Recap – Chuck 3.17 “Chuck vs. the Living Dead”

If you missed last week’s headshrinking episode, “Chuck vs. the Tooth,” read a recap here.

Tonight’s episode of Chuck, “Chuck vs. the Living Dead,” opens on a cabin. Papa Bartowski is sharpening an ax when there is a knock on the door. He retrieves the daily newspaper and turns to the Classified section. He sees an ad for a 1978 Chevelle and immediately starts decoding it. It is a message from Ellie who is asking to see him as soon as possible. Back in Burbank, Ellie, too, is reading the Classifieds and deciphering her own ad — a response from her father. Ellie, seeing that her father is going to come visit soon, calls Justin to give him the news. Meanwhile, Chuck i son the phone with Morgan, telling his buddy that he had another dream about Shaw. Hearing only Chuck’s side of the conversation, Morgan tells Chuck that he needs to tell Sarah, because honesty is important in a relationship. Chuck repeats this adage about relationships when Sarah enters, wondering whose relationship Chuck is talking about. Morgan and Anna, he assures her. But Morgan just flat-out turned Anna down just the other day. Chuck stammers, and eventually runs off, leaving Sarah a bit bewildered.

At the Buy More, Chuck talks to Morgan about Shaw. Morgan asks Chuck to confirm that he checked Shaw’s pulse after he “died.” When Chuck doesn’t respond in the affirmative, Morgan berates him, “Have you never seen a John Carpenter movie?!?” Chuck tells Morgan that he doesn’t want Sarah to find out about his dreams, so the two of them will have to investigate themselves. Morgan agrees, if he gets to go down into Castle. Chuck says OK, but not to touch anything. Cut to Morgan with a bulletproof vest on and playing with some large weapons. Sarah enters and asks if Chuck is up to something. Morgan tries to talk his way out of the conversation, but Sarah kicks over a chair and orders him to sit and tell her exactly what’s going on. Back upstairs, Chuck is downloading information on Shaw to his iPhone. Casey walks up from behind Chuck and asks, “Reviewing pictures of people you killed? I do that from time to time.” Chuck insists he isn’t and Casey leaves. Morgan approaches Chuck in a large winter coat (something not usually necessary in Burbank), and immediately admits he told Sarah about Chuck’s dreams. Chuck is angry, but is also wondering if Morgan is hiding a bulletproof vest under the coat. Morgan zips up the coat, but before he can explain that, Chuck sees a man in sunglasses and a hat enter the store. It’s his father, Steven Bartowski. Chuck warns Morgan that his father thinks he ended his work with the CIA, and doesn’t know that he, Chuck, is the Intersect 2.0. When his father approaches, Chuck asks him why he’s come. Steven explains that Ellie contacted him, but doesn’t get any farther when he notices Casey. Chuck blows the question off by saying Casey just works at the Buy More now; Chuck isn’t a spy anymore. Then Sarah enters, so Chuck introduces her to Steven. “Why are you with your handler?” Steven asks his son. Chuck assures him that Sarah is not his handler anymore, but that they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Unbelieving, Steven asks Chuck to tell him that he is no longer a spy. “I’m not a spy, and you know I wouldn’t lie to you,” Chuck lies to his father.

Ellie is in Justin’s office, and remarks how it doesn’t look like how she thought a CIA office would look. “It’s the CIA, nothing is what it seems,” Justin replies. Ellie informs Justin that she has been in touch with her father through the classified ads and that she should know his whereabouts soon. When she asks what she should do about Casey, Justin explains that Casey has been in the apartment complex for three years and hasn’t done anything; he’s just observing, so there is nothing to fear. He gives her what looks like a large stereo speaker box, telling Ellie that it will block any of Casey’s surveillance equipment. She is a bit unnerved, but Justin promises that she can trust him.

