Monday night’s episode of Chuck showed signs of improvement after last week’s disappointing installment. But it still feels like the show is rushing toward a conclusion—next week's episode was the original Season 3 finale—with uneven characterization and too many plot holes. Kudos to the co-stars for providing necessary distraction.
Spy Training: Hard to judge, given that Chuck spent most of the episode trying to win Sarah back—General Beckman offering Agent Bartowski a free week to mull things over was a surprisingly cool move from the consistent hard-ass. As the series picks up the pace (which I’d argue is happening too fast), it’s nice to spend some time on Chuck’s civilian side. And in the end, he showed his fair share of bravery, rescuing Shaw from an air strike on Ring headquarters. Grade: A
The Handlers: Sarah may be an awesome spy, but she kind of sucks as a handler—and a love interest. Looking back on this season, she’s wavered from cold to hostile to mopey. What does Sarah want from Chuck? She’s been training him to be a better spy from the beginning… and now he’s too good. It’s a catch-22, because if Chuck were more a civilian, she’d worry about him getting himself killed. I’m clearly letting the romance side of things sway my grade, but as far as I’m concerned, Sarah has failed as a handler. Casey, however, is still great at guiding Chuck as a person and an agent. And he’s not even a government employee! Grade: C
The Romance: My frustration with Sarah aside, Monday’s episode did show a great side of Chuck. He was assertive, he was charming, and he looked damn good. Frankly, I think he’s too good for Sarah’s back-and-forth, but you’ve gotta respect the guy’s persistence. Bonus points for the intervention from all sides: I loved seeing Morgan, Awesome, Ellie, and even Casey on Team Chuck/Sarah. Hey, how about that kiss? Grade: B
Ellie and Awesome: Are they leaving for Africa or staying put? I still can’t tell, but you better believe I’m hoping for the latter. Ellie and Devon are the most consistently enjoyable characters on this show. I do wish Ellie had more to do—it feels like her role has decreased this season—but she shines in all her scenes. And Awesome continues to delight me as one of the most comically inept cool guys ever. He’s kind of like the Fonz, if the Fonz were also really awkward. Grade: A-
The Plot Holes: It’s sort of unfair to include this as a separate grade, because, well, it’s not going to be good. But where else do I put all the loose ends? As one reader pointed out via Twitter, Casey no longer has government clearance and thus shouldn’t have been able to rescue Sarah. Shaw’s suicide mission was another head-scratcher: Whether or not the Ring removed his tracking device, it seemed like an obvious trap. Ring baddies are too smart not to watch their backs, and look how easily Jeff and Lester were able to follow them. Then there was the reveal that Sarah shot Eve Shaw. Pretty cool, I’ll admit, but I have a hard time believing that no one, including General Beckman, knew sooner. Finally—and this may be more of an acting problem than a plot hole—Agent Shaw is so preposterously boring that I can’t suspend disbelief and imagine Sarah falling for him, rebound or not. “Wooden” is an understatement. Grade: C-
Guest Star: He appeared only briefly, but I was delighted to see Mark Sheppard as the Ring Director. The guy was in just two episodes of Firefly and he left a lasting impression. Excellent casting! Grade: A
Overall Grade: B