Monday, March 29, 2010

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the American Hero": Love is a battlefield

A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I fill out a pair of slacks...
"What are you even doing here?" -Sarah
"I'm here for you." -Chuck
"Chuck vs. the American Hero" was designed to be the penultimate episode of "Chuck" season three, before NBC ordered six more episodes. And as such, comparisons will be inevitable to season two's next-to-last installment, "Chuck vs. the Colonel." "American Hero" actually holds up better to the comparison than I would have thought - it's one of the strongest episodes of this season, up there with "Chuck vs. the Beard" and "Chuck vs. the Tic Tac" - but it does illustrate some of the larger flaws that have kept season three as a whole a notch or two below last year.

Some of the problems couldn't be helped, like the reduced budget. It's kept the supporting characters shuttling in and out (which becomes particularly noticeable in contrast to an episode like this that features everyone but Big Mike and uses all the characters well), and it's reduced both the scope of the story and the coolness of some of the action. "Colonel" climaxed with a bunch of planes bombing the hell out of Ted Roark's would-be Intersect army at the drive-in; here, we get a lone stealth bomber dropping a single bomb on a small warehouse, creating an explosion so small that Sarah, Chuck and Shaw are unharmed standing only a few feet away.(*) Meanwhile, Chuck's commando assault on the Ring base went fairly quick and easy (even if it was supposed to be a temporary place set up to mess with Shaw, you still would have seen more bad guys and/or a longer fight scene a year ago). I appreciate that they don't have the money to work with that they had last season, but it's been unfortunate and noticeable.

(*) That lack of scale, coupled with the fact that until this week the group never seemed to do anything but try to kill Shaw, has led to The Ring thus far seeming less imposing than Fulcrum, even though we keep being told it's the much bigger, more dangerous threat.

But I also think there have been a few miscalculations on the part of Schwartz, Fedak and company. Shaw has been a misfire, less because he's been an obstacle to Chuck and Sarah getting together than that he's been an obstacle to Team Bartowski working well together. It's not a coincidence that two of the season's stronger outings ("Nacho Sampler" and "Tic Tac") both had Shaw absent so we could watch our three leads interact. Even if they weren't all getting along splendidly (Sarah didn't approve of Chuck's handling of Manoosh in "Nacho Sampler," and Casey was rogue for much of "Tic Tac") the three actors/characters have such chemistry and such history together that Shaw often seemed like a buzzkill.

I had begun to hope, like some of you, that Shaw was going to be revealed as a Ring mole, and/or that Sarah - whose character arc this season has at times been compelling, and at others felt like it was serving the whims of the plot - was playing him to find out. Instead, it turns out that what we saw with Shaw was what we got, but also that Shaw's obsession with avenging his wife's death was so great that he's now looking to do something very bad to Sarah, who doesn't realize that Shaw's wife was the victim in her own "red test."

But if the way things ultimately played out don't give Sarah back some of the agency her character has lost this season, it at least sets us up for what I hope will be a very strong close to Season 3.0, with Chuck having to save Sarah from Shaw - and, maybe, get his first kill for real in the process?

What was so satisfying about "American Hero," though, is that Chuck has already defeated Shaw in one way: he got Sarah back.

Sure, there's still the matter of rescuing her from Shaw's insane clutches, blah blah blah, but the woman made her choice. She was packing a bag, and I feel confident her destination was going to be Union Station even before Casey stopped by to confess to killing Hunter. Chuck (sometimes with the aid of the Bizarro Team Bartowski of Casey, Morgan and Awesome, sometimes by himself) put on such a charm offensive with Sarah and got to be a more overt hero in carrying Shaw out of the exploding building (remember, Sarah has a type) and laid his heart bare for her about the train station(**) and their future together that she had to have thrown in her lot with our man. The smile on Yvonne Strahovski's face when Casey told Sarah the truth didn't so much read as "Yay, now I get to change my mind," but "Yay, I made the right call."

(**) In a bit of symmetry from the season premiere conversation in Castle about meeting at a train station.

So, in effect, Chuck and Sarah have finally chosen each other at the same time, and all that's holding it up is a temporary plot complication (Shaw's desire to kill Sarah) rather than a character one. Whatever missteps the creative team may have made, they're not stupid enough to end what was supposed to be the whole season with Chuck and Sarah still not together. I don't know everything in life, but I feel very confident in this.

And we can argue not only about whether this took too long, but about whether the characterizations were consistent (I, frankly, would have liked some clarification on whether Sarah was simply turned off by Chuck-as-killer, or if she felt guilty that she had helped make him into one), about whether there's been too much focus on the relationship, not enough, whether the darker tone worked, whether the government would really risk the Intersect as a run-of-the-mill spy, etc., etc., etc.

But here's the thing: when "Chuck" is good - and budget issues aside, "Chuck vs. the American Hero" was very good - all the questions and complaints have a way of not mattering as much. I don't mind the plot holes (though I will still list some of them below), nor the idea that certain character or story arcs haven't played out as smoothly as anyone might have liked. When I watch a sequence like Chuck making his move at the restaurant while Bizarro Team Bartowski attempts to back his play from the van - with Morgan and Awesome(***) both accidentally saving Shaw from being kidnapped - or when I watch Jeff and Lester prove their epic stalking powers to Chuck, or when Chuck keeps saying "I love you" to Sarah just because it feels nice to say, everything else goes out the window. This is the show I fought to save last spring, and even if parts of this season have been bumpy, I can deal with those bumps when we get to moments like the ones that we got in abundance in "American Hero."

(***) I thought it was a very nice touch to have Devon once again mistakenly tackle the good guy, just like he did to Casey in "Chuck vs. the Angel De La Muerte" - only for it to mostly work out here.

One episode to go of this original batch of 13, then two weeks off for repeats (which should coincide with some time off I'm supposed to take in early April), then Season 3.1 starts. I'm assuming next week's semi-finale will clear the decks of a lot of elements from 3.0, and I can't wait to see what the team has in store for the final push. And I'll sweat renewal later.

Some other thoughts:

• I always enjoy those rare instances of General Beckman interacting with Chuck one-on-one, in person, because she has much less patience for his "process" than Casey or Sarah do. I still have a hard time believing that, even with the Intersect 2.0, anyone considers Chuck qualified to be a spy, but it was at least smart to suggest he'd have his own team around him (even if said team almost certainly wouldn't include either Morgan or Casey).

• Also, I kind of wish that Morgan didn't have a selfish reason for wanting to help Chuck. I know it created a thematic symmetry with Casey and Awesome, and I also get that Morgan's life would be extremely empty without Chuck in it, but at the same time, I like those moments where Morgan just has Chuck's back because that's what best friends do.

• This week in "Chuck" plot holes: a bunch to choose from, but primarily that Beckman would be willing to send a bomber into a civilian neighborhood with no more intel than that Shaw's tracker had stopped moving for a while and gone underground. That's more a hole in Shaw's plan than in Beckman's reasoning, I suppose, but either way, the idea seemed awfully thin. Anything could have been happening at that bunker. (And what, for that matter, would have happened if Chuck hadn't picked up the tracker and it had remained under the overpass? Would the military have blown up a bridge by mistake?) Also, what happened to the fellowship Ellie got that was going to force Devon to abandon his Doctors Without Borders scheme? And while I understand Devon spending the night in jail, what exactly were Morgan and Casey charged with? And why does the Castle electrical grid somehow affect one of the displays at the Buy More? And how does Casey get back into Castle so easily, when presumably the access codes got changed after Beckman gave him his burn notice? And if Shaw's wife was killed five years ago, are we supposed to believe Sarah had only been an agent for two years when she met Chuck?

• This week in "Chuck" music: only one song (bizarre for a Josh Schwartz show, I know), with The Temper Trap's "Down River" playing both as Chuck invites Sarah to meet him at Union Station, and again as Casey tells Sarah the truth about who really shot Hunter.

• This week in "Chuck" pop culture references: Morgan's "Love is a battlefield" line is, of course, a reference to the iconic early '80s Pat Benatar song and video, and the "Dr. Jibb" soda machine as entrance to the Ring underground HQ could be read as yet another "Spies Like Us" homage, as the military guys accessed their own base via the Pepsi machine at an abandoned drive-in.

• This week in recognizable "Chuck" guest stars: sci-fi/action-caper show Hey It's That Guy! Mark Sheppard played the mysterious Ring director, while Roger Cross (one of Jack Bauer's longer-serving sidekicks on "24") was Sheppard's henchman.

• Ellie hasn't been a particularly well-serviced character this year, and at times comes across as way too controlling about Chuck's life, but her speech to Chuck about getting Sarah back - "You're a Bartowski, Chuck. Start acting like one." - was a very nice moment for Sarah Lancaster.

• Ultimately, Casey's refusal to let Chuck tell Sarah what happened at the train station wasn't that satisfyingly resolved. They needed to show some kind of Chuck/Casey interaction later in the episode where we saw Casey change his mind, and/or his conversation with Sarah needed to come across like a much bigger gamble than it ultimately became. Casey knows Sarah well enough to know she would never tell anybody else, so his earlier reluctance just became another plot device - albeit one that put Casey in a van with Devon and Morgan, so I'm okay with it.

• My head scratched when I saw the subtitle pointing out "DNI" headquarters, until I noticed a comment in last week's discussion that referred to Beckman working for the "Department of National Intelligence." Have we ever heard this name/acronym before? When the series started, Casey and Beckman were NSA, Sarah and Graham (Tony Todd) were CIA, and Operation Bartowski was a joint agency task force. Did I miss some administrative change after Graham blew up in the season 2 premiere?

• I pointed to the flash-grenade scene from "Chuck vs. the Beard" as an example of rookie director Zachary Levi showing off a bit too much, but veteran director Jeremiah Chechik largely went with the same style for the flash-grenade scene here, so either that was something other forces (maybe the DP?) cooked up in "Beard," or else Chechik liked it enough to make it part of the series' house style.

• Interesting: Chuck can shoot someone (with a tranq gun) without having to flash. Is the "Duck Hunt" really paying off, or are some of the Intersect skills starting to become part of Chuck's muscle memory?

• If Jeff is, indeed, the Picasso of creepiness, and this is his blue period, would you pay to own any of his work?

Finally, everybody did a great job of staying civil and rational in discussing the episodes after the Chuck-pocalypse that was "Chuck vs. the Mask," but last week we got into the crazy/obnoxious territory again, and I had to delete some comments. Let me remind you one more time of the single most important part of the commenting rules: Be nice. TALK ABOUT THE SHOW, NOT EACH OTHER. If you can't find a way to disagree without attacking the people who disagree with you, DO NOT COMMENT.

This shouldn't be hard, and I appreciate that for most of you, it's not. But for the small handful of you who are having trouble here, please relax, or else find some other place to discuss the show.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Good thing Beckman didn't make Chuck drive across town to Castle before she told him Sarah was in danger.

Jim Warner said...

Poor editing in the restaurant sequence. Awesome tackles Shaw, no sign of cops, seven seconds later, cops all over the place. Still, pretty solid episode, though the scale of the series this season is more personal than epic. Maybe the back-six will allow it something bigger.

Andrew said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said, though the one more interruption when Chuck is trying to say he loves her was infuriating. It's like they think it's a funny joke, but it's really not.

Overall it was back to being mostly FUN, so I forgive in this most of the flaws I didn't forgive in the last few episodes (you noted most of them).

I'm really glad they showed the last scene with Chuck in Castle this week rather than do the par for the season thing of ending on him being left alone at the train station. That was nice.

Anyway, back mostly on form with budget cuts noticeable as you note.

David Everett said...

Great Episode! I thought of Get Smart with the Dr Jibb soda machine and was also wondering about Ellie's fellowship. But I was convinced that your tag line for the jump would be something like " Soon as I go after the Fro Yo Ho "

r1pvanw1nkl3 said...

Now that you point everything out the budget issues are very apparent, but seriously, it held up. I loved the Chuck/Ellie conversation about winning Sarah back.

"You're a Bartowski."

Unknown said...

Curtis, you killed Ida!
You bastard!

Anonymous said...

