Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 4 - Episode 15: "Sacred"

Reviews:

Sacred

Reviewed by: Douglas Trumble

The previews for this episode were big on the Kung Fu. Going into it I was expecting a lot of action and a few minor bits of info for the main plot of Season 4. For the most part I was pleased.

First let me say this. In this episode we learn that Doctor Swann has died. Under the circumstances I really didn't know how Smallville would handle the death of Mr. Reeve but I think they did a good job of dealing with it without being tacky. Just listen to the whole TV soundtrack, even when Clark, Martha, and Jonathan go on with the plot for this episode and you'll hear comments and nods to Swann's character that one could just as easily attribute to Mr. Reeve. It was a nice way to handle the unfortunate circumstances in my opinion.

So then we're off with the story. And overall it was a good one. We have Action, Intrigue, Suspense, Mystery, and Kung fu.

Yea I know Kung Fu is action but still nothing wrong with a bit of Kung Fu in a comic book TV series.

I was wondering how they were going to bring the witch back out of Lana. (I shall hold my Jokes about Lana being a witch all the time for now). Surprisingly we learn the Isobel never really left and it makes sense that she would come out to save the body she has possessed. I do have some questions about the when and how's of Isobel's taking control of Lana but we are dealing with an on-going story line so I'll wait and see if those are answered in the end before judging.

The map not being a map at all but a drawing made from the site the object is hidden was a neat twist. (I guess I should say I am not calling them stones because this one wasn't a stone... it was metal.) I am not really sure what the dress in the wall was for but comments made by Clark at the end about the Kryptonite being there to possibly keep him away from the artifacts leads me to believe there is more to this as well. It opens up some real possibilities. Were the artifacts hidden there to keep them away from Kryptonians? If so, why does Jor-El want Clark to find them so bad? Could this be more proof of the Jor-El voice being the Eradicator? Who knows, but I am very interested in seeing where they are going with this story line which is a good thing.

Clark's fight with Isobel was a bit over the top and almost too Crouching Tiger like but it is a comic book show so that's to be expected now and then. Sometimes over the top is the only place to be. I did like how she enchanted the weapons. I was wondering why Clark would bother to sword fight with someone and that was a good way to increase the danger to Clark without resorting to Kryptonite again. There was one real interesting thing while I was watching the fight going on. I was just about to say, "but why doesn't he just use his super-speed" and then wooooosh, Clark is off using his speed to get the item back from Isobel. Nice job!

Then comes the big twist. The object is gone. Who has it? Where did it go? I was certain at first that Clark snatched it up and was just fibbing. That we would later see him putting it into the cave with the other one. For a nice twist to the story we find out this wasn't true at all and Jason is the one who snatched it up. Then to spice it up even more we find out Swann had already found the third power object and it is now held by Crosby. So all three objects are in play now and no one has more than one. One wonders if someone can use one to find the others.

Lionel's story is getting more interesting by the week. Is he good? Is he bad? I am not sure anymore. Every time I become certain that I know, something happens to make me doubt what I think. I like that. I am certain it is going to be fun once we find out the truth.

There were just a couple of nitpicky problems I had with this episode and to be fair I should list them. The biggest being the Kryptonite. Why? How? The why part is interesting and may be part of the story, but the how is something I was left wondering about. Were they meteor rocks or is Kryptonite something else in this version of Superman? Something that wasn't actually formed in the explosion of Krypton? It's possible but I doubt it'll be covered to that depth. There was also one groan moment when Clark and Lana first arrived in China. A speeding passerby forces Lana into Clark's arms. I am sorry and I know it was just a tease by the writers and director so they would have a Clark holding Lana shot for the preview but I couldn't help but roll my eyes at that moment.

Still those minor gripes aside I was pleased with this one. There wasn't any wow moments that I'll remember ten years from now but the episode did a good job of advancing the main season 4 plot and giving us a bit of Superman action along the way. I'd give this one a B+.

Douglas Trumble



Sacred

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

REVIEW:

Main Points:

  • Everybody must get stones.
  • Lana, Clark, Jason and Lex go to China to find a stone.
  • Witch hi-jinks and swordplay ensue, along with inconsistency.
  • Dr. Swann is dead, and Crosby has disappeared, but Clark has the key again.

    IN MEMORIAM:

    I am not the man that you may think I am. I'm kind of a clown, when it comes down to it. A professional, fiction-making clown.

    I don't make the kind of comedy or stories that annihilate my own integrity; I am sincere to myself, which is rare to the writing world, where most of the clowns are largely meretricious and seeking finance. But nonetheless, this review, like Smallville, is a show. It's an elaborate spell. I take random monkey element A, mix it with flatulence B, insert Tab joke C, and COMEDY.

    But it's also an exploration of sociology, as some people bemoan, and as others love. It's a purposefully biased news story that reports on an issue in a fashion that can only be mine, that is entertaining because it is so brutal and straight even if you don't agree.

    There's a term for this kind of work. It's called Gonzo Journalism.

    It was coined and created by a man named Hunter S. Thompson, a crazed, drug addled maniac who wrote tight, meaningful words in an allusive, blunt, counter-culture style that revolutionized the way we look at reporting, and changed the way that I personally lead and write my life.

    Without this man, without this concept, this review would be an objective scar of brummagem, a wasteful meandering in both your time and mine. Hunter S. Thompson gave me the grace, the skill, and the integrity to be honest in my reporting. I'm not into drugs, I'm not into sports, we were differing animals, but his style, his beliefs, in these things, we were kin.

    I can think of three people whose lives ending have been real tragedies to me. Charles Bukowski, Joseph Heller, and now, Hunter S. Thompson.

    Hunter died last Sunday. He took his own life in his fortified compound. The newspapers reported briefly on his life, and then the next day, no one said anything more, anywhere I looked. It's like the man who re-created news and how we look at it has been wiped from the face of that Earth.

    So I figured I'd just take a minute out of respect for this man. He had nothing to do with Superman, but he had EVERYTHING to do with the way that I write about him. If you've ever enjoyed or hated something I've written, you owe it to this man, and he should be mourned.

