Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 10: "Troubled Waters"Reviewed by: Scotty V
This episode begins with the now familiar "new" opening featuring scenes that happen during this season. After the theme, we see approximately thirty citizens seated in town hall, listening to a Mr. Cal Kenderson (Peter Palmer) who claims he wants to help them by buying their farmland. Though the area is going through a bit of a depression, Jonathan Kent (Stuart Whitman) concedes, he believes that Kenderson might instead be interested in what lies beneath the farmland. Jonathan, with the help of Ellen Jensen (Juliana Donald), convinces the rest of the farmers to wait until he can check with the "geology people" at the state capital tomorrow morning. Kenderson tells Jonathan to "do what you have to" but that in a week all offers will be rescinded and he and his team will move on. Then, while Jonathan and friends are celebrating his idea, Kenderson meets two of his "colleagues in the back of the room" and tells them to make sure Jonathan doesn't get to the state capital.
The next day, Jonathan suffers injuries after a suspicious looking crash while driving his tractor. At the hospital, Ellen Jensen reaches Clark by phone in his dorm. Ellen tells him about the "accident" and infers that there have been many such "accidents" since the Kenderson people came to town. Clark says he'll be on a plane within an hour. After Ellen hangs up, we see a man in the waiting room lower his newspaper and it's one of Kenderson's flunkies. Clark actually arrives by plane and then when Ellen picks him up at the bus depot, Kenderson's thugs are waiting for them. When Clark and Ellen kiss, the men arrive, pick on Clark and smear him with mud. Clark falls to the ground, his glasses break and then he crushes a car's bumper in anger. The goons, not noticing, say he's not worth it and leave.
Later, Clark and Ellen arrive at the Kent farm. Martha (Salome Jens) and Jonathan hug him and ask what happened to his glasses. After Ellen leaves, Clark tells them the Kenderson boys attacked them and that they should tell him more about them because he doesn't want any more "accidents" happening to Pa. Jonathan tells Clark he's still young and he doesn't want to get Clark riled up causing him to tip off who he really is. Clark insists and they tell him they believe there might be something valuable under the land that Kenderson wants. Clark turns into Superboy and flies around, scanning the land with the X-ray vision he says, "I've been developing."
Clark is next seen choosing new glasses from a small cupboard in what appears to be the garage. He tries on several pair before he settles on one and then he finds an old slingshot that makes him smile. He then finds Pa, who is under the tractor working, and tells him that he found no mineral deposits in all his scans. Neither man understands it, but Pa insists they have to find out why Kenderson wants the land "before it's too late." Meanwhile, the Kenderson thugs are nearby setting up another "accident." This time it involves placing a rock on the gas petal of a fuel truck and aiming it at the Kent farm. Clark, still bending and speaking with Pa, hears the truck and runs out to stop it. When he reaches out to stop the vehicle, it explodes and Clark, now in full Superboy costume, watches as the men speed away in their truck.
At Kenderson's office, Clark overhears Kenderson on the phone talking about water and how he's lowered the price and that it can't be bought anywhere else for that low. Clark heads inside. The two thugs are in the office and Clark tells them all, Kenderson included, that if there are any more accidents or attempts on the Kent farm that they'll be making their deals from a hospital bed. Clark smirks at them all and leaves. Kenderson, angered that the men gave themselves away and that Clark would dare "talk to me like that" tells his men to see that Clark "can't talk at all for the next six months!"
The thugs follow Clark outside and begin beating the car he came in with bats and with wood. Clark watches them and does nothing, until they turn their attack on him. This time he throws both men through the window of Henderson's office, announces that he's into "pumping iron" and then peels out of their driveway and speeds off. Next we see Clark and Jonathan at the town hall discussing the water. Clark tells Pa he saw the river during his scans but that Henderson's plan for it didn't occur to him until he overheard the phone call. Mr. Bennington (Norman Lund), the bank owner is in attendance at the meeting. When Clark and Jonathan tell him what Kenderson is up to and that the town has stored enough grain to pay off the loans, Bennington agrees to hold off on the foreclosures. Bennington tells Ellen to go check the grain stores tomorrow morning and that, so long as they're full, he can tell his board of directors that foreclosure isn't necessary.
The next morning, Pa and Ellen drive up to the silo where they see Kenderson and his two thugs hooking up gas to the silo. Jonathan tells them to get away from there and when a thug pushes him, good ol' Pa socks him one in the face. Ellen grabs at Kenderson, telling him everyone will know what they've done but he laughs, telling her "at least one silo a year accumulates enough natural gas to blow itself sky high" and then he slaps her unconscious. The second thug joins in the fight against Jonathan, and though Pa Kent manages to knock him down as well, he's soon overwhelmed and they punch him to unconsciousness as well. Kenderson tells his men to put Kent and Ellen in the Jeep, and that "they'll think they drove up just as the silo exploded."
