Monday, March 22, 2010

Chuck, "Chuck vs. the Final Exam": The Kobayashi Maru

A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as I put some new feathers on you...
"It looks like you're going to get everything that you always wanted." -Sarah
"Chuck vs. the Final Exam" was written back at a point when it would be the 11th out of 13 hours this season, not 11th out of 19. Schwartz and Fedak have said the original 13 episodes more or less continued to be produced as an intact unit, so this is the point when the original season arcs really start kicking into gear, as Operation Bartowski appears to come to an end: Chuck passes his final spy test (albeit with secret, illegal help from Casey), Sarah prepares to move to Washington with Shaw (definitely as colleagues, and possibly as more), and Casey has to mostly embrace civilian life (even as he makes time for a bit of freelance killin' on Chuck's behalf). And after a few months of hemming and hawing, Chuck and Sarah finally have a moment where both are interested in discussing their feelings at the same time, and preparing to kiss each other, when work again gets in the way, first with Shaw's radio call(*), then with Sarah's mistaken belief that Chuck has become a killer - and become it for her.

(*) At least this interruption felt natural and part of the plot, as opposed to Sarah arbitrarily changing the subject on Chuck last week.

In order to get the characters to these big crossroads, Zev Borow's script has to throw in more than your usual fair share of "Chuck" plot contrivances. Chuck, for instance, gets placed in a no-win scenario: either he passes the test and is assigned away from Sarah (and, whether he's entirely aware of it or not, completes his transformation into someone Sarah feels she can't love anymore), or he fails and... what? Becomes a civilian with no government oversight, in spite of having a souped-up Intersect in his head? (Whatever happened to the days when Beckman was ready to have Casey put a bullet between Chuck's eyes rather than let him "retire"? And this was back when Chuck wasn't half as dangerous as he is now.) Wouldn't there be talk about the team reverting back to its old configuration, with Sarah and a killer-to-be-named-later as handlers and Chuck waiting in the car?

And, of course, you have to swallow a lot to believe Casey would just let his cover job at the Buy More become his new career, as opposed to becoming a mercenary or security specialist or some other far more lucrative and exciting profession that takes advantage of his propensity for a bit of the old ultra-violence. That he follows Chuck on his final exam and kills the bad guy for him suggests that he really does care about Chuck and can't quite bring himself to leave, but all his earlier scenes at the Buy More are written (and played by Adam Baldwin) as if Casey has no idea what he's supposed to do next with his life.

(A few readers last week wondered if perhaps Casey's situation was like Michael Westen's on "Burn Notice," where he's basically cut off from the military-intelligence community. If so, I would absolutely watch a Baldwin-centric spin-off with Casey stuck at the Buy More while being a vigilante-for-hire and trying to find a way back in from the cold. And in lieu of Michael's voiceover narration, each episode could be liberally sprinkled with Casey Facts.)

But if I had to suspend my disbelief more than usual, it was worth it. "Chuck vs. the Final Exam" continued this terrific post-Olympics run, providing suspense (will/did Chuck kill Hunter?), romance (Chuck treating Sarah to the world's most romantic stakeout, with plenty of callbacks to season one's "Chuck vs. the Sizzling Shrimp"), and comedy (Big Mike mentors Casey the interim Ass Man).

After Sarah has been frosty towards Chuck for so much of the season, a scene like the stakeout-cum-date was a very potent reminder of Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski's chemistry, and why so many fans are pulling for these crazy kids to make it work. Ditto the scene at Union Station, where Chuck is all psyched up for a romantic night with the woman of his dreams, only for Sarah to crush those dreams (and in turn to be crushed when Chuck appears to go through with the assignment). Some really high-caliber work done by both leads in both those scenes.

And if the two seem further away than ever at episode's end, I've got faith that these last two episodes of season 3.0 are going to finally bring these two crazy kids together for more than interrupted make-out sessions so shippers and non-shippers alike can live in peace and harmony and the show can move on to its next great dilemma: like how to get Team Bartowski back together, and specifically how to get John Casey his colonel's eagles back.

