Lessons Learned? Mostly – Episode 4.01: Chuck Vs The Anniversary

Written by Chris Fedak
Directed by Robert Duncan McNeill

With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I watched the fourth season of Chuck start out with a lie by omission aka a secret. Coupled with an inexplicable rationalization by Chuck – as proved wrong by Casey and Sarah’s willingness to not only help Chuck at the end of the episode but also to keep it a secret from General Beckman – that Sarah and Casey would block his mission to search for MamaB.
A wobbly start.
From that tenuous opening it took about half the episode for solid footing to return and allow the story momentum to hit its stride. By the time Sarah tried ‘sexting’ while enroute to Russia the show finally gained full traction and finished in rousing style. Given how loose the episode played with time, Chuck and Morgan could have just as easily gone off on the Indiana Jones style montage searching for MamaB without the need to have kept it a secret.
With the benefit of the additional six episodes last season all the threads from the original thirteen episode arc had been closed off. That allowed this episode to fully establish and position the rest of Season Four to commence starting with the very next episode. Something that did not happen until the fourth episode of Season Three.
The new BuyMore is indeed shiny and having General Beckman on site is a definite bonus. I am still of the mind that with the Gretas and with the impending return of the Big Mike, Jeff and Lester that a time crunch is unavoidable. Add in Alex to the mix and the pressure for precious screen time becomes greater in a show with an already large cast. The reluctance to lose the BuyMore is understandable since it is such a signature part of the show but Chuck the character and the series have moved past it. It is akin to having Captain Kirk warp back to StarFleet Academy after every mission. That being said the show gets full marks for bring the BuyMore back in a streamlined and as relevant manner as possible. Anyone want to take bets that the DefCon 1 Button is part of the next Pineapple scenario?
In a show that aims so broadly there are bits that will appeal to different sections of the audience. I enjoyed the Stanton RepoMan scenes but found the interview segments being sabotaged by Beckman a clunky way of bringing Chuck back to the BuyMore. A more focused aim with the humor culled from a tighter storyline would be my preference. The standout sequence from the first half was the HongKong roof jump by Casey and Sarah. Markus setting off the EMP and blacking out the surrounding city scape was very cool.
Episode Flashes:

  • Linda Hamilton is MamaB!
  • Chuck and Sarah spy version of spouse leaving for business trip
  • Morgan/Chuck Rogue Team
  • Morgan flexing
  • Nerd Herd icon Lost Arking their progress on world map – little miffed about Canada being excluded – overlayed with Morgan and Chuck silhouettes I Spying and Avengering across the screen
  • Repo – ‘Harry Dean Stanton’ – showing up to reposses a $900 AMC Pacer and yellow at that
  • Markus using the portable EMP and blacking out surrounding Hong Kong skyline
  • Sarah openly and Casey grudgingly missing Chuck on the mission
  • Casey/Sarah roofjump from HongKong skyscraper – ode to The Dark Knight
  • Casey getting a Season 3 Callback to Sarah’s, ‘Thank You.’
  • Morgan sexting Chuck to Sarah
  • Sade, ‘Smooth Operator,’ reference by Chuck during the interview sequence
  • New and improved CIA/NSA owned and operated BuyMore/Castle – shiny! And it has slides!!!!
  • Beckman is in da house! Great idea to have Bonita Friedericy onsite and from behind the desk.
  • Olivia Munn as Greta – very pretty but not very relevant to story
  • Sarah finds ‘sexting’ cute
  • We’ll always have Tangiers. Ie RUN!!!!!!!!
  • Weapon Orders via a Chinese Dumpling Take-Out Menu – brilliant!
  • Morgan covers the trip to Volkoff Industries by selling his prized Millenium Falcon replica
  • Sarah posing awkwardly for ‘sexting’
  • Nerd icon and Casey/Sarah LearJet icons intersecting in Russia
  • Lundgren says it! ‘I must break you.’ And does kickass job as a guest star.
  • The new spy nom de plume, ‘The name is Carmichael. Michael Carmichael.’ Move over Bond!
  • MORGAN! – ‘Respect the beard.’
  • Sarah toe sexting!
  • Morgan learns from Season 3 bomb detonator finale and stays away from handling portable EMP.
  • Chuck and Morgan developing world class rep because they use public transportation
    off stage Chuck Intersect fight with 10 baddies and fire fight in dark cool ways around budget limitations
  • Casey and Sarah’s reactions when they believe Chuck has been killed
  • Chuck and Morgan hiding under table in the dark
  • Casey and Sarah agreeing to help Chuck find MamaB and keep it from Beckman
  • Did I mention Linda Hamilton is MamaB and a kickass one at that!! Woah! Great closing scene and her character and codename – Frost – leaves us with mixed signals.

Team B – Ready To Take On The World

The episode really hits its stride in the second half of the episode when Team Barktowski all converge in Russia. From Morgan’s, ‘Respect the beard,’ and ‘Michael CarMichael,’ to Markus’s belief that Chuck and Morgan are master spies – hilarious and delivered with perfection by Dolph Lundgren – to Casey and Sarah’s reactions of grief and relief over Chuck to the off screen ChuckFu and fire fight to using a bus as a getaway vehicle; it is Chuck at its best.
To cap it off Chuck and Sarah reach a new agreement. No lies. No secrets. Chuck honors the agreement and brings Casey and Sarah fully in the fold. The show ends with Team Bartowski in synch, working as an unit, covering each other’s back, and ready to take on the man – er General Beckman in this case – and the world. Made even more so joyous because the team members are all in a good place.
To end on such a high is most welcome. Too bad it is marred slightly by the Chuck and Ellie scene where Chuck feels compelled to keep the secret from Ellie. The delay is somewhat bearable because of Ellie’s announcement of impending motherhood. This episode made vast gains in having the pretenses within the Bartowski clan dropped. Let us hope for some form of swift resolution between Chuck and Ellie too.
Linda Hamilton’s appearance as MamaB in the closing scene really left the episode on a high. Linda still cuts a very menacing Sarah Connor type persona and her ruthless take down not only impressed but added a layer of mixed comprehension for the audience. Who exactly is this Frost person? Cannot wait to find out and cannot wait to see MamaB’s return and eventual meeting with Sarah.
No doubt about it. Linda Hamilton IS MamaB! And she’ll be back.
Season 4 is off to a very solid start.

Tame Tabby – Episode 3.15 – Chuck Versus The Role Models

Written by Phil Klemmer
Directed by Fred Toye
‘Congratulations Warren Beatty’

Inevitable. After several episodes with the emotional content cranked up, plus the payoff episode last week with the HoneyMooners, the show had to come back to earth. Not unexpected and it occurs with every show and story. After hitting the heights for so long, a coming back to earth type of reckoning is as inevitable as the force of gravity. This is a transitional episode which is necessary to start laying the groundwork for the next big storyline.

This shot makes me laugh every time.

Chuck Versus the Role Models is a stand alone episode that does little to advance the show mythology and dishes out a generic mission which leaves it hobbled out of the gate. Stand alone episodes can be good episodes just as much as mythology ones. Especially if an episode directly impacts or involves one of the Team Bartowski members in a personal manner. Best Friend and Tic Tac are examples of stand alones that do a great job. Sizzling Shrimp is one that never did and now it has company with the Role Models.
Role Models, like the previous three episodes, starts out of the gate very strong with a hilarious Morgan dream induced send up of the 80s, ‘Hart to Hart’ TV show intro with Chuck and Sarah taking over the Wagner and Powers roles plus Morgan doing his best to invoke Lionel Standish. The next scene with Morgan at the fridge bumping into a scantily clad Sarah is also fun. Chuck and Sarah continue to dispel any issues about the two of them being together hurting the show.
Everything is played for laughs in this episode; a no fuss, no muss approach. So Sarah’s hidden gun cache and her initial reluctance to move in stir no dramatic interest as they are both casually dealt with. Too bad about the gun issue. Right now Team Bartowski has been left with a situation where Casey and Sarah handle all the dirty work. This could be a good source of ongoing conflict between Chuck and Sarah but it for now it looks like the show is going to steer clear of it.
The concept of Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz playing a mature version of Chuck and Sarah; with Udo Keir and a tiger thrown in, reads like a gold mine on paper. Sadly, the execution did not have that same gold sheen. Willard and Kurtz have their moments, but their storyline never engaged or surprised or brought the amount of humor that was anticipated.
The Casey and Morgan moments thankfully do. Morgan’s failures at all his training exercises were well done. However Casey’s, ‘heart to heart,’ with Morgan and approval of Morgan’s training were too much even in a light episode like this one. Morgan may indeed be a diamond in the rough but it would have been preferable to find a honest way to have him pass his training. At this rate of concession, can Jeff and Lester be far behind in joining the team? ( I kid! I kid.)
Another bit of a head scratcher was the sending off of Ellie and Devon to Africa via the Doctor Without Borders program only to have them come back in the same episode. It must be surmised that this storyline was originally envisioned to kick off the Fourth Season when the initial thirteen Season Three episodes were ordered. Whatever is going to happen in the next four episodes must require their immediate return.
Episode Flashes:

