Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Home is Where the Hurt is”/”Never on Sunday”

Ronnie: Welcome to yet another edition of Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie, the weekly but kinda slightly into monthly because we’re lazy fucks look at the 1990s most popular superhero show. No, not Night Man, Lois & Clark. We’re well into the engagement phase of the titular relationship in Season 3 here, and now we reach a pertinent moment: Clark meets his future in-laws and Lois has to rectify her disaster of a familial life before the nuptials proceed. Sure, Clark technically met Sam Lane before, but if he’s played by a different actor does it really count? I say no. Now Sam is played by Harve Presnell, aka Lazarro of Face/Off, and boy does he have news for his only daughter in this first episode, titled “Home is Where the Hurt is”. Lucy doesn’t exist anymore, right? Lois doesn’t need another woman to confide in; Lois & Clark ain’t interested in passing no Bechdel Test. Looking up Sam Lane’s actor reminds me how paltry the supporting cast of this show is. Besides the main credited cast, Dr. Klein shows up in 15 episodes, the Lane parents in 6/5 episodes, and the rest is diminishing returns. I know they have to allocate most of their budget to bad Superman special effects, but a supporting cast would sure make the show feel populated.

But you know, maybe the show SHOULD just be Cain, Hatcher, a Jimmy and Lane Smith on a set for 40 minutes, because the alternative involves the introduction of Baby Gunderson. Look, man, I don’t know what we’re doing here, that it’s nearly the end of 2022 and I have to be typing “Baby Gunderson” over and over again. See, Lois’ dad comes with a plus one, a fiancee, by the name of Baby Gunderson. Unless you’re fucking an anthropomorphized candy bar, it’s unacceptable to be putting your dick into somebody or something named “Baby” when you’re an adult. It gets better/worse: Sam freely admits he created her. She’s a fuckbot. Ma Lane says it best: “of all the sicko, psycho, sexual–nothing personal, Baby”. Sam contends “it’s this kind of closed mindedness that drove us apart in the first place”. Great. Good to know. I don’t expect 100% relatability from my superhero shows, but “Lois Lane’s parents’ divorce was a fait accompli because of the husband’s insatiable lust for machines” is a bridge too far.



This is such a bizarre choice, “stupid” one might say, that it’s difficult to remember “Home is Where the Hurt is” actually has, like, a plot and shit. Mindy Church–remember her?–is running Intergang and her new plan involves a virus from Krypton that will incapacitate and ideally eventually kill Superman. You know, though, it’s hard to focus on that when there’s a Baby Gunderson in the mix. I just don’t get it. It’d be one thing if her parents stupidly named her that, or she attained that nickname through dubious means. Sam Lane consciously chose to name a sentient-ish being who is programmed to suck his dick “Baby Gunderson”. It’s a mystery not unlike the contents of Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase in Pulp Fiction. What’s in there? Is it his soul? The diamonds from Reservoir Dogs? The original Jimmy Olsen’s head? I’ve oft considered myself “too good’ for Lois & Clark because I have the bare minimum of self-esteem, but I am perplexed long after my initial viewing of this. HOW DID ANY OF THIS HAPPEN?

Chris: I mean, I want to talk about other things. Mindy Church is back, and I love Mindy Church. She’s one of those brassy bombshells that’s secretly way smarter than everyone else in the room, a character type I have an almost limitless appreciation for. And this time she’s working with Robert Carradine, one of America’s most beloved fictional rapists! Church hires Carradine’s character Joey Bermuda AKA The Handyman to off the Man of Steel using an Exclusive-To-Krypton virus they get off the ship that brought him to Earth. The gag of the smoking hot Mindy being irresistibly drawn to canonical nerd Caradine and him repeatedly shooting her down until she frames him for the entire scheme as revenge is clever and entertaining. You know, for Lois & Clark, But I can’t really focus on any of that, the actual plot of the episode due to the looming presence of Baby Gunderson.

I just…

I just don’t even know where to start.

Like, okay, why does Baby Gunderson look like a lady version of Erasherhead protagonist Henry Spencer? What was that about? Is it supposed to be a shout-out to The Bride of Frankenstein? Because she looks a lot more like what would happen if Sherilyn Fenn put on bright red lipstick and stuck her finger in a light socket. It’s upsetting. Are we supposed to think that this is attractive? I know we’re supposed to think Sam thinks she’s attractive, but what are we supposed to make of her? If Sam had made a robot that looked like model and Cherry Pie music video star Bobbie Brown, that would be one thing. We as the audience would think Sam was weird and pervert, but at least he’d have a vision of The Perfect Woman that was consistent with your average 13 Year Old Boy AKA the kind of person who would think having a sex bot would be awesome.But Baby Gunderson looks like a glassy-eyed secretary who went to the wrong hairdresser. Are we supposed to make anything of the fact that the girl of Sam’s wet dreams is so silly looking?  And don’t get me wrong, Baby Gunderson actress Kathy Trageser is a lovely woman and is probably an excellent actress, but the show went to great lengths to de-sexualize a character who literally exists to be sexualized. Why not just not have her in the episode to begin with? It’s not like she’s from the comics.

