Chuck vs. the Leftovers
Season 4, Episode 10, original air-date November 29, 2010
Things are turned upside-down the day after Thanksgiving when Chuck's mother drops by...along with Alexei Volkoff. Morgan must deal with Jeff and Lester during the Black Friday sale at the Buy More.
There are puppies and rainbows after the break, and our review. A coincidence?
Frea: So you know what I realized today, Maximus?
mxpw: That there was no Castle Slide in the episode?
Frea: *Sigh* Don't remind me. But no, that wasn't it. What I realized was that both of our names are four-letter words.
mxpw: Can you tell what I had for dinner? You know, like a weird twin thing?
mxpw: Since we are so alike, and all.
Frea: Oh, that's not a twin thing at all. That's the spy cams I installed in various strategic locations around your house, silly.
mxpw: Look, I can explain the Frea effigy, okay?
Frea: I consider any day when a likeness of me is used to start a bonfire a regular Tuesday, Max. Don't worry. It'll just make your prison sentence in my dungeon fifty years longer. No big deal. Oh, speaking of really long things, let's talk about Chuck vs. the Leftovers.
mxpw: Oh right, the episode. That's what you meant by long things.
Frea: We're veering awfully close to "That's what she said!" territory here.
mxpw: But that IS what she said.
Frea: Very true.
Frea: So I was not in love with this episode. At all. It had some great things--namely Timothy Dalton and Linda Hamilton--but it felt clunky and poorly written, with some potentially gaping holes, pacing issues, no continuity whatsoever, and no freaking Castle Slide.
mxpw: Uh, ditto to all of that, except replace Castle Slide with no SWP and you pretty much have my thoughts.
mxpw: Though for some reason, I guess I still liked it more than you did? This sounds like a repeat of Coup D'Etat all over again.
mxpw: Do you want specifics?
Frea: I think it's all in how much you like Timothy Dalton, really.
mxpw: Well, I freaking loved him in this episode. Best bad guy this show has ever had, by far, in my opinion. Yes, even more than Vincent.
Frea: I felt like Tommy was a more sinister bad guy, but I like Timothy Dalton as the bad guy more, if that makes any sense.
mxpw: I don't know, most of the scenes with Volkoff in the Buy More were pretty intense. Dalton played an angry, unhinged, psychopath really well.
mxpw: But I do see what you mean.
mxpw: I just...for the first time while watching this show, I felt like a bad guy was actually a legitimate threat. He seemed genuinely dangerous.
mxpw: He was awesome.
Frea: Probably has to do with Tommy being more mysterious and therefore more sinister because of it. When you look at it like Volkoff was in love with Mary for years and keeps her around as a pet, I think it loses a little bit of its...terrifying aspect, honestly.
mxpw: I don't know, I think I'm going to have to disagree with you here. I think the fact that Volkoff is obsessed with Mary like he is makes him more scary because he really does seem like he's insane. And that is scary to me. Granted, Chuck is not really the kind of show that would ever let Volkoff really explore his psychosis, but still, I find him more interesting because he's off his rocker, even if it is a bit cliché.
Frea: There's lots of potential there, and you can tell that Timothy Dalton is having a blast. I just hope the other writers give him some better dialogue to work with in the future, I guess.
mxpw: Yeah, I can see what you mean there. Though I have to say, seeing Volkoff playing Charades with Ellie, Sarah, and Mama B all watching attentively was one of the funniest parts of the episode. I love how Dalton can be bellowing into the phone all intense one moment and then be the wacky uncle the next.
Frea: Lawrence of Arabia indeed. Quite a few things in common with The Bourne Identity. I can see where Chuck was coming from with that.
mxpw: Heh, and then Devon. I loved the look on Volkoff's face. It was all like, "I can't believe my future step-daughter married that idiot."
Frea: Okay, so Devon...let's talk about him, huh?
mxpw: I liked him in this episode. I liked him standing up to Chuck. He told Chuck off, and rightly so. The whole lying bit is getting ridiculous. Not just from Chuck, but now Ellie is being dumb about it too. I also really liked him stepping up and being awesome for Chuck. A nice callback to S2 and Colonel.
Frea: On the one hand, I agree completely. It was great seeing him step up, and "That is very soothing" was great. However...we're back to Chuck and Awesome both lying to Ellie and even if Awesome laid the verbal smackdown, it doesn't excuse the fact that he is indeed back to lying to Ellie about Chuck being a spy and I'm really not happy we're on this road again because I don't like driving in circles all that much.
mxpw: Eh, while I agree with you about the lying, I can't get all that upset about it because Ellie is lying to Chuck. I mean, I'm upset in general, but really, Devon is in a very unenviable position here, being stuck in the middle. I don't know, it's a very complicated issue and I do think it's getting really stupid how Ellie has STILL not found out Chuck is a spy. Come on!
Frea: Ellie is one of the few I felt acted intelligently this episode.
Frea: But yeah, the signs are pretty glaringly obvious.
mxpw: She only seemed like she acted intelligently because her role was so small. Heh.
Frea: First lack of intelligent life: Mary Bartowski. She sends the three assassins after her son, yes, and takes care of it, but instead of simply handing Sarah the gun and saying, "Congratulations on your three newest kills, Agent Walker," she instead risks them with the deranged psychopath by going with them into the CIA base for no reason that I can discern.
Frea: All for what? So that we can get a Terminator line? Yes. We get it. She's Sarah Connor. I liked Abed's version of the line better.
mxpw: Actually, that didn't bother me, really. Why? Because Volkoff clearly has some kind of teleportation machine. Because unless I'm supposed to believe it took Mary, Sarah, and Chuck an entire day to get back to Castle, or that Casey and Sarah waited a whole day to interrogate Mary, then Volkoff had to have already been well on his way to Burbank when the assassins failed.
Frea: THAT'S where the Magical Castle Slide went! Volkoff stole it!
mxpw: Yes! Mystery finally solved! Somehow he hijacked one of the magic doors.
Frea: Second lack of intelligent life: I'm gonna say it, and it's gonna break your heart, Maximus. But I'm sorry. It's Sarah Walker.
mxpw: Actually, Frea, as much as it pains me, I have to agree with you here. I have a lot to say about Sarah in this episode. Very little of it good, I'm afraid. But I shall let you go first.
Frea: Okay, so am I mistaken? Did we or did we not have an entire episode last week devoted to Sarah learning the dangers of what might happen if she didn't let Chuck know she loves him as an equal? And then, bam, what's the first thing she does this episode? She shoves him out of the interrogation room like he's just some annoying kid who hangs around Castle rather than the son of the person being interrogated who has some very real beef to bring up with the woman? We finally got to see the reverse American Hero and it sucks just as much in reverse! Yay, equality!
Frea: Wow... I am definitely ranting this week.
mxpw: Precisely. That was probably my biggest problem with Sarah as well. It just had me scratching my head at the total lack of continuity. It was downright painful. I mean, she wasn't even nice about it. She just seemed impatient and rude and like, "Get away from me, the grownups need to work now." The worst part was that Chuck's questions were perfectly legitimate and were the ones I cared about, as a viewer, being answered, instead of the ones Casey and Sarah were asking. It was just some major regression on Sarah's part. No wonder Chuck had such a big smile on his face when he got the Intersect back. After how Sarah treated him this episode, I couldn't blame him.
Frea: And then she got to be the expository mouthpiece in the second half of the episode, topped off with being a collateral damsel in distress. It's really all or nothing with her.
mxpw: Well, I sort of give that a pass there as Casey was even worse off than she was. But yes, over all, it really does seem like the writers seem incapable of writing her with any nuance. Honestly, until the moment where Sarah and Chuck are holding hands in the elevator (which was actually pretty cute), I was asking myself, "Wow, am I sure that Sarah even likes Chuck? What happened to all the character development from Phase Three?"
Frea: Maybe this is the episode from another universe!
