Chuck 4.01 “Chuck Versus The Anniversary” Review

It’s the first day of the 2010 fall TV season, and what better way to start it off than with Chuck? (Obvious SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t seen the episode, read no further. Go watch it. Or, y’know, check out Michael Salerno’s recap, and then meet me right back here. I’ll wait.)

When last we left, the Burbank Buy More was no more, and our favorite spies and all their friends were likewise scattered in all sorts of arcs. Chuck had finally gotten together with Sarah, but had promised Ellie he’d quit the spy game – yet had also been tasked with finding Sarah Connor Mom Bartowski by his late father. Ellie, meanwhile, hit Casey with a frying pan. Casey in turn had to deal with revealing to Alex that he was her father, which also meant keeping his “partner” Morgan far, far away from her. Oh, yeah, and Jeff and Lester went on the run, suspected of pulling a Milton Waddams on the Buy More. Got all that? Alright, here we go!

“This is not the opening of a TV show. This is real life,” Chuck tells us at the start, as the writers all kind of wink at us. He’s poking around in a massive Spy Basement under the apartment complex. I totally want a Spy Basement under my house, by the way. Chuck recruits Morgan to help him search for Mom in a very quick and very expensive international montage which ultimately leads them to…Los Angeles. Well, that was anticlimactic. But hey, at least they racked up the frequent flier miles and didn’t even need a CapitalOne card. As if that wasn’t enough, Chuck gets his car repossessed and has the worst day of job interviews that a guy could ever possibly have. He’s got nowhere to turn, which leads him back to the last place he ever wanted to be again (but admit it, you missed it)…

The Buy More is back in all its green and yellow glory, and fronted by Olivia Munn as Greta #1, whose acting either leaves something to be desired or she’s doing a great impression of a robot. As if that wasn’t weird enough, Big Mike has been replaced by none other than new series regular General Diane Beckman. The Buy More is now a subsidiary of the CIA. (This puts in a new light all those times you thought your boss was spying on you, doesn’t it?) Bringing back the Buy More makes for great comedy and a little bit of wish fulfillment for those of us who wish we really were spies running around our offices. Or maybe that was just me.

Cool stuff aside, the plot is a Cold War doozy: Casey and Sarah chase after Ivan Drago Marco, who sets off an EMP in Hong Kong before they steal it. Marco Polo works for the mysterious Volkoff Industries, which also has something to do with a Chinese restaurant that does take-out for guns and ammo rather than fried rice. The trail leads everyone to Russia (because you didn’t think they’d have Dolph Lundgren working from France, did you?). Casey and Sarah have a lousy flight when Marco hits them with some knockout gas and kidnaps them (dumping them in the same creepy basement where Max Martini was kidnapped in the “Exposed” episode of Lie To Me), while Morgan and Chuck walk in the front door. Chuck is therefore tasked with saving his partners and finding out about his mom’s missions at the same time. Talk about multitasking. He rescues Casey and Sarah, though he’s forced to free them from the so-called “smart building” by using Marco’s EMP to fry the power – and loses his mom’s files in the process.

Back in Spy Basement (after a trip on the bus), there’s a team meeting where everyone pulls together to look for Mom Bartowski. This means Chuck has to tell Ellie that he’s going back to work as a spy, but of course he can’t quite do it. Maybe because she tells him there’s a Baby Awesome on the way. How cool is that, even if we got spoiled for it a long time ago? Of course, because the show would never leave us empty-handed when it comes to the big mystery, we learn Mom Bartowski’s codename was Frost, and that she didn’t leave – she was captured. We also learn that Chuck and Casey have no idea what sexting is, which is a big relief. I’d be disturbed if Casey had a clue about that. No matter how big my fangirl crush on Adam Baldwin is.

In the last two minutes, we finally get to see Linda Hamilton, as Mom Bartowski finds out from Marco that her family is looking for her. Hamilton’s still got the moves that put her down in movie action heroine history, as Mom Bartowski makes short work of Marco and his goons just before the credits roll. Where’s Robert Patrick when I need him? Oh, wait, he was already on this show, and he’s dead. Damn.

After all the excitement over Linda Hamilton’s casting and the eighty thousand guest stars of this season, I was a little concerned as to whether or not this episode would live up to the hype. I had nothing to worry about. We get legitimate advancement of the “who is Chuck’s mom and where is she?” plot, rather than being jerked around like most shows, plus there’s still a spy mission to be had and plenty of asides for the show’s honest laugh-out-loud humor. Plus, I’m happy with any show that gives me a well-dressed Adam Baldwin with a big gun. (Fangirl crush. I warned you it was big.) What a way to start a season, huh, Nerd Herders? Anyone want to help me build a Spy Basement?

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