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Chuck: Chuck versus Operation Awesome

“What’s it like being a world-class spy?”

Chuck doesn’t usually have a Theme of the Week. But—wow!—this week’s episode was all about duality and foils: the people who bring out own skills and foibles into sharp relief just by being so very different from us. Usually, Awesome is Chuck’s foil because Awesome is suave, financially solvent, together, and the kind of guy you want to bring home to mom. But this week…

Turns out, Awesome is a terrible liar, uncomfortable with violence, overwhelmed by husbandly duty, and not so great under non-cardiac-surgeon pressure. He’s also incredibly trusting: the only reason I would put my life in Chuck’s hands is the knowledge that this show rarely kills bloggers. Basically, Awesome is Chuck, back when he was “scared and new to this.”

Chuck was unwilling, to say the least, to let his brother-in-law in on the spy games: his protectiveness might be the biggest clue we get this week to what’s really going on in Chuck’s head, which is something I’ve been rather shaky on since this season began. He seems to know the risks of spying, and he doesn’t want Devon to lose what really matters in life: family, truthfulness, Ellie.

On the other end of the spectrum, Shaw is no-nonsense, hardcore, and hates vulnerability. He’s willing to shoot himself in the chest to get the job done, and he’s definitely a fan of both tough love and the sink-or-swim pedagogical method. But he knows what he’s missing, too: he was sad about something related to the wedding/engagement ring when he watched Chuck’s family on the cctv. I kept expecting a reveal that he was in love with Angie Harmon, but that didn’t happen.

Meanwhile, the first rule of the BuyMore is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. Instead, you hit people, electrify fences, and wear dated sunglasses. Fight Club (the movie: I haven’t read the book because I don’t want to financially support the brand of angry young manhood that Chuck Palahniuk peddles, although I think the movie is darn cool) is all about the duality within us all that must resolve, violently, into a happy synthesis for us to become actualized revolutionaries. Or something. Anyway: at the BuyMore the staff feels alive for the first time since their bar mitzvahs, and they get their jollies calling Morgan Ass-Man.

Through all of this, Morgan is forced to resolve the complex Hegelian dialectic interplay between his former self and his future, assistant manager self. In other words, he must go from just being a guy to becoming The Man. In a vest.

The score this week was really strange. Parts of it sounded like the great Muse song “Knights of Cydonia,” other parts (especially with Angie Harmon in the BuyMore) sounded like the Terminator theme, and the scene in the CIA penthouse office sounded a bit like the Usual Suspects score, which might have been a Bryan Singer homage.


• The exploding earpiece was hilarious. Well, how it got into Awesome's ear was hilarious.

• So were the labeled watches.

• Chuck uses tranq guns, just like Alias did for the first couple of seasons.

• Brandon Routh was Superman in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.

• The BuyMore cagefight scene made me miss Anna for the first time this season. She could have mopped the floor with those mooks.

• I enjoy girl-on-girl fights. Is that a strange thing for a straight woman to say?

• We’re supposed to cheer for Morgan becoming a manager who toys with his employees’ futures to get them to conform. I’m on his side in this one, because the electrified fence thing must have really scared that teenager, but it’s our politically-objectionable, let’s-maintain-the-status-quo moment of the week. After Gustavo’s comment last week, and an in-depth conversation with my little brother about how television determines what is considered 'normal' and what isn't, to the detriment of those of us who fly our freak flags with pride, I’m considering adding a “Yikes!” section to the rest of my Chuck review. We’ll see how next week goes.

…and Pieces:

Julius: “Okay, pal. Take it easy. I’m building security; my name’s Julius. What’s the problem?”
Awesome: “I’m involved in something really messed up. I’ve been lying to my wife, lying to everybody. I can’t take it anymore.”
Julius: “Because of this Chuck guy?”
Awesome: “Yes, Chuck.”
Julius: “I think I understand. Look, pal, if you really love this Chuck, you have to tell your wife. You can’t live a lie. Trust me, I’ve been there.”

Awesome: “Chuck, you killed Julius!”

Chuck: “Bad guys don’t count carbs, buddy.”

Casey: “This guy? I’ve got back issues of Guns and Ammo older than he is.”

Chuck: “You know, sometimes what I like to do is open up a problem, really examine it, find its weak points, and then not be afraid to just attack it head on.” This line scores a zero on the sense-o-meter. I love it.

