Monday, March 02, 2009

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Beefcake": Goofus vs. Gallant

Spoilers for tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I ask someone to plunge a needle in my eyeball...
"Great. Most annoying romance of my life is over." -Casey

"When Chuck is around Sarah, he has the potential to do anything." -Morgan
I am not a 'shipper. My enjoyment of a TV show rarely depends on whether a potential I like gets together, or stays together. I can be happy if the moment of coupling is done artfully (*) or annoyed if the rationale for keeping them apart feels artificial (**), but the actual answer to Will They Or Won't They? doesn't matter to me in and of itself.

(*) See Jim finally asking Pam on a date -- and Pam's reaction to that -- at the end of "The Office" season three.

(**) See Ed and Carol on "Ed," where I didn't even care about them as a duo but got sick of the show becoming so much about reasons why they couldn't be together.


I say this all as preamble so that when I have some negative things to say about "Chuck vs. the Beefcake" and the way the show is starting to run in place on the Chuck/Sarah relationship, it'll be clear that I'm not some outraged 'shipper whose ire won't subside until those bastards Schwartz and Fedak finally put those two destined lovebirds together.

It's clear by now that Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski have all kinds of chemistry together, that Morgan is right about what Sarah's love for him does for Chuck's confidence, and that Chuck and Sarah would each love to be with the other if circumstances were different. And I think that episodes like "Chuck vs. the Break-Up" and "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" have done a very good job of showing very convincing practical and emotional reasons why they aren't together now, and why maybe they should never be.

With all that in mind, an episode like "Chuck vs. the Beefcake" feels a little unnecessary -- entertaining, but unnecessary. Having just done another "Chuck and Sarah lament what can never be" episode with "Chuck vs. the Suburbs" (which was supposed to air last week), I'm okay with leaving the subject alone until the writers are ready to do something new with it. And good as guest star Jonathan Cake was as swaggering Cole Barker, the dynamic between him, Sarah and Chuck wasn't new -- it was Bryce Larkin with an accent and a five o'clock shadow.

Maybe Sarah and Chuck moving in together -- Into her apartment? Into Chuck's bedroom at Ellie's? Into a new place? With Morgan? Without Morgan? -- will, in fact, lead them to a different place, but if not, I, like Casey, could really use a break from this fake-but-not-quite romance for a while.

Again, on a micro level, the beefcake story had a lot of good things in it, particularly Cole doing the archetypal Chow Yun Fat two-handed shoot-out with the helicopter (a higher production value than we usually see on "Chuck"), and the running gag about Chuck's pain tolerance for torture. Though "Chuck vs. the Best Friend" was supposed to air a few weeks ago, the two episodes worked well back-to-back in that we saw Chuck humiliate Morgan to save his life last week, and tonight we saw Cole and Sarah do the same to Chuck.

But there were also some plausibility problems in the way Alexis the master torturer didn't start right in on the blatant squealing wimp instead of the trained and hardened Cole, and in the way that Sarah and Casey basically shrugged off Chuck letting his wounded pride get in the way of orders not to hack the Fulcrum chip. One of the best parts of "Chuck vs. Santa Claus" was the reminder that the stakes of spy world are much higher than Chuck often wants to accept -- that, while this show is mostly a comedy, it's not content to just be about gags and '80s references, but to occasionally go darker and deeper -- and I would have loved a scene where one of Chuck's handlers read him the riot act about what he did. If anything, the final scene would have been much more interesting if Sarah be the one to (justifiably) yell at him, right before she announced that they had to move in together and pretend to take their relationship to the next level.

Some other thoughts:

• It also would have been very interesting if Casey had been the one to yell at Chuck. This was, oddly, a stronger Casey episode than it was a Chuck or Sarah episode, in the ways it showed what a pain in the ass it is for this trained professional to have to constantly account for Chuck and Sarah's puppy love, but also that Casey is begrudgingly a member of Team Chuck and would rather see the geek get the girl than some outsider from another country. Some nice, nuanced work from Adam Baldwin, and also some broader, sillier stuff like his impressed reaction to seeing the naked beefcake.

• Levi had his own assortment of hilarious reaction shots, from his horror at Morgan's description of Big Mike's bedroom sounds (Vik Sahay had a similarly funny one when Lester had to listen to Big Mike discuss the laying of pipe) to Chuck squirming as he watched Sarah slice and dice the banana. A cheap joke, but an effective one.

• Morgan naked sojourn at Ellie and Awesome's place didn't really work, and not just because it reminded me of "Austin Powers." But if Chuck does wind up living with both Morgan and Sarah because he promised the little guy first, I think that has some promise. We've seen a lot of Ellie being annoyed by Morgan over the years, and very little of Sarah having to make nice with Chuck's weird best friend.

• Our other comic relief subplot had little to do with anything, nor did it rise to the heights of last week's Jeffster! jam, but it was still painfully funny to watch Jeff and Lester try to use the casting couch, including Jeff's own "Basic Instinct" moment and Lester's '70s sportscoat. And it allowed NBC to promote the episode as featuring the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, and hopefully that'll tick up the demo ratings by a few percentage points.

• Cole telling Sarah "Come with me if you want to live" was a reference that probably seemed better in theory than it was in execution. For one thing, he makes the offer after he's already saved the day, and for another, it works much better if it's coming out of Chuck's mouth, as something a geek thinks he should say in that situation. I doubt Cole has ever actually seen "Terminator" (or, if he has, has given it more than a pico-second's thought in the years since).

• I see that Chuck has updated Sarah's caller ID photo on his iPhone, which means we no longer get a glimpse of the Wienerlicious uniform in any form. Clearly, this is just Schwartz sticking it to me.

• Strahovski had a really nice moment showing Sarah swooning as she looked through Cole's file and saw what a bad-ass he is.

