Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Anniversary (4.01)

NBC Synopsis:  CHUCK BEGINS A SEARCH FOR HIS MOTHER, WHICH HE MUST KEEP A SECRET FROM THE CIA AND HIS SISTER — LINDA HAMILTON GUEST STARS AS MARY BARTOWSKI — DOLPH LUNDGREN, HARRY DEAN STANTON AND OLIVIA MUNN ALSO GUEST STAR — Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) go on a rogue globe-spanning mission to find Chuck’s mom. Meanwhile, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) follow a trail to Russia as they investigate the mysterious Volkoff Industries and its operative, Marco (guest star Dolph Lundgren). Back at home, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) delivers big news to her family.

Chuck This Ranking: 50
Dave’s Ranking: A little lower

First Reactions: Observation Thread: Chuck vs The Anniversary

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The Anniversary (4.01) by Dave
Joe and Dave Discuss vs the Anniversary by Joe and Dave

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About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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26 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Anniversary (4.01)

  1. Wilf says:

    Actually, whilst not a favourite episode, I rank it higher. I really liked the early scene where Chuck was helping Sarah get ready for her “business trip” and loved the Moscow scene where Chuck saved Sarah and Casey. Casey’s “limb from limb from limb” comment is a real classic, for me.

  2. Justin says:

    I never liked how Chuck didn’t tell Sarah about his mother for six months. It never sat well with me.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah that’s a big part of what rubs me wrong here.

      • Justin says:

        Yeah, I thought the writers closed the secrets/lies chapter of the series for good in Season 3. But it turned out I was wrong. Maybe they thought maintaining it a bit longer would create some juicy drama. I saw it as a needless distraction. It would have been nice to see Chuck and Sarah working as a team in the search for Chuck’s mother for the past six months. And Ellie should have been told the truth too. If that meant her knowing that Chuck is back at the spy life, so be it. Chuck could have explained to Ellie that spy work is what’s needed to find their mother and Ellie could have understood, being desperate to reunite with one parent after losing another in Stephen.

        And like I said in the comment section of the post on the S3 finale, I wasn’t a fan of the Buy More reboot. It being staffed with CIA operatives just made the whole thing completely ridiculous. They couldn’t have another store be a front for spy operations?

      • duckman says:

        I still think the buy more should have been spun off to be an actual comedy of it’s own and used sparingly on chuck. The characters were there to have made it work.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with most of that Justin, although I think the Buy More was just such a signature part of the show it had to return in some capacity. But the CIA staffed Buy More was too much.

        Duckman I can easily imagine the Buy More spin off if Chuck had been a bigger hit. It might have made it easier for Chuck to go his own way, and just occasionally drop in to visit the morons.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        It’s funny you mention spinoffs. I forget which part of Schwedak mentioned the incredibly long cuts some of their directors turned in, but my first thought was make Chuck 2 hours long. Do two 30 minute comedies, one about a young couple starting their medical careers and the challenges that posed to their married life, plus the wife’s slacker brother and his creepy best friend, another about the hijinks of a big box retail store, then the regular 1 hour Chuck show. Some common scenes would overlap, but the first two would never acknowledge that the Chuck character, his girlfriend, or the new cranky scary guy who sells the hell out of those Beastmasters are spies. We’d get the context for their seemingly random weird behavior going on in the background of those two shows when we watched Chuck.

        It’s probably impossible to do, would have killed the cast and crew, but I thought it would be cool if they could have, and NBC would get an extra hour of free programming.

      • atcDave says:

        Wow Ernie, you dream big! That could have been a lot of fun. Especially over the full course of the show. Imagine the later seasons when the young doctors have some knowledge of Chuck and Sarah’s double life but no specifics. It might make for some odd interactions with their other friends trying to explain the slacker brother and his wealthy, but also unemployed girlfriend.

  3. Martin Traynor says:

    There’s really nothing in the episode I can’t forgive, though I’m not a big fan of Chuck’s secret keeping from Sarah and the fact that, though they just started dating, they’ve effectively been separated for the first 8 months!

    But I do like Dolph Lundgren as Marco. I like that Sarah and Casey miss Chuck and talk about it mid-mission (sharing their “lady feelings” – classic). I like Casey’s “Limb from Limb from Limb” line. I LOVE Sarah’s reactions, first when she thought Chuck was dead, then the tear when she realized he wasn’t.

    Then, of course, is Chuck and Sarah’s updated pledge to keep no secrets and tell no lies, before he sacrifices info. on his mom to save “all of them” with the handheld EMP.

    And I liked that the team reunited at the end to help Chuck.

    All in all, a pretty good ep for me.

    • atcDave says:

      I mostly agree Martin. In spite of a few things I don’t care for, this episode finishes very strong and everything is in a good place.
      I do consider this one of the weaker episodes of the season, but mostly that’s a testament to how strong S4 is.

