Chuck Versus the Hack Off is a thoroughly enjoyable episode in the escalating goodness of S5. It was exciting, charming, and funny. There was more Cabanski, Casey and Lester in prison … together, Chuck and Sarah infiltrating a nudist cult, Sarah the relationship/communication expert, Chuck the legend hacker, and more of Chuck’s very own Ward and June Bartowski (sort of a Mr and Mrs Cleaver-Smith). What’s not to love. What about the other shoe? For all its charm, Hack Off was also dangerous, disturbing, and ominous. It picked up the threads of Chuck Versus the Business Trip and wove a wonderful yarn with the light warp of comedy, action, and romance on the dark weft of the spy world.
Two couples — Chuck & Sarah and Jeff & Morgan have plans to get their friends out of jail. CS offer Casey postage stamp sized blueprints and a plan to break out of jail. (Casey’s reluctance is understandable, since the last time Chuck asked for someone’s hand, he wanted to pass off a tooth.) Casey refuses based on principle, feeding into Decker’s plan. Jeff and Morgan offer Lester a get-out-of-jail-(practically)-free card. All he has to do is promise not to poison Jeff again. But NO, the orange jail birds have to do things the hard way … only to end up with plan A all over again in the end. But we get to enjoy the ride … beginning with Sarah swatting away the pesky Hinjew.
The prison scenes were exciting and funny. Too bad we’ll never see Lester’s version of the Michael Angelo version of himself. Lester has no brawn and perhaps not too much of a brain, but he is conniving, and that’s his ticket to becoming the shot caller. I enjoyed the twist that Lester saved Casey’s bacon … and that he finally found somebody to return his high five. The Cabanski conjugal visit entertained us and gave us a glimpse (perhaps?) of Casey’s happy ever after. I never thought I would say this about Casey and … anyone. But they are so cute together. AB and CAM absolutely nailed their scenes together. Just the right blend of tough and soft.
I can’t leave prison without commenting on Chuck and Sarah’s prison exit. Chuck feels responsible for all the bad things happening to his friend. Sarah tells him it’s not his fault, being honest but also making him feel better. It’s their rhythm. Only now it’s more transparent, and Sarah is all wife and not one bit of handler. –Incoming– I loved the whole dart thing … each telling the other about the dart … Chuck catching Sarah and holding her as he falls (Honey …) So season 5. Only CS can make getting tranqued seem couple-y.
Prison Sentence Off
Yeah right. Decker calls off the prison sentence about like he called off the hit on Morgan. He has the Bartowski’s exactly where he wants them. He’ll trade Casey in exchange for Chuck’s hacking/computer skills. Regardless of Sarah’s suspicions and Chuck’s loathing working with Decker, they really have no choice … if they want to see Casey alive again. Anyone else’s alarm bells going off? Um-hmm. Casey warned us all: Be careful. He’s capable of anything.
There are times I really wish I didn’t watch spoilers, and this was one of those times. The surprise would have been more fun. This was all for gratuitous fun … oh, and to track down Colin “Moon Meadow” Davis, who desperately needs some pants. Chuck was all Chuck: horrified that Sarah was stripping; even more horrified that he had to, too; telling Verbanski not to look too close. Verbanski was great fun as Casey’s replacement: no chit-chat — kill the hippies — end the fish concert and get out. Oh, and her insulting remarks about not much to look at and nobody looking at anything … nobody but Sarah, who keeps checking out her husband. Other than that she was supremely professional. In the end they got the chip and got out, and that’s all that counts, right? … Right? Of course, this part of the story could have happened at Disney Land or Hawaii or the local super market, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as good spoiler fodder.
There’s always the story behind the story, which is usually what I enjoy the most. Chuck Versus the Hack Off takes the lid off of Chuck’s hackered past. What fun to get a glimpse of Chuck the Piranha Bartowski. He was loose, confident, and very much in his element.
There was another nice Sarah/Morgan bonding moment as Morgan helps Sarah understand her man. Sarah loves this new piece of the Chuck puzzle, just like she loves the rest of the package. One of the delights of S5 is that Sarah no longer keeps the lid on her emotions. I loved her reactions: It’s kinda cute … and the look on her face is pure love and unveiled adoration. The lid is off of Sarah in delightful new ways (though I imagine there are more puzzle pieces still in the box).
