CHUCK VERSUS DAS BOOT (Chuck 6-07)
Concluding the seventh episode of an imaginary sixth season of Chuck.
Disclaimer: Although I'm a much bigger nerd than you thought I was, I do not own Chuck.
Fifth day, midmorning, on the Rhine River waterfront in Mannheim, where the Geliebten Lorelei has returned and docked
It's a warm, sunny, breezy morning at the docks. Chuck and Sarah stand there together, along with their client—the Canadian gentleman—from La Plata Global Gaming. All three study the troubled cruise vessel floating silently in its berth. The decks are empty of passengers and crew, but they can see Captain Stübing on the bridge above them. He seems to know he's being watched, but studiously avoids returning eye contact. Instead, the Captain stares stoically out at the Rhine.
"Unlucky guy," Chuck says, his observation intended for the La Plata man. "You do know Stübing had nothing to do with the slave trafficking, right? He just put his trust in the wrong right-hand man."
"Maybe he was a bit on the clueless side about some things," Sarah adds, "but he knows that ship and that river and he's completely devoted to both."
"We know," replies the La Plata man. "And our plan is to retain Stübing as the master—once we've completed our purchase of the vessel."
"Purchase?" Chuck blurts out in surprise.
"That is correct. Although your cybersecurity audit unexpectedly unearthed a criminal conspiracy, we also think you proved the viability of the floating-casino business model. As before, La Plata is most pleased with your firm's work."
"Glad to hear it," replies Chuck.
"Especially this job, in the face of…how do I put it?...a few unanticipated hazards?"
He glances down at Chuck's steel cane. By now, Chuck isn't leaning on it very much, as his wounded leg appears capable of supporting him again.
At their client's glib reference to the "hazards" the Bartowskis had recently faced, Sarah reflexively takes hold of her husband's hand and squeezes it. He squeezes hers in reply.
"But I trust you are insured for that sort of mishap, eh Mr. Carmichael?"
"We are," says Chuck equably, even as Sarah's lips purse with a trace of lingering anger.
"Luckily for you," she adds—intentionally unnerving the La Plata man with her practiced one-two: a winsome smile and a coldly scary tone of voice.
Before the startled man can decide how best to reply, everyone's attention is abruptly drawn back to the Lorelei when Vama appears on the promenade deck, with her humble duffle bag in hand.
"Frau Sarah! Herr Charles!"
She drops the bag on the deck and bounds down the gangplank to fervently embrace both of the Bartowskis. Sarah greets her warmly.
"Sastipe, Vama! Sar si sogodi?" (Subtitled: Hello, Vama! How are things with you?)
"Mishto, palikerav tut," the Romani girl answers. (Subtitled: I'm fine, thank you!)
"You seem none the worse for wear," Chuck observes, giving her an affectionate pat on the shoulder. "Where's your cousin?"
"Zora?" Vama giggles and rolls her eyes. "Ohhh, my poor Zora! This life too exciting for her, she say! Scared to stay! So she has returned to home."
"And what will you do?" Sarah asks her.
"I was not scared, Frau Sarah—and I wish to stay here!" She points toward the boat. "Ask them my old job back. But they don't know if they can."
"I can," says the La Plata man. "And I will make sure of it."
"This is the man who owns the Lorelei now," Chuck adds. "Well…sort of."
"Sastipe, Kako!" exclaims Vama, seizing the La Plata man's hand. (Subtitled: Hello, sir!) "And thank you much!"
"That's the least I can do," he replies. "Mr. and Ms. Carmichael told me you helped bring the smugglers to justice. We can always find a place for a smart and brave young person like yourself."
"So what exactly are your plans for this barge?" Chuck asks him.
"Corporate has decided to go all in," the La Plata man gushes, with eyes agleam. "We're going to reconfigure the Geliebten Lorelei as a full-amenity experience, with new dining options, shopping, and an expanded casino. And live music playing on two separate stages!"
"Live music, huh? Got your house bands picked out yet?"
"No, but we'll be having auditions quite soon. And I'm in charge of that," the La Plata man adds proudly. "I got my start in the nightclub business."
"That's interesting," suggests Chuck as he strokes his chin. "Very interesting."
"And the timing couldn't be better, could it?" muses Sarah, cryptically—as the La Plata man gawks at both Bartowskis in total bewilderment.
Two hours later, in a small rehearsal studio on the Mannheim campus of the Popakademie Baden-Württemberg—Germany's university for popular music and the music industry
As the La Plata man listens thoughtfully (to a reprise of Nirvana's "Come As You Are"—why mess with success?) while studying every aspect of their appearance (in their Nerd Herd-like white shirts and black slacks) and movements, Jeffster! are playing their hearts and lungs out on a compact stage cluttered with just about every musical instrument imaginable.
Sarah and Chuck sit in folding chairs set a little farther back from the stage. Chuck has his arm around Sarah's shoulder. Her head is bopping a little from side to side, in time to the music. They're both smiling—rather smugly, in fact—as if they've cooked up something more than this impromptu audition for their friends….
Herr Schinken—the self-styled "very important record executive" who brought Jeff and Lester from L.A. to Germany—stands to one side of the studio in a well-tailored blue suit, awkwardly shifting from one foot to the other, and looking as if he'd much rather be somewhere else.
Morgan and Alex watch and listen from a far back corner of the studio.
Just as Jeffster! starts in on the second verse, the La Plata man rises to his feet and holds up both of his hands, signaling the band to stop playing.
"That's enough!" he calls out. When the music stops, he turns to address Chuck, Sarah, and Schinken.
"Well…I do like their sound and their energy," he notes. "But can they cover anything newer than that?"
"Ja—of course," Schinken quickly responds.
"And I've written some original songs myself!" Lester calls out.
"Game over if he asks to hear any of those," Chuck mutters in Sarah's ear.
"All right, fine then—we can get demos from you later. That still leaves us with just one problem." The La Plata man nods toward the stage and pauses—as if the problem were obvious to everyone.
"Excuse me?" demands Schinken.
"Forgive my bluntness, but…well, neither of them is very easy on the eyes…eh?"
"Why should zat matter?"
"This is going to be an edgy, round-the-clock party boat—and a big piece of our targeted demographic is single, successful, red-blooded Euro Millennials. We've got to have something prettier up on that stage for them to look at while they're dancing and drinking and gambling."
Lester and Jeff stand by quietly, wearing hangdog looks.
"Zat is ridiculous!" Schinken roars. "Cheffster is already very popular with men…and women!"
"Sorry," says the La Plata man with a shrug. "That part is simply non-negotiable. Perhaps you can find them an attractive backup singer…?"
"Or…I am thinking, perhaps, ve stay with our initial sponsor, Schmecktgut Wurst," suggests Schinken, as he folds his arms across his chest.
On the stage, Lester makes a nauseated face.
"Hold on!" Chuck interrupts, joining the other men on their feet. "Before this goes any further! I think maybe we can fix this!"
Sarah turns around to face the closed door at the back of the studio and calls out, "You can come in now, honey!"
And in strolls Vama—perfectly pretty in a white top and maroon jacket over a knee-length black skirt with black leggings and maroon boots. She moves confidently into the room and heads straight for the stage.
"Hey," says the La Plata man. "Isn't that the server girl from the—"
"Charles!" Lester cries, his disgust suddenly supplanted by delight. "You did it! You found us our prettier muse!"
"She's much more than a muse, Lester…as you're about to find out."
To manifest Chuck's observation, Vama winks at the La Plata man as she strides past him onto the stage. She picks an acoustic guitar up out of the random assemblage of instruments scattered around.
"What!" howls Lester. "Are you saying she's gonna jam with us? That's not poss—"
"Wait a second!" Jeff cuts him off. "I'm on the keyboards now, remember? I keep trying to tell you we need a guitarist, man!"
He gives Vama a generous smile as she starts tuning the guitar.
"But she's so young," Lester counters. "She can't be very good!"
"You'd be surprised!" retorts Sarah.
"Do you want this gig—or would you prefer staying on the sausage run?" Chuck asks.
"Guys! This is exactly how Sinatra got his start!" Morgan shouts encouragingly from the back of the room.
"All right—all right!" Lester throws his hands up in surrender. "This is gonna be a train wreck—mark my words—but suit yourselves! How much of a musical repertoire does this peasant girl even have?"
"A lot actually, sir," Vama replies, smiling earnestly. "I play and sing along with Pop-Musik radio all the time. Try me one!"
"Oh, count on it, little sister!" Lester produces a sheet with a list of song titles on it and thrusts it under Vama's nose. She gives it a quick scan and almost immediately points to one of the titles.
"Huh!" Lester is surprised—and from the look on his face, even a bit impressed. He shares Vama's choice of song with Jeff, who nods and flashes a thumbs-up sign before setting his keytar down and sidling over behind an array of keyboards and synthesizers.
Vama strums her guitar once and steps up to the lone microphone stand at the front of the stage. Lester joins her. Chuck sits down again close to Sarah, and they lean forward in their seats excitedly. The La Plata man looks skeptical. Herr Schinken simply sighs in resignation.
"Let's do this!" proclaims Jeff as he begins to pound the keyboards, and Vama accompanies him on her guitar.
(Music: Jeffster! feat. Vama—covering "Little Talks," by Of Monsters and Men)
After the opening bars, Vama leans into the mike and begins to sing.
