10. 3.6 Chuck Versus The Nacho Sampler
Arguably the darkest episode in the series, Chuck faces up the tough reality of what being a spy entails when he is forced to betray his first asset, Manoosh, and turn him over to the government. Granted, it’s either this or certain death, but having been protected from some of the harsher realities of the job by Sarah and Casey for so long, the impact it has on him is telling, with the closing scene showing our titular hero drowning his sorrows in whisky.
Guest Star: Kristin Kreuk
9. 4.19 Chuck Versus The Muuuurder
The central hook alone is enough to ensure this episode reaches cult status. General Beckman puts Chuck in charge of recruiting candidates for the Intersect project, prompting him to pick potential Intersectees based on three all-important categories: their physical capabilities, mental capacity and, ahem, knowledge of popular culture. Funnily enough, it’s the investigation that’s arguably the least interesting part of the episode, as never before has Chuck’s extensive use of trivia been so well integrated.
Guest star: David H Lawrence XVII (The Taskmaster in Heroes)
8. 3.13 Chuck Versus The Other Guy
Let’s face it, you just knew that something wasn’t quite right about Agent Daniel Shaw (played superbly by Brandon Routh); he just seemed way too perfect to be true (he was once even described as “Superman-y” by Chuck. Meta). This was the episode in which he confirmed our suspicions by attempting to murder Sarah. However, it’s Chuck’s show, and the climatic finale in which he seemingly kills Shaw and rescues Sarah remains one of the most dramatic endings to an episode in the show’s history.
Guest Stars: Mark Sheppard (Crowley in Supernatural)
7. 3.10 Chuck Versus The Tic Tac
Casey’s early life had been alluded to previously, but never explicitly shown – until now. Beginning with a flashback to when he was still called Alexander Coburn, the true price he paid to serve his country is revealed. The sheer strength of the performance from Adam Baldwin serves as a reminder of just how lucky the show is to have an actor of his calibre on board, and although the episode ends on a downer, it’s obvious he’ll come back sooner or later. Which he, of course, does.
Guest Star: Robert Patrick (The T-1000 in Terminator 2)
6. 1.10 Chuck Versus The Nemesis
Having apparently been quite conclusively offed in the pilot, the revelation in the previous episode that Chuck’s old buddy Bryce Larkin was, in fact, alive came as a genuine shock. The Lazarus-like resurrection of Sarah’s ex-lover and Chuck’s ex-best friend throws a sizeable spanner in the works, and represents the first of many love triangles to come. Best moment: Chuck and Bryce conversing in code – or Klingon, as it’s commonly known.
Guest Star: No one, for once
5. 2.4 Chuck Versus The Cougars
This episode deconstructs Sarah’s character by focusing on her insecurities and shadowy past in the most appropriate way possible: the high school reunion, with Sarah and Chuck being forced to go undercover as a couple to investigate former bully Heather (Nicole Richie). It’s quintessential Chuck as seen through the prism of teen prom movies of yore, with novel twists on the various high school archetypes. Moreover, it features some of Casey’s best disguises – DJing the prom being a notable highlight.
Guest Star: Tony Todd (the titular Candyman); Ben Savage (Cory from Boy Meets World) and Nicole Richie
4. 4.9 Chuck Versus Phase Three
With Chuck missing in action, Sarah gives new meaning to the phrase ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ by reverting back to her brutal former self in order to track him down. Carving a swathe through Thailand’s criminal underworld and earning the epithet ‘giant blonde she-male’ in the process. We’re so used to seeing Chuck pine for Sarah that it makes a nice surprise to see the dynamic reversed.
Guest Star: Richard Chamberlain (Dr Kildare)
3. 2.21 Chuck Versus The Colonel
Chuck’s secret was never going to stay ‘secret’ forever, and it was fitting – albeit unexpected – that the first of his close-knit family circle to uncover things would be Devon ‘Captain Awesome’ Woodcomb, who lives up to his name by (briefly) holding his own in a fight against Casey. This was the first step towards the two disparate narratives of Chuck finally starting to mesh together; it may not have been clear at the time, but it marked a turning point for the series in terms of creative possibilities.
Guest Stars: Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise); Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep in The Mummy) and Chevy Chase (Community)
2. 2.11 Chuck Versus Santa Claus
Christmas episodes are usually an excuse for festive frivolity, which makes the end of this instalment all the more shocking. After defusing a hostage situation at the Buy More, Sarah guns down a Fulcrum agent in cold blood. Aside from this, it bears all the hallmarks of a Christmas episode – the staff are dressed as elves, and there’s even a hostage situation. Die Hard’s Reginald VelJohnson reprises his role from the film series as Sergeant Al Powell – who also happens to be a cousin of Big Mike.
Guest Stars: Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) and Reginald VelJohnson (Die Hard)
1. 3.18 Chuck Versus The Subway/3.19 Chuck Versus The Ring Part 2
Since this is basically a two-parter (if not in name), it only seems right to judge it as such. It’s a barnstorming double-finale that contains pretty much everything that makes Chuck so watchable: pop culture-infused banter, poignant and emotive dialogue, explosions, the gut-wrenching death of a much-loved character and a frenetic climatic fight scene. The fact that Season Four had to effectively hit the reset button in order to garner new storytelling possibilities is indicative of how well this episode ended the season.
Guest Stars: Peter Jason (John Carpenter regular); Scott Bakula, Brandon Routh
Chuck Seasons 1-5 are available from Warner Home Video.