If you missed last week’s Casey-riffic episode, catch up with a recap here.
“Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror” begins two weeks ago at Volkoff Industries. A sentry guards a secret lab as a man in a white coat lurks. The guard stops him, but the doctor begins to hyperventilate. He reaches for his inhaler, but sprays the contents in the guard’s eye. Immediately, the guard drops to his knees, and his vision begins to jump. The doctor explains that the toxin he just sprayed the guard with is causing the man’s worst nightmare to come true; a nightmare from which he can’t wake. The guard’s image of the doctor morphs into that of a demon. The doctor looks into the security camera and announces that the toxin is fully functional. A door opens, and a woman announces that she has a buyer in Los Angeles ready to buy the toxin from Dr. Wheelright. That woman is none other than Mary Elizabeth Bartowski.
The story jumps forward to Chuck answering his cell phone in the apartment complex courtyard. Mary tells her son that she wants to meet him in Griffith Park in one hour. Further, he should come alone. “Is this a joke?” Chuck incredulously asks. She’s been missing since he was nine, how can she not answer any of his questions. She repeats her demand, and hangs up. Sarah comes out to Chuck and says that Ellie is serving the cake. She sees Chuck’s face and says, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” “I just talked to one,” Chuck replies.
Chuck sits in the park and receives a call; it’s his mother. He’s not surprised she didn’t show up, but she tells him to look to his 3 o’clock. There she stands, but she instructs him to move to the playground. Mary disappears, and Chuck radios Sarah, who is also in the park. Sarah gets in position in the playground, but is met by the clicking of a gun. The hand holding that gun belongs to Mary. Sarah pulls her weapon and the two important women in Chuck’s life circle each other in a Mexican standoff. Sarah wants to know why Mary is there, but before Mary can answer, Chuck steps in between them. “I don’t know how to say this, but please don’t kill each other.” Chuck introduces the women to each other, and knows that they can become the best of friends, or Facebook buddies or something. Mary wants to know why Chuck brought someone when she told him not to bring backup. Chuck answers that after all of these years, he’s allowed to have mother issues. Mary can’t argue with that, and lowers her gun, as does Sarah.
After the draw-down, Chuck immediately starts relaying memories that his mother missed, but Mary stops him. She doesn’t want to know anything about him or Ellie. When she left her children, it was to go deep undercover in Volkoff Industries. If Volkoff was to know that Mary has information about her kids, he could torture it out of her. Sarah asks if Mary is undercover, why doesn’t she have a CIA file? Mary explains that her files have been expunged to protect her cover. As far as why she is there, she has learned that Volkoff has developed a dangerous toxin, Atroxium. She wants Chuck to pose as a weapons buyer, and then turn over the toxin to the CIA. Sarah asks why Mary came to Chuck with this mission Mary replies because she thought she could trust Chuck. She tells him to say that he flashed the information regarding Atroxium and Dr. Wheelright. Chuck is amazed that Mary knows about the Intersect, but she tells him that while she may not know anything about Chuck Bartowski, she knows everything about Charles Carmichael. Mary leaves to set up the meet between Wheelright and Chuck.
At the Buy More, Morgan is handing out fliers for the store’s Halloween celebration to customers. Casey approaches him, and says that based upon Morgan’s work in Iran, he’s not sure whether Morgan is smart or stupid. What he does know, however, is that the bearded one may have something to offer as a spy (didn’t we establish that last year?). Downstairs in Castle, Chuck admits to Sarah that he has a blind spot as it concerns his mother, so he wants to know whether he should get involved with her. Sarah says that they will be cautious. Casey and Morgan enter for a videoconference with General Beckman. The General is surprised upon seeing “Grimes” there, but Casey vouches for him. Chuck runs down the planned mission for the General, who approves. When she disconnects, Casey announces that he smells a rat. Chuck admits to Casey and Morgan that Mary contacted him and that she brought him the mission regarding the toxin. Casey is very wary about Mary’s story, but is willing to help.
Back in Echo Park, Ellie arrives home to Devon. She wanted to rush home before Devon’s soon-to-be-arriving mother turned her life into a living he…..aven, heaven! (Honey Woodcombe had popped up from behind the kitchen counter.) Devon tells Ellie that instead of his mother staying in the nice W Hotel room they had reserved for her, Honey will be staying with them instead — for a whole week. Ellie is at first hesitant, but says that it’s OK: it will be nice to have a mother around for some advice.
