Chuck Versus the Tango
Season 01, Episode 03
103 malena
Air Date October 8, 2007
Writer Matt Miller
Director Jason Ensler
Previous "Chuck Versus the Helicopter"
Next "Chuck Versus the Wookiee"

Chuck Versus the Tango is the third episode of season one. It first aired on October 8, 2007.

Malena: "Chuck, I think your hand is supposed to be on my hip."
Chuck: "Apparently, I learned the girl's part of this dance. Would you mind leading?"
―Malena and Chuck trying to dance

Synopsis Edit

Chuck goes undercover for the first time, helping Sarah and Casey infiltrate a party and identify the mysterious arms dealer La Ciudad.

Meanwhile, things are even more stressful at the Buy More, as Big Mike has ordered the Nerd Herd to fix every broken computer in two days.

Full Plot Edit

The episode opens in Tehran, Iran; where a man is selling another man a painting. The buyer pulls out a pistol, shoots the seller and walks off with the painting.

Two weeks later, in Barajas Airport, Madrid, the killer from the last scene is showing the same painting to another man; who shoots him and drives off with the painting.

At the Miller Art Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles, the painting is unveiled. The buyer presents the seller with a briefcase full of money, but shoots him also.

Harry Tang breaking up Chuck's fun

Harry crashing the party

One month later in Northeast Los Angeles, Chuck, at the Buy More, fixes a handgun-shaped game controller for a kid testing a game in the store. He is approached by Harry Tang who tells him that Big Mike wants to see him in his office. Chuck apologizes to the child; but Big Mike approaches and surprises him. Before leaving, he asks the kid to pause the game while he is gone.

Walking in to Big Mike's office, Chuck is asked what his career objectives are. Big Mike reveals that there is an opening for assistant manager at the Buy More, and the two remaining candidates are Chuck and Tang. Big Mike tells him that if he wants the job, he has to prove himself.

Entering the backroom, Chuck tells his team that they have to fix all the junk in the storage cage within two days, or Tang will get the position of Assistant Manager.

As they discuss the situation, Morgan enters. He tells the Nerd Herders that he wishes that he could help, but he lacks the skills and reveals that "old computers give [him] the willies". He also brings news: Sarah is looking for Chuck out front.

Sarah Chuck tryst not PDA

Sarah leading Chuck on

Morgan attempts to run interference

Morgan looking to block Casey

Sarah asks Chuck for a kiss, but he seems nervous, so she offers to take him someplace more private. As they enter the Home Theater Room, Casey follows; prompting Morgan to attempt to intervene. However, Casey grabs him by the face and throws him out of the way.

In the Home Theater Room, Sarah begins a briefing by putting some pictures of the dead con-men from the beginning of the episode on the table. Chuck believes that they are sleeping until told otherwise, which he finds rather creepy and doesn't flash on any of them. Suddenly, the door opens. Jeff, surprised to see everyone, decides to come back for his nap; but Chuck notices a newspaper under his arm, and flashes on the painting and the headline "Art Auction". The intersect shows him the painting, some weapons, an art auction the following night, and the name La Ciudad (who will be at the art auction).

Later, at the Bartowski residence, Ellie congratulates Chuck for being selected as a candidate for the assistant manager's position. Chuck brushes it aside, saying that he will only get $2/hour more than he makes now; and he hasn't got the job yet. Ellie asks him if his lack of interest means that he is thinking of getting a "real profession" (to which Morgan takes great offense). Chuck does not get a chance to respond, as Morgan and Ellie begin to argue.

Meanwhile, at Agent Casey's house, Sarah and Casey are being briefed by General Beckman and Director Graham. They are briefed that La Ciudad is one of the most dangerous and elusive arms dealers in the world, and nobody has ever seen him or has lived to tell the tale. Casey suggests to take him down at the auction by bringing the Intersect (Chuck). Sarah does not believe this to be wise, as he has not had any training or experience in the field.

Morgan and Ellie are still arguing about Chuck's future; but Chuck has stopped listening. Morgan believes that Chuck is a "fragile gelding" and that the real world will crush him. Ellie thinks that Chuck has had many years to "find himself" and to have proven that his future isn't at the Buy More; Chuck ignores them entirely, eating cupcakes and reading PC Gamer.

Sarah and Casey argue over the dangers of bringing Chuck out into the field, until General Beckman orders them to bring him, as she wants to see what he is capable of.

