Chuck: Mommie Dearest

By Louis Peitzman

Nov 30, 2010

Last night’s solid episode of Chuck brought the Mama Bartowski arc to a satisfying, if not open-ended, conclusion. It was entertaining—a standout in a season of ups and downs—but far from the best the show can do. Am I grading too harshly? Read on to see where “Chuck vs. The Leftovers” lost points.

Agent Bartowski: Chuck decided that without the Intersect, he’d need to learn some tricks on his own. This inspired my favorite scene of the episode, in which Chuck and Morgan learned “strip kicking” (basically what it sounds like) while accompanied by Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Otherwise, it was more of Chuck trusting, then not trusting, then trusting his mom. While I understand the complicated emotions involved, I’m a bit worn out by the back-and-forth. And then he got the Intersect back—which made me wonder why he needed to lose it in the first place. What purpose did it really serve?
Grade: B

Agents Walker and Casey: Sarah and Chuck, on the other hand, were at the top of their game. After a Sarah-heavy week, it was nice to see the spies working as a team. I thought Sarah did a good job of balancing Sarah the spy with Sarah the girlfriend: She let Chuck work out his issues with Mama Bartowski, but she also kept her eye on the goal. And Casey got to do cool computer-y things, so a few extra points there. (Look, I don’t work at the Buy More. I can’t be expected to understand technology.)
Grade: A

Morgan: Poor Morgan. Sometimes he’s essential to the mission, sometimes he’s a punching bag. This week, Morgan’s fears regarding Black Friday madness turned into far more legitimate fears about, you know, dying. I thought he handled himself fairly well, insofar as he didn’t get killed, but he was mostly helpless throughout the episode. I suppose that’s realistic: He can’t always be the savior or the voice of reason or the studly leading man (okay, he never really gets to be that last one). And because of the awesome strip kicking scene (still not over it) and his refusal to be seduced when he already has a girlfriend, his grade gets bumped up.
Grade: B+

The Romance: Not much romance to speak of. I take it everything is going smoothly? Super. I did think the reveal that Volkoff is in love with Frost was a bit silly, only because that seemed obvious from the get-go. I also have a hard time believing anyone that evil and powerful would cave so easily over mushy feelings. But what do I know? I’ve never been a spy in love.
Grade: B

Awesome and Ellie: You guys, Awesome and Ellie were integral to the mission. Integral! Things mostly had to do with Awesome, but that’s okay because I find Devon’s spying ineptitude to be an endless source of amusement. I love that the suave, charming doctor can’t manage to tell a simple lie to save his sweetie’s life. And Ellie held her own as well, cracking the code that gave Chuck the Intersect back. I wonder how she’s going to feel when she finds out—it’s inevitable—that she’s somewhat responsible for pushing Chuck back into more active spying. How long do you think Devon can keep his brother-in-law’s secret?
Grade: A

The Buy More: I’m over it. Sorry. Most everything about the Buy More rubbed me the wrong way in this episode, particularly Big Mike’s Subway ad (enough already!) and Jeff asking Volkoff’s sexy infiltrator to shave his back. Jeff’s weirdness isn’t creepy-funny anymore—it’s really just shrug-worthy. What I did like is that we saw more of how the Buy More can operate as a C.I.A. facility.
Grade: C-

The Guest Stars: Linda Hamilton gave her best performance yet as Mary Elizabeth Bartowski. She sounded a little uncomfortable when she made that forced nod to the Terminator series: “Come with me if you want to live.” Other than that, she was good and, most importantly, believable. She was, however, upstaged by the brilliant Timothy Dalton, whose Volkoff is the best villain Chuck has given us since Chevy Chase as Ted Roark. Discuss.
Grade: A

Overall Grade: B

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  • chas031 Dec 06, 2010

    WOW, all this whining about SUBWAY!!Wake up people!! Why is the show back this season? SUBWAY! Get it?? Support the advertiser get your (sub)way!!

