Season 5, Episode 07, original air-date 23 December, 2001
Shaw returns. Some other stuff happened, but that was the point where Frea stopped caring.
Eh, we say it all in the review. Warning, there's no optimist again. We understand that people liked the episode, yes.
Frea: That was stupid.
mxpw: Terribly, terribly stupid.
Frea: Oh, geez, the stupid, it nearly killed me.
mxpw: But we should probably say more than that.
Frea: Okay. Casey made me laugh at one point. There. I've said something positive.
mxpw: Casey made me laugh at one point too.
mxpw: I actually was amused by one of Jeffster's lines as well.
mxpw: "Water would only dilute this feeling."
Frea: I don't remember that.
Frea: I think I was pounding my head against the wall too loudly at that point.
Frea: I should preface this review with something.
mxpw: I'd like to add a disclaimer as well, when you're finished.
mxpw: A general disclaimer, kind of like we did last week.
Frea: 1) I hate Shaw. I've made no bones about that. I hate him for a lot of reasons. I don't hate him because I'm a shipper, I hate him because I view his character as the source of all that is wrong with Season Three, which includes wrenching the characters around in order to make an inexplicable plot work just hitting those characters with the stupid stick repeatedly. I hate that he got between Chuck and Sarah, but I hate Hannah for that, too, and I hate the writers more.
Frea: So I was pretty much predestined to dislike this episode from the start, yes. And I did. I hated every blessed moment of this episode, save the time Casey made me laugh, and some of Jeff and Lester stuff, and that Morgan wasn't overused. But I didn't hate it just because my Shaw Hate is fogging my vision. I hate it because I'm allergic to stupid and unoriginality and this episode had both in scads.
mxpw: *nods* You and I are pretty much of like minds when it comes to Shaw and the issues surrounding him, so I won't repeat you.
mxpw: I would like to say this, however. If you were a big fan of this episode, this review will probably not be for you. Like we said last week, we're not going to tell you that you're wrong, and we'd like it if you did the same. We both hate Shaw, true, but that doesn't mean our views about him are automatically invalid. Nor does it mean we are so blinded by our dislike of his character to see the good parts of the episode, however many or however few there might have been. I would just like to head off that kind of discussion right now.
mxpw: With all that prefacing and disclaiming said, let's move onto the actual review.
Frea: Okay. My review: "That was stupid."
mxpw: My review: "Ditto."
Frea: Okay, I'm going to go pound my head into the wall a few more times to wipe my brain clean of everything I've watched tonight. Bye!
mxpw: I think the best way to do this review would just to move from beginning to end.
mxpw: Or not, I don't know. There is so much I had a problem with I don't really know where to start.
mxpw: I guess I will start with the thing I hated most about this episode: Sarah going to see Shaw at the end.
mxpw: That was ridiculous. Not just that she would voluntarily go see him, but that she would do that on Christmas Eve, when she should be spending time with her family.
Frea: Oh, this review is still going on? Damn. I guess I didn't pound hard enough.
Frea: I had a major problem with that, as well. 1) Diane told her not to. 2) It's Christmas Eve. She should be spending time with her family, even though her husband who obsessed about their proposal to the point where it nearly drove me to drink didn't get her a gift even though it's their first Christmas together and OH MY GOD THE STUPID IT HURTS and 3) the fact that she went to see him without any explanation whatsoever proves to me one thing:
Frea: I really should just give up hope that they will ever give her a fully-rounded character with motivations and decisions that make sense. I'm officially resigning myself to the fact that Sarah Walker, and every other character on this show, is a plot boomerang and I should just treat it like I treat Glee: oh, look songs. Instead, it'll be: oh, look, fights.
mxpw: She had no reason to go see him. Beckman even said it was a bad idea. It's not like she knew Shaw had other nefarious plans in motion. For all she knew, he could have just wanted to see her so he could bitch about how she killed his wife some more. She went there just because he asked, basically. Because HE ASKED. She wasn't being forced, he didn't tell Beckman "Either Sarah visits me or I eat the souls of 10 more television viewers", she just showed up because Shaw wanted her to. WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER? I bet she didn't even tell Chuck what she was doing, because I seriously doubt Chuck would have been okay with her going to see him. On Christmas Eve. Right after he just tried to kill the both of them.