Some things you just can’t keep a lid on, and Gertrude is fooling no one. She is, as Chuck might say, a hot mess. I love Chuck and Sarah’s knowing looks, as they “let” her join the mission. Sarah easily recognizes a woman in love who’s trying to keep a lid on her emotions. It’s like looking at herself not too long ago. So, Sarah-the-relationship-expert tries to get Gertrude to talk about her lady feelings. This is the all new Sarah, who is oddly a lot like the old Chuck. (It’s just like watching Chuck trying to get Casey to open up about Ilsa.) Well, Verbanski, like her male counterpart, will have none of it (at first).
The therapy session continues in the middle of the next mission … after Chuck and Sarah tell each other to be careful, complete with endearments; and after Sarah can’t help bragging on her man. Finally the lid blows off, and Verbanski admits her feelings for Casey … and her fears. Some of Verbanski’s fears were once Sarah’s fears, too — Now, I’m petrified this could actually turn into something — until she realized that love is greater than fear — Well, maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way.
Then there are some issues (no longer fears really) that Sarah is still dealing with — having kids and quitting the spy business because it’s too dangerous. But, like the relationship Dr. says: Relationships are all about communication. I mean, big life changes don’t just sprig up on you like that. Well, I can think of at least one big, life change that does exactly that … springs up on you. Hmm. Be careful how you counsel others, because you will surely be tested on that very advice.
Finally, Verbanski asks the question we’ve all been asking for the last couple of years: How ’bout you? Could you do anything else?
Chuck and Sarah are married, and the lids are off in new and wonderful ways. They are taking puzzle pieces from two lives and building one puzzle. Somehow all the pieces will fit. They both want some kind of normal. We see it in Sarah more and more. In Business Trip, she was enchanted with normal and the idea of having a real friend. Chuck wanted more taco nights and fewer evil cabals. This week, though, he can’t imagine anything beyond the spy life. Well, maybe computer stuff. He bounces the idea off Sarah (after all, it was her idea to begin with). For now, though, Sarah is stuck on Verbanski’s question … and … she’s willing to communicate it — Uh, well, what would my job be? I mean what would I do?
They are in flux. As they move the pieces around and consider different options, they vacillate between wanting to keep spying indefinitely and wanting to quit and have a normal life … in the white house with the red door and white picket fence. I can’t wait to see the puzzle they build over the next few episodes. (Of course I wish we could see the continuing puzzle, but I’m thrilled with what we’re getting.)
Needless to say, Chuck could have gotten the job, had he really wanted it. The Piranha’s still got it. I loved that Chuck wouldn’t transfer even a penny from the Federal Reserve, and that he would only hack into his own company. Flat screens for everyone! I love that he helped the competition. And of course I love that he did it all while simultaneously hacking the security system and helping his team steal the whatchamacallit. Intersect, schmintersect … who needs it?
Just when Chuck and Sarah thought they had won Casey’s freedom and that they were all finally going to be be out from under Decker’s thumb, Decker ratcheted up the danger several notches. Shiver. He couldn’t destroy Chuck’s brain, so he planned to frame him and put him in the cross hairs of … well, basically the entire government. Chuck’s specialness, whatever it is, poses a serious threat to somebody.
Decker turned out to be one of Chuck’s best villains, and his arrogance and smugness made him absolutely detestable. He’s a smirker, so he’s going down, and hurray for Verbanski for looking out for Casey’s team. I thoroughly agree … he deserved it. I like the tension that Decker and the conspiracy plot have added. Chuck hasn’t had this kind of danger hanging over him since S2, when he had to worry about Fulcrum capturing him and the government bunkering (or killing) him.
While Decker and his ilk are free to play by their own rules, TeamB (no longer CIA) have to play by civilian rules. Sarah no longer has any home-court advantage or CIA cover from which to protect Chuck. They wear the target together, and live by the promise: We knew this wasn’t gonna be easy, and we didn’t get married because we thought life was easy. We got married so that we could be there for each other when things got tough … so that we could work through things together.
Little by little they’ll put the pieces together of the life they want after the spy life, but for now they have to be the best spies they’ve ever been. For now they have to put off their normal and get their spy on.