Broadcast Date: 21 February 2011
Director: Patrick R. Norris
Writers: Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Bonita Friedericy, Joshua Gomez, Scott Krinsky, Sarah Lancaster, Zachary Levi, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, and Yvonne Strahovski
Chuck: “Masquerades really creep me out. It’s like Eyes Wide Shut but, you know, not so boring.”
Meet Vivian McArthur. As Alexei Volkoff’s secret daughter and heir apparent, she mastered skeet shooting at seven, had her black belt at thirteen, and was fluent in five languages by the time she graduated from the London School of Economics. Some of her traits evoke the Chuck of yesteryear: her pluck, wit, and existential uncertainty. Others hint she may prove his polar opposite: her privilege, solitude, and willingness to kill. Most of all, though, Vivian is a serious, full-rounded character, the sort that may yet save Chuck from its recent superficial turn.
How else could “Chuck versus the Masquerade” bounce back from possibly the worst cold open ever to grace the series? Embodying everything that’s gone awry with season four, the scene plays like a compilation of clichés from a bad Katherine Heigl movie. After half an act’s worth of setup, of course Chuck catches Morgan having clownish foreplay with his girlfriend. Of course Sarah gets her gown stuck at the worst possible moment. Of course Casey comes barging in without knocking. Hardy har har.
Luckily, the episode switches gears early on, introducing us to a slew of new characters and story arcs: mysterious newcomer Jane Bentley enlists Casey for a mission beneath the Buy More; Morgan moves out, taking his next step into adulthood; and Alexei Volkoff’s aforementioned daughter finds a key that may unlock his deepest secrets. In this respect, “Chuck versus the Masquerade” feels an awful lot like a season premiere, which is to say somewhat scattershot in tone but full of promise.
As for the spy yarn du jour, the writers do a great job introducing Vivian as a likeable character, but I suspect I might have found it more engrossing if they’d made Boris, the man pursuing her, less of a cardboard villain. At any rate, the episode stands out for focusing on someone other than Chuck for once, a welcome change of pace, given the show runners have concluded his story so many times they’ve been struggling to find something to say. Vivian, on the other hand, has a wazoo full of potential as well as a super cute hairdo, and I’m eager to find out whether she’ll succumb to her father’s legacy or join the crew as hinted last week.
Ellie and Devon versus “Send Me on My Way” by Rusted Roots
We get two civilian threads this time around. The first involves new parents struggling to find sleep or, as I like to call it, the plot of a thousand sitcoms. In fairness, the Awesomes can really use the screen time, even though Devon hasn’t been (or said) awesome in some time, and their desperate look as they enter the Buy More almost makes the whole thing worth it. Besides, the subplot gets points for truth if not insight: infants do, in fact, get attached to random songs as well as find comfort in Star Wars figurines watching over them.
Morgan versus Han and Chewie
The most obvious symbol this week consists of the Han and Chewie plastic dolls, which are “worth more as a set”. Admittedly, Chuck and Morgan’s separation anxieties and “end of an era” speeches feel a tad ridiculous when you consider they’ve been roommates for only a year and a half, but there’s something endearing about the way our favourite sidekick confronts his life situation without prodding from a love interest (at least not his own) or, you know, government spies trying to kill him. It occurs to me Chuck has had adulthood thrust upon him (the same can be said of Vivian), whereas Morgan is finding his place in the world all on his lonesome.
Bits and Pieces
- Boris is possibly the most violent baddie we’ve had so far. When he shoots people, there’s blood and stuff.
- His different visits to find the key reminds me of the opening sequence in “Chuck versus the Tango”, except without the humour.
- What’s this? Casey getting some screen time? Impossible!
- Sarah standing through the car roof and shooting baddies as our heroes drive away is hella cool.
Lots of good stuff this week:
Chuck: “I’m going to treat you so good you’re never going to let me go. Pretty Woman reference.”
Sarah: “Isn’t that movie about a prostitute?”
Beckman: “They’re making… Additions to Castle.”
The General’s mid-sentence pause confused me at first, but then I noticed our heroes were still wearing their sexy Valentine’s Day getups.
Mike: “Good lord, what happened to you two? You smell like vomit and Cheerios!”
For some reason, I thought of a drunken Santana from Glee.
Morgan: “Alex and I will saunter off to our room, leaving you and Sarah ample time to watch Love Actually.”
Chuck: “Ah, yes, that hit with ladies everywhere.”
Morgan: “And men.”
Casey: “You live with an engaged couple, it’s like you’re their kid.”
Mike: “That’s exactly why I got myself snipped.”
Chuck makes the best use of grunts.
Chuck: “You know, like in college when you’ve got to hang a sock on the door.”
Sarah: “A sock?! Why would you do that?”
Clueless Sarah jokes always make me laugh.
Morgan: “The trick is Chewie always goes on Han’s right side.”
Morgan truly is Chuck’s right-hand man, isn’t he?
A solid start to the new story arc.