Recap – Chuck 3.11 “Chuck vs. the Final Exam”

Did you miss last week’s minty episode of Chuck, “Chuck vs. the Tic Tac?” Read a recap here.

This week’s episode of Chuck, titled “Chuck vs. the Final Exam,” is all about the repercussions associated with hard choices. The episode begins in a train yard at night, with a man being chased by another. When the first man falls, the second closes in on him with a gun drawn. The man with the gun is none other than Chuck. The fallen man (played by Kyle Bornheimer, who I have a hard taking seriously after the short-lived Worst Week), begins to plead for his life, “Can’t you see this is what they want you to do?” “I gave you a chance,” Chuck replies. They stare each other down, and a gunshot rings out. Did Chuck shoot the man?

At the Buy More, Jeff and Lester are having a showdown of their own. Armed with dart guns, the two are wreaking havoc throughout the store. Despite the fact Lester has so much to do, so many to love, Jeff ends the war by shooting his buddy with a dart to the heart. Casey grabs the two guys and demands they quit the shenanigans. Lester calls Casey out on his pretending to be some “military tough guy.” Casey is just in an electronics store with a bunch of schmucks like Jeff and Lester. Casey informs them that with Morgan in El Segundo for a managers conference, Big Mike made Casey assistant manager. Lester reminds Casey of the store’s no touching policy, instituted primarily for Jeff, but nonetheless applicable to all employees. Casey does not heed his warning, and slams the two knuckleheads together. Chuck, seeing Casey’s idea of discipline, asks if the ex-CIA man is adjusting well to civilian life. Not needing an answer, Chuck insists that he is working on getting Casey reinstated. He is going to speak with General Beckman, and as soon as he can get Sarah to call him back (she’s in D.C. with Shaw. A real “snorefest” according to Chuck), he will encourage her to do the same. As Chuck sees it, Casey needs to be reinstated soon or he’ll become a menace to society. Casey tells Chuck that he disobeyed orders and put his team and country in danger. He made his choice, and now he has to live with the consequences. Unlike Chuck, Casey knows when something is over. Casey is called to Big Mike’s office, and when Chuck protests that Casey has no choice but try to get his old job back, Casey replies, “It’s America, Chuck. Everyone has a choice.”

Big Mike has summoned Casey because of the incident between he and Jeff and Lester, now sporting ice packs on their heads. Big Mike suggests to CAsey that he needs to run less “hot” while at work, even when it comes to Jeff and Lester. The guys agree. “He’s like an animal,” notes Jeff. “Yeah, he’s like Jeff but not dulled by drinking and drugs, which makes him even more dangerous,” replies Lester. Casey responds by showing the guys the hand. OF course, Casey’s hand has written on it, “I’m going to kill you.” A grabbing gesture sends the guys up onto their chairs in fear. Lester threatens to get his cousin, a lawyer, to file a suit against Casey, Buy More, Big Mike, and even Chuck and Morgan for his treatment. Big Mike excuses the guys but keeps Casey. Obviously wanting to avoid a lawsuit, Big Mike wants to test Casey’s willpower. He knows that Casey is physically strong, but is he mentally strong, as well? Will Casey bend like a reed, or break like a Kit-Kat? With no other option for employment, Casey agrees to try to find his calmer side.

Chuck enters Castle and sees the lovely form of Sarah, who has just returned form Washington. Chuck semi-playfully asks about her visit with Shaw, although he’s not quite sure what Shaw actually does for fun. Sarah ignores the dig and tells Chuck that they were actually too busy in meetings discussing hisfuture to have much fun. Chuck begins to say that it’s not his future they should be worried about, but Casey’s instead, when Shaw interrupts — Sarah forgot her bag in the taxi. “So thoughtful,” Chuck mockingly whispers toward the super-agent. General Beckman pops up on their screen and tells Chuck that he is ready for his final spy mission. Pass it, and Chuck will become a full-fledged spy: no more Buy More and no more handlers. If he fails, he will no longer be a member of the team and he will return to his normal life. If he is successful, he will be transferred to Rome where he will pose as a billionaire industrialist. “Seriously?!?” Chuck asks in quite a bit of wonder, “Molto bene!” The team will have a great time living in the Mediterranean, doing spy stuff. On the contrary, Chuck would be going to Rome alone, while Sarah and Shaw head back to D.C. Chuck will likely never see them again. The General tells Chuck he will receive instructions on his mission the next day, and signs off. Chuck is confused by his excitement at the chance to finally be a full-fledged spy, and the prospect of never seeing Sarah again. “Congratulations, Chuck. It looks like you’re getting everything you always wanted,” says Sarah. Chuck is left alone to truly contemplate his choice.

