Chuck has taken a darker tone this season, and "Chuck Versus the Tic Tac" was the best example yet, and it wasn't even about Chuck. Showcasing Casey's enigmatic past and Sarah continuing disillusionment of who Chuck is, the episode took a terrific step towards the impending climax of the arc. What makes the new developments so great is that the show still retains the humor and action we all love. The show doesn't lose much of what made the show good already, and the layers being added only makes it better.
Colonel Casey, formerly known as Alex Coburn, is up to something secretive and not on orders of the CIA. It's directly related to his past. In 1989, Coburn was stationed in Honduras which is probably where he got all those anti-leftist ideas. Sadly, the actor playing Alex didn't really look or sound like Adam Baldwin, so it was kind of weird. Colonel James Keller (Robert Patrick) recruits Coburn to join his black ops team. Coburn agrees, leaving his old life behind and becoming John Casey.
In the present, Morgan spies on Keller meeting with Casey, and assumes it is typical CIA business. Morgan, who already has spy equipment, records everything. That comes in handy later on. Chuck, Sarah, and Casey are sent on a routine Trace Cell mission where they will test the security system of the CIA lockup. It's supposedly the best security system in the world...but it's the Chuck universe. Nothing is secure, no matter how prestigious, deadly, or paranoid the organization.
The team tears through 15 levels of security with ease. In fact, the security is so bad we only get to see them pass the first level. Chuck uses his Intersect 2.0 powers to flip to the other side, dodging numerous projectiles coming from the wall. While Chuck completes the objective of retrieving a note from a lockbox, Casey takes a single pill from another box. Casey takes his time taking the pill, so Chuck sees him doing this, but Casey pulls a gun on him and warns him not to talk.
Back at the Castle, Beckman has bad news for the team: someone got their already and stole the laudanol pill (laudanum derivative?). The pill suppresses all emotional, notably fear. Chuck immediately realizes that it would great benefit him in flashing. Sarah gives him that wary look we know all too well. At the suggestion that it could have been an inside job, Chuck has it all figured out in his mind. It's another test. And considering the previous tests, it wouldn't be a stretch except it would be another stupid CIA idea (though I suppose stupid CIA ideas are the norm). He thinks he was supposed to see Casey taking something, but Beckman dismisses that and starts questioning Casey. Having no answer, Casey is placed in the same holding facility he infiltrated the same day.
Chuck gets to the bottom of this, using Morgan's video and flashes on Keller. He's really a Ring agent. Obviously Casey isn't part of the Ring, so there's something else at work. Sarah and Chuck decide to break in and save Casey, but Keller arrives at the facility at the exact same time. The CIA has made the necessary security fixes already. It's employees, however, aren't as keen. Using the monikers of Charles Carmichael and Sarah Walker, Chuck and Sarah are able to make it to the 15th level just by talking to their fanboy. Casey decides to go along with Keller, confusing Sarah and Chuck who get caught outside by the CIA. Beckman has arrived in person to oversee her delinquent agents. She has Sarah and Chuck find Casey and get to the bottom of everything.
Casey uses the excited Morgan to hide the pill for him, and Chuck picks up on that instantly. He returns back to his apartment where Casey awaits. Sarah comes in, and we get the revelation that explains everything. Before he became John Casey, Coburn had a fiance, Kathleen McHugh. If he doesn't turn over the drug, Keller will kill her. Team Bartowski is back together and ready to kick ass.
They decide to split up and tackle the problem at two fronts. Casey and Sarah will take on Keller, and Chuck will get McHugh to protection. The plan works without a hitch. Casey and Sarah kill Keller and everyone else easily. Chuck takes the pill and flashes, destroying the Ring in the best fight scene of the season. When Sarah and Casey arrive, they find Chuck chocking an agent much like Casey did to Keller. Sarah's worst fears have come true, but the effects wear off, and Chuck stares at his hands, astounded at what he was about to do.
If that isn't dark enough, a young woman rushes into the house. It's Casey's daughter, but he walks away, knowing he is no longer part of their lives. McHugh doesn't even recognize him anymore (and not just because the actors are different!). Beckman discharges Colonel Casey, addressing him as Mr. Casey. This man who has risked his life for his country and saved countless lives lost everything because he cared for someone. At the end of the episode, Casey tells Chuck he has to choose. He can't have it both ways. We'll see exactly how dark the show gets, but Chuck is a fun show. My prediction is that he gets the girl and the job. For now, the show is going down the path until it reaches the light at the end of the tunnel. Sarah goes with Beckman to Washington D.C., the city where Shaw is. In a season of accelerated narrative, the choices are quick and the consequences immediate.
The pill was a superficial way for Sarah expresses her fear of what Chuck has become and worries he isn't that guy who she met three years ago. They look deeply into each other's eyes, and before Chuck can get the words out, Sarah moves on to the pressing matters. I wish Chuck would show a dark side on his own accord and not because of some pill which is temporary. Sarah may have legitimate concerns, but other than lying, Chuck really hasn't done too much to incur her attention.
Morgan, Ellie, and Awesome provide the relief needed to keep the episode into descending into a depressing. Ellie receives an invitation to for a neurology fellowship at USC. Awesome continues to push for Doctors Without Borders, and don't know what to do. They turn to Morgan, who initially thinks Ellie should take the fellowship. Morgan and Awesome talk privately, and they discover that the other knows Chuck's big secret. Awesome is able to convince Morgan that is is safer for them to be completely out of the picture rather than be protected by Chuck. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was wondering if Ellie and Awesome would depart us for a duration. Ellie comes to terms with what Awesome wants, but Awesome, too, has made up his mind. They'll stay for Ellie's fellowship. Awesome made the choice Casey didn't. He picks the girl over safety and peace of mind. Surely there will be repercussions later on.
I don't know if anyone watches the promos, but the next episode looks amazing. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the end of the initial 13-episode order is nearing, and the stakes continue to be raised. Other than the rehashed relationship drama, the season is top notch.
The Buy More and Shaw were missing in the episode. The plot still moved quickly, so the lack of subplots weren't a big deal. The writers can extend an episode easily since the plot doesn't really have to make much sense.
Robert Patrick was way underused. The 5 minutes of screen time couldn't have done him justice.
Since The Ring was trying to get the Laudanol, could we assume that there is another Intersect about there? The writers probably don't think that far ahead about the mythology, but if the pill helped Chuck, it could help another Intersect.