Wednesday, 16 February 2011

'CHUCK' 4.15 - "Chuck Versus The Cat Squad"

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

In "Chuck Versus The Couch Lock" we were introduced to Casey's (Adam Baldwin) testosterone-fuelled team from the '80s, and in this week's "Chuck Versus The Cat Squad" we were similarly acquainted with Sarah's (Yvonne Strahovski) estrogen-fuelled squad from the '90s. It was another hour focusing on knockabout fun and spy-jinks, which continues to be a refreshing tonic after this season's faltering Mary/Volkoff arc.

The amusingly-named Clandestine Attack Team squad (CATS) -- a quartet of beautiful female agents inspired by Charlie's Angels and the VIPERS from Kill Bill -- were summoned by Chuck (Zachary Levi) on the eve of his engagement party to Sarah, after he became worried that too much of their pre-wedding preparations exclude Sarah's friends and family. The disbanded CATS duly reunited -- Carina (Mini Anden), Amy (Mircea Monroe), Zondra (Mercedes Masohn) -- and arrived dangling from a helicopter to whisk Sarah away for a long night of cross-country celebrations.

However, after the CATS nursed their hangovers, Carina narrowly survived a car bomb; a fragment of which Chuck "flashes" on and links to terrorist-for-hire Augusto Gaez (Lou Diamond Phillips), the CATS' old nemesis who runs an organization called The Gentle Hand. General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) duly reactivated the CATS and ordered them to extradite Gaez from Rio de Janeiro for trial -- despite a potent air of distrust between Sarah and Zondra, who caused the dismantling of CATS when Sarah found a transmitter in her boot and accused her of being a traitor.

"... Versus The Cat Squad" was a very light and silly episode, not quite doing justice to the excellent teaser, where Morgan (Joshua Gomez) imagined the CATS as a Charlie's Angels-esque gang of warrior women. His fantasy was proven quite accurate, but the episode itself never truly delivered on the potential of giving Sarah her very own bevy of smokin' hot super-agents. Still, the CATS' group dynamic was handled much better than the more disappointing A-Team-esque gang in the Casey-centric "... Versus The Couch Lock", perhaps helped by the fact we've spent time with CATS member Carina in previous episodes.

Second of Strahotness: dirty stop-out

I was relieved this episode didn't gloss over Carina's last appearance on the show (when she slept with Morgan), as that instead became a notable subplot with Morgan trying to fend off Carina's amorous advances because he has a steady relationship with Alex (Melvin Mekenna) now. Perhaps more could have been done to get Carina mixing with Alex, but for the most part it was just funny watching Morgan's growing discomfort about spending time with a woman he'd previously have chewed his own arm off to talk to.

Regarding the primary storyline, Lou Diamond Phillips did what's expected from Chuck's weekly bad guys, who are mostly interchangeable, but he certainly looked the part. The twist that ditzy Amy was the traitor of the CATS, not Zondra, was unfortunately very obvious if you've watched enough TV to start assuming the least likely suspect is almost guaranteed to be the culprit. A double-bluff was possible, but a show like Chuck is usually too straight-shooting to bother. Still, it was a sweet performance from Mircea Monroe, who can currently be seen in the Showtime/BBC comedy Episodes as an incredibly well-preserved actress.

The issues at the heart of this episode were also handled nicely; with Chuck realizing Sarah doesn't need the same level of family support he relies on, and Sarah realizing it's quite healthy to have someone like Chuck pushing her into facing things she'd usually ignore. Sarah's naturally secretive and reticent, but Chuck's outgoing personality and faith in people is slowly changing her. At the very least, she now has two friends who can attend her wedding, and I hope future episodes mark a return for her grifter father (played by Gary Cole) and as-yet-unseen mother.

Overall, I'd love to have marked this episode even higher, but it just didn't deliver anything fresh, despite the ingredients for something incredible. It was sporadic joy, with no weak subplots dragging things down, but somehow it didn't quite soar high. Still, brownie points for the excellent character moment with Sarah asking Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) to be her maid of honour, mainly for reminding me that those actresses have really good rapport that jumps off the screen. I hope we get more Sarah/Ellie moments before the season's done.

written by Nicholas Wootton / directed by Paul Marks / 14 February 2011 / NBC