'Chuck': Sarah beats up Thailand, then slays us

chuck-vs-phase-three-320.jpg "Chuck" made its title character secondary to the story this week -- but the result was a great episode. Intense, funny and ultimately touching, "Chuck vs. Phase Three" was one of the best episodes of the season.

It seems like I'm saying that just about every week, but "Chuck" is on a huge roll of late. Last week's minor letdown aside, the show has been piling excellent on top of excellent for at least a month.

We have to start with the giant blonde she-male -- er, Sarah (actually, the overplaying of that joke was one of the few bum notes in this episode) and her "Kickboxer"/"Ong Bak"/"Bloodsport"/pick your favorite martial-arts movie fight in Thailand. We haven't seen this much Sarah Walker awesomeness in one episode in a long time, and watching her pretty much obliterate any and all in her path gave a huge jolt of adrenaline to the episode -- and the fight choreography in the "Kickboxer" sequence was expert.

The awesomeness also came from the non-butt-kicking aspects of Yvonne Strahovski's performance. She got to play Sarah going through a full range of emotions: ruthless and slightly scary (Casey even invokes the name of her former boss, Langston Graham, in commenting on her hell-bent attitude) when dealing with the unfortunate Thai functionary, scared and forlorn after finding out about Chuck's proposal plan and finally, gut-wrenchingly committed to saving the man she loves, Intersect or no Intersect. Really great stuff from her this week.

That climactic scene with Sarah rescuing Chuck from the perils of Phase Three -- having his mind wiped to get to the Intersect, essentially -- was tear-inducing. Sarah's opened up a ton since she and Chuck formally became a couple, but to see her so nakedly reveal her emotions was a shade we hadn't really seen from Sarah before, and it played beautifully.

The way the show portrayed Chuck's mind being wiped away also worked well -- the dream images while the Belgian and his doctor tried to locate the Intersect were just real enough to give them a real impact. We kind of wonder why Chuck didn't have any side effects from the mind-wipe, but that may just be one of those "Chuck" things we have to let go.

While Sarah was beating up half of Thailand searching for Chuck (with Casey and Morgan not far behind), the B-story held up its end both comedically and otherwise. Ellie finds the computer in her dad's Mustang, but she and Awesome are unable to get it working -- and she's about to start a 36-hour shift at the hospital. Awesome professes himself to be not very good with the tech stuff -- wait, there's something Awesome isn't awesome at? -- so enter Jeff and Lester.

Actually, enter the whole Buy More crew, who use Awesome's devotion to Ellie (and to completing a task on time) as a way to extract free medical care for all manner of gnarly conditions. Lester does at least get the machine (a Roark 7, if you're keeping score) to start up, but it's password-protected with the prompt "Knock, knock." The password isn't "Who's there" but "I'm here," which is the way Ellie used to mess up the knock-knock joke. She enters the password, says "Oh my god," and ...

We'll see next week. Curse you, "Chuck" writers! One thing, though: I (and many others) assumed the computer was a new Intersect, but based on Ellie's reaction it doesn't look that way. Chris Fedak told us that big things are in store for Chuck's big sister, but that might be a little bit too big a way to draw her into Chuck-world.

The answer to that question will (presumably) come next week. This week, though, was one big bucket of excellent.

Right? Tell us what you thought in the comments.

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Photo credit: NBC