Chuck, “Chuck Versus the Suitcase”

Though I enjoyed last week’s Chuck premiere, there was some discussion Twitter about the series’ storytelling desires. After the premiere, Daniel Walters wrote a nice piece about what he’d do to improve the series, particularly when it comes to raised stakes and less formulaic cases that involve Chuck and Sarah infiltrating a party. I can’t disagree with those points, because I do think the series has some issues with getting out of a certain rut. Chuck is a much smaller series than it could be, but I do like that most of the reveals are set in some sort of character base. However, while the S4 premiere could be read in the way that I did (meaning it’s better to speed through the possible drama to reset the series in a more fun arena), I can also buy into some critics’ thoughts that it was a simplistic, poorly-paced episode.

I guess, like House, I know what Chuck is now. It’s fine with being a low-stakes fun actioneer with little or no consequences for its characters or the world. I think all the other critics know that too, but I guess I’m just more okay with it. This is certainly the final season, and if I get 13 episodes of Chuck, Sarah, Casey and Morgan being goofy, I’m good. Critics on the other side of the fence have their rights, though. I’m also wondering if the disappointed feelings stem from the fact that we all put so much effort into saving the series after the excellent end to season two and really, it hasn’t been as good ever since. I think people are frustrated, and again, they have the right to be. I’m slightly disappointed, and was so more in S3, but now I’m over it and am ready to just enjoy the fun parts of Chuck.

Thankfully, “Chuck Versus the Suitcase” is a tremendously fun episode that uses a small drama between Chuck and Sarah to its advantage. Again, if the series is going to focus on its romantic entanglements first and foremost, this is the best way to do so. Chuck saying something stupid about Sarah’s inability to settle down leads to a number of great moments, but also allows the series to handle a real issue between them with relative ease instead of dragging it out over multiple episodes. And because the series has already plotted out the fact that Sarah isn’t comfortable with staying put, it makes sense that it’s an issue in the first place.

Meanwhile, the mission created a number of fun bits despite starting with the “Chuck and Sarah infiltrate a party” gimmick. Anytime Yvonne Strahovski gets to be funny as she does here in a number of small jealous Sarah bits, it’s a good episode of Chuck.

In other Chuck news, “Suitcase” smartly reintroduces Jeff, Lester and the rest of the old Buy More idiots by having Morgan realize that the CIA-operated Buy More is just too efficient and too awesome. Again, this is another instance of the series not taking a risk and instead coming right back to the same old settings and character positions it had before, but kudos for not making that retread look to strenuous in the process.

Finally, Ellie and Awesome deal with their new baby news in the best ways they know how: Awesome flips out and buys lots and lots of gadgets that can help Ellie sleep and she internalizes the problems and worries about whether or not she can be a mother without her own mother in silent. Though I’m not sure I buy Ellie feeling that upset over her mother since she has done so much on her own, I can go with it since there’s a pay-off coming in the future once Mama Bartowski shows up.

Chuck is sometimes worth writing thousands of words about, and while “Suitcase” is not one of those episodes, it is a fun, enjoyable hour of television that fits right into the kind of Chuck I like best.


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