Review: 'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. Agent X': Vecas, baby! Vecas!
A quick review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I apologize for dishonoring your shirt...
"We need to think of this weekend like a war." -Captain Awesome
"Chuck vs. Agent X" was kind of a hodge podge. It's a transitional episode setting up the end game with Volkoff that the season's final 2 episodes will focus on, but it also felt like an hour comprised of two or three different ideas that nobody could quite flesh out to fill up an entire episode, and so were compressed together. So we got a little bit of Chuck's bachelor party turning into a mission, and we got a bit of Chuck and Ellie finally revealing what each knows about the Intersect to each other, and then we got a second mission to England so Casey could meet the mother he never had and Chuck and Ellie could find out that their family's relationship to Alexi Volkoff is vastly more complicated than they had imagined. There have been plenty of "Chuck" episodes before that have featured multiple stories in multiple locales, but the seams connecting the pieces don't usually show as much as they did this week.
Which isn't to say it was a bad episode. The bachelor party misunderstanding wound up falling a little flat, and was another example of how the writers don't quite know what to do with Big Mike and Jeffster these days(*), but I quite liked several other parts. Casey turning Captain Awesome into another trouble magnet like Morgan while he took out all of Ray Wise's goons was fun, for instance. And Mrs. Winterbottom - with her mixture of stereotypical English countryside gentility and extreme military competence - may be one of my favorite one-shot characters this show has ever featured - and maybe, if we're very lucky, she'll turn up again in one of the next two episodes, brandishing her machine gun again, possibly with a cigar borrowed from Casey.
(*) I don't want to put anybody out of work, and I love all three characters, but if the show somehow comes back for a fifth season, I'm not sure if there's room anymore for the characters who are out of the spy loop. And at the same time, having Jeff and/or Lester visit Castle would seem pretty ridiculous even for a show that's managed to make Morgan being a spy seem vaguely plausible.
And though Ellie seeing Chuck as the Intersect was more rushed than I would have liked, given how much time the show has spent building up to this moment, I still thought it was very well-done. It's one thing to be told (as Ellie was a year ago at this time) that your goofball kid brother is really a spy. It's quite another to see him not only displaying these incredible skills, but skills you now understand because you've been obsessed with your father's work. A really nice scene, and Sarah Lancaster nailed Ellie's reaction to seeing Chuck be master of the katana.
I'm still thinking on the revelation about Volkoff. On the one hand, I'm glad that Alexi will be at least as important to the end of the season as Vivian. On the other, it's hard to shake the feeling that everything to do with Volkoff has been made up piecemeal, based on the number of episodes the creative team knew they had at various points and on Timothy Dalton's availability. Maybe it'll all hang together in the end - and Dalton has certainly demonstrated in previous episodes like "Chuck vs. the Family Volkoff" or "Chuck vs. the Leftovers" just how well he can make this stuff feel more coherent than it probably should - but my reaction to that reveal (which I'd begun to suspect around the time Chuck identified the house's location) was, "Um, okay. Why not?"
Some other thoughts:
• Demo rating was a 1.3 again last week, and the next night NBC had a huge debut for "The Voice." Some other TV analyst types are arguing that it still makes sense for NBC to order one last 13-episode season so that NBC has one less new property to launch in the fall, but at this point, I've given up guessing. Either renewal comes or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, Fedak, Schwartz and company have already given us 17 previous series finales for us to pick and choose from, regardless of what we get in a few weeks.
• Again, I'm not sure what role the Buy More guys have on the show anymore, but who doesn't enjoy a goofy montage set to Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car," even if it's the show's latest plug for Toyota?
• Speaking of which, this week in "Chuck" music: "Blow" by Ke$ha (used multiple times, as the guys prepare for the bachelor party, Ellie and Sarah have cocktails, and Casey and Hartley's mom blow up the house), "Line in the Sand" by Mackintosh Braun (Sarah gets an ill-timed lapdance), "Keep It Coming" by Pixie Carnation (Chuck reveals his secrets to Ellie), the aforementioned Billy Ocean tune (Mike and Jeffster party as they drive to Reneaux) and "Codex" by Radiohead (the team finds out who Agent X really is, and Casey shuts down all discussion).
• I had to laugh at Ellie's explanation that many of the women at the bachelorette party for largely-friendless Sarah were "the Wienerlicious girls" (a job where we never saw anyone but Sarah and her obnoxious boss) and women from the hospital. And once again, I must lament the show's elimination of Wienerlicious, and then of any kind of cover identity for Sarah.
• Glad to see Ray Wise continue to stick around; wish he was given more of an oppportunity to be funny and/or menacing.
What did everybody else think?