mxpw vs. Frea - Chuck vs. the Cubic Z

 Chuck Vs. the Cubic Z
Season 4, Episode 3, air-date October 4, 2010

Two former enemies set their sights on Chuck and Sarah when they escape from custody during a prisoner transfer. Morgan receives a surprise from Big Mike. 

Another strong Sarah episode?  What, did they read mxpw's mind over the break?  Nope, Sarah's only in short shorts for less than five minutes.  Frea and mxpw aren't here to slam you with poetry (and you should be grateful, as Frea only knows limericks about islands off the shore of Massachusetts), but they are here to provide their weekly review of Chuck, after the break!

Photo Courtesy of Chucktv.net
Frea: So I have my Dr. Pepper

mxpw: I have my...air.

Frea: I just hit my dog in the face with a cracker.

Frea: She woke up, gave me a "What did you do that for?" look and then noticed the cracker.

mxpw: And forgot all about you hitting her in the face?

Frea: Yeah, her entire universe became OMG CRACKER NOM.

mxpw: She is now the Cookie Monster?

Frea: Yes. Assuming you dipped the cookie monster in ink.

mxpw: Which I do.

Frea: So, best part about this episode?

Frea: There is not one but like FIFTY CASTLE SLIDES!

mxpw: Hahaha. Do air shafts/ducts count as CASTLE SLIDES?

Frea: Seeing as I'm pretty sure it was exactly the same set, yes. Yes they do.

mxpw: I see. But there was really only one scene with a sliding motion.

mxpw: And that was when Chuck, with the gun, goes sliding after Panzer.

Frea: And Panzer sliding down after fisticuffs.

mxpw: Okay, I'll grant you that post-fisticuffs sliding.

mxpw: So two instances of CASTLE SLIDES.

Frea: Which means...

Frea: Better than "Suitcase."

mxpw: Hey, you have your metric and I have mine. This episode had minimal SWP, so it can't, by definition, be better than "Suitcase."

Frea: But other than the lowered amount of SWP, what did you think of the episode, Maximus?

mxpw: I think I'm going to do the compliment sandwich.

mxpw: The Chuck-Panzer fight scene in the cage was fantastic. Worlds better than the fight scene from First Class.

mxpw: However, the Buy More plot was tepid and pointless. I laughed much harder during Jeffster and company's minimal time in Suitcase than I did here. The only good part was Big Mike's return.

mxpw: That said, the Chuck and Sarah stuff was really, really good. Inappropriate use of the supply closet? Awesome. Actually communicating with each other? Even more awesome. The conversation at the end was really good.

mxpw: What did you think, Frea?

Frea: I enjoyed this episode so much that when my best friend mentioned she hadn't gotten to watch it (my best friend does not have cable, let alone a DVR), I immediately invited her over for a watching-party and watched it again. And then I watched Cougars. Because even though Nicole Richie is a little bit iffy as an actress, you can just see her delight in playing the uber, um, bitca that is Heather Ratner nee Chandler.

Frea: I didn't mind the Jeffster plot as much this week as I did last week because Morgan kept his nose out of Chuck and Sarah's business, and the return of Big Mike, plus the line "What monkey flung this?" really did save everything. It definitely could have been cut quite a bit, though. And seeing Big Mike take down the baddie of the week never gets old, so there's always that.

Frea: Definitely agree with you on Chuck and Sarah. The supply closet line actually made my jaw drop before I started cracking up. The communication was wonderful, Chuck and Sarah's working together and banter was amazing. And Chuck continually had me laughing and cheering. Especially his "Right! Because we're professionals and I'm not listening to you." And then he proceeds to stick his fingers in his ears. So much fun!

mxpw: I wanna talk about the Buy More before we move onto the Chuck/Sarah stuff, if that's okay with you?

Frea: Definitely! We all know I can never get enough of the Buy More...it's why it's such a prominent feature in Fates...wait a second...

mxpw: Haha. Well, that's actually somewhat related to what I want to say.

mxpw: First, too much Morgan again. Just cutting down on his freaking out alone would have shaved whole minutes off the BM plot this episode. I like Morgan 2.0 more than the S1-2 version, but they are still using him far too much.

mxpw: I mean, I don't care about whether or not Morgan is growing into responsibility.

