In the 51st album, Take it from the Top, the Adventures in Odyssey writers chose not to include Katrina Meltsner (Eugene's wife) in any of the episodes, nor did they make any mention of the fact that she existed. They almost certainly did not see a need to bring Katrina back to the show. From what I can see, she was created to balance Eugene's personality—first as his love interest, later as his companion and soul mate during his quest for his father. Since both of those storylines were over, the writers seemed to be hesitant to bring her back in album 51 simply as Eugene's wife.
Rumor has it that Katrina will make an appearance in album 53. To me, the motive for the Odyssey team's change of mind appears to be that they saw many fans complaining and wondering about her absence and, as a result, decided to put Katrina back in the show to satisfy the fans. But there is a larger and more significant reason to restore her presence on the radio waves of Odyssey.
Katrina Meltsner is in danger of becoming the new "Maude" of the show, so to speak. Maude, the wife of local window washer Bernard Walton, was scarcely ever seen or talked about on the show—except when Bernard was complaining about her meatloaf. The fact that Maude was never around (and that Bernard never seemed to like her too much) gave me the message that they did not have the greatest of marriages. Not that theirs was particularly bad in any certain way; I simply got the feeling that they were not, in actuality, the greatest of friends.
That, I am afraid, is the state of things with Eugene and Katrina.
Never having Katrina around Eugene—plus Eugene never even mentioning her on the show—gives the message that their relationship is not all that it ought to be. When you add to that message the fact that Eugene appeared to be (in the words of one fan) "flirting with Connie", their relationship sounds even worse than Bernard and Maude's was. This is obviously not a good thing.
To be fair, I did not think that Connie and Eugene were flirting in album 51. I merely saw their interaction as mild bickering between two good friends. Perhaps the reason for the bickering was that, after the hiatus and re-launch of Odyssey, the AIO team intended to try to return to the older days of the show and bring back some of what people loved about the program—some of that classic Eugene/Connie banter.
Odyssey is stuck in the past. It rarely allows its characters to grow up and move on with their lives. Think about the many things the Odyssey team has tried to do to develop the characters of Connie and Eugene over the past ten years: Connie being a major part of the Timothy Center and endeavoring to carry out her life plans; Eugene no longer being needed at Whit's End and choosing to start Hand Up. But like Connie said in A Capsule Comes to Town: "All roads lead to Whit's End." The Odyssey team now seems to be backtracking again by taking Connie and Eugene back to where they started: working at Whit's End, as though the last twenty years never even happened.
What message are the writers sending to both their current and future teenage listeners by having two very influential people on the program—Eugene and Connie—remain as teenagers for the rest of their lives? Is retaining teenage behavior in life a good thing? On the contrary, remaining in adolescence and the teenage years is not healthy. The AIO team is unwittingly encouraging their listeners to do this by failing to move forward with the show and to make its characters act like adults.
Yet, they frequently turn down opportunities to bring about long-term character development and advance certain storylines because they believe that it would change the show too drastically. Therefore they sit, dwelling in the past, refusing to move on with the show.
One example of this is their aversion to giving Eugene and Katrina a family. Do they really want Eugene to remain the "last in a long line of a unique breed of Meltsners"? The Meltsner family name must live on! That would be a great way to bring Katrina back to the show and to fit her into a storyline—to "take it from the top" with the life of a newborn Meltsner. According to Paul McCusker, the AIO team is hesitant to introduce a baby to the Melstner family:
I don't think people realize how much that will change [Eugene's] character. It will have to change his character. And I don't know that we're prepared for him to change that much—because suddenly he won't be the character that everybody knows and loves because he'll be a father. Eugene can't be Eugene as we've known him and loved him for twenty years and be the father that he ought to be. (stated in the Official Adventures in Odyssey Podcast, December 22, 2009)
Twenty years? Yet they are still hesitant to let him grow up and be a man, and ideally what every man should become—a father. This is Focus on the Family, is it not? Why then is the Odyssey team so reluctant to bring about the final part of Eugene and Katrina's family by giving them children?
Yes, the entrance of a baby into Eugene and Katrina's life would change Eugene's character. But in a way, he has already been changing. He has not been the same person for twenty years. He has gotten saved, matured, and become less computerized as the show has gone on.
Besides, it would not change him as much as they think it would. Marshal Younger, in an interview with Christian Book Distributors in 2001, said this:
We [the AIO team] fought long and hard over whether or not we should get [Eugene and Katrina] married. We didn't know if our core audience (8-12 year-olds) would stop relating to Eugene if he got married.
Mr. Younger is almost saying kids would no longer identify with Eugene because marriage would change him too much. But in the end, did marriage change Eugene? Not really. In fact, Eugene hardly changed at all. A person is who he is, no matter what happens to him. Eugene would still be Eugene if he had a child. He would just have to start behaving like an adult and a father, and for that matter, a husband.
By "taking it from the top" (starting over at square one) to give new listeners the ability to understand the show and subsequently never even mentioning that Eugene is married, new listeners will think that Eugene is not married or, at the very least, will never know whether he is or not. Since they do not know, it would be very easy for them to get the idea that Connie and Eugene are "sweet on each other" (based on the fact of their bantering) and thereby think that they are sometimes "flirting". This may not be an uncommon misconception: many fans back in the day who loved Connie and Eugene's bickering thought that they were perfect for each other and were very upset when Katrina showed up on the scene.
That is all that needs to happen this time, as well. Katrina needs to be heard of and heard from to make sure that fans do not get the wrong idea about Connie and Eugene. And she will—in album 53. But will she simply disappear after she serves her purpose uncovering clues in The Green Ring Conspiracy? If she does, what does her absence communicate to all the kids who are listening to the show? Is it a good example of how the listeners should live their marriages when they are older? No, it is not. The messages that Eugene and Connie are "flirting" and that Eugene and Katrina might not have the best of marriages were most likely not intentional messages on the writers' part. But both of those messages could end up coming across. To ensure that they do not, Katrina needs to be around; Eugene also needs to talk about Katrina—in a positive light this time.
Marvin Grant is an Adventures in Odyssey fan and frequents The Odyssey Scoop.