'Chuck': The trouble with normal

chuck-vs-business-trip2.jpg"Chuck" hit its final-season stride last week with an episode that brought the Morgan-as-Intersect story to a head and felt like the most assured episode of the season thus far.

This week, "Chuck vs. the Business Trip" upped the bar in just about every way. A solid mission -- accomplished with no one having the Intersect -- good couple dynamics between Chuck and Sarah, fine comedy from the team of Gomez & Baldwin, solid non-spy subplots and a big bang of an ending all clicked together expertly.

Things pick up right where they left off, with Morgan narrowly avoiding death thanks to Chuck (let's all pour one out for his douche-cycle, shall we?). They then get the Intersect out of Morgan's head, figuring that once he's back to normal, Decker -- it was him who put the hit out -- will call off the kill order.

Except ... no. In addition to all his CIA hitters, Decker also contracted out to the Viper, a killer-for-hire with a spotless record. Chuck poses as Morgan at a Buy More sales convention hoping to draw the Viper out, at which they get to experience life as a "normal" couple with their (binge-drinking, skinny-dipping, furry-enthusiast) colleagues from other franchises.

Chuck's desire to get away from the spy life is well-established, but the convention, and in particular one woman Sarah meets, make her see the virtues of a less stressful existence as well, and for the first time she seems amenable to the idea as well.

But because this is "Chuck," of course that woman turns out to be the Viper*, and it's nearly too late before she and Chuck both realize it and save both themselves -- she's planted a bomb in Sarah's car too -- and Morgan. Sarah's pointed remark about her new, normal life as Chuck tried to defuse the bomb was a nice touch.

(*If you were applying the Most Famous Guest Star theory -- which states that the best-known guest on a given show is the bad guy, or at least somehow pivotal to the plot -- to this episode, you would have deduced early on that either Catherine Dent or David Koechner would turn out to be the Viper. Koechner would have been playing way against type as a steely assassin, but the feint they ran with him covering up his costume fetish worked well enough that it didn't spoil the fun.)

While Chuck and Sarah were away, Casey -- still angry at Morgan for how he treated Alex during his Intersect phase -- is babysitting Morgan, and having a little fun. Removing the Intersect hasn't restored Morgan's nerd memory, and Casey plays a cruel trick by telling Morgan to start his "Star Wars" re-education with "The Phantom Menace." Cruel, but Grimes kinda deserved it, don't you think?

Everything comes to a head after Decker formally calls off the contract on Morgan, then secretly OKs her taking out everyone but Chuck and Sarah -- including Alex, who has seen Viper's face. Casey goes into protective mode (for Alex and everyone else) and takes out her whole team ... but he's no longer a government operative, so Decker swoops in and arrests him for murder. It's a great final scene, fantastically played by Adam Baldwin as he tries to get in a few more moments with his daughter and those close to him before Decker gets there (which he has to know is coming).

It also manages to up the stakes even more for this season -- Carmichael Industries is now without its greatest asset, the Intersect, and a quarter of its team (or more than that, depending on how you rate regular Morgan). Can't wait to see how it plays out -- although we'll have to, as "Chuck" is off the next two weeks before returning Dec. 9.

Other thoughts on "Chuck vs. the Business Trip":

  • I have to hand it to Morgan -- if we had 10 final minutes with a super-secret spy computer in my head, there would be a lot worse ways to spend it than catching ninja stars.
  • Brain un-damaged Jeff is turning out to be a nice little wrinkle in the Buy More stories. Scott Krinsky is clearly having fun playing normal, and it's also been fun to watch Lester at such loose ends not having his former minion to lead around -- to the point that he tries to re-poison Jeff. If I were un-addled Jeff, I might have him arrested too.
  • Also? Normal Jeff susses out the fact that Ellie isn't happy being back at work so soon after having Clara. So while the sight of Awesome leading Mommy and Me yoga was, well, awesome, I'm curious to see where they take the new parents the rest of the season.
  • Casey totally makes up for his "Star Wars" trick by giving Morgan the first three Indiana Jones films. And when Morgan asks if this another trick? "Just the three." If only, colonel. If only.

What did you think of "Chuck vs. the Business Trip"?
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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