- For the eponymous character, see Ryan James.
Clark pushes his abilities to the limit to save his telepathic young friend Ryan from an evil doctor who wants to control the boy's abilities. Meanwhile, Nell tells Lana they are moving to Metropolis.
→ see also Category:Screencaps from episode 2x08
Ryan James is seen strapped to a table with electrodes attached to his skull. Dr. Lawrence Garner is testing his mind-reading ability. When he complains of headaches, Dr. Garner urges him to continue. When Ryan's nose begins to bleed, he sends his assistant for coagulant. Ryan tells him that his assistant is about to steal narcotics and Garner rushes away after him. Ryan uses the opportunity to run away. He crawls through an air duct to an office with a phone. Clark answers the phone and Ryan begs him to come rescue him. Ryan reveals that he is at the Summerholt Institute before the line goes dead. Ryan has been caught and rendered unconscious.
Jonathan and Martha check up on Ryan and his aunt. They seem to have disappeared and there appears to be no such institute in Edge City. Jonathan decides to call the police to see if they've been reported missing. Clark offers that he got an email from Ryan a few weeks ago and everything seemed fine.
At school, Clark feels guilty for not realizing something was wrong. Chloe uses her contact at the phone company to trace the call and they locate the Summerholt Institute in Metropolis, a facility known for controversial brain research.
Meanwhile, Lex is meeting with Smallville's Mayor Tate for zoning approval of an expansion of the fertilizer plant. The mayor insinuates that it will take more than a simple request to get the approval and mentions Lionel Luthor's generous donations and speedy approvals. Lex maintains that LexCorp does not do bribes and Mayor Tate leaves, reminding Lex how much it would cost to shut down the expansion.
Nell arrives to pick Lana up from the horse stables and informs her that Dean has asked her to move to Metropolis with him. She has already agreed, and Lana is angry. She doesn't want to leave her school or her friends. When Clark arrives home, Jonathan and Martha tell him they have met dead ends. There is no record of Ryan being held at the Institute. Clark wants to go there but they tell him that he can't just go tearing down doors. Clark disregards his parents' words and goes anyway. As he questions the receptionist, Dr. Garner shows up and reiterates that there are no patients there. Clark turns to leave, but uses his X-ray vision to read files on the receptionist's desk. He sees a room number labeled "restricted." When he arrives, he rips the door off, takes Ryan's restraints off, picks him up and leaves.
Clark takes Ryan to the Luthor Mansion because he knew his "parents would freak" if he brought him home. Ryan explains that he started getting nosebleeds and migraines a few months ago, and his aunt couldn't handle the stress and medical bills. Dr. Garner offered to keep Ryan and treat him. In the hallway, Lex tells Clark that it wasn't smart to abduct Ryan, and Clark just says he wasn't thinking. Lex lets Ryan stay that night and says they will figure it out in the morning.
When Clark arrives home, he finds Dr. Garner and Sheriff Miller questioning his parents. Garner demands that Clark give Ryan up, and Clark says he needs until 9:00 AM the next day. Garner threatens to search the whole farm and put Clark's life under scrutiny if Ryan isn't there. Clark brings Ryan back to the farm and Ryan explains to the Kents that Dr. Garner told him that his mind-reading ability is the result of something wrong in his brain. Just after Jonathan tells them that they will have to give Ryan back, Garner and Ethan arrive. Garner threatens to press kidnapping charges on Clark. Just then, Lex arrives with a temporary restraining order allowing Ryan to stay with the Kents. Dr. Garner angrily spits that this is not over, and he and the sheriff drive away.
Clark takes Ryan to the Talon where they have thrown him a surprise welcome-back party. At the party, Pete says his mother signed the restraining order for the Kents. Ryan reveals that Pete is very stressed out about keeping Clark's secret, and that Lana is moving to Metropolis. He starts to feel ill and they leave early. Later, in his loft, Lana confirms that Nell has indeed decided to move. True to form, Clark offers to let Lana stay with them, even though it's already crowded with Ryan. He then advises Lana to stand up for herself. Later, Lana researches child emancipation because she has decided not to move with Nell. However, the process can take up to eighteen months. Chloe offers a simpler solution; Lana can stay with her.
