Smallville (Season 1, Ep 14): Zero

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.


Jude Royce, a man that Lex believes to have died three years earlier at Club Zero in Metropolis shows up in Smallville promising revenge for Lex’s past sins. Among other things, Jude applies for a job at Lana’s soon to open The Talon and spooks her about Lex. He subsequently sends a severed hand addressed to Lex, to her establishment. This causes Clark to be interested in Club Zero and he learns from Lex about Jude Royce and that he died that night. After framing Lex for a toxic spill on the Kent farm, Jude kidnaps Lex while disguised as an environmental agency worker. Using photos taken by Chloe at the spill site, Clark and Chloe figure out that Lex was kidnapped by him.

The kidnapper suspends upside down in a now abandoned Club Zero. We learn that he is a doppelganger of the real Jude Royce. The real culprit behind the kidnapping is the brother of the woman who was engaged to the real Jude Royce. We learn that he got the idea to get revenge on Lex after he met the doppelganger. We further learn that his sister could never get over that night at Club Zero and committed suicide a year earlier. Clark arrives at the location just as Lex is pushed off of a balcony to what should be a certain death. Clark, at super-speed, slides a couch beneath Lex to break his fall safely, knocks out the kidnapper, and then super-speeds back to the doorway pretending to have just arrived after Lex is saved.

Side plot: For a school project, Clark’s classmates are writing biographies about each other. Chloe is assigned Clark, takes her research way too far, to the point it upsets Clark a lot, and learns uncomfortable secrets about his adoption. After telling Clark that she will drop her investigation into his life, we see as the episode ends that she is not doing that.


The episode opens with Lex bound and suspended by his ankles asking someone unknown what he wants. The man tells Lex he wants the truth.

Flashback three years earlier to a club in Metropolis. Lex is on a date with a woman who is engaged. He takes her to a VIP room and while they walk back, she tells Lex that she hopes he did not feel obligated to entertain her as Jude (her fiancé) will only be gone for three days. Lex says that he does not believe in obligations and adds that Jude did him a favor as he was not looking forward to a night out on his own. She laughs and says that she doubts he would have been alone for long. We learn that his date is named Amanda as they toast each other on her engagement. They do not have the opportunity to drink, though, as Amanda suddenly sees Jude across the room sitting on a coach with a beautiful woman on either side of him.

Amanda throws her engagement ring at Jude and storms away. He accuses Lex of orchestrating the entire encounter.

Jude: You did this on purpose!
Lex: You did it to yourself.

They both follow Amanda into the throng of dancing people in the club. Jude stabs Lex which is followed by Lex’s bodyguard shooting Jude.

Back in the present, the man holding Lex, suspended from the ceiling, says that this story is a lie. He shouts that this is the account from the newspapers but that it is not what really happened. Lex asks the man who he is, causing the him to step out from the shadows.

Jude: Don’t you remember? You killed me. Daddy can’t save you this time, Lex.

♫Somebody saaaaaaavvee meeeee♫

Flashback again to one week earlier

Chloe, Clark, and Pete are discussing a class assignment wherein they are required to write a six page biography on another student. Pete is complaining that he is assigned the manager of the student store. Chloe’s assignment is Clark, who seems nervous to have her digging into his life in depth. Clark’s assignment is to write a biography for Lana Lang. Pete complains that the project was rigged.

High school freshman Lana is meeting with a plumber at The Talon. He indicates that he cannot be certain how long it will take to fix things.

Plumber: You resurrect the past, you get the problems that come with it.

Lana tells him that Lex Luthor will be by later and that he will need numbers, a time table, and a better explanation than that. The plumber just nods and leaves. When Lana turns around Jude is standing right behind her. After initial alarm, she tells him that they are not open yet. He tells her that he is here about the assistant manager position. He asks for an application and she warns him that her aunt will not be doing interviews until next week. He replies that he has all the time in the world and introduces himself as Jude Royce.

Jude tells Lana that he knew Lex a lifetime ago in Metropolis. When Lana says that must have been interesting, Jude replies that there is a reason Lex is now in Smallville. He then warns Lana to stay away from Lex as when he gets involved with something, things usually turn out badly.

Lex pulls up to The Talon. As he gets out, his former bodyguard grabs him by the shoulder. Lex, alarmed, tells him that they are not to have contact after that night. The bodyguard, Kasich, replies that Jude is alive and that he has seen him numerous times stalking him. Lex sees Clark at a distance and tells Kasich that he keeps an apartment in the city and that it is very secure. He tells him to stay there until Lex calls. Kasich nods and leaves.

