We're approaching the season finale, but Chuck's spinning its wheels a little, and after this episode it appears recent events with Director Bentley (Robin Givens) were just mini-arc that's not going to play a major part of the brewing Vivian Volkoff situation. "Chuck Versus The Muuurder" was yet another "bottle episode" (taking place entirely on the standing sets, to save cash), which seem to appear with increasing regularity these days. The basic concept of "Chuck-does-Cluedo" wasn't too bad, but I found myself largely bored until the story started to tighten towards the end and gave us a strong finish that rescued the entire episode.
At the Buy More, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) had to deal with the kidnapping of Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) by rivals Large Mart, in retaliation for Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) stealing their store's piglet mascot, Kevin Bacon. Elsewhere, Devon (Ryan McPartlin) found himself conflicted over Ellie's (Sarah Lancaster) interest in her father's super-laptop and neural research, as it's proving to be a joyous distraction for his wife, but one that might contain a dangerous surprise.
Forgiving the fact that being an Intersect is supposed to send you insane (something Chuck's protected against because he has a unique "governor" his father made him), which calls into question the concept of turning agents into Intersects, it was a fairly amusing idea to have Chuck try to find a likeminded comrade. It's just a shame the four candidates were underwritten and caricatured (another terrible English accent, an almost offensive racial scaremonger), and I'm confused about how the CIA are going to create more Intersects anyway. Isn't that technology beyond them? Bentley only managed it last week because Orion's all-purpose laptop was apparently capable of embedding an Intersect, but they're not in possession of that device now. So what was the plan here, exactly? It seems that Chuck's losing the grasp on its own lore these days, in the pursuit of plots that haven't been told yet.
|Second of Strahotness: cool in a crisis|
The bulk of "... Versus The Muuurder" was an Agatha Christie-esque murder-mystery scenario, with various candidates turning up dead, with the eye of suspicion passing over the remaining few. There were only five viable suspects from eight, but Alex Katsnelson and Kristin Newman's script did a surprisingly good job keeping you guessing about the culprit's identity. This was a necessity of any murder-mystery tale, and I was relieved to see this episode managed a few twists and surprises that worked and, more importantly, made sense. In some ways, this was probably the best plotted episode of Chuck in a long time, as the show isn't really known for its intricacy. I'm not saying "... Versus The Muuurder" was a mystery worthy of Hercule Poirot, but in the context of Chuck it was put together with some skill.
Sadly, the subplots were a yawn. The Buy More story about a rivalry over kidnapped mascots was so tonally at odds with the murderous events in Castle that it just felt annoying. The episode should have had the courage to focus on the murder storyline, rather than provide light relief with a cute pig. The guest stars could have done with the extra time to build their characters, and the sense of claustrophobia would have been helped.
Overall, this wasn't a terrible episode, just underwhelming for the most part, although the reveal of the Castle killer was handled so well it glossed over some weaknesses. It was also fun seeing Chuck step up to become a leader in his team's eyes, and eventually win the respect and approval of Bentley (who, it turns out, was a pretty redundant character this season.) But a disappointing bunch of wannabe-Chuck's and a tedious Buy More subplot drained a lot of goodwill. I just hope the remainder of this season starts getting a move on with the Vivian Volkoff storyline, now Chuck's aware she's stepped up to become his nemesis.
written by Alex Katsnelson & Kristin Newman / directed by Allan Kroeker / 21 March 2011 / NBC