'Chuck' vs. a different kind of proposal

chuck-sarah-season4-320.jpg "Chuck" returned after a seven-week layoff with one of the most romantic episodes it's ever done -- but since it's "Chuck," a happy ending was not necessarily in the cards.

Chuck is forced to scuttle proposing to Sarah after she relates the horrible story of how her dad asked his mom to marry him -- complete with Champagne, string quartet, balloons and a horse-drawn carriage, all of which Chuck has in the wings. Fortunately, they're saved by a mission.

Even more fortunately, the mission is at a vineyard in France -- tres romantique. Morgan proposes a sub-mission in which Chuck will use the gorgeous setting to propose to Sarah.

First time? No luck -- the actual mission interrupts the romantic one. But they're in luck: Beckman makes an in-person appearance to send Chuck and Sarah back to France, posing as rogue agents as a way to take out the leader of the terrorist cell they failed to catch the first time. Oh, and Sarah catches on to Morgan coordinating the sub-mission and turns him into a double agent (her reasoning: "I'm a spy. I hate surprises") in order to assure that all goes smoothly.

Amazingly, it does, and Chuck is in the midst of a really beautiful windup to his proposal (seriously -- I suspect living rooms across America got dusty about 8:50 p.m. ET) when Sarah ... is arrested for treason?

Have to say, that wasn't one I saw coming. Sarah's not actually a traitor, but she and Beckman have concocted a plan to make it look as if she is so she can go undercover in Volkoff's organization, take it down and reunite Chuck and his mom. As acts of love for your almost-fiance go, that's a pretty amazing one.

The fear around here was that after the longish layoff, an episode without Linda Hamilton or Timothy Dalton would feel like a bit of a letdown before they return next week. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case at all. Sarah's dedication to her guy, as filtered through her super-agent mind, is really touching, and as "Chuck" builds to its midseason climax (like last year, the first 13 episodes are telling one story, and what comes after will be a bit different), her undercover mission is both an expedient bit of plotting and a great character moment for Sarah and Yvonne Strahovski.

Welcome back, "Chuck." How we've missed you.

More on "Chuck vs. the Balcony":

  • Not only did we get some really nice Chuck and Sarah moments this week, but we also saw the return of Jeffster! -- singing Whitesnake, no less. Which, um, yikes. Good for Lester for revealing himself to his would-be arranged bride, but if I were her I think I would've bailed too. (Also: Everything inside Lester's Saskatchewan Hinjew tent was comedy gold, from Jeff playing sitar to the Poutine-and-Manischewitz spread to the hockey tapes playing in the background.)
  • Adam Baldwin was a little more second-banana than usual in this episode, but his various grumbles about having to spend time in France, being Chuck's manservant and, more surprisingly, his own sage advice vis a vis marriage proposal, were up to the usual high Casey standard.
  • Beckman's reference to losing "Agent Rosenbaum ... one of our finest" early in the hour was a shout-out to former "Chuck" writer and producer Scott Rosenbaum, now the showrunner on "V."
  • How many times can you say "stable on the label and stork on the cork" without messing up?
Your thoughts on "Chuck vs. the Balcony"? Pretty good way to come off a break, right?
Photo/Video credit: NBC