Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes! – Episode 3.10: Chuck Vs The Tic Tac

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc
Directed by Patric Norris
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
~
David Bowie

‘You ready to die today?’

Alex Coburn – A Life That Was

Tis the season of change in the Chuckverse. Even for a show where events often occur at a rapid clip, Chuck Vs The Tic Tac places characters on their own personal precipes on a scale never encountered before. To wit, five of the main cast members are left at the end of this episode faced with life altering changes:

  1. Chuck
  2. Sarah
  3. Casey
  4. Devon
  5. Ellie

The quoted line is the question asked of a young Alex Coburn who must chose to serve his country or return home to his loved ones. Coburn choses to serve his country and in the process gives up who he is ie dies and is reborn as John Casey.
In Tarot, the Death Card is misleading. It signifies death as not an end but an agent of change. Or a new beginning. Redemption stories are about the death of the past. Coming of age stories are about the death of the child. So all stories begin at a point of change for a character. All stories are really about death in terms of change.
‘I know you’ll make the right decision. You always do.’
So Colonel Keller tells John Casey. But did young Alex Coburn really? Its a tough question where there is no clear answer. Casey certainly seems to think so. Was his decision to serve his country altruistic or did he see it as an opportunity to hide from feelings which he and his girlfriend acknowledged he has trouble dealing with. The answer is not clear and maybe this aspect of John Casey’s life can be explored in the future. Maybe Chuck will show a new path to John Casey.
The background reveal of Casey’s backstory explains much of his character. Quite a nifty piece of work as it sheds new light on Casey’s history of intolerance for the relationship tension between Chuck and Sarah since Team Bartowski came into being. Casey was often quick to express his displeasure when the relationship spilt out into missions and he always delighted in making Chuck and Sarah painfully aware when the other’s attention was diverted elsewhere. But he was always there to give both of them a nudge too when he saw things heading in bad directions. His actions in previous episodes take on a different light now because of his back story.
Most significantly for Chuck, making the right decision is at the basic core of his character too. We have seen Chuck do this time and time again even when it comes at his personal happiness. For Chuck, and for Sarah, to see the personal price that Casey has paid is hopefully a revelation that will play some part in the final outcome between them.
‘Don’t give up on the things that make you great.’
What Tic Tac does is crystallize the issues running between Chuck and Sarah. There is an accepted conceit that Sarah, and Casey, believe that in order to be an effective spy one has to make personal sacrifices. For Chuck to be a spy, Sarah believes that he will lose the very qualities that attracted her to Chuck in the first place. This is the challenge Chuck faces. To prove to Sarah, and maybe even to Casey, that the two lives do not have to be mutually exclusive. That being a spy does not mean giving up the essence of who you are. For Chuck has an ace card up his sleeve. The Intersect. With it, if he learns to control it properly, he has the power to prevent that from happening.
The catch to mastering control of the Intersect is he needs to have someone watching his back. Not so much in the physical sense but the emotional one. Someone to share with. To keep it simple. To keep it real. This is what he and Sarah need to discover together.
Episode Flashes:

  • Robert Patrick by just being himself, which is all his role asked, was still cool
  • Morgan spying on Casey
  • Team B working their way through 15 levels of CIA security
  • Castle debriefing scene which starts out with Chuck goofiness and quickly escalates into the most intense scene in the series to date – a Showcase sequence that demonstrates Chuck at its cross genre best
  • hats off to Fitzroy’s ability to quickly upgrade CIA security
  • Chuck’s smash into plexiglass wall and Sarah’s reaction due to said upgrades
  • Sarah’s applauding of Fitzroy’s upgrades to defuse the situation and turn it to their advantage
  • Fitzroy and Morgan. Is it just me or would these two together not be hilarious?
  • Fitzroy revealing he is a big fan of Carmichael’s and his glee at Chuck kissing Casey back in Season 2
  • Sarah’s punchout of Fitzroy and her exasperated ‘Yes’ to Chuck for it being necessary
  • Devon and Morgan circling one another as they feel each other out as to how much they each know about Chuck
  • Morgan agreeing to help Casey if he gets a codename like Condor or LadyFingers
  • Chuck promising Sarah he still is that guy that Sarah met three years ago
  • Sarah and Chuck helping Casey despite the potential consequences
  • three excellent fight scenes:
    • Casey getting to do a Terminator toss of Robert Patrick
    • Sarah getting Casey’s back and taking out 5 baddies on her lonesome
    • Chuck’s slomo/speedup drug enhanced flash fight
  • Sarah seeing her nightmare version of Chuck, echoed by what she saw in Casey’s fight, the perfect emotionless spy and confirmation she wants no part of that version of Chuck
  • Casey’s discovery that he gave up much more than he realized
  • Casey giving Chuck advice about him and Sarah. Can a Casey and Sarah talk be that far away?
  • Ellie telling Chuck that her choice in Devon was her best choice regardless of the sacrifices made

