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'Chuck Versus The Honeymooners' recap: 'I vow to quit the spy life'

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Chuck returned last night with an hour that felt like a reward for both its fans and its two main characters. After three weeks away, the series showed us what’s been going on while Chuck and Sarah have been in a European train sleeping-car (well, some of it could only be implied, but you put Yvonne Strahovski in a negligee, and you pretty much know what’s going on). Turns out that between the sheets and endless room-service orders, they were making vows to “quit the spy life.”

The hour turned on the most familiar romantic-comedy device — each lover agrees to do something he or she mistakenly thinks the other wants –but there was so much else going on in “Chuck Versus The Honeymooners” that the cliche didn’t feel cliched.

Fans know that Chuck doesn’t operate with the biggest budget in prime time, and so we were charmed by the mileage “Honeymooners” got out of that little stateroom barely big enough for Chuck and Sarah’s bed. The plot that made it difficult for C. and S. to give up the spy life (they believe they’ve come upon a Basque terrorist trio on the train) also allowed for some nicely choreographed close-quarters martial-arts fighting, some of it while C. and S. were handcuffed to each other.

I foolishly thought there was no way the series was going to pull off setting an episode overseas and still circle around to the Buy More for anything more than a quick scene. Yet back here in America, we had a furtherance of the Ellie and Devon subplot (they had a farewell party before shoving off to Africa), with a Jeffster Unplugged moment. And the Casey and Morgan spy pairing, especially by the time they were dispatched to Europe, has become a comedy team that makes me suspect Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak watch old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby movies for fun and inspiration.

If the conclusion was inevitable (“We could have a shot at having it all [and] not quit the spy life”), I still think that despite the General’s “It’s about damn time,” our lovebirds are going to have a difficult time evolving into a Pitt-Jolie Mr. and Mrs. Smith relationship. Which only makes the rest of the season more intriguing to see play out.

Final observations:

• Chuck is a “hardcore DC Comics guy,” says Morgan, but I doubt even a super-spy could score the latest issue of Justice League the week it comes out… in Europe

• Ending with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” (“It’s a new life for me… “) was a whole lot more imaginative than most TV-show pop-song choices — going for soulfulness over an ’80s-nostalgia laugh is always a good idea

• Chuck, in midst of final fight: “I can’t hit a girl.” Really, Chuck? Really? After all these weeks as a full-fledged operative?

What did you think of the episode, and the return of Chuck in general?

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