'Chuck': Sarah administers Chuck's final exam ... and it's a doozy

zacahry-levi-chuck-vs-the-final-exam-320.jpgIs our sweet little Chuck capable of shooting a man in cold blood? Can he be a spy without also being a killer? Can they maintain the streak of supreme "Chuck"-ness for yet another week? (The answer to that last question is a resounding "yes," in case you were wondering. That hour just flew by for me!)

Chuck vs. the Red Test: It's time for Chuck to take his make-it-or-break-it spy test! Success means no more Buy More, no more handlers, and sweet solo spying freedom in Rome. Failure means going back to his normal life. Wait, they'd let him do that with the Intersect 2.0 in his head? No padded underground cell for the rest of his life? I wish they'd give some kind of explanation for the turnaround here, and the shift from the "protect the Intersect at all costs" policy to more of a "put the Intersect in a dangerous situation and cross your fingers" mode. This show is entertaining enough that I'm willing to overlook that stuff, but just sayin'.   

Sarah, who's proctoring Chuck's test, congratulates him on getting everything he always wanted. Everything, Sarah? His mission is to identify a CIA mole, and the stakeout will be Chuck's very last mission with Sarah. He commemorates it with an adorable, nostalgia-filled (and very smooth) picnic, flat-out telling Sarah that she'll miss him when she's in D.C. She knows. I cringed when he asked about her and Shaw, but she just says it's different than it was with him.

Shaw interrupts, calling in from the Castle, and the stakeout commences. Well ... sort of. Chuck gets back to business immediately -- he's been thinking about the road not taken with Sarah, and about how they could be together when he passes the test. If she's willing to give it another shot, that is. And just as they lean in, kissus interruptus. God, does Shaw have a secret video feed or something? Chuck heads after the bad guy on his orders, but not before telling Sarah that "this isn't over."

We're treated to what may be the best spy work ever done in a spa's steam room. Chuck beating up Russian muscle men in nothing but a towel and a pair of hilariously nerdy video-recording glasses = outstanding visuals. He identifies the mole after clinging to the side of the building, still clad in his towel. Initially clad in his towel, that is, but unfortunately for us they cut to commercial right as it falls off.

When Chuck heads over to the Faux-Yo shop to see Sarah and revel in his stakeout success, she congratulates him on a successful performance and asks him out to dinner. An even more excited Chuck bounces over to the Buy More to share the good news with Casey, and to give him a thank-you gift for all his help over the years: a gun purloined from the Castle. A "thoughtful felony," as Casey puts it. When Casey hears about Chuck's test and his dinner plans, he puts two and two together and warns Chuck to be careful out there. I sense a massive disappointment coming on, and I am not looking forward to it.

Indeed, Chuck has one last step to his mission: the "Red Test," in which he's tasked with killing the mole. Sarah refuses to take part until Shaw manipulates her into it, using her concern that Chuck will freeze up at the last minute and get hurt to convince her to give Chuck the order to kill ... because he'll listen to her. God, that's messed up. They do a great job with the scene at the restaurant -- Chuck's nervous excitement, Sarah's tension. As Chuck babbles on about coming on too strong, and his worries about the Sarah/Shaw situation, I get a headache from cringing too hard.

After asking him to trust her, Sarah gives Chuck the final part of his mission and confirms that without killing the mole, he can't become a spy and they probably won't have a future. Of course, if he doesn't do it he'll just be Chuck, and there's nothing wrong with that. She leaves the decision up to him. The way this is set up, she's basically forced to ask him to kill for her. That's messed up.

Chuck goes all Intersect 2.0 on the mole in the restroom, and I'm not loving this jerky style of SuperChuck filming. The mole (played by "Worst Week" star Kyle Bornheimer) insists the Ring was going to kill him, and accuses Chuck of being just like them. He escapes after Chuck arrests rather than kills him, and Chuck pursues him to the train yard. Sarah follows. The mole begs for his life as Chuck stands over him with a gun, paralyzed. Just as the mole reaches for a gun strapped to his ankle, he's shot. Chuck stares uncomprehendingly at his gun, and turns around to see Casey, smoking gun in hand, who quickly disappears. Awesome! Sarah shows up just in time to see Chuck standing over the mole's body, holding his gun. Did anyone else get echoes here of the scene where Chuck snuck up on Sarah and saw her execute a Fulcrum agent? They really are playing out their relationship in reverse, aren't they? 

