“Chuck vs. the Masquerade”
Mondays, NBC, 8/7c PM
Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc
Directed by Patrick Norris
“Our souls are so close, they’re vibrating.” – Morgan
Ah, Valentine’s Day. When sitcoms go all gushy with the sexual innuendo and the cornball romance. Now that Chuck has gotten engaged to Sarah, his wingman Morgan must needs hook up with Alex, John Casey’s daughter (the man knows no fear, apparently). So we get some wonderfully cheesy scenes of Chuck setting up an intimate moment in his bedroom with candles and a T-shirt that reads “Love Machine”, and Morgan and Alex try out a little Tantric chanting in the living room. Classic farce ensues, naturally, as Chuck and Sarah try to tiptoe through the living room at the very moment John Casey barges in to demand to know why no one is answering their phones. It seems that General Beckman, devoid as usual of her own love life, must disrupt everyone else’s with a mission. Didn’t she get the memo about Valentine’s Day being an international holiday?
“Does this party have a theme?” — Morgan
It seems that Chuck and Sarah have to go to another party. Where would this show be without the masked ball, the tango contest, the diplomatic assembly requiring black tie and a revealing gown for Sarah? Our spy team gets its tux on so often, I feel like I’ve wandered into a Joan Rivers red carpet special. In this case, the team is supposed to be protecting one of Alexi Volkoff’s former assets, Vivian, from an assassin named Boris (David Lee, Sponge). Boris, like all well trained assassins, plans to assassinate Vivian at her own ball. Chuck and Sarah get their glad rags on, Casey gets his bartending suit on again (the man has a second career at this, I swear) and Morgan goes along as backup bartender. In foiling the assassination attempt, Chuck learns that Vivian (Lauren Cohan, The Vampire Diaries) is actually Volkoff’s daughter, raised in ignorance of her father’s true nature.
“Your whole life, your father’s been grooming you.” — Boris
Vivian complains to Chuck that she doesn’t really know who she is or what she wants to do in life. Chuck urges her to find her special purpose; she volunteers to be bait to draw Boris out. They trick Sarah out to look like Vivian, right down to Vivian’s trademark locket, and let her go on Vivian’s customary morning ride. Sure enough, she’s ambushed and Casey has to shoot half a dozen sharpshooters with split-second accuracy. Naturally, he succeeds brilliantly and Sarah is saved. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Boris corners Vivian, demanding some “key”. Vivian proves she’s her father’s daughter by blowing him away and then discovers her special purpose by using her locket to unlock her father’s vault. Why does every plot point in this series boil down to Daddy Issues? How many fathers are going to be revealed as secret spies (Papa Bartowski, Volkoff, even Casey). It’s become a positively Freudian tic with these writers.
“Good Lord! What happened to you two? You smell like vomit and Cheerios.” – Big Mike
Speaking of parental issues, I found the subplot with Devon and Ellie very funny. The normally bandbox-perfect couple are now harassed, unshaven and much-mussed after several sleepless nights, kept awake by their newborn daughter’s crying. On a visit asking Big Mike, of all people, for help (they must be really sleep-deprived) they discover that Jeffster have recorded a bad cover version of Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way” in a stuffed toy that actually puts the child to sleep. This says quite a bit about Jeffster’s special purpose in music. Devon steals the toy and he and Ellie try to catch some shut-eye, only to discover that while the music soothes the baby it keeps the two of them awake. For anyone who ever suffered through a colicky baby’s nights, this was a warm and funny reminder of the lighter yet grittier side of parenting.
“They’re worth more as a set.” — Chuck
While Devon and Ellie hone their parenting skills, Casey finally persuades Morgan to quit acting like Chuck and Sarah’s child; it is time for him to move out to live on his own. For Morgan, “on his own” translates to “with his mother”, but at least it will get him out of Chuck and Sarah’s place. As Chuck and Morgan prepare to split up after so long as housemates, we got a few genuine geek-love moments as they ponder how to split up their action figures of Han Solo and Chewie. The scene where they use the action figures, excuse me, collectibles to high-five one another was very poignant, very well done. As a metaphor for Chuck and Morgan’s relationship, the handsome rogue and the hairy little man echo Han and Chewie very well.
“There’s no one left to put the Volkoff empire back together.”– Chuck
We got some fun action sequences out of this week’s plot, from Chuck performing on the parallel bars, er tree branch to Sarah galloping through a forest on a white horse. We got Casey getting medieval with a sniper scope and a fabulous shot of Sarah standing up in the moon roof of a getaway car, firing away like a gangsta in a drive-by. We got new doors opening – literally – for Vivian and Casey; she may become the new Bad Guy, and Casey gets admitted to the newest wing of the Castle, as he is offered a new team, a new role, and a new master. The appearance of a long-lost daughter, though clichéd, at least affords the writers an opportunity to open up the Volkoff arc again. I just hope it does not involve a return of Mama Bartowski.
“I think it’s time I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.” — Vivian
So Chuck embarks on the final story arc of the season, possibly the series, and as I have come to expect, it recycles elements from prior arcs: the hidden spy parent, the heir to spy knowledge coming to it through a mysterious Object, the test of loyalty. The next few weeks will be a serious test of fan loyalty; Chuck’s 73rdepisode rolled in at 1.7 adult rating with only 5.51 million viewers. Beloved as it may be by the network suits, I can’t see Chuck hanging on for much longer. If the writers are smart, this season, and series, will end with a wedding and bow out gracefully.