Review: Chuck Versus The Role Models

Chuck continues its recent focus of exploring Chuck and Sarah less as individuals and more now as a burgeoning couple. What better way to do that than to compare Chuck and Sarah to another spy couple? I didn’t mean that rhetorically, I actually do have an answer…oh screw it.

We open with a credit sequence that culls from the aesthetics of all of the seminal late seventies and early eighties lighthearted secret agent and investigator shows: Remington Steele, Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, and especially, Hart to Hart. It’s like a mini-survey of tv history. Even though this is only a dream sequence playing out in Morgan’s head, it’s the most creative and entertaining part of the episode. Then Morgan wakes up, ventures to the kitchen and finds Sarah wearing a lingerie/pajama/gown deal that is so skimpy she might as well be naked.

For Morgan, this is like coming to a cool oasis after stumbling through the blistering desert all day only to find said oasis guarded by an electric fence. Or something like that. I was trying to put in some nice visual metaphor thing but I don’t think I was entirely successful. Morgan finds himself faced with the same problem that House has over on his network: his relationship with his best friend and roommate is being derailed by the constant presence of a woman who will probably be moving in permanently in the near future.

The A storyline: Beckman, because she has too much time on her hands (or because she isn’t actually a developed character and just exists to hand out exposition and stupid assignments) tells Chuck and Sarah that, if they insist on being a couple, they must learn from the CIA’s best married couple. These lovely folks are Craig and Laura Turner, and they are played by Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz—a couple from hell if I ever thought of one. Apparently these people have been married for thirty years and Beckman thinks they are the cat’s ass.

But these people are not all that they appear to be (are they ever?). Upon meeting Chuck and Sarah, Craig and Laura reveal themselves to be sour, bickering twits who have been divorced and remarried three times. Chuck keeps trying to impress them, which irks Sarah. It irks her even more that they all have to go on a double date/mission thing. I already forget what the purpose of their mission was, something about evil computer voodoo or something. I find it amusing that even though the writers finally got rid of The Ring people and just have standalone villains for the moment, the plots all still seem just as half-baked. But I guess that’s the spirit of the show, and I’m starting to accept that. Honestly, the only thing I really remember about the whole mission was that the stuffy party host foreign guy from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective played…well…a stuffy party host foreign guy. Although he was also evil too. And he had a pet tiger. And the Turners are more shifty than initially anticipated.

B storylines: Casey trying to train Morgan in marksmanship (you can guess how well that went) and Ellie and Nimrod in Africa doing their healer-of-the-lands thing. What the hell! I was so excited when Ellie and Nimrod left for Africa, I thought it meant we were done with them. False hope and now no hope. Thanks for nothing! Instead, we have all of these scenes devoted to Ellie whining about how hard it is in Africa (an Africa that looks quite alarmingly like a California backyard with fake foliage). And what’s really weird is how dramatic the show tries to make the whole thing, showing the plight of African natives just struggling to survive. I can’t tell you how bizarre this all felt to me, how tonally imbalanced. Chuck is a show that knows it’s trash, and I don’t mean that derogatively. It’s a show people watch because it’s goofy, mindless, zany fun (when done right). To try to add some social commentary just seems macabre and maybe even inappropriate. Plus, they can’t just leave it at that. The end sets up the notion that there might be some shady characters in Africa who might be after Ellie and Nimrod, possibly due to their connection to Chuck. Weird.

Season 3, Episode 15: Chuck vs the Role Models (originally aired May 3, 2010)

For more on Chuck, click here.

Mondays at 8/7C on NBC

Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal and Jordin Althaus.

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