And here's our show.
Set-up, done. Exposition, done. Questions of Sarah and Casey's loyalty, mostly done. (There's still the matter of what happens when the new Intersect comes online in six months.) "Chuck Versus the Tango" is, according to Schwartz, roughly what the series will look like going forward, and I'm perfectly happy with that.
Where "Chuck Versus the Helicopter" occasionally succumbed to Albert Brooks in "Broadcast News" levels of flop sweat, "Tango" moved very confidently and casually between Chuck's three worlds of home, Buy More and the spy stuff.
Ellie and Captain Awesome got shorter shrift than the other two -- save the bathrobed Captain inadvertently teaching Chuck the girl's part in the tango -- but I think that's just about right for most weeks. (On the other hand, with Casey and -- I think -- Sarah living in the same building with Chuck and Ellie, there should be excuses for more home stuff down the road. I look forward to the Captain trying to make Casey his workout buddy and Casey despising his irrepressible chipperness.)
The episonage plot is walking the right side of that line between being comic but vaguely real and a straight-up, "Naked Gun"-style spoof. The former is sustainable in a format like this, while the latter would get old. It's all goofy and in good fun, but there's at least a sense that Chuck is in real danger from La Ciudad and her henchmen, and that things could have gotten very ugly at the Buy More if Casey wasn't so good at tossing microwaves around. (That stunt was cool enough that I'll forgive him the "that's what I call moving some merchandise" kiss-off line -- or the writers for not having Chuck complain about it.) There were a lot of funny moments along the way -- Chuck busting his old classmate for insider trading, La Ciudad not caring that Chuck has to dance the girl's part, Chuck convincing La Ciudad of his true identity with some hardcore geek speak -- but there was just enough of a genuine spy story here to work as a frame on which the writers could hang the jokes. (I was also fond of the opening sequence, with everyone complaining about how ugly the painting was right before getting shot.)
But what really sold me on the episode -- and, by extension, the series -- was the material at the Buy More. I like that they're already establishing individual character traits for the employees, like Lester studying for Bar Mitzvah lessons or Anna stopping the guys dead in their tracks with the notion that she goes both ways. (Sexually adventurous nerds: breaking TV barriers every week.) I don't know that you can have Chuck being on a mission while simultaneously trying to defuse a Nerd Herd crisis every week, but the balance was good here, and gave everyone in the extended and very likable cast something to do. (And was I the only one who briefly though that Morgan was going to do such a good job motivating the Nerds that he'd suddenly become the dark horse for assistant manager?)
A few other brief thoughts:
- I doubt I'll often have cause to namecheck Oscar foreign language film winners in my reviews of this show, but the role reversed tango reminded me a lot of a similar scene in "Belle Epoque," though that one took it a step further by dressing the girl as a guy and vice versa. I doubt NBC would go for their hero cross-dressing in only the third episode (feels like more of a sweeps plotline).
- Speaking of wardrobe, this is two "Sarah dresses to provoke -- and to hide weapons on her person" montages in three episodes though this one was intercut not only with Chuck putting on his tux, but Lester and the Nerds trying to break a time record for fixing a computer blindfolded.
- I'm writing this review without having seen the new opening title sequence that's supposed to be attached to tonight's show (one DVR will be recording "HIMYM," the other the Yankee game), but I'll catch it online later. Any thoughts?
- Bob Ross reference! I will cut any show that makes a reference to the gentle afro'ed one a whole lot of slack.