Superman on Television

Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews

Lois & Clark

Season 3 - Episode 20: "It's a Small World After All"

Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir

Originally Aired: April 28, 1996
Directed by Philip J. Sgriccia
Written by Teri Hatcher, Pat Hazell

Guest Cast:
Elizabeth Anne Smith as Annette Westman
Steve Young as Joe Malloy
Kenneth Kimmins as Dr. Bernard Klein
Don Brunner as Hans
Rainer Grant as Julie Carlton
Tim Bohn as Dick Carlton
Jim Hanks as Les Barrish
Leslie S. Sachs as Debbie Malloy (as Leslie Sachs)
Ellen Gerstein as Fortune Teller


Her memory restored, Lois has been invited to her high school reunion. An old classmate, Annette Westman has developed a way to shrink people to tiny sizes.

Lois and Clark attend the reunion and make the acquaintance of the eccentric Annette, who bemoans Lois' lack of friendliness, even back in high school. It transpires that Annette is head of Westman Cosmetics, a huge pharmaceutical conglomerate. Lois meets a former colleague whose wife has gone missing.

Annette attempts to stage an accident involving a disco ball falling on her head, but a calamity of errors results in it falling on Lois - but Superman arrives and stops it just in time. Annette swears revenge on Lois for constantly being the centre of attention.

Clark finds a free sample of shampoo at his doorstep promising that it will impress his loved one. Unbeknownst to him, it's a shrinking potion created by Annette. Clark unwittingly uses it upon returning from plugging a volcano abroad. When he exits the shower, he finds a strange man in his apartment dressed as an exterminator, claiming to be looking for rats.

Lois tells Clark that she'd like to keep her name when they get married. Clark feels that if it's important to her than she should keep it.

Annette chastises her henchman Hans for failing to kidnap Clark. He tries to explain that the shampoo didn't work.

Clark gradually experiences himself getting smaller as his clothes become oversized and he can't reach for a bottle of wine on the top shelf. He quickly realizes something is wrong and reveals it to Lois. Superman undergoes tests at STAR Labs to try and determine what is happening to him. Dr Klein posits that it could be the effects of Earth's yellow sun breaking down his molecular structure after years of exposure.

Lois learns from one of the wives of the missing people that an exterminator similar to the one in Clark's apartment appeared in the missing man's house as well.

Completely shrunken, Clark asks Lois to let him handle this problem. Lois visits Clark's apartment and finds the shampoo that resulted in Clark shrinking. Dr. Klein analyses it and attempts to find a cure. Lois deduces that 'Snoil', the company employing the mysterious exterminator may be named after 'Lions' the mascot of her high school football team - suggesting that Annette Westman may somehow be involved. Superman finds the kidnapped shrunken people and tries to help them escape. Lois arrives at Annette's apartment at the same time to confront her. Annette shoots Lois, but Superman catches the bullet. Annette accidentally douses herself in a full jug of the shrinking shampoo. All of the shrunken victims are restored to their original sizes.

3Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): I really wanted this episode to be terrible, it's one of the episodes that's most frequently made fun of (along with Clone Lois' penchant for frogs as an appetizer), but really it's no worse than any number of pleasantly enjoyable, utterly filler episodes of 'Lois & Clark'. The plot is desperately cheesy, as so many are, there are contrivances, inconsistencies and maybe even a few plot holes, but it's all pulled together nicely by the chemistry and interaction of the two impenetrable leads. Also, as silly as the basic premise is, it's accomplished very well considering the comparatively primitive resources of early 1990s TV visual effects. You will believe that a wee, pencil-sized man can fly.

Clark's arc in this episode poses a couple of problems though. The crux of the episode seems to revolve around Clark needing to learn that he can't just share the little things with Lois (like his second name), but that the larger (or in this case, smaller) problems in his life need to be considered as well. This seems a bit derivative, almost like a holdover from Season 2, wherein Lois was completely oblivious to what was going on in his double life. At the close of the episode, Lois and Clark agree not to keep things from each other anymore. Didn't we cover this already?

Elizabeth Anne Smith's Annette Westman is another in a long line of supremely successful, stupendously forgettable business tycoons that are secretly unhinged criminals with a vendetta against Lois and/or Clark. The scorned schoolmate is interesting enough, but Westman just never truly makes any sense as a villain. Setting aside the simple fact that someone as influential as the head of a pharmaceutical company could find much more conventional ways to destroy someone's life than to shrink their lover down to a size littler than you wouldn't believe, how come this rich and powerful entrepreneur lives in a fairly cramped-looking apartment? Why the fascination with dolls and toys? Was Bob Fences her one successful relationship? On the subject of toys, her pencil-prison is wholly ineffectual - the gaps between pencils are enough that any of the miniature captives could climb out with little effort.

Setting aside my revulsion for Jimmy's leery reaction to Lois' request of a background check on an underwear model, he performed his duties adequately enough without too many particularly memorable moments. As always Lane Smith's Perry is sublimely farcical beyond any known realm of convention but he's hilarious and adorable as ever. His country and western outfits left me speechless with adoration. And at least he has an ongoing storyline to keep him busy throughout the season, while Jimmy is stuck with the same few beats of exposition as always. Is it just me or is Lane Smith rocking a rug though? In the early episodes of Season 3, his hair was rather awkwardly combed over, whereas now it's thicker and fuller than even Season 1. It recalls the 'Vatman' episode where he was actually supposed to be wearing a toupee. If it is the case that he's wearing one here, it's sad that he wasn't just allowed go bald.

I find it amusing and a little awkward that the plot of the episode circles around Clark shrinking to a tiny size - a lot has been made by naysayers over the years about Dean Cain's height relative to the other Superman actors. He's 6 foot, not short by any means but according to experts on Internet message boards in the 90s, not as intimidatingly manly as Christopher Reeve or George Reeves. Deborah Joy Levine and Dean Cain even allude to this in the commentary for the Pilot of "Lois & Clark". Maybe this was an inside joke?

Doctor Klein's scientific hand-wave of why Superman's outfit doesn't seem to become oversized the smaller he gets is... nonsense. I'd buy it if it was the old Silver Age 'Kryptonian fabric' suit, but this is just plain spandex. Invulnerable aura or not, that thing's not changing shape just because you are. And even if it did, what about his cape? Superman's aura doesn't extend out that far!

One last piece of trivia for this week: the role of Les Barrish in this episode is played by none other than Jim Hanks, brother of Tom and stand-in voice actor for Sheriff Woody for versions of the character outside of the films (basically all the stuff Tom doesn't have time to do - toys, video games, cartoons, etc). Fun to see him here.

Next week we shake the dust of banal mediocrity off once more as the most epic storyline of the entire series begins. From its humble beginnings in 'Strange Visitor', the Kryptonian mythology of 'Lois & Clark' comes full circle in the three-part New Krypton saga, beginning with "Through a Glass Darkly". I also have a huge fan-theory to apply to the whole show that I'll reveal in time. Join me next week!

Back to the "Lois & Clark - Episode Reviews" Contents page.

Back to the main TELEVISION page.