Thursday, December 17, 2015

S2Ep13 Vs The Suburbs -- The Chuck Series Companion

This Episode of the Chuck Series Companion covers Season Two Episode Thirteen of the Television Series Chuck, Chuck Versus the Suburbs - Watch the Episode, Listen to the Show! - Subscribe on iTunes!

S2Ep13 Vs The Suburbs

Chuck Versus the Suburbs

It's Valentine's Day and Chuck and Sarah aren't sure if they should do a fake date. They quickly decide they could be doing other things plus Sarah has lots of paperwork to do. As soon as Morgan wonders what the two lovebirds are up to, they have to pretend to have plans again for the sake of their cover. This wasn't originally planned to be the 13th episode of Season Two, that was Chuck Versus the Best Friend which is now actually Episode 14. Chuck Versus the Best Friend was preempted due to a Presidential speech -- The Network aired Suburbs because it had a Valentine's Day theme -- Kinda. That storyline doesn't last long as Chuck and Sarah are enlisted in a new mission, a mission that requires them to be a married couple and live in the Suburbs! Gasp!

Meanwhile Big Mike's love is on the rocks as him and the Lady Big Mike (I wonder if my Wife would mind if I called her The Lady Jastrom?) are getting a divorce. Poor Mike (Wait! Didn't he sleep with Harry Tang's Wife?). The Buy More gang knew he was acting strange for some reason because Big Mike is actually working for a change and he's making them work too! Jeff thought he might be a Skin-Job (ala Blade Runner and BSG). I love the line where Emmett wonders who crapped in Big Mike's box of chocolates. How frightening is Emmett's wig by the way? I guess Henrietta is into that sort of thing.

So we know that a missing CIA Agent has turned up babbling the word Salamander over and over, he needs to be strapped to a bed and they can't get any answers from him. All they know is that he was undercover in a cul-de-sac in the suburbs called Meadow Branch. When Chuck is packing his clothes Ellie thinks it's great that he and Sarah will have a chance to see how it would work out for them, playing house. Chuck isn't so sure but once he arrives in the neighborhood to the Talking Heads song, Once in a Lifetime you can see the wheels start to turn in his head. He's quickly confronted with the idea of being married and owning a dog no less.

Chuck gets to mingle with the neighbors, Brad played by Andy Richter seems to be the leader, quickly introducing Chuck to the rest of the couples. He is overly friendly and even makes a wife swapping joke, Chuck doesn't know whether to laugh or run away. Jenny McCarthy's character Sylvia notices Chuck hanging back and takes the opportunity to suggest to him that her door is always open. I love how Chuck reacts whenever a beautiful woman comes on to him. He's always fidgety and clumsy. He even tells Sarah, "that woman has a dirty mouth". Casey finds a Fulcrum bug in their house and tracks it to Sylvia's husband who has an incredible amount of power going into his home via some fancy high-bandwidth cable that I definitely want to use to get some 4K Netflix if it really exists.

So it's up to Chuck to head on over to Sylvia's to seduce her and try to gain access to her husband's computer. It's a great scene seeing Chuck be thrown around by the scary cougar. Chuck gains access to the computer only to download something that looks a lot like a red tinted Intersect! When Chuck has to escape in his underwear in front of the rest of the neighbors Sarah slaps him right in the face to save face. General Beckman doesn't like the Intersect being exposed like this so she kicks Chuck off the mission. I can't forget the great moment when Chuck realizes that he could really get into this suburban life, Sarah making him breakfast, handing him a grocery list and kissing him goodbye as he's off to work as we hear I can see clearly now by Johnny Nash -- but it's all a fantasy and things quickly get serious.

Even though Chuck is gone in the guise of his marriage on the break, the couple across the street are Fulcrum and they now know that Chuck downloaded their computer test successfully. It's not long before they have both Casey and Sarah. After Chuck flashes on the grocery list, he rushes off to warn them but it's too late as Brad is there waiting for him. I love how Chuck flashes on all of the neighbors, they are all Fulcrum! It's a great moment. Now Chuck has Fulcrum intel in his head!

