It's a high-fashion beatdown, with Sarah and a supermodel spy trashing each other in the dressing room and on the catwalk. Just one of two all-time-great moments in last night's Chuck. The other being Morgan Grimes' management seminar. Spoilers ahead...
In general, this was way more of a balanced episode than last week's season opener. There was a lot more Awesome and Ellie, more development of the Casey-Morgan-Alex situation... and the return of Jeff and Lester! And the stuff about Sarah and Chuck felt pretty organic, both with the main plot and with all of the different interweaving subplots.
At first, I thought the Sarah/Chuck thing was going to be the episode's weak point — now that we're past the "will they/won't they" stage of their relationship, we're apparently going to get into the "how fast will they" question. Sarah still hasn't unpacked, even though she's been living with Chuck for eight months, and Morgan stokes Chuck's anxiety that this means she's not really committed to their relationship. Like I said, for the first 15 minutes or so, this seemed like it was going to be annoying, but then it actually started to get really good. I think the turning point was once the episode stopped being so much about Chuck acting weird around beautiful naked women, and went back to being more about Chuck and Sarah being a good team together.
The main beautiful naked woman in the episode, of course, is the arms-smuggling supermodel that Sarah kicks the crap out of in the above clip — I don't know why I loved that moment so much. Maybe it's just the sheer brutality of it — if you've ever been burned by a hair iron, you know those things hurt like a bitch. And the mirror! And then we learn a whole new meaning of "stilletto heels." Ouch!
About halfway through the episode, the Chuck/Sarah thing stopped feeling quite so gimmicky and started feeling a bit more emotionally honest, as we get into Sarah's baggage from her weird upbringing with her dad, plus the spy thing. And it didn't hurt that this tied in with Casey's own unwillingness to put down roots, including his reluctance to maintain contact with his daughter, Alex. (Oh, and I'm glad Casey's gone back to being a bit of a dick to Chuck, after being uncharacteristically mournful over Chuck's absence last week. It's just more fun that way.)
And then you get to my other favorite moment from the episode:
Morgan Grimes giving General Beckman a seminar in retail management seriously must be one of the all-time greatest Chuck moments, especially with all the acrobatics in the background. Even Morgan's flubbed line felt like authentic nerd nervousness, in context.
"Chuck Vs. The Suitcase" really showed, once and for all, why the Buy-More is the heart of the show, standing for the diametric opposite to the CIA's discipline and patriotic fervor. (Although, of course, the CIA never seems to be that efficient when it actually counts. Like, say, when Shaw comes back from the dead and is clearly evil. But never mind.) The return of Jeff and Lester also did not disappoint — Jeff's "My water just dropped," followed later in the episode by his asking Ellie if there was room for one more in her womb, left no doubt that Jeffster was back in full effect. FULL EFFECT.
The only question now is: Where is Big Mike? Surely Morgan can't run that place all by himself.
The uncharacteristic niceness of the Buy-More, meanwhile, triggered Captain Awesome's Spidey Sense, in the episode's fourth subplot. Now that Ellie is pregnant, he's being twice as over-achieving, in the pursuit of being the perfect dad, and he's already seeing the copious signs that just when Chuck thought he was out, they pulled him back in. And now that this is the Year of Mom, Ellie is missing her mom more than ever — which makes you wonder if she wouldn't actually support Chuck trying to rescue Mama Bartowski from her alleged prisoner-of-Volkoff status.
And finally, there was the awesome stunt casting. Isaiah Mustafa, from those unusually brill Old Spice ads, showed up as the Buy-More's new Greta, and without begrudging Olivia Munn anything, he raised the comedy bar considerably, managing to put Morgan in the shade even more than Casey usually does. Also mostly great: Lou Ferrigno, whose slightly odd line delivery actually worked for him as a bodyguard who's not-so-secretly in love with his charge.
All in all, this was a pretty great episode, and a welcome return to form after last week's slightly wobbly season opener. But what did you guys think?