  4. Garnetflint says:

    The Buy More was indeed a signature part of the show, and they woudl have had to work long and hard to come up with something even close. I’ve been thinking about it and I can’t come up with anything of the top of my head. The Best Buy–>Buymore Geek, Squad–>Nerd Herd Buymoria/moron were all inspired and it would have been hard to dulpicate. Now I could have done with less of the Buy More plots and more Chuck/Sarah interaction, but I can understand why they brought it back. As far as the A plot goes. I would have benn much happier to see Chuck, Casey, and Sarah all working together. I believe that all the best episodes have the team firing on all cylinders (well maybe not so much Honeymooners, but that one is special).

  5. Martin Traynor says:

    As much as I love the Chuck/Sarah interaction, for me the show was uber-special because of the Chuck/Sarah/Casey dynamic. Throw a little Awesome in once in while, and I’m gold. That’s one of my problems with Shaw, was that he really upset the delicate chemistry the three leads had. Why mess with such a winning formula? (I know, TPTB would say it wasn’t winning enough as evidenced by the ratings, but…come on, son!)

    And some of the bad guys and spy friends really added to the glory when given in small doses – like Roan Montgomery…Alexei Volkov…Carrina…Orion…Ted Roark. I’m sure there are others…

    • atcDave says:

      I completely agree with that assessment of Shaw. He undermined virtually everything that was special about the show by robbing screen time from the very things we wanted to see. That starts with Charah, but didn’t end there.

    • oldresorter says:

      Morgan upset that balance in the spy world too. Morgan was gold in the buymore world, gold squared in the presence of one Elenor Bartkowski and pretty good with the other Bartkowski female lead too when the two of them were not in the spy world, and awful in the spy world on missions. Chuck / morgan were gold moments interfacing Chuck to the Buymore plot or giving Chuck sage advice about romance.

      • atcDave says:

        I thought Morgan and Casey worked pretty well. Certainly better than Shaw and anybody! My only knock against Morgan was that he was occasionally over used. But that was an occasional problem all the way from the Pilot.

      • Wilf says:

        Overused and very often just plain annoying squared!

      • oldresorter says:

        I liked Morgan and casey too, they did work ‘pretty well’ together, but at the expense of Casey working ‘really well’ with Chuck and Sarah.

        Also, Casey was de-toothed by the comedy scenes with Morgan. If the show was to even attempt at having drama other than making up some external Chuck and Sarah thing, CAsey probably needed to be a serious character, not a straight man for showcasing Morgan.

  6. oldresorter says:

    I liked this ep. Top twenty, maybe higher. Now I didn’t like parts of it, but the ep got better and better and better as the ep proceeded. From the point Chuck ‘died’, I think this ep was as great as near any ep they did, other than the Pilot, Delorean and Honeymooners. The ep solved the cringeworthy story line it began to create with Morgan and Chuck’s awful, almost insultingly silly story, and by the end of the ep, the show was in pretty good shape, given what an awful season 3 the series had to endure. Casey and Sarah alone on missions was always great, and I thought this ep was one of their best.

    • atcDave says:

      I completely agree this finished very strong. It didn’t overcome the weak start as completely for me as it seems to have for you, but the end result is still a lot of fun.

  7. noblz says:

    Finally, work releases me. I like this episode. I rate it maybe a little higher but not in my top 10(29).

    My beef with this episode was that for a season premiere we needed something with real punch and excitement, something to set up the new season. This, while good, wasn’t it.

    Having said that, the sexting bit was a complete hoot. And the scene from Sarah and Casey in the jet headed for Venezuela (the “have you ever been in a long distance relationship” scene with Sarah’s selfie sexting photo shoot was great) till the escape from Moscow was the best part of this. Sarah’s reaction to Chuck dying then threatening Marko was fantastic. A little too much Morgan for my taste. Why didn’t Sarah threaten to kill Morgan when she discovers the sexting thing (there is a pretty funny ff on that)?

    Good solid episode not enough zing for a season premiere.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah good review noblz.

    • oldresorter says:

      But it still was the 3rd best of the 5 season openers, wasn’t it?

      And didn’t by the end of the anniversary ep, the basic elements of how the season would work for season 4 were in place, the hunt for Mary / Volkov, team B back to the CIA, no secrets, no lies, and no cringeworthy angst stories, along with on the negative side of the ledger, near endless Morgan scene stealing and weak production values / scripts due to lack of budget and probably an inexperienced writing staff?

  8. I’ve finally been forced to accept that because of the show runners it had CHUCK was doomed to no longer than syndication…TPTB clearly got board with the original setup of the show; their real failure was writing PS after spending 2 seasons building Chuck and Sarah’s feelings for each other…its clear they were board otherwise S3.0 would never have happened…its like they forgot everything that came before…

    I’m on S3 of castle now and it was nice not to feel completely betrayed come that first episode and have a much quicker (by the end of the episode) return to status quo; as opposed to CHUCK where they were one condom away from sex one minute and then spent 11 episodes not even talking to or trusting each other.

    Anyway this episode was just so so for me too much Morgan likely being the reason or the return of the Buy More which i had wanted gone

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