Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Pink Slip" & "Chuck vs. the Three Words": Death to Smooshie?

A double-length review of the "Chuck" double-length season three premiere coming up just as soon as I make it in Asian business culture...
"Chuck, what happened?" -Sarah
"Something... awesome." -Chuck

"Because I don't want to hurt you!" -Chuck
"Don't worry, Chuck. You can't." -Sarah
So happy. So very, very happy right now.

I shared some general thoughts on why I love "Chuck" late last week, so lets move onto specifics about the double-barreled season three premiere.

As I've been saying, "I know kung fu" has not fundamentally altered the DNA of the show, at least not in any negative way. It's fun to see Chuck be able to kick ass on occasion, but the twist hasn't just turned into an excuse for every plot to climax with Sarah telling Chuck to calm down and Chuck flashing on the requisite skill. Yes, there's a bit of that in "Chuck vs. the Pink Slip," as you'd expect there to be in the first full episode featuring Intersect 2.0, but Chuck still needs a helping hand from The Colonel and his great big mini-gun. And while Chuck shows off some gymnastic cat burglar skills in "Chuck vs. the Three Words," in the climax he saves the day just by being good old Chuck - recognizing the high flammability of Jeff's "jail juice," and appealing to Karl's need for his relationship with Carina to be real on some level.

So even though these two episodes weren't designed to air as a double-feature, doing it this way not only gave us twice as much Awesome (and Morgan and Lester and the rest), it allowed the series to show a few more colors, and a few more sides of how the new status quo is going to work.

It also allowed us to move a bit more quickly through the latest roadblock in the inevitable Chuck/Sarah pairing. As I said in the column, I don't really care if they get together, but we're at that point that a lot of series built around Unresolved Sexual Tension hit - see also "Ed" and "Moonlighting,"(*) to name two - where the obstacles stop being a fun game and start being a distraction.

(*) I know everyone claims that "Moonlighting" died because Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd finally got together, but nothing could be further from the truth. By the time the two hooked up, the show was already dead - in large part because viewers gave up after getting sick of waiting for it to happen. I've written about this in the past, if you care to read more.

The sequence in "Three Words" where Sarah was trying to break into Karl's vault while Chuck kept slowing her down to talk about his feelings was maybe the most annoyed I've ever been with this show, and certainly the first time I've actively wanted to punch Chuck in the face. In the six months he spent training with General Beckman in Prague, did he not get one lesson about staying on-mission? I get that he's only kinda sort of a spy, and that if he ever started acting just as cold and professional as Sarah and Casey, a lot of the fun of the show would be gone, but the latter half of season two went a long way towards making Chuck seem like he was learning what to do, and a scene like that made him seem like an idiot who just happens to have a useful computer in his head. Despite the obvious, ample chemistry between Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski, I'm almost ready at this point for the writers to either put them together immediately or put the subject on ice until that happens.

I say "almost" because we followed up on the heist on Karl's safe with one of my single favorite scenes of the series: Chuck and Sarah practicing their bo staff work at their underground HQ, Chuck trying to talk to Sarah about what happened in Prague, Sarah venting her anger at Chuck because he made her drop her guard and let herself get hurt (even as she denies it). Great work from Levi and Strahovski (this stuff's her specialty), and in isolation, I believe this latest fork in the road for the two, just as I did when Bryce came back, or when Jill did, etc., etc. It's the sum total of things - and the clear sense that this is being done because this is how people think it's supposed to be done - that becomes the issue.

By the end of "Three Words," we're at least done with any misunderstandings between the two about what happened at that train station in Prague and why. Sarah thought Chuck was being selfish, that he enjoyed all the attention and excitement that came with the Intersect 2.0, and was choosing that over her. By the end, she knows that the opposite was true - that he was being selfless, trying to use his gifts to help people because of her. Hopefully, with those cards laid on the table, we can move on, either with the two accepting their star-crossed status quo as friends but not lovers, or with them finally going for it. And at least by getting these two episodes in one night, we're done with this particular fight between them.

Whatever issues I have with the pace of that relationship, the rest of this "Chuck" sandwich was so filled with the things I love about the show that I don't want to fill this review with complaints. (That I went on for that long says something, I think, about how it's the one part of the show that isn't usually working like gangbusters.)

The opening scene in Prague nicely set up the new spy status quo, and the slightly altered tone of the series. Chuck's in what seems to be a very serious situation, kicks butt (and defies Beckman's orders because he still has issues killing people, even if he accidentally gave Borat's a heart attack last season), and then winds up looking like a boob with his pants around his ankles. That's our Chuck (and our "Chuck"): sometimes cool, sometimes goofy, always entertaining.

"Pink Slip" has to spend a lot of time undoing some of the events from the end of season two, ending up with Chuck, Casey and the newly-single Morgan back at the Buy More (and Big Mike back at the start of "Three Words," after a stint at the El Segundo School of Finance, where he hopefully did not leave his wallet). But because I love the Buy More crew, I can't object much to the show returning there. And because Chuck made the choice to download the new Intersect in last year's finale, and because he's now an occasional man of action - still an unlikely spy, but with the emphasis more on "spy" than "unlikely" - it no longer feels so much like a prison for him than an annoying part of his new career. It's a reset of the parts of the status quo necessary to keep the show funny and recognizable, but it's not an arbitrary reset button. When Chuck first suits up for a spy mission in "Pink Slip," it's the Nerd Herd uniform he puts on, and it's just as much a costume for him now as the mariachi jacket. When he winks at Sarah before flipping his way through the vault, he looks every bit the natural spy that Bryce Larkin was; he just can't draw upon that confidence (and those abilities) all the time yet.

And as we spend time putting most of the pieces back in place (with allowances for new arrangements like Ellie and Awesome moving across the courtyard, and Morgan and Chuck finally becoming roommates), "Pink Slip" (written by Chris Fedak and Matt Miller) offers plenty of laughs, like Millbarge turning the store into the totalitarian nation of Buy Moria (and Chuck trying to resist the Intersect 2.0's attempt to strangle Millbarge), or Chuck discovering that the Intersect offers more than just combat skills when he has to take the stage with the mariachi band. And it had some good action scenes, from Chuck's pistol-whipping skills in the opening to Chuck taking out Javier (twice!) to Casey finally getting to use the mini-gun.

