A Tale of Two Shippers

An excessive discourse on Season 3, with apologies to Dickens.

It was the best of Chuck, it was the worst of Chuck; it was the season of enlightenment, it was the season of foolishness; it was the time to believe in Charah, it was the time to destroy it; it was the season 2 finale, it was the season 3 premier; it was the November and December of hope and then joy, it was the January and February of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, but we were all going through hell.  After the jump.

Given all the recent Sturm und Drang I thought an overtly pretentious opening might just be the thing, but that butchering of Dickens is oddly appropriate.  I walk a fine line in my posts.  I try to express what I feel about Chuck and where it is going while at the same time digging into both the fan reactions and the direction TPTB are taking.  I know that this sometimes makes me seem rather schizophrenic, one post characterizing the source of shipper anger, another defending seemingly indefensible lapses in writing and character assassination.  I sometimes feel like Vito Corleone standing over the bullet riddled corpse of his son.    Look what they did to our show.  Killing is one thing, but this is butchery.  But here’s the odd thing.  Minus Pink Slip, and a few minutes of three words, I’ve liked every episode this season.  I still love this show.  But I usually have to do something to make that happen.  Watch the episode at least twice, doing my best to let go of how I would write it.  If I look for what they are trying to tell me rather than what I think they should tell me, it is there.  So which is it Ernie?  Are you a shipper or a cool aid drinker?  Well the answer is yes.  Are the two compatible?  I’ll give it a shot.

The Season of Our Discontent.

Starting with Chuck Versus The Ring last season we’ve had both Chuck and Sarah acting in some very uncharacteristic ways, or in ways that revert the characters to caricatures of their worst traits.  Sarah standing mute for 20 seconds watching everything she ever built with Chuck come apart, ’cause, you know, Sarah doesn’t express herself well.  Chuck in Three Words being so completely obsessed with telling Sarah how he felt that I was ready to beat him with a stick.  Not to mention the whiplash inducing change of direction that both Chuck and Sarah have taken in the last episode.  I think all of the things I’ve seen that cause me angst come down to one common factor.  Momentum.

I was starting a post to be titled Physics 101 (do we see a theme) that discussed my theory of how TPTB lost a large portion of the fan base with a rapid change of direction that seemed to come out of nowhere, namely my favorite scene in The Ring.  Everyone talks about Colonel as the game changer.  Well, it really wasn’t.  It was kind of the last ticks of the clock in the first half.  We knew where this was going eventually from, well pretty much the beginning of the season, minus some time outs.  There was a momentum to the Chuck and Sarah coupling building, and eventually that became an irresistible force.  In a way it was perfect.  Finally together, Sarah essentially freed from her CIA duties to handle Chuck and Chuck freed from his uncertainty about Sarah’s motives, and both freed from surveillance, they finally had a real moment together.  The masks came off and how they felt was front and center.

We’d seen the masks slip before.  Sarah at the end of Hard Salami is the  most obvious.  I thought that one was the real game changer.  Even though her step back from the truth of her feelings and the implications was a bit painful to watch it was clear to me that by the end of Crown Vic she’d come to terms with the fact of her feelings, and while she’d deny it to anyone she didn’t seem to be denying it to herself.  We saw that pretty clearly from Marlin through Breakup, where it seems Chuck finally stepped up and took some responsibility for the two of them.  It was never about how they felt.  It was clear in the Breakup they both knew how they felt.  It was about the impossible situation they found themselves in.  But in the breakup, in a new context, I saw something.  Chuck didn’t just put some distance back by saying what they wanted could never be, he basically told Sarah he’d keep her safe.  He’d seen crazy in love Sarah, and that little distance he put back between them was just enough to let her know that he wouldn’t let his feelings for her endanger her.  He’d be strong for the both of them, and despite his longing to be with her wouldn’t let things get out of hand.  Now compare and contrast the rest of the season with the last time Sarah needed to put some distance between them, in Crown Vic.  Sarah seems to feel safe with Chuck, even recognizing her feelings for him, to the point where she revels in how “real” things are between them, without taking it too far.  She’ll sleep in his bed without the attempts to manipulate, she’ll cook him breakfast, be his sister’s bridesmaid, even move in together, because she can trust Chuck to keep her safe from the possible consequences of both their feelings.  He did it more than once.  The rooftop in Marlin was the first time.  He talked Sarah down and was ready to go to the bunker to keep her safe, and she realized it, eventually.  In return she keeps him safe and with his family and tries to protect him from some of the more distasteful aspects of the spy life.  It’s the unspoken deal between them, and most of their problems in season 2 are because Sarah wants more “real” than Chuck can handle without losing himself or Chuck forgets that he really is Sarah’s boyfriend as far as she’s concerned.  They practically acknowledge it out loud at the end of Lethal Weapon.  She wants so much more with Chuck, and he again has to step in and say, too much.  I can’t handle that level of real if it can’t be really real.  This was the dynamics of the two steps forward one step back, not questions about how they felt for each other.  That’s been clear since Marlin.  In that context Barstow was inevitable, but not a game changer.  The question was never do we want to be together, but how together can we be?

How together can we be.  It seemed they’d had it generally figured out for  a lot of Season 2, with a few bumps as mentioned.  Sarah’s whole being was dedicated to one thing, protect Chuck.  He was her emotional anchor, the one person she could count on.  For Sarah, for now that was enough.  For Chuck it was a temporary thing, until they could make it real.  As mentioned Sarah was superwoman with the spy stuff, but a damaged little girl emotionally.  She’s not strong in that way.  She relied on Chuck to fill the role of someone to keep her safe.  Chuck understood that role, but not the depth of Sarah’s need for it.  To him it was a temporary burden he had to bear, and once their situation was resolved with the intersect gone Chuck felt that burden was lifted.  So did we it seems.  But what we saw was the now what moment.  The masks were dropped, they both knew what they wanted, the rest of the story is how to get there.

