Saturday, 5 November 2011

CHUCK, 5.2 – "Chuck Versus The Bearded Bandit"

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A definite improvement on the patchy premiere. I liked the direction this episode took the show in, while involving a Buy More subplot that wasn't embarrassing or hollow, and telling a story that felt quite robust for Chuck. Knowing they only have a half-season to tell their story means the writers are getting down to business already, and "Chuck Versus The Bearded Bandit" opened up some interesting avenues for the show to explore.

The Buy More and Carmichael Industries are in a financial rut and desperately need new clients and customers. Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) wanted to re-air a dated commercial he made in the late-'70s, but realized that Devon (Ryan McPartlin) is the "fresh face" the store needs to promote itself to the masses. It was good to have a Buy More story that wasn't reliant on the antics of the moronic Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) for once, but also because the commercial wasn't a disaster. For once, things went rather smoothly, and it was appealing to see those characters work together to actually succeed at something. And as I said last week, the way the Buy More's now has a symbiotic relationship to the goings-on at Castle is really good.

"... The Bearded Bandit" also introduced a brand new recurring character in Gertrude Verbanski (The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss), who owns a rival spy outfit to Carmichael Industries and, frankly, appears to be doing a much better job. The fact she isn't a villain also felt refreshing—although it's possible she'll be exposed as one further down the line, but I sure hope not. Having her as a love-interest for Casey (Adam Baldwin) because they have a sexual past looks to be giving Casey a long-overdue romantic subplot, and I enjoyed how Verbanski ultimately saved the day when Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) called her for backup when rescuing Chuck and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) from a building. Moss herself was excellent in the role; playing it straight and steely instead of mugging to camera. Naturally her Matrix background helped make her look and feel convincing as a leather-clad superspy, too. I'm excited to see her return, especially as it should mean better material for Casey (Adam Baldwin) at last.

Second of Strahotness: thigh climber

The emotional anchor of the story was again the role-reversal of Chuck and Morgan, with the latter increasingly annoyed he's being sidelined despite being the almighty Intersect. And that's an understandable complaint, because Morgan kept proving himself invaluable throughout this whole episode. As his "handler", Chuck started to doubt his own position on the team, once Morgan planted the idea in his head that being Casey and Sarah want him to "babysit" Morgan so they'll both be out of harm's way. This adjustment for both characters is being handled well, I feel. The fact Morgan's now exhibiting side-effects of having the Intersect in his brain (forgetting who Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker are), is also a plausible development. Chuck was always "special" for being able to handle the Intersect (well, with the aide of that Governor wrist-device the show introduced and forgot about), so it makes sense Morgan will be having mental problems and will assumedly start going crazy soon.

It's all leading to Morgan having the Intersect extracted (by passing it onto Chuck via those Intersect-glasses?), but hopefully not before they've fully explored the idea of Morgan becoming a superspy. This episode's reveal that he's decided to join Verbanski Corp was unexpected, too—and it's not like he's got into bed with the enemy, he's just chasing a piece of the action. It should be interesting to see how Chuck, Casey and Sarah handle news that Morgan's defected to the competition, and how they themselves will cope without an Intersect.

The main storyline got a little lost towards the end, but for the most part it was good fun: a mission to rescue the brother of shady diamond dealer Karl Sneijfer (Lost's Jeff Fahey), with the twist being that his sibling was actually part of a witness protection program to keep him away from Karl. In some ways it made Carmichael Industries look incompetent for being played so easily, but the twist worked well and I enjoyed an inventive action sequence with Sarah climbing a rock face as Casey shot metal pegs into the stone for her to use as handholds.

A decent step forward for the show, but Chuck's so far past its halcyon days that I'm only really watching out of loyalty now.


  • It was to be expected, but Chuck's ratings plummeted 20% from its series low last week. 3.1 million and a 0.8 demo rating. Ouch. Whatever small hope there was for NBC to renew the show for a sixth season just went up in smoke. But is there anyone who really wants another year?
  • Ryan McPartlin got one of the show's ridiculous "wind machine" entrances to the Buy More, which was amusing to see.
written by Lauren LeFranc & Rafe Judkins / directed by Patrick Norris / 4 November 2011 / NBC