January 26, 2010

Chuck: "Chuck vs. First Class"

"Is this your first mission?"

"First Class" is another good, solid, if generally unremarkable entry in Chuck's Season 3. Unlike last week, we generally know all the players on the spy side of this one going in. The curve ball is that Agent Shaw has decided that Chuck's handlers are coddling him and that he is ready for a solo mission on a transatlantic flight to Paris. The mission itself involves the (by now) usual assortment of spies, guns, MacGuffins, prat falls, and general comedy, as Chuck attempts to secure a "Crypto Key" from a Ring operative, while maintaining some semblance of cool with the beautiful girl seated next to him in first class (Smallville's Kristen Kruek). Like last week, this "A" plot maintains the feel of a good spy caper, without delving too long or too deep into the realm of the farcical.

The same can't be said for the Buy More plot line.

At the Buy More, Morgan, having fired (and rehired) Lester in "Operation Awesome" finds himself the target of innumerable pranks at the hands of his charges. Unable to cope, he turns to Casey to help him deal with the problem. Casey in turn, decides to treat Lester as a prisoner of war, brain washing him to believe that Morgan is a fantastic boss. While I can appreciate what the writers were trying to do in setting up an interesting (and rarely seen) Casey/Morgan combination, the plot simply doesn't go anywhere and (worse) isn't funny or interesting. Casey does get to grunt a lot, though, and Casey grunting, is always amusing, in any context.

What you may have noticed above, is that I didn't mention anything having to do with Sarah. With Chuck stuck on a flight to Paris and Sarah stuck in Castle, there really wasn't much for her to do save be lectured by the increasingly aggravating Shaw (and engage in this episode's manifestly ridiculous spy activity. See below.). As was hinted at last week, Shaw was apparently married to a fellow spy, who then lost her life. Shaw never forgave himself, and apparently has made it his mission to prevent romantic entanglements at all levels of the CIA and NSA. Of course, some would say that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but Shaw evidently doesn't see things that way, and he's determined in his myopia to ensure that no one else experiences the love and affection that he once shared with his wife. As I said: increasingly aggravating.

So like "Operation Awesome", "First Class" gives us a generally fun spy caper with an abysmal Buy More plot line. That being said, the good definitely outweighed the bad, and I can't say that I didn't have fun watching it last night.

My Quick Thoughts

Intersect Control: One of the main plot lines running throughout Season 3 has been the ability (or inability) of Chuck to control the Intersect 2.0 inside of him. Up until now, we have mostly been shown that Chuck lacks the ability to flash when he's nervous or "freaked out". This condition is at least somewhat alleviated by Sarah, who allows him to calm down and fully harness the Intersect's skills. In "First Class", however, we see an increasingly nervous Chuck (one act break even has Chuck proclaiming out loud how "freaked out" he is) harness the Intersect without Sarah's support not once, but twice. Is this just lazy script writing, or are we to now assume that the Intersect is more or less random in it's ability to give Chuck powers?

UFO Identified: In "Three Words", Team Bartowski recovered what was intimated to be a Ring weapon in the form of a silver, UFO-looking thing in a golden suitcase. In this one, that UFO is revealed to be an elaborate safe deposit box holding information that Shaw's wife had gathered on the Ring. Why was Beckman so concerned about the UFO's impact on Team Bartowski in "Three Words"? How pertinent could the information be if Shaw's wife died a while back? Why was Chuck not allowed to examine it prior to this episode? Your guess is as good as mine loyal readers.

Superfriends: So, last week I jokingly referred to Agent Shaw as Agent Superman owing to the fact that he is played by Superman Returns' Brandon Routh. With the reveal at the end of the episode that Kristen Kruek (Smallville's Lana Lang, Superman's original love interest) would be joining the show for at least one more episode, it's getting to be a cross-media Superman extravaganza at the Burbank Buy More. Bring on General Zod!

Hannah for Anna: One of the casualties of getting NBC to pick up Chuck after last season was the loss of Anna as a member of the Nerd Herd. Ever since, the Nerd Herd has lacked that certain feminine charm that only Anna brought to the proceedings. Hopefully that charm will be restored and Hannah will stick around for a little while, though I am already fearful of the next in a long line of discussions between Chuck and Sarah explaining how he needs a real girlfriend. Oh the angst!!!

Luck be a Lady: Okay, so my wife enjoys a Zachary Levi smile as much as the next girl, but you have to admit that Chuck has an inordinate and somewhat unbelievable ability to charm beautiful women with little more than his charisma. I mean who needs John Laroquette if Chuck can pick up girls like Yvonne Strahovski and Kristen Kruek on a regular basis. Chuck should be teaching him!

Secret Identity: Maybe it's not that big of a deal, but I couldn't help but inwardly wince when Chuck was opening up so much to Hannah. Then, when, towards the end of the episode, he hands her Morgan's card at the Buy More, I thought he must be out of his mind. Even if he didn't use his "Carmichael" cover specifically on her, if she ever shows up in Burbank (as she did at the very end of the episode) there's too many things that won't add up, or otherwise put his operation in danger. I'm not saying that Hannah is a spy (because at some point not everyone in Chuck's life can "surprisingly" turn out to be a spy), but my God man, you have to be more careful with your identity, especially when you know there were at least two Ring agents on that flight.

Pilot Error: So this week's ridiculous spy activity centered around Sarah digitally taking control of the flight Chuck was on, and then rocking the plane back and forth to throw his enemies off balance. How did she know this would improve the ordinarily klutzy Chuck's position? I can't be sure. Of course it does, but that seems more lucky than prescient. How did Sarah know she wasn't going to knock a luggage rack onto Chuck's head rather than on those of his captors? I would have rather seen Chuck get out of his situation with ingenuity and resolve rather than by this cheap, nonsensical fix. Of course the whole thing was only compounded by Shaw's arrogant claim that the pilots would never even know they were there after it was all over. Never know they were there?!? The whole plane pitched forward to provide "negative Gs"?!? What do the pilots think happened? The rapture?

God Loves You as He Loves Jacob: My wife pointed out that the hypnosis Casey inflicted on Morgan reminded her of the mind-control room the Others had on Hydra island. Of course, the result of that mind control was a bit more "realistic" in that Alex's boyfriend wasn't immediately rendered mentally incompetent. Instead, the Chuck writers elected to go the Saved by the Bell route, and have Lester be utterly controlled by Casey and his subliminal messages. Not the choice I would have made.

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