Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 17: "The Rival"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: February 27, 1994
Directed by Michael W. Watkins
Written by Tony Blake & Paul Jackson
Kevin Cooney as Secretary Wallace
Nancy Everhard as Linda King
Bo Jackson as Himself
Dean Stockwell as Preston Carpenter
Clark plays a game of basketball with Bo Jackson, while not wearing his glasses. Bo is a far better player than Clark and constantly reminds a frustrated Clark of his abilities. Finally, Clark catches one of Bo's throws by flying into the air, and netting the ball himself.
Perry reveals that sales figures for the Daily Planet are plummeting since Preston Carpenter bought the Metropolis Star. The Star are scooping the Planet on all of the major stories happening in the city. Jimmy reveals that there's a hotel fire taking place in the city. Lois and Clark are just about to rush out to the story, but Clark runs back into the Planet newsroom, saying that he forgot something and secretly changes into Superman.
Superman saves a woman on the top floor who firemen were unable to reach. Linda King interviews him as he lands, scooping Lois on the story.
While Lois angrily relays to Clark how deceitful Linda is, Clark just laughs and suggests that she might be jealous. Linda comes to the Daily Planet and asks Clark if he could arrange for her to meet Superman. Clark declines, but Linda invites him to a dinner held by Preston Carpenter anyway.
That evening at the dinner, Lois and Clark meet Preston Carpenter, who talks down about the Planet. The next day, there is a photo of Clark dancing with Linda King in the society pages. Linda brings Clark on a lunch date and asks him about his relationship with Lois, to which Clark responds that it is 'undefined'. Linda reveals that her success has largely been a stroke of luck, as she has simply been in the right place at the right time when all of the big stories have broken. As if on cue, an elevator cable breaks in the same building as the restaurant in which Linda and Clark are eating. Superman saves the day once again, and Linda gets the story.
Stark, one of Carpenter's men, shows Carpenter the headline of the Star, showing Superman saving the falling elevator. Carpenter says that soon he will control 80% of what news people are reading in the country and that he will destroy the Daily Planet.
Perry is angry about poor sales of the Daily Planet and warns that redundancies will be next, followed by the paper going under. Using his microscopic vision, Clark spots Stark in one of the photos from the recent accidents. He shows Lois a piece of the cable from the elevator, and points out that it has clearly been cut and that it didn't snap, perhaps indicating sabotage. While Lois gets overly excited at the prospect that she is going to scoop Linda, Clark suggests that they go out to lunch and think it all over.
While eating, Lois and Clark get a free copy of the Metropolis Star, where Clark notices that Carpenter's editorial about the elevator crash was in the same edition as Linda's initial story, and that this is very strange.
Carpenter and Linda are eating in the same restaurant. The mogul explains to Linda his obsession with Charles Foster Kane, the character from 'Citizen Kane' and how he promoted agendas in his papers, getting people to think the way he did. He proposes a romantic involvement with Linda, but she rejects his attempts.
Linda and Lois meet in the ladies' room, where they take pot-shots at one another. Linda rushes out to Clark to ask him to walk her to the nearest train station. Clark offers to show her the way, much to Lois' chagrin. On the way, Linda asks Clark to come over to her place, but Clark rejects the offer. When he gets back to the restaurant, Lois has left. Clark goes to Lois' apartment to apologize, and scolds her for leaving the restaurant. Lois explains how she and Linda were friends in high school, before Linda betrayed her and stole her story, to impress the editor, with whom both women were infatuated. When Clark suggests that Linda might be doing the same thing now, Lois snaps at him and Clark leaves, telling Lois that she's very difficult to work with and that maybe he will look for work at the Star with Linda, instead.
Clark goes to work for the Metropolis Star, with Linda King. When a horrified Lois discovers that Clark has left the Planet to work for the Star, Perry is non-plussed, understanding Clark's worries about his future and his difficulties working with Lois. As Lois leaves Perry's office, Perry hints that everything will be alright. Lois is not convinced.
Linda reveals to Clark that Carpenter has been hitting on her. While at a press conference about priceless Orani jewels being given to the United States as a peace offering, Lois and Linda fight in front of everyone. Clark spots armed men about to rob the jewels. He uses his super breath to knock a plant in front of the door so that the men cannot enter the room.
Lois comes to Clark's apartment to confront him, expecting Linda to be there. Instead, she finds Perry and discovers that Clark is working undercover for the Planet to try and figure out how the Star are getting their stories so conveniently. Clark reveals that the accidents definitely aren't accidents, but that he doesn't suspect Linda has any direct knowledge or involvement in the conspiracy. Lois and Clark work together again and manage to convince Linda that Carpenter is behind the so-called accidents. Linda agrees to take advantage of Carpenter's infatuation with her to get him out of his office while Lois and Clark search his computer.
