The Potential in Elliot

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#259: “The Potential in Elliot”
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Romans 12:10

10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:15
15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

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The Potential in Elliot

“The Potential in Elliot” is episode #259 of the Adventures in Odyssey audio series. It was written by Marshal Younger, and originally aired on February 12, 1994.


Middle-schooler Sam Johnson tells his friend Elliot Richie to stop his weird science experiments, but then Sam takes an Imagination Station trip where he meets another young man who tinkers with inventions.


Sam is on his way to study with his brainy friend Elliot Richie when he runs into Rodney Rathbone and Rusty Gordon, who are looking for trouble. Suddenly, they all see an explosion come from Elliot’s backyard laboratory shed. They rush to the site and find Elliot clearing smoke from the shed. Elliot says that everything is all right. Sam wants to know what happened, but Elliot is hesitant to tell his secret with Rodney and Rusty standing there.

Rodney finally coaxes the truth out of Elliot. Apparently, Elliot is working on a cure for cancer. Rodney and Rusty laugh hysterically at that concept. They leave the future mad scientist to his experiments. Even Sam is skeptical. After all, Elliot is just a kid. At least, that’s what he tells Whit later at Whit’s End. Whit says that Sam should be more supportive. Then Whit invites Sam to take a ride in the Imagination Station to prove his point.

Sam journeys back to Port Huron, Michigan, in the year 1856. There, he meets another young experimenter named Thomas. Sam helps him with several failed experiments, including pumping helium into a friend's stomach in an attempt to make him float. Sam ends up convincing Thomas that he should give up experimentation and just enjoy being a kid. But he discovers too late that he has just talked Thomas A. Edison out of becoming an inventor! Suddenly, everything goes dark. Sam realizes that without Edison’s youthful precociousness, there would be no light bulb, no phonograph, no telegraph. His many inventions make our lives easier. Sam learns about history and the importance of encouragement.

This plot section is too short and should be expanded. »

Discussion Questions

  1. Why were Rodney, Rusty, and even Sam skeptical about Elliot’s attempt to find a cure for cancer?
  2. How could Sam have encouraged Elliot more?
  3. Who can you encourage today?
    • How?


Role Voice Actor
Elliot Richie Andrew Runyan
John Whittaker Hal Smith
Michael Unknown
Nancy Edison Lynn Luttrell
Rodney Rathbone Steve Burns
Rusty Gordon (Malone) Shawn Svoboda
Sam Johnson Kyle Ellison
Thomas Edison Kevin Panmeecho


  • Despite what this episode indicates, Thomas Edison was not the actual inventor of the light bulb. What he did invent was a longer-burning filament that made light bulbs (or incandescent lamps) more practical.

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Rusty Gordon: Here's some money, Mr. Whittaker. Uh, keep the change.
John Whittaker: Uh, thanks, Rusty.
Sam Johnson: They're up to something...
John Whittaker: They sure are. He was 15 cents short.

John Whittaker: Every great man was once a kid.

Sam Johnson: Mr. Whittaker, I can't believe I caused all of that. Just because I didn't keep my mouth shut.
John Whittaker: Well, most of us suffer from that problem. It's easy to criticize, to pour cold water on people's ideas and dreams. But encouraging people, even those that want to do seemingly impossible things, can be very hard. Yet, it's probably what they need from us the most.