Chuck vs. the Gobbler
Season 4, Episode 12, air-date January 25, 2011
Chuck becomes worried when Sarah goes to extreme measures to help his mother take down Alexei Volkoff. Ellie and Devon have trouble deciding the name of their new baby.
mxpw: So, Frea, I want to start this review off on the right foot and discuss the most important thing about this episode. That can only really mean one thing: Sarah in leather. I mentioned this in Chris's Instant Reaction post, but she looked so incredibly amazing in that outfit I literally lost track of the dialogue at times. This was, maybe, some of the best use of SWP ever.
Frea: Sarah was in leather? I didn't notice.
mxpw: Uh-huh... Hold on, I have something I want to post.
mxpw: Just so all you people can see (and also because I thought it was funny as hell) here is what Frea said to me during the episode: "Holy hell. And Sarah in leather is so amazing I'm even think[ing] about going bi."
mxpw: So you see, I have proof! Never again can Frea give me a hard time about SWP.
Frea: Yeah, Sarah set up the pitch and then Kate Beckett came along and knocked it out of the park. I'm now questioning my sexuality, thanks to both of them. And hey, I'm comfortable with that.
mxpw: As am I.
Frea: I wonder if the SWFG are taking applications. I come equipped with my own fully-staffed crew of minions.
mxpw: But yes, you mention this to me later, that Sarah's all-black wardrobe was incredibly awesome, in an over-the-top, clichéd, ridiculous neon sign "Hey, look at me, I'm EVIL!" kind of way.
Frea: I, too, was wondering about the hair, alongside Chuck. Is it a wig (obviously, on Yvonne), or a rinse or something?
mxpw: I said this to Yokaputo last night, but I didn't even know Sarah owned that much black. And then I wondered if she took her TARDIS suitcase with her when she went rogue. I think she had at least three different outfits. Though now I'm wondering what Sarah used that leather catsuit for in the past. Was it like just lying around or have she and Chuck been playing a little Captain Shepherd/Miranda Lawson in the bedroom?
Frea: She takes her TARDIS suitcase everywhere if she doesn't have access to the Castle Slide. Volkoff, by the way, has a magic plane, but I'll get into that in a minute. See, between thoughts of, OMG Sarah in Leather!, I was like, "Man, that had to be uncomfortable with all those set lights."
mxpw: Can I say that I loved the bit where Volkoff asks her about the hair? I thought it was pretty funny (as was her reaction, all "Yeah, I am badass and evil now, so of course I dyed my hair, you idiot") and exactly the kind of thing Volkoff would focus on.
Frea: Do you think Volkoff watches Bob Ross?
Frea: I mean, can you imagine if Mary had taken Chuck with her when she went rogue? Volkoff and Chuck could have Bob Ross marathons and work on their painting skills and then Volkoff can teach Chuck how to shoot people in the head with no muss or fuss.
mxpw: He totally does watch Bob Ross.
mxpw: I have to say, I expected Volkoff to kill Yuri as soon as that scene started, but I still found it compelling and funny. "Phyllis, cleanup!" Great line.
mxpw: Plus, Sarah looked very hot in that black dress she wore.
Frea: Can I just say the scene where Sarah took out the three gunmen? AWESOME.
mxpw: Possibly the best bit of the episode. That was just HOT. And awesome, yes. I do love badass Sarah and that was amazing.
Frea: My favorite bit was in Castle.
mxpw: It was a fantastic way to start off the episode. Especially with Sarah's slo-mo entrance. Fantastic.
mxpw: What did you like in that Castle scene? Sarah's break in into Castle and her "Hello, boys?" Or the leather?
Frea: Actually, I just loved the whole scene when Chuck went after her. The "Hello, boys," was inspired, yes, and the leather...'nuff said, I know, I know. But it was nice to see a little passion there, and it was nice that there was more than just the hug she gave him at the beginning.
Frea: Yes, yes, I know, hopeless romantic.
mxpw: Oh man, YES. I said this to Crystal last night, but I actually threw my hands up in the air and yelled "Come on!" when Sarah just gave him that peck and then left. I was like, "Are you kidding me? They haven't seen each other in weeks, she could die at any moment, and that's all they do when saying goodbye?" Thank God he did go after her and there was that great kiss. But that scene in Castle was also the start of Chuck's spiral. You could tell he was put off by the distance Sarah was putting between them, and it's what probably started to crack his belief that Sarah wouldn't change or end up like his mother. But I was proud of him for going after her.
mxpw: Plus, well, Sarah in leather.