Chuck kept Sarah safe and Sarah protected Chuck from the worst aspects of the spy world.  She also helped him become the man he could be, we saw that.  But by protecting Chuck and giving him confidence Sarah also sowed the seeds of her own despair.  Chuck never thought himself worthy of Sarah and all she’d done for him, and in a way it seems Sarah never thought she deserved someone like Chuck.  In that one brief moment it seemed like they could meet in the middle, but where’s angst in that.  The momentum that seemed to bring them together seemed to have changed with no explanation.  We didn’t see the outside forces that were pulling them apart.  This has always been my execution argument, we need to see these momentum changer clearly.

The decision Chuck made, to be “that guy” was bigger than we think.  Oh yeah, he was the intersect before, so how does that change anything?  Think of it this way, in seasons 1&2 Chuck was a man overboard swimming for the nearest shore.  Through no fault of his own he was thrust into a situation where he had to sink or swim.  Easy decision, swim for shore because your life depends on it.  In the Ring Chuck decided to dive in and swim the English Channel, because Sarah told him he could do it, he was a great swimmer.  That put Chuck and Sarah right back where they were.  How together can we be?  Chuck thought he’d lived in the spy world for a few years, and thought he knew what to expect.  More of the same.  Sarah knew she’d done something terrible, even if she had the best intentions.  She’d helped make the man, but had hidden a lot of what his decision would cost to protect him.  They’re both now working through those consequences.  Sarah has been thrust back into the role of Chuck’s protector and mentor.  Keep his emotions in check.  Much as she may have wanted to at the end of three words she knows she can’t be with Chuck right now.  He sees the distance and knows he’s hurt her.  And he’s heard her words.  Feelings get you killed.  Or can we maybe paraphrase what Chuck may be thinking is where Sarah is…you had your chance and you blew it.  Sarah risked opening up to Chuck once, and clearly still cares, but I’ve seen no indication he would or should think Sarah is open to romance with him again.  I’ve written about that before and think that was a pretty well established line, making Hannah, while not inevitable, believable.  Sarah is the one we can’t figure out.

The question we keep asking is what’s up with Sarah?  A better question might be does Sarah know what’s up with Sarah?  While Chuck is getting harder Sarah is clearly getting softer.  At the same time Sarah has lost something.  Her emotional anchor.  Chuck and their cover dating always gave Sarah something that may have been as real as she could handle, but something she considered real.  She was with Chuck often, she had a purpose, and he had goals she could share in.  Chuck was also Sarah’s moral guidepost, the guy who always did the right thing.  For two years Chuck protected Sarah emotionally, and now he’s gone from that role when she needs him most.  How can she decide what is right or wrong when the guy who told her is having trouble figuring that out for himself?  How can she have something real with anyone when the guy who protected her and kept her safe not only crushed her, but is pulling away?

What’s up with Sarah?  She’s in a world that’s as new and strange to her as the spy world is to Chuck.  She thought she knew what she was in for, but Chuck protected her, and that has cost him.  Sarah is now directionless and lost in her new world.  Her guide and protector is gone, and she knows only one thing now, the thing Chuck taught her.  She needs people in her life she can love and trust.  She has no idea what to do next.  I have the feeling that what we are about to see is to show us just how lost Sarah is in this strange new world.

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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, Inside Chuck, Inside Sarah, Observations, Season 3. Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to A Tale of Two Shippers

  1. joe says:

    Damn! You write well. I’m doubling your salary. 😉

    The only thing not mentioned here is – Shaw. And wouldn’t you know, I heard a song this morning (from the palaeolithic era) that made me understand him (and Sarah’s interest) just a little. I think.

    Recall the scene where Shaw is kissing Sarah’s neck. Make the background music – this.

    What’s your name? Who’s your daddy?
    Is he rich like me?
    Has he taken any time
    To show you what you need to live?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Joe, thanks for the raise from … wait a minute! Well thanks for the compliment.

      I didn’t mention Shaw because it really isn’t about him. Yet. It’s more about Sarah now needing to have someone in her life to fill the hole Chuck left, and not being very good at that sort of thing.

      Here is where I think Shaw will come in. Sarah has never been a mark. She’s been abandoned, disappointed lied to and all that, but she’s never been used by someone she allowed herself to care about. I think this will be the nature of Shaw’s evil plan, to use her to manipulate both Chuck and the team. We keep seeing Chuck learn how much of what Sarah has had to live with can hurt, now she gets a little taste of what Chuck felt like. Just a theory.

      And remember the line Shaw uses to begin his seduction. “Relax Sarah, I’m the safest guy in the world.”

      • Jason says:

        the great thing about OOC writing all over the place, we have no idea what is going on & no logic can really explain it, hence ANY logic will due once it is released? Shaw playing sarah – maybe, sarah playing shaw – maybe, seems less likely now than b4, playing each other – possibly – what u see is what u get – maybe – it really doesn’t matter much to me any longer – does it to you at this point ernie?

      • joe says:

        You’re welcome.
        My point with Shaw and the lyric was actually pretty much in agreement with what you said. He’s filling the hole left by Chuck, and he starts to seem slightly oily.

        And that was before you reminded me of the line I forgot! – “Relax Sarah. I’m the safest guy in the world.” Chuck was far more believable when he said it to Hannah.

      • Waverly says:

        But how much of our distrust of Shaw is based on that “safest guy” statement, the ominous background music, and the following scene with the Ring-leaders?

        Ignore all of the previews and background talk and our speculation. Hasn’t Shaw been shown as a generally good guy?

      • joe says:

        Yes, he has. And that’s the scariest thing of all.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Ignore all of the previews and background talk and our speculation. Hasn’t Shaw been shown as a generally good guy?

