Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Hack Off (5.05)

NBC Synopsis: AN UNDERCOVER MISSION AT A BIZARRE CULT RECONNECTS CHUCK WITH HIS HACKER PAST — CARRIE-ANNE MOSS, BEAU GARRETT AND DANNY PUDI GUEST STAR — DIRECTED BY ZACHARY LEVI — A mission to track down a computer super virus leads Chuck (Zachary Levi) to return to his roots as a hacker — and to call on his biggest competition, Gertrude Verbanksi (guest star Carrie-Anne Moss), for help. Elsewhere, a new Buy More employee (guest star Danny Pudi) complicates Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester’s (Vik Sahay) friendship.

Chuck This Ranking: 31
Dave’s Ranking: Slightly Higher?

First Impressions: Specs and Re-acts: Chuck vs The Hack Off

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The Hack Off (5.05) by Dave and Joe
Normal Off/Spy On – Chuck vs The Hack Off by Thinkling

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 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 Hack Off (5.05)

  1. oldresorter says:

    dave if you are curious what chuck might have been like s3 with a fake relationship, watch this weeks castle. all I can say is it was great on Castle, but Chuck and Sarah would have owned this story line.

    I sure enjoyed this ep in Chuck. There weren’t too many more left in s5 I could say that of. I read my comments under first impressions, I think I was starting to know the end might not be so great, but I still was having fun at this point in the season.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I was a believer right up until I wasn’t (!). I think Baby is the only remaining “great” episode of the series, but there are still a few good moments.

      • Justin says:

        Yeah, Baby was the last great episode of the season and the one that should have been the series finale. Things were much resolved at that point and Chuck and Sarah were in a good place, much better than the one they were in by the end of the series.

      • Justin says:

        I meant to say last great episode of the series.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Baby should have been the finale!

  2. I very much agree with the sentiment that this was among the best episodes of S 5. There’s not much to add that I didn’t say a couple of years ago, but I think that, this time, I want to highlight the character of Lester. He was always such a fearful, cautious character, despite the bravado that he often presented. But in this episode we learned that imprisonment suited him well. He had an intuitive understanding of the culture, of relationships of power, about how to gain control over others. What was striking, though, was that he chose to use that power to protect Casey. They were never close at the Buy More–in fact, there were several instances of explicitly antagonistic behaviour between them–but in the context of prison, he evidently felt a certain loyalty. Anyway, I think it was artfully done that Lester’s behaviour landed him in prison at the same time that Casey’s actions to defend his friends and family also landed him in prison. At the end of the previous episode, I don’t think I would have expected that the two of them would wind up in prison together.

    I’m not a big fan of stunt casting but the brief appearances by Danny Pudi and Yvette Nicole Brown were kind of fun, and I suppose that Pudi’s physical appearance did allow him to play an Indo-Canadian Hinjew rather well.

    Knowing that many of the remaining episodes do not tell stories that I am particularly excited about, already when I was watching this particular show I was thinking about what was coming with a certain amount of dread. Instead of watching the next episode with anticipation, I feel like it’s going to be a challenge. Still worth it, though….

  3. Martin Traynor says:

    I enjoyed this one from the first viewing and rewatch it more often than most others. I’m all about the little moments, and Sarah’s adoration/pride of hacker Chuck (both in Castle with the Chardonnay and when they are at the Collective) are priceless. Also enjoyed Verbanski’s proclamation of love for Casey to, of all people, Newly-minted relationship guru Sarah Bartowski.

    I also really liked Chuck catching/holding Sarah when they get tranqued outside the prison.

    But I always felt they just tacked on the whole hacker persona for Chuck. I don’t recall them ever alluding to that part of his background, except that he DNS Bryce tried to make their own game. Which is a much less cool form of hacking, I guess?

    I like the idea of him being a great hacker and greater still without the Intersect, but it would have been nice to see hints of that part of him earlier. Or am I forgetting something?

    • atcDave says:

      They did mention a little something in Tom Sawyer with the virus Chuck made. But I definitely would have preferred more of this earlier. In particular, I would have preferred hacker genius Chuck over the whole 2.0 thing.

      • Justin says:

        Yeah, I loved seeing that side of Chuck. The way he was cocky and giddy when he’s in hack mood was so amusing to watch. I wish we could have seen more of that from the character.

      • Justin says:

        BTW, atcDave, have you watched any recent Castle lately? I find it hard to do with the bitter taste of how badly they handled Castle and Beckett with their forced melodrama.

      • atcDave says:

        No I’ve dropped Castle. I’ve heard a few comments that it’s back to being fun again, so maybe it’s time to give it another try?

      • thinkling says:

        Those skills were also used in Push Mix, just as prominently as in Hack Off. They didn’t say, “Hey Chuck used to be the Hacker Guru,” but those same skills were crucial to the Volkoff take-down.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, absolutely.

  4. Martin traynor says:

    Concerning Castle, it’s really more of a return to season 5, ep. 1, which was cutesy and fun, if not a bit juvenile. Only now it’s a lot more juvenile. Just my thoughts on it. Used to love the show. Now it’s more like, eh, if I see it I see it.

