January 18, 2011

Episode Review: CHUCK, "Chuck vs. the Balcony"

Last time we saw Chuck, he was at an awkward post-Thanksgiving get together that was crashed by his M.I.A. mom and her psycho boyfriend who happens to be an international bad guy. The first episode back from a long winter hiatus was pretty much the opposite of where we left off because we had zero Volkoff and an almost old-school plot.

"Chuck vs. the Balcony" was essentially a Tale of 3 Missions: one sanctioned by the C.I.A., a "secret" sub-mission, and Lester's mission of love. The episode started off with a spy running through a French vineyard, and of course he was killed by the bad guys, but not before injecting a top-secret microchip into a bottle of expensive wine. Team Bartowski's mission was to head to France to retrieve the microchip. Pretty standard stuff.

In a lot of ways the microchip was just a MacGuffin because it only played a small role in the overall plot of the episode and was an excuse to send Team Bartowski to the French countryside so there would be ambiance for the sub-mission, but more on that later. Honestly, the primary mission fell kind of flat because we got one-dimensional baddies, unfunny French stereotypes, and neat albeit totally unbelievable fight sequences (the wine never spilled, seriously?!?!). Thankfully, things became vastly more entertaining once "Balcony" shifted gears and focused on Chuck's secondary objective: proposing to Sarah.

That's right, Chuck was finally going to man up after three and a half seasons and ask Sarah to be his wife. Originally, he was going to pop the question at a fancy restaurant with champagne, a string quartet, flowers, baloons, a cariage ride, and Morgan. Unfortunately for Chuck, Plan A was a dud thanks to the fact that Sarah's parents had a similar proposal which ended up going so wrong that it was the beginning of the end of their relationship. We got Sulky Chuck again until Morgan convinced him to use their mission to France as an opportunity to pull off the perfect proposal. Our hero was on board, but this is Chuck so of course he things didn't work out as planned. Strike 2.

Lucky for him, Sarah overheard their plans back at Castle and she took over the sub-mission without Chuck knowing. She even turned Morgan into her own double agent (hmm?). As fate would have it, Team Bartowski was sent back to France in order to convince the baddie that they were interested in betraying their country, which of course was all a ruse to tag him with a tracking device. Mission 1B went smoothly, and we were in store for another proposal when the C.I.A. c-blocked our boy and arrested Sarah for treason. Twist!

Back home, Sarah's all chained up but Chuck was allowed to talk to her one last time. She told Chuck that her arrest was all a plan to convince Volkoff that she's turned on the C.I.A. so she can infiltrate his organization and take him down from the inside...just like Frost. Twist!

Like I mentioned earlier, "Chuck vs. the Balcony" became exponentially better once the proposal sub-mission took center stage. Not only did we get some sweet moments, but also some serious laughs thanks to Morgan and Casey. If you would have told me during Season 1 that I would be able to tolerate Morgan, and even like him, I would've laughed in your face. Yet here I am; admitting that Grimes has become the MVP of the show because he's able to make everyone around him even better.

Of course, Morgan's funny man routine would not work without a great straight man, and luckily he has Casey. We all know that at the start of the show, the Colonel's job was simple: protect Chuck and bust heads. Over the years, he's softened and become one of the most interesting characters on TV. Plus, he's still a badass.

The final plot thread of the night involved Lester's lovelife. Apparently, his parents are pressuring him to get married and he's not finding the one online, although he was able to score three fours which makes twelve. Somehow he got set up with a smoking hottie, but scared her off with his HinJew Canadian-ness. Miraculously, he was able to convince her to give him a second chance just to finally push her away with Jeffster's cover of "Is This Love". Per usual, I wasn't a big fan of the Buy More stuff and I could do with a lot less Jeffster, although I understand why so many fans love them. They're just not my bag.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • Maybe I'm a cynic, but isn't it a little too soon for Chuck to ask Sarah to marry him? She was afraid to unpack her suitcase a few weeks ago, but now she's good to go?
  • Even though Chuck didn't pop the question, at least we were given an inoffensive reason to keep him and Sarah apart for a little while longer.
  • They really cut the special effects budget.
  • Morgan and Casey running point on the sub-mission in Castle was classic.
  • Speaking of Casey, his anecdote and advice was pitch perfect, and proof of how much he's grown as a character.
  • Sarah + Butterflies = Cute
  • "Oh, Jon-Jon."
  • "I am someone deadly."
Despite a slow start for "Chuck vs. the Balcony" and a unnecessary Buy More C-plot, the sub-mission, he dynamic comedy duo of Casey and Morgan, and some kick-ass and sweet Sarah moments saved the episode. I wouldn't rank "Balcony" as one of the best installments of Chuck, put it was a great way to kick off the end of the initial 13-episode order.


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