This is an entertaining and intense episode which marks the impressive writing debut of Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc. They blend together those cross genre elements of the show with deft ease. The debriefing scene in the Castle after the first mission is genius. To take something that starts out as a piece of Chuck charming goofiness and turn it into the most intense scene in the serie’s history is writing prowness at its best.
Add on to that some true comedic moments for Sarah, long overdue and most welcome, coupled with some kick ass action sequences and great scenes with Morgan, Ellie and Devon and it is all the more impressive. The cast continues to shine this season with Yvonne and Adam getting to extend their acting chops. Zac was stellar as usual.
The only quibble would be around the use of Laudanol by Chuck to suppress his emotions to better use the Intersect. While the intent is clear; to show Sarah the nightmare version of Chuck she dreads; the implementation was weak. Maybe budget restrictions were the true culprit here but for Chuck to be freaking out about having to fight too many guys, when he easily handled a similar number the episode before, undermined the purpose of those scenes.
‘Walker is a good woman.’

Choices and Changes – Chuck and Casey Contemplate

If anyone had any doubts about whether the Chuck and Sarah romance storyline is headed for imminent resolution, Casey’s speech to Chuck at the end of 3.10 is a big, flashing neon sign. It is has been a long running hope of mine that Casey would play an important part in resolving the Chuck and Sarah relationship and it looks like that is going to transpire.
Do not be surprised if John Casey has a similar moment with Sarah soon.

A Fistful of Catch 22’s – Episode 3.11: Chuck Vs The Final Exam

Written by Zev Borow
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeil

‘Catch 22,’ a novel by Joseph Heller:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.  Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”
‘I love irony.’
In 3.10, life changes were introduced for several of the cast members. This week those changes were explored in their various stages of progression for the three leads. Tied into those changes were barriers for each of the characters. In some cases the barriers are external. In others internal. In all cases there is a Catch 22 element to them. Damned if you do. Damned if you do not.
Catch 22 Scenario 1:
Chuck is convinced that in order for him to be together with Sarah, he has to become a spy. The catch? In order to become a spy, Sarah believes Chuck cannot accomplish that goal without losing the qualities that has endeared him to her in the first place. Those qualities are more than endearments. For Sarah they are lifelines to redemption as we later see.
Catch 22 Scenario 2:
This one is built on a false premise.
In order to be a spy, Chuck must pass the red test, which means he must kill. If he does not, Chuck goes back to his old life. This one has always struck a false note right from when it first arose back in 3.01. As long as Chuck has the Intersect, how can he go back to a normal life? It would be more plausible for him to go back to an asset status. Or bunkered. Maybe that is what the show means, but since they leave the details of what his old life are nebulous, the inference is that he will be a civilian. Which makes no sense if he still has the Intersect.

Trapped Within Their Own Perspectives

Catch 22 Scenario 3:
Chuck has become a spy dishonestly. With Casey taking the shot the cheat has worked in Chuck’s favour this time. In Stanford, the cheat cost Chuck his diploma. Ah yes, the smell of irony. The catch here is that Chuck cannot come clean for Casey is a civilian and what he did was murder. So Chuck’s hands are tied in being able to tell Sarah the very thing she needs to hear.
Catch 22 Scenario 4:
If Chuck passes his spy test, he gets everything he wants, except Sarah in his new assignment. If he fails he loses everything including, it is inferred, Sarah. What would anyone put the chances of Sarah resigning to stay with Chuck if he did fail though?
Some of these barriers do not bear up under examination but we must accept them for what they are. They are the factors being used to drive the actions of the characters. The main thing to take away is that for the story to continue the log jam has to be relieved. Which it looks like it will be in the next episode. With the relieving of these pressures, changes for the characters is inevitable.
Episode Flashes:

  • Beware blue bubble wrap envelopes! They bring ill tidings.
  • Casey finding his spy skills cannot be employed at the BuyMore
  • For the men – nice legs shot of Sarah
  • Chuck and his reaction to the spy test – #2 pencil and scantron!
  • Chuck’s new cover as a billionare in Rome – pretty sweet for a first gig
  • Chuck Bond! The Nerd is getting smoother all the time.
  • Chuck Stake Out Essentials with his own specialized case of champagne, Sizzling Shrimp and Stake Out play list amongst other items
  • Sarah’s twisty mouth ‘I shouldn’t be falling for this but I am,’ reaction
  • Private Eyes!
  • Chuck and Sarah showing the chemistry is still there in gobs during the stake out/date.
  • Sarah hiding behind binoculars as Chuck’s words get past her emotional defenses
  • ‘I can expense this, right?’
  • For the ladies – Chuck in a towel
  • One of the Russian baddies named Ivan Drago! Ala Rocky IV ‘I must break you.’
  • Chuck fighting in the Steam Room in TV version of Eastern Promises
  • Ka-kaw! Ka-kaw! Chuck bird call to help ID the CIA mole
  • ‘I am a spy!’ – cue shot of dropping towel – ‘I am a naked spy!’ – eat your heart out James Bond!
  • Chuck strutting in the OrangeOrange up to Sarah, ‘Hi there colleague!’
  • Chuck’s gift to Casey
  • Sarah having to deliver Chuck his final mission test – the red test
  • Washroom fight – Casino Royale style!
  • Chuck trying his best to bring the CIA mole in alive
  • Chuck unable to take the shot
  • Casey taking the shot
  • Sarah’s remorse and the intertwining of her feelings of her red test with those of being responsible for leading Chuck down the path to taking the red test

Zev Borrow has crafted an episode that seems very much like the launching pad for some major story threads in the next episode or two. All done with the trademark mix of humor, drama, action and comedy. Characters are being positioned to make irreversible choices. Once again, this has become a mantra, the three leads turn in strong performances. With Chuck we get the first glimpses of the spy he will be. Zac Levi’s merging of the Bondian aspects of the spy world with Chuck’s innate goodly goofy qualities is a treat to watch. Adam Baldwin’s turn as John Casey as a hair triggered weapon with no place in the so called real world of the BuyMore was fun. Finally there is Sarah’s back story reveal of her red test which explains much, if not all, of her behaviour this season and the series. Yvonne nails the turmoil and anguish of that moment and encapsulates Sarah’s behaviour since Prague.
‘It was the worst day of my life.’
With Sarah’s backstory reveal of her red test, the final piece of the puzzle for her seemingly inconsistent behaviour this season has been added. Not only is she struggling with dealing with real feelings for the first time in her life, Sarah is seeing a chance to reclaim a part of herself through Chuck slipping away. Sarah has been struggling with her identity, as has Chuck and Casey, all season. Meeting Chuck gave her an anchor upon which to re-establish whom she was. When Chuck decided to become a spy, Sarah lost that anchor and has been adrift ever since. Staying with Chuck and watching him evolve by incoporating the very things Sarah hates about the spy life has been torture for her. Worse because she feels responsible for tainting those rare qualities of truth and honesty that Chuck has. This explains her request for transfer and distancing herself from Chuck all season as that process fermented. Now, believing Chuck has killed and knowing the fallout from her red test, Sarah is at her lowest point.
Her statement of not loving Chuck is a sympton of pain but Chuck is not the source. Sarah is. It is herself that she loathes. Chuck represents her past. And her shame. When Chuck passed the red test it equated to a lost opportunity for Sarah. A chance that may never come again to, in some measure, redeem herself. This is a line in the sand moment. Not a reinforced bunker. Such lines can be crossed. Sometimes the person making them is begging for someone to cross them.
‘You’re not a killer Chuck.’

