If you missed Sarah Walker kicking some major ass to save her beloved Chuck last week, check out my recap here.
This week’s episode begins in Moscow. With the strains of a Russian anthem playing, Chuck’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (aka Agent Frost), enters. Alexi Volkoff informs her that he has learned that Agent Carmichael is still alive. Mary is just as surprised as he is (though it was she who let Chuck and Sarah escape). Volkoff blames himself for underestimating the spies. He hands Mary a folder with the biographies of his top three North America-based assassins: these men will make sure Chuck is dead this time.
Chuck and Morgan wrap their hands in preparation for a bit of sparring. Chuck warns Morgan that he’s had his Chuck Fu for six months, so he’s a bit more practiced. Morgan reminds him that he is now “Chuck Unplugged” and he needs to develop actual fighting skills. Besides, Black Friday is coming up and they need to be in top physical shape. They enter the exercise room to find not a martial arts class, but a self-defense stripper pole class! While the guys practice their “spin around the pole kick,” Morgan asks Chuck how his proposal plan is going. Chuck replies that it’s going pretty well, but he’s keeping details close to the vest. Morgan pleads for information, arguing that he is spy now and, therefore, a good keeper of secrets. Chuck doesn’t respond as they are cut off by the realization that there is no way Casey can find out about what they are doing.
Later that evening, Chuck and Sarah are out for a walk. She’s disappointed that Ellie and Devon had to cancel Thanksgiving dinner, but Chuck tells her that the next night’s Leftover Dinner is more important. Sarah tells him that she’s sorry he couldn’t have a normal Thanksgiving with his mother, but he’s probably glad because of that. Chuck insists that he has forgiven his mother for shooting him and putting him in danger. In fact, if she showed up right in front of him, he’d be able to tell her that he has put the past behind him. He’s more concerned with the future, Chuck tells Sarah as they stop outside a jewelry store advertising engagement rings. There is no time for a proposal, however, as the three assassins jump Chuck and Sarah. Sarah takes on two of them, while Chuck uses his “spin around the pole kick” to temporarily stun the third. Chuck’s assailant soon gains the upper hand and starts to beat Chuck down. As Chuck and Sarah are about to be overwhelmed, three shots ring out, dropping the assassins. Chuck turns to see his mother with her gun drawn. “Come with me if you want to live,” Mary says (in a perfect allusion to Terminator 2).
Chuck, Sarah and Mary enter Castle. Mary worries that they need to leave immediately as Volkoff is certainly on his way to find her. Chuck starts yelling at his mother, demanding to know why he should trust her. Sarah pulls Chuck out of the room and says to let Casey and her conduct the interrogation. Meanwhile, upstairs in the Buy More, Big Mike, in honor of Morgan’s first Black Friday as store manager, gives his son-in-law-to-be a delectable Subway meatball sub (Blatant Product Placement! Honestly, most BPP’s annoy me, but the unabashed way Chuck does it, and because Subway helped save the show, I just find the whole thing so amusing). When Big Mike leaves, a beautiful blond customer appears outside the locked Buy More doors. She’s looking for the new 7G phone, and she will do anything to get it. Unfortunately for her, the phone is sold out, and moreover, Morgan is off the market, so he leaves her outside the store, phoneless. Jeff, however, has seen the damsel in distress and tells her he can get her the phone. Jeff and Lester have been hoarding the phones so they could sell them on eBay to make enough money to record their demo.
At the hospital, Devon enters the lab where Ellie is working on the computer her father left for her. It seems Stephen was working on a problem concerning saving information in the brain. Ellie was able to figure out the problem, but when she entered it into the computer, another password question popped up: “1 or 11?” Since Ellie doesn’t know the answer, Devon suggests they call Chuck. Ellie remains adamantly opposed to this idea because she doesn’t want Chuck to be tempted to rejoin the spy life.
Ellie would be dismayed to learn what her brother was up to at that very moment. As Chuck listens through a door, Mary explains that protecting Chuck has always been her top priority. Sarah’s phone rings. It’s Chuck. If his safety is her primary concern, why did she turn off the Intersect? Sarah doesn’t want to play this game with Chuck, but she hangs up the phone and asks Mary the question. Mary answers that she didn’t want him following her into Volkoff’s clutches. Chuck immediately calls back, but Casey grabs the phone and hangs up on him. Mary concludes by saying that it is not safe for any of them there; they shouldn’t get comfortable.
