Monday, March 30, 2009

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Broken Heart": Number Six with a bullet

Spoilers for tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I empty out my wallet...
"Please take good care of him." -Sarah
Despite featuring one of the series' most concentrated doses of Captain Awesome to date, "Chuck vs. the Broken Heart" was decidedly less awesome than the two episodes that preceded it. Where "Lethal Weapon" and "Predator" were both game-changers that significantly moved both Chuck and the series forward, "Broken Heart" felt more like an hour that was treading water. There was a lot of fun stuff in it, and the conflict at the center of it needed to be addressed (though better than I think they addressed it here), but mostly it just made me antsy to see Chuck and his dad face-to-face next week, and to get back to the Chuck-becomes-a-spy business.

Sooner or later, the show did need to have General Beckman or someone else in authority question the closeness of Chuck and Sarah's non-business relationship, and the montage of heart-on-sleeve moments between the two was a reminder of just how closely the government is watching Chuck.(*) But the execution of how it went down left something to be desired, even if it gave us Tricia Helfer and Adam Baldwin arousing each other through a shared love of tranq darts, and even though it gave us Jeff and Lester leering at Helfer doing a pole dance in the middle of the Buy More.

(*) Though, given that, it seems weird to me that Sarah's apartment isn't in any way wired for surveillance. Wouldn't they, at the very least, have something rigged so if Chuck enters wearing his tracking watch, some microphones turn on? They have no problem peeping on every other place Chuck goes, including Casey's apartment; why does Sarah rate special treatment, other than for plot convenience?

Okay, so Beckman thinks that Sarah's losing the ability to be objective about her asset, correct? So what sense does it make to bring in an evaluator if the evaluator's first move is to bench Sarah and take her place as Chuck's handler? Either get Sarah out of there from the start, or else give her a chance to hang herself by acting in her usual capacity. There was a lot of mileage to be had in watching Sarah and Chuck try really hard to stay on their best behavior -- and only then, after they failed publicly, would we see Alex Forrest assume Sarah's duties. A much more logical, potentially tension or comedy-filled progression than what we got.

Beyond that, I'm not sure I buy General Beckman changing her mind about Sarah based on how the rest of the case went down. Sarah largely saved the day because she's a better safecracker than Alex, not because of her emotional attachment to Chuck. Yes, "Chuck" doesn't pretend to aspire to a "Wire"-level of verisimilitude about the way government espionage works, but if you're going to do an episode that's calling attention to one of the more obvious plausibility issues, you need to provide a better argument for why it's not that implausible than what we got here. Had Sarah tried to build a case on being able to be effective in spite of her feelings, rather than because of them, I'd go with it, but I don't see General Beckman buying the "because" argument, especially based on the facts in evidence.

That said, I did enjoy watching Helfer inserted into this world, and to see Casey manage to be attracted to Alex without being blinded to the fact he preferred working with Sarah(**). Some good comedy work by Baldwin, and by Helfer, who didn't often get to be funny on "Battlestar Galactica." She'd be in funny scenes, but most of the comedy would come from James Callis reacting to her; where here, I very much laughed at the expression on her face (and on Adam Baldwin's) as Alex and Casey were cleaning their guns together. And the climactic scene with Chuck and the evil doctor (played by Shaun Toub from "Iron Man") bonding as they got high on laughing gas was a nice example of the Funny Forgives a Lot rule.

(**) Though even that requires some willing suspension of disbelief. Casey, not that he wants to admit it, likes Chuck, and he and Sarah generally work well together, but he's as frustrated as anyone at having to cover for the other members of Operation: Bartowski when their emotions are getting in the way of the job. I could see him standing up for Sarah while at the same time preferring the new hottie -- unless, of course, he recognized that then the team would just have a different couple with unresolved sexual tension, and nothing would be improved by that.

I also have to invoke that rule on the Awesome bachelor party drama. I figured there would be some kind of artificial tension injected into the Ellie/Awesome relationship before the wedding, and using it to amp up Chuck's desire to get the hell out of spy world makes sense. But even if Chuck can't tell Ellie the truth about what he does, hasn't he learned just enough about lying by now to tell her something like, "Uh, Devon passed out after having too many drinks, and Jeff and Lester thought it would be funny to take some pictures of the stripper climbing over him"? Not hard -- even for someone as congenitally bad at deception as Chuck -- as it's basically the truth (minus the true identity of the stripper), and there's plenty of photographic evidence (as Awesome looks asleep in every shot) to support it.

But if I didn't buy that conflict any more than the rest of the episode, that subplot did give us Jeffster trying -- and spectacularly failing -- to be cool at their first-ever bachelor party, Casey hosing them down, Jeff buying Subway subs, Jeff hiring his sister as one of the gross initial strippers ("She gave us a deal!"), etc. Even when "Chuck" isn't making a lot of dramatic sense, it's still an awfully good comedy.

Some other thoughts:

• As if naming Tony Hale's character after the two leads in "Spies Like Us," and the show's go-to bugs after a bit of terminology from that movie isn't enough of an homage, tonight we get Chuck and the evil doctor recreating the famous "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." "Doctor." scene from that movie.

• Still more '80s movie homaging: Alex Forrest is named after the Glenn Close character from "Fatal Attraction." Fortunately, no bunnies were harmed during the filming of this episode.

