Chuck vs. the Hack-Off
Season 05, Episode 05, Original Air-Date 9 December, 2011
If you pay attention to the graphic header, you’ll notice that Frea is the pessimist this week. Does this mean she hated the episode and mxpw loved it? Well, there was naked Sarah…but you might be surprised…
Frea: So what’d you think of Chuck vs. Naked Sarah?
mxpw: I thought it was a pretty good episode, actually. A few minor things that kind of bugged, but overall, very solid.
Frea: Same. I was really hyper afterward.
Frea: Probably because my DVR cut off the promo in the middle
mxpw: I tried not to let my knowledge of Shaw’s return cloud my enjoyment of the episode.
mxpw: I thought Zac did a good job directing. His best yet.
Frea: Yes, he did.
mxpw: Victory is mine!
Frea: The least he could have done was a cheesy rack focus!
Frea: I mean, c’mon! Doesn’t he know how much I already have to write for
mxpw: Oh, I see those html tags. That must mean the review has started unannounced. In that case I might as well get into character: Naked Sarah. Naked Sarah. Naked Sarah.
mxpw: That works like Beetlejuice, right?
Frea: I think so. Or the Candyman. Seeing as he was, you know, her mentor.
mxpw: That just makes me want to sing “The Candyman can!”
Frea: I wonder how she is with a hook. I mean, I know she’s pretty handy with those knives...
mxpw: She must be pretty good, because I’m hooked on her.
Frea: Okay, this review is officially over.
Frea: Mostly out of sheer and total jealousy because I wish I’d come up with a pun that awesome!
Frea: No fair!
mxpw: *kicks back and relaxes* Oh yeah, I’m the king.
Frea: So what do you think Tebow’s chances are next week against the Pats?
mxpw: The Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow are like what Angels in the Outfield was, only with less Tony Danza, so I’d say pretty good.
Frea: Don’t say Angels right now. St. Louis has enough of a heartburn problem as it is.
mxpw: Ah yes, I heard about Albert Pulols leaving.
mxpw: It’s touching, your concern.
Frea: I heard a grown man sobbing on the radio.
Frea: It was disgusting
mxpw: Hey, people love their sports.
Frea: Yeah, I just don’t see what hockey has to do with anything, though. I mean, Pujols isn’t even that great of a quarterback.
mxpw: Plus, since he’s from St. Louis and it was recently declared one of the most depressing cities in the country, maybe he was just depressed.
Frea: I guess all of the Xanax or whatever they’ve been pumping into the water supply isn’t working.
mxpw: Are you sure? I mean, look at how excited you were after the end of this episode.
Frea: Very true. Oh, man. The episode. Did we review that already?
mxpw: I don’t think so.
mxpw: Naked Sarah.
Frea: Oh, okay. Well, I’m not going to comment on Sarah’s naked form. I shall leave that to you.
mxpw: Naked Chuck.
Frea: What a happy day in my life.
mxpw: Apparently Sarah’s too, as she snuck two different looks down while they were preparing to infiltrate the cult.
Frea: I’m sure the Adorable Psycho has some great advice on how to make that state more permanent. I think it involves burning clothes.
mxpw: Yeah, but AP would have never been able to handle that mission. She either would have jumped Chuck as soon as his clothes came off or go on a murder spree that would be the stuff of legend.
Frea: All of the people looking at her man, yeah.
Frea: So...can we get the “Yay! Our favorite actors got naked!” part of the review over with?
mxpw: Do we have to?
|Yay! Our favorite actors got naked!|
mxpw: Oh alright, I guess we can move on. But we should do so in an entirely logical and linear manner, like we always do.
Frea: Right! Logical and linear. So I cared about the Decker storyline this week. Is that weird? Where has that guy been all season?
mxpw: I know what you mean, this was the first time since his introduction where I felt slightly interested in what happened. I did think he was a little mustache twirly this episode, but he’s been like that in every episode, so I guess they were at least consistent. His plan seemed a bit convoluted to me, but it was nice to see him actually establish some stakes for the team.
Frea: Kind of wish Sarah and Chuck had pulled a Walker’s Eleven, bugged the software, and turned it around on him
mxpw: Actually, that’s kind of what I was waiting for. I thought it was a bit shortsighted on their part to just hand over such an apparently dangerous weapon to somebody who on more than one occasion has vowed to destroy them. I know they wanted to free Casey, but you’d think they’d have been a little more cautious/proactive. It’s one of the minor things that bugged this episode. That and their shock that Decker betrayed them. Really, guys?
|If Ward Cleaver wore a hoodie and June Cleaver wore leather...|
Frea: ...oh crap, now I’m thinking about Mrs. Cleaver naked!
mxpw: Totally not my fault. You brought up the naked characters this time!
