Welcome back Chuck fans. It’s been three weeks since out last episode, “Chuck vs. the Mask,” opened up a Pandora’s Box of controversy regarding the direction of the shows relationships. Well, with the Olympics over, our favorite accidental spy has returned with a great episode that has resolved, at least partially, the relationship furor. Let’s get to “Chuck vs. the Fake Name.”
The episode opens with something for the female, and some of the male, audience to enjoy: Devon’s abs. Ellie is concerned that Chuck is keeping secrets from her because he didn’t tell her about Hannah. Devon offers (while doing upside down crunches) that Chuck will tell Ellie about his new girlfriend when he’s ready, which makes Ellie even more upset. Chuck is sharing secrets with Devon and not his own sister, whom he used to trust with everything, including his first cruse: Mrs. Seaver from Growing Pains. Ellie just doesn’t like how Chuck and Devon are now “thick as thieves,” and accuses Devon of lying to her. Devon brushes such an insinuation away and advises Ellie to go tell Chuck how she feels, which she does. At Chuck’s apartment, she finds no one home, but hears the shower running. She proceeds to tell Chuck through the bathroom door that she misses being the person he confides in. She wants him to know that she’s a good secret-keeper and if he doesn’t want Sarah to know about the new girl…”I won’t tell Sarah if you don’t,” Hannah finishes, clad in only in a towel after her shower (this was for the half of the audience that wasn’t interested in Devon’s abs). With both women stunned into silence, Chuck arrives home with a box and is frozen in his footsteps. Chuck awkwardly and embarrassingly makes introductions, concluding with the only appropriate response: “Donut?” offering up the goodies in the box. Chuck feels terrible that he hasn’t been fully honest with Ellie, so to make it up to her, he offers to cook his famous chicken pepperoni for the two couples that night. Despite her hesitation to feast on Chuck’s “famous” dish, she agrees.
Dining themselves, Sarah and Shaw are sharing dessert. Despite his playfulness, Sarah tells Shaw she doesn’t think they should see each other outside of work. While a sniper appears to be readying his rifle, Sarah explains that she has been developing a pattern of getting involved with people from work. “I need to stop mixing my personal life with my professional life,” she warns. Although he’s disappointed, Shaw understands. As he leans in for what looks like a kiss, he spies a car pulling up, he says, “Vehicle in question has arrived.” Casey, the sniper, confirms and readies himself to take out the subject by the car with a tranquilizer dart (do they get tranq darts wholesale or something, because they seem to be the weapon of choice). A shady man with a gravelly voice attempts to get in the car, but Casey hits him with the tranq. Sarah and Shaw rush over to grab him, handcuff him and take him away in his car. The man is named Rafe Gruber (a name derived from this man, and this man, now a writer for Chuck), a martial arts expert and assassin for The Ring who is so good, he’s one of only five people who can hit a target from half a mile away. Casey bristles at the talking-up Sarah is giving Gruber, “There’s nothing this clown can do that I can’t do.” The team needs to find out who The Ring has hired Gruber to kill. Casey, undoubtedly wanting to show off his skills, volunteers for the mission. Shaw tells him they are using Chuck. The Intersect is working well, so Chuck will assume Gruber’s identity (as few people have seen Guber’s face) and meet with those who have hired Gruber for the hit. Chuck, clearly elated about his previous night with Hannah and donuts in hand, slides down the Castle stairs and greets the team. When Chuck is told that the man in captivity is Rafe Gruber, he flashes on the name, and inquires what they are doing with him. The team tells Chuck that he will pose as a world-class assassin.
The key to assuming an alias is that even under the most stressful of situations, he must only react as Gruber. Chuck is not worried; he knows a thing or two about acting as he played Perchick in his high school production of Fiddler on the Roof. Shaw slaps him, and when Chuck howls, Shaw explains he did it to illustrate his point: Gruber wouldn’t howl like a child when struck. Chuck sees his point (as does his jaw). They need to find out who Gruber was going to meet, so Casey gathers his torture tools, including an acetylene torch. Chuck thinks it’s probably better to allow him to interrogate Gruber, especially if he needs to pick up Gruber’s mannerisms. Unsurprisingly, Gruber doesn’t want to answer Chuck’s inane questions like how one becomes an assassin. “I’ll take torture over this man’s questions,” Gruber growls. “I’ll take torture over this man’s questions,” Chuck repeats in a near-perfect imitation. Impressed, Casey gags Gruber when the latter’s phone begins to ring. Chuck answers and agrees to meet his employers. He knows the meeting spot because it’s across from the cupcake place. “Because I like cupcakes, that’s why!” Chuck responds to an assumed incredulous question of why an assassin knows about a cupcake place. Casey encourages Chuck to wrap it up. When he does, an impressed Casey says, “Not bad, Bartowski.” “Who the hell is Bartowski?”
