After last week's outstanding "Chuck Versus the Sandworm," it was all but inevitable that the next episode would be a letdown. "Chuck Versus the Alma Mater" wasn't a bad episode, necessarily, but it was probably my least favorite episode since "Chuck Versus the Helicopter" in week two.
As I've written before, I appreciate the attempts to make Chuck more than just a comic character, to make us care about him and his emotional journey, but "Chuck" as a series works better when the comedy and/or action quotient is a lot higher than it was here. So Chuck's not in a very funny place in this episode because he has to confront his Stanford past? Fine, but then give Casey more to do beyond the hilarious one-two punch of "Take a shower, hippie!" followed by "Leave the quips to me." Or involve Captain Awesome more in the trip somehow, or make the fight with the crossbow-wielding Icelandic dude more elaborate.
As it was, virtually all the comic load had to be carried by "Chuck" lightning rod sidekick Morgan, with some support from Harry Tang and the Nerd Herders. That stuff was funny, particularly all the guys once again getting overheated at any whiff of Anna's sexuality, but also Lester selling out Morgan for a yellow shirt, and Harry's "One remote to rule them all!" I don't understand the mechanics of the remote resolution, though; how did Morgan again get access to the thing to reprogram it? (On the plus side, I liked the callback to last week with Morgan pointing out that he can't be fired.)
Still, Zachary Levi did a good job with the pathos, and I figured Bryce sold out Chuck for more altruistic reasons, even if it doesn't explain why he then stole Chuck's girlfriend -- or why, four years later, he was willing to get Chuck involved in the espionage world when he had to do such a terrible thing to keep him out of it to begin with. But I imagine this isn't the last we've seen of Mr. Larkin, whether in flashback or some shocking return from death.
A few other odds and ends:
- "Don't Look Back in Anger" was a big hit during my early-mid '90s college days, so using it as the music cue for Chuck's flashback to 2003 seemed odd. On the other hand, the lyrics fit, and I suppose I prefer that to the "Journeyman" and "Cold Case" approach of just playing the biggest hits of that particular moment in time.
- Lots and lots of '80s references in this one, from Harry's remote code being OU812 to Morgan having ruined "Karate Kid 2" for Ellie (as if it didn't largely come pre-ruined) with his karoke take on "Glory of Love" to Anna seducing Harry to the strains of Hall and Oates.
- I again want to sing the praises of the "hippie"/"quips" double-shot. The first line was lame, but then made hilarious by the second, and Casey's belief that he's a master quipster.