Chuck vs. The Ring Pt. 2 is a western.
The gunslinger is back in town, a cold killer looking for revenge. The marshal is already gone – or dead – and the mild mannered deputy, the one who hardly ever even wears a gun, is the only one left to save the towns people. Only the saloon girl with the heart of gold believes in him and thinks the deputy is up to it.
Or maybe he’s the peaceful, prayerful, respected farmer who’s had his cattle rustled already by the outlaws and his dutiful, loving wife violated in the process. Or maybe his friend was killed because he chose to not fight earlier. Sadly and dramatically, he’s hampered and constrained by his own sense of responsibility and maybe even his own guilt. It’s still all his fault because he made his decisions.
Sarah: Look, I know how much you’re hurting, Chuck. But you have to know there’s nothing that you could have done, okay? It’s not your fault.
Chuck: Yes it is. I’m the one who downloaded the Intersect 2.0. I’m the one who chose to be a spy, and it’s him who paid the price.
Either way, a showdown is coming. It’s inevitable and it’ll be at high noon. No surprise there. Some fights you never, ever walk away from.
In classic westerns, the honest man always fights for one thing – he fights for his family and loyal friends; never for himself. That’s really hard to do when things get so personal that your emotions and your history get in your way. The problem is, it’s always personal.
Ellie: I can’t believe that he’s gone. Crazy dad…
Chuck: He wasn’t crazy.
Our dad was a hero. He was a great man, who did amazing things. He was not perfect, not as a dad, no. But he was great.
That’s the secret I most wanted you to know.
Ellie: What are we gonna do?
Chuck: We’re gonna go after him, and were gonna get him. We’re gonna take him down – the Ring, Shaw – for what they did to dad, they are got gonna get away with this.
And then you’re done.
Ellie: As a spy. This life, this job…
Chuck, I made a promise to protect you, but I can’t do it. Not from this. So you finish it, and then you’re done.
Chuck: Ellie, I can’t…
Ellie: We are all we have left, Chuck. And I’m not going to lose you too.
Chuck: Okay. I get Shaw, and I quit.
Chuck is not the frivolous, lightweight guy we liked from the beginning, who hid from his own party (hid from the women, actually) and preferred to play spy games with Morgan. This is not even the guy we saw training in Prague, who started so well but ended up with his pants around his ankles. That guy had his dreams of saving the world and getting the girl, and he gave it his best shot. But he washed out. That guy blew it with the CIA and with Sarah.
This Chuck is not thinking of saving the world, or what he wants, or what Sarah wants. He’s not going to do what he must do because he’s got an Intersect in his head that lets him do fantastic, heroic things. Chuck is taking on this responsibility because it’s being asked of him.
And oh, does he do it well. His Yuri Szchenko is Perchik (from Fiddler on the Roof) and it’s no mere cover. It’s quite a distance from high school acting. It’s not a half-joke the way Charles Carmichael was when Chuck wanted to play “cool, James Bond”. This is deadly serious, it’s not an act and it’s all him. Chuck is in agony when he flashes, but still lays out Justin with an umbrella and his own skills. He calmly waits for Shaw in his own office, able to taunt, mock and trick the “master spy” into revealing the Ring Elders and confessing in public (Mwa-ha). With all that mastery in the air, who even remembers girlish screams?
Shaw: No gun. Very brave, Chuck.
So what’s happening?
Chuck: You’re under arrest.
Shaw: No. What are you doing here? What’s your plan?
Chuck: I’m sorry. Are you asking me to make the classic villain mistake of explaining my dastardly plot to you?
[Shaw rolls his eyes.]
Know what? I’d love to!
The reappearance of words, phrases and moments from past episodes as memory ticklers is wonderful. The Mexican Hat Dance? Used in Undercover Lovers, you recall. Chuck sliding low while his foe goes high was Chuck and Bryce play-fighting in the stacks in Alma Mater. The proper method of getting out of handcuffs? Suburbs, of course, and even Helicopter (although Sarah used a paper clip in that one, and Casey is going to break Morgan’s thumbs anyway if Morgan insists on texting Alex). And then there’s “Pineapple”. That was a gift, and one I appreciated.
The climactic scene with Chuck facing down Shaw is another one of those action sequences that should win Chuck an Emmy Award. It’s high noon, the screens behind are showing a gunfight, and the hero falls before he is resurrected. The fight ends with Chuck looking every inch the hero. It’s not lost on me that he defeats Shaw, not with a big, obvious “John Wayne roundhouse-right”, but with a massive inside elbow strike. It’s a fighter’s move, a warrior’s tactic. You have to get inside, very tight to do it, right in the teeth of your opponents attack. It takes as much bravery as skill to execute. Chuck never lacked for bravery. If you see him through Steven’s eyes (as I tend to do), the overwhelming emotion is pride.
We’ve seen Chuck with his hand on somebody’s throat and murder in his eyes before too. No one deserves it more than insane Shaw, of course. He killed Chuck’s father, almost killed Sarah and wanted to kill Chuck. At the end, he tries to taunt Chuck into killing him too, if only to destroy completely what Chuck once was, and also that part of him that Sarah fell in love with. Like I said, it’s always personal. But for all the changes he’s gone through, you know he won’t. “No thanks. I’ve already done that once before.”
