Cementing the Failure of Season Three

A Guest Post By Liz James

To borrow a line from A Comet Appears, The Shins tune that appeared in the pilot and predicted everything that’s followed in Chuck, Season Three was marked by a host of individual sins. And there is a startling sin even in the “happy ending” that Chuck Versus the Other Guy was meant to be.

After a dozen tortured episodes, Chuck doesn’t complete the hero’s journey so carefully delineated by our friend Ernie Davis. Time after time in Other Guy, Sarah had to ride to Chuck’s emotional and romantic rescue. After a dozen painful hours, Chuck doesn’t end up as the confident Charles in Charge that your humble scribe outlined back in January. Again and again in Other Guy, Chuck finds himself in a relationship totally driven and completely controlled by Sarah. Worst of all, at least from the point of view of TPTB, the season-long effort to reset the show and make Chuck a superhero fails because, whenever it mattered in Other Guy, Chuck didn’t “believe in me.”

Chuck brought the big guns at the beginning of Other Guy. But why should that surprise anyone? Chuck has done whatever he could to protect Sarah since the moment he fixed her phone. And Chuck fired his gun at the end of Other Guy. But why should that surprise anyone? The love-struck fool has thrown himself off roofs and into the path of bunker-busting missiles for her since before he began defusing bombs with computer viruses.

Yet at every emotional moment that mattered in Other Guy, it was Sarah who saved Chuck. It’s just another one of those individual sins that makes the alleged “journey” of Season Three so profoundly unsatisfying.

When Chuck’s big-gun moment turn out to be for naught, a humiliated Chuck can’t bear to do more than inquire after Sarah’s health. She’s the one who moves events forward. “Thank you for saving me,” she volunteers. “I appreciated the tank.”

As usual, Chuck doesn’t get Sarah’s infuriatingly obscure code. He even abandons the rare moment of emotional courage that propelled him to order Sarah to be with him at the end of American Hero. He retreats to his man cave for massive doses of cheap whiskey, silly games, fat-free dairy and appalling self-pity.

Sarah comes to his emotional rescue by seeking him out. What, exactly, Sarah planned to say is unknown because Chuck, as always, buries her in a torrent of self-absorbed babble. And when, more in despair than hope, he finally remembers to inquire about her feelings, Sarah saves the day. Not easily or even all that willingly, of course, it’s Sarah who drives the moment and lets us know that we have finally reached the point of emotional no return. “Yes … yes … yes … yes,” comes gushing from Sarah, the one-time Sphinx of Burbank.

It doesn’t take long for Chuck to lose hope again after Beckman sends Shaw and Sarah off to Paris. And again it is Sarah to the rescue. In the most electrifying and emotionally aggressive moment TPTB have ever given Sarah, she lays out their future. “Once I get back, it’s all gonna happen. You and me,” she informs Chuck. She seals it with a kiss. And since he doesn’t seem to comprehend, she delivers her clincher. “Don’t worry,” she says, kissing him again. “Just one more mission.”

After Chuck’s heroics on the bridge, we arrive at the “destination.” And even in her drug-hangover confusion, Sarah rescues Chuck. Thanks to one more bit of artificial angst, Chuck is panicked about her feelings. “You saved me,” Sarah says unambiguously to cover a multitude of rescues. Only then does Chuck get it.

But, wait, there’s more…

Beckman’s interruption leaves Sarah in charge not once more, but twice. Chuck may initiate the sequence, but it is Sarah who literally and figuratively shuts down Beckman. She’s never done that before. Ever. Three years of Sarah’s bent-knee, prim-little-girl deference is wiped out as she effortlessly shuts the laptop lid on the imposing little general.

And when Chuck is about to fret about the wisdom of her defiance, it is Sarah who gives the command: “Shut up and kiss me!” We can only hope that she gave Chuck time to unlace his Chuck Taylors. And that Morgan made good on his IOU from Colonel.

Am I bothered that Sarah remains the girl-on-top, at least as far as the romance goes? Yes and no. I am certainly happy TPTB left her something in the ham-fisted, PLI-laden reset. But it does ruin the hero’s journey and destroys the Charles in Charge aspect of the show.

And it proves that the host of individual sins TPTB committed this year didn’t need to happen. Chuck and Sarah now are right where they were at the end of Colonel. Chuck is that guy. Sarah has her Chuck. They might even talk to each other.

And, to quote A Comet Appears, Season Three was pie in the sky and chock full of lies. — Liz James

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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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252 Responses to Cementing the Failure of Season Three

  1. joe says:

    Liz, you have a POV on season 3 that’s important and speaks to many here, I know.
    But I have to say, my experience of it has been profoundly different in ways I can’t quite articulate yet.

    But I will, promise.

    One thing, though. I was ruminating, as I do, while running today, and an old Chris de Burgh tune came on – Don’t Pay The Ferryman. I realized that I hadn’t recognized the hero’s journey in any form for quite some time in the show. The song made me realize that it’s still there, at least in part, but quite subdued, as a theme, behind something else.

