Chuck, Ep. 5.05, “Chuck Versus the Hack Off” provides an uneven, yet surprisingly fun episode

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Chuck Review, Season 5, Episode 5, “Chuck Versus the Hack Off”
Written by Craig DiGregorio
Directed by Zachary Levi
Airs Fridays at 8pm (ET) on NBC

Throughout its fifth and final season, Chuck has rolled along without a direct arc or Big Bad to drive the story. Nothing resembling the battles with The Ring or the Volkoffs has appeared so far. It’s still early, but given this season’s abbreviated nature, it’s time to move get this show moving. The closest thing to a main villain has been Decker (Richard Burgi), a CIA honcho who plays by his own rules. It’s unclear how this guy could still work for the U.S. government, but the answer’s not coming anytime soon. Once again, he spends this episode tormenting Chuck and the Carmichael Industries gang. His nasty actions raise the stakes and send our heroes scrambling to recover. So is Decker the Big Bad? The answer is a great big no. In a rare surprise, this CIA scoundrel appears to be permanently out of commission.

“Chuck Versus the Hack Off” glides along through a silly plot that’s become the standard during this season. For the second straight episode, however, it throws in surprise twists at the end that send the story spiraling in a much different direction. This is a positive trend but could grow tiresome if the spy missions don’t start improving. Unlike last week, the final moments promise at least one (if not more) episodes that send Chuck and Sarah into a less comfortable situation. They’re dealing with a lot more than the survival of their company at this point. Like Chuck says at the end, they’ll have to use all their spy skills to escape from this conundrum. This isn’t the type of show that truly puts its characters through the ringer, but at least they’re being forced to go well outside their comfort zones.

This week’s main plot has Chuck and Sarah actually working for Decker to steal The Omen, a powerful computer virus that could shut down the entire world. In actuality, that device is really just a McGuffin to put them into a nudist camp with a new-age cult. Using the type of blurring that’s generally reserved for reality TV shows, there’s a whole lot of nakedness happening. There’s obviously nothing truly scandalous on what’s basically a family show, but it does bring some fairly effective comedy from the uncomfortable Chuck. The resolution falls flat, however, and goes back to the obvious wheelhouse of having Sarah fight another attractive woman. While this might have seemed novel back in season two, it’s gone way past offering much beyond the expected action.

One surprise from this season has been the enjoyable turn by Carrie-Anne Moss, who seems more comfortable with every appearance. She has fun with the role of Gertrude Verbanski and finds a way to avoid becoming a one-note character. In this episode, she fills in for Casey and provides the muscle to help Chuck and Sarah recover the device. Decker has promised to release Casey from prison if they provide the virus, and Verbanski’s involved romantically with the big guy. The duo’s scenes are cute because the characters are similar and reluctant to admit the attraction. The conclusion hints that Verbanski may be gone for a while, but it’s likely she’ll return before the season’s end.

The episode’s title relates to a hacker’s duel that Chuck faces to help recover the final part of the device. Apparently, he was a legend called “the Piranha” who did amazing things with a computer. This information was still a minor surprise even considering all the computer work Chuck has handled during past missions. He’s always shown a talent in this area, but the rise to a premier hacker seems like a stretch. Once again, this battle sets up a fun gag about chardonnay driving his success. Guzzling from the bottle like a partying college guy, Chuck seems more carefree than ever in this role. It actually works better than expected and leads to some entertaining moments while Sarah and Verbanski infiltrate the facility.

Zachary Levi returns to the director’s chair for the third time for this episode, which has some issues but still provides solid entertainment. Casey and Lester somehow end up in the same prison, with predictably outlandish results. There’s also a quick cameo from Community’s Danny Pudi that works really well and leads into the biggest laugh of the night. A wisely uncredited second cameo works perfectly because it’s short and has excellent comic timing. Along with the laughs, this story hints at a possible rift between Chuck and Sarah about their future. The spy game is all she knows, and his plans to eventually find a regular life could be tough for her. Although this conflict only appears for a moment, it almost certainly hints at greater issues to come as the finale inches closer.

Dan Heaton

2 Comments
  1. Dan Heaton says

    James, you make a good point. Chuck has been very loose with the plot this season, even more than usual, and this is just one example. I figure having them go on the run works better to keep the story moving.

  2. james says

    The ending made no sense. Why not knock out Decker, take the virus, and give it to Beckman?

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