Mondays on NBC at 9/8
“Chuck vs. The Broken Heart”
Written by Allison Adler
Directed by Kevin Bray
“That’s the taste of a healthy colon!” — Captain Awesome
What moron decided to cast Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) in the same TV show as Yvonne Strahovski? I thought my TV was going to melt. I’m sure John Casey wasn’t the only man tripping over his tongue during this episode. Her performance as Agent “49B” Alex Forrest pretty much mirrored everything she did on Battlestar Galactica. She was taut, dismissive, superior, domineering. She used sex as an interrogation technique. The only time she was really human was during a hilariously over-the-top gun-cleaning scene between her and John Casey, who growled that he “liked the cut of her jib”. I give full props to Helfer for making gun porn so laughable. And when her character reduced Lester the Glib to incoherent babbling with a pole dance, I applauded outright.
General Buttinski–sorry, make that Beckman–assigns Forrest to make sure that Sarah Walker’s performance is “professional”. Which is funny, because nothing could be less “professional” than Beckman, who is head of the NSA and therefore NOT Sarah Walker’s boss, presuming to order a job assessment on an agent who works for another agency. Washington turf wars being as legendary as they are, it would not surprise me if Sarah’s next assassination target was the General herself. Which would suit me fine. That character has become as annoying as a mosquito at a nude beach. She’s not above humiliating people to get her way; in one cringeworthy scene she reveals to Chuck that she has a YouTube-style montage of every single one of Chuck’s declarations of love. When Chuck picked up his TV remote and clicked her off in mid-word, I actually applauded. I want something embarrassing and uncomfortable to happen to this character.
Embarrassing and uncomfortable seemed to be the watchwords for this episode. Chuck gets kidnapped at his own door by the BuyMorons, who are “rehearsing” for a bachelor party for Devon, Chuck’s soon-to-be brother-in-law. Casey nearly shoots them, and they are reduced to begging Chuck to invite them to the bachelor party, as none of them have ever been to one. Chuck’s got his hands full as it is; to have to face the threat of losing Sarah at the same time puts him in high-anxiety mode. Casey and Forrest draft Chuck into a caper that requires him to impersonate a doctor at the very same hospital where Ellie and her fiancé work. He barely avoids an embarrassing confrontation by pretending to be Devon himself. Having confirmed that the patient awaiting heart surgery is indeed their target terrorist, he tells Casey to proceed with a pacemaker swap.
But Casey can’t get past hospital security, so they drop back to Plan B: steal a doctor’s ID card. And what better doctor to victimize than Devon himself? Another kidnapping! This time the BuyMorons really do snatch Devon, so that Forrest and Casey can get the ID card. Forrest proves herself incapable of any op that does not require shooting someone, and after trying to seduce Devon with a pole dance, she tranks him in sheer frustration. When Devon wakes up the next day without his pants or his shirt, Ellie gets entirely the wrong idea and matters go sour between them. Yeah, embarrassing and uncomfortable seem to be the defining characteristics of this whole ep.
A third kidnapping ensues when the terrorist’s doctor discovers the bug implanted in his patient and grabs Chuck, thinking he’s Devon. Locked in a bank vault with a gun to his head and orders to perform heart surgery on a terrorist, Chuck is reaching whole new levels of anxiety. Fortunately, Sarah has figured out that Chuck is in trouble. Forrest doesn’t believe her, but Casey does (surly but honest, that’s our Casey). As Sarah and Forrest argue over the best way to save Chuck’s life, Chuck rescues himself by releasing laughing gas into the vault. By the time Sarah opens the door, Chuck and the doctor are laughing themselves silly over second-grade level jokes (“Not all ladybugs can be ladies!”). Oh, and Chuck proves that nitrous oxide is a better interrogation agent than terror and torture. Too bad the real CIA hasn’t picked up on that.
Fewer in-jokes and pop culture references this time around, but I caught the reference to classic 1949 noir film, The Third Man, when the terrorist-patient is identified as “Harry Lime”. Chuck describes Forrest as a “soulless replicant”, pretty much a description of Number Six. Otherwise, not as much geek love in this episode as I’ve come to expect. That’s okay, it made more room for funny moments like Casey turning a garden hose on the BuyMorons, or Awesome’s discovery of Chuck’s secret spy name–although he doesn’t believe it. I loved Sarah using the Morgan door (window) to enter Chuck’s room. Casey ogling Forrest never got old, especially when paired with his wordless little grunts of surprise and lust. Lester and Jeff’s speculations on what goes on at a “real” bachelor party were comedy gold, as always. I must applaud Scott Krinsky’s portrayal of Jeff, who resembles Bill the Cat (Ack thppt) more with every passing day. The moment where he admitted that he’d hired his own sister as a stripper was bizarrely perfect.
Chuck is rubbing off on Sarah–whereas she might once have been Forrest, casually tranking people who get in her way, she now frantically works to avoid violence. She’s showing some impressive character development: when she thinks she’s losing Chuck forever, she jeopardizes her career by using the government database to find Chuck’s father. As a love story, this is progressing faster than at the glacial pace of the beginning of this season.
What’s starting to fray around the edges, though, is the whole conceit of Chuck’s concealed spy life. Awesome now knows his agent handle and knows Beckman’s name–even if he doesn’t know what they really mean. A real and serious break threatens between two of the people Chuck loves, unless he can tell Ellie and Devon about his spy life. Chuck’s lifelong friendship with Morgan is stretching to the breaking point. Sarah breaks the rules to find Chuck’s dad, which will raise questions both on her side and his. I am hoping this season ends with Chuck finally telling someone, anyone in his family about his secret life. Chuck has always been about honesty and trust, and the longer he goes hiding this secret from Ellie and Awesome and Morgan, the more devastated will they feel when it finally comes out. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a little more openness in the offing.
Still no good news on the ratings front, and no announcements about the show’s renewal/cancellation. The final ratings for Monday night came in at 5.72 million viewers and a 2.1 in the demo, a series low for a new episode. I’m hoping that March Madness, rather than viewer apathy, accounts for those dismal numbers. This is the little show that could, a rare and successful blend of action and comedy, but cursed with little promotion and a bad timeslot. I would hate to see NBC pull it merely to free up an hour on Monday nights for Jay Leno’s ill-conceived talk show.