'Chuck': Volkoff, you so crazy

timothy-dalton-chuck-320.jpgIf "Chuck" is going away till January -- which it is -- at least it left us with one heck of an episode. "Chuck vs. the Leftovers" wasn't nearly as heavy on action as some others have been this season, but for pure concentrated Chuck-ness, it was very satisfying.

And let us all now praise Timothy Dalton. There could have been easier ways for the character of Volkoff to go in this episode -- the psycho part of him could have melted away in favor of the lovesick part -- but to his immense credit, Dalton played crazy-in-love about as well as I've ever seen it played on television. "Chuck" hasn't really gotten any recognition from the Emmys in its first three seasons, but Dalton gave an award-worthy performance here -- funny, scary, intense and great.

While we still don't quite know what Mary Bartowski is up to -- she says her mission is to take down Volkoff's network, but do we want to take her at her word? -- "Leftovers" at least gave us a great sense of why she's stayed embedded with Volkoff for so long. He has a blind spot for her, and she's (presumably) been using that to gather intel on his operations. Sarah recognizes her dilemma, and she helps talk Chuck down a little after he finds out the reason Volkoff is so single-minded in his efforts to get Frost out of CIA custody.

Speaking of Chuck himself, this was Zachary Levi's second episode as a director, and it had some common threads with last season's "Chuck vs. the Beard." Like that one, we got a huge dose of key information that deepens the "Chuck" universe, and curiously enough, both episodes involve enemy agents taking over the Buy More and imperiling Morgan. This one, however, was a little smaller in scale and focused more on the actors, and Levi got strong performances all around (including himself).

And that's four sizable paragraphs in without even mentioning that, oh by the way, Chuck has the Intersect back. It seemed like kind of a roundabout way to get it back to him -- among other things, why would Steven Bartowski go through Ellie and risk her falling into the spy world? -- but the excited-relieved-nerdy smile on Chuck's face as he said "I know kung fu. Again" was enough to patch over those holes.

So where does all the activity of "Chuck vs. the Leftovers" leave us? Volkoff now knows Frost is Chuck's mom, and that her son works for the CIA. He can't be so deep in Mary's thrall that he's willing just to leave Chuck and Sarah alone -- and it's equally hard to believe that Chuck will let things lie. He may trust his mom again, but that seems like all the more reason for him and the team to go after Volkoff and try to take him down and free her from the situation she's been in for so long.

On the real-life side of things, too, here's hoping that "Chuck" can get Dalton and Linda Hamilton back for some of the back 11 episodes. Their primary arc will likely be done by episode 13 -- that's all the episodes the writers had to work with at the start of the season -- but as with Shaw last season, it's easy to see a way for them to pop back up in the second half of the season. Fingers crossed that everyone's schedule works out.

Other thoughts on "Chuck vs. the Leftovers":

  • The show has gone to the "Die Hard" well before, but Morgan's John McClane impression tonight was just brilliant. The tank top, the bare feet, the hobbling with the gun taped to his back, the not being able to reach the gun because he taped it too low -- note-perfect.
  • Chuck told Devon he needed to be awesome, and he was -- both in helping Chuck and Sarah call in backup and in resetting the boundary between Chuck-world and family world. Awesome can't really unlearn what he knows about Chuck's work, but his setting a line with Chuck and refusal to be informed about the new Intersect was a great way to show how much he cares about Ellie and wants to protect her and their child (aside from asking her to drive a minivan).
  • How strong must the sedative Volkoff's advance woman used on Jeff and Lester have been? It's been a running joke on the show that Jeff does not go down easily, but he faded away in seconds with this stuff.
  • I really, really hope that we get to see the machine guns hidden in the Buy More ceiling again before the season ends.

What did you think of the episode? How are you going to pass the time between now and when "Chuck" returns?

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Photo credit: NBC