My review of “Chuck” Episode 4.16 (“Chuck vs. The Masquerade”) (Spoiler Alert!)

Any episode of a TV series that provides setup for an important story arc always has the potential to feel a bit awkward, with the sense that the characters and story are “marking time” and not going anywhere meaningful.

I was so glad that this wasn’t the case with tonight’s thoroughly enjoyable episode of Chuck, “Chuck vs. The Masquerade.” It did a terrific job of setting up the new arc involving Vivian without making it feel like things weren’t going anywhere within the episode itself. The violent (surprisingly so for Chuck) opening did an excellent job setting the ominous tone of the spy story, which was very simple and believable in how it involved keeping Vivian safe from Boris. And in a way that only Chuck could do, it balanced the seriousness of the very beginning with the hilarity of Chuck & Sarah and Morgan & Alex tripping over each other in their Valentine’s Day plans, topped off by Casey walking in on all of it (anyone else cringe when Casey saw Alex smearing chocolate on Morgan’s face?).

I’ve noticed quite a few people on Twitter and elsewhere coming to the conclusion that Vivian must be on her way to becoming the next adversary to Team Bartowski, and that she will assist her father in exacting revenge for his earlier defeat. While I agree that that seems like a good, safe bet–especially when you consider that she didn’t tell Chuck and Sarah that she had realized her necklace was the key–I’m not quite ready to say that I definitely think she’ll turn out to be a villain. That almost seems too easy a prediction to make, and I’m open to the possibility that Vivian will take the opportunity to join forces with Chuck & Sarah in the end, and use her own father’s resources against him. This would give Volkoff further motivation to exact vengeance against Chuck, Sarah, Mary and their loved ones, and could make for some very good material if handled correctly.

I also loved how this episode handled the growth and “growing up” themes with all the different characters, especially between Chuck and Morgan. I thought that whole exchange between the two of them over Morgan moving out was handled so well and communicated just the right amount of bitter-sweetness, and the part where they look at the picture of themselves back during Season 1 was an especially nice touch. And, in the scene where Morgan comes to the realization that he needs to get his own place, Sarah’s awkward attempts to connect with Morgan (“Roaarr! Bang, bang!”) were very funny; I really hope to see more Sarah/Morgan moments like this as time goes on. (As a side note, with the Morgan-moving-out subplot and the little detail of the Han Solo and Chewbacca figurines, I’d say it’s pretty easy to understand why this episode was originally titled “Chuck vs. the First Mate.” :-))

I also think that Chuck’s handling of the mission to protect Vivian showed how much he has grown, not only as a spy but as a leader. He showed concern about Sarah acting as a decoy for Vivian, and was worried when she didn’t come back, but he showed confidence that she would be okay, and did not “freak out” as I think he would have in a similar situation in the past (“Chuck vs. the Other Guy” comes to mind).

I’m intrigued by the fact that the new mission opportunities presented to Casey by Jane Bentley seem to be taking place in Castle, right under the noses of Chuck, Sarah and General Beckman. I’m really looking forward to seeing where they go with this, especially since it’s been hinted that the return of the Gretas played by Isaiah Mustafa and Stacy Keibler are related to all of it in some way.

This episode’s mini-story about Ellie and Devon’s efforts to get little Clara to sleep through the night was also very funny, with just the right amount of comedy without it being overdone (the two of them shambling into the Buy More like zombies=priceless). I loved the fact that they got Big Mike, Jeff and Lester involved, with Ellie and Devon preying on Jeff & Lester’s creepiness (yeesh) to get the Sleep Sheep away from them. I just hope that the writers find a way to integrate Big Mike, Jeff and Lester into future episodes to a greater degree, since they do present fantastic opportunities for comedy.

“Chuck vs. The Masquerade” was definitely a terrific episode to watch, and I look forward to next week’s bank heist in “Chuck vs. the First Bank of Evil!” 😀

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