Chuck Review: “Chuck vs. The Fake Name”

M: This week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother started with Bob Saget (who narrates, because Josh Radnor couldn’t possibly sound the same in 20 years) telling the kids that in this story he was just a jerk.  Well, that dovetailed well into Chuck vs The Fake Name, because once again they made Chuck be a jerk.  And so, the season of sucking continues for Chuck.  Just to clarify, not the show, but the character’s life.  The show has still been entertaining, but they are wrecking our boy’s life.

They start it with having him step completely out of character and dump Sarah.  Then they toy with him, the make him betray his family and friends, they make him burn an asset, lie to Hannah, and are turning him into a cold-hearted spy while they turn Sarah (or should we now say “Sam”?  I’m going to go with Sarahm) into the warm-hearted woman willing to date in the office that he always wanted her to be.  Then they throw him a bone, have another “normal” relationship start… only to have it quickly falter, just as they did with Rachel Bilson’s Lou.  This time they torture him more by having him be the one to do the crushing, all while Sarahm decides to throw the caution of the first two seasons to the wind and get it on with super-stiff Shaw.  However, despite the bad choices they are making and the disaster they have made of Chuck’s emotions, there were plenty of great Chuck moments.

C: Let’s focus on those, because I did enjoy this episode for itself, if not for where they’re taking the show overall.  And in fact, I like that they’re letting Chuck do more “serious” spy work.  In this episode Chuck has to take on the alias of an internationally-reputed assassin Rafe Gruber, and his imitation led to some moments of truly brilliant comedy.  Like when Chuck objects that his team is underestimating his acting ability – he did, after all, play Perchik in a performance of Fiddler on the Roof!  I would have seen him as Motel the tailor, actually.  Can’t you just hear his rendition of “Wonder of Wonders”?

M: Agreed, that fits both Chuck and Zach Levi much better.  But yeah, excellent line, as was Chuck talking on the phone in his Gruber voice: “Right across from the cupcake place. [pause]  Because I like cupcakes.”  There were also some great moments for the secondary characters.

C: Casey’s line delivery always gets our attention, but Lester had the delivery of the night as he and Jeff stare at Chuck and Hannah kissing: “I am so lonely.”

M: That was fantastic, and Jeffster had some great moments as a whole.  The theory on how Chuck does it, either mind-controlling LSD or sorcery, was excellent.  But remember, Casey had a heck of a night himself, too.  “Five people in the world can make this shot, huh?  Guess I’m one of them.”

C: Big Mike, Jeff and Lester having a ‘shipper conversation about Chuck’s many loves and how Sarah is the only one brings out the light in his eyes?  Absolutely hilarious.  A little inappropriately meta, perhaps, but hilarious.  And there was yet another meta conversation, with the criminal agents who helped Chuck (alias Gruber) track down his target talking about Chuck’s tumultuous relationship with Sarah: “I hate those will-they-or-won’t-they things.”  I was sad to see those two get shot – sure, they were bad guys, but they were funny.

M: So funny, and one of them served with Casey when he was know as Alex Coburn.  Talk about versatile!

C: Oh yes, Chuck’s attempt to cover for his inability to shoot Casey led to another of my favorite lines, after he asks the guys if their torture equipment is sterile.  “I take pride in my work, alright?  I wanna kill him, not some secondary infection.”

M: Whatever it might say about how “Chuck is changing,” I was entertained by him having to pull out one of Casey’s teeth.  Which of course led to Casey’s line “Got one with a cavity, saved me a trip to the dentist.”  Love Casey, and love that he genuinely praised Chuck for the job he did in the club.  The whole subplot of him pretending to be Gruber was peppered with great comedy.

C: So as you mentioned at the start of the post, M, there’s been a lot of discussion about the choice to break up Chuck and Sarah (M: It’s Sarahm) at the start of the season, before they had a real chance to be together.  Particularly after the last episode with the Superpeople Hookups, the ‘net was afire with discussion of the quadrangle controversy.  This episode dove straight into those issues, having the characters actually discuss it.  The refrain from all sides seemed to be: Chuck ultimately belongs with Sarah (M: Sarahm!).  Methinks the show doth protest too much.  I’d much rather they convinced me that Chuck should be with her than told me that.

M: See, over the first two seasons they convinced everyone, now this season they have very unconvincingly separated them.  Yet, they are also unconvincing in their attempt to make the separation look wrong.  Just an odd double screw up.

C: That is in part because of the problem with having a guest star on a limited run of episodes.  When you do, events get compressed in a way that strains believability.  Even if Chuck is toughening up, dumping Hannah at dinner with her parents?  That was way more tactless than I think he’d ever be.  He should have let her have a nice visit with her folks first – it’s not like they’d be devastated to find out later that the guy she’d been out with twice was no longer in the picture.  Not to mention, as she points out, the fact that they’d only just slept together the night before.  I get the point the show is trying to make – that being a spy must and will change Chuck, and it’s already started – but to my mind, unnecessary emotional cruelty isn’t consistent with a more serious version of Chuck either.

M: Not at all.  Like you said before, Chuck getting to do more real spy stuff is good.  However, them doing it at the expense of him losing his quirky, funny, kind-hearted personality is bad.  So to sum up, more of the tongue in cheek funny awesomeness, less of the emotional sucking.  Please.

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One comment on “Chuck Review: “Chuck vs. The Fake Name”

  1. thepresidentrix says:

    I’m with you guys: the Rafe Gruber plotline was incredibly funny – especially the part where Chuck loses character and ends up telling the two thugs how Shaw has stolen his girl, and they’re nothing but sympathetic because they’ve bought into his Gruber persona *so* completely – but I just don’t believe in the central idea this episode is supposed to be communicating: that Chuck is becoming this whole new, less desirable person.

    It doesn’t matter how many times they repeat that Chuck is becoming some kind of cold-blooded liar, Chuck’s actual characterization doesn’t bear it out. He has more people to lie to now, and he’s just slightly better accustomed to inventing good lies than he was in the past, but Chuck has been dissembling his way out of awkward and dangerous situations for years now! Lying has been the skill Chuck has used as a substitute for the other legitimate spy skills. If Chuck were solving problems with violence now that he has the Intersect to help him do so, that might bespeak a real problem to me, but (not that lying is, like, morally admirable or anything, heh) instead he’s just screwing up his face and yanking Casey’s tooth out – at Casey’s insistence – more or less the same as always.

    I guess Chuck is doing some things differently, but they’re not the things the show is trying to get us all worked up about. Like, Chuck is complaining less about how the government mistreats him and puts his family in danger. And Chuck is acting less helpless, but that’s the culmination of a general trend that began when the show did.

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