Here we go Chucksters — Season Four is here! In case you are a longtime watcher but have developed amnesia, or a first-time viewer who wants to know what’s going on, check out my preview here.
“Chuck vs. the Anniversary” opens in 1994 at the Bartowski’s Encino house. Mary Elizabeth Bartowski, Chuck’s mom, reads The Frost Queen to Chuck. When she concludes, he asks her if she is leaving again. She is, but only for a few days; she promises she will come back to Chuck and Ellie, a promise the audience knows she will not keep. In 2010, Chuck goes through his father’s files on his mother’s disappearance. He says to someone that he is going to need help finding his mother. Is it Sarah? Casey? Nope. It’s Morgan, the only person that can help. Chuck explains to Morgan that Sarah and Casey will try to stop him, so it is left to he and Morgan to find Chuck’s mother. Further, they can’t tell anyone, especially Ellie. Morgan agrees, saying that the two of them are ready. Locked and loaded. Live free or die hard. An Army of one. Chuck stops his best bud before he gets too carried away. “This isn’t the opening of a TV show,” Chuck tells his friend. “This is real life.” Back at his apartment, Sarah prepares for a mission by packing knives in her garter. Chuck enters carrying a revolver, “Is this the gun you’re looking for?” Chuck finds it odd that he’s not going on the mission with Sarah, but she notes that ordinary couples don’t usually go to work together. He tells her to make sure she comes home. “Don’t worry. Nothing’s going to keep me from coming back to you,” she reassures Chuck, and leaves with Casey.
With Sarah gone, Morgan grabs Chuck to begin their mission to find Mary. In the grand tradition of road movies, a Nerd Herd logo-man is seen running across a map as Chuck and Morgan trek around the world following leads on Mary. They eventually end up back in Los Angeles in some facility. There is an electronically locked panel in the wall. Morgan retrieves a sheet of paper with a code, which Chuck types onto the pad. The panel opens, but over a bluesy piano score, Chuck finds nothing. Unbelieving what he’s (not) seeing, Chuck begins to tear apart the rest of the room, searching for any trace of his mother, but his search is in vain. Morgan pulls a menu for the Imperial Palace Chinese restaurant form the garbage suggesting they get some dumplings and start their search over, but Chuck doesn’t want to hear it. What the two don’t see is the security camera watching them both. Who is watching the security camera’s feed? Mary Elizabeth Bartowski.
Chuck and Morgan head out onto the street to Chuck’s lemon of a car. Chuck wonders why they are even looking for his mother in the first place — if she wanted to see him, she could have returned at any time. A man with a gun lurks in the shadows and orders Chuck and Morgan to back away from the car. Chuck immediately begins to try to explain he and Morgan’s gallivanting around the world, including their time in Tangiers, but the man has no interest. He is the Repo Man (played in a perfectly creepy way by Harry Dean Stanton, most recently of Big Love). Morgan informs Chuck that their travels have put them about $43,000 dollars in debt. Even thought the car is only worth about $900, the Repo Man takes it, offering Chuck a bit of advice, “Get a job.”
Over in Hong Kong, Marko (played by Dolph Lundgren, who famously played Ivan Drago in Rocky IV) stands atop a building with a silver briefcase. He calls his handler and asks what he should do with the device in his possession. He is told to use the device, but before he can, Sarah and Casey appear, guns drawn. They order him to put the device down, but Marko presses the button, setting off an EMP pulse, and knocking out any electronics within “three klicks” (three kilometers). Sarah moves over to Marko with her gun down, but uses her feminine wiles to distract him long enough to knock him out with one punch. As Sarah and Casey suit up in some parachutes, Casey mentions that it would be nice if Chuck was there to help them, as he hates having to do the computer hacking. “I know you miss Chuck, too,” Sarah teases Casey. The pair secure the EMP device just as Marko’s henchmen arrive. Noting that it was fortuitous that Casey brought parachutes, the agents jump off the building to safety below.
