Even after all this time, Chuck still can't quite figure out how to make a storyline interesting when there's a big plot twist in the works. Seven seconds before tonight's episode ended, I said out loud, "Jungle Fever is the new Buy More," as in what part of the show makes for the least compelling story. (I didn't really say Jungle Fever, though I do think that should be the name of something…brand of abstinence patches? Is that a "thing"?) I understood why they want to keep Ellie and Awesome around, but I felt like it was just wasted, underused screen time from some of the show's stellar actors. Then the big twist happened—they are both being worked by the Ring for some yet-to-be-identified nefarious purpose—and there was a big, "Oh, that was cool," and I momentarily forgot about everything that had come before it. But the more I thought about that part of tonight's episode, the more I was annoyed that Chuck basically used about a third of the episode as aimless set-up for what might be something cool in the coming weeks.
That sentiment carried to the rest of the episode, too, which similarly squandered the immense talents of guests Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz. Because Chuck and Sarah are now together, the "relationship" portion of episodes no longer has to do with longing glances and indie music, but instead it's metaphors and parallels from which Chuck and Sarah can learn valuable relationship advice, and indie music. Tonight addressed concerns that the two can't maintain a solid working relationship amidst the humping and the indie music. (Too much bickering about the number of guns kept hidden in the house.) So the CIA brings in the Turners, a venerable spyin' couple, to show them how it's done. Their mission is, simply, to observe as the Turners steal encrypted information from a billionaire's mansion, as is the style of the show.
Before I move on, a quick aside: Chuck does subtlety really well. Morgan is such a valuable asset because he has zero practical skills, but all the skills that truly count. This is similar to how Chuck rose through the ranks, but whereas Chuck was motivated by Sarah (largely an unknown quantity at the time), Morgan is motivated by his dedication to Chuck, a friendship we've seen blossom over the last three seasons. Thus his blind leap into the tiger's path is so adorably selfless and genuine, made even more so by the fact that we know all sorts of things about Morgan and Chuck's relationship. Remember just how jazzed he was to hear his best friend was a spy? That feeling, times ten.
What Chuck never did well was the broad stuff, which is why everything related to the Turners fell so flat for me. The team arrives at the party, and the once-cool Turners turn to bickering and drinking—and without the zingers you'd expect. This forces Chuck and Sarah to do the stealing on their own (cue slapstick), only to see the prize fall into the hands of the Turners, who'd been double-crossing this whole time. Was this the kind of spy couple Chuck and Sarah would be, Chuck wonders to himself? Geez, I dunno, but it's pretty obvious he was going to have that thought, and based on some pretty standard spy-type fare, no less. Later, the guys capture the Turners and have a heart-to-heart about what it means to be admired, which turns them almost immediately back to good, and later has them throwing Chuck and Sarah glances as if to say, "Go forth, and conquer, and hump." It was all so forced and bland, I couldn't believe Chuck would do that.
I still think the show does action much better than most others, and all the stuff between Morgan and Casey was electric—especially when Casey tries in vain to get Morgan to fire the gun, only to have it happen and freak both of them out. But the episode felt like a precursor to something much larger, and I only wish the journey were more fun.
- Morgan's insistence that he hit on the older woman instead of the hottie: Gold.
- No Lester or Jeff tonight, sadly.
- I also enjoy when they break the typical Beckett formula of having her call in only at the beginning and end, like when Chuck interrupted her while she was at that fancy party. They need to do that more often.