Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 14: "Illusions of Grandeur"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: January 23, 1994
Directed by Michael W. Watkins
Written by Thania St. John
Vince Brocato as Street Florist
Stephen Burleigh as Mr. Moskal
Marietta DePrima as Constance
Adrienne Hampton as Mrs. Moskal
Penn Jillette as Darrin Romick
Nathan Jung as Jzuk-Mao
Jarrett Lennon as Nicky Collins
Christopher Miranda as Chris
Superman is enjoying a pleasant Sunday morning fly through the clouds, when a flock of seagulls crash into him, disrupting his relaxation.
Two children are playing in a huge backyard outside a large mansion house. Upon finding a strange box with stars on it instructing them to get in, one of them enters and promptly disappears.
Lois and Clark work on the story throughout the week and discover that all of the kidnappings are high-profile; the parents of the children are all influential or famous in some way. Cat tells the news team about the formal Magic Ball she is attending that evening and asks them all to attend.
A woman named Rose Collins visits Clark at his desk and explains that she was the housekeeper of her rich employers, the Moskals and that she lived on the grounds with her son. The kidnappers accidentally took him rather than the Moskal's boy and now they are looking for 5 million dollars in ransom money. When Lois and Clark visit the Moskal's home, they find out that the father intends to pay the ransom in full to get the boy back. When Clark finds out from the young boy Chris that the other boy disappeared in a 'magic box', Clark suspects that the Magic Ball may be connected.
That evening at the Ball, Perry gets hypnotized and Jimmy leaves a post-hypnotic suggestion that will make the Chief more open to his ideas. Lois and Clark watch the famous magician Darrin Romick and Clark notices that the moon and the stars on the stage resemble the box Chris described. Lois and Clark question Romick's assistant Constance and are shooed away by Romick, who disappears using a smoke bomb trick. Lois and Clark instantly suspect Romick as being behind the kidnappings.
Jimmy and Lois follow Mr. Moskal to where he plans on delivering the ransom money. Superman shows up and tries to save Nick, but he is just an illusion. A mysterious figure puts Superman into a hypnotic trance and escapes with the boy.
The next day, Clark is angry with himself that he didn't save the boy and that he doesn't remember any of the events that transpired. Lois speaks to Constance and suspects Romick more than ever. Clark speaks to another hypnotist who was present at the Ball, who mentions "the moon and stars"; the hypnotic code which sends Clark into a trance. Superman is seen knocking down parking meters later that day, muttering "Wrong is right" to himself.
Clark goes to Smallville, where his parents reassure him that while he may be susceptible to hypnosis like normal humans, that doesn't mean that he is in any danger and that as long as he believes in himself, he won't do anything truly wrong.
Lois and Clark go to the Magic Club once again and Lois is brought onstage, where she is nearly killed by a sword-trick gone awry. Clark intervenes with his heat vision and saves her. In another trick, Lois disappears in a plume of smoke and is sent to an underground room where she is sent into a trance by a television channel calling itself 'The Magic Channel'. Clark x-rays the room and Superman enters, smashing the television. Superman is now convinced that Romick is behind the kidnappings, but in a surprising twist, it turns out that it was his assistant Constance the entire time. She mentions 'the moon and stars' again, sending everyone into another trance, including Superman. Superman manages to fight the trance and save everyone, defeating Constance.
Perry is de-programmed by the other hypnotist, Dr. Novak. In an effort to get Lois to believe in magic, Clark tells her to close her eyes and he produces a bouquet of flowers.
Review Rating - 2 (out of 5): First of all, I want to apologize for a small error I made last week. I mentioned that this week's episode was going to be called "The Ides of Metropolis", but that's not until next week.
The best thing I can say about this episode is that the acting in it was very tight and almost universally satisfactory. Only the actress who played Constance was weak. I was particularly impressed by the child actors in this episode, as not many of the children in "Smart Kids" were particularly talented. Penn Jillette as Romick makes for a wonderful red-herring and he manages to be humorous and charming without being goofy or campy (as later guest-villains would be). There's a scene where Lois and Clark introduce themselves as reporters of the Daily Planet and Jillette replies "How nice for you!" in a scathingly sarcastic manner. It's almost a pity Penn wasn't the actual villain.
The plot in this episode was a bit far-fetched. It seems unlikely that Clark would be able to draw a connection between a traumatized child's story and a magic event taking place. It also seems unlikely that Constance, (even if she was extremely egocentric) would use the same moon-and-star iconography on her trick kidnap-boxes as she would in Romick's onstage act. The episode also deals with the fact that Superman is just as prone to hypnosis as a normal human would be. I have a problem buying this...as surely his hyper-fast senses wouldn't respond to the same hypnotic gestures and suggestions the way a normal human would? There's probably not much point in reading too much into it. On the subject of this side of the plot, I thought the Smallville scene was unusually weak. Clark vocalizes his problems to his parents quite often and it's always been an effective story tool, allowing Clark to be a three-dimensional human character (more so than he was in the George Reeves episodes, where no one knew his true identity). But here, the scene is so rushed and uninteresting that it really feels like he's moaning and that the problem at hand isn't something he wouldn't be able to deal with. The resolution of Superman beating the hypnosis by willing himself out of the trance is a little bit cheap, as is the idea of him knocking down parking meters to show him in an 'evil' state. This series never really gave us a good 'evil Clark/Superman' episode like the comics, the animated series or "Smallville".
There's very little in the way of interesting characterization in this episode. Jimmy obviously has the most interesting sub-plot in that sense, with his ongoing efforts to get Perry to respect him. Continuing with the trend of bizarre references to real-world figures and events, Jimmy points out to the Chief that the Queen has cheated on her husband with a Buckingham Palace gardener and that the Pope was spotted at a rock concert; Constance and her hypnotic villainy turns out to be the cause of these oddities, but Jimmy never gets any recognition for it. The hypnotic suggestion of Perry saying "That's great, Jimmy!" every time Jimmy refers to him as 'Chief' is interesting, and marks one of the most peculiar deviations in this incarnation of the characters. Perry traditionally hates being called 'Chief' and famously scolds Jimmy every time he calls him that, in other versions of the story (particularly in the George Reeves series). Here he actually sees it as a mark of a respect and believes Jimmy to be sucking up when he refers to him in that way.
Ultimately, this episode was watchable enough in parts and was elevated by the welcome inclusion of Penn Jillette, but it was too rushed and far-fetched to warrant a 3/5. The most interesting thing about the episode was Jimmy's hypnotizing Perry and even that was wiped clean in favor of the safety-net that is the status quo, by the end of the episode. Nothing in this episode developed anything in particular.
The only fun little extra I noticed in this episode was that Cat's 'librarian disguise' glasses looked a lot like Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent glasses from the Superman movies. One thing I forgot to mention about last week's episode was that there seemed to be Christmas decorations up in a lot of places around the various sets. This seems odd, given that the episode aired in mid-January and there was no such theme in prior episodes. Not to mention, there was no sign of snow anywhere in Metropolis (the stage is in Los Angeles, but Metropolis is always supposed to appear to be an eastern state). I haven't got an explanation for the snow, but it's likely that "Witness" was filmed prior to "All Shook Up" and "Honeymoon in Metropolis" and was shown at a later date, due to it being a weaker episode than those other two (which bookended the Christmas hiatus).
It's now been two episodes without Lex Luthor. Where has he disappeared off to? Hopefully he returns for 'The Ides of Metropolis'.
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