Chuck wakes up the next morning with Sarah away, and Morgan taking pictures of him. Wondering what Morgan is doing, the bearded one explains that since Sarah is away, Morgan is taking pictures Chuck can send to Sarah for sexting purposes. Chuck shoos Morgan away (the baby oil Morgan supplies is bit much for Chuck), telling him that Ellie set up five job interviews for him, so he needs to get ready. Chuck puts on one of his three Governor watches and gets dressed for his interviews. He arrives at Vandelay Industries (where was George Costanza?) where Chuck’s interviewer is rather impressed by Chuck’s resume. He wonders why Chuck hasn’t found a job yet, and Chuck explains that the other four interviews he went on that day had all ended strangely. In sequence, his interviewers fell asleep, started vomiting, had seizures, and one flat out disappeared, all during the interview. Well, it seems like Chuck will have more luck at Vandelay. Just as the interviewer is about to offer Chuck the job, however, he receives a phone call…about Chuck. When he finishes, he tells Chuck that the job has been filled and asks security to escort Chuck from the premises.
Morgan (who had been waiting) and Chuck ride the bus back home. Chuck wonders what he’s supposed to do now, and as the bus stops, Morgan spies what the thinks might be the answer: the new Burbank Buy More. The friends enter the gleaming new store, and are in utter amazement by the beauty they are beholding. The store itself is nothing though, compared to the new Nerd Herder played by Olivia Munn. She tells them that the store isn’t open, but if Chuck would like to apply for a job, he can speak with the manager. While Chuck goes back to the manager’s office, Morgan gets a tour of the store by the new object of his affection. Chuck enters the manager’s office, and tells the back of the manager’s chair that, as a former employee, he is interested in a job at the new store. The manager thinks that can be arranged. The chair spins around to reveal the new Buy More manager, none other than General Diane Beckman! The General explains that the Buy More is now a joint CIA/NSA substation, fully equipped to handle any security or espionage task required, including a button that can bring them to DEFCON 1 immediately. Chuck tries to tell Beckman that he is out of the spy game; she told him herself. She informs him, however, that thePresident has made Chuck a priority, so she has changed her mind — Chuck is still in the spy game, and there is no one else that will give him a job (yes, General Beckman struck all of Chuck’s interviewers that day). Now standing at the Nerd Herd station, Chuck gets a call from Sarah. He tells her that he told Beckman that he is not going to be a spy again, but when she asks how the General took that news, she receives her answer in the form of Chuck disappearing down a trap door and chute that lands him in Castle.
Reunied after Sarah’s mission, the pair exchange “I love you”s and kisses, much to the chagrin of Casey (Adam Baldwin may be the champion of disgusted looks). Sarah tells Chuck that Beckman wants him to look at the EMP she and Casey recovered. When he does, Chuck flashes that the EMP was created by Volkoff Industries in Venezuela. Casey and Sarah are going to head there to find out what else they can about Volkoff’s illegal activities. Casey leaves to prepare (not before Chuck can mock his grumbling about Chuck and Sarah’s shmoopiness), and when he does, Sarah asks Chuck about the pictures she received of Chuck in bed. “Were you sexting me?” Sarah asks. No, no! That wasn’t Chuck’s idea, he explains. “Too bad, I thought it was cute,” Sarah responds. With Morgan upstairs trying to hit on Olivia Munn (although her name was never mentioned, Munn was playing Greta), Chuck promises that when Sarah returns from Venezuela, they will celebrate their six and nine month anniversaries in style. Sarah grabs the EMP case, on which Chuck notices the same logo that was on the Imperial Palace restaurant menu. Sarah explains that the logo is the same one Volkoff Industries uses. At that moment, Morgan slides down the same chute Beckman sent Chuck down. Sarah leaves for her mission, leaving Chuck alone with Morgan. He tells his friend that they need to find Chuck’s car immediately.
