We now start a run of five more or less stand alone episodes. First up we meet the very Awesomes and Casey’s old Sensei. This isn’t really a happy episode for Casey, but he will certainly have a few great moments. After the jump, we’ll take a look at “Chuck vs The Sensei”.
I’d have to start by saying this is an episode that seemed better after having not watched it for a long time. I think the main thing I initially objected to was Chuck being a little more buffoonish than I prefer, but this is actually understated compared to some later episodes (Curse!), and there’s a lot here that’s very good.
For starters the Chuck/Sarah scenes are all dynamite. Sarah consoling Chuck at the Buy More, and then their “action ready” discussion at the Orange Orange. But there’s much more that works well in Sensei. Chuck and Casey butting heads is lots of fun, right up through Casey tricking Chuck into letting him out of Castle. And the “A” plot includes several classic lines like Sarah being accused of mixing chocolate and peanut butter and Chuck helping Casey find his “angry center”.
For arguments’ sake we’ll call the Buy More the “B” plot. I think this is another very funny and very well integrated sub-plot. In particular, Morgan coming sooooo close to an ugly death without ever knowing it. And his response is perfect for the stupidly brave little bearded man…
I suppose that makes meeting the very Awesomes the “C” plot. I think this is the weakest part of the episode, but even so its worth a few good laughs (“Devon was never into nicknames…”). Honey is clearly the mother-in-law from hell. Even though their parts are small, I wish we’d seen more of these two characters. They fit right in with Chuck’s brand of crazy.
And I think I’ll leave it there. Next week we do one of my all time favorites. I’m excited already!
The Calm Center
This is a great stand-alone, episode Dave. It’s the first time we get to see anything about Casey’s past since the end of the first season, in Undercover Lover. Better, we get to see a little inside Casey! You know. His soft, gooey underside.
NOT! When he tells Chuck that he’s feeling “a little exposed,” he’s actually raging and ready to take Chuck’s head off. That’s our John Casey, through and through. Even his first (last? only?) mentor, Ty Bennett (Carl Lumbly), told him that he needs to find his calm. Heh! Chuck’s not the only one who needs for Casey to find it. I think talking to John was Emmett’s first brush with hot death too.
But I’ll tell you what I saw, Dave. Casey’s not the only one who has to find that inner peace. When the very Awesomes fly into town, Ellie has that same need. Then it gets worse; Honey starts to plan Ellie’s wedding. Oh Noz!
The Buy Morons have a little trouble finding their calm center, too. It’s brought out when Emmett institutes an “Employee of the Month” contest, essentially pitting one Moron against another. What’s Morgan to do about that? Is it important to him that his picture be hung next to (heavy sigh, now) Moses Finkelstein, the founder and CEO of Buy More? His direction comes straight from Chuck. He doesn’t care. Yet, when Skip Johnson wins the coveted prize (plus a 65″ flat screen TV), he’s not really happy.
The rest of the Buy Morons don’t care either, but, the problem is, the customers do. There may be no need for them to find their calm center – they don’t give a rats behind, even if it is fat and/or hairy, but Devon is irked. Calm center, Devon!
Chuck bungles the mission at the Global Launch Agency, the GLA, which has launched rockets to every planet except Pluto. That bungling brings Casey’s wrath down on him. Sadly for Casey, his primary mission was to protect Chuck, so he’s removed from the mission exactly when he’s most interested in getting into the middle of the action. He’s interested because the bad guy in this case is his old mentor. He’s feeling betrayed.
Chuck understands that. Jill betrayed him and he’s had to put all that in the rear view mirror. Of course, that never comes easy, and besides, Chuck is as bummed out as I was, at the time, that Pluto is no longer designated as a planet.
Sorry! I just had to throw that in there because I needed to demonstrate that emotions are running high! 😉
Like Chocolate For Peanut Butter
But not everyone’s emotions. Sarah deftly mediates between an angered and unreasonable Casey and an angered and reasonable Chuck. Still, she has to call ’em like she sees ’em, and informs Casey that he’s too emotionally involved. What? Casey has lady feelings? “This from the agent that can’t keep her chocolate out of Bartowski’s peanut butter.” Ah, there was good news for fans right here. Sarah actually admits to her partner she has feelings. Maybe we knew it, but it’s good to know that she knows it too.
For his part, Chuck is handling his emotions only a little better than Casey; not perfectly. You called it, Dave. He’s being WHINY! That’s with a capital WHINY, especially when he finds himself back in the van.
In essence, everyone is a little irked (Okay. A lot irked!) at the wrong target; Casey at Chuck, Devon at the Buy Morons, Chuck at Jill and Ellie at Honey. Well, maybe that last one isn’t wrong, but it’s not right, either. It’s that’s what makes this episode fun. Chuck is the one who sorts it all out, especially with Casey. That’s the kind of fun we have come to expect.
But there’s something that makes Chuck vs. The Sensei a little more special. There’s a bigger, more important idea lurking about, one bigger than the weekly catching of the bad-guy. All the arguing, fighting and high emotion is about family.
The Buy Morons are a family. If Emmett wants to pit them against each other, he can try. Ellie and Honey are struggling to become a family. Casey’s mentor, a father figure if he ever has one, is the real target of his wrath, not Chuck. It’s father against son, and brother against brother, but to fight like brothers, you have to be that close. Welcome to the new, Team Bartowski, Chuck. You’re a full-fledged member now, and Casey knows it.
That came home to me in the very last scene, one that has almost seemed like a “throw-away” until now. You see, Ellie wasn’t really angry at Honey; that was as misdirected as Casey’s anger towards Chuck. All Ellie really wanted was her absent father to be there for her wedding, and all that anger, all that emotion, was for him. It’s a harbinger of things to come.
No one can fight like family, but don’t try to come between them. Family is one of those things that make Chuck different. Family like this is just not what a normal show would do.