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October 8, 2015

Chuck: Chuck Versus the Undercover Lover

by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 25th 2008 1:45PM
"If you want to go through life all emotionally constipated and alone, then suit yourself. I'll let you get back to protecting the greater good, you freaking robot." (Chuck to Casey)

Last night's first of two new Chucks was about learning that the supporting characters are human, too. Casey than just a cold-as-ice NSA Agent who would probably kill everyone in the room if he was ever the subject of a roast and has mastered the art of communicating with eye winces, grunts and scowls. Ellie and Devon/Captain Awesome actually have a relationship issue, which ... Morgan? ... diagnoses?! And we get nothing on the tired "is it or isn't it?," "does she or doesn't she?" non-romance between Chuck and Sarah (thank god!). In fact, they barely had any screen time together and I think it was, well, awesome!

Don't get me wrong, this is James Bond-lite, so a pretty girl like Sarah definitely gets her screen-time, and a gratuitous bra scene as she changed into her undercover outfit. Completely unnecessary and completely in line with the tongue-in-cheek tone of the show in general. And, of course, Yvonne Strahovski looks great in (and almost out) of anything, so it works on every level.

I liked that the creators shook things up this episode, with Sarah taking on the "straight man" role while it was Chuck and Casey going off-plan and consequently getting themselves in trouble. For a show like this to prove that it can sustain itself beyond one season, it needs to be more than Moonlighting with spies. Let's face it, the Sara/Chuck thing was already getting old. So to back-burner it completely like they did in this episode and start bringing more depth to the rest of the cast shows that the creators of Chuck are in it for the long run and I couldn't be happier because, as much as I like the show so far I was beginning to worry it's formula was getting stale.

I always knew there was more to Casey than the brooding guy in the background who grunts and kicks ass (never mind taking names), but I didn't know if we'd ever get to see it. So it was refreshing when this episode opened with a flashback to Chechnya 2002 where we see a Casey in love moments before an explosion kills his girl. And then, in the present, when Chuck flashes on a name and sees that same girl is booked at a hotel nearby, with a bunch of other Russians, and sees that she and Casey had been an item I knew it was on. Finally, a Casey-centric episode.

The gang gets called in to find out why all those Russian baddies are in town and all booked at the same hotel. It turns out they're here to celebrate the wedding nuptials of Russian criminal "kingpin" Victor Federov. But the bride to be turns out to be none other than Casey's long lost, literally, lover Ilsa. But how can she be the same woman he loved if she can marry a Russian mob boss? Well, as it turns out, just as she didn't know that Casey was really a spy for the NSA, he didn't know that she was a spy for the French government who'd been working the Federov case for years? Honestly, it's not about the plot but about the chance to give Casey some depth as a character.

The same goes for the B-story, in which Ellie and Devon/Captain Awesome get into a fight over what to buy for their anniversary gift; Ellie wants a TV while Devon wants a washer and dryer. This story serves to add depth to both Devon as a principal character and his relationship with Ellie. Of course, ultimately Devon does some growing and their relationship is strengthened thanks to ... again, Morgan?! It's nice to see these characters that have been fairly two-dimensional up to now getting some meat on their stories.

No contest, the Oh Snap Award for this episode goes to the hotel room fight scene with Casey and Chuck tied back-to-back facing two of Federov's big Russian brawlers. I can't even imagine what a pain it was to choreograph that, but when Casey swung Chuck around, thus using Chuck's flinging legs to knock down the bad guys, it's Bond-age at its best (I probably shouldn't use Bond-age like that. Bond-ism?). And the finale through the window into the pool below, where they broke up the wedding of Ilsa and Federov was great.

Other notable shenanigans:

  • Casey slamming Chuck up against the wall, and about three inches off the ground for talking about Ilsa.
  • Captain Awesome running away from the Buy More gang when he realized their all male poker game was a strip poker game.
  • Morgan acting as a couples therapist for Ellie and Captain Awesome.
  • Casey being a romantic, saying goodbye to his love: "Just so you know, I'm happy you're not dead."
  • Sarah's discomfort at having to comfort Ellie, and her subsequent "escape."
I'm still not sure how I feel about NBC's plan to air the last two pre-strike produced episodes of Chuck last night. I also don't know what that means for the show; it was initially picked up for a full season but of course the full order couldn't be completed, and no one knows yet what that does or doesn't mean for show renewals into next season. So while Thursday night is a good night, and Celebrity Apprentice is doing well, sandwiching two episodes around it is odd, to say the least, and I can't gauge what that means NBC is thinking. What I can do is be grateful to have Team Bartowski back, for at least two more romps.

