The good news: Last week’s episode of ‘Chuck’ was a decided improvement over the previous sloppy episode. The bad news: I still don’t buy the new storyline that looks like it’s going to dominate this half of the season.
In ‘Chuck vs. the Gobbler’, Sarah is off on her undercover assignment, taking jobs as a rogue agent in order to attract Alexei Volkoff’s attention. As all the ads for the episode prominently teased, Sarah has changed her hair color to black to signify that she’s a bad girl now or something. Everyone seems to be bowled over by her hotness in the new look. When Chuck finally sees it, he tells her: “It’s kind of like I’m cheating on you with you.” Personally, I still prefer her as a blonde. The dark hair looks too much like a bad nylon wig – which it probably is. (The leather catsuit is nice, though.)
The ploy works. Sarah scores a meeting with Volkoff (Timothy Dalton), who’s naturally skeptical about why she’d suddenly switch sides. Sarah feeds him a story about wanting to build a real future for her and Chuck. As a test, Volkoff assigns her a mission to break his chief henchman, Yuri “The Gobbler,” out of prison. He’s called “The Gobbler” because he likes to eat his victims.
You’d think that the best way for Sarah to prove her loyalty would be to, you know, actually do the mission herself. Instead, she enlists the help of Chuck, Casey, and even Morgan. Chuck is sent undercover in the prison, and immediately picks a fight with the toughest guy there, as if trying to prove his dominance and badassery. Naturally, the target is Yuri. Meanwhile, Casey and Morgan pose as guards in order to distract the real guards from the fight. Using the Intersect, Chuck manages to subdue Yuri as Sarah not-so-subtly sneaks in to help him get the big lug out of the prison. The reaction of the other prisoners to Sarah (she frightens them off with her ass-kickingness) is patently stupid.
Back at Volkoff Industries, Alexei congratulates Sarah on a job well done, and then promptly kills Yuri for his incompetence. It turns out that one of Yuri’s eyes was fake, and hid the only copy of a data chip with details on the entire Hydra organization. Chuck’s mom, Mary (Linda Hamilton), had been searching for this chip for years. Volkoff downloads the data to another secure server and destroys the chip.
As a next test, Volkoff orders Sarah to kill Casey. He also captures Chuck to make him watch her do it. Sarah and Casey stage a big fight in an empty office building, from which Sarah tosses him out a window. He’s supposed to fall onto a scaffolding below, but bounces off it and falls the rest of the way to the ground. This leaves Casey in a coma.
As things wrap up, it looks like Sarah’s going to be undercover for much longer than Chuck would like. She worries that this assignment is morally compromising her, and that Mary is already too far gone to see what she’s become.
Interspersed with all this is a lighter subplot in which Ellie and Awesome can’t settle on a name for their impending baby. Sick of Awesome’s indecision, Ellie informs him that the daughter will be named Grunka. Awesome hatches a plan to use Morgan and the Buy More staff to trick Ellie into dropping the name, but she sees right through their shenanigans. Eventually, the couple agrees to name the girl Clara, whereupon Ellie informs Awesome that “Grunka” was really the name of their kitchen utensil set from Ikea.
Overall, ‘Chuck vs. the Gobbler’ is a solid episode. I like that Sarah is worried that she’s turning to the dark side. However, Volkoff buys into her rogue agent act far too quickly and easily. Everything about the prison breakout is just ridiculous. It feels like the show’s producers didn’t really expect to get picked up for another full season, and are trying to haphazardly throw together a new story arc by the seat of their pants.