Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The First Kill"
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Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The First Kill"

A-

Chuck

"Chuck Vs. The First Kill"

Season 2, Episode 20

There's just no getting around it: Chuck is awesome. And while there have been some stellar episodes this season, this is the first one where I was genuinely giddy with excitement when it ended, pondering what's in store for next week. But the funny thing is, a lot of what happened in tonight's episode has happened before: We see Chuck fighting to remain relevant to a government who wants to shut him in a dark cell for life; we see Sarah and Casey going out of their way to help Chuck out, as they're the only handlers in history who seem to genuinely care about their handlee; we see a lot of the same good-natured goofiness this show pulls of masterfully. But the stakes are much higher now—at any moment, NBC could announce that the show will be sticking around for a third season, to much rejoicing throughout the land. But they won't, so us fans enjoy these last episodes even more, knowing there's a chance it might be one of the show's last.

(I admit this is a strange way to kick off the recap, but with so few TV shows I genuinely look forward to every week, the prospect of one less is a dark one, particularly because Chuck has been getting better and better.)

But while Chuck is kickin', there's the matter of Orion to attend to. Chuck's father was kidnapped by Fulcrum at the end of the last episode, forced to work on the new version of the Intersect. Chuck, of course, is obsessed with finding him. And the only person who can help is Jill—ex-girlfriend, ex-Fulcrum agent. So Chuck offers her a deal: Help him locate his father, and she will go free.

It's a lie, of course—no way Chuck, or anyone in the government, wants a rogue enemy agent on their hands—and it's not the last one. See, Jill might be able to help the team out, but she has to contact Uncle Bernie (the guy from Borat), the family friend who originally recruited her for Fulcrum. He's under constant guard, and only comes out for family events, so Chuck and Jill, of course, create a sham engagement party. Jill's family is, sadly, really excited about all this, but Bernie senses foul play—he knew Jill was in prison, after all. Under the guise of "being alone with the happy couple, to impart wisdom," he corners Chuck with a gun, suffers from a heart attack, and dies. It's Chuck's first kill, however inadvertently, and Casey is quick to peg it to "The Morgan": the stance Chuck takes when he's about to get hurt, with his leg in the air and hands covering the face and family jewels.

But "The Morgan" lives to kill again. Bernie was a bust (obviously), but Jill suggests the team head to a secret Fulcrum recruiting facility. Chuck and Casey head inside pretending to be test takers; Sarah and Jill stay back in the van, where they can guide the boys to the cell where Orion might be held. But Fulcrum's really tech savvy, so the touch screen Chuck and Casey were taking the test on turns out to be a camera with facial recognition. Fulcrum separates the duo, with Casey taken to a hallway to be shot, and Chuck up to the fifteenth floor to meet with the head of the facility. Casey escapes, and both Sarah and Jill—despite Sarah's reservations—burst in to the rescue. What ensues is one of the most enjoyable sequences in Chuck's history: After Casey comes to Chuck's rescue (bursting through the back window), he demands the Nerd Herd captain stay back to hack the computer; the facility leader returns, and pulls a gun on Chuck, who strikes "The Morgan" on instinct; the leader trips on the glass, flies into Chuck's outstretched leg, and flips out the now-shattered window. It's a moment of pure slapstick comedy, made all the more pleasurable by how pathetic and inadvertent it is.

Then comes what amounts to be a satisfying build to the inevitable season finale. Foiled, Fulcrum has removed Orion and transferred him to a secret facility. Jill knows the name, but not the location; Captain Intersect, upon hearing the name, immediately knows the location. Chuck sets Jill free (something I'm sure will come back by season's end), then sets about preparing himself to go after his father once and for all. But meanwhile, Sarah and Casey receive sudden orders from General Beckman: They are to immediately retrieve Chuck and extract him—operation Intersect fun time, over. This is it. Sarah is to head to the Buy More, tell Chuck his father has been saved, and bring him to the Castle, where Casey is to shoot him with a tranquilizer gun and await the extraction team.

Now, Sarah has disobeyed orders before, but when she decides to go to the Buy More as planned, and sneak Chuck away, I was cheering every step of the way. See, the possible end of this show is both a blessing and curse. The curse part is obvious, but recently, all the missions have started to make sense next to one another. Gone are the days of Chuck trying, even just slightly, to appease new viewers, and the days of pleasing long-time fans have arrived. Even the jokes are no longer just fleeting, but serve the story and characters as a whole. I think much like "The Morgan," the show was just trying to protect itself for a long time. But now it has stumbled on a consistent winning formula. Let's just hope it's enough.

Grade: A-

Stray observations:

  • This feels like the appropriate place to talk about the Buy More segments, which have been somewhat plateauing lately, capping off at "pretty good." This one involved Emmitt double crossing the Buy More team: He convinces Morgan that the corporate evaluator is looking to promote Emmitt out of the store, so everyone should be on their best behavior if they want him out. But it turns out he's gunning for Big Mike's job, which he succeeds in getting—all thanks to Morgan. The Godfather-like kiss at the end should say all that needs to be said about how much I'm excited for this to play out. Also: "Lower that whore skirt."
  • "I don't know if he wants to kill me or eat me."
  • Man, Chuck never gets any sympathy from Beckman, no matter what he does.
  • Still no new press photos on NBC's photo site, so enjoy this oldie but goodie.

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