Martha and Clark, on the porch of the Kent home, discuss how the fields are ready for farming because Clark removed all the stones. Martha says she's worried about Pa and Ellen, that they should have been home an hour ago, so Clark turns to Superboy to investigate. When he arrives and finds them unconscious in the Jeep, Superboy uses his superbreath to awaken them. They tell him that Kenderson and his men are going to blow the silo and so, after telling Pa to "Get your truck outta here, Mr. Kent," and winking, Superboy flies off after the goons. He catches up to them just as they're about to blow the silo, heat visions their remote detonator and then tells them "you can get all the water you want in prison, and you won't have to pay a cent for it!"
Our final scene has the Kents and Ellen sitting around a table on the front porch sharing a meal. Lana calls to check on Pa's condition and asks if Ellen is still gorgeous. Ellen had asked Clark earlier if Lana was still gorgeous and to Lana Clark gives the same answer he gave Ellen, don't worry, he says, she's just a friend.
Rating - 1 (out of 5): Ok, so this one loses a few points from the four that the last two episodes received. The reason for this is that there are just too many inconsistencies, unexplainable happenstances and illogical behaviors for me to rate it any higher. It all starts to come undone as soon as Kenderson tells his thugs to make sure Kent doesn't make it to the state capital. I suppose it's possible a criminal businessman type would find Jonathan Kent's trip to be so threatening that he'd have him killed rather than let him go, but it just seems very unlikely that he'd already be prepared to resort to violence. Especially since the men he sends to do the job were in the town hall during the meeting. He even referred to them as his associates that would help the farmers make the best deal when they sold their land. The funny thing about that is, when you watch this episode and Kenderson gestures toward his colleagues in the back of the meeting room, the two thugs are clearly evident as thugs. It's actually really laughable. They stand there smoking in street clothes and cross their arms looking like tough guys, while the other money people sit at a table in business suits looking legit.
So then, when Jonathan has his accident, it just looks so silly that you can't even really have any actual concern for Pa. As I was watching this, I actually laughed at how terribly stupid the whole thing looked. Jonathan is driving the tractor and it starts to wobble, ever so slightly, as if it were out of control, except that it clearly isn't and it's simply wobbling ever so slightly. Pa Kent keeps trying to drive it where, if it really were out of control, you'd probably just shut it off. Now if it had immediately and more decisively veered to one side and then flipped over he wouldn't have the time, but since he drives it slightly wobbly for almost a whole minute, he could have certainly just hit the brakes or shut off the engine. If we assume he tried to stop or shut it down and simply couldn't (which they don't show us so I figure not) then when it finally does tip in the ditch it's gotta be on the effects people to make it look believable. The tractor tips so slowly and then the stunt man playing Jonathan clearly launches himself off and they add a scream from the actor. When Martha sees him fall and runs over, she finds him laying unconscious on flat, muddy ground. He has a laceration on his forehead and his face is covered in blood, even though there are no jagged edges, stones or any other seeable reason for him to be cut or unconscious.
Speaking of Jonathan and Martha. For me, these are the worst two actors ever cast to play these two pivotal people in Clark's life. Salome Jens, who plays Martha, is just such a poor actor that I really can't believe anything she says or does and I often laugh at some of her gestures and inflections. For instance, at one point toward the end, (after Clark and Martha wait AN HOUR before saying that Jonathan and Ellen should have been back an hour ago), when Clark changes to Superboy and flies off, Martha pumps her fist in supposed enthusiasm. The fist pump though, is so unenthusiastic and fake looking, that I had to watch it again just because it awed me so. Jonathan, played by Stuart Whitman, just seems way too brash and rough to play Jonathan for me. His acting isn't nearly as bad as Jens', but he just seems poorly cast. Another actor, who could come across as more wise and even gentle, might have worked better.
Now back to the whole waiting an hour to decide something should be done. First of all, when you know that there are bad guys in town who have tried to kill your father and blow up your home, you never let him go anywhere without being watched. Think about it, they are in the middle of dilemma, where Kenderson's thugs have attempted murder and destruction on various occasions and nothing is safe yet. Clark is there and doesn't have anything pressing to do so why doesn't he watch over them? The reason given in the writing is that he was clearing stones from the field so that Pa can farm it more easily. Ok, but why do they wait over an hour beyond the time Pa and Ellen should have been back to decide they're worried. Clark even agrees with Martha that he's worried too. If he and they are worried then why is Clark standing on the porch talking about clearing stones and farming? It's just absurd. The biggest problem plotwise is that: if Clark, a superbeing and superhero had been paying attention or at least acting reasonably in several of the situations in this episode, most of the bad things that happen would have been completely avoided and the villains would have been stopped long ago.