    If you want a wild ride, pick up his books, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Great Shark Hunt, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. You might learn a lesson about politics, and how many of the same things that happened thirty years ago are happening again today. At very least, you will see a master of the craft.

    Death surrounds us. It's the final toll. As Hunter S. Thompson would have said, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.

    Tonight we remember the passing of Hunter Thompson, the man who informed my writing, and Christopher Reeve, the actor who informed my sense of goodness, and perhaps a little piece of us all along with them, wherever they may be.

    I'm sorry to start so somber, but that should be said. Sometimes death can just be so hard on all involved. If we don't make a dialogue about it, we forget it, to our own peril.

    And if we don't realize that death can come for us at any time, that each review may be our last... we may be persuaded to laugh a little less. And I will go from the cradle to the grave laughing, until my very life breaks like the tide of the sixties on the breakers of our new cynicism.

    Hunter, this one, every one, I owe you. Rest in Peace. Have a chat with Chris. That would be interesting to read about when I get to where you are.

    REVIEW:

    Ergo it is fitting that my review begins with a positive, though there are many things not to like about this show.

    I ranted and railed, threw chairs and beat old women when Christopher Reeve died, mostly because Smallville, the people profiting off his images and popularity, gave him less than ten seconds of memory in their show.

    This show, although late to the gate, really makes up for that. They show a tribute, they give him mourning, and they resolve the story in a tasteful way.

    I am upset with the fact that like Alicia, like Krypto, and like heck, Hunter S. Thompson, he will be forgotten tomorrow on the show, that's TV culture, what are you going to do? But I will say that for what seemed like a callous regard before, they've now made some great amends with me as a fan.

    I took six pages of notes for this show, the most I've ever taken, in incredulity. This'll be a two sitting review, bear with me.

    I was a bit taken about by the fact that Clark was applying for colleges this late in the game, until I talked with folk in the chat room. I sent my college applications my Junior year, so I was perplexed that Clark would be looking so late, but apparently, that's what they do in other states... thank the chat room for that one!

    There are a lot of flaws in this episode. A lot of flaws, a lot of bad continuity, and a lot of failings. There's also story progress, which is both good and bad. Some of the plot you could care less about, others are pretty enthralling, really, if only they'd put more explanation to them.

    Example... they moved the plot forward, wrapping up the Swann thing, but now we'll never know how the heck he got the key. Phantom Zone? Booster rockets? Giant magnet? Zod? Who knows? The thing is, there's hardly any way to explain it now. I guess since he's out of sight, out of mind, they figured we'd forget. We don't.

    They also open up a WHOLE can of worms by having Clark say that he's been talking to Dr. Swann. He has? Then what did he learn? That's a pretty darned big deal there. It's also flatly insulting, because to be honest, would you rather be watching Clark try out for football in Metropolis while Lois meets the mad PARALYZER, or would you want to watch Dr. Swann and Clark talk about something trivial, like Krypton? Personally, I'd rather have seen Swann talk with Clark about ballerinas than watch some of the crap we've had to deal with this season.

    Swann was supposed to be the guy who just popped up every now and again, and now he's been in regular communication. So what does Clark know that we don't?

    That's a big problem in this show of late. Characters knowing certain elements and details of the plot that we don't... and not in that "it's a mystery" kind of way, but in the kind of way where we have to make assumptions. For instance, my big example of this is the jet, but I'll get there. Just remember that concept.

    Because now, I gotta talk about the Triforce.

    You can argue that Superman is Link, you can argue that Lex Luthor is Gannon, you can argue the Lana is Zelda, but that leaves a lot of roles left to metaphorically analyze, so all I can come up with is that Chloe must be the monkey that only shows up once or twice and disappears.

    Nonetheless, the triforce really does these rocks well as a concept. There are three of them, they symbolize generic aphorisms, "THIS IS COURAGE!" "THIS IS HEART!" and etcetera. It's very common in mythology, so I can respect that, but the reality is that the premise is impossible and strange.

    My argument is that I can accept most anything if it is in a logical framework that isn't too nuts. Like, if a man is so dense on one world that he adapts to control gravity on a world where he is extra light? Okay. If he just leaps into the air with no explanation, that doesn't fly. Or if he suddenly becomes extra heavy and can still fly, even if it LOOKS COOL on the screen (a large justifications for logical framework errors that I don't buy).

    So as that pertains to the triforce, look at it this way. Jor-El has left Clark a task or a destiny that Clark doesn't understand. Okay. Why? Is the planet super-dense (following the metaphor)? No. There's no reason Jor-El would send his son scampering all over the planet being a pain in the butt if there was no reason for it. He's heavy, but he's still flying.

    That's strike one.

    But then you have the fact that even if you can get beyond this, there is another layer of improbability. Jor-El has to have been on Earth since the tenth century. Now, maybe this is possible for an alien species, but it isn't mentioned, isn't inserted. It's the man taking off to fly without the rationale of density. In the comics, Jor-El's home world either won't travel through space or can't, and if he can travel back and forth through time, why doesn't he just bring his son back as an adult and save Krypton?

    You could argue that perhaps he travels through space in suspended animation, and that time is different as you travel at light speed or through hyperspace (the idea of light traveling taking time, but traveling faster than light not taking time) but here's the problem with that. Assume that he goes to Earth in the early 1000s, or even during the Cultural Revolution, which occurred in 1976 (guess they didn't know that I took two quarters of Chinese history, mwu ha!). The way they spoke of the temple, what Jor-El placed in the temple was there BEFORE the Cultural Revolution, and had been there for hundreds of years. Further, other stones came from ancient Egypt (pre-AD), and a piece of the mythology, Isobel, has been searching for the stones since at least the 1800s.

    Ergo, Jor-El MUST time travel, and he must do it in a strange order, even though logically, he can't, because if he was goofing around with Lana's great aunt in 1961, he couldn't have been with Lara, or she would probably kick him all the way to China. So here's the timeline:

    Jor-El learns the planet's gonna die.