Frea: I know! Gaaaaaah.
Frea: Okay, anyway, I agree: it bugged me that Sarah and Chuck were so shocked that Decker would betray them again, too. Chuck, I can kind of see, but Sarah? C’mon, honey. You’re a spy. In this world, spying means lying, cheating, killin’ in true gang-style, and all without any true reason most of the time. That should not surprise you that the bad guy who has sworn time and again to destroy you, and who has put out a hit on the best man/minister of your wedding, is going to betray you.
mxpw: I am choosing to interpret Sarah’s surprise as another sign that it’s getting closer and closer to her hanging up the spy life. While I didn’t really quite agree with Verbanski (and would have preferred to see Sarah just outright shutting her down instead of staying quiet), I do think Verbanski had a point in a very general sense. Sarah has changed a lot since meeting Chuck, and you can see one of the central themes of this season will be her recognizing that and understanding what it means and accepting that maybe she actually does want more out life than being a spy.
mxpw: At least I hope so. I would be very disappointed if Sarah doesn’t reach that realization by the end of the season.
Frea: But there’s an inherent flaw there:
Frea: They’ve changed their minds again. Spying used to be The Eeeeeeevil. Then it was “Awesome!” And eeeeevil. Then Awesome. Then evilly awesome. Then awesomely evil.
Frea: MAKE UP YOUR MINDS.
mxpw: Well, the beginning of Season 3 notwithstanding, I think Chuck has always been fairly hesitant about the spy life. Even when he was all super gung ho about it, you could see there was always a part of him that went “Hey, wait a minute, this really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” So in that sense, they’re consistent. The problem is that they ebb and flow his feelings on the matter too much. Chuck getting the Intersect was always supposed to be just a way for him to get his confidence up. Now that it is, and he’s married to Sarah, I don’t think it’s out of nowhere that he’s finally decided to leave.
mxpw: Sarah is the one they’ve really mishandled in this situation, I think.
Frea: Hm, I’ll agree to that begrudgingly, but I will maintain that there’s something to be said for ambiguity, but I will not be saying it about the way they’ve handled whether spying is a good thing or not because they’ve handled it poorly. Which ties into my mixed feelings about the fact that Chuck is an awesome hacker.
mxpw: Actually, I would argue the opposite.
mxpw: I think they’ve done an excellent job in establishing that the spy life sucks.
mxpw: They’ve just done it unintentionally. Haha.
Frea: I was sitting up, getting ready to argue with you, but I agree completely!
mxpw: Over the seasons, from the Red Test, to Chuck’s parents abandoning him and Ellie, to spies are not supposed to fall in love, to spies aren’t supposed to have friends or family and only be unthinking robots that follow orders, that the spy life is terrible. That’s why I hope they leave at the end. Maybe if they never wanted to have kids, I’d say it’s okay for them to stay, but if they want a family, the show has made a pretty convincing argument that the only way they can do that is if they’re not in the spy life anymore.
Frea: Man, I wish they’d set up Carmichael Industries back when they blew the first Buy More up because then I’d probably care about this storyline and feel like it wasn’t coming out of the blue.
mxpw: Personally, I think it’s kind of hilarious.
Frea: I think that’s probably my biggest problem with all of it, honestly. They’ve only just set up CI.
Frea: And so far they’re finding out that they’ve lost their money, their friend is in jail, and they’re the most gullible people on the planet. It’s really making them look bad, which makes me feel sad.
mxpw: Chuck and Sarah waste over 800 million dollars setting up CI and a few months later they’re like, “Eh, that’s not for us, let’s do something else.”
Frea: Exactly! While it’s hilarious, it also makes my stomach hurt.
mxpw: Oh I agree, but that’s about par for the course for this show.
mxpw: I do wonder what Sarah could do if they did leave the spy life. If Sarah is so worried about not having any skills she could do in the real world, I don’t know why nobody just suggests she go to school.
Frea: Not going to lie:
Frea: I thought for SURE Chuck was going to be like, “You could be my office manager.”
mxpw: Speaking of...
mxpw: I know some people have apparently gotten upset over Chuck speculating on turning CI into a tech company without any care for what Sarah would do, but I would say that I don’t think that actually happened, he was more like just musing out loud and he did so where Sarah would be able to comment and counter if she wanted. I don’t think Chuck was being selfish there.
