Saturday, October 27, 2007

Season 1 Episode 3
“Chuck Versus the Tango”
Written by: Matt Miller
Directed by: Jason Ensler

We open on two men checking out a “water lily painting” (Chuck’s words, not mine) in Tehran, and for some reason, one man shoots the other. We then follow the painting as it hops around the globe, where the one man-shooting-the-other motif repeats.

Meanwhile, over at the Buy More, Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) is looking at either Harry Tang or Chuck for the Assistant Manager position, which will bump up Chuck’s salary to a whopping $13 an hour! (But sorry, no personal parking space.)
So Big Mike has Chuck and his team fix a whole bunch of computers to prove that Chuck deserves the promotion.
But when Sarah shows Chuck pictures of all the people killed in front of the water lily painting (and after he spots the newspaper announcing an art auction), the code name “La Ciudad” is spewed out by the Intersect.
Turns out La Ciudad is an elusive international arms dealer, whom no one alive has actually seen. Expecting La Ciudad to pop up at the art auction, Sarah and Casey are dispatched to bring the criminal in. And since no one knows what La Ciudad looks like, Chuck is drafted for his first field mission. (Though even Chuck has no idea what La Ciudad looks like as there is no photo on file, it’s everyone’s hope that something will trigger the Intersect while Chuck mingles at the auction.)

While working with Sarah on his cover ID, the exact circumstances of Chuck’s ejection from Stanford are revealed: apparently, Bryce found a bunch of stolen exams beneath Chuck’s bed, a crime for which he tells Sarah he is innocent.
Also, due to a little spy humour on Casey’s part, Chuck ends up learning the tango from Capt. Awesome, who happens to have spent a semester in Buenos Aires. (The tango lesson montage is one of the funniest sequences of the episode, where we also discover that Casey has a pet bonsai.)

At the auction, Chuck mistakes an MI6 agent for La Ciudad, and while both Sarah and Casey are off doing the spy thing, Chuck sees the water lily painting, does the tango, then is abducted by the real La Ciudad. Chuck’s brought to La Ciudad’s hotel room, and is about to be tossed over the balcony, when he tells La Ciudad that the painting’s frame has been switched (and it’s the frame the arms dealer wants, because of the plutonium that’s hidden in it).
Having no more use for Chuck, La Ciudad is about to execute him, when Sarah and Casey find the hotel room, thanks to the GPS tracking device on Chuck’s watch. In the ensuing gunfight, La Ciudad escapes, taking Chuck’s Buy More ID.
Intel indicates La Ciudad is headed out of the US, but actually backtracks to kill Chuck.
Casey faces off against La Ciudad’s goons, while Sarah goes toe-to-toe with the arms dealer. Baddies are subdued, and all’s well that ends well.

In a Buy More subplot, Morgan and the rest of the Nerd Herders wind up fixing the busted computers (for which Morgan has a deathly fear of, so he’s useless except for “moral support”). But Morgan ends up locked in the storage area, and is abandoned, till Chuck (who has the key) gets him out after all the art auction action.

Granted, La Ciudad’s identity wasn’t really a surprise, but Chuck nonetheless continues to be an entertaining hour (lovin’ that graphic opening credits sequence), with some nice, honest relationships on display (particularly between Chuck and Sarah, and Chuck and Ellie). And we are also gradually learning about the stuff I’m interested in, Chuck’s Stanford years, which is nicely revealed due to the requirements of the spy game, instead of through a normal conversation.
Here’s hoping more of that history comes out in episodes to come.

(Images courtesy of

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