mxpw vs. Frea - Chuck vs. the Leftovers

Chuck vs. the Leftovers
Season 4, Episode 10, original air-date November 29, 2010

Things are turned upside-down the day after Thanksgiving when Chuck's mother drops by...along with Alexei Volkoff. Morgan must deal with Jeff and Lester during the Black Friday sale at the Buy More.

There are puppies and rainbows after the break, and our review. A coincidence?

Yes, actually. Because this is going to be one of those rare weeks...there's no optimist. You have been warned.

Frea: So you know what I realized today, Maximus?

mxpw: That there was no Castle Slide in the episode?

Frea: *Sigh* Don't remind me. But no, that wasn't it. What I realized was that both of our names are four-letter words.

mxpw: Can you tell what I had for dinner? You know, like a weird twin thing?

mxpw: Since we are so alike, and all.

Frea: Oh, that's not a twin thing at all. That's the spy cams I installed in various strategic locations around your house, silly.

mxpw: Oh...crap.

mxpw: Look, I can explain the Frea effigy, okay?

Frea: I consider any day when a likeness of me is used to start a bonfire a regular Tuesday, Max. Don't worry. It'll just make your prison sentence in my dungeon fifty years longer. No big deal. Oh, speaking of really long things, let's talk about Chuck vs. the Leftovers.

mxpw: Oh right, the episode. That's what you meant by long things.

Frea: We're veering awfully close to "That's what she said!" territory here.

mxpw: But that IS what she said.

Frea: Very true.

Frea: So I was not in love with this episode. At all. It had some great things--namely Timothy Dalton and Linda Hamilton--but it felt clunky and poorly written, with some potentially gaping holes, pacing issues, no continuity whatsoever, and no freaking Castle Slide.

mxpw: Uh, ditto to all of that, except replace Castle Slide with no SWP and you pretty much have my thoughts.

mxpw: Though for some reason, I guess I still liked it more than you did? This sounds like a repeat of Coup D'Etat all over again.

mxpw: Do you want specifics?

Frea: I think it's all in how much you like Timothy Dalton, really.

mxpw: Well, I freaking loved him in this episode. Best bad guy this show has ever had, by far, in my opinion. Yes, even more than Vincent.

Frea: I felt like Tommy was a more sinister bad guy, but I like Timothy Dalton as the bad guy more, if that makes any sense.

mxpw: I don't know, most of the scenes with Volkoff in the Buy More were pretty intense. Dalton played an angry, unhinged, psychopath really well.

mxpw: But I do see what you mean.

mxpw: I just...for the first time while watching this show, I felt like a bad guy was actually a legitimate threat. He seemed genuinely dangerous.

mxpw: He was awesome.

Frea: Probably has to do with Tommy being more mysterious and therefore more sinister because of it. When you look at it like Volkoff was in love with Mary for years and keeps her around as a pet, I think it loses a little bit of its...terrifying aspect, honestly.

mxpw: I don't know, I think I'm going to have to disagree with you here. I think the fact that Volkoff is obsessed with Mary like he is makes him more scary because he really does seem like he's insane. And that is scary to me. Granted, Chuck is not really the kind of show that would ever let Volkoff really explore his psychosis, but still, I find him more interesting because he's off his rocker, even if it is a bit cliché.

Frea: There's lots of potential there, and you can tell that Timothy Dalton is having a blast. I just hope the other writers give him some better dialogue to work with in the future, I guess.

mxpw: Yeah, I can see what you mean there. Though I have to say, seeing Volkoff playing Charades with Ellie, Sarah, and Mama B all watching attentively was one of the funniest parts of the episode. I love how Dalton can be bellowing into the phone all intense one moment and then be the wacky uncle the next.

Frea: Lawrence of Arabia indeed. Quite a few things in common with The Bourne Identity. I can see where Chuck was coming from with that.

mxpw: Heh, and then Devon. I loved the look on Volkoff's face. It was all like, "I can't believe my future step-daughter married that idiot."

Frea: Okay, so Devon...let's talk about him, huh?

mxpw: I liked him in this episode. I liked him standing up to Chuck. He told Chuck off, and rightly so. The whole lying bit is getting ridiculous. Not just from Chuck, but now Ellie is being dumb about it too. I also really liked him stepping up and being awesome for Chuck. A nice callback to S2 and Colonel.

Frea: On the one hand, I agree completely. It was great seeing him step up, and "That is very soothing" was great. However...we're back to Chuck and Awesome both lying to Ellie and even if Awesome laid the verbal smackdown, it doesn't excuse the fact that he is indeed back to lying to Ellie about Chuck being a spy and I'm really not happy we're on this road again because I don't like driving in circles all that much.

mxpw: Eh, while I agree with you about the lying, I can't get all that upset about it because Ellie is lying to Chuck. I mean, I'm upset in general, but really, Devon is in a very unenviable position here, being stuck in the middle. I don't know, it's a very complicated issue and I do think it's getting really stupid how Ellie has STILL not found out Chuck is a spy. Come on!

Frea: Ellie is one of the few I felt acted intelligently this episode.

Frea: But yeah, the signs are pretty glaringly obvious.

mxpw: She only seemed like she acted intelligently because her role was so small. Heh.

