Broadcast Date: 3 December 2007
Director: Chris Fisher
Writer: Zeb Borrow
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Zachary Levi, and Yvonne Strahovski
Meet Agent Sarah Walker. This week, she’s a stone cold shrew, the sort of passive-aggressive basket case from which, in real life, I’d urge readers to run away. Still reeling from Bryce’s resurrection and her passionate smooch with Chuck, Sarah has decided to express all her insecurities in the form of hostile remarks designed to blame, hurt, and humiliate our hero, who surely has to pay for stirring mushy feelings in her. Telling him what she wants out of their relationship is not an option, you see. Better to accuse him of falsifying Intersect intel, thus leading the CIA astray and jeopardizing the free world.
Save for the final act, “Chuck versus the Crown Vic” just doesn’t do it for me. Sure, our hero shows signs of genuine progression, resisting his petty urges even with Casey needlessly needling him (say that ten times fast). However, the main intrigue, about a crooked philanthropist using a charity event to unload his counterfeit money, held little to no interest; Morgan’s thread with the Wus struck me as serviceable at best; and the least said about Team Bartowski’s interactions, the better, which is why I’m now going to rant about it for the next three hundred words or so. I’m a genius that way.
In fairness, Sarah has a well established excuse for her asinine behaviour, one that goes beyond the demands of Ebert’s “idiot plot” (that’s when characters in a romantic comedy refuse to talk to each other until the final act). As she’s quick to point out in (you might have guessed) the final act, Agent Walker sucks at relationships. That’s fine in terms of consistency, but the problem lies in Chuck’s heavy reliance on the “will they, won’t they” shtick, both scripted television’s most popular trope and its most irksome.
The device consists of telling the audience your two main characters belong together and then keeping them apart for as long as humanly possible. The easiest way to go about this involves external factors like, for example, a previously deceased ex popping up after the would-be lovers shared their first kiss. The danger with this approach is it only takes a few “bad timing” incidents before the viewers get déjà vu and start wondering whether the protagonists are trying hard enough.
Cue method number two, the one most often used in Chuck: keep the couple from solidifying by giving the soul mates major personality flaws that make them incompatible. Have you spotted the hole in the design? The show runners are asking us to root for incompatible soul mates, a complete contradiction in terms. Already I’m starting to think Chuck and Sarah should consider seeing other people, the sort that won’t make them feel like crud half the time. Are Bryce and Lou still available?
The amazing thing, though, is the writers manage to turn everything around in the final act. With his friends in danger and the government reluctant to believe him, Chuck finds himself the desperate underdog once again, and, bang, the dynamic we all know and love returns in full force just in time for our heroes to kick butt, take names, and destroy Casey’s prize possession using a portable rocket equipped with GPS tracking. There’s a symbol somewhere in there and possibly a penis joke.
Morgan versus the Girlfriend’s Parents
For the most part, this week’s Buy More B-plot, in which Chuck’s “little buddy” tries to impress his girlfriend’s parents, takes place out of the store and onto a boat. It’s a nice change of pace, but, as I mentioned earlier, the whole thing left me cold, perhaps because we don’t get a full story so much as a montage of Morgan making a fool of himself coupled with a depiction of Asian family dynamics that’s half a century behind. For God’s sake, Anna’s parents are from upper-class Taiwan!
I accept the questionable politics in the spy adventures because they play like a parody of the genre. Ever read Ian Fleming’s 007 books? The man’s a raging bigot. However, the B-threads in Chuck are supposed to pertain to everyday life, so I find it a bit off-putting when Morgan calls Anna his banana, a common moniker for Asians with contemporary mindsets because we all know Asians who aren’t “white on the inside” are pathetic, repressed, awkward, backward-thinking, misogynistic, uncreative, undesirable trolls. I might have let it go on the basis that “Anna” and “banana” rhyme, and I loves me a good rhyme, but then the writers have young Miss Wu explain how she’s ashamed of who she becomes with her parents, listing a whole bunch of racial stereotypes. I’m not impressed.
Bits and Pieces
- Oh, I forgot. This was a Christmas episode or rather a Holiday episode as Lester would insist I put it.
- For once, Chuck had a better reason to act crazy than Sarah. His asking whether their kiss had anything to do with him or she just grabbed the nearest pair of lips available struck a chord with me.
- At dinner, Anna was wearing a “traditional” dress that I suspect no Taiwanese woman would wear unless she was working on a cruise ship.
- Morgan in Titanic “King of the World” pose.
- Mad props to Adam Baldwin for conveying so many different emotions with his grunts. My favourite was the happy grunt, which I quoted at the top of this review.
- On the subject of Casey, it sure was fun to see him geek out over his car. I have trouble believing he’d ever bring the Crown Vic to work though.
This episode wasn’t all bad. Check out these sweet quotes:
Chuck: “They’re fake.”
Jeff: “Whatever. So is Cool Whip.”
Chuck: “Roulette, my favourite game since Call of Duty.”
Jeff: “Bitches ain’t nothing but tricks and hoes.”
Considering the name Alotta Fagina in Austin Powers (1997) had to be changed to Alotta Cleavage for network broadcast, I’m surprised the censors let that one go. I guess, on American TV, it’s okay to denigrate women three times in the same sentence as long as you don’t mention their body parts.
Mr Wu: “And is that where you see yourself in, say, five years?”
Morgan: “That’s a tough one. I could tell you where I don’t see myself in five years: prison or under house arrest, doing anything that involves a lot of chopping, deep knee bends, no nudity…”
Chuck: “What exactly are you implying? That I faked a flash? That I’m a flash faker?”
Morgan: “Where am I from? Where are any of us really from? I myself hail from many fathers: Nietzsche, Sartre, Jor-El.”
Morgan: “She rubbed my back mid-puke and then brought me a warm cloth to clean the shrimp lobs out of my beard.”
Ah, young love.
Casey’s shirt: “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
Sarah: “Chuck, you’re good at your job too […] the one you didn’t ask for but were supposed to have.”
There you have it, folks: the entire series in one sentence.
At least the episode ends on a high note.