More. More Chuck’s, more TeamB, and more Intersects (maybe). More Mrs/Dr. Awesome, more Clara, more Orion legacy. More Bentley. More chaos, more danger, more explosions! More Buymore madness. More mysteries than any one episode can solve. Oh, and a cute little pig. (The real Kevin Bacon was unavailable.)
The chaos and murders and bombs became both the proving ground and the showcase for Chuck’s leadership. It was his first big project. Three bombs exploded in Castle, two agents were killed, the project was scrapped, and someone is out to kill him. I don’t know about you, but I consider that a pretty bad day. The bad day was a much bigger test of Chuck’s leadership than the project itself ever would have been. Time and again, Chuck has proven himself in life and death situations. Chuck Versus the Muuurder is no exception.
The Ellie Plot
The first pan of Orion’s computer amid Clara’s toys looked sort of like Darth Vader goes to nursery school … a little out of place. We soon know, however, that the computer is exactly where it belongs … in Ellie’s capable hands. It’s a bizarre meeting of the minds, Bartowski style, and a heartwarming reminder of the genius himself, Stephen J Bartowski. I can’t decide which is more amazing PapaB’s technology, Ellie’s awe-struck admiration of it, or the fact that she understands it … or maybe it’s that Clara said arthroscopic yesterday.
Devon holding Clara with Ellie sitting behind the Orion computer struck me as three generations of Bartowski’s together. OK, so it’s a little different from the average family multi-generation portrait, but they are Bartowski’s.
One thing I know. No matter what strides Ellie makes in neuroplasticity, she would probably make more money if she could get 4 month olds to quit pooping in their pants.
Devin: “What if it’s dangerous.”
Ellie: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
So many things come to mind.
For now, though, it’s creepy enough to have Big Bentley watching.
Chuck’s In Charge
General Beckman, still basking in the after glow of her victory over Dir Bentley, announces the agency’s new agenda, Find Intersect candidates who are as similar to Agent Bartowski as possible. New agenda indeed.
Along with this bold new agenda comes the refreshing acknowledgement that Chuck is the only man who really knows what it’s like to be an Intersect … and therefore the best choice to lead the search for more Intersects.
Even when we first met Chuck, he possessed innate leadership qualities. Everybody around him recognized it, and they were inspired to follow him. Big Mike wanted him to become assistant manager. All the Buymorons looked to him as the leader, the one who would know the right thing to do in any situation:
What would I do? I just ask WWCD. What Would Chuck Do? ~ The chain of command? Well, there’s like, Chuck, and then there’s like, the rest of us. Oh, and then there’s Jeff. ~ Chuck is brave … loyal … courageous … and has the wisdom to not eat garbage from the break room crisper.
Who represents the Buymore ideal? Who makes the trains run on time? Who provides your moral compass? Who holds the team together?
Chuck. Chuck. Chuck. Chuck.
However, the Chuck that Sarah met in the Buymore, though he was a natural leader (ballerina, anyone?), eschewed leadership positions, “Maybe one day I’ll be assistant store manager, and I don’t even know if I want that job.”His next test of leadership came with the Lazlo incident. He demonstrated the courage to lead over the desire for the position. Chuck led through inspiration. By contrast, Harry Tang led through intimidation.
Though Chuck often inspired, led, and exhibited leadership qualities, even taking point on a mission or two, this mandate from GB gives him his first leadership role on a project of this magnitude. And Dir Bentley is his Harry Tang. Chuck leads by inspiration. Dir Bentley leads by intimidation. The Bentley’s and Harry Tang’s of the world always resent that the Chuck Bartowski’s inspire what they have to take by force.
For Chuck, leadership comes naturally … management not so much. So, if Chuck comes off as less than Patten-like, I cut him some slack.
GB: Chuck, we need you to find more Chuck’s.
