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"A New Piece of Asset": Advance Review of the Next Three Episodes of "Chuck"

I've always been enamored of NBC's action/comedy hybrid series Chuck, with its winning blend of espionage, romance, and workplace humor, yet I've always felt that the series stopped just short of reaching its full potential.

No longer. Having seen the next three episodes of Chuck, starting with next week's superlative sweeps-fueled installment (easily the very best of the series to date), I can say that these episodes force both the series Chuck and the character Chuck Bartowski to strive for something more: to be the very best that they can be.

In the more than capable hands of writer Zev Borow, next week's installment ("Chuck Versus the Ex") delivers a dazzling display of just what the series is truly capable of, as it forces Chuck to take a more active role in a mission with a very personal connection (namely, ex-girlfriend Jill), introduces a character referenced many times yet heretofore unseen (again, Jill, played with panache by Jordana Brewster), and sets up a fantastic three-episode story arc that tweaks the overarching mythology of Chuck and makes us question a plot point that we've taken for granted since the pilot episode.

No mean feat, that. Especially as Borow manages to accomplish the above while giving each and every member of Chuck's vast and talented cast (save Anna, who sadly seems to be once again missing from this arc) a chance to not only shine but to shine brightly. "Chuck Versus the Ex" layers on wildly competing subplots--Captain Awesome teaches CPR at the Buy More to the staff, Chuck tries to impress Jill but falls into old patterns, Ellie expresses concerned about Chuck and Jill, new Buy More assistant manager Emmett (Tony Hale) grows suspicious of Chuck's frequent absences, etc.--that not only come together in the end but manage to coalesce into a vividly imagined portrait of disaffected twenty-something youth in America today (the very promise of the original pilot episode) as seen through the prism of the underemployed yet overqualified slacker.

And while Chuck is still nowhere close to being as dashing or roguish as James Bond, he comes as close to Bondian territory in these three episodes as he ever has, stepping up in the face of danger and plunging face-first into a kiss that will have everyone talking come Tuesday morning.

Honestly, I can't say enough positive things about Chuck but I was truly blown away by how perfectly crafted "Chuck Versus the Ex" was, from the chemistry between Chuck and Sarah (and the crafty way Casey twists the knife in Sarah's back) down to the witty banter we've come to expect and love from this smart and funny series. In particular, Yvonne Strahovski shines even brighter in these three episodes as she mines new emotional territory for Sarah, pairing a protective vibe with genuine pining. (Is it just me or does Strahovski just keep getting better and better with each passing week?)

So what else can you expect when Chuck returns next week with three all-new installments? For one, look for the team dynamic between Chuck, Sarah, and Casey to take a different turn as Chuck fully embraces being an intelligence agent for the first time and for Chuck, blinded by love, to make some mistakes along the way, even as he manages to impress his handlers for the first time.

Tony Hale's efficiency expert Emmet Milbarge gets some much-needed character development as we see the tension between him and supposed model employee Chuck ramp up. Suspicious of Chuck's off-site installs (which lack any receipts or backup of any kind), Emmet plans a coup at Buymoria, his fictional kingdom within the Buy More and recruits Morgan, Jeff, and Lester to take down Chuck Bartowski.

While I'm rooting for Chuck and Sarah to eventually get together (hopefully after a few season's worth of sexual tension-laced innuendo and compromising positions), I can't help but fall for Jordana Brewster's Jill; in Brewster's nuanced performance, we can see just why Chuck would be hung up on this girl five years after she broke up with him. Brewster's Jill manages to be smart and sexy at the same time and just as comfortable in the lab as she is in the bedroom.

And yet no romance is smooth-paved, so look for major complications in "Chuck Versus the Fat Lady," when Jill gets jealous of the relationship between Chuck and Sarah... and our favorite handler/asset duo get naked together. Oh, yes, I did just say that.

And keep an eye out for things to get downright deadly in "Chuck Versus the Gravitron," when rogue CIA agency Fulcrum makes their move to acquire the Intersect and take down the Castle. Will Chuck be able to choose duty over personal want? Will Jill break Chuck's heart all over again? And will Morgan make it to Thanksgiving dinner after being locked in the Buy More with Jeff and Lester, tasked with guarding the inventory by Big Mike? You'll just have to wait and see.