Lex meets Clark on the sidewalk and they go inside where Lana looks rattled. She tells Lex that someone came by, applying for the assistant manager’s position, and warned her to stay away from him. Lex asks for the name and Lana tells him it was Jude Royce. In a too quiet voice, Lex asks when he left and Lana replies that it was just before he came in. Lex walks outside, looks both directions down the sidewalk, as Clark follows and asks who Jude Royce is. Lex tells him that he has no idea who Lana met today but that it cannot be Jude Royce. He then tells Clark not to worry about it and gets in his car. When he starts it, the car’s radio blasts loud music that he cannot turn off. Clark uses X-Ray vision and advises him to look under the dash. There Lex finds a CD player hooked into his car’s audio system. He pulls it loose and the music stops. Lex notes to Clark through the window that it appears someone was in his car while he was inside. Clark asks him what is going on and Lex says it seems like someone’s idea of a joke.

Lex: And a successful one, we’ve managed to draw a crowd.

Clark starts to ask him again about Jude Royce but Lex tells him that this does not concern him. He then peels out and leaves.

When Clark gets home, he finds Chloe at his kitchen table interviewing his parents. Once Clark is up to speed, and clearly uncomfortable, about what is happening, Chloe returns to grilling his clearly uncomfortable parents about Clark’s adoption. When she runs out of tape, and goes to her car to get another recording device, Clark’s parents quickly tell him that they would rather not go into a lot of detail with Chloe regarding his adoption. When Chloe returns, Clark excuses himself to go interview Lana for his own project.

Chloe: Oh, um, you know, Clark, not to strike a paranoid note, but are you avoiding me?
Clark: [smiles] Tomorrow, I promise.

After he goes, Chloe asks Jonathan and Martha if their son has always been this strange.

We see Clark with Lana sometime later as they walk down the sidewalk and stop in front of The Talon. Clark asks her how it feels to single-handedly bring The Talon back from becoming a parking garage. She says that it is nice being counted on and that people are treating her differently now.

Clark: Like you won’t break.
Lana: It finally feels like I’m shedding that fairy princess costume.

Just then Lex pulls up. Lana asks why he is here and he tells her that the contractor called, said he has an estimate, and that he wants to meet Lex here. All three of them go inside and there they find the contractor lying in the middle of the floor. He is alive and conscious. He tells them that he was coming in through the backdoor and that somebody jumped him, forced him to let the other man inside, and then the other man bashed him in the head.

Lana goes to call the police as the three men see a present on a table addressed to Lex. The card is from “Club Zero” – the club where the episode opened – and it says “zero consequences.” When they take the lid off of the gift box, they find a severed human hand inside with Kasich’s ring on one of its fingers.

Later, as Lex talks with the police, Clark and Lana whisper quietly to each other. She asks him what kind of a sick person would do something like that. Clark says that he does not know and that he has never seen Lex so freaked out before. Lex walks over to the two of them, apologizes profusely, and says that this will not effect the grand opening. Lana replies that they will be infamous before they even open the doors. Lex has no reply so he sighs and sits down beside them.

Clark asks if he knows who the dead man was and Lex tells him that he does, and that it was someone he knew from Metropolis named Max Kasich. Clark asks who might have done it, and then suggests Jude Royce. Lex tells him that he doubts Jude is the killer because Jude has been dead for three years.

At school, Chloe pesters Pete for more information about Clark, complaining that all she could get form his parents is that Clark does not like peas. Pete chides her for focusing on Clark when a severed hand was just sent to The Talon.

Pete: Where are your priorities? You know Lex Luthor must be mixed up in this somehow.

She says that he has issues with the Luthors and he responds by saying that she knows what the Luthors did to his family. Chloe tries tot slow Pete down and refocus to one issue at a time. Pete tells her that in a world of designer water, Clark comes straight from the tap. Pete finally relents and tells her a story from first grade wherein Clark protected him from a bully three years older than them. Their walkin gand talking takes them to Clark – who is in The Torch – at which point Pete concludes the story by saying Clark pushed the kid through a door, splinters and all, and that Pete has no idea how Clark did it. Chloe asks Clark for comment and he says that they were six years old at the time and a kid twice their size at that time was only three feet tall. Pete leaves Chloe to ask Clark further questions by herself.

After he goes, Chloe tells Clark that since Clark has played obstructionist, she has been forced to learn about him through other means – including that his adoption was done through an agency in Metropolis called United Charities.

Chloe: But this is the strange part – they were only in business for six months and from what I can tell yours was the only adoption they handled.