One person who is comfortable is Morgan. In his office, Morgan has removed his Buy More shirt, revealing a “guinea T” (I’m Italian, so I figured this was the less offensive of the ways to describe a white tank top undershirt), and plunged his feet into a spa bath. What he doesn’t see while relaxing is Jeff letting the customer into the store and giving her one of the phones. Since she said she would do anything for the phone, Jeff asks if she will start with shaving his back, but Lester quickly jumps in to try to save the situation (Note: Jeff is actually named after our third president: Thomas Jefferson Barnes). While Lester speaks to his bud, the customer reveals a hypodermic needle and stabs Lester and Jeff with it, knocking them out. She places a call, saying that the store is secure. Into the store marches a number of goons, wheeling large equipment boxes. The last to enter is Alexi Volkoff. “Let’s get what we came for,” he orders.
Morgan stirs from his bath when he sees a gunman making his way toward him (to me, the guy looked like Al Leong, the Asian bad-ass in Die Hard and Genghis Kahn in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) My Die Hard allusion was confirmed as the camera lingered on Morgan’s bare feet and tank top, just as Bruce Willis was dressed as John McClane in that movie. Morgan needs to escape, but to where? He spies a vent and gets an idea.
Downstairs in Castle, Sarah asks Chuck if he sees why she didn’t want him to be in on the interrogation. The Mexican Hat Dance begins to ring out: it’s Chuck’s ringtone for Morgan. Chuck answers the phone. From the interior of an air duct (another Die Hard reference), Morgan informs Chuck that gunmen have taken over the store. Chuck checks out the security feed and sees Volkoff. Before he can tell Morgan what to do, the phone goes dead. Mary explains that Vokoff’s first move is to always cut off communications. Casey gives an impressed grunt. Fortunately, Casey informs them, Castle is prepared for an invasion. As he sits down to a computer, in another Die Hard allusion, a young African-American man sits down to a computer and instructed by Volkoff to penetrate Castle’s security. Casey is able to deploy Gatling guns throughout the store (“Better dead than red!” Casey notes), but before he can fire, Volkoff’s computer guy is able to disarm them and lock down Castle.
Volkoff calls Castle and tells the gathered spies that he is there for Agent Frost. If he doesn’t get her, he will kill “the fat man and the Indian.” They have one hour to turn Frost over. Casey knows of a manual override for Castle that if he can get to it, he can get Castle back online. When Casey leaves to find the override, Sarah tells Chuck that there must be a reason Volkoff would be willing to invade a CIA base other than to get Mary back. Mary insists that she is the only reason, so they must turn her over to Volkoff to save themselves. When Chuck and Sarah don’t acquiesce, Mary asks Chuck if he trusts her. He does not. Volkoff calls back and asks to speak with Frost, but Chuck refuses. Volkoff replies that he knows Agent Carmichael must be scared, but to “Hand Frost the damn phone!!” When Chuck does as told, Volkoff softens immediately. He asks Mary if she has eaten, and whether the food was good. He concludes by promising her, “I am not leaving here without you, my love.”
Chuck is dumbfounded. Volkoff is in love with Mary?!? Is this the reason she left Stephen? No, Mary insists; Volkoff is in love with her, but she does not return those feelings. Mary asks Sarah to explain to Chuck what she is saying: what is one to do when the world’s greatest psychopath is in love with you? Sarah responds that you become a major intelligence asset. Chuck wonders why she didn’t just take Volkoff out during any of the last nineteen years, but Mary replies that her mission has been to take down the network, not just the man, which she still might be able to do. Sarah pulls Chuck aside, and tells him that since Volkoff is so deeply in love with Mary, they might be able to negotiate with him by threatening Mary’s safety. Chuck, after being assured that no matter how mad he may be with is mother that they won’t actually hurt her, is on board with the plan.
Morgan crawls through the air duct (more Die Hard!) when a gun is pressed up against his nose. Fortunately for him, Casey is the one holding the gun. Casey explains what is going on, and Morgan tells him to go get the guns up and running while he tries to save Jeff and Lester. Morgan beings to crawl off, but Casey grabs him. “You may need this,” he tells Morgan while handing over a gun. Let’s hope Morgan remembers his training. Chuck calls Volkoff and tells him that he must do what they ask, or very bad things are going to happen to Frost. Volkoff asks if that is a threat because he has a bomb that when he drops it down the elevator shaft leading to Castle will burn at 4000 degrees: hot enough to boil all of the metal in Castle. He’d rather see Frost die than for her to live without him. “See, that’s how you threaten, Charles,” Volkoff taunts.
Morgan crawls out of the air duct and down into the stock room where Jeff and Lester are still lying unconscious. On his climb down a shelving unit (with his gun held in the small of his back), he knocks over a box of tacks and steps on them, injuring his feet. He is set upon by one of Volkoff’s stooges, but Casey pops up to take the guy out. Knocking out the henchman causes enough noise to attract Volkoff’s female operative (the phone customer) and more men. Casey quickly stashes Morgan in a closet before being confronted. He puts down his gun and taken prisoner.
