Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 4 - Episode 13: "Recruit"



Reviewed by: Neal Bailey


Main Points:

  • Never get into a drinking contest with Lois Lane
  • Geoff Johns has an evil doppelganger that can paralyze people.
  • Clark has given up football to be fair to everyone else.
  • Lois is now living with the Kents because she was kicked out of the dorms again.

    Well, this had all of the elements of a Smallville show, and it had a lot of the stuff that has made it cool in the past, but again, as ever for this season, there is no forward motion, there is very little new and of interest, and though the plot is not inexcusably bad in this one, it is a rehash of a plot that we've seen a hundred times before now, and one of the less creative versions of that plot. It's your typical mid-season filler episode, but without the bright lights of the sweeps shows really rocking our socks to keep us going, it's just that much harder trudging through shows like these that we might get to some forward motion on the plot.

    It was a freak episode. It was an episode where Lana was incredibly annoying. It was an episode that used Lois in a situation where it could just as easily, with minor tweaks, have been Chloe. It uses a cheesy device and an overly elaborate death. There were multiple inconsistencies and impossibilities. In short, this is what is killing the show.

    Oh, I know, it's WB, and therefore being fourth or fifth in the ratings means that this show may go on even if it becomes Lanaville, but that's not my point. My point is that often a show can die long enough before those committed to it realize that it has, in fact, jumped the shark.

    Unless this show gets much better in the next 10 some odd episodes left this season, I think this is the death knell for the originality stamp.

    As for exhibit R in this stream of consciousness, here is what I noticed about this particular show:

    I can buy Lois drinking. She's underage, yeah, but she's not a purist, not a center of morality. She drinks, she smokes, okay. It's not my favorite kind of Lois, but I can buy it. Why she can beat beefy football guys is beyond me, because it doesn't matter who you drink with, if you want about a buck twenty, as Lois seems to, you're down and out about half as fast as the two dollar linebackers, but then, hey, it's played for laughs, right, so I should just suck it up?

    Problem being, I don't watch this show to yuk yuk yuk. I watch South Park for that.

    Enter Geoff Johns, the man so obviously a freak of the week and the main villain, it might as well have been his first line of dialogue. "Hi. I'm Geoff. I'll be your meteor freak tonight."

    "Great Geoff. I'm Lo. What are your powers?"
    Al and Miles...SPIN THE PLOT WHEEL!

    Tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic...tic.....tic........tic............tic......................chunk.

    Paralysis! Lucky you, you almost got the guy who can eat so fast he can become super-dense, and unlucky you, you were two pegs off from Beppo, if Beppo is in actuality a gorilla as opposed to a chimp (gotta have that "not exactly like the comics" stamp, or it just ain't Smallville).

    So then we cut to another scene where it's okay to hit a guy for being horny.

    The guy walks up to Lois, hits on her. She says no. The guy walks up to her, hits on her, she says no. He puts his hand on her shoulder (commonly a way to catch someone's attention), and she drop kicks him in the stomach, otherwise known as physical assault.

    Now, you might argue the man was trying to molest Lois. I wouldn't believe you. You might argue that the man was being an arrogant jerk. I agree. But there are a lot of arrogant jerks in this world, and if there were no consequences for kicking the crap out of them every time they touch your shoulder, I'd line them up and put a stack of dollar bills on my collar bone.

    The fact is, he did not threaten her, he did not touch her sexually, and he did not do anything besides, yes, be horny. Which, whether you think it is a lecherous thing to do or not, does not give Lois the license to kick his butt. It's the double standard of society that is continually perpetuated on television (and indeed, on this show twice now) that if a guy is coming onto you and you don't like it, you can hurt him physically.

    Reverse it. A guy and a girl get drunk together. The guy starts to leave, but the girl asks him for sex. He continues walking away. She grabs him by the shoulder. He turns around, lashes out with his foot in a trained kung-fu move, kicks her in the stomach, and walks away gloating.

    Do you shout "guy power!" or do you say, "How the heck does he get away with that?"

    Because that's what I say.

    At the risk of sounding like a kindergarten teacher (because really, that's where this very simple logic starts), we don't hit people. We tell. You tell the police. Of course, in the adult world, it's okay to hit someone if they're hitting you, to stop them from hitting you, but being pushy is not hitting. It's being pushy.

    And my proof is in the pudding. HAD it been self-defense and not flagrant assault, she could have pleaded such with the police and gotten released with an investigation. That's how self-defense works. She was guilty, so she got the big house.