Angie Harmon: “Spies don’t say please.” I like Angie Harmon.

A lot of character development and symbolism in this episode. It felt a little rushed, but was enjoyable. I’m glad Awesome isn’t dead.

Three out of four labeled watches.

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


  1. I can't believe you didn't mention the bear decapitation scene with Awesome, Ellie and Chuck... I was laughing so hard, my sides were hurting. It was hysterical!

  2. I know, I know. But my review was starting to get looong!

  3. I LOVED when Awesome said he decapitated the bear! Hilarious!

    You know, it is interesting that this episode had some plot holes you could drive a truck through and required some serious "willing suspension of disbelief" but that doesn't seem to have affected my enjoyment of it in the slightest.

    OK, I *was* having a bit of trouble believing Angie Harmon would release Awesome back into the wild so easily and then monitor him so loosely. If she's such a good spy and recruiter, you'd think she could easily detect Team Chuck's involvement in Awesome's adventures. Seems pretty sloppy to me. She should have ended up dead a long time ago.

    But still, I did really enjoy this episode and I got all gooey over the big mushy gathering of Chuck's extended family at the end. Maybe I was just so happy and relieved that Awesome was alive and surviving to be awesome another day that I was blinded to the story faults.

    Question: did they drop the "Ellie might be pregnant" plot thread that they hinted at last week? We never found out what she wanted to tell Awesome the night he went missing. Maybe they eluded to it when Awesome said he'd had enough surprises for one day as they arrived at dinner. Or maybe my imagination is just running wild.

    P.S. Josie, I also enjoy the girl-on-girl fights, so perhaps it is not that strange for a straight woman to say. I don't really like hair-pulling cat fights, but I do enjoy a good Alias-style ass-kicking fight. Go Sarah and her fists!

  4. One of the reasons I'm enjoying this show so much is that they know their audience: movie and television references everywhere, and usually of the geek-love variety. I also have to say thank you for giving me (1) Scott Bakula, (2) Bruce Boxleitner, and now (3) Brandon Routh, who was just terrific as Superman. If I can't have him on the big screen (and clearly, that's not happening) then I hope they give him a huge, honking arc here on Chuck.

    I'm caught up! Not as impressive as Josie catching up with Supernatural, but still -- it'll be fun to read your reviews live this season, Josie.

  5. I don't know how I feel about Brandon Routh. When I first saw his back, I thought - Bryce Larkin! Shaw seems like a bland pretty boy so far.

    Interesting trivia (which might make my Bryce reaction somewhat intentional on the writers part): Matthew Bomer (Bryce) was originally going to play Superman on the big screen, but then the original director dropped out and Bryan Singer took over and cast Brandon.

  6. I know Superman Returns wasn't considered a success, but I thought Brandon Routh gave us a wonderful performance and I really wanted him in a sequel (here's my review of the movie, with minimal spoilers). I don't know why, when I'm not much of a comic book person, but I've always liked the character of Superman. Maybe that's why I'm still hanging on to Smallville.

  7. Josie, I'm a straight man and I enjoy guy-on-guy, girl-on-girl, and girl-on-guy fights all the same, as long as they're well done. And the fights in which Sarah participates are usually pretty well done, so I enjoy them. It's a pity Casey doesn't fight more than he already does, but I wouldn't trade his gun-friendliness for fights.

    Why don't they stock Chuck full of tranquilizers? He hates guns, I get it, but he has put goons to sleep before. And while we're at it, bullet wounds are not necessarily fatal. When he flashes, can't he just cripple the other spy forever and not kill them. Shoot them in the kneecap!!

    Billie, I agree with you. I loved Superman Returns and Brandon Routh is probably the best Superman we could have nowadays. I think he could be a good (temporary) addition to the cast because he won't force Chuck into controlling himself, like Casey, and won't be too close to him, like Sarah. He could be the man who teaches Chuck to control his emotions, and as a result, the intersect, and make him a better spy. And I hope that's the case, because, frankly, I don't like desperate Chuck; I like much better when he decides to act, even if the consequences are dire. The spy Awesome thinks he is is too cool not to miss.

    And I'm also glad Awesome is alive and well. I can inly hope my daughter (if I have one some day) introduces a guy like that to me.


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