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October 4, 2015

'Chuck' Season 4, Episode 10 Recap

by Ryan McGee, posted Nov 30th 2010 12:30AM
['Chuck' – 'Chuck Versus the Leftovers']

For those of you who wish Thanksgiving would never end, 'Chuck' had just the recipe for you tonight. However, 'Chuck Versus the Leftovers' was, shall we say, undercooked. All the ingredients were there for a solid episode -- Mama Bartowski, Alexei Volkoff, Morgan Grimes as John McClane -- and yet, very little of it came together. Toss in the emphasis of the season's most annoying story line, and you had an episode that left a slightly bitter taste in one's mouth.

Volkoff -- upset that Chuck survived the blast in Stephen Barktowski's basement -- ordered Mary to send a trio of hit men (The Three Assassamigos?) in order to finish the job. Even though Chuck's only fighting lessons consist of the same ones that Carmen Electra no doubt teaches, Sarah and Mary manage to save his hide once again. If it's a Mary episode of 'Chuck,' then it's probably an episode in which Chuck behaves childishly, and therefore annoyingly, until the bitter end of the hour. And tonight followed that pattern slavishly.

Saving the house from complete doldrums was Timothy Dalton, who has pretty much owned every scene that he's been in this season. His obsession with Mary rivals the one Nelson van Alden carries for Margaret Schroeder over on 'Boardwalk Empire,' and yet somehow comes off more realistic in today's Burbank than Prohibition Era Atlantic City. Having Mary as his one weak point might be convenient narratively, but it also allows Volkoff to be elevated to more than mere mustache twirling. Volkoff declaring "Kids LOVE me!" after learning about Mary's offspring was simultaneously the funniest thing said all season and the creepiest. After all, Volkoff is a guy who would as soon end a bear hug with a bullet to the temple as much as a kiss to it.

Dalton chewed the scenery as much as Ellie's leftovers, but it was clear that there wasn't much scenery to actually chew. Seeing how 'Chuck' produces an hour of television on its shoestring budget is always a spectator sport unto itself, and tonight was no exception. Aside from a brief intro scene in Moscow, each scene took place in a location already established in the show's world. That left enough money kicking around to afford the show's two big guest stars and some sweet, computerized Buy More turrets. (Those would come in helpful not only during terrorist raids, but also Black Friday, no?) Were this 'Community,' the outing might have been called 'Chuck Versus the Bottle Episode.'

The standoff inside the Buy More, coupled with the hush-hush nature of the visit to Ellie and Awesome's place, meant that all of the action from 'Chuck Versus the Third Phase' took a back seat to anticipation for butts to be kicked. However, most of the actual violence was over and done with before the credits rolled, leaving a lot of sound and nerd fury signifying nothing. The Giant Blonde She-Male of Manila? Barely did a thing. John Casey? Got captured almost immediately after leaving the Castle. Chuck? Until the final moments, un-Intersected. Mama Bartowski? Undercover, thus inactive. Volkoff? Too lovey -dovey to pull the trigger.

But no greater crime of inaction occurred than the one surrounding Morgan Grimes. His 'Die Hard'-inspired plot could have been a joke that turned a corner for his character, taking him one step closer from "utterly hapless" to "surprisingly useful." There were a dozen ways in which this seemingly humorous plot could have served character while also filling up a few minutes of the episode.

'Chuck' Skype Second Opinion
with HitFix.com's Alan Sepinwall:

Just as Bruce Willis used 'Die Hard' to shake off the stigma that he was merely a comedic actor, Morgan could have used the film as inspiration to overcome his own insecurities as simply The Magnet. Or, he could have pretended to be a McClane type killer, only to use it either as distraction (to help Casey take over the scene) or as hyperbole (hiding a non-lethal weapon behind him that nevertheless got the job done). 'Chuck Versus the Couch Lock' took Morgan a step along that journey, but 'Leftovers' sent him two steps back. Not only did he stupidly tape the gun too low along his back, but Volkoff's decision to leave town essentially stripped the entire story of any drama whatsoever.

As for the season-long search for Chuck's mother, well, that's lacking much of its earlier drama as well. Just as Chuck has tried all season to figure out the true nature of his mother, 'Chuck' as a show has been searching for a consistent through-line the entire season. It's nominally to discover the reason Mary Bartowski left, but the show has made her an unreliable narrator until recently. But how does that story comment on Chuck and Sarah's relationship? It provided the plot point of Chuck losing the Intersect, but that story line resolved not in Chuck making a conscious decision about the type of man he is or the type of partner he wants to be for Sarah, but a hidden suitcase left for Ellie by Stephen as a back-up in case his underground lair blew up.

All of this leads to the aforementioned annoying story line: Ellie's continual place in the dark in the world of 'Chuck.' Putting Stephen's briefcase in her hands was the absolute PERFECT way to bring her into Chuck's world, and yet the show steadfastly refuses to deploy her in any way other than as a wet blanket on the proceedings. Chuck asks Devon to be "awesome" tonight in order to save them from Volkoff's machinations, but it's impossible for him to be "awesome" when he's subscribing to Ellie's "no spying for Chuck" ethos. Chuck's time without the Intersect allowed both him and Sarah to recognize his value without it working, both as a spy and a human being. For Ellie to insist he not be a spy is to insist that he not live up to his potential, which isn't sisterly at all. It's smothering.

So many chances for greatness tonight, but unfortunately 'Chuck' missed on many of them. Hopefully the next few weeks will have an overall better batting average.

What did you think of 'Chuck Versus the Leftovers'? Are you full from a great episode, or finding yourself wishing the show had ordered something else from its menu? Have you enjoyed this season's overall arc, or has it gotten lost as the season has worn on? Leave your thoughts below!

'Chuck' airs Mondays at 8PM ET on NBC.

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Bang on Ryan. This episode killed any hopes of any an intriguing spy story this season. MamaB a kept woman? Yep, that's it. All she wrote.

December 06 2010 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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