"Three Words" (written by Ali Adler and Scott Rosenbaum) was a bit lighter on the action (other than the "Charlie's Angels" scene with Zach Levi's very flexible stunt double dodging the lasers), but even more comedy: Morgan Guillermo Grimes accidentally (and temporarily) winning the heart of Carina (last seen causing mischief for the team in season one's "Chuck vs. the Wookie"), Vinnie Jones playing the sappy (but still deadly) Karl Stromberg and Casey as "the button" who has to protect the courtyard when the housewarming party rages out of control. And, once freed from under the late Millbarge's opressive thumb, Jeff and Lester were free to be their disgusting, hilarious selves: Lester tossing around Yiddish-isms like "tuches" and "trafe" in front of Morgan, Jeff explaining that he's been drinking jail juice "since I was in diapers" (this explains so much), or Lester fretting that they'll blow their chances with "the medium hot chicks from Underpants Unlimited."

So we had action, and we had comedy, and we had romantic angst (for those who are more patient about that stuff by now than I am), and we have "Chuck" back.

And that's damn splendid.

Some other thoughts:

• Adios, Anna Wu. The reduced budget for the new season means we not only won't get all the supporting characters in every episode (no Big Mike in the premiere, no Awesome and Ellie in "Three Words"), but that Julia Ling got cut from the cast altogether. She'll be missed, but she was also the least-used of the Nerd Herd crowd last season, so the footprint she leaves is smaller than if they had cut either or both of Jeffster!

• I like how, even though we briefly see Casey and Sarah in the flashback to six months ago, each character is still given a big entrance moment later, with Sarah emerging from the pool and Casey stepping over the cheese puffs, Terminator-style.

• RIP, Emmett Millbarge. I don't know that the show ever totally knew what to do with Tony Hale, but the image of him dying in slow-mo to the strains of Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" was hilarious. And Casey's cover story to Chuck (that Millbarge went to work at a Large Mart in Alaska) makes me worry if Harry Tang really is in Hawaii, or sleeping with the fishes.

• In addition to "Hold On" and the aforementioned "Model Homes," other songs of note in the two episodes include Frightened Rabbit's "Backwards Walk" (Chuck and Sarah at the train station), "Young Adult Friction" by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Chuck and Morgan prepare to be roommates), David Lee Roth's "Just Like Living in Paradise" (Carina's theme - or, if you prefer, Carina and Morgan's theme), "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor (Chuck and Casey spar at Castle) and Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" (Chuck in his robe and slippers lounging around Casa Bartowski). And speaking of those last two...

• Tonight in "Chuck" pop culture references: "Rocky III" (Chuck and Casey's sparring session was a match for Rocky and Apollo's at the end of that movie, down to the freeze frame), "The Big Lebowski" (the beard, robe, slippers and Kenny Rogers song were all designed to evoke The Dude), "The Godfather" (Millbarge's bloody, broken glasses look like Moe Green's, plus Karl toasts that he wants his first child to be a masculine child), "The Spy Who Loved Me" (Karl Stromberg is the name of the bad guy), and perhaps "Die Hard" (Sarah in the vents, though everybody seems to crawl into vents these days).

• Sarah and Carina speak Russian Polish and Swedish to each other when they're trying to keep a secret, just like they did at one point in "Chuck vs. the Wookie." Anybody want to attempt translation?

• Vinnie Jones didn't have as much to do as some of last year's guest stars, but the idea of him calling his fiancee "Smooshie" is funny, and I liked the moment in the Buy More where he's cockily spinning his gun on his index finger while confronting Carina.

• As Carina, Mini Anden again gets extensive use of the show's wind machine, not only at the Buy More (where it's usually positioned), but when entering the courtyard of Chuck's apartment building.

• IMDb has only a 16-year age difference between Anden and Adam Baldwin, so Casey had a half-decent argument for not wanting to play Carina's father. Still, funny to see the usually taciturn NSA agent placed in a position where he had to talk, and talk, and... talk.

• One of the closing scenes of "Three Words" features our first-ever glimpse of General Beckman looking worried, thanks to whatever the mysterious, half-glimpsed Agent Shaw has in mind for Operation Bartowski.

• The much-publicized deal where Subway would help finance the new season in exchange for more prominent product integration wasn't finalized when these early episodes were shot, so Subway won't be an on-camera presence until later in the run.

Back tomorrow night with "Chuck vs. the Angel De La Muerte," featuring both shirtless Awesome and Casey with another fake mustache, for those who like either of that sort of thing. (As opposed to those of you who enjoyed tonight's scenes with Sarah in a bikini and/or Sarah and Carina in lingerie. Though I suppose the various groups could have some overlap.)

I'll have a note in that review on how these two did in the ratings, but I should warn you right now not to get too stressed about what the numbers are. Yes, it would be great if the show miraculously becomes a hit in this third season - and given NBC's struggles in so many other areas, it may be enough just to do roughly what the show did last year. With whatever's going on with Jay Leno and Conan, NBC is going to need a lot of programming inventory to get through this season, and the network has a lot riding on "Parenthood" (which will air after "Chuck" when the Olympics are done). The network ordered more episodes before the season even debuted, and they're going to have to ride it out for a while. As Jeff Gaspin put it after the NBC exec session this morning on whether the current status quo lowers the bar for "Chuck," "I wouldn't say the bar's lower, but we obviously have less choice at the moment, so he's got a better shot."

And if the numbers aren't good tonight, or tomorrow, or two months from now? Well, then we got an extra season - specifically, you got another season, with your passion for "Chuck" last spring - to enjoy when the show might otherwise have been canceled. And an extra year - especially one as after to this strong a start - ain't too shabby, in the grand scheme of things.

What did everybody else think?

114 comments:

Nikki said...

It's too long until tomorrow. The season premiere did not disappoint. I love this show as much as I love oxygen.

Chris Littmann said...

