"No, Lois! He doesn't get off that easy. Kick. His. ASS." -- Lois Lane (Erica Durance)
After a recap of some episodes prior, we are taken to a scene where a woman is bound and gagged, clearly held against her will wherever she is. Zooming out shows that she's one of many held hostage in a textile factory. Slightly removed from most of the employees is a man in a chair with a dynamite bomb device strapped to his torso and wearing a stationary childlike mask, almost like the face of a ventriloquist's dummy. "Super-Clark" comes on the scene at the same time as the Metropolis Police Department and he goes in to free the hostages at superspeed, leaving his flaming 'S' calling card on the floor. Actually the motionless but awake man in the chair was holding the others hostage ready to blow himself up apparently, though he says nothing the whole time. Clark quickly rips off his TNT pack ("Don't bother pulling the trigger.") and swats him away. Clark sees that the mask was the detonator and he tries to smother the explosion to suppress it. Not all that successful, it blows a big hole in the factory anyway and renders him senseless for a couple minutes, his ears ringing. When Lois shows up, Clark has changed out of his super black suit (in a phone booth!) and into his Daily Planet-appropriate attire. Still a little dazed while catching her up on what happened, he's surprised when he picks up a couple thoughts in her head clearly indicating that she's hot for him.
Returning from the show credits, Clark's in an elevator at the Planet, and it seems he can hear more inner monologue of people nearby has he goes up floor by floor. Stopping on a floor with Lois waiting, it's apparent she made a dubious underwear choice that day as it turns out he's been "hearing" her above all else. In a scene clearly sponsored by Dunkin Donuts, he gets her the donut she was craving before they start to dig into the details of the hostage case. Turns out the textile factory's Queen Industries property. He turns to Chloe for help later, and he's established at this point that it's only Lois he's picking up the thoughts of at this point. Right away you can tell that the longtime solid relationship between these two is as strained as it's ever been. They've always been more entertaining as trusted allies, so I hope that conflict sees some resolution soon. As she leaves he starts hearing other people and goes to the Fortress to see what his father Jor-El knows. Turns out it's a seed planted by Jor-El, a temporary one, for his son's trials and to test the decisions he makes in saving lives.
At the show's weekly Metropolis General Hospital stop, they question recovering hostages and Clark uses his new ability to gain the trust of a couple of them to get the description of a creepy guy, short and fat. The two figure out their next moves and determine that they got time to kill while the man behind the mask with the bomb recovers from surgery and is up for answering questions. Clark can tell that Lois had no plans on this particular Saturday night so he makes the move in asking her on kinda/sorta a date. Apparently what's up Lois' alley is a monster truck rally. Who knew they had good food there? Now, while I'm not too keen on a contrived new ability for Kal-El, one Superman has historically never had -- and the visual flash every time the power kicks in gets tedious in a hurry -- it does make for some cute banter between Tom Welling and Erica Durance who have chemistry to spare.
Back from commercial, we're somewhere south of the border, and a shitfaced Oliver Queen stumbles into a small town bar. He attracts some bad attention of some local toughs, ready to give him a beatdown when their women get too flirty. Before they get started, Tess Mercer busts in to break it up with a round of warning shots. Decked out in a nice Lara Croft ensemble, she clears the joint out before approaching Oliver. Back in Smallville, Chloe shows up to the Talon, Lois' place, where she finds her cousin prepping a tasteful ensemble for herself for a night at a Kansas monster truck rally. When Lois says it's Clark taking her out, the fact that she suggests that she's been on the same wavelength that whole day with Clark gets under Chloe's skin because she knows that Clark CAN in fact read minds and he's taking advantage of it, clearly. Before their date, Clark's back at the hospital doing some follow-up, and he hears the thoughts of the guy who got the bomb strapped to him. Clark puts it together that the "short and fat guy" responsible for the earlier hostage is none other than Toyman.
