Wednesday, 13 October 2010

'CHUCK' 4.4 - "Chuck Versus The Coup d'Etat"

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Chuck appears to be trading on past glories recently, as this episode featured the return of Armand Assante (as Generalissimo Goya) following last week's reprise of Steve Austin and Nicole Richie's villains. In some ways it's great to see the show getting mileage from its extensive rogue's gallery, but it inevitably means the episode doesn't feel as fresh. Still, there's more to discover about Goya than most of Chuck's supporting characters, so "Chuck Versus The Coup d'Etat" was a mostly worthwhile return to the fictional banana republic of Costa Gravas.

It was also an episode with a stronger, more consistent theme than usual: communication breakdown. Most of the characters were either having problems talking about their feelings, or actually demonstrating the opposite in the case of golden couple Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Devon (Ryan McPartlin) -- who have a rock solid relationship, although Ellie's beginning to crack because Devon's overexcited by the prospect of her giving birth. She needs a vacation, and a luxury trip falls into their laps when Generalissimo Goya (Assante) returned to belatedly reward Devon's heroics during "Chuck Versus The Angel De La Muerte" by offering them both a VIP trip to his South American home.

Concurrently, Chuck (Zachary Levi) laughed off his unintentional "proposal of marriage" to Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) in last week's climax, but is now wondering what her answer would have been if he'd genuinely popped the question. He takes note of a self-help tome the Buy More are holding a book signing for (Dr Fred's 100 Conversations Before "I Do"), but talking to Sarah about his feelings is easier said than done. Luckily, they were both whisked to Costa Gravas with Devon and Ellie as a welcome distraction, but found themselves in the middle of a coup d'├ętat organized by Goya's angry wife Hortencia (Tia Texada), with Chuck also realizing that Goya's palace contains a Soviet-made nuclear weapons system...

Back in Burbank, Casey (Adam Baldwin) was confined to a wheelchair after being shot in the foot last week, so found himself with Morgan (Joshua Gomez) as a nursemaid. Adding to Casey's torment, it turns out Morgan has been in communication with his daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin), and indeed has romantic feelings he's unsure are mutual, rendering him tongue-tied around her.

It was a cleverly handled episode in terms of the communication theme, with Chuck/Sarah and Morgan/Alex unable to express their feelings for each other, and that likewise being the crux of the problem between Goya and Hortencia, whose marriage had soured and led to this unfortunate revolution. I'm always impressed when episodes manage to have a subtextual layer to them that feeds through every storyline in play, and ".... Versus The Coup d'Etat" was certainly a strong example of that from writer Kristin Newman.

Second of Strahotness: bikini bod-acious
The downside is that it's becoming a drag that every episode of this season has involved Chuck and Sarah fretting about their relationship and future together, as latter-season 3 was more enjoyable with them as a loving couple who just happen to be spies. Fortunately, there are signs that this insecurity between them is coming to an end, with a final scene where Sarah admitted she'd have said yes to Chuck's proposal of marriage while he slept... only, Chuck was actually awake and now knows the depth of her feelings for him. He could ask for her hand in marriage and practically be guaranteed a yes! Is it feasible we'll get a Chuck/Sarah marriage by the end of this season, or will the show manage to earn itself a fifth season and force the writers to delay that idea? If NBC does cancel Chuck this year, the final batch of episodes should certainly be awash with emotion if it involves the return of the Bartowski's mother, Ellie giving birth and Chuck marrying Sarah. They might even squeeze in Alex catching Sarah's bouquet and flashing a look to Morgan.

There also seems to be an attempt to provide a throughline with each week's adventure this season, as a few of this year's stories have been connected to the search for Chuck's mother (codename "Frost"), and that's a good idea. I just wish I was as interested in Chuck and Ellie being reunited with their mother, but for some reason I'm not. Maybe it's because I just don't see Linda Hamilton's character as someone the Bartowski siblings should want to find. She hasn't had much screentime, admittedly, but she's come across as very cold and ruthless in the few scenes she had in the premiere. I think we need to feel sympathy for their mother, and get some insight into why she abandoned her family now. And yes, it's a pain that Chuck has once again undone all of the apparent changes that occurred in the previous season's finale now -- what happened to the secret spy compound Chuck discovered? Is there a point to that place? Ellie is now okay with Chuck being a spy? And the Buy More is back to normal.

Overall, "Chuck Versus The Coup d'Etat" was a bread-and-butter episode, but I responded to its theme and thought it was cleverly spread throughout the hour. I'm not a fan of Assante's character, mainly because the actor could be a much more effective villain but instead has been given a jokey caricature to play, but the storyline for him was a lot better here than in his season 3 debut.

Asides
  • Goya's Subway mention amused me, knowing that company's affiliation with Chuck and help in keeping it on-air with sponsorship.
  • Great to see Morgan and Alex as a likely romance on the show, with the likelihood of Casey doing a Robert-DeNiro-in-Meet-The-Parents routine around them. I'm still a little worried Morgan's been palmed off to the Buy More subplots now, when his intergration with the spy stuff worked so well last season. Hopefully they'll shake things up with Morgan, so he's not always stuck in one role.
  • Would an electrical store really hold a book signing for a 100 Conversations Before "I Do"?
  • Less of a Devon/Ellie focused episode than it threatened to be, but I'm okay with that. Maybe I'm alone in this, but those characters have never really appealed to me, and they feel even more redundant now that Chuck's secret is out.
WRITER: Kristin Newman
DIRECTOR: Robert Duncan McNeill
GUEST CAST: Armand Assante, Alex Fernandez, Mekenna Melvin, Todd Sherry & Tia Texada,
TRANSMISSION: 11 October 2010 – NBC, 8/7c