The Ring, Reloaded

Don’t ever make me wait that long for the A-Ha moment again.  And I had it easy.  I didn’t even discover Chuck till I rented the first disk of the season 1 DVD on Netflix in August, just to check out this show everyone was recommending to me. By then we knew we’d have at least a short season 3 … in 8 months.  So I did what any “not your normal” fan would do.  I re-watched them all.  Several times.  And now we have three shiny new episodes to obsess over for a few more days.  But before I start into my newfound appreciation of season 3 my second take and new appreciation for what I consider the real first episode of season 3, Chuck vs. the Ring, after the jump.

While pining away for the new season something awesome happened.  I noticed that I enjoyed re-watching episodes of Chuck a second or even third time just as much as I enjoyed watching them the first time.  In addition on a second, or third, of fourth viewing I was still catching things I missed the first viewing(s).  Like Morgan wishing for a flying DeLorean at the end of Chuck vs. the Graviton and then we get Chuck vs. the DeLorean, or the classic Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny What’s Opera Doc playing in the background of Chuck vs. the Fat Lady.  Fun stuff, but then there was more.  There were a few A-Ha moments, when something that didn’t quite click made sense because you caught something more in a later episode, or you finally got the connection between the main story and the secondary Buy More story.  Frankly I sometimes enjoyed a second or third viewing more, when I could concentrate on the subtleties of the story rather than just following the plot points.  Of course this can go too far as I’ve recently chronicled.

One of my pet peeves was what I saw as overused plot points to set up re-playing the same plot lines again and again, and again.  Exactly how many times did we have to see Sarah close up after Chuck gets too close, or Chuck pushed away after he misreads Sarah’s signals, or doesn’t.  By the time I saw Chuck vs. the Ring for a second time I saw these as repetitive and unimaginative for a show that could and did do so much better on everything but the romance.  And it was hurting the show.  The constant Angst hung over everything, weighing down the otherwise snappy pace and lighthearted fun of the show.  And now I’ve learned after the first three, that I was right.

I was also wrong about a few things.  I started to see certain scenes as gratuitous.  Sarah kicking the puppy one more seemingly unnecessary time in the Ring, or once again Sarah being interrupted before she could tell Chuck her feelings or what she wanted out of life.  But they were necessary.  Chuck had to choose to become a spy and a hero of his own free will.  He hadn’t chosen the intersect, it was thrust upon him, so he had to be put in a situation where he could choose.  Chuck loves Sarah and Sarah loves Chuck.  Given a choice,  a real choice between being a spy and a hero or having that normal life, we both know they’d choose each other and that life together.  But Chuck the hero needs Sarah so he can be a hero as much as Sarah needs Chuck to learn to love.  The place we were at the end of the Colonel there was no way Chuck would ever choose to be a hero or Sarah would go on being a spy with that tantalizing future they saw.  So we come to what I consider the first episode of season 3.  Chuck vs. the Ring.  Consider this another way of reading the characters and events with the new knowledge we gained in Chuck vs. the Pink Slip and Chuck vs. the Three Words.

This Perfect Day

Everything is right with the world.  Chuck is in fine spirits.  He has his life back, and his future looks better than ever.  His family is closer than before.  He’s returned his father, giving his sister the one present she’d dreamed of on her wedding day.  The intersect is gone.  It’s time to start his new life.  But there is something under the surface, bubbling.  As Chuck and Casey walk through the Buy More there is an air of oppression and doom among the Buymorians.  They look to Chuck furtively.  The man who has always had an answer, their one true leader in all but name.  Their hero, their champion.  And he’s quit.  Walking away and leaving the Buymorians to their fate.  The hero has refused the call.  We all know what that brings.  Chuck doesn’t yet.  One final chance is offered.  “Your country is calling you Mr. Bartowski”.  Loud and clear, but the offer to join the team and answer the call is refused  again.  Chuck’s servitude is ended, with a nice fat bonus check.  The Buy More is no more, and Chuck is looking forward to a champagne buzz and an extra long slow dance with his date.

Bryce Larkin, Nemesis.  The personification of the gods punishment for refusing to heed the call is back, moments after Chuck has refused his last call, bringing retribution.  And we see Chuck’s perfect day will not last because this isn’t his world anymore.  He was meant for something more and can never have the life he wants, or thinks he wants until he lives the life he was meant to live.

First up is what he loves most.  Sarah.  Sarah is given orders to leave the next day, and we see already she is on the verge of a decision.  The one she’d been facing since their escape from Blackrock with Chuck free of the intersect.  It is real, but can Sarah, who expects disappointment from the men in her life bring herself to leave behind her spy world and go off with Chuck?  Well I’d guess it depends on if he asks.  He does of course. The irrepressibly happy Chuck has no plan, but he has a goal.  Have Sarah be a part of his life, somehow.  So Chuck has a proposal for Sarah, and he kind of steamrolled her because he just can’t wait to start his new life.  He’s confident of the answer, he’s seen how much Sarah cares for him.  And the first blow is struck.  Sarah, poor emotionally crippled Sarah is in a crisis.  Practically paralyzed with hopes and fears she can’t even process, let alone reconcile she wants to share something with Chuck, but as he goes on she starts to believe, maybe fleetingly, but to believe that Chuck has something really important to ask her.  Something that might change her life.  It isn’t what she thought, and Sarah answers the only way she knows, with the facts as she knows them at the time.  Chuck has been here before.  He recognizes what just happened.  Again.  He read too much into Sarah’s actions.  Chuck leaves and Sarah is gone.  For a fleeting moment we see Sarah watch Chuck walk away as if she’s about to follow, but she doesn’t.

Next is what Chuck cherishes most.  His family.  It seems that the bad guys don’t go away just because you aren’t the intersect anymore.  They must not have gotten the retirement party flyer, because Roark wants the intersect cube and will kill Ellie if he doesn’t get it.  Despite no intersect, no backup, no CIA Chuck has another mission, the one he’s had all along but never admitted.  Protect your friends and family.  Somehow.

