Monday, October 06, 2008

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Seduction": I'm flesh and blood, life-size, no larger!

Spoilers for "Chuck" season two, episode two, coming up just as soon as I explain that Jews know two things: suffering, and where to get great Chinese food...

Damn them. The only thing that "Chuck" could do to make me even happier than last week's episode would be an episode that pays tribute to the brilliant, hilarious "My Favorite Year." If they do a "Hoosiers" or "Midnight Run" episode later this season, I'll be so in the tank for the show that I'd probably be incapable of being objective anymore.

For those who haven't seen "My Favorite Year" (and if you haven't, shame on you and/or your local DVD purveyor), I ran through the basic plot in a post a few weeks ago. But even if you had no idea that Roan Montgomery was supposed to be a tribute to Peter O'Toole as epic "My Favorite Year" drunk Alan Swann, or that Chuck's swing from the "Under New Assistant Management" banner was a take-off of O'Toole doing a similarly reckless thing from a theater balcony, or all the other little "MFY" references, "Chuck vs. the Seduction" was still another bright and shiny episode that continued the trend of giving the spy stories more relevance to Chuck's real life.

Chuck has to turn into a master seducer at the same moment that he and Sarah are getting ever closer to hooking up (despite what Sarah says about not being able to date an asset), and so Roan's love lessons turn into a referendum on whether or not a guy like Chuck could be with a woman like Sarah. Larroquette didn't get much of an opportunity to play tipsy (Roan spends most of the episode drunk but functional), but he made up for it with all his disgusted reactions to Chuck's own seduction techniques. (Have the eyebrow dance or the firing of the guns ever worked for any man?)

The Roan story also gets paralleled in the Morgan/Captain Awesome subplot, with Morgan doing a particularly inept job of playing Roan to Awesome's Chuck. The show's probably overpopulated -- without having to service everyone, the episode could have spent more time on Chuck and Roan together -- but the ancillary characters are all very funny, and at least the writers are making more of an effort to make the B and C-stories feel in some way connected to what's happening with Chuck.

Now, much as I liked Larroquette (particularly the Photoshopped montage of Roan in his swinging heyday), the real scene-stealing guest star was Josh Schwartz's cougar muse Melinda Clarke as the Black Widow. Chuck giving Sasha Banachek the full Bartowski treatment (asking her what bands she's into, reciting the history of the croissant) would have been amusing enough with any beautiful woman sitting opposite him, but Clarke's bored demeanor and the relish with which she said "Make mad passionate sex to me" were really choice. I hope there's some opportunity for both guest stars to come back at some point.

Another very fun episode, and one that makes me want to immediately bust out the "My Favorite Year" DVD to watch the family dinner scene. ("That paternity rap... did you schtup her?")

Some other thoughts on "Chuck vs. the Seduction":

• Yvonne Strahovski, good sport: the Wienerlicious costume may be gone (sigh...), but she's still willing to put the girls on display, this time with Sarah's fantasy gymnastics routine on the way into the Buy More.

• Meanwhile, the Orange Orange gets a fancy Batcave built underneath. Makes more sense than having all that communications equipment and weaponry built into the Buy More's AV room, though it'll also be harder to get to the next time the bad guys storm the Buy More. And, speaking of which...

• Yes, by this point the number of Buy More shoot outs is getting absurd, but without this latest one, we wouldn't have gotten the funniest joke of the episode: Big Mike looking up at the mangled banner, now reading "New Ass Man," and muttering, "I ain't new!"

• Lester's reign of terror as the New Ass Man doesn't seem like it's going to last much longer, but it did lead to a fascinating and funny explanation of the social hierarchy at the Buy More. Anna won't work there without Morgan, Jeff won't work there without Anna (who will never give him the time of day), and everybody else for some reason considers Jeff the only reason to come to work. As Lester would say, interesting, interesting. (Also, was there any way the Wheel of Misfortune wasn't going to land on the diaper station when Lester spun it?)

• With Tony Todd's character dead, maybe this will give the writers an opportunity to give General Beckman a personality. We're off to a start with the revelation that "Diane" is a once and future conquest of Roan's.