"I don't like walkin' about this old and empty house.…"
Right on beat, Lester leans forward and joins in:
"So hold my hand, I'll walk with you my dear."
Vama: "The stairs creak as you sleep, it's keeping me awake…."
Lester, now cracking a grin: "It's the house telling you to close your eyes."
Vama, grinning right back at him: "And some days I can't even dress myself…."
Lester: "It's killing me to see you this way."
And then, all three—Vama, Lester, and Jeff—harmonize on the hook:
"'Cause though the truth may vary, this…
ship will carry our…bodies safe to shore…."
"Are they doing all right?" Sarah shouts at Chuck over the music. "It sure sounds like it to me!"
"Oh yeah!" he answers her. "And get a load of that!" He points toward the side of the studio, where Herr Schinken had been standing alone when the band started playing. The La Plata man has already gone over to join him; both hard-headed businessmen now look equally astonished and delighted. They're carrying on an animated discussion that appears to be about terms and contracts…as Jeff, Lester, and Vama play on, beautifully synergistic.
"One word—Jeffsterama!" quips Chuck as he shoulder-bumps his wife.
"It does almost roll off the tongue," Sarah acknowledges, bumping him back.
"But babe—d'you really think it's a good idea for us to leave Vama in the company of those two?"
"She can handle them," Sarah confidently replies. "And just to be certain, I'll give Jeff and Lester a friendly little 'hands-off' notice before we go. With a reminder that I can enforce it from anywhere in the world!"
"Then our work here is done," Chuck declares happily.
Meanwhile, at the secret laboratory on the Stanford University campus
Juanita Saldana can't suppress a little giggle as she holds Manoosh Depark's first functional copy of the Key in the palm of one white-gloved hand.
"Yeah. Exquisite, isn't it?" asks Manoosh rhetorically—and proudly. He's still seated at his workbench; still virtually tethered to the lab. "I'd love to meet the engineer who originally designed it."
Juanita slowly shakes her head, showing a brief flicker of true melancholy.
"As would I, Manoosh, as would I—but that is no longer possible."
A pair of Intersect glasses sits at the end of the lab bench. Juanita picks them up and slides the Key onto the frame. It makes a satisfying click as it snaps into place and activates with a glint of tiny yellow LEDs.
Manoosh rises from his chair in concern. "Be careful please! I mean—ma'am—I mean I don't think we're quite ready for that level of testing yet!"
"¿No?" Juanita glances sideways toward a surveillance camera high on one wall of the lab, makes a skeptical face, then turns back toward Manoosh. "That is not what you suggested only yesterday."
"I know," the young engineer replies with a sigh. "I know. I was on track. The circuits all tested out fine. The program's uploaded and good to go."
"Well then, what—"
"It's the firmware—I dunno—I've got this funny feeling about it."
"Explain," demands Juanita, now sounding annoyed.
"I swear it's an absolute perfect match to the specs you gave me—I swear it is, ma'am! But I can't shake this feeling something's missing. Deliberately—a tiny little chunk of code—as if whoever built that prototype intentionally left something out. I can't be sure it wouldn't affect a test in some way."
"And how would we know if some…chunk…were missing?"
"By testing the device," Manoosh answers resignedly. "It's a catch-22."
"I see no harm in testing if we use placebo data. Has any information been downloaded onto the glasses?"
Juanita hands the glasses back to Manoosh. "Load something simple and benign. Try a page from the Palo Alto online telephone directory."
"Okay…and then—gulp!—I suppose you want me to try it out?"
The CIA agent smiles at her asset. "No, Manoosh. Because of your misgivings I will find us a somewhat less essential test subject."
Five minutes later, the Key-equipped Intersect glasses are ready for the test. Alongside them on the lab bench is a miniature spray can of X-13 gas.
Juanita has brought in one of the Military Police who stand continuous watch outside the laboratory door. The MP is young and seems eager to please.
"Your task is simple, Corporal," Juanita instructs him as she hands him the glasses, while surreptitiously palming the can of X-13 gas in her other hand. "Put these on…and then, just tell us what you see."
"Yes ma'am!" The soldier slides the glasses up over his eyes.
"It's asking me: DO YOU WISH TO PROCEED?"
"Blink twice for yes."
"Now—IDENTITY CHECK—there's a zigzagging light. Scanning my retinas is it?"
"Hold it!" cries Manoosh. "That's not supposed to—"
"Now it's stopped scanning—it says DENIED. Is that what's supposed to happen?"
Just for an instant, the MP is oblivious to what Juanita and Manoosh can already see—the Key is beginning to give off smoke—and then a red glow appears around its edge!
"OW!" yells the soldier as he whips the glasses off his head and reflexively hurls them to the floor. "Hot—hot—hot!" Dancing in place, wincing in pain, he rubs the side of his head furiously…as Manoosh grabs a fire extinguisher to smother the now flaming Intersect glasses and Juanita drops her face into her hands….