Lois and Clark successfully break into Carpenter's office. When one of the security guards walks in to retrieve something he'd left there, Lois hides under a table and Clark hovers below the ceiling, out of sight. When Lois asks where he hid, Clark points to a plant. Lois and Clark correctly guess that Carpenter's password is 'Rosebud', a nod to 'Citizen Kane'. They find an editorial written by Carpenter suggesting that Secretary Wallace was killed by an Orani freedom fighter. From this, they discover that Carpenter must be plotting to kill Wallace and start a war, just so that he can control the media.
Lois and Clark get in touch with Linda, her and Lois spy on Carpenter as he sets up the hit. Unfortunately, when Carpenter calls Linda on her phone, it rings, revealing her location. Carpenter ties up Linda and Lois in a freezer, and one of his men shoots the gas tank. While Lois and Linda await death, they make amends. Superman manages to save them in time, just before he rushes out to save Secretary Wallace, catching all of the bullets and tossing them into a nearby trash can. He then stops Carpenter's car from driving away.
Linda gets to write part of the byline for the story and then departs for the West Coast, explaining to Lois and Clark that she is selling the movie rights to the fall of Preston Carpenter, and that she will have a small role in the film: playing Lois.
Review Rating - 4 (out of 5): I must say, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. True, it was another filler episode, but it was a tremendous one at that; up there with some of the sharpest-written of the entire season. This episode succeeds for the same reasons as "Honeymoon in Metropolis" does. The undercurrent theme of Clark leading a double-life as Superman doesn't really play into this episode that much. What makes the episode a success is the real human relationship between Lois and Clark and the various effects their pasts play on that relationship.
Nancy Everhard was quite good in this episode. She's certainly not as strong an actress as Teri Hatcher and certainly the episode would've been even better if she had been, but the chemistry is there and we believe that not only would she be a rival of Lois', but that she'd be naive enough to be duped by Carpenter, without suspecting his true plot. Funnily enough, I had been watching the 1989 Dolph Lundgren movie version of "The Punisher" the night before I watched this episode, and she appeared in it. You can read a review of that movie over at my blog at feelingthefury.blogspot.com (just sayin' is all...).
Dean Stockwell of Quantum Leap played Preston Carpenter in this episode. As was the case with Paul Gleason in "The Ides of Metropolis", it's not as welcome a guest-role as it should be; it's abundantly clear from his very first scene that Carpenter is as mustache-twirling a villain as they come; but he's interesting enough not to roll anyone's eyes. The plot regarding him trying to destroy the Daily Planet is very interesting, but I feel as though it should have been stretched over more than just one short episode. That's fodder for an entire season. Carpenter's mad attempts to run the Planet into the ground could have been an excellent over-arching story for one of the later, Luthor-less seasons. Oh well. There's always Intergang...
Lane Smith absolutely knocks it out of the park in this episode. When Lois is panicking over Clark's departure and Jimmy asks "I wonder what their medical plan is like..." Perry shoots him a look of complete and utter disapproval that cannot be contained in words. Similar to this is when Lois catches Perry hiding in Clark's closet, eating a vanilla wafer, like a guilty child. The scenes of Perry distressed by plummeting circulation figures are also excellent; I never don't believe that he hasn't been in the journalism business for forty years. My favorite scene in the episode is when Lois asks "Is that the best we've got?" regarding a crummy assignment Perry has given her in the wake of Clark's departure.
Perry: "No, the best we've got is this paper's editor-in-chief dangling from the World Trade Centre dressed as a gorilla! Now - my costume hasn't arrived yet, so why don't you get on this story and I'll page you when it does." Priceless. Beat that, Jonah Jameson!
The episode suffers from a few small considerations. John Shea's absence is always noted, and this episode is no exception. Certainly there have been times where his inclusion hasn't seemed necessary ("The Ides of Metropolis" at times, as I mentioned in that review), but it would have been nice to have seen him bouncing off of Preston Carpenter. Lex is a media mogul himself (head of LNN) and there's every reason he'd be frustrated by Carpenter's rag scooping his reporters all the time. Also missing is Tracy Scoggins, but there's nothing new there as her appearances in the show have become sporadic at best. Eddie Jones and K Callan as Jon and Martha Kent aren't here either, but it's not an episode that needs them.
The biggest, most glaring problem I have in this episode relates to a visual effect: In the scene where Superman saves the elevator from crashing, there can be seen the most heartbreakingly obvious wire in Superman-history. A thick white cable latched to the side of Dean Cain's trunks by a little clipper, stretching up to the bottom of the elevator, can clearly be seen as the actor holds onto the bottom of the elevator for extra support. In practically every incarnation of Superman you can see wires (Superman on the moon battling Nuclear Man, a couple of times in the "Superboy" show, dozens of times on the George Reeves show), but none as ridiculously obvious as this. To add cackling insult to injury, when Preston Carpenter is handed a prop copy of the Metropolis Star, with the same image of Superman holding up the elevator, YOU CAN STILL SEE THE WIRE! The white cable is so visible, that you can see it on the battered old, unremastered 1993 print on the Season One DVD. Unacceptable. You won't believe a man can fly.
