Now that Chuck’s been put in charge of the Intersect program, it falls on him to decide how to select best Intersect candidates. But when one of them is murdered, it turns into a procedural type of mystery instead.
After the jump, we’ll look at this week’s episode.
So Muuurder is not hugely popular. That is an understatement. According to our Chuck This poll this is actually the least liked episode outside of the misery arc for the entire series. I can see not being impressed, although I can easily think of ten or so episodes I would actually rank lower, this is certainly at the very bottom of those episodes I did actually enjoy.
So what fails so many viewers? I can guess a couple things. For starters, it just isn’t a very interesting episode. I will get to a few exceptions below, but really there are few memorable moments in this episode.
I think a bigger complaint is just that Chuck himself is pretty underwhelming. He acts a little cocky, and yet unsure of himself at the same time. Really, he looked like a far better leader way back in the Pilot with his Nerd Herd. Obviously Chuck’s behavior is played for laughs; but I think to some extent this is a poor decision with the show’s main character. Especially when for so many of us how we relate to Chuck is a big part of our enjoyment of the show. So putting him in a position where he is an object of ridicule is just never a good entertainment decision. Way back in Tango (1.03) I commented how Chuck not being the stereotypical nerd and buffoon was a huge part of my enjoyment of that episode and this show. Unfortunately, in these last couple seasons, that precedent will occasionally not be followed. And that just never works for me. Apparently, others feel even more strongly about it than I do. Now this situation is not all hopelessly bleak; I really like seeing how Casey, and especially Sarah, have Chuck’s back. They both offer helpful advice; and of course Sarah goes above and beyond with encouragement. And I always love how she takes Chuck’s eccentricites with an even stride. Her nerd never seems to upset or disappoint her, and she calmly guides him along. This won’t be the last time Sarah will look awesome at Chuck’s expense (ahem; Curse…). But Chuck the buffoon never plays well for me.
I think we’ve actually seen far worse examples of bad or annoying behavior from Chuck, even outside of the misery arc, Third Dimension and Curse really stand out to me, and yet those episodes ranked above this one. That I don’t get.
There are few fun and memorable moments here, I like the screening process. Especially Josie questioning the worth of the “social” questioning, and Chuck and Morgan just not understanding her complaint at all. I like Chuck trying to befriend his nemesis. And I like that he will finally earn her respect when he solves the crime and saves her life. And I like that as he makes peace with one nemesis he learns that he has another. And I generally like the Team Bartowski/Team Intersect moment at the end, especially Sarah casually using Chuck as a foot rest as they all eat cookies. Its just a comfortable, friendly sort of scene that this show always does so well.
I also get a big laugh out of the Buy More high jinx in this episode. The kidnapping of Kevin Bacon and Big Mike is fun; especially once Big Mike is content with his sandwich. Even better that his big hero moment comes when he won’t be kidnapped past quitting time. And the minimal tie-in to the “A” plot, of Casey ambushing the piglet in the duct work. Now that is classic comedy. And yes, I’m juvenile enough to be amused by the flaming BM left on the porch.
Ellie learning about the Intersect doesn’t do as much for me. It might have worked better for me if this had been a big build up to her discovering Chuck had their father’s work in him. But that moment will be lost as they head off on the Agent X story. I don’t dislike that story, but it does feed in to how underused Ellie is in most of this season.
I still have to say that overall I enjoyed this episode. I think I would rank at the very weak end of average. At least to say, I don’t dislike it. Its great stuff compared to the misery arc. Is that setting the bar too low? Perhaps. But its Chuck, and I did enjoy it.
Here, in 30 seconds, the cast of characters and the plot. Start the clock.
Lewis, tech-ops specialist, hacker at the age of 14.
Josie, Psy-ops genius, intuitive and great in the interrogation room. She also knows how to manipulate others using their emotional reaction to her.
Casey: I get it. You had to get a girl to find someone as “feelie” as you.
Damian, former Navy Seal, marksman, looks like a terrorist.
Finally, there’s Brody, Chuck’s twin brother by another mother. Nerdy, emotional and into his family and friends.
Casey: Good God, there’s another one.
Chuck has to choose the new Intersect, but he hates letting the others go. Worse, Bentley is rooting for Chuck to screw it up. Chuck selects Brody, but that lasts about 30 seconds before somebody kills the recruit. Whodunit?
Okay, that was 25 seconds.
I won’t mince words. I put Chuck vs. Muuurder at the bottom of my list too, somewhere along side 3-D. Of course, as is my wont, after the re-watch I wondered why! It was much better and more clever than I remembered and showed me something that I had completely missed. How can you not love Keven Bacon??? And don’t you just love how each of those people epitomize some aspect of our favorite nerd?
Here’s a question for the fans. Who got Damian’s answer to Morgan’s question: “Charlton Heston’s coolest movie?” (The answer is “PotA”, btw).