        Yes, since he showed up in Burbank, aside from drawing guns on team B and leaving Chuck without backup, then sending Chuck on his first solo mission with two seasoned ring agents and insufficient intel, he’s been a good guy.

        But you’re forgetting our introduction was not when he showed up in Burbank, it was when even Beckman, no paragon of open forthright communication, was repulsed by Shaw’s plans to use team B without informing them of the purpose or danger involved.

  2. atcdave says:

    Ernie, I love your writing, and have learned a lot from you these last few months. But the problem is, this is far too serious. If your perspective is a reflection of what the writers are thinking, they have really lost me. I’ve loved and lost, and loved and won; and learned a lot both ways. My wife and I connect on a deep and satisfying level, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I just don’t watch TV for that, and I think most viewers are like me. I work full time, and so does my wife. We’ve watched friends and family loose jobs, get sick, divorce, and die. we’ve enjoyed Chuck for most of two seasons because it was fun. I’m not a total simpleton, I enjoy some discussion of what the underlying themes are; what the creator’s intent is; and what the future direction is. But if the show isn’t fun it fails. For two seasons it mostly succeeded. For the third season, it mostly hasn’t.

    I understand much of what you are saying, and please don’t take me wrong, but I don’t care. If the show doesn’t become fun again, I will quit watching. I will stick it out this season, although my wife may not; but if I’m not pleased with the season 3.5 “preview” of things to come I’m done. It doesn’t matter how profound or clever the writing may be.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Dave, I absolutely agree. As I’ve said before I think they took a wrong turn when they started magnifying these problems for dramatic purposes. They changed Sarah from a strong woman with a troubled past and some trust issues to an emotional cripple. They changed Chuck from a goodhearted guy who finds a way to save the day by being a goodhearted guy and a nerd to a tormented superhero. They changed the show from a fun romp with some dramatic and comedic moments to … something else. I prefer season 2 by far, and I think I can almost see this season as on par with season 1, but I’m still enjoying it. I’m sorry that a lot of people like you aren’t, and I’m not saying I wanted the show to go this direction, just that I still find a lot of things to like about it if I’m willing to look again. I also have the feeling that once this arc which is about Chuck being re-born into the spy world and I think Sarah realizing it wasn’t about finding somebody or being real, it was about how she and Chuck could find real together even though they straddled two very different worlds, then, I hope, they can get back to more of a fun romp. TPTB are probably taking this a bit too seriously, but then one of the reasons I fell in love with the show was precisely because in a show with huge suspension of disbelief and overlooking of plot holes required they did take the characters seriously.

      My take at this point is that the characters aren’t so much out of character as developing in ways we didn’t see before or expect. It was probably a bit too ambitious to try in a stripped down 13 episode season, but I’ll hang in for a while. As will we all.

      • atcdave says:

        I suspect and hope you are correct about things getting back to the “fun romp”; really, that’s what I’m counting on, that’s why I’m still here. I do agree that I previously appreciated the way they did take the characters seriously; I think they were real enough to relate to and respect, but generally not as real in the ways that hurt. Obviously, that has changed this season. I think I’m actually glad the initial order was so short, even if it causes a few logical dosconnects, its forcing them to move this along quickly.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, I meant to add at some point that in a way you inspired this post. For those of you not in the know Dave and I are apparently separated at birth. We share a lot of similar views, and hobbies, we were born within weeks of each other and both started work for the feds at nearly the same time, and until the start of this season our views on Chuck were on the same page. It has been interesting to see that two shippers who agree on so much can have such diverse reactions to the same show. The two shippers of the title referred not only to my ambivalence, but on how Dave and my views have seemed to diverge as the season has progressed.

        This isn’t to say that I disagree with Dave’s take on things, just that maybe I’m willing to give TPTB a bit more leeway, for now. I still look at Dave’s “Right to Complain” post as the piece I wish I could have written. Believe me, I tried but never did manage to pull it off. My post after that, “Why Our Stories Matter“, the one I’m probably most proud of, was basically made possible because Dave managed to clarify a lot of my thinking with his post and freed me up to take a different angle on the whole shipper rebellion.

        So while we may seem to disagree on some things, and I think this goes for everyone, I do understand where this is coming from, and I think it is absolutely valid.

      • Rick Holy says:

        Great article – and great “back and forth” guys.

        All I can add is “BRING BACK THE FUN” – AND THE REALITY!!

        The things that were happening between Chuck and the Spy World, Chuck and his family and friends, Chuck and Sarah, etc., etc., during seasons 1 and two were within the realm of REAL for what was taking place during seasons 1 and 2. I mean, even the angst – which I’m no big fan of – during S1 & S2 was REAL in the sense that MOST OF THE TIME it made sense, it “fit” within the overall “theme” of what we came to know as the T.V. show CHUCK.

        Now it’s not fun (at least most of S3 hasn’t been) and like Sarah said during the ever dreaded train station scene, “it’s NOT REAL.”

        Well, it certainly HASN’T been so far this season.

        Again, I’m saddened more than stoked – because the story for S3 – even in the direction they’ve taken it – COULD have been told so much better.

        Again, I’m no writer – but I do know how to – or at least I certainly have to do my best to try to – “engage” an audience (congregation). So far, at least for this one die-hard Chuckaholic, this season has been less than engaging, fun or “real.”

        Hopefully things will get better. And hopefully it won’t be too late (as in seeing our ratings sink below the 2.2 level or God forbid drop down below 2.0).

        Anyway, I’ll keep on Chuckin’ – until I just can’t take it anymore. (Which hopefully won’t happen).

