Meet the A-Team. In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. If you have a problem, if no one else can help… No, wait: wrong show. Actually, the A-Team consists of Casey, Greta, and Greta, who have been siphoning CIA gigs away from Team Bartowski, relegating Chuck and Sarah to the B league. As a result, our favourite spy couple has been killing time with board games and Nintendo classics like Final Fantasy II. Do the writers realise that’s a one-player RPG?
Anyway, by introducing new Intersect operatives favoured by the government, “Chuck versus the A-Team” reminds us of our hero’s fragile sense of self-worth, a defining character trait that’s sort of fallen to the wayside of late. After all these years, he still hasn’t figured out his value extends beyond the Langley database in his noggin, and neither has Director Bentley apparently. I find it telling that Sarah is the first to get mad about this. Part of the issue stems from her utter boredom in the Buy More basement, of course, but one also gets the sense she’s angry about Chuck not getting the respect he deserves.
While this predicament goes a long way to place Chuck back into the role of underdog, where he excels as a character, it doesn’t excuse the dysfunctional dynamics at play in “Chuck versus the A-Team”. It’s hard to root for the future Mr and Mrs Bartowski when they’re out violating the trust of a valued ally, all because he’s found new opportunities in his career. Shouldn’t our heroes celebrate Casey’s promotion, or would they rather continue to marginalize his presence as they have for over a season and a half?
Come to think of it, Morgan also deserves one hell of an apology (or perhaps a new set of Star Wars collectibles), what with his so-called BFFs threatening him and injecting a double-dose of narcotics in his system. It seems the writers are struggling to keep their two main characters sympathetic, a common problem in aging series that have run out of interpersonal drama to explore. We finally get to see Chuck and Sarah behave as a loving couple, so, of course, they have to act like complete monsters to everyone else.
Having mentioned that, “Chuck versus the A-Team” proves a lot of fun once it gets past these sitcom elements. I especially like the climax, in which the two teams unite begrudgingly to stop a nuclear bomb from wiping out half of Los Angeles. Sure, one could argue that removing the Intersect from Greta and Greta for one tactical mistake seems a bit premature, considering a bit more training (perhaps from the one, true Intersect) could have easily ironed out this sort of kink. However, having Chuck save the day with salty apple juice harkens back to the series’ heyday, emphasising his untapped potential and ability to think outside the box, as it were. Besides, the shot of our hero staring at the straw Casey placed for him is hilarious.
Ellie versus the Stay-at-Home Jitters
Paralleling Sarah’s antsy disposition is Ellie’s own struggles with a newly confined lifestyle. In light of all that a stay-at-home parent achieves on a daily basis, I’m not too fond of Mrs Woodcomb’s “just a stay-at-home mom” line at the end of the episode, but I understand how a woman of her particular nature might get stir-crazy so soon after giving birth. Lest we forget, she’s the sort to marry Captain Awesome, whose resulting pep talk turns out kind of charming if you can look past the dripping corn syrup.
More to the point, the thread serves largely to get Ellie back into the main plot after a bit of an artificial hiatus. As such, our favourite Bartowski big sister resumes her quest to decrypt her father’s computer, now driven by a need to challenge herself in a different way. It’s hard not to appreciate how “Chuck versus the A-Team” ties together the season’s outstanding mysteries, using Orion’s case to dovetail both Casey and Ellie’s respective arcs. As Hannibal would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”