The Wife:

We don’t usually do news here, but since I’m trying to decide what shows I can and can’t watch next year (thus, can and can’t cover) because of grad school, I figured I’d help you all out by sharing my handy-dandy season schedules for the major networks here at Children of St. Clare.

I’ve listed everything by hour, as most networks are running hour-long shows these days, so two half-hour shows are listed in the same box with the time the latter show starts in between them. If a show runs longer than one hour, I’ve indicated the length and listed it in the hour in which it starts. Asterisks (*) indicate new shows, and I’ll have some snap judgments on those shows following these graphics:


And here’s the weekend schedule for the fall, which, as you can see, is largely blank:


In January, the networks will change to their midseason schedules:


And here’s the weekend midseason schedule


Now, on the midseason schedule, you may notice some funny little symbols after the network names. Here are those footnotes:

  • # ABC has not yet announced its midseason lineup. The have, however, three new shows on deck: V, Happy Town and The Deep End, as well as returning shows Lost, Wife Swap, True Beauty, The Bachelor, Better Off Ted and Scrubs. Timeslots all to be determined.
  • + CBS has not yet announced its midseason lineup, but has the following shows for midseason replacements: Miami Trauma*, The Bridge*, Undercover Boss*, Arranged Marriage*, Rules of Engagement, Flashpoint
  • = CW’s midseason debut is Parental Discretion Advised, timeslot to be determined.
  • Additionally, Fox has Hell’s Kitchen scheduled for Summer 2010, and has Kitchen Nightmares on deck to fill holes in the schedule.

Now, for my snap judgments . . .

NBC: While we all know by now how I feel about Jay Leno, I can honestly tell you that the only one of their new shows I will definitely watch is Joel McHale’s comedy pilot Community, joining the NBC Thursday comedy block in 30 Rock‘s spot until it returns at midseason. Community has a good premise (McHale finds his college degree is invalid and must go back to community college to make up the credits), and has both McHale and Chevy Chase, who turned in a good performance as the villain at the end of Chuck season 2. I am overjoyed that Chuck is returning at midseason, as I think a 13-episode run will give us only the most super-concentrated awesomeness Chuck has to offer. I do not need another medical show in my life, so I’m declining Trauma and Michelle Trachtenberg’s nursing show, Mercy. 100 Questions looks so much like Friends that it is entirely out of the question for me. But then there’s Day One, which has a nice pedigree of coming from the people who work on Lost, Heroes and Fringe. It could be awesome, or it could be hokey, but I think it’s the only other promising thing NBC has to offer us.

ABC: I am delighted that ABC has given a permanent slot to Castle, allowing Nathan Fillion to prove he is charming, rakish and shouldn’t be a showkiller! He and Adam Baldwin have broken their own curse! Other than that, though, I am extremely concerned at how unimpressive the new shows debuting for fall seem, compared to the stuff ABC has on deck for midseason. Not a single one of the Wednesday night comedy block shows looks palatable. Hank looks downright abysmal, The Middle looks, well, middling, Modern Family falls flat and Cougar Town is trying way too hard. I might DVR Eastwick because I like Rebecca Romjin and Lindsay Price, but I have no emotional ties to either the previous film or the novel upon which it’s based to grab my immediate attention. I watched a clip from The Forgotten and I can tell you right now that I think it’s going to be the most dour procedural on television, and I certainly don’t need that in my life. I am, however, intrigued by Flash Forward because I like both time travel and Joseph Fiennes. But what sounds really interesting are the midseason shows. The Deep End is about law students and, out of all the ABC clips I watched, it certainly has the most character, pizzazz and joy. It also has Tina Majorino, looking the prettiest she’s ever looked. I will give that a shot when it premeires. I will also give hardcore sci-fi reboot V a shot, as we certainly don’t have any shows on network TV currently dealing with alien invasion, and I’m really jazzed on the trailer for Happy Town, which seems like its going to be a slightly more normal Twin Peaks (in that its a small town mystery), only this time, with Amy Acker!

FOX: I’m wary of a fall edition of SYTYCD, but I do see the benefit of it giving FOX a consistent schedule so that things don’t get shitfucked when Idol rolls around at midseason. Perhaps, if this is a success, going forward we’ll have to find a new totally awesome summer reality competition . . . maybe one for actors? OR MAYBE WE CAN MAKE A TRIPLE THREAT SHOW BECAUSE I WOULD TOTALLY WATCH THAT????? (Please, FOX?!!!!) Fox is actually my favorite of the networks so far, actually. I’m happy to see they’ve renewed Dollhouse and paired Bones with Fringe, which makes for a really rockin’ Thursday. Also excited to see Sons of Tucson with Tyler Labine as it looks pretty funny from the promo.  Human Target looks pretty fun, too. And you best fucking bet I will be watching Glee. The only thing I think I’d really pass on, here, is Past Life, and that’s just because I’m not really interested in seeing a show that solves crimes using past life regression (although one of my favorite X-Files episodes has exactly that conceit). So, rock on, FOX. You are my winner for next season.

CBS: I will be skipping pretty much every new show on CBS this year as they continue to build their police procedural empire. However, I will give a try to the new Monday comedy Accidentally on Purpose, even though it’s based on the memoirs of a film critic I don’t like very much, the Contra Costa Times‘ Mary F. Pols, who can’t seem to see the good in anything at all. The show is set in San Francisco, though Pols lives somewhere in the Walnut Creek area in reality, I assume, and Jenna Elfman plays the fictional version of Pols’ film critic who accidentally gets pregnant by a younger, one-night stand and decides to keep the baby, and it’s daddy. I generally like Jenna Elfman and, of course, adore Grant Show, who will be playing her boss. I will also give Three Rivers a shot, because it stars Moonlight‘s Alex O’Laughlin and its about organ donation, so there’s a chance I could see him repeat at least part of his horrifying performance in Feed, a film in which he kidnaps obese women and feeds them their own fat until they die. (How he would repeat part of that performance, I don’t know, but I’d like to see CBS try.)

CW: Will I watch a show produced by Ashton Kutcher about teenage models called The Beautiful Life? Yes, I will. Will I watch a show about teenage vampires called The Vampire Diaries? Indeed, I would probably watch something like that, as long as it sucked in a good way and not a bad way. Melrose Place? I have even less of a connection to that show than to 90210, so I’m not inclined to watch the reboot — especially since Ashlee Simpson’s on it. But, hey, I might need some mind-numbing crap to counterbalance all my grad school reading, so perhaps. I’ll give Melrose Place a perhaps, a perhaps perhaps, even, if I choose to continue watching 90210, making my Tuesday nights just like 1992. I am, however, surprised that CW axed the Gossip Girl spin-off, as even though I didn’t like the backdoor pilot, I did think the show had potential. I’m also surprised they axed Jason Dohring and Minka Kelly’s legal show, Body Politic, if only because I was hoping both former Moonlight vampires would have jobs come fall, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for Josef Kostan nee Logan Echolls.

So, as the curtain on this TV season falls, you can look forward to me actually writing about Mad Men this summer, as well as many, many articles on SYTYCD. After that, I’m going to have to see what my fall schedule is like and compare it to the above fall schedules to see what I can really watch and what I can, in turn, cover.

I’ll make you guys a chart of all that later.

The Wife:

The Dollhouse season/series finale (and I’m betting it’s the latter) was certainly some of the series’ finest work, confirming my Dr. Saunders-is-a-doll theory and engaging in some interesting cyberpunk conceits. As a finale, I think this episode admirably wrapped up the season and, since the central arc was essentially completed, could serve to wrap up the series, as well. But, as any good season finale-that-might-be-a-series-finale should be, there are open doors through which to proceed should FOX get Dollhouse a greenlight for 12 more episodes. (Or 13. Depending.)

When Alpha abducted Echo from the Dollhouse, he stole all of her former imprints, and destroyed the backup copy of her original “Caroline” personality. Topher struggles to find out which of her imprints he would have uploaded into her before absconding, and discovers that it was never one of Echo’s imprints at all, but one of Whiskey’s.

A tall glass of Whiskey.

A tall glass of Whiskey.

Three or so years ago, Whiskey and Alpha were sent out on a paired engagement, basically playing Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers in some dude’s totally weird torture/porn fantasy. Alpha, programmed with a personality prone to paranoid delusions, started to take things too far, which in turn called in the handlers to break things up, but not, of course, until after the reveal that the silhouetted woman he was working with wasn’t Echo at all, but Whiskey . . . and after Whiskey and Alpha proceeded to have some totally hot foreplay with their captive. (This is, I guess, the only reason one should ever want to be kidnapped by Mickey and Mallory, because otherwise that’s a pretty fucking terrible idea!)

