Monday, January 11, 2010

"Chuck" is BAAAAAACK!!

I've been waiting for this for about as long as I've been waiting for the season premiere of "LOST." Without the same amount of bated breath, mind you, but fairly close.

NBC's "Chuck" is the little show that could. At the end of season 2, it was almost canceled, and due to some very overwhelming fan action (Subway Day, anyone?), NBC renewed the nerd-spy series. I was jumping like LeBron James the day "Chuck's" renewal was announced. It was like being in the hospital waiting room while a loved one is going through life-threatening surgery, then getting the good news. Only, it wasn't so life-and-death.

Thankfully, the powers that be deemed that we "Chuck"-starved fans would get a double helping of the show tonight, Sunday, and then a third hour tomorrow during its normal time slot of 8 p.m. What a great idea! A triple-threat!

So, what's going on? When we last left Chuck Bartowski and crew, he had tracked Bryce Larkin to the location of the new Intersect chip, version 2.0. Chuck tracked him without the aid of the first Intersect, which his dad had effectively removed from Chuck's brain. Tragically, Bryce is killed by the last remaining Fulcrum dudes, but not before he manages to get Chuck some alone time with the new Intersect. Chuck downloads the new Intersect in order to keep it from Fulcrum, and when they show up to take him down, he reveals some major upgrades by kicking their asses with kung-fu.

Now it's six months later, and Chuck is in Prague, training to be a super spy. Only, he's got a problem. The new Intersect isn't cooperating -- he's not able to consistently "flash" on anything. Apparently, his emotions keep getting in the way. Shortly after he downloaded the new Intersect, he and Sarah planned on running away together to start a "normal" life. Something happened along the way and now she is gone and Chuck is hurting. So, the government considers him a dud and casts him aside, putting him at the lowest point we've ever seen: laying on his sister's couch, fully bearded, wearing a dirty bathrobe and chomping away on cheese puffs.

Thus begins season three with the episode "Chuck vs. The Pink Slip."

Here are the most important things that happened (with analysis, of course).

1. Chuck tries to get back into the spy game to win back both his job AND Sarah. This leads to a really funny moment (pictured above) when he knocks out a Spanish guitar player at a nightclub and takes his place so he can stay close to Sarah, who's on a stakeout. Chuck doesn't know how to play the guitar, though, until he gets one of his "flashes" and suddenly becomes a flamenco/classical virtuoso -- much to his own surprise. Zachary Levi plays this scene perfectly as he appears shocked by his independently operating hands while still pining for Sarah, who dances seductively with a man.

2. The guitar player Chuck clocked was a bad guy -- the assassin Sarah and the other Feds were trying to track down. He's a part of The Ring, new group of badasses for this season. What they want or represent are still uncertain.

3. Morgan's back from Hawaii. He and Anna split after she ditched him for another Hibachi chef. Now he's sleeping at the Buy More.

4. Emmitt gets killed! Yippee! Shot right through the fucking eyeball! Awesome. I love Tony Hale, the actor. He played Emmitt as the type A version of his character Buster on "Arrested Development." He made Emmitt a great, albeit extremely annoying character. What was best about the scene was how Emmitt was listening to Wilson Phillips in his Nerd Herd car before getting shot.

5. Ellie and Awesome get sick and tired of Chuck being a loser, so they move out and leave him and Morgan to become roomates -- something I had been hoping for since season 1 anyway. This opens the door to Morgan learning more about Chuck's operations as the season progresses.

6. Chuck and Sarah get captured by the new bad guys and Sarah manages to calm Chuck down enough once they wake up in their Mexican prison cells to get his Intersect to work. I think the Intersect is a metaphor for sexual performance anxiety.

7. Chuck gets his old job back, both as a spy and at the Buy More. So, the gang's all together again. Except Sarah makes it clear to Chuck that he needs to bottle those feelings of his up and send them away because that's what a spy has to do.

Which leads us into the second episode...

But I'll post on that tomorrow.

In the meantime, a couple final thoughts about this episode.

1. At the beginning of season 2, Casey was told to kill Chuck once the new Intersect was built because they didn't need a liability like Chuck lying around with government secrets in his head. Now, at the beginning of season 3, Chuck seems like even more of a liability and after firing him from his training as a spy they just let him go? That doesn't make since. Chuck's new version of the Intersect makes him more dangerous, something the general makes clear to Sarah at the end of the episode. If Chuck is soooo dangerous now, how come no one was handling him after he returned to Burbank? That's one inconsistency in what I thought was a really well done episode.

2. I love how the train station flashback scene resembled Casablanca when Rick received Ilsa's tear-stained note. Only here, Chuck gets to break Sarah's heart in person. Usually I'm totally down with the way Chuck handles things, but this was one time when I kept shouting "Asshole!" at the TV. You know it's a great show when the character's make decisions that cause you to call them foul names. My heart broke for Sarah after she kisses him and she says, "That's not the kiss I expected." Yvonne Strahovski was at her best -- and most beautiful -- in this scene.

More on "Chuck vs. The Three Words" tomorrow!

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