Picked right up where they left off last season on the fun scale and storytelling. Didn't feel like anything was lost in the six-month lapse. Did a great job filling in all the holes on the surface. Oh, and Schwartz and Co. have a knack for the awesome and gratuitous slow-mo scene. (See: the chopper, Sarah and Corina getting dressed.)

So happy we get more tomorrow night! Welcome back, Chuck.

Also, how about the Honda ad? Good to see an advertiser invested in the show aside from Subway.

Ryan said...

Reading through your post now Alan. I definitely agree that Chuck was INCREDIBLY annoying when he kept insisting on talking to Sarah in the middle of the mission. You would think that he would be past that stuff in this point of the series.

amysusanne said...

It was everything I wanted it to be.

RIP Emmett.

amysusanne said...

Chuck *was* annoying when he wouldn't STFU, but it didn't bother me *too* much (I'm sure the show has annoyed me more than that in the past, with things along the same lines) because in this case there was a direct correlation between Chuck's feelings and his inability to flash. Not that she knew that. Not that he necessarily knew that. Which makes it pointless and makes me wonder why *she* didn't punch him. Still, as an outsider I can give him a bit of a pass for not letting it go until they were back at the Castle.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the oddball here, but Sarah & Chuck's relationship is the least interesting part of Chuck to me. I'm tired of it. I find Chuck so much more fun when he's involved in anything else. ZL is great though and he cracked me up throughout both hours. Love Morgan and the Buymore people too. I also thought Ellie, Awesome and Morgan's road trip was a part of the show! That's some good advertising, I actually paid attention.

Finn said...

I enjoyed it and am glad its back. And I thought Carina was speaking Swedish and Sarah Polish, just so they could have a nod to the actresses. Which doesn't really make since in the show - speaking two different languages to each other.

And as for the relationship drama, yes its getting old, but I feel like they are setting it up to ultimately have them together by the end of this season, so I can deal. At least they are actually somewhat talking about their feelings to each other now. If they were to not put them together somewhat soon, I think the show would lose a lot - so I would have to disagree with the "never going to be together" option.

Baylink said...

Underpants, Etc.

And the captioning says that Carina spoke Swedish and Sarah replied in Polish; my sister speaks a smattering of Polish, and I concur.

My bet is that Carina said "Well, sis, good luck with him." :-)

This premiere had a really hard row to hoe: it had to be *better* than the finale, and still leave them someplace to go.

I think it succeeded.

There were a lot of places they could have overplayed tonight, cause none of the characters know who they are, all of a sudden -- they aren't who they've been for 2 seaons...

but happily, mostly, they didn't.

I, too, am quite happy with what they did.

The one thing I was concerned about -- and mostly pro forma -- was that they didn't get that they were welcome to put Chuck and Sarah together, but it wasn't going to be free.

Clearly, they get it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything, Alan. I didn't much care about the relationship stuff between Sarah and Chuck, either, but I get where the writers are coming from. Considering they wrote last season not knowing if they'd get a chance for Season 3, they sort of built up things last year and left a lot of stuff unresolved that they would have to come back to if the series was picked up.

The show is so awesome that I can't complain about it. Just glad it's back!!!

Anonymous said...

God I love this show. You pretty much covered it all. Everything that comes out of Jeffster's mouths is gold.

Yvonne Strahovski is brilliant. And painfully hot.

Chris Littmann said...

Oh, and Alan, one more song that caught my attention: Wait It Out by Imogen Heap (during the first hour) when Chuck showed up at the restaurant unexpectedly. Reason this stuck out for me was Schwartz so memorably used an Imogen Heap song at the end of Season 2 of The O.C. (Marisa shoots Trey, Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek.")

KJ said...

Loved having Chuck back, just sorry to see no Anna and less Awesome, Ellie, & Big Mike. I like the relationship moments between C/S, but I do not need the relationship to play center-stage in each episode. Wonder how the writers will incorporate Awesome into the fold. Also want to find our more about Agent Shaw and what is in the case.

Looking forward to shirtless Awesome and Casey-in-disguise...

Sonia said...

Jeff spitting out his gum..."it's ham" GROSS! But so funny! Welcome back Chuck!

Anonymous said...

I too thought Sarah was speaking Polish, but assumed Carina was, too. Nice nod if they each spoke their "native" tongues.

Cody said...

Great write-up as usual, Alan (long time reader, first time commenter).

I thought it was a really solid premiere. The opening ten minutes really had the feel of a big movie sequel with each character getting a big introduction. Good way of smoothly putting things back on track after such a long break.

The second one was a lot of fun as well. I always like it when other characters (Morgan, in this case) become involved in the main plot and it was nice to see him get Carina at the end.

I was thinking the same thing as you RE: the Chuck/Sarah dynamic. We can only have them go back and forth with their emotions for so long. Thank God Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski have such good chemistry with each other.

Looking forward to another great season!

Anonymous said...

Also, the party scene was classic Chuck, making his two worlds collide.

Pamela Jaye said...

my smattering of Polish is in no way enough!

Zac F. said...

Thank you Fedak & Schwartz & company for the shots of Yvonne in a bikini and lingerie. 7 1/2 months without seeing the lovely Ms. Strahovski on my TV screen was way too long. An added bonus: thanks to my brother who moved home and brought his 52" HDTV with him meant I could see her in HD.

At the end of last season, Chuck was the most entertaining show on television and after tonight's double feature, it hasn't lost a step. An awesome blend of action, comedy and drama.

I wish we could have seen more of Buy-Moria in it's totalitarian regime. It was weird seeing Jeff acting "normal" to other people.

Brandy said...

I don't think resolving the UST or people giving up before then was the problem... heck it was the end of season 3, right? It was the long hiatisus and the season immediately after where they shared no airtime at all and Maddie married some other guy.

Too much relationship drama in these two. I'm not anti Charah but I don't want it to be what the show is about... and today it felt like everything else was filler between Charah moments.

Tell me this takes a back seat for at least a few eps.

GersonK said...

The closed captions (never 100% reliable) also had it as Swedish & Polish.