And speaking of not having her in the episode, would it surprise you to learn that Baby Gunderson has virtually nothing to do with the plot? She ends up recording and repeating some useful information towards the end, but anyone could have done that. And Sam Lane’s expertise as a doctor is crucial in saving Superman’s life, but as a surgeon, not because of his knowledge of cybernetics. The closest analog to Baby Gunderson I can think of is Clyde the Orangutan in Clint Eastwood’s 1978 comedy smash Any Which Way But Loose. In that film Clint’s a bare knuckle boxer who’s best friend is an ape named Clyde. It’s not about him getting Clyde and learning to love him, it’s not about Clyde being kidnapped and Clint having to save him, or anything like that. It’s a movie about Clint falling in love with a lady and getting into fist fights for money. He just does all that while also hanging out with an ape. The only Clyde related plot in the movie involves Clint trying to get him laid (which is also creepily related to Baby Gunderson). What I’m saying is that I can’t find a single reason for this character to exist. It’s a disturbing concept that’s executed awkwardly and doesn’t have any impact on the story around it. I’m completely baffled.  It’s like L&C carefully laid a rake on the ground and then deliberately stepped right on it.


It passes the Bechdel Test… but at what COST?

Ronnie: I’m not ready yet to turn the key and say this is the lowest point of Lois & Clark, especially because I’ve read up on what will follow in short succession, but I think we can agree it’s a low point. I got to thinking about the infamous child gangbang in It, in that everybody takes that scene and goes “so what the hell was that?”. If Lois & Clark attained a fanbase on the level of Stephen King I think it’s safe to claim Baby Gunderson is the It moment. Reddit boards would burst with threads titled variations of “So the Baby Gunderson thing… (spoilers)” and “Just got to Baby Gunderson and what the hell”. I’m also thinking of the dildo scene in Fight Club and how the airport guy explains they never assign ownership to the buzzing dildo in the luggage. It’s a dildo, not your dildo. We can also safely claim no writer will put their head on the tracks and admit, yes, Baby Gunderson was their idea. It just sprung into the script apropos of nothing. No one is foolish enough to assign ownership, let alone promote parentage. So Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, you’re off the hook. It’s not your Baby Gunderson, it’s the Baby Gunderson.

Frankly I could write an entire eBook titled “What Lois & Clark did: The Gunderson Dilemma” so I will try to vary my befuddlement to the rest of the episode, which I thought was actually not bad. There’s a good moment at the onset of Clark falling ill where he sneezes, Lois goes “bless you” and immediately realizes, hey, wait, Clark never sneezes. Digging deep for complimentary elements because of B*** G******** or legitimate praise? In the words of disgraced Marvel publisher Bill Jemas, “U Decide”. I also agree with you, Chris, that the interplay between Mindy and Joey is legitimately amusing. There’s an exchange where she gets up close to him and he cites his belief in the sanctity of marriage, and follows it up with a “now if you’ll excuse me” gag. I have unlimited time for that joke conjugation.

I daresay I also appreciated the interplay between the sets of parents, the purpose of which seems to be to establish the Kents as normal doting figures and the Lanes as either checked out or insane, depending on which spouse to which you’re referring. Have you ever wanted to see Sam Lane try to sell Pa Kent on getting rubber lips? Well, too bad, it’s happening in this episode and it’s fucking absurd. Meanwhile, the women discuss the impending wedding (of course) and Ellen admits she told Lois a wedding was a financial rat hole for her, and she said it about 800 times. It’s a cliched truism, but a truism nonetheless, that you can understand why a person is fucked up by looking at their parents and Lois & Clark does a pretty decent job with this episode. No wonder Lois fears commitment and has a dim view of the nuclear family life; look at her firsthand experience. Contrastingly, it’s perfectly understandable why Clark is rah rah for marriage, kids, the whole kit and kaboodle. The Kents on this show are nothing if not a walking talking advertisement for the beauty of heteronormativity.