    • lizjames says:

      Joe-
      I await your overall judgment of Season 3. I’ve read how you’ve strugged with your feelings on all of this season and can’t wait to read how you’ve resolved it for yourself. It’s part of the fun of being here!

  2. ChuckNewbie8 says:

    Thanks for the piece Liz. I have to say you saw this with different eyes, far more clearer eyes than me.

    At the end of Other Guy, I was in Cloud Nine but really more of an 8 (lol). If for nothing else because I really believed that Sarah would be redeemed in my eyes for her actions before and including in American Hero but she wasn’t. Instead it was Chuck again as the pursuer, Chuck again laying his heart on the line, “vulnerable like a puppy dog waiting for his belly to be rubbed with his private parts out there for the world to see” (Crown Vic).

    But reading your piece, I see now that I saw it wrong. Sarah was redeemed in almost every scene in Other Guy. Subtle for sure but definitely returned to glory through actions. Sam wouldn’t have done any of these, but Sarah did.

    • HenryH says:

      Interesting and very persuasive bit of romantic revisionism, Liz. And when you add it to the other facts of Other Guy–Casey shows Chuck how to figure things out, Morgan recognizes the fake fight and Chuck, not the intersect, rescues Sarah–it makes a very powerful case that Season 3 is wasted. Besides, if Chuck now believes Sarah was right in Prague (as he says in American Hero) there is nothing abbout Season 3 that makes much sense.

      Which was pretty much what I was feeling as I watched from week to week…

    • lizjames says:

      Faith, my dear, what I think is sad is that either Chuck or Sarah needed “redemption.” That’s not the story most of us were hoping to see in Season 3. The fact that the story we didn’t want to see was told badly, too, just made it hurt all the more…

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    Liz, as always, excellent analysis and of course very valid criticism. And I have to admit that in American hero my first impression was much the same as yours. Chuck is not growing or becoming the hero, he’s still needs Sarah to save him and Shaw is doing the heroic stuff while Chuck wants to quit. I’m getting a little tired of doing so much heavy lifting for Schwedak et al, but I think I see where the problems came about. Unfortunately this one is a bit involved and I’ll need to flesh it out, but in the mythos there is a tradition where the hero realizes that his goddess is the source of his strength and that his faithfulness to her is his first duty. This is shown, I think, by Chuck being ready to leave the spy world for her and also by the penultimate scene where Chuck, through his own natural abilities ends up saving Sarah, first by locating Shaw and next by being willing to pull the trigger for her. I agree they kind of hashed the narrative at times, but as far as I can see the real new normal happens next episode. I’m sure I’ll have more to add later but I wanted to give my first impressions.

    Oh, and one other point. Much as they sacrificed Sarah’s character for the sake of advancing the Chuck Hero’s Journey plot at times I think that the end we saw them sacrificing Chuck’s character to advance Sarah’s journey. Sarah finally stepping up and almost too late telling Chuck “yes” was her finally realizing her part in the mess and finally understanding that it wasn’t going to fix itself, she needed to take responsibility and action if she was ever going to be happy. This was Sarah needing to see clearly the cost of her silence before she could be the Sarah that Chuck needed. But you are right, in the process Chuck was regressed to advance the plot.

    And don’t get me started on the continuity and contradictions.

    • JC says:

      Great point about Chuck’s regression for the DYLM scene. I understand it was done for humor but it really doesn’t mesh with the Chuck we saw at the end of American Hero.

    • odysszeuss says:

      but in the mythos there is a tradition where the hero realizes that his goddess is the source of his strength and that his faithfulness to her is his first duty.

      …at least Chuck wanted to become a spy only because of Sarah. lately chuck realized it, too… (my point of view)

    • weaselone says:

      One thing Ernie. Is Chuck’s regression that surprising given that Sarah didn’t show up at the train station? Sarah’s been given a pass for 12 episodes worth of self loathing and aloofness based on Chuck not going with her in Prague. Sarah didn’t even show up, he’s just made a complete fool of himself, and Beckman’s benched him. From his perspective his efforts to win back the woman he loves have failed at the cost of his dignity and his career. At this point he’s probably OK at having sacrificed the last two in an effort to win the first, but I think that entitles him to one night of whiskey, frozen dairy products, and guitar hero.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        A fair point to be sure, but if we keep hearing about how much Chuck needed to grow and become more mature and a hero, how is this much different than Pink Slip where he lost his girl and his job? It seems he’s right back to square one. Sarah finally comes off better however, so I’ll overlook it as necessary to show her the cost of her silence, not just to her, but to Chuck.

      • weaselone says:

        But it’s only a single evening. We have no idea whether it would become a pattern at this point.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree, that’s why I’m sort of willing to give this scene a pass, but at the beginning of American Hero they do the same sort of thing, Chuck ready to quit if he can’t be with Sarah. The problem is many of us are so used to the way episodes used to (mostly) build and work with each other that some of these things tend to inform a scene like guitar hero absent any real explanation that he isn’t regressing all the way back. Again, an execution error, but one I’m mostly willing to forget based on them actually advancing the Sarah character FINALLY!

      • lizjames says:

        Weaselone-
        Given that I reject both the platform scene and Sarah’s lack of action at the