This is the start of a two episode mini-arc, that to me, is the highlight of the season until The Other Guy. It is largely angst free, sweet in places, played for laughs, has lots of good action, and feels a lot like an early season two episode. We start by seeing Ellie and Devon are at a low point as daily life is taking its toll. After Chuck’s helicopter lands him a little too close to the apartment, he and Devon have a brief exchange that’s interesting on a couple levels. We see that Devon envies Chuck’s seemingly adventurous life; and Chuck has something resembling “routine” missions that are apparently not the subject of any episodes (like the “plumbing” adventure we see the end of in Predator). This is all a lengthy lead up to the main story. After a flash, Chuck heads off for meeting at Castle, while Devon is called in to the hospital, both good naturedly refuse to talk about their “missions.”
The mission briefing reveals some interesting information about Casey, and his work as an assassin in the 1980s. Chuck seems to grasp his duty quickly and painlessly, to get information from Devon about the medical condition of one Premier Goya, from the fictional country of Costa Gravis (played by Armand Assante). It is a more mature and professional Chuck we see who embraces the assignment, and even tells Casey how they’re going to do it. They make nice use of parallels here with the team learning they must save the Premier’s life at the same time Devon is being threatened with that reality by the man’s military escort.
We get a couple scenes played largely for comedy; first Chuck’s debriefing of Devon in the courtyard, then Casey explaining why he has to recuse himself. I thought the scene of Devon and Ellie not answering the door just screamed “we didn’t have the budget for any Buy More scenes in this episode so we have draw this out as best we can.” But the next scene is brilliant. Armand Assante is one of the funniest guest stars we’ve ever seen on Chuck, and that’s saying a lot. He is totally over the top as a charming and eccentric despot. His first encounter with Chuck is classic; “your brother? ahh yes, the same delicate features, they work better on a woman though.” I’m sure I misquoted the line pretty badly, but it makes me laugh so hard I can’t get it all!
Fast cut to the Gala. This is the first key scene of the episode. We get a few treats. Chuck and Sarah working as partners with little drama. Chuck explaining their complicated relationship to Devon; he seems resigned and down about it (we don’t really learn how resigned until several episodes later). Ellie and Sarah talking, I believe for the only time so far this season; Ellie speaks truth, and Sarah rejects it (yes, I know that’s an over-simplification, but given where things go in Mask I don’t see any other way to take it). After a brief speech Goya calls Ellie to the dance floor in a fun comic scene for both Assante and Sarah Lancaster. He is at his best “flirting” and strutting while Ellie is overwhelmed and embarrassed. A potential bad guy is identified, which leads to a Chuck flash; Chuck and Sarah then get a dance scene that rivals her S2 scene with Bryce. Given one of the show’s themes would seem to be Chuck becoming a new and improved Bryce Larkin, this scene struck me as the first conscience acknowledgement of that. The possible assailant is overcome by Chuck, with no flash involved; another small sign of his growth. But this leads to a very Chuck moment, when Chuck and Sarah are ejected for their disruptive behavior. The final act of the gala is Casey entering to try to stop the real assassin, which ends in Devon’s tackle of the wrong guy. I took this scene to be the origin of The Ring thinking Devon was the spy in the family; if we are supposed to think some mis-information was planted by Shaw in Three Words leading to Devon being misidentified, the detail was poorly executed.
Casey’s interrogation is another wonderful scene. We learn a lot about his background (possibly inconsistent with what we learn in Tic Tac, but whatever) and failed attempts on the Premier; “Sorry about the dog…” More good physical comedy, from Casey kicking the poisoned cigar out of Goya’s mouth; to Goya finally succumbing with a loud thud. Very satisfying stuff!
When Devon is called to be the Premier’s doc again, it gives team Bartowski a way in for a rescue. A couple interesting tidbits here; I like Devon’s excitement at seeing Castle. And Sarah is seriously annoyed with Chuck bringing Devon in. She really unloads on him about “trying to keep his family out of it.” I’m not quite sure what the source of her bitterness is at this point. Maybe she’s just generally calling him a hypocrite. But this does stand out as the only really unpleasant moment in the episode to me.
The return to the consulate is another fun scene. “Sarah, and her two fists” is my personal favorite line in this episode. I do wonder, if in whatever remains of the series, we’ll ever get a follow up; where we see Devon (possibly still not believing Chuck and Sarah’s relationship is anything other than cover) more than a little intimidated by Chuck’s girlfriend. Casey rescuing himself from the poisoner is classic; “lucky for me, I’m a Marine”. Chuck has another useful flash, even though we’re pretty sure Sarah can remove a bullet; and Casey saves Goya’s life against his will, for a fun wrap to the main story.
The denouement is a couple of short scenes. Devon makes some telling comments about not needing this kind of excitement, and wishing Chuck and Sarah to take care of each other. Their declaration as “friends” is a rather painful throwback to a S1 state of things. At the time we all saw too much affection in the agreement, but obviously we were all wrong and they meant it. We see Devon being confronted by the poisoner, and a final scene of Sarah going to tell and comfort Chuck. Fortunately, the original preview left us all with no doubt Devon was still alive; which meant this episode ended on a fairly high note. The warmth between Chuck and Sarah was sufficient to misguide us for several more weeks. Yes I know I’m being petulant. The ending (actually, most of the episode) exudes a sort of warmth and fun we wouldn’t get often in S3. The mood continues fairly well into the following episode. As the later episodes of the season unfold the tone will change dramatically; but for two weeks, it was like we had the old Chuck back.