Smallville (Season 1, Ep 3): Hothead

Welcome to Smallville. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long plot recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can read that and just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

After several players are suspended for academic reasons, the football coach pressures Clark into joining despite Jonathan’s disapproval. We soon learn that the Coach supplied the players with the math exams they used to cheat. The coach sets out to cover up his role in the cheating and also to make certain he wins his 200th game.

Coach has developed the ability to start fires with his mind. He uses this ability to attack Principal Kwan and Chloe who are both investigating him. He also hurts a player for telling Kwan about the cheating. Clark saves both Kwan and Chloe before confronting the coach directly. When Coach is unable to hurt Clark with fire, he sets fire to himself. After, Clark decides he will not play football anymore.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

The episode begins during a football game, at night, during a heavy rain. Smallville’s coach (Dan Lauria – who you might remember as Kevin Arnold’s grumpy dad in ‘The Wonder Years’) has Whitney by the facemask, screaming at him. He orders Whitney to run the same play a second time in a row despite the call not working the previous time. The coach tells Whitney that even though he cannot see the wide receiver down the field he needs to throw the ball to the place on the field where he knows his receiver will be. Smallville trails by four (20-24) and they need to score a touchdown on the final play to win the game.

Whitney does as instructed, throws the ball blindly, but completes the pass and wins the game.

After the game, the coach utilizes a sweat box donated by the alumni in appreciation for over two decades of success coaching the team. We see that some of the rocks heated, and giving off steam, have some green in them. While the coach is sweating, he is visited by Principal Kwan who tells him that several of his players will be ineligible for next Friday’s football game. Later, in his office and dressed in a robe, the coach tells him that they can hold off on the suspensions until after next Friday’s games and then deal with the academic issues during the offseason. Kwan tells him that he is not sweeping a significant academic issue under the rug so that the coach can win a big game.

Coach Walt Arnold laughs and points out that Kwan has only been in Smallville for six months.

Coach: I’ve been here twenty-five years. We’re not talking about just a game, we’re talking about my legacy.
Kwan: I don’t care about your legacy.

The Coach explodes and tells Kwan that he has been education young people all of his life and asks the principal if he knows how many people have gone to college, and gotten good jobs, on his recommendation. Kwan replies that he knows most people in Smallville think that he walks on water, but Kwan tells the coach that he believes him to be dangerous. He tells the coach that he is suspending the players on Monday and he says that’s the end of the story. After Kwan leaves his office, the coach slams a towel down in a rage. A fire erupts on the table where it lands. The coach stares at the fire in fear and amazement.

♫Somebody saaaaaaavvee meeeee♫

Clark, Pete, and Chloe are discussing an expose that Chloe wrote about the coach for the school paper. The two boys think her article is too hard on him while Chloe tells them that you do not get points for subtlety in journalism. She tells them coolly that she is already getting hate mail. Clark tells her that she seems happy about it and she replies that it means she is hitting a nerve. She adds that the poor sentence structure and liberal use of obscenities gives her a clue as to who is sending it. Pete laughs at the idea that any of his teammates are reading The Torch.

As they walk, Clark overhears an argument between Whitney and Lana. Whitney is telling her that he does not see what the big deal is, while Lana replies that it is a big deal and walks away from him. Chloe giggles as Lana walks by them.

Chloe: Ooh, now there’s something you don’t see every day – a pompom meltdown.

They continue walking and a group of football players are gathered around their coach. One of them throws a football at Chloe while she takes pictures of them. Clark saves her by caching the ball one-handed in front of her face. When he throws the ball back, the player doubles over after catching. Coach sees this and takes note of Clark.

Later inside the school hallway, the coach approaches Clark. He tells Clark that he needs him on the team this Friday because they are short of players. Clark tells him that his dad needs him on the farm and that his dad is stubborn. The coach tells him that Jonathan Kent was one of the best athletes he ever coached.

Coach: It’s in your genes, Kent.
Clark: Actually, I’m adopted.

The Coach presses harder for Clark to join the team. He tells Clark that he has seen him staring at his dad’s picture in the trophy case. Then he calls Whitney Fordman over to help makes the sales pitch. Coach asks Whitney how Clark would do on the field and Whitney looks at him and says he would do alright. Lana comes over with Whitney, too. Coach tells them that Clark looks afraid. Lana says that’s not it, as Clark replies that it’s his dad. Coach then tells Clark that he needs to step out of his father’s shadow. Clark finally gives in and says to count him in. Coach, Whitney, and Lana all walk away leaving Clark alone with Pete.

