Chuck 5.09 "Chuck vs. The Kept Man"A tv review article by: Samuel Salama Cohén, Kyle Garret
Chuck and Sarah contemplate the next step for Carmichael Industries and in the meantime Casey's forbidden love, Gertrude Verbanski, walks back into his life ...
Chuck airs Friday nights at 8:00 on NBC.
Kyle Garret: This was a fairly ordinary episode of Chuck. There were some ridiculous moments, like the idea that Chuck would be so stupid as to not realize Sarah thought she might be pregnant or pretty much anything having to do with the arms deal, which was just silly. But there were some good moments, like Chuck spiraling, Sarah spiraling, and any scene involving Carrie-Anne Moss.
Sam Salama Cohén: Regular-sized Chuck episode, alright. That means some development, some fun, maybe too much on the silly comedic side of things...but not much more than that. It all felt as a big excuse to jump Casey's character forward, both on his own and on his relationship with Verbanski (which again was sublimely portrayed by Carrie-Anne Moss). Actually, it had many nice character touches, which shows that the writers feel and love these characters they've been with for 5 Seasons, but the overall plot felt too simplistic, as in, let's say, a fill-in issue after a big Saga (talking comic-books here, now, sorry). And yes, the spiraling was just a really fun touch. See? They get the characters.
Kyle: Funny enough, the thing I liked best about this episode is also the thing which is powering the upcoming diatribe. I’m referring to the B-plot, the story of Jeff and Lester digging into Chuck’s other life. I actually really like this idea, and I like the fact that it was the natural result of Jeff getting his brains back.
Sam: Yes, it feels the writing team always loved the idea of Devon the Spy, as they're certainly exploring it in many episodes of this Final Season. Personally this was the one where I felt it "made more sense", as it was a part of a cover up. Oh, and seeing Lester dressed as a woman? Not sleeping well for a few nights, man! Haha.
It was about time that somebody found out about these guys hiding their spying business below the collective noses of the Buy More. And, of course, who did it? The Nerds.
Kyle: Here’s the problem: Chuck and the others aren’t spies anymore. There’s nothing secret about what they do now. Carmichael Industries isn’t hidden. They go to private security conferences. Heck, in this very episode we find out that they have a web site. Apparently the two guys who figured out what the Omen virus did were unable to do a Google search to find out what Chuck, Sarah, and Casey have been up to.
Sam: The thing with how this season has been playing out, and the very valid point you raise here, leads me to believe that the writers themselves know that Carmichael without the CIA component (e.g.: Beckman, Decker, Stan Lee...) can only reach so far. The threats have been bigger and the stakes have been higher when Carmichael Industries wasn't all there was to the three main characters. On many episodes they worked alongside the CIA, even infiltrating it or bringing down malicious factions, with Beckman's help as kind of a liaison.
And then, after the big win, Beckman offered them all their CIA jobs back. So, why do these guys fight the good fight with almost no money or means when they could aim for bigger goals? Don't ask me. However, I perceive that in mixing CIA operations with Carmichael ones, the writers might have confused even themselves, and tried to simplify by calling everything Spy.
Kyle: It doesn’t matter if Jeff and Lester learn the truth, because it’s not a secret, and it’s ridiculous that this show uses “spies” to mean pretty much anything they want. It is impossible to explain why Jeff and Lester didn’t learn about Carmichael Industries in about three minutes, at least in any way that makes sense. It’s sloppy, sloppy writing, and it offends me as a viewer.
Sam: I would, though, understand this as: "If these guys learn about Carmichael below the Buy More they would start asking a lot of questions". Questions with difficult answers, like since when have you three been spies? How's all this equipment possible? And so on. But yeah, everything would be simpler if they all just quit their Buy More jobs and built their base somewhere else. After all, Chuck and Sarah own the Buy More, but they still want to play along.
Kyle: It also underscores how problematic Carmichael Industries is. Given that it’s a business that is advertised to the public, why are Chuck and Casey still working at the Buy More? They’re not spies anymore! They don’t need covers. You could make the argument that Chuck decided to the keep the store open as another form of income for the business, but that doesn’t explain why he’d still go into work every day, particularly when he has another job.
Sam: In a way, them all working at the Buy More and having their HQ there might be the writers' way of keeping some of the initial charm of the series' premise intact. Or sloppy writing, yeah.
Kyle: Although I think they could have kept the Buy More involved if the team just had their base under it, but dropped the disguises. I think that would be enough to keep the charm of the series.
And, again, we see Chuck and Sarah talking about their job as if it’s somehow equivalent to working for the CIA. There’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t walk away from their jobs. They aren’t serving any greater good by being a private security firm. They aren’t keeping the world safe from terrorists. They are working for whoever will pay them. That’s it.
Sam: Well, in this case I think they make sense, because for all they know, they could be going back to being part of the CIA any minute they wanted. Still wondering why they haven't made the move, as it only feels like the logical progression of things. Maybe it's just that we only have 4 more episodes and that plot point would need further exploring? No clue.
Kyle: I think it goes back to the them wanting to have the characters ride off into the sunset and give the fans their happy ending. I think keeping the gang out of the CIA means they can quit any time, and have nice, safe, normal lives.
Sam: Right on the money, that thought was on the back of my head as I typed. An easy way out.
Kyle: I really do love this show, but sometimes I feel like they’re not even trying anymore. They just do so many things that are so obviously problematic, that it makes me wonder who’s manning the ship.
Sam: Yeah, and now we are left with another "problematic" cliffhanger. Bet you ten bucks that they solve it with style and address some of our continuity and common sense complaints. Because that's just the way Chuck works. One more down, Four to go. And then what? You gotta start thinking about our next collaboration, Kyle!
Kyle: Man, I watch a lot of television – I’m sure we can think of something!
Sam: Sounds good to me!
Sam is a passionate comic lover, who since an early age, found himself into the grasp of Marvel titles such as Conan the Barbarian, Captain America, Spider-Man, and, of course, his true love (after his girlfriend Natalia, that is), The Avengers.
As Comics Bulletin's Community Manager, right now a lot of his time is devoted to managing and improving the site's presence on social networks, and on building an active and interesting Community. Currently living in Madrid, he loves travelling around the world -- and getting comics wherever he goes. You can find him as @SamSalama on Twitter, and as Samuel Salama on Facebook.
Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At, available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comic Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at KyleGarret.com and on Twitter as @kylegarret.