Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Chuck vs. Santa Claus": Ned? Ned Rhyerson?


Forty-six days (from this very delayed review posting) until Chuck returns from a far too long hiatus through January. Why, oh why NBC do you torture me so? You are leaving us after possibly one of the best episodes of the series to date. And yes, we know Josh Schwartz loves his Christmas (or Chrismukkah) spirit that both Seth Cohen and Chuck Bartowski seem to possess in massive quantities, but really, Mr. Schwartz, you have outdone yourself. Now while I get some tissues to mourn the loss of Chuck for the next month and a half (and to ease my sniffles), you sit back, relax, and click on the link for some spoilers.

Buy More’s winter wonderland really put a smile on my face with the cheery music opening to what seemed to be a “heartwarming” episode of Chuck…for the first half hour at least. And if the Buy More all dolled up in decorations didn’t make you grin, then I’m sure you did at the sight of Morgan in that elf costume as he pleaded, “Do I not look like an adult to you?” I enjoyed seeing the entire Buy More staff decked out in holiday costumes, save Casey and Chuck, from Big Mike’s jolly Santa outfit, to Anna’s shockingly revealing elf costume. And Christmas would not have been complete without Awesome and Ellie making an appearance. Of course, the car would crash into the Buy More directly after Awesome argues that he needs just a little bit more excitement in his life. Gotta love Anna with her initial reaction of “pay up suckers.” You go girl.

As General Beckman gives her report on how to go about this seemingly timid mission, we receive the flawless, “Its an electronics store Major, not Bazra.” Love seeing the General getting some personality in there. I’d also like to point out that by this point in the episode, I totally bought that we were going to be experiencing a “flashless” episode with a comic hostage situation to take us through Christmas. I guess that would make me na├»ve. But really, I can totally see a happy, comic Chuck episode to take us through the holiday season, can’t you? (What we got was of course better than I could have possibly imagined.)

Then we get our formal introduction to Ned. Ned? Ned Rhyerson? From high school? (Love Groundhog Day, and the perfect name choice seeing as our beloved show does not return until…oh look at that—Groundhogs day!) The writers on this show must have the time of their lives coming up with this stuff. I know I would…a girl can dream right? So we now have two secret entrances from Castle into the Buy More, one being the trap door in the home entertainment room, and two, behind the lockers in the Buy More. Wonder what other goodies we’ll get to discover soon. Casey is certainly made very vulnerable in this episode. First his fingers all cut up from gift-wrapping, and then his first major injury in his career, the loss of a toe. Poor Casey.

Almost half way through the episode at this point with no flashes, no major injuries (Casey minus a toe), general Christmas fun, and Ned proving to be a pretty incompetent criminal yet I’m still loving the episode. Chuck provides the necessary “aw” moment as he gets Ned to allow everyone to call their loved ones. First up we get the thumbs up from Devon saying everything is awesome. Then the pure joy in Lester’s face as he calls the love hotline was too perfect to be true. Jeff’s second prison reference of the episode as he calls Prisoner 27318, aka Mom, is followed by yet another revealing moment for Casey, who hence forth shall be known as Johnny Boy. As for the heart of the episode, Sarah’s face as she watches everyone calling their loved ones was enough to break a heart. Props to Yvonne Strahovski; she gets better each and every week. Now my question is, where are these so called cute nerdy boys who give charm bracelets to their girlfriends, fake or not, because I certainly don’t see any. I may be gushing of my love for the Sarah/Chuck romance a bit much but really, Chuck’s face when he says, “I know” in response to Sarah resisting the emotion filled present. Cue the “aw” cards for the audience.

With the emotion in place, it would make perfect sense for Ned to express his only wish is to celebrate Christmas with his family. Who did you think was gonna leave? My money was on Ellie and Awesome, maybe Lester would have tried to pull an Emmet and get out quick. But when Johnny Boy and Sarah were released my spider sense started tingling. Nothing good could come of Chuck’s protectors leaving his side. Gone for less than 10 seconds and Chuck flashes, in a big, scary, Fulcrum filled way. Only a show like this one, with great actors and great writing, can make the transition from light and fluffy to dark and thrilling without missing a beat.

