Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 3 - Episode 9: "Asylum"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Main Points:

  • Lex is back to normal and has no knowledge of Clark's ability.
  • Van McNulty, Eric Summers, and Ian Randall team up in Belle Reve to kill Clark.
  • Lana and Clark are not talking, and Lana has a new boy, a one Adam.
  • Lionel Luthor is up to some nasty business, protecting himself and watching Clark.

    Life-sized poster of Michael Rosenbaum?


    Tape recording and illegal download of the show?


    Research done, works in progress finished, vacation over?

    Check. Well, other than the new novel.

    Atomic batteries to power? Turbines to speed?

    Wrong show.

    ::Cracks knuckles::


    Now, on with your regularly scheduled


    You may just have to slap me about the face, because I'm a little out of my mind, much like old Lex-y seemed to be. First, I read my Superman comic books for the two months I had off here, and then I'm confronted with the reality of a television show that not only embraces continuity, but it justifies former lousy shows with it. That takes some talent, to be sure.

    Oh, there was some implausibility, yeah, like there usually is, but sometimes the story just doesn't pick up to make it better. This time, it did.

    There's a substantive period of time in between this episode and the last. Two or three months, I would guess, given Lana's injury and the fact that Lex has had time to do a full run of drug therapy. That's good. It means we miss Christmas with the Kents, but it also allows time for this whole Clark Lana absence thing to take place without another two months of 8:50 Clana moments. Plus, Lex Luthor goes from being a straight-jacketed nutcase (which was fun) to commingling among the population and making cool pictures that have the Superman colors of red, blue, and yellow, further showing the mise en scene crew's good tact and subtle hints. I'd say it was just because that's all there is to base colors from, but where's the black, the white, heck, why didn't Lex mix colors. For effect. And it worked.

    Lex's "I'll never forgive you for this." moment, with the inmates joining in, made me feel like I was watching a critical moment of what could be a prelude to a Superman movie, and anything that beautiful, that interestingly done, captures my attention. It's what I like to call, in comics, a moment that sticks with you after even the plot is gone. An image that you use to frame reference in your daily life. For me, this one will represent madness in betrayal, in some group manner.

    Lex paints left handed. That's interesting. So now we know that much. He points a gun right handed, however. Confusion.

    The guard called Lex "Curly". That's just hilarious. Lex should have gone "Nyuk nyuk nyuk." Though. But then the orderly would have to use pliers on his nose, and that would have got really silly, really fast, like militant geese playing "Duck Duck BLAM!"

    That's my Joker moment for the night.

    Lex's escape was interesting. He beat the crud out of two guards with an extending nightstick (my brother, a future cop, has one. Man, they HURT! They're horrible! I mean, just smacking them in your palm hurts), and he likely will get away with it under the insane guise, but that scene on the barbed wire... brutal, man.

    This one's cold, but I have to say it. Guess old Lanaster won't be doing her mad kung fu for a while now, eh? Gooooooooooo HORSE! Sorry. It's just, well, a lot of people out there tend to not like Lana, and because of her constant empty headedness, I don't really see much of a reason to like her any more. She rips on Clark for being a hero, she lies to cover up her feelings, and heck, Chloe's just an all around cooler friend. I get emails that can go on for paragraphs about aspects of the show, then there's the last line: "Lana? I hate her." You know who you are. But I'm beginning to echo the sentiment, so much so that despite her imminent role to play in the Superman history, I'm getting to hope she becomes a whammy. Like this week. We watch her in physical therapy fall for a guy that treats her like absolute garbage. I know there's a whole theory about how rude guys who pretend they don't want to go out with you are somehow hot, and this theory tends to prevent me from dating on any large scale, because I tend to be a nice guy, but that doesn't mean we have to buy the logic of the equation. This guy's another Whitney. We really need another Whitney. Let's just start the romantic cycle of the show ALL over again, so by season six Clark can start pseudo dating Lana again. I wonder what her long absent dad thinks of this? Man. Mental note. Next time, make an episodes without Henry Small column. Nah... too much work. We all know it's been a long time.

