Superman on Television

Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews

Lois & Clark

Season 2 - Episode 20: "Individual Responsibility"

Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir

Originally Aired: April 16, 1995
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Written by Grant Rosenberg & Chris Rupenthal

Guest Cast:
Bruce Campbell as Bill Church Jr.
Barbara Bosson as Dr. Friskin
O'Neal Compton as Gene Newtrich
Jim Davidson as Boomer
Charles Dougherty as Karl


A group of men search a woodland clearing searching for something with metal detectors. They eventually find what they're looking for: a piece of glowing red rock.

Bill Church Jr. of Intergang discovers that his father's commissioned Kryptonite-search has been a success - except that the rock is red instead of green. Church suggests a field-test.

Clark interrogates Lois regarding her date with Scardino. She scolds him for running off every time they're having a conversation. Lois and Clark spot some bank robbers stealing the payroll cheques for the Daily Planet. Superman goes after them and the criminals expose him to Red Kryptonite which makes Superman apathetic to their crime. He allows them to get away, assuming that he'll probably catch them eventually.

Lois explains Superman's carelessness to Clark who also doesn't care.

Church is delighted to hear the effects of Red K. He states his intentions to take over the Daily Planet and stop them printing stories about Intergang.

Perry reveals that Franklin Stern is considering selling the Daily Planet to Multiworld Communications. Lois is furious when she hears this as Multiworld is the front company for Intergang. Perry doesn't believe that Church could be involved (as he's known him since he was a boy). Perry explains that Lois and Clark have 72 hours to prove the connection between Church and Intergang or the Daily Planet will be sold to MultiWorld.

Perry is attacked by Intergang thugs in a parking lot. Superman intervenes, but is exposed to Red K once again and decides not to help, once again. The criminals escape with White.

Perry is brought to the office of Bill Church Jr. who tries to bargain with Perry for control of the Daily Planet. He is left alone in the room to think about the offer.

Superman explains the sudden apathy that came over him when faced with Perry's kidnapping and the payroll cheque robbery. Lois suggests a psychologist - Dr. Friskin.

Superman discusses with Friskin the challenges that face him every day and how the decisions he makes worry him. He also alludes to his relationship difficulties with Lois.

Church begins to threaten the safety of Perry's loved ones. Perry pleads with him to no avail. Church ensures him he's very patient - to a point. Perry steals a cigar-cutter from Church.

Lois tries to bide time with Franklin Stern without explaining that Perry has been kidnapped. She also takes over as editor in Perry's absence.

As Superman finishes up his appointment with Friskin, an Intergang goon places a piece of Red K under the couch. Perry learns about Red K and its effects on Superman from Church.

Superman continues his therapy with Dr. Friskin while the Red K sits under the couch. This affects him even more than before. Lois confronts Friskin to try and convince her to get Superman back to normal - this leads to Lois telling Friskin all of her innermost anxieties.

While Lois, Clark and Perry are all absent, Jimmy is left to hold down the fort at the Daily Planet.

Lois and Clark visit the office of soil expert Newtrich, who they suspect is involved with Perry's kidnapping. Clark gets exposed to Red K in Newtrich's office. Lois discovers a connection between Newtrich and CostMart - one of the subsidiaries of MultiWorld Communications.

Superman continues his therapy with Friskin and he starts venting his frustrations. He knocks over a couch and discovers the Red K. Friskin discovers the effects of the Red K straight away. Frisken hypothesizes that the Red K is unleashing deep feelings Superman has been harboring.

Perry uses a taser device he has constructed using the wires of a lamp and the cigar-cutter and shocks one of the guards keeping him hostage. He calls Lois and leads her and Clark to where he's being held.

Superman turns up and Church attempts to use the Red K on him, but Superman fights the effects and throws it away. Church pulls a gun on Lois in an attempt to escape, but Superman catches him at super-speed.

Clark asks Lois out once again pleading with her to choose him over Scardino. He tells her that her going out with Scardino is upsetting him greatly. She agrees to go out with him again.

