Moving On – Ep. 4.16 – Chuck Vs The Masquerade

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren Lefranc

Directed by Patrick Norris

Phew!

The typical episode of Chuck can often be crammed with a lot of story threads. Masquerade wins the award for containing the most amount of material in a forty-two minute episode in the series. There are at least five concurrent story lines all dealing to one degree or another with characters moving on with the next chapter in their lives. Not only that but the entire cast appears in the episode as well as the introduction of the two new characters. If that were not impressive enough, this episode also serves the function of being the setup episode for the next story arc for the remainder of Season Four.

Again. Phew!

It is notable that as far as character beats go there is nary a false step here. This comes as no surprise when the writing credits show us that the writing team of Judkins & Lefranc are behind the keyboard. They have consistently displayed an understanding of the show and the characters that have made them fan favorites since they came on board in Season Three. The fact that they are writing a setup episode instead of a payoff episode, along with the most glaring example on the show’s quality because of the budget and scheduling cuts since Season Three, is more of a factor as to why Masquerade does not resonate as emotionally as their previous efforts.

Masquerade deals with people facing the fact that they are moving into a new phase of their life. Decisions need to be made that will take characters down new roads. For Morgan it is the awareness that he needs to move out and modify his bromance relationship with Chuck. For Vivian it is finding a purpose and direction in her life. For Chuck and Sarah it is the impending move towards becoming life partners. For Casey it is deciding whether after four years on Team Bartowski – his longest assignment, it is time to leave while on top. For Devon and Ellie it is the moving of Clara sleeping in their room to her own bedroom.

Opening with a shockingly graphic head shot, shades of the Emmett Millbarge death at the beginning of Season Three, we are put on notice that the next chapter in the series has started. The show quickly returns to its lighter comedic nature with the Valentine’s Day activities at Casa Bartowski. Morgan and Alex’s weird pastiche of tantric sex activities are played against Chuck and Sarah’s much tamer Love Machine T-Shirt and Sarah’s cute angel wings. All this comes to a crashing halt as Casey intrudes and has his own form of flashing as he tries to process what he is seeing. That is followed by a funny scene as Team Bartowski troops into the Castle still attired in their Valentine’s Day regalia.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.

  • Head shot wake up call
  • Chuck and Morgan rose petalled Valentine’s Day fist pump
  • bear skin rugs and Love Actually
  • Chuck’s Love Machine T-Shirt and Sarah’s Angel Wings and Pretty Woman references
  • Casey breaking in on Valentine’s Day at Casa Bartowski
  • Morgan asking GB if next mission has a party theme
  • Eyes Wide Shut masquerade
  • Casey and Morgan dealing with being the Third Wheel
  • Scruffy Ellie and Devon – smell like vomit and Cheerios
  • Ellie’s breast feeding diversion
  • Sarah and Morgan try to ‘hang’ with one another
  • Sarah playing with Star Wars toys
  • Chuck and Vivian comparing notes on the state of their lives
  • Vivian has been fully trained as an agent
  • Han and Chewie end up with up Clara a la Toy Story 3
  • end of an era for many characters
  • Vivian searching for her destiny at Volkoff’s headquarters

Sometimes words fail…

It was intriguing to see Vivian Volkoff’s life compared against Chuck’s. They are two people who grew up sheltered from their parents true natures. Yet upon discovery, both are directly impacted by that revelation. Chuck chooses the path of good. Vivian looks like she may be taking a different fork in the road. We know that she has been, for all intensive purposes, trained as an agent and that she has the character makeup to pull the trigger if the need arises. Will her discovery of her father’s legacy sway her to the dark side? Time will tell.

The initially more intriguing character is Robin Givens mysterious NCS Covert Ops Director Jane Bentley. She is actively recruiting Casey to take on a new assignment as the leader of a team she is putting together. Will Casey decide to leave Team Bartowski? Whatever he decides we know he will not leave Burbank. Is procuring Casey, Bentley’s true purpose or does she have other end games in mind?

Chuck and Morgan painfully realize through the difficult decision of how to deal with their Han Solo and Chewbacca collectible Star Wars figures that they are both moving on to the next stage of their life. The final solution arrived at by Morgan is a great Toy Story 3 homage with Clara Woodcombe inheriting the inseparable duo.

No doubt the show continually tries to do the best with its available resources it has at hand. Green screen effects shots are usually evidence of these reductions. At least they are quick and short in duration. In Masquerade there is an extended sequence starting when Sarah leaves on horseback disguised as Vivian until Vivian returns to the stable and the showdown with Boris which is undercut by these resource issues. Suffice it to say the outdoor horse sequences and Casey’s being on the top moment are not the series’s finest.

Masquerade has some great character beats; a scruffy looking Ellie and Devon, Sarah joking with Chuck about being knowledgeable about sex parties, Casey being praised for his bar tending skills, Ellie and Devon conspiring to steal the music playing lamb toy from Jeff and Lester via the breast feeding diversionary tactic, and Morgan asking GB if there is a party theme to consider on their next mission to name a few.