Frea: Sarah in leather indeed.
mxpw: Actually, I wanted to point out something, I thought the writing was better in this episode than it usually is, in at least one aspect. There's a lot of contrivances that happen later and I'm not happy about a lot of the decisions that the characters make, but I did appreciate that whoever wrote this setup Chuck having doubts and questioning Sarah from the very beginning of the episode. Yeah, the whole concept was rushed, but at least it didn't come out of nowhere at the end. The writer slowly built it up until it reached the natural climax at Sarah pushing Casey out of the window.
Frea: Yeah, it was a complete turnaround from last week, in which the writing was some of the most contrived writing-for-TV I'd ever seen, even for, like, Bones or something.
Frea: Two Bones burns in two weeks, Frea? What is this, a vendetta?
Frea: Yes. Yes it is.
mxpw: It had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face at times, but at least the writer developed things and didn't just pull Chuck's problems out of thin air. Now whether or not you think Chuck should question Sarah's loyalty or question her motivations or that you want to rail against Chuck for possibly doubting Sarah is one thing (I think this arc should have taken place over at least two or three eps, not one) but at least it was developed naturally within the episode.
Frea: Now, see, I'm of the opinion that we don't need this arc to take place over two or three episodes.
Frea: Because I'd rather just get it over with. Rip the band-aid off, deal with the inevitable, and move on.
Frea: And what would stretching it out over another episode do? Remind me just how much I don't like this Mary storyline.
mxpw: Well, I think it depends on if Chuck is going to actually doubt Sarah and question her. If so, then yes, it needs proper development so that he doesn't look rash and quick to jump to the wrong conclusions. But if he isn't going to doubt her, then yeah, one episode is enough.
mxpw: I understand that, Frea, and you know how much I dislike this double agent storyline, but I'd rather see them write it properly than do a rush job. I might not have liked it, but at least I could respect such a thing more.
Frea: Eh, I've lost a lot of respect everywhere, but I'm not going to dwell. By the way, Volkoff is magical.
Frea: Because from what I understand it, Morgan, Casey, and Chuck break Yuri-who-was-Yuri-for-La-Ciudad-but-is-not-the-same-Yuri-for-Volkoff out of prison, right? Casey and Morgan and the birthday cake is fantastic, but that's an aside. They break him out, Sarah puts him on a bakery truck and flies him back to, I'm presuming Moscow or at least Russia.
Frea: Chuck starts to get mopey, Morgan and Casey decide to cheer him up with Risk (by the way, never play Risk with me; I lose then shout, "Blitzkrieg!" and sweep my arm over the board).
Frea: Then, in Moscow, we've got Yuri getting shot in the head, the eyeball trick going on (Uh...dark), and then Sarah, Mary, and Volkoff (Lexi!) hop a plane for California again.
Frea: And Chuck, Morgan, and Casey are still playing Risk.
Frea: Apparently California at some point drifted off into the Pacific, sidled right up to Russia, and now they're neighbors.
mxpw: Yes, apparently. A game of Risk can last for hours, you know.
mxpw: I do want to say the prison scene was a lot of fun and it was probably the most amusing part of the episode. From Casey and Morgan (though I have no idea what Morgan was doing there) doing the impromptu birthday party and Chuck taking on Yuri, it was actually fun. Something I've felt this show has been missing for a while.
mxpw: But you know, that scene with the eyeball would have been a great moment, once the Hydra database was being displayed, for Sarah to simply pull out her gun and shoot Volkoff in the head.
mxpw: Mission would have been over. But then we wouldn't get the angst, so no dice.
Frea: Heh, this is all going to turn out to where Mary was evil all along, and now she's manipulating Sarah and oh noes!
mxpw: At least then the Mary arc would make a lot more sense.
Frea: A little tinge of angst for the sake of angst, but it was a human reaction, and thank God about that.
mxpw: A human reaction? What do you mean?