Frea: Quick, were there any awesome cab drivers?
mxpw: Haha, but then that means Olivia Dunham should be showing up any minute now and while I love me some Olivia, I love Sarah more, and I don't want her to be humiliated at how much she sucks at her job.
mxpw: Yeah, I said it. I didn't think this was an episode that really did Casey or Sarah any favors. I mean, can I mention the moment of stupidity that stood out to me most? The beginning where Sarah and Casey try to activate the Buy More's defenses and then get everything hacked just made me facepalm. You've got a guy here who, before Intersect 2.0 came along and lobotomized his character, was supposed to be an expert with computers (the man even developed his own viruses!), and yet they just make Chuck stand there and watch while the woman who didn't even know Friendster was out of style tried to stop a hacker from overriding their system. That was, to me, the worst moment of stupidity in the episode.
Frea: To borrow an outdated agreement: Word.
mxpw: I literally yelled out, "Come on!" when that happened.
Frea: Versus my, "You're kidding, right?"
mxpw: What made it worse was that Chuck never even tried to intervene. Compare this moment to Beefcake where Chuck wouldn't shut up about letting him try and hack the chip. Yet here, because he doesn't have the Intersect, he's been knocked down to useless again, apparently. You'd think that at least Sarah, in her belief that Chuck is awesome, would have given him the chance to try.
Frea: Speaking of the Intersect... I'm disappointed that that was apparently what the laptop was.
Frea: I was expecting something more.
mxpw: Despite this episode's many problems, continuity glitches, and potential enormous plot holes, I'm still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here. You can thank Phase Three for that. But it's true. I'm still holding out hope there is more to this re-Intersect plot than what we got in this episode.
Frea: It would be great if there were more to the story, that's for sure. But, um, didn't Stephen get mad at Chuck when he found out Chuck had re-uploaded the Intersect? And yet, there's a whole computer for Chuck and Ellie to re-Intersect Chuck. of course, I guess you could handwave it that Orion was angrier that Chuck downloaded the Intersect that hadn't been brain-formatted by proper scientists?
mxpw: First, I think you need to approach this problem from the PSP. Okay, so far, from what we have been shown onscreen, Mary's words about Stephen not wanting Chuck to see the PSP of Doom don't make any sense. She said it herself in this episode that she wanted to suppress the Intersect so Chuck wouldn't come after her anymore. Well...the man from Dream Job and Colonel and Living Dead would have absolutely wanted Chuck to see that. So that's the first issue that needs to be clarified. Was Mary lying? Is there more to the story? Unfortunately, this episode really didn't clarify that.
Frea: But hey, that's what the month of December is for. To come up with every conspiracy theory we can!
mxpw: Then, you have to think about why Stephen would set aside the laptop for Ellie. My spec is that he realized that there was no point in trying to stop Chuck from being the Intersect anymore, so instead, he decided to set out and make it safer and more functional for him. Enter the laptop for Ellie. Send it to Ellie, have her fix the neurological issues, then send it to Chuck. So while Stephen may have disapproved of Chuck being the Intersect, he wanted to make sure it was at least safe for him. That to me is really the only thing that makes sense from what we've been shown so far in my mind. But who knows, really, with this show what's really going on.
Frea: So many unanswered questions with the Elder Bartowskis. Think they'll answer them in the next three episodes?
mxpw: Nope. Certainly not all of them in any case. I think they will answer some, or at least I hope they do, but I'm sure they've saved some for the back 11.
Frea: Is it a bad thing that I cheered when Jeffster got tranqed?
Frea: Because I was like, "Yay! Now they have to shut up!"
mxpw: Nah, I don't think so. I was just happy we got to see some of Castle's ex-wife. She's uh, kinda really hot. Heh. They really went overboard with the bottle episode nature of this episode. That's two bottle episodes so far this season. Makes me wonder how many more we're going to get.
Frea: Hopefully not a six-pack.
mxpw: Yeah, that would suck.
Frea: Morgan going all Die Hard got a couple of laughs from me, too.
mxpw: Yeah, I did have to appreciate that. I thought the Die Hard homage was better in this episode than Santa Claus. I knew as soon as we saw Morgan's bare feet what they were doing and I enjoyed it. I was disappointed that he didn't say, "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like" while in the air vent. Those things really are quite spacious, you know?
Frea: And quite wonderfully lit.
