There’s a whole lotta plotting going on in this week’s Chuck. While Morgan evades a number of painful and embarrassing traps laid for him by the staff of the Buy More (who are angry over his promotion to assistant manager), Chuck is fishing for information on Special Agent Shaw, when he finds that Shaw is actually conducting a review on Chuck, and has Sarah in Castle. There, he’s asking her whether she thinks Chuck is a liability, as half the time his reports read like he’s an expert spy and half the time it sounds completely insane. While Chuck is complaining to Casey that he’s not being heard, Casey gets a text message indicating that Shaw wants to see Chuck. At Castle, with Casey and Sarah at the table, Shaw declares that the team is the problem—that they’re coddling Chuck and he’s not given room to evolve. He announces that Chuck will have his first solo mission, undercover in Paris.
In the Buy More, Shaw tells Chuck that he’ll need some spy-training primers for the mission, in case the Intersect doesn’t work just the way it’s supposed to; the first thing he does is hand Chuck a pen that hides tranquilizers, and instructs him to tranq Jeff (“I’ve read everyone’s file; Jeff Barnes will be just fine.”) without being caught. He does so, and then Shaw takes him away, saying that he really just wanted to talk privately to Chuck and that more training wasn’t needed as Chuck has gone on more missions in two years than most spies do in a lifetime. They leave, and Morgan picks up Jeff’s coffee mug. As people have been sabotaging his own with laxative, Morgan sees someone else’s “untainted” coffee as an opportunity and takes a sip, then promptly passes out.
At Castle, Casey and Sarah are helping Chuck go over everything that’s needed in his luggage; Chuck has brought nunchaku, since he doesn’t like guns but sees the need for some kind of weaponry when on a solo mission (and, after all, they’re in the Intersect). Sarah begs him to reconsider the mission, but Shaw interrupts, telling her that he and Beckman agree that Chuck is ready to go. Chuck, excited to see his first-ever first-class ticket, leaves Castle to meet his ride to the airport.
Aboard the plane, Chuck is amazed to see a dining area and bar in first class, before finding his way to his seat next to a beautiful woman (guest-star Kristin Kreuk of “Smallville”), Hannah. The speculate as to the identities of the other first class passengers (with she recognizing Syrian dignitaries and nuclear physicists, but not being able to “make” the Yale fencing team, whom Chuck recognizes) before they launch into more personalized small talk.
At the Buy More, Morgan wakes up to find himself locked inside the claw machine with employees milling around it. When Casey opens the machine and lets Morgan out, and then growls to scare away the employees, Morgan asks him how he commands such respect, to which Casey tells him, “I take it.”
On the plane, Hannah and Chuck have migrated to the bar, where they’re drinking martinis and talking about work (Chuck using his “Charles Carmichael, international businessman” cover); she asks him what he thinks of the muscled man behind them, speculating that he (guest-star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin) is a professional wrestler. Chuck turns and flashes on the man, realizing that he’s an assassin from The Ring, and excuses himself to use the bathroom. Calling Castle, he gets Shaw, who answers, “Chuck! Have you flashed yet?” and reveals that the mission isn’t in Paris, but on the plane. Chuck is to use the tranquilizer pen on the man—named Hugo Panzer—and then steal his baggage claim and sneak to the cargo hold where he can steal an important “crypto-key” (a white, plastic software key) that the man is transferring to The Ring in Paris. After hanging up with Chuck, Sarah tells Shaw that he’s way out of line and that if something goes wrong, they can’t even back Chuck up in a mission like this. Shaw asks her why she went off the grid seven months ago while Chuck was in Prague, producing surveillance photos and asking her, basically, if she’s a double agent or if it was about Chuck.
Sitting down next to Panzer on the plane, Chuck tells him that the woman next to him just won’t stop talking, and can he join. Panzer assents, but quickly regrets it as Chuck himself won’t stop making small talk. Chuck plays at doing the crossword, but when the pen won’t eject the tranquilizer, Panzer tells him that sometimes pens don’t work on airplanes, because of the pressure change. He offers to help Chuck shake the ink down, and ultimately the tranquilizer sprays him in the face. He realizes that it wasn’t ink and starts to throttle Chuck, demanding to know who he is; Chuck, then, keeps clicking the pen and ultimately Panzer gets a mouthful of the drug while he’s trying to talk to Chuck.
In the Buy More breakroom, Casey calls Castle to get a status update on Chuck but is interrupted by Morgan, who asks him for help. Casey tries to opt out, but Morgan invokes the chain of command and describes the lawless employees as insurgents; speaking Casey’s language, Morgan has him on his side.
As Chuck makes his way through the cargo hold, Shaw and Sarah are arguing about whether Shaw is right—both about Chuck’s readiness for the mission and about whether Sarah followed Chuck to Lisbon. Just as she tells him that Chuck isn’t home free yet on the mission, Panzer’s watch reads “blood pressure low” and zaps him with a defibrillating jolt. He wakes up and searches his pockets immediately, discovering that his claim ticket is gone. In the cargo hold, Chuck has finally found the appropriate piece of baggage; it’s a casket. Shaw says that Customs wouldn’t check the body, but that Chuck has to. He opens it and it’s an old man’s corpse, with the key taped to the inside of his hands. Chuck recovers it but Panzer is coming out of the elevator. Before Panzer finds him, though, Chuck hops into the coffin with the corpse and closes the lid. Then he calls Casey for help.
