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August 29, 2015

'Chuck' Season 4, Episode 18 Recap

by Ryan McGee, posted Mar 15th 2011 12:45AM
['Chuck' – 'Chuck Versus the A-Team']

I have a complicated relationship with continuity. I wrote as much here a week ago, and it flooded through my mind a lot while watching tonight's 'Chuck,' This episode did a lot of things right, but it had to drive a fleet of Sierras through one of the biggest plot holes that the show has ever come up with in order to achieve those not-so-small victories. Was it worth it? The success of 'Chuck Versus the A-Team' lies in how much you're willing to swallow when it comes to the show's relationship to its own history.

One of the problems with long-form narrative continuity, as I laid out in the article linked above, lies in the fact that shows don't always know how long a lifespan they will have, which leads to certain threads being unexplored or simply dropped. Given the rocky history of 'Chuck' in terms of its overall ratings health, the show has had to constantly straddle the line between trying to plan long arcs and worrying about wrapping things up in a satisfactory manner should the plug be pulled. It's a totally unfair way to run a show, and by and large the show's done as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

All of these aspects lead to the show's Greta problem. As the outset of season 4, a series of guest stars appeared on the show, all with the name Greta, and nary a one without a single discernible purpose. For many, tonight was a moment of, "Aha! This is what the show had in mind all along!" And that's great, if that helps you sleep at night. I can't definitely say that WASN'T what the show intended, but if it did, then why did absolutely nothing in the original 13-episode run of the season (the only episodes guaranteed by NBC) do anything prior to the story line seen tonight? Why were they dropped like a bad habit in favor of the more interesting Volkoff story line?

Perhaps the show just ran out of room, and stuck it into this back half of the season. Or, perhaps the show realized it had an untapped, essential asset in the Greta story line that gave them an opportunity to toss them into a newly created idea for which the assembly line of pretty guest stars were never originally intended. I prefer to think it's the latter, which in the grand scheme of things isn't BAD by any stretch, but does call to the forefront the complications that arise when bad ideas can't be erased the way they can from, say, the first draft of a novel. What the Gretas may or may not have been intended for is sort of irrelevant to the problems I had with their ultimate reveal tonight. My problem is that the reveal in and of itself makes absolutely no sense. It's the aforementioned monster plot hole.

Here's the explanation/reimagining/recton (depending on your personal perspective): Director Bentley has been using the reconstructed Buy More to observe both Chuck and field agents to be the next-gen Intersects. But key to her plan? THAT THE TWO SIDES NEVER ACTUALLY INTERFERE WITH EACH OTHER. So why build Castle Two (Intersect Boogaloo?) inside the existing Castle, where Chuck and Sarah would inevitably run into, and therefore compromise, the purported purpose of the mission? This is where not having a clean through line for the Gretas hurts the show: it's not that their original purpose got shifted. It's that their new purpose (if indeed new at all) doesn't make sense within the context of what we know about the universe.

These problems alarm, but don't overwhelm what's good about the episode. The way by which the show moved along in order to get to the good stuff involving our heroes was fairly torturous and belief-defying, but ultimately tied into strong emotional stuff for Chuck, Sarah, and John. They have been the heart of the show since Day One, but Casey has been understandably (if silently) feeling left out with the long-gestating coupledom of the other two finally reaching its nadir with their engagement. That Casey feels left out is something he couldn't say, which led him to Bentley's team. That, in turn, hurt Chuck and Sarah on a personal as well as professional level. In the end, 'A-Team' confirms that what makes the original trio so strong is not their clinical skill set but their affection for one another as well as their outside-the-box thinking.

As much as the Greta stuff annoyed, everything in the previous paragraph delighted. Any spy show in which apple juice can defuse an atomic weapon has to be judged on character first, spy stuff second. So it's good that we got a really easy-going Chuck/Sarah (who put away marriage angst for a week to simply enjoy each other's company) and a Casey who never really left his old team behind, happy to side with them as soon as the situation allowed it. Moreover, the show did a great job of demonstrating the burden that is the Intersect. In a moment that connected more than any that came before it for his character, Captain Richard's line, "That poor bastard Bartowski," revealed the humanity heretofore unseen in his clinically cold character. It also reinforced the idea that Chuck Bartowski is the Frodo Baggins of this world. There's one intersect to rule them all.