• What is it about Arby's that makes it the perfect punchline to any joke about boyfriends not putting in enough effort? Whenever the "Seinfeld" writers wanted to illustrate how bad Elaine and Puddy's relationship was, they'd have him suggest going out for "an Arby's night," and here Ellie complains that the last "date" Awesome took her on was to Arby's -- with Chuck and Morgan in tow.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

They absolutely need to bring Larroquette back in some role in the future. That's a role that he was destined to play. Sure, he's played similar roles, but its simply great to see him on television in a role like that.

I adore this show. Its probably my favorite show on television. You knew what was going to happen at the end, but it was still good. Now, as I remember the third episode was the one that was so pumped up before the season started. If it easily clears the bar set by the first two, as has been claimed, I'll be surprised.

Mads said...

They played a song by The Kooks, so I'm happy.

afoglia said...

They played another Huey Lewis song as well. Did they just stumble across Sports? :-)

Excellent episode, and I've never seen "My Favorite Year."

Mac said...

Two questions:

1. Is the Huey Lewis going to be a thing? Because I really don't know about that...

2. Was "Ass Man" a Seinfeld shout-out?

Bobman said...

1. Never seen My Favorite Year (though it's on the Queue), but I do know that every time I see Dan Fielding I have a hankering for Night Court.

2. There's a reason Arby's is the brunt of so many jokes - it's awful. Being a lover of a good roast beef sandwich, I cannot tolerate the grey matter they peddle as such. Luckily they don't really have many up here in New England.

Mac said...

Arby's is also a funny name. The only other fast-food restaurant with such a funny-sounding name is Hardee's but half the country wouldn't get that.

Anonymous said...

And, weirdly, the closed captioning said "Subway" which is nowhere near as funny as Arby's.

This shows gets better and better every week.

Anonymous said...

"The Roan story also gets paralleled in the Morgan/Captain Awesome subplot,"

as well as Lester getting advice from Big Mike.

Diane said...

"Sasha Banacek" was also the name of Linda Fiorentino's character in "Gotcha," the spy spoof movie with Anthony Edwards. Please don't ask me why I know that.

Anonymous said...

^Excellent pull, Diane!

I loved this ep, even though I didn't get all the MFY refs. And Big Mike's response to "New Ass Man" had me rolling.

Nicole said...

I didn't mind the use of another Huey Lewis song because it did work, and Roan's heyday probably would have been the 80s, so it fit. John Laroquette definitely needs to come back, and maybe even Julie Cooper.

I liked last week's episode, but loved this one. I could have done with a little less of the Buy More people, but otherwise, it was great. I suspected Bryce would be back since things were going too well, but then again this kind of thing needs to happen for the show to continue.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the Larroquette love.

I ratings stay down and this ends up being the end of Chuck, I hope they give us a string of episodes where Chuck & Sarah are together, hiding from Casey and whatever other hijinks would ensue.

The previews for next week annoyed me, but I'm trusting the writers to keep the amazing sophomore season going.

Michael said...

I think Yvonne Strahovski totally rocked the orange and white. Wow.

I have never seen "My Favorite Year", I thought it was just a takeoff on Bond-ish spy movies.

@mac: Was "Ass Man" a Seinfeld shout-out? I strongly doubt it. It was just a strategic shortening of "Under New Assistant Managership".

Anonymous said...

Fantastic episode!!! I loved MFY -- and I got the references right away. John Laroquette was perfect and I hope they bring him back.

I have to say, I loved Chuck's slowly turning, annoyed look at Roan when Roan is trying to coach Chuck on how to seduce a was in the promos, but it was just hilarious in the context of the scene. Zach Levi is just great!

Ass man...LOL

Alan Sepinwall said...

They played another Huey Lewis song as well. Did they just stumble across Sports?

That, or they just watched "American Psycho."

erin said...

I just laughed and laughed--think how rare that is with a 1-hour show! (And I laughed more than I did last night watching HIMYM--boo.)

