Lois (Erica Durance) returns to Metropolis in a pouring rain and is awfully irked that Clark (Tom Welling) didn't pick her up at the airport. As she stomps away, Linda Lake (Tori Spelling) flows up out of the local sewage drain (subtle, kids) with a Faustian bargain for him. Let her cover all of his exploits and she won't expose his secret. Otherwise, the whole "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men" thing ends up on page 1. Clark pow-wows with Chloe (Allison Mack) about it and decides to go public himself before Lake can expose him.
He tags Lois for help in shaping the story: revealing his identity to her as the Red-Blue Blur and filling her in on his whole history. The next morning, the story hits the streets, instantly turning Clark into a household name. All the media attention causes problems at the hospital where Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore) is recovering. Chloe arrives and grumbles at a passing nurse about it, only to run into Davis Bloome (Sam Witwer), who's been raiding the hospital pharmacy for anti-psychotic medication in a not-at-all ominous twist. Chloe's "just friends" routine won't work for him, he tells her, and Clark's front-page revelation goes down even less well.
Would that he were the only problem. Furious at being thwarted, Lake calls a press conference and claims that Clark is actually the advance scout for an alien invasion. The real hero, in her words, is Lex Luthor, who fought so hard to keep the "menace" at bay. The publicity worm quickly turns and the feds show up to have a word with Clark. He answers their questions, but when they insist on running tests, he refuses. They pull guns on him--because that always works with this guy--and he splits after letting them empty their clips onto his invulnerable chest. The authorities quickly launch an all-out manhunt for him.
On the run from the law, Clark and Chloe hit upon a solution: the ring that the Legion of Superheroes gave him several episodes ago can turn back time. He takes a second to rescue Lois from the feds and speeds her to the barn, where they hash out the moral vagaries of his plan. They're interrupted by Lake, who overheard Clark and Chloe talking and replaced the Legion ring with a chunk of kryptonite.
While Clark lies writhing on the floor, Chloe heads back to her office to start shredding documents. Davis breaks in on her and reveals his secret, telling her to warn Clark just before pulling a Lon Cheney and tearing her VW to shreds. She leaves a message for Lois just before she dies, but Lois is too busy getting rid of the kryptonite and kicking Lake's skanky butt to pick up. When she finally hears Chloe's message, she tries to tell Clark about Davis/Doomsday, but Clark has already reclaimed the Legion ring and gone back in time.
Arriving several days earlier, he quickly pens an article fingering Lake for all the murders she's committed, then stops her from instigating her blackmail scheme. When she tries to turn into water and escape, he zaps her with a jolt from the nearby power box, knocking her unconscious. Armed with knowledge of future events, he meets a now-clueless Lois at the airport on time and fills Chloe in on the fate he averted. She suggests creating an "alternate identity" for him to use when he's being heroic. He tells her that Lois must never know the truth about who he is and that he's destroyed the Legion ring so that it never falls into the wrong hands. He still doesn't know about Davis's alter-ego.
This time, when Davis arrives to steal happy pills from the hospital, he runs into an imprisoned Lake, who tries to goad him into becoming Doomsday and freeing her. He smothers her with a pillow before she succeeds.
It's great having Durance back--she and Welling just click together--and show handles the whole "how the hell does Lois not realize who Clark really is?" thing with deftness and grace. The alternate timeline is awfully creaky at points, but it also justifies Clark's need for a secret identity and other key parts of the mythos fairly convincingly. The Doomsday build-up was solid as well, enhanced by Witwer's eerie resemblance to James Franco and promising one hell of a rumble somewhere down the line.
Bless Spelling's heart, she ain't exactly Meryl Streep, and while Lake's bitchiness can only truly be realized by a 90210 alum, there isn't a whole lot else in her little bag of tricks. Needless to say, we've seen Clark going back in time to fix everything before, and this version doesn't compare well to the one from three decades ago. The episode also smacks too overtly of the "it was all a dream" cliché, and time constraints push it along a little quickly for comfort. (That federal SWAT team pulls its guns awfully fast for one thing.)
I'm perfectly happy keeping the name Smallville, but isn't it time we stopped being coy and put Welling in the cape and tights? Eight years of foreplay is enough.