A brief note on Smallville 5.20 Fade
I watched Fade at mskatej's place over a period of around 3 hours, I believe… I kept sneakily pressing the space bar to pause it, mystifying Kate with my magic ability to freeze frame the 'OMG!' moments (I fessed up eventually). But the excitement of fangirling in person got the better of us, and our analysis of Fade not only exhausted toadstoolsmiles so much she fell asleep and infuriated Kate's flatmate so much he had to come down and tell us off for squealing, but also sequed unexpectedly into an impassioned Buffyverse conversation. Subsequently, Fade has somewhat, er, faded from my memory. I remember finding it very slashy and finding that week's freak almost too obvious as a Lex substitute. I also squeed a lot about the Lexana, and Lex's manipulation of Lana, but if you want anything more thorough out of me on this ep, you'll have to poke me to watch it again, as I've forgotten most of the details.
Now on to Oracle...
Truth and memory
Since Reckoning, we have seen the ways in which Clark has memorialised Jonathan as a sort of talisman of goodness. Whether through an object (his watch), a photograph or video, or simply the ways in which Clark describes his father, it's become clear that Clark carries with him a memory of Jonathan as the man who 'made him who he is' and who stands for 'truth' and 'justice' and (ironically) restrained action. Ironically, since Jonathan had an angry hothead quality in real life, that at times endangered his son (eg his aggressive mishandling of Nixon). To me, there is a clear, if understandable gap between the 'real' Jonathan, and the one that Clark holds in his memory.
So when Jonathan 'showed up' in this episode, encouraging Clark to murder Lionel, I was clued on to it being Fine, not so much because this was out of character for the real Jonathan, but because it was out of character for Clark's idealised memory of him. Having said that, there was also something very cold and artificial about Fine-as-Jonathan, particularly in the Martha scene, which was unlike the real warm, if fiery, Jonathan we knew. I believe Jonathan would have been capable of killing Lionel in a rage, if given sufficient provocation. But to stand by and coldly and calculatingly manipulate his son into doing so was out of character.
Of course, the framing of Jonathan's visitations in this episode, compared to those in Void was also a clue-off that this was a different experience, despite Clark's conviction that the two experiences were both 'real'. Whereas in Void we saw Jonathan surrounded by rays of light and in his traditional space (the barn), in Oracle he appeared in a graveyard, seated in the living room (unusual--Jonathan was so often on his feet) and always in heavy shadow.
I should mention that I don't disapprove of Clark's idealisation of Jonathan--Smallville has established that the memory of absent parents can be good influences or negative ones depending on the individual character in question. Clark needs to remember his father as a good man, in order to model his own behaviour on an ideal, rather than a tarnished reality.
In bed with the devil
I giggled through the Lex-Lionel confrontation about Fine. Lex's raised-eyebrow retorts to Lionel's sensationalism of their relationship was very amusing. The 'not knowing who you're in bed with' exchange was particularly enjoyable. However, I was relieved to discover later in the episode that Lex was not being quite as duped by Fine as initially implied. I'm not even going to get started about the implausible vaccine, because it served its purpose in the end, so I'll forgive the plot-writers (just) on that score. Let's just say that if I had been Lana, I'd have had a few more questions than she had…
Far more implausible to me was the need for Chloe to scan Lionel's scribbles into a computer before Clark could read them. Huh?! This was one of the most ridiculous ways of writing Chloe into the plot that I've seen yet, and it's getting kind of tired… Chloe-as-extension-of-Clark is bugging me. Although I did find her 'hand me a cloak and call me Horatio' line cute.
Betrayal and redrawn alliances
Chloe's betrayal of Lana continued in this episode. Finally we are seeing the negative consequences for the unusual situation of 'shared space' that was set up this season with Chloe and Lana sharing a room. It allowed Clark easy access to rummaging in Lana's things, with the excuse that he was looking out for her as well. Inevitably, Clark got caught redhanded, and I'm very glad he did. I just wonder whether Lana will ever call Chloe on her role in the information-leaking. Perhaps not, although it's also a nice reverse of Lana's invasion of Chloe's space way-back-when in second season when she found the deleted prom photos on Chloe's computer.
The Lois-Lana friendship may have surprised some people (I'm guessing), but I found it a convincing and interesting plot development. Lana, sans Clark, is a far more interesting character. She's liberated in more than one sense, and I think this is demonstrated in her being more open to a friendship with Lois. In defending Lois to Lex, she is one of the few people to see past Lois's abrasiveness to her underlying good intentions. Of course it was threatening to Lex--apart from distrusting Lois herself, Lex has a vested interest in limiting Lana's interactions with people outside his sphere, if he's to draw her thoroughly into his life.
From a purely slashy point of view, I loved Kristin's delivery on the line 'You're annoyed that I'm involved in it, or that I'm involved in it with Lex?' Yes, is it really about Lana, Clark? Lana's pissiness that the tension is not really about her continued with her request for a 'moratorium on the Clark subject' with Lex. Just how much of their time do they spend talking about Clark? Clark's shadow is cast over their entire relationship, not just because of the timing and circumstances, but also because they are both out to prove just how different from Clark they are--truthful, open, trusting, loving--ah, Lex, you played her so well with that 'confidential' folder!
There were a lot of 'surprises' in this episode, starting with the surprise birthday party. Most of them were less of a surprise on second glance. For example, Lois's rum cake was a lovely symbol of both her loyalty and good intentions, and her clumsiness with 'normal' human (family) life. Likewise, Jonathan's present to Clark said a lot more about him than it did about Clark. As Martha pointed out, Jonathan would have liked nothing better than to watch the baseball with his son. So this present was more for Jonathan than for Clark, and the fact that Clark 'returned' them, served to highlight this fact. Yet Clark was completely comfortable with the idea that a present from Jonathan was him saying that he admired and loved his son more than anyone else and enjoyed his company.
The uncovery of Fine's manipulation was another non-surprise; however, what was truly hidden from the audience at this stage was how much this episode foreshadowed the events to occur in Vessel. Hooray!