Chuck vs. the Bullet Train
Season 5, Episode 11, original air-date 20 January, 2012
Season 5, Episode 11, original air-date 20 January, 2012
Sarah and Casey stow away in coffins in order to retrieve Chuck from Quinn on a bullet train in Japan. Things go horribly awry when the Intersect in Sarah's head turns out to be the glitchiest of All the Intersects.
Okay, if you don't follow mxpw or me on Twitter, you may not know that neither of us really likes the storyline going on. And I'll say that up front: we hate it. We hate it so hard that there is copious profanity in the review following, plus a lot of ranting, too. This wasn't an awful episode, and neither of us feel that, on its own, it was terrible, but...
Well, you'll have to click the link to see.
Also, the effects were nearly as bad as Masquerade. And keep in mind that Frea is coming into this episode VERY DISAPPOINTED that her little booger spy man that jumps through donuts and skateboards and jetpacks around WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.
Frea: Okay. I have put on my hockey goalie padding.
mxpw: Were you expecting a pounding?
Frea: No, I'm ready to do mxpw Vs. Frea, that's all.
mxpw: I think they are basically the same thing.
Frea: I'd say watching the show is more the pounding than the reviewing, but point.
mxpw: Yeah, that's very true. At times, watching the show is downright painful.
mxpw: Take this episode for instance.
mxpw: Now I am definitely going to be the pessimist this week.
Frea: I feel like I need to say something.
mxpw: Go right ahead.
Frea: I liked the episode.
Frea: Which makes me the optimist.
Frea: I liked the episode because it made me laugh and it had some good moments in it. Do I like the storyline this episode is playing into? NOT ONE SINGLE BIT.
mxpw: I feel like I need to clarify as well.
mxpw: I didn't outright hate this episode. In fact, it was very average for me (which is me being nice and optimistic, trust me). I thought it wasn't bad and it wasn't great. It was just...there.
mxpw: But I hate this memory loss storyline like it's my job.
Frea: They did some things that worked, some things that really didn't. But you're right, this whole memory loss storyline just makes it difficult not to want to take Jeff's flamethrower to this whole show.
mxpw: Thank you for that opening. It provides me the opportunity to unleash my opening broadside.
Frea: *pats her goalie padding*
mxpw: I just want to say that I actually really liked the Jeffster storyline in this episode. It was one of the very few things I did like. However, it only provided a contrast to me for how...unnecessary I felt Sarah getting the Intersect was. I know, I know, I keep harping on this, but seriously, the stuff Sarah did in this episode? Did not need the Intersect for. Jeffster--Jeffster, people!--saved the day without any training at all, let alone using an Intersect, getting the drop on two assassins, and Sarah has to use the Intersect to grab an umbrella and chuck it at Quinn? REALLY? Let me repeat that: she had to flash in order to grab an umbrella and throw it at somebody.
Frea: Well, to be fair...
Frea: Chuck did have to flash to know how to use his belt on a zip line.
mxpw: She had to flash to use chopsticks. We've seen her use chopsticks as a weapon before! This was not the first time! This is a woman who once threw a pencil through the glass of a picture frame, long before she ever got an Intersect.
Frea: Without looking, Maximus. Without looking.
Frea: I'm not saying I like it. I'm just saying there's precedence.
mxpw: But Chuck was not a trained agent with years of experience.
mxpw: Not that it makes Chuck needing to flash to use a zip line any less unbelievably stupid, but he at least wasn't as highly trained as Sarah.
Frea: And neither is Sarah at this point. She's been on a constant decline since season two, with a few notable exceptions.
Frea: Oh, right, I'm supposed to be the optimist, not the depressing one.
Frea: But the only way I can really not be depressing is this:
Frea: For the first time in awhile, I'm really loving what they're doing with the Peter storyline. I really feel like he's coming into his own and he's really gained this edge. He's a chessmaster stuck in a bad situation, but he's making alliances rather than tearing people down and he's learning that teamwork is the best way. So go you, Peter! Go you!
mxpw: I guess part of what I'm saying is, she used the Intersect 40 times in two days. 40 times! Why would she even NEED to parkour off a truck onto a moving car? That was just so dumb. Sarah wasn't using the Intersect in emergency situations. She was being lazy, basically. It completely defeats the purpose of putting the Intersect in a trained agent if the agent is just going to let the Intersect do all the fighting. And I know, some people might say she couldn't control her flashes, but that didn't happen till about two-thirds through the episode, long after those 40 flashes. It makes you wonder how Sarah ever did anything before she got the Intersect.
