Chuck 4.20: Chuck versus the Family Volkoff

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Broadcast Date: 11 April 2011
Director: Robert Duncan McNeill
Writers: Amanda Kate Shuman and Nicholas Wootton
Cast: Adam Baldwin, Bonita Friedericy, Joshua Gomez, Scott Krinsky, Sarah Lancaster, Zachary Levi, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Ryan McPartlin, Vik Sahay, and Yvonne Strahovski


© Copyright DC Comics

© Copyright DC Comics

Alexei: “As my grandma used to say, play your cards close to the vest, and wear a coat over the vest, or you’ll look like a jerk.”

Meet the new Volkoffs. Once, Vivian was a wholesome, trustworthy young woman and her father, “the world’s biggest badass, killer of men, conqueror of nations”. She rode horses and threw Gatsby-style masquerades, while he ran one of the most dangerous criminal empires on the planet. Now, for reasons not entirely clear to me, the roles have been reversed, except, you know, Alexei isn’t a party-loving equestrian so much as a conflicted megalomaniac with more than a hint of guano loco.

As some of you know, I quit watching the show before really getting to meet Alexei, so I’ve no idea whether this latest turn works as a natural progression for the character. At any rate, Timothy Dalton proves an absolute hoot, chewing the scenery in all the right ways, and the villain’s absurd attempts at redemption had me laughing out loud on several occasions. If this is the sort of stuff I missed out on during my self-imposed Chuck hiatus, I may have to give the season another go.

Needless to say (but I’m going to write it anyway because I like to condescend to my readership), Alexei steals every scene he’s in, as does his daughter, though I’m disappointed she’s become such a one-dimensional baddie. Lauren Cohan brings a lot of gravitas to the role, but the transition strikes me as a tad too abrupt. I realize they’re going for the whole “apple not too far from the tree” thing, what with all the DNA references we’ve been getting lately, but didn’t Vivian risk her life to save our heroes just a few episodes ago?

Besides, I blame Beckman for this mess. After all, she pretty much forced the Volkoff legacy on the poor thing and then screwed her over without giving it a second thought. Now the General issues a kill order without even confirming Vivian initiated last week’s assassination attempt! Between that and putting Ellie at risk instead of letting Team Bartowski solve the Agent X mystery, I’m starting to wonder whether Shaw broke out of jail and brainwashed her during the summer hiatus.

I mean, with leadership of this kind, is it any wonder our heroes handle themselves with as much forethought as la Résistance on V? As huge a kick as I got out of Alexei hunting down his own weapon with Team Bartowski, Vivian’s subterfuge feels a tad Super Villainy 101 to me. Chuck hits the nail on the head when he asks, “Really? No alarm bells ringing here for anyone else? Not getting the sense we’re being played for suckers?” The most perplexing bit, though, has to be Sarah and Casey rushing into an ambush because they heard the bad guys coming. Uh, what?

In fairness, it appears Sarah’s gone a bit mental, springing a prenuptial agreement in the most insensitive manner imaginable and then freaking out when Chuck dares to sign it. The payoff is romantic and all, but I don’t subscribe to the writers’ view that a prenup signals a dysfunctional marriage, especially if it’s used to discuss important issues. Don’t think of it as a safety net in case of a divorce but as a checklist for premarital counselling. Anyway, I actively want Chuck and Sarah to break up now. What does it say about our heroes’ current characterisation that, when I think of the title “Chuck versus the Family Volkoff”, I find myself rooting for the family?

Casey versus the Non-Invite

Filial relationships comprise the theme of the week. As such, Casey decides he’d rather miss his daughter’s graduation than have her leave her loved ones on such an important occasion. I love that he and Alex come to a mutual understanding through mature conversation instead of the typical sitcom idiot plot. Unlike Chuck and Sarah, Casey doesn’t let false entitlement get in the way of his relationships. A tragic hero of sorts, he always sees himself as the provider:

Sarah: “The hardest place for a kid to be is stuck in the middle.”
Casey: “Roger that.”

I zonked out a lot the second time I watched “Chuck versus the Family Vokoff”, but this exchange got my full attention on both viewings.

© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures


Bits and Pieces

  • Casey and Morgan should look into making synchronized cohabitation an Olympic event.
  • In chess, once you touch a piece, you have to move it. The Volkoff security system ought to have won that game.
  • The web of lies between Chuck and Ellie has got so intricate I can’t keep up. How can Ellie not know her brother’s got the Intersect in his noggin? Once she learnt he’s a spy in season three, there was no reason to keep this information from her.
  • No Jeffster this week. Can we maybe keep it that way please?

Quotes

The great thing about this section is Chuck always turns out so quoterific I can end every review on a positive note:

Alexei: “It’s true. I cut in front of Woody in the cafeteria line. I admit I have entitlement issues. I owe an amends.”

Chuck: “Volkoff! Volkoff! Alexei Volkoff! Did I not pronounce that correctly? Sometimes, you know, the Russian thing, the ‘Ws’ and the ‘Vs’…”

Elle: “Devin, the woman has the technical savvy of Stephen Chow. She didn’t just erase a file.”
Stephen Chow, the Chinese filmmaker? Love that guy! (Yes, I know she said, “Steve Jobs”.)

Elliot: “Pick a game: dice, roulette, hearts… You win; the tracker is yours. I win; you die.”
Chuck: “Do you have Uno?”
If I were Chuck, I’d have picked a video game, Mario Kart perhaps. No one can cheat at a video game.

Casey: “Not you, Bartowski. The other Bartowski.”

Chuck: “Now I feel dirty, smelly, European.”
Good job, Chuck writers. It’s a little known fact xenophobic potshots always make the hero more likeable.

Alexei: “I want you to understand I, like all other men, am still work in progress.”
[…]
Elliot: “Uh, okay?”

The episode’s fun and all, but why do I always feel so empty after watching Chuck nowadays?

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Category: Chuck, Verdict: 2.5 | Tags:

          
Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."