4Review Rating - 4 (out of 5): This episode is so 1990s it hurts, but it's well-written, enjoyable and creative and I have to award that. Everything from the villain to the plot to the bit-characters is thoroughly rooted in the style, atmosphere and tropes of the 1990s and it adds immeasurably to the cheesy charm of the episode. The story arc progresses ever so slightly (it's good to see Intergang revisited) even in Scardino's absence (although he does play a part in this episode nonetheless) and the always-welcome inclusion of Superman as an actual character and not a muscular plot device is once again played well here.

This is the first appearance of Red Kryptonite in the series and it's the only one that's particularly creative. Superficially, it probably would have been more exciting to have Red K turn Superman genuinely evil (as it did in Smallville) than simply apathetic, but upon closer examination, that's not even specifically the effect it has on Supes.

If I'm not mistaken, in Smallville the writers were using Red K as a metaphor for alcohol or hard drug abuse, the kind of which leads to dark and violent situations. This worked quite well in its earlier uses (I do really like the episode 'Red' and 'Exile'). In Lois & Clark it seems to more closely resemble softer drugs like Marijuana. Superman's inhibitions are loosened and the control that defines his everyday life is set free, as are his neuroses. The image of Superman sitting on a psychiatrist's chair is quintessentially 90s as that seems to be the decade where working with a therapist became far more of normal occurrence for many people, particularly in the United States. Some of the one-liners from Dr. Friskin are objectively a bit hard to bear ("[Lois] is kind of seeing another guy." "I see...does he have superpowers too?") but I'd be lying if she didn't make me smile.

Bruce Campbell's role as Bill Church Jr. is one of the most memorable villains in the entire series. While Peter Boyle was playing a hybrid of Morgan and Vincent Edge of the 1970s, Campbell is clearly playing the more modern youthful version of Edge. And while he's not particularly similar to his comic book counterpart (although he at least looks and dresses like him), I prefer to think of him as a light-hearted, comedy-version of John Shea's Lex Luthor. Unlike some of the other campy villains in the series, Campbell's presence and acting ability pulls off his scenery-chewing. He's a delight in every scene.

Lois holding down the fort in the Chief's absence brings forth an interesting observation. In the 1950s Superman series with George Reeves, Clark would always be left in charge of the Daily Planet when Perry couldn't be there. This always seems strange to me, as Lois had worked there longer. This was clearly a product of the times - where it was unlikely enough for a woman to be a successful reporter let alone an editor-in-chief. Lois & Clark correctly identifies Lois as the senior member of staff. The only remaining problem is that the series (and Superman lore in general) simplifies the running order of a newspaper - there are many other editors that work on putting a newspaper together and typically there's always one of them on hand to take over if the Editor-in-Chief is indisposed. But that's a story for another day.

Jimmy having to stall the unreliable journalist's story was entertaining, but I didn't care for the recycled fortune-teller gag they used in "All Shook Up". Watch your own show, guys.

One thing I've never mentioned in one of my Lois & Clark reviews is the quality of the lighting, which is always serviceable but never really worth mentioning. I have to say however that it is particularly impressive and quite beautiful (especially for a TV show) in "Individual Responsibility". Perhaps intentionally, certain scenes with Clark pleading with Lois to steer clear of Scardino and go out with him instead are practically glistening - in a good way.

The special effects in this episode were understated but enjoyable, noteworthy and effective. I loved the super-speed effect as Superman zooms to Perry's rescue when he gets kidnapped. I also loved Superman rising up off Dr. Friskin's couch into the air (I always appreciate these banal, everyday uses of flight in Lois & Clark - we never see them in other Superman shows or movies). Also, while it wasn't that good an effect, Superman zooming around Church while he held Lois at gunpoint was excellent for the simple reason that it was the logical thing to do. In previous episodes like "Return of the Prankster" we've seen Superman fail to use his super-speed in similar situations simply because the plot demanded to be stretched out longer. I hate when stuff like that happens and it's good to be able to point at an example like this and say "Why couldn't he just do this?".

It's hard to believe how close we are to the end of season 2, nearing the halfway mark. Next week it's time for Lois and Clark to figure things out between them in "Whine, Whine, Whine".

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