With help from everyone from Jeffster to Awesome to Morgan, Pappa B, Sarah, Bryce, and finally Casey, Chuck manages to complete the mission, at some cost.  His sister’s heart is broken, and he has to do something to fix it.  But he’s just a normal guy, what can he do?  What he always does, accepts the mission, rallies his allies and overcomes the odds to pull it off.  And Sarah sees something more in Chuck.  Something that she perhaps hadn’t noticed when he was the intersect and on missions.  Mission or not, intersect or not, CIA or not, Chuck is that guy.  He will do anything to protect those he loves, and he will do anything to keep them from being hurt, or to make right what goes wrong in their lives.  Sarah’s decision is made at the second wedding.  She’s done with spying.  She chooses life with Chuck.  Unfortunately Chuck, in the meantime has come to accept that Sarah may care and may protect him and help him, but she doesn’t love him like he loves her.  Sarah, as amazing as she is, will never be normal.

Only a few more steps remain before the final price for Chuck’s continued refusal to fulfill his destiny is extracted.  He has seen that intersect or not, CIA or not, hero or not, there are evil people in the world who will harm him, his family, his friends, and those he loves.  He understands Sarah’s calling, and he’d never take that from her.  A sense of purpose in life, knowing you make a difference.  It must be wonderful even if it does require sacrifices, like Sarah being able to love him back.  Chuck finally gets that slow dance with his date, and he tells her he understands, but Sarah seems to have other concerns.

“Chuck I don’t want to save the world I…”

Sarah is ripped away one last time, and this time Chuck realizes he needs to be that guy or all that he cherishes in life will be torn away from him.

If I were going to get all mythological… Oh, too late for that.  Let’s just say that Chuck has accepted his calling, but perhaps not his destiny.  He’s arrived at the oracle where once again he faces his Nemesis.  But this time the message is clear, there will be no more protection, the gods want you to accept your destiny.  Alone in the temple Chuck accepts his calling, and his destiny.  “Do you wish to activate?”  The journey begins.

I’m going to pause here, because I think I now see the line the writers were walking.  We know Sarah and Chuck love each other.  We’re meant to know and see that.  At the same time we need to see that Chuck doubts this and Sarah can’t express it.  The scenes that seem gratuitous now have a crucial purpose.

Sarah needs Chuck to be with her for her to be normal and have a life.  She has clearly found a connection with him that she has never had with anyone else.  But Sarah has to see a cost, a real cost to her armor and the masks she wears to keep people out if she ever wants to have any kind of relationship, even with Chuck.  She has to grow and open up or they would be doomed as a couple.  Chuck, forever unsure, Sarah, forever keeping a part of herself closed off.  Doomed to a lifetime of angst.  The cost of those defenses and barriers when deployed against someone who loves her has to be real and devastating for Sarah to understand she needs to learn to let them down for Chuck.

Chuck needs to fulfill his destiny, but could Chuck ever put anything above Sarah if he knew that not only did she love him, but that she needed him?  Not the Chuck Bartowski I know.  He would NEVER become a spy if he was aware of the depth of Sarah’s hurt and need, and feelings.  But he has to become a spy.  The doubts?  We’ve seen them before, they are in character.  Sarah closing off and shutting down?  Check.  The writers needed to put the characters in a situation where neither of the characters would be acting the villain, but they had to break them up for Chuck to go on.  The problem is not in the Ring, the problem is that they’ve already played the break up game too often and our first reaction is to throw up our hands in disgust.  But this time it was done with a purpose in mind.

The final steps to Sarah losing Chuck and Chuck leaving Sarah come, predictably from Chuck’s Nemesis.

Bryce: “She wasn’t going to come.”

Chuck, having accepted his destiny still doesn’t fully understand what it means.  The Ring agents enter with Sarah and Casey captive.  Sarah sees the “dead” Bryce and nearly loses control.  Chuck sees her distress and across the room mouths to her silently, “I’m sorry”.  He’d failed her.  He couldn’t save Bryce, he couldn’t get help, and now they were all about to die.

Sarah saw Chuck say I’m sorry, but didn’t know why.  “He uploaded it.”  Then she understood.  Chuck, the love of her life, did what he always does, he stepped up and was that guy, no matter the cost to him.  “Kill him.”  And then Sarah saw just how far Chuck would go to protect those he loved.  “Guys, I know Kung Fu.”  He did it for her, and he knew, he must have known.  Bryce was his friend, Orion was his father, and he knew he could save them, so he did.  After all those years wanting to get back to a normal life, he sacrificed everything for her, to save her, because he loved her.


Chuck has accepted his destiny, but he is tempted to stray one last time, and Sarah, well she is given one last chance to accept the emotional journey she has to begin.  The fates are aligned against them at this point.  Their journeys are different paths that may not merge for a time.  Sarah decides the time is right to grab the life she wants, a life with Chuck, whatever the cost.  He has sacrificed everything he wanted to save her, and its time for her to give him something back.  She can’t let him be dragged back into that life for her, she has to protect him from that.  If he can’t have a normal life he can at least have a life with her, away from spies and lies and danger, somehow she’ll make it work.  But Sarah isn’t really equipped to make her case.  She still can’t bring herself to open up.  Despite the depth of her feelings the shields are still up.  And Sarah also has to pay for some past sins.  Her repeated pushing Chuck away has done more damage that she realizes.  Chuck no longer trusts his feelings.  Sarah has hurt Chuck often enough that now he has his shields up.

Sarah: “If you do this, if you go, you’re going to be a spy for the rest of your life.  Every city is going to be a new mission, and a new identity and you’re not going to be the same person.”

Chuck: “Yeah, that’s a great thing”

Sarah: “Chuck listen we could…”

Chuck: “We could what?”

Sarah: “We could run.  Together, you and me, we go now and we never look back.”

Chuck: “Are you serious?”

Sarah: “I have some money saved up, I’d have to get us some new identities, create an escape route, for now go to the training facility in Prague and meet me at the Nadrazi train station in three weeks time at 7 O’Clock and then I can figure the rest out later.”