Which reminds me of airplanes and busses. Why does Clark - a superbeing and superhero who can fly - take an airplane to get to Smallville? I understand that Ellen doesn't know he's Superboy and that he can't just fly in next to her while she's still on the phone talking to him, but when she tells him there are people trying to kill his father I would think he'd fly right in and then meet her later. He could still meet her at the depot to keep up the charade but to really take a plane, that's just silly. And then after that, he takes a bus from wherever the airport is! Conveniently though, Kenderson waits until Clark is at the farm before he makes another attempt.
So now the next attempt is sending a careening fuel truck toward the Kent farm and blowing everyone up. Talk about overkill and yet sloppiness, huh? How often is there a fuel truck parked in the middle of the drive leading to the Kent homestead? Not only that, but how often does said fuel truck drive itself, with assistance from a placed rock on the gas petal, into a farmhouse? Again, it's just stupid and absurd. Further, how does a guy with superhearing not know that these guys are out there setting this up? Clark wanders around, checking out glasses and looking at a slingshot while the shlubs are out there setting the deathtrap. One explanation for some of the things Clark doesn't hear on Smallville or even in the comics is that he needs to be trying to hear something. Like why would Clark just happen to hear someone being shot in another city? He wouldn't. It doesn't make any sense unless we believe that Clark is always listening to everything and everyone all the time. But we know he can't be doing that because if he were, he'd never be able to function and do everything else that he does. However, in this case, when people have tried to kill his father and when some out of place strangers are setting up a truck to ram the farmhouse, just the different sound going on should alert him. And it does, after they've already set the trap and it's too late to stop it before it begins.
Then, when Clark runs off to stop the fuel truck, there's a slight effects blur of blue, red and yellow before he hits it, arms outstretched. I'm guessing that blur was supposed to tell us that Clark added a last minute burst of superspeed and...rammed the fuel truck? I'm not sure why he would do that when he could just run over and stop it from crashing into the farm. It wasn't even near to hitting anything. If they had filmed it so that it were just about to hit the house or something then that might make some sense, but the way it's presented here just comes off as silly. There's absolutely no reason for Clark to run at the truck non-stop at superspeed. He could superspeed over and then slow down and grab it to just slow it to a halt. Now, if he's not supposed to have supersped right into the front of the truck, thereby causing it to explode, then it's not clear either way and besides, if that were the case, the truck would have no reason to explode. Therefore the superspeed theory is the only way what happens can be explained.
The next few things that lost points for this episode come down to character and more absurdity. You know, when I started this review I actually had it rated as a three. Then, after thinking about it further and beginning to write, I dropped it down to two and then to one. There's just too much. And the sad thing is that the idea isn't necessarily so bad it's just the execution is horrendous. Okay, so Clark tells his Smallville friend Ellen, who asks him if Lana is still gorgeous, that she shouldn't worry about Lana and that Lana's "just a friend." He says this, even though in last week's episode he clearly made out with Lana as both Superboy and as Clark AND after telling us Lana was the girl of his dreams. So he lies to Ellen straight out. Clark Kent lies. And this isn't about protecting his identity, but I'll get to it in a minute. First, let's flip it around. At the end of the episode, when Lana calls to speak to Clark, Ellen answers the phone. There's no reason for her to answer the phone; she's eating with the Kents, at their house, as a guest, and yet she takes it upon herself to answer the phone. So she does and it's Lana and Ellen gives the phone to Clark. When Clark answers, Lana asks if Ellen is "still gorgeous," and it's supposed to be cute, but it just comes off as contrived. But then, right in front of Ellen, Clark says to Lana: "You shouldn't worry about Ellen, Lana - she's a gorgeous good friend, just like you."
Again, Clark Kent lies. And again, this isn't like he's saying: "No, I'm not Superboy" in order to protect himself or his family or others. This is Clark Kent lying in order to keep two possible girlfriends on the hook. When he arrived in Smallville, he started kissing and making out with Ellen, as if he had an already established and yet never mentioned relationship with this girl in the capacity of exclusiveness girlfriend/boyfriend type of thing. Plus, last week, the way he was kissing Lana as both Superboy and Clark, they were all acting as if they too had some sort of exclusive relationship or at least hoped for some sort of girlfriend/boyfriend type of exclusive relationship and so, all we can gather from that, is that Clark Kent wants two ladies at once and so he lies to both of them. I sense that it's more a problem with the order of the episodes or just the bad writing or some other fumbled ball and not necessarily someone trying to say that Clark Kent - Superboy - is a dog and is trying to fool as many girls as possible into thinking other women are just friends while he's making out with them.
