Chuck – Chuck Versus The Tooth (S03E16) – Episode review

An episode of Chuck that scored a guest spot from none other than Back To The Future’s Christopher Lloyd? And one in which he played a CIA psychiatrist, meaning he had to be called Doc? Brilliant casting and nice to see Lloyd back on TV again, even if Doc Brown’s trademark flyaway grey hair is a little thinner these days.

Unfortunately, I’ve wandered into Chuck at what people are calling “the bonus episodes”. With the season 3 arc already wrapped up a while ago, these apparently are episodes that were commissioned after the original 13 episode series was written.

What they’re doing so far is giving us a look at Chuck and Sarah as a real couple, and their various struggles to get used to a legitimate relationship. Last week we had Sarah freaking out at the idea of living with Chuck. This week she has trouble telling him she loves him. Fair enough. And there’s an underlying plot by agents of the Ring to capture Chuck and Ellie’s dad and use his expertise…for evil, presumably.

The thing is, somewhere along the line, Chuck has lost its charm. Yvonne Strahovsky is looking a lot more homely this last few episodes, without the usual excuses to get glammed up in figure-hugging dresses. You know, the geek candy stuff that caused a sharp intake of breath. It’s become a lot more “spies at home”, and feels a little tired because of that. I think even some of the characters have become less enthusiastically portrayed, too. Adam Baldwin feels like he’s phoning in his gruff performances as John Casey, and Morgan Grimes – as noted by Anna in this ep – has changed. No longer the slacker, but not quite the charming geek that Chuck was in the first season, Morgan feels a little bit directionless at the moment.

As far as plot goes, Chuck has developed a problem: he’s now dreaming with the aid of the Intersect. But his dreams carry deeper meanings, and he thinks they’re giving him messages. All plausible stuff – if your dreams are your way of dealing with stuff in your waking life, then Chuck is taking all his neural input and the Intersect is processing it at night. That’s a cool idea. What’s not cool is all the shrieking and predictable “Chuck’s gone mad” that ensues. He can’t bring in Casey or Sarah, so he enlists Morgan. However, he flashes when he approaches a would-be assassin and knocks out a fake tooth. Nothing that follows makes sense, other than the fact that the writers wanted Chuck locked up in an Institution for Crazy Former Spies. If Chuck had explained that he’d flashed, surely his team would have accepted that? But instead they had a straightjacket on him before they’d even tested the tooth. Hitfix have a great debunking of this part of the story:

Chuck starts acting strange and starts having semi-plausible flashes? After 51 episodes? Give him the benefit of the doubt. Station two agents outside of the symphony box. Let Chuck go to the symphony and see if he flashes again. And then, when Chuck goes to the symphony and he does, indeed, flash again… LISTEN TO HIM. Since when do we overrule Chuck’s flashes just because a random African ruler says that the man Chuck is flashing on is an esteemed scientist?

Argh, it was all messed up. As was the missed opportunity to do more with the ex-spies with nervous tics.

Elsewhere,TV Squad think it might be time to blow up the Buy More:

Jeffster! got barely any screen time as well, except as the butt of a few jokes. I’m beginning to think that for this series to evolve, the Buy More subplot has to be either radically changed or eliminated. Most likely, that will mean blowing the place up.

I’m kind of in agreement. As we slip toward all the major characters knowing about Chuck’s real job, do we need the front anymore? For me, the show feels like it’s in a transitional phase right now, and it needs to start making some bold moves forward. The Buy More – much as I love those dysfunctional goons – feels like a comfort blanket for the show. But its relevance may have passed. We need a new gimmick.

Quick quotes:

Casey: General, permission to slap Bartowski.

Chuck: Remember, my codename’s Charles Carmichael. Morgan: Yeah. Mine’s Cobra. Chuck: Great, I’m on a mission with Cobra.

Anna: Dissed twice by Morgan Grimes. I can’t believe this is happening.

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