Chuck Aces His Final Exam

Chuck continued its rebound this week with a focused and slickly-made episode that furthered the storyline and, even more importantly, the main character arcs. We open with Chuck chasing down a man through a train yard. He catches up to him and, in spite of the man’s dire protests, shoots him down. What? Can our loveable schlub really have turned into a killer? Well we don’t get the answer until the very end, because the episode then enters Non-linear Land and flashes back three days, to when more guns are being discharged and more men slain.

Except in this case, the guns are Nerf guns and the men (a.k.a. slovenly degenerates) are Jeff and Lester. They’re doing what they usually do: engaging in infantile shenanigans to counteract the fact that they work dead-end jobs and have no future. I can’t say that I blame them, but Casey is less than amused. In the aftermath of last week’s events—which left Casey fired from the NSA and given a one-way ticket into civilian life—Casey has even less patience than usual. He demonstrates this motion by banging Jeff’s and Lester’s heads together like gongs. It’s an effective course of action, but it doesn’t go unnoticed by Big Mike, who promptly calls Casey into his office for a little session of time-out/corporate counseling.

Chuck has very little to do with the Buy More this week. He has other things on his mind, like Sarah’s recent jaunt to Washington D.C. with bland nimrod Shaw (played by bland nimrod Brandon Routh). This new ill-matched duo inform Chuck that his final mission before becoming a spy has arrived. If he succeeds, he’ll be whisked off to Rome to begin a stint posing as a billionaire industrialist. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig. The catch? Sarah would not be joining him, as she will be relocating to Washington long-term to lead counter-Ring missions with Shaw. Sarah congratulates Chuck on getting everything he ever wanted. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to; his face practically lights up as a billboard flashing “Not Everything…”

The mission: follow Russian spy Anatoli Zevlovski, a courier of dirty secret information between The Ring and a CIA mole. Chuck is to use Zevlovski to flush out said mole. This is all told to him via Beckman on a portable DVD player that self-destructs in the classic Mission: Impossible tradition. This mission is quite an entertaining one that features Chuck fighting in the sauna (although not nearly as memorably as Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises) and scrambling from one hotel balcony to another in very limited clothing a la Will Smith in Enemy of the State.

The mission ends up being more complicated than Chuck initially thought, and it (seemingly) involves him making a drastic choice that may forever alter who he is and doom his chances with Sarah. Although, to be fair, it seems like everything Chuck does—whether right or wrong—somehow dooms his chances with Sarah. They sure don’t make it easy for this guy.

Also of note: this episode features the most blatant Subway homage/ridiculously blatant product promotion ever. It’s really pretty funny. I don’t know how they could have caressed the Subway franchise any more. That’s not a complaint, as I well know that Subway was instrumental in getting Chuck renewed for a third season. Whether they can pull it off another time is far less likely. But if Chuck is reaching the end, it is at least aiming to wrap up with quality.

Season 3, Episode 11: Chuck vs. The Final Exam (originally aired March 22, 2010)

For more on Chuck, click here.

Mondays at 8/7C on NBC

Photographs courtesy of NBC Universal and Jordin Althaus.

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