Casey's interruption during Chuck's red test complicates matters for both him and Chuck. Casey, of course, has now committed murder without any kind of government-issued license to kill to cover him, but I'm also not sure what kind of favor he did Chuck - at least, assuming Beckman wasn't going to order Chuck's death again. If the job Chuck is training for requires the ability to kill from time to time, and Chuck still can't bring himself to do it (both of his "kills" from season two were accidents)... well, isn't Casey just setting Chuck up to fail - or, worse, get himself killed because his opponents will have no such compunction?

But I'm sure the writers thought that problem through, even if Casey didn't, and Chuck's continued skittishness about homicide will play an important role in these next two episodes. And I'm hopeful that the spy stuff will be as much fun as it was here, with Chuck busting out the kung fu in a steam bath, and winding up nude on a hotel balcony to get a good look at the bad guy. ("I am a naked spy!")

Again, the idea of Casey choosing continued employment at the Buy More is pretty goofy, even by "Chuck" standards, but as we saw with the Casey/Morgan team-up in "Chuck vs. First Class," Casey having to carry out actual Buy More duties is a comedy goldmine. And the stakes are even higher here because, at the moment, Casey doesn't seem to have a real job to fall back on if he can't stop himself from punching Lester.

Where Jeff and Lester were mostly harmless in the first two seasons (give or take Lester's brief turn as Ass Man, and various scams), the duo have become much more antagonistic towards our heroes (Morgan included) this season, and it's been a very smart use of Vik Sahay and Scott Krinsky. Their sheer delight at forcing Casey to eat Jeff's sandwich while Lester lists all the places Jeff's mouth could have been ("fire hydrants!") was hilarious, as was Baldwin playing Casey's struggle to follow Big Mike's teaching.

Two more episodes from what was the original season 3 run, then two weeks off for reruns, then Season 3.1 kicks off in late April. Based on how the show's been bringing it lately, I'm very excited.

Some other thoughts on "Chuck vs. the Final Exam":

• This week in "Chuck" music: Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" (Chuck puts it on the iPod during the stakeout, just as he used it in a stakeout mix in "Sizzling Shrimp"), "Permalight" by Rogue Wave (Sarah invites Chuck to dinner at Union Station) and "In My Sleep" by Austin Hartley-Leonard (Sarah tells him that he has to kill Perry).

• This week in "Chuck" pop culture references: Anatoly's cover name is Ivan Drago, who was, of course, the steroid-abusing, Apollo Creed-killing commie bastard villain of "Rocky IV." Two Drago clips for ya: his catchphrase and Rocky and Drago's training montage, scored to the not-at-all-dated-no-matter-what-you-say sounds of John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band.

• The supporting cast availability is flip-flopped from last week, with Morgan, Ellie and Awesome absent, and Big Mike and Jeffster! back in the fold.

• Two weeks ago, we got our first Subway sandwich sighting of the season, and here, we go whole-hog, with a long scene set at the mall's Subway shop, complete with Jeff ordering his own creation (the Tunaroni), and Big Mike uttering what should be the chain's new slogan: "Subway can soothe the tummy and the soul."

And speaking of one-time "Chuck" savior Subway, many people (including Josh Schwartz) were very concerned when the show's ratings last week dropped 17% from the week before, even though the CBS comedies were in repeats and ABC was in between "The Bachelor" and "Dancing with the Stars." You can pin most of the blame on Daylight Savings Time, since it's been a trend in recent seasons that nearly every show (particularly shows in the 8 o'clock hour) suffers when DST begins, because people are staying out longer and watching less TV. On the same night, "House" was down a similar amount.

The difference, of course, is that "House" can stand to lose 17% of its audience a lot more easily than "Chuck" can. I still believe NBC's problems are too big and widespread for "Chuck" to not come back next year, even if it's just as cannon fodder until other parts of the schedule can stabilize. (If they try to come back in the fall with a schedule that's primarily composed of new shows, they're gonna get killed.) But I could certainly say that with more confidence based on the ratings circa "Chuck vs. the Beard" than I could after last week's numbers. A fan campaign like last year's isn't going to work again. All that matters at this point are two numbers: the ratings the show pulls over the rest of the season, and the license fee Warner Bros. is willing to agree to for a fourth season. All we can do is watch (and encourage anyone we might know with a Nielsen box to watch), wait and hope.

What did everybody else think?


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Anonymous said...

I think I will take a break from reading comments, it is maybe too much anaylsis and is bringing me down. Plus, a break from ratings watch might do some good too. Another downer. I think I will live in semi-oblivousness and just enjoy Chuck on its own :)

Anonymous said...

