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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The Cubic Z"

Illustration for article titled Chuck: "Chuck Vs. The Cubic Z"
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"Oh, no no no, I found this ring on the ground. Anyways, what were you saying?"
-All it would have taken to clear up tonight's miserable cliffhanger

If Chuck is going to insist on having characters talk out personal drama while on missions, the least the show could do is make the missions interesting and/or dramatic in the slightest. That was not the case tonight, with Chuck phoning in one of the worst episodes since—wow, I guess season one. Wheels were spun, scenarios were manufactured and broadcast a mile away. There were no surprises in "The Cubic Z," and there was barely any humor to act as a chaser.

The tension between Chuck and Sarah is always a shade of the same thing—Chuck is insecure about some facet of their relationship and spends the bulk of the episode trying to achieve closure. It never changes, but the writers have somehow kept it going this long. No complaint here. Tonight, though, the tension sprung from an offhanded comment Chuck makes to Sarah in the previous episode, that Awesome thinks Chuck and Sarah are going to be the next of the Bartowski clan to have children. First of all, that's factual. Assuming Chuck has children ever, there are no other children in the family, so kudos for hitting the nail on the head, Awesome. But even though Chuck is an exaggeration of an insecure person, how insecure is he? The kind of guy who waits so long that a beautiful and nuanced relationship can form with Sarah yet when that's just getting started feels the need to already be thinking about kids? Even by Chuck standards, that's a little nuts, right?

But, whatever. Chuck says it; Sarah is bothered by it. It's going to come up. Enter this episode's main storyline: That big dude from the plane and Nicole Richie are prisoners whose transfer goes awry, and they're taken to Castle to hold until back-up arrives. Big Dude escapes and comes after Richie, who Sarah and Chuck decide to protect because a) she's being sort of nice, b) she and Sarah have a history, however complicated, and c) she apparently has ties to Frost, aka Chuck's mom. Cut to about 30 minutes of Chuck, Sarah, and Richie (whatever her name is) crawling through vents, occasionally interrupted by Richie saying something about Chuck and Sarah's budding relationship, to which Sarah reacts poorly and Chuck is confused. Richie ostensibly gets a kick out of prodding these spies, but is the most horrendous actress you'd never know.

Every once in a while, though, Big Dude is about to come after them and he narrowly misses catching them because a door closes just in time, or they scurry behind some vent, or he gets knocked out for a few seconds. There are never any big preventative measures taken, only little ones that ward him off just long enough so he can come back later and try the same tactic. It's like warding off a slow-moving zombie by pushing him a few feet away. And the whole time Richie is pestering them, pestering them, pestering them.

It's all a big build to show that Sarah and Richie are not alike. Richie dated a nerd but couldn't let her spy life go, so she milked him dry and dumped him. Sarah, I guess, won't do that, though she does want to take it slow. So slow that she puts up with Chuck saying things like, "Yeah slow is good. I don't want to have kids yet. Maybe someday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (but maybe not yet but maybe!)" He's seriously starting to creep me out.


Then, of course, there was that last cliffhanger, as contrived as everything that came before it, even the Buy More segments. I was pumped that at least this season, the Buy More and the spy world would finally collide full-force. There was some crossover tonight, but not until the very end when Big Mike shocked Big Dude and saved the day. The rest of the episode was Buy More at its worst, with nothing that mattered one bit and no funny lines from Jeff, Lester, or anyone. It was Morgan's big test as manager that he control the midnight release of Spy Attack, so of course as a fan of Morgan, I was curious for a bit. Morgan fails, yes, but it's not the fact that he fails that bothered me, but how he fails. He gets a call with 40 minutes to spare from the game distributor, telling him that only six games are shipping to the store. One of the biggest video game releases of the year, and Morgan doesn't check on this beforehand? And who's calling the store at 11:20pm still from their office? There are a million different ways the show could have handled this. Perhaps Morgan could have received a box of games and marveled at how light it was, only to later open it and see there were only six in it. Or, one of the bad guys finds a box full of games and steals it for nefarious purposes. Whatever. Anything would be better than this contrived nonsense.

Given how numbing the episode was, little moments felt even more annoying. Casey having to deal with bad voice recognition software? Maybe at another point it'd have worked, when things get really dramatic and a lot's on the line, but not in this lukewarm plot. Big Mike delivering his speech about how video game nerds should not riot because they got to have real-life conversations for a week waiting in line for a game they're not going to get? Salt on the wound, my friend, both in the world of Chuck and the way the episode was written. Chuck having to shush Morgan by saying "Filter, filter"? That one was fine…it was early enough in the episode.


I apologize if this reads as angry. I really like this show and I'm frustrated at the trend I'm noticing this season. Chuck, truly, has no more tricks up its sleeve, at least not yet. Seasons two and three took the show forward in a big way, and four, so far, is simply treading water. Something big has got to happen soon, and it shouldn't be this crummy fake engagement snafu.

Stray observations:

  • So the government couldn't intervene and get more copies of that game? They can do literally everything else, and not that?