Chuck Review: “Chuck Vs. the American Hero”

E: Tonight’s episode centered around Chuck’s determination to win Sarah back and take her away to Rome as part of his new team, and Shaw’s determination to take out the Ring, even at the expense of his own life.  I confess, if I’d known the title in advance I’d have been very disappointed.  I’d have thought they were referring to the cult 80s tv show (a family favorite, of course) rather than Shaw’s Viking/Klingon-like desire to die gloriously in battle. (M: Perhaps today IS a good day to die!)

So, first Chuck goes to D.C., meets General Beckman in person (who kicks him a little for acting like a puppy, and then uses Tim Gunn’s immortal phrase to set him back on his feet – “make it work!”) and gets his assignment as a expatriot playboy living an astounding villa near Rome.  Then he flies back to Burbank to plead for Sarah to join his team.  No luck at first, but he does get Casey, Morgan, and Awesome in his corner.  Casey and Morgan want to go to Rome with him, and Awesome wants to go to Africa with Ellie, and so they all decide they need to sabotage Sarah’s budding relationship with Shaw in order to help Chuck make it all happen. Of course, when you mix in the Ring and its obsession with Shaw, events get pretty out of control.  We end up with a kamikaze mission, an assignation at a train station, and a kidnapping.  They’re setting up quite the episode for next week!

C: Probably the best part of tonight’s episode?  Awesome, Morgan, and Casey teaming up to help Chuck get Sarah back.

E: Completely amazing.  Loved it!  Those three are such distinct voices, with such different experiences, each one trusting in himself and thinking he’s best prepared to give romantic advice.  Really, really great.

M: That felt like old-school Chuck.  It was fun, goofy, and yet had a good spy-espionage plot behind it, with bad guys being nefarious and menacing.

C: In an episode where Chuck spent a little too much time angsting instead of pursuing the forward momentum he’s usually so good at, the secondary characters really stepped it up a notch.  Even Ellie, who mostly gets to spend her time complaining, got to tell Chuck not to give up on Sarah – he’s a Bartowski!  That’s not what Bartowskis do!

E: “You didn’t go far enough” – excellent. That was Ellie’s best moment in ages.

M: Considering that she’s gotten on average one line a week this season, that doesn’t take much.

C: Sad but true.  The three guys in Jeff’s van stalking Shaw and Sarah on their date, though: that was priceless.

E: Let’s not forget Morgan’s dismissal of Awesome’s dating advice: what works for Awesome won’t work for Chuck, because “you live in a bubble! a charming bubble of handsomeness!”

M: Awesome’s face was classic!

E: And then there’s Jeff and Lester.  I actually enjoyed Dumb and Dumber for the first time in ages.  When they decided to stalk Shaw (in resentment for not being included in the gang of three stalking earlier in the episode), just when he’d been taken to the Ring’s secret lair, and had lost his tracking device?  Outstanding.  Lester properly declaring Jeff “the Picasso of creepiness”?  Genius.

M: I have to say, the art geek in me loved that Jeff’s reply to that was that he was in his “blue period”.  Semi-obscure greatness.

E: Is that obscure?  To whom?

M: My very scientific analysis leads me to believe that at least 50% of the general public don’t know that Picasso had a “blue period”.  😉

E: Right.  Anyway, I love Chuck vowing to tell his grandchildren tales of Jeffster’s brilliance.  From art to technology, though, did you guys get what the little hand held device was at first?  I originally thought it was scanning for the tracker/film, not pulling it up out of the swallower’s stomach.  Gross.  It took me until the second time around to get it.  I couldn’t figure out why Shaw was squirming so much at first.  An interesting gadget, that.

M: I didn’t get it at first, but when Beckman said that the mole was digesting it the light bulb went off.

C: Speaking of tech, and proving the point well established by The X-Files – that there’s nothing hotter than a man in a utility vest – Chuck looks awfully kickass when he strips off his Buy More jacket to reveal a tricked-out vest stuffed with warlike implements.  Nonetheless… does anyone else miss the Chuck who had to think his way out of trouble?  Couldn’t we have kept a little more of that in his new spy persona?

E: I don’t know, I kind of thought he brought along the arsenal for just that reason – to help on the fly.  I wasn’t so offended by that.