Back at the Buy More, Morgan is trying to decorate the store for Halloween. He calls Big Mike over, and asks how he was able to so effectively manage the store. Delegation, Mike says. Morgan needs to learn how to get those working for him to make his life easier. Morgan figures that for the store’s haunted house, he needs to get someone downright scary. Of course, there is no choice but Jeff and Lester. Meanwhile, Chuck arrives at a restaurant, conveniently hosted by Sarah. She shows him to the table where he will meet Dr. Wheelright. Chuck wonders if Sarah can bring her disguise home with her that evening, but Casey cuts short the flirtation while observing from Castle. Morgan arrives next to Casey, who belittles him for being late. The two trade barbs, with Morgan commenting that their give and take is “classic Ross and Rachel.”
Dr. Wheelright arrives, and immediately wants to talk a price for the toxin. As they negotiate, a car drives up, and an unknown woman gets out. A hand is placed on Chuck’s shoulder. It’s Mary Elizabeth. She sits down, says that she is Volkoff’s representative, and is there to make sure the transaction is smooth. She tells Wheelright that Carmichael’s story doesn’t check out. She rises, draws a gun and shoots Chuck in the chest! Chuck falls backward, Sarah pulls her gun, and a shootout begins. Mary takes out the security camera Casey and Morgan were using to watch the proceedings, and escapes with Wheelright. A shot from above shows Chuck splayed out in a spread eagle. He coughs, and tears open his shirt, revealing a kevlar vest. Chuck is alive, but shocked. “My mom shot me!” he exclaims
In Castle, Chuck whimpers, “My heart hurts.” Sarah replies that she can understand that as he was betrayed by his mother again. “No, she shot me in the heart,” Chuck corrects her, much to Sarah’s delight that Chuck is making light of the situation. She marvels that despite the spy business consisting mostly of deceit, Chuck is still able to trust people. “That’s why I love you,” she says. “Not for my rugged good looks or the supercomputer in my brain?” Chuck jokes. Casey and Morgan enter as Chuck suggests that they go back to the restaurant to search for clues. Morgan tells Chuck that he just got shot. Maybe Chuck should just go home and relax. Chuck agrees and exits upstairs. Morgan’s phone buzzes; Casey asks if it is spy wok or the Buy More. Morgan looks at the caller ID and wearily grunts. It can only be two people.
Morgan is on the store sales floor and tells Jeff and Lester that, no, they cannot use dead bodies in the store’s haunted house. Unfortunately, that means Jeff will lose his deposit. Morgan tells them to just get it done. When Morgan leaves, Lester turns to Jeff and tells him that in order to change Halloween as they know it, they need to go to one of the scariest places imaginable: Jeff’s brain.
As Chuck leaves the store via the employee entrance the back, a car pulls up. The window rolls down to reveal Mary. She tells Chuck to get in the car, but Chuck is understandably hesitant. Why would he get into the car with someone who just shot him? Perhaps because she might shoot him again. Chuck relents, but as he gets in the car, he activates an emergency tracker, which is immediately picked up by Sarah and Casey in Castle.
Mary speeds through the streets of Los Angeles, pointing a gun at Chuck. He points out that one pothole would like make this scene very, very messy. She apologizes, saying that she was trying to hold up appearances, and puts the gun away. In answer to Chuck’s questions, Mary explains that as part of Project Isis, she went deep undercover in Volkoff Industries in order to take them down from the inside. She got in too deep, however, so the CIA had to disavow her and erased her former life. She knew Chuck was wearing a bulletproof vest when she touched his shoulder at the restaurant. Shooting Chuck, knowing that Volkoff would be watching the meet, would make Volkoff believe that Agent Carmichael was dead, thereby making Chuck and Ellie safe. Mary continues, telling Chuck that if she could do it all over again, she never would have left her children. She pulls up to a shipping yard, and tells Chuck to come with her so she can give him the 10th birthday present she never was able to back then.
Mary walks Chuck to a shipping container, and tells him that Dr. Wheelright is inside, preparing the toxin for sale. She hears sirens coming from a distance. Chuck said that he had to signal for Sarah and Casey to come find him, but Mary smiles and tells her son, “Good boy.” Mary says she has to disappear again, but Chuck begs her to go talk to Ellie, just to let her know the truth. She can’t. “I’m sorry, Chuck,” she says as she turns to escape. “Ellie is pregnant!” Chuck shouts after his mom, which stops her dead in her tracks. She looks back at Chuck, but runs off. Sarah, Casey and a number of government commandos converge on the shipping container, but find it opened with Chuck and a knocked out and handcuffed Dr. Wheelright inside. “Chuck, how did you get here?” Sarah asks. “My mom dropped me off,” he replies.
Chuck places Wheelright in a cell in Castle, as Sarah begins trying to disarm the toxin deployment device Wheelright constructed. Chuck wonders what he should tell Ellie now about their mother. He is at a loss, but sees Morgan on one of the Buy More security cameras, and figures he might have an idea. Chuck runs out to go talk to Morgan, as Casey enters Castle. He tells Sarah that he doesn’t trust Mary. Sarah says that there are no files to check as they have all been expunged. Fortunately, Casey knows an unsavory character who is an expert at retrieving expunged documents.
