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Colonel of Truth: Chuck Faces the Future on "Chuck"

Was it just me or was last night's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Colonel") as action-packed and emotionally taut as many season finales?

This week's installment marked the penultimate episode of Season Two of Chuck, written by Matt Miller (who also scripted "Chuck Versus the Beefcake," among others), and found Chuck and Sarah squaring off against John Casey (ahem, sorry, make that Colonel John Casey, who was promoted to the titular position after the demise of the human Intersect project) as they worked to free Chuck's dad Stephen (Scott Bakula) from the clutches of Fulcrum.

"Chuck Versus the Colonel" would have been a fantastic season ender as it featured some shocking plot twists (more on those in a bit) that have perhaps forever changed the dynamic of the series, should we be lucky enough to have it continue beyond next week. The fact that the writing team was so willing to alter the series' main format--and complicate many of the major relationships within the series--points to some major game-changing next week.

The future of Chuck, meanwhile, is still very much up in the air. "Sitting here today, I do not know," said Chuck co-creator Josh Schwartz in an interview with The New York Times' ArtsBeat. "Which is a tricky place to be, emotionally. The last two episodes are certainly the best that we’ve done, and I feel like the whole season has been building. To feel this coalescing of the inter-Web forces, in support of the show, has been really remarkable." (Schwartz suggests sending Nerds candy to NBC to show your support of Chuck.)

Which, the morning after such an incredible installment, is just downright depressing to hear. But I'm not going to let NBC's ambivalence about the series derail my enjoyment of last night's episode. Let's put those dark thought aside and discuss "Chuck Versus the Colonel."

First of all, I just want to say that this episode had something for everyone, with the spy versus spy action and intrigue of Chuck and Sarah attempting to evade the unstoppable Colonel Casey and bust out Chuck's dad from a Fulcrum facility so he could remove the Intersect from Chuck's head. (Be careful what you wish for, Chuck!) Not to mention the comedy of errors going on at the Buy More as Emmett forces Morgan to accept the position of assistant manager (or, ahem, "ass man"). Or there was that little matter of coitus postponus between Chuck and Sarah, who would have finally done the deed in that motel bed... had Morgan not stolen Chuck's sole condom from his wallet. (Good to see Chuck advocates the practice of safe sex, even in extreme situations such as these.)

My jaw literally hit the floor when it seemed like Chuck and Sarah would actually consummate their relationship for the first time. (For real, anyway.) Especially as this episode wasn't the season finale (a more likely time for said act to occur) but in the second to last episode. It was such a real moment between the two of them as their dawning realization that they were in bed together became a fully charged passion. Sadly, Chuck and Sarah fans everywhere will likely have to wait a little while longer to see these two actually come to terms with their romantic feelings for one another, but how adorable was it to see the duo wake up in bed together, their hands intertwined? Everyone now: awwwwwww.

As for Casey, I'm glad he didn't just disobey his orders and help Chuck and Sarah but actually followed the chain of command and went after them (where he would have interrupted said coitus even if they had gone through with it) as Casey has always put country and duty before personal feelings. He had his orders and he followed through on them. I don't think he would have brought Chuck or Sarah in "dead or alive" if he could avoid killing them but Casey has proved himself more than willing to use the application of deadly force in achieving his ends. I did love, however, his upset at not being asked to help break Stephen Bartowski out of the Fulcrum base after Chuck and Sarah escaped the Castle as he gave his word to Chuck to keep his father safe.... and his willingness to come along to Ellie and Devon's rehearsal dinner. Hmmm, could that be the glimmer of some actual friendship forming between Casey and Chuck?

After nearly two seasons, Chuck finally came clean about his double life to someone close to him, letting Devon into the inner circle. I loved the storyline that had Devon convinced that Casey was an obsessed stalker and was monitoring Chuck's every move; he was assisted into this mad misinterpretation by Lester and Jeff ("From one stalker to another, I'm impressed," said Jeff), who shared Casey's "Chuck diary," keys, chloroform, and duct tape with Devon... and inadvertently ended up with Devon imprisoned inside Casey's apartment. I'm not quite sure how Chuck would have explained this whole situation to Devon, even if Casey hadn't been there with a gun, seemingly ready to exterminate Captain Awesome. (Would Casey really have gone through with it? Or would he have tranquilized and drugged Devon instead?)