M: I agree, at least to a point.  I liked when he would use computer geekery, his wits and his purple crayon (sorry to those who don’t have small children and don’t catch that reference).  But I liked that they are letting him grow.  I have to say, I enjoyed the “didn’t even need to flash” moment.

C: Speaking of X-Files, I appreciated the cameo by Mark Sheppard (known to X-philes as Cecil L’Ively and to Battlestar Galactica fans as Romo Lampkin) as the director of the Ring.

E: Mr. E and I were quite excited about that as well. Not to mention the fact that he was a hologram.  Let the nerd flags fly!

M: Ok, I remember him from BSG, and from Warehouse 13…  was he in X-Files after I stopped watching (you know, when Mulder left the show and it sucked)?  How do I not know this!

E: You’re just not as all knowing as you think you are, I guess. By the way, he was on Dollhouse, too.  The man has an all-geek resume.  Anyway, the director used the red test spy’s information to break Shaw – by revealing that Sarah had killed his wife.  And then the stealth bomber flies in and blows everything up!

C: I love that Chuck, carrying Shaw out of the burning wreckage of the bombed warehouse, looks very strained – Shaw’s a big guy!  But the melodramatic music featuring Our Lady of Soundtrack Sorrow was just a bit much.

E: Indeed.  I have to say, about a third of the way through the episode I felt like the whole Chuck and Sarah thing was so over, and I just wanted the pain and the pleading to stop.  But I’m a big fan of his declaration of love, and him saving Shaw because Shaw means something to Sarah.  And I loved Casey confessing to Sarah about the red test from last week.

M: Couldn’t agree more, with each bit of that.  Half way through I just wanted the soap opera to end, but by the end they were back to pushing the right buttons.  Good for you, Chuck writers!

E: Given all the tedium of early on, I’m kind of thrilled by the whole kidnapping of Sarah.  And did I not call it, that Sarah’s red test victim was going to be Shaw’s wife?  What I want to know is why.  I expect we’ll find that out eventually, but will Shaw go utterly off the reservation first?  And will General Beckman find out that Casey stepped in and rigged Chuck’s red test?  You know what they say about inquiring minds…

M: I think Shaw goes bad, I think Sarah’s red test (still not liking this whole concept) was a mistaken identity thing, and I think that no one ever finds out that Casey killed the guy from Worst Week (I forgot to mention in last week’s review, but after having watched that show, I totally couldn’t buy him as a criminal mastermind spy).

E: You mean that Sarah killed the wrong person who just happened to also be a CIA agent?  I don’t buy that.  I think it’s more likely that Mrs Shaw was a double agent, or that Sarah’s orders were bogus.  Beckman ought to be able to find all that out, right?

M: Maybe.  However, I’m getting a suspicious feeling that Chuck will end up killing Shaw in self defense, or more likely to save Sarah.

E: Oooh. Uck.  That’s upsetting.  I don’t like that idea at all.  Still, self defense in the line of duty – or to prevent the death of a loved one – is surely not the same thing as an assassination/execution, which the red tests seem to be.

What did you think, by the way, of Chuck changing his mind again and deciding he wanted to run away to Mexico with Sarah and give up the spy life?  Make up your mind, kid!

This entry was posted in Chuck, TV.

11 comments on “Chuck Review: “Chuck Vs. the American Hero”

  1. shasas says:

    I think the ring leaked bad info to the US about Shaw’s wife being dirty so that they would take her out and the ring would end up with a large bargaining chip to control shaw, for whatever reason they want to…

    and yeah, make up your friggin mind, chuck

    • E says:

      I think it’s likely to be something like that, too. Yet another reason that giving every spy a red test, where they know nothing of the person they’re killing, is a bad idea!

      • M says:

        I agree about the red test but Chuck knew a pretty good amount about Worst Week guy. Sarah’s seems really sketchy, where she seemed like she didn’t even know who the target was, and barely seemed to even know that it was the right person.

        • thepresidentrix says:

          Speaking of Worst Week guy, did you notice the paperwork at CIA HQ that said he was born in 1984? I was, like, omg, Chuck’s being sent to assassinate people three years younger than me! (And C). Makes me feel *old.*

          I am confused as to what Chuck gets to do with his hand-picked team of top agents once he has them. Um… more or less the same thing he does with his non-hand-picked team of top agents now? Only in Italy, with more games of laser tag in the Staggeringly Large Villa? They’re made such a huge deal about Chuck needing to be ready to work on his own – but apparently by ‘on his own,’ they meant ‘along with anybody he wants including the very people he was working with last week.’

