Wednesday, 6 October 2010

'CHUCK' 4.3 - "Chuck Versus The Cubic Z"

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

[SPOILERS] It's not atypical for Chuck episodes to be a mixed bag, and that's certain what "Chuck Versus The Cubic Z" was, although it also made the grievous mistake of wasting three celebrity guest stars. As a "bottle episode" taking place exclusively within the confines of the Buy More to save the production money, it was enjoyable enough as a budget-saver, but this wasn't a great example of what can be done when such restrictions are imposed.

Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) are both fretting about the direction their relationship is taking, with incorrigible spy Sarah uncertain she'll adjust if Chuck ever pushes for marriage and kids. Both are forced to confront their feelings when two former enemies of theirs arrive in Castle mid-transport to prison: Sarah's antithetical childhood rival Heather Chandler (Nicole Richie), there to stir up trouble between them both; and Hugo Panzer (Steve Austin), the heavy Chuck defeated on a flight to Paris last year.

Simultaneously, the Buy More are holding a launch for popular video-game "Spy Attack", Morgan's (Joshua Gomez) first big challenge as manager, but there's a snag because the Buy More's only been given a handful of games to sell, and the crowd of gamers are reaching feverish excitement that could turn ugly if the truth gets out. Will returning ex-manager Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) help his stepson-to-be with this dilemma, or will Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) placate the multitude with retail poetry?

It was fun to see some returning villains in Heather and Panzer, as both made good impressions when they first appeared on the show. Unfortunately, neither really justified the return. Richie was surprisingly decent in "Chuck Versus The Cougars", and it's still true that she's better than her socialite status in Hollywood would have you believe, but "... Versus The Cubic Z" didn’t offer much growth for her character, and Richie's relative inexperience meant she tended to deliver all her lines in the same tone. It was a good idea to have Heather unsettle Chuck by making him doubt Sarah's commitment, but it soon became rather tedious to watch her character repeat that purpose. I'm not sure I buy the idea that Heather's an "evil version" of Sarah who knows her better than she knows herself, either. And considering the Richie/Strahovski shower fight sequence in "Cougars" was one of the show's more memorable tussles, it was a shame this episode didn't continue that tradition with another catfight. Maybe they knew it would never compete with last week's catwalk fight?

Second of Strahotness: float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
The Buy More story was half-decent, but failed in the climax for me. It was a surprise to see Big Mike accept Morgan as the new manager, happy to become an underling, even if that did feel slightly out of character for him. I've mentioned before that Chuck's always been about family, and this season has been particularly focused on that point, and "Cubic Z" definitely pushed that theme again with Big Mike asking for Morgan's permission to marry his mother. At this stage, I wouldn't be surprised if Jeff and Lester were revealed to be brothers from another mother. But it works, just about, although I'd be a lot happier if we'd seen Morgan's mother on the show more than a few times. That whole relationship is always being mentioned, but has never really been explored on the show to any extent. Maybe that will change this season.

The idea of the Buy More hosting a video-game launch was perfectly logical and a surprise they've never done it before, but the good idea didn't lead anywhere very funny or surprising. It's ridiculous the store would only have been issues a few games, and the resulting riot when customers found out offered nothing new. There's a riot ever other week in the Buy More, it feels like – although it was amusing to see Big Mike defeat Hugo Panzer to save the day. As an ancillary annoyance, the idea of having a character called Greta working at the Buy More, played by a different person ever week, is a great one... but they need to find something for these Greta's to do. This week it was the turn of model and wrestling star Stacy Keibler, who was given a few brief scenes, flashed some of her never-ending legs in a pencil skirt, and then got punched unconscious by Steve Austin (a moment I'm sure WWE fans appreciated more than most). Was it worth even casting her? It just feels like they're wasting good guest stars with such a meager role as pure eye candy -- and it can't be helping the budget, can it?

Overall, "Chuck Versus The Cubic Z" was a well-meaning flop, partly because it didn't offer anything of substance, despite a desultory attempt to prod the search for Chuck's mother along via Heather's intel. The smattering of action scenes were okay but didn't spark; the climactic sequence with Chuck accidentally "proposing" to Sarah with an engagement ring that fell through an air duct was okay in principle, if spoiled because it was sorely predictable, although the reaction of Levi and Strahovski was priceless.

  • Sarah was badgering Casey (Adam Baldwin) about calling his daughter Alex, but didn't he do just that in the premiere? Is she just pestering him to call again?
  • No Jeffster performance to quell the angry mob? 
WRITER: Nicholas Wootton
DIRECTOR: Norman Buckley
GUEST CAST: Nicole Richie, Steve Austin & Stacy Keibler
TRANSMISSION: 4 October 2010 - NBC, 8/7c