Chuck: “Chuck vs. the Wedding Planner”

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

“Chuck vs. the Wedding Planner”


Mondays, NBC, 8/7c PM

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc
Directed by Anton Cropperl

“Once you know all the cons, you’ll never be the sucker.” —Jack

Anyone on a government salary who opts for a $26,000 wedding almost deserves to get bilked. That’s exactly what happens to Chuck and Sarah in this episode, when “wedding planner” Daphne Peralta (Lisa LoCicero, General Hospital) walks off with all their wedding money. Nothing stings like being beaten at your own game, and former con-artist Sarah is hot for revenge. She even talks Chuck into faking a flash so as to get the resources of the CIA on their side. What she doesn’t count on is General Beckman’s faith in Chuck, or at least in the Intersect; Beckman calls in every agency in the federal government to track Daphne down. When their deception is uncovered, Beckman suspends Sarah and Chuck—at which point, Chuck flashes for real, but now no one will believe him. To thwart the bad guys, Chuck and Sarah have to fake a wedding reception without CIA resources. So, naturally, they turn to a master faker—Sarah’s dad.

“There is one thing I am not, Chuck, and that is a sucker.” —Sarah

I loved this episode, if only because it gives us some interesting insight into Sarah Walker and her upbringing, and her very complicated relationship with her father. Jack Burton (Gary Cole, The Good Wife) is funny, sly, cynical, and unpredictable. Better, under the slick charm is a father who really loves his daughter, who even realizes that teaching her the best of his skills will harm her as much as it helps her. Like Steven Bartowski, he earned his reputation for leaving under pressure, but in later life tries to make up to his adult child for all those absences. It doesn’t work, but he makes a worthy effort. We got some very nice flashbacks into Sarah’s childhood with the father she adored, scamming housewives in a door-to-door Girl Scout cookie con (brilliant) and saving up her pennies in a piggy bank for some “adventures” with dad. It’s a fine contrast and grounding for the grown-up Sarah, who has more adventures than James Bond and plays cons like the pro she is—only now she does it for the good guys.

“You’re still in Burbank with the schnook?” &38212;Jack

Jack helps Chuck, Casey, Sarah, and Morgan set up a phony wedding reception to trap the bad guys. Since Team Bartowski seems to attend an ambassadorial ball, corporate bash, or government party every other week, they pull off a mere wedding reception like pros. Everything is working smoothly, with the team cutting out the three baddies one by one, isolating and immobilizing them. But two things go wrong: Casey’s ex walks in, and Daddy Bad Guy (Timothy V. Murphy, Appaloosa) wises up. Kathleen McHugh (Clare Carey, Castle) spotted Casey at the BuyMore and followed him to the reception, amazed and dismayed to find that he is alive after all these years. She wants to force the issue in the middle of the op, and does not believe that Casey is the hero their daughter Alex thinks he is. When Daddy Bad Guy takes Morgan hostage, and Casey faces him down in the garage, she sees for herself that Casey is every bit the hero he’s made out to be. On the other hand, Jack refuses to stay for Sarah’s wedding, as if the only thing he can do for her is to live up to (or down to) the image she has of him; he really is a slimeball, despite a few lapses into humanity. It’s a fascinating contrast between Sarah’s dad, the slippery con artist, and Alex’s dad, the upright soldier. Behind all of them is the ghost of Steven Bartowski, the good father who deserted his family and left his children with abandonment issues for the rest of their lives.

“You went with Helvetica for the invitations?” —Morgan

This episode saw the return of Morgan, who barely appeared in the last story. Morgan the perfect wingman becomes Morgan the perfect spy assistant to Casey, not to mention a better wedding planner than Daphne. This story was much funnier than last week’s, with sparkling dialogue, good action sequences, and a fast pace. Little moments, as always, built a witty story line: Jack teaching the Awesomes’ baby the shell game, the wedding con, the wedding guest list which includes most of the show’s producers, Chuck taking offense at Sarah’s imitation of his “flash face”, and best of all, Sarah Walker’s fake Brooklyn accent. Yvonne Strahovski carried much of this episode, and did it flawlessly. I continue to be impressed by her wide range. When Chuck closes down, I hope someone over at Leverage snatches her up.

“I hope now you can have all the adventures you ever wanted with a man far better than me.” —Jack

In the end, though he won’t stay for the wedding, Jack rescues his little girl; he returns her pink piggy bank to Sarah—stuffed with enough cash to pay for a wedding. It’s a great resolution, and ties up not only her personal story, but the main obstacle to the wedding. I look forward to Chuck and Sarah’s socialist wedding in a few weeks. In the interim, I hope we get at least one more look at Jeffster, and maybe a story that centers on Alex and Morgan; the hairy little man has needed his own episode for some time now. Kudos as well to Adam Baldwin, who showed us Casey’s marshmallow heart peeking out from behind the mask of stoicism.

“I have a feeling the less I know, the better.” —General Beckman

This episode of Chuck tied the series low at a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49. It pulled only 4.2 million viewers, to put it solidly in fourth place for its timeslot. Numbers that on something like the Syfy Channel would make it a solid hit make it, on NBC, a serious loser. The only question now is whether NBC feels it has anything better to put in that slot next season; my money says we’re seeing the last season of Chuck. It’s been an uneven year, and even with better writing, I’m not sure but what the concept for this show has been wrung dry. So I’m hoping for a sweet wedding to tie it all off, and go out on a sad and sappy note.