For those of you who aren’t entirely aware of the situation going on at the networks right now, Chuck is in danger of being canceled. And it’s not entirely because the show doesn’t have viewership. It’s because of Jay Leno. It took me a bit to come to anger about NBC’s decision to give Leno the 10 p.m. slot five nights a week. At first, I just thought it was sad that there would be five pilots that wouldn’t be seen, and that it really sucked for Conan O’Brien who would still be in Leno’s shadow. But then I realized that in addition to those five pilots that wouldn’t be seen (which, of course, means thousands of people who, because of Jay Leno, will not have jobs), the few shows that are currently succeeding in NBC’s desolate 10 p.m. hour would have to be shifted forward into the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. timeslots. NBC has three editions of Law & Order, a very successful franchise that will most certainly be given 9 p.m. timeslots. Heroes has been renewed, even though I’m not watching it anymore, which will either keep its 9 p.m. slot or be shifted to 8 p.m. Medium and Southland are doing well enough that they might be shifted to 9 p.m. timeslots. What that basically means is that four shows that currently have a 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. timeslot will have to be canceled to shift the 10 p.m. shows into the schedule. Chuck is in severe danger as an “on the bubble” show of succumbing to this fate. (Technically, Medium and Southland are also “on the bubble,” but I have a feeling NBC will end up renewing those over Chuck. I’ve heard good buzz about Southland, and I think people watch Medium, although I have no idea who those people would be.) If Chuck gets canceled, it’s not because it isn’t a good show. It’s purely Jay Leno’s fault.
And, to reiterate, because of Jay Leno, five pilots will not air, which means that thousands of new jobs won’t be created. Because of Jay Leno, four shows will likely be canceled, which means thousands of jobs will also be lost. It’s a pretty bleak economy, and NBC has just made it worse for those who earn their bread and butter as PAs, grips, wardrobers, gaffers, makeup artists, writers and set dressers. This is not a good thing to happen to the television industry, after so many were out of work for months during last year’s pre-economic downturn writer’s strike. Just think about that before you contemplate catching Leno before Conan. Support NBC’s other programs. And, while it’s still here, support Chuck. Because the past two episodes have been totally fucking amazing.
The two-part search to find where Fulcrum has stashed Scott Bakula begins with Chuck’s earnest plea to do whatever it takes to find his dad, even if that means removing Jill from custody to get close to her uncle Bernie (whose nutsack you have seen in Borat, by the way). To do this, Chuck and Jill fake an engagement and, when gangster Bernie realizes something is very not right about the situation, he threatens to kill the couple in the attic (after an amazing chase scene set to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”) . . . until he has a heart attack and dies on the spot, earning Chuck his titular “first kill.”
Unfortunately, Bernie dies without giving over the information they’d need, so Sarah is ready to send Jill back to jail, but Chuck, on advice from Morgan to trust the person you trust the least, lobbies to keep his end of the deal he struck with her. This proves especially useful when Bernie’s cell phone rings and Chuck answers, finding out that Fulcrum has plans to move Orion. Jill says she recognizes the address and Sarah begrudgingly agrees to let her go with them. It’s Fulcrum’s recruitment center, so Chuck and Casey pose as potential Fulcrum agents and try to bypass security to get to the 8th floor where Orion is being held, but to no avail. They walk through Fulcrum’s propagandized halls and are forced to take the aptitude test, which Fulcrum uses to separate Chuck from Casey. Realizing this, Sarah and Jill break in and start raining hellfire down on the Fulcrum agents that surround them while Casey, dressed as a window washer, shoots through the windows of the high rise to save Chuck. Jill escapes in the ensuing melee and catches up with Chuck who, after accidentally pushing Fulcrum’s head of recruitment out the window is also dangling precariously in an attempt to save him. Jill pulls back Chuck, causing him to drop the Fulcrum agent, bringing his kill tally to a total of two.
