This week's Smallville was all about couples, and the different reasons we reach out for one another in this life. The episode itself was something of a mess, part screwball comedy, part monster hunt, and part villainous intrigue, with goofy dialogue and contrived situations, but I enjoyed a lot of it nonetheless. Escape addressed some issues with a frankness that is all too rare on this show, and it gave me some scenes that are destined to become favorites. I could write an entire review about all the things that didn't make sense in this episode, but I prefer to focus instead on the jewels among the dross.
Who knew when this season started that we would end up with all of our series regulars neatly paired off? I know I never expected it, and I don't much like it either, but I have a feeling none of these relationships will survive the season intact, so I'm not going to get all worked up about it. The three couples we saw in Escape were brought together by very different forces: one for love, one for sex, and one for power. But they all got something a little unexpected, and the promise of further complications to come.
Clark and Lois thought they were going away for a romantic weekend, and taking their relationship to the next level. I think Clark has been ready for this ever since he got a taste of what it would be like from Lois's memories in Pandora. We saw his eagerness at the end of that episode, and again in Disciple and Conspiracy. First the writers put the brakes on because Lois wanted to take it slow, and then they showed us how hard it was for these two busy reporters to find time to be together, but you can only stall for so long. I knew Clark and Lois wouldn't actually do the deed in Escape, but the excuses for keeping them apart are getting laughable.
Lois was pretty hyper throughout this episode, but I'm willing to write that off to nerves. A couple's first time together can be a big deal, and even more so when you care deeply for the person and want everything to go right. Throw in the added pressure of a romantic getaway, planned for one reason and one reason only, and it's no wonder she was a little on edge. Clark was nervous, too, adorably so. He was so sweet, attending to every little detail with care. And so yummy in that white tee! I couldn't stop smiling, watching the two of them, and when they finally slipped into bed together, it really felt right. But of course they were interrupted, at the last possible second.
What happened next stretched my suspension of disbelief to its breaking point. So Clark and Lois run into Chloe and Oliver in the lobby, and Lois spends the rest of the night talking Clark's ear off about it, and then just falls asleep? Are you kidding me?! Big, warm, beautiful and willing Clark is snuggled right next to you in a cozy, comfy bed, with a fire crackling and the lights dimmed, and you don't jump him? And he doesn't pounce on you, in your sexy, see-thru negligee? Oh, please. Come hell or high water, nothing could have kept me from sealing the deal that night. And twice more before breakfast!
Similarly, back at the Talon at the end of the episode, there is no way I would have answered that cell phone. Clark was kissing Lois and undressing her! I would have thrown the phone across the room if he had handed it to me! Judging by his tone and the look on his face, I think Clark was hoping Lois would do the same. And what happened after she finished her call? Are we supposed to believe the mood was irretrievably broken by that interruption? If two people want each other, they'll find a way to be together. But I don't think the show is going to let that happen with these two, which makes me think they're headed for a breakup before the show runs out of excuses, even ridiculous ones.
Not that I'm totally sold on Clark and Lois falling into bed together just yet. Maybe I have some old-fashioned ideas about our innocent farmboy, but I always thought he would tell Lois he loves her before they took that step. We all know how they feel about each other, why not let them express it? And I have a major problem with Clark contemplating intimacy without telling Lois the whole truth about himself. I get it, though, someone in charge (TPTB? DC?) has decided that the mythos dictates that Lois remain in the dark, and it would be a drag to bring their relationship to a screeching halt until that changes, if it ever does. So I'm trying to let go of that one.
And one more thing: I'm sorry to say the Clois kisses aren't doing it for me. I'm not sure what it is, exactly. The scene in the Talon where Clark tosses Lois up on the counter and steps between her legs, completely invading her personal space? That was unbelievably HOT, and certainly the most sexually assertive move we've seen Clark make without the help of Red!K. Watching made me weak in the knees, but somehow the kisses that followed didn't live up to the promise of what came before. *sigh* I so want their kisses to knock my socks off, but I'm just not feeling it.
Chloe and Oliver also planned to get away for the weekend, but they weren't looking for love, just a fun frolic between the sheets, with no expectations for anything more. I have nothing invested in them as a couple, but they do sparkle together, and I thought their awkward brunch with Lois and Clark was pretty hilarious. Chloe's condescending attitude grated a bit, but Oliver was a delight. Lois's line about "Mr. Green, in the bedroom, with my cousin," made me laugh, and Clark's palpable chagrin at the whole situation was too funny. My favorite part, of course, was the conversation between Clark and Oliver while the girls were outside. Tom Welling and Justin Hartley are both comic geniuses as far as I'm concerned, and they made the most of those talents all through this episode.