• Why would Chuck's computer be programmed to open a radio link to General Beckman if he ever says the name Carmichael? And even if it was, wouldn't that function be taken away the first time it accidentally happened in Captain Awesome's presence? Between that and Devon still being (barely) conscious when Chuck mentioned the CIA to Alex, methinks we're heading towards Awesome being the first person in Chuck's normal life to find out what he really does on all those in-home install calls.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Alan, I think you missed something. The name of the gentleman undergoing surgery? Rashad Ahmad.

I was slightly surprised his alias in the hospital wasn't Moor al-Boba or something.

Anonymous said...

I actually bought the idea that Sarah would be better as handler because she cared about Chuck, I'm just surprised they didn't actually explain it better to the General. Sarah didn't just open the safe, she was the one looking in on Chuck and discovered he was missing while Alex was too busy with the other mission. It seemed pretty obvious throughout the episode that Alex didn't really care about looking after Chuck (highlighted by her even considering blowing up the safe and killing Chuck in the process).

I, too, thought the Ellie/Awesome story was too contrived. Nothing revealed to Ellie was all that incriminating (and I'm not sure how Chuck being caught with his ID badge pushes Ellie over the edge).

J said...

I'm digging the whole will-they/won't-they thing they're developing between General Beckman and Captain Awse. Those two are a match made in a totally awesome part of Heaven.

(And I thought Sarah's feelings saved Chuck in that she learned he was missing in the first place, something neither Alpha-Cylon nor Casey accomplished. Also, no self-respecting terrorist is going to check in anywhere under such a transparent alias as "Harry Lime." Cuckoo.)

Joyeful said...

Man I love this blog. I agree with you, not as good as the past couple weeks, but still good :-)

I'm with you, Awesome's gonna be the family member who finds out.

I too thought that Chuck could have easily said that Awesome was sleeping. But it does make sense...Ellie is his sister and would have smelled the "lie" from a mile away.

As for Chuck and Sarah - while the whole "my feelings make it work" isn't all that plausible, it did fit in with the story. Sarah cared enough to break protocol to say goodbye to Chuck, and found his phone. Sarah knew Chuck well enough to know that he never leaves his phone anywhere. Sarah also knew Chuck well enough to know that he'd "improvise" in the vault. Helfer's character not only missed all that, she thought he was in the courtyard (in the pool), she also missed the nitrous in the vault and was gonna blow it up. Sarah proved herself better, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

Harry Lime is yet another reference, if a bit more obscure.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, no self-respecting terrorist is going to check in anywhere under such a transparent alias as "Harry Lime."

Sonuva... how did I neglect to point out the Harry Lime reference? I put in YouTube links to "Spies Like Us" but not "The Third Man"? I officially suck.

Here. Go and watch one of the great movie entrances of all time.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sarah didn't just open the safe, she was the one looking in on Chuck and discovered he was missing while Alex was too busy with the other mission.

I got all that. But that doesn't so much say anything about Sarah's feelings for Chuck being an asset to the asset, as it says that Alex was kind of incompetent, and that the level of surveillance in the apartment complex is wildly inconsistent. When the plot demands it, they can record every conversation Chuck's ever had with Sarah. When it doesn't, nobody officially working on Operation: Bartowski has any idea that the main man is missing.

Dio said...

I actually don't get why Chuck's Agent name alone would activate the link between him and the General. Some kind of voice decryption or something, like the eye scanner?

The whole premise of Sarah having to leave is doom to fail because we know she won't leave for good. Just like Chuck being killed in the 1st episode of season 2. But if they would of been able to actually sell it, it would of been a tour de force, but it wasn't.

I was much more interested in Sarah's "last supposed action for Chuck" in trying to find his Dad. It was pretty nice of her to do this and I cannot wait for the next episodes.

Comedy side was really good this episode. The many reference to Spies like us was hilarious. There was not only the "doctor" thing, but also the "let's act like doctors and try to cut the guy open with the knife". The gas part inside the vault was also very funny and Chuck not sure if Sarah his an hallucination.

On a final note, I'm always thinking that this show needs to go "outside" more. Sometimes it feels like a claustrophobic show because they are behind 4 walls all the time. It was actually nice to see the last shot in a vast open space and Sarah in her car a little earlier in the episode. It just seems they don't see the sun that often on the show eh!

Zack Smith said...

I felt like the directing dragged down tonight's episode. There were several scenes that felt strangely edited (perhaps for time), not so much in terms of content but just in the way they zipped through the action.

This might have worked better as a short arc, but I hope Helfer comes back -- there was some fun chemistry between her and Adam Baldwin, and I want Alex and Casey to have tall, broad-shouldered babies together.

Anonymous said...

I got all that. But that doesn't so much say anything about Sarah's feelings for Chuck being an asset to the asset, as it says that Alex was kind of incompetent, and that the level of surveillance in the apartment complex is wildly inconsistent. When the plot demands it, they can record every conversation Chuck's ever had with Sarah. When it doesn't, nobody officially working on Operation: Bartowski has any idea that the main man is missing.

Yeah, the more logical conclusion was just that Alex was incompetent and bring in someone else. But, maybe the General is finally realizing that taking Sarah away could push Chuck over the edge. If she left he'd probably risk everything to go after her, and at some point he'll be able to use the Intersect as leverage to get what he wants.

And I can understand the surveillance the way it is. It's like a convenience store. You have cameras on 24/7, but nobody watching them until something happens and then you can go back to the tapes to look for what you want. The General could have been snoozing on the surveillance until she noticed something between Sarah and Chuck, and then gone back to the video to confirm her suspicions.

Alyson said...

