in Shocktober

Chuck – “Chuck Versus the Sandworm”

Season 1, Episode 6
Original Air Date:
October 29, 2007

I have always considered Chuck with trepidation. On one hand, it’s a show passionate fans desperately fought to keep on the air and I’m definitely interested in a show built around the trio of Zachary Levi (because Thor 2, Shazam, and Mrs. Maisel), Yvonne Strahovski (because she’s in the Mass Effect games), and Adam Baldwin (because Firefly and definitely not his politics). On the other hand, it looked like it could be The Big Bang Theory with action. So is “Chuck Versus the Sandworm” a delightfully nerd-friendly Halloween adventure or cringey drivel? I lean toward the latter.

“Chuck Versus the Sandworm” opens with a young man fighting his way out of a secret government bunker. For a second I thought it was Chuck, but it was actually a different white guy, Laszlo Manhovski (Jonathan Sadowski), a tech wizard who has been developing weapons and gadgets for a decade but is fed up and wants to escape. Meanwhile, Chuck finds out from his boss, Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence), that he is up for a promotion at his job at Buy More if an upcoming interview with someone from corporate goes well. But right now, Big Mike demands Chuck find Morgan (Joshua Gomez), Chuck’s best friend and coworker who is late for work. Chuck finds Morgan at the Santa Monica Pier where he is dueling Laszlo at a Guitar Hero arcade knockoff. Chuck recognizes Laszlo because that’s his super power I guess and Laszlo flees.

Chuck meets with his handlers. First Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) comforts him and gives him a Photoshoped picture of them at Comic Con dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia as part of their cover story of being a couple. His other handler, Colonel Casey (Adam Baldwin), who is undercover as another Buy More employee, yells at Chuck for not contacting him sooner. So that’s the dynamic: Sarah is supportive and Casey is mean. Also, Halloween is coming up and Chuck’s sister and roommate Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), along with her boyfriend Devon (Ryan McPartlin) are hosting a party at their house. Chuck plans to wear his Shai-Hulud costume with Morgan, but Morgan is now in a bit of a funk and reassessing his goofy personality.

Laszlo tracks Chuck down and asks him for help. The duo bond over pancakes and the fact that both are being used by the government. They hang out at Buy More after hours after Laszlo laments all the pop culture he missed out on in the bunker and they decide to watch James Bond movies. Things take a dark turn when Laszlo reveals he can use the DVD player to take over the United States’ nuclear arsenal and threatens to blow up Texas for fun. Chuck talks him down and secretly contacts his handlers, but Laszlo catches onto him and escapes. Chuck later deduces Laszlo intends to blow up the Santa Monica Pier and gets there just in time to stop him.

So I’ll sidestep entirely the conversation of whether a show that caters to white male nerds needs to exist (it doesn’t). Instead, I’d like to focus on how disappointingly shallow this episode was as far as geek cultural milestones. When Sarah reveals the Photoshoped picture of her as Slave Leia at Comic Con I really hoped Chuck would make some joke about that being so insanely on the nose. Also, later in that scene, Chuck says that Sarah is “not ready” to hear Funeral the first Arcade Fire album, a statement that made me cringe so hard I had to fight my compulsion to turn the show of at that instant… It’s dawning on me that maybe my problem is less the references and more the fact that me liking this things means I have something in common with the show.

But if you are a nerd I doubt you’re going to be impressed by the scene when a few clicks on the remote allows Laszlo to bring the military to its knees. Or the fact that Laszlo can do that but ultimately decides to blow up the Santa Monica Pier with a bomb that can be disabled by cutting the right wire. That’s if the nerds were even able to pay attention to those things, maybe they were too busy taking screenshots of the Slave Leia costume or Sarah Lancaster’s Eve outfit. Which, I should mention that once again I’ve been duped into watching an episode of a show that has Halloween as set dressing instead of actually being a spooky special. I’m starting to think those listicles I looked at were not as thoroughly researched as I originally believed.