Frea: Also, I'm calling BULL on Morgan, by the way.
Frea: There's no way he didn't start using the Intersect consistently until he started flashing for missions. NO FREAKING WAY.
mxpw: Yeah, that was really hard to swallow.
Frea: He's MORGAN GRIMES. You know he was out in the courtyard doing Parkour just because he could. You know he was flashing on Duck Hunt and Guitar Shredder and—oh, sorry, zooming. You know he was zooming on a billion random little skills because having the Intersect was SO COOL.
Frea: Nice try, Wootton, but put that beachfront property in Arizona back in the suitcase. WE ARE NOT BUYING THAT HERE.
mxpw: Exactly. The foundation that this whole storyline is built on is so freaking shaky.
mxpw: I just found it annoying that they had Sarah flash so much. If they want me to believe it's because she was letting the Intersect go to her head, then the writing really didn't indicate that. I guess maybe she was a little cocky at the end, but by that point, she was losing control over the Intersect, so who knows what was going on.
Frea: The writing kind of sold that to me, actually
mxpw: Although I had to roll my eyes at her going after Quinn. Kind of made me hard to feel sympathy for her plight, to be honest.
Frea: I guess that's probably the fundamental difference. I saw her being excited at the boundless opportunities of the Intersect, plus the natural Sarah Walker ego ("I can do this.") that I could see the Intersect going to her head even from the start when she was bubbling about it (favorite moment: calling Casey Frank). The others were trying to be the voice of reason, but we did see this happen before with the Douchersect.
Frea: I'm not saying that I like this—I didn't. I hated it with a passion—but that I could see it happening.
mxpw: I suppose. Perhaps I am just blinded by my hatred of the storyline, I don't know. But I just didn't buy it as much as you did, I guess. I thought she was a little dismissive of Chuck's concerns and overly confident, but I didn't feel like it was as noticeable as with Morgan.
Frea: Oh, man, I am sorry for what I am about say, Josh Gomez because I love you so much but...I think it was a more nuanced performance, which makes the difference.
mxpw: Yeah, I can see that.
Frea: Our main complaint about the Douchersect was that Gomez's range couldn't really sell it. Yvonne's can. And she had to sell it in a very short time.
mxpw: Actually, now that I think about it, the flashing 40 times in two days is pretty cocky in and of itself. So you may be right about this.
Frea: That and Chuck is in danger, which is Sarah's "Ellie" button, if that makes any sense.
Frea: For instance, I don't think she really ate or drank at all in Phase Three. She was just running on sheer desperation. And the situations are very similar, for all that we don't have Newman's awesome fingerprints all over everything.
mxpw: Heh. I couldn't stop thinking about how she'd even have the opportunity to flash. It's not a short flight from CA to Japan. They would be in those boxes for most of at least one of those two days. Just what was she up to?
Frea: So flashing forty times to do everything she can do to get her husband back? In character, even with her knowing the brain-melting properties of the Intersect.
Frea: Her back and forth with Casey didn't make it seem like they were in the boxes for two days.
mxpw: No, I'm not saying they were. I just mean, they'd be flying and spending time in the boxes for a good chunk of at least one day.
Frea: The things she listed off made it seem like they'd had to do a bunch to the plan to get it to work, and being in the boxes was only the final part.
Frea: At least, that's what I was getting from the incredibly expository—THE EXPOSITION! MY BLEEDING EYES THE EXPOSITION—dialogue at the beginning.
mxpw: Yeah. That was kind of a painful beginning.
mxpw: Going back to your comparison to P3, though, I just didn't get that sense of desperation in this episode.
Frea: *points at the aforementioned awesome Newman fingerprints*
mxpw: Yeah, good point.
mxpw: Newman did do a lot to make Sarah searching for Chuck a lot more nuanced and meatier.
mxpw: It was a pretty cool fight when Sarah saved Chuck, I will admit.
Frea: Wootton has good ideas as a writer, but unfortunately where he fails most often is execution. That said, I think this was actually his best work so far.
mxpw: I suppose. I've never been a big fan of Wootton so it's really hard for me to say.
mxpw: I thought there were some really facepalm worthy moments in this episode, separate from the overarching storyline.
Frea: Yeah, I've always been the bigger fan of his, I think. And now I think there's proof he's a fan of mine. Hi, Frank!
mxpw: None bigger than Quinn's miraculous survival after being kicked out of the window of a bullet train likely going over at least 100 mph.
Frea: Yeah, that was...
mxpw: I honestly don't know what Wootton was thinking there.
mxpw: That was just so laughably ridiculous that I really had trouble not rolling my eyes at everything that came afterward.