Shaw is almost interesting now. (But they still need to get rid of him for the show to be fun again).

I thought Ellie explained that she still has her fellowship, it's just that the hospital gave her a year sabbatical before starting. But I couldn't figure out Awesome's reaction to the news. It seems like he doesn't want to go to Africa, but he also doesn't want to stay in Burbank. How did others interpret him?

Danny F. said...

Ellie had a (very quick) phone call where she said the fellowship agreed to let her defer a year. Thus they have a year to travel or do Doctors Without Borders or whatever they want to do.

Anonymous said...

I also thought it odd that they showed the stealth bomber fly so close to the warehouse. I guess they were going for the effect, but it sort of defeats the purpose of a stealth bomber if you're going to fly it at low altitude.

Capt. Awesome said...

really enjoye the episode

I thought the Dr. Jibb machine was very reminicent of Get Smart

The general who ordered the airstike nametag said "Bauer"
another 24 reference

I just noticed that the wrist computer from Chuck vs. the Ring hasnt appeared since then, I wonder whY?

itsANHonor said...

The picasso line was the best line from Jeffster in a long, long time, and that's saying something.

Unknown said...

Best episode of the entire series. Yes, I get the plot holes. But that's not why we watch this show. It never has been. We watch it because of the chemistry of the cast.

Great review. Can't wait for next week.

Bob said...

It is no where near as good as Colonel just because of the execution of the "cheesy" parts. But there were definitively good parts aka Chuck and Ellie, the whole Team Morgan the stalkers and the "I love you part". But most of the rest I was laughing when I was not suppose to.

Again Colonel was way better

Unknown said...

The one real flaw in Yvonne's performance I feel is when she's talking to Chuck about how he's no longer the guy she fell for. She's playing it like she's straight up angry at him and after Shaw pulls him away,m there's no sign of guilt or anything. It's as if the only reason she can't be with him is because he killed someone, as opposed to she feels guilty for what she did to him.

The former is cheap and makes Sarah look like an asshole the second is a more nuanced issue.

keyword hexingem

Something from WoW no doubt.

filmcricket said...

Props to everyone who guessed that Sarah's red test target was Eve Shaw, but can anyone find out why Eve was supposed to be killed in the first place? I can't remember all the details, but wasn't she supposedly killed by a Ring agent which is why Shaw's been tracking them all this time? Something's off there.

WRT Sarah's only being an agent a couple of years: I guess you could fanwank it that she'd been a junior agent up until then or something, but yeah, Graham recruited her out of high school, so if you're not a spy until you kill someone, there's a continuity error there.

Jay said...

IMHO, Casey changing his mind about the train station shooting didn't need a scene where Chuck is trying to change his mind. I think the point was that Casey, on his own, decided to tell Sarah. I think it was crucial to show that Casey's loyalties ultimately lie with Chuck and Sarah, even without the NSA obligation.

Blake said...

Roger cross's character name as seen on the uniform was "bauer" too, which was a nice touch.

Jay said...

filmcricket: it was mentioned earlier in the series that Sarah spent some time with the Secret Service

Andrew said...

On Sarah:

First of all, CIA employees are going to be college educated, so there's four of the missing 5 years (she's supposed to be 28, I think?). Then a year with the Secret Service and she's seconded to CIA. Actually not a plot hole!

Though it probably makes more sense if we assume Sarah graduated in 3 years to buy us an extra year.

Kate said...

Well Alan, I agree with all of your post. :-) Don't always agree with all of them, but this one nails it. For me, a terrific episode, but for the Shaw-Sarah arc. I totally get the budget cuts and how that has affected the season, but that arc hasn't worked. We are one episode from the original 13 ending, we know where it's going and there is no real payoff here with Shaw and Sarah that makes the inconsistencies, the plotholes, the overkill angst, keeping Yvonne and Zac from playing off each other for most of this season, along with the whole team not getting enough screentime, worth it in terms of that storyline. It was a misstep. I will forgive it if they promise to never ever do another love interest to keep Chuck and Sarah apart and please god not for this long. The whole season was spent on Shaw and Sarah when you talk the prominent romance. For most of this episode Sarah is still showing feelings for Shaw, planning on going to DC with him, we don't see any hesitation until the end and Chuck makes his final plea and that's it, she's done with Shaw? It was too rushed and they never really showed Sarah and Shaw in such a way as to make Sarah's feelings for him believable in the first place. For most of the episode she called him "Shaw" and he called her "Walker". It felt off as well to see Sarah this late in the game still kissing Shaw. Then in the same episode she kisses Chuck. Frankly Shaw got a better kiss I think--comparisons are gonna happen when you play it like that. ;-)However, remove that arc and tonight's episode was like seeing an old friend again. The Chuck of old was back. I suspect next week Sarah will declare herself to Chuck, finally an ILY from Sarah I suspect, and if they have any sense they will finally have them consummating this relationship. It's been long enough and Chuck and Sarah need to grow up there too. I liked all the other elements: Ellie, Jeff and Lester, Casey, Awesome, the trio trying to help Chuck, Beckman, Chuck being called "agent" and getting to swagger some in DC. Good fun and I'm hoping we get back to this tone in the back 6.

Unknown said...

Just a guess, but it was said that Shaw's wife went undercover inside the Ring (very few ppl would know this maybe only Shaw).

Then, CIA thinks they are just having Sarah take out a Ring operative.

Average Joe said...

Now that was a fun episode! Clearly the writers can still nail a fun AND dramatic episode so what was the deal for most of this season?

This episode was textbook on how to balance the fun with the dark drama they seemed to be shooting for. The absurd all-guy stakeout was genius. Considering how well that played into an otherwise, as the commentators have been saying, "angsty" Chuck/Sarah scene, why couldn't they have done more of that?

Involving Jeffster into Chuck's chivalrous rescue was also a good way to lighten what was an otherwise grim progression of scenes. I guess the budget cuts really did hurt, but this episode just felt fun and serious...and so very many of the "Shaw" episodes didn't have that.

My biggest problem and concern going forward is that Sarah needs some serious rehabilitation. She was such an appealing character because she was damaged-goods behind a real tough blond.

This season turned her into an emotional mess. I'm still not sure what her motivations are. Maybe the shippers will be satisfied, but by having all of her emotional beats come with Shaw all season, her ultimate "choice" of Chuck wrong hollow with me. She's never really been honest with Chuck, and her character hasn't really developed as a result.

Now she is quite literally a damsel in distress.

Still, it's good to see Chuck finally feeling fun again. They even made Shaw seem like a human for the first time. Where was all this development!?! If you think about it, he mentioned his wife all of ONCE prior to this. I could have been even more invested in everything if they'd been building to this a bit more.

But whatever, great episode. Of course, now the show's sorta conclusion can get slaughtered in the ratings against the National Championship. Maybe a fun six episode reboot in May is just what this show needs to get the fans back in numbers?

erin said...

Wow...apparently I'm always the odd man out when it comes to fan reactions for this show. I haven't minded the majority of Chuck episodes that many have complained about, but THIS one had lots of eye rolling and "yeccchh" from my couch. I kind of figured that Shaw was there for Sarah as a temporary replacement because she couldn't be with Chuck, but nothing seemed too over the last few weeks so I didn't take it seriously. But then to have the writers make this relationship actually appear real, where she's kissing him tenderly, begging for him not give himself up, and not being 10 times more upset that Chuck going might get himself blowed up real good trying to rescue Shaw...NOT earned. And then that she would hold the red test over his head just seemed like an excuse to not want to be with him, and this episode made me really not root for her, or them as a couple. It just seemed like everything Sarah did this ep ticked me off. Will they get together next week? Probably (even the writers have to know when enough is enough). But I think the writers painted themselves into such a corner with this love triangle (or stretched the separation out for so long) that I'm almost over it. Shaw and Sarah are NOT believable. To pretend to make them so for this episode was just ridiculous.

I didn't find this to be fun much at all, besides the Lester/Jeff bits, and the stakeout. But what just angered me the most is that Chuck has to defend the man he's become over and over and over again to Sarah...come on. Dude, stop groveling. She either loves you or she doesn't. It shouldn't be that confusing to her, regardless of what you've done (and I'm in the camp that think he should've just killed the guy last week, at the minimum because it was self-defense). And attempting to make Shaw a viable love interest, when i thought the writers in previous episodes were being kind of half-a$$ed about that, was just....ARGH.

Definitely NOT one of my favorite episodes of the season, and i'm hoping that Shaw gets knocked off next week, hopefully by Chuck. This week left me just irritated.

Unknown said...

The DNI issue...

I recall the DNI office being referenced in season 2 as well.

As to Beckman, I took it to mean that she is the "Director of National Intelligence" a role that "could" be filled by a military officer from the NSA or a civilian officer from the CIA *Graham*

Anonymous said...

great episode for sure, yea Ellie said she still had her job but she could do Doctors without borders for a little while, and try it out was what i got from that conversation.

To a poster above, I think Awesome was upset because he saw Chuck, thats why when he went to talk to him and heard he was going to Rome, he said, "Ok good youre still leaving."

Unknown said...

About the DNI, see Chuck's paycheck in the first moments of Chuck versus the Ring.

Bethany said...

The only thing that really disappointed me was the implication that Awesome and Ellie won't be around, at least temporarily. Hopefully this was just the end-of-season plan (a la Morgan and Anna going to Hawaii), and they will be back for Season 3.1.

What are the chances that the back six will take place a significant amount of time later?

Otter said...

Hey Alan this is how happy I am with tonights ep.

Hartford said...

I love watching Casey deal with just being one of the Buy More dudes. That's gold.

Jimmy_J said...

The one thing I did like about the flash grenade scene was the look on the Ring agent's and Chuck's faces when the flash was about to pop - "Oh crap, this is gonna hurt". Priceless.

Strong episode and everything about it was fantastic and I have been very critical of this year but they brought their A-game for this one.

Allowance said...

It was kinda stupid for Sarah to leave her gun on the bed. She does have knives.

Two movie/TV cliches: Whoever says "Sir, you can't come in here" won't survive the scene and hospital patient pulling out the IV and leaving.

That magnet thing that made Shaw hork up the tracking device was bitchin'.

Beckman has very pretty eyes and nice legs. No wonder that dude in her office was flirty with her.

Anonymous said...

That was much better than expected


Anonymous said...

I love the debut scene when Chuck walk through the hall and the G. Beckman's office, that the Chuck we all love, a little goofy spy in a world of much serious operatives. In the other hand, I sincerely believe Chuck awesomeness actions to save Shaw... Didn't care for the flaws, I really enjoyed and loved the whole episode...


mizenkay said...

Team A-M-C made the episode for me, just a buncha guys in a stalker van. Too funny, that combined with Jeffster's incredible - and legendary - stalking skills all helping Chuck. Love is a battlefield was a nice sort of call back to "Heartbreaker, don't you mess around with Chuck" from the Lou episodes, way back when. Love a good Pat Benatar reference.

And look, there's Badger the Ring Master! Ha! It was inevitable that the ubiquitous Mark Sheppard would show up at some point. All he was missing was a very fine hat.

Don't really mind the plot hole of Ellie all of a sudden abandoning her USC Fellowship for Africa after her "You're a Bartowski" pep talk to Chuck and the awesome dressing down of hubby, Morgan and Casey after they'd been sprung from jail - especially the aside about Casey's public lewdness issues. What? Hilarious.

I just have never bought that Sarah would have any actual interest in Shaw, because as has been noted so many times since he arrived, there is NO chemistry between them. Wet. Dish. Rag. (And as Morgan pointed out tonight, still as a board. LOL) And yeah, whatever, he wasn't evil, but he's always been kind of a douche IMO, so therefore, he's just...not necessary. Can he leave now?

Shaw prevents Chuck/Sarah/Casey from happening and that has always been the heart and soul of the show for me. Without the team dynamic, it just sucks, and even though they weren't all working together tonight, my overall enjoyment of this episode had much to do with the fact almost the ENTIRE cast was present tonight. Really makes a big difference.

Anonymous said...

while dramatic, Sarah throwing her gun on the bed was also stupid because isn't she staying in a hotel? She's just going to leave a government issued firearm for the maids to find?

