Chuck Gets A Clue. And Ellie Does Too? – Ep. 4.19: Chuck Vs The Muuurder!

Written by Alex Katsnelson & Kristen Newman
Directed by Alan Kroeker

It is a true measure of affection for these characters that a small scene between Chuck, Sarah, and Casey decompressing together after their latest mission makes wading through a filler episode like this one still rewarding.

A bottle – meaning the episode was confined to standing sets such as the Castle, BuyMore etc – and filler episode; this one ran on three tracks. The A storyline had Chuck in charge of the Intersect Project which quickly became a locked Castle aka room mystery. The B storyline had the BuyMore battling it out with the LargeMart over stolen mascots. The C storyline had Ellie digging deeper into PapaB’s Intersect Research on the laptop.

The most intriguing and engaging storyline of the three for me was the C storyline, so you can use that as a barometer for the relative merits of the rest of the episode.

Ignoring Devon’s flip flopping on Ellie’s involvement in the spy world – and in the scheme of character irregularities in the ChuckVerse, Devon’s is the least egregious to date – the most likely candidate for the identity of the mysterious Agent X on the laptop is Chuck. What triggered the scan of the laptop at the end of the episode is most intriguing. Is it a security measure designed by PapaB to activate once Ellie reaches a certain breakthrough point? Or is it some long distance hacking by Vivian Volkoff as she seeks out all possible avenues of apparent revenge against Chuck? The ominous music suggests the latter but the more rewarding story possibilities lie with the former.

Most importantly is how will this all land for Ellie? And Chuck? Will Ellie finally be allowed to have the blinders removed from her and step through the story closet door into the light? The disappointment from Ellie’s deflection from the truth back during the Chuck de-Intersecting arc earlier in the season still stings deeply. So to say I am being cautiously anticipatory about the show finally taking this story line to the next step demonstrates that ‘Hope’ does indeed survive.

Episode ‘Flashes’: Add your own in the comments.

  • Ellie in the zone with her dad’s research
  • Chuck In Charge aka The Search for Chucks
  • ‘Good Lord, four more Chucks!’
  • Another ‘Rush’ shoutout!
  • Intersect candidate evaluation scenes
  • ‘I hate being a nemesis!’
  • Journey ringtone!
  • Prank Detente
  • cute little Kevin Bacon
  • swarthy, bearded guys = the new butler did it?
  • Ellie figures out what her dad was going. Now will she figure how it was done to?
  • Where is Kevin Bacon? In the ducts, of course!
  • Chuck demonstrates the value of pocket protectors
  • Devon has become a good liar!?!?! vis a vis Ellie and the laptop to Chuck??
  • Chuck’s respite from being a Nemesis short-lived. Vivian Volkoff lays down the gauntlet.
  • Ellie and Agent X. Any relation? Hmmm….

“Pigs CAN fly!

The last few episodes have pushed the product placement barriers more and more. Last week’s Toyota show-vertisement seems sublime to Big Mike’s near episode long Subway sandwich one. That Kevin Bacon piglet sure was cute though and he got to tour the now famous Castle duct work which turned into an explosive form of the Castle Slide.

The A storyline was nifty in concept but underwhelming in execution. Part of that is because the Castle has been compromised so many times the past two seasons you wonder why they bother to clean it up any more. Sifting through the storytelling debris there were some good beats. It was gratifying to see Casey and Sarah backing Chuck as the leader. It was also good to see the show not take the Given’s character down an obvious path and have her see Chuck’s worth in action instead. As for Chuck the oscillations between his fears and talents swung more than a tad too much for my sensibilities but what, at one time or another in their life proud plastic packeted and pocketed nerd, could not help but let out a fist pump when Chuck showed the multi-faceted purposes of a pocket protector to override the door lock on the Intersect Command Center?

Was it just me or did the potential female Intersect agent Chuck chose look a lot like Jill? Nah, probably just a coincidence….

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Vacuum Packed – Ep. 4.18 – Chuck Vs The A Team

Written by Phil Klemmer

Directed by Kevin Mock

Serialized vs Stand Alone.