    So she goes to jail, maxes out her credit cards for bail, and instead of turning to her father, she drives three hours away to see Chloe for some reason. Most of my friends are three hours away, and I can hardly stand the drive once a month. I love my friends, but good god. It's insanely far.

    So she what, goes to see Chloe when she could call her? What about her father?

    In other words, yes friends, they're bringing Lois into the plot arbitrarily to fill a hole that didn't need filling. Chloe's already here. Oh yeah. Chloe's not "attractive" enough, huh? Shows you where the substance of this show is. Yeah, Lois as a character is a novelty. She's also anachronistically out of place, and the reason why Chloe was created in the first place. To bring the Lois dynamic because there couldn't be one.

    For the five minutes that Chloe is in the show she is a redeeming force. Hinting at Clark, continuing that wonderful line of dialogue began at the end of a show with her "you can share the secret" dialogue and culminating in her approval of his decision to avoid Met U. It's too bad that this development, this forward motion, was so obscured by all of this nonsense with a paralysis dude who had no real reason to go homicidal.

    Then we have Lex and Jason, continuing the completely dumb subplot of the witch. Who cares? Who really cares? Other than the stones, what interest does Lex have with a witch? His character is being used as a way to develop Dr. Quinn. Lex as a character has essentially disappeared. And for what? More anachronistic Lois, and the development of someone called Geoff Johns.

    Cool nod to the creator, gotta say that. But if I were Geoff, I wouldn't want my name attached to such a generic freak of the week.

    So Lois kicks the guy hard enough to paralyze him, posts bail, and then the doctors somehow allow her to VISIT HIM IN HIS ROOM? What is up with that, huh? Someone paralyzes me, they better not come NEAR my room. And plus, I don't think it's allowed anyway.

    Add in the fact that this means that Lois has gone all the way back to Metropolis, and you have even more crazy driving.

    The first scene with Clark and Geoff was odd, because the establishing shot had hard rock music, and the car was going about ten miles an hour. It was weird. It took me out of the narrative.

    And then, On Star Red Zone. Or at least, that's what I thought. Turns out they'll pimp Cup O Noodle in this episode, but they won't give On Star any love. And On Star, while not tasting as good as a cup of noodles, has more sponsor money. I'm surprised they didn't do it. Likely because of the gaping hole in the security presented in this episode with said company.

    And then Geoff talks straight to Clark, and doesn't look at the road, and talks to Clark, and doesn't look at the road, long enough to kill them six times over. It's hard not to notice it. Usually I let it slide, but here it was REALLY bad.

    Nice crane shot on the football field (crane, is that the right term?). Anyway, when they pull up and show the whole scene. I liked that. Being a Pep Band veteran though, I know if they asked me to come out just to woo some jock future frat boy into the team, I know where I'd tell them to shove my mallet. But then, that's what drummers do. They'd just find a percussionist and move on without me. Because there is quite the difference between a percussionist and a drummer, you know...bwa ha ha. Drummers just can't remember what it is. I think.

    And then, though as you know, Clark is perfectly innocent in sex, here just to show us what is naughty, two girls taking off their shirts in front of Clark. Hypocrisy!

    Clark sees Lois in the closet. And not only is Lois sneaking around in the room of the man she's paralyzed, but Clark's cool with it. Goes to show you why Alicia got to stick around beyond her requisite 50 minutes. Clark is the most insanely stupid man on the face of the Earth.

    Lois paralyzes a guy, breaks and enters, AND interrupts his threesome, and he just puts up with it. Dope! And her excuse? Coop was meeting with a reporter. A high school athlete, meeting with a reporter? WOW! That's solid evidence he's up to something there, huh?

    And he didn't even eat the cake. Unpardonable.

    Though it was nice to see the first x-ray vision in like, forever.

    Geoff then kills Coop. Sorry, Coop. You knew too much. Another person who turns to murder to keep a secret. You know, if some guy had enough power to kill me, and I knew it, and he said, "You tell anyone, I'll kill you!", you know what I'd do? I'd sew my mouth shut just to show him how committed I was to being quiet. These teenagers, they just don't get creative. Still, if you can paralyze someone (essentially relaxing their muscles, right?), why not just stop the heart? But then, I forget that all teen murderers love an overly elaborate and dramatic death.