Frea: I agree with that. The minute Sarah asked what her part in it would be, he turned serious very quickly. He was definitely realizing something.
mxpw: Yeah. Sarah’s insecurities did bug me a bit in the second half, but mostly because I just want to shake Sarah and go “You are awesome and amazing! Why do you constantly think you have nothing to offer beyond being a spy!?” Also, I’m just waiting for some self-realization on her part that being a spy can’t last forever, and it’s taking her fooooooorever to get there. Haha.
Frea: But I kind of know how she feels. I’m also awesome and amazing, but if I had to give up being the MBO, I don’t know what I’d do.
|Amusingly, Zachary Levi manages to get|
his hand up Yvonne's shirt.
Also, it looks like she's crying here.
Guess she really does need that self-confidence.
Frea: She DID lose 800 million dollars.
mxpw: But that was clearly Morgan’s fault. :P
Frea: Morgan can be a blow to anybody’s self-confidence.
mxpw: True, true. Oh well. I’m sure we all know what will happen. Sarah will resist and resist until Chuck wins her over somehow and pulls her forward, just like he’s done for just about every major decision/moment in their relationship since the beginning.
Frea: And what she’s doing to Gertrude Verbanski in return! But I feel like I have to talk about my mixed feelings about Chuck being a great hacker.
mxpw: I think I have an idea about what you’re going to say, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Frea: Okay. Let me gather them. Let’s see... Dr Pepper is awesome, how do they get those ships inside the bottles and... oh right.
Frea: So I love, love, LOVE the fact that Chuck can contribute to the team and be a great hacker and they’ve finally found a niche for him. And I know we’ve seen instances where he’s hacked into things like the Countess and the blast shield doors when Robin Givens was around and the like.
Frea: BUT...two things:
Frea: 1) It’s still too little, too late, honestly. Yes, I will probably always hold this grudge about the Nuclear Winter of Characterization created by Season Three.
Frea: 2) And because of my grudge, his being so great at hacking after being away for awhile? Don’t buy it. It trips into Mary Sue territories for me.
Frea: This is not to say that I didn’t giggle like a lunatic, but the fact that Sarah has been married to Chuck for a couple months, engaged for longer than that, and in his life for four years, and has never seen The Routine? This means it has been a long time since Chuck has done serious hacking like that.
mxpw: #1 doesn’t bother me as much as you, but I do agree with you about #2.
mxpw: I quite enjoyed that the show remembered that Chuck was a nerd first and foremost and that’s what his background was in. I quite enjoyed that he had a rep and that his nickname was the “Piranha”. I found the fact that he drank chardonnay and called it his “Thinking Juice” to be one of the funniest things of the episode. I liked that he could show off and be a bit arrogant, but finally have an acceptable reason to be. But despite loving all the little bits, you’re right that it did ring hollow because they haven’t kept it as a through-thread throughout the series. Sarah had no idea, so like you said, how often could it be? And to be top hacker, you have to stay up-to-date on that kind of stuff and if he’d been out of the game for years? Yeah right.
Frea: But hey, he got them all HDTVs with extended warranties from the Buy More. So it’s all good. It’s not? Here, let me hit the lights.
mxpw: HOWEVER, Sarah calling it cute and that smile she got while she watched his antics, all like “Awwww, my husband is so adorable”, made it just about worthwhile for me. Yes, I guess I’m a sap.
|See? Hackers are d'awwroble.|
mxpw: AND, it totally reminded me of Fates Sarah. :)
Frea: Haha, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I was thinking the same thing! Though I don’t think Fates Chuck uses the headphones. Heh. That’s what many years in a bunker does to you, I guess.
mxpw: I do have to say I really enjoyed the scene in the warehouse, though. It was probably my favorite of the episode. I loved Chuck really only being there to hack the security, doing what he’s best at, while Sarah and Verbanksi kick serious ass, doing what they’re best at, and it was just a really well executed scene. Plus, Sarah’s proud “That’s my man” was just the cherry on top.
Frea: And Gertrude’s confession in the middle of it
mxpw: Oh yeah, and Verbanski’s confession!
Frea: Just had me cracking up like nothing else. I adore you, Carrie-Ann Moss.
mxpw: Haha, yeah.
mxpw: I do have to say I kind of blinked in shock a bit when she said she loved Casey, because I thought it was a little fast, but the whole confession sequence was so well done that it didn’t take me out of the scene but for a second or two. Her just blurting it out, like it had been gnawing its way out of her ever since Sarah brought it up, was very funny.
mxpw: One thing I’ll say for this season, they’ve done a pretty good job of getting Sarah to engage in actual conversations with people. Not only that, but conversations about feelings!
