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Master of Karate and Friendship for Everyone: Casey Fights His Calm Center on "Chuck"

After the fantastic three-episode Jill arc, I had anticipated Chuck taking a little breather from the fast-paced action of the last troika of episodes but I didn't expect that last night's episode ("Chuck Versus the Sensei") would be quite so much of a relative snoozer.

Yes, we finally got to meet Awesome's parents, played with aplomb by Morgan Fairchild and Bruce Boxleitner (yes, Scarecrow, himself!) as they surprised Ellie and Devon with an unexpected visit to shore up some wedding plans. Yes, the Buy More gang had to contend with hijinks related to the Employee of the Month scheme cooked up by Emmett. And, yes, we got a glimpse into the back story of our beloved John Casey, courtesy of some early 90s facial hair and martial arts instructor Ty Bennett (guest star Carl Lumbly).

However, "Chuck Versus the Sensei," written by Anne Cofell Saunders (who previously wrote "Chuck Versus the Alma Mater" in Season One), felt a little flat to me, particularly in comparison with those last three episodes which really pushed the action and the interrelationships between the characters. (It also, strangely, felt more like a Season One episode.) While Casey has been a bit of an enigma the past season and a half on Chuck, I didn't feel that this week's episode more clearly defined him in any way or gave us any better tools for understanding his emotional constipation. (Yes, he and Chuck both found themselves betrayed by those they trusted but it wasn't enough of an emotional link to take their friendship to any new level.)

It was great, however, to see Carl Lumbly back doing some wire work on television again. I've always been a huge Dixon fan so it was great that Schwartz and Co. decided to cast Lumbly here as a fast-moving foil for Casey. And his initial introduction (after kicking Casey's butt during a training session in 1994, that is) was absolutely kick-ass, as Bennett comes swooping into the GLA all in white (and looking, one must admit, rather like Fantomex). I was hoping, however, that this was merely the prelude to an ongoing battle between Casey and Bennett instead of a one-off story, but c'est la vie.

What worked for me? Meeting Awesome's parents and seeing just what makes Devon, well, awesome; Chuck realizing that Casey had no "calm center" and instead attempts to make Casey so angry (by telling him that Casey loves him) that he's able to defeat Bennett during a final battle; Chuck freezing his handcuffs so he could escape the Orange Orange; Casey's attempts to lure Chuck to the Castle ("I feel like my whole foundation has been undermined here") by appealing to his emotions.

What I did appreciate more than any of the sensei-related storyline was Chuck realizing that, in order to make Ellie happy, he would have to track down their estranged father so he could walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Chuck's family history has long been shrouded in mystery; we know that their mother left them years ago and that their father was, at the very least, emotionally distant.

The fact that Chuck would willingly put aside that history in order to make Ellie happy shows not only the depth of his love for his sister but also just how much he's changed since we first met him in the pilot. Chuck has slowly been gaining confidence and life skills and he's slowly departing from his modus operandi of running away from every problem he encounters in life. Given the fact that he is the Intersect, I have no doubt that he can track down their errant dad but I do worry just what he'll discover when he does. Could it be that there's more to the Bartowksi clan than meets the eye? Hmmm...

Best line of the evening: ""Those seven years of MacGyver finally paid off." - Chuck

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus The Delorean"), Chuck catches Sarah seemingly on a date with an older man and flashes on him but is shocked to learn that the man is actually Sarah's father (guest star Gary Cole); Anna (finally!) wants to move in with Morgan but he's reluctant to begin acting like an adult; Awesome offers some financial assistance to Morgan.


Anonymous said…
Wow - can't agree at all! Loved the return to a lighter toned episode.

Chuck/Morgan screen time together again, Chuck's sadness over Pluto no longer being considered a planet - AWESOME!, Sarah's nifty stickhandling with Casey about her feelings for Chuck, Chuck's Force and McGuyver references - and I vote Richard Dean Anderson to play his father, Casey's voice mail answering message - this is John Casey,grrrr!, Casey's Firefly callback - you are seriously damaging my calm, Jeff losing it on a customer, Ellie's wish for her father to walk her down the aisle etc, etc

All that plus Chuck seeing Casey's pain over his Sensei going rogue to reflect on his recent Jill encounter to begin focusing outward again instead of inward. And the father storyline - it was ambiguous at best whether or not he was alive. The mother seemed more certain.

Old Darth

PS Jace - do you have any insight into the Dark Intersect coming up in episode 2.14? Is this idea going to form the basis for the Feb/March sweeps?

Thanks in advance and keep up the great work here!
Anonymous said…
Didn't care for the ep as much as you did but I loved your title. You're clearly a fan of IASIP.
Anonymous said…
Jace, I also loved your title! Not so much the Chuck episode, though. I was really looking forward to learning more about Casey's history and to seeing him and the wonderful Carl Lumbly interact but, ultimately, I thought the story fell flat.

However, I am very interested in the new plot they introduced of Chuck helping Ellie to find their dad. It will be great to see Chuck using some of his new spy skills to track their dad down.

And, speaking of dads, I can't wait to see Gary Cole as Sarah's dad in the next episode!
Anonymous said…
IASIP? I must know what that means!

This episode was lame.

Except for all the Awesome/Ellie stuff.

What a waste of the Lumbly.
Jace Lacob said…
Ally, I've never seen it abbreviated as such but the title was a shout out to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, natch.

I agree about the Lumbly. Sigh.
Unknown said…
Couldn't agree with you more, Jace. Unfortunately. Casey has never been given as much depth as the other two mainstays. This is by no means an indictment of Adam Baldwin--he does great with the material he gets. But although Casey's not quite 2D (he loves his Crown Vic), he's close. So, when the writers finally try to add something, you can hear the thud. The deepest moment was when Casey swept off the bonsai he's been cultivating. But ultimately, I got more out of Ellie's interactions with the Awesomes.

P.S. I see Anonymous is continuing the bad habit of posting spoilers in your comments.
Anonymous said…
I have to mostly disagree that this was a snoozer.

Just remember that this is an hour show.

It was still a good episode, yeah it wasn't as great as some of the previous but it was still good.

The episode as a whole felt like it was on the lighter side.

I'll agree that Carl Lumbly could have been used better.

Not enough of The Awesomes in this episode too.

"Chuck You're so sweet." Great moment between Chuck and Sarah.

This episode is why Casey is my favorite.

This was another character building episode.
Anonymous said…
@casey fan:

"Just remember that this is an hour show."

Uh, yeah. Duh. This is a one-hour drama. Plotting needs to be not only consistent but allow some progress for the characters' development. This did neither. Casey is just as one-dimensional as he was when the show first started. This week's ep didn't change that at all. Chuck and Sarah have both have had several layers added to them while Casey is right where he started.

So yes this ep was a snooze.

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