Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chuck 3.19: "Chuck Versus the Ring: Part 2"

“No plan? That never stopped me before!”

Overall, “Chuck Versus the Ring: Part 2” was an exciting season finale. I think I would have been kind of pissed if I didn’t know that there was definitely going to be a Season 4, but with that knowledge, it was a fun ride. There were some interesting doors left open, and some apparent major paradigm shifts. I’m definitely anxious to see what big changes that seem to have happened in this episode actually stick next season. While I know shows have to mix it up to stay fresh and interesting, I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this episode’s big changes. I’ll get to that later, though, because it’s kind of awkward to talk about it when I’m still speaking in generalities.

This episode involves some flashbacks, which I didn’t find especially effective. The flashbacks certainly worked on an imparting important information level, but they didn’t really work for me on an emotional level. During the first flashback, little Chuck has broken his mother’s necklace, and Ellie is angry at him. Steve takes a break from his mysterious work to tell Ellie that she always has to protect Chuck. Steve obviously knows that his work makes his family life very tenuous, and he wants to make sure his kids will be okay. The performances, however, were very flat, so the scene didn’t really do much for me.

The present-day action naturally begins with the rescue of Chuck, Sarah, and Casey. This sequence was pretty fun, mostly because the rescue involved Casey’s Crown Vic. Ellie has lost sight of the Ring vehicle, and Morgan and Awesome are floundering. They’re disagreeing on whether they should just go in guns blazing or have some sort of plan. In the midst of their squabble, they remember that they’re in Casey’s Crown Vic, which will certainly have some helpful tricks up its sleeve. They find a gun in the glove compartment, but that’s just the beginning. By sheer luck, they push some random buttons and end up sending a missile right at the Ring vehicle. This happens just after Shaw gets out of the vehicle and starts talking about how he’s going to execute Chuck and the crew.

If the hilarity of Casey’s tricked-out Crown Vic wasn’t enough to get the episode off to a good start, I also loved Casey’s reaction to finding out the identity of his rescuers. He, Chuck, and Sarah are trapped in the Ring vehicle, feeling pretty dazed. Awesome sticks his head right in there and, in another Star Wars homage, says “I’m here to rescue you.” Casey looks up, sees it’s just Awesome, grunts, and puts his head back down while rolling his eyes. I never get tired of Casey’s “looks of haughty derision” as Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” would say. The whole moment was priceless.

The mood quickly turns serious as the group decides just what to do next. Shaw is still alive and the Ring is most definitely still after them. Everyone but Ellie thinks they all need to go off the grid as soon as possible. Ellie argues that she and Awesome are regular people. They don’t go “off the grid.” She snatched up Chuck, tells him to get in the car, and they have a talk. During this conversation, Ellie makes Chuck promise that after he takes down the Ring (gotta have vengeance for Dad, after all), he’ll quit the CIA for good. This was an interesting moment because as viewers, we know that if Chuck fully keeps to his promise, we’ll have no more show. The mystery that remains for us to figure out is just how Chuck will get around that promise.

Chuck hacks into the remote interrogation video feed at a CIA holding facility, and Team Bartowski is able to talk to General Beckman. General Beckman informs the team that a sort of “spy conference” is being held in Los Angeles. Not only is Shaw supposed to be the star of the event, the five elders of the Ring are supposed to be there. Chuck organizes the mission. He and Sarah are part of the Russian delegation to the convention, and Casey and Morgan are maintenance men. Chuck thinks he successfully made eye contact with Shaw without Shaw recognizing him, and Casey is pissed because he discovered Morgan has Alex’s phone number. The later situation was absolutely hilarious, because, really, I don’t think you want to be on the bad side of Casey when it comes to his daughter. He’s scary enough even when the parental instincts aren’t kicking in! Despite their conflict, Casey and Morgan manage to find Shaw’s hotel room number.

