mxpw vs. Frea - Season 4

Season Four
Chuck vs. the Anniversary - Chuck vs. the Pushmix

More than a few people have wondered what mxpw and Frea have thought of the first thirteen episodes in total.  And we hate to disappoint (well, mxpw does.  Frea gets a huge kick out of it), so we sat down to do a special edition mxpw vs. Frea.

Read our thoughts, after the break.
Hey, look, a happy picture to start off.  This looks promising.
mxpw: Okay, Frea, so to recap the season so far, I'm still pretty torn on this whole Machine thing, it just hasn't quite solidified for me as a good story arc quite yet. But I'm glad it looks like we're going back to the alternate universe. She may be evil, but it should be fun to see Fauxlivia again.

mxpw: Wait, this is the season we're recapping, right?

Frea: Sounds good to me. I am really excited that we've moved past snowglobes to bowling balls, as it represents a theory I've had that the universe is round, which enables it to revolve around me more easily.

mxpw: Full of love triangles and characters acting like alternate universe versions of themselves. Or am I getting Fringe mixed up with Chuck Season 3 again?

Frea: I don't know, that raises a question. Can you really have a love triangle when a full third of it is represented by a stick of wood?

mxpw: I'm not sure, that's something really for the psychologists to determine.

Frea: Even so, I think you're mixing Fringe and Chuck again. And we're not here to talk about Season Three anyway. In fact, the writers of Season Four would rather you forgot Season Three happened at all. Please. They're begging us.

mxpw: They certainly went out of their way to act like Season Three never happened. They put Chuck and Sarah together and actually sort of, kind of, maybe let them be a little happy. The only triangle in sight was the one between Chuck, Sarah, and Mary. The rest of Team B was in a pretty decent place, and Ellie was well aware of everything that was going on in the spy world...heeeey, wait a minute... So maybe not everything from Season Three disappeared.

Frea: Ah, Ellie.

Frea: ...I don't actually have anything besides that to say, really. It was said with a sigh, though.

mxpw: Yeah, I'm with you there.

Frea: So, to do an overview before we go into our greater overall analysis, I want to make a statement: the only thing that shocked me this season was Chuck losing the Intersect to the PSP of doom. Other than that? Yeah.

mxpw: Okay, I too will say what shocked me: the Orion Cave going kerblooey! I think that's about it.\

Frea: Season Four was all about the status quo.

mxpw: It was definitely a season where the PTB took the safer path, creatively.

mxpw: I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but it's true.

Frea: And I'm looking at this both character-wise and technically. Season Three ended with yet another possible game-changer, like Season Two did. In Ring I, Chuck shocks us all by going all Chuck Fu on a group of Ring agents, with two shocking revelations: the Intersect got some upgrades, and there's an even worse villain out there than Fulcrum. Yet, within an episode, we got Chuck right back to the Buy More, Casey, and Sarah in similar roles once again.

Frea: Season Four? Same thing.

mxpw: Not quite! No more Sarah undercover. *sigh* I miss the Double O tank top. But other than that, yeah.

mxpw: Well, the Buy More does now come equipped with like it's own WOPR and a giant slide, so there's that.

Frea: And I get it, I really do. The Buy More is a great source of revenue for the show, as it's rich with product placement opportunity.

mxpw: And it's a ready-made set, which means it's cheap.

Frea: All of this being said, however, I do think the show's outgrown the Buy More.

mxpw: But it's also well played out at this point and completely pointless. The Buy More provided only two really good moments this season: Jeffster commenting on the best dumpsters in the city, and every single slo-mo scene with Summer Glau.

Frea: And the Castle Slide.

mxpw: I'm shocked you didn't comment on that earlier when I mentioned it. I expected a big "CASTLE SLIDE!!!" from you.

Frea: I was slow-playing you. Also, I'm a little exhausted tonight; I've switched 50% of my Dr. Pepper for water. I shall try to maintain my normal levels of Frea inanity, but I can't make any promises.

mxpw: Oh no! We need to inject you with about 50 cc of Dr. Pepper stat!