I saw Bryce's name in the credits, so I knew he was coming back. I'm not worried--it's great to see that Chuck and Sarah have so much natural chemistry. I hope they don't keep them apart too long. There would definitely be something inherently funny about them awkwardly dating amidst all the spy stuff.

And I love the Huey Lewis songs! It's just the right mix of dorky cool and fits Chuck to a T. I just plugged in my HL greatest hits and was jammin' to Power of Love leaving the grocery store yesterday! ;-)

Laroquette--j'adore! He must come back at some point. Loved his spy pointers--you know the man's got skills! And the kiss between Sarah and Chuck...whew! Hot, hot, hot. Loved the season so far...and definitely one of my favorite episodes of them all!

Jon88 said...

Erin saith: "I saw Bryce's name in the credits, so I knew he was coming back." Similarly, David Anders got special guest star mention at the top of "Heroes," so his surprise half-a-line at the end was no real surprise. What, didn't "Life" get the memo that it was Last Minute Appearance Theme Night on NBC?

Patrick, I'm glad to know I'm not the only captions reader around here.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sigh... ratings continue to dip, with this week's episode finishing in a statistical dead heat with "Terminator." The full season order -- and the fact that "Chuck" is produced by Warner Bros. and not NBC/Universal -- gives me a little confidence that they'll be around a while to either draw in more viewers or move to a different timeslot, but not an encouraging start to the season.

Anonymous said...

"Yvonne Strahovski, good sport: the Wienerlicious costume may be gone (sigh...), but she's still willing to put the girls on display, this time with Sarah's fantasy gymnastics routine on the way into the Buy More."

How about Sarah Lancaster's girls when she bends over to tell Captain Awesome to shut it down during the disasterous Morgan-inspired date? Too bad that Chuck in HD doesn't look as good as other shows in HD.

Anonymous said...

At the end of S1, they expected to have a new Intersect and to have disposed of Chuck. Sarah and Casey would move on to other assignments that would not require the mall as a cover.

So why build a bat-cave there? Who did they think would use it? (Bigger questions: when did they build it, and how, with no one noticing?)

Anonymous said...

I had heard John Laroquette was looking for a meaty character piece.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Mark, I think the idea is that they built the bat-cave after Intersect 2.0 blew up and they realized Operation Bartowski would continue for a while.

Then again, I think there was a bit in last week's episode about Chuck wondering what was in the back room of the Orange Orange, so it's possible that it was supposed to be there all along. (Which would also explain why Sarah changed cover jobs.)

So the answer is... I don't know.

As to how/when they built it, probably in the same timeframe with which they turned the Buy More AV room into a communications center/gun cache, or when they turned Chuck's NerdHerder into a James Bond car, or the many other overnight engineering miracles pulled off in the name of this operation.

Anonymous said...

Two words: ADAM BALDWIN. He was priceless as he watched the "seduction" from behind the bar.


Regarding the Arby's reference, if you watched the show with the closed captioning on, the cc said "Subway", not Arby's. Was it a mistake or a product placement bidding war?

FW said...

I really hate to admit this, but damn Melinda Clarke looks almost EXACTLY like a porn star named Chloe Dior. I can't link any pics, even SFW ones, because I'm at work right now, but do the comparisons yourself. Spitting images.

Hal Incandenza said...

...loved that "customer service" was one of the tiles on the Wheel of Misfortune. Great show.

Unknown said...

Speaking of product placement, there were some clear shots of (the plural for) Wii on the shelves.

Anonymous said...

I think my favorite line this season (from all shows, not just Chuck) was:

"Why do you think they call her the Black Widow?"
"Because she's african-american and her husband's deceased?"

Diane, thanks for reminding me about Gotcha. I've been catching my wife up on classic action movies, as well as not-so-classic ones that are a lot of fun. I had forgotten about that one. (Although I'm not sure it will hold up from when I saw it as a kid.)

Anonymous said...

Sigh... ratings continue to dip, with this week's episode finishing in a statistical dead heat with "Terminator."

Dang... Where have all the people from last season go? This show is too good for the ratings its been getting.

Anonymous said...