At the Bartowski house, Captain Awesome believes that he needs a test; suggesting that "class 5 white-water rapids" will give him a brush with his own mortality and the near-death experience will challenge him. Chuck, suddenly realizing what's going on, decides to leave, citing that his wet-suit is still at the dry-cleaners. When asked his opinion, Chuck says that he will instead hit the sack; but thanks Team Bartowski for their concern.

Casey's little seen softer side

Casey's bonsai(de)

As Chuck turns on the light in his room, he jumps when he notices Casey at the window. Casey congratulates Chuck because he's going to go on his first mission.

Next morning, Chuck tries to talk with Casey about his requirement for the mission. Casey assures him that everything will be fine, assuming that he knows how to tango. Morgan then approaches Chuck, informing him that Sarah is in the store. However, Chuck is concerned with the hard drives he has to fix though the other Nerd Herders assure him that they're nearly done. Satisfied, the two friends then walk towards Sarah, while Chuck explains to Morgan that he's going to the art auction.

At the Wienerlicious, Sarah tells Chuck that he needs a cover that's simple and doesn't give out personal info. Chuck chooses Charles Carmichael, the "millionaire semiretired software magnate" he envisioned himself become after Stanford, had not Bryce Larkin claimed that he stole test answers. He also remarks Bryce sent him a database full of government secrets that keep him in "a state of fear, danger and anxiety."

Awesome - being Awesome

Awesome - is.

Chuck's first tango

Chuck's first tango

When Chuck returns home, he asks Ellie is she knows how to tango. Though she doesn't know, Devon does. During the resulting montage where Chuck learns the tango and getting dressed, Sarah and Casey are seen, in the meantime, arming up.

Back at the Buy More, Tang rounds up several more hard drives for the Nerd Herd to fix. When the absence of Chuck is noticed, Tang sarcastically comments that he's some leader.

The team arrives at the art auction which is being hold at The Wiltshire Strand hotel. Sarah gives Chuck a watch containing a GPS system so that he can't get lost. Casey, acting as the driver, informs Chuck about the fact that La Ciudad has never let anyone live to see him, making him panic. Casey gives him the same reassurance from earlier, to which Chuck replies that he knows how to tango. But it turns out, Casey was just being sarcastic about being able to tango.

The Nerd Herders attempt to leave, having their own business to complete. Morgan attempts to convince them to return to work but they don't listen. However, reminding them that Tang may get the assistant manager's job compels them to return to their task.

Back at the Wiltshire Strand, five seconds in, Chuck gets soy sauce spilled on his shirt. As Chuck tries cleaning it off in the restroom, he flashes and identifies an attendee of the auction as La Ciudad. Sarah has Chuck remain at the bar, where Casey is a bartender, while she socializes with La Ciudad. Coincidentally, one of Chuck's old college buddies, Allan Watterman, is at the auction, and recognizes him. They chat for a bit, Chuck becoming evasive on the details of his own life. Allan offers to help him get a better job, presenting his card. Chuck then flashes on the card, learning about Allan's involvement with several illegal activities, and mutters them out loud. Allan presumes that he's with the SEC and withdraws himself.

Meanwhile, Morgan tries motivating the Nerd Herders into working faster, only to lock himself inside the storage cage. Because the lock is broken and since Chuck and Tang have the only keys, the Nerd Herders abandon him to goof off before leaving.

Back at the auction, Sarah is led away at gunpoint by La Ciudad. Casey follows, ordering Chuck to stay where he is. He confronts her captors on the roof, where they reveal they are actually MI6 Agents. They intercepted the painting and discovered that it contained plutonium. Rather than publicly announce it, they instead removed the frame, and used to painting in an attempt to flush out La Ciudad.

Chuck painting himself into a corner

Chuck meets Malena

Meanwhile, Chuck encounters a woman named Malena Bernal by the painting, which Chuck notices has been re-framed. They dance the tango, but Chuck only knows the woman's part. Chuck sees a scar on her neck, and he realizes that Malena is La Ciudad. At the same time, Morgan calls the hotel, having an attendant trying to locate Chuck. He recognizes Chuck, calling him by his full name. Chuck, who was trying to press Marlena on her line of work, denies it and tries walking away but runs into one of Marlena's henchman and is taken prisoner. In La Ciudad's room, she tries interrogating him, in which he initially insists he's Charles Carmichael, only to blurt out his real name when a knife is thrown close to his groin. Ciudad then tries prodding Chuck into telling her whom he works for. When he refuses, her henchmen pick up the chair he's strapped to, threatening to throw him off the balcony. He then confesses about the painting being a fake. He also manages to convince her he's just a computer repairman, but she still resolves to kill him since he can identify her. Casey and Sarah, who have managed to locate Chuck, intervene, and force her to flee. She and her henchman rappel a floor down, where Allan is calling his company to explain his fear about the SCC's findings. Marlena's henchman tells her that they have to get her out of the country. However, La Ciudad says that they must first take out Chuck, having snatched his Buy More card.