Frea: Uh-huh. I'll get a minion on it. The new and improved Buy More and the Greta storyline just didn't do much for me. I like the Old Spice guy for his over the top commercials, but I don't know, I can think of so many things I'd rather trade him for this season.

mxpw: Like a logical spy plot?

mxpw: Or even semi-logical spy plot?

Frea: I was thinking more, "scenes in the Orion Cave." Or "more fall-out from Orion's death."

Frea: But sure. Were there any truly logical spy plots this season? For that matter, favorite plot this season so far?

mxpw: Sarah ravaging Thailand? Yeah, probably that.

mxpw: Yeah...so guys, my recap will probably ultimately boil down to this response: "So basically Phase Three."

mxpw: Just fair warning.

Frea: Cool. Then we're done? Awesome, I'm gonna go read a book.

mxpw: Well, we haven't heard from you what your favorite plot was yet.

Frea: It's going to shock you.

mxpw: You loved Morgan being awesome, didn't you?

Frea: Actually, I liked Gobbler.

Frea: Great standalone episode that felt like classic Chuck.

Frea: And Phase Three.

mxpw: I suppose I can concede that if I look at Gobbler as just an individual episode, standalone and separate from the overall story arc, it was a pretty good episode.

mxpw: The problem is...the episode is not on an island.

mxpw: But that's not really relevant to your point.

Frea: I'm pretty sure every single episode this season was an island, Maximus.

mxpw: What else did you like this season?

Frea: Let's see, in no particular order: Castle slide. Chuck in Cubic Z. Sarah as Sonya Blade. Sarah as Aeon Flux. Timothy Dalton.

Frea: Jeffster's knowledge of all of the good dumpsters in Los Angeles, and quite a bit about Couch Lock in general (c'mon! Casey in a Stormtrooper's helmet!). Rafe Judkins and Lauren LeFranc. The wacky graphics in Anniversary. The fact that Sarah got a little running man when she went to Thailand.

Frea: The Castle Slide. Beckman in the Buy More. Sarah's TARDIS suitcase.

mxpw: Haha. I do love that special suitcase.

me: Olivia as a redhead. Bubbles as Henry. Summer Glau. The Castle Slide. Annnnnnnnnd absurdly enough, the mention that Chuck has seen Sarah's entire teeth whitening routine.

mxpw: Haha. Like the confirmation that Sarah is not actually naturally perfect?

Frea: Pretty much.

mxpw: As for my own list, I'm not sure it's quite as long, but that's mostly because it focuses pretty heavily on just one character. Which should be completely shocking to everybody, I know.

Frea: Big Mike?

mxpw: So my list, in no particular order: Sarah Walker in most every episode, with a few exceptions. This was the season of Sarah, so far.

mxpw: All of Phase Three. Chuck rediscovering his spine in Push Mix. Timothy Dalton. Linda Hamilton, even though I hated her character. The oodles and oodles of SWP.

mxpw: Jeffster knowing the best dumpsters in L.A. LeJudkins and Kristin Newman. Sarah emerging from a pond with a knife in her teeth. Just basically Sarah Walker.

mxpw: Oh, and of course, tiny weapon fights. And Summer Glau.

mxpw: That's more or less my list. What episode did you like best, Frea?

Frea: Retroactively or at the time?

mxpw: Why don't you give us both.

Frea: The most fun I ever had watching an episode was, unsurprisingly, Phase Three, though I said I liked Gobbler earlier for the same reason: it was just fun to watch.

Frea: The episode I'm surprised to remember most fondly is First Fight just because after I gave up on realistic carry-out of the storylines set up, the episode just gets more fun. Sarah's and Chuck fight is both fun and funny, there's the tiny weapons fight, and Volkoff/Dalton as Tuttle is just so awesome I kind of wish he'd never been revealed as Volkoff.

