Midway through tonight's episode, I had a thought, specifically about the nature of this show's A- and B-stories. In Chuck terms, B almost always stands for Buy More, and while the antics of Morgan et al. can be entertaining, they almost always fall short of the A laughs. Other shows can regularly blend A and B–How I Met Your Mother, for example, rotates its focal characters quite nicely, making for balanced seasons–but this one can't. It's all part of the spy game: Chuck can never tell anyone about his secret life, therefore his dealings with the rest of the world will always take a back seat. Even the missile command episode, while taking place largely in the Buy More, didn't feel like an A-meets-B–story one. So for most of "Chuck Vs. The Gravitron," I was wondering if the Buy More stuff would ever be all that super.
But then Big Mike tackled Leader, perhaps the biggest laugh of the evening, and all was right with the world.
Part of that moment's power and surprise came from a somewhat unsatisfying build. To thwart would-be thieves, Big Mike demands that employees with no familial commitments on Thanksgiving be locked in the store overnight. Not surprisingly, Lester and Jeff are the usual crowd, but this year they're joined by Morgan, whose been uninvited from the Bartowski's usual shindig. And oh, what a shindig, one that Morgan looks forward to every year–and not just because Ellie's there. There's turkey, real turkey, something apparently Lester is not familiar with. (His earnest surprise at learning about normal Thanksgiving traditions was a bit much.)
This year, though, the Awesomes are coming into town, and bringing with them judgments aplenty. So we get to see something that I hope we never see again: stressed Ellie. Chuck's sister already isn't my favorite character, and scenes with her (and minus Awesome) don't add too much information or humor. An even more high-strung Ellie? Fine, but she got a pretty generic treatment, with her partaking in trial cooking runs. It was a moment that could have exposed some interesting quirk about this underutilized character, but instead was just a throwaway scene with a tried-and-true gag.
I felt that way about most of tonight's Jill scenes as well. The writers did a good job of quickly fleshing out her character in the previous episodes, mostly through flashbacks and conversations Chuck has with other people about her. But now we're at the crux of her storyline, wherein she must play Chuck as hard as she can. And what happens? She acts like someone at the end of a terrible Lost episode; pretty much any line she says could be followed by, "Or DO I?" She points a gun at Chuck on the ferris wheel, but then helps him escape the carnival unscathed. She admits to never sleeping with Bryce, but uses that info as the icing on her long con cake. Then, after an escape from the Buy More aided by Chuck, she begs him to sneak away with her, an offer Chuck wisely turns down. It's a lot of back-and-forth. I'm inclined to agree with Keith's write-up two weeks ago: Jill's a pretty flat character. Once again, there was some opportunity present to let Jill become vulnerable and reveal something real about herself. Maybe she really loved our guy, maybe she didn't, but if the show had made up its mind, it wasn't clear.
And there's this little tidbit: Why didn't Chuck flash on Jill's face from day one? Clearly her face is in his database, as evidenced by the quick shot of her when he flashes on her code name.
But whatever, she's gone (or IS she?), and as usual our hero is stronger for the experience. And Zachary Levi can chalk up another major hottie to his "We totally made out on my TV show" list. Plus, any episode with the words, "Unleash the Casey" can't be that bad.
- Correct me if I'm wrong, but was that the first-ever in-motion Gravitron chase sequence in television history?
- I'd hate to think of all those husky lads going without clothing this Christmas.