Chuck is strapped to a chair A Clockwork Orange style with his eyes pried open, They're going to subject him to their fully operational Fulcrum Intersect to see if his brain can handle the whole thing and Sarah is helpless to stop them. Brad and Sylvia are amused at Chuck's devotion to his fake wife Sarah, Sylvia reminds him that it's not real but Chuck is only concerned with where Sarah is. When they upload their Intersect into Chuck it's a great sequence, it indeed looks like they could be frying poor Chuck's brain! When he snaps out of his stupor he plays along for the Fulcrum agents when Casey who just recently broke his thumb to escape (what a bad ass!) turns the tables on Fulcrum and exposes them all to the deadly Intersect -- In a great nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chuck tells Sarah to close her eyes, not to look. With Fulcrum's  collective brains scrambled, Team Bartowski has won.

Listen to the Podcast Episode: S2Ep13 Vs The Suburbs

There were some great songs used to great effect in this episode from, El General Midi by Monareta, as mentioned before, Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads to Fever by Peggy Lee. My favorite song would have to be Freeze and Explode by Cassettes Won't Listen when Chuck tells Ellie that he and Sarah are just never going to happen.

Again with the reviews? Of course, we have to see what our resident TV Critics thought of this particular episode don't we? Why not. First we have Alan Sepinwall's review and then we have Eric Goldman's, they both seemed to really dig the Suburbs. Then we have another AV Club review.

General Beckman warns Sarah that this is a most dangerous time and they need to protect Chuck and the Intersect more than ever before. Chuck wants to take Sarah back to the Cul-de-sac and pretend some more but Sarah is having none of it. Chuck is totally bummed out when he realizes what Sylvia said was true, it's all a fantasy, it's never going to happen, that's when he tells Ellie that their little trip to the suburbs helped him realize that he and Sarah would never be anything more than they are now. Now, Chuck can't actually tell Ellie why this is, so I think I'd understand if she is more than a little confused.

There's a great bit at the end when we find out that Big Mike's date was a fabulous night of lovemaking (T.M.I.) and we quickly find out that it's Morgan's Mom that he is banging! At least that's how Morgan put it, poor Morgan. Have you ever noticed when things go bad for Chuck, they also seem to go bad for Morgan as well? Sure nothing has really changed between Chuck and Sarah. Chuck has just been given a healthy does of reality, this spy life has a nasty way of preventing people from having real relationships.

                                              Somebody call the Cable Guy?

Well, that's it for this time, I apologize for taking a month off from the Chuck Series Companion and after the holidays I'm hoping to get back at it on a regular basis. I want to thank you for taking the time to read the blog and also for listening to the podcast. I'm still having a blast doing it and I hope that you are along for the long haul, one episode at a time. Podcasting can be rewarding but it can also feel like a vacuum, if you have any feedback about the show or the blog or just want to talk about Chuck, send me some feedback, it would be appreciated. Watch more Chuck!

Until then...

The Jastrom

Saturday, October 17, 2015

S2Ep12 Vs The Third Dimension -- The Chuck Series Companion

Covering Season Two Episode Twelve of the Television Series Chuck, Chuck Versus the Third Dimension - Watch the Episode, Listen to the Show! - Subscribe on iTunes!

S2Ep12 Vs The Third Dimension

Chuck Versus the Third Dimension

February 2nd, 2009. Once upon a Prime Time. Chuck aired the first ever 3D episode of the Show. The previous evening during Superbowl XLIII -- NBC aired a Monsters Vs Aliens commercial in 3D as well as a Sobe Life Water ad. If you kept your free 3D glasses you could watch Chuck in 3D the following night. While I never did find a pair to watch Chuck in 3D, I still enjoyed the episode. I read in several places that the 3D effect was not very effective. I even read that most people removed their glasses during the broadcast (quitters!). Some called it 'just a gimmick' but it didn't matter to me. I wanted to experience the effect for myself but I never did (although I have read that you can find a Season 2 DVD set with the 3D episode intact including glasses but they are very rare -- hear the story of how I finally saw the episode in 3D 'kinda' on the podcast).