Had Sarah tried to build a case on being able to be effective in spite of her feelings, rather than because of them, I'd go with it, but I don't see General Beckman buying the "because" argument, especially based on the facts in evidence.
Beckman caved WAY too easily not to have some kind of ace up her sleeve in regards to Sarah. I have no idea what that might be, but the woman's not stupid.

I liked Casey standing up to Chuck and Sarah - Casey is a pragmatist, for sure, but even he can see that the three of them balance out each other's strengths and shortcomings in a way that benefits everybody. Forrest is too much of a Casey clone to replicate that dynamic.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else notice Yvonne's Australian accent slip out in that last scene by the trailer?

Steve Ely said...

Alan, I enjoyed this episode a lot more than you, and I think it's because your biggest complaints center around two plausibility issues that I don't have a problem with.

1. The behavior of General Beckman, her lackey, and the NSA/CIA otherwise is completely implausible. Well, yeah. General Beckman, and the whole Chuckfictional national security apparatus, has always been completely implausible. There's almost nothing remotely realistic about agents Walker and Casey or the sort of work they do.

General Beckman has always been completely unaware of any useful information as long as her ignorance helps the plot and completely aware of all possible information as soon as her knowledge moves the plot forward. Likewise with the question of what rooms she bugs or sends her transmissions to.

I find enormous suspension of disbelief of their Spyworld necessary for pretty much every episode; it was a real obstacle to my enjoying the show early in the first season. By this point in the second, I'm surprised you expect Beckman's behavior to be motivated by anything other than plot contrivance.

2. Meanwhile, I didn't find Chuck's inability to cover for Devin with Ellie at the end very implausible at all. For one thing, how do we know Chuck saw those pictures and wasn't thinking, "wait, what pictures did she see? What's going on?"

Moreover, your suggestion for his lie would be good if he had prepared for it, but I can buy that he'd push from his mind the need to, wishfully thinking E & D would make up on their own, and then, when confronted with something so important, get fixated on how the truth would solve this whole problem, if only he could tell the truth. He gets stuck in the mental loop of that dilemma until, after one moment, it's too late, and then all he can think is, "Dang it! Why didn't I say that thing Sepinwall suggested? Now it's too late to work!"

Everyone behaved pretty much as I expect them to in Chuckworld, and I was well entertained.

Mike said...

I was amused by Chuck asking Casey "Is it possible someone kidnapped Sarah and replaced her with some kind of soulless replica?"

But ultimately I expect more out of this show than spot-the-reference, and I agree that this episode wasn't their best. The Ellie/Awesome conflict was an interesting way to build tension but it didn't work for me, mostly because I'm not particularly invested in either character or their relationship.

Also, they sort of fell back on using a ridiculous caper at the Buy More to set up the action, rather than the more satisfying recent stories featuring Buy More action that parallels (or expands on) Chuck's adventure.

Maxed Out said...

Sure, wasn't the best of the best episodes, but I still enjoyed it and laughed a lot. Also, love the final scene, but bet they weren't too thrilled it was so windy!

The taping Chuck 24/7 thing is silly and would never be acceptable for anyone. someone liked Chuck would have protested this before. Plus, the fact that they have close-up footage of the bracelet scent from Santa Claus episode is ridiculous. I mean then were sitting on the floor in the middle of two aisles. And you are right, the show just uses it when they want and drops it again. But if the show is picked over too much about stuff like that you miss a lot of fun. For instance, its unrealistic to think that it would be this easy to convince a spy to not have any life at all and move in a hotel, work in a yogurt shop, or work at the buy more, etc, etc. I do hope the show has Chuck demand no more taping. It doesn't seem to stop him from getting kidnapped anyway!

Still, love, love, love this show.

55 said...

Even in a "weak" week (though I disagree- thought this episode was full of Awesome, pun intended), it's still a fantastic show. Tonight's episode made me convinced that they're nowhere near their peak, making it all the more tragic if they don't get renewed.

Also, isn't the reason they couldn't stretch out the Forrest/Walker drama is because Helfer was only available for one episode? Or is that wrong?

Last thing, I thought Lester was hilarious tonight. "Elizabeth! Eleanor! Elton?"

filmcricket said...

For one thing, how do we know Chuck saw those pictures and wasn't thinking, "wait, what pictures did she see? What's going on?"

That's what I assumed he was thinking, that there were some pictures out there of, say, Alex actually shooting Awesome, or the three of them stealing his pass-key, or whatever.

I agree that this wasn't exactly the best episode, but it's setting the stage for stuff that could be reeeally interesting. I would adore it if Awesome turned out to be the one to figure out Chuck's double life.

Steve Ely said...

Unrelatedly, Tricia Helfer's character really needs to turn out to be Fulcrum down the road. Incompetent, nothing. Cleverly and happily wreaking havoc on the nerd's life and scheming to get him killed and Walker on desk duty.

That's what I'm gonna choose to believe, I think.

Mac said...

I think General Beckman actually is a videogame character.

*She almost always appears on a TV screen.
*She gives orders at the beginning and the "good job!" wrapup at the end.

So Awesome was right, it's videogame stuff

Anonymous said...

Yes the Sarah's feelings make her a better handler part was not explained well. They should have said something along the way like "she gets him". Sarah gets Chuck because of her feelings for him. She knows how he will react in certain situations. They started to show us that in Lethal Weapon when Sarah knew Chuck would try to find an excuse to meet Gen. Beckman and that he would leave a clue behind. Same thing here. She knew that Chuck would not have left his phone behind. And because of her feelings, using explosives to break the door open wasn't an option.
She knows Chuck better than anyone and that's what makes her a better handler.