• Pop culture question: when you hear "beefcake," does your mind go to Cartman from "South Park," or to Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake? And do you think the episode was titled before or after they cast a guy named Cake? (I have to admit to referring to him as "the beefy Cake" in my review of his ABC gladiator miniseries "Empire"; if that's his real name, it's very apt.)

• Chuck injuring himself trying to break down the door was a good gag, though I preferred the "Burn Notice" take on it a few weeks ago, since they showed Bruce Campbell injuring himself repeatedly while failing to break down a door.

Finally, the gang from "Chuck" appeared at WonderCon yesterday, and Kimra from BuzzSugar, who moderated the panel, has a recap. At one point, Schwartz asked the crowd if they'd be ready to mobilize and harass NBC into giving the show a third season, which begs the question: if the "Jericho" fans sent peanuts, and the "Moonlight" fans donated blood, and the "Roswell" fans sent Tobasco bottles, what symbolic gesture should "Chuck" fans make?

What did everybody else think?

81 comments:

J said...

Can I get a wall-sized version of that photo for my, um, study? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Chuck fans would send Weiners, obviously.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with you, Alan. After some really good episodes dealing with Chuck and Sarah it now seems like they'll just be going through the motions and rehashing old storylines (introducing Cole reminds me of the Italian they brought in to date Rachel in Friends. My god let's hope that's not how Chuck is going to develop as a show).

The first thing I thought during the torture sequence was, why wouldn't they torture Chuck, first? That was so painfully obvious. But there were some great jokes and lines (mostly Casey) and I hadn't thought of Morgan moving in with Chuck and Sarah, but that would be awesome. Sarah always seems more her real self when she has to spend time with Chuck's family and friends, and I wish they'd do more of it.

Anonymous said...

I would be willing to send NBC something if they decided to cancel Chuck. It is quickly supplanting Lost as the hour I most look forward to each week. Even episodes like tonight which weren't a home run plot wise we still get to see Sarah in her underwear.

If Heroes hadn't devolved so much Chuck would be in a much stronger position.

I will be interested to see the ratings tomorrow with Chuck against a "new" HIMYM that has been leaked on the Internets for weeks and two hours of Day.

Anonymous said...

I am with you on the rehashing old storylines, they need to address the relationship head-on and move forward. However, if they "table" it, I can't see how that would make the show better. They have too much chemistry and character's have too much love for each other to just have them not be together - they have taken it too far now. Like Pam and Jim, if they don't get together soon, then it would just be torture to watch them not be together. I know watching Chuck/Jill was not fun, and Cole is just a bit too cheesy. People complain a bit about Pam and Jim on the Office getting boring, but I have confidence that the writers on that show will come up with ways to be funny. I mean, is there no tension in a couple? Can couples not be funny? Be dramatic? It only seems that the possibilities would increase for story, not decrease.

Alan Sepinwall said...

By "table it," I simply mean that they can do a bunch of episodes in a row where the sexual tension between Chuck and Sarah isn't the driving force, or maybe even an element at all.

The Office was able to do episodes where Jim's crush on Pam (or vice versa) was a non-factor, or at least a minor one. Now, they're technically not the leads of that show in the way that Chuck is, but it could be done.

And I also agree that coupling does not equal creative death, as The Office has so cleverly shown.

Dio said...

Great review as always. I agree to pretty much everything.

I too was thinking that they would torture Chuck first, obvious choice eh! This is my own personal negative thing from this show. The villains aren't good villains when you don't know them or act stupidly or can only look tough etc. Next season, if there is one, I hope they bring a recurring character that's a villain.

For the romance, I stopped being really moved at the Break Up episode. For me it would be more exciting if they went against the odds. From their own rules, they would be in more danger if they were to be together for real, well, I'm all for more danger and less repression of feelings!

ps: If people start sending food to save a show, I hope they will make the same donation at a food bank or that NBC give those wieners. You get my point, no need to waste food eh.

Christy said...

Mostly this episode told me I haven't bought into Chuck, the show. I would so much rather watch a Cole/Sarah show than than this. Officially, I do not buy Sarah/Chuck.

Pamela Jaye said...

And it allowed NBC to promote the episode as featuring the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models,

oh, did that happen? Gee, like the people on Marshall's "read a magazine" I didn't notice.
I really do like TV better without promos (I'm not sure what I'm going to do when they start promoing eps with Scott. I watched CBS over the summer of 96 for Scott promos alone (and on behalf of my ongoing grudge against Les, let me plus his episode of the Practice, rerunning on FX sometime in the next two weeks))

A fellow (gal?) Bakula fan in the UK said today that she is now caught up on Chuck (never watched it, heard Scott was going to be on, watched *all* of it). I think this might be a positive. I don't think a lot of us did that when he was on the New Adventures of Old Christine.

I'm not sure who else is playing Chuck catchup butI'm thrilled whenever I hear it.

Sarah, Morgan & Chuck seems a little too... slapstick? wacky neighbors? old sitcom cliche? for me.
Of course I'll watch it anyway.

Maxton said...

I enjoyed the episode, although a little low on the funny, good action though.

As for these obstacles in Chuck/Sarah's relationship, I understand the big one being she wouldn't be able to protect him. I don't get this? She can't protect him because she cares too much? Like in the episode where she can't take the shot because Chuck is too close? Well if she couldn't do it then, she probably still can't do it. Just because they aren't in a physical relationship doesn't mean the feelings that make her act that way disappear. Just seems like a made up obstacle.

Love the show though! Not quite as good as vs. Best Friend, but good.

Rae said...

Definitely agree about the Chuck/Sarah stuff and I actually like them as a couple. I was really hoping they'd back off that angle after Chuck vs The Suburbs. I don't know why since I also hoped they'd back off after Chuck vs The Break Up and it didn't take them long to get back on the same track again.

