Can we just ignore the whole prenup bit and talk about the rest of the episode? There hasn’t been a good “Charah” plot since “Aisle of Terror,” and there’s really not much that can be said about Chuck and Sarah’s relationship that hasn’t already been said, so I’d appreciate if the writers could move on and stop writing fluff. It’s a shame, because if I were in a bad mood, I would have said that the prenup plot and the associated “cool/not cool” shtick brought this episode down several notches. But it just so happens that I’m in a good mood, perhaps because Chuck has been off the air for a few weeks, so I’m going to say that this was a pretty terrific episode.

I’ll concede that to think highly of this episode, one would have to accept a pretty ludicrous premise: the CIA is dumb as shit. (That’s par for the course in the Chuck-verse, I guess.) So, they hadn’t been adequately surveilling Vivian, but they wanted to put a kill order out on her? That sounds smart. (Not.) And doesn’t there exist some sort of happy medium between a kill order and a friendly meet, like say, arresting her? I think I’d be more receptive to all of this if the show were trying to demonstrate that espionage bureaucracy is so far removed from field work that it cannot be trusted to make wise decisions, and last season’s “American Hero” and “Subway” hinted heavily at that. This season has suffered by putting Beckman back on the screen and moving away from the idea that she’s just a cog in the machine. It would be nice to be reminded more often that her orders are coming from the top.

In all fairness, this episode did have one such reminder, but it didn’t pertain to the handling of Vivian’s situation. Beckman’s superiors wanted Ellie to continue investigating Orion’s computer. I’ve been frustrated with the handling of this plot line up until now, as it seemed pointless to have Ellie and Chuck just lying to each other about everything. But adding the urgency of the CIA’s involvement, as well as a third layer of complication to the mix with Mary, was a stroke of genius. Wheels within wheels, lies within lies – if done properly, this is the stuff good drama is made of. Chuck realizing that his sister had lied to him was a poignant moment for the audience, knowing that Ellie had taken care of Chuck since their parents had left.

Now, if you’ll excuse me for jumping around, let’s go back to the spy plot of this episode. I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised with how it all unfolded. Kudos to the writers for not taking the easy way out by having Alexei Volkoff escape to make an evil daddy/daughter pair. Kudos to the writers for crafting a villain who has clear motivations (revenge and power). And kudos to Lauren Cohan for loosening up and diving into the role of that villain with aplomb. Moreover, unlike her father, Vivian has a clear goal in mind – find out who Agent X is and eliminate “him” (or her or it or whatever else Agent X might be).

I’m kind of busy today and I wrote this review just out of habit, so I think I’m going to leave it at that for now, but not before mentioning that I loved Alex and Casey’s mini-plot (and how it tied back into Sarah’s issues), as well as Ellie and Devon’s spy codenames (“Hot Mama” and “Six-Pack”). All in all, “Family Volkoff” was a very good episode that finally put some oomph in what has often been a directionless season. Hey, Chuck, don’t drop the ball next week, alright? Thanks.

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