Then then hands him a folder with print outs of what she has learned. Clark is upset and tells her that he cannot believe she did this. Chloe is surprised and says she just assumed that Clark’s parents would have told him about this.

Chloe: Weren’t you interested?
Clark: Why would I be! My biological parents are either dead or didn’t want me. The point is you’re prying into my private life.
Chloe: I was just trying to be thorough.
Clark: This is a class project! I spent an hour with Lana yesterday, that’s it. That’s all I needed. I’m not some mystery for you to solve.

Clark then storms out.

Lex is hitting a punching bag and talking with someone he is calling Mr. Raines. The other man tells him that according to the doorman, Kasich never made it to the apartment in Metropolis. Lex asks about Jude Royce and hears that the supposedly dead man was an only child who inherited everything from his parents when they died. The woman at the scene of Jude’s alleged death, Amanda Rothman, moved leaving no forwarding address. Raines asks Lex when he last spoke to Amanda and he replies that it was about three years ago. Raines says that he can widen his search, though it will take time, and that it would help if Lex could tell him what is going on. Lex tells him that it would not help and he tells Raines that as he is Lex’s head of security he just needs to find her and warn her that she could be in danger.

Flashback to Club Zero, with Amanda kneeling and crying over Jude’s body. We see Det. Sam Phelan of the Metropolis PD arrive on the scene. Phelan tells Lex that he really put his foot in it this time and asks what happened. Lex cannot bring himself to speak. Phelan tells Lex not not fall apart on him and asks again what went down. We see a brief flashback of Jude being shot. Phelan tells Lex that he was never here and that his daddy’s money would make sure his name never appears in the papers or in the police reports. Lex asks about Amanda and Phelan tells him that he will take care of her, adding that Lex is never to see her or talk to her again. Phelan gives Lex a number to call to take care of his stabbed shoulder, saying that he needs to avoid emergency rooms. Lastly, Phelan approaches Kasich smiling, telling him that he is about to come into some serious money.

In the present, as Lex continues boxing, he feels a gun being pressed against the back of his neck. When he turns around slowly, he finds Jude Royce. Lex asks what he wants and Jude tells him that he wants to know about the cover-up at Club Zero. He next tells Lex that Phelan is dead.

Jude: It seems that you were somehow involved in that so I find that very interesting.

Lex asks him why he doe snot kill him now. Jude says that he wants to watch Lex suffer. As he asks Lex what happened at Club Zero again, Clark walks by and hears them at the door. He runs inside and finds Lex alone in an empty room. Clark says that he thought he heard someone else and Lex replies that he is alone. Clark tells Lex that he found out what happened at Club Zero and that Kasich shot and killed Jude Royce there, but he says he does not understand how Lex fits into this. Lex asks him, for the sake of their friendship, to stay out of this.

Later, Clark finds his dad and they discuss Chloe’s interviews. Clark then asks Jonathan about Metropolis United Charities, which causes him to reply to Clark that he used to think perseverance was an admirable quality. He tells Clark that normal adoptions are complicated and that Clark’s was moreso.

Jonathan: Let’s just say that it’s a very long road between what’s sitting in our storm shelter and what’s written on your birth certificate.

Abruptly, Jonathan asks Clark if he hears that. Clark says he hears nothing, so his dad points out that their whole heard is just over the horizon and that they should be hearing something. The camera pans to their cattle and we see a field of them lying dead.

Sometime later we see men in hazmat suits going over the Kent farm’s ground as barrels marked with LuthorCorp branding lying all over leaking onto the ground. Chloe arrives, taking pictures, and asks Clark what he think happened. She asks him why LuthorCorp would dump their stuff here. Lex arrives next, looks around in total disbelief, and he approaches Jonathan and Martha. He tells them that he has no idea how this happened and that he will do everything in his power to find out. He also says he will pay for their livestock. Jonathan asks him if he thinks he can solve everything with money. He and Martha walk away and Clark approaches. Lex tells Clark that he did not think it was possible to fall farther in Jonathan’s eyes but that he guesses he was wrong. Clark asks if this has anything to do with Club Zero. Lex reluctantly tells him that he thinks so. Clark then responds saying that Lex needs to tell the authorities everything he knows because this is not just about him anymore.

The Sheriff approaches Lex and tells him that the C.E.P. guy is standing nearby, wanting to talk to him about environmental impact. When Lex reaches the man, he finds out that the C.E.P. representative is Jude Royce. Lex tries to bolt to where the Sheriff is some distance away but Jude tasers him and then tosses him into the back of a van. Nobody notices.