In Castle, Sarah tells Chuck that he needs to trust both his dad and her. Chuck apologizes for not telling her about his Shaw dreams, but she says not to worry. If he’s having those dreams, there must be something to them. The doctor told Chuck that he’s healthy and that his dreams are accurate, right? Chuck nervously agrees, as Casey enters. He says that before they go to General Beckman with Chuck’s dreams, they need to make sure Shaw is alive. As Shaw’s known aliases haven’t popped up at all, he figures the only way to find Shaw is for Sarah to recount her and Shaw’s relationship in hopes that Chuck will flash on something. “Are you OK with that, Chuck?” Sarah asks. “Oh yeah,” Chuck faux-enthusiastically replies. The three sit down as Casey reviews receipts generated during Shaw and Sarah’s relationship. Trips to Paris, fancy restaurants, jewelry purchases, each one making Chuck more and more uncomfortable. One night, Shaw and Sarah received a couple’s massage and then went to his penthouse loft in the Hoff Building. When he hears the building name, Chuck flashes plans for a TR-15 safe installed by Shaw in his apartment. Casey, grasping the chance to make Chuck feel even more uncomfortable, tells Chuck that he and Sarah will break into the penthouse and try to retrieve what is inside the safe. Chuck gets to see Shaw’s bachelor pad! The strains of “Love Hurts” as recorded by Nazareth. This version, however, is by…

…Jeffster! Performing outside the Buy More, Jeff and Lester are paid to stop singing by a Buy More patron. Big Mike approaches them, not to kick them off the sidewalk (they are performing during their break), but to make them an offer. Big Mike knows a little something about management, so he’d like to represent the band. Jeff is interested, but Lester goes on a diatribe about how he won’t sell out his artistic vision, ending by telling Jeff, “You just try to stop me from walking away! Try to stop me. Just try it.” His plea goes unanswered. Meanwhile, at the apartment complex, Ellie sees her father in Chuck’s apartment. She greets him, but wonders why he came to see her instead of telling her where to find him. His daughter told him she needed his help, so, of course, he came to her. While they talk, Chuck and Casey return home from work. If Shaw is alive, Chuck is worried that he might target Chuck’s friends and family, so he asks Casey if he’ll watch Ellie. Casey says that until they can confirm Shaw is dead, Ellie will have a second shadow.

That night, Chuck, Ellie and Steven sit down for dinner. They share some stories of Chuck’s one-time obsession with Hawkman, and Steven asks what they are going to do together tonight. Chuck says he and Sarah have a date night planned, a last minute trip, so he and Ellie will get some alone time. Ellie’s phone rings; it’s Justin, so she says that it is the hospital and runs out. With Ellie gone, Steven wonders if the “last minute trip” is really a spy mission. Chuck assures him it is just a date, but Steven knows better. He goes behind the TV to reveal a surveillance line, and sees that Chuck’s computer still has an active feed into the CIA database. Chuck, caught, says that he is a CIA analyst, but nothing more. Steven doesn’t believe him, but Chuck assures him. “I’m just an analyst.” Cut to Chuck and Sarah scaling the Hoff Building using suction cups! Ellie, meanwhile, waits for Justin on a bench, when her phone rings. Casey, observing her from behind a bush, taps into her call. He hears her say to the caller, “Devon thinks I’m at the hospital. It’s getting harder and harder to lie.”

Sarah and Chuck enter Shaw’s penthouse. As they look around, Chuck finds a book on Kama Sutra, but before he can inquire as to Sarah’s experience with Shaw’s book, Sarah, using thermal specs, finds the safe hidden in a wall behind a picture of the Eiffel Tower. As she gives Chuck a pair of the glasses to see the safe as well, they hear keys in the door. “It’s Shaw!” Chuck explains. The couple hide in the closet as someone enters the apartment. Using their thermal glasses, and after Chuck checks out Sarah’s “hot” butt (they’re thermal specs!), they see the man approach the Eiffel Tower picture, open the safe and remove a briefcase. Chuck accidentally squeaks his sneakers, and they see the image of the man peer at the closet. He backs up, and raises a gun toward them. Sarah pulls Chuck down just as the man fires three shots at the closet and flees. Sarah and Chuck run after him and chase him up the stairs to the roof. The man runs and jumps from one roof to another, but in order to grab onto the next ledge, drops the gold briefcase. Chuck tells Sarah to go grab the case; he’ll chase the guy. Calling on the Intersect, Chuck flashes a track and field long jump ability (notice that Chuck was able to will the Intersect to flash), runs and jumps for the next building. He too lands a bit short and clutches to a pipe. The man approaches Chuck, and Chuck asks, “Shaw?” It’s not Shaw, however; it’s Justin (not that Chuck knows who he is). “Shaw is dead,” he informs Chuck before raising a gun to kill Chuck. Shots ring out from below though, as Sarah tries to shoot Justin. Justin runs off, but an arm reaches out to Chuck. It’s his father.

