Superman on Television

Superboy: Episode Reviews

Season 1 - Episode 22: "The Phantom of the Third Division"

Reviewed by: Scotty V

"Crawl for your life Jonathan!" - Jonathan's old friend.


A man calls the home of Jonathan and Martha Kent, tells Martha he's an army buddy of her husband's and asks to speak with him. When Martha tells the caller her husband isn't home, the stranger hangs up without telling her his name or saying goodbye. Meanwhile, Clark, Lana and T.J. arrive at the bus depot and await Jonathan who is expected to pick them up. Clark goes to call his father; T.J. goes to check on his bag of jokes and Lana heads to a nearby florist to pick up flowers for Mrs. Kent. On her way though, some bikers who want to take her for a ride accost Lana. A fight ensues. T.J., Clark and even Jonathan eventually show up to put the thugs in their place.

Later, Clark and his friends head out to town to "go have fun," while Jonathan stays at home with Martha. Another mysterious call from the stranger comes in, though this time the caller tells Martha he's a doctor at Smallville hospital and that Clark's been in a car accident and is asking for his father. When Martha tells Jonathan about the call, they assume Clark's friends have been hurt and Jonathan immediately heads to the medical facility. Upon his arrival, Jonathan is kidnapped by his old army buddy, tied up in an ambulance and driven away.

When the kids get back home, Martha tells them about the call and Clark heads out alone in search of his father. Turning into Superboy, Clark flies to the hospital and speaks with a driver who says his ambulance was stolen. At the same time, Jonathan is being made to crawl through a barbed wire training course while his stalker friend fires rounds at him from the sidelines. The kidnapper accuses Jonathan of leaving him behind during the Korean War to be tortured by the enemy. Now, he says, Jonathan will suffer the way he did. Jonathan is eventually scooped into a net trap, and his old acquaintance plans to shoot him in the face with an arrow, as his Korean captors once did to him. Superboy arrives just in time to stop the arrow and Jonathan talks his old comrade into lowering his weapon.

After realizing the man has been mentally scarred since the war, Jonathan takes it upon himself to make sure his old friend gets safely back to the mental hospital, while Clark and his friends stay at home with Martha. The episode ends with Lana and T.J. breaking something, presumably dishes, for the second time in Martha's kitchen. T.J. laments that it's unlikely Clark's mom will ever invite them to come with Clark again while Lana injects that they could always just bring their own dishes.

4Rating - 4 (out of 5): In a cool, strange bit of casting, Joseph Campanella, who has played roles in everything from an old 50's series called "Suspense," to the current "CSI," appears as Jonathan Kent's war compatriot. What's cool about this is that Campanella also appeared later on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" as head of Bureau 39. I love to see recurring actors appear in different Superman series and it seems to happen a lot. Being an actor myself, I always see how beneficial it can be to make the right connections that sometimes can last, as in Campanella's case, decades. Further, aside from having obvious connections to the Superman legacy, Campanella is an extremely memorable actor with a very distinctive voice and I recognized him before I even saw his face in this episode just by hearing him. I must say this was the best guest casting they've had on the series to this point.

The episode also moved at a nice pace, which the series often has a hard time with. There was very little extemporaneous material and almost everything made sense. Although there were some missteps, as I've learned with this show there always will be, I honestly think this episode was the best of the series so far. It had a more personal, more realistic feel to it and we got to see real people dealing with real problems. Campanella playing a mentally damaged ex war prisoner who, though he wore a mask to cover a scar on his face was really fighting scars on the inside. Though it was a bit silly to have him actually wearing a mask when nothing was wrong with his face and further clichéd when Jonathan actually explains the scars his old friend has are on the inside, it still worked well on the whole.

A few things that didn't work for me still stand out glaringly though, and that's why though it's the best I've re-watched so far, this episode only ties my highest score of four. First, it was almost unwatchable when the punks on the motorcycles surrounded and began circling Lana. Their dialogue was terrible and the whole premise was preposterous. So there just happen to be some biker scum in small town, U.S.A. who just happen to show up when Lana just happens to be momentarily separated from her friends? And the bikers, though the writers clearly wanted them to be like Hell's Angels, looked more like angsty students from Smallville High. I did love it though when Clark ran over and started taking them all out as Clark instead of running off to become Superboy. And then, when Jonathan shows up and starts pushing guys around, I thought I was going to leap out of my recliner!

Another glaring misstep to me is the way they handle the stalker calling. Martha answers both calls, and both times the guy calling acts like a weirdo, but Jonathan still runs off to the hospital alone when the "doctor" calls to tell them Clark's been in an accident. Sure, it's possible that their son, who can't be hurt, could have been in an accident, but wouldn't he have called himself if his friends were hurt and he wasn't? Further, what doctor would make a phone call to tell someone's parents their child was in an accident, but not tell them the kid was fine? What's worse is they know Clark is fine and should know the call wasn't fine and yet Jonathan still rushes off to be kidnapped.

Those issues aside though, I really thought this was a well written, mostly well executed episode that came across as what the series could actually be if its creators would really put their minds to it. So as we wait for next time, where a Black Flamingo starts mind controlling teenagers in a punk club, let's try to remain hypnotized by this episode's greatness.

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