January 19, 2010

Chuck: "Chuck vs. Operation Awesome"

"One of them looks like a spy, the other looks like Chuck."

Now that was an enjoyable episode. Though it suffers a bit from a fairly lackluster ending, "Operation Awesome" is, for the most part, a twist and tension filled spy caper which fits in quite well with some of the best episodes of the series. Finally, we get to see Chuck take on the role of real spy (if only by comparison to the hilariously incapable Captain Awesome) and really succeed at it. Sure, he compromises the mission, but it's because of his love for his family, and that I can get behind.

More importantly, he didn't compromise the mission in any of the ways we've seen him do it in the past. He didn't get over-nervous, or dawdle, or leave "the car" simply because he wanted to be involved. He didn't get distracted, or anxious, or profess his love for his handler in the middle of a mission. Instead he took action to save Devon when it was apparent that the CIA/NSA was going to sacrifice his brother-in-law's life in the same way they sacrificed his. Sure his plan to lure the Ring's evil assistant district attorney (apologies to both Angie Harmon and Law & Order) out of hiding was ludicrous and ill-conceived, but he actually did something and he used his natural skill set to do it. That is a Chuck we can all get behind.

And while Agent Shaw (played by Superman Returns' Brandon Routh in what may be a long-lived guest stint) was no doubt perturbed by Chuck's apparent willingness to risk his handlers for his own personal gain, just what he was thinking leaving Chuck to die is anyone's guess. It makes you wonder if he really does "know everything" or if perhaps studying and obsessing over The Ring has lead to something a bit more dangerous for Team Bartowski.

Overall, a great episode, and I can't wait to see what's in store for next week.

My Quick Thoughts

Don't Talk About Fight Club: While I understand that it's relatively impossible for the writers to work in Buy More plot lines without making Burbank seem like the spy-equivalent of Sunnydale's Hellmouth, the Fight Club plot line in this one was ludicrous, and since the only impact it had on Chuck's story was to grant him an electric fence at the most opportune time, it simply wasn't worth it. It was nice to see Morgan take on a role of greater responsibility as Assistant Manager, but I would rather have seen him exert his authority in a better storyline.

Duck Hunt: In a show like Chuck, plot holes really aren't a problem, but I still can't help wondering, like I did in my review of "The Three Words", just how the Intersect 2.0 works. In this one, Chuck tranq-gun massacres a whole team of security guards using his Intersect 2.0 powers. When asked by Devon about whether his abilities came from his spy training, Chuck demurs by telling him instead that it was "Duck Hunt." Now, it seems likely that even though Devon knows Chuck is a spy, he doesn't know about the Intersect, and Chuck would want to keep it that way. Still, since Devon gave him the perfect opportunity to explain his prowess by asking about Chuck's training, why then does Chuck offer a video game as the explanation unless his Duck Hunt prowess has something to do with it. It's possible that as the season goes on we will see that the Intersect 2.0 can only get Chuck so far, that he still has to rely on certain portions of his own skill set to survive. In my opinion, that would be a pretty cool direction to take. (I recognize, by the way, that the exchange was largely in service to setting up Chuck's amusing response, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about these things.)

A Set-Up?: What exactly happened in that scene where a malevolent Angie Harmon passes directly in front of Sarah and Casey. It appears that the General locks the two in the van, before admitting that the whole thing is a set-up. Since this isn't further addressed on the show (and since Sarah and Casey are still listening to the General when she turns the reigns over to Agent Superman), I think we have to assume that the General was referring to Shaw's plan to get shot after taking a heart stopping pill (in order to get Devon into the Ring). Speaking of that plan, it doesn't really make a lot of sense for Shaw to ask Chuck to kill him, since the shot needs to actually miss the heart for the plan to work (the pill only prevents someone from realizing that Shaw's alive, it doesn't protect him from getting shot in the heart). This works fine once Shaw takes the gun himself, but what was he thinking asking Chuck to "kill him" without any further explanation? The whole sequence seemed pretty cool at the time, but it wasn't terribly well thought out (or explained by the writers) when you really think about it.

Superman Returns?: Since Agent "Superman" Shaw was introduced in this episode as essentially joining Team Bartowski, it seems safe to assume that he is going to be on the show for an extended stay (I don't look at casting rumors if I can help it, so if you know differently don't tell me). I don't mind the change in dynamic over the short run, but Agent Shaw is going to have to contribute a bit more if wants to make his guest stint permanent.

You were Attacked by a Bear!: I don't know whether this is a compliment or an insult to Sarah Lancaster's acting as Ellie, but when she gave the aforementioned exclamation as a response to a portion of Devon's long-winded and partially insane explanation for where he was the night before, I couldn't tell whether she was simply overacting or whether she was "acting" because she had ascertained that Devon was selling her a pile of BS. Her expression was great, and it was a relief when she came out and asked the boys if they thought she was an idiot, because otherwise I was a little concerned that the whole show had devolved into a true farce.

He Kind of Ruined It A Little Bit Didn't He?: Since the General fairly definitively prevents Team Bartowski from apprehending Angie Harmon by locking them in their van, it seems that the whole point of the events in this episode was to get Devon installed as a member of The Ring. Without a doubt Chuck destroyed that plan, first by stealing the phone, then by allowing it to be destroyed when he could have killed The Ring Agent. I wonder how the U.S. Government feels about that.

To Catch an Enemy SuperSpy: Nice symmetry to last year's Christmas episode when Chuck calms Devon by telling him that Team Bartowski caught the bad guys. In point of fact, poor Angie Harmon was shot in the stomach by Superman, and while you could call a point blank killing "catching" a bad guy, there's no question that Devon won't be envisioning it in his head the way it actually went down. Exactly the same as when Sarah killed the Fulcrum agent outside the Buy More to protect Chuck's identity, before telling him that the agent had been arrested. This time, though, it's Chuck who's protecting a loved one's innocence through deception. Like I said, nice symmetry.

The Ring's The Thing: Also a nice image in the last shot of Agent Superman. Though we know very little about Shaw at this point we know from that last shot that he once was married/to be married and that he still obsesses about it (he was carrying the ring with him on assignment). It seems that Agent Shaw just can't help obsessing over rings, whether comprised of enemies to the republic or otherwise.

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