Chuck 4.03 “Chuck vs. the Cubic Z” Recap

Did you miss last week’s runway-rific episode of Chuck? If so, read my recap here.

“Chuck vs. the Cubic Z” opens with a truck motoring down a deserted road. One of the hooded prisoners inside tells the guards driving the truck that he wants to stop. His request is denied, but the truck’s engine begins to knock. The guards pull over and call in the truck trouble. They are told that they will be diverted to a new location…

…the Buy More. Inside, Morgan is preparing the store for the midnight launch of the sure-to-be-a-hit video game “Spy Attack.” Chuck sees Morgan’s preparations and comments that Morgan seems to be taking this very seriously. “I’m DeNiro Serious,” Morgan replies. Chuck notices Morgan’s increasing anxiety, and says he’s actually “Russell Crowe Serious.” Morgan replies that this video game launch is his Bushido Test, and will determine whether he is up to the job of Manager of the Buy More. Morgan asks Chuck if he’s met the new Greta, who arrives in the guise of Stacy Keibler. She asks Morgan if he has any additional tasks for her, but he can’t think of anything (non-sexual). Great leaves and Chuck remarks that he’ll see Morgan after he gets back from Monaco, where he and Sarah are going on the “mission of a lifetime.” Morgan notes that Chuck isn’t exhibiting his typical relationship nervousness in anticipation of his romantic getaway with Sarah. Chuck says that Sarah is ready to settle down with him, so there’s no need to be nervous.

Sarah, though is nervous, and displaying those nerves by kicking Casey’s ass in a sparring session. As she deftly punches him in the face, she asks him whether having a child has changed his priorities. Casey replies in the negative, but after another swift punch to the face, admits that there are times he wants to call Alex. Sarah says that Chuck let it slip that he’s thinking about having children with Sarah, but she’s a spy, so kids are the last thing on her mind. Plus, she knows that the Monaco trip is supposed to be romantic and that Chuck will be able to tell something is wrong. She needs to talk to him before they go.

Before she can speak to Chuck, though, General Beckman appears via video to tell them that the Monaco trip is canceled. They will now have to protect a couple prisoners that are being moved to a maximum security prison in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Chuck is devastated, but Sarah says there is a silver lining: the two of them can now have a quiet night to themselves and have a chat. Sarah’s expression while saying this leads Chuck to question the nature of the chat Sarah wants to have, but their conversation is cut off by the arrival of the prisoners. Hooded, they are led into Castle. Sarah removes the first prisoner’s hood to reveal Hugo Panzer (played by Steve Austin, previously seen in “Chuck vs. First Class“), who Chuck had fought in the cargo hold of plane. Hugo purposefully knocks into Chuck as he is led to his cell. Chuck comments on Hugo’s…dislike for Chuck, but Sarah assures him it can’t get any worse. The second prisoner’s hood is removed. It’s Sarah’s arch-nemesis Heather Chandler (played by Nicole Richie, and last seen in Season Two’s “Chuck vs. the Cougars“). “I can’t wait to catch up,” Heather taunts Sarah. Things just got worse.

With forty minutes unto the launch of Spy Attack, Morgan tells Jeff and Lester to clean up and make themselves presentable. Lester chides Morgan for his growing confidence, especially when the man whose job Morgan stole is in the building. Morgan looks out onto the showroom floor and sees Big Mike. As Jeff and Lester split, Morgan tries to calm himself, saying that he is strong, can handle anything; he is a cobra! Big Mike enters his old office and Morgan braces for his reaction. The one Morgan receives was not the one he expected. Big Mike congratulates Morgan on the new position, saying that if anyone was going to sit in Big Mike’s chair, he’s glad it is Morgan. Big Mike continues, telling Morgan that during his time off he was able to reflect on what make shim happiest. He realized that the source of all the happiness in his life is Morgan’s mother. So, he has purchased a half-carat cubic zirconium engagement ring, and, if he secures Morgan’s blessing, he is going to ask her to marry him. Big Mike looks past Morgan’s look of shock mixed with revulsion and asks his potential son-in-law to hold onto the ring until he, Morgan, can give his blessing. Morgan reluctantly agrees, which leads Big Mike into his next question. He mentions that he is currently in between positions at the moment, and if he wants to make an honest woman out of Morgan’s mother, he needs a job. Not wanting to hear any more about Big Mike and his mother, Morgan agrees to give Big Mike a job at the Buy More. When Big Mike leaves, Morgan receives a call telling him that he is only receiving six copies of Spy Attack — his evening has just gone from bad to worse.

Downstairs in Castle, Heather and Hugo are placed in their own cells. Hugo sees a newspaper in one of the guard’s pockets, and asks if he can have it. Chuck sees no harm in it, so he gives the paper to Hugo, and locks the two criminals in their cells. Alone again, Chuck asks Sarah if it is time to chat. She begins by telling Chuck that it’s not a big deal, well, maybe it is. Sarah loves Chuck very much, but before she can continue, Chuck catches a glimpse of Heather in a security monitor. He flashes information on Heather and her connection to Frost, aka Chuck’s mother Mary Elizabeth. Sarah sees that Chuck flashed and asks what he saw. He tells her about Heather’s connection to Frost; he wants to interrogate her to find out their connection. Sarah’s not too sure, but Chuck is able to convince her they need to do it. Sarah relents; they will question Heather in a proper, formal interrogation. Chuck suggests they go for “Good Cop, Bad Cop,” but Sarah suggests “Tough Cop, Silent Cop.” Obviously, Chuck knows which one he is. They agree that should they need to leave the interrogation for any reason, they will use the code word “time machine” in a sentence.

While Hugo fashions a weapon out of the newspaper, Sarah and Chuck ask Heather about her connection to Frost. Heather refuses to speak unless she gets full immunity. Sarah tries to play tough with her, but Heather calls out the “wispy man-boy and the bottle blond with a daddy complex.” Further, she notices in the looks shared between Chuck and Sarah that there is something more going on than the two of them just being partners. She starts running through the possible situations: dating? Living together? Babies?? “Time machine! Time machine!!” Sarah yells, and pulls Chuck from the cell. Chuck asks what is wrong, but Sarah tells him to not let what Heather is saying get under his skin. Confused, Chuck follows her back into Heather’s cell.

When a guard enters Hugo’s cell, Hugo is able to take him out with his newspaper weapon. He grabs the guard’s gun and creeps out of his cell. Sarah continues to question Heather, but the latter is giving up no information. She does tell Chuck that he should just pull the ripcord on his relationship with Sarah and get out because it’s never going to work with her. Sarah begins to object again. Chuck looks at his watch, mentions his “time machine,” and pulls Sarah out of the cell. He asks her what is bothering her about Heather’s comments, but Sarah is distracted by the sight of a downed guard’s body being dragged out of sight. “We have a problem,” Sarah says to Chuck. “We do?!?” Chuck worries, but it’s not his relationship that is a problem. Hugo appears around the corner. He raises his gun as Sarah pushes Chuck into Heather’s cell, slamming the bullet-proof door behind them. Hugo shoots at it, but is unsuccessful. “Volkoff says hi,” he shouts to Heather before disappearing from sight.

Chuck and Sarah try to figure out how to escape, but Heather pleads with them to not open the door. It turns out she blew a half-billion weapons deal for Volkoff and now, it seems, he wants her dead. Sarah calls Casey form her cell phone and tells him they are trapped. He, in turn, calls Greta who is down in Castle already. She come upon Hugo and gives him a roundhouse kick and a punch to the face. These barely phase Hugo (nice CIA training!), and he punches Greta squarely in the face, dropping her like a ton of bricks.

Hugo makes his way to a computer station and tries to open the cells. Casey opens a locker in the Buy More break room to reveal a control panel. Before he can use the emergency fire override to free Chuck and Sarah, Hugo is able to institute a perimeter lockdown. He is then able to start opening the cells in order (Heather, Chuck and Sarah are in cell #6). Casey tries to engage the fire override using the voice-activated panel in his locker, but it doesn’t understand what he is saying, until, that is, he threatens it with a gun and certain death. Just before Heather’s cell is opened, Casey is able to use the fire override to drop a ladder from the air duct into Heather’s cell. The three scamper up the ladder and close the entrance behind them, just as Hugo gains access to the cell.

