Richard Chamberlain's new look as an international spy 


Chuck Versus Phase Three   

(NBC, Season 4, Episode 9)
( aired November 22, 2010)  

 Created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak

Written by Kristin Newman

Directed by Anton Cropper

Zachari Levi (Chuck Bartowsky), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker), Joshua Gomez (Morgan Grimes), Scott Krinsky (Jeff Barnes), Vik Sahay (Lester Patel), Bonita Friedericy (the General)

with Sarah Lancaster (Ellie Bartowsky) and Adam Baldwin (John Casey)

  Guest starring James Lew, Turston Voges,
Richard Chamberlain

Music by Tim Jones

In the jungles of Southeast Asia,
"The Belgian" (Richard Chamberlain) is torturing Chuck in order
to get hold of the intersect. Sarah is literally fighting her way
to where Chuck is detained to save him. 




Chuck Versus Phase Three

The beauty of “Chuck” is that while there may be a few mysteries to be uncovered about the main characters, for the most part, we know them. We know what they are capable of and where their loyalties lie. They are the good guys. They can always be counted on to help each other. Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are a modern day Porthos, Athos and Aramis, and Morgan may just turn out to be d’Artagnan.

The over the top, one damn thing after another action that we love is in abundance in this tale of derring do. The villainy of the evil Belgian, his
evil scientist assistant and an evil Thai diplomat is unparalleled. These
are the kinds of bad guys you love to hate and you love to see our good
guys defeat.

Thailand has the reputation of being strange, exotic and dangerous. All of those qualities are exemplified in the “location” scenes. We truly get the feeling we have been transported to a frightening land far from our shores along with our four musketeers. If this episode doesn’t get some art and set direction award nominations, it will be a surprise and a shame.

Sarah’s love for Chuck has her doing some pretty crazy things and yet they make sense and they work. One of the things we like about the romance is that we don’t get that two steps forward, one step back action that we see in so many television pairings. In “Chuck Versus Phase Three,” the events only further the relationship and that’s good to see.

What Worked

New takes on clichés make this a stand out episode. Richard Chamberlain, James Lew, and Torsten Voges make an ideal axis of evil. They are so adept at working with the tropes of spy villainy that we want to see more of them, even if it means trouble for Chuck.

The remote control rolling up of the unconscious body of our evil Thai diplomat is a great 21st century turn on an old idea.

Chuck’s dreams while under the influence of the evil Belgian’s scientist assistant are funny and scary at once. They are not shot in the out of focus and distorted manner we so often see on television and in movies. They are as we usually see our dreams. They are in focus but things take wrong turns and are just that teensy bit odd.

Sarah’s fight scenes are an homage to martial arts films and it’s great fun to see her go Jackie Chan on an evil crime lord’s champion.

What Didn’t Work

The one thing that “Chuck” could do without is Chuck keeping his being a spy secret from his sister Ellie. This part of the story needs to be resolved. It was revisited briefly in “Chuck Versus Phase Three” and it is the one weak point in the episode. Chuck, we all know. Tell Ellie!
© 2010  Ann Morris

Chuck versus The Fear of Death 

 (NBC, Season 4, Episode 8)
( aired November 15, 2010)  

Created by Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak
Written by Nicholas Wootton
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

Zachari Levi (Chuck Bartowsky), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker), Joshua Gomez (Morgan Grimes), Scott Krinsky (Jeff Barnes), Vik Sahay (Lester Patel), Bonita Friedericy (the General)

with Sarah Lancaster (Ellie Bartowsky) and Adam Baldwin (John Casey)
Guest starring Jeffrey Hutchinson, Aaron Lustig, Summer Glau (Greta), Richard Chamberlain (Adelbert de Smet, aka the Belgian)
and Rob Riggle (Jim Rye) Music by Tim Jones


Chuck aims to impress by attempting a dangerous mission meanwhile Casey and Morgan try to protect Jeff and Lester from the truth when they snoop around to find out Greta's identity. 

To watch a short video clip of the episode




'Chuck' recap: Scared yet?

After two episodes filled with pretty exciting, emotional twists, "Chuck" seemed to be getting back to basics with a solid, if not spectacular hour, that then redeemed itself with another gut-punch of an ending. The central idea of the episode -- Chuck has to remove the psychological block his mother placed on the Intersect at the end of the last episode by trying to send every inch of his body shivering with the fear of death -- was a pretty good one, and I liked the way the episode tied this in to a more prosaic fear of death, the fear that you'll die and realize you haven't really accomplished anything meaningful or even interesting with your life. Rob Riggle was a lot of fun as the psychological expert called in to help Chuck dislodge the block, and Summer Glau had her moments as the latest Greta (though she was underused). And, as mentioned, that final act was terrific.