Back in Mexico, Tess confronts Oliver about his current failings, personal and in business. Turns out he's still on his "Lost Weekend" of self-flagellation. She tries to get it out of him as to what he did that was so wrong, but he won't budge. As a favor, she gets him to clean up just enough to return to Metropolis to put in a shareholder appearance. Oooo!!! But little do they know that Toyman is actually looking to exact revenge on Oliver Queen for framing him for Lex Luthor's murder from last season! Useful. Back at the Planet, Chloe takes Clark to task for using his ability to read minds to get a date out of it with Lois. Busted! Even worse, looks like Lois is going to get stood up since Clark is on the case trying to find Toyman before he can do any more damage. At least it's a somewhat valid excuse. Chloe lets Clark know how Toyman is sure to get at Oliver, the Queen shareholders gala that night at Ace O' Clubs.
Clark gets there at superspeed and mind-reads his way into entering the black tie event. Right then, Lois shows up, hilariously, in a monster truck and wearing a slinky cocktail dress. Thanks to her iPhone, she found out about the event and realized that Clark was set to scoop her on a big story. Clark tries to rebuff her on the story, claiming it for himself, because he really knows of the danger possible with Toyman's involvement, and she storms off just in time for Oliver to take the stage. Just then Clark's ability to hear everyone's thoughts turns off like a switch, under the pretense of some podium microphone feedback, clearly the work of Jor-El ("Thanks, Dad."). When Oliver starts his speech, it quickly becomes apparent that Toyman is pulling strings and engages him in a game of "Toyman Says" or else he blows up the whole event. In the game, he has to read off a teleprompter confessing all of his sins (like framing Toyman for Lex Luthor's death), all of it hitting way close to home. Clark detects the pressure plate that Oliver is standing on that will trigger the bomb and gets Chloe's remote help to evacuate the event. In the crowd, Clark finds Winslow Schott, and before he can get an answer Oliver steps off the plate since the place has finally cleared of all other guests. Not getting an answer out of Toyman from several yards away, Clark figures out that this Winslow is a robot, and one equipped with a detonator. He fries its face with his heat vision, not knowing that Oliver already made his move. Turns out the plate was a fake, and when Clark asks Oliver how he knew, he admitted that he didn't, shocking Clark. Poor Mr. Queen was ready to end it all, putting himself out of his misery.
After the authorities have cleared the scene, Clark shares with Oliver that Chloe tracked down the real Winslow thanks to the radio earpiece and that he's already in custody, on his way to Stryker's. Clark offers his help, admitting that he could've done more for his friend in need. Oliver confides that since he was only 5 when he lost his own parents, everything that made him what he's been is all made up -- masks, if you will. Clark assures Oliver that he's there for him, but has to cut it short when a police siren "plays his song." Alone on the Clubs terrace with his drink, he sees Lex Luthor in his reflection in a window and hurls his glass at it in a mix of fear, guilt and frustration. At Stryker's, Schott is approached by Tess. After he taunts her with her closeness to Oliver and the attack on LuthorCorp she was in on prior (Season 8's "Requiem"), she pulls out a gun and shoots him in the knee. Tess having bribed the guard to allow her in there, Winslow's afraid of getting thrown in solitary, but she offers him a new toy to play with: the kryptonite heart of Metallo. His assignment is to figure out how this piece of alien technology works.
Wrapping up things in "Echo" at the Daily Planet, Clark apologizes to Lois, saying that he's not ready to do solo work, and extends an olive branch in the form of his article for her to edit. She goes at it pretty hard with a red pen, but he starts to get back in her good graces. Perhaps a second date is more likely on a slow news day.
Unquestionably, "Echo" has been the weakest link in an otherwise interesting Season Nine. An interesting idea in theory, but rushed in key parts of the episode, with many a plotline dangling. The downward spiral of Oliver Queen has become more of an endurance test than a compelling storyline, and one hope that the next episode, "Roulette," an Ollie-heavy one at that, brings some sort of resolution to this Green Arrow story. Toyman's usage was disappointing for the most part, especially since he did very little to earn that villainous name in "Echo," most of his tricks being conventional acts of terrorism. What say ye, loyal viewers? Your thoughts on "ECHO," echo... echo...