Frea vs. mxpw - Chuck vs. Phase Three

 Chuck vs. Phase Three
Season 4, Episode 9, air-date November 22, 2010

While hiding out in Southeast Asia from an international agent determined to locate the Intersect, Sarah goes on a rogue mission. Ellie and Awesome work to uncover a family secret.

Warning: Prolonged exposure to Sarah Walker's badassery can cause brain melting. If you begin to feel nauseated, dizzy, light-headed, or forget where you are, please consult a doctor right away. But not Captain Awesome, he's done enough.

Frea: Fair readers, when the great mxpw and myself decided to start the illustrious column known as mxpw vs. Frea, it was because I, Frea, tend to have a more optimistic view of the episodes and the Grinch -- er, I mean, mxpw -- likes to be a Debbie Downer. So it was agreed we would debate each episode with me taking the optimistic approach and mxpw raining on my parade.

Frea: With one exception.

Frea: And my friends, dear readers of this blog, that exception has arrived.

Frea: Sarah Walker has officially broken mxpw's brain.

mxpw: Shattered.

mxpw: Into a million pieces.

Frea: Which means that I will be your duly appointed pessimist this week. And I have to tell you, I think mxpw rigged the system over here because it will be rough to be the pessimist this week, but I'm going to do my best. So I'll outright say it: this episode was not perfect. I had a little bit of trouble with the pacing, some things were a little inexplicable, and the biggest travesty of all:


mxpw: Huh? What? Not perfect? But...but...Sarah was in a wet tank top!

Frea: Why do I get the feeling that this is going to turn into a broken record?

mxpw: Because I'm predictable and Sarah Walker broke my brain? What do you want from me, deep thinking? Come on...

Frea: Excellent point, my friend.

Frea: Fine, we'll both admit it:

Frea: Sarah Walker kicked ASS this week in every possible way.

mxpw: Yes, yes she did. She scared even me, and as Frea likes to say, I write the scariest Sarah in the fandom. But that's why I loved this episode so much. Yes, there's a lot that the shallow side of my brain loved (wet tank top! Tiny shorts! Sarah in the pond! The beginning make-out! I could go on...) but that wasn't the only thing that this episode had. The fear, desperation, Sarah being completely unhinged, and as Beckman drily put it, Sarah being "on edge" (seriously, Beckman's statement was like the understatement of the century), was just really wonderful to see. I mean, as a shipper, I've always long suspected that Sarah would do everything she did in this episode if Chuck was in danger, but seeing it play out was amazing.

Frea: Yvonne earned her Emmy this week. Not like she doesn't every week, but this week? She had everything. Desperation, terror, loneliness, ecstasy, relief, happiness, sheer scariness. I mean, it's like every actor's dream script.

mxpw: It really was. I've long said that Yvonne is the best actor on the show. Hell, I think she's easily one of the best on TV period, and this episode showed why. I don't think any actress has her range. She's equally convincing as the terrifying fighter and the emotionally distraught girlfriend. Seriously, how many other actresses can pull off the kind of action and stunt scenes Yvonne did in this episode and still have the acting chops to be completely amazing in two of the best Sarah scenes ever: the scene in the bedroom she shares with Chuck and at the end when she's pleading with him. I told Frea after this episode that if I wasn't in love with Yvonne before this episode, I am now.

Frea: Actually, Sarah was one of the problems I had with the episode.

Frea: Now that you've all gotten that gasp of shock out of the way, I'll explain.

Frea: In WHAT universe would a woman who looks like Yvonne Strahovski EVER be considered a "shemale?"

mxpw: Hahaha.

mxpw: Well, first, obviously anybody who saw her in her pit fighting get-up would never think that, especially after she poured water on herself, wowza (by the way, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm going to be mentioning that slo-mo scene A LOT, dear readers), but I saw some comments on TWoP that provided a convincing enough argument for me. It was a way for all these tough mercenary types to save face. Heh. Honestly, it amused me, despite its gross inaccuracy, so I was okay with it.

Frea: Oh, I'll admit it, I laughed hysterically and am even now trying to figure out how I can use the description in Fates and get away with it. But the episode definitely confirmed a lot about Sarah Walker's character for me. Strange that it took four years, but what can you do? It appears a lot of the writers in the fandom were closer to the characterization of Sarah than even we suspected. I mean, I was getting quite a few whiffs of Double Agent last night, weren't you? Look how far we've come since Beard.

mxpw: Yes. You know, when I initially started DA, I remember a lot of people telling me they weren't sure Sarah would ever act the way I've had her act in Double Agent, but after last night, I feel like I can safely say that as a fanfic writer, there is little we can do now and have it be considered OOC with Sarah. Everybody has always said that if Chuck was threatened, Sarah would go to the ends of the Earth to save him, and this episode proved it. While I was a bit perplexed about Casey's description of Sarah pre-Chuck (felt like he was getting himself and Sarah mixed up) as Graham's wildcard, unpredictable enforcer, I think line of the night has to go to Sarah's "I'm different without Chuck and I don't like it." She really, really is. She's cold, hard, murderous, cruel, basically like she said to Chuck at the end, she's nothing more than a spy. Chuck makes her an actual person. I think that's beautiful. Now if you'll excuse me, there's something in my eye...

Frea: Probably some of that leftover mace I squirted you with yesterday. Sorry about that, minion.

Frea: Okay, you go watch the slo-mo shot of Sarah dumping a canteen over her head for a couple of times while I bring up one of the issues I had with the episode. Big shocker, I know, but it's Morgan.

mxpw: *watches that scene for the tenth time*

Frea: I need to preface this, though. I didn't really, really have a problem with Morgan. For instance, I didn't think they used him too much like I've thought this entire season. His best friend's missing, after all, it's big for him. But I felt he was acting a little too...perfect.

Frea: He had the perfect solution every time, so on and so forth, and I really felt like...no. I don't feel like that would have happened. I wanted to see him frazzled and upset because his best friend is missing and it's spy stuff, which is dangerous and scary and I don't want to see him keep his cool around that. I felt like the calm, yes slightly manic but still overall very put together facade that we saw...it was getting into Gary Stu (which is the male form of Mary Sue) territories for me. I mean, on the one hand, it was like, yay, it's great that he's being so awesome for his best friend's girlfriend, but...I don't know.

