Chuck seemed to take a page out of the playbook for Glee this week. Both episodes featured fifty-five minutes of “meh” material only to break out a steady stream of “holy sh$t” moments in the final five. For a series that is heading into its home stretch, this was one leisurely freakin’ hour of television. I kept wondering if the show had something up its sleeve, or if it was just indulging all of its worst Buy More impulses for one last blow out before the real final run. The results were jarring: while I’m curious to see where things go from here, I fear they will be far less interesting than I wish they would be.
Case in point: the way in which the show dealt with the cliffhanger from last week. Yes, that was one spectacularly obvious car bomb, and Chuck seeing it from across the street ensured no one would get hurt. That was expected, but fine. But Beckman conveniently having an anti-Intersect device seemed like a major cop-out, even for this show. It’s not like Chuck has a history of having realism involved with its Intersect-related activities. Still, neutralizing the huge potential of “Castle Versus The World” that quickly seemed like a misstep. (Let’s set aside how the CIA could construct a way to get a Trojan-horsed Intersect out of Morgan’s head that quickly, OK?)
With that act, Beckman managed to call off all hits on Morgan, save one given to The Viper. Decker outsourced the kill order to this assassin, one conveniently famous for 1) never unsuccessfully completing a kill, and 2) going dark once receiving the assignment. With Morgan underground in lockdown, Chuck decides to assume Morgan’s identity at the Buy More National Salesperson of the Year event in Riverdale. Yup: Buy Morons are apparently a national phenomenon, and most of the employees make the ones we know seem like competent, sober human beings. It’s an excuse for Chuck and Sarah to temporarily explore a “normal life,” which seems to be a theme for this year. Call me crazy, but I though “Chuck Versus The Honeymooners” showed just how happy this pair could be in taking advantage of their spy lives in order to sustain their relationship. I get the pair wanting a house with the white picket fence as a home, but I hope that home doesn’t represent the end of them wanting to have adventures together in some capacity.
A lot of this came out of the blue as a way to try and misdirect the search for The Viper. Unfortunately, Sarah’s sudden need for female companionship outside the Cat Squad only put a big target on new friend Jane (guest star Catherine Dent, who many of you probably recognized from The Shield) as the ultimate identity for the assassin. It’s not that Sarah’s need seemed out of character. But they did seem mightily convenient. More in character, and far more hysterical, were Casey’s attempts to punish Morgan inside of Castle while Sarah looked for BFFs. With the Intersect out, but Morgan’s memories of his nerdish past a blur, he spends half the episode watching Star Wars DVDs as Casey provides unhelpful starting points and spoilerish details aplenty. It was like watching an angry message board grunt at Morgan for half an hour.
All of this was perfectly fine, but perfectly fluffy, Chuck. Did anyone worry that Chuck wouldn’t defuse the bomb in Sarah’s car? Did anyone worry that The Viper would take out either Morgan or Alex in the Buy More? Of course not. This is Chuck, where there are never any stakes and never any meaningful changes and never any huge bloodshed. Except, you know, for the parts where Jeff got Lester arrested for attempted homicide and Casey got arrested by Decker after killing The Viper and her henchman in cold blood. And that’s where my jaw dropped and I tried to process if I had myself just inhaled a whole lot of car fumes.
Now, I loved all of those moments, just because they were so different than all that came before it. Not just in terms of this episode, but this series. Meaningful, game-changing moments are few and far between in Chuck. (Stephen Bartowski’s last moments on the show come to mind, and even THERE I’m holding out the possibility he returns before the series ends.) It’s possible we’ll come back in December when the show returns and have everything reset neatly. But there’s something powerful not only in the two arrests made in those final five minutes, but the conversation that was sandwiched in between them. Sarah makes a toast to everyone in their apartment, thanking them for being such good friends, and for providing a circle of honesty she needs. But in a subtle way, everyone in that room is lying to one another. Awesome gave up his paternity leave, something he cherished, in order to give Ellie the happiness he was experiencing. Sarah didn’t clue in Chuck about Casey’s mission, which will certainly come back to haunt her. And Casey didn’t clue Morgan into his impending arrest, ceding him the apartment and the first three Indiana Jones films. (He was nice enough to leave out the existence of the fourth.)
All of this was fantastically dark stuff in the middle of a frothy episode and, let’s be honest, a frothy series. For the first time in forever, I’m actually interested on the happenings inside the Buy More. Will Jeff’s return to sanity dovetail in a meaningful way with the Carmichael Industries arc? Is Casey’s arrest merely a way to isolate Chuck/Sarah? Why did Decker order The Viper to leave that pair alone but kill everyone else? These questions give this final season of Chuck an urgency sadly lacking throughout most of tonight’s hour but provides a solid springboard as we (hopefully) start sprinting towards the finish line for the show.
- I didn’t mention David Koechner’s guest appearance above, because then I’d have to talk about the bunny suit in his hotel closet. And then I’d have nightmares for weeks. So let’s all agree this NEVER HAPPENED.
- Is this the first time the show has been completely Intersect-free? (Assuming Morgan is in fact Intersect-free. I know he thinks he is, but I wouldn’t put it past the show to have both he and Chuck simultaneously kung-fu’ing Decker in the series finale. See Bartowski, Stephen, in terms of things I wouldn’t put past returning.)
- Those generic DVD covers…I guess you have to pay royalties to show the real covers on television? Or did Chuck just burn copies for Morgan?
- Can Carmichael Industries hire Jeff to be their version of a human lie detector? He was damn good at picking up on Ellie’s melancholy.
- Loved the image of the Viper’s assassination record playing across Morgan’s body. It looked like the Ring of Power glowing in Frodo’s face in The Fellowship Of The Ring.
- “Let’s put our babies into a teeny, tiny downward dog.”
- “That lady loves her cheeseballs.”
- “You’re my hero. But you’re not my boyfriend.”