Spoilers for tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I buy the car from "Hardcastle & McCormick"...
"The bigger the lie..." -Jack Burton
I've been watching a lot of grifter stories lately. I had to watch the first four episodes of TNT's "Leverage" in a very short span, re-watched a bit of "Hustle" before doing the "Leverage" review, and keep stumbling across "Ocean's Thirteen" while channel-surfing. And because I have so many elaborate fictional con schemes rattling around my skull, it made the one in "Chuck vs. the DeLorean" seem a little thin in comparison. Yes, it's a wonderful grand gesture that Sarah's dad tries to get away with selling a skyscraper he doesn't own (the 21st century LA equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge, I suppose), but the actual plan to get the sheikh to give up the $10 million -- and to give up the account numbers that would allow the CIA to freeze his assets -- struck me as very simple, and the kind of thing that would require a really gullible terrorist financier to fall for.
But if you're willing to file the entire scam as this week's gaping plot hole we have to ignore to enjoy the rest of the wonderfulness, then "Chuck vs. the DeLorean" was very much in form after last week's minor misstep.
Gary Cole is great virtually all of the time. That's a given. (The rare exceptions are roles like the one in "Pineapple Express" where he's not given anything to do, as if his mere presence will elevate material that isn't there in the first place.) He's so comfortable in his own skin, and in the skin of whatever character he's playing, that I bought him as a master con man even when the episode itself wasn't always giving me much evidence of that. And I thought Yvonne Strahovski again knocked a showcase episode right out of the park. She played so well off of Cole, and did such a fine job of showing how badly Jack has hurt Sarah in the past, that I just went with a lot of the material that was on the skimpier side.
It helped that, unlike last week, there were only two stories, and Morgan's purchase of the titular DeLorean took a decided backseat to the main action, which gave the A-story more room to breathe and more time for nice small moments like Jack dubbing Casey "Cop Face" or Jack swiping the victory cigar back almost immediately after giving it to Casey. And it was a nice tweak on the show's recent formula to have a spy world development (the sheikh stealing the DeMorgan) provide a solution to a nerd world problem (Morgan needing money to repay Captain Awesome), when it's been vice versa of late.
And the DeMorgan subplot provided more than our usual complement of '80s references, from the car itself to the use of Yello's "Oh Yeah" (famous from both "The Secret of My Success" and from the scene where Ferris Bueller admires Cameron's dad's Ferrari, which provided the model for Lester's dialogue here) to the General Lee punchline.
Good stuff. How can there only be one more episode this calendar year, and no more episodes of any kind until the day after the Super Bowl? Because, of course, the last time NBC decided to keep the show off the air for its own good worked out so well. (And that time it didn't have to worry about "House" moving into the timeslot while it's gone.)
Some other thoughts on "Chuck vs. the DeLorean":
• Is this the first time we've actually seen customers in the Orange-Orange? And since it's a CIA front for The Castle instead of a regular business where Sarah works, are there other CIA agents who have to man the counter when Sarah's off on a mission? Or does the place constantly have a "Back in 5 minutes" sign on the door?
• Along similar lines, what happens if the company changing the upholstery on the Nerd Herders finds all the extra bonus features in Chuck's car?
• One more probable '80s reference: the skyscraper is Nagamichi Plaza, which sounds an awful lot like John McClain's old Nakatomi Plaza stomping grounds. (Or is there a real Nagamichi tower?)
• Every time you think Jeff has reached a new disturbing low, the show manages to make him even creepier, this time with him saying he would use a time machine to witness the moment of Lester's birth because "I'd love to see the look on your face when you emerge from the vaginal canal." Ewwww...
• Hearing Devin propose such a high interest rate and threatening to pluck clean the very hirsute Morgan suggested an alternate nickname: Captain Shylock, anyone?
• So Chuck says his wayward dad was an engineer. Does that make it more or less likely that Papa Bartowski was really a spy?
• I am now convinced that there's some kind of contest in the "Chuck" writers room to see who can slip in the most obscure athlete name into their script. This week's contest entry: Guido Merkins, Jack's alias at the motel. Those of you attempting to establish a pattern based on the previous Guy LaFleur and Von Hayes references, get cracking with this new data.
• The end of "Chuck vs. the Cougars" made it clear that Sarah's real name is not Jenny Burton, which means Jack Burton isn't Jack Burton, and possibly not even Jack. Why's he still bothering to use that alias all these years later?
What did everybody else think?