Let this be a lesson, Chuck writers: You can shake up the spy segments and the Buy More happenings, but by far the most compelling part of Chuck to mess with is the mythology of the whole thing. This season hasn't been as fun as the beginning of season two, but has moved forward the story in as big a way as they did near the end of season two (minus those three amazing words, "I know kung-fu"), and still manages to pull a few punches along the way.
I'm talking specifically about how I was thrown for a major loop midway through. Awesome had been recruited by The Ring in an understandable mix-up as to who the spy in the family was. (Casey's words: "Devon looks like a spy. Chuck looks… like Chuck.") His first mission: Infiltrate a CIA office and kill the man he finds in the penthouse office. Chuck was accompanying Devon to make sure he got through the mission safely, and all of a sudden Sarah and Casey's van was locked down. The general calls. Casey and Sarah say the whole thing looks like a set-up. The general's response: "I know." Then the target appears on the screen—forget the fact that I thought it was Bryce Larkin for a second, but instead is some guy who looks a lot like Jason Schwartzman-meets-Sylar—and he knows everything Chuck's been up to.
Bam. I thought for a split second that the General was in on the whole thing, that The Ring had infiltrated this branch of the government, and Chuck + Devon were about to kill somebody super important to the good guys. Holy crap.
Of course it turns out to all be an even more elaborate set-up for the team to meet Shaw while having the Ring believe him to be dead. It's a nifty trick that Chuck often plays—the ol' bait-and-switch—and to the show's credit, it still works. If only everything else in the episode felt a bit too familiar. I mentioned last week that Devon was becoming like the Chuck character of the past two seasons: He's helpless and unfortunately tied to the plans, so the rest of the team has to protect him at every turn. The show called that out finally, and instructed Chuck to be the Sarah in he and Devon's relationship. He tries his best, but still can't really do much flashing and can only fire a tranquilizer gun because, hey, he's still Chuck. So he snipes off a few operatives and claims the inspiration came from Duck Hunt, then later can't put a bullet into the Ring operative Sydney and forces Shaw to do it for him. We've seen something like this before.
Also back this episode: Longing glances between Chuck and Sarah that say, "We are so similar, you and I." And some pretty atrocius slapstick as Chuck mimes what Devon's supposed to tell Ellie about his absence, with Ellie right there. Thankfully there wasn't a lot of that.
Still, it's hard to harp on the negative aspects of the show, because Chuck still manages to share its spotlight amongst a strong comedic supporting cast, include kick-ass fighting, and a bit of geekery to each episode, and "Chuck Vs. Operation Awesome" was no exception. The Buy More segments might have had little to do with anything, but the Fight Club homage gave Lester a chance to regain some of his enjoyably douchey power previewed when he was the Ass Man, then flip it around and come groveling to Morgan to save his job—and Morgan, dang, he's all growns up. (More on Lester getting punched: "It's the first time I've felt alive since my Bar Mitzvah.") And who can blame the show for giving screen time to the gifted Captain Awesome. Season two defintiely wheted my appetite for more mythology, and this episode felt like a building block to more of that around the corner. I'm pumped to just get there.
- "Don't you mean Mr. Ass Man?" "I do not."
- The whole flashing/performance anxiety parallel? Never again, please?
- "Spies don't say please."