Frea: Those trains go incredibly fast. Seriously, they have to slow down to pass another train going the opposite direction so that both trains don't get knocked off the tracks and even then THE WHOLE TRAIN SHAKES. I have video proof of this. Quinn being able to hold on for that long to a speeding bullet train is the equivalent of him being able to hold onto a jet.
mxpw: Pretty much, yeah. And I realize that this is the same show that had Shaw come back after getting shot three times in the chest and falling 50 feet into a river, so I guess I shouldn't blink at something like this, but I can't help it. It just seems more ludicrous than that.
Frea: In the winter, Max. In the winter.
mxpw: Speaking of Shaw!
Frea: Oh, wait, what?
mxpw: I was just going to say another thing that made me facepalm was Chuck struggling with Quinn, a man who is...not in the best shape and obviously in his late 40s, at least, but Chuck could hold his own in a fight against Shaw.
Frea: Well, yeah. I actually had a problem with Chuck even being able to hold his own as well as he did in the episode, even.
Frea: I think it was the wonderful Saint Crumbles that was like, "He's Rambo!"
mxpw: Hahaha. But at least there's precedence thanks to Santa Suit. Here it was just kind of lame that he was getting tossed around by Quinn.
mxpw: It was contrived, basically.
mxpw: Anyway, I've complained for a while, so your turn to talk about what you liked.
Frea: I'll just throw them out there in no order
Frea: Sarah flipping all over Chuck and saving him in those ridiculous heels. I just like that the heels live on, all the way from the Pilot.
mxpw: Dude, by this point, those heels are probably an extension of Sarah's body.
Frea: I mean, I hate the heels on some feminist level but they're like an old security blanket by this point.
mxpw: Like, she probably feels strange, somehow incomplete, without them.
Frea: Thing two: there's a chicken button. There is a button. AND IT HAS A CHICKEN ON IT. EPISODE SAVED.
mxpw: Even I will admit that was funny. Stupid, but funny. I wanted Chuck to press it!
Frea: Thing three: Jeff and Lester.
mxpw: It's sad when Jeffster is one of two highlights of an episode for me. But oh man were they funny.
Frea: Thing four: Morgan. And especially Alex.
mxpw: Gonna have to disagree. At least about Morgan. I found him annoying this episode.
Frea: Oh, I did, too.
Frea: But Alex was hysterical in contrast.
mxpw: That is a good point. Alex usually is funny in contrast.
Frea: And Mekenna gave another funny performance in this episode.
Frea: Thing five: ELLIE OWNING INTERSECT TECHNOLOGY LIKE A BOSS.
mxpw: Yeah, she was definitely on top of things.
Frea: I mean, granted, it makes their decision to keep the Intersect and stuff away from her for all of Season Four COMPLETELY STUPID, but I love the idea that Ellie is smart and capable and honestly, I'm a little surprised they haven't EXAMINED MORGAN'S DAMGED BRAIN BEFORE THIS.
mxpw: Really? You're surprised?
Frea: Okay, point. I'm not surprised.
Frea: But this ends my favorite things list and brings me to something I desperately, desperately want to say.
FUCK YOU, SHOW. JUST...FUCK....YOU.
Frea: Morgan gets the Intersect, keeps it for months and loses, what? Indiana fucking Jones? Sarah gets it for two days and loses EVERY FUCKING MINUTE OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT WE'VE SEEN IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS?
Frea: I know this is a dudebrow show. I've acknowledged that from the start. But this is the goddamn most sexist thing I have ever seen them do.
mxpw: Oh man, FREA SMASH, activate!
mxpw: Yes, I agree.
mxpw: Let me know when you're done, because I have my own thoughts to say on this.
Frea: Just put all your women in the fucking titanium bikini and don't even bother to try writing well-rounded characters in Hollywood ever again, Fedak and company. I'm done with you. Go suck an egg.
Frea: I'm done now.
mxpw: So I have defended this show before when people have called it sexist. But I don't think I can do that anymore, because this storyline with Sarah is just...so bad.
mxpw: Look, for the last three years, they have been victimizing Sarah over and over again. They take her agency as not just a person away from her, but as a competent professional too. Let's recount a bit, shall we? Other Guy, Sarah is kidnapped and turned into a victim, literally paralyzed and incapable of doing anything to save herself. Ring 2, again kidnapped and made into a victim, again prevented from action. Push Mix: not physically incapacitated this time, but she must be "saved" by Mary, because she's too...blinded to save herself. Cliffhanger? Not just incapacitated but on the verge of death. Santa Suit: victimized, abused, and had all her agency taken away. And now this storyline, where Sarah has all her memories erased, where she's tied to a chair and abused AGAIN, where she's victimized and had her choices and agency taken away from her. It's just...too much. I can't take it anymore. The way they treat Sarah's character when it comes time to have an important episode or story arc is insulting.
mxpw: And all so Chuck can be the big, strong man who swoops in and saves the defenseless female from the bad guys.
