Stars: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Joshua Gomez, Vic Sahay, Scott Krinsky, Sarah Lancaster, Ryan McPartlin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Bonita Friedericy
Writers: Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc
Director: Peter Lauer
Network: NBC, airs Monday nights
Original Telecast: January 31, 2011

It’s no surprise to CHUCK fans that “Vs. The Push Mix” would have served as some sort of series finale if the show didn’t get picked up for its back nine episodes for Season Four (and it would have been a good one, at that).

Of course, the show did get its full season pick-up, so now “Vs. The Push Mix” serves as an excellent half season finale – wrapping up tons of subplots and setting the stage for the second part of this season which looks like it might be about, “we need a Big Bad” instead of actually getting one.

Before we jump into next week though, Chuck (Zachary Levi) has some major business to tend to. His girlfriend Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Mom Bartowski (Linda Hamilton) are still undercover in the Alexei Volkoff (Timothy Dalton) organization. Volkoff is a Russian kingpin who is indirectly responsible for Chuck and his sister Ellie’s (Sarah Lancaster) unhappiness because their mom went undercover when they were kids and never returned.

Now it’s time to remedy that. Instead of sitting idly by waiting for Sarah and Mom to take Volkoff down, Chuck and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) concoct a plan to move things along a little quicker – while also using Chuck’s code name Orion to give Volkoff his final comeuppance.

Plot points fly by fast and furious as Ellie goes into labor, Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) has a hard time dealing with her going into labor, Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) decide to ambush Ellie at the hospital with a live performance from Jester (to usher in the birth of her new baby) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) is still in the hospital, but he’s finally connecting with his daughter Alex (Mekenna Melvin) who thought he had died when she was little.

Oh, and then there’s some crazy action on a big battleship Volkoff. Plus, the ending has the biggest surprise of all (which I won’t mention here, since it’s a major spoiler).

“Vs. The Push Mix” is CHUCK at its best. It dances around so many things, yet brings it all home in the end. This first half of Season 4 has been about family. It’s about everyone reconnecting as a family and finding peace with that and writers Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc do an excellent job of locking all those plot strands into place.

Director Peter Lauer also gives this episode a super-feature film quality. He handles the action beats, the quirky humor and the quiet moments with care and precision. Plus, the last shot of the episode is perfect in every way.

While I loved this episode, I still have a couple of beefs. I’ve felt, for the most part, that for a Big Bad, Volkoff really put a lot of trust in Mom Bartowski and welcomed Sarah into his fold way too quickly and easily, knowing that her boyfriend is part of the CIA. He seemed rather inefficient and not so Big Bad throughout the season – even though it was great to see Dalton get to play such a deliciously debonair villain.

Still, this episode alone, Volkoff lets people roam around his ship undetected with little security measures. For a guy that kept his database hidden in someone’s glass eye, he was way too lackadaisical in other areas of his operation. He deserved to be taken down.

Also – why has Casey been sidelined so much this season? There have been so many episodes where he doesn’t get a chance to be a part of the action. Casey is the backbone of the show, and having him laid up in a hospital bed the entire episode, no matter how important those moments are with his daughter, is a bit frustrating. Yes, a necessary evil, but please, get him back into the field.

That said, those are very, very minor issues and now with so many new elements integrated into the show – Casey and his daughter, Ellie and Awesome with a child, Chuck and Sarah finally finding perfection, and Morgan finding his inner superspy – the show has created a bigger ensemble and enough plot roughage to carry it through the remainder of the season.

I’m thrilled NBC continues to see the value in CHUCK, and it being the Monday anchor for so long, let’s hope its creative and ratings stability this season will goose them to give the show a full season pick-up right from the start for Season Five. I’ll eat Subway sandwiches to ensure it yet again, but come on, hasn’t the show earned it – especially after such an amazing, no, make that, awesome episode as “Vs. The Push Mix”?

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