Frea: I thought it was fast, too, honestly. But then I remembered we’re doing a full season in 13 episodes, and I was okay with that. I mean, if they’re up to conjugal visits already, that’s like they’re married already, so it makes sense to me.
Frea: And hear, hear! Sarah’s talking about feelings and there’s not a duck to be found anywhere.
mxpw: Unless you count the promo for the Christmas episode. :P
Frea: I set it up, you knocked it down. Excellent. Duck shippers, unite! Anyway, Sarah’s conversation where she was needling Gertrude was fantastic. Sarah gave as good as she got. And I adored her in every scene this episode. “We’re in a nudist colony? Okay! I’ll strip. You’re just like John Casey, so the best way I can torture you is to talk about feelings? Okay, FEELINGS. Chuck’s being a hacker, so I should shoot things and let him escape from bad guys by hiding behind me? Okay, he’s adorable.”
mxpw: And Gertrude rolling her eyes at every bit of affection between Chuck and Sarah, her grunting and growls, her calling them Ward and June Cleaver, really did make her out to be a female Casey.
Frea: Which I was perfectly fine with. Either she’s got to be his exact opposite or she’s got to really get him and that grunt? That grunt was PERFECT.
mxpw: I thought it was perfect too. Carrie-Ann Moss did an excellent job. I hope she comes back before the end of the season.
|Trinity and Sarah Walker. You'll be frightened AND turned on.|
mxpw: That’s a good point. He has a personal investment beyond Chuck and Sarah in stopping this conspiracy.
mxpw: I have been good.
Frea: All right, let it rip.
mxpw: I want to talk about the nudist colony stuff now.
mxpw: At least some of it!
Frea: Raise your hand if you thought it was dumb! *raises hand*
mxpw: *raises hand*
mxpw: But, we did get to finally see Sarah fight a chick and not get her ass kicked, so it was totally worth it. Heh.
Frea: I know! I was watching with Graceless and I looked at her opponent and was like, “Oh, damn, she’s shorter than Sarah, Sarah’s about to get her ass handed to her.”
mxpw: I kept watching that fight and thinking, “Okay, now is when Sarah gets knocked down and Gertrude saves her. Okay, now. Okay, now. What is going on!? Sarah is winning!?”
mxpw: Also, I couldn’t figure out why Tron chick’s pendant was a razor. Did it mean she used to do a lot of coke?
Frea: I thought she was a banker? Cutting edge loans?
mxpw: I like my reason better. :P
mxpw: It would better explain why she was randomly running a nudist cult.
Frea: True. Let’s go with your explanation, then.
mxpw: I do have to say I thought Chuck getting naked was totally OOC. Haha.
|Yay for short robes!|
mxpw: Sarah we know has no shame or modesty, so that made sense, but Chuck?
mxpw: The dude sleeps next to Sarah Walker every night and yet wears pants to bed.
Frea: I enjoyed the hacker. Colin, or Moon Pie or whatever his name was.
mxpw: I think it was Moon-meadow.
Frea: Ah, yes. Moon Meadow. What a great name.
Frea: I think I’ll refer to every Colin that I know by that name.
mxpw: I thought he was funny. Though he has terrible taste in jelly beans. I never liked those ones that tasted like popcorn.
Frea: Why not? They’re like little popcorn pills!
mxpw: I think they taste funny. I much prefer the Dr. Pepper ones or citrus or fire ones.
Frea: Very good point. The Dr Pepper ones ARE like little Dr Pepper pills. And now I want some. But anyway. I liked that Gertrude and Chuck worked well together. Sure, she was pushy, but usually when they have a strong, domineering woman trying to lord it over Chuck, she has to look idiotic in the end for Chuck to prove himself right (think Robin Givens and Alex Forrest). Here, Gertrude managed to do both (she did hurry along the mission, but she also got the hacker to, um, hack up the chip) without being declawed.
