You can take the married couple out of the spy game, but you can't take the spy game out of the married couple.
Somewhere amongst all the action comedy and espionage hijinks, Chuck has often trafficked in a bit of existential angst. Chuck was always trying to figure out his place in his own life. When we first met him, he was an unfulfilled nerd who could have gone on to better things than work at a big-box electronics retail chain. From there, he couldn't figure out if he was a spy or not; or if he even wanted to be one. He didn't know where he fit in the grand scheme of things in the intelligence community, in his family, amongst his friends, or anywhere; issues that affected more characters than just him. Morgan has gone through his problems as well, not to mention the ever shifting identities of Sarah Walker and John Casey (not just because of all their undercover assignments).
That seems to be the theme in the early goings in the final season of Chuck. With the end coming soon for the show, it's time for its characters to finally take stock of themselves. The idea gets cranked up to another degree in "Chuck vs. The Business Trip." Inspired by Ellie and Awesome's relationship, as well as the people they meet at a Buy More salesperson retreat, Chuck and Sarah once again start wondering about living an everyday normal life, one where they don't have to look at every new person who wanders into their life with suspicion and dread. It's something that's come up for them before but they're looking at the issue again through new eyes, now that they don't have the backing of the government and are trying to scrape by with very little income. The new status quo of what is now known as Carmichael Industries has been cause for the show to reexamine old hauntings in a new light. Chuck and Sarah have tried to leave the spy life behind before, but now, their obligations and innate sense of duty don't need to hold them back from taking that leap anymore. They're perfectly safe in just walking away.
This knowledge leads Sarah to seek out new companionship, and thinks that Jane, a Buy More employee (played by Catherine Dent) from a different city, could be that female friend she's looking for. Unfortunately for her, Jane is actually The Viper, an elusive contract killer hired by Agent Decker (an agent so cacklingly evil that one wonders why the CIA even keeps him around. Even General Beckman, who states that she's his superior, hates him). Although Beckman is able to get the Intersect out of Morgan's head (very easily, at that, which makes us wonder if maybe it isn't really out of there at all, but Morgan and everyone else thinks it is), Decker still wants Morgan dead, and claims that he can't call off the hit. The Viper, for being so built up as one of the world's leading assassins, is dispatched somewhat easily, and ongoing trend that's kind of taking the piss out of all these supposedly high stakes. Thus far in the series, there hasn't been a whole lot of heart-tensing action that makes us wonder about the fates of these characters. Granted, Chuck has never really been an overly emotional 24-like action thriller where you know no one is safe, but things are getting resolved pretty easily here in the fifth season.
Of course, things are ramping up. When Carmichael Industries hands The Viper over to the CIA, Casey and Sarah agree that that won't be the end of it, so they agree that Casey ought to go and "take care of it." That entails killing The Viper and her agents in the middle of the night, just as they are receiving order from Decker. This is a stunning development, as although we've known who John Casey is (a ruthless killing machine in unfailing service to his country), we never really see him go all out cold-blooded before. He's killed once in a while throughout the series, but usually while making the last minute save. We've never seen him do anything like murder an entire cadre or agents in the street and go pick up wine for a nice dinner at Chuck and Sarah's. It's the greatest reinforcement of Casey's character we've gotten probably all season. For once, we get to see him being the stone-faced badass, instead of hearing about it. What's particularly jarring about it is that this year more than any other, he's basically just been the grumpy teddy-bear to Morgan's nerdy goofball. In fact, in "Business Trip," he doesn't have much to do beyond engaging in Star Wars jokes with Morgan, who's watching all of his favorite movies so that he can regain all of his geeky knowledge (by the way, although the first series of Star Wars movies are rather enjoyable, the prequel trilogy is not very good at all! Ho ho! What incisive and original commentary by Chuck!).
So this is where things start rearing back and getting dark for Chuck. In light of his murderous actions, Casey is arrested by Decker for murder at the end of "Business Trip." What may be more shocking than that is what happens in the Buy More, where a subplot has been running in the last two episodes about Jeff being "fixed" by Devon Awesome (who discovers that Jeff has been sleeping in his van with the engine turned on for decades, and all that exposure to carbon monoxide has turned Jeff into a shambling weirdo we've seen all these years). The new Jeff is hard-working, cogent, precise, and perceptive (he's able to tell just by looking at her that Ellie isn't happy going to work again, and wants to stay home with baby Clara, which leads to Awesome ending his paternity leave early so that he and his wife can step into traditional gender roles). This of course bugs Lester, who just wants his old crazy buddy back, so he tries to sabotage Jeff's progress by running a hose from Jeff's van into the break room at the Buy More. It doesn't work, and Lester actually gets arrested for attempted murder. The Buy More hasn't had much to do with anything else going on in the show, and it seemed like it was only being kept around just because we know that its profits are being funneled into Carmichael Industries. It might have been smarter to cut back on Buy More shenanigans and not feature it every episode for budgetary reasons alone, but also because nothing there brings that much to the table in any episode anymore. This new development promises to make that damn place more important to the overall story of the season, and hopefully having both Casey and Lester hauled off to jail at about the same time leads to some great in-show metacommentary, or in some way leads to justifying the continued existence of the Buy More and its crew, then all the better.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch
As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well. You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
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