Frea: That being said, I enjoyed Morgan's "Stoner Gambit," as Chris coined it.

mxpw: Hmm...just give me a second to clear the glazed look from my eyes...

mxpw: *blinks*

Frea: Just don't make me resort to electro-shock therapy again.

mxpw: Okay, okay, I kinda agree with you about Morgan, but I also don't.

mxpw: I will say that during my first watch, I was kinda annoyed with Morgan, but to be fair to the bearded one, I was annoyed with everything that interrupted my Sarah time, I mean, the stuff with Sarah in the episode. But on the second run-through, I appreciated his contribution a lot more. Yes, he's bordering on being too perfect, but I've made peace with that. I've decided to just judge him on what he does, irrespective of his potential Gary Stu-ness. So I have to say that his scene with Sarah in the bedroom...wow. That was maybe the first time I ever really thought Morgan clicked with Sarah. When he made her realize that her closed-offness and that she hadn't made it clear to Chuck that she would love him no matter what, that was like the best use of Morgan ever. And the Stoner Gambit was really fantastic (with the excellent payoff of Sarah bursting from the pond and all the bad guys just running away instead of fighting). Though I do wonder now if Morgan regularly carts around stoner gear in his backpack. You think that's how he and Chuck got out of jams in their jaunt around the world in the premiere?

Frea: Oh, completely.

Frea: And you're right, I should probably make my peace with that, too, but I'm the pessimist this week, and by golly I have to find SOMETHING wrong or I've failed!

mxpw: Okay, here's something I'll say that didn't quite work for me. I mean, it mostly did, and I honestly didn't care that much because, well, wet tank top, Sarah's total badassery, awesome pit fight, etc... But I was a bit underwhelmed by Chuck not doing much to save himself. It's just, I want to see Chuck being awesome. He doesn't have to kick ass. Sarah obviously does more than enough of that and I'd much rather watch her do it anyway. But I do think he needs more agency and more self-confidence, and doing something to free himself here would have gone a long way to achieving that. I will say, though, that now that Chuck has seen that Sarah will do anything for him and that she loves him with or without the Intersect, that he will start to believe in himself more and realize he doesn't need the Intersect to be a spy or hero. In fact, I was really pleased at the end when the Intersect was still suppressed. I want a return to the S1-2 dynamic.

Frea: To be fair, Chuck did spend most of the episode asleep and the last thing we saw last episode was him getting injected, so I'm willing to let that be handwaved a little bit.

mxpw: Eh, that could have easily been handwaved away.

Frea: But I too would like a return to the S1-2 dynamic. I'm kind of the opinion that the government is so afraid of Sarah Walker, though, that they've added her boyfriend onto the team to avoid the Thailand Mortal Kombat Smackdown happening to any of their senior officers. I don't think we're going to see a Sarah who will easily leave her boyfriend behind for six months or so while she chases an elusive Russian millionaire.

mxpw: Or he could have done some fighting in his brain, instead of waiting for Sarah to "save" him at the end.

mxpw: I hope we don't see any return of the Sarah who would leave her boyfriend for six months. Not after this.

Frea: You don't think it was enough for him to fight by just knowing it was a dream? My last dream had me complimenting Julia Stiles on her haircut and then going hang-gliding, and I didn't even think there was anything strange about that even after I woke up.

Frea: Also, I need to not eat chili and then watch The Bourne Ultimatum right before bed.

mxpw: I don't know...I think maybe if it hadn't been for FOD or this show's history of undervaluing Chuck's contributions (even if it's only Chuck who thinks that way), then Phase 3 wouldn't have even made me blink. I just think that it doesn't make sense, you know? I realize Chuck is neurotic as all hell, but when Sarah Walker, the hottest, most badass, woman in the world tells you that she loves you and wants to marry you, as a guy, well, you'd feel like pretty hot shit after something like that. The man should be more proud of himself and have more confidence, if for no other reason than Sarah believes in him.

Frea: Well, apparently she never told him she loved him, Intersect or not. Maybe the show is finally bringing Chuck around to being a -- ooh, Season Three drinking game, glasses ready! -- real spy now. He's got the girl, he's got a position with the government, he's got his best friend as a manager-spy, he's got Casey at his back, now it's time for him to step up and claim his destiny...for the fourth or so time?

mxpw: Haha. I'm sure he'll have the Intersect back once we learn what's the deal with Orion's secret computer. Speaking of which, I feel like we should talk about the B plot at least a little today.

mxpw: Let me just start by saying, best use of the Buy Morons, in particular Lester, since, well, Ring 1?

Frea: Ehhhhm, Couch Lock.

mxpw: Eh...I don't know. While I loved the dumpster stuff in Couch Lock and it was funnier, I think they served a better story purpose here.

Frea: It was nice to see Lester being competent. Oily, creepy, but competent. It reminds me of Season One when Jeff and Lester actually had a purpose at the Buy More. And we got shout-outs to the second season! A Roark 7 computer! Hey, remember that operating system that ultimately went nowhere even though it was supposedly stealing information from everybody and they were downloading it? Oh, those were the days of glaringly dropped plotholes, weren't they? Takes me back.

mxpw: But that's just me. Anyway, so not the point. Scariest words in the English language: "While Jeff takes off his pants."

Frea: Hey, wow, being the pessimist is fun!

Frea: Even two seasons too late!

mxpw: Again, was kinda annoyed by the B plot the first time through. But I appreciated it a lot more the second time through. First, there was the awesome sight gag of Devon inspecting the laptop with his stethoscope. Then the BM gang showed up. I loved the whole idea of Devon trading medical advice for computer services and how like the whole store showed up, even Fernando! And Lester being competent was such a huge shocker. I was oddly proud of the Indian lesbian.

Frea: Okay, Maximus, I have to bring up my biggest problem with the episode.

Frea: Again.

mxpw: I know, not enough Sarah in the episode.

mxpw: I had a big problem with that too.

mxpw: I'm also thinking it should be a rule that Sarah has to wear tank tops at all times.

