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Not Walking Away: Chuck Faces A Lethal Weapon (and Adulthood) on "Chuck"

I'm going to be really quite distraught if NBC cancels Chuck, one of the highlights of my television-viewing week.

Last night's fantastic installment of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Lethal Weapon"), written by Zev Borow and Matthew Lau, proved just why Chuck is unlike anything else on television right now, offering a delicious combination of spy thrills, comedic banter, romantic tension, and workplace humor.

I wasn't thrilled by last week's episode ("Chuck Versus the Beefcake"), which introduced the character of devilish MI6 operative Cole Barker (Jonathan Cake) but I have to say that last night's episode used Cole much more effectively and painted him as more of a convincing badass spy (able to undergo hours of torture and get shot TWICE in a single episode) rather than just a cheesy pickup artist. Here, I quite liked Cake and thought he did a fantastic job of fleshing out Cole's character and giving him some depth. The way he sincerely cared for Chuck ("You okay there, buddy?" may be one of my favorite lines this week) and his genuine romantic feelings for Sarah Walker were a nice counterpoint to his take-charge spy mode.

And while many naysayers were upset about the way that Cole forced a wedge between Sarah and Chuck, his presence in the story actually had the opposite effect: it forced Sarah to come to terms with her feelings for Chuck (and her inability to walk away from him and accept Cole's offer) and it propelled Chuck to finally come clean about his own feelings for his handler. The scene at the fountain in which Chuck told Sarah that he loved her and that he was going to get the Intersect out of his head and have the life he wants with the woman he loves was beautifully understated and subtly written. It showed us a Chuck who could see his full potential, who was in touch with what he wanted out of life, and who wasn't afraid to tell the woman he loves that he, well, loves her. It's a momentous step for Chuck to make, one that demonstrates a newfound maturity that we haven't really seen heaps of to date, especially when contrasted with his behavior at the episode's beginning, which finds him (with the blanket pulled all the way up to his chin) in bed with Sarah.

Chuck's story dovetailed nicely with Morgan's own storyline this week as he sought to convince Anna not to move in with him by showing her his many, many quirks (I loved the Morgantuptial document, with its provisos about string cheese, Goethe, eggs, and a cymbal-banging monkey)... only to discover that she loves him so much that she accepts his quirks and loves him for them. Leading Morgan to decide to move in with Anna after all. It was a nice parallel to Chuck's story and points towards both of them finally coming into adulthood.

That adulthood would likely include Chuck's much beloved Tron poster, given to Chuck by his missing father when he was twelve. For Ellie and Sarah, it's this single item that symbolize Chuck's own state of arrested development and the one item that Ellie wants Chuck to get rid of when he moves in with Sarah.

Of course, in a brilliant twist that I didn't see coming, it's that very Tron poster that points to Chuck's own future, rather than his past. Concealed on the back of the framed piece is the culmination of Chuck's own investigation into the Intersect: an org chart depicting the relationships between Fulcrum, the CIA, the NSA, the Intersect, and the enigmatic Orion, the man responsible for the creation of the Intersect whom Chuck believes may be able to remove the images from his head once and for all.

As for who this mysterious "Orion" is, I have my theories. I don't want to spoil anything, but I definitely think that one of the (ahem) high-profile guest stars in the works for Chuck might have something to do with the identity of Orion. As for Chuck, all I'll say is that he should be careful what he wishes for: the Intersect is what brought him together with Sarah Walker and it's why she's still in his life. Remove that element and there could be no reason why Sarah would stay in Los Angeles. For once, the government would surely assign her elsewhere. And asking Sarah to choose between her duty to her country and her heart would be a very tough position to place her in. Would she walk away? Or would she choose to have a "normal" future with Chuck as a "normal" girl?

What else did I love? Seeing Chuck attempt to use a gun (even if he did end up shooting Howard Busgang himself) and his ankle injury in the window; Chuck tailing of Busgang even in a full leg cast (with both of them limping); Operation Repulsion and Wii Tennis (though not Jeff with his shirt off: shudder); Gouda vs. provolone; Cole's return to the Castle and the perimeter breach and later taking a bullet for Sarah; Chuck "sweeping the leg" and taking down Fulcrum agent Duncan; the use of Perseus and Orion as codenames for the scientists behind the creation of the Intersect; Cole calling Chuck "special" (and Casey laughing about it); Cole telling Chuck never to take no for an answer; Morgan's conversation with Chuck about Anna.

All in all, a fantastic mythology-advancing episode that introduced the next storyline for Chuck and the Intersect, forced Chuck to come to terms with his feelings for Sarah and his own future, and offered some nice thrills and tension throughout.

In two weeks on Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Predator"), Chuck has to decide who to trust when he's contacted by the mysterious creator of the Intersect, who may be able to erase the images from his mind; a feud breaks out between the Burbank Buy More and the more prestigious Beverly Hills branch.


Anonymous said…
I agree that this episode was much better than last week's. Cole was not as cheesy and seemed more of a genuine hero and I loved the scenes with him and Chuck together. Cole looking after Chuck as though he were a little, lost lamb was hysterical. There was definitely more humor, more action, and more drama in this episode and also much more between Chuck and Sarah. It brought out everything I love so much about the show (and it even had Anna in it)!
Anonymous said…
Last night's episode was great! I really hope that Chuck doesn't get canceled. I look forward to it every week and there's no other show like it.
Unknown said…
I completely agree that Cole was better this week--less cheesy, more cool spy-like. I appreciated his honest concern for Chuck and more adult dialogue with Sarah.

When Ellie mentioned the Tron poster, I figured there was something on the back--maybe a message from their dad (but, yeah, how would they have missed it until now, so this makes more sense). I liked Chuck's note for Sarah that she likes extra pickles and olives.

I also liked Chuck's conversation with Sarah at the end. While moving in might have been a good strategy to get closer, it's more grown-up to tell her how he feels and move on.

Dear NBC: Please please pleas don't cancel Chuck. It's one of the very few shows I look forward to. In fact, I'd say it's my favorite this season, even above BSG and Damages.
Anonymous said…
I loved last night's episode. I thought it was the perfect balance of humor, spy and emotion. I know it is preaching to the choir here, but YS's Sarah can convey so much in just a look. The end where she goes from unreadable to pleasure is just perfect.
I agree that the Cole line became better in this episode and I love how it clarified Sarah's feelings for Chuck. I knew her attraction to Cole was fleeting.
I can't wait to see where they go from here.
Anonymous said…
Would she walk away? Or would she choose to have a "normal" future with Chuck as a "normal" girl?

"When you meet somebody you care about, it's just hard to walk away."

Jace, I enjoy reading your reviews (although I don't always agree). The whole episode was great, until the last 5 mins or so -where it turns awesome. The twist was unexpected. I'm glad the show is taking a direction (and hopefully by concentrating on Fulcrum, we won't have to focus on much with Charah). However, I'm here hoping that Orion is not one of the upcoming major guess stars that you've hinted.
Anonymous said…
I bet Orion (THE REAL ONE) turns to be Bartowski Sr., but Chevy Chace is Orion v2.0 who stole Bartowski's work. Thus, early on - dad realized Chuck was extra special, and decided to "run from it all".
Apparently ending up in a run-down trailer somewhere ... in the desert.
Chuck wants Sarah now - to get that, he needs intersect out of his head. He will do everything possible to make that happen...

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