A nerd before the birth of TOS Red Shirts, I share my thoughts on genre media be it books, movies, TV shows, etc

Monday, February 28, 2011

FBI(Fringe Benefits Inc.)Ep Review - 3.15: Subject 13

A 'Family' forged by Fate, faces their Fears & Foibles
amid the Freaky & the Fantastic.

Join Frea, Jan, Lou, & Maximus in our temporarily constructed shared alternate reality known as a podcast, as we discuss the latest episode of Fringe.

Leave us feedback here or on Twitter:

Frea - @Frea_O
Jan - @happydayz3
Lou - @olddarth
Maximus - @mxpw999

On the run all the time? A commuter? Listen to our portable version
via iTunes - Alternate Reality Version.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Moving On - Ep. 4.16 – Chuck Vs The Masquerade

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren Lefranc
Directed by Patrick Norris

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.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CNN - 4.16: Chuck Vs The Masquerade

Welcome back gang!

Take a listen to our Audio Episode Review of CNN 4.16 - Chuck Vs The Masquerade


Thanks to my fellow podcasters Jan, Karen, and Joe.

Miss any episodes? You can find them all at CNN - Chuck Nerdposium Netcast and every time you watch it helps to support us!

As always this podcast is family and office safe.

Monday, February 21, 2011

FBI(Fringe Benefits Inc.)Ep Review - 3.14: 6B

Join Frea, Jan, Lou, & Maximus in our temporarily constructed shared alternate reality known as a podcast, as we discuss the latest episode of Fringe.

Follow us on Twitter:
Jan - @happydayz3
Frea - @Frea_O
Lou - @olddarth
Maximus - @mxpw999

On the run all the time? A commuter? Listen to our portable version
via iTunes - Alternate Reality Version.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Canine Consternation Ep. 4.15 – Chuck Vs The C.A.T. Squad

Written by Nicholas Wootton

Directed by Paul Marks

Some folks like chocolate,
I'll take vanilla.
I say baseball over football.
And to me,
Man's best friend doesn't bark or fetch a ball.
See, personally, I like C.A.T.S.

With that coda sprung from Morgan's ever overactive pop cultured imagination an explanation was provided why I consider this one of the weaker entries this season.

I am a dog person.

On paper the idea of an episode where Sarah is re-united with former team mates with the added bonus of one of them being Carina scans like a recipe for a fantastic episode. Especially with the history between Carina and Morgan, who is now in a full blown relationship with Alex. Much like last year's Role Models, the execution was not up to the concept.

The episode gets off to a good start with a fun Charlie's Angels montage of the C.A.T. Squad punctuated by a cat claws swipe at the end. This is followed out by a Girl's Night Out that starts with the C.A.T.s literally dropping in and swooping Sarah away. The next day's scenes with a hungover Sarah and Carina in bed with Morgan are also fun. This makes for an enjoyable first half of the episode but once again an underwhelming and totally predictable spy story filled with a succession of contrivances have the episode limping to the finish line.

Neither Chuck or Sarah fare well in this episode. Both are victims of being manipulated to service the plot because the thrust of the episode is predicated upon one of them acting unilaterally for the the both of them. Again. Good intentions aside, Chuck and Sarah have already seen the consequences of making decisions on their own without discussing them first.

What makes this device more problematic is that it used to create false drama sacrificing character likability in the process. Sarah publicly berating Chuck in front of a group of peers was not pleasant the first time in Fear of Death and is no more so this time. Especially since there is no follow through. If such a confrontation leads to relationship growth between the two of them so that they agree to discuss such decisions beforehand and take their issues behind closed doors then the relationship fights serve a purpose. If the fights are used to create melodrama because there is no followup then it diminishes the characters. Sarah's outbursts hurt her character as does continuing acceptance of verbal abuse and making apologies hurts Chuck's.

Chuck and Sarah having arguments can be quite entertaining. If they are used properly. Doing it for fun and relationship growth is fine. Using it to generate false drama is not enjoyable.

Turning to the spy story, any time the climax of a spy story is going to take place in the Castle and BuyMore the chances of contrivances appearing to resolve said spy conflict climb noticeably. From the moment Chuck touches the skylight and falls through and on, the amount of hand waving needed to accept all the contrivances made me feel like I was miming a hummingbird. My litmus test for contrivance threshold is if Casey falls prey to it too. With Casey literally taking a powder in the Castle that threshold was exceeded.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.
  • Morgan's Charlie's Angels/C.A.T. Squad montage
  • Engagement Invitation listing Chuck first
  • Morgan has Carina's contact info
  • C.A.T.'s drop in for a Girl's Night Out
  • hung over Sarah
  • Morgan's double take of a naked Carina
  • Sarah's 'Old Hen' friends
  • Bye, bye Porsche!
  • The Gentle Hand
  • Casey not buying Morgan's assertion that Carina is hitting on him
  • Casey telling Chuck he has put his past with Kathleen behind him
  • Where does Sarah hide those knives?
  • Amy as muscle
  • Chuck using broken CDs as Ninja stars. Cool and clever!
  • Machine guns under pink tafetta
  • Ellie is the Maid of Honor!
  • Sarah and Ellie scenes! So long overdue.
The C.A.T.s Together Again

