Meet Roan Montgomery. Old, drunk, broken, careless, and cynical, he’s what James Bond would become if he didn’t step into the Tardis every couple of years to regenerate. “Chuck versus the Seduction” could have easily got on my last nerve, had the lecherous egomaniac not been portrayed by John Larroquette, a legend in his own right. As he did with Dan Fielding back in his Night Court days, the veteran thespian subtly infuses his performance with enough pathos to turn even the broadest of caricatures into a sympathetic (if somewhat pitiful) human being.
At first glance, the spy mission in “Chuck versus the Seduction” comes across as a mere pretext to showcase Roan: recruit the old has-been and seduce Sasha Banachek a.k.a. the Black Widow a.k.a. not the one from The Avengers (2012) a.k.a. Marissa’s mom from The OC a.k.a. Melinda Clarke a.k.a. some KGB operative who’s somehow got hold of this season’s recurring MacGuffin. However, amidst all the high jinks, we do get a few character beats to remind us of Chuck and Sarah’s torturous relationship.
One doesn’t need Roan’s seduction powers to figure out that Sarah has fallen head over heels for our hero. The question lies in why she keeps denying her feelings. As Chuck points out, the woman had no problem dating Bryce a few years back, and the distinction between colleague and asset appears rather arbitrary as far as matters of the heart are concerned. I would think it more likely Miss Walker is sabotaging her own chances at happiness, which puts a different spin on this episode’s cliffhanger.
Believe it or not, I like the idea of Sarah as damaged goods. In my review of “Chuck versus the First Date”, I pointed out the dangers of treating Chuck’s love interest as an ideal or “prize”. Not only does it feel passé in terms of gender dynamics; it also makes our hero look like a creep for obsessing over a piece of cardboard. By giving their female lead a uniquely self-destructive streak, the creative minds behind Chuck are sending an important message: “You’re following the romance between two complex adults, not a man-child and his bikini fantasy!”
The flip side is that we’re only fifteen episodes into Chuck, and our titular hero can already afford to make jokes about the plot going in circles: “It forces me to have to win her over again and again… And again.” Don’t get me wrong: the line (and the way Zachary Levi delivers it) had me in stitches because I feel his frustration, but one has to wonder how much more “will they, won’t they” nonsense the writers can throw at us before we all start begging Chuck and Sarah to just move on already.
Captain Awesome versus the Other Seduction
I don’t care for Ellie and Awesome’s subplot in “Chuck versus the Seduction”. I mean, talk about dated gender dynamics! If the soon-to-be Mrs Awesome wants a romantic evening so bad, why doesn’t she do something about it herself, or at least meet Devon halfway? Why does he have to do all the work, or rather the CIA? Also, call me selfish, but, if I were Chuck, I’d have asked General Beckman to transfer me back to Stanford as my reward and then spread the rose petals on my own (I’d have a key, remember?).
Lester versus the Repulsion
I much prefer this week’s Buy More B-plot, in which Lester tries to assert himself as the new assistant manager and alienates all his colleagues, including Jeff. I’d got so used to “Jeffster” as an entity that I completely forgot they were once separate characters. At any rate, I mentioned in my review of “Chuck versus the Truth” that the series never recuperated from C.S. Lee’s departure as Harry Tang. I maintain this opinion, but, dang, does Vik Sahay ever come close to capturing that magical balance of low-level threat and utter ineptitude. The best part though? Big Mike’s reaction to the “New Ass Man” banner at the Buy More entrance: “I ain’t new!”