Some of my favorite "Chuck" episodes over the seasons have been "bottle shows," or episodes that are confined to a handful of sets, usually sets the show has on hand, like the Buy More or CIA castle sets. The Season 2 Christmas episode -- where Chuck and the Buy More gang were trapped inside the store with an evil henchman (or two or three) -- remains one of my two or three favorite hours of the show ever, and last season's "Chuck vs. First Class," featuring the beleaguered spy battling evil doers on an airplane and having a meet-cute with Kristin Kreuk was one of the best episodes of last season. Both of these episodes gained a certain amount of excitement from confining their characters to one or two primary locations. Usually, having to keep the budget down will force the show's writers to be more creative, pushing them toward finding ways to confine things on certain sets and use only major cast members. But sometimes, it can lead to an episode that feels weirdly anemic.
"Chuck vs. the Cubic Z" is one of those episodes. There are a few good moments and a few good fights, but it concludes with a moment so stupid that it actually made me ask myself when the show had turned into "Perfect Strangers." Wed that to a Buy More plotline that didn't make a lot of sense and reduced Morgan to an idiot far too often and a spy plot that relied a little too heavily on the acting talents of Nicole Richie, and you have a recipe for an episode that just didn't work. It wasn't terrible -- there are always some laughs in any episode of "Chuck" and it moved the storyline of Chuck looking for his mom just far enough along to not be a total loss -- but the whole thing felt slightly boring and messy. It very much felt like a show in its fourth season, trying to find some way to repeat past glories and yet still find new ways to push the story forward.