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The Invention of Lying: Another Geek Bites the Dust on "Chuck"

As much as I love Chuck (and am obsessed with this current season), I have to say that last night's episode wasn't my favorite.

Last night's installment of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Nacho Sampler), written by Matt Miller and Scott Rosenbaum, was oddly inert after the strength of the last few episodes. I'm not entirely sure why, really, considering that Miller and Rosenbaum are two of the strongest scribes on the writing team but the episode felt like it was barely held together with all of the increasingly large plot holes.

While I was glad to see Hannah (Kristin Kreuk) attempting to fit in at the Buy More and Morgan and Ellie finally growing increasingly suspicious of Chuck's behavior as well as Chuck reevaluate his role in the spy world, the episode's strength lay more in its themes than its execution this time around.

It's been demonstrated throughout Chuck's run so far that Chuck is a fish out of water when it comes to the espionage world. He's a civilian who is in way over his head and he lacks the emotional deadening that comes with the job, along with the killer hours and dangerous weapons training. He cares too much: for his family, for his would-be true love, and for the people that they encounter.

It was only a matter of time before Chuck would be forced to use his own asset and I knew that this day would likely involve Chuck reflecting on how Sarah initially used him as well. I thought this was nicely achieved via the use of archival footage from the pilot episode (rather than faux flashbacks) featuring Sarah's first appearance at the Buy More and this sequence provided a rather nice bookend structure for the episode.

But I thought it was odd that said asset, Manoosh (Fahim Anwar), would be developing another Intersect, considering we've been told how impossible creating the Intersect was. And yet, by reverse-engineering some leftover components, Manoosh was able to essentially duplicate Chuck's 2.0 skill sets. Leaving that aside for now, I also wondered why Manoosh wasn't more sympathetic of a character. While Chuck sees him as someone sympatico, Casey is right: the guy is developing a weapon for money. I didn't feel bad at all that Chuck and Sarah were playing this chump, considering that he was willing to profit from other people's deaths. He wasn't a dupe employed by The Ring who believed he was doing something beneficial for all mankind; he knew he was doing something wrong and wanted to profit from it.

Additionally, I was confused by several plot developments along the way. Chuck and Sarah (wearing a revealing Frak Off t-shirt) meet Manoosh at the bar and, thanks to some tranquilizers, get him back to Castle, where they wait around for Langley to send a hazardous material team before they can even think of opening him Manoosh's briefcase, which allegedly contains a powerful weapon. Okay, I can accept that but I was confused by the fact that they took Manoosh at night, drugged him all night, woke him up in the morning, and then repeatedly tranquilized him with "twilight" tranqs which supposedly would erase the last five minutes of his memory each time...

Besides for the fact that they barely gave Sarah a chance to obtain information (she could have easily strung him along, in spite of his request for more sex), his repeated drugging would mean that he wouldn't remember agreeing to meet Chuck at the Buy More. And just how did he get to the Buy More? He's last seen being drugged after trying to leave his Castle cell... and then strolls into the Buy More fully dressed and no worse for wear. Just how did he get there? How did he get out of his cell? Color me confused.

But the real head-scratcher with this week's episode was the fact that, despite knowing just what flight Manoosh was on, the team traveled to Dubai to apprehend him instead of just picking him up at the airport. Why travel to the other side of the world to apprehend a suspect with a weapon when you knew where he was going to be? Why not just jump him at the airport and take him back into custody?

After all, Dubai isn't just around the corner from Burbank. Chuck's prolonged and inexplicable absence from the Buy More would be exceedingly noticeable and harder to construct a cover story for this time around. Besides, Hannah's presence at the Buy More has also meant more noticeable yogurt runs with Casey and his cover is looking more and more likely to be blown.

Perhaps that was the idea: maybe the Dubai trip is the tipping point for which Morgan finally realizes that Chuck is lying to him. Except it wasn't: it was Hannah tipping him off about Chuck's recent install in Paris, which he knew nothing about. I'm glad that Morgan is realizing that his friendship with Chuck seems to be based on lies of late but I would have rather that epiphany came more from this unexplained absence. (I do like the idea of stalkers Jeff and Lester spying on Chuck, however; it's about time someone at the Buy More noticed his odd behavior.)

And I'm glad that Morgan is confiding his fears in Ellie, who is herself suspicious of Chuck. The walls are beginning to close in on Chuck and his carefully constructed cover story won't really hold up to close scrutiny. It's about time that more of his friends and family became aware of his double life... or called him out more fully for his flimsy excuses and frequent disappearances.

However, I wasn't sure why Captain Awesome freaked out as he did about the Paris trip, considering that Chuck had managed to come up with an explanation about why he lied to Ellie. True, Devon doesn't like lying (and is terrible at it) but his odd outburst just drew more attention to Chuck. Also puzzling: yes, Chuck claimed that he had arranged for a honeymoon for Devon and Ellie at this guy's Paris flat, but who paid for their airfare? Their Parisian housing might be free but LA to Paris plane tickets don't grow on trees and Chuck isn't exactly rolling in cash...

Yes, Chuck's lies would eventually catch up to him and I'm glad to see that his eyes are finally being opened about what being a spy means and how one has to put aside personal feelings in order to be successful. His actions in Dubai--shooting Manoosh with a tranquilizer after letting him go--showed that he's attempting to swallow his moral qualms and follow orders... and that his own past experiences don't necessarily apply here. Sometimes assets have to burned and you can't get personally involved or you'll wind up gutted, emotionally or physically.

