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?
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Overall Grade: B