The next morning, Chuck goes into his kitchen to get breakfast. When he turns toward the living room, Sarah pops out from behind his couch. Sarah assures Chuck that he isn’t dreaming, and tells him that his mission has started. She is there to observe him, like a test proctor. Sarah gives Chuck a blue envelope, form which he extracts a black video player. The General appears in a recording, and shows Chuck his target: Anatoli Zevlovski, a Russian embassy agent who is supposed to meet with a Ring mole working in the CIA. The meeting is to be held at the Cobalt hotel and spa. Chuck is to stake out the hotel and identify the mole. The message goes by so quickly that Chuck looks for a rewind button, but the player actually self-destructs, just like in the movies. This whole time, Sarah has been writing notes. Chuck asks if she’s writing in his spy “permanent record,” and if so, does it have all of his spy highlights? Sarah can’t help but smile, remembering all their missions together and how far he has come, “Yeah, we’ve definitely been through a lot.” Sarah tells Chuck that she will be at the stakeout to observe him. As she leaves, Chuck mentions that this will be their last mission together, and asks if they should do something special. She demurs, but Chuck persists. He wants to honor all of the good times, and dangerous times they’ve had. Sarah can’t withstand the Bartowski smile, and smiles to herself again before leaving.

In Big Mike’s office, while munching on a sandwich from Subway(!), the Buy More manager is being fitted for a suit. He tells Casey that they need to smooth out “John Crazy’s” jagged edges. Casey protests that he likes his jagged edges, but Big Mike insists Casey get fitted for a new suit himself. “To get your head right, you need to get your threads right.” (This has become my new favorite saying.) While Casey plays dress up, Chuck arrives at the building across from the hotel with equipment cases. On a floor still being constructed, Chuck deploys a number of cameras, sound equipment and a computer for the stakeout. Sarah arrives and is impressed with Chuck’s set-up. But there is still something left to take out: a bottle of champagne and some sizzling shrimp — the meal the two shared on their first stakeout. Chuck also grabs a small remote and turns on another blast from the past: “Private Eyes” by Hall and Oates. Sarah is clearly amused. “You’re going to miss me in D.C., you know?” Chuck tells his would-be love. “I know,” she quietly says. Chuck asks if she and Shaw are going to live together in D.C., and while she doesn’t answer, Sarah does say that her and Shaw’s relationship is different than her relationship with Chuck. Before more can be said, Chuck’s phone rings. It’s Shaw; Chuck should have his earpiece in by now. He and Sarah get themselves equipped, and grab their binoculars. Chuck continues to Sarah, however, “I’m thinking about what it used to be like between us.” He’s thinking about their lives before Prague, and his life if he made a different decision then. Chuck then lays it on the line: if he passes his spy test, then Sarah wouldn’t be his handler anymore, and they could finally be together…if Sarah is willing to give him another shot. They stare into each other’s eyes intently (honestly, I was riveted by this moment), and they move in for a kiss. Just as their lips are about to touch, Shaw interrupts through their earpieces. Did Chuck flash on Anatoli? When Chuck answers in the negative, Shaw admonishes him, as Anatoli just used his credit card in the hotel’s spa. Shaw instructs Sarah to give Chuck a pair of glasses that contain a live video camera so they can track what Chuck is seeing and identify the CIA mole. Chuck takes the glasses and prepares to move out. “This isn’t over,” Chuck tells Sarah, finally taking control of their love situation.

Chuck makes his way into the hotel spa. He informs the spa employee that he is to meet a Russian friend and is wondering if his friend has made it there yet. When the employee replies that Anatoli has arrived, he tells Chuck that the spa entrance fee is $100. “I can expense this, right?” Chuck whispers into his watch. “Just pay for it,” an annoyed Shaw responds. Chuck enters, but can’t find Anatoli in the locker room. He will have to go into the steam room to find the Russian. Chuck, clad only in a towel and his glasses, makes his way into the sauna, where he finds only Anatoli and two of his goons. When Sarah returns to Castle, Shaw asks why things aren’t going well with Chuck. She covers for Chuck, noting that not every mission goes perfectly. Back in the sauna, the spa employee enters and asks for “Drago? Mr. Ivan Drago?” “Seriously?!?” Chuck mutters under his breath, undoubtedly thinking that using the name of such a famous Soviet boxing champion is a bit on the nose. The spa employee hands Anatoli a note, which says the mole wants to meet the Russian upstairs in his room. Anatoli drops the note and he and his goons leave the sauna. Chuck rushes to pick up the note, but is spotted by Anatoli’s two bodyguards. When one strikes a fighting pose, Chuck flashes judo skills and efficiently takes out the men, much to the amusement of Shaw watching from Castle. Out of the steam room, Chuck tries to read the note, but it has blurred from the steam. All he knows is to make his way to the seventh floor, so of he goes.

