Connie Kendall is late for work one morning (as always) and finds John Whittaker (Whit) in a booth reading old journals. Connie picks up one and finds a life list- things Whit wanted to accomplish in his life. Emily Jones walks in to get a cup of coffee for her dad and tells Whit and Connie about how she gets to judge a case for a school project.
Emily is at the library researching the case when her dad, Simon Jones comes in. She asks him if most of his cases require this much work, and he says most of them are more complicated than this one. His cases usually involve more research.
Later, Whit is working on the Imagination Station and Emily walks up. She realized that she hates doing the research for the case. She is discouraged. She isn't sure she wants to be a judge anymore. Whit tells Emily that he's been working on a personal program for the Imagination Station that might help her in some way. She agrees to step through the door and try out the adventure.
Her adventure begins at the home of young John Whittaker. Emily serves as the baby sitter. Young John shows her a list of things he wants to achieve in his life. John asks her if she wants to see his plane collection. He leads the way and as she passes through the door, she's taken to a few years later.
John asks her to proofread an article for National Geographic. A mailman arrives at the door and delivers a letter for the selective service. The mailman wishes him luck. Whit realizes that he's being drafted into the military. He puts his plans for the National Geographic on hold and decides to call his parents.
Emily's next stop is a college campus. After John came out of the military, he went to the University of California. John approaches Emily and tells her that he's meeting with a film producer that afternoon. The producer is interested in making his screenplay into a movie. A man from the scholarship office approaches Whit, and tells him that the journalism scholarship is going to happen and that he could probably get a job as a teaching assistant.
Emily passes through another door, and is taken to John's first apartment a few years later. Emily finds John working on a model airplane which was a present from his wife, Jenny Whittaker after signing up for flight school. Jenny comes in out of breath after visiting the doctor. She tells him that he's going to be a father. They decide they need to celebrate at a place that needs reservations. Emily opens the door to retrieve a phone book.
Emily is taken to McAlister Park several years later. Emily learns that John was a teacher for quite a few years. John finds her and they sit on a park bench to talk. John just quit the teaching business to try something else. Emily asks about John's life list, and he admits that he hasn't done very many of the things on that list. He explains that "dreams get changed by our circumstances, and sometimes our priorities change as we grow up and for some of us our relationship with God puts us on unexpected paths to follow". He reminds Emily that whether he does any of the things on his list isn't as important as doing the things God has called him to do.
The adventure ends and Emily is welcomed back at Whit's End by Whit. Whit explains that even though he didn't get to do everything on his list, there are things that he did that he never dreamed he would do. He explains that one has to decide if the dream is worth the work, and that sometimes one has a dream but isn't good at it. He reminds her that she has plenty of time to figure things out.
Emily presents her verdict to her dad. And he says that her work lines up perfectly with what he came up with. She expresses that she didn't enjoy it very much. She tells him that she'll take a lot of time to figure out her life. They go to J&J's Antiques to buy a celebration gift for Emily. While there they mention that they'd go to Whit's End to tell him the news, too. Joanne tells them he won't be there and that he's gone to the airport to get his pilot's license. Emily is happy that Mr. Whittaker gets to cross something off his dream list.
- Do you have a life list?
Heard in episode
Mentioned in episode
- Whit's Life List included: witness a solar eclipse from a Pacific island, learn a second language, visit all the state capitals, learn the source of the Nile, fly fishing, write for National Geographic Magazine, look for tigers in India, fly a hot air balloon across the United States, get his pilot's licence and fly all over the place.
- This episode was originally intended to also have a second plot about Jason Whittaker returning, however with too much material for one episode, #724: “Home Again” was created, and it has a dual-plot: the Allen's farewell, and Jason returning.
- Whit's line "Let's see if this thing works" is a reference to early AIO introductions.
- A diary was previously imported into the Imagination Station in #330: “The Time Has Come”.
- This episode's title is a reference to Charles Dickens' novel, Great Expectations.
- A plot point for Whit's history in this episode was his receiving a full journalism scholarship to go to college. However, Whit's service in WWII should have enabled him to go to college tuition-free on the G.I. Bill until 1956.
- Whit references the movie Stanley and Livingstone, with Spencer Tracy, and mentions that it is similar to the movie he had planned to write. However, Whit's movie was ostensibly written after his exit from the military after WWII and the Spencer Tracy movie was released in 1939.
College Jenny Whittaker: John?
College John Whittaker: Hi Jenny... why are you out of breath?
College Jenny Whittaker: I ran most of the way home. I just saw the doctor.
College John Whittaker: Doctor? Why didn't you just tell me-
College Jenny Whittaker: Well, I was feeling nauseous a-and dizzy, so I went. But that's not important. John, you're going to be a father!
Emily Jones: Is it a waste of time for kids to dream about what they want to do?
John Whittaker: No, no, not at all. It's good for us to dream and imagine what our lives might be. We should make lists like that. But dreams get changed by our circumstances, the things that change our direction. And sometimes our priorities change as we grow up. Or for some of us, our relationship with God puts us on unexpected paths to follow.