Chuck, “Chuck Versus The Seduction Impossible”

I was angry with last week’s Chuck. For so many reasons that I don’t need to go into again.  I say this because I completely adored this week’s episode, which probably makes me the worst Chuck fan of the week or something.

I think I’ve decided that if Chuck doesn’t want to create sustaining narratives or concern itself with real stakes that can lead to any sense of emotional pay-off, I’m fine with it. I’m still always going to watch this program, that’s not a question. But so often this season the episodes I’ve enjoyed most have been ones that are fairly standalone in their conception that I’ve grown to appreciate the goofier, straight-up fun side of the series more than whatever it tries to offer me when it gets melodramatic and messy. Sometimes things get a little too wacky, but if all the “big” episodes are going to be like last week’s effort, I think I’d rather just watch the team go on a somewhat random mission and let the hilarity ensue.

I honestly haven’t laughed so much at an episode of Chuck as I did at “Chuck Versus The Seduction Impossible” since season two, probably. The last season and a half feels like a blur, but I’m fairly confident in this assertion. In any event, this episode is clearly supposed to serve as a cool down after the first Volkov arc (we all know he’s coming back, folks) and much like last season’s “Chuck Versus The Honeymooners” that means a whole lot of fun setpieces and some healthy banter between Chuck and Sarah. We’re thankfully past all the nonsense with the engagement and the Awesome baby, so now it’s just time to be a family, right? Well, as the teaser suggests, Chuck, Sarah and Casey can’t really deal with just being part of a happy family. They need a mission.

Thankfully, one quickly presents itself with General Beckman lets them know that Roan Montgomery (John Larroquette) is trapped in Morocco. The team quickly gets involved, and shockingly things go a little haywire. They break Roan out of his “prison” (it’s a bed where he’s seducing a criminal mastermind), but lose Casey in the process. Before long, it’s revealed that the sparks between Roan and Beckman are more than just aftershocks of his seduction techniques, as it turns out that back in 1991 after the Berlin Wall fell, the two of them agreed to retire together in 20 years, no matter what was happening. Because of this, Beckman is much more personally invested in the mission than she is normally, which both confuses and annoys Chuck and Sarah.

Roan was a fun character in his one appearance in season two and the deepening of his character here results in yet another fantastic standalone effort. Although Chuck has certainly matured as a spy and as a person since Roan’s first appearance, he’s still not the smoothest guy in the world, so the return of the seduction lessons were just as awesome the second time around. And anytime the series can shed a light on its supporting characters that aren’t Jeff and Lester, I’m a happy man. In this case, seeing Beckman as a dirty blonde in the early 90s was a hilarious bit of character backstory and her irrational emotional connection to the case presented a nice reversal in how things usually go with Chuck or Sarah’s similar feelings. Watching the future Mr. and Mrs. Bartowski complain about Beckman’s emotional investment is just one of those things that Chuck does oh so well.

Moreover, the tiff between the two lovebirds worked fully. Just like in “Chuck Versus The First Fight,” I appreciate it when the issues between them are played out in a more light-hearted way through the mission framework. With the engagement out of the way, now the concern is all about what kind of wedding to have. Chuck in his infinite softy-dom, wants a big family wedding. Sarah wants to elope. But instead of making a MAJOR deal out of this, the episode lets it breathe fairly well in a way that makes Chuck and Sarah feel more like a real couple. It’s nice when Sarah doesn’t fully baby Chuck on the missions and usually when she’s angry at him personally, she doesn’t pull any punches. So her referring to him as the worst spy in the world here isn’t played for dramatics, but instead fully works as a bit of female scorn — which is even funnier coming from Sarah Walker.

One of the things this series does really well is the meddling of other characters in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. Neither of them are particularly good at this relationship stuff, so when Morgan, Casey, Ellie or in this case, Roan, get involved, hilarity usually ensues. Roan tells both of them how to seduce the other into agreeing with their prospective marriage plans and the pay-off to that, with Sarah doing an extremely long and sexy belly dance for Chuck while he stands entranced, is one of the season’s better individual moments.

In the end, Chuck recognizes that Sarah’s desire to elope is actually all about her lack of familial connections and he agrees to track them all down. Thus, we have part of S4.5 storyline, one that I am most certainly looking forward to. Sarah’s past has always been a purposefully unexplored area of the series’ history and it seems time to head that way. And hell, we know how good Chuck is at finding family members. Oh, wait.

Well anyway, “Seduction Impossible” is a fully goofy episode of Chuck that lacks any sense of real stakes, but dammit, that’s much better than an episode of Chuck that tries to trick us into its seriousness while still lacking those kind of stakes. I know we’ll be getting back to building up some arcs pretty soon, particularly with Ellie sending Mary back to the spy world after she’s a bit too suffocating as a grandma, but I’d be willing to watch more episodes like this with a bit of Sarah’s history sprinkled in instead of anything else with Volkov (no offense to Dalton).

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