Casey is in jail as Decker is applying pressure to Carmichael Industries. Can Chuck and Sarah, along with Gertrude, complete a mission and spring the big guy?
After the jump, we’ll look at Hack off.
Another episode from about the middle of our ranking poll. I find it interesting that this one ranks at 31, that’s eleven higher than Business Trip that we discussed last week. I find that funny because I consider both to be similar, strong episodes. I love seeing Chuck, Sarah and the show in general at this point. It might not rise to the level of some of the very best episodes, but this is a wonderful status quo; and I would have been happy for many more like this.
The main plot is enjoyable and fun all the way through. Certain highlights being Chuck “the Piranha” doing his routine, as Sarah looks on amused and charmed. Kind of a special, small moment of the sort that reminds me why I love this couple so much. Gertrude joining is a blast as well; from working with Ward and June to threatening Morgan, to her need for Casey. Another is the mission to the Church of the Eternal Wind; the pixilated nudity is a pretty deliberate sort of prime time television humor. And I love the drumming session too, Chuck is having so much fun with his mission! Going to the collective, Sarah and Gertrude being bad, while Chuck does what he does so well, pure fun. And of course, Gertrude dealing with Decker.
For all the fun, there’s some really good character moments for Sarah that raise this episode another notch. The whole idea of Sarah playing relationship counselor to Gertrude is really incredible. Looking at the whole series this is just a stunning thing. She has become so comfortable in her role as a wife and a spy. So comfortable in fact, she’s willing to encourage Chuck towards what comes next. Of course what comes next for Chuck leads to what comes next for Sarah. This won’t be settled easily in her mind, and we can see Sarah’s relief when danger intervenes and requires a return to her familiar life. But over the next few episodes we will see Sarah process what her life is versus what she wants. Now that Chuck is thinking of a computer business, Sarah will ultimately figure out how to make a business for both of them. And it is this process, this journey, that I think shows us where Sarah is truly at when the show ends for the final time. She said no to the CIA.
Again we have a couple of secondary plots in play. The first just being Casey trying to stay out of trouble in jail. Lester saving his skin is one of those perfectly unexpected funny moments. And Morgan’s little scam to get Lester to actually want to come home, good stuff.
As is usual on these better episodes, I don’t have much more to add at this point. I wish the show had maintained this mood for much longer. I think quality will waver some in the next few episodes. But there are still some really terrific moments ahead, just not nearly as many as are behind us. Now I’m getting all melancholy…
A Giant Slab of Leverage
Chuck vs. The Hack-Off was rated in the middle third of our favorite episodes, but I’m going to confess right up front that, early on, it rated no where near that position in my list. In fact, I think I placed it somewhere in the bottom 5 episodes first time around. I had a hard time finding enough enthusiasm to display for the weekly pod-cast (hat-tip to Old Darth).
Look what we have. Chuck swigging Chardonnay? Lester becoming top-dog in prison? Decker, the best incarnation of pure, comic-book evil ™ I’ve seen since Ted Roark, off’ed by a vengeful Gertrude at the peak of his badness? And the worst offense of all, pixelated Sarah??? Silly. Ridiculous. Chubby! (NO! Not Sarah, miscreants! The humor!!!)
Gimeee a break! – I thought.
I know! Let’s make it worse and replace Lester with another Hinjew from Montreal!
Morgan: How you holdin’ up, man?
Jeff: I didn’t think it would be this hard without Lester around. I’m starting to forget him. I can’t even picture what Lester looks like anymore.
Morgan: Close your eyes. Imagine David Beckham. Lester’s a shorter, feminine version of his wife.
Jeff: Right. I can see him now!
Stop laughing! This is serious business!
Remembering that 1) I wasn’t quite sure that Gertrude was really the best fit for Casey, B) that Decker’s conspiracy seemed to evaporate for no good reason and iii) that the Omen Virus didn’t seem at all related to RIOS (AAARRRGGG!!!), I watched again with a little trepidation.
Decker: Sorry for the theatrics getting you here. Sometimes it’s just more fun to knock somebody out and toss them in a van.
I’ll say. Casey in prison is the measure of Chuck’s failure as a businessman. His “Spies-For-Hire” venture seemed to be the best possible amalgam of the normal life he always wanted with spy-life of his dreams and Decker is taking it apart brick by brick.
Chuck: I can’t help feeling like Casey going to prison is all my fault.
Sarah: What? Why would you say that?
Chuck: ‘Cause I’m the genius who started a private spy company and convinced you both to work with me.
Sarah: That’s not true! Decker wanted Casey in jail no matter what. I mean, whether we worked for ourselves or the CIA, it doesn’t really matter.
And I’m not just saying that to make you feel better. Well, maybe a little.
Hey! Chuck should get on his knees and thank God for Sarah’s support and understanding. Instead, he’s letting himself get seduced by Chardonnay and a little bit of hacking success. It may not be the dark side; at least it’s for a good cause. But is it really “Chuck?”
Morgan: When The Piranha got really into a decoding session he could get a bit giddy.
Sarah: That’s kinda cute!
Morgan: Yeah, it’s also super nerdy.
Sarah: It’s definitely that too.
She could use a little support in return, because just like Chuck, Sarah’s also fighting to combine her two worlds. It’s rare that Sarah should be considered the underdog in a fight, but this time, that’s exactly what she is. If Chuck, and really, no one, is in position to be Sarah’s confidant about her life-choices right now, at least someone can make her think about choosing between the life she has and the life she wants.
Or is it the other way around? These days, it’s hard to tell.
Gertrude: I couldn’t imagine my life away from this.
Sarah: Do you really think it’s gonna be that bad?
Gertrude: Sarah, girls like us, we don’t just leave the spy business. Look at me. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old. Never had another job, not in my entire life. I wouldn’t even know what to do if I did. How about you? Could you do anything else?
Hum! That’s interesting. Did I say this episode was silly? Maybe, not so much. I fought it best I could, but – wow. There were some deeper themes running through this episode. I certainly didn’t expect to find any depth coming from the mouth of Jeff Barnes before this.
Jeff: This wasn’t about me and Lester, was it?
Morgan: Hmmm? I don’t know.
Jeff: There’s someone who hasn’t forgiven your dick-ish behavior… and you need to right that wrong.
I’m talking about John Casey.
Yes, I had my qualms about Gertrude, too. I mean, could she really compare to the likes of Ilsa Trinchina or Kathleen McHugh? Well, maybe she can.
Verbanski: Sorry if I got too physical. It’s the uniform.
Casey: Huh. Don’t apologize. I actually enjoyed it.
Verbanski: I thought you would.
Chuck’s right. With Gertrude around, it’s almost like Casey never left for prison. They are, after all, quite a match.
Despite the gratuitous – uh – pixelation, despite the sudden and surprising loss of a real nemesis, despite the looming failure of Carmichael Industries and despite myself, I laughed this week. Decker served his purpose and everyone, including Jeff, is straddling two worlds in brand new ways. This theme takes more than one or two episodes of exposition, and if I didn’t care for Chuck vs. The Hack-Off before, that’s the only reason. The theme is not concluded here but merely begins here.
Like in the Blitzen Trapper song, there’s a lot of obvious double entendre floating around. But the honesty and sweetness come through loud and clear. The way this episode sneaks up on you is also why S5 has to be seriously considered to be the best.
I been feelin’ hard to get
Like a dog hidin’ out underneath the step
Burnin’ this bridge, cause I need the light
For the see my way through the coming night
Guessin’ that you’d always just play the game
Come a walkin’ on back down the same ole lane
But the grass grows high all around your door
It’s a sign or symbol for the things in store