“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”
Last week’s episode, “Chuck vs. The Gobbler,” was a well-written, well-directed and well-performed episode, and was very entertaining. However, Sarah’s actions to secure her cover, Casey’s resultant critical injury, and Chuck’s shock over what Sarah did–plus his worry that she would share his mother’s fate or worse–all contributed to that episode ending on a dark note, though not as ominous as some past episodes’ endings have been (“Chuck vs. the Final Exam,” “Chuck vs. the American Hero,” “Chuck vs. the Living Dead” and “Chuck vs. the Subway” come to mind).
Boy, what a difference a week makes! This whole episode rang loud and clear with the positive tone of Team Bartowski’s commitment to bringing an end to the threat posed by Volkoff, allowing Mary to finally rejoin Chuck and Ellie for good (not to mention giving voice to her continued love for her husband) and letting Sarah rejoin Chuck and hear him ask the question we’ve all been waiting for him to ask. I really loved how the confrontation between Chuck and Volkoff in the cabin played out, with Volkoff (God, Timothy Dalton has been fantastic in this role) viciously and callously describing his arrangement for the deaths of Chuck’s loved ones, and Chuck confidently revealing how he had expertly planned ahead by having Morgan splice together Volkoff’s pass code to unlock the transfer of Hydra, by arranging a distraction that allowed Sarah to free Mary and by coordinating with General Beckman for military backup against Volkoff’s men. The skill with which Chuck outmaneuvered Volkoff shows that, in spite of whatever shortcomings and neurotic tendencies still remain in him, he has grown a great deal as a spy and has become a worthy successor to Orion. The way in which Casey was able to defend himself against Volkoff’s assassin despite being bedridden was a nice touch to that whole sequence, as well. There were also several more examples of character growth, with Casey and Alex reinforcing their father/daughter bond, Casey giving Devon stern but friendly advice to get him back in the delivery room with Ellie, and Morgan continuing to show increased bravery and skill of his own unique sort when on spy missions (getting through the security lasers by doing yoga moves…classic).
I also agree wholeheartedly with Alan Sepinwall, who said in his own review that it was a very wise decision to put the image of Chuck’s long-awaited proposal to Sarah in the background, with the noise from the floor buffer drowning out the dialogue. The framing of that shot, coupled with Chuck wordlessly standing up in front of Sarah before opening the ring box and kneeling, was an absolutely perfect way to contrast all of the complicated twists Chuck and Sarah have faced–and will surely continue to face–over the course of the series with the blessedly simple act of a man asking the woman he loves to be his wife.
There were plenty of opportunities for laughs in this episode, from Morgan neglecting to wear anything but tighty-whities under his wetsuit (Seriously, Morgan?), to Devon freaking out over not being able to find his “push mix” CD when Ellie went into labor (and calling Chuck’s CIA emergency number for transport to the hospital), to Jeff and Lester’s rousing performance of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” in the hospital waiting room (complete with at least one mom-to-be who actually enjoyed it).
In short, “Chuck vs. the Push Mix” was absolutely worth waiting for, and it absolutely lived up to all the buzz that surrounded it. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of Season Four, as well as–God and NBC willing–Season Five! 🙂