Pete: Hey Clark, um, remind me what your dad said last time you asked him to play.
Clark: He said no.
Pete: He said no. That’s what I thought. Call me when the hurting’s done, okay?

Lana and Whitney are arguing. She is upset that Whitney is supportive of his friends who cheated on exams. Whitney tells her that he supports them because they are his friends and he reminds her that they used to be her friends. Whitney asks her what is really going on and she tells him that there are things she used to be certain of and she is not certain of those things anymore.

On the farm, Clark tells his dad that the coach did not give him any choice except to join the team. Jonathan asks him if the coach gave him the “be his own man” speech – and tells Clark that the coach has been giving that speech for twenty-five years. He then orders Clark to go to school the next day and tell Coach he cannot play. He also reminds Clark that they have had this conversation already.

Clark: It’s never been a conversation. I can be careful and you don’t trust me.

Jonathan tells him that he does trust him. Then he reminds Clark that there are a million things on a football field that might happen to impair his judgment. He reminds his son that he was meant for more than winning football games. Clark complains that he does not want to be punished for his gifts and tells his dad that most parents would be happy if their son could be the star of the football team. Jonathan puts his hand on Clark’s shoulder.

Jonathan: Son, I am happy when you wake up in the morning. I don’t need to live vicariously through your achievements.
Clark: Why would you? You got to play.
Jonathan: I’m not signing the permission slip, Clark.
Clark: You don’t have to. I’m playing football and you can’t stop me.

At Lex’s mansion, he hosts an involuntary work meeting with three men sent by his father. The leader of the group, Dominic, complains that the Smallville plant is losing money and he expects Lex to lay off a large number of his workforce. Lex says in reply that he plans to grow his workforce so that when the market bounces back, he will bein a position to corner it.

At Lana’s house, her aunt knocks on her bedroom door and points out that she is home early. She asks Lana if they canceled cheerleading practice. Lana tells her that she quit. She explains to her aunt that several football players were caught cheating. She shares that when she discussed it with Whitney, he told her it was not a big deal.

Lana: So why am I doing this? Waring a fake smile and a stupid outfit for people who would do anything to win a game?

Her aunt Nell asks what she is planning to do with her new found free time and Lana tells her that she wants to get a job in order to earn some extra money so that she might travel during the summer. Nell tells her that she can always use some extra help around the shop. However, Lana tells her that she wants to do this on her own.

Clark shows up at practice. He looks around for Lana but does not see her. Over in the stands, his dad is watching.

Clark: Dad, I’m glad you’re here, it means a lot.
Jonathan: I still don’t support your decision, Clark, but I’m here to see that no one gets hurt.

When practice starts, Clark takes a handoff and runs for a touchdown. He breaks several tackles along the way. After, Clark looks into the stands and sees his dad leaving.

In his office, the coach watches video of Clark during practice. As he does this, Principal Kwan enters. The principal tells Coach that one of his players has come forward to say that Coach supplied him and his teammates with material for cheating on their tests. Coach replies by guessing that Kwan went to the school board with that information, requested that he be suspended pending an investigation, and was told ‘no’ by the school board. Coach then tells Kwan that most of the school board are his ex-players. Kwan says that if he can get the other players to come forward, too, the Board will have no choice but to suspend him. Coach gets angry at this, slams his hands on his desk, and starts a fire.

Coach and Kwan both stare at the fire. Kwan asks what is going on here and Coach seems to understand this time how he started the fire. As Kwan leaves the school and tries to start his car, Coach is watching him through the window of his office.

Coach: Who the h*** does he think he is?

Just then the principal’s car catches on fire. As we hear Kwan yelling from inside his burning car, Clark leaves the school building. He rips the door off of the car and pulls the principal out seconds before the car explodes.

That night at the Kent house, Martha tells Clark that Principal Kwan suffered some burns and smoke inhalation, and will be in the hospital all weekend, but otherwise she says he will be okay. Jonathan asks Clark if anyone saw him. Clark defensively says no. Martha says it is lucky that Clark was there and he reminds her that he kind of missed his ride home when his dad left. Jonathan defensively says that he watched practice and saw that Clark easily could have hurt any of the boys he was playing with. Clark tells him that he did not and that is the point.

Clark: By the way, the coach gave me your old position. You’re looking at the starting tailback for this Friday’s game.
[Jonathan walks away]
Clark: Don’t everyone congratulate me at once.