Who's your favorite cast member?
Chuck209 (30.6%)
Sarah128 (18.7%)
Casey200 (29.2%)
Morgan34 (5.0%)
Ellie25 (3.7%)
Devon/Captain Awesome57 (8.3%)
Lester5 (0.7%)
Jeff2 (0.3%)
Anna7 (1.0%)
Big Mike8 (1.2%)
General Beckman1 (0.1%)
Tang8 (1.2%)

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My theory is the show's were put on because they aired earlier in the week in Canada. They were already spreading online so in order to get any ratings they could they were quickly added onto the primetime lineup. I do enjoy Chuck and it would be a shame to see it go because of the strike.

January 26 2008 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You are right, you do have the unpopular opinion, so just move along and don't watch if you don't like.
As for Casey, I watched the whole season of Firefly for the 1st time this past week on Hulu.com, and it was really good. It has Casey in it and he is great. I suggest everyone that hasn't see Firefly check it out on http://www.fancast.com/home
if you don't have an invite the the Hulu beta.

January 25 2008 at 4:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where's the review of the 2nd Chuck episode?

January 25 2008 at 4:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had stockpiled a bunch of shows so last weekend I got caught up with Chuck. One thing I noticed was how the Chuck character is already played out. He spots a clue, starts stammering nonsense and gets lovesick. Enough already.

Anyway, I know I have the unpopular opinion but my favorite character is easily Casey. But the ironic problem is that the actor and the character are actually TOO PERFECT because while he's supposed to play the realistic spy in a goofball comedy, he tends to steal the show on the rare moments he is allowed on screen. Get rid of Chuck and his dorkus friends, put in Bryce and we've got a very interesting light-hearted spy show. But as it is then it's getting old quick.

January 25 2008 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've been waiting for this recap just so I could ask this question:

Does anyone know where Anna was? She was conspicuously absent in both episodes. Even in all of the background Buy More stuff she was nowhere to be seen?

January 25 2008 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment

I said the same thing.

January 25 2008 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You gave the "Oh Snap Award" to the whole hotel room fight, but I've got single out one particular part.

Casey head-butted a punch.

He saw the punch coming at him, and instead of any sort of dodging, Casey actually head-butts it. That is why Casey is so bad-ass without falling into the stereotypical Arnold, Sly, or any of those other bad-ass type character actors.

January 25 2008 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tommy's comment
Horse N. Buggy

I would love to know if that move was part of the original fight choreography or if Adam asked to add it in. I wouldn't put it past AB to have thought of it on his own.

January 25 2008 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best part of the episode was the obvious Casablanca homage, from the Ilsa, Paris, her leaving Casey for a plane flight, and, of course, "this could be the start of a beautiful friendship" at the end (with the requisite long shot of Casey and Chuck walking away).

January 25 2008 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MAW's comment

Don't forget the groom was named Victor and a video of Casablanca was playing on the tv during Casey and Ilsa's scene in the BuyMore.

January 25 2008 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I found Casey to be so incredibly hot in this episode (more so than usual), especially when he came out of the pool dripping wet. I can honestly say that I didn't realize how much I actually enjoyed Chuck until last night. I guess absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Also, the little snippets during commercials with the cast of the show were absolutely hysterical.

January 25 2008 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kristen's comment

I agree with you regarding the little snippets during the commercials. They were a cute way of keeping the viewer's interest, and a smart way to promote the show (especially since the actors aren't technically working right now, due to the strike).

My favorite was the snippet in the beginning, where Josh ("Morgan") was hugging/severely-clutching Sarah Lancaster (Chuck's sister), much to her chagrin. When the actors were polled by Zachary ("Chuck") whether they were too close together, Josh's reply of "Nah, I'm good" had me rolling.

I really didn't realize how much I enjoy this show, or how much I missed it until last night. And for the record, Yvonne Strahovski ("Sara") is the hottest actress on NBC, and possibly prime-time tv (Top 3, at least).

January 25 2008 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here in this part of Florida, Apprentice and the second Chuck were clipped out in favor of the stupid debate that was simulcast on MSNBC! Man, am I mad at NBC right now! What a waste, why do we need it on two channels at once? There was a constant scroll on the bottom that the second Chuck would be broadcast at 1pm Sunday of all times! What a stupid waste of a prime, brand new Chuck! Idiots!

January 25 2008 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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