Back in Castle, Steven asks Chuck why he’s been lying to him. Chuck, sticking to his cover, tells his dad that General Beckman wanted him to be an analyst, which he is, but that he does sometimes still go on missions. Casey and Sarah are able to open the briefcase, revealing what is essentially Shaw’s spy will and testament, which contains all of his information on The Ring. Chuck, and his dreams, were wrong: Shaw is dead. The mission is over. Steven explains to his son that for every spy, there’s someone who loves him, and a box like Shaw’s. Steven does not want his family involved in the spy business. Cut to Ellie in Justin’s office. Justin has a new plan to protect her father, but she is going to have to do a bit of spy work. Is Ellie up to it? She insists she is.

Jeff, playing under a “Jeff-?” banner, breaks out the Auto-Tune to serenade women in the store as a solo act. Big Mike informs him that he is a bit “lyrically lacking,” but that he has potential. Casey asks Lester, who has been watching Jeff, if he’s seen Morgan. Lester asks back if Casey has lost his friend, but is clearly channeling his loss of Jeff. Casey leaves, and finds Morgan barricaded in his office/broom closet. With Shaw possibly on the loose, Morgan needed to protect himself. Casey informs him that Shaw is dead. Casey continues, asking Morgan if he thinks Ellie would ever cheat on Devon. “If I had the height and the willpower, I’d slap you across the face right now,” Morgan replies to such a horrific question. Casey plays him Ellie’s call with Justin in response. Morgan says, that on behalf of the family, he will speak with the husband. At Devon’s apartment, Morgan asks the good doctor if everything is alright with Ellie. When Devon responds in the affirmative, Morgan asks him to run down a typical day. From warming her bath towel before she gets out of the shower, to making her a goat cheese omelette, to running to a farmer’s market to grab produce for dinner, Devon details what he does for Ellie each day, enthralling Morgan in the process.

In his own apartment, Chuck asks his Dad if everything is OK. Steven wonders why Chuck would go on missions if he no longer had the Intersect in his head, if Chuck is just an ordinary guy. Hurt that his father thinks he has no special skills on his own, Chuck insists that he is not ordinary, and that CIA thinks he’s special. Steven quickly picks up a letter opener and throws it at Chuck’s head. Chuck immediately flashes and catches the knife-like object before it hits him. “Dad! You threw a knife at my face!” Chuck exclaims. “I knew you downloaded the Intersect 2.0!” Steven replies. “Dad! Knife! Face! What if you were wrong?” Chuck asks. “I’m never wrong,” Steven responds. He continues, telling Chuck that the Intersect can have negative effects on the brain. “You knew? And you didn’t tell me?” Chuck inquires. Steven begins to say that he thought Chuck had removed the Intersect, but Chuck cuts him off. How would Steven know? “You left! You taught Ellie and me how to live without you, so that’s what we’re doing,” Chuck tells his father. Hearing enough, Steven leaves. “I can’t stay and watch you die.” As he exits through the courtyard, Steven runs into Ellie. He says that he never found out why Ellie needed him. Ellie responds that she just wanted to make sure he is OK. Steven promises that the next time he sees her, it won’t be so long of an absence. They embrace, and Steven leaves. Ellie immediately calls Justin and tells him that she planted the tracer bug on her father. “Good work,” Justin tells her, “You’ve just guaranteed your father’s protection.”

