Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chuck 3.09: "Chuck Versus the Beard"

“Well, you two lovebirds have fun while I’m cooped up in the van again. Have a margarita for me.”


I do believe that “Chuck Versus the Beard” is the best episode of “Chuck” this season. There were big, big changes in the status quo, but the changes happened in a way that I think will ultimately benefit Chuck. There was also some fun Buy More action that actually tied into the spy world plot of the episode. Much like “Of Course,” the episode of HIMYM that was broadcast on the same night, it had an excellent mix of humor and heart. And that’s what I really want from my comedies, be they half-hour or hour.

We see that since last week’s episode, Chuck’s world has essentially been falling apart. Spy World is a mess. Chuck hasn’t had a flash since Rafe tried to kill Sarah and Shaw, and Shaw is running out of patience. Chuck is to be benched from missions until he starts having Intersect flashes again. Chuck’s personal life isn’t any better. Chuck wants to vent to Awesome about what’s going on in his spy life, but Awesome doesn’t want to hear it- he doesn’t want to be put in the position of having to lie to Ellie anymore. To make things even worse, Morgan “fires” Chuck as his best friend because Chuck keeps refusing to tell Morgan what’s bothering him.

Of course Chuck’s worlds falling apart makes the situation ripe for a collision of epic proportions between both of those worlds. Sarah, Shaw, and Casey are headed to the Malibu Vista Hotel, where they have intelligence that the Ring is trying to turn a CIA agent staying there. This is puzzling to the team because they don’t know of any CIA agent currently checked-in there. The mission is complicated by the fact that Awesome and Ellie are vacationing there, and the team doesn’t want to be identified. Then Casey, who thinks he’s tapped into the Ring’s communication system, hears the spies talking about Awesome. Sarah and Shaw start to warn Awesome, who is pretty freaked out. But then the team figures out that the spy chatter they thought they were listening to at the hotel was really a recording, and it doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that they’ve been set up.

Meanwhile, everyone back at the Buy More is on edge, too. Big Mike informs Morgan, Chuck, Jeff and Lester that their store is being sold, and some suits will be checking the place out to see if they’re interested in buying it. The suits are interviewing all of the employees, purportedly to figure out which to keep and which to fire. Lester starts eavesdropping and hears two of the suits talking about how they’re going to keep Chuck and Morgan and “terminate” the rest. Lester thinks this means everyone’s going to be fired, but it’s actually a little more literal than that. Because the suits are actually Ring agents trying to find Castle and get to Shaw’s intelligence.

Sarah, Shaw, and Casey realize that the tip about the hotel was a distraction to leave Castle undefended, but they can’t get back to Burbank quite fast enough. Things go downhill in a hurry. Morgan is in the break room as some of the suits approach, and he hides on top of a vending machine. He can’t believe what he’s hearing. The suits are looking for a secret passage into an underground CIA base (aka Castle). The suits find the passage behind some employee lockers, and Morgan can’t help but follow them. He’s like a kid in a candy store, loving the fact that something as cool as a secret CIA base is below his very own store. Morgan finds Chuck when he gets back above ground, and Chuck’s worried reaction is pretty disappointing to Morgan. Morgan thinks he and Chuck should team up and save Burbank from the Ring invasion. What’s pretty funny about this scene is how Morgan keeps misinterpreting Chuck’s worry as disbelief. And a little meta joke about how lame “The Ring” is as a name for an evil organization slips in too!

Things above ground at the Buy More are pretty chaotic too. The entire staff, led by Big Mike, has decided they are going to rebel against being fired. They’ve got a make shift barricade, the Buy Moria flag, and everything else they could need to stage a proper rebellion. It looks like a cross between Les Mis and that famous photograph of raising the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. The best part of the Buy More rebellion sub-plot is that we get another performance from Jeffster! Jeffster performances are few and far between, but that makes them all the sweeter.

Morgan and Chuck have gone back underground, and Chuck almost backs out of their plan to take on The Ring. He really wants to protect Morgan, but Morgan is still understandably misinterpreting what Chuck is saying. He tells Chuck not to freak out, which could possibly my favorite moment of the episode. If only he knew! Actually, he will know by the end of the episode. The Ring captures Morgan and Chuck, and they threaten to torture Morgan. Morgan keeps telling the Ring operatives that they have no clue what they’re talking about- he’s known Chuck since they were both six years old, and Chuck’s no spy. When the Ring operatives leave the room, Chuck confesses the truth to Morgan. At first it seems like Morgan is hurt that he’s been left out of the loop, but he actually thinks that having a best friend who is a spy is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

As they sit tied up in Castle, thinking they may die soon, Chuck tells Morgan the whole story. No longer burdened with his massive secret, Chuck flashes on his kung fu skills when the Ring operatives come back into the room. And he kicks their asses, naturally. If Morgan didn’t already think Chuck was cool, he certainly did after that. Casey, Sarah, and Shaw arrive back in Burbank while Chuck and Morgan are still down in Castle. Shaw is ready to put in a call to Langley that would start Castle’s self-destruct sequence. That seems a bit shady to me. I’m kind of hoping that Shaw’s whole arc ends with him being affiliated with the Ring, because that would make him much more interesting. Just as Shaw is about to make the call, Morgan and Chuck emerge, much to everyone else’s surprise.

Shaw isn’t quite sure what to do with Morgan, since he knows a pretty big government secret now, but Sarah and Chuck manage to convince him not to put Morgan in witness protection. Chuck needs Morgan. The two spend the evening playing Duck Hunt and eating Subway meatball marinara sandwiches (the beginning of the Subway product placement inspired by the fan save the show campaign last spring). Morgan wants to know if Chuck is doing so well at the game because of the Intersect. Nope. Chuck is just that good at Duck Hunt. I think having Morgan to talk to about both sides of his life is going to be a really positive thing for Chuck. Morgan has really grown from an annoying sidekick in season 1 to somebody who can really be counted on, and it’s nice to see.

The final scene of the episode was very surprising, and I’m sure there’s more going on under the surface than what it looks like. Casey is in Castle, and it seems like he’s running some sort of test on the Ring phone he confiscated at the hotel when the phone…rings. The caller addresses Casey by name, and I think we’re supposed to wonder if Casey is actually a Ring operative. I think it’s much more likely that he’s being recruited.

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