Again, at this point I still bought that Ned was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obviously, I was wrong. However, I still hold the belief that Ned was not Fulcrum but someone enlisted by Fulcrum to cause the ruckus at the Buy More and follow Mauser’s orders at any cost. Did I miss something there, was he revealed as Fulcrum at some point or are we just supposed to assume that he’s an agent? Chuck’s sacrifice of himself for his sister was completely believable. This show has made it clear that Chuck almost always puts the safety of his family and friends before his own which is usually where his mistakes come in. That is part of what makes the show work; Chuck’s heart almost always works before his head, which obviously plays a much larger part in the last few minutes.

“Silent Night” has never been as haunting as it was in the maze of Christmas trees as Chuck, Mauser, and Sarah lurked around the shadows. Here is where we see Chuck’s heart work before more rational thinking again as he turns back to…protect Sarah is my best guess. While he may not have had an exact plan in mind, he only had Sarah’s safety on his mind as he chose to turn around. Unfortunately for him, he returned only in time to see Sarah commit murder. Chuck missed Maseur showing absolutely no mercy as he beat Sarah up, and taunting her as he stated that Fulcrum had won and Chuck would never be safe again. Despite this reasoning, I can still see Chuck being upset by watching Sarah kill in cold blood. Throughout the show, we are aware as an audience that Sarah has killed before for her job. In the pilot episode Chuck’s flash shows us that she has killed, in several flashbacks we have learned that she had to poison or shoot for her own safety, but in the present we have not seen her kill anyone while protecting Chuck. I’m looking at this as a very interesting obstacle for the star-crossed couple to overcome. It provides a more “real” reason to keep them apart than the sole fact that they aren’t allowed to be together as their emotions have clearly been expressed to one another through the past few episodes. The hurdle that this Fulcrum agent brought in for the couple is only made larger as Sarah lies looking directly into Chuck’s eyes with a big smile on her face. Trouble is most definitely in paradise. With the end of Christmas at the Buy More, the show closes with the perfect paralleling of Chuck and Morgan’s lives.

Replay worthy moments:
  • Sarah envying the picture perfect family hanging up in the Orange Orange.
  • Christmas at the Bartowski’s complete with “eggnog, pjs, fake gas fireplace, and that’s right, twilight zone marathons.”
  • The entire Buy More staff pointing at Chuck as in charge.
  • Jeff’s prison rules back in play: “Every man for himself”
  • Sarah’s perfect delivery of “I’m just scared. I’ve never been this close to a gun before.” Priceless
  • The reactions of, well everyone, after Chuck yelled “No!” to letting Sarah go.
    • “Ouch.”
    • “It’s going to be a cold Christmas at the Bartowski’s.”
    • “Oh no he didn’t.”
  • The entire sequence of Awesome’s plan of attack on Ned which deserved much more attention than this but I can only write so much on one episode. To name a few highlights:
    • Jeff and Lester ready to fight with candy canes.
    • Morgan jumping out the snow without Anna seeing.
    • The body slam sandwich of Awesome, Big Mike, and Ned.
Forty-six days isn’t that long right? Right? Let the countdown begin.

6 comments:

mkr said...

I know it's because you haven't seen it (yet), but this episode is loaded with references to Die Hard, including scenes, lines, music, and a guest shot from a character actually in the movie (Al the cop, Big Mike's brother!).

you need to see Die Hard.

Kevin said...

Ditto the above.

thenerdherder said...

I love your post very much!

But I'd like to add one comment . . . To quote:
"Throughout the show, we are aware as an audience that Sarah has killed before for her job. In the pilot episode Chuck’s flash shows us that she has killed, in several flashbacks we have learned that she had to poison or shoot for her own safety, but in the present we have not seen her kill anyone while protecting Chuck."

Sarah has actually already killed while working to protect Chuck . . . Season 2 episode 6 where she killed the rogue CIA agent and season 2 episode 10 where she killed the guys who abducted her dad.

In my opinion, Sarah will do anything in her power to protect the people that she really cares about (which happened to be only two people, one is her dad who is not around, and the other Chuck, who well . . . showed her that there is more to life than just being a spy). She has real non-spy emotions for Chuck, so obviously she will kill any Fulcrum agent who will threaten Chuck's life.

That's all. Sorry for the long post. Can't wait to see the next Chuck episode!

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