"But off the record, it's about damn time." -General BeckmanWhat she said.
I wrote a bit about this episode in today's column - specifically, about how happy I was to see the show not only not miss a beat with Chuck and Sarah together, but be even more fun in a number of ways.
So rather than rehash that point - or note, as Fienberg talked about on last week's podcast, what a refreshing change it was to have an entire episode with Sarah looking happy - I'll try to go a little more in-depth about why "Chuck vs. the Honeymooners" worked so well.
After so much darkness earlier in Season 3.0 (much of it effective, some of it not), it was a welcome change of pace to have a straight-up romp(*) with the two crazy kids enjoying the hell out of each other's company, being turned on by the idea of fighting evil together, trying on ridiculous cover identities (and Yvonne Strahovski adding another convincing, albeit exaggerated, accent to her repertoire with her Texas gal character), lying to each other for a good reason (and with relatively low stakes, since everyone watching knew they'd wind up staying in the spy game, and together) and kicking very much butt together.
(*) One false note, which we get in lieu of the "Chuck" Plot Hole of the Week: the (offscreen) murder of the two Interpol agents who were sent to clean up Chuck and Sarah's mess. Death isn't normally out of place on "Chuck," but it felt that way in the midst of a very light episode - particularly since it was Chuck and Sarah's foolhardy actions that led to those two deaths. I wouldn't have wanted to stop the hijinx for some "Oh my god, we got those two men killed!" angst but I'd rather the two characters (whom we never met, anyway) had just been taken out of the picture in a different way. A nice beating would have sufficed.
Between the introduction of Chuck Fu and the arrival of Shaw, Sarah was unfortunately on the sideline for a lot of this season, so it was a pleasure to see her as an active, super-capable spy and kung fu fighter, and then to see Chuck fighting right alongside her, with the two even punching in unison when the handcuffs got involved. As the two fought one-armed, back-to-back in the final fight in the cafe, I made a note that it reminded me of season one's "Chuck vs. the Undercover Lover," where Casey beat up the bad guys with Chuck strapped to his back, even using Chuck against his will to knock a few of their opponents out. "Only here," I noted, "Chuck can fight, too."
And then, of course, moments later, we got a more direct recreation of that fight, only with Morgan taking the place of Chuck as the hapless nerd strapped to Casey. And that scene capped a wonderful episode for the unlikely new Casey/Morgan partnership, and lived up to the promise of Morgan joining Team Bartowski. I'm 100% on board with the producers' desire to have Chuck get better at the spy game (in part on his own, in part with the new Intersect), because if the character didn't grow, the same jokes would get lame and repetitive. But by throwing Morgan - whose own brand of nerditry is a bit different and more aggressively ignorant of spy stuff than Chuck's - into the mix, those jokes get a fresh new life. (Along with hilarious new jokes like Morgan's sub-eating ID photo or his super-secret crotch money pouch.) And it's also interesting to see Casey showing more respect for Morgan's contributions upfront than he was giving Chuck at this stage of Chuck's spy career. I suppose the writers have to do some more finessing to justify Morgan's gig since he doesn't have an Intersect in his head (and since being "the Intersect of Chuck" is only useful on occasion), but the idea that the little bearded dude's outsider perspective has value in spy world is a promising one.
And after Ellie and Awesome didn't get a farewell in what was originally going to be the end of the season, the characters get a better send-off - for now, as I suspect Chuck and Sarah will wind up on a spy mission to Africa within an episode or two - and even get serenaded by Jeffster! (Unplugged!) Any episode with a drunken Ellie being flanked by Jeff and Lester in turtlenecks and wire-rim glasses singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane" is overflowing with goodness, is it not?
Some other thoughts:
• This week in "Chuck" pop culture references, so many memorable thrillers have taken place on trains that I'm not even sure what to list first: "North by Northwest"? "Strangers on a Train"? "Murder on the Orient Express"? "Silver Streak"? Regardless, lots of great movies (or occasionally great, like "Silver Streak") take place on trains - including John Frankenheimer's great, simply-titled "The Train," which Matt Seitz has often argued was "Die Hard on a Train" 25 years early - and any or all should be in your Netflix queue (start with "North by Northwest," then "The Train"). Meanwhile, Jeffster!'s folkie look resembled early Simon and Garfunkel (even as they sang John Denver by way of Peter, Paul & Mary).
• This week in "Chuck" music: "Holiday" by Vampire Weekend plays over the opening montage of Chuck and Sarah spending an awful lot of time in their passenger compartment, Polyphonic Spree's "Light & Day/Reach for the Sun" plays as Chuck and Sarah resolve to not quit the spy game together, and Chuck puts on the seminal Nina Simone version of "Feeling Good" as his choice for what will become Sarah's favorite song.
• In addition to CIA's hysterical photo collage of Morgan, I loved the stern caller ID picture of General Beckman that Chuck had on his iPhone. In general, the show has a lot of fun with those pictures (I recall Devon's was one of him kissing his biceps, right?), and this was no exception.
• Speaking of phones, Sarah's sure got a thing against iPhones, doesn't she? She threw hers into the pool in the season premiere, then threw Chuck's out of the train here.
• And speaking of Devon's biceps, loved his explanation for why he would pack dumbbells on a trip to Africa: pointing to his splendid torso and explaining, "This didn't happen by accident."
Finally, in case you didn't see the news this afternoon, this blog will be relocating in a little over a week to HitFix.com. Assuming I get next week's "Chuck vs. the Role Models" in advance, that will be, somewhat appropriately, the subject of the last review on this version of the blog, and my write-ups of the season's final episodes will be over at HitFix.
What did everybody else think?