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Unleashing The Morgan: Chuck Gets His First Kill and an Extra Helping of Betrayal on "Chuck"

Dear NBC,

I'm writing to you to beg you to come to your senses and renew the hilarious and gripping action comedy series Chuck for a third season.

Besides for continuing to support this fantastic series, truly unlike anything else on television right now, and encouraging others to watch this brilliant show, there's nothing more I can offer you except my promise that I'll watch Chuck every week, as long as you continue to order more episodes. (I'd offer to name my first-born after the series' main character but even I won't go that far.)

Last night's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the First Kill"), written by Scott Rosenbaum, was a prime example of how the series manages to smash together a host of storytelling genres into one inspired package. Once again, the writers have managed to offer something for everyone: death-defying stunts (Chuck gripping a Fulcrum agent out of a fifteen story window), romantic entanglements (Chuck is forced to turn to ex-girlfriend/traitor Jill Roberts for help); unexpected twists (Ken Davitian's Uncle Bernie collapsing from a heart attack after Chuck unleashes The Morgan); and pop culture references galore (Big Mike laying homage to The Godfather after he's unwittingly betrayed by Morgan).

And, oh, Yvonne Strahovski manages to out act any actress in her age category by once again delivering more emotion with a shifting gaze or tilting head than many actors can with monologues. Her Sarah Walker remains the conflicted romantic center of the series, a tough-as-nails woman who is just as strong as the guys, just as feminine as any supermodel, but whose heart this week leads her to disobey the orders of her superior, hijack the chain of command, and go AWOL with our Chuck Bartowski. Can we please give her an Emmy nomination already?

This week's installment brilliantly set up what promises to be a fantastic run to the season finale. And, yes, I'm calling it a season finale as I hope, NBC, that you realize what many of Chuck's diverse and loyal group of viewers do: that this series deserves--nay, needs--a third season.

By the time the dust clears in two weeks, I have a feeling that relationships will be torn asunder, particularly those among the troika of spies we've been following for the last two seasons. With Sarah turning her back on the CIA/NSA, I find it hard to believe that John Casey is going to let her walk away with the Intersect without a major throwdown. If there's one thing that Casey is, it's that he's steadfastly loyal to the chain of command and his belief is that an order is just that: an order. By disobeying Beckman's instructions to betray Chuck and take him underground, Sarah has set herself up as Casey's enemy. And you don't want to make Major Casey mad.

I am, however, glad that Sarah did turn her back on her duty to her country to follow her heart. Over the last two seasons, we've seen her experience some mighty conflicted feelings for Chuck Bartowski and this episode played those to the hilt, demonstrating Sarah's unease at cooperating with Jill Roberts (guest star Jordana Brewster), who had previously broke Chuck's heart twice, her lack of surprise when Jill leaves her stranded in a firefight, and her decision to tell Chuck she had lied about the government having located his missing father. At the core of the series there's been a fantastic relationship--whether romantic or platonic--between these two and I would have been crushed if Sarah had knowingly mislead Chuck and betrayed him after everything they've been through together.

In fact, the entire episode was a deft look at the role of trust in various relationships, with Chuck's quest to work with his handlers (and Jill) to rescue his father from a Fulcrum facility posing as a leadership training seminar nicely mirroring that of Morgan's double-cross by the upwardly mobile Emmett Milbarge, who forces Morgan to betray Big Mike and walks away with the store manager position at the Buy More. Emmett had no intention of following through on his promise to help Morgan and his end game has always been the same: to watch out for himself and advance his own agenda. And Emmett rather adeptly manages to trick Morgan into thinking that the corporate assessor is there to observe him rather than Big Mike... who talks his way right out of a job when he presents Emmett in such a positive light and then takes off for an afternoon of fishing. For all of his good intentions, Morgan proved himself to be the perfect patsy and he manages to unseat Big Mike from the throne at the Buy More... and then gets the Kiss of Death from his Godfather.

