Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Oedipus Wrecks”/”It’s A Small World After All”
Ronnie: I want to first begin by saying “Oedipus Wrecks” as a title has also been used on Wings and most recently Criminal Minds. So that’s the level of “clever” we’re dealing with here. Anyway, this episode closes the book on the Lois amnesia saga. Does it do so in an elegant fashion? Well, I think that question is flawed because I’m not sure how an elegant solution could’ve been divined. An ending is better than no ending. This episode also brings back a one-off villain in the form of his family, as though that’s something anybody wanted. It’s a success insofar as it rips the bandage off a stupid, ill-advised, wheel spinning storyline. So much of “Oedipus Wrecks” concerns Clark/Superman feeling jealousy towards Dr. Deter. The other half is Bad Brain Johnson’s brother, played by Jay Leno from The Late Shift, stealing his deceased sibling’s technology to wreak havoc/impress his mother. Leno is a patient of Dr. Deter’s, thereby connecting the two storylines. Superman is really bad at hiding the fact that he and Clark are separate people. It’s three seasons in, he shouldn’t be stumbling like this. “Lois means the world to… Clark…” Amateur hour!
I like that Lois, memory partially revitalized, is allowed to go back to work. Like, she doesn’t remember large swaths of her life, how the fuck is she supposed to cover school board meetings or whatever. Who knows. Maybe before journalism became clickbait this happened a lot. Amnesia riddled columnists cranking out hit pieces against Spider-Man, severely brain damaged…hold on, I think I came up with an explanation for Thomas Friedman. Clark wants her to work on the Bad Brain story, Dr. Deter doesn’t; the compromise is Deter shadows them in their investigation. Who cares about his other patients, none of them look like 1996 Teri Hatcher.
Leno, who claims to have created all of Bad Brain’s inventions, uses a Vibro-Whammy on Metropolis. The purpose is to make everyone subjected to it extra suggestible, but in Lois’ case it causes her to watch clips from previous episodes. Leno wants to kill our starring duo at the behest of his pill of a mother. It’s thin gruel but still superior to the soap opera theatrics of Lois and Clark’s relationship. At one point they kiss and Lois realizes “I can’t love you, I don’t even know you”. Look, we all know where this is going. “I just want all of this to be over” Lois fumes to Deter in a later scene. I AGREE! END IT!
I’m not big into fashion, but I know every choice in this was a mistake.
Chris: I was sure the mom was going to be a robot. The first time we hear about her is in therapy where he’s complaining about her, and the first time we see her she’s standing at the top of the basement stairs, backlit so she’s almost completely a shadowed silhouette, and even her voice had a kind of grating, electronic quality. My thought was that Leno was a nutter whose mom had died before he could ever win her approval or maybe he’d killed her in a fit of rage and been so horrified that he’s rebuilt her in a kind of fugue state and just didn’t remember. Either way, I figured the gag would be that this fucking nerd that could never get his hateful mothers approval built her robot replacement so well that the robot hated him too. I don’t think it’s the greatest plot in the world, but it would be a cute, tech-driven spin on Norman Bates and it would say something about… I don’t know, something else.
If the goal was “John Waters character” the costuming department nailed it.
But of course that wasn’t what happened. The mom was just the mom, just a hateful hag who still adores her dead son Bad Brain Johnson and hates her living son Jay Leno. Which, to be fair, I would too. He’s extremely annoying. He’s like if Jerry Lewis got body swapped with Jay Leno and they drained his charisma. Think of it, a less charismatic Jay Leno. Remember back in 1996 when it turned out Leno had gone on vacation for two weeks and the Tonight Show just kept filming episodes with a lifesize cardboard cut-out and nobody noticed? This guy’s worse than that. Anyway, the whole thing was as dull and unimaginative as it could possibly be and was, in that respect, a perfect ending for this stupid amnesia subplot.
