Chuck 3.8 Review (spoilers!)

I'm sure tomorrow I will read that Chuck's ratings have dipped yet again. This isn't an indictment on the quality of the show, but a reflection of my taste in television. I can only imagine that I will yet again take part in a campaign to get a show I love renewed, and I can only imagine that Chuck's future lies on my bookshelf next to the other shows I loved that were canceled before their time.

I enjoyed Chuck's return after the Olympic break, for these 3 reasons:

1) The Buy More was funny
2) The began fixing the disasterous way they ended the last episode
3) Chuck is heading in the direction I was hoping they'd go

I've often felt like the show has been disjointed this season, as if they melding of Chuck's various worlds just didn't gel like they had in the past, so this episode was a nice return to form, even if it was pretty obvious who Gruber's target was (and if it was obvious to me, it should have been obvious to Team Bartowski).

It's been clear so far this season how they took cost cutting steps: they've dropped people from episodes. In the previous two seasons, we never would have gone an entire episode without seeing Morgan or, as has happened so far this season, without seeing Captain Awesome, Ellie, or even Big Mike. This has made the show feel extremely compartmentalized and taken away a lot of what I love about it: the balance between Chuck's many lives.

But even without Morgan this week, we got some of that balance back. Big Mike, Lester, and Jeff were back to form. While all three work as oddities, in this episode they showed part of what's so great about the Buy More setting: they are the peanut gallery for Chuck's life. From Lester wondering how Chuck lands all these beautiful ladies, to Jeff's wonderful analysis of Chuck and Sarah, this was a great week for the Nerd Herd and boss, and probably the best we've seen from them so far this season.

Then, of course, we had Chuck breaking up with Hannah. While I think this is a story that probably should have happened over two episodes, it was good to see. It's not that I have a problem with Hannah in any capacity, it's just that Chuck can't date. That's it. It was an odd choice to have him make this decision based upon his feelings for Sarah, then use his secret life as an excuse. But I thought the scene where he broke it off with Hannah was well done, particularly her comment about being able to spot liars.

I'll be honest, the Sarah/Shaw relationship makes a little bit more sense to me now, at least from Sarah's perspective. She is clearly falling apart and needs someone to talk to, but given her life, she has no one. She can't go to Chuck, obviously, and it's not like Casey's an available shoulder. So enter Shaw, someone she doesn't know and who she can basically make whatever she wants. To a certain extent, I understand what she's doing. It's not rational and I'm fine with that now that they've given it some time to be explained.

What's problematic, though, is that Shaw has absolutely no character. There's no reason even suggested as to why he would be interested in Sarah. In fact, the only information we have on him -- the only vague hint at character -- would suggest that the LAST thing he'd ever do is date a fellow agent. All we know of him is that he's a by the book agent who was engaged to a fellow agent who was killed trying to infiltrate the Ring. What little we do know about Shaw completely contradicts how he's acting now.

While Shaw not being a full realized character (or even a partially realized character) works for Sarah because she's able to talk to him like he's a stranger, it doesn't remotely work for the audience. And that's a big problem, given it looks like he'll be around for a while longer.

Finally, we have yet more hints that Chuck is going to get more and more intense and move further and further towards snapping. I like that they're going to deal with the emotional side effect of his break-up, and wouldn't be surprised to see Chuck completely freak out next week and come close to killing a Ring agent.

I also like the slow boiling bond they've created between Chuck and Casey. Theirs has always been the shallowest -- but funniest -- of relationships on the show, but they've managed to start giving it some depth without taking away any of the humor. Of course it was also nice to see them give Casey a potential future plot point.

I hope this isn't the last we see of Hannah. On one hand, I'd love to see Morgan torn between his loyalty for Chuck and his desire to ask Hannah out. On the other hand, I still feel like she would make great, dramatic cannon fodder. I think a situation in which her life is threatened and Chuck has to reveal himself would be fantastic, and would make for some great television if he was unable to save her even after coming clean.

Last night was a nice return to form for Chuck, and given that next week appears to take place in the Buy More, it looks like we'll see more of the same going forward.