Open on football team playing in the rain. And boy is it raining. They're soaked and the rain is so thick they're having trouble seeing. Coach loses his temper when Whitney bungles a play because of bad visibility.
Smallville wins the game and runs raucous and cheering into the lockers. Coach Walt gives them a pep talk before relaxing in his private sauna--bought by alumni--with meteor rock steam.
Principal Kwan interrupts the steam, with the news 7 players cheated on their math midterm. Kwan refuses to cover up the infraction so Walt can win another game. Walt yells a bit, and Kwan leaves. Walt accidentally sets his desk on fire.
Chloe has done an expose on the football team. And is getting threatening letters. Nothing ever changes.
Lana has a fight with Whitney which Chloe characterizes as a "pompom melt down."
When a player throws a football at Chloe's face, Clark catches it. And Coach sees him throw it back hard enough to wind the player who catches it.
Coach approaches Clark about being on the team. He even flatters Clark, telling him football is in his genes. Clark does his best to be diplomatic and avoid it. Clark finally agrees.
Lana continues her fight and pompom meltdown.
Clark breaks the news to Jonathan. J. stands firm because of the risk. "you were meant for much more than winning football games." And once again, Clark brings the bitchery.
"I don't need to live vicariously through your achievements."
"Why would you? You got to play." OUCH!
This is pure Martha coming through. For all that Clark idolizes Jonathan (even as much as they disagree), this ability to cut to the quick with a couple of well-chosen sentences is purely Martha's tactic. And it's part of why Lex loves him.
Clark announces he is playing football, and Jonathan can't stop him.
Luthor mansion. Lex has just been working out, and comes to the study to find three men waiting for him. Dominic speaks for them all. Lex canceled the meeting, Lionel insisted the men go down for it anyway. Argument, which Lex refuses to take seriously, playing billiards instead. Lex called the advisers drones and Dominic threatens to tattle. Lex encourages it and ends with a snipe about Dominic's sister.
Lana's place, and she's packing away her cheerleading gear.Talk with Nell, and asserting her independence. Nell looks decidedly displeased.
Jonathan shows up to watch practice. Practice goes badly. After a session as a tackling dummy, Clark puts too much behind things.
The cheating plot thickens as one of the boys informs the principal that coach gave them the answer. Kwan has tried getting him suspended, but the connections are too deep. Coach loses his temper and sets the TV on fire. He channels that same anger and sets Principal Kwan's car on fire when Kwan goes to start it. Clark saves the principal.
Dinner fight about the football. Jonathan grumbles and Martha gives him sass. "You were the obedient son who always listened to his father and didn't run away one summer and try out for the Metropolis Sharks." Martha's for letting Clark try it. But Jonathan is afraid of someone suspecting and taking Clark away.
Lana is waiting tables as Chloe, Clark and Pete show up for coffee. Clark and Lana chat about her leaving cheerleading "Time to break the vicious cycle." Lana gets snapped at for not being faster with the waitressing.
Football players summoned to a secret meeting. Chloe follows as Lana drops a whole tray of cups.
Coach chews out the players about the snitching. After he backhands the player, the sprinklers shoot fire instead of water. And Chloe is getting pictures.
Luthor mansion and Lionel bursts through the study doors, jovial and quite angry himself. Instead of layoffs, Lex has increased hiring, planning to corner the market. Ouch. "You know perfectly well how I feel about you" as Lex flinches from his touch. That has to be the set-up for about a gajillion Luthorcest fics.
And Lex is more petulant than witty. All the confidence, all the power has drained out of him and he is disengaging from this conversation in every possible way.
A history lesson--Caesars sending their sons to the farthest provinces--and Lex, just shrugs with a "Whatever helps you sleep at night."
Some of the first eye contact in this scene as Lex accepts the challenge to duel to defend his plan. Lex is a lefty. And as he tumbles across the pool table (this purple baize pool table is a major fic fixture) Glover cannot disguise the fact he's fifty-six and not as spry as he'd like to be. The rest of the scene is quick and harsh.