Maybe Clark should spend more time stopping the crime wave than WRITING about it.

Chris: Yeah, I think in order for an episode to achieve “Worst Of” status it has to be either embarrassing for the actors, insulting/insensitive, or actively boring. “Home Is Where the Hurt Is” skirts the first two criteria but never crosses the line because as incongruous and awkward the idea of inserting a sexbot into a family superhero show is, it’s not a real thing, so it’s not like the Asian caricatures in that Karate Episode. And as much as I felt for poor Kathy Trageser having to play a hybrid fuckbot/Troll Doll, she was a one off character who I had no attachment to, so it wasn’t like watching Perry sexually harass the cleaning lady in that Love Potion episode. Finally, it was just too weird and there were too many elements of the plot that worked for it to be boring (like any number of episodes I can’t remember because, you know, they were super boring). Like your It comparison, Baby Gunderson is a decision that’s too insane to get my head around. I know it’s wrong, but I also can’t quite summon the verbiage to express how and why. It’s like Lovecraftian horror, too alien and terrifying to comprehend.

I would say that it almost reaches the realm of “Delightfully Confounding” before sputtering out and crashing into the depths of “Unforgettably Misguided.” Which is a real shame because of all the other details that we’ve already discussed, but I want to take just take one more moment to look at the Sam Lane/Ellen Lane/Baby Gunderson triangle and the myriad ways it defies convention and common sense. Halfway through the episode I was sure that it was going to end with Sam and Ellen learning Clark’s identity. Putting aside all the standard Superman plot nonsense like “Superman and Clark are identical looking” and “A visibly sick Clark disappears just before a visibly sick Superman shows up”, the whole point of the episode was for Clark to get closer to his soon-to-be In-Laws and an opportunity for Lois to resolve ligering issues with her folks. The Lane’s learning Clarks identity would fit into both of those plotlines as well as establishing a kind of narrative balance between the Kents and Lanes. Everyone would be on equal footing. Or we could not.

I also would have been reasonably sure that the Christmas Episode would end with Sam and Ellen rekindling their relationship. One of the thematic upsides to making the “other woman” a fucking robot, is she can be discarded without the audience feeling bad for her. If Sam showed up to dinner with an actual 25 year old woman who he coldly dumped for his ex-wife just days before Christmas, it would make him and Ellen seem kind of shitty. But if he shows up with a robot, she can just be turned off or die heroically or whatever and there’s no guilt or bad feelings. The character literally isn’t a living human and (I thought) represented the unhealthy, immature desire that we can have to find a partner with no inner life of their own and only exists to love us and satisfy our needs. I thought that Sam was a stand-in for all the older men who reached a certain age and dumped their wives for a younger woman and started driving around in a shiny sports car in a futile attempt to ward off the specter of aging and death. I assumed Sam would transcend that shallow, adolescent worldview and, if not fully reconnect with Ellen, recognize that what he was doing with Baby Gunderson was empty and unfulfilling. Or none of that could happen and the episode could end with all the characters, fuckbot included, dancing around the apartment, listening to Christmas music. We could do that too.


Oh great. This is just Lars and the Real Girl all over again, if the Real Girl conducted electricity.

In the end, I’m reminded of the 2008 Coen brothers movie Burn After Reading, and it’s justly famous closing conversation:

CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Officer: I don’t know, sir.
CIA Superior: I don’t fuckin’ know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
CIA Superior: I’m fucked if I know what we did.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it’s, uh, hard to say.
CIA Superior: Jesus Fucking Christ.

Odds & Ends

-”I have so little to live for it hardly matters” – Ellen Lane’s response to Lois’ admonition that it’s too dangerous to tag along with her to meet an informant.
-Ellen in general is a dud. She freely shares that she’s a recovering alcoholic. Who does that besides the most annoying of people?
-Sam Lane actor Harve Presnell would appear in the movie Fargo less than three months after this episode aired. The protagonist (arguably) of Fargo is a pregnant police officer played by Francis McDormand named Marge Gunderson. Is it a coincidence that Presnell would be in two projects involving Baby Gunderson’s so close together? One hundred percent, yes. It’s just a bizarre coincidence. But it adds another unsettling layer to an already deeply confusing character.