Furthermore, and this one's almost worse, both girls are now aware that he gave the same answer to both of them when each one expressed concern about the other. In one episode, Lana makes it clear she has no interest in Clark and Clark the same but then in the next, Lana and Clark are kissing as if they're in love. Now, in this episode, Clark apparently has another girlfriend on the hook in Smallville and now he's making out with her. Then, at the end of the episode, he says aloud, so that both women can hear him, that Ellen is just a gorgeous friend, like Lana. Like Lana, whom Lana knows he makes out with at least on a semi-regular basis or at least as often as LAST WEEK! And Ellen, who knows Clark made out with her at least twice in a two-day period just now and yet he refers to Ellen when speaking to Lana as "a gorgeous friend, just like you." So now, both girls are at least able to understand that he's lying to at least one of them and possibly both of them.
Why do I say this? Because if Lana is just a friend and yet he makes out with her, and Ellen is just a gorgeous friend, like Lana, then Lana knows that Clark considers a girl (Lana) that he makes out with regularly "just a friend." So in that case, Lana should, at the very least, be able to connect that he might also be making out with Ellen since Clark himself refers to Ellen as just like Lana. Then Ellen hears him say to Lana that Ellen is just a gorgeous friend, just like Lana. So in this case Ellen should be able to think the same way Lana could. So, even though Clark tells both of them they shouldn't worry, clearly both ladies should. And the way Clark is presented in this episode, both ladies are correct in being so!
The next character thing that annoys me in this episode is the way Clark handles the thugs. Not that I wouldn't want to or that you wouldn't want to do the same. But this is Superman (boy) and not you or I and knowing that, we know that he should throw people through windows because he could kill them and because it might expose his identity. Jonathan even mentions that he might not want to explain the whole situation to Clark because Clark is still young and might do something stupid. It seems as if the writers were trying to show us that yes, Clark is still young and still might do something stupid that could reveal who he really is since that's what Jonathan's concerned about and that's what Clark then does. However, it's never brought up again after Clark goes to the office and throws two men through a window fifteen feet away right in front of Kenderson. Both men live, so both men know that Clark did this impossible thing, though Clark plays it off as him being into pumping iron. But no one ever says anything about it and Pa Kent doesn't lecture him for having done something silly and irresponsible.
This next one really makes me think this episode was filmed earlier and possibly even aired earlier in some markets, though I couldn't find any proof of that. First, this is the first time the Kents are introduced and it's done very poorly. I would suggest to anyone introducing such pivotal characters for the first time in any story that they should do it in a much more epic/dramatic way. It seems like we already knew these characters or that they were already introduced on this show and that seeing them is just everyday stuff, even though we've never seen them before. But what really stands out to me is Newton's acting. For the first time in a while, Newton seems incredibly amateurish when he expresses concern or love or anger as Clark. His Superboy scene at the end when he tells the villains they're going to prison is fine, but all his Clark stuff is just off somehow. His speech over the phone about how he told Pa to get rid of the tractor is just so poorly done that I can't believe Newton delivered it. When the thugs attack him twice and he gets frustrated with them, his responses and protests are so faked that even the fact that they probably are fake since Clark's never actually in any danger and he knows this isn't enough to save the acting.
Finally, I have to mention this again even though I've said it before. I simply don't understand why they use the opening scene of this show as if it were a pre-theme teaser and yet it's never set up that way. It would work so much better if they would show us the teaser scene as the opening and then play the theme. Clearly the first scene of the show is written that way and yet they don't use it as such. It's a bit anticlimactic then when another scene just starts after the opening shows the dramatic nefarious villains.
To sum up, both Lana and Ellen think the other is gorgeous and "just a friend" though neither really is particularly gorgeous and neither is just a friend. Clark lies in order to score with multiple women and he likes to toss men 15 feet though glass (Hmmm, that sounds like another show we all like). Jonathan and Martha Kent are rough and tumble parents who think Clark might be just young enough to act out and do something stupid but neither says anything to him about it when he actually does. Plus, you should always make sure you wait at least one hour beyond the time you think someone in horrible danger and under threat of murder was supposed to have returned before you check on him or her, even if you have superpowers.
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