Morgan and Carina had some fun scenes together but that storyline fizzled out at the lipstick on the collar gambit. That storyline did set up a nice beat where Alex waved off Carina's intended apology because Morgan had verbally expressed his love to her.

The actresses cast for Zondra and Amy were well chosen. Zondra and Sarah had some good confrontational scenes which were somewhat undermined by a rather pedestrian fight scene. Probably a casualty of time pressures.

Without a doubt the highlight of the episode was the long, long overdue scenes between Sarah and Ellie. Both are played by great actresses and for the show not to have taken far greater opportunities of the two of them together is perplexing. Things are looking up though as their conversations have set up a storyline where the two of should be spending some time together in future episodes. Also heartening in this episode was the scene between Casey and Chuck in the van. This was a seed planting scene that hopefully will get some payoff for the Casey, Alex and Kathleen dynamic down the road. Great to see the show doing this as it does not happen very often.

Will subsequent episodes continue to have Chuck and Sarah making decisions for each other without talking to one another first? Hopefully with this episode that plot contrivance has been declawed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CNN - 4.15: Chuck Vs The C.A.T. Squad

Welcome back gang!

Take a listen to our Audio Episode Review of CNN 4.15 - Chuck Vs The C.A.T. Squad


Thanks to my fellow podcasters Jan, Karen, and Joe.

Miss any episodes? You can find them all at CNN - Chuck Nerdposium Netcast and every time you watch it helps to support us!

As always this podcast is family and office safe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

FBI(Fringe Benefits Inc.)Ep Review - 3.13: Immortality

Join Frea, Jan, Lou, & Maximus in our temporarily constructed shared alternate reality known as a podcast, as we discuss the latest episode of Fringe.

Follow us on Twitter:
Jan - @happydayz3
Frea - @Frea_O
Lou - @olddarth
Maximus - @mxpw999

On the run all the time? A commuter? Listen to our portable version
via iTunes - Alternate Reality Version.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CNN - 4.14: Chuck Vs The Seduction Impossible

Welcome back gang!

Take a listen to our Audio Episode Review of CNN 4.14 - Chuck Vs The Seduction Impossible


Thanks to my fellow podcasters Jan, Karen, and Joe.

Miss any episodes? You can find them all at CNN - Chuck Nerdposium Netcast and every time you watch it helps to support us!

As always this podcast is family and office safe.

Moroccan Madcaps Ep. 4.14 – Chuck Vs The Seduction Impossible

Written by Kristin Newman & Chris Fedak
Directed by Patrick Norris
Acknowledging the shallowness of this statement I bow to the same device that other reviewers have knelt to:

Sarah belly-dancing!

Beyond that a detailed review of this episode seems superfluous. Especially for an episode that embraces the fun and silly with reckless abandon. Freed of the shackles of this season's shaggy spy story arc, Chuck Vs The Seduction Impossible is a straight out Roan-led romp that lands in the upper tier of Chuck's more fun episodes. The showrunners should seriously Get Smart and tailor Chuck to follow the tone of that show and steer clear of any further convoluted spy mythos based stories that sunk shows like Alias.

The hilarious incongruity of the image of a RPG'ed Beckman makes trips like this into comedy a hoot. It was really great to see Beckman from behind the desk and the show harken back to, and expand upon, the inferred history she shares with Roan Montgomery. Beckman in the 80s as a dirty blonde was another priceless moment – though I wish they had taken the opportunity to adorn her with a Farrah Fawcett styled mane of hair.

Roan returned with that smooth style still intact. His double seduction showed us, that while Roan may grumble at Adam West Batman style wall climbing these days, he has not lost a step in romantic subterfuge. His romance advice to Chuck and Sarah helped them to take that needed step back. Plus seeing his advice to Chuck about seducing Sarah into dropping her elopement request preemptively thwarted by Sarah using the very same tactic was niftily carried out. Her near total disarmament of Chuck was all the funnier because of that earlier setup. Did I mention Sarah belly-dancing?