As a series Chuck has flipped between these two types of story telling approaches with mixed results. Even the most ardent fan will recognize the inconsistencies that have cropped up over the past four seasons in the show’s mythos. These become even more pronounced when the stand alone episodes try to operate in a vacuum, ignoring or contradicting previously established show mythology and history.

That the Intersect was something so overwhelmingly complex that only a unique individual could withstand having it inserted into their brain has been long abandoned by the show. The number of people that can survive being Intersected increases with each season. What was once postulated being unique to Chuck, his brain’s ability to absorb being Intersected without harmful or fatal effects, is now commonplace. Now the show conceit has shrunk down to that it is Chuck himself that is special as a person. His personality and set of moral ethics is what makes him the only one that can handle having the Intersect in his head without losing his humanity. Time after time Chuck’s specialness is ignored by the Intelligence Agencies Power Brokers when new Intersects are desired.

It would seem that the recent economic downturn has also affected the available number of bad guys too. In the pilot the goal was to be able to produce an army of Intersected Agents to protect the free world. Now, contradicting that original goal, there are only enough bad guys to keep one Intersect team employed.

The A Team.

The setup of having Chuck and Sarah demoted to the Dog Walking Team does not bear up even under the most cursory examination. All the success history of Team Bartowski is also ignored so the new A Team can arise and replace them. Of course, all this suspect situational setup is irrelevant to the viewer if it leads to entertaining story results. I found the results mildly entertaining with the Hurt Locker Chuck bomb defusing scene at the climax the definite highlight.

Another problematic aspect of this episode is the muddied motivations of why Casey joined the new team. The show wants to set up tension between Casey and his old team mates but the show cannot make Casey out to be a bad guy. So they gloss over Casey’s motivations for dumping Chuck and Sarah. His third wheel laments make little sense when we find out he has left to helm a team of two Intersects. If he felt like a third wheel on Team Bartowski with one Intersect how does this move to the new team make any sense? So the whole exercise of having Casey sneaking off to lead the new team is to create pointless false drama.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.

  • Morgan almost gaining control over his torture peeing problem
  • Missionless Chuck and Sarah bored and playing board games
  • Morgan describing Casey as his domestic partner
  • the new A Team – Rick & Vicki
  • the Jana extraction assignment turns out to be a real ‘dog’ of a mission
  • stir crazy Ellie wants the Orion laptop
  • Ellie seduces Jeff and Lester…. again
  • Jeff the Psychic
  • CBS approved bio-residue scanning goggles
  • Lecter-like plexiglass jail cell in the new Castle wing
  • Hurt Locker Chuck and the Apple Juice solution
  • iPhone bomb detonator
  • Chuck is now Overseer of all Intersect Projects
  • the Gretas relief at having the Intersect removed
  • Ellie gets the Orion laptop as Bentley does an end run around Beckman and Chuck

Just Like Old Times

There was some interesting stuff at the end of this episode. Ellie being given the Orion laptop by Bentley certainly sets up some intriguing story possibilities. What was a throw away line by Captain Rick about feeling bad for Chuck having the Intersect in his head really grabbed my interest. It is doubtful the show will pursue that comment any further but an exploration of the burden of Chuck having an Intersect is one that I would find fascinating.

Moving On – Ep. 4.16 – Chuck Vs The Masquerade

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren Lefranc
Directed by Patrick Norris

Phew!

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.

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.

Moroccan Madcaps Ep. 4.14 – Chuck Vs The Seduction Impossible

Written by Kristin Newman & Chris Fedak
Directed by Patrick Norris

Acknowledging the shallowness of this statement I bow to the same device that other reviewers have knelt to:

Sarah belly-dancing!

Beyond that a detailed review of this episode seems superfluous. Especially for an episode that embraces the fun and silly with reckless abandon. Freed of the shackles of this season’s shaggy spy story arc, Chuck Vs The Seduction Impossible is a straight out Roan-led romp that lands in the upper tier of Chuck’s more fun episodes. The showrunners should seriously Get Smart and tailor Chuck to follow the tone of that show and steer clear of any further convoluted spy mythos based stories that sunk shows like Alias.

The hilarious incongruity of the image of a RPG’ed Beckman makes trips like this into comedy a hoot. It was really great to see Beckman from behind the desk and the show harken back to, and expand upon, the inferred history she shares with Roan Montgomery. Beckman in the 80s as a dirty blonde was another priceless moment – though I wish they had taken the opportunity to adorn her with a Farrah Fawcett styled mane of hair.