The relationship between Chloe and Oliver is a casual one, with no strings attached. But is anything ever really that simple? When Clark's concern made Oliver second-guess himself, we saw that he must have some tender feelings for Chloe, and when she freaked out over his gift, it was clear that those feelings make him vulnerable. I definitely got the impression that Oliver is in danger of actually falling for Chloe, while she is determined to protect her heart by holding him at arm's length. Oliver may have the playboy act down pat, but don't forget that deep down he's a lost little boy, who spends his time putting his life on the line for others, without the benefit of superpowers to keep him safe. He's still atoning for past sins, and trying to prove himself worthy of the love he so desperately needs.
Chloe and Oliver's heart-to-heart at the inn was interesting. I was glad to hear Chloe spell out what happened to her romantic feelings for Clark, and for the show to acknowledge that they were never returned in the same way. I do feel for Chloe and all she went through, always watching Clark give his heart to someone else, but I think it's important to note that her wounds and scars were entirely self-inflicted. I still mourn the unique friendship Clark and Chloe once shared, and I keep hoping they will find it again, but now I can't help but wonder if a fundamental component, now gone, was Chloe's unrequited love. When she finally let go of those feelings, maybe that's when things began to change. And if that's so, it would be cruel to wish for a return to those days.
The real question about Chloe and Oliver is, what happens next? I can't bring myself to care much about their future as a couple, especially when Chloe spends their time together snarking about Clark, and Oliver helps her keep secrets from him, but I do wonder, when push comes to shove, where Oliver's loyalties lie. Will they cause a conflict with Chloe that leads to a rift, or will they threaten the bond that he and Clark have just forged anew? In any case, with all the challenges ahead, I think Chloe and Oliver's carefree fun will get infinitely more complicated, and I doubt their arrangement will survive the onslaught.
Tess and Zod's relationship is complex, and completely twisted. They were each ready to kill the other, and the next thing you know they're in bed together! I don't know why the show had to go there, but whatever. I think Zod is honestly impressed with Tess, and the power she holds, but in the end she will always be only "almost" Kryptonian, and unquestionably inferior in his mind. As soon as he has what he wants from her, she will be expendable. Tess in turn continues to play with fire, and find exhilaration in dancing ever closer to the flames. I have no idea what she's up to, or what her motives are, but I am completely captivated, and I hang on her every move.
Zod seems to have forgotten all about his people in the wake of obtaining his superpowers. He is now fixated on stealing the rest of Clark's life, finding the secret to neutralizing his powers, and then moving on to ruling the world. He's jealous of Clark, and wants to understand why people look up to the Blur the way they do, but he's got it all wrong. He thinks it's about power and publicity, when really it's about Clark's ability to inspire people, and to give them hope. Will he discover the truth, and if so, will it change him? Or is he the irredeemable villain he appears to be? I'm excited that Zod is a truly formidable enemy now, but I hate that it was a decision of Clark's that made him one, especially a decision that Clark made for all the right reasons.
I also hate that Smallville has a rule that Clark can't tell Lois his secret, and then makes that the very reason she's vulnerable to Zod's subterfuge. It reminds me of how they specifically chose to write Clark as the reluctant hero in S7, and then had Oliver come back in Siren and rail against him for being that way. Grrr. I think Zod pretending to be the Blur could be cool, especially after the promise Clark made to him about what would happen if he went near Lois again, but the way it went down seemed way too easy. Zod went to the farm and stole Clark's Blur phone (how did he even know about that?) to call Lois, but in spite of Zod's phony accent and the distortion of the voice modulator, I think she should have realized it wasn't her hero calling. Besides, why was she so over the top, telling him again and again that she would do anything to help him? The last time the Blur called after a long absence, she totally busted his chops, and that seemed a lot more in character. I call shenanigans.
Tess was awesome in Escape, although I think more than ever that she's a little crazycakes. "In every relationship one person stands, while the other one kneels." Kinky! :) Did she sleep with Zod to prove her power over him, for the thrill of sex with a superpowered alien, or because he's the closest thing to a Clark substitute she'll ever find? Or does she have some other agenda I can't even begin to imagine? Is she still loyal to Clark, or has he disappointed her once too often? And how will her ties to Checkmate factor into all of this? All I know for sure is, Tess is playing a very dangerous game, and I just hope it doesn't prove fatal.
