In his guest review of this episode last night for the A.V. Club, Myles McNutt discussed his frustrations with this season’s general staleness and lack of real stakes. If you’ve been reading my reviews of Chuck this season, you know that I’ve often felt exactly the same but if you take a look at Myles’ review of “Chuck Versus The Cat Squad,” I think he’s maybe projecting some of his dissatisfaction with season as a whole onto this episode.
While I think there are some misfires in the execution of this thinly-veiled Charlie’s Angels homage — most notably the dumb mole plot — I’m perfectly fine with a low-stakes episode of Chuck with a few moderately successful emotional beats intermixed in. Perhaps I’ve already made my way through the acceptance phase and Myles is still hanging on, but I thought “Cat Squad” was fine. I didn’t enjoy it as much as last week’s effort, but there were a number of fun, enjoyable moments within this episode, particularly for Sarah.
Diving into Sarah Walker’s past is an inherently intelligent idea and as I said last week, the wedding now gives the series the excuse to explore those angles and avenues. The season two episode with her father was a great one and even the first episode with Carina, who returns here as part of the CAT Squad, was generally fun. Obviously, because Sarah’s past is so mysterious or at least played for mystery, I as a viewer want to know the answers to those mysteries, but more importantly, I hope the answers tell us something interesting about who Sarah is today. I’m not sure this episode fully reaches that kind of potential, but there is an attempt to do so, which is more than I can say for various other episodes this season.
I think this episode does run into some problems because it tries to mix the Angels homage in with those developments with Sarah, which leads to the unfortunate mole plotline. I was not surprised to learn that Sarah used to be a lot rougher around the edges and it was fun to see those edges sharpen again with the return of her former teammates, but the distrust between the group members feels like a too-obvious approach to take to rationalizing why Sarah doesn’t want to dig into her past. I understand that she’s really resistant to bringing in these people from her past because she’s not that person anymore as she laid out for Ellie in their solid conversation at the end of the episode, but I don’t think the distrust and the mole nonsense totally ties into that moment with Ellie. It feels like the writers really wanted to dive into Sarah’s backstory and then came up with this Charlie’s Angels thing and couldn’t decide which one was more important, which leads to the slight disconnect.
Nevertheless, I still found the episode to have its share of fun moments. As I mentioned last week, I really enjoy it when Sarah takes off Chuck’s training wheels and treats him like the bumbling spy that he actually is, especially when she’s angry and that returned here to my enjoyment. Chuck meddling in Sarah’s past even though she didn’t ask him to is a nice catalyst for a single episode of tension and it paid off well when Sarah chewed him out and cut his safety harness, forcing him to the ground. That was a small moment, but a well-executed and fun one that tied nicely back into the fact that Sarah, despite all the development she’s gone through, still likes to handle things with physical force.
Morgan’s struggles with Carina were completely ridiculous, but moderately fun thanks to some good work by Josh Gomez. I’m not fully invested in the relationship between Morgan and Alex, but the series has been trying to push her into episodes as much as possible so I’m warming up to it. Morgan’s declaration of love was cute alright, my heart is not made of stone.
In the end, “Cat Squad” is a middling, but mostly fun episode of Chuck that suggests better things to come as far as Sarah’s past goes. Perhaps I just don’t care anymore, but I’d still rather have an episode like this than one that tries and fails miserably to build on some mythology point.