Beckman: “If this mission is going to work, you need to turn that girl into a Volkoff.”
Meet Vivian Volkoff, new head of the Volkoff crime syndicate. She’s smart; she’s ruthless; and she wouldn’t be there if the CIA hadn’t used her unresolved feelings and identity issues like so much toilet paper. I’d hoped Vivian would stay a wild card a bit longer, perhaps become a love interest for Casey, but I suppose her sad transformation from McArthur to Volkoff was, in a way, unavoidable. In another, it was completely avoidable, and it’d be interesting to see how Chuck deals with a villain who (a) might be redeemable and (b) gives him a genuine reason to beat himself up.
After all, he and Vivian have so much in common: both have unresolved daddy issues, owing to the world of espionage; both have proven themselves natural spies, overcoming their lack of experience with quick wit and commitment; and both have good cause to feel General Beckman is a horrible, horrible person. If it weren’t for that last bit, young Ms Volkoff might have made the perfect protégée for Chuck, giving him the opportunity to look back at his journey from a different perspective. Instead, she’s become the ultimate nemesis: similar in every way but her hatred of our hero.
As for the actual plot of “Chuck versus the First Bank of Evil”, I guess it was kind of fun to see our heroes pull essentially the same heist using two different methods. The first operation, in which Vivian serves as the distraction and Team Bartowski sneaks in as her long-suffering staff, proves more suspenseful. I suspect that’s because the rookie is doing all the heavy lifting. Also, it helps that the mission takes place early in the episode, so there’s still plenty of time for things to go awry. Mind you, I do wonder how it is the First Bank of Macau can get DNA results in a matter of seconds.
The second mission is largely played for laughs. This time, Vivian acts as point person while Team Bartowski distracts the bank staff by ripping off both The Matrix (1999) and the Honey Bunny scene from Pulp Fiction (1994). It seems to me this sort of homage has been done to death, and I kind of wish Chuck had kept his fiancée’s stockings on his noggin. More importantly, why is the couple referring to Ellie by name while surrounded by resentful baddies held at gunpoint? It’s called opsec, people!
Sarah versus the Wedding Preparations
Over in the B-plot, Sarah is struggling to get excited about her wedding, and I know how she feels. She and Chuck are actually in a good, sympathetic place this week, but the whole “preparing for the ceremony” story arc, so prevalent in shows that have worn out their welcome, strikes me as a bit of a catch twenty-two. On the one hand, you can’t show drama for fear viewers might conclude the lovers aren’t ready for this step. On the other, if you don’t show drama, your series ends up morbidly boring. Of course, the 27 Dresses (2008) montage with the Hannah Montana mechanical closet probably doesn’t help.
I continue to be more interested in Morgan’s growth as a character, perhaps because Chuck has always been about the underdog, and our titular hero’s long outgrown that role. Morgan, however, still gets harassed by Jeff and Lester, whose pettiness knows no bounds (somebody kill them already). As such, his standing up to Casey and leveraging a place to live actually means something in regard to his rising confidence. Consider this line, for some reason my favourite in the episode: “I am growing mentally and emotionally, physically. Not so much physically, but some people are saying that I’m acting taller.” How can you not root for the little guy? Then again, maybe I just like him because he has adorable Star Wars covers.
Quotes sections aren’t really part of the house style, but this review was originally commissioned for a site that no longer requires my services. I might as well use the notes I took:
Riley: “He specified that I read the letter in his voice. He thought it would make you feel comfortable.”
Vivian: “Please stop.”
Riley: “Well, I spent several weeks perfecting this, but fine.”
I like Riley. I’m hoping he turns out the real big bad of the season.
Guillermo: “Vivian Volkoff. You. Have. Passed our test!”
I love the Ryan Seacrest delivery on that one.
Morgan: “Those cats outside the window are just so loud it gave me nightmares.”
Mike: “Yeah, cats… Just a heads up: those cats are having a romantic dinner tonight, and there might be more cat fighting after dinner ends unless your mom eats too much.”
Lester: “This is going to score us some serious Ren tang.”
Lester: “I was wondering if you could settle a little debate betwixt us. Where do you think would be the best place to meet ladies: a Renaissance fair, right, or a methadone clinic?”
Chuck: “I am her Kevin Cost… Bodyguard! I am her bodyguard.”
Guillermo: “Miss Volkoff, I admit I didn’t see the family resemblance at first, but now I see your father in you.”
And who’s fault is that, hmm?
Ellie: “I think I created a monster.”
Yeah, well, you’re not the only one.
An uneven episode, but Vivian’s arc still shows a lot of promise.