Chuck 4.20 “Chuck vs. the Family Volkoff” Recap

It’s been a while since we last saw Chuck, so catch up with my most recent recap here.

Ellie talks with her mother, Mary, and after assuring her that taking care of Clara is fine, shows her mom her father’s computer. Ellie found files on the Intersect program and an “Agent X.” Does Mary know about Agent X? She doesn’t but perhaps she should run it by Chuck. Ellie replies that she doesn’t want to get him involved. She is utterly awed by Project Intersect. “Do you think they got the Intersect up and running?” Ellie asks. Moreover, who is Agent X?

Sarah wants Chuck to sign some documents that she hands him in an envelope. Chuck opens the envelope to find a prenup! A bit freaked out by the potential meaning of the papers, Chuck makes the excuse that he didn’t shower his hair so he will catch up with Sarah at Castle. Chuck immediately runs over to Morgan and Casey’s apartment, where the two men have really become a husband and wife, even aping each other’s eating habits and bickering with each other. Casey tells Chuck he over analyzes everything; he needs to understand that spies have secrets. “Sign the papers and be cool,” Casey advises. When Chuck leaves, Casey asks Morgan about an envelope of his own, an envelope that looks an awful lot like an invitation. Morgan tries to play it off as nothing, but eventually admits it is an invite to Alex’s graduation party. Alex wants to invite Casey too, but her mother still thinks Casey is dead.

At Castle, General Beckman informs the team that because the bomb used to destroy Castle (which has been put back together in record-breaking time) was constructed of Volkoff Industries parts, a kill order has been issued for Vivian Volkoff. Chuck thinks a kill order is a bit hasty: Vivian did help them capture her father. Chuck wants a chance to bring her in. The General reluctantly agrees, but will take precautions. Chuck and Sarah will meet with Vivian, but Casey will be stationed with a sniper team should a double cross go down.

After being dismissed by Beckman, Chuck hands Sarah the signed prenup papers. The casualness with which Chuck turns over the paperwork worries Sarah. She assures him that she’s not keeping secrets from him — the prenup is just because of some “family stuff.” Chuck replies that it is not a problem and turns to prepare for the meet. “Yeah…cool,” responds a confused Sarah.

Vivian arrives at the designated meeting place with a number of henchmen at her side. Chuck tells her about the bombs used to destroy Castle and Vivian’s placement on the CIA’s most wanted list. Vivian assures him that she’s trying to make Volkoff Industries a legitimate business. She has turned over numerous pieces of evidence to the American government, and given them the names of all of Volkoff’s agents. As a further sign of her sincerity, she gives Chuck and Sarah a deadly weapon that her father had been working on. When she does, shots ring out, but Casey says they aren’t from his team. Vivian believes she has been double-crossed and escapes.

Back at Castle, Beckman tells Team Bartowski that the kill order stands. She has run the weapon by her top people, but no one knows what it is. There is only one man who can tell them what the weapon is, but, as Chuck points out, he is the most dangerous man in the world: Alexei Volkoff.

Cut to Volkoff confessing that yes, it is true, he cut in the cafeteria line, but he is very, very sorry. Volkoff is in prison group therapy. The psychologist tries to get him to express himself with “I feel” statements, but when the warden informs him that he has visitors, and he sees that those visitors are Chuck and Sarah, Volkoff replies, “I feel like I’m about to have some fun.” Chuck wants to know what is up with the good guy act. Volkoff states that he is leaving his evil ways behind. Now he is only interested in how he can serve his fellow man. Chuck, still wary of his adversary, shows Volkoff the weapon. Volkoff explains that it is a DNA tracker, and is part of a larger weapon called the Norseman. There are two other components, that when combined, can trace any person in a crowd and eliminate them. The location of the other two components is important information that he won’t give up unless he can have five minutes with his daughter. Chuck says no, and no deal is made.

At the Buy More, Alex apologizes to Casey about the invitations. She has constructed an entire scheme to make him a part of the graduation. He is appreciative, but would love to be there. They share an awkward hug (awkward because it is Casey and an any show of affection is awkward), and then Casey gives a classic Casey sneer and grunt when he sees Alex kiss Morgan goodbye. Downstairs in Castle, General Beckman firmly states that she wants the other components of the Norseman. She is even willing to grant Volkoff a 48 hour furlough and meet his demands. Volkoff is wheeled into Castle a la Hannibal Lecter (sans mask). He tells Team Bartowski that the Norseman’s targeting component is being held by pirate Ellyas Abshir. Upon hearing the name, Chuck flashes, and reels off Abshir’s criminal history. Volkoff explains that he lost the targeting component in a poker game with Abshir, who is a degenerate gambler. Chuck protests to the General about Volkoff’s involvement, but she replies that Volkoff is Chuck’s responsibility for the next 48 hours.

Mogadishu, Somalia. Using Windows Live (Blatant Product Placement!), the team is able to survey Abshir’s compound (really?!?). Volkoff instructs Chuck to tell them that he, Volkoff, has sent him, as Abshir still fears Volkoff. As he prepares for the mission, Sarah asks Chuck if he wants to know why Sarah asked for a prenup. Chuck replies that she must have her reasons, but it doesn’t bother him. Chuck’s reaction, however, bothers Sarah.