Trotsky said...

There's an irony to my mentioning this, but have you turned to ice, Alan?
No mention of the superfine Tricia Helfer doing the police striptease? That's a top 10 fantasy thing, isn't it? In the same league as Tricia Helfer doing a Princess Leia striptease...
I understand it doesn't speak to the mythology of Fulcrum, the maturation of Chuck as a spy, or Third Man references, but seriously? This doesn't get a mention? This isn't entertainment on some level?

Anonymous said...

Allen ... Please save Chuck, do whatever it takes. Life is hard enough right now, and my life will be much worse without Chuck

Sous Chef Gerard said...

80s overload! 80s overload!

I get the fact that the median age of the writers on the show is closer to 30 than 40-50. My mind is pop culture obsessed like the rest of everyone currently replying to posts about television on the internet. But at one point does trying to shoehorn references into the story jeopardize the overall arc of the series or --- like you said earlier --- deprive the episode of any forward momentum?

Rob Rogers said...

I enjoyed the episode a lot. Maybe in part because on a meta level, I didn't know that Scott Bakula was starting next episode, so I wasn't just champing at the bit waiting for him to show up. I wondered why Chuck didn't alibi Awesome better, but that was about the only sour note for me (maybe that and Beckman giving in a bit easily).

Anyone have the 411 on the songs they played during the "Casey and Forrest check each other out while Chuck gets kidnapped" scene and the closing scene?

Unknown said...

@Rob- The song over the last scene is "Blood Bank" by Bon Iver, from the excellent EP of the same name

Number Five said...

It's one thing to not be real-world realistic or even TV realistic, it's another thing to have every single plot event and most character developments depend on contrivance and characters acting like 7th graders. But that is my personal interpretation and I don't want to dismiss everyone who loves the show.

One thing that would make the show slightly more plausible and be dramatically interesting would be for Chuck to exert some leverage over his handlers. In real life, the more valuable assets like Chuck are, the more they have to be catered to, treated with respect, etc. If you treat them poorly/piss them off, you're screwed. That's the main reason why someone like Sarah is a better handler for Chuck than Casey or Tricia Helfer. Of course they have plenty of leverage on Chuck, but he should be able to get a few concessions. At this point, he's got to be well aware that the government doesn't care about him other than the Intersect.

Tricia Helfer is imposing! I keep forgetting how much of Caprica Six's physical threat was implied/veiled behind her overt sexuality. Hopefully she'll turn up on some more shows.

The athlete references are fun, but "Harry Lime" was a nice touch/change of pace.

jpop said...

@ Steve Ely:
"Unrelatedly, Tricia Helfer's character really needs to turn out to be Fulcrum down the road. Incompetent, nothing. Cleverly and happily wreaking havoc on the nerd's life and scheming to get him killed and Walker on desk duty."

She would make a great Fulcrum agent.
I like it.

I think my problem tonight was most of what Alan said, and also I'm expecting these last few eps to have all kinds of crazy reveals and cool stuff like LW and Predator. This one didn't really have anything except, 'Dad?' and makes me want to go watch next week's already.

dez said...

I guess I'm in the minority because I like Awesome & Ellie and hate to see tension, however contrived, in their relationship.

I also liked the ep better than you did, Alan. Lots of laughs and ass-kicking, plus some Sarah and Chuck puppy-dog-eyeing each other. Fun all around, at least for me.

Last thing, I thought Lester was hilarious tonight. "Elizabeth! Eleanor! Elton?"

Holy crap, that was funny! I also thought I heard some Franz Ferdinand during one of the scenes--does anyone know if they had a song in this ep?

BTW, what was the "snap" line early in the ep? I meant to write it down, but the rest of the ep and now "24" have put it out of my head. I just recall it being wonderfully geeky. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Alan, I think you missed something. The name of the gentleman undergoing surgery? Rashad Ahmad.

Ahmad Rashad, former wide reciever of the Minnesota Vikings among others. Another sports reference fpr a bad guy on the show.

Dan said...

Ellie is just frustrated with everything right now. She wants her father back and she misses the closeness she used to have with Chuck. Many brides freak out right before a wedding and Ellie is naturally upset by those pictures. (Even if she knows Awesome is innocent. She got mad at him last season in the truth serum episode...she was yelling at Devon over his tight bike shorts and the neighbor.) :-)

I think Chuck just couldn't stand to lie to Ellie one more time. That's why he didn't give a big speech about Devon and the stripper. He said it to Sarah at the end of the episode.

Still no Anna??? What the heck? Is she a spy? Where is she?

Dan said...

BTW, what was the "snap" line early in the ep? I meant to write it down, but the rest of the ep and now "24" have put it out of my head. I just recall it being wonderfully geeky. Thanks!

"The world revolves around the sun, not you."- Lester to Chuck

"Ooh...astronomy snap!" -Lester

I loved the faces on all the dumbfounded guys as the those strippers approached. I had to watch that a few times. And Lester: "At least the sanwiches are fresh." LOL

Save Chuck said...

Alan can you help save chuck? We need to work together, let us know what we need to do.

BigTed said...

It was a little strange (but convenient for the plot) that none of Awesome's own friends seemed to be at his bachelor party. He seems like the kind of guy who would have a lot of bro's, at least to go biking and mountain-climbing with.