      • Stef62 says:

        Expecting a 1.9 from this ep

  3. eaglemmoomin says:

    Thats a great post. I do feel Sarah’s OOC behaviour is needed to break her out of her asset/handler mindset. Meanwhile Chuck losing his spy blankie will make him step up in ep 9. I do think ep 10 will be more like watching Bryce with a heart and Sarah if you see what I mean. Until Sarah sees them as equals I don’t think any relationship would really be ‘balanced’. I know the words come out of her mouth but even now I don’t think she fully believes it. So Chuck hitting his lowest ebb and then coming back like Rocky and stepping up himself is needed. To break both of them out of the old pattern.

  4. Faith says:

    I still have to think even more about your post Ernie but my initial thoughts are as follows. Now be nice, these are initial so I’m probably reading things wrong, etc lol:

    – This is the way things had to be. In a way they’re a product of their own actions…to each other. When you break through the dam, you can’t help the tidal wave like flow of water that will be coming your way. The fact of the matter is Sarah was closed off, with Chuck she has learned to open up and with that opening came with it trust, hope and emotionality and some neediness. I’m not at all surprised that she’s been all over the place emotionally this season, and in fact I won’t be surprised if she opens up to Shaw in 3.8 either (I’ll be pissed at the manner at which they went about this storyline) but I won’t be surprised. Because you’re right, she’s wandering the world looking for a connection now…without Chuck and the family that he has MADE essential for her “sometimes it helps to know you have something to lose” she’s alone once more and with the innocence lost comes the tidal wave of emotions fraught with mistakes and pain and learning. She lost her innocence with regards to life, love, emotions with Chuck and she was awakened to a dream she herself have always fought to make herself believe she doesn’t want/didn’t deserve/doesn’t need.

    – I think the idea of the anchor is inspired. All throughout the past seasons we’ve learned just how much these two were willing to do for one another, how far they were willing to go (be it hurt, treason, healing, etc). It’s a shock that Chuck disconnected that anchor but it’s not a surprise IMO because this is what Sarah has turned him into. The hero, the one that would put the fate over the world over his own desires, dreams, love. There’s a sort of frankenstein effect going on in the sense that what she created had the most power to hurt her but in the end she can only blame herself because she built him up and he let her down (though not really). The reason why I thought Pink Slip and all that went on there was heavy it’s because it’s true, Chuck is the one guy you would think wouldn’t hurt Sarah (at least not intentionally) and by choosing becoming a spy (fate of the world aside), he did that. Anchor torn, Sarah aimless, innocence lost. But again this was coming. She probably knew it might come…there might come a day where who he was will no longer be who he is and she had a hand in that (by encouraging him, making him realize his destiny, building him up). She’s just momentarily blinded and can’t see that this is a good thing. This is a good thing for both of them.

    – My hope for the show is they would use these events “frankenstein-innocence loss” as a way to get them even closer, maybe fall back in love with who they have since become. I didn’t think the PLIs were needed for that and I can’t for the life of me understand the need for them. And yes Shaw is creepy. If she were Agent Walker of old, she’d have spotted that a mile away and have placed Chuck on a bunker by now.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Faith, I think you pretty much nailed it. In fact I like much of what you wrote more than my overly long post.

      I’ll just add that the story TPTB decided to tell was that this was inevitable, not that this story was the inevitable one. They unleashed the angst.

      • Lucian says:

        Ernie – you just touched on something I was thinking of after reading your post:

        – Season 1 was outstanding in that it was all character-driven; we came to love these two characters;
        – Season 2 was outstanding in that it was largely plot-driven; Chuck’s mission to remove the Intersect from his head, and Sarah’s help in doing that.
        – Season 3 has been largely angst-driven. Though they both needed to experience some pain and growth, TPTB could have covered this terrain in the hero’s journey with about 20% of the angst and without the PLIs, and the characters and the storytelling would have both been stronger. Old habits die hard, and I really do think we are dealing with the “one dead pony” problem.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Amen bro. IMHO the alternative story was better, they got through it because they loved each other, not that they realized they loved each other after they got through it.

      • atcdave says:

        In some ways Ernie, we are still on exactly the same page; I think its just a difference of how big a mistake we think they made.

    • kg says:

      I actually feel a hell of a lot better now about the whole season. There really is a certain inevitability about it. Provided you have the werewithall and the penchant to think well outside the box. Like one Ernie Davis.

      As Dave has intimated, it’s not merely missing the fun and light moments. The show isn’t as simple anymore. Dave’s right. It’s asking a ton from the audience.

      And Faith, we saw Chuck invite Sarah to that dinner and explained, “because it wouldn’t have been the same without you.” Well now, after reading the two pieces I realize that Sarah needed it more than Chuck did.

      In this light, Sarah isn’t acting out of character. The poor kid is messed up. She’s lost her beacon, her rock, Chuck. And we kept whining, looking for excuses because we just couldn’t believe Sarah was this emotionally frail and tattered. We didn’t want to believe it. We thought that in addition to her tremendous beauty and combat skills, that she was invincible. Turns out she’s actually a human being, a real woman.

      • kg says:

        The element I forgot was that I totally agree with the notion that it was never about knowing how they felt about each other.

        There was always something keeping them apart. They haven’t figured out how to find the balance. Yet.

  5. Anonymous says:

    When all of this is said and done, TPTB will have to answer to themselves–and maybe NBC and Warner if the show is cancelled–these two questions:

    1) What benefit was there is keeping their best asset, the Levi-Strahovski on-screen chemistry, on the bench for so much of these episodes? I am not suggesting that they two characters had to be a couple from the first episode, but the story they are telling actually seems to minimize the screen time of their best asset. That is insanity squared.

    2) Can they really claim that the story they are telling this year is better because the it has not included Chuck and Sarah as a couple? If you go episode by episode in season 3 up to Nacho Sampler, there is no theme they could not have covered with the two as a couple. In fact, with just a little rewriting, the exact same stories could have been told. In fact, I could argue the drama and even some of the angst would have been better if Chuck and Sarah had been paired. (I leave Mask out because, frankly, I still don’t know what Mask is supposed to be about.)

