Chuck: “Chuck vs. The Gobbler” & “Chuck vs. the Push Mix”

Family Ties

“Chuck vs. The Gobbler”

Written by Craig DeGorgio

Directed by Milan Cheylov

“Chuck vs. the Push Mix”

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc

Directed by Peter Lauer


Mondays, NBC, 8/7c PM

” I will not allow my son to become his father. So, tonight, it ends.” – Mary Bartowski

This show keeps writing finales. It’s inevitable, I suppose; Chuck has been balancing on the cancellation bubble so long, the writers must have written five or six series enders by now. This two-episode arc ties up a lot of loose story strings and brings closure to some emotion issues – I hope. The problem with television “closure” is that as soon as you weld a door shut, commercial concerns force the writers to break it open again. So, while we end this little arc with a warm, fuzzy feeling of happy resolution, there’s no saying what next week will bring.

Sarah: The reason you’re going to trust me is because I’m not going to kill you, right here and right now.

Volkoff: You … are such fun!

Sarah Walker, having decided to go along with General Buttinski’s suggestion that she infiltrate Alexei Volkoff’s evil empire, now undergoes the makeover from hell. Or at least, from a very wicked place. Clad in a skintight black cat suit and sporting a wig as black as Elvira’s, she strides into Volkoff’s sanctum with the strut and poise of a lingerie model on a catwalk. She and Mary Bartowski do their best to convince Volkoff that they are now his go-to gals, but Volkoff is not persuaded. He gives Sara a mission: break one of Volkoff’s henchmen out of jail. No sweat; Casey and Chuck concoct and execute a plan which involves prison guards, birthday cakes, lots of singing, and a fight scene in a prison exercise area that goes hilariously awry.

” Even if you’ve told me the truth about your motives, why would I ever trust you?” – Volkoff

Of course, it’s never that simple. Volkoff shoots his henchman and extracts his (blessedly fake) eyeball, which contains all the information about Volkoff’s nefarious network, Hydra. Nobody even asks why a sane person would download vital information into an unencrypted eyeball, let alone put it in the head of an unstable and not very bright henchman. Having verified that the information is there, Volkoff smashes the eyeball and gloats that he has a backup with a mysterious Contessa. Then he hands Sarah another test: kill John Casey. With no time to set up a plan, she must improvise during a faked fight scene with Casey. Casey urges her to throw him out the window, assuring her that he has successfully survived a longer fall. But things go wrong, Casey is injured, and Volkoff didn’t believe her anyway. Mama Bartowski, on the plane ride home, assures Sarah “it gets easier”; the look on Sarah’s face makes it clear she doesn’t want it to get easier. Sarah Walker has come quite a ways from the dedicated operative who was prepared to kill Chuck in the first episode. And the cat suit was the bomb.

“‘Death is the solution to all problems’. It’s a quote from my favorite poet and humanitarian…Joseph Stalin.” – Volkoff

The only thing that saves Alexei Volkoff from being a walking cliché is his romanticism. Just when you’re sure Alexei is going to kill Sarah or Mary, his innately romantic nature breaks out. Timothy Dalton surely had a marvelous time playing this outrageously over-the-top villain. While his comedy may be a bit ponderous and the twinkle in the eye is a little dimmed with age, Dalton can still snarl with the best of them, and his grin is as goofy as Chuck’s. Their final confrontation, where Chuck takes on his father’s persona in order to foil Volkoff, was funny, sad, scary and dramatic, a very enjoyable denouement. Amusing as he was, however, I’m hoping that this is the end of the Volkoff arc. Even more, I’m hoping it’s the end of the Mary Bartowski arc.