Dragging out the romance is makes this not only just about most fun show on the air, but in scenes like the bo one Alan quotes up top, the most painful. And I'm not sure if that's in a good way or a bad way.

Having them back to back also helped highlight that Casey's joy in using the hose on the partygoers was pretty close to when he was using the mini gun.

Marty McKee said...

I was a little surprised you can say "pussy" on prime-time network television these days. Was that a first?

Simply Agrestic said...

I couldn't stand Emmett, but I love Tony Hale. Was it just my imagination, or did he show up twice in "Three Words," both as the guy who got shot in the jungle in the opening and as the DJ at the party? IMDB doesn't help...yet...

Simply Agrestic said...

Looking at the first scene in "Three Words" again; I don't think this is Tony Hale, but I swear he's the DJ...

Josh M. said...

The "Rocky III" ending - including the fade to the painting - was the first time I've actually clapped for a TV show.

Anonymous said...

Great, more unresolved tensions between Chuck and Sarah. I was the happiest man alive when they fixed this last season, but apparently it can be undone just as quickly.

Otherwise I couldn't think of a better start to season 3 of Chuck.

-K

David Z said...

Two great hours of Chuck! Almost made me forget about the Packers loss.

I left my wallet in El Segundo
-they calls it hippity-hop music, but it don't make me want to go hippity-hop

Matt said...

I thought that there were a few corny and forced moments in the premiere, but that it was worth it for the Rocky 3 scene/homage/awesomeness.

I'd kill to have the freezeframe as my wallpaper!

cadfile said...

Excellent start to S3. And great that Carina stopped by.

Also wanted to punch Chuck in the mouth during the vault scene.

Many great one liners.

El Segundo School of Fiance HA!

Just glad a majority of the gang is back.

David Ketering said...

"if he accidentally threw Borat's producer out a window last season"

Wasn't Borat's producer "Uncle Bernie" (Jill's Fulcrum recruiter) i this episode? If so, he died of a heart attack - Chuck dropped someone else out the window

Ian said...

Great show for the most part, but Chuck needs some "man up" lessons from Barney Stinson (or at least Casey). I couldn't stand his constant mewling to Sarah, and it turned off some would-be new viewers I'd recruited as well.

Anonymous said...

Great read Alan...

Does anyone know what song was playing when Chuck and Sarah were sparringlSarah trying to challenge chuck with the staffs???

Thanks in advance!!!

Flap Jackson said...

I think there will be 2 moments that will live in the pantheon of Awesomeness this show has created:

1. The Rocky III ending between Chuck and Casey, complete with the music. Granted, Family Guy did the exact same thing with Peter and Cleavland in an episode, it was still awesome in the Chuck universe.

2. The Sarah/Corina lingerie scene. 'Nuff Said.

Note: Both of these scenes contributed nothing to the episode in terms of plot or character, but they were awesome because it came from Chuck, and Chuck just does awesome like no other show can. That's why we love it.

This episode was a complete release of emotion I've had waiting for the show for 9 months, and it was just so satisfying to finally see the show in full form again.

x2 said...

The main reason I love the show the way I do is because of scenes like the last scene of vs. the Three Words. If they don't move forward with the relationship, then senes like that would be gone.

RSR said...

So happy to have Chuck back in our lives. I agree that the tonights episodes did a great job of bringing back the show we know and love while smoothly transitioning Chuck into a new role in his world. Probably could have done with one less speech between Chuck and Sarah but love it all the same. Loved Lester, Jeff, and Morgan falling victim to Carina's drugged drinks. I felt like both these episodes did a great job of weaving the stories together in the "Chuck" way that we have come to know and love. Great to have it back, looking forward to shirtless Awesome and Casey in disguise!

CJ said...

You left out one of my favorite pop culture references of the night, when the newly-shaved Chuck crashes the first party in his nerd herd "disguise," casually giving Casey the finger-to-nose gesture a la "The Sting" (as if Casey is in on Chuck's plan). Great fun.

Loved both episodes overall, and I agree about wanting to hit Chuck when he wouldn't stop trying to talk.

rosengje said...

The practice fight scene between Chuck and Sarah was one of my favorites of the series, but I am definitely sick of their will-they-or-won't-they dynamic. Especially because the emphasis on the potential lovers seems to come at the expense of Casey stories. I want more Casey-Awesome interaction.

Anonymous said...

The laser field scene reminded me more of "Ocean's 12."

Mike said...

It's already been mentioned, but no, Chuck didn't throw Borat's producer ("The Carnivore") out the window; he defenestrated Bill Bergey, the guy who plays the boss of Bryan Cranston's wife Skyler in "Breaking Bad."

Great review. It was great to have this show back. Although I agree that Chuck's whininess was a bit of an annoyance at times, I think I had a smile on my face for the entire two hours tonight.

Lisa said...

I think this hurry-up with the first three episodes is really smart because I think there was considerably more exposition for newbies than I expected them to do. It'll be good to have it out of the way after tomorrow night.

I think the scene of Chuck baring his soul to Sarah was frustrating primarily for this reason. We know he's selfless, we know he loves Sarah, and we know Sarah knows both things. The writers simply had to introduce these facts to newcomers, even if it meant the unlikely possibility that Chuck's personality and skills had backtracked to S1. And if they used the word "emotion" one more time, I was going to throw something at the screen.

I just want to watch Zach Levi grow this character this season, because I think it'll be great.

Katherine said...

Don't usually comment but: Rocky! The Intersect 2.0! Mariachi playing a la Naked Gun 2.5!

Even though we're at the point where Sarah and Chuck either need to get it get or ice the talking until they get it get it, the BO STAFF SCENE. Well played by both, but especially Yvonne Strahovski who absolutely killed just how hurt Sarah was -- and just how badly she wanted to get rid of that pain. Usually I just geek out for this show, but I absolutely got all of that, metal heart that I am. Woooo, Chuck.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Carina repressed Chuck turning her down 2 years ago.

Alyson said...