    To me, the business side of the creative decisions TPTB made is inexplicable and may have cost Warners, NBC, the cast and the crew millions of dollars, especially if this show ends this season.

    • atcdave says:

      Hey, I wish you’d sign in! Whoever you are, excellent post!

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi, Anonymous IS my sign in. I thought it was a good metajoke. I always use my real email address, so this is the little graphic identifier I always get…

      • joe says:

        But – but… now we have several anonymouses – anonymii – anonymeeces …. awwww!

      • weaselone says:

        I think that’s Anonymice.

      • Metajoke says:

        Ok, Ok, I am now officially Metajoke, formerly Anonymous! Geez, talk about your Fake Names! 🙂

      • atcdave says:

        Metajoke works! I was going to call you Bruce (Monty Python thing, sorry).

      • Metajoke says:

        Oh, if THAT is all it was, I could have cleared it up. I’m the Anonymous who teaches Hegelian Philosophy. The Anonymous over there teaches logical positivism…

      • joe says:

        Oh, whew! We can tolerate Hegelian Philosophy here. We had to run the logical positivists out of here on a rail, along with the Objectivists.

        Had us worried there for a second.

        😉

        And I am drowning in all the cleverness!

      • Metajoke says:

        Then you’re with me in wondering why they didn’t play The Lumberjack Song at the finale of the Olympics last night? I mean, I was waiting and waiting and waiting. Didn’t get it — or Doug and Bob MacKenzie, either…

      • joe says:

        Oh, I definitely was waiting for the MacKenzie Bros. to show.

        The Lumberjack Song, however…

    • JLR says:

      This was pretty much what I was going to post…good job Anonymous!!

  6. SWnerd says:

    Wow, so after reading this, I’m thinking that tomorrow night might just be bearable (although I’m still removing all possible throwing objects from my immediate reach). I still don’t like the path they chose this season and I’ll always feel some remorse for what it could have been. I hate wasted potential. But maybe if the out of character actions are to show us just how lost or broken the characters really are, it makes it somewhat more bearable. If done right, it can retain both the empathy and sympathy we feel for them. Sometimes, as human beings, we do things that we regret or that are less than honorable when we are confused, hurt, or forlorn. And I think Sarah, as a product of her past and present situation, is all of those things right now. If done right, the payoff to all this pain could be epic. A payoff that strengthens both our love for the characters and their love for each other. For the record though, I still don’t think they needed PLIs even with choosing this direction, but I know they enjoy “love geometry” so…yeah.

    I don’t mind the change to a slightly darker Chuck character this season because I do realize that he needs to mature in the spy world and understand the stakes. I don’t like that he seems ok with sort of intentionally endangering Hannah by pursuing a relationship but I attribute that to the previously mentioned “love geometry” fetish. I do wish he would fight for Sarah a little more instead of moving on so quickly, but I understand that once you get hit in the produce section one too many times, you probably won’t go back for more. And she hasn’t shown that she won’t do it again. So I guess it should be her turn to pursue him which I’m hoping she does once she comes to terms with her emotions.

    But the one thing I’m not going to let TPTB off the hook for: Chuck being a solo agent. They are the most successful team because they are in fact a very good team. And Bryce wasn’t going to be solo. It just seems dumb.

    I’m obviously also not going to let them off the hook if they totally f*** up the opportunity they’ve presented themselves with these deeper character storylines.

    • SWnerd says:

      Oh yeah just remembered: also not letting them off the hook for lack of Zach/Yvonne chemistry. But I at least understand they sort of had to give them less screen time to make their story work. But still…not cool.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Glad I could help. It’s my own method of coping with what I agree was so much wasted potential, and I also don’t let TPTB off the hook for that.

  7. JC says:

    Look at the different sites everyone seems to be just focusing in on what Sarah is going to do. But what about Chuck and I mean beyond the punch. Are we going to see Chuck regress or will he be just as vindictive as Sarah?

    • weaselone says:

      Not sure. Nobody mentioned Chuck as being out of character. Shaw deserves to be punched regardless for being a sleazy, manipulative superior.

      • JC says:

        That’s what I’m worried about. Is Chuck just going to an emotional and verbal punching bag for Sarah. Does he do something to make her act OOC or is it just her venting her anger at him. I just find it strange that nothing has been said about what he does in the episode.

      • weaselone says:

        He generally serves that purpose. Only rarely does he ever strike back and he almost universally tends to regret it nearly immediately. It’s hard to say whether he’ll be a punching bag for Sarah. There are certainly other ways she could act out of character. Indeed, Sarah giving Chuck a couple of well placed, and at least partially merited kicks to the groin wouldn’t be out of character for her.

      • Jason says:

        i think the opposite ‘soon’, albeit for a short duration, I predict shaw loves sarah, sarah loves chuck, chuck loves no one, I doubt he will make her beg for long, but after 40 episodes of him following her around like a puppy dog, he deserves a little time – but I think chuck will man up

      • Lucian says:

        Yeah, it would be good if the punch came because of Chuck’s concern for Sarah, not because he is a frustrated former cover boyfriend.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Weaselone, yep, my thoughts exactly. If Chuck sees Shaw as manipulating or hurting Sarah the new “no more Mr. Nice Spy” Chuck will definitely take him down a peg. The question is how will the new Sarah react.

      • Stef62 says:

        Still thinking that he’s coming from the angle that he’s been played as the biggest mark of them all. Hence the intersect failure at the start of ep9, and probably the end ep8 too.

  8. Gord says:

    Great post, I think you are on to something. It will be interesting to see how it evolves.
    Less than 24 hours until 3.08.

