Funny timing. In our second look at S3, we get to Chuck vs. The Beard exactly one day after it ran as a re-run. We were told by critics, before this episode ran, it would be the strongest element of this part of the season (through 3.11). The plotting break-down is a little different here as Chuck is separated from his team for most of the episode; so we see “the team” sent out of town to run into Ellie and Devon, while events at the Buy More and Castle become the main event. A quick summary follows the jump.
This episode starts with Chuck at his all time low. He is so down after recent events he can no longer flash and gets benched. But he still has further to sink as even Morgan “fires” him as best friend.
Ellie and Devon retreat to a resort outside of town, that happens to be the same place The Ring has lead the team to. The main things we learn would seem to be: The Ring wants to separate the team from Castle, they now have other plans for Shaw apart from wanting him dead, and Ellie looks good in a bikini. This sub-plot really contributes little else to the story.
The “A” plot for this episode is very well done. Easily the best we’ve seen since Operation Awesome if not all season. In case everyone has forgotten, Chuck used to be a comedy. They do an excellent job of reminding us of that here. Diedrich Bader is particularly effective as a Ring heavy, and makes this episode fun in almost every way. I think I’ll skip the usual recap and just touch on some highlights.
Chuck’s friendship with Morgan is the main theme here; and we see Chuck start his climb out of the pits as he rekindles the show’s primary bromance. Its funny we see the recurring idea of Morgan and the other Buy Morons assuming Chuck is uniquely poorly qualified to spy; and satisfying to see Morgan’s rapid and enthusiastic acceptance of his buddies double life. Chuck’s relief is huge as he gets to unload his issues on a very receptive Morgan; and by my count, Morgan is now the gazillionth person to observe Chuck is clearly in love with Sarah, yet this is never the theme of this episode. Even though Morgan urges Chuck back into the pursuit of Sarah, and she returns the favor by siding with Chuck that Morgan is no threat. So Morgan has already proven to be a more useful asset for Chuck than Devon ever did; and Morgan will continue to prove useful in the weeks ahead. He almost takes the Chuck role from S1; this is a development I relish. Especially as it seems Morgan’s main partner will be John Casey. I’m sure Casey will prove to be just as patient and supportive of Morgan’s eccentricities and rookie mistakes as Sarah was with Chuck.
I think this was the best integration of the Buy More in the main plot all season too. Lester’s interview and later spying were fun; of course Morgan discovering Castle worked, and Jeff having Casey’s back in a fight with two Ring baddies was priceless. Chuck will show better control of the intersect from here on out; although emotions still get the better of him on occasion, I’m sure that will remain an occasional issue.
The worst of the season is clearly over from this point. Of the last 5 episodes of the main arc, only Final Exam really hits a sour note; and that one seems to generate more mixed feelings among fans compared to Mask and Fake Name’s widespread unpopularity (yes, I acknowledge these are generalizations, I’m sure there are fans who have liked every single episode!). Many of us have felt the handling of the Chuck and Sarah relationship (and the much reduced interaction of Levi and Strahovski on screen) was the most fundamental flaw of this season. This episode does nothing to fix that key problem; but it manages to be a fun and uplifting episode on its own merits.