In the past she'd leave a gun or knives behind, but just for a date or a night out. She was leaving for good this time.

MM said...

"Bizarro Team Bartowski "
LMAO, I love you Alan!

Nikki said...

I love this show. "I'm gonna go home and pack both summer and winter wear". That was my favorite line.

This episode was definitely reminiscent of Chuck vs. The Colonel. Looking forward to the remaining episodes.

I hope fans who have jumped ship and those who threatened to do so change their minds so that we all get a fourth season.

7s Tim said...

Casey seemed to change his mind about Sarah knowing he killed the mole while listening to Chuck and Sarah talk in the restaurant. His heart broke a little when he heard the anguish from both parties concerning this particular secret.

Michael G. said...

Just wanted to give another shout out to the original music director/creator (Tim Jones?). Love it.

7s Tim said...

While listening to Sarah and Chuck argue about his reasons for not telling her the truth of his red test, Casey changed his mind about her knowing the truth, since it was such an impediment to their love. Or something like that.

Andrew said...

Casey seemed to change his mind about Sarah knowing he killed the mole while listening to Chuck and Sarah talk in the restaurant. His heart broke a little when he heard the anguish from both parties concerning this particular secret.,

You could also argue that the show finally used the line about there being no surveillance stuff in her apartment. If we believe that line, that's the only place Casey (or Chuck) could mention such a thing, so he had to wait for her to be there.

Casey has been rooting for those two almost as long as most of the fanbase has.

Andrew said...

The flash-grenade effect is a reference, I'm sure, to the video game Counter-Strike, which uses the exact same effect whenever a flash-grenade goes off.

Lisa said...

In the interest of fairness, I think overall fan discontent this season has had to do with three big problems beyond the control of the showrunners:

1. The Jay Leno fiasco, which has nearly destroyed NBC's proud tradition of great series television;
2. The economic downturn that's stripped the budget and casting opportunities of this wonderful show;
3. This season's weird rhythm owed in part to the extended episode order.

That aside, I can't let Schwartz & Co. off the hook for two HUGELY dumb decisions in S3: Brandon Routh's horrible casting and how they've independently torpedoed their two wonderfully talented female leads.

I'm sorry, BR -- I know there's a place for you somewhere in Hollywood, but it wasn't on this show. I don't see next week's episode changing my mind on this, but you never know.

But what they've done to Yvonne Strahovski and Sarah Lancaster! They've given them storylines and dialogue that's made the both of them unrecognizable from S1.

Since S2, they've taken Sarah Lancaster's very witty and warm supporting role and made her nothing more than a clueless whiner. (Sorry, Alan, but that "you're a Bartowski" moment was hardly a save.) And this SW/Shaw storyline made Sarah's character into nothing more than an insecure, dumb blonde -- as you said, Alan, many of us were hoping that this was a cover for SW playing Shaw somehow, but no such luck. Lazy, lazy writing.

And though YS has overcome this treatment again and again through S3, (particularly in her final scene with Adam Baldwin tonight), I almost barfed during the explosion scene. That horribly painful "My hero!" expression after she sees Chuck hauling Shaw from the fire was ridiculous compared to that wonderful moment in "Chuck vs. The Best Friend" where Sarah almost collapses at the apparent death of Chuck.

Add that to this ridiculous "I can't love you because you've killed somebody" crap between Sarah and Chuck, and...OK, I'll stop.

Let's just hope with Shaw gone the last few episodes will start feeling like the show I love again. Otherwise we're not going to get a fourth season.

mizenkay said...

ETA: Meant to write "stiff as a board" not still. But still, that was hilarious, cause Shaw, and Routh's acting is, well, stiff.

I am so thankful they've got a back six to deal with, cause if this had really been the penultimate episode, with the whole debacle of Shaw taking away screen time from our team, then I would really worry about cancellation. As it is, I am only mildly concerned. NBC can't be that stupid, can it. Don't answer that!

Anonymous said...

Jeffster was on fire this week. So many great throwaway lines, like Lester saying they were doing their stalking during "off hours" (while they were supposed to be working at Buy More).

Great episode, great show.

Mac said...

Of course, the thing about Ida is that she always comes back.

Anonymous said...

Also, what happened to the fellowship Ellie got that was going to force Devon to abandon his Doctors Without Borders scheme?

That's not actually a plothole Allan, she told Devon they offered her a 1 year sabbatical so they could do DWB


Wepdiggy said...

Yeah, it may have been mentioned, but I'm too lazy to check. Sarah graduated from Harvard. It's on her "Spy Dossier" on the NBC Chuck site. Also, her year with the secret service, and 9-11 months of training at "The Farm", and it's plenty easy to believe that Sarah was just passing her Red Test 5 years previous.

mtw179k said...

The problem I have with the "OMG, Sarah killed Shaw's wife" turn is that it feels like TV. In fact, that's one of my big gripes with the season so far--while there have been wonderful moments and enjoyable episodes, S3 has felt as though it's playing by the rules of American TV, something that S2 did not do. That's one reason I was hoping that the whole Shaw arc would turn out to be a House of Games twisty-turny. That would have flipped TV convention on its head. Instead, it's the much more conventional denouement that, no matter how well executed, will not (for me, anyway) take us anywhere new.

I wonder why this seems to happen so often--a show with a breakout second season is poised to blow up only to have the creators back away from the edge and embrace TV conventions. Might be a thesis in that...

Baylink said...

> The smile on Yvonne Strahovski's face when Casey told Sarah the truth didn't so much read as "Yay, now I get to change my mind," but "Yay, I made the right call."

You thought so? I totally thought she was going with Shaw -- albeit perhaps against her better judgement -- until Casey told her. She has to have done the math about what it meant for Casey to tell her (though the writers didn't give it to *us*, damnit), and that math is what changed her mind: even at the cost of losing her, Chuck was protecting Casey.

I did notice that they've started -- or at least Beckman has started -- saying "agent" most of the time, and I'm trying to remember how far back we started bitching about that here. ;-)

> why does the Castle electrical grid somehow affect one of the displays at the Buy More?

And was that really a callback to the Enterprise episode where Sato was in a transporter accident, and sent a subspace morse code distress signal?

> "You're a Bartowski, Chuck. Start acting like one." - was a very nice moment for Sarah Lancaster.

You thought so? I thought it was some of her weakest delivery of the year.. though it might have been the filming.

> Casey knows Sarah well enough to know she would never tell anybody else

Maybe, maybe not. I think there's enough slop there to be believable... Look whom Sarah was about to go off with. Her judgment has been a bit questionable lately.

> My head scratched when I saw the subtitle pointing out "DNI" headquarters, until I noticed a comment in last week's discussion that referred to Beckman working for the "Department of National Intelligence."

I would say you could blame me, but it wasn't the writers I was cracking on for getting that wrong as "DoD"; it was fanfic writer Sharpasamarble, whose 5th story I'm editing now.

DNI is actually the Director Of National Intelligence, currently Jon Negroponte, I think, who was placed above the DCI, who *used* to run the Intelligence Community until 9/11. Yes, everyone in the IC -- AFOSI, NSA, Army and Navy Intel, DIA, etc, used to chop to the Director of the CIA.

> or are some of the Intersect skills starting to become part of Chuck's muscle memory?

3 words: Call Of Duty. Chuck's been a great shooter for *years*. It was *being able to shoot at people* that took him a while.

And, to follow, maybe a couple comments on comments. Then I'm going to bed. :-)

VisionOn said...

Plot holes never used to matter in Chuck because the show was flat-out fun and never took itself too seriously.

With the show trying to turn into Alias 2 the plot holes become more obvious. At the same time I don't find the show as fun, sweet or charming as it was. With the exception of the Chuck and his Three Musketeers in the van it was just not funny this week and that is a trend that keeps becoming more obvious.

Chuck just isn't a fun show now. I'm not rooting for the underdog any more because there isn't one. With Chuck now actually being better than Sarah thanks to his perfectly working Intersect, there just isn't any reason to empathize with Chuck. He's just becoming another action hero, not the nerd that the geeks in the audience identified with that made him so likeable.

Baylink said...

> I thought of Get Smart with the Dr Jibb soda machine

We weren't the only ones humming that theme song then? Good.

> it sort of defeats the purpose of a stealth bomber if you're going to fly it at low altitude.

It also defeats the purpose of a GBU-28 bunker buster if you drop it from so low that it hasn't time to get vertical so it can penetrate... but it's Chuck. We don't expect them to get the details right; it's not like geeks are their target audi... wait; what?

> The general who ordered the airstike nametag said "Bauer"

Wasn't that the same actor we saw off-edge-of-screen one time when Beckman was in a silk nightgown being interrupted? Or was that scene from fanfic too, and I'm just too imaginative?

> Considering how well that played into an otherwise, as the commentators have been saying, "angsty" Chuck/Sarah scene, why couldn't they have done more of that?

I actually had a bit of trouble with the editing on tonight's ep; the tone changed markedly in some of the checkerboard scenes, and the background and music didn't give us the cues that we needed; L-cuts weren't really suitable for that bit, IMHO.

> "Director of National Intelligence" a role that "could" be filled by a military officer from the NSA

I quote from Wikipedia:

> NSA's work is limited to communications intelligence; it does not perform field or human intelligence activities.

NSA *has* no paramilitary field agents with ranks; not even seconded from other services. It's always bugged me, but never really *mattered*, so...

> especially the aside about Casey's public lewdness issues. What?

You don't remember that they used this as an excuse for Devon being gone all night previously?

> Jeffster was on fire this week. So many great throwaway lines, like Lester saying they were doing their stalking during "off hours" (while they were supposed to be working at Buy More).

I have said for quite some time that the reason this show is so good -- and the thing that separates good fanfic from bad in this universe -- is the skillful use of the Buymorians. They are not sufficient, but *decidedly* necessary, to get to the end of a good season of Chuck.

> I wonder why this seems to happen so often--a show with a breakout second season is poised to blow up only to have the creators back away from the edge and embrace TV conventions. Might be a thesis in that...

Two words: Network Executives.

No, three more: Public Corporations Suck.


Anonymous said...

Great episode tonight. I know some people are complaining about Sarah throwing the gun on the bed but the audience needed to see that she chose Chuck. I agree with Alan, "this" is the Chuck we fought to save. Hopefully it is indicative of what the rest of the season will be like. If the ratings would just go up......

J said...

I'm happy I finally figured out what day of the week Castle is on.

Baylink said...

> Instead, Chuck brings the thing with him, which lets the CIA know that he's like 50 stories underground. So, of course, they send a bomb that barely chips the paint on the warehouse.

In fairness to them:

Chuck brought the tracker cause he *knew* what it was and why Shaw didn't have it anymore, and didn't want the good guys to blow up the empty intersection...

and if the bomb made it into the bunker, that's all you'd *see* above ground; most of the explosion would be cofferdammed up 1000ft down.

wv: worsemb - what everyone thinks has been happening to the show all season.

Unknown said...

It's about time for the original Chuck to return with all its charm and wittiness. I loved this episode! After the last few I was beginning to wonder if the writers were losing it. Personally I hope they kill off Shaw and get on with the show. I liked the show a lot better when Larkin was the one interfering--at least he served a purpose and could act.

Lisa said...

The best things about tonight's episode?

1. ZL's performance. He's made all the weird moves make sense. Now if they put YS back on track, we'll be back to why we loved them in S1 and S2.

2. Jeff and Lester. They always bring the funny/creepy.

3. The scene in the van with the boys. That's the only part of the ep that had me laughing out loud.

cgeye said...

Oh, dear, Tony Hale's on L&O tonight, and he still has trouble with relationships....

Anonymous said...

Ah, Mr. Pibb. I always liked you better than Dr. Pepper. Then again, I also like Fresca. There was a missed opportunity for genuine product placement, methinks.

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

For me, the biggest disappointment this season has for sure been Sarah's loss of agency, and this episode just went deeper into that. I love the show enough to give it the benefit of the doubt, and hope they can fix some of these problems in the six extra episodes, but watching Chuck and Shaw and Casey all make decisions for Sarah over and over and over again has gotten extremely tiresome.

