Chuck: Season 4, Episode 17
Chuck vs. The First Bank of Evil
I've constantly given Chuck the benefit of the doubt. I considered the show clever, fun, and adorably endearing. When, a few seasons back, there were talks of cancellations, I signed petitions and got agitated. Sadly, with recent episodes, I'm starting to lose faith. But I'm clearly still watching, anyway, so here goes.

Riley, Volkoff's lawyer, shows up with a letter for Vivienne, which he attempts to read in Alexei's voice (a quirky and ridiculous request that totally fits the crazy man's character). Vivienne swears she'll be the first to say no to her father, but Riley gets all crazy and tries to force her. Apparently he forgot the whole thing about her being "groomed for evil," which he'd said a few seconds before, because when he tries to hold her at gunpoint she goes all kung-foo on his ass and escapes.

Cut to Sarah and Ellie trying to plan the automaton's wedding. Sarah doesn't get the whole deal with flowers, Ellie tells an adorable story about having emotions, which Sarah clearly can't relate to. Ellie has a lovely premonition about the Ice Queen melting, making the end of the episode abundantly obvious.

To help assuage Chuck's guilt, Morgan pretends that everything is going fine at his mom's while he looks for a new place. But he's actually miserable and sick of hearing Big Mike (the Buy More manager) and his mom get it on.

Vivienne, meanwhile, comes running to Castle, trying desperately to prove she isn't evil. Chuck flashes on the gift Riley gave her earlier, and they learn where all of Volkoff's funds are: the First Bank of Macau, which is apparently staffed by mercenaries. The plot is hatched: Vivienne will help the team get into the bank. Chuck is hesitant at first, but General Beckmann is completely clear: she is an asset who must be cultivated. We discover a delightful new gadget in Castle that sweeps a person and gives them holographic projections of some available costuming options.

Back to the B-Plot. Jeffster, a pair of whacky Buy More employees, try to get Morgan to give them time off for a Renaissance fair, but Morgan refuses, and so they come up with a zany plot to use Morgan's online roommate ad to bring the Renaissance fair to them. And so a troupe of Renaissance freaks answers the ad, which Casey quickly shuts down to maintain Castle's cover. Morgan tries to move in with Casey, but clearly that would be weird, seeing as Morgan is dating Casey's daughter. Whatever.

But yay! Casey shows up, clearly occupied with his NSA mission. He isn't even interested in taking down the First Bank of Macau, a challenge normal Casey would love. So clearly, something serious is going down in the under-construction secret lair annex.

At first, the team tries to infiltrate the bank the easy way, bringing Vivienne through the front door, but Chuck sort of blows her cover when he's told account holders only can enter the vault. Vivienne decides to go in alone. This is clearly the perfect time for Sarah to discuss wedding details and her concerns over her lack of excitement with Chuck, which is just when Chuck flashes on a bunch of stolen military grade servers and realizes that there are some much bigger problems afoot. Vivienne, meanwhile, is subjected to a lie detector test, which she passes, and gains access to her father's private box, which is (yawn) full of pictures and news clippings of Vivienne. Chuck gets stopped by a security guard and Vivienne acts all evil to try to misdirect the guards' attention. The bank president makes some comment about seeing her father in her, and Vivienne (clearly not all that tied to being a good guy), is visibly moved.

Vivienne convinces Chuck that she deserves answers when it comes to her father, so Chuck pulls some strings to get her in to see Alexei. This is when I groaned at the blatant direction the show is going to take Vivienne in; she's at least going to have a foray into the dark side. Ellie decides wedding dress shopping is the best way to get automaton Sarah excited for her pending nuptials, so Sarah uses the makeover machine to try on dresses. They're all ugly and un-Sarah; that is, until she tries on a super simple, sexy, sleek satin number that makes her cry and giggle like a little girl.

Gen. Beckmann determines that the bank is using the stolen servers to fund terrorism. So Vivienne must be sent back into the bank to hack the system, and Sarah and Chuck will have to stage a diversion by pretending to rob the bank. They dress like they're in the Matrix (I mean, exactly like they're in the Matrix, complete with leather trench coats and the entrance scene where they walk through the metal detectors, guns blazing). Vivienne takes the opportunity to plant a bug in the system so the CIA can track the money movement, which is of course when Riley, hand all bandaged, comes in to stoke the flickers of her evil flame. Riley tells Vivienne that Chuck is responsible for her father's arrest, claiming that Alexei isn't actually evil and that the CIA is using her.

A body-suit clad Sarah and a 90s sunglasses wearing Chuck discuss her dress shopping while holding the bank's customers hostage in the fake robbery. Vivienne leaves Riley and is "taken hostage" by Chuck and Sarah, but she clearly isn't comforted by their praise. The shoddily constructed cover of her loyalty to the CIA is (too) obviously cracking. The situation isn't helped by the fact that Beckmann refuses to let Vivienne see her father, and when Chuck tells her the news, Vivienne clearly loses a lot of her faith in Chuck.

Suddenly, Sarah is bride-zilla, ordering Ellie around and planning the most expensive wedding ever. Morgan's still desperate for a place to stay, and even the spot at Jeffster's is filled (by the Renaissance King). He settles for sleeping in the Buy More, but while he's trying to catch some zzz's he sees technicians enter Castle to build the new NSA secret lair. Hopefully this means the plot will be discovered for real, and soon, because all episode I just kept thinking about how much I missed Casey. The lovable meat head discovers Morgan as he's poking around, and when Morgan confronts him about it later, he uses the information to semi-blackmail Casey into letting him crash at his place.

The episode closes with Vivienne ignoring a pleading call of apology from Chuck as she sits next to Riley and proclaims she's "ready to know the truth about [her] father." Cue stock ominous music.

While this week's episode at least had some shining (albeit dimly) comic moments, the entire show is just getting too overwrought and obvious. I mean, it's never been a particularly inventive show, outside of the original premise, but the writing and characterization in the early seasons was spot on, and the dorky witty banter kept me entertained. But now, I see everything that's happening episodes in advance. Unless there's a giant twist coming around the bend, I'm going to be pissed. Hopefully, I keep watching to see it.

Overall grade: C+

"It's kind of like J. Crew for spies."

"I'm fine. Lets hook up later, get facials, and chat."

"It's a little intimidating to be in the presence of a King. You'll get used to it."

Did I mention I miss Casey? Screw you, NSA (I'm probably going on watch lists for that"¦)

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Tags: Chuck
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