Trouble on your doorstep
Clark adopted a very possessive attitude regarding the mini-JL-ers investigating Luthorcorp. While I certainly understand where that behaviour comes from in Clark's psychology, when viewed objectively by outsiders, it doesn't come across well. Clark acts as if Lex and Luthorcorp are his 'turf'. In one sense they are: he's been investigating Lex's affairs for years, and he's quick to jump in and interfere in person when presented with a new endeavour. However, as we've seen, 33.1 has largely continued to develop without Clark's interference. There's a degree of wilful ignorance in Clark's make-up when it comes to Lex. He doesn't want to look too closely or he'll find the definitive evidence that he's lost the battle to keep Lex on the straight and narrow. It's also emotionally challenging and risky for him to head back into that arena, even though it's also ultra-familiar. So it's a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, Clark's watching Lex, on the other he's probably subconsciously quite happy that the Zoners have allowed him to concentrate on something else for a while.
Early on in the episode we hear Clark say that he's the 'only one' that can round up the Zoners and stop Lex from experimenting. But this episode proves him wrong. When Ollie and his troupe of merry men stumble into town to stop 33.1, Clark is startled: 'You know about 33.1?!' Um. Honey. Oliver should ask you the same question! You've been here all along. If you knew about it, why haven't you done something? Thankfully Oliver doesn't (quite) resort to these accusations, though he does question what could be more important than stopping Lex. I have no doubt that Ollie senses that the complex emotional history between Clark and Lex has something to do with Clark's reticence to step in, and his protectiveness about who has the 'right' to interfere with Lex's plans.
Not a team player
Clark is shown in this episode to not be a good team player. That's not necesarily a criticism (I'm not one either!), but it certainly is interesting. I'm sure those with a greater knowledge of Justice League canon than I have will have been dissecting this episode, but for my part, I thought it was interesting that within SV canon it develops under Oliver's impetus. And while the title may not be formal yet ('something with justice in it'), they're pretty damn close (JL International? What else could the 'L' stand for?). The code names were cute. I particularly liked Impulse for Bart--and there were a couple of good calls about he and Clark being alike in their non-team-player status.
Clark projects a hierarchy onto the mini-League: he assumes that Bart is working for Oliver, whereas Oliver's taking a more collaborative approach: although his leadership skills are very much in evidence, he also allows each member of the team freedom to do what they do best, their own 'glory'. Oliver thinks of overall strategies, whereas Clark takes the 'personal responsibility' approach--he charges in because HE 'can't let anything happen to Bart'. And within the episode, this is shown to be a poor idea. The episode really does support the idea that there is strength in teamwork, and that Clark's ultra-responsiblity-taking and personally authorative stance may be more successful when balanced with the talents and approaches of others.
I greatly enjoyed Bart's return to Smallville. He was heaps of fun the first time around and I love that he's found his path in life and matured now. Seeing Clark zip around after him was awesome, as was the rescue. And Bart flirting with Chloe was really cute. Oh, and his nifty computer-hacking skills were awesome. Flash drive! Heee!
However, I didn't like the way Clark was scripted in their scenes. I thought he was too suspicious of Bart, firstly acting like Chloe's guarddog (she can tell Bart she's got a boyfriend herself!) and then grilling him about what he's doing in town. Clark assumes that Bart is up to no good. Why assume that? Sure, he was a troubled kid when they first met, but he did receive the 'super-kick in the butt'. ;-) But Clark's not big on believing in people's ability to change: once a thief, always a thief in his book, and behind the chummy smile's you get the feeling he's still suspicious of Bart. As soon as Clark is proved 'right' (without knowing all the facts), he starts throwing reproaches at Bart, gets angry and shows him that he doesn't trust him. Rather than assuming that there may be a good reason why he's stealing from Luthorcorp, he tries to bully an answer out of him and Bart, predictably, takes off.
