Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 11: "Chi of Steel"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: January 8, 1995
Directed by James Hayman
Written by Hilary Bader
Brian Doyle-Murray as Harlan Black
Steve Eastin as Doorman
James Hong as Grandfather Chow
Dana Lee as Black's Associate
Michael Leopard as Police Detective
Yuji Okumoto as Chen Chow
Michael Yama as Chinese Father
While sipping scotch at the Metropolis Gentlemen's Club, Perry discusses a business venture with his friend Harlan Black, who wants Perry to join him on a seemingly risk-free microchip manufacturing venture. Perry is adamant that the money is his life-savings and that he's not interested unless it's completely secure. Harlan reassures him that the venture will guarantee profits. However, he then explains to Perry that the company interested in selling their manufacturing equipment will only deal in cash; so Harlan has converted his own money and Perry's life-savings into bearer bonds, which will be completely insured once they are in transit. Perry is less than pleased about this, however his fears are amplified when a hooded man comes barging into the office, attacking Harlan. The hooded man bursts the safe open with his bare hands and leaves with the bearer bonds.
Perry deals with an incompetent detective who shows no enthusiasm for the finding of Perry's stolen savings. Perry initially refuses the offer of Lois and Clark to find his money (as he would be abusing the resources of the Daily Planet), however he quickly changes his mind once he hears his wife on the phone. Lois and Clark head to the Men's Club, but the doorman refuses to allow Lois into the building, on the grounds that she is a woman. While she argues with him, Clark changes to Superman and examines the scene of the crime himself, discovering a strange symbol on the safe. Clark shows the symbol to Lois and tells her about his friend Chen Chow, an editor for a publication based in Chinatown and grandson of a martial arts expert, who would likely be aware of such a symbol. Clark is unable to visit Chen himself, for he has to meet his parents at his apartment. Lois decides to go in his absence.
Chen tells Lois of similar robberies all over Chinatown, and agrees to fax her a list of all the robberies. When Lois asks Chen's grandfather Master Chow if she may take a class in martial arts, he refuses, on the grounds that women are not permitted in the master class.
Later, Lois tells Jonathan and Martha about how she has been discriminated against. In the case of the Men's Club, Jonathan points out that he believes it should be that way. This sparks off an argument between Martha, Lois and Jonathan with the ultimate decision that Jonathan and Martha switch roles for a few days, with Jonathan picking up all of his wife's chores. Clark discovers that all the robberies were performed on subsidiaries of the same company, Son Kwan Industries.
Harlan Black, owner of Son Kwan Industries, runs a network of indentured labour, promising Chinese families work and shelter, and then imposing huge debt repayments on them. One family is unable to send their son to school until he can repay his debt. Harlan informs his associate that if Superman didn't patrol the harbors, that Son Kwan Industries could bring in thousands of Chinese families every day without trouble. His associate desperately tries to tell Harlan of how The Dragon's Heart Bracelets are what amplify the hooded man's power, enabling him to perform incredible feats of strength and fighting prowess, but Black dismisses this outlandish notion. Suddenly, the hooded man returns and steals money being transported into an armored truck. Superman intervenes, but the hooded man easily defeats the Man of Steel with martial arts moves. Harlan orders the bracelets found so that he can use them against Superman.
In his bid to show how easy Martha's chores are, Jonathan wrecks one of Clark's Superman capes and accidentally dyes one of his shirts pink, after mixing the cape in. Lois and Clark go to the dojo and find Chen, his sister and Master Chow tied up. The dojo has been completely ransacked by Harlan's men, looking for the bracelets. One of the indentured workers comes in and informs Chen that he has been given money by the hooded man and that he wants to use it to pay off his debt. Lois and Clark learn of the indentured worker network for the first time.
Later, Clark suggests to the news team that perhaps Chen Chow is the hooded man, robbing from Son Kwan Industries and giving the money to the needy. Lois, Jimmy and Perry all scoff at the idea of a mild-mannered news reporter leading a double-life as a superhero. However, Harlan Black has had the same thought and has Chen beaten up by Juk-Hu, a former student of Master Chow. In order to make it look like an accident, Juk-Hu throws Chen from the top of a building. Superman arrives and saves him, but fails to catch Juk-Hu.
Lois, dressed as a man, breaks into Harlan's office in the Men's Club and steals a disk containing his financial records. Lois and Clark realize that Chen's sister could be the Hooded Man (or woman). Harlan also realizes this and Juk tricks Chen's sister into giving him the bracelets, by using ancient martial arts techniques to disguise himself as Master Chow.
