Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 5 - Episode 16: "Hypnotic"

Reviews:

Hypnotic

Reviewed by: Douglas Trumble

First a slight notice. My Local WB channel had some technical difficulties at the start of the show, thus I did not see any thing prior to the opening credits. So if there was anything in those opening minutes that would change my review of this episode one way or the other, I didn't see it.

Anyway the channel came back just as Clark and some blonde were tongue wrestling against a chain-link fence. Needless to say I was dumbfounded, shocked, and confused (or any other word that is the equivalent of "WHAT THE HECK???").

As the story developed from there I figured Clark was under some kind of mind control but since I missed the opening minutes I had no idea what it was. Was it Red K? Magic? Hormones? I didn't know but I went under assumption that he was under mind control and thankfully that turned out to be true (via magic).

There is just one problem with that. Been there, done that. I am getting pretty tired of episodes with Clark under some kind of mind altering affects. I said this a few reviews ago but I'll repeat some of it. I understand Superman/Clark Kent out of control is a very powerful drama device. Fans of the character know if he is not himself the world around him is in trouble. Thus I think it is something to be used from time to time. The problem is it is done way too often and I have grown very tired of it. This was not a good start for the first Smallville since February.

Lex finds out Dr. Fine is in Central America and is off to find him. I found it neat to learn that our buddy Brainiac has led Lex there with a trail of "bread crumbs". What is even better was the fact he is even bold enough to admit it to Lex openly. We know something Lex does not and that is the fact this was just another one of the bread crumbs in his real plan. What that plan involves, we do not know yet but the story hook was set and I was more than willing to bite. I am interested to see where this part of the story goes.

Now back to Clark's part of the story. Despite my distaste for the Clark under mind control there was two good things about this part of the story.

For one I did find it very interesting to learn Lex actually sent the girl after Clark to find his secrets. How? I am not sure since I think I missed that part but I thought it was a neat way to show the lengths Lex will go to to find out more about Clark. Blackmailing a known murderer and siccing her on Clark is very low but something I think is very in character for Lex.

The second thing was the story finally brought some closure to the Clark/Lana relationship. A relationship that needed to end long before now. The strings are finally cut and we can get on with seeing where these characters grow. It's obvious Lana is going to turn to Lex, or at least that Lex will push for that. I am interested to see how that turns out. We know Clark still feels for her in some way and seeing her with someone he knows to be less than good will cause him some concern and could make for good stories.

I was also very touched by Martha Kent's comments near the end. I was greatly pleased when she suggested that deep down Clark might have known all along Lana was not "the one" or maybe I should say... not "the Lois".

Iknow, I know.I've thought they ended this relationship more than once before and they found ways to bring it back. So somewhere in the back of my head I am aware this might not be the "final" final. However I couldn't help but notice they took the time to say clearly at least three times that this was the end forever. So I am going to move forward assuming that to be true (for now).

Speaking of "the Lois"; Lois's presence here was a bit forced I have to admit but I think it might help explain something. She seems to be present a lot for Clark's moral mistakes. Could this lead to her subconsciously dismissing the possibility that he is Superman once Clark changes to a wardrobe that includes a cape and boots? Maybe. It's hard not to like the character so I'll forgive a few forced appearances now and then.

Chloe was on the ball in this one and I was glad to see that. She quickly realized that Clark was not himself and was friend enough and brave enough to kryptonite him to help him. Good for her.

Anyway the grade. Well, I find this one tough to grade. I liked the Lex/Brainiac subplot and the fact there was finally some closure to the angst yo-yo, but all in all it was just another Clark out of control story, something they have done way too much.

So I am going to give it a C+ or (2.5 out of 5 swinging stop watches.)

Next week? Looks spooky. Maybe the boy wonder will have to sit this one out until after I have a chance to check it out myself first.

See all you Superfans next week.

Douglas "Doright" Trumble



Hypnotic

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

MAIN POINTS:

  • Simone has a hypno-pendant that can make people do what she wants.
  • With said pendant, all she does is get Clark mostly naked.
  • Lana and Clark break up because Clark is afraid to hurt her.
  • Milton Fine is back. Lex finds him.

    REVIEW:

    Hey.

    How are you?

    I've been studying the long-form epic. I plan to write a 1,000 page book on something that most think would not require so much summation. I beg to differ, and thus my opinion.

    The subject is work.

    I'm going to try and start writing it before the end of the year, but this is a big one, so I'm taking my time. Sixth book, I figure I gotta change things up a bit.

    Don't worry. It'll relate.

    I've been watching The Sopranos while we were away waiting for this episode. I am a bit perplexed by the show and its popularity halfway through the second season. Mostly because of the same problem I have with The Godfather 1, 2, 3, and Goodfellas. What the heck is the point, or where is the joy, in relating to characters who are wholly and admittedly evil and enjoying it? (But not in that farcical, Skeletor and Lex Luthor enjoying evil kind of way.)

    Don't worry. It'll relate.

    I haven't sold a book since February 10th, despite busting hump to do so. I've given away three to people who said they were too poor to afford it, as I am, but I can't seem to make it in modern entertainment. So if money made and readers garnered is your criteria for what makes a show good, then I am not the reviewer for you.

    Here's how they relate.

    The Sopranos does 12 or 13 episodes a season. They're all very well written, very much in character, and part of a prolonged arc, at least for the two seasons I've seen. I don't like the characters. Any of them. I don't agree with any of them. This alone makes it hard for me to watch. But the characterization is so superb, every minute is so relative to the forward character motion of all involved, it's hard to look away.

    It's like reading a thousand page novel on something most would find mundane and reprehensible.

    I learn, through The Sopranos, that something that is reprehensible can be sold to a lot of people over a long period of time without fail.

    This gives me a deeper understanding of why Smallville gets away with episodes like this.

    Unfortunately, a key difference is that Smallville does 22 episodes a year, half of which are now mostly filler.

    Unfortunately, Smallville's characters are largely, barring Chloe and sometimes Clark and Martha, reprehensible without any kind of consistent character, even Lex.

    There is no arc. There is no character motion. The only major shifts in this entire series thusfar have been the deaths of Whitney, the disappearance of Jason (an un-character if ever there was one) and the death of Jonathan Kent, which of this episode at least has become a non-issue, as he's not mentioned by name or in spirit and the circumstances surrounding his death have been forgotten (I'll get to that).

    It'd be like if Tony Soprano were to suddenly decide to stop killing people for a day just because it was sexy. How does that make something interesting out of the character? The Sopranos has gratuitous nudity, but every instant of it is in context, and every instant of it isn't the half, worthless nudity that they show on television that prying childish eyes whose parents should be watching them don't suddenly burst into flames and become winged imps of Satan, the FCC's arch-nemesis.

    But on a basic level, even with the substantively lowered quality of the show in the last two years, coming back from a break, coming into sweeps, and heading into the home stretch of a season I expect better than this. I really do. This was just a really disappointing episode.

    Despite a promising start:

    Beginning in a Honduran rainforest where you can apparently travel by car (though a cursory check of Google and having read Mosquito Coast last summer tell me that if you're in a remote village, you get there by boat or plane), we have a moment of promise that made me smile.

    We cue the rip-off music from Unsolved Mysteries (check it if you don't believe me) and in comes the CDC in their yellow suits. Never mind that for the rest of the episode, no one is really sick, but it's safe to assume that Milton Fine is goofing around with weapons of mass destruction, because he shows up and terminators the lot of them.

    I'd rip on the use of the same device twice, but really, it's not so bad, considering that Brainiac is kind of like the T-1000. It makes sense that it would be his modus. Even though I have yet to understand why he's got Kryptonian powers, and why, if he does, he's goofing around with a disease instead of melting people's faces and rocking their world while kicking Kal-El halfway across the continent.

    It is conveniently of note that it is never explained (nor will it be, with any likelihood) how Fine escaped being killed, why and how the ship disappeared and ended up in Central America, but most importantly, why the heck he doesn't immediately go back and try and finish what he started. If you're Fine, you simply super-speed into Clark's room, hit him with some Kryptonite (which you're not vulnerable to, apparently), take him to the Fortress without Chloe meddling, and resume calling up Mr. Stamp, AKA Zod. Heck, even send four Brainiacs, as we now know he can do that.

    Nah. Let's fool around with a disease for a while, shall we?

    But heck. Suspend that disbelief, true believers, and rationalize for yourself the facts. Brainiac is back. The thing that made this season good has returned, modus ignored. It's kind of like getting Lionel back without any rationale, and without the promise of the cool stuff he used to be doing, but he's BACK.

    He's also eye-lasering stuff and blowing it up. So, all that crap aside, decent opening. And the only good thing in this episode, I purport, beyond a potentiality that I'll later get to. Decent start for a new series of episodes. Or so we thought.

    "Clark, you're amazing."

    Uh-oh.

    Yeah, folks, that's the first Lana line of the show. Which brings our amazing count to 2. Lana's amazing. Clark's amazing. Now all Lex has to do is tell Milton he's amazing and we've got a trifecta.

    It's not even a conscious thing on the part of the writers, one would assume, but it'd be like saying SECRETS AND LIES, which of course they do later in the episode, when Lana says it's like a thousand secrets and lies have been lifted off her shoulders.

    Man, she gets the most insightful lines. She's amazing.

    What makes this line even better is that she says it after the very last time she spoke to Clark they were tooth and nail, and, as far as I know and recall (which included verification) BROKEN UP, and had been for two episodes. It's a little ambiguous, but if you go to the tape, they're not exactly bosom buddies.

    In fact, the tape tells me Clark's line was "I've always loved you, and I always will, no matter what happens." before Lana walks out without saying a word, leaving the conflict unresolved, tense, and angry.

    I guess "no matter what" is one episode. And I guess walking away with an angry look in the middle of the conversation is Lana's way of preluding the line, "You're amazing."

    Sigh.

    Prolonged sigh.

    Bout of wondering why I still watch this show.

    Final sigh.

    Review commences.

    After Lana tells Clark how amazing he is, she tells him that she wants to hop in the sack again. Enter the angel-whore. She begs him to come be with her, and he says no, he's gotta put out some tarps.

    Doesn't matter that she's driven all the way to Smallville from Metropolis, really, just to say hi. That's kind of understandable on the weekend. We'll go easy on it this time.

    A three hour drive costs (in my economical car) about 15-18 dollars. That's assuming a steady speed of 60 MPH and a gas price of 2.50ish.

    Lana drives an SUV. Most of the characters on this show drive high-end gas guzzlers. I'm going to assume it costs her about 25-30 dollars to get where she's going. But I'll be nice and say it's 25.

    So that means she just spent fifty bucks to go there and back. We'll keep a running tally here and see how easy it is to be a starving college student with no source of income, shall we? Because I remember it differently.

    After Clark says he has tarps to lay, she says, "Whenever you're ready. No pressure." Which is, of course, a guy line. You'll note that Lana has gone from completely virginal asexual angel (beyond making out, no heavy petting is even shown with her before this season) to a sex-driven girlfriend who is eager to explore.

    Sorry, 'tain't how it is in real life. Though I wish it was.

    Heh. I said 'tain't. The FCC is gonna get me.

    An important exploration here is the fact that this completely reverses the character motivation on a basic surface level, and on a subtext level it offers an insight into feminism and sexual objectification. Namely, and this is just my experience but, if a guy pesters a girl for sex every week, he's considered a royal $#%%, especially if he gives the line "That's okay, we'll wait until you're ready", which is supposedly finkish because it presumes eventual sex (how dare one) and pressures the person into an act they don't want to be party to.

    So it's bad for a guy to do it, but okay for a girl to. Just like when Lex bangs around and enjoys sex, he deserves to be turned to a pillar of salt, but when Lana, Lois, and Chloe get scantily clad and dance around in witch outfits tying guys up, or take showers constantly, or force the issue of sex with guys who want to remain virginal (no matter what the reason), that's hot.

    Many criticize me saying that, because in practicality and real life, that's not the way things work. There's a difference between guys and girls and you know it.

    No kidding. But I also live in a world where equality is the rule, and if I don't adhere to it, I'm considered a male chauvinist pig. So in return, all I ask is that women grant the same equality in return if they want a dual respect, which I offer under duress of being called a misogynist (and regardless of all best efforts, am called anyway).

    After Clark says he can't have sex, he gets up to try and talk to her and maybe make up for being "wrong/evil/mean/misunderstanding" (pick one). Lana: "I gotta go. It's getting late." Because she has enough time for an all night hump rump with Clark, but if he wants to have a conversation with her (IE show his brain, the thing that most girls say guys ignore when they're just out for sex), she suddenly has to leave.

    Reverse the sexes on this position. The guy asks for sex. The girl says no. She wants to have a conversation, but because the girl won't have sex with him, the guy makes an excuse and leaves. That, in any movie, is showing the guy to be an insensitive *#%@$. Here, Lana is still amazing. That's sexism.

    Enter a character that has NO background, no last name, no reason to be in Smallville, just a power. And a body. The body is the only important thing in this show, and obviously the only reason she's brought in, because they don't hesitate to show shots of her feet to head innumerable times, tons of shots coming out of the shower, taking her shirt off, and drawing attention to her cleavage via a pendant she could have held in her hand to equal effectiveness.

    In other words, that's still sexist. You're not a character. You're breasts, legs, and arbitrary tension. They try and develop her retroactively (they do with most villains) with a picture of a guy wearing her pendant, but we never learn what she wants or what motivates her beyond "certain incriminating evidence" and goofing around with farm boys.

    Surface characters? Arbitrary drama? Issues that resolve itself in one episode without regard to continuity or consequence? Sounds familiar...

    I think I have the perfect name for this character.

    Or wait. Maybe they did it for me.

    Simone.

    Yep. They did.

    Enter the pendant, Clark is suddenly compeletely mindless and obedient. He goes out back, starts getting it on with Simone, and of course, Lois shows up at an inopportune time. Because, you know, when I brainwash people to get it on, I take them into conspicuous alleys instead of to a place where I can get it on.

    Lois is, of course, showing up to promote arbitrary drama, the theme of this episode. Ooh! She saw them making out! What's gonna happen now. Clark's in trouble! He's not himself. Because, you know, a character acting unlike themselves NEVER happens on Smallville, and people aren't gonna immediately say that something is going on. Or, like in Chloe's case, if they do, no one will believe her, number one, and she'll arrive at that conclusion in a completely illogical, Lois and Clark way, number two.

    We have another Lana lie, which is at least amusing. Lana tells Clark that she has to get home, and in fact cuts off conversation because leaving is so urgent, but when she gets a text from Lex she heads right over, explains that it's no big deal, and talks with him about the ship. That means she lied.

    Lex: "I consider you my partner."

    Me: "Why?"

    Lex explains that because she found the ship, he considers her his partner. Yeah, I'll buy that. Right. I guess he's partners with all those cops then.

    Here's the subtext. We want Lex and Lana to hook up. Lex and Lana have always treated each other like human garbage. So we have to make a few entendres to show that they're good buddies before they suck face. One was the episode where Lex imagined being with Lana. Then there was...well, that's it.

    In comments people have really been ticked, saying "Well, they've been implying a Lex and Lana relationship for YEARS now!". Yeah, but if you call tense situations in a room where there is great admiration for each other in a given situation, then Lex and CLARK are about to hook up.

    Last time he kissed her, she smacked him. Last time he tried to comfort her, she threw brandy in his face and he chased her while driving drunk.

    Ah, romance.

    Now here's a fine people of logic for you. Lex says that he can't take Lana to Honduras because it puts her in danger. Clark tells Lana he can't tell her his secret because it puts her in danger. Lana just stares and pouts (it's like an extended, prolonged pout if you watch it) with Lex. Lana leaves the room with Clark. Either way, it's clear here's someone who's spoiled rotten into getting what she wants, and when she doesn't, you're going to see hell.

    Personally, I don't identify with that. Just like Tony Soprano. But at least Tony's consistent.

    Simone commands Clark to go and get her champagne. He does. She then instantly assumes that he couldn't have gotten it in any way other than a miraculous speedy trip. Not that he got it from the cupboard. So she asks him to get chocolate-covered strawberries. He does. He tells her he has super-speed. She doesn't go "Oh my God!" She doesn't even look startled. She just kind of goes, "Oh. Neat."

    For the rest of the episode, she doesn't ask if he has other powers. He doesn't tell her he has heat vision, x-ray vision, super-hearing, telescopic vision, or that he can leap tall buildings. That's a wasted opportunity, there.

    You get to thinking she'd find out what he can do and use him as a personal slave, right? But then, you'd think anyone who is willing to use a device that can control someone to evil ends would go in a lot of different directions. Like, say, procuring money. Or taking over the world. Or at very least making Lex Luthor forget certain damning evidence that he supposedly has. But that would require some degree of plausibility and not just interesting posturing, which is what this show is all about. I mean, if you can control minds, why would you be a two-bit lackey of a guy who you could have killed in an instant? A guy who later you DO try to kill?

    Clark also, it is of note, has to have stolen to get the items he brought to her. Given that he was in a mindless state, he likely would have left fingerprints. Selah. Fodder for the knockout count, at least.

    Lois drives to Metropolis to tell Chloe that Clark's cheating on Lana instead of calling her on the phone.

    K-CHING! That's a hundred bucks in gas so far paid for by poor college students in new cars.

    Chloe's response almost made me wet myself.

    "Well, Lois, you know, people act oddly around here, and when they do, there's usually a mitigating factor. Like mind control, powers, or booze. Usually booze. That Ma Kent, she's an animal when Neal comes around. Maybe we should look into it."

    Lois gives her a scoff look. "What?"

    "No, seriously. I'll go to my room, get a gun, come back, and we'll kill them both."

    Lois: "SHHHHT!"

    Chloe: "I just was sa-"

    Lois: "SHHHHT!"

    Chloe: "It might be-"

    Lois: "You...just don't get it...do you Chloe?"

    Lana appears. Her phone goes off. It's Clark. He wants her to come over. To drive six hours there and back. Lana agrees immediately and leaves.

    K-CHING! There's a hundred fifty bucks in gas so far paid for by poor college students in new cars.