Frea: First lack of intelligent life: Mary Bartowski. She sends the three assassins after her son, yes, and takes care of it, but instead of simply handing Sarah the gun and saying, "Congratulations on your three newest kills, Agent Walker," she instead risks them with the deranged psychopath by going with them into the CIA base for no reason that I can discern.

Frea: All for what? So that we can get a Terminator line? Yes. We get it. She's Sarah Connor. I liked Abed's version of the line better.

mxpw: Hahaha

mxpw: Actually, that didn't bother me, really. Why? Because Volkoff clearly has some kind of teleportation machine. Because unless I'm supposed to believe it took Mary, Sarah, and Chuck an entire day to get back to Castle, or that Casey and Sarah waited a whole day to interrogate Mary, then Volkoff had to have already been well on his way to Burbank when the assassins failed.

Frea: THAT'S where the Magical Castle Slide went! Volkoff stole it!

mxpw: Yes! Mystery finally solved! Somehow he hijacked one of the magic doors.

Frea: Second lack of intelligent life: I'm gonna say it, and it's gonna break your heart, Maximus. But I'm sorry. It's Sarah Walker.

mxpw: Actually, Frea, as much as it pains me, I have to agree with you here. I have a lot to say about Sarah in this episode. Very little of it good, I'm afraid. But I shall let you go first.

Frea: Okay, so am I mistaken? Did we or did we not have an entire episode last week devoted to Sarah learning the dangers of what might happen if she didn't let Chuck know she loves him as an equal? And then, bam, what's the first thing she does this episode? She shoves him out of the interrogation room like he's just some annoying kid who hangs around Castle rather than the son of the person being interrogated who has some very real beef to bring up with the woman? We finally got to see the reverse American Hero and it sucks just as much in reverse! Yay, equality!

Frea: Wow... I am definitely ranting this week.

mxpw: Precisely. That was probably my biggest problem with Sarah as well. It just had me scratching my head at the total lack of continuity. It was downright painful. I mean, she wasn't even nice about it. She just seemed impatient and rude and like, "Get away from me, the grownups need to work now." The worst part was that Chuck's questions were perfectly legitimate and were the ones I cared about, as a viewer, being answered, instead of the ones Casey and Sarah were asking. It was just some major regression on Sarah's part. No wonder Chuck had such a big smile on his face when he got the Intersect back. After how Sarah treated him this episode, I couldn't blame him.

Frea: And then she got to be the expository mouthpiece in the second half of the episode, topped off with being a collateral damsel in distress. It's really all or nothing with her.

mxpw: Well, I sort of give that a pass there as Casey was even worse off than she was. But yes, over all, it really does seem like the writers seem incapable of writing her with any nuance. Honestly, until the moment where Sarah and Chuck are holding hands in the elevator (which was actually pretty cute), I was asking myself, "Wow, am I sure that Sarah even likes Chuck? What happened to all the character development from Phase Three?"

Frea: Maybe this is the episode from another universe!

Frea: Quick, were there any awesome cab drivers?

mxpw: Haha, but then that means Olivia Dunham should be showing up any minute now and while I love me some Olivia, I love Sarah more, and I don't want her to be humiliated at how much she sucks at her job.

mxpw: Yeah, I said it. I didn't think this was an episode that really did Casey or Sarah any favors. I mean, can I mention the moment of stupidity that stood out to me most? The beginning where Sarah and Casey try to activate the Buy More's defenses and then get everything hacked just made me facepalm. You've got a guy here who, before Intersect 2.0 came along and lobotomized his character, was supposed to be an expert with computers (the man even developed his own viruses!), and yet they just make Chuck stand there and watch while the woman who didn't even know Friendster was out of style tried to stop a hacker from overriding their system. That was, to me, the worst moment of stupidity in the episode.

Frea: To borrow an outdated agreement: Word.

mxpw: I literally yelled out, "Come on!" when that happened.

Frea: Versus my, "You're kidding, right?"

mxpw: What made it worse was that Chuck never even tried to intervene. Compare this moment to Beefcake where Chuck wouldn't shut up about letting him try and hack the chip. Yet here, because he doesn't have the Intersect, he's been knocked down to useless again, apparently. You'd think that at least Sarah, in her belief that Chuck is awesome, would have given him the chance to try.

Frea: Speaking of the Intersect... I'm disappointed that that was apparently what the laptop was.

Frea: I was expecting something more.

mxpw: Despite this episode's many problems, continuity glitches, and potential enormous plot holes, I'm still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here. You can thank Phase Three for that. But it's true. I'm still holding out hope there is more to this re-Intersect plot than what we got in this episode.

Frea: It would be great if there were more to the story, that's for sure. But, um, didn't Stephen get mad at Chuck when he found out Chuck had re-uploaded the Intersect? And yet, there's a whole computer for Chuck and Ellie to re-Intersect Chuck. of course, I guess you could handwave it that Orion was angrier that Chuck downloaded the Intersect that hadn't been brain-formatted by proper scientists?

mxpw: First, I think you need to approach this problem from the PSP. Okay, so far, from what we have been shown onscreen, Mary's words about Stephen not wanting Chuck to see the PSP of Doom don't make any sense. She said it herself in this episode that she wanted to suppress the Intersect so Chuck wouldn't come after her anymore. Well...the man from Dream Job and Colonel and Living Dead would have absolutely wanted Chuck to see that. So that's the first issue that needs to be clarified. Was Mary lying? Is there more to the story? Unfortunately, this episode really didn't clarify that.