Morgan, with the best of intentions, nearly caused a family incident by asking Casey to reconnect with Kathleen. The sadness felt by Casey when he steeled himself to visit Katherine, only to discover she is seeing someone else, was made even stronger by his unilateral stoic congratulations to her. (A microcosm of the pacing issues this season has had, imagine how much more powerful that beat would have been if the storyline of Casey re-uniting with Kathleen had been sprinkled throughout the first 13 episodes?) Beyond that everything else Casey was involved with was comedy gold. His attempted 'seduction' of the guard inter cut with the painful reaction shots of Chuck, Sarah, and Roan was well played.

Back to Morgan. He gave Chuck dubious relationship advice about not backing down to Sarah on the elopement idea, motivated more by Morgan's desire for a big wedding best man opportunity rather than altruistic motives. This advice leads to some funny pieces of inter-play as Chuck starts saying no to Sarah over mundane issues until it leads up to Chuck giving a stunned Sarah an ill advised Woman declarative.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.
  • Roan gets a Casablanca entrance. Sweet.
  • Casey beats strategic retreat at first sign of trouble from baby Clara
  • Casey doing a slowly building tower of menace when he believes Morgan is trying to tell him that Alex is pregnant.
  • Chuck & Sarah face their greatest challenge – family marriage pressure
  • Beckman and Roan's Never Ending World Wide Love Tour
  • Beckman belts from the bottle
  • Roan – now a silver fox – is still sooo smooth
  • 'You always over pack for missions.'
  • Morgan devastated by Sarah's elopement plan
  • 'No to Sarah...'
  • Chuck with a laser!
  • Whoa! Casey using a tranq gun!?!?!?!
  • 'Naughty little turn coat.' , 'Naughty little turn on.'
  • Alex invokes the Casey death stare
  • 'No... woman.' versus 'Mr. Sarah Walker.' Hmmm... which was more awkward?
  • Casey's seduction of guard versus reaction shots from Roan, Chuck, and Sarah
  • 'Tranq and explode!'
  • Roan as a Green Shirt suffers polyester stylessness chafing.
  • Winds of Change – Berlin Wall Fall and dirty blonde Beckman
  • Sarah strikes first in the seduction game against Chuck
  • Belly-dancing!
  • 'Yeeeaaahhh...'
  • Casey faces 127 Hours arm amputation scenario
  • MamaB modifying spy missions for Clara baby stories
  • Bazooka Beckman. DUCK!
  • 'Never go on a mission angry.'
MamaB and Ellie had some nice bonding moments but the swift abruptness that Ellie arrived at the decision to give MamaB her blessing to go back into the spy world was jarring to the extreme. Especially since the show has spent the past four seasons making an unrepentant stance of saying how it important it was to have Ellie keep the show rooted in the real world. How much longer will the show keep up the unaware Ellie storyline about Chuck? It would not surprise if it played out that Ellie finding out about Chuck being a spy concluded with all the explosiveness of a soggy fire cracker.

Chuck and Sarah played off of each other well this episode. Their dual reactions of wanting to escape family marriage pressures via a mission was expected and still funny. It was disconcerting for the show to have the two of them come so far together and yet have Sarah still not reveal anything about her family background to Chuck. No doubt this will turn into one of the story threads going forward. We all look forward to such revelations and the hopeful return of Gary Cole. Who knows, maybe even Mama Walker too? Let the casting speculations about her resume.

Last, but certainly not least, it was most awesome to see Team Bartowski back together again!

Monday, February 7, 2011

FBI(Fringe Benefits Inc.)Ep Review - 3.12: Concentrate And Ask Again

Join Jan, Frea, Lou, & Maximus in our temporarily constructed shared alternate reality known as a podcast, as we discuss the latest episode of Fringe.

Follow us on Twitter:
Jan - @happydayz3
Frea - @Frea_O
Lou - @olddarth
Maximus - @mxpw999

On the run all the time? A commuter? Listen to our portable version
via iTunes - Alternate Reality Version.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Season/Stand Alone Schism – Episode 4.13: Chuck Vs The Push Mix

Written by Lauren LeFranc & Rafe Judkins

Directed by Peter Lauer

Set up in the second episode of the season, Chuck Vs The Suitcase, the show finally caught up to the audience and gave them the Chuck and Sarah engagement. Waiting for eleven episodes was a test in patience, and story pacing, especially after the multiple aborted attempts in Chuck Vs The Balcony. Fortunately when the proposal came it was shot from a distance. No further words were needed because they had all been said before. Much like the pull away shot on the Mexican Beach at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, when Red finally tracks down Andy Dufresne, some things can be conveyed as eloquently by visuals alone. Sarah's embrace made it quite clear what her answer was.