    Lex screaming in his Hannibal Lector cage was chilling, and crazy, and just, well, disturbing. It brings to the fray all those debates about environment vs. hereditary determinism. I mean, the boy grew up rich, but his father locked him in cages and shocked the bejesus out of him. Waddayagonnado? Try and take over the world. Blame the dad? Blame the rich upbringing? I blame Lois Lane, myself, but she ain't around yet, so I'll stick to the brandy.

    Looky here, folks. The grandiose return of Ku Klux Van, otherwise known by me as Candy Bar Man. That's because I called him that in the notes. I thought his name was McNutty, I really did, until the episode was half over, so ever since on the KO count and talking with fan folk I call him a candy bar. Here's a guy I really wanted to see bite it, and they do. That's cool.

    Okay. Here's my biggest problem with the show. The physics behind the power exchange with Eric Summers (power stealer guy) was just insane in the first episode it happened, but now it's just logically assumed that it will work again, and it did? That's about as retarded as not laughing at a one legged guy with no arms trying to climb railing-less stairs. But it worked, I guess.

    Now, it's bad enough we have to see JTT again, but when he tells Candy Bar that "The enemy of your enemy is your friend... ", well, for JTT that means that he should work with McNulty. But for NcNulty, it means he should work with Clark. Make sense? So telling McNulty that was counterproductive. But given that he's a freakist geek, I'll just assume his racist ignorance. Sound good to you? Good.

    Three former villains. That's a good thing. One of two big complaints about the show is that we have Clark using powers in front of people, and that all these kids go nuts without consequence and suddenly end up disappearing, but there are no ramifications. Here you go. Ramifications. I like that. And instead of one lame recurring freak, like Tina, there's three. It beats the formula and ups the ante. It also kills the momentum of any future returning villain show without effort, but it's a start.

    I had a revelation halfway through the show, too, about that whole being a nasty guy gets you girls thing. Clark goes away for a while, Lana comes to save him, even though he tells her to stay away. Lana goes away for a while and tells Clark to stay away, Clark goes to Hallmark and hits the PS2 or plays whack-a-mole with some meteor freaks for a few weeks. He's being a bad guy too! He still has a chance, ergo. But why would he want to?

    I looked into research, and there's memory loss, but also brain damage, an important factor with regards to Lex's genius. More on that in business. Still, it works as a plot device. I'm gonna let it slide, though I don't really like the whole hit on the head or ECT leading to specific memory loss thing.

    This institution must really have crummy security. Half the time, Lex is under a guard, the other half, he's not, despite being fully restrained, and the other half the time, guards are providing really big chunks of rock to inmates for a few bucks. I mean, knowing old Candy Bar's racist like attitude and being a black guy, that orderly wasn't very bright giving him a big stupid rock. But hey, I understand needing cash in this crummy economy.

    I was blinded the first time I saw JTT naked, now I just strangled a kitten in horror, having seen it. Happy, WB? You just killed a kitten. Next time, I'm going to tell a five year old I beat up their daddy. And I'll do it. One more pre-man nipple and I'm on the train to the daycare. I kid you not.

    Save the children, WB.

    Another thing occurred to me. Clark knew JTT could make duplicates of himself, but he doesn't tell the police? I mean, I know it's a hard sell, but... well, okay. It's too hard a sell. But it seems irresponsible of him to have just assumed the threat passed.

    McNulty is dead. And he was killed with weights. Well, that's one way to do it. I would have been more creative. Like, one version of me behind, the other in front, and just slapping him every time he turned around until he turned so fast he ground into the floor, then maybe I'd cover him with a coffee table until he starved, while the guards went looking for him. But then, that's why I'm a comedic reviewer and not a post-teen man-nipple exposing Harvard bound murdering loser.

    But I have ambitions. And at least JTT did one thing I condone. Sometimes you feel like a McNulty, sometimes you don't. You might say he had... butterfingers with the barbell? I'm going to stop before one of you chokes a kitten.