Frea: But hey, that's what the month of December is for. To come up with every conspiracy theory we can!

mxpw: Then, you have to think about why Stephen would set aside the laptop for Ellie. My spec is that he realized that there was no point in trying to stop Chuck from being the Intersect anymore, so instead, he decided to set out and make it safer and more functional for him. Enter the laptop for Ellie. Send it to Ellie, have her fix the neurological issues, then send it to Chuck. So while Stephen may have disapproved of Chuck being the Intersect, he wanted to make sure it was at least safe for him. That to me is really the only thing that makes sense from what we've been shown so far in my mind. But who knows, really, with this show what's really going on.

Frea: So many unanswered questions with the Elder Bartowskis. Think they'll answer them in the next three episodes?

mxpw: Nope. Certainly not all of them in any case. I think they will answer some, or at least I hope they do, but I'm sure they've saved some for the back 11.

Frea: Is it a bad thing that I cheered when Jeffster got tranqed?

Frea: Because I was like, "Yay! Now they have to shut up!"

mxpw: Nah, I don't think so. I was just happy we got to see some of Castle's ex-wife. She's uh, kinda really hot. Heh. They really went overboard with the bottle episode nature of this episode. That's two bottle episodes so far this season. Makes me wonder how many more we're going to get.

Frea: Hopefully not a six-pack.

mxpw: Yeah, that would suck.

Frea: Morgan going all Die Hard got a couple of laughs from me, too.

mxpw: Yeah, I did have to appreciate that. I thought the Die Hard homage was better in this episode than Santa Claus. I knew as soon as we saw Morgan's bare feet what they were doing and I enjoyed it. I was disappointed that he didn't say, "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like" while in the air vent. Those things really are quite spacious, you know?

Frea: And quite wonderfully lit.

Frea: Though, are we keeping a running tally of how many times Casey is going to hand Morgan a gun this season?

mxpw: That's gotta be like around the fifth time or so. It's actually kind of depressing. Casey never hands Chuck a gun. I swear, sometimes I think the show (and by extension, the characters) views Morgan as more of a spy than Chuck whenever he doesn't have the Intersect.

Frea: I think we need to sit them down with episodes like First Date to remind them, "Hey, he doesn't need the Intersect to be smart and resourceful!"

mxpw: Yeah. I don't know, Frea, the first half of this episode really left me with a very meh feeling. I thought the second half was far stronger, once Chuck and Sarah took Mary to the Buy More and then the dinner. Everything before that was just really bad. Casey and Sarah (especially Sarah) weren't very likable. Even though I was on Chuck's side during the interrogation, I thought they wrote him whiny and immature at times. Jeffster were unnecessary. The highlight was actually the pole dancing class and Morgan's really uncomfortable moves. That made me laugh. But even that just underscores the sheer WTFery of why Chuck even has to go to an outside class to learn how to defend himself when he's got Casey, Sarah, and a whole slew of nameless CIA agents roaming around Castle he could learn from if Casey and Sarah don't feel comfortable teaching him. Of course, they completely nullified Chuck finally gaining agency in his life and actually having character development with the end of the episode and him getting the Intersect back. I really doubt he's going to go back to training now.

Frea: I'll take pole-dancing with Morgan to Lady Gaga over Sarah's Bo lesson from Pink Slip any day.

mxpw: Agreed.

mxpw: I think you mentioned it before, but this episode's biggest problem was the lack of forward progression. Not really the right way to go into such a long break.

Frea: But you did sum up my feelings very well. The second half was stronger, but by that point, I was already starting to get annoyed. My biggest disappointment was that the Phase III treatment really didn't go anywhere, and holding out hope that there was more to the story there really proved worthless this week.

Frea: I guess my whole reaction to this episode is a big, fat, "That's it?" Which, you're right, not a very good way to go into a break with.

mxpw: I think the point of Phase Three wasn't anything that happened to Chuck, but Sarah's development. Which actually makes this episode worse in comparison because it's like she forgot everything she epiphanied on in Phase Three here. Add to that the fact that while I appreciated a resolution to the Intersect arc, it was really fairly dissatisfying. I mean, Dalton was awesome in this episode and the dinner was great, but this episode just didn't have enough meat to it.

Frea: Agreed. For the most part, a nice sophomore effort in directing from Mr. Levi (Less is more, dude, less is more), but...wow. Not a good hour of TV, Die Hard homage and Timothy Dalton aside. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go cleanse my palate with a little First Date.

mxpw: So I think that's my cue to give my final thoughts on this episode before I lose the MBO to an episode where the characters were actually fairly smart.

mxpw: Final thoughts: This episode was dumb. I mean, it had its good moments: Dalton/Volkoff, Hamilton/Mary, the dinner with the awesome tonal shifts with the Charade game and the plans within plans, the pole dancing class, the Die Hard homages, and because it needs to be said twice, Dalton was just amazing. Best bad guy the show has ever had. He's crazy and I love it!

mxpw: But there was also just too much stupidity with the characters for me to really love this episode. I felt like Sarah really regressed here, Chuck was really undervalued again and his non-spy skills were completely ignored. Casey really had nothing to do. The lying has to STOP! Seriously, it just has to stop. It's making everybody (especially Chuck) look like a jerk, and Ellie like a moron, which we know isn't true as this episode proved. She solved a problem even Orion couldn't. So come on, writers, give her some freaking credit. And I can't believe I'm saying this as I don't even really like Ellie.

mxpw: And that brings us to most glaring problem with this episode: the entire Intersect plot. It officially makes no sense now. Or at least my brain can't understand it. And I'm not crazy about Chuck getting the Intersect back how he did.

mxpw: But you know what I really can't forgive? Minimizing Sarah. Boo, writers! Oh, and the lack of SWP, but that really goes without saying. Heh.

