Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 21: "Whine, Whine, Whine"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: May 14, 1995
Directed by Michael W. Watkins
Written by Kathy McCormack & John MacNamara
Adam West as Jerry Retchen
Frank Gorshin as Sharpie Lawyer
Jason Carter as Calvin Dregg
Michele Abrams as Elise Carr
Kay Lenz as Constance Hunter
Sal Viscuso as Bobby Bigmouth
Richard Portnow as Barry Barker
Lois and Clark are attending a charity street-fair held by the Daily Planet. Scardino arrives and he and Clark bicker for a moment. A technician accidentally drops an amplifier on an unwitting musician. The musician claims that Superman has broken his wrist and demands that he take him to hospital.
Lois is irritated by Clark's disappearance once again. Scardino tries to pick up the pieces, but Lois scolds him for being equally as dishonest as Clark.
The guitarist's hand is broken and is put in a sling. He blames Superman and takes his anger out on his girlfriend.
Lois visits Dr. Frisken and explains how fed-up she is with Clark, Scardino and Superman.
Calvin continues feeling sorry for himself about his broken arm. He consults a shady lawyer Barry Barker, in an effort to sue Superman. Barker gets his receptionist to pretend as though she's in trouble in order to et Superman's attention. He then serves Superman a subpoena.
Lois receives a call from Bobby Big Mouth who tells her about 'Project Nirvana,' an InterGang operation that Scardino is somehow connected to. Scardino arrives and Lois continues to berate him for not trusting him. Scardino tries to tell Lois that this idea of perfection she has isn't realistic. Superman arrives and wants to talk to Lois - he tells her about his lawsuit and asks Lois if she knows of an honest lawyer who will help him. He meets Constance Hunter, whose integrity impresses him, but who won't take his case because her morality has prevented her from ever winning a case.
Lois follows Calvin Dregg to a restaurant where continues talking about his case. They watch a TV talkshow where Calvin claims he has permanent nerve damage. Clark watches from afar and breaks the TV with his heat vision. Calvin blames Elise once again. Lois demands the truth from Clark, but once again he has to rush off as Superman, to save a woman from a runaway cab.
Clark's parents arrive at his apartment having seen the talkshow. Clark tells him of his continuing woes with Lois and decides that he can't continue being two people anymore - that he's going to have to choose between being Clark or Superman.
Bill Church Jr. is released from prison thanks to a strong lawyer. Superman meets a variety of dishonest lawyers all of whom disgust him. Lois tells Superman that she's investigated Calvin Dregg who has a long history of suing anyone he can.
Scardino meets a man in an office who gives him a suitcase of money and tells in order to get FDA approval on a job. Lois finds Scardino having followed him and scolds him for not trusting her. Little do they know that Bill Church Jr is listening in. He and an InterGang associate plan to kill Lois and Scardino at the Superman trial.
Superman manages to convince Hunter to take his case. He explains that the one thing he can't fight is greed - because he can't understand it.
Lois and Clark both want to call the other and talk out their difficulties, but when they both call at the same time, the phone ends up engaged. Lois meets Scardino and tells him that they need to talk.
Clark tells his parents that he'll have to give up being Clark Kent - as he can't continue lying to Lois. After consulting with Dr. Frisken, Lois learns that she knows who needs to be with.
Lois berates Elise for lying on the witness stand, given how awfully Calvin treats her.
Superman smells the C12 coming from the suitcase and rushes the bomb out just before it explodes. When Calvin tries to pretend like he's been blinded by the debris, Elise stands up for Superman and reveals that she's been lying for Calvin. The case is dismissed.
Lois tells Superman that she will always see him as a friend, but that there's someone else in her life who she needs more.
Jonathan pleads with Clark not to throw his life away. Martha suggests to Clark that he TELL Lois that he's Superman.
Lois arrives at Clark's apartment and sees that he's packing boxes to move away. Lois admits her feelings to him and that there's no need for either of them to be scared.
Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): I'd love to give this a 4/5 and it did come tantalizingly close to that, but unfortunately it's a bit of a mixed bag of a great self-contained Superman plot and a good over-arching Lois/Clark romance plot that doesn't gel particularly well. Both aspects of the episode are strong, they just work in spite of each other.