Chuck: “What are you saying?”

Sarah: “I’m saying I want to be a real person again, with you.  This is what you want, right?  I meant this is it Chuck.  Will you run away with me?”

Chuck: “Yeah.”

And he would have, but Sarah has sown the seeds of her own heartbreak.  At the same time she’s taught Chuck about self sacrifice and duty to something bigger than yourself she’s also taught him not to trust his heart when it comes to her.  She has used his feelings for her to control and manipulate him in the past and pushed him away when he got too close.  Both are lessons he learned whether she intended or not.  In her rush and planning Sarah didn’t do the one thing that could have made a difference.  Look Chuck in the eyes and tell him she loved him.

What Chuck heard was something different.  All the information was there.  Sarah was starting to tell him at the party that she didn’t want to save the world anymore, and Bryce knew she was quitting, she wasn’t going to go with him.  Sarah was leaving behind the spy life, and had invited him to come with her.  He saw how she’d reacted to Bryce’s death.  She couldn’t do it anymore.  Sarah took her mission to protect him personally, she’d never quit, now he saw that, and she was going to do it the rest of her life.  So Chuck went to Prague, and thought about his future, and Sarah’s, and what their life would be like, and he decided he couldn’t ask that of Sarah.  He couldn’t let Sarah give up the rest of her life to protect him on the run, and he couldn’t ask her to stay with him and be a spy.  He couldn’t run away from his calling now, it was too important that he become a spy, but he couldn’t ask Sarah to stay in the spy world she so obviously wanted out of.  He had to let her go because he loved her and wouldn’t ruin her life out of selfishness.  He had to let her go and be a real person again, without him.

And so at the appointed time the star crossed lovers meet at the train station, each sure of their purpose and their love for the other, but each unable to tell the other the reason for their decision.  Heartbreak ensues.  And Sarah gets on the train, and leaves.


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
This entry was posted in Angst, Observations, Season 3. Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to The Ring, Reloaded

  1. NoWayOut says:

    You can keep trying to make a case for Pink Slip all you want, but it is awful. One more example: Sarah’s line that “I want to be a real person again, with you.”

    Sarah has NEVER been a real person. Ever. That’s been the point of her backstory to date. She was the daughter of a con man recruited in high school into the CIA (We’ll ignore for the moment that her printed backstory of season 1 claims she was recruited at Harvard.)

    This is the danger we run here, folks. If we do anything but OUTRIGHT reject Pink Slip and call it out for the garbage it is, we might as well stop talking about this show.

    Pink Slip cannot, in any rational way, be reconciled with what we know–what they want us to believe–about the characters. It is filled with manipulative and cynical lines, stupid scenes, “unreal” behavior and ret-con crap that simply does not track. Everything about it is wrong.

    And Sarah DOES NOT get on the train. Period. She goes back to work. Hello, we’ve seen that much.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Sarah definitely gets on the train. We know this because Chuck is under the impression she left the spy life. We know this from…Chuck vs. the Pink Slip. When Chuck finds out Sarah is “still here” and is still working at the Orange Orange he is shocked. He thought she was leaving with or without him. That’s why he tells Casey what happened between them is something he needs to fix. He is in that moment starting to realize just what happened in Prague, a massive misunderstanding between the two of what they were doing. Sarah, without Chuck, of course decided to stay a spy, as I said she needs Chuck to try to be a normal person, and in her heartbreak probably decided to do what she always does, bottle up her emotions and go back to work. But she got on the train and left before she went back to work.

      • NoWayOut says:

        With all due respect, you are wrong.
        1) Sarah doesn’t get on the train for the obvious reason: She’s back at work. She was only getting on that train if she was running away. And, more to the point, you have no visual evidence of it or script evidence of it.
        2) Chuck’s “she still here” reference is not to her spy life, but that she is still at the same posting at the Orange Orange. He’s surprised that she’s still on the same assignment, not that she’s still in the spy life. (I refer you back to Sarah’s explanation of CIA life in S2E1. That’s the symmetry they are harking back to.)

        But, again, I don’t want to push the point too far because the episode is garbage. The train scene should never have happened, it would have never happened that way and, uh, the obvious question is why wasn’t Sarah in charge of Intersect 2.0? She was when it was going to be Bryce (see S2E22); it would have been more important for her to be in charge now that’s it’s Chuck (as Beckman admits in Two Words).

        And for all you folks who say chuck couldn’t have called Sarah in the three weeks before the meet because he wasn’t allowed a cell phone in training: Explain why he was able to be free enough to go off the training facility to get to the train station? You can’t: Either he was locked down with no freedom of motion and no comm links or he wasn’t.

        And this is my point. Nothing about this episode–the plot line, the scenes, the lines, the character reactions–makes any sense at all.

        It needs to be, uh, chucked if there is any intelligence analysis to keep applying to the show.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think you need to understand I am not using get on the train as a metaphor. She arrived in Prague and planned to leave on the train. After Chuck refused to go, why change her plan? Was she going to stick around and beg? Hang out and see the sights? Yes, the train was the first part of an escape plan, but it’s also her transportation out of town.

        And not to push the point too far, why are you so sure she didn’t get on the train? Getting on the train didn’t commit her to running, just to going to the next stop, where she could make whatever new arrangements she wanted. You are often talking about illogical plot holes, so please, tell me how it makes any sense whatsoever that she ditches her only mode of transportation and sticks around in a town that apparently is a hotbed of CIA activity with a major training facility nearby when she is not supposed to be there. If she wants to make sure she can still work for the CIA the first thing she needs to do is get out of town fast and back to where she is supposed to be.

        My overall point is that some things, seen in retrospect, can make a bit more sense and be a little easier to swallow. This was an example of one. I am not interested in arguing over what you see as plot holes, most of which are easily explained if you are willing to entertain a possible explanation if, you aren’t in fact willing to entertain a possible explanation.

        I don’t want this to turn into some flame war, you are entirely entitled to your opinion and to express it. But you seem to be growing ever more strident in how you express it.