Frea: They did not show us the magical Castle Slide. I know Sarah, Casey, and Morgan took the Castle Slide to Thailand, since that's the only possible way that they could get there, terrorize an entire village, and come back in time to return the Thai ambassador to the embassy. It solidifies my theory that the Castle Slide is actually something out of the wonderful book Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. In this book, the castle had a door that could go four different places, depending on which color the knob by the door was resting on. And that is the only explanation for the expedient travel without jetlag or any problems on this show.

mxpw: You know what I am going to say to this perfectly valid criticism?

Frea: Sarah in a tank top? Who cares!

mxpw: Sarah in a wet tank top. Who cares!

Frea: I guess I can't argue with that. I really wish the Belgian had been a more effective bad guy.

Frea: And I'm really hoping this isn't the last we've seen of Phase Three problems with Chuck's memory, though an amnesia subplot would suck. It was worth it to see Sarah's desperation, yeah, but otherwise: weak!

mxpw: I don't know, I know he didn't have much to do, but I kinda liked how he was this sophisticated bad guy that sat around drinking tea while his doctor henchman lobotomized Chuck.

mxpw: It was a nice contrast.

mxpw: And you know, objectively, I agree that the whole Phase 3 thing didn't really amount to much, but I am SO glad they didn't give Chuck amnesia. That would have been such a S3 plot. And after everything Sarah went through, if Chuck had forgotten her or been mentally damaged in some way, it probably would have permanently damaged her. And, well, I'll take a poor plot over hurting my precious Sarah. Heh.

Frea: I can't really complain about it because I don't think it's the last we've seen of it. I do think it has something to do with the PSP, and I love that I'm becoming a conspiracy theorist this season because it's nice to care again about the overall plot.

mxpw: I know, I'm with you there. After this last episode, I am loving this show again. I am loving Sarah Walker again, like I did in S2. I told Frea this last night, but I now forgive Fedak for what he did to Sarah in S3. We're square now. I still have issues with Shaw, but, well, Sarah was just so amazing in this episode.

mxpw: Kudos to the new writer, Kristin Newman. She did an amazing job.

Frea: Yes, as long as I can keep my animosity toward Shaw (I'm fond of it, it's like a comfy blanket), seeing Sarah Walker kick ass and take names in this episode? I've forgiven her for Beard.

Frea: Yeah, I was surprised to find out it was the same writer from Coup D'Etat!

Frea: And then not so surprised because even though I had problems with that episode, I did find that Sarah was actually pretty well written. I was just tired of the couple problems and that clouded my judgment.

mxpw: I can totally understand that. Retrospectively, I see that viewpoint better than first after the episode.

mxpw: But, Frea, I love this episode. I know you mock me for how much I've gushed over Phase 3 and Sarah, but... Yvonne, she is seriously why I watch this show and I feel justified now for feeling that way.

Frea: It was definitely Yvonne's episode, through and through. Even though I'm the pessimist this week, I also loved it. Favorite episode of the season? Hellz freaking yeah. Perfect? No. Do I care? No. Am I a little sad that Chuck's proposal plan involving a wild stallion and a Delorean is no longer in the works? Honestly, a little. But I'd take Yvonne as Sonya any day of the week over that. Oh, and Buy Morons on TV screens laughing maniacally. And Ellie's stories about her dad. And Awesome being awesome. And Casey! "Your usual, Mr. Casey?" And Morgan's Stoner Gambit! And....oh, crap, I'm really failing as the pessimist, aren't I? Dang it! It's just so hard when I can't seem to wipe this stupid smile off of my face.

Frea: Now, next week show me the magical Castle Slide, writers!

Frea: So, Maximus, even though I knew right away it was a dream (which I also knew when Chuck escaped on his own), that opening? Severely hot.

mxpw: It was very hot. I was pretty taken aback first time I saw it. Probably the closest we will ever come to seeing them have sex on this show. And even though it was a dream, it was really nice to see that these two really do have excellent physical/sexual chemistry and can pull off incredibly hot scenes when given the opportunity. Zac is a severely lucky man.

mxpw: Oh, and I have to say, they stole my Lester dream bit! I want royalties!

mxpw: Though I'd happily take a chance to meet Yvonne instead. Heh.

Frea: First Chucksicle, now in bed with Lester. Next thing we know, they'll be dangling Sarah naked from the ceiling.

mxpw: From your fingers to Fedak's eyes, God willing that day comes.

Frea: Better they're stealing from you than me. I put Chuck in a bunker for five years. Nobody wants to see that.

Frea: Although I would be willing to see what lengths Sarah would go to in order to get him back--oh, wait, we saw that! Awesome.

mxpw: Haha, yes. You do not want to be in between Sarah and Chuck when she's on the warpath.

mxpw: I'm not really sure I can sum up how I felt about this episode in actual words. I wanted to still raise my hand when Sarah said her awesomely badass "Anyone else wanna be my boyfriend?" I absolutely loved the end scene with the excellent editing between dream and reality and Sarah's emotional plea to Chuck (her voice killed me in that scene) and her telling him she wanted to marry him. That was easily one of my favorite shipper moments ever. I loved the scene in the bedroom with Sarah awkwardly smelling Chuck's shirt (made me go D'awww!) and then her whole conversation with Morgan. I loved Casey backing up Sarah all the way and not holding it against her for locking him up. I especially loved that he had an usual. I loved the Buy More stuff and how they played off Awesome. I loved the mental image of Ellie being this adorable little girl joking around with Papa B. There was so much to love in this episode.

mxpw: But ultimately, I loved this episode because of...Sarah in a wet tank top.


Frea: Nine Magical Castle Slides out of Ten!

mxpw: Five Sarahs in a Wet Tank Top out of Five


  1. Anonymous23.11.10

    Sarah: C'mon Chuck flash for me.

    It was so friggin sexy :P


  2. I took issue with the pit fight having to be interrupted and reset to include Casey and Morgan. Pacing wise, I would have preferred Sarah have fought through the entire time defeating the Thai fighter (heh, that sounds like Tie Fighter) in a brilliant display of badass-ery without any interference. I really felt like the episode slowed down there.

