Riley: “Vivian, meet the woman who betrayed your father for twenty years.”
Hey, Riley stole my bit! How am I to start this review? Shoot him, Agent Walker! Now, for no discernible reason, hug your boyfriend and allow Vivian Volkoff, an attempted murderess who holds a personal grudge against your new family, to make an unlikely escape with a deadly weapon! Excellent.
All right, all right, I’m done. Last week, I contrasted Classic Chuck with New Chuck, arguing that the former works first and foremost as an elaborate metaphor for growing up, whereas the latter prioritises a complex spy fantasy with all the twists and turns that come with it. Don’t ask me what that makes Diet Chuck, Cherry Chuck, Chuck C2, and Chuck Zero. I mean, who cares when the writers have at last found a tasty recipe for their new direction?
High on adventure and low on sitcom farce, “Chuck versus the Last Details” packs an insane amount of plot, tying up, as the title suggests, the season’s remaining threads. At times, I felt like I was watching one of those two-hour specials for which the network airs two episodes back to back and pretends it’s a single story. In the first half, our heroes rescue Mary from the depths of Tatooine. In the second, they try to complete her mission and fail on almost every level: Riley succeeds in murdering Volkoff Industries’ competitors as well as an out-of-left-field James Bond parody, and Vivian still roams free with the Norseman, by which I mean the weapon, not Thor.
However, unlike “Chuck versus Agent X” last week, this episode provides a through line for its two capers, namely Sarah and Mary’s relationship as future in-laws. The first mission presents the dynamic from Agent Walker’s perspective. The second gives us insight on Mama Bartowski’s point of view. I like how Mary’s monster-in-law tendencies tie into her feelings of guilt for abandoning Chuck and Ellie. She’s trying to cram three decades of parenthood into every conversation. Sarah, of course, can’t see that because she’s never had a family.
It’s also nice to see our heroes work together as opposed to Chuck and Sarah airing their dirty laundry in front of the baddies while Casey stands idly by, grunting for something to do. Despite all the mayhem, the writers give our favourite spies plenty of room to breathe, letting the comedy flow from their idiosyncratic personalities instead of imposing cheap slapstick on them. I love bits like Sarah’s bemusement when Chuck and Morgan perform the Imperial March. In fact, every joke about her snail-like absorption of pop culture gets a laugh out of me.
I wish Vivian’s characterization proved as successful. For a moment, it felt like we were back to a more hesitant (and therefore believable) version of the villainess, but then she went guano loco again, blaming Chuck for taking away a father whom she tried to kill just three episodes ago. I can think of only two explanations for her erratic behaviour. Either she’ll turn out bipolar, or her inconsistent disposition is meant to echo Alexei’s own mood swings and I was right last week about Riley submitting her to Orion’s technology. We did just learn he knew about Agent X all along…
Casey versus Morgan
In keeping with the theme of overprotective in-laws, this week’s B-plot deals with Casey’s apprehension over his daughter dating a spy, especially one who can’t fight or carry a gun but makes lovely little snack packs. In typical fashion, the colonel imposes on neither Alex nor her boyfriend. Instead, he takes it on himself to protect the latter at all times, an arduous task if there ever was any. When it comes to sacrifice, Casey is equalled only by Morgan, who, in turn, quits the spy life so as not to be a burden. I’ve had my qualms about New Chuck, but it’s done a great job building the friendship between these two.
Bits and Pieces
- Here’s another television rule for you: villains always store their most precious McGuffins below large air vents so the hero can hang from a rope like in Mission: Impossible (1996). You’d figure they would learn after the third robbery or so.
- Who would invite Jeffster to their rehearsal dinner?
- Devon didn’t get to say much this week, but Casey sniping down a room full of henchmen using Morgan’s panicked point of view? Awesome, bro.
- Why would Chuck assume Vivian would use the Norseman on his mother instead of his fiancée?
So many cool quotes to choose from this week:
Casey: “Morgan, you have to die, or they’re going to kill you!”
Morgan [with a terrible Italian accent]: “Vittore la Barba! Ciao bella! Spaghetti and pizza! Mamma Mia! It’s a–me, Mario!”
I wonder how many of those Joshua Gomez improvised.
Chuck: “Move it along, Chewie.”
Sarah: “Chewie? Why are you calling him Chewie? He didn’t even eat anything off that disgusting platter.”
Chuck: “Honey, it’s a reference to Star… Oh, I love you.”
Casey: “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Whether Casey quoted Han intentionally may become the season’s biggest mystery.
Casey: “I’ll be right there as soon as I get this guy’s pants off… Oh, shut up.”
I laughed out loud at this one.
Chuck: “I’ve always wanted to say this: fasten your seatbelt! Literally. You should fasten your seatbelt right now.”
Sarah: “Oh, okay, sure.”
Chuck’s line is pretty funny, but it’s Sarah’s casual reply that had me cracking up.
Beckman: “Oh, and thanks for the invite.”
Chuck: “Oh, no…”
Beckman: “I’m not serious.”
Another winner right here.
Morgan: “You heard me the first time. Shoot the puppy! I’m so sick of feeding him. Kill the puppy!”
We’re heading for a promising finale.