From what I can tell it's been a few months since the events of Chuck Vs Santa Claus and Chuck is still mixed up emotionally over what he saw Sarah do. She killed what looked like a surrendering Fulcrum Agent named Mauser. Chuck has been having nightmares, but the dream Chuck has doesn't start out that way. Sarah appears at the foot of his bed, she's dressed rather provocatively. Chuck knows he's dreaming and he also knows that he needs to tell the real Sarah his real feelings. Before he can, Dream Sarah stabs him with a butcher knife and he wakes up screaming like a girl. Well, that's how Devon put it.

The next morning at breakfast, Chuck is on edge, he hasn't been sleeping and Ellie has taken notice. Awesome advises that Chuck needs a day off, bad. When Chuck arrives at the Buy More he finds out quickly that all is not what it seems because the place is jam packed full of people. Morgan informs him that it's Tyler Martin day. Tyler Martin is some Rock Star that all the kids seems to love but Morgan has never heard of him. Lester loves him though and Emmett Milbarge says he's a close personal friend (Yeah, sure Emmett). Before Tyler Martin arrives some guy in a Trench Coat plants an IG-88 Grenade in the Buy More. Luckily Chuck was there to see the whole thing.

I loved the little nods to the 3D effect like the counter ticking down when the bomb would blow. Morgan intercepts Chuck's pass of the grenade to Casey and we get the introduction of new Buy More employee Jimmy Butterman (Jerome Bettis). Using some quick thinking, Casey and Chuck dispose of the bomb. It turns out that the IG-88 Grenade isn't just a reference to the Empire Strikes Back. It's also a military grade explosive (in the Chuck universe). Being that this was an event episode of Chuck in 3D, the Bad Guy had nothing to do with Fulcrum. They needed a Villain that had no backstory for the new viewers that would be tuning in. So instead we have a mystery assassin who wants Tyler Martin dead.

Tyler Martin (Dominic Monaghan) is a hilarious cliche'd Rock Star, he spends most of his time drinking and partying and doing other substances while looking for his next groupie. Sarah easily lures him into the stock room where Casey is waiting to tranq him with his dart/pen shooter. This is a hilarious device that Casey uses multiple times on Tyler throughout the episode and it's even funnier when he finally uses it on a complaining Chuck.

Chuck is meant to babysit Tyler while Casey and Sarah look for the Assassin but in what has already been determined to be a burned-out Chuck, he reluctantly goes off to party with the Rock Star. Chuck looks to be having fun but a little out of his element. He's pretending to be a record label rep when two ladies show up with nefarious intentions towards Tyler. I love the scene where Chuck runs for his life and encounters the same couple from Chuck Vs the Seduction -- Chuck interrupted their romantic night on the balcony but this time he ruins their romantic elevator ride. Too funny.

Earlier at the Buy More, Tyler Martin announced that there was a hidden Golden Ticket in one of his many CD cases in the store that would grant entry backstage to his concert. Leave it to Morgan, Jeff, Lester and even Butterman to start searching right away. When Morgan finds the ticket he decides that the only way to determine who goes with him to the concert is a competition -- Buy More style! My favorite bit involving a urinal cake, this was also the first big Subway plug on the show when Jeff and Butterman race to see who can eat a giant sandwich the fastest.

Listen to the Podcast Episode: S2Ep12 Vs The Third Dimension

When the Team figures out that Tyler has hidden secrets in the tattoos on his back, they create a plan to catch the Assassin. I like the moment where Chuck persuades Tyler to help and at the same time gives Sarah the hint that something is really up with him. Tyler will perform and act as bait to lure his killer out in the open.

This episode was jam packed with lots of music, I mean it's filled to the gills! The music in the opening dream sequence was Clap Your Brains Off! by No Somos Machos Pero Somos Mucho. Then we hear Good Days Bad Days by Kaiser Chiefs when Chuck arrives at the Buy More. Try it Again by The Hives when they are trying to get rid of the IG-88. The Final Countdown by Europe during the Buy More competition although I'm pretty sure it was a cover version of the song. Out at the Pictures by Hot ChipTales of a Thousand Fears by Vienne and Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River. Believe it or not there were even more songs that are heard in the episode which you can find here. I love the several nods to The Shawshank Redemption that we see and hear with inclusion of Duettino Sull'aria by Mozart in the episode. Great stuff.

