Broadcast Date: 21 March 2011
Director: Allan Kroeker
Writers: Alex Katsnelson and Kristin Newman
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Bonita Friedericy, Joshua Gomez, Scott Krinsky, Sarah Lancaster, Zachary Levi, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, and Yvonne Strahovski
Meet the new Intersect. Is it Lewis, the computer hacker with World of Warcraft expertise; Josie, the overemotional femme fatale working through a recent breakup; Damien, the bearded undercover agent typecast into infiltrating one Middle Eastern terrorist cell after the other; or Brody, the Chuck lookalike with a personality to match? Handpicked by our hero to follow in his footsteps, each one of them has the potential to take Orion’s experiment to the next level. Unfortunately, each could also be a murderer bent on destroying Team Bartowski and everything they’ve been trying to achieve.
As the title indicates, “Chuck versus the Muuurder” consists of a classic murder-mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s mannered crime novels or, if you have an aversion to books and stuff, a game of Clue. We’ve got a gruesome murder with lots of crimson-coloured corn syrup (is it just me, or is Chuck getting increasingly violent?), a set of trustworthy detectives in the form of Chuck and his two partners in crime, an isolated playing field to restrict the number of suspects, and a bunch of eccentric guests with convenient axes to grind.
The mystery turns out surprisingly well crafted, given it’s largely meant as a joke. I laughed out loud during the interview process, which reveals as much about the candidates as it does about our dorky protagonist. As for the killer’s identity, I didn’t figure it out until the very end, but I did catch on to some of the clues, so this is not a case of arbitrary villainy à la Urban Legends (1998). More importantly, the A-plot provides context for a more interesting debate in which Director Bentley argues that leadership requires hard decisions, and Chuck demonstrates that it’s defined by the ability to think outside the box.
Like last week’s episode, “Chuck versus the Muuurder” reminds us that Chuck as a character works best when he’s got something to prove. Here he wants to convince Bentley of his leadership skills, seeking approval from a woman who doesn’t approve of people seeking approval. The vicious circle largely stems from her filling the void left when Casey revealed his warm, gooey centre. Perhaps the writers have figured out that our hero needs someone to challenge his manhood at every turn. In fact, I’m surprised to see the director exit the series so soon. She makes a great Casey 2.0: strict, humourless, and quick with the putdowns.
This is not to say Chuck is retreading old ground. Whereas Casey had trouble respecting our dorky protagonist’s more fluid vision of manhood, Bentley resents the Nerd Herder because he’s always trying to please those around him. She’s got a point, one that reinforces Vivian’s position as a worthy nemesis for Chuck. After all, the Volkoff heir seems to have similar problems establishing her own self-worth, what with her misdirected daddy issues. If this is to be the theme of season four’s new story arc, count me onboard. I didn’t think the show had anything left to convey, but I’m pleased to be proven wrong.
Morgan versus the Theme’s Pertinence
To some degree, even Ellie’s thread pertains to self-actualisation, what with our favourite Awesome husband choosing to lie to Chuck so she can pursue her quest to decrypt Orion’s computer. How can he not after seeing his wife so content in her quest? I confess to having grown weary of all the loving subterfuge going around in Chuck, but I dig the underlying message about taking pride in what we do and the power that comes from it.
Mind you, I have reservations about the blanket way this lesson is presented. For one, some endeavours ought to generate shame, not fulfillment. Sure, the adolescent rivalry between Buy More and Large Mart has somehow revitalised the troops’ morale, but, in the end, what have these grown men and women achieved aside from arson, kidnapping, and perhaps animal cruelty? Wouldn’t they have been better off taking pride in providing quality customer service, you know, the thing they’re paid to do? Oh, well, at least the producers got to score some prime product placement. That Subway egg sandwich does look mighty tasty.