So time for a big episode. We’ve had a string of very fun, more light hearted episodes, now we get to the meat of the season. We will meet Mary Bartowski this week, and sort of launch the main arc for the front half of the season.
After the jump, we’ll discuss Aisle of Terror!
I have to say I love this episode. Our polls make this a more middle of the road sort, but this works on almost every level for me. Robert Englund plays a sufficiently creepy Dr. Wainwright, and Linda Hamilton has a her first substantial appearance as Mary/Frost. When we get to Gobbler and Push Mix I will have some real complaints about Mary, but I love how her story gets going. She is not clearly a good guy or villain, indicators point both directions. She tries to appeal to Chuck’s loyalties to gain co-operation, although Chuck points out she has little claim on his loyalty. She seems to be tracking “Carmichael” professionally, although it seems an odd oversight that she doesn’t know Walker is Carmichael’s partner (literally for his entire existence). She provides helpful intel to the CIA, then shoots Chuck at a public meeting.
What a great dramatic scene. In hindsight, its obvious she was checking his vest before she shot him, but what a great shocking moment. This is the sort of drama and adventure that Chuck always does best. Its outrageous, fun, and explained pretty quickly. And now we know, whatever side Frost is really on, she makes Carina look like a predictable team player. And when she shows up to explain herself she seems just a little unhinged at first.
The Charah aspect of this episode is perfect until the very end. There’s no question that Chuck will have Sarah backing him up at the playground, they are working as a very effective team at this point. Sarah provides a nice mix of support, encouragement and comfort at appropriate times throughout.
Casey is wisely very suspicious of Frost and who owns her allegiance. Which leads to the final sequence of events. Sarah had earlier promised Chuck she would help with his blind spot where Mom is concerned. We should never doubt her! I think this is the best conflict, and conflict of interest, we’ll see between Chuck and Sarah in the entire series. Sarah does what she believes is right, even knowing it will cause Chuck grief. Making peace with each other will come next week, and we’re left with a tense and awkward ending.
All of which leaves Dr. Wainwright a secondary consideration. Nominally, he’s the main villain here. But all the emotional energy of the episode is in the Frost story. Fortunately, Wainwright is an amusing character in his own right. And we get another fun collision with the Buy More story line. I would say the Buy More story is more odd than funny in the early part of the episode; Jeff’s definition of scary is good for an uncomfortable laugh, but mostly feels like a bombed joke. Until Dr. Wainwright finds the Aisle of Terror. This is one of those long building, very funny pay offs for me. The Doctor recognizes his rival’s work, but is unhinged by it nonetheless. Apparently it really is terrifying to the unstable mind. Just perfect. Finish off Dr. Wainwright as another of Sarah’s one-shot take downs, and its off to better things…
I think Aisle of Terror works very well for several reasons. It maintains a lot of the very funny humor that has been used well so far in Season Four. It sets a very satisfying tone for the Chuck and Sarah relationship. They are clearly in love, and effective as a team (that just never gets old!). The drama is sky high with the appearance of Mary, her signals are profoundly mixed. And we get a cliffhanger ending that provides plenty of tension and angst; without resorting to any cheap teen soap opera gimmicks. This drama is drawn wholly from the spy story.
I like it. And I’m ready for First Fight!
Hello, Chuck. It’s – Your Mother.
Hey! It’s the annual Halloween special.
Dave apparently spent the week reading my mind about Chuck vs. The Aisle of Terror. Once again, I went into the re-watch expecting a standard episode of Chuck (read much better than any other show) and came away amazed at how much I enjoyed it. It’s marvelous, first for all the reasons Dave lists, Robert Englund as Dr. Wainwright, and Linda Hamilton as Mary/Frost, and for the clever integration of the Buy More into the adventure. But for me, it’s also in the way that Zac and Yvonne finally convinced me to stop worrying. They are a couple (and whew)! [Joe wipes his forehead and finally shakes away all the WT/WT angst built up from S1 and S2]
Now I gotta ask – Did you see what I just saw? Huh? Huh? Chuck has grown up. Better, he’s good at what he does – the best. Chuck is everything we all knew he could be and – something I find incredibly reassuring – we see that reflected in Sarah’s eyes.
Sarah: Hey. Ellie’s putting out dessert. If you don’t come in soon, I’m gonna eat yours and blame it on Morgan.
Sarah herself is no longer a comic-book heroine with amazing knife-throwing superpowers and the ability to swat away unwanted suitors with a single glance. She used to be such a hard-boiled cynic.
Chuck: Oh, I’m such an idiot, Sarah. After everything I knew about my mom, everything I learned about my mom, I still trusted her anyway. That’s really great spy work.
Sarah: You know, Chuck, even in the spy world, where everything is run by deceit, you still manage to somehow genuinely trust people. You know what? That’s what I love about you.
No, she’s a real heroine now with real feelings and concerns and doubts, but one who is not frozen by them. She still acts on her instincts, but now she acts for the right reasons. Sadly, in the adult world, it’s just not always clear what that might mean.
I absolutely agree about Linda Hamilton’s Mary/Frost. I know that the character is more flawed than paragon, and I’m sure we’ll be discussing the validity of her motivations. But here Mary’s strengths, and Ms. Hamilton’s too, come through in a way that leaves us perfectly on a knife-edge about her motives and objectives. Is she good? Is she bad? It’s unclear right up until the very moment she finds out she’s going to be a grandmother, and even after half a dozen viewings, it’s fun to watch all the technical details that go into building that ambiguity.
Sarah: I know that you’ve been looking for answers about your mom for a long time. And we’re gonna find some, okay? We just have to be very cautious.
There’s emotional impact there. Just when we realize Mary has been trapped for 20 years doing something she’s come to regret, just when Mary has made some decision about coming “in from the cold” (at least partially), her ability to make that decision is ripped away by the character with the best motives – Sarah.
I can say it, but you won’t you believe me.
You say you do, but you don’t deceive me.
It’s hard to know they’re out there,
It’s hard to know that you still care.
Oh, Sarah. For the best of reasons, to protect Chuck and his blind spot, she is going to hurt the man she loves and respects. And Chuck, who’s been looking for his mother for months, finally succeeds only to have her shoot him in the heart, both figuratively and literally.
This is the same episode that starts with them being the perfect couple I wanted them to be and continues with Jeff and Lester doing their crazy best decorating the Buy More in a way that drives Freddy himself insane with fear. Oh, gee. There’s even an exchange that, once again, shows the fans that TPTB were actually listening, even if they did turn it cockeyed for our amusement.
Morgan: So sorry I’m late.
Casey: You weren’t here already?
Morgan: Ha, ha. Nice. I love our little give-and-take. Classic Ross and Rachel.
What a trip!
That’s the right word. For me, the episode was once again an emotional trip that few shows are capable of executing consistently. It’s one of the biggest reasons this show has kept me engaged much longer and more deeply than any other.