    I don't know about you, but if BUDDHA asked me to make a six hour drive, I'd want to know why first. He'd then hang up on me, no doubt. Karma. But still, pretty unbelievable. No "Why?" from a woman who would give you the pout and walk out for ANY slight, perceived or real? Character inconsistency. At least Tony Soprano is always a shallow, womanizing gangster. Lana is everything to everyone, which is impossible.

    People groaned about the S made out of a bat. I actually liked it because it made sense. It wasn't forced. Her name does start with an S, he is puppy-dog obsessed. It doesn't change the fact that we're in a scene where she asks him to tell her his powers and he only shows one.

    And it only gets worse from there.

    Begin the unnecessarily slow dipping mechanism, otherwise known as the forced, completely worthless sex scene.

    This is a bit of a commentary on America, but bear with me. When I was a kid, this stuff was the cat's meow. You know, back before I had girlfriends, had sex, grew up, matured, became a man. To me, seeing a hot chick take her shirt off on TV and parade around with another dude was bloody incredible. Mostly because, you know, I was twelve. In other words, incredibly immature.

    To me, a scene like this, which they put in for attention, sweeps, and to please twelve-year-olds (mentally or chronologically) is completely unnecessary and worthless. Not because I'm asexual, a prude, or a philistine, but because it's just a waste of time. It'd be like watching Lana bake a cake for ten minutes. Yeah. Might happen. Yeah. Might show me a little bit about baking. But if I want to bake a cake, I put my hands in a bowl, I don't watch prime time fantasy television.

    Point being, "You take off your shirt. Now I take off mine."

    "Take your clothes off!"

    "Yes, master!" (All but the underwear, of course).

    Doesn't really do it for me, even if yeah, the gal did look good. Big whoop. In ten seconds with Google I can get Angelina Jolie or Denise Richards, which is ten times more fun and doesn't involve watching an illogical plot to lead up to it.

    Television viewers, even television viewers, are better than this crap. Anyone with any kind of maturity is.

    A criticism to this that I have seen is "Sex sells."

    Yes. Sex does sell. Porn. But in real life, story sells. You could load up any show with beautiful, half-naked chicks, and the audience would simply move on, because the world is full of hot chicks, it lacks many an interesting premise. And for those of you who still say sex sells, I would advise you to look at how well sexing it up has aided the ratings on this show. Last season was a critical disaster when they sexed it up. This episode, and other episodes with arbitrary sex this year (Thirst, anyone?) have been abysmal, and driven viewers away.

    I mean, how pathetic! You have a scene where a woman can get a man to do anything she wants sexually, she says, "Take off your clothes!" and he leaves his boxers on, she leaves her underwear on. That's humping FCC style. Clothes on. It's like in a movie where two people have just spent hours having tawdry encounters, but because there's a camera on the girl, she self-consciously covers her breasts, letting the viewer know that this is a movie and not real life.

    That's not selling the drama. That's killing the feel.

    Simone commands Clark to call Lana and tell her she's breaking up with her.

    Here's another TV convention that makes no sense. People in the middle of tawdry sex, particularly someone who's simply about surface physicality (Simone) will immediately revert to cloistered, Christian monogamy style thought. If I am to continue to have sex with this man, I MUST make him break up with his girlfriend so I can marry him! You see a lot of that in cartoons from the eighties. Villains who want to marry the ingénue in a secret and elaborate ceremony so that they can ravish her in lieu of the good guy, when really, a villain would just take a hero's girl to the back alley and do horrible things we don't like to speak of.

    It taxes the realism.

    What does calling Lana serve in terms of this plot? Nothing, really. Just arbitrary drama. A reason to say, "Uh-oh!" and watch chaos unfold that makes no sense. If Simone had any realistic worries about Lana, it's that Lana would see what was going on and raise alarms. But when you're someone who can control minds in an instant, what's the worry? Lana walks in, "I got you! The jig's up!"

    Jiggly pendant. "Go. And bring back pie."

    Lana: "I will bring back pie."

    "And stop being passive aggressive."

    "I...didn't...hear...that."

    "Yes you did."

    Lana's head then explodes.

    Clark could have called Lana and just said, "It's over. Hit the rails." That's failed dramatic convention one (Never make an extraneous action). Clark could have run to her in an instant (As Simone knew), told her in person, and then dissipated, failure two. Failure three, when Lana shows up, she SEES what's going on, gets disgusted, and leaves. Lana problem solved. Simone tells Clark to get up and tell her it's over, when it's plain that Lana just saw it was over. In other words, we waste ten minutes of a forty minute story on an arbitrary sex scene and Clark rubbing in how pointless his out-of-character foray is to Lana repeatedly. Later, they waste even more time as, when Clark's subterfuge is revealed not to be his own, he decides to take credit for it, why, gods only know.

    All so we can see Lana cry and feel so sympathetic for a woman who has been so abusively annoying for so long that were I Clark, I would need mind control to do what he did. I'd do it in an instant, and I'd not only rub it in to Lana, I'd hire a brass band to play a backbeat while operatic chorus figures sang the saga of her failure to have a good man before swooping down as the ex machina to twist her head off and use it for a plot football.

    Instead, I get to write reviews while people who punt this bad field goal get paid incredibly stupid amounts of money to craft puerile and sexist crap we call entertainment.

    Joy.

    Sigh.

    Simone checks in with Lex. Apparently her actions are all Lex's machinations. So now Lex is overtly, and in evil fashion, trying to break Clark and Lana up to be with Lana, despite not having any real reason to do so. Complete with a foot to head body shot that's not really necessary.

    Another dramatic failure. There are easier ways for Lex to break Clark and Lana up. One, point out that he tells the truth more (which he has, but which because of bad writing or a dumb character, Lana doesn't seem to see). Two, open up the checkbook, say, "Hey, baby. Anything you want.". Instantly become more attractive than Clark.

    You think that won't work? Okay. Give me all your money and then get a gal. Good luck. Especially, ESPECIALLY with a girl as shallow, face-value centered, and easy to sway as Lana fricking Lang.

    Simone doesn't tell Lex about Clark's powers. Why? There's no reason for her not to. At all. Maybe she's hiding them so that she can use Clark to kill Lex later, but that makes no sense either. Just pick five guys off the streets, tell them to do anything they possibly can to kill Lex Luthor, and repeat until he's dead. That's what you can do with the power to control minds. You don't fear blackmail. If they take you to jail, you just zap them, tell them you're leaving, and you leave.

    Here's a line of dialogue from that scene. "Patience, Simone. There's someone else I'd like you to meet."

    What bugged me? Guess.

    Yeah. The fact that when you talk, you don't use names. Listen to dialogue. Listen. People don't use names save in the beginning or end of conversations.

    "Hey, Kev!" Five minute conversation. "All right, Kev, talk to you later!"

    That's it. There are people I've known for YEARS whose name I don't know. We talk and talk and talk, and their name just doesn't come up. You likely have similar experiences. Names are for forms and signing up for cable, not dialogue.

    In Honduras, the trees look surprisingly evergreen. It looks like an evergreen forest with palm trees planted in the foreground. Usually the props and mise en scene are the best part of this show. Here, like Paris in Vancouver, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Lex has found out that Milton Fine is a covert government agent a la X-Files involved in extra-terrestrials.

    Here's how the scene went, pared down:

    Lex: "Hey! I found you!"

    Fine: "Great!"

    Lex: "I know you're a government agent in a top-secret area. Tell me all about it!"

    Fine: "Okay! Here's all of my super-secret information! Even though you've shown absolutely no sign of scientific genius for the whole show, we need you to help us stop an ill defined extra-terrestrial threat! Do it for your country, Mr. LuthER!"

    Lex: "Great!"

    Brainiac then gives Lex a cookie, scratches behind his ear, and the plot progresses. In other words, yeah, good to see Fine again, but not in a context that makes no d#mned sense.

    Why IS Fine in Honduras, for that matter? What does an entity with Clark's powers need with cover? Why not just continue his mission? I know! Because it's not a finale! Wait approximately six episodes, and it'll suddenly kick into full speed again.

    Cut to Chloe, who all of a sudden knows what's going on and why Clark's acting funny. Apparently, Simone's father is a doctor who was incredibly good at curing patients. Therefore, ergo, as any logician could tell you, that means he has the power of mind control through a pendant.

    YES, ROBIN! The only...possible...interpretation!

    To make matters more plot-hole-y, after she lays that down on Lois, she pulls up an article that calls the father a "hypnotist", not a doctor. And sorry, new age-y folk, but a hypnotist is not a doctor. Period.

    They resolve to solve the problem together.

    Another half-naked scene, as Simone comes down in a towel to find Lois meddling. Why Lois came before Chloe or without Chloe is perplexing to me, given that both know the situation is dangerous, but whatever. Technically, this is Lois' return trip, so no gas count. Still. Where's Martha? I guess off doing senator things.

    Clark gives Lois the old KO after she threatens to take him out. It's supposed to be cute, but since you're sitting there marveling about how incredibly stupid she is to go after someone who can control minds with no plan at all and leaving Chloe behind, by the time it's cute you're just finishing wondering how the heck this scene came to be.

    Martha gets the zap and becomes a willing thrall. That was supposed to be funny too, I think, but the pacing made it not work very well.

    Chloe knocks Martha out, saves Lois, and they regroup. Unfortunately, all of the preparation in the world can't save them from a critical plot lapse. Clark and Simone told them they were going to California. There was no mention at all of a stop over at Luthor's while LOIS WAS CONSCIOUS. Ergo there's no reason they'd have any clue where Clark went. Nonetheless, Chloe shows up later impossibly for the retard's deus ex machina because Lois somehow remembers where they were going despite being knocked unconscious through a head blow.

    Clark shows up at the Lex mansion, takes Lex, and with one hand throws Lex thirty feet through the air and through a table.

    Lex's response (And I swear, I didn't make this up. This is the real character response.) is: "Clark! You've been hypnotized, how else could you throw me across a room like that?"

    Nah, Lex. That's PCP that makes you do that. And even so, you can't throw a man thirty feet with one hand. You'd know that if you were being properly written. Then, when he started lifting you by your neck with one hand, you might also start to suspect something. Normal people can't do that.

    It's ironic and funny in multiple ways. First, it's dialogue with the name in there again (Feh!). Second, Clark later remembers everything. So he'd probably ask how Lex knew he was hypnotized, right?

    Also, bearing in mind that when under Simone's power you remember everything, Lex just saw Clark hurl a guy across the room. He also saw him (from above) lift him by the neck for the second time (remember Transferrence?) and carry him around the room like he weighed nothing. There's no way he can't suspect something. Further, Simone told him Clark had no special abilities, so then why use Clark as an instrument of destruction? Lex would know something was up, question that, etcetera.

    Worse, Chloe appears, hits Clark with the K, and knocks him down. Lex is FULLY CONSCIOUS and sees this. He doesn't get knocked out.

    K-CHING! There's two hundred bucks in gas so far paid for by poor college students in new cars. Chloe to Smallville and back.

    Simone zaps Lex to kill Clark, so he takes his gun. Chloe appears, they struggle, and BLAM! Simone gets shot in the neck (through the amulet) and killed.

    The amulet being shot was incredibly unnecessary, and a special effect that might better have been spent on a more logical writer. (Raises hand, points out that ten grand a year (negotiable), maybe a fifth of what that effect cost, would get you some good writing.).

    Here's another nice little failure of this show. Chloe and Lex KILL someone. Now, granted, Lex might not be too psychologically worried by this, but Chloe? Chloe would be a wreck. Will this ever be mentioned again? No. You know it. I know it. She KILLED someone!

    Not to mention the fact that she killed someone in a way that would cause both her and Lex (since powder residue was on both of their hands) to likely be charged with murder. Look at the situation. A big fight, and then a woman who is totally unarmed is shot in cold blood.

    "Well, officer, you see, she had the power to make us do whatever she wanted with her special hypno-pendant. We were fighting her, and a gun went off on accident, and shot her expertly through the pendant and neck, conveniently removing any evidence and killing her execution-style."

    Cop: "Great!"

    Groan.

    Clark goes to see Chloe in Metropolis later (I'm gonna give that half credit because he likely needed to bring a vehicle for a cover story if anyone saw him.).

    K-CHING! There's two hundred twenty-five bucks in gas so far paid for by poor college students in new cars.

    Chloe tells him that they've all had "one kind of identity crisis or another".

    Cool Identity Crisis reference tucked into the middle of a drab episode? Or cliché dialogue? Given this episode, you know where I lean.

    All of the aforementioned is mostly the typical inconsistent stuff you see in a half-$#@ed episode. The character stuff might not always be so bad.

    Enter the home stretch, which really killed this one for me.

    Chloe: Lana will understand. She knows what happened.

    Clark: Maybe I don't want her to understand!

    The logic being, I'm going to break up with her because there's a risk of harm to Lana. It hurts her that I have a secret. So instead of telling her, I'm gonna break up with her! FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER! (two episodes max)

    This was OLD, and I mean OLD, like Horatio Alger going back in time old, in season two. We were sick of it THEN. It persists. Firstly, because it's illogical. He's been with her for a long time. She's not dead. Not even hurt. She gets emotionally whiny sometimes, but in ways that would happen even if his greatest power was being able to lift the seat.

    My next note: OH BOY! ALL THIS AND A CLANA, TOO?

    In one episode, Clark has gone from "I've always loved you, and I always will, no matter what happens." to looking her in the eye and saying, "I don't love you! And I never will again!" in one episode.

    We're supposed to buy it. Lana supposedly bought it. And yeah, it stinks. It really stinks. Far be it for me to want Clark with Lana, I mean, at all, but if you cut it off, at very least have a reason. Any reason. Well, other than this one. This one is like if a bird fell down in front of them and Clark said, "Uh, that's a bad omen. We're so over. I'm off to put up some tarps. YOINK!" And then the Wile E Coyoty tappity tappity feet and he's off. BEEP BEEP!

    They need an excuse for Lexana, because that's a NEW idea, and they think just because the idea is NEW it will work and revitalize things. No. Good stories would revitalize this show.

    Lana comes to visit him in the loft for this speech.

    K-CHING! There's two hundred seventy-five bucks in gas so far paid for by poor college students in new cars. Or half a month's income.

    Clark talks to her with his back turned. It's used to indicate that he's being duplicitous or lying, a fink. A blackguard.

    Funny that that blocking is Lana's typical move all the time, and yet here they have Clark doing it. Talk about mixed (or very clear) signals.

    Lana: "I have waited for you to grow up."

    Neal (to Lana): "Likewise."

    And in point of fact, when it comes down to grown up versus adult, who is supporting his family, watching over a widow, saving lives, losing his one true love just to stop her from experience pain, and constantly striving to do what's right, as opposed to who is attending college either on a free ride or total credit, concerned only with her own personal relationship to the world, manipulative and childish, demanding, egotistical to the extreme and going behind her boyfriend's back?

    Let's talk about adult then, shall we? You bich.

    So IT'S OVER. FOREVER. AND EVER AND EVER. Clark and Lana will NEVER EVER EVER be together again. It's over this time. Really! Just like with season two when Whitney came back. And when she dated that kid who was really dead. And that year she took off with Jason. And France. And last season. And two weeks ago, for a little while. And this time, until the finale.

    If it's true, I openly concede that this was the best episode of the series ever, because it saved the series. But you and I both know it's not, so it holds no drama, no hope, no character, nothing. It's empty, like Lionel saying he's back to being a bad$#@ when he's not doing anything at all beyond lurking and being nice.

    Enter what is supposed to be the cool part. Fine has multiple copies of himself out searching for "samples". But given that it quite transparently seems that he's trying to get a biological warfare device going to kill a bunch of people (when he could just do that anyway by looking at them and thinking of Rosario Dawson...meow!), it's not as effective.

    And then, the most painful part of the episode. Clark sits down with his mother and says the following about breaking up with Lana:

    "Saying those words is the hardest thing I've ever had to do."

    Pause.

    Take breath.

    Pause.

    Okay. Listen here. Listen here, Clark. YOU JUST BURIED AND KILLED YOUR DAD, YOU #@%$. You killed him for THIS WOMAN. This woman who you never want to see again on the off chance you would hurt her, when three weeks ago, you wanted to be with her forever so much that you KILLED YOUR DAD.

    Ma Kent then suggests that Clark moves on. That maybe it's over forever. And ever. And ever.

    Jonathan Kent's name, or his memory, are not once mentioned. He's now officially kaput and gone.

    Now, I'm sure I'll get letters saying, Neal, so be it. Now we won't have to deal with Clark and Lana any more. But we will. That's the thing. And in between, we get to see her turn Lex, the sole remaining total hard#$@ on this show into a simpering jack@ss. We get to watch Lexana whine fests. More secrets and lies. And heck, Clark is dumb enough to keep trying for Lana. Lex was never dumb enough to even try for her once, and the whole plot is insane. Lex is nearly thirty. Lana is 18 or 19. That's what you call a trophy situation. It's just perverse in ways.

    But then, the capper of it all is the ending.

    Lex and Lana, huddling up, getting all lovey. Lex, sympathetic, says, "You're not stupid. You just put your trust in the wrong person." Ominous music plays, and the screen fades to:

    IN MEMORY OF DANA REEVE.

    Well, gee, great. Ten minutes of liquid sex, five seconds for Dana Reeve. She gets the Christopher Reeve treatment. And by all means, honor her memory by subjecting her dedication to the worst writing, the most implausible plots, and the most rampant ratings centered soft-core you possibly can.

    Good going, guys. And next week: THE DEAD LIVE, as Lana goes OUT OF CHARACTER and becomes a JUNKIE.

    This is a 0. An absolute 0. Because I don't do zeroes, it's a 1 of 5.

    But if you want to bring the series around, here's a textbook example of how NOT to do it.

    Finito. Or as Tony Soprano would say, fugghedaboudit.

    SUPER SHORT REVIEW:

    If you can do whatever you want by making others do what you want, by all means, stick to the puerile and let businessmen push you around. If you're going to kill for a woman, make it one you'll want to be with for more than three weeks. Don't forget to act out of character. That's totally hot. And two-hundred-seventy-five dollars to starving college students? Fugghedaboudit. It's nothing. 1 of 5.

