The Wife:

I’m going to be honest here: I thought the first twenty minutes of this episode were terrible. A hostage taker with no confidence at all is not a threat. There was no sense of danger at all because he was so non-threatening and, therefore, no real drama. I thought to myself: Really, Schwartz and Co.? Really? You know how to tell stories better than this! You know that the threat of death/danger is essential to making the action of Chuck work. That, combined with the sentimental montage of the Buy More hostages calling their loved ones, made me think that this was going to be the worst episode of Chuck ever. (And the worst hostage episode on TV this year, to boot.) But then: enter Michael Rooker as a hostage negotiator who is actually a Fulcrum agent in a nice end-of-act-one twist that really shook this episode up and put it back on its trajectory to being a great addition to the Chuck cannon.

I eat my tongue, Schwartz and Co. I should have never stopped believing in you.

The set-up for the hostage situation went a little something like this: the Buymorians are preparing for Christmas Eve last minute shoppers, with nearly everyone dressed as elves (and Anna as a sexy Mrs. Claus), Big Mike and Emmett are ready to gouge lazy last minute shoppers by marking up prices by 15%. Not wanting to participate, the Buymorians would rather spend their time taking bets on the results of the high speed chase they’re watching on the local news. That is, until that high speed chase crashes through the front of their store and the driver takes everyone in the store, including shoppers Ellie and Awesome, hostage. Family Matters Reginald VelJohnson is the officer on duty in charge of working with the hostage negotiator (Rooker), and he’s also Big Mike’s cousin.

The hostage taker, Ned, is so incompetent and unconfident that he makes Chuck do most of the talking to Rooker on the phone. Eventually, Sarah and Casey sneak in from their secret entrance and get held hostage, too. Ned “accidentally” shoots Casey’s toe off out of “surprise” when he sees the two of them in the back room with Chuck. (Fortunately, Ellie and Awesome were there to patch him up, with Ellie assuming Casey that people survive on 9 toes and Jeff announcing that he’s survived his whole life on only 8.) After said sappy phone call montage, Ned agrees to let two hostages go, choosing the injured Casey and, because of Chuck’s loyalty, Sarah. After the two agents are released, Rooker comes in and speaks with Ned personally. Chuck then flashes on Rooker’s watch, immediately knowing that he’s Fulcrum. Chuck, fearing for the safety of his sister and his friends, tells Ned that he should let all of the other hostages go, keeping only Chuck because he’s the thing Fulcrum wants, after all.

Its okay, John. People have survived on 9 toes for centuries now. Wait, what? Were supposed to have ten?

It's okay, John. People have survived on 9 toes for centuries now. Wait, what? We're supposed to have ten?

Rather than letting the rest of the hostages go, however, Rooker insists that Chuck tell him the location of Bryce Larkin and the Intersect, or else Ned will kill Ellie. Not wanting to lose the only family he has, Chuck tells Rooker that he doesn’t know where Bryce is, but admits that he is the Intersect. Rooker agrees to let Chuck say goodbye to Ellie, but only if he comes quietly with Rooker into Fulcrum custody. As Chuck hugs Ellie goodbye, he tells Captain Awesome that now is the time to rally the remaining hostages and take out the gunman. As Chuck is escorted off the premises and placed in an ambulance with Rooker as Sarah and Casey, realizing that Ned didn’t call his wife during the montage like he said he did, try to track Chuck’s location from inside the Castle. Once they get a lock on Chuck’s location, they are able to intersect the ambulance, allowing Chuck to escape and Sarah to give chase to Rooker through the foggy haze of a Christmas tree farm. Alone with Rooker, Sarah tells Chuck to find Casey and go back to the Castle.

