Chuck Versus The Curse continues the melody of comedy and romance with the base tones of escalating danger and drama. Since Chuck and Sarah are up to their necks in the danger and drama part, Ellie and Devon provide the romance and the comedy, Chuck-farce style.
I don’t know if you noticed, but Chuck Versus the Curse features four spy couples: Jr. spies, Morgan and Alex; Pretend spies, Ellie and Devon; Real spies, Chuck and Sarah; and Veteran spies, Casey and Beckman.
From beginning to end, Chuck Versus the Curse gives us an entertaining misadventure of mix-ups and plans gone awry. All of this, for me, was adequate compensation for the reprise of the Bartowski stupid stick. I really thought we were done with it — the whole I’ve-got-to-run-to-protect-the-ones-I-love monomania — so I kept asking myself why they (TPTB) went there. I have a few ideas.
Setting The Mood
After the Decker debacle, as Chuck and Sarah assess their situation, they settle into their traditional roles. Sarah’s fix-it mode is in high gear, as Chuck’s worry mode hums to life.
When Morgan and Casey drop in, I love the way Sarah automatically includes Verbanski in the team. (Good things to come, perhaps?) Casey’s explanation of her absence sets up the theme of running, and Sarah’s sideways look at Chuck gives us a glimpse of her anxiety. Is she thinking how awful it would be to be separated from Chuck? Worried he might run to protect her? Thinking how hard it would be for Chuck if they have to run for a while? Whatever her thoughts, the spy-life eventuality of running is a worry.
Beckman makes the worry a reality with her teleconference. Watch the faces as Beckman goes from friend to foe to amazing woman. (I love Beckman this season.) The arrest warrant is issued, and Sarah’s worries become reality. Chuck and Sarah (and Casey) are officially on the lam.
As danger surrounds TeamB, an entirely different mood pervades Casa Woodcomb. Romance is in the air! Ellie’s date prep reminds me of all the past scenes of Sarah’s provocative preparations … going all the way back to the pilot, complete with a hair stick. Of course Ellie only has one, and it’s not poisoned … but she is only half a spy, after all.
Meet the Spy Couples
Casey and Beckman. We’ll start with the Veterans, Casey and Beckman, not that they are a real couple, maybe more like partners for a day. Before getting down to business, the General shares her bottle with her former Colonel. (Let’s hope that the bottle wasn’t full when she opened it.) Have they had this sort of rendezvous before? Shared a drink over the woes of the world? “So, this is where we come in our darkest hours. Iran-Contra, Nicaragua. The Clinton Years.” And this is as dark an hour as TeamB has ever had. Whether this is a tradition with them or not, I liked the Casey/Beckman pairing in The Curse. They are quite informal and familiar with each other.
Here’s a twist … Beckman and Casey are quarterbacking the mission from an abandoned roadside tavern. (A CIA run establishment? I mean where are all the customers?) I loved everything about this part of the episode. Beckman has become an awesome ally. She warns them surrepticiously via subtle morse code, and she’s doing everything she can to help Chuck and Sarah (not Bartowski and Walker), including sending a team to get Ellie and Devon out of harm’s way. Later, she is easily persuaded that they should go with Chuck’s plan for taking the real virus to save Ellie and Awesome.
Everything about Beckman (and her pairing with Casey) is a win in this episode.
Morgan and Alex. Admitedly a lot of the Morgan/Alex plot was just plain silly, but as silly plots go, it was still enjoyable. It was first step toward restoring their relationship and provided both tension and comedy.
Alex proves herself to be a worthy Jr-spy with her machine gun, “One more move, and I will end you.” Like father like daughter. Then of course her plan to distract the agent at the door is far better than Morgan’s elaborate plan to zip line across the courtyard. No surprise there.
I loved Robyn Cunnings jab about Morgan living with his girlfriend’s father. Her entrance was impressive, as was her performance throughout.
So, Chuck and Morgan went through an acronym phase, huh? From The Zoom, we know that Morgan never left that phase. Personal Artifacts Never To Share (P.A.N.T.S.). How about P.I.N.T.S. (Plot Ideas Never To Show)? OK, I guess it wasn’t that bad considering it’s Morgan. But Chuck? That was a bit much.
In the end it was a nice gesture to offer Alex his box. This is the Morgan/Jr-spy equivalent of his spy will.
Maybe there’s hope for Malex, yet.
The Woodcomb’s, a.k.a. Hot Mama and Six Pack. Season 5 is about Chuck and Sarah defeating their enemies and finding their normal. Business Trip found them both yearning for various aspects of a normal life, the life that Ellie and Devon have. By way of contrast, The Curse shows Ellie and Devon wishing for some of the excitement of Chuck and Sarah’s exotic spy life.
