'Chuck' Season Premiere, Episodes 3.01 & 3.02 Recap

Title: "Chuck Versus the Pink Slip" / "Chuck Versus the Three Words"

Story: The last time we saw Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), he kicked the crap out of a roomful of trained spies to the tune of an "Matrix" reference. Season three returns six months after that series-changing moment with... nothing new. Chuck is supposedly able to access the Intercept 2.0 at will now, but he's having some trouble with it when the story opens. He's also still hung up on his handler, agent Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). The two-episode season premiere deals mostly with ironing out the previous season's plot threads. Hopefully paving the way for the shift in tone promised by Chuck's new abilities. Spoilers ahead.

The Big Bartowski: Chuck's fallen on hard times when episode 3.1 kicks off, and the writers paint that picture with an entertainingly fitting pop culture reference. Simply, Chuck has become The Dude, of "The Big Lebowski" fame, right down to the slippers, yellow bathrobe and Bob Dylan's "The Man in Me." He even sports a big, bushy beard. No pot or white Russians though. This is TV after all.

Out With A Bang: The first episode starts big and it goes out big. Captured by an assasssin with a grudge, Chuck taps into some more of that sweet kung-fu and breaks himself and Sarah out. More please.

Bye Bye, Emmett: In episode one we bid farewell to the wicked Buy More manage Emmett Milbarge (Tony Hale). The "Arrested Development" veteran goes out in style at least. He should've known better than to get nasty with the bald, black-clad man in the back alley at night. Wouldn't you know it, baldy is actually an assassin. Bye bye, Emmett. It's nice to have Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) back.

A Long Road: Two things are made very clear by the end of season three's opening salvo. One, Chuck's got some training to do. Two, the Chuck/Sarah tension is holding steady. It makes sense that Bartowski's Intercept access isn't just going to "work," but it's hard not to feel a little disappointed at the lack of momentum built in these first two episodes. Hopefully tomorrow's new one will get things rolling a little better.