"Chuck, you have to realize that there's some people you just cannot trust." -SarahDid you know that "Chuck vs. the First Kill" is about trust? About whom Chuck can and can't trust? About the difficulty of knowing whom to trust in a dangerous world? About whether Morgan can trust Millbarge? About the trustworthiness of mankind in general, and spies in particular?
I can trust that you understand this, I trust. Right?
Sigh... "Chuck vs. the First Kill" is, for the most part, another really strong episode as the show goes into the home stretch of season two. But for the first time since the start of the series -- when characters couldn't stop saying the word "secrets" over and over and over -- my teeth started to grind together as we kept hearing, ad nauseum, repetitions of that same question about whom to trust. It was almost like the writers didn't trust(*) the audience to understand the theme without spelling it out for them 17,000 times.
(*) Gah! I didn't actually realize what I was doing with that sentence until I went back to reread the paragraph. "Trust" now has a subliminal hook into my brain. I'm going to be using it in sentences for at least a week, dammit.
But if the theme for some reason had to be underlined and placed in yellow highlighter over and over, it's still a good theme, and an appropriate one for this point in the story arc. When nearly everyone in Chuck's life -- including his college roommate, the love of his life and, oh yeah, his father -- has turned out to be involved in the espionage, and when the people at the NSA have proven to not have his best interests at heart (and that's without him having the first clue how close Casey came to putting a bullet in his head in "Chuck vs. the First Date"), why wouldn't Chuck be a might confused about trust?
Despite Chuck's increasing (and increasingly-justified) paranoia as he attempted to find his dad and get the Intersect out of his head for good, "Chuck vs. the First Kill" was actually one of the lighter episodes in a while -- as you might expect from one guest-starring Ken Davitian (aka Azamat from "Borat"). Chuck actually gets his first two kills -- assuming we don't count the dead Fulcrum agents from "Chuck vs. the Suburbs," where Chuck set them up for the kill but Casey pulled the metaphorical trigger -- but they're both completely silly and Bartowski-style, thanks to his "move." First Uncle Bernie dies of a heart attack after a lengthy chase up too many staircases, scored, hysterically, to Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf"(**), and then Fulcrum muckity-muck Bill Bergey gets accidentally tai chi'd out the window when Chuck pulls The Morgan on him.
(**) This is as good an excuse as any to pimp Give Me My Remote's unofficial "Chuck" soundtrack -- and to ask the question of which songs you would put on your own DIY "Chuck" mix. Would you lean heavily on the ironic '80s songs? More on the contemporary indie rock? Both? And if there ever were to be an official soundtrack, what one song's presence -- other than the theme song -- would you consider most essential?
Beyond the funny deaths, we got the awkwardness (and occasional pathos) of Chuck suffering through a fake -- and hastily-assembled, it seems -- engagement party with Jill's family (including Boonton, NJ's own Hey! It's That Guy Peter Onorati as her dad), Casey's anger at doing so poorly on the Fulcrum test (and devoting one of his patented cheeseball kiss-off lines to it), and one of the season's most amusing Buy More subplots, with Millbarge tricking Morgan into assisting his palace coup, followed by Big Mike playing Michael Corleone to Morgan's Fredo.
But while Morgan makes a mistake in trusting Millbarge, Chuck's instincts are proven right on both the great loves of his life. Jill does help him, and even refuses to run away (and/or rejoin Fulcrum) when given the chance during Casey and Sarah's two-man siege on the Fulcrum office building, because she wants to help Chuck find his dad. And Sarah, of course, goes against orders by telling Chuck to run -- and running with him -- instead of taking him for permanent lockdown. Despite my irritation with how often the theme had to be restated, I thought Levi, Strahovski and even Jordana Brewster (and is she suddenly a movie star again thanks to "Fast & Furios" opening huge?) all brought it emotionally, even in the midst of a goofier hour.
Two more episodes left -- and that had better only be two more episodes left in the season, and not in the series. Because if "Chuck" dies because NBC decided to hand over five hours of primetime a week to Jay flippin' Leno... Well, I haven't let my heart get broken by the premature end of a TV show in a long time (even "Freaks and Geeks," I was braced for), but I feel like this one might.
Some other thoughts:
• Two links about the state of the show: 1)In case you missed it, last week I interviewed Chris Fedak about where things stand creatively, and with the network. 2)The folks at ChuckTV.net have their "Chuck" Watch/Buy/Share plan set up, which now includes suggesting that people try to buy Subway footlongs (like the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki that Big Mike enjoyed tonight) on the night of the finale (along with a letter to NBC saying you're going to do that). I don't know if this will be any more successful than other recent Save Our Show campaigns, but if you feel like you need to do something, the chicken teriyaki is quite tasty.
• I really dug Sarah's last stand in the middle of the Fulcrum offices. No fancy fight choreography -- just her calmly gunning down wave after wave of bad guys. (And it was all nicely set up by Jill's warning that every single person in the building was Fulcrum, and by Chuck simul-flashing on everybody in the lobby.)
• "Obama Guava" - ha! Chuck's irritation that the CIA has time to come up with new fro-yo flavor names -- and, for that matter, to dream up the entire Orange-Orange (unless it's supposed to be a pre-existing franchise in the show's universe) -- was a nice touch.
• Getting back to the soundtrack question and this episode's musical choices: "Hungry Like the Wolf" or "We're Not Gonna Take It"?
• Every man has his weakness: Millbarge's is renaissance faires, Lester is his conversion to Judaism (he could work fast food if he didn't keep kosher), and Jeff's... well, I'm not even sure I can repeat it. Jeff has officially eclipsed any other contender for Most Hilariously Disturbing TV Character of '08-'09.
• Loved that Chuck wouldn't let Casey cheat off of him on the Fulcrum test. Serves Casey right for all the sarcastic congratulations (conjugal visits, first kills, etc.) Casey kept offering him tonight.
What did everybody else think?