And here’s where I take a moment to thank Joss Whedon for giving us Amy Acker in stripper clothes. She’s so much more beautiful and has so much more range than Eliza Dushku that I’d rather watch a spin-off prequel about her character. I mean, really, Dushku has basically only been Faith for most of this series, whereas Acker has been someone completely different than Fred. And we already know she’s a great actress. Let’s all take a moment to shudder in remembrance of the Ilyria arc on Angel.

But as to the Mickey-and-Mallory imprints, it seems Alpha chose them in part because his Mickey personality was dominant at the time, and in part because it was the most convenient way to go on a kidnapping spree. He and Echo-as-Mallory, only minutes out of the Dollhouse, kidnap a young girl named Wendy and drag her back to Alpha’s lair. He was astute enough to call in a bomb threat to the building and lock everyone else inside the Dollhouse so they’d have greater difficulty finding him, and Paul Ballard (who also doesn’t have a whole lot of range or characterization, thanks to Tahmoh Penikett) puts himself in charge of reconstructing what happened on the day Alpha went rogue.

It seems Alpha was obsessed with Echo from the day Caroline strode into the Dollhouse for her pre-Activation tour. Caroline makes a comment about how the Dolls all seem like zombies waiting for tasty brains, which I thought was a pretty cute, sly nod to her Hulu commercial, as well as an accurate assessment of living without a personality. Per the Mickey-and-Mallory flashback, it seems Alpha was routinely paired with Whiskey on engagements, as she was, at the time, the Dollhouse’s most requested Active. And because of his fascination with Echo, he one day took a pair of scissors to Whiskey’s face during art class, eerily demanding, “Whiskey, let Echo be number one.” And so Whiskey was broken, and Alpha was to be given a full diagnostic, wiped and then sent to the Attic (despite his protestations that “I was making art”). During the diagnostic, though, he resists, creating that famous composite event where all of his former imprints uploaded into his brain, causing him to not have multiple personalities, but to be multiple personalities, as other brains shifted, randomly, into his own consciousness at any given moment. And so that killing spree occurred, in which he preserved the one person he thought was different and special: Echo.

At his power plant lair, Alpha uploads Caroline’s brain into poor unsuspecting Wendy with his own version of Topher’s chair, and forces “Caroline” to confront her own body. This was absolutely my favorite part of the series so far, as I felt it finally engaged in some commentary on theories of consciousness and embodiment rather than just bringing something up through a moral lense (such as the show’s constant dialogue about slavery and freedom, which also is brought up in the most eye-rolling way possible during this otherwise great scene). Alpha shows “Caroline” her body and chastises her for abandoning it, making a strange bid to privilege the corporeal and temporal over permanent, ethereal cyber-consciousness. I found this bid to punish Caroline’s mind for abandoning her body especially strange in light of Alpha’s next assertion that, if he makes Echo like him, they can be supreme beings, gods or supermen (or, literally, the Alpha and Omega), because they are not one person with multiple personalities, but one body comprised of many people, able to shift in and out of consciousnesses at any minute.

To make her into Omega, Alpha uploads all of Echo’s imprints into her, hoping that she will do as he did when he emerged from his composite event and destroy her original consciousness. In this case, to kill “Caroline.” But Echo as Omega seems to have a slightly better grip on reality and juggling multiple consciousnesses than Alpha does, and realizes it’s pretty insane to destroy one’s primary consciousness, so she instead swings at him. She disagrees with his theories on the übermensch, because even though they may be everybody, in the sense that they are many people, they still aren’t someone without their original personalities.

That notion of being “someone,” I think, is what Alpha’s addled brain is rallying against by destroying his own original brain and asking Echo to destroy hers. To Alpha, a body with just one brain in it, one consciousness, is to be “someone,” which is to be less than “everyone,” privileging a multiple consciousness, an ever-shifting collective over the singular, individual consciousness. I really like this conceit as it subverts the notion of what it means to be an “everyman” in narratives. This whole time, we’ve looked at the Dolls as “everymen,” capable of having attributes projected onto them, but now we’re asked to read Alpha and Omega’s composite personalities as “everymen” in a literal sense, which renders them godlike, in Alpha’s conception, and, therefore, utterly singular. Uniqueness here is achieved by subverting the traditional notion of an “everyman,” and that’s pretty clever.

Barring that reading, I would find it very odd for Alpha to spend time punishing Caroline’s brain for abandoning her body, when he went on to destroy his own. Especially when he utters the most cyperpunk line in the entire series as he uploads Caroline into Wendy: “A body’s just a body. They’re all pretty much the same.” And he’s right: bodies aren’t special, but consciousness is. This show’s entire conceit has privileged the consciousness over the corporeal, uploading new people into blanked out bodies and sending them off to do the extraordinary or the ordinary. A body is only meat and flesh and organs, something that can be marked, scarred, broken or destroyed while the consciousness, especially the kind that is downloaded or uploaded at will, that lives on. And I couldn’t be happier that Dollhouse finally made it to a point where it engaged in its own conceits. (Props to you, Tim Minear!)

Thus ends our brief, poorly-executed literary theory section of this post. I promise only summary/brief commentary from now on.

While Alpha, Wendy/Caroline and Echo/Omega are having theoretical fun in his lair of doom, Ballard manages to get the bomb threat called off so he and others can go hunt down Alpha and their missing Doll. Sierra and November are imprinted as thieves, for some reason, in the one plot thread that never actually goes anywhere, which I think was added just to make Ballard uncomfortable at seeing the woman he kind of cared for uploaded with a new personality. He also discovers that Alpha and some of the other original dolls were taken from a prison population, and that, as a convict, Carl Craft (later known as Alpha) was also prone to carving up people’s faces and kidnapping. (So perhaps one never leaves one’s original consciousness behind, even when erased?)

Meanwhile Dr. Saunders tends to Victor, whose lovely face will now be scarred worse than her own. She’s actually not very kind to him, reminding him that he will never, ever be able to be his best again, that he’ll basically suffer the fate she suffered: being uploaded with a new personality for the remainder of his contract with the Dollhouse and working on the inside, as a Doll with scars is a broken Doll. (I’ll spare you more theory/analysis on bodily marking, abjecta and the horrific powers of scars, even though I assure you I really, really, really want to say something about it.) You see, once Whiskey was broken by Alpha, and he killed the original Dr. Saunders (who was an old dude who liked lollipops), they made her useful by uploading his skillset and temperament into her body. I feel so badly for Victor, whose life will never be normal again. He won’t notice it now, but when his contract is up, he will. Maybe Topher can make one of the Dolls into a plastic surgeon and fix most of Victor’s scars. He’s almost too valuable to lose as a Doll.

Why couldn't she climb to the top of the ratings? She can do practically everything else.

Why couldn't she climb to the top of the ratings? She can do practically everything else.

Back in the power plant, Echo agrees that she won’t kill her own consciousness (after the world’s most eye-rollingly on-the-nose speech about how she has 37 different brains in her head and not a one of them thinks you can sign a contract to be a slave, especially when there’s a black president), Alpha threatens to break Wendy’s personality so that she can never have it back, revealing his plan to basically live out his days kidnapping people, and putting Echo’s consciousness into them so that she can repeatedly kill herself (and yet never kill herself . . . which is where his argument descends into crazyville). She chases him outside to save Wendy’s consciousness and literally goes out on a limb for the girl, crawling on a construction beam to get to the wedge. Conveniently, Boyd and Ballard have figured out where Alpha’s lair is by this point and Ballard manages to position himself right under Echo, catching the wedge as it falls and saving the girl. Alpha escapes (thus setting up the chase to continue should there be a next season).

Back at the Dollhouse, Ballard agrees to contract for DeWitt to help track down Alpha, but only if November’s contract is voided and she gets to return to her own life, which was pretty sweet and unexpected of Ballard to do, and proves that, in some small way, he did care about Mellie, even though she was never real. And Echo? She gets wiped clean, at least for the foreseeable future.

I’d be surprised if Fox gives Dollhouse a second season, but with such a strong sweep (save for “Haunted”) heading into the finale, they’d be remiss not to. It’s not the smartest show on TV, but it tries hard enough to be. And I’d rather watch something with which I can engage than something that doesn’t ask me to at all.