Chuck returns home to find Ellie sleeping on the couch. She wakes up, trying to prod him about questions about his date. Chuck can only say that he thinks that Sarah is too exhausting for him. Depressed that Chuck wouldn't open up to her, she informs him that his 'idiot friend' (Morgan) has called 'about 75 times'. Chuck rushes to the Buy More, where he frees Morgan, before finishing with the hard drives, which takes until the next morning. Big Mike is impressed and coaches Chuck on the points of being assistant manager.

As Morgan tells him coworkers about his "near-death experience", Casey comes up to Chuck to congratulate him for last night. Now, the world know who La Ciudad is and they have friends waiting for her in Central America. Chuck later spots La Ciudad's henchmen entering the store, looking for him. He hides behind a counter, at which Tang finds him, belittling him and boasting that he (Tang) will be assistant manager. The henchman then approaches Tang, asking for Chuck, at which Tang looks behind the counter, only to find Chuck gone.

Outside, Sarah passes by La Ciudad, disguised as a delivery girl, and notices her scar. Hiding behind a van, she contacts Casey, informing him of La Ciudad's presence, then follows and defeats her, before she can get into sniper position atop the Wienerlicious to assassinate Chuck as he walks out of the Buy More.

Back inside the Buy More, Chuck uses the store intercom to direct the henchmen to the storage cage. Casey attempts to mislead one of them, before fighting and knocking him out in home appliances. Chuck attempts to trap the other goon inside the storage cage, thinking that the lock is still broken, only to find out that it has been fixed. Luckily, Casey chucks a microwave at the bad guy, knocking him out before he could shoot Chuck. Chuck then goes out to take the intercom microphone away from Morgan, who informs him about the lock being fixed.

Later that night, Chuck returns him to apologize to Ellie and tells her that he doesn't feel that Sarah is in to him. However, Ellie disagrees, having seen the way Sarah looks at him. She gets Chuck to confess that he is interested in Sarah, before assuring him that she won't press him about all the details of his relationship. Chuck then opens the door to find Morgan and Sarah, whom he invites in. As they walk out the door at the end of the evening, Sarah complements Chuck on the success of his first mission. Chuck, however, doesn't think of himself as much of a spy. She reminds him that he did survive under threat of death by torture and apprehended the most elusive arms dealers in the world. Chuck states that though he may be a hero today, he'll be a nobody tomorrow, with no one knowing about his success. Sarah says that both of them knowing is good enough, before walking off. Morgan saunters up to Chuck, pointing out to him how creepy it is that Casey is staring at them from his house.


The gallery is here.


Morgan: You don't understand. He is a fragile little gelding. You know? Still trying to find his legs. The real world will crush him.
Ellie: Do you know what a gelding is?
Morgan: [scoff] It's that weird creature from The Dark Crystal. "Smells like gelding"... that guy.
La Ciudad: I think your hand is supposed to be on my hip.
Chuck: Right. Apparently I learned the girl's part of this dance. Would you mind leading?

Trivia Edit

  • Morgan calls Chuck a "gelding", but the word he really means to say is "gelfling", a sentient humanoid being with pointed ears that appears in The Dark Crystal (1982).
  • One of La Ciudad's bodyguards gets a microwave thrown at his face by Casey after trying to kill Chuck; that bodyguard is played by the same actor who later plays Yuri the Gobbler and this guard is named Uri. It might be that this is when he was captured to be freed in Chuck Versus the Gobbler - if it is, in fact, the same person, which is not clear but possible.
  • When Morgan is shown locked in the storage room, Canzonetta sull'aria is playing, a reference to a scene in The Shawshank Redemption in which Andy Dufresne locks himself in the warden's office and broadcasts the same aria to the entire prison through the PA system.
  • This marks the first time a character (Ellie) believes Sarah to have real feelings for Chuck even though she might not realize it yet. In Chuck Versus the Other Guy Sarah admits she fell for Chuck during the pilot episode.
  • Morgan tells the hotel clerk Chuck is 6'1" (186 cm). Zachary Levi, who plays Chuck, is actually 6'3" (191 cm).

Music Edit

  • Spoon – “Don’t You Evah”
  • Gotan Project – “Santa María”
  • Mozart – “Duettino – Sull’aria”
  • Band of Horses – “The General Specific”
  • The National – “Slow Show”