Back in Echo Park, while Devon is telling Clara about The Missing Link, Ellie worries that the Agent X file is missing, right after she told her mother about it. Why would Mom delete it? Back in Mogadishu, Chuck enters Abshir’s compound and says he works for Alexei Volkoff. Immediately, all guns are pointed at him. Abshir steps forward and says Volkoff is a powerless worm. Volkoff, watchign with Sarah and Casey from a surveillance room, says he needs to be in the compound to save Chuck, as Abshir belivges Volkoff has been neutralized. Chuck tells Abshir he is there for the component. Abshir instructs Chuck to pick a casino game: if Chuck wins, he gets the tracker; if he loses, Chuck dies. “Do you have Uno?” Chuck wonders.

Mary tells Ellie that she accidentally lost Agent X file while trying to cross-reference some unrelated files with the CIA. Ellie says it’s OK because the computer has a back-up file, but positions the video baby monitor to watch the computer as Ellie and Devon go out on a date. As soon as they exit the apartment, Ellie flips on the monitor and watches as her mother logs back onto the computer. Ellie is in disbelief. Devon says they are not spies and shouldn’t be watching her mother. Ellie counters that tonight they going to act like it.

Back at Abshir’s compound, Chuck and Abshir actually play Uno! Chuck sees Abshir pull cards from his sleeve and accuses the strongman of cheating. Abshir rises and aims his gun at Chuck’s head. Volkoff enters, throwing a knife that sticks Abshir’s sleeve to the table. He secures the tracking component, but won’t leave at the team’s behest. Volkoff holds Abshir at knife point and in the most threatening apology ever, explains that he is sorry for what he may have done to Abshir in the past; Volkoff, like all men, is still a work in progress. Abshir, believing Volkoff is insane, accepts Volkoff’s apology. Volkoff kisses Abshir on the cheeks, and the team leaves.

At Castle, Volkoff installs the tracking component, but the killing agent is still missing. Volkoff wants proof that General Beckman will keep her word before he gives them the location of the final component. She says there is a redacted letter from Vivian on the table, which states she will meet him. Volkoff sees the Volkoff Industries watermark and is satisfied. He explains that the final component is in a Swiss bunker with a DNA lock only he can open. Meanwhile, Hot Mama (Ellie) and Six-Pack (Devon) spy on Mary by following her after she leaves leaves their apartment.

Casey receives a note in his Buy More locker to meet Alex later. Mary arrives at Castle, and tells Chuck that Ellie is breaking through the firewalls on his father’s computer so easily it is almost as if Stephen wanted her to find out about the Intersect. Moreover, Ellie and Devon are following her. They agree that it is time for Ellie to find out about Chuck’s spy life. Casey informs Mary that General Beckman wants to speak with her. The General informs her that Washington wants to expand the Intersect program, and Ellie has dug deeper than any agent could into Stephen’s files. Mary is reluctant to allow Ellie to continue her exploration of the computer, but the General orders Mary’s continued cooperation. Mary leaves the Castle communications room and hears Volkoff singing. She is flabbergasted that Chuck allowed Volkoff to be let out of jail. She tells Chuck to watch his back. Chuck explains that Volkoff wants to make amends with her, but Mary steadfastly refuses. Volkoff is not to be let out of Chuck’s sight. He can never be trusted.

The Swiss Alps. Casey and Sarah stand guard outside the bunker as Chuck and Volkoff go in. The spies are surprised that this isn’t an ambush, though Casey points out, “You can’t trust a limey with good teeth.” Chuck and Volkoff enter the bunker where they find a chess board. Volkoff must play a game of chess and defeat the computer within five minutes for the vault containing the killing agent to be opened. Chuck, worried about a double-cross, handcuffs himself to Volkoff. Volkoff sits down, and in a great War Games reference, the computer says, “Hello Mr. Volkoff. Would you like to play a game?” Outside, Casey asks Sarah about the prenup. She explains that she has money put away in case her dad gets arrested again. It is the hardest place for a kid to be is right in the middle of her parents, Sarah laments. Inside, Volkoff is in check, which deploys guns aimed at the player. Volkoff starts freaking out because in the past, he ruled over his empire unafraid of death, but now, he doesn’t want to die. Chuck asks him if a spiritual man would freak out in the face of adversity? “You are a villain, sir!” Chuck exclaims. “What is your name?” Volkoff meekly replies with his name. “Say it like you mean it!” Chuck encourages him. Volkoff relishes the sound of his own name, and gains the confidence to defeat the computer with two seconds remaining.

Sarah and Casey pick up someone speaking Russian on their radios, and fear the ambush is coming. Inside the vault, Volkoff uses his DNA to release the killing agent. Sarah and Casey enter to warn them of the incoming Russians. Volkoff apologizes for what he is about to do. Before Chuck can question him, Vivian arrives with her henchmen. “I’m Alexei Volkoff and always will be,” Volkoff states, “This is what we call the twist.” Vivian had set Chuck up. The Norseman was a sign from Vivian. Her men place grenades around the vault while she collects the killing agent.

