Last week, I said that the nonsense with Rob Riggle and the sketchiness of how the Intersect wouldn’t totally be a loss if the makeshift part two of that story was effective and satisfying. Well, even though “Chuck Versus Phase Three” didn’t do a few of the things I hoped it would last night, it featured a powerhouse performance from Yvonne Strahovski that made it one of the most purely enjoyable episodes of the series in a very long time.
Ever since Chuck was given the King Fu upgrade, Sarah’s been on the sidelines, if even just a little bit. In season three, she was caught in the middle of the Chuck-Shaw nonsense, but didn’t have much agency on her own right. This season, she’s certainly been more active and like the Sarah we love from seasons one and two, but “Phase Three” is a tour-de-force kind of reminder that she’s not only a gifted physical performer, but a damn good actor as well.
With Chuck captured in Thailand and mostly not existent in the episode — primarily due to Zachary Levi needing to prep for his second go around as director, but it still works story-wise, too — this episode is all Sarah, all the time. Not only does she just want Chuck back because, well, obvious she does, but she also has this little bit of guilt inside because she didn’t really tell him that she loves him no matter what, Intersect or no Intersect. Although that seems like something that would have come up at some point, especially because Chuck is so neurotic and worried about losing her, I can roll with it because Strahovski sells it so hard.
She’s enraged and willing to break any sort of rule to get Chuck back, so much so that Casey is even a little concerned. But when she goes home for a quick nap, Strahovski gets probably her best dramatic moment in series history when she quietly breaks down in the bedroom, smelling Chuck’s shirt and then stumbling across his engagement plan. She discusses the engagement with Morgan, and more or less says all the things she should have been saying to Chuck all along.
Again, while I think she probably should have spouted these things out to Chuck beforehand, it’s nice to see the dedication she has to him. We’re so used to seeing the story from Chuck’s perspective and obviously, Sarah is out of his league on the surface and though they are a totally believable couple, too often the series relies on Chuck giving a big speech and Sarah just smiling, kissing him or saying “Me too” or something. Thus, it’s really great to see that she feels exactly the same as he does, even if she doesn’t know how to show it in the exact same ways. Like I said, probably Strahovski’s best moment ever, or at least right up there with her work in the S3 premiere at the train station.
And apart from those few emotional moments with Morgan, Sarah’s journey is just straight up fun. The fight between her and the face tattoo guy in the Thai bar was well choreographed, well-paced and featured the right amount of cheese-ball female objectification in the slow motion scene where she pours water all over her glistening body. Throw in a number of great moments for Morgan and Casey like Sarah’s confirmation of the former’s identity as “The Magnet” and the latter’s hilarious line about the Thai bar being only for the worst people on earth, only to have a waitress ask him if he wants the usual, and “Phase Three” is a great platform for the other three lead characters while Chuck’s trapped inside of his own mind trying to use the Intersect again.
Speaking of Chuck, I said last week that I hoped Chuck would be able to use his non-Intersect abilities to show Sarah that she was wrong last week, and unfortunately he doesn’t do that here. However, the episode does a nice job of going the other way with it, having Sarah apologize for being wrong and then having the General keep Chuck on board anyway. In that respect, we get more Chuck without the Intersect — which I think is a good thing — and we still avoid any sort of melodrama between Chuck and Sarah. Win-Win, I think.
The nonsense with Awesome and the various Buy More folks was cute in its own goofy way, but enough so that I can really write about it. I am, however, glad that the Rourke 7 didn’t give Awesome or Ellie an Intersect, I might have punched the TV had that happened. This way, they’re still involved in the mythology again, but not so much so that it’s unbelievable or annoying.
Overall, after last week’s misstep, “Phase Three” puts Chuck season four back on track and serves as one of the best episodes of the season, by far.