Have we ever been told what Fulcrum/The Ring are trying to do? Based on these episodes it seems like The Ring is some kind of massive international organization of spy's and mobsters and stuff who have focused all their efforts on killing Shaw, stealing random stuff and employing moles for no real reason.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Think of how John Casey would react to seeing his name used in the same sentence as the word "liberal." Shame on you, Alan!

That was, indeed, a poor word choice. My apologies, former Colonel Casey.

mtw179k said...

Maybe Casey is still at Buy More because his "dismissal" is part of a cover.

Maybe Sarah is throwing herself at Shaw because it's how they will expose him as a Ring operative.

I know it sounds like fanwank, but I can easily construct a scenario where most of the stuff that's annoying people is actually part of a larger plot, one to which Chuck is not privy. If that's the case, I'll love it. If it does turn out that Sarah is just supposed to be falling in love with Shaw, then I'll be disappointed. I do intend to wait until the season is over to decide.

Again, not everything should be taken at face value. This might be one of the problems with the Internet--instead of judging an entire season, we micro-criticize each individual development until we lose sight of the whole.

Nicole said...

The fan reaction to Shaw reminds me of the reaction to the Melissa George character on Alias, when she married Vaughan. Although in that case, she had a British accent and was from Virginia, and ultimately ended up being a baddie. I wonder if this is how the Shaw storyline is going to go.

At first I didn't mind that there was some attraction between Sarah and Shaw, but now there seems to have been a few steps missing that we the audience didn't see. I don't hate Brandon Routh and in fact thought he was great in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but he seems to be an interruption to the Chuck and Sarah romance because the writers have placed him there as opposed to something more organic.

I do think that Sarah is being unfair to Chuck in that she doesn't want him to kill, but then is hooking up with another agent, who can presumably kill with no repercussions to the relationship. She is placing Chuck on this weird pedestal and not permitting him to evolve as a person and that is what I find most disturbing. He is an adult, not a child.

I can see why they are heading in this direction since it was written as 13 episodes, so it will be interesting to see how much of this they undo in the final 6 episodes.

Tony said...

This whole season has been a bit of a disappointment but it was bearable because the show is relatively young, etc. But this episode... Man. All I keep asking myself is a simple 'Why?'. Why are they keeping this up? Why does the show keep getting darker and darker when there is no reason to? Why have the characters become so dark and are evolving so quickly that it just isn't natural? I'm aware that the characters can't stagnate and that Chuck can't always be a total goof but can't he evolve without becoming the next Ethan Hunt. Why is Shaw still here and why is Sarah keeping this up? I have nothing special against Brandon Routh but Shaw is about as pleasant as a prostate exam. The cold is just bursting out of him and it's driving people away. I just wonder why the writers can't see that (although we need to keep in mind that these are the episodes from the original season so things can change for better). They should visit forums and blogs like this to stay in touch with the crowd and learn from them, ask them and debate with them when they come to a dead end. It's about time they snap out of it. And now the fun parts: Casey in a Sunday's finest completed with the Subway scene = hilarious! And as for the 'naked spy': that towel was bound to come off - a classic. All in all a culmination of the season's sloppyness but there is still time for improvement. Unfortunately you can't press the 'reset' button but that's OK because every experience can teach you something and with the shows great chances of a renewal we can hope for a better season 4. And we also have 8 episodes left...

P.S. I want John Casey reinstated now! He has already saved Chuck's behind (and will probably continue to do so) but it's now considered a murder and he might end up in a maximum security prision. Actually, if that happens I'm more concerned about guards and other prisioners...

Liz said...

I hate to say it, because I've been a big fan of "Chuck", but last night's episode just depressed the hell out of me. Casey and Jeffster had some entertaining moments, but other than that I didn't recognize this as the "Chuck" that could have me on the edge of my seat and laughing at the same time (a la Mr. Roboto at the end of season two).

And Casey coming in at the end wasn't much of a surprise either, unfortunately. I kind of figured he'd be the one to do the shooting the moment Chuck got the assignment.

Here's hoping for better in upcoming episodes.

Liz said...