At the impound lot, Chuck and Morgan see the menu locked inside. They are about to jimmy open the door when a shotgun blast blows out the car window. The Repo Man stands withhis shotgun smoking. He asks what the guys are doing. They say that they just want the Imperial Palace menu. The Repo Man asks if they like the place because he’s always looking for good Chinese food. Chuck mutters to Morgan that they should use the same strategy to escape that they used in Tangiers: running for it. They make a break for it, leaving the Repo Man to reflect that he really wanted some dumplings. Now safe, Chuck and Morgan review the menu for some type of clue. Morgan, an avid Chinese food connoisseur, realizes that he doesn’t recognize some of the menu items. For example, he’s never heard of Shimira Chicken. Upon seeing this, Chuck flashes. Shimira is not a tasty chicken dish, but rather a navigation system for nuclear submarines. The menu is for ordering weapons. Chuck wonders why his mother would have it. He decides he should call the number on the menu, and does, posing as the Head of Security for The New Ring. He is told that he has to come to Moscow to purchase the weapons from Volkoff Industries directly. Once again, the Nerd Herd icon runs from L.A. to Moscow, while a plane icon flies toward Venezuela.
On a private jet, Casey and Sarah make their way to South America. Sarah asks Casey if he has ever had to deal with a long-distance relationship. With no desire to engage in any conversation involving Chuck and Sarah’s relationship, Casey excuses himself to the bathroom. Left alone, Sarah considers her and Chuck’s attempt at sexting. She decides to take a few pictures of herself in progressively more provocative poses (of course, this is an 8:00 comedy, so the poses weren’t that provocative). Before she can send them, though, Casey returns, a bit curious as to what exactly was going on while he was in the bathroom. What they both don’t see is that Volkoff is on the plane. With the help of the stewardess, he releases some gas that knocks out Casey and Sarah, and redirects the plane to Moscow. On the map, Chuck and Morgan arrive in Moscow at the same time Sarah and Casey do.
The pair of spies wake tied together to chairs. “Where are we?” Sarah wonders. “Desolation. Frostbite. Must be Russia,” Casey figures, his Cold War attitudes amusingly rising to the surface. Marko enters and begins to question them. Casey tells Marko that he and Sarah are trained agents: they’ll never talk. “I work for Volkoff,” Marko replies. “I must break you.” (This, of course, is the most famous line Ivan Drago utters in Rocky IV.) Meanwhile, Chuck and Morgan enter the lobby of Volkoff Industries. They approach the receptionist, and Chuck tells her that he is Charles Carmichael and that they are members of The Ring. Morgan immediately interrupts saying that they are the New Ring, and that he is Michael Carmichael, Charles’ brother. When the receptionist leaves to tell Marko clients have arrived, Chuck questions Morgan’s alias. “Michael Carmichael? You were supposed to be Sven, my mute assistant. And who would name their son Michael if their last name is Carmichael?” “First, it’s our parents,” Morgan responds, “and it’s called improv.” The receptionist tells Marko that the Carmichaels are in the lobby, so he and most of his goons leave. This gives Sarah the opportunity to lure over the remaining guard, knock him out with a quick kick to the face, and retrieve, with her feet, her cell phone.
Upstairs in the lobby, Chuck notices a floor plan for the building. He flashes, learning that Volkoff Industries is actually a former KGB facility. He and Morgan need to get to the computer center. Not knowing what to do exactly, Chuck figures they should use the same tactic they used in Tangiers: run for it. They do and race toward the computer room. Arriving safely, Morgan, clad in a wool overcoat and furry Russian hat, notes, “I’ve never run so fast in so many layers!” Chuck logs into a computer, and searches for information on his mother. Morgan investigates the room and finds another EMP briefcase, which Chuck tells him not to touch. Meanwhile, Sarah, unable to reach and pick up her phone, begins texting Chuck with her foot. Chuck’s phone beeps, but he tells Morgan to pick it up because he’s busy. Morgan opens the message from Sarah, but finds one of the sexy pictures she took on the plane, with the message, “Need U.” “Sarah is sexting you!” Morgan informs his friend. Chuck doesn’t have time to answer, so Morgan answers for him. Sarah recieves the reply and says, “He thinks I’m sexting with him!” “Sexting?” Casey wonders, ” What does that even mean?” Sarah tries to respond that she needs help, but Morgan keeps interpreting her texts incorrectly, and assumes the role of his friend, you know, to help out their relationship. Chuck finally breaks into the Volkoff computer system and finds a file entitles, “Frost,” which reminds him of the book his mother read to him as a child. He connects a decoder that will download the file for his decryption later. One more text from Sarah arrives that reads, “In Volkoff SB4.” Sarah and Casey are in the building! If Chuck tries to save them, his secret will be exposed. Moregan suggests they call the CIA or the military or someone, but Chuck disagrees. “Well, then who’s going to save them?” Morgan asks. “We are,” Chuck replies.
