February 21, 2011

Episode Review: CHUCK: "Chuck vs. The Masquerade"

"Chuck vs The Masquerade" had me torn because on one hand it was better than last week's "C.A.T. Squad", but it still wasn't a particularly great episode of Chuck. I commend it for creating some interesting plot points for the rest of the season, but there were too many pieces that either didn't click or felt forced.

The main plot was a pretty straight forward Mission of the Week set-up as Team Bartowski was on the trail of a hitman who was taking out some of Volkoff's associates in order to find a key. Their manhunt led them to a suspected Volkoff ally, Vivian, who ended up his daughter. The mission quickly changed to keeping Vivian alive, and of course they were able to because she's the "key" to the rest of the season. You see, Chuck had to rely on one of the oldest tricks in the book: having the offspring of the baddie potentially take over the family business.

It was refreshing getting an episode of Chuck that focused on the mission and not on the Chuck/Sarah relationship drama, but the whole Vivian story felt played out. As soon as we learned that she was Volkoff's daughter, it was obvious that she was going to have the key, and that she was going to factor into the rest of the season. I'm glad that they didn't make her Volkoff's replacement right off the bat, but you can see the heel turn from a mile away. At least Vivian's role in "Masquerade" was not as predictable compared to what we had to endure last week.

While on the mission, both Casey and Morgan started to feel like they're becoming the third wheel to "Charah". Casey's been relegated to being the back-up/bartender as Chuck and Sarah run point on missions, and Morgan felt like he's been cramping their style at home. It wasn't a surprise that both were given chances to break free from their tag-along statuses; Casey was given the opportunity to join a new task force and Morgan moved out of the apartment.

These two similar plot threads were actually more compelling than the main storyline because they addressed some long standing questions. It's been clear for some time now that Casey's role in Team Bartowski has become more and more diminished, and now that Chuck's a full-blown spy why is he even around. They writers have done a good job at integrating Casey into the personal lives of those around him, but he's a soldier first and foremost. He can't be playing back-up to a nerd with a computer in his head for much longer. While, I doubt Casey will leave the team (and if he does, he'll be back sooner than later), but his piqued interest in branching out could be an interesting development.

Morgan's transition from man-boyhood to full-blown manhood was a long time coming, but his decision to move out felt natural. With Chuck and Sarah getting hitched by season's end (count on it), being around them would just feel awkward. Plus, he has his own ladyfriend and life to focus on. My only gripe about the Morgan storyline was the fact that he and Chuck got so worked up about him leaving when they've only been living with one another for around a year. I know they're best friends, but Morgan moving out didn't seem like the momentous occasion that they made it out to be.

In the C-plot, Ellie and Devon had to face the time honored right of passage of dealing with a crying baby. While everything the Awsomes had to deal with were nothing more than clich├ęs and worn-out tropes, Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin did a great job with the material they were given. I didn't even mind Jeffster, but that's only because they had two lines. In the end, the Woodcombs and Buy Morons didn't add a lot to the overall episode, but they did provide a few minor chuckles.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • The opening sequence of the episode had to be one of the most awkward scenes the show's ever given us, and it kind of started things off on the wrong foot. I didn't need to see Alex and Morgan's tantric foreplay.
  • Speaking of foreplay, I know that Sarah's outfit was supposed to be sexy, but wings! Seriously?!?!
  • I really liked Lauren Cohan as Vivian, and she's already more interesting in this role than she was as Rose. Although she was at her best as Bela. I just hope they make this character interesting and not a one-note caricature.
  • I know that Jeff and Lester are skivvy sociopaths, but the idea of them watching Ellie breastfeeding was too much.
  • Casey taking out an entire platoon by himself was hard to swallow.
  • The Han and Chewie bit started to wear thin, but the payoff was solid.
The mission had its highlights, and I'm genuinely curious about where they're going with Vivian, but it was the smaller moments that stood out. That being said, there were enough contrived and commonplace elements to take the episode down a few notches. "Chuck vs. The Masquerade" will not be added to the list of great Chuck episodes, but it was still an enjoyable hour of television.

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