    Jor-El creates an elaborate plan to help his son learn stuff, puts it in three crystals, and goes through time hiding them in places where it would be nearly impossible for his son to find them, and he also puts kryptonite, which kills his son, in the temples. He does this 3500 years ago, 300 years ago, and perhaps thirty years ago, if it was JUST before the Cultural Revolution (unlikely).

    Because he is doing this, he knows his world is dying, and he knows he has to send his son to Earth (which totals continuity in that Kryptonians typically doesn't know about other planets or are forbidden to travel through space (never mind time), but we're way beyond continuity at this point).

    He also visits and has a romance with a woman in Kansas in 1961. Ergo all of this happened AFTER he knew he had his son and was with Lara. So he either time travels, or he's a cheater. Knowing the character as I do (not as this evil, manipulative tart that they're making him in this show but what I honestly believe him to be), I don't think he'd cheat. Maybe they're making a manipulative, selfish Jor-El. If so, shame, but I doubt it, especially with the way they keep insinuating the bad AND the good of all his actions (to one day redeem on the show or, likely, leave up in the air because they know they can't make Jor-El out to be good with all that he's done).

    So he can't travel through time logically because he would just save his planet (and doesn't), but he does travel through time (which he shouldn't), and the result is a muddled reason to fly (Jor-El can't have left the stones in a logical framework), and the fact that he physically CAN'T fly (Jor-El wouldn't go through this nonsense to begin with. Why entrust the key to Clark but not the three pieces?

    The only logical explanation that I can find is that the three stones open the Phantom Zone, and thus a repository of information, but still, how is that the "temptation" that Jor-El speaks of.

    In the ether, Jor-El treats the stones like they're the Ark of the Covenant (another Indy joke? CRACK!), like anyone who gets the three stones can destroy the world. A little Lord of the Rings in there, too.

    But then, so can Clark.

    So if he'll trust the Kents with Clark (and it's been insinuated that he CHOSE the Kents), and Clark can destroy the Earth, why not trust them with the stones, too?

    To say nothing of the fact that somehow, despite the fact that Jor-El was visiting these places before the planet exploded, he managed to plant Kryptonite on them, which can only be found from remnants of the destroyed planet Krypton. Kind of strange, huh? And hey, assume he arranged someone to find Kryptonite and put it there. How the heck would he know Kryptonite would hurt Kryptonians, when it wasn't even around when Krypton was still around, and when Krypton died, Jor-El died?

    Point being? This plot is interesting in that we're going to see Clark learn more about his origins, but Al and Miles

    MAKE IT SENSIBLE AND GET TO THE POINT.

    Please.

    Sorry. Had to get that out there.

    Anything can be written out of, but you have a LOT of work to do with this one. And I think they know that, which is why they're not doing it. Stall, stall, stall. No one will notice, right?

    Uh, viewers are dropping like flies. We notice. And don't blame American Idol, either. That's been around for a while now.

    Boobies and stall tactics do not a classic make. I advice the writers to pick up season one, season two, and season three, and remember what made the show so GOOD at times.

    Still, there is some delivery. The show opens with a tribute to Reeve, we have Clark making the reluctant choice to get the stones together, and it ends in the ether with Jor-El, which is cool and fun, even if the framework isn't and detracts.

    I do have one more commentary on the triforce. Clark's logic for going and getting them is that sure, when they're put together they'll cause trouble, but better that he puts them together rather than anyone else, even if it'll make Jor-El turn him into a killing machine to enslave the world (as far as he knows, not what we know).

    Do you:

    A) Take the stones far away and bury them, where NO ONE can put them together, and consign the memory of Jor-El to bad krypto-gas.

    B) Take one of them, squeeze it in your palm until it becomes a diamond, and give it to Lana, so she'll forgive you and give your masculinity back? (Because as the joke phrase goes, with diamonds, she'll almost HAVE to.)

    C) Get all three with your GODLIKE POWERS and keep them apart, placing them somewhere safe (like, say, a plastic cage in a barn somewhere).

    D) Put them all together and hope for the best, because you have a good heart, and better you than Lex! (Such moral elitism from the guy who's lying all the time when Lex is saving his life).

    Cue the credits, we have our premise. Well executed, not logical.

    Cut to Jason in the middle of China. Or rather, the one street we see of China, a stereotypical amalgamation of what "Chinese" means to set designers. You know what that means, right? First, you set up a bunch of storefronts, and have peasants walking around, and of course there has to be the guys in the green suits who like to torture you, who talk in clipped sentences and take great joy in hating Americans. Right?

    I mean, I know none of the Chinese buddies I have act like that, and their stories of growing up in Chinese communism have some scary stuff in them, but mostly it was just not having food or having to work hard. Random stereotypes who beat foreigners must be hard to come by.

    BUT, hey, if you recall watching Skinwalkers, all you need aside from the stereotypical (and somewhat racist) things that they put on the average American Chinese who grimace and pretend to be the heathen chinee is that music. You know? Like, with the Native Americans it was the twang, the hooooooooooo and the rattle. With the Chinese, it's the ching chong bwang.

    Now I know, the intent was not racist, but really. LOOK at this. This is what we really think of the Chinese as a culture? This is how we look at them in our televised fictions? It's kind of sad.

    I'll invariably get emails, "Neal, you're too sensitive!".

    Yeah, probably. But if you watched a show where Americans were portrayed as violent buffoons who were imperialistic and left people impoverished and threatened on our city streets, you might get defensive too. I'm just looking out for my friends from other cultures who don't have enough people fighting against this stuff, or at least drawing attention to it.

    I know the show had to go to China. I know they probably did their best. It's still one of those things that if you ignore exploring, you are being purposefully ignorant, like the racial aspects of Pete on the show, or the Native American portrayal. These may be the most important issues to come out of a little show about a flying man... how it impacts our culture and the culture of others.

    And to me, this was a little stereotypical for my tastes. Right down to the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon rip-off finale.

    As a friend who shall remain unnamed said, "To heck with jumping the shark. The show just jumped the continent."

    True.

