Boo! Did I scare you? Yeah, well, Monday night’s spooky episode of Chuck didn’t really scare me either. In many ways, it was a solid installment—finally moving forward with the Mama Bartowski storyline and ditching the angsty romantic drama that’s dragged down recent episodes. Still, "Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror" felt a little underwhelming. Here’s the report card.
Agents Bartowski and Walker: Kudos to Chuck for defeating Dr. Wheelwright even while under the influence of that nightmare-inducing nerve gas. I was impressed by Agent Bartowski’s ability to spin things around on the master of fear, even if his plan didn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Why would those images unnerve Dr. Wheelwright and not Chuck, who is clearly more of a fear noob?) I’m glad Sarah was able to save the day, and I loved that she abducted Mary at the end. What does this mean for her relationship with Chuck? See, that’s a realistic obstacle for the couple to face as a spy team. Oh, and Chuck got my favorite line of the episode: “Chuck, how’d you get here?” “My mom dropped me off.” Perfect delivery on Zachary Levi’s part.
Agent Casey and Grimes: Yeah, Casey and Morgan got to help out with the mission, but they spent most of their time in the background. I guess that’s OK—last week’s episode was heavy on both. And I’m always happy when Morgan is allowed to do something, anything, even if it’s just spouting awesome pop culture references like, “I love our little give and take. Classic Ross and Rachel.” Does this mean Casey is Morgan’s lobster? I didn’t mind Morgan outsourcing his Buy More decoration responsibilities to Jeff and Lester, because—let’s face it—they’re way creepier than he is.
The Romance: Finally, some understated Chuck/Sarah moments. When Chuck was hard on himself for trusting his mom, Sarah reminded him that what she loves about him is his ability to remain trusting in a secretive, unpredictable spy world. No talk of marriage. No metaphor suitcase. These are the interchanges I need to see in order to accept and appreciate Chuck and Sarah as a couple. Now that we know Chuck is getting an additional 11 episodes, I hope the writers can allow this relationship to progress naturally. Let’s not rush them into anything they’re not ready for just for the sake of conflict—it doesn’t feel organic to who they are.
Awesome and Ellie: Awesome’s mom, Honey, dropped by for a subplot that felt completely unnecessary. I like the idea that Ellie is stuck with the mother she doesn’t want instead of the mother she needs, but we’ve already established her desire to reconnect with Mary. There’s only so much to do with the Ellie’s pregnancy storyline, and I’m already a little tired of all the hemming and hawing over a baby that hasn’t been born yet. At the same time, the episode’s final scene gave me some hope, with Chuck revealing to Ellie that their mother is also a spy. Will Ellie finally accept that spying is something Chuck can’t escape? (Yes, please.)
The Buy More: In a weird way, Jeff and Lester saved the day. But I don’t know. I expected more from their Halloween decorations. The Aisle of Terror fell a little flat, minus the, “Is it a baby or is it a snail,” which made me laugh. The more Chuck raises the stakes in the spy world, the more I grow weary of the Buy More. On the other hand, I probably would have forgiven everything if Jeffster had closed out the episode with a disturbing rendition of “Monster Mash.” A boy can dream, right?
The Guest Stars: Speaking of dreams, the utterly terrifying Robert Englund guested as Dr. Wheelwright. Stunt casting, to some extent, because Englund is best known as the iconic Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and Wheelwright used atroxium to make his victims face their fears. Still, I love Englund and he gave a solid performance. I just wish he’d had more to do. The budget for this episode felt noticeably low, with the same effect used twice. Having Englund speak in his Freddy voice was just cheap—he can be scary in other ways. I wish the writers had read some Batman comics: Wheelwright was clearly influenced by Scarecrow, who conjures much darker nightmares. Bonus points for Linda Hamilton finally getting something to do, but she’s canceled out by the episode shoehorning Morgan Fairchild into the proceedings. Is that what they blew the budget on?
Overall Grade: B