The Bentley/Greta story line might also have other ultimate benefit for the show: getting Ellie involved in the main story line again. She's a little stir-crazy from new motherdom, and Devon dubbing her "Mrs. Awesome" irked. (Doesn't she have her own identity?) Perhaps giving her back Stephen's laptop will be a redux of the plot in which she was manipulated by The Ring. But Bentley's plan seems to involve that laptop altering her mind, so perhaps this go round will be different? Anything that gives the Ellie/Awesome/Jeffster plot time any logical reason for existing other than "the show likes these characters" would be greatly appreciated.

Ostensibly, the Bentley story line will intersect with Vivian Volkoff's story line. But will it intersect (pun intended) in this arc? Or is the show holding out for a season that may or may not come? It's hard to tell. With all of the balls in the air, it will be hard for 'Chuck' to juggle them all as the season closes out. But as long as they keep the central characters intact amongst all the chaos, it will probably get a pass from the fans of the show no matter what. That's not a slam on the show. It's a testament to how well-loved its central characters are. And that's no small feat, indeed.

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

What did you think of tonight's episode? Did the Greta reveal thrill, or induce groans? Will Ellie finally get up to speed with Chuck's situation, or is this another wild goose chase? Sound off below!

Watch the full episode here:

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"Devon dubbing her "Mrs. Awesome" irked. (Doesn't she have her own identity?)"

Hey, before he calls her "Mrs. Awesome," he calls her "Eleanore Bartowski (married name I can't remember) Phd. Md." I think it's safe to say "her own identity" was well acknowledged by Devon in that line. "Mrs. Awesome" was a cute addendum.

I have been having issues with Chuck since the beginning of the season. The pacing just seems off, the "tense" moments aren't as good as they've been in previous episodes. I think the problem is that Chuck has become too perfect and therefore, there are very few opportunities to see him caught in a situation he can't get out of RIGHT AWAY. I like Monday's episode because the "A Team" emphasized his weaknesses and the things that still make him a human as opposed to a flawless super spy. It was refreshing to see.

On a side note: LOST references last week and a Final Fantasy mention this week? GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!

March 16 2011 at 3:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The (fictional) CIA do lack common sense at times. It took Morgan to point out that a super efficient retail store is a bit suspect to the average Joe, yet alone terrorists and what not who possibly knew about their role in the Buy More beforehand. So perhaps they did just think they wouldn't find out. Or perhaps its because they needed to be placed in Burbank and well...the economy? :p

I don't see Devon calling Ellie "Mrs Awesome" was denying her an identity, but rather reaffirming their strength as a couple. A kind of "we're the Awesomes and together we can't be stopped!" kind of thing. Strength in their love and unity. Plus awesome is a compliment anyway, it might be different if he said "You're Mrs Woodcomb".

March 15 2011 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If Ellie suddenly acquires the Intersect while fiddling with the computer, it will definitely be a continuity violation. It was well-established when Chuck used his dad's computer to re-acquire the Intersect that the password had been carefully chosen as something that only Chuck could ever figure out.

On the other hand, a separate and unique surprise in there for Ellie could be very interesting.

March 15 2011 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Contrary to many of the reviewers out there, I loved this episode, and thought it was one of the season's best (behind The First Fight, Phase 3, and The Push Mix). It was funny and moved along the season plots. In fact, I don't think there have been that many filler episodes so far this year. The fashion show episode (forget it's name) Cubic Z, Secudtion Impossible, and Cat Squad are all I can think of. That is an impressively low amount of filler so far.

Also, this episode shows why Chuck and Sarah don't need to have relationship issues every episode. The best TV relationship is the one that doesn't need to be front and center all the time. Once they get married, and hoping there is another season, I hope those two are like this every episode. All they need to be is in the same frame together for us to know that they're in love.

March 15 2011 at 7:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My problem with this week's episode was that they do all this secret stuff, build a new area in castle and its only going to be used for 1 episode?? They were doing stuff for the last few episodes and now nothing? I could've seen them using the other team for big missions, like in whatever the season finale will be. Dismissing the team so soon seems to have wasted any momentum they built up. I hope whatever the plot with Ellie and the laptop is will be worth it. I can't see her getting an intersect herself since she's a new mom, but I could see her unlocking something in the intersect that would help Chuck and show her that he's meant to be a spy (she still thinks he's just a regular Buy More employee right?).

March 15 2011 at 1:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Coogan's comment
rip van winkle

hey, you dont know if they're gonna use the new area or not. wait till next week to complain.

but do you really think dismissing the team was a bad thing? did you really find the captains that interesting at all? i sure didn't.

March 15 2011 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rip van winkle

hey, you dont know if they're gonna use the new area or not. wait till next week to complain.

but do you really think dismissing the team was a bad thing? did you really find the captains that interesting at all? i sure didn't.

March 15 2011 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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