By Kate Ward
Updated November 27, 2007 at 06:19 PM EST

It’s the holiday season, and I should therefore be as thankful for a new episode of Chuck as Morgan is for Ellie’s sweet potatoes (with marshmallows, thankyouverymuch), but last night’s show left me feeling cold as mid-January. Call me a Grinch if you must, Chuck lovers, but after promos for this week’s episode promised the return of Bryce—and thus, obvs, a mind-bending show—I expected a lot more than a turkey of an episode that seemed to favor cheap laughs over solid storytelling.

But enough of the Thanksgiving puns and the sour cranberries grapes. In fact, in the spirit of the holidays, I’ll even start out with the things that Chuck got right last night:

1) Boosting Fan Favorites Awesome and Casey fans should be satisfied for the duo’s ample airtime during the show, and what looks like a possible blooming friendship. And I have to hand it to Chuck’s writers for pairing the two—who better to loosen up the NSA agent a little than Ellie’s free-spirited, extreme boyfriend (who, let’s face it, is a bit of a macho doppelganger to Casey). Plus, how could you not love Casey’s response to what he’s thankful for at the dinner table: “Pass.”

2) Introducing a (Kind of) New Character Though RachelBilson’s whimsy was certainly missed after her departure last week,Bryce’s return brought some stirring intensity to the show. Now, I’m notin support of dude’s makeout session with Sarah in Chuck’s bedroom (ourpoor Nerd Herder just can’t catch a break when it comes to this guy),but I can’t help thinking that Bryce would be the perfect addition toour crime-fighting threesome. While the group dynamic between Sarah,Casey and Chuck has yet to go completely dry, it never hurts to shake things up a little bit. Come on, how could you not be digging a guy who’s incredibly good-looking, and also speaks better Klingon thanChuck himself? And though it that top-secret spy mission will force Bryce to leave L.A. for now, here’s hoping he findshis way back soon to play Chuck’s reacquired best bud/romanticfoil.

But the good in last night’s episode comes along with the bad and the ugly:

1) Buy More’s Employees Yes, I know that since Chuck works atthe Buy More, and has befriended all of its employees, it’s essentialthat the newly anointed spy continue to punch in at the big-boxwarehouse. But why not flesh out the characters there?Sure, we may have learned a little more about Anna Wu through herrelationship with Morgan (calling her the jealous type would be a bitof an understatement), but the majority of the workers have remainedcaricatures, well into the season’s tenth episode. Big Mike is abulldog with anger issues. Lester is a wannabe womanizer. And Jeff iscreepy goof with a questionable childhood. (I do have to admit, however,that his admission that his dad used to throw pineapples at him made mechuckle). It’s true these are not Chuck’s headliners, andtherefore we should not expect too much insight into their lives, butwhen other shows have mastered the art of supporting characters (i.e. The Office), it’s hard for me not to expect the same from Chuck. Plus, did we really need that long, drawn-out Buy More escape scene in the episode’s final minutes?

2) The Long-Awaited ExplanationWe all knew that Bryce’s return would finally give us some closure asto why Chuck was sent that encrypted email, but who knew the reasonwould be so simple and unsatisfying? Turns out Bryce wasn’t a rogue spy(as we predicted), but simply an agent who needed to send thegovernment’s secrets to a blank slate after being unknowingly ropedinto an evil mission. In order to avoid being killed by his missionrecruiters, he claimed that he, not Chuck, was the intersect. And hisanswer for how he survived the gunshot wound: “European clinics?” Forsomeone who unexpectedly arrived in L.A. in a shell that put JeffGoldblum’s The Fly pod to shame, Bryce’s run-down of thedetails of his reappearance weren’t nearly as shocking as expected. Now, I’m not expecting Lost here, folks, but after ten weeks ofwaiting for answers, I feel Chuck—and us viewers—were cheated out of anengrossing, thought-provoking explanation. And unless I’mmissing something, I’m hard-pressed to believe thatthere’s anything more to the story.

3) The Cliffhanger So far, Chuckhas been quite adept at creating adequate end-of-episode cliffhangers, but last night’s attemptwas disappointing. I figured we would witness some kind of ashowdown that would keep Bryce from leaving town—or at least a scenethat would make us question the spy’s intentions—but instead the showwrapped with Sarah’s apparent inability to choose whether she wants toabandon her mission for Bryce, or stay with Chuck. Of course, we knowthis teaser isn’t much of a cliffhanger, as Sarah will inevitably pickChuck. I’m not against Chuck’s writers making us sweat a littleabout their on-and-off-again faux relationship, but leave thewill-they-won’t-they suspense for an episode that has less explosiveplotline potential.

So now that I’ve put my two cents in about last night’s episode, I’mready to hear what you have to say. Did you think this was a sub-par showing for Chuck? Were you happy with Bryce’s explanation of his actions? WillSarah choose to go with Bryce or (duh) stay with Chuck? And don’t youthink Ellie, Awesome or Morgan should have caught onto Chuck’s doublelife by now?