Frea: Can't say much more to that but "Agreed."
Frea: But yeah, let's go back to the beginning of the episode.
Frea: And just work our way up now that we've gotten the Biggest Stupid out of the way.
mxpw: Awww, but I'm not done complaining about Sarah.
mxpw: Okay, I'll wait.
mxpw: What about the beginning?
Frea: I don't know. I can't remember that far back. What happened at the beginning?
mxpw: Ellie was freaking out about Clara's first Christmas, Awesome was being awesome about it, the customers were freaking out in the BM about the Omen, and oh yeah, Shaw surprised Sarah in Castle.
mxpw: Because Castle apparently has the worst security in the world.
mxpw: And just anybody can waltz in.
Frea: Let's see...Castle getting breached...
Frea: First time was Chuck vs. the Gravitron, right?
mxpw: I think so?
mxpw: I tend to blank out the Jill arc except for the shower scene.
Frea: Understandably. Let's see...Castle was breached by Jill and Leader then, Vincent got in quite a few times, there were multiple breaches in Season Three, somebody broke in every other week in Season Four, and this isn't the first time in Season Five, I don't think.
Frea: What an original idea, breaching Castle!
mxpw: Should we talk about the giant plot holes surrounding Shaw even being free now or later on?
Frea: In a bit, I'm still going.
Frea: Next up: the Omen. A major computer thing that steals data without any major programmers being aware of it...hey, look, RiOS is back.
mxpw: Okay, by all means, continue.
Frea: Appropriately, and I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself, it gets dropped into nothingness with no consequences afterward. History repeating itself again! Woot, two for two.
Frea: Ellie freaking out about something major. Happened too many times, we can discount it as a character quirk, whatever.
mxpw: Yes, getting dropped into Shaw's brain is getting dropped into nothingness.
Frea: And now, Sarah getting surprised by Shaw. I feel like we've been here before. Only this doesn't look like the WB Lot's version of Paris.
mxpw: She just took so damn long to react. I get being surprised, but geez, Sarah.
Frea: Okay, so we're three for three on the setup ideas for this episode.
Frea: This is...somewhat less than promising.
mxpw: Look, the whole Shaw thing just doesn't seem to make any sense. This may take a while to go into, but let's try to break it down.
Frea: Shaw is thrown in prison.
mxpw: First, Shaw doesn't have a governor. That was part of the point of the end to Ring 2. So how is he not completely insane? And I don't mean Bond villain insane, but actual bonkers.
mxpw: Did the government give him a governor? If so, why? Furthermore, why would they let somebody who already tried to take down the CIA once even keep an Intersect in their brain?
Frea: Okay, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here.'
Frea: Which SUCKS.
Frea: And I hate this.
Frea: But, hypothetically, let's say Decker comes in to interrogate Shaw, Shaw blackmails him. Decker fetches Shaw a governor.
mxpw: Yes, okay, but are we supposed to believe Decker did that two years ago? Decker has been Shaw's stooge for that long?
Frea: I'm not saying that's likely or even what happened. But if I wanted to tell a (really, really #$%&ing stupid) story like this episode, that's how I'd do it.
Frea: Well...Shaw's not really all that smart, apparently. It probably took a lot of time to think up a plan like that.
Frea: Heh, I like playing devil's advocate. This is fun!
mxpw: Okay, but here's where things really break down for me. Decker was clearly a dick. This is important for two reasons: A) Not once did he ever act like he was being blackmailed by anybody. He seemed to clearly get off on what he was doing to Chuck and company. Nor did he ever act like he was resisting anything he was being made to do.
