After two nearly flawless episodes, Monday night’s Chuck fell flat. While a few moments of genuine awesomeness shone through, there were too many weak scenes to earn this installment high marks. Chuck may have passed his final test, but this episode barely squeaked by.
Spy Training: This was the moment we’d all been waiting for—Chuck's final test as an almost-spy. And he passed with flying colors! Well, more or less. Our hero managed to find Russian spy Anatoli Zevlovski, help identify CIA mole Hunter Perry, and generally be a huge thorn in the Ring’s side, but he was ultimately unable to kill his target. As a spy, then, he’s not perfect—and that’s OK. We don’t want Chuck to lose his Chuck-ness. Still, what happens when no one’s there to bail him out?
The Handlers: Sarah continues to bug the hell out of me as one of the most wishy-washy characters on television. We get it—she doesn’t want to lose the old Chuck. Why not do something about it, then, instead of encouraging Chuck to become a spy and then whining about it? Although Casey’s no longer officially a spy, I’ll continue to include him in this section. He bumps up the grade a bit, because he was able to help out by shooting Perry when Agent Bartwoski couldn’t.
The Romance: Here’s where things get really ugly. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion—and I could be terribly wrong here—that Chuck and Sarah will be together by the end of this season. Great. I’m in no particular hurry, but can we please drop the drawn-out angst? I’d like to see more of a focus on, well, anything but the love that dare not speak its name. Sarah was awful to Chuck throughout the entire episode: She decided to help him complete his mission, then insisted that she no longer loves him because he killed someone. (He didn’t.) And despite the potential he once had, Shaw has become unbearably boring. Even as a rebound, he’s hard to take seriously as competition. Don’t even get me started on that thwarted kiss.
Ellie, Awesome, and Morgan: You know what this episode was lacking? These guys.
The Buy More: This week’s Buy More story provided a nice parallel to the spy mission. While Chuck learned to be a better spy, Casey learned to be a better civilian. I loved the idea of Big Mike taking his most unpleasant employee under his wing. Care to guess where the storyline lost me? Starts with an “S,” ends with an “ubway.” Look, I understand the importance of product placement, especially in a show that was saved by a fan campaign that revolved around a major advertiser. But don’t let it interfere with the story. I want Chuck to stick around past this season at almost any cost, but I draw the line at “Subway can soothe the tummy and the soul.” Save it for the commercials.
Overall grade: C
Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom