Lessons Learned? Mostly – Episode 4.01: Chuck Vs The Anniversary

Written by Chris Fedak
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I watched the fourth season of Chuck start out with a lie by omission aka a secret. Coupled with an inexplicable rationalization by Chuck – as proved wrong by Casey and Sarah’s willingness to not only help Chuck at the end of the episode but also to keep it a secret from General Beckman – that Sarah and Casey would block his mission to search for MamaB.
A wobbly start.
From that tenuous opening it took about half the episode for solid footing to return and allow the story momentum to hit its stride. By the time Sarah tried ‘sexting’ while enroute to Russia the show finally gained full traction and finished in rousing style. Given how loose the episode played with time, Chuck and Morgan could have just as easily gone off on the Indiana Jones style montage searching for MamaB without the need to have kept it a secret.
With the benefit of the additional six episodes last season all the threads from the original thirteen episode arc had been closed off. That allowed this episode to fully establish and position the rest of Season Four to commence starting with the very next episode. Something that did not happen until the fourth episode of Season Three.
The new BuyMore is indeed shiny and having General Beckman on site is a definite bonus. I am still of the mind that with the Gretas and with the impending return of the Big Mike, Jeff and Lester that a time crunch is unavoidable. Add in Alex to the mix and the pressure for precious screen time becomes greater in a show with an already large cast. The reluctance to lose the BuyMore is understandable since it is such a signature part of the show but Chuck the character and the series have moved past it. It is akin to having Captain Kirk warp back to StarFleet Academy after every mission. That being said the show gets full marks for bring the BuyMore back in a streamlined and as relevant manner as possible. Anyone want to take bets that the DefCon 1 Button is part of the next Pineapple scenario?
In a show that aims so broadly there are bits that will appeal to different sections of the audience. I enjoyed the Stanton RepoMan scenes but found the interview segments being sabotaged by Beckman a clunky way of bringing Chuck back to the BuyMore. A more focused aim with the humor culled from a tighter storyline would be my preference. The standout sequence from the first half was the HongKong roof jump by Casey and Sarah. Markus setting off the EMP and blacking out the surrounding city scape was very cool.
Episode Flashes:

  • Linda Hamilton is MamaB!
  • Chuck and Sarah spy version of spouse leaving for business trip
  • Morgan/Chuck Rogue Team
  • Morgan flexing
  • Nerd Herd icon Lost Arking their progress on world map – little miffed about Canada being excluded – overlayed with Morgan and Chuck silhouettes I Spying and Avengering across the screen
  • Repo – ‘Harry Dean Stanton’ – showing up to reposses a $900 AMC Pacer and yellow at that
  • Markus using the portable EMP and blacking out surrounding Hong Kong skyline
  • Sarah openly and Casey grudgingly missing Chuck on the mission
  • Casey/Sarah roofjump from HongKong skyscraper – ode to The Dark Knight
  • Casey getting a Season 3 Callback to Sarah’s, ‘Thank You.’
  • Morgan sexting Chuck to Sarah
  • Sade, ‘Smooth Operator,’ reference by Chuck during the interview sequence
  • New and improved CIA/NSA owned and operated BuyMore/Castle – shiny! And it has slides!!!!
  • Beckman is in da house! Great idea to have Bonita Friedericy onsite and from behind the desk.
  • Olivia Munn as Greta – very pretty but not very relevant to story
  • Sarah finds ‘sexting’ cute
  • We’ll always have Tangiers. Ie RUN!!!!!!!!
  • Weapon Orders via a Chinese Dumpling Take-Out Menu – brilliant!
  • Morgan covers the trip to Volkoff Industries by selling his prized Millenium Falcon replica
  • Sarah posing awkwardly for ‘sexting’
  • Nerd icon and Casey/Sarah LearJet icons intersecting in Russia
  • Lundgren says it! ‘I must break you.’ And does kickass job as a guest star.
  • The new spy nom de plume, ‘The name is Carmichael. Michael Carmichael.’ Move over Bond!
  • MORGAN! – ‘Respect the beard.’
  • Sarah toe sexting!
  • Morgan learns from Season 3 bomb detonator finale and stays away from handling portable EMP.
  • Chuck and Morgan developing world class rep because they use public transportation
    off stage Chuck Intersect fight with 10 baddies and fire fight in dark cool ways around budget limitations
  • Casey and Sarah’s reactions when they believe Chuck has been killed
  • Chuck and Morgan hiding under table in the dark
  • Casey and Sarah agreeing to help Chuck find MamaB and keep it from Beckman
  • Did I mention Linda Hamilton is MamaB and a kickass one at that!! Woah! Great closing scene and her character and codename – Frost – leaves us with mixed signals.

Team B – Ready To Take On The World

The episode really hits its stride in the second half of the episode when Team Barktowski all converge in Russia. From Morgan’s, ‘Respect the beard,’ and ‘Michael CarMichael,’ to Markus’s belief that Chuck and Morgan are master spies – hilarious and delivered with perfection by Dolph Lundgren – to Casey and Sarah’s reactions of grief and relief over Chuck to the off screen ChuckFu and fire fight to using a bus as a getaway vehicle; it is Chuck at its best.
To cap it off Chuck and Sarah reach a new agreement. No lies. No secrets. Chuck honors the agreement and brings Casey and Sarah fully in the fold. The show ends with Team Bartowski in synch, working as an unit, covering each other’s back, and ready to take on the man – er General Beckman in this case – and the world. Made even more so joyous because the team members are all in a good place.
To end on such a high is most welcome. Too bad it is marred slightly by the Chuck and Ellie scene where Chuck feels compelled to keep the secret from Ellie. The delay is somewhat bearable because of Ellie’s announcement of impending motherhood. This episode made vast gains in having the pretenses within the Bartowski clan dropped. Let us hope for some form of swift resolution between Chuck and Ellie too.
Linda Hamilton’s appearance as MamaB in the closing scene really left the episode on a high. Linda still cuts a very menacing Sarah Connor type persona and her ruthless take down not only impressed but added a layer of mixed comprehension for the audience. Who exactly is this Frost person? Cannot wait to find out and cannot wait to see MamaB’s return and eventual meeting with Sarah.
No doubt about it. Linda Hamilton IS MamaB! And she’ll be back.
Season 4 is off to a very solid start.

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