BTW, Alan said: "I would absolutely watch a Baldwin-centric spin-off with Casey stuck at the Buy More while being a vigilante-for-hire and trying to find a way back in from the cold. And in lieu of Michael's voiceover narration, each episode could be liberally sprinkled with Casey Facts."

Oh, I'd be watching right along with you. That would be fantastic!

A Guy said...

I'm getting frustrated with how the show handles Chuck and killing.

It is clear that the audience is meant to think that Chuck adheres to some sort of "Superman morality" and that his killing someone would be a betrayal of who he is.

However, the simple fact of the matter is that Chuck, as written, isn't against killing (as a last resort) but against being the guy to pull the trigger.

As such, his refusal/inability to kill isn't admirable (ala Superman) but cowardly.

And, frankly, Sarah is being a real ***** about it. Let's imagine a world where Casey hadn't interjected: Mole kills the frozen Chuck, Sarah kills the mole.

Good luck loving a dead man, Sam.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or does Perry (the guy Chuck is supposed to kill) look an awful lot like the guy who came to pick up Bryce from the wedding reception and Chuck's dad flashes on in the season 2 finale Chuck vs the Ring? I haven't gone back to check but I was curious to know if anyone else noticed this... If it is the same person, wasn't he shot and killed since Bryce used him as a shield?

Anonymous said...

I liked how Chuck was making fun of how boring Shaw was in this episode. He did it at least twice that I remember.

I was really hoping that couple from S2 from the balcony in "Chuck Versus the Seduction" (who thought he was a peeping tom) and then saw him in his boxers hanging on their elevator in "Chuck Versus the Third Dimension" would have been at the hotel and saw him naked!

Anonymous said...

It is not looking all that good for season 4. DST is not an explanation.

Unknown said...

Chrissy said:

"Sarah is interesting, in that her life is so unlike ours, and she's beautiful and well-acted by Strahovski. But she's not, how to put this, a mesmerizing personality. She's not exactly bubbling over with joie de vivre."

Well, yeah, but when you look like her, it can make your personality seem pretty damned mesmerizing.

I don't know this actor who plays Shaw. I understand he was in some version of Superman. I think he's being treated somewhat unfairly. Sarah's dilemma -- a key source of her lack of joie de vivre -- is that she puts at risk any guy she falls for who's not in the spy biz, and she takes a risk herself if she falls for someone who's in the same perilous occupation. That limits her choices. One acceptable type of guy is a humorless, career bureaucrat like Shaw. The actor may come across as a schlub because the character is supposed to be one. There's no chemistry between them because, intentionally or not, she's looking for someone she can't get attached to (no, I'm not Dr. Phil in disguise).

I just started watching "Chuck" in the last couple of months, mainly on the recommendation of Mo Ryan and Alan. It's a fun show. Yeah, there are too many plot holes, but they're so egregious it's almost funny. Another one tonight: How did Chuck know what was in the sparkly blue mission folder at dinner when he never opened it?

Oh, is that odd-looking boss with the hair supposed to recall Lotte Lenya in "From Russia With Love"?

cgeye said...

Welll, if ya wanna go for fanwank, why not consider this entire season as a VR series of tests inside Chuck's mind?

After the General saw how useless he was in the season premiere, she extracted him and decided to give him exactly what he wants -- the chance to be a Real Spy -- and show him just how that impulse destroys the chance he actually had with Sarah. Her intransigence immediately becomes understandable -- it's the profile of Sarah gathered by Auditor Number Six last season combined with what her bosses expect of her professionally -- with Agent Shaw as the Nu!Bryce. (He doesn't have to be fleshed out, just in the way.) As things head to a climax, Chuck will realize that something will have to die for him to remain a spy -- more people, his innocence, his family relationships, and definitely his relationship with Sarah.

At the end of the season, Chuck now is at peace with whatever the General wants to do with him, because he'll be resigned to being the Intersect and nothing more. A long way to a soul-killing, but he's not playing a child's game. And, this would be one hell of a way to reset relationships for another season while creating interior progress for Chuck.

Go the full Tommy Westphall, why don't ya?

PK said...

I too wish the Sarah/Shaw arc would turn out to be Sarah playing Shaw, but I don't think so from what I've read. This show tends toward a more direct approach. It would have made for a good story and less angst.

Anne said...