Casey tells Chuck that he’s going to be found, since he picked the single dumbest place to hide; he says that his best bet is to scream like a little girl so that Panzer underestimates him and then take him down once he finds a weapon and flashes. While Panzer pulls a large knife or small sword out of his own bag, Chuck opens the bag for—you guessed it—the Yale fencing team, and flashes on the sword. After some fancy footwork, Chuck has cut loose all of the baggage, which collapses on top of Panzer, knocking him out; he calls into Castle that the mission was a success and grabs some restraints to use on Panzer.
Back at the Buy More, Morgan introduces Casey as his new lieutenant, and tells the assembled employees that anyone who’s scared enough of Casey to abandon their attempts to sabotage Morgan can leave; ultimately everyone except Jeff and Lester does (although Jeff tries, and is held back by Lester). Jeff, speaking for Lester who refuses to talk to Morgan, tells them this isn’t over.
On the plane, Chuck is finishing what sounds like a long monologue about the Eiffel Tower while talking to Hannah; he had told her earlier that he travels regularly to Paris for work as part of his cover. She asks him pointblank whether or not he’s ever actually been there; she tells him that he talks like someone who’s never been there, and that he stands out in first class, where nobody ever wants to do ANYTHING that bad. He confesses to Hannah that he works at the Buy More and has never flown first class, and tells her that he’s going to Paris just to set up a network for a big customer who flew him out. She admits to him that she was just fired from her job, and is going to Paris to empty out her desk, but that meeting him almost makes the trip worth it.
In Lester’s bedroom, Casey uses chloroform to drug him and then duct-tape him into a chair; when Lester wakes up, there’s a hypnotic image on the television in front of him and Casey is speaking in a soothing voice telling him to obey Morgan.
Chuck, still talking with Hannah, takes a sip of the martini at his side and then puts it down, looking at it sourly; he says that he doesn’t remember ordering it; he looks over to see that Panzer has escaped his bonds and is smiling at him from his seat. Chuck goes to the bathroom and calls Sarah, telling her (and Shaw) that he’s been poisoned. While Sarah is trying to get him to throw up, a flight attendant knocks on the door to make sure he’s okay. When he opens it to tell her he’s fine and she should go, she sticks a gun in his face and joins him in the stall. She says that she has the only antidote to the poison he’s just drank and that she’ll only give it to him if he gives her the key. He tells her that he hid it in the cargo hold; when they get there, Panzer is waiting.
Back at Castle, Shaw orders a satellite repositioned over the plane, telling Sarah that Chuck will be fine. Shaw reveals that, using a defense satellite, he’s able to take control of the plane, which Sarah can pilot remotely. He calls Chuck, and after talking to the flight attendant (he knows her as Serena, and tries to first talk her into backing down; he cites a previous, similar poisoning and says that if she gives Chuck the antidote, he’ll let she and Panzer slide this time), he says, “Now,” and Sarah yanks the stick back, knocking over everyone in the cargo hold and jostling the plane; Serena drops everything in her hands and Chuck chases the antidote while Panzer looks for the gun. After taking the antidote, Chuck finds his bag and takes out the nunchaku; he flashes on them and tells Sarah to level out the plane, but in the instant before he can jump into action, the bad guys are both taken out by falling luggage.
Back at Castle, Shaw tells Sarah that he does everything he can to protect his people, after having had a major failure once. He asks her why she was in Lisbon, and she tells him that it was to spread Bryce Larkin’s ashes. Shaw tells her that he believes her.
On the plane, Chuck and Hannah set up a date to see the Eiffel Tower together. Shaw then calls Chuck; he tells him that the Paris office has taken over custody of the Ring operatives and that he’s to stay on the plane for immediate return to Burbank. Chuck hands Hannah his business card, telling her that if she’s ever in Burbank, they’ll hire her at the Buy More. They part ways, and moments later Chuck is back in the air, looking at the Eiffel Tower from the plane.
At the Buy More, Jeff comes into the breakroom to ask Lester what they’re going to do about Morgan, prompting an automated response that Morgan is the most amazing human being he’s ever known.
At Castle, Shaw uses the key to open “a lockbox,” which is the disc-shaped “weapon” Karena had helped the team recover from the Ring in “Chuck Versus the Three Words.” He explains that inside (on a handful of DVDs) are all the intel that an agent he assigned to infiltrate the ring had managed to uncover. Below the intel is an envelope; Shaw takes it to his office and Sarah follows him while Casey starts playing with the DVDs. Inside the envelope is a wedding ring, and Shaw reveals that the spy whose death he takes the blame for was his wife. He tells Sarah that they both made the same mistake, falling in love with spies.
In the Buy More, Chuck is resting behind the Nerd Herd counter, listening to French music, when Morgan and Casey approach him; Casey tells him that Morgan has given him a raise, and Morgan says that everything can change when you go away for a couple of days. Chuck says that he’s pretty sure everything stays pretty much the same, and Morgan asks him what happened on the install. Chuck tells them nothing happened, and they clear out, leaving a void behind them where Chuck sees that Hannah has arrived.
God, I hope she’s not a spy. The episode was touching, her character fun, and I’m a little tired of everyone, everywhere in Chuck’s life turns out to be a bad guy or co-conspiritor.