Frea: What he said.


Frea: 3 Stolen By Russians Magical Castle Slides out of 10

mxpw: 2 Sarahs from ANY Other Episode, Minus S3, The Jill Arc, and Beefcake out of 5


  1. Haha. And this is why I'm not the one reviewing episodes. :P

  2. Oh Thankgod, I thought I was the only one that was really underwhelmed by this episode. I felt like I was watching an episode from early season 3. Dalton made it watchable, just barely.

  3. Ayefah30.11.10

    Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

    Ever since Undercovers got cancelled I've been playing a mental game of "Which writer do I fire in my ideal world to make room for Klemmer to come back?" And right now I'm really, really leaning towards Henry Alonso Myers. He also wrote "Couch Lock", which I adore, but "Couch Lock" suffered from the exact same thing that this episode did - it made Team Bartowski feel lame and weak.

    I don't expect the good guys to win every fight, but what makes a villain compelling is when it feels like said villain is defeating the good guys' best efforts. Not the good guys' best "must we be hostages again" faces. Timothy Dalton is way too awesome for Volkoff to deserve anything less than Team Bartowski's best. When was the last time they showed any wit? The new writers just aren't that clever - or at least not clever in that direction - and their inability to write anything but straightforward plot resolutions is hurting the show.

    (I'm not counting Judkins and LeFranc as "new" writers since they started last season. And they have at least a hint of sideways thinking in their episodes.)

    I miss the Chuck that would solve spy problems with Call of Duty once in a while. When Morgan had his packing tape revelation I was hoping he'd do something really crazy with it, but instead we got the straightforward Die Hard homage. Which is in character for Morgan and which Josh Gomez carried off well, but it was just...gah. One more moment that could have been cooler than it was.

    Sarah and Casey were stupid for leaving Chuck out of the interrogation. Plenty of his questions were perfectly sensible - why is it taking Mary over 20 years to take down Volkoff if that's what she's really doing?

    Having Casey just wander into the Buy More and immediately get taken hostage by the many, many henchmen running around made Casey look incredibly stupid. Not using the team hacker to counter the bad guy's hacker rises to the level of brain-deadness. Seriously, if they'd just had Chuck and Volkoff's hacker type each other into a deadlock, trap the team in Castle, and then Volkoff made the thermite threat, it would have improved the episode by about 10%. At least then it would feel like the team was losing well.

    The charades scene was very, very funny and a great execution of a tricky combination of tones, but apart from that I can't say Levi's direction added anything to the proceedings.

    Basically, it felt like I was watching an episode of Chuck with versions of Sarah, Casey, and Chuck who had about 40 IQ points removed. At least Ellie and Awesome held up their ends.

    I mean, this episode didn't make me want to scream and flick the writer in the face, but it died from a thousand little cuts of stupid. And it was eminently unworthy of being a pre-break episode.

  4. First of all, I agree that this episode was in the bottom third of the S4 episodes. However I fully expected that going in. It suffered as a filler episode to explain Volkoff's & Frost's characters, which could have be done with, albeit boring, exposition. Also it was a transition episode for Chuck getting the Intersect back, which had to happen sometime (which was only eliminated to prove Sarah loves Chuck without it). Nothing significant could happen with Volkoff & Frost because they are scheduled for more episodes. Maybe if this was a season finale, the suspense would have been there.

    That said, I thought this episode made a lot more sense than it is being credited. Maybe I can help (I'm explaining, not defending):

    1) The CIA staff at Castle would be adequate sparring partners. Just because they can fight does not mean they can _train_. I would also expect the CIA to not train Morgan. Chuck was going with Morgan for moral support, because Casey wouldn't have the patience, and because this is not Chuck vs the Crane/Sarah vs the Rope a Dope (which would have been fun).

    2) Chuck was being completely unreasonable in the interrogation. Of course, his questions were good: they were obvious. They also were not the high priority questions. The _way_ he was asking the questions was emotional and had no place in the room. Calling and interrupting the interrogation was unprofessional. Chuck needed to be put in his place. Yes, Sarah will destroy a jungle to find the man she loves. However that does not mean she should let Chuck act like an idiot. This was not a regression. This was Sarah doing her job.

    3) I tired of everyone (including TV show writers) thinking that any computer expert/hacker automatically understands any custom computer he or she comes across. If Chuck had not both read the manual and practiced drills, he had no business being anywhere near the Castle defenses, especially in a combat situation. Sure, Chuck could do a better job than Sarah and Casey, but only if he had trained and practiced first.