The table has been set. Questions have been raised with the multiple cliff hangers. A return of a sense of urgency and danger with this next arc would be an awesome development.

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23 comments

  1. For the people complaining about this one seeming a bit “off” compared to Judkins/LeFranc’s other efforts, I think you gave the most cogent reason of this episode being “setup” and not “payoff”.

    I quite liked having Vivian’s agendum being kept ambiguous at least for this episode. Hopefully writers of succeeding episodes do not drop the ball on their watch.

    I have to agree with what some people have said though; probably they could have cut a few bits off either on the “bromance” or the not-too-stellar horse ride sequence, and at least show a minute or so of Sarah playing video games with Morgan.

  2. Off? Maybe. But the opener was some of the best “Chuck” ever! Classic, rewind-and-watch-again-and-laugh-harder-the-second-time stuff! And the setup for the rest of the season was really well done. They’ve “personalized” the potential villainess, made her more relatable than Volkoff himself for sure.

    If it was weak, it was the Sarah/Morgan section, which I saw as somewhat of a regression. I think Sarah “gets” Morgan better than what was shown there, and I wish she would have helped him come to his conclusion more elegantly than we saw.

    • Agreed. I’m imagining Casey’s Valentine’s Day is doubly ruined: first GB calls about Chuck/Sarah not answering her while he is having his Hot Pockets and Scotch and watching a war movie or something, and then he barges into Casa Bartowski to a scene that would probably require diligent scrubbing with brain bleach for him.

      It was a truly funny scene, that one.

  3. Sorry, have to disagree, it was a mish-mash of slop. Not a bad episode but not a good one either. Tried to do to much set-up and not enough fleshing out. Came off as boring, except for Sarah riding the horse, now that we could use more of.

  4. <<>>

    Great review, with one opportunity for pickiness: the phrase is “intents and purposes”.

  5. Nice review Lou The episode did feel a bit off and it maybe as you discussed and it maybe bit because of the strong focus on bromance. Every season the show likes to examine the relationship with Chuck/Morgan

    Seeing Sarah hanging with Morgan on first viewing kinda weir-ed me a bit. Sarah wanting to make an effort to develop relationship with all of Chuck family shows how far she is trying encompass some kind of normal in her life. Old Sarah would of never been caught playing with action figures or having anything to do with Morgan at all

    Elements have been set up to what I hope will provide a more entertaining spy story for you to enjoy. I admit the first one did play a sour note in final song.

  6. One of my favorite lines from this episode….Eleanor Bartowski Woodcomb…Hillary Rodham Clinton…oh, are we not playing that game? Hahahaha…so Jeff and Lester. Love their little games sometimes.

  7. Darn why will my comment not post ?

  8. A bit of inside information from a genuine Somerset resident!

    1. The manor house; yes, there are landed properties like that in Somerset. However, they would be unlikely to be red brick with white columns. New and old money tends to go for a cladding [at least] in local golden/brown-hued Mendip/Ham Hill stone. Think of the Georgian and fake Georgian architecture of Bath and Bristol.

    2. The woods and gentle hills of the manor property are consonant with some parts of the Somerset landscape. I like the little bit of mist we saw; someone has paid attention to Somerset weather!

    3. Nit-pick: Brits never, ever, EVER call random bar staff ‘dear’. Not even if they are smoking hot like Casey ;-) . That’s what you say to little old ladies [GGG]. The local slang term for someone you know and like is ‘moi luvver’ or ‘my acker’, but a socialite wouldn’t say that!!!

    4. Worcestershire [Chuck\'s brief cover] is doable to Somerset. About a 3 hour drive each way, near enough. BTW, it’s pronounced ‘Wooster-shire’, ‘KTNX.

    P.S. Green screen? That was a real wood/copse with real grass and Casey was really there, shooting the bad guys.

  9. When I saw Morgan and Alex doing that weird thing on the floor, I was like, “Oh, God, WHAT IS THIS!?!?1?” It’s sad to see Morgan move back to his mother. It’s like a backtrack, if you will. Anybody got a picture of Sarah in the Angel Wing getup? I WANT IT.

  10. Compared to the Wootten and DiGregorio episodes this season and half of season 3 this episode was a lot of fun for me. A weak Judkins and LeFranc episode, as some are calling it, is more than worthwhile. As for the production shortfalls, this is a show that celebrates 80′s television, which in many ways was far less sophisticated than Chuck.

  11. Am i the only one who thinks that Vivian will turn out to be Chuck’s half-sister?

  12. Am I the only one who thinks that Vivian is going to turn out to be chuck’s half- sister?

  13. Am I the only one who thinks that Vivian is going to turn out to be chuck’s half sister?

    • Sorry I posted more than once, i wasn’t posting at first and then i saw my posts deleted, so i reposted it. Not spamming or trolling.

      • You may not be the only one but no I Dont. Mary made it clear with her put down of Volkoff in Push Mix that she was never with Volkoff in that way. Also if Mary was gone for 20years and Vivian looks over 21.

      • Are we really supposed to believe Mama B on this. I’m just going on resemblance and besides an error of 1 or 2 years really doesn’t matter in Chuck nowadays.