Monday, March 22, 2010

Review - Chuck Season 3 Episode 11 Chuck Versus the Final Exam

Where has the logic gone? The plot, the characters, everything was completely lacking of basic reason. That's not to say the episode wasn't fun, and "Chuck Versus the Final Exam" had awesome action scenes and decent humor. As the writers push towards the end of the initial 13-episode run, they seem have ignored all plotholes for the sake of creating tension and raising the stakes. There's a breaking point for this kind of silliness and it was reached tonight.

The episode begins in media res--a device that only gets good results if the viewer has no clue what's going on or what will happen. Chuck chases a man down who begs him not to shoot. We hear a gunshot, and the scene cuts away to three days earlier at the Buy More. Obviously, he wouldn't kill anyone this early in the series, and I doubt he ever will. Chuck's reaction to Sarah shooting the Fulcrum agent in "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" was enough to indicate that killing is serious business on the show. The show has become darker this season, but to the point of killing? No way. If Chuck wouldn't be killing anyone, there would only be two other options. Either the gun has blanks or someone else took the shot. Neither of the options seem too compelling, though, admittedly, the final result was better than I expected.

Chuck's final mission before becoming a full-fledged spy and is based on a foundation of absurdity. The CIA would let Chuck go away just because he fails one test? What about the Intersect? Again, the writers had to put something on the line, and didn't or couldn't think of something better. By concretely putting down the only two solutions available to Chuck, the writers forced the drama and ignored all the other avenues.

The mission, a simple stakeout, provided the opportunity for Chuck and Sarah to talk and express their feelings freely. Chuck turns his charm on with a little drink, and right before they kiss, Shaw calls. Their target, Anatoli Zevlovski, is already on the move and they missed him. Chuck goes into a steam room, and has an Eastern Promises-like fight scene minus the nakedness as Chuck takes out the muscle. Chuck deftly climbs over to find Anatolini, codenamed Ivan Drago, talking to a CIA agent named Hunter Perry.

Chuck is a spy now or that's what he thinks. His mission isn't over yet. Shaw tells Sarah to tell Chuck to kill Perry. Sarah is disturbed an refuses to go along with the plan., but Chuck's success depends on her, so she grudging agrees only because he could be in greater danger without her. Chuck, who is expecting a normal date, is very excited at the prospects of being a spy and being with Sarah again. Their new/old roadblock is Chuck not being a spy. How many times can they come back to this? Sarah tells Chuck it's up to him, and by doing so, puts all the pressure on Chuck and absolves herself of any blame. I know she's conflicted, but I hated how she acted in the second half of the episode.

Chuck takes down Perry in a weird, slowed down fight scene in the bathroom, and proceeds to take Perry outside to be executed before Perry runs off. Everyone is running around the train tracks, and Chuck has Perry on the ground, begging for mercy. As Perry pulls his own gun, a shot rings out, but it's not from Chuck. He turns around, and it's Casey! Sarah turns the corner and sees Chuck holding the gun and Perry dead. Nevermind that a simple ballistics or forensics test would show that Chuck never fired the bullet, Chuck has to be the one who fired the shot according to Sarah.

Back in her hotel room, Sarah is torn up, and Shaw is right there for her. He asks her if she loves Chuck and she denies it (seriously?), explaining that Chuck will never be the same person, recounting her first "Red Test" and how it was the worst day of her life. To recap, Chuck only "killed" the agent because Sarah told him to, and now she's in whatever state of mind, so she talks it out with Shaw.

And the final implausibility. Because Chuck has become such a terrible person, Sarah is now with Shaw. Let's get this straight. Sarah disapproves of Chuck killing people and lying, but she's fine being with Shaw who has killed more people and lied to more people than Chuck has. And who was the one who ordered Sarah to order Chuck to kill Perry? What are some positive qualities of Shaw? Nothing. Other than give orders and stand around, Shaw has done nothing. We can understand why Sarah would like Chuck, Bryce, or Cole, or anyone else who remotely has a personality. Is Sarah just turning to the closest guy?

When all else fails, there's still the Buy More to turn to. Casey has relegated himself to working at the Buy More, and conks Lester and Jeff together. They've become awfully hostile this season, and threaten to sue. Big Mike resolves to fix Casey, first by sending him to the tailor, and second, by sending him to Subway. This was the biggest promotion for Subway to date. They enter the store with the sign looming large, happy customers inside, "A" from the health department conspicuous on the window, and an eager Jeff and Lester. They goad, poke, and prod at Casey, but he doesn't budge. He apologizes and takes the hits without complaining. Eventually, they come to a mutual agreement not to pursue further action, but only if Casey takes a bite out of the sub Jeff has been eating.

There's been all this talk about Chuck being a loser for working at the Buy More with all his skills. What about Casey? Surely, he could join the police or become a shooting instructor or something. He has all these crazy spy skills that could be applied in other areas of work.

I'm probably in the minority for not loving this episode. I understand why many would like the episode, and if I wasn't so annoyed with the plotholes and Sarah being all over the place, I would have loved the episode as well. The references to "Sizzling Shrimp" were great and the character development for Chuck continues to set itself apart from the previous seasons. With two episodes left in the initial arc, there's sure to be lots more action and a resolution to Chuck/Sarah/Shaw. Hallelujah!

Score: 8.7/10
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