CleanUp Is Still Possible

Exciting times ahead. Sarah is about to discover that all is not lost through the actions and words of, not just Chuck, but Casey too. This is what we have been waiting for.
Payoff time!

Captain Awesome: Nobody Does It Better! Review Episode 3.03: Chuck Vs The Angel de la Muerte

Written by Phil Klemmer
Directed by Jeremy Chechik

Awesome is as Awesome does. And Awesome pretty well can do it all.
With the Angel de la Muerte the payoff for Devon finding out about Chuck being a spy last season is realized. Must be tough being Devon aka Captain Awesome. Everything comes to him so easily. From scoring with Ellie shortly after they first meet to becoming a doctor to mastering extreme sports to speaking other languages to being a straight arrow that accepts his gifts as matter of fact without being an insufferable cretin as would be expected. It is this mixture of awesomeness and matter of factness that has made Devon a fan favorite when he could have easily be turned into a caricuture.

What is so tough about so many high levels of competencies? Finding new challenges. In the grip of post wedding blues Ellie and Devon are fumbling looking for ways to reignite their zest for life. Devon finds his chance in the spy world when he treats a Premier from Costa Gravis – a fictional country named after the writer – played with hammy zeal by Armand Assante. Grateful for his treatment Goya invites Devon and Ellie to his embassy for a gala dinner. Insinuating himself as an invitee allows Chuck and Sarah to attend the ball with the hidden purpose of providing protection.
Devon informs Chuck that the Premier was poisoned and this intel sparks Beckman to assign Team Bartowski to protect Goya as the country is in the process of being a democracy. Casey has to stay in the car as he is known as the Angel of Death in Costas Gravas – even though he has three failed previous assasination attempts on Goya.
If there is any doubt that the showrunners have been strolling through forums and blogs word browsing this episode puts it to rest. The simultaneous conversations between Chuck and Devon on one side of the room and Sarah and Ellie on the other take many fan complaints and has fun with them. Particularly Devon’s, ‘Excruciating,’ comment to Chuck about no sex. What is really great about this sequence is how at ease the four actors are with each other. Plus we finally get a long overdue Sarah/Ellie scene! Hopefully only the first of more to come.
The ball proves to be a slightly more complicated protection detail when Goya displays an open attraction to Ellie that puts her in harm’s way of a would be assassin. Chuck flashes on some mad dancing skills and he and Sarah twirl their way across the dance floor to intercept him only to find out it is a false alarm. They are kicked out of the embassy forcing Casey out of the van. Misreading the situation and mistaking a Mario Brothers lookalike disguised Casey, Devon takes him out blowing Casey’s cover.
This leads to the rescue of Casey and the saving of the twice poisoned Ambassador via a reluctant blood donation from Casey. Thus the Angel of Death becomes the Angel of Life. Too bad the Premier’s thanks was done in a voice over instead of having Assante on stage to do this scene with Adam Baldwin. The interplay between the two would have been priceless.
Episode Flashes:

  • Devon/Ellie closet makeout scene including Ellie’s lucky sweater
  • Devon/Ellie making out within moments of meeting each other. Poor Chuck and Sarah.
  • Chuck returning from an unseen mission with the helicopter flying too close to home
  • Devon switching effortlessly from English to Spanish during a news conference
  • Devon scaring Chuck in his bedroom and Chuck unable to do so later on in the courtyard
  • Armand’s letcherous ways and dance scenes with Sarah Lancaster
  • shirtless sweaty Devon for the ladies again.
  • sweaterless Ellie for the guys – for the first time! No sweat though.
  • Casey’s fight scene with hypodermic needle filled with poison stuck in his leg
  • Casey listing Goya’s favourite movie and showering habits
  • Sarah putting weapons in a bag and Chuck taking them out as she plans to storm the embassy in a solo rescue mission to save Casey

Finally this episode sets up the relationship landscape for the third season. The handshake scene near the end between Chuck and Sarah is rife with multiple emotions and bears much rewatching. Compare this one to the one from S1. In S1 it is a handshake between two giddy children. In this one it is between adults. There is an air of maturity, loss, and recently learned lessons. For the first time in the series the two of them seem like adults.
There is regret in that handshake. Sarah wants to keep it simple. She is willing to try again but wants to start from a real place this time. She needs time to heal and she needs to be in this place for now so she can properly protect Chuck and the world from Intersect 2.0.
Chuck accepts her offer but there is an air about him of a lost opportunity and the realization that his calling has come at a high price.
This is borne out in the final scene when Sarah brings Chuck bad news about Devon. She gives him a hug that is simultaneously intense, gentle and intimate. It is not quite a gesture of comfort from a life partner but it is much more than that of just a friend.
It is a moment of sobering reality and Sarah acts accordingly.
All in all a very solid episode that only disappoints by not having a proper closing scene for Armand Assante.