All in all, I have to say that I am pretty damn impressed by what the talented writing staff of Chuck has cooked up for November sweeps and can honestly say that next week's "Chuck Versus the Ex" was perhaps one of the single most enjoyable hours of television this year and truly shows us just what heights Chuck is capable of reaching, given the strength of its skillful cast and the imagination of its deft writers. Let's just hope that the series continues to push itself to explore new territory because, if these episodes are any indication, we've got a fantastic sophomore season on our hands and plenty of time before that Fat Lady sings.

Chuck returns to NBC on Monday at 8 pm ET/PT.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Great review!!! These eps sound awesome and I can't wait for CHUCK next week. I am very interested in this kiss you teased us with and I am guessing there's a reason why Chuck and Sarah are naked that isn't because they're in bed together. I can't wait until Mon!
Anonymous said…
Great review! But we need more! Any chance you can tell us why they get naked, or whether or not Chuck and Jill have sex? I would be so grateful! Any sexual tension filled moments between Chuck and Sarah?
Anonymous said…
Best review to date that I've read about a future CHUCK episode. I CAN'T wait until Monday. This show has become my #1 watch each week.

My only wish is that NBC would air CHUCK on a different day time that has more ratings potential. Such a fantastic show as CHUCK is stuck going up against Dancin' With The Retreads.

I'm really looking forward to the 3D episode the Monday after the Super Bowl. (Can we get spoilers on that???) I get the feeling that CHUCK will get some major plugs during the SB. Let's all hope that the SB is the push CHUCK needs to be show some ratings RESPECT. How about a CHUCK commercial during some football???

The Awesome & Ellie wedding is coming. I would enjoy some more wedding prep interaction between Sarah and Ellie. As we see Ellie ecstatic over the future nuptials there is that twinkle in Sarah's eye about a real life with a house, kids, husband (CHUCK). See season 1 episode... "Casey, haven't you ever wanted the family, life, and kids?"... Check out the 2nd CHUCK comic book. A little "flash" ahead 20 years. It can be seen on NBC's website.

Would also love to see an episode with Casey and Sarah out of town. So Bryce comes to visit to play Chuck's babysitter for a few days. We see some great flashbacks to the Stanford days with the boys, with a mix of some video game play, a little airing of the dirty laundry between Bryce and Chuck. With the ground work for their friendship to begin anew. Ellie spots Bryce & Chuck together but can't understand it. Then as Bryce gets into trouble Chuck saves the day and Bryce's life.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous: why would you want to know if Chuck and Jill have sex or why Chuck and Sarah get naked? Isn't the fun of watching an episode not knowing stuff like that before it airs?

I thought this was a great review that gave us just enough to tease us about what's coming up next for Chuck. I can't wait to see Monday's episode and hope that it lives up to your praise!
Anonymous said…
I've also been lucky enough to see "Chuck Versus the Ex" and completely agree that it's one of the best (if not THE best) episode so far. It's funny, sexy, action-packed, and every character sparkles. This is exactly what Chuck should be!
Anonymous said…
@ Andy: No, I actually like knowing certain things. That's why I read this article in the first place. :) I like to be prepared for some things.
Anonymous said…
Do Chuck and Sarah have any of those beautiful quiet moments together?

Thanks for the great review! A lot of fans were worried about the characters being cheapened during the Jill trilogy but it doesn't sound like that at all. It sounds like the opposite happens which is awesome!
Anonymous said…
CHUCK to me is the best TV show right now: action, comedy, drama, good cast, nice storyline etc all in a tidy 40 minute episode, what more could a viewer want :)
Anonymous said…
Please, please tease us some more! It helps when there was no Chuck this week. I am extremely excited for what seems like a fun ride on the Charah train. Woohoo! People need to watch Chuck, they're missing out!
Anonymous said…
wow!!! amazing review!!! I am so excited about the coming episodes!!!
Anonymous said…
OMG! Now I really can't wait till Monday! Though I'm actually intrigued by how you actually got to like Jill because she was portrayed to be a cold-hearted girl who left Chuck for Bryce. Maybe there's more to that story...

Gah.. Chuck/Sarah! I hope this arc brings them even closer. And I want Sarah to open up this time....
Christina said…
How to I get to be an advanced reviewer? As it is I would like to see NBC post Chuck (via internet) the full episode when it airs on t.v. Any chance of this happening? I was sorely broken hearted that it didn't get uploaded last night....after I fired it up on NBC.com at 8 p.m. EST then later at 11 p.m. EST (8 p.m. PST).
Anonymous said…
@christina: I suggest starting a site and getting 1000s of visitors every day. That usually does the trick.

@jace: Can't wait to see the next 2 eps. I thought your review was spot on.

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