Alan Sepinwall was not impressed with the 3D effect but he did enjoy the episode as did Eric Goldman in his review. I really enjoyed reading this write-up by Maureen Ryan, her enthusiasm for Chuck was quite infectious. Also be sure and read another one of AV Club's reviews of our favorite show.

When Chuck and Tyler crowd surf their way to safety and Casey and Sarah have apprehended the Assassin we get a hilarious moment where the fans in the crowd realize they don't know who Chuck is, he's certainly not in the band and they promptly drop him to the floor. Poor Chuck. The day is saved and Tyler wants to know where he can get some more of those tasty tranq darts. Finally Sarah is ready to grant Chuck some much needed time off but not before he finally tells her the reason he's been so distant lately. Chuck understands why Sarah did what she did, he just doesn't think he will ever get used to the lengths that her and Casey will go to preserve his safety. They come to an understanding and Casey and Sarah are off on another mission. Chuck is free to do what he wants but he isn't interested in free time, he wants to be with his team on the mission and so he joins them in the Crown Vic and we get one final Back to the Future reference. What a fun episode!

The 3D may have been a gimmick for the network to get some new viewers but the episode brought the goods, it had the silliness of the Buy More and a great guest actor in Dominic Monaghan and we got to see what happens when Chuck parties with a Rock Star. On the Podcast for this episode I had quite a blast digging up the old commercials and promos that aired on NBC during the Superbowl. It was like a history lesson coinciding with an episode of Chuck. I hope that you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did making it. Well, what are you waiting for? Go and watch more Chuck.

Until Then...

The Jastrom

Friday, October 9, 2015

S2Ep11 Vs Santa Claus -- The Chuck Series Companion

This Episode of the Chuck Series Companion covers Season Two Episode Eleven of the Television Series Chuck, Chuck Versus Santa Claus - Watch the Episode, Listen to the Show! - Subscribe on iTunes!

S2Ep11 Vs Santa Claus

Chuck Versus Santa Claus

"You owe me a toe, Bartowski!" This is it, the episode that I had been anticipating when I started the Chuck Series Companion Podcast! Why? Because Chuck Versus Santa Claus is quite possibly my favorite episode of Chuck ever! It's the one that I can't wait to get to when I re-watch season two and it's the one that has everything that I love about Chuck as a series. First of all, I have said it many times now, Chuck does Holiday episodes like no other, be it Halloween or Thanksgiving to Christmas, Chuck rules and this episode is no exception.

It's Christmas time at the Buy More, Big Mike and Emmett have jacked up prices 15% and they are expecting a record day in profits. Another thing that the Chuck series does well and I'm sure you are well aware, comedy. Chuck is a funny show and put an episode in the Buy More for nearly the entire duration and there are bound to be laughs and there are aplenty.

Chuck visits Sarah at the Orange Orange and it's no big surprise to find out that she doesn't 'do' Christmas. Why? Her childhood with her con-man father involved the annual Salvation Army Con-Job. But leave it to Chuck and he quickly convinces her that Christmas at the Bartowski's is full of fun, you get to spend the day in your jammies and watch a marathon of Twilight Zone episodes. Sold!

I love the way this episode builds when we cut to the Buy More, Morgan is bummed that Anna won't speak to him because of his major balk at moving in with her. Jeff, Lester and Anna are watching a high-speed car chase on television. Even Awesome and Ellie visit the store to get some last minute shopping done using Chuck's discount (which they'll need with the prices raised 15% ouch!).

It's not long before the car chase winds up in Burbank which we all know is home of the Buy More and our characters. Jeff, Lester and Anna have made a friendly wager on how this chase will turn out. Anna's wager was that there would be a hostage situation and give the girl a freaking prize because that is exactly what happens! Nathan Edward but call him 'Ned' Rhyerson (Jed Rees) has driven his car right into the Buy More and taken everyone hostage at gunpoint. Bing!

