C: An action-packed season opener for Chuck, with some hilarious moments and a great list of guest stars. Linda Hamilton! Dolph Lundgren! Harry Dean Stanton! (If you know that last name but can’t remember why, you’re in the same boat as me. As it turns out, his casting is one of the many great in-jokes and allusions of this episode.) This premiere hits the reset button on some of the more annoying issues all-too-briefly resolved last season, but it delivers enough laughs to make you glad Chuck‘s back anyway.
E: Do you think so? I’d be happier to really feel like they were back. I thought the tone was totally off. It didn’t seem very Chuck-like to me, as if it were made by someone who only had a vague notion of what Chuck was supposed to be. Even the music seemed weird.
M: I agree… with both of you. I was glad it was back because of all the little things, but the feel of the episode was off. The whole sexting thing, for one, was so out of character for the show, but there were other things, including the parts with Harry Dean Stanton (who I’ve seen in a billion things, like Alien and The Green Mile, though I haven’t seen Repo Man) and the main characters of our cast being separated for almost the entire episode just felt wrong.
C: I don’t mind them changing up the formula a bit for a single episode. And I disagree that it “didn’t feel like Chuck.” But it had flaws. We’ll talk more about the sexting in a minute, but first–
E: C, have you not seen Pretty in Pink? That’s where I first met Harry Dean Stanton, when he played Andy’s dad. I didn’t get the joke about him being a repo man (sounds like there was one) but I was happy to see him none the less.
C: The joke was that he played a repo man in the episode, and starred in the film Repo Man. That was the joke.
E: Er… right.
C: Anyway: oh, show, enough with the misogyny already. First we have our heroes, Chuck and Morgan, standing in secret spy basement full of files, preparing to set out on a quest to locate Chuck’s mom. Then we have our first shot of Sarah: her thigh, with a gun holster strapped to it; her bosom; her hair blowing in an improbable indoor wind. Any questions about who are the characters here, and who is the accessory?
E: I agree, although I find Sarah’s ability to generate indoor wind at will hilarious.
M: The wind was hilarious. C, you need to lighten up.
C: It would be funny if it weren’t so tired. If Sarah were ever treated as anything but sexy, or sexy-and-asskicking, or sexy-and-whatever. When’s the last time Sarah got to do something awesome on this show, other than taking out a baddie?
E: It’s not about lightening up. We could use more butt kicking from Sarah and less – butt. While we’re speaking of hair, however, is it shallow of me to observe that Chuck looks much less endearingly daffy with his locks shorn? Grow the hair back, please!
C: On the other hand: most adorable aspect of this episode? How much John Casey misses Chuck when he’s not around.
E: Well, yes, that was rather nice.
M: Give my man Casey his due, that was beyond “nice.” And his vehement denial of it was even better.
C: Loved it. And how happy he was when Chuck came back!
E: I guess I would have been happier if there was more Casey. Then again, that’s not new; I always want more Casey. I’m also a fan of the new Buy More, with General Beckman as the manager. In a million years I never guessed that would be how they made Beckman a full time cast member. The Buy More is a permanent CIA station, with more secret panels and passages and agents working everywhere! Genius! Where Jeff, Lester and Big Mike will fit in I’m less sure.
M: Really? You were a fan of that? That was one of the things that felt off to me. I knew the Buy More would be back somehow, but I liked that it always served as a diversion from the main plot of the episode before. Now, there is no diversion, unless they incorporate more Captain Awesome.
E: Perhaps that’s all part of the tone issues I had with this episode. I was missing the funny.
C: More Awesome sounds good to me! I could have done without the return of the Buy More, in any form. And I could really have done without the “sexting” subplot. Morgan takes half-naked pictures of Chuck and sends them to Sarah, pretending they’re from Chuck! Sarah sends Chuck an SOS when she’s in need of rescuing, but Morgan thinks she just wants to talk dirty! He pretends to be Chuck again! It’s the Restoration comedy “bed trick” for the digital age. Some traditions should stay dead.
E: OMG, that was horrible. Aren’t Chuck and Sarah really too old to be all “Sexting? What’s that?” Lack of knowledge isn’t what would keep them from sexting. Shudder. Wrong on so many levels.
M: That was the worst part of the episode, hands down. First, it was completely out of character, and second, when Chuck was downloading the file (which, my word, he was connected to the computer, not connecting over a 1200 band modem, that wouldn’t take that long!) he ABSOLUTELY would have stopped Morgan from using his phone the moment he heard “It’s Sarah.”
C: Very true. And while I do think downloading the entire database could have taken that long, it was SO contrived that he couldn’t wait another minute before using the EMP.
M: And Sarah taking the pictures of herself on the jet? She so would never do that.
C: Then of course there’s the other thing not to love in this episode: yes, we’re back to lying to Ellie.
E: Oh Lord. At which point I started channeling my inner Genie and screamed “Tell her the TRUUUUUTH!” It’s just pissing me off at this point; it’s boring as well as annoying.
M: I’m sticking with just annoying.
E: Didn’t he just learn the sweet relief of not lying to his nearest and dearest? They’ve done that plot to death!
C: After a whole ten seconds of her knowing the truth about Chuck! As a friend pointed out, everyone on this show gets to be awesome but Ellie, because Ellie has to be the mom. This season, the show is making that literal.
E: And we all know that moms can’t be awesome.
C: I’m sure they’ll be able to do great things with this plot development in the season finale, though, when mad spy shenanigans will no doubt be combined with some kind of crazy Ellie-in-labor sequence. Possibly set to music by Jeffster.
E: Now that I can get behind.
M: You know what else I can get behind? A season full of wacky pop culture references, like Chuck interviewing at Vandalay Industries, Dolph Lundgren saying “I must break you,” or using the Indiana Jones red line on the map to denote travel.
C: I adored the latter, but I don’t get the Vandalay reference…
E: I liked them all.
M: Or goofy moments like Chuck and Morgan trying to convince Repo Man Stanton first that a Chinese takeout menu is really important, but then when he gets too interested that the place they’ve never been to really isn’t that good. Or if they continue to use “Tangiers” to mean running away, kind of like doing “the Morgan” a couple seasons ago.
C: That was fabulous.
M: I’m not as down with Sarah Connor Bartowski being a baddy.
C: Clearly she’s Chuck‘s version of Mamma Bristow on Alias — utterly competent, single-minded, and just morally ambiguous enough to regain her children’s trust and then rip their hearts out on a regular basis.
E: It’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out, I hope, even though I guess I wanted her to be less Bristow-like. Was she kidnapped and turned bad? Is she deep cover? Is she, as C suggests, sometimes good and sometimes bad? I was a little stunned by her taking out Dolph. Just what is she hiding? Time will tell…