    So the stereotypical Chinese folk are wandering around in the background, and Jason is talking to Lana, and she catches on that he's not in Kansas anymore (God help me), and it hits me... they must not be a very good couple if they don't touch base in a long enough time period that he can FLY TO CHINA and she won't notice he's gone until he's THERE.

    We have a little Lex in character, for once, which I admire, thought it's trounced later when he becomes just another Lana-phile. Jason's in China, and he follows him there, keeping tabs, always being one step ahead. That's good times, that's the Lex I know, and I appreciate it. A backup plan for a backup plan, and if he can't have that, he'll pay for it.

    Though this whole "there are people with more money than you" stuff irked me. Who? Bruce Wayne? As I recall, Lex's family is one of the five richest on the planet... and I don't remember the Teagues in there.

    But assume that when the guy turned on Lex he really meant someone. Who caused the guards to turn on Lex? There are two plausible options. Genevieve, and Lionel.

    First, Lionel is WIPED OUT. That has not changed (though it appears to have through error, which I'll get to). So it must be Genevieve.

    Assume that Genevieve wants to find out where the stones are. Why torture her son? Why torture Lex? Why torture Lana? They know as much as she does. She knows that. And why not go to China herself?

    Because if we don't just gloss over that, we can't have the stereotypical Chinese guard beating scene, which titillates and repulses and is memorable in our safe little American minds. (Not knocking my readers and viewers abroad, not at all. I'm just speaking about the target audience, and the creators, which are generally American oriented (though in Canada, eh)).

    This episode, we see that Jason has been lying to Lana all along, and he even admits it. He lies in a direct, deceptive, evil way that makes him patriarchal, proves that he's conspiring behind her back, and he does it with that guy who's "trying to break them up" Lex Luthor. He does it to "protect" her, when really he's watching out for himself and his line. When Jason apologizes half-heartedly with a cute smile (provided he brings around a rock that makes Lana turn into a witch, I don't know why THAT pleased her) he's a nice guy, and she lets him back in. When Clark lies to her in a way that is not evil, and in fact IS to protect her, and saves her life every week for three years, he's still scum of the Earth. Plausible framework?

    No.

    More implausibility. Lionel knows EVERYTHING his son knows, and he even knows stuff that he couldn't know without Lex colluding. For instance, the map, the location, and all kinds of stuff that Lex would keep hidden. How? Why? Lionel doesn't have the money to finance investigations any more, Lex certainly wouldn't give him his password, and you can argue that he got it from Genevieve, but LEX IS NOT WORKING WITH HER AND IS TELLING HER NOTHING.

    And even if he IS getting it from her, there has to be the A to B. We can't assume that (the assumptions without the framework, as mentioned above), we have to be shown, or told, or even indicated in that direction. NONE of this occurs. Instead we get conversations leading up to this episode filled with the word "secret" and "lies", and no real reason for Lionel to be in the plot, Jason, or even LANA, for that matter. So she has a tattoo! Why does she want or need the stones at ALL? They are negative stimuli. They make her a witch, they screw up her life, and they're nothing but BAD. It doesn't make sense for a selfish character to want to punish herself. It pulls you out of the story. It does.

    Where is Lois? Clark is all around the house, and we don't see her? Someone said it was mentioned that she was taking off for the week, but I didn't hear it. And if she can afford to just take off for a week, why is she bumming around with the Kents? It's like this one friend I know who borrowed a few hundred bucks from his friends, and then instead of paying it back, spent a few hundred to come see them for the weekend. We have choice words for that kind of person, and so would the Kents.

    Swann is further brought in through the email, the pictures, the man of the year stuff. It was touching, though brief. Another example of the effort to make respect for Reeve known is on the Ledger site:

    http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/smallville/ledger/home.jsp

    Very well done, I thought.

    Then more illogical framework.

    Clark, who hasn't gone to see Lana in, what, five, ten episodes, suddenly goes over to her house right after Swann dies. What's the motivation, huh?

    And right when he gets in, the usual fun starts. Lana starts whining, and YELLING, that's right, YELLING at Clark about the things Jason has done, and Lex, and ooh, secrets this, and ooh, lies that!

    BURN!

    Sorry. I was overtaken by my French personal spirit witch, Monkeybella. Whenever I get near pork rinds, she inhabits me and makes me do things. And hey, pork rinds make your butt big and sometimes make me kick the butt of people who try and take my pork rinds. But heaven help me, I just can't stop eating pork rinds. Maybe if I keep eating them despite the change, they'll tell me why I keep watching this show and give me some insight into my character.

    Mmm. Pork rinds. Ah! My witch is speaking to me right now!

    Vous obtiendrez les peaus de porc ! Je vous ordonne ! Et vous ne faites pas les plaisanteries d'assez de singe ! J'insiste que vous faites les plaisanteries de plus de singe ! Le singe, poop, et les nains, ceux-ci sont les agrafes de comˇdie, et ici vous parlez des probl¸mes sociologiques ! Vous ne pouvez pas entendre de gens b‰illant ? Et hˇ, vous parlez des stˇrˇotypes, regardez que vous faites au fran¨ais !

    Which means, roughly:

    You will get the pork rinds! I command you! And you are not making enough monkey jokes! I insist you make more monkey jokes! Monkey, poop, and midgets, these are the staples of comedy, and here you are talking about sociological issues! Can't you hear people yawning? And hey, you talk about stereotypes, look at what you're doing to the French!

    Oui, I know. It's like wiping your review with silk. Come, Persephone, on with the parody. And maybe, if you're lucky, cake!

    So Clark, being the wussified dude he is, just sits there and takes the yelling at him. I tell you what, someone yells at me, Superman or not, I'm gonna tell them to calm down. But then, Lana can do anything. ANYTHING. I mean, she could shoot Jason, and the sheriff would take out a plaque and say, "Good form. Clark would have missed" before handing her the award for looking so beautiful (she agrees).

    There's no reason for him to be there, no reason for him to take that, but he does, so we sit through it like blind sheep as inconsistencies mount.