Ronnie: Voodoo is a tough needle to thread by good writers, so it’s especially tough to see anything stellar come of invoking it in Lois & Clark. If there’s any defense to this episode, it’s that it may be too stupid to be offensive. It’s certainly a fitting pairing with “Home is Where the Hurt is”; one 45 minute chunk of insanity (and inanity) deserves another, right? This one is about a voodoo magician scaring people to death for reasons that I’m sure made sense at the time but are pretty hard to defend now. These scarings include foisting a Vietnam flashback onto a bus driver, reminding a government spook how much he hates dogs, and for once Clark is introduced to actual fear. He claims he’s never gotten scared before, truly scared, but I find that hard to believe. Never? Not even when Lex put him in a death trap? In any event, Dean Cain can’t play fearful that well so it’s immaterial, really. He seems more put out by his future mother-in-law becoming–well, not a bridezilla, but perhaps a sort of wedding planner mothra.

This episode hearkens back to a Season 1 plot point that the show pretty much dropped, which is that Clark traveled the world as a journalist before he settled down in Metropolis. See, this all comes down to when Clark investigated gun running in Jamaica. The problem with invoking early installment lore is Dean Cain has not been playing Clark as having uncommon worldliness, not lately anyway. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t question it if you told me that he went straight from Smallville to Metropolis. Him having a secret Jamaican adventure doesn’t track with the character we know, not now anyway.


What a terrible Dean Cain likeness. If I’m going to see a doll get pricked, I wanna see it look as similar to Dean Cain as possible.

The guest star du jour, in addition to Ellen Lane (Beverly Garland–researching this made me remember she appeared in Season 1 played by Phyllis Coates… as you can tell, Phyllis left quite an impression), is Cress Williams portraying Baron Sunday. Cress Williams would go on to acclaim-ish with his performance in Black Lightning as Black Lightning. Look, man’s got an “in” at comic book conventions the rest of his life, that’s not nothing. Cress Williams, you’ll find out if you do due diligence as I do, was born in West Germany to American parents. Not a whiff of Jamaica on him, so it’s fair to claim the accent he deploys in this episode is neither accurate nor of particular quality. I don’t give a shit that much about cultural appropriation–to me, the problem with Apu is there’s not enough Apu–but this all feels very lazy and poorly researched. Given this show rarely diverges from “Superman is the only fantastical element”, introducing a black man who can turn into a snake and can hypnotize people perfectly… eh. I’d feel better if literally any other black people were on this fucking show. It smacks of the moronic exoticism you’d see on, say, Manimal.

Chris: Ronnie, I was trying to remember if L&C has ever strayed into magic territory before. Like, there was a magician episode, but that didn’t have to do with actual magic, as it all turned out to be garden variety sleight of hand and hocus-pocus nonsense. Did last season’s kung-fu episode have any, like, magic chi shit in it or whatever? Lois’s neighbor Star returns and she was always kind of magical I guess. She started as a bullshit psychic but kind of moved closer and closer to legit with each appearance, so I dunno, I guess there’s precedent, but this whole voodoo thing left a pretty sour taste in my mouth. It felt lazy in the kind of gross racist way a lot of older television does where they just match a minority with the first threatening stereotype that came to mind and dove in. Like in the just mentioned kung fu episode from last season, the half-assedness of L&C is fine when it’s dealing with dumb white people (I know Dean Cain isn’t actually white, but no part of his performance as Clark suggests anything other than corn-fed white-boy), but as soon as it starts trying to address other cultures things get real dicey real fast.


Don’t worry, it gets more racist from here.

I kind of liked the fact that when Clark was young he was a patsy for some crooked agency spooks and ended up inadvertently framing a completely innocent man for a crime. Like, our Baron is more righteous than your average Lois & Clark villain, and that Clark himself was part of the problem is a refreshing twist. He did fuck up, and the Baron does deserve a measure of justice for having his entire life taken from him.That’s the kind of moral ambiguity you usually get on something like Batman: the Animated Series, Lois & Clark tends to truck more in Bitter-Toymaker and Absent-Minded-Time-Travelers style villains. But it’s not enough to raise the episode to even just okay, the half-assedness is just too strong. For instance, when Clark finally makes the connection between the fear killings and his time in Jamaica, he ends up looking up his old story and the pictures that accompanied it, right? So they look at the picture of the guy Clark busted and it’s clearly Cress Williams, but Cain and Hatcher squint and scowl and are like “Yeah, I guess MAYBE that MIGHT be him.” I don’t expect Lois & Clark to go full Angel Heart or anything, but would it have killed them to throw some prosthetics on Williams for his before picture? Change the shape of his nose maybe, or give him a big bushy beard?

