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Poster Child for Friendly Fire: The Gang Schemes and Dreams on "Chuck"

The morning after and I still have Toto's "Africa" stuck in my head. Thus is the power of Chuck.

On last night's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Best Friend"), written by Allison Adler (who last wrote Season Two's "Chuck Versus the Cougars"), we finally got to see an episode that had been slated to air earlier this season and had Chuck betraying Morgan--engaged in stalking ex-girlfriend Anna Wu--in order to fulfill a crucial mission.

All in all, considering it ran out of order, this episode dealt with the series' continuity pretty flawlessly and it didn't feel as totally out of place as I thought it would. Plus, it featured a hefty dose of Anna Wu (Julia Ling), who has been far too absent from the Buy More this season, and allowed Yvonne Strahovski to kick some Triad ass in the form of Smooth Lau (Life's Jennifer Jalene)... and showcase a rare moment of vulnerability from tough-as-nails agent Sarah Walker. (That fans of Chuck seem to realize what the Emmy voters don't--that Strahovski is a top-notch actress--is one of this winsome series' secrets.)

Before getting into anything else, I just want to reiterate how utterly fantastic the fight between Sarah and Smooth Lau was. Not only is any fight sequence difficult to choreograph, but I can't imagine just what went into arranging this episode's jaw-dropping fight sequence between the two women... in a car. While many of these melees use sophisticated martial arts techniques between skilled fighters, this scene was completely different for the vicious way Sarah and Smooth went at each other, using everything at their disposal--from compact discs and seatbelts to seat releases and airbags--to attack one another.

Brutal and beautiful: just like Strahovski's Sarah Walker, who offered Chuck a glimpse into her psyche when she admitted that she didn't understand his friendship and loyalty to Morgan because she never had anyone in her life that cared for her. Leading Chuck to tell her that he cares about her. (Aw!) These two have such a natural chemistry together and Chuck provides Sarah with an opportunity to live life as a "normal" woman that it's perfectly clear just why she would harbor feelings for our Mr. Bartowski.

My only complaint: I wish that this scene had come before last week's episode, where Sarah and Chuck's relationship changes forever, as it would have given her sadness at returning the ring more weight. But alas, there's not much that can be done about that now. (Let's hope the Season Two DVD restores the running order.)

I absolutely loved the flashback to 1992 Tarzana as Young Morgan gets the proverbial excrement kicked out of him by a girl he likes before Chuck once again comes to his rescue... and tells him to stay away from girls for about 15 years. I did believe that lovelorn Morgan would spy on Anna, especially once he saw her kissing another guy, a wealthy businessman named Jason Wang.

Enlisting the help of Chuck, Lester, and the highly creepy Jeff ("Does it shock you that eighty percent of my encounters with women have been completely without their knowledge?") and his, uh, spy tech van, Morgan's life this week seems to be paralleling Chuck's with eerie precision: all cloak and dagger, walkie talkies, and fancy gear. It's a neat reminder why creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak set up the series as they did with Chuck's two worlds--the Buy More and his CIA/NSA life--just as dangerous, in their own way, as each other.

Chuck has long made it seem like he's not used to being the hero or the protector, but it's clear from his friendship with Morgan that he's been thrust into that role since childhood... and yet it's Morgan who--above anyone else--made him feel safe once his mom took off. The sweet reminiscence of the duo sharing a cherry cheesecake and staying up all night playing "Legend of Zelda" is a fantastically vivid memory to cement the basis of their friendship. We've seen time and time again Chuck come to Morgan's rescue but it's really one of the first times that we learn just why these two are friends and that Chuck needs Morgan every bit as much as Morgan needs him.

What else did I love? Lester's cover of "Africa" at the Buy More when he finally "finds" his voice in order to audition for Ellie and Devon's wedding (not that there's any way they'll book them); Jeff attempting to block Devon from closing the door by inserting... his hand; Awesome "outsourcing" his wedding to-do list to Chuck; Chuck using the mint-flavored knock-out spray (nice plant and payoff!) to drug Morgan and dump his body in the home theatre box; Anna telling Sarah that she never thought that Sarah ever noticed her (sniffle); Chuck using the Nerd Herd's remote controls to get rid of the bomb (and Sarah's very truthful reaction to the explosion); Lester's fear of his body being discovered after a foray into auto-erotic asphyxiation; Jeffster vs. Jester; Morgan and Anna's kiss; Casey's poster boy line.

Ultimately, "Chuck Versus the Best Friend" was another fantastic installment that further explored the relationships between the core characters and added some deft layering to the friendship between Chuck and Morgan while also allowing each of the characters--from Chuck and Sarah to Jeff and Lester--time to shine in their own way.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Beefcake"), Ellie convinces Chuck to break up with Sarah but he becomes jealous when Sarah must seduce a Fulcrum agent in order to retrieve intelligence; Morgan tries to deal with his mother's relationship with Big Mike by staying with Chuck; Jeff and Lester oversee hiring a new Buy More employee and want to find a Buy More babe.


Anonymous said…
Agree with you on all points except the Jeffster stuff. That could have been tossed with no loss.

And don't forget Casey. His 'heroic idiot' comment and reaction after the explosion was priceless.

The main issue I have is how the ending of this one makes Sarah's Ice Queen mode at the end of Suburbs even more blatantly manipulative.
Anonymous said…
Favorite small moment:

Jeff (at Awesome's door, launching into his Eminem spiel for about the sixth time): Have you ever had a dream that didn't come true?

Awesome (with a perfect it-does-not-compute look): No.

This show has so many great small moments like that.
Anonymous said…
I also love Awesome's comment to Jeff that he can't believe someone like him has a friend. Great delivery.

Not my favorite episode but it did have lots of fun moments and although Lester singing at the end was funny it was his dance moves that totally blew me away!
Anonymous said…
I love this episode. Alder did a marvelous job in balancing the aspects of the show.

That fans of Chuck seem to realize what the Emmy voters don't--that Strahovski is a top-notch actress--is one of this winsome series' secrets.

Random question though: what type of genre would Chuck be in, if there is ever a chance to be nominated? And although I agree with your statement about Strahovski, she is a dramatic actress and Chuck is generally a comedy show. This is where I see the problem in her chances of getting the recognitions she truly deserves.
Unknown said…
I liked Casey's "Nerds on the move" line. Oh, and his "Let me in and I'll help you save the bearded loser."

Yvonne's expressions after seeing the car explode were so great, as usual. Shock, sadness, loss, and even after seeing Chuck was still alive, she didn't drop them right away. Beautiful.

I liked her interview on Bonnie Hunt, too. (Ms. Strahovski, if you ever need someone to defend you from spiders, call me.)

I thought both Chuck's and Sarah's expressions (as they look at their clasped hands at the end) displayed an interesting mix of resignation, discomfort, and determination.

I agree this didn't seem as out of order as I expected, but it would still have been nice if the network could postpone shows that are a week out rather than plop eps out of order.
Anonymous said…
I'm becoming a big fan of Allison Adler's work. She has written some of my favorite CHUCK episodes.

As usual the Casey comments were "Awesome!"

Very touching moments when the herder went boom and Sarah was crushed. Again the final scenes between Chuck & Sarah. I think we get a hint of just how messed up Sarah's life before the CIA really was. Beyond what we learned when her dad was in town. Sarah Walker the agent is emotionally strong, Sarah/Jenny/the woman isn't.
I still want more CHARAH!

Thank You Jace. Another darn good review. You've also slightly confirmed an idea I've had about future episodes and I'll leave it at that before I get into spoilers territory.

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