      • NoWayOut says:

        No flame war at all. Honest. I respect your opinion. I wouldn’t waste a moment on this unless I thought this was an honest discussion among well-meaning people. We’re all good…

        That said, remember, we’re arguing here on a ground I think is faulty because the episode makes no sense. So we’re trying to make sense of what I think is the nonsensical.

        But the LAST thing Sarah would do was get on the train with the supposedly phony new identities she had created for her and Chuck. Besides, she IS a CIA agent. There’s no reason for her to be afraid. There’s NO reason to think they know she is on the run because, if they did know, we wouldn’t have seen her back at work, which we already had by the train scene. So only Sarah knew she was running away with “fake credentials.” She was safe.

        Sarah’s way out of town after Chuck gives her back the ticket is simply to leave to go back to work as Sarah Walker. She either buys a new ticket for another train (to Frankfurt, if you want a specific) or she gets in a cab, goes to the airport and flies back to LA.

        I mean, it is as simple as that. The one thing she DOES NOT do under any circumstance is get on a train with a “phony” identity and execute even one part of an escape plan that no one knows about.


        What if, even in all of this garbage that is Pink Slip, the writers have this in mind.

        When it comes time to convince Chuck that her feelings for him are real, we assume that she will reveal her real name as a sign of good faith. (The harken back to S1E4 where he begs her for “one real thing about you.”) This will probably happen in e8 after Chuck punches out Shaw.

        And what if the way she gives Chuck her real name is to show him the credentials she had prepared for her escape in Prague. And her credentials had her real name? Then she can throw them back in his face and say something like, “Chuck, all I ever asked you was to trust me? I wanted a real life WITH YOU.”

        Then she stalks out and we have a few more episodes of angst (probably 10-12, knowing that e9 is a Morgan back story) before the putative “happy ending/cliffhanger” in e13, whatever that is…

        I don’t for a minute think these writers will abandon the train scene. They will clearly come back to it at a key moment.

        But that doesn’t make it any less phony and manipulative, like the whole of Pink Slip…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        OK, sorry if I read too much into your tone, no offense intended or taken. Reading tone is sometimes tough online. That said, out of respect I’ll take one more stab at it.

        You seem to be arguing two contradictory things. One, that Sarah Walker has nothing to fear because nobody knows she’s running. Two, getting on the train with false credentials some how puts her in danger.

        My assumption is that she is already traveling under her new identity. She does that kind of thing in her sleep, and if she were running she wouldn’t want to leave a trail with any of her CIA identities even leaving the US, let alone in Prague. She certainly wouldn’t use her real real name, which the CIA apparently knows since Graham references her birth certificate in DeLorean. Also, switching identities mid trip would almost certainly set off alarms when Sarah Walker has to re-enter a country she never left or leaves a country she never entered.

        As for the phone calls we definitely know Chuck was monitored 24/7 when he was the intersect before, but this time he is voluntarily becoming an agent, and is able to protect himself, so that could be different without too much stretch of the imagination. As far as phone calls, and say what? Cell communications and phones are the number one source of intel for the NSA. Especially international ones in and out of the US. So Chuck calls Sarah and says, hey, you know that meeting nobody knows about that we’re trying to keep secret? Yeah, I’m kind of having second thoughts on that.

        I kind of get the feeling that when Shaw shows up it’ll be revealed that they wouldn’t have gotten away clean after all.

        I also get the feeling that we may find that the CIA had some concerns about agent Sarah Walker being an unknown factor regarding how to handle Chuck.

        As far as Sarah’s real name, in one of those A-HA moments in season 2 I realized why she wouldn’t tell him no matter how close they got. Remember that the original intersect gathered information from every source, from DMV records to international espionage intercepts. Also remember in Wookie Chuck said he wished he could flash on Sarah and know everything about her. Well, he probably could, if he knew her real name. Think Sarah would like that idea, yet? Think Sarah will be unaware of the possibility? Kind of raises the stakes on the whole “trivial” real name reveal. Possibly.

    • joe says:

      Somehow, I knew you’d reply first, NoWay.

      Sarah has NEVER been a real person. Ever.
      Oh, sure she has. The reason Best Friends is such a favorite is because of that very real hand holding at the end. Most of the Charah moments are like that; fan favorites because Sarah is “real” for a few moments.

      I don’t want you to feel “ganged-up on” here, but Ernie expresses the majority opinion well. ‘S’Ok. You express the minority opinion well also.

      We’re at that critical juncture where everyone has to ask if this story is speaking any Truth (Capital T) to them, particularly in Pink Slip. Ernie’s point, that a lot of the incongruities that appeared in The Ring – the ones we’ve talked about since May – were addressed to his satisfaction (and more, actually). For you, they weren’t.

      In all honesty, I can see why this might be the case, but fully accept that I’d have to change my perception of the characters more than a bit to really buy it. I’ve tried that. Every time I see a new episode I go through the same cycle – 1) “Oh, I was right the first time.” 2) “What a minute! That’s not what I thought should happen!” and 3) “New information! We were supposed to have those thoughts in step 2, and find out we were wrong later.”

      Can’t make you enjoy what you don’t enjoy, NoWay. But I’m having a ball with it, just the way it is. And yes, I’m finding the show to be more than a tad deeper and more profound than I suspected at first.

      I try not to let that make me sound like an un-thinking, rah-rah shill for the show.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I still think they occasionally stretch characters a bit too much and ask a little too much on the suspension of disbelief, but I’m more tolerant if I see that it was done for a purpose that adds to the overall story rather than just for the sake of setting up another romance of the week.

      • NoWayOut says:

        You can’t really be suggesting that one scene–the admittedly beautiful Best Friends moment–is her “real” life? That is a stretch of epic proportions.

        And, no, I don’t think you’re being rah-rah. We LOVE this show, we want to give it the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. I get that. But there are some things that are so bad–hence my earlier reference to Turnabout Intruder–that you have to flush to keep faith.

