I think we can all agree—maybe? Just this once?—that this week’s episode of Chuck was one of this season’s best. Even those who disagreed with my assessment of last week’s offering (which stunk) must have noticed “Chuck vs. the Third Phase” was an encouraging step in the right direction.
Agent Bartowski: Chuck was sidelined this week, as the gang stepped into action to rescue him from the clutches of the Belgian. While I’ve enjoyed seeing Chuck’s development as a spy, I don’t mind the occasional lapse into “Chuck as victim” territory. After all, he’s still not 100 percent competent. I thought his dreams were creepy and that they gave us an engaging, albeit predictable, look into his psyche: “Flash or become expendable.” “You want to be a nerd or you want to be a spy?” But as General Beckman reminded him in the end, there’s a place for Charles Carmichael, with or without the intersect.
Agent Walker: This episode was really more of a showcase for Sarah. Hey, it’s about time. There’s little I enjoy more than watching Sarah take down an endless stream of bad guys, especially while delivering lines like, “I’m just a needy, love-crazed girl on a husband hunt … who’s trained in over 200 ways to kill you.” I’m not fond of the idea that Sarah, like Chuck, must decide between love and spying. But if this episode reinforced anything, it’s that she can be both. Go ahead and showcase the softer side of Sarah, Chuck, as long as you’re willing to supply the requisite slo-mo fights, too.
Agents Casey and Grimes: With Sarah at the forefront, Casey and Morgan were secondary to the rescue mission. Frankly, I was just glad to see Morgan involved. He’s definitely the voice of reason in the group—at least, he is when Chuck is M.I.A. He understands Chuck better than anyone else does, including Sarah, and I appreciate that those around him finally seemed to realize his worth. It was also nice to see a more complicated Casey. He wasn’t willing to let Sarah go off and destroy her career over Chuck, but he knew when to break the rules. This is the kind of balance that’s necessary to keep the characters interesting but still believable.
The Romance: OK, I’m not thrilled about a rushed marriage between Chuck and Sarah. I just don’t understand why this couple can’t develop naturally. But for the most part, I liked the way their relationship was presented in this episode. Chuck realized (I hope) that he needs to be a spy for himself, not for Sarah. And Sarah understood that while she’s great at being a spy, Chuck keeps her grounded. And because I’m secretly a softie who loves fairy tales, I liked that Sarah essentially kissed Chuck awake. I do wish Chuck would ditch the constant neuroses, but at least this week’s batch of angst felt essential to the plot and not carelessly tossed in to create conflict.
The Buy More: I’m not sure if the show realizes it, but the Buy More is part of what’s holding Chuck back. I mean, what better manifestation of his concern that he’s more nerd than spy? While I think the Buy More was used well in this episode—that is to say, sparingly—I still think it remains a hindrance to the show. Let it exist in the background if you must, but I really think it’s time for Chuck and Morgan to move on. That said, the use of Lester in this episode was the best, thanks to his last epic performance with Jeff.
Overall Grade: A