Upstairs, it is mere minutes before Spy Attack is to be released. Morgan tells Jeff and Lester that at midnight they need to delay the gathered masses by reading to them the script provided by the video game company. Of course, Lester doesn’t like having his art dictated to him, so he and Jeff decide to eschew the script in favor of their own stylings. Meanwhile, Chuck, Sarah and Heather crawl through the air duct (in fact, the largest air ducts ever seen. I like to think the folks at Chuck are making fun of how large air ducts always seem to be in TV and movies.),with Chuck mentioning that some of his favorite movies end up in air ducts. Heather calls Chuck a “movie dork,” and presumes he has a Tron poster hanging in his room (which we all know he does). Casey finally makes his way into Castle and doesn’t find Hugo. He calls Sarah to relay that information and direct them to a hub in the HVAC system. The spies continues to crawl when Heather asks “Jenny-Sarah” how she ended up with a nerd like Chuck. Heather’s continued mocking has gone on long enough, so Sarah “accidentally” kicks Heather right in the face. Heather gets the point, so to speak.

It is midnight; the game launch is here. Morgan tells Jeff and Lester to stretch it out. He gets a call from his game supplier, but is told he only get two more copies of the game. Morgan begins to lose it when he happens upon Big Mike. As the crowd begins to get unruly, Big Mike tells him that Morgan’s sheep need a shepherd. What Chuck and Sarah need is for Casey to open the locked door that leads the HVAC hub to the outside. While they wait, Heather tells Chuck that she used to be married to a geek just like Chuck. She thought she could settle down with a nice guy, but that lasted all of ten minutes. She is a spy, just like Sarah, so kids and a minivan are not in the cards. Sarah tells her to shut it, but before Heather does, she mentions that she met Frost in Burma. This distracts Chuck and Sarah as the door begins to open. Unfortunately, it’s not Casey, but Hugo.

Hugo punches Chuck in the face, sending him staggering back. Sarah takes on Hugo, forcing him to begin sliding down an air duct chute. He grabs hold of Chuck to take Chuck with him down the chute. Sarah grabs hold of Chuck to save him, but Heather makes a break for it. Sarah grabs Heather and the two engage in a (non-shower) fight. Hugo grabs onto Chuck’s neck, but Chuck flashes some Chuck Fu, and starts punching Hugo in the face. Sarah knocks Heather down and rushes to Chuck. She tries to free him from Hugo, but Heather makes another break for the door, only to be stopped by Sarah again. The scene cuts between the two fights, with Sarah eventually knocking Heather out, and Chuck shaking Hugo loose. The bald bad guy slides down the chute to an unknown location, leaving Chuck dangling above the abyss by only his Converse-clad toes. Sarah rushes over to help him, and pulls him back up to safety.

Lester speaks to the gathered masses in the Buy More, telling them that they cannot get their game yet. First, they will be treated to some slam poetry and Jeff’s kung fu exhibition. Unsurprisingly, this does not go over well. Underneath the store, Casey finds Hugo in the air duct, and brings him upstairs to the roof where a military helicopter will arrive to take Hugo and Heather to Yucca Mountain. Up on the roof (“when this old world starts getting me down / and people are just too much for me to face“), Heather refuses to talk about Frost. Sarah asks Chuck if he is OK, and he responds that he’s “all good.” Sarah can tell Chuck’s true “all good”s from fake ones, and this one was very much in the latter category. Chuck is worried about what Sarah wants to talk to him about, and he needs to find out what Heather knows about his mother. Their conversation is cut short, however, by the arrival of the helicopter. As it is landing, Casey notices that Hugo is smiling. Armed guards emerge from the helicopter, but Casey senses something is wrong. He orders Sarah and Chuck to take cover just as the guards, Volkoff’s men, open fire on them. Hugo opens a hatch on an air duct chute (I guess there was a discount on air ducts at TV Sets for Less), and slides down. Casey tells Chuck to go after him while he and Sarah take care of Volkoff’s men.