Chuck reviews Shaw’s files. Sarah enters and asks where Steven went. “He found out I’m the Intersect and left,” Chuck ruefully informs her. Sarah explains that Steven loves Chuck. Chuck understands that, but his father doesn’t know him. He doesn’t know that Chuck can help people. “Did you tell him that?” Sarah asks. “No,” Chuck responds. Meanwhile, Steven returns to his cabin and reveals his workstation. He takes apart his watch, and places the face and body into a slot in the workstation. As the computer analyzes the watch, he remarks “this is going to work.” With the analysis complete, he removes the watch face and places it into another watch. Back in Burbank, Sarah tells Chuck that she knows where Steven lives. She stole his driver’s license, and thought he address listed is fake, she was able to trace the only house in the license’s issuing county with no gas, no cable, but tons of electricity use. Back at the cabin, Steven’s computer lights up that there is a perimeter breach. A man dressed in fatigues places a call. The recipient of the call is Justin, who tells the soldier not to call back until they have “it.” The soldier drops a flash bang grenade into the cabin, and his men enter to secure Steven.

Chuck and Sarah pull up. Chuck insists that he go in alone to talk to his dad, but if he’s not out in twenty minutes, Sarah should come save him. Chuck knocks on the door, announcing that he’s there alone. The soldier opens the door with gun drawn and pulls Chuck inside, as Chuck exclaims, “Oh, gimme a break!” The soldier cuts the line on a propane tank to start filling the cabin with the poisonous gas. They demand Steven hand over “The Governor.” When Steven says he has no idea what he’s talking about, the soldier goes to strike Steven. Steven instinctively protects his watch, so the soldier knows that hte watch must be the Governor. The soldiers leave Chuck and Steven to prepare their next move. Steven apologizes for getting Chuck into this mess. Chuck responds, “No. I came here to tell you why I downloaded the Intersect 2.0, but it looks like I’ll have to show you.” Chuck wills a kung fu flash to come. It does, with a dose of hand-held weapons skills thrown in. Chuck busts his chair and grabs chair legs to battle the soldiers. They can’t shoot Chuck because of the propane filling the cabin, so hand-to-hand combat ensues. Sarah hears the commotion and runs for the door, grabbing an ax form outside. The head soldier grabs a knife that he throws at Chuck, but at that moment, Sarah sees this and throws the ax to, successfully, intercept the knife. One swift Sarah kick to the soldier’s face, and the threat is eliminated. “Does she have the Intersect, too?” Steven asks his son. Smiling, Chuck replies, “No, dad. That’s all her.”

Chuck is at home in his bedroom when his father enters. Steven explains that he designed the Governor to regulate the effects of the Intersect. He explains that the Intersect, like any computer, can overheat. Every time Chuck flashes, electricity is output, the cumulative effect of which can fry Chuck’s brain. The Governor acts like a pacemaker and regulates that electrical output. Further, he believes it will work with the Intersect 2.0. Steven will make one for Chuck because he recognizes that Chuck downloaded the Intersect for the same reason Steven invented it: to help people. He is going to help Chuck be the man he wants to be.

Big Mike has Lester in his office. He wants to help Lester be the man he wants to be. Lester insists that he’ll never bow down to The Man and go corporate with his music. Big Mike explains that he was a man with dreams, too. For a short period in the 80’s, Earth, Wind and Fire, was Earth, Wind, Fire and Rain, and he was Rain. Big Mike can’t wear his costume anymore, but Lester has the hips of a six year old girl, so he would like Lester to have it. “Where do I sign?” Lester tearily responds. Elsewhere in the store, Morgan tells Casey that he spoke with Devon and that if there’s a problem, it’s with Ellie. So, Casey heads over to Ellie’s apartment to investigate. With no one inside, he enters to search for clues, and bugs her home phone. When Casey heads upstairs, Ellie returns home, on her cell phone with Justin. She hears a creak upstairs and tells Justin that someone is in the house. Justin instructs her to go to the speaker box he gave her, and open it. Inside, she finds a gun. Hearing Ellie, Casey starts to come downstairs. He inches toward the kitchen, where Ellie is hidden behind a wall. With Casey about to reach her, Ellie jumps out….and hits him twice with a frying pan, knocking the colonel unconscious, and fleeing from the apartment. Back in their apartment, Sarah asks Chuck to sit on the bed next to her. Explaining that what they do for a living is not safe, she hands Chuck a red box: her spy will. Chuck says that nothing is going to happen to her, that she’s not going anywhere, and neither is he. Meanwhile, Ellie heads over to Justin’s office. She asks him if her father is going to be OK. Justin promises that everyone is safe. She’s done everything he’s asked of her; this will all be over soon. Justin leaves her in his office, and exits, locking the door behind him.

