A review of tonight’s “Chuck” coming up just as soon as we actively waste our babysitter…
“I’m not alone.” -Sarah
Fan response to last season’s “Chuck vs. Phase Three” was so strong that another Sarah-centric episode was inevitable in the final season. Yvonne Strahovski hadn’t had a whole lot to do in this final season, but the show finally made up for that with the terrific “Chuck vs. the Baby.” Sarah got to righteously kick some ass again, we got a few more pieces of her origin story, and her larger journey of the series seemed to reach the finish line in the same way Chuck’s did last week.
Early in “Baby,” Morgan reminds Chuck that virtually any time he’s had a disagreement with Sarah on something, Sarah has been right. Well, in this case, she’s not. She’s too accustomed to flying solo, even after all these years as part of Operation Bartowski, and in many ways the climax to this episode isn’t Sarah killing her old handler and reuniting with her mom and adopted sister, but Sarah simply acknowledging that she should have looped Chuck and Casey in sooner. Everything after is just confirmation of how Sarah has gone from being a loner to a person with roots, and friends and family who have her back whether she needs someone to punch out a few goons or someone to babysit little Molly. It’s such a 180 from the person she was when she walked into the Buy More in the pilot that I didn’t even mind the show again revisiting (as we did at the end of season 3’s “Chuck vs. the Nacho Sampler”) the time right before she had to go out to Burbank.(*) That’s who Sarah was then, and this is who she is now, and she’s much happier – and yet still capable of kicking ass, taking names and doing all the things that made her a spy in the first place.
(*) Though the chronology of Sarah’s career, as always, is iffy. She tells Graham that she’s done with handlers, but what happened to her time as Bryce Larkin’s partner? Given the events of the pilot, if Graham is about to send Sarah off to find Chuck, shouldn’t they be spending most of that scene discussing how Bryce went rogue and got killed for his trouble?
The one thing I wonder is the same thing I talked about in last week’s review, which is that we have five episodes to go and it feels like everything has wrapped up fairly neatly. Chuck took out Shaw and proved once and for all that he doesn’t need the Intersect. Sarah has accepted that she can lean on her loved ones in times of need. Alex is taking Morgan back. Chuck and Sarah have decided to stay civilians (though we’ll see whether Casey chooses to stick with them). Jeff’s brain damage has been magically cured. Everyone got their happy ending here. Should I be worrying that these final five episodes are going to undo some or all of the recent bliss? That doesn’t seem very “Chuck,” does it?(**)
(**) As always, I watched this episode with my wife, and when she started worrying about the baby in one early scene, I told her, “This is ‘Chuck.’ Everything will turn out okay,” and she nodded and agreed.
But as for “Chuck vs. the Baby” itself, it was another great hour on the heels of “Santa Suit.” Sarah got to kick ass to an absurd degree in both the past (with lots of action movie flips and two-gun engagements, along with a little homage to “Shoot ‘Em Up” when she began blasting away at the bad guys with the baby strapped to her chest) and the present (where the kitchen fight with Ryker was among the more brutal Sarah’s ever been involved in). But Strahovski also got to show off the vulnerability that’s always made the character into more than just the Giant Blonde She-Male of Thailand. Lots of good work from her here, whether nervously trying to soothe the baby in the past or being overwhelmed with joy at seeing her mom after never expecting to for the rest of her life. In fact, that entire sequence at Chuck and Sarah’s apartment was as infectiously happy as any I can think of in the show’s run. “Chuck” can do a lot of things well, but like another of my favorite shows, “Parks and Recreation,” maybe its most powerful weapon is the ability to put an enormous smile on my face.
We’ll see what Fedak and company have planned for these final five hours, but if it’s going to be an extended victory lap, these two most recent episodes suggest that could be a lot of fun.
Some other thoughts:
* So Chuck is still struggling to scrape together the money to buy their dream house? What happened to the last remnants of the Volkoff fortune? Shouldn’t they have gotten that back once Decker died, and/or when that whole conspiracy was shut down? Or is Beckman taking a “finders keepers” policy on all of this? Either way, that “signing bonus” better have been really big.
* Chuck’s newfound fighting skills weren’t just a one-time thing for the Christmas episode, as he both tackles the runaway waiter and helps Casey take out Ryker’s henchmen. But I appreciated the gag on the sidewalk where he boasts about not needing the Intersect right before the Intersect’s language skills would come in really handy.
* Glad to see that Ellie and Awesome’s spy role playing has continued, but even though the Castle is now property of Carmichael Industries and not the CIA, it still seems weird that Morgan would be hosting a double date there with them and Alex. Will they eventually turn one of the cells into a playroom for Clara?
* This week in “Chuck” music: “The Black Block (Original Mix)” by Modeselektor (Sarah kills a whole lot of dudes on her way to rescuing the baby), “Clowin’ Around” by Deer Tick (Ellie & Awesome try to convince Alex to take Morgan back, and then Sarah waking up in the apartment and telling Chuck the truth); “Life, Oh Life” by Dads (Sarah gives the baby to her mother, and then Sarah reunites with her mom and Molly at the apartment) and “We Are Young” by Fun., featuring Janelle Monae (everyone celebrates at the apartment and Sarah’s mom thanks Chuck for giving her a good life).
* This week in “Chuck” guest stars: Cheryl Ladd is a very appropriate choice to play Sarah’s mom, as she was one of the longest-tenured stars of the original “Charlie’s Angels,” arriving in the second season to replace Farrah Fawcett. As Ryker, Tim DeKay comes with his own “Chuck” connection, as he’s currently co-starring with Matthew Bomer on USA’s “White Collar.”
* This week in “Chuck” plot holes: why would Sarah fall for the tape recording gimmick, given that A)The baby wouldn’t be a baby anymore, and B)She pulled the exact same stunt on Ryker when the baby was actually a baby?
* This week in “Chuck” typos: The LED display on the gizmo in Molly’s room says “RECIEVING COORDINATES.”
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org