    I got all confused when I found out Claire was dead. See, first she's not supposed to be corrupt, then she was, and she counsels Superman and Manhunter when they're all growed up, now she's dead. That's like having Perry cut off a leg or something. Why make her Claire Foster then turn her into a dead fink? Explain, please.

    Speaking of covering McNulty with a coffee table, why does no one seem to notice he's dead, and given all the cameras, why doesn't anyone pin it on one of two, otherwise known as the pre-man nipple JTT collective? I would have.

    Speaking of cameras, there are cameras in the facility, obviously there would be, so where's Clark's culpability for being on camera? I'm going to chalk that up as one big example of using powers in front of people, though said people are unknown. And look, Lionel's watching. That oughta make you think, CK.

    PETE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I SAW PETE! I really did. It was some freakish, Where's Waldo kind of moment, and you'll miss it if you don't watch closely, but he even said something poignant. Then they booted him down the road so Lana could spend an 8:50 moment in the middle of the episode talking to Adam. Great.

    One KO for Lex, one for Clark, courtesy of two of two and one of two. Resistance was futile.

    Anyone else read the headline on the newspaper JTT offered Lex? It read Themyscarian Queen Addresses the Vatican. Hippolyta? Nice. Very hard to see, very for eagle eyed fans. [Editors Note: For those not in the know, Themyscira is the name of the island Wonder Woman comes from.]

    How the heck did the freaks get out to do their dirty deeds, and why are these murderers just allowed to go around selling newspapers and commingling? Simple plan: Hire new guards.

    Even Clark didn't believe the plausibility of the electrical transfer of power. He was like, "It won't work!" I had hopes dumb head would just fry himself, but no, he's gotta have the power for a few minutes to whack JTT. Well, I'll forgive the physics for just that much. So JTT killed himself, a version of himself died when he fell off the waterfall, and he got killed by Summers (That punch, I'm gonna say, a Superman punch, would have killed him, though we don't see it.) leaving us with the first ever TRIPLE whammy. And what better character to do this to than JTT? Bring him back and kill him eight more times, I'll forgive everything but the nipple.

    Those gas cans that Clark got thrown into... I moved those things back when I was in construction work. If you're an ordinary man, and you fly into a bunch of those 100-150 pound SOBS with enough strength to move them, you're a dead man, or in a coma. Clark gets up and fights. That was, well, lame. Besides, I wanted one more KO.

    Lex gets three KOs anyway, one from the beating, one from the drug, and one from ECT. He is now pulling far ahead in the KO count, leading me to prognosticate that he will one day be criminally insane, given present data. But don't quote me on that.

    LET IT BE KNOWN! The Clana moment, by my decree, is hereby now synonymous with an ALANA moment, meaning, crummy, romantic, extrapolation about why one should or should not be in a relationship while in a relationship with new Clark substitute Adam. It happened in the middle of the episode, and once at the end. That should knock it down a rating, but really, it was in the middle of so much coolness I'll just pretend I forgot.

    Let me get this straight. Clark knows about Lionel being a murderer, but he's just not going to do anything about it? And Jonathan doesn't want him to? Why not simply tell Lex that much, and let LEX do it, then? There's nothing wrong with that. I mean, he can't ECT him TWICE with Clark around, and memories can be restored, minus the identity.

    Speaking of which, as I predicted, Lex does not know the secret identity. I had hopes... it would have really twisted up the show. But in my heart, I knew they didn't have the big brass continuity to do it. I challenge you, oh writers! Throw us a curve that will make geeks cringe but change enthusiasts cheer! Anything. Wrap Lana around Foster's tree.

    The hug between Lex and Clark, as with the first time, just tore me to pieces. They're really good friends. And they have to become enemies. I can't believe this well has not been tapped in more formats than Unbreakable and Smallville in modern popular media (That I've seen.).

    Further that with the fact that Clark has to feel guilty about having been the guy to inadvertently pull the lightning for old Lex, and there's a good crisis of character, particularly given the apartment fire mess.

    Jonathan says that Lionel is more powerful than Clark is. But not in prison, man. Where's the logic, here?