It did seem as if the new agent was kind of incompetent. Even if she didn't care about Chuck as a person, she should have protected the Intersect better. (Not that Chuck hasn't already been kidnapped by bad guys a bunch of times -- you'd think by now they'd have a better way of keeping track of him than a watch that, it turns out, immediately identifies him as a government agent.)

I'm not going to mention any details about the scenes from next week, but didn't they seem to give away way too much about Chuck's dad? I guess we'll find out.

Pamela Jaye said...

Ahmad Rashad, which even I know, due to having watched the Cosby Show.

Maybe the reason I liked this ep more than a lot of people was that I found it more emotionally based that try to keep track of the bad guys based.
And oh course, a good bit of it took place in a hospital. And when Sarah and Chuck were expected to fail, they, of course, did not. I'm a sucker for underdogs apparently, or I'd be watching something else.

Do they really use *laughing gas* for surgery?

I also found it amusing when Sarah was hit with Chuck's usual "wait in the van."

Sadly, it's been so long since I saw Spies Like Us (which, oddly, I *did* see) I couldn't remember the source of the Doctor thing.

And finally, I noticed (tonight) that last week's super special computer they were due to receive was the Roark something or other.

Was there anything from Chuck vs the Best Friend that is going to be important in the upcoming arc? My brother hasn't watched it yet (I forgot to move it into his queue on the DVR). He just had time for last week's before this week's. And I've pretty much forgotten the entire ep myself.

Pamela Jaye said...

PS - I heard Scott was interviewed by Access Hollywood and I'm guessing it's Scott related (we weren't given an airdate). And apparently we no longer get the show in TampaBay (why we get Tyra Banks instead is beyond me).

In any case, perhaps someone could keep an eye (and a recorder) out.

Pamela Jaye said...

The reference to Awesome by his last name made me think (after explaining to the brother that yes, and he has parents, too!) of The Todd not recognizing his when he was called by it. (whenever that was)

OldDarth said...

Bang on Alan. This was a good episode that squandered some great opportunities for deeper emotional beats.

Sarah comforting Chuck at the end when they thought the trailer was empty was an important step in the emotional opening up of the character.

The vault/laughing gas scene was pretty funny though.

Karen said...

Well, it was definitely a mixed bag. I'll forgive a LOT of plot holes if the characters have won me over, and my love for Chuck and Sarah and Casey and the Buy More gang allowed me to blip over a lot of the bad in this episode.

But even I was confused over how Alex could assess Sarah if she wasn't allowing Sarah to do anything on the mission. I was also confused in how Alex was supposed to replace Sarah in protecting Chuck without ever being told that he was the Intersect (Casey said Alex would learn that when she had to--which I'm assuming would be when she replaced Sarah, but it was never clear she understood the actual importance of her asset).

And I was unimpressed by the General's decision to restore Sarah, as the argument made wasn't convincing.

I don't think the Ellie/Awesome split is irreparable; eventually she'll see that Awesome is passed out in every photo (eyes closed, slack-faced) and she'll realize it's a fake. So I don't see why Sarah's finding Poppa Bartowski is supposed to make things better on that front.

All that being said--there was a lot to love in this episode. From, well, every time Jeff opened his mouth, to the Casey/Alex gun-cleaning (I was laughing so hard, but all I could hear in my head was Jayne saying, "I'll be in my bunk") to Sarah reaching out to caress the side of Chuck's face in the final scene (the first time, I believe, we've ever seen her initiate any affection)--there was lots of goodness.

Plus Harry Lime! Oh, man, I was expecting balalaika music!!

LoopyChew said...

Holy crap, that was funny! I also thought I heard some Franz Ferdinand during one of the scenes--does anyone know if they had a song in this ep?

Dez, you heard "Bite Hard" in the scene where Sarah's search on Chuck's dad finished, while she was driving the Porsche. The slow portion while it was finishing, and the pick-up after the query finished, and during the almost literal gun-porn montage between Forrest and Casey.

Anonymous said...

What - no comment on Lester's scrapbooking expertise?

Chaddogg said...

Here is my one, small problem with Chuck: they never let a plot line breathe.

For example, there were SOOOO many great ideas that Chuck's writers rushed to resolve too quickly: Chuck distrusting Sarah because she killed the Fulcrum guy, Chuck living with Sarah, Chuck living with Morgan, Chuck and Sarah living undercover in the suburbs....and now, add Tricia Helfer stepping in as Chuck's "handler" as another rushed story line.

Look, I LOVE this's just that I'd like to see things occasionally get stretched out over a few episodes. Let's see Chuck deal with working with a new handler. Let's watch Casey struggle a bit between his attraction to Helfer and his nagging sense that Sarah is better for the mission (if more annoying to him due to the schmooopiness of Sarah-Chuck). Let's watch Sarah estranged from Chuck and Casey working on another mission, or searching for Chuck's dad, etc....

I suppose some of this could be uncertaintly on how long the show may stay on the air....but I just think the writers rush things too much sometimes, when there are really interesting plotlines that they could relax on and explore over 3-4 episode arcs (like they did with the pretty successful Chuck-Jill arc earlier this season)

Stephanie said...

@Chaddogg: I completely agree with your comment about plot lines. Issues are resolved way too quickly in the Chuckverse, and I think this was another example where more than one episode was needed to deal with the potential problem of Chuck and Sarah's feelings for each other. As it stands, other than the conversation about Chuck's father, Agent Forrest had no real observations upon which to base her conclusions.