Still clad in only a towel, Chuck sees Anatoli go into a room. A maid is cleaning the adjacent room, so Chuck slips into the room’s bathroom, and then comes out, pretending that the maid is in his room. He quickly ushers her out, and makes his way onto the room’s balcony. Chuck climbs over to the next balcony where he can get a vantage on Anatoli and the mole. The mole tells Anatoli that he is now going to deal with The Ring directly. As Anatoli’s services are no longer needed, the mole knifes the Russian until dead. As Chuck has never been able to see the mole’s face, Shaw and Sarah can’t identify him, so Chuck starts making bird noises. This brings the mole, cleaning his knife, to the window. Shaw identifies him as CIA agent Hunter Perry. Shaw tells Chuck that his mission is a success. “I’m a spy,” Chuck, still on the balcony ledge, says to himself. His towel blows off his body, “I’m a naked spy!”

Big Mike makes his way into the local Subway(!) sandwich shop, clad in his new suit. In walks Casey, sporting his new light grey, double-breasted suit. When Big Mike asks Casey how he likes the new threads, Casey responds, surprisingly, “It feels…good!” Big Mike explains that if Casey can sit down calmly with Jeff and Lester and apologize to them, they will drop their lawsuit. Can “John Crazy” be cool? The four men sit down for their sandwich summit. The waitress(?) brings over two sandwiches, for which Lester insists Casey pay. “Apologies are about more than words — they are about money,” Lester informs Casey. Casey reluctantly hands over some cash, while Jeff combines the two sandwiches and takes a bite. To complete the apology, Casey must break bread with Jeff and Lester by literally sharing the same sandwich with Jeff. Unbowed, Casey grabs the sandwich and takes a mighty bite.

Chuck visits Sarah in the Orange Orange. “Hey colleague!” a gleeful Chuck greets Sarah, before asking if he would be receiving his spy union membership card soon. Sarah smiles, and asks Chuck if he wants to have dinner at Tracks, a restaurant at the train station. “Of course! Nothing whets the whistle like a long, loud horn,” Chuck says. He’ll see her tonight, and as Chuck leaves, he imitates a loud train horn. Sarah can’t help herself but smile. Chuck makes his way back to the Buy More where he sees Casey. He asks how the ex-agent is feeling as a civilian. “It actually feels good to not be so wound up,” Casey replies. Well, in honor of Casey “joining the world of human beings,” and Chuck passing his spy test (thanks to years of help from Casey), Chuck got Casey a gift — Casey’s old handgun. Although it’s a felony to remove a federal firearm, Casey tells Chuck, it’s a thoughtful felony. Casey wonders if Chuck is sure he has finished his spy test. “You need to be ready for anything.” “A good spy always is, right?” Chuck assures his friend. Down in Castle, Shaw informs Sarah that Casey’s worry is correct. Chuck’s mission is not over. Chuck must complete his “Red Test.” Chuck must kill Hunter Perry. Sarah tells Shaw that she can’t be any part in Chuck killing anyone. Moreover, she plain doesn’t want Chuck to kill anyone. It doesn’t matter what Sarah wants, this is Chuck’s mission. The only way he will do it, too, is if Sarah gives Chuck the mission.

At the restaurant, Chuck is feeling good. He sees a beautiful Sarah and moves to her. He apologizes for coming on too strong the night before, and thanks Sarah for helping him through his training. He begins to confess his love to her again, when she stops him by telling him that his mission is not over. A meet has been arranged between Perry and him. Sarah passes him a gun in a napkin, and tells him that he must kill Perry. “Seriously?” a bewildered Chuck asks. In order to become a spy, and then finally be with Sarah, he has to kill someone? Chuck can’t believe this is his choice. When he protest further, Sarah tells him again that it is his choice, “It’s OK to just be Chuck.” Chuck asks if they are sure Perry is a traitor. Again, Sarah tells Chuck that it is his choice, as she walks out of the restaurant, stopping to look back before finally leaving him. Crestfallen, Chuck waits for his mark.

Perry arrives for the meeting. Chuck tells him that he has photos he wants Perry to check out to see if he recognizes anyone in them. Sensing something is wrong, Perry agrees to look at the photos, after he uses the bathroom. Chuck, wisely follows the mole. With gun drawn, Chuck kicks in a couple stall doors, but finds nothing. Behind door number three, however, Perry lunges at Chuck with his knife. In slow motion, Chuck avoids a couple swipes of the knife, but Perry finds Chuck’s leg and cuts him open. Chuck flashes knife combat skills and takes on Perry. He eventually disarms Perry and is poised to strike the fatal blow when Perry begins to plead for his life. He had no other choice, The Ring is forcing him to work for them. If Chuck kills him, Chuck is just like one of the bad guys. Chuck insists he is not “one of them,” so as of this moment, Perry is officially under arrest. Chuck walks Perry out of the bathroom with his gun in Perry’s back, toward where Sarah is waiting in the train station. Perry says the gun is hurting him and asks Chuck to put it away. Chuck, for some reason, agrees, but when he does, Perry takes off by throwing a bystander into Chuck’s arms. The pursuit begins.