    Coop flatlines in easily the most cheesy cutaway of the season, and we're supposed to believe that heart monitors are not hooked up somehow to make a blaring noise and alert nurses? And isn't it kind of weird that Geoff was right there when he died? And why kill him now, instead of when he paralyzed him, if he knew he was going to have to kill Coop and had a patsy?

    Old Spice Red Zone, that's why.

    And then, to make the plot better, we cut STRAIGHT to Lana moaning in a loud nasally tone of voice about the way Jason is keeping secrets this, and the way he has to lie that, and the way that his mother is mean, and Lex is a scheming punk (I mean, just look at what that guy did, trying to stop her from dating a guy when she was too emotionally immature to comprehend it, giving her a business, and offering her friendly advice whenever she wants it, along with money, just for being his friend.).

    She asks the question, "How can I trust someone who's willing to lie for a living?"

    The same way that my loved ones trust me. The job is the job, and home is home. I tell you what, for a hundred thousand dollars a year, I know people, GOOD, FAMILY people, who would do a lot more than lie, honey. And at least Jason, in all his deviousness, told you, huh? What a lying fink. I mean, his character, his entire character, is to like Lana, right?

    Again, this subplot is going nowhere, it's stupid, it's a waste of time, why is Lana even in the show any more at all? We don't want her interacting with Clark, because she always sounds like she does with Jason, so instead of the solution being making her a more agreeable character, they just push her on another sycophant. Marvelous choice.

    Lana whining at Jason. Lana whining at Lex, when LEX IS RIGHT. Lex has the picture (though who knows where he could have gotten it, that's another story), Lana has no reason to believe that Lex would lie and every reason to believe that Jason would, and yet still we are thrust into this arbitrary and BS tension that only stresses me in the sense that I scream every time its banality stinks its way across my screen.

    Lana complains to Lex for researching her. He's researching Genevieve. Lana thinks that the goal is to "break her and Jason up". And I suppose this self-centered viewpoint comes from the fact that Lex has, in no way, ever tried to break them up, only stop Jason from abusing his position as a faculty member, and in return, offer him financial security and a job that pays three times the poverty level with a free car and a place of prestige. Aw, that FINK!

    The expletives that grave my notes are not fit for human consumption on this page, but are totally fit for Lana Lang as a character. I declare open war on her character until it turns to something tolerable. Like a monkey. Or a cake with my name on it. ON MY MARK, UNLEASH CRITICISM!

    Super hearing again...that's nice. Although it's to listen in on a guy who's talking about selling pee, and unleashes an implausible series of events that doomed the show for me.

    Clark drinks. Why? The scene was over. He could have said no. I know it doesn't affect him. But it's his integrity. Pa had a point. He sacrifices it for what, to fit in? AFTER he knows Geoff is a villain? I don't like it.

    We immediately cut to Chloe and Lois, and they've found the pee guy. How? I don't know. Clark must have said, "Asian dude" off camera, and they used their racial stereotype sense to find him or something. But I guess that a series of related and understandable events in a coherent narrative is NOT plot, it's just an ambition we can't hope to see on this show.

    The pee guy runs away, and Geoff paralyzes Lois right in front of the whole world, drags her to his vehicle, and no one complains. And though she's paralyzed, her limbs can still bend, she can still fit in a car, and she comes out of it quicker that the others, talking right after Clark pulls her out.

    I'd be remiss if I didn't point out when he got Lois, I screamed out to my fanboy buddies, "Time for another PARALYZER! Ddddddddddt!"

    Which is, of course, an obscure references that has some of you laughing and most of you going huh with both tongues out.

    Chloe comes out, there's a pair of sunglasses on the ground, and Teflon drives by. He MUST have abducted Lois, right? Such causality! You know, there's a pencil on this desk that's usually in my notebook. It must mean the pencil man has been inside my house and is robbing me as we speak. One sec, I gotta go check the closets and the back yard.

    Oh, wait. Nope. The pencil just rolled out of my notebook. Silly me!

    If I eat kippers it will not rain, listen to Monty Python, they'll show you the game.

    Now excuse me Lois while I place you in this chamber for an overly elaborate and easily escapable death. It's okay, let your arms and legs hang down. We don't want them to think you're still frozen stiff, just that you can't move. Uh....

    And Clark, this is your cue to super-speed RIGHT in front of Chloe, even though it's obvious she's suspicious about your powers.

    And hey, why push open the door when you can blast it with your heat vision? Excelsior! And if you can, do it where Lois can potentially see it, too, because why try and hide your secret, huh?