I would actually vote for putting the chatter on ice, for the time being. When it comes to being "Charah," (can I just voice my extreme displeasure with silly portmanteaux for a moment? THEY'RE NOT ONE PERSON!) Chuck and Sarah clearly are not on the same page about how to accomplish that, as evidenced by Sarah's big plan to change their names, run away and hide forever. That's not what Chuck wants with her, and it never has been. Until they can figure out how to meet in the middle, I'd like to focus on them getting their professional ducks in a row.

Pamela Jaye said...

Actually I'm not at all clear as to why Sarah could even think she could take a guy with Intersect 2.0 in his head and just run away with him. (did no one know he had it? Chuck knew he had it. He wasn't just going to *ignore* having it)

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

I already commented, but I have a couple more things to add now that I've read all the comments:

I also a little surprised to hear Emmett use the p-word. Additionally, I thought the song lyrics "She's a sexy bitch" were a little gratuitous during the scene in which Carina and Sarah got dressed. I know they used Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" during the Nicole Richie episode last year, but that seemed to fit more than last night's song did. But that's a minor complaint.

I agree that Tony Hale never completely clicked as Millbarge, but I personally will never be able to look at him as anyone except Buster Bluth. Also, his line "I'm a FLAM-ING heterosexual" is one of my favorite lines of the series, and I will love the character for just that line.

Finally, a question: I was slightly distracted during the episode, so am I correct in thinking that they never established what Gen. Beckman meant when she said that they "have to tell them; they have to know"?

Alyson said...

I was slightly distracted during the episode, so am I correct in thinking that they never established what Gen. Beckman meant when she said that they "have to tell them; they have to know"?

She was speaking to an individual by the name of Agent Shaw, and yes, they were purposely vague about that part.

Anonymous said...

2 other notes:

Makeup is making Sarah look more like a 'grownup' this season,
a change I'm not sure I approve.

And the bikini scene. Phoebe Cates, no?

cgeye said...

We know, and Chuck knows, the alternatives: Either be a spy, be in protective custody forever (which since the surveillance was still in force throughout Chuck's apartment, was a choice the Feds stilled maintained) or be assassinated for the good of the country.

Sarah's choice to run away was absurd, since she had done that already (despite Casey's save with his 'she pretended' story) and that hiding away a guy who's a boob even when he has spies dedicated to maintaining his cover wasn't likely to succeed. *Her* default is cutting ties and running away, and it didn't make sense knowing that Chuck would never hurt Ellie that way.

Chuck Bartowski is all about keeping context and faith with his sister. He could stand the Buy More because his sister loved him, no matter the disgrace he suffered. Sarah tearing that apart showed *her* lack of emotional control.

And why the heck isn't anyone doing the training that's only implied by his 'kung fu' knowledge -- the ability to control emotions through meditation or other spiritual disciplines? Bryce was a tool who could have emailed the Intersect to his own account, for retrieval later on, but he chose Chuck because he was the kwitsatz haderach or something -- that's a lack of emotional control that damn near ruined a man's life, so he shouldn't have been seen as a model spy. Chuck has survived the chaos of the Intersect, our fercockte warring intelligence services and two SMERSH-level organizations, and he hasn't gone mad or evil. Doesn't anyone get that he's the optimal choice, if he had the support -- not weapons training, but real self-knowledge, growing-up, be-the-ball awareness -- to harness what's inside?

I chalk it up to CHUCK having a budget for stuntmen every week, and a format that insists on a certain pep. Why doesn't the Intersect have help on psychological training?

I know, I know, but since I've got what I needed from tonight's shows, I'm free to focus on what could turn into a rut if the writers don't watch their tendency to rely on external rather tan internal action for character development.

Steve said...

Did anyone else think it was a bit odd that Beckman would simply toss Chuck out onto the street after he failed spy school in Prague, especially considering how close Fulcrum/The Ring have come to getting their hands on Chuck? If I were Beckman, I wouldn't want a walking Intersect just drifting aimlessly in the world ready to be captured by the enemy at any moment.

But I won't let that minor point of contention take away from my enjoyment of the Chuck premiere. Soooooo glad to have it back for S3!!!

Stephanie said...

So great to have Chuck back. I really enjoyed both episodes and can't wait for tomorrow night.

Count me in as being seriously annoyed with Chuck during the engagement party scene. As another poster mentioned, he had some training, he should know better by now. That wasn't enough to put me off the episode, though.

Love all the pop culture references, particularly the Rocky homage. What a fantastic way to end that episode.

The bo staff fight and the final scene were done very well. YS continues to impress me with her dramatic skills; I really felt for her in both.

I think that, in general, the writers did a good job of handling the Chuck/Sarah relationship here. I agree that it should be placed on the back burner for the time being, there's so much else that's so good about this show that deserves more screen time.

I'd like to know what interest The Ring has in Sarah, and whether that means she'll become a target this season. If that's the case, it should have some interesting implications for Chuck/Sarah. How will Chuck keep his emotions in check if Sarah is at risk? And if he becomes successful enough at compartmentalizing that he can call on the Intersect skills when needed, will that fundamentally change who he is?

So much to think about. I'm so looking forward to this season!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lisa. There was a serious over-reliance on the word "emotion" during these two hours. The first two seasons established Chuck's status as a guy whose feelings, despite being unwelcome in the spy business, were irrepressible. The viewership understands and appreciates that. I don't believe that the conflict between Chuck's expressiveness and the job's demands should have to take center stage again. It feels like narrative regression. If David Shore were Chuck's showrunner, I'm willing to bet his premiere would have been mighty similar to this one.

Elisa said...

Yay, Chuck! Smiles all around. So glad I DVR'd it (altho I watched it in real time) so that I can watch it all again :)

Anonymous said...

The Dune poster is not as cool as Tron.

Anonymous said...

what were sarah and carina saying to each other in polish and swedish?

Audrey said...

I felt the tone of the premiere was a bit darker than usual, specifically with how Emmitt died (though I was never fond of the character unlike I did with Harry Tang -- RIP). The writers seems to push the big reset button in hopes to get new viewers caught up, but I'm questioning on their method.

