Well, if last week's Chuck clearly marked the darker direction for the rest of the season, last night's episode apparently didn't get the memo. Paranoia subplot: Over after going nowhere! Chuck selfloathing: Over after going nowhere! Spoilers and WTFs ahead.
On the plus side, last night's "Chuck Vs. The Mask" was completely missing Jeff and Lester, and may have finally convinced me that Hannah isn't yet another undercover spy waiting to pounce when the moment is right. On the minus side, there was everything else in the episode.
Okay, that's not entirely fair; taken on its own merits, it was fine - There were deathtraps (Two, in fact, although one of them turned out to be weirdly non-deathtrappy ("Oh, the computer has sealed off all of that airborne virus. Guess I'll just shoot my way out of here"?) and the idea that Chuck may have had to choose between saving Sarah or Hannah was never really an option, surprisingly) and very familiar badguys and fights and all, after all - but it all seemed to have come from a simpler, less interesting, time: To see a chipper Chuck after the end of last week's episode seemed like a reset, but maybe it was just an omen for the road the episode kept taking. I mean, Morgan and Ellie discovering Chuck with Hannah and deciding that this whole secret thing was because of a secret relationship (Wasn't Awesome acting weird before Hannah showed up? And how would a secret relationship explain all Chuck's disappearances for the last two years?)? Hannah forgiving Chuck for abandoning her the night before? Shaw's sudden (and successful) seduction of Sarah and Chuck's quick acceptance of it? Almost everything seemed way too easy and unsatisfying, as if the writers needed to get the characters to a certain place and didn't mind speeding up too much to do it.
(Also, I have to wonder why the show realizes that pointing out weaknesses in Chuck's cover just makes the CIA look incompetent. If Chuck's cover for all these missions is supposed to be that he's on Nerd Herd outcalls, why doesn't someone from the CIA just call the BuyMore and request Chuck for some fake job, thereby giving him an alibi?)
I've got no problem with all the soap opera in Chuck; the show has always been a weird hybrid of soap/comedy/spystuff. It's just that episodes like last night's make me wish that it was good soap opera. But what did the rest of you think?