Frea: Maybe he follows Jack Burton's school of faking it until you make it
Frea: I mean, what's he going to do, shake his fist at the ceiling and shout, "And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for that meddling 2x4!"
mxpw: B) I'm supposed to believe that somebody who was as big a dick as Decker couldn't find an opportunity to "take care" of Shaw in the entire (presumably) two years he was being Shaw's bitch? REALLY? Just two episodes ago he threatened Chuck and Sarah with the fact that if he didn't do what he wanted, he'd arrange for somebody to kill Casey while he was in jail. What was Shaw going to do? He was in, by his own admission, like an 8x8 cell. He was literally a captive audience.
Frea: Clearly the guy is all talk and no show. Wow, something new and totally different for this show.
Frea: Besides, if he'd handled Shaw, then this plot would never have worked. Get with the program, Maximus.
mxpw: I thought Shaw blackmailing Decker was a totally weak explanation for his behavior/character during the first five episodes.
Frea: Agreed. But then I've thought this Decker thing was stupid from the start. Who called it? Me. Okay, maybe it's premature and they'll totally wow us during the finale, but if it was anything like this episode, the only thing they'll be wowing with me is a further amazement about how much idiocy I can tolerate in the space of an hour.
mxpw: I still think the fact that they never explained how Shaw was still functional, let alone could arrange everything from inside a prison cell, was a huge glaring problem with this episode.
Frea: We just have to accept that Shaw is magical, Max.
mxpw: You can't just have a character like Shaw show up in Castle, kick Sarah's butt, and monologue for a bit and hope we don't think about why he's even up and about in the first place. Plus, I really, really hate that the whole Omen plot was really just an excuse to get Shaw out of his cell.
Frea: I really, really hate that Shaw's cell number had a 47 in it.
mxpw: Yeah. But I think we need to accept that Shaw escaped. And move on.
Frea: Okay. But first, keeping with my We've-Been-Here-Before-I-Recognize-Tree part of the review: Shaw escapes. Which he did in Ring: II and, you know, Other Guy, technically. 4 for 4. Yay. Moving on.
mxpw: Right. So Shaw shows up and beats Sarah up. I'm just going to say this up front: I get that Shaw is a bad guy and bad guys do bad things. I get that showing Shaw totally physically and sexually assaulting Sarah is supposed to show how evil he is and make his downfall more satisfying. That it wouldn't be a good dramatic story if there weren't stakes, if Sarah's life wasn't in danger, if everything is easy. But just because I understand that, doesn't mean I have any real desire to see a man who is literally twice Yvonne's size beat the crap out of her. Throwing over the railing? (Putting aside the ridiculousness of Sarah not even being hurt by that.) That was totally overkill. And evoked images to me of an abusive boyfriend throwing his girlfriend down the stairs. I'm not saying this necessarily as a criticism, but that it was just not something I wanted to watch.
Frea: Ditto. I hated it. Also, for my part of the review, Shaw overpowering Sarah? Been there, done that. TWICE.
Frea: I've heard tell that this is "Chuck's version of Phase Three."
Frea: Sarah's being held captive, Chuck has to be badass and save her.
Frea: I'm going to stop you there. Phase Three was an awesome written, awesomely directed, and beautifully shot episode of Chuck. This episode...didn't even look like Chuck.
mxpw: See, I have a problem with the comparison for a slightly different reason.
mxpw: But I'll let you finish first.
Frea: This episode was not well-written. It was tonally all over the place, it was completely disrespectful to government employees in a way that made my fists clench. Yvonne acted the hell out of Phase Three. Zachary Levi phoned this episode in.
mxpw: God, so TRUE.
mxpw: That was my second biggest issue with this episode.