I will say, however, that John Casey has once again proven himself the biggest Sarah/Chuck 'shipper of them all, and I sort of love him for it. ;)

Anonymous said...

So Awesome is desperately trying to ship Chuck off to Rome so that Ellie will feel free to go to Africa with him, when his motivation for going to Africa in the first place was to escape the deceit and danger injected into their lives by Chuck's spying -- all of which would cease to be an issue with Chuck in Rome (or no longer being a spy, in the event he's unable to persuade Sarah to join him). Where's this overwhelming desire to go to Africa for its own sake coming from? Oh, it comes from the writers not remembering any character's stated motivations, because those are just tacked on after it's decided what everyone needs to do to drive the plot.

The entire arc has rested on this flavor of bad writing, what with Chuck's lofty declaration of love five minutes after he got done banging some other chick, whom he'd met five minutes after his previous lofty declaration of love. Oh, then there's Sarah's 180-degree turn on whether Shaw's creepy advances were welcome, followed by an immediate and profound attachment to him, which swiftly falls by the wayside as she decides to run away with Chuck while Shaw's laid up in the hospital.

This show has long since passed into the realm of "Generally poor, but littered with references to things we remember from the '80s" inhabited by "Psych."

Billy said...

Maybe I'm just losing my mind, but for the life of me I couldn't understand what Shaw's last line to Sarah was, when she asked where Shaw was taking them. Anyone?

Chrissy said...

Oh, and another thing I just thought of - why, after they just get done watching video footage of the Ring extracting a tracker from the mole, does Shaw think it's a brilliant idea to use an identical tracker? Because there's no way the Ring would think of that?

I differentiate between giddy-implausible (the Mr. Pibb machine) and lazy-implausible (90% of everything else that happened in this episode).

W Gladstone said...

Billy - It was along the lines of 'to settle an old score'

Audrey said...

This is the show I fought to save last spring, and even if parts of this season have been bumpy, I can deal with those bumps when we get to moments like the ones that we got in abundance in "American Hero."

My thoughts exactly. (Almost) All mistakes can be forgiven after this episode.

but veteran director Jeremiah Chechik largely went with the same style for the flash-grenade scene here

IMO, the style was much more appropriate here, while in "Beard" I had to scratch my head to wonder what the heck was happening (and if my memory serves me right, in "Beard" it was a smoke bomb?). The latter seems like it came out of nowhere.

Col Bat Guano said...

Not as good as two weeks ago. The resolution of the Sarah/Shaw/Chuck triangle of fail did nothing to answer the question of why it existed at all. Sarah's motivation is still completely unfathomable to me especially since Shaw never advanced past the plot device phase of character development. I have to believe Routh's acting was the creator's choice because no actor that untalented should be able to get a part on a network show.

Things I Like said...

First, I've just got to say that John Casey continues to be my absolute favorite character on this show. He is not only hilarious, but he has proven that he has depth, and that despite his wishes to the contrary, he cares about Chuck and Sarah. His character is what truly makes the show for me.

Second, Zach Levi is a fantastic actor. He is carried this season so well. Even all of the little things that fans have been frustrated with don't bother me when I watch Zach do his thing. He makes me love Chuck and care about the stories. I'm so impressed with him.

Finally, I really feel that I must say a few words about Sarah. I have to respectfully disagree with the fans who are disappointed in her story arc this season. While I hate the fact that she's been with Shaw, and think their chemistry is non-existent, I can TOTALLY understand her confusion and emotional upheaval. In some ways, I can relate to what she has faced this season. She has spent almost her whole life lying about who she is, and trying to avoid any kind of TRUE emotional connections because that would take an openness that she is afraid of. NOW, Chuck comes along and completely flips her world upside down. I can understand how conflicted and confused with HERSELF she must feel. I just can't be upset at the writers for doing this to her character because I actually see it as a natural progression for someone like her, whose life has been absolutely altered by a love she can't understand. This progression (however frustrating for the "shippers" out there), has actually made me see her as more than just an ass-kicking, one-dimensional character. She's a real girl to me now.

All that to say, I loved this episode (plot holes and all), and I can't wait until next week.

Eric said...

I will say that I really liked this episode when I first watched it. But on second viewing, two major plotholes that pretty much ruined the episode for me:

1. Why, in the first 30 seconds when Chuck ran into the Ring agent at the elevator, did he not flash on him? Hasn't he flashed on every other enemy agent ever? It's not like he didn't get a good look at him.

2. Shaw is a CIA agent. Assume his wife is also a CIA agent working undercover, wouldn't the CIA *know* that? And know that enough not to send another agent to kill her as a red test? And why would Beckman not know that, when she seems to know everything about everybody else?

Leaving that aside for a minute, why does Shaw then think the Ring killed her? How does he get the body back? From the CIA, because they'd be the ones disposing of the body afterward. So if Shaw thinks the Ring killed his wife, then for some reason the CIA wanted him to think that. How does this make any sense?

Okay, let's then turn it around and say his wife is a double agent, working for the ring. And let's say Sarah killed her on the up-and-up. Why would the CIA not tell Shaw that? Why would they make him think the Ring killed her?

It's like a logic problem I can't wrap my head around. Under what parameters would what has been presented before us actually make sense? If anybody can clear this up, honestly I'm all ears.

Andrew said...

This progression (however frustrating for the "shippers" out there), has actually made me see her as more than just an ass-kicking, one-dimensional character

Whereas most of the people who are complaining about the arc already saw her as more than an ass-kicking one-dimensional character. The writers conveyed Sarah's depth and emotional vulnerability pretty well in the first two seasons, without trending overly into melodrama. It's the reason her actually falling in love with Chuck makes perfect sense to begin with!

The complaint is that rather than giving her depth, Sarah has been turned into a lame, pitiful one dimensional version of herself. And that more importantly, she has very little say in her own destiny (as I put it last week and Alan did this week, she lacks agency). Which is definitely the biggest flaw with tonight's episode: again most of the decisions are made for her by others. And of course it's Chuck (yay!) who gives her a choice again (though because he's Chuck, it's not really a choice). And then Casey reinforces it, because again, Casey is the King of All Shippers.

Andrew said...

Okay, let's then turn it around and say his wife is a double agent, working for the ring. And let's say Sarah killed her on the up-and-up. Why would the CIA not tell Shaw that? Why would they make him think the Ring killed her?

To turn him into a weapon to destroy The Ring? Of course that's a miscalculation, because only Team Bartowski can destroy The Ring, obviously.

Eric said...

Also I want to point out that I forgive a lot of plotholes each week because I love the show so much overall. But the ones that stuck out to me this week were integral to the plot, characters and character motivations, as opposed to some of the other ones, which didn't really alter my perception of the episode:

The bomber, Casey in the castle, even using that magnet thing on Shaw - without an xray reference, what are the chances the agent would be able to navigate the thing up his stomach and thru his esophagus without tearing up his insides? Very cool, but ultimately implausible. Seriously, if somebody can do it I'd be very impressed.

Billiam said...

First of all, I loved the episode.

Now, on to nitpicks: I thought it was silly of Beckman to put all their trust in one detectable tracker. Of course the Ring would look for one. Shaw didn't even bother to come up with a good story for letting them take him.

I was initially annoyed by Chuck wanting to quit his job, though I wished they would have addressed the fact that him going to Rome meant he would be going for at least several years without talking to his sister.

Oh, one thing that people are debating: I'm having trouble remembering the exact quote, but before Casey cut Sarah off to tell her about shooting the mole, I'm pretty sure she was starting to say that she had already decided to go with Chuck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you thingsilike, I am definitely a big shipper but I agree with everything you said. There has to be a progression with the show and the characters they can't keep everything exactly the same. Although I can see where most of the people that don't like the way season 3 has been carried out are coming from, alot of them would be complaining if everything was the same and was always just a mission a week type thing.

Andrew said...

I was initially annoyed by Chuck wanting to quit his job, though I wished they would have addressed the fact that him going to Rome meant he would be going for at least several years without talking to his sister.

Quitting his job is obvious: he was demonstrating Sarah came first. It was a hopeless, Chuckian romantic gesture.

As for the Ellie issue. Yeah, that's been relegated to a convenient plot point when the writers need it rather than a fundamental part of Chuck's character. Which sucks, but I choose to ignore it when the rest of the episode is entertaining.

Geoff said...

I really liked some of the macro-humor in this episode. Early on, Shaw buts in on the conversation a season in the making between Chuck and Sarah and says, "Sorry for interrupting."

I was secretly hoping that they'd turned Shaw into the new bad-guy for next season because when he saw that video in the bunker, that was the first time I'd actually liked him. I'm ok with letting him go in liu of Mark Sheppard though, who has been thoroughly evil on Leverage.

Nathan said...

I'm kind of bummed by the whole Sarah's-infatuation-with-another-hunky-superspy was just that. I understand the need to try and keep the two characters apart but geez, it really has been sloppy. I think if BR & YS had something approaching chemistry together it might of played but they really didn't. I do however think the twist with Shaw, Sarah & Shaw's wife was the most interesting thing they have done with the character. I guess I keep coming back to what is the point of The Ring? Why do they even exist except as a plot device and what do they want with Shaw? Why feed Shaw that information unless you want to turn him against the CIA or Sarah...and why would they want to turn him against Sarah if the Ring operative, who kind of looked like he knew Shaw, following Shaw didn't know who she was? Why try and have Angie Harmon's Ring agent kill Shaw if they actually wanted to turn him? What was on the information chip the Ring agent stole off the dead guy? What was shocking to Beckman about what Shaw was going to put Team Bartowski through so many episodes ago?
I swear to god I have'nt seen these many plot points raised & then quickly dropped & forgotten about since the final season of "Buffy."
None of this is to say I didn't love most of this episode. Loved Jeffster and the line about his blue period almost got a spit take. Loved Casey & Morgan wanting to get picked for Chuck's Roman team. Loved Chuck just being Chuck...both the character & the show itself. On to next week.

cgeye said...

"The icing on the cake is Shaw himself - are we really to believe that he holds Sarah responsible for his wife's death? (...) And Sarah leaving without her gun...? I'm out of words. Stop it show, you're killing me."

I have to see the episode again, but that's when my BS meter pinged into the red.

All frakking season these jut-jawed spies have drilled into our heads (like literally drilled, the repetition's been that painful) the reality that spies A) don't indulge in feelings B) must Do What They've Gotta Do, No Matter What and C) anyone who thinks otherwise shouldn't be in the business.

Isn't the pimp-slapping Sarah's been giving Chuck all season the paradox of him having to act like a spy in order to be near her, but having to not act like a spy in any way that's important (like killing people) because she thinks that's icky? Except when she kisses by-the-book spy Shaw? You see the problem, here? Sarah might be confused, but she has no friends other than those co-workers she can't really be open with, so we only see her through other people's eyes. That's great for an obscure object of desire, but bad for a fully-developed character.

As for Shaw, if he's the man he was supposed to be, he should have asked the question, "why was my spywife killed by my supervisors"? Either someone involved in Ring counterintelligence ordered the hit, or they knew who in the Ring bollixed up their system so well that Sarah was manipulated to be the hitwoman against their own mole. (It would have been one hell of a twist if he learned *he* ordered the hit, because of a mole on his team playing a trick....)

*That's* the person Shaw should be gunning for, not the naive rookie who did her job the way Shaw urged Chuck on. And revenge is against the practical spy code, when you think about it. How many enemies become double agents for *our* side, or at least reliable confidential informants? The fact that Shaw's bosses let him go out into the field without even checking for themselves who killed his wife -- when Sarah's red test results should be available to her and Shaw's supervisors, if they're available to the Ring -- is coincidence beyond credulity.

In an intelligence culture that values total surveillance and completely anal recordkeeping, no analyst made the connection between Shaw, his wife and Sarah? Really? Such a lapse bespeaks incompetence on a systemic level, and that would be a great story. Too bad the writers keep their alphabet agencies as the good guys, despite every mistake they've made.