Contrast this attitude with Ollie's and Clark doesn't come across so well. Ollie says he could see that Bart was a 'good kid'. Indiscretions don't define you in Ollie's book--he's more forgiving. He also believes in the capacity for change because he's changed himself. Instead of distrusting Bart, he trusted him--going so far as to offer him a job. I really hated Clark's pissy 'look where that got him!' line: it deflected the issue. Because the fact is that Clark's people skills aren't what they could be. His standards are so high--for himself and for others. The good side of this, which we see so often, is how much he expects of himself (and delivers, and his ability to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But this ep cast some light on the negative aspects of those standards too.
Don't get me wrong--I love Clark, and have adored seeing him mature this year. But I don't think this episode showed him in the best light.
For the reasons indicated above, the 'hero shot' fell a little flat for me. It was visually spectacular, but I didn't feel this really was Clark's hero moment. For starters, the JL-ers didn't need Clark's approval to blow the plant, but he totally acted like they did. I had really conflicted feelings about that scene--I'm glad that they played it as a genuine concern that everyone (Lex) was out of the building and safe, but I didn't like the overriding feeling that this was Clark giving them Daddy's pat on the back. Sure it was touching that Ollie obviously had been hoping for that approval, but it just seemed rather absurd to have Clark set up as the patriarch of the group when he isn't even part of it yet. This probably sounds a lot more gripe-y than it's intended to be. It was AWESOME FUN, but there were some problems inherent in the plot, I felt.
Army of superfreaks
OMG, I love, love, love that this is now textually Lex's 'plan'. An army of meteor freaks! Wheeee!! I've been hoping for this ever since we were first introduced to 33.1. It may have taken forever to come to fruition, but it's a brilliant culmination of Lex's journey. My only disappointment is that I don't think the writers are prepared to fully flesh out Lex's side of things at this point in time. I would love, for example, to see a plot exploration of the ways in which Lex both identifies with and distances himself from the meteor freaks he experiments on/trains in this facility. Because there IS self-identification to be done there--he's a meteor freak himself and he's spent time in Belle Reve. And don't tell me he's not attracted to at least some of his 'freaks': Myx, for starters, and that cute computer-nerd chick--didn't she end up there too? Oh, there's just so so much fodder there. Fanfic anyone?!!!
As if that wasn't enough, we get to see Lex capture yet another of the JL-to-be kids! This filled me with glee--because we know that this is all just foreplay until Lex can catch Clark! Oh, and we finally, FINALLY got to see Lex crack out a classic comic book superhero torture machine with the contraption designed to keep Bart running. Luthor inventiveness--wheee!! It was actually clever and looked great! It almost makes me forgive his security team for being so piss weak. Almost.
And Lionel protecting Clark... interesting. Clearly not even Lex can quite believe his father would lie to his own son to protect Clark. I hope Lex sees through this facade of Lionel's by season end.
Secretary to the Stars
So, Chloe becomes the JL's secretary? Seems like she's destined for that role. *g* And I giggled so hard that Clark's first offering to the mini-League was ... Chloe. Hee! Instead of 'reckon I can help you out', it's 'reckon my best pal can help you out...' Hee.
Chloe was an intersting one to throw into the mix, since at first I thought she'd come over as more of a team player than Clark--and indeed she fits well into the structure, feeding them information. However, she's not without her rebelliousness as well--she tries to get in a few jibes to Oliver, though he shuts her down. And she reveals that Clark's confided their secrets in her--a pretty huge revelation that wasn't made much of in this fast-packed episode. I liked the way Justin played Oliver's reaction. I actually think this would be a huge deal to Oliver--the fact that Clark confides in Chloe, a non-super-hero. I would have liked a little more fallout from that, but given that this was all crammed into one episode, I liked that at least Oliver didn't confide his own plan to her. That was a subtle way of showing that just because she had Clark's trust didn't necessarily mean she had Ollie's yet.