Frea: "Grimes. Manager. Speak."

mxpw: Yeah, that was like the one line he had that I enjoyed.

mxpw: I did like the Chuck/Morgan scene at the beginning with Chuck telling Morgan to "Filter. Filter." That was hilarious and about damn time.

Frea: It was a little bit like the writers were listening to us! How many times have any of us wanted to say that to Morgan (and even sometimes to Chuck)?

mxpw: God, more times than I care to count.

mxpw: And like I said, other than Big Mike, the BM plot was just pointless. I didn't even like Jeffster much, and I usually do. Though their Jeffster editing techniques were rather funny.

Frea: Everybody knows how I feel about Jeffster by now (aka, they're in about seven episodes too early), but I didn't mind them too much. Why? Because they slammed us with poetry (Okay, I'll admit it, after Lester's inspired poem, I looked over at my friend, heretofore known as FBFF, and said, sarcastically, "I think I could watch thirty minutes of Lester poetalizing to Jeff's bad kung fu." and she replied, "Really? Cos I could barely stand thirty seconds." FBFF is kind of awesome)! And there was a tambourine! The only thing missing? Their get-up from Honeymooners when they rocked "Leaving on a Jet Plane." I wonder who will be the Yoko Ono to this amazing group.

mxpw: John Casey.

Frea: Oh, admittedly.

mxpw: Or Skip Johnson.

Frea: And I'll confess, the Buy More plot led to my all-time favorite shot of the episode. A low-angle shot of a green-shirt trussed up with caution tape being pushed by on a trolley, shaking his head in abject terror. I had to rewind that and watch five times, I was laughing so hard.

mxpw: Okay, yes, I'll grant you that the nerd riot was pretty funny in its complete over the topness and the way those nerds just utterly abused all the poor Buy More employees, especially, as you noted, that poor guy on the trolley. I guess, I don't know, I was apalled at Jeffster actually trying to do their jobs? I mean, what was up with that? That's not the Jeffster I know.

Frea: True. Now that you mention it, I would have to call shenanigans on that.

mxpw: Though Lester's whispered asides during Big Mike's big speech were great.

Frea: Oh, one thing I noticed when watching the episode: both this episode and Cougars had scenes where the Buy More had been practically obliterated by either nerds or party-goers, which I thought was a neat parallel. Even neater? They used the same music in the clean-up both episodes.

mxpw: I did not notice that about the two parallel plots. Very cool catch, Frea!

Frea: Okay, so two big returning faces in this episode. Granted, one's much bigger than the other. One, from a mutually-agreed-upon favorite episode of the series by both of us. The other from an episode that shall not be named (although it already has been in this chat). Let's start with the big guy. What'd you think of Panzer?

mxpw: I like him. He's really the only standout bad guy they've had since Vincent. He's big, he's actually intimidating, he's convincing as somebody who could be a real threat, and Steve Austin is perfectly suited for the role. I wouldn't mind seeing him come back. Oh, and his fight scene in the cage was great and I was pleased that he won the fight (much more believable that way) and his anger at getting revenge against "Carmichael" was endlessly amusing. And so was Chuck's funny little boasting he did to Heather throughout the episode about how he bested Panzer the first time.

mxpw: And what did you think about Panzer?

Frea: I really enjoyed him. It's always neat to see Chuck go up against somebody who is just brute strength and power, and it's interesting to see the progress Chuck has made since the first time he faced Panzer. I mean, if you look back in his actions in First Class (guh), there was a lot of terror that kind of stuck around, bringing on the silly plot device--er, I mean Laudinol. But here, not only does Casey toss Chuck a gun and he doesn't freak out, but he also doesn't hesitate to go after Panzer by himself. It makes me grateful we're past the days of "What if the Intersect doesn't work?" I guess all the supply closet lovin' is helping our boy's confidence in great new ways!

mxpw: And who could blame him for that?

Frea: Nobody in the sighted world, that's for sure.

mxpw: But speaking of inappropriately using supply closets, Heather Chandler?

