Chuck 1.02: Chuck versus the Helicopter

© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Beckman: “Our most valuable secrets have been sent to an idiot.”
Graham: “At least they weren’t sent to his friend.”

Meet Chuck again: he’s still got baggage, still holds a dead-end job, still feels like a loser. Ever noticed how shows that try to balance serial and episodic storytelling tend to have two kick-offs? There’s the pilot, which introduces the premise in a self-contained manner, and then a slightly redundant second episode that focuses on setting up the first season arc. “Chuck versus the Helicopter” is, as you might have guessed, a prime example of the latter with all the awkwardness that entails.

The episode starts with a lengthy recap, which Chuck narrates with his usual self-deprecating charm: “Those are my shoes. This is my life.” Then we get a haphazard series of set pieces reinforcing the characters’ basic traits: Casey’s a hard-ass, so he uses extreme force on a shoplifter; Morgan’s a goofball, so he topples a CD-pack tower with a non-magic trick; Chuck would do anything for those he loves, so he drives off to rescue his family after Casey tells him to stay put and gets himself kidnapped after Sarah tells him to hide away.

The big difference with the pilot is our heroes have stopped getting along. “Chuck versus the Intersect” ended with Chuck, Sarah, and Casey finding a natural groove the minute they had to save the world. That all went away in this episode, and the shift left me a bit disoriented. It’s a necessary evil, mind you. The writers are setting up the season arc, which is all about the gang finding its feet. As such, they need to show Team Bartowski at its most dysfunctional so we can later get a sense of progression.

To emphasise the point, the spy plot this week centers on our heroes’ distrust of one another. A specialist is brought in to study Chuck. Only Sarah and Casey know his identity. He turns up dead. Which of the two agents did it, and why is it never okay to murder a woman’s soufflé no matter how stressed you are? Seriously, that was a weird line from Ellie. Anyway, I found the solution to that mystery (the spy assassination, not the culinary one) pretty clever in that it doesn’t cheat by revealing someone else was in on the whole thing.

As a matter of fact, taken on their own, I enjoyed almost all the bits in this episode, including the delayed car explosion, the Wienerlicious fight between Sarah and Casey, the chaotic family dinner, and Chuck laying out a viable rescue plan with a perpetually interrogative tone. Why then does the whole feel so stiff and uneven? Maybe it’s because all that goodness ends up cluttering the story. Maybe it’s because the helicopter scene goes on too long. Maybe I just can’t figure out what the point was beyond reiterating the premise.

Chuck versus My Non-Date Date

There was a lot of talk about trust as well as Chuck and Sarah’s first fight as a fake couple. I get the feeling the writers are linking this episode’s high jinks to the tension bred when one enters a relationship with a guarded heart, the idea being that Sarah earned Chuck’s trust last week by saving his life, but he’s resisting her because she has a past. Given our hero was forced into the affair, I’m not sure the analogy works. However, it reminds me of this girl who scolded me for not asking her out and then, when we did go out as a result, claimed she didn’t know it was a date. Moral of the story: never trust someone who corners you into a specific dynamic. Chuck’s got the right attitude.

© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures
© Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Bits and Pieces

  • The Chuck Powers That Be must have found the original cut a bit lacklustre because there’s an awful lot of looped grunting in this episode. Hey, the device worked. Chuck’s Scooby-doo-like “Arugh?” in the helicopter was hilarious.
  • This episode’s got the first appearance of the souped-up Nerd Mobile! I love the Nerd Mobile.
  • On a related note, it also features the debut of the “stay in the car” running joke.
  • I can’t decide whether Jeff and Lester calling themselves I.T. artists because they only deal with Macs is a diss on Macs or Mac users. Either way, I approve, but the two numskulls are already starting to grate me.
  • During his Intersect mega-flash, Chuck mentioned Oceanic Flight 815. He also mentioned a turtle. Coincidence or obscure clue that completely redefines what Christian Sheppard said in the Lost finale? Think about it. Turtle.


I’m all about the Casey verbal abuse this week:

Chuck: “So this is the handheld scanner, very expensive piece of equipment.”
Casey: “So’s a stealth fighter, and somehow I managed to fly that.”

Chuck: “Casey, about sarah, we’ve got to save her.”
Casey: “Brilliant deduction, Nancy Drew.”

Casey: “I laced my quiches with microbots.”
Chuck: “You’re not kidding, are you?”
Casey: “I don’t kid about quiche.”

Chuck: “So, in this plan, I basically do nothing.”
Casey: “Yup.”
Chuck: “Let’s do this.”

Okay, I’m a little bit about the Awesome too:

Devon: “Indeed! Hmm?”

Devon: “Make-up sex. Nice.”

I realise my rating’s a bit harsh, given this episode was better than most of V or Heroes this year, but I’ve got to establish a range with which to play, you know?

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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."