        I think the initial response to Pink Slip from the fans was right. We’re now in the obvious revisionist stage where folks will try to bang the Pink Slip into the mythology. (Aside: read John Charmley for insane Churchill revisionism…) Very soon, I think, we’ll see the errors in the episode are too bad to cover with revisionism. I’m comfortable with holding firm (and, no, I don’t feel ganged up at all!)

        Now, one other intriguing point for those of us who love this kind of thing. Sarah’s line–I want to be a real person again with you (punctuation specifically omitted)–may become a line as famous as the line in the intro of The Prisoner.

        The Prisoner asks the No. 2 of the week, “Who is No. 1?” and the No. 2 of the week responds: “You are No. 6”

        In the early years, no one questioned that the response was reaffirming to No. 6 that he was a number. But in recent years, people have listened to that line and heard that No. 2 was answering the question by telling No. 6 that he was No. 1. Who is No. 1? YOU are, No. 6. As it turned out, No. 1 was No. 6, of course, but McGoohan didn’t know that when we wrote the line. We know he was stuck for an ending (on deadline, too) and did what he did. But it was never planned that way and the line took on a new subtext LATER.

        Why do I think we’ll be dancing on the “real life with you” emphasis for years. Was Sarah saying she was ready for a real life WITH Chuck? Or that she was ready for a real life no matter what and it would be good with Chuck along.

        Be interesting to see how the writers address this. I don’t think Schwartz (especially) has the guts to write a story about an adult relationship. And since we KNOW Chuck is in the spy world forever (or there’s no show), it’ll be interesting to see how they reconcile all the threads they launched.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I just put the comma there because that is the way she spoke the line, with a pause. I suppose it could also have been a period. I don’t think we can take it out, it was there.

    • NoWayOut says:

      Let’s you and I call “done” on this because I think we’re beating a dead horse–and because I thought the horse was dead to start with… 🙂 You see drama where I see cynical manipulation and gaping black holes of plot and the twain probably won’t meet.

      As for Shaw revealing that the CIA knew about the plan and they’d have never gotten away, well, I suppose that could happen. But it would all but destroy the drama of the scene retroactively and seems likes even worse storytelling than in Pink Slip. Besides, why would the CIA trust Walker now if they knew about the plan? They made a HUGE point in Colonel of Casey inventing a story to protect Walker after her “treason.” Having Shaw blithely reveal the CIA knew Sarah was about to go AWOL would be horrific storytelling, undercutting not just the train scene, but the great Colonel scene, too.

      But as you know, I think TPTB have done vicious damage with Pink Slip, so nothing would surprise me now.

      As for Chuck flashing on Sarah if she gives her real name, that IS the import of it. It would be Sarah’s TOTAL surrender to Chuck. Even within the mythology, giving her real name isn’t THAT big a deal. It’s that the sharp viewer who will KNOW that Sarah is giving up everything. Of course, the writers could cover that with Chuck’s line in Cougars that he doesn’t need to know more about Sarah’s past and thus he wouldn’t flash.

      That’s why, oddly, I think we’re (um…) off the track now. The minute creators ret-con stuff and tinker with character characteristics, a show begins to collapse. Even within the land of suspension of disbelief, there has to be logic. I fear that logic in Chuck has taken a very serious hit…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I said Chuck and Sarah might find out from Shaw that they wouldn’t have gotten away clean. Did I say anything about the CIA stopping them or knowing about the plan? 😉

        I think we’re in for some big reveals about how much The Ring knows and what they are planning.

        And with that, I’ll re-iterate that sometimes we can have a pre-written storyline and view some statements only in the context of what we expect. And it might be a mistake.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Oh, and yes. let’s let this one rest.

  2. joe says:

    Wild Applause.

    “The cost of those defenses and barriers when deployed against someone who loves her has to be real and devastating for Sarah to understand she needs to learn to let them down for Chuck.”

    An observation: So far, Sarah has only seen the costs of not burying her emotions. She hasn’t seen the full price she’ll pay for burying them, yet.

    A second observation: I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT BEFORE! Thanks, Ernie. You may still think of yourself as new to the show, but you’re finding nuggets I missed, alright.

  3. angeltwo says:

    I probably should say that the reason why I came to this blog for the first time earlier this week was because I found Pink Slip so distressing and out of character for the characters and the show. And the more I read from fans trying to defend it, the more involved their defenses become and the more indefensible plot holes and inconsistancies they inadvertainly reveal about the episode.

    I really don’t think Pink Slip was either good TV or good Chuck. And I think NoWayOut actually, er, showed us the way out: Ignore it. And I think NoWayOut is probably also right in that as poor as the episode was, the writers will keep using it at key moments during this season.

    Which really makes me worried about this season. I am not really up to watch a show that is so maddeningly beyond belief and destructive of the characters’ motivations. I’ve noticed (as I am sure everyone else has) that these writers constantly return to every little theme and plot point they created. It’s going to be unpleasant to have them constantly refer to such an inferior episode.

    And perhaps one other point: I know a lot of folks disliked the Cole arc or the Jill arc last year. But no one thought they were bad episodes per se. Pink Slip could be the first episode where a substantial part of the fan base really believes was a subpar effort.

    • herder says:

      Strange, on rewatching the episode I didn’t have the same reaction that I did seeing it live. I still think that it is below average and that there are massive logical holes in it – Sarah asking Chuck to run for the rest of his life but neglecting to mention that she loves him and Chuck breaking her heart without more of an explanation of why. But I don’t think that they changed the characters the way they did in Beefcake, merely exagerated their faults and weaknesses. It is not an episode that I think falls into the top half of the now 38 that have aired but considering it’s importance to the season it is disapointing.

      And yeah, they are going to come back to it again this season, I’d bet money on that. I think Earnie has sussed out what they were trying to get at, but the amount of thought and effort that he puts into his posts is probably a bit much to ask of casual fans.

      I am intrigued by Ernie’s point about the cost of maintaining her armour to Sarah, if she hasn’t caught on by now after what happened at the train station, I can’t imagine what would bring home the point to her. Maybe after punching Shaw he not only becomes snippy with Shaw but shuts out Sarah completely and she has to persue him for a change. Probably this happens after her moment of clarity in 3.07 facing death when she realizes that it’s Chuck that she loves but typically does not communicate that to him.