I, too, wanted to punch Chuck on the face during "Three Words." And as much as the writers are drilling the angst on us, I find it too exhausting and could care less now. Overall, I'm glad they got the whole why-did-you-choose-to-be-a-spy-over-me misunderstand out of the way. But with that being said, Yvonne Strahovski once again proven that she is the heart of the show.

Eric said...

I kept expecting some kind of plot twist with Sarah, like Beckman was behind the whole running away thing as a test for Chuck's resolve. In a way I'm glad that wasn't it because this way the characters can't chalk it up to "pretend."

Also loved, loved Casey calling Chuck a lemon thru the first episode.

Anonymous said...

This show sucks, just like everyone other American program that isn't called Mad Men or Breaking Bad.

-Red Medicine

Anonymous said...

That's it, I'm convinced. Gonna stop watching now.

Ithiel said...

Does anyone know why season 3 of Chuck isn't available on iTunes?

bill p said...

Am I the only person annoyed by the use of the word "spy" in this show? I feel like every time it's used, the screenwriter is 13 years old. Say "agent" or "operative" or something, but when Chuck says "I think I could be a great spy" for the zillionth time it just sound juvenile.

Also, the music cues are awfully obvious.

cgeye said...

Forgot one big hole I hope they explain: The RIOS problem?

The free OS that Roark unleashed on the world? The one that still gathers data for anyone who takes the reins of his company? *That* RIOS?

Old software doesn't self-destruct, and code doesn't erase itself. Seems to me that someone ought to mention how General Beckmann dealt with that particular mission failure....

Dids said...

Who played Javier? Looked super familiar, but I couldn't place him and the internet is no help.

MikeS said...

Wow, I am just crazy happy to have Chuck back. I'm a little sad to see Emmett gone. He was annoying, but that is part of the fun, after all.

I agree that they dove a little deeper than they had to in the relationship part of the show...it kind of makes sense that they had Sarah out of town for several months, and hence Chuck's insistence on talking about their relationship. If they did it through the beginning of this season for continuity, it won't bother me...but if they continue to drag this out throughout the season, it may start to get on my nerves.

For those talking about words that snuck through the censors, look up the words to the Frightened Rabbit song. (BTW: that's the third song from "The Midnight Organ Fight CD to make it on the Chuck soundtrack...someone in the Chuck production team likes that CD as much as me!)

I loved Casey's codename "lemon" for Chuck.

Wasn't the mansion in ep2 the very same as previously the Wookie's from Carina's ep in season1?

All in all, it's not perfect, but it IS the third season of Chuck, and I'm glad to have it back!

Caleb said...

Dids -

That was Adoni Maropis. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0549538/

TV Obsessed said...

I don't know how much more repeated angst I can take, and after the two episode which featured Chuck and Sarah heavily, I'm hoping the writers got it out of their system for a few episodes at least.

The first episode was a lot of fun with most of the characters back, the humor still there, and the action as explosive as ever. The flashbacks were done very well, but I was disappointed in the situation in general. Chuck was unable to tell Sarah his feelings until way later (shouldn't they have learned by now?), and a bad situation only got worse.

The second episode explained Chuck's mindset behind his decision not to run away with Sarah. Other than that, the episode didn't have much else other than the last act with the party. Even the return of Carina was that exciting.

@Dids
Javier was played by Adoni Maropis who was the main bad guy of 24 season 6.

Nick said...

I loved it, it hit all the right notes.

One thing to add. Right before he unfortunately ran into Javier, Emmitt was singing along in his car like Tony Hale did in that VW commercial where he sang along to Mr. Roboto.

Too bad for Emmitt, but I still prefer Tang in my Chuck diet.

Lars said...

I didn't catch the first part, but the swede ended with "mina kompis," or "my buddy"

Nick said...

Also, the sign they put outside Casey's apartment for the party was hilarious.

"Angry neighbor

Do not smile at!"

Anonymous said...

At the end Carinan said "Kommer sakna dig kompis" which translates to "I will miss you buddy". I still wonder about the polish reply though :D

jcpbmg said...

How did this air earlier on the West Coast- as typically things end earlier on the East Coast (due to changing time zones!)?

Finn said...

Alan, your review is great as always, but wanted to post this link to Hitfix's review (if thats allowed). A professional writer summarizes why I watch the show much better than I can. To me, the relationships are the most interesting thing on the show.

http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/2009-1-13-monkeys-as-critics/posts/recap-chuck-chuck-versus-the-pink-slip-and-chuck-versus-the-three-words

Barney said...

Who had stolen the black bra of Sarah between the blue dress/dressing in the bedroom scene and the next one bracelet/makeup in the same bedroom?

Come on guys, nobody noticed it?

JimBriggs said...

Steve said: Did anyone else think it was a bit odd that Beckman would simply toss Chuck out onto the street after he failed spy school in Prague...

Agreed. I can't believe no one else commented on this. It doesn't make sense that they would just let Chuck "retire." Did I miss something?

wv: peing. Talk about obvious.

Chaddogg said...

Alan: one other pop culture reference you missed -- El Bucho (or just Bucho) was the name of the bad guy in "Desperado," which featured Antonio Banderas as a bad-ass assasin posing as, you guested it, a Mariachi.

IV said...

One other movie reference:

The Mariachi outfit and the club being named 'El Bucho' were nods to Desperado. I half-expected the guitar case to be full of guns!

Anonymous said...

At the end Carinan said "Kommer sakna dig kompis" which translates to "I will miss you buddy". I still wonder about the polish reply though :D

Sarah replied in Polish:
"I too will miss you"

CP said...

Another movie reference:

In the Buy-Moria scene, when Emmett and the security guards catch Chuck and call everyone in, I am pretty sure that the TV's around the store are playing "The Triumph of the Will."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Good call on both Ken Davitian in "Chuck vs. the First Kill" and the language(s) Carina and Sarah speak to each other. The former was me mixing up two scenes from the same episode, the latter just my untrained ear for foreign languages.

filmcricket said...

Awfully glad to have the show back, although I'm not sure these would necessarily have pulled in new viewers. The relationship stuff is growing tiresome, and as others have pointed out, there were some kinda glaring errors.