The Husband:

Hell, I can ignore about half of the Dollhouse episodes and still be confident enough with the other half, especially the last two and the Rashomon episode, to demand a second season. Just like Buffy and Angel, it took its time to get its intelligence and cleverness past the network and finally become a true Whedon show, one of big ideas, big laughs and big action. While I felt the first handful of episodes really talked down to its viewers (something that FOX surprisingly does not do very often with its dramas, and far less so than the #1 network, CBS), it finally started asking us to put the pieces together, and play along with the show as it progressed through its actual mytharc.

As I didn’t really give a crap about this show for a few weeks, I was surprised at how emotional I felt during this finale, especially during the Alpha flashbacks. This may have a great deal to do with how much I have grown to love Amy Acker over the last nine months while I watched Angel, but also my extreme amount of respect for Alan Tudyk as an actor ever since I saw him in A Knight’s Tale. (It took me another three years to discover that he wasn’t British.) The moment he slashed up Whiskey’s face was probably the series’ best moment, one of both great despair and, in a really fucked up way, love. I’m so glad I called the fact that Whiskey only became Dr. Saunders after she was slashed up, and that she wasn’t necessarily the second Doll, and that it in turn gave me a reason as to why Dr. Saunders would be afraid of Alpha, even if she wouldn’t have remembered him as an activated active and not as Whiskey.

While my wife geeks out on cyberpunk, I’m more interested in the broader concept of a soul, or in this case, how despite being a superpersonality, Alpha original form, Carl Craft, tends to dominate and thus fucks up the rest of the Dollhouse by basically being Jack the Ripper. It explains away some of the contradictions in Alpha’s “quest” versus his own killer instinct, the highbrow and lowbrow of what’s going down in that fried brizzain.

Ballard still sucks, though, but now that he’s in cahoots with the Dollhouse, maybe he can redeem himself as a character if the show gets renewed.

Which brings me to the renewal question. I wholeheartedly think that had FOX not dumped it on Friday nights, pairing it with the sinking second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it would have definitely earned a second season. Can you imagine how Fringe would do on such a shitty night with such a shitty pairing? Why not put Dollhouse on Mondays after either House or Bones (the ever-shifting hits of different proportions)? I think going up against Heroes, which some might consider stupid, would actually be a great concept. Heroes is hemorrhaging viewers each week, viewers who’d do better with the similar-but-better Dollhouse, so FOX could easily snag those viewers away, viewers who’d perhaps prefer something a bit more rewarding. And at 9, it could basically take all of those viewers who love Chuck at 8 but ignore Heroes (…as I raise my hand…), because Chuck was designed for Whedonites, the smart nerdy crowd who’d follow Adam Baldwin anywhere. It’s a dirty tactic, sure, but it’s not a new concept.

Come on. Even if many great shows have failed ratings-wise this season, at least they were given a second chance after the WGA strike. Money is money, so wouldn’t you love to capture the intelligent 18-34 bracket who are smart enough to have a disposable income? Because those people are called Whedonites.

The Wife:

I could not have asked for a better season finale for Chuck than what we witnessed last night. It was moving, suspenseful, action-packed and funny – all of the things we’ve come to expect from this sophomore series which, I hope, gained enough viewers last night who also happen to enjoy $5 Footlongs from Subway to get NBC’s attention. Although last night’s finale would make a good end to the series as we know it, there’s so much more story to tell, heading in a fresh new direction. I’m trying not to get my hopes up that NBC will do right by Chuck and everyone who works on it and give it the greenlight for a third season, but I really believe that Chuck has the potential to have at least two more stellar seasons, maybe even three. And NBC needs to realize that. How could they not after “Chuck vs. the Ring?”

Finally, Ellie and Awesome’s wedding day has arrived, Chuck and Casey quit the Buy More and the team is about to split up to go their separate ways. Casey’s off to do some hardcore Marine shit somewhere in the Middle East, Sarah has been assigned to the new Intersect project acting as Bryce Larkin’s handler (as he will now carry the Intersect inside his head) and Chuck, well, all Chuck wants is to have a future with Sarah, turning down the opportunity to remain on the Intersect team as an analyst. Chuck barely has time to get a nice champagne buzz going over the news that his dream girl will be leaving with his old college rival/ex-bestie before Roark shows up at the wedding and demands that Chuck give him the Intersect cube within 30-40 minutes or he will kill Ellie.

Chuck heads off to steal the Intersect from the Castle and asks Morgan to stall the wedding by any means necessary. This, of course, means getting Jeffster to play a totally stirring rendition of “Mr. Roboto.” At the Castle, he finds Bryce, who offers to give himself to Roark and tells Chuck that Orion knew Bryce was a spy all along and sent him to be at Chuck’s side at Stanford to protect him. While Ellie’s guests are waiting in the church, Roark, Bryce, Chuck and Sarah have a reception ruining shoot-out in the dining room (scored by Jeffster, of course) and are almost toast, until Casey and his black ops soldiers crash through the skylight, killing Roark’s flunkies and arresting the software mogul. Even with her reception ruined, Ellie’s wedding could have gone on . . . had Jeffster not ended their performance by setting off some sparklers, which in turn set off the sprinklers, dousing the guests and the bride.

Ellie takes to getting trashed on champagne in her bathtub, still wearing her wedding dress, and Chuck tries his best to make her feel better by telling her that he was the one that screwed up her wedding and that he’ll make it up to her somehow. With Sarah, Bryce, Casey and the black ops’ help, they manage to pull together a second wedding for Ellie and Awesome (paid for by Chuck’s sizable government stipend for two years of spy work), more akin to the wedding she’d always wanted: small, on the beach, surrounded by friends and family, rather than the big fancy to-do cooked up by the Awesomes. Both weddings would have been beautiful, but the bridesmaids dresses were definitely better at the beach wedding. And, most importantly, Ellie looked better at her second wedding than she did at her first one. That silk halter with the deep v-neck was a total stunner.

Geek girl thought of the day: My dad was totally awesome at my wedding, but how cool would it have been to have Scott Bakula and Zachary Levi walk me down the aisle?

Geek girl thought of the day: My dad was totally awesome at my wedding, but how cool would it have been to have Scott Bakula and Zachary Levi walk me down the aisle?

But even though all is right for Ellie and Awesome, Sarah tells Bryce during the ceremony that she won’t be going with him on their new Intersect mission and, meanwhile, one of Casey’s men kills Roark in cold blood, as well as the three other Marines on his team. Bryce pops up at Ellie and Awesome’s reception to talk to Papa Bartowski before being hauled away by his new handler, on whom Papa B flashes (because, hey, he has an Intersect in his head, too). That man is not CIA. In fact, he’s not even supposed to be alive. Once Sarah and Chuck get this information, they take off to save Bryce, with Papa Bartowski’s wristral jackomater in tow. By the time Sarah, Chuck and Casey arrive at Bryce’s location, he has already bested several adversaries, but been mortally wounded. As he lays dying, he begs Chuck to destroy the new, more powerful Intersect so that no one, especially these new, non-Fulcrum baddies, gets their hands on the intelligence. But, knowing the value of the Intersect and his father’s work on it, Chuck uploads the data into his head, becoming the Intersect once again, before destroying the upload computer. Just how powerful is this new Intersect? Well, it seems to come with some special new skills, best summarized by Chuck’s newfound ability to take out, like, eight dudes by himself and this paraphrased line from The Matrix:

“Guys . . . I know kung fu.” – Chuck

An excellent episode, worthy of more like this to come. Cross your fingers, guys.

Rivaling Angel for cool sequences that take place in white rooms.

Rivaling Angel for cool sequences that take place in white rooms.

Some other funny:

  • “If you were a true patriot, you wouldn’t even cash it.” – Casey, on Chuck’s government check
  • “Why are you letting Sam Kinison and an Indian lesbian wreck your wedding?” – Awesome’s dad
  • “Hm. A real shotgun wedding. Just think: that terrible pun will be the last thing you ever hear.” – Roark

The Wife:

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.”

Uh, is this where the GRE Subject test is being held?

Uh, is this where the GRE Subject test is being held?

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.

Youre out of ammo, Walker. And I could still beat you with a radiator.

You're out of ammo, Walker. And I could still beat you with a radiator.

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.

Seriously, how creepy is this image? Never before has someone made me think a drive-in is creepy. Its usually where I go to watch terrible movies and eat Chinese take-out in my car.

Seriously, how creepy is this image? Never before has someone made me think a drive-in is creepy. It's usually where I go to watch terrible movies and eat Chinese take-out in my car.

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.

The Husband:

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.

The Wife:

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.

Theyre even making Cylons in stripper form now . . .

They're even making Cylons in stripper form now . . .

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?

Preparing for the final leap home.

Preparing for the final leap home.

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.

Dude, thats not Ziggy and Im not Al. Let it go.

Dude, that's not Ziggy and I'm not Al. Let it go.

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.

The Husband:

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.

The Wife:

For what I liked about “Chuck vs. The Best Friend,” it was definitely a mistake to place it in between “Chuck vs. The Suburbs” and “Chuck vs. The Beefcake.” It clearly wasn’t intended to go there, as some online commenters pointed out last week in regards to Morgan mentioning his having a girlfriend in “Suburbs,” which he didn’t, if the narrative timeline of “Best Friend” is to be believed. Regardless, splitting the arc created in  “Suburbs” and “Beefcake” definitely ruined some of that storyline’s momentum, despite the little “here’s some things you need to know in case you forgot” reminder they gave us at the beginning. Without that forward momentum, I liked this episode less than I would have had it come fresh off of “Suburbs.” It was fine, but, jeeze, dudes, don’t split your arcs. That’s way worse than splitting the infinitive.

So because of what happened in “Suburbs,” the General wants Chuck sequestered at the Castle, but knowing they can’t actually pull that off, Sarah and Casey instead keep Chuck out of the active parts of missions. Chuck has a serious talk with Sarah about their fake relationship and they agree to break up, allowing Sarah to operate independently on their next mission: to intercept the transfer of Fulcrum’s version of the Intersect from ladies’ man Cole Baker to another agent, by any means necessary. Those means? Seduction, especially considering that the information is hidden in a chip inside Baker’s belt buckle. So Sarah sets about seducing her target with Chuck listening in from the bar to see if he flashes on any audio clue (has he ever done that before?), as well as listening for the safe word, but he can’t bear to hear Sarah’s heavy breathing and starts quaffing martinis in order to dull the pain of hearing the woman he loves getting fake-hot-and-heavy with the poor man’s Clive Owen. (Whoever that actor is, he is the poor man’s Clive Owen and shall always be known as such to me.)

When Chuck decides to listen in again, he realizes Sarah may be in danger and sends Casey after her. Casey tries to stop some Fulcrum agents in the elevator, only to be fooled by the old fake-baby-in-a-stoller trick. Luckily, Chuck gets to the door just in time to distract Baker and give Sarah time to once again gain the upper hand. The team takes Baker into custody, and all the while he insists that they’ve got it all wrong, that he’s not who they think he is. As Sarah runs off to shoot down a Fulcrum helicopter, Baker admits to Chuck that he’s actually MI-6. Chuck lets him go help Sarah and he ends up saving the day by shooting out a gas can and making the copter go all explodey. Pretty sweetles, actually.

At the Castle, Baker explains that Fulcrum needed a playback device in order to read the contents of the chip he was carrying. He had planned to meet with a Fulcrum agent, obtain the playback device, and deliver the chip to MI-6, keeping whatever contents were on it away from Fulcrum’s evil hands. Sarah, Casey and Baker decide to continue this transaction at another location with a fake chip, and everything goes swimmingly until Chuck decides to take the real chip to the Buy More and hack into it, alerting the Fulcrum agents that the deal is Sarah and Baker is all a set-up. They take Sarah and Cole into custody and eventually, come for Chuck, who witnesses that the chip contains footage of the procedure he underwent at Meadow Branch in “Suburbs.”

I believe you've hacked my chip, Mr. Bartowski.

I believe you've hacked my chip, Mr. Bartowski.

When Alexis White and her team of agents show up looking for Chuck at the Buy More, Jeff and Lester assume they’re cops who’ve come to pinch Chuck for sexual harassment. While Chuck was busy being a spy, Big Mike left Morgan in charge of hiring a new green shirt (a great play on the Trekian “red shirts” that I really hadn’t noticed until now, only the expendability of the Buy More employees usually doesn’t end in death) so he can go bang Morgan’s mom. Seeing how distraught Morgan is, Jeff and Lester decide to take over the hiring, creating a ruse that will allow them to hire a model like Brooklyn Decker as the official Buy More Babe. Their greatest hope is that they can convince one of the model wannabes to sleep with them in order to get the job. What they get is numerous slaps across the face and threats of lawsuits. This is certainly one of the more contrived Buy More plots, but at least it melded with Chuck’s spy life and, in fact, served as yet another cover, as Jeff and Lester are totally willing to believe that people who aren’t at all dressed like cops are, in fact, cops. Why they didn’t assume Alexis was a lawyer there to slap Chuck with a lawsuit I will never know. Jeff and Lester really aren’t that smart, I guess.

So Chuck, too, gets taken into custody by Alexis. She’s holding a torture party in a warehouse and she starts with Cole. Unable to stand the thought of someone dying on his behalf, Chuck tells Alexis that he’s the Intersect, but Cole, a good agent not wanting to risk the thing he’s supposed to protect, also claims that he is the Intersect. Alexis continues to flog Baker, and threatens to drive a needle into Chuck’s eye or pump Sarah full of lethal drugs, but Casey arrives just in time and Alexis, refusing to talk, injects herself with the lethal cocktail. Sarah goes off with the injured MI-6 agent, leaving Chuck to Casey. Back at the Castle, Baker swears to protect Chuck’s identity, and tries to convince Sarah to go on a romantic vacation with him, but she insists she has to work. Sarah also tells Chuck that she recognizes how much torture he’s gone through by keeping up the charade of their fake relationship, so if he wants to be broken up, they’ll be broken up and will stay friends.

Throughout the episode, Ellie and Awesome grow worried about Chuck’s relationship with Sarah. Ellie encourages her brother to break up with Sarah if he doesn’t think she’s the one, which Morgan contradicts when he moves in to Chez Bartowski to avoid Big Mike’s relationship with his mom. According to Morgan, you can see all over Chuck’s face that he loves Sarah, and that he’s a better person when he’s around her. Ellie starts to wonder if she spoke to soon in encouraging her brother to break up with Sarah. By living at the Bartowskis and accidentally being caught naked on the couch, Morgan realizes it’s time to get his own place and Chuck, fresh off an official break up, decides to move in with Morgan. When they arrive to announce this to Ellie, she is less than thrilled, but then Sarah arrives, delivering news that Cole has been captured on his way back to London and the General has ordered that Chuck be under 24 hour protective detail, which means that they can’t break up and they have to move in together.

Every relationship has its ups and downs, but Chuck’s friends and family have to question the stability of his relationship with Sarah when they’re broken up one day and moving in together the next. I’m interested to see where this goes and if it escalates or eases the tension between Chuck and Sarah, as well as its effect on how much of a cover Chuck has to keep now that he’s going to be around his family less. I really don’t know how I feel about this episode, but I hope it’s a stepping stone to something truly great.

The Wife:

Finally, an episode that deals with how Chuck’s spy life affects his relationship with Morgan! I think we often look at Morgan as comic relief, and he does get to be the ringleader of the Buy More shenanigans most of the time, but rarely do we see Morgan as a fully-realized person (with feelings other than lust and humor), and to that end, this episode was a great success. It also answers my question about where the hell Anna has been for the past six episodes or so, because the answer is making out with another guy who is taller than Morgan and richer than Morgan.

Morgan convinces Chuck to help him spy on Anna, and in so doing, Chuck flashes on her new boyfriend’s car. Anna’s new boyfriend, Jason Wang, deals with an espionage group known as Triad, and the General orders Chuck to get close to Jason Wang so he can suss out his exactly level of involvement with the group and find out what their planning. Chuck refuses to do this, feeling that any association with Anna would betray Morgan’s trust.

“You want me to befriend my best friend’s ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend?”

To facilitate this, Chuck invites Anna and Jason to go on a double date with him and Sarah. Thrilled, Anna invites them to a party Jason is throwing that night to display the collector’s cars he’s lined up for auction. Uncomfortable with his betray-Morgan mission, Chuck proposes a sub-mission in which he and Sarah try to get Anna and Morgan back together. At the party, Sarah endears herself to Anna, telling her that she’s always thought of Anna and Morgan as a great couple and good friends, which instantly wins Anna’s trust and has her confessing to Sarah that she still loves Morgan even though she thinks Jason is a better catch. Morgan, spying from outside, catches Chuck talking to Jason and instantly thinks his friend has betrayed him.

Chuck then flashes on some of Jason’s friends, members of Triad, and follows them to the garage to plant a bug so Casey can survey them and find out what they’re up to. He knocks over a can in the process, leading him to almost get caught. When he hears Triad call for security, he assumes Casey is coming to rescue him, but then they both realize that the Triad gang members have caught Morgan and the only way Chuck believe he can save his friends life is to publicly shame him, telling the Triad folks that Morgan isn’t a spy, just a worthless, lowly stalker who can’t get over his ex. With a half-hearted plea to “grow up,” Chuck breaks Morgan’s heart and his trust, and undoes all the legwork Sarah had done to convince Anna to take Morgan back.

Meanwhile, Ellie is up to her neck in wedding plans and she asks Shirtless Awesome to help her with some of her to-do list. In a good-natured attempt to get Chuck involved, as well, Awesome asks him to help find a band for the wedding, which Jeff and Lester overhear and pitch themselves for. Chuck nixes this plan without even hearing their music, to which Jeff shoots back:

“Don’t be a musical bigot.”

When Ellie’s computer crashes, Jeff and Lester see it as an impromptu chance to audition, so they take the Nerd Herder and head over to Chez Bartowski to endear themselves to Awesome and Ellie, but once they set up shop, Lester gets stage fright and can’t bring himself to live out his dream of singing in the greatest rock band of all time, Jeffster. (He fears, by the way, that he will die of auto-erotic asphyxiation, which is always funny, because I think of Peter Boyle telling that to David Duchovny in The X-Files episode “Clive Bruckman’s Final Repose.”) Ellie then gets mad at Awesome for outsourcing his list to Chuck, as brides are want to do.

This is not what I ordered from Amazon!

This is not what I ordered from Amazon!

Chuck feels awful about hurting Morgan, but Sarah has little sympathy for him, putting the greater good of the mission into perspective. Chuck tries to make up with Morgan, but Morgan realizes he doesn’t want to be Chuck’s friend anymore because, ever since the flashback to 1992 that opened this episode, Chuck has always been stepping in to save that little bearded Alf-loving man’s ass and it’s about time Morgan learned to do things on his own. But then Chuck sees those Triad baddies enter the store, and he knocks out Morgan with some knock-out Binaca and tries to haul his buddy out of danger in a flat-screen TV box, until he gets distracted and flashes on Jason Wang on TV, leaving Triad to steal their boxed-up and incapacitated target all the more easily. While he loses Morgan, Chuck realizes through his flash that Triad plans to kill the Chinese ambassador at Jason’s auction by planting a bomb in his brand new Rolls Royce. Things only get worse when they arrive at the auction and find that Triad has put Morgan into the Ambassador’s trunk, killing two birds with one bomb, as Smooth Lau observed.

Sarah heads to the garage in the hopes on intersecting the vehicle before it’s driven away, but instead she gets into a knock-down drag-out girl battle with Smooth Lau, and they end up beating the shit out of one another using car parts and seatbelts in a BMW. Chuck chases after the Rolls with Casey hanging off the roof, begging to be let in. Chuck finally agrees and Casey takes over driving the car with his remote control, until he is able to corner the Rolls and stop it. As Casey distracts the Ambassador and his driver, Chuck pulls the bomb out of the car and puts in the Nerd Herder, appearing to drive away with it, and causing late-arrival Sarah to react in tears and horror when the Herder blows up. Apparently, Casey forgot Chuck knew about the remote control he had only told him about minutes before, because Casey seemed pretty upset to potentially lose Chuck, too. But you know who didn’t think Chuck was in that car at all? Me. Nonetheless, having Sarah and Casey believe Chuck had just died for Morgan made the scene worthwhile, providing the right note of drama on their horrified faces that I didn’t get from the Nerd Herder fake-out. (Note: I want to trick out my Matrix with a remote control, too.)

Apologizing for nearly giving Sarah and Casey heart attacks, Chuck gets Morgan out of the Ambassador’s trunk and wheels him back to the Buy More before he even knows what happened. Chuck tells him that he passed out before the Triad guys could even fight him, and Morgan is touched that someone he’d been mean to recently would have his back, always and forever. Awesome makes up with Ellie and convinces her to let Jeffster audition for them at the Buy More, where they rock out to some sweet sounds by Toto. At the show, Anna and Morgan get back together, and Sarah apologizes to Chuck for not understanding how important his friends are to him because she doesn’t have anyone who cares about her like that, to which Chuck replies, “Yes, you do.”

What I love about Chuck is that for all its coolness and geek humor, it always finds a way to make use of tender and heartbreaking moments. I was sad for Morgan when Chuck betrayed him in front of Anna, and wholly touched at the end when Chuck professed his devotion to Sarah as Morgan and Anna joined them at the Jeffster show. This was a solid episode, all around, and fused the three plots pretty neatly.

Stray observations:

  • I also like that this show realizes how much the female/gay male audience loves to see Captain Awesome shirtless. I will never say no to shirtless Captain Awesome.
  • Y: The Last Man makes two appearances in this episode! Awesome is reading “Volume 1: Unmanned” when he wakes Chuck up to ask for band advice, and Chuck also has a poster of some of the art on his wall. And no, I don’t think it’s sad that I can identify a graphic novel just by seeing a panel of a blonde girl in the Aussie outback and a glimpse of the back cover. You know what that makes me? Fucking awesome, is what.
  • Because I spent so much time last week reading the last four volumes of Y and thinking about how it interacts with Brian K. Vaughn’s work on Lost, I also realized that the graphic novel also makes sense in the Chuck-verse, on a surface level. Like Yorick Brown, Chuck Bartowski is a man thrown into a situation that he’s completely unprepared and unqualified for. They both hang out with monkeys, or men who are very monkey-like, and both narratives feature an awful lot of hot girl-on-girl fight scenes. I might even propose that Smooth Lau is an homage to Y‘s super-ninja bitch, Toyota. (For serious, they look alike.)
  • In short, all of you should read Y: The Last Man. It’s fucking amazing.

The Husband:

The best episode in some time, this was the Chuck that brought us back to the show’s original intention – to be a comedy/action show, and they should hold equal ground. The entire second-to-last segment was as good as anything s1 cooked up as far as tension was concerned, what with a surprisingly well-shot car chase sequence (it helps that both of the cars looked effin’ sweet), mixed with some old school Bondian gadgets and silly criminals. I think I like the show best when all of the main characters are acting in one reality (ours), while the spy story is something out of a comic book (alternate reality), finding the humor in the dichotomy. It’s what makes Monty Python so funny, applying logic to the silliest of situations, and it’s what makes Chuck special.

I will show you smooth, bitch.

I will show you smooth, bitch.

And yes, the Sarah-Smooth Lau combat inside the BMW was so well-choreographed that it felt like an early 90s Jackie Chan movie (one of the ones with Michelle Yeoh). Good stuff, Schwartz.

The Wife:

Ah, the suburbs. I’m not entirely sure why Chuck decided to do its take on the “suburbs are the root of all evil” thread, considering all of the characters in the Chuck-verse live in Burbank, which isn’t exactly L.A. proper. Yes, I enjoyed watching Chuck and Sarah play house, and in fact there were a lot of great moments in this episode and I enjoyed it a great deal, but the fact remains: why should the suburbs be a scary place of homogeny when all the characters in this universe already live in a suburban area and work in a strip mall? There’s no opposition there. It’s not like “Arcadia” on The X-Files when Mulder and Scully, FBI agents who basically live in their offices in the federal building, head to the tract housing development of Arcadia where a garbage monster lurks under the carefully constructed conduct codes and regulations of the housing community. Certainly, both situations allow us to see what it would be like in a ‘shippers paradise, with Mulder insisting that he and Scully masquerade as Rob and Laurie Petrie, while Chuck and Sarah move into a beautiful house complete with well-photoshopped pictures of what their lives could be and a dog. Chuck’s arrival in his new tract home was probably my favorite part of this show, as it was a 2-minute sequence set to The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.” Truly, an outstanding moment on this show, as Zachary Levi steps into the kind of life he always imagined he’d have, surrounded by images of a joyous, normal life, a friendly dog and a hot wife who whips up a mean potato salad.

But while there was no real opposition between the suburbs and Chuck’s world, there was still enough drama in Chuck and Sarah playing house to make the trope work for the episode. Instead of trading on the oppositional landscapes, Chuck used this opportunity to once again show us a life Chuck will never have, so long as the Intersect is in his brain. As Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carmichael, he and Sarah host a block party for their new neighbors to find out which of them might be the Fulcrum agent that destroyed the agent formerly assigned to the Meadow Branch suburb. My second favorite moment of this episode? The look of rapture on Chuck’s face when neighbor Andy Richter asks him who the blonde talking to his wife is, and Chuck answers, almost breathlessly: “That’s my wife. That’s Sarah.”

All of the neighbors seem to be squeaky clean, except for Jenny McCarthy, who tries to seduce Chuck. Casey, posing as the cable guy, finds a bug under a tray of brownies and Chuck realizes that the Fulcrum agent they’re looking for is actually ex-CIA . . . and married to cougaress Jenny McCarthy. In order to get close to the former agent’s computer and learn whatever he can about Fulcrum’s operations in Meadow Brach, Chuck must succumb to McCarthy’s wiles and “cheat” on his wife.

McCarthy, the crazy cougar lady, is more than willing to let Chuck into her house and handcuffs him to the bed, although Chuck is a little less willing to cheat on his fake wife, asking McCarthy to rustle up some liquid courage for him so that he can take some time to investigate the household computer. He manages to get the key to the cuffs off the nightstand with his feet, not wanting to follow Casey’s suggestion of breaking his thumbs to squeeze out of cuffs, and follows the incredibly large Internet cable to the computer. Once Chuck types in the password (he guesses “Salamander” because it was the word the previous agent in his position kept saying after he went mad, and there was a little salamander by the computer), he initiates a “test sequence” that appears to brainwash him the way the Intersect did when Bryce sent it to him. Only this series of subliminal images is red, so you know they’re evil. Unlike the prior agent on this job, the images do not make Chuck go mad, but instead the presence of McCarthy’s husband forces Chuck to sneak out of the house in the most embarrassing and conspicuous way possible: by sliding down the roof. In his underwear. Finding that Chuck is gone but that the “test sequence” on the computer is showing up as successful, McCarthy remarks to her husband that they may have found their subject.

Um! I thought I was auditioning for Singled Out! This is not what I signed up for!

Um! I thought I was auditioning for Singled Out! This is not what I signed up for!

Due to this embarrassment, the General throws Chuck off the case, announcing that because of his actions the Carmichaels are getting a divorce. As the neighbors come to Sarah’s side to comfort her in her time of need, Chuck realizes slightly too late that Meadow Branch is a front: the company that build the cul-de-sac is part of Fulcrum and all of the neighbors, including those women now holding Sarah at gunpoint, as terrorists. Wasting no time, Andy Richter tazes Chuck when he arrives at the house to talk to Sarah. They both wake up in an underground laboratory, with Casey cuffed in another room (Richter tazed him in his cable truck before Chuck even arrived), surrounded by their former neighbors in lab coats. Chuck is about to undergo a ludavigo technique version of the test sequence, and McCarthy announces that Fulcrum’s mission is to rebuild the Intersect computer in order to “fight evil.” Just as she tried to seduce him sexually, she now tries to seduce him to work for her. Chuck refuses, but they run the subliminal sequence anyway, donning shades so that their brains do not become fried. Meanwhile, Casey breaks his thumbs to escape from his cuffs. When Chuck is pulled out of the sequence, the Fulcrum agents as him if he wouldn’t mind if they perform the sequence on his wife next, to which he coolly and robotically replies that he doesn’t have a wife. The Fulcrum agents drag Sarah to the chair, and Chuck winks at Casey who has crawled into the control center and has started typing into the computer. Casey pulls some sunglasses down over his eyes, and Chuck tells the Fulcrum agents that before they proceed, he has something to say to Agent Walker. He leans in close, and tells her to close her eyes, cradling her head to his chest as Casey blasts the subliminal sequence that effectively fries the brains of all of the Fulcrum agents – none of whom kept their protective eyewear on between sequences. Dumbasses.

In the Buy More plot, Big Mike has turned into a total terror because his lady handed him divorce papers on Valentine’s Day. Displeased with Big Mike’s management-style now that he’s single, Morgan and the Nerd Herders convince him to put his profile up online to find love again. Emmit Milbarge, sporting a sweet new pompadour for his lady Henrietta, gets in on the action and helps Big Mike lie on his profile. At the end of the episode, Big Mike decides to come clean to his new paramour, wanting her to know that he isn’t a shipping magnate, but that he is, in fact, just the manager of the Buy More. She thinks, however, that he has called her to the store to talk to her about her son, who works there and is, of course, Morgan. So Big Mike is fucking Morgan’s mom. Please exploit this thread for all its worth.



Due to the disaster that was the Meadow Branch mission, the General orders Casey and Sarah to shut down their operation, and as she tells Chuck to give back his fake wedding ring, he realizes that he and Sarah will never move forward, especially now that she has to retreat from him even further. Ellie thought their “housesitting” experiment would be a great way for Chuck and Sarah to see how they’d work if they were on the marriage track like she and Awesome are, but Chuck sadly informs his sister that they’re just never going to get to that point, but that he’s okay with the way they are now. Sarah, however, isn’t, as she hesitates to remove her fake wedding ring when locking up their rented suburban home, even as she watches the dog go back in his crate and each of the photographs of a life where she and Chuck are happy get thrown in the trash — another beautiful moment in a really good episode.

The Husband:

Every once in a while, I turn to my wife and tell her how much I hate tract housing developments: the look, the idea, the shitty homogeny of American life and people’s bizarre acceptance of it. I don’t really want to get into all the specifics, since I’m sure many of you think I’m wrong and have plenty of examples of normal lives lived in such places, in addition to the fact that my opinion – as opinions are – is very subjective and based on my own obsessive need for individuality. To each his own, really.

But this episode of Chuck gives me new fodder. Tract housing developments are evil because they house villainous anti-government terrorist cells. I knew there was something wrong.

Not a great episode, but I like when the show gets all referential, so the final “red sequence” reference to the climax of Raiders Of The Lost Ark was especially awesome. I was hoping for some sweet face-melting, but I’ll take brainwashing in its place.

The Wife:

I love 3-D. I really do. I love that we’re bringing that back, just like I want us, as a nation, to bring back the Drive-In. (I currently sing the praises of my local Drive-In, the Solano West Winds, which had been closed for most of my life, until it reopened, serendipitously, the summer I moved back to the Bay Area.) However, I’m just not sure 3-D is meant for my home viewing pleasure. Those dinky paper glasses just aren’t quite right ever, even though the technology has advanced enough to make 3-D not so headache-inducing. I did get a headache from trying to watch the whole of Chuck in 3-D, so I had to resort to slipping the glasses over my glasses when I thought there’d be a neat sequence coming up, a method that worked out pretty well.

Some quick notes on Chuck in 3-D:

  • The dimensionality in new 3-D is really good. I now have a good sense of the physical depth of Zachary Levi. Unfortunately, 3-D doesn’t mean I can actually squeeze him. Bummer.
  • You know what’s hella tight in 3-D? Chuck’s title sequence.
  • Also hella tight? Chuck’s flashes. It’s as though those things were always meant to be in 3-D.
  • I am also thankful that this episode didn’t resort to too many gimmicky 3-D tropes, like throwing stuff out at us for no reason. All I remember is the knife, the rest of the 3-D just added dimension.

As for the plot itself, Chuck is still reeling from seeing Sarah kill a man in cold blood. In fact, he’s having nightmares that she will kill him in lingerie. But he still has to get up every day and go to work – both of his jobs, in fact – and so he heads off to the Buy More, just wishing he could have one day off from being a spy. Emmit and Big Mike have a surprise for the Buy More staff, though, in the form of super hot international rockstar Charlie Pace, er, Tyler Martin who is coming to their store for a record signing because their competitor, Large Mart, backed out at the last minute. Big Mike gives Chuck and Morgan the day off, instead relying on new employee and ex-con Butterman to beef up security around Tyler. But even before Tyler arrives, Chuck remembers that he can’t take a day of from spy work too when he sees a man in a trenchcoat smuggle a bomb into the store. He and Casey try to spirit the bomb into the backroom so as not to harm the crowd, but Morgan interrupts the process, thinking Casey and Chuck were just playing keep away. With only a few seconds left on the timer, Casey and Chuck manage to meet up with Sarah in the backroom and lock the bomb in a fire-proof box, shoved into a refrigerator, shoved into a storage closet – pretty awesome quick thinking on their part, I must admit.

When they report the bomb to the General, she commands that they capture Tyler Martin and interrogate him about the bomber to find out what he might know about people trying to harm him. Tyler arrives, all tattooed, dirty and overrun with rock star swagger, and tells the Buy More patrons that amongst his new CDs is a golden ticket, which will earn the bearer a backstage pass to his sold-out benefit concert in Burbank the next evening. Seeing the man, myth and legend of Tyler Martin, Chuck is bewildered at how they could possibly convince him to go with them, completely misunderestimating the power of Sarah’s boobs in her Orange Orange tank top with a fantasy fan blowing through her hair – the sight of which instantly charms Tyler into joining her in the back room of the Buy More. Casey tranqs Tyler and leaves him in Chuck’s care while he and Sarah go off to investigate the bomber’s hideout.