One thing I did really like was Chloe being understanding about Clark covering for Bart initially. Nice touch--the last thing Clark needed was another reproach for keeping secrets.
So... er... what's with Victor and Aquadude? o.O I guess the writers took a look at their first script draft and thought 'yeah, good... but not enough slash!' Because, damn that 'checking you out' scene was slashy. Aquadude is not very bright. We all know this. But he seemed very happy to be ogled by Victor (who seemed happy with the eyecandy), and when I rewatched the episode, I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that those two make their grand entrance to the line 'Not everyone flies solo...' HA! They're so doing it. *beams*
As if that weren't enough, apparently Ollie gave Victor 'a reason to go on living'. *g* Oh, please, please, someone write the fic about Ollie taking Victor in and giving him 'a warm meal'! And I thought the continuity with the whaler was really cute with AC--Lois's social faux pas is even funnier in retrospect. And Ollie has a secret girlfriend in Lois? Hmm. Way to make the Justice League slashy!
I'm sure there are some people who're happy to see Oliver leave Smallville--I'm not one of them. His presence allowed the show to develop plot lines and explore ideas that would have been harder without the ensemble cast. His 'grey' morality stood in interesting contrast to Clark's black and white morality and Lex's descent into darkness. And he connected Clark and the show to the wider, more mature world of Metropolis and beyond.
For Clark he proved a friend, a confidant and an ally--someone who understood the burden of living a double life. He connected with both Clark and Lois as they were growing into their adult roles. For Lois, he represented her first real love (Aquadude being too brief a flirtation) and she matured in that relationship: at first she blamed herself for its failure, but in this farewell episode we saw her assert herself and lay the blame at Oliver's feet, and doing so without denying the strong emotional connection she had with him. He'll be sorely missed by both of them.
Plus, let's not forget the substantial contribution he's made to this season's male nudity quota. :-D This week's gratuitous waistband shot was particularly yummy. *g*
I thought the lead-up to Ollie's farewell was nicely understated--he suggests to Lois that they should take a break, and for a moment I thought that was going to be it. Then he opted for a vacation, but it was obvious that he was just postponing the inevitable since he'd already articulated that it wasn't fair to Lois. This is obviously something that Ollie's considered before, and in retrospect his decision to protect his identity last week seems like it may have been partly driven by the idea that he couldn't keep Lois forever regardless of her acceptance, since it wasn't fair to her.
I could barely watch the Lollie farewell scene. *sniffles* It stung as much as I thought it would. Oh, and Ollie mentioned his parents' death! He said he loved her! *flails* And 'the moment I'll regret for the rest of my life'. OMG, OMG, OMG. I need the futurefic NOW!!!
I like that Lois said she wouldn't be waiting. That combined with Ollie's honesty that he won't be coming back anytime soon will mean she makes sure to move on. And that's of the good, because canonically she needs to!
There was some balm for Ollie's departure: he gets to jet around the world with a bunch of hot superheros. That's not bad! I'm glad they built this ep for him, since it makes it a far less lonely departure. And for Lois, well, I really wanted to see her cry on Clark's shoulder, but lacking that at least we had some Clois-y vibes: I greatly enjoyed seeing Clark flustered by Lois and her underwear and holidaying-with-Ollie in this episode. I like that he's conflicted about having protected Ollie's secret. I'm just praying there's some more Clois to come this season.
I have some fears about the second half of this season--it's hard for me to imagine how they'll top the first half, and the show may feel terribly empty once it returns to the usual formula--especially if Lois can't stick around either contractually (I don't know). Also, I'm concerned that Lex's plot doesn't tie to Clark's at all now. That could be a mistake. Clark off chasing Zoners and Lex... hanging with Lana? Doesn't sound like a recipe for a brilliant half-season to me. But I'll cross my fingers the writers have some good stuff in store. And I can totally see the season ending with Clark getting ready to join the League... and that is YAY! \o/