Frea: She thought she killed Casey, so she put her head down. At least, that’s how I’m choosing to see it.
mxpw: Oh, I didn't see that.
mxpw: Though that is one of the problems I have with this storyline.
mxpw: Like I don't see how Chuck could ever look at Sarah the same if she had actually killed Casey and I would think it very unrealistic if he did.
Frea: And I think Sarah is seeing that.
Frea: I think Mary killed her "dread test."
Frea: That's what I'm calling it because it means Volkoff and the CIA were just as evil as each other.
mxpw: See, I thought the point of the "Distance" line wasn't because of Casey, but because she didn't want to talk to Chuck. She stupidly listened to Mary, and thought she needed to put distance between her and Chuck.
mxpw: Haha, well, they are.
Frea: Why would she ever take advice from Mary?
Frea: Mary is just like Shaw.
Frea: With a better actor in place.
mxpw: Exactly. That's one of the reasons why I think Sarah was stupid in this episode.
Frea: Eh, there's also the idea that this is the mother of the man she loves, but it's not enough to make up for that deficit.
mxpw: And that’s just for personal reasons. Now, this is not my idea, the much smarter than me Course Jester mentioned this in a post on ChuckThis earlier today and it really stood out to me as an obvious “Duh” moment, but Sarah the professional and cold spy that Mary was advising her to be would have/should have told Chuck about the chip she slipped Casey so that he could know about it. The fact that she didn’t, that that would have been the logical course to take, just makes the end more ridiculous to me. Everybody should read his posts; they make a lot more sense than my ramblings. But yeah, I think that makes the end seem even more artificial.
Frea: Right now, it looks like she killed her friend. And yes, this is the first time since Cubic Z that I've seen any measure of teamwork between Sarah and Casey, so that was nice.
Frea: So do I find it annoying that she turned down Chuck's message? Yes. But I see it as understandable. If she keeps it up, will I have issues? Yeah. And is she going to keep it up? Yeah. But she hasn't yet, so I'm just not going to get annoyed at her for it yet.
mxpw: I just don't feel the same way. I often have had trouble drumming up sympathy for her since this arc started, especially since she volunteered for this mission and Chuck had no say in anything she’s done. I think she's stupid to be taking advice from Mary in the first place, and it's like you said last week, I don't respect what Sarah is doing because yeah, it does make me question her relationship with a little Chuck. You'd think after Phase 3, that wouldn't be possible, but I think after this episode, if Chuck didn't at least wonder a little about whether or not marrying Sarah was a good idea, I'd just really wonder what the point of the whole thing was.
Frea: We're getting back into S3 problems again.
Frea: I thought Sarah's storyline with Shaw was stupid and made the character make decisions I honestly thought the character never would have made (or would have made, actually, if they'd explained it or justified it more), and this whole Volkoff/Mary storyline is once again the plot jerking our characters to a place I don't really want to see them go. Timothy Dalton may be awesome, and I freaking love Linda Hamilton like nothing else, but man. This Volkoff storyline is dumb. And I can see why it's hard for people to like Sarah's actions with her being tainted by it, like she was tainted by the Stupidity of Shawism (TM).
mxpw: Want to know what bothered me most about Sarah in this episode? Most probably won’t agree, but I’m too critical, I suppose. Anyway, it wasn't the end, actually (even though that was really frustrating and facepalm-worthy), it was the scene between her and Chuck at the delivery truck. There, she told him that her mission could take a lot longer than he thought. She alluded to the fact that it had taken Mary years to get as far as she had, and it might take her as long. Yet despite that, she was still willing to go through with the mission. And you can tell that that's when Chuck broke. He had had faith in Sarah up till that point, but once she said that, you could see him slowly spiraling down.
Frea: Now, see, I loved that scene, but that's probably because Zac and Yvonne sold the hell out of it.
Frea: Also, Sarah in leather.
Frea: Because apparently we need the leather to know that Sarah is now a bad, bad girl.
Frea: And yes, I went there.
Frea: And bought a T-shirt.
Frea: I didn't bring you back anything, though.
mxpw: They did sell it, but it just read as kind of ridiculous to me. I think if Sarah was willing to go on a long term mission like that, leaving Chuck behind for who knows how long… It just kind of reads like she's destroying Chuck and his family to save it, and that is really one of the inherent problems I’ve had with her in this arc.