    4) Casey hands Morgans guns because (a) most of the time he makes sure they are not loaded, and (b) while Morgan is part of the team, he is not a spy and isn't supposed to get his own guns.

    Casey doesn't hand Chuck a gun because Chuck is a spy and can get he own freaking gun if he wants one. Casey doesn't hand guns to Sarah either.

    5) I think the show has gone to great lengths to explicitly explain that Chuck does not think clearly when his Mom is involved. Of course he is not resourceful when she is around.

    6) Team Bartowski was heavily outnumbered in the Buy More. Of course they were captured. This was more realistic than most episodes.

    7) While PapaB originally wanted the Intersect out of Chuck, in the end, he fully supported Chuck having the Intersect and even built him a governor. Assuming MamaB and PapaB were in contact, MamaB would know that and would say what she said with the PSP.

    Another theory: We still do not know if the new Intersect is different in any way. Knowing the show's regular double use of episode names, maybe the PSP reset and almost wiping out Chuck's brain were both necessary for the "Phase 3" Intersect to be loaded. Even if it is not the case, MamaB's line still makes sense to me when factoring in the flare for the dramatic.

    FYI, my word verification was very appropriate for the adorable psycho theme: plowsco.

  5. @Jeff - You brought up some good points and an interesting opinion. I have a few comments.

    1) Chuck going with Morgan for moral support isn't really the point. First, I find it hard to believe that none of the CIA personnel in Castle (this includes Sarah and Casey) have any training experience whatsoever. Or that they are so inadequate to the task that Chuck has to go to a pole dancing class to receive any kind of attention in defending himself. It's not that he's just there to defend himself, it's that this is all the show allows him to have. And then they go and take that away at the end of the episode.

    2) Chuck was only interrupting the interrogation because Sarah dismissed him from being able to participate. That was the point Frea and I were making. Chuck being unprofessional is not really the point (and I don't necessarily agree that he was being unreasonable). Sarah dismissed him out of hand and wouldn't even let him be in the room. Sarah is no more objective regarding Mama B than Chuck is. That to me was a regression in Sarah's character. Of course he was going to find a way to insinuate himself after that. It's Chuck. And I disagree with you about the questions he was asking. His questions seemed to be far more relevant than what Casey and Sarah were asking.

    3) Well, sure, that might be how hacking situations work in the real world, but this is Chuck, not reality. And in the Chuckverse, Chuck once ran Castle from inside a cell with only access to a security console. And we know he's read the manual before. Besides, it's not that maybe he hadn't trained, it's that neither Sarah or Casey even bothered to so much as ask him for help, the guy who's job it is to literally fix computers and interact with them on a daily basis.

    As for your comments on the Intersect and Papa B, I think we'll just have to disagree. Papa B built Chuck a governor because if he didn't, Chuck would probably either go insane or die. That was the only reason. I'm sure he still would have been just as happy to remove the Intersect if he could. He might have supported Chuck's decision, but it was reluctant support. And anyway, I think that's moving afield of the central focus of this situation.

    Frea and I both said that we were waiting to see if the Intersect plotline develops more. We both hope it does.

  6. Ayefah30.11.10

    1. Chuck going to the gym with Morgan for moral support is an awesome explanation for Stripkick being his only combat training and I'm going to embrace it. :)

    2. Chuck's questions were obvious. Which made me want to see them answered all the more, and made Sarah and Casey look all the more stupid for treating those questions as if Chuck was being immature. Seriously, is it that crazy to ask her why she shut off Chuck's Intersect? We all wanted to know that! And if she wanted to keep claiming she's on the side of the angels, it's something she needed to explain.

    Oh, and when Sarah first dragged him out he was asking Mary what her plans were. He was asking in an emotionally charged tone, yes, but it wasn't a nutty thing to ask.

    3. Chuck read the manual for the last Castle; it isn't nutty to expect that he'd have updated his knowledge to fit the upgraded base. And in any event, while it's perfectly easy to explain away why Chuck didn't counter-hack, that doesn't mean it was a good storytelling decision. Does that make sense?

    Besides, this show is about as concerned with realism as it is with continuity, so while your explanation makes total sense in meatspace, I find it less convincing in the land of Intersect 2.0. :P

    Also, on a purely personal note, I really wanted Intersect-less Chuck to do some good spy work so he could get over his baby-blanket dependence on the thing. If the only purpose of removing the Intersect really was to show that Sarah still loved him without it, that storyline was wasted.

    4. No real disagreement there, though I don't think Morgan has any business coming along on missions even with unloaded guns. :) But in any event, the "giving of the gun" for Chuck happened last season - this year he takes and handles them no problem.

    5. Chuck's fears, biases, and anxieties haven't stopped him from doing some pretty amazing things in the past. Again, you can explain away plenty of the episode's lameness this week and have it make total sense. That doesn't make it good storytelling.

    6. I don't care that they were captured. I care about how...uninspired the whole sequence was. I want Team Bartowski to really lose.

    7. Why assume the Bartowski parents were in contact? Orion had Mary marked as "missing" and claimed in his posthumous message to be doing the whole Orion thing for her sake. It doesn't exactly scream "they were secretly working together" to me. Mary's ability to find the Magic PSP does point in that direction, but it's not enough to support an assumption of continued contact.

