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TV Review: Chuck – “Chuck vs. the Zoom”

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NBC’s Chuck begins its fifth and final season with “Chuck vs. the Zoom.” Chuck (Zachary Levi) is jealous that Morgan (Joshua Gomez) now has the Intersect instead of him. This makes him feel more useless on missions, and Chuck’s not sure that he can make Carmichael Industries a reality without his talent. But their latest mission not only makes Chuck step up to be a hero once more, but also results in the group losing all of their funds when Clyde Decker (Richard Burgi) freezes their accounts. Now they will have to rely on the Buy More making a profit to save the day.

The title “Chuck vs. the Zoom” comes from Morgan’s nicknaming of his Intersect moment as a zoom, rather than a flash, as Chuck always calls it. This is kind of the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak. Chuck is already feeling powerless and useless. He grows jealous of Morgan taking the lead in their missions, despite his attempts to not let those negative feelings show. He feels like he can no longer save the day. Chuck’s life as a spy begins with the Intersect, and he places a lot of importance on the computer that resides in his brain. Except, it no longer does. Morgan makes it his own, and that makes Chuck sad.

Luckily, Chuck is much more than just the Intersect by this point. Four seasons in, he is a self-made man and spy. Even without the computer, he proves invaluable, saving the day as the team goes after Roger Bale (Craig Kilborn, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn), a sleazy investment banker. Chuck also has wife Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) to build him up, as she is his wife for many more reasons than because he has a computer in his head for awhile.

At the end of “Chuck vs. the Zoom,” as Chuck wonders about his place on the team, Sarah says that he’s their leader. When this becomes so is unclear, although it is part of a gradual process. When Chuck begins, Chuck defers to Sarah and Casey (Adam Baldwin) on everything. However, he steps outside of the rules when he thinks he knows better, and his presence demands theirs, as they are tasked with protecting them. Somewhere along the way, mostly beginning after Chuck gets the Intersect 2.0, and becomes more useful in the field, Chuck takes a more assertive role. With the founding of Carmichael Industries, and the departure of General Beckman (Bonita Friedericy) and government mandate, his position as the captain is solidified. However, if one has not thought about this subtle shift in power, one may be surprised at Chuck being the team leader. That is, until one takes a moment to consider the character’s growth over the series run.

Where is Beckman? She leaves the Intersect glasses after Decker suppresses the computer in Chuck, hoping Chuck will fix himself, though Morgan is the one that ultimately puts the glasses on. This means that while Beckman may no longer be their boss, she arranges for their next professional stage. So why isn’t she there to help them along? Why isn’t she a mole for them inside the government? More importantly, why is her face no longer in the theme song, having finally been promoted to main character for season four? It is extremely unlikely that the last has been seen of Beckman, but her absence is notable, and has this fan wondering heavily where she is and what she is up to.

There are also a number of questions raised in this episode. Why is Chuck still on Decker’s radar? What’s the end game? Why does Decker want to destroy a tech geek who has his powers taken away?

Morgan is adjusting well to being more integral to the team. His behavior is reminiscent of early Chuck, though as the comic relief, Morgan will probably never grow into the super spy that Chuck has become. Morgan’s dance with Sarah is nothing short of hilarious, seeing him in shoes that should be filled by Chuck. Morgan even identifies himself as Michael Carmichael, a play off of Chuck’s spy name, Charles Carmichael. That’s OK, because it’s fun to have a bumbling guy adjusting to skills he doesn’t know how to use again. It brings a freshness to the series, and any focus on the comically brilliant Gomez is more than welcome.

Casey is probably the least satisfied with their new arrangement. This is because Casey has a very strong moral compass, and working for the government, he trusts that, at the end of the day, what he is doing is right. Even when the series takes it a little far and brings him to the defense of Rush Limbaugh. Now they have to work for private citizens who hire them, such as the guy (Ethan Phillips, Star Trek: Voyager) who wants them to go after Roger Bale, who Casey takes an instant, strong dislike to. This is a problem, because if Casey offends potential clients, Carmichael Industries will have a hard time attracting new business.

It appears that Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) is now officially on the spy team, too. She is only briefly in “Chuck vs. the Zoom,” but she is shown in Castle, and the one scene she does have shows her consulting on secret spy technology, specifically, the Intersect glasses, with Chuck. Ellie is coming around to spying being a family business, but it’s still surprising to see her work so willingly, without trying to talk Chuck out of his dangerous assignments. Hopefully, it will stop being strange soon, and she can become even more involved.

It is both ironic and fitting that the Buy More will hold the key to Chuck’s spy career. Lingering, sometimes on the edge, during the entire series, the electronic super store will now provide all of the funding Carmichael Industries gets to try to make a go of things. Of course, Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) threaten the business, up to their usual tricks. And with manager Morgan frequently out of the country and working in Castle, there is no one to keep them in line. Might this be a job for Beckman? Or maybe Morgan just needs to promote Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence). He runs things pretty well in the earlier seasons.

Do not miss Chuck, airing Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC for a mere twelve more episodes.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com