Chuck jumps down the chute as Casey and Sarah take on gunfire. Casey is struck in the leg, causing him to seek shelter. One of the guards says that if they hand over Heather, they’ll let Casey and Sarah live. Heather tells Sarah that she knows what Sarah is going to do (try to take on the guards, despite their better position on Sarah and Casey), so she should just turn Heather over. Sarah counters that Heather has no idea what Sarah wants or what she thinks. Sarah, against her better judgment, hands Heather a gun. The two spies jump out from their positions and take out a couple of the guards. Heather then turns her gun on Sarah, but she shoots behind her and kills the last of Volkoff’s men. Heather is a bit upset that she is now out of bullets, with none for Sarah.

Downstairs, the Spy Attack crowd is getting restless, chanting “We Want the Game!!” Chuck corners Hugo in the air duct, but Hugo taunts his shooting skills. Chuck assures him that he’s quite handy with a gun now, but Hugo points out that they are right next to a gas line: if Chuck misses, the whole building will explode. With that, the duct begins to shake. Chuck points out that this section of the air duct was probably not built to withstand 400 pounds, so, since Hugo is most of that 400 pounds, he should back out. Upstairs, the video game nerds continue to shout. Morgan tries to quell the crowd, but he is scooped up and crowd surfed away from the stage as a riot begins. The shaking from upstairs causes the air duct to collapse into the storeroom cage (as previously seen in the series staging many fights and Morgan breaking his thumbs in last season’s finale).

Chuck and Hugo scramble to their feet, but Hugo is able to grab Chuck in a choke hold. Chuck flashes some ninja moves, and runs up the side of the cage, flips over, and brings a stack of shelves down upon Hugo. Chuck grabs a hammer and Hugo a fire extinguisher, as they continue to duel. As this fight rages on, the riot upstairs rages on as well. Morgan tries to calm everyone, but in the bustle, the engagement ring flies from his hands. He drops to his hands and knees to find it, but it is summarily kicked further from his reach. Big Mike finds Lester and tells him to go to his car and grab the bag inside. He grabs Morgan and slaps some sense into him. Morgan admits that he lost the ring, but Big Mike doesn’t care at the moment. It’s time to restore order to the Buy More.

Chuck jumps onto Hugo’s back to try to choke him out, but Hugo let’s himself fall backwards to drive Chuck through a table (in the best of wrestling fashion). Chuck is dazed, so Hugo escapes into the store. There, Big Mike has taken the stage and shouts the crowd into silence. He says it doesn’t matter that they didn’t get their games. Even better than that, they had the opportunity to ditch their lives for a week as they waited in line, talking about video games with their friends. “The violence ends now!” Big Mike demands, as those gathered fall into line. Hugo, though, has made his way to the store floor and pushes through the crowd, causing a disturbance. Big Mike orders Hugo to stop. Hugo does, turns around, and threatens Big Mike with physical pain if he stays in Hugo’s way. Big Mike, however, is prepared. He takes his “disco stick” out of the bag Lester retrieved, extends it, and shocks Hugo into submission. Chuck arrives immediately thereafter to secure Hugo.

In Castle, Casey has his leg wrapped. Sarah asks if he’s going to take any vacation. He doesn’t think so, because he can’t stand the silence, but when Sarah prods him by asking whether this would be a good time to connect with family, Casey does admit he may take the time to figure out what his role is in Alex’s life. He continues, turning the tables on Sarah, and telling her that she needs to do the same with Chuck, so they can all get back to normal, “whatever that is.” As Heather is led out by some (real) government agents, she stops to tell Chuck that she met Frost on Operation Beacon. She dropped out of the mission when she blew the arms deal and ran from Volkoff. She did see that Frost was very close to Volkoff, though she wasn’t sure of Frost and Volkoff’s relationship; it was possible that Frost “had to be.” Chuck leads the guards out with Hugo. Heather lags behind and tells Sarah that it is clear Chuck loves her, so Sarah needs to figure out if she is really in love with him.

Upstairs, the Buy More staff begins to clean the store. Morgan tells Big Mike that he has looked everywhere, but he can’t find the ring. He does, however, have the Ass. Man.’s vest if Big Mike is interested. Big Mike says Morgan shouldn’t give him that “sacred vestment” just because he feels bad about the ring. Morgan says that Big Mike is the best one fore the job, but he understands if he won’t accept the job because of the ring. Big Mike Assuages his fears. Marriage is about understanding and love, even one’s “idiot relations,” Big Mike tells Morgan. He will gladly become the new Ass. Man. In turn, Morgan gives Big Mike his blessing to marry his mother. “Son!” Big Mike shouts, grabbing Morgan in a tight bear hug. As he does, one of the Buy More employees accidentally sweeps the ring into an air duct, and it slowly slides down the chute.

