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Diamonds in the Rough: Heart to Heart on Chuck

"The CIA has a way of breaking young idealists. Especially if they're in love." - Craig Turner

The Hart to Hart-style opening credits of this week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Role Models"), written by Phil Klemmer and directed by Fred Toye, really did set up the overall feel of the episode, one that was in keeping with the relatively lightness of the previous episode and was miles away from the darkness that enveloped most of Season Three.

Here, the tone was positioned sharply on the comedic as Chuck and Sarah were tasked with teaming up with legendary super-spy couple Craig and Laura Turner (Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz), themselves stylized versions of the characters played by Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers in Hart to Hart, who might just be what the future holds in store for Chuck and Sarah... are are instead a cautionary tale of how not to let your marriage go off the rails.

Elsewhere, Colonel Casey was given the dubious honor of making Morgan field-ready, an extremely difficult task given Morgan's, uh, less than ideal skill set. With the couples coupling, these two have been pushed together once again as an unlikely partnership, one that recalls the early days of the series with Morgan stepping into Chuck's role as the fish out of water amid the high-stakes espionage world.

So what did I think of "Chuck Versus the Role Models"? Let's discuss.

There were a number of clever juxtapositions here, most notably Morgan's dream sequence (heavily influenced as it was by the aforementioned Hart to Hart) and the complexities of Chuck and Sarah's own relationship as seen through the prism of the Turners.

It's clear from the opening sequence (the one post-dream) that Sarah has gotten extremely comfortable in Chuck's apartment and has been, uh, spending a lot of time there at night, leading to some uncomfortableness on the part of Morgan, who has been forced to wear pajamas to bed and attempt to avert his eyes from the scantily clad form of Sarah Walker at the refrigerator. But despite the fact that Sarah might feel at home enough to walk around in next to nothing, she doesn't see quite why Chuck would want to make this arrangement permanent.

Chuck, on the other hand, wants to give Sarah her own key and have her move in to Casa Bartowski, an evolution in their relationship that Sarah just doesn't see the point of. While at first it seems that her hesitance is just Sarah being the proto-typical spy, there's more at work here. She's been a spy her entire adult life, used to jetting off to anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat; as a child, she lived out of hotel rooms under assumed names. Sarah hasn't exactly grown up with any sense of stability or an approximation of "home" in the truest sense of the world.

For Sarah, home may be wear you hang your hat (or your holster) but it means something very different to Chuck. Yet throughout the episode, there are glimmers of hope: Sarah's cache of firearms concealed in the couch point to more than just the thirty foot rule... and her decision to leave her gun in the car points to her seeing Casa Bartowski as a bit of a sanctuary, after Chuck forbid her to keep her guns around.

But, by the end of the episode, the two had reached a rapprochement on the subject: Sarah would move in, after all. We see her making little changes to Casa Bartowski, adding a framed photo of her and Chuck on the mantle, and we get the sense that their relationship is evolving rapidly. Moving in together is a big step (especially when there's another roommate to consider) but these two are clearly meant for each other, right?

They should of course consider the case of the Turners, the super-spies that they're meant to be working with on their latest mission but who turn out to be a pair of bickering and selfish individuals who betray them several times. Craig is a lecherous lothario prone to extra-marital encounters, while Laura is a scheming alcoholic. One can see how, thirty years earlier, they might have made the best of pairs... but their marriage--or marriages--has since hit the rocks in more ways than one.

While Chuck and Sarah are meant to be watching and learning from the Turners, they end up having to complete their joint mission on their own, at which point they're betrayed by the Turners, who force them to give up their quarry--the software concealed in Otto Von Vogel's tiger collar--at gunpoint. Fortunately, Craig's slip about the Ambassador Hotel being Los Angeles' only place to get a rare cherry perfect for a Manhattan leads them to turn the tables on the traitorous couple.

The tiger sequence--in which Chuck had to get the collar off of the dozing beast--was nicely paralleled with Morgan's own mission, in which he had to remove Big Mike's keycard from around his neck while he napped in his office. (Meanwhile, I roared with laughter when Morgan attempted to fire the gun and threw it up in the air after it "exploded" in his hand.) But rather than let the parallels lie there, the writers further shook things up by crossing the two distinct storylines, when Morgan had to face off against the Bengal tiger--unarmed, of course--and came out victorious, though destroyed Ellie and Awesome's apartment in the process.)