The only other complaint I have to make is considerably smaller than that: Lois being tied up with her rival, facing death together and ultimately making amends, was already done on "The Ides of Metropolis". It's done a little bit better here, but it still feels old-hat. The sad thing is, they'd even do this again in a Season Two episode.
Nevertheless, I was really surprised at how sharply written this episode was. It feels like a true example of what the show was initially envisioned as: with the emphasis on realistic plots and genuine human interaction, with superheroics backing the show up from the sidelines. Considering the slump in quality since "All Shook Up" that was only slightly shaken off in "Foundling", this is a huge improvement.
One last note before we go: Some of you in the comments section have mentioned that I'm being a bit too hard on "Smallville" in my comparisons between it and "Lois & Clark". It's fair to say that I've knocked it a bit when comparing some of the similarities (the development of the superheroic identity, the human relationship between Lois and Clark and the portrayals by their respective actors, and the usual Kryptonian mythology stuff). The main reason I do this is because "Smallville" is the closest show in terms of quality and craftsmanship, as well as mainstream appeal, with which I can compare "Lois & Clark". The George Reeves series "Adventures of Superman", iconic and unforgettable as it is, is from an entirely other era completely and the way the plots progress and the characters interact are in a wholly different way to a more contemporary series like "Lois & Clark" or "Smallville". And when it comes to the "Superboy" show, while I appreciate its kooky merits and kitsch quality, you'd have to pull up a chair and get comfortable if you wanted me to talk about how completely, soullessly terrible it was at times.
The main reason it may seem as though I knock at "Smallville" is because its later seasons, which while occasionally enjoyable, basically became a warped version of "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". It had the same basic motif, with Lois and Clark working together and falling in love with each other at the Daily Planet, except that it was also trying to be a "Justice League" show, as continued on from the story threads set in the earlier seasons. Unlike the show it was obviously drawing inspiration from, it showed a blatant disregard for the development of its characters and just ran in whatever mad tangents the budget mandated that week. Frankly, it breaks my heart to see people laud the series' attempts at making Clark a "real, three-dimensional human being, with thoughts and feelings of his own, never seen before in a Superman show" when Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher brought Clark Kent to life far more than red kryptonite rings, black trench coats or kryptonian crystal/discs/stones/people ever did on "Smallville".
For those of you who believe that it's simply a case that "Lois & Clark" was 'my' Superman and that "Smallville" was too different, that may also play a factor, but I ask you to consider this: I was three years of age when "Lois & Clark" debuted. That means I was eleven when "Smallville" first aired. For four years, I ate, slept and breathed "Smallville". It was far and away my favorite TV series for all the reasons that made those initial years so wonderful. Welling's Clark was amazing! A lot like Christopher Reeve! Clark was dealing with relatable problems and not just superheroic ones! Pete Ross knew his secret! Lex is actually bald (and awesome)! The production values and effects were unlike any other Superman show! And no matter how much I complain about the show, you'll never, ever, ever hear me say a bad word about John Schneider, who absolutely stole the show as Jonathan Kent. But then the show went from great, to mediocre, to nigh-unwatchable. It occasionally staggered back to so-so levels of enjoyable quality, but it wasn't until its eighth season, when it became a bizarre semi-comedic pastiche of the Superman legend, that it ever truly became compelling again.
And believe you me, when I say that when "Lois & Clark" got bad, it got completely horrendous. I'm really enjoying writing these reviews now, but I know that once we see a clone eating a frog, or Dr. Demeter brainwashing Lois, or that Godforsaken shrinking-potion episode come along, I'm going to be absolutely roasting the episodes to smithereens. It may seem like I'm putting "Lois & Clark" on a pedestal now, but its time will come. This series had some shockingly poor moments.
Essentially what I'm saying is that both "Lois & Clark" and "Smallville" started out very highly only to deteriorate later on when they ran out of direction. The difference is that "Lois & Clark" gave us everything it promised in its pilot episode and bit the dust early on when it started to suck hard; "Smallville" promised so much more and played a losing battle from its fourth season onwards. People will argue for decades as to whether the ending of "Smallville" gave us what we wanted from that fateful pilot in 2001. Nevertheless, I will sing the praises of both unfairly dismissed shows forevermore. It's a privilege to be involved in cataloguing the history of just one of these series and I hope my negative remarks doesn't dissuade you from joining me on further adventures.
So with that in mind, join me next week when Clark meets someone just like himself...only a little more bizarre.
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