Bring On The Shaw! Episode 3.04: Chuck Vs Operation Awesome

Written by Zev Borow
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeil

Boom. Boom. Pow! Jack Bauer eat your heart out!
Chuck Bartowski is not a man to be trifled with especially when it comes to his family. Chuck Vs Operation Awesome is a treat full of spy drama, comedy, tension, great character introductions, and some heart felt expressed sentiments from an unexpected corner.
Carrying on from the cliff hanger ending of 3.03 finds Team Bartowski frantically searching for any leads on the whereabouts of Devon while Chuck tries to keep from freaking out. In an ill advised move, Chuck returns to the BuyMore to await news but his choatic emotional state sets him flashing off uncontrollably. In short order he berates an elderly Thai women in her native tongue sending her scurrying terrified from the store and then takes Lester out with a single karate kick.
Devon comes stumbling into the BuyMore where he tells Chuck that his kidnappers think Devon is Chuck. Ring agent Sydney Prince, played with delicious evilness by Angie Harmon, has left Devon a Ring cellphone and told him to await further instructions. Bringing Devon home to Ellie leads to a hilarious illustration of Devon’s one major shortcoming. He cannot lie. A simple story quickly spins out of control and ends with a decaptitated bear. Devon, Ellie, and Chuck miming story points, are all hilarious here. It takes Chuck to rescue everything by creating an alternate tale that satisfies Ellie but ends up with Casey as an innocent bystander of her wrath.
Reluctantly Chuck agrees to use Devon to find Sydney and this allows for the opportunity for some great bits of Chuck channeling Sarah as the handler and Devon channeling Chuck as the asset as he was in Season 1. Sydney leaves Devon a package that includes an explosive ear piece and the spy action kicks off into high gear. It leads to my favorite laugh out moment in the episode.

A Trio Of Super Awesome Chuckness!
A Trio Of Super Awesome Chuckness!

‘Chuck you killed Julius!’
It shows just how spooked Devon is by the once exciting spy life. From here we get some great action scenes that show off just how adept Chuck is becoming a spy while Devon clings to him freaking out with each increasingly more violent order from Syndey. They finally make it to their objective only to find a CIA station. Just as Casey and Sarah are informed by Chuck of this, their van is shut down and locked up tight. A nice remote operation that all spies must just love. Beckman comes online and confirms Sarah’s suspicion that yes indeed this is a setup.
What follows next is the best character introduction done on the show to date; Daniel Shaw.
‘I know things. Lots of things.’
He does indeed. Including Chuck’s name and that Chuck is the Intersect. Shaw urges Chuck to kill him in order to save Devon’s life but Chuck cannot. In a sleight of hand move, Shaw shoots himself; faking his own death. After Sydney arrives and confirms Shaw’s death, she removes the earpiece from Devon, welcomes him to the Ring, and tells him to await futher instructions.
Everyone reconvenes back at the Castle where Beckman informs Team Bartowski they have a new leader in Shaw, who is a foremost expert on the Ring. Shaw tells Chuck that unless he can come up with a better plan they need to use Devon still to trap Sydney for good this time. Chuck wants Devon out of the spy world so he takes Devon’s Ring phone, modifies it, and calls Sydney telling she has the wrong guy and he is the spy she is really after.
Chuck tells Sydney to come to the BuyMore and calls Sarah asking for backup. Shaw intercedes and tells Chuck if he starts something then he has to finish it. Shaw detains a stunned Casey and Sarah telling them he is curious to see what Chuck’s plan is. When it is evident that Chuck has no plan, the team sweeps in leading to a showdown between Sydney and Chuck. Once again Chuck is faced with a pull the trigger moment. Once again he cannot do it.
There is no doubt that Chuck’s stance on killing is going to be an ongoing issue throughout the season. The resolution of this will be a major turning point for the character and the show.
Episode Flashes:

  • Sydney Prince’s tense introduction as she puts Devon in a precarious position
  • Chuck channeling Sarah in order to be Devon’s handler
  • Devon channeling Chuck from Season 1
  • Morgan being promoted to Assistant Manager and keep his business cards in a Twilight Zone card case
  • Devon and the bear decapitation showing how poor a liar he is and how good Chuck has become at it
  • original music scored by Tim Jones really amps up the spy drama and tension
  • Daniel Shaw – best character introduction on Chuck yet
  • Chuck taking out 6 guards using his Intersect skills but attributing them to Nintendo’s Duck Hunt
  • Shaw hanging up on Chuck – wants to see his plan
  • BuyMore scenes had riffs on Fight Club, The Warriors, & An Officer And A Gentleman to name a few

‘Really? This guy? I got back issues of Guns and Ammo older than he is!’
Sarah and Casey are mostly in the background in this episode but do have a few moments of goodness.
Casey’s disdain of Shaw and his youth are obvious and expected. Shaw’s suprise at Casey’s quickness on the draw is punctuated by Casey’s proclamation of gun love. This flies in the face of Shaw’s stated distaste for guns even though he will use them as needed.
‘Sometimes it helps to know that you’ve got something to lose.’
For Sarah her concern for Devon and Chuck can be seen throughout the episode and her worry about Chuck performing sets up a great comeback line for Shaw. By the episode end Shaw delivers a familar speech, one that Sarah has given Chuck many times, about family and friends making a spy vulnerable. But when Shaw asks Sarah for confirmation she does not. Sarah sides with Chuck. A big admission on her part and a far cry from the Sarah of past seasons. What is even better is the quiet acknowledgement of thanks that passes between Chuck and Sarah afterwards. It is for moments like these that new characters like Shaw are brought into the show.
The episode closes with a shot of Shaw watching the Bartowski clan together as he pulls out a wedding band and places it on his finger. A ring within a Ring? This glimpse into the personal background of Shaw is sure to play an important part in coming episodes.
My favourite episode this season in a season of a very good episodes.

Nerd At 37,000 Feet!* – Episode 3.05: Chuck Vs First Class

Written by Chris Fedak
Directed by Fred Toye

In parallel story lines Team Bartowski continues to chafe under Daniel Shaw’s leadership while Morgan has his hands full as the new Assistant Manager trying to quell a Lester lead staff revolt.
‘Sometimes he sounds like Bond. And other times its like a Jerry Lewis movie.’
The Shaw ShakeUp continues for Team Bartowski; his mandate still unclear. It seems Shaw wants to make Chuck a spy even if that training causes Chuck to be killed. A strange combination when dealing with the world’s only walking Intersect. Tough love indeed!
‘Let me out of the car!’
After a review of missions Shaw concludes the team is dysfunctional. Its a nice little beat that everyone on the screen and at home expects Shaw to say that problem is Chuck. Instead Shaw shocks everyone when Shaw’s verdict is that the problem lies not with Chuck but with Casey and Sarah.
They are too close to Chuck. Too protective. They will not let Chuck evolve. To remedy that Shaw announces Chuck is going on his first solo mission. Casey takes this proclamation of continuing proof of Shaw’s incompetence. Sarah is besides herself with worry. Chuck is chomping at the bit for such an opportunity and is, of course, ecstatic. His reaction at the first class tickets and the packing of his nunchunks endear and set the worry meter even higher for Casey and Sarah.

AirSick  Intersect?
AirSick Intersect?