Shaw is on stage, about to start a rather self-congratulatory speech, when Chuck calls his cell phone to let him know that his team is in the building. Shaw stuipidly texts all the Ring elders to tell them to get out of there, and they run right into Casey and Morgan. Chuck, meanwhile, is waiting in Shaw’s hotel room. Shaw is so full of himself that he doesn’t realize Chuck is recording his confession and broadcasting it to the entire convention. He doesn’t realize it until Chuck starts bragging about it, that is. Shaw wants to fight Chuck, which doesn’t work out too well for Chuck. Throughout the episode, the Intersect has been taking a toll on Chuck. He starts to flash, then he sees all sorts of strange symbols and can’t function. This happens when he tries to flash on his kung fu skills, Sarah steps in just in time to keep Shaw from killing Chuck, and Shaw takes the opportunity to make a getaway.

Back in Burbank, Morgan checks back in at the Buy More to find that things have gone a bit nuts while he’s been gone. Big Mike has been informed that the Burbank Buy More might be closed due to low sales, and Jeff and Lester give him a crazy idea to try and fix their numbers. They decide to have a “Going Out of Business” sale before they actually go out of business. Jeff and Lester have even arranged to have their new Jeffster! music video play during the event. Morgan doesn’t have much time to figure out what’s going on, though, because Shaw has infiltrated the store. He’s planting bombs all over the place, and when he sees Morgan, things go from bad to worse. Shaw holds Morgan captive and tells Sarah that if she doesn’t bring him Chuck, he’ll blow up the Buy More.

Shaw has Morgan tied up in the “cage,” and Morgan is desperately trying to get out so he can pull the fire alarm and get all the customer’s out of harm’s way. Casey advises him to break his thumbs in a scene that’s really too painful to ever rewatch. Morgan’s pain is for naught, though, because Jeff beats him to the fire alarm. Jeff pulled the alarm because the Beverly Hills Buy More crew has busted into Burbank claiming that the Burbank store is closed and obligated to send Beverly Hills all their inventory. Jeff wants to create a distraction, and he does so at almost the exact moment Morgan frees himself. I really, really felt sorry for Morgan at that moment! The Buy More now abandoned, Shaw handcuffs Sarah to the Nerd Herd desk, saying he wants to kill both her and Chuck. Chuck wakes up from his Intersect-induced haze just in time to attempt a rescue, which culminates in a pretty cool showdown between Chuck and Shaw set to the Jeffster! music video.

Shaw gets the better of Chuck and knocks Chuck out, and it turns out that’s just what Chuck needed. While Chuck’s unconscious, we see another flashback of Chuck as a kid. In that flashback, little Chuck went poking around in Steve’s lab and got himself Intersect’d. Steve isn’t happy that Chuck was snooping, but he’s amazed by the amount of data Chuck’s brain can process. I find it fascinating that the fateful e-mail from Bryce wasn’t Chuck’s first exposure to Intersect technology. I have to believe that this is going to have huge ramifications for future episodes.

Anyway, having his bell rung worked as a sort of “reboot” forChuck’s brain, and he’s suddenly able to fight Shaw again. Chuck refuses to kill Shaw a second time (he’s been there, done that), but Sarah ends the fight by whacking Shaw on the head with a very large object. She grabs the Governor and gives it to Chuck, who instantly feels relief. The relief is short-lived, though. While the CIA is trying to clean up the Buy More, Morgan grabs the detonator Shaw was going to use and accidentally drops it. Our characters rush out of the store just before the whole place goes up in flames.

The final sequence of the episode takes place slightly in the future. Jeff and Lester are wanted on suspicion of causing the explosion at the Buy More. The rest of the gang is having a sort of wake for Steve. Even Alex drops by, which I thought was sweet. The proceedings are interrupted when Chuck gets a mysterious text of the type his dad used to send. He is led to Steve’s “lair.” He pretty much had his own spy set-up right at home. Most interestingly, Chuck finds a part of his mother’s necklace from the earlier flash back, and we see that his mother is still alive and appears to be involved in spy world.

It’s really the final quarter of the episode that leaves me wondering what is going to happen next year. The whole Buy More element of the show could potentially be jettisoned, which I think would be kind of a shame. Although I was one of the first to gripe whenever the Buy More story of the episode didn’t seem to fit organically with the spy world story, I think the Buy More is necessary to add to the fun geekiness of the show. It also appears that Chuck will now be back in the spy game, but on his own team. I’m wondering if he, Sarah, and Casey will set up their own little operation, and if they do, how that will work. Overall, I’m really left wondering which of these potentially huge changes are going to stick. I can’t wait to find out!

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