Sunday, 22 January 2012

CHUCK, 5.10 & 5.11 – "Chuck Versus Bo" & "Chuck Versus the Bullet Train"

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Owing to personal events last week, these reviews will be capsule-sized...

"Chuck Versus Bo" started with Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) deciding to bring her spy career to an end, so she can live happily ever after with husband Chuck (Zachary Levi) and repurpose Carmichael Industries to fight cyber-terrorism, but naturally events went haywire from thereon in. In some ways you could feel this episode straining to reintroduce the Intersect back into the show, together with a new villain in Nicholas Quinn (Angus Macfadyen), the original CIA agent who was destined to become the government's super-spy, but it just about got away with it.

It was actually a fun idea to have Morgan (Joshua Gomez) investigate his own missing memories, realising that he stole and stashed some Intersect glasses while enjoying the high life at a ski resort as the egotistical Intersect version of himself. In some ways this was Chuck's version of The Hangover, with the team trying to piece together what happened with Morgan a few months ago, and there was a fun diversion in the shape of actress Bo Derek (playing herself, which is something that rarely happens with Chuck guest-stars).

The subplot with Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) was also quite funny, as the pair have come close to exposing their friends as spies but keep getting drugged and find themselves waking up halfway to Vegas in a flash car. At first it was very irritating to think the writers weren't going to have those characters realize the truth, but then the episode did a good job making it clear they weren't so easily put off the scent—resulting in a Groundhog Day-style adventure as their efforts kept getting reset to square one thanks to Casey's (Adam Baldwin) Men In Black-style amnesia gas. Unfortunately, this story eventually settled on having Jeff and Lester believing that Chuck and his friends aren't spies after all, which really bothered me until the events of the next episode.

If I'm honest, "... Versus Bo" started to drag after awhile, and I didn't find it a very funny episode (many jokes were ludicrously signposted), but it was entertaining for the most part and had some enjoyable moments. Plus it ended on a great cliffhanger, of sorts, with Chuck kidnapped by Nicholas, forcing Sarah to don the retrieved Intersect-glasses and effectively embrace the spy life she'd almost given up after "one last mission". Incidentally, given the fact Sarah is already physically adept as a character, I thought the stunt coordinators did an incredible job making us realise that "Intersect-Sarah" is practically a martial arts superhero. It certainly won't be easy stopping her from getting her husband back in one piece...

written by Kristin Newman / directed by Jeremiah Chechik / 13 January 2012 / NBC

Indeed, "Chuck Versus The Bullet Train" took less than 10 minutes until Sarah had rescued Chuck from the titular mode of Japanese transport, before Quinn could force him to work on creating another stable version of the Intersect. (I guess he doesn't have a lab in the US?) This was another variation on things we've seen Chuck do before, with most of the adventure taking place in the one location, but it was a really good example of Under Siege 2 in the Chuck universe. They even included unique opening titles, setting the episode up as a cheesy B-movie thriller aboard a high-speed train, and on that level this episode really worked.

Even better, the ongoing subplot with Jeff and Lester finally resolved after so much fooling around, with Casey forced to reveal their secrets when the two Buy More employees became the only hope of getting his daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin) back safely from two hired goons. I'm relieved the writers have decided to go down this route, if only because it was getting really tiresome having them discover Chuck's secret and almost instantly have their memories erased multiple times.

As an episode showcasing Sarah as the Intersect, it was also a lot of fun seeing her operating on that level, with more very impressive fight sequences, and the inbuilt jeopardy that the Intersect essentially destroys most peoples minds (some people quicker than others, evidently!) gave the episode some welcome stakes. However, one problem with Chuck has always been its reluctance to go through with anything irreversible tragic, so it was hard to really feel that anyone was in danger here—be it Chuck, Sarah, Casey (when he was blackmailed into helping Quinn), or Alex.

As if to combat that fact, I liked how this episode instead ended with Sarah literally splitting from Chuck (in separate parts of the bullet train) and having her memories erased by Quinn, who's now convinced her she's an agent tasked with killing the husband she doesn't remember. While it's still obvious Sarah will get her memories back at some point, it should make for an interesting wrinkle for the young couple... in a season that's been all about them chasing the perfect ending that just doesn't want to come true. Certainly not without a fight, anyway.

written by Nicholas Wootton / directed by Buzz Feitshans IV / 20 January 2012 / NBC