Likewise, Beckman never had any intention on giving Jill any immunity for her help in locating Stephen Bartowski... nor on letting Chuck continue on his mission to find his father. At the end of the day, the human Intersect project has proven too erratic, too unpredictable, and too dangerous. Beckman didn't get to become a General by offering puppy dogs and jelly beans to her field agents; she's cool under pressure, collected, and has to have national security her first priority. Having Chuck attempt to maintain a real life was never part of the mission. It was a convenient cover but at the end of the day, he's an intelligence asset, one who knows all of the U.S. government's many secrets and there's no way they are going to leave him in the open now that his cover has been blown by Fulcrum.

So what's going to happen? I'm not entirely sure but I do think that the "game-changing" season finale that series creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak have promised will alter the structure of Chuck in ways that we can't even begin to predict. I'm hoping that the new story structure includes the gang at the Buy More, who have become a vital and interesting element of the series in their own right, and the trio of spies we've come to know and love.

Will Jill actually return the favor and save Chuck when he most needs her? After all, Chuck came clean about the fact that the intelligence services never meant to give her a deal in the first place, even if they were able to free Stephen Bartowski from Fulcrum. Plus, he freed her from the Castle (and a long prison sentence) and gave her the engagement ring that they had used as a prop in their sting operation with Jill's family to trap Uncle Bernie. He said that he always wanted to give her a ring, though he never imagined it would be under those circumstances. Does Jill, having betrayed Chuck on more than one occasion, have any conscience left? Could it be that she'll come to Chuck and Sarah's aid in their moment of need and that she hasn't turned her back on her former lover? That she is willing to trade in a life on the run for one in which she comes to Chuck's rescue?

I think my devotion to this sensational series is pretty clear, NBC. And I'm on the edge of my seat to see just where this season is going as Chuck and Sarah prepare to face off against the duplicitous Fulcrum. I only hope that the loyal viewers of Chuck get to see where the series will head next, after that fateful showdown in just two weeks' time. Do us all a favor and bring Chuck back for another season of action, comedy, romance, and workplace humor. We promise to even sit through the gratuitous Subway product placement if you do.

And if you're looking for a tagline, you'd do far worse than to do with the following. NBC's Chuck: it makes Mondays bearable.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Colonel"), Chuck and Sarah go AWOL to rescue Chuck's dad and discover that spending time together without any surveillance allows them to get closer; Casey manages to discover Chuck and Sarah's whereabouts; Morgan becomes the pariah of the Buy More after mistakenly getting Emmett promoted to store manager.


OldDarth said…
Good episode that squandered the opportunity for some real emotional beats between the three leads. The BuyMore was far too long and robbed the main storyline of precious time to allow breathing space.

Sarah and Jill in van together - no dramatic beats between them either. Big miss.

Detouring away from the PapaB/Intersect storyline without an appearance by PapaB or Roark did not help either.

On the positive side the engagement party and Uncle Bernie was funny. Chuck not letting Casey cheat on the test hilarious too.

Back to the big storyline next week.WooT!
Karen said…
Well written! Chuck is must-see TV and NBC desperately needs that. Chuck makes me smile. The whole cast does!
Doug said…
@Old Darth Did you really think they'd use Bakula and Chase in this ep? I knew they wouldn't when they have a HUGE two-part finale coming up and wouldn't want to squander them. Maybe I would've been disappointed if I expected that but I did so I thought last night's ep was GREAT!

Love your open letter format to NBC, Jace. Really hope they do renew the show for another season. Or two seasons of 13 eps or something. Anything to keep it on the air!
OldDarth said…
Did I expect it? No but it would have been a good idea to have done so ie show that PapaB's time is running out etc.

You have big name guest stars - use them as much as possible.
Doug said…
@Old Darth You can only use guest stars for the number of eps that they are contracted to do. Bakula and Chase are only on for 3 eps. Using Steve for a scene to show he's still there is a waste of an ep and costs A LOT of money. No need to show it as we're all aware of the situation and nothing to be gained from it for story. Plus everyone is trying to save budget money whereever they can. Why renegotiate for him to show up in another ep when it doesnt serve a real purpose for story?
merc13 said…
"And, oh, Yvonne Strahovski manages to out act any actress in her age category by once again delivering more emotion with a shifting gaze or tilting head than many actors can with monologues."

