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?Chuck? proves that its third season of spy secrets and geeky computer nerds is worth the nail-biting uncertainty and long hiatus
AFTER AN AGONIZING six-month wait, with the months before and after the finale spent in nail-biting suspense about the fate of the show as it was almost cancelled, ?Chuck? is finally back on the air?and how!

(Warning: Spoilers from all three seasons appear in the following paragraphs.)

Viewers watched the cliffhanger last episode of Season 2 not knowing if they were going to see more of Chuck Bartowski, a brainy geek-next-door with zero social skills and a knack for getting into trouble. The ending (we repeat, spoilers follow) depicted a vastly improved?and shell-shocked?Chuck who had somehow managed to learn previously unknown martial arts skills after downloading the Intersect 2.0 into his brain. (?Guys, I know kung fu.?)

Fans of the show, who didn?t know if there was going to be a Season 3 at all because NBC threatened to pull the plug on the show, proceeded to mount elaborate efforts to save the show. Thanks to corporate sponsorships from companies such as Subway, which staged a ?Save Chuck? sandwich-buying campaign, and a couple of unfortunate budget cuts (Julia Ling, who appeared as the feisty Anna Wu, is no longer part of the regular cast, and Tony Hale?s Emmett Milbarge is killed off in ?Chuck vs the Pink Slip?), fans can now look forward to an action-packed third season. Is it worth the six-month wait? Only five episodes are out, but so far, the answer is a resounding ?yes.?

The first season was spent establishing Chuck?s relationship with CIA agent Sarah Walker and NSA?s Major (later Colonel) John Casey, and the second, watching him grow from a well-meaning bumblehead to a somewhat competent CIA agent whose involvement in the Intersect (a computer program that stored the government?s top secrets) was apparently more than what met the eye. The second season drastically increased expectations of the show due to its brisk storyline, elaborate action sequences and increased character development? Chuck?s dad, played by Scott Bakula, came onboard for the last few episodes? but left viewers wondering just how much the lead character would change, thanks to his newfound abilities.

Not much change

There?s actually not much change just yet in the start of the third season of ?Chuck,? as it opens with a moping Chuck dealing with his separation from Sarah. Flashbacks narrate just how close the two had gotten to running away from the exciting, dangerous and ultimately deceptive life of a spy, only to have Chuck back out at the last minute (of course, that?s what the third season is for). The third season is considerably more fast-paced and sleek, with a more serious-looking spy Chuck on board. The first few episodes are slightly predictable and very occasionally annoying (after a while, the bumbling, well-meaning spy act can get old, because he never seems to learn, despite having the awesomer-than-awesome selection of skills at his disposal, thanks to the Intersect 2.0). But then again, things pick up after the fourth episode without falling into the trap of conveniently using the new Intersect to solve all the spy problems that come up.

But it?s still early into the season, and you can?t expect the writers to pull out all the stops in a show that manages to be smart and geeky without alienating viewers who don?t get all the pop culture references they slyly throw in? and there are many. This season, look out for more cameos and guest appearances, particularly from ex-football player/comedy actor Vinnie Jones, who stars as an arms dealer who falls in love with a secret agent, former Superman Brandon Routh and ?Smallville?s? Kristin Kreuk, among others. The show is noticeably more commercial as it tries to attract new viewers who might not have been drawn in by the excellent second season, but so far, it retains its indie-geeky feel. Good?and bad? times are back for television?s favorite geeky spy, indeed.