Frea: Declawed by CHUCK, that is. Gertrude and Casey, I was a little more wary about. My first instinct was to be annoyed that they’ve made Gertrude so weak-kneed over Casey that she would give in to his request to go help out Chuck and Sarah. But then I thought about it and if they’re speeding things up this year to condense, it doesn’t bother me as much. Especially since she killed Decker at the end and you could tell the choice was all hers
Frea: All of that aside, I really wish they’d chosen to play it as Sarah and Chuck weren’t gullible, they were just really, really, really over a barrel and hoping for the best.
mxpw: I would like to quickly point out that Alex Forrest was competing against Sarah, and not Chuck. :)
mxpw: But to your greater point, I agree, I liked Gertrude’s interaction with the team. After this episode, I think I can almost guess at how the series will end: Chuck and Sarah will either leave the spy life completely or have a very reduced role in it, and Casey and Gertrude will take over the running of Carmichael Industries/Verbanski Corp.
Frea: Carmiski? Vermichael? There really is no great way to combine those names.
Frea: Maybe they’ll have a third partner buy in and then they can call it the Trinity Corporation. Gertrude can run things.
Frea: BEST. STUNTCASTING. STORYLINE. EVER.
mxpw: Hahaha. That is a brilliant idea.
mxpw: And I appreciated them putting her leather. It was a nice nod to Trinity.
mxpw: But we should talk about the Buy More stuff and then wrap this review up.
Frea: Right. This is really weird, but I’m still loving the Buy More stuff.
Frea: Agreed. 100% agreed.
Frea: I was going to comment earlier that I thought he was well-used and used just enough in the episode.
mxpw: New-Jeff continues to be suitably strange, Lester was actually funny and interesting, and Danny Pudi’s cameo was perfect.
Frea: But then I got distracted by something shiny.
mxpw: Danny Pudi singing “Oh, Canada” in French was a highlight for me, as was Lester freaking out about them finding another HinJew to replace him.
Frea: I screamed. I literally screamed when Shirley popped up.
Frea: It was just this sheer onrush of pure happiness in a I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING AND YAAAAY sort of way
mxpw: I was completely surprised. That was totally unexpected and appreciated.
mxpw: Nice meta humor there.
mxpw: Plus, Casey now actually owes Lester a debt.
Frea: Lester using his Buy More skills to get ahead in prison was something I really appreciated
mxpw: As did I.
Frea: I love the idea that even though Jeff and Lester don’t actually work--or didn’t, I suppose--they are actually very smart. This goes all the way back to Tango, where they were fixing computers blindfolded with noise cancellation headphones.
mxpw: Hahaha. Right. I do think that’s one of the funniest things about them, that if they actually just applied themselves, they might accomplish something.
Frea: It speaks back to one of the greatest themes of this show: people can surprise you.
mxpw: So true.
mxpw: So any final thoughts?
Frea: Pacing felt off.
mxpw: Agreed. Back half was much stronger than front half, I thought.
Frea: Yeah, but that seems to be a habit with this writer, I think. We had the same criticisms about his episodes in Season Four.
mxpw: Yeah, I believe so.
Frea: But final thoughts? I know I came across as really pessimistic, but this was just a strong, solid, enjoyable hour of TV. I kind of forgot that earlier, actually, given the bomb the promo dropped, but while it’s not my favorite episode of Season Five, I liked Hack-Off enough to watch it again. I’m intrigued by all of the things they’ve set up, curious about the Decker storyline for once, and I can’t wait for next week. Granted, I will be bringing my chainsaw and my Dexter shirt, but that’s a different story. Wait, did we ever find out: does wood bleed?
mxpw: The 2x4 shows up in the Christmas episode, Frea, which is the episode after next. :)
Frea: He’ll be in the promo.
Frea: I like to get an early start.
mxpw: True, but then he was in this promo too.
Frea: Yeah, and it was only through my shock and the fact that my chainsaw is now 50 miles away that I haven’t already solved that problem.
mxpw: Should we comment on the issue at all or let it be?
Frea: If we comment, then all anybody will be able to do in the comments is slam Shaw or defend him. Let’s leave it until he’s actually in the episode.
mxpw: Alright, sounds like a good call.
mxpw: My final thoughts are pretty similar to yours. I appreciated Naked Sarah, but that whole sequence was kind of pointless. Unless they wanted us to see how quickly Sarah is willing to take her clothes off. Haha. I think that was the biggest misstep of the episode, and it wasn’t too bad at that. Very solid episode.
Frea: 7.9 Castle Slides!
mxpw: I’ll give it 3.5 Naked Sarahs out of 5.
So what'd you think of the episode? Please try to keep comments about Shaw's return to a minimum and focus on the episode itself. You'll be much happier that way.
* Max and Frea had a bet going. Frea lost. Frea lost hard.