The problem with this plot resolution is that *we* saw the truth of the hit last week. If we had this week to wonder whether the Ring doctored the data, then we'd be in a bit of mystery that would serve the plot... but now there's no doubt, is there?


cgeye said...

I'm gonna say it, and immediately regret it: ALIAS plotted better than this. with all the Rambaldi crap, it never lost sight of its core relationships, and how its spy family trusted, betrayed and yearned to love each other. That was compelling; this is emotionally slapdashed together, and has been all season.

And, as for Sarah's gun? Why would she go unarmed when running away with Chuck from her violent spy bosses (who could stick a death order on them both for desertion in a time of war), from the Ring, Fulcrum, and any other disgruntled spy or criminal she's crossed during her career, and, oh yeah, ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO WANT THE INTERSECT (remember? The reason she came on this mission? Jaysus....). At least she could have put her gun in her suitcase, bullets out, just in case... or, I don't know, carried the gun with her ON HER SUPPOSED EMERGENCY ASSIGNMENT WITH SHAW?

The writers made a symbol out of that weapon, then forgot just how crucial that weapon is in keeping her and Chuck alive, even if they manage to run away. Just because Chuck and Sarah make the mistake of considering their desertion a happy ending, doesn't mean anyone else in their world would.

As for Casey, I think he knows the damage he's doing by giving up that secret, but he doesn't care. If people are going to hell, then he can't stop them, but at least they need the truth because that's something that became a luxury for him. 'shipper or no, Casey knows that for those two crazy kids to desert their posts means a death warrant -- it did last season, WHEN HE WAS ORDERED TO HUNT THEM DOWN, and it does, now. Why do the writers deemphasize that real, dramatizable danger, when it's right in front of them? Turn down the quirky music, if you must, and give us that raw meat and high stakes.

I hope the rest of the season's a palate cleanser, or at least a step up in plot complications and character depth. It can still be light and funny, with an occasional punch in the gut.

spoff said...

More than the plot holes, the episode felt incredibly rushed - the actors didn't have any time to pause over what they were saying, because the camera kept cutting quickly from shot to shot. I've got a feeling the pivotal Sara Lancaster scene was cut to bare bones, just to get it in the episode.

Still, I enjoyed the episode.

No one's mentioned the Matrix reference: am I the only one who heard a Matrixy musical twang when Chuck parted company with the Jeff/Lester stalkermobile, shortly followed by the wall of green television screens?

Also, Sarah had definitely chosen Chuck when Casey showed up in her apt. She clearly says, if he came to plead Chuck's case, it was unnecessary. Like Alan said, the knowledge Chuck wasn't a killer reinforced that she made the right decision.

I hope we get another season of Chuck, but even if the next episode was the series last, (based on where it's gone this season) I have a feeling I'd be satisfied.

Pamela Jaye said...

Oops. It's Monday. Okay, it's Tuesday. Got distracted by Dancing with Kate Gosselin and my third chance to get a clean recording of The Big Bang Theory, and forgot to read the blog till now.
I'm so tired, I can't even comment on Baylink's comments - or read all of them - except to say I was not humming anything (I assume I'm part of "we"), that I completely forgot about Hoshi (and wouldn't have been able to remember her name, and yes it's sad that my roommate watches more Enterprise than I do) and... um... Baylink reads a lot of Tom Clancy. Big Sis finds Clancy books to be a whole lot of men comparing the size of their guns. (but she did read one unfortunate Clancy novel for several months, finishing unfortunately, one month after 9/11. can't remember the title, but if you know which one you wouldn't have wanted to be reading then - it was that one.)

Elena said...

Can't say much more than what you said Alan--my thoughts are much the same. I enjoyed the episode a lot, but am disappointed they played it straight with Shaw and Sarah. All my complaints about that still hold. And as others have said, hope that there is a twist to why Shaw took Sarah--maybe he has been deep programmed or something. Anyway, there was much to enjoy, especially liked the 3 caballeros helping Chuck get the girl back.

maryploppins said...

filmcricket said - "WRT Sarah's only being an agent a couple of years: I guess you could fanwank it that she'd been a junior agent up until then or something, but yeah, Graham recruited her out of high school, so if you're not a spy until you kill someone, there's a continuity error there."

This comment somehow jogged my memory of something ... wasn't there an episode in S2 that included a flashback to 2005 with Sarah and Bryce on a mission in like ... Brazil or something?? And they both clearly looked like they were already VERY experienced agents!! And of course 2005 was exactly 5 years ago. Oh AND didn't Sarah shoot some dude in the HEAD in that same scene with like, NO hesitation!? I just remembered that too!! So I think there indeed may be an error in continuity with this storyline about Sarah killing Shaw's wife.

Nick said...

The flash bang effects, I think, are a nod to video games. The often use the same visual style and background noise.

Anonymous said...

DNI also appears on the back of Chuck's Tron poster.

steph said...

agree fully with lisa. this episode was ridiculous, but the good thing about being a penultimate episode is that a stellar finale forgives a lot and plotlines did need to be set up. c'mon...

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on a few of the plot holes:

Didn’t Ellie state in this episode that the hospital was giving her a one-year sabbatical? That’s how she can go to Africa. I thought the plot hole was Devon’s employment situation. Does he also get a sabbatical? Not addressed tonight.

I think Morgan and Casey probably just got swept up along with Devon. After all, Morgan was lying on the sidewalk suffering from being tased. And Casey just looks suspicious dressed that way in a van. None of them would have been able to explain what they were doing or given the actual reason for their presence. So the cops, unable to work out what the three of them were doing and knowing a crime had been committed, (at the least some kind of vandalism charge or disturbing the piece) probably just hauled them all in to sort out later.

It’s plausible that Casey and Sarah worked out some kind of contingency plan to use Morse Code in a situation such as this and therefore rewired some things to that affect. Or, Casey being the Morse Code junkie that he is (he said that he still exchanges messages with his buddies this way) would hone in on something like that. He is a lifetime military/intelligence officer. And don’t forget, Sarah looked around the surveillance apparatus of the Buy More with different cameras in order to find Casey’s exact location in the store. This, I surmise, was so she could pick the correct display to use that was in Casey’s line-of-sight. The bigger plot hole, I think, was that Sarah was detained in that room by Chuck yet she had a computer available to her that seemingly would have given her access to the security system. As far as Casey getting in, Sarah could easily have given the new code to him with the Morse Code message.

The Dr. Jibb reminded me of Mr. Pibb.

I liked Lester’s expressions at a couple of Jeff’s creepier statements.

As far as Sarah killing Eve, I’m not sure about the timeline. But I wonder if the CIA, in the show, sets two legitimate agent candidates against each other in a winner-takes-all Darwinian challenge. The winner becomes a new agent. The loser is killed; probably because they know too much to be let loose in regular society. I know this doesn’t exactly account for Casey being let go. But maybe service time gets you off the hit list because you’ve proven yourself. And we have seen in the past when Chuck was going to be killed if he didn’t measure up. After Eve’s killing, the CIA would simply tell Shaw she was killed by the enemy. He probably would have known about her Red Test but he likely wouldn’t have known when it was beforehand or known about it while it was happening. And if the CIA makes all its agents believe they are going against an enemy agents, then Shaw really wouldn’t know that the Red Test involved another legitimate agent. Additionally, before Casey shot Hunter, didn’t he say something to Chuck like “Wait, this isn’t what you think it is.”? Maybe he was going to try to convince Chuck that he was also an agent candidate. If this is all true, and I know it’s a stretch, and Team Bartowski somehow figures it out, what will that do in terms of their loyalty to country/agency, etc.?

Rich, Denver

Xeddicus said...

Chuck doesn't always flash on Bad Guys. Plot Hole Filled.

The CIA etc keep secrets all the time. "Oops, we killed your wife." is easy to accept as one of them. If they even knew she was undercover at the time. That leads to the above, and the same denial. It gained them a dedicated agent against the Ring keeping it secret, too.

So those 2 things shouldn't really be bothering anyone. Overall it was a good episode like Alan said. Ellie's speech, the B team of Team B. Sarah and Chuck. Casey coming clean.

We just need Shaw dead now. Too bad Sarah stupidly took her gun out (another indicator she had chosen Chuck at that point already, but still stupid).

belinda said...

I'm glad that we're getting 6 more episodes of this, because what I want to see resolved is the "Casey is not a spy" plot most of all, and it would be great if they gave that one whole episode even.

I was bothered by the timing of Sarah's red test since it does imply she was only a spy for 2 years prior to Chuck. (Though, I suppose, given her age - which is somewhere in her late twenties, I suppoes it actually makes some sense that she was only a spy for 2 years - I guess experience grows exponentially in this line of work, provided you don't die).

I wonder if it was even necessary for Casey to spill the beans about Chuck's red test - because having Sarah choose Chuck by trusting him and taking a leap is more powerful (it's implied here that she already chose Chuck prior to Casey's reveal, but if that's the case, then not having the Casey scene - or having Casey about to tell her, but didn't - would have strengthen this point more so).

It's still just a tad annoying that the CIA doesn't seem to care at all about Chuck's intersect (given the importance, you'd think Chuck would be a much sought after spy in all kinds of missions all over the world- because they did spent at least 2 years having to build a base in Burbank simply to protect him/it - and it's weird that Beckman only refers to Chuck as a spy, when he's anything but an ordinary spy - he's the only working intersect filled with all kinds of top secrets!)

If Chuck does come back for another season, any chance of them getting a bigger budget for the season? I know they're doing their best to stretch the budget, but it's been quite noticeable this season, and I hate for that to detract from the show.

BigTed said...

The major plot hole with Sarah supposedly killing Shaw's wife was that the footage could so easily have been doctored. Shaw just saw it on the Ring's ridiculous picture-in-picture screen, while the CIA simply recovered the same tape after the bombing (and doesn't seem to have verified it independently).

They seem to be leaving open the very real possibility that it will turn out not to have been Sarah after all. But even if it was, Shaw is a fool (and not the agent we think he is) if he doesn't question the tape's veracity, given the Ring's interest in turning him.

Andrew said...

As for Sarah's gun: she's leaving with unstoppable (if reluctant) death machine and is not exactly helpless without the gun herself.

SO many times on this show guns are miraculously removed from play at the start of fights so that we can get hand to hand fights where Sarah beats the hell out of people and we think that's awesome.

But her symbolic leaving the gun and her old life behind (yes it was blatant, but whatever) is bothersome? I think that's a silly complaint. At least she got to make a choice, for once this season.

LoopyChew said...

Personal thoughts:

1. Dammit, don't tease me with a "guest starring Mary Pat Gleason" when she dies within thirty seconds of being introduced...AFTER she dies! I was hoping for more Ida, particularly in an episode with Neville Manservant. I don't know how they would've pulled it off, but it would've been awesome!

2. A show is not truly a geek staple until Mark Frakkin' Sheppard shows up. Now that he has, I'm happy.

3. If this all leads to Beckman being a Big Bad somehow, I will be very much cursing my television with furious joy. I don't particularly see it happening (Bonita Friedericy is just far too brilliant for it to happen) but it's one of those twists like the Big Bad of 24 Season 5 that I think would be brilliant if they do.

Definitely looking forward to The Other Guy, and while I agree that on the whole this season hasn't been as good as Season 2, I'm mostly happy with the way things turned out.

Eric said...

2. Shaw is a CIA agent. Assume his wife is also a CIA agent working undercover, wouldn't the CIA *know* that? And know that enough not to send another agent to kill her as a red test? And why would Beckman not know that, when she seems to know everything about everybody else?

I can fanwank it as the CIA not wanting the NSA to know all its operatives' history. As Shaw is CIA, however, I'm surprised he didn't know more.

The bomber, Casey in the castle, even using that magnet thing on Shaw - without an xray reference, what are the chances the agent would be able to navigate the thing up his stomach and thru his esophagus without tearing up his insides? Very cool, but ultimately implausible. Seriously, if somebody can do it I'd be very impressed.

I thought it WAS tearing up his insides, which is why Shaw was screaming and Black Bauer was commenting on how much quieter it was when the subjects in question are dead.

CAPTCHA: "recon." I kid you not.

Johnny3 said...

