Sunday, 11 December 2011

CHUCK, 5.5 – "Chuck Versus the Hack Off"

Sunday, 11 December 2011

After a short break, Chuck's final season continues with another really strong episode. A few more like this and season 5 could possibly hold its head high against the show's late-season 2 peak, but we'll have to see if the writers can keep the momentum going. "Chuck Versus The Hack Off" was a great deal of fun, with Casey (Adam Baldwin) now in prison and the CIA agent who him there, Decker (Robert Burgi), asking for Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Sarah's (Yvonne Strahovski) to retrieve a computer supervirus in exchange for their friend's freedom. And after agreeing to the terms of Decker's demands, Carmichael Industries arch-rival Gertrude (Carrie-Anne Moss) came aboard to help, as she's fallen in love with the crotchety spy.

Adding Gertrude to the mix was a masterstroke, because it gave the mission some antagonism that's been missing from the show for awhile. As the characters have evolved and matured over the years, things have perhaps become a little too cosy, so Gertrude's cynicism and frosty nature gave the whole episode some spice. Plus the subplots worked really nicely this week, with Casey discovering he's locked up alongside Lester (Vik Sahay), but surprised that the power-balance isn't in his favour because Lester has the prison's tough guys eating out of his hands because he can provide them with free cable TV and internet. The Buy More storyline wasn't especially strong, but I'm so pleased they haven't found a way to turn Jeff (Scott Krinsky) back into a dope, and it was a special treat to have a cameo appearance from Community's Danny Pudi as Lester's replacement "Hin-Jew"—plus an extra surprise that fans of Community will have been tickled by. It's so rare that a TV show managed to keep secrets like this nowadays, which is a shame.

"... Versus The Hack Off" also reminded me of the better episodes of Chuck from its heyday because of how quickly and smartly it moved. You can never take its plots all that seriously, of course, but they just need to feel semi-plausible and contain some degree of logic to work. And the show is always at its best when it has some inventive and amusing locations and mini-missions for the gang to get involved with—so the brief visit to a nudist camp to find the supervirus' creator, who's become a hippie, was a pleasant diversion. (The use of censor-blurred naked bodies was also very funny, and mined for laughs like Austin Powers' own nude scenes.)

Second of Strahotness: baring the flesh
However, I wasn't very convinced that Chuck is suddenly one of the world's most gifted computer hackers, but it was nevertheless rather amusing to see the story blend into a Hackers-esque storyline where Chuck (aka The Piranha) had to prove himself to an underground hacking cell called "The Collective". But is hacking into the Buy More to give everyone free flat-screen TVs more impressive than transferring $0.01c from the federal reserve?

Chuck often has great endings that help smooth over a rough episode, but they worked even better when capping a great episode. The climax here was unexpected in several ways, although I guess we should have guessed that Decker's mission was a setup to turn Chuck into Public Enemy Number 1 for "dealing" in a computer virus. But Gertrude's cold-blooded handling of Decker, placing a bomb on his person and detonating it as she made her escape with Chuck and Sarah was really quite gutsy for a show like this. It also confirmed in my mind how brilliant the addition of Gertrude has been for the show: a love-interest for Casey that works because of good chemistry with the actors, a character who isn't part-joke, and someone who causes a nice tension within the group.

So now we're left with Casey about to be sprung from jail by Morgan (Joshua Gomez), Chuck and Sarah framed by the CIA and on the run as fugitives, and an unexpected gap in the role of season villain that needs to be filled. As someone who grew sorely disappointed with Chuck during season 4, I'm really hoping the show can build on these past few episodes and go out on a high.


  • We're about halfway through this final season, but Chuck actually wrapped production this week. So that's it, the show is over from the perspective of its cast and crew. We can now hope Levi, Baldwin and Strahovski start getting lots of calls from TV/movie people hoping to cast them in projects they haven't had time for with Chuck on-air.
  • This episode was directed by star Zachary Levi, which marks his third time behind the camera after "Chuck Versus The Leftovers" and "Chuck Versus The Beard".
  • The prison tough guy making trouble for Casey was played by Derek Mears, who plays legendary serial-killer Jason Vorhees in the Friday The 13th reboot.
written by Craig DiGregorio / directed by Zachary Levi / 9 December 2011 / NBC