The next morning, Ryan is with Martha as she does some quick work at the Luthor mansion for Lionel. He reads Martha's thoughts, telling her that she really does like her job, and that he knows "her secret," and asking why she hasn't told it to Jonathan and Clark. She just says she'll tell him when she's ready. Ryan asks Lex to show him his Warrior Angel collection. While they look at the comic books, Ryan reads Lex's mind, finishing his thoughts for him. Lex starts to asks him how he knew, but Ryan begins to moan in pain and his nose starts to bleed. Ryan passes out.
He wakes up in the hospital with Clark at his bedside. They talk about comics, avoiding Ryan's health problems, until Ryan admits that he read the doctor's mind—he has a brain tumor and will die. Back home, Clark is upset that he can't do anything to save Ryan.
Lex shows Clark an article on a doctor who has done cutting-edge research on brain tumors and ESP-like abilities. However, he is due to fly out of the country from Hub City in a few hours. Clark wants to visit him and Lex tells him that he too did research and fought against his mother's illness, but in the end, he wished he had just spent time with her and been there when she died. He advises Clark not to make the same mistake but Clark leaves anyway, superspeeding to Hub City.
Lex brings Ryan the rarest issue of "Warrior Angel", in which Warrior Angel's best friend turns against him. Lex muses that he probably did not even know he had become evil, since "darkness is a journey, not a light switch." Ryan advises Lex to remember that. Later, Lex meets with Mayor Tate again, this time showing him a political advertisement that details all of his shady dealings. He tells Tate that he will back the other candidate during Tate's re-election and the two exchange words. Lex warns Tate that he is prepared to fight against him in any way and suggests he resign first.
Clark arrives at the airport just in time, and the doctor agrees to do surgery on Ryan. The Kents wait at the hospital. Lana visits and tells Clark that Chloe and her dad have offered to let her stay with them so she doesn't have to move. Just then, Jonathan and Martha appear, about to deliver bad news.
In Ryan's hospital room, Ryan tells Clark about how he always wished he had an Aerodrome like Warrior Angel, so he could fly high above everything and escape all his troubles. He admits to Clark that the surgery only bought him a few more days. In pain, he mutters that it's so loud in the hospital. Clark promises to take him somewhere quiet. Despite his fear of heights, Clark gives Ryan a ride on a hot-air balloon. Ryan thanks him for the moment. He warns him about Lex one more time and tells Clark he changed his life, and will go on to change more people's lives, too. Afterwards, Clark is alone in Ryan's empty hospital room, sadly gathering up Ryan's beloved "Warrior Angel" comics. He walks out of the room and stares back at Ryan's bed, now empty.
- Tom Welling as Clark Kent
- Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang
- Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor
- Sam Jones III as Pete Ross
- Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan
- John Glover as Lionel Luthor (credit only)
- Annette O'Toole as Martha Kent
- John Schneider as Jonathan Kent
- Ryan Kelley as Ryan James
- Martin Cummins as Dr. Lawrence Garner
- Sarah-Jane Redmond as Nell Potter
- William B. Davis as William Tate
- Mitchell Kosterman as Sheriff Ethan Miller
- Mark Gibbon as Deputy Gibbons
- Catherine Lough Hagquist as Mary
- Michael St. John Smith as Dr. Thomas Burton
- Sylvesta Stuart as Orderly
- Robert Seckler as Maintenance Guy
Musical Guest Appearance by
- "Inside Out (Acoustic Version)" - VonRay
- "News Makers" - Dave Hewson
- "Angels Or Devils (Live from the Lounge version)" - Dishwalla
- This episode is named "Ryan" after Ryan James, the young boy with telepathic powers featured in this episode.