Nearby, Professor Fleming and a guest have been watching the brief comedy of errors on a monitor. The man standing alongside the Professor's wheelchair is tall and solidly built, with a high, rounded forehead, thinning hair, a square chin, and hazel eyes. He puts a hand on Fleming's shoulder, as if commiserating.
Mortified, the Professor glances up at him.
"I'm very sorry you had to see that, Mr. Smith."
"That's quite all right, Professor," says Mr. Smith calmly. "I myself had to suffer several similar mishaps before I learned never to underestimate the Bartowskis."
"Still, with all that you and your associates have done for us—the funding, the access to new technology—you have a right to expect much better in return."
Mr. Smith nods to agree.
"We do, Professor. And you'll deliver—I have no doubt. You can be assured we're not nearly ready to give up on you and your team."
As Fleming mutters a nervous thanks, Mr. Smith ruminates for a moment before continuing.
"However—given this serious setback—I will have to insist that we re-evaluate your…our…current arm's-length approach in dealing with Carmichael Industries. I think it's time for us to act more aggressively. Considerably more aggressively."
At Fleming's abrupt expression of surprise and fear, Mr. Smith chuckles.
"Oh, don't look so alarmed, Professor. I'm not talking about violence. That's already been tried and it has never succeeded. No—I intend to do something far less messy and far more effective…we are going to deploy the lawyers."
Later, aboard the La Plata Global Gaming corporate jet, streaking westward toward the USA and California
(Music: "We Are Fine," by Sharon Van Etten)
On this luxurious aircraft the seats are as plush and roomy as those in any first-class commercial cabin, but they have a nice extra feature: the armrests and benches between adjoining seats can be retracted completely, and the seats coupled together.
This suits Chuck and Sarah perfectly. Together in the dim cabin, they've joined their seats and reclined them to near-horizontal. Chuck is relaxing on his back, holding Sarah in both arms as she rests her head on his chest. They've been dozing on and off, but at this moment they're both awake.
"Awfully posh to have this whole jet to ourselves," muses Sarah softly.
"Yeah," agrees Chuck. "That Canadian guy really took it to heart when you said La Plata owed us big time for all the nasty stuff that happened."
Sarah snickers. "And—with a VIP invite in hand to any one of the fanciest restaurants in all of Germany—which one did you pick for us? El Compadre in Berlin!"
"Where better to talk seriously about our future, babe?"
"You're so silly…and romantic, and sweet." She kisses him on the nose. "You know, I really can't wait for us to get back home—to our house. There's so much to do! You know that little rugrat's gonna be here before we're ready for her!"
"Or him," says Chuck equably.
Just then, his iPhone chimes—with an incoming call from Julio Johnson, their attorney. Chuck hesitates, looking dubiously at Sarah instead of answering the phone.
"Do we tell him now?" he asks.
"Might as well," she replies.
Chuck accepts the call. Johnson's perpetually tanned, friendly face appears on the screen of his iPhone.
("Well I'll bet you're glad to be getting out of Germany," he begins. "Are you sure you don't want me to file a suit against the shipping line for unwarranted pain and suffering?")
"We're sure," says Chuck.
"But—umm—Julio—when we get back to L. A.—we do need to talk about something," adds Sarah cautiously.
("No problem," the lawyer says cheerfully. "About what?")
"We're changing our business plan," continues Chuck. "We're going to spy-down our company."
("Really? But you're so good at what you're doing now!")
"We've got to," Sarah insists. "I almost lost Chuck—twice—on what should have been nothing more than a quick and routine cybersecurity job."
"You were right there with me on that live bomb, baby," Chuck cuts in. "We'd have both been killed. All three of us, that is."
"See, that's exactly the point, Julio! We have a baby coming now! We have to consider what's best—"
Attorney Johnson holds up his hands in mock surrender.
("Okay! Okay! I get it! It's fine—I can help you with your new plan, whatever—")
"Well…actually, Julio…we're not sure we'll still be able to afford you…." mutters Chuck.
He and Sarah are surprised when Johnson laughs out loud and shakes his head.
("Before we concern ourselves with that—before you do anything else—you really do need to meet with me right away when you get back in town. 'Cause there's a reason I called you in the middle of the night like this.")
"Uh-oh," says Sarah. "That sounds ominous."
("Not in the way you think, Sarah. I'm calling because we've just found a nifty little crack in the wall the Feds built around the Volkoff funds. Your funds.")
"Whaaa?" the Bartowskis simultaneously exclaim.
("And if this goes the way I expect it will, the two of you—I mean the three of you, hah!—are never going to have to worry about money ever again…!")
(Closing credits and "Chuck" titles theme, by Tim Jones)