Chuck: “Chuck vs. the Bearded Bandit”

The Wedge

By Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 2011 by Sarah Stegall

Fridays on NBC at 8/7 PM

“Chuck vs. the Bearded Bandit”

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc

Directed by Patrick Norris

“She took all of our potential clients today.” — Chuck

Like all new business owners, Carmichael Industries has to market their services, so we open this episode with Chuck, Casey and Sarah making a pitch at a convention. Despite Chuck’s charm and Sarah’s looks, they come across as stiff as, well, John Casey, so it’s no wonder they are immediately upstaged by the dynamic Gertrude Verbanski (Carrie-Ann Moss, The Matrix), whose team wows the audience. Casey’s a little wowed, too, since he and Gertrude once shared a liason so passionate Casey actually left behind a souvenir — his favorite gun.  Talk about your Freudian slips. Back at the BuyMore, Morgan is put out because he was left out of the presentation. Having acquired the Intersect, he does not understand why he is not immediately being treated as the valuable asset he believes himself to be. So for the next forty minutes or so, he pouts, whines, gets himself into trouble, interferes in a rescue, and finally deserts his good friends. Which would be bad enough, but we’re also given some hints that he’s losing his mind as well. Which, I grant you, would take a long time to notice in Morgan Grimes.

“For the first time in my life, I sort of feel as cool as you.” — Morgan

One of my favorite actors, Jeff Fahey (Lost) turns up playing criminal Karl Sneijder, who wants to hire Carmichael Industries to rescue his brother, who has been kidnapped by some  business associates. Sarah asks Chuck to be Morgan’s handler, just as she was his handler when the Intersect was new. Chuck’s not very good at this, despite the fact that he knows Morgan better than Morgan knows Morgan. The trouble is, this Morgan is not the one Chuck knows; he’s Morgan-plus-the-Intersect, a perennial underdog who has unexpectedly gotten a shot at being top dog. Whereas Morgan used to be happy as a sidekick and wingman, now he’s getting ambitious. Unfortunately, while he may be as pop-culture savvy as Chuck, he’s not as smart. So while he imagines himself as the masked superhero Bearded Bandit, Chuck has to rescue him from being arrested for armed robbery.

“I’m not just an ordinary guy now. I am the Intersect.” — Morgan

By the time Morgan crashes a rescue operation, I was starting to wonder how much more of this we were going to be forced to endure. If Chuck wants to spin this role-reversal out much longer, I’m going to lose interest pretty quickly. And if the writers are so dry they’re going to drag in an amnesia plot to make Morgan act out of character and betray his best friend, I’m really going to lose interest. Throughout the story, Morgan shows signs of memory loss, as he misses references to Star Wars, Die Hard, and Indiana Jones. He shows no interest in geek movie night, a standard recreation he shares with Chuck.  So okay, his brain is melting. I hope this provides the impetus the show needs to get the Intersect out of his head and into someone more interesting, less obvious. Like maybe Devon or Ellie.

“I have all these powers and abilities. How am I supposed to help people if I can’t tell anybody about it?” — Morgan

There were some genuinely funny moments in this week’s show. You can never go wrong, in my opinion, with physical comedy, and Morgan’s obsession with proving himself provided plenty of opportunity. The double jump kick Morgan and Chuck pulled in Sneijder’s lair was a fun call-back to earlier fight scenes with Chuck the Intersect. Casey’s shy and awkward attraction to Gertrude could be fun. And the affectionate scenes between Sarah and Chuck were sweet and real, exactly the grounding we need in a screwball comedy.

“I am so over this whole Jeffster thing.” — Big Mike

The BuyMore is not doing well, so the secondary story in this episode involved Big Mike’s promotional efforts. Like the Carmichael Industries presentation, his home-made ad falls flat, so he enlists Awesome to be the BuyMore spokesmodel. It’s a brilliant stroke, and allows us to enjoy Ryan McPartlin doing almost a parody of his Awesome character. Alas, we’re seeing less of Jeff and Lester, and I suspect that I am alone in continuing to appreciate the bizarre joy that is Jeffster. As the show winds down, it seems that some of the secondary characters are fading away. Ellie has been reduced to a walk-on, Jeff and Lester are cameos, and even Big Mike is losing ground. It’s like watching a set be dismantled piece by piece. There are several weeks left in this series, but it already feels like it’s gone.

Chuck lost 20% of its audience from last week, which was already the series low. This brought it to a series low of 0.8 rating for adults in the 18-49 group, slightly more than 3.0 million viewers.