Frea: Why isn't Sarah relying on Chuck more, now that I'm thinking about it? I mean, they have a way to communicate. It's not like Mary all over again this time. Well, now it is. Because Sarah didn't reach out.
mxpw: Right. The end also goes back to what I'm saying about Sarah on this mission. The end of the episode basically fulfilled the prophecy of Sarah's cautionary comment to Chuck in the truck. Basically, she was saying, "Don't get your hopes up, this could take a while." And then the end was essentially confirming that, "I am your mother Chuck and I'm going down the same path she did."
Frea: Or she's a woman in a dangerous situation (and I'm not saying it's right or wrong that she put herself there, but that she is there) and if she has to deal with the boyfriend that makes her "compromised" while also dealing with a madman who shoots people in the head -- poor Phyllis, having to clean up the least bloody headshot on the planet -- then maybe she does need the distance, and doesn't realize she's turning into Mary. Hey, look at the fan wankery.
Frea: Currently, I'm just providing alternate theories.
Frea: But I'm probably wrong. I'm not good at alternate anything. Alternate endings? Awful. Alternate universes? Forget it.
mxpw: But that's not really interesting to me. One, I just don't really buy the distance thing. It reads to me of "I must destroy a part of myself to save myself, but in the process, I am diminished." Second, I don't want to see a storyline where Sarah is just like Mary. That makes Sarah less of a character, in my opinion. I want her to show how she is different, better, more in touch with what makes her a real person and not a robotic spy that can abandon her family for the sake of the job.
Frea: So would you be okay, next episode, if Sarah has to make a choice, Mary is advising her, and Sarah's just like, "You know what? Your way kind of sucks."
mxpw: And I really hope the resolution to this isn’t that Sarah spirals down and it's Chuck that saves her. Yeah, that might be romantic, but that just means Sarah is weak and is nothing but whatever Chuck makes her.
Frea: "I put my faith in Chuck."
mxpw: Yes! I would love for Sarah to basically tell Mary to shut up, she gives bad advice, and find her own way. Her own way of coping and dealing. Her own way of solving the mission.
Frea: That would be great if both Chuck and Sarah came to that realization that they do need to put their faith in Chuck. It would also be great that they would a) learn this lesson at all and b) once they've learned this lesson, they actually remember it the next week (*cough*PHASE THREE*cough*).
Frea: Singing George Michael now.
mxpw: Yeah, see, even Sarah saying that, that she's willing to put her faith in Chuck, would be a proactive choice by her and show she's willing to be different from Mary. Mary would never do that.
Frea: Right. It'd be awesome if the writers were self-aware enough to know that.
mxpw: Precisely. But this really brings us to what is my real problem with this arc: I don't care about Mary. I just don't.
mxpw: The 20 year mission is just BS. Nothing they said in Gobbler really justified it. It's just so ridiculous and still makes no sense and all I'm left with is that Mary was a woman that chose to abandon her family for the sake of the job. She chose it over them. And that makes her completely unlikable to me. And since this entire arc really hinges on her being worth saving, it just doesn't work.
Frea: Yeah, see, and I just stopped caring at all. So I don't mind this arc anymore because it doesn't matter to me whether they redeem Mary or not. She's irredeemable to me.
Frea: This is all, of course, Linda Hamilton aside. I cannot stress that enough.
mxpw: Yes, you are right about Linda Hamilton. She has been really good as Mary. Unfortunately, she's playing a character that I really couldn't care less about. And I think that's a large part of the reason why I'm so dissatisfied with Sarah's storyline. She has potentially killed Casey, potentially ruined her relationship with Chuck, potentially hurt herself, all for a woman I don't think is remotely worth it.
mxpw: Have you seen the movie the Hurt Locker?