Bummer to read how the death watch has started for Chuck. Went from probable renewal to probable cancellation according to many who watch these things. Lots of monday morning quarterbacking going on around the internet. I like the growth--if I'm honest do I like the fact that at least we're at the point where Chuck admits to himself and others he loves Sarah, and Sarah seems on the verge of that herself? I do. I like that we've already reached the point where others know Chuck's secret. We've come a long way this season. So even if I have not enjoyed alot of the season I like where it will leave us. I wish the ride had taken different paths though. The big "but" is that Shaw has been a drag on the show. It's gone on too long and they've turned Sarah into a very unlikeable character. If they get a season 4, and I guess most think that's now not happening, they do need to listen to their fanbase and not fight them. Not dismiss them. Get the fans excited again. C/S/C in all interacting, Chuck and Sarah past the angst, no more repetitive love interests. Learn from this season and go into a new season with the heart of the show beating loudly.

Bamboo said...

Chris Fedak gave an interview before this week's episode where he was gleeful about the Shaw storyline and said Shaw was who Sarah would be with in an alternate universe and who she thinks she should be with. The problem is Chuck isn't that universe, yet they are taking us right to the end of the 13 episode arc with us watching Sarah with Shaw. It's like they wrote a show within a show. Anyone tuning in would not have thought Chuck was the hero or the good guy or the one Sarah wants. They seem to be clueless about how this is being received and do yet another promo pushing the Shaw and Sarah angst button for next week. I love what they created here, but they seem totally tone deaf this season and like some of the show runners I don't like who have an arrogant attitude about writing the story they want to write. What about the one the audience wants to watch? Therein lies the rub. Fingers crossed that the last 6 episodes bring it around and the ratings stabilize because I'd hate to see it cancelled.

Anonymous said...

And if the woman Sarah killed in the red test was Shaw`s wife...and all this is a revenge plan from him to get Sarah??? lolol just kidding...

good episode...looking anxious for next one...

CC said...

I cannot derstand anymore Sarah or never did!!! Why did this scriptwriters made this character so weak.... And she always does the opposite what she says! Especially to Chuck.... I always thought that shaw was the hypocrate but now i see it's Sarah.What should Chuck do more for Sarah to love him...He is becoming a good spy as Sarah is attracted (Bryce,cole,shaw) but no Sarah doesn't these features at chuck... Then why is she attracted from others...? They all lie, kill etc but if chuck does it's a problem... Then don't like these at all
So much confused!

Chuck did so much things for Sarah... saved also her many times etc but Sarah was attracted from Show so easy so fast! Trusting him, sharing her secrets etc.
I used to like so much till this season...The Shaw event killed all my desire and also Sarah charaters weeknes and confusing behaviours and wishes....

Chuck tells Sarah that he doesn't want to kill. Doesn't think he can do it.
Only would do it so that they could be together.

So she holds it against him when she thinks that he did.
Can't love him anymore. So instead, she goes off with the guy who manipulated her into making him do it in the first place.

What should Chuck do!!!

Chuck has the biggest problem ' A woman that doesn't know what she wants!!!'

Other parts of the show are nice...

But i liked the first two seasons more... Third season i lost all my taste with Shaw.... ( Sorry Brandon !)

Stellar Drift said...

"so many fans are pulling for these crazy kids to make it work."

Unfortunately the crazy kids who write it can't - as this season has been proof of.

" I've got faith that these last two episodes of season 3.0 are going to finally bring these two crazy kids together for more than interrupted make-out sessions "

And I've got faith the writers are already planning how they can break them up should they be so lucky as to get a new season.

"and I'm hopeful that the spy stuff will be as much fun as it was here"

What fun? You thought that was fun? Season 2 was fun - season 3 has been a dismal dirge.

"Jeff and Lester... more antagonistic... smart use"

I totally disagree. Now I actively hate them and hope to see them kicked of the show.

"What did everybody else think?"

That I like Baldwins hairpiece, didn't realise he was wearing one (trying to say something positive)

But apart from that...

I think that when the show is canceled it will be like when a dear old aunt dies after a long time of illness.

She hasn't been herself lately and it was for the best really.

A Guy said...

Anon: You laugh, but my first thought was that Sarah killed Shaw's wife on her red test, too. I really wouldn't be surprised.