I really enjoyed the nonverbal subtext of Muuurder. Much of the story is communicated through facial expressions and gestures … beginning with everyone’s reaction to Chuck’s promotion. Sarah radiates adoring pride and confidence in her man. Casey wears a bit of a wait-and-see look, but without one whit of the contempt plastered all over Bentley’s face.
Chuck values relationship as much as function (remember Cat Squad). He cares about his team, and wants everyone to be comfortable, so he starts in a somewhat awkward, conciliatory manor.
Bentley reciprocates with disdain, “I hope you enjoy this. I’ll be back in charge, as soon as you and your … stupid pocket protector screw it up.”
Chuck lets it roll off his back. Sarah is only amused. She knows/trusts Chuck. Morgan is the funny one in his adamant defense of … the pocket protector? It’s incomprehensible to him that she was actually insulting Chuck.
The project is off to a fine start. Chuck has a plan. He compiled a profile, based on his own, and asked Langley to send him spies that match the profile.
The Candidates. Faith did a great job in her review showing the parallel of the candidates with each of TeamB. So, I need only say that these 4 candidates are two dimensional sketches drawn from what TeamB might have become, individually, had they never met.
The first 3 candidates share a common trait or experience with Chuck, but are really more similar to another member of TeamB. Brody is the Chuck doppelganger. We know this before we even see him by Sarah’s expression and her one word. Wow. Indeed! The expressions of TeamB in that moment tell us how each one feels about the existence of another Chuck. Classic.
The Tryouts. Chuck’s team conduct the testing, while Chuck and Dir Bentley observe. One week of tryouts is condensed into 2 minutes with minimal dialogue. Again the facial expressions tell the story of who’s winning, who’s losing and who is impressing whom. … Or not. A funny sequence.
The physical training highlight was Casey taking out Lewis with one kick. Second place goes to Chuck’s reaction to Brody, whose Kung Fu so closely resembles his own.
Morgan testing for [pop] cultural knowledge was funny in and of itself. My favorite candidate was Josy, “Why do men care so much about these things? Nothing you’re asking me matters at all.” Touché. Pan to the faces. Bentley totally agrees, and Chuck and Morgan think she’s from another planet.
The funniest were the psych questions. Again, the reactions are gold. Josy’s honesty is admirable, but her answer about manipulating her partner wins her no favors with Sarah, scores some points with Bentley, and drops her from Chuck’s short list. As for Lewis, Sarah clearly wonders what planet he’s from. And then there’s Brody. Hilarious. “I’d talk about it for as long as it takes. Nothing should ever wait or be left unsaid. Sometimes it’s best to say things two or three times, even.” Now it’s Bentley’s turn to wonder what planet Brody is from. Sarah is flabbergasted. Someone just like Chuck? He always wants to talk about … everything. Her look at Chuck is priceless. As for Chuck … Well, Brody shoots straight to the top of his short list.
With his team gathered around him, Chuck makes his decision. But not without feeling badly for the ones who weren’t chosen … and one last attempt to reach out to Bentley. Her response establishes Chuck as her nemesis. Nothing that can’t be solved over coffee and quiet conversation, though, right? It will probably take more than that.
Buymore Parenthesis. Tryouts over, Morgan returns topside and gets embroiled in his own leadership struggles. While Chuck solves a double homicide and nearly gets blown up … three times, Morgan negotiates the return of Big Mike in exchange for Kevin Bacon, Large Mart’s porcine mascot. Morgan has come a long, long way from his early Buymore days. I was proud of him. I like the new Morgan of more mature relationships and the ability to solve his own problems. It was nice to see him do his part for TeamB and then deal with his Buymore troubles, while Chuck dealt with his own set of troubles. The Buymore plot worked well, in that it paralleled the spy world below, in its interrogations and its mystery solving. Jeff and Lester were not creepy (my main measuring sticks for Buymore antics). My favorite from the Buymore, though, was Lester feeling the blast in Castle. It’s fun when they get so close to what’s going on, but remain clueless, like Jeff in A-Team. Oh, and the pig was cute.
