This is the second and last of the Devon “mini-arc.” It is another wonderful episode that combines the action, heart, and humor many of us love so much about this show. It also is the start of the generally less popular Shaw arc (I’ll try to be polite about it!).
After a brief establishing scene we see Chuck as a nervous wreck in Castle. This is very much “old Chuck”. He is a stressed out and getting on Sarah and Casey’s nerves. After they shoo him off to work at the Buy More, we get our first really good comic sequence of the episode. Chuck is loosing control of his emotions, and the intersect. As near as I can tell, this is the closest we ever come to General Beckman’s admonition to “protect the world from Chuck” having any relevance at all. Chuck flashes on a language that is technically something I don’t speak to scold a hapless customer; then kicks Lester, which can best be described as something he’d deserved for a long time. So to protect the planet from the impending doom that is Chuck; Sarah heroically calms him down.
We next see Devon’s return and the start of a plan to get to the bottom of things. This is intermixed with Chuck learning about Morgan’s promotion at Buy More and we see how Chuck has inadvertently started a fight club among the buy morons. Chuck returning Devon to a very worried Ellie may be the best comic moment of the season: between “decapitating the bear” and Casey wetting and exposing himself this scene seriously needs to be watched a couple times just catch the dialogue you miss when laughing the first couple times. Chuck is now tasked with handling his first asset (Devon). Casey delivers one of his characteristic great one-liners; “for this mission Devon is you and you’re her; be her Chuck.”
Devon has long been my favorite secondary character on the show. By secondary I mean anyone other than Chuck, Sarah, or Casey. This episode is Ryan McPartlin’s biggest and best usage to date. His character may become tiresome and annoying in the next few episodes, but then so does everyone on the show except Casey. We see clearly here, when Devon is well written, he is an Awesome character.
There’s still more good comedy as the mission itself gets started. I loved the little detail of “good guys”/”bad guys” labels on the two watches Devon must keep straight; and an encounter with the sympathetic security guard Julius is comedy gold. Finally, we even see Chuck behaving like a calm professional; he keeps Devon calm and dispatches six security guards with tranq darts. We first meet Shaw at the end of this sequence. His introduction is well handled; and its easy to see if TPTB had been less ambitious in their use of this character he could have been a good addition to the Chuckiverse. Although his plan is somewhat flaky (relying on an operative he’s never even met to shoot him, and then save his life); it does seem both serious and preposterous in a way fitting the show.
But next I have my first of many problems with all things Daniel Shaw. When Chuck is challenged to come up with a plan for tracking the Ring cell that doesn’t put Devon in harm’s way any further, he does. He hacks the Ring phone to call Sydney to him, should be a simple trap and grab. Perhaps he should have cleared the plan with someone first; but Chuck knows he can trust his team. Until Shaw mucks everything up. Yes, the same guy who thought having a stranger shoot him and then save his life was a good plan; ridicules Chuck’s tactic of calling fire on his own location, and tries to get Chuck killed. Angie Harmon as Ring agent Sydney is very funny in this scene, and briefly is one of the best villains of the season. Fortunately, Casey and Sarah haven’t been Zombified yet and storm off to Chuck’s rescue. Maybe Sarah has been a little weakened by her time around Shaw already; she actually looses a one on one against Ring agent Sydney. I don’t think we see her win another fight until Tic Tac, when Shaw is conspicuously absent. Coincidence? Or does Shaw really have supernatural energy draining powers? um… OK, probably not.
After the baddies are all dead or in custody, we see Shaw scolding Chuck for coming up with a more practical plan than his own; and are treated to Sarah’s surprise defense of Chuck’s value system. It seemed like a big deal at the time. The brief denouement this time is the only large “friends and family” gathering we’ve seen this season. It was a fun scene full of false hope for Chuck and Sarah ‘shippers.
Sorry if my tone turned a bit cynical towards the end of this. But that does reflect my view of the season. This show can be so much fun when it aims to be. Most of this episode was a good demonstration of that. Towards the end though, Shaw invades. Much of his tenure on the show is built around pushing Chuck into new and difficult situations. Had they used Shaw as an honest player that would have been good. But so often the lessons he teaches are stupid or wrong; seriously, Chuck’s plan with the Ring phone seemed like a good one to me. Shaw “vetoing” it was a contrivance. We can forgive such contrivances when the show is fun, but this episode is the end of that for a while.