” Don’t freak out, stay calm, but your girlfriend is currently wearing your previously unworn, original issue, Zemeckis authenticated ‘Back to the Future’ T-shirt!” – Chuck

Ah, the geekdom is back. Chuck packs more nerd references into his warning to Morgan than the rest of episode merits. Morgan is so entranced by Casey’s daughter, who is now sleeping (and cuddling) with him, that he even lets her wear his favorite T-shirt. He doesn’t even blanch when she risks spilling cold pizza on it. This is surely true love. The happy, zoned-out Morgan is almost as funny as the focused, intense wingman, and I hope this pairing lasts for awhile. The hairy little man deserves some romance other than Chuck. And when he is the wingman, he’s still the best. Chuck needs an instant interrogation room away from the Castle? No problem—Morgan drapes a bathroom in black plastic. His ability to improvise based on geek-culture tropes and movies knows no bounds.

Devon:. I still have to find someone to make Ellie’s placenta into vitamin pills.

Chuck: I… have to un-hear that. How do I un-hear that? I don’t know how to un-hear that.

The subplot for these episodes revolved around Devon and Ellie’s impending parenthood. In the first hour, we see Ellie resorting to manipulation to persuade Devon to settle on a name for their daughter. Awesome, usually so decisive (if clueless) is flustered by fatherhood, so focused on making everything perfect that he makes a perfect hash of everything. Faced with the possibility of naming a girl “Grunka”, he finally breaks down and accepts another name; only to learn that Ellie never intended to name a child Grunka. Yes, it’s manipulative, and on paper makes Ellie look pretty crass, but in the show it was funny, sensitive, warmly romantic. Pregnancy stories are usually sappy, but this one has enough pathos, enough comedy and, at the end, enough danger to make it watchable. Even as Volkoff dispatches an assassin to take out Chuck’s ‘family’, his family is increasing. Even Jeffster’s attempts to start the baby off right with an impromptu waiting-room concert is not enough to deflect Ellie, whose calm competency in labor extended to ordering the administration of her own medication.

“You’re afraid I’m just gonna sit around the house eating Fritos all day because Sarah’s gone.” – Chuck

The best part of this two hour storyline was the resolution – finally! – of the Long Delayed Marriage Proposal. And, having teased us for months with plans, plots and well-rehearsed declarations, at last we get to see, but not hear, Chuck’s proposal. As they sit outside Ellie’s hospital room, having witnessed the most fundamental family scene there is, Chuck realizes he must have Sarah in his family. His face shows it, his body language shows it, the fact that he is still, after a knock-down fight with Volkoff, carrying that damned ring box around shows it. As he sinks to one knee in the classic pose, we lose the sound in the hum of a floor polishing machine wielded by a janitor. What a perfect (if obscure) metaphor for the ordinariness of Chuck, for the simplicity and humility of Chuck Bartowski. I thought it was a brilliant scene, heartwarming and perfect. It would have been the right fade-to-black for the series, in my opinion.

” I don’t want you to become me.” – Mary Bartowski

The only flaw in these two hours was, as usual, Linda Hamilton. When soon-to-be Grandma B walks into the delivery room, where Devon is blissfully holding his offspring, her reaction to this shining moment of triumph is a puzzled scowl. In fact, during this entire arc, I didn’t see anything more energetic than a blank stare out of this actress. Arnold Schwarzenegger had more expression as the Terminator. Even her passionate declaration of her loyalty to her late husband, a declaration which severs Volkoff’s bond (heh) to her, is delivered with all the passionate intensity of an annoyed housewife complaining at the meat counter. One would expect a deception lasting over so many decades to have built up a volcanic backlog of anger and resentment, but the best Hamilton can summon is a frown and a raised voice.

“This was my father’s mission and I have to finish it.” — Chuck

Chuck fell to a series low, garnering 5.7 million on average, with an average 1.7 share for adults ages 19-49. There’s no point in looking for reasons, halfway through the fourth season. It’s pretty clear that Chuck has earned all the audience it’s ever going to get, and NBC will either live with these numbers or cancel the show. The fourth season has been uneven and sometimes disappointing, and I am getting the distinct feeling the show is running out of steam. You can only stretch a gag premise like a computer in a guy’s head so far, and at this point the writers are using the Intersect only once or twice per episode. What should be the central point of the series is now almost an afterthought. For that reason, I hope that the writers have one more “finale” up their sleeves.