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    I think we can reasonably infer from the fan reaction and the 3 eps in two days that TPTB realized they had fan problems with Pink Slip. I also will agree that sometime I think I’m working way too hard at this. They shouldn’t hide the explanation or take 8 months for it to be given. But then I wonder how much of this is because I’ve pre-written the show in my head, something I’m trying to remedy, both when I watch and on these posts. I think the writers of Chuck are clever people.

    Sarah: “It’s quite a mess we made.”

    Chuck: “I’m really hoping we can clean it up.”

  5. atcdave says:

    I really appreciate Ernie’s last few posts, they have been huge in helping me sort through what they were trying to do in Pink Slip.
    As I’ve said before, it will never be favorite of mine. I watch TV (especially Chuck) to have fun, and Pink Slip simply wasn’t. It was dark, and we saw unappealing aspects of both Chuck and Sarah. I would never show this episode to a new viewer, and I will probably not watch it again much myself. But that said, it is helpful to understand what the events mean to the characters and story.
    To me, the biggest issue is not whether Sarah got on the train or not. It is helpful to understand how they completely misunderstood each other; but what will always bother me is how these two likable, decent characters were shown so negatively. Chuck’s complete shut down was not completely out of character, but it was no fun to watch; and makes him look weak, pathetic, and NOT relatable. Sarah just gave up on Chuck, and even took to calling him names (code name or no, Lemon just seems rude and beneath her). Our (OK, maybe only MY) ability to relate to and admire these two characters has been damaged. All is not lost. Good people make mistakes. And the next two episodes repaired some damage. For the show to actually be FUN this year, Chuck and Sarah MUST make complete amends, and acknowledge the many ways they have hurt/misunderstood each other.

    But now we wait for the other shoe to drop. I still have some small hope that the much discussed PLIs will not actually be a romantic issue for Chuck and Sarah. But that hope is very slim. By most counts, they will get involved with outside interests for some period this season. There is simply no way to do this without further harm to our already damaged characters. In my own experience, I have little respect (make that VERY little respect) for people who bounce around between romances like they have no idea what’s really good or important. I’ve never known anyone who ricochets around romantically, who has ever found contentment or happiness. So now, this show whose strength has been its characters; may soon feature a nerd I don’t relate to, and a capable and charming super spy I neither respect nor like.
    For now, I will continue to watch in the hope all will work out well; and the end of March I will be a happy camper. But I see a strong possibility that the foundation has been laid for my exit as a viewer.

    • atcdave says:

      Just for the record, when I look my previous post, it seems highly unlikely to me that it will work out so badly. As a hard core fan, my reactions are extreme, but I do believe TPTB know they have a tricky job here. Somehow, they have to keep us invested in these characters or they loose the show. The very deeply nuanced story we’ve seen so far indicates a good attention to detail (well, character detail; not so much on which service operates an F-117 or the proper progression from Major to Colonel!). On a rational level, I think its likely we will see a very satisfying story. Now, ask me if I’m always rational!

  6. OldDarth says:

    First 3 episodes of Season 3 have been in the very good to excellent range. The only false beat was Chuck not explaining himself better at the station but the payoff provided at the end of The Three Words negates much of criticism.

    • weaselone says:

      Umm, what about Sarah still wanting to run after having three weeks to reconsider?

      Season 1: Can’t run from US(the US government)
      Season 2: Caught within 24 hours.
      Season 3: We’ll have a normal life.

      Something doesn’t compute. Did Sarah suffers some sort of traumatic brain injury in the 3-week period between Chuck leaving and Prague?

      • OldDarth says:

        It fits with her life history. She has been on the run her own life.

        If Orion could do it why can’t they?

        Besides you are getting hung up on window dressing details. The important point is what Sarah was willing to do.

      • weaselone says:

        Yeah. That’s the problem. I thought she finally wanted something normal, which she implies is something she’s never had. That would include while she was on the run with her father.

        And yes, they could be successful, like Orion, but at what cost? We saw haw he lived. Completely isolated from his family, always just a single step ahead of his pursuers, living out of a trailer, concealing his real identity even from his own son.

      • OldDarth says:

        Running for her IS normal. It is also their only immediate alternative. Whose to say that they would not settle down later on. It was a starting point not a life long plan.

        The cost was worth being together.

        No one is arguing the run away scenario is a premium life style. It fits with Sarah’s history, illustrates Sarah’s true feelings, and is romantic.

        It was a beginning and not an ending. Its real purpose was served and the rest is of no consequence because it never played out. If their running had become the storyline then it warrants more concern but since it did not, it does not.

      • weaselone says:

        No,it isn’t anymore, hence why she said she had never had a normal life.

        And give me a break. Orion left when his kids were in their teams and was still running more than a decade later. Using this as a ruler, when would Chuck and Sarah get that normal life, at 50? And that presumes that neither of them catches a bullet, or Casey doesn’t catch them going at it in some seedy motel in Bratislava within 48 hours.

      • OldDarth says:

        If the runaway story line was important going forward the show would have made accommodations to allow it to be so.

        We know what the purpose was, it served it, was dropped, and the show moved on.

        If you want to spend your time on story point dead ends or cul-de-sacs that is your wagon to pull.

    • atcdave says:

      I don’t quite agree. Three Words is an excellent episode. Well written in its own right, very well acted (duh!), and some peace with what came before. But I am greedy. I want a happy story (I’m shallow, never doubt it). So I guess I’ll have to withhold my highest praise until I see how things unfold.

  7. Ernie Davis says:

    Something doesn’t compute. Did Sarah suffers some sort of traumatic brain injury in the 3-week period between Chuck leaving and Prague?”

    Yep, something happened to Sarah. My guess is we’ll see what it was even more thoroughly than my suppositions. Let them tell the story, there are 10 more episodes to come. Not everything is going to be explained in every episode.