There was one more couple of significance in Escape, albeit not a romantic one: Clark and Chloe. Most of the enmity that has become the norm for them was gone in this episode, which was surprising, but more than welcome. They worked together to solve the mystery of the banshee and dispatch the evil spirit, and watching them team up was wonderfully reminiscent of the good old days. It was also a treat to see Tom Welling and Allison Mack in scenes together that weren't heavy with drama and conflict. They have such great chemistry, and a natural ease with one another that only enhances their acting. My two favorite scenes of the episode were both ones that featured them.
One was the scene where Clark and Chloe walked and talked after Lois and Oliver disappeared. It was a classic Chlark conversation: they pondered the clues before them and worked out a theory, while also delivering critical exposition in an entertaining way. I loved the warmth between them; there was a moment where Clark reached out and touched Chloe as he asked her a question, and that simple gesture made me ache for all that these two have lost. I liked the callback to their krypto-hag conversation in Fanatic ("awkward factor 8!"), as Chloe delicately broached the subject of Clark's willingness to have sex with Lois. His explanation totally worked for me, and no, I don't think Jor-El gave him a training exercise for that power. :D I'm sure Clark took the general lessons about control he's been learning and applied them to every part of his life, including the intimate ones. I still think one of the reasons for Clark's new confidence in this area is his certainty that Lois is the love of his life, but I'll admit that's my own personal fanwank. And it was good to hear that Clark's training continues.
My other favorite scene was, of course, the one with Clark in the shower. Priceless physical comedy, wet, naked Clark, and Tom Welling singing? Best scene EVER. :) What is it that Clark can't tell Lois? His secret? Or how completely at her mercy he is? ;) Tom and Allison were both brilliant, executing complex towel choreography while giving us some of the funniest interaction I've ever seen between their characters. And then there was the stunning sight of Tom's amazing body, rarely glimpsed but always worth the wait. Yowza! Somebody's been working out! I also loved Clark's reaction to Lois's outfit, which I can only assume they carry in the gift shop, right next to the spoons. :)
The Silver Banshee turned out to be a relatively minor storyline, that reminded me more than anything else of an episode of Supernatural. Sam (Clark) got thrown around by the monster of the week while Dean (Chloe) hurried to stop the spirit by finding and burning her remains. What? You don't think Chloe is Dean? Well, she's short. And bossy. ;) And Oliver was channeling a little bit of Dean, too, with his snark in the face of death. I do wish Clark had been more effective against the banshee on his own. Instead it looked like he might not have survived without Chloe's help. That's one part of the old Chloe I don't miss.
Random thoughts: Zod looked like he had a black smoke trail when he was flying. I loved seeing Clark in plaid again! Chloe's shirt at brunch was gorgeous. Chloe told Lois that she and Oliver were "no flowers, no presents, no pressure, no strings." So who sent her that huge arrangement of red roses on Valentine's Day? When did Tess find out about Green!K? Did she see Chloe use it on Clark in Persuasion, did she figure it out from seeing Lois's memories of the future in Pandora, or has she known all along, from Lionel's journal? The part where the banshee fully manifested was confusing. I didn't see Lois fall away, unconscious, until the third time I watched the episode. What was with that enormous tattoo on Zod's back? I think you could see that thing from space. And as usual on Smallville, gone is forgotten, especially if you're dead. Chloe never mentioned Jimmy once in all her talk about past loves and healed wounds.
Escape was a weak episode overall, with dialogue that ranged from clunky to nonsensical ("This is a relationship, Chloe, not a spelling bee!"), implausible plot points, and way too much emphasis on 'ships for my taste. A few elements even seemed to be recycled from previous episodes of Smallville (the heat vision pipe repair from Visage, the shower scene from Gone, Dawn Stiles' magic touch from Spirit, Black Canary's cry from Siren). But the episode also gave us great comedy, sexy romance, and some fascinating conversations. As always, the actors made the most of the material, often saving a scene that would have fallen flat in lesser hands, and mostly thanks to them, there was a lot to love in Escape. It's an episode that I will definitely watch again, but with my remote firmly in hand so I can fast-forward to the good parts.
Here are twenty of my favorite caps from Escape. And no, they're not ALL from the shower scene. :)
Screen caps courtesy of Home of the Nutty, with my thanks!