Chuck sits down at the computer to write out his spy will. He recites it via voiceover. Chuck chose to be a spy, and knows that there are consequences that come with that decision (Casey comes to on Ellie’s floor). “Maybe emotions will do me in (Sarah is sleeping).” “Or maybe I slip up trying to protect my friends (Morgan is sleeping).” “Or maybe my family (Ellie is in Justin’s office).” Justin places a phone call and says that “this” needs to happen now. The recipient of the call stands with his back to the camera in a white room with a podium. He places his hand on the podium and it whirs to life. Reading his palm-print, the computer recognizes Daniel Shaw! The computer brings the room to life as videos are projected on the walls. Shaw is downloading the Intersect! “Or maybe it’s the thing I never saw coming. But I know it’s coming,” Chuck concludes.

Commentary

I thought this was a great episode of Chuck, for the most part. What didn’t work for me is a shorter list, so let’s get that out of the way. The whole Jeffster! plot was completely ancillary to the whole episode. Usually, the Buy More B- or C-story is eventually integrated into the A-story by the episode’s end. In this episode, the Buy More stuff stood completely apart from what was going on with Chuck. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if the Buy More plot is really funny. The problem was, the Jeffster! stuff wasn’t that funny. To be honest, I think there’s been too much Jeffster! this season. If they appear four or five times in 19 episodes, that’s too many, and it makes the gag become routine. But this was really my only concern with “Chuck vs. the Living Dead.”

On the positive side, bringing back Papa Bartowski is always fun because I enjoy the bit of “mad scientist” Scott Bakula brings to the role. Further, I thought it was a great plot point to introduce the Governor so we don’t have to worry about Chuck’s impending brain meltdown due to the Intersect that was introduced in last week’s episode, “Chuck vs. the Tooth.” I enjoyed the Ellie story as she is getting deeper and deeper into the spy business. This has been a very nice showcase for Sarah Lancaster, one that she hasn’t really received in the series before. She’s a very strong actress so the more opportunity she gets to perform, the better. We also received a small dose of the Casey/Morgan team, but not so much that it seems like the creators are leaning on the pair too hard. Chuck and Sarah’s relationship wasn’t the center of the A-plot, so that’s always good. What I mean is that we have spent so many of the last few episodes concentrating solely on how Chuck and Sarah will manage being a spy couple, that to see them just be a couple without the agita of being a “spy couple.” Yes, there was the “spy will” bit, but that is the kind of conversation that goes on between couples of all stripes, not just spies. If Chuck and Sarah were both lawyers or garbage collectors or teachers, they would have had the exact same conversation. Next, I really enjoyed the idea that Chuck has begin to have the ability to summon the flashes. At the beginning of the season, a lot of time was spent on the fact that Chuck can’t flash when his emotions aren’t in check. Now, Chuck has become proficient enough, (and in such a good place with Sarah), that he can now harness the Intersect as needed. It’s an interesting development that I hope they continue to explore. Lastly, I’m all for Shaw coming back. It will probably only last for through the season finale, but one final battle with Daniel Shaw sounds like fun to me.

Alright, what did you think of the episode? Did you enjoy “Chuck vs. the Living Dead?” Are you tired of Jeffster! too? What about the introduction of the Governor? Is it too convenient? Are you excited for another Chuck/Shaw showdown? Please leave your thoughts, questions and comments below. Check in with TVOvermind for all of the latest TV news regarding the new fall season schedules, and come back next week for a recap of the two-hour Chuck season finale. Until then, I’m off to Tiffany…to browse, not buy.

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