'Chuck' season finale: A family affair

chuck-season-finale.jpgWow, I really hope they filmed an alternate ending to the finale in case they didn't get renewed, because if "Chuck" had ended on this note it just would've been cruel. Happily, it made the cut! Though an entire summer without Casey is still looking rather bleak. 

The episode was two hours full of awesome, and the season literally went out with a bang. You can't ask for too much more, aside from maybe fewer plot holes (shhh, it's "Chuck," they get a pass).

Fight vs. Flight: Chuck hears Shaw at the farmers market and follows him to train station where, in a phenomenal reveal, Chuck hears a knocking on the door of a subway train and turns to see Shaw, waving at him through the window as the train pulls away. Security tapes confirm it. They track Shaw to the building where Justin is holding Ellie "for her own protection," but in yet another awesome reveal, Sarah is able to unlock a door using the biometric scanner ... because it's a CIA base! Loving it already.

Chuck, in the meantime, is busy beating Justin up in front of his extremely shocked sister: "You just punched a person!" Oh, if only she knew. He takes off after Justin, explaining to Ellie that Justin isn't so much her CIA handler as her evil organization handler. Aaaand they burst in on a military tribunal just as Beckman is staking her reputation on Chuck's success as she testifies in front of a committee that wants to shut down the Intersect project. Awwwkwaaard...

And hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, because SHAW is the one trash-talking the Intersect project to the military committee! Beckman is as flabbergasted as the team, at least. I would've been pretty bummed if she turned out to be evil. Her reluctant affection for Chuck always brightens up an episode. Shaw actually admits that he drugged Sarah, claiming it was sanctioned by the committee, but denies intending to kill her.

Shaw was a Ring double agent until Chuck shot him, supposedly, and now he's there to shut down the Intersect project. Shaw testifies that Chuck is a) an American hero, and b) dangerously unstable through no fault of his own. Note to guys with secrets: Don't let them linger until your girlfriend finds out in front of a military tribunal. It's hard to leap to someone's defense effectively unless you have accurate information! 

Chuck sees Shaw flash on something during the hearing, but is accused of being crazy and paranoid when he claims Shaw is an Intersect. Unfortunately, the "throw a sharp object at an Intersect if you want to out them" test doesn't work on Shaw (to say the least), and Chuck is taken into custody. 

Casey decides to run for it before the Ring/CIA (close to being one and the same now, it seems ... don't ask me how) comes after the people he cares for (basically, Alex and her mom). Sarah: "Everything I care about is in this building." Awww. Papa Bartowski leads Chuck out of the building remotely to help him escape, but Sarah says he needs to fight so that he's not running forever with a bull's-eye on his back. When Papa B. insists that Chuck leave to protect Sarah, though, she realizes she's going to lose the fight. So ... basically he's becoming his dad. His sad, lonely dad. Once he puts the Governor on, though, he's at least not sad, lonely and mentally deteriorating.

Sarah is called in to see Shaw, who manages to be so supremely creepy that he tricks her into assaulting him and gets her arrested, too. They even get Beckman! After convincing his dad to turn back around so they can rescue Sarah, Chuck recruits Ellie to help them track down Justin's Ring hideout. When Ellie asks Papa B. to explain why he left them back in the day, he tells her there's no time, but that he'll be back to talk about it: "This is the last time I'm gonna walk away from you." Aaaand that's when you know he's not going to make it out of there alive.

Chuck and Papa B. infiltrate the Ring base, where they find proof that Shaw is an Intersect. Before they can do anything with the information, Shaw finds them, takes Chuck's Governor, and shoots Chuck's dad to compromise Chuck's emotions and render him incapable of fighting. God, he couldn't have just talked about how awesome it was to bang Chuck's girlfriend, or something? Pretty sure that would've worked, too. Ellie watches from the shadows as her father dies. Well, nuts. I really liked him.

