her test scores were. However, I didn't think love really fit what she was doing. I would say she was working hard of fear of losing her parents' approval, not necessarily out of love for them."
Nicely put. That's the problem with this episode; it veers from its logical destination and tries to cram in the idea that Emily did what she did without selfish motivations at all, which is certainly a different conclusion the listener would arrive at. Taking it a step further, I'll disagree with Laura and say that I don't even think the episode worked well her parents, who, as I've mentioned, never practiced "loving her no matter what her test scores were". They might have loved her, yes, but they obviously treated her differently the whole time regardless of what Mr. Jones says or tries to assure her of at the end.

That said, I don't expect parents to be perfect on Adventures in Odyssey; however, the episode barely acknowledges their imperfections. What is North America's preoccupation with brilliance? Do today's parent's have too high expectations of their children? What are some of the dangers of tests that measure children's intelligence? Overall, while it is well paced and provides a good role for Emily,
Emily the Genius raises important questions but never explores them as well as it could have.






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