Chuck finds Morgan as they walk out onto the sales floor — or try to, as they get tangled in a number of cotton spider webs. When they free themselves they realize that, despite prior belief in the contrary, Jeff and Lester actually successfully decorated the store for Halloween. They find the two decorators and congratulate them on their work. Well, Chuck and Morgan have seen nothing yet. Jeff and Lester show them into the Aisle of Terror. Lester explains that Jeff had been participating in psychology experiments led by a Dr. Schofield, who hypothesizes that certain images can cause dehibilitating terror in even the most fearless of people. Those images will be displayed on the monitors in the Aisle of Terror. Images such as old people! Public showers!! A baby in a snail costume!!! “Yes, this is scary,” Morgan tells them, “but in a really bad way.” He and Chuck leave the guys to their tricks.
Ellie, Devon, and Honey search for baby items in a store. Mary, too, is there, observing her daughter and son-in-law. Ellie looks at a stuffed bear that she thinks is cute, but Honey hands her a dictionary, saying every child needs a dictionary, before flitting off to another part of the store. Ellie tells Devon that she’s happy to have Honey there as a positive female influence as she goes through her first pregnancy. Yes, she can be a bit much at times, but Honey wants to be in the baby’s life. “More than I can say for my mom,” Ellie concludes, obviously not seeing her mother observing the scene. As Ellie and Devon leave, Mary moves over and picks up the bear Ellie had wanted.
Back in Castle, Chuck tells Sarah that it is weird: the woman they found is not the woman he remembers as his mother. Sarah, while working on the toxin bomb, asks if Chuck is just trying to justify not telling Ellie about Mary. Chuck smiles because Sarah knows him all too well. As Sarah works on the bomb, a clock lights up, and begins counting down from five minutes. They rush over to Dr. Wheelright who explains that the countdown is a security measure in case anyone tampered with his handiwork. They order him to stop it, but he refuses. Sarah opens the cell door and points her gun at him. He is convinced! Wheelright places his thumb on a fingerprint reader, and the clock disappears. As Sarah moves to another part of Castle, the clock jumps back to life and quickly counts down to zero. The bomb springs to life and releases the toxin.
As Chuck begins to cough and his vision begins to jump, he is able to lock Sarah out of the poisoned room. Chuck starts to freak out as Wheelright explains that he has been testing the Atroxium on himself for years, so he is no longer scared of anything. Wheelright’s face becomes demonic as Chuck yells that he is scared of everything. Sarah tries to tell Chuck that it is all in his head, but he is flipping out. He accesses a panel that opens up into the Buy More Home Theater room. Wheelright says that when he escapes, he is going to kill Frost for double-crossing him, but Chuck has enough presence of mind to lock down the store. Wheelright grabs Chuck and sprays more of the toxin in his face. Chuck stammers and falls to the floor where he sees Sarah come to him. He hears a gunshot. Sarah looks down and she is bleeding from her chest. She falls, revealing her assassin: Mary Elizabeth Bartowski.
In a covered garage, Casey and Morgan wait for the guy with access to expunged records. Morgan, dressed in a suit and sunglasses, looks just like a real spy. He asks Casey what his role in the operation is, and Casey replies that he is The Magnet. Morgan likes the nickname, as he repeats it over and over again. Meanwhile, unable to escape, Wheelright takes Chuck into the Aisle of Terror to really give Chuck a good scare. He throws Chuck down onto the remote for the monitors, which starts up Dr. Schofield’s images. Wheelright recognizes the work of his former partner, and begins to become disturbed by what he sees. Old people? Public showers?? A baby in a snail costume?!?! Wheelright freaks out, and runs for the exit. There he is met by Sarah’s swift karate chop to the neck. She rushes to Chuck who asks if he can just keep his eyes closed until they acquire the antidote.
Back at the garage, Morgan does his best David Caruso on CSI: Miami impression by repeatedly taking off his sunglasses in a “cool” fashion. He is halted by the sound of a gun clicking and the feel of cold steel against his neck. The gunman asks who Morgan is, but is stopped himself by the sound of Casey’s gun clicking against the gunman’s neck. Morgan now understands why his code name is “The Magnet.” The gunman hands over the files on Frost, and leaves. Casey quickly looks at the file and tells Morgan that Mary’s story checks out.
In the Buy More, Chuck is feeling better after receiving the antidote from the frightened Wheelright. His phone buzzes with a text message from his mother. She wants to see Ellie. Sarah offers to come with Chuck, but he says it will be alright. Chuck returns home and finds Ellie in the courtyard reading the dictionary Honey purchased. Ellie is outside in order to escape Honey for a bit. She appreciates Honey, but the mother she wants to talk to disappeared forever years ago. With a knowing smile, Chuck asks Ellie if she’s busy that evening.
