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'Chuck' Season 4, Episode 15 Recap

by Ryan McGee, posted Feb 15th 2011 2:30AM
['Chuck' – 'Chuck Versus The Cat Squad']

Things were going pretty well there for a while on 'Chuck,' but tonight unfortunately didn't live up to recent standards. 'Chuck Versus the Cat Squad' possessed neither the thrilling spy work that marked the end of the Volkoff era, nor the fall-down funny antics of last week's edition. The show seems to know where it wants to go in this final stretch of season 4, but doesn't seem entirely clear on how to pace things out. Moreover, it's unclear if the arc they have started actually helps Sarah Walker or simply sells her out.

Atop this week's list of frustrations: the return of overly dramatic problems in the relationship between Chuck and Sarah. The show doesn't seem able to let them simply be a couple for more than a week at a time, and thus after last week's frivolity, it's back to Chuck unwittingly annoying Sarah. His offense this week? Reuniting The Clandestine Attack Team, aka The C.A.T. Squad. Think 'Charlie's Angels' and you have ... well, you have pretty much the exact picture, albeit filtered through Morgan's hyperactive, hypersexual imagination.

A week of girl power on the show would have been dandy. But instead, not only did their reintroduction lead to a mission with a twist telegraphed in the first act, it led to another episode of Chuck setting Sarah off only to come groveling back (mid-mission, another staple of a subpar 'Chuck' episode) before the two could re-establish common ground. For the first half of the episode, I was annoyed at Chuck for once again going behind her back. After all, he treated her the way he would want to be treated, but the Golden Rule doesn't necessarily apply in this case. Instead of respecting her wishes for privacy and trying to break them down through conversation, he just got the old gang back together again without her consent.

However, by episode's end I was mad at Sarah, or rather, at the use of Sarah by 'Chuck.' Having two people who love each other, yet still possessing different points of view on life, should be celebrated, especially on this, Valentine's Day. But the lesson of 'Cat Squad' seemed to be that Chuck's point of view is correct, and that she needs to embrace her past in the way that Chuck has. But Mary Bartowski does not equal The C.A.T. Squad. For Sarah to embrace what family she already has around her is already a huge step in the right direction for this formerly solitary woman. Anything more seems like Chuck imposing his will, not Sarah opening up.

That's not to say that Chuck's viewpoint is "wrong," per se. My problem comes not from his viewpoint but rather the show's seeming insistence that his viewpoint supersede hers. I realize it's a bit strange to harsh on a worldview in which friends/family are a pervasive element, but it's a little like environmentalists who chain themselves to trees in order to make their voices heard. No matter how good the message, the method by which it's delivered can have a big impact upon the listener. I'm sure Chuck's actions, and Sarah's eventual acceptance, worked for many of you. I wish it worked for me as well.

What DID work for me? Morgan's final speech to Alex, which saved the episode from complete mediocrity. The relationship between the two has always been more about the show telling us they are a good couple rather than simply showing us, but by keeping the two apart for the majority of the hour (thanks to the nefarious Carina), the show managed to give us a much better sense of their feelings for one another than at any point since her introduction into the show. The way Joshua Gomez let the surprise wash over his face after the first "I love you" was complete magic. With each increasing week, Morgan is Chuck from season 1. And I pretty much loved that Chuck.

This new one? He's got his ups and downs. More ups than downs, but this was a down week for him as the show as a whole. I've got no worries that later episodes will rebound from this, but the show will have a better chance of doing that if they don't turn Chuck and Sarah into a single entity as their wedding day approaches. Their differences not only make their characters strong, but make that couple strong as well.

Other thoughts about tonight's episode:

*** Other than Morgan's speech, the other emotional highlight came from Casey's wistful moment in the van during the Rio mission. I'm glad the show isn't forgetting the thread about Alex's mother, especially if we're due for a double wedding come the season finale.

*** I didn't mention Lou Diamond Phillips above because, well, he barely registered onscreen. That's a shame, especially with the show's history of colorful villains such as Volkoff and Generalissimo Goya.

*** If you played a drinking game in which you drank every time the show made a feline reference, well, you're probably reading this on your smartphone in the hospital.

*** I want an episode in which Casey hunts unicorns. That would be amazing. Not as amazing as watching Mikhail Gorbachev bust a move on a Miami dance floor, but still.

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

What did you think of tonight's episode? Did you enjoy The C.A.T. Squad in action, or was the episode D.O.A. upon their appearance? Should the show fully let Morgan turn into old-school Chuck, thereby letting Chuck actually evolve? Or were things just as good as ever as far as you were concerned? Leave your thoughts below!

Watch the full episode here:

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I agree with your assessment of the episode. I expect that a lead character on a TV show should grow as the show progresses or show that the character refuses to grow and suffers consequences for that choice. In this episode, Chuck continues to attempt to impose his will and his way of seeing the world on Sarah and he needs to suffer some consequences for that. However, the show copped out by having Sarah apologize to Chuck when Chuck was the one who was in the wrong here. Just because Chuck may be motivated to be the 'fixer' and to be the one to pull family back together does not mean Sarah wants the same thing and must want the same thing 'because I'm Chuck and I know better.' Chuck, that's a good way to get your head handed to you by your future wife or to be told to take a hike by her because you don't listen to her and determine to discuss things before you fly off the handle.

Chuck's sister actually gave him good counsel in this episode and he should've listened to her. But it all got ruined when Sarah let him off the hook and apologized. So, I agree the writers need to watch out for their tendency to have the characters act inconsistently to push the plot along because such lapses makes it difficult to overlook uneven episodes like this.

February 17 2011 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The bad thing about 'Chuck' is its willingness to compromise the consistency of its characters' motivation in order to tell the story at hand. Of course, most mainstream shows don't worry about that stuff, but Chuck is relatively unique in that it's a cult show whose production team doesn't treat it as such -- continuity is observed when it's convenient, but any minor plot developments that might have painted the production team into a corner are ignored. For instance... how is Chuck going to legally marry Sarah Walker when "Sarah Walker" isn't an alias? And won't any attempt to find her real family draw further attention to that fact?

Regarding this episode... I can't be the only one who noticed that Lou Diamond Philips looked uncannily like George Lucas, especially with those sunglasses on. Odd that neither Chuck nor Morgan would comment on that.

February 15 2011 at 11:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I completely agree with the above assessment. The show neither moved forward nor moved laterally--it just kind of festered. The episode should have been either much sillier or progress the plot for the second arc. Having a silly episode is always fun, and they easily could have gone this direction, but this still tried to be serious.

One thing that I really noticed, that became apparent tonight is that Yvonne Strahovski and Sarah Lancaster have the worst on screen chemistry that I have seen in a very long time.

I'm hoping that this arc doesn't become the EXACT same as the first part with the roles reversed. We have seen some Sarah backstory, which we should, but the air of mystique around who she is versus who she was needs to remain.

February 15 2011 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's a double wedding?

Is that not a spoiler? Obviously Chuck and Sarah are getting married but the other...

February 15 2011 at 9:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
London Chuckles

Wow, were you watching the same show as me? I agree that the whole Sarah Chuck relationship was a little to the truth of planning a wedding for comfort but in total I thought this was a laugh out loud episode almost all the way through. However I do believe we have been a little bit spoiled by this season of Chuck. To my mind the writing has been head and shoulders better than all the previous seasons and right now it is certainly the best thing on TV in two continents (though wait for Zen if you haven't seen it already)

February 15 2011 at 9:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think you nailed it, Ryan. You put into words what bothered me about this episode and what they are doing to Sarah.

February 15 2011 at 6:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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