Frea: What about you, Maximus?

mxpw: My answer for at the time and retroactively is, unsurprisingly, Phase Three. Still my favorite episode this season, and probably my favorite episode since Season 2, with the only competition being Honeymooners.

mxpw: I do have to say that I agree with what you said about First Fight, however. I'd probably put that in the second spot for my episode list. Dalton as Tuttle was fantastic and it had some great scenes at the end. Suitcase would probably fill out my Top 3.

Frea: Do you think this is season, as a season, worked?

mxpw: That is a good question, and I am very conflicted about the answer. I think I would have to say yes, it did, just barely, but probably not for the reason most people would normally think.

mxpw: I think it worked because I'm one of those people who think Chuck is a romcom masquerading as an action adventure show. They try to act like the spy stories are the most important aspects of the series, but they're not. They exist solely to drive the real point of Chuck, which is the Chuck and Sarah relationship. And from THAT perspective, I think the season was fairly successful, even if you found the engagement plot annoying and overextending its welcome.

Frea: I did find it annoying. From start to finish.

Frea: Also, Chris Fedak hates you.

Frea: And the ironic thing about all of this, readers, is that of Maximus and I, I'm the one that loves romcoms and reads trashy romances.

mxpw: In terms of looking at a season as having a single or few coherent, intertwining storylines that tie every episode together and build upon one another and inform the actions of what the characters do from episode to episode and there are long lasting consequences, then no, this was not a successful season.

mxpw: This was a haphazard and poorly constructed season that largely fell apart, plot wise, for the same reason Season Three largely failed: because they back-loaded everything until the last few episodes and then the pacing was horribly off.

mxpw: Fedak can hate me all he wants, but the show speaks for itself. Very little, if any drama, is generated in Chuck separate from the Chuck/Sarah relationship. That's just the fact of the show, and has largely been that way since Ring 1.

Frea: For the record, we'll be doing a post on pacing, both in fiction and in TV, here on CI very soon.

mxpw: Yeah, it should hopefully be enlightening.

Frea: Also for the record, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment and will add another reason I feel the season didn't work: it didn't deliver.

mxpw: See, I think it depends on what you mean by deliver. Because while you found the Chuck and Sarah storyline annoying throughout the season, I think that it mostly delivered, to me at least, as a shipper, a fairly entertaining experience (obviously there were problems, but compared to last season, Season 4 was a revelation). But then I tend to separate the shipper part of me from the rest of the plot.

Frea: Like I mentioned much earlier, these writers and show-runners have a history of setting up what could be great, epic scenarios. I know it sounds entitled on my part, but I don't know, when I get invested into Chuck losing the Intersect through the PSP of doom, I'd love it to have a great reason behind it that builds on the mythology rather than some poor, one-off excuse about keeping Chuck safe, as that excuse clearly tells me they're just doing this for attention and to ramp up the drama, and it feels cheap.

Angst for angst's sake?  I don't believe you.
mxpw: Oh I agree with you there. Just like the end of Gobbler existed for no other reason than to have angst for angst's sake in the Chuck and Sarah relationship. Or to have Sarah tell Chuck he wasn't a spy in front of everybody and there be no follow up. Or for Mary's 20 year mission to never make sense. Or for Ellie to still be in the dark. There is just rarely any follow through on anything.

Frea: And this was a season where that trait, for me, was very much highlighted.

mxpw: I won't speak for Frea, and I know this sounds kind of like a backhanded compliment, but at least this season isn’t Season 3. I really am grateful for that. I have enjoyed this season far more than I ever enjoyed the last. And while I think the first half was considerably stronger than the second (with the exception of Phase Three), I have still had quite a good time. Plus, well, I got to watch the premiere with crystal.elements, so already it's got a leg up on the competition.

Frea: Remember our reviews for the beginning episodes? "Well, we had these problems with it, but at least it wasn't Season Three!"

Except for stuff like this.  This was awesome.  Look at her face!
mxpw: Heh, and by the end of the season it was "I give up. Wheeee!"

