Saturday, October 17, 2015

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

1 comment:

  1. Ok, let's just get it out of the way up front. Sarah is a knockout in Chuck's dream/nightmare to open the episode. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Yvonne Strahovski is stunning and I may have liked her season 2 look the best (whatever slight differences there might have been in hair, makeup etc), not that she had a bad season. I wonder if it was just happenchance that the writers started the show like this or if it was a plan to try grab the male hetero audience right away as this episode had the big promo buildup you described in the podcast.

    I hadn't noticed Sarah wearing the charm bracelet (kicking myself for missing that). I'm glad you caught it and pointed it out. I also hadn't noticed that the couple in the elevator on their second honeymoon is the same couple Chuck interrupted in S2E2. Nice touch by the show to do that. These keen observations you throw into the podcast are a huge treat.

    I had noticed that the image quality was sharper than other episodes when I first watched this episode and assumed then, incorrectly, that the show had switched to digital recording for its run going forward and was surprised when the subsequent shows didn't maintain that image quality. It wasn't until sometime after watching the episode that I learned that it originally aired in 3D. For an episode that was intended for viewing in 3D, it is striking how little of it feels like it was filmed to emphasize image depth. There's one moment when a knife is thrown at the camera, other than that, maybe a few things held close to the screen, but in close to the camera is somewhat of an ordinary thing on this show, especially for scenes in the Buy More. It never struck on my first watch that it was a 3D episode. (And talking about image quality, Season 1 in particular, while fine, does seem grainier to me when compared to the later seasons.)

    The tranq'ing the rock star is a great running gag in the episode.

    The closing moments between Chuck and Sarah when he lets her know what's bothering him is a solid dramatic scene. Listening to this scene on your podcast reminded me of this: One thing I think has happened with listening to your podcasts is I'm much more tuned into the show's music, in part because of your commentary on it (which I enjoy) but also simply because I am relying on only my hearing when reexperiencing scenes. The Chuck and Sarah theme that plays when the have alone, serious moments is a lovely original piece by Tim Jones. Just hearing it can get the emotions stirring.