Does anyone else think it's weird that, aside from the guitar playing, Intersect 2.0 seems to be programmed with stuff that an agent like Bryce would already be able to do? And that perhaps the smartest thing to do would be to train Chuck properly so he doesn't *have* to flash in order to defend himself? I mean, obviously there's more to the new Intersect than that, but not training him to kick butt flash-free seems almost as ludicrous as "firing" him.

Alyson said...

How did this air earlier on the West Coast- as typically things end earlier on the East Coast (due to changing time zones!)?
It didn't. Alan is a lucky duck who has seen screeners of the first five episodes of this season (benefits of being a critic!) and therefore could post his review from TCA after the episodes aired on the east coast.

Keith Delahorne said...

Carina was speaking Swedish, she said "Kommer sakna dig kompis" which means "I'm gonna miss you buddy/friend"

Matthew said...

- Not sad to see Emmett go -- I found both him and Harry Tang annoying. And as someone else mentioned above, it's hard to see him as anyone other than Buster at this point.

- While _I_ understood why Chuck would never run away with Sarah (it part because he won't leave his sister), I don't think that new viewers would do so.

- As everyone else has already said, Chuck was very annoying when he kept wanting to talk to Sarah in the middle of a mission. Anyone who loves the show knows that have to forgive some unrealistic stuff from time to time, but we only do so because the show is FUN. That scene was not only unbelievable, but it was more annoying than fun.

Anonymous said...

Beckman didn't force Chuck to retire, she told him to go back home and wait until they made a decision about his future. I'm sure they had eyes on him the whole time. Maybe Casey had the lucky job of watching him drown himself in cheese balls all day.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Premiere ratings were very good - show's best performance since the heavily-promoted 3D episode. We'll see how things go tonight, and in a few weeks, but it's a good start.

mac35 said...

With the understanding that these eps also had to serve as a table setter for new viewers to the series I was very happy with how they worked as eps for veteran fans as well. I did think the second hour was the stronger of the 2 and agree that the writers need to leave behind the "I want to punch Chuck in the face," moments and should just go ahead and get Chuck/Sarah together and end the back an forth.

Still, overall it was a great returns and I'm just glad they're back.

Early ratings were also very positive. The show had a 3.0 and 2.9 for the 1st and 2nd episodes which at this time is better than any other NBC shows except for The Office.

Anonymous said...

Barney- Yeah, I noticed Sarah's missing bra, too. They had to film it that way - they needed her in her underwear for the scene, but the dress they picked for her could not have a bra underneath. Another continuity issue - when Chuck is tying his shoes after he puts on the Buy More outfit, he's wearing jeans. In the next shot, it's pants.

keith said...

After watching last night's season 3premiere of Chick oops I means Chuck. I was left with the of analogy pizza. Good or bad you know what to expect. There weren't really any suprises.
The best part last night was the sides. Morgan got Carian and Big Mike is back in control of Buy More with the gang where they were at the end of season 2.
But what happened to Orion and the armband and Chuck replacing his dad has a kind of loner.
I feel like were the ones left at train station.

Zachary said...

Those episodes put a constant, big-ass grin on my face that still hasn't gone away. Solid ratings too? Looks like the TV gods might be smiling on us for once.

Finn said...

Isn't it funny how 7 million viewers has become a great thing...at least on NBC, for Chuck, and for the new TV landscape. All relative I guess. Hope it stays there.

Taleena said...

In the Casey/Chuck sparring scene I thought it was great that it showed Casey also knowing how to help Chuck trigger the Intersect.

cgeye said...

From Ryan:
The business with "Shaw" and Beckman clearly involves the ongoing mythology of "The Ring," of which former Big Bad Fulcrum was only one piece. What might Chuck have learned about that group had he opened up the suitcase? And if Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are supposed to take down the ring, why can't/won't Beckman give them all the necessary and available intel? I hopeful both questions will be answered in the weeks to come.

My conjectures? The Golden Suitcase (and a tip o' the hat to REPO MAN, I bet) contains a device that targets human brainwaves and shorts them out through any satellite/cellphone system -- the real "button" to control the Intersect 2.0 should it get out of hand. If Chuck sees it, he knows the govmint sees him only as a weapon -- and any chance of his leading a normal life, with or without the Intersect, is gone. Why else bar Casey and Sarah from seeing it? The other MacGuffins they cared for they had to know about, in order to neutralize them when, inevitably, the bad guys got their hands on them near the climax.

And the mysterious Agent Shaw? The lovely and talented Mark Sheppard, of course. You don't comply with the Sheppard Full Employment Act of 2009-10 without giving the man something meaty to chew on -- and he Twittered he's in an upcoming CHUCK arc....

cgeye said...

(Ryan's quote, whose HTML Blogger disallowed:)

The business with "Shaw" and Beckman clearly involves the ongoing mythology of "The Ring," of which former Big Bad Fulcrum was only one piece. What might Chuck have learned about that group had he opened up the suitcase? And if Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are supposed to take down the ring, why can't/won't Beckman give them all the necessary and available intel? I hopeful both questions will be answered in the weeks to come.

Anonymous said...

I loved it, though really hope the writers are working towards getting Chuck/Sarah together in this season. I actually like romantic angst and the Chuck/Sarah relationship is one of my fav elements of the show, but even I have my limits.

RSR said...

Wondering if there were any first time viewers out there and what they thought? Anyone?

Mike said...

I couldn't agree more with the complaints about Chuck whining about his desire to "talk" mid-mission. It was wholly unrealistic and pathetic, especially given the fact that they have very limited time to get the mission done. They could have gotten the same points across (Chuck making his big speech) without building it up so that you wanted to punch him first.

The rest of the two hours were fantastic though. Tony Hale being killed off utterly shocked me. It was so cold and cruel - it was a sharp stab of reality in an often unrealistic (in a good way) show. His character was superb, even if he never got a chance to really do much more than be annoying, and I will really miss him.

Ingrid said...

I don't know, Alan. I was so very disappointed in the premiere. The end of last season promised a game changer of sorts, and that did not really come to fruition. Chuck was whiny and annoying and it felt forced, like a regression for the sake of cheap laughs. If this is what the new season consists of, I am not sure I will continue to watch much longer.

