I think it's safe to say that this is not the best episode of the eighth season. What surprises me is that this is still a better episode than most of what was aired in the seventh season. This season has yet to deliver a true sub-par episode, and even one like this that comes in very average is still entirely watchable.
That's not a situation I thought "Smallville" would ever find itself in again, especially after last season's schizophrenic mess. I can't help but wonder if the change in showrunners brought about this change in pace. Perhaps the former regime was, in fact, holding the series back a bit too much, and now that the restrictions are beginning to ease, there's more confidence in the final product. While the season arc is taking its time in developing, the underlying plot threads are stronger and more consistent.
The focus has remaining on the relationships, but they are moving into more familiar patterns, and the issues at play are more familiar as a result. Clark and Lois are bickering and denying their mutual attraction, but as this episode demonstrates all too well, the barriers are eroding. Lois admits her true feelings for Clark, and while the writers did give the characters reason to underplay the importance of that moment, it was still an important step along their destined path.
The episode also managed to resolve the matter of Jimmy's concerns over Chloe and Clark, which is a very good thing, since it was threatening to become tedious. (Some might already believe it was tedious, but at least it made sense.) The couple is on its way to the altar, and the question now is whether or not tragedy will strike on that blessed day. It is, after all, a melodramatic staple to kill someone on his or her wedding day, or alternatively, force the wedding to be canceled.
I wasn't expecting this episode to also include a far more mundane but ultimately more nuanced pairing in Oliver and Tess. "Toxic" made it clear that they have a history (and not a good one), but I thought that would simply be character shading. I was pleasantly surprised to see the writers making a move to add depth to Tess (and by extension, Oliver). I love how Tess beats Oliver at his own playboy style, using him on her own terms, and how that manages to humanize Tess' cold exterior. It's better characterization than Lex received in the past few seasons (not counting his descent).
Quite against my expectations, "Smallville" has been delivering solid entertainment this season. I'm glad that the series managed to survive another season, and while I still miss Lex as a solid adversary for Clark, I can't deny that the new status quo shakes off the complacency of recent seasons.