    So Lois is kicked out of college for one booze infraction in addition to other things (she's not very bright, is she?), and decides to move in with Clark and the Kents. She drinks with Russian generals, but the only place she can go for refuge is Clark.

    And instead of school, like, say, community college, my guess is she'll just stick around for whatever mayhem is in store for say, the rest of the series.

    Lois, though she is hot, though her character is interesting, does not belong in this series. Chloe fills her shoes easily, and with more justification. It was nice to see Lois, just like it was nice to see Perry, but if they kept Perry around for the rest of the show because he looked good in tight jeans, how would it feel? Kind of awkward, lecherous and wrong, huh?

    Here's what I see. Chloe's going to Met U. Lois is living with Clark. So Clark will go to local community college, Chloe will go bye-bye (she's already lost screen time a la Pete), and soon, Lois will be in every episode. Then they'll phase Lex out, eh? Nah, they wouldn't go that far. Would they?

    There is one redeeming scene in this episode. Clark suffering on the field. I like to see Clark suffer, and though almost all of the prattle leading up to that scene was hard to digest, seeing his acting, the emotion, the cinematography and the field was almost enough to please me for the briefest periods of time.

    That said, this episode was still cliche-ridden, banal, inane, and the typically mid-season fodder that was once a problem, and has now become the driving force behind the fall of the show, next to the mismanagement of the characters and the mythos.

    Bring back my Smallville to me, please. This is not the show I signed on with.

    1.5 of 5, with a half point for good camerawork, Chloe, and that scene in the end.

    And for the love of morality, stop the violence in response to things that we don't like. I see enough of that in the world as it is, I don't want it celebrated on television.

    And hey? Did anyone else notice how much Clark is grieving over Alicia? It's like a hole in his heart. He is just so morose that he goes to parties, he hangs out with Lois, he banters with Chloe. Poor guy. I feel his pain. If it's not mentioned by next week, it's a "hole in the heart" KO category, just like Whitney.


    Drinking is bad, m-kay, but it's much worse to kick someone just for liking the way you look and wanting to be with you. Freaks are over, Chloe fills the plot hole better than Lois, and Clark is pretty dumb to trust Lois, especially after Alicia was just last week. All in all, the show is in decline, but I still hold out hope, despite this show being a 1.5 of 5.


    Dear S:

    Your shelf beats mine. I had the life sized posted of Lex for a while, but then my dog ate it. Instead I console myself with the Lex action figure (cheap thing, the arm broke right off) and my season DVDs. If I get any more things to adorn my office, I'll probably be shot. But, that said, I got NOTHING on Steve. You folks should SEE his office. I envy him.

    The thing I see coming is that Lex and Clark will no longer interact. Ergo we are both in a bit of a position. You will have to write out of thin air about interactions that don't occur, and I will have to review mythos and sociology with a group of folks mindful of neither. But I can live with that. Like I say below, train wreck. It's fun to laud, and it's fun to kill.

    One thing I do know is that I'm much happier having you working with me than Rebecca, Saundra. Great start out of the gate...and here's hoping the season turns around.



    Folks, I'm afraid that there will not be a normally scheduled business this week, for a reason you will soon know. BUT, I highly encourage you to read on, because if you don't, you'll miss something very important.

    Read on...



    By Rebecca Cyrus

    Hi, everybody!

    I totally loved the episode this week. Have you ever seen one of those movies, you know, like What Lies Beneath, where the water totally runs up on someone's face and you have to hold your breath so that you don't die too? I got that feeling this week, all the way.

    And the hottie factor! OMG! ROFL! How many football men can you stuff into a phone booth before you just go bananas!

    And by bananas, I mean, you know, like monkeys eat?


    I don't understand. Why did I just say that?

    Anyway, it's good to see Lois back. I'm glad that she's becoming a main character, and I have nothing but love for her as a person on this show. Lana's the romantic, Chloe's the homely one, and Lois is the hot quirky gal! I mean, who else can pull off such a kung fu kick and then give such a witty retort, LOL!

    So, I got a lot of mail this week, and you know what? Not ONE letter, not one letter from Neal or anyone saying I was stupid, or dumb, or whatever other big words Neal decides to throw at you to try and make you think he's smart. Words like deciduous, derigible, comestible, micturation, defenestration, engaging in coprophagy, you know? Or in my case, like, ebullient? What's ebullient? LOL! I don't know where I come up with this stuff! Egregious! Huh? No. Wait. Anyway, on with the review.

