Just Say No
“Chuck vs. the Seduction Impossible”
Mondays, NBC, 8/7c PM
Written by Chris Fedak & Kristin Newman
Directed by Patrick Norris
“I’m sweating. The last time I sweated, gunfire was involved.” — Sarah
What happened to the nerd with the computer in his head? I guess the writers for Chuck have decided that whole idea is played out – they may be correct – and have turned the show into a soap opera/light romance with parental abandonment issues. Chuck started out dealing with spies, assassins and traitors; now it seems to spend half of every episode looking for Chuck’s father, or Chuck’s mother, or Sarah’s father, or someone’s lover. When are we going to get back to the good stuff? Oh, that would be probablynever.
“We need a mission.” – Sarah
In a plot that acts as a metaphor for the current lackluster situation in the writers’ room, Sarah, Chuck and Casey go looking for a mission in a desperate attempt to get away from the cozy, smothering family that they have worked so hard to put back together. Fortunately, General Beckman has just the mission they need: rescuing Roan Montgomery (John Larroquette, White Collar). Roan the master seducer has managed to get himself taken captive by an army of female mercenaries led by the delicious Fatima Tazi (Lesley-Ann Brandt, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena). This sounds more like a bar joke than a mission, but the trio are eager to go to Morocco to break Roan out of his silken jail. Nor is the General’s nervous behavior lost on them; it’s evident even to Chuck that there is a history between the General and Roan.
“What’s going on with the General? She’s a hot mess!” — Chuck
Alas, the writers even show us that history. In a scene I would gladly un-see, we are given heavily made up Larroquette and Bonita Friedericy in a flashback in Berlin when the Wall came down, pledging their undying love in lukewarm terms that would not raise the temperature of an ice cube in a microwave. Throughout the remainder of the episode, she constantly intrudes on the team’s mission, overrides Casey’s judgement regarding Roan, chews out Roan himself, and finally fires a shoulder fired rocket to rescue him. She displays equal parts jealousy and attraction, filtered through her usual rigidity, and the result is uncomfortable and awkward for all involved, especially the viewer. She’s a hot mess, indeed, and it’s not pretty. It’s not Ms. Friedericy’s fault if her role is rewritten every week to suit a new game plan, but I could do without any more of the General at all. If only someone could persuade Roan to run off with her to some remote desert island. On Mars.
“This is precisely the girl I know how to charm.” — Casey
Arriving in Morocco, the team quickly discovers that the situation is not as dire as the General believes. Roan, caught investigating a counterfeiter (Fatima), turns the tables on his captor by seducing her, both in his person and with a revenue-enhancing scheme. He is on the verge of learning all her secrets when Sarah, Chuck and Casey invade the bedroom where he is awaiting his inamorata. In a scene worthy of bedroom farce a la Faulty Towers or Woody Allen, the team hides under beds and in closets, forced to listen to Roan’s entanglement with Fatima. In accord with the traditions of all bedroom farce, Chuck sneezes, all is discovered, recriminations ensue. Casey gets away but must now rescue not only Roan, but Chuck and Sarah. Alas, Casey has been watching Roan too closely, and now labors under the misapprehension that seduction is easy; he tries to charm the guard, with disastrous results. Casey does most of the heavy lifting in this episode; crawling, hiding, spying, shooting and rescuing. In yet another change rung on the ancient pattern, he rescues the three but is trapped himself, needing rescue. The winding up of this story involves belly dancers, women in camouflage, and dungeons.
“Everything is easier with sex in the air.” – Roan
John Larroquette long ago perfected the delivery of the lazy, world-weary bon mot, and here shows it off to best advantage. His reaction to being shot with a tranquilizer – “Really?” – drips with sarcasm and ennui, a masterful delivery of an entire character in two syllables. Yes, John Larroquette largely excels at playing John Larroquette, but there’s no harm in doing what you do best. Amazingly, even Linda Hamilton managed to eke out an emotion or two; as Grandma Bartowski, she read to her granddaughter and then explained mission criteria to her. If she’s going to stick around, I’d much rather see Linda Hamilton working out the awkward transition from master spy to new grandmother, than have her woodenly taking down bad guys with a silencer every week.
” For the record, I will not at any point during this mission be dressing as a belly dancer. ” – Sarah
Of course not, my dear. Naturally, as soon as she utters those words, we know she will be showing up in spangles and diaphanous drapes pretty soon. As usual, Yvonne Strahovski is stunning in whatever rags she cares to drape herself in, and a red-and-gold harem outfit shows her off spectacularly. Chuck is suitably dazzled, almost dazzled enough to let her talk him into eloping with her. He comes to his senses, however, and eventually works out what her issues are: from the moment they were engaged, Chuck’s family has been planning their wedding, down to the minute. Sarah is not used to relying on family, and finds this intimidating. It takes Chuck most of the episode to figure out that her objection is not to his family, but to hers, and they make up. As Plot Obstacles™ go, it’s no better or worse than any other manufactured conflict.
“That’s an excellent apology.” — Chuck
Sexing up Yvonne Strahovski may be fun, but it also reeks of desperation. Justifiably, as Chuck’s ratings continue to fall. Chuck repeated its 1.7 share at the 18-49 adults level. This is a tie with its series low. Last week’s episode would have been a great wrap-up; I have no faith that Chuck will be – or even should be – renewed, leaving us with the possibility that we may see a cancellation in the middle of a cliff-hanger. Let’s hope not.