Casey’s tranqs are supposed to knock Tyler out for 12 to 72 hours, but the veteran rock star filters toxins through his system a little more quickly than the average bloke, so he awakes before Casey and Sarah are even out the door, causing Casey to tranq him out once again. When he wakes up a second time, Chuck convinces Tyler that he’s from the record label, and Tyler insists that Chuck come party with him, offering him the once in a lifetime chance to hang with a rock star. This is an irresistible offer for our hero, who longs to have any kind of normalcy, so he heads off with Tyler to knock back shots and pick up on hot babes. Tyler impresses both the girls and Chuck by telling them about his tattoos. He can’t remember what a damned one of them means, but he knows he gets them to commemorate the times he does “something amazing” (you know, like feed a village in Africa or have an orgy in a unique location). The girls convince Tyler and Chuck to come up to their room, but Chuck flashes on the necklace one of the girls is wearing, alerting him that he and Tyler are about to be in a very dangerous situation.

Absolutely, my man. You can have whichever of the ladies you'd like.

Absolutely, my man. You can have whichever of the ladies you'd like.

At that moment, Casey and Sarah track the bomber to the club and capture him. He informs them that his agents are already with Tyler and that they are too late to save his life. Upstairs, Chuck tries to stall by telling Tyler not to sleep with these strange babes, asking him to resist the urge for just once. Tyler understands this to mean that Chuck wants the girls for himself, and agrees that Chuck indeed needs this experience more than he does. Once trapped in a room with them, the female agents descend upon Chuck. He manages to escape death, while dangling perilously from a glass elevator as Sarah fights off the female assailants within the carrel, but loses track of Tyler. Luckily, Casey manages to step in just in time to tranq Tyler and drag him out of this situation before it gets any worse. Then, Chuck flashes on Tyler’s back tattoo and realizes that his manager has been using Tyler’s body to transport government secrets and instructions to agencies all over the world.

Meanwhile, Butterman, Jeff, Lester and Morgan decide to go through every copy of Tyler’s album to find the golden ticket to go to his show. Morgan finds it and decides to hold a triathlon to determine which of his coworkers should get to attend as his plus one. Round One, “The Molly Ringwald Underpants Challenge,” awarded victory to the first person who brought Morgan a pair of ladies panties, which Butterman won by ripping off Lester’s thong. Round Two, “The Subway Sprint,” pitted Jeff against Butterman in an eat-off where the first person to finish a 3-foot sandwich would win. I figured Jeff would take this one, and he did. Round Three involved a urinal cake, which Jeff decided to snatch from the table and eat before even hearing the rules. All he needed to do was touch it first, so, by definition, Jeff won the triathlon.

But after seeing Butterman languish about his choices at the soda machine, Morgan grows a heart and decides that the person who most deserves the golden ticket is Butterman. After the time he spent in the pen with no soda choices, he deserves to have the freedom of a backstage pass at a concert. Upon receiving the Golden Ticket, Butterman immediately sells it to another employee for $800. As it happens, Butterman was not the thug we were lead to believe he was, but rather a white collar criminal who served his time for investment fraud. He is really good at taking valuable things from people, it seems.

With Tyler back in custody at The Castle, the team debates whether or not he should perform his concert that night. Tyler is hesitant, wondering why he should risk his life when the danger level is so high, but the General needs him to perform in order to lure out the bomber. Chuck convinces Tyler that its important for him to be really brave for just one night in order for him to have a normal life from here on out, fully realizing that it would be highly unfair for Tyler to die for being an unwitting pawn in someone else’s plot. This all strikes a chord for Chuck, who himself was put in Tyler’s position by Bryce Larkin, only with no hope at all of ever having a normal life again. I think this also struck a chord with the life of another impish rock star played by my favorite hobbit, Dominic Monaghan. Charlie Pace died doing a brave thing as a pawn in someone else’s grand scheme. But like Charlie Pace, Tyler Martin decides to carry on with the show and do the brave thing.

Chuck stays with him backstage until it’s time to perform and Casey and Sarah scan the audience for signs of the bomber. They find tons of decoys, which have allowed the bomber to find his way to Tyler’s dressing room door. Chuck hatches a plan: he photographs Tyler’s back tattoo and asks Tyler to hide in the closet. Once Akhmed the Bomber is let in, Chuck tries to blackmail him by revealing the secret plans hidden in Tyler’s tattoo, but Tyler ruins the moment by trying to be brave and the two are forced to run onto the stage, but not before Tyler takes a second to punch his manager in the face for using him. With the bomber behind them, they’re forced to seek refuge crowd surfing, where the bomber follows them until Sarah and Casey are close enough to apprehend him, and Tyler goes on to perform his show. Afterward, he thanks the team for all their help, and Casey reminds him that he’s in for some serious laser treatments in the future to have his tattoos removed so he can live safely.

As for Sarah and Chuck, he finally tells her how uncomfortable he has been since he saw her kill a man, and she reminds him that she only did what was best for Chuck and his family. She and Casey head off on a mission, giving Chuck the day off he has so desired, but Chuck just can’t stay away and hops in the car with them.

As much as I love Dominic Monaghan, I don’t think this was a great episode to come back on. I appreciate the resonance between his character and Chuck, and using him as a device to get Chuck to have a little freedom from the mundane, but the way in which he was brought into everyone’s lives was really awkward, and the Golden Ticket plot at the Buy More never got a full pay-off. (Unless the employee who bought the ticket from Butterman did show up at the concert and I just didn’t see him.) I love the idea that Tyler’s body was a message board, but for whom? And why, exactly, was this Akhmed the Bomber guy all set to destroy Tyler? Was Tyler’s back tattoo a warning to someone about Akhmed’s plots? Or what? I don’t think a plot of Chuck has ever made so little sense before. And who the hell was Tyler’s manager working for in the first place? It just doesn’t make much sense in the long run. This character would have been better for, oh, I don’t know, his own show. Or a book. Or something. There was a lot of richness available in this “Illustrated Man” idea, but it was so watered down on Chuck that the motivations for including it didn’t make sense at all.

I’ve never really been critical about a plot on Chuck before, but I’ve invested a lot of my time researching and writing about tattoo narratives and narratives of the body, so I found this one to be particularly irksome in how poorly realized it was. But that said, Dominic Monaghan’s presence made me almost not realize any of that. Charlie Pace is Dead. Long Live Tyler Martin.

I have fallen through The Looking Glass and lived to tell the tale, my friends!

I have fallen through The Looking Glass and lived to tell the tale, my friends!

The Husband:

I present to you the following video in order to explain why, during the 3-D Super Bowl commercial for Monsters Vs. Aliens, the Sobe ad and last night’s episode of Chuck — as well as before the start of My Bloody Valentine 3-D a couple weeks ago — I kept putting on the 3-D glasses, poked people and said “It’s like I can tooooouch yooooooou!”

I present to you the glory of Don Hertzfeldt.

By the way, today marks the release of the deluxe editions of the first three Friday the 13th movies, but the best of which is Friday the 13th Part 3 in glorious 3-D! I just watched bits of it with my coworkers with the provided 3-D glasses, and it’s actually pretty damn good technology considering it’s still the simple one-eye-red-one-eye-blue glasses. (In this day and age of RealD for Bolt, it’s strange to even try that old gag.) There’s nothing like watching some 80s chick get a spear through the eye in 3-D to cheer you up in the morning. If you’re a fan of the 3-D process or just like the Jason Voorhees movies – admit it, you love them – I suggest you pick it up.

The Wife:

Further utilizing the backstory established in “Chuck vs. the Cougar,” this weeks’ episode turned our nerdy spy show into a con game when Sarah’s dad, played by Gary Cole, comes to town to visit his daughter while working a big money con of a Sheik. Via flashback, we’re introduced to the kind of cons the Burton family used to pull on their neighbors and strangers when we see little Jenny play dead and her dad bark the crowd with a sob story about not having health insurance and needing to take his girl to the hospital. In the car, safely miles down the street, little Jenny pops her head up over the back seat as her daddy peels of his mustache and asks, “How much did we make?” Man, I can only hope that if Sawyer ever makes it off the island, he and little Clementine can one day pull adorable father-daughter cons like that. So. Freaking. Cute.