    I've been reading a lot of the comments lately about positivity, and I'm bummed about the constant negative attitude shown toward this show. I mean, if you're going to watch it, why hate it, you know? Why not just watch it, and like it? Why not just be swept along?

    And further, I don't know why this site allows reviewers like Neal, who just bash on the show and never try and make any point other than, you know, boring stuff like sociology, and morality, and other stuff no one really cares about. Because really, it takes time and patience to figure that stuff out, LOL, and if I had time or patience, I wouldn't be a reviewer! ROFL!


    Wait a second.

    Wait just a second.

    I keep writing stuff that doesn't sound like me. That's kind of confusing. I don't REMEMBER drinking tonight! (LOL) I must be on a roll or something!

    At any rate, I'm totally digging the witch side story, mostly because I don't know what's going to happen. And if there's anything that can keep me on the edge of my seat, it's not knowing what's going to happen, you know? Maybe Genevieve is really like a head witch, and maybe she's gonna bring back the evil witch Lana was, and make Lois and Chloe witches again! Or maybe, just maybe, Jason will somehow factor into it, like, maybe he's known all along or something. Wouldn't that be awesome? And then we could have another episode where they all go after the books and the stones and they throw Clark around and


    Crack? What, am I subject to Neal's whip now, or something?

    LOL. I'm playing a joke. Just kidding, you see.



    Ow! That hurt! Like to my soul! Totally!

    OW! Stop! LOL!





    OMG O...M...G... I have seen the light. There is a cloud, it opens before me, and down shines the golden monkey, the golden monkey, and it reaches behind itself, and it is flinging something! Laugh out loud...what is it? Is it's a projectile of truth! I see it! I see my purpose as a reviewer! I see what I am! I know my purpose now! I am....I am....

    I am Neal Bailey in a dress.

    Et et et hem. Okay. I think I've proven my point.

    What you've just witnessed is an elaborate hoax, a ruse, a clever trick designed to illustrate a point!

    That's right, kids. Rebecca Cyrus is as real as Clark Kent. A phantom. A conjuration. Second cousin to Harvey the Rabbit. A wisp from my mind, like coherence to a freak of the week.

    Ain't I a stinker?

    Now...stop for a second. Come back from the shed. Put down the pitchfork. Drop that torch. And what are you doing with an elephant gun anyway? If you're going to execute me for tricking you, how about a chance for me to explain why I've done what I've done?

    Okay. Here goes.

    Rebecca was meant to be the most elaborate April Fool's joke in history. Back in November, I had received a number of complaint letters (as chronicled in business) saying that I needed to just chill out, just love the show, and stop (as a critic) being critical.

    Steve said, "You know, maybe we need a second option. Maybe we need a reviewer with a different point of view."

    I said, "Nah, what people need to do is realize that a review is a review, and that I'm entitled to my opinion, frankly. There are positive reviews ALL over the net for anyone who is interested." (and there are, LOL).

    But Steve had a point, and I saw it. But what are the editorial options? Bring in a sycophant? To be honest, most critics, outside of blogs, are taking a lot of the stands that I'm taking (although with less length). I know, because though people don't realize this, a lot of work and research goes into these reviews. I read fan reviews, official reviews, magazine reviews, and I make sure mine stacks up against them in a unique way. It's part of my job as a writer.

    About this time, I was also receiving what was, hands down, some of the cruelest and most inhuman email I'd ever received from people who, I am convinced, had no conscience.

    So inspiration struck. I said to Steve, you want a counter review? You want someone who will believe the exact opposite of me? Well, then you have two options you can actually find someone with that view, or here's another option. I can be that person for you.

    Steve poo pooed it immediately, and wisely. But then I portrayed it as an elaborate April Fool's joke. We could see how people would hate me and love Rebecca, hate Rebecca and love me, and see if that vocal minority was onto something, if, perhaps, someone who just loved the show and was never critical could be interesting and fun to read.

    So I wrote a review like I see on the blogs. I wrote a review that was written by someone who gushes over the show. I took ACTUAL quotes from letters that people sent me, and from online journals that I read on a regular basis (none with my real name, so to those of you on LJ who I am a member with, no sweat, it wasn't you. I only JOIN the communities I actually like and know about, so please don't take offense. :) )

    And it bombed like Catwoman. And it sucked worse than Catwoman. It had the readability of the Catwoman script.

