This episode seemed like it was pressing the reset button on the whole series. We all hoped someday that Chuck can either embrace his agency identity or become a free man again, that he and Sarah can share and explore their feelings for each other, and perhaps that Casey would show a more human side. Here, every single one of these things happens, and then in a flash it was all back to square one.
I'm not sure why this approach was taken - perhaps to function like a second pilot for new fans, perhaps to treat the early finale of last season as a cliffhanger and wrap up all it's loose ends - but whatever the reason, I can't help but think that it was incredibly unfortunate. In order to get from start to finish, we see Chuck go from fairly content with his new status quo to going stir crazy about something he should be used to after a year. Sarah goes from hiding her "in like" feelings for Chuck to gushing about what a great guy he is...twice. And Casey, who normally would feel badly for all of two seconds before completing his assignment, shows reluctance and deep questioning doubt at every turn.
All of these results are great for the show, and would have been plenty of material for a vast story arc. Ideally it could have been a mid-season finale. Instead, it all takes place in one episode, and because of that, the growth of our band of heroes lacks nuance, lacks development, and rings false. It was like the gang was informed of the Cipher and an invisible switch was flipped bringing them all emotionally forward a number of weeks.
On the upside, the spy plot playing under this was hilarious and entirely up to 'Chuck's standards of farcical excellence, with a wonderful appearance by Michael Clarke Duncan as a contract baddie who just gets sick of his job in the middle of it. Above that, though, I hope future episodes return to the more subtle ray of hope that makes us look forward to the happy ending at the series' end, hopefully a number of years from now.