Chuck "Chuck Versus the Anniversary" Rapid Reaction

Quickie Plot Summary: Chuck has been unemployed since the events of the Season 3 finale, working with Morgan to track down his mother, using personal funds (and public transportation) to do it. Meanwhile, Sarah and Casey are still working as spies, and the long distance thing is putting a strain on Chuck and Sarah's relationship (as is the whole Chuck keeping a secret from Sarah thing). Through a series of standard "Chuck" hijinx, Chuck ends up in Russia to track down his mother, at the same time Sarah and Casey are in Russia, which brings the whole gang back together. Chuck decides to keep the secret from Ellie, since she's pregnant and he doesn't want her to stress. Oh, and Linda Hamilton is Chuck's mom and she's awesome, but also possibly evil. And the Buy More is back, but is it better than ever?

OK, now that that's all out of the way, let's focus on the greatest thing to ever happen on "Chuck" ever: Ivan Muthafuckin' Drago. Yes, that's right, Dolph Lundgren guest starred as the bad guy of this episode, fresh off his performance in "The Expendables". And at one point with Chuck, Sarah, Casey and Morgan all trapped in a room in some building in Russia, he got on the building intercom and told them their situation was inescapable. He then added, "if you die, you die." Holy fucking "Rocky IV" reference, Batman. That could have been the entire episode and I would have been satisfied.

As it was, after a slow start to the episode (which was necessary to get everything up to speed with the new status quo), things got pretty good. When they first showed the rebuilt Buy More, my reaction was one of "are they really going back to the status quo so quickly", but it turns out that there's more than meets the eye to the Buy More... specifically in that it's now entirely a CIA/NSA front, with "store manager" Diane Beckman. Olivia Munn's much-hyped role amounted to little more than eye candy in this episode, but considering how much they crammed in, I'm sure she'll get more character development in future episodes.

The show copped out on giving us the big Chuck action scene, instead having it play out off screen with sound effects over a walkie talkie, playing up the emotional connection between Chuck and Sarah (and even Chuck and Casey) instead. It felt kind of weak, especially since every spy scenario with Chuck and Morgan before that had ended with them running away, but they made up for it with the big scene with Hamilton at the end.

As for Hamilton, I'm excited about her addition to the cast, but also a little worried. Having just re-watched all of Alias, this has the feel of an Irina Derevko situation. The whole search for mom, mom's a spy, who's mom working for thing has been done before (and without even seeing how "Chuck" does it, I can say it's been done better, since "Alias" fucking owned that whole scenario). Also, if more Hamilton means less Awesome, Big Mike and Jeffster (who were all absent from this episode), then I'm not sure I'm OK with that.

For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the TV Reviews home page