    And the dialogue! ARG! I actually had to write it out. It was one of those times where you're so incredulous that she's actually saying what she's saying, and you know that if you don't LISTEN, if you just let it wash over you, you won't get the depths of it all, you'll be duped. So I write it down, for examination.

    Clark, talking to Jason's departure: "Don't you think you owe him a chance to explain?" (no)

    Lana, "Clark, you know I don't give up on someone that easily."

    She gave up on Clark pretty easily, as I recall. In fact, she never really nailed down in a cogent fashion why she no longer speaks to him and treats him like garbage. Call me a stickler, but stuff like that nags at me.

    Lana: "I'm not gonna let him lie to me!"

    You just did. You have. You will. Until he is killed in an unremarkable episode so they can bring in another pretty boy in place of Chloe's absence. Or until they decide to make Clark your manslave again.

    Lies and secrets and trust, oh my! Gag me with a pork rind. Monkeys.

    And in fact, you, Lana Lang, are a LIAR yourself. Remember all of that research of Isobel she did and kept from Clark, from Jason, from anyone?

    I know. That was last week. Can't remember it now, can we?

    Yeah. We can.

    So get this. LIONEL calls Lana. LIONEL. This is the man who tried to kill her best friend Chloe, Lex, and is known to be a murderer.

    She could trust Jason, Lex, or even Genevieve, who, while creepy in fur has never LIED TO or HURT HER as far as she knows, but instead, who does she trust? Lionel Luthor. She takes his money for a jet ride (which he doesn't HAVE!), and trusts him explicitly when he's the untrustworthiest person in sight.

    You see what I mean about incoherent plot here? About how though it LOOKS cool, you can't believe a man can fly unless it's put into the framework of Christopher Reeve and a lack of density?

    Now we run into more problems (you are beginning to see why I have six pages of notes, oui?). Lana and Clark get a ride on Lex's jet to China.

    How did Lex get to China, number one?

    How did Lex authorize that plane ride if he wasn't around, number two?

    Assuming Lionel authorized it, why does he have the authority to do that after he tried to kill his son?

    Assuming Lex authorized it, why would he let Clark go?

    Assuming Lionel authorized it, why would he let Clark go, when he hates Clark with an avid passion for testifying against him, when Clark foiled his bodysnatcher scheme? Furthermore, assume Clark paid. Where did he get the money, and why, even if he paid, would Lionel allow him on?

    I don't buy for a second that he's a good guy, and even if he was a good guy, keeping Lana and Clark from that place would be protecting them, not sending them.

    Assume Lex has two jets, and he left the other, and Lana and Clark used it and are on some kind of permanent fly-wherever list that Lex set up (the biggest stretch I could come up with to justify this). Clark ripped one apart with his bare hands. How did it get fixed so fast?

    Sigh.

    This is almost like the box. The box Emily had. Maybe that can be my metaphorical way to take care of inconsistency... put it in that box that was so perfectly engineered by an 8 year old girl from material she couldn't even lift.

    Repress it!

    More dialogue with Lana and Clark on the plane. Clark tries to make it about his secret, tries to figure out a way to tell Lana that which she so beleaguers him for, and all she can think about and talk about is herself. "Everybody seems to know more about me than I do!" she whines. Well, no kidding. It's hard to know anything about yourself when your character has absolutely no definition at all.

    Seriously. Give me a character trait of Lana Lang, I challenge you. I don't mean how she talks or acts. I mean, what's something she likes to do? What's something she's done that is unique, in the last two seasons. Like, you know, Clark likes to play basketball, Chloe is a newshound... Lana used to work at a coffee place, but what does she do now? Nothing. She appears, and whines, and disappears.

    And the worst part? CLARK FOLLOWS HER WHEN SHE DOES!

    She says she felt like she had a big secret (the tattoo) that made her different. Yeah. She did. She had the big secret, and she hid it. But when she does it, it's logical (according to the writing). When Jason, Lex, or Clark hide an insecurity, they get the SCORNFUL LOOK OF BALEFUL RESENTMENT (with the lighting to indicate that said male is a scumbag).

    She's always complaining about the people around her. That's her sole character trait. That, and to do what the plot leads her to do. Oh, I have a tattoo? Must go stones! Must go China! Oh, hi Clark!

    It's empty. It's shallow. It needs work, to put it mildly.

    Clark makes like to get her to understand why he can't tell his secret, why he feels different, why sometimes you can't tell things that put others in danger. He says, "You're afraid people will see you differently."

    To which she responds, "Well, how could they not?"

    Put another in the win column for Lana. Way to estrange.

    Then she says, I kid you not:

    "It's funny. The people I'm trusting are Lionel Luthor and you." (to Clark).

    So she not only equivocates Lionel, a murderer, with Clark (which is indirect but nonetheless implied), she treats Clark as if he's this big liar that he's NEVER been. He doesn't tell her about his powers. That's not a lie.

    THIS is a lie:

    I, Neal Bailey, am black.

    I can't even get a tan. That's such a lie. I'm white.

    The first thing Lana says in China? "Looks like we're not in Kansas any more."

    Heck, just WRITING that makes me need a bathroom break. I'll be right back.

    Ah, much better. But it still stinks. Not me. The line.

    Some peasant runs past them, and pushes Clark and Lana into the most arbitrarily forced hug ever seen on television. So get this, we're not only watching Lana in her former capacity of hell that they had lessened, we're actually seeing the telltale hints and conversations that will lead to Jason getting the axe and Lana and Clark getting back together. Mark me. It's coming. They'll have one issue where they both say sorry, everything will suddenly be square, and then, kissy face abounds.

    Pray I am wrong. I like the church of Joe Pesci. He'll straighten things right out.

    We see Lex's first overtly evil act in this show. He hires goons to beat and question Jason. It's pretty bad, but then, given the fact that he did it to protect Lana from a fink, you can see that his intentions were good. It's still inexcusably evil. We can see, for the first time, Lex being truly evil. That's a milestone, but since they've kind of arbitrarily declared him evil in commercials and etcetera already, I don't see much of a leap.