Chuck learns that Fulcrum has moved his father to an outpost in Barstow, CA called the Black Rock (and yes, the potential for a time travel-induced Lost crossover did enter my mind), and he allows Jill to escape by letting her keep the very expensive engagement ring provided to her by the government so that she can get away and have money to live off of with no paper trail. Although Chuck wants to rescue his father, the General fears that because the asset has been exposed to Fulcrum for what it really is, the project has to be shut down, with Chuck kept in lockdown in Washington, D.C. until the storm passes. Sarah is sent to the Buy More to catch the unsuspecting Chuck, and in a moment where we’re sure that Sarah is going to betray our hero, she turns around and whispers to him that she was sent to take him to lockdown, but that they’re going to the Black Rock, as she casts off his watch.
I wrote at the end of my notes that this episode was a total game-changer, and with the subsequent episode, I can tell you that Chuck is riding so high right now that, if it does succumb to cancellation, it will at least go out on an excellent end-of-season/series arc because “Chuck vs. the Colonel” was even more game-changing than “Chuck vs. the First Kill.” With Sarah and Chuck gone AWOL, the General sends Casey after them with the enticement that, as this will be his last mission with the Intersect project, he will have his pick of missions thereafter and will be promoted to Colonel. (It’s pretty difficult to make Colonel. In fact, let me take a minute to be extremely impressed that General Beckman is a woman. Women almost never make General or Admiral. There are, I believe, only 57 women of that rank in the United States.) Casey starts his search by looking for clues at Chuck’s home, only to be confronted by Ellie and Awesome, at which time he panics and tells the fretting bride that her brother hasn’t shown up for work and he was just looking for clues to see where Chuck would be. And then very inauspiciously exits through Chuck’s window.
This raises Awesome’s suspicions about Casey, and he heads to the Buy More to ask Lester and Jeff what they know about Casey. Despite the store being in the throes of the takeover by Emmett Milbarge (who tricked Morgan into helping him usurp Big Mike’s position by pretending that the performance review was to get Emmett promoted to store manager at another store) Lester and Jeff are eager to break into Casey’s store locker and show Awesome the contents of Casey’s secret locker, which contains not only a photo of President Reagan, but also a Chuck diary, in which Casey has recorded Chuck’s every bathroom break in the two years he’s worked at the Buy More.
Sarah and Chuck find the Black Rock, which is sadly not an old slaver on a mysterious island, but a desolate drive-in, under which the base is located. They check in to a nearby motel and wake up cuddling, which quickly turns into something more, and would have turned into every Chuck and Sarah ‘shippers dream had Morgan not stolen Chuck’s only condom and replaced it with an IOU. (I appreciate that Chuck practices safe sex, but am surprised that someone smart enough to go to Stanford keeps a condom in his wallet.) As Chuck heads out to buy another condom, Casey catches up to him and is prepared to also capture Sarah, but she’s already set up a Casey trap in their room so they can escape. After knocking Casey out, she chains him to the radiator. As they’re about to takeoff, they realize that Fulcrum’s around, and Chuck insists on heading back for Casey . . . who has already torn the radiator off the wall and hopped in the car moments after Sarah leaves to get him. She is captured by Fulcrum and the two agents battle it out with the Fulcrum captors (Casey using his radiator as both a shield and an accessory), eventually landing Chuck and Sarah in Casey’s backseat as they make their way back to Burbank. The drive-in flashes a “12AMTRON” sign on their way out of the Black Rock – a message from Papa Bartowski – but Casey won’t turn back.
Awesome breaks into Casey’s apartment and gets locked in by his absurdly secure security system, while Lester and Jeff stage an attempt to make Emmett look bad by shutting down the power at the Buy More with some explosives they found in Casey’s locker. They end up blowing out the power for a few large blocks of Burbank, shutting down the power in the Castle just long enough for Sarah and Chuck to escape their holding cell and get to Casey’s apartment in time to break up the brawl between two such awesome men. At a loss for words to explain the situation, Chuck tells Awesome he’s a spy and hands him his own spy mission to keep Ellie calm and not let her in on the situation until the wedding. As cool as Awesome thinks it is that Chuck is a spy, he has a really hard time not spilling the beans to Ellie. Man, it’s a lot of pressure to be that awesome, I guess.