A newly defeatist Chuck joins Casey and Sarah on the way to the "CIA detention facility," i.e. "remote location where Shaw will shoot them," convinced that there's no one left to play hero. But Ellie, amazingly, has the presence of mind to follow the truck, recruiting Awesome and Morgan in the effort. Yay, second-string spies! Morgan in particular just continues to step up to the plate, doesn't he?

Awesome vs. Ellie: Morgan plays Ellie's voicemail for Awesome, and it shakes him -- especially when Morgan calls him Devon. Yeah, that's a scary sign. One drinking session with the Buy Morons later, Awesome is convinced Ellie really is cheating on him. Have a little faith in her, man! (And a little faith in yourself and your daily smoothies and foot rubs.)

Awesome's relief at Ellie's finally being in on the CIA secret (and being faithful after all) is quickly diminished by the realization that Ellie still doesn't exactly know the secret. Even worse, his "pockets of missing knowledge" include any and all information about her dad. Well, I'm glad he at least was finally able to explain away his bachelor party! 

Casey vs. his daughter: Casey's a regular at the diner where his daughter works, making it pretty easy for Justin to track him there. There's a whole lotta growling, even for Casey, as Justin not-so-subtly threatens Alex's life. Justin: "I've gotta say, John, I never figured you for a dad." Casey [before knocking him out with a napkin dispenser]: "Well, I'm not a very good one." Way to step up now, buddy! Though kidnapping your daughter isn't the best way to start a relationship, traditionally speaking.

After Alex beats him up a little (she's an excellent self-defense student, natch), Casey's able to give her the key to his Buy More locker, telling her that he's her dad and she and her mom are in danger. She runs as he's captured by the CIA. Or the Ring. Or whatever. Alex shows up at the Buy More with the key, where Morgan is amazingly reassuring. They find a stack of cash, passports, and other spy gear in Casey's locker. Probably doesn't make up for his not knowing Alex existed until recently, but still not a bad haul.

Chuck vs. Shaw: We begin the second half of the finale with a flashback to Chuck and Ellie's childhood, where Papa B. assures them that they can fix anything if they work together, and tasks Ellie with protecting Chuck. Man, I'm pretty bummed they killed him off -- I thought he added a lot to the show. Is anyone else wondering if budget issues played a role?

Awesome and Morgan sit in Casey's car arguing about a plan as Shaw prepares to kill Casey, Chuck and Sarah. After hitting some random buttons, they manage to launch a missile into the CIA truck. Well that could've gone horribly awry pretty easily. But the prisoners miraculously escape without being blown up (a real testament to the efficacy of armored trucks), leaving Shaw behind with Chuck's Governor.

Ellie is obviously upset about being out of the loop for so long, and about her dad's death. Probably not in that order. But Chuck is able to reassure her that their dad was a hero, which goes a long way: "That's the secret I most wanted you to know." Awww, this is so sad! And they agree to go after Shaw and the Ring. Ellie does make Chuck promise that this will be his last mission, which is pretty fair -- she doesn't want the only family she has left putting himself in mortal danger on a regular basis. I'm actually surprised she didn't try and lock Chuck in a padded room for the rest of his life, just to keep him safe.

They're able to tap into the Ring security system to contact Beckman, who explains that the whole reason she's in town is for a super-secret spy meeting, where Shaw plans to discredit her and take over. "The Five Elders," the leaders of the Ring, will be there. Chuck and Sarah sneak in disguised as members of the Russian delegation while Morgan and Casey crack into the conference database. Actually, they mostly fight about Morgan's having Alex's number. Again, totally on Casey's side here. 

Despite his "very convincing facial hair," Chuck is made by Shaw. He and Sarah fight Justin and company off successfully, but Chuck's Intersect malfunction (think "strobe light" instead of "flash") is getting worse.

Chuck calls Shaw in the middle of his big presentation, mentioning that he knows the Elders are in the room. And hey, apparently the Ring phones can text! Which is pretty helpful if you're Shaw and want to quietly alert the Elders to leave the room. I'm also having a lot of fun picturing typical Ring text messages ("omg u r so evil! lets get 2gether @ teh base l8r!"). Morgan, Casey and Sarah handily arrest said Elders as they escape. The Ring is proving shockingly easy to bring down. Did we just need the proper motivation, or are the stars aligning at precisely the right moment? 