    That's not why we stopped it, though. Actually, I was content to sit and read people who wrote Rebecca and described what a bad writer I was simply because I wrote for so long ad infinitem and because I "didn't like the show", which is BS, I love the show, or I would write about something else. There are a ton of great shows out there, I'm sure I could find one. But I love this one. Once you've gotten over that hump as a writer when the insult letters don't kill you, they're kind of amusing, especially when the reamers can't spell.

    The idea was that on April Fool's, Rebecca would write an article about Smallville, and slowly start lapsing into me, with whip cracks, monkeys, and sudden bouts of uncontrollable tangent, which, though people think is me being out of control in my writing, is actually quite purposeful. Think of the way Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas sounds like a drug addled rant, when in actuality it is carefully scripted madness for entertainment. I can write a 500 word review, and the truth is, I have, but the thing is, there's nothing distinctive about it. No one reads it. There's no...PINASH!

    Rebecca Cyrus is a character in my fourth novel. A Stepford wife style character who realizes her own vapid self and comes to a form of self-actualization. I figured she would be an apt name for proxy. It was also a little reward for those few goodly enough to read my book, that they would be in on the joke. The joke's on me, because no one wrote and said, "Gotcha!". Har de har har har.

    I told a few people, the people who leaked blood out of their ears because they couldn't stand Rebecca, and my close friends. The response was universal. People, when they find out, will kill you, Neal. They'll string you up from a tree. They will beat you senseless and never read you again.

    To which I just giggled, and said, no they won't. And I knew why.

    Because this is funny! If you got conned, you've got to admire the ruse. If you figured it out, you were in with the joke. And all in all, I've gone through the most tangential way to prove a point that a human being can, and that, while some might consider it a collosal waste of time, is at least coherent, unlike most of the plots of late.

    I have just proved to you all (except maybe, for those few poor fans of Rebecca, who have my apologies) that a review is not meant to be arbitrarily positive. We're not meant to just go along with the show. We're not attracted to reviewers who are sycophants. And when it comes down to it, why would we be?

    It was also, in ways, a literary and cultural experiment to share with you all. As a writer, it allowed me to show that I can make a character so convincing, so real, that people will buy her, believe she's a real person, even though I conjured her. That was very rewarding. If a publisher sees that, I could be in pretty good shape, and I can't lie, though I'll write for this site forever, the ultimate goal in all things is a book deal. If I were an editor and I saw something like that (being the weirdo that I am) I would ask me to write something.

    It was also a way for me to honestly know if people were just being nice to me when they said they liked X about my review, because the same people would write Rebecca, and point out what they hated about me and loved about her.

    The reality of Internet affairs is that you're either loved or your hated. The more passionately you're loved or hated, the more readers you get. I am very loved, or very hated, so I had nothing to lose with this. I figured it a way to spice up the reading, to give a new angle, and it's something new. I bring in something new each year for a bigger and better experience. The KO Count, the Caption Contest, and now Rebecca. She's gone now, but if you keep your eyes open, I'll duck and move, duck and move, there's sure to be more surprises. In my eye, this is what makes good writing. Something that is so changing and constantly new, you get a surprise all the time.

    I have learned a lot of things. I have learned that some people are absolutely driven insane by the length of my reviews. So much so that they get mad at it without reading it. I've also learned that a lot of people who think I shouldn't be too critical are, in fact, very critical themselves, so I've come to sweat less the harsh words that come my way. It was therapeutic.

    I've also, finally, and best of all, come to terms with my losses of the last year. Rebecca provided me a laugh, a newness, and a strength of spirit to bring back the funny. And when it comes down to it, after all the analysis, the reason hate mail was up was not the length, or the way I came down on the show, but honestly, because I stopped having fun there for a while, and it subconsciously irked folks, I believe. You lose your friends, you lose your motivation, and heartbreak shows in your work like a red flag of failure.

    People will then invariably ask why I brought my dead animals into this? Well, the reason is because I had to have a final lynch pin. A way people who thought I might be putting them on would say, "God, man. He wouldn't do that to himself. She must be real."

    But I did, because confrontation is the best way to deal with a loss. So I thrust it in front of my own face. I also did it because, believe it or not, some ungodly monster of a reader wrote in and, in fact, told me that I shouldn't talk about anything personal in my review, and that I needed to get over the fact that my dogs moved on on me.

