Chuck is an Awesome show, especially when it is a fun show. Premier night was not Awesome, too much angsty heavy lifting to be really enjoyable, but back in it’s regular slot on Monday, the Awesomeness returned. The following Monday it continued. After shedding the obligatory angst that accompanied the series and relationship reset the production team for Chuck were able to get back to doing what they do best. Put out fun, exciting and funny shows that let us sit back and be entertained for an hour each week. These two Devon-centric episodes are what I’d rather have seen for a season kick off, because these are really what Chuck is all about. My take on the good, the bad and the awesome episodes after the jump.
We begin with a peek back in time to when the awesomeness of Ellie and Devon began. It seems the story of their first meeting they give out is the PG version. It seems Devon is right about one thing, the Bartowskis are passionate people. Flash forward to the Woodcombs married bliss 9 years later and it seems some of that passion has faded. Work, moving, packing and unpacking, it has all taken its toll on the excitement and passion they once had. And where is Chuck anyway? The question is soon answered by Devon, waiting in Chuck’s room. Chuck is it seems firmly and some might even say comfortably back in the spy life. Arriving by helicopter wearing a tuxedo and body armor, no biggie. Just another nab the bad guy billionaires selling weapons and defuse a bomb Monday night. Meet the new Chuck. We missed the introduction the last few episodes, distracted by angsty storylines that no longer seem like fun. Sorry, you know how I get.
As I was saying, this is the new Chuck we knew was coming. Season 1 was the boy, season 2 was the man, and now we meet the no longer reluctant spy. Even Captain Awesome is impressed. It sounds kick-ass. But one thing hasn’t changed about Chuck, he still leads a double life and it still takes a toll on both him, and his family and friends. Ellie is ready to blow the Captain informs Chuck, time for some damage control. One HDTV install and flash later and we’re into the episode’s mission. Both for Chuck and for the Captain.
It seems an old acquaintance of Casey’s is back in town. Alejandro Goya, the ruler of Costa Gravas is ready to hold free elections for the first time since his revolution. This little turn of events means Casey and the rest of Team B now need to protect Goya rather than kill him as seems to have been Casey’s job in the past, earning him the moniker Angel of Death among the people of Costa Gravas.
First step is to find out what put Goya into the emergency room and under the care of adventure sports cardiologist extraordinaire Dr. Devon Woodcomb. Naturally Chuck will be held responsible for the mission’s success. Chuck greets the returning Devon in the courtyard of the Bartowski-Woodcomb compound. He still needs some work on that whole menacing thing. A few people here and elsewhere have mentioned the seeming change in Chuck when talking to Devon. He seems almost cocky and dismissive of Devon, not the Chuck we know. I’m sure this is done on purpose, and the purpose is to show us something important we will see later. This is Chuck as Devon, the one non-spy who knows Chuck is a spy sees him. We see him as cocky because we know he still has a long way to go. We see him screw up missions because he needs to talk about his feelings to Sarah or because he calls his sister while on the run. That is the Chuck that the rest of team B sees too, and if you notice when Chuck is with team B he’s still the old Chuck. It is only when alone with Devon, who sees only the cool confident spy who has managed to fool everyone around him for years that we see what Chuck is already becoming. Devon doesn’t see the screw-ups and the self doubt and how much Chuck still depends on his team, he sees a real spy. Compared to the most awesome of civilians Chuck already stands out as his superior.
As far as Team B goes, whether they’ve noticed or not Chuck has become their leader. It’s Chuck’s calm reaction and quick thinking that avoids disaster and gets Chuck and Sarah access to the Premier for the main part of the mission. Guard the Premier from any harm at the night’s gala reception in the Costa Gravan consulate.
