A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as we do a spy high-five...
"Once you know all the cons, you can never be a sucker." -Sarah
Since Chuck and Sarah got engaged, there have been so many references to Sarah's family that it was all but inevitable we'd see Gary Cole again as smilin' Jack Burton. And Cole's return was as much fun as I hoped it would be - in some ways, even better than his first appearance in season two's "Chuck vs. the Delorean," where I liked Sarah and Jack's interaction but thought the actual con job was a bit thin.
"Chuck vs. the Wedding Planner" had its own flaw in the section where Sarah and Chuck are illegally using government resources to catch the con woman and wind up getting more government "help" than they bargained for. Not only was it too silly even by "Chuck" standards, it was simultaneously too flop-sweaty (the scene on the Super Shuttle is about as frantic as I can remember Zach Levi in this part) and not trying hard enough. (If they were going to do this, they should have really piled on the amount of resources being thrown at this woman so it reached something on the level of the manhunt for Jake and Ellwood at the end of "The Blues Brothers." I recognize that Schwartz and Fedak don't have the budget to work with that John Landis did, but if all you're going to throw at Daphne is bunch of guys in a van with a net, do something else.)
But once Jack turned up in Burbank to help his daughter and her schnook of a fiance be heroes and get back in the good graces of General Beckman, "Wedding Planner" was really very strong, both as a comedy piece (loved Yvonne Strahovski's accent as she impersonated Daphne) and another story about Sarah's colorful but ultimately sad past.
I really liked the flashbacks to young Sarah learning all the cons and hero-worshipping her dad even as we knew how much he would disappoint her. (Young Sarah teaching the shell game to her stuffed animals? Adorable.) And Strahovski and Cole worked so well together, again, in the present-day scenes, as Sarah tries to put aside the hurt that comes from believing you're just another mark. Throwing together the last-minute wedding reception was a more effective con than the thing with the foreign businessmen in "Delorean," and Jack got to save the day, keep Morgan alive and leave Sarah with about the best wedding present he was capable of in replenishing their funds with the piggy bank it turns out he only kept for safe-keeping, not to steal from his daughter.
There was plenty of absentee father stuff from the B-story as well, as Kathleen finally confronts Casey(*), takes his cover job for his real job, and again makes Casey feel lousy about leaving her behind all those years before. Some very good work from Adam Baldwin in that confrontation, and I imagine that Kathleen learning the truth about what he does will be just the beginning, rather than end, of that story.
(*) Did she not see him at the end of "Chuck vs. the Tic-Tac"? My vague recollection is that she did, but it was so brief, and he was so much older and different from the Alex Coburn we saw in the flashbacks, that it just didn't register.
The ratings last week were pretty awful (see below), so we may have to brace ourselves for the idea that the next three episodes could easily be the last ones. But if they are, a Chuck/Sarah wedding and some kind of reconciliation between Casey and his baby mama doesn't sound like such a bad note to end on - particularly given how many other endings the show has done in the past.
Some other thoughts:
• Not good news on the ratings front, as last week's episode pulled in a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic. Admittedly, it was the first episode after the show had been in repeats for several weeks, and "Chuck," like many network shows, tends to see its ratings dip as the weather gets nicer and the clocks change, but regardless of the reasons for it, I have to believe that a 1.3 is not only below what NBC would consider acceptable for renewal, but well below it. (For much of this year, the show was consistently hovering around a 2.0, and then inexplicably dipped to a 1.7 every week. At the time of the dip, I worried that "new normal" might be too low.) We're past advertiser pleas, significant budget cuts and other means of life/fan support at this point, I think; either the ratings rise up several tenths of a percentage point and the show gets one more year, or they don't and it doesn't. If you somehow know somebody with a Nielsen box, now is the time to suck up to them.
• Okay, one worthwhile part of Chuck and Sarah trying to scam Beckman: Strahovski's impression of Levi doing the Intersect face was hilarious.
• Sarah doesn't know what Super Shuttle is. She has lived a much fancier life than some of us.
• The episode featured not only several callbacks to "Chuck vs. the Delorean" (Jack calls Casey "Cop Face" again), but also one to last season's "Chuck vs. the Fake Name" (Chuck again makes his famous chicken pepperoni for Sarah).
• This week in "Chuck" music: "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant (young Sarah sells Girl Scout cookies), "Tierra Lejana" by Orquesta Mazacote (Sarah and Chuck find out they've been conned), "The Bomb" by Pigeon John (the team throws together a fake Hungarian wedding), "What I Like About You" by The Romantics (Chuck is the DJ), "At Last" by Etta James (Sarah and Jack share a dance), "A Million Years" by Alexander (the final montage).
What did everybody else think?
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