“I wanted something a little different, so I borrowed a dress from Sarah. She wore it on a mission to Bulgaria, once. How wild is that.” I borrowed a bit of excitement and romance from my sister-in-law’s spy life. I’m feeling a little wild tonight.
Devon follows her train of thought, “You ever wonder what it would be like if we lived a life of mystery and adventure like that? … Like spies?”
I love how easily Ellie asks, “Like Chuck and Sarah?” She has finally let go. Then she plays along and sets the misadventure in motion, “Spy work does run in our family. There’s no reason why you and I can’t pretend to be spies … for tonight. What do say, Six Pack, are you in?”
“Alright, Hot Mama.” Code words and signals are established. Surprises are promised.
For the record, I am so in. Anything with Six Pack and Hot Mama, and I’m in!
Meanwhile, the envied brother and sister-in-law, the real spies, are in real trouble.
True to form, Sarah faces their situation with calm reason, practicality, and determination to fix things.
Chuck is trying hard to do the same, but it’s more his nature to face this particular situation with emotion, anxiety, and assumption of the worst.
Chuck and Sarah’s struggles in The Curse give us some great highs and some pretty awful lows.
Chuck is freaking out, and Sarah is his rock and voice of reason:
S: That’s not going to happen. Not if I’ve got anything to do with it.
C: It’s like it’s my family’s thing, or something. The Bartowski Curse. … Every Bartowski has put their family in danger and then had to leave them in order to protect them. And I’m next.
S: (The Curse bit got her attention in a big way): Chuck there is no such thing as the Bartowski Curse. You’re not going to be like your father, OK? You know why? Because you’ve got me. You’re not alone.
Sarah sees things more clearly, and she can help him through this. The good news is Chuck is talking to Sarah (as opposed to talking to Morgan or keeping to himself — they’ve actually been much better about that since they’re married). The bad news is Chuck isn’t listening very well.
Sarah has her work cut out for her
The CIA finds Chuck and Sarah. That’s bad.
False alarm, Chuck and Sarah are safe. That’s good.
The CIA finds Ellie and Devon. That’s bad.
But Ellie and Devon were picked up by Beckman’s man, so they’re safe. That’s good.
But Robyn Cunnings kills Beckman’s man and takes Ellie and Devon. That’s horrible.
Things don’t go so well for Cunnings either, though, because Ellie figures things out and escapes with Devon. Their escape, while awesome, ends up putting a kink in Chuck’s plan, as well.
Ellie and Devon are fantastic from the romantic plans to the MARTINI, from their escape from the limo to their escape from Cunnings. Ellie the half spy and Devon the clueless romantic certainly turned up the entertainment.
As Chuck, Sarah, Beckman, and Casey review the situation, concluding that Ellie and Devon may be tortured for information on the Omen virus, Beckman says the fateful words. For now we wait. These words always signal that Chuck or Sarah or Casey (or some combination of the three) will not wait, but will take matters into their own hands.
The call comes. Robyn Cunnings demands that Chuck deliver the virus within 3 hours or Ellie and Devon will die. Casey and Beckman start talking about making a fake. Chuck agrees, but Sarah knows he’s not OK with it.
I love that Sarah goes after Chuck and gets him to talk to her. I love that they talk and that Sarah backs Chuck’s plan. (Even though I think it’s stupid to give up the virus, I’m glad Sarah backs Chuck.) I really love Sarah’s plea to Casey and Beckman, “… I think we need to support Chuck. This is his family, and it’s my family, too, now, and we need to do everything we can to protect them.”
All would be fine, if not for Chuck’s obsession with the Curse, “This is my curse, Sarah. Don’t you understand? The people I love are in danger. It’s my fault. I need to fix it.”
So, in spite of Sarah’s promise to convince Casey and Beckman; in spite of her asking for his trust and her promise to go with him; in spite of his word that he would wait for her … in spite of all that, while she’s talking with Casey and Beckman, Chuck picks up the stupid stick and leaves without her.
Sarah is rightfully worried and furious, “I can’t believe he’d do the drop on his own … without me. He thinks it’s the Bartowski Curse, that he can somehow protect me by leaving me behind, and instead he’s walking into a trap.”
The thing is, as angry as Sarah is with Chuck, she knows his motivation, though severely misguided and short-sighted, is that he loves her and wants to protect her.
(Anybody else want to slap him. Good, I’m not the only one.)