I had a certain fondness for Wanda Detroit because it felt like the writers enjoyed writing hammy tough-broad dialogue for her and Hatcher enjoyed saying it. And I liked Clois because she was an interesting, separate character with her own tragic arc, a rarity for L&C. But amnesia Lois is so uninspired and half-assed they can’t even bother to her amnesia right, or TV right anyway. Like when Jimmy tells Lois his first name she says “Carter?” and what am I supposed to do with that? Honestly? You have an imaginary version of a vague in real life illness that you can be fast and loose with and you make her the kind of stupid that completely undermines the part of the episode where she’s doing her job. She doesn’t know who Jimmy Carter is. There’s no reason to drain the last bit of dignity and believability from your premise for such a lame joke. The only positive thing I have to say about “Oedipus Wrecks” is it’s funny that the solution to Lois’s amnesia is a high-tech doodad that basically shakes her until her memories fall out.
Ronnie: The robot mom twist would be pretty inexplicable but I’m in agreement that it would’ve been better. It would’ve been something. Instead we’ve got a whole lot of nothing here. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Oedipus Wrecks” were originally titled “From A to B”, because that’s all it accomplishes. Daniel Roebuck did legitimately do a good job in the underrated Late Shift (check it out–it might be on HBO Max) but he’s pretty obnoxious here. The writing does him no favors, of course. I’m not sure how you would salvage a guy who seems to be in mental health care primarily because he’s fucking annoying.
As for Dr. Deter’s comeuppance, it’s vaguely something. Him exiting the series by Lois punching him out makes dramatic sense but it’s a hollow “you go girl” moment. He’s been gaslighting you for weeks and pinching him out is appropriate comeuppance? It comes so late and with so little fanfare it’s at best an afterthought and indicative of what a poor decision it is to wed Bad Brain Johnson’s brother’s story to Dr. Deter’s.
This looks like video from the guy who shot himself after Bjork got a boyfriend.
Chris: Sometimes when it’s late and I’m having trouble getting to sleep or am somewhere where I can’t get to whatever I’m reading at the moment, I’ll reread an old L&C&C&R on my phone. It’s a good opportunity to both see how my writing reads when I have enough distance to not remember writing it, and to remind myself about older episodes in the series that I may have forgotten about. As we keep saying, L&C isn’t a show that really sticks in your brain once it’s over the way The X-Files, or Buffy (to pick two genre shows from the same era) do, so refreshers every once and a while are helpful. The thing that always stands out about those recaps is how, while L&C isn’t usually very good, it’s often strange and thematically ambitious. I might not have liked that super racist episode where they go to Chinatown and fight ninjas, but at least I can see how they were trying to expand the world of Metropolis and make it a more exotic and multicultural place. Again, it’s a resounding failure, but it’s heart was in the right place.
What bothers me about the Lois and Dr. Deter plot is how flat and unimaginative it is. I’m on the record as enjoying a good romantic rival as long as they’re, you know, good. Lex was dynamic and complex, that one district attorney who dug Clark in season two was an interesting match because she was into Clark and had no use for Superman (also she was super cute). Even Detective Baloney (remember him?) was a good dude who wanted to catch bad guys, he was a zero as a character but at least he wasn’t a weasel. I accept that stalls are just a natural part of a romance show, they’re an easy way to create tension, but man, you have to try a little to make them credible. Dr. Deter’s plan is so obviously flawed from jump and he’s such an oily unlikable character that there’s really no reason for him to be there at all other than to kill a little time until the season finale. Again, he makes Detective Baloney seem interesting, and I had to keep jabbing thumbtacks into my hand to keep myself awake when he was on screen! Anyway, he’s gone now, along with the whole idiotic amnesia plot. And where we’re going next still isn’t very good, at least we’re back in the realm of the deeply strange.
For as much as we make fun of the show’s sexlessness, by 2023 movie standards this is hardcore pornography.
Odds & Ends
-The “Ben-Hur/Ten Commandments” who’s on first shit is embarrassing.