    LETTERS:

    Well, since we last talked I finished and half edited my fifth book. I got my fourth book accepted to an e-book company. I spent over 1,000 bucks on promoting my writing (I'm going to Wizard World Chicago and I bought a healthy supply of books that likely won't sell). I also poured into fifth-gear on fixing up my house so I can continue to write without working by living off sweat equity in abject poverty.

    But best of all, I caught up on letters. All of the letters I was behind on. All 200. But now I'm ten behind again. Feh! We'll see how it goes. The best, fastest way to reach me on Smallville is still here, in public.

    We even have another LanaFan letter here. I don't know if I'm still publishing them because I'm a masochist or because they're amusing. Given that I actively chose to be a writer over a doctor, likely the former. Andale!

    I'm in BOLD.

    Samuel Makepeace wrote:
    Hey Neal, me again.

    Heya.

    I found this article and thought of you, old issue but still one of importance. I knew there was a good reason Clark shouldn't have sex with Lana but after reading this I think I'd prefer it if he did.

    (PARENTAL DISCRETION WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MENTION OF NAUGHTY THINGS)
    Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex and now, maggoty rats in your girlfriends mouth.

    I know what you're saying, my good man. Personally, and this is just MY opinion, no one else's, I believe we should be allowed to say whatever we want, wherever we want. I believe the peril of a kid hearing the word "poopie" would be greatly outweighed by the benefits of a society that would, as a whole, have to stand up and explain everything to kids in context instead of in terms of an Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and/or a God or Gods.

    But that said, I've read that article before. Steve turned me on to it. Funny stuff.

    also, I thought I'd point out that that guy who was homicidal (no, not that one, the other one... no not him either, the orderly) did actually leave a body when he died. You can see him lieing on the floor after he... disappeared? huh, that can't be right, can it?

    You're correct.

    And how come in Tomb Lana referred to her and Clark as a couple? I thought they were broken up again ("We just had our last fight" Har! I'll believe that when I see her die).

    They were. The writers are just inconsistent. Just like this week.

    I'd say that maybe the episodes were written and shot out of order, but then surely Johnathan would be back in Tomb? Perhaps he was wearing a Kyrptonite bracelet when he had his heart attack, not to mention his Kryptonite powered Accuview that allows him to better see his kryptonite wrench for fixing his kryptonite fueled tractor. I remember a time when a Kryptonite ring was enough, and that would eventually cause your arm to drop and you to die of radiation poisoning... ah the good ol' days.

    You mean the days when they paid attention to what came before, and what would come later? They're almost back to that in the comics, at least.

    By the way, his non-kyrptonite powered wristwatch was un-surprisingly absent this episode, I couldn't help noticing Clarks round faced watch as opposed his dads square faced one. But meh, the costume and props department cant get it right every time can they?

    We'll never see that watch again, just as we never saw it before that ep, I'm sure.

    Yours sincerely,
    Samuel Makepeace

    Thanks!

    buddha wrote:
    I enjoy your reviews on Smallville, first off, and you seem to be fairly accurate with predictions, so...

    Thank you.

    I was just writing to see your thoughts on Lionel knowing Clark's secret. Before Jonathon died, he put his arm around Clark. Is it possible he was trying to tell him that Lionel knew about him? Also, John Schneider is still in the opening credits; is he gone for good? What do you think this might do for Glover's character? Thanks for taking the time to read.

    I think, though it won't be shown on the show I'm guessing (it'll just be forgotten, I think), what Lionel showed Jonathan was the picture of his son in the explosion.

    Jonathan's still in the credits out of contractual obligation, but from what I read they'll be using him as a "ghost" and my guess is in the (SPOILER) Zod and Jor-El appearance at the end of the season he'll be the Jor-El part, Lionel will be the Zod part.

    Faisal Ali wrote:
    Neil,

    There is something else about that video that isn't right. If Clark, moving at superspeed, was caught on video, no matter how many still frames you go through, it would be impossible to see him. He would be nothing more than a motion blur. A very faint one at that. Unless of course, the security cameras they were using had an insanely high framerate, but who uses cameras like that for security?

    No one. I agree.

    I'm usually willing to let stuff like that go. After all, Clark (in the comics) hides his real identity with glasses.

    And, it is of note, by vibrating his face so fast when he's Superman that people can't get a clear picture of him, at least, that's the old line from 1994, hasn't been talked about in a while.

    But these days, I would think that such mistakes wouldn't happen that often. Kind of like Clark holding onto an ICBM all the way up into space, without having his clothes incinerated as he went through the ozone layer. Why didn't anyone notice that as flat out WRONG!

    That one I can forgive with the "aura" idea, but still, good point.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Have a nice day.

    Faisal.

    Thanks!

    Jeff wrote:
    It's like I said, Neal, I somehow knew you would misconstrue my point. In my opinion, no matter what say, I cannot even awake your curiosity to the possiblility that life without wealth can be a very rich life.

    Life without wealth is, by definition, not rich. And I never said it couldn't be. Only that the possibility is very, very unlikely. I've never met someone who is poor who is even marginally as happy as someone who is rich on a case-by-case basis. This includes me, a very poor person.

    I already know myself, from my own trials and tribulations, that money and power will never faciliate happiness.

    How? Are you a millionaire who found that all that money wasn't that fun at all? Or are you (as most of the people who say money doesn't but happiness) someone who's stuck in a position where you don't have much money, so you make the best of what you have by saying that it's better than what a rich man has?

    I totally disagree with your viewpoints on this matter, simply because I've been there.

    Again, how? What is "there"?

    And a lottery winner doesn't become unhappy because they lost all their money. They become unhappy because of the destruction their greediness brought forth.

    In the process losing all of their money.

    Again, generalizations should be avoided, because not all lottery winners are unhappy.

    Generalizations should not be avoided. Generalizations that are arbitrary and racist, sexist, or otherwise malevolent should be avoided. Like, say, "All black people _____" is a bad generalization. But "All people should not put their hands on hot stoves." is a very good generalization. Are there exceptions? Yeah. Superman can put his hand on a stove. Doesn't mean it's smart for anyone else beyond that rare exception. Same with money. Many lottery winners end up (having been so poor for so long) wasting all their money, bankrupting themselves, and unhappy. They end up right where they started.

    This still says nothing as to why not having money is happier than having money. A flaw in most of our correspondence on this matter so far. In fact, the main reason your arguments critically fail is because you overly generalize on the way humanity rises above the cream when it doesn't.

    Life is about balance and generalizations do not fit in such a life.

    Generalization helps us interpret life and the things around us, and ergo balance our lives from the chaos of ignorance to the principal merits of regard. I disagree.

    So, one lottery winner may be happy because they rationed their winnings (not earnings), while another lottery winner may be unhappy because their greediness has caused him/her to lose those who were once important.

    You're probing my point. The richer man ends up happier, circumstance notwithstanding.

    If a person is unhappy now, money and power will not make them happy all of a sudden -- it just doesn't work like that, as I've witnessed and experienced this first hand.

    When and where? I've never met someone with money who was unhappy in any way that he or she couldn't personally assuage with cash.

    A person is happy because of who is in their life, not how much wealth and power he or she wields.

    I agree. But with money, it's easier to be happy with who you are in life. It gives you more options to be happy.

    I know this is true to myself and that's all that matters. I guess we agree to disagree, but I hope one day you realize that wealth does not make a man rich, it his friends and family that do.

    No. We don't agree to disagree. I loathe that term. We disagree, and I am right until you prove me wrong. Until my affirmative statement, "Money leads to more happiness.", is refuted, I win the argument by default. Saying "I agree to disagree with you." as a way to back out of the argument is not us agreeing to disagree. I haven't been given any opportunity to disagree to disagreeing. Do you follow?

    And at any rate, I believe that friends and family are what make you happy. But I also know that rich men have more family and more friends, simply put.

    Have a nice day,

    Likewise.

    Jeff

    Neal

    Monkey Chops wrote:
    Hey ho, Neal. Hope this reaches you in the best of health.

    Four days ago I would have been sick, but now I'm good. Thanks.

    I've got to say: I don't feel my Smallville experience is complete without having afterwards read both yours and Douglas' reviews. It's now become a weekly ritual to download the episodes (please don't rat me to the Feds) and then check out what you think, too. It's almost like watching an ep with a friend and getting his/her take on the matter when the credits roll. Keep up the good work.

    ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING? ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING! Don't you know that when you download, the terrorists win? Don't you know that when you download, a communist smiles? You, sir, are giving aid and succor to the enemy, and I will not hesitate to stomp you as freedom goes on the march!

    Either that, or it's your own business.

    Me? I don't illegally download. That would be wrong. But I know people who rationalize downloading that are very much like me, you might call them clones, who believe that because downloading lets you experience more media than you would have if you had to buy everything, you get to experience more, which is a good thing, number one, and you only pay for the things that really rock. And you should, if you like what you download. But what I like the best about it is that it promotes a meritocracy. You don't buy the Backstreet Boys because some putz of an executive selective sells it to your twelve-year-old daughter. Your daughter instead discovers first-wave punk over the internet and buys an album that changes her whole life perspective because she got to try it before she bought it with her minimal income. It's how I, er, rather, my clone, has discovered literally hundreds of artists and concepts that he never would have if he'd have had to take the risk of plunking down money he didn't have first. I don't download illegally (et-hem). But I support it.

    I find it flattering, however, that you consider my review part of the Smallville ritual. If it's any consolation, so do I...

    I absolutely agree with your review for 'Cyborg'. It was definitely worthy of a solid 4. I think Smallville's best moments shine through whenever it's devoted to the mythology or whenever another superhero shows up and works with Clark. I think that's just a testament to the strength of the Superman-mythos, rather than any flashes of inspiration from the writers.

    I agree.

    To be honest, I think the Smallville writers don't appreciate just how lucky they are to have all these characters to play with, and that's why they mess up a lot of the time.

    When you have a writer who sees Superman as a privilege, it shows. When you have a writer that sees it as a meal ticket or a schtick, that shows too.

    I remember that sample episode you wrote a while back to demonstrate how it could be done, and I think the high quality of that was due mainly to your love for the character; whereas with the writers on Smallville: I just don't feel the love. If anything, it's a small crush.

    And those sample episodes aren't even near what I'd do given a show or a comic. It was just a stream of thought exercise. Anything I'd put NEAR the public oriented around Superman or any fiction would have to be agonized over. These articles are very first-draft best draft purposefully, because they're non-fiction. It's about my thoughts, not character. Character is a wholly different, more time consuming animal.

    Anyways, the question that seems to crop up with me is why the hell Clark (and Lex) loves Lana. I mean, it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Nor, to be honest, can I see why Clark would fall for Lois in this continuity. Neither of them seem to have any redeeming characteristics as far as I can tell.

    I have no answer for you. It has been shown for three years now how totally self-centered and worthless she generally is on most any occasion.

    Which brings me to Chloe.

    She is perfect girlfriend-material and in some ways, this part of the email would be like a love-letter to her, if she was real. She is evidently more intelligent and ambitious than Lana and Lois combined. After Clark's parents, she has been the Number One person Clark has discussed his problems with. Hell, he's been more open with her than he has been with Lana or anyone else, for that matter. I am so surprised Lana hasn't made a passive-aggressive remark about this, to be perfectly frank. She should feel threatened for sure, even she wasn't so damn up herself. Now, I don't think Chloe is hotter than Lois and Lana on a physical level, but then I don't even see that as relevant.

    I don't either. But she is hotter. Nyah!

    I believe that, ideally, Superman would never think that way about the woman he loves, otherwise he would have hooked up with Wonder Woman instead of Lois in the comics. But like I said before, it feels like the writers don't have a proper grasp over what makes Clark the man he will eventually become.

    Superman would definitely not see body first. I think he's the only man on Earth that wouldn't who isn't gay, but I think that's part of the ultimate chivalry he represents.

    It should be obvious why Clark should dump Lana immediately and it's not really worth dwelling on too much. Having said that, the fact is, as beautiful as Lana may be, I think I could count the number of times she's actually 'been there' for Clark on one hand.

    If that hand was horribly mutilated to the tune of lost fingers.

    I imagined after Jonathan's death she'd relax with the passive aggressive jabs, considering how difficult it is to lose a parent (I've been there, and thank God my friends cut me some slack for the first few months when my father died). Yet no, the following week, she's off on one again. I sincerely wished that she had died permanently in ep 100. That would have opened up all sorts of potential storylines, but I get the feeling Gough and Millar used the movie mythology as an excuse.

    As far as I know, Lana never shows up in the movie...

    I know you're not a fan of Buffy, but some of the best stories on that show took place when a) Angel turned evil b) Angel was sent to Hell and c) when Angel left the show. In other words, whenever the lovestory was torn assunder, the show became more compelling to watch. Smallville misses the point here by resetting the Clana storyline. I hope that makes some sort of sense....

    I have been told to start watching Buffy at the beginning of season two. I have it, er, on discs, and I will likely start after I finish reading Transmet, watching the Sopranos, and making sure Battlestar Galactica doesn't float my boat (half of the premiere isn't selling me so far). In other words, given how hard I work and how rarely I sit back and goof with stuff, probably mid-summer.

    As for Lois? Well, if this was the comic book version, there'd be no problem. As it stands, despite how insanely hot Smallville's Lois is, there's nothing else to really like about her. It's not because there's something wrong with the character per se. I just don't think she's being given enough time to do anything note-worthy on the show. Every time I see her, I think of her as a character MacGuffin (if such a thing exists; if it doesn't, I hereby claim dibs for naming one!). She doesn't really have any purpose in this show other than to advance the plot in some way. Example, why employ her as a campaign manager when Chloe could have done a better job (although, even then, it wouldn't make much sense anyway)? I am still waiting for Lois to prove herself. Chloe has done it again and again virtually every friggin' week!

    She's a Seven of Nine. Brought in to spice it up. Only Seven actually developed into a character. Lois is a benign archetype.

    So, erm, apologies for ranting, but it's been very therapeutic for me. I hope - even though I paradoxically doubt - that the show improves soon and that Clark opens his damn eyes and realizes that Chloe is easily the finest gal around him at the moment (after Martha, natch). But hey, if not, what are the chances you reckon that they'll write me in the show as Chloe's new boyfriend (you can have Martha)?

    I'm still working on the hypno-pendant for just that. But we'll have to swap on alternating Thursdays, because I'd HAVE to get some Chloe action. Seriously.

    Take care, and once again, please keep up the tremendous work.

    Kind regards

    Monkey Chops

    Thank you and likewise.

    Ivan wrote:
    Hey, Neal, hope this message gets through, it's the first time I write. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your reviews, keep up the goog work.

    Thanks, Ivan! You made it. :)

    Regarding your review for the episode "Cyborg", I just wanna ask you: How do we now that this is the "real" Lionel Luthor wo says "Your secret is safe with me, Kal-El? Ok, hear me out. Firts of all, the expressión on his face, the tone of his voice, specially when he says Clark's krytonian name. Secondly, how the heck does Lionel Luthor know his kryptonian name. I don't know, maybe there's some explanation to this. But in my humble opinion, it would make much more sense that through all of this time, Lionel was inhabited by Jor-El's spirit, or whatever it is. On that note, Jor-El bought the photo from that guy that Lex hired, to protect Clark's secret.

    Makes sense to me, and I believe it's perfectly plausible. I hope it does turn out that way.

    And that guy was killed, 'cause he was a low-life doing a dangerous job in a dangerous part of town. And they hinted at Lionel being responsible for it, to make us believe evil Lionel was back. On that note, when Lionel/Jor-El went to see Pa Kent, and said "we have a common interest, one that we both would protect with our lives", he actually meant it. On that note, when Clark saved Lionel/Jor-El from falling out the window in Vengeance, he was ok with using his super speed in from of him. And thus, the "thanks, son" comment that followed was literal. This would also explain how did he find out about professor Fine, and that weird scene after a discussion with Lex when he played one single note in the piano at the mansion, as if he never had seen one of those in his life.

    All very true.

    It would also explain how he's been acting towards Lex. Now, what is the point of all this and why doesnt Clark acknowledge his father spirit inhabiting him at this point only true nemesis, beats me. And what is Jor-El up to? Maybe he is just testing the Kents, their honesty, or something like that. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Heck, maybe he's plain old Lionel LuthEr after all. Maybe he is Zod. Maybe he's that previous Supergirl, the shape-shifter one, anything is possible in Smallville. Anyway, you're right, that last sequence was cool, classical music and John Glover, that's a great combo right there.

    That's all on my part, thanks for reading.

    Ivan
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Thanks, Ivan! Awesome to get a letter from Argentina. For some reason I get a lot of letters from Argentina and Venezuela. It's awesome. I love talking to folks from far away places because it helps me realize that when it comes down to it, most everyone across the world has a lot of similar life perspective and good will. It's cool.

    Red wrote:
    Hello, Neal!

    Hey, Red! Get busy living, or get busy dying! (Bet you get that one a lot).

    I was reading your last review (that is, Cyborg - great job, as always) and then I found some guy saying "esta bien chido su programa" or something like that. I can tell you that "chido" literally means "cool". Now you know he wasn't saying anything about your mom.

    Right, but what about "programa". Doesn't that mean illegal downloader?

    ;)

    Thanks.

    Shalamarke wrote:

    Hi Neal,

    Yay hiatus... (not) Can't wait for "Fresh Episodes."

    Whenever I hear the word "fresh" I think 80s white rap or apples. Weird, huh?

    Regarding the Cyborg episode and the addressing once again of the whole, "Clark can't tell Lana because she might not accept him for who he is" bit... I wanted to say to the writers, "Uh, not this time guys."

    Or the last 87.

    It was insulting to me as a viewer that the show wanted to put a fine point on this issue once again, when in Reckoning, Clark learned that even after telling Lana the secret, she would agree to marry him - and on short notice, no less! She didn't even take the time to figure out what all this alien business might mean to having children... she thought about it for an hour or two and said yes.

