Spoilers for "Chuck" season two, episode two, coming up just as soon as I explain that Jews know two things: suffering, and where to get great Chinese food...
Damn them. The only thing that "Chuck" could do to make me even happier than last week's episode would be an episode that pays tribute to the brilliant, hilarious "My Favorite Year." If they do a "Hoosiers" or "Midnight Run" episode later this season, I'll be so in the tank for the show that I'd probably be incapable of being objective anymore.
For those who haven't seen "My Favorite Year" (and if you haven't, shame on you and/or your local DVD purveyor), I ran through the basic plot in a post a few weeks ago. But even if you had no idea that Roan Montgomery was supposed to be a tribute to Peter O'Toole as epic "My Favorite Year" drunk Alan Swann, or that Chuck's swing from the "Under New Assistant Management" banner was a take-off of O'Toole doing a similarly reckless thing from a theater balcony, or all the other little "MFY" references, "Chuck vs. the Seduction" was still another bright and shiny episode that continued the trend of giving the spy stories more relevance to Chuck's real life.
Chuck has to turn into a master seducer at the same moment that he and Sarah are getting ever closer to hooking up (despite what Sarah says about not being able to date an asset), and so Roan's love lessons turn into a referendum on whether or not a guy like Chuck could be with a woman like Sarah. Larroquette didn't get much of an opportunity to play tipsy (Roan spends most of the episode drunk but functional), but he made up for it with all his disgusted reactions to Chuck's own seduction techniques. (Have the eyebrow dance or the firing of the guns ever worked for any man?)
The Roan story also gets paralleled in the Morgan/Captain Awesome subplot, with Morgan doing a particularly inept job of playing Roan to Awesome's Chuck. The show's probably overpopulated -- without having to service everyone, the episode could have spent more time on Chuck and Roan together -- but the ancillary characters are all very funny, and at least the writers are making more of an effort to make the B and C-stories feel in some way connected to what's happening with Chuck.
Now, much as I liked Larroquette (particularly the Photoshopped montage of Roan in his swinging heyday), the real scene-stealing guest star was Josh Schwartz's cougar muse Melinda Clarke as the Black Widow. Chuck giving Sasha Banachek the full Bartowski treatment (asking her what bands she's into, reciting the history of the croissant) would have been amusing enough with any beautiful woman sitting opposite him, but Clarke's bored demeanor and the relish with which she said "Make mad passionate sex to me" were really choice. I hope there's some opportunity for both guest stars to come back at some point.
Another very fun episode, and one that makes me want to immediately bust out the "My Favorite Year" DVD to watch the family dinner scene. ("That paternity rap... did you schtup her?")
Some other thoughts on "Chuck vs. the Seduction":
• Yvonne Strahovski, good sport: the Wienerlicious costume may be gone (sigh...), but she's still willing to put the girls on display, this time with Sarah's fantasy gymnastics routine on the way into the Buy More.
• Meanwhile, the Orange Orange gets a fancy Batcave built underneath. Makes more sense than having all that communications equipment and weaponry built into the Buy More's AV room, though it'll also be harder to get to the next time the bad guys storm the Buy More. And, speaking of which...
• Yes, by this point the number of Buy More shoot outs is getting absurd, but without this latest one, we wouldn't have gotten the funniest joke of the episode: Big Mike looking up at the mangled banner, now reading "New Ass Man," and muttering, "I ain't new!"
• Lester's reign of terror as the New Ass Man doesn't seem like it's going to last much longer, but it did lead to a fascinating and funny explanation of the social hierarchy at the Buy More. Anna won't work there without Morgan, Jeff won't work there without Anna (who will never give him the time of day), and everybody else for some reason considers Jeff the only reason to come to work. As Lester would say, interesting, interesting. (Also, was there any way the Wheel of Misfortune wasn't going to land on the diaper station when Lester spun it?)
• With Tony Todd's character dead, maybe this will give the writers an opportunity to give General Beckman a personality. We're off to a start with the revelation that "Diane" is a once and future conquest of Roan's.
• What is it about Arby's that makes it the perfect punchline to any joke about boyfriends not putting in enough effort? Whenever the "Seinfeld" writers wanted to illustrate how bad Elaine and Puddy's relationship was, they'd have him suggest going out for "an Arby's night," and here Ellie complains that the last "date" Awesome took her on was to Arby's -- with Chuck and Morgan in tow.
What did everybody else think?