“Come with me if you want to live.”
I feel pretty safe in assuming that Zachary Levi’s excitement upon hearing that Linda Hamilton would be playing Chuck’s mom this season was matched (or surpassed) only by the giddiness he must have felt when, in his second turn in the director’s chair for “Chuck vs. the Leftovers,” he got to direct Linda Hamilton as she delivered that immortal line that had been spoken to her by Michael Biehn and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies. Heck, I knew from one of the promos that that line was coming, and I still geeked out when I heard her say it!
“Chuck vs. the Leftovers” was definitely an awesome, fun episode. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best episode this season (that honor obviously goes to last week’s episode), but there was a lot to love about it. Zachary Levi did a fine job with his direction of this episode; I particularly liked the moment where Chuck kept calling Sarah on the phone during the interrogation of Mama B, and at one point the camera had a shot over Sarah’s shoulder to show Chuck waving at her through the translucent barrier while her back was turned, and he was telling her in a muffled voice to answer the phone. I also liked the off-angle close-up camera work that Zac used in the first scene with Volkoff in Devon and Ellie’s apartment to convey a sense of Chuck’s tension in the face of the danger everyone was in if something were to trigger Volkoff’s anger. Having said that, I will agree (to a point) with Alan Sepinwall’s assertion in his review (linked here) that said atmosphere could have been conveyed in a more subtle fashion.
Timothy Dalton was absolutely incredible as Volkoff in this episode. The writing, coupled with Mr. Dalton’s forceful and multifaceted performance, blended perfectly to communicate Volkoff’s emotional instability as well as his laser-focused determination that he wasn’t leaving without Frost. It was a very good decision on the part of Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak to create Volkoff as a multidimensional character who, despite his obviously unstable, selfish, and dark nature, has some measure of feelings (as reflected by his infatuation with Frost). This is much better than if they had created Volkoff as a one-dimensional, cookie-cutter villain.
I thought that the secondary story of Devon and Ellie’s work with the Orion computer had a bit more meat to it this week than last week, and provided some very strong moments with Ellie and Devon’s continued resistance and worry about Chuck being involved as a spy. In particular, I thought Ryan McPartlin’s performance was terrific in the scene near the end where Devon angrily confronts Chuck in the courtyard about the danger he, his wife and unborn child had been put in, and about having to once again lie to Ellie to cover for Chuck. This makes for interesting conflict, but I really, really hope that not much time goes by after the hiatus before events transpire to help Devon and Ellie come to terms with Chuck being a spy, so that they can begin to fully support him, even if it is reluctantly.
I enjoyed all of Morgan’s comic moments this week. I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a minute to pick up on the first Die Hard reference (Morgan walking across the floor barefoot, wearing a tank-top), but I got a good chuckle out of the rest of them. I do hope, however, that at some point Morgan will get a moment when he really does carry the mission and save the day, rather than just coming through at the last minute like at the end of “Couch Lock.”
This episode once again showed Jeff and Lester coming dangerously close to becoming aware of the spy activities going on around them. With more and more of these close calls coming, it seems increasingly likely to me that Jeff and Lester will learn the secret of what’s really going on by the end of this season.
The only problem I have with this episode is the fact that we still haven’t been given adequate explanation of what the PSP-like device from “Chuck vs. the First Fight” was, why Mama B. flashed it in Chuck’s face, what exactly it did to the Intersect, or why Papa B. wouldn’t have wanted Chuck to see it. Mama B. said in this episode that she shut down the Intersect to keep Chuck from going after her, but I don’t buy that. Papa B. never wanted Chuck to be a spy, so he would have been glad to have Chuck see the device if shutting down the Intersect was what it did. I’m convinced the device was intended to either add Papa B’s full database of intel to the Intersect, to more fully integrate the Intersect into Chuck’s mind so skill flashes were permanent instead of “come-and-go,” or perhaps to make it so that the Governor was no longer necessary for Chuck to use the Intersect safely (hence the necessity of leaving the computer for Ellie so she could help solve the problem with the brain scans). Only time will tell.
In any case, this was a great episode overall, and I can’t wait for the hiatus to be over! 🙂