Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chuck 3.10: "Chuck Versus the Tic Tac"

“Look, I know that you want to be the perfect spy, and I know what it means to you and what you sacrificed to get there. But please don’t lose that guy that I met three years ago. Don’t give up on the things that make you great.”

“Chuck Versus the Tic Tac” was yet another fantastic episode of “Chuck.” Although I don’t despise Shaw like some of the fandom (I don’t really love him, either), I think it was appropriate that he was absent from this episode. It was really all about the bonds between the original Team Bartowski: Chuck, Casey, and Sarah, and Shaw being in the mix would have just been wrong. Sarah and Chuck probably wouldn’t have been able to get away with what they did had Shaw been around, either. Ultimately, this episode seemed to set some big changes in play, although considering the other changes that have already happened this season, I have a feeling these changes will be set back to status quo sooner than later, because it would just be too much if it was permanent.

At the beginning of the episode, Chuck, Casey and Sarah are on a sort-of unconventional, but totally fun mission. They’re making sure a secret CIA facility is “spy proof.” The whole thing is sort of like a mash-up of two of my favorite movies: “Sneakers” and “The Andromeda Strain.” The Sneakers crew makes a living trying to break into places like banks to check their security measures. The Wildfire station in “The Andromeda Strain” has different numbered and color coded levels for different levels of containment, much like the secret CIA facility. Looks like it would be a pretty cool place to check out in more detail. Working together, the team is able to get to a deep level that contains what looks like a bunch of lockers or safe deposit boxes.

Casey tells Sarah to watch the door while he and Chuck go into the room, and that was the first sign that something was up. While Chuck is distracted trying to open the box General Beckman told the team to open, Casey sneaks off to open another box. The quietly pockets its contents and hurries back to Chuck, who has recovered a letter from General Beckman that says “Job well done.” Later, when the team is at Castle for a debriefing, General Beckman isn’t so happy. A pill that creates supersoldiers by suppressing emotion has already been stolen. Chuck makes the connection that the theft must be the result of Casey’s shady behavior, and chuck thinks this must be some sort of test to see if he’d be honest or not. So Chuck blurts out what he saw. Casey is arrested and taken to level 15 of the secret CIA facility.

Chuck feels awful about what happened, especially when he looks into the situation more and finds out that the man who directed Casey to steal the pill is the same man that recruited him into black ops for the military. John Casey was Alex Coburn back then, but he had to leave that life behind completely to become the soldier he wanted to be. Chuck tells Sarah that he wants to rescue Casey, and Sarah tells him that she was hoping he’d say that. I liked that Sarah told Chuck to his face that she was afraid that he was changing from the guy she met, and not for the better. I think it represents a step towards getting Chuck and Sarah together for good, even if there are a few more stumbles along the way.

It actually isn’t too difficult for Chuck and Sarah to get back into the secret CIA facility where Casey is being held. They do encounter some upgrades that have been added since their original spy proofing mission- Chuck can’t use his Intersect powers to flip himself around and dodge bullets because there’s now some sort of forcefield to stop him. This alerts the man who designed the security upgrades, but Chuck and Sarah turn the situation in their own favor by playing to the man’s ego. They pretend that they are at the facility for a surprise retest, and they make sure to commend the man on the changes he’s made. He takes them right to Level 15 where Casey is being held.

Chuck and Sarah weren’t the first people to have the idea to break Casey out of CIA custody, though. His mentor/Ring handler gets there at just the same time, and Casey chooses to go with him instead of Sarah and Chuck. Chuck and Sarah quickly find themselves back in the middle of Operation: Save Casey, though, mostly thanks to Morgan, strangely enough. Casey gives Morgan a “mission” to retrieve the pill for Casey from wherever he hid it. Chuck is in Castle and sees on the security cameras that Morgan is acting pretty shady. It takes no time at all for Chuck to figure out what’s going on.

Chuck goes up to the Buy More to see Morgan surrpeticiously pocketing a Planet of the Apes DVD. He correctly guesses that the DVD is where Morgan has temporarily hidden the pill, because Morgan can’t stand the original Planet of the Apes movie. I like that Chuck is able to help the team with non-Intersect skills in this instance. It’s his friendship with Morgan, not any downloaded kung fu or acrobatic skills, that allow him to recover the pill for the CIA. Chuck is really greater than just the Intersect, and I think that’s important from a storytelling perspective.

Chuck returns to his apartment, thinking he’s going to meet up with Sarah, but he’s greeted not so warmly by Casey instead. Luckily for Chuck, Sarah quickly arrives on the scene, too. Chuck wants to know from Casey why he betrayed his country and stole the pill. Casey explains that when he was Alex Coburn, he had a fiancee named Kathleen who thinks he his dead. The Ring threatened to kill Kathleen if Casey didn’t do what they said. Sarah and Chuck are satisfied with that explanation, and they agree to help Casey out. The plan is for Chuck to try and sneak Kathleen to safety while Sarah provides back-up to Casey on his upcoming hand-off of the pill to the Ring.

Chuck heads to Kathleen’s house disguised as a guy from the gas company. This becomes especially amusing when the Ring operatives also choose gas company uniforms as their disguises. Chuck doesn’t arrive in time to get Kathleen away from the Ring, but he does manage to at least protect her temporarily. Elsewhere, Casey confronts his mentor while Sarah lies in wait to take on the mentor’s goons. The two successfully take down Casey’s mentor (Casey strangles him) and the goons. Chuck calls Casey and Sarah to let them know that the Ring has arrived. Casey and Sarah are on their way, but Chuck is going to have to hold off the Ring for a little while.

Casey has given Chuck a tool to accomplish that mission, and it’s unclear whether or not that’s a good thing. The pill is in Chuck’s pocket. Chuck thinks about it for a second, and takes the pill. Chuck is about to strangle one of the Ring operatives much like Casey did to his mentor, but he sees Sarah and comes back to his senses. I thought this was a nice moment to show that Chuck hasn’t completely gone to the dark side. On others, that pill might have made him an emotionless killing machine forever, but Sarah basically saved Chuck from that fate.
Kathleen, who had been passed out, awakes to see Casey watching over her. She thinks he looks familiar, but she doesn’t know who he is. A teenage girl arrives on the scene, and when Kathleen calls her “Alex,” everybody realizes it’s Casey’s daughter. Casey, however, feels that unlike on “Lost” dead really is dead, and he leaves without revealing his true identity.

There’s also been some family drama going on while Chuck was off in spy world. Awesome loves his idea of using Doctors Without Borders to escape Chuck and his spy drama for a while, but Ellie has just been offered a neurology fellowship at USC. Really there are only two interesting things to say about this subplot. First is that Awesome appears to have a second weakness: an inability to speak French. He repeatedly pronounces Médecins Sans Frontières as if he were speaking Spanish, and it had me cracking up, whether it was intentional or not. The second is that by the end of the episode, Awesome realizes that he’s been kind of a douche not supporting Ellie in achieving her dream, and he says he’s okay with giving up Doctors Without Borders so she can take the fellowship.

At the end of the episode, more big changes appear to be afoot, but something tells me these won’t really stick considering all the other things about Chuck’s world that have changed this season. Out of respect to Casey’s many years of service, he isn’t going to be put back in custody or worse. General Beckman has given him a “second second chance.” The only catch is that the chance is going to be as a civilian. Meanwhile, Sarah is on her way to DC (where Shaw just happens to live) to try and figure out if she wants to accept General Beckman’s offer of a transfer.

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