  • Third great opening sequence in a row – Morgan’s Hart to Hart dream with Chuck and Sarah
  • Morgan’s bedroom decor – including sparkly alarm clock
  • Pyjama wearing Morgan – a concession on his part – bumping into a scantily clad Sarah by the fridge – Vitamin Ds!
  • Congratulations Warren Beatty!
  • 30 Foot Rule Versus the Bartowski Rule
  • Craig/Laura Turner aka George/Bitsy Witherspoon aka John/Suzie Smythe
  • Diamond in the rough. Very, very rough. I’m sure you’ll make him sparkle.
  • Chuck channelling Ellie as he cleans up waiting for the Turners to arrive
  • Morgan being trained in the BuyMore by Casey
  • Udo Kier! – as Otto Von Vogel
  • This is how I deal with stress.
  • Doctor, super fantastic, white person.
  • Morgan’s gun training – video game knowledge vs reality
  • Morgan’s ‘bravery’ with the tiger
  • Sarah stepping in to ‘explain’ the Turners’s mission plan to Beckman
  • The handing off of the spy couple baton from the Turners to the Bartowskis
Call of Duty Meets Reality

‘Chuck Versus The Role Models’ is a solid, albeit inconsequential, episode. It has the misfortune of following the superior efforts from The Other Guy and The HoneyMooners. For those that prefer lighter episodes and enjoy the relational aspects of the show they are sure to find much to be happy with this one. There is continuing proof that putting show leads together is not the kiss of death. Plus the opening of acting manuveuring room for Yvonne Strahovski continues to reap benefits for the Sarah Walker character.
For those that prefer the mythology based episodes or ones that tackle character issues in a more grounded manner, take heart, more engrossing times are ahead based on the preview for the next episode. Things should start revving up once again.

Chuck – Episode 3.16 – Chuck Vs The Tooth

Prepare For The Jump To Light Speed
Written by Zev Borow & Max Denby
Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer

‘Doc! I’m not insane!’
Fasten your seat belts everyone! Chuck is about to engage hyperdrive once again. Much like the last handful of episodes from Season Two the narrative from Chuck is amping up. In the ChuckVerse amping up the story narrative means going way past eleven and off the scale into faster than light mode. It has been ‘Engaged’ with Chuck Vs The Tooth.
One of the things to be savored about Chuck is its willingness to push the storyline in new directions and the characters along with it. The downside to that is the show often forges ahead through fertile dramatic ground planting seeds without ever coming back to partake of the bounty from those plantings. It is a tip of the iceberg approach to storyline that skims between dramatic issues with no time allotted to diving deeper to explore the treasures that lie beneath the surface.

Grimes. Morgan Guillermo Grimes.

In Chuck Vs The Tooth a cornucopia of new ideas are thrown out: Chuck’s apparent merging of his subconsciousness with the Intersect, the potential for the Intersect to overpower Chuck’s brain, Chuck possibly going insane, Sarah unable to say ILY to Chuck, Ellie being pulled into the spy world by the Ring, Chuck and Morgan running missions without the rest of TeamB, and the possible return of Shaw. So many avenues to explore. So little time to do it in. Throw in the return of Anna and the end result is a bursting at the seams with concepts. Many of which could have entire episodes devoted to them.
It is a marvel that Chuck can take so many disparate elements, cram them into one episode, and come out with one of the best installments of the season. Plus it is done in the most balanced manner of the season to date. There are equal measures of spy intrigue, action, romance, relationships, drama, comedy, and nerd references that mimics those plate spinner acts. Is there any show that can switch as seamlessly from comedy to drama as Chuck can? Simply amazing!
The highlight of the episode was the curve ball thrown by the restrained and carefully modulated performance given by Christopher Lloyd as Chuck’s CIA psychiatrist. Expectations of an eccentric Doc Brown or Reverend Jim knock off are not met. Yet Lloyd plays the role exactly the way it is needed for the episode. His ‘Doc’ role is tailored to elicit the needed responses for Chuck and later for Sarah.
Morgan is given closure with the welcome return of Anna Wu as that relationship is put to bed. Is this the last we will see of Anna? I hope not. The timing of this raises my speculation antennae. Having this closure now has to lead to something for Morgan because as happy as I was to see Anna return, this was not the episode to do it. This episode is putting the show into position to commence the run to the finale. As such the screen time allotted to the Anna storyline would have been better served to be used to addressing some of the main storyline or Ellie’s. Anna should have popped up in the Role Models episode.
There is much to enjoy in this episode. Chuck and Sarah spending quiet time watching TV. Morgan working with Chuck on a mission. Ellie! Finally Ellie getting a worthy storyline. One that will play directly into the main storyline for the finale. It is so great to finally see Sarah Lancaster be able to flex her acting muscles outside of playing mother hen to the men in her life. There is also the ever strengthening bonds of friendship between the members of TeamB, including General Beckman. Who did not love that shot of Beckman’s kitchen with an unidentified male companion in the background? Plus the scene on the Doc’s doorstep where Sarah admits her love to Chuck publicly and finds Casey there too.
Episode Flashes:

  • Chuck and Sarah chilling at home on a quiet Monday night
  • Spies Like Us and the value of humor lesson for Sarah
  • Chuck’s dreams
  • Beckman with bed hair in the kitchen with male guest? in the background
  • ‘General. Permission to slap Bartowski. He had a bad dream.’
  • Chuck babbling on the couch.
  • Intersect possibly responsible for dry scalp?
  • ‘You can die from a spider bite in Africa as easily as from a spy in Burbank.
  • Dune reference! ‘Fear is the mind killer.’
  • Morgan saying the wrist gripper is stuck.
  • President of Zambibia is Washington from Welcome Back Kotter!
  • Jeff and Lester lamenting their single status – ‘Its full of lumpy housewives. My favorite.’
  • ‘Hi guys. Long time no smell.’ ‘She remembered our smell!’
  • Anna gets a ‘slo-mo’ entrance only to be trumped by Morgan’s ‘slo-mo!’
  • Chuck and Morgan on a mission
  • ‘My codename is Cobra.’
  • 15 season boxset of ER
  • Ellie gets a mission! Too bad it is for the wrong guys.
  • ‘Chuck’s in a tux?’
  • ‘I got the elf.’
  • Sarah demonstrating beyond a doubt where her loyalties lie.
  • Casey tranquing Morgan at the concert.
  • World Class spy -Morgan Grimes!
  • Spy Asylum – complete with Will Sampson broom pushing look alike. If only Hurley had strolled by in the background too.
  • ‘Give your boyfriend your hand.’
  • Sarah’s – ‘I need him to be OK.’ and the discovery that Casey does too.
  • Chuck air ‘fighting’ under psychotropic influence
  • ‘Spies! Attack!’
  • Chuck’s burden of knowing that continued use of the Intersect could be at his mental peril
  • Morgan moving on from Anna
  • Sarah saying ILY to Chuck
  • Ellie being manipulated into contacting PapaB
  • Chuck’s final dream and the potential return of Shaw

‘This is a new science. Only time will tell.’
For the first time the seams of one of the additional episodes does not line up with the original thirteen episode order. Chuck’s issues with the Intersect should have had some foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the earlier episodes. The softening of Casey and Beckman seems rather abrupt as well. Last week Beckman’s, ‘Its about damned time,’ seemed like using the character as a voice for the fans. Now, with some egg on my face, I must retract my stance that it was out of character to attribute such sentiments to Beckman. For this episode proves that she does indeed have affection for Chuck. (Though in my defense I maintain the show gave us nothing previously to show this character growth for Beckman.)

Daddy! Foreshadowing?

As much as it is great to see Casey and Beckman softening up, there is a worry about this. There is a need for a hard liner character in the show and that is being lost. In tandem with this, is the unpredictability of how Beckman and Casey will be portrayed going forward. Once you open up a character you cannot put the cork back in without undermining the character in the process. Lastly, seeing characters reach some form of equilibrium tweaks my spec antennae once again. When characters come to such a place they are usually at the end of their dramatic usefulness.
Just saying.

Chuck – Episode 3.18 & 3.19 Reviews

Science Fiction, Double Feature, Picture Shaw
Episode 3.18 – Chuck Vs The Subway
Episode 3.19 – Chuck Vs the Ring II
3.18 – Written by Ali Adler, Matt Miller & Phil Klemmer
3.18 – Directed by Matt Shakman
3.19 – Written by Chris Fedak & Josh Schwartz
3.19 – Directed by Robert Duncan McNeil

”Two Bartowski’s. Double the fun.’
Wow! Whew! Catch your breath yet? It has taken me awhile. Already intellectually and emotionally fatigued by the Lost series finale the night before – fantastic BTW – approaching the Chuck Season 3 Finale included some trepidation. Heading into the Chuck double header in a fatigued state is not the best situation. My fears prove unfounded as Chuck delivered its best season finale of the series. Chuck Versus The Subway is the perfect episode. The events contained within it were truly series’s defining and character changing ones for all the Bartowski clan.