Chuck's secret identity has weighed on him for two seasons now. Unable to share this part of his life with those closest to him, Chuck has become something of a fraud, concocting various cover stories just to keep his cover story going. The reveal not only changed Devon's perception of Chuck ("I knew you weren't a loser!") but allows Devon a rare moment to prove his awesomeness to Chuck once more. Ryan McPartlin hasn't always been given too much to do on the series but this episode proved his character's integral role in the overarching story and gave McPartlin some nice moments to shine: the scene where Devon learns Chuck's secret and where he has to lie to Ellie and manages not to concoct some elaborate ruse but rather sweetly just tells her that he knows Chuck loves her and that he'll be there if he can. And he proved that Devon is no mere "frat boy," decking Casey with some real savagery and bludgeoning Casey with his beloved Ronald Regan bust. In a word: awesome.

But while Chuck's dual life has complicated his real one, it's also given him a purpose, one that's lost now that the Intersect has been removed from his head by Stephen's Intersect cube, specifically designed for that very reason. Now that he doesn't have the Intersect, he can--as General Beckman said so witheringly--go back to whatever it is he does. But what is that? Work at the Burbank Buy More? Can you go back to a "normal" life after seeing the things that Chuck has? Does he even want to anymore?

Chuck believed that having the Intersect out of his head was a Good Thing. That it meant that there could be a real future for him, one that wasn't dependent on him flashing on bad guys or being an intelligence asset, that he and Sarah Walker could finally be together. Now that Sarah's been cleared of all treason charges, thanks to Casey's generosity and friendship (hell, he even said the mission succeeded because of her efforts to pretend to go AWOL), there's nothing keeping her in Burbank professionally. She's back at the CIA and could be reassigned at any time, to any location. After all, the mission is over.

So what will Chuck do? Will he attempt to choose the normal life of a Nerd Herder? Or will he do the truly heroic thing: return to a life he doesn't want, to the burdens of a responsibility that he didn't choose. When pressed, will Chuck choose to have the Intersect placed back inside his head? I think he will. I think he'll be forced to, in order to save the lives of those he holds most dear. Great power does come with great responsibility. Chuck is now free from those responsibilities but it doesn't mean he's any freer in his own personal life.

It was interesting that this week's episode also saw Morgan break free of the Buy More (for now, anyway). Turns out that Morgan has dreams too, dreams that involve being a Benihana chef in Hawaii, although he admits that he doesn't have the training, is past his prime, and doesn't even know where one "gets those knives." I loved that his dream, reluctantly confessed to Anna, was something so attainable and mundane. It wasn't being a spy or an astronaut but... cooking. (And it picked up the fact that the boy can cook, as he did for Devon and Ellie when he was their houseguest.) Morgan chooses to follow his dream rather than be a wage slave under Emmett. After being forced to be Emmett's "ass man" and go against the Buy More family, Morgan is instructed to fire Jeff and Lester after they use one of Casey's explosives to take out the store's power. But he doesn't go through with it; he can't go through with it. Instead, he takes off his Buy More shirt and vest (the visual trappings of his position) and bare-chested, picks up Anna and walks out. (Also loved that he told Jeff and Lester to make his physique more impressive when they retell the story.)

Meanwhile, Casey, Chuck, and Sarah participated in one last mission as a team (for now, anyway), managing to free Stephen Bartowski, obtain the Intersect cube, and destroy a vital Fulcrum base of operations. (Though not managing to nab Ted Roark, leaving him free to turn up at Ellie's wedding.) While it was great to see the gang reunite for this fantastic mission (how awesome was the F-16 bombing as they drove off?), I have to say that it was pretty kick-ass to see Casey and Sarah face off in a way that they haven't since the series' pilot episode. Sarah's window-based ambush on Casey was absolutely fantastic, as was their gun-drawn stalemate in the motel parking lot (even as they both turned to shoot a Fulcrum agent). That these two are so equally matched points to the gender-blindness on the series when it comes to the field skills of Casey and Sarah. Points to Casey too for taking out a squad of Fulcrum baddies armed only with a motel room radiator.

Best line of the evening: "I hate this whole family!" - Casey

Throughout the past two seasons, Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, and Adam Baldwin have imbued their troika of spies with some very real definition and layering. Each of them has managed to give their indivudal characters some sparkle and shine and these three very different characters have blended together into a lovable--if often verbally sparring--team. Even if next week's episode does mark the end of Chuck as a series (and I'm keeping my fingers very tightly crossed that it doesn't), I dare say that none of us will soon forget their characters' camaraderie or these talented actors any time soon.

All in all, "Chuck Versus the Colonel" was an exceptional episode of a series that hit the ground running this season and has not only found its voice and tone but has excelled at mixing genres and multiple characters and locations with a more than deft hand. Or as Stephen Bartowski himself might say: Aces.