At the Buy More, Chuck and Hannah are canoodling during a Big Mike presentation. Seems the store has received triple the number of crock pots than they actually ordered. Jeff and Lester just can’t figure out how Chuck is such a lady magnet. “I’ve narrowed it down to mind control, LSD or sorcery,” theorizes Jeff. Big Mike decides that the lovely aroma of gumbo will attract customers to buying a crock pot, and despite their attempts to fake sick, Jeff and Lester “volunteer” to cook. Downstairs in Castle, Sarah is checking Gruber’s restraints. He begins to taunt her by saying how he could see why Shaw wants her so badly, with an unamused Shaw looking on. Sarah leaves the holding cell, but before they can leave, Shaw has something he has to do with Gruber. Shaw goes into the room, and cold cocks Gruber in the face. Chuck, after sweetly saying goodbye to Hannah for the day (and causing Lester to reflect on his loneliness), returns to Castle all duded up with slicked back hair and black jacket. “I look like a cold-blooded killer, right?” Casey is ready too, as there’s no way he’s letting Chuck go by himself. Sarah tells Chuck he’s going to be meeting with some “old school” guys, namely Paulie Walnuts and Skip Lipari from The Sopranos! At the meet, Paulie (I think his character’s name is Matty, but he’ll always be Paulie to me) seems to recognize Chuck’s “associate” John. When Skip asks Chuck what his toughest hit was, Chuck flips out and plays the tough guy, scaring Skip in the process. He then breaks into the Joe Pesci laugh from Goodfellas at the end of the “How am I funny? Am I like a clown?” speech. (I loved this moment. Well played by Zach Levi who was on fire in this episode.) With Chuck doing well in his cover, Sarah, in the surveillance van with Shaw, worries that Chuck has become such a good liar. He’s not like her and Shaw. Living the lie is the job, Shaw explains. “Where does the job end? she wonders. “I don’t remember who I am anymore,” Sarah laments. Chuck presses to know who he is supposed to kill. As Skip is about to tell him, Paulie remembers where he saw Casey. He believes Casey to be a sniper he served with in the military. “Does the name Alex Coburn ring a bell?” he asks Casey. Upon hearing that name, Chuck flashes, seeing images of Honduras in 1989 and the picture of Alex Coburn with a black box over his face. When Chuck comes to, he asks what the wiseguys are trying to say. They pull their guns and accuse Casey of being a federal agent. To cover, Chuck grabs Paulie’s gun from him and smacks Casey across the face with it. “If he’s a cop, I’m going to kill him myself.”
With Casey tied up, the wiseguys encourage Chuck to kill him. Chuck, thinking quickly, tells them that killing Casey would do no good as Casey surely has information they would want. Agreeing, Paulie offers up his torture tools. Shocked, Chuck asks, “Is this stuff sterile?” When he’s met with bemused looks, he continues, “I take pride in my work. I want to kill him, not some secondary infection.” Chuck moves to extract Casey’s tooth, and when he hesitates, Casey encourages him to do it. And he does! Chuck pulls out Casey’s tooth! At that moment, federal agents bust in, with Sarah throwing Chuck face-down into the bar. He is so happy to see her because he is so scared, but she reminds him that he needs to react like Gruber would. Chuck flashes his kung fu skills, kicks Sarah(!) and takes out the whole federal unit. He and the wiseguys escape. An amused Casey compliments Chuck to Sarah and Shaw saying Chuck really sold his alias. “For a second I hardly recognized him.” This is exactly what Sarah feared.
Back at Castle, Chuck apologizes to Casey for pulling out his tooth. It’s no big deal to Casey, who tells huck that Sarah and Shaw are at this place fixing up the dinner Chuck was supposed to be preparing for Hannah, Ellie and Devon. “Good work, Chuck. I’m proud of you,” Casey concludes. Gruber is led out of Castle by a couple of federal agents, and when he mouths off (“You think you can be me?!?” he growls at Chuck), Casey lays Gruber out on the table. Gruber spies a Buy More pen, and is led away. With Gruber gone, Chuck asks Casey about flashing on Alex Gruber. “You mind your own damn business,” Casey warns, and leaves. Back at the Buy More, Chuck meets up with Hannah and the two depart for dinner. While chopping onions, Big Mike, Jeff and Lester wonder how Chuck has been able to score such amazing women. First Jill, then Lou and now Hannah, whose feet Lester would like to moisturize with his saliva. But, as Jeff correctly (and astutely!) points out, none of them matter. When Chuck sees Sarah, “the light in his eyes shines brightly.”
