“Chuck vs. The Last Details”
Mondays, NBC, 8/7c PM
Written by Henry Alonso Myers & Kristin Newman
Directed by Peter Lauer
“This is what happens when you draw your plans from Star Wars.” – John Casey
Chuck is killing me by inches. So close, so close to the Chuck/Sarah wedding, but things keep going wrong. This time it’s all sparked by Chuck’s mother. Mama B is determined to save mankind from the Norseman weapon developed by the Volkoff organization – or should we be calling that the Winterbottom organization now? It’s a weapon that targets a victim by DNA, so you can “fire” it in a roomful of people and kill only the person whose DNA matches its profile. This reminds me of a similar weapon in the second season of “Fringe”, but without the comic edge. Whatever that may be. Mama B eavesdrops while Volkoff’s lieutenant, Riley (Ray Wise, Jeepers Creepers 3), gives Vivian Volkoff a demonstration of its power, then gets captured by Riley’s men. Naturally, the team goes off to rescue her, leaving Ellie to throw together the rehearsal dinner at the last minute.
“Shoot the puppy!” — Morgan
One of the most underused members of this cast is Joshua Gomez, whose Morgan Grimes is a consistently funny, wise, nerdy guy, a sidekick par excellence. This episode lets him step into the limelight. Being the only member of the team who is unknown to Riley and Vivian, he gets tapped to infiltrate the Bad Guy Auction where Vivian (or Riley) plans to sell the Norseman. How convenient is it that one of the Bad Guys looks a lot like Morgan, so he easily substitutes for him? Oh, sorry, did I say ‘easily’? Not quite. Morgan is willing, but is also as nervous as a cat on hot bricks. He dresses for the part in some combination of funeral director and FBI agent, while practicing his bad guy accent. Even decked out in spy glasses, an earbud, and Chuck’s rock-solid confidence in him, Morgan can’t quite get into his groove. Until Chuck, in one of those nerd moments I love about this show, starts humming the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars. In seconds, Morgan is psyched and ready, swaggering into the auction like he owns the place. And just in case the other Bad Guys doubt his bona fides, he whips out his cell phone and places a fake call to tell someone to “shoot the puppy”. It’s one of the genuinely hilarious moments of the season.
“Trust me, nothing will go wrong…Why did I just say that?” – Morgan
From day one, Chuck and Morgan have been practically joined at the hip, so Morgan’s utter loyalty to Chuck goes without saying. What has surprised and delighted me this season is the growing partnership between Morgan and Casey. Casey, who all too often resembles Lurch from The Addams Family, now actively supports Morgan partly because Morgan is dating his daughter but also because he has come to admire Morgan’s loyalty, a virtue Casey fully understands. This episode, he shows his tolerance of Morgan not only by allowing himself to be handcuffed as a decoy a la Star Wars, he saves Morgan with some outstanding blind marksmanship at the auction. This is certainly not the first season Casey who was prepared, not to say eager to shoot Chuck.
“The woman who betrayed my father is the mother of the man who betrayed me?” – Vivian
Chuck and Sarah get the drop on Riley and Vivian, but of course Chuck has to try to explain and justify himself to Vivian. He’s still convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that she’s not as evil as her father. As he explains that Volkoff himself is Agent X, Riley counters by accusing Stephen and Mary Bartowski of using Volkoff to further their own spy careers. As Vivian tries to process this, Riley prepares to kill Chuck. Mary and Sarah both shoot him dead, and Vivian escapes.
“We have voyeurs, we have candids, we have nip-slips..of Chuck.” – Jeff
Back at the rehearsal dinner, Ellie has come close to a breakdown in her efforts to throw together a video montage of Chuck and Sarah. In a spot-on parody of a film agent, Big Mike has negotiated a ‘deal’ with his auteur-clients, Jeff and Lester. The pair claim to have a vast library of video moments of Chuck and Sarah together, and Lester is eager to showcase his indie cred. The result, however, is so horrible that Ellie is forced to take editing into her own hands. Overtaxed by her efforts, however, she falls asleep and runs out of time. Jeff, uncharacteristically modest, offers her his unseen attempt, and with great trepidation, she accepts. And of course, Jeff’s video is the biggest surprise of the night: it’s sweet, funny and completely in character, with no bizarre or obscene moments at all. Lester can’t understand it, but we can, especially after Ellie gives Jeff a big, grateful smooch that probably kept him awake all week.
“Sarah is one of the strongest and most amazing women I have ever met.” – Mary Bartowski
Mama B finally accepts Sarah into the family, offers a toast in her name, and blesses the happy couple. Alas, there is a skeleton at the feast: Vivian Volkoff. Like the evil fairy in a bedtime story, she manages to ruin the rehearsal, and maybe Chuck’s life, in a big way. Turns out she has a second Norseman, and is eager to use it to take out the person Chuck loves most. Is it Mama Bartowski? Ellie? No, of course not. We know who the love of Chuck’s life is, and as Sarah slumps to the ground and Doctor Ellie Bartowski Woodcombe unaccountably does nothing, we know that we are in for a season-ending cliffhanger next week: will Sarah live or die?
“Focus on your twinkle lights.” — Casey
Unless that question gets answered next week, we may never find out. Next Monday is Chuck’s final episode for this season, and possibly forever. Before that episode airs, NBC will be holding its advertising upfront meeting, where the fall schedule is announced. If Chuck is on that schedule, I’ll be surprised. This episode saw the show tying its series low with a 1.3 share among adults 18-49, reflecting an average audience of 4 million people. At this point, I doubt even doubling that audience share would make a difference in a year which has seen such poor quality overall, a steady erosion from the viewership, and increasing downward pressure on costs. Producer Robert Duncan McNeil has even said that the show runners pretty much feel that they’ve said all they can say, done all they can do with a premise that ran out of ideas in the second year. I’ve enjoyed the show, and it’s been fun, but I won’t miss it when/if it goes.