I don't get to say this too often in regards to Chuck, so I'm gonna savor it:
Color me genuinely impressed.
Last week was such a set up for change, I was honestly really afraid that Chuck would do as it always does and find six different ways to backtrack. I thought my fears were confirmed when, despite his D.C. trip actually going down, Chuck got a week off and headed right on back to Burbank, CA.
Oh me of little faith.
I can't say there was a whole lot to recommend the first half of the episode. Operation: Win Sarah Back? Not a whole lot of interesting. And only lukewarm in terms of funny. The stallion joke was sorta funny the first time, but it ended up over used. (Seriously, there's no way to top a casually delivered line like "Have you seen the stallion she's dating?" so it's best to just not try.) Sometimes filler can be entertaining. But this was...just filler.
The SECOND half of the episode, though...whoa baby. Jeff and Lester stalking Shaw on his way to the Ring Base was enjoyable, although it does beg the question "Will they also be inducted into The Spy World?" (we can only hope not). But really, the whole episode was just designed to framework the one moment in the whole of Chuck so far that has honest-to-god shocked/impressed me: Sarah killed Shaw's wife in her Red Test. HO-LY CRAAAAP. Perhaps someone could have seen that coming? I didn't. So I'm taking off my hat to the writers. Multiple times.
That Holy Grail of Chuck storytelling was almost covered up by the touchy-feely CHUCK-FINALLY-WENT-OUT-AND-SAID-IT-(and Casey confessed about the Red Test)ness of the very tail end of "Chuck vs. The American Hero" and it seemed for a moment that, despite this epic portion of progress, we were looking at a redo of That Whole Prague Thing.
But no. Instead, Shaw has basically kidnapped Sarah and is carrying her off to Locale Unknown...presumably for a revenge killing. Naysayerssaywhat? MORE actual new intensity?
I'm really hoping this will lead to at least a slight villainification of Shaw. Because the guy is just such a tool. Even during his "good" moments I just want to punch him in the face. Maybe evil will redeem him as a character? Or maybe he'll die, we'll finally be rid of him, and it will be time to turn around and focus on the newly revealed Director of The Ring, MARK FREAKIN' SHEPPARD.
...or, this next episode could be semi-exciting but ultimately end in establishing the status quo of LAME.
(This review also posted on my blog at http://meltedbrain.wordpress.com.)