    They capitalize off the fact that most people watching tv have no memory. Or miss a ton of episodes. That's another factor.

    So, Smallville writers, don't give me this angle anymore on why Clark might not tell. You want to play the "Can't tell Lana because the knowledge endangers her life" bit, then fine. It's the last card there is. But stop with the "Lana might not accept me" crap.

    Preaching to the choir.

    There's a lot of stuff in the show that I know you have already pointed out as being insulting to viewers, and I have forgiven most of it. This, however, is ridiculous.

    I think the worst part, (because rationales can be stupid) is making inconsistent characters. Like, Clark can think something dumb like Lana will hate him for telling the truth, but at least make him act like he thinks that every week.

    Maybe the show was simply poorly timed. This wouldn't be the first time it looked like an episode was shown slightly out of sequence... and if it had come before Reckoning, it would have fit right in. It would have even played to his decision to tell. But not now. I hope they never pull that one again. It's really offensive.

    Nah, really offensive is [DELETED FOR NEAL'S PROTECTION].

    Inconsistent stories just bug the heck out of me.

    That's all. Have a nice break!

    Shalamarke

    Thanks!

    chloefan119 wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    Hey! You must be Lanafan's good cousin. The doppleganger. Either way, I always wonder what happened to the other 118 fans...

    I'm mainly writing this out of wry amusement with a dash of disgust, but whatever. I'm not sure if I even have a point at the moment. I'm sure to come up with one.

    You write like me. :)

    This is my first time writing, so I have to give you the obligatory "I have to say I love your reviews" speech. Which I do, and I agree with 98% of what you say, so it saves me a lot of time thinking, you know, when I want to complain about/analyze the show. I just think of your reviews, and there's something for me to vent on (unfortunately, I guess . . .)

    Hey, it's cool. What's better than a show that's stinking? Friends who you can yak about it, and the new people you meet in the process. I love dialogue. Thank you.

    I apologize in advance for spelling errors and my rambling. I do that a lot until the 3rd or 4th draft, when I really get down to business. As it is, I'm waaaay to tired for that.I have a few gripes/thoughts . . . here I go.

    I believe in descriptive grammar. I further believe that errors are not what shows a lack of intelligence. Unintelligent, not captivating writing shows that. Otherwise, we'd scoff at leetspeak.

    In other words, a fallacious conclusion is much worse to me than, say, a missing or misplaced comma.

    1) With each new episode, I am filled with both disappointment and/or shock, in the realm of "How can the writers get away with this? Have they no shame?" It's easy for me to criticize, of course, not being a professional writer, but all I need do is look at two shows that have NEVER disappointed me:

    Battlestar Galactica
    Firefly

    These shows make/made me happy, because I consistently come away with a smile on my face with the certainty that I could not miss the next show.

    That's quality. Every Friday night ends with me pumping my fists in the air at the end of Battlestar Galactica and yelling at the television "YES! YES!" because I am thrilled with the direction of the show: Continual character development, conflict, excellent acting and directing. They make it look so easy.

    It is easy if you put a lot of effort into it. It's not always as easy to get recognized, however. People prefer the familiar, which is why Smallville, which people know because of Superman, succeeds while, say, Arrested Development dies.

    2) I must admit that I might cut Smallville a little slack if they impressed me with -good- eye candy (that has a point)on a weekly basis. Like FLYING. Or how about Clark using his brain for once, and knocking someone out just by tapping them on the head instead of throwing them 20 feet? I think he only did that once, long ago. Is that so hard? It's tiresome. Are we ever going to get super breath? Or Clark stand up for himself? AARRRGGGHH. You know, it just occurred to me that may be a cause for some of the friction between Lana and Clark. The majority of women hate pushovers and wusses. It's just a fact of life. Hell, even my mother watched an episode with me since she was in the room doing some work, and she was disgusted with Clark for being so passive. Don't you think that being practically invulnerable would give you some confidence? But they want to emphasize his "vulnerable," "human" side, so I guess it can work, although I don't like it.

    It's the angel-slut thing. Clark is supposed to be the UBER NICE GUY. And if he's ever to get the girl (which he must) he can't do the things that are attractive to the average gal, like being a stuck up rich motorcycle riding hammer swinging dag nasty varmint. It's how it would be in real life, it's not how they do Clark.

    3) It's always easier to spot flaws in others, so I'm a little hesitant to criticize Clark for overlooking Chloe in favor of Lana. He's apparently not comparing them with their quality of character, just how "hot" they are.

    Debatable. I'm not attracted to Lana at all, but I like Chloe quite a lot. I think this is much like the butthead guy thing. Guys don't want girls they can have, and Chloe throws herself at Clark.

    And honestly, I think everyone finds out sooner or later that looks are not necessarily the most important thing.

    I disagree. I think people will always choose looks over substance. But then, I do agree that as we age, we learn that the pain in the butt of pursuing looks is not worth the simplicity of settling for character.

    I remember reading about a therapist who counseled married couples, and he was surprised at the number of men married to gorgeous women who weren't sleeping together. Well, duh, you married for looks.

    Actually, personally I find it to be a universal thing for guys married to hags, too. You have sex enough times, even Angelina Jolie would be more boring than watching paint dry. You can try to spice it up, but it's never like the beginning. That's why I'm...how to say this. Not for marriage.

    I can attest to this, as I was engaged for a time to a -beautiful- woman, yet I learned -painfully- that we would have made excellent friends or lovers, but that's all. But a beautiful body doesn't make up for a terrible personality. Chloe is a better person, which more than makes up for any faults in the looks department, which are few and far between anyway. But to each their own.

    I actually have a philosophy about this. For a relationship to continue working, you have to have two of three things. 1) A great commonality/friendship. 2) You work well together financially. 3) The sex is incredible.

    Any two seems to work. All three is the best.

    4) This is a response to the hilarious LanaFan315. Hey, I had to register to give my two cents, hence my name.

    Word.

    This obsession with race borders on the ridiculous. I don't know where this chip on the shoulder comes from, but its really sad, because everything leads to skin color, proving that the writers are possibly "racist." Uh . . . right rolling eyes. I really don't have the patience or energy to respond point by point, but let me rant for a moment, IMHO:

    In the name of "diversity," apparently there must be a specific ratio of races on the show. And if you get rid of one, you have to replace it with the same. WTF? When a certain ethnic group (yes, amazingly there are other races than black and white) complains of discrimination, it helps to look at cultural or ideological background. The poorest Asians, on tests, outscore the richest blacks--excuse me, African-Americans: (Oh, wait, I should be calling myself German-American, since I'm of German descent. sigh If you are born in America, you are AMERICAN!!!!)

    And don't forget, African-Americans can very easily be white. There are white Africans who come to America. I personally see diversity as something to strive for, but I believe that forcing it is just as bad as avoiding it.

    Me? I'm German, French, and Irish, but I've always considered myself a mutt. And I'm not really American, when it comes down to it. I'm not like most of the people here. I'm a strange breed. That isn't entirely fair, I love this country, but the point being, generally speaking, I wouldn't be your average American, and relegating anything to ARBITRARY generalization (per what I discussed above in the other letter) is a bad thing.

    conclusion? Poverty is not the cause of poor academic performance. Gee, what else might it be . . . how about values and study habits? Goals?

    Parenting is my belief.

    Here I quote black Professor John McWhorter: "It has become a keystone of cultural blackness to treat victimhood not as a problem to be solved but as an identity to be nurtured . . . [B]lack Americans too often teach one another to conceive of racism not as a scourge on the wane but as an eternal pathology changing only in form and visibility, and always on the verge of getting not better but worse."

    An interesting theory. I know I derive most of my writing persona from a perception of perceived victimization. I don't know. But what I do know is that if it's true for black people, it's also true for EVERYONE. Everyone makes a life out of potential victimhood. You talk to a fat white woman on an elevator, she's a victim of another co-worker who had the nerve to tell her she smelled like cheese. You talk to your mother, and she's a victim for having had you and having you go on to be a writer. We all play the victim.

    But one thing I DO know and agree with you on is that it's pointless to try and say that something is racist when no racism is inherent or apparent.

    I stress the last sentence, as it seems to apply here. I hate to be the bearer of logic here, but everyone discriminates, and everyone is racist in one form or another. "That's a horrible thing to say! You must be racist yourself!" Ah, I can hear the attacks already. Whatever race you are, you will LIKELY most be comfortable with them. This DISCRIMINATION is racism! But this is not always the case. The difference is behavior/beliefs/attitudes. I don't give a frack what color skin you have AS LONG AS YOU TREAT ME WITH RESPECT. And that, I think, is the bottom line. If I don't like you, it's because of your personality/tastes/character/whatever. And for the record, I am in fact racist:

    I prefer Indian and Asian women, hands down. Have since elementary school, so . . . I'm racist! I must be evil because I prefer a certain skin color and "look." And I'm white . . . so does that make me "racist" against whites? Oh please.

    It depends. People are quick to cry racism where it's not racism by definition. Racism, emphasis mine, is the preference of one race to another WITHOUT reason. In other words, you say, "All whites are lazy and shifty." without the experience and/or evidence to back that up. For you to say you prefer Indian and Asian women is not racist, it's merely a preference. If you say you prefer them because they're hotter than the other races, definitively, for everyone, then you're racist. You're discriminating. But then, as you stated, discrimination, like generalization, saves lives and gives us a framework to live by, provided you don't use it to an evil end, like racism. People ill define and confuse those terms, which is why there is the perception that you can cry racism and it's cool when there is no racism present.

    As for this argument that seems to be cropping up over and over again about changing the race of the characters, such as having Lois be black (let me clarify that: black black, not brown black, which isn't black enough, LOL) seems a little ridiculous, simply because it done in the name of "multiculturalism" or "progressiveness" or what have you. What this seems to me is simply changing mythos since you are uncomfortable with the source material. Two white kids wrote this stuff. What do you expect?

    I don't know. I think a brown black person would have trouble too. I know what you mean, though. If you look at it now, there was a huge controversy a few years back when I suggested that Kristin has asian features. I didn't see that as offensive, but I got called a racist up and down simply for observing something.

    Personally I expect diversity and multicultural thought even from white guys. Especially from white guys, given that percentage-wise, they are more aware of what's going on if they've been through college. College addresses the way race relates to society. What I DON'T expect is a pointless, TOKEN demonstration of how they're not racist, like making Lois black just because it would help close the race gap. Make Lois black because a black actress plays an incredible Lois.

    There's also just a story issue. People won't know it's Lois if it's a black woman as well, because Lois has generally been white. Yeah, a 12-year-old girl might be able to play Perry White, but are we age-ist if we don't make a 12-year-old Perry at some point? Nah. It's a character recognition thing.

    I have to at least put this forward, as I have not seen it done: Why not make Lois . . . Indian? You guessed it. Heck, just throw Aishwarya Rai into the role, have some nice traditional bollywood dancing in there, it'd be great!

    Or, this is how I would do it. Give Lois, a white gal, an Indian friend. That's also kind of arbitrary, but you have to start somewhere.

    whining "Neal, there are no Indians on the show! They're racist! 1% of the population of America is Indian, so 1% of the people in Smallville should be Indian!" (Don't know the real number, but this'll suffice for an example)

    Arguments like this just make no sense. Do people like this travel a lot? Let me tell you, there are not a lot of blacks in upstate New York, nor in Colorado. Kentucky? Sure. Alabama? You bet. It just depends where you live. Trying to artifically create a specific ratio of races is not only unrealistic, it's insulting. It's like saying "You're so sensitive that you can't handle real life. So we're going to make you feel all better by making sure your skin color is represented, even though it isn't accurate, just so we don't hurt your feelings."

    Well, I understand better than most. I'm the token white guy in a largely black neighborhood. People resent my presence here. I get stares, threats, people don't respond when I say hello. I am, in essence, the victim, if you will. Does that mean I think they should start inserting white guys into this neighborhood? No. You do what you can, when you can. It's all about intention.

    Stuff like this gives me a headache. And the really sad part is that after a rant like this, it's expected for the author to get all defensive and "prove" that they aren't racist by stating that "Oh, by the way, I dated/married/whatever a black/yellow/red/brown/white person, so I can't be racist." "Proving" that you aren't racist like this simply makes you look very insecure. And I'm not going to do it. Because I'm racist. Indians and Asians are the most beautiful to me, remember? smirk

    George Carlin put it well. A ton of people who adopt a pseudo liberal air about racism have a ton of friends who "happen" to be black. Like it was a mistake. And just none they can name.

    I identify with the fact that I live in a black neighborhood, but it doesn't define my attitude toward race. I know white people who live on this block who are racist as all heck. I know I'm not a racist. I don't give a crap what color you are, you still deserve equal rights, and I'll be your friend. That's what's important.

    Can we get over this "race" thing already? Clark is white. Lois is white (In my mind, she can be an Indian if I want). Deal with it.

    p.s. Chloe is way hotter than Lana, btw. And Clark is really dumb.

    yours truly,

    ChloeFan119

    Love that ending, actually, even though the letter is sure to spur debate. Thanks!

    Laurence Cohen wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    As always, thanks for the great reviews.

    Thank you for reading.

    I just wanted to point out a scene (or two) I had a problem with for this episode. When Cyborg throws Clark into the wall with extreme force, he technically was committing attempted murder in my opinion. When he first encounters Clark, he has no idea of his powers and abilities and thus must assume he is just a normal human being. So he basically (in his mind) throws a normal human into a solid wall with enough force to shatter it, which would in all likelihood kill said human.

    I agree.

    The fact that he ended up being extremely lucky that said human is made of steel (so to speak) and virtually invulnerable doesn't change his initial action from being seriously suspect. Now I thought throughout the rest of the episode, the Cyborg character was great, (and also the actor playing him) and that his intentions and integrity were spot on, but I also think that this one scene was contradictory to that. (of course, with this show nowadays, it's not surprising)

    I still agree. Very much.

    BTW, when watching the scene of Martha looking at Jonathan's picture, I had the same thought as you in that she was going to throw the picture into the fire. I almost lost it (yelling at the screen) until she put the picture down. Quite funny to me in a sad way. Anyway, take care,

    Laurence

    Thanks, Laurence!

    Daniel wrote:
    Hey Neal. Love your reviews. Keep them up and keep me laughing.

    Thanks. Sometimes it isn't funny, but I do my best.

    I won't accuse you or the show of being racist. I promise.

    Is that just because you're white, you woman, you? (Note: Joke. Besides, you're probably a green Zoraostrian. Or heck, Kryptonian.)

    Personally, I just want to see the best actor or actress available on screen. Granted, Kristin and Erica are interesting choices, but I wouldn't make the claim that those choices were made out of racism. I would have nothing to back that up.

    I agree.

    Anyways, on to my point. I would actually give this episode a 5 and possibly during your end of the season reviews, you will too.

    Probably. It's more a four because it was in the middle of such crap. A crap sandwich.

    This is one of those episodes that the good really outweighs the bad so much as to make the bad insignificant. If this were season 1, I'd bet you'd give it a 5. You may deny it, but I won't believe it. Frankly, in the past you were more forgiving of the bad as long as the good prevailed and was actually really good. You may have become more critical as a reviewer and have changed some of your standards, but this is one of those cases that I really think that those standards shouldn't apply. Along with Lexmas and Solitude, this was one of the best of the season.

    What it is, as we go on, precedent dictates impression. For instance, a guy kicks you in the head every time he sees you, even if one time he gives you a hundred dollars, you know next time he sees you, he's gonna kick you in the head. So how do you rate his visit? Yeah, it's a five if it's anyone else, but it's four from head-kick man. Thusly DRONE got a high rating, when now it'd get slaughtered.

    Victor blaming the death of the scientist on himself is brilliant. Clark from season 1 did the same thing with Lana and the death of her parents. Granted, neither of them are truly at fault (the scientist knew the potential consequences of his actions and Clark did not asked to be sent in a meteor shower). It is kind of ironic that the Clark Kent of season 1 is, in a sense, more heroic than the Clark Kent of season 5.

    Very much so.

    You criticize Clark Kent for making assumption about Lex Luthor without having any reason (although it proves correct later). I didn't mind this that much. Although we make a joke about Clark Kent being the Big Dumb Alien, I can buy him making logical conclusions. You say they weren't logical? Well, given the way they have protrayed Lex this season and the way Clark has viewed Lex, the jump isn't entirely illogical.

    Not entirely, but somewhat. You still gotta have a reason for corollary.

    Clark has no reason not to believe that Lex sent electro-man and wonder twins. For all Clark knows, Lex may have sent the Silver Kryptonite as we have no indication that Clarks knows that was actually Fine. But these are not the only reasons. Throughout the first four seasons, Clark has become increasingly aware of Lex's backstabbings and ulterior motives. He used to excuse them, but now, he refuses to. Yes, Lex has done a great deal of good and the rift between them is somewhat arbitrary, but considering that Clark knows of Lex's past and that the rift is currently legitimate, can we not assume that Clark would assume the worst in Lex?

    A caveat: I would. I now assume Lex is out for doing evil. The problem being, they've done less to show that CLARK would think that then they need to.

    It is the worst of all possible situations, so if in fact Lex wasn't the one behind it, Clark would have an easier time saving Victor than otherwise. If he assumed Lex wasn't behind it and he turned out to be, Clark Kent would be too far behind to actually save Victor. It is wrong to make assumptions about people without real evidence, but at this point, I think it is believable that Clark would assume the worst in Lex. I'll reiterate my point. I, like you, find the rift between Clark and Lex a bit disingenuous. But it exists now, so we have to assume that it is legitimate.

    I disagree. It's like saying because Lionel appears to have money now, we should just accept that it appears. Still, I believe, and I think I get your gist, that Clark would think worse of Lex before better, and that it makes sense now.

    If you're going to accuse Clark of jumping to conclusions, the accusations should target their rift not the accusations Clark makes (you do this to an extent).

    Here I totally agree.

    Given that the rift now exists and that Clark find evil in Lex's character, I find it natural that Clark would assume the worst. Bioengineering is an enormous undertaking in today's society and frankly Lex would do anything to be at the forefront of this field. Yes, a line from Clark saying this would probably alleviate some of the problems and I hate filling in plot holes with speculation, but this is a case where a line would help the situation, but does not entirely take away from it. I know I've babbled this point for waaaaaaay tooooooo looonnnnngggg, but I thought I would throw it out there.

    It's good that you did. It gives me a chance to clarify. With the drunk driving, with the intentional evil with both Victor and Aquaman, it makes sense for US to think Lex is evil, and even Clark to a degree. But though we've seen ALL of Lex's evil, Clark's only seen a little. Enough to be suspicious, but not to just constantly, always assume the worst.

    No cameras in the lab holding Victor? Not believable, but maybe Lex is just as ignorant about this as he is about getting better security for his mansion. I hate how the show expects us to suspend our disbelief here when clearly this is just an idiotic loophole.

    Me too.

    They need to at least establish some precedence of Clark destroying all the security cameras in a room before using his abilities to actually make me believe that no one actually catches him in the act. The very fact that Lionel catches him on video from Warehouse 15 further proves the point that, other people should know too. ESPECIALLY LEX.

    Agreed.

    I also hate Mionel as much as you and probably everyone else. I can almost guarantee that the show will find a way to back away from it. We can only hope.

    That they even went there is enough for me. Sad.

    The whole Lana and Lex not knowing Clark's secret despite every reason to know it is just as annoying to me as it is to you. And I know how annoying you find it. I hope that they end up creating a good plot out of it, because frankly, there is so much potential if the two actually did know.

    It's less that it annoys me, more that it's fun to point out how patently obvious it is that they'd all know his secret by now because of slipshod failures of writing. Failures I as a writer tend to avoid.

    I've read a number of your reviews and one thing you constantly point out is that Clark superspeeds in public or talks about his secret openly and no one does anything about it. This isn't tied to Cyborg, but I thought I would bring it up anyways. In reality, if something like this were to occur, we would assume we were seeing things. If someone just disappeared right in front of you, you would look twice and think you are going crazy. You would brush that off as some odd thing but wouldn't think twice of it.

    Some of us would. Some of us wouldn't. Some of us believe an invisible entity tells us right from wrong. People believe a lot of things. If I saw a man disappear in front of me, depending on the context, I would be apt to explore what happened, even if I ended up rationalizing it. Enough people doing that gets to the bottom of things.

    Or if someone was talking about some special abilities, you'd think they were in some fantasy land. If you were to bring it up, people would think you were an idiot (my use of the pronoun 'you' in this argument is not directed at you, Neal, but rather at most other people as I am sure you'd be one of the few who would not care if people thought you were crazy).

    Pretty much. I mean, choosing to be a writer pretty much makes me categorically insane. Or masochist.

    Yes, it is a bit dumb for Clark to, at times check if anyone is watching, and then at others be completely careless about it, but if Lockdown proved anything, it is that talking about ships and aliens makes people wonder about your mental health. Frankly, this I can buy.

    That's all for now. I don't know if this is considered a long response, but I apologize if it is. I know you're busy. I hope life is treating you well, otherwise.

    -Daniel

    I don't really care about the length of response. I just feel bad when I take my time responding to a long letter because it requires a lot of attention. That's why I made this column. I'm flattered if people send me one line or a novel. It just takes longer to read a novel.

    Azor wrote:
    Random points:

    1) There is a big difference between Martha Kent and the widow of Sen. Mel Carnahan. Unlike Pa Kent, Sen. Carnahan was already dead when he won his election. The governor had already announced that if he won, the widow would be appointed, so voters knew who they were actually voting for. Also, the appointment was only temporary until another election was held (which she lost). Of course, this was for a U.S. Senate seat as opposed to a state senate seat.

    Cool. Thanks for the clarification.

    2) You identified Cyborg as a running back, when I could have sworn he was a wide receiver. In any event, I found it hilarious that he went to "Metropolis High." They must have had a pretty good football team. Can you imagine how good "New York High" would be?

    I think you're right there. I forget. And do you mean New York High 1, or 2-4,000? Heh.

    3) I want to clarify something about your statement that "money equals happiness." I think we can all agree that this has at least a degree of truth to it. But do you go so far as to say "Money ALWAYS equals happiness?" Furthermore, if you were given several million dollars but told that you could never write again would you be happy?

    No, but that's a scenario that can never possibly happen. If you phrased it (more appropriately), "If someone offered you several million to never write again, would you take it?" The answer would be NO, but that doesn't change the fact that if I said YES, I would be happier. I choose this unhappiness because I find it the better part of valor. Also, when I say money always equals happiness, it's a generality, not an empirical statement of fact. Meaning, yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare and prove the rule. I'm sure there's some prole somewhere that would rather hang clothes than drive a maserati, but I've never met her. And I am a counter-example, I would like to believe. But I'd be lying to say that I don't want to buy the food I want instead of what I can afford. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want more than one good shirt. Money increases options. Incresed options leads to greater happiness.

    I'm not saying I LIKE it. I'm an idealistic communist. But it's just what IS.

    4) A couple weeks ago you stated you didn't like Shakespeare, in part because of "hard language." The first time I read that I thought you were joking. When talking about a potential audience for your writing, you often lament the lack of sophistication in taste, how audiences don't want to invest a modicum of intellectual energy, even if the pay-off is great. I don't for the life of me see how someone with the love for language that you do would not be thrilled with Shakespeare's use of words. More than that, you often speak of your preference for character based over plot based writing. This guy had an unbelievable penetrating insight into humanity, psychology (before it was invented), philosophy, theology, politics, class struggle, you name it.

    I was completely serious. I don't like Shakespeare. The reason is not because he doesn't have a flair with the language. He does. And I don't buy the excuse that the only reason you shouldn't like him is because it's "hard", though that's a factor.

    What makes Shakespeare painful and annoying to me is that he's the strictest of formalists, he's the most rigid, formulaic poet ever. Being a modernist, a minimalist, and a poet who likes enjambment over rhyme and iamb, I find his poetry pretty frankly disgusting. It's repetitious, and the reason it is isn't really for any kind of point, it's so that it's easier to remember, because he pollutes his language with complexity that is unnecessary, save in rare examples of epic moments, like, "To be, or not to be."

    There's also the fact that to a modern audience, unless said audience is putting on airs, he doesn't offer much. He's not concise. He writes in a venue that's critically obscure to most any modern audience.

    At the time? He was probably a genius. At the time, he probably wrote the best work of his generation, and generations that followed maybe for a century.

    Now? Less so. He has much less importance now. I liken it to the way I view, and I hate to say this, but it's true, the Bible, or Greek Mythology. In context, and if it's something you're a fan of (like, say, an actor would see Shakespeare, or a history teacher or writer would see Greek myths) it's good to look into, but it doesn't offer much of a practical, modern statement to live by. And since we live now and not in the past, that's very much important to the success of any piece.

    Is that Shakespeare's fault? No. But I just don't like it for that reason. I make the clear distinction of saying that yes, his works are genius. But then I add the caveat: Not for me or most any of my contemporaries unless they SEEK said genius as a way to put their life into a historical perspective. Really, I derive more moralistic meaning and human motive from Star Wars.

    It's a controversial position, but I'd be lying if I said I really dug Shakespeare, even if I've seen some marvelous presentations of his work.

    And yeah, he had a penetrating insight. But ask any layman now to tell you what it was. If only ten people understand it, why should I find the theory of relativity awesome? I leave it to those in that specialization.

    You mention that his plays had "too much structure." I'm not positive about what you mean by that, but he was obviously somewhat limited by writing for the stage.

    No, I mean just what he said. I don't like iambic pentameter. I don't like structured formalism. It drives me bugsh(%. I find it forced. One of my favorite epigrams:

    If you read poetry like you still need a lyre
    (BWANG!)
    Please, shoot yourself and save us all some trouble.

    Still, he kicked Aristotle's unities out the door and experimented with some rather innovative conventions.

    I agree. He was a master in what he did. I just don't like it. Like the Sopranos. I look at it, and I have to say, "Good characterization." I just don't identify with the mob.

    Finally, you identified him as "too derivitive" which I found really funny. Sure, I know that he only wrote one original plot, but it's not like the source material has held up. You could argue that if he's derivitive, so is every writer of Superman after Jerry Siegel.

    Very easily. And I would agree. Shakespeare ripped off all KINDS of people, and to the victor go the spoils (ha-ho!). But yeah, he's very derivative now. Like Citizen Kane. At the time? Epic. Nothing like it. Now, using Welles' conventions in basic ways is what passes for a film cliché. Time just moves on.

    Defending Shakespeare as a good writer is a little like arguing that Michael Jordan was a good basketball player, but there is a point to this. I suspect your dislike of Shakespeare is rooted in your experience of reading him as a 17 or 19 year old.

    More like 12-14, on my own, but yeah. There's a lot to that. We make historical context barbarically annoying by foisting it on kids who aren't ready for it. But, to be fair, I read them again in my early twenties and my essential beliefs remained the same.

    I'll bet if you went back and read his entire canon, you'd suddenly be inserting more Shakespearan references into your Smallville reviews than Star Wars references.

    That's kind of my point, though. Half of our clichéd expressions, without us even knowing it, are Shakespeare quotes. It's become so canon that it's unconscious now. But that doesn't make the works themselves accessible.

    I'm offering a Lionel Luthor-esque deal. If you get ahold of a "Complete Works of Shakespeare" (available for really cheap on ebay) and read the whole thing (it took me about three months several years back), I'll buy and read your entire canon of novels. Deal?

    It's a nice offer, but if you'd read the books I'd give them for free. As for Shakespeare, I haven't read all of his works, but I have read at least ten. I've seen six performances of his work. I'd pay to see it again. It's a historical context, and it's good to study and know about. It's just not a contemporary influence to me. Even Edmund Rostand, to me, is an improvement on Shakespeare even though Shakespeare is the reason Rostand exists. Or, to put it in a more contemporary way, I can't STAND the Sex Pistols, but I am beloved of Green Day, which would seem a contradiction, as Sex Pistols are the reason modern punk exists. I am well aware of Shakespeare's importance. I just don't believe in stepping backwards save as an effort to understand the forwards. And to say that backwards is better just because it created forwards is, to me, folly.

    That, and I have a complete works of Shakespeare I pick at anyway. ;) But I WILL promise to keep giving him a shot for you. Right now I have a big reading list. Skepticism and Animal Faith. Journey to the End of Night. The Wine of Youth. Hell's Angels (again) right now. I'm actually studying the long-form epic, so if I were going for iambic, I'd probably go Homer again, who I incidentally view in much the same light, despite being chapter and verse knowledgeable of what he wrote and the context of it in history. It's just boring stuff to read, even if it has epic importance to all that followed it.

    Shakespeare SHOULD be read and SHOULD be taught, and he's everything you said he was. But pick your sport. You like football, I like baseball. I have a working knowledge of football, but I'm nutty about baseball. Just the same way I love reading Bukowski, but I know who Shakespeare is and what he means, I just prefer Love is a Dog From Hell to cry havoc.

    5) You might want a well earned break from writing reviews during Smallville's hiatus, but if you are looking for something to do (beyond reading Shakespeare) the WB/Acuvue website is actually running a sequal to "Vengeance" called the "Vengeance Chronicles": http://thewb.warnerbros.com/acuvue/ . I'd love to see you review this, either as serials or all at once.

    I actually watched them...they were interesting. The reason I don't review them is that they always are kind of wink at the camera affairs, where they seem like shorts, they walk like a short, so hey, they're shorts. Though I like looking at Allison, it's kind of tangential.

    I wanted to take a break, but I ended up spending most of the month working on my house. Lo, for writing without tangential work in the background.

    Also, it bugged me that in the end, they made the murderer out to be a hero.

    6) Did you see that Hunter Thompson's widow is starting a magazine? http://www.aspendailynews.com/article_12976

    When you sent me the letter, I checked it out that day (usually I read every letter as they come in, but can't respond, as that takes house), but now the link is gone, for some reason. I didn't know before you told me. That's cool. Personally, I think it'd be kind of like writing for Black Sparrow after Buk left.

    Not that I'd know. They've sent my query back three times now.

    Jackie Chan wrote:
    My impression of "LanaFan315"

    Neal? Why are you reviewing smallville? Why couldn't they get a black guy to do it? Is the "Supermanhomepage" Racist???

    Now here's the real pickle. How does she know I'm not black? I lied about being a chick once. Or did I?

    Sorry. Had to say that. Someone was convinced I was really a girl a while back. You know who you are. ;)

    Patrick wrote:
    Hi Neal,
    Hope you are well.

    Thanks. I forgot how tired this makes my fingers, but other than that, it's awesome.

    I'm bogged down in school-work.

    Understood. Been there. Hated it. Would much rather have been reading.

    Just skipped to the end of your review to read what you thought of the last minute of the Cyborg episode. I thought for sure I'd find you pointing out the impossibilities of the camera catching Clark's movements.

    And that I did, at some point.

    Have you just given up on the show making sense that way?

    No, I did pick on that at some point.

    Similar to the disbelief of Lana not being brutally damaged by Clark moving her that fast? Can a digital camera catch a frame of something moving faster than a bullet and provide distinguishing marks of that object?

    I don't think so.

    Wouldn't the camera have been destroyed? (maybe the data is stored elsewhere) Isn't this the place where the spaceship was stored?--that's where Lana took the sheriffs, right?--well, then how come Lex thinks the spaceship was stolen by his dad if he should have had footage from this camera all along? (It freaking dissapeared) Why would it even still be recording? There is nothing there. Even if you forgive all of these inconsistencies... if there was an explosion here would not have Lex investigated and uncovered that which some police academy drop-out turned security officer managed to get a hold of? What the hell is going on? I'm really surprised you didn't comment on these horrible flaws.

    I did, it's just easy to miss in such a long review. ;) We agree.

    I hope I'm funny this week, I haven't managed to get in the caption-contest mentions yet, mmm we'll see.

    Take care,
    Patrick

    Good luck. I'll be updating that later today, I hope. The con is KILLING my time.

    Daniel wrote:
    Hey Neal. It's me again. My 5th message in a month. I guess you can say you've inspired me. Corny as that sounds.

    That rules. Thank you.

    In that message, I said that I felt Cyborg, despite some of its inconsistencies and problems, still deserved a 5 - mostly because I was willing to overlook some the flaws and look at the episode holistically. But there was something that did irk me with this episode. Something I'm surprised they didn't put in. Because I don't rate an episode based on what they don't have, not on what they do, this doesn't influence my rating. But let's get to it...

    In a message I sent you a while ago and you kindly responded to, I said that I wished this show dealt with issues of the human condition. One great issue is what it means to be human. Clark Kent is an alien brought up in an environment with a strong human moral background. In a sense, as Superman, he becomes the best of both worlds. His moral foundations are human, his body itself is alien. And the combination of the two makes him a superhero.

    That's a great way to put it. True.

    I see this as one interpretation of Clark Kent and his destiny as superman (I have another about the existence of Lex and that Superman exists because of him and vice versa but that's for another place and another time). But, what is essential to this interpretation, is Clark Kent questioning where he belongs. Is he any different than the Freaks of the Week? Is he still an alien? Is he human? While the show, to my memory, only brought up the issue briefly in Legacy when Dr. Swann said, "there's more to being human than just biology," this is an issue that the show should and must tackle.

    Agreed. But wouldn't you rather see boobies? No?

    We finally get an episode where this issue can be brought up naturally and not seem forced. Victor Stone mentioned that he was becoming more machine than human - an interesting concept in both today's world and his.

    The "Data" archetype that works so well.

    As biochemistry and biotechnology grow rapidly (careers that I am considering), issues of human ethics arise.

    So say all of my four bioethics teachers in the classes I took in high school and college (I could have had a philosophy minor).

    Cloning and genetic engineering have brought these issues to the forefront of today's society and so dealing with them is both relevant to the show and to today's world. "Gattaca" dealt with the issue amazingly and the show could use that movie as a basis for the issue here.

    I liked that movie quite a bit at the time.

    When Victor Stone mentions that he is becoming a machine, Clark Kent would be able to relate to this loss of humanity. The two should then struggle with the issue of humanity in that being human is who you are and not what you are. This is a very fine distinction and not disingenuous to the issue.

    But, uh, where are the boobies in that? Kidding. I agree.

    Input from both Clark and Lex on the issue would be an interesting parallel and demonstrate how the two are becoming polar opposites. The episode was both short and had some unnecessary parts that can be replaced with this. So, to make a drawn out point short, the episode should have dealt with the issue of the meaning of humanity along with the rest of the plot. Had it done that, the episode would have gone from one of the best of this season to one of the best of the series. Even up there with Hourglass, Rosetta, and Memoria. Good company.

    I think ANY episode, with just a touch of care, could become epic like that. Like, say, if they spent the money they spend on two episodes, and the effort of a finale script, on one episode.

    It's ironic however, that you rate the episode a 4 partially because of the string of bad episodes that preceded it and I rate it a 5 partially because of the same reason.

    More that it's a matter of preference and impression. But I openly admit I'm more pessimistic than I used to be.

    Thanks for an awesome letter. :)

    SCOTTY V wrote:
    Hi there Neal,

    Yo!

    I just got around to watching both "Tomb" and "Cyborg" this week because all of my TV and movie watching has been building up and been on hold for two weeks now. I got that new job I was telling you I'd need to get and I've been working almost every night.

    Sorry. Unless you like it...I've never liked any job but this one. And it's not...technically...I don't know. Ask my mom or ask Felix. I think it's a job. The best ever.

    I don't have much to say about "Tomb," other than to agree with everything you said and that's not what these reviews and letters are meant to be for.

    They're what we make out of it, I think.

    I was thinking that maybe Clark took Chloe out of the regular hospital simply by checking her out or having her check out. Could be possible. After all, Smallville hospital is not a place for taking care of people who are insane. Clark doesn't want Lex's help because he doesn't trust Belle Reve and is concerned that they'll do bad things to Chloe, like they did to Lex AND that they might discover his secret as well. If the secret were the only thing that kept Clark from seeking treatment for Chloe, that would certainly not be enough, but I think he's really worried about how they treat patients there. Plus there might be a part of him that believes Chloe to a certain extent. I know this is contradicted by his reaction when she tells him there's a girl in the wall. "Don't worry Chloe we'll (rolls eyes) get her out of the wall." I had to laugh when he said this. It was delivered so well.

