This Week on Chuck – Chuck vs the Best Friend

Spoiler warning!

I have a lot of good things to say about this week’s episode of Chuck, “Chuck Versus the Best Friend.” It had my favorite classic Chuck plot elements, but with plenty of variation and novelty, and though the overarching theme was plastered on with a very heavy hand, I’m always up for a round of “yay, friendship!”

One of the things that’s pretty much guaranteed to make me happy in any episode of Chuck is a subplot with plenty of Ellie and Awesome – who are rapidly rising towards the top of my Favorite TV Couples of All Time list – and the wedding planning portion of this week’s story certainly delivered. I love that the writers show Awesome messing up and then making a good effort to make things right again, and the only thing I wish I could see more of in what is really a very well-depicted loving-but-not-perfect relationship is evidence of a few more of Ellie’s flaws and the impact they might have on her and Awesome as a couple.

I also totally loved the other half of the wedding planning plot, where we get to see a little more of Lester and Jeff. When those characters are at their creepiest, they make my skin crawl in that “wow, guys, this actually isn’t so much funny as it is scary” sort of way, but they can also be endearingly weird. I was genuinely rooting for them for much of this episode, and the musical number was a fantastic climax. I’d be really pleased if the writers would give Jeffster-style stories more time, and tone down even more on the misogynistic ickiness that Jeff and Lester seem to trail around in most episodes.

My feelings about Morgan in “Chuck Versus the Best Friend” are less positive. I always like it when Chuck points out to his guy friends that they’re doing something really sketchy (though I wish, since he’s usually the viewpoint character, that he’d be even more firm about this instead of inviting the audience to find whatever-it-is almost cute rather than unnerving), and I thought it was nice that in this particular episode, Morgan did come around to the point of acknowledging that his stalking behavior was out of line. But then he got the girl anyway. Even though he spent the entire episode either creepy or unconscious. Sooo… Yeah. I was also really irritated by his comment about Anna’s “very colorful past” – a reference to the character being bisexual – delivered in a super-scornful tone. Anna is the only character on Chuck who is openly queer (unless I’m missing someone?), but it’s been mentioned directly only a couple of times, and the reactions have been prurient and, now, derisive. Not awesome.

Back on the awesome side of the spectrum, the interactions between the members of Team Chuck this episode had me doing gleeful little flaily motions with my hands for most of their screen time. Casey’s winking! The snark! The awesome spy gear! The moments where they worry about each other’s safety! All good.

I also really liked the villain of the week, “Smooth” Lau, and was impressed once again at how Chuck manages to frequently show fights between beautiful women that read as fights and not as pure titillation. Having most of the ass-kicking take place inside a car was a cool new twist.

Other things that made me giddy included another totally gorgeous dress for Sarah (I’m not big on fashion, but I totally swoon over most of Sarah’s gowns), the hilarious Rube Goldberg-esque sequence that alerted the villains to the presence of a spy, and the whole Semper Fidelis thing.

But the thing that made me simultaneously most happy this week and most disappointed in the series as a whole was the development of Anna’s character. I love Anna. Her outfits and hairstyles are so out-there and awesome, and that she’s a serious geek and holds her own in the Nerd Herd makes my dorky little heart go pitter-pat. I want more dialogue and more development for her in every episode she’s in. So seeing so much of her in “Chuck Versus the Best Friend” was really great. And I got really excited when, after indicating that she was really happy that Chuck considers her a friend, Anna went on to show a great deal of pleasure in hearing that Sarah wants to be her friend, too. Yay, friends! And then Anna and Sarah have a chat. Yay, female friends!

And it’s about guys. And, in fact, it’s the only time these two characters have really spoken together alone. Which really highlights a major lack in the show. There are only three recurring female characters (not counting General Beckman, who is at a physical distance from the rest of the cast), and they don’t have anything truly in common with one another besides the men that connect them. Jeff and Lester are really good buddies, and are also friendly with the rest of the guys at Buy More. Morgan and Chuck are best friends. Chuck and Casey have a manly sort of…something…going on. Awesome and Chuck have a brotherly friendship. There’s a lot of dudely support going on in this show. And while we’ve seen Ellie, and now Anna, confide in Sarah, that really only highlights how weird it is that neither of those women appear to have had any female friends before Agent Walker came to town.