On the one hand, you have the always-excellent, tried-and-tested post-modern Superman story of the noble, flawless hero being manipulated by dark side of the American dream - corporate courtroom greed. It's a well accomplished trope that has done this series well in the past and reaches fruition here. How Superman would deal with the uncomfortable realities that many real-life celebrities and political figures have to deal with is one of the great aspects of the modern, 3-dimensional Superman/Clark we see in this show (and in a lot of modern comics). It's also something that only well-written stories can truly take on, and 'Whine, Whine, Whine' for the most part, is one of those. Dean Cain has a more than one excellent moment as Superman particularly these two moments:
"I thought I'd seen every kind of evil there is, every perversion known to man, law and God. I'd thought I could fight them all - but there's something I can't fight because I don't understand it and that's greed!"
This is a really great character moment and really highlights this show's success at creating a Superman that's an interesting character for a modern audience - it's these kind of plots that I use as ammo when people tell me that Superman's not an interesting character. Sure, he's noble and means well and accomplishes great feats, but what if modern cynicism prevent him from doing what he has to? What if doing the right thing isn't as easy as it was in the Star-Spangled world of the 1950s? Great stuff.
Superman gets another well-written moment in the final act of the that recalls a similar statement he made to his mother in "Superman: The Movie", albeit this one more hopeful
"All the things I can do, all the powers I have - I've asked myself 'why?'. And the only answer I keep coming up with is 'To help, as quickly as decisively as possible'. And because of that - I've become a target. And maybe as a result of that, there'll be things in life that I'll never have. But I know that when I save a life - I discover two things that most other people will never figure out - 'Why I'm here and how I can make a difference'."
Pure magic. The piece de resistance in this side of the episode comes from the little girl who offers Superman a hug when she sees that he is upset about all of the cynicism that surrounds him.
As much as I love all of the Superman plot in this episode, the actual Lois/Clark arc development warrants a bit more criticism. Once again, Dan Scardino is around for not much of a reason other than to provide some form of conflict for Lois. This time Lois is angry with him for not divulging the CLASSIFIED information surrounding his job - something that pertains to NATIONAL SECURITY. She acts as though he works for a waste disposal company and he won't talk about what he finds in people's garbage. Her interference nearly gets an entire courtroom killed - I understand this is par for the course for classic meddler Lois Lane, but this stood out as being particularly offensive to me. Scardino really brings out the worst in Lois - she's positively Lana-from-Smallville-esque in this episode.
The best part about the Lois/Clark/Scardino B-plot is the less-than-subtle show-within-a-show that plays throughout the episode as a metaphor for the sexual tension between the characters. It plays in the form of a nature show presented by Martin Mull where he discusses mating rituals, hostility in nature and other 'wink wink' topics. They even manage to engage in a bit of light ribbing towards the US Government as well.
I really liked the cameo appearances by the legendary Adam West (does he need an introduction?) and Frank Gorshin (still the best Riddler ever, including the Animated version who was played excellently by John Glover who we know as Lionel Luthor). Unfortunately they seriously undermined West's cameo by showing it in its entirety on a handheld TV that Calvin Dregg has. The grainy, blue image on the screen of the device actually serves to prevent viewers from recognizing West (I certainly didn't pick up on it until I bought these DVDs a decade after the episode had aired). I've no idea why they did the cameo this way - they could just as easily have played it on a normal-sized TV. It seems to have been done simply to make it plausible that the characters would be watching it outside - which is depressingly contrived.
Kay Lenz plays Constance Hunter, the Last Good Lawyer who grudgingly takes on Superman's hopeless case. Her character is interesting and understated (in stark contrast to the ridiculously hammy Evil Lawyers sprinkled throughout this episode) and she would have been an interesting character to have appear again in the show - the show has been lacking a strong legal interpreter since Richard Belzer's Inspector Henderson mysteriously disappeared. Having a lawyer as a regular character would have been interesting.
Both Barbara Bosson and Bruce Campbell return as Dr. Friskin and Bill Church Jr. respectively. They're given less to do than in previous installments, but their involvement in the episode is nonetheless welcome and provides a much-needed reminder of the overall arc of the season.
This was a serviceable episode that had some wonderful moments of Superman characterization and some good moments of Lois and Clark characterization. It's not as memorable as other, better episodes, but it told the story it was trying to tell and pushed the plot along in time for next week's final episode of the season where Clark's secrecy starts to become too much for Lois. Join me next week for 'And the Answer Is...'.
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