The half-assed philosophy also infects the wedding planning B blot. Clark is getting these weird panic attacks just when he and Lois begin to get serious about planning their wedding, and at first Lois thinks Clark’s anxiety is rooted in some buried reticence about  their upcoming nuptials.That’s a solid idea for a plot, but Clark immediately rejects Lois’s suspicions and she immediately believes him so fuck it I guess. Why couldn’t Clark have maybe worried that there was something to Lois’s theory? He’s dreaming about being trapped and marriage is commitment that sometimes makes people feel trapped. Clark could have had some actual anxiety about the wedding that the voodoo magnified and so when he overcame it there was a sense that he was a stronger, more committed person than he was before. But no, instead, Clark lets the scary memory wash over him and is like “LOLZ, turns out the memory was my parents sending me away because they loved me so much, nothing scary about that!” and kicks the Baron’s ass or whatever. There’s few plots I hate more than “turns out the thing I was scared of just made me more awesome than I already was!”.

Ronnie: To your magic question, how about the Irish guy with the Dr. Doom mask? He was magic, I think. To be honest, a lot of Lois & Clark gets deleted in my memory, given I have to simultaneously remember “Criminal Minds shit” and “Law & Order shit” and now “Star Wars expanded universe shit”. Only the egregious bits stick out. Still, I think it speaks to how out of place voodoo is that disrupts the feel of the show this way. It’d be one thing if Lois & Clark were The X-Files, which basically has the premise of “what if every paranormal concept and conspiracy existed simultaneously” but, again, for the most part the show is down to earth with Superman as the radical element. I dunno why exactly this instance of divergence bothers me but it does. The racial politics probably play a part of it; for all my dirtbag credibility, I still wince whenever racial insensitivity–ignorance, malice, whichever is immaterial at a certain point–rears its head. Also, it comes down to how voodoo is portrayed, which is basically Magic But For The Blacks. That’s boring. THIS IS BORING.


Gotta appreciate a series of assassinations that give you clues as to the perpetrator. That’s good writing. Smart writing.

Another thing I find myself not sanctioning at this juncture is the open ended ending. Like, I get why it happens. They want to create the sensation that this is a living, breathing universe and some threats are unresolved, left to fight another day… but I know Cress Williams doesn’t appear again. Maybe it’d be different if I was watching this as it aired and I felt Baron Sunday could saunter back into Superman’s life at any time, but I know he snakes off and then does nothing the rest of the series. Not necessarily a fault, because lord knows there were a lot of implications The X-Files never followed up on by dint of being a procedural for the most part, but this show’s tendency to sometimes have an overarching story–Intergang, for instance–makes the dropped balls galling. Sure, a second voodoo episode would probably be terrible, but it would create the notion that Superman has a verifiable gallery of rogues who bedevil him on occasion, something Lois & Clark has struggled to do since John Shea put the kibosh on Lex Luthor as anything more than an intermittent entity.

Chris: You’re absolutely right about the Druid shit, I’d forgotten completely about it. And rightly so, I might add, that episode fucking sucked. But it brings about a new question: are we only giving magic to minorities? And does the magic somehow have to correspond to their culture? Because if so, ew. It’s easy to give the present shit because it’s a scorched hellscape bereft of any mercy or hope, but at least we’re not assigning powers to folks based on whatever the easiest stereotype about their people is. Black Lightning’s powers have nothing to do with him being black, or at least as far as I know they don’t anyway. Sure, there’s still that Black in his name for no real reason, but baby steps. And hey, at least he isn’t deliberately talking “Street” when in costume so as to throw suspicion off his erudite,well-spoken alter-ego/secret identity anymore. Because that was absolutely a thing that happened in the 70s.


Baron Sunday doesn’t live on an airplane, he actually lives in a defunct restaurant shaped as an airplane. Important distinction.

You’re also right about this episode being boring. I felt like I could have easily spit another thousand worlds out on “Home Is Where the Hurt Is”, but I’m struggling to think of anything to say about “Never On Sunday” beyond “racism”. It’s too bad the show seems to have completely given up on any B plots for the supporting players, because we could talk about that, but it feels like Jimmy and Perry have less to do than ever. Remember when Jimmy would, like, flirt with girls, or chase down a story or something? It seems like they tried to give Justin Whalin stuff to do after he replaced Michael Landes, but ended up giving up pretty quickly. He got a haircut this week, is that anything?

Odds & Ends

-Perry White getting his dick wet saga, cont’d: he has a blind date, whom he later ditches in favor of taking Jimmy to the magic show. If you’re pulling the ripcord on potential hookups so you can hang out with your imbecile employee, you’ve got problems.
-Seinfeld Alum Counter: Clark’s NIH buddy who sees killer dogs was the male nurse in “The Outing”.

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