The remarkable thing about “Chuck” is not that it’s had a sustained run of really good episodes. It’s that during that run, expectations have been raised — and the show almost never fails to meet them.
All that’s a long way of saying that my anticipation for “Chuck vs. the Push Mix” was really high — and the episode surpassed it on almost every mark. Originally written as a season (if not series) finale before NBC extended its run by 11 episodes, it offered a hugely satisfying conclusion to the Volkoff story, but fortunately for all us “Chuck”-leheads, it’s not the end of the show.
Recounting the machinations of Chuck’s plan to bring Volkoff down and free his mom would take way too long — but suffice to say that Chuck is now a strong enough spy that, save for one old-school intel flash early on, he managed to pull off the entire thing without using the Intersect.
How? By being his father’s son. It’s fitting that, since this arc has been almost entirely about family, that Chuck would use his father’s methods and equipment, heck, even his name — hands up, everyone who got goosebumps when “Orion” flashed on Volkoff’s screen — to entrap and take down Volkoff.
As Chuck tells Volkoff in the cabin, “You took my mother from him — you took his whole life.” And Chuck, in his very Bartowski way, took Volkoff’s empire from him. The montage as Chuck explains his father’s lessons was just brilliant: “My father taught me a lot of things, like looks can be deceiving.” (Casey wakes up and takes out Armand with the bonsai!) “Fight for your family.” (Mom and Sarah eliminate Volkoff’s goons!) “And of course, never use a gun unless you absolutely have to.” (The gun Volkoff took from Chuck isn’t loaded!) “After all, I am my father’s son.”
So, yes, the espionage part of “Chuck vs. the Push Mix” (including that really cool security-defeating spider thing Sarah used early in the episode) was expertly done. But what made the episode truly great was that in addition to Chuck channeling his dad, the other beats — Ellie’s labor and Awesome’s nerves, Casey and Alex deepening their bond — only reinforced and helped strengthen the A-story. Writers Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc did a beautiful balancing act.
And, oh by the way, Chuck and Sarah are getting married. It happened in a hospital hallway and was drowned out (to us) by the sound of the floor waxer, but that’s just as good as on a rooftop at a French chateau. (It was also a very nicely framed shot, with Sarah diving into Chuck’s arms right before the credits rolled.)
Next week’s “Chuck” (with returning guest star John Larroquette as Roan Montgomery) will almost inevitably be a bit of a comedown compared to this episode. But really, who cares? The show delivered one of its best episodes ever, and that’s something to savor.
Other thoughts on “Chuck vs. the Push Mix”:
- The only real downer about the episode is that this could be the last we see of Timothy Dalton and Linda Hamilton this season. I know team “Chuck” wants them back, but they’re not locked in for anything beyond this episode. Just throwing this out there, though: I would absolutely watch Hamilton and Dalton in a show about — well, pretty much anything. They worked fantastically together.
- Big ups too to Ryan McPartlin for playing Capt. Awesome coming unglued so well. It was a nice role reversal to see him flustered and Ellie calm and confident — McPartlin found the comedy in those moments as he always does, but Devon’s nervousness and fear about his impending parenthood also came through.
- It pains me to say this, but we may have discovered just how much Jeffster! is too much. Their song choice for Ellie’s delivery (“Push It”) was certainly appropriate, but it felt like one element too many amid the touching family stuff in the final act. It’s a minor sin, though, and almost fully forgivable for Lester and Jeff’s lines as they’re being dragged out by security. Lester: “Cover song by cover song, we’re shaping the youth of America!” Jeff: “I’m not allowed to do that anymore!”
- More of Morgan using his yoga skills please. That is all.
- Even while semi-comatose, Casey is a fount of understated comedy gold. His first sound after waking is, naturally, a vintage Casey grunt, and he later stirs from sleep by saying “Grimes … moron.”
What did you think of “Chuck” this week? What do you want to see the rest of the season?