He’s Baaaaaacccccckkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!

So, with apologies to the theme song of the Rocky Horror picture and its fans plus my occasional lapse into bad puns ie Shaw instead of Show, let us dive into the goodness that episodes 3.18 and 3.19 gave Chuck fans. The title of this review is most fitting because these two episodes had a real SF vibe to them as the tech of the Intersect and PapaB was mixed with the tension of Chuck unravelling mentally all while the menancing spectre of Daniel Shaw lurked as a dangerous presence to the members of Team Bartowski and their loved ones. Cap off all of that with the expansion of the Bartowski family backstory and the genesis – or the continuation of the Orion legacy – of Chuck’s next step in his heroic journey. What more can a fan ask for?
At the end of Chuck Vs The Tooth Chuck was experiencing Intersect fueled dreams about Daniel Shaw being alive. We knew those dreams were true. We also knew that Shaw had downloaded a Ring version of Intersect; Ringtersect anyone? Chuck Versus The Subway is the swansong for writers Ali Addler, Matt Miller, and Phil Klemmer. And what a swansong it is. Subway is brimming with emotion, action, drama, and revelations. It is also the swansong episode for PapaB. We may get to see him in future episodes in Jor-El type videos but it is doubtful that Orion will be brought back from the dead. Even more so than Shaw and Bryce it would not feel right to do so. The finale is about the passing of the torch from a father to his children. Mainly Chuck and, I hope the showrunners see it that way, Ellie as well.

Chuck & Sarah – They Have Come A Long Way

This episode did so many things right with the pinnacle being the strengthening of the bonds between the main players of the cast. What precipitated that was the truth of the spy world revealed to Ellie. With everyone in the know the barriers between characters have been finally lowered. Instead of deflection the characters can share mutual reflection. Instead of being kept at arm’s length to hide the truth, characters can now reaffirm bonds that existed before Bryce sent Chuck the email in the pilot. The benefits of finally allowing Chuck and Ellie to have open conversations again is immediately apparent. Sarah Lancaster was finally given some new material to work with and it is a development the show would be well advised to continue.
Mercifully the resurrection of Shaw as the villain worked for the most part. There were even flashes of above adequate enjoyable bits from Shaw from the knocking on the subway car door to his evil guy laugh. The disdain that the fandom had for the character and his history with Chuck and Sarah added that extra level of tension needed for a nemesis. The weak part of his return is the undercooked aspect of Shaw’s motivation of going totally Ring and becoming fixated on killing Chuck. This does not jibe with his arc of revenge for his wife’s death and wanting to punish the person responsible; Sarah.

Morgan – Two Thumbs Up Despite The Detonator Accident

What more can be said about Scott Bakula as Stephen J. Bartowski? Scott brought so many things to the character and he will be sorely missed. PapaB’s actions during the Subway episode illustrated the bluerprint for how Chuck, and Team Bartowski, should handle things. His smarts are dramatized over and over again in identifying Shaw at the Subway station, using Ellie to find the Ring Base, breaking Chuck out of the CIA holding cell, and the building of the Governor.
Above all that was his heart and the premium he placed on family and keeping them safe. We knew what he had done for Ellie and Chuck. It was not until the final scenes that the true scope of what PapaB had done, and sacrificed, became known. PapaB’s approach to how to protect his family may not have been the best one but it worked for him.   What worked for him does not mean it would work for Chuck and Ellie. Plus they have an advantage. They have each other and the rest of Team Barktowski to watch their backs.
Episode Flashes: (Lots of them. Proof these episodes were packed with goodies):
For 3.18:

  • Chuck hovering over his father’s shoulder as PapaB works on Chuck’s Governor
  • PapaB ‘talking’ Chuck down
  • Sarah’s touching extending to PapaB
  • Awesome not looking as Awesome as usual
  • Morgan breaking the news to Devon about Ellie – ‘How could she do this to us?’
  • Casey surreptiously checking up on his daughter
  • Chuck and Sarah sharing a blueberry in the Farmer’s Market – so…… normal
  • Knock, knock, knock – Shaw reveal in the subway car
  • PapaB working the Castle computers to track Shaw
  • Jeff and Lester ‘consoling’ Devon
  • ‘Its my dream come true. Ellie is exactly like Chuck but with lady parts.’ Jeff – creepy funny
  • Sarah discovers TeamB is in a CIA not Ring building
  • Chuck and Ellie come face to face – ‘Chuck, I thought you quit KungFu in the third grade.’
  • Chuck barging into Beckman’s hearing on the value of the Intersect project
  • Shaw walking into the hearing – he gets a slomo entrance – still waiting for Chuck’s BTW!
  • Shaw playing the Hearing and Sarah’s reaction to learning Chuck’s mental condition
  • Casey and Sarah go to the aid of their loved ones
  • Devon accidentally spills the beans about Chuck to Ellie – Ellie takes charge!
  • Casey protects Alex who seems pretty capable herself
  • PapaB works his tech magic and frees Chuck from CIA lockdown
  • Casey growling at Justin over apple pie
  • Casey revealing to Alex that he is her father and protecting her escape
  • ‘Oh and you can blame the CIA for my bachelor party. Stripper?. She was an agent. Told you I didn’t cheat. Faithful!’ Devon vindicated!
  • ‘Morgan Grimes, the boy that took my pillow as his date to junior prom, knows more about my family being spies than I do.’
  • Sarah clocking Shaw. Nice callback to Shaw clocking Rafe. New scumbag in town.
  • Beckman’s desperate Princess Leia plea, ‘You are our only hope.’ Morgan and Devon not sure to whom she was pleading with. LOL!!
  • The Bartowski’s playing it smart
  • Shaw’s evil – ‘Moowahaha’
  • McTiernan Industries – shoutout to action director John McTiernan(Die Hard, Predator)?
  • Sarah and Casey’s pride at Chuck’s spy skills – ‘Picked a good one Walker. Finally’
  • Ringtersect sure is slick looking
  • Shaw puts down PapaB! ‘Always remember son. You’re special.’
  • Is anyone more expressive than Ellie?
  • ‘Check out the fresh fish’ – another Shawshank reference
  • ‘You might want to stand back. This could explode. Ummm yeah…OK’ Morgan is priceless!
  • ‘There is no one left to save us.’ Ellie, Devon, and Morgan jump to the rescue.

Episode Flashes for 3.19

  • Ellie showing spy skills tailing the armored car
  • little Chuck and Ellie and the seeds of why Ellie looks after Chuck so fiercely
  • ‘No plan? That never stopped me before.’ LOL Morgan is so priceless!
  • Glovebox!
  • Casey’s Crown Vic could give the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty a run for its money – missile launcher!
  • Ellie puts her foot down and keeping her promise to protect Chuck.
  • Big Mike’s ‘Moses’ phone – shades of the Batphone.
  • Chuck getting to tell Ellie that their dad was a great man.
  • Chuck using PapaB-like skills to communicate with Beckman.
  • ‘Who are the Elders? They sound scary. World of WarCraft scary.’ – Guess who!
  • TeamB unites to take on Shaw and the Ring Elders.
  • Chuck and Sarah in disguise sharing winks before putting the plan into action
  • Morgan and Casey cracking the Conference database
  • Morgan waking up Casey’s paternal instincts
  • Chuck conning Shaw into a confession and capturing the Ring Elders – shades of Quantum of Solace anyone? Though Bond never used the Mexican Hat Dance ring tone!
  • Muzzle down Morgan!
  • Morgan breaking his thumbs for naught
  • Morgan has mad nose touch iPhone skills!
  • Pineapples! The Sequel.
  • Chuck GETS his slomo entrance. Yay!
  • Ewww! Shaw’s flash look is even creepy.
  • Jeffster- Blaze of Glory!
  • Shaw and Chuck square off.
  • Wow – Chuck intersected as a young boy. Very intriguing.
  • Sarah delivering the final blow to Shaw and racing to get the Governor back to Chuck and her look of relief at doing so.
  • Morgan is all er no thumbs with the detonator.
  • Lester- ‘Did we do that?’ Bye-bye Buy More.
  • Jeffster! Fugitives! Band on the Run!
  • TeamB family gathers to remember PapaB and welcomes Alex into the fold.
  • The, ‘Oh boy,’ that Chuck mutters as the Orion signature screen comes up on his computer monitor?  A subtle ‘passing of the torch’ moment.  Love it.
  • Chuck’s promise to Ellie about leaving the spy world will be short lived as he discovers the Bartowski legacy and the hope of finding MamaB.
  • ChuckCave! Shades of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark too.
  • Orion and Hydra!