I don’t watch Chuck for the guest stars, I doubt most of us do, but it is another one of those things this show does so well. Like with Chevy Chase and Scott Bacula last season Armand Assante adds something extra and wonderful to this episode without making it all about him. The show is still Chuck and the cast are still the stars, but Assante’s over the top hamming it up as Goya sets the perfect tone for a fun episode. Nowhere is that better displayed that the ballroom scene. Bravo to everyone involved. But now it’s time for Chuck to shine. When he’s not freaking out he’s a pretty competent spy. Sure the intersect helps a bit, giving him the dance skills to cross the floor without suspicion and take out the potential assassin, but most of this is Chuck, seeing what needs to be done and doing it. Unfortunately the fates conspired against him, and his save is stolen when it gets he and Sarah unceremoniously ejected from the ball, leaving Goya at the mercy of the real assassin. Casey is called in and Devon, his heart in the right place but without the necessary intel also tries to step up and save Chuck’s mission. We always knew that Captain Awesome could be that guy, unfortunately his save is stolen too, putting not only Goya, but now Casey in peril as well.
Team B has a man down. Chuck and Sarah aren’t happy, but ordered to stand down they are defeated, for the moment. Casey is on his own. A quick aside here. We gush and coo over Zach Levi and especially Yvonne Strahovski and their chemistry and ability to connect with each other and us. It makes the show seem more real and seem to matter. In a sense it’s only natural and right, they are the leads and the heart of the show. But it often seems to overshadow some of the other great work the supporting cast does. I give you the incredible Adam Baldwin, aka John Casey. It is always astounding to me how actors can convey energy and action just through their presence. John Casey, strapped to a chair is still menacing and still on mission. Adam Baldwin is a big guy, and certainly the physicality of his presence helps, but there is so much more. You can practically feel the danger radiating out from him, and you know he is not through with this mission. Again, bravo.
With the poisoner’s partial success Devon’s mission is back on, and he sees a chance to make right what he caused. Channeling his inner Chuck he finds Chuck who reconnects with Sarah in the castle. They’re on the same page, rescue Casey, but this was a fun scene. It plays so true on two levels, the Chuck and Sarah we know with their tumultuous relationship and love for each other, and the Chuck and Sarah Devon thinks he knows, two equally competent spies, serious professionals going off the reservation to rescue a comrade, but not wanting to get their partner in trouble.
With Devon’s help Chuck and Sarah put their rescue plan into action and Casey puts his escape plan into action at the same time. Wonderful Team B action. Devon helps Sarah look like a nurse, well sort of… ahem, I mean act like a nurse, Chuck’s utter confidence in Sarah taking out the guards, Casey gathering what intel he could before freeing himself, the complete lack of surprise Casey shows seeing Sarah and Chuck show up as a doctor and nurse, all great stuff, with some fun ass-kicking tossed in to boot.
I’m going to skip over the rest of the suspension of disbelief problems with the rest, just suffice to say that once again we see how the intersect works at this point, when someone Chuck cares about needs him, he’s flawless. Fun also to see Sarah and Chuck smile at each other. Why all the angst? Please explain how it helps the show? Sorry, you know how I get.
And thus we are brought to the conclusion, or rather to the next episode which is already underway. Captain Awesome has had enough of the spy life. He’s scratched his itch, but his talk with Chuck at the consulate said it all, he loves his real life too much, he’s going home to his wife and he’ll leave the spying to Chuck and Sarah, who it seems will always find a way back to each. “He would have made an awesome spy” says Sarah as the Captain leaves. We’re about to find out.
Chuck is freaking out. It seems that Devon’s rescue of Goya was noticed. In a plot twist that still doesn’t quite make sense the assassin who saw Devon tackle Casey who was trying to protect the premier from him somehow concludes that this means Devon is Chuck. I’m still working that one out, maybe somebody can explain it in comments. But I digress. Awesome is not having a good time with the spy thing anymore. Adventure sports are one thing, when he takes his life in his own hands and overcomes what ever he tries, but this is something else, other people have his life in their hands, and don’t seem to have any problem with taking it if the mood strikes them. Well, we knew he didn’t want to be a spy. But Chuck, who does, is still freaking out. Now we see the danger of the intersect. Parts of it can leak out at inopportune times when Chuck is freaking out. Lester’s comeuppance is priceless, as is Sarah’s reaction. Both calming and protective she manages to talk him down a bit, till the Captain’s return does the rest. It seems Devon has another mission, like it or not. But he wouldn’t make an awesome spy after all, and we’re about to find out why.