If you do not want to be spoiled about the Hurt Locker, click here!
mxpw: Alright, so in the Hurt Locker, the main character is a soldier deployed to Iraq. There, he defuses bombs. That's his mission. He goes throughout Iraq and disables bombs. It's incredibly dangerous work, but he's an adrenaline junkie, so he loves it. But at the end of the movie, we see that he has a family back home in America. We see him go back home and he seems completely out of sorts, like he doesn't fit in there. He only fits in while doing his job, risking his life. He's addicted to it. And there is this really poignant scene where he's talking to his infant son and he basically tells his son that he loves his job more than him. And that really reminds me of Mary. I don't see conflict with her. I see somebody who loved the job more than her family and couldn't leave it. She was addicted to it, and I do think that's part of why she's stayed with Volkoff this long.
mxpw: I don't know if she likes the power or the adrenaline rush or what, but I've seen nothing from her that indicates she wants to leave.
Frea: I agree with you, and that makes me sad. Because this is supposed to be mxpw vs. Frea. And the versus just ain't happening.
mxpw: And I hate that they have implied even a little that Sarah could be like her.
Frea: I hold out hope that Sarah will realize she's nothing like Mary. Or that Ellie will point that out.
mxpw: Ellie would be a switch, but I still want Sarah to realize this on her own. I want to see her follow through on all that character development she supposedly had before this episode.
Frea: I would be perfectly fine if Ellie sat Sarah down and said, "Look, I love my mom, and I probably always will, she's my mom, but seriously, do not take her on as any sort of role model. Don't let this happen for the second generation."
Frea: "Chuck lived without his mom for twenty years. She's alive, she's made her choices, it's time for you to make yours."
Frea: And then Sarah can say, "Let Chuck be a spy."
mxpw: Which would be awesome. The problem is, the show doesn't seem to be aware that Mary is unlikable. They seem to think that Sarah's sacrifice is worth it. I have not been convinced of that yet.
Frea: And then I can forgive most of the lying!
Frea: The menfolk can dig up the dead bodies for one episode, and the womenfolk can do the emoting.
mxpw: That'd be an interesting twist.
Frea: Or if it turns out Mary's just been leading Sarah on from the start. "Not letting this little spy tart get her hands on my little boy." The source behind Mary's bad advice quickly becomes clear.
|"She thinks she's good enough for MY son?"|
Frea: You know, it would make sense.
mxpw: Yeah, it might explain why Mary never once commented on what the hell Sarah was even doing there. If I were Mary and I saw the woman my son loved following down the same path I took, I'd be pissed at her.
Frea: Hee, man, that would be an epic way to wrap up that storyline. Sarah finds out what Mary's been doing, gets pissed, and Mary's like, too bad, we've ruined you in Chuck's eyes, you're in over your head, you're not getting anywhere near my son
Frea: And Sarah's just like, "Screw this," shoots Volkoff in the head, and leaves.
mxpw: Exactly. That would be awesome.
Frea: You know, I will say this for it: I may hate the storyline and think it’s kind of silly, but it’s nice to see regular human emotions again. It was nice to see Chuck being proactive again, and even though Maximus over here hated the bakery truck good-bye, I loved it because I really kind of felt for both of them, and it’s nice to get involved with the characters again, and not see them as caricatures (*pointed look at Max Denby*).
Frea: Hey, speaking of Ellie -- Clara. What do you think?
mxpw: Um...I love how Ellie manipulated Devon and the Grunka stuff was pretty great, but I'm only kind of eh on Clara. I would have preferred something like Stephanie, but then that might mean acknowledging that Papa B was dead and that's clearly verboten this season (though 4.13 does give me some hope, thanks to the preview).
Frea: My best friend is going through the process of picking out baby names right now (I'm so excited, you guys! Honorary auntie!), so the baby name thing to me was a fun idea. I loved Ellie's interactions with the Buy Morons and how Ellie manipulated all of them with Grunka. Ikea jokes never get old.
mxpw: Agree. That was some of the best Ellie stuff in weeks. Since First Fight, easily.
Frea: I really hope that Sarah is present to at least pace the waiting room at the birth of her maybe-future-niece. Any bets on that being part of Sarah's final decision?
mxpw: Final decision for what? After Gobbler, I'm no longer confident an engagement will take place in 4.13. Depending on how they write Chuck, I'm thinking the relationship might be strained and the engagement put on hold until Chuck rectifies everything Sarah did with the future he sees with her.
Frea: Oh, I meant if she's going to keep going with this stupid Volkoff stuff
Frea: I never really worried about whether or not she'd say yes to a proposal.
