One word that comes to mind after this episode is whew!
This episode was intense on so many levels and again major themes came into play. First off, I really enjoyed the episode. I mean Zac, our pimp, was in a towel for a good chunk of time and may I say he looked damn good. Also when an episode evokes an emotional response in me (other than screaming "WHYYYYYYY??" at Shaw) I feel like the show has done its job. That being said this episode wasn't perfect so before I get lost thinking about Zac's steamy scene again let's get down to business.
In this episode roles are reversed, parallels are drawn, and choices are made. The two biggest parallels in this episode were with "Santa Claus," more specifically the Mauser situation, and "Sizzling Shrimp," which was referenced in the episode itself. The comparison to the "Sizzling Shrimp" was perfect in my opinion as we get a homage to the first season and we see how far Chuck has come from his "stay in the car" days. This also sheds light as to why Sarah has been so uneasy. Chuck isn't that innocent guy who orders take-out at a stake out (no rhyme intended). Rather he's a spy who has pushed the limits to get the job done. Chuck is put in Sarah's shoes as he hunts down his mark, a scene quite reminiscent of Sarah's scene with Mauser. However in the end it is Casey who pulls the trigger as it has been established many times before that Chuck is not a killer.
I'm happy Chuck didn' shoot the guy because Chuck is still that guy I want him to be. I like goofy, confident Chuck versus the over confident spy Chuck (Mr. I have champagne in my spy/picnic/date kit). More specifically, I like when Chuck realizes the dangers and consequences of being a spy rather than thinking it is all fun and games ("I have to kill him" vs. Mr. Italian accent). Kudos for Zac for the many sides of Chuck, both the humorous and the emotional scenes.
The best performance in this episode clearly goes to Yvonne; she was off the charts. No joke, that girl can act! Her scenes and story line in this episode took the episode from good to great. She perfectly conveyed what Sarah was going through in this episode. As each day passes and Chuck becomes closer to become that spy he was "meant" to be, Sarah realizes her Chuck is slipping further away. She voiced several times how scared she is for who Chuck is becoming and she has been vocal about him losing the good guy he was. In this episode we got a "Mauser" scene reversed; instead of Chuck being horrified, it is Sarah who cannot believe what just happened. Her reaction is legitimate, she doesn't know it was Casey who pulled the trigger. To me (yes I know people disagree) her response to witnessing this was as well as her complex emotions leading up to it were very well done.
Sarah had an uneasiness throughout the episode of someone who knows the clock is running out (in regards to Chuck being the guy/spy she doesn't want him to be). and isn't sure yet how they are going to react once that timer is up. When Sarah sees Chuck with the gun, there is a huge mix of sadness, disappoint, and guilt. In that last scene with Shaw, you see Sarah acting similar to the way she did when Bryce died. You see the grief and guilt but it is quickly shoved aside as she renounces her love for Chuck. The one guy who had revitalized her faith in life beyond the spy world turned around to prove her wrong.
On a lighter note, Lester and Jeff paired with Casey is quite a winning combo. I was very pleasantly surprised and happy that Lester was given so much dialogue in this episode. I admit, I sort of love Lester so I have really no complaints here. Also props to Adam Baldwin, he was very funny. I'd watch a show about the adventures of Casey in civilian life; you know you would too.
Now, unfortunately, it is time to get critical and if this were "American Idol" perhaps the booing would start. The problem with this episode, it all felt a little redundant. We have seen the ultimatums* before, those final tests, the choices between spy and the girl, etc. Yes it is presented differently but I feel like this scenario could, and has in some respects, have happened weeks earlier. We get their feelings, their concerns, and the situation (we learned that from the start). I am not saying I haven't enjoyed the build up but this definitely seems like a longer path. I know that we are nearing the first finale so the "one step forward, two steps back" bit will end. But is it ending a little too late? At times, I've wanted to smack both Chuck and Sarah for being so clueless and dense. Do they ever learn? I at least have comfort of being able to say I've really enjoyed this long path (minus a few aspects), sorry for those that don't.
*The ultimatums don't really make sense to me, as Chuck is still the Intersect. Also he still seems to be the only one so them saying they'd just let him walk seems like an empty threat especially now that he's shown he can work it.
Some final thoughts:
The music was amazing in this episode. The selections for the Union Station scenes were fantastic. Expect them on my iPod soon.
It is as if the show finally remembered it is has a female fan base. Sure we see shirtless Awesome a lot but ever since that shower scene (and if you don't know what I'm talking about then we have issues) we've be clamoring for more Chuck. Well ladies, payoff is sweet. The towel even dropped! Unfortunately this isn't HBO... one day though...
Sarah's Red Test: Major props for the flashback. I love learning about Sarah's back story and this was a pleasant surprise. It was very well done and I'm never one to complain when Sarah wants to share. I have a feeling what we saw in Sarah's first kill was important and will come back later. I do have some theories about it but to be fair to those of you who avoid speculation I'll refrain. If you want to talk about it though, you know how to reach me.
Will we see the effects of Casey being the one that pulled the trigger? I assume it will come out with respect to Chuck not having killed anyone yet (not counting "The Morgan") but will this factor in with how Casey gets his license to kill back?
The Union Station dinner was a very interesting scene. Although Sarah initially refusing to participate in what she considers Chuck's potential ultimate downfall reminded me of the end of "First Kill." Sarah once again obeys orders to do something she wants nothing to do with and yet this time the scenario ends so differently. Sarah reminds Chuck that there is nothing wrong with just being him but admits that if he isn't a spy they most likely wouldn't be together. Now I don't know pretend to know what is being conveyed here. Perhaps she says there is no chance because she is still hurt, but my guess is that Sarah just doesn't know what she wants. I'm a firm believer right now that Sarah knows she loves Chuck but not much beyond and definitely doesn't know what to do with the knowledge. I also to choose to view as Sarah being not with Chuck rather than being with Shaw because really Shaw is juts sort of there and a means to an end, which brings me to...
What is the purpose of Shaw? No, this is a serious question. I don't even have a problem with the fact that Sarah is "dating" him. My issue is that he is boring. When Shaw first came on the scene I liked him a lot. I thought he pushed the team into not babying Chuck and gave Chuck much needed support in becoming a spy. However, that aspect was over by "First Class" so I'm left with the question, why is he still here? He doesn't seem to do anything that another member of the team couldn't do. Yes, it could be argued that he keeps the team in check and emotions out of the decisions but we've only really seen that once. More so, he isn't needed for the Chuck and Sarah story line. Whereas Hannah provided a reality check for Chuck, Sarah's realizations haven't come from Shaw. Sure he has been around when they happen, but usually those moments are sparked by something else. I think I'm hoping there is more to the story or else I'll be disappointed. I have theories; we'll see if they pan out.
If Casey dies from a disease I am so blaming Jeff!
Best Line: Casey writing on his hand "I am going to kill you!!!" It wasn't even technically a spoken line; that is how good it was.
Runner-up: "Scantron!" said in a singsong voice. Not that we didn't know this before but Chuck is nerd. I love it when he shows his dorky side!
"The Final Exam" was not an easy episode to watch at times. It is hard seeing these types of scenes play out because you just want the characters you love to be happy. Yes this episode was dramatic but it was done with a sense of purpose. A change is coming and something has got to give. Alright, I've shared my thoughts, now it is your turn. What did you think of the episode? Do you want to applaud with what I've said or do you just want to bash me for my ignorance? Feel free to do both.