“Chuck vs. the Muuurder”
Mondays, NBC, 8/7c PM
Written by Alex Katsnelson & Kristen Newman
Directed by Allan Kroeker
“My opinion is that you’re going to screw it up.” —Director Bentley
Ya think? When it gets to the point where the biggest joke in an episode of Chuck is that Morgan is testing geeks on geek culture with a multiple choice test? Yeah, time to take a break and let Jeffster take over. Or something. This was, hands down, one of the worst episodes of Chuck in a long time. Note to writers: cold-blooded murder? Not funny. Maybe they’ve been playing too many rounds of Clue in the writer’s room, so that the idea of a Colonel Mustard with a knife in the Castle annex is amusing. But as it played out in this episode, there was a lot of blood spilled in a vain (vein?) attempt to garner laughs. Very, very misguided.
“Chuck, we need you to find more Chucks.” —General Beckman
After Director Bentley’s failure last week to create new Intersects, Beckman turns the project over to Chuck. The assignment seems simple enough: find a bunch of spies who are like Chuck. It does not occur to anyone that Chuck, as originally configured, was the very last person the CIA wanted as a spy, so what are the odds there are any people like him in the organization? Chuck finds four: a fake Brit named Lewis (James Francis Ginty, Surrogates), a Sarah clone named Josie (Karissa Vacker, The Forgotten), terrorist-look-alike Damien (Mousa Kraish, Covert Affairs), and Brody (Steven Pollock, Dead Money), a veritable clone of Chuck himself. Comes the moment when, after rigorous testing, Chuck must choose one candidate to become a new Intersect. He chooses Brody—who is immediately knifed in a hallway. As the astonished group begins to fragment with suspicion and mutual distrust, Chuck’s paltry leadership skills utterly fail him. Bentley’s open contempt soon infects the rest of the candidates, who face off with one another as well as Chuck’s team. When Damien is nearly blown up by a bomb, and later Chuck finds one in an interview room, the stakes are raised. Concluding that Lewis is the culprit, everyone starts a manhunt, in the course of which the A-story intersects (cough) with the B-story, a minor thread so unappealing it is not worthy of review. The pig was cute, that’s all I’ll say. In the end, Lewis is found garroted, forcing Chuck to re-evaluate his strategy.
“You want people to like you too much.” —Director Bentley
Bentley and Chuck finally face off in the Annex, and she tells him a few home truths. Because the best way to handle a murderer on the loose in a locked-down facility is to take a few moments to talk about your feelings, right? Worse, just about everything she said was true—and it was not delivered as irony. Can the writers really lack that much awareness? Chuck’s memory (not the Intersect) replays the last 40 minutes that we’ve just watched, and he concludes that Damien is faking it, that he’s the killer. Based on what? We are given no real reasons for this conclusion, other than the fact that he’s one of the only two candidates left alive. Lame. Very lame. Damien explains, in the de rigueur Villain Speech, that he was hired to kill Chuck by Vivian Volkoff. Oh, heck. I already figured she was playing Team Bartowski for a pack of fools, but I thought when she went over to the Dark Side we’d at least get to see it. Here, we see only the shadow of her hand. Unfortunate, because this show could use a really good villainess. At least this time, Chuck didn’t have to defuse a bomb with a juice box. Enough with the bombs already.
“The Intersect is all of us, the three of us, working together. That’s why it works.” —Chuck
Meanwhile, Ellie is playing with fire. Or at least, with her Dad’s computer. Chuck and Devon plot and scheme to neutralize the danger, but frankly they should have just stolen the darn thing and been done with it. Are these two big men no longer interested in protecting Ellie and her baby? Instead, they devise overcomplicated, unsuccessful, and not-funny plots to disable it. Naturally, being Steven Bartowski’s computer, all such attempts fail, and Ellie gets drawn deeper and deeper into Papa B’s neurology research. By the end of the episode, it looks like the computer is researching her, as it scans her sleeping face before downloading “Agent X Files”. X Files? If the long-range plan here is to make Ellie the new Intersect, I’m down with that. In fact, they’ll pretty much have to do that, or make Sarah the chief opponent to Vivian Volkoff; otherwise we are looking at the future possibility of a physical fight between Chuck and a girl. My money says Sarah faces off against Vivian, but if not, Ellie works, too. It would at least pit Daughter of Volkoff against Daughter of Bartowski, and that would be an interesting fight.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” —Ellie
Well, I suppose Chuck could continue to re-hash old Agatha Christie novels (locked room murders, anyone?), but I’d really rather the writers would start being funny again. I did not laugh even one time during this episode. Not even at the egregious Subway product placement. I’ll give them this: when the bomb went off, pigs flew. Otherwise, this was a yawner. When Chuck is good, it is very, very good; when it is bad, I cringe. Apparently I am not alone: Chuck‘s ratings headed for the basement again. The episode finished the evening with a 1.5 rating; Being Human gets better ratings, on a cable channel. 4.3 million viewers on a major network on a Monday night is, frankly, pitiful. Chuck is going to have get real funny real fast to get off the cancellation bubble now.