'Chuck': Careful what you wish for
"Chuck vs. the First Bank of Evil" didn't work on quite as high a level as "vs. the Masquerade" did the previous week, partly because it spent a lot of time on the new character of Vivian McArthur Volkoff. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, this episode could turn out to be more important than it seems now -- but it is now, and for the moment the A-story was a minor letdown from last week.
Despite that, though, it feels like the show is doing the right thing by slow-playing Vivian's entry into the world of spies and bad guys and making her the flip side of the Chuck coin. It took Chuck a good while to get used to even the basics of being a CIA asset and later agent, and having Vivian follow a similar path feels more believable (in addition to raising the personal stakes for Chuck, who recognizes how similar their predicaments are).
Having her become disillusioned at the CIA -- thanks to guest star Ray Wise, who was perfectly cast as Volkoff's lawyer, Mr. Riley -- was a logical next step. His knowledge of the CIA playbook allowed him to set the perfect lure for Vivian, and when the end of the episode played out exactly as he said it would -- she helped Chuck and Sarah tap the First Bank of Macau's database for invaluable knowledge about criminals and terrorists, but was denied a visit with her father -- well, of course she was going to head down the darker path.
None of that is in and of itself bad. But in an episode that also had a lot of other things on its mind, the preoccupation with Vivian's story felt a little out of balance.
The biggest of those other things was Sarah's eventual embrace of the idea that she and Chuck are getting married. Ellie is in full wedding-planner mode, bombarding her with ideas about flowers and cakes and other details, and it brings out the usual reaction in Sarah: flight. In a testy mid-mission exchange, Chuck suggests she focus on just one thing to start. Sarah picks the dress, and one assist from Castle's magic holo-closet and one bad-dress montage later, Sarah has found the one. It's a very sweet moment, actually, as she breathlessly says to herself, "Oh my god -- we're getting married!," and it's also undercut at just the right moment by Casey, who points out that Sarah might need a fresh copy of her chosen dress: The one she's wearing has bullet holes.
Once she has the dress down, though, Sarah kind of can't stop, and pretty soon it's cake flown in from Paris and other extravagances left and right. "I think I've created a monster," Ellie confesses to Chuck, who's suddenly wishing they didn't burn all that Bank of Macau money. Sarah's newfound love of being a bride also gives us a very cheery conversation as she and Chuck are staging the bank robbery, one that's 180 degrees from the last time they were involved in a bank heist in "Chuck vs. the First Fight."
Other notes from "Chuck vs. the First Bank of Evil":
- Casey and Morgan were side characters this week, but they had a couple of fine exchanges. We'll take Morgan's "Let's say I was [using leverage to move in with you]. Is it working?" over Casey's "Not even worth saying" when Morgan first asks to move in.
- Speaking of Casey: What do you suppose "TR-476" is? Whatever it is, Casey is not happy that Morgan overheard the CIA technicians talking about it.
- Ray Wise played the devil in "Reaper," so it's no surprise that he's very good at playing evil as reasoned and a little seductive. He also had one of the best comedic moments of the hour as he tried to read Volkoff's letter to Vivian in Volkoff's voice.
- Unsurprisingly, the writers of "Chuck" are "Lost" fans: Not only was Francois Chau (aka Pierre Chang) a guest star in the episode (as the bank manager), but the Volkoff account number was 4815162342.
- Morgan also makes a "Simpsons" reference, referring to Casey's secret site as "Sector 7-G." That's the sector of the Springfield nuclear plant where Homer works.
- Mark Christopher Lawrence made the most of his one scene tonight as Big Mike tried to teach Morgan the ways of the world, and of himself and Morgan's mom: "When you move to the forest, you can't complain that the wildlife makes too much noise." Shudder.
"Chuck" is off next week for the two-hour return of "The Event," but it will be back on March 14 with the return of two of the Gretas. What did you think of "Chuck vs. the First Bank of Evil"?