Broadcast Date: 24 January 2008
Director: Fred Toye
Writer: Phil Klemmer
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Zachary Levi, and Yvonne Strahovski
Chuck: “Does the name Ilsa Trinchina mean anything to you, Sugar Bear?”
Meet Sugar Bear a.k.a. Special Agent John Casey of the NSA. Grumpy, grunty, and just a touch brawly, the patriotic manly man plays as sort of a Red Foreman to Chuck’s smart-mouthed Eric. He symbolises a bygone image of virility, one our hero would have known as a child and learnt to reject as an adult: “For the longest time, I always imagined Casey was built like a Ken doll, you know, downstairs.” Sugar Bear also presents a major threat to Chuck, having been assigned to kill him as soon as Beckman’s Intersect is rebuilt.
At this point in the series, the writers still want us to doubt Sugar Bear’s allegiances, which might explain why we’re just now, at the season’s penultimate episode, getting to his character. We already know why Sugar Bear might kill our hero when the time comes: he believes in the chain of command and follows orders, period. “Chuck versus the Undercover Lover” goes a long way to balance the scales, showing how Chuck’s warmth can transform even a hardcore soldier like Sugar Bear.
Truth be told, the plot, about the long lost love of Sugar Bear’s life turning up at a “douche bag convention”, struck me as a bit forgettable, by which I mean it didn’t strike me at all, and I’d completely forgotten about Ilsa. However, watching Casey bond with his asset the Bartowski way instead of over a couple of one-liners was a real treat. I find it intriguing he would confide in Chuck and even follow his counsel, treating the Nerd Herder as an authority on social matters. Sugar Bear talks a big game about duty and such, but his Neil Diamond tequila binge hints that part of him wishes he was more like Chuck.
I also like that Chuck and Sarah got to interact like real people for once, gossiping about their colleague’s love life and making quips at his expense. Simple moments like these don’t just showcase how much their relationship with Sugar Bear has evolved over the course of the season but solidify their own connection as well. In fact, these scenes do a far better job convincing me of the couple’s potential romance than the usual “Chuck and Sarah long quietly in their respective corners” episodes. One friendly conversation at the Wienerlicious, and I’m ready to root for the two crazy kids all over again.
The Widescreen Plasma TV versus the Washer and Drier (Two against One, No Fair!)
For a Casey-centric episode, “Chuck versus the Undercover Lover” serves up a lot of tenderness. Over at the Buy More B-plot, Ellie and Awesome stop by for a visit and end up in a fight over their collective anniversary treat. I love that the television set is presented as the romantic gift here, while, as the ultimate modern man (an interesting contrast to Sugar Bear), Devon focuses on laundry. Believe it or not, I’m siding with Awesome on this one, despite his self-centered choice, which was not awesome at all.
In fairness, Ellie kind of cheated. They do this all the time in sitcoms: whenever a couple disagrees about an important shopping item, the woman always gets called away, leaving the decision to her partner, who then gets scolded for going with his preferred option. However, it’s not like she made any compromise herself. It seems to me whoever exits first automatically gains the upper hand, which is why, next time I buy furniture or appliances with a girlfriend, I’m going to bail halfway through.
At any rate, the argument merely serves as context for Morgan and Ellie’s friendship, which has come a long way since the pilot. It’s a lovely chain reaction when you think about it: Bryce sends Chuck the Intersect, which forces our hero to face his past, which causes him to revise his priorities, which puts pressure on Morgan to grow up as well, which allows Ellie to see the guy as the amazing friend he’s always been. Nothing ever stays static in Chuck, yet the changes in status quo always feel organic. That’s crucial in a series about personal progression.
Bits and Pieces
- The “beast with no back” fight sequence was a hoot, though I get the feeling the writers hadn’t considered the actor’s height when they wrote about Chuck getting his feet over the balcony.
- Zachary Levi is a gifted physical comedian. In terms of hilarity, his post-strangulation collapse in the Buy More corridor is matched only by his idiotic smile as he’s spying on Ilsa and Sugar Bear.
- Gratuitous T&A alert! Did we really need to see Sarah disrobe and change into her hotel uniform? Yes, we did. Yes, we did.
- For those of you wondering, Awesome is not bi-curious, as evidenced by his reaction to the Buy More staff strip poker, or maybe it’s the grungy nerd factor that turned him off.
- For the second time, Sugar Bear blocked a punch with his forehead.
Jeff: “I got Tara Reid’s phone number.”
Chuck: “What have I told you about stalking celebrities online? And, by the way, who doesn’t have her phone number?”
Chuck: “I’ll let you go back to protecting the greater good, you freaking robot!”
Ellie: “Awesome, right?”
Devon: “Ooh, it gives me a chill when you say it, babe!”
Morgan: “I thought we issued a no-touch policy back in ‘98.”
Chuck: “Casey, I don’t want to die as a man stewardess.”
Steward. Before World War II, when women weren’t allowed to work on airplanes, male flight attendants, which is to say all flight attendants, were called stewards. I’m not sure at what point that tidbit fell out of public consciousness, but, yeah, all you PC revisionists out there, “stewardess” was never a sexist appellation but the logical feminization of an existing term. Of course, a decade later, airline advertisers started basing all their campaigns on sex appeal, which led to the denigration of women in the profession, but what were we talking about again?
Ellie: “Think of all the great things we can watch!”
Devon: “Think of all the great things we can wash!”
Morgan: “You’re kind of like a sister to me, a sister I want to have sex with so bad.”
Sugar Bear: “I need pants!”
I think this is my favourite line of the entire season.
Chuck: “It’s alive!!!”
We got only a glimpse of Sugar Bear’s past but a solid look at who he’s becoming.