Obviously Sarah's not going anywhere and we know they have feelings for each other but I think we've seen enough proof that they can't act on their feelings at this point that they should just let it fall to the wayside for a bit. Maybe with just a hint of the struggle they both feel at times to put their feelings aside. Then when the moment comes that they can't deny their feelings, it'd be a lot easier to buy.

That said, having Casey voice our concerns gives me hope that they do get it and will back off the Chuck/Sarah stuff for a little while.

J said...

ps: If people start sending food to save a show, I hope they will make the same donation at a food bank or that NBC give those wieners. You get my point, no need to waste food eh.

Good point. I propose we all send NBC whole, roasted turkeys that they can toss in their dumpsters.

Michael said...

I wonder if the 'ship stuff tonight felt so tired because of the lack of continuity from it not being aired after the "chuck v. suburbs". I had forgotten they had broken up as a couple (at least closer in time to when this was) so when Sarah was discussing their "fake" relationship it all seemed forced to me. If this was done chronologically it may have felt more organic.

I hope they settle this living situation quickly and don't spend an episode with Morgan and Chuck fighting before they have a heart to heart and come to a suitable arrangement.

I don't know how unrealistic it is that Sarah would keep falling for the same types. She doesn't really have an opportunity to meet other men and most of the new ones will probably be in her line of work. Meanwhile, of course the alliteratively named British bearded beefcake Bryce (or agent Cole if were being boring) would show interest, who could see what's in the top picture an not.

I vote chuck fans locate and burn a copy of Jeffster's version of Africa onto a disc and send it in to the NBC execs should we be forced to take action, or would that be too on the nose?

Chris Littmann said...

Fun fact: Cole the slick super agent got his name from Cole Hamels, the Phillies pitcher, according to what I was told earlier this season. Didn't fall into the obscure category they'd dealt with in the past, but oh well.

Pamela Jaye said...

Finally, the gang from "Chuck" appeared at WonderCon yesterday, and Kimra from BuzzSugar, who moderated the panel, has a recap. At one point, Schwartz asked the crowd if they'd be ready to mobilize and harass NBC into giving the show a third season,

I read (this part at least - i'm serious about the spoiler avoidance. I'm doing better on Chuck, worse on Grey's and fantastic on Brothers & Sisters (in which case I've been known to flee the room to avoid spoilers)) as well, and wondered:
How would we know?
Are Chuck fans centralized?
I'm guessing we won't be sending chuck, as that would rot and smell...

I hope they promo Scott's appearance to the hilt
1. Scott never gets any promotion, and we'd all die of the shock
2. Everyone keeps saying how much they loved Scott in Quantum Leap. After all the negativity over Enterprise, it's really nice to hear, and if it can help Chuck at all, that would be.. well... awesome

Anthony Foglia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Foglia said...

One plot hole stuck out at me: How did the Fulcrum torturer know the Intersect was on the chip? Even assuming Andy Richter's cell had time to notify Fulcrum before they died, they didn't know Chuck was the Intersect. They only realized he could withstand the data dump.

Or was their plan to just test every agent who smuggled in and assume the first that survived must have the Intersect? If so, no wonder they don't realize something's going on at the Buy More.

It was an average episode. You're right that Cole's similar to Bryce, but he was so forceful in his moves, that I could stand it for an episode.

DNR said...

I'm also tired of the Chuck/Sarah dynamics. Letting it go on in the background for a little while would be a good idea. Or at least find some new note to hit.

I do think there would be some promise if Fulcrum actually does find out Chuck was the intersect. Of course, they'd have to jettison either most of the premise or Fulcrum, but what the hell, it's just a name. Have a few episodes of Chuck in extreme peril, and then come up with a new evil spy organization next week.

And between this and How I Met Your Mother, I'm about full of 80's references for a while. I had to live through the decade, do I have to be subjected to its most overfamiliar cheese a quarter century later? I'm looking forward to the silence of the grave before we get Bratz nostalgia.
_____
2. Everyone keeps saying how much they loved Scott in Quantum Leap.

Really? I thought the show stunk on ice and Bakula's a block of wood. It depresses me that more people know Dean Stockwell from that than Blue Velvet (actually that's something that I wouldn't mind getting riffed on now and again.)

Mark B said...

if the "Jericho" fans sent peanuts, and the "Moonlight" fans donated blood, and the "Roswell" fans sent Tobasco bottles, what symbolic gesture should "Chuck" fans make?

CBS responded to the peanuts and brought Jericho back. The ratings were abysmal. Yes, the audience was loyal, but it was tiny.

Networks aren't going to be so eager to rely on food or other objects as an indicator of fan interest again for a while.

Grace said...

Chuck fan would send.....wieners? But, that is so last year....Hmm, tough question...

Anonymous said...

ok. so i watch chuck because i love the creativity and characters--"Jeffster", saving the world by getting to kill screens and various other plot lines. what irks me is that with all these "new" ways to have a spy show, they haven't come up with something "new" to do with the romance--rather than playing keep away. i'm tired of watching chuck get his heart kicked around by sarah--which has pretty much all that's been happening since "C V Santa Claus". i get it already. do something new, stop breaking the boy's heart. i don't care if he's with sarah, i just want to see a happy-goofy chuck in an episode again--i need some balance. i get the peril of the situation, and that his parents are gone and that his life is constantly in danger, but they're annoying me with all his brooding chuck.

Jane said...

If you're looking for something to send to NBC, I like the idea (previously suggested over at sidereel.com, to send NBC a picture of yourself in their "Make a Nerd Herd Badge" format. I actually think that a very large collection of Nerd Herd badges (i.e., as many as possible collected into collages) might be very impressive.

Grace said...

Wow, Bryce didn't make Chuck look as bad when standing side-by-side. But Cole? A totally new league. He was bad-ass, charming, and knows that Sarah needs a break from worrying about someone else besides herself for once. It makes me feel bad for Sarah.

And Chuck? Can he mature a bit?

Dio said...

"Chuck fan would send.....wieners? But, that is so last year....Hmm, tough question..."

Indeed. You make 2 statements in one.
A) Bring back the Wienerlicious
B) Don't cancel Chuck!

BigTed said...

This was the first episode of "Chuck" that seemed to have entirely devolved into formula -- in one way or another, we've seen everything that happened before. And for a show that always seems so fresh, that's troubling. I hope getting Chuck out of his sister's apartment will change things up a little... they certainly need to do something different.

Grace said...

m"One plot hole stuck out at me: How did the Fulcrum torturer know the Intersect was on the chip?"

I assume the intersect Fulcrum was looking for, is their own version of it, not the CIA/NSA version. Afterall, they were testing subjects with their Dark Intersect ...Little did they know that Chuck has TWO Intersects in him.

Teev said...

Seems like revealing he is the intersect in front of Cole is a worse offense than hacking the chip, and he got no yelling for that either - seriously, all he had to do was say "the identity of the Intersect is on the chip" not "I'm on the chip."

In addition to The Office, another show that did Resolved the Sexual Tension, Now What really well was Farscape (at least I think so.) Burn Notice is doing a pretty good job of it too, especially in the not boring us with it category. I agree with you, Alan, they don't have to show them move closer together or farther apart, just leave it alone for awhile and let us enjoy the chemistry unhindered by all the angst.

Is this show doing so badly we have to discuss how to bug the network? That makes me sad - I love this show (I only nitpick the shows I love.)

toonsterwu said...

I'll be honest ... I am more intrigued with the supporting cast in Chuck than I am with Zach. I wish they gave Ellie and Awesome more stuff to do (still waiting on the dad issue for Chuck and Ellie). I wish they gave the buy morians more stuff to do. I wish they gave Casey more to do. I was sort of rooting for Cole and Sarah. I am sorta tired of this Sarah/Chuck stuff, and I don't have a good feeling to the "move in together" bit as it seems so forced.

At some point in time, they'll have to forcefully cross spy world and family world. It might come whenever the Ellie wedding/father aspect comes to pass, but at some point, everyone can't be deaf, dumb, and stupid towards Chuck always disappearing and working ridiculously odd hours. After all, it's a Buy More.

I like the show, but they need to change their bit a bit.

OldDarth said...

Easily the darkest and most intense episode of Chuck. I agree with the sentiment on the state of the relationship. The sexy agent coming in and wreaking relationship havoc vein is played out here. Hopefully the Fulcrum storyline will allow for more organic ways of providing obstacles in the relationship.

Undercover Asian Man said...

Did not see this episode, but I like to read Alan's thoughts on shows anyway.

I'm just gobsmacked that Alan finally mentions that the Chuck/Sarah relationship is a tired treadmill, something I've said for all the episodes of Chuck I've ever seen (I've seen about 3 this year and 8 last year, and nothing in Chuck/Sarah has ever diverted from their pining-from-afar act), and as soon as Alan says it, EVERYONE suddenly seems to say it too. You have jedi mind powers, Alan.

Let me guess, Sarah was somehow forced to hear how Chuck feels about her via headphones and a bugging device. Or Chuck had to watch Sarah kiss Agent Cole and mistook the fake act as something real between them and got jealous and protective. I've seen about 11 episodes and seen this stupid romance plot 11 times.

Only NOW do people say it's played out? They've been doing the whole love denial / mistaken jealousy / pining stare / love triangle with a more studly or more beautiful third wheel thing since the first episode!

If you want to save "Chuck" from cancellation, how about sending in pillows to support such tired plot lines?

Karen said...

I've enjoyed all the ups and downs of Chuck/Sarah so far, myself, but I agree that last night's iteration didn't really work. We've seen Chuck make the exact same argument before--even Sarah referred to it as the last time they broke up--and it was THAT that bothered me, not the continuation of the story of the relationship itself. But I confess to heaving a heavy sigh when Chuck launched into his speech.

All my other nitpicks are pretty much the same as Alan's and the other commenters. It wasn't plausible to me that Alexis wouldn't torture the whiny guy first. I don't get the whole torture thing, anyway. Why don't they just stab 'em with truth serum?

I think Chuck has to honor his promise to Morgan to move in together, so I'm looking forward to the wacky Three's Company hijinks that are sure to ensue...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Networks aren't going to be so eager to rely on food or other objects as an indicator of fan interest again for a while.

Yeah, I know that. I wrote a few columns about how "Jericho" basically ruined the possibility for success of future campaigns, but you just know the "Chuck" fans will try anyway. People feel like they have to do something.

Hoosier Paul said...

Uhm ... what's 'shipper short for?

Anonymous said...

'shipper is short for "relationshipper;" someone who watches a show because of the central relationship and whose enjoyment of the show is largely based on whether or not the relationship succeeds.

Alan could give you a better explanation, but that's the gist.

-R

mjryan said...

Chuck fans would send either pocket protectors or skinny gray ties. Although I love the idea of the Nerd Herd badges.

I had quite a few issues with this episode. I won't rehash the chuck and sarah stuff since that's been pretty well summed up above.

First, when did Richter's character have time to put the disc with video of Chuck in his belt? Chuck was tortured (i guess that's what you would call it) and almost immediately Casey did his Casey stuff and boom, the bad guys died. So, that's a bit strange. Pretty magical belt buckle.

Second, Ellie annoys the holy heck out of me. She is always nagging Chuck about taking charge of his life, but apparently only if she tells him what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why. She tells him to break up with Sarah and he does. Then she changes her mind, tells him to get back together and he thinks, huh, she's right. Personally, I think Chuck needs to grow a pair.

