Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chuck 3.05: "Chuck Versus First Class"

“Your pre-pubescent little girl screams are gonna be duly noted.”


“Chuck Versus First Class” was a very entertaining episode, definitely among the high points of the series overall. There was action, humor, and heart- things I expect out of all the best episodes of “Chuck.” There was some definite character growth for Chuck, but he still retained his core sweet nature. There was also plenty of use of Casey, which is always great for the comedy. I was also very surprised that I actually didn’t mind the two new obvious artificial roadblocks to a true Chuck and Sarah romance. All the characters involved are likeable and interesting, which is more than can be said for some past characters that have filled the “roadblock” role.

The Buy More plot is pretty separate from the “spy” plot of the episode, but it involves a lot of Casey, so it’s definitely worthwhile and entertaining. Despite being rehired, Lester’s mutiny continues. Morgan can barely function in his new position as Assistant Manager. He’s having to avoid traps wherever he goes. His coffee is always spiked with laxative, so he can never get properly caffeinated. The final humiliation comes when he sits down on a chair in the break room, and it’s covered in glue. When he interrupts Chuck and Casey gossiping about Shaw, Morgan gets an idea. Maybe Casey can help protect him from the rest of the Buy More employee rabble.

Shaw is conducting the traditional review every Special Agent undertakes when he or she takes over a new project. His major concern is trying to figure out whether Chuck is just an asset or a true spy. Shaw’s conclusion is that Chuck has potential to be a good spy, but he’s been coddled by Sarah and Casey. Shaw’s solution is to give Chuck his first solo mission, and it’s in Paris. Sarah is irate, and Casey isn’t pleased either, but Chuck is thrilled. I think that he desperately wants to be more than just the Nerd Herd guy. He had greatness unfairly stolen from him back at Stanford, and he wants to regain what he thinks he’s lost.

Sarah wants to talk to Chuck alone before he has to leave, and I love how Casey just rolls his eyes, grunts, and walks away. Despite making a show of being by-the-book, he tolerates whatever Chuck and Sarah’s deal is. Chuck on the plane, by the way, is also pretty adorable. He has never flown in first class (or been to Paris) before, and he’s way too enthusiastic about everything. What makes the situation even more amusing is that he’s furiously trying to pretend that this is something he does all the time, especially when he’s talking to the woman sitting next to him, Hannah.

I like Hannah, which is surprising, given how much I usually dislike Chuck and Sarah road blocks. She’s warm and friendly, and she delights in Chuck’s naiveté just as much as the viewer. She’s also smart. She is flown all over the world to fix IT issues for a big time private investor. She’s vulnerable, too, as we’ll see by the end of the episode. Chuck and Hannah spend much of the beginning of the flight speculating about the lives of their fellow first class passengers. This is all fun and games until Hannah spots someone she thinks must be a professional wrestler. Chuck takes a look and immediately flashes. It’s a Ring operative. Shaw tells a panicked Chuck that his mission isn’t in Paris- it’s on the plane.

Chuck is supposed to use a tranq pen to drug the Ring operative and steal his baggage claim ticket. This, of course, doesn’t go at all as planned. The difference in air pressure due to being on a plane causes the pen to malfunction, spraying the operative in the face instead of dripping a few drops of the drug into his drink. A bit of the drug sprays into the operative’s mouth, which saves Chuck, but only temporarily. Chuck is down in the luggage hold looking for the match to the baggage claim ticket (the luggage contains an important CIA crypto-key) when the operative reappears. Chuck has no choice but to jump inside the item that matches the baggage claim ticket- a coffin.

Casey (and by extension, Adam Baldwin) is seriously on fire in this episode. Morgan, who was inadvertently drugged by an earlier attempt by Chuck to learn how to work the tranq pen, wakes up to find himself trapped in one of those claw machines. You know, the ones where you are so close to picking up a toy with that claw and always, always fail? Casey rescues Morgan from his uncomfortable predicament. He grunts and the Buy More employees beginning to gather around the claw machine scatter. Morgan appeals to Casey’s inherent patriotism and desire for order and asks Casey to help him regain control of the Buy More. I absolutely love Casey’s response. He grunts, “Insurgents. I hate insurgents.” Let the games begin!

Casey also has some very hilarious, yet also useful, advice for Chuck. He tells Chuck to let loose with a girly scream so the operative will underestimate him, then grab a weapon and flash on it. The plan works. Chuck happens to be near the equipment of the Yale fencing team, and luckily, he flashes on some mad fencing skills. Actually, it’s falling luggage that temporarily gives Chuck the win, but the fencing skills were still pretty decent. Falling luggage will actually come in quite handy throughout the episode.

Back at the Buy More, Morgan calls a staff meeting. He warns everyone that if they want to keep up their little insurrection, they’re going to have to deal with Casey. Morgan reminds them that after the “volley ball incident” at the last company picnic, they definitely don’t want to deal with Casey. Casey puts out a cigar on his palm to underscore Morgan’s point. Everybody gives up except for Lester and Jeff. Personally, I want to know what the “volley ball” incident entailed. I’m sure it was hilarious and kind of painful. Casey eventually converts Lester, too. He uses the tried and true technique of abduction and brainwashing.

Chuck is back in his seat happily enjoying a drink with Hannah when he runs into yet another problem. He didn’t order a drink, and what he’s drinking tastes funny. A quick phone call to Sarah confirms that yeah, Chuck’s been poisoned. It turns out that there’s a second Ring operative on the plane, and she’s been posing as a flight attendant. She hauls Chuck back down to the baggage compartment where once again, the original operative is back and ready to fight. Luckily, Shaw has a plan. He uses his connections to commandeer a satellite that can take control of aircraft. I know Shaw is CIA, but the Annapolis t-shirt he’s been wearing this entire episode makes me wonder if he’s ex-Navy, too. Anyway, Sarah uses her mad piloting skills to jostle the plane around a bit. Chuck escapes his captors and grabs the antidote to the poison. Then luggage conveniently knocks out both of the Ring operatives…multiple times. Chuck grabbed nun chucks out of his suitcase, but by the time he had flashed and was ready to use them, the operatives were both out cold.

When the plane finally lands in Paris, Hannah offers to show Chuck around the city. Since earlier in the episode, both have sort of told each other the truth about their situation. Chuck revealed that he actually works at the Buy More, and Hannah revealed that she’s been fired from her job and is just in Paris to clean out her office. Chuck wants to take Hannah up on the offer, but he gets another call from Shaw. He needs to head right back to Burbank to deliver the crypto-key. He says a sort-of-sad goodbye to Hannah and tells her that if she’s in Burbank and still in need of a job, she should look him up.

Meanwhile, Sarah is bonding with Shaw. When Chuck delivers the key, Shaw reveals that it actually opens a box containing intelligence from a deceased spy who was deep inside the Ring. There’s also a small envelope inside that’s just for Shaw. Sarah follows Shaw to his office, demanding to know what’s in the envelope. It’s Shaw’s late wife’s wedding ring. She was the spy who died on Shaw’s watch. Given that she’s had her own troubled romances with spies, both Bryce and Chuck, Sarah finally sees common ground with Shaw.

Back to his day job, Chuck is moping around the Nerd Herd desk. Morgan and Casey bring him up to speed on what happened while he was away, and Morgan is all excited about how things are changing for him at the Buy More. Chuck, however, is convinced that nothing in his own life is going to change. Just at that moment, he looks up. Hannah has just walked through the Buy More doors.

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