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Chuck: Chuck versus First Class

“I think we can all agree this team has been dysfunctional for the past two years.”

Shaw feels like a real spy. None of that namby-pamby feel-good silliness: he’s cold, he’s forthright, and he’s concerned with information—knowing who knows what, and how to get more. Shaw makes this show feel like it has stakes: not just dead-wife stakes, but actual spy-stakes.

Chuck is starting to feel like more of a real spy, too. On his first solo mission he was confronted with his first non-Sarah spy-problem: he had to sacrifice a romantic night in Paris with a beautiful woman because the job demanded that he return to Burbank. Sure, it’s the same ol’ problem of spy life vs. real life, but this felt different. Unless, of course, Hannah turns out to be a secret evil operative like Jill.

Steve Austin didn’t feel much like a real spy. He felt like stone-cold stunt casting. But it was funny. The plane-plot was a nice change of scenery, too: tiny, but not so tiny, and a good excuse to force Chuck to complete his mission without on-site assistance. And it was cute to see Chuck excited about the Eiffel Tower, and first class, and meeting a pretty girl.

Back at the BuyMore, Morgan does still need on-site assistance, and Casey went all Angel of Death on the Fight Club gang. Hence the development of the promised “Yikes” section. It’s odd that the BuyMore scenes felt scarier than the plane scenes—as I’ve said before, the spy-stakes never feel too high (although Brandon Routh is helping with that), perhaps because nothing bad ever happens: no civilians get killed, only empty buildings in Barstow are ever destroyed, etc. It’s just pretty spies versus pretty spies, in a quest for better technology. But in the BuyMore, spy tactics are applied to minimum-wage schmucks who are trying desperately to give meaning to their lives, and it feels a bit like petty tyranny. Funny petty tyranny, but still.

Is it just me, or is Chuck darker this season?

Bytes:

• Chuck: “I’m never going to be able to escape this ridiculous cover…” Is that his goal? But he keeps choosing to be the Intersect. I remain confused about his motivations.

• Casey: “You give me five minutes running this place and we’d be ready.”
Morgan: “Ready for what?”
Chuck: “The Russians.”

• Chuck: “I’m in retail. Of very high-end merchandise. At a very prestigious store.” [Cut to Morgan in the stuffed-animal claw machine.]

• Casey: “Insurgents. I hate insurgents.”

• Chuck: “I’m alive, and I have the key. But unfortunately I did not get to use my nunchucks.”

• Casey: “Bored now.” Great Buffy shout-out.

…And Pieces:

• Chuck ordered his martini shaken instead of stirred.

• Hugo Panzer is a master at close-quarters combat? Do you get some sort of merit badge for that in spy scouts?

• The volleyball incident at the last employee picnic? I want to see that.

• Shaw’s mission control was called “Crystal Palace,” which might be an allusion to the building of the same name that is prominently featured in Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is To Be Done?, a political allegory of nineteenth-century utopias.

• No Ellie or Awesome this week, which I’m pretty sure is a cost-cutting measure.

Yikes:

• I know Jeff is a pathetic loser, but as a former customer-service serf, I’m against assistant managers stealing cups of coffee. Oh, well. Claw-machine karma.

• Chloroform? Abduction? Brainwashing? Plausible deniability? To keep things in line at the BuyMore?

Three out of four roomy reclining seats with complimentary champagne and lobster.

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

10 comments:

  1. I think the Crystal Palace thing was a reference to the 80s film WarGames...it is Chuck after all.

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  2. Matthew, that makes so much more sense than my theory. (And I guess I've inadvertently revealed that I've never seen War Games!)

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  3. Great review, Josie. I agree that the Buy More stuff feels different and a bit heavier this season, sort of like Chuck himself -- whose character has definitely evolved and matured.

    Since I know that you've never watched Smallville, you probably don't know that Hannah is played by Kristin Kreuk, whom I absolutely couldn't stand as Lana Lang for seven excruciatingly endless seasons. I'm sort of hoping she dies in the next episode. Kristin Kreuk is probably a perfectly nice person; I sort of feel bad for despising her so much.