Morgan: ‘You command respect.’ Casey: ‘No. I take it.’
Over at the BuyMore, Morgan is struggling with how to gain control of the BuyMore crew as a battle of wills breaks out between him and Lester. One of the big problems that the show has struggled with, especially in the Second Season; most notably in the second half, is how to keep it relevant or a viable appendage of the show. More so that Chuck has moved on from the BuyMore.
‘Insurgents? I hate insurgents.’
So the show has retooled the BuyMore storyline. Instead of being burdened with finding ways of getting Chuck out of the BuyMore, the focus is now shifted to a vehicle for getting Casey into the BuyMore world. A slick solution, for Casey’s interaction with the BuyMore has always been a source of great comedic material. With this change in focus the BuyMore beats are now moments to look forward to enjoying instead of enduring.
Episode Flashes:

  • Shaw calling Sarah and Casey on the reason for Chuck’s slow spy growth
  • Protective Sarah – a caged lioness!
  • Chuck’s reaction to his first class tickets
  • Chuck and his nunchucks
  • Russian Tranq Pen – Thank you KGB!
  • Hannah and Chuck interaction – Hannah a perfect female mirror image of Chuck – and so sweet
  • Shaw making it clear he knows all about Sarah’s past
  • Hugo Panzer’s heart rate and pulse monitor with built in shocker
  • Casey telling Chuck while he is in the coffin that there is no try, flash or die
  • Casey helping Morgan with the BuyMore insurgents
  • Sarah’s unknown ability as a pilot – a call back to Chuck Vs The Helicopter perhaps?
  • Casey’s BuyMore promotion – Lieutenant Asisstant Manager and Chuck’s bemused reaction
  • The wedding rings from Shaw’s dead wife and fellow spy

‘This is crazy.’
Sarah is besides herself this episode. Trapped between obeying orders and wanting to protect Chuck. This is her nightmare scenario. She strides around the Castle like a caged lioness unable to reach and protect her cub. Always a person of action she is angrily frustrated by her inability to come to Chuck’s aid. Her horror at finding out that the mission is on the plane instead of in Paris is palpable.
‘Who are you, Agent Shaw?’
Ah yes. The proverbial $64,000 question. Who is Shaw and what is he all about.? Sarah goes on the offensive and Shaw shows how much he and Sarah are alike when he lets it be known they both like to keep their secrets. Secrets like Sarah’s real background of which Shaw is fully aware. Shared history of having loved a spy and then lost them. Though in Sarah’s case she cleverly manages to deflect Shaw’s initial thoughts about Sarah and Chuck by turning them to Bryce. No doubt Sarah did do what she said in regards to Bryce’s ashes but the real reason of running away with Chuck stays safe.
‘You’re different. You stand out.’
On the plane Chuck is seated by the season’s second dreaded Potential Love Interest(PLI) Hannah played by Kristen Kreuk. Fans should breathe a collective sigh of relief as Hannah’s injection into the storyline is adroitly executed and Kreuk is virtually luminous in the role as a female version of Chuck. Zac and Kristen have real chemistry together and Sarah will have her work cut out for her.
The villian of the week is exWrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, and through no fault of his own, his Hugo Panzer, while imposing in stature, does not stack up against the guest turns of Angie Harmon and Armand Assante. Basically a prop in the second fight sequence, Panzer’s best moment comes when his heart rate/pulse watch monitor shocks him awake.
The concept of remotely controlling an airplane may have seemed cool in concept but plays rather flat in execution. Though knowing Sarah has a pilot’s license in her spy repertoire was a delightful surprise. Back safely at home, Chuck gratefully acknowledges his team mates keeping him alive.
In the closing moments the mysterious weapon from 3.02 returns and turns out not to be a weapon at all. Instead it contains Ring Intel that cost Shaw his wife. Plus an envelope. An envelope which contains a ring of a different sort. A wedding ring.  Shaw has lost a loved one. Sarah is very much afraid of the same thing happening with her and Chuck. Already it can be seen that the bond between Shaw and Sarah will be based on something more than mutual professional admiration but on shared emotional experiences.
Throw in the unknown about Shaw’s true intents, the appearance of Hannah at the BuyMore, the wedding ring, and they lead to possibilities of Shaw manipulations or true events or a combination of both. A different and more complicated approach to the PLIs than seen to date. Let the 3D chess games begin!
What about that closing shot with Hannah showing up at the BuyMore? What to think? What to think indeed. Sincere or manipulation? Hear that sound? It is the clankety ratchet of the Season 3 rollercoaster being pulled up the first big hill.  Buckle up Chucksters!  The real ride is about to commence.
* – title is a homage to The Horror At 37,000 Feet.