    • atcDave says:

      That’s a shame. I’m still not finding much motivation to put it back on the DVR…

      • oldresorter says:

        dave I read somewhere that the last ep this season is being written as the final. It definitely is not dark, but IMO a show like Chuck or Castle needs to error on the lite side of the scale, as opposed to the dark side. Try this week’s ep, if you don’t like it, my guess is you will not like any of the final arc. And again, if for no other reason, just to envision Chuck’s imaginary model girlfriend Svetlana, and Sarah’s Dr Livingstone, and how jacked up that would make Ellie, Morgan and Casey. Poor Rick, he’s having to deal with fake jealous kate (Chuck and Sarah would have done this so well), along with real angry kev and jav.

  5. noblz says:

    I would rate this quite a bit higher. This is one of two eps this season to make my top 10(29) of episodes. I’ve already heard the second mentioned here.

    Visit with Casey in jail was priceless, to include the tranq’ing outside. Yes Sarah is very proud of her cute/nerdy Piranha. No one mentioned the nudist camp thing. I thought it was hilarious, especially the part where Sarah peeks, not Chuck. Very instructive I thought.

    Sarah unveiled her new skill as spy relationship guru back in Frosted Tips counseling Casey. Her gentle persuasion of Verbanski was just as good. Sarah came a long way to reach this point in her development, good stuff.

    Chuck’s computer skills go back to the pilot episode. Chuck and Bryce were coding games in college and he uses another virus he knows about to defuse the bomb.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I’ve mentioned my own “top 10” has 32 episodes; so indeed, I call this top 10 also!

    • Justin says:

      Sarah being the one to give out relationship advice was a nice bit of character growth from someone who started out as either not being good at relationships or avoided them altogether. It shows one of the ways Chuck has affected Sarah’s life.

      The nudist camp was a surprising, funny twist.

  6. anthropocene says:

    Anybody else see the PBS NOVA episode “Memory Hackers” last night? Interesting, and definitely had me thinking about a real Intersect.

  7. atcDave says:

    Does anyone else still watch Grimm? This is still the most entertaining narrative twisted mess imaginable!
    I’ve had a few thoughts, that maybe tangentially relate to my Chuck viewing.
    For starters, I don’t think I’ve seen many shows that change so much during their run. If you saw a first season episode, then a current episode, you would be very confused! Even some of the basic good guys and bad guys have switched.
    The most obvious is intriguing to me. Nick’s first girlfriend on the show, Juliette, was easily the least popular member of the cast among viewers. I would say she had no chemistry with Nick. Funny since they ARE a real life couple. But clearly the pairing didn’t work on screen. While one of the main villains of the first season, Adalind, became a clear fan favorite. So now they’ve pretty much switched roles. Adalind is living with Nick and raising their son, even though they aren’t lovers (it makes sense if you’re watching…) while Juliette became a complete monster before being reborn as an apparently emotionless but good, uh, monster.
    The show writers are clearly insane; but I think it all works and the show is a blast.

    But here’s the intriguing thing to me, and this does relate to some, especially S3, discussions we’ve had here; how much do you think the writers are trying to “improve product” vs “tell their own story”?
    It’s all such goofy fun I often forget to be cynical. But it’s interesting that now Nick is paired with one of the show’s more popular performers (and obviously will be more “paired” in the future) and the less popular one is an emotionless goon.
    It sure is one of those situations where I’d love to be a fly on the wall of the writer’s room…

  8. Martin Traynor says:

    My earlier point about Chuck and any hacking skills was more to the point that had he been “The Pirannah” from the get-go, it surely would have come up before before now. No doubt he had computer – and likely “some” hacking – skills (using porn to diffuse a bomb, while brilliant, wasn’t what I would consider hacking – he just opened the porn site and the virus someone else created did its job. Again, brilliant, but not hacking). It just felt tacked on to me.

    His use of Orion’s equipment and programming is what led to Volkov’s downfall – he admitted so himself…to Volkoff.

    I LOVE the idea of him being this great hacker, but I just think it’s something they came up with at the end. If he was to be this world-famous hacker that even had a movie based on his life, that would have been at least alluded to earlier. That’s all I’m saying. It was great fun and I enjoyed it, but it seems to have come out of nowhere.

    This is more an observation than a criticism, by the way. Thanks for the great comments!

    And the nudist camp was great fun, done tastefully.

    • atcDave says:

      They did allude to it in Tom Sawyer when he infected Atari. And again in Beefcake when he hacked an “unhackable” Fulcrum chip.
      But it was not made much of after that, until S5.

      • Martin Traynor says:

        Good points. Thanks Dave and everyone, but it looks like I’ll remain alone in my opinion on this. I see the vague allusions to – and actual displays of – his abilities as a computer geek, but nothing that convinces me that TPTB had NOT added “world-class hacker” to his dossier until season 5.

        But this really is a favorite episode of mine – one of the more fun from the entire series. I think out of all of it, my favorite moments are those of Sarah’s sheer adoring of him (I counted three – when he’s drinking wine/hacking to find the creator of the virus, when they undress at the cult, and when he cuts the power at the Collective).

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