Review: 'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Bearded Bandit': With great power...
A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I come back from four weeks of snorkling and sexual experimentation in Hawaii…
"Again, I'm the Intersect!" -Morgan
"Then act like it!" -Casey
Times are tough this week at both the Buy More and the company secretly (or not so secretly; see the "Chuck" Plot Hole of the Week) operating below it. Both are broke, both in desperate need of customers (the literal tumbleweed blowing through the store was a nice touch) and both try solving their problems with snazzy ad campaigns. But where Captain Awesome comes through beautifully for the store, Carmichael Industries is still in a big hole thanks to the prima donna antics of its star employee.
Yup, Morgan's doing a heel turn - albeit one that can probably be ascribed to the computer in his head. We saw what Intersects did to the two Gretas last season, and here Morgan not only starts acting supremely cocky about his new powers, but begins to seem very un-Morgan in other ways, not recognizing Chuck's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" reference, being clueless about fanboy trilogies(*) and then not even knowing who Luke Skywalker is.(**) Something is most definitely up here.
(*) And I found it a nice touch that Chuck - and/or his writers - still consider "Die Hard" to be a trilogy and just ignore the existence of the one with Justin Long.
(**) Though in fairness, many of us didn't seem to know who Luke Skywalker was when watching last week's opening scene.
Whatever the problem is, though, I don't think it played out especially well in "Chuck vs. the Bearded Bandit." There's still that stunt double issue that we talked about last week, which the show tried to work around in one scene by having Morgan fight behind frosted glass(***) but had to confront head-on in the later fight against Karl's goons. Having the double do lots of unnecessary mid-air flips doesn't compensate for not getting to see the actual Morgan Guillermo Grimes being badass, unfortunately. The larger problem, though, was that Morgan didn't come across so much dark as petulant, and the title-generating scene where Morgan attempted to play superhero during the stick-up was too silly by half, even for "Chuck." I do think there was an interesting story to tell about Chuck being on the other side of the handler/Intersect relationship - and the scene where Sarah reassured him that she wasn't handling him was one of the episode's best - but it didn't really work this week.
(***) And even gave helpful play-by-play, like when he told one of the guards, "I am gonna punch you in the face!"
On the other hand, that story also introduced us to Gertrude Verbanski, whose company functions as the Large Mart to Carmichael Industries' Buy More. (And I'm surprised we didn't get a Large Mart appearance in the B-story, given how much the show loves its spy/store parallels.) Casey romantic stories have been few and far between, and the gleam in Adam Baldwin's eyes whenever Gertrude came up told me this was gonna be a good 'un. (There's some really strong Verbanski/Casey stuff next week.)
Meanwhile, making the spy company's fortunes dependent on the store's paid quick dividends with one of the better Buy More plots in a while, which gave us more of Young Big Mike, some meta Jeffster! commentary and Captain Awesome being a rare male recipient of the magic of the Buy More wind machine on his way to saving the day. Once they started talking about sex appeal, I had assumed that Sarah would wind up back in that trampy Nerd Herd uniform she wore back in "Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer," but this worked out just as well, and neatly integrated Chuck's two jobs and family life. (Though I still think there's comedy to be generated from putting Sarah in the orbit of Mike, Jeff and Lester, which has happened all too rarely over the years.)
Some other thoughts:
• This week in "Chuck" music: "Boogie Fever" by The Sylvers (the theme to the Buy More commercial), "Complexity" by Boots Electric (the fight at Karl's headquarters), and "Half Moon" by Blind Pilot (Sarah and Chuk talk about working with Morgan, Casey prepares to call Verbanski).
• This week in "Chuck" guest stars: Three notables with geek cred: as our secret villain, we had Jeff Fahey, most recently of "Lost," but also of "The Lawnmower Man" and a zillion cheap straight-to-video sci-fi and horror films; as the good brother, Justin Hartley from "Smallville"; and as Gertrude Verbanski, Trinity herself, Carrie-Anne Moss.
• "Chuck" Plot Hole of the Week: last week, Casey smuggled the client into Castle so he wouldn't see where it was, where this week, Fahey wanders into the Buy More with a Carmichael Industries business card. Once again, Castle is the least secret secret base in the history of secret bases.
• Sarah climbing the cliff with help from Casey's marksmanship was a cool little action sequence
• Because Zachary Levi is so good at playing flustered and confused, Chuck often winds up a few steps behind the plot even though he's a genius. So it was nice to see him immediately figure out what was happening when Verbanski's people cut the lights.
What did everybody else think?