Wednesday, 29 September 2010

'CHUCK' 4.2 - "Chuck Versus The Suitcase"

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Better than the middling premiere, "Chuck Versus The Suitcase" overcame a rather dull mission because of its welcome theme of Chuck (Zachary Levi) questioning the commitment of girlfriend Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), who still hasn't unpacked her titular suitcase, despite the fact they've been living together for months...

This week, General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) assigned Chuck and Sarah a mission to steal Smart Bullets (GPS-assisted ammo) from enemy agent Sophia (Karolina Kurkova), who's undercover as a supermodel at Milan's Fashion Week. Casey (Adam Baldwin) remained behind at the Buy More, chided by Morgan (Joshua Gomez) for not returning his daughter Alex's calls, before Morgan convinced Beckman that the CIA-run Buy More is now so efficient it'll arouse suspicion. Morgan was thus asked to redress the imbalance, by tracking down the Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay), who have been on the run, convinced they're wanted arsonists, as a first step in reuniting the Buy More staff and restoring normal, incompetent service.

Chuck and Sarah's mission to Milan was fun with some nice moments (like Chuck being caught by a naked, freshly-showered Sophia), but there just wasn't much meat to the whole story. In an episode featuring Smart Bullets, which can bend around corners in the style of the movie Wanted, it was strange that didn’t factor into the storyline more. Instead, it all felt rather routine and formulaic, with Chuck and Sarah in silly disguises, confronted with a dimwit bodyguard (Lou Ferrigno), ending with Sarah having another of her celebrated "catfights" with Sophia. That latter action sequence was at least good fun and nicely choreographed, with the two leggy women high-kicking and punching each other up the catwalk, their violent duel mistaken as an avant-garde performance by the audience.

Usually, the Buy More subplot is one I rarely enjoy, but this was actually a relatively decent aspect of "... Versus The Suitcase", particularly when Morgan was demonstrating the disturbing efficiency of the staff by attempting to cause a mess up the aisles, only for undercover CIA agents to immediately spring into action to prevent or clean any mishap. Even the return of Jeff and Lester wasn't too shabbily done, even if it's another example of Chuck refusing to let any natural changes evolve before it just brings everything back to square one. Strangely, the episode's biggest laughs came in the same sequence, with the slow-motion arrival of the Buy More's original motley crew (with Morgan assisting their entrance with a handy fan), and Jeff's creepy come-on to the pregnant Ellie (Sarah Lancaster): "is there room in that womb for two?"

Second of Strahotness: the model look

I'd be rating this episode lower if it wasn't for a decent throughline of Chuck worrying about Sarah's commitment to their relationship. He's willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, because spies don't usually lay down roots, and Sarah's family history with her conman father was rather itinerant, but he still finds it a little strange she hasn't unpacked her suitcase and filled his wardrobe with her clothes. Now that Chuck and Sarah are an item, the show clearly needs to find ways to test the strength of their relationship, so this is a welcome step. The final scene, with Sarah in bed with Chuck and listening to him mull over the possibility of marriage and kids, her eyes wide and staring fixedly ahead, spoke volumes. She may love Chuck, but she's perhaps not the kind of woman who wants things to get that serious, or is just scared of commitment.

The idea of spies having problems making a home fed into a few of Casey's scenes, too -- with Morgan teasing him that Burbank's becoming home to him, and encouraging him to make a connection with his nearby teenage daughter Alex. The fact he does perhaps shows that Casey's moving in the opposite direction to Sarah, in that he's slowly coming round to the idea of making a home in this quiet part of the world where he spends half his time stacking shelves. It'll be interesting to see if his status as a father continues to erode the workaholic Casey and turns him into a family man, of sorts.

This season appears to have a strong parental theme, too -- what with Chuck's search for his mother, Ellie as an expectant mother (now reminiscing about her own mom late at night), Chuck mentioning having a baby with Sarah, Devon (Ryan McPartlin) becoming a worrier over his unborn child's wellbeing, and Casey getting in touch with the daughter he barely knows. The show has always been at its best when the spy stuff mixes with everyday family concerns, so this is all very promising now.

Overall, "Chuck Versus The Suitcase" isn't an example of the show firing on all cylinders, but its themes helped boost a by-the-numbers primary mission, and the Buy More subplot was actually pretty decent. That said, I can't help but think having Beckman stand down as the Buy More boss is a big mistake (especially if she goes back to being stuck on a video-screen), and making Morgan the new manager is equally as dumb. Why give Morgan responsibilities that could limit his forays into the spy world? And it feels like we've been here before, when he was Assistant Manager, for all intents and purposes. However, it might be amusing for awhile if Morgan abuses the fact he's the boss to a store full of highly-trained CIA agents. We'll have to see, but my immediate reaction wasn't positive.

  • Let's chalk Lou Ferrigno up as a terrible mistake, shall we? He's a bad actor, so I'm not sure why they didn't just crowbar in a Hulk in-joke and move on quickly. "Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry" - c'mon, it's predictable, but why didn't they make him say that? Instead he's the love-struck bodyguard of a supermodel? Boring.
  • I take it Isaiah Mustafa's character was "Greta" this week? If so, cool, it won't always be hot actresses, but a few hunky men for women to ogle. But won't Jeff and Lester get suspicious of this Greta arrangement? Having them comically unaware the Buy More's a tricked out CIA lair is one thing, but different people all called Greta having weekly stints at the store? They're not that stupid, are they?
  • Great production detail with the photos of Linda Hamilton and Scott Bakula as Ellie's parents, both holding babies. A mix of photoshopped images and real family photos from both those actors, I assume. Also more noticeable that the younger Hamilton resembles Lancaster, slightly.
  • Tranquilizer gloves? Cool. That reminds me: don't you think Chuck has been surprisingly stingy with the idea of fun gadgets? That's a staple of the spy genre, but you rarely see much gadgetry on this show. Maybe because Chuck himself is effectively a gadget, so they don't want to make things too easy on missions by introducing laser pens and shoe knives?
WRITERS: Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc
DIRECTOR: Gail Mancuso
GUEST CAST: Karolina Kurkova, Isaiah Mustafa, Lou Ferrigno, Katie Cleary, Thierre Di Castro & Bronson Pinchot
TRANSMISSION: 27 September 2010 - NBC, 8/7c