November 22, 2010

Episode Review: CHUCK, "Chuck vs. Phase Three"

Last week, Chuck was kidnapped by the mysterious Belgian who wanted to extract the Intersect from our hero's head. This week's "Chuck vs. Phase Three" was the natural progression from "Fear of Death", and to be honest I had mixed feelings about the whole episode.

The majority of the plot focused on Sarah's mission to find Chuck and how she would do whatever it took to track down the Belgian. Part one of Sarah's quest involved kidnapping a Thai official with ties to the Belgian (somehow it was Morgan who figured out the connection), and this was when we got a glimpse of Sarah's dark side. Since she felt responsible for Chuck's abduction, and the fact that she loves him, she pulled out all of the stops to get information which included torturing and poisoning her hostage. Her unconventional tactics led her, Casey, and Morgan to Thailand where the Belgian was holding Chuck. Once in jungle, Sarah morphed into an amalgam of Lara Croft and Rambo as she fought a tattooed pit fighter, waded through water at eye-level, and single-handedly kicked everyone's ass. Sure, Casey and Morgan were there too, but their jobs were to make sure Sarah didn't completely lose it.

This will probably sound sacrilegious, but I didn't like what they did with Sarah’s character. What makes her special is the fact that she's a strong, butt-kicking woman, but they took her to such far extremes that she became nothing more than an action movie cliché, and most of her scenes were actually cringe-worthy. It didn't help that she got some shoddy dialogue, choppy fight scenes, and some creepy moments like her smelling Chuck's shirt. Maybe I was too puzzled by the weak character moments, but I even found Yvonne Strahovski's performance lacking. The crazy thing is, I'm a fan of kick-ass Sarah, but she was so over the top this week that it was distracting.

While Sarah, Casey, and Morgan were making their way across Thailand, Chuck was yet again being subjected to tests. This time around one of the Belgian's lackeys installed false memories into Chuck's head where his loved ones tried to make him flash. After numerous failures, the baddies decided to subject Chuck to "phase 3", which meant wiping his entire memory in order to leave behind nothing but the Intersect. Of course, Team Bartowski swooped in just at the right time to save our boy, and he was awakened by Sarah's admission of unconditional love. Awww. In all honesty, the cutesy stuff between Chuck and Sarah at the end salvaged the episode because it rehumanized the Giant Blonde She-Male. 

The mind-erasing B-plot was actually more interesting despite the fact that Zachary Levi was used sparingly. I enjoyed Chuck's storyline more because it was more intriguing, and for a minute there I thought they were actually going to wipe most of his memory. Yes, that would have led to an even more clichéd amnesia plot, but watching Chuck reacclimate himself to the spy world could have been compelling. At the end of the day, it's probably good that the writers stayed away from a memory-loss arc, but at least it would have shaken things up.

"Phase Three" even gave viewers a rare C-plot that involved all of the other cast members. Ellie and Awesome found one of Orion's computers in the Mustang, and the rest of the time was spent on Devon trading medical favors for assistance from the Buy Morons. This whole subplot was supposed to be comic relief, but the jokes fell flat and it didn't supply the much needed laughs. As always Jeffster = unfunny. There was a split second where I thought the computer was going to turn Devon into an Intersect, but I have a feeling Ellie unlocked some secrets about Frost and Volkoff. Bullet dodged.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • “Phase Three” didn't bring the laughs like previous episodes, and I was annoyed by how unamused I was throughout the hour. I don't expect side-splitting laughs every other minute, but I would appreciate an occasional chuckle.
  • Oh wait, I did laugh when the Thai waitress asked Casey if he'd like his usual right after he talked about how the jungle was filled with the scum of the earth.
  • The product placement on this show has gotten out of control. Watching Awesome shill for Toyota was a sad moment in the show's history (although this was the second time he's done this from what I can remember).
  • When did Sarah go from being a commitment-phobe to being ready to marry Chuck?
  • Usually, I'm all for Sarah in various states of hotness, but the shot of her pouring water all over herself was obvious fanservice and kind of tacky.
It’s pretty clear that I was not a fan of this week’s Chuck. The Glambo version of Sarah was unconvincing, there weren't enough genuine laughs, and the kidnapping plot had an unsatisfying payoff. While I can appreciate why some fans would have loved "Chuck vs. Phase Three", it just didn't do anything for me and was a rare miss-fire. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I can't wait for the return of Momma Bartowski and Volkoff.


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