          Also, it matters little in the grand scheme of things, but can I just say: I wish Shaw were a more coherent character. I was intrigued by him at the first, but ever since then it seems like they’ve been installing new personality software in their hunky romantic-obstacle-drone every time they need Shaw to present a new kind of romantic obstacle. He’s not just obnoxious and a jerk, he’s not even a consistent person. I mean, as fun as it is to see a guy snort and stamp and flare his nostrils like an out of control, charging bull, Shaw has always seemed so calculating up till now, and a calculating guy doesn’t get revenge by dumping Sarah’s body in a shallow ditch, he goes after the people in charge who made it happen.

          • E says:

            I adore that metaphor. What a great assessment of Shaw. Seriously, Sarah has already TOLD him that she had no idea who the woman she killed was. So while I can understand it being beyond upsetting, and might cause him to break up with her, torturing and kidnapping her does stretch his consistency.

            Also, red test victim Hunter Perry? No way that man was 26. Ridiculous. (Ha ha ha – I’m proud of myself. I looked at that and thought, 26? More like 35 – and I just looked him up on the imdb and what is he? 35.)

  2. shasas says:

    oh, and the vest of “goodies” chuck had were all nerdy, non-lethal; I think b/c of that it worked perfectly.

    • E says:

      I couldn’t tell what any of them were, except of course the flash thing that got set off. But gadgets, rather than lethal weapons,are properly Chuck-like.

      • thepresidentrix says:

        I love the idea of Chuck working only with non-lethal weapons, because it’s creative and it’s so much easier to watch him discharge them without cringing. But lately this show has some seriously unexamined principles about being a Bringer of Death.

        Like, apparently whether you should ever kill or not is not determined by whether you ever find yourself in circumstances under which killing would be justified – or even required of you – but by your personality. Sarah and Casey were born to be killers, but Chuck is too nice, so he can’t, ever ever ever.

        Meanwhile, Chuck allegedly refrains from killing his opponents, but he tranqs them in a building that’s about to be bombed. Death from above, as it were. Which effectively kills them. I mean, I’d rather distance myself from the directly causing death, too, in Chuck’s place, but he’s not actually sparing lives in all the instances where he gets credit for his non-lethal strategies.

        Frankly, I am starting to get annoyed at Chuck (the person – the dorky, adorable, beleaguered person) for reminding me of James McAvoy’s awful character in Wanted. The guy who would rather sign up to be an assassin than work at a crappy job, but who shows himself to be singularly obtuse about what the word ‘assassin’ means. (‘WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO, HURT PEOPLE?!!’) You’re supposed to feel for the guy (either guy) because he doesn’t go into it knowing what he’s going to be asked to do, but mostly you end up feeling angry because he *should* have known better. And Chuck’s been around spies for two years now, and he knows that they’re not supposed to get sentimental, they’re not supposed to have attacks of conscience, they’re not supposed to have any reservations about hurting, manipulating and using people – even their own families. So he should KNOW he’s going to be asked to do these things; that should figure in to his agreement or refusal to do them.

        • E says:

          Those are good points. I actually think that Chuck could pull the trigger given the right circumstance, but for him the right circumstance would never be just someone telling him “this is a bad man, go kill him.” He could never be an assassin. It doesn’t seem unfair for him to want to be a CIA agent, though. They’re clearly not all assassins.

          So anyway, yes, he should know what comes with the job, but does that mean he should be prepared to execute people outside the heat of battle? I don’t think so. Nor do I think it’d be right to basically ask agents to kill people for practice. (I mean, duh, you weren’t saying that.)

          And I think that’s what Sarah and Casey are getting at – they can compartmentalize the killing, and Chuck can’t. Sarah doesn’t want Chuck to train himself to do that, for fear that he would lose his essential Chuckness. I think from the glimpses we’ve got recently of Casey and Sarah’s past, we can see that they weren’t always stone cold killers either, and what it took for them to do that to themselves. So I suppose in some ways the show’s rhetoric stands in opposition to show they’ve created.

  3. thepresidentrix says:

    Oh, and finally: Chuck and Sarah run-away-with-me-forevers. We’re seriously back to this again? Chu-uh-uh-uck… *whines* Come up with a better plan, plz!

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