That said, while I agree that Chuck's explanation to General Beckman was a little weak, I agree that Sarah knows and understands Chuck, which is an asset in keeping him safe. Forrest is too similar to Casey in that regard, and I doubt that, had she stayed on for any length of time as Chuck's handler, she would've ever bothered to get to know him that well. Beckman shouldn't have given in so easily, that's for sure, but I can see her recognizing that this is a special situation that might require unorthodox methods.

I can easily dismiss the plot holes with the spy stuff because I love all of these characters so much. And the idea that Awesome will be the first person to discover Chuck's secret is, well, awesome. He needs to be used more.

As for the confrontation with Ellie, count me in as someone who thought Chuck would've been able to come up with a convincing lie. He's had some practice, and whatever he would've said would have been pretty close to the truth. He was in that room just a few minutes after Alex brought Devon in there, and he saw for himself that both were nearly fully clothed. I believe he could've convinced Ellie that nothing happened because he SAW that nothing happened. And if Ellie had seen Awesome getting tranq'd, well, she would've have a lot more to say than just that Chuck should be protecting her.

There were enough laugh out loud moment in this episode that I can forgive the weak execution of the main plot. I do hope that next week's episode will be a bit tighter, though.

OnceADaydream said...

Ok - haven't seen this mentioned...the episode started with Chuck reading his "comic book" - and then he was interrupted. He tossed it open on the bed, which we know they can see. Why, Chuck, why? They'll find out you have the diagrams for the intersect computer!!!

The kids and I like to look past the plot holes & just enjoy...and if Chuck is cancelled, I'll lose this special togetherness hour with my teens every week :(

Anonymous said...

OK, the one thing I wasn't clear on (and I have skimmed through all comments and didn't notice a mention) is how Awesome knew to say "special agent charles carmichael" - where did that come from?

Alan Sepinwall said...

how Awesome knew to say "special agent charles carmichael" - where did that come from?

You missed the earlier scene where Awesome spotted the name "General Beckman" on Chuck's computer monitor (one of several dozen weird plot holes this week, because why would the NSA want to leave such an obvious visible trace when they know Chuck lives with civilians?), and when he asked about it, Chuck claimed it's a video game thing: Morgan is "General Beckman," and Chuck is "Special Agent Carmichael."

RonKo said...

Was anyone else waiting for Scott Bakula to answer the door, open it slowly, see Sarah, look around and see Chuck, Chuck says "Dad!" And Scott says "oh boy" and have the series fade to black in an homage to Quantum Leap?

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about those pics of Awesome. When were they taken? Awesome was alert and awake when Alex was trying to perform the striptease, then when she saw it wasn't working she just tranq'd him and took his ID badge. I thought Alex would have left after that to go to the hospital, but are we to assume she stayed behind and continued to give a lap dance to a passed out Awesome while the rest of the guys watched and cheered? Wouldn't they have noticed that he wasn't even AWAKE?

Steve B said...

I'm kind of surprised that people weren't completely thrilled with this episode. It wasn't an episode like the last two weeks that pushed the overall plot forward, but as a pivot episode, introducing Chuck's father, I thought it worked extremely well...If I ignore the larger-than-normal plot holes. But then again, I do a lot of plot hole ignoring with this show, so I tend to not think about it too much.

Overall, I thought it was one of the funnier episodes of the season. "Astronomy snap" alone may have been my all-time favorite Jeff line. I also liked the increased use of Capt. Awesome. He's a great character, and every episode he spends a lot of time in, I enjoy thoroughly.

I also thought it was nice to see how much Casey thinks of Sarah. Yes, he can be annoyed at her relationship with Chuck, but she's also fantastic at her job. Not only because she cares so deeply for the intersect, but also because she is clear-headed during missions/crisis situations and never loses sight of the fact that keeping the intersect safe is, and always will be, the priority for all their missions. 6, for all her similarities to Casey, was flawed from a mission standpoint. She was combative and hard-headed with her fellow agents. I think Casey saw that he was more likely to die (or worse, fail his mission) with her than with Sarah, which is why I loved it when he matter-of-factly told Alex that Sarah was the best agent he'd ever worked with.

I can't wait for next week.

jcpdiesel21 said...

Chaddogg: I agree with your points that you brought up with the way that some of the plots on this show are resolved way too quickly. I think that may be a Josh Schwartz issue. He burned through a ton of storylines at a breakneck pace in season 1 alone of The OC. You are right that some of these plots can be stretched out and can be just as satisfying.

Anonymous said...

@Alan - ah, thanks! I did miss the first few minutes of the episode, because of poor time management skilz. I'll catch the first few minutes online, thanks for clearing that up!

Joyeful said...

Quote: Was anyone else waiting for Scott Bakula to answer the door, open it slowly, see Sarah, look around and see Chuck, Chuck says "Dad!" And Scott says "oh boy" and have the series fade to black in an homage to Quantum Leap?

YES!! I'm looking forward to the Quantum Leap references. Ten bucks says there'll be a Ziggy reference somewhere...
When Chuck was standing outside the trailer, you can actually kinda see a resemblance between him and Scott Bakula. I'm excited.

As for the racing plot...I both love and hate that about Chuck. I like the fact that they're not dragging out plot lines so much that you get sick of them, they keep the story moving. However, there are some stories (like those mentioned by Chaddogg) that could be allowed some more time for exploration.

SC Sousa said...

C'mon's just a TV show!

All of the beefs I've heard from Alan's recap, and from various comments, are baseless. We're knocking a fictional show for its lack of realism? At what point does it become believable?

We're criticizing stuff like Chuck's tv direct line to General Beckman, from an episode of a show where Chuck averted World War 3 because he beat Missile Command according to the notes of Rush's "Tom Sawyer"?

