FBI(Fringe Benefits Inc.)Ep Review – 3.15: Subject 13

A ‘Family’ forged by Fate, faces their Fears & Foibles
amid the Freaky & the Fantastic.

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Moving On – Ep. 4.16 – Chuck Vs The Masquerade

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren Lefranc
Directed by Patrick Norris


The typical episode of Chuck can often be crammed with a lot of story threads. Masquerade wins the award for containing the most amount of material in a forty-two minute episode in the series. There are at least five concurrent story lines all dealing to one degree or another with characters moving on with the next chapter in their lives. Not only that but the entire cast appears in the episode as well as the introduction of the two new characters. If that were not impressive enough, this episode also serves the function of being the setup episode for the next story arc for the remainder of Season Four.

Again. Phew!

It is notable that as far as character beats go there is nary a false step here. This comes as no surprise when the writing credits show us that the writing team of Judkins & Lefranc are behind the keyboard. They have consistently displayed an understanding of the show and the characters that have made them fan favorites since they came on board in Season Three. The fact that they are writing a setup episode instead of a payoff episode, along with the most glaring example on the show’s quality because of the budget and scheduling cuts since Season Three, is more of a factor as to why Masquerade does not resonate as emotionally as their previous efforts.

Masquerade deals with people facing the fact that they are moving into a new phase of their life. Decisions need to be made that will take characters down new roads. For Morgan it is the awareness that he needs to move out and modify his bromance relationship with Chuck. For Vivian it is finding a purpose and direction in her life. For Chuck and Sarah it is the impending move towards becoming life partners. For Casey it is deciding whether after four years on Team Bartowski – his longest assignment, it is time to leave while on top. For Devon and Ellie it is the moving of Clara sleeping in their room to her own bedroom.

Opening with a shockingly graphic head shot, shades of the Emmett Millbarge death at the beginning of Season Three, we are put on notice that the next chapter in the series has started. The show quickly returns to its lighter comedic nature with the Valentine’s Day activities at Casa Bartowski. Morgan and Alex’s weird pastiche of tantric sex activities are played against Chuck and Sarah’s much tamer Love Machine T-Shirt and Sarah’s cute angel wings. All this comes to a crashing halt as Casey intrudes and has his own form of flashing as he tries to process what he is seeing. That is followed by a funny scene as Team Bartowski troops into the Castle still attired in their Valentine’s Day regalia.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.

  • Head shot wake up call
  • Chuck and Morgan rose petalled Valentine’s Day fist pump
  • bear skin rugs and Love Actually
  • Chuck’s Love Machine T-Shirt and Sarah’s Angel Wings and Pretty Woman references
  • Casey breaking in on Valentine’s Day at Casa Bartowski
  • Morgan asking GB if next mission has a party theme
  • Eyes Wide Shut masquerade
  • Casey and Morgan dealing with being the Third Wheel
  • Scruffy Ellie and Devon – smell like vomit and Cheerios
  • Ellie’s breast feeding diversion
  • Sarah and Morgan try to ‘hang’ with one another
  • Sarah playing with Star Wars toys
  • Chuck and Vivian comparing notes on the state of their lives
  • Vivian has been fully trained as an agent
  • Han and Chewie end up with up Clara a la Toy Story 3
  • end of an era for many characters
  • Vivian searching for her destiny at Volkoff’s headquarters
Sometimes words fail…

It was intriguing to see Vivian Volkoff’s life compared against Chuck’s. They are two people who grew up sheltered from their parents true natures. Yet upon discovery, both are directly impacted by that revelation. Chuck chooses the path of good. Vivian looks like she may be taking a different fork in the road. We know that she has been, for all intensive purposes, trained as an agent and that she has the character makeup to pull the trigger if the need arises. Will her discovery of her father’s legacy sway her to the dark side? Time will tell.

The initially more intriguing character is Robin Givens mysterious NCS Covert Ops Director Jane Bentley. She is actively recruiting Casey to take on a new assignment as the leader of a team she is putting together. Will Casey decide to leave Team Bartowski? Whatever he decides we know he will not leave Burbank. Is procuring Casey, Bentley’s true purpose or does she have other end games in mind?

Chuck and Morgan painfully realize through the difficult decision of how to deal with their Han Solo and Chewbacca collectible Star Wars figures that they are both moving on to the next stage of their life. The final solution arrived at by Morgan is a great Toy Story 3 homage with Clara Woodcombe inheriting the inseparable duo.

No doubt the show continually tries to do the best with its available resources it has at hand. Green screen effects shots are usually evidence of these reductions. At least they are quick and short in duration. In Masquerade there is an extended sequence starting when Sarah leaves on horseback disguised as Vivian until Vivian returns to the stable and the showdown with Boris which is undercut by these resource issues. Suffice it to say the outdoor horse sequences and Casey’s being on the top moment are not the series’s finest.

Masquerade has some great character beats; a scruffy looking Ellie and Devon, Sarah joking with Chuck about being knowledgeable about sex parties, Casey being praised for his bar tending skills, Ellie and Devon conspiring to steal the music playing lamb toy from Jeff and Lester via the breast feeding diversionary tactic, and Morgan asking GB if there is a party theme to consider on their next mission to name a few.

The table has been set. Questions have been raised with the multiple cliff hangers. A return of a sense of urgency and danger with this next arc would be an awesome development.

CNN – 4.16: Chuck Vs The Masquerade

Welcome back gang!

Take a listen to our Audio Episode Review of CNN 4.16 – Chuck Vs The Masquerade


Thanks to my fellow podcasters Jan, Karen, and Joe.

Miss any episodes? You can find them all at CNN – Chuck Nerdposium Netcast and every time you watch it helps to support us!

As always this podcast is family and office safe.

Canine Consternation Ep. 4.15 – Chuck Vs The C.A.T. Squad

Written by Nicholas Wootton

Directed by Paul Marks
Some folks like chocolate,
I’ll take vanilla.
I say baseball over football.
And to me,
Man’s best friend doesn’t bark or fetch a ball.
See, personally, I like C.A.T.S.

With that coda sprung from Morgan’s ever overactive pop cultured imagination an explanation was provided why I consider this one of the weaker entries this season.

I am a dog person.

On paper the idea of an episode where Sarah is re-united with former team mates with the added bonus of one of them being Carina scans like a recipe for a fantastic episode. Especially with the history between Carina and Morgan, who is now in a full blown relationship with Alex. Much like last year’s Role Models, the execution was not up to the concept.

The episode gets off to a good start with a fun Charlie’s Angels montage of the C.A.T. Squad punctuated by a cat claws swipe at the end. This is followed out by a Girl’s Night Out that starts with the C.A.T.s literally dropping in and swooping Sarah away. The next day’s scenes with a hungover Sarah and Carina in bed with Morgan are also fun. This makes for an enjoyable first half of the episode but once again an underwhelming and totally predictable spy story filled with a succession of contrivances have the episode limping to the finish line.

Neither Chuck or Sarah fare well in this episode. Both are victims of being manipulated to service the plot because the thrust of the episode is predicated upon one of them acting unilaterally for the the both of them. Again. Good intentions aside, Chuck and Sarah have already seen the consequences of making decisions on their own without discussing them first.

What makes this device more problematic is that it used to create false drama sacrificing character likability in the process. Sarah publicly berating Chuck in front of a group of peers was not pleasant the first time in Fear of Death and is no more so this time. Especially since there is no follow through. If such a confrontation leads to relationship growth between the two of them so that they agree to discuss such decisions beforehand and take their issues behind closed doors then the relationship fights serve a purpose. If the fights are used to create melodrama because there is no followup then it diminishes the characters. Sarah’s outbursts hurt her character as does continuing acceptance of verbal abuse and making apologies hurts Chuck’s.

Chuck and Sarah having arguments can be quite entertaining. If they are used properly. Doing it for fun and relationship growth is fine. Using it to generate false drama is not enjoyable.

Turning to the spy story, any time the climax of a spy story is going to take place in the Castle and BuyMore the chances of contrivances appearing to resolve said spy conflict climb noticeably. From the moment Chuck touches the skylight and falls through and on, the amount of hand waving needed to accept all the contrivances made me feel like I was miming a hummingbird. My litmus test for contrivance threshold is if Casey falls prey to it too. With Casey literally taking a powder in the Castle that threshold was exceeded.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.

  • Morgan’s Charlie’s Angels/C.A.T. Squad montage
  • Engagement Invitation listing Chuck first
  • Morgan has Carina’s contact info
  • C.A.T.’s drop in for a Girl’s Night Out
  • hung over Sarah
  • Morgan’s double take of a naked Carina
  • Sarah’s ‘Old Hen’ friends
  • Bye, bye Porsche!
  • The Gentle Hand
  • Casey not buying Morgan’s assertion that Carina is hitting on him
  • Casey telling Chuck he has put his past with Kathleen behind him
  • Where does Sarah hide those knives?
  • Amy as muscle
  • Chuck using broken CDs as Ninja stars. Cool and clever!
  • Machine guns under pink tafetta
  • Ellie is the Maid of Honor!
  • Sarah and Ellie scenes! So long overdue.
The C.A.T.s Together Again

Morgan and Carina had some fun scenes together but that storyline fizzled out at the lipstick on the collar gambit. That storyline did set up a nice beat where Alex waved off Carina’s intended apology because Morgan had verbally expressed his love to her.

The actresses cast for Zondra and Amy were well chosen. Zondra and Sarah had some good confrontational scenes which were somewhat undermined by a rather pedestrian fight scene. Probably a casualty of time pressures.

Without a doubt the highlight of the episode was the long, long overdue scenes between Sarah and Ellie. Both are played by great actresses and for the show not to have taken far greater opportunities of the two of them together is perplexing. Things are looking up though as their conversations have set up a storyline where the two of should be spending some time together in future episodes. Also heartening in this episode was the scene between Casey and Chuck in the van. This was a seed planting scene that hopefully will get some payoff for the Casey, Alex and Kathleen dynamic down the road. Great to see the show doing this as it does not happen very often.

Will subsequent episodes continue to have Chuck and Sarah making decisions for each other without talking to one another first? Hopefully with this episode that plot contrivance has been declawed.