Some weeks, ‘Chuck’ really hits the mark with its mixture of nerdy humor, action adventure, and relationship drama. I’d argue that the Charlie’s Angels’ episode‘ from a couple weeks ago nailed the formula just about perfectly. Other weeks, we get episodes like ‘Chuck vs. the Masquerade’, which sounds in theory to have a great concept, but has some of the sloppiest execution of the show’s run.
The episode opens with a Russian assassin named Boris hunting down and executing (in shockingly grisly fashion for this series) all of Alexei Volkoff’s top lieutenants. He’s looking for something called “the key,” which his victims claim to have no knowledge of.
Back in Burbank, it’s Valentine’s Day. (Yet NBC aired this episode a week late for some reason.) Chuck and Sarah have romantic plans that involve Sarah dressing in some amazing angel-themed lingerie. Unfortunately, they have to share the apartment with Morgan and Alex, who are playing a weird blindfolded game in the living room that can only be described as tantric paddy cake. Forced slapstick hijinks ensure as the two couples interrupt each others’ evening.
Soon enough, Team Bartowski is called up to infiltrate a high society masquerade party in England. This of course leads to Chuck taking a number of unnecessary pot-shots at ‘Eyes Wide Shut‘, as if there were some general worldwide consensus that it’s a terrible movie – which there isn’t, because it’s not. The party is being hosted by a socialite named Vivian (Lauren Cohan), who’s Volkoff’s most closely-guarded secret. Both the CIA and Boris assume that Vivian is Volkoff’s chosen successor. Really, she’s his daughter, who grew up sheltered from any knowledge of his criminal activities. She has no idea what the key is either, but Boris isn’t convinced.
The episode has a strange, nonsensical action scene. Boris corners Chuck and Vivian in a horse stable, and then suddenly they’re driving away with Sarah standing through the car’s sunroof shooting at Boris. Where this car came from, I have no idea. I feel like a lot of important continuity footage got lost in the editing.
Chuck and Sarah hatch a scheme wherein Sarah will impersonate Vivian to lure Boris into a trap. This culminates in another badly-edited action scene – a horse chase through Vivian’s estate. Sarah falls off her horse and gets knocked unconscious. Casey is forced to single-handedly take out a squad of assassins to protect her. Chuck does gymnastics off a tree branch, and Vivian winds up killing Boris herself.
Vivian thanks the team for saving her. Then she makes her way to her father’s abandoned office, where she discovers that a necklace he gave her is the key that activates a computer network. No surprise to the audience, the episode ends with the implication that Vivian (who’s been complaining the whole episode about having no purpose in life) is going to take over Volkoff’s empire.
Like most ‘Chuck’ episodes, this one has a few subplots. In one, Robin Givens (Mike Tyson’s ex, also star of ‘Head of the Class’) plays the director of an intelligence agency called NCS, which is taking up some space in Castle. They’ve built a secret wing of their own that Team Bartowski can’t enter. Givens’ character makes a play to recruit Casey. He considers it, but ultimately doesn’t want to leave his team. She tells him that he won’t have to. The position she wants him for will be based right out of Burbank. This is left on a cliffhanger where Casey is invited into the secret NCS wing. I assume there will be more on this to come.
In the domestic end of things, Awesome and Ellie are left frazzled by parenthood. Baby Clara won’t let them sleep. On a trip to the Buy More to pick up a stuffed animal that plays back white noise recordings, they find that the only thing that soothes Clara is a song that Jeff and Lester have recorded in their own toy. Rather than simply ask Jeff and Lester for the song, or use their toy to record it playing, for some reason Sarah has to lure the boys away with a creepy implication that she’s going to let them watch her breastfeed so that Awesome can steal their stuffed animal. This makes no sense at all.
Finally, Morgan is starting to feel like a third wheel in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. He decides that it’s time to move out and find his own place, like an adult. This means splitting up his toy collection with Chuck, the prize of which is a vintage set of Han Solo and Chewbacca statues that they bought together. They don’t want to break up the set, and can’t decide who should get them. Morgan opts to give them to Ellie and Awesome to put in the nursery because baby Clara likes them. Or something. Again, this makes zero sense.
I feel like this episode had some potential for fun (especially at the masquerade party), but the scripting is a total mess. Hopefully, things will get back on track with the next episode.