Frea: I mean, it's been a fun season. There have been moments where I look at the actors playing these characters and think, "It really looks like you were having a great day at work that day." And there have been some pretty amazing things to happen to our show. Sarah Connor, Summer Glau. The returns of both Hugo Panzer and Heather Chandler, two characters from very different episodes that I still enjoyed. So it's not awful, but the fact of the matter is, I felt this season was kind of poorly mishandled, and I don't know at what level that came from--the writers, the show runners, the network--and it has made me stop caring and trying to guess where the show's going next.

mxpw: And you know that I understand exactly how you feel, and I kinda feel the same way, yet... I'm still invested in the show, still excited to see what happens next. Granted, most of that is because of Sarah Walker (Ahem, belly dancing) and my unyielding love for Yvonne Strahovski, but I've really enjoyed a number of episodes this season. I loved Timothy Dalton and his fantastic performance. Yvonne gave an Emmy-worthy performance in Phase Three, Couch Lock was pretty fun, Zac looks a little more lively than last year, and, I don't know, I still like that Chuck and Sarah are engaged. So sue me. Heh.

Frea: Oh, I am, Maximus, I am. Just as soon as my lawyers finish with the final draft.

mxpw: Go right ahead, Frea. As a minion, the only stuff I have to my name is what YOU provided me. So it'd be like suing yourself.

Frea: Oh, I know that. But I need to keep the lawyers busy or they start noticing how I treat the minions.

Frea: I'm glad Chuck and Sarah are engaged, just so that people don't think I'm this anti-romance curmudgeon.

mxpw: Even though you are fairly curmudgeony.

Frea: Haha, I almost think I'm more romantic than most. I'm just so happy that they're together, why can't they just enjoy being together for awhile? Except this is the longest Chuck and Sarah have been apart since the Pilot.

Frea: With Sarah being gone several weeks in Gobbler, in Fear of Death, and months in Anniversary?

mxpw: Yeah, pretty much.

mxpw: It's a little strange how little notice that has gotten, actually.

Frea: So you know, I was okay with them just being happy to be together when they could be without this whole engagement business turning Chuck into such a neurotic mess that I outright didn't like him at times. Eh, sue me.

mxpw: Okay, with pleasure. I might actually get something out of it

Frea: Four dogs, two of which aren't fully house-trained yet. Good luck with that!

mxpw: And don't misunderstand, I hated how Chuck became a neurotic mess. I complained about it all season. I'm also not disagreeing that they could have waited. I'm just saying, since it happened, I'm quite okay with it.

Frea: It'd awesome if it were the end of it, but nope, now we get neurosis over the wedding!

mxpw: I might be able to forgive that if I thought Sarah would be the one freaking out about it, but knowing these writers and how they like to make fun of Chuck, it's almost certainly going to be more Chuck freaking out. Ah well. I wish they could just start 4.14 with them having eloped.

Frea: That! I vote for that!

See, and then they can get to being Honeymooners.  Again!
mxpw: I couldn't really care less about the wedding. It's not like this show would ever let Chuck and Sarah get married with a normal ceremony anyway. It'd probably be some ridiculous affair. Just let them elope, get it out of the way, and move on.

mxpw: The only reason for having an actual wedding is so that Carina and Jack Burton could be there, but it seems like we're already getting one of those out of the way, so I don't see the point unless they get those two.

Frea: I dunno, I've seen several fanfictions in which people seem to want Jill to show up at their wedding.

Frea: Only way that's going to work, however, is if the wedding's in Dallas.

mxpw: Hahaha

mxpw: Oh man, wouldn't that just be like these writers to pull that kind of ending out of their butts for a series finale?

Frea: I barely tolerated it when the Buffy writers ruined Anya and Xander's wedding day. I think them doing that to Chuck and Sarah would be the equivalent of Battle Los Angeles as mobs of angry fans descend on the Warner Brothers lot.

Frea: That being said, if they go the wedding route, they had darned well better do a take on Chuck vs. the Hangover in which Casey, Morgan, and Awesome lose Chuck in Vegas. Senor Chang can keep his pants on for this version, though.

mxpw: And they already have experiences dealing with tigers, so that's fortunate.

mxpw: And now there's a baby.

Frea: I'm doing the math in my head.

