'Chuck': C.A.T. scratch fever

chuck-vs-cat-squad-320.jpgThat's two standalone episodes of "Chuck" in a row now, and they've made for a nice palate cleanser before the bigger arcs pick back up next week.

Like last week's "Chuck vs. the Seduction Impossible," "Chuck vs. the C.A.T. Squad" was a lot of fun, as we met the former members of Sarah's all-female, all-gorgeous spy team. But while the big spy stuff has been on hold, both episodes have given us some great insight into Sarah's struggles to step into the real world and her problems dealing with the past.

Plus, high comedy (and also some real sweetness) from Morgan, which is pretty much never a bad thing.

Chuck vs. Sarah's past

Chuck is a fix-it kind of guy. He sees Sarah struggling with the idea that she's left family and friends behind for her career, and he wants to help bring that part of her life back. It's just that, well, Sarah kind of has her reasons for walling off the past, and Chuck can't really see that. So he "helps" by calling in the rest of the C.A.T. Squad (that stands for Clandestine Attack Team) -- the previously seen Carina ( Mini Anden), hard-headed Zondra ( Mercedes Masohn) and bubbly Amy ( Mircea Monroe) -- for the engagement party.

The women do it up right the night before the party, depositing a very hung-over (and overdressed) Sarah in bed after a night out in Hollywood ... then Vegas ... then Miami, at least part of which was spent in the company of Mikhail Gorbachev. The morning after, though, isn't so friendly as old tensions -- Sarah thinks Zondra betrayed the team on a mission eight years ago -- bubble back up. So does their source, terrorist-for-hire Augusto Gaez ( Lou Diamond Phillips, happily hamming it up), who lures the squad to Rio for a job offer/execution.

Sarah's about to get the name of the traitor within the team when Chuck decides to "help" again, crashing in from a skylight to take out Gaez's goons. Casey captures the fleeing bad guy, but he's not about to give up the name of his accomplice on the inside. We learn a few minutes later that it's Amy (all too easily, since Carina's proven herself in the past and Zondra would have been super-obvious), and after having the Intersect be mostly dormant for the past couple of weeks, Chuck calls on it multiple times as he's battling Gaez and Amy in the Buy More. The rest of the squad recovers, though, and they take out Amy themselves.

So all's well, right? Actually, mostly yes. Chuck has at least for now realized how much he was overreaching, and at the engagement party Sarah takes Ellie up on an offer to discuss the "complicated" Walker family ties somewhere down the road (and reciprocates by asking Ellie to be the maid of honor at the wedding).

The focus on Sarah the past couple weeks has been kind of refreshing; fans have been clamoring for more about her past ever since Gary Cole showed up in Season 2, and the past two episodes have provided at least a small window on the enigma that is Sarah Walker. Here's hoping that the show finds time to keep doing that after the next big arc kicks into gear (or, better still, that the next big arc ties in somehow).

Morgan vs. Carina vs. Alex

The pending arrival of the C.A.T. Squad sends Morgan into "Charlie's Angels"-style revelry, but once the team actually shows up, he's kind of a basket case. Why? Because he has no clue how to handle having his improbable past fling Carina being in proximity to his current girlfriend, Alex.

For most of the episode, he fails spectacularly, making up lame excuse after lame excuse when he's pulled into the mission, which in turn forces him to spend time with Carina (who only became attracted to Morgan after he turned her down, and is thus even more turned on by the fact that he's actually unavailable now). Carina doesn't help by sabotaging things with a well-placed lipstick smudge, but while Morgan has no trouble telling her how he feels about Alex, he never gets around to actually telling Alex.

Until the engagement party, anyway -- and only then after Alex tells him she's through. Josh Gomez, for all his goofiness as Morgan, does heart-on-the-sleeve moments extremely well when called upon, and he finally says the three magic words to Alex. (It was probably just a happy accident, but having this episode air on Valentine's Day worked out quite well.) Carina womans up as well and tries to apologize to Alex, but no need: "It's OK," Alex tells her. "He loves me." Everybody: Awwww.

Other notes from "Chuck vs. the C.A.T. Squad":

  • Pre-Carina angst, Morgan gets maybe the funniest and definitely the nerdiest line of the night when the squad arrives via helicopter: "Is it 'Close Encounters'? Is it really happening?"
  • It was a Casey-light episode tonight, but we loved his speech in the spy van about not trying to fix everything. It's obvious that despite what he says, he hasn't quite let go of the idea of contacting Alex's mom; let's hope the show can circle back to that as well.
  • Ellie sure did lose that baby weight quickly, didn't she?
  • Tonight's Morgan fantasy was modeled on "Charlie's Angels"; last season in "Chuck vs. the Role Models," he had a "Hart to Hart"-inspired daydream. If there's a Season 5, we're pulling for a "Riptide"-style one featuring Chuck, Casey and Morgan as Boz.
  • By the way, if you haven't visited Chuck and Sarah's wedding site yet, you should.

What did you think of tonight's "Chuck"? What else do you still want to know about Sarah's past?
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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