– We all know nothing in this episode lines up in any way with the Oedipus story, right? It’s important to me that we’re all on the same page on this one.
Ronnie: This is an improvement upon the last episode, but don’t expect that to mean much. This hour could be nothing more than a static shot of a beehive, with the occasional bee buzzing in and around it, and it would be a considerable improvement over “Oedipus Wrecks”. That may be hyperbole, but I did hate that show a lot. “It’s A Small World After All”, to its credit, takes a relatable concept that twists it with science fiction-y gibberish. In this case it’s Lois going to her high school reunion with Clark in tow. Unbeknownst to them, one of Lois’ more forgettable classmates mastered shrinking technology and has been abducting people and turning them doll sized.
A high school reunion is a good plot for either comedy or drama because they illuminate character: a person’s interactions with their former cohort will reveal how they used to act and the contrast will indicate how they’ve changed. With Lois it’s nothing substantial–mostly hairdo jokes, but it’s better than nothing. Annette is psychotically jealous of Lois Lane (“Lolo”) and has designs on other people she used to know, using her sidekick (based on Hans and Frans? I don’t know) to distribute haircare products that can turn people small. The effects are whatever, but they put in a little more effort than usual. Easily on pair with Honey, I Shrunk The Kids: The TV Series.
“Reporter Killed By Falling Disco Ball” would make for a pretty funny headline.
Chris: This is the first episode in a long time that felt like a first season episode to me. From the real-adult-world-thing-meets-Lois-and-Clark plot of the high school reunion, to the dumbass sci-fi twist of Superman getting all small, all the way to the inexplicable involvement of a professional athlete as an actor (NFL legend Steve Young as Lois’s high school boyfriend everyone!). I don’t think I can say that “It’s a Small World After All” even hurdles the low-ass bar of being good for an episode of Lois & Clark, but I know I had fun watching it, which is more than I can say for the previous couple of entries.
As you said, this week’s entry involves Lois dragging Clark to her fifteenth(?) high school reunion and reinforces the age old adage that the popular kids were right to ignore the weird nerds back then because they’re all twitchy psychopaths. I know you don’t watch 30 Rock, Ronnie, but there’s a great episode where Tina Fey’s character goes to her reunion intent on rubbing her success in the faces of all the popular kids who picked on her only to discover that they were all terrified of her nasty sense of humor and she was actually the bully all along. There’s a subversive quality to that narrative when the person you’re supposed to identify with turns out to be the villain, we all have the tendency to make ourselves the protagonists of our own stories and it’s easy to focus on our own hurts to the exclusion of others. “It’s a Small World After All” isn’t that. Lois doesn’t learn anything about herself or her old friends, all she learns is that the weird girl, who we’ve never seen before and presumably will never be seen again, is still weird and has actually gotten weirder.
He has the sense of a failed SNL character.
So yeah, that was pretty underwhelming, but what did I like? I’m glad you asked! The crazy lady’s plan is to shrink the various significant others of the people she wanted to be friends with in high school so they would become lonely and come to her, the weird nerd they haven’t seen in decades, for emotional support and then they’d be friends. Makes sense, right? It doesn’t? Oh well, who cares! Clark gets hit by the shrinking ray and becomes a tiny little Superman who doesn’t want Lois to see him in his reduced state. Now, obviously order is restored by the end of the episode and everyone is returned to their normal heights, but I had a great time imagining what would have happened if it hadn’t and the show had become Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Tiny Superman. Think of the possibilities! They could still fight crime and shit but when they’re investigating, Clark could be sitting on her shoulder or something. He could sleep in a matchbox on her bedside table and took around the city in a wind-up toy car. And of course, no one would notice that both Superman and Clark had suddenly both shrunk to exactly six inches. If they had gone with that the show probably would have ran for ten more seasons instead of cratering the very next year.