I'm an idiot. Should have seen it coming that once they showed Sarah's red test that it was Eve that she killed. JS got one over on me.

Stellar Drift said...

Slight cognitive dissonance with Castle also having an agent Shaw (this one competent) on the show for a while. Anway thankfully less of the noisy soundmachine track that the producers love so much.

"Some of the problems couldn't be helped, like the reduced budget. It's kept the supporting characters shuttling in and out (which becomes particularly noticeable in contrast to an episode like this that features everyone but Big Mike and uses all the characters well),"

That's just a bad excuse. When they have less of a budget they shouldn't go hiring a lot of guest actors - we could have gotten rid of Brandon Rotten and more of the real team - that would have been money well spent.

"So, in effect, Chuck and Sarah have finally chosen each other at the same time, and all that's holding it up is a temporary plot complication "

Until episode 14 where I'm sure some new contrived way will split them up. (Along with Ellie and Devon being sent of to some remote country)

Unless of course next week Sarah actually gets bumped off and Shaw and Chuck go on a homo erotic drunken killing spree all over Europe for the next six episodes (you thought you were getting rid of Shaw? Oh no, you are not getting rid of him that easily!)

Hossler said...

this is just the best show ever.

when im whatching it i dont even realise that there are holes in the story because i am so pulled in by the show. i only start to think about them fter i read them from this page.

Stephanie said...

I feel like a broken record every time I post because every comment is how much I loved the episode. And I loved this episode.

That's not to say that I didn't have issues with it. Specifically, as others have mentioned, Sarah's angry reaction to Chuck "killing" that agent. I understand no longer seeing Chuck the same way, and even feeling massive guilt that he became this because of her, but that's not how that was played. It was weird, and totally unfair to Chuck.

Other thoughts:

-@laura: No, you're not the only one who heard Matrix like music. My ears perked up at that and I thought it was a shout out.

-I LOLd at Morgan believing he was going to Rome with Chuck. He must be crazy if he thinks the CIA would let that happen.

-Awesome, Casey and Morgan all working together to help Chuck, even for their own self-interest, was too perfect. They were a riot.

-And almost as funny as Jeff and Lester. It was brilliant how the writers worked those two into the storyline and they definitely have to be used more in that capacity.

I have to agree with you, Alan, that my biggest issue with Shaw is not as an obstacle to Chuck and Sarah, but as an obstacle to Chuck, Sarah and Casey. I know most will disagree with me, but IMO, THAT is the heart of the show. It's just not the same without the three of them together.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. Shaw would've worked better had he been played by an actor who had better chemistry with YS, but in general, I'm satisfied with how this storyline was handled.

sc said...

Am I the only one who disagrees with Alan that I don't think it is a given at all that Chuck and Sarah will end up together next week? I am not convinced the writers are going to wrap it up nicely, and expect something else to come up and muddle them being a couple....anyone else agree?

Rose said...

This episode integrated all things that are 'CHUCK'--comedy, drama, suspense, romance, & action. The show is total escapism for me, and it came through in spades this week! I absolutely loved it. I think they've done a phenomenal job with what they've had to work with this season, and as a previous poster commented, I'm so entertained that I often don't even notice the plot holes or lessened action scenes due to budget constraints unless I read them here. The friendships between characters has always been one of my favorite aspects of the show, and I loved the scenes with everyone rallying to help Chuck get Sarah back.

Some of my favorite moments:
*Jeff has named his van Loretta(it's his retirement!)

*Morgan reporting 'one man down....bring a stretcher, and maybe a change of pants'

*Ellie's reference to Casey's 'public indecency problem'

*Ellie's interaction with Chuck about Sarah--'you're a Bartowski'--such a great moment between them, even if it was too brief

*Chuck finally confessing his love to Sarah, of course! :-)

*Shaw viewing the video, and his crazed return to consciousness. This is the best I've seen from him all season

The best is yet to come. Great show, great episode, can't wait 'til next week. And praying for a Season 4!

Crazy like a Fox said...

I'm hoping someone can explain it to me--people seemed to like Ellie's "You're a Bartowski, start acting like one" comment, but I don't get it (unless something occurred in season 2 to explain it--I've only seen the first 4 episodes of that season so far). Their mom left. Their dad was never around (although he did show up for a character arc in the second half of season 2 I see in the spoilers, and was at the wedding), then came and left again. Chuck was kicked out of Stanford (does Ellie know he now has his degree, thanks to Sarah and Casey?), then to Ellie's eyes he mostly hung around the Buy More feeling sorry for himself, until he met Sarah. Ellie isn't aware (we think) of Chuck's spy life. So what's so great about being a Bartowski that this is a rallying cry? Unless it's a joke, but if so it's a fairly weak one.

I'm glad they didn't end this show on the "Chuck's left at the train station thinking Sarah's not coming" plot arc, which could have been an easy way out for more 'Chuck and Sarah aren't getting together' angst, which we've had enough of. I just hope they'll be able to sustain the show after the inevitable getting together, since so many shows go downhill after that particular sexual tension is resolved(Frasier, Friends).

And Chuck finally gets to be the full-blown action hero, without bumbling even once in the big action sequence (although how he acted in Washington was a nice touch--and I don't care if it's not loaded (of course it isn't, this is Chuck), get the gun away from your head, Chuck). He even got to drive the cool spy car (although how did he get it to start?) rather than having to "stay in the car." (And how does a 6'4" guy manage to jump in a car that small and get situated without killing himself? I wonder how banged up Zach got filming that).

I love how Chuck's character has progressed over the seasons (and this is even with a big gap of season 2 I need to fill in). Although, once he figures out what kind of spy he wants to be, when he learns he can mix his own personality and style into how he operates, I really hope they bring back his longer, curlier hair--I miss it. I understand the shorter cut from a stylistic point of view, representing Chuck becoming a full-blown, professional spy. But, it's not as fitting for his cute, quirky nature that I'm hoping he won't try to supress as he learns to operate in this world he's now fully a part of.

And, I say Chuck will stick around as a spy. I know he and Sarah say they'll run away from that world, but come on, even if that wouldn't mean the end of the show, I can't see either of them doing that, not forever. They're both too dedicated to the good they can do in the job. And despite it being a failing on Chuck (and a surprising one, I think, for him, smart as he is) for not thinking through that becoming a full blown spy means moving around a lot, not working long-term with people, we know that on rare occasions it does occur, so there's hope for him and Sarah. (Shaw and Eve were married, although that's the only good example I can think of--Sarah and Bryce, even if it was love (which I doubt, more a case of two people knowing they're so alike they should be together, it should work out, but there's no true deep connection there so it's not truly love) ended up being short term, as potentially Shaw and Sarah I think would be.

Alfred A. A. said...

Here are my two biggest complaints of the season. They could both be fixed too:

- A trade-off between fun and a darker show: JS decided to take Chuck in a different direction this year, a very bold move, but in the process he stopped making the show as fun. Before, when I used to watch Chuck, even in a bad episode I was thoroughly entertained. Things are definitely more interesting now, but I can't say I leave the show feeling like it was the TV highlight of the week. Maybe you have to make a trade-off between fun and darkness, but I'm not entirely convinced it should be that way.

- Sarah doesn't kick ass anymore. Seriously, when's the last time we saw Sarah kick ass on a long action scene? Watching a hottie pull some karate moves on some nameless fulcrum agents was always a higlight of the show, and giving Chuck his new intersect powers has taken that away. I wouldn't mind her irrational behavior if she still kicked ass and looked great while doing it.

The episode itself was pretty good, I also thought it was interesting that Chuck didn't flash. Maybe, after a while, he won't need to flash at all, even if they take the intersect away.

Caz said...

Call me a fangirl, but this ep left me spinning. I wanted to high five the entire cast and crew, I loved it. And as much as I love pre-intersect 2.0 Chuck, I also respect the writers for not letting the character languish in that and for giving us rapid development. In fact, although it's less funny now for sure, I think equally we would have been very tired of an extended showcase for ZL's clowning skills, stuttering and O-face.

I find the angst stuff a lot easier to swallow if I keep reminding myself that Sarah put everything she had on the line for Chuck in 3x01 and he turned her down flat. It takes a lot for a girl to forget that sort of slap in the face, and I say kudos to the writers for not having Sarah sell herself short and give him another chance too readily. I mean, although we understand his reasons for the choice he made, the season has been taken up with Chuck realising that he pooched it. Big time. And we've been watching his redemption ever since. Having to see the girl he wanted with another guy, having to break the heart of another person who didn't deserve it, having to ask for advice, having to take a risk equal to the one Sarah took in 3x01, having to push his values to the limit re "violence" (and thereby getting a glimpse of what Sarah and Jill meant when they warned him about the spy life changing him; seeing his dark side), having his reluctant mentor get taken away from him, having to let go of his sister and face that isolation from her, etc.

In addition, I would say, I can totally believe that a person who is so unaccustomed to talking about her feelings - or even feeling her feelings - as Sarah is, would find it much easier, perhaps much more comfortable to be with someone she's perhaps less in love with. The way she felt about Chuck led her to question many things and act impulsively, and that can be scary. And, then when he turns around and leaves you hanging after you've got him a new fake passport - well that would just confirm that love hurts and you're better off with what you already know - i.e., the Bryce/Shaw type. To paraphrase Shaw at the end of Mask, he is the safer option, and who amongst us does not understand the temptation to take safety over passion at times?

I have always found it really fun that the writers often give certain lines to different actors to do what they want with their own delivery, and I got a little thrill from Chuck using Shaw's "I'm going to kiss you now" line from the hotel room in Fake Name. Also the big pay off of - after waiting so long - having Chuck say "I love you" like 5 times. And to counterpoint that with the almost casual or certainly taken-as-a-given way Sarah talks about having fallen for Chuck.

Was anyone else rather distracted by how incredibly, supernaturally good looking Eve Shaw is? Did they have to maker her the hottest woman on the planet? I thought that was a little shallow and, like I say, distracting.

It's hard not to applaud the fates for giving the show YS. Because, let's face it, the writers give her hardly any lines and she has to do so much with the character's mute button on. Finding ZL to play Chuck - and take Chuck to where the character is now - was a huge gift from the gods of casting, but without YS's ability to make silence speak volumes the whole thing implodes. Just saying.

The amateur hour stake-out would have been enhanced by only one thing: Emmett.

Bobman said...

How did an episode entitled "Love is a Battlefield" NOT have Jeffster doing a Pat Benetar song??? Gah.

Lauren said...

LOVED IT!!! This is the Chuck I love. This show thrives when it rolls the comedy, action and romance into one and this ep, just like The Colonel, had all of it (yes on a smaller scale, thanks budget cuts).

I love that Ellie, instead of yelling at Chuck for not coming to her first, yelled at him for not doing enough- what a great surpries.

I loved seeing the chemisty b/t ZL and YS again- ZL was great tonight in the scene at Castle, telling Sarah he loved her. He was sincere, charming, bumbling and nervous all at the same time!

I loved the use of all the side characters and how they work off one another and move ahead the story. This ep they weren't just filler.

And lastly, thanks for finally giving Shaw some emotion and depth...but it's still time for him to go!

Can't wait for next week!

Ian said...

My one real problem with the episode was that highly trained Ring operatives didn't notice Jeff and Lester stalking them? Really? I've never quite bought the Ring as scary (although having Mark Sheppard be their leader helps), and this didn't help their case.

P@ said...

Count me in the minority that didn't like this episode. The pacing felt WAY rushed, and the plot holes, as others have mentioned, were just far too distracting for the show to be truly enjoyable.
It seemed like things were going to improve for a bit with the stakeout, but aside from some laughs, it kinda fizzled.
And, this could just be me, but I'm over the Sarah/Chuck relationship. Period. I don't care anymore.
I want to still enjoy Chuck, and I'll keep watching, of course, to see how things wind up (it takes a LOT for me to quit a show. I watched 7th Heaven well into it's 8th season, for crying out loud) but the last two episodes have been testing my patience.
I think, as someone mentioned earlier, the show has simply lost it's sense of fun.

Unknown said...

