Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Season 1 Episode 5
“Chuck Versus the Sizzling Shrimp”
Written by Scott Rosenbaum
Directed by David Solomon

An “Evening of Morgan” (Chuck, Sarah, Ellie, and Morgan enjoy sizzling shrimp and Enter the Dragon) is cut short when Chuck spots Chinese agent Mei-Ling (Gwendoline Yeo, who was seen as Xiao-Mei on Desperate Housewives, and heard as Mercy Graves in the two-part opening of The Batman’s current season) disguised as a waitress at the Bamboo Dragon (“Home of the Sizzling Shrimp”). Tasked by Casey to go over a bunch of files to try and uncover why Mei-Ling is on US soil, Chuck ends up standing Ellie up, and worse, leaving her alone with Morgan.
The next morning, Ellie’s pissed. This has been happening a lot lately, Chuck going MIA, and she makes sure to remind him about the following evening, the siblings’ own October version of Mother’s Day.

Meanwhile, over at the Buy More, Big Mike implements a 24-hour sales competition: first prize, an iPhone, and second prize, a large pizza with two, count ‘em, two toppings! Despite the tantalizing allure of second prize though, Morgan knows he’s screwed, ‘cause he sucks at sales.
So he asks Chuck to help him out, but Chuck’s already been told by Casey that tonight will be his first stakeout at the Bamboo Dragon. And he can’t help Morgan the following evening either, since it’s the Bartowski Mother’s Day celebration. So Chuck says he’ll help Morgan after his “date” with Sarah.

That evening, an elderly man in a wheelchair, identified as Ben Lo Pan (James Hong, recognizable to SF fans the world over as Hannibal Chew, the eyemaker from Blade Runner), arrives at the Bamboo Dragon, followed by Mei-Ling. Chuck flashes on Mei-Ling’s weapon, and realizes she’s here to assassinate Lo Pan.
Casey and Sarah go into the Bamboo Dragon, while Chuck is told to stay in the van.
Inside, gunfire breaks out, and Lo Pan wheels himself out of the restaurant. Chuck sees Lo Pan and decides to help the old man, getting him to his limo.
Just then, Chuck witnesses Lo Pan’s bodyguards take a bound and gagged Chinese man out of the Bamboo Dragon and stuff him into the limo’s trunk, before it speeds off. Mei-Ling arrives and demands to know where the limo is headed, but of course, Chuck doesn’t know.
Before Mei-Ling runs off as Sarah and Casey arrive, she tells Chuck that Lo Pan is Triad, and she was here to rescue her brother.

Chuck is feeling guilty about inadvertently helping the bad guy, but is told by Sarah and Casey to stay out of it, as Mei-Ling is now a rogue element (the Chinese government did not sign off on the assassination/rescue mission, despite Lo Pan’s threat of killing Mei-Ling’s brother, who works for the Chinese consulate).
At the Buy More, Mei-Ling calls Chuck, demanding his help to get her brother back. So Chuck talks to Casey and Sarah, and proposes that they help Mei-Ling, if, in exchange, Mei-Ling would defect to the USA. Casey says if she defects, he’ll personally help save her brother.
So when Mei-Ling tries to get at Chuck, a stand-off that ends with the Chinese agent holding a gun to Chuck, he gets Mei-Ling to agree to the whole “defect to save my brother” deal. (After all, should she still be loyal to a government that was willing to let her brother die?)

As the agents lay out the rescue plan, Ellie is busy in the kitchen preparing for Mother’s Day. But when Chuck’s expertise with security systems is needed once again, he gets drafted to be the eyes and ears of the op. Chuck goes along since he owes Mei-Ling, but insists he needs to get back home by eight, or Ellie skewers him.
Of course, the rescue goes awry, and all three agents are caught by the baddies. Though Casey tells Chuck to just go home and not call the cops, Chuck tails them back to the Bamboo Dragon.
Chuck creates a diversion with fireworks, gets inside the restaurant, and sets the agents free. While the agents make short work of the baddies, Chuck stops Lo Pan from wheeling away a second time.
Chuck, of course, misses the Mother’s Day dinner.

While all that action goes down, Ellie and Morgan share an “I miss Chuck” moment, and Morgan tells Ellie he’s currently the lowest seller at the store, and rather than have Big Mike fire him, he’d rather commit seppuku and resign.
And when Chuck gets back home, Ellie confronts him. Chuck is extremely apologetic, but despite Ellie’s disappointment, she gets it: Chuck’s in love with Sarah, and this is the first really good thing to happen to him in a really long while. She also says that Chuck’s always been a good brother and a good friend, and that he shouldn’t lose that, girlfriend or no girlfriend.
So Chuck asks to re-schedule Mother’s Day, and Ellie agrees.

The next morning at the Buy More, Morgan is about to resign, has in fact, already handed in his resignation letter, when he suddenly gets a big sale, courtesy of Ellie, who decides to do her gift shopping early. The sudden sale boosts Morgan to second place, so he rushes to retrieve the resignation letter (and his large pizza with two toppings).
It turns out though that, a) there is no pizza—and no iPhone either—as Big Mike just wanted to motivate the employees, and b) Big Mike wouldn’t have accepted the resignation in the first place, as Morgan is currently filling the Hispanic employee slot.

Meanwhile, Mei-Ling bids her brother goodbye, and officially defects.

And at the Mother’s Day dinner (to which Ellie invites both Morgan and Sarah, making a break from the tradition of just both siblings celebrating), Chuck explains to Sarah its significance: it’s the anniversary of the day their mother left, abandoning them with a father who wasn’t really there, even if he was.
So Mother’s Day is a celebration of the day when it became abundantly clear that they only really had each other. Now though, Ellie is willing to open up that special day to include the other special people in their lives. (Sadly Capt. Awesome couldn’t get off work.)

Once again, what’s clearly doing it for me in Chuck are the character moments, and in this particular episode, we get to see the toll all this secrecy is taking on Chuck’s personal life, how juggling the secret agent stuff, Buy More, his friendship with Morgan, and his relationship with Ellie, is exacting a price.
And not only is it clear that Chuck’s having a hard time with all this, but it’s also plainly evident that both Morgan and Ellie miss having him around.
Yes, Chuck isn’t perfect (some action bits are better than others), but as I’ve said before, it’s an entertaining hour, fun and funny, while being dramatic too.
Chuck’s a sweet ride, people. You should really check it out.

(Images courtesy of nbc.com.)

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