    Clark sees Kryptonian symbols, sends the girls away, and immediately walks up to the wall, just after the girls are out of eyesight, and moves a BIG rock, a ten-ton looking rock. It scrapes across the floor like nails across the chalkboard, and is vivid. I would have liked it, had I not been thinking, "How the heck is Lana not hearing this in a TEMPLE" (they're small).

    And then, here's the kicker. A few seconds later, when Clark is groaning, they hear THAT. Either that, or the military pulling up in a car, with a motor that is rather quiet compared to a rock grating on a cement floor with a couple tons behind it.

    I realize, writing this, that my reviews have been much shorter of late. This is a long one. The reason? One word:

    Lana.

    When Lana's around, there's just so much to criticize. And it's not me, it's the character, it really is.

    So then we hit what I consider the biggest implausibility of the show. Chinese guards show up, open the door, shoot Lana's guide, and are about to shoot Lana when they see her tattoo. Then they let her live, and drag her to some prison and electrocute her.

    WHAT?

    I mean, who sent them, number one, and why? They already explored the temple, we know this much from Lex's comments. There's nothing new there. There's also no way that they could know Clark and Lana are even THERE unless Genevieve told them. And perhaps Genevieve could have been told by Lionel and arranged this, but it is NOT SAID or even hinted, ergo the framework of logic is totally destroyed. If we learn next episode, we will hardly remember, and my guess is that they will not go that far back to explain something. Not with the tas of Lucy Lane to occupy us.

    Number two, assume they had a reason to go there. Maybe to kidnap Lang. Let's say that's the excuse.

    Why don't they go find Clark, who they would know is there? Why burst in and kill the first Asiatic woman in the room, when either could be Lana, if she were described (and I didn't see them referencing a photo). WHY SHOOT LIONEL'S GUIDE? If it was Genevieve and Lionel, he arranged the guide, why would Genevieve order them to kill? Why would they kill?

    So ignore this. Lana is sitting there, they aim the gun at her (knowing that they're looking for one particular woman, they still do this) and are about to shoot, and they don't because of the tattoo. So maybe they were just going to the temple to search it, then just started shooting everyone they saw, stopping only because a tattoo made them curious? They couldn't just say, "Hey, you! Out! We're here for Lang!"

    And through all of this, they just leave Clark there. And why not, huh? He's only going to come and rescue her or report to the authorities. Why not tie up that loose end?

    Pardon my French (bwa ha), but WHAT THE HELL?

    This requires a pork rind.

    Mmmm.

    All right. I am once again calm.

    Cut straight to the fetishization scene. They're all there, in China, because of Lana (even though the stones are about Clark, and even though it's his destiny we care about). Lex is there to save Lana, and to answer his own questions. Jason is there to protect Lana, and save his own butt. Clark is there to protect Lana, and learn his destiny.

    So they put Lana in the chair, make everyone watch her, and they torture her exclusively (despite having no impetus to do so. I mean, what does she know?). We watch her suffer, the boys rattle the chains and say, "No! Not her! Torture me more, I'm a man, she's just a girl!" Okay. They didn't say that. But I saw it in the framing.

    So of course, now that she's been the fetishized victim, we hit the girl power. Because not only can electricity transfer Kryptonian powers, it can also apparently cause witches who have been exorcised to return.

    No. Really. Watch the show. That actually happened.

    It's not a joke! I'm not kidding!

    Yeah, I know I lied about Rebecca. But that was a pork rind lie. This is the truth! She really became a witch because she got hit with electricity!

    And of course, the witch planned it that way, we learn, as she speaks plain English despite dying speaking French, as she says phrases in Latin despite being French, as she admonishes Jason for being a resilient "Lad".

    Look, lady, the only place where I buy the word "Lad" in popular culture is the Legion, and only there sparingly.

    The witch is such a painful and horribly done anachronism, it's all I can do to sit here and type and describe her actions without gagging and throwing up a little in my mouth. I want to hurl a trident and scream "By ODIN'S BEARD!"

    This is like a reporter fight. It's such a train wreck, you laugh your butt off.

    Only this is meant to be SERIOUS, folks. That's the scary part.

    So if the witch took the original map, where is it? Why doesn't she retrieve it?

    Whups. Guess they forgot. Photocopies are easier, I guess.

    She knocks Clark out and vacates. She then rounds a corner, and she's in a completely new outfit. They don't even pause to figure out where. It's like the S and M ones last time. It just appears on her.

    ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRG! It physically pains me. I'm going to have an aneurysm.

    No. I'm gonna have a pork rind.

    GAH! I'm out of pork rinds! Je n'ai pas les peaus de porc, le gar¨on ! (I don't have pork rinds, lad!)

    Well, I'll just have to power through the rest of this then, won't I?

    Clark rises from being knocked out. Jason and Lex, as Clark frees them, say, "Thanks, Clark! You saved us!"

    No. Wait.

    That's not what they said. They turned to him and said, "Clark! How could you bring Lana into this!" Which is, of course, logically what happened, because Clark's a jerk and Lana's a saint, right? That's the first assumption their characters should make, right?

    No. Wait.

    Especially since they went all the way across the globe for Lana's selfish desires to understand a fricking tattoo, and since Lana just basically left without saving them, and especially, on a basic level, since they didn't even ask Clark if he was just doing what they were doing, but instead assumed him the antagonist, because to portray Lana as anything but flawless onscreen is unthinkable. The idea that she would come on her own (the more likely situation, given her general attitude of "I can do it" while being tied to the train tracks) doesn't even enter their dialogue, let alone their heads.

    And all of this, it's still real. It happened in the show. Seriously.

    Clark then tosses two guards across the room in different directions at the same time, just to make sure everyone knows what he can do, you know?

    Lana goes outside, and there's a horse that has an artifact in it buried about a half foot in the ground. She chants in Latin despite being French, and it rises out of the ground after a KRYPTONIAN sigil appears. Makes sense, doesn't it, that a Kryptonian rune would be called forth from a Latin indictment by a French while speaking in an American accent?

    Shoot me. Please. No! Must... go... on!