    Yeah. And hey, that's a fair assumption. Maybe Clark's on the "family" list and has durable power of attorney somehow. They didn't say so, though.

    That whole thing with the orderly and Lois in the Talon was just weird. I will submit that he could have just been lying and that maybe Lois doesn't know the history of the Talon. Lunatics do tend to lie sometimes. But ultimately, this entire episodes reeks of poorness, stinks of stupidity and really makes no sense whatsoever. I guess we're just to assume that we're back to the days of Kryptonite can do anything and that explains the girl in the wall. I laughed out loud when, at the end, Chloe said "I know why Gretchin's spirit was released but..." I said "You do???!!?! Really?!?!?? Cause that makes ONE person who does. The audience sure doesn't.

    Word.

    So let's say we understand that the bracelet does this to her. What about the brother who can take your secrets and give you his? Why can he do this again? How does he do this? And if we imagine that we know any of that, how is it relative to him killing his sister or wanting to kill CHloe and Lois? We never learn anything about anything in this episode. Everything happens, nonsensically, and then the show ends.

    Just like this week's.

    Why is Martha trusting Lionel?

    He's rich. Zing!

    Why does Clark lay on the ground in the basement after the Bracelet is deactivated?

    To seal the plot hole.

    Why does the spirit possess Chloe?

    Because she prayed. Zing!

    How is the spirit brought from the dead and why now?

    Al said so! So it shall be done.

    What's the deal with her brother?

    No idea.

    Do the writer's of this show even care anymore? Did they ever? Are they still mad they weren't allowed to do Batman?

    I think they're getting paid and thus complacent.

    Ugh. Double ugh with an extra dose of...UGH!

    Unh! Double-up UNH! UNH! That's my Sir Mix-A-Lot reference for this decade.

    At the end of this show I had both my arms in the air and spread out as if to say "What the hell just happened?"

    With the rest of us.

    Someone probably already wrote you this but I'll say it just in case. When the spirit took her brother's life, I too noticed that he just disappeared. But then when Lois gets up and goes to Chloe, Chloe seems to be looking to the floor. The scene widens and the guy's body is there. I went back and checked because I wasn't sure either but at least we have that. It ain't much but when, as you say, the status quo for this show has been so lowered, we can at least keep whatever we see that might at least make some sense. But really, even if his body hadn't been there, is that really the worst of what the PTB have done lately? I'm sure it is not.

    You're right. A lot of folks pointed that out.

    Off to read business for this one and then the review for "Cyborg," which for the record I thought was pretty good.

    Scotty V

    Likewise. Thanks, Scotty.

    Sara wrote:
    Hey,. You know, I gotta' start thinking up new endearments. "Cutie" has recently been overused. How about "stud muffin"?

    That works. I have lost fifteen pounds and put on some arm muscle lately. Thankee sai, beautiful.

    In regards to "Cyborg", wasn't that episode a total shocker? I was totally ready for another substandard episode. and I could have just passed out in relief. But I'll tell you the bit I didn't enjoy. I really didn't enjoy the Lana/Clark thing and the continuing passive-aggressiveness and unclear relationship. I mentioned that last Thursday, but it bears mentioning again.

    It surprised me. I figured it would blow, but it ruled.

    I thought the research facility looked stupid. They were trying to give it that enormous maze-like quality, but it didn't really help. The Bad Guy Doctor (BD from here on out 'cause I'm lazy). I feel like I knew him from some place. where he was a comic figure. (Side note: Why didn't the Good Doctor (GD) run in all the confusion? Try and disappear? Why didn't the bad doctor immediately chain/lock him up? Why. OK, I think you get my point.)

    Asking questions makes the enemy smile. The terrorists win!

    Lana's distracted driving is driving me crazy! The worst part was that I knew exactly what was going to happen when I saw that coffee cup! Grrr.

    I think she hit a dude a few years back, too.

    I was totally there with you on the package. It was totally unrealistic. but then I'm in the "Smallville"-verse where realism takes a back seat to. Plot? No. Ummmmm. Character development? Not a chance. Hmmm. OK, does it really matter? The video bothered me a lot. I knew it had to have Clark on it at some point, but he's moved faster than Lex's cameras before. What's so different about this time? (My initial impression was that it showed the ship's hanger and Fine. which might cast the suspicion light on Clark, but ne'ermind!)

    I hadn't thought about the description bit. I was taken out of the story because how many times has Clark tried to find someone who was just there and somehow can't?

    Yeah. It's a cliché now.

    I have to admit that if I heard brick breaking on a building I was in or near, I would immediately start running toward the sound or at least outside. I did it the other day when I heard a crash on the stairs in my office. (Long but funny story involving the attending of a safety committee meeting.) But maybe that's just me.

    I'd run like hell and let the people who will go to look take care of it, unless I hear "Help!"

    I preferred that the mechanics were on the inside. Technology has advanced quite a bit and it's totally realistic. My grandmothers both have mechanical parts on the inside. They'd look funny otherwise. And you have to assume that BD wanted to have his subjects look as normal as possible so they could potentially reintegrate into "normal" society. and maybe become hidden soldiers.

    And plus, how many cyborg heroes have no outside augmentation? Not too many. I liked it.

    I have yet to figure out why they use the Lionel character so often and in such a wishy-washy, flip-floppy way. He's good. He's bad. He's catatonic. He's Jor-El. He's Lionel. Yeah, I wanted to break things during the first Lionel/Martha scene so I had to bring my new orchid into work.

    To fill his contract, no doubt. Heh.

    They actually dropped two minutes?!? I have never blessed my TiVo and Windows Media Center more! And I have to agree with you. If they absolutely have to have more ads, drop the crap in the episode! Come on!!!

    They're back this week, so maybe it was just that one.

    When I saw Victor in the loft, I had assumed that Clark had brought him there. But then the call to Lana would have been weirdly fast. I could see Victor looking up the Kent's address 'cause it's not that big a place. (Smallville, that is.) But then why was Clark so far behind him? If it was to talk to Lana, why was he repeating the story that she already knew?

    I didn't even think that, from experience, Clark shouldn't have trusted Victor. After all, he didn't look too horrified during the Wall Incident, which would make me realize that he knew he could do it. and if Clark hadn't been special, he would have been killed. And Clark accepting him because he knew him before is the height of stupidity! How many people that he knew in some form have gone bad (whether that be meteor freak or just plain crazy)? And let's not forget their other experience of someone that's come back from the dead. Hello? Adam? Anyone???

    Basically every freak of the week.

    Character continuity (beside the Clana issues I'd already pointed out) was fairly good. And it's about darn time!

    And then...this week!

    I was so proud of Lex, I could have burst. I wanted to scream "FINALLY!!!" but my downstairs neighbors woulda' complained.

    Dragging it out is purely for the angst factor. I can see no other reason. And I agree about the parallel relationships. Just hand me a kitten.

    A kitten-seal (TM)

    Lana's K.O. totally counts! And Lana Fu should have been in evidence. She uses it when she's mildly annoyed. This would have been justified, but they put her in damsel-in-distress mode. Grrr.

    Oooo! Here's a question. Do you think they'll still do the summary when the WB & UPN merge and "Everybody Hates Chris" isn't in competition??? Hmmm.

    I was thinking about becoming Neal Cyrus in jest, but couldn't think of an angle to work.

    GPS would have been a good explanation. but would have taken out the Lex turning evil bits, right? Right?!?

    Did Lex offer the trip to China? I know they were in a LuthorCorp Jet, but. Oh, I don't know. I'm tired! Sh%t! I hate the weekdays following a 3-day weekend!!!

    This is why every fiber of my being sought to quit the 9-5 and finally did.

    In some ways, I wondered if Martha had an empty case and wanted to try some Martha Fu when meeting the blackmailer.

    Heh.

    OK, so I'm guessing that they want us to believe that Lois is now running the Talon. 'cause it'll make her a good investigative journalist.

    Ah, her cakes.

    Oooo! Good point about PhotoShop! If she had been as smart as we know she is, she would have realized that and put her PR team onto a statement to that effect. And then she also would have realized that the DVD she had and Lionel claimed had been destroyed without him looking at it could have been copied 50 million times. Ahhh.

    Or a million other spins. Politicians can justify anything. Torture is freedom motivation!

    What's funny is that I was trying to excuse Lex. He found the BD to save Victor because he's Clark's friend. He really thought the chip would help. Something. Anything. But I was just so relieved that he'd finally done something to justify the accusations that I blissfully ignored those questions. until now.

    It's because Lex has always been so good.

    Maybe you should do a list of all the places Clark's used his powers and should have been seen by electronic surveillance and all the people he's used his powers in front of or around. Boy, that would be some sort of huge count!

    Yeah. I can't do a KO Count entry that happens every episode, beyond Freaks.

    Have you noticed that, for visual effect, Clark throws people around like pebbles with no regard for their injury? Of course, you have! But what's the message they're trying to send? Are they saying he's sometimes unaware of his strength? Because that's unlikely. Are they saying that, in the "Smallville"-verse, people are tougher than they normally would be? Not the best message, guys, to all those kids that do crazy things 'cause of TV or because they could do it in D&D. OK, it's a small percentage, but still!

    It's the car crash theory. Whenever they can, they'll crash cars, because it looks cool. Like throwing guys around even when it doesn't make sense.

    I thought it was incredibly interesting that they (the bad guys) didn't immediately go to the farm to pick them up again or hold the girlfriend and Lana (and most probably Martha) captive again.

    The episode ended. All is well!

    The thing with Martha & Lionel is totally mind-boggling. I don't get her attitude of forgiveness towards him. Or, if she truly believes last season's change of heart, why does she have those moments of distrust? But we all know that consistency is not the strong suit of the "Smallville" writers. The biggest mistake they could make, though, is to actually have those two in a romantic relationship!

    Wait for it...

    I'm interested in where they're going to go with Lionel knowing the Secret. My biggest question now is whether he had to watch the video to get that info or if he already knew. (Yeah, it took me until Lionel watched it and freeze-framed for me to actually get what they were seeing.)

    I think he should have known.

    By the way. I play CoH and I couldn't find you either Thursday OR Friday! Wazzup wit dat?!?

    I had to stop playing because of workload. Basically wasted the cash. Right now, I'm so financially strapped, it's insane. I fix up houses to support the writing, which means a half year with a buttload of cash, then a few years coasting, and then a year where it's absolute credit trouble until you sell or refinance. I'm ALMOST to the point of where I won't have that three year period, but it's taken three houses, maneuvering. Point being, no MMORPG cash or time, alas. Gang aft agley.

    I'll check out the ytmnds, but I can't figure out how to get the darn thing to work for me! I'm really annoyed about it because I actually have an idea that I think is great!

    Best site ever.

    Mel Brooks has done little I don't love. maybe "Twelve Chairs", but that's cause I haven't given it a fair shot. On of my faves is "Robin Hood: Men in Tights". Mostly because of the title song with choreography.

    It's good to be the king.

    Nudy pass-around: Good point. We have Clark, Lana, Chloe. Anyone else? And who's next? Martha???

    IF ONLY!

    OK, it's a date. You pick the episode and I'll be there. I may need the address again and/or directions, but it would be good. I'd even be bringing my own notebook this time!

    Any/all. Seriously. If there's an episode, just shoot me a call, we'll crank up the stereo.

    Obviously Lana still cracks the whip in their "relationship". Apparently, they're saving up for a pivotal break-up episode.

    This week? ;)

    I'll try and think of a new squeaky shoes joke. but I'm not that funny on demand.

    Surprisingly, neither am I. People who meet me in real life are surprised I don't crack wise all the time. But you know that...

    Jonathan: Are they trying to say that earthy folks like the Kents mourn, but not for too long because they have to focus on the day to day for survival? I don't know. But I do know that beleaguering the mourning would make it comical which would almost be worse. How would you suggest they show the grief that should still be there? I guess it's problematic when they don't have a steady time line going down.

    If I had a death on the show, I'd have a CRITICAL character re-alignment. So, maybe you wouldn't see them mourning all the time, but it would come up at LEAST once an episode, and outlook would change. Martha would be pessimistic. Clark would be more angry. One or both. I'd also have more dilemmas centered around not having a strong male financial provider (for that particular family).

    TRA wrote:
    Well, now that we're on a break (of sorts), I want to challenge you to reconsider and improve your review of "Vengeance." "What?!", you say, "Why would I reconsider my generous 2.0 rating of that episode!?" Primarily because you rated "Tomb" as a 1.5, when it was one of the worst episodes of Smallville, ever. "Tomb" was another rip-off of a movie, provided no forward movement for the show and was simply, for lack of a better work, "yucky" all the way around. Now, contrast that with "Vengeance." "Vengeance" certainly wasn't one of the best shows ever but actually forwarded the story, reflected on the past, and made some nods to the future. So let me respond to some of your criticisms and remind you of some of the enjoyable aspects of the show.

    Fair shakes. Though I do say that mostly, the reason I go higher when an episode is full of suckitude is the sub-plot. The main plot on a sucky one is almost always worth a 1.

    First, you criticized Martha for driving to Metropolis to donate Jonathan's shirts to charity. At the beginning of the episode, she told Clark that she was going to Metropolis to see some people who called her about Jonathan's Senate seat. Aditionally, think about it? Would you want to donate your dead husband's shirts to a small-town charity, where you will probably see some local walking around in those shirts later? No, if you're going to Metropolis, drop them off there where you would have little to no chance of seeing them on some strange guy later.

    Even so, that wasn't clear to me, a reviewer paying close attention, so it probably wasn't clear to most viewers. But good rationalization.

    It is also a nice reminder that Martha is a woman who gives to charity. I've missed them showing that aspect of her character. Second, although the Avenging Angel character was certainly no "Cyborg" in terms of her acting skills, her character did provide Clark with some ideas for the future - the glasses, the bumbling, the cape, etc. were all fun. I liked it when Chloe asked Clark if he would ever consider disguising himself to prevent crime, etc. I found myself holding my breath to see what Clark would say. I even liked his answer, which shows that he has a way to go before donning the glasses. He is still young, still wanting to be accepted for who he is, not realizing that he will never fully reveal himself.

    But he's NOT young. He's a grown man now. That excuse...it's used too often. If you kill someone at 18, you go to jail for a long, long time. You can die in war. There are MANY immature 18-year-olds. I would argue Clark wouldn't be one of those.

    Third, Clark saved an enemy, his arch-enemy so far. In an uneven season, where they have written Clark more like a selfish idiot than a selfless hero, this is a true Superman moment.

    Yeah, I liked that.

    I was also happy to see the return of Lionel, and creeped out by his putting his hand on Clark's shoulder and calling him son. Also, Clark's reference to hearing his father's voice, reminding him of what is right, is a nice nod to what I believe Superman carries with him and helps him to be the hero he is. Finally, the ending moments of the episode were some of the best of the Season. The home video of Jonathan and Clark's crying were truly magic. So, even though I acknowledge most of your criticisms, I point out these moments to try to convince you that this episode was at least a point above "Tomb" and deserved at 2.5-3.0 rating. Maybe at the end of the Season, when you put all of the episodes into perspective, you'll agree that even with it's problems, "Vengeance" had some of the best moments of the year.

    That I might. Right now, all I remember is that crappy, arbitrary girl-power villain. Overall I'd say the sub-plots for this season are 2.5-3, maybe 3.5.

    SCOTTY V wrote:
    Hi again Neal,

    Hey.

    Just about to read your "Cyborg" review. Two things first. In "Vengeance," we had a discussion about the contacts Zorro wears. I just watched the episode again this weekend and the contacts are just regular contacts that she wears while in the mask because "Glasses don't look right with the mask," or some words to that effect. The other thing was the Lana accident where you contend she went through a stop sign and I think not. It's not terribly clear, but after watching it again, the first time it happens it's much clearer and appears that she turns off onto the side road, which has the stop sign, but was on the main road which did not. The second time it's really confusing because she's on the road with the stop, but it's because she turned her car that way to try and avoid the accident. So, hatred of Lana's character portrayal aside, I still think she wasn't meant to have run a stop sign. Besides the creators love her too much to actually give her that kind of blame in this scenario.

    I don't know, I watched it, and it was definitely unclear. I think it would have been clearer had they filmed it better in that respect.

    Can't say too much about "Cyborg," thought it was good, much better than have been of late and of course, still the issues you mention about character motivation are the real problems. Martha and Lionel being the chief suspects. I'm wondering if the idea is that Lex has always been doing these kinds of things only we haven't been privy to it. He's always been very careful to keep his devious activities hidden. When he drugged that one guy a few wyears ago in order to deliver him back to his father and put him in the trunk, it was unexpected. I think there were alot more of those and worse throughout the years.

    Not shown, though, which is important.

    Wow that Lanafan is quite...quite...something.

    Yes. See below.

    My wife asked me the other day about that whole "aren't Clark and Lana NOT a couple now?" thing and I think it's more of Lana staying with him after his Dad died. Like she did with Whitney. If you remember, she was going to break up with Whitney but then, he needed her - so she said and it wasn't the right time. Same thing here I think. Plus I think that Lana might not really want to break up with Clark but the whole secret thing is too much. I won't get into all her lies and secrets and HUGE ANNOYING THINGS THAT SHE DOES again.

    Word again!

    See ya,

    Scotty V

    Thanks.

    marklar wrote:
    Hey neal, sorry for the length of the letter but i have a few suspicions that i want to tell you.

    Marklar marklar! Marklar.

    What I think they're (the producers) planning to do with smallville is make us hate lana so much that when they replace her with lois (chloe?) none of us, even the lana-lovers will care. This comes to me since they will be definitly be breaking her and clark up this season and reading the spoilers, it appears that lana will be kissing lex (real, not like 'reckoning'). Now that will definitly make us hate lana if she has an affair with lex, won't it? Then when they send lana to collage (or hell, im hoping) they won't a storm of protest and perhaps a slight drop in ratings.