I am working on a unified field theory involving Mark A. Sheppard which will link shows as disparate as Leverage, Supernatural, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice, The Middleman and Chuck. When this theory is complete, the event horizon will be reached, a singularity will be achieved and we will all collapse into a geeky black hole.

Audrey said...

From Baylink: You thought so? I totally thought she was going with Shaw

She was definitely about to leave with Chuck, even before Casey came in. Why? Because supposedly Shaw is still in the hospital so he couldn't leave for that morning yet.

Caz said...

I am working on a unified field theory involving Mark A. Sheppard which will link shows as disparate as Leverage, Supernatural, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice, The Middleman and Chuck. When this theory is complete, the event horizon will be reached, a singularity will be achieved and we will all collapse into a geeky black hole.

Let us not forget The X Files.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ratings creeped up a bit, from a 1.9 in the demo the last two weeks to a 2.1 last night. Still not great, but improvement (albeit inspired in parts by House and HIMYM being in repeats) is a positive sign.

Billiam said...

There's alot of debate about the logic of Shaw blaming Sarah for his wife's death (since the obvious blame should on whoever gave the order), but I think we'll have to wait until next week to find out what exactly Shaw is thinking and what is plan is.

ellen said...

What, no "Make It Work" pop culture acknowledgment?

Ted said...

Also remember what she said to Casey when he entered her room :
"If you plead his case it's really not necessary"...for me it was a sign she already made her decission and what Casey said was just icing on the cake.

rosie said...

Thanks Alan, for the ratings update. I feel like this has been 'CHUCK vs DEJA VU' the past few weeks going from probable renewal to possible cancellation, like last year. This is still my very favorite show and I'd love another season (more, even!)

JCT said...

At first it seemed clear to me that Shaw intended to kill Sarah. But then I remembered that Shaw got a phone call while in the hospital. Maybe the caller provided him with information about the location of the Ring's leader, which is the info he tells Sarah he has when he drags her out of her apartment.

I admit this is pretty thin speculation. But you have to wonder why they took the time to show him getting a call. I need to watch the show again when I get home.

(Or maybe he's a robot or a Manchurian candidate and the call was the trigger that activates his pre-programmed assignment. At least that would explain Shaw's wooden demeanor.)

Unknown said...

One does not forget the Rosetta Stone.

Anonymous said...

The voice changing device Morgan used to talk to Shaw was a reference to True Lies. Along with the line "Do it, do it slowly."

Nathan said...

I was also kind of left hoping that Chuck would have flashed when he watched the video of Sarah killing Shaw's in flashing on something about the late Mrs. Shaw.
Alan a question...have you seen next week's 3.0 finale?

Carolanne said...

Movieline has a review up blasting this episode and the show itself for drawing out the WTWT past the point of it being believable or enjoyable. Chuck can't afford those kinds of reviews and I think to the casual viewer it's all been too far-fetched. I'm a hardcore fan-I will watch til the end--sometimes yelling at my TV and rolling my eyes. I worry more about casual viewers who flip the channels and are either drawn in or not. The fan revolt mid-season was widely covered and certainly some casual viewers picked up negative energy then too. I hope the show runners give some serious thought to that when they plot season 4 if they get one.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan a question...have you seen next week's 3.0 finale?

As Tweeted earlier, I saw it today (after I'd written this review). All I will say is that I really, really liked it, even more than this one.

Anonymous said...

Re-watched this morning and saw Sarah still has a photo of herself and Chuck on her nightstand. I assume Shaw has spent some time in her room. Seeing as the cover relationship is over wouldn't that lead to quite the awkward conversation?

Nathan said...

Thanks Alan. I don't follow twitter and I don't tweet myself although I do think it is fun to type the word tweet. Nevermind.
Glad to hear you liked it a lot. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

HelloHowAreYou said...

Generally agree with everything in this review. Definitely Sarah already decided to be with Chuck before Casey's confession: why pack so soon with Shaw in the hospital?

However, I do believe Shaw's real purpose was to serve as a romantic foil between Chuck and Sarah. He is purposely unemotional as he represented what Sarah was used to: no emotional intimacy, just friends with benefits.

As for the lack of chemistry between Team Chuck with Shaw around, I think that's on purpose too. The showrunners are trying to show us what the world would be alike if Casey, Chuck and Sarah were not together saving it. A very dark and dreadful place, isn't it?

Ultimately I believe a lot of viewers just got disenchanted when the love triangles dragged out from 3.07 till now. In retrospect, it would probably have been better to start the angst around 3.04 but end by 3.07 latest. I felt Hannah added no value.

Glad 3.13 will be the end of the angst. Unfortunately, Chuck is probably under the assumption that Sarah chose Shaw so will be completely heartbroken at first, but dedicated to saving Sarah's life.

fazed said...

I liked tonights episode, however it lacked the oomph. You're right Alan, the budget constraints have been very noticeable. The last show felt 'cheap' compared to last seasons penultimate show.

I am also quite disappointed with the kiss, i just thought there were less electric chemistry as opposed to shown in last 2 seasons. There maybe more, maybe i have to wait

Mr Fedak, I am not asking much,just a kiss of equivalent stature as in Season 1 during the bomb/coma bryce scene.That kept us Charah shippers going

dez said...

Curtis, you killed Ida!
You bastard!

LOL, I was thinking the same thing!

I found this ep highly enjoyable and don't understand all the complaints.

Glad 3.13 will be the end of the angst. Unfortunately, Chuck is probably under the assumption that Sarah chose Shaw so will be completely heartbroken at first, but dedicated to saving Sarah's life.

Did you miss the end of the ep? Chuck knows Sarah's in danger because Beckman showed him the tape they found of Sarah killing Eve Shaw.

judodog said...

That's more like it! This felt like the last half of last season-Chuck running out of the building carrying that Shaw was much like the pivotal moment when we saw Chuck's chart on the back of the Tron poster.

I didn't really feel the budget cuts until I read Alan's review, but I can live with them. Casey, Awesome, Morgan and Jeffster were all amazing... a spy "dream team"

Aardvark7734 said...

Alan, I don't usually leave comments here - I just read what others have posted to get a sample of how people felt about each episode.

But this time, I wanted to tell you, specifically, that I think this review is the most even-handed one you've done since the beginning of S3.

I'm sure you probably feel that you've approached each episode in the same way, and maybe that's true. But from my perspective, several of your previous efforts have been overly soft on the show's failings. I found the parallax in our viewpoints growing wider and wider each week with great puzzlement. Could you not see, I wondered, that the combination of maladies afflicting this season were bringing a great show down into the realm of the mediocre?

This review, however, touched on both the strengths and weaknesses of the episode in a more balanced manner and I applaud you for it. Warts and all, 3.12 restored the character alignment that was so troubling to a lot of fans during the mid-season and sets up a 3.0 finale that should accelerate the healing process for the disaffected among us.

Good job.

Baylink said...

Caz: you're a fangirl.

But I agree with every single thing you said. :-)

mtw: It's called the Tommy Westphall Universe:

And as for why Sarah was packing that early... well, I'll have to watch the scene again, but I was as certain that she was planning to reluctantly go with Shaw to DC as everyone else is that she was going with Chuck.

Ted said...

This episode had some fun moments, especially everything related to the Buy Morons. But overall I had the same problem with it that I do with most episodes this season and it isn't even related to Routh's wooden acting.

Doesn't Chuck have vitally important secrets in his head? Isn't he hugely valuable to both the Feds and our enemies? Then how is it they are fine with him risk taking and trying to be a spy? No amount of flashing on kung fu abilities explains that.

The problem with that goes deeper than credibility, it undoes what made the series fresh: the gender reversal of a woman protecting the guy at all costs. Now these days Chuck is protecting himself and Sarah pretty well in most situations, which makes it seem very traditional and not "Chuckish".

That issue spills over to Sarah's character who in seasons 1 and 2 seemed like the ultimate badass and now seems like just another agent and love interest.

If it gets another season I hope they right the ship somehow.

Baylink said...

Heads up: io9 is 'capping Chuck now; looks like some intelligence in the commenters there, too:

Ariadne said...

It was a fun hour of TV. But nothing more than that, and so for me, this season has been lacking.

I have the feeling watching these episodes that there is no master plan for the show as there was for BSG or Babylon 5, that now that Chuck is a spy the producers are just trying to come up with things that shake up the situation. Ellie and Devon are going to leave but they don't. Casey gets booted out but instead of exploring the effects on Casey's life and personality, it's just there. Hannah was there only as a plot contrivance to get Chuck to realize his love for Sarah (the cheapest use for an outside love interest). Now Sarah killed Shaw's wife? WTH? It could have been so much better.

In contrast, on yesterday's Castle, I found three scenes which specifically set the stage for the next big arc on the show so that what's going to happen flows organically from what's happening now. That's what I want from a quality TV show.

I like Chuck and I've been rooting for it to stay on TV but if this is how it's going to go on, I won't miss it next season.

CMW said...

Totally agree with caz on this. I think Sarah's story has been compelling and makes total sense. She took the first semi-appealing option after getting her heart broken. And I can see how she connects with Shaw even if it seems un-natural to us. Shaw was an outlet for her. Someone she can confide in (about Chuck, and the job). She was so used to being the protector, and holding back, that it probably was kinda nice not to have to do that with Shaw. Hence letting her guard down. I can appreciate that. That doesn't mean she was falling for him, just that he was in the right place, at the right time, when Sarah was at her most vulnerable. In Chuckvs.the first kill, she said to Chuck about her and shaw, "It's different...than it is with you."

And while yes the writing for Sarah's character doesn't cast her as the most eloquent speaker, Yvonne's acting more than makes up for it. You need an actress that can convey those complex feelings without having to yell it from the mountain tops. And she's kind of AWESOME at it.

CMW said...

And it case it didnt come across in my earlier post...I love this show, I think it was cast perfectly. I can't WAIT to see what's ahead. The fact that I've felt compelled to comment on it on a blog...says it all. Not that there's anything wrong with that I'm just not the type to do that.

Unknown said...

Regarding the DNI question, I've never been entirely clear on what the exact set-up is in the Chuck universe. In the real world, my (perhaps mistaken) understanding is that ever since the post-9/11 reorganization of the national security apparatus, both the CIA and NSA fall under the umbrella of the DNI (currently a position held by Admiral Dennis Blair).

Jaqob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Caz said...

Alan a question...have you seen next week's 3.0 finale?

As Tweeted earlier, I saw it today (after I'd written this review). All I will say is that I really, really liked it, even more than this one.

I just slapped both hands to my temples reading this, so excited I am about next week. Such good news - although after last night's ep I couldn't sleep so I will be switching to decaff.

I also wanted to pay kudos to the comic near-genius of Adam Baldwin - exhibit A, the whole scene of Ellie giving AMC grief about a night in jail. "We're as shocked as you are."

And, like, I don't want to labour the point but I really feel I want to defend the writers (hello and by the way, new territory for me) because I genuinely feel they have managed to elevate the will they/won't they to a can they/can't they. To put this out there I would probably be best advised to start my own blog. Which also? Not beyond possible.

This is a throw back but I was always miffed they killed off Angie Harmon so, so quickly as I thought she was awesome. And hot? Wow. And they did the same thing with Curtis. Now also hot and dead. Unfair.

I'm very new to this blog, Alan, but I LOVE it. Thanks for all you do.

Lastly, I liked the way Chuck took off his Buy More jacket to reveal his combat vest; like Clark Kent taking off his suit and shirt to reveal the SuperMan insignia.

Build A Better Fan said...

I'm not reading all the comments, because I find it easier to enjoy the show without reading the nitpicks, but I skimmed to see if anyone was talking about these things:

As for the DNI, I lean toward thinking that all Intersect-related projects run through the Office of the DNI, at least since 9/11. In the series, it appears that Beckman is an NSA bigwig who works through ODNI, while Graham was Director of the CIA (kinda answering to ODNI, but independent enough to be initially competing with the NSA). Sarah and Chuck are CIA, but they answer to Beckman now, whether simply because the Intersect project requires very specific handling or because it's easier for storytelling purposes.

But enough with that; the intelligence community and military of the Chuck universe was never expected to closely resemble the real thing at the expense of storytelling.

