In "Chuck Versus the Family Volkoff," Chuck the series returned to the excellence it was missing for the last half a dozen episodes. Was that due to the return of Timothy Dalton as Alexei Volkoff? Yes.
When you can have almost an entire episode of Chuck without Morgan Grimes, and not realize he's been missing until there is only 10 minutes left in the program, you've done your job of working smoothly around acting budget cuts.
And Dalton was the reason that the lack of the Bearded Wonder wasn't so bothersome. I've always been a fan of the Volkoff character, but as he straddled that line between evil bad guy Alexei Volkoff and 12 step program, sappy father Alexei Volkoff in "Family Volkoff," he was even better.
For the first time in weeks, the Chuck Triple Threat was in full force. Before we take a look at how it played out, grab the UNO so we can play one quick round...Comedy
This is where Timothy Dalton shined once again. He easily made up for the lack of Morgan and the other Buy Morians, as he admitted to cutting the cafeteria line in prison, apologized to the pirate immediately after threatening him with a knife, and commented on how his grandmother always said to wear a coat over your vest or "you'll look like a jerk."
That's not saying that Chuck didn't have his own moment of comic glory. The UNO line was so perfect for the situation, and such a Chuck-esque line, that it had me pausing the DVR to laugh out loud. Only Chuck would ask evil pirates if they had UNO, and only pirates on Chuck would actually have it and be willing to play it for Chuck's life.
The only thing that would have made that sequence better is if they had kept playing more games until the pirate finally won like in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. Best five out of nine?
And although he was not in much of the episode, Morgan did come through while he was around. He Casey doing everything exactly the same may have been creepy for Chuck, but I'm sure everyone watching got a good laugh out of it. Casey can hate on Morgan all he wants, but these two dudes go together well.
Not much on this front, but enough to get by. We had all of the pirates pointing their guns at Chuck before the rousing game of UNO went down. Volkoff went back to his old self for a second in threatening Elias with that knife, but then reverted back to the Volkoff in therapy as he kissed him on the cheek. Exciting and funny!
And I certainly was nervous about what was going to happen when Volkoff had to take down the computer in chess! Thank God Chuck's ridiculous pep talk allowed for Volkoff to win or those two would have been toast. And then there were all of the twists that went down at the end. First Volkoff thinks his daughter and him had the whole thing wrapped up, and he so blatantly claimed "this is what we call the twist," but then it was Vivian that got the last laugh as she stole the final piece to the weapon and left her dad and Team Bartowski there to die.
Although everyone saw this Vivian turning bad thing from a mile away, it still doesn't make much sense. I really can't see the character that we met earlier in this season becoming such an evil person. And we haven't seen her grow enough since then to warrant such a change in character.
Albeit a lot of stuff in Chuck doesn't always make sense, but when you are able to predict the nonsense that will occur, there may be a problem.
There was lot of good stuff in "Family Volkoff" that dealt with Family Casey. The Colonel and Alex are really making some progress in their father-daughter relationship, and it continues to be enjoyable to watch Casey be a good father. He was able to do so thanks to Sarah and her talk about how difficult her parents made things on her, but at the end of the day, Casey and Alex MAY have decided to tell her mom the truth. That could make things tricky moving forward.
Sarah giving Chuck a prenup was the story that undercut the entire episode, and I enjoyed it. What's great about Chuck is that they can take the most obvious TV plots - like a prenup - and put their own very different spin on it. Spies aren't going to use prenups in the same way as normal people, and Chuck did respond to it in the way that any other tv character would have. In the end, his new, utterly romantic fake prenup was a great way to end the episode.
The Ellie-Awesome-Mary storyline was pleasant enough, but only lends itself to interesting things in the future. Ellie continuing to look on the Orion computer and come up with a little more each time isn't very exciting. If Chuck had told her the truth when he said he was going to, that would have kicked things into gear. Him allowing her to lie to his face, and keep this story building slowly? Kind of boring.
I'm as interested in the Agent X stuff, and Ellie getting involved, as much as the next guy, but let's get to it already. I'm getting antsy.
So overall, I really enjoyed the return of Chuck. What did you think of "Chuck Versus the Family Volkoff?"
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.