    I don't know. She's already in college. I think this is just trying to rile things up, and she'll be right with Clark in the finale, until they break up in the finale, only to get back together in the premiere.

    Anyway, if you pay attention, they're replacing the character (and personality) lana was in seasons 1-3 with chloe (in relation to clark). This supports my theory that they'll soon have lana go the way of poor pete. Maybe they won't make her disappear, but they probably break her and clark up and maybe confine her to a minute part of the show.

    If only...

    Daniel wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    I hope this hiatus is treating you well. It got me thinking a bit about the show and the direction of a potentially great and potentially dangerous storyline: Lexana. You've seemed to be outspoken against it, so I want to hear your thoughts on this developing arc.

    I hate it with a hate so perfect you could set a nuclear clock to it. There's no reason for Lex to want her. She already doesn't want Lex. There's something to be said for the best friend stealing your girl and thus a hatred starts. But they're not saying it. At all.

    The way I see it, Lexana has the possibility of accomplishing certain things necessary for the show and proving to me that it hasn't already jumped the shark.

    First off, it could help Lana grow as a character.

    By dating a rich psychopath?

    From the very beginning of the show, it has been demonstrated that the two most important things to her is the fear of being alone (thus needing the comfort of love due to her parents' death) and the need to be told the truth.

    While therefore dating men constantly who lie to her. ;)

    While the latter has made her a bit annoying and seemingly unappreciative at times when she uses it as an excuse to attack Clark despite the countless times he has saved her, it is the former that has made me especially peeved at her character. Over four and a half years later, Lana still maintains this fear. Although the nightmare scene from Scare was pretty badass, it only serves to prove the point that she has not developed as a character. She has not proven to be capable of being independent and doing things under her own initiative. Case in point. She only urges Lex to fund the Talon as a coffee-shop with Clark's encouragement. She only goes to Paris due to Clark pulling away and Lex pushing her there. She returns home, not because she is satisfied with her experience, but because of a mysterious message in the form of a tattoo on her back. She has never come across as independent and charismatic, which has, in turn, made her passive aggressive, and probably the most loved and hated character on the show.

    Concurrently, however, realize that most of the other characters didn't develop much. But they all at least have some redeeming quality.

    This is why I think Lexana has some merit. As she becomes involved with Lex, she will inevitably be exposed to some of his darker dealings, some of which may include Clark. She may eventually realize that she has to continue the relationship (or break away from it), not because she wants to, but to protect Clark. And, let's say Lex actually becomes increasingly aware of Clark's secret, she may have to maintain the relationship to be current with exactly what Lex knows about Clark. Suddenly, she is doing something out of her own initiative and stands up for both herself and Clark. She does not rely on someone pushing her to do so, but instead acts under her own volition. The thought of character progression for Lana may seem ludicrous, but I really hope the show doesn't reach a conclusion with this version of Lana Lang.

    It doesn't sound ludicrous. It just sounds beyond the current staff.

    One thing that made me skeptical about the merits of Lexana is Lex's reasons for being with her. Outside of Kristin Kreuk's beauty, it never really made sense to me (and thus has promoted a superficial message about love). Having participated in various forums, several points have been brought to my attention. The first is that Lana is the last person who can keep Lex from truly embracing the Lex Luthor of comic lore. However, I have several problems with this. Firstly, given the end of Lexmas, it seems that he no longer fears the darkness, but is instead preparing himself for it. He does not seem to need the light that Lana brings to his life. Either Lexmas was poorly timed and/or it was artificial.

    Little of A, little of B.

    Also, it puts Lana at the center of Lex's final downfall, which is a disservice to Lex and Lana. Lana has never come across as a character deserving of this role and even if they do a better job with her later, I cannot imagine or possibly accept this. In my mind, the final descent of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent's embracing of his destiny as Superman should be simultaneous and, unintentionally, due to each other. You may disagree with this, but this is simply my interpretation of the mythology. Therefore, Lana should not be central, but a significant part nonetheless.

    Actually I agree. I think Lana is tangential to the Lex and Clark relationship, not integral. LOIS, however, is integral. Later.

    So this brings me to my next point. Perhaps Lex is entering this relationship with an ulterior motive. Perhaps he is trying to dangle this relationship in the face of Clark Kent. Perhaps he feels Lana can ultimately lead him to a discovery of Clark's secrets. Perhaps he has another motive. However, whatever it is, I am afraid that if there is an ulterior motive, it will come across as disingenuous. The relationship has been foreshadowed from the very beginning and has never been portrayed in this manner. If, all of a sudden, Lex has an ulterior motive with Lana, won't that come across as a bit insincere? It is something Lex would do, but seems inconsistent.

    Yes.

    I was reading some of your past reviews, and I don't remember which one it was, but you brought up the Clark/Lois/Lex triangle that has been a common motif in many comics and incarnations of the Superman story.

    All of my favorite ones, anyway.

    Having found out that the producers initially had intended to create a show about Lois Lane, it seems like this triangle would have been central to the show. Since they were ultimately left with Smallville and couldn't do that show, I think I understand why the producers have always wanted to do the Lexana storyline. Being unfamiliar with the Clark/Lois/Lex triangle, could you highlight some of its merits and how it could potentially tie in with the Clark/Lana/Lex triangle that is impending.

    It's rough, because it involves a lot of what I think I'm going to write if I ever get my shakes with Supes, but the basics are that Lex built Metropolis and was satisfied. He had all the power he could ever want. So he sought love. He fell in love with Lois, who snubbed him but was on the way to coming around. Superman appears, she falls in love with him, Lex loses his only love and thus the rest of his morality/humanity. That's the short version.

    All in all, I apologize for this long message. I'm just curious about your thoughts on Lexana and whether or not you feel that it could work or if you are totally against the idea. Thanks and I await your review of Hypnotic. Here's to hoping that we aren't disappointed.

    No problem. I think ANYTHING can work with good writing. Like Kung Pow. I'm sure on SOME planet, Squeaky Shoes has great Kung Fu skills. His weakness is that this is Earth. ;)

    -Daniel

    Thanks.

    David Wilkins (davincent98@yahoo.com) wrote:
    I noticed recently that Cyborg is Jett Jackson. I am surprised that you did not mention that.

    I don't know who Jett Jackson is. Checking online.

    Ah. That explains it. It was on TV in that critical gap where I was without television in college.

    AND NOW, FOR THE MAIN EVENT!

    LanaFan315 wrote:
    Hello, Neal.

    I have to say I was surprised by your positive review of "Cyborg", since most of the episodes I've liked lately have been excoriated by you.

    I excoriate politicians. This is all in good fun.

    "Reckoning" with a "less than 3" rating comes to mind. It just shows how much you've changed since the beginning of the show.

    If I didn't change in five years, I'd be worries.

    "Hothead" gets a 4? "Jitters" and "Nicodemus" get 5's? The quality of the reviews may increase over the years, but your bitterness about the show has also increased, and to the point where it's affecting your objectivity. So I was pleased to see that "Cyborg" got a friendly reception, though I think we enjoyed the episode for entirely different reasons.

    Here's something that gets misconstrued a lot. In the first year of the show, when there were only 10-15 shows with freaks, where we hadn't seen the plots over and over again, Hothead was a 4. Jitters and Nicodemus were fives. If they were aired now, they'd likely get lower ratings, because the show never evolved. That's not a lack of objectivity. Quite to the contrary, I think a lack of objectivity is pretending the show should never move forward and stay the same forever and ever amen.

    To me, the episode was part racism drama, part criticism of Clark's unjustifiable secretiveness, part celebration of Lana's compassion, and part condemnation of Chloe's betrayal. You touched on some of these, but I was expecting more on the racism front, since the episode beat us over the head with it, as opposed to "Tomb"'s more subtle approach.

    There was no racism or racist commentary in that episode, period. It had a black character, that's it. Where you get a "celebration of Lana's compassion" baffles me, as do most things you say.

    You may recall the recent analysis of the movie "King Kong" as a racism drama.

    Yeah. And just like saying Star Wars was racist because of Jar Jar, that analysis was bullsh$# too. To even state that King Kong was racist is for you to assume that monkeys can be equated with black people or some other minority, which is, in itself, offensively racist. King Kong, if anything, is a story of fear of the unknown. For people who find opposing races the unknown it might be a racism drama, but by no means is it that explicitly.

    Similar patterns emerge early on in the episode, with the black man in the modern version of chains, and when he's released, the white man scientist responds "put him back in his cage". I think it should be obvious where they were going with this.

    So if Cyborg was white, would it be a racism drama? I think you're off base there. It's not because he was black. It's because he had the cybernetic ability to throw idiots through walls if he wanted to.

    The scientist who frees Cyborg is an Asian man who immediately opens the episode with an apology "for what we did to you".

    And? What have Asian nations historically EVER done to black men? Your metaphor fails critically.

    Beginning the episode in such a sudden and ambiguous manner is either a sign of bad writing or intentional symbolism that we're meant to interpret.

    Hmmm. I'm gonna go with bad writing. Occam's Razor.

    The scientist is apologizing, on behalf of non-blacks, for the persecution of their race.

    What? Where the hell do you get that?

    Having "The Man" show up and say let's put him back in his cage is a representation of the regressive whites who want the oppression of blacks to continue. No rocket science yet.

    You're projecting that onto the plot. Quite obviously.

    But it's interesting that they specifically use an Asian man to act as the agent of Cyborg's liberation.

    No. It's just casting. If ANYTHING, it's representative of an archetype of the "smart" Asian dude.

    Many organizations concerned with the treatment of race in the media have noted the under-representation of Asian men, while Asian women are frequently displayed and fetishized (buttressing your inaccurate characterization of Lana on Smallville, ironically).

    Or perhaps affirming what I say as truth. Asian featured woman? Fetishized. Asian man? How many have we seen on the show after Kwan? But do I think that's because they're racist? No.

    When Asian men do appear, they're often cast in stereotypical roles, usually scientists or doctors. But since the opening scene is all about scientists anyway, I doubt malignant stereotyping was in play here.

    But still, you somehow see a context of an asian man freeing a black man from white indentured servitude somehow? Oy.

    Instead, the Asian man is used to represent the progressive side of the non-white community, to be set in contrast to "The Man".

    I take personal umbrage to that. I'm a progressive myself in many ways, and I don't think we strive to force blacks to free themselves from "The Man". I think the overall goal of a progressive attitude toward race relation is to just regard everyone for their essential humanity, not to force a reparation.

    Many whites view Asians as being essentially whites, something you alluded to in reference to Lana (you point out she's half-white, but keep in mind that racial labeling does not always make logical sense; Barack Obama may have been raised by his white mother, but you'll find far more people viewing him as a black man than a white one, though genetically speaking he is equally both).

    Genetically speaking, there's no difference in skin pigmentation. It's all perceived. And trust me, I live in a town where there are a LOT of Asians and a lot of people who hate Asians. They're not seen as white by anyone who sees race as a factor. Read, racists.

    The white view of Asians as being co-equal with whites is something that dates back to 1905, when the Japanese defeated the Russians in what can be described as a major upset. British colonial policies in Southeast Asia, for instance, were revised to give Japanese residents equal status with whites.

    Oh really? That's just great. I'm glad they were our equals when we locked them up in internment concentration camps here in my own state in the 1940s just for being Asian. What a marvel for race relations that was. And hey, nothing quite like the love we showed the Asian community when we went to war in first Korea and then Vietnam. Go race relations!

    And hey, I'll bet the 145,000 Asians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 find their equal residence status great! Just superb!

    Racial discrimination against Asians continued, of course. Japanese-Americans were placed into prison camps due to their race during World War 2, over 70 years after the last black slave was freed (though Japanese in Hawaii, the one place where the Japanese logically could have and did use spies to assist in their attacks, were NOT interned, thus proving that racial intolerance was the motivating factor).

    Y'think?

    But Asians in America succeeded in moving out of poverty in the succeeding generations despite not having a prominent civil rights movement, their own version of Martin Luther King, or an affirmative action program. Neither political party in America can take credit for these achievements, so they go unpublicized. But whites are aware of them, and treat Asians differently as a result. But while many whites may view Asians as being "like whites", Asians do not. Making the Asian scientist's "we" acceptance of guilt in the racism drama all the more intriguing.

    Or it could just mean "We", like the scientists at that facility. Which would be, I don't know, sane?

    Then we get our car crash and Squeaky Shoes out of the way in the first seven minutes. Lana's car crashes into Cyborg. Okay, so you make a big point about how terrible a driver Lana is. I don't feel she's portrayed that way.

    Nah. She just runs stops signs into school busses and hits people while distracted. That's just a minor mark on an otherwise flawless record.

    If she were, I would be the first to criticize Smallville for indulging in the stereotype that women are bad drivers, or that Asians are bad drivers.

    My God, you are shameless.

    But Lana is no worse a driver than anyone else on this show. There have been car crashes in nearly episode of this show.

    How many the explicit fault of the agent that I haven't criticized?

    The only reason you jump on Lana about it is because you hate Lana.

    No. If Lex did it, I'd criticize him. When Chloe DID do it, I criticized her.

    Actually, Lana is one of the best drivers on the show, when you take into account how many on-screen implied trips she's made without incident. Since you like calculating gas consumption, I'm surprised you didn't consider this. The only reason Clark doesn't get into more car crashes is because he runs everywhere. And still, the Kent pick-up truck has been in a zillion incidents.

    See above.

    Clark tells his secret to Cyborg. This is important. But while you ask about why Clark does this, it's plainly clear. Two reasons. One, Clark displayed his powers in front of Cyborg already. What good does it do him to make up a lie that still includes him having powers? Two, and this is the important one, CYBORG TOOK LANA TO THE SQUEAKY SHOES. Apparently helping Lana isn't worthy of a payback in your book.

    Not when telling the person who helped Lana might get her killed. People who find out Clark's secret go homicidal and kill people. Usually they try and kill Lana.

    So Clark asks Lana, "what did he look like?" and we get that quick scene-cut. I agree with you, that was funny. I wanted to hear Lana say one of two things: "Well, he's black", in which case every over-sensitive person in the audience says "why is race the first thing Lana notices? She's a racist!" Or, Lana can say, "Well, he's a young... man... and he has dark hair, and uh, dark eyes, and... oh yeah, I just remembered, he might've been black. But I don't think about stuff like that, so I didn't really notice."

    Finally, we agree on something.

    CYBORG IS BLACK! BLACK! There's a difference between living in a color-blind society and a BLIND-BLIND society. But the quick scene-cut spares us this realization. Instead, Clark speeds off and immediately finds Cyborg based upon Lana's description. Again, I'm with you on this one, it's funny that Clark finds him so easily. Maybe Lana did give him Cyborg's race and he's the only black guy in Metropolis. Or maybe Pete happened to be in town, and Clark did a very quick double-take and sped off without saying hello. Because Pete apparently doesn't deserve a phone call. Or maybe Pete can't afford a cellphone.

    But in all seriousness, it's not that unreasonable. To some, black people all look alike, but not to Lana. She probably gave Clark a very detailed description. Or even more likely, she drew a picture, like a sketch artist who works for the police.

    In the time it took her to draw said picture, he would have been gone. She might have constructed a skyscraper at some point, but unless I see it, it didn't happen.

    In case you've forgotten, Lana happens to be an extremely talented artist who was accepted to a prestigious art school in France.

    Yeah. Right. Me too.

    And this didn't pop out of nowhere, it was one of many well-established gifts that Lana happens to possess.

    She's selling paintings. Yeah. That's how she affords all that crap. Right.

    Kind of like Clark's multi-functional superhero power-kit, only Lana didn't get her talents on a silver platter, and she didn't set fires or perv on girls in the locker room in order to "master" them. Granted, Lana doesn't use her "Lana-Fu" as much as you'd like, but you could just as easily slap Clark for not sniping all of his enemies at 100 yards with heat vision in case they were toting the odd kryptonite chunk. Since it's everywhere.

    I do.

    The next part of the show, as you said, does the parallel of Cyborg & girlfriend, and Lana & Clark. Why is this a bad thing? Smallville is about Lana and Clark, not Cyborg and his girlfriend. Bringing in Cyborg and his girlfriend is useful only insofar as it furthers our understanding of the central characters. You may not think that there was any character development here, but that's only because you refuse to accept the message that was being sent: Clark and Lana are quite different--in ways that set Lana in a favorable contrast.

    Yes. I do refuse to accept that message. Because that's not the message that was sent.

    Clark talks to Cyborg about powers and keeping secrets. Clark: "I'll help you"; Cyborg: "You'd do that for me?"; Clark: "Of course, because I'm super. Lana doesn't know, by the way." Implied? I'll help you, Cyborg, but you'd better keep my secret. Or else you're dead meat.

    Oh yeah. He totally threatens him with death. I saw that. Right.

    Lana talks to Cyborg about his relationship with his girlfriend and honesty. Lana is the one who gets Cyborg to be honest with his girlfriend and accept the consequences. Result? Happiness of Cyborg. Cyborg acting like a human being. Cyborg's girlfriend being in a healthy relationship. The difference? Clark could give a crap.

    Right. I totally saw that by moving heaven and earth to save Cyborg's life, Clark could give a crap.

    Lana is better than Clark. There, I said it. So has Smallville. All along you've been wondering when Clark will start acting like the Superman you know. Well, he's got a lot to learn, and from the looks of it he's got to learn it from Lana. She's a better person than he is. Clark will become Superman because of Lana. Or else in the series finale of Smallville, we discover that Lana was Super(wo)man all along--though I fear for the physical safety of those in your proximity when that happens.

    Oh ho! So funny. So because I disagree with Lana, she'll likely kill or hurt me if she ever gets superpowers. Face it. She's amazing. And she really is better than Clark. I mean, look at all the sacrifices she's made, quitting school to take care of her family, saving all kinds of lives, protecting innocents, never pouting when she doesn't get her way...

    Er, wait. That's Clark.