Shaw finds Chuck in his office, and assures him that he has no authority to arrest Shaw even though he killed Chuck's father, is a Ring agent, and plans to destroy the CIA. Wow, for a guy so smart... Chuck, duh, introduces him to the magic of videoconferencing, which allows Shaw to unknowingly finish his presentation from afar, where an audience of spies listens to him recount his nefarious doings. I can't believe they didn't fit in a Cisco plug here -- the Subway one felt so forced. 

Anyway, Chuck's evil laugh needs a little work. And Chuck needs to realize that if you're going to laugh evilly, you'd better have the goods to carry the plan through to the end, which doesn't quite happen. His Intersect malfunctions again and Shaw escapes, leaving Sarah with Chuck, who's incapacitated by a short-circuiting brain.

Shaw vs. The Buy More: Shaw visits the Buy More, planting explosives and taking Morgan and the store hostage until Sarah gives him Chuck. He's got the Governor and is already discredited -- is it just personal now? His creepy, cyborg-like calmness makes him pretty hard to read. Casey insists over the phone that Morgan break his thumbs to get out of his handcuffs so that he can pull the fire alarm and evacuate the store. And Morgan's come a long way, 'cause he actually does it. Uggghhhh! Even worse, Jeff pulls it before Morgan gets a chance to! Man, even if Chuck does quit the CIA, Morgan deserves to stay just based on this.

Shaw handcuffs Sarah to the Nerd Herd desk as Chuck strides in, and they prepare to have a Duel of the Intersects. Chuck strobes instead of flashing again, though, accidentally starting a Jeffster! music video as he staggers. YES, the background to the big duel is Bon Jovi's classic "Blaze of Glory," as interpreted by Jeffster! And the video is hilarious. There are already, like, twelve "Glee" albums -- when are we going to get our Jeffster! record?

Spy Fu ensues, but Shaw has the clear advantage and knocks Chuck out. On the ground, Chuck flashes back to a childhood memory where he wandered into his dad's lab and activated an early version of the Intersect. Like, at age 7 or so. OMG! Papa B. is amazed that Chuck's okay after downloading the whole thing, calling him special, just as he did when he died. I'm very interested to learn more about this next season. Did Chuck flash as a child? What was in there? At any rate, Chuck wakes up with some serious moves. Chuck: "Sorry, just had to reboot." It's basically like when Neo starts dodging bullets in "The Matrix."

He destroys Shaw, who taunts him, but Chuck refuses to kill him: "No thanks, I've already done that once before." Shaw: "That's what makes you weak." Sarah [hits Shaw with a giant metal beam]: "No, that's what makes you great." And she gets the Governor back for Chuck. His Intersect/brain was deteriorating alarmingly fast, but now he's in good shape. Huzzah! Chuck nervously tells Sarah he has to keep his promise to Ellie to quit the spy life, asking if she could love a regular guy. Sarah: "Well, I fell in love with a regular guy." Man, I love those two together.

Not to be left out, Morgan heroically finds Shaw's explosives detonator, and less heroically drops it when bragging about his broken-thumbed success. Everyone runs, and the Buy More is completely destroyed. Color me less convinced about Morgan's future CIA career.

They end with a sweet memorial to Papa B., which is interrupted by Alex's arrival! Awww, yay. Casey is so freaking adorably excited. Cutest hug evah! He's got to be one of my favorite characters on TV, period. And yeah, I'd want Morgan away from my daughter, too!

Chuck assures Ellie he's done with spying -- he even told Beckman. Thanks to his whole saving her job and the entire government thing, she lets him leave. Chuck's back to being a civilian! And yet, still not quite an average Joe. A text summons him to his computer, where he logs on and sees a final message from his dad. Papa B. is sorry he died, and he loves (correction: loved) Chuck and Ellie. Hmm ... I'm gonna say sweet, but weird.