Sarah tells Chuck that she’s taking a “personal” day, which he automatically assumes means that there’s a mission he is intentionally not being included on. He tails her to the restaurant where he sees her having dinner with a man he deems much too old for her. He flashes on Gary Cole’s wrist scar and finds out that he’s a convicted felon just as Sarah hears her GPS beep, alerting her that Chuck is nearby. When she confronts him about his presence in the restaurant, he tries to warn her that she’s dating a very bad man, whom she introduces to Chuck as her father. In Sarah’s room, her father asks her about her boyfriend Chuck, her job and her lavish apartment. He assumes that because those things don’t make sense with one another (a minimum wage job and a lush pad, plus a dude who seems like he’s not in her league) she’s followed his footsteps and plays the con game, too. He tells her that he’s in town working a big con: taking $1 million from a Sheik. Immediately, Sarah heads off to work and reports her father to the general, who tells Sarah that she must in turn con her father in order to gain access to the Sheik’s bank accounts. The Feds will let Burton’s game slide if they can use him to catch a bigger fish.

Meanwhile, in Buymoria, Anna has finally found her way back into the plot. She encourages Morgan to move in to a fancy apartment with her because she feels their relationship has progressed to that stage. That, and she’s tired of hooking up in the Home Entertainment Room of the Buy More. Morgan asks Captain Awesome for relationship advice and Awesome happily agrees to lend Morgan $2500 to put a down payment on the apartment so that Morgan can grow up a little bit and make his lady happy. (Of course, Awesome’s charitable bequest must be paid back biweekly with 12% interest. “Welcome to adulthood.”) But then Lester and Jeff alert Morgan to the fact that a vintage 1981 DeLorean that barely runs and doesn’t go more than 22 mph has pulled up in the audio install bay. Unable to resist such a sweet piece of pop culture, even if one of the doors doesn’t work, Morgan forks over Awesome’s money and becomes the proud owner of a car he will dub DEMORGAN, complete with personalized license plate. (In California, you can actually only put 7 characters on a license plate, which means, Chuck fans from the Golden State, that DMORGAN, DEMORGN, DEMRGAN and DEMRGN are still available if you want them as your own plates.)

Chuck, emergine Doc Brown-style from the Demorgan.

Chuck, emergine Doc Brown-style from the Demorgan.

While lunching with Gary Cole, Chuck and Sarah learn that her father conned the Sheik out of his million by promising to sell him a huge plaza in L.A., a move known in the con community as “pulling a Lichtenstein,” in which one pretends to be an inventor or collector who needs to make a big sale fast because the biggest lie is usually the easiest to believe. After lunch, they are surprised to see that the Sheik has come to LA looking to collect on his purchase. He and his posse demand a meeting with the fictional Mr. Lichtenstein and Gary Cole, thinking fast, ropes his daughter into the con to play the role of Lichtenstein’s assistant. Sarah wears the role like a second skin, promising a meeting with Lichtenstein the next day. When the Sheik starts to believe that Lichtenstein isn’t real, Chuck calls the hotel’s front desk, getting the clerk to call out across the lobby for Lichtenstein, just in time for Chuck himself to enter the con, playing the German-speaking Lichtenstein. Convinced, the Sheik agrees to meet with them the next day.

Sarah tells him that she’ll help with the con only if Chuck “the Schnook” and Casey can help. Gary Cole puts Casey on security because he doesn’t trust his “Cop Face.” The next day, Casey takes over as building security and helps Sarah, Chuck and her father break in to an office by pretending to be exterminators. Once the building is evacuated, they cover the signage with “Lichtenstein Enterprises” signage and take their places in the office. Cop Face sends the Sheik up only when it’s clear, and Sarah is prepared to translate made-up German to Chuck, whose only role is to simply sit there and say nothing that makes any sense. But then the Sheik throws them a curveball: he rightly, smartly, brings his own translator, whom he insists will be the only person speaking directly to Dr. Lichtenstein. Chuck saves the day by insulting the translator’s accent with the little English he knows and insists that, due to this outrage, the deal is off. Chuck’s reluctance to sell only makes the Sheik want the building more and Sarah convinces the Sheik to wire a small deposit into their account so that they can hold the property for him, successfully gaining access to the accounts for her boss and saving her dad from certain death, and they leave to let the Sheik enjoy his new purchase just as the real occupants of the office exit the elevator.

Only Gary Cole is a better con artist than his daughter. He didn’t set up the wire transfer to go into the CIA account and takes off before the rest of the team realize that the money is gone, along with Chuck’s laptop. Sarah feels terrible that helping her dad compromised the mission, and Chuck tells her that she’s not responsible for her father’s sins, something he took many years in therapy to learn after his engineer father left him and Ellie. (I am now about 90% that Chuck’s father was recruited by the CIA to build the Intersect and had to be sequestered because of the information to which he was privy, thus explaining the dwindling contact he had with his family after he left his children.)

Casey is sent to find Gary Cole alone, learning that he checked into a downtown L.A. hotel under the name Guido Merkins. (Thus marking the second vagina wig reference of this TV season.) But then Gary Cole calls his daughter from the back of a limousine, where the Sheik reveals that he has kidnapped Cole and will only return him unharmed if the Sheik’s money is returned unharmed. So Sarah, too, sets off on a mission alone to save her father.

Chuck returns to work at the Buy More, only to be hounded by Morgan, who asks if Chuck can lend him $2500 to pay back Awesome, who demanded that Morgan return the money when he found out that it was used for the childish purchase of a novelty car. Chuck agrees to lend Morgan the $2500, only to find out that there’s an extra million dollars in his bank account. He then borrows the Demorgan in order to follow Sarah and Casey on their “personal” missions.

Give me your account number so I can make sure you get your British Lottery Winnings.

Give me your account number so I can make sure you get your British Lottery Winnings.

In a rooftop standoff, Chuck gets the Sheik to input his account number in order to return the $1 million, hoping that the time it takes to transfer the funds will be enough time to keep Sarah, Burton and him alive. Just as the Sheik’s money transfer finishes, Casey swoops in, pretending to be from the U.S. Treasury department and arrests Chuck and Sarah before the Sheik has time to shoot them. In a last-ditch effort to make the con look real, Sarah shoots her father in the shoulder. Hoping to not get arrested or shot himself, the Sheik steals the Demorgan, unaware that he won’t be going very far at only 22 mph.

Back at the Castle, the General thanks everyone for their attention to the mission and arranges an arrest for Sarah’s father, asking Sarah to keep him in a certain place at a certain time to facilitate the capture. In deference to his help on the case, Casey asks the General if he can testify at Burton’s hearing in order to reduce his prison sentence, a request that she allows. Chuck returns to the Buy More to give Morgan the bad news about the stolen Delorean. Morgan could not be more pleased to hear this, because it means he’ll get Blue Book value for the car after it’s impounded. That money means he can pay back Awesome and still move in with Anna. That is, until Jeff and Lester coax him into the audio install bay where he feasts his eyes on yet another novelty vehicle: the General Lee.

As Sarah prepares to facilitate her father’s arrest, she fixes his wound and Gary Cole tells her that he’s convinced that she and Chuck the Schnook are an actual couple. Happy with the man he thinks his daughter’s chosen for a mate (or a con partner), he tells her that she chose “the right schnook.” She asks her father to go get her some rocky road ice cream as she notices the time for his arrest draws near. He runs into Chuck on his way out of the hotel and expresses similar platitudes to the schnook. As the police cars arrive, Sarah comes out to tell the cops that she doesn’t know where her father went, and he slips away, effectively evading arrest under the Intersect’s nose.

Nothing says I Love You quite like a father-daughter con.

Nothing says 'I Love You' quite like a father-daughter con.

I liked this episode, although it certainly wasn’t as funny as a normal Chuck episode. In fact, it was hardly a normal Chuck episode at all, focusing on the work of grifters instead of the work of spies. Overall, it seemed a little out of place, but it was a nice change of pace and, most importantly, a really good character study for Sarah. That’s one thing I can definitely give Josh Schwartz and his writers major props for this season: they’ve worked really hard to keep growing their characters, never sacrificing them and their actual motivations for the sake of plot contrivances, which is more than I can say for the NBC show that directly follows this one.

The Husband:

Gary Cole has had a long, strange career. Let’s just put this into perspective. 15 years ago, he starred in The Brady Bunch Movie, followed three years later by a very goofy, sleazy supporting role in Office Space.

Now, he stars as a sly grifter this week on Chuck, as a terrifying and abusive policeman husband on Desperate Housewives last season and starred on a bounty hunter show on TNT called Wanted a couple years ago.

In between, he found the time to voice the lead character in Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law.

So I say, what the hell? It’s madness, I says!

Added Note: If you watch the episode on, you can see a friend of my sister, Mary Howard, as an extra, dressed in a gray sweater, at one of the Buy More scenes. The timestamp is 19.26.