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Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Chuck Versus the Baby" emotional highpoint

     This week's installment of NBC's Chuck, "Chuck Versus the Baby," finds Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) reverting back to her old habits, trying to handle a situation alone, and in secret. Chuck (Zachary Levi) does his best to be understanding, but when his intervention saves Sarah's life, she realizes that she's been wrong. Together, they set off to save Sarah's mother (Cheryl Ladd, Las Vegas, Charlie's Angels) from a very bad, ex-CIA creep (Tim DeKay, White Collar).

     The final season of Chuck has been phenomenal, even though this reviewer has not managed to write up an article each week. "Chuck Versus the Baby," however, will stand out even among the excellent grouping. It really delves into how Sarah has changed, and how her life has been enriched by being with Chuck. She was willing to give up everything for her job, once upon a time. Now she has friends and family, and her life is facing a crossroads. Her decisions to let Chuck in, as well as turning down Beckman's (Bonita Friedericy) offer to rejoin the CIA, are a big step for her, signaling that she is happy with the way things have progressed, and prefers a fuller life. It's heart-warming, and Sarah realizing her wrongness completes a wonderful, long-term arc. Plus, it isn't like she looks weaker than Chuck overall, because as Morgan (Joshua Gomez) says, she's usually right when they disagree. A small part for deceased CIA Director Graham (Tony Todd), tying the current arc into the series pilot, is also a welcome bridge.

     Just one question: is Sarah's hair in the flashback an intentional homage to Ladd's days as an Angel?

     Even better is introducing Sarah's mother to the group, and the character will have to return at least once more. Chuck is very heavily about the titular character's family, but thus far Sarah's only relation is a con man. With the introduction of Ladd's mother, Sarah now has a similar connection. It's also sweet for Sarah's mother, who worries about her daughter ever getting a real life with people to care about. A short amount of time spent near Chuck and Sarah's extended family reassured her that Sarah is well taken care of and happy. If tears are not in your eyes at this point in watching the episode, then you have no human emotions.

     Elsewhere in the episode, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) intercede to try to repair things between Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and Alex (Mekenna Melvin). It leads to a fun little back story of Awesome's time as an A&F model, but more importantly, it wakes Alex up to the fact that Morgan is a good guy who made a mistake. Why she can't understand how his brain gets messed up by a computer is hard to understand, but it's forgiven when they reunite after she sees Morgan being caring towards Sarah's little sister. It's about time!

     Of course, not all of "Chuck Versus the Baby" is sappy, emotional stuff, as not every Chuck fan cares about those things. Some just want the action. DeKay's villain, so different from his USA Network good guy, delights. He is deliciously evil, well acted, and has a heck of a fight scene with Sarah in her mother's kitchen, as unrealistic as their fall through the wall may be. It adds adrenaline to the episode, and gives it an extra shove.

     The complaints about "Chuck Versus the Baby" pretty much boil down to the trailer NBC aired last week. The preview made it seem like Sarah had a secret child that she hid, which would have been a low down, dirty, ridiculous contrivance tossed in at the last moment. Instead, this week's entry is sweet, awesome, clever, and original. NBC made a huge mistake when putting together that commercial, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

     Chuck's (unfortunately) final season continues Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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