    But you're right about the new Intersect - if it is that, and not just the PSP being reversed - possibly being different. Here's hoping there's more to that or to the laptop, because otherwise I'll be frustrated enough to scream. :P

    Just to clarify: I didn't hate this episode in a tooth-gnashing sort of way. It's not bad on the level of "Tooth", which remains the nadir of the show to me, or even like "Broken Heart". But I don't want to spend my first viewing of an episode desperately trying to fanwank away all the things that don't make sense. And if I am going to fanwank the show, I want it to be to support the Rule of Cool or the Rule of Funny, not to explain away why the lead trio looked relatively impotent or why our protagonist hasn't been allowed to show anything beyond the most basic competence in what feels like ages.

    Timothy Dalton made up for quite a number of sins, and everything with Ellie and Awesome was great, but it just...wasn't enough. Everything ended up landing with a plop for me.

  7. @Jeff - You brought up some good points and an interesting opinion. I have a few comments.

    1) Chuck going with Morgan for moral support is an interesting way of looking at it. But, I find it hard to believe that none of the CIA personnel in Castle (this includes Sarah and Casey) have any training experience whatsoever. Or that they are so inadequate to the task that Chuck and Morgan would rather go to a pole dancing class than try their luck with the other agents.

    2) Chuck was only interrupting the interrogation because Sarah dismissed him from being able to participate. That was the point Frea and I were making, or at least I was. Chuck being unprofessional is not really the point (and I don't necessarily agree that he was being unreasonable). Sarah dismissed him out of hand and wouldn't even let him be in the room. Sarah is no more objective regarding Mama B than Chuck is. That to me was a regression in Sarah's character. Of course he was going to find a way to insinuate himself after that. It's Chuck. And I disagree with you about the questions he was asking. His questions seemed to be far more relevant than what Casey and Sarah were asking.

    3) Well, sure, that might be how hacking situations work in the real world, but this is Chuck, not reality. And in the Chuckverse, Chuck once ran Castle from inside a cell with only access to a security console. And we know he's read the manual before. Besides, it's not that maybe he hadn't trained, it's that neither Sarah or Casey even bothered to so much as ask him for help, the guy who's job it is to literally fix computers and interact with them on a daily basis.

    As for your comments on the Intersect and Papa B, I think we'll just have to disagree. Papa B built Chuck a governor because if he didn't, Chuck would probably either go insane or die. That was the main reason. I'm sure he still would have been just as happy to remove the Intersect if he could. He might have supported Chuck's decision, but it was reluctant support, the kind of support a parent gives their child when they think they're making a mistake, but realize their child is old enough to make their own decisions. And anyway, I think that's moving afield of the central focus of this situation.

    Frea and I both said that we were waiting to see if the Intersect plotline develops more. We both hope it does.

  8. Ayefah30.11.10

    Oh, and regarding the training thing - once you've gotten your black belt in a martial art, it just means that you've reached a sort of comprehensive competency level. It's not the peak of your studies, it's the middle. And one of the ways you keep learning after that is by teaching less-advanced students. In fact, in many arts you can't get to a higher dan ranking without teaching. So there's pretty much no way the Castle staff completely lacks martial arts teaching experience.

    But as mxpw said, this is Chuck, not reality. I just want the non-realism to be in the service of awesome and not just there gumming up the works.

  9. Anonymous30.11.10

    It might not have been the best episode of Chuck but it had scenes where I laughed like a moron. And Timothy Dalton is awesome.


  10. I did say, like out loud into the world "let Chuck do it!" and thought that he'd eventually get Volkoff out of Castle with the hacking business, but I thought they'd might do it like with the porn virus from 101, as last resort (as usual, on TV). Said review only adds to the very frequently afformentioned Sarah's unprofessionalism. I can justify the need for a Teminator line (as unnecessary as it might be - she killed the assassins, there was no more immediate danger) for comedy's sake, which is what the show's about, really. And is there any other possible explanation than MXPW's intersect-wise? It was so obvious to me, that actually talking about it would be Torres explaining to Loker that raised eyebrows mean "surprise", all over again.
    Positive reinforcement et al out of the way, Chuck can't interrogate his mom because he's too close to the case, it's personal and against the rules, They only let him have a go at it that one time [in castle camp], because she'd only talk to him, but not anymore. Also, it did not go very well. Sarah, well, old habits are hard to break, especially when there's an amplified reason to go all protective she-male on his ass, because he is a little boy when it comes to his mom, it's basic psychology. And it's the same overprotective circle as with Devon => Ellie => Chuck => Ellie. She's not dumb, she simply doesn't acknowledge spyChuck because she doesn't want there to be a spyChuck, and she's preggo, it takes a tall.


  11. Ayefah, the last thing I want is for Phil Klemmer to come back. We had a good run with Veronica Mars, but he committed too many sins on the Chuck front. His name alone makes the DO NOT WANT flash above my head in meme-colored lights.

    Eh, Chuck being kicked out of the interrogation room was still rude and very cold. This episode lived by the long-time problem that's suffused this show: they go for the funny at the expense of character development, every. single. time. Once in awhile, it's fine.

    And I personally thought the Terminator line was laaaaaaaaaazy. A much better homage would be Mary Bartowski shopping at the Buy More one day, spotting Big Mike, and turning to Chuck with a, "I don't know why, but I irrationally hate that guy with a passion. Excuse me."


