Chuck (S02E03): “Chuck Versus the Break-Up”

Grade: B+

As if Chuck believed it was unable to woo me any further, episode three opened with a song by The National and closed with one of my favorite tracks from Bon Iver’s brilliant album. Right, so an episode of TV isn’t made by its song selection, but it gets serious cool points nonetheless. As far as the actual episode, “Chuck Versus the Break Up” is probably my least favorite of the season, but it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable time spent with TVs most huggable character.

I didn’t get around to writing about last week’s “Chuck Versus the Seduction”, but Chuck’s moves are considerably less smooth this week, thanks to the reappearance of Sarah’s ex-partner and continuous thorn in Chuck’s side, Bryce Larkin. His return puts the stops on Chuck and Sarah’s romance and makes them both begin to question the costs their feelings might have. Sarah is making choices based around Chuck and possibly compromising her ability as a spy while Chuck is pouring drinks in the laps of the rich and dangerous and dropping whole bottles of $1000 wine.

Chuck is not your average spy, with smooth moves and crazy gadgets, and he doesn’t introduce himself last name first (Bartowski. Chuck Bartowski), but he still proves he has the potential to be a spy of his own defining; one that’s a whole lot more amusing to watch. While he isn’t a real spy, he’s also not your typical bumbling one, with skills hidden beneath a layer of ineptness and social awkwardness. Instead, he’s a very normal guy that uses some quick thinking and parts of his own personality to get himself out of tricky situations. In the premiere it was the Call of Duty gag, where he convinced a group of seasoned killers that an elaborate online game strategy was actually a real one.Then last week he managed to seduce a deadly killer, at least partly, using a sprinkling of advice from a seasoned playboy spy and a lot of his own brand of sweet talk. However, in the newest case he’s assigned to pose as a waiter while Bryce and Sarah pretend to be a married couple, and watching them dance and lock lips and generally feel each other up proves to be just a little too much for him to handle.

But even when he gets kicked out of the party for being the worst waiter in the world, Chuck still shows us that he can think on the fly. Unfortunately, he lands himself in the hands of the evil villains once more and Sarah must choose him or pursuing the cipher. She chooses Chuck and gets herself a nasty concussion in the process. Later, when Chuck inadvertently stumbles upon a lead and sets up a trade for the chip, Sarah hesitates to act again when her shot could come dangerously close to harming Chuck. Casey ends up getting the job done, but at this point everyone realizes how dangerous love in the line of duty can be. And the realization doesn’t come easy to Chuck, who realizes he has to let Sarah go if he truly cares about her. He tells her it’s because he doesn’t know her real name or where she’s from, but Chuck is letting her go to save her life. It’s sad, but the right thing for him to do. And what would a show be if our destined lovers lived happily ever after so soon? I’m just hoping they can both find each other in that boring, spyless world they both dream for–where they will have no secrets and at least three sickeningly cute kids running around on a quaint farm somewhere in nowhere, U.S.A.

The hardest part of it all will be what comes now, when they must go back to being a pretend couple. Can they really keep their feelings for each other at bay? After Chuck tells Sarah that they can’t be together, even though she’s his perfect girl in every way, they have to go eat dinner with his sister and Captain Awesome and fake an evening worth of smiles, though Chuck has trouble wearing a convincing one. Just multiply that by all the future missions where they will have to fake more than smiles and think of how stressful it could be on the both of them. Surely it’s only a matter of time before one of them breaks down and drops a line like “I can’t take it anymore! I want you! NOW!” Or…something along those lines.

Of course in addition to our spy exploits, we have the misadventures of the Buy More crew, with 75% less Chuck involvement. While it had nice moments, such as Morgan crawling on the ground like he’s playing COD: Buy More Versus the Bullies or Anna beating the crap out of a man four times her size with a tripod, this story didn’t work for me overall. Basically, Lester’s new rules call for a stricter Buy More and the first order of business is to kick out the team of guys that’s been sitting in the demo room playing Madden for hours and trashing it with cups, empty hamburger wrappers and half-eaten burritos. The problem Is that even a extremely good ability to suspend disbelief fails to make this story remotely believable. If a bunch of surly, gap-toothed jocks planted themselves in a store everyday to play on a TV they don’t own and to litter in a place that’s not theirs, management would kick them out or call the cops.

So I get the setup of Morgan and Lester, the “dweebs” against the “jocks”, but the amount of time it gets dragged on is ridiculous. Morgan even goes as far as giving up two weeks pay to buy the guys PSPs to avoid meeting face first with a fist bigger than his head, and even when he finally grows the testicles to confront them, the resolution ends in a cage match between the gang leader and Anna. Granted, it’s an awesome scene that gives Casey enough reason to make a note of her being good material for an agent, but it was an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion to a story I just couldn’t make myself get into. Perhaps my years in retail make me cringe at this story just as people in the medical field can’t help but hold an intense hatred for shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy.

Thankfully, the Chuck side of the evening was enough to make The Break Up a solid and enjoyable hour, and the end twist finally answers some questions I’ve been wondering since the premiere. Bryce leaves Chuck a pair of his cool, cool spy glasses that unbeknownst to Chuck are a clever disguise for the Intersec update, which gets downloaded right into his brain. Again. And thus the seemingly endless quest for the Cipher and Chuck’s freedom gets put on indefinate hold, and a whole lot of new doors suddenly open for the show to step through.

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