I like Morgan’s reaction to Chuck calling this a first fight. Funny.
First Fight is a very big episode, it will end the early part of the Frost/Volkoff arc, and launch the Intersect-less arc. It continues the Season Four tradition of making the very big episodes, very funny episodes, while having some great action, drama and tension all thrown in.
After the jump, this weeks’s episode.
First Fight I think is another very strong episode. It has a few shortcomings, mainly in terms of exposing some continuity issues going back to Ring II, but with so much being so well done here, I’m not going to hold much against it. I do remember having some concerns when this arc first ran that the very real tension at the end of Aisle of Terror would turn into another reset of sorts. Fortunately no such thing will be happen. The first fight will be played for epic laughs instead of tragedy. Chuck airing his grievances to everyone except Sarah is amusing, frustrating and in character. And it gets better every time Sarah hears about their big fight from yet another outsider. “Is there anyone you haven’t told about our fight?!” is completely fitting. And Chuck does have an odd perspective on it, thanks in part to Morgan. Much as wanting to get their first fight “right” made me want to smack Chuck a time or two, the tone was kept light and fun. So no real harm done here. Some of the input Sarah gets, from Morgan, and later Tuttle/Volkoff is very funny. Yvonne plays these scenes perfectly; so serious, exasperated, and a bit over the top. And Sarah’s cultural detachment is even squeezed in, I had to google “Friendster”, apparently it is a real thing.
Timothy Dalton is a delight in every sense. It may stretch credibility a bit to think what Tuttle really is in the story. But Dalton’s performance is perfect. Its a joke within a joke that Tuttle is such a sweet likable sort of guy. I was almost sorry for the Volkoff reveal, just because it was the end of Tuttle! But its okay, Volkoff will carry on in the same unbalanced vein, except a little less “sweet”. But of all the “stunt” casting done on Chuck, this may be the very best one. Right from the start, he threatens to kill Chuck with a plastic fork, then laughs it off as out of his skill set. Only later do we realize that Tuttle truly came to life in the moment after the threat. The scene on the airplane is side splitting funny. I won’t do a lengthy recap here, but Tuttle makes this episode. One of the few really great episodes for something other than Charah.
We can’t forget Mary’s role in this episode either. There are some significant moments here, starting with Chuck’s first “interrogation” of her. I just love how awkwardly she tries to be maternal when she hears Chuck and Sarah are fighting. And the Mary/Ellie/Sarah scene after is terrific. So much emotional power to it, my biggest complaint is how brief this scene is, and how more I would have liked to hear of that talk. Perhaps this is the moment when Mary understands that Sarah really is a part of the family, I would have liked to see some of that conversation too.
The bank scene is a blast in nearly every way. From the triangular discs paying off, to Chuck and Sarah bickering so openly (that is so out of character for them; and extra funny because of it!), to a big Chuck/Sarah smack down of four hoodlums. It is so much fun when the team is working together!
Getting back to Orion’s base is more dramatic than fun. The big Volkoff reveal is a great moment. Mary’s “betrayal” and covert aid is a significantly dramatic moment as well. I love how Mary endorses Sarah’s role as protector.
In the end, it was nice to hear Scott Bakula make one last contribution to the show. But we still haven’t heard the end of Orion!
A few shortcomings should be mentioned. In an episode so packed with good stuff, including a few things seemingly cut short, I think it was a waste to have Morgan’s trials with the ear piece drawn out for so long. It was funny, but not in any way special. And too much that was special felt a little rushed to me.
Probably the biggest gripe a lot of viewers will have is story/continuity related. Going back to Ring II Stephen indicated he couldn’t find Mary. This just can’t be true. The Intersect suppression device is much newer than 20 years old. And in a few weeks we’ll have cause to think Orion was capable of hacking into Volkoff’s computer network. The obvious thing to say is just that when Ring II was written CF hadn’t worked out all the story details yet. On a viewer level, I think I’ll address this by claiming Chuck received an obsolete/incomplete briefing. Stephen didn’t know he was going to die when he did, and for reasons we’ll never know, I think he didn’t have his spy will and briefing for Chuck up-to-date and complete. This is the very definition of a fanwank, but it mostly works for me.
