By Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Stegall
Mondays on NBC at 9/8
“Chuck vs. The Wookie”
Written by Allison Adler
Directed by Allan Kroeker
There hasn’t been a really good weekly spy spoof on television in a long time, perhaps not since Get Smart or The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, back in the day, so I’m slowly getting used to the idea that Chuck is less about the computer in Chuck’s head than it is about the spies in his life. Although the series was sold to us as a sort of updated, slapstick version of Johnny Mnemonic, it actually has much more in common with the Pink Panther movies. “Chuck versus The Wookie” was so much like The Pink Panther, in fact, that I kept looking for Peter Sellers in the background.
After a very revealing game at Chuck’s house, Sarah’s evening bath is interrupted by a black-clad intruder who engages her in a closely matched fight which does serious damage to a fishbowl and some furniture. Having fought the intruder to a draw, Sarah discovers that she is Carina (Mini Anden, Entourage), a DEA agent with a reputation for going rogue. Gee, I thought a fist bump would have been a suitably macho way to introduce her, but the producers just can’t help themselves–if there’s two hot girls in a scene, there has to be a girl fight. I hope the production company for “Chuck” comes under proper adult supervision at some point.
Carina’s in town to steal a diamond the size of Chicago from a drug dealer (Iqbal Theba, The War At Home) currently hanging out in Malibu (don’t they all?), and needs her help and Casey’s. Casey is a little reluctant to re-engage with old flame/hookup Carina, but Chuck’s sidekick Morgan is more than happy to engage in anything whatsoever with Carina. Chuck somehow finds Sonny Crockett’s old Miami Vice suit in his closet and accompanies his girl-spies to the drug dealer’s abode. The dealer turns out to be one of the hairiest creatures on the planet, hence Chuck’s nickname for him, “Senor Wookie”. He also turns out not to be a drug dealer, but an arms dealer working with terrorists to convert the diamond into cash for arms purchases. In perhaps the only example of true interagency cooperation we’ve seen yet, no one calls in Homeland Security. Because adding Homeland Security to a scenario that already hosts a CIA agent, an NSA agent, and a DEA agent would just be, you know, too much.
Carina turns out to be the loose cannon everyone says she is, and in a casual visit to Senor Wookie’s pad–which is supposed to be merely a reconnaissance visit–she steals the diamond. Having already undermined Chuck’s trust in Sarah with the revelation that Sarah was, in fact, Bryce Larkin’s lover, she manages to persuade Chuck to give her the diamond. And in a wonderful shout-out to any number of Bond movies, Carina skims off her dress to reveal a bikini, runs into the surf and spins away on a wave runner. So much for trust, Chuck. Naturally, as soon as Sarah goes after the diamond, she is taken hostage. So much for the super competent secret agent, Sarah. The rest of the episode is devoted to a) getting the diamond back, b) rescuing Sarah, and c) re-establishing some trust between Chuck and Sarah.
There are funny bits in this episode, virtually all of them connected with Adam Baldwin. He gets tied up in his old-man underwear by Carina, and Sarah has a bit of a giggle capturing the moment on her iPhone once she rescues him. He wages a one-man campaign against smoking with one hired thug and at one point goes a little rogue on his own, stealing a Hummer with a gleam of mischief in his eye. There’s a really funny moment in an elevator with a Casey in handcuffs, a mom and a little girl, that could have been really over the top, but Baldwin just lets the moment play out with his usual dry humor. Too bad there isn’t more of him in this show. Some cute in-joke references to the Bond series, such as the bad guy’s golden gun, round out the often obvious but still funny humor.
The real heart of this story, however, wasn’t the humor or the spy escapades. From the very first episode, Sarah has been demanding Chuck’s unconditional, even blind trust, all the while consistently lying to him. She may shrug it off as part of her job, even justify it as protecting him, but it comes back to bite her in this episode. Carina spills the beans about Bryce, and Sarah finally realizes that it’s time to be honest with Chuck–at least about Bryce. She still refuses to tell him even one other true thing about herself, despite a scene at the end where Zach Levi pulls out all the stops–Bambi eyes, earnest expression, soft, intimate voice. How Sarah can maintain her emotional defenses against Chuck when he’s in full-on Puppy Dog Mode is beyond me. She does, however, and Chuck manfully accepts that she’s never going to be straight with him. It was a marvelous scene, much better than most of the scenes between these two that I’ve seen, and once again establishes that there’s a lot more to Chuck’s devotion to Sarah than, say, the simple lust Morgan shows for Carina. Good stuff.
Gotta give points for all the Star Wars references in this episode, however. Beyond the title reference and the hirsute Mr. Theba, there’s one great line from Morgan: “If Chuck is Solo, Larkin is his Fett”. Which makes it even more painful for Chuck when it turns out that, in fact, Sarah was Princess Leia to Larkin’s Han Solo. Awkward…but interesting as hell. Chuck continues to improve each week. This week was a good balance of slacker/workplace comedy and high-octane spy-action sequences. Part 24, part The Office, it still continues to amuse, jumping 19% over last week’s numbers. Good news for Chuck, and good news for us.