Frea: Oh, Nicole Richie. Love her, hate her, she's Heather Chandler.

mxpw: So I liked her here about as much as I liked her in Cougars. I mean, let's face it, Nicole Ritchie is no great actress. But for what she's given, I thought she did well. She played the bitchy side of Heather even better than in Cougars. Her sniping back and forth with Sarah was really good, and I enjoyed her getting under Sarah's skin like she did. I was somewhat disappointed that we didn't really learn anything new about Sarah (it seems obvious that we probably never really will learn anything about her past at this point), and I'm not sure I really agree with the idea that Sarah was ever like Heather, but I did enjoy her and think she makes a good foil for Sarah.

Photo courtesy of chucktv.net

Frea: I liked her better than I liked her the first time I watched Cougars (probably because my own perception of Nicole Richie has changed since then) since when I first watched Cougars, I was kind of insulted that Sarah Walker, my kickass favorite spy Sarah Walker, was getting her butt handed to her by somebody smaller than me. It was like watching Buffy get beaten by Sunday. But having accepted that Sarah is sometimes like my old Shih Tzu who would beat Rottweilers and get beaten by Chihuahuas, I enjoy both Cougars and the fight scenes with characters like the supermodel last week and Heather Chandler this week a lot more.

Frea: It was also great seeing some of Sarah's mental demons get aired. Like you, Max, I don't exactly agree that Sarah was ever like Heather, but I can see why she would think that, given her unorthodox upbringing, history as a spy, and inability to feel like a "normal girl" at times. And while Richie isn't ever going to win any Emmys, I have to thank her for embracing the role so thoroughly. And thank everybody else that she's only there for one episode and not, like, an entire season. I could've done without her little "Chuck's a nice guy," speech at the end, though. Frankly, I would've enjoyed her more if she'd said something like, "And yeah, maybe I made that all up, guess you'll have to research and find out. See you in hell, suckers."


mxpw: Heh, that would have certainly been unexpected.

mxpw: But I actually thought her speech at the end was last final attempt at a mind-frak. She was basically telling Sarah that Chuck was an awesome guy, don't screw it up, which of course would make Sarah worry about screwing it up, which I think was partly Heather's intention.

Frea: Oh. Hm. I can't really reply to that without insulting Nichole Richie's acting, and I'm just so happy that she's not Brandon Routh that I'm not going to say anything. :)

mxpw: Of course, we saw in this episode how easy it was to get under Sarah's skin. I guess only somebody like Heather, who knew her back before she was Sarah Walker (Jenny-Sarah was a great repeated dig) could really work in the role they needed in this episode to explore Sarah's demons. Plus, it led to the great "Sorry. My foot slipped" and Sarah's hilarious lecture to Chuck outside the interrogation room that was really a lecture for herself.

Frea: And did you notice, Maximus? They used time machine!

mxpw: Yes. Clearly not only are they stealing from Fates, but they are peeking in on our chats too.

Frea: For the uninformed, mxpw over here has a theory that I used a time machine to steal Fates from him. Sort of.

mxpw: Yes. And I have proof too. Or I did until one day it magically disappeared.

mxpw: Almost as if somebody had traveled in time...

Frea: Well, they say everything I do is magical.

mxpw: Whoever "they" are, needs to lay off the sauce.

Frea: Oh, for sure. Let's talk about the ending, shall we?

mxpw: Okay, the end. Go!

Frea: I saw it coming about halfway through the episode and I still giggled uncontrollably.

Frea: But the toothbrushes and bathroom door test was d'aww worthy and inspired.

mxpw: I was genuinely surprised they left the ring issue until the end. I thought it'd happen more in the beginning. That being said, yes, the Chuck/Sarah stuff about the toothbrushes was very "D'aww" worthy. They are on a hot streak right now with quality Charah endings.

mxpw: I thought the faux proposal was kind of anti-climactic, though.

Frea: I'll confess -- I wanted Sarah to just give Chuck a look and demand, "Are you kidding?!"

mxpw: That's what I didn't understand, though. It's not like Chuck pulled it out of his pocket, he found it on the ground. She knows that. It's not like Chuck had any intention of actually asking her. Or maybe I'm just misinterpreting that scene all wrong.