Chen's sister tracks down Lois and Clark and tells them that Harlan will kill her grandfather if Superman doesn't fight Juk. She agrees to train Superman in the limited amount of time that they have, hoping that his "Chi of Steel" will suffice in the battle. Lois and Jimmy attempt to rescue Master Chow, and they fail. Luckily, Superman successfully subdues Juk-Hu with one roundhouse kick to the chest. Juk honorably accepts defeat and surrenders the bracelets. In his desperation, Harlan attempts to put the bracelets on himself, but he is unable to control the intense power and Superman has to remove them from him, causing Harlan to faint. Master Chow bestows the bracelets upon his granddaughter, satisfied that she is worthy of them.
Jonathan cooks a delicious Chinese dinner for Lois, Clark and Martha who reveals that she admires the hard work Jonathan does everyday back at the farm and that it's only when they visit Clark that he justifiably relaxes. She then requests that he order takeout from another restaurant.
Review Rating - 2 (out of 5): While watching this episode, my initial thoughts were that it was a lot better and more memorable than I had remembered it. Certainly the entire subplot of Lois dealing with sexism was fun and appropriate for the time in which this show was produced (and the last dregs of popularly accepted sexism were beginning to get pushed away), but the episode is labored by criminally under-developed characters and an unresolved subplot.
First of all, it's ironic that the episode deals so much with sexism, when Chen Chow's sister isn't even named. Outside of that, neither is Harlan Black's associate. Juk-Hu (and I'm assuming that's the spelling of his name as he doesn't have an IMDb listing) is repeatedly established by Master Chow (listed on IMDb and the end credits of the episode as "Grandfather Chow") as being a promising student who was seduced by evil. Well, the episode portrays him as a mute thug, who never utters a word. For all of his build-up, he's just hired muscle. We're told he's a more interesting character than he actually is.
The most interesting subplot that's mostly unrelated to the major plot of this episode is Jonathan switching places with Martha, which is very amusing. There's a great shot of the Superman cape, just as Jonathan's ill-fated ironing is about to take place. What shouldn't go unmentioned though, is the "Perry & Jimmy Subplot of the Week" with Olsen trying to convince the Chief to break into the stock market and allow Jimmy to invest his money for him. It's plausible enough and relevant even, that Jimmy would have stock-market experience based on fictitious online markets that don't use real money (less so that Perry would go along with him based on that alone, but I'll buy it). Unfortunately, the plot is never really resolved and the only resolution we're given is Clark telling Lois at the end of the episode that Perry got his life-savings back, he's quite the Men's Club and he's going to use the extra money to allow Jimmy to invest it in the stock market. We never find out if they were successful or not.
Probably the most disappointing aspect of the episode is that Dean Cain is given very little to do of any interest, compared to the previous few episodes. Outside of a goofy dream sequence Lois has (where Perry, Jimmy and Clark all make sexist remarks and smoke cigars), his role in this episode is almost entirely expository; the only thing he does of any interest is sit on the fence regarding Perry and Jonathan's sexist remarks. As is to be expected, absolutely nothing is developed in terms of the Lois/Clark friendship/romance. This episode is 100% filler.
As for special effects, there's some impressive displays of martial arts throughout the episode, as well as some credible flips and similar acrobatics. Superman gets a decent enough wire-shot when he rescues Chen Chow and there's an excellent visual effect of the fake Master Chow transforming back into Juk-Hu (even if it was a far-fetched moment).
An interesting piece of trivia: veteran character-actor Bryan Doyle Murray plays the duplicitous Harlan Black in this episode, and effectively enough I might add. Last year, in an episode of "Supernatural" where the Winchester boys cross over into the 'real' world, they meet the executive producer of their show, Robert Singer himself, as played by Bryan Doyle Murray! Not only that, but "Singer" makes a reference to "Lois & Clark," as well as a (possibly sarcastic) note about how Dean Cain was such a phenomenal actor and a consummate professional while working on that show. One of my favorite pop culture references ever, and I'm delighted that it was by an actor who actually had a previous link to the very series he was referencing. Go watch "Supernatural" if you haven't already.
Next week, a much better, arc-driven episode (and a nod to the greater DC Universe) as Lois & Clark go up against the villainous Dr. Light in "The Eyes Have It".
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