    Also, I really loved the last dream sequence. So much so I kind of wish all the dreams were shown together without cutting back to the other story lines. I almost wish it was two separate episodes, one would be all about Sarah kicking ass while the other would be one long dream sequence.

  3. Anonymous23.11.10

    mxpw: Or he could have done some fighting in his brain, instead of waiting for Sarah to "save" him at the end.

    To be fair, the doctor dude really did put Chuck through the whole "No body loves you unless you flash" thing and with Chuck already having abandonment issues from parents leaving and best friends/girlfriend betrayals and being kicked out of Stanford yaddah yaddah yaddah, it's hard to have a lot of self-confidence after that. But now that Sarah had to have erased any doubts he had, I think we will be seeing a more awesome Chuck. Maybe not kick ass but definitely awesome.


  4. Anonymous23.11.10

    You really need to be fair to Chuck. In the dream sequences he was refusing to even *try* to flash. If it was me I would probably try to at least look like I was cooperating. Last week he tried a lot and seemed to be getting closer to acually flashing. The weird dr seemed to also conclude that Chuck was supressing the intersect, same as the govt doctors.

    Hey mxpw, are you inspired by awesome sarah enough to actually post some more of DA? Poor Bryce has been stuck in the dungeon for months now!!!

  5. Anonymous23.11.10

    For dream interrogations my standard is/always will be "Won't get fooled again", from Farscape (yet another show about a geek with something stuck in his brain and an awesome emotionally cut off warrior woman - who's played by an Australian no less). The amount of weird that happens in that episode is amazing, but probably requires prior viewing of the series to get all the jokes (though muppets in S&M gear are always funny - "...And this is for calling me Sparky, what ever that means! - Crack -") as well as the Major arc changes that episode hints at right at the end. The dream sequences, while plenty disturbing in Phase Three thanks to Lester, don't have the pull that they should. (Even counting my memories of Vik Sahay on "You can't say that on Television" on YTV.)

    My main problem with with Phase Three was the pacing. The subplot while good, just destroyed the pacing of Sarah's arc, and Chuck's dreams. If they wanted to ratchet up the drama they should have split Phase Three into a 2 parter(yes another), so that they could have more Sarah awesomness, as well as longer time to stew in the weirdness that is Chuck's dreams.


  6. Anonymous23.11.10

    I'm not quite one hundred percent certain this is what Kristin Newman intended, but I took the whole Shemale bit to be a reference to Thailand's reputation of being the world capital of sexual reassignment surgeries. Sarah was kicking the asses of so many men that they probably couldn't fathom the blonde responsible for it to be all female...beats me. Or maybe I'm looking to deep and trying to make sense of the nonsensical (calling Sarah a "shemale"), and it could have just been a pointless gag to make us chuckle, which I shamefully admit it kinda did...again, beats me. Even with my chuckling, I also object to it...the blind could see she's clearly not a "shemale."

    Yvonne was phenomenal, but when is she not? I couldn't agree more with mxpw. The scene in which Sarah was alone in the bedroom smelling Chuck's shirt, then talking with Morgan, and the ending when she was trying to wake Chuck up - I mean, wow. I was glassy-eyed for a while. Seeing her desperation for Chuck and being just so completely lost without him was both heartbreaking and amazing to watch.

    And that dream in the beginning with Chuck and Sarah - SMOKIN'.


  7. Wasn't it obvious that a castle slide was used to get the Thai in the carpet down into castle. It was just cut in favor of visual of the rug rolling and unrolling.

    When I heard She-Male, I thought She-Ra. WB released the "Masters of the Universe" movie, so I don't know why they didn't go with that. (Maybe that awful movie was a sore spot with WB.)

  8. Ayefah23.11.10

    Yeah, the most plausible explanation I've heard for the "she-male" gag is that the episode took place largely in Thailand. Especially because the show has had absolutely no problems reconciling Sarah's ass-kicking with her being a woman before. Whatever. As long as they don't dip into that well again, it was a weird enough on-off gag.

    And agreed on wishing Chuck had done more to save himself. But my discontentment on that count is sort of on hold - if the next few episodes are about Chuck finally growing a smidgen of self-worth, then cool, this was all part of his arc. If they abandon the issue and don't make Chuck realize that spy!Chuck != Intersect!Chuck, I'll be severely disappointed.

    The whole sequence with Lester in Chuck's bed was such a fic moment, but not really in a bad way. In fact, I kinda loved it, and Vik Sahay hit his "mad scientist laugh" out of the park, and it's also worth noting that Strahovski was pretty damn funny in that scene.

    So basically, I have all these sorts of criticisms around the edges - Richard Chamberlain was kind of wasted, Morgan was indeed too perfect (again), I wish Sarah had at least had a damn cut on her face after all the fighting she'd been doing, the characterization of early Sarah as an out-of-control enforcer was kinda weird, there wasn't really any sense of suspense - but overall, this worked. And the cliffhanger is killing me again, for something like the fourth week in a row. Friggin' writers.

  9. Anonymous23.11.10

    maybe every episode should start with chuck and sarah making out for the first 10mins of the show. wouldn't that be nice? and its also nice that the writer(s) were able to show a hot and sexy sarah walker without reducing yvonne strahovski to her underwear

  10. Ayefah24.11.10

    Oh, and while we're talking about Strahovski's wardrobe, what was that I failed to see in Thailand? Oh yeah: high heels. Because high heels make your balance suck, and that makes for less-awesome fight scenes.

    This message has been brought to you by the Coalition for Flat Sarah Walker Boots of Ass-Kicking.

  11. This is going to be an epic comment of epicness as I try to respond to everybody at once. Let's see how it goes!

    @Vincent - Agreed. I'll admit, my first thought when Sarah said that was that Chuck should have gone, "How about you flash first, then I'll go." Regardless, that scene was hot!

    @1b-bb-r - Hmm...I guess I see what you are saying about the fight, but honestly, the interruption didn't bother me. I never even considered the pacing to be off. Plus, I looked at the sand in the face as a homage to Bloodsport. Besides, Sarah was still plenty badass. As for splitting the episodes in two, I'm not sure I can agree. I think that maybe the dreams worked because they didn't have to carry the whole episode, plus, without Sarah being there at the end, the last dream sequence wouldn't have worked.