This Tuesday evening I’ll put up my first “S4 Alternatives” post. I really am happy with where the show is at in S4. But its still interesting sometimes to think about how things could have been, or even should have been a little different. So be thinking about what was needed, or might have been a fun twist to our favorite show!
Right and Wrong
After re-watching Chuck vs. The First Fight this week, I almost think that calling it great is to damn with faint praise.
What? Did you think that Timothy Dalton was merely “chewing the scenery” as he transformed from plastic fork wielding Tuttle to the regal and imposing Alexei Volkoff? Nah. It’s magical.
And – I know some will disagree here (and that’s alright) – but my money says he’s outdone in this episode by Linda Hamilton ebbing and flowing between Frost and Mary. It’s even more magical as she maintains that balancing act after reuniting with her daughter.
Speaking of which, Ellie has been portrayed so convincingly and seamlessly as a concerned, older sister, loving, patient wife and confused and conflicted daughter by Sarah Lancaster, that we forget the difference between actor and character. Kudos for that, too.
Then there’s our main characters; Zac convinces me that Chuck is red-faced, walk-out-the-door angry at Sarah, but no, he’s only practicing to achieve the right level of passionate anger for the hard-bitten, worldly-wise and emotionally cautious woman he loves. For her part, the ever-alert-to-danger, always ready to take action Sarah wants desperately for Chuck (the man who talks constantly about – everything) to talk to her about their problem. Just talk. And I believe her.
Sarah: This is exhausting.
Chuck: Tell me about it. How do you always fight these big guys all the time?
Sarah: No, I mean, fighting with you is exhausting. [Wheel kick to the bad guy’s head] I hate it!
I’ll bet that you thought this episode was about Chuck and Sarah’s first fight. I know I did. Well, that may be, but there’s another fight being waged; Morgan and Casey are fighting too. Casey used Morgan as “The Magnet,” after all, and I don’t think that Casey ever really forgave him for dating Alex. It’s a reflex.
Okay, that was just a little silly. But it’s still true that there are other fights going on. Remember when Mary/Frost was being interrogated by Sarah and Casey?
Sarah: Chuck came here this morning because he trusted you and now he’s gone.
Mary: If he’s with my handler, I know he’s safe.
Sarah: Right, then why hasn’t he called in?
Mary: Perhaps he doesn’t want to see you. Chuck told me about the fight.
Oooohhhh – low blow. Mary has just told Sarah that she is a force to be reckoned with – again – and this time it’s personal. That certainly appears to be the case when Mary tricks Chuck into revealing where Orion has kept his files. It’s painfully true when Mary robs Chuck of his ability to flash.
It’s mother fighting against son too, it seems. Mary is being very in-your-face here, with Orion’s PSP and her insider’s knowledge of the situation. However, I realized the truth of Mary’s position in all these power struggles is stated much more quietly when she finally gets to meet with and talk to Ellie. That’s when Mary leaves one small clue for her daughter, once again bringing up the burgundy Mustang with the custom ordered blue leather seats. And she does it right in front of a vigilant, untrusting CIA agent. It’s all the information Ellie will need. If that’s a fight, it’s a fight between Frost and Mary and all these battles are being waged on multiple levels.
I began by saying actors gave wonderful performances in Chuck vs. The First Fight, but there’s yet another character who’s dominating every scene, and who’s also in the middle of a brutal fight.
Ellie: I just want to know what happened. I want to know the truth.
Mary: I guess it all begins with a scientist. His code name was Orion. But his real name was Stephen Bartowski.
That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you, I’d have a little trust
I’ll never quite understand how one show can have scenes that are so knee-slapping funny as “a tiny weapons standoff!”, so satisfyingly action packed as the fight in the bank and still make make the characters seem so real you want to cry for them. But Chuck does, consistently. That, to me, is magic.