Frea: I've seen the argument around the Internet that "Well, Sarah gets in the most fights, surely it makes sense that she gets the most beatdowns." Which a) just because it makes sense for them to tie Sarah to a chair and torture her for whatever reasons in the storyline doesn't mean I want to see that. Most times Chuck gets kidnapped, they put him on a train and handcuff him to something. Sarah, they hit.
B) Every time Sarah gets taken hostage and has her agency taken away, it has to do with getting back at Chuck (with the exception of Baby). Here, it's no different. Chuck is always Quinn's target. Chuck got the Intersect instead of Quinn. Chuck could fix the Intersect instead of Quinn and didn't, so now he must be killed. And Sarah is ALWAYS THE ONE THEY MAKE EXAMPLE OF. And it's fucking pathetic, writers. FUCKING PATHETIC.
mxpw: I get the show is called Chuck and not Sarah. That's fine. I don't necessarily have a problem with that. Chuck is the one who gets to save the day the majority of the time. Again, I get it. But there's a HUGE difference between writing a story where Chuck always saves the day from writing a story where Chuck isn't saving the day, he's saving Sarah because she's been kidnapped again, because she's been incapacitated, because she's been abused. Because she's been treated like crap, basically.
You don't need to completely remove Sarah from the equation for Chuck to be able to lead the charge.
mxpw: Here's a novel concept: How about Chuck and Sarah save the day together? How about Chuck has to defeat the bad guy because he's going to destroy the world, not because he's captured Chuck's girlfriend/fiancee/wife and frakked her up.
Frea: Are you kidding? That plot sounds lame, Maximus.
mxpw: You're right, what am I thinking?
mxpw: Let me just say, before somebody points out that we don't know how the finale is going to play out. That's true, we don't, but honestly, in my opinion, it doesn't matter. Sarah has already been screwed. She's already been abused and had her choice, her agency forcibly stripped from her (and it's always by a man). Sure, she may be walking around and she may even eventually join forces with Chuck to take down Quinn, but she'll already be the damsel in distress.
mxpw: Does anybody here really think Sarah is going to get her memories back on her own? I don't. I fully expect it will be Chuck who's responsible for that.
Frea: Yeah, I agree. And there's two ways it plays out: Sarah doesn't get her memories back. Which is when I take my DVDs of Seasons 3-5 out on the balcony and burn them in a trash can. Or Sarah gets her memories back but not completely...which is a cop-out. Awesome. That's just fucking wonderful.
mxpw: Yeah, it's a kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Frea: Look, maybe they'll surprise me and come up with something good. But I'm not holding my breath. I've gotten my hopes up too many times with this show.
mxpw: Ellie did have that line in the episode about Morgan's memories maybe not being permanently gone, so I think they covered their ass in that regard. But it would be a cop-out because they do this huge dramatic storyline, with Sarah losing her memories, and then you know there will be a lightning quick fix, just like how they resolved the Douchersect arc.
mxpw: And if they don't, if they erase Sarah's memories forever, well, you all will see what a MAXIMUS SMASH is like. I don't think it will be as entertaining as a FREA SMASH.
Frea: Want to bet Morgan whips out some random reference next week and Chuck is like, "Wait, how did you know that? You weren't up to your obscure 60s trivia section that Frea won't get section of your rewatch yet." And Morgan realizes his pop culture memories—OH GOD FUCK YOU SHOW—are coming back and they realize there's hope for Sarah after all.
mxpw: I would not be surprised.
mxpw: I also wanted to complain about how CREEPY it was that Quinn stripped Sarah naked and put her in different clothes. That was just so freaking wrong.
mxpw: And goes back to what we were talking about her being victimized and abused.
mxpw: The worst part is that the show probably thought they were just paying a homage to Sarah's lingerie in the Pilot without realizing how creepy it would actually come across. At least to me.
mxpw: And putting aside the whole Sarah being abused aspect of the storyline for a second, the whole plan is just so nonsensical. Obviously Sarah is not going to kill Chuck. Obviously Quinn is going to have Sarah use Chuck to probably get a copy of the Intersect for him, and to do that, Sarah is going to have to spend time around Chuck. There's SO much stuff about Quinn's story that doesn't add up that Sarah really shouldn't trust a single thing he says after spending 10 minutes around Team B.
