'Chuck': Eye of the tiger

zachary-levi-yvonne-strahovski-chuck.jpg"Chuck" continues to hit it out of the park in the episodes leading up to the season finale, and if anything it's improved since Chuck and Sarah got together!

I'd promise to boycott NBC if "Chuck" isn't renewed, but I think we all know that would be an empty gesture as long as "30 Rock" is on the air. Luckily I'm feeling optimistic, so hopefully it won't come to that!

This episode's opening, I'm told, was a take-off on the "Hart to Hart" opening. Can't say I ever watched "Hart to Hart," so I don't know if there were any other references ... sorries!

Chuck and Sarah vs. CIA coupledom: CIA power couple Craig and Laura Turner lead up Chuck and Sarah's first official mission as a couple, and Gen. Beckman hopes they'll be able to teach the newbies a thing or two. The Turners are played by Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz! Wow, "Castle," "Modern Family," and now "Chuck"? Fred Willard's really getting around these days. Seeing Swoosie Kurtz just makes me want to cry about "Pushing Daisies" all over again. Was anyone else thrown off by the lack of eye patch?

The mission is to steal a decryption program from a fellow named Otto before he can use it to get through CIA defenses. It wouldn't be a spy mission without a big fancy party, so the plan is to pull a Salahi and then steal the program once they get in. Well, that's the Turners' task. Chuck and Sarah are simply there to watch and learn.

The Turners' 30 years together turns out to be 30 years "more or less," since they've been remarried three times. As Craig puts it, "Some women are too special to marry just once." The reasons for this become apparent at the party, where Craig openly tries to cheat on Laura, who gets hammered and causes a big scene. Chuck and Sarah take the opportunity to show them how it's done, sneaking upstairs to nab the chip. They're met by a pet tiger, Mike Tyson-style. Geez, is Hollywood trying to start a trend or something?

The software is on Tony's (Raja's? Hobbes'? Okay, I'm going to stop naming tigers now...) collar, but Chuck objects when Sarah pulls out her gun: "I am not letting you shoot a tiger. They are endangered and majestic!" I knew I loved him for a reason. He does feel differently after almost being eaten, for the record, but Shere Khan falls asleep before it comes to that.

The Turners, teaching Chuck and Sarah "a little lesson about spying," pull a gun on them as they leave the party, stealing the software. Worst best couple ever! Chuck is bummed they lost their couple role model, but Sarah is more focused on retrieving the software, tracking them down at a local hotel and catching them by surprise.

Back at Chuck's place, the Turners each blame the other for planning the betrayal, and Chuck gives them a good ol' talking to about how great they used to be. Craig: "That was 30 years ago. The CIA has a way of breaking young idealists, especially when they're in love." I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. Lalalalala.... However, they have more immediate problems to deal with: Otto tracked the collar to Chuck's apartment, and he brought Battle Cat (not Cringer, unfortunately) with him.

Sarah takes a turn playing the conscience of the pair and refuses to give up the Turners when Otto demands it. In turn, to prove they aren't traitors, the Turners escape but return to rescue Chuck and Sarah from Otto. After Chuck uses some Intersect 2.0 skills to disarm the bad guys, he and Sarah engage in a brief standoff with the Turners before they agree to turn themselves in. Chuck and Sarah put in a good word for the them with Beckman, claiming the Turners acted out a daring triple-cross. And the Turners retire, leaving Chuck and Sarah to take their place and imploring them to watch each other's backs. Somehow, I don't think that'll be a problem.   

Casey vs. the new recruit: Beckman tasks Casey with turning Morgan into a spy, much to Casey's delight, as I'm sure you can imagine (grunting is, of course, involved). Subversion, stealth and strength are the names of the game, and Morgan's first mission is to get a hot customer's phone number. Unless "You disgust me!!" is a phone number, I'm going to call that one a failure. Mission number two -- stealing Big Mike's keycard -- is similarly unsuccessful. And Morgan's familiarity with weaponry thanks to "Call of Duty" doesn't translate to the real world, where guns actually recoil.

Casey sweetly promises he's there for Morgan, since he was there for Casey when Casey wasn't a spy. And he's put his faith in the right guy, as Morgan proves his worth by offering to sacrifice himself, luring Tigger into Ellie and Awesome's apartment and then running like heck. Plus side: He passed his test! Downside: Ellie and Awesome's apartment is destroyed.

Ellie vs. the wilderness: Awesome and Ellie arrive in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and she's already having a hard time with "the not showering, and the not sleeping, and the not knowing who the men with the guns are." That does sound stressful, and I love camping out. Awesome arranges a date night for her, but seeing as it takes place in the jungle, it's interrupted by a big snake. Justin, the security coordinator, takes care of it and welcomes them to Africa.    

Ellie is tired and feels out of place, especially compared to "Dr. Super Fantastic White Person." She confesses to Justin that she's just not built for it, but he disagrees based on how great she is with the patients. Just as she starts to settle in, Awesome gets really sick and has to be evacuated out. Wow, that was over quickly!

Hold the phone, though, because Justin is Ring, or otherwise evil! He poisoned Awesome to make it look like malaria, and is pleased that Ellie didn't catch on. I'm super interested to see where this is headed.

Odds and Ends:

  • It seems to me like training Morgan is a pretty tall order for Casey, since it took Chuck quite some time before he was field-ready even with the Intersect helping him out. Maybe we're using different standards of field-ready?
  • Sarah and Chuck are moving in together! I understand her initial hesitation, since they definitely lead a crazy, high-pressure lifestyle, but I'm glad she came around in the end: "I'd like to have something to fall back on when our spy life is over." In it for the long haul, as if that wasn't obvious when she and Chuck kept referring to the Turners as their possible future.  
  • I love that Chuck doesn't want weapons in his apartment. Good thing the Intersect 2.0 makes that situation at least somewhat workable.  
  • I'm going to go ahead and promise to hate any new show NBC brings in to replace "Chuck," if the worst should happen. I mean, really? Another Jerry Bruckheimer police procedural? Another David E. Kelley lawyer show? Is that truly what the masses are clamoring for? Sigh...

Quotes:

  • Morgan: "This is even worse than when I got canned from Underpants, Etc."
  • Morgan: "Semper fi-dizzle!"
  • Craig: "I wish you many happy marriages."
  • Casey: "You have got to be hands down, bar none the worst candidate I've ever trained. But you've got one thing going for you -- you got balls."
  • Chuck: "Dude, you turned my sister's apartment into a kitty litter box!"

How do you feel about Chuck and Sarah's relationship now that they're back in Burbank? Agent Morgan: Yea or Nay? Any theories on Justin poisoning Awesome?

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Photo credit: NBC