Consider the implications of the fact that Sarah killed fellow agent Eve Shaw.

The most likely possibility I see is that Eve did something to draw the wrath of someone in the government. I wonder if that has something to do with her having a bracelet that looks kinda like the one Stephen gave to Chuck's mom... and if, in turn, that had something to do with Beckman's global manhunt for Orion.

I get curiouser when I hear Beckman respond rather specifically that she had no knowledge that Sarah had killed Eve. Approaching the story in a paranoid way, that might be a way of telling the technical truth while leaving out that she knew more about Eve's death than she lets on, and withheld that information from Daniel.

I'm still leaning toward the idea that the government, or at least the part responsible for creating the Intersect, had bigger, nefarious plans for the Intersect (it's ripe for abuse), and with Casey still on the outside of the government.

I stand firm in my prediction from early in the season that Chuck is going to do something really spectacular (my guess is rapid-fire flashing on various skills) to rescue Sarah.

Loretta said...

I though Morgan talking about Awesome's "Bubble of Handsomeness" was another pop culture reference--this time to 30 Rock's amazing season 3 episode.

Unless, of course, "The Bubble" is a term that was coined before 30 Rock.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is The Ring starting to turn into The Others from Lost? As in the bad guys who aren't really that bad after all since they just have trouble conveying their motives across. I don't have a specific thing to back this up with, but I just have a feeling.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jaqob, part of that comment pretty clearly violated the "no politics" rule. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

My comment is purely from a retrospective standpoint but I really wish Season 3 centered more on the Ring organization especially the way that the Season 2 ending set up the Ring as a spy agency "better" and more sophisticated than the government's top agencies. I think since the writers wanted to create a darker setting for the show in season 3, they could have gone full bore and developed intricate season long plot lines such as blurring the perception of "good" spy agencies vs "bad" spy agencies. If my memory stands correct, there was never any mention that Fulcrum and the Ring were "bad" spy agencies. They were just trying to develop their own version of the intersect as the CIA and NSA had already done. The writers could have started introducing complex character development such as having Chuck developing having conflicting thoughts about how being a spy could really "protect" society and preserve the moral values of the country considering that his supervisors thought about killing him off when the new intersect was developed and the spy agency he works for uses many of the same underhanded tricks (i.e. burning an asset) that "bad" guys would use. Anyhow I'll stop there.

I share the same sentiment with a lot of other Chuck viewers. I won't threaten to stop watching the show because the show is already hanging by a thread and most likely won't return for a season 4. However, I am just frustrated and disappointed not because the show is bad, but because the writers could have done so much more with story development than repeating a lot of the same themes they used in season 1 and season 2.

Anonymous said...

Sorry butchered this sentence and felt compelled to revise it:

"The writers could have started introducing complex character developments such as having Chuck develop conflicting thoughts about how being a spy could really "protect" society and preserve the moral values of the country..."

Anonymous said...

Sarah left her gun behind once before when she went on a date with Chuck. That ended badly too with Casey driving through the restaurant wall. Sarah should never leave her gun behind!

I'm confused about the timeline with Sarah being an agent and killing Shaw's wife. Did Sarah really kill her or was it a fake video? And is she dead? We never saw her body after being shot.

If Ellie and Awesome do go to Africa, will Jeffster reprise their version of the song as they fly off?

Asher Glaser said...
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Asher Glaser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asher Glaser said...

I agree there are a lot of head scratching moments.

In this ep. it was mostly of the scene in the restaurant after the crash. There was a police officer that arrested Chuck & crew and a bit of a fiasco after the crash through the restaurant.

I know this because I played the waiter in that scene and got a bit cut from my footage. The police man got cut entirely. Such is life when you're not the star of the show.

Feel free to peruse my non Chuck roles and links on my blog here or website

Anonymous said...

NBC must have a death wish for Chuck, showing new shows at a pinnicle in the season against Dancing with the Stars premiere and now against the NCAA March Madness Championship game. Why did they not have the re-runs now and new show when they are going to have the re-runs. I m certain a monkey could run NBC better.

I for one am tired of hearing everything being blamed on budget cuts. I do realize that it has an effect in some things they maybe could have done bigger but I don't blame the ongion holes in the story on budget cuts. I love Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker). I think she is an amazing actress, but I hate where they have taken Sarah this season, it has been borderline rediculous. She can talk to Shaw about her feeling but she can't talk to the person she love and has started to love since she watched him help the ballerina girl in the pilot. I also feel the same about where they have taken Chuck in alot of ways.

Because this season has given me very little to cheer about, I am having a difficult time having any faith that the new turn will turn out to be Chuck and Sarah in love, together and being the greatest spy team ever with Casey and occacionally Morgan there as well. It is probably more likely that Sarah will be so emotionally scared by what happened and is happening with Shaw and his wife that she can't be with Chuck or even be a spy.

I have loved this show since the first time I saw a commercial for the pilot. I have fought for this show and continue to do so by voting online any time there is a poll writing letters and supporting the sponsors. However, I thing Schwartz and Fedak have (and I hope I am wrong) killed Chuck by having so much Shaw, so little of some of the supporting cast and keeping Chuck and Sarah apart for so long in such a dark way. I really thought Shaw had to be a double agent or at least may have know about Sarah before he did and was trying to destroy her life with Chuck. But it turn out he is just a bad actor who had ZERO chemistry on the show. It is sad because I think thy (Schwartz and Fedak) could have told virtually the same story but just a little differently and not alienated a big portion of fans.

Chuck is the only TV show I watch so I hope these last seven episodes will provide some enjoyment because after that we will be watching seasons 1 and 2 and maybe some of 3 over and over again

Anonymous said...

Amen to that. Look, you can blame a lot on the budget (which, btw, is only likely to shrink next year if the show *is* renewed), but the plot holes are owning the show this season. You get a sense the writers are just taking notes from the NBC "Nobody Basically Cares" suits.

Sloppy case in point - the NBC "Chuck" website entry noted above, where Sarah's spy dossier states she was recruited 'out of Harvard'.
Really? That's a hell of a retcon, considering a full episode was devoted to Sarah's life as a grifter with her conman dad, and which showed her actual recruitment, by a CIA operative, as a teenage girl lamming it after her father's arrest.

But hey..that's the sort of stuff you'd expect from a Nitwork exec: "Chuck went to Stanford, so of course, Sarah had to go to Harvard."


Scott said...

Few points:

1) Shaw was terrible not merely for breaking up the team's chemistry, but because he was a poorly crafted character acted in a pervasively boring, stolid, downright wooden fashion most of the time with Brandon Routh. I also take much more offense on behalf of the Walker that she literally jumps on every single spy not named Casey who walks through the door.

2) The DNI is not the department of National Intelligence, but the Director of National Intelligence, a presidential adviser with some supervisory capacity over all sixteen member-agencies of the US intelligence community, including both the CIA and NSA. While in reality there's no massive DNI office in DC, it is plausible that the higher-ups at various agencies would be reporting to the Director. So in that sense, the department is not fictitious, and a real-life beckman would likely have roles in both the NSA and the director's office. However, the whole NSA aspect of the show is patently false, as the NSA works on encryption and decryption of foreign communications, and has no field operations on US soil. Also puzzling, when did they decide that Casey was not Air Force (like beckman) but a Marine in the early years? That's a genuine change to cannon.

Dan said...

can the crew film new stock footage or vary their views of the buy more building?

every episode we see the same silver Acura MDX reverse out of a spot with the Buy More in the background. maybe they just constantly shop at buy more everyday and its a coincidence....hmmmm

Anonymous said...

There was one thing I didn't like. Shaw lets himself get taken by The Ring. Ok, that's fine, in a weird kind of Chuck way that you never know what supporting characters are going to do. Then The Ring boss man shows him a video of Sara killing his wife. He goes nuts and immediately wants to kill Sara? Does anyone else have a problem with this? He has devoted his life to taking down The Ring and they show him one video and now he wants to unleash all of his fury on Sara? I have a serious problem with the fact he blindly accepted what was on the video as truth, even though it seems that it is.
Shaw's whole Ring conversion is a little hard to swallow from the Mr. Sensible he has been playing all season.

Anonymous said...

@speculation about budget being cut if Chuck gets a season 4...

Gads I hope not. Already I've seen some sets on this show this year that remind me of the British Avengers series or even the Adam West Batman series, except I doubt it was intentional. Further budget cuts would make me wonder if dream sequences in empty, fog-filled, half-lit rooms with Chuck, Sarah, Morgan, Ellie, and Awesome going through emotional turmoil while Casey is playing a piano would be a four-episode arc to save money.

CC said...

chuck is a great guy and spy anymore at least 100 times beter than Sarah. I don't like the Sarah charater anymore, all her decisions are questionable, she does the opposite what she says. It is just a big bullshit that she doesn't loves chuck cause killing someone. Chuck did it for sarah on the other hand sarah is killing lots of people and the others she loves or attracted is are all good spies and killers, liers. She loves shaw the cold blododed man . Chuck is 100 times better as a human being and spy than Sarah and all. He never leaves his friends even not left Shaw back and always saved helped them. Many times rescued Sarah, not left alone Casey. And the most important point even losing Sarah he did not give Casey... But Sarah is choosing Shaw!!! What an object of pity...
I am sorry for Yvonne. Hope she is a much more beter character than Sarah cause i admire so much. Yes there are many mistakes and cheap jobs but i like the show very much...
Hope to see them all as a team of chuck in the fourth season...

Thong said...
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Thong said...

Ok, so maybe no hot female regulars. I just don't see how season 4 (if there is one) can work well without a larger budget if the show doesn't even have money to pay for better eye candy.

whoa said...

@Thong - You're kinda creepy.

Anonymous said...

I love how you assemble a list of songs that Chuck episodes feature. Is there any chance you'll compile it into one list at the end of the season?

septembergrrl said...

And if Shaw's wife was killed five years ago, are we supposed to believe Sarah had only been an agent for two years when she met Chuck?

The episode wasn't high on believability, but that actually makes sense given Sarah graduated high school in 1998 and is probably turning 30 this year. Four years of college and three years of grad school/dedicated spy training before she got to the red test level and officially became a full-fledged agent is actually fairly plausible.

Why they didn't do it earlier in her training if they've had her since high school is ... a good question, but about par for the course with his show.

Anonymous said...

I am working on a unified field theory involving Mark A. Sheppard which will link shows as disparate as Leverage, Supernatural, White Collar, Warehouse 13, Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice, The Middleman and Chuck.

More Middleman goodness ... the woman in the mortuary who tried to stop the Ring operative from retrieving the data capsule from Perry's corpse, was played by Mary Pat Gleason (Ida the android assistant).

Moby said...

Intereting interview with Chris Fedak conducted by Mo Ryan out today. Touches on alot of season 3. Discouraging that he insists on defending the Shaw idea stubbornly.
Another Save Chuck campaign is under way, but save it to what end? For them to do a repeat of this season? Man, I loved Chuck for 2 seasons and had such high hopes for this one. Figured we'd get Chuck and Sarah as a couple, with issues no doubt, but beyond the WTWT, kicking butt with Casey. It wasn't that at all. I can't say I'd rewatch any of this season. Too depressing. I loved Chuck and Sarah too. Fantastic chemistry and build and they hammered the life out of them. Do not get it. If they do anything like this first 13 in the back 6, people will revolt.

Anonymous said...

I know cellphone reception can be bad, but Sarah was unable to get any signal from the time they left until the time we see them in the car? More contrivances to keep Chuck and Sarah from connecting. I'm surprised we didn't see Sarah walk into the train station as Chuck walked out. Missing each other yet again. What a shock.

Anonymous said...

Re: The DNI thing, I don't think anybody has mentioned that it actually has precendent from the pilot of the series. See 11 minutes into the pilot (just before we seem Graham meeting with Casey and Beckman's predecessor [unnamed General who only appeared in the pilot]).

The building they're meeting at (the same place that the intersect was destroyed, apparently) is given the subtitle "Directorate of National Intelligence." That moniker is also given in a lot of other places throughout the series, of course.