But the Turners also proved that they weren't totally morally bankrupt. After escaping Casa Bartowski, the Turners came back to save Chuck and Sarah and offer themselves up to Otto and Sarah returns the favor later by lying to General Beckman about their intentions, saying that they had orchestrated a triple-cross. And Sarah, naturally, moves in with Chuck, saying that she doesn't know how to live a normal life... to which he answers that they'll never have a normal life. (Aw.)

And then there was the Ellie-Awesome storyline set in the Congo as the two doctors attempted to settle into their new lifestyle with Doctors Without Borders, which was proving more difficult than self-described "city girl" Ellie had envisioned. Add to that killer mosquitoes, slithering snakes, and a villainous Ring operative named Justin. While it initially seems as though Justin is one of the good guys, he quickly launches a plan to incapacitate Devon--injecting him with a virus that Ellie believes is malaria--but which will likely prove to be more deadly.

I'm intrigued that The Ring storyline--despite its seeming resolution a few weeks back--isn't actually over and that Devon is still on their radar. Just what does this Ring cell want? Why have they infected Devon? And how does this fit into their larger plans? Are they aware of Chuck Bartowski's secret identity as the Intersect? Hmmm...

What else did I love about this week's episode? Devon's nickname of "Dr. Super Fantastic White Person" among the locals, Casey telling Morgan that he has balls, the Buy More hottie writing "you disgust me" on Morgan's business card, the Hart to Hart-style opening, Morgan describing Sarah as "the leggy Valkyrie with an aversion to clothing," Morgan running from the tiger, Sarah and Chuck in the closet, Chuck's aw-shucks grin in the morning, the fact that Big Mike has jelly on his key card, Beckman's description of Morgan as being a diamond in the rough ("very, very rough").

What did you think of this week's episode? Happy with how quickly Chuck and Sarah's relationship is advancing? What's up with Awesome and Ellie? Discuss.

On next week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Tooth"), Chuck struggles with disturbing dreams and now he believes his most recent dream predicts danger for a visiting head of state, leading General Beckman to assign Chuck to CIA psychiatrist Dr. Leo Dreyfus (guest star Christopher Lloyd); Ellie gets surprising news; Anna returns to the Buy More to talk to Morgan.

Comments

OldDarth said…
Inevitable after the emotional intensity of the last several episodes that a pedestrian episode was due to hit.

And this was it.

Stand alones can be fun ie Best Friend or they can be mostly filler ie Sizzling Shrimp.

Sizzling Shrimp, move over. You have company.
Henley said…
There were some fun moments (loved the opening credits) but, overall, this was not my favorite episode.

The Ellie-Awesome storyline was too obvious and I had higher hopes for the Turners. I think there could have been more of a reversal. They could have seemed super slick and impressive at first, only to later break down or, seemed ridiculous at first, but then come through at the end, proving to Chuck and Sarah why they were legends.
Jeff C. said…
Seems to me Chuck and Sarah are moving a bit too quickly. Granted, they've known each other for three years by this point, but they haven't been a couple very long, and moving in is a big step.

The episode was fun. Not at all rooted in the real world (see, e.g., the tiger) but still goofy fun (see, again, the tiger--endangered! and majestic!). And I appreciated a light episode before things take what looks to be a darker turn (based on the preview).
Chris L said…
After reading OldDarth's comment above, I realized that in every TV series I watch, it's usually a stand alone episode that I pick as a favorite.

This episode was great. I really can't express how much I'm loving this show!

Honestly, I thought bringing Morgan into the spy world was a mistake at first. I'm glad I was wrong. It's almost like watching Chuck go through it all again. And considering Chuck and Morgan's similarities, it's going to mighty interesting to see which things Morgan does differently...for better or worse.

Bring on the next episode!
Unknown said…
Another terrific episode! I liked Sarah's response when Chuck asks why she didn't shoot the tiger when it went after him: "You said he was majestic."

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