    The ending just makes me hate Lana more. I mean, Chloe was crazy for a while, now she's settled back into her old character, which is really nice, and Lana, she's just one of those characters like people you know in real life, who love someone and don't tell them, for fear of failure. Or picks and chooses boys because she knows she can, while the nice guy suffers. Not that I'm similarly bitter in real life or anything.

    No no no no no no no no.


    Criminally insane Lex? Progression on the broader plot? Event feel? Check.

    Freaks? Check. But they made sense in this episode. They were pre-existing, and that's exactly where they'd be.

    Clana moment? Well, Alana moment, but yes. That's a down point.

    Continuity? Big check.

    I'm gonna punk slap this one a 5 of 5. BLAMO!

    And I'm outta notes.


    Man, it's hard to start this section this week. I'm just so crazy changed over the last few months... I've been slated for publication in four new places, I've gotten into a paying anthology, an international magazine, and I had a novel solicited per query, the new one I'm working on. More details on that (because it doesn't really belong here) at, but all in all, it's been a good two months.

    I've had a lot of fans take me up on the Instant Message offer, and I've made some new friends. Daniel in Venezuela, Laura in England. It's totally cool. We talk Smallville shop and even other things, like writing in general. I encourage you all to go for it and chat with me. I'm a busy guy, but I love to hear what you have to say about the reviews, the writing, etx. It helps me get direction.

    AOL: scotttreadwell69

    MSN: scotttreadwell

    YAHOO: noahtreadwell

    Scott Treadwell was my original any man character and a pen name, so I use it as a pseudonym. Noah is the first name of the protagonist of my second novel.

    Further, since this whole process of getting beyond email and interacting with people about Smallville has gone well, and since it's creating a good fan forum community, feel free to visit and friend my livejournal, if you have one. I'm in the Smallville community, and it's a good bunch of people. I'll friend you if you friend me. If that's greek to you, I'm sorry. It's just... well, livejournal. You know it or you don't.

    The journal is more personal than some of you might like, but hey, that's why you choose to click on the link or not, and if I don't bare all, I'm just a talking head here, so why not, eh? Not that David Byrne doesn't rock the house, but you know what I mean.

    Now that the interaction aspect is out of the way, I can drop bolts of inconsistency lightning down on past episodes like vindictive Zeus:

    Daniel Medina, who has the title of first to contact me online after my MSN release last October, had two things to offer. He enjoyed the line about Lex not being a criminal mastermind in the Tina episode, and the mention of the patron saint of boy scouts in an earlier episode I can't put my finger on, and since I hadn't addressed those directly, I figured I'd laud them, on his suggestion.

    Azor pointed out that I've been using penultimate to mean semi-ultimate, when in fact it means second-to-last. You learn something every day. This is likely one of those words that you hear someone else use wrong, then re-use yourself. Thankfully, a search of my entire writing catalog of about 25,000 pages yielded only two instances of using the word incorrectly, but thanks for keeping me on my toes regardless.

    Shawn Fuller chimes in on the whole Lana's Great Aunt debate I've deigned to no longer address, but his point was so compelling I have to offer it. All debate of race aside, she was party to an extra-marital affair, which would have subjected her to social ostracism in the 60s. But then, the episode was cool, so who knows?

    There are two people who wrote in with translations of what the man in the sweatshop REALLY said. I have Steve Sanders saying that in Cantonese he said, "You're crazy! Get out of here!" and EL says it's in Chinese, and he's saying that when Lex first grabs him, he says, "Let me go!", then "I don't understand what you're saying." And finally, he just repeats, "Leave!" or "Go!"

    I don't speak Cantonese OR Chinese, unfortunately, so I can't tell you which is right, but both sound in the ball park, and bring things into perspective.

    I got some good emails for the caption contest:

    Keith Price: "Stop it, you idiot. This is not on the job training, and I am not going to show them how to sew their fingers together again!!"

    Rob Adams: "I want my money back from Sorority Boys!"