So what didn't work? Well, the idea that the block on the Intersect was caused by Chuck's love for Sarah was fairly groan-inducing. I get that as long as she's around, he's never really going to be scared of death because she'll be there to pull him up and out of the fire, but it felt like the latest of the series' attempts to introduce needless drama into the relationship between the two, as if it doesn't know how to write for a happy couple that, nonetheless, has the occasional difference of opinion. This plot point led to one really good scene -- where Chuck and Sarah argued about whether or not he needed her help on his European adventure -- but most of it felt forced, the kind of cheap, pop psychology that can work on a show like this but often comes off as the writers trying to toss needless complications
into the mix.

Similarly, the story with Jeff and Lester stalking Greta around the Buy More, getting closer and closer to finding out her secret and then having Casey call her off from slaughtering the two doofuses was amusing enough in places, but it also felt almost too slight with the weighty stuff going on in the other storyline. There's no way that Jeff and Lester could ever be in any serious danger (or, indeed, even know they were in serious danger), so too much of the burden of the story fell onto Casey and Morgan, who were mostly spectators to the whole event. Sure, Jeff and Lester rarely listen to reason, but if anyone could get them to, it would be the Morgan and Casey tag team. Thus, the decision to make this a storyline where the two ultimately sided with Jeff and Lester over Greta felt kind of regrettable. It doesn't help that the whole Greta thing has turned out to be a bust, just another element in a show that didn't need another element. It's nothing but an excuse for glorified cameos from actors who might give the core audience a few chuckles. (And, heck, I'll admit that when Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin -- who were in that spaceship thing together,
don't you know? -- were on screen together for the first time,
I got a chuckle out of it.)

Yet so much of this story is dependent on the cliffhanger that it's probably best we jump to that next. Chuck and Rye (the Riggle character) discover that the diamond they've been sent to retrieve contains vital U.S. intelligence (of course it does). So they abscond with the diamond, then figure they can make a clean sweep by capturing the bad guys, including one played by Richard Chamberlain. However, Rye's counting too much on Chuck being able to dislodge the block and turn the Intersect back on, as when the group gets in an enclosed gondola, Rye and Chuck find themselves handily outnumbered, and Chuck soon finds himself dangling high above the Alps, trying not to plummet to his doom. Rye seems to have things taken care of, but he's soon shot through the heart and heading for the ground, for good measure. And that's when Chamberlain's character offers Chuck a hand up. He knows Chuck's the Intersect, and he wants what's in his head. Cue sad montage.

Now, granted, this is the unofficial start of a two-parter, so next week's episode could redeem some of what didn't work in this episode. And if there was a "Chuck" fan that didn't get chills when Sarah, Casey, and Morgan vowed to get their friend back, Sarah against orders, no less, then they're probably not a real "Chuck" fan. But the stuff on the way to the finale had some potholes. As an example, that sequence where Rye locks himself and Chuck in the vault holding the diamond, initiating a security protocol that drops the temperature well below zero (in Celsius!), seems like it's going to build to something far more exciting than it actually does. Instead, Rye just enters the combination to turn off the security protocol, offering up the equivalent of "just kidding." The episode is full of false jolts like this, moments designed to get us on the edge of our seat that then have the tension immediately abated. And while I liked Riggle in the role, there were a few too many moments when he seemed to be deadly serious that were then undercut by a joke or two. It's part of the show's structure, but it rarely feels this jarring.

Then again, there's so much good in the episode that it feels weird to quibble about some of the smaller things that didn't work. Granted, nitpicking is kind of my job, but I was as anxious to see another episode of "Chuck" at the end of this one as I ever have been. After starting out Season 4 with quite a few episodes that just didn't seem to have any momentum to them, the show has gotten a nice kick in the pants ever since the Casey-centric episode just before Halloween, and if the resolution to the team getting Chuck back is as good as the build-up we got in the final moments of this episode, then next week just might be one of the show's best episodes ever. And if that's the payoff, then a few small bumps along the way aren't going to seem as terrible.

Some other thoughts:         
The scene between Casey and his daughter felt especially tacked on in this episode. The actors always sell these little moments, but with everything else going on, it didn't feel like we needed the drop-in to remind us that Alex exists.

Someone on my Twitter feed mentioned that they didn't think they would have noticed the Greta thing, if not for TV reviewers and the buzz surrounding the show. And, come to think of it, the show has mostly underplayed the notion that all of these people have been named Greta. So maybe for people who don't pay attention to all of the minutiae about the show, this is just a long string of bizarre cameos.           

