And so the quest for Orion continues. Knowing that Orion can get the Intersect out of Chuck’s head, he worries that the General isn’t doing everything in her power to find the mystery man, and starts doing a little digging on his own. As it turns out, Orion is just as desperate to find Chuck and has been following Chuck’s every move and outsmarting Fulcrum while doing it. He contacts Chuck through a Buy More computer system and tells him that he’s going to send him a computer so they can talk on a secure connection . . . a computer that the Buy Morians mistake for the new computer model that they’ve been trying to get their hands on before their sweater-wearing rivals at the Beverly Hills store.
When Orion’s computer arrives at the Buy More, Jeff, Lester and Morgan get a hold of it and accidentally send a Predator attack drone to the store . . . until Morgan realizes that, if they’re going to send even a virtual attack drone somewhere, it should be the Beverly Hills store. Luckily, Chuck figures out what the guys are up to and calls off the attack drone before any damage occurs. Big Mike then locks up the computer and puts Emmit on night watch, so Sarah, Casey and Chuck have only one hope of getting the computer back and finding out why Orion would send an attack drone after Chuck: robbing the Buy More. Ah, but Jeff and Lester also want to rob the store to get the computer back. And so do some Fulcrum head honchos, who have finally realized that a suspicious number of their operatives turn up dead at the same retail store.
In the ensuing tripe-robbery melee, Chuck gets caught stealing the computer by the guy who played Imhotep in The Mummy and gets captured. Casey scares Jeff and Lester, who in turn frighten Emmit, who pepper sprays them, leaving Casey to punch out Emmit and shoot Chuck’s captor in one really bad-ass action sequence. By the way, seeing Casey in a ski mask really made me wish that Adam Baldwin would do a guest spot on Delocated.
With the computer in the right hands, Sarah hands it off to the NSA and the General rules that Chuck remain under strict house arrest in case he has been compromised. (This ruling is the first time The General has appeared as more than just a video feed, and, man, is Bonita Federicy a tiny, tiny woman.) While The General, Casey and Sarah discuss what to die, Orion calls Chuck while he’s sequestered in his room and tells our hero that he’s not with Fulcrum. He sends Chuck and image of the plans for the Intersect to prove that he is who he says he is. He warns Chuck not to trust his handlers, as the General reveals that she wants to keep Chuck from meeting Orion because she doesn’t want the Intersect to ever leave his brain.
Orion gives Chuck an escape plan to evade his handlers and computer-meet with him, where he asks to meet with Chuck as soon as possible. Meanwhile, that guy who played The Mummy crawls out of his body bag, and Sarah and Casey realize that Chuck has given them the slip, arriving just in time to keep their asset from being shot. Seeing that Chuck was close to capture, Orion sets the Predator drone on himself. Chuck tries to stop the attack drone, but Orion won’t let Chuck reprogram the drone’s trajectory. And so Chuck’s only hope of ever getting the Intersect out of his head goes up in flames . . . that is, save for the goodies about the Fulcrum Intersect that Orion slipped under Chuck’s pillow.
I really liked where this episode was going (and highly enjoyed the subplot where the Burbank Buy More totally destroys the BevHills Buy More when they think they’ve been robbed by them), so imagine how disappointing it was to see that the Orion arc stalled the next week to make way for a plot in which Sarah gets fired (briefly) and a new agent, Alex Forrest (Battlestar Galactica‘s Tricia Helfer), is brought on to handle Chuck. This isn’t to say that “Chuck vs. the Broken Heart” wasn’t good in its own right . . . I simply would have preferred that it not stall an arc with such good momentum. So without Sarah, Chuck’s heart is broken, but so is Ellie’s, as Alex and Casey require the use of Captain Awesome’s hospital key card to plant a bug in a very special terrorist patient during surgery.
“You two are a match made in a very frightening part of heaven.” – Chuck, in re: Casey and Alex
And how do they get that keycard? Alex, who is exactly like a female version of Casey in every way right down to saying the same things at the same time, wants to tranq Awesome and steal it while he’s passed out. Chuck would rather that they simply lift it off of Awesome during his bachelor party, which, unfortunately, isn’t all that easy, because instead of keeping his key card in his wallet, he keeps it on a chain under his shirt. Alex takes this mission into her own hands by dressing as a sexy cop stripper and carting Awesome off for a private lap dance in the Buy More’s media room. When she tries to take his key card off, he expresses that he needs to keep it because he’ll lose his job without it and that he doesn’t want to do anything that could upset his Ellie. Alex reverts to Plan A and tranqs Awesome . . . and then allows everyone at the party to take pictures of him that make him look like he had passed out and done far worse things then he actually did, the discovery of which greatly disappoints Ellie.
