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Chucking the Summer Away: The Chuck Versus the Truth recap

July
21

Some avid Chuck fans might complain that Chuck and Sarah faced too many relationship obstacles for too long.

Not me, though. I always felt like the writers justified the distance between them, even if they have tantalized us with a few uncomfortable near misses. I never felt like they resorted to cheap plot devices to keep them apart (ahem like Jim and Pam on The Office). Then again, one person’s plausible story development might be another’s plot device.

Still, “Chuck Versus the Truth” marked the first time I found myself somewhat exasperated at the way events transpired to prevent Chuck and Sarah from connecting on a deeper level. And even then, it’s a bit of a nitpick in that I can — and intend to — list several reasons why this was a great episode for them as individuals and as a possible couple.

The nitpick in question comes almost at the very end, where Sarah has already told Chuck they have no realistic chance of ever being together just before she takes the antidote to the truth serum/poison. It’s the moment, a few scenes later, when Casey calls her that irked me

Casey: I meant to ask you, when you were affected did you compromise yourself?

Sarah: No. If I hadn’t been trained to withstand pentathol, I might have.

Ouch! She might have? Talk about a tease! It wasn’t completely contrived, but it felt too much like a dramatic bait and switch, particularly after the let-down of the earlier scene. Chuck was so crushed, and we had no reason but to accept that she was speaking the truth.

I didn’t hate the eventual turnabout, because it left us with a glimmer of hope that she held real feelings for Chuck. But I didn’t love it, either. What did I love? Every other thing about this episode.

As with the prior week’s “Chuck Versus the Alma Mater,” the bad guy in this one doesn’t get a lot of background. He’s an expert with poisons and antidotes who makes a living selling secrets to even bigger bad guys. Oh, and he’s a former gymnast who may or may not have height issues. And he’s on the trail of a chip containing nuclear access codes.

The theme of the episode is Chuck’s grappling with his ever-colliding worlds, but in this case the collision was not Intersect-related. One of Poison Guy’s victims stumbles outside the sushi joint where the Bartowski siblings are on a double date. Ellie, being a doctor, rushes to his aid and before long Chuck flashes on his ID and realizes his sis is in harm’s way.

Throw in his relationship confusion as he contends with an obviously jealous Sarah and an obviously cutie-licious sandwich girl named Lu (Rachel Bilson in one of the show’s best guest stints), and Chuck’s a guy with problems.

With Ellie at the ER, Chuck, Sarah and Awesome return home where Awesome reassures him that Ellie is a doctor and it’s what she does. He doesn’t know the danger she’s in, but he makes a great point we might otherwise forget at times: He and Ellie are pretty awesome in their own non-spy ways.

Then Awesome, who aready turned up the sexual tension with seven degrees of inappropriateness over dinner, gives Chuck a sexual pep talk. Yeah, it’s quotable.

Awesome: Listen, I know it’s been a while since you’ve taken you’re uh, your bike out for a ride, you know? But it is time you oil up that rusty chain, hop on that seat and start pedaling away bro. You never forget how to ride, you know. Lock it out. Come on.

Sarah hears everything, naturally. I absolutely loved her nonchalant head turn and coffee sip after she proposes she and Chuck make love. Subtle awesomeness.

And of course Chuck misreads it and preps his bedroom for some happy fun time. First Sarah pours cold water on his plans by reminding him it’s only a cover. Then she heats things back up with her bedroom attire. Chuck’s right to be confused.

Chuck: What? You give me crap about lighting some candles, and you come in wearing that?

Sarah: What? This? This is part of my cover.

Chuck: Well it doesn’t cover a thing.

Sarah: And what if Ellie or Awesome were too walk in. This is exactly what a girlfriend would wear to seduce her boyfriend. I am just being professional.

Chuck: Yeah, the world’s oldest profession.

Oof. Great line, but what a jerky thing to say.

Anyway, a lot of detail was packed into a little bit of time in the scenes just before that one as we cut back and forth from Chuck, Casey and Sarah at the morgue, to Ellie being questioned by Poison Guy in a cop’s uniform. Just as Sarah removes the tracking device/poison patch from the victim, Poison Guy plants the same behind Ellie’s ear.

Uh, Ellie, cops don’t usually ask witnesses to mug for the camera.

