Things were pretty bleak on Smallville last season. And we're not just talking about the WB drama's 25-percent drop in ratings. What with all those dank caves and secret labs and depressing story lines, life for Tom Welling's Clark Kent was, frankly, more sad than super. But the Frog isn't bringing out the killer kryptonite quite yet. Executive producer Al Gough promises TV Guide Online he's giving the show's dreary, complicated mythology a rest. This season, look for football, fun and romance! After all, it's Clark's senior year in high school. Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know anything, ya better not read this dishy, in-depth Q&A....

TV Guide Online: What's happening this season with Clark Kent?
Al Gough:
We pick up three months after he was sucked into the cave under Jor-El's tutelage. We'll see him dumped out in a cornfield buck-naked, and he'll run into Lois Lane. That's their first meeting — and he has no memory of being Clark Kent. He's Kal-El and he can fly.

TVGO: That's big news!
No tights. One flight.

TVGO: What's Lois Lane doing in Smallville?
She's coming to town to investigate her cousin Chloe's death.

TVGO: Sure, her house blew up, but is Chloe really dead?
Maybe, maybe not.

TVGO: Who plays Lois?
Erica Durance. She's a Canadian actress who's done guest spots on Tru Calling, Stargate and Andromeda.

TVGO: Isn't it true that due to Superman's mythology, Lois can't meet Lex Luthor yet?
That's not true. She'll meet Lex in Episode 2.

TVGO: In last season's finale, Lex was lying on the floor, poisoned.
He seemed dead, didn't he? Through the course of the first episode, we'll learn how he beat it.

TVGO: Do Lana and Lois meet and have a catfight over Clark?
Actually, they get along great, much to the consternation of Clark. [Laughs] He and Lois don't get along. She's not the Lois from the comics or movies or other TV shows. She's a 19-year-old Army brat. Her father, Gen. Sam Lane (Michael Ironside), is a Great Santini type who's running a military base outside Smallville. He gets involved with the Luthors.

TVGO: Didn't Lana leave town for Paris?
Lana has a boyfriend she met in Paris. He's a college junior named Jason Teague, played by Jensen Ackles (Dark Angel, Days of our Lives). He's followed Lana back to Smallville. Lana will also have a new look — we're losing the pastels — and be a lot more self-assured and assertive. We're going to introduce a new mythology this year, getting away from the caves, that will involve Clark, Lana and Lex.

TVGO: Is the friendship between Lex and Clark finally ruptured?
It's strained. Repairs will be attempted, but inevitably, something else will happen. And Lex is running Luther Corp. at this point because Lionel is in jail.

TVGO: Once Clark remembers that he's Clark, what's new with him?
He's going to have a little more fun. He's going to join the football team, and you'll see Clark as one of the popular kids in high school. We're trying to get back a little more into teen life. And we'll deal with issues, [like] whether or not Clark can have sex. Now that they're seniors, it seems the time to bring up and deal with these issues. Last year was sort of darker than we anticipated it would be. This year, we're going to lighten it up a bit and have more fun. Lois and Clark will give you a romantic-comedy spark that the show didn't have before.

TVGO: What about the constant rumor that Bruce Wayne will appear?
No, not with [Batman Begins] coming out [next year]. We're talking to DC [Comics] about some of their [other] characters, like The Flash.

TVGO: Any regulars who won't be back?
Sam Jones III, who played Pete Ross, will no longer be a series regular. He will mostly likely pop up in several episodes. Pete moved to Wichita with his mother, who took a federal judgeship.

TVGO: Any new villains?
Yes. There's going to be a new threat to Clark. It may tie in with Christopher Reeve's character, Dr. Swann. We're talking to Chris and trying to make that happen. He's just been very busy; he's directing a film and he's doing an animated film.

TVGO: The show's been struggling. Is this Smallville's last season?
[Laughs] No. Oh, no. Not at all.

For more Smallville scoop, pick up TV Guide's Returning Favorites issue, on sale Sept. 16.