I think Chuck has a few really neat female characters – but not enough. But what do you think? And what did you think of this episode?

Comments

  1. jmtorres says

    You know, when the bad guys had Morgan in the parking lot and Chuck came in to say why he was really there, I really expected him to try to spin some kind of justification on it. Like, “He’s Anna’s ex-boyfriend, he still loves her, he’s here because he wants to win her back.” And he didn’t, he went straight to “He’s a stalker sicko.” And you could see Chuck reaching for anything else to say about Morgan, so I think that the fact that that’s what he went with indicates that’s what he actually thinks of the behavior, and he couldn’t come up with a justification in his own head there. That part? Awesome. Morgan getting Anna despite being a creeptastic little freak? Disappointing as hell.

  2. says

    Okay, I’m bothered by the “stalker getting the girl” trope, and I don’t even watch the show. I realize that if it were part of a plot to demonstrate that such people can never be redeemed by a nice loving partner, it could be okay – but that never seems to happen on TV.

    The lack of female buddy stuff is another general source of irritation, not limited to this show (oh, if only!).

    And you know what? Several things you’ve said make me kind of want to watch the show. But those two items completely erase the encouragement. Surely this show can attract male viewers without alienating those of us who are bored to death with these repetitive tropes?

  3. molly b. says

    Anna seems to gravitate more toward men, and really might not have a lot of female friends, but I think Ellie probably has friendships we don’t see, mainly through her job. She could have a whole group of female friends at the hospital who mainly talk about organ transplants and bioethics, but we hardly ever see her in that context.

    Her wedding shower should be interesting. I’m betting that Sarah ends up coordinating it, thus providing plenty of opportunities to show how uncomfortable she is in commonplace, non-femme-fatale-type female activities. This show might even be able to make that work. :-) They haven’t done that yet, have they? I’ve missed a few episodes this season.

  4. sbg says

    I think Chuck has a few really neat female characters – but not enough. But what do you think? And what did you think of this episode?

    They do, but they don’t utilize them enough beyond how they revolve around the menz. I love Chuck. It’s light, fluffy fare that I don’t think too much about – but wouldn’t it be SO AWESOME if they’d go just one step further?

    Also, I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I love Lester. Well, maybe it’s more that I find Vik Sahay super adorable. I just want to squish him sometimes.

  5. says

    jmtorres: Yep. I’m in total agreement with you.

    Jennifer: I don’t want to minimize or dismiss your totally understandable heebie jeebies about the stalker trope, but I’ll say that for my part I found it way less disturbing on Chuck than I ever have before. The creepy-dude-as-comedic thing definitely gets a lot of play on this show, but it doesn’t raise my hackles nearly as much as it has on other series. I dunno why that is – maybe because the show as a whole is so over-the-top that the exaggerated behavior doesn’t stand out as a freakish contrast? I’ll have to think some more about this.

    molly b.: Yeah, we’ve seen that Ellie does have female friends, since she threw a party and invited quite a few of them in the first episode. It makes practical sense that they don’t get brought in for her emotional conversation moments the way that Sarah, though, does because they’re not already main characters. That there aren’t other main female characters to begin with is really the problem, in my view.

    Nope, no wedding shower yet! I’m looking forward to more wedding planning subplots – the way Ellie approaches the whole thing reminds me a lot of my process when I was getting married, and it’s been pretty entertaining for me so far.

    sbg: Yes, it would be totally awesome. Chuck is pretty close to a dream show for me as it is, but it could be so much better still.

    On the subject of Vik Sahay, have you checked out The Intersect? Fia is a huge Vik Sahay fan, and I really enjoy her take on Chuck generally. You might like her blog.

  6. says

    The creepy-dude-as-comedic thing definitely gets a lot of play on this show, but it doesn’t raise my hackles nearly as much as it has on other series. I dunno why that is – maybe because the show as a whole is so over-the-top that the exaggerated behavior doesn’t stand out as a freakish contrast? I’ll have to think some more about this.

    This is interesting. Please let me know what you come up with.

  7. says

    I have nothing major to add but “I pretty much agree”, I just wanted to say “yay, feminist discussion of Chuck!”. I just finished watching both seasons and had thinky thoughts so it was good to find someone thinking similar things :)

    I was overall very disappointed with how Anna’s character was dealt with as season 2 went on, it’s like they couldn’t think of anything to do with her.

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