On top of that, the terrorist guys discover the bug planted in their ailing comrade and go searching for the responsible surgeon so that the bug can be removed. When Chuck sees the baddies approaching his house, he spares Awesome by pretending to be him and ends up being forced to perform surgery in a bank vault . . . OR DIE! When Alex and Casey lose Chuck, Sarah joins back in (after using the government computer while her access code still works to find Chuck’s missing father so he can walk Ellie down the aisle) and helps crack a the locked vault while Chuck fends off his captor by filling the room with nitrous so that they’re both just super-stoned. And even then, he manages to find out the piece of information the CIA had wanted all along about where a certain terrorist was hiding, just by asking his stoned companion.
“Sarah . . . is it really you, or am I super-stoned?” – Chuck
Sarah is reinstated in her position as Chuck’s handler, and he confesses to her that he feels terrible for Captain Awesome’s involvement in the events of this mission and how they’ve affected his relationship with Ellie. All Chuck wants to do, he says, is tell his sister everything. Knowing that he can’t, Sarah offers him an alternative. She hands him his father’s address, asserting that it’s about damned time the US Government did something for Chuck Bartowski to repay him for holding so many secrets in his head.
And so the two head off to visit Chuck’s father’s lonely airstream trailer, where he sees Dr. Sam Beckett for the first time in ten years and asks his father to come to Ellie’s wedding. First of all, I somehow managed to not know that Scott Fucking Bakula was going to be on the show, and I have no idea how I avoided that news. I am a huge Quantum Leap fan and take great delight in “dooting” the theme song. I don’t think I was conscious of the fact that it was an NBC show, though, so hearing Bakula make an awkward QL joke during the NBC chimes promos between shows was not only very odd, but it makes me wonder how many Chuck fans even know about QL and how awesome it was. Further QL awkwardness occurred when Papa Bartowski laid eyes on Ellie for the first time in ten years, and she burst into tears over pancakes and walked away. “Oh boy,” Papa Bartowski says, recalling Sam’s catchphrase from the end of each QL episode where he jumps into a new body. I felt like Bakula was not comfortable saying it; that’s how awkwardly it filled that space. Wouldn’t it have been more relevant to make a joke about Enterprise? You know, keeping a Robert Duncan McNeill episode in the Trek family?
Two poorly-realized QL jokes aside, this episode brought Chuck back to the momentum it was building in “Chuck vs. the Predator,” and I think “Chuck vs. the Dream Job” is actually one of my favorite Chuck episodes ever. It had a great balance of action and humor and deftly handled the mytharc elements with Chuck’s emotional narrative – and it helps that, cult status aside, the casting directors made a good choice in having Scott Bakula play Zachary Levi’s father. They’ve both got that lean, skinny face, which is striking enough for me to believe that they’d be related.
After only having their father back in their lives for a short time, Ellie and Chuck realize that he’s a little bit off his rocker, rambling about plasma technology and touch screens and how his former business partner and computer mega-mogul Ted Roark. Chuck flashes on an ad for Roark’s upcoming NextExpo amongst his dad’s crazy papers. Roark will be releasing a new operating system, free for download to anyone with an internet connection at the expo – an operating system that may release a virus onto all the world’s computers, effectively destroying modern living. In order to stop this, Chuck has to get a job at Roark Industries – and he gets to do it as himself, with his name, his resume and his Stanford degree. And when Chuck makes it through that job interview and lands the position on his own merits, that’s one of my favorite moments in this episode, when he realizes that, maybe, even with the Intersect in his head, he can have a normal life and get the kind of tech job he’s always wanted to have but never had the ambition to get after his expulsion from Stanford.
