The music of Rush, Atari, Missile Command, Buster from Arrested Development, Sarah’s Hot Nerd outfit, and the montage tribute for Anna; tonight’s episode of Chuck combined a lot of glorious elements into one silly-fun hour of television. The writers decided to hold little back tonight’s episode, which featured a War Games-esque World War III threat and a lot of video game playing. Viewers were also treated to the most one-episode screen time ever for Jeff Barnes. It teased at giving some reasons for his overall Jeff-ness, though I’m still at a loss for why he is what he is. We do know that Jeff used to be an arcade game phenom, which is where the episode began.
Chuck is a silly show. The hyper-real CIA/FBI storylines are obviously overblown, but the show stays real thanks to its characters and their interactions. The inter-office politics are an aspect that the Chuck writers are actively trying to make more important this year. I suspect tonight’s episode was a conscious attempt to bring Chuck and Sarah’s work to the Buy More. Jeff Barnes, burnt-out creepster that he is, was a video game champion 25 years ago. The greatest Missile Command player in all the world. As a result, some terrorist dude (the vaguely Arab guy who played the main Afghani bad guy in Iron Man) arrived at the Buy More, looking for Jeff. It turns out that a missile satellite was actually commanded by the same Japanese man who owned Atari and made Missile Command. Morimoto is now an old man, and the terrorists also go after him.
What’s the connection? Well, it turns out that Morimoto hid the missile commands for the satellite on the kill screen of the Missile Command arcade game. No one but Morimoto can get to the kill screen, so he’s the only one who knows the codes. Clearly, this makes little sense. And, that’s all you need to know about the plot. Let’s kjust say that the music of Canadian rock gods Rush come into play in the most wonderfully bizarre manner. It, as well, makes little sense, which makes it all the more entertaining. Eventually, Chuck saves the world.
The music on Chuck this season has been spectacular. First, it was Huey Lewis, then it was last week’s sampling of nineties radio hits, and tonight it was the musical stylings of Rush. It’s hard to take a knife fight seriously while Rush plays in the background, which I think is exactly the point. Chuck and its writers are having a good time, being as out of control and wild as they feel like they can be, knowing that the relationships will always ground the show, no matter how ridiculous the spy stories get. They have also made an attempt to give the Buy More employees more screen time this season. This was likely the only “Jeff Episode” that we’ll see this year. Expect him to fade into the background per usual for the remainder of the season.
Chuck has been funnier this season than it was in its first. There’s no reason for this. The jokes have been better, and that is all. Perhaps it’s because the characters have been set up and solidifed. Maybe it’s just the writers finally feeling comfortable with the world they created. They’ve realized where they can go, how far they can take the joke and what purpose each character can serve. Zachary Levi, in a just world, would get an Emmy nomination for his work. He won’t ever get one for Chuck, because it’s far too silly, but that doesn’t diminish the great job he’s doing.
I haven’t mentioned the guest appearance by Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development) yet because he had little to do in the episode. He plays an efficiency expert for Buy More. We’ll see more of him in coming episodes, though it’s hard to separate Hale from Buster, try as I might.
-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of NBC)