When it's firing on all cylinders, Chuck is a show where all the characters are doing what they think is best, but find themselves in constant conflict. It's been a while since an episode of Chuck forced everyone to have different questionable agendas. "Chuck Vs. The Aisle Of Terror" is a welcome return to form, marked notably by the returns of Linda Hamilton, Morgan Fairchild, Jeffster actually doing something, and introducing Robert Englund as a creepster bad guy. A lot happened, and a lot of people made it happen.
The episode trudged along, introducing layers-within-layers without confusing too much of the story. We start right where last week ended: Chuck gets an unknown call on his cell, which turns out to be his mother wanting to meet. She says to come alone, but Chuck smartly has Sarah tag along from far away. This pulls Sarah into the web Chuck's mom is trying to weave. See, she was tasked with infiltrating the enemy, and found herself way over her head; the CIA deleted the Isis mission file for her own protection, and now she's reaching out to Chuck for his help in taking down the bad dudes. Chuck is powerfully skeptical, but in the end has to trust his mom because—well, he's just that kind of guy. (Which is why Sarah loves him, you know.) Thus Chuck finds himself impersonating a weapons buyer to get his hands on a powerful neurotoxin, that is until mom shows up unannounced and shoots Chuck in the chest.
The mystery deepens when Chuck's mom explains her odd behavior—she needed to throw the enemy off Chuck and Ellie's scent—then Casey, secretly, learns that Isis was abandoned 20 years ago and mom has been going rogue. And the person who sicks the CIA on Chuck's mom is Sarah, utilizing the girlfriend knowledge of where Chuck and Ellie are meeting mom for dinner. She just wants to protect Chuck, but she's taking Chuck's mom away from a grand Ellie reunion.
This twist is significant for a few reasons. First, it pulls Ellie and Awesome's storyline—which until that moment had me ready to label it the Buy More 2.0 in its superfluousness—into the main fold on a powerful emotional note. After four seasons, I care about Ellie and want her to be happy, and this season so far has been mostly about her running through the same emotional beats they set up last season. The capture of Chuck's mom also gives Chuck and Sarah something legitimate to come in the middle of their relationship. Not that I'm hoping for a break-up or anything, but the show has made it abundantly clear that Chuck isn't meant to be happy (yet). If they're going to wedge things between Chuck and Sarah, at least it's something legit like Sarah capturing Chuck's mom because she believes it's the right thing to do, and not Chuck getting insecure about some turn-of-phrase. And, thirdly, it means more Linda Hamilton. Hellz yeah.
The rest of the episode was, for the most part, ancillary. The Buy More stuff was about as good as the Buy More stuff is going to be: Entertaining for its few moments of Jeff creepiness and high school employee guy waving a bat from a stick. The show has lost the ability to naturally bring Jeffster into the fold, though, now going out of the way to point out why it is they're getting involved. I mean, no complaint after that, though, as their "haunted" house was not only ridiculous but surprisingly useful later in the episode. See, the toxin is a lot like the Scarecrow's toxin in Batman, in that it makes those affected see the world much scarier than it really is. Chuck is blasted when the team takes the scientist into custody, and spends some time wandering around the Buy More freaked out by clowns and hallucinations. But the toxin coupled with pictures of old people and interspecies romances proved too much for the scientist himself.
Then there was Morgan Fairchild who felt underused in her only two scenes—first surprising Ellie at the house, then taking the couple shopping and insisting the new baby read the dictionary. To be fair, though, those scenes were merely to set up Ellie's desire to see her actual mother, and to give Frost a glimpse into what life might be like had she not run away. The early part of the season was a lot of set-up, and now we're starting to see the pay-off.
- "You are not a rhyming monkey."
- Chuck's reaction to seeing his mom at the diner, with his wide eyes = priceless.
- "Your hair feels like hay."