Chuck vs. the Happily Ever AfterS

And it all comes down to this: Chuck faces off against Shaw, Morgan and Casey step up, and there's lots of smooching. Spoilers ahead...

Buenos dias, amigos y amigas. I hope your day began as nice as Chuck and Sarah's did: satiny sheets, a view of the Eiffel Tower, lots of smooching. What...no? Yeah, me neither. Let's get into it, shall we?

"Chuck Vs. The Other Guy" begins with the Other Guy leading Sarah in a two-man assault on a desert installation that may or may not be a hole in the ground, may or may not be the secret headquarters of the Ring — and may or may not be a ruse to get Sarah in the middle of nowhere for a little cutey execution.

Chuck vs. the Happily Ever AfterS

Chuck knows that Shaw's probably gone over the deep end, twisted by the knowledge that Sarah killed his wife. Beckman won't send an assist, so Chuck turns to Casey — but since he's a civilian and can't help (despite the fact that's exactly what he's been doing these past few episodes), he gives Chuck the keys to the heavy cavalry. And, like a flash, Chuck and a special forces team are assaulting that same desert installation.

(Maybe you can esplain this to me: How did Chuck make it all the way into the — where were we? — ah, yes, THE MIDDLE OF THE FRIGGIN' DESERT in the time it took Sarah and Shaw to walk down a flight of stairs? Okay, never mind...moving on.)

Sarah walks right where Shaw planned — into the Lord of the Ring's virtual broadcast chamber (you can't stop the signal) — and Sarah sees the very thing that's driven Shaw mad: footage from her Red Test. But Shaw isn't out to kill Sarah — or was he, and he changed his mind at the last second?

(I'd like to take a minute and say, for the record, that I think Yvonne Strahovsky is the best actor on this show. There's a beat where she realizes precisely what she's done to Shaw — "I killed your wife?!" — and at least three conflicting emotions sprint across her face: shock, disgust, and remorse, in the blink of an eye. Damn, she's good. And I'm not just saying that because I played Mass Effect 2 twice simply to have sex with her.)

Chuck and the mysteriously fleet-footed troops crash in to save a day that apparently didn't need saving. "And the tank, the tank...cancel the tank."

Back in Castle, there's a momentary hiccup in team dynamics — Gen. Beckman wants to break up the team but, apparently, Shaw's fine working with the woman who killed his wife, just as long as they can take out the Lord of the Ring. (Bad guy warning!) Instead, she's moving Sarah and Shaw to DC to head up the Ring task force, leaving Chuck in Burbank to... marinade in his sorrow.

Chuck vs. the Happily Ever AfterS

Suddenly, being a spy ain't all it's cracked up to be. The real world keeps butting its nose in: First, Gen. Beckman wants to move Chuck to Rome, taking him away from Sarah and his whole support system. Now she wants him to stay in Burbank...while removing Sarah to DC. Methinks it's time for Chuck to reassess why he wanted to be a spy in the first place. Was it actually to do good for the Red, White, and Blue? Or was it because he thought it would cement a future with the people he loved? Was he like a high-school kid who joined the football team not because he dig the game, but because all his junior high friends were doing it, and he didn't want to "break up the band"? Was he just doing it for the girl?

And so there's booze! And Pretty in Pink! And kissing! And declarations of love! And Morgan! Strike that last one. Love and kissing! Finally.

Back to the mission. Shaw's found another headquarters of the Ring — how does he keep finding these things? (Bad guy warning #2) — and he sends Chuck and Sarah rappelling down an elevator shaft to nab Sauron. (Yes, I'm calling him Sauron. Shut up.)

Chuck vs. the Happily Ever AfterS

Sarah and Chuck get in, get the Lord of the Ring, hold a little hostage tea party, and then get trapped — Sauron knew they were coming all along; I wonder how? Then Shaw busts in, shoots everyone, and seals himself in the elevator with Sauron. Gunfire. And, as Chuck and Sarah walk away at Shaw's behest, everyone who's supposed to be dead pulls themselves off the floor.

Bad Shaw. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad Shaw. Listen, I love you guys more than you know, but if you didn't see that coming, you simply haven't been paying attention. Or maybe have never seen American television before.

With the help of Morgan — a master of kung-fu movie watching — Chuck figures out that Shaw staged the whole elevator action fooferoo. And when he wakes up Beckman — who just dispatched Shaw and Sarah to Paris — to deliver the news, she shuts him down and claps him off. (Who knew the Clapper was so popular with those military types?)

Chuck vs. the Happily Ever AfterS

Shaw, ever the romantic, brings Sarah to the Parisian corner where she passed her Red Test, all those years ago. And just as Sarah twigs to Shaw's Evil Scheme, the paralytic he dosed her with takes effect. Slumped in a café chair, Shaw — and the Lord of the Ring — drops the wicked science. Not only will Shaw finally get his long-hungered-for revenge by killing Sarah, but he'll get back at the CIA for orchestrating her hit. The Ring gets a new agent and the schematics for building their own Intersect.

Once again, Chuck — who must be in possession of Hermes' magic-travel sandals — arrives just when he's needed. And...fight fight fight, shoot shoot shoot. Casey nabs Sauron, Chuck draws down on Shaw...and finally pulls the trigger.

This episode was, according to executive producer Chris Fedak, originally designed to be a season finale. And it feels like it...in both good ways and bad ones. It ties up a bunch of loose ends, namely the whole Shaw business, and sets up a whole new dynamic — Casey's back on Team Bartowski and Morgan gets to join the gang. But the whole "plot" of the episode felt merely like waypoints to get you to the emotional beats we needed. Which were great, but truly excellent Chuck episodes manage to integrate the fisticuffs and the heart a bit better than this.

It'll be interesting to see how the season's remaining six Chucks deal with this new status quo. Nine times out of 10, a show that's teased a romantic coupling for this long will fall apart once they get their happily ever after. The minds behind Chuck have done a particularly nimble job of keeping their leads apart; but now they've got new waters to navigate.

But for now, we'll always have Paris.