More importantly, he sends Chuck back to their old house, where there's a giant crazy secret spy basement full of records about various shadowy figures with code names. There's a lot more to Orion than we knew -- including enemies who will now come after Chuck, as well as family secrets: "I did it all for her," Papa B. says. A woman who is apparently Chuck's mom receives a phone call from a man who says they're going to have to move her, as Chuck finds a piece of her jewelry sitting on a table in the spy lair. A file nearby labels her as "missing." Wooooah.

Big Mike vs. Jeffster!: Quite the Big Mike Subway ad, eh? Anyway, Big Mike has a bat-phone in his office with "Moses," founder of Buy More on the other line. Oh, Big Mike. Always full of surprises. Unless they increase sales, their branch is going to be shut down. And without Morgan or Chuck to advise him, Big Mike agrees with Lester's plan to have a going-out-of-business sale to bump up the sales figures. In appreciation, Big Mike agrees to let them screen the Jeffster! music video.

Of course, the fact that Lester came up with the idea should've been a pretty huge red flag. The Buy More brass turn up in the middle of the sale, claiming that the store has been shut down and Big Mike is essentially stealing the merchandise by discounting it instead of shipping it to Beverly Hills. Big Mike is sure he'll be fired, but Jeff suggests they instead burn down the Buy More. Um, how does that accomplish anything?

Big Mike snaps, accusing them of bringing him pain and misery. I'm with him up until he calls Lester's singing a "vocal felony." After the big explosion, Big Mike blames it on them, so now they're fugitives. Even they aren't so sure they're innocent. Lester: "Did we do that?" I hope this doesn't mean they won't be back next year! I may not love them as individuals, but they shine as Jeffster!

Odds and Ends:

  •  I can't believe the season's already over! And I hope certain other shows I watch take note of the success "Chuck" had at letting their two main characters hook up rather than prolonging the increasingly artificial tension. Just sayin'. Worked here.
  • So now that everyone's in on Chuck's big secret, he's got a new one! I wonder what his new day job will be without the CIA or the Buy More...
  • Chuck blames himself for his dad's death because it was his decision to download the Intersect 2.0 and become a spy, but come on, it was his dad's decision to become a spy first. And he invented the Intersect for godsakes! At the same time, yeah, that sucks.  
  • I found the idea of Chuck becoming "the weapon [the military has] always dreamed of" almost as disconcerting as his popped collar.
  • Edited to add: Forgot to mention the great music selections in this episode! They really outdid themselves.

Quotes:

  • Sarah: "I know what you went through, but you really have to start putting it behind you." Chuck: "What if I can't?" Sarah: "Mmm ... then there are always blueberries." Chuck: "How is that possibly supposed to make me feel -- Oh my god, these are amazing blueberries!"
  • Casey: "Don't know how it happened, but our boy's become a man. Bartowski's a spy. Picked a good one, Walker ... finally." 
  • Sarah: "You ready?" Chuck: "I was born rea -- well, actually no, I wasn't born ready. But I am ready now." 
  • Sarah: "We're going to need costumes. You think you can handle that?" Chuck: "Sarah, I played Perchik in 'Fiddler.'" Morgan: "It's true; he was great." [Hey, it helped him out once before, right?]
  • Morgan: "I'm a lapsed vegetarian!"
  • Shaw: "What's your plan?" Chuck: "Excuse me, are you trying to get me to make the classic villain mistake of explaining my dastardly plot to you?"
  • Morgan: "Reach for the sky, dirtbags! You people are the disease, and I am the cure." Casey: "Back off there, Cobra, I didn't give you any bullets."

Phew, that was a lot of ground to cover! What did you guys think about the new Orion plot? Are you still excited for next season? Were you satisfied with the way this one ended? Any other favorite quotes? Thanks for a great season, everyone!

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Photo credit: NBC


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