  9. Merve says:

    Ernie, that was an excellent, insightful post. I think that it’s telling that you didn’t emphasize the PLIs much in your post, because honestly, they really aren’t the most important source of drama for Chuck and Sarah. In fact, given that there’s such a rich source of Chuck/Sarah drama, I don’t see why they needed to go the PLI route this season, but perhaps after seeing 3.08, I’ll understand.

    What I mean is that PLIs really only serve a purpose if they advance the plot or the characters. In my opinion, Lou, Bryce and Cole all did that. But I don’t think that Jill did. After the Jill arc, not much had happened in the fight against Fulcrum, Chuck and Sarah were right back where they were prior to the arc, and Sarah explicitly told Chuck not to become lest trusting. We’ll see after Hannah is gone and Shaw is no longer a love interest whether we have a Cole situation or a Jill situation.

    Okay, so I’ve ranted about PLIs for two paragraphs despite it not being the focus of your article. For that I apologize. There’s one thing about Sarah that I’d also like to write about, and it is somewhat controversial: the idea that Sarah wants to be part of Chuck’s “normal life,” or more precisely, her version of a normal life, which isn’t necessarily what everyone else would think is normal. Until after Prague, for Sarah, “normal” meant “spy-free.” Any time that Sarah has a made a move towards Chuck, it’s been on her own terms. Chuck and Sarah gave into their passions in “Colonel,” but it was after Sarah took Chuck with her on the run. In “Ring,” Sarah was willing to give up her CIA career, but again, this fits into Sarah’s notion of what “normal” is; this just happens to also fit with more typical definitions of “normal.” And finally, in “Pink Slip,” she wants to run away with Chuck. But it’s important to note that it’s on her terms, i.e. based on her definitions of “real” and “normal.” A life on the run with fake identities seems crazy to most of us, but for Sarah, it’s just like her childhood; it’s her version of “normal.”

    What hasn’t been touched on too much in season 3, and what I think might be touched on later, is Chuck and Sarah meeting in the middle. “Ring” was the only time their two visions of “normal “coincided, but Papa Bartowski managed to ruin that one with his untimely interruption. Now that Chuck is in the spy world, they’ll need to find a new “normal,” one that works for them. It can’t be Sarah’s “spy-free” normal world. It also can’t be Chuck’s regular old life. (Chuck kind of threw that one out the window.) In some ways, it’s the most realistic love story that they could tell; it’s about compromise. That’s how things work in real life. The problem is that Chuck isn’t real life; it’s television. Some people like realism in television. Some people prefer escapism. I think that’s why this season has been so divisive for its fan base.

    • atcdave says:

      Realism vs. escapism is an excellent observation Merve. You know where I line up, sorry if I’m sometimes divisive, but my feelings on the matter are VERY strong.

      • ReadySet says:

        atcDave-
        No one wants the fun, light Chuck show back more than I, except possibly you.

        But Ernie has ALWAYS been right about the fact that a fantasy show like Chuck needs a grounding of realism from the relationship between the main characters. And that’s why we dote on Chuck and Sarah so much. Chuck and Sarah (and Devon and Awesome as the B story) must be real for the show to work. That’s why it is puzzling why they’ve gone here in Season 3. We’ve yet to see a single thing emotionally that hasn’t yet been covered in Seasons 1/2.

        Worst, they are retconning. I know it isn’t “canon” because it didn’t make it into the filmed pilot, but the 12/06 pilot has Sarah KNOWING that Chuck is a good guy before she’d had conversations with Bryce about Chuck. Moreover, there was also dialog late in that pilot about Sarah’s longing for a life outside her spy life.

        That’s why when certain people on this board tell us “what we see is what we get” and that TPTB have a master plan, we know it’s baloney. A lot of what they are doing has clearly been on the fly. And Season 3 is surely more on-the-fly than part of the master plan. And that is where the storytelling has fallen down.

    • Big Kev says:

      Merve,
      Not sure I agree that Shaw and Hannah don’t advance the plot or the characters. Shaw has already had a huge effect on the dynamics of Team B, and clearly there is power to add.
      As for Hannah, her Paris revelation was the catalyst for Morgan and Ellie beginning their investigation into Chuck’s activities, and she is the vehicle of Chuck’s perceived betrayal of Morgan – and that’s before whatever else she does in 3.08.

      • Merve says:

        That’s a good point. I should have said that I wanted to see whether they’d continue to advance the plot/characters in an interesting way. Shaw did that in “Operation Awesome” and “First Class.” Hannah did that in “Nacho Sampler.” In my opinion, neither of them did that in “Mask,” so it remains to be seen what they’ll do in “Fake Name.” It also remains to be seen what happens when they’re gone. Will they have a permanent, lasting effect? Will they actually change things? I don’t think that the Jill arc really changed things. In fact, if you took it out of the show, you wouldn’t really notice until “First Kill” (and a couple of lines in “Sensei,” I guess). I think that Shaw has had permanent effects on Chuck’s development as a spy. But thus far, whatever Hannah has done to advance the plot could very easily be undone at the end of her arc. After “Fake Name,” we’ll know if what she has does is actually undone.

    • Paul says:

      I disagree. Jill was about “what could have been”. She was there to allow Chuck to close the door on his past and move on with a clean slate.

      • Merve says:

        I can see that, but we never saw Chuck thinking about his past with Jill any time between “Nemesis” and “Ex.” That’s why I find the jump into the Jill arc jarring and difficult to believe.