Later, Clark gets off the phone after several attempts to reach Lex. He asks Martha where his dad is and she tells Clark that Jonathan is outside supervising the removal of the cattle. Clark tells her that Lex said he would pay for the cattle, causing her to reply that this is about more than just money – it is also about long term potential health threats to their family and their neighbors. Clark tells his mom that he thinks someone is trying to set up Lex over what happened in a nightclub three years ago. He hands her the newspaper article he printed out about the incident.

Martha warns Clark that he needs to be careful around Lex. She tells him that she is the one who is usually defending Lex but then she says that she grew up in Metropolis and knows the Luthor world. Martha tells Clark that kids in that world grow up too fast, get into trouble, and she points out that now Lex’s trouble is starting to effect and endanger the people around him. She tells Clark that she is not asking him to cut Lex out of his life but she suggests cooling off his friendship with Lex until they know what really happened.

Chloe finds Clark in his barn, later, and asks if she can talk to him for a minute. He tells her that his answer depends on whether it is on the record or not. She apologizes and tells him that she is dropping her investigation into his past. Clark thanks her. She asks him, off the record, if he ever wonders about his biological parents. He replies that he wonders about them every day of his life. Chloe sees the newspaper article about Club Zero and asks him what that is about. Clark tells her it is part of Lex’s past that Lex asks him to stay out of. As she is about to leave, Chloe tells Clark that she brought by pictures she took of the cattle massacre in case his parents needed them for insurance purposes or something. As Clark looks at the pictures, he sees that the C.E.P. from her pictures is the same guy as the deceased man pictured in his Club Zero newspaper article. She is confused and Clark tells her that the guy is supposed to be dead.

Lex is hanging upside down by his ankles, with his upper body is in a straight jacket, shouting for help.

Later, Clark tells Chloe that nobody has heard from Lex since that morning. Chloe tells him that she hacked into the Metropolis DMV and learned that the C.E.P. agent’s car – based on a license plate from her pictures – is registered to a man named John Smith and that he does not work for the C.E.P. She even has his address.

Chloe: See? Sometimes persistence is a good thing.

Clark tells Chloe to call Metropolis PD and to tell them to visit that address. She asks Clark what is going on and he tells her that he thinks Lex is in serious trouble. When Clark arrives at the house, the police are taking a body out on a gurney. Clark uses X-Ray vision to see beneath the blanket covering the body and he sees that the body is missing its hand. Realizing that this body is Kasich, Clark asks the police if they found anyone else in there. The offer shakes his head no at him. He asks the officer if he knows where he can find Club Zero. The officer tells him that the club closed six months ago and that it was in an old warehouse on 78th and Main.

Lex is hanging upside down and Jude tells him that he wants the truth. He draws his gun and we hear a gunshot. A moment later, Jude is lying dead on the ground. Another man walks up to Lex and presses a button on a key fob. Suddenly the warehouse lights up and club music begins to play. He tells Lex that it’s time for the truth. The newcomer shoots at the chain Lex is suspended from, and when it breaks, Lex falls onto his head and shoulder.

Lex: I know you. You’re the contractor from The Talon.

The man kicks Lex and tells him that is his day job. We learn that the contractor is Amanda Rothman’s brother. Lex asks what he wants and the man says he wants vengeance for his sister. Lex asks what he means and then asks where Amanda is. The man tells him that Amanda committed suicide a year ago.

Lex: I never knew.
Man: That’s because you cut her out of your life. SHe was never teh same after Club Zero. Jude’s death devestated her.

He tells Lex he got the idea for all of this when he met the now dead man lying on the floor, a doppelganger for Jude, who agreed to all of this because he needed the money and was on parole. Lex shouts to teh man that he is right and that the public story about Club Zero has all been fabricated. Lex then tells him what he says is the real story. It mirrors the original story except that in place of Kasich shooting Jude, Amanda is the shooter.

In the present, Amanda’s brother is angry and says that Lex is lying again. Lex shouts back that this is what happened. He pushes a still bound Lex off a tall balcony and then a lot f things happen quickly. As Lex is falling, Clark arrives, sees Lex falling, and then positions a couch to catch him while moving at superspeed. He also finds Amanda’s brother and knocks him out. Then he speeds back to the door of the warehouse and shouts for Lex as though he is just then entering for the first time. Lex tells him that there is a man with a gun but Clark points at the unconscious man above them and asks if Lex means him. Clark asks Lex what happened and Lex says he does not know. Lex then asks Clark how he found him and Clark replies that he managed with a little help form his friends.

