Casey: “We need a bad guy.”
Chuck: “So badly.”
Meet General Dianne Beckman. As Team Bartowski’s commander in chief at the CIA, she’s abrupt, secretive, and, according to Chuck, a hot mess this week. Incidentally, did we know her first name before this episode? It astounds me how little we’ve learnt of Beckman despite the character having been around since the pilot. Nearly four seasons later, the general gets the spotlight at last. Of course, she has to share it with Roan Montgomery, “the seduction master himself, I love that guy.”
Let it be said there’s never been a dull hour of television featuring John Larroquette. Here he fuses James Bond with Uncle Buck, thwarting a convoluted counterfeiting scheme with a handful of innuendos and his staunch refusal to maintain a cover all the while dispensing cornball advice like, “Never go on a mission angry.” Also consider the way he approaches the plastic chair in the Buy More break room, hinting with his posture alone that Roan’s derriere is accustomed to finer materials.
Conning Fatima three times with the same sexy situation (“but don’t say it like that”), Roan provides smooth distraction while the writers do their usual post-finale shuffle. The first episode of a substantial mid-season extension, “Chuck versus the Seduction Impossible” has the unenviable task of transitioning our heroes from a status quo originally meant as a conclusion, the fifth in the series so far. As such, Ellie suddenly lets go of her long-lost mother, Casey discovers the family he’d earned moved on without him, and our favourite spy couple finds new reasons to bicker despite their recent engagement.
I’ve lost all patience for Chuck and Sarah as a couple. I advised in my last V review never to trust a woman who makes out with you when you need to talk, so you can imagine how I feel about Sarah belly dancing to rob her beau of a big wedding. Chuck entering his no phase in the middle of a mission also fails to impress. In fact, part of me wishes the dysfunctional lovebirds would break up already so Chuck can find his way back to Lou the Sandwich Maker and Sarah can hook up with Casey in an effort to date every man she’s ever worked with.
Ironically, the relationship felt realer to me back when it was a cover. Now it’s become the stuff of sitcoms complete with post-spat guy talks about treating your spouse as an object of worship instead of an equal. The same can be said of the series as a whole, which has moved from insightful parable about the contemporary masculine condition to expert spies getting sent to the doghouse because women don’t like to feel rejected. I mean, as much as I enjoy the sight of General Beckman acting all jealous and shooting a rocket launcher, aren’t we straying from the show’s core conceit?
Still, the jokes are funny; Morgan’s coming along nicely; and Casey remains a badass, shooting henchmen through a peephole and calling ladies fat as a means of seduction. Besides, just because the Alexei Volkoff arc missed the mark doesn’t mean its follow-up is going to fail. Already, there are signs of the old Chuck making a comeback. I dig, for example, the way Sarah’s elopement idea ties into her issues growing up without a family. Ellie’s subplot with Mama Bartowski is kind of sweet too.
Ellie versus the Sarah Connor Chronicles
This leads to my final point this week: the biggest misfire of the season was to tie all of Mary’s actions to the spy fantasy, making it impossible to think of her as a real person. “Chuck versus the Seduction Impossible” remedies this by playing the character as a woman who put her work over her children and now lives with regret. As such, Ellie accepting her mother’s career-driven nature feels less like a plot device than a cathartic moment for the Bartowski family. Moreover, it’s nice to see Linda Hamilton show her softer side at last. She’s all like, “Come with me if you want to love!”
Bits and Pieces
- According to Sarah, she and Chuck are officially the worst spies in the world.
- Fatima’s client pointing out he has no use for a trillion dollars made me laugh out loud for some reason.
- Ditto Team Bartowski’s terror when Roan calls General Beckman by her first name.
- The ballad playing in Roan’s flashback is “Winds of Change” by the German heavy metal band Scorpion. The song indeed addresses the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it was released a full year after the historical event.
The dialogue this week proves kind of sitcommy, but the gags are elevated by seasoned actors with killer delivery. Case in point:
Chuck: “All this interpersonal stuff on a mission…”
Sarah: “It’s very unprofessional.”
Chuck: “But nothing! I said no… Woman.”
Morgan: “You start by saying no to something far less important and then, you know, slowly work your way up.”
Chuck: “A practice no.”
Morgan: “A practice no.”
Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez have such great rhythm when they’re together.
Casey: “You’ve got to be kidding me with this conversation. I’m about to cut my arm off.”
That line works two ways.
Sarah: “Wait. You’re on a mission?”
I think John Larroquette just invented a new word there.
Chuck: “We’re just having a bit of a disagreement right now, and the ball and chain isn’t helping.”
Sarah: “Are you calling me a ball and chain?”
Chuck: “There’s a ball and… There’s an actual ball and chain here! Do you not see this on the ground attached to my leg? Ball and chain!”
Best joke of the episode. I’m still laughing.
Fatima: “I am going to flood the market with one trillion US dollars. The American economy will collapse, and it will be my little village that brought them down.”
A bit late for that, aren’t we?
A fun if somewhat shallow bit of distraction before the new arc kicks in.