Anonymous said...

I agree. At the end of last season, i thought Chuck (the character) would end up being badass yet still himself. They brought him back but his flashes are blocked by his emotions. They need to toughen him up and make him badass. And Chuck and Sarah need to be together already!!! It's getting old, the whole continual bickering back and forth. The show's still great, I just hope things beome different then what we saw in the first 2 eps. Well, here's to tonight.

Julie said...

I can't believe you missed the most obvious pop culture reference - El Bucho is the name of the bad guy from Desperado!

Bruce said...

I enjoyed the Awesome road trip / car advertisement and couldn't even tell for sure whether it was part of the show or an ad until the 2nd one popped up later. I'm curious how these segments work -- are they written by the regular writers? Is this sort of thing happening on other shows as well, or just Chuck because its in such dire straits? Definitely preferable to a regular ad, and its a bonus to get the extra Chuck content, but not sure how scalable this is.

Bruce said...

Out of curiosity: were the two road trip scenes part of the screener sent to critics?

Alyson said...

Out of curiosity: were the two road trip scenes part of the screener sent to critics?
Given that those were ads for Honda, and not actually part of the show, probably not.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Bruce, first I heard of these ads were during the comments. Still haven't seen them.

Melissa said...

Awesome review, as usual, Alan.

One pop culture reference you missed and I can't believe no one else has mentioned: Dead Poet's Society. When Chuck goes to the Buy More to get more cheese balls, Lester says, "Oh Captain, my Captain."

Allison DeWitt said...

I'm late to it because I just watched Sunday's episode tonight but..



When Chuck goes to the Buy More to get more cheese balls, Lester says, "Oh Captain, my Captain."


I don't know if it was a movie reference or a literaary one, but it cracked me up.

And I loved Morgan's lament "Could not flip the shrimp, man - could not flip the shrimp" about his misadvernture at Benihana's .

What a great review and I'm so glad to get the songs titles that I didn't know. I particularly loved Frightened Rabbit's "Backwards Walk". Awesome, all of it, thank you for your part.

steph said...

yes, have to admit i squealed with delight when "backwards walk" came on. (didn't know i had one in me.)

perfect for the scene.

also very late but props to mike for his use of defenistration. :)

Jaynee said...

I must be one of the few that didn't like the first episode AT ALL. I had a lot of friends tune in for the first time, and based on my description of the show, they were a bit confused by the first episode because it was NOT light and funny at all. It was dark and repetitive ("Chuck don't get emotional. No seriously, Chuck, don't get emotional. Chuck....emotions). Unfortunately, this meant they didn't stick around to see the 2nd and 3rd episodes, which were more typically like the Chuck of the past.

Having said that, I loved episodes 2 and 3. I hope I'm able to get my friends to tune in again and give it another chance.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the frst episode. Complete shock that Emmet was offed, but that is okay. I loved the cover story.

In "Three Words," the C/S may have seemed a bit contrived, but they needed it for the episode. After all, it was ..."vs. the Three Words." I think they might back off of their relationship being the focus for a while.

One, considering Mondays episode, it seems the writers want to take their relarionship in a different direction. Two, Brandon Routh is suppose to be somewhat of a love interest for Sarah. I think they have him slated for eight episodes. And three, Kristen Kreuk is suppose to be somewhat of a love interest for Chuck, and I think they have her in four episodes.

All in all, Chuck is a great show, and I am glad the idiots that run NBC were forced to realize it even if it is for just one more season.

As an aside, the article mentioned Moonlighting. IMO, when that show lost it was when they started focusing more on the relationship between the characters and forgot about the weekly story. Unfortunately, I think the same went for Smallville.

Bobman said...

Love the review, but I especially love the Tribe Called Quest reference :)

Dave B said...

OK, I watched the first season over the summer and liked it pretty well. Almost got the second season from iTunes, but decided to wait til the Blu-ray set hit. I grabbed that last week, but haven't watched any of it since I am currently rewatching all of Lost getting ready for season six (3 eps into S5 at the moment).

I watched the first half hour of "Chuck vs. the Pink Slip" and was pretty underwhelmed. Nothing seemed to be clicking for me. The songs were overbearing, though, which might have been part of the reason. I guess the first season made as much use of songs as soundtrack, but I blanked it out? It seemed like every scene had some crappy accompaniment.

The car commercial didn't help, either. There were a couple of funny moments, but I sat there thinking "this was the only way to get the show back on the air?"

Oh well. I've got all 3 episiodes on the TiVo, and will check them out. Hopefully the next couple remind me of what I liked before.

Sara said...

Carina said "Jag kommer sakna dig kompis" which means "I'm going to miss you buddy". I'd love to know what Sarah said, anyone from Poland reading this? ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Chris Wittman for posting the info about the Imogen Heap sign used in the Chuck season premiere! You saved me a lot of searching.

Ransom said...

The official song title is "Just Like Paradise," from David Lee Roth's second solo LP, "Skyscraper," from back in '88. It's probably the most prominently that song has been featured in quite some time.

It is interesting to see how much of the status quo was restored after the last season finale. Chuck is back at the Buy More despite the acquisition of so many new skills, the sexual tension between Chuck and Agent Walker remains unresolved, and all of the minor characters (ave Anna Wu) are back and occupying their usual positions in the narrative. But as you say, it's difficult to object that the writers have kept the Buy More so prominent when characters like Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike are so delightfully fun. It would, however, be interesting to see the show stray a bit further away from the Buy More and apartment sets, at least a little, as the arcs progress.

Karen said...

"O captain, my captain" is a quote from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," alluded to in Dead Poets Society, and currently being beaten into the ground in a Levi's ad campaign. So it pretty much hits all the cultural touchstones, high, low, and medium.

Anonymous said...

It's late to comment, i know but i do know what Carina says in swedish "jag slänger nycklarna till dig, kommer du att tappa dem då?" witch means: i gonna throw the keys to you, are you gonna catch them?

I'm swedisch:3