Third, I hated with an all consuming passion the Jeff and Lester subplot. I know the whole nerd herd is beloved but I think it's the weakest and lamest part of the show. It's my greatest hope that they end this season with Chuck, Sarah and Caseyhaving to go deep undercover (or whatever it's called) and leave the Buy More and Nerd Herd behind. Not to mention Ellie the bossy busybody.

Q Ball said...

I had other problems with this episode apart from the Chuck/Sarah romance.

Chuck is a show that is dependent on the likability and appeal of the main character for the most part. I feel the same way about the Office as well. There are other characters in both shows that affect the popularity of the show, but for the most part if you don't care for Chuck (or Micheal Scott) you probably won't like either show.

The reason I'm drawing the comparisons to these two comedies is because I felt tonight's episode had the same problem The Office has succumbed to as of late.

Chuck's wimpiness, while an endearing character foible, was overplayed tonight. While I accept Chuck's tendency to cower in the presence of danger, it can be annoying when it is overplayed (as it was tonight). Especially considering he has been in this game for two years now. I know torture is frightening and it was in character for him to be scared, but I felt it was cheap for Chuck to display that level of squeal-producing wimpiness.

To go back to my Office analogy, when Michael is an over-the-top idiot the office is at its weakest because it is hard to empathize with such an annoying character. I felt Chuck was at the level tonight and it was the main reason I didn't like last night's show. Cole Barker is a stud, especially in contrast to Chuck, but they really overplayed Chuck's annoying characteristics tonight in order to emphasize that.

So with that on my mind and a pretty lame Jeffster plot, I thought this was one of the weakest of the season (along with 3-D and Jill arc).

Anonymous said...

People complained about Morgan in the first season, asking why Chuck was even friends with him. This season I am questioning why Morgan is even friends with Chuck. I mean, yeah, Morgan is kind of pathetic... But he's a great friend and it seems like Chuck has been really dismissive of him this season. And, even if it's due to spy necessity, Chuck has had to be pretty mean. So I hope that Chuck keeps his promise and lives with Morgan. The little, non-British bearded guy needs some love.

-R

Mark B said...

I wrote a few columns about how "Jericho" basically ruined the possibility for success of future campaigns,

That must be where I got it from! :)

Nancy said...

Probably in the minority here, but at the end I was hoping Sarah would hop on the plane to Fiji with Agent Stud Man (he was HOT!) and let all her cares just blow in the wind. I'm totally on Team Cole.

I know Sarah was "agenting" when she was picking up Cole in the bar, but much of what she said about wanting a man of action, and not one who constantly goes on about his feelings, was 100% truth. Chuck - PAY ATTENTION. He's constantly going on about his own needs, his own feelings, and has Chuck ever really considered what might get Sarah going? Remember back to last season when Chuck witnessed Bryce and Sarah take down Tommy and the Fulcrum baddies on Black Friday? Yeah, even he admitted they were really great together. I don't think Chuck will ever be that physically coordinated, but damn, he really needs to grow a set.

Sure the Jeffster subplot was creepy, but the payoff of Casey (super hot in the suit) smashing those two losers into the cage was brilliant. That poor apple.

Also shippers? To me, viewers who only watch a show like Chuck (or The Office) for the central romance are missing out on so much of what makes the show great. It's like the other characters don't even exist for some of them. /end rant.

Andrew said...

In other episodes this season, Chuck has used his cowardice and nerd-fu to his advantage. In this episode, he was like the reimagined Homer Simpson character in the second episode of Police Cops.

Coming after the undiluted awesome of Chuck vs the Best Friend, this one just fell flat. At least it was just a middling episode, not an epic fail like 3rd Season Lost flat, or BSG The Woman King flat, or HIMYM We're Not From Here. Just not quite up to Season 2 par.

tom said...

Personally, I thought of Brutus the Barber, because the episode title used "the Beefcake." If it had been "Chuck vs. Beefcake," I would have thought of the fatter than normal Eric Cartman.

Stephanie said...

Count me in as someone who feels the Chuck/Sarah relationship is getting played out. I thought they might be going somewhere in 'Chuck vs. the Best Friend', when Sarah got frustrated with Chuck for being so focused on Morgan. I thought it inevitable that the UST would come to a head in that fashion, and Sarah would retreat into her cold agent persona to distance herself from Chuck. But then we got this episode and I found myself disappointed.

And I don't see how these two could become a couple. If they do, Sarah will be reassigned, it's as simple as that. Her bosses aren't going to tolerate a personal relationship with the asset, and because Sarah cares about Chuck and wants to protect him, she knows they can't get together. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the best and most logical obstacles to a romance on TV.

Personally, I would like to see more episodes with a focus on Chuck and Casey, as I often find myself enjoying them much more as a pair. I love Casey's conflicted feelings about Chuck - he finds him unbearably annoying and yet genuinely cares for the guy, which frustrates him to no end. There's so much comedy gold with those two, and it would take the focus off of Chuck/Sarah for awhile. JMHO.

Inter Alia said...

I'm with the others who have commented on how Chuck needs to be a little more mature. I know, it's a comedy, but even in this show there's enough of a serious element to make it reasonable to expect more of him. With his intelligence and all that he's been through, he ought to have a better grasp of and more concern for the consequences of the things he does . . . not to mention some more courage and resolve. He'll never be like Casey, but he's shown he has it in him to be stronger than he's been lately.

And I agree that the wimp angle was overplayed -- even for this show -- last night.

Back when the weiner restaurant was still around, they had occasional customers. Have we ever seen anyone come in to the usually-unattended Orange Orange?

Random Thoughts said...

It was a solid episode but not great, something was a little off (the pacing, lack of good music). Maybe I just had high expectations for it and it wasn’t quite a homerun (last week I had low expectations for a filler episode that was surprisingly one of the show’s best).