The poison has some side effects, and for Ellie that means an utter transformation of character. She becomes kind of a witch, but a funny one. She makes great points about bike shorts and the mediocrity of everything always being awesome. Still, it was weird that Chuck would say he and Sarah are starting to sound the same, since he and Sarah are not in a real relationship and the Awesomes never really fight.

Still, it’s a moment for him to learn the ground rules, and the ground rules with Sarah don’t include dating.

Luckily, Casey is actually working, unlike everyone else, and he picks up on the signal interference from the bad guy, who’s lurking in the bushes outside.

By the time Casey makes his way inside, we’ve seen the incredible awkwardness of Ellie crashing in on Chuck and Sarah. Just wow, particularly her gesture toward Sarah physical, uh, assets. And then she passes out and they realized she’d been poisoned. Talk about a mood-killer.

What can they do? They can’t trade nuclear codes just to save Ellie, right? Sure they can. Even Casey has to tip his hat to Chuck’s gambit of luring Poison Guy into the open. I call this a milestone moment for Chuck. He’s not just struggling with colliding worlds, he’s stepping up and taking action.

But just as it works, and Poison Guy arrives, Chuck finds the sought-after chip in the pocket of Ellie’s lucky sweater. And in classic klutz fashion, he crashes in on a standoff between Poison Guy and Casey and Sarah, resulting in them all being hit with the poison.

The ensuing chase had the brilliant moment of Casey stealing a guy’s crutch to throw at the bad guy, saving just one dose of antidote. Chuck can’t even lie about his intention to give it to Ellie, and Casey can only threaten to shoot him if he does.

If Chuck had a blog, this was a pretty good day for it.

Things really slow down when he, Sarah and Casey become contemplative. Not too contemplative for Chuck to miss the bad guy’s tracking device, which prompts a flash that leads them right to his lair. (He’s a bad guy; gotta call it a lair, right?)

In the end, they get the antidote and catch the bad guy. What’s really important, though, is how things shake out with Sandwich Girl.

Chuck saved the day with her broken phone, sparking a love connection even Morgan can’t miss. Not sure I agree her hair is like licorice, but mmmkay.

Lu loves her nana, has a mouth like a trucker and makes the world’s best sandwiches, possibly making her the perfect woman. This is hardly lost on Sarah who is visibly jealous throughout the episode. It’s not a likable trait.

Lu really likes Chuck, but she can’t be bothered with a big fat stupid jackass who would cheat on his girlfriend. Can’t really blame her for that.

So in the end, having had his hopes of a future with Sarah stomped on, he shows up at the Wienerlicious and you’re just sure he’s going to make his move. Sarah does too. But his move is to “break up” and go for sandwich girl. If he’s stepping up as a spy, he’s stepping up more as a man. Go Chuck!

The “C” story in this episode is that of Harry and the Lady Tang. I’d swear it could have carried an episode by itself. OK, maybe not, but it was epic in its own right. The Tang’s anniversary approaches and Big Mike puts Morgan, a very busy man-boy, to work helping the Lady buy Harry a gift.

But through some strange confluence of circumstances not to be questioned, Jeff and Lester capture video footage of the Lady and Morgan in a compromising embrace. This is hardly a hit with Harry.

In a fit of bloodlust, he barges into the home theater room and is greeted by Casey and Sarah, guns drawn.

In an awesome twist, Casey convinces him that his country needs him. In Hawaii. As a, well, I can’t give it a name. And just when you think good things happen to bad people, Big Mike drops the biggest bombshell, to the son of his future paramour, no less. He and Mrs. T. have been diddling for six months.

He will forever dream about the Lady Tang. Seriously, how’d the writers get away with that?

Odds and ends…

I love the Weinerlicious dude’s commentary on discovering Chuck and Sarah in the closet: “Hmm, girl on top.”

Why did Chuck shout out Ellie’s full name when she rushes to the guy’s aid on the sidewalk? No, he didn’t know Poison Guy was lurking nearby. Still, what a spy.

At the morgue, why are Chuck and Sarah such apparently good forensic investigators?

Chuck’s truthful ramblings on the way to Poison Guy’s lair: “God you’re pretty. Casey, your jaw was chiseled by Michelangelo himself.” Awesome.

Was the scene where Poison Guy nearly convinces Sarah, Casey and Chuck to take the phony antidote some kind of “Princess Bride” reference? It’s what it brought to mind for me, anyway.

Sarah’s shoot-the-bad-guy-in-the-knee moment was emotionally magnificent.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 8:27 pm by Brian Howard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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