This is not a new flaw. He constantly puts himself in danger for the ones he loves. It must stop. He has a wife who has equal right to protect the ones she loves … Chuck and her new family. She is his partner in every sense of the word. He needs to see that and treat her accordingly. He also needs to realize that in his effort to protect her, he has done the opposite. He has hurt her by excluding her, and by putting himself in danger, he has risked her heart and happiness.
The Take Down
The pretend spies continue to entertain, as Ellie plots a way to help Chuck, and Devon can’t keep his mind off his hot wife. Their good intentions don’t go as planned, and they unwittingly give Cunnings the leverage she needs to get Chuck to hand over the virus.
Chuck had planned to negotiate their release, and endure torture (or preferably talk his way around it) until Sarah showed up, as he knew she would.
Chuck was plenty brave, albeit rash and foolhardy. I’ve got to say I’m proud of his relative calm in the face of torture. Yeah, he’s still Chuck (not Cole, not Sarah or Casey), but he would’ve closed his eyes, bitten his lip, and taken his licks — or volts, as the case may be (maybe it would’ve jump-started the suppressed Intersect … just kidding). He’s come a long way.
But Chuck can’t let Devon be tortured so he gives up the Omen (while some of us are screaming NOOO!).
They saved the best for last, starting with Sarah saving Ellie. Ellie accepts her sister-in-law’s rescue with relief and gratitude, and doesn’t think twice about Sarah shooting the man who was about to kill her. Sarah, for her part, was very sister-like as she led Ellie away from danger. It was a nice spy-sister-bonding moment for them. Casey’s jab was quintessential Casey, “Rescuing Bartowski’s is our business.”
I loved Chuck’s confidence in Sarah (he doesn’t know Casey came, too) to be there to save her husband — watch his face.
Fantastic fire-fight in the dark with night vision goggles — cool! I guess since Beckman authorized it, they won’t get arrested for all the dead guys. There was so much gold here: Sarah punching out Robyn; Ellie running up to Devon and smothering him with concern, and love, and kisses, “We are so not meant to be spies;” Sarah pinning Chuck with an icy glare and striding away, leaving him tied up. That was very wife-y, not at all partner-y. Good for her.
I liked that Ellie and Devon got a taste of Chuck and Sarah’s life that they realized it wasn’t for them, but jazzed about it nonetheless.
Our pretend spies return home, their romance in over-drive after their spy adventure. Meanwhile the real spies have more work to do and issues to deal with.
The Veteran Spy Couple do the heavy lifting. Another total win! What a team. Sarah’s got nothing on the Tiny Titian Shemale. I guess this was short-cop/tall-cop, because they were both bad-cops. Never thought I’d see the day. Neither did Robyn Cunnings apparently.
The Beckman/Casey affection continues, “Oh, and Casey, your record shall be expunged. You’re free to go home.” What was that look? (Looks like Duck has some competition, Ernie.)
Actually Beckman was affectionate with the whole team. She was quite pleased with herself when she dropped all charges against TeamB.
I love that Beckman still has their back. In some ways this is what I’ve always envisioned for TeamB, a secret spy team with Beckman greasing the rails and watching their back. Of course I imagined a formal, though secret, connection with the government, because otherwise they could be arrested for … I dunno, shooting assassins. Perhaps Beckman’s parting words foreshadow such an arrangement, “Well done, team. It was a bit like old times, wasn’t it?” Nostalgia. Gotta love it.
While voltage amps up and sparks fly in the interrogation room, there is a distinct electrical hum between the newly weds.
Was it adequate payoff for the *facepalm* stupid stick. For me, especially on rewatch, it was. I know others feel differently. That’s OK.
Where does one begin when his smoking-hot (literally) assassin-spy-wife is really mad at him, and he knows he deserves it? … And she knows he knows he deserves it, because she’s looking at him with a predatory smile in anticipation of his apology, which better be good, because … did I mention the assassin part?
Lighten the mood, make her smile … cautiously: “So, no living on the lam, running from the law. Sounded a little romantic, though, didn’t it?”
Oops, smile’s gone. That didn’t work. She must be really, really mad. “You’re still mad?”
He has. No. Idea! “You left without me.”
Chuck finally gets it … sees her hurt and really is sorry, but he wants her to understand his heart … and his curse (*facepalm*). “I’m sorry. Sarah, I’m sorry. OK. It was stupid, but I didn’t want to take you down with me and my family’s curse.”
Doesn’t he get it. *IF* there is a Bartowski Curse, which there isn’t, then it is a curse they share, because she’s a Bartowski, too. Whatever comes, they face together. Aarrrggghhh.
