I’ll give the writers and producers of this season of ‘Chuck’ one thing: They seem to be at least trying to entertain the show’s fans. They’ve brought in fun guest stars, brought back fan-favorite characters, and have thrown in plenty of silliness that should make for a good time. Unfortunately, trying does not necessarily mean succeeding, and last week’s Christmas-themed episode is another uneven, ungainly mess.
It’s Christmastime in ‘Chuck vs. the Santa Suit’, and the Buy More has been overrun with shoppers returning computers in a panic about the much-publicized Omen virus. For what it’s worth, the virus seems to be much ado about nothing. All the computers, smartphones and electronic gizmos in the world continue to work just fine – except, however, for the computer-controlled locks on the cell doors at the maximum security prison holding one very dangerous man. Yes, as teased relentlessly in all the network promos, this episode features the return of Brandon Routh as the rogue and Intersect-enabled spy Daniel Shaw.
As we last saw him, Shaw had been defeated by Chuck in a big face-off at the Buy More, and arrested. Now he’s out of prison and looking for revenge. He has in fact orchestrated the Omen virus threat for one purpose – to hack into all the government’s top secret servers and download all of the information in them into his Intersect, thus making him the most dangerous man in the world.
You know, I like Brandon Routh. I feel like he took a lot of crap for the stinkfest that was ‘Superman Returns’, but it was never his fault that the movie sucked so badly. He was a good addition to this show when he first joined, and I think he makes a fun villain. However, I’ve never bought into his instant turn from loyal government agent into raging psychopath all because he learned that Sarah, in her first assignment for the CIA, assassinated his wife. It was too radical a personality shift, and too convenient a plot device.
Anyway, in no time at all, Shaw breaks into Castle, captures Sarah and Casey, and blackmails Chuck into stealing something called the “Macau Device” from the CIA. To do this, Chuck gets a little help from General Beckman, who dresses him up in a Santa suit and sneaks him into the CIA’s Christmas party. It’s funny (funny strange, not funny ha-ha) that no one at the CIA seems overly concerned about the Omen virus. They’re all too busy getting boozed up to care. When Chuck and Beckman almost get caught stealing the device, Beckman puts on a show of making out with Santa, as if they’d just snuck off to a locked office for a snog. This is marginally funny (funny ha-ha, not funny strange).
In a side story, Morgan enlists the help of Jeff and Lester, who turn out to be super computer hackers (isn’t everyone on the show these days?) to reverse-engineer the Omen virus.
Chuck then gets Morgan to evacuate the Buy More so that he (now Intersect-less) and Shaw (Intersect-powered) can have a rematch. Ah, but in a totally obvious plot twist that anyone with a functioning brain cell can see coming, Chuck reveals that he hacked into the Macau Device and loaded it with the Omen virus, so that it would de-Intersect Shaw when he thought he was getting a firmware update. They fight for a bit, using only their natural skills and training. Chuck does a pretty good job handling himself, but Shaw eventually overtakes him – until Ellie sneaks up from behind to bop him on the head with a frying pan. Meanwhile, Morgan sneaks downstairs to Castle to rescue Sarah and Casey. General Beckman then offers them all new jobs with the CIA if they want them.
For a final twist, Shaw convinces Sarah to visit him in prison, where he asks her, “Does Chuck know about the baby?” I guess we’re supposed to believe that Sarah had a secret baby with Shaw that she never told anyone about – which seems totally ridiculous, even for this show.
Maybe I’m just getting tired of ‘Chuck’. I suppose that this episode really isn’t much worse than any other from the last couple of seasons. The show has always been sloppy, but it seems much more pronounced now and has really been grating on my nerves lately. The storylines hardly even pretend to make any logical sense anymore, and I don’t buy the plot twists at all. The series ran its course a while back (Shaw’s last appearance in the Season 3 finale would have made an excellent stopping point), and I’m ready to see it end. With only a handful more episodes left, of course I’ll see it through. But at this point, it feels more like an obligation than something I look forward to.
Oh, and remember how earlier this year, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt promised that the network would tone down the aggressive product placement in its shows? So much for that. This episode has several obnoxious scenes where the Jeff and Lester characters’ obsession with Subway foot-long sandwiches has been made a critical plot point.