Wednesday, 20 October 2010

'CHUCK' 4.5 – "Chuck Versus The Couch Lock"

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

It wasted the idea of Casey (Adam Baldwin) being the Hannibal Smith of his very own A-Team back in the '90s, and there were the habitual missteps along the way, but "Chuck Versus The Couch Lock" mostly succeeded in putting together an enjoyable showcase for both Casey and Morgan (Joshua Gomez). I love it when a plan comes together...

Opening with a flashback to the Zargos Mountains of Iran, circa 1999, Casey's special ops team of Packard (Eric Roberts), T.I (Davd Bautista) and MacKintosh (Joel David Moore) decide to steal a vault of terrorist gold, only for Casey to thwart their dastardly plan, resecure the bullion, and have his men imprisoned. In the present, Chuck (Zachary Levi) makes a connection between Volkov Industries (who are linked to his missing mother) and Casey's old team, so they hatch a plan to draw the fugitives into the open by faking Casey's funeral -- a plan, inspired by the movie Charade, that involves paralyzing Casey for his open casket.

Meanwhile, Morgan's relationship with Casey's daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin) grew stronger, although he's scared to tell her father they're dating because of what Casey's reaction might be. However, when the fake funeral operation goes wrong and Casey's rigid body is stolen by his old team (who want his fingerprints to reopen the Iranian vault), the ensuing rescue gives Morgan an opportunity to speak to Casey man-to-man...

I'm sure many people sighed in relief that "... Versus The Couch Lock" didn't have a story driven by Chuck and Sarah's misgivings about their relationship, and those characters were pushed into the background for a surprising amount of time. This was more of a Casey/Morgan story, and I was glad the show hasn't forgotten how well that pairing worked in the latter-third of season 3. The climactic scenes when Morgan joined Casey to rescue Chuck and Sarah, who were being used as bait by Packard in Iran, was particularly good fun, and resulted in Morgan saving the day with a moment of bravery that earned him enough respect for Casey to allow him to date his daughter... with a chilling caveat ("if you break her heart, I'll break your everything...")

The rest of the episode walked a curious line, often resembling a version of Weekend At Bernie's -- with Casey as the "corpse" being passed around to various characters. In one amusing sequence, having implausibly escaped Packard's men by simply willing his paralyzed body to move, Casey even found himself evacuated from a downtown danger zone by Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay), who mistook his S.O.S call to the Buy More as an inebriated friend requesting help getting home after an all-nighter. Arguably, the best use of those two cretins for ages, so I hope the writers realize it's funny to see them unwittingly involved in the main storyline.

Second of Strahotness: dress to impress

I think my biggest complaint about "... Versus The Couch Lock" was how the comical idea of Casey once leading a Clinton-era version of The A-Team, who turned against him, didn't bring the expected emotions or big laughs. Eric Roberts should have been a brilliant guest star, as the antithesis of Casey's patriot character, but the writing just didn't know what to do with him, so the "C-Team" quickly became a dull trio to be defeated. In a year that saw the return of The A-Team and '80s throwback The Expendables make dents at the box-office, this episode was perfectly placed to have fun with the nostalgia for the same action subgenre, but it didn't find a worthwhile angle.

Overall, "Chuck Versus The Couch Lock" was an episode rescued by good moments and a pleasing return to values Chuck had before things started to drag with relationship angst this season, although I'm still concerned the arc of Chuck trying to find his mother isn't something I care about right now. It provides a thread through most episodes, which is good to see, but I just can't get excited about the whole idea. This episode was a missed opportunity in some ways, but a handful of funny scenes, progress with Morgan/Casey/Alex, and a welcome breather from the Chuck/Sarah dynamic, all helped turn the hour around. I enjoyed it, but it was a little underplayed.

  • In the realm of bad titles on this show, "Chuck Versus The Couch Lock" has to be up there as one of the worst.
  • I know this is just a lighthearted spy show, but I do have to question a few of the sillier moments that stood out to me: (1) Why bother paralyzing Casey, if the only test to prove his death was inflicting pain he could have withstood regardless of the drugs? (2) Why can't Casey's team get access to that vault by blowing it up? And why has it been left sealed with Casey's handprint the only way to access it for 11 years? I'm sure you can come up with excuses to explain all that, but during the show it felt odd to me.
  • The song "Dead Man's Party", played throughout this episode, is by Oingo Boingo, best-known as the band movie composer Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, etc) used to be part of.
  • Casey's neighbour is called "Bauer", no doubt a reference to 24's Jack Bauer.
WRITERS: Henry Alonso Myers
DIRECTOR: Michael Schultz
GUEST CAST: Eric Roberts, Mekenna Melvin, Joel Moore, Omid Zader & Dave Batistka
TRANSMISSION: 18 October 2010 – NBC, 8/7c