'Chuck' Season 4, Episode 12 Recap
by Ryan McGee, posted Jan 25th 2011 12:15AM
['Chuck' – 'Chucks Versus the Gobbler']
Last week's 'Chuck' roared out of the gates, announcing a potentially fun 2011 for the show. But the series unfortunately took a pretty big step backwards this week: quite literally, right from the start. 'Chuck Versus the Gobbler' didn't so much squander the potential of Sarah's undercover work with Volkoff so much as demonstrate that these supposedly savvy spies have apparently forgotten most of their training, a great deal of their intelligence and, unfortunately, quite a bit of trust in each other.
It's the latter that causes the most discomfort. After all, trying to look at 'Chuck' as a Jason Bourne-esque adventure is a fool's errand. The former need not be the latter in order to produce a solid hour of television. When the show started, Chuck's "gee whiz" attitude towards his new spy life lent some of the awkward missions a level of authenticity: After all, how slick could a mission involving a Nerd Herder truly be? But as Chuck got to be a better spy, it was clear that the skill set of the show's writers centered around constructing compelling characters, not compelling spy missions.
So fine: 'Chuck' can spend half of its episode breaking into the type of prison that once featured Dr. Evil and Mini-Me conducting an impromptu rap session. This doesn't have to be 'Prison Break' or 'Shawshank Redemption' in order to exist in the 'Chuck' universe. Chuck using the Intersect to be Seabrook Correctional's Top Dog for a few minutes? Hey, there are worse ways for the Intersect to be used. (Using it to win a Subway $5 foot-long eating contest, for instance.) And I even liked the fake-out about The Gobbler's eye as the HYDRA database: it didn't invalidate the mission; in fact, it earned Sarah some loyalty points while ensuring that she couldn't possibly swipe the eye for herself. Point: Volkoff.
But too much of the episode revolved around Chuck and Sarah being insanely naïve about her involvement inside Volkoff's organization. Neither of these characters is as dumb as written tonight. Part of the problem with this plot line stems from the fact that as 'Chuck' fans, we LIKE seeing this pair together. So naturally we want this story line to be over as quickly as possible, not only to provide closure for their characters but also from the selfish reason that Chuck+Sarah Often = Major Win. But if Sarah solves a problem like Volkoff, that makes Mama Bartowski seem like one awfully incompetent von Trapp. It also renders Volkoff neutered as a villain. Thus, a major conundrum.
This means a lengthy undercover stay for Sarah to make this work, something that Chuck clearly didn't anticipate and something at the very least Sarah didn't overtly discuss as a possibility with him when she nobly decided to go undercover. Chuck's concerns about Sarah turning into another lost figure in his life -- like his mother -- is understandable, but to think so ill of Sarah so soon doesn't speak well of a man who was almost on his knee a week ago. Chuck's been down this road with Sarah before, in terms of distrust: When he saw her kill a man and later lie about it. But the point is they've been down this path already, and while he's planning to marry a woman, she's a woman who's also a spy. And a damn loyal one at that, on every conceivable level.
Naturally, all of this will get cleared up once Casey regains consciousness. And God bless Casey, the man who will suffer both physically as well as mentally to be the rock of the group. His plan to fool Volkoff came at great physical toll, but he came up with it instinctively and trusted Sarah to do right by him. (Also? How does he know he can survive a 60-foot fall? I demand a flashback episode, please!) Morgan's pleas to have him express his love to his daughter Alex are well-intentioned, but Casey's the type of man who shows what he feels through actions, not words. Well, and the occasional grunts. (Sorry, but Alex's last scene would have actually had emotional impact if she were more of a regular, instead simply wheeled out in order to evoke tears for a character we know beyond measure won't die.)
I spent a lot of words last week wondering if The Buy Morons still have a place in the world, and sadly, at this point, I have similar feelings about Ellie and Awesome. If fretting over a baby name is the best story that the show can give these two people at this point, then maybe they simply don't have a place in the show anymore. Once Clara Woodcomb is born, perhaps they can move out of their apartment into a nice house down the road. You know, close enough so they can occasionally drop in, but not close enough that they could be on every week. The story of 'Chuck' is increasingly leaving non-Castle aspects of Burbank behind, which means that the show should look at hard choices going forth in order to streamline its storytelling.
So, while Timothy Dalton once again showed why he's possibly the best villain in the show's history, there wasn't a lot else that worked this episode. Let's hope Casey's recovery is a quick one, so the show itself can make a similarly speedy recovery.
What did you think of 'Chuck Versus the Gobbler'? Did you enjoy Sarah's undercover work, or did the plot feel a little under the weather? Should Chuck be such a doubting Thomas this soon, or does his past with his mother justify his thoughts? Leave your comments below!
'Chuck' airs Mondays at 8PM ET on NBC.