Frea: The humorous parts of Phase Three fit because they were dark humor. The humorous parts of this episode, some Jeffster stuff aside, just made me want to scream at the characters and remind them that hey, Sarah's freezing to death in Castle, maybe somebody should do something about the security down there.
mxpw: I object to this episode being called Chuck's Phase Three because not once during the whole episode did I ever feel any of the desperation, the panic, the urgency, the stakes, that P3 had.
mxpw: Sarah was coming unhinged in P3. She broke into embassies, tortured people, flew to Thailand and terrorized a whole country to save Chuck. Chuck did none of those things. Hell, there were points during Santa Suit where I honestly wondered if Chuck had forgotten that his wife had been kidnapped.
mxpw: Look, I criticized Chuck pretty severely last episode for what he did. He was panicky, stupid, hurtful, and crazy when Ellie was in danger. But here, with his wife kidnapped by the man who murdered his father and already tried to kill Sarah multiple times? No panic, no stupidity, no ridiculous, on the fly plans. These writers can't even be consistent in the characterization of their main character in successive episodes. It was so ridiculous.
Frea: Wait, wait wait
Frea: I need to add that to my specialized part of the review.
Frea: Inconsistency between two episodes? Let's see...Phase Three to Leftovers, Santa Claus to Third Dimension, Breakup to Cougars, Gobbler to Push Mix....
Frea: Actually, strike that. I'd like to change that to "Any episode in season four to the episode following it." We've been there, too! 5 for 5. Wow, we're winning this game, Max.
mxpw: I'm glad Chuck thought of a plan, I really am. But to have such a radical change from the previous episode was seriously jarring. Plus, worst of all, this writer in Santa Suit really overcompensated. Last week, Chuck was a mess, this week he takes the time to joke around with Beckman, have multiple side conversations with Morgan, just stands around while the BM is being evacuated instead of acting. And most glaring of all, after Shaw has been defeated, what does Chuck do? Does he rush to see if his wife is okay? No, he stands around and has a "heartfelt" conversation with his sister. I wanted to hit Chuck right there. It's like he didn't even care about Sarah!
mxpw: And Crumby pointed out to me after the episode how bizarre it was to have an entire episode dedicated to Chuck rescuing Sarah and then to...not have a single reunion moment between them. Other than them sitting together in the Theater room, we don't get any scenes between them until the very last two minutes of the episode. Really threw off the whole impact of the story for me.
Frea: Agreed. I get that you just got closure and whatever, but dude. The guy who killed your dad had your wife. For three hours. He's her ex. You've got a pretty good idea of what kind of damage he can do. He had her. FOR THREE HOURS. He overpowered your spy of a wife. YOUR KICKASS SPY OF A WIFE. Which means she's at least hurt. YOUR FIRST RESPONSE IS TO RUN TO HER, DUDE.
mxpw: Seriously. Not talk about how glad you and Ellie both are that Shaw has been defeated and that you love each other. Can I just say how bizarre it was that Chuck and Ellie told each other they loved each other twice at the end of the episode but we didn't get anything similar between Chuck and Sarah?
Frea: They'll be divorced within a year at this rate.
mxpw: I do have to say something, though, that you might object to. I hated Ellie showing up at the end of the fight.
mxpw: For two reasons: It was too damn similar to the end to Ring 2 (Yokaputo told me that this episode was basically Ring 3 and I agree).
Frea: Yeah, add that to my We've-Been-There-Before review. 6 for 6.
mxpw: And secondly, as I explained to Crumby after the episode, if I have to endure an entire episode of Sarah getting beat up, Casey getting shot, everybody being made to look like an idiot, all so Chuck can get his Big Damn Hero Moment, I'd like to see him actually earn said moment and not defeat the bad guy due to basically blind luck. I felt kind of robbed, honestly.
Frea: The only real Big Damn Hero moment here was Casey with the bear. But then he was one of the original Big Damn Heroes so that makes sense.
mxpw: Haha, so true.
mxpw: I know people liked Ellie smacking Shaw, and I'm happy for them, but I didn't. Of course, I hated that whole fight anyway. Chuck pissed me off. His wife is in danger and instead of beating Shaw as quickly as he can, he lets Shaw get back into the fight multiple times and taunts him like some kind of smug jackass.
mxpw: Just kick his ass, Chuck, GOD.