Next week on the season finale of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Ring"), Chuck must save Ellie and Devon's wedding from being ruined when it gets crashed by Fulcrum and Ted Roark (guest star Chevy Chase), who threatens to kill Ellie.

Comments

Bella Spruce said…
I agree with you, Jace, that this could have been the season finale as so much happened! If the series continues (which I hope it does!) it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. Will Morgan really leave the Buy More? Does Chuck really have the intersect out of his head and, if so, is he going to want to put it back in? Will he want to become a "real" spy? So many questions! Definitely looking forward to next week's episode!
Maggie May said…
I loved, loved, loved this episode. It really struck the right chord for the series and I will be heartbroken if NBC does not renew this show. I agree that it could have been the season! finale, but I am looking forward to next week.

I am among the group that can't wait to see Chuck and Sarah together, but first, there needs to be some honesty. The fact that he still doesn't know her real name, I can't remember what her middle name was in one of the first episodes? The thing that I liked most about last night's episode is that after their interruption, when they were in the cell together, they didn't sweep it under the rug and ignore it, the feelings were acknowledged and (almost) continued.

I loved Devon's reaction and his inability to process Chuck's secret and keep it from Ellie (at first) He's still awesome, but not as awesome as Chuck.

Was that Bryce that I saw in the preview for next week? You did mention that we never did find out how he was able to 'refresh' Chuck's intersect head. I would assume that he and dad Bartowski have been working together.

Which brings me to something that I was thinking about last night and that is about Chuck's mom. I was going to go back and watch season 1, but I believe they said she died? I wonder if she is not actually dead and rather a spy as well. It may be a long shot, but something interesting none the less.

I don't think Chuck is going to remain intersect-free, he has found new meaning to his life. Again, I am so excited for next week, I hope NBC realizes what a great show they have on their hands.
Anonymous said…
Great write up! I totally agree with you Chuck will get the intersect back in his brain. I was jumping up and down when Chuck and Sarah started kissing but was SO ANGRY that they didn't end up having sex. Tho no glove no love. HA! Morgan's gonna come back to BuyMore. He has to. They will prob do a coup to take Emmet out of power and put Mike in charge again. NBC better not cancel Chuck or I am going to be really really really angry. Going out to buy some Nerds now to send.
tony libido said…
Definitely the most dependable and enjoyable hour of TV on right now. Since NBC is basically giving up as a network perhaps they could move future seasons over to *SyFy*. This is just a great show.
Anonymous said…
NBC would be out of their mind if they canceled Chuck. This is one of the best shows on T.V. and only thing I watching on NBC so if they get rid of it I can stop watching NBC.

Great ep last night. Hate when friends steal my condoms. Heh. Sarah was HOTTTTTTT when she was walking around in her underpants.
Wes said…
The nerds are in the mail. Never thought I would say that sentence.
Coverdale said…
What happened to the idea of bringing Chuck into the CIA as an analyst, which was what Casey suggested at the end of the first season as an alternative to killing Chuck? Beckman just sort of shooed him away.

I think it turned out "Sarah Walker" was her real name. The thematic twist was that she had a ton of fake names and lives as a child, yet she would become herself in the world of espionage.
Bernardx said…
The weakest air strike ever....
Samantha said…
I agree on all counts Jace, a fantastic episode.
Tempest said…
This was an amazing episode. My first reaction was "NBC cannot cancel this show!" (Small aside: Dear NBC, my birthday is next week. Renewing Chuck would be a fab b-day present.)

What struck me when Awesome was breaking into Casey's apt (well, I guess it wasn't technically breaking since he had keys), was that much of the humor of this show comes from love. Many of the situations develop because the characters genuinely care about each other. It's not a humor based on tearing people down. Devon genuinely cares about Chuck and Ellie -- and that's what gets him in Casey's apt. (I also loved that Casey had a picture of Reagan in his locker.)

Just love, love this show.
Unknown said…
I had to check twice to make sure this wasn't the finale. And, if the worst happens, it would be a nice series finale. Some loose ends are tied up, but a future is there.

Casey may not consider him a friend of Chuck's, but he has a well-developed sense of honor, and once he gave his word to keep Chuck's dad safe, he saw that as trumping (or at least not conflicting with) his NSA oath.

I loved loved loved Casey egressing his apartment after his quick-change, cigar in hand. Of course, he was quickly upstaged by Yvonne Strahovski in a demure, but no less stunning for it, blue dress.

It will (will! Feel the optimism) be nice to see how Devon fits into the story line after being brought in to the inner circle.

Sarah's expression when she realizes the Intersect is out of Chuck's head (confusion to realization to trepidation of the future) mirrors quite well my own expression as this episode concluded. Such a great show. Will this be the end?

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