I’m frustrated with the relationship stuff, too but for different reasons. We know exactly how Chuck feels, and although we assume Sarah feels the same, we don't know for sure. She lies and manipulates for a living and a lot of what she does could be interpreted as her using Chuck’s feelings to manage/protect her asset. Sure she cares about Chuck as a nice guy, but so does Casey on some level. And given her unusual upbringing, some part of her may long for a normal life, but not necessarily with Chuck, who, as a normal guy, symbolizes that life. And as Barker last night and Bryce before him demonstrate, she goes for the action hero, which Chuck isn’t. Unlike Pam Beesly, who left the Roys behind when she discovered Jim, Sarah’s type is still the alpha male. Even if she and Chuck get together, how is he going to keep her head from turning when the next James Bond comes along. I don’t fault Chuck for being frustrated at not knowing how she really feels about him given she’s never come out and expressed it, but maybe we’ll all find out before the season’s over. Kudos to Strahovski for making a character so inscrutable be so sympathetic.

The Barker two gun John Woo moment was great, but no one can do that like Chow Yun Fat, and many have tried. Maybe it’s the look of detached cool on Chow’s face and the relaxed way he carries his shoulders and guns. Also, a cigarette hanging off one’s lip also helps.

The Buy More/spy world plots weren’t as closely tied together as some other episodes, but as the AV Club review notes, there was the running theme of uncomfortable/unwelcome intimate moments: Morgan (and Jeffster) with the Mom/Big Mike situation; Jeffster and the SI models; Morgan with Ellie and Awesome; Casey with Sarah and Chuck’s breakup; and of course Sarah and Barker, with and without Chuck on surveillance. The repeated line “everybody talks” was also effective.

Note – all flashes this week were red Fulcrum flashes. Also, could Fulcrum be like SD-6 on Alias – bad guys pretending to be good guys. I’m thinking about McCarthy and Richter’s speech to Chuck a couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t mind Chuck not getting chewed out. Yeah he tripped the Fulcrum sensor, but he also decrypted the chip. If Sarah and Casey had just given him a shot, they wouldn’t have had to tempt Fulcrum to try to get the playback device. Chuck keeps demonstrating that he’s not just the intersect, but he also has almost magical computer prowess rivaling 24’s Chloe.

There were three beautiful Asian women in this episode, none of whom were Anna Wu (2 of the 3 SI models and Alexis the torturer). Just an observation. Credit Chuck for casting minorities and women, particularly in strong roles. That’s two weeks in a row that the boss of the week has been a woman, and I thought the actress who played Alexis did as good a job as Smooth Lau last week, particularly in the last showdown with Casey. I was actually half a beat behind recognizing her as a threat in the elevator. I was thinking, “Man, they cast beautiful women just for nonspeaking bystander roles. No wait, she’s Fulcrum, Casey, watch out.”

During the torture scene, I half expected Sarah to say she was the intersect, too. Sort of an “I am Spartacus” moment, but it probably played better as a Chuck vs. Barker moment.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe they should dial down the objectification of Sarah Walker. I’m as big a Strahovski fan as the next guy, but I’m starting to feel a little guilty. Plus Christmas isn’t as special if it comes every week.

Really random thought – Chuck has a Y: The Last Man poster hanging in his room, and there’s internet chatter about Levi getting cast as Yorick in the movie adaptation. He’d be a good choice to portray another man-child’s journey to manhood through unexpected adventure and the burdens of responsibility. And they probably wouldn’t be cast together, but Srahovski would make a good Beth, Yorick’s blonde bombshell girlfriend who’s stuck in the Australian outback when the initial disaster strikes. Ironic, given Strahovski’s roots.

JJ said...

Great review. I'm hoping that moving in will change the Chuck/Sarah dynamic enough to give the off-again/off-again stuff a break for a while.

LOVE the idea of sending the Buy More identity badges as a sign of fan support, BUT wouldn't buying the S1 DVDs as well as episodes off iTunes get better results? If you already have them, then start gifting!

Kimra said...

I think that, on the WonderCon panel, I suggested sending circuit boards, but that was mostly for lack of being able to think of something funnier in the moment. Sunglasses (that hold all the CIA secrets in them)? I dunno.

I should have, y'know, asked this when I had the chance, but are we supposed to believe Chuck still has the Fulcrum version of the Intersect in his brain, too?

I liked the "Come with me if you want to live" line only because Casey was immediately there to kind of stomp all over the cheesy romance of it. Love that guy.

Kalman said...

Wait. Suddenly people we're talking about "plausibility" problems? This, after Chuck vs. the Suburbs in which the heroes manage to save themselves by shutting their eyes during the Fulcrum computer sequence, but the enemy agents died because they somehow could not force their own lids closed?

The show doesn't even pretend to be even remotely plausible. The only way to enjoy it is to admit that and surrender caring about plot holes.

Anonymous said...

JJ said:
BUT wouldn't buying the S1 DVDs as well as episodes off iTunes get better results?


I must be missing something. What $1 DVDs are you talking about? Are there episodes of Chuck on DVD for only $1?

Jennifer said...

I will agree with everyone that we really don't need to rehash They Can Never REALLY Be Together all this much. Especially in a row. Who CARES if Chuck wants to "break up," they can't break up anyway. Big whoop. I know no couples can ever get together on a show any more, but still, this is the kind of thing that drives a 'shipper fandom into the ground.

So Cal said...

I have never seen this show, but i need to thank you for the screen grab Alan, well done!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I have never seen this show, but i need to thank you for the screen grab Alan, well done!

My hope was that a person such as yourself might see that picture and maybe give the show a shot.

So Cal said...

I just might...is she the other main character besides Chuck?

I watch alot of TV on Monday nights, but since i have given up on Heroes (i held out longer than you, Alan, but i can't take it anymore either), i might be able to make room for another show.

Nice sell-job!

So Cal said...

I just might...is she the other main character besides Chuck?