I think we expect too much from a show that already knows what it is. Could they have fleshed out an awesome 2-3 episode arc with Helfer? Sure. Is Tony Hale's role really necessary? Maybe not. But to say the episode's lacking in quality for reasons that don't apply to the show (airtight plot, believability, etc.)'s frankly stupid.

I appreciate Chuck for the absurd moments, like when Chuck is daydreaming about Sarah walking into the Buy More, and picturing her in attractive ways...including joyfully doing cartwheels...most of you appreciate moments like that, too. Let's acept the show for what it is, instead of saying it's not real or plausible enough. Even if it's exactly what we want, that's still not "real"'s our perception of what we THINK is real when we watch TV/movies.

One last thing: yes, it was a bit weird for a cliffhanger ending to be followed up by "Scott Bakula! Chevy Chase!" and so on. But remember: this is a show trying to stay alive. NBC is pushing it any way they can, and even if they tip their hat a bit, it still brings in potential fans.

The bottom line is this: we are too concerned about being personally entertained and fully satisfied, and so we expect more from Chuck than we should. Last night's episode was easily one of the series' best, despite Alan's nitpicking.

Chris said...

I was actually happy that they did add in the part of Chuck's spy life potential messing with his sister's marraige. Although I get Alan's point that it seems reasonable that Chuck could have come up with an excuse, it was nice to finally have some angst in Chuck's personal life (outside of his relationship with Sarah) caused by espionage to carry over into additional episodes. Previous problems like him missing "Mother's Day", Ellie and Awesome thinking Chuck was on drugs, or his humiliation of Morgan were solved within the same episode that they arose in. I don't really care about the huge plot holes in the spy plots but it does bother me that he doesn't pay a big enough price for "saving the world." His friends and family should be worried about him and they shouldn't see Sarah as such a great influence in his life. If anything, it would lend a bit more urgency and a more selfless reason for to want him to get the intersect out of his head.

I must confess through that all this may be due to my great affection for Buffy.

Anonymous said...

SC Sousa:

"C'mon's just a TV show!"

I agree with everything SC Sousa wrote. Granted, there is some fun to be had in rehashing an ep by pointing out plot holes, but let's not suck all the fun out of Chuck by nit-picking it to death. (What show CAN'T you do that to?) Let's just enjoy it!

The Rotisseur (John N) said...

Just a couple thoughts on pop culture references. Alexandra Forrest's first certificate (in Chuck's flash on her) was issued on the sixth day of 2006, authorized on 16th of January in 1969. Her Canadian passport has six zeros after the first two numbers add up to six. The Weapon's Certification File ID adds up to 46 - ending in six. The target that is shot has holes between 5 and 7. (albeit eight of them, in the seven ring). After Beckman tells Chuck about the 49-B, she signs off at 2:22, or a total of six.

I'm sure lots of number tricks could come up with other sixes, which doesn't necessarily prove the writers intentions. But, I like to think they were giving a nod to Tricia Helfer's Number Six with at least one of those.

Also, I'm loving the rotating programming book on the shelf behind Chuck's bed. Last week was Perl, and this week is XSLT. I didn't notice them in past episodes, but I'm watching for them now.

filmcricket said...

I think that may be a Josh Schwartz issue. He burned through a ton of storylines at a breakneck pace in season 1 alone of The OC.

Yep, and that was a big concern for me last season, too. I know it's a show on a bubble, but if it does get renewed (*fingers crossed*) I'd like them not to have gone through every possible storyline by December 2009.

The Rotisseur (John N) said...

Another thought. I wonder if Casey's turn at the end came from him realizing how emotions/attraction on the job can be a real thing to contend with. He and Alex basically missed Chuck being kidnapped because they were making eyes at each other (can we guess even more?) while cleaning their guns.

I think that was a critical moment for Casey in understanding how good Sarah is to continue her job on top of distracting feelings and it led to him siding with her and Chuck at the end.

Anonymous said...

I don't usually worry about details in my shows (I just want to be entertained), but this one didn't make sense to me.

They knocked out Awesome so they could steal the key card so Casey could put the bug on.

We later see Devin waking up, sans key card, presumably the next morning.

So how/when did the bad guy's heart surgery actually get done?! And by whom?

Steve B said...


That's a good question...

Anonymous said...

Isn't Chuck's father's name Steven Bartowski, same as the quarterback for the Falcons in the 70's and 80's?

dez said...

They only borrowed Awesome's keycard to get access to the pacemaker so they could plant the bug. I don't think Awesome was scheduled to perform that surgery.

Also, thanks to both Dan and LoopyChew! :-) I have to work "Ooh, astronomy snap!" into my conversations, preferably if I'm at an observatory.

OldDarth said...

Good episode but a step down from the previous two installments - Predator remains the high point of the season so far.

Great character moments for TeamB especially Sarah and Casey. Sarah's plea to Forrest to take care of Chuck was her most vulnerable moment. Loved that everything she did after being terminated as Chuck's handler was motivated by her feelings for him. Sarah still largely expresses her feelings through acts carried out in the professional realm. Her support moment with Chuck at the end was an important step in her emotional opening up.

Casey was probably the best of TeamB - the way he stood up for Chuck and Sarah was awesome.

As for the episode itself, the mission was frivolous and lacked import without any tie ins to Fulcrum and/or the Orion/Intersect arc. Overall the suspension of disbelief factor on this episode really pushed the limit, even for Chuck, with logic lapses and story contrivances. This is the area which brings the episode down from the level of the previous two the most for me.