Frea: I hated the fight in general.
Frea: I honestly think Chuck wouldn't have been able to defend himself that well. It was a Mary Sue moment for me.
mxpw: Oh, totally agreed. Even without the Intersect, Shaw was supposed to be a top agent. And had at least 50 pounds on Chuck. He should have kicked Chuck's ass.
Frea: I realize that there's some precedent for Chuck being able to fight now; he's punched people since the beginning of Season 5 and he held up against the Douchersect's training session, but geez. Waaaaaay too Mary Sue for me.
mxpw: It would have been a lot more believable if Shaw had been incapacitated in some way when Chuck uploaded the Omen into his brain. Like he was at like 75% power or something.
Frea: And I'm going to get a little crazy here.
Frea: But stay with me, okay?
Frea: So Shaw walks out of Castle, right?
Frea: Walks right past Morgan.
mxpw: And Chuck just shoots him?
Frea: Allowing Morgan to sneak into Castle.
Frea: Why doesn't Morgan just...turn and tranq him?
mxpw: Good question!
mxpw: Or why doesn't Beckman have a full tactical team waiting?
Frea: I mean, Shaw thinks he's got Intersect 3.0 so he can catch a bullet in the teeth (OH GOD I WISH HE WOULD TAKE A BULLET TO THE TEETH)...but he doesn't actually have it, so just shoot the bastard, save Sarah, and get your dick out of the equation. You can measure who's bigger later. Just be smart in the meantime and save your wife.
Frea: Honestly, that whole showdown smacked of a size contest, to me.
mxpw: I don't disagree.
mxpw: Oh man, this is kind of off the current topic, but I have to comment about one more thing between Sarah/Shaw that disappointed me.
mxpw: I really, really hated the Sarah and Shaw conversation where she tried to reason with him. I hated that she was begging and pleading. Poor Sarah had to endure enough in this episode, adding that was too much. But mostly I hated the line "You're a good man, Shaw". That was the worst line of the episode. I commend Yvonne for trying her best to sell it, but that was really bad writing right there.
Frea: Agreed. I'd also managed to brain-bleach that right out of my head, so thanks for reminding me.
mxpw: You're welcome!
Frea: Man, all of the Sarah/Shaw interactions in this episode bugged me.
mxpw: I agree.
Frea: First off, either make your villain a badass or don't.
Frea: If he breaks into an "unbreachable" fortress like Castle--oh, wait, stop, I can't finish this sentence without laughing, hold on.
Frea: Okay, got that out of my system. Whew. Anyway, if he breaks into Castle, at least make him competent. Just make him cold (and not literally, as they did here) and scary. Don't let your tied-up character get anything out of him the way Sarah kept tricking information out of Shaw. A monologuing villain is automatically less scary.
Frea: Unless he is the Mayor from S3 of Buffy because that guy could turn from genial to mofo in a blink. It's called acting ability.
mxpw: I hated that after Sarah got free of the rope, that she tried to take Shaw on hand-to-hand again. She had a knife, she should have just thrown it at his head. Or barring that, stabbed him with it. I wasn't too impressed with Sarah's tactical thinking in this episode, to be honest. Of course, her walking around in those ridiculous noisy heels didn't help matters either.
Frea: So I guess what I'm saying is that you're going to make me believe that Shaw is powerful enough to breach Castle, overtake my favorite character...then you have to sell it.
mxpw: Completely agreed.
Frea: Writing 101. Make things matter. Commit. If you've got a character you want to be a villain and a threat, he actually has to threaten your characters at their fullest potential.
Frea: Or rather, the fullest potential they can be at that point in time (an injured Sarah isn't going to fight the same way a healthy Sarah is)
mxpw: I do want to say that this was Brandon Routh's best performance in the series. By far. For the first time, there was some...life in his performance. He was much better at selling things than Zac was in this episode, at least.
Frea: Maybe Zac was phoning it in to help his friend out.
mxpw: Maybe. I actually count BR's performance as a positive for this episode. Believe it or not. I've long criticized him for being wooden, but he was decent here.