Three bombs a blasting, two grisly murders, and a pig in the Castle ducts.
And things were going so well. Nothing like a murder (or two) to ruin your day. Through all the Castle mayhem, Chuck alternately leads and reacts. His insecurities surface, but when someone’s killing your recruits and bombs are exploding all around you, that’s to be expected, especially your first time out. I thought he recovered well, and did what a leader needs to do: take charge, solve the problem, and protect his team.
After the first explosion, Chuck panics and wants to abdicate to Casey or Sarah. Every leader at one time or another feels this way. Not every leader is as honest about it. Casey and Sarah (always Sarah) encourage him, push him back to the front, and get behind him. Every leader needs friends like them. Sarah is indeed his first mate, supporting his authority, squelching the slightest rumble of mutiny (Casey), and watching his back. The relationship is understated this week, less couple-y and more partner-y. In A-Team, Sarah took the lead and Chuck was there to help and support and watch her back. In Muuurder, she gladly reciprocates. Nice.
Ok. I don’t care for Bentley, but I had to smile at her wisecrack, “I feel calm.” Every leader has people like her, always taunting.
The Inquest. Chuck and Sarah’s partnership and complementarity shine as they interrogate the suspects.
We have a humorous reprise of Cubic Z’s tough cop/silent cop, except that Chuck is the tough cop. It’s almost better this way. Sarah is plenty threatening as the silent cop. She lets Chuck lead until he nods for her to jump in, like her discreet nod that everybody did indeed know that Brody was his first choice (I loved that) … and her calm intervention with weepy Josy. Best of all, though, was her subtle yet menacing, “although there is no clear … definition [of torture].” Chuck was perfectly appalled. Good thing he missed her interrogation of the kidnapped Thai diplomat. OK, maybe Chuck needs a little more practice at tough cop, but I loved the way they worked together, Sarah letting him lead and backing him up.
It’s all good. … Well, except for the bomb.
Bentley is still goading Chuck at every opportunity. Is he a man of talk or action? A real leader wouldn’t care whether people liked him or not. The confrontation is friendly on Chuck’s part, until he sees Ellie on the Bentley’s monitors and goes ballistic. That’s when the yelling starts. You don’t mess with Chuck’s family. The conflict ends abruptly when they find the killer, who ceased being the killer when he became victim #2.
With everyone back together, Bentley tightens the screws … again, “OK, leader. Wha’cha got? Who’s the killer?”
Chuck comes through with his super brain. Whether it was a flash or the vestige of the Alpha Intersect or just his natural genius, I don’t know; but in a matter of seconds, Chuck replays all the events in his head, tests every suspect, and solves the case.
By the time he names Damian as the killer, Bentley no longer loathes him, mostly because he didn’t name her as the killer. He could have. He could have gotten rid of her for good. But Chuck does the right thing. The team is together, flanking their leader to take down the killer.
It’s all good.
Well, except for the bomb.
Chuck is a negotiator. It’s one of his best leadership skills (Santa Claus). Bentley doesn’t negotiate. She’s more of a shoot first kind of leader. Maybe that explains her Intersects. She imposes her leadership style, with disastrous results. Didn’t she learn anything from Vicky? If people would just quit shooting the guy with the detonator.
As the bomb ticks down, Bentley shows genuine bravery and falls on the grenade, so to speak. She locks herself, with the bomb, in the Intersect room to save everyone else. It shows both bravery and stupidity. Had she trusted her leader, the whole scenario might have been avoided. Either way, Chuck (and his stupid pocket protector) comes to her rescue. Sarah is right where she will always be … by Chuck’s side, no matter what.
One critical piece of information came from Chuck’s negotiations, right before Bentley and her stupid side arm screwed things up. Six little words with big implications. I came here for you, Chuck. Cue the creepy music and the heartbeat in our ears. This was the great dramatic moment, swallowed up by the crisis caused by Calamity Jane.