With a well-thrown knife, Sarah and Shaw finish Chuck’s dinner spread just before his party arrives, and leave out the back. The group can’t believe how great everything looks and smells. Chuck asks Devon to help him with the wine in the kitchen. Chuck admits that he didn’t make the dinner, and that he’s happy he has someone he can tell the truth. Despite his taste buds fist-bumping each other, Devon tells Chuck to stop. He can’t handle all of the lying, and especially lying to Ellie. Chuck understands and tells Devon to just answer “I don’t know” when asked something about Chuck’s double life. When they sit down to eat, Ellie admits that she herself has been lying all this time about liking Chuck’s cooking. This is the first time she truly means it. She asks Devon how amazing it is that Chuck made the meal, “Isn’t this chicken moist?” “Uh…I don’t know?” Devon replies. Confused, she turns to Hannah. “Hannah, isn’t Chuck’s chicken moist?” (Say this out loud to yourself. This line is freaking hysterical to say. Good for Sarah Lancaster in being able to get through it without cracking up.) Instead of responding, Hannah makes a toast, saying she has never felt completely in the right place at the right time, but right now, at this dinner, she finally does. Sarah watches the whole scene from Castle, and when Shaw tries to share some of the leftover chicken, she leaves, clearly shaken by what she saw at Chuck’s place. She needs to be careful, because at that moment, Gruber is being transported by the feds, but using the Buy More pen to escape his handcuffs.
At the Buy More, Chuck is looking at Gruber’s Ring cell phone. Hannah grabs it, checking out the new cool geek toy. She tells Chuck that her parents are in town and invited Chuck to dinner with them. He agrees, but is immediately pulled away by Big Mike, Jeff and Lester, who, upon hearing Chuck made a great meal the night before, want him to taste their now day-old gumbo. The Ring phone, well, rings, and Hannah answers it. Chuck sees her getting off the phone and quickly asks her who it was. She explains it was a wrong number; the caller was looking for someone named Rafe, but that they had reached the Buy More. The caller said he would be there in a couple minutes. Chuck hurries away, grabs some lubricant of some sort and greases up his hair. He snags a jacket from a customer and rushes out the back of the store. Paulie and Skip find him, grab his watch and smash it. They have a present for him — a new gold watch for helping them escape the feds. The guys explain they found the guy Chuck’s supposed to kill. The mission is back on.
Sarah goes to Shaw’s hotel room to apologize for earlier behavior. She is met by a topless Shaw (again, for the first group of audience members mentioned above) who has just gotten out of the shower. Clearly distracted, she asks him to put some clothes on, which he does. She explains that she’s having a problem with some changes that have been occurring. Shaw asks if she’s OK with Chuck and Hannah’s relationship, but she demurs, saying that’s not the change that is bothering her. During this discussion, the wiseguys lead Chuck into a building about a half mile from a hotel. The soon-to-be victim is in his hotel room with a “hot piece of tail.” They have a high-powered sniper rifle, scope and headphones for Chuck to use because he’s one of only five people in the world who can make the shot. When Chuck looks through the scope, he sees Shaw and Sarah! He hears Sarah tell Shaw how hard it is for her to see Chuck change into someone new. Shaw explains that Chuck is merely becoming a spy. Sarah understands, but “lives are being changed here.” “Seems like Chuck isn’t the only one changing,” Shaw replies. She agrees; the more Chuck moves away from who he really is, the more she wants to remember who she really was. She notes that she’s been on her assignment for three years and hasn’t told anyone her real name, not even Chuck. Shaw asks her, “So, what is it?” With the wiseguys pressuring Chuck to take the shot, Chuck can’t believe his ears. “I’m Sam. My real name is Sam,” Sarah says, in relief. Chuck can only reply, “Sam?” as Shaw moves in for a kiss.
Chuck backs away from the gun, dumbfounded, and not a little bit hurt, by Sarah’s confession. “Sam?” he again wonders aloud. The wiseguys have no idea who Sam is; the guy Chuck is supposed to kill is Daniel Shaw. Chuck, clearly heartbroken, explains that Sam is his girl, at least in an “on again, off again” way. “I hate those ‘will they or won’t they’ things. Just do it already,” Paulie voices for all of the Chuck audience. Skip chimes in that the guy Chuck is supposed to whack is the guy who stole his girl; that’s a perfect excuse to kill the guy then. Meanwhile, back at Castle, Casey is talking to headquarters. He tells them he has been trying to contact the agents who were transporting Gruber, but he can’t get a hold of them, and fears the worst. He is able to locate Chuck and is heading over there immediately. Casey’s not the only one though. Gruber is tracking his Ring cell phone to locate Chuck as well.
