Broadcast Date: 8 October 2007
Director: Jason Ensler
Writer: Matthew Miller
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Zachary Levi, and Yvonne Strahovski
La Ciudad: “Or I could chuck you off the balcony, Chuck.”
Meet Charles Carmichael. The man’s a winner: graduated from Stanford, owns a software company, dates beautiful women. He’s also Chuck’s spy alias, an amalgam of the Nerd Herder’s lost ambitions in regards to his career, his lifestyle, and even his appeal to the ladies. The fact our hero chose this cartoonish fantasy as his alter ego speaks volume as to his damaged self-esteem and his eagerness to use espionage for validation, which is a disconcerting notion when you stop and think about it.
Fittingly, “Chuck versus the Tango”, which tells of Charles Carmichael’s first official mission, opens with some of the darkest humour in the series so far. Granted, that isn’t saying much, given it’s the third episode, but the spy world is undeniably scarier in this one, which fits the idea Chuck is venturing outside his comfort zone at last. Ellie even points it out when asked about the tango: “Well, that’s definitely new territory. Good to see you reaching outside of your comfort zone.” Yup, we’re talking metaphor with a capital “M”.
It’s funny how the spy story this week and the tango subplot both follow the same structure, which, of course, echoes what it’s like to try something new with your life: Chuck is apprehensive but eager to learn and do his best; Chuck comes to think his newfound skills aren’t needed; Chuck is proven wrong; Chuck does everything crooked because he’s clearly out of his depth; Chuck feels embarrassed; Chuck learns the experience proved useful after all, just not in the way he expected.
Yeah, it’s a bit heavy-handed, but the episode’s filled with extended slapstick sequences and Awesome homoerotic tango, so I never felt like I was being lectured. I guess I’m happy as long as the writers keep finding new ways to emasculate poor Chuck. Also, though I’m not a big fan of physical humour in general, there’s something laugh-out-loud funny about the way Zachary Levi throws himself to the ground whenever his character tries to hide behind a Buy More counter.
Morgan versus the Cage
Oh, that’s right. “Chuck versus the Tango” also has a Buy More B-plot. It sort of follows the same theme as the rest of the episode, what with Morgan forced to face his fear of old computers, except no one really learns anything by the end or changes in the slightest. I’m not complaining, mind you. The thread leads to two of my three favourite scenes: the montage of Morgan locked in with the broken computers (I don’t know why it makes me laugh so much) and Chuck trapping a henchman in the storage cage only to realise the door’s been fixed.
My other favourite scene occurs around the third act. It’s when our exhausted hero frees Morgan from the cage and starts working on the remaining computers. Chuck seems so at peace doing what he knows best. This simple, quiet moment brings much needed nuance to the story’s otherwise simplistic message about ambition and exposing oneself to new challenges. After all, there’s something to be said about having a place to call home, even when it comes to one’s skill sets.
Chuck versus My Coloured Tip (It’s Not What You Think, Eew)
Early on, Chuck is shown fixing a video game revolver that’s painted all black. Now, I don’t know how it works in California, but, in my neck of the woods, every toy gun is required to have a brightly coloured piece of plastic glued to its barrel so cops don’t get the wrong idea. I found this out when I was around seventeen and shooting a video, using, of course, a plastic revolver with the coloured tip removed. I realised this was a bad idea when a nervous police officer started shouting at us, causing me to chuck my toy in a ditch somewhere. I’d managed to be quick about it, so we convinced him there never was a gun, and he let us go. Still, I never did wipe my prints…
Bits and Pieces
- I love the brother-sister bits in this series. Ellie seeing right through Chuck and saying, “I just know what an incredible guy Charles Bartowski is, and sometimes I’m not so sure that he knows it,” was so sweet.
- This episode features the debut of the Chuck opening theme sequence, which I absolutely love.
- I also love the tango song to which Chuck and his various partners danced. It’s called “Santa Maria” by the Gotan Project.
- Casey blocks punches with his forehead. Love it.
I love the dialogue too:
Chuck: “Why are these people sleeping?”
Casey: “They’re not sleeping. They’re dead.”
Casey: “Look at them again.”
Chuck: “I would really rather not. It’s kind of creepy.”
Chuck: “Me, nervous? Come on, never!”
Sarah: “Your hand is kind of moist.”
Chuck: “It does that when I’m freaking out.”
Casey: “Now that’s what I call moving some merchandise, yeah?”
Devon: “Did a semester abroad in Buenos Aires. Spent many a night tangoing my way into señoritas’ pantalones.”
This is, I think, the raunchiest joke ever made on Chuck, or maybe I just feel that way because I originally heard, “tangoing my wang into señoritas’ pantalones.”
Harry: “When you go to sleep at night, all you’re going to see is Tang in your face.”
A bit on the dark side but still loads of fun.