Series of Tubes: What the “Chuck”?

First some quick hits on the three episodes of "Chuck" that aired over the last two nights, before I get to my primary issue with what we've seen so far of Season 3.

- I was a little disappointed with the lack of Ellie and Awesome in the 2-part season premiere Sunday night, but that concern was addressed with Monday's Ellie/Awesome heavy episode. Chuck is going to have to do a delicate balancing act with its large supporting cast this year (and has already eliminated Buy More manager Emmett and Morgan's girlfriend Anna to take care of some of that).

- Speaking of Emmett's departure, it cleared the way for the return of Big Mike to the Buy More. He's definitely my favorite of all the Buy More-centric characters (I don't count Morgan among those, since he's seen frequently outside the store).

- The more Casey backstory we get -- even just as an aside to the main plot like in last night's episode -- the better.

- Speaking of backstory, I loved the brief scene with the General, after she'd ended communication with Chuck and crew, showing that she answers to someone even more mysterious than her. I hope that becomes a bigger part of this season.

- Speaking of things that were supposed to be a big part of this season, where was the much-hyped Subway integration that was supposed to happen. NBC made such a big deal of that back in May, but come the first three episodes of the season, there was no Subway at all. There was an interesting in-character series of Honda ads, which were actually kind of interesting (still don't care about the car, but the ad was decent).

- I rarely watch the "next week" promos, but I'm glad I did yesterday, because for a brief second, I thought they'd killed off Awesome. But he was in the promo for next week, so clearly they didn't. Good for them.

OK, enough of the quick thoughts. On to the big story, the continued problem of the Chuck/Sarah relationship.

In the first episode of the season, we found out that Sarah had given Chuck the opportunity to just run away with her and leave spy life behind. Instead, Chuck decided to go to spy training. They tried to explain this with a rambling monologue during the second episode, with Chuck saying he made the decision he did BECAUSE he loved Sarah, but I don't buy it.

The Chuck we saw in the first two seasons was desperately in love with Sarah. Unless Intersect 2.0 actually did something to his personality, I can't see how THAT Chuck would turn down the opportunity to be with Sarah in favor of becoming a spy. Had they said he turned it down because he couldn't just abandon Ellie and Awesome and Morgan and even Jeffster forever, then I could have bought that. But the explanation they gave seemed even lamer than the decision.

Now we're right back to where we were in Season 1: Chuck loves Sarah, but can't have her; Sarah loves Chuck but has to act like she doesn't, for Chuck's sake; and Chuck and Sarah have to pretend like everything's all right, when it's not. We've been down this road before -- and it's a road that nearly resulted in the show being canceled. I was hoping for a new creative direction this season, possibly with Sarah and Chuck having to balance spy life with relationship life (think Sydney and Michael in certain seasons of Alias), but so far, that's not what we're getting.