The barn. Night. Clark getting ready for the pep rally and Martha playing peacekeeper. "If the Kent men weren't so stubborn, I wouldn't have to."
Chloe is playing Nancy Drew again and confronts the snitch player. She plans to run the picture of the sprinklers. Coach stops him, asking what he told her. He burns Trevor's arm with his hand and announces he'll take care of it.
Chloe's computer combusts. She yells for Clark's help, and dives through the flames separating her from the door. Clark saves her and coach is satisfied that her computer melted.
Torch Torched. And Chloe tells Clark everything but he doesn't believe her. She sends Clark in to talk to Trevor.
Lex is reviewing files in the coffee shop and Lana is waiting on his table. Clark comes in and she says she can't make the game. Lex figures it all out. "You're out late waiting for him to go to bed so you can avoid the uncomfortable silence when you get home." Lex feels he has caved where Clark and Lana have stood their ground. They give him some sarcasm "Playing football and pouring coffee, we're a couple of real rebels." "Long live the revolution."
Lex has just the fleck of whipped cream on his lip as he gives Clark the word that Lana brought him nothing resembling his order. He knows it's there because he got the rest. I can't say it's a deliberate offer...
"is that what you ordered?"
"Not even remotely."
Clark goes to see Trevor who is surrounded by extinguishers. He's really scared now. Clark talks to him and sees the burn. Clark goes to the sauna to talk to the coach. Meteor rock steam isn't good for you, Clark. Coach realizes this and locks Clark in the sauna and goes to win his game
Jonathan finds Clark, who is fine once he's out of the steam. Fight scene. This time with fire, lots of it, and coach self-immolating in the fiery shower.
Lionel marches in, not as big of a barge. He shoves Lex's new proposal at him, even more unhappy with it. Lex offers a rematch. "or are you afraid you can't take your son again." (not touching that!) And Lionel says he gets one chance to be defiant.
As the rescue crews clean up, we get the Kent heart-to-heart. A deep contrast from the previous scene. The difference is Jonathan loves his son and wants Clark to find his own best.
Lana got fired. Clark is reconsidering football. "Sometimes, I just want to scream." in a scene reminiscent of Cabaret, Clark and Lana stand and scream.
Death toll: 1, Coach Walt
Attempted murder: Chloe
Injury: 2, burns, Principal Kwan and Trevor
Destruction: Kwan's car, many dishes at the Beanhole, the Torch, Walt's office and the locker room and the showers
As a Freak of the Week, this episode is deeper than most, looking at small town personal politics, bullying by authority figures and the worship of football in the midwest. There is also the recurring theme of struggling to crow up, even as adults try to force the characters into neat paths. Lana quits cheer-leading, despite it being a family tradition. Clark plays football, but over Jonathan's fears. Lex defies Lionel over the plant management.
Clark is very much Jonathan's son. His actions and attitudes are almost identical (see the milk bottle in ep 1) But he has Martha's brains and subtlety. He knows when to punch and when to slip in a shiv instead. These skills will serve him throughout the series. Tom Welling is getting better by the episode.
Lana is trying to be more than the pink princess girl next door, and in these early eps we see the potential for her to be. This will vanish midseason, going dormant until about season 4. Am I wrong to be shouting for her to dump Whitney? He's a controlling twerp, even in his teens.
Pete and Chloe are very much sidekicks, still. Useful for one-liners and background, but now starting to get into peril to show Clark's abilities. Chloe's insatiable curiosity is going to keep growing and getting her into trouble.
This episode also gives us some of the first Lex-Lionel interactions. Lex is trying the avoident path, canceling meetings, trying to do things his way, which does not jibe with Lionel's way. Throughout the encounter, Lionel is lecturing, trying to teach, but Lex is tuning him out. The ease with which Lionel beats him at fencing is important here and will be revisited in later seasons.
This episode is still laying groundwork. We'll see fallout from Lex's decision and Clark's and Lana's, and even the attack on the Torch in later episodes. But it also establishes that for a town of 20,000 people, Smallville is still very small, with everyone in everyone else's business.