Chuck asks why she went to the meet and gave him the first component if she wanted the Norseman for herself. She explains that the other two components can be rebuilt, but she needed her father released to obtain the killing agent. Volkoff asks Vivian to remove the handcuffs, but she replies, “This is the twist,” and leaves Volkoff in the cuffs with Chuck, Sarah, Casey and her henchmen in the vault. Chuck cries out for an explanation. With the grenades counting down, Vivian bellows that both Chuck and Volkoff lied to her and shattered her life before escaping the vault. Chuck flashes his Chuck fu, and he, Casey and Sarah take out the henchmen. Volkoff begins freaking out that he has been a terrible father. As the grenades reach 1, Volkoff uses an EMP to disarm them. He laments that he and Vivian were going to work together and rule the world. “Welcome to the future,” Volkoff sighs.

Having returned to Castle, Volkoff is placed back in custody. Why would she do this, Chuck wonders. “Because she’s my daughter,” Volkoff replies with a bit of pride. Mary appears, and agrees to give Volkoff a chance to say what he wants to say. He knows he has done evil, but he is drawn to the goodness in her. He knows now that he is not worthy of her love like Orion was, but he is doing his best to improve. “Money can bring you power, and a dance with Satan, and he looks like me,” Volkoff tells her before being led off (Did I get this quote right? So bizarre.)

Casey and Alex share dinner. He appreciates what she is doing about her graduation, but it is not OK if she lies to her mother. “What if we tell Mom the truth?” she asks. They are both scared by the prospect, but maybe it is time. Across the courtyard, Sarah rips up the prenup, and asks Chuck to please forget it ever existed. She was concerned that his nonchalant attitude towards it was because he already saw the end of their relationship. Chuck then pulls out his own prenup. She reads it. “I, Sarah Lisa walker, promise to always love Chuck Bartowski like he loves me.” Chuck has already signed it, so she does so as well. They see Ellie and Devon coming home and agree that Chuck needs to talk to her right away. He is nervous that Ellie will be mad he has lied to her, but Sarah reassures him that being a spy is not just what he does, but who he is.

Chuck talks to Ellie in the courtyard. He needs to talk to her about Dad’s computer. Ellie cuts him off and says that she thought what she found was important, but it was actually just cheat codes for some video game he was developing. Chuck says OK, and Ellie goes back inside to make dinner. Chuck tells Sarah that Ellie just lied to him, which has never happened before. “Not cool,” he laments.

At her desk at Volkoff Industries, Vivian rolls the killing agent in her hands and tells someone on the phone that there is only one man her father was ever afraid of: Agent X. She is going to track him down using the Norseman and kill him. No one will be able to touch her then. Ever.

Commentary

Man, it seems like forever and a day since we last saw Chuck, and it was great to have the gang (well, most of the gang) back. I thought, for the most part, that this was a pretty great episode. I just love every second Timothy Dalton is on the screen. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he said this was his favorite role he has ever played, James Bond included. He looks like he is having so much fun, and it is clearly rubbing off on whomever he shares the screen. I have long believed that the acting on the show has been top notch, but one can tell how all of the regulars raise their game when sharing a scene with Dalton. It’s pretty fantastic.

Further, I think the way the creative team transitioned from Volkoff to Vivian as the Big Bad has been very good. Yes, if they had known they would have had eleven more episodes when they laid out the first thirteen, maybe they could have spent more time showing Vivian’s transition from good girl to impending super-villainess, but with the scheduling restraints, I believe they have done a great job. Moreover, just the idea of having a female villain is excellent in my book. It doesn’t happen very often in popular entertainment, and when it does, the female villain is often some tarted-up sex kitten who was abused in some way. Yes, Vivian has daddy and betrayal issues, but she is an intelligent and shrewd woman who has now successfully out-maneuvered the CIA’s best. If Chuck gets a fifth season (and when will they tell us? I’m dying here!), I would love to see Vivian continue as Chuck’s nemesis.

My only real problem with the episode was the whole prenup story. I understand, the intention is to set up the return of Sarah’ father next week by establishing the fact that Sarah has a lot of money tucked away, but the whole thing felt like a retread of some of the more artificial obstacles throw in Chuck and Sarah’s way in Season Three. I mean, it ended up being “no harm, no foul,” but that is my point: the story had no consequence, and was wholly a MacGuffin used as an excuse to bring back Sarah’s father. I will say, however, that I remain intrigued by Ellie’s discoveries on Orion’s computer, though do I wish they’d hurry up to the ultimate discovery we know is coming (whatever exactly it may be).

So, that’s what I have for the return of Chuck this week. We are officially in the end run with four more episodes to go until the season (and hopefully not series) finale. What did you think of the episode? How are you liking Vivian as Chuck’s nemesis? Did the prenup plot do anything for you? How great was Morgan and Casey’s “marriage”? Please leave your thoughts, questions, and comments below. I’ll be back next week with another recap. Until then, I’m off to use fear instead of love.

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