“There is no curse! You’re not your father, Chuck. You’re not fated to be alone or to hurt anybody.” But he did hurt somebody. He hurt her. The hurt and anger are in her voice and all over her face, and he put it there. “Those things happen because of the choices that people make … that YOU make.”
Chuck has a flash — not an Intersect-y one, but an epiphany. “You’re right. I’ll never do it again — leave without you. The Bartowski Family Curse (stupid stick) ends here, and not with me … with us.” He reminds her that they’re Bartowski’s together. It’s a two-way pact. (Hopefully some of this will hold the next time Sarah gets the urge to fix things by herself. We’ll soon find out.)
She still has to let the hurt and anger drain away and let him know how serious this is, “If you ever go out alone again, just remember, I am a trained assassin.”
“Good.” She wouldn’t shoot him, would she? I’m thinking the 20mg darts. 😉
Mmm, make-up kissing, the harbinger of forgiveness, “So, all is forgiven?”
“Maybe.” She can’t stay mad at him for long. Remember, they hate to fight. It’s exhausting, and there are better uses of energy. “OK, fine. All’s forgiven.”
But the make-up make-out is predictably interrupted …
Beckman doesn’t know (because Robyn didn’t) who is behind the virus, but not to worry, “we have our top people working on the virus.” This is code. It always means that Chuck will have to step in and solve the problem, because Beckman’s top people are always a day late and one taco shy of a combo meal.
In the next episode, look for Chuck to figure out the virus and save cyber land-sea-and-space, Sarah, and maybe Christmas.
I really liked the Curse. The spy danger escalates, and the conspiracy mystery thickens.
Chuck angered a lot of powerful people. Maybe going back to Ring2 or just finding out about Agent X … and then setting him free. Maybe not being malleable or corruptible. Who knows, but Chuck and Sarah are still in the cross hairs of an unknown Big Bad and his minions.
A general is involved, but it’s not Beckman.
Someone did all of this to spring a prisoner. (Of course, we know who it is, but let’s pretend we don’t.)
The virus is just part of the plan. Gulp.
As for the comedy, Ellie and Awesome were fantastic. Even if you choked on the Chuck drama, you had to love Ellie and Devon.
So, is revisiting the issue a valid story line? I can see how it is, and here’s why.
The story, other than setting up the next couple of episodes, is how Chuck and Sarah deal with this issue, more specifically how Chuck will deal with his ghosts and whether he will make the same mistakes his father made, when faced with similar circumstances.
The greatest shadow over Chuck’s life is his abandonment by his parents, both of whom insisted that they had no choice but to run in order to protect him and Ellie. His greatest fear is that he is somehow fated to do the same. Irrational? Absolutely … but somewhat understandable. I imagine it’s not uncommon for people to wonder if they are fated to become their parents in some way or another.
Here they are. Beyond their control, Chuck and Sarah are being hunted by the government. This is a different from Subway. The spy life is uglier, and the stakes are higher. Chuck and Sarah are in a different place. Being married is an entirely different dynamic from dating exclusively. Chuck now has a real life, a wife … his own family. He can identify with his dad on a whole new level.
When Chuck found his dad and discovered why he left (that he had complex reasons for leaving, that he wasn’t just a deadbeat dad), Chuck saw his dad’s hero side. Maybe he’s even come to accept that being a hero and doing the right thing forced Stephen’s hand and forged their tragic life. In reality his dad made some terrible decisions, caused his family’s pain, and lived with regrets. Was he a hero? Yes, in some ways, and he did some great things; but he failed his family because of poor decisions. Chuck needs to be reminded of his own words: there’s always a choice.
This episode does that in the way it should be done … through Sarah. Sarah is perfect throughout. She doesn’t hit a single wrong note. (Kudos Yvonne!) The point, now that they are married, isn’t whether or not they make mistakes. They will … sometimes really stupid ones. What’s important is how they deal with them together. For that alone, this story has merit and is a win. I hope that we’ll see the evidence of lessons learned in upcoming episodes (ahem, 5×08).
Gaining a true perspective of his parents — their good qualities and their human failings — allows him to learn from their mistakes. The same goes for Sarah. She’ll have to face her own ghosts, and Chuck will help her as she helped him.
As painful as the stupid stick was, it’s part of their process. Ultimately, dealing with their pasts together helps them move forward. It’s part of figuring out what they want and charting the course for their life together.
The adventure continues, and I’m holding on for the ride.
Sorry it’s so late … and long. Thanks for reading.