    The reality is that my personality and who I am, and how people relate or do not relate to it, is the only thing that makes this review tick. We all love or hate Smallville, and we can disagree without hating each other, so long as we all have the same relatable, human condition, I'm convinced.

    And so few relate to the vapid, I'll be damned if I'll change my review to be a Rebecca. This exercise has been a way to show you all why.

    What brought about the end was the simple fact that more than half of my email was about Rebecca (much hate, little love), and the fact that we found our good counter-reviewer we were originally looking for. I got emails asking if Saundra was real from the folks in the know, and emails from others asking why we added a second reviewer, was I quitting, etcetera.

    Saundra is quite real, and she, in actuality, is the person I truly vouch for. She's incredibly good and bright, and she should be writing scripts. She's a good friend, a great conscience. I've been reading her since Smallville's beginnings, and though she's not a sycophant, she ALWAYS consistently sees some angle I miss, and that's why I threw my all into getting her here. It involved begging, selling souls, and morewell, not really, that's a joke, but trust me. She'll be a great REAL, VIABLE version of what Rebecca parodied in the future, someone with more of that elusive "objectivity" spoken of in such vague romantic terms, or at least someone who agrees with me sometimes, disagrees others, but is poignant nonetheless.

    So anyway, the end:

    I threw down the gauntlet last week, and had Rebecca demand that I come up with the letters that I already knew existed. People who passionately hated Rebecca's guts in the last week, and over the course of her four or five reviews, she got 22 letters total. A few were from the same person, ripping into how much I sucked each week. Most were just "welcome" letters, and surprisingly, all were civil. Wish all my email was civil! Heh. I never wrote back as Rebecca, breaking my usual rule of writing back to everyone, to see what would happen. And, as I figured, since I write back in response to everyone who writes me (eventually), I've cultivated friends, almost a family online here, while Rebecca never got repeat writings.

    The comments I mentioned that Rebecca received attacking her were certainly honestly real. She was puerile, juvenile garbage. I wrote her that way intentionally. This week, when she said that she dared the letters to appear...

    My God, they did.

    They appeared in my inbox, and they appeared in the low hundreds. I was just thrown aback, truly. I expected Rebecca to be such a peripheral thing, a low-level joke I would spring after six months, but the fans have spoken loud, clear, and in harsh tones:

    No surface reviews. No positivist for the sake of having a positivist. And no, as I had feared, I am not in danger of losing my readership for being honest.

    And that's a great feeling.

    Now, I may be in danger of losing my readership for having played a trick on them, but let me put it this way. I have always written my review on that basic theory that if it makes me laugh, it probably makes other fanboys (or gals) laugh too. And if I were reading a review, and that reviewer attached an evil doppelganger for six months, and totally fooled me into believing she was real, my first reaction would be to go, "That's awesome. That's hilarious!" and then slap myself for not realizing it, like you do at the end of a good mystery.

    My hope is that this is your reaction. If not, well, train wreck theory, that was my other logic. If you hate me for it, you may just keep reading to hate me more, and I'm fine with that. You're still reading. And if it makes you like my reviews, if it ads to my insight in your eyes, bully. Good times.

    Mainly, as I say in letters to folks, I write these reviews for fun, I write them in a character of the incredulous fan, and I write them because they are a good time. If they cease to be a good time, why would I continue? This, to my mind, was just another step forward, and as the review continues to evolve and experiment I hope you'll stick with me, and have a good time.

    But really, I promise, Saundra is real.

    Anyway, though, seeing as Rebecca became less periphery and the subject of more than half of the emails, I decided to end her early, because I don't want to overshadow the meat, the real review, and I believe I had introduced her enough to deconstruct her fairly. She was mean, she was a twit, and she played folks like a fiddle, ye-hi.

    As a final discretionary note, I would implore you to blame me for any vitriol this raises in your heart, and not Steve. I had to BEG him to do this, and he was constantly wanting to pull the plug, because he is, to be honest, the most positive guy I've ever known. If Rebecca is the vapid end of the scale, he is the most thoughtful end of the positive person you'll ever hope to meet. I think what conned him into letting me do this was my explicit promise that I had faith in people to understand a simultaneous joke and sociological experiment when they saw it, and not grab pitchforks and kill us most egregiously. My hope is that you will. Understand, that is, not kill us with pitchforks.

    If not, I took out my grandma, and I can take you out too! Bring it! But don't send Steve email asking, "How in the world could you let Neal get away with that?", because to be honest, it was all my idea. ALL my idea. And I swore up and down that I would take care of any letters addressed to Steve complaining, because I do believe the merit of the revelation outweighs the peril of the deception. It's a clever fiction, that's all. Please take it for what it is.