I watch alot of TV on Monday nights, but since i have given up on Heroes (i held out longer than you, Alan, but i can't take it anymore either), i might be able to make room for another show.

Nice sell-job!

Jason said...

Agreed 100% Alan -- I've been enjoying the Chuck/Sarah relationship back and forth and have thought that the producers have been playing it just right.

Until last night.

All of a sudden I'm just bored with the back and forth. Can we just settle on something for once? Or at the very least, progress things slowly? I'm starting to feel jerked around by the producers, and it really pulls me out of enjoying the show.

Whatever step the producers decided to take in this episode, it was a misstep.

Alan Sepinwall said...

is she the other main character besides Chuck?

Yup.

Pamela Jaye said...
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Pamela Jaye said...
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Pamela Jaye said...
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Pamela Jaye said...

(apologies to Alan for reformating 5 times)

I hope that everyone here gets the opportunity to meet Scott Bakula for even two seconds cause he's one of the sweetest people you'll meet in your entire life. Genuinely.
- Zachary Levi talks about Scott Bakula on Chuck

Katrine said...

I agree with the last commentator.

The Chuck/Sarah dynamic has always been good because it seemed to evolve, even as they were being kept apart. It does not seem to do so anymore. At this point I'd appreciate them breaking up for real for a while and it being Sarah's turn to date another guy because while she still loves Chuck, she thinks he'd prefer it that way and she needs something real in her life too, or something--while as Chuck realizes that he can't give up the ghost. In fact, this is where I thought they were going, until the end. Siiiiiiighhhhh. Something needs to MOVE.

And I agree with Alan that it was odd that no one reamed Chuck out for unequivocally messing up the situation. He's messed stuff up before only to save the day, but this time, he really just messed up, sans back up plan. And because of his jealousy over Sarah. That could have been explored a lot better too, including having the FBI decide that maybe he and Sarah should be apart for safety of the Intersect secret.

Another thing I really need the writers to fix is the Morgan-Chuck dynamic. We got a nod to it in the last episode, but it's been very maddening to me that Morgan is supposedly Chuck's best friend and would do anything for Chuck, but lately Chuck treats him like dirt. He's always dismissive of him, he doesn't come through on his promises to him, he forgets about things Morgan asks him to do, he brushes him off when Morgan wants to talk to him... it is not cute. It does not add to the humor, and only takes away from the appeal of Chuck's character to have him be such a self centered jerk to Morgan. They need to FIX that.

Undercover Asian Man said...
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Undercover Asian Man said...
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Z said...

@Undercover: Given that all broadcast TV is lacking in the diversity department, I think you're reaching to say Schwartz or his casting department aren't making an effort. Big Mike, Lester, Anna, and Morgan... four series regulars. Last year you also had Harry Tang and Tony Todd as the other CIA supervisor.

Gossip Girl is pretty white, but so is that world. Vanessa, Nelly Yuki, and Isabel aren't much, but they're there every week. And they've been pretty color blind with the guest spots.

The OC also did more for Jews than any show in recent memory, sorry if we happen to be white, too. But there was also a pretty solid Hispanic representation (Theresa, Eddie).

Most diverse casting on TV? Maybe not. But not nearly the villian you're claiming.

Anonymous said...

If you're asking how racially progressive a TV show is, just counting the number of Asian faces is a bad metric. Instead, you have to look at the degree to which minority actors are seen in nonstereotyped or racially nonspecific roles. For instance, Anna Wu plays right into an existing stereotype of Asian women as exotic and hypersexualized, so I don't think she does anything to break down racial stereotypes, and I think she's a very bad example of "progressive" casting. On the whole, though, I think Chuck has been remarkably good at casting minority actors in nonstereotyped, racially nonspecific roles: Harry Tang, Lester, and Big Mike all come to mind.

Zachary said...

So Cal,

Get down to Target and buy Season 1 on DVD right now for $22.99 or get the Blu-Ray if you can for YS in High-Def glory. :drool:

When Agent Beefcake showed up, he reminded me of Clive Owen with the accent and 5-day beard and then during the commercials, a commercial for Duplicity comes on! That couldn't have been coincidental......

After last week, I thought that the writers would try not to make Jeff so creepy, but tonight proved that he is one disturbed man.

I'm glad that the writers didn't have Chuck misinterpret what was being said on the Cave monitor, which would have been done on just about every other show out there.

UAM said...
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UAM said...
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Anonymous said...

Alan, can you clean up UAM's posts? I find them hateful and ill fitting for this blog.

dez said...

Harsh? I think it is honest.

I think you're overreacting.

Anyway, I liked the ep, though not as much as last week's. And that two-handed shoot-out is a John Woo thing--he puts it in many of his movies, even the ones without that god among men, Chow Yun-Fat :-)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, can you clean up UAM's posts? I find them hateful and ill fitting for this blog.

I'm not going to delete them (too many others to delete tonight, unfortunately, between spam and other idiocy), but I'm going to ask Undercover Asian Man to seriously dial back on the attitude. The level of righteous indignation over other people disagreeing with you is way out of control, not only on potentially important issues like diversity in casting, but on your sheer outrage and bewilderment over other people liking a TV show you can't stand.

Rule number one around here, ahead of any discussion of spoilers or anything else: Be nice and respectful to each other.

Toby O'B said...

Two earlier comments:

1] Seems like revealing he is the intersect in front of Cole is a worse offense than hacking the chip, and he got no yelling for that either - seriously, all he had to do was say "the identity of the Intersect is on the chip" not "I'm on the chip."

2] And I agree with Alan that it was odd that no one reamed Chuck out for unequivocally messing up the situation. He's messed stuff up before only to save the day, but this time, he really just messed up, sans back up plan.

It seems to me that the one who screwed up on this case was Casey, twice. First back in "vs. the Suburbs", he should have checked Brad's body, gave it a thorough search in case of something like that belt buckle. And if not him, somebody down the line before the body was dumped in that grave.