There’s one more reminder of a beloved scene in Chuck vs. The Ring Pt. 2. Chuck put a bracelet on Sarah’s wrist in Season 2, and the runners knew that meant a lot to the fans. Here, Sarah puts the governor on his wrist in return.
Chuck: Sarah, I told Ellie that I’d quit after we stopped the Ring, and I meant it. I can’t lie to her.
Do you think you could love a regular guy?
Sarah: Well, I fell in love with a regular guy.
He’s a civilian, just like Ellie, from that moment on. Chuck and Sarah will be okay, though, CIA or no. It did worried me at first, I’ll confess. But it’s not an issue. It’s a way this show can pursue it’s paths and go off in unexpected directions despite the machinations of television network executives, if they choose to do that. It allows some freedom to maneuver and even grow.
The Buy More – that’s another story. It’s blown to bits. No, Jeff and Lester didn’t to that, but they might as well have. Big Mike thinks so; It’s gone, and so are they.
And you know, that doesn’t bother me. As much as I loved the Buy More, I’m ready to see it go. Chuck (the character and the show) has outgrown it, and it’s served it’s purpose (with dignity and honor, as Casey would say). Harry Tang and Emmett Milbarge were fun characters, but I haven’t thought about them in quite a while.
Season 4 begins with the call from Stephen to Chuck. It’s a call from beyond. He’s left the CIA and maybe all that “spy stuff” behind. But Chuck is not done with The Intersect; he’s about to start “doing things Governments are afraid to do.” Stephen tells us that his story is only just beginning and I’m convinced that it’s going to be very different from what we’ve seen.
Ellie to the Rescue.
Team B is in trouble. Big trouble. They’ve lost, as Chuck so convincingly puts it. But Chuck has another team. His sister, as we soon see in a flashback, has had a lifelong charge. Look out for Chuck. Ellie has accomplished a lot in her life. She’s a doctor, an awesome wife, and she’s been a mother and sister to Chuck. Ellie has kept faith with her promise and we get the impression has sacrificed and mothered and fathered Chuck most of her life. Oh yeah, a few hours ago Ellie discovered that Chuck, his on-again-off-again girlfriend, her dad, and their neighbor have all been spies for years. Her father is dead and now Chuck is in the hands of murderers. The same murders who just killed her father. The same murderers who convinced her she was helping to protect him. Think Chuck is at a low point? Chuck had prepared himself for this, we saw that at the end of Living Dead. He didn’t want to see his Father pay the price for his decisions, but he understood the consequences to himself. Ellie, through her actions has killed her father and is about to do the same to her brother as far as she knows. Think Chuck is having a bad day?
Well at least it can’t get much worse. Oh, wait, while Ellie was daydreaming she lost the truck. Now it’s up to Morgan and Awesome to save her brother. Did I mention that Ellie is having a bad day? Fortunately for Team B, no plan + Morgan and Awesome + Casey’s car = successful rescue. Should have known there was more to Casey’s car than just a pistol in the glovebox. Chuck and Ellie are re-united, and all is well. Or at least it will be. Chuck will make it OK. He’ll find Shaw, take him down and destroy The Ring, and they can go back to their lives, and Chuck will quit. Because it’s Ellie. Ellie can make that demand. Ellie is mom, dad, and sis all in one, and right now she’s telling Chuck he can’t do this to her, it isn’t fair. After all those years and everything she’s done she can’t have him become someone she doesn’t even know within the space of a few hours. She’s lost her dad, she can’t lose Chuck too. Ellie wants Chuck back. Her Chuck, the lovable baby brother she can love and protect and mother. She can’t have a Chuck that punches out CIA agents and gets arrested or shot. That isn’t Chuck, so she demands he be Chuck again for her. Ellie is having a bad day. I suspect on some later good day Ellie will relent. She doesn’t even know it, but by forcing Chuck to quit the CIA she made him the most valuable free-agent (ahem) on the market. Chuck may not work for the CIA again, but Chuck is a spy. Everyone knows it. Even Orion knew it. So the question now is what kind of a spy will Chuck be?
Oh, the rest of the episode? Joe’s got that covered. I’m more interested in the questions this episode raised.
– What wonders will we find in Orion’s lair?
– Why did Mary Bartowski leave?
– Will/did Sarah quit too?
– Will Ellie un-freak about Chuck any time soon, or will she be the new victim of Chuck’s lies since his lies to Sarah are getting pretty unpopular.
– Morgan in the CIA and Chuck not? The mind reels.
– So the intersect project was shut down. Will it stay that way?
– What is the deal with that reboot?
– How long and far can Jeffster run?
– Where will everyone work as a cover?
– Is Castle gone?
– Now that Dianne isn’t Chuck’s boss anymore will those crazy kids ever get their shot?
The questions are fun, and now we can indulge in them. Chuck came out of a rough patch and managed to re-invent itself, perhaps twice, within 6 episodes. Imagine what they can do next season. I know I’ll spend a lot of the summer thinking about it.