Diane, thanks for reminding me about Gotcha. I've been catching my wife up on classic action movies, as well as not-so-classic ones that are a lot of fun. I had forgotten about that one. (Although I'm not sure it will hold up from when I saw it as a kid.)

Unfortunately, it was horribly dated about a year after it came out. Still had some funny parts, though :-)

Anonymous said...

"Mon crayon est grand et mon crayon est jaune."

Andrew Dignan said...

Not sure if anyone mentioned it but Bart Simpson once famously said:

"I'm so hungry I could eat at Arby's!"

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is the show now quietly ignoring the fact that Casey (and Beckman) are NSA? I thought I understood that Roan was a CIA legend, and while it's not inconceivable that he and Beckman should have had a fling, it's a tad strange that he should have been instructing Future Agent Casey.

I totally did not get the My Favorite Year analogy, but this was a great episode all the same, almost as good as last week's. Larroquette didn't appear to have to stretch much in the role, but he was thoroughly enjoyable. I hope they bring him back.

One little thing I enjoyed: as Sarah's Whitesnaking her way into the Buy More, Chuck is puckering up and I fully expected her to snap him out of the whole fantasy by barking "Chuck!" at him, but instead, she actually did kiss him. Nice piece of misdirection there, or at least a deviation from the TV norm.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the CIA and NSA shared his educatinal expertise. How many seduction specialists do our intelligence agencies have?

Pamela Jaye said...

I just got screwed by NBC.
My DVR, being overworked, saw Chuck rerunning on Saturday and pushed the recording till then.

Tonight I checked the schedule and as I expected, tomorrow's Chuck has been replaced by some sort of special.

I don't have enough processor on my laptop to play it off and my desktop is Linux.

so far, none of the other means I've tried will even play.

Thanks NBC.

Anonymous said...

try or amazon. if it won't work try downloading the torrent. =)

Pamela Jaye said...

you know, i only thought of hulu about 7 minutes ago!

I think I finally found a torrent that will play. I shall have to watch a batch of commercials as penance :-) (but hey, maybe I can find some good commercials. after all, good commercials do exist. I have a batch on my DVR - I excised the programs they were in and kept the commercials. scuba diving cats, kitchens taking a priceless night off, Sarah Chalke and her undies, Fruit of the Loom singing folk songs..., Geico stuff (though I've lost Tiny House), some local Publix spots, and of course NPH's Old Spice Ad :-)

anyway, 2am. pout. no Chuck time now.
thanks for the hulu suggestion!
(I recently watched the original 90210 pilot there, and now the whole series seems to be gone...??)

Pamela Jaye said...

which reminds me - i never did get to read that "best opening titles" post.

perhaps we could have a best commercials thread? (and i will read the other. really. must re-locate it first)

Pamela Jaye said...

so I'm finally here. love my DVR, itfinds whole new way fr me to typo.

neer saw MFY never heard of Gotcha, but letme say y brother bought Student Bodies aaand fterall these years - what a waste.

(this is a remote control keyboard - fast forward often works this well too)

hey, at least i finally got to see it - wow i can touch type on my leg!

and wasn't cusstomer service referred to lasttttt season as "the Hole"?

let's see if i can post

Pamela Jaye said...


even after reading the post and all the comments, the captcha didn't time out.



(from the temporarily input impaired)

tabernacle said...

Hi, everyone. Please forgive me in advance if this is a futile effort, but here it goes:

I'm suspicious of my own inability to like _Chuck_ (for a variety of reasons, but primarily because, from what I've gathered in an extremely unscientific way, the people who tend to love _Chuck_ tend to also love other shows that I _do_ love... Anyway.) So my request is that someone here _sell_ me on the show: tell me what they like about it, convince me to give it another try. I've watched the first two episodes. Does it get better down the line?

Thanks in advance for any help in this regard.

Pamela Jaye said...

what other shows do you love?

I love Chuck because it's funny and Chuck (the character) is a good guy who has a good heart, and maybe cause I can identify with smart, geeky, underachievers.

I also like the actress who plays his sister.

tabernacle said...

