Wednesday, 26 January 2011

'CHUCK' 4.12 - "Chuck Versus The Gobbler"

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

You just have to roll with Chuck sometimes; swallowing whatever ridiculous development it's currently running with. For the second year running, the cautious producers mapped out a 13-episode story arc this year, lest the show got cancelled, before NBC gave Chuck an extended order of 24 episodes -- meaning "Chuck Versus The Gobbler" eskewed natural development with Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) undercover at Volkhoff Industries. As this episode begins, it's assumedly been weeks since she accepted the CIA mission to "go rogue" and ingratiate herself within big bad Alexei Volkhoff's (Timothy Dalton) criminal empire. In that time, she's naturally decided to signpost her turn to the dark side by slipping into a shiny PVC catsuit and dyeing her flaxen hair deep black. In any other show, my eyes would be rolling, but because Chuck's essentially a live-action cartoon set in the world of spies, it just about manages to get away with such silliness.

This week, Sarah's aforementioned defection meant she had to prove her loyalty to Volkhoff by rescuing his henchman Yuri the Gobbler (Matthew Willig) from a maximum-security prison; Yuri being the only man able to access Volkhoff's secret "HYDRA" database. As Sarah's still in furtive contact with Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Casey (Adam Baldwin), she enlisted their help to smuggle The Gobbler out of jail -- meaning Chuck was sent to jail posing as a macho convict, while Casey and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) distracted the idiot guards. A situation that, while fun, made absolutely no sense. Why did Chuck have to beat-up The Gobbler using his "Chuck Fu", if simply telling him he's part of a rescue team would result in immediate cooperation? How did Sarah and Chuck actually get The Gobbler out of the building without arousing suspicion? Why did all the hardened prisoners back away at the sight of Sarah in her PVC catsuit, or fail to raise the alarm when they assumedly watched the unconscious Gobbler get dragged to freedom?

"... Versus The Gobbler" was an episode that occasionally approached being rather good, but instead settled into being quite average. Still, I appreciated seeing the show do something different, particularly with its sojourn to a prison (although more could have been done with that idea), and seeing Sarah in leather-clad bad-girl mode had an obvious appeal. Despite how dumb Volkhoff became to accommodate the development with Sarah, I can suspend incredulity because Chuck's always been a show that explores certain story ideas simply because they seem fun, even if they're clearly hard to swallow. And it usually gets away with it; partly because you know story arcs this stupid rarely last long and are easily forgotten once they're over.

Second of Strahotness: goin' hell for leather

The supporting plots this week were rather thin, particularly in the case of mom-to-be Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) deciding to name her unborn daughter "Grunka", which prompted horrified father Devon (Ryan McPartlin) to try and subtly change his wife's mind using the influential negativity of Lester (Vik Sahay), who has a ex-girlfriend called Grunka, Big Mike (Christopher Lawrence Marks), who knows of an Armenian serial-killer called Grunka, and Jeff (Scott Krinsky), who... forgot his lines. It was a prime example of a feeble subplot only existing to give viewers a breather from the week's A-story, but it wasn't actively irritating and ultimately delivered news that Chuck's niece will be called Clara.

The other "subplot" was more a gentle reminder Morgan's sleeping with Casey's hot daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin) and, given the fact the hirsute nerd didn't care she's flouncing around in his precious Back To The Future T-shirt, it was also a sign he's maturing like Chuck. Incidentally, while Chuck is clearly run by geeky middle-aged men who put their adolescent fantasies up on-screen, is anyone else a little disappointed the show didn't try something different with Morgan's love life? Rather than give him a brunette babe to mirror Chuck's involvement with out-of-his-league Sarah, it would have been nice if Morgan had found someone more plausible as a soul mate. No?

Overall, there was a rushed feeling to this episode which spoiled things (not helped by the fact we're seeing events from Chuck's perspective, so we know Sarah isn't a traitor), but "... Versus The Gobbler" was still a decent amount of fun. Timothy Dalton was on good form (painting dogs in his stereotypical villain's office, gouging an eyeball out of a dead man's socket), and the prison break sequence was enjoyable if improbable. It's just a shame there's rarely a sense Chuck's going to deliver a shocking surprise that will actually stick and not get undone, so it was impossible to care when Casey wound up hospitalized after Sarah pushed him out of a skyscraper window just to keep her cover.

I think the core problem with "... Versus The Gobbler" is how it fits into the show as a whole: it's rarely fun when the writers devise ways to keep Sarah and Chuck apart, Sarah as the world's most unlikely turncoat makes Volkhoff look like a gullible fool (no matter how hard they tried to sell it here), and if Sarah succeeds in destroying Volkhoff's operation anytime soon that makes Mama Bartowski (Linda Hamilton, still crap) look horribly inept because, in over two decades deep undercover, she's come nowhere close to succeeding in that same aim!

The more I think about, the less I like this episode. What say you?


  • Despite the double entendre title, there was a curious lack of oral sex in this episode. I don't expect the writers to check their British colloquialisms when deciding on episode titles, but surely that one rang someone's alarm bell?
WRITER: Craig DiGregorio
DIRECTOR: Milan Cheylov
TRANSMISSION: 24 January 2011, NBC, 8/7c