"Please take good care of him." -SarahDespite featuring one of the series' most concentrated doses of Captain Awesome to date, "Chuck vs. the Broken Heart" was decidedly less awesome than the two episodes that preceded it. Where "Lethal Weapon" and "Predator" were both game-changers that significantly moved both Chuck and the series forward, "Broken Heart" felt more like an hour that was treading water. There was a lot of fun stuff in it, and the conflict at the center of it needed to be addressed (though better than I think they addressed it here), but mostly it just made me antsy to see Chuck and his dad face-to-face next week, and to get back to the Chuck-becomes-a-spy business.
Sooner or later, the show did need to have General Beckman or someone else in authority question the closeness of Chuck and Sarah's non-business relationship, and the montage of heart-on-sleeve moments between the two was a reminder of just how closely the government is watching Chuck.(*) But the execution of how it went down left something to be desired, even if it gave us Tricia Helfer and Adam Baldwin arousing each other through a shared love of tranq darts, and even though it gave us Jeff and Lester leering at Helfer doing a pole dance in the middle of the Buy More.
(*) Though, given that, it seems weird to me that Sarah's apartment isn't in any way wired for surveillance. Wouldn't they, at the very least, have something rigged so if Chuck enters wearing his tracking watch, some microphones turn on? They have no problem peeping on every other place Chuck goes, including Casey's apartment; why does Sarah rate special treatment, other than for plot convenience?
Okay, so Beckman thinks that Sarah's losing the ability to be objective about her asset, correct? So what sense does it make to bring in an evaluator if the evaluator's first move is to bench Sarah and take her place as Chuck's handler? Either get Sarah out of there from the start, or else give her a chance to hang herself by acting in her usual capacity. There was a lot of mileage to be had in watching Sarah and Chuck try really hard to stay on their best behavior -- and only then, after they failed publicly, would we see Alex Forrest assume Sarah's duties. A much more logical, potentially tension or comedy-filled progression than what we got.
Beyond that, I'm not sure I buy General Beckman changing her mind about Sarah based on how the rest of the case went down. Sarah largely saved the day because she's a better safecracker than Alex, not because of her emotional attachment to Chuck. Yes, "Chuck" doesn't pretend to aspire to a "Wire"-level of verisimilitude about the way government espionage works, but if you're going to do an episode that's calling attention to one of the more obvious plausibility issues, you need to provide a better argument for why it's not that implausible than what we got here. Had Sarah tried to build a case on being able to be effective in spite of her feelings, rather than because of them, I'd go with it, but I don't see General Beckman buying the "because" argument, especially based on the facts in evidence.
That said, I did enjoy watching Helfer inserted into this world, and to see Casey manage to be attracted to Alex without being blinded to the fact he preferred working with Sarah(**). Some good comedy work by Baldwin, and by Helfer, who didn't often get to be funny on "Battlestar Galactica." She'd be in funny scenes, but most of the comedy would come from James Callis reacting to her; where here, I very much laughed at the expression on her face (and on Adam Baldwin's) as Alex and Casey were cleaning their guns together. And the climactic scene with Chuck and the evil doctor (played by Shaun Toub from "Iron Man") bonding as they got high on laughing gas was a nice example of the Funny Forgives a Lot rule.
(**) Though even that requires some willing suspension of disbelief. Casey, not that he wants to admit it, likes Chuck, and he and Sarah generally work well together, but he's as frustrated as anyone at having to cover for the other members of Operation: Bartowski when their emotions are getting in the way of the job. I could see him standing up for Sarah while at the same time preferring the new hottie -- unless, of course, he recognized that then the team would just have a different couple with unresolved sexual tension, and nothing would be improved by that.
I also have to invoke that rule on the Awesome bachelor party drama. I figured there would be some kind of artificial tension injected into the Ellie/Awesome relationship before the wedding, and using it to amp up Chuck's desire to get the hell out of spy world makes sense. But even if Chuck can't tell Ellie the truth about what he does, hasn't he learned just enough about lying by now to tell her something like, "Uh, Devon passed out after having too many drinks, and Jeff and Lester thought it would be funny to take some pictures of the stripper climbing over him"? Not hard -- even for someone as congenitally bad at deception as Chuck -- as it's basically the truth (minus the true identity of the stripper), and there's plenty of photographic evidence (as Awesome looks asleep in every shot) to support it.
But if I didn't buy that conflict any more than the rest of the episode, that subplot did give us Jeffster trying -- and spectacularly failing -- to be cool at their first-ever bachelor party, Casey hosing them down, Jeff buying Subway subs, Jeff hiring his sister as one of the gross initial strippers ("She gave us a deal!"), etc. Even when "Chuck" isn't making a lot of dramatic sense, it's still an awfully good comedy.
Some other thoughts:
• As if naming Tony Hale's character after the two leads in "Spies Like Us," and the show's go-to bugs after a bit of terminology from that movie isn't enough of an homage, tonight we get Chuck and the evil doctor recreating the famous "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." scene from that movie.
• Still more '80s movie homaging: Alex Forrest is named after the Glenn Close character from "Fatal Attraction." Fortunately, no bunnies were harmed during the filming of this episode.
• Why would Chuck's computer be programmed to open a radio link to General Beckman if he ever says the name Carmichael? And even if it was, wouldn't that function be taken away the first time it accidentally happened in Captain Awesome's presence? Between that and Devon still being (barely) conscious when Chuck mentioned the CIA to Alex, methinks we're heading towards Awesome being the first person in Chuck's normal life to find out what he really does on all those in-home install calls.
What did everybody else think?