Recap: 'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Fake Name'
In which Chuck does a bad, bad thing and we learn Sarah's real name
Follow HitFix: Follow @hitfix
NBC just finished a two-week Olympic run featuring some of the network's highest ratings in years. During that time, when NBC was averaging 20+ million viewers per night (and a goodly number during the day and across different cable platforms), did anybody notice a single ad for "Chuck"?
I didn't watch every second, so that's not a leading question. It's completely possible that NBC promoed "Chuck" quite thoroughly when I was watching "American Idol" or "Survivor" or something.
I saw plenty of love for "Parenthood," which I like.
I saw entirely too much love for "The Marriage Ref," which was pretty poor.
There were copious reminders that after shooting the fall all to heck, Jay Leno is returning to 11:35.
I also saw recurring spots for the baby coming to "The Office," Lisa Kudrow helping people trace their genealogy, Donald Trump firing a new pack of semi-celebrities and new slots for shows containing the words "law" and "order."
Heck, I may have even seen a commercial for "Wings."
But "Chuck"? Nowhere to be seen or heard from, even during yesterday afternoon's episode USA-Canada hockey game, when a "Hey, 'Chuck' comes back tomorrow" reminder might have been helpful.
Thus endeth my rant. NBC really plugged the heck out of "Chuck" back in January, so you can't say the network has been utterly apathetic, just that NBC has been apathetic lately, when a little interest might have helped.
Plus, "Chuck vs. the Fake Name" was a good episode and I kinda hope people tuned in.
Thoughts on Monday's "Chuck" after the break...
When last we left "Chuck," a certain small-but-vocal part of the "Chuck"-verse was in an uproar over the horrifying notion that, at least temporarily, Chuck and Sarah might find themselves kissing other people. I was a little shocked by just how angry a couple fans got over on Sepinwall's blog, largely because to my mind, Chuck and Sarah hadn't really gone sufficiently far with Hannah and Shaw to justify any outrage.
It's my concern, then, that the irritation at Monday's episode might be even greater. Not only did the episode begin with Chuck and Hannah post-coital -- To Ellie, "Hannah is a girl... She is a girl... and a friend... Very close friend... Technically as close as two people can kind of... Donut?" -- but it ended with Chuck pulling as big a dick move as one could possibly imagine, breaking up with Hannah at an intimate dinner with her parents, the night after sleeping with her.
That's going to cheese some people off.
But I continue to think it's part of the character's journey this season. The point continues to be that Chuck has changed and part of why Sarah can look and see other people is because Chuck is not the man he was before. He's got new abilities and those include kung-fu, fencing and, it turns out, breaking a totally innocent young woman's heart.
"You're not a nice guy," Hannah told Chuck, noting that she was accustomed to dating liars, adding, "You're like the best I've ever seen. I hope that your lies keep you warm at night."
Chuck/Sarah 'shippers don't want to hear this, but at this exact moment, they don't *want* Chuck and Sarah to be together, because the Chuck who's roaming free now many not be a spy just yet and he may not be an assassin just yet, but he's certainly not lovable Nerd Herder Chuck. We're not there yet, but the second half of the season is going to involve a Re-Chuckification of Chuck, a set of steps that will be mandatory before Chuck/Sarah fans can actually enjoy what they're sure they want.
Or are Chuck/Sarah 'shippers going to be enthusiastic about Chuck's dick move simply because he broke Hannah's heart because he either did or didn't realize his feelings for Sarah? I'd hate to think that.
So Chuck's behaving badly and Sarah ends the episode making out with Shaw? Yeah, this isn't the immediate gratification/reversal some people were hoping for.
But, like I said, it was a good episode!
The job of the week found Chuck impersonating ace assassin Rafe Gruber, a martial arts expert and sharp-shooter played Johnny Messner, who Josh Schwartz fans will recall caused real problems for Julie Cooper on "The O.C." back in the day. Chuck's task? Standing in for Rafe and learning who his next hit was on. Adding complications? The assassin hero worship from Fake Rafe's employers, amusingly generic mobsters played by Tony Sirico and Louis Lombardi.