Frea: And I'm thinking Morgan would have to be the Ed Helms character.

Frea: Different ending to this than the Hangover, however, as Casey would murder Morgan in his place.

mxpw: Undoubtedly true. And Alex isn't really shrill and overbearing and looks really hot in just t-shirts. That doesn't really have anything to do with The Hangover, but I feel like it needed mentioning.

Frea: This is still an mxpw vs. Frea, isn't it? I forgot what we were supposed to be talking about.

mxpw: I think we were supposed to be recapping Season 4 so far, but I don't think we've really adequately analyzed the SWP yet. We should get on that.

Frea: Is this the best season for SWP? I mean, we did some variety -- SGLP! -- but really, there were no cartwheels. However, there was the bikini in Coup D'Etat, the massage in lingerie from Fear of Death (hee, I still laugh at the shocked and outraged look on Sarah's face when facing Rye), the inappropriately short skirts from Balcony and Anniversary, the leather in Gobbler, the water pourage and opening scene in Phase Three, the excellent stripping in Suitcase, the wearing-a-shirt-as-pajamas--also in Suitcase...

mxpw: I feel like my SWP Intersect just flashed on all of those instances and my brain is slowly melting.

Frea: But how does this measure up against the shower scene in Fat Lady? The excellent entrance in Seduction? The proof that Sarah Walker is so hot she can be hot putting clothes ON in the Pilot?

mxpw: And in First Date, don't forget. That shimmy she does as she pulls the dress on in First Date makes me discombobulated.

mxpw: But I still say this is the best season for SWP. The bikini scene alone is almost enough, and we've got belly dancing still to come.

mxpw: That is not to say there haven't been some great CBSP moments as well this season.

Frea: Ahhhhhh.

mxpw: I feel like I must be fair and point that out. Like, I believe you were quite enamored in Push Mix.

Frea: Oh, man, on top of the floating fortress of fun? He just looked amazing.

mxpw: Yes, I have to say, I think Chuck might have looked his hottest this season. And we got two shirtless scenes, which was pretty rare.

mxpw: So they were at least a little more balanced than they usually are.

mxpw: And now with that said, I think we've really hit all the highlights of the first thirteen episodes. Any final thoughts, Frea?

Frea: I'm sorry, did you say something? I'm rewatching that scene in Fear of Death.

mxpw: A true combo scene! I often forget there are even other characters in the scene besides Sarah.

mxpw: So I guess if I were to give my final thoughts, it'd be like this: Phase Three, Sarah Walker, SWP, and the Chuck/Sarah relationship...Yay! Chuck Bartowski, the spy plots, Mary Bartowski, and Ellie being in the dark...Boo!

mxpw: And that's that from me.

Frea: Can I just second that?

mxpw: Be my guest.

Frea: I really hope that in the second eleven episodes, they have a story arc that they can follow through from beginning to end. S3.5 did better at that than S3, for example, so I've got a little faith.

mxpw: And I second that. Here's hoping.


Frea: 7 out of 10 Castle Slides

mxpw: 4 SWP Montages out of 5

So people asked, and they received. That’s what we thought of the first thirteen episodes as a whole. It wasn’t always pretty, but at least it was better than Season Three.

Also, as an administrative note, please do not post spoilers in this thread without a HUGE bolded spoiler tag warning in front of them.  Not everybody wants to know what's going to happen.  If you have any questions about spoilers on CI ever, you can check our FAQ, which recently has become more than a place for us to be snarky.


Frea and Maximus


  1. coffeegirl7.2.11

    i know this is a season 4 recap but i just would like to say that i liked the airplane ep in season 3.

    ellie being out of the loop again is also a "boo" for me. as casey not doing much ass-kicking.

    anyway, is morgan a spy or an asset? will he get his own red test?

    and sarah freaking out over the wedding planning is a potential source of comedy. i'm thinking that she wont allow a star wars or tron- themed wedding or that pizza, doughnuts and froyo will not be served at the wedding or that jeff and lester may be invited as long as they will stay away from mic or musical instruments.