I did like the final scene of Chuck drinking a glass of Johnny Walker Black by himself as Sarah realizes that Chuck becoming a real spy might not be the best thing, considering just what Chuck has lost in the process: the very innocence and naivete that made him attractive to her in the first place. The truth hurts.

All in all, not the best episode of Chuck this season but one that I think set up some important story threads for the series that will be played out this season. While I wish that this episode had been a bit more clever than it was, I'm happy to see that the consequences are starting to stack up against Chuck as the walls begin to close in.

What did you think of this week's episode? Do you agree that it could and should have been better? Will Morgan and Ellie find out Chuck's secret? And how does Hannah fit into the overarching story? Discuss.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Mask"), Chuck and Hannah unexpectedly become part of Agent Shaw's latest mission; Morgan and Ellie continue their mission to get to the bottom of Chuck s strange behavior.


Jeff C. said…
I'm a bit surprised you're so down on this episode, Jace. I thought it was maybe the best of the season. I agree that a lot of the details seemed a bit off, but I think that's true nearly every week. Chuck is a show that I don't analyze too closely--I just let it wash over me and enjoy the laughs and character development. And this was the strongest character-development episode they've had in a long time.
Eric said…
Agree with you. Not the best ep this season. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't great. Not as good as the last 2 eps for sure.
Mike said…
I agree completely. The trip to Dubai was what made the episode seem so off to me. That was just not a feasible trip to make, especially since we had to have Manoosh, Sarah/Casey/Chuck, and the Ring ALL go all the way over there. If they're going to do that, I would have rather had different Ring agents show up, showing how worldly/pervasive the group is. It just didn't make sense to go to Dubai. Why couldn't they have gone to Mexico? Or even Arizona/Nevada? Sure they couldn't have had so many unsavory individuals there, but more realism would have been welcome.
gretchen e. said…
I completely agree; the whole episode was weak/odd. I felt like it was a filler episode and nothing really happened. I appreciate how Sarah is realizing that Chuck is becoming a spy, whether she wants him to succeed or not. She has some truths to face.
Anonymous said…
I agree, the execution wasn't great in this ep, but I loved the character development. And I'm also obsessed with this season so far. The previous two eps were amazing.

rockauteur said…
I didn't think it was a terrible episode; I actually quite enjoyed it... but you make some excellent points with the plot holes, the Dubai trip being the biggest one... They definitely could have been more clever; the writing seemed a little lazy and Awesome was too cartoonish... But still can't wait for next week!
Diane said…
I liked the episode a lot, and even more after another viewing. I agree about some of the plot holes you mentioned (Manoosh shouldn't have remembered agreeing to meet Chuck at the Buy More, for instance), but there are a couple of things you identified as plot holes that I didn't see that way.

For instance, I didn't think Sarah's fake bedroom was in the Castle. I thought it was in another building altogether. You could hear birds chirping at the beginning of the scene, so that's what gave me that impression. I had the feeling that it was a real apartment building in which the CIA had set up a surveillance area. Thus, Manoosh could leave the apartment without ever realizing that he had been set up. Also, probably the CIA paid for the first-class Paris tickets once Chuck explained why it was necessary. It was part of his cover story, and the CIA had the ability to make it seem real.

The trip to Dubai was a bit farfetched, I will grant you that, since they had to have been gone at least two days and that didn't seem to fit into the timeline of the B-plot. But the Weapons-Con sequence was a lot of fun, and I think it was within the realm of "artistic license" that the show has used repeatedly. After all, did we really believe that Marines could come crashing through the skylight of a wedding reception and NOT be overheard by the wedding guests and everyone in a five-block radius? And yet we accepted THAT.

As for why the team didn't grab Manoosh at LAX, you could justify it by saying they wanted to see how far Manoosh was willing to go to sell the weapon. His less-than-honorable bartering of deadly force made the decision of locking him away a far easier one. Up until that point, he was never in custody, per se. Chuck and Sarah had yet to reveal their true identities to him, so they may not have wanted to give up their covers until absolutely necessary.

I really enjoyed reading your review, and I agree with you that it does some up some important threads for the next few episodes.
Diane said…
Sorry. I meant it SETS up some important story threads for the next few episodes.
Anonymous said…
Well put, Diane.

I enjoyed this episode. The plot holes may have been bigger but the humor seemed less forced than the last two episodes (not that I disliked the last two, the humor just seemed more natural this time). Also, I love the pen scene with Chuck and Casey.
Casey (and by extension Adam Baldwin) is one of my favorite things about this show.
Unknown said…
I liked this ep, too. It might not've been the best one, but it was still enjoyable. I don't worry about plot holes in comedies (which Chuck basically is to me).

I think the Intersect that Manoosh developed is a simple one. It was in glasses that had to be worn for the skill to be used, and they conveyed only one skill. There was no evidence that the glasses let the wearer do anything other than martial arts.
Bella Spruce said…
Not horrible but definitely not as good as the last couple of episodes. In a comedy, I usually don't worry too much about plausibility as long as the episode is good and I'm distracted by other things (action, funny dialogue, etc.) but when the episode is slow and somewhat lackluster, then I start to get nitpicky.

So, Jace, in regards to this episode I agree with your frustration about the plot holes. If the episode had been better I don't think I would have minded as much!

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