Chuck: “Chuck vs. The Nemesis”

How Do You Say “Kevlar” in Klingon?

By Sarah Stegall

Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall


Mondays on NBC at 9/8

“Chuck vs. The Nemesis”

Written by Chris Fedak

Directed by Allison Lidi Brown

In what may be the fastest-moving, best Chuck of the season so far, we get answers to several questions and are introduced to some fancy new ones. We now know that (ta dah!) Bryce Larkin is alive, that he was working on a Super Secret Undercover Op when he sent the Intersect to Chuck Bartowski, and that an organization known as Fulcrum is out to get the Intersect at any cost. We also discover that Bryce speaks fluent Klingon and that he is a superb partner for Sarah. What we don’t know is who these Fulcrum folks are, whether they’re mercenaries, spies or terrorists, or whether Sarah will choose Chuck or Bryce. Heady stuff, my peeps.

“Chuck vs. The Nemesis” begins with Chuck inviting Sarah over for Thanksgiving dinner, Sarah telling Chuck that Bryce is not dead, and Big Mike ordering Morgan to prepare the Nerd Herd for Black Friday. This is a perfect storm in the making: family feuds, betrayal issues, and crazed shoppers. The bulk of the storyline is devoted to re-introducing Bryce Larkin (Matthew Bomer), explaining what happened to him (Fulcrum saved him because they thought he had the Intersect in his head), and re-establishing goodwill between Chuck and Bryce (“thlIngan Hol Dajathl’a’?”—”Do you speak Klingon?”). If nothing else went right in this episode, establishing that a geek who learned Klingon grew up into a sexy stud like Bryce Larkin was perfect. I love the fact that the writers get geek culture; every week they absolutely nail another geek meme without making fun of it. This respect for geekdom carries through in the gentle self-mockery of Chuck himself, or the portrayal of the Nerd Herd as lovable despite their awkwardness. This is the most precious currency of all: respect.

The B story is just as much fun: Morgan has become the de facto assistant store manager, so the little guy has to take charge of training his co-workers. He also has to handle girlfriend Anna’s jealousy over Morgan’s well-known love of Ellie Bartowski, who has invited them both for Thanksgiving. And what a classic Thanksgiving it becomes—dueling casseroles, male bonding over sports (I want to see the episode where Captain Awesome and Casey go whitewater rafting), and hints of a jealous, bitter Chuck who still can’t really bring himself to hurt anyone. Bryce corners Sarah for a get-reacquainted kiss, Chuck misunderstands in classic soap opera fashion, confusion ensues. This would be yawn material if it wasn’t for the very real pain Chuck projects; I cannot say enough good things about Zach Levi’s acting in this episode.

Both storylines come together in a wonderful finish: a fight in the crowded Buy More between our guys and the evil, gray-suited Fulcrum gang, echoed by a classic freak-out in the Nerd Herd (“Someone touched me!”). Bryce and Sarah team up to whoop some bad guy butt in a beautifully synchronized sequence, proving that if only on the athletic level, these two are a perfect match. Casey, having shot Bryce once again in this episode, gets to watch Bryce shoot Chuck to save him from Vincent (Anthony Ruivavar, Traveler), last week’s sniper who turns out to be a Fulcrum operative. Bryce can do this because he’s already asked Chuck—in Klingon—to wear a bulletproof vest. Their shared love of Star Trek not only authenticates Chuck to Bryce but saves Chuck’s life—more geek love.

Bryce was an interesting character. I got the distinct feeling that something serious has happened to his mind. He had to get Chuck to confirm his identity, he seemed not to remember who Ellie was until Morgan reminded him, there was a certain lack of affect in some of his scenes with Sarah. I would not be surprised to learn that he once had the Intersect in his own head and that it damaged him. Or that torture has left him with serious holes in his personality and memory. Bryce as damaged super spy is an intriguing possibility. I’m hoping we see a lot more of him in upcoming episodes.

What I don’t look forward to is the inevitable Bryce/Sarah/Chuck triangle. Yawn. There’s no contest, as far as I’m concerned—Bryce is Mr. Smith to Sarah’s Mrs. Smith, a Nick Charles to her Nora, Jonathan Hart to her Jennifer, Dave to her Maddie. They go together so well that Chuck won’t even make a dent, unless the writers give us a mad twist on the plot elements we’ve seen so far. Maybe Chuck becomes a super intelligent analyst (dude already learned Klingon, how much harder could it be?). Whatever it is, it will have to be significant to counteract the inevitable pull Bryce will be exerting on Sarah. I think it will be, in the end, Chuck’s innate honesty and simplicity that will win over Sarah Walker. That facet of him was best expressed when Casey revealed that the coffee table in the AV lounge hid an array of guns—Chuck’s first concern was that some child might find the guns. This unselfishness is the one thing the charming but devious Bryce cannot match, the one thing Sarah may value the most, and certainly the major character trait that makes Chuck endearing week after week.

So much to enjoy in one hour. This was by far the best Chuck of the year. So I could ask for no better news than that NBC has ordered the “back nine,” the rest of the episodes required to make up a full season of Chuck. Whatever happens with the writer’s strike, when scripting resumes, the makers of Chuck will have orders for nine more episodes. That’s very good news. Part of the reason for the pickup is the buzz being generated on the Internet about this show; ratings have been gaining slowly but steadily. Monday night, Chuckcame in second in the 8PM hour, with 8.36 million viewers and a 3.3/8 among adults 18-49. Go, Nerd Herd! Geek love rules