    And how about the geek synchronicity of Superman *and* Lana Lang in the same episode? :)

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  4. Loved Casey going Manchurian Candidate on Lester. Absolutely brilliant! They should bring him into the BuyMore plots more often.

    Shame Chuck didn’t get to use his nunchucks. Would’ve liked to have seen that.

    All the talk of Crystal Palace was just amusing from my British perspective. Part of me really wants it to be a reference to Shaw’s favourite footie team and not WarGames. Black Brier, though, kept bugging me, I couldn’t place where I’d heard it before. Took a futile Google search before I realised it’s from The Bourne Ultimatum.

    And for once I didn’t find Kristin Kreuk to be kick-the-telly annoying. Maybe it’s because she wasn’t moping every five minutes about Clark.

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  5. Now that's what I'm talking about!

    I just loved the episodes. Chuck has always been a series about going into adulthood, and I think that with this episode the scale has become lighter on the childhood plate. And not only for Chuck.

    Morgan has accepted his responsibilities and in the last 2 episodes has been taking steps to impose his authority. He also showed humility by asking Casey for help. He's not the know-it-all anymore. And I don't think he was wrong in taking that cup of coffee; he said he hadn't had coffee at work for days because the employees tampered with it all the time. And Lester got what he deserved. Morgan is a much more agreeable boss than all the ones they had before, but Lester behaves like a petulant child (see the theme child X adult again?) I don't know why exactly Morgan hasn't fired him for good. Begging for your job back, like he did last week, is nothing if you don't keep your good behavior. And Casey putting out the cigar in his own hand was priceless. Cliché as hell, but priceless.

    On the Chuck front, I've just realized that the plot has Oedipian shades all over. In order to become an adult, Chuck has to overcome his relationship of love and dependency with his overprotective mother (Sarah) and face his threatening father (Casey). As I said as t week, Shaw is here to make Chuck grow faster. And it worked; Chuck could even flash under pressure. He had to get help from papa, ahem, Casey, only to have a plan, because he's not experienced enough.

    Since he's not living with his sister anymore, it's become easier to be a spy. The theme of spy live x real life could be reinforced if chuck had a new person in his life to whom he'd have to lie. Since the romance with Sarah is stale for now, and they can't tease us with these two forever, I think they're trying to ease us into the idea of Chuck having a non-Sarah girlfriend by putting Kristin Kreuk's character in the show. Chuck's 2 girlfriends (Sarah and Jill) were in the business. Hannah isn't (at least, LORD!, I hope she isn't. Every new character being a spy has become a cliché in this show! There *are* civilians out there, you know?).

    Anyway, if they're giving Chuck a girlfriend, I'd prefer having Rachel Bilson again. I don't think I could stand any more of Kristin Kreuk having a boyfriend who has secret superpowers and a double life, but she doesn't know it. Plus, Bilson is cuter.

    Billie, the synchronicity is even deeper: Adam Baldwin was the voice of Superman in the cartoon!

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  6. And the utterly adorable Rachel Bilson rather notoriously dressed up as Wonder Woman is an episode of The OC (which was a pretty good show). That's what I call synergy!

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  7. When did Casey say "Bored Now"?
    I missed that.

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  8. Hi Daniel,

    I don't remember exactly when, but it was in the Castle.

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  9. Casey said bored now at the Nerd Herd desk in the Buy More at the end of the episode as Morgan was asking Chuck why he looked so glum.

    The Buy More stuff is definitely darker this year if for no other reason than the fact that Emmit was killed there by a bad guy (which I believe is the first civilian death at the Buy More.)

    Finally, while Morgan is the nicest assistant manager that they've had, maybe Emmit and the first assistant from season one (who's name escapes me) started out as nice guys and were slowly turned into evil asst mans by Morgan, Lester, and company... Yeah, it's doubtful, but possible.

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  10. Thanks to JosieK and Dustin

    (better late than never :D )

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