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Chuck: "Chuck Versus The Push Mix"

Illustration for article titled Chuck: "Chuck Versus The Push Mix"
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Despite recent complaints I've had with Chuck, the show has garnered more than enough goodwill over the years. That's why "Push Mix"—originally made as a season four finale, if not a series finale—felt so satisfying. It allowed the show, which has been off the rails for a few episodes, to recalibrate itself to its inherent, shall we say, Chuck-iness. It was a brisk, sweetly comic hour of television that brought all its characters to a resonant conclusion. Any clunkiness can be chalked up to residual problems with the season as a whole.

Chief among those problems is the way Chuck thrust Sarah-centric relationship drama to the forefront simply to plow the story ahead. Thankfully, there were literally only two moments in "Push Mix" that felt remotely gratuitous on the Chuck and Sarah front: One was the major smooch when the two reunite on the Contessa; the other comes at the very end, a marriage proposal overshadowed by the whir of a hospital floor waxer. Both moments, even that final one, were dealt with quickly and showed no signs of labor (to say nothing of what was literally happening in the other room).

Chuck's non-spy elements may drive the characters forward, but they've never worked as the focal point of entire plotlines. "Push Mix" was as action-packed and suspense-filled as an episode of Chuck can reasonably be and only punctuated its stand-out moments with personal tidbits. Chuck and Morgan concoct a plan to take down Volkoff that comes in two parts. The first is immediately obvious: Sneak onto the Contessa and hijack the Hydra data. This involves the pair going rogue, using their own bathroom, decked out with black garbage bags on the wall, to interrogate bad guys. They somehow sneak onto the ship wearing wetsuits—in Morgan's case, only a wetsuit—where they run into Sarah and Frost, who quickly join their merry little band and get the deed done while Volkoff snacks on ice cream. But when the computer asks for a voice code, Volkoff and his men capture Frost while the other three escape—plan foiled.

Sort of. Chuck can pull off third-act surprises when it sets its mind (and its best writers) to it, and "Push Mix" expertly weaves a cliffhanger involving every major character, solved by Chuck's secret second part of the plan. Under the guise of Orion, Chuck lures Volkoff to the abandoned cabin in the woods, where he holds Volkoff at gunpoint. Volkoff escapes and warns Chuck that, actually, it's too late; Chuck's actions have cost his friends their lives. A goon finishes an incapacitated Casey off with a pillow, and is headed into Ellie's delivery room to finish the deed. Frost is still held captive deep inside the Contessa. Then, suddenly, the tables turn. Chuck's friends escape, he records Volkoff's voice for the passcode (in a neat homage to Sneakers), and Beckman swoops in with an entire army to take Volkoff into custody. The trick to a satisfying episode of Chuck is to get the whole gang involved.

This means Jeff and Lester too, who have been squandered on the sidelines for most of season four. It's only the memory of their past foibles that keeps me interested in these guys. They've done little this season of merit, and I gotta admit that the thought of them performing another song as Jeffster! was making me weary right from the get-go. It didn't feel like the writing had merited the characters enough of a reason to shoehorn themselves into this already jam-packed episode. I mean, don't get me wrong: Watching the two dance around to "Push It" wearing strikingly accurate jackets was a delight. It's just disappointing that the season requires the Buy More be a larger part of the story, and all we have to show for it are a few scattered Jeffster performances and a couple gratuitous Greta shots.

There were plenty of schmaltzy moments in "Push Mix," some due to writing and some due to increasingly shoddy-looking special effects (though that spider scanner thing wasn't too bad). Yet the episode had a lot of heart, something Chuck has always been known for. It just goes to show that a Chuck-Sarah marriage proposal to end an episode is a touching, powerful way to wrap up an hour, a season, a series even. It was refreshing that the same sentiment didn't saturate the rest of the action. Chuck is going to have to majorly snap into action when it returns, having provided so much of a conclusion in the middle of the season. It's going to be a major test of the show's potential for longevity—where to go when the obvious roads have already been closed. As long as someone's turning placenta into vitamins, though, there's hope.


Stray observations:

  • In the future, I guess all computers will have iPhone-like controls.
  • "Woodcomb womb."
  • Frost saying she thinks of Orion when she's with Volkoff. Linda Hamilton plays cold-hearted bitch well.