Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Break Up

Chuck versus the Break Up
Score: B-

‘Chuck the painfully and embarrassingly jealous’ is rolled out for this episode, which has Sarah and Bryce posing as an overly-affectionate couple for a mission.

The good
Casey. I love how the guy wanders around listening to everything but just pretends he doesn’t see or hear it. His digs throughout this season about Chuck and Sarah’s relationship are hilarious.

Chuck’s conversations with both Bryce and Sarah throughout this episode were wonderful, culminating in the powerful and beautifully-acted ‘break up’ at the end. I really think they needed to spend more time developing Bryce and having Chuck move away from the ‘nemesis’ conception of the guy before *spoiler alert* killing him off at the end of the season. 

Ana (remember Ana?) beating Mitt to a pulp was awesome.

The bad
A TWOP reviewer once said of Chuck that he found it strange that he hated 1/3 of his ‘favourite’ show. In this, I can relate. I both love and hate this episode and it’s why this review is oddly choppy.

Firstly, ‘Jealous Chuck’ is painful. While writing this review, I rewatched the episode and found myself fast forwarding through ‘Jorge’s’ stint as a waiter. And the B(uy More) plot, where Morgan has to deal with a gang of bullies was ludicrous and unwatchable.

The Chuckalicious
It’s so very Chuck that he needs Bryce to tell him that Sarah has feelings for him and to point out that maybe that’s not such a good thing. Chuck acts with such maturity at the end; a beautiful contrast to the moron he is at the beginning.

Bryce slipping Chuck the ‘real spy’s’ sunglasses was just fantastic. After all, if he hadn’t have wanted to be a spy, he would never have put them on. And to go out on Chuck’s “I hate Bryce Larkin” gave me a giggle.

The geekalicious
This trio of stories were more concerned with character rather than plot so there are very few moments of “geekaliciousness”. I will, however, mention ‘sweep the leg’ from the Karate Kid because they use it quite a bit in this season.
And - my personal favourite - the Grosse Point Blank reference to Paraguay

Monday, 21 March 2011

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Seduction

Chuck versus the Seduction
Score: B+
Team Chuck have to get the real intersect cipher from former KGB agent Sasha Banacheck (the always-underrated Melinda Clarke ), something that apparently can only be done by having Chuck seduce her. Honestly, they couldn’t come up with a better plan? A solid episode with lots of laughs and the odd embarrassed squirm as CIA super seducer Roan Montgomery (John Larroquette) tries to teach Chuck to be a seduction master. No, really. And if you can come out of this episode not craving a martini you’re a better woman (or man) than I.

The good
There's so much going in this episode that I'm bound to have missed something in this review: Chuck's growth as a spy, real development in his and Sarah's relationship, Lester's surprisingly-amusing stint as Assistant Manager (including the 'Ass Man' sign), the subtle implication that Roan and Beckman are involved, a nice tie-in between Awesome and Chuck's seduction techniques (or lack thereof), and Bryce Larkin's surprise arrival at the end.

Awesome’s “evening of intense seduction” designed by Morgan was hilarious, as was his “I’m going to kill the furry little bastard” when it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. The fact that Awesome is as bad at seduction as Chuck is a nice touch by the writers.
John Larroquette’s Roan Montgomery is an appealing character and his interactions with our own Chuck are surprisingly poignant considering you’d expect his portrayal to be “walking Bond clichĂ©”. I remember when this show got a lot of mileage out of burnt-out agents learning something from the simple honour of Mr Bartowski and this is one of those episodes.
The bad
There’s a fine line between ‘dopey and adorable’ and ‘dopey and painful’ and some of Chuck’s “seduction” scenes (and his Buy More scene) fell of the edge they were dancing on. Also, as far as the CIA’s plans go this has got to be the worst. Why on Earth would they use a clueless, untrained, yet vital intelligence resource to seduce the “Black Widow”?
The Chuckalicious
Once again, the show gives us a smoking-hot kiss that puts even “Chuck versus the Imported Hard Salami” to shame. Number 1 TV kiss ever. I've even put this episode on just to watch that kiss. Again and again. And again. And if that’s not enough to establish our titular hero’s true romantic credentials, getting the CIA to help Awesome was… well… Awesome.

