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Awkward Engagements: The Danger of Air Vents on Chuck

I hate to say anything negative about NBC's Chuck, but I was really let down by this week's installment, which seemed more than a little bit muddled and bursting at the seams with guest stars.

But it was the awkwardness of the ending of this week's episode ("Chuck Versus the Cubic Z"), written by Nicholas Wootton and directed by Norman Buckley, that rubbed me the wrong way as it was so clearly manufactured, rather than organic.

On this week's episode of Chuck, the gang had to contend with the return of both Hugo Panzer (Steve Austen) and Heather Chandler (Nicole Richie) and internal issues of the romantic kind as Sarah was still feeling ill at ease about the speed with which her relationship with Chuck was developing. (Hell, she just finally unpacked that suitcase before questions of marriage and child-rearing came up.)

I'll say upfront that I've been enjoying Chuck and Sarah as a couple this year and it's only natural that they would be confronted with these issues as they are two consenting adults in a romantic relationship. It's only a matter of time before the M-word manifested itself, but I do wish that the proposal--whether accidental or not--had developed from something emotional, rather than a cubic zirconium engagement ring plummeting through the vents.

Did it push the relationship? Absolutely. The look of terror on Sarah's face (or was it just surprise) said more about her fears and her identity as a spy than any amount of tete-a-tetes could have produced, but it also forced these issues to a head in a real tight timeframe, given that the two haven't been living together for all that long and have only really had a few weeks to themselves since Sarah returned to Burbank.

Sure, Chuck didn't intend to propose; he just happened to end up in that awkward kneeling position after stumbling to pick up whatever fell out of the vent. But his intentions towards Sarah are clear, after all. Even if he didn't mean to propose, I do believe he may have gone through with it, if only to test the waters. Sarah's reaction might have lasting implications about the future of their relationship. Or they might have more to do with her own conflicting feelings about marriage and putting down roots. She is, after all, the daughter of a con man whose sense of home and hearth is extremely skewed. Could settling down be what she wants, after all?

But I do wish that these issues had been explored in a more convincing setting, rather than the result of Morgan losing Big Mike's engagement ring, which he intends to give to Morgan's mother. (Whose name, I believe, is Bologna?)

Which was the trouble with the episode as a whole. I was excited about the return of Hugo and Heather and was hoping that they would be vicious adversaries for Team Bartowski but because the writers brought them back together, neither of them carried much weight and the episode was largely Chuck, Sarah, and Heather crawling around the ventilation system, one of my least favorite espionage tropes ever.

I'm also not sure that I bought the juxtaposition of the game release with the prisoner transfer fiasco and the fact that coincidentally both prisoners happened to have past encounters with Chuck and Sarah, yet didn't realize they'd be ending up at Castle. While there's always a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief going on with series like Chuck, it was such a perfect storm of coincidences that it took me out of the story. (The Buy More story in particular seemed to fall especially flat.)

"Chuck Versus the Cubic Z" certainly wasn't my least favorite episode to date but it also wasn't my favorite, perhaps because I expected so much from it and it didn't quite deliver the full Chuck experience that I was craving. But I'm curious to hear what you thought of the episode? Did you love? Like? Loathe? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Coup d'Etat"), Chuck and Sarah try to become better communicators as they join Ellie and Awesome on a trip to Costa Gravas; a forbidden romance may put Morgan at odds with John Casey.


Anonymous said…
It was ok. Not great, not terrible.
I did not like the Buy More B story, it wasn't that funny. I liked the spy story better and I was fine with the
whole final sequence. Yvonne and Zach were great in the scene.
CJ said…
I share some of the same concerns as you, but I didn't have as much of a problem with the ending. The writing was somewhat weak throughout the episode, and the Buy More storyline wasn't nearly as good as last week, but I actually kind of liked Chuck and Sarah being confronted head-on with the possibility of marriage.

And I think Sarah's reaction was more of a realization that she may actually want marriage and it could be a real possibility in their relationship. I don't think she was showing cold feet or anything, it was more that she realized she legitimately wants it. As usual, kudos to Yvonne Strahovski for nailing the facial expressions.

I agree that this wasn't my favorite episode of all time, and I think this new writer needs time to get in tune with the show. But it was still okay and had some good moments; I'm just glad that they're using real relationship problems instead of bringing in forced outsiders.
Chris L said…
Finally, some honesty! I'm a die-hard Chuck fan, but I simply refuse to admit that every single episode is amazing. It's my favorite show on TV, but it has its ups and downs.

This one was definitely a downer. It fell flat for me. Nothing worked. What should have been an epic return for Big Mike felt more like Mark Christopher Lawrence slapping me in the face and screaming, "See?! I'm still here! And I'm still important!" I didn't like it at all.

The only thing I did like: The moment when Hugo Panzer got loose. The unrestrained gleeful look on his face as he took aim at Chuck was a thing of beauty. He looked like a little boy at a candy shop.

Other than to drop an important fact about Chuck's mom and move the story along, Heather Chandler served no purpose at all but to annoy Chuck and Sarah. And me. Also, the whole idea that "Volkoff" is behind it all was just hard to swallow, even on Chuck.

Further complaints: (1)Jeff and Lester were painfully unfunny this episode. (2)GRETA was utterly wasted this time around. I can't think of any kind of value she had for the story.

I pretty much feel the same about Chuck and Sarah as you do, Jace.

Argh... There was just way too much crammed in. I can tell they had a lot of awesome ideas for this episode, but too much of a good thing can be bad.
Ask Rachel said…
There definitely was a lot crammed into this episode but, at the same time, nothing really happened. I think they could have held off on the Chuck and Sarah "Marriage and Babies are Scary" storyline just a little while longer as it felt rushed.

The Hugo Panzer character worked on the airplane but here his storyline also felt forced.
Heather said…
I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment. That being said, I was, am, and will be a loyal Chuck fan until the very end.
Unknown said…
Too much. Too many guest stars (the same complaint you had about Glee). Too many coincidences.

The mistaken proposal thing is ridiculous. Does Sarah really think that Chuck's proposing with a ring he picked up off the floor? After JUST talking about how babies freak her out?! How utterly stupid. In real life, Chuck would pick up the ring, stand up, and say, "Look, I found a ring." I'm in no suspense at all with this "cliffhanger."

What's with Greta and Greta 2 and the Chick-of-the-Week thing? They're pretty, sure--is this just for ratings? Ugh. Make it stop.

I deeply love the show, but the writers are trying too hard and, in the process, merely throwing wild pitches.

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