At the grand opening of The Talon, Clark gives Lana a present – a picture of The Talon from decades earlier that he says he found in his grandfather’s attic. After Lana goes back to work, Lex approaches Clark and accuses him of avoiding him. Clark says he realizes that there is a lot he does not know about Lex and he asks if the story about Lex taking the fall to protect Amanda is true. Lex tells him that he would do anything to protect his friends.

The episode ends as we see Chloe in front of a computer monitor trying to decide whether she will save her files about Clark’s adoption or delete them. The episode ends as she clicks the save button.


Early in the episode, the plumber at The Talon drops this line:

You resurrect the past, you get the problems that come with it.

I thought the writers were being a little too clever by having a random character deliver a line like that, but then we learn the plumber was not a random character at all.

This was a really good episode. My only gripe is that the twist with Amanda’s brother / the plumber just did not quite work for me. Spending 90% of an episode with a great, compelling villain, only to learn that he has been an underling all along, felt like being cheated (*cough “The Dark Knight Rises” *cough*) I understand that we needed an explanation for how Jude Royce could still be alive in the big reveal, and the show laid some groundwork for the big reveal, but this just fell flat for me.

Exceptions aside, this was a great episode and it addressed, in a satisfying way, a lot of the “Club Zero” set up the writers have been doing with Lex for most of this season. The best part is that I do not think we even end the episode confident that we know the real story. Lex, conveniently, appears to have tied up all of his loose ends. The audience ends up left in the enjoyable balance of not knowing whether to root for Lex or to be worried about him.

As we appear to wrap the Club Zero mystery, Clark’s adoption mystery begins. What high level person did the Kents turn to, to help with Clark’s adoption? Do Jonathan and Martha know any rich and powerful people who could hypothetically create a fake adoption agency and make things legal that otherwise are not?

Speaking of the adoption, what do we think of Chloe here? I am compelled to think she is both realistic and irritating. Would a girl with a crush do too much digging into her crush’s life? Absolutely. Am I surprised she did not delete Clark’s adoption file? Absolutely not. Do I think her decision not to do that will be a huge deal to Clark when he inevitably learns of this treachery later on? Absolutely.

Side tangent: Chloe’s dad works for Lionel in a high level position. Chloe’s obsession with meteor rocks is beneficial to LuthorCorp inasmuch as people blaming the rocks for Smallville’s problems takes blame away from the plant. Does inserting that narrative through a high school newspaper work to keep Lionel’s hands clean from the perception of PR influence? Yes. Does Lionel have an as-yet unrevealed personal interest in Clark – such that having a mole close to Clark might prove beneficial? Yes. (See two paragraphs up.) Is somebody funding Chloe’s student newspaper? It certainly seems that way. The football coach torched The Torch and everything was back up by the next episode. So – is Chloe working for Lionel? We cannot rule this out. That would explain why a 15 year old has “people” in government offices willing to give her stuff, has been taught how to hack, etc. Something about her life, her access, and her interests does not add up.

Lana’s side story is simultaneously not relevant to anything and extremely relevant. It was clever to have her store be the avenue through which Lex’s enemies reach him. Sending a severed hand is pretty over the top but the show’s cast treats it with the horror and fascination you’d expect from teenagers. Lana is a much better character when the show is not doing a will-they-or-won’t-they with her and Clark. The Talon story point was a good idea because it creates a lot of opportunities for the writers to give Lana something to do that intersects with Lex and Clark, that isn’t a love-interest based story.

This might be the best episode of what has been a surprisingly strong Season 1on re-watch.

4 thoughts on “Smallville (Season 1, Ep 14): Zero

  1. Chloe bugged me at such random times. I think it was whenever she allowed her “investigative” side to come to the fore and overshadow her friendship with Clarke. And maybe me knowing that Clarke ends up with Lois, and not with Lana or anyone else, always made Chloe’s love interest side of the story appear rather weak.

    1. Yeah. I think the unrequited love interest thing is pretty normal in real life. And I guess that Superman himself would have pretty tenacious unrequited love interests. But Chloe was never really handled well early on.

      My memory of the show is that her journalist side overrides her friendship side often enough that I become annoyed about their friendship remaining intact.

      1. That is the problem with such a long running show. Even this first season that you’re re-watching brings up memories of later seasons, that obviously color this season.
        By the end of the show I was really disgusted by how the writers used Chloe. She did end up putting her own interests and curiosity above her friendship with Clarke. Which as we see is pretty solid in this first season.

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