It's a real shame what they've done with Shaw, actually. I loved the way he was introduced, I loved the hints of a backstory we got for him, I loved his "falling in love with a spy = mistake" attitude... and then they arbitarily turned him into a love interest.

The relationship between Shaw and Sarah would have been more powerful, convincing, and interesting had they become firm friends that could confide in one another /without/ the romantic element.

IMO, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I've taken to purchasing the Chuck episodes on iTunes, figuring at least that it's a registered income stream to the studio for the show. I can't think of any other way to make my viewership support known.

BTW, it's the only show I "buy" every week.

a random person said...

I have a question for Alan. You said the following in your post:

I still believe NBC's problems are too big and widespread for "Chuck" to not come back next year, even if it's just as cannon fodder until other parts of the schedule can stabilize.

Now, you posted this before the ratings for the most recent episode, right? Would you still say you stand by this statement even after a repeat low?

Sorry if this is a stupid question.

Unknown said...

I'm thinking if there was a Chuck drinking game and every time the word spy is said... I would be in the ER for alcohol poisoning. I find it hard to believe that Chuck would need Casey's help in the end. I'm thinking Chuck's survival instinct would have kicked in and he would have killed the guy from "Worst Week" and the awkward voicemail guy from the T-Mobile commercials. I think the repercussions of Chuck dealing with his first kill would have been a good follow up to this one had he really done it.

Stellar Drift said...

Anon (not a writer on the show? ;) said:

"Why is Sarah with Shaw?

a) Look at him
b) Look at her
c) Look at him again
d) Her heart was crushed by a guy
e) The same guy ran off with another girl
f) The guy from a and c was waiting with open arms
g) She has a history of working with brown-haired coworkers.

It's not very complicated."

The problem is, like with jokes, if you have to explain it - it doesn't work.

Stellar Drift said...


Wow, I have read all messages up to this point and I didn't even notice someone apparently did that. Sure you aren't being a bit over sensitive? :)

"Disagreeing about a TV show doesn't give you license to be an asshole."

Not saying what you feel is only going to make you have a breakdown.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wow, I have read all messages up to this point and I didn't even notice someone apparently did that. Sure you aren't being a bit over sensitive? :)

You didn't notice because I've been deleting the particularly egregious ones, as I've said.

Dr. Milton von F├╝nkdoctorspock said...

Big picture there's delightful irony in the fact that Chuck was initially something of a fraudulent spy (having gotten his spy abilities in a comic book superhero kind of way), and now that he's finally a real spy he still manages to be a fraud by bending the curve on his final exam. It fits his identity crisis to a capital Tee.

Mark said...

I enjoyed the darkness...the bathroom fight made total sense to me. I'm sure Chuck's flashes are also partially based on his geekiness. We know he's a Bond fan, why wouldn't he flash to Casino Royale when going for his "00" status? I really hope there will be a 4th season.

Katrine said...

Along with everything else that's been said, I just want to bring up that this episode cemented my dislike of Sarah/Shaw--and I'm NOT someone who's blaming Sarah for getting with Shaw! I have always said that it is neither "cruel" or "out of character" for her to hook up with someone else and push Chuck away after the way she's been burned. Girl isn't "torturing" him--he STOOD HER up! She was willing to sacrifice her entire life to be with him, and he wasn't willing to do the same for her! He gave her the ultimate rejection! Even if she has feelings for him, even if he tells her he still loves her, it makes perfect sense she wouldn't want to try again.

It also makes sense that while she hates Chuck being a killer, it wouldn't put her off in someone else. She liked Chuck for being different, and a sweet, innocently charming guy who reminded her of life's joys: with someone else, there'd be other reasons she liked them. Chuck becoming a killer destroys what she liked about him in the first place, but it doesn't replace it with whatever may attract her to someone who IS a killer. And anyway, there's a difference between starting off as willing to kill, and starting off as unwilling but abandoning your scruples. So that all makes sense, mostly.

What DOESN'T make sense is Shaw. (And Sarah's behavior at the end of the episode: considering Chuck had to kill in self-defense and Sarah SAW THAT, wtf? That's not he same as being a cold blooded killer, and he rnot picking up the phone when she KNOWS how hard it must have been for Chuck and she's responsible... just... no.)