- This is the first episode named after someone's proper name. Similar episodes in the future include Perry, Lucy, Zod, Bizarro, Kara, Lara, Doomsday, Metallo and Isis.
- Antagonist: Lawrence Garner
- Clark uses the following abilities in this episode: super strength, super speed, and telescopic vision.
- Lionel Luthor does not appear in this episode.
- Clark is reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding the Brain.
- Ryan explains that Warrior Angel has a giant bubble where he goes to be alone, which sounds like the Fortress of Solitude that Superman has in the comics. Clark says that he is not sure of the flying part, as he hasn't mastered Flight and his Fortress of Solitude is earthbound.
- Hub City, home of the DC hero The Question, is mentioned in this episode.
- Warrior Angel #66 tells the story of how Devilicus and Warrior Angel use to be the closest of friends prior to becoming the greatest of enemies, which foreshadows the relationship between Clark and Lex.
- Action Comics #66 (November 1943) was titled The boy who came back... The title is similar to what happens in this episode, the boy (Ryan) who comes back into the Kent's life.
- Superman #66 v.2 (April 1992) dealt with Superman's nemesis Brainiac whose main power was telepathy.
- The cover of the Warrior Angel comic Lex shows Ryan is very similar to the first issue cover of Action Comics bearing Superman holding up a car. The only differences being the other people in the Warrior Angel cover appear to be cheering him, he has his wings behind him rather than a cape and Warrior Angel is facing left to Superman's right.
- There are some similarities in this episode to the film "Phenomenon" with John Travolta.
- This is the first episode of the series where Clark loses a loved one.
- Clark first met Ryan James last year in the episode Stray.
- Aunt Nell Potter was last seen in Redux.
- While Clark and Lana are talking about her move to Metropolis, Lana asks him "How would you feel if you were uprooted and sent somewhere far away where you didn't know anyone?". Little does she know this is exactly what happened when Clark came to earth.
- Ryan's reaction to Lana kissing him on his cheek refers to his crush on her as shown in Stray.
- Martha's "secret" that Ryan knows is revealed eight episodes later in Fever.
- Dr. Garner would continue his malevolent research in the Season Three episodes Delete and Memoria. In the latter, he is caught in a lab explosion that places him in a coma from which he is never shown to recover.
- This episode marks the last appearance of Nell Potter until Season Six's Promise. However, she is mentioned numerous times in the interim.
- Chloe: Hey, um, remember that really cute guy Heinrich who works at the phone company?
- Pete: Yeah, you mean the Hungarian one with the toy scooter?
- Chloe:He's austrian and it's a classic vespa.
- Clark:You knew about this the whole time, didn't you.
- Ryan: Half a block away.
- Clark: Yeah. Thanks for not ruining the surprise.
- Ryan: I was tempted to. I hate pistachio. But it was definitely worth the kiss.
- Clark: I appreciate you taking Ryan in. If I took him home, my parents would've freaked.
- Lex: Yeah, kidnapping has that effect on people.
- Ryan: So, think I could check out that Warrior Angel collection?
- Lex: That depends. Are your hands clean?
- Lex: Ryan, real life is not a comic book. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty, make compromises.
- Ryan: That's what your father told you. That doesn't mean it's right.
- Ryan: It's Warrior Angel's aerodome. A floating fortress where he can get away from his troubles on earth.
- Clark: Sounds like something everybody should have. I'm not sure about the floating part, though.
- Ryan: Why not?
- Clark: I have this little fear of flying.
- Ryan: Why do you think Devilicus went bad?
- Lex: I'm not sure. Probably wasn't aware of it. You see, Ryan, in life, the road to darkness is a journey, not a light switch.
- Ryan: You should remember that, Lex.
- Clark: Wow, you and Chloe as roommates.
- Lana: Did you ever see that coming?
- Clark: Not in a million years.
- Lana: What is it?
- Clark: Nothing. Um... It's just you won't be the girl next door anymore.
- Lana: I'm not going anywhere, Clark. Maybe now you can give your telescope to Ryan.
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