Secondly, if he was so worried that something could go wrong with the chip, just warning Chuck not to do anything with it wasn't going to do any good. Hasn't he learned by now that Chuck doesn't follow orders, just from the many times he's told to stay in the car?

That chip should have been locked in a safe in the Castle before they took off on their mission.

I know - if they did either of those two things, there would have been no episode. But there should now be some kind of follow-up consequences for Casey screwing up like that. Say pulling him off the assignment for a while.

And that at least would give the plotline a tweak for at least a few episodes as Chuck would have to learn how to deal with some other handler from the NSA, maybe someone even more badass than Casey.

Just a suggestion.....

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I didn't pick up on the "wang" jokes last week. But to say that they were intended as "exploring Asian culture" or for them to be interpreted as a slight against Asians isn't fair. How many times have you heard "dick" jokes about the nickname for Richard? Is that a slight against people of Western European descent? Are puns on the name "Weiner" slights against people of German descent? No, they're just stupid jokes based on bathroom humor. I don't think most people would take offense to any of the above examples, and I don't think it is wrong of Schwartz to include them. Not his funniest jokes, perhaps, but I don't think they represent a thinly-veiled Jewish superiority complex (does such a complex even exist?).

-R

Pamela Jaye said...

Honestly, as a fan of Quantum Leap, the worst I can say about it (aside from the finale, and that time Sam's wife said "I never once felt that you betrayed our love") is that it got a bit preachy at times. But then, honestly, I bought 4 seasons on DVD and haven't finished watching season 1 (which means I still haven't seen the scenes that were cut for syndication).

I'll spare you my colorful typo "syndicarion." No, I won't. Cool word.

I had to actually go look up that line of dialog, as "betrayed" just wouldn't come to me, and I found something annoying. In addition to this ep running late on Ion (which meant I don't have all of it, I think) they are actually replacing language - and "ass" is on the list. So I guess, on Ion, only the name of the network has changed. It's still PAX...

Anonymous said...

I got tired of the Chuck/Sarah romance back and forth, doing nothing new with it by the time season two started. The writing was so awful this year (even with Casey) I eventually gave up about 5 episodes in.

I may check it out on DVD if it gets picked up for season 3. But I'll have to hear some pretty great things (which I haven't heard about the last few episodes) to do so.

Honestly, it just sounds like they keep doing the same episodes over and over, except changing the locations and the guest star names.

Brien said...

I also liked when Cole told Sarah "As you wish" - a nice little Princess Bride reference

Pamela Jaye said...

I missed the Wang jokes completely. Probably because I had the captions on and I saw Huang, and then, for the rest of the ep, when I heard it, I saw it spelled Huang in my mind. Yes it was pronounced Wang, but apparently that's just not how my mind works. (or maybe just not in this case)

Perhaps Morgan/Sarah/Chuck will be okay, but it seems to me that it would turn a portion of the show into that *Sitcom thing that Alan doesn't like.

*For me "Sitcom" is "wacky neighbors and all that other stuff sitcoms did in the 60's.

One show in particular annoyed me - I Dream of Jeannie. It seemed that every "dilemma" they got themselves into, they could have gotten themselves out of (in the first 5 minutes of the episode), just by doing or saying one simple thing, that even I - at that age - could think of, much in the same way that Chuck was annoying people last night, in the Torture Chuck first and other drive a truck thru errors.

Also, it seems to me that there are Bad Guys out there in the world who are in no way related to the Fulcrum organization (this reminds me of Chaos and Control) and it used to be that some of the cases our intrepid band went on had nothing to do with the fact that Chuch was the intersect, other than him being used as a tool to solve the case, or an impretus to begin the case.

Test said...

While Chuck isnt always wearing one anymore, the sure bet to hit NBC's mailbag in the thousands has to be the pocket protector - 100% on target (Chuck), 100% nerd and 100% funny.

Nobody else has run together the seemingly excessive pseudo direct male genitalia exposure theme on this episode - comments in isolation yes, but overall three exposure scenes... wow that takes balls...

Alan Sepinwall said...

After giving it some thought, I deleted some of UAM's comments. I don't like doing it, but I felt they were over the line and wasn't comfortable leaving them up.

OldDarth said...

I think we all need to see how this plays out next Monday before making a final call.

Patrick said...

Couple of things:

1. Fulcrum didn't know what was on the chip, just that it existed. In fact, nobody knew until Chuck hacked into it. Of course, we know how that turned out.

2. A good point that Fulcrum didn't torture Chuck first. My only guess would be either: a) they figured Chuck was faking all that "afraid of torture" thing or b) they knew neither Sarah or Cole would break easily. Tough to say.

3. I do get a little tired of being jerked around on the Chuck/Sarah thing, but it's obvious that the storyline is for Sarah not to think she can do her job effectively unless she maintains some distance from Chuck. Hell, even Casey has let Chuck get into his head a bit. (remember him missing the "Chuck" target when he practiced his shooting?)

3. Of course, anybody can guess we're being set up for a big finish here because Schwartz and McG are covering their cans just in case May 5th brings bad news. (the day of NBC's up-fronts, where they announce the fall schedule)

Here's one thing people can do to save Chuck without harming some defenseless wieners: watch the repeat of "Chuck vs. the Seduction" on the 16th of March. If it can be proven that Chuck would have some staying power in repeats, NBC might be inclined to keep it around. A reality show might be cheaper than Chuck, but a repeat is cheaper than a reality show.

Pamela Jaye said...

I'm not a Neilsen family and I have a home-made DVR. Is there somewhere (other than iTunes) where I can watch it that it will count?

I also asked one of the officers at the facebook group Addicted to Chuck why they don't have a Donate your Status like Grey's and Brothers & Sisters (which has been really good lately!)