Chuck: Chuck versus the Beefcake

“Come with me if you want to live.”

Or, as Andre 3000 has it: when arrows don’t penetrate, Cupid packs a pistol.

This episode had all the same component parts of the average Chuck episode, but this time the spy stuff, the love stuff, and the BuyMore stuff all gelled nicely into coherent goodness, like a Jell-O mold with a great soundtrack.

All my previous angst about the quickie resolve of Chuck’s dismay over Sarah’s use of lethal force now feels silly: the situation wasn’t wrapped up too neatly; Chuck just loves Sarah and will forgive her for anything. What he doesn’t see, of course, is how frequently she’s forced to do the dance of morally gray to save him—that he’s the priority, not the mission.

Sarah, however, has some inner conflict of her own: now it’s not Love versus Spycraft, but Love versus the Raw Animalistic Brit, who looks sexy while bleeding, easily withstands torture, and utters hackneyed lines from Terminator movies with sincerity and not a little double entendre. And mad props to Yvonne Strahovski for not overplaying the lust; she managed to be obvious but not comic. Come to think of it, while we usually get a fair amount of dialogue helping us understand Chuck’s inner turmoil, Sarah’s is typically all in her facial reactions.

Is this a love quadrangle? Sarah, Chuck, the Fate of the Nation, and now Burbank’s answer to James Bond? Even Chuck doesn’t quite know what he wants... or rather, he knows what he wants, is sure he can’t get it, and so is willing to do what seems like the emotionally healthy thing (disengage from a dead-end relationship) even though we know that the great god of Eros is surely plotting an eventual happy ending. O, dramatic irony, how bitter are thy pills!

For all my bluster about mythology on other shows, it’s these little arcs that really make Chuck worth watching: not the strange guest-star exes, but the emotional back-and-forth and constant tension that evident are even in the titles of all the episodes. The family and friends side of things provided some comic relief, but also helped play up Chuck’s dismay both at having to resume his cover relationship and at having to hide it from Ellie, Awesome, and poor naked Morgan.

Even the spy stuff felt very real, or at least like it had real consequences. The ambush car crash was very Alias, and the beautiful Fulcum agent’s decision to kill herself was darker than this show usually is.

Random Bits of Neatness:

• Adam Baldwin’s cynical comments were almost gumshoe/noir—he even called Sarah a “good girl.” He’d make a great Phillip Marlowe.

• Sarah cutting the banana in the Orange Orange. There’s nothing wrong with a little phallic symbolism to scare our hero.

• Jeff’s Fatal Attraction bit. Shudder. And I say again: Shudder.

• I’m often amazed by the soundtrack of this show; the song playing in the Standard’s bar was pretty darn cool. If only I had one of the iPhones that could tell me what it was…

And speaking of the Standard (a too-cool-for-you ritzy hotspot hotel in West Hollywood), did some of those lines, particularly the one about the Jacuzzi tub, feel like an advertisement?

I’m really excited to watch next week’s episode—I hope the MI-6 agent doesn’t turn out to be inherently evil or something, because romantic tension is a good thing.

Four out of four quadrangles (you thought I’d go for James Bond in the rating, didn’t you?).

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

5 comments:

Josie K said...

Hello there, Gentle Readers.

Sorry about the extraordinarily long delay in posting. I was abducted by an evil spy agency bent on world domination and the elimination of kittens.

Don't worry--after many days of diligent car chases, sexy outfits, and tiny technological devices, the kittens are safe.

For now.

Paul Kelly said...

Whew!!! I feel better now. Glad both yourself and the kittens are safe. I did have some questions with regards the "sexy outfits", but fear they would have been deemed inappropriate.....so I didn't bother ;-)

Billie Doux said...

I loved this one, too. Except for the casting couch, which just made me shudder and throw up a little in my mouth.

Dave said...

I didn't catch the jacuzzi reference. Maybe I was just too busy enjoying this sweet chicken teriyaki $5 foot-long from SubWay while driving my Toyota Yaris to notice?

Ah well, really great review and I'm glad that you've been going back to review some of the older episodes. As someone who has just recently discovered the show (yay DVDs!), I appreciate the extra effort.

ChrisB said...

The BuyMore plots continue to escape me. They are rarely funny anymore and they rarely tie into the main story. This episode's with the casting couch was particularly painful. Anna seems to have disappeared with no real damage done. Perhaps its time for Jeff and Lester to do the same?

On a similar note, as much as I love the Sarah/Chuck dance, it's beginning to feel a bit forced. As soon as Chuck told her that they should break up, I knew they would be back together within an episode or two. I think they should either (a) break up for a while or (b) come together for real. Or, maybe I'm just impatient...