Retro Review – “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”

Season 4 – Episode 9: “Ghosts”

Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir

Originally Aired: November 24, 1996
Directed by Robert Ginty
Written by Michael Gleason

Guest Cast:
Drew Carey as Herbie Saxe
Richard Zavaglia as Mink Mahoney
Lee Benton as Lilah Monroe
Kathy Kinney as Katie Banks
Jean Speegle Howard as Bertha Emory


Lois and Clark enjoy a mundane evening cooking dinner together. They overhear an elderly woman, Bertha Emory screaming for help. Superman rescues her as she falls out a second story window.

Criminal Herbie Saxe plans to drive people out of their homes by convincing them that their brownstone homes are haunted. He is under pressure to force the occupants out as soon as possible, as the mob are coming after him for bad debts.

Lois and Clark learn that Mrs Emory has already listed her house for sale.

Herbie breaks into Lois and Clark’s house planning to create the illusion of a phony ghost but ends up unwittingly resurrecting the real ghost of a middle-aged woman, Katie Banks. Lois walks in on her pots and pans floating in the air. Superman finds it difficult to take Lois at her word, but Lois cites all the strange things that have happened to them.

The ghost of Katie Banks travels to Saxe’s apartment and he convinces her that she’s his master. Banks scares away Mahoney, before setting her sights on Lois and Clark.

A distinctly out-of-character Lois explains to Clark the next morning that she has sold their house to the interested parties. It quickly becomes clear that she is suffering from some kind of demonic possession – this is confirmed for Clark when the ghost of Katie Banks flees Lois’ injured body.

Lois discovers that Katie was murdered in her home, where Lois and Clark now reside. Later, Lois uses an ouija board to communicate with Katie who explains her reasons for trying to frighten Lois out of her home. Later, Saxe convinces Katie to kill Mink Mahoney. When she doesn’t pass over to the ‘other side’, she realizes Saxe has been manipulating her and vows revenge.

Staxe reveals to Clark that Katie Banks has gone off the deep end and wants to possess Lois and steal her life. Superman rushes to their brownstone, where he finds Lois possessed and floating. Katie (in Lois’ body) warns Superman that she can kill Lois if she so chooses. Superman reveals that he knows the circumstances of her death – that her death was caused by her husband’s lover so that Katie would give him a divorce. Katie surrenders Lois’ body and passes on to the afterlife.

Lois cooks Clark breakfast using leftover memories from Katie who was a fantastic cook.

“I got it!”
“Tuna and rye, right?” = Whalin has nothing to do on this show anymore.
CK is a bit too chummy with a murderer in prisoner.

3Review Rating – 3 (out of 5): Another in the season 4 style of high-concept plots modeled around the everyday mundanities of married life. While this is slightly more filler than previous episodes, “Ghosts”‘ plot is a bit more compelling than its immediate predecessor.

Comedian and gameshow host Drew Carey is hardly a threatening villain, but he’s a lot more likable and charming in the role than many of the other stunt-casted comedy villains have been. The real key to the episode is Kathy Kinney (a regular co-star on the ‘Drew Carey Show’ in the 1990s), who brings a tragic warmth to Katie Banks. You really feel very sorry for her sad life and you want to see her get justice for her death, even though she’s making life very difficult for Lois & Clark. Her performance manages to lift the episode above some of the shortcomings in its script – Lois and Clark’s discovery of Katie’s backstory all seems a bit too easy at times, even with the plot device of Lois being able to access some of her memories.

The downside of this episode, like so many others is how it fails to do anything interesting with Perry and Jimmy who are relegated to the sidelines once again. Perry gets just one scene of note, where we find him wondering why Lois and Clark aren’t working on their assignments – chasing down ghost stories instead of following up on current events. Scenes like this make it hard to even take him seriously as a leader of the newsroom. Similarly, in the continuing regression of Jimmy Olsen, we see the chief chastising him for not bringing his tuna sandwich – a few short years ago, Olsen was a page one reporter!

Both Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher seem to be having fun in this episode, Hatcher in particular who gets to channel her inner Linda Blair in a number of unsettling scenes where she is being possessed by the ghost of Katie Banks. It’s never really played for laughs (as one would expect in a later season episode of “Lois & Clark”) and it’s more than a bit chilling at times. Cain gets to flex his muscles adequately as Superman in the climax, where he successfully talks down Katie from killing Lois. Superman seems perfectly calm and capable here – almost like he has more belief in his abilities than he did in the earlier years of this series. And why shouldn’t her? He’s stopped Lex Luthor, Tempus and an alien invasion to prove his worth. Either by coincidence or design, it’s nice that he truly has become the Superman archetype in these later episodes. It helps that Cain looks great in the suit in this episode as well.

The special effects of “Ghosts” unfortunately don’t hold up as well as other episodes this season – the floating pots and pans have the awkward obviousness of primitive CGI and there are more than a few examples of “Effects Cam” – but for the most part, everything is impressive enough for an episode that aired on November 24, 1996 (very strange that they didn’t time this to be released closer to Halloween). I particularly liked the teleportation effect Katie uses to travel between Drew Carey’s house and Lois & Clark’s brownstone.

A few final observations before we go:

  • Considering they’re both on reporters’ salaries, Lois and Clark’s brownstone is VERY nice
  • It’s odd that Mink Mahoney has such an Irish-sounding name when he more closely resembles an Italian-American gangster (and is played by an actor with an Italian-sounding name)
  • They should have had more fun with the fact that Superman is as susceptible to the forces of the supernatural as anyone else
  • Veteran character-actor Jean Speegle Howard played Bertha Emory in this episode. She previously appeared in the season one episode “Requiem for a Superhero” as an unnamed elderly woman
  • Clark is oddly cheery about a murdering conman writing to him from prison at the end of this episode.
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February 20, 2017 5:30 am

I still like the show. I plan on rewatching it from the beginning sometime this year.