Chuck chases Perry through the dark train yard, with Sarah trailing the two of them. Perry trips and Chuck closes in on him, gun drawn. Perry again pleads for his life, and as Chuck begins to lower his gun a little, Perry reaches for a concealed ankle holster. A shot rings out, and Perry falls dead. Looking first at his gun, and then around him, Chuck eventually sees Casey behind a boxcar, who runs away before Chuck can question him. Sarah arrives at the scene to find Perry dead and Chuck with his gun drawn. “Shaw asks her in her earpiece what happened. Clearly upset, Sarah responds, “Chuck’s a spy.” Back in the apartment courtyard, Chuck asks why Casey killed Perry. Casey tells him that now to Sarah, Shaw and General Beckman, Chuck completed his mission, and is now a spy. But Chuck doesn’t know who he really is, he replies. Casey can’t answer that for him, but he does know that Chuck is not a killer.

At home, Chuck tries to call Sarah repeatedly, but she won’t pick up the phone. He finds a blue envelope on his table. When he opens it, another video player, along with a passport, badge and a plane ticket fall out. He plays the video and General Beckman appears. She gives him her congratulations and informs him that the plane ticket is for a flight to D.C. where Chuck will be officially sworn in as a CIA agent. After the player self-destructs, Chuck continues to call Sarah, eventually leaving her a message that he needs to speak with her. Sarah, back at Castle, just denies his phone calls. Sarah is upset because she feels responsible for Chuck’s killing someone. Shaw tells her that Chuck made his choice, and like the two of them, he did it for his country. He continues, and asks her if she is still in love with Chuck. “No, I’m not…anymore.” She is just concerned that Chuck won’t be the same person anymore, just as she hasn’t been the same person since she passed her Red Test. When she saw her mark, she was prepared to kill the woman, but then the woman dropped a piece of jewelry. Sarah couldn’t kill a person bending down in such a vulnerable position, so she passed by. In the reflection of a car mirror, however, she saw the woman reach into her purse. Believing the woman was reaching for a gun, Sarah turned and shot her dead. She wanted to see if the woman was truly reaching for a gun, but sirens caused her to flee. It was the worst day of her life. Back at his apartment, there is knock on Chuck’s door. Hoping that is Sarah, he rushes to the door and opens it. It is another agent who is there to take Chuck to the airport. Is he ready?

Commentary

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode of Chuck. As it was centered around choices, all of the action felt specifically motivated. This sounds like a weird thing to say, because any television show, play, movie, etc. should have motivated characters or else the action is just contrivance. However, to me, the specific focus on each of the main characters’ choices (Chuck = to kill? To become a spy? Sarah = to “save” Chuck from spy life? Casey = to accept civilian life?) really amped up the importance and drama of the episode. I know I’ve said it before, but we finally have come to the end of the line of Sarah’s concern for Chuck’s changing into someone he’s not. To he knowledge, he has, forever. How this will effect her feelings for him will play out, but she no longer has to wonder what is most important to him (or so she believes). Now, I’m sure Casey will eventually cough up the truth, much to Sarah’s joy, but for now, I’m very happy with where everyone is emotionally and dramatically. I thought it was an interesting and good choice(!) by the creators to have Chuck’s “final exam” be a relatively simple one. If Chuck had to infiltrate some Ring compound and take out twenty henchmen before retrieving a poisonous gas and escaping in a major car chase, I don’t think it would have had the emotional heft needed for the ultimate and most important decision a spy has to make: Can I kill someone if asked to by my country? Rather, the minor difficulty of the mission, brought into greater relief the huge decision Chuck (and Sarah) had to make.

This was episode eleven of the season. In case you have forgotten, NBC originally ordered thirteen episodes for this season, before ordering six more during the fall. Josh Schwartz has said that Episode 13 really is a bit of a season finale in itself, before they reopened the story to add the six extra episodes. This being said, the next two eipsodes should have some major action and drama as the show works itself up to what would have been its season finale. Seeing in the preview at the end of this episode that Chuck is going to flat out tell Sarah that he loves her has certainly colored me intrigued. I can’t wait for next Monday!

What did you all think of “Chuck vs. the Final Exam”? Did you think Chuck and Sarah have crossed some point to which they cannot return? Do you think Shaw had anything to do with Chuck’s Red test, knowing that Sarah would be upset (I don’t, but I’m willing to hear arguments). Anything else that popped out at you? Please drop your questions, comments and theories below. Be sure to come back next week for my recap of “Chuck vs. the American Hero,” and remember to check out TVOverMind for all of your TV needs. I’m off to enjoy a Tunaroni sandwich (on second thought….).

Follow me at twitter.com/MikeNJD


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