    @lucky47 - But that's kind of what I meant. Sure, the doctor made him think that he sucked and nobody loved him, but that's what I wanted him to resist on his own. To find some kind of inner reserve of awesome. Anyway, it was only a very minor complaint.

    @Anonymous 1- Actually, as a matter of fact, I told Frea last night that awesome Sarah was so awesome that it's kind of got my creative juices flowing again. I want to write about Sarah kicking ass. So I may just get back to work on DA, along with my other stuff.

    @MasterPoe - Always great to meet a fellow Farscape fan. Dream sequences and surrealism is one of the things that show did best. Harvey was such a fantastic character and so much of that story took place in the character's heads.

    Another call to split the episode, hmm? I just don't think I can agree. I think one of the reasons why Phase 3 worked as well as it did was because it had just the right balance. I don't even think that Chuck's dreams were all that important. I don't even consider that the B plot. They didn't really have an impact on anything. So I never had any desire to see them split or lengthened.

    @NMH - I really like it when people couldn't agree with me more. So you rock, sir/madam. I think I'm just going to stop thinking about the whole shemale thing. It was amusing at the time, and I'm moving on. I know I'll never mistake Sarah for anything less than a woman. Heh. As for the rest of what you said, yes. I really liked the Nico Stai song that played along during both big Chuck/Sarah scenes in this episode.

    Also, seriously, why can't we get scenes like that beginning more often? Are they afraid we all might die from combustion?

    @Jeff - Fun trivia fact, but both Dolph Lundgren and Robbie McNeill were in "Masters of the Universe" movie. But you probably already knew that.

    @Ayefah - The bit with Lester in the dream WAS a fic moment. I know, because I wrote it! Haha. Lester has like the best evil laugh, though, and you're right, Sarah was really funny in that scene. Her disappointment and unwillingness to continue the sexytimes was great. Poor Chuck!

    I have to agree with you about most of your criticisms. I know I gave this episode five out of five, but that doesn't mean it was perfect technically. What it was, though, was perfectly entertaining, at least in my mind. It worked on an emotional level, from all the Chuck and Sarah stuff to Ellie and Papa B. That's why I loved it.

    @Anonymous 2 - Bite your tongue! SWP should never be minimized! Though I do agree that a make out at the beginning of each episode would be awesome. Somebody should send Fedak a memo.

    @Ayefah 2 - Heh, she wasn't in heels in Thailand because she had very few scenes standing next to Chuck or Casey. Though if she had boots on in the pit, that sure would have made for a much faster fight. Sarah should look into that next time she has to rescue Chuck from a hive of scum and villainy.

  12. @mxpw - I claim to know nothing about "Masters of the Universe", except IMDB is my friend and now I going to spend the rest of the day getting "By the the power of Greyskull, I have the power!" out of my head.

    I like your different rating systems for technical and entertainment. For example, I'm in the small minority that thinks Sarah completely in character for the first two thirds of season 3. She showed bad judgment, but was in character. (Channah was out of character, but I digress.) I always understood and was impressed by the evolution and process Sarah's character development in S3. I didn't like what Sarah was doing, but nobody was _supposed to_. That said (I really not trying to start a S3 debate) my _entertainment_ rating for that process was not very high, like most people. Entertainment ratings are more important.

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  14. I'm having a hard time understanding the Neilson ratings Chuck has earned this season. Overall, as far as Chuck fandom goes, this season has been equal to or better then 1 yet the ratings continue to fall.

    Pretty much every character in Chuck has improved....but Chuck. Can fans or new viewers not appreciate the underachiever and it's chasing them away?

    Maybe the show should change it's name to Sarah because something just isn't right. Viewers are leaving and I hate to blame DWTS, I mean Dancing with D rated celebrities.

    Reading Frea and mxpw's review also brings to the forefront the show's inherent problem. The "hero" is mediocre at best and many people posting on this board make it obvious. They're far more interested in Sarah, Yvonne, then Chuck, hence the reason the show should be renamed to "Sarah" and Chuck can be.....I don't know.....a Suzanne Somers?

    Though I absolutely love the season more then 1, 2 or 3 I'm just having an issue understanding why the show is called Chuck anymore, he's not special.

    Many fans have read interviews from Fedak and Schwartz stating Chuck is always going to be Chuck. Maybe that recipe isn't working?

    I'd like to read Frea or mxpw's honest opinion on this post.


  15. Ehmmmmm....yeah, no, don't buy any of that as in character for her. Also not in character for Chuck. S3 will always strike me as the writers twisting the characters to make the plot work. However, unfortunately, since all of that aired, it's canon, but there are ways to work around that when writing, and I suspect that these ways mean as a fandom, we've got a greater number of AU fics than anybody else, relatively. But you can't tell me she wouldn't have pulled a gun on Shaw in Beard.

    Ayefah, can I join your coalition? With your affinity for baked goods, I have a feeling a meeting would be a delicious way to pass an afternoon. Also, it's just true. I mean, even Helen Mirren wore kickass combat boots with her fabulous white dress in RED. :)

  16. Anonymous24.11.10

    First and foremost: Nielsen ratings are collected by computing the results sent by Nielsen boxes, this kind of hardware is given to a limited number of households. Since Nielsen families are tied with a NDA, we can't know the exact demo composition of each household, the system is rigged in itself.

    Numbers like 4.8 millions or 1.7 adults are not real they are a statistic. For example, if in a given week 100 Nielsen boxers decided to watch Chuck instead of DWTS then you'd have to expect a huge bump on Chuck's side ( also I'd say there are only around 5thousands Nielsen Households, but I might be wrong).
    On top of that Nielsen doesn't count DVRs or Internet Streams.
    My distrust for the system comes also from the vision of 100 buds watching Chuck on a single tv paired up with my disbelief at the success of shows such as DWTS and 2.5Men.

    The system has its flaws (ADs companies are starting to realize this)there have been instances in the past where a show got a 0.0 rating despite a huge fanbase.

    This said, monday's ratings were the results of other factors as well, DWTS finale got a huge bump (+25%) along with Football and a HIMYM special.