  12. Anonymous30.11.10

    I was actually hoping they would kill Jefster. Attempting to commit a federal crime not in the least bit funny. Big Mike should have fired them or Volkoff should have shot them to get his frustrations out for not shooting Sarah. They have worn out their welcome. I had other problems but they are wasting screen time that could have been used to show Ellie working on the laptop.


  13. @Alina - Chuck IS too close to the case to interrogate his mom in a purely rational matter, but so is Sarah. That's what I meant in my comment when I said that Sarah was no more objective than Chuck was. Technically, she shouldn't have been interrogating Mary either. And she wasn't even doing a very good job. Despite Mary's reticence, it was obvious (at least to me) she would have rather talked to Chuck than Sarah or Casey. And again, I don't necessarily have a problem with Sarah excluding Chuck from the interrogation, but I did have a problem with how Sarah went about doing it. She was rude and she effectively slammed the door in his face without a comment when she locked him out. I honestly felt like she was channeling S3 Sham arc Sarah there. I couldn't believe that the woman who ravaged Thailand in the previous episode all because she wanted to prove that she viewed Chuck as an equal with or without the Intersect would have treated him that way.

    Oh and I have to say, I think I like Frea's Terminator reference idea more than what we got. That would have actually been clever!

    And yeah, have to echo Frea, not a big Klemmer on Chuck fan. Mask was awful.

  14. JohnClark30.11.10

    I think there is something more to the Intersect plot line than has been divulged thus far. I don't think he simply reinstalled the 2.0. My guess is that the PSP of Doom was some sort of incomplete upgrade that didn't work properly, I'm guessing the intersect on the laptop was a beta-3.0 that just needed Ellie's help to get it working right.

    I was going to say this in the Twitter thread but I'll put it here instead. I still think there is a potentially very good angst ridden fanfic, focussing on Chuck's feelings of inadequacy without the intersect, feeling so disconnected from Sarah without it that he goes a bit off the rails, driving him to build his own Intersect and essentially become the new Orion. Anyone who wants to run with that idea feel free...

  15. Ayefah30.11.10

    Oh, Klemmer wrote "Mask"? All is explained. :P "American Hero" wasn't exactly a dream, either, I admit.

    But even in the dreaded S3, he also wrote the halfway decent "Role Models", "Subway", and "Angel de la Muerte". At least if you go by IMDB, which I...don't completely trust, but what the hey. Going backwards, he also wrote "Dream Job", "Suburbs", "Tom Sawyer", "Undercover Lover", and "Sandworm". Oh, and the only episode of Undercovers which didn't put me to sleep. Which looks like a pretty great overall record to me, and in a world without Shaw there's no reason it shouldn't continue, but a) obviously that's a totally personal opinion, and b) this is all pure wishful thinking anyway. :P

    Mx, the thread of Sarah being protective to the point of treating Chuck a bit condescendingly stretches at least from "Fear of Death" to here. And no, it's really no fun watching Sarah be that way, especially since Chuck wasn't given a chance to really fight back and prove himself but had to kind of sit there being quasi-useless both in "Leftovers" and in "Phase Three". I don't think Sarah was trying to prove she saw Chuck as an equal last week - she was saying she loved him without the Intersect, which isn't exactly the same thing.

    When the overprotectiveness looked like it was in service of a storyline in which Chuck would show himself his power without the Intersect, that was okay. But he didn't, and he seems to have 2.0 back at his command, and so it all leaves kind of a sour taste. :(

    Especially because a) this isn't Sarah's first time around the "treat Chuck like a child" merry-go-round [nooo, he must remain pure and never touch a gun!], and b) the whole freaking Chuck story is about the protagonist learning to come out from under the manipulations and limitations he's been subject to his whole life "for his own good" - from Bryce, his parents, his handlers, Beckman, even from Ellie and Morgan to a lesser extent. Something about Chuck brings out the "must protect" instinct in people, and I get that, but cripes, this isn't S1 anymore.

    There are ways to acknowledge Chuck's totally understandable emotional limitations about his mother without the pettiness of the interrogation scene. Chuck himself readily acknowledged those limitations. But instead Sarah keeps doing things "for his own good", which is no different in its general sentiment than Chuck lying to Sarah about tracking down Mary in the first place, or the way everyone lies to Ellie.

    If Chuck just had the equivalent of the TRON poster moment this week or last, it wouldn't be quite so annoying.

    JohnClark, if there's a way to integrate Ellie in there and have the two of them be the new Orion, I'd be aaaall over that idea. :)

  16. I seriously, seriously hope there is more to the Intersect plotline than what we've been shown so far, and I am going to continue crossing my fingers for such development. For now.

    @Ayefah - Heh, I actually hate American Hero even more than Mask. In fact, I think it's my most disliked episode of S3. Even more than Fake Name or Final Exam. But if you're right and he wrote Tom Sawyer, which is one of my favorite episodes of S2, I may just have to cut the man some slack. I'd be open to him returning on a trial basis. Heh.

    Fair enough on your point about Phase Three. I guess I just kinda interpreted her response to Morgan calling her a big fish as kind of like she would view Chuck as her equal, her partner, with or without the Intersect. But I could just be viewing things through rose-colored glasses. And seeing how Sarah treated Chuck in this episode, I have to concede you may be right on the money.

