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Choosing Sides: An Advance Review of Chuck's "Chuck Versus the First Fight"

Sometimes the hardest advance reviews to write are the ones where the episode in question hinges ever so much on the plot.

The innate twists and turns of next week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the First Fight") make the episode delicious fun, but also make it super-difficult to write about as I don't want to spoil any of the plot mechanics, as there are quite a few surprises and unexpected treats in this installment.

It's no spoiler to say that the episode deals head-on with resolving some of the issues left dangling from the cliffhanger at the end of "Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror." The title should be a good indication of just where Sarah and Casey's actions have left her relationship with Chuck and their romance has definitely hit a rough patch for all of the reasons that I outlined in my post-air review of "Aisle of Terror."

Trust is a funny thing and once broken--regardless of the reasons behind it--it's often difficult to get back to how things were beforehand. But this is Chuck, of course, so don't expect that this episode is all doom and gloom. Instead, it's a winning mix of action, suspense, romance, and humor. In other words, all the things that Chuck does so well when it's firing on all cylinders.

What else did I think of next week's episode? Read on, but--as always--please do not post my comments in full on any websites, message boards, or the like.

"Chuck Versus the First Fight" approaches that breakdown on two fronts, not surprisingly: from the fallout for the relationship between Chuck and Sarah (the romantic angle) and the implications that the motives of Chuck's mom, Mary Elizabeth Bartowski, may not be as pure as she claims (the spy word). Fittingly, these two tracks come together in perfect fashion in this episode, providing the impetus for the a whole slew of new story possibilities down the line.

I'm also happy to say that rather than fit into the overarching storyline in a tangential fashion, Ellie and Awesome do play a role here (huzzah!), though I can't say much more than that. The realization that their mother was a spy, learned by Ellie from Chuck at the end of the episode, fuels a thirst for knowledge that puts her on a very interesting journey that will have consequences for more than one member of the Bartowski clan. A certain reveal, arriving after an explosive twist, sets up an intriguing direction that had me nearly working myself into a leather. Sorry, I mean lather.

There's definitely still an aura of Alias' Irina Derevko lingering about Mary Bartowski and that doesn't dissipate with this episode. However, there is an extremely tender scene between Mary and one of her children as well as one moment that has me thinking about its importance a day later. Hmmm...

As for Chuck and Sarah, there are definitely some things that need to be worked out between these two. In looking to protect Chuck, Sarah may have shot herself in the foot but, as always, I have faith that these two can work through just about anything. That is, if they put their mind to it. First fights, as Morgan claims, set the tone for the rest of the relationship. So does the breach of trust signal other potential landmines for Chuck and Sarah down the line? Or is first fight just a fight like any other? In the meantime, sides are chosen, alliances made, and friction makes its way into their relationship, both personal and professional.

There are a series of great scenes with our newbie spy, Morgan (a.k.a. "The Magnet"), who is somewhat drafted into the role that Chuck played back in the first season of the series. However, look for him to step it up--or at least for Morgan, anyway--in a scene with John Casey... and for a particularly slapstick scene involving an earpiece and a glass of water whose hilarity comes from the fact that the sequence keeps going and going. And let's just say that the title doesn't just refer to Chuck and Sarah...

The episode also features a classic car, a flock of sheep (yes, seriously), the incomparable Timothy Dalton, and Ana Gasteyer as the indestructible Dasha, a Volkoff operative with a penchant for tiny weapons and a lack of personal grooming habits. Gasteyer is a hoot here and it's great to see her as a villain, particularly one as horribly scarred and freakish as this one.

As for Dalton, I can't heap on enough superlatives. The former James Bond shines in this episode as he plays completely against type as Mary's handler Gregory Tuttle. There are some truly fantastic--and hilarious--scenes with him and Chuck and Dalton's gleeful performance, alternately professorial and bewildered, is something to be experienced. He's all cardigans and crocodile grins. A fantastic addition to the Chuck world that doesn't smack of stunt casting at all.

I don't want to say more about this fantastic episode lest I spoil the surprises therein, but I will tease just a little more and say that "Chuck Versus the First Fight" is an episode that marks a potential turning point for the season and, quite possibly, for the series, subtly altering some of the foundations of the series in some compelling and tantalizing ways.

Suffice it to say, you'll definitely want to see what happens next. I know that I'm on the edge of my custom-designed seat.

Chuck airs Monday evenings at 8 pm ET/PT on NBC.


Anonymous said…
I'm jealous of your job! It must be great for those screeners on your doorstep! I must admit would definately be very hard to keep my mouth shut!
Kim said…
Fabulous! All your secret hints make me so excited for the new episode. I will have to come back and read this after it airs!

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