    Chuck and House were hit the most, House especially, but the core of the problem resides on NBC, the lack of promotion, a weak previous episode and the general wasteland NBC seems to be in don't bode well for Chuck (well actually I'd say the show might get a fith season just because NBC is sucking rating wise). Still Chuck managed to be one of the strongest shows on NBC (without a multi dozen million dollars budget cough The Event cough or a strong lead-in, cough Outsourced cough), I guess next week will bump us to decent numbers.

    NBC should have never moved Chuck out for Bush, heck the 6 week Hiatus starting next monday won't let the show feast upon the possible TVMag cover or Christmas days.
    Anyway I won't be suprised if Episode 09 turns out to be a hit in the DVR and streaming department.

    -Vincent (yeah, no time for spellcheck)

  17. BCF,

    In addition to what Vincent said, here's my take on it, from a viewer/writer perspective: I love Chuck. Not just as a show, but as a character. Otherwise, I wouldn't have spent 703 pages in his perspective so far. I mean, Sarah's kickass (Uh, look around, we may have a slight fixation here at CI) and she's great because she's dynamic, but half the reason I love Sarah is because Chuck does. He is what brought me to the show in the first place, this sort of charming, goofy everyman that can inexplicably keep up with the spy world and can use his own smarts to save the day, helped along by Sarah and Casey when he needs to be. It started out as a real fish out of water show, and it was awesome because Zac Levi got to play both the straight man and the comedy depending on which world he was in.

    Unfortunately, S3 happened. Unless you're a "Case of the Week" show like NCIS or CSI, you have to push the envelope and stay fresh to keep up with the TV system these days, so when against all odds Chuck was granted a season three, they, well, they pushed the envelope. They took the story to a dark place, trusting that fans would follow them anywhere they took the story. After all, weren't these the same fans that went to Subway every day to buy sandwiches to bring the show back? Surely they're going to like anything to do with these characters, right?

    Yeah, no. They got away from the one thing they had going for them: the relatability factor. Seriously, I have no idea why they thought the S3 trajectory would be a good idea, or why any of us have given them the impression that we want Chuck to be an antihero. I mean, we’re the nerds that fist-pumped when Barstow happened, we cheered loudly when Chuck bluffed Mr. Colt with Call of Duty. We thought it was nifty that Chuck used Missile Command to save the day. We’re a fanbase that likes our heroes. We like Sarah to be conflicted and vulnerable and kick-ass, we like Casey to be wise-cracking and kick-ass, and we like Chuck to continually step up and win the girl back just by sheer force of personality (again and again and again) and save the day. S3 took away all of that and burned quite a few bridges with all of us by delivering a hero that was a jerk, a heroine that made no sense and couldn’t seem to find her backbone, and a muzzled Casey who apparently abandoned his fiancée (his only saving grace is that he didn’t know about Alex) thanks to his own selfish want to be a sniper. They called it “patriotic.”


  18. And continued here...

    By the time they could legitimately do damage control--Honeymooners--too many people had jumped ship and the ratings were tanking. It wasn’t helped along by the Olympics forcing a break in the worst possible place after the nine-month break between the seasons. Still, enough fans hung around and NBC was doing so terribly with shows that a fourth season was granted, though the show didn’t manage to gain back any of the fans lost.

    Now, in the fourth season, the show is facing other difficulties. NBC barely promoted the season premiere, thanks to its rigorous publicity for shows like Undercovers (yeah, that one worked out for ya really well, NBC). But the thing is, the show is holding steady, which, in the age of Hulu and digital streaming and there being ten thousand cable networks with other shows (check out USA’s lineup) is actually the new “rising.” So yeah, even though the ratings suck compared to DWTS and shows like that, it’s probably the best NBC can hope for.

    How much of the ratings problem is because the writers are sticking to this original Chuck flavor? Some of it, probably. The number of “Macho He-Man Chuck” stories in the fandom shows that there are clearly some fans out there that liked Chuck relying solely on the Intersect and kicking butt and taking names even when it makes no sense (seriously, explain to me why they couldn’t have just faked being customs agents and gone through Panzer’s luggage before the plane left in First Class), but for the majority, we like our smart, crafty Chuck who uses the Intersect as a tool rather than a Chuck who has to be reminded that before he got the Intersect 2.0 sucking up his IQ, he was smart. And I think ultimately, S4 is about getting that Chuck back (I hope!), but some people might be getting impatient with the amount of time it’s taking him to get there after they wrecked the character in S3. So I would actually place the blame on them not sticking to the original flavor Chuck.

    But that’s just me. YMMV, as the internet lingo goes.

    - Frea

  19. Wow, I wasn't expecting such a thorough response Frea. Now I understand how you can write lengthy chapters on your limited schedule.

    He-Man Chuck was seriously overdone in S3, but a smart and reserved use of 2.0 skills can and should be part of Chuck's arsenal of options. Seriously, how believable is it to have every badguy confrontation with end in some object luckily landing on a badguys head and knocking him unconscious before it gets old as well?

    We need Chuck the hero who can defend himself, but prefers to use out-of-the-box methods and creative gadgets, such as 4.02 gloves. Hopefully the creative writing team can resolve the self-confidence issues in the next episode or two. I'm getting burnt out on him always needing coddling and pep talk. It's starting to wear on me.


  20. Anonymous24.11.10

    I think they should fully turn back to the S2 dynamic (they are doing it already) while exploring some other option. I call it the MCGuyver formula. Remember Orion's comment about Chuck being a the best engineer he knew? Suffice to say, the guy built 3 Governor's by himself.

    As for Season 3, I really think the show should have started with Honeymooners and continued from there.
    Heck they could have at least employed a better performer for Shaw's role since Routh had no chemistry with the rest of the cast.

    In some scene it looked like Yvonne and Zac were sending him death glares.


  21. I do think they're dragging it out but I'm not surprised. The show tends to do that until people are completely sick of something.

    I guess this my own fault but once Chuck got the 2.0 I thought he would be like Batman. Not the movie one but from the comic books. Bruce Wayne is great because he's smarter than everyone else. Yeah he can beat you up but he'd much rather make you look like an idiot and only use violence when it's necessary. I still have hopes that's what they're working towards but I'm not holding my breath.