Martha and Jonathan have a private conversation. He asks her when Clark got so stubborn. She sarcastically asks where he got that from. Jonathan claims he was never like that and she reminds him that during high school he ran away one summer and tried out for the Metropolis Sharks.

Martha tells her husband that they have never let Clark do anything normal his entire life out of fear that he might hurt someone. She argues that they need to trust his judgment. Jonathan says that if Clark makes a mistake, and someone suspects Clark’s abilities, that might lead to people coming into the farm to take him away. Martha replies that if they do not start trusting Clark, they will not have to worry about anyone taking him away – she says he will leave all by himself.

Sometime later, Clark, Chloe, and Pete are all hanging out at a coffee shop. Chloe is telling the other two that cars do not spontaneously combust. Chloe describes her next headline.

Chloe: Jockstrap saves principal from burning car.
Pete: Will you lay off the jockstraps thing?
Chloe: I still can’t believe Clark’s been blinded by the friday night lights.
Clark: I joined the football team, not a cult.

Chloe says that the next thing you know, she will be joining the pompom brigade. Lana walks by a waitressing apron and says that she hears there is a spot open. They ask Lana what she is doing there and she says she is taking their order, she hopes. Chloe asks if this is a cheerleading charity “be a waitress for a night” thing. Lana says that it is except for the cheerleading and charity parts.

The three make their order and Clark follows her back to the counter while she gets their coffees. He asks her about quitting cheerleading and points out that she always seemed happy doing it. She tells Clark that her mom was a cheerleader, as was her aunt, and that she figured it was time to break the vicious cycle. Clark asks what Whitney said and she replies by reminding him that Whitney is his teammate now.

Lana; Why don’t you ask him?

Clark tells her that he had just hoped they would see more of each other. She tells him that she has four shifts per week and that he can come by any time.

At the table, Chloe overhears some football players whispering that their coach needs to see them right now. She jumps up and tells Pete that she will see him tomorrow. As she goes, in a hurry, she and someone else collide with Lana, causing her to drop and break the order of coffees she is carrying. Everyone claps and Lana grins sheepishly.

On the football field, as the sprinklers are going, Coach asks the players which one of them talked. One of the boys, Trevor, tells him that no college will even look at them with cheating on their record. The coach walks over to Trevor and slaps him. As he does, the water from the sprinklers becomes fire. As the boys look around in terror, the coach yells.

Coach: Nothing is going to stand between me and my legacy. Now you boys go home and keep your mouths shut.

Chloe is taking pictures of all of this, from a distance.

At Lex’s mansion, Lionel bursts into his office and congratulates him sarcastically for making the business page. Lex tells his father that he could have called and reminds him that he shared his business plan with Dominic two days ago. Lionel replies that he did not believe Lex would be stupid enough to actually implement the plan. He tells Lex that they have a corporate structure and that Lex doe snot get special treatment.

Lex tells his father he is well aware of not getting special treatment – which is why he is n Smallville in the first place. Lionel tells him that the Ceasars used to send their sons to the furthest corners of the empire so that they would have an appreciation for how the world works.

Lionel proposes that they resolve their impasse by fencing for it. If Lex wins, then Lionel allows him to pursue his plan. Alternatively, Lionel says that if he wins, Lex must fire 20% of his workforce.

Lionel: The question you have to ask yourself is, Lex, are you good enough to take your old man?

They duel – without protective head gear – and Lionel tells Lex that his problem is that he is ruled b his emotions. Lionel disarms him, points the blade at his neck, and tells him that he wants those workers gone by noon tomorrow.

Martha visits Clark in his loft. He is wearing his jersey and she asks if he is heading out for the big pep rally. She tells him that he looks handsome. Clark tells his mom that she does not have to be Kent family peacekeeper and she replies that she would not have to if the Kent men were not so stubborn. Clark asks if she is taking his dad’s side. She tells him that she told his father that he was being unreasonable. Clark thanks her before she tells him that he is not entirely innocent either. She tells him that she wants to trust him, and so does his dad.

Chloe meets with Trevor. She asks him if Coach supplied them with the tests. He tells her to leave him alone. Chloe tells him that he can talk to her now or later. She shows him the picture of the players gathered around their coach, and the sprinklers spewing fire, and she tells him that the picture will be on the front page of tomorrow’s Torch either way. Trevor tells her to leave him alone and he leaves.