Meanwhile, at the Buy More, Awesome and Big Mike invent a football play in which Lester and Jeff attack Ned with candy canes as a first line of defense. Lester, unfortunately, is no match for Ned and gets taken out quickly, allowing Morgan, hidden in a pile of fake snow, to enact the true diversion: spraying snow all over Ned to blind him temporarily while Awesome and Big Mike (dressed as Santa) body slam the gunman from both sides, effectively taking him out and removing the other hostages from the real threat of danger. Anna, seeing how hurt Lester is, completely misses Morgan’s act of heroism – an act he thought would win her back after he balked at moving in with her. Lester, taking advantage of Anna’s kindness, tries to put the moves on her, unfortunately right in Morgan’s line of sight. Ellie, meanwhile, is relieved to hear that Awesome has decided to cancel his potentially dangerous skydiving trip, not needing any more excitement after playing hero by saving her and the Buymorians.

Back at the Christmas tree yard, Chuck couldn’t bear to leave Sarah, so he hides behind a tree as she corners Rooker. Rooker tells her that he knows Chuck’s secret and that he will willingly go into CIA custody, warning her that he’s not just any other Fulcrum agent. His people will find him and in the process, they will all learn of Chuck’s identity. Still wearing the charm bracelet Chuck gave her as a cover Christmas gift, Sarah decides that she would rather not follow protocol than lose having Chuck in her life. With Chuck looking on from the treeline, she shoots Rooker square in the chest.

Merry Christmas, Rooker. Youll get no vampire lap dance from me. That offer was only valid on Scream Queens.

Merry Christmas, Rooker. You'll get no vampire lap dance from me. That offer was only valid on Scream Queens.

Chuck returns to the Buy More before Sarah does, living with the weight of what he has just seen. When Sarah arrives, she tells Chuck that Rooker has been arrested and that Casey is driving him to a secure location. She assures Chuck that everything will be alright, but Chuck, in the back of his mind, doesn’t believe her. Morgan asks Chuck if he could possibly imagine what it’s like to see someone do something so terrible (like kissing Lester) that it changes the way you look at that person forever. Solemnly, Chuck can only agree with Morgan, still unsure of how to process Sarah killing someone for him.

I think this is a great emotional weight to end the show on before its lengthy 6-week hiatus. For once, the real moral quandaries of his spy vs. spy lifestyle have come into focus for Chuck. Sarah’s actions at the end of this episode hang over him like an albatross. On the one hand, her break in protocol is an assurance that Sarah, somewhere inside her, has very deep feelings for him. But on the other hand, it’s a reminder that his life is constantly threatened and that any minute he could lose the people he loves. Shooting Rooker is also very likely to become a catalyst for a variety of other Fulcrum baddies to pop up, knowing that Agents Casey and Walker are closely guarding the Intersect. From here on out, even with Rooker dead, Chuck just isn’t safe. And neither are his friends and family.

Good work, Schwartz and Co. This episode could have been absolutely perfect with about 5 fewer minutes of the first act, but I’ll forgive that, just for the wounded looks on Zachary Levi’s face at the end of this episode.

The Husband:

What did I say about my opinion on hostage episodes?

Yeah, I still feel that way. They are still desperate attempts at ratings and false drama, so thank God that this episode tried its best to infuse the plot with something involved in its serialized story. I don’t think it succeeded nearly as well as my wife thinks it did, but I will accept the righteousness of the final bits of drama involving Sarah and the issue Chuck has with her license to kill.

Otherwise, it was only mildly fun to spot the references to Die Hard – the hostage situation during Christmas, Reginald VelJohnson, the Twinkies, some of the music choices – and not much else. Casey and Sarah, for the majority of this episode, didn’t act like the badass spies they were, where even if Ned really was involved with Fulcrum and therefore at least somewhat trained they could have easily taken him down, missing toe or not.

And yes, you do know that Ned guy from somewhere. His name is Jed Rees, and he was by far the best and funniest alien (better than Enrico Colantoni, funnier than Rainn Wilson) aboard the Protector in Galaxy Quest. I’ll never forget that chubby face. Maybe y’all should rent that movie again. It’s better than you think it is.

The upcoming 3D episode, airing the day after the Super Bowl, better be fucking amazing, because the show may need a quick recovery to regain all the viewers it may have lost after this week’s episode.