After a couple weeks off, NBC brought ‘Chuck’ back last Monday with a new episode that featured the return of guest stars Timothy Dalton and Linda Hamilton. Considering how uneven the second half of this season has been, it’s nice to see the show back with another episode that’s all-around pretty good. Also, in vaguely-related news, star Yvonne Strahovski made a funny music video you can check out at the end of this recap.
‘Chuck vs. the Family Volkoff’ picks up after the bombing of Castle by an enemy mole who claimed to have been hired by Vivian Volkoff. Vivian agrees to meet with Chuck and the team on neutral ground, where she denies that she had anything to do with it. As a sign of good faith, she gives the CIA one of her father’s top-secret projects that she found in his offices, a high-tech DNA tracking weapon called the “Norseman.” Unfortunately, it’s missing two components, and only her father knows where they are.
In prison, Alexei has been sitting in with self-help group therapy sessions, and says that they’ve helped him release his anger and move beyond his evil ways. Naturally, this leaves everyone suspicious. Nonetheless, General Beckman orders him released into Chuck’s recognizance so that he can help the CIA retrieve the two components. The first is in the possession of a Somali warlord who won it from Volkoff at poker.
So the team jets off to Mogadishu, where Chuck poses as one of Volkoff’s agents. The problem here is that the warlord doesn’t like Volkoff so much, and refuses to give up the component unless Chuck can win it from him in a gambling match of his choosing. Chuck, not being so adept at most games of chance, asks “Do you have Uno?” Hilariously, they do indeed have Uno! We cut to Chuck in the middle of a very tense game, when he catches the warlord cheating and tries to call him on it. The warlord almost kills him on the spot, until Volkoff convinces Casey and Sarah to let him walk in and defuse the situation. He has an odd way of doing that, which results in him nearly killing the warlord himself and then apologizing to him at the last minute. Somehow, this all works out, and they leave with the component.
The other piece, a rare radioactive element called thorium, is hidden in one of Volkoff’s secret lairs in the Swiss Alps. (Wikipedia says that thorium is “found in abundance throughout the world,” so I’m guessing that this is writer’s liberty.) To get past the automated security measures, Volkoff must play a high-stakes game of chess against the computer. If he loses, the computer will machine gun him and Chuck to death. Things don’t go so well at first, until Chuck gives Volkoff an inspirational speech that inadvertently encourages him to switch back to the side of evil.
Once they get the thorium, Volkoff reveals that this has all been a set-up. Vivian steps in and takes Chuck, Sarah, and Casey hostage. Volkoff is very proud of his daughter, until she double-crosses him too and takes the thorium for herself, locking her father and the others in the base while a self-destruct timer counts down. Luckily, Volkoff is able to disarm the bombs. The team hauls him back to America and prison.
We’ve also got a whole bunch of side stories this episode. Ellie tells her mother about her father’s laptop, and that she’s uncovered a bunch of files pertaining to an “Agent X” (Chuck, I assume?). Mary plays dumb and deletes important files to slow down Ellie’s progress. Ellie catches her doing this on a nanny-cam, and tries to surreptitiously stalk her mother, but Mary is smart enough to figure out that Ellie’s on to her. Mary warns Gen. Beckman, who orders her to stop impeding Ellie’s research because Ellie has gotten farther than any of the government’s top programmers.
In preparation for their wedding, Sarah drops a pre-nup in Chuck’s hands. Although perplexed at first, he decides to sign it unquestioningly if that’s what she wants. His willingness actually unnerves Sarah at first, but eventually she tears up the pre-nup.
Casey’s daughter Alex is graduating, but can’t invite him to the ceremony because, as far as her mother knows, he’s dead. Alex decides that it’s time to tell her mother the truth.
Finally, now in possession of the Norseman, Vivian vows to find and kill Agent X, the only threat to the Volkoff empire.
All-in-all, this is a pretty strong episode that sets up a last-minute story arc to wrap up the season. That would seem to be a good thing. The show has been in need of direction and focus ever since the mid-season finale back in February.
Before I go, as promised, you ‘Chuck’ fans may also appreciate this College Humor parody video starring Yvonne Strahovski.
“I love you more than I hate herpes.” Nice.