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'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.

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The editor has a lot to say and yes maybe the storyline does not go where they want it to go....but I can say one thing, they keep on pulling me to the set for the next episode. every episode is ended with a magnet effect. what da hell will happen next. We all want the two love birds to get back together but if they properly did we would have stopped watching in season 1. maybe I'm too much of a chuck freak but I think the story line is brilliant. I have been watching since the first episode and can really say these guys have written a bloody good storyline. without these weird stuff happening like casey dying almost the story wouldn't be the same. as for the awesome's....come on......there needs to be some normal in the story. it can't only be spy ,intersect and martial arts..... Although not exciting it keeps the balance between the weird ass spy stuff and the normal life between it all. I have to agree a very exciting episode as for all the others. but then again if you are a chuck fan then even a bad episode will be worth while.......

January 27 2011 at 2:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sarah looks gorgeous with black hair.

January 25 2011 at 10:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Before season 3 started, I re-watched all of season 2 within one week. One thing I noticed is that the characters of Sarah and Chuck were both really inconsistent. They loved each other, they trusted each other, then they were scared of each other and needed space, all in the span of a couple episodes. So I wasn't to surprised by the back step, it seems to be a running problem with the series.

January 25 2011 at 11:55 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I agree with the reviewer. This episode was extremely weak on many levels, from the Chuck/Sarah relationship to the cameo appearances by Awsome. Ellie and the Buymorons. I'm hoping the second part of this will offer a lot more. If not, I'd have to say the show has definitely jumped the shark by putting Sarah in Volkoff's organization. And did anyone else wonder how she got in - and got to the top level - so easily and quickly?

The Intersect is the other aspect of the show that's floundering. I know it's been "rebooted" a few times, but now all Chuck flashes on is Kung Fu. Shouldn't the Intersect have allowed him to recognize The Gobbler when he saw him in prison? If all it does is let Chuck beat up the bad guys, I'd have to say it would mean that Chuck now has very limited use is any spy organization as they're bound to have plenty of marital arts experts.

January 25 2011 at 8:46 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This episode is not a step back, it is merely the first of a 2-part story arc. Why is chuck "dumb" or "naive" about Sarah's mission? Even if he thought he knew what she was getting herself into, it would still be upsetting; and where do you get the idea he distrusts Sarah? He is just trying to figure out what's going on. I like seing them together too, but we all know they will be together by the end of the next episode. You veer into the "crazy-shipper" category if this type of "misunderstanding" between the characters causes this much discomfort. I agree that the subplot involving the baby's name was a weak point, but Timothy Dalton's character more than made up for that segway. Overall a very entertaining episode, and no show on TV currently does it better.

January 25 2011 at 1:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

They either have to get rid of Ellie and Awesome, or they have to add them to the mix like they did with Morgan. Morgan could have easily been like the other Buy More characters and be an extra character, but they wisely added him to the fold. I like Ellie and Awesome but as you said they are becoming less and less needed. They aren't on every week, in fact they are probably only on 50% of the time, but the other 50% are the Buy More crew which also is becoming unnecessary.

Chuck is a different person, he's not just a guy who happens to have an intersect and can't defend himself, thus being helpless. He is a super spy who is very capable of protecting himself. It doesn't make sense that Ellie should worry anymore. I get that she had a right to be nervous before but it's different now. If Chuck, Sarah and even Morgan and Casey have evolved they also have to evolve the character of Ellie and Awesome because every episode they are in proves why they really don't need to be.

January 25 2011 at 12:53 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Lauren Wannermeyer

I agree entirely. I was kind of excited for the idea of this episode and they wasted it. I'm ready for it to be over. I don't know if I agree about how Ellie and Awesome should be scaled back as characters. They already have been a lot. I think they and the Buy Morons keep this story grounded. Because as good of a spy as Chuck has become, he's nothing without the intersect, which was so deftly demonstrated a few episodes ago. That was his first life and will always be something for him to go back to if things ever truly go wrong. I think we'd all ideally like see the show end with Sarah and Chuck quitting the biz all together and they'll need something to go back to. Chuck was overqualifed for the Buy More to begin with, so I don't think he'll end up back there. But it's his home.

Another question though, am I the only one who's wondering if the people of Burbank have been missing their FroYo this season?

January 25 2011 at 12:32 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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