When last we saw our superheroes, the lair had just been ransacked and their secret identities were missing. Oh, and both Ms. Limelight and Mr. Mitzvah had to turn in their costumes.

Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice … spoilers ahead!

While surveying the damage, the heroes revert to their basic personalities, which is sort of neat: Hygena starts wanting to clean up; Defuser barks out orders to best preserve and process the evidence; Whip-Snap freaks out and cries about what a rough life she’s had; and so on. Now, when I say Whip-Snap freaks out, I mean the full waterworks, plus saying she can’t play the game any more and bemoaning the rough life she’s already had. Keep that in mind.

Stan appears, and it turns out that not only are the files gone, but so is Stan’s pencil and a $50,000 check from E-surance for the Friends of the Urban Forest charity. Of it all, the pencil motivates me most. I mean, imagine what’s sprung from that pencil, all the stories and iconic figures. Like any good geek, I tried my hand at creating comic books, from homemade amateur stuff as a kid to a superhero strip that ran for years in my college newspaper. The stories still swirl in my head, and I wonder whether just being near that piece of history might bring them back out.

Oh, trust me, I’m-a get much geekier before the night is through.

What does annoy me is that Stan immediately turns the screen over to Erin E-surance, that pink-haired cartoon you see in the commercials. She basically gives a mini-commercial, and I snicker thinking of the heroes gathering corporate sponsorships a la the underrated Mystery Men.

Stan comes back and tells the heroes their files and the other phat lewt is being conveyed by a courier along the Universal Citywalk. To the SUV-mobiles!

At last, those communicator-watches from a couple of episodes ago come into play. Unfortunately, it’s to display Erin. The heroes have to disguise themselves and then intercept the courier. That means each hero must get a shirt, shoes and pants from the unsuspecting Citywalk visitors. They’ve got 15 minutes. This sequence is really very amusing, just for the number of people who still won’t give the time of day to a person dressed in Spandex being followed by a cameraman. Shirts and shoes are easy to come by, but few folks are willing to give up their pants. Go figure. Best part here: Hyper-Strike does a triple-backflip with flair at the end in exchange for pants. He’s an amazing acrobat.

As if this challenge isn’t difficult enough, each hero is approached by a woman claiming to have lost her daughter. Sure enough, each hero stops to try and help, and after a couple of minutes the woman gets a phone call saying her daughter is found. Oh, wait, Basura is approached mid-negotiation for a man’s pants, and stammers trying to tackle both challenges at once. You just know that’s gonna come back to haunt her.

Parthenon gets to the courier with seconds to spare, and recovers the files and check, but no pencil.

Next, the heroes are directed to the Golden Apple comic-book store, where they get to see the covers of their prospective one-off comic books. These are really cool, and I’d be just as excited if not more, but really it’s filler. Back at the lair, Parthenon as winner gets to place one phone call home (finally, a reward for a challenge!) and also gets to choose one other hero to place a call. (I should note here that both Basura and Whip-Snap say they have nobody to call, and so opt out of the running.)

Now, I’ve watched both seasons of this show so far, and it never struck me that they were sequestered from the outside world. Apparently they are, but the share-a-reward thing puzzles me. I mean, this isn’t Survivor, so Parthenon isn’t buying any votes. That part feels tacked on, and while I came into this season thinking the creators had had time to solidify their ideas, now I wonder whether they aren’t still relying too heavily on other reality-show tropes. Anyhoo, Hygena gets the other call. Parthenon calls his partner, and Hygena calls her husband, and it’s all very cute.

The heroes fill out their mission reports, which still irks me, and of course Defuser is quoted twice because he calls out Whip-Snap and Hyper-Strike for having hyphenated names. No, that’s not it; he calls them out for not emerging fully as personalities. I agree on Whip-Snap (other than her hard hard life) but I think Hyper-Strike’s pretty outgoing.

It’s time for elimination, and the three in danger are Basura, Hygena and Defuser. I’m not surprised by Defuser, but I’d have swapped either of the other two for Whip-Snap who, after all, said she was giving up. Stan should have blown a gasket, and I hate to say it, but I wonder whether her crying about having a hard life hasn’t made Stan & Co. afraid to evict her. I mean, she does it again here when criticized. The rationale for the bottom three are that Basura’s not assertive, Defuser’s too assertive and Hygena let her fear slow her down.

Basura, surprisingly, is asked to turn in her costume, and she morphs into just about the loveliest geek-girl ever, complete with chunky glasses and a flower in her hair. I am truly sad, not just because I’ll miss her black bikini top, but because I think she actually might have become a better hero had she stayed.

Allow me to get my geek on. I’ve been reading and collecting comics since I was a kid, and the reason Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics is usually considered superior to DC is that Stan’s creations were interesting. And by interesting, I mean they were shy or bullying or afraid, and they still worked together to fight evil. Superman, for many years, was deadly dull. How do you stop him? He’s invincible, and besides he was just so damn righteous. The better storylines involved, say, a shy young person growing with his powers (Peter Parker, a great Basura analog) or a leader dealing with his bossiness while knowing his charges are far more power (Cyclops, a great Defuser analog) than a Superman to whose level of goodness nobody could ever aspire. That’s why I rail against the creator of such great layered characters reducing these contestants to personality-free paragons.

What do you think? Would you rather see someone like Parthenon (who can seemingly do no wrong) than watching the progress of a Basura? And am I totally off-base for thinking Whip-Snap is being given a pass for her past?

Posted by:Andy Grieser