Chuck and Sarah, armed, escort Mary up the elevator and to Volkoff. He tells them that there is no need for the guns as he promised that he would let them live, and meant it. He does, however, have Casey, so they should put down their weapons. When they do, Volkoff walks up to Chuck and sucker punches him in the stomach. Chuck says that he thought Volkoff was going to let them go. “I lied,” Volkoff responds. Volkoff pulls his gun and points it at Chuck’s head as a romantic gesture for Frost (God knows killing my former captor would make me swoon), but Frost stops him, by informing him that Chuck is her son. “Really?!?” the flabbergasted Volkoff asks her. “Really,” she replies. He asks the same of Sarah and Chuck, who respond similarly. He asks Frost why she never told him she had a son. She answers that in their business there is no room for family, let alone family that work for the CIA.
Volkoff’s computer guy tells him that a call from an “E. Bartowski” is coming in. Volkoff asks Chuck if the caller is related. “A very…distant relative,” Chuck responds. Volkoff answers the phone via speakerphone. Ellie asks Chuck if he’s going to make it for dinner, but Chuck isn’t sure: he’s a bit tied up at the moment. Ellie tells him that he has to come, so he says he’ll try. After the call, Volkoff tells Frost that this is the perfect opportunity to prove to her that he can be a part of her family’s life. Kids love him!, and he’ll prove it. “Chuck, tell your sister you’re coming to dinner, and you’re bringing guests!”
Everyone arrives in Echo Park for dinner. When Chuck tells Mary that he’s concerned with bringing Volkoff to Ellie’s apartment, she tells him to trust her. Mary then speaks to Volkoff, warning him that Ellie and Devon are civilians. Of course, he has no intention of harming them — he wants them to like him! Ellie opens the door and is surprised to see her mother there. Devon, who has never met Mary, introduces himself and welcomes her into their home. Volkoff drapes his arms around Chuck and Sarah and warns them that if the evening doesn’t go perfectly, he will hurt the people Chuck loves.
During dinner, Ellie asks, since Mary and Volkoff have worked together for so long, what happened to her that she disappeared. Volkoff explains that sometimes good and bad people get confused, but fortunately, as Mary’s handler, he was able to convince the CIA that Mary is a good guy. Sarah interjects that that must mean she is then free to go, but her remark is left unanswered. Meanwhile, at the Buy More, Morgan tries to figure out how he can save not only Jeff and Lester, but Casey, too. He sees and grabs a packing tape dispenser. Back at dinner, the group plays a game of charades, with Volkoff as the mime. Chuck sidles up next to Devon by the kitchen and whispers to him that Volkoff is actually an international arms dealer and that he, Chuck, is still a spy. “I know that you are the worst liar,” Chuck tells his brother-in-law, “but now I need you to be Awesome.”
Using the excuse of needing more sugar, Devon goes over to Chuck’s apartment. Searching the couch, Devon discovers Chuck and Sarah’s stash of guns and a CIA emergency alert device. He returns to his apartment and hands the gun and alert over to Sarah. She suggests that Devon has a call coming into his cell phone, which he answers and announces that he and Ellie have to go to the hospital. There’s been a bus accident and they need all doctors on call in the emergency room. As Devon and Ellie leave, Volkoff gives them big hugs and kisses goodbye.
Now in the courtyard, and with the civilians gone, Volkoff turns to Sarah and says, “You had to alert the CIA, didn’t you?” Sarah pulls her gun on Volkoff, so his guards pull theirs. Mary pulls a gun and trains it on Chuck. “Really Mom? You’re going to betray me again?” Chuck wonders. Sarah lowers her weapon, and Volkoff aims his at her, warning Chuck that he needs to learn to carry through with a threat. With Volkoff about to shoot Sarah, Mary points her gun at Volkoff. She tells him that she could never love a man who would hurt her son. If he wants to be with her, he needs to promise to leave her children and their friends alone. Volkoff pauses, and lowers his gun. “See, Chuck?” Volkoff says, “That is a real threat.” Volkoff and his mean leave. Mary stops to address Chuck, and says that she hopes, someday, he will trust her. “I already do,” Chuck replies. With that, Mary disappears with Volkoff.
Back at the Buy More, Casey, Jeff and Lester are being guarded by Volkoff’s henchwoman. Shirtless, and with a bandaged bloody foot (yes, yes, straight out of Die Hard again), Morgan staggers into the room with his hands behind his head. He tells the woman that she has a chance to surrender. What she doesn’t see is a gun taped to his back. When the woman does not surrender, Morgan yells John McClane’s most famous line, “Yippee-kai-yay!” and reaches for the gun. Unfortunately, he can’t reach it, try as he might. The woman receives a call, and at its conclusion, tells them that they are free to go on Volkoff’s orders. She and he men leave. Out of danger, Casey wonders what they should do with the still unconscious Jeff and Lester. Morgan has an idea. The two guys wake up the next morning in a pile of the cell phones they had pilfered, and Big Mike standing over them. He wonders if they were planning on selling the phones on eBay, but they promise to put them on display out in the store.
