So let’s say that due to circumstances beyond your control (or possibly within your control), your life situation has changed. You suddenly find yourself in an environment, in a job, that you never necessarily wanted to be in. But you’re there. You’re committed to it.
Now what’s the worst thing you can imagine having to do to prove that you belong, to prove that you’re prepared to to go all the way and embrace the New You?
That was the big question in the background of Monday (March 21) night’s “Chuck,” titled “Chuck vs. the Final Exam.”
How far would you go?
[Full recap of “Chuck vs. the Final Exam” after the break…]
In the A-Story, we had Sarah and Shaw returning from their Washington jaunt with an edict from General Beckman: It’s Final Exam time for Chuck. He has to complete one solo mission (his third or first First Solo Mission of the season). If he does, he’ll get sent off to Rome as a Real Little Spy, with Shaw and Sarah moving to Washington full-time. If he doesn’t? That’s it for Chuck the Spy.
[Plot Hole Alert: Huh? If Chuck fails to complete the mission, that’s it? The government decides they can’t use the power of the Intersect anymore? And Chuck is no longer such an essential resource that he’d have to be taken out of commission? So he’d be set loose with no repercussions? With his Stanford degree and a head full of government secrets? Huh? Since when is the government making this kind of ultimatums to Chuck? Sure, it’d be nice to have Chuck as a full-on spy, but they’ve decided that if they can’t have that, he’s not valuable enough to work with a team?
Also, I’m a bit skeptical that this is how the CIA hands out Full-On Spy Credentials after Final Exam Solo Missions. In fact, I’m fairly confident that the CIA has more than one type of Full-On Spy. And that probably none of them call each other “spy.” I’m sure they prefer “agent,” “operative” and “spook” as preferences, even with the unfortunate racial connotations of the latter.]
Chuck’s Final Exam Mission? Find a CIA Mole responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and at least nine operatives. Sorry. At least night spies. He does this by infiltrating a sauna, dangling nearly naked outside a hotel window and doing bird calls. This, I believe, proves to the CIA that he’s now capable of spying in any sort of ludicrous or homoerotic situation.
The mole? Kyle Bornheimer of CBS’ quickly cancelled “Worst Week” and ABC’s sure-to-be-quickly-cancelled “Romantically Challenged.” [The quick cancellation of “Worst Week” was not Bornheimer’s fault. He’s a pretty funny guy. And with “Romantically Challenged,” ABC has to decide to actually air the show before it can be cancelled, but Bornheimer has already signed on for another pilot.]
Chuck? Happy. He’s all “I’m a Real Little Spy!”
He’s all, “Here, Casey! Have a present… Your gun!”
He’s all, “Now we can be together, Sarah… Even though the reasons why we can and can’t (or can’t and can’t) be together change every episode!”
But the CIA — more specifically Shaw, who was at his most unlikable this episode — is all, “Oh no you don’t!”
Chuck completed his final exam, but now he has to complete his Red Test. What’s a Red Test? Apparently it’s your first in-the-line-of-duty kill. Chuck has to whack the mole.
Ha. Get it? Whack-a-mole?
[Question: Was the Red Test part of the original spy test? Was it just something that got added on at the last minute for fun? Because I can’t help but feel that some agents in the CIA have never actually killed anybody, at least not on their first days on the job.]
So Chuck does more homoerotic Intersect 2.0-driven brawling (in a Men’s Room, this time) and then, after a chase through the train yards next to Union Station, Chuck is in position. He has the gun pointed at the mole. The mole is telling him it’s a choice. Sarah had previously told him it was a choice. So Chuck’s choice? Not to make a choice at all. He freezes and Casey shoots him — Chekhov’s Gun in motion — and runs away.
This leaves Sarah thinking that Chuck killed the mole and that, by killing the mole, Chuck is no longer Chuck anymore. This is a concern that she’s had this season. She may have mentioned it a couple times. Anyway, it’s just like that episode of “Three’s Company” where Mr. Furley gets home and sees Jack Tripper standing over a dead hooker and he thinks Jack had killed the hooker, but it turns out she’s just sleeping and that it isn’t a hooker at all, it’s just Chrissy. Later, they all laughed at it, but not until after Jack spent the night in lock-up? Hilarious.
Now, Chuck is a Real Little Spy. And Sarah thinks Chuck has become a soulless killing machine and that he just did it for her. And Chuck can’t tell anybody that he didn’t do it, because then Casey would be charged with murder.
So what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done to fit in at a new job? Chuck probably has you beat.