So now we have Christmas, Comedy and Danger! Three things that Chuck does perfectly. Chuck is immediately elected to deal with Ned and handling his demands to the cops played by none other than Sgt Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) from freaking Die Hard!!! What else does Chuck do well at? Film references! We've got a hostage situation in a building and we've got Al Powell who is also Big Mike's Cousin! This episode, my friends is a love letter to one of the greatest action movies of all time. DIE HARD.

In another great moment, Ned accidentally shoots off Casey's toe. Naturally John Casey blames Chuck Bartowski for the incident. Ellie tells John that people get by just fine with nine toes. Jeff agrees as he's been getting by with only eight. Um.

When the hostage negotiator Lt. Mauser arrives and he's played by Michael Rooker, originally I just thought it was great casting but no, no, no. When they cast an actor on Chuck, they do it for a reason and that reason is that Rooker has weight. A presence. He's menacing! And when Chuck flashes on Lt. Mauser and it turns out he's Fulcrum the stakes in what has so far been a fun episode turn into something else. Chuck now has no choice, he must save Ellie from being killed by Ned who is no longer a didn't-mean-to-be-a-bad-guy gun-toting nebbish. He's a Fulcrum agent that will kill Ellie if Mauser orders it.

                                                        "Oh no, he didn't?"

The way the episode fools you into trusting Ned just like Chuck is ingenious. We wanted to believe the guy, In a great sequence, Devon is sick of this hostage situation and he explains to the guys that someone has to step up and take this guy out and it's going to be them. After talking them out of it several times, Chuck gives the go ahead when he thinks that all hope is lost. When the gang goes to take Ned down we hear a brilliant Tim Jones version of the Nut Cracker -- Buy More Style. How great is Morgan hiding in the fake snow like Rambo?

Listen to the Podcast Episode: S2Ep11 Vs Santa Claus

Being Christmas themed, this episode was full of holiday music. If you are like me, then you can't hear Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms without thinking about Lethal Weapon. In another great sequence in an episode full of them, we hear I'll be Home for Christmas by Bing Crosby as the Buy More hostages call home. At the end of the episode we get Christmas and Me are Through by Your Vegas when Chuck doesn't know how he will ever feel about Sarah again. I can't forget to mention the great use of Silent Night when Sarah confronts Mauser in the Tree Lot and Ode to Joy when Big Mike and his cousin Al are reunited.

Alan Sepinwall's review of Santa Claus reminds me that the days of watching Chuck on broadcast television could be particularly brutal. Chuck was to be benched for over two months after Santa Claus aired. Can you imagine? Chuck thinks he saw Sarah kill someone in cold blood and the viewer had to wait MONTHS to see what happened next. Eric Goldman loved Santa Claus and even Maureen Ryan got into the action by reviewing Chuck. Here also, is another review by AV Club, they gave the episode an A- while I gave it an A+. Viewers thoughts will at times drive me crazy. What can I say? I'm a sucker for punishment.

Well guys, this was a fantastic episode of Chuck that I like to think is my All-Time Favorite. I've said many times that I love all episodes of Chuck, but this is the essential Chuck, firing on all storytelling cylinders. We've got a Holiday episode, We've got the comedy of the Buy More. We've got a hostage situation and we get lots of danger. We've got all of the great characters of Chuck in one place. We also have the warmth that Chuck does so well. Before everything goes to hell, Chuck gives Sarah his Mother's charm bracelet as a token of affection. He cares deeply for Sarah and she was genuinely moved by the gesture. She later returns the gesture by eliminating the threat to Chuck's way of life. Mauser. It's too bad that Chuck only saw the part where Mauser was turning himself in only to be shot by Sarah.

Yes folks, this episode had everything and that's why I love it so and when I first watched it, it ensured that Chuck was my favorite show. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and listen to the Chuck Series Companion. This episode is one of the reasons that I wanted to do the podcast in the first place. I needed to scream from the roof tops how much I love it and I'm glad that you are here to hear it. A special thank you goes out to Adam Sexton for joining me on this special episode. Watch more Chuck.

Until then...

The Jastrom

Monday, October 5, 2015