At his car, the coach grabs Trevor by the arm and begins to burn his arm. He accuses Trevor of talking to the schools newspaper. In agony, Trevor tells him that he said nothing. He tells Coach that Chloe has pictures of their meeting from the night before. Coach lets him go and tells Trevor that he will take care of this.

Coach finds Chloe in her office at school. He stands outside her office door as Chloe’s computer bursts into flames. Chloe tries to back out of the room as more of it bursts into flames.

Outside the pep rally is going on. Pete asks Clark if he’s seen Chloe. Just then, the two of them look over at her office window and se her waving at them with flames behind her. Chloe yells for Clark and he runs inside. She tries to get out of the room by covering herself in a blanket and jumping through a wall of flame. She succeeds but a new wall of flame erupts in front of her after. Just then, Clark yells for Chloe. We see the coach outside the office finally stop setting fires when he hears Clark’s voice. Clark runs inside the room and pulls Chloe out.

Later, Clark and Chloe are in the burnt aftermath of her former office.

Clark: The Torch torched? How’s that for dramatic irony?
[Chloe glares at Clark]
Clark: Just trying to get you to smile.

Chloe tells Clark that this was more than arson. She tells him that it was like the fire knew what she was doing. Clark asks her if she believes that Coach was somehow controlling it. She tells him to look at the facts. Clark asks if she still has the picture of the team and the sprinklers. She says no and that it’s ahrd to recover her files after the fire. Clark reminds her that she has no proof. She tells him that she is sure Trevor is the one who talked to Kwan. She also tells Clark that she knows Trevor would not talk to her but she thinks he might talk to Clark.

Lex is at the coffee shop and is surprised to see Lana taking his order.

Lex: What happened? Did Nell put you out on the street?
Lana: I decided to join the work force.
Lex: Good for you. I’m sure you’ll be employee of the month in no time.
Lana: Right now I hold the record for most dishes broken in a single day.
Lex: Better bring my cappuccino in a Styrofoam cup, then.

Lana leaves Lex and runs into Clark. He asks if she has seen Trevor and she says no. He asks how things are going and she says she wants to scream. He tells her that for whatever it’s worth he thinks it’s cool that she got the job. Clark orders a coffee and then walks over to sit with Lex. They talk about Clark joining the football team. Clark tells Lex that his dad freaked out about it.

Lex: And you’re out late, waiting for him to go to bed, so you can avoid the uncomfortable silence when you get home.
Clark: How’d you know?
Lex: The Luthors wrote the book on uncomfortable silences.

Clark asks Lex whathe is up to and Lex tells him that he is trying to decide who to fire – sharing that his dad wants him to let go of 20% of the local workforce. Lana walks up and tells them that if it makes them feel better, they should have seen the look on Nell’s face when she told her she was taking this job.

Clark: I guess we’re all in the same boat.
Lex: No, no, you both stood your ground and are doing what you want. I caved. You two have inspired me.

Clark jokes that he and Lana are a couple of rebels for joining the football team and pouring coffee. Lana asks Lex how his coffee is. He tells her it’s perfect. She leaves.

Clark: Is that what you ordered?
Lex: Not even close.

Clark goes to Trevor’s house. He finds Trevor in side. Trevor shares stories of past abuse from Coach and his fear that the coach would throw him off the team. Clark finally asks if coach gave him the math midterm and Trevor nods. Clark asks to see his burn. Trevor tells him it’s a  carburetor  burn but Clark insists on seeing it. After they unwrap the bandage, there is a visible handprint. Trevor tells Clark that he does not know how Coach did it. He adds that if he talks, he will be fried.

Before the game, Clark finds his coach in his sauna. Coach asks why Clark is not suited up. Clark tells him that he is not walking out onto the field and adds that neither is he. Coach tells Clark that he does not know what his problem is. Clark tells him that he saw what he did to Trevor’s arm. Coach angrily tells Clark that Trevor should have kept his mouth shut. Just then, the green meteor rocks, which are emitting the steam in the room, begin to make Clark sick.

Coach: What’s the matter Kent? A little too hot for you?
[throws Clark into a wall inside]
Coach: if you’ll excuse me now I have a game to win.

He closes the door on Clark and locks him inside. At the game, Jonathan and Martha sit beside Chloe. They ask where Clark is and she tells them that she thought he was with them. Jonathan goes down to the sidelines and interrupts the coach to ask where Clark is. Coach tells him that he does not know. He sees Jonathan and Chloe decide to check inside. To the shock of his assistant coach, Coach leaves the sidelines to follow them inside.