    And now, if you're not livid, go back, read the old Rebecca reviews, and be in on the joke. Picture me tittering after I write each line, picture the fact that I actually had to push my chair back after writing each little LOL. Imagine how it felt, as a dude, to write about how much of a hottie Tom Welling is, how much Lex's bald head turns a girl on. I think you'll get a kick out of it.

    And if not, I'll give you your money back. Remember, you get what you paid for.

    Old Spice Red Zone!

    Rebecca: 10 of 10. LOL.

    And for the record, if you're paying attention, when they take a person on a show, and replace him with another person, and pretend that that person is the same character, that's a time when a show can be said to have jumped the shark. One of the reasons, anyway. Like Darren in Bewitched. Ergo, as a precautionary measure, so I don't go out with a whimper but a bang, that's right, I just jumped my own review's shark by doing the same character, different actor.

    Here's hoping you'll see how bad I can get. ;)

    A return to business next week.

    And don't forget the ever loving KO Count. I may be on the whammy list next week. We'll see.


    Reviewed by: Saundra Mitchell

    I am so relieved that Clark has finally realized he's been cheating at football, that I barely even care that this marks the third episode with absolutely no Clark and Lex interaction in it. I was so amused with Clark's Rube in the City routine that I can almost forget my annoyance at a season's worth of Clark's blockheaded self-righteousness. I'm hardly cranky that it took this long for the "supersmart" Clark Kent to come up with the equation.

    Okay, fine. I'm cranky.

    I'm incredibly cranky, because I want to believe that Clark is better than this show depicts him; I'd like to think that he could figure this out on his own. (Of course, I'd also like to think that Clark would have a better reason for joining the football team than he did, and that he might have, I dunno, actually taken a moment to consider whether he really wanted to be part of a group that has been assaulting freshmen and stringing them up in cornfields for years now, what with Clark having been one of those Scarecrows and all.)

    What frustrates me this week is not the characters themselves, but the hamhanded way in which the producers depict them. Clark is eighteen years old, he ought to be able to extrapolate the fact that he *is* actively using his powers on the field, even if he's not using superspeed. Clark Kent doesn't get tired. Clark Kent can't get injured. Clark Kent doesn't have to strategize how to take a hit because getting hit just doesn't matter when you're invulnerable.

    That it took a whiskey bottle PSA over the head for Clark to get it? And that he only thinks the increased pressure to succeed is what's dangerous? That disappoints me. Clark Kent should be better than that. The guy who grows up to be Superman should be better than that.

    Meanwhile, Lex is doing what Lex does fairly well - twisting people around to get his way. There's nothing new going on here, no new depths plumbed, but I certainly do enjoy watching Lex walk that narrow-hipped walk and get close enough to kiss the pretty boys of Smallville. I also really enjoy it when he talks down to people with the truth, dropping little seeds of doubt into their heads, and actually gets to enjoy the fruit of that in the same episode.

    He's hot when he's good; he's hot when he's bad; aw shucks, he's just plain hot. Sometimes it's the simple things that make a girl happy, and I am not above outright objectifying Lex Luthor. Take note, T&A network execs: I'm hot over the character being in character, and golly, he's fully dressed. Chew on that one for a while.

    Anyway... no friendship of legend, but slow-class Clark finally catches up... I would give "Smallville" two and a half cookies except Rosenbaum in the black sweater of ngawa and Welling with the lingering gaze of brooding give the episode a one cookie handicap. 3 1/2 for "Recruit," though I'm tempted to take the half away for serving chocolate cake with lemonade. Oy!

    - - -

    Digging through ye olde mailbag, I see that more than a few of you are a bit concerned about me calling myself a Bats fan. Well, I am a Bats fan from way back, but I'd like to clarify:

    Saundra's Shrine

    That's the shelf right above my desk, and I think that should clear things up!

    (Yes, that is commissioned art of Clark and Lex at a gun range. If TBTP are reading, that scene is on my Christmas list, and if you make it happen for real, I promise to give that episode 9000 cookies.)

    - - -

    Love Letters to Neal

    Dear Neal,

    I wish I talked about more than Clark and Lex in my reviews, because damn it, I want to say "I knew Marion Ravenwood, Lois, and you are no Marion Ravenwood."


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