Frea: Did she have her back to him when he picked it up? I thought she turned around and he was just kneeling there with the ring. And their reactions, "Wow." "WOW." were rather priceless. I'm so glad they're letting Yvonne and Zac both be funny in the same scene this year.

mxpw: I don't know. I guess I need to rewatch that scene, but I thought it was pretty clear that the ring being there was just a chance thing. Besides, it wouldn't make any sense for Chuck to ask her to marry him right after they just had that talk. Though I did think it was interesting that throughout the episode, Sarah seemed to take more issue with the idea of being a mother than she did getting married.

Frea: Oh, it earned a few rounds of the "Contrivance Song" from Frea and Graceless O'Scanlin, but the scene went down pretty much how I expected it to the first time I saw the promos for it. My fanfic writer's brain came up with five different scenarios (in one, Sarah startles herself by saying yes and then gets annoyed later on to discover that the ring is a 'half carat, pear-cut cubic zirconium'), but it'll be interesting to see where the writer takes it next week. I was nervous this week with a new writer, and sometimes the dialogue came off as a little too...self-aware for this show, but after this episode, Wootton can not only stay, he needs a raise.

mxpw: Heh, for a newbie, he did a good job. Could have done better with the Buy More stuff, but that was counterbalanced by all the good Sarah and Chuck/Sarah material.

Frea: So, overall opinion?

mxpw: I liked the episode but didn't love it like I did with last week's. I think this was my least favorite episode of the season so far. But really, this season has been so strong up to this point that that's not really a knock against Cubic Z. As long as they keep giving us quality Sarah stuff/writing (such an amazing difference from S3), I will continue to be pleased. Also, and I haven't mentioned this yet so far, but this new guy writes Chuck better than most of the regulars (this was some of the most likeable I've ever found him) so for that alone, he gets a thumbs up in my book.

Frea: Definitely agree with you on the new guy and writing Chuck well. I could have used more Casey, myself, but I rank this episode pretty high up there. I probably liked it the best of the three we've been given so far. A great, confident Chuck, positive movement on the Chuck/Sarah front, Beckman's back to being a face on the screen (I'm a little disappointed about that, actually). My main issues with the episode were a little bit of Nicole Richie's acting and some of the camera-work/editing left me cold, but if that's all there is, then rejoice, rejoice! Can you believe we're three for three with great episodes? And next week promises to have Sarah Walker in bikinis again, so who knows, maybe we'll get Maximus here to be the optimist.

mxpw: Haha, I'll be the optimist if my brain is still functional.

mxpw: No guarantee about that though.

Frea: Good point. Next week, tune in to see Crystal and Frea duke it out because we'll be the only ones with rational thought left.

mxpw: I do wanna say one last thing, because I don't usually pay much heed to the music in Chuck like a lot of other people do. I mean, I enjoy it and I've discovered some great bands through the show (I will always forever be grateful to Chuck for introducing me to Frightened Rabbit, for instance), but I thought the use of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's "Beat the Devil's Tattoo" was excellent in this episode. Kudos for that, and especially for threading it throughout the episode. It was especially effective during the gun battle scene.


mxpw: Three Sarahs Sparring out of 5

Frea: 8 Castle Slides out of 10!


  1. Sparky5.10.10

    Chuck is still a little like Morgan talking to greta :)

    But we didn't get a hot dance :(

    IMO,Buy more plot was to keep the show relatable to the audience.

    Sarah Walker is ,sadly and expectedly, the character from s3 and the end of s2.Continuitywise it is nice and it's supposed to give legs to the show. And significant others are actually talking! This means growth for the characters. Let's just hope it is the course for this season. Talking and being comfortable around each other.

    I can't help but wonder,what should be the front of the show? Missions or the relationship?

    Speaking of missions,I want more Casey. Actually i want more Chuck and Casey banter.

  2. Oh, God, I'm so glad somebody liked the episode... Because I thought I was the only one. And while I think the Buy More stuff was too long sometimes, I loved that Chuck and Sarah actually talked about their issues. I'm so glad they're maturing.