Agree that Beckman's capitulation at the end was too convenient a story contrivance.

The vault scene was hilarious.

Baylink said...

I decline ever to comment on a Blogger-powered site again, after it just ate my 5 minute composition because I decided to change authentication methods.

Blogger sucks.

Please change.

Anonymous said...

They only borrowed Awesome's keycard to get access to the pacemaker so they could plant the bug. I don't think Awesome was scheduled to perform that surgery.

Except bad!doctor thought Awesome performed the surgery, which is why he went after him at Chuck's house.

@baylink: I always select-all/copy my comments to prevent just that situation.

Stef said...

I've been curious for a while now... how does all the Bakula talk not count as spoilers? I haven't seen or read anything about him on other sites, so the only reason i know he's going to be on the show is the frequent references here, going back a few months. Alan, what's the difference with his casting versus other shows?

Unknown said...

I'm with Stef... I had no clue that Scott Bakula would be on board as Chuck's father, but after reading the posts for the latest "Chuck", well... there goes that surprise!

It isn't that big of a deal. It won't diminish the awesomeness that will be next week's episode. But Sam Beckett's appearance will no longer be as shocking as it could have been.

Ron said...

Not to change the subject, but ... is anyone else irritated by the fact that everyone uses the term Afghani when they're actually referring to Afghans? Afghans refer to the people; afghanis are the currency.

Rage Sage said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rage Sage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Sepinwall said...

No talking, or even hinting, about the previews, what you read online, or anything else. I made an exception on the Bakula casting, since casting is a fuzzy issue and the creative team wanted people to know about it. But we're done with spoilers now.

Zach said...

Im sorry.. no love for Devon's "Thats the taste of a healthy colon, babe"??

Most Awesome comment of the day.

Scott said...

I believe there was another Spies Like Us reference in the name of the bug they installed in the pacemaker. If I recall correctly, they called it the "GLG40". This is very similar to the "GLG20" rank in Spies Like Us that corresponded to Foreign Service Operations.

Unknown said...

While I liked the episode, even one that was pretty weak, it obviously was a filler episode to lead into the season finales.

I feel the writers missed a huge, Huge, HUGE opportunity with Helfer's character and the overall plot of this episode. This should have a multi-episode arc where Sarah is replaced, but over the course of several episodes the following points would be addressed:

- Sarah gets stuck doing meaningless assignments and realizes she misses being Chuck's handler.

- Helfer attempts to become Chuck's new girlfriend, but in the process, Chuck's family become to hate her.

- Helfer fake relationship with Chuck causes jealousy with Casey and his attraction to her. (There could have been so much fun with this!)

- Chuck is put into situations that are resolved much more dangerously than need be.

While these points are similar to what this episode was trying to accomplish, I think it would have been much more believable and would provide enough reasons for all of the characters to understand the need to keep the Chuck-Sarah-Casey team in place.

WWWeaves said...

I enjoyed this episode but agree with the folks who thought a longer arc wouldhave been more satisfying. Helfer is so good, and this could have been richer. I'm all for her being fulcrum down the road. Renew Chuck!

cgeye said...

Um, did no one notice that our Chuck brought down Spyworld's version of Osama bin Laden? It's that big of a coup. Who gets credit, and who doesn't? The fact Forrest still does is a crock.

The spy both Forrest and Casey ached to capture, the hard way, through electronic surveillance so ill-thought that the terrorist doctor on call had a handy device to check the implant? Which makes one wonder why he didn't do that on the operating table, since he probably insisted on attending any procedure at which his charge's life could be endangered?

That Forrest's ill-considered plan would have killed the Intersect's family, or at least his brother-in-law, since in her opinion everything went according to plan? If she blew the safe as she insisted, they would have lost their Osama's location, or at least the chance to verify the information before killing both the patient and his doctor. Does she get a medal for that?

That she doesn't even get reprimanded for using a stooge close to the Intersect, endangering Chuck's life not just through the neglect of not completely monitoring him but also through actively putting him and his family in danger, must mean one thing: The NSA hates Chuck, and has a parallel impulse to that of using his data -- which, remember, they still have, albeit in disparate database locations (how else can they reconstruct the computer Intersect without pulling data out of his mind, first?) -- letting him die by accident, or at least go into coma, so they can hospitalize him and study his brainwaves then slice his brain into little-bitty bits, so his talent can be replicated without Orion or Busgang or any other pesky Intersect project manager.

Sure, Alex could be Fulcrum, but the General turning a blind eye to the things she could have done to improve her own mission's success through improvisation rewards the rigid system that Chuck, and CHUCK, criticizes in the first place. Remember that the General's losing the war because she assumes Fulcrum plays fair, or they're as creative as she is. The General needs Team B's unconventionality as much as she needs Chuck.

(And if I can get a watch that triples as a heart monitor and a stopwatch, can't the government make one that sets off the alarm once it stops sensing skin contact? Sheesh.)

Anonymous said...

This comment is a day late and a dollar short and i'm sure you probably know this by now, but general Beckman changed her mind on Sarah for more than just the safe cracking. what proved that Sarah's feelings were valuable was when she found chucks phone. Anyone else would think nothing of it but since she loves him she worried that there was a reason he left it behind. And in the castle she insisted on checking the courtyard and looking for chuck. So no, it wasn't just her safe cracking that saved his life, it was her insistence on finding him. But this its 2012 ok sure you don't even remember saying that