Wednesday, 23 February 2011

'CHUCK' 4.16 - "Chuck Versus The Masquerade"

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Regarding the primary storyline, "Chuck Versus The Masquerade" felt rather insubstantial, but this allowed for valuable character-based subplots for Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and, to a lesser extent, Casey (Adam Baldwin), who both came to realize they're becoming gooseberries in the lives of their friends. It was a curious episode, because I was more engaged with the subplots, which rarely happens on this show, although the last 10-minutes brought everything together nicely.

This week, Volkoff agent Boris Kaminsky (David S. Lee) began a one-man search for a mysterious "Key", which he can apparently use to gain control of his jailed boss' dormant organization, by interrogating and killing Volkoff's higher-ups about its whereabouts. The last person on his hit-list is affluent Englishwoman Vivian McArthur (Lauren Cohan), who General Beckman (Bonita Fiedericy) believes is Volkoff's chosen successor, so dispatched Chuck (Zachary Levi), Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), Casey and Morgan to arrest her for questioning before Boris eliminates her. In three interwoven subplots, a stressed Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and exhausted Devon (Ryan McPartlin) struggled to get baby Clara to sleep; Morgan decided to move out of Chuck and Sarah's apartment, as he feels like a third wheel; and Casey was approached by Jane Bentley (Robin Givens), director of the National Clandestine Service (NCS), about furthering his career by joining her secret operation.

I assume from this episode that Vivian's going to become the big bad for the remaining of season, by deciding to follow in her estranged father's footsteps. The "Key" (her V-shaped locket) not only unlocked a secret doorway in her father's office, but likely unlocked a villainous streak in her. I also enjoyed the parallel of Vivian being shown a literal doorway to a new life, at the same time Casey was shown the entrance to "Zone 6" beneath Castle. This episode was all about new beginnings, really. I also enjoyed the storyline with Morgan realizing he should move out of Chuck's apartment before his best-friend marries, and that his prized Star Wars collectibles have become childish anchors in his life. The moment when Morgan convinced Chuck it's time he moved out (with the Han Solo/Chewbacca figures used to represent their domestic separation) was also nicely done, although quite why Morgan believes moving back in with his mother is a step forward is anyone's guess! Can't he move in with girlfriend Alex (Melvin Mekenna) or get his own place? He's on a store manager's salary at the Buy More, after all.

Second of Strahotness: love angel

It was also a joy to see more Morgan/Sarah interaction in this episode, which is just an intrinsically funny pairing. In many ways their interaction reminds me of season 1, when Chuck was more noticeably "a geek" and self-conscious around sizzling Sarah. Morgan and Sarah have nothing in common beyond Chuck, and it was a delight to see Sarah try and make a connection with Morgan through his Star Wars toys, which slipped into babying him. They should get more scenes together, because the awkwardness between them is priceless, and Strahovski is particularly funny in this context.

The teaser set at Valentine's Day was also great fun, with lovebirds Chuck and Sarah accidentally discovering Morgan and Alex blindfolded, cross-legged, and engaged in tantric sex on the floor, moments before Casey burst in to catch his daughter and her boyfriend with chocolate smeared over their faces. It was unconnected to anything else happening in the episode, marking it out as filler, but it was still a great moment that focused on those five characters and their everyday lives together. In fact, it would be interesting to see Chuck do a whole episode without any spy-jinks, with everyone just kicking around at home over a lazy weekend.

Overall, "...Versus The Masquerade" had a smattering of great moments, tangled up in a perfunctory storyline about protecting Vivian from a hitman. Given how Chuck always focuses on families, I like the idea of playing up the father/daughter angle of Volkoff's criminal empire, having just completed a mother/son storyline with Chuck and Mary, and Victoria's turn to the dark side was also nudged along nicely (her privileged life is a repetitive bore so she craves excitement, she exhibited a dark side by killing Boris, and she was encouraged by Chuck that a person can change overnight). Unintentionally, Chuck's created his next nemesis...


  • Boris assassinating someone in a car (a splat of blood hitting the windscreen), Vivian pumping Boris full of lead with a shotgun. Does anyone else think Chuck was uncharacteristically graphic with the violence this week? Sure, it's no Rambo, but it was noticeably tougher this week.
  • How many times has Casey been undercover as a bartender now? If the spy game ever comes to an end, at least he has a fallback skill serving drinks. Likewise, we got more of Chuck and Sarah undercover at a swanky party -- the show's default situation for every mission.
  • Will we ever see Morgan's mother again, if he's moving in with her? I'd love to see the interaction between Morgan, his mother, and Big Mike at the Grimes residence.
  • Could Vivian actually be Chuck's half-sister? If her father's Volkoff, is her mother Mary?
  • What could Casey's new mission be, working for the NCS in what's essentially the next-door office at Castle? It may be a little weird if Casey's still employed at the Buy More/Castle, but doing his own thing every week. I'm interested to see how the writers handle this, but glad it means Baldwin's finally going to get something to do this season.
  • There was an enjoyable Human Target-esque finale, with Vivian and Chuck fleeing bad guys on a horse. Nice to see the show being a little more imaginative with its action sequences, as I don't remember there ever being a horse chase before
written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc / directed by Patrick Norris / 21 February 2011 / NBC