Chuck – “Chuck Versus The Undercover Lover”

“Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover”

January 21st, 2007

While NBC is planning to air the final two pre-strike episodes of Chuck as part of an Apprentice sandwich on Thursday, January 22nd, CityTV chose to air the episodes in Canada on the show’s regular night, Monday. The result is that viewers had a chance to gorge on the last bits of spy dramedy goodness a little earlier here in the Great White North, and that I’ve had a chance to see the final two episodes.

And, to reference one of the characters seen quite frequently in the two episodes, they’re pretty awesome. Taken as a pair, they represent both the care-free and enjoyable elements along with the dramatic core of the series. I’m going to separate them, but this does not mean they do not work in tandem. Rather, I want to stretch out the blog posts. So, for all of the details on “Chuck Versus the Marlin,” tune in tomorrow morning.

For now, let’s talk about how the show was smart enough to return to the well of Adam Baldwin’s Casey.

Opening in war-torn Chechnya in 2004, we find John Casey in love with a war photographer while himself undercover as some sort of energy consultant. The long and short of it: he is in love, and she (presumably) gets herself blown up. While it isn’t rocket science for a viewer to figure out that she might well be alive, it is intriguing that she returns in the present: working on a computer being serviced for a local hotel, Chuck spots the names of a huge list of Russian mobsters…and Ilsa, who refers to Casey as “Sugar Bear.”

Tasked with finding out why Russian mobsters are on American soil, Chuck and Sarah make some inroads while Casey runs into Ilsa…who is marrying the head Russian mobster who brought everyone together for his wedding. Why is he having it in Los Angeles, where he is bound to pop up on all sorts of hit lists? This question is never answered, but I don’t care – through the usual antics, Chuck ends up under the bed while Casey and Ilsa reconnect, but he holds the knowledge that she is actually a secret agent herself.

It is at this point that the episode kicked into overdrive, mainly due to Casey getting drunk and listening to Neil Diamond. As he and Chuck battle it out, however, they discover that a gift she gave to Casey has a bug in it: her mobster fiance knows she is a spy, and plans to kill her on their honeymoon. Casey hilariously and drunkenly tries to rescue her, but only gets himself and Chuck tied to a chair which flies out the window and into the pool (A great visual effect, I might add). After some shenanigans, Ilsa joins our heroes in order to save the day and she heads off into the sunset Casablanca-style.

I don’t usually offer summary, but this was a really quite perfect Chuck plot – it allowed Zachary Levi to do physical comedy and witty banter, it sent Chuck and Sarah’s drama to the background, and it had copious amounts of Adam Baldwin being hilarious and awesome. The episode even integrated a solid Ellie/Awesome plot into the proceedings, as Morgan helped them decide how to reward their anniversary. It was a bit of a standard sitcom plot, choosing between a washer/dryer and a television, but it foregrounded their relationship (Which will become important in the finale).

Most importantly, however, it was just plain funny: whether it was Casey’s “I need pants!” declaration as he stumbled to save his love, or the hilarious Casablanca sendoff (You’ll have to watch for that one), there was a pace here that was a show firing on all cylinders. This is what those stand-alone episodes of Alias should have been like, something which could stand on its own as entertaining and enjoyable thanks to the characters and the elaborate stunt scenes. Adam Baldwin has done a great job making Casey a hilariously deadpan character, and here the writers mined this to great effect. Here’s hoping we get more of these gems when the show eventually returns.

Cultural Observations

  • There’s a lot of awesome in these two episodes, but there’s also a lot of Ryan McPartlin’s “Awesome.” It’s a great character, and the writers and McPartlin really found that great medium between intelligent and aloof that makes it fun to watch.
  • Morgan has also been toned down considerably: while he’s a little creepy with Drunk Ellie here, he ultimately means well and I think this is a solid use of his character. He remains one of the sticking points as a whole, but he is certainly emerging as part of the ensemble.
  • One of the things that is disappointing about both episodes is that they really don’t pick up on the revelation at the end of the last episode where it was revealed a new intersect is being built and Chuck will be eliminated (By Casey, perhaps) should it be finished. It was a ticking time bomb, but it is clear that there is yet time left.

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