Sarah Lancaster--I thought she did a pretty good job in _Everwood_, too, despite the whole subplot (Ephram and Delia's nanny) being rather iffy.

tabernacle said...

To answer the question, I like Big Bang Theory, Battlestar Galactica, Life, loved The X-Files, Veronica Mars, and of course (though not too relevant here) The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad.

tabernacle said...

More relevantly, perhaps, I like Bones, love The Office (both UK and US), and loved Avatar and Freak & Geeks. I don't _think_ I'm constitutionally incapable of rooting for a good guy with a good heart and identifying with geeky underachievers.

Pamela Jaye said...

I liked Sarah in What About Brian (till they dumped both her and the main conflict of the show) and also on Scrubs (which I would say she's still wearing, but she worked in the gift shop and therefore did not wear them)

unfortunately, the fact that a character on her show shares her name makes conversations about her confusing - in my family

tabernacle said...

So I can only imagine that it's _impossible_ to talk about Mary Tyler Moore or Lucille Ball (who each had, over their careers, _several_ shows in which the actress and the character shared the same name).

Pamela Jaye said...

...Big Bang Theory, Battlestar Galactica, Life, loved The X-Files, Veronica Mars, The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Bones, The Office (both UK and US), Avatar, and Freak & Geeks.

wow. eclectic.

geeky underachiever would probably not be the Veronica Mars thing - *she* was an outcast.

I share your liking of Big Bang, Mad Men and Veronica Mars, unfortunately there probably isn't a common thing between them. (though VM and BB do have a sort of "not in the in crowd" thing going for them)
I can really say that the thing that drew me to VM was the outcast thing, and what held me was probably good dialog (as in almost Buffy good)
In the cases of VM, Chuck, and just the less geeky guy on BB, I'm definitely rooting for the main character to succeed. (I should toss in a plug for a movie called 12:01 at this point. geeky guy has to save the world and get the girl, over and over, and much less boring that Groundhog Day. this movie was so good (IMO) I remembered it for something like 15 years after having only seen it once. it's now out on DVD (anyone other than me ever heard of it?)

A lot of my liking of shows tends toward the emotional, but in the case of the above (not counting Mad Men) it's also the humor. I'm very fond of ironic humor, and I like quips - though I couldn't define a quip if you paid me.

I'm *not* a fan of Morgan - or almost anyone else at the Buy More, come to think of it. Casey, on the other hand, is really funny - and cares more than he thinks or wants to. Sarah... probably cares more too, but I really can't relate to her. I also like Captain Awesome - just for his name.

I'm not into spy shows as a rule, so it's not that. Chuck seems to have been beaten up a bit by life, and I can relate to that. and that's the closest I can get as I can't yet say - he's a very loyal friend (although that's probably true) which is one of the things that draws me to Meredith Grey (aside from the severe beating life has given *her* or Ally McBeal - who has only been slightly beaten and yet is neurotic anyway)

Oh and also, Chuck is cute. He's easy enough to look at, but I'm not drooling over him. He can be heroic when he needs to be, and that's good. I can't think of anything else, but probably someone else here can. (also, i'm not into SciFi, Fantasy (pardon the Buffy) or Crime Shows, so that thins the herd a lot).

Additionally my brother is a geek, and i'm marginally one myself. I love that they once sent Chuck out on a service call cause it was Linux (or was it Unix?) and no one else could do it. (and the booby trapper *knew* this)

that's all i have - for now.

Pamela Jaye said...

wow... you know - my brother didn't have a TV for 20 years, so he didn't watch TV... um... okay, the time periods of those shows don't fit that gap. let me try again.

I am, oddly, not a lover of Lucy. MTM - we watched it, however millions of years ago it was on, but it's not something that... I could barely tell you anything that happened. I don't find myself ever referring to it. Aside from the scene that St Elsewhere ripped for its finale.

On the other hand, a conversation about "Josh" can take a few brain cycles to latch onto. (Groban, Lyman, wait, did he say Joss, maybe?)

tabernacle said...