      • atcdave says:

        Speaking as someone who never likes triangles; I’d say Bryce is the only one who was really needed for character and story growth. In the end, I didn’t mind Cole (I will always hate Beefcake, but Lethal Weapon was a good episode; Cole wasn’t the problem, it was everything about Beefcake). I could accept Jill as a story “they had to tell” (not that I ever needed to hear it, but I understand why a writer might think they were obligated to go there). I have no use for Lou, but her episodes were early and harmless. I have no use for Hannah (Smallville baggage on top of not liking triangles, and bitterly resenting the idea of additional LIs post-Colonel; doomed situation before filming even started). And I don’t like Cole for what he’s done to the TeamB dynamic even before he got friendly with Sarah, so that’s another doomed scenario from my perspective.

  10. Big Kev says:

    Ernie…..Joe is right. You are good. And Faith is good too. And between you, you just might have turned on a light for me, with regards to what might be to come.
    Firstly, I’ve never seen the rooftop scene in Marlin in terms of Chuck protecting Sarah from the consequences of her emotions. I’ve missed that, in all the times I’ve watched it. But of course, you are completely right. He talks her down, and she puts the gun away.
    I’ve made the mistake of thinking that what is “in character” for Sarah is in fact the old Sarah – the closed off, walled Sarah who trusts no one and reveals nothing of herself that is real. That Sarah would never run to Shaw with such speed…….and that’s what I found incomprehensible about the end of “Mask”.
    But as you and Faith point out, that Sarah doesn’t exist any more. She’s long gone. What we now have is a Sarah whose walls are irreparably cracked, whose emotions are surging behind them, and who no longer has her emotional anchor to give her a connection to anything “real”. In that light, it’s not quite so hard to see Sarah is now desperate to maintain a connection of any kind, precisely because she doesn’t want to go back to that old closed off, “in character” Sarah. And a Sarah whose emotional judgement, without Chuck, has always been suspect. It’s the very speed of the flip that we found so unnerving that in fact emphasises the point of just how lost she is. As you say, Sarah doesn’t know what’s going on with Sarah.
    One thing we do know is that she’s still in love with Chuck. I thought that scene in Castle was as clear a declaration of love from her as any we’ve seen. Chuck, being Chuck, misses it, and Sarah, being Sarah, can’t vocalise it…..but she’s practically begging Chuck to reestablish that connection, in some way.
    So now I’m looking at the last scene with Shaw in 3.07, and I’m seeing something different. I thought the lack of chemistry proved that there must be a con on. That theory seems to have been effectively discounted by advance reviews of 3.08 to 3.11. Now, after yours and Faith’s posts, I’m seeing Sarah as so desperate for a connection with someone that she’ll go to Shaw, despite the obvious lack of chemistry between them.
    I don’t think I’m going to like 3.08 much, and I still think that the whole thing could have been set up so much better but finally – thanks to you and Faith – I think I understand where Sarah is coming from.

    • weaselone says:

      But Sarah isn’t the only one hoping that the connection is reestablished in that final scene in 3.07. Yes, Chuck with his lack of confidence completely misses that Sarah’s really talking about him when she tells him that she has a type, but Sarah completely misses that Chuck’s given her the chance to reach out to him and show him that they can have something again if she just says the one word that she’s been so easily able to say all 3 seasons, no.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks for your kind words Kev. That is the great part about this blog, there is always someone who can show you another way of looking at things that makes it fun to re-watch again and again and again. I keep saying it, but I get more good ideas from reading the comments than anything I could possibly come up with on my own, so thanks for reading and posting.

    • Metajoke says:

      Uh, Chuck does NOT talk Sarah down in the rooftop scene in Marlin. She takes her hand OFF the gun when Longshore offers her one minute of time…

      • Metajoke says:

        And as to Sarah-Shaw. I really DO think you have to draw a sharp distinction between a ROMANTIC connection and an EMOTIONAL one. Sarah’s romantic interest in Shaw is ZERO. She will most likely turn to him as fellow-spies on the same level. To talk about things that Chuck clearly can’t handle yet.

        Now I have NO doubt that Shaw will try to push past that, but Sarah will probably let him get no further than Cole got.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Uh, Chuck does NOT talk Sarah down in the rooftop scene in Marlin. She takes her hand OFF the gun when Longshore offers her one minute of time…

        Yes, but would she have let Longshore take Chuck? She didn’t have to shoot him immediately to stop Chuck’s extraction, which she was clearly considering. The minute gave Chuck time to calm her down. Clearly by accepting that he was going and giving Sarah a new “mission” Chuck got Sarah past the crazy impulsive moment where she was ready to draw her gun to keep him from being taken to Sarah accepting that she couldn’t do anything then, but that she’d save him later.

        I’ll just add this hypothetical. What do you think would have happened if Chuck said what he really felt at that point. “Sarah, please don’t let them take me.”

  11. weaselone says:

    Ernie, this was a fantastic article and parallels my own thoughts on where Sarah is now. I just have a difficulty accepting that a Sarah with her emotional walls cracked and her emotional scabs torn off being so selective with who the emotions ooze out on to. She seems to largely be able to prevent spillage in front of everyone else, so why do the emotions ooze out with Shaw? Why not with Chuck, or Ellie, or Casey, or even Awesome? Awesome would probably be the ideal person. He knows about the spy world, he’s in touch with his feelings, and for the most part he gets Chuck. It would be a two minute conversation where Awesome reaffirms that Chuck loves her and that he’s not the type of guy who runs away from obligations and avoids opportunities to help others.

    Sarah chooses to run into the arms of Daniel Shaw, man who jealously guards his own secrets and knows everyone else’s, a man who if we take the promo at face value uses Sarah’s confessions to poison the knife he drives into Chuck right before Chuck sends him on an all expenses paid trip to the carpet.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      A fair point, my feeling is that Sarah is now having a hard time seeing Chuck (or anyone that is close with Chuck) as safe. Sarah is looking for safe again.

