Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes! – Episode 3.10: Chuck Vs The Tic Tac

Written by Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc
Directed by Patric Norris
(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
David Bowie

‘You ready to die today?’

Alex Coburn – A Life That Was

Tis the season of change in the Chuckverse. Even for a show where events often occur at a rapid clip, Chuck Vs The Tic Tac places characters on their own personal precipes on a scale never encountered before. To wit, five of the main cast members are left at the end of this episode faced with life altering changes:

  1. Chuck
  2. Sarah
  3. Casey
  4. Devon
  5. Ellie

The quoted line is the question asked of a young Alex Coburn who must chose to serve his country or return home to his loved ones. Coburn choses to serve his country and in the process gives up who he is ie dies and is reborn as John Casey.
In Tarot, the Death Card is misleading. It signifies death as not an end but an agent of change. Or a new beginning. Redemption stories are about the death of the past. Coming of age stories are about the death of the child. So all stories begin at a point of change for a character. All stories are really about death in terms of change.
‘I know you’ll make the right decision. You always do.’
So Colonel Keller tells John Casey. But did young Alex Coburn really? Its a tough question where there is no clear answer. Casey certainly seems to think so. Was his decision to serve his country altruistic or did he see it as an opportunity to hide from feelings which he and his girlfriend acknowledged he has trouble dealing with. The answer is not clear and maybe this aspect of John Casey’s life can be explored in the future. Maybe Chuck will show a new path to John Casey.
The background reveal of Casey’s backstory explains much of his character. Quite a nifty piece of work as it sheds new light on Casey’s history of intolerance for the relationship tension between Chuck and Sarah since Team Bartowski came into being. Casey was often quick to express his displeasure when the relationship spilt out into missions and he always delighted in making Chuck and Sarah painfully aware when the other’s attention was diverted elsewhere. But he was always there to give both of them a nudge too when he saw things heading in bad directions. His actions in previous episodes take on a different light now because of his back story.
Most significantly for Chuck, making the right decision is at the basic core of his character too. We have seen Chuck do this time and time again even when it comes at his personal happiness. For Chuck, and for Sarah, to see the personal price that Casey has paid is hopefully a revelation that will play some part in the final outcome between them.
‘Don’t give up on the things that make you great.’
What Tic Tac does is crystallize the issues running between Chuck and Sarah. There is an accepted conceit that Sarah, and Casey, believe that in order to be an effective spy one has to make personal sacrifices. For Chuck to be a spy, Sarah believes that he will lose the very qualities that attracted her to Chuck in the first place. This is the challenge Chuck faces. To prove to Sarah, and maybe even to Casey, that the two lives do not have to be mutually exclusive. That being a spy does not mean giving up the essence of who you are. For Chuck has an ace card up his sleeve. The Intersect. With it, if he learns to control it properly, he has the power to prevent that from happening.
The catch to mastering control of the Intersect is he needs to have someone watching his back. Not so much in the physical sense but the emotional one. Someone to share with. To keep it simple. To keep it real. This is what he and Sarah need to discover together.
Episode Flashes:

  • Robert Patrick by just being himself, which is all his role asked, was still cool
  • Morgan spying on Casey
  • Team B working their way through 15 levels of CIA security
  • Castle debriefing scene which starts out with Chuck goofiness and quickly escalates into the most intense scene in the series to date – a Showcase sequence that demonstrates Chuck at its cross genre best
  • hats off to Fitzroy’s ability to quickly upgrade CIA security
  • Chuck’s smash into plexiglass wall and Sarah’s reaction due to said upgrades
  • Sarah’s applauding of Fitzroy’s upgrades to defuse the situation and turn it to their advantage
  • Fitzroy and Morgan. Is it just me or would these two together not be hilarious?
  • Fitzroy revealing he is a big fan of Carmichael’s and his glee at Chuck kissing Casey back in Season 2
  • Sarah’s punchout of Fitzroy and her exasperated ‘Yes’ to Chuck for it being necessary
  • Devon and Morgan circling one another as they feel each other out as to how much they each know about Chuck
  • Morgan agreeing to help Casey if he gets a codename like Condor or LadyFingers
  • Chuck promising Sarah he still is that guy that Sarah met three years ago
  • Sarah and Chuck helping Casey despite the potential consequences
  • three excellent fight scenes:
    • Casey getting to do a Terminator toss of Robert Patrick
    • Sarah getting Casey’s back and taking out 5 baddies on her lonesome
    • Chuck’s slomo/speedup drug enhanced flash fight
  • Sarah seeing her nightmare version of Chuck, echoed by what she saw in Casey’s fight, the perfect emotionless spy and confirmation she wants no part of that version of Chuck
  • Casey’s discovery that he gave up much more than he realized
  • Casey giving Chuck advice about him and Sarah. Can a Casey and Sarah talk be that far away?
  • Ellie telling Chuck that her choice in Devon was her best choice regardless of the sacrifices made

This is an entertaining and intense episode which marks the impressive writing debut of Rafe Judkins & Lauren LeFranc. They blend together those cross genre elements of the show with deft ease. The debriefing scene in the Castle after the first mission is genius. To take something that starts out as a piece of Chuck charming goofiness and turn it into the most intense scene in the serie’s history is writing prowness at its best.
Add on to that some true comedic moments for Sarah, long overdue and most welcome, coupled with some kick ass action sequences and great scenes with Morgan, Ellie and Devon and it is all the more impressive. The cast continues to shine this season with Yvonne and Adam getting to extend their acting chops. Zac was stellar as usual.
The only quibble would be around the use of Laudanol by Chuck to suppress his emotions to better use the Intersect. While the intent is clear; to show Sarah the nightmare version of Chuck she dreads; the implementation was weak. Maybe budget restrictions were the true culprit here but for Chuck to be freaking out about having to fight too many guys, when he easily handled a similar number the episode before, undermined the purpose of those scenes.
‘Walker is a good woman.’

Choices and Changes – Chuck and Casey Contemplate

If anyone had any doubts about whether the Chuck and Sarah romance storyline is headed for imminent resolution, Casey’s speech to Chuck at the end of 3.10 is a big, flashing neon sign. It is has been a long running hope of mine that Casey would play an important part in resolving the Chuck and Sarah relationship and it looks like that is going to transpire.
Do not be surprised if John Casey has a similar moment with Sarah soon.

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