Regarding 12:01, I see that Jonathan Silverman was in it--a guy whose main asset, in my mind, is a tendency to get confused with Rob Morrow. [/ducks to avoid rotten fruit thrown by rabid fans of either actor]

Re: humor, quips, irony, dialogue: I completely agree: these are a big part of whether or not I end up liking a show. Re: "beaten up by life"--this part I'm less sure about. A harried protagonist is not necessarily a draw for me, especially the closer it edges toward (passive) victimhood. I guess this is tricky, since _conflict_ (of course) is a requirement(?) for any sort of narrative. [And Meredith Grey, for me, is perhaps the least interesting/engaging character in the show, despite being the putative protagonist (she is, right?).]

tabernacle said...

Yeah, Josh has to be Lemon-Lyman, I think, with a little Sorkin actor/character fuzzy overlap with Josh Carles of Sports Night. Anf there's only one Joss =)

tabernacle said...


Pamela Jaye said...

A harried protagonist is not necessarily a draw for me, especially the closer it edges toward (passive) victimhood. I guess this is tricky, since _conflict_ (of course) is a requirement(?) for any sort of narrative. [And Meredith Grey, for me, is perhaps the least interesting/engaging character in the show, despite being the putative protagonist (she is, right?).]

yes, she is. and I meant to add that there was really no comparison, as a comparison to Meredith is, for most people, *not* a plus. I know this.

Chuck, on the other hand (and, oh, let me say that if you've never seen Adam Baldwin toss a microwave, you've missed out!) started off rather hangdoggy - or at least victimy, but I think that now he's more... well, he refuses to "wait in the car" (a phrase that, if said any more often in this show, could become its own drinking game)

Chuck *tries.* He doesn't always succeed, but he doesn't spend a lot of time anymore crying in the corner. (and btw, Meredith has been to therapy. things are looking up). Chuck can be creative in saving himself, his friends, his protectors, the world, or the agencies' property. He can think fast (okay, his writers can make it appear as if he can - having, themselves, who knows how long to come up with a solution that he has seconds to come up with)

I'm going to reiterate the Adam Baldwin is funny thing, cause it's just a major plus. (and I honestly can't remember the second episode of Chuck - but Chuck and the Alma Mater was really fun - after a while. It did start out very woe is me, but ended up stunning. It answered some things and it was funny (to me).

tabernacle said...

Great! This is the heart of it, I think, that he isn't all woe-is-me all the time. So I think I'll give the show another try, especially since you've reminded me of the Adam Baldwin goodness (_loved_ him in Firefly/Serenity).

(Re: Meredith, yeah, but last ep she was (what passes in her mind for) happy for exactly one second and instantly dropped the psychiatrist. Oh, SPOILER, I guess.)

Pamela Jaye said...

the psychiatrist isn't letting go. ;-) and, as she says, Mer is making progress. I like what Alex says - that Mer gives him hope that messed up people can make it. (even though Alex is more positive and less verbally hanging on to his baggage than Mer is - he still shoots himself in the foot at every (other) chance. I have hope for all of them. After all - it's season 5, so they only have these three seasons to sort it out. And they have to live happily ever after in the end -
after all, it's Disney.

tabernacle said...

I'm amazed that they (the writers, I guess) have managed to remain consistent with regard to Cristina (the most awesome character, IMO) _without_ having the character become one-note or played out. I really don't know how they do it. Aside from being highly proficient and hard-core about her job, and slightly misanthropic, her defining characteristic is that she's realistic, pragmatic, unemotional and perhaps cynical about pretty much everything. (She's like House.) How this hasn't become old by now I do not know.

Pamela Jaye said...

every now and then, Cristina grows a little bit. It's fun to watch.
Last year she was so depressed she was in the morgue singing...

tabernacle said...

Hee. Along those lines (of incremental character development), I got a kick of Cristina's line in the flood ep to the effect that she can't give honest opinions anymore because she is being (air quotes) supportive.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey T and Pamela, you're more than welcome to talk about Grey's Anatomy, but could you please do it in one of the Grey's Anatomy posts?