With our favorite prime time shows on hiatus, TV Fanatic is taking a look back at some buzzed-about programs and grading their performance this fall, with a look toward 2011.
Previously this week, we analyzed the final season of Smallville. Up now: Chuck.
Best Episode: This was a toss up. "Chuck Versus The Couch Lock" could win the title solely on the fact that it featured Jeff and Lester in a relevant attachment to the A plot for a very welcome change. But call us suckers for lady kickboxers, because we're giving the honor to "Chuck Versus Phase Three."
It had almost everything you could ask for: action, emotion, Inception-esque mindwiping procedures, and even Awesome taking one for Team Ellie by treating the disturbing ailments of many a Buy Moron in exchange for tech support. Most memorably, though, it made us think twice about ever asking to be Sarah Walker's boyfriend.
Worst Episode: "Chuck Versus The Cubic-Z" let us down for a number of reasons: it relegated General Beckman back to being a floating head on a flatscreen monitor, restricted Morgan to a Buy More B plot, and had the most ridiculous display of Buy Moron behavior since the Season Two cage match. Not even Stone Cold Steve Austin could wrestle any fun out this episode.Best Character: Morgan Grimes. Since learning of Chuck's affiliation with the CIA last season, Morgan has developed a new maturity and, given his lack of any real skill, has shown himself to have more chutzpah than Chuck, Sarah and Casey combined. Whether offering relationship advice to Chuck and Sarah, serving as Robin to Casey's Batman, or voluntarily electrocuting himself to save their skins, Morgan is proving to be far more hero than sidekick.
Worst Character: GRETA. What exactly is the point of this character again, besides an excuse to stunt cast recognizable faces in what essentially amounts to glorified cameos? The only GRETA with even a hint of a subplot to date was the shimmering Summer Glau, and yet even that went over like a Jeffster concert at a seniors center.
Best Performance: Don't ever try to separate a spy from her man. Yvonne Strahovski delivered not only the best performance of the season, but quite likely the entire series in "Chuck Versus Phase Three." As she took Sarah from determined rage while storming through Southeast Asia on a mission to find Chuck to agonizing desperation during an impassioned plea for him to come out of his near-lobotomized state, Strahovski stole our collective breaths and we still haven't quite settled back into a respirating rhythm.
Character With Most Ambiguous Agenda Since Irina Derevko: We aren't sure if Mama Bartowski is supposed to be some sort of farcical homage to Sydney Bristow's dubious maternal progenitor, but the similarities are eerie. With intentions so vague, it's nearly impossible to label her friend or foe, we don't know whether to root for her or call for her head. Either way, we're still geeking out every second Linda Hamilton is onscreen. Now, about those one-armed pull-ups we asked for...
Best Use of a Bond: Who knew Timothy Dalton had a funny bone? Arguably one of the worst of the Bond men, Dalton stole the show as the cowering Gregory Tuttle, but then completely turned the tables when he was revealed to be Alexei Volkoff. We gotta admit: we didn't see that one coming. Genius.
Hopes for 2011: Where to begin? We're hoping the first half of the season was just a mildly rocky road leading to more stellar second half. With the bulk of the Chuck/Sarah relationship angst presumably behind us, we expect Chuck to step up his spy game and Morgan to find a use for his bullets; we hope for Ellie to find a spot on board Team Bartowski and that the GRETA program goes the way of the Ring; and we look for more badass buttkicking from Sarah and Casey.
Overall grade: B.
Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.