  22. Sparky24.11.10

    Frea and mxpw, with the way things are going;Shwedak will probably say,Shaw wasn't anyone important and jokes in the latter half of the season were just jokes :P

    I think Zac will want more scripts like Yvonne got :)

  23. @Frea: I have the "opposite" view of the Sarah plot chameleon theory to which most people around here subscribe. The many plots in S3 were weak because the writers were trying to hard to show this epic star-crossed romance which resulted in Sarah finally saw Chuck as the man she loved, not just the asset she loved. There were no random plots. They were are carefully, sometimes unbelievably, constructed to get Chuck and Sarah to that room in Paris as equals.

    The First Class episode always bugged me for exactly the reason you described. A writer thought a mission on a plane would be "cool training exercise" and would "force" Chuck to meet someone new. The plot chameleon-ed to match the (not entertaining) character development arc, and as a result the plot made no sense.

    Of course I know I'm not going to convince anyone, so don't worry about it.

    As much as I would have loved to see Sarah pull a gun on Shaw in Beard, it would have undercut Morgan's dramatic moment coming out of the freezer (the best part of the episode for those of us that actually can stand Morgan). I maintain that Sarah was shell-shocked that her new, potential boyfriend was about to kill the man who broke her heart (who she still secretly loved), but despite that she was 0.42 seconds away from pulling her gun on Shaw when Morgan and Chuck came out of the freezer.

    I also completely agree about the relatability factor and the "jerk" hero. Additionally I think S1 and S2 Chuck was a sympathetic character. Once he chose to be a spy and got the girl, the sympathetic factor is gone.

    Regarding the ratings discussion, don't think the problem is character direction. For some reason, comedy/drama mixes just don't hold up in the ratings. Fans love them and are loyal, but the general audience doesn't "get" them. I'm thinking of SportsNight as another example.

    This week was hard because DWTS got free advertising on the news because of the Palin voting bloc/death threat controversy and because it was the finale. Almost nothing accept a major, big-name lead actress/actor change can increase an audience in the fourth season. In the wasteland that is NBC, maintaining is a win.

  24. Another epic comment from yours truly!

    @Jeff 1 - Like Frea, I don't want to get into a S3 debate. Especially about Sarah. Like I said in the review, I feel like Fedak and I are square after Phase 3 for everything he did to Sarah in S3. So I'm trying not to dwell. I will say this, however, despite all the analysis and picking apart and attempts at justification for Sarah's actions done by the writers and the fans across the 'Net, I still don't really understand any of what Sarah did. Her characterization still makes little sense to me in the beginning of S3. I tend to agree with Frea in that Sarah was a total plot chameleon during that time, the most she's ever been on the show. But again, I want to talk about Sarah's total awesomeness here and not look back at the past where Sarah had a total lack of awesome.

    As for judging things separately, I tend to do that for everything. I usually have an objective (technical) and subjective (entertainment) measurement when I judge a piece of creative work. Now that is not to say that Phase 3 was a bad episode from a technical standpoint, because it wasn't. And let's face it, being technically perfect is something no episode of Chuck will probably ever achieve. But in terms of entertainment, this was one of the best, in my opinion. The technical aspects were not so bad that it dragged things down, so I didn't need to adjust my score. It was, as I said, perfectly entertaining.

    @BCF 1 - I know you were being flippant, but I would totally be fine with the show changing its name to "Sarah."

    Alright, alright, you asked for my honest opinion. Umm...see above. That is my honest opinion. I'm not sure that it's a knock against Chuck, though, like you seem to be implying. During S1, I was a Chuck fan primarily (my early fic work makes this pretty clear), but by the start of S2, I started to become more of a Sarah fan. Why? Because besides the obvious reasons (one just has to look at the blog's layout), S2 was when TPTB allowed Yvonne to really give Sarah more...substance. Sarah became a more dynamic character. So, she became more interesting.

    But I'm digressing. I have my issues with Chuck's characterization. Have ever since Pink Slip. I don't like how he can be unjustifiably arrogant at times, though admittedly this is a first half of S3 problem and not really something that exists today. The main issue seems to be that the writers insist on undervaluing Chuck as a person. They place too much emphasis on his spy identity and seem to have forgotten that Chuck was pretty awesome before he got Intersect 2.0. They became too reliant on subsuming characterization for the sake of a "cool" plot, and that's tended to hurt Chuck's character most, because he's the one everything revolves around. I don't think this means that Chuck is a mediocre character, though. I still quite like him. I still want to defend him when somebody says something negative about him. Yeah, he drives me crazy half the time, but I still love him as a character. I know not everybody does, but I always have, even when I wanted to punch him in the face during First Class.

    And, you know, in all honesty, even if Chuck was the best written character ever and super awesome, I'd still love Sarah more. Because she's Sarah and she's played by Yvonne Strahovski. Chuck can't compete with that.

    @Vincent 1 - Uh, yeah, what you said.

    @Frea - You and I share a brain when it comes to S3. So I don't really need to say anything more.


  25. Continued...

    @BCF 2 - I have to disagree somewhat with your perception of Chuck here. I don't think he always needs coddling or pep talk. I think that he had a legit reason to freak out this time, especially since it was his own mother that screwed everything up for him. And, in fact, I'd say FOD was actually about Chuck chafing under Sarah's coddling. Chuck wasn't the one asking to be coddled there. He wanted to go out and be a spy. Yeah, it was stupid and incredibly reckless, but he wasn't looking for somebody else to do the work for him.

    @Vincent 2 - I've long believed they could have easily made things work and start S3 off with Honeymooners. It would have taken some creative writing, but it could be done. Hell, as it stands right now, if you introduced Shaw slightly differently in the Back 6, you could cut from the train station scene in Pink Slip, go right into Honeymooners, and wouldn't lose much of a beat. Especially since other than Alex, almost nothing that happened in the first 13 episodes of S3 was carried over past Honeymooners.

    @JC - Problem with Chuck as Batman idea is that they destroyed the Orion Cave. I might have thought it'd be a viable plan otherwise. I'm not sure how they'd pull it off now.

    @Sparky - Shaw wasn't very important. Honestly, how important can a log of wood be anyway?