Frea: Hey, maybe there's hope that they'll just pull a Phase Three on us and all of that memory loss we were freaking out about would be gone with a single kiss.
mxpw: Yeah, maybe. Anyway, I think we are moving far afield of our operational focus here. Heh. We probably shouldn't be talking about the finale. Let's focus back on this particular episode, yeah?
Frea: I'm done talking about this episode. I liked it, I hate everything else.
mxpw: Well, I want to talk about something I actually liked.
Frea: Ben Browder or whatever his name is did okay.
mxpw: I really liked the "practice" scene. I admit, the Charah scenes still get me. I know you're not crazy about them anymore, but I DO still like them. And this was a good one. The sexytimes leading up to it didn't hurt. Some excellent SWP there and I'm really glad Chuck no longer has a problem with red. Heh. Though I was amused by Sarah wearing those rather sensible mission clothes (sensible for her, at least) but having that quite sexy lingerie on underneath. Sarah Walker is so ridiculous, I love it.
Frea: She is amazing, I'll give her that.
mxpw: Then Chuck and Sarah sitting back, talking about their future. I loved that scene, I loved the picture (but oh God, the anvils with that scene, they hurt) and Chuck drawing it and how comfortable Chuck and Sarah were around each other discussing the future. It was my favorite scene of the episode.
Frea: It was a good scene.
Frea: You're right. I'm so curmudgeonly that I don't really care about Charah anymore. I'm glad Chuck wasn't a moron in this episode like Kept Man.
mxpw: Yeah, that's another thing I'll give this episode credit for. Chuck was written fairly well. He wasn't annoying or stupid. That's two good episodes in a row.
mxpw: Clearly that means the next two will probably suck. Haha.
mxpw: Because four episodes in a row? Pure crazy!
Frea: Pure impossible. Though next week starts off with a LeJudkins, so we might get three in a row.
mxpw: Right, true. They usually write Chuck pretty well.
Frea: I'm a little amazed Casey wasn't calling Verbanski again this week when Alex was in danger.
mxpw: Yeah...I thought that was dumb as well. Or that they waited two days before asking Beckman to send over a suppression device.
mxpw: Another thing I loved was Casey talking to Jeffster about saving Alex. That entire scene was hysterical, and Lester's confused, "Canada?" made me laugh and laugh. Then "Oh Canada!" playing while he walked out with all those weapons was rather brilliant.
Frea: Yes, that did make me laugh. I can feel this hatred in my heart beginning to melt enough so that I can laugh at the fact that you and I once plotted out a fic in which Jeff with a flamethrower was a major plotpoint.
mxpw: I vaguely remember that. We've plotted so many stories together.
Frea: That we have.
Frea: If they keep it up two more episodes, they will have an entire season where the Buy More is the best plot.
mxpw: I do have to say that everybody walking around a busy mall parking lot with automatic weapons and a flamethrower and nobody called the cops was another facepalm moment for me. But the Jeffster stuff was so awesome it didn't bother me much.
mxpw: Yeah, what the hell is up with that?
Frea: Surprise, we've switched universes. Awesome Sarah is in the old universe, the one we left behind three seasons ago (Phase Three aside).
mxpw: Sigh. I miss Awesome Sarah.
mxpw: Hey, Frea, things could be worse.
mxpw: It could be Shaw doing this plot and not Quinn.
Frea: That would almost be better.
Frea: Because then Fringe would have Fridays all to itself.
mxpw: It soon will, Frea, it soon will.
mxpw: I wish Ben Browder's role was bigger. It was great to see him again, but he was kind of wasted.
Frea: Yeah. Also that could've been Claudia Black in the RV with him. Just saying.
mxpw: If that had happened, I would give this episode like all the Sarahs in the universe.
Frea: My first Aussie crush in the same episode as my current? MIND BLOWN.
Frea: Can we be done now? I have a really special chapter of Fates to write.
mxpw: Okay, we can be done. Final thoughts?
Frea: Fuck you, show. Good episode.
mxpw: Succinct and to the point.
mxpw: Ditto, but only an average episode.
mxpw: Oh, also, Asian stereotypes are wrong, show. I just wanted to put that out there.
Frea: OH GOD YES
Frea: A MILLION TIMES THAT
mxpw: Alright, ratings?
Frea: 6 out of 10 Jeffs with a Flamethrower
mxpw: And I'll give it 2.5 Sarahs in red out of 5.