Jonathan finds Clark in the Coach’s sauna. After seeing him through the window, he kicks the locked door in. As Jonathan is dragging Clark out, the coach attacks him from behind. Clark gets his strength back. As the coach attacks him next, Clark throws him across the room and through a window. Coach lands on the floor inside the locker room. Clark walks into the room and tells him that he needs help. Coach sets the room on fire but Clark walks through the fire.

Coach: How’d you do that?
Clark: It’s in the genes.

Clark tells his coach to give up and says he has lost. Coach screams and sets himself on fire.

At Lex’s mansion, Lionel storms inside, holding papers. Lionel asks him what this is. Lex replies that he figured out how to cut the operating budget without laying off a single employee. Lionel tells him that is not the point but Lex replies asking him why. He also points out that with his new plan, Lionel will avoid a PR hit. Lex tells his dad to be careful and also accuses him of being emotional.

Lionel: You get one.
Lex: One what?
Lionel: One chance to defy me.

Lex tells his father that he cannot decide whether his dad hates the fact that the plan works or that he did not come up with it himself, more. Lionel tells him that empires are not built on clever book keeping.

Lex: Dad, you have no idea what I’m capable of.

At the game, Jonathan and Clark are leaving together as the firefighters are on the scene. Jonathan tells him that he is sorry he did not get to play. Clark asks if he showed up to make sure that Clark did not hurt anyone. After a pause, Clark tells him that know some of what he said was out of line. Jonathan in turn says that he does trust him, but adds that some part of him will always be afraid.

Jonathan: But that’s just being a parent.

A few moments later Clark runs into Lana. He asks her about working but she tells him that she was laid off and told that she is not waitress material. Lana tells him that her aunt took it as a sign that she should seriously reconsider cheerleading. Lana tells Clark that she heard about the coach. They both agree that it’s pretty weird. She asks if he will play next seasons.

Clark: I don’t know if football is for me. My dad played. My granddad played. I think maybe it’s time to break the vicious cycle.

She laughs and asks why he had the change of heart. Clark tells her that he got out onto the field and realized his reason for playing is gone. She tells Clark she is sorry to hear that and asks if he is going to be okay. Clark tells her sometimes he just wants to scream. Lana suggests that they do. They yell into the air, together, as the episode ends.

REACTION:

The Kent family feud over football, from the pilot, continues on in this episode. Clark finally tries to play. Ultimately he does not, though, and may not do so again.

If you’re going to have a dramatic teenage drama, with a high school football team, you also need a psychotic head coach. Since this is Smallville, you can add an element of “firestarter” to it as well.

Dan Lauria was an inspired choice to play the psychotic football coach. I was always afraid of him when he played Kevin Arnold’s dad in The Wonder Years. He’s great with buried fury. Initially I thought it was too big a jump that he would start hurting people on purpose, angry or not, but the scene with Trevor clarified that he was already abusive. So… this wasn’t actually a big jump, just a new tool in that arsenal.

The best part of the main plot is the family dynamic with the Kents. John Schneider and Tom Welling have a really believable father-son dynamic with a lot of underlying warmth even in the midst of conflict. Annette O’Toole is also great in a role where she clearly adores both feuding Kent men.

Overall, though, I was much more interested in the Luthor Corp. B plot than the main storyline. Lionel is testing Lex to see how he responds. There is a sense that there might be father-son affection between these two but it is never openly warm. Lionel is an old lion primarily interested in training his son to take him down. He also intends to make that as difficult as possible. This episode gives us one of the most iconic lines from the show, made that way thanks to Dwight from The Office (Season 2, Ep 8: Performance Review).

Dwight: I think Lex Luthor said it best when he said: “Dad, you have no idea what I’m capable of.”
Michael: Is that from Superman?
DwightSmallville. And that’s why I should get a raise.

My favorite line from the episode is a different Lex line.

Lex: The Luthors wrote the book on uncomfortable silences.

Things that do not hold up: Clark mentioning being in a cult to Chloe, as portrayed by Allison Mack. She, by the way, entered prison two weeks ago.


The early 2000s music this week did not jump out at me as much as the two previous episodes.

Renegade Fighter – Zed
Motivation – Sum 41
Bad Day – Fuel
Never Let You Go – Third Eye Blind
19-2000 – Gorillaz
Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz
What I Want to Give You – Speed
I Never Learn – Crown Jewels
Love You Madly – Cake
So Much For Love – The Contes
You – Binocular

We’re getting into a good groove of “meteor rock villains of the week.” I’m looking forward to the next episode.

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