Jeff and Lester find out about the expo and desperately want to go. They see Chuck accepting the RI job and rat him out to Morgan, who, in turn, blurts this out at the Bartowski family dinner, greatly disappointing Chuck’s father when he learns that his son has gone to work for the man that ruined him. (By the way, I love a world where Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula are mortal enemies.) At NextExpo, Chuck flashes on a Fulcrum computer terrorist and realizes that when Roark presses the button to release his operating system, shit is going to go down. Sarah and Casey try to stop the release by hacking the security system, but Roark has made his security system very snarky and unhackable (“Wrong again; should I call security?”). The only thing Chuck can do is throw himself onstage and try to reason with Roark, which fails, leading Chuck to steal the trigger from Roark’s hand and try to run away with it until he gets clotheslined by the very man who hired him. (Chuck’s attempted theft makes Scott Bakula very happy, as he watched the podcast on his Dell Netbook.)
Ellie accuses her father of putting Chuck up to executing a vendetta against Roark. When Awesome tries to apologize for Ellie, Papa Bartowski tells him that she’s only mad at him about the bachelor party because she doesn’t want the man she’s going to marry to turn into her father and desert her. He also goes to make amends with Chuck, telling his son that if he wants to work for Roark, he should, and not let his past ruin his son’s future. After this pep talk, Chuck takes out some plans he received from Orion about the Intersect and overlays them on a map of the RI campus. They’re a perfect match. What if, Chuck supposes, RI has an Intersect? And what if the Rios virus is really a Trojan Horse? What it if won’t destroy the world’s computers, but rather farm them for information to populate the new Intersect?
Sarah and Casey aren’t keen on Chuck’s plan, so he decides to go it alone, gearing up at the Castle and successfully tranquing Casey when he tries to impede Chuck’s progress. (Adam Baldwin’s tranq face is golden, by the way.) When Chuck breaks in, he sees his dad trying to bargain with Roark’s people to get Chuck’s job back. Tranq guns a-blazing, Chuck takes the opportunity to rescue his dad by incapacitating the entire security team that tries to remove him from the building. To Chuck’s surprise, his dad handles the next batch of security personnel that come at them and both Bartowski boys admit that they’re not who they say they are. Per my inclination, Papa B reveals himself to be Orion, the inventor of the Intersect, which he knows is now stored in his son’s head. He’s been living off the grid and playing crazy all these years so that Fulcrum wouldn’t find him and ask him to create a new Intersect. More importantly, he left to protect his children from the potential horrors his work could have brought upon them.
Together, Chuck and his dad break into the room where Fulcrum’s unpopulated Intersect is being kept. Papa Bartowski tries to remove the Intersect from Chuck’s brain by essentially overwriting it, but Roark catches them in the process and shuts them down. (It doesn’t help that Intersect 2.0 doesn’t entirely work just yet.) Roark wants to have Chuck killed, but Papa Bartowski won’t stand for it and agrees to build whatever Roark wants in exchange for his son going free. So Sarah and Casey come for Chuck, and have to hold him back as his father once again is taken from him. He is, however, able to convince the General to approve his team for the Stephen Bartowski recovery mission, which I think sets us up for an excellent string of episodes leading up to the season finale.
Yeah, the last three episodes have been the best that Chuck has ever been. They are A-grade action/spy/comedy/adventure, some of the most exciting and pleasing hours of television of the year. “Chuck vs. the Predator,” especially, was I believe the show’s best mix of comedy, action and extremely dangerous circumstances ever, the most emotional the show has been while never losing sight of its surface-level fun.
But yes, “Chuck vs. the Dream Job” had the most powerful character work of the show’s entire run, and it really makes me wonder why the hell the show even bothers doing a mission-of-the-week format so often when it’s clear that their mytharcs are so aggressively planned out and treated with such intelligence and respect. I don’t know if it’s just a way for writers to lay back every once in a while or is just studio interference, but these episodes just make me depressed that the only episodes of Chuck my sister seems to watch whenever she’s over Monday night for some Gossip Girl/HIMYM sweetness are the stand-alone ones that really serve no actual purpose.
But honestly, did you think that, at the beginning of the first season, you’d care so much about such a simple thing as one character being held back from crossing through a set of sliding doors and all that action entailed? Judging from the show’s viewer dropoff between seasons, I would hazard a “no.” Pity. I’d hate for Chuck (and the incomparable Life) to be the two biggest casualties between this TV season and the next, thanks mostly to the Jay Leno debacle of 2009.