A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I apologize for an accidental touching...
"Get me Roan Montgomery!" -General Beckman
Well, that was a lot of fun, wasn't it?
John Larroquette's first appearance as Roan Montgomery came in the second episode of season two, as "Chuck" was beginning to take that leap from fun little show to show worth fighting for. That character, and that performance, perfectly captured the winking-yet-sincere tone the show was starting to master, and "Chuck vs. the Seduction" remains one of the series' best standalone episodes.
With the Volkoff arc done with, it's time for another amusing palate cleanser ala last year's "Chuck vs. the Honeymooners," and "Chuck vs. the Seduction Impossible" proved a fine time to bring back Roan - and to bring one of the original "Seduction"s best background gags to the foreground by dealing with the Roan/Beckman relationship.
Larroquette was Larroquette, and Bonita Friedericy made a meal out of the first real General Beckman episode to date, from the dirty blonde '80s flashback to Beckman whipping out a rocket launcher to save her man and take down the evil Fatima. Beckman is usually there to represent the way things are supposed to get done in spy world, as opposed to the ridiculous way Team Bartowski usually conducts itself, so it was amusing to see that Beckman has her own weak spots, and can get just as emotionally over-invested in a mission as Chuck or Sarah, who for once were the ones complaining about all the interpersonal issues interfering with a mission.
Of course, Chuck and Sarah were bickering right along with Roan and Diane, and I enjoy fights like this one (or "Chuck vs. the First Fight") where the two are on a relatively equal footing. Because Sarah's the gorgeous super-agent and Chuck's the bumbling reformed nerd, the show has a tendency to paint a lot of conflicts between the two as Chuck being a spaz and Sarah just indulging him. That may have been fun once upon a time, but it feels like it does a disservice to both characters and their relationship at this point - as well as to Yvonne Strahovski, who's usually at her funniest when Sarah isn't just rolling her eyes at Chuck's latest bit of neurosis. So it was entertaining to see them both trying to out-manipulate each other about the eloping issue - not just because Strahovski got to do the whole belly dancer thing, but because of the context of it in that scene and in the whole episode.
Similarly, episodes in which Sarah doesn't have to treat Chuck with kid gloves - which she shouldn't have to anymore - allow for amusing little moments like her declaring that they'll be the worst spies in the world if he sneezes, or the earlier scene where she bluntly tells Chuck and Casey that she will not be dressing as a belly dancer on the mission.(*)
(*) This one was co-written by Chris Fedak and Kristin Newman, a new addition to this year's writing staff who was also responsible for the Sarah-centric "Chuck vs. Phase Three." I think it's safe to say she knows how to write for the Giant Blonde She-Male of Thailand. More quippy Sarah, please.
Though I wouldn't mind if we get a run of standalones for a while, ala this point in season 3, the idea of Chuck trying to reunite Sarah's family has some potential - if for no other reason than to bring back Gary Cole.
And after Casey spent most of last week's episode in a hospital bed, he was thankfully prominent throughout this one, whether failing to prove his own seduction skills, hiding inside a wall (ala the story from "Chuck vs. the Coup D'Etat"), seeming almost eager to cut his own arm off or blowing away the bad guys through a literal hole in the wall. And the Alex/Morgan storyline finally addressed a question many of us have been asking all season: it's nice that Casey connected with his daughter, but why hasn't he told her mom that he's alive? Some good work from Adam Baldwin in that final scene, and I suspect we haven't seen the last of Kathleen.
All in all, a very strong start to season 4.1, or whatever we want to call it.
Some other thoughts:
• This week in "Chuck" music: "Black Red" by Dr. Dog (Morgan and Chuck talk about the elopement), "65 Bars & A Taste of Soul" by Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band (the team finds Roan tied up in Fatima's bed), "Breeze" by Alex Silverman (Morgan tells Alex about his plan for Casey), "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford (Roan forced to work at the Buy More), "Wind of Change" by cheesy '80s German hair band Scorpions (Roan and Beckman's '80s love theme).
• Unless the writers have some big endgame in mind, not sure if there's still value in the idea that Ellie is the only one who doesn't know Chuck is spying again. On the plus side, how she dealt with sending her mom back to work suggests it won't be too melodramatic when the secret inevitably comes out. And that subplot did some nice things with the idea of a super-spy grandmommy.
• Loved how desperately Chuck, Sarah and Casey wanted a mission after spending some time in baby world at Ellie and Awesome's. Anyone who spends a lot of time around infants can relate to the desire for something adult - even if it's potentially dangerous.
• Was Fatima named after the Barbara Carrera villainess from "Never Say Never Again"? Even if she wasn't, it still gives me the excuse to link to possibly my favorite line in any James Bond movie, official or unofficial.
• Nice edit from Alex shaking her head right after Morgan has said how much she looks like Casey to Casey shaking his head the same way.
• I like the idea of the Buy More as a place Beckman sends spies to for punishment detail. Maybe that has something to do with the whole Greta gag from earlier in the season?
• That's two episodes in a row without Chuck Fu (unless you assume Chuck still needs the Intersect to know how to throw a simple punch like he used on Volkoff last week) and only minimal Intersect info-flashing. Hmm... glad the writers don't lean on the Intersect as a crutch, but I'm curious if they're just biding their time until they get around to explaining what the Orion reboot did to the system.
What did everybody else think?
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