Marko returns to Sarah and Casey, telling them that he wishes he could just kill them now, which Casey goads him to do. Marko isn’t going to though, because they are not the agents for which he has been searching. No, there are two other agents that have been running around the globe, hot on Vokoff’s trail. As Marko shows Sarah and Casey pictures of Chuck and Morgan in different international locales, he tells them that these two “master spies” have eluded him due to their ingenious use of public transportation. Marko’s radio crackles that Chuck and Morgan have been surrounded (they had moved to find Sarah and Casey). Morgan tells Chuck to use his Chuck Fu, but Chuck says he hasn’t used it in months. On the open radio channel, Chuck tells Sarah that he’ll explain why he’s in Russia later, but Sarah just tells him to flash and get out of there. Before he can respond, Marko tells his men to kill them. Sarah hears the sounds of gunshots and screams, and then, nothing. Sarah is terrified, and even Casey’s head falls at the thought of Chuck and Morgan’s death. “I am going to tear you limb from limb from limb,” Casey growls at Marko. Marko’s radio crackles back to life. It’s Chuck! “You clearly have no idea who I am since you only sent ten of your men to take care of me,” Chuck taunts. “If you touch one hair on Sarah’s head, I will do to you what I just did to your men.” Impressed by his buddy’s skills, Morgan can only say, “Wow, you’re limber!”
Marko and his men leave Sarah and Casey to find Chuck and Morgan. Chuck has eluded them, however, as he drops down behind the dole guard, and karate chops him unconscious. “What are you doing here?” Casey scolds Chuck and Morgan (who, less gracefully, also arrives from above). “Saving your lives,” Chuck responds, “Let’s call it that for now.” They run back to the computer room where the Frost file is 90% downloaded. Chuck tells Sarah about his mother, and she asks him about their promise to not lie to each other. Technically, Chuck wasn’t lying, he was just keeping a secret. “New rule: No secrets. No lies,” Sarah notes. Chuck agrees. Marko comes onto the loudspeaker, and tells them that the building’s security is automated, and has locked down the building. They are sitting ducks. Chuck tells them they should use the EMP, even though he’ll lose the Frost file that hasn’t finished downloading. Sarah tells him he can’t lose the information because he’ll lose his mother’s trail. Chuck replies that he can lose his mother — he can’t lose Sarah, Morgan or Casey.
They use the EMP, knocking out the power in the building. Only lit by the muzzle flashes of their automatic weapons, Casey and Sarah shoot their way out of the building. The quartet emerge from the building. Sarah asks where their getaway car is. Chuck and Morgan look at each other, as the familiar sound of a bus door opening is heard. Cut to the four spies riding Moscow public transportation. “Happy Anniversary,” Chuck says to Sarah, as she nestles in his arms. Back at Castle, Casey tells Chuck he’s peeved that Chuck didn’t ask he and Sarah for their help. Chuck didn’t want to get them involved, but if they will help him now, he’ll gladly welcome their assistance. Sarah tells him that he will have to rejoin the government. Chuck knows, but he won’t tell General Beckman just yet about his mother. Ellie, however, is a different story — he can’t keep the truth from her anymore.