  8. Rick Holy says:

    Monday night – episode 4. Yee Ha! (And Don’t forget Subway, either).

    Keep up the good work, everybody. Hopefully we can maintain or improve on last week’s numbers.

    Peace, all!

    Hasta Luego!!!

  9. weaselone says:

    Ernie, I love your insights into the characters of Chuck and Sarah during the Ring, but I think the simpler explanation for the train station scene is the right one. The relationship needed to be reset for multiple reasons some legitimate, some not and many which you touched upon. The writers just handled it poorly and we ended up with something that felt false and contrived where the characters apparently lost themselves at a key moment in time.

    Sarah apparently forgets what she knows as a spy, and clings to the idea that she and Chuck can somehow run and have a normal life. The government would apparently forget all about the world’s most valuable and potentially most dangerous intelligence asset and would never stoop to threatening Chuck’s family to flush him out of hiding leaving Chuck and Sarah to settle down somewhere.

    Chuck apparently forgets he’s an articulate schnook and decides to pretend that it’s the appeal of the spy world that drives his decision.

    Personally, I just accept that this is where the show is at and hope that we don’t see a repeat.

    • atcdave says:

      I think, after Colonel, ANY reset was going to feel false and contrived. They managed to create a series high point, and any step back is disappointing. It doesn’t matter how clever they handle it, how good the resolution is, and how many really good episodes we get; much of Season 3 will always be a lost opportunity.

      That doesn’t mean they can’t make other opportunities, that’s a big part of what we always discuss here. But I’ll always be a little sad about the really special opportunity they blew, on purpose, with all of their fans saying don’t do it.

  10. lou federico says:

    good discussions all.

    I am on nowayout’s side on most of the arguements. The one thing that really bothered me was Chuck’e first reason he give Sarah for becoming a reak spy…. Adventure, Kind of one sided selfishness. I think the end of the Angel episode where Awesome explains to Chuck was being a spy is not so Awesome was a great wakeup call. I think Chuck just got caught up “being the man”.

    • joe says:

      That sort of reminded me of the scene at the end of 3-D. Chuck’s just spent an episode (and over a month of real-life time) fretting over what Sarah’s done. He’s had some of bloom come off the rose and spy-work ain’t always much fun. In fact, it’s a nightmare. He wants out.

      But he wants to go off on the next mission with them anyway. There’s no reason – he just does.

      That’s our boy.

  11. NoWayOut says:

    If I may, this is how I think the season will play out now, at least in terms of the stories. We get through happy e4 tonight.

    Episodes 5,6,7 are the Hannah arc. I gather we know from the get-go that she’s an enemy spy and that Chuck is training her both at the Buy More and to turn her into “an asset.” After all, Chuck already has a Chuck (Devon), so he needs an asset to “protect,” too. And there’s the Shaw-Sarah stuff lucking in the subtext.

    Episode 8 is the Chuck-Shaw-Sarah triangle. Probably at this point, we have to assume that Chuck and Sarah go to neutral corners after this episode, a la Suburbs.

    Episode 9 is Morgan (a la Best Friend). Episode 10 is Casey (a la Sensei). That also gives us a two-episode “rest” in the relationship.

    Episode 11 turns Chuck into a “real spy.” Hence the title, Chuck vs. the Final Exam. This time he doesn’t flunk because this is journey-to-superhero stuff, after all. Episode 12 (vs. American Hero) dispatches Shaw. And these two episodes have the subtext to set up whatever they are going for with Chuck and Sarah in Episode 13, the original end of the season.

    The only real drama here now is which direction schwartz takes with the Chuck-Sarah thing. Does he have the guts to try to put them together and write a real relationship? Does he have the guts to end it and have them go forward as spy buddies only? Or does he choose some phony middle ground so that he can revive the angst in some new form is the six-episode season 3.5 and maybe an episode 4.

    I know the journey is supposed to be the adventure, but, sadly, these guys have let their strings show. Their story-telling style is apparent. How they structure seasons is now apparent. It’s all by the numbers stuff…

    • joe says:

      Always surprising how two people can look at the same thing and see different objects.

      For me, what you describe as “put them together and write a real relationship” is almost the easy way out. For me, that almost seems to be the dime-store novel version that we’ve seen before. It’s a sped-up version of Ross & Rachel.

      Of course, once you get to a certain age ( ;> ) the structure is apparent, and the strings show. We’ve seen a lot of entertainment in our lives, NoWay. But the magic of theatre and storytelling is when we’re able to forget all that and just go with it. The fun is in the journey, ’cause we know how it’s going to turn out!

      • NoWayOut says:

        We’re of similar age, I believe.

        And I tire of the “journey” because it is so repetitive. (And, btw, even the show’s putative savior, Alan Sepinwall, has now written that he is tired of it…)

        Writing about a “real” relationship between Chuck and Sarah would be compelling because
        1) We haven’t see it;
        2) There are wonderful topics to explore, both as a normal couple and as a spy couple.
        3) You have all the wonderful who-protects-who stuff going forward.
        4) How real can the “real” relationship be? It won’t be Chuck’s old idea of a real life or Sarah’s fantasy of real life. In other words, it can’t be what we saw in the fantasy part of Suburbs. They’d have to learn that and we’d get to see them facing some hard choice.
        5) Everyone else–Casey, Beckman, Morgan, Devon and Ellie–would have to adapt to a Chuck-Sarah couple. We’d get to see that.
        6) To our knowledge, Sarah has never had a real relationship (they have been vague about the contours of Bryce thing, which has some future-story gold). And Chuck hasn’t been in a relationship as an adult, since college. These two are Relationship Virgins for all intents and purposes and that is writing gold.

        That’s the journey that would be new. This season of recycled angst is an old, dull road. I truly haven’t learned a single thing about either character that I didn’t already know in the three episodes we’ve seen so far. I KNEW Sarah can’t talk about her feelings. I knew she is out of control, makes rash choices and can’t plan properly when she gives into them (we saw that as far back as S1 in the kiss scene and in Marlin, when she was going to off Longshore to keep Chuck in her life…). Chuck’s character hasn’t changed any, either. His timing stinks and he’s articulate at the wrong times for the wrong reasons.