In the apartment courtyard, Chuck tells Sarah that he should have trusted his mother. Now, she can’t come back until Vokoff is destroyed. Sarah’s response is cut off by Devon’s return. Captain Awesome is pissed. Chuck had no business bringing a dangerous guy like Volkoff near Ellie and into their home. He doesn’t want Chuck’s spy life anywhere near Ellie, or really Chuck too, again. He hands over the computer Stephen had left for Ellie and tells Chuck that they were able to fix it and get only so far inside it. Chuck thanks him and promises to keep the spy world away from him and Ellie.
Chuck brings the computer to Castle with Sarah and Casey. Sarah wonders if Chuck really wants to open it. He does, and finds the “1 or 11?” password key. When Casey asks its meaning, Chuck notes that an Ace in Blackjack can be valued at either 1 or 11, but there was something his father always said to him. Chuck types in, “Aces, Charles.” The password is accepted and a screen pops up instructing him to “Hit Enter to Begin.” With a deep breath and nods from Sarah and Casey, Chuck hits enter. The screen whirs to life with quick flashes of Intersectian images. Chuck stands and smiles…then quickly falls backward onto the floor (like he has the other times the Intersect has been uploaded to his brain). Sarah and Casey rush to his side, but Chuck says he’s OK. He holds up his fists, and he flashes his fighting skills. Chuck stands and says, “Guys. I know kung fu…again!”
Well, I guess we don’t have to wonder how long it will be until Chuck gets the power of the Intersect back. To be honest, I’m torn in my feelings about this development. Structurally, I think Chuck getting back the Intersect works well here. With Mary going off with Volkoff, and Volkoff promising to not seek Chuck and his friends, the season is moving into a new phase, so “Chuck-with-Intersect” makes sense as a jumping off point for the new plot, whatever that may be. Then again, I really wanted to see Chuck using his non-super self to help the team a bit longer. We had one episode where Chuck was in a dream state for the whole thing, and then this week’s episode where he used his stripper pole kick, and had Devon go get a gun, but nothing else. It would have been nice to see Chuck learn to rely on his natural faculties a bit more before regaining the Intersect.
This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the episode. I did, quite a lot actually. Let me officially say that Timothy Dalton can become a regular cast member at this point. He is doing some fantastic work as Alexi Volkoff. He did an incredible job this week showing Volkoff’s touch of insanity, expertly sliding from menacing to fatherly, to goofy, to threatening without the character becoming arch or cartoony. Lesser actors would make the character appear schizophrenic, but Dalton is making Volkoff seem real within the Chuck universe. Kudos.
I also loved the multiple Die Hard references. It is a well they’ve gone to before, but not to this extent where Morgan essentially became John McClane, albeit a bumbling one. I liked anticipating where the next reference would come from and what it would be as the episode played out, culminating with a perfect replica of the shot at the end of the movie where McClane staggers out, sweaty and shirtless, with the gun strapped to his back. Further, Morgan never said anything like “Wow, this is just like Die Hard!” which I greatly appreciated. Great work from Josh Gomez and the writers for coming up with this plot.
If there was anything I could point to as a negative in the episode, is that it ended without a cliffhanger of some sort. The show is off the air until after the New Year in favor of The Sing-Off (that’s the a capella show NBC rushed into production last year to capitalize on the Glee-mania, that was only OK, save Ben Folds who was flippin’ awesome), so it would have been nice to have something to talk about during the holidays. Instead, Chuck gets the Intersect back and there is no immediate danger for anyone. That being said, I’m certainly glad that there wasn’t a Chuck/Sarah cliffhanger of some sort. With Sarah proving to what lengths she will go to for Chuck, their love is in no doubt. It was appreciated that this week’s episode had zero Chuck and Sarah relationship drama. In this case, no cliffhanger was better than a Chuck/Sarah one.
Alright, that’s what I have for “Chuck vs the Leftovers,” our last new Chuck episode of 2010. What a year it’s been! From near cancellation to a super-sized back order. From a love in doubt to talks of marriage. From Chuck Fu to no abilities and back again. Plus a Baby Awesome is on the way! I cant’ wait to see what’s coming in 2011. What did you think of this week’s episode? Are you glad the Intersect is back? Where do you want the show to go next year? Any special guest stars you’d like to see? How will you bide the Chuck-less December? Please leave your questions, comments and theories below. For another take on “Chuck vs the Leftovers,” check out Emma’s review. I’ll be back, well, when Chuck is back. Until then, I’m off to become the Employee of the Month.