It’s time to see if Carmichael Industries can actually be viable as a business. If the professional spies can sell themselves, if Morgan can be developed as an actual asset, and if the Buy More can actually carry its own weight when the first two questions turn out to be “NO!”.
After the jump, we’ll get into the second Morgansect episode.
Bearded Bandit checks in at 81st place. Not impressive. I don’t dislike the episode, especially not in hindsight; but I can easily say it made some of my post Season Four fears seem like a reality. That is, that Morgan, my least favorite of the show’s regular characters, was taking on a larger part in this last season than I ever wanted. It doesn’t help that when Chuck and Morgan are together, Chuck looks ineffectual and is steamrolled by his bearded buddy. So big part for Morgan, Chuck not accomplishing much, not a great episode.
In the grand scheme of things I no longer hold that against it, much. This is by far the biggest part Morgan will have all season long. And even in a weaker episode like this one there is still plenty to enjoy. For starters, I like how Chuck, Sarah and Casey all interact. There is trust and camaraderie here. It seems we don’t see as much of Chuck as leader; but Sarah is a clear power behind the throne and Casey shows both competence and loyalty. So my favorite moments here involve mostly Sarah and Casey. First really fun scene is Sarah’s meeting with Gertrude. Sarah is clearly sure of herself in her new role, or at least willing to play like she is. Casey’s recon of Wesley Sneijder’s hideaway is a fun scene, and a bit of a Jayne Cobb call back (love the hat!). Sarah and Casey’s chat while racing to the rescue is fun too, err, awkward funny… And I love the last Chuck/Sarah scene. Sarah knows exactly why Chuck would make a great handler and she’s not afraid to tell him!
Some of the Chuck/Morgan scenes are funny. Morgan is sort of the Intersect asset from hell. If Sarah thought Chuck didn’t listen, Morgan takes it to a whole new level. And he’s not too bright. Even the “Bandit” part makes me laugh. Do you think Morgan realizes “Bandit” is military slang for an enemy fighter aircraft? Yeah I didn’t think so. Its also pretty funny what an utter screw up Morgan is as a fighting machine. I think only his rescue back at the start of Zoom could be described as fully successful. In Bearded Bandit he almost gets offed by an unnamed thug with a shotgun, he destroys the guards protecting a federal witness, and he takes Chuck into a hopeless death trap. Well hey, its not like the team never screwed up before. But Morgan raises it to an artform.
This episode is interesting to me in the greater context. A deleted scene from Bullet Train tells us Sarah does ultimately download the same corrupt version of the Intersect that Morgan has. And no surprise, Morgan has started losing memories like Sarah will in that episode. But unlike Sarah, Morgan is losing his whole self to it. For all his shortcomings; Morgan is faithful, good natured and fearless. But as he uses the Intersect he becomes selfish and arrogant. Obviously we will deal with this more next week; but the corrupt Intersect seems to be corrupting Morgan thoroughly.
The “B” plot in this episode strikes me a pretty good one. Big Mike’s archaic commercial his wicked funny. And finding a new Buy More spokesman is just a great moment. It doesn’t really integrate with the “A” plot well, but it does provide plenty of Buy More comedy.
And I think I’ll leave this write up there. Even a weaker episode of Chuck, is still a very fun show. The next few weeks will get even better.
It’s Still Complicated
You want the good stuff
You want the big hit
The path that’s simple not complicated
Cause if you close your eyes then you won’t see
That it’s easier without complexity
Morgan: Burritos, Chuck? I’m so tired of running errands for that man’s stomach.
Chuck: Look, Casey means well.
Morgan: Yeah, but it’s not just Casey, dude. Okay? It’s Sarah too.
Chuck: What is that supposed to mean?
Morgan: It just means that – isn’t she the one who told you to be my handler in the first place?
Morgan: Did it ever occur to you that she made you my little babysitter to distract you from the fact that you’re being sidelined too? I don’t know if you noticed, chief. You’re on a food run with me.
For a moment there I thought I was going to disagree with Dave. Morgan steamrolls Chuck? “Naw.” I thought at first. Morgan does lay a hay-maker on his buddy when he blurts out that Sarah is still handling him, and OUCH! That one lands right between the eyes. Then I realized that Dave has it exactly right – Morgan is steamrolling Chuck. That’s exactly what that exchange means.
That’s the way Chuck vs. The Bearded Bandit plays for me now; everything in there is darker and more foreboding than I originally thought and twice as meaningful to boot. Even the title, which I took to be a reference to Morgan’s ridiculous get up as he tries to emulate a comic book superhero (even as he insists on the other meaning of “bandit”) was just a minor sight-gag at first. Morgan forgetting Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker was cute, even funny at the time. Now, after we’ve seen it all, it’s not. It tells us that something is very, very wrong.
Although we see a complete story about the first big financial win for Carmichael Ind. Inc. (good thing Karl Sneijder, played by former Buffalonian Jeff Fahey, paid half up front!), the episode is much more the central, connecting bridge in the Morgansect arc and incomplete in and of itself. Even more importantly, it helps us to understand what happens to Sarah later.
And Casey too. When Bearded Bandit first aired I found myself rooting, a bit, for the return of Kathleen McHugh, or maybe even Ilsa Trinchina, into Casey’s life. Gertrude Verbanski came into the story unexpectedly. So I ask myself, what does she have that the others don’t?
Chuck: Okay. Who is she?
Casey: One of the KGBs most ruthless spies, ’till the fall of the Soviet Union. [spits] Then she went into the private-security game.
There’s only one real criterion in the list of “must haves” for any partner of Casey – she must be his equal. And who’d a thunk it coming from that testosterone-driven tranqenstein of an agent?
Verbanski: Ah, yes. Not many people have disarmed Col. Casey.
You bet. I love a good Casey backstory! Like Dave, I saw a little Jayne in Casey when he blew that duck-call.
Now, I’m a bit unusual in the fandom, in as much as I do appreciate (and even like) those moments where Chuck goes dark and everything seems hopeless. To me, those things elevate my joy and heighten my elation when we got to the outcome. Those moments are subtle in this episode and make me appreciate the technique more than I did before.
There’s one more thing that makes me want to place Bearded Bandit much higher than in the bottom 10 of my personal list of favorites. And no, it’s not the lack of episodes I want to put lower! It’s the marvelous depiction of Chuck&Sarah, the married couple. Ask me in 2008 how I wanted to see them, and this, the way we have it throughout S5, is exactly it.
Chuck: Hey, hey, hey. So, uh, quick question, since you’re here, heh. Did you ask me to be Morgan’s handler because you were trying to handle me?
Because if you don’t think I should be in the field, I just need to know that.
Sarah: No, no. I asked you to be Morgan’s handler because the job entails bringing out the best in somebody. And what better example for Morgan than you?
So, no, I’m not handling you, a) because you don’t need a handler anymore and b), because handlers can’t do this.
Oh man. Do you see it? Even there we have a foreshadowing, a hint of what’s to come. Chuck, you see, will have to become Sarah’s handler through their last five years of their real life, just the way Sarah was his through the last five years of their spy life.
So hold high how faint your reasons
That wind is calling my name
And I won’t wait
Or I’ll never get on