Chuck returns home and sees Ellie in the courtyard. She asks how his interviews went, and he tells her the bad news. He sits her down and tells her that he has to do something. He begins to tell her the truth about their mother, but before he can get a syllable about that out of his mouth, Ellie cuts him off. She saw the new Buy More store; it’s OK if he needs to go back there. With the economy the way it is, it’s important that he work wherever he can find a job. Ellie has some news of her own. She’s pregnant! She was waiting to tell Devon when he came home from work, but she saw Chuck and just had to tell someone. Chuck grabs her in an embrace, and thinks he may have just damaged his niece or nephew. Ellie assures him that the baby is fine. She’s just glad that Chuck is safe, that he’s with Sarah, and that she and Devon will be parents. She’s so very happy now. That night, Chuck admits to Sarah that he just couldn’t tell Ellie right then. He’s worried about lying to her again, but Sarah reminds him that he’s just being a brother. Sarah continues, telling him that she found a bit of information on Mary. Mary’s codename was Frost, and she was captured sixteen years ago. Chuck always thought that his mother just left Ellie and him, but she was really taken from them. He resolves to not tell Ellie, and bring his mother home.
In a stark room, Mary is being held by Marko and a couple goons. Marko tells her that her family has been looking for her. She asks if Marko has told Volkoff anything, but he replies in the negative. “That’s very, very good,” she responds. Mary kicks her chair back into her guard, knocks him out, and grabs his gun. She shoots two other goons and wounds Marko. She stands over him, and he pleads for his life, “I have a family.” “So do I,” Mary replies, and pulls the trigger.
Chuck is back, and how! It seems like forever since we received a new episode, so I was very grateful to have the show back. The consistent leak of information during the summer really set my expectations high for the show’s fall return, and I think, for the most part, those expectations were met. I think the transition into this next stage of Chuck’s spy life (the search for his mother) was handled very well. It makes sense that if he wanted to keep the mission under wraps, he wouldn’t go to Sarah and Casey first, but rather Morgan. Further, I appreciate that they weren’t all that successful at first. There needs to be fits and starts for Chuck’s mission, lest it be wrapped up too easily, or artificial roadblocks be thrown in the way of the natural progression of the plot, so kudos to Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak for a great beginning to the season.
All of the qualities we love about Chuck were there: the comedy, the slapstick, the emotion, the action, even the little absurdist moments like the Repo Man and the fact that the breakthrough clue was a Chinese food menu. These items are what make Chuckgreat, and I’m glad to see they are still in fine form. The chemistry between the cast is as powerful as ever (God, don’t Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski just kill it in every scene they are in together?), despite the fact that we saw no Devon, Jeff, Lester or Big Mike, and very little Ellie. It was important to get Chuck’s mission established, so these integral, yet secondary characters were not necessary. I do, however, look forward to their return in coming episodes. I loved how General Beckman was brought into the Buy More world (as the new Buy More manager). Brilliant, and her name is Diane (check out her name tag)!
If the episode fell flat, at all, was just in a couple spots. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they never gave the name of Olivia Munn’s character (it’s Greta). So, I don’t know how they are going to establish the joke that the agent in that role is always going to be named Greta, no matter who it is that occupies the role. That doesn’t seem like the kind of error Chuck would make, so maybe she’ll be back next episode when Chuck and Morgan officially get back into the Buy More. Further, for me, the whole map thing didn’t work. I understand why they did it, but I think quick five to ten second scenes establishing Chuck and Morgan in the various locales they visited, even with ridiculously cheesy green screen shots (as a meta joke for the audience about Chuck‘s lower budget), would have worked better. Throughout it’s run, Chuck has always just established places with a caption, stock footage and some creative set dressing, so, again for me, the map was unnecessary. Though I will admit to liking the little Nerd Herd guy running around.
Other than these couple nitpicky things, I think the Season Four premiere was fantastic. My world is at ease again, because Chuckis back in it. What did you think about the episode? What worked and didn’t work for you? What do you think about Ellie’s pregnancy? So you like the new Buy More? Was the sexting thing overdone? Please leave your comments below or in our Chuck Forum. For another take on the premiere, check out Brittany’s review. I’ll be back next week with a recap of “Chuck vs. the Suitcase.” Until then, I’m off to become 100% snatchable.