Viewed as a stand alone episode, Chuck Vs The Push Mix was lot of fun. Chuck finally was released from his season long shackles and made a stand. Using his long dormant wits Chuck manuevered Volkoff to the Orion cabin. Here Chuck fittingly used his father's, aka Orion, tech in conjunction with his brains to bring Volkoff down. No Intersect needed, thank you very much. Showrunner Josh Schwartz trumpeted that the last ten minutes of this episode were the best ten minutes ever done in the series. For my money I will take the showdown sequence in the Orion cabin between Chuck and Volkoff as being more entertaining. But even that sequence would not constitute the best ten minutes of Chuck ever.

Chuck and Morgan had a lot of great scenes from the arming themselves at the Castle with office supplies so they could map out their strategy, to the torture bathroom from hell scenes where the first go around they grabbed the wrong guy, to the scuba suit scenes where Morgan flopped around in his flippers and learned to his chagrin that he should have worn clothes underneath, and to the Morgan laser room scene – even if it was recycled from before and went on a bit too long.

Timothy Dalton as Volkoff continued to delight. His need to talk to MamaB after feeling down about fatally dealing with an unsatisfactory employee and his having an ice cream cone aboard the Contessa was great stuff. Volkoff's mania and scenery chewing, threat menacing ability shone brightly in the Orion cabin. His ego swagger was great to see quashed when it dawned on him that Chuck had outsmarted him. Chuck duping Volkoff into giving up the password to his Hydra data base was a sweet moment indeed.

MamaB and Sarah had their moments but this was really Chuck's episode. It was great to see Alex again even though she did not have much to do. Casey gave Awesome some sage words on advice on about being there for Ellie as Clara's birth became imminent. It was a hoot to see Awesome fall apart when his meticulously planned going into baby hospital run failed out of the gate because the Push Mix CD was missing.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.
  • 'That is a Casey grunt!'
  • Data Flash! Yay!
  • CGI Robot Spy. I'm having a Johnny Quest flashback!
  • Volkoff iPhone pic! LOL
  • The Contessa is ......
  • Chuck makes a stand. Finally!
  • Office supplies = Chuck plan time.
  • Orion is alive? !?!?!?
  • Chuck makes Ellie's Push Mix
  • Ellie's placenta made into vitamin pills? Eww! How are we going to unhear that?
  • CIA Hotline 800-555-0149 – for use in Push Mix Loss Emergencies only
  • Chuck and Morgan snatching the wrong guy
  • ...... a ship! Bought on Craigslist Dubai. A floating fortress of fun complete with ice cream parlour
  • Morgan with flippers = Yoga Seal – new branch of the Marines perhaps?
  • Sarah's coat fits Morgan fine despite his worry about his broad shoulders
  • Devon's Awesome Baby Run Plan falls about without Push Mix. Plan B = CIA Hotline!
  • 'Death is a solution to all problems.' Volkoff quotes his favorite poet and humanitarian.
  • 'No one touches my Frost!'
  • Chuck(Orion) / Volkoff showdown in the Orion cabin
  • Chuck outsmarts Volkoff
  • Clara Woodcombe is born!
  • Chuck proposes
  • Sarah accepts
  • Power Sweeper brushes away all the season arc dangling and unresolved story lines.
Chuck Plays On Volkoff's Pride

Turning to the seasonal arc, Chuck Vs the Push Mix, addressed none of the carry forward items. This blunts the payoffs of the season arc. MamaB and Volkoff's motivations are never clear so there was never any sense of real danger during this arc. Part of the problem also there is no clear story device of tension pushing the main characters. In the first two seasons there was always the threat of Chuck being bunkered. The third season had the tension of Chuck literally losing himself to become a spy. This season the main driving force is Chuck finding a moment to propose to Sarah. Enjoyable for the characters but hardly the story line to place all the marbles on for driving tension.

Given the track record of the past three seasons, and as painful as it is for a big fan of serialized storytelling as myself to suggest, the show would do better to switch its focus to stand alone episodes. Or very short story arcs of two to three episodes. The power sweeper in the last shot gave me an unexpected chuckle. Look! There goes all the unresolved season story threads! The inability to hold and satisfactorily answer story threads of longer arcs this season, and previous ones, offer ample evidence that a switch in story telling gears should be tried.

Chuck Vs the Push Mix offers a lot of entertainment as a stand alone episode. Many great moments as we have come to expect from this fantastic cast spiced up by the superlative work of Timothy Dalton and Linda Hamilton.

It bears repeating. The episode ended with the perfect proposal scene.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CNN - 4.13: Chuck Vs The Push Mix

Welcome back gang!

Take a listen to our Audio Episode Review of CNN 4.13 - Chuck Vs The Push Mix


Thanks to my fellow podcasters Jan, Karen, and Joe.

Miss any episodes? You can find them all at CNN - Chuck Nerdposium Netcast and every time you watch it helps to support us!

As always this podcast is family and office safe.