Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The Nacho Platter"
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Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The Nacho Platter"

First off, hi, Keith Phipps here, filling in for Steve Heisler, who’s still putting his mind together after Heroes. So, with six episodes under the belt, we’re deep into the new Chuck order. Chuck can now perform amazing feats instantaneously, alaThe Matrix, thanks to the new version of the Intersect. He’s also becoming a real-life spy for real, meaning it’s now professional obligation that keeps him away from Sarah. Captain Awesome has become a trembling wreck. Lana Lang works at the Buy More. Superman hangs out in the secret lair. (Though not this week.) And a lot of people who never before suspected Chuck had a secret life are now starting to wonder what’s with all the unexplained disappearances and trips to yogurt shop.

How’s it working out for everyone else? Me, I’m mostly fine with the way the season’s progressing. We’ve yet to hit the highs of the second season, but a lot of these were the result of a season-long build-up. I have a feeling we’ll get back to that place eventually. That said, this was another good-but-not-great entry, albeit one with some considerable implications for our hero’s future.

Kristin Kreuk got through a bunch of seasons of Smallville with little more than a smile and an air of vulnerability, and so far she’s worked the same tricks here. But they’re the right tricks for the role, particularly in scenes this week that let her loose amidst the predatory masses of the Buy More staff. Of course, they can’t love her like Morgan can. When the man falls, he falls hard, though this seems unlikely to get much further than his tragic love of Ellie. Still, his attempts to woo her made me want to go watch San Respirer, a French new wave classic I’ve somehow neglected all these years. (Funny that I didn’t recognize the names of any of the famous French actors on the poster.)

Morgan’s attempts to woo Hannah echo this episode’s—and the whole series’—concerns with identity and who we really are if we spend most of our time pretending to be someone we’re not. That’s getting ratcheted up a lot lately. Where before we mostly saw Sarah grappling with her feelings for an asset—the forbidden fruit of the spy world—we now have Chuck trying to figure out how much bad he can do in the name of good and still sleep at night. (Without, that is, the assistance of Johnnie Walker Black.)

This week’s challenge: A would-be weapons designer (and Chuck-of-three-years-ago doppelganger) named Manoush (played well by stand-up comic/real-life aerospace engineer Fahim Anwar.) He’s lonely. He likes Dune and Brian K. Vaughan comics (good man). And, we later learn, he has a connection to the Intersect. But, willing to sell his weapon to the highest bidder, he lacks the conscience that makes Chuck Chuck. Even so, Chuck leaves the episode tormented about having to burn the guy.

That provides the lion’s share of the drama this week. Most of the action comes at Weap Con, a weapons convention Casey’s happy to have an excuse to write off as a work expense for once. Nothing here was quite so exciting as last week’s showdown with Stone Cold Steve Austin, though. (The we’re-saving-our-budget-for-other-episodes depiction of the Dubai convention center didn’t help.) Flaccid fisticuffs aside, this was mostly another satisfying outing in a season that should probably try to slip into a higher gear soon.

Stray observations:

 • I remember that “Stop the presses… Who is that?” gag being at once a little obscure and kind of annoying in the pilot. Now it just feels like something Chuckwould do, evidence that the show has grown on me.

• Captain Awesome’s going to get his mojo back at some point, right? Not that turning Ryan McPartlin into Don Knotts hasn’t been funny, but he still has to revert to being Captain Awesome to keep the chemistry the same.

• “It’s my constitutional right to fornicate.”

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