    Of course, she COULD have just dug into the ground and saved us all this pondering, you know, reached about the half foot down, but then, that might scuff her nails, huh? OR HER NEW DRESS THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE!!!!!!!!

    Clark hears this happen (despite not hearing it when one of the other runes was unearthed, the one Crosby had, for some reason... rationality again), and super-speeds to it, despite being still with Lex and Jason (though it's not shown). Great.

    Where'd you go, Clark?

    I just wanted to see if they had a copy of Dream of the Red Chamber. Besides, you guys coulda found me. There's only one street here, after all.

    Holding up the piece in the red silk, we see a vision of Superman, which is cool. One of the neat moments of the episode, but not enough to save it from Crouching Lana, Hidden Passive.

    So Clark confronts her. "Ey, you! Gimme that stone!"

    Lana turns to him, squints her eyes, and says, "No! First we must fight in stereotypical fashion! I know that I have the power to take your powers, to make you bleed, and to kill you, but instead, I will duel you with my FRENCH sai and sword skills which I learned from my Lana fu master! And then, if you start winning, I will change back into Lana without lightning! How do you like that, BUCKO?"

    Clark stares blankly. "Huh?"

    So Lana hurls a sai into his shoulder, and it's on.

    Never mind how it bled him, it just did. So he pulls a sai out of his shoulder, which would, you know, take anyone with such a would out, and instantly begins a kung fu style fight in his Dockers and Carhartts.

    No, this is all still serious.

    Lana swishes around and pulls Crouching Tiger moves for a few seconds with a little bit of Neo, they make some very cliche moves, clang their swords together a bit, and then Clark realizes what I realized at the beginning of the fight.

    HE CAN MOVE AT SUPERSPEED!

    So he goes, super fast, and tries to take the stone. If it were me, I would have just blasted her with heat vision and knocked her out, but hey, why try heat vision when you can play with swords that can cut you when you don't even know how to sword fight! Way to go, farm boy!

    Boy, they sure learn some good kung fu in France, too. I mean, MAN! Her sensai, Jaques Idonnaexistez-vous must have been epic. She owned all over Clark, despite his many obvious physical superiorities and invulnerability. Go figure. I'll bet you if they did the Olympics the year Lana's witch was burned, and the French entered, they'd just make it look ILL and walk away with the gold. The French would ruin the world of anyone that went against them. You walk within ten feet of the French, BAM!

    Especially given, as any kung fu master will tell you, how often people specialize in two alternating weapons in either hand, one which is light and wieldy, the other of which is heavy and cumbersome. You can't be Leonardo AND Raphael, beeeeeeeeee yi yi yi yi yi yi hizzz ohhhhhhhh AHHHHHH.

    CH! Sorry. Got a little passionate there. Gesundme.

    Like Napoleon Dynamite, I'll bet she has some mad bo skills, too. It's like, there's crane style, and monkey style (my personal form is "flinging waste-iku"). The French have a top secret "Liger" style, which adopts both lion and tiger to create an overarching form of "impossible suck but beauty on film."

    That's like my favorite form, ever. GOHD!

    So here's the REALLY funny part. They both go for the rock, and the witch suddenly has super-speed, which she's never had before. She reaches it at the same time as Clark, and before you can say "sacre-bleu!", they've reversed the polarity, and Clark's flying through a wall.

    We see them both stunned, and they sit up, and they are CLEARLY not knocked out. This is important, because later, we are told that they were. They were not. Watch the tape.

    Why did she change back? We are French, silly! We donna wait for no reason! So called Arthur-king! Now come back next week, so we can taunt you a second time! THPPPPPPT! (THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP).

    A magic stone? Ah..she'sa already got one!

    (He says they've already got one.)

    ROIGHT!

    CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

    Sorry. 14 pages in. No pork rinds. Implausibility mounts. Must turn to reference humor.

    Ne pas me faire obtenir mon personnel d'odeur corporelle !

    (Don't make me get my bo staff)

    Very well. Home stretch.

    Jason and Lex charge in, just after the fight of course. Somehow, they escaped from a prison. Apparently, the whole prison complex just had those guards Lana wiped out, and they just walked out. And then, it took them about ten to fifteen minutes to walk the distance Clark went in about ten seconds.

    Cut to a crapana between Lana and Clark.

    Snippets of that dialogue? I thought you'd never ask.

    Clark: "You seem different." Pointing out the obvious. She's paranoid, shrewish, and turning into a witch every couple of days.

    Lana: "Do you know how that sounds coming from you?"

    Ah! Passive aggression MIXED with an accusation, MIXED with an inference of behavior for approval. Especially funny, given that when Lana hides things and changes, she tries to murder Clark and put sais through his chest, but when Clark hides his secret, Lana lives to see another day.

    She then explains that she wants to find the stones, even though every time she tries, she turns into a witch. Talk about dumb. If I were her, I'd move as far from those stones as I could.

    It is of note here that for this entire episode, we did not see Krypto/Shelby, nor hear about Alicia. Both now have MIA columns. Ah, Alicia. Your death was like a hole in the heart for the whole town, and Shelby, you poor thing, your owner pays you no attention. Maybe he went off with Lois? Or not.

    Cut to Lex, who has a password that doesn't turn to asterisks. Clever plot to keep Lex on his guard, or obvious secret for the cellular phone Verizon product placement? Hmmmm. I wonder. The answer to this can only lie in sniffing some Old Spice Red Zone. (Old Spice Red Zone?) That's right. Old Spice Red Zone.

    The Lex and Lionel dialogue was one of the saving graces for this show. It was an even banter with no clear winner, no indication. Whereas Clark speaking of predestination was preachy and hokey, Lionel and Lex talking about the pursuit of knowledge and the gains to take from it really struck a chord with me. This is why I want Lionel back in the picture (in a coherent framework). The best scenes, the core of the show, are always Lex, Lionel, and Clark and their interactions. So why have they taken a backseat? Be darned if I know.

    Then another crapana, this time with Lana and Jason.