Frea: Yeah, he wasn't awful.
mxpw: I was really annoyed that apparently Lester and Jeff are better computer programmers than anything the entire United States government could produce.
mxpw: But at least they were fairly funny this episode.
Frea: All because they had some familiarity with C++.
mxpw: Haha, I know. That was dumb.
Frea: Yeah. Subway stuff got a little blatant for me. It was funny for a few minutes in S3 and as a wink wink occasionally, but by this point, well...do they make a dead horse footlong? Because they're beating it pretty hard.
mxpw: I think that's most of the negative stuff out of the way. Basically 85% of the episode. Haha. I kid. Sort of.
mxpw: Casey was awesome in this episode, though Shaw took him down way too easily.
mxpw: Also, he should be dead. I know he's like Wolverine at this point in the show, but come on.
Frea: Casey was awesome in this episode. Shaw did take him down too easily. Loved the stuff with the bear.
Frea: Loved his scene with Alex...until he talked Morgan up.
Frea: Stuff with Beckman was stupid.
mxpw: Agreed. Though the Duck was kind of funny, I thought.
Frea: Yeah, on its own, it was a little funny. Sarah's reaction to the end, in particular. But it was distracting from the urgency of the main plot and it involved the stupidest office party on the planet.
Frea: If people were going to get smashed like that, they should have been in civvies.
mxpw: There were way too many uniformed people there for it to be a CIA party. And there's no way it would be appropriate for all those military people to get drunk while in uniform.
Frea: That bothered me SO MUCH.
Frea: I'm not military myself. But I have several friends that I respect in the military and I'm familiar with their customs and to see it that blatantly abused made me see red.
mxpw: I know it was just supposed to be a joke and that Chuck is a comedy where nothing should be taken too seriously, but that was pretty dumb.
mxpw: I think we should move onto final comments.
Frea: I'll start.
Frea: Look, nothing happened in this episode that hasn't been done before. I thought of about 15 things I didn't mention during the review and it felt like the same old chewed up Chuck regurgitated not very well onto the screen. The shots they chose (I hated the blatant "shooting BR from a low angle to make Shaw look monstrous and YS from a high angle to make Sarah look helpless" because that was incredibly tasteless and it meant that I had to look up Shaw's nose and really, who wants that?), the tonal shifts, even the music felt tired. This episode was just a chore to watch. First off the idea that bringing Shaw back and then not even justifying it, for me, felt insulting. I know people liked it, but an hour of watching my favorite character get beaten to hell without any good payoff, followed by her turning into a plot boomerang yet again, just made this entire thing dispiriting. I hope that this is the worst episode of this season, honestly, because it just can't get worse than this.
mxpw: My final thoughts are, I might have been able to tolerate this episode up until the end of the fight, but after that, everything went downhill. I hated there was no reunion scene between Chuck and Sarah because I felt like it cheapened the whole point of the episode, I hated how unconcerned Chuck seemed during the episode, especially at the end of the fight. I hated Sarah going to see Shaw at the end SO MUCH. She was such a slave to the plot there it was depressing. I was very underwhelmed about all of the Chuck and Sarah stuff in this episode, quite honestly, and that's why it's no P3 for me.
Frea: Also, I'm allergic to stupid.
Frea: And this episode gave me the hives.
mxpw: Oh, and I felt like the bracelet was kind of cheapened here. I would have expected Sarah to react more to Shaw taking it from her. That was weird to me. And the fact that Chuck had to use that as his Christmas present because he didn't buy her one yet was beyond dumb.
mxpw: Anyway, that's all I've got to say.
mxpw: I thought Curse was bad, but this was just as bad for me.
mxpw: So my rating is: 2 Freezing Sarahs out of 5.
Frea: 1.8 Caught Ninja Stars out of 10. It doesn't deserve the Castle Slide.
mxpw: And that, my friends, is the ultimate Frea burn right there.