Frea: I'll let Chuck do that.
mxpw: Oh, I don't think there's any question about her, I meant Chuck's the one who might be hesitant to ask her now.
mxpw: And I always assumed the birth of Clara would happen at the end of the episode, so the Volkoff stuff should be resolved by then.
mxpw: So I figure Sarah will either have made her choice before the birth of Clara, or have her choice made for her. Obviously, I hope for the former. Sarah needs to justify why I should root for her in this storyline.
Frea: Good news, Clara sounds horrible with both Lisa and Samantha as middle names. And now we'll have rhyming characters! Clara and Sarah. What whaaaaat.
mxpw: Good point.
Frea: Now if Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer drops by, and Starbuck pops in, and Amara from Codex Alera joins...
Frea: I mean, what happens when we get the good Charah back, only now there's Clara to contend with, as well as Sarah? The chalice in the palace may have the brew that stays true, but—crap, I'm a week too late for a Danny Kaye joke.
mxpw: And thanks for that, the fewer reminders of Balcony the better, I say.
Frea: I do what I can to break your brain, Max. I do what I can.
mxpw: Though I am going to look forward to seeing Sarah interact with baby Clara.
Frea: So I have what may be an unpopular opinion.
mxpw: Those are always dangerous words.
mxpw: Especially these days.
Frea: Mekenna Melvin? Ah...yeah. I like her, but I don't know, she's never struck me as being on the same level as the rest of the actors on this show, Buy Morons aside.
mxpw: Hmm...I can kinda see what you mean, but I think that is mainly because we just haven't seen enough of her. She just hasn't been given much to do. Of course, I am still kinda freaked out by her relationship with Morgan, so that might have a lot to do with my own...eh-ness in regard to her character (damn, did she look good in that shirt, though). I will say Alex has a lot of potential if they just utilized her more.
Frea: It was the scene at the end, for me. I wasn't really buying her reaction at all.
Frea: And not because she's only been in a couple of episodes, just because of the actress. Which is horrible to say because she seems really nice, but I didn't like it. However, I will say this: Mary Bartowski looks freakishly like her daughter.
mxpw: Understandable. I kept waiting for her to turn around and ask Chuck how it happened. I would have loved to see Chuck explain that it was Sarah that had hurt Casey. I think that could have led to some interesting stuff from Alex.
mxpw: Might have given her room to emote some.
Frea: Yeah, but to do that would mean taking away some chance for Morgan to shine.
mxpw: Heh, yeah, and who wants that?
Frea: Who wants to bet it's Morgan that cracks whatever it is that solves the whole dilemma next episode?
mxpw: I've already seen some people say that they think Morgan will be the one that finds the chip and leads Chuck on the path to taking down Volkoff. I just kinda roll my eyes at that because it sounds exactly like what they would do.
Frea: *sigh* Unicorn.
mxpw: So to wrap up, for me, this episode epitomized a lot of the problems I've had with this season. But just so I won't be accused of only focusing on the negative, I want to say that I loved watching Sarah being a badass, even if she's making a lot of questionable decisions right now. I really enjoyed the prison sequence. I loved the Ellie/Devon subplot. I loved watching the boys play Risk (and Casey's explosion sound was brilliant). Yeah, people were hit heavily and often by the stupid stick this episode (Casey going to meet Sarah without a plan or backup, Chuck doing the same, Sarah at the end, etc.) but I didn't dislike the episode as much as Balcony. I object to the notion that I should wait and see what happens in Push Mix before condemning this episode. I think I shouldn't have to wait until the next episode before I can determine whether the one I'm currently watching is any good. So even though I know this episode was all set-up, it was still lacking. But...there was a lot I still liked. It's a very confusing and jumbled mess, much like this season so far.
Frea: As for me, on the one hand, there was Sarah in leather. On the other hand, Kate and Castle's kiss was AWESOME. I'm good.
mxpw: So how would you rate this episode, Frea?
Frea: I haven't the foggiest. Five? Six? It wasn't that great an episode, I just don't care anymore.
Frea: Um, let me find a random number generator.
mxpw: And while you're searching for that random number generator, I'll say this gets 3 Sarahs in leather out of 5.
Frea: My random number generator gave it a 9.