A car drives down a dark street, and stops by another car. The drivers emerge: Sarah and Casey. Casey wanted to meet out there to escape the possibility of Morgan or Chuck hearing what he had to say. He shows Sarah Mary’s file. It says that Project Isis was abandoned twenty years ago. Everything Mary had told Chuck was a lie.
Ellie and Chuck sit at a restaurant waiting for their mother. Ellie is practically shaking with anticipation. She doesn’t know what to do when Mary arrives. Should she play it cool? Should she embrace her mother? Chuck advises to just do whatever feels right. Mary is late, but maybe she’s a bit lost, so Chuck goes outside to look for her. On the sidewalk, he sees Mary approaching with a stuffed bear in hand. A van screeches to a halt behind her, and masked men jump out and grab Mary. Chuck sprints to them, and tackles on of the assailants. He pulls of the attacker’s mask, and reveals…Sarah?!? “Chuck, your mom is not the spy you believe her to be!” Sarah exclaims, as she slams the doors shut and the van speeds off. Chuck solemnly reenters the restaurant and sits down next to Ellie. “I’m sorry, but mom’s not coming,” he ruefully tells her. Ellie iis crushed, again. “Why does mom keep doing this?” she pleads with her brother. “Because she’s a spy,” Chuck replies.
Although this episode was filmed long before Chuck‘s eleven-episode pick-up was given by NBC, I’d like to think that the pick-up news flooded some life into this season, because “Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror” was one of, if not the best episode of the season so far. True, there was no great Chuck Fu throwdown, and in fact, Chuck didn’t even flash, but the other elements of the show were in top form.
First, Mary Elizabeth factored heavily into the story. Not since she shot Ivan Drago in the season premiere, has Chuck’s mother been such an integral part of the episode. This had been a bit worrying as this season is ostensibly about Chuck’s mother. Further, I thought Linda Hamilton was doing some good work here. I think the chemistry between the actors could have been a little stronger, but that will come with a few more episodes together under their collective belt.
Second, for the first time this season, the entire cast was in the episode. Yes, Big Mike and General Beckman were there only shortly, but it was nice to see the entire universe of characters brought to bear on an episode. I was also pleased with the fact that Jeff and Lester’s plot was integrated nicely into the main plot. As I have said in this space on numerous occasions (just read the Commentaries from any of my recaps this season), for me, it is always better when the boys somehow unknowingly help Chuck foil the bad guy. In this case, their whacked out minds produced the Aisle of Terror that unwittingly led to Wheelright’s downfall. Devon and Ellie, too, had a nice storyline that merged perfectly with the main plot. Ellie would, of course, wish her mother was there to help her through her pregnancy. It’s a great bit of contrast to show Honey being a substitute mother figure for Ellie with Mary standing right there. Everything about this plot felt very natural. All of the subplots were well-written and well-played, so kudos to the writers for integrating everyone in the cast nicely.
Third, this episode made great use of the guest stars. Robert Englund was perfectly cast as Dr. Wheelright. He’s a creepy guy who really doesn’t need any special effects to make himself look scary, but I loved the physical flourishes and mannerism he used to make himself all the more fearful. I’ve seen a couple of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and I definitely saw a few of Freddy Kreuger’s movements in Dr. Wheelright. I also always love having Morgan Fairchild back as Honey Woodcombe, mostly because I love typing her character’s name (I’m a sucker for a cheap pun, what can I say?). Anyway, as mentioned above, using her to reflect Ellie’s need of a mother figure was well-done.
Fourth, there was no trace of Chuck-Sarah relationship angst. In this episode, they were nothing but a sweet couple who looked out for each other. Further, the joking about Chuck still trusting people, is heart hurting, and his rakish good looks were all, as usual, well-acted by Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski. Seriously, one can argue (and I do) that these two may have the best chemistry of any couple on television right now.
Last, what a cliffhanger! Is Mary telling the truth? Is she really a double-agent for Volkoff? Has she betrayed her son again? How will she be able to prove her innocence? Will Chuck act against Sarah and Casey to prove his mother’s innocence? Who will Morgan side with? Will Mary’s arrest throw a wrench into Chuck and Sarah’s relationship? Will Ellie ever get the stuffed bear? So many questions waiting to be answered! Color me intrigued!
Alright, so that’s what I’ve got on “Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror.” What did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Did you enjoy the Halloween theme? Do you think Mary is innocent or really working for Volkoff? Please leave your questions, theories and comments below. For another take, check out Brittany’s review here. I’ll be back next week with another recap. Until then, I’m off to do something for thirty bucks and a sandwich. Or just a sandwich.