      Also, note that while it hasn’t been stated explicitly it has been strongly hinted by Morgan that a lot of the Bartowski family and friends don’t much care for Sarah right about now. They see her continued contact with Chuck as her stringing him along. Remember Morgan’s talk with Hannah when Hannah asked who Sarah was? Also Ellie and Morgan thinking Chuck had gone “to the dark place” because of Sarah. I think this next episode will also be interesting on that basis, Ellie and the rest of the family and friends reacting to Chuck moving on, or not with someone other than Sarah.

      It seems to me that while Chuck and Sarah were still (apparently) trying to work things out the Bartowski-Woodcomb-Grimes clan would be willing to cut her some slack, but now she may have lost her adoptive family in addition to Chuck.

      • Merve says:

        Ernie, I think that it’s only Morgan who sees Sarah that way (and maybe Jeff and Lester.) Devon thinks that what Chuck and Sarah had is fake (though he’s surprised to learn that.) He knows that Chuck and Sarah are colleagues, so he has no reason to dislike Sarah. I’m not so sure about Ellie. During her conversation with Sarah in “Angel de la Muerte,” she was confrontational, but not hostile. To be honest, Ernie, I’m not sure why she isn’t hostile and why she’s so sympathetic.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Merve, I take your point about Awesome. I had actually thought about that after Weaselone’s post. I just don’t think Sarah would be that brave, and Awesome seems pretty freaked out about all things spy related by the end of Nacho Sampler.

        As far as Ellie I think Morgan was meant to convey a general Bartowski clan feeling with that exchange since we later see he and Ellie are on the same page thinking Chuck needs an intervention. Like I said, Ellie may have been willing to cut Sarah some slack when she was still going on the occasional date with Chuck or coming over for a family dinner, but since things don’t seem to have been resolved between Chuck and Sarah my take is that we’re supposed to see most of the Bartowski clan losing patience with Sarah, with the possible exception of Devon who can’t say anything.

      • atcdave says:

        I do think though, once Chuck and Sarah sort things out, Ellie will be enthusiastically receptive to the fact. OK, maybe a brief explanation will be in order; but I don’t expect serious angst on that front.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, I agree. My point is more about Sarah’s present isolation and why she may feel Shaw is the only one she can turn to for some sort of real connection.

        I thought it very interesting how Morgan described Sarah last episode and hadn’t really thought about it, but it does make sense that some of the Bartowski clan might start to see Chuck’s continued relationship with Sarah as not necessarily a positive thing.

      • Merve says:

        I know we’re splitting hairs here, but I think that Ellie doesn’t have a problem with Sarah, just with the nature of Sarah’s post-breakup relationship with Chuck. Morgan, on the other hand, because he is Chuck’s “bro,” sees Sarah, and not the relationship itself, as the problem.

        But that’s really splitting hairs, haha.

      • atcdave says:

        Its almost too bad Morgan is soon to be in on things. It would have been funny if Sarah had to win Morgan back over. Maybe they could still have fun with it, especially if Morgan and Awesome both are just convinced everything between Chuck and Sarah is cover now.

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      Very valid point Weaselone. I actually find a discord in Sarah’s actions in relation to her need for that emotional connection we talked about. The way I see it losing that anchor and that connection would just make her more apt to fight to get it back. Something that she hasn’t shown in the past but would make sense now with her emotional awakening. Also the reason why I didn’t get the purpose of PLIs.

      Although technically I suppose I just contradicted my own earlier argument. Damn you brain!

      • atcdave says:

        I agree we need to see something from Sarah. Apparently, we’ll be waiting another week at least. Bummer.

  12. Paul says:

    Great post Ernie! It puts into words (more elouquently than I could) my thoughts on Chuck and particulalry Sarah’s character flaws and why they are acting the way they are. I did not see them as being OOC in 3.07. In fact, I totally saw them IN character, and doing EXACTLY what I would expect each to do.

    • Faith says:

      The reasons for the actions aren’t OOC IMO but certain actions were. With what we’ve learned of Sarah and how protective she is, it was out of character for her to just be ok (same for Casey) with him being on his own. Not that long ago it was proven that it required a team. I maintain that it (3.7) was just too quick and not enough explanation. But then again maybe that’s a point in itself.

      • atcdave says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice to find out, even if there’s no scam as such, that Sarah was sure all along the whole “solo agent” thing would never work out.

  13. herder says:

    Wonderful post Ernie, I agree with most everything that you say.

    I can see the purpose of the Shaw/Sarah arc, it makes her decide what kind of a person she wants to be. I can also see that it has things to teach Chuck, to stand up for himself, to win Sarah back to not accept her tendanct not to talk.

    What I can’t see is the Chuck/Hannah arc, what is she to teach him that he doesn’t already know. Lou showed that a civilian/spy romance doesn’t work well, Jill was about the dangers of treachery, what new can Hannah show.

    Put another way, why is she necessary to the story that they have chosen to tell. The only one that comes to mind is a realization that when he chose to intersect that certain parts of the live that he had lived and intended to live are no longer open to him. Although that is an important point, I fail to see why a guest star was needed for four episodes to make that point.

    Hopefully tonights episode will answer that question, incidentally, so far this year answers have been few and far between, maybe with Hannah’s exit they start to become apparant.

    Show starts in an hour and a half (this week only Citytv starts it an hour earlier than the NBC feed).

    • atcdave says:

      To me, one of the oddest things about Hannah; is how Chuck thinks he can get involved with another civilian (whether she actually turns out to be one or not) he can’t tell the truth to, right when things are a total mess with Ellie, Morgan, and even Devon.

  14. Lucian says:

    IMO, Hannah serves one basic purpose – that is, to reduce the flakiness factor for Sarah connecting with Shaw (which is why the relationships developed simultaneously). She needed to be around long enough for Chuck to get interested. Poor storytelling.

  15. Pingback: Chuck Versus The Pink Slip (3.01) | Chuck This

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