Casey meets Chuck in their courtyard, reminding him that not only does everyone think Chuck passed the test, but that Casey technically committed murder since he's a civilian and all. Um, you think? He insists that no one, even Sarah, can know about it. But ... but ... oh, dear. Chuck is upset that he's not a real spy, but Casey insists that he did what Chuck wouldn't do, because Chuck isn't a killer. He may have neater hair and kung fu moves, but he hasn't changed that much from Chuck 1.0. 

Sarah, of course, doesn't see it that way. She ignores his calls, blaming herself for Chuck's newfound ability to kill. Shaw wonders if she's still in love with Chuck, but she denies it since he's not going to be the same person again, just like she wasn't after her Red Test. Sarah couldn't shoot her target either, until she thought she saw her reaching for a weapon -- and she still seems uncertain about it. Shaw reminds her that killing helps to save lives, but she simply says it was the worst day of her life.

If this isn't an act, I'm disappointed in her, honestly. To use her relationship with Chuck to help convince him to complete the test only to drop him because he succeeds is a ridiculously lose-lose situation. At the very least, she should be a friend and talk to him about what he just went through. I'm holding onto the slim hope that she's trying to misdirect Shaw. I mean, there's obviously another option beyond "Chuck kills, becomes a spy, can be with Sarah" and "Chuck doesn't kill, becomes a civilian, never sees Sarah again." The only reason the Prague plan didn't work initially is because Chuck wanted to be a spy, right? So if being a spy means killing, and Chuck won't kill, then ... why not try to escape together again? It's possible I'm overthinking this. And by "possible," I mean, "probable."  

Chuck, in the meantime, has his badge, his next mission, and a ticket to D.C. He's a real live Secret Agent Man, folks!

John Casey vs. John Crazy: Casey rejects Chuck's offers to help try and get his job back, saying he's made peace with his fate. He's having a bit of trouble adjusting to civilian life, however, knocking Jeff and Lester's heads together when they get rowdy in the store. Man, that was a long time coming. And it was just as satisfying as you'd expect it to be. 

Big Mike isn't quite as appreciative given the lawsuit potential, and he takes it upon himself to give Casey a mental makeover, complete with a double-breasted suit. Okay, a mental and physical makeover. And I'm really not sure about that suit. The Subway Summit with Lester and Jeff goes reasonably well, aside from Casey having to eat a Jeff-contaminated tuna-roni sandwich. UGH. Big Mike is proud of him, and I'm impressed at the wide variety of angry stares and grunts he's able to conjure up. Still, I wonder how long this Casey-as-civilian business will last.

Quotes/Odds and Ends: 

  • "You know, John, I know you like to play make-believe like you're some kind of military tough guy, but the truth is you're just a schmuck that works in an electronics store." -Lester
  • "Being accused in a number of civil...and criminal...lawsuits has left us extremely litigious." -Lester (he was on fire in this episode)
  • I loved Chuck trying to talk to the recording of Beckman. To be fair, she does usually talk back when she's on a screen.
  • That was some creative Subway-promoting. Big Mike gets props for losing weight while he just so happens to be eating a Subway sandwich, we've got the Subway Summit, and Big Mike gives Subway credit for its ability to "soothe the stomach and the soul." Okay, I'm not really sure about that last one.
  • No Morgan, Awesome, or Ellie this week. Cast cost-cutting measures rearing their ugly head again, I guess. But hey, the episode worked with out 'em, so I can't complain.

Did you like the way they resolved the "Red Test" situation? Are you still enjoying the "will they, won't they" Chuck/Sarah relationship, or are you getting impatient? Do you want to slap Shaw in the face, or punch him?