    He knocks, he comes in, he apologizes for getting her electro shocked and turned into a witch and all, blink twice and you'll forgive me 'cause I'm cute. Right?

    No. Wait.

    He also brings the rock that makes her turn into a witch near her, and that makes her happy. So happy she forgives Jason, while Clark's still scum.

    Go figure! They're making up for lost time... for all the shows without a crapana, we get 2 this week!

    Jason explains that HE got the stone while both Clark and Lana were knocked out. This is funny, because first of all, they weren't knocked out, second of all, Lana was right there watching him, and thirdly, Clark has X-RAY vision. You think if the stone was missing, first thing he might do would be check the pockets of those around him, then take it at super-speed?

    Yeah, me too, but what do I know?

    So yeah. A LOT of inconsistencies. A lousy show for consistency and logic. If you let yourself get swept away, there was some good stuff. Jor-El, moving forward with the mythos, Lex on his game, interesting frameworks for an ungodly, complicated stone story we may never comprehend, and the Lionel and Lex dialogue at the end.

    I would say that this didn't suck, not totally, but it wasn't that great either. It wasn't below average, as the average is hard to see of late. It's either lame or good, roundabouts and lately.

    I think the good was good, the bad was bad, and they cancelled themselves out. I'm gonna go with a 2.5 of 5.

    And that's kind. VERY kind.

    SUPER SHORT REVIEW:

    Lana, the French, Latin speaking kung fu in stereotypical China is about the worst thing you could expect to do battle with. Ever. She killed this show, killed it with her liger style and bo staff. BUT, Monkeybella insists that I point out the good opening, attention to Reeve, and the Lionel and Lex dialogue, which brings things about even keel and saves this show from the total pit of suckitude. 2.5 of 5.

    BUSINESS:

    There's not too much, but I have some. I am way behind on things... mostly still that big response to the Rebecca thing coupled with the lack of much enthusiasm for speculation (though there are some letters I haven't read yet... that trend may be changing).

    Business is fun today. Two good things!

    Michael Rosenbaum First, you might remember me mentioning a LOOOOONG time ago that I sent a letter to Michael Rosenbaum asking for a signed photo and complimenting his work. I thought it lost to time, and made a joke about it.

    Lo and behold, today, I opened my mail, and I found this!

    Michael Rosenbaum you have my thanks and respect! One day, you may call on me for a favor, and that day may never come, but I am here for you, Lex.

    Is says, "To Neal, Michael Rosenbaum."

    Awesome! And secretly encoded in the pictures is some kind of device that will kill me if I don't watch Justice League, the old ones, not the ones without the Flash.

    ALSO, I made it to the next round of Dark Idol, for those of you following that. Please visit and vote!

    Here for the stories.

    Here for the voting booth.

    If I win this (only four more rounds) I get an agent, publicity, and likely a book deal! Woo! Besides, if you don't, I'll, uh, review American Idol on the Drudge Report and make Rebecca take my place. Nyah!

    And there is some bad news.

    Apparently, for reasons I am not privy to, Saundra must stop writing her review. This isn't her being fired, this isn't anything weird, you conspiracy theorists, it just is. She was real, I'll tell you that much, and she remains awesome.

    Last love letter to Saundra:

    Dear S:

    You will be missed. Sincerely. Best in all endeavors.

    Neal

    For what little business I have, here goes.

    Barry Freiman, my colleague and friend, was musing a long while back about the fact that since Clark controls his heat vision by essentially thinking of, well, you know, that says something really strange about all of the people he's used heat vision on. Imagine it, you're sitting there and you have to heat up a gun being thrown your way, you have a split second, how does Clark stay so noble all the time?

    Interesting to think of when you're watching. It adds to the viewing.

    A lot of people noted that the NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Clark says when he finds Alicia is much like Superman: The Movie. Agreed. I didn't point it out, ergo, there it is.

    Michael Cooke, a longtime writer, pointed out a while back that in "Scare", when Jason falls, it's the same camera angle as from Vertigo. Classic.

    Mr. Chow writes in with a correction I'm letting in, because it's important. I wrote that Lana was wearing a kimono or something in my review for a good reason. My head was down, and I was writing. Ha! So if I had looked, I might have known, but she was wearing what is called a cheongsom and is wielding a straight sword, or a tai chi sword. Thanks, Mr. Chow!

    Will Sabel Courtney writes in with a nice addition to the KO Count. In Krypto, if you watch Lois and Clark as they climb the berm, there's a range of mountains behind them! Seriously! Sloppy! It's there. I saw it!

    Also, to clarify what I said a while back... I'm not against people disagreeing with me, and I will occasionally put disagreements and screw ups I've made in business... my policy is that I don't want to make business all about how bad I screw up, but rather, theories about where the show is going and interesting catches that I miss, like the mountain range... make sense? I must have worded badly, because I got a few letters.

    Also, check it out! This week Clark flew! How's that for no flights, huh?

    And that's it! Now for the letter of the week, from Andrew McBride!

    Be sure to check out the KO Count, and don't forget, if you come to the chat room at 9pm PST, I'll be in there and you can harangue me or influence my review with cash, check, Mastercard, Old Spice Red Zone...

    Or pork rinds.

    LETTER OF THE WEEK:

    Andrew McBride wrote in with the following astute observation (it was timely when it arrived, blame me that it is late):

    Lead bracelet - insanely stupid. You mention how you think injecting lead into your system is bad but there are a few more notes to that. The lead paint motif was really funny by the way. Anyway she says that the bracelet injects it into her blood. Did we see any injection mechanism on the d@mn thing? To have a machine that knows when and how much needs to be pretty big. Think diabetics and insulin and those people have like huge cellphones on their belts. Also there would be marks on her skin from the injections and it would probably also hurt when Clark tore it off her wrist - basically pulling the injection needles right out. Also if it's the lead in her bloodstream that's controlling her why is it that instantly after Clark removes the bracelet she can teleport. Shouldn't the lead have time to leave her system? Why couldn't she just say that the ring of lead prevents her from doing it. Simple - straightforward - much more reasonable. Idiot writers.



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