And poor Chuck at the end... damn you Bryce Larkin.
The geekalicious
None. What's going on? 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the First Date

Chuck versus the First Date
Score: A
Team Chuck try to get the new intersect cipher back from awesome bad guy ‘Mr Colt’ (Michael Clarke Duncan) unaware that Casey’s been ordered to kill Chuck as soon as the new computer is complete. Believing he’s about to be free from his spy life, Chuck and Sarah go on their “first real date”/”second first date”.

The good
I loved this episode so it’s difficult to pick out just a few things to rave about. Season 2 was unarguably the best season and everything that was great about it clicks in this episode. The characterisation, the interactions between the leads, the right balance between ‘Chuck the normal, geeky guy’ and ‘Chuck the hero’, Sarah’s perfect mix of bad ass spy and vulnerability, Casey’s duty and loyalty to his country combined with his genuine, older-brother affection for Chuck, and the way the show combines ludicrous spy plots with very real emotion. I very nearly gave it an A+.

The bad
There’s not a single thing I don’t like about this episode: even the clumsy exposition at the beginning and the cage fight for the AM position didn’t bother me too much. It was just awesome.

The Chuckalicious
“Your boss, Carmichael. He’s good.” Mr Colt

I've always loved the humour of Chuck's alter-ego Carmichael being a kick-ass spy so the final scene on the rooftop always leaves me with a smile on my face.

The geekalicious
Lots of Call of Duty references and of course Die Hard.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Marlin

Chuck versus the Marlin
Score: A
Is there a show more blighted by misfortune and network interference than Chuck? Ok, so Firefly got jacked around more but that was Fox and what else do we expect? Just as the show got picked up for a full season, the writer’s strike hit and the season suddenly ended when it was finally starting to pick up pace. As such, “Chuck versus the Marlin” became the season finale and, while it would work perfectly as the mid-season episode it was supposed to be, it’s not quite powerful enough for our farewell to Season 1.
The team find out that a Fulcrum agent has blown their cover just as Awesome elicits Chuck’s advice on proposing to Ellie. He gives our hero his grandmother’s engagement ring to take care of… right before the Buy More is robbed. Having our cast run around desperately trying to find the agent, the engagement ring and Big Mike’s Marlin could have been the kind of “whacky hijinks” I was complaining about in my last review but it actually works. As the CIA order Chuck into protective custody, the gang has to stop the Fulcrum agent before Chuck has to farewell his normal life for good.

The good
Parts of this episode were so funny that listing them all would take too long. Two of the best were Morgan and Ellie’s jealousy over Chuck confiding in Casey instead of them and the hilarious scene with the couch, Casey, a knife and Ellie. And, when given the opportunity, Big Mike can be the funniest person on the show.
While not the explosive season finale you’d expect, Chuck and Sarah watching Awesome propose to Ellie was just lovely and, knowing that Casey is reluctantly preparing to kill Chuck if ordered to do so, his role in the final scene is particularly poignant.

The bad
Noureen DeWulf is so poorly cast as pita delivery girl and Fulcrum agent Lizzie that her screentime verged on the painful. Obviously cast for her ability to flounce around in short shorts, the idea that she could in any way challenge, let alone beat, our ass-kicking Sarah Walker in a one-on-one was downright laughable. Also, she discovers Chuck is the Intersect and… doesn’t tell anybody about it? Seriously?

The Chuckalicious
The scene on the helipad as Sarah farewells Chuck is emotionally pitch-perfect and makes me mourn a little for the Season 1 that will never be. Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski sell their characters 110% and it’s scenes like this that truly make me love this show.

The geekalicious
There were surprisingly-few pop culture references, particularly for the season finale of a show devoted to them. But then, it was never intended to be the season finale so I’ll excuse it. Just this once.