  2. alladinsgenie4u7.2.11

    @Frea and mxpw - Thanks. :)

    mxpw - "I think it worked because I'm one of those people who think Chuck is a romcom masquerading as an action adventure show. They try to act like the spy stories are the most important aspects of the series, but they're not. They exist solely to drive the real point of Chuck, which is the Chuck and Sarah relationship. And from THAT perspective, I think the season was fairly successful"

    This^^ falls scarily close to my own perspective. :) I have mostly enjoyed this season except for some things.

    Things that I didn't like overall :

    Mama B's flimsy story - no sympathy for her at all, Morgan overdose - I really hope it is toned down in the back 11, the pointless Intersect-less arc which failed to showcase Chuck's smarts, portrayal of Chuck's character in Leftovers - his first run-in with Mama B in 4x06 was way better, the aborted restaurant proposal, ending of Gobbler simply because it was not followed up at all, dumping of the spy story in the last two episodes and Ellie not in the know-how (again).

  3. Ayefah7.2.11

    Mx, your point about this show being a rom-com in disguise hits terrifyingly close to home because I hate 99% of what Hollywood passes off as "romance", including a good chunk of the Saga of Sarah and Chuck. And yet the most consistent through-line in this season just might be Chuck and Sarah's progression to an engagement. Gah.

    But even within the Chuck/Sarah relationship plenty went unaddressed and unexplained, most annoyingly the lack of faith Sarah has in Chuck as a spy. I mean, that was a moment that hurt in "Fear of Death", and while you can say that Chuck proved Sarah wrong in "Push Mix", it wasn't really said outright. She was all about protecting her fragile little boyfriend until he practically dragged her away from Volkoff.

    So I'm going to state just one wish for the future right now, a relatively modest one: Let the main team work to their strengths, please. I want Casey to be Casey and Sarah to be Sarah and Chuck to be their techie and occasional evil mastermind, with Morgan playing logistical support if he has to be around at all.

    If I got more wishes, they would be for the full integration of Ellie, the return of Awesome's awesome, for Morgan to never give Chuck romantic advice again (though commiseration is permissible), an acknowledgment of Kathleen's existence, and oh yes - some freaking respect for Chuck in spy-land, please. How many nefarious evil-doers does the guy have to take down before he isn't treated like a child in Castle?

    As you all said, at least this season didn't elicit the slow-burning despair of Season 3, but we all know from experience that they can do better. S2 had its share of problems, but when it built up to its ending it worked. My highest hope is to have that "crazy obsessed with Chuck" feeling back again someday.

  4. Here's one for Mxpw, Sarah and Carina tandem belly dancing scene. Actually he should fit that into a chapter of DA.

  5. I give this review 3 Inanities out of 5.

    Yes, "Inanities" is a unit of measure. Where are you from?

  6. That's just an inane review, Chris.

  7. Firstly props to Frea for the Bubbles shout out, did a double take when I first read that.

    Secondly, while I agree with mxpw that the SWP was awesome this season, I wasn't as impressed with the non-SWP Sarah scenes. The Double O outfit really was like a sort of fun sized SWP outfit, and I really miss it.

    Dalton for me was the highlight/MVP of the season, every episode/scene he was in was 10x better. TBH I couldn't really say the same for Sarah Connor, at times she just didn't seem like she wanted to even be there. I also agree that First Fight is the sleeper when ranking top episodes of the season, it doesn't stand out like Phase Three but it had some terrific moments.

    As for your big debate coming up about pacing im going to throw it out there again that I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Schwartz and Fedak, as show runners theyre the ones that are supposed to manage the development from episode to episode, NCIS this surely isn't. You can't blame individual writers for mishandling a half seasons worth of character/narrative.

    One thing I'd like to see in the second half of the season, rehabilitate Awesome, how do I think they should accomplish this? Bring back Bruce Boxleiter! I was thinking about it last week when I went to see Tron Legacy, aside from Dalton he was my favorite geek casting, they should really bring him back.


Please remember to be courteous to all other Castle Inanity commenters.