Finally alone, Chuck asks Sarah if it is time for their chat. She tells him that his mention of kids scared her. As the ring slowly makes it’s way down the chute, Sarah tells Chuck that the day has made her realize, however, that she isn’t like Heather. Yes, she may have been at one point, but no longer. She loves Chuck very much, but they do need to take things slower. Chuck smiles and assures her that he’s not ready for kids yet either. He wants to take thing “super slow.” They agree to start small, and set some parameters. Chuck gives Sarah the following situation: they are on a trip, and one of them forgets a toothbrush. Can they share the other toothbrush? Sarah replies in the affirmative, with a smile. What about going to the bathroom with the door open. Sarah laughingly replies, no, never! Chuck heartily agrees. At that moment, the ring falls from the air duct and lands behind Chuck. Hearing a sound, Chuck spins around and gets down on one knee to pick up the ring. He looks up at Sarah, realizes the position he is in and jumps up. The two stand shocked, mouths agape that eventually turn into smiles. Nothing is said besides “Oh…” and “wow!” With that, the episode ends (but not before I include the clip of the ending because it is too perfect to describe in just words).

Commentary

To be honest, I thought this was not a great episode of Chuck, until it was saved by the last two minutes. The story idea was fine, and it was great to have Hugo and Heather back (again, who knew Nicole Richie could really act?!?), but the execution seemed really off to me. First, the Buy More story, other than reintroducing Big Mike, was a complete waste of time. It didn’t connect to the A Story in any way, other than being a location for Hugo to be caught. I have always felt Chuck is better when the plots are intertwined in some way — thematically, if not literally. This seemed like a way to just have Jeff and Lester in an episode instead of making actual use of them.

Which leads me to another complaint: Jeff and Lester. I know they’ve only been back for two episdoes, but they seem more annoying than usual. I have never had a problem with their more absurd actions, but I get a feeling that they are just not necessary to the show anymore. I can sum it up this way: I am always much more disappointed when Ellie and Devon aren’t in an episode, than I am when Jeff and Lester aren’t there. At least they didn’t break out a Jeffster! song, which is where I thought the show was going last night. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeffster! performances, but they were overdone last season, and I was fearful that would have happened this week, too.

Third, it’s official. The Greta joke has bombed. It is clear to me now that the idea behind Greta was to simply use the character to bring in guest stars in a hope to boost ratings. What other explanation is there? The character gets three or four lines that have no bearing on any plot, and disappear in the first third of the episode. Further, the lines Greta is given aren’t that funny. I hope this character goes away soon, or is really beefed up into something important.

What saved the episode for me though, was the stuff going on between Chuck and Sarah, and especially the end. Yes, we’ve seen Sarah display hesitations about her and Chuck’s relationship a million times before, but it was different here. Here, her concerns were based squarely in a non-spy reality. True, Heather said that spies can’t have normal lives, but what was really bothering Sarah was the speed in which her relationship was moving. God knows I had the same concerns in my dating days, so this really rang true for me, as I’m sure it did for many people. Then we received that final moment with the ring. Zachary Levi and Yvone Strahovski have always exhibited great chemistry and fine acting, and both were fully on display in the last scene. Their looks of shock, but also questioning whether he would ask and would she say yes(!) were spot on and very well played. We saw in the preview for next week that Morgan is going to ask Chuck directly about whether he would have asked, so I’, very much looking forward to seeing how this plays out. This was very well executed, so kudos to all involved.

Alright, that’s what I have for “Chuck vs. the Cubic Z.” What did you think of the episode? How perfect was the final scene? Did you like having Stone Cold Steve Austin and Nicole Richie back? How do you think Big Mike will take to working under Morgan? Please leave your questions, comments and theories below or in our Chuck Forum. If you’d like another take on this episode, check out Brittany’s review. I’ll be back next week with another recap. Until then, I’m off to get authority to use the Storage Closet for what I use it for.


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