    Alright Neal, let's have it out once and for all on this issue of Clark's all-important secret. The thing that drives Lana nuts every episode around 8:50 or so. The irritant that constantly hurts the woman Clark is supposed to love, and which causes her to be angry with him. (Or as you would say, passive-aggressive, though apparently being obvious about keeping important secrets from someone is not passive-aggressive.)

    No. That's a lie. It's an active aggression. And it's wrong. I've said that. But an active aggression is less of a wrong than a passive one. It's not manipulative in the same destructive sense.

    Clark has told a zillion lies over the course of Smallville. Since the motivation of these lies is always to cover up his secret, you argue that he's really only told one lie.

    Or a variation on one.

    I see it as a zillion lies. The fact that they're all told in order to keep one secret, to me, only serves to demonstrate the enormity of the secret and Clark's willingness to go to any lengths to cover it up--and has no bearing on the number of the lies he's told.

    Even if he's told a million billion, if the reason is to SAVE LIVES, it is a GOOD lie.

    Your principle that it's only one lie if they're all intended to cover up one secret can lead to absurd results. As an example, the criminals at Enron lied a zillion times and committed fraud a zillion times. The motivation of all of these lies was to cover up one secret, that the company was financially unsound. But I think you might agree with me here that the Enron criminals were guilty of more than one lie. If so, your principle is unsound.

    You assume, passively, that I say that because it's only one lie (which I didn't say) that it's okay. It's not okay. And I never said it was. I said it was a more moral action than Lana's passive aggressive pouting to get what she wants. Enron STOLE from people. Stole their RETIREMENT. Clark lies to SAVE LIVES. Big difference, and I refuse to believe you don't see it.

    But if you admit that logically you can't apply your principle of one-secret-one-lie, you'd probably distinguish Enron from Clark by pointing to the value of the secret, or the intentions.

    Yes.

    Why does Clark have to keep his bloody secret? From Lana? Or at all? In other words, what is the value of the secret Clark constantly lies about and hurts people for? You take it for granted that Clark has to keep his secret since it's an integral part of his comicbook persona, but I think we ought to really challenge it.

    No, I don't. He doesn't have to keep his secret because of the comic. I never said that. Though it makes sense. He has to keep his secret because when people find out, they DIE. His girlfriend he told. Dead. Ryan. Dead. His dad tried to stop someone from learning the secret. Dead. Most every freak who finds out, dead. Even LANA, when he told her, DEAD.

    Value of Clark's Secret: he gets to play like he's a normal human being, and eventually gets to be a reporter, and no one's the wiser.

    And no one's DEAD.

    Is that worth all of the harm Clark has caused?

    The only harm it's caused is Lana's perceived slight. Her not total control and manipulation of his person.

    And note that if he simply told Lana the truth, he could still keep his secret from the rest of the world.

    Yes. Because she wouldn't be able to tell anyone when she was DEAD.

    You even have a running list of people who know Clark's secret, many of them homicidal maniacs. But Lana's in the dark. I say nuts to that.

    In this we agree. But his rationale is still of kindness, not evil.

    At this point you say, "Wrong, LanaFan315, the Value of Clark's Secret is that IT SAVES LIVES."

    Nuts to that. Whose lives?

    Alicia. Tons more.

    Clark's father, who's dead? Clark's mother, who's been attacked by Krypto-maniacs already and enjoys midnight jaunts around Suicide Slums? Lana, whose life is endangered by homicidal maniacs on a weekly basis? Chloe, who was supposed to have been murdered by Lionel a few years ago? Pete, who's already dead for all we know? Lois, who was nearly killed by a bald girl for no apparent reason? Lex, who gets attacked by gun-wielding maniacs and bald girls all the time anyway? Clark's dog, which--

    Okay, maybe Clark's dog.

    Or perhaps Clark's own life. Yes, that's it, if the government finds out about Clark, they'll dissect him in a laboratory. Baloney.

    Uh, yeah, because our government would never in a million years react to something they don't understand with surprise, fear, and violence, right? Let's ask the Asians we put in concentration camps about that and then come back to the subject, shall we?

    If Clark's secret got out, George W. Bush would invite him to the ranch and politely ask him to find Osama bin Laden.

    "What does this guy look like?"

    Cut to Clark bringing in the terrorists. And yes, I'm opening a super-sized can of worms here, but why can't Clark be working for the government to help save thousands of lives? Logical division of labor, Clark hunts the terrorists while the government takes care of that stupid farm.

    For the same reason he's not a Democrat or a Republican. He chooses not to alter the course of human destiny out of respect for our right to determine our own future.

    And anyway, I'm convinced George Bush could give a solid $#%@ about where Osama is so long as he's not being asked about it, Clark or no.

    In addition to the lives that Clark would save by revealing his secret, how about preventing Lex from becoming an nuclear threat to the United States?

    He's simply not a nuclear threat in any way. Why would Clark try and stop that now?

    From the start it's been obvious that Clark is the reason Lex is turning evil. A scenario for you, Neal: on day one, Lex confronts Clark and Clark tells the truth. Result? I see them being good friends. You know, because Lex actually has one person in his life who is completely honest with him.

    Four years ago, maybe.

    I think the whole point of Lex's development thus far is the fact that he is completely alone and distrustful of the world, so he tries to protect himself by gathering up infinite power, destroying everything in the process.

    Which is why I sympathize with his plight.

    If Clark were an actual friend instead of, well, the guy who barges into his house a few times a week, we might see a different Lex.

    I agree. And often say as much.

    Oh yeah...and Lionel knows!

    I was surprised by your interpretation of the events surrounding the blackmail, however. I didn't see Lionel discovering Clark's secret in the process of the blackmail, as you implied in your quick summary. Lionel set the whole blackmail thing up! And I don't think he found out from the tape, either. He's known long in advance; the tape was just the proof.

    I've had that down in the KO Count since year two.

    How did Lionel know? Chloe told him. Now before you start leaping to Chloe's defense, consider that there was a grain of truth in every one of Clark's delusions in "Splinter": Jonathan really was offered money by Lionel for the campaign; Lex really was in love with Lana; Chloe really did keep a steady e-mail correspondence with Lionel.

    Chloe didn't tell him. If she had, the show would have shown it. As it has not, I'm not going to assume she did. Clark could have told Lana already about his secret, and she could just be faking for cameras in the ceiling. It's a possibility, yeah, but it's so absurd and irrational it's not worth pondering.

    So you've asked the question of why Chloe would bother chatting online with the guy who tried to murder her in the not-too-distant past. You've got two choices: (A) Bad Writing (B) Good writing with implications that you don't like.

    Occam's Razor. A.

    The answer is (B). Lionel comes to Chloe and says, "Look, we both know I tried to kill you. And I'm out of prison. I could try again, and I would succeed. But I'm a businessman. I gain nothing by killing you except to wipe that glib, self-satisfied smirk off your annoying little face. However, by allowing you to live, I can gain what I really want: information on Clark Kent."

    Chloe: "Okay, the first thing you need to know about is the kryptonite..."

    Where's my evidence? Well, given the choice between Chloe giving up the secret under threat of death, or Chloe just casually trading e-spam with Lionel, I'd say one makes more sense than the other. And yes, Chloe sucks.

    And where was this scene again?

    As for Martha, sheesh. Overreact much, Neal? You say she's effectively jumping in the sack with Lionel? I don't think so. If you ask me, she's playing him right back.

    And where was this scene again?

    She gains nothing by ticking him off. By playing along, she may learn his plans. If he's got bad intentions, it's better to keep her enemies closer.

    Lex thinks that way. Not Martha.

    If he turns out to be clean, well, I guess rehabilitation in prison actually worked. But for you to think that Martha's all of a sudden jumping into bed with Lionel, gimme a break. Is she dishonoring Jonathan's memory by letting it go this far? Possibly. As much as you hate to admit it, Lana would remain more faithful than Martha has. But at least Martha's no Chloe. Chloe, as you'll recall, was seduced by some guy in a bowtie.

    Oh, the horror of being sexually active! What an evil, evil woman Chloe is!

    But you say Martha's actions are as logical as Clark dating dudes, and that there's nothing wrong with Clark dating dudes. Nice. So Clark having pre-marital sex was bad for the show because of certain values Superman is supposed to have, but Clark having homosexual sex with "dudes" is okay.

    No. Clark having pre-marital sex is bad because it takes a side on ambiguous, debatable values, not because it's against Superman's values. And you further misconstrue my point, missing it entirely.

    Yeah. That made no sense to me, but then I remembered that Clark's pre-marital sex was with Lana, and that's the real problem you had with it.

    In my humble opinion.

    ~LanaFan315

    Daniel wrote:
    Hey Neal,

    I wrote up a review for Hypnotic that I thought I would submit to you. I'm also trying to get it submitted to DTS and I hope it is okay if it goes to both places. It's really long, so if you don't want to publish it, it's fine. Otherwise, we'll see how much we agree/disagree!

    I publish all! And thankee.

    Well, it's been many weeks since the last Smallville episode and I expected to return to something pretty good. Boy was I wrong. Way wrong.

    I thought about sugar-coating my review for this episode. It's my first full-blown review, why should I be so harsh. But then I thought about. That would be doing a disservice to the show.

    We agree.

    Before I go into the specifics of this episode, I just want to make this point. I've seen every episode of Smallville from Pilot to this. For the first three seasons, Smallville gave us the standard Clark Kent. The show gave us straightforward plots - some good, some bad. But, for the most part, they stayed away from cheap gimmicks and little devices to twist what we expect to see coming. And you know what, it worked. Smallville's run through the first three seasons was very, very good. Then, everything changed. I don't know why and I don't want to, but one thing is for sure, they need to return to the status quo. Do not waste our time by giving us stuff we do not want to see. Tricks and devices, when they work are great, but when they do not, as is the case with this episode, they stink. And the fumes keep on coming.

    Carry on!

    You can probably tell that I am referring to the hypnotic rock that Simone was wearing. They created so many plot holes and inconsistencies with that storyline that I cannot even believe that a living and breathing person actually wrote it. I simply get the feeling they write the episode and then send it out to the cast. No one looks over it. No one checks for continuity. And above that, no one seems to really even care. The writing has gone from bad to worse and I just do not think that this trend will stop. I expect the same terrible writing until the finale when they will give us something really good to make us think this show is still worth watching. Don't get me wrong. I'll watch this show until its final episode. But I hate the feeling that I am going to be continually disappointed. How could a show with so much promise and so many brilliant moments have come to this? Wow, it is not even worth considering.

    Or is worth a lot of considering. But is frustrating when we have to.

    So, now I will get to those gritty details. The hypnotic rock was never really explained. It was a stone from a renowned hypnotist who could cure cancer and was killed by his own daughter. First of all, cancer? I have heard of Eastern medicinal practices, but please. Mind control does not suddenly kill all of your cancer cells. Bad line. Unnecessary and could have been avoided. But then again, I would expect nothing less.

    Heh. I missed that one. Great!

    Now, with a stone like that, a person could wield quite a great deal of power. No one could possibly get any leverage on them. Now, I'll assume that this was the progression of events behind the scenes. Lex discovers that famous hypnotist was murdered. Then, he manages to uncover that Simone killed him. He then contacts Simone, over the phone, and black mails her and only leaves her some basic instructions for further contact ensuring that they never actually meet. But what were Lex's plans if all this worked? Did he really think that she would simply leave? Was he that dumb? No, not my Lex Luthor. He would have had a contingency plan for this circumstance, but clearly he did not. That is not my Lex Luthor and that is terrible characterization. Bad writing.

    Also, someone with as much power as Simone really had with the rock probably would not have let Lex gain the upper-hand. It would not have been difficult to get information on his whereabouts and bring him to his knees. There was nothing that could possibly stop her at all and yet, she decides to go along. Simone would have tried to kill Lex from the very beginning. If she is the type that would kill her father for a hypnotic rock, she is the type that would not even consider being black mailed by Lex. That just did not work for me.

    Very much agreed.

    So, Clark and Simone did not have sex? Well, that was expected, but why not? I guess you could say all she wanted to do was break up Clark and Lana and then stop. I guess it makes her less of a prostitute. But she seemed pretty into it. I just do not buy that. Plus, it was a great opportunity for them to answer the question of whether or not Clark Kent/Superman can have sex with a human. They brought the question up and considering that this is actually one of the ways they can answer it because they are not going to show Clark willingly have sex with Lana to check if he can control himself, I am disappointed that they actually did not answer it. At least give us something from that rock. If the show is not willing to find a resolution to that issue then do not bring up the question in the first place. It is how things are usually done. Good grief.

    Real sex? Happening? Shallow characters all about sexuality actually HAVING sex? Whaaaaaaaaaaat? FCC!

    Well, I guess I will have to comment briefly on the Clark and Simone foreplay scene. Seeing as I am a male, I really did not care much about how hot Clark was. Actually, I hardly paid attention to Simone. This show has decided to give us more mature subject matter. Fine. This show has decided to deal with the issue of sex and Clark Kent. Fine. It certainly humanizes him. But this show has miserably failed with the issue. As a show about Clark Kent they have a responsibility to send a positive message about sexual intercourse. I am not specifically referring to abstinence or premarital sex, but more to what it means in a relationship. They have been so far off the wall with the issue that I cannot imagine what kind of message it is providing the younger viewers. This is not even close to what I expected.

    I didn't expect it. But agreed.

    Okay, now that I have vented for long enough, I'll go into some of the good parts. Lex and Brainiac. Wow and wow. Now, the cynic in me believes that they will ruin this like they ruined so many good storylines this season. The optimist in me hopes they will not. There were some subtle points in their dialogue that actually is very good. Lex Luthor may not be showing his entire hand. He may know more about Brainiac than he is letting on. Considering the way they ended that scene where Lex is told who Brainiac really is, I fully believe this to be the case. Now, this is the Lex Luthor I know. How this is the same guy who failed to consider the ramifications of black mailing a woman with a hypnotic rock is beyond me. This exchange has quite a bit of great setup for what is to come. We know something big is going to hit us with these characters and the return of Brainiac and I, for one, cannot wait. If this storyline is not ruined, then we may actually be getting something really good. I will give Smallville the benefit of the doubt here and convince myself that this aspect of the episode redeemed parts of it.

    Now for the breakup of Clark and Lana. Let me just say this, so everyone knows where I am coming from, I am a non-shipper in the show. In fact, I really do not like most ships since I think these relationships have been a distraction for Clark along his journey. They do a play a part in that journey, but they have been portrayed so poorly that I am firmly a non-shipper. I can almost be considered an anti-Clana shipper just because the angst in the relationship as been so over the top it makes me feel like I am swimming in a toilet filled with my own feces. And that is hardly a knock against the ship. It's a knock against the writing. Can you tell what I think of the writers? You may not believe it, but I am actually censoring myself on their behalf.

    Now that I have established that I am a non-shipper, I was greatly disappointed in the break up of Clark and Lana. Not that I did not want it to happen, but it just happened in the absolute worst way. First we get Lana walking in on Clark and Simone. Fine. Her pain - very real. Kudos to Kristin Kreuk for her acting here. But then, ultimately, it was not really the last straw of the relationship. They could have taken the whole Clark and Simone storyline out and the end still would have worked - for the most part. Just continues to prove that the Clark and Simone storyline was completely worthless.

    Yes.

    So, Clark goes to Chloe and tells her that he cannot continue the relationship with Lana. He cannot continue to cause her pain. The one part of the Simone and Clark storyline that actually had an impact on the characters of the episode is that it showed Clark how much pain he could cause Lana. Brilliant line and very true. I do not necessarily buy that Chloe would be so adamant about Clark continuing the relationship with Lana, but I will let that slide because she is both Clark's and Lana's friend. Trust me, I could nitpick about Chloe here, but I will not. I just do not have that in me.

    But then we get the actual break up of Clark and Lana. So, Clark says that he cannot continue to cause Lana pain. What does he do? He breaks up with her and causes her more pain than he did initially. Mainly because it confirmed everything he said when Lana walked in on him and Simone. Do I believe that Clark really does not love Lana? Well, not really and definitely not that intensely, but I do understand that he could not leave any doubt in Lana's mind. Either they break-up completely or Lana is going to pull a Season 3 on us all over again. Now, instead, we get junkie Lana, which may be worst. At least Jonathon Kent may save next week's episode. But that is neither here nor there. The fact is that the Clark Kent I know from this show is not the kind of person that would cause Lana that much pain. He said so himself earlier with Chloe. And I believed it because that is who Clark Kent is. And then, he bluntly tells her that he does not love her. And the intonation in his voice made it seemed like he hated her. He gave Lana a reason to hate him for what he is doing and frankly, it is all too contrived. They want to setup everything with Lana for the rest of this season and on into the next, but this is just so forced. Frankly, Clark could have let her down much easier. He could have told her that he just cannot be honest with her and she deserves someone better. He could have told her that he keeps on being the source of her pain and he does not have it in him to see her suffer. That is what Clark Kent would do. Now, that would not have been a clean break. Lana may still have tagged along waiting to see if Clark changes his mind. We would get Season 3 all over again, but, in terms of characterization, it is far more believable than what we got. I understand what they were trying to do, but this was just a terrible conclusion for Lana and Clark. And I do not even ship them. I really empathize with Clana shippers, because this was just a bad way to see your ship sink.

    If it is. I think they'll be back together relatively shortly.

    So, now I get to actually quantify my rating. Hmm. I will give it a 2/5. You may wonder, given all the things I disliked, why such a high rating? Well, I guess Lex and Brainiac redeemed some elements of this episode. And that is all dependent on a couple of conditions. The Brainiac, Lex, and Clark triangle lives up to my expectations. Brainiac's return is explained and what exactly happened between Solitude and Hypnotic that saw him land in Honduras. And Lex ultimately proves to be concealing parts of his hand; because that is the Lex Luthor I want to watch. So, yeah, I will stick with my 2/5 - a solid F-. And I apologize for such a long review. I guess I really needed to get a lot off my chest.

    No problem. You're kinder than I was, but still, awesome review.

    Thanks, all! Until junkie Lana, I remain,

    Neal



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