Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holiday "Classic" Recap: Chuck: "Chuck Versus Santa Claus"

“Christmas at the Burton household meant the annual Salvation Army con job.”

“Chuck Versus Santa Claus” was a bit more of a subdued Christmas episode than I remember. I think when I decided to do a “Chuck” episode for the holiday recap this year, I might have been thinking of an episode from season 1. Nevertheless, this episode had plenty of humor in the first half, and it also had plenty of heart. A good combination for Christmas, I think. By this point in the series, the usual gang is pretty much a cohesive unit, although Sarah and Chuck are still only “fake” dating. I like that in these earlier episodes, Chuck shows some intuition about how to deal with people beyond anything the Intersect or supplementary spy training could have provided. He’s a smart guy, even if he doesn’t have much to show for it thanks to Bryce (with good intensions) derailing his life back at Stanford. Chuck is more of a leader and force to be reckoned with in this episode than any of the upper Buy More management, and I like that. It’s a good balance at this point in the series. Chuck is confident enough in himself to exert a leadership role when needed, but he also has to rely on “civilian” tactics to get himself out of precarious situations.

Anyway, as would be expected given the title of this episode and the fact that it’s the holiday recap, it’s the day before Christmas at the Buy More. Big Mike and Emmet are excited about the potential for profits, especially since Emmet jacked up all the prices by 15% for the occasion. Over at the Orange Orange, Chuck is trying to get Sara into the Christmas spirit with an invitation to the very cozy-sounding Bartowski family Christmas. After a little hemming and hawing about how much Christmas with her con man dad sucked, Sarah finally accepts the invite. In other kind of inconsequential setting up the episode news, Awesome informs Ellie that he has already purchased a kickass Christmas gift for himself – a skydiving weekend for him and his buddies. Ellie is seriously miffed that her fiancé would be so careless with his safety, but Awesome says he need more excitement in his life.

As the Buy More staff prepares for the onslaught of last minute shoppers, the Nerd Herd underlings are transfixed watching a televised police car chase on the big wall of televisions. The chase is headed right for the Buy More, and the bad guy manages to crash his car right through the store’s front plate glass windows. He then gets out of the car wielding a gun. It turns out that the guy’s name is Ned, and it appears that he isn’t really a bad guy ever. He’s just the most ineffectual small time criminal ever who wanted to get his kids some presents for Christmas. Local police arrive on the scene en masse, including Big Mike’s cousin, played by the guy who was the dad/cop on Family Matters back in the 90’s (sorry, I’m on a train and can’t IMDB his actual name). Also on the scene is a top LAPD hostage negotiator, who, with a little help from Chuck, manages to negotiate the release of one hostage. Emmet, of course, is only too eager to be that one hostage. Once he gets outside, Emmet uses the abundance of tv news cameras to advertise for the Buy More, which makes Big Mike happy.

Sarah and Casey, meanwhile, manage to sneak their way into the Buy More from Castle in an effort to extract Chuck from the potentially dangerous situation. Chuck doesn’t want to be extracted, though, because he doesn’t want to leave Ellie and Awesome behind. Plus, gunman Ned seems pretty harmless. Ned sees Chuck talking to Casey and Sarah, and it agitates him a bit. Chuck, however, convinces Ned to uncock his gun. Ned doesn’t really know how to handle a gun, though, so he ends up accidentally shooting off one of Casey’s toes. Casey’s reaction to this is pretty hilarious, especially when he starts talking about how it’s a point of pride that he made it through three wars without losing an appendage.

Once the chaos from the accidental shooting has calmed down, we get a sweet scene where Chuck convinces Ned to let everyone in the store call a loved one. It’s a very Christmassy scene, where even Casey calls his mom. Chuck takes Sarah behind the DVD racks and gives her a rather special early Christmas gift- his mom’s old charm bracelet. Sarah thinks Chuck should save the bracelet for a real” girlfriend, but Chuck really wants Sarah to have it. Meanwhile, the hostage negotiator comes into the store to find out what was up with the gun shot. He convinces Ned to let two more hostages go, and unfortunately for Chuck, those two hostages end up being Sarah and Casey. Just after his protection leaves, Chuck flashes on the hostage negotiator and realizes that he’s F.U.L.C.R.U.M.

Outside, Sarah and Casey go talk to the SWAT team (who are actually NSA/CIA operatives. They find out that Ned’s not actually married, and it quickly becomes apparent that Ned and the hostage negotiator are both F.U.L.C.R.U.M and have been in cahoots this whole time. When it seemed like he was calling his “wife,” Ned was actually calling the hostage negotiator to let him know that Chuck is the asset Sarah and Casey have been protecting. Inside the store, the hostage negotiator reveals to Chuck what he knows, and he demands to know the location of both Bryce and the Intersect. He says that Ned will shoot Ellie if Chuck doesn’t talk. Chuck says he doesn’t know where Bryce is (he thinks he’s dead), but he does know where the Intersect is. Chuck stupidly tells the hostage negotiator that he’s the Intersect.

The hostage negotiator tells Chuck the new plan. Chuck is going to be released into an ambulance, and the ambulance is going to take him to a secure F.U.L.C.R.U.M. facility. In one brief moment of compassion, the hostage negotiator does let Chuck say goodbye to Elle and Awesome. Chuck tells Awesome that now is the time to be brave. Which means Chuck wants Awesome to go ahead with the plan he was trying to draw up to tackle Ned (which Chuck vehemently opposed up to this point). The plan at first seems to go hilariously badly, mostly because Ned’s got some sweet F.U.L.C.R.U.M. moves. Jeff and Lester attack Ned with plastic candy canes, and it reminds me of Merry and Pippin charging that troll in “Fellowship of the Ring” after they think it’s killed Frodo. Morgan ends up saving the day by popping up from the fake snow in the Santa’s Village and spraying the fake snow at Ned.

Outside, Sarah and Casey see Chuck being loaded into the ambulance, and the shoot the tires of the ambulance out before it can get very far. Chuck uses the opportunity to escape from the ambulance, and there’s a brief chase through a Christmas tree stand. Sarah catches up with the hostage negotiator and has him at gunpoint. He says that if he’s arrested, F.U.L.C.R.U.M. will stop at nothing to get him back, and when they do, he’ll tell them that Chuck is the Intersect. Not wanting to take any chances, Sarah shoots him point blank in the head. Chuck sees this from behind a nearby Christmas tree and wonders if everything he thought about Sarah was wrong.

The final scene is the aftermath at the Buy More, which consists mostly of happy reunions. Two characters aren’t especially happy, though. Chuck and Morgan have both had a rather rough time. Chuck’s still shaken by what he saw Sarah do. Morgan’s upset because Anna still refuses to take him back after the whole chickening out about moving in together incident, and worse still, she kissed Lester as he was rolled away on a gurney following the whole failed attack on Ned. For the record, Anna realized kissing Lester was just plain gross and regretted it almost instantly. She still doesn’t want Morgan back, though. Chuck and Morgan, both melancholy, have a bit of a bro moment over how their women both did something unspeakable. So it’s not the merriest Christmas for the “Chuck” crew, but I hope all of you had a very merry Christmas yourselves!

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