        As for Ross and Rachel, well, you know, that isn’t an option here, thank the heavens.

      • Rick Holy says:

        No Way Out – THANK YOU for listing the reasons of why exploring a REAL relationship between Chuck and Sarah would be so compelling. You really summed it up very nicely.

        It is my HOPE, HOPE, HOPE, that THAT will be what Season 4 (if we’re lucky enough to get one) will revolve around in regard the the Chuck/Sarah aspect of the show.

        You’re absolutely right. There is so much MORE that could be delved into – instead of going through round three of what is pretty much the same WT/WT stuff.

        I’m putting up with it – again, HOPING that the kind of things you listed will be what the show addresses in the (possible) 4th season. But if the 4th season (if we get it) is a re-run of the first three of the WT/WT, that will be unfortunate.

        So – I keep on HOPIN’ and keep on Chuckin!

        Thanks EVERYBODY on this site. I thoroughly reading everyone’s “takes” on the show.

        Keep up the GREAT work!!

      • AngelTwo says:

        Father Rick–
        Would it be fair to say that if any couple needs a pre-Cana day, Chuck and Sarah do?

      • joe says:

        So the Priest said yesterday that it was the twelve partying disciples who drank all the wine. It got a laugh. I immediately thought of the Buy Morons. Oh brother!

      • atcdave says:

        Joe, not to take sides or anything, but you’re just wrong.

        Kidding, sort of. No matter how well written, and brilliantly acted it may be, I don’t find the journey fun when its just going in circles (and long established TV cliche to begin with!).

        NoWayOut, I’m not quite as cynical about the reset as you are, but I mostly agree. Thank you for your points about the advantages of writing an actual adult relationship; I agree strongly with your points. TPTB seem eager to dismiss the opinions of tired fans (OK, ‘shippers) as trivial or unsophisticated. Like we’re just unhappy not to get our way. It is always helpful to see how a real relationship could be interesting, unique, and challenging outlined in a thoughtful and concise way.

        And Rick, “putting up with it” is exactly right. There is really nothing else we can do. I think (?!) by the end of the season we’ll be pretty happy with things, but I’m seriously dreading 3.05-3.12 or so. I’m sure there will be some good moments, maybe even whole good episodes in there. And who knows, in time I may appreciate the whole season. But right now, I’m not really looking forward to my favorite show. Bummer!

      • OldDarth says:

        This season the relationship is being handled in a real and adult manner.

      • atcdave says:

        So far, I would say the relationship is being handled more like late S1, with most of the S2 growth being discarded. That doesn’t mean things won’t all fall into place nicely. I also think the performances are among the best we’ve seen. But in my experience, adults talk about goals, obstacles, and how to work things through. Haven’t seen much of that yet. Chuck made a nice speech in the vault; which Sarah has not acknowledged at all. And now they’re about get distracted by outside interests? That is not compelling, responsible, or adult.

        And yes I know, we really don’t know how things will play out yet. If Chuck and Sarah are working towards a mutual goal of being together, and the much dreaded PLIs have nothing to do with them being distracted, all may be well. But as I said before, adults I’ve known who bounce around between interests like this, are never happy, never content, and basically not anyone I would want to watch a show about. My esteem for Chuck and Sarah has already been lowered some this season, and it appears worse is to come.

    • OldDarth says:

      Hannah is not being trained by Chuck. We do not know from the get go if she is a spy – or even if she is a spy.

      • AngelTwo says:

        I’m with Rick Holy, NoWayOut and atcdave. This relationship stuff is repetitive and childish. There’s absolutely nothing “real” or “adult” about how Chuck and Sarah have acted toward each other. Every one of NoWayOut’s points about Chuck and Sarah would be way more interesting to explore than the rehash/reset/repetitive stuff we’ve gotten so far this season.

      • Rick Holy says:

        AngelTwo – part of the “pre-Cana” is taking a “couples’ inventory” aptly called “Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study” (FOCCUS).

        It’s not a “test,” but it’s almost like the SAT format where you have to fill in the circles for different answers/choices to different questions or statements. Then you see how and where the couples “agree” about certain things and where they “disagree.” And then you “facilitate” open discussion. It helps couples to talk about certain issues BEFORE marriage that they may have never talked about.

        So, YES – a pre-Cana weekend might not be a bad idea for Chuck and Sarah (at least at this point in S3)!!!

        Great conversation again, everybody – even when we’re not seeing eye to eye. At least we’re “facilitating open communication!!!” 😉

        It’s Monday, baby! BRING ON THE CHUCK!!!

  12. Ernie Davis says:

    I’m going to try to keep an open mind and not pre-write so much in my head before seeing it. It’s too much work to re-write everything I’ve seen before when I get new info.

    I will opine on one matter though. The only way to “resolve” the romantic subplot is to put them together or kill one of them off. If they are both on the show and not together either the viewers or the writers will see too many possibilities for them as a couple. In other words the romantic subplot would just be reset again, not resolved.

    • NoWayOut says:

      I agree with you about not pre-writing. I never have becasue I always work on the assumption that the show belongs to the creators and, as consumers, we can either watch or not watch. For better or worse, that’s our part in this.

      But I was talking about structure here. The nuances of the stories are up for grabs. But the structure, I think, is pretty clear. We do understand the structure based on what we know from episode titles, the number of episodes the guest stars get, the reveals about specific episodes (we know about Morgan and Casey episodes from the creators), etc… And, of course, from the arcs and pacing they created in season 2 and season 3 is a condensed flip of season 2.

    • atcdave says:

      Ernie, I agree on the resolution issue, and would take it one step further. We know Zach and Yvonne both have “iron clad” six year contracts. And since, as you say, there is no way to “resolve” the issue if they are apart, and, they will not be getting rid of either character, they will certainly be “together” at seasons end.

  13. Pingback: Going in Circles Gets You Nowhere « Chuck This

  14. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Pink Slip (3.01) | Chuck This

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