 I'm still not sure what the lengthy and not particularly funny montage of the doctors trying to get Chuck's Intersect unsuppressed was supposed to be about. It sure took up a lot of time.
"Whoa! That sounds like candor!"     
"These are our ... sort of ... friends."
© 2010 Todd VanDerWerff,  The Los Angeles Times


Chuck versus The Fear of Death 

A fantastic start to a two-part episode

This is a two part episode, so we can’t pass final judgment on the story yet but the first part has us wanting more and that’s a good endorsement.

While the situation Chuck finds himself in is quite serious and life threatening, we get the humor and human touch we expect from the show. The efforts to get the intersect working for Chuck after his mother has used a device on him that seems to have rendered it useless, are extreme and in that extremity lies the humor.

We also get a good dose of Jeff and Lester antics. Summer Glau as Greta does a nice job as straight woman for the psychotic duo.

The human touch is apparent in not only the scenes involving Chuck and Sarah but in the relationship of Morgan and Casey and their relationship to others at the Buy More.

Rob Riggle and Richard Chamberlain are perfect in their roles as CIA agent Rye and villain Adelbert De Smet. They are both over the top but that’s what this episode is all about. Everything is over the top and it’s a fun ride for the viewer.

What Worked

The crazy, sometimes corny, outlandish antics worked well. The mix of humor with what could be deadly consequences is not easy to pull off but once again, “Chuck” has managed to do it. The juxtaposition of what is happening at the Buy More and in the spy world is clever and ultimately satisfying. We never want to lose sight of the overall picture. The people
in Burbank are as important in Chuck’s life as the new found friends
in the spy world.

Rob Riggle as CIA agent Rye makes us laugh and yet wonder if he’s not just a bit too crazy to be tasked with helping Chuck. We wonder if the reports of his death are greatly exaggerated because it’s “Chuck” and we know that in fiction, heroes and villains often come back from the dead.

Richard Chamberlain is always a welcome sight. He doesn’t come out of retirement very often and when he does, he gives us a good show. He’s pretty darn scary as Chuck’s nemesis. We have to wait for the second part of “Chuck Versus the Fear of Death” to see just how evil he can be.

What Didn’t Work
No fault could be found with this episode. There may be something to be found in the finale of the story but so far, so good.
© 2010 Ann Morris 

 To know more and watch episodes online, visit "Chuck's" official site
also on


From Dr. Kildare to Killer
Screen icon Richard Chamberlain looks back over a long career as he returns in spy spoof Chuck
Playing the dashing young Dr. Kildare turned Richard Chamberlain into a household name in the Sixties. Throughout the Seventies and the Eighties, his popularity showed no sign of waning as he became king of the miniseries, with TV hits like The Thorn Birds and Shogun.

In 2004, he revealed that he was gay, “I finally decided to be myself,” he says. “It took a long time but I haven’t been happier.”

Decades on, at the age of 76, Richard is still working. He’s got a movie coming out next year, We Are The Hartmans, in which he plays an ageing hippy – “a Willie Nelson type, all love beads and headcarves!”   He’s currently filming Brothers & Sisters, and this week, he can be seen in Chuck, the cult comedy-drama about a geeky electronics store employee with a huge database of spy secrets in his brain.

We talked to Richard about his long remarkable career.

Dr. Kildare, 1961-1966
That was my big break, and it opened all kinds of doors – I wouldn’t have been able to work in England without it. I came to London for six years to appear on stage and I had such a wonderful time. The city was just on fire. Every beautiful young person from the whole of Europe seemed to be there.

Shogun, 1980

James Clavell, who wrote the novel, didn’t want me at first. It was going to be Sean Connery, but for some reason he wasn’t free so I stayed in. I waited 18 months for that part, but eventually James gave in! It was one of the most challenging but satisfying jobs I’ve ever had.  

The Thorn Birds, 1983

I played Father Ralph de Bricassart, the wayward priest. It had a marvelous cast – actors like Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Simmons. I would have worked for free to be on that project. The only downside was I never got to go to Australia where it was set – it was mostly filmed
in Los Angeles.  

Chuck, 2010

I play the Belgian, aka Adalbert De Smet, a baddle who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the intersect, which is inside Chuck’s brain. I have this syringe full of yellow nasty stuff, which I use to torture the poor guy. I’m completely ruthless, I’m happy to say! It’s very cool, clever and funny.  

On his enduring career

I don’t know why I’ve lasted so long. I’m almost afraid to ask! I eat well, exercise every day, partly because I can’t sleep if I don’t and also because I’m quite vain. But mostly it’s been good luck and good genes.

© 2010 TV Guide (UK)