Wait, I want to reconsider my assessment of these people. First, there’s Josie. Manipulative? You bet. But isn’t that a bit more like Sarah than Chuck? Hum! And Lewis’s accent. How does that fit in? Finally, Damian, the former Navy Seal and marksman doesn’t seem very Chuck-like to me at all. That’s more like… lemmee think now, Casey! It’s fitting that Brody, the one who’s the closest to Chuck, is the first to leave the scene.
So I reconsidered and put it where it belongs, right at the bottom of that pile exactly where I put it before. Of course, all that did was prove to me that the Chuck canon is an amazing set of episodes.
[That’s a cop out, Buckley!]
Not really. It’s easy to recognize Muuurder as a foray into the murder-mystery genre and a fun exercise for the writing crew. Doing Agatha Christie is easy. Doing great Agatha Christie is hard, though, so we’re immediately tempted to give them a break and just enjoy the ride.
And the ride ain’t bad at all. It’s a bit unusual to find the entire a plot performed in the confines of Castle, but here we are with Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Director Bentley and four Chuck wannabees in that claustrophobic area. Do we ever see the outdoors? Only once, briefly, as the big BM is set aflame outside the BM doors as BM watches safely within.
And by the way. Does BM stand for Big Mike or Buy More? I could never figure that out. [snicker-snicker]
Ahem. Anyway, that thing I had missed before was happening right under my nose.
Beckman: Thank you for joining us, Director. The Intersect clearly works better in Chuck than in anyone Director Bentley was able to find.
Morgan: Ouch! So sorry!
Beckman: This time, our search will be led by the only man who really knows what it’s like to be an Intersect.
Chuck, we need you to find more Chucks.
With that, Chuck is designated leader of the group, if only temporarily. That’s not a small thing and yes, just like Dave pointed out, Chuck takes turns being cocky and very unsure of himself. Maybe he’s not quite a fish out of water, but Chuck knows he’s being tested here. He saved the city from a nuclear bomb just last week but Beckman all but shouts “What have you done for me lately? Hum?” Director Bentley, Chuck’s new nemesis, is right there to help him trip up, too, and it falls to Sarah to bolster Chuck’s self confidence. The murder that happens on his watch is making Chuck a nervous wreck.
Sarah: Okay, you are still in charge. You need to be calm and confident. But just remember; we need to figure this out, okay?
Sarah may not be Chuck’s handler anymore, but she knows leadership. She knows Chuck has to prove himself to Beckman.
Ah,there’s a “C” story going on too. Bentley had handed Stephen’s laptop – Orion’s! – back to Ellie in an attempted to unlock it’s secrets. Who better to do that? Ellie’s not only a bright neurosurgeon but as obsessive as her father when it comes to solving problems like this. Oh gee! She was ready to do research on baby Clara just last week, don’t forget.
It’s ridiculous that Castle is bombed three times (and its new Intersect room once) while the principles emerge unscathed, but that’s okay by me. Gunshots are fired all over Nick and Nora’s dining room with nary an injury too, don’t forget. It’s part of the fun. Besides, what’s more fun than Chuck taking care of bombs with computer viruses and fruit juice? Chuck taking care of a bomb with a pocket protector, that’s what! As we saw just last week and in the pilot episode, Chuck knows bombs.
Underneath that fun is a simple message, one that we understood subconsciously from the beginning. Despite his uncertainty and misgivings, Chuck is a leader just like Sarah believes. More importantly, he’s not the reason the Intersect works.
Chuck and Sarah and Casey and Morgan are the reason the Intersect works. Chuck knows that now, as does Casey. And so do we.
That’s the procedural part of this episode. Chuck identifies the murderer, solves the mystery and puts all to right again. Twice.
Chuck: Is this the Large Mart pig?
Morgan: Yeah, of course it is.
Chuck: [Seeing the burning BM outside the Buy More door] Oh, hey. Let me guess. Jeff and Lester stole the porcine victim, Large Mart snatched Big Mike in retaliation, he was able to liberate himself but they still torched the Big BM on your doorstep.
Morgan: Yeah, heh. Yeah, you left out, uh… Nothing. Right. That’s exactly right.
Chuck: Figured as much.
Heh! The serial part, Stephen’s laptop and the introduction to the mysterious Agent-X intrigues me more.
Beckman: Congratulations on solving the murder mystery and saving Castle from destruction. And a special commendation to you, Chuck. You are a true leader.
Chuck: Thank you, general. But I’m only as strong as the team that surrounds me. And, as always, Sarah and Casey were my eyes, ears and more today.
Beckman: I’m glad you feel that way, because this is the team we’re sticking with. Following the security breach it has been deemed too dangerous to put the intersect into a new recruit. At least for the foreseeable future Chuck, you are to remain the only Intersect.
The only Intersect? Wanna bet on that? And oh yes, our delightful Brit, Vivian Volkoff, is revealed as Chuck’s new nemesis. Bwa-ha-ha.
Dave’s right (again); this episode is one that would not have been missed (much) had we never seen it, and that’s a shame. It’s fun and leads us back to one our favorite family of villains. It’s going to be a fun ride to the end of the season.