But back to Shaw--agreed: no chemistry. He's deadly boring. And also, he's a HUGE JERK and a TOTAL MANIPULATOR. Boring I can deal with, but the way he treats Sarah is AWFUL. He constantly goes against her wishes or manipulates her into doing something HE feels is necessary but he knows she is against. CONSTANTLY. He abuses her trust and his personal insight on her to get her to do what he wishes, regardless of her own preferences,. Then he smugly informs her that it's for the best and HE obviously knows what must be done and she should just shut up and follow. That's not a relationship dynamic I'd approve of in ANY pairing.

Stellar Drift said...

"maybe it's not the show that isn't so much fun anymore but the viewers? It's a lighthearted show, follow this gentleman's example and watch it lightly!"

No its the show. It once was lighthearted but that heart died.

"I think in defense of Chuck directors, producers, and writers, they were notified that their show would be extended beyond 13 episodes only after they had already scripted and producing their shortened season. Combined with budget cuts, I think this is a legitimate reason why the show has suffered from numerous pacing issues, holes in the story, and contrived relationships."

I don't think thats a legitimate reason, I think that is a contrived excuse. It doesn't matter if they got 1 episode or 500 - you chose your tone and theme. And they chose poorly.

@CJ Frances

"I know its making shippers unhappy but COME ON! ... I don't get all the negativity! "

That's because you are not actually reading the comments here and elsewhere - its not about shipping.

WoodimusPrime said...

I can't read all of the comments, so forgive me if someone else said this. If Chuck is really being tested, and he's using one the guns from the Castle, are we really supposed to think that no one noticed Chuck's gun wasn't fired? I'm wracking my brain, but I can't remember him firing it. Or did he fire it during the chase?

Regardless of all of that, I LOVED this episode. I think every episode this season has been better than the one before it. One of the best seasons of TV I've seen in awhile.

Unknown said...


I'm 99% sure Chuck fires a warning shot into the air while chasing the mole.

Stellar Drift said...


How hard is that? Seriously?

Actually its very hard - you are a lucky person if you don't understand that.

Anonymous said...

I'm still enjoying the overarching story and character developments - it's still a smart show that sets up and then undercuts expectations of conventional romance and spy story tropes at every turn - that's what I like about the show and will continue to like (as well as a very likable cast).

I am, however, finding myself getting a bit annoyed by the (lack of) quality dialogue this season that others have mentioned. What is with the unremitting repetition of 'spy' and 'real spy'? If there's a point to it, like it's supposed to be about questioning the whole concept of what a 'spy' is, it's not coming across. And then there's Shaw's weird creepy smiles - they'd better be leading to something interesting. His motives are almost totally opaque - it can't be an accident...

I hope not anyway. I'm hanging in there and believing, writers. Don't let me down!

CMW said...

I totally agree with Rachael. The dialogue has been lacking. When Sarah said "Not Anymore" it just was a weird response. Also if you were Shaw wouldn't you be like "wait a minute...were you still in love with him BEFORE you saw that, cause technically your supposed to be dating me". And just the way he asked her if she was still in love with Chuck was like they had talked about it before. More platonic than anything.

Also, I thought Sarah's fist kill was Shaw's wife as well, But then what is the signaficance of the bracelet? And how does Chucks dad end up with it. Chuck did say it was a lucky bracelet when he gave it to Sarah. Maybe Sarah's first kill wasn't actually a kill. She never went back to make sure. And maybe the bracelet is lucky cause she dropped it causing Sarah to fumble. Either way Sarah has it now...does Shaw find it? And freak out. Does Shaw have a connection to Mr. and Mrs. Bartowski, and perhaps Chuck? It's all connected somehow.I'm really looking forward to how this plays out.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the comments, but was I the only one that thought the bathroom fight was a shout out to the James Bond (Daniel Craig) flick Casino Royale? If I remember correctly, in the beginning scenes of the movie, James was in sort of a red test himself.

Also, Casey did commit murder. But, would he have a "defense of others" defense in court? Would Casey's own life have to be in danger as well to use the "defense of others" argument? Does California even recognize the use of deadly force in the protection of others? Any CA lawyers out there?

PT said...