But if Chuck doesn’t have you beat, Casey probably does, since the B-story had Casey attempting to make his way in civilian life, stuck at the Buy More. On one hand, he’s temporarily filling in as Ass Man while Morgan is off allowing “Chuck” to cut costs, but on the other hand? The Buy More had a strict no-touching policy.
“Don’t you see, Johnny?” cackled Lester. “You can’t harm us thanks to the rules of the very corporate system that you so admire. The irony!”
Casey barked, “I love irony” and then bonked Jeff and Lester’s heads together, Three Stooges-style. Nyuck. Nyuck.
That didn’t sit too well with the very litigious Jeff and Lester, nor with Big Mike, who chose this episode to simultaneously mentor and showcase the slimming effects of Subway sandwiches.
“I like you and I know you’re physically strong,” Big Mike (not the same Big Mike as currently performs on “American Idol”) says. “But what I need to know is are you mentally strong, strong enough to bend like the reed and not snap like the Kit Kat? To be John Casey, not John Crazy?”
The secret to achieving zen acceptance of Jeff and Lester? A new suit — “To get your head right, you’ve gotta get your threads right.” — and a parlay at a Subway store (accompanied in its initial appearance by a choral sting), where Casey had to humble himself before his underlings by apologizing, paying for their sandwich and then splitting a Tunaroni sandwich with Jeff.
“There’s literally no way of knowing where this guy’s mouth has been before this,” Lester teased. “Fire hydrants… Diseased animals… Puppets…”
Wait. What was that about Jeff and Puppets? And I guess that’s Casey’s answer for how far he’d go.
Anyway, how about some additional thoughts on Monday’s episode?
*** Lots of call-backs to “Chuck vs. the Sizzling Shrimp” and Chuck and Sarah’s first shared stakeout. I assume that a certain segment of the “Chuck” fandom will mostly want to talk about Chuck’s recommitting of his feelings for Sarah, the near kiss and Shaw techno-cockblocking Chuck. No kiss. BOO!
*** I’m a bit curious to see how much of last week’s ratings drop was attributable to Daylight Savings Time. My guess? A lot.
*** If you’re going to do a sauna-based brawl involving Russians, I’m going to have to make “Eastern Promises” comparisons. And when it comes to brutal bath house brawls, nobody beats “Easter Promises.” But I always enjoy a good Ivan Drago joke.
*** Are Red Tests gender-segregated? Can men only kill men? Are women only sent to kill women? I can’t decide if that’s sexist or endearingly good sportsmanship on the part of the CIA.
*** Once again, lots of talking about “choices” this week. The mole? He says he had not choice. Chuck reassures Casey that Casey had no choice in the events that led to his discharge. But Casey argued, “It’s America, Chuck. Everyone has a choice.” Then Big Mike offered Casey the choice of working at the Buy More for the long haul. Really, a drinking game where you do a shot every time somebody on “Chuck” mentions choices, you’d do better than that Jack Bauer “damnit” drinking game. I do, however, wonder if it’s a cop-out that Chuck never actually had to make his choice or to pay the consequence for not making it.
*** Line of the episode, Lester to Casey: “I know you like to play make-believe that you’re some kind of military tough-guy, but the truth is that you’re just a schmuck who works in an electronics store.” [“With us,” Jeff followed.] It was a great episode for Vik Sahay, who had several long bursts of dialogue and also got to emit a hilarious cry when Jeff discovered him in the opening game of laser (or dart?) tag.
*** We’re at a point now where Chuck needs to be ReChuckified, Casey needs to be ReCaseyfied, but Sarah also needs to be ReSarahfied,” because I haven’t liked her very much for the past couple weeks.
*** Speaking of people I haven’t been liking, I already mentioned that Shaw was at his most hatable this week. But what was up with that excited, sadistic grin when Chuck started flashing and kicking butt in the sauna? Does Shaw like seeing Chuck in motion? Does he like seeing topless men fight? Hmmm…
*** In addition to Morgan, the episode also lacked for Ellie and Captain Awesome.
*** I’m making jokes, but I enjoyed Monday’s episode. Lots of solid, serious spy stuff in one plotline and a winning B-story with the appropriate echoes? Not bad. And I actually haven’t seen next week’s episode, so I’m as curious as you are!
*** I could also discuss Chuck’s enthusiasm for ScanTrons, the self-destructing CIA portable DVD players and Chuck’s special stakeout/makeout kit (complete with Chinese food, champagne and Hall & Oates), but instead…
I’ll open the floor. What’d you think of Monday’s “Chuck”?