    @Jeff 2 - While I guess we will never agree about S3, I have no problem agreeing with you that First Class made no sense. I usually include that on my list of Top Five worst episodes of that season. I thought it was stupid, OOC, and poorly written. Don't even get me started on the ridiculousness of the introduction of the Hannah character and Chuck's subsequent relationship with her.

    Anyway, guys, let's not forget what the most important part of this whole discussion should be: Sarah Walker got her mojo back. And she didn't even have to attack a moon base and go back in time to do it.

  26. Sparky24.11.10

    Punch Chuck in the face? The guy was poisoned in that episode! And had to deal with Hugo Panzer! LOL :P

  27. @Sparky - Yeah, and he was an arrogant jackass to Sarah and everybody else, when he had absolutely zero reason to be. Plus, I really hated everything to do with Hannah, so...

  28. @mxpw

    I was talking more about Batman's mentality and the way he handles threats. His greatest strength is how smart he is and that he plans for everything. He can basically beat any normal person up but what makes him dangerous is he doesn't have to.

    That's what I want to see with Chuck. I love the idea of Chuck being able to defend himself but its needs to be balanced with him just out smarting people too.

  29. Ayefah24.11.10

    We are getting hints of Batman-Chuck with the tranq gloves and with his ability to apparently learn basic gemology over the course of a trans-Atlantic airplane flight. Oh, and the takedown-via-videoconferencing last season, which was, for me, Chuck's true victory of the finale far more than any 2.0-enhanced fistfight.

    But as I've said too many times already, it'll be the remainder of this season's original episode order that really shows what they're doing with his character and how he relates to spying and the Intersect. Hopefully the arc is "Chuck learns to believe in his own resourcefulness and intelligence".

    I'm not going to pretend I speak for the silent majority of viewers or even for a significant minority of them, but for me? The show is never better than when Chuck the schmoe breaks out brilliantly. Chuck isn't an everyman - he's all thwarted potential, which makes the times when he unbends into his "true" shape and does something smart and brave and eminently *Chuck* a true cathartic joy.

    And next week will definitely give him opportunities for that. Intersect-less and forced into a family dinner with the semi-informed Ellie and Awesome, the mother who may or may not be looking out for her kids, and the criminal mastermind who doesn't know about the family Orion connection...it can all come down to a battle of wits.

    I don't think there's any doubt that Chuck blew its big chance at better ratings last year, but hell, I've written the word-count equivalent of term papers on that subject already. It's over. What's more interesting is what's happening now.

  30. @JC - Ah, I see. I'm not really opposed to that. In fact, my biggest hope before the season started, beside hoping they didn't screw up Chuck and Sarah, was that Chuck would stay out of the CIA and work for himself. And that Casey and Sarah would join him. And Chuck would become a kind of Batman-like figure, that used Orion's resources to become some kind of behind-the-scenes master spy. With the Orion Cave gone, that dream is kinda dead. At least so far.

    But what you're stipulating would be refreshing to see, certainly. It'd be nice to see Chuck have a little agency in his life, to claim ownership of it. And it'd really be nice for him to realize that you don't have to kick ass to be a great spy. Besides, he has Sarah to do that stuff for him. And she's so much hotter than him when she's cracking skulls. Heh.

  31. @mxpw

    Sorry if I wasn't clear about what I was saying.

    I had somewhat similar hopes during the summer about Chuck not rejoining the CIA. But once I heard the BuyMore was back I knew it wasn't going to happen. For all the talk about growth Schwedak is really afraid of change or giving the show any dramatic weight.

    And I agree with Chuck needing some agency. As much as I'm loving the MEB arc it was still forced on him by his father. If they don't keep Volkoff into the back eleven I want a villain Chuck discovers and realizes the dangers. Give him another Tron poster moment which IMO was Chuck's shining moment in the series. They kinda tried it in Other Guy but at that point I didn't care and wanted the whole thing over with.

  32. Anonymous25.11.10

    I don't quite know why I read these comments anymore, they always make me anxious. The reason why I started watching Chuck was because I liked Chuck and, even more so his journal towards becoming a spy. I'm not one of the people who think Chuck should be Rambo (or anywhere in that vicinity) I did like him to be able to defend himself. One thing I don't want is for them to go back to the dynamic during season 1 and a lot of season 2 (toward the end he did seem more like part of the team) of Chuck being an asset (or analysis since he now longer has information to protect) that needs protections rather than an equal. But I'm also one of the few people it seems that liked the first part of season 3 (and the only one it seemed that seemed to like a particular episode where Chuck managed to save the day three times without the intersect.)
    Also, while in reality spying involves a lot of things other than the "shoot, running, and jumping" parts on TV they rarely show that work because its not really as exciting. So in that kind of world, Chuck really can't be an affective spy if he can't protect himself. I don't particularly want Chuck to Oracle (to use a batfamily reference) I like him out there fighting and if he doesn't either get the intersect or actually get taught to fight, that doesn't seem like it can happen.
    At any rate, I may be alone in saying this, but I hope Chuck gets the intersect back before the hiatus --- I don't think I can go the whole month of December without knowing.

  33. Ayefah25.11.10

    Chuck and Morgan got the respectful attention of the Volkoff organization while relying on nothing but mass transit and credit cards for months on end. They also got closer to Mary Bartowski's real whereabouts than Orion ever did. Chuck didn't use 2.0 to fight in all that time.

    So no, he really doesn't need to crack skulls to do good spy work. He doesn't even need the institutional support of the CIA/NSA to do good spy work. He just needs to get that through his thick skull. :P

  34. @anonymous

    I don't think anyone wants to go back to Chuck being unable to defend himself. But ever since he got the 2.0 there's been something missing from his character. Its like everyone forgot how smart and capable he was before the 2.0. I love to see him fighting alongside Sarah but I'd like him to use that "special" brain of his I keep hearing about. There's something wrong when the comic relief of the show Morgan looks more competent as a spy than your hero.

  35. On a lighter note, did anybody else ROFL HARD during this scene?

    'What are you doing here, all alone? This is nothing but scoundrels, assassins, and warlords... scum of the Earth.'
    'Ah, Mr. Casey, your usual?'

    I almost died laughing!

    Happy Turkey day peeps!



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