Devon: “This weekend, I’m going to make a man out of you.”
Meet the Volkoffs’ family lawyer, Riley Something or Other. Have we done Riley yet? Once Alexei’s right-hand man, now Vivian’s, he comes across as shrewd, fussy, and loyal to a fault, but, in light of this episode’s big revelation, I’m starting to suspect he might turn out the season’s true big bad. After all, Vivian’s mysteriously absent this week, so perhaps he’s hunting down Orion’s computer for his own evil ends. What’s he trying to hide? What if, at some point, he found out about Hartley Winterbottom and the Agent X project? What if he got hold of the technology somehow and submitted Vivian to it?
Admittedly, the twist might seem a tad convoluted by the show’s standards, but we’re discussing New Chuck, where a villain’s oscillation between dorky sensitivity and sociopathic brutality can turn from hilarious quirk to subtle foreshadowing in an instant. Similarly, the notion of Vivian having gone through the same process would explain how her character could shift from heroic young woman to heartless megalomaniac in the space of three episodes, one of which she didn’t even appear in. What was once plot hole would become major plot point with the only downside being that, save for a tenuous connection to Papa Bartowski, none of this relates to Chuck in any real way.
This leads us to the actual premise of “Chuck versus Agent X”, in which Chuck’s bachelor party and Sarah’s own bachelorette bash are cut short by Riley’s shenanigans, maybe as a metaphor for the spy fantasy having hindered character development all year. Mind you, our heroes aren’t missing much, given Sarah already had a girls’ night out to end all girls’ nights out in “Chuck versus the CAT Squad”, and the boys are stuck at the deceptively named Las Vecas wilderness resort, courtesy of Captain Once Awesome Now Big Dork. The previous seasons all dealt with our favourite Nerd Herder’s transition to manhood, so you’d figure the writers would have more to say about his last night before becoming a man, or am I confusing marriage with a bar mitzvah?
Better question: when did Chuck stop being about Chuck? Consider the way New Chuck removes any sense of ramification from our hero’s reconciliation with his sister, rushing through his confession to get back to the Agent X stuff. On the one hand, Ellie’s anticlimactic acceptance emphasises the best part of their relationship. On the other, it makes Chuck a tool for lying to her in the first place, especially in light of Morgan’s reaction in “Chuck versus the Beard” as well as Devon’s before that and, come to think of it, Ellie’s in last year’s finale.
The writers fare better with their over-the-top characterisation of Mrs Winterbottom. “Old lady with the heart of a tiger” is, to some extent, a done joke, but I laughed anyway, dang it, largely because of Casey’s wide-eyed admiration: “You’re like the mother I never had.” Did we know the colonel was an orphan? Are the Chuck Powers That Be setting up a John-centric arc for next season? Is there any chance Riley’s sexy henchwoman survived the explosion? I dig her, if only because she’s the first woman Chuck’s fought without yammering about not hitting girls. Also, she has pretty hair, and what was I writing about again?
Dimitri versus Jeffster
With such a dense plot, I find it mystifying “Chuck versus Agent X” would spend so much time on tired Jeffster slapstick, but then I happen to hate the petty little trolls. Nothing they do or say makes me laugh, and I resent the notion I should forgive their meanness because they’re outcasts. Jeff and Lester served a specific purpose in early Chuck: as low-end bullies, they accentuated Chuck’s fall from grace. Now that our hero’s found his calling, their continued presence just raises question like, why were they invited to the bachelor party, and would the awkward, predictable, and painfully unfunny Jeff-torture gag please stop? Should Chuck get a fifth season, perhaps the Powers That Be could streamline their budget by dumping the excess baggage.
Bits and Pieces
- Big Mike, Jeff, and Lester are in for a surprise: Canadian rules black jack (two words), not to be confused with good old-fashioned blackjack (one word), is merely Crazy Eights.
- Odd timing with Casey’s picture of Osama Bin Laden, don’t you think?
- “Renéaux, British Columbia” should not have an accent, and if there was one, it’d be on the first “e”.
- The location of Orion’s secret computer was compromised, so the CIA sends a text message instead of reinforcement. Nice.
- Casey’s expression before drinking Mrs Winterbottom’s tea had me laughing out loud.
New Chuck, Old Chuck, it ain’t Chuck without them funny quotes:
Chuck [in Japanese]: “I have dishonoured your shirt. For that, I apologize.”
Once again, Casey’s facial expression sells the joke.
Lester: “I’m making it rain Canadian style, which is technically making it snow […] Dollar, dollar coins, y’all!”
Casey: “Save the socialist funny money.”
Devon: “Morgan, you ever kill a man?”
Morgan: “Let me tell you something. The first one? The first one’s the hardest, no doubt about it.”
Morgan: “No, not really! They won’t even give me a gun on missions. Are you kidding me?”
Morgan’s unequivocal earnestness is so endearing.
Ellie: “I’m coming with you.”
Chuck: “What? No! Are you crazy? Two words: Baby Clara.”
Devon: “You’re lucky we didn’t kill you with these spears! They are really sharp.”
I don’t give enough credit to Ryan McPartlin’s awesome comic delivery.
Mrs Winterbottom: “They got my primroses. Eat led, you bastards!”
Chuck: “This search made us rely on each other, be honest, work together.”
Ellie: What if it was only half of it?”
You think? A man’s life was destroyed here!
I only like half the episode, but the Agent X reveal, predictable as it was, has me intrigued.