“Yeah babe, I had to decapitate the bear in self defense in order to survive. I’m just glad you weren’t there to see it. It was really grizzly.” This scene will go down in Chuck history as the funniest moment ever, unless they can somehow surpass it. I hope not, otherwise we’re in for a real life version of Monty Python’s killer joke. If you’ve seen the scene you understand. I’m not going to recount it because there is no way to do it justice. Instead I want to gush over how well done this is and how great Chuck is as a show. I know we all indulge in a lot of JS and CF bashing around here, but I have to give them credit. How they managed to cast so many virtual unknowns who can absolutely knock it out of the park on demand is beyond me. Ryan McPartlin and Sarah Lancaster are absolutely incomprehensibly good in this scene, and that Levi guy ain’t so bad either. In addition to the performances I just have to mention all the other things, the writing, the pacing, the way that first Chuck and Ellie nod in unison, then Chuck and Devon, the music, how it stops and starts back up, the lying theme I think we should call it, the camera angles, it is just so astoundingly well crafted. MAN this show is awesome.
Right, back to Awesome. Like it or not he’s a spy for now. The mission is set and we’re off. Again the device of seeing Chuck as Devon sees him allows us to see just how far Chuck has come no matter how far he has to go. This mission is custom made for Chuck, because everything is on the line for his family. No intersect problems here. And we get to meet Shaw, finally. I wish Chuck had shot him, he’s going to want to do so soon I’m sure. It seems that Shaw has other plans for Devon. He wants to use him to infiltrate the Ring, but Chuck isn’t buying the use him to save him line anymore. He wants Awesome out. Well Chuck, do you have a better plan? Chuck always has a better plan. Now comes the fun part.
We’re back to Chuck’s natural strengths. Strengths that the team and the show runners seem to forget about or downplay. Electronics, hacking, this is Chuck’s world. Find the weak point and attack it. It’s a perfect plan, so far as it goes. Imagine the shock, your ultra-secure private phone is hacked and there is a man on the line telling you you’ve been played. It’s likely to make one do something rash, like head to the spy worlds equivalent of a roach motel that is the Burbank Buy More. Spies check in, but they don’t check out.
Shaw is a bit of a jerk. Chuck and Awesome save his life and he repays them by dragging Devon unwillingly into the spy world and leaving Chuck without the support of his team when he planned on it. OK, so he’s taking Team B for a test drive, I get it, but the derisive “That was his plan?” Well it’s no masterstroke like relying on two people you’ve never met to both kill and save you to get another spy off your trail and onto them, but it wasn’t THAT bad till you ruined it. Lure the bad guys in, kick their asses in a combined gun battle/martial arts fight, they do that in their sleep. Straight out of the Team B playbook, and they all know their parts. So Shaw wants to see what happens when the playbook is tossed out. I get it. He also wants Chuck to pull the trigger, I get that too. We can discuss at length, but I’m going to remain neutral till I see it. It could work either way. But there is one other message that Shaw sends by shooting Sydney in the back. He will be there for Team B if needed, he is on their side in the end.
The mission is wrapped, and Chuck tries to lay down some boundaries. No friends or family of mine will be used for your purposes, that’s the subtext. As we’re likely to find Shaw is sympathetic. Chuck’s dig about Shaw not caring about anyone obviously interrupts a thought, and hits a nerve. Shaw gives the party line expecting Sarah to back him up, but there and in the final family dinner Shaw starts to get something about Chuck, and maybe something he once understood. Chuck needs to have a reason. Without knowing he’s protecting or helping someone he can’t be a spy. As Chuck said, he’s a spy for his friends and family and Sarah, not for some nebulous cause. Never lose that Chuck.