Chuck: Chuck versus the Anniversary

“I can’t believe how fast they rebuilt it.”

Let’s talk about sexting. Well, let’s start by talking about sexting, and then work our way backwards and forwards. By the end, we’ll all have learned something important about ourselves, and (hopefully) I will have figured out what I think of this episode.

The sexting joke was silly the first time Morgan brought it up. Yes, some people text their phone sex, instead of doing it the old-fashioned way with tin cans and string. (Kids these days.) It was sillier the second time, when Chuck and Sarah talked about it awkwardly. And it hit the rock bottom of the silly-canyon when Sarah started taking mock-sexy pictures of herself on the airplane. But once she and Casey were tied to the chair, and the sexting joke came up again, Casey’s punchline suddenly made it all funny: “What? What does that even mean?”

That’s a lot of build-up for very little payoff. I wonder if this episode originally came in at just 30 minutes, and the writers decided they needed to extend a few scenes: the sexting, the scene where Chuck decided to decrypt then download (instead of the other way around), the repo man gag. All played a bit too long for me. On the other hand, the quick recap of Chuck’s interviews was hilarious and perfectly timed.

But that’s not why we’re here. Why are we here? Linda Hamilton! The internet rumor made flesh! Chuck’s search for his mother is the new governing principle of Chuck’s return to the spy games (and lying to Ellie again). He and Morgan spent $43,000 on a worldwide globetrot only to wind up in an empty room in LA, unemployed, car-less, and only one takeout menu closer to the truth.

Lucky for them, the CIA has repurposed the BuyMore. I’m not sure how I feel about this—it comes back to the issue of build-up vs. payoff. I really thought the BuyMore was finally over at the end of Season Three. I really thought Chuck lying to Ellie would stop being a thing. But now we’ve re-set: Chuck works at the BuyMore as a cover for being a special agent, and he’s lying to Ellie about his true employment. Ahem. Again.

Some changes have stayed the same, though. Chuck and Sarah are still going strong (although their timeline seems a bit confused); Casey is still a grump with a heart of gold; Morgan is still hilarious, and still a spy-sidekick. A spykick. And some things are really new changes: Ellie is (finally!) pregnant, and Chuck seems a bit more bittersweet than usual. The loss of Scott Bakula is not to be forgotten, and Chuck’s search for his mom is going to be emotionally fraught for both him and Ellie when she eventually finds out. Oh, and the BuyMore has a slide! I hope we see more of the slide.

And more Linda Hamilton, of course. She’s a kick-ass feminist icon of my misspent youth, and I’m getting a real Irina Derevko vibe so far. I wonder if Chuck has some wacky aunts, too?

Bytes:

• Chuck: “This is not the opening of a TV show. This is real life.”

• Morgan: “Me and you. Real spies… Sunblock! We need sunblock!”

• Sarah: “By the way, good idea to bring the chutes.”
Casey: “Thank you.”

• Morgan: “Sexting. It’s short for sex-writing.”

• Chuck: “I’m 100% snatchable.”

• Chuck: “We’re going to Russia.”
Morgan: “Okay. I’m going to have to sell my Millennium Falcon.”

• Chuck: “The plan was for me to be Carmichael, and you to be Sven, my mute assistant.”

And Pieces:

• I loved the low-budget old-fashioned map montage.

• Harry Dean Stanton! Dolph Lundgren!

• The soundtrack was great, as always. It was nice not to hear the Ring theme, either.

• The shootout in Moscow was beautifully shot.

When push comes to shove, this is still a great show. So they haven’t completely re-invented themselves. Is that necessarily a bad thing?

Three out of four Sarah Connors.

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

7 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Your review is right on the money, Josie. This wasn't as wonderful as it could have been. But they did find a way to keep the Buy More in the story, and I didn't think that was possible. And Linda Hamilton! Love Linda Hamilton.

Gustavo Brunetti said...

I loved the ep because I missed the series very, very much. But they did something I hate when series do: a reset after a series-changing event. That's why I stopped watching Glee after they came back from the hiatus. I hate it. Hate it.

The sexting part was silly, but I thought it was funny. And any excuse for Sarah being intentionally sexy is good for me.

I'd like some more, please

Dimitri A.C. Ly said...

I actually liked this one quite a bit, though I agree the sexting joke was off. I think it's because the episode was so far into "Get Smart" territory that they felt the need to bring some "everyday life" element into it. That is the Chuck formula, you know.

I'm not sure I would view the Buy More destruction in season 3 as build-up. Every Chuck season finale is meant to work as a possible end to the story, which would make the event very much a payoff. As such, you'll notice every Chuck season premiere sort of scrambles to get the threads going again.

By the same token, I don't view the new Buy More as a reset, since this is a very different setting, completely divorced from the "real world" that the Buy More used to represent. It just carries the same name and some of the aesthetics.

Which leads to why I liked this premiere more than previous: this time around, the writers spent less time resetting continuity and more time establishing the new tone. That's where all the digressions with the repo man come in. The new Chuck universe is more of the "Top Secret" variety, and I think they wanted to establish that early on.

Oh, and Chuck lying to Ellie again (typical Chuck premiere scrambling around) is a total guy thing. I would have lied too. Pregnant woman I love tells me she's the happiest she's been, I'm not going to tell her the one thing that could upset her for fear that her disappointment will create a time-space vortex that'll engulf both her and the unborn child. The whole birthing process is a bit of a mystery to us.

Finally, I just want to give a shoutout to Dolph Lungren repeating his classic line from Rocky IV: "I will break you."

So delightfully gratuitous.

Mark Greig said...

The sexting joke got tiresome real quick (ditto Harry Dean Stanton as the Repo Man) but seeing Sarah Connor kick the crap out of Ivan Drago was alone worth the price of admission.

Jess Lynde said...

I really enjoyed the premiere. Mostly because it had a fun tone and made me laugh several times. Harry Dean Stanton as the repo man had me in stitches, especially when he came after them in the junk yard with the big gun. Overall, it was just so fun to have the show back.

I did dislike the sexting joke until it led to the Morgan confusion when Sarah was trying to get help. For some reason, her frustration made me laugh.

I was surprised by how impressed I was with Linda Hamilton as Mama B. I thought it was terrible casting when I first heard about it (I was hoping for Lynda Carter), but I was surprised by how much she actually looked like she could be Chuck and Ellie's mom. Kudos to hair and makeup. And nice closing head shot.

Yea for Ellie (finally!) being pregnant! :) Boo for Chuck being back to lying to her again. Although I agree with Dimitri that I can see why he couldn't want to tell her at that moment. You don't rain on a newly pregnant woman's parade with a massive stress inducer.

Tom L said...

"Which leads to why I liked this premiere more than previous: this time around, the writers spent less time resetting continuity and more time establishing the new tone."

Exactly. I really enjoyed this episode.

Josie, you forgot to mention Bonita Friedericy is now a series regular (yay!).

"Beckman just offered me a position, and I turned her down."
"How did she react?"
Button.
Loved it.

Josie Kafka said...

Tom, you're right: I meant to put it in the review and forgot. Bad Josie. :-)

Hooray General Beckman!

This episode seems to be rather polarizing. Some people really love it, some, not so much. I wonder how the rest of the season will play out.