Ronnie: “Season 1-like” is the operative phrase, Chris, and I’m glad you hit on it. That’s why I liked this one more: it reminded me of when there were open possibilities at play with Lois & Clark. Look, we know what’s going to happen from now on, right? They’ll get married for real, some light newlywed Dave Barry-esque bullshit will happen, then it’s back to the mixture of scandals and animals. Then the show will be cancelled unceremoniously in favor of Debra Messing hunting homo dominant. (Not kidding.) I dunno, the high school reunion at least hints that there’s a larger world out there, one of Steve Young (either doing a terrible acting job or doing a great acting job playing mentally handicapped) and the like. It may be in the past, but Lois had friends, enemies, acquaintances! When was the last time one of these characters had a friend?
Definite contender for Wave 3 of the Lois & Clark toyline that never existed.
Superman becoming small is obviously the USP of the episode, and to their credit, there are some good shenanigans at play. Like Chris said, the possibilities for Tiny Superman are matched only by Nicolas Cage SNL character Tiny Elvis. I want to go the other direction: tragedy. Think of how amazing and unexpected it would be if Superman died, a la The Incredible Shrinking Man, by way of uncontrollably sizing down indefinitely. Lois & Clark mines those emotions pretty well, although the conversation loses its punch when it’s about standing by your man when he grows “Mighty Mouse-sized”. Although obviously inspired by a Joe Johnston/Rick Moranis film, I do think “It’s A Small World After All” contains some bullshit Silver Age Superman in its DNA. Say what you will about that era–it has its supporters and its detractors–but there was a palpable energy to them. That energy permeates this episode and as such it’s more than forgettable bullshit. Have that as a pull quote, if Lois & Clark ever makes it to Blu-Ray.
Chris: It’s weird. If you think about it, L&C has a fairly robust supporting cast in terms of characters who have shown up more than one time. Like, there’s not just Lex, but his various henchman and butlers and whatnot, Tony Jay is a fixture for the first season and Denise Crosby shows up a couple of times in season two. And then there was those two love interests from last season, the ADA and the DEA guy. Then there’s that snitch who ate a lot, and Dr Erskine pops up from time to time, and Tempus and HG Wells and on and on. You were just talking about how the reunion made it seem like the characters had a life outside of work and reminded me there have been a fair number of distinct personalities on the show but it still just feels so empty and devoid of characters beyond Lois and Clark. Like remember Lois’s psychic neighbor? They tried to make her a thing this season. But none of it leaves an impression. I suppose that part of the reason for that is the show’s budget prohibits paying too many people for any one episode, so you never get a chance to see, like, Tempus and The Kents and Erskine in the same place at the same time.
Perry is working on his “freeze frame; executive producer credit” poses.
The next two episodes finish out the season and finally actually have Lois and Clark tie the knot once and for all. I guess. It would be nice to think that they’d manage to put all those characters (the ones who are still alive anyway) in the ceremony somehow, as ushers or guests or partycrashers or people turned away like Stan and Jack at Reed and Sue Richards wedding, but I’m not getting my hopes up. They’ll probably end up getting hitched in a supply closet by a judge over speakerphone or something. The Arrowverse shows were often dreadful, but they understood the value of just having all those established characters on screen together. But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is the moment when L&C finally finds itself and becomes a consistently entertaining show. Maybe the marriage is what they’ve always been waiting for and the schizophrenic nature of the last three seasons was supposed to be a metaphor for the chaotic, uncertain nature of life as a single person in a big city, trying to figure out who you are and what matters to you. It’s possible, right? It’s not, you know, likely. But it’s possible.
Odds & Ends
-Superman stopping a disco ball from falling at a high school reunion is really stretching things. It’s stupid and his secret identity should be in tatters.
-When Superman is all tiny and has to rescue Lois’s tiny friends he puts on Ken Doll scuba gear in order to hide his secret identity. It’s pretty funny.
-Perry is going through an “urban cowboy” phase. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
-The jury is out on Dr. Klein. Is he comic relief or not? It’d be great if Lois & Clark figured that out.
-”Couples United; Size Restored” is an incoherent headline and The Daily Planet should do better.