When Paulie encourages Chuck to take Shaw out, Chuck says he can’t do it. Covering, he tells them that bullets are too good for Shaw, he’s going to kill him eye to eye. He tells the goons to stay, who agree to cover him with the sniper rifle. Skip says he’s not as good a shot as Chuck, but he’ll just take everyone out if things go bad. Chuck bursts into Shaw’s hotel room and when asked what he’s doing, he tells Shaw that no one messes with Rafe Gruber. Then, under his breath, Chuck informs Shaw that the guys are watching them. “You stole my girl. I’m going to end you for taking Sam,” Chucksays menacingly. “You had your chance, and you blew it,” Shaw taunts Chuck. This hits a little too close to home for Chuck, because he lays Shaw out with probably his best punch ever. No doubt, Chuck thoroughly enjoyed it, too. The two fight while Gruber barges into the wiseguys’ room and kills them. During their fight, Shaw pins Chuck who meekly insists that he’s just trying to stick to his alias for the goons who are watching across the way. “They’re going to kill you,” he tells Shaw. “No, I’m going to kill you,” says Gruber as he busts in the room. Gruber takes out Sarah and Shaw before grabbing Chuck by the throat. Chuck tries to flash, but when he sees Sarah motionless on the floor, his fear won’t let him. Gruber tosses Chuck aside and grabs Sarah up by the neck. Both Chuck and Shaw rush to her aid. Gruber sees they both want her, “so I’m going to make it easy on both of you and take her out of the equation.” Sarah grabs at Gruber’s hand holding the gun, a shot rings out, and Sarah falls. Both men yell for Sarah and are struck with grief, but Sarah stirs, revealing a single shot to Gruber’s head. Across the way, Casey is behind the sniper rifle. “Five people in the world can make this shot, huh? I guess I’m one of them.”
That night, Chuck goes to Ellie’s and tells her that he feels like he’s living a lie, like he’s not him anymore. Ellie supposes that things are moving too fast with Hannah and that Chuck still has feelings for Sarah. Chuck goes to dinner with Hannah and her parents, and asks to speak to her alone. Meanwhile, Sarah and Shaw are finishing up some paperwork in Castle. Sarah quickly runs out. Chuck tells Hannah how much he likes her, but there are some things in his life that he just can’t tell her about. He has been dishonest, and it’s unfair to her. He has to break their relationship off. Hannah, understandably, is upset, but doesn’t want to hear any excuses from Chuck. He’s the best liar she’s ever seen, “I hope that your lies keep you warm at night.” Hannah leaves. Sarah returns to Castle and gives Shaw a crock potand some Chinese food. Since The Ring knows Shaw is alive, he’s going to have to stay in hiding for a while. “Thanks, Sam,” Shaw says. The two share a kiss, as Chuck walks away from the restaurant, alone.
I thought this was an amazing episode of Chuck. There was the perfect blend of humor (all the Jeffster stuff, Chuck’s Gruber impersonation), action (Chuck taking out Shaw, twice!) and and sentiment (Shaw and Sarah’s budding relationship, Chuck ending his). There was also an incredible amount of growth for the characters, especially Chuck and Sarah. I think Chuckhas finally come to grips with the fact that no matter what he does, he loves Sarah, but more importantly, he also realizes that he can’t love a “civilian” girl. Chuck is an open guy by nature, so having to keep his being a spy secret will just be death to whatever civilian relationship he might start. It’s already hurting his relationships with Ellie and Morgan, and even the one person he could talk to about it, Devon, doesn’t want anything to do with the secrets. Chuck is becoming isolated to a point that he is realizing he might notwant to be a spy anymore. Sarah, on the other hand, is moving in the opposite direction. She has been so isolated for so long, that she can’t even remember who Sam really is. I think she sees in Shaw an opportunity for a “normal” life, but I also believe she will realize that any relationship with him (especially now that he has to remain hidden) will only reinforce the solitude.
Besides the great charcter work, there was some more fantastic direction. I loved how when Sarah was saved form Gruber, we couldn’t tell who she was looking at, Chuck or Shaw. The music choices were phenomenal as well (“I’m a hell of a guy, living a hell of a lie.” Perfect.). Of course, Adam Baldwin was a standout again as Casey. It is amazing how much he can say with a look or a grunt. Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’d like to hear your opinions. What did you think of “Chuck vs. the Fake Name”? Any of the Chuck-Sarah ‘shippers satisfied that Hannah is now out of the picture? Did you think this was a strong return after the Olympics? It was weird, but did anyone else notice that NBC ran no promos for Chuck during the Games? Way to keep the enthusiasm going, NBC. No wonder you’re in last place. God knows The Marriage Ref isn’t going to save you. Anyway, drop your comments, thoughts and theories below. Please make sure to check TVOvermind for next week’s recap, and for all of your TV needs. Until next week, I’m off to make some gumbo.
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