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Undercover Lover

Chuck versus the Undercover Lover
Score: A
After last week’s wince fest, Phil Klemmer wrote this Casablanca-inspired gem that is possibly my favourite episode from the first season.
Chuck flashes on a "douche bag convention" of Russian arms dealers and in doing so finds out that Casey’s lover Ilsa Trinchina is still alive after faking her own death in Chechnya several years before. As Chuck tries to dig up Casey’s inner romantic, he digs up Ilsa’s shady spy past as well.

The good
For once I enjoyed the B(uy More) plot and the show did a good job of integrating Ellie, Awesome, Morgan and the Buymorons into the secondary storyline as well as developing Ellie and Awesome’s relationship. This was the first sign that Morgan could be more than “Chuck’s annoying little bearded friend”.
The insight into Casey’s character was intelligent and consistent and it was great to see him open up to Chuck. Knowing that he’s been tasked to kill Chuck in the near future made their bonding bittersweet: you can see exactly why Casey will find it hard to pull the trigger when the time comes.

The bad
“It’s alive!!!”
This show falls down consistently when it tries to be “whacky” rather than witty (which is why the Buy More plots tend to leave me a little cold) and Chuck’s strange yelling of this phrase is the epitome of this. Still, these moments are few and far between in this otherwise great episode so this section is refreshingly light on.

The Chuckalicious
“You don’t know who’s on top”.
Who doesn’t love some Chuck/Casey brotherly bonding and this episode gave us the best of their relationship. From conspiring for Casey to reconnect with Ilsa to hiding under the bed while she’s rolling around with somebody else, this was Chuck and Casey’s moment to shine. And they did just that, culminating in an awesome (sip) fight scene and plunge to the hotel swimming pool below.
I’ve never been a Neil Diamond fan, but after this episode I downloaded “Love on the Rocks” and play it… a LOT.

The geekalicious
Casablanca reigns supreme. Ilsa is named for Rick's ex-girlfriend in Casablanca and her Russian fiancĂ©’s name is Victor after Ilsa's husband in Casablanca. Casey is even watching Casablanca in the home theatre room when Ilsa comes to see him. And of course, Ilsa flies away at the end, leaving Chuck to tell Casey, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship".

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Chuck me Tuesdays: Chuck versus the Crown Vic

Chuck versus the Crown Vic
Score: C
Following Sarah’s choice of Team Chuck over Team Bryce, Chuck and Sarah go undercover on a mission to foil a counterfeiter - a mission made more difficult due to Chuck’s jealousy and general all-round idiocy. Meanwhile, Morgan behaves like a dick as well. And if a general sense that this episode was painful bleeds through this review, it’s because it was.

The good
“I hate this assignment.”
Adam Baldwin’s Casey is, as always, hilarious and the car wash scene with his precious Crown Victoria was brilliant. “Carmichael’s” and Sarah’s “fight” at the end is so gloriously overacted that it remains a Chuck highlight for me.
And, of course, the poignancy of the termination order at the end was powerfully done. Poor Casey.

The bad
The ‘B’(uy More) plot. Again.
While slightly redeeming himself at the end, Chuck was so incompetent in this episode that Sarah was doubtless wishing she’d run away with Bryce. From losing $100k at the casino and having an open breakdown about it to behaving like a whingy little child about his nemesis, I’m surprised he didn’t drive Sarah straight to Omaha.
Our hero may be emotional and insecure but he’s also an adult, something the writers in this episode seemed to forget.

The Chuckalicious
Exploding Crown Victoria’s aside, the ‘win’ moment for me from this episode was when Chuck runs around trying to get someone to believe him about his flash on Morgan’s photo and Sarah unhesitatingly leaps to his aid despite all their fights. And the scene at the Buy More Christmas party was just lovely.

The geekalicious
Love Boat references abound and of course Morgan being Morgan has to do a Titanic homage. And dat’s ‘bout it.