Frea: Though, are we keeping a running tally of how many times Casey is going to hand Morgan a gun this season?
mxpw: That's gotta be like around the fifth time or so. It's actually kind of depressing. Casey never hands Chuck a gun. I swear, sometimes I think the show (and by extension, the characters) views Morgan as more of a spy than Chuck whenever he doesn't have the Intersect.
Frea: I think we need to sit them down with episodes like First Date to remind them, "Hey, he doesn't need the Intersect to be smart and resourceful!"
mxpw: Yeah. I don't know, Frea, the first half of this episode really left me with a very meh feeling. I thought the second half was far stronger, once Chuck and Sarah took Mary to the Buy More and then the dinner. Everything before that was just really bad. Casey and Sarah (especially Sarah) weren't very likable. Even though I was on Chuck's side during the interrogation, I thought they wrote him whiny and immature at times. Jeffster were unnecessary. The highlight was actually the pole dancing class and Morgan's really uncomfortable moves. That made me laugh. But even that just underscores the sheer WTFery of why Chuck even has to go to an outside class to learn how to defend himself when he's got Casey, Sarah, and a whole slew of nameless CIA agents roaming around Castle he could learn from if Casey and Sarah don't feel comfortable teaching him. Of course, they completely nullified Chuck finally gaining agency in his life and actually having character development with the end of the episode and him getting the Intersect back. I really doubt he's going to go back to training now.
Frea: I'll take pole-dancing with Morgan to Lady Gaga over Sarah's Bo lesson from Pink Slip any day.
mxpw: I think you mentioned it before, but this episode's biggest problem was the lack of forward progression. Not really the right way to go into such a long break.
Frea: But you did sum up my feelings very well. The second half was stronger, but by that point, I was already starting to get annoyed. My biggest disappointment was that the Phase III treatment really didn't go anywhere, and holding out hope that there was more to the story there really proved worthless this week.
Frea: I guess my whole reaction to this episode is a big, fat, "That's it?" Which, you're right, not a very good way to go into a break with.
mxpw: I think the point of Phase Three wasn't anything that happened to Chuck, but Sarah's development. Which actually makes this episode worse in comparison because it's like she forgot everything she epiphanied on in Phase Three here. Add to that the fact that while I appreciated a resolution to the Intersect arc, it was really fairly dissatisfying. I mean, Dalton was awesome in this episode and the dinner was great, but this episode just didn't have enough meat to it.
Frea: Agreed. For the most part, a nice sophomore effort in directing from Mr. Levi (Less is more, dude, less is more), but...wow. Not a good hour of TV, Die Hard homage and Timothy Dalton aside. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go cleanse my palate with a little First Date.
mxpw: So I think that's my cue to give my final thoughts on this episode before I lose the MBO to an episode where the characters were actually fairly smart.
mxpw: Final thoughts: This episode was dumb. I mean, it had its good moments: Dalton/Volkoff, Hamilton/Mary, the dinner with the awesome tonal shifts with the Charade game and the plans within plans, the pole dancing class, the Die Hard homages, and because it needs to be said twice, Dalton was just amazing. Best bad guy the show has ever had. He's crazy and I love it!
mxpw: But there was also just too much stupidity with the characters for me to really love this episode. I felt like Sarah really regressed here, Chuck was really undervalued again and his non-spy skills were completely ignored. Casey really had nothing to do. The lying has to STOP! Seriously, it just has to stop. It's making everybody (especially Chuck) look like a jerk, and Ellie like a moron, which we know isn't true as this episode proved. She solved a problem even Orion couldn't. So come on, writers, give her some freaking credit. And I can't believe I'm saying this as I don't even really like Ellie.
mxpw: And that brings us to most glaring problem with this episode: the entire Intersect plot. It officially makes no sense now. Or at least my brain can't understand it. And I'm not crazy about Chuck getting the Intersect back how he did.
mxpw: But you know what I really can't forgive? Minimizing Sarah. Boo, writers! Oh, and the lack of SWP, but that really goes without saying. Heh.
Frea: What he said.
Frea: 3 Stolen By Russians Magical Castle Slides out of 10
mxpw: 2 Sarahs from ANY Other Episode, Minus S3, The Jill Arc, and Beefcake out of 5