    Miguel Acuna: "What?! No, the shoes aren't ready! Tell Mr. Michael Jordan and Ms. Kathie Lee that the work isn't done yet! More time! More time!"

    I even came up with one: "No wonder they make immigrants do all the labor! Idiot Luthor wants me to sew my own hands! They know NOTHING!"

    Keep them coming. I'm sure there's more comedy in there.

    Barry, ever astute, points out that Belle Reve is the prison Amanda Waller recruits the Suicide Squad from in the DCU. Good eye.

    [Editors Note: Jeph Loeb contacted Steve Younis (owner of the Superman Homepage) to help in researching a name for the prison]

    Timothy O'Brien, in far better fashion than I could, offers an explanation of the whole short-term memory business... here's what he sent me:

      Hey Neal,

      This week's Smallville had one of my biggest pet peeves in it, and that is the reference of "short-term memory" as things that have been learned in the past few days. Nothing could be further from the truth. I work in psychology/neurology (and Dr. Foster being a psychiatrist would know this as well). Short-term memory (also referred to as "working memory") is only what you are CURRENTLY perceiving, and if it is not stored into long-term memory, then it is gone. For example, if you look up a telephone number in the phone book, you then keep it in short-term memory by repeating it over and over, renewing the short-term memory cache. After you dial the number, if someone asked you what the number was, you probably couldn't remember it, unless you felt it was important enough to store in long-term memory. The short-term memory has a maximum capacity of 7-9 digits (not coincidence that phone numbers, social security numbers, etc are all right at this threshold). Anything that you can remember or recall by definition comes out of your long-term memory. If the doctors at the hospital were going to cause "no short-term memory" as it was stated, they would probably have to perform brain surgery and remove certain key parts of his brain. Lex would become pretty much non-functional, he would still remember things that happened to him BEFORE the surgery, but would not be able to learn anything new. Really what they should have said was that they were going to cause a retrograde amnesia, which is a loss of memory just prior to a brain trauma (they could induce this most likely through an electroshock treatment). However, they would not have much control over how much is lost (i.e., how far back the memories will be wiped), and it would be possible that he could someday recover the memories.

      It was a bad job (but all too common) by the writers to just use a technical term, and not check with someone (or a dictionary) to make sure they are using it correctly.

    He's got a better way of putting it than I would have. And after he said it, simply from a Psyche 101 class, I remembered all that stuff. Sloppy!

    Matt from Rochester, NY suggests that the most powerful super-powered person ever might have been Jor-El on his visit... no Kryptonite! That also, however, to me, made him the worst hero ever, because he just abandoned Earth to go find Lara. Oh well.

    I commented on Shawn, I think, saying that Lachlan had an accent, but I confused Adeylan Dyos' original message. She said it was not a Scottish accent, but what she meant was that it was Irish, not lacking in accent. I'm just confused, laddie.

    Adeylan further wonders why Clark didn't use X-Ray vision on Lex 's safe instead of opening it (risky!). She also noted that Lex says, "You' re not even human!" Twice, in both Shattered and Slumber. And finally, she translates Belle Reve, which means "Beautiful dream".

    Eve Sabatier tells me that "Walking in Memphis", according to CMT, was Tom Welling's suggestion, as he is a fan. I thought that was kind of cool, as it also related so well to the story at hand.

    Also, this week, I'm going to count three freaks of the week, despite the fact that they were repeats. They were there. And that's four more deaths, four more KOs, and a triple whammy. Cray-zee! This also further changes the recurring villain table and vindicates my assumptions (now removed, but here noted) that McNulty and Randall would be back. I missed on Summers, but like Meat Loaf says, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

    Also, what the heck was the deal with the vase Claire held up in Shattered that Lex threw through a window not being in pieces? That didn't make much sense.

    Well, folks, that's your 8 pages of flesh this week! Glad to be back, and thanks for reading. As always, write me with any commendation, condemnation, correlation or geek stuff, and be sure to visit the newly updated KO Count. Big changes, this week...

    See you next Wednesday for (SPOILER) Super-hearing!

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