This forced Chuck to play-act as Rafe, which was a nice little showcase for Zachary Levi and led to a good semi-homage to "Marathon Man," as Chuck had to torture/perform oral surgery on Casey, insisting on sterilized equipment before ripping out a tooth.
"I want to kill him, not some secondary infection," Chuck growled.
Even Casey was impressed by Chuck's dental skills, noting "For a second, I hardly even recognized him."
This being the exact thing Sarah has been fearing and a point repeated in four or five different contexts in the episode, it didn't go over so well.
The target? Shaw, who The Ring still wants dead.
The narrative purpose? For Chuck to somehow surveil Shaw and Sarah's growing intimacy, including her dropping the bombshell that her real name is... Sam. Uh-oh. That's probably a confessional moment the fans wanted Sarah to share with Chuck, rather than Superman. But maybe there was a purpose to that?
The conclusion/punchline? Casey, killing skills maligned earlier in the episode, taking the real Rafe out from perilous distance.
"Five people in the world can make this shot, huh? Guess I'm one of them," Casey say.
There were plenty more things of note within the episode, but it's probably just better to just deal with a slew of thoughts, bullet-point style:
*** This was a good Sarah Lancaster episode, with Ellie lamenting that Chuck doesn't share with her and breaking through Chuck's reserves to get him to realize that he was holding back with Hannah because of feelings for Sarah. "This is why I don't come talk to you, Ellie. Because you're half a spy," Chuck said, sweetly. He then added, "I feel like I'm not me anymore," just in case the other seven or eight similar sentiments in the episode didn't sink in. BECOMING A SPY MAKES YOU A DIFFERENT PERSON, FOLKS! Good.
*** This was a week for Chuck's male actors to hit the gym, starting with Captain Awesome and his trademark upside-down pull-ups, and going through Shaw wandering around his hotel room in a towel. For some viewers, this will be a great week indeed.
*** Very pleased to get a reference to both Jill and, in particular, Rachel Bilson's Lou, of whom Big Mike aptly said, "She was a fine, miniature piece of woman."
*** Like Chuck, I *also* played Perchik in my high school's production of "Fiddler on the Roof."
*** I liked Chuck's growling assassin persona, especially the delivery of the line, "Yeah. I know where that is. Across the street from the cupcake place. Because I like cupcakes, that's why. Who doesn't like a good cupcake?"
*** This week's absent castmember? Morgan. Boo. Don't worry. More Morgan next week.
*** In Morgan's absence, we got at least some Buy More action, albeit of a strange nature with Big Mike relying on his El Segundo School of Finance training to get the gang cooking gumbo in order to move an over-stock of crock-pots. This sorta paralleled Chuck cooking his famous pepperoni chicken for a romantic dinner with Hannah, Awesome and Ellie, a dinner that had to be prepared by Shaw and Sarah. The Internet has many handy recipes for pepperoni chicken and I'm not totally sure which one I want to believe Chuck was so talentless at making.
*** I've consistently insisted that Hannah had to be tied to The Ring in some manner, either knowingly or unknowingly. As of this second? It appears she was exactly what she seemed to be. Hmmm...
*** My favorite line of the episode: Jeff, regarding Chuck's status as what Lester called "the greatest lady magnet Burbank has ever seen," "I've narrowed it down to either mind-conrolling LSD or sorcery."
*** Alternative favorite line of the week: Captain Awesome's response to Shaw and Sarah's pepperoni chicken: "My tastebuds are fist-bumping each other, yo."
*** Who is Alex Coburn?
*** Mrs. Seaver from "Growing Pains" was Chuck's first crush. And yet none of Chuck's various crushes have really given off a Joanna Kerns vibe. Go figure.
I could go on, but I'll just open the floor. What'd we think of "Chuck vs. the Fake Name"?