I tried posting this before and it didn't post, let me try again. I was one of of those people who wanted to throw their TV out the window after "Mask". Who has scratched their head over the entire Shaw arc and how long it's lasted. But someone on another site posted a tweet of JS's where he said something about the term "epic fail" and it being the meanest internet term ever. That made me take a step back. I had never used that term, but I remembered then that the people who run Chuck are real people, with real feelings, who didn't set out to anger the fans or ruin the show. I believe they love Chuck, and Chuck and Sarah, and are the biggest shippers around. What they conveived in the writer's room wasn't well received for the most part, but I don't think that was their all. I think getting 13 eps, then 19, then coming back earlier than planned, and facing the Olympic break as a result, and let's not forget budget cuts, all played a part in this season's execution. As much as I have questioned the Shaw part of this season, I do appreciate the maturity of this season. Chuck has grown up and so has his spy life and his love life. When you think about it, we've come so far this season already. I believe the goal is for Chuck and Sarah to come together, but I think as equals, as adults, and I think when they do it will be "epic win". I'm betting they didn't predict the reaction the Shaw arc would get. Maybe I'm feeling melancholy about whether or not there will be a season 4, but I think we need to cut the show runners and writers a break.

GetbetterChuck said...

I was expecting a mind-blowing season after the season 2 finale. Instead, this season has been.. awkward. I always feel a little confused when fans of the show give a high amount praise for season 3. I am now convinced most are just fooling themselves. The way Shaw came into the season was fantastic. However, he's completely overstayed his welcome because his character has NO LIFE. At the beginning, it would have been great to understand his history. Maybe some flashbacks on why the Ring wants him dead, an elaboration on his wife.. Make us understand why he's so important?? But instead he's been a Boy Scout earning his badge for babysitting, but he's also screwing the client's daughter. If they were going to keep a guest star, I would rather they kept Hannah or at least keep her a bit longer while this Shaw/Sarah mess is going on since she totally out-shined Chuck during their scenes together. Sarah just seems like the office whore now. One? Ok. Two? hmm, acceptable. Three? uh.. skank. She'd probably bang Casey if he had showed interest in her. And did the show hire a different make-up stylist? Sarah has definitely not been up to par this season after the first episode when she came out of the pool. Sadly, there have been very few moments in this season where I have been "heart-warmed."

Anonymous said...

I want Chuck and Sarah screentime and not Sarah and Shaw screentime. I don't think anyone who hasn't liked Shaw is saying they don't want romance or some angst. Just not this romance or this angst. Chuck and Sarah are the heart of the show and should be a focus. I enjoy it when they are. This season though it's a depressing, sad focus. I have this feeling we are headed for a Shaw proposal-just my gut feeling--and Chuck is above that kind of ploy. I have always felt the writers treated the audience as smart, but if we are headed for that, that's a dumbing down of Chuck. I'm just ready to feel good when I watch this show again and I feel I won't right up until the last episode.

erin said...

Considering I just watched this episode this morning and I'm closing in on comment 212, I'm guessing no one is still paying attention...but I don't care.

I can't believe in all these comments no one has mentioned just how adorable Zach Levi looked running around in his towel. If you want to know why I continue watching the show, besides how clever it is, it's not whether Chuck and Sarah will ever get together (because as much as I like them, I wonder what they would talk about without all this angst??) but because Levi is just so damn appealing. I want a Zachary Levi of my very own.

@PT, I totally get what you're saying, and I think sometimes we forget the showrunners (and actors and writers and crew) are real people making a show they believe in, regardless of what some fans want. Some commenters (not necessarily the ones here, but maybe some of the anonymous ones who've been deleted) can be flat out hateful. I've been bummed out more than once reading some of the comments on a blog (although I think the TWOP forums are worse!)

I still enjoy the show, although frankly I would have thought it was REALLY dark if Chuck had killed the guy, and i think the writer chickened out when he didn't. He should be able to pull some Alias moves without Casey/Sarah being around to save him.

I laughed my buns off at the Subway scene. And I think evil Jeffster are just damn hilarious, and love them taking on...just about everyone. Tunaroni...ew. Vik Sahay is just brilliant.

Still really enjoying the show, but then I'm not one to Take. It. Personally! when I don't like where a show is heading. I'm going to see how it plays out, and if that means Shaw is taken out by Sarah (or Chuck!) because he's a super secret bad guy (which would be sweet), than all the better! And if not, I hope Fedak/Schwartz have a good plan for season 4!

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

No talking about the contents of the previews, Caz.

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