General Beckman congratulates the team, with a special commendation to Chuck for his leadership.
Chuck’s not finished as a leader. “Thank you, General. But I’m only as strong as the team that surrounds me, and … as always, Sarah and Casey were my eyes, ears, and more, today.” It was a nice call back to Tango and a reminder that Chuck exercises his leadership with humility and shares his success with his team. He even shares his success with his enemy, “Directory Bentley was invaluable today.”
Leaders like Chuck are few and far between. Some leaders will share praise with their team. But a leader who openly praises his nemesis? That’s a rare gem.
WWCD? In the spy world, as in the Buymore, there’s Chuck and then there’s every other spy. He runs toward bombs, not away from them (bravery). He’ll do anything for his team, his friends, and his family (loyalty). He does the right thing, even at great cost or risk to himself (courage). He would rather win a friend than defeat a nemesis (wisdom).
I buy Bentley’s change of heart and tone. Chuck was fair to her and showed her a lot of grace, even though she was never fair to him. He saved her life at risk to his own. According to her that’s what a real leader does.
She came as an enemy, but she left as a friend. It’s all good. She planted a seed in Chuck, as Mary did in Ellie, “Your sister is incredibly smart. If anybody can figure out the Intersect, it’s her. You might want to reconsider keeping her away from her path.” I liked that.
Double Blind Secrets. Devon hands over the hard drive to Chuck. Suddenly I am bone weary of the manipulation and secrets between siblings. I silently plead for Chuck to heed Bentley’s advice. He doesn’t, but it’s clear that the seed is sown. It won’t be long.
The camera cuts to Ellie typing away on her father’s laptop. My heart soars. Devon did the right thing. He let Chuck follow his path. He let Ellie follow her path. Until their paths converge, he is the guardian of double blind secrets.
Team Bartowski. I loved everything about this brief scene, starting with the foot rub … such a couple-y expression of comfort and affection.
This is a first … Chuck, Sarah, and Casey together after a mission, enjoying milk and cookies, no less. Casey has clearly found his place as part of the team and part of the family. Nothing says family like sharing milk and cookies.
In this familiar setting, Chuck thanks his team properly, apologizing for his shortcomings, “I want to apologize for all the grief you had to swallow to support me,” and sharing full credit with them for their success, “I would have fallen apart today, if it weren’t for the two of you.”
The only man who knows what it’s like to be an Intersect leaves no room for doubt as to how he feels about the responsibility.
It’s not just the computer or the man. The Intersect is all of us. It’s the three of us working together. … That’s why it works.
Sarah smiles her pride and affection, and Casey mumbles his agreement around a mouthful of cookie, “Don’t ever forget that.” He may be talking as much to himself as to Chuck.
General Beckman intrudes on the warmth of the moment. It could be worse. Much worse. Doesn’t she ever knock? More important, doesn’t she know that Chuck and Sarah are now empty-nesters? She should be much more careful in the future.
GB brings us back to the dramatic moment from the interrogation, when she delivers the news that Vivian Volkoff wired Damian $10 million to blow up Castle, more specifically Chuck. No one takes this as good news. The soft creepy music returns, and the non-verbal sub-text is perfect.
Chuck is in the cross hairs of a Volkoff … again. Is it Vivian? I suspect not, but you never know. Explosives just seem to be more of Daddy Volkoff’s MO.
Agent X Files. How cool is PapaB’s laptop? I Loved the introduction to Agent X and the reminder that PapaB wants his children to solve things together.
Ellie is the only one who understands what’s going on in Chuck’s brain, except she has no idea that it’s going on … In. Chuck’s. Brain.
I can’t wait to see how she discovers that her little brother is the one with the amazing brain. I can’t wait until TeamB is complete with no more secrets, no more lies.
I can’t wait …
Two weeks without Chuck is Muuurder.