    I am a big Chuck/Sarah fan. I've loved them for a long time. But I have to admit that one of the few things that has always tarnished the ship for me a little bit, is the way Sarah tends to treat Chuck. She can be very condescending at times and she mothers him often, which kinda creeps me out. This episode was a good example of her doing that with the interrogation scene. Like seemingly everybody else in Chuck's life, she thinks she has the right or the need to make decisions for Chuck, like he can't handle stuff on his own. And that's always bothered me about the relationship. I do think Sarah is one of the biggest reasons why Chuck's neuroses and insecurities have perpetuated as long as they have on the show.

    I'm a huge Sarah fan and would be perfectly happy if all the focus was on her, but even I get annoyed when Chuck is treated like he's useless and fragile and isn't given a fair shake like he has been this Intersect-less arc. I miss the Chuck of old who raided Castle's armory, tranqued Casey, and went into a known Fulcrum base to discover the secrets of the Intersect, all before he got Intersect 2.0. I want that Chuck back. He was awesome.

  17. Ayefah1.12.10

    It's weird - Sarah's support used to be what helped build Chuck up, but post-2.0 nobody can cut him down faster than she can.

    Chuck was doing great spy work with no institutional support and no kung-fu for all of the summer break. He came closer to tracking Mary down than Orion ever did, and he and Morgan managed to become pesky enough to Volkoff to become priority targets over "real" spies Sarah and Casey. But Chuck did all that without telling Sarah, which annoyed the crap out of me at the time but seems almost reasonable given her SOP this season.

    He thought Sarah wouldn't let him go looking for Mary, and he was right. But the solution to that shouldn't be "keep it a secret", it should be "get her to agree to let him go". If Chuck can only take control of his life when he keeps it a secret from Sarah, it...doesn't say much for the healthiness of their relationship. The first Orion arc was so amazingly kick-ass not just because Chuck started to act in his own interests instead of doing what others wanted him to do, but because when the chips were down, Sarah went with him.

  18. Anonymous1.12.10

    ‏@‏ Ayefah:
    Sarah didn't try to stop Chuck from looking for Mary. When she found out what he was doing, at the end of "Anniversary", she and Casey offered to help him. To me, this makes her behavior now even more confusing: 10 episodes ago she had enough faith in Chuck to support him in what he was doing, and to work according to information Chuck collected while working without her, and now suddenly she doesn't think he can go on missions without her, or be involved in Mary's investigation. It's inconsistent with Sarah's behavior in the past, when she trusted Chuck, and we haven't really seen any reason for this change.

    @Frea and mxpw:
    I look forward to your reviews almost as much as I look forward to new episodes. Thank you for this awesome blog.

  19. Anonymous1.12.10

    I agree with the sentiments expressed. This episode wasn't that awesome. Do you ever think the actors, who know their characters pretty well, ever want to force the writers to fix it when they write stupid things, but TPTB won't let them? I mean come on, Chuck should've been able to override the hack. That was stupid. And in real life, Jeff and Lester would have been fired so quickly and charged with a felony. Although it might be kinda funny to see Jeff in prison with his mother . . . meh, never mind. I don't really care.

    Chuck really needs to get his head out of his ass. He thinks he's incompetent so they think he's incompetent and then he thinks he's even more incompetent and on and on and on. It's a vicious cycle they're stuck in that only he can fix. Seriously, dude, gain some self-worth. I think stepping in to fix the computer issue would've been a step in the right direction for him overcoming his shortcomings.

    And Volkoff going after Frost because he loves her? That's ridiculous and uninventive. Twenty years and he hasn't gotten her yet? There's no way he would stick around for that long when he isn't getting any. (Not necessarily in the "fun" way- if you catch my drift) Either Frost is supremely good at her job or Volkoff is an idiot, although he was the best part of this episode.

    As for the computer thing, maybe PapaB didn't know that it would take Ellie so long to realize the convertible was there and he thought Ellie had already fixed the problem so the PSP device wasn't needed and the last talk he had with MamaB was that everything was fixed and that Chuck could keep the Intersect. But then she goes against his wishes and suppresses it anyway.

    Or maybe PapaB didn't know that MamaB ever had the intent to suppress the Intersect and after he died, he sent his research to Ellie because he couldn't complete his fix for the intersect and knowing that Ellie was into neurology she might be able to hit it from a different angle like she did. Then, even if it was a reluctant sort of support for Chuck, PapaB was able to keep his son from going insane. So the computer thing was more like an upgrade/update for the Intersect 2.0 rather than actually changing to an entirely new program and it just so happens to unsuppress what was once there. Personally, I think they should have left the Intersect gone for a while.

    I don't know if any of that makes sense. Sorry.

    Anyway, overall, I was underwhelmed.


  20. The show always has had huge amounts of plot/logic holes but Volkoff's takeover of the Buy More was totally based on plot holes. The super secure CIA sub station was compromised by Jeff and Lester. Why do they have the ability to open the store considering that are morons.

    Next they were able to drill through 3 feet of steel in one hour. I am not an engineer but I'm pretty sure that it would take a lot longer than an hour.

    On the plus side Mr. Dalton was fantastic. His line about kids loving him was the funniest moment in the history of the show.


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