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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chuck: “Chuck Versus The Kept Man”

Illustration for article titled Chuck: “Chuck Versus The Kept Man”
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In talking with another critic about the current state of Chuck, we both simultaneously compared this final run of episodes to the prolonged end to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings cinematic trilogy. In this configuration, the final defeat of Daniel Shaw was akin to Sauron’s defeat at Mount Doom, a climactic moment that happened to come at the 90% mark of the overall piece of pop culture. The “big” stuff, so to speak, is over, with all that’s left to do is provide certain characters with some grace notes as we send them off into the small-screen ether.

All of this is a way to say that a lot of the momentum around the show is all but gone at this point, which leaves us with a few extra hours to hang out with these people until NBC burns off the final four hours over the next three weeks. Sure, things will go sour, and danger will rear its ugly head, and important decisions will have to be made. But what’s important in episodes such as “Chuck Versus the Kept Man” is positioning someone like John Casey for life after the show ends. The show needs to leave us with a sense of what these people want to do, so we can easily imagine what such a life might be like even without a sixth season of this show.

“Kept Man” reintroduced Carrie-Anne Moss’ Gertrude Verbanski into the mix, returning a few episodes after Decker’s death during which she fled both the country and the Chuck payroll. With the Decker/Shaw shenanigans over, Verbanski is free to return to the United States without fear of a possible death penalty greeting her at Verbanski Corp HQ. She has a mission for John Casey and the rest of the group, although it’s unclear to them whether the mission concerns an actual arms deal or the lethal weapon inside of Casey’s pants. Going into the specifics of the mission is to miss the point of Chuck (something about special guns that prevent friendly fire via the power of technology). What this episode was really about was setting all three members of Carmichael Industries up for some fairly major emotional transformations.

In the case of Casey, it’s about getting him to the point where he’s comfortable actually having someone in his life that he cares about in more than his professional life. We’ve seen him grow in admiration and respect for Chuck, Sarah, and even Morgan. And he certainly has unabashed love for Alex. But there’s really been no place for someone to be by his side as a partner in life, not simply a partner in the field. At first, Verbanski is overly aggressive in her “courtship” of Casey, buying him deep v-neck cashmere sweaters and all but sexually molesting him during their recon in a Miami. Another show might have played up the gender politics associated with their interactions tonight, but it’s not about “masculinity” for Casey so much as simple loss of control. Here’s a man that’s always had a single person to answer to at the end of the day, and he’s unclear if there’s room for another.

When it comes to Chuck and Sarah, it’s all about the possibility of them having children together. Do they want them, and how would that factor into their professional lives? They have already shed the CIA at this point in order to reduce the number of secrets. (Don’t ask me why doing their work in the private industries reduces the number of lies. I have no idea. STOP JUDGING ME.) But a possible unplanned pregnancy stops them both in their tracks. They stop at different times: Sarah recognizes the possibility about a week before Chuck does, mostly because the plot demanded that he be an ass writing manifestos that Barney the Dinosaur would find too corny in lieu of noticing that his smoking hot wife is sipping water instead of mojitos poolside.

Chuck isn’t a show in which any of these three people won’t find happiness, so there’s a measure of “checking off the boxes” to these final episodes. Chuck and Sarah will have eight children, they will all be beautiful, and they will all be ninjas. Casey will continue to grunt his way into his eighties, smoking cigars the entire time without the chance of lung cancer ever entering the picture. Their biggest worry right now? Jeffster locating Castle, in the C plot that suddenly turned into the A plot in the show’s final moments. I’ll reserve judgment on this development when I see how Chuck plans to pay this off, but it’s not like Jeffster will suddenly sleep with the fishes. Stumbling upon Carmichael Industries is like stumbling upon Chuck’s secret, albeit well-funded, blog. Since dissolving ties with the CIA, Chuck and company essentially run a private company under another private company. Did Chuck need to tie the Buy More into the spy world in this final season? Probably not. It’s better than having NO connection between the two worlds, since the show couldn’t bear to leave the store behind even though it had been literally seasons since its presence was justified. But it would have been nice to see Jeffster try and sniff out the odd happenings at the Buy More from the start of Jeff’s sobriety, not as a five-minute investigation that would have humbled Sherlock Holmes.


But that’s talking about Chuck as if it’s a show interested in long-term plotting like that. We’re in the home stretch, and as such I am generous albeit emotionally removed from the proceedings at this point. Through no fault of its own, the show has had to write episode after episode as if it might be the last one to air. Once Chuck defeated Shaw in the Buy More two weeks ago, the show ended for me. Everything else is just gravy. It’s delicious, albeit inconsequential, gravy at this point. But I’m sure I’ll miss the taste of it come February all the same.

Random observations…

  • What do Alex and Casey watch on movie night? Downton Abbey. So, be sure to look out for Bates getting the Intersect when Series 2 premieres on PBS this Sunday.
  • A more subtle, and probably completely unintentional, link to another show: Jeff’s big board connecting all the dots about Chuck’s secret spy life would have made Carrie Mathison proud over on Homeland.
  • Things I’ll Miss About Chuck, Volume 87: Sarah. Slo-mo. Bikini. I’m a professional and all. But I’m also human.
  • OF COURSE Awesome owns a white tuxedo.
  • Lester’s disguise while “undercover” is the stuff scarring nightmares are made of.
  • “I gotta say, I’m groovin’ on that deep V, Casey!”
  • “Everything. It’s all wrong.”
  • “If you use the word 'care', I’m going to take this glass, shove it down your throat, and punch you in the stomach so it shatters.”
  • “A peace sign? Is that an option?”