Stephen J. Bartowski to Chuck and Ellie – ‘There is nothing in this whole world you two can’t fix if you work together.’
Could that line be the Mission Statement for the series going forward? Three seasons in and the entertainment value in trying to perserve the barrier between the spy world and the real world have been played out. As each character found out about Chuck’s dual life more dramatic doors opened than the ones that were closed. With Ellie in the loop and the setup in the closing moments the more entertaining avenue now would be to bring everyone into the fold and pick up the mantle of Orion’s legacy rather than try to perpetuate a new series of lies.
With the Chuck and Sarah relationship resolved and all the characters free to talk openly to one another, there is much more story telling manuveuring room. With these obstacles removed and the attendant effort to maintain no longer necessary, those energies can now be turned towards creating a more fleshed out show mythology. Instead of maintaining divisive constructs the show can now focus on unifying ones.

Goodbye BuyMore?

Chuck works best when it balances all the elements equally.   Chuck Vs The Subway is the showcase episode for doing that.  With the exception of Chuck Vs Santa Claus has there been a better episode where all the main cast members are used so equally and effectively?  This is my all time favorite episode of the series.  Thanks to Ali Adler, Matt Miller & Phil Klemmer for gifting us with this episode before departing.  Best of luck to each of you on your new endeavors!

And Hello ChuckCave?

So endeth the Third Season of Chuck. What a journey it has been. It is amazing to take the characters of this season and compare them against previous seasons. The growth and evolution has been fantastic. The execution of those changes faltered from time to time which is too bad. Fortunately the show righted itself and these final two episodes have the show pointed in a most promising direction.
As to what that direction might be, look for an upcoming article that explores the possibilities of Season 4.

MamaB! Hydra, by any chance? Season 4 – Family Matters….

I had a lot of fun writing these reviews and hope you enjoyed reading them.  Thanks to Mel for giving me a place to put down my thoughts.  Hope to do it again for Season 4.
Have a great summer everyone!  See you in September.

Believe It Or Not, It’s Just Me – Episode 3.12: Chuck Vs The American Hero

Written by Matt Miller/Phil Klemmer
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
Greatest American Hero Theme Song – Believe It Or Not
Look at what’s happened to me,
I can’t believe it myself.
Suddenly I’m up on top of the world,
It should’ve been somebody else.
Believe it or not,
I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me.
Just like a light of a new day,
It hit me from out of the blue.
Breaking me out of the spell I was in,
Making all of my wishes come true.
Believe it or not,
I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me.

‘No thanks. She’s still there.’
With the attainment of his goal of becoming a spy, Chuck believes he can finally be together with Sarah. Everything seems to be falling in place when Beckman tells him he can pick the members of his team. Naturally his first choice is Sarah. So Sarah’s angry reaction upon Chuck’s return and offer is a shock for him. Telling Chuck that because he has killed, Sarah; based on how her Red Test affected her, does not believe that Chuck can emerge from that test as the same guy she originally fell for.
Sarah is grieving for what she believes is the death of the Chuck Bartowski she fell in love with. If we apply the Stages of Grief to Sarah:
in 3.11, she was in the denial phase, hence her proclamation of no longer loving Chuck. Now she has moved onto the anger phase which her behaviour and responses upon Chuck’s return validate. Chuck is trapped because he cannot reveal that Casey killed the mole and not him.

Vision Clouded By Anger – The Nerd Is Right There In Front Of Sarah

Fearful that Sarah is slipping away from him into a life in DC with Shaw; Morgan, Casey, and Devon rally to Chuck’s aide; albeit they do so with ulterior motives. As expected, the results of this mission are less than helpful but provide a lot of enjoyment as Civilian Team Bartowski(CTB) unknowingly vy with a Ring Team intent on capturing Shaw. This leads to excellent Ellie moments as she first scolds CTB and then Chuck.
This time Chuck returns to woo Sarah with a clear head. Rescuing Shaw, with the knowledge that Sarah may very well end up leaving with Shaw, Chuck does the right thing again. Even if it is at a personal cost. Through his actions, Chuck proves to Sarah that he is indeed that guy she first fell for. Chuck is the ‘True’ American Hero of this episode as what he did was for selfless reasons in stark contrast to the revenge reasons that motivate Shaw.
Chuck’s closing speech is much like the one he gave Sarah at the end of Lethal Weapon. Except this time he is blunt and direct in relaying to Sarah his feelings. And again, he leaves the choice up to her. He shows Sarah how deeply he feels by being willing to give up the spy life he has worked so hard to attain to be with her.
Episode Flashes:

  • Beckman’s waiting area with multiple receptionists and spies waiting to see her
  • Chuck trying to find out how to sit comfortably with a gun
  • Chuck and Beckman scene – ‘I understand that the hand wringing and the second guessing are all part of your process.’
  • Ellie excited to go to Africa because she thinks that is what Devon wants
  • Chuck’s Civilian Team Bartowski(CTB) – Casey, Morgan and Devon!
  • Morgan telling Casey to take a number
  • Morgan telling Casey love is a battlefield
  • Jeff and Lester being totally cognizant and up to date on the Sarah/Chuck/Shaw triangle -‘Guy knows how to fill out a pair of slacks!’
  • CTB with their own agenda – ‘We help you get the girl back, you help us get out of Burbank.’.
  • CTB and Ring Team targetting Shaw at the restaurant
  • Morgan telling Devon, ‘You live in a bubble. A freakish bubble of awesomeness.’
  • Morgan calling Shaw out of the restaurant and getting carried away with instructions
  • Morgan getting tasered! ‘Man down! I’ve been tazzed! Bring a stretcher. Wheelbarrow….change of pants!’ LOL
  • Ellie scolding CTB
  • Ellie’s anger at Chuck for going to CTB instead of her
  • Ellie’s pep talk to Chuck telling him to act like a Bartowski and that one can never go too far in the pursuit of love
  • Jeff & Lester berating CTBs stalking skills and proving theirs by tailing Shaw in Loretta
  • ‘Stalker’s Log: Possibly for sexual encounter. Both men are physically fit. Should be lively.’
  • Casey selling ‘Hot Zone’ vacuum cleaner
  • Chuck’s Batman jump into Shaw’s sports car
  • Dr. Jibb Pop Machine elevator entrance into Ring base
  • Ring Leader – very cool
  • Chuck and bad guy’s reactions to impending flash bomb explosion
  • Stealth Bomber Sequence
  • Chuck’s rescue of Shaw – The ‘True’ American Hero
  • Chuck’s final speech to Sarah – ‘One time because it feels really nice to say. I love you Sarah Walker.’
  • Casey’s confession of killing mole in Sarah’s apartment. Adam really nailed it.
  • Reveal that Sarah killed Shaw’s wife – Eve.

Phil Klemmer was tasked with kicking off the Sarah and Shaw relationship in 3.07 – Chuck Versus The Mask and along with Matt Miller in Chuck Versus The Greatest American Hero, he has drawn the short straw once again in ending it. If he volunteered for these two episodes then Phil is to be commended as the Real American Hero of the Chuck writing staff. If it was the luck of the draw then Phil should not take it personally if no one takes him up on an offer to pick lottery ticket numbers.
With this episode the final pertinent pieces of the Sarah and Shaw relationship have been placed in the open. I have been withholding final judgment until this moment, hoping that the writers would pull a rabbit out of their hat to salvage this arc. Alas, it is not to be. For all the props I have given the show in my reviews, I am behoven to call foul when appropriate. To be blunt, the Sarah and Shaw relationship was a sham. It did not work and the episodes that included it, suffered because of it. A further examination of why will take place in an article(s) looking back over the first 13 episodes during the upcoming two week break after 3.13 airs.
Proof that the Sarah and Shaw relationship is irrelevant is that if you can isolate and ignore those moments the episode still works. Works very well. The inclusion of Morgan into Chuck’s spy life continues to reap great dividends. The interplay between Casey, Morgan, and Devon is a hoot to watch. The action beats were great. The Chuck and Sarah moments were as good as they have ever been. Casey’s continuing struggle in the civilian world continues to intrigue.
‘I love you Sarah Walker. Always have.’

A Real Hero – Selfless Act

As mentioned in the 3.11 review, I was banking on a Casey and Sarah counterpart scene to bookend the one that Chuck and Casey had, which came to be true. While the scene did not prove to be the deciding factor in Sarah’s decision it did put to rest any lingering doubts she had during her packing. Adam and Yvonne played the scene beautifully. Casey’s furtive glances at Sarah’s packing on the bed and his round about way of wishing Sarah well was done to perfection. My favorite scene of the episode.
With the reveal that she killed Shaw’s wife the stage for the next episode has been set.   So glad that the episode ended with Sarah being shown as having clearly made up her mind.
Spy or not, Sarah believes it.  It’s just Chuck.