We learned from last week's Chuck that Sarah was planning to go undercover in order to help Mary Bartowski take down Alexei Volkoff. This week, the ongoing plot once again returns to center stage - and it begins with Sarah beating the stuffing out of Casey. No, really.
It's been a few weeks since she's gone under, and having successfully pulled off several rogue jobs (and changed her hair color), she's come to the attention of Volkoff. She appeals to his romantic side, then disarms three of his bodyguards for measure, and that gets her a hug. (Yes, even bad guys hug people.) Her first assignment? Free a cannibal from prison, even if it means throwing Chuck in prison.
There's plenty of comedy to be had from the concept of Chuck trapped with a couple dozen tough guys, especially when most of them turn out to be pussycats. Watching him in a brawl with someone much bigger isn't new (remember Hugo Panzer?) but it's still fun to see. It's certainly a shock when the mission turns out to be for naught once Volkoff shoots the recently-freed cannibal in the head and removes one of his eyeballs. Yes, his super-secret database is in the fake eyeball. This is not the Chuck episode to watch while you're eating.
The episode really takes off in the final twenty minutes, when Volkoff takes notice of Casey and orders Sarah to kill him. We know that she won't actually go through with it, but that doesn't stop us from wondering how she's going to get out of the predicament without blowing her cover (especially since his death has already been faked once this season). This is where the Casey-beating comes in, not to mention Chuck, who doesn't know what's really going on. When he sees Casey shoved out a window, he believes his friend is actually dead. While Casey may not be dead, he does end up in the hospital. There's plenty of dramatic tension to be had.
On the flip side, the series plays with the angst of Chuck and Sarah being separated, stopping short of spontaneous crying or the world's smallest violin. It's a little bit saccharine for my taste, but that's coming from an admitted cynic. I'm hoping that the show doesn't have her undercover for too long, lest it overplay the relationship angst. Where it's genius is in comparing Sarah's story to that of Mary Bartowski, having Chuck wonder if he's going to lose the woman he loves in the same way that he lost his mother. That's a natural question that any of us might ask, and it's an interesting parallel that even makes us look at Chuck a little differently - how does his relationship (or lack thereof) with his mother influence his relationship with Sarah?
Meanwhile, Morgan has finally realized he's in love with Alex, who's started spending the night with him, much to her father's disdain. At least he remains in one piece. At the same time, Devon and Ellie can't agree on what to name their baby; he thinks she's stuck on a name that you might see on an episode of Maury, and he has to convince her to change it. On behalf of every kid who's ever been beaten up on a playground, I'm glad that they settle on a relatively normal name by the end of the episode.
"Chuck Versus The Gobbler" is an interesting return to the show's overall plot, laying the groundwork for the back half of the season without trying to jam-pack the hour with too much. It's not the most action-packed episode of the season, but I'm not sure that it was meant to be. I look at it as the start of the second part of the story, and on that level, it succeeds.
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