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Chuck Season 5: "Chuck vs. The Bearded Bandit"

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Saturday, November 05 2011 and posted in Reviews

As John Casey says, the Intersect seems to be going to Morgan's head.

When our buddy Chuck first got the Intersect in his brain, it took some time for him really get adjusted to what his life meant and what he became.  Chuck had to figure out that he's an integral part of national security and government operations, and needed to live a normal life while all that was going on.  He was able to get through it first with his extant support circle (Morgan, Ellie, Awesome) as well as with Sarah and to a lesser extent, Casey. 

Morgan has that circle already in place, but he's still going to have a tough time of adjusting to life as the Intersect.  For one thing, he just isn't getting that he really shouldn't be so gung-ho about everything.  It's a bad idea for him to take anybody out with a hilarious flying punch in the middle of the Buy More, even if the punchee is a dude that Morgan "zooms" on ("zoom" is to Morgan what "flash" was to Chuck when he had the Intersect).  Said punchee is Carl Sneijder (hey look, Jeff Fahey), someone who apparently profits from the mining and sale of blood diamonds in South Africa.  He's at Carmichael Industries hoping for some help in extracting his younger from some abductors.  Chuck, Sarah and Casey, strapped for cash, take the job after verifying that the severed finger Sneijder presents as proof of his brother's abduction really does belong to Wesley Sneijder. 

So while Sarah and Casey scope out the compound where Wesley is apparently being held, Chuck, at Sarah's suggestion, decides to become Morgan's handler.  He decides he will help Morgan out with his adjustment to Intersect life, just as Sarah and Casey had done for him years ago.  This is all well and good, but Morgan is way too excited, and just wants to be the superhero who jumps into the fray.  Morgan has always had a tendency to act first and think later, so this little bit of character work makes some sense, but the fact that it's taking so much work for the message to land seems like a plot contrivance.  Morgan was never really so dense that he would endanger himself by not listening to anyone around him.  He hasn't been in the spy game long, but he's seen enough by now that it should all be real to him. 

That could all be explained away by the fact that the Intersect seems to be adversely affecting Morgan.  When it turns out (kind of predictably) that the Sneijder job is a set up, and that Wesley hasn't been abducted but is hiding out so that he can testify against his older brother (who's trying to kill him, and chopped off his finger), Chuck finds himself following Morgan into certain danger when Morgan has the idea to go take on Carl himself with Chuck in tow.  After fighting off Carl Sneijder's thugs, Chuck makes an Indiana Jones reference, which doesn't land with Morgan.  Morgan later whiffs on mentions of Star Wars and Die Hard, which makes Chuck wonder about his good buddy.  This is kind of a troubling development in the writing.  It goes back to the notion that the characters have gotten a little too broad in Chuck.  The fact that Morgan doesn't get nerdy references anymore is, on this show, a sure sign that something is wrong.  These characters were once pretty-fleshed out and three-dimensional (ie they were geeks, but not flat shorthand tropes), but now they've become nerd caricatures serving an easy punchline or movie reference.  Here in the final season of Chuck, Morgan's inability to recognize Luke Skywalker's name is a sure sign that there's something wrong with him.  It feels anemic, and there should be more effort put into that plot point, even early on. 

In any case, Chuck and Morgan are able to get out of an untenable situation with Carl Sneijder and his henchmen (there are a lot of them), whom they're locked in a fortress with.  Sarah and Casey can't get in, so Sarah calls for help from the Verbanski Corporation, a well-funded private security form with the resources and precision to rival any military operation.  It's led by Gertrude Verbanski (hey look, Carrie-Anne Moss), who earlier in the episode tries to recruit Sarah away from Carmichael Industries and has a sordid past with Casey ("Ever have sex with someone who just tried to kill you?  It's incredible.").  The Verbanski Corporation is another plot point that promises to stick around, and should lead to some good drama.  Morgan, at the end of "Bearded Bandit," walks into Gertrude Verbanski's office looking to work for her instead.  He feels that Sarah, Casey, and even Chuck don't believe in him, and he wants to put the Intersect to work, so he immediately tells Gertrude about it, hoping to be hired by her. 

So by all indications Morgan, probably not in full control of his faculties, is going to be another antagonist for Chuck this year along with that shadowy faction inside the CIA we got a short glimpse of at the end of last week's premiere episode.  It's an interesting twist to have two people/institutions that Chuck had spent the first four years counting on become enemies to him at the end.  It's a pretty dark concept for a story, and could work out down the road, but for now, the characters and humor just can't be so broad if it wants to sell how high-stakes the threats are to its lead characters.  It's not that Chuck should never be funny (at it's best, the show could find the right balance between humor and epic action-adventure), but we have to take the villains seriously, especially these villains.  That isn't going to happen if we're too busy laughing (or groaning). 

There is some optimism in "Bearded Bandit," though.  The plan to funnel the Buy More's profits into Carmichael Industries might have a chance at working, now that Big Mike has returned to run the place.  He decides to run an updated version of an old local ad from the 1970's to bring some customers into the store (is the Buy More still a big-box electronics retailer franchise?  The writers seem to be treating it as a local mom & pop store this season).  After Jeff and Lester turn out to be duds, Big Mike turns to Devon Awesome, who just so happened to walk into the store at that moment.  He convinces Devon to draw on his days as a J. Crew model and appear in the ad, which turns out to attract customers, causing the three principal operators in Carmichael Industries to think that they can make this endeavor work out.  It's hard to tell exactly what role the Buy More will play in the overall scheme of Chuck now.  Chuck and Morgan are barely using as their cover now, and there will be times where it won't be needed at all.  Using the "make a commercial" subplot in this episode to feed into the "where is Carmichael Industries going to get any money" storyline was pretty clever, but how many more times will Chuck be able to pull that trick?

Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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