Really? I'm baffled at the inordinate amount of praise this woman is getting for those bland looks or hers. There's almost nothing to her character or to that star crossed cliche she and Chuck have going on. The show's OK-ish, is what I'm trying to say.
Jo Allen said…
I liked the second half of this episode better than the first. I thought that the engagement party was a little too forced and lacked real humor. (And those people did not look like they'd be Jill's parents!)

Casey and Chuck taking the test was fun as was the subsequent shake down of the Fulcrum offices.

Overall, a decent episode that set up the final two episodes of the season which will, hopefully, be fantastic!
Wes said…
I'm baffled at the inordinate amount of praise this woman is getting for those bland looks or hers. There's almost nothing to her character or to that star crossed cliche she and Chuck have going on. The show's OK-ish, is what I'm trying to say.You sir are a Philistine.
Ben Rasmussen said…
Regarding using PapaB on this week's ep: the 8:00 promo for the Chuck/Heroes/whatever block was by Bakula and he specifically said that he'd be in tonight's episode of Chuck. I thought that was a little weird, since he wasn't actually in it.
Jamie said…
I agree with your assessment about Yvonne Strahovski there. Heck, other critics have been basically saying the same. I'm most impressed her subtle motions and especially facial expressions. Her Sarah Walker balances out the goofiness side of the show.

Great episodes, although the plot didn't really drive the show until the last 10 minutes.
Anonymous said…
Loved it! It was an amazing episode. Very funny, dramatic, and emotional. I don't think they missed any opportunity at all. If you go into an episode with expectations, then you can only blame yourself for not receiving it and being disappointed.
Tempest said…
Yes, NBC, pretty please. Of course, I think this, along with "Life" would really, really well -- if not better -- on USA.
The CineManiac said…
I couldn't agree more, what an amazing episode. And I can't wait to see where things go with Sarah & Chuck on the run. I need a 3rd season to see where things will go from what looks to be a show-shattering conclusion.

But I have to say I felt horrible for Morgan, he got played so bad. I knew Emmett was up to something, but I never thought he was conniving enough to steal Big Mike's job. I can't wait to see how that plays out. Although I have to say I miss Chuck interacting with the Buy More.

Also I too could see this show on USA. It would be a great companion to Psych once Monk ends it's run next season.
kyle said…
I think Jordana brewster isn't gonna be in any more episodes this season.
Jeff C. said…
@Ben: And then the tag promo at the last commercial break told us that if we waned "more" Scott Bakula, we should visit More? How about any?

(I actually didn't miss him--he wasn't really needed in this episode--but the promotion was bizarre).
Audio Taco said…
now that bsg is over, Chuck is my favorite show on tv and the only one that i schedule my activities around. It is one of the few shows that has gotten progressively better. Please do the right thing NBC!
OldDarth said…
@Doug - I explained once before but again for clarity - to keep up the dramatic tension of the MAIN story arc for the remainder of the season.

A standard story telling device.
Unknown said…
Dear NBC,

Me too. If you renew Chuck, I'll happily say goodbye to BSG, Reaper, Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, Terminator: TSCC, Dollhouse, and my guilty pleasure Privileged. We could even get rid of Damages and Better Off Ted if only we could keep Chuck.

I'd buy all the DVDs, too.

A Faithful Viewer

I've always said Ms. Strahovski's physical acting is a big contribution to this show. I thought the tension in the van was palpable, albeit subtle. And Sarah's guarded, protective glances at Jill in the Castle clearly conveyed that she distrusted Jill but was willing to do this for Chuck. And let's not forget she's Australian and does a flawless American accent. I wish I could hand the Emmy to Yvonne myself.

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