Chuck, Ep. 5.10, “Chuck Versus Bo”: Never say “one last mission”

Chuck Review, Season 5, Episode 10, “Chuck Versus Bo”
Written by Kristin Newman
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
Airs Fridays at 8pm (ET) on NBC

Throughout the tumultuous history of TV and movies, there has been one constant rule. Characters should never talk about taking “one last mission.” Variations on this law include one last score, one last job, or even one last night out with the guys. It’s all bad news. This makes Chuck and Sarah’s decision to take one last spy mission a thorny proposition. They recognize the dire ramifications of this move, but there’s no choice. They must take the chance and go against the conventional wisdom. This pop-culture precedent bodes poorly for their trip to Vail, even if the stakes are worth the risk. The location of a pair of Intersect sunglasses (another one?) is the invaluable prize, and they’re not the only people looking for it.

“Chuck Versus Bo” pulls out all the stops to make viewers forget that it’s been an uneven season. There’s a major guest star, a new criminal mastermind, and plenty of silliness from Jeff and Lester. The story hinges on a video Morgan uncovers from his time as the Intersect with the frosted tips. This discovery sends the Carmichael Industries group to the Colorado ski resort, where they’re surprised to encounter the actual Bo Derek. Of course, they should heed the warning from the tattoo strangely placed inside Morgan’s mouth. The message is very clear – do not trust Bo Derek. Her casting might seem like a stunt, but it actually works out pretty well. The twist of making her a spy is a nice touch, even if she disappears midway through the story. Derek can sleepwalk through this type of role, but she does a nice job tormenting the overmatched Morgan. Without the Intersect, he lacks the confidence to truly match wits with this former bombshell.

The major reveal is the appearance of Nicolas Quinn, heralded in the NBC promos as the series’ last villain. Veteran character actor Angus Macfadyen is solid as the final Big Bad, but he’s not very menacing. He does connect to past enemies like The Ring and Fulcrum and even goes back to Chuck originally receiving the Intersect. Quinn’s actions push Sarah into a corner and force her to make a desperate move and put on the powerful sunglasses. The Intersect has been absent from a good part of this season, but its return wasn’t a major surprise. The shock was it ending up in Sarah’s head. Will her brain be able to handle all that data? This creative decision is refreshing because it puts Sarah at the center of the story. This is likely the real Intersect, which was uniquely suited to Chuck’s brain. It’s a bold move that raises the stakes well beyond the couple’s decision to leave the spy life. Now, both of their lives hang in the balance, which sets up some great tension for next week.

The best part of this episode is the return of consistent laughs throughout the story. Seeing Morgan remember his crazy night while under the bad Intersect’s control is very silly. Strangely, these moments work a lot better than the similar scenes did earlier in the season. At that point, the characters were worried about their friend, so there was less fun to his personality changes. There’s also great comedy from Jeff and Lester’s futile attempts to uncover the truth about what’s happening beneath the Buy More. Drugged by Casey with a Men in Black-like memory device, they awake in the desert after an apparently crazy night in Vegas. Jeff’s too smart to quit that easily, which brings them closer to the truth. Predictably, this also sends them right back to that same spot in the desert. This device could have easily fallen off the rails, but the silly antics from Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay sell the material. Their ski-outfit disguises are perfectly over the top, and this is just the beginning of their bizarre hijinks.

“Chuck Versus Bo” is filled with gags and one of the season’s best-written episodes. Even throwaway moments offer big laughs, and this trend recalls the show’s heyday. Kristin Newman has written five episodes during the past two years, so it’s clear she understands what makes the characters tick. Even predictable moments like Jeff and Lester’s circular investigation works because the timing is right. This season’s inconsistency feels like an afterthought, and even the mediocre villain doesn’t stand out too much. This episode’s positive momentum may be able to carry Chuck through its remaining episodes. Only three remain over the next two weeks, and this success reveals a promise that wasn’t present after last week. Is this just a glitch or a movement towards a strong finale? That question remains a mystery, but the prospects are better after this surprisingly entertaining yarn.

Dan Heaton

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By Dan Heaton

Dan Heaton started writing about movies after taking a high-school film class and realizing it was a lot easier than analyzing high-brow literature. He lives in St. Louis and puts his English and Journalism degrees to good use on his blog, Public Transportation Snob (ptsnob.com), and as a contributor to PopMatters (popmatters.com). His favorite TV shows are Homicide: Life on the Street, Sports Night, Stargate: SG-1, and Firefly, and his favorite movies are City Lights, Casablanca, Goodfellas, and L.A. Story.

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