    Take the lesson to heart. If you want better television STOP complaining to worthless chit chat boards or networks who don't care if you are breathing aslong as your TV is tuned in, and take your COLLECTIVE voice directly to the advertisers. When a network decides to re-insert a show like Chuck after announcing it's demise......THAT'S HUGE. That's your voice making the right noise. It doesn't take 1.5 million walking on Washington for better programming, Simply LEARN from what has made a difference!! Want less trash on yoour networks?? Contact every advertiser sponsoring the trash and let them know you WON'T buy there any longer. After a while, the Nits at the network might actually FIRE the neilson's and start listening more closely to want actually counts.......YOUR VOICE!!!

  • MightyMad Dec 02, 2010

    Wow... zero mention on the fact that this episode was an awesome "Die-Hard" spoof... once again, you dropped the ball, Peitzman.

  • fladimir7 Dec 02, 2010

    @exavier1cmf, Well they did take the ring leaders at the end so i don't see why this organization would still be around. Now if you say Fulcrum, i'd much would like to know about them.

  • LeePierce Dec 02, 2010

    I agree with you entirely. It felt like the whole "losing the intersect" subplot was just filler for what could have been an amazing season. The only way this can be redeemed is if Morgan takes his newfound skill of strip-kicking and is able to save the day with his swift foot of justice, thus redeeming all of his screw-ups this season.

  • shocker713 Dec 02, 2010

    The Subway product placement IS ridiculous, but I've learned to ignore it by reminding myself that it's one of the major reasons the show is still even on.

  • exavier1cmf Dec 01, 2010

    Yeah i agree with the Timothy Dalton character comment-- he IS the best character the show has given us since Ted Roark, however i liked the villian-esk that Brandon Routh gave us as Shaw, his character was probably the most dangerous because he knew all of Chuck's secrets and had an Intersect. Timothy Dalton is a DIFFERENT kind of evil, and he has endless resources at his disposal. Volkoff has connections in almost every organization in the world... he can potentially be everywhere at once, without actually being there.

    On that note, can anyone answer to me what happened to The Ring?? i mean... an organization that has as many connections as The Ring doesn't just disappear like they did. Thoughts?

  • Tur42 Dec 01, 2010

    Honestly, you should add a "Subway Ad" catagory and rate them aswell. those are getting really ridiculous..

    I thought this episode was kind of a mess, but still enjoyable overall. its too bad chuck got the intersect back so soon, taking it away was a move in the right direction. ever since chuck learned Kung Fu the show has been going downhill.. its still one of my favorites, but it lost alot of the goofy elements that made it great in the first 2 seasons..

  • Deadeye666 Dec 01, 2010

    If I remember correctly the problem Ellie solved was about how the brain accessed memories. So maybe from now Chuck wont have that stupid look on his face every time he flashes. Maybe from now on he will just know stuff as if he is just remembering it. Though I get the feeling nothing will be different.

  • Zorpoks Dec 01, 2010

    Well, there's one big problem with The Intersect 2.0 - Chuck forgets the abilities he flashes on (he can only keep his kung-fu knowledge for a short time before he has to flash on it again). Maybe Orion couldn't keep the information there longer because of how he looked at the brain, which Ellie just fixed. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  • Dudekotka Dec 01, 2010

    Anyways, I liked this episode a lot, I agree with you on almost every point as usual, except the buy more stuff, (as usual) and the Morgan stuff. I actually find the extremely forced Subway stuff to be absolutely hilarious, because they make it such a tiny part, but still put so much impact in whatever tiny moments where they promote it. I do kind of get tired of the jeffster stuff, but at least they used the Buy More in the right way for once, actually making it a integral part of the episode, they should have shown more of the civilian Buy More employees than Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike. What I liked about Morgan in this episode was that he had no problem trying to save the civilians when he first figured out there was a problem, of course, it all has to be turned into a joke, but I still think Morgan has grown quite a bit as a character since he found out Chuck is a spy.

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