Sarah and Chuck head out to the drive-in again to try and find the Black Rock at the site, but General Beckman wants to annihilate the site. Casey catches up to Sarah and Chuck and tells them about Beckman’s plan, as well as his own intention to follow through with his word to help save Chuck’s father.
“One more step it’ll be your last. No hugs!” – Casey
The trio pulls up to the drive-in to see dozens of sports cars robotically peeling back their convertible lids with besuited men inside them, all positioned for the midnight screening. Roark, happy that Papa Bartowski has completed his Intersect, stands atop the screen and announces his plan to create an army of human intersects in pretty much the fucking coolest use of an old drive-in ever. Chuck heads off to the projection room to stop the showing and walks right into Roark’s trap. He’s unable to stop the show, but demands that everyone in the room who doesn’t want to succumb to his fate close their eyes. Papa Bartowski tells Chuck that it’s okay for him to look because he made this Intersect for Chuck . . . to erase the one that’s already in his head. Roark is furious that Bartowski outwitted him but Beckman’s airstrike hits the drive-in before Roark can get his hands on either Bartowski. Scott Bakula grabs his Intersect-eraser and his son and piles into Casey’s car, where Chuck wakes and realizes that his life can finally be normal again – in every way possible. He is free.
Morgan also realizes he can be free of the life he’s been trapped in during the Emmett vs. Big Mike battle for control of the Buy More, and strips off his assman chains (as assistant manager) and declares that he will go to Hawaii to study the ancient art of hibachi and fulfill his dream of becoming a Benihana chef. And he’s taking Anna with him. Both Bartowski men make it home in time for Ellie’s rehearsal dinner, and she couldn’t be happier to have her brother and her father at her side. Even though Casey has no ties to Chuck anymore, Chuck invites him to Ellie’s rehearsal dinner as a friend, and he accepts, which just goes to show that even the heart of a cold-hearted killing machine can be warmed over by the prospect of an open bar. And Sarah is finally free to attend the event as Chuck’s real girlfriend. Even though it’s not said, the smile on her face as she takes his hand in the courtyard says it all. But I doubt this idyll will last long, as Roark has somehow survived the air strike and is hitching his way to Burbank to crash Ellie’s wedding as we speak. (Husband Note: He presumably had a safety bunker underneath the playground rocking horse he taps knowingly.)
These two episodes were filled with excellent spy work, humor and, in the case of “Chuck vs. the Colonel,” truly dizzying action sequences which, I think, were the strongest of the whole series. Although I truly hate the fact that Chuck might not come back next fall, I feel that if the series does end, it will feel like a complete story has been told, and I can be happy with that. Although, truthfully, I’d miss watching Adam Baldwin grunt. I’d miss that a lot.
It’s true. Chuck will very likely not be back next season, and it’s a goddamn shame. This shit’s really stepped up its game this season, and as I keep reiterating, it has found the perfect balance between goofy comedy and bomb action/adventure spy thrills. It has an incredible roster of recurring day players, most with stellar backstories and believable intentions (both good and bad), plus a geek’s encyclopedic love of mostly 80s-based pop culture. Why the fuck aren’t you watching?
Next week is promised to be a true gamechanger, which of course includes at least one wedding, and also the fact that a major character is going to die. I don’t have an answer for certain as to the identity of said dying character, but I do have slightly more information than just a random fan through a series of acquaintances, but I’ll hold onto that info until the series ends, as I’m not big on spoiling things for anybody. Especially me. Hell, maybe I just won’t say it at all. That’s how anti-spoiler I am.