Roan returned with that smooth style still intact. His double seduction showed us, that while Roan may grumble at Adam West Batman style wall climbing these days, he has not lost a step in romantic subterfuge. His romance advice to Chuck and Sarah helped them to take that needed step back. Plus seeing his advice to Chuck about seducing Sarah into dropping her elopement request preemptively thwarted by Sarah using the very same tactic was niftily carried out. Her near total disarmament of Chuck was all the funnier because of that earlier setup. Did I mention Sarah belly-dancing?

Morgan, with the best of intentions, nearly caused a family incident by asking Casey to reconnect with Kathleen. The sadness felt by Casey when he steeled himself to visit Katherine, only to discover she is seeing someone else, was made even stronger by his unilateral stoic congratulations to her. (A microcosm of the pacing issues this season has had, imagine how much more powerful that beat would have been if the storyline of Casey re-uniting with Kathleen had been sprinkled throughout the first 13 episodes?) Beyond that everything else Casey was involved with was comedy gold. His attempted ‘seduction’ of the guard inter cut with the painful reaction shots of Chuck, Sarah, and Roan was well played.

Back to Morgan. He gave Chuck dubious relationship advice about not backing down to Sarah on the elopement idea, motivated more by Morgan’s desire for a big wedding best man opportunity rather than altruistic motives. This advice leads to some funny pieces of inter-play as Chuck starts saying no to Sarah over mundane issues until it leads up to Chuck giving a stunned Sarah an ill advised Woman declarative.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.

  • Roan gets a Casablanca entrance. Sweet.
  • Casey beats strategic retreat at first sign of trouble from baby Clara
  • Casey doing a slowly building tower of menace when he believes Morgan is trying to tell him that Alex is pregnant.
  • Chuck & Sarah face their greatest challenge – family marriage pressure
  • Beckman and Roan’s Never Ending World Wide Love Tour
  • Beckman belts from the bottle
  • Roan – now a silver fox – is still sooo smooth
  • ‘You always over pack for missions.’
  • Morgan devastated by Sarah’s elopement plan
  • ‘No to Sarah…’
  • Chuck with a laser!
  • Whoa! Casey using a tranq gun!?!?!?!
  • ‘Naughty little turn coat.’ , ‘Naughty little turn on.’
  • Alex invokes the Casey death stare
  • ‘No… woman.’ versus ‘Mr. Sarah Walker.’ Hmmm… which was more awkward?
  • Casey’s seduction of guard versus reaction shots from Roan, Chuck, and Sarah
  • ‘Tranq and explode!’
  • Roan as a Green Shirt suffers polyester stylessness chafing.
  • Winds of Change – Berlin Wall Fall and dirty blonde Beckman
  • Sarah strikes first in the seduction game against Chuck
  • Belly-dancing!
  • ‘Yeeeaaahhh…’
  • Casey faces 127 Hours arm amputation scenario
  • MamaB modifying spy missions for Clara baby stories
  • Bazooka Beckman. DUCK!
  • ‘Never go on a mission angry.’

MamaB and Ellie had some nice bonding moments but the swift abruptness that Ellie arrived at the decision to give MamaB her blessing to go back into the spy world was jarring to the extreme. Especially since the show has spent the past four seasons making an unrepentant stance of saying how it important it was to have Ellie keep the show rooted in the real world. How much longer will the show keep up the unaware Ellie storyline about Chuck? It would not surprise if it played out that Ellie finding out about Chuck being a spy concluded with all the explosiveness of a soggy fire cracker.

Chuck and Sarah played off of each other well this episode. Their dual reactions of wanting to escape family marriage pressures via a mission was expected and still funny. It was disconcerting for the show to have the two of them come so far together and yet have Sarah still not reveal anything about her family background to Chuck. No doubt this will turn into one of the story threads going forward. We all look forward to such revelations and the hopeful return of Gary Cole. Who knows, maybe even Mama Walker too? Let the casting speculations about her resume.

Last, but certainly not least, it was most awesome to see Team Bartowski back together again!