    There are people out there that say this one was the worst episode ever. I just can't... People is too weird for me sometimes.

  3. Anonymous5.10.10

    So far in every episode this season, Chuck and Sarah have had relationship problems. Are they going to do that in EVERY episode this season? I hope they do NOT do that. Can we not have some episodes with all-things-are-fine, no-problems-in-the-relationship?

  4. Sparky5.10.10

    During previous seasons,we used to be served angst about chuck and sarah's "doomed" relationship or their lack of one.

    Now the new angst angle is here: having characters' insecurities exposed about their relationship and them work through their fears.

    In suitcase,Chuck is worried about Sarah's "inability to settle down".In cubic z,Sarah is uncomfortable Chuck's expectations.

    And let's not forget:Casey is Walker's new best pal! They are talking about their "lady feelings"! ha.

    Relationship issues seem to directly affect the plot too. In cubic z,they put away the guns to have a "chat".

    Sarah is unable to put up a wall to deflect Heather's probes and interrogate her*. Chuck is unable to focus on the mission because he is worried about Sarah's feelings during "suitcase".

    *Something Chuck would do better than Sarah even without the intersect help.Normally,that's highly unlikely.

  5. Um, Sparky, were you expecting Sarah to magically be transported away and replaced by a different Sarah? I mean, I see her as the character from S2 and 3.5 onward and as long as she stays dynamic and keeps getting growth, I'm okay with that. Expecting Sarah to be replaced by Faux-Sarah would only happen on Fringe. Maybe you're watching the wrong show?

    Oi Squirol, yeah, I kind of had the same reaction. But then I've learned that my opinion usually strays from the norm. Lots of people love the episodes I hate and vise versa (for instance, I never liked Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer or saw the appeal, much to shock of most of my fellow CIAers).

    Anonymous, I don't know what to tell you. I think we may get a couple of episodes of smooth sailing, but the writers fear the Moonlighting/boring curse (even if Ernie over at CT can prove it's not real) so much that they're going to keep on with the relationship problems. The trouble is, after all of that crap we went through in S3, when they should have been dealing with the relationship and instead they dealt with a reset, means it's even worse because all of the viewers are thinking, "Shouldn't we be past this by now?" but sadly not the case.

    Sparky, yeah, the relationship issues have always gotten in the way of the plot. It's a time honored tradition going all the way back to Helicopter. And I don't think Chuck would have done better interrogating Heather than Sarah, as Heather probably wouldn't have broken and told either of them without the rooftop gunfight that none of the geeks in the Buy More mysteriously saw or heard. We had a helicopter land on our playground blacktop once when I was in sixth grade and it was FREAKING LOUD.

  6. Sparky5.10.10

    I'm okay with Sarah's growth.Her issues reminded me of season 3 angst*,other than that i have no problem with it. Never watched Fringe,do you like it :)

    I wasn't expecting Heather to tell anything either way. At least,Chuck would sidestep Heather's cracks with self-deprecating jokes. And Sarah wouldn't use "time machine" phrase all the time :)

    I agree,the engine noise normally would attract attention.Maybe it's a black ops type deal, maybe the store riot distracted people,maybe no helicopter noise is just a plot hole :)

    Overall,i really liked this episode.Hoping for a 22 episode season. People are talking about Chuck&Sarah marriage. Early or not? Not sure :)

    *We didn't even have relationship issues angst,just another dose of "we aren't together" crap.
    And having characters hit rock bottom-sometimes repeatedly- was annoying.

  7. Frea, Frea, Frea, that helicopter has technology made in Wakanda. Of course it didn't make any sound :) In future episodes I'm sure we'll see Casey's old ties with SHIELD.

  8. Anonymous5.10.10

    Hmm, that is probably the first positive review I read about this episode.

    Personaly, I cannot say I really liked it, I did not hate it but I won't be rewatching like crazy like I did Suitcase. I liked the beginning and there were some great moments, but the whole episode felt like a lot of false starts to me. Everything felt dragged out for too long, the BM was often long and useless and even the CS plotline felt long to me. The mission was like an episode of Tom and Jerry and I always wanted that mouse to get eaten already! Of course, it might do better on rewatch and it is not like I hated it, like I hated First Class for example, but it left me frustrated. I loved the 2 first episodes so much and this one had so much potential, that my expectations were bound to be disapointed.

    On a side note, the fact that I am high on cold medicine and sleep deprived because of my midterms might also have something to do with my frustrated feelings.

    Always interesting to read both of your perspectives. They never fail to be insightful.


  9. Ayefah5.10.10

    A lot of this episode felt kind of secondhand and faded, with elements the show had used before but to greater effect. The bottle episode, especially, is something Chuck has done way better before. (Hello "Santa Claus".)

    At least nothing about the Chuck/Sarah stuff made me want to throw things this week. I do hope that we get some episodes where their relationship is incidental to the story rather than the center of it, though. Which I think we will - by connecting with Alex, Casey is setting himself up to come to the emotional foreground soon.

    The Buy More stuff was what felt the most derivative and tired - it really could have done with more CIA/Buy Moron integration for novelty's sake. How could a store staffed with CIA agents have had such a massive riot? And why haven't the writers started mining the comedy gold of agents and retail slackers working together?

    But anyway. I had to giggle at how the frantic camerawork during Sarah's fight with Heather struggled to hide the fact that Yvonne Strahovski probably has a good 5 inches and 30 pounds of muscle on Nicole Richie. But Chuck lost his fight fair and square! I appreciated that - Panzer is supposed to be a "master of close combat" and has big-time strength and reach advantages over Chuck, so yes, even the Intersect found its limits.

    I have to say, though, my favorite "fight" scene may have been Sarah beating up on Casey. Good times. She was also back to dressing like regular Sarah! No pencil skirt and high heeled pumps today, though her boots had heels for no apparent reason. (And don't give me the "height difference" excuse; Strahovski's plenty tall enough to stand in the same shot as Levi without needing extra elevation.)

    The fake proposal was, erm...something. I'll withhold judgment until next week. Heh. All in all, this episode felt more coherent than "Suitcase", and I was pretty content while I was watching it, so it couldn't have been that bad. :P I mean, it had a Roomba, right? Roombas make everything better.

  10. Maybe Sarah thought that Chuck had dropped/misplaced the ring during the whole Panzer/Chandler incident and just happened to find it?

  11. Sparky6.10.10

    Chuck couldn't beat Panzer in close quarters but Panzer couldn't beat Chuck either.

    And we don't know if Chuck flashed on fighting skills.It seemed he only got acrobatics. When intersect is activated for Kung-fu,chuck usually is much more vicious and pressing.

    I would like to see Panzer fight Casey. Who would win?

  12. Loved the episode, but all I could think about the end was "really? REALLY?" They just moved into resolution for the boundaries issue, and I'm supposed to buy that Chuck and Sarah are going to drop right back into freakoutland even though there's a perfectly reasonable explanation? Really sit-commy, and almost as if the writers had a meeting right before they approved the script and said "OK, this is good, but we need to set someone up to carry the idiot ball for the next episode." Really hope they back off it.

    Also, totally disagree with Sparky on the relationship problems front. Considering the source, it's actually a remarkably true-to-life picture of two people learning how to be in a long-term relationship with each other. And after 48 episodes of the same "star-crossed lovers" claptrap over and over and over and over and over again, a sweet story about two damaged people learning to love each other is rather refreshing.

    Which was probably why Fates was such a nice thing to have while suffering through the worst of season 3. Just sayin'.

  13. Sparky6.10.10

    Utuu,I'm not against relationship problems subplot.I agree,i'd rather have season 4 than season 3.

    " a sweet story about two damaged people learning to love each other is rather refreshing."


    I like trying to deconstruct storylines. That doesn't mean that i don't like the story we have.

  14. ninjaVanish6.10.10

    Not related to the episode. Which I enjoyed.
    I just now noticed the mxpw v. frea picture up top.

    Fans of Bear v. Shark the novel?

  15. bitca!!!!
    proof of wheedonverse more than a decade after inception!
    counting down the days till castle inanity wheedon-fest now...


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