Well, at least “Chuck Versus Bo” wins the record for shortest Chuck episode title.
Like this season’s “Business Trip” (written by Kristin Newman), “Bo” (also written by Kristin Newman) was a lot of fun. And like “Business Trip,” “Bo” might have been undone by its final thirty seconds. I’ll elaborate after the jump.
Last week, I said that Chuck was coasting, merely giving the various characters their send-offs before jumping into some crazy spy plot in the final few episodes. I might have to revise that assessment, because it looks like this show has jumped right back into the action with an episode that showed some interesting depth.
“Bo” introduced us to Nicholas Quinn, and it seems as if he’s the series’ final big bad. If so, then he’s a fitting one. It’s interesting to look at Chuck’s villains in terms of how they view the Intersect. For Ted Roark and Fulcrum, it was a tool to create an army of supersoldiers. For Manoosh, it was a product from which he could profit. For Shaw and the Ring, it was a way of putting in motion a diabolical plan to take over the American intelligence apparatus. But for Quinn, the Intersect isn’t a means to an end; it’s the end itself. Quinn is an egoist, and he wants the Intersect for the feeling of power and glory that it can bring him. In other words, he wants the Intersect because he wants the Intersect. Dreams of wealth or world domination aren’t Quinn’s main concern. He simply wants the Intersect, the thing that started this whole crazy adventure, bringing the show full circle.
In a stroke of (possibly unintentional) brilliance, this episode revisited Morgan’s “frosted tips” phase, and though that arc was rushed and sloppily executed, it paid dividends here. “Bo” didn’t need to waste time establishing Quinn’s psyche; we’ve seen the same personality emerge when Morgan was under the influence of the Intersect virus. The audience already has an intimate understanding of the kind of damage that could result if an egoist Intersected himself. And if that egoist were somebody without the kind of fundamental goodness that Morgan has buried deep within, then we can guess that that damage would be far more severe. Moreover, tying Quinn’s personality to Morgan’s past gives Morgan a personal stake in the fight against this final villain, which promises to provide a good payoff to his arc at the beginning of the season.
It’s nice when Chuck can work on a deeper level like this, and in general, the series’ better episodes work on multiple levels. (Notable exception: “Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer.”) “Bo” also managed to work on the surface level of just being a lot of fun. Ellie provided some humour in hypnotizing Morgan, and Bo Derek really committed to the bit in playing an evil, fictionalized version of herself. Plus, Jeff and Lester were a hoot this week, and the storyline about their discovery of Castle resolved itself nicely in this episode. In fact, it almost served as a send-off for the terrible twosome, taking them to Las Vegas along with Big Mike. I also very much enjoyed the bizarro Vail Buy More, complete with a female version of Lester and “Big Michelle.”
So overall, this was a fun, very solid installment of Chuck. But we still have to deal with those pesky final thirty seconds. “Bo’s” final twist, in which Sarah Intersected herself, leaves me very apprehensive about the show’s final stretch. Let me be perfectly clear: there were no wacky character rewrites going on here. I have no trouble believing that when all other options were exhausted, Sarah would Intersect herself to save her husband. Sarah’s actions made perfect sense in the context of the situation.
But I don’t see how this season’s game of Intersect Hot Potato fits into the show’s larger narrative. More specifically, I can’t fathom what interesting ramifications there could be from Sarah uploading the Intersect. At least when Morgan had the Intersect, it (briefly) gave us a thought-provoking look at Morgan’s and Chuck’s self-esteem issues; we saw how Morgan’s inexperience affected his ability to deal with the Intersect and how Chuck coped with losing the precious tool on which he had come to rely. On the other hand, Sarah is already an experienced, highly-skilled spy. What advantages does having the Intersect afford her, other than giving her slightly cooler acrobatic skills and a knowledge of even more languages? How will Sarah being Intersected affect her relationships with others in any meaningful way? (“And Chuck was supposed to be special!” screams the part of my brain that’s still stuck in season 1, but then I tell that part of my brain that that ship sailed a long, long time ago.)
Giving the Intersect to someone who doesn’t really need it – aside from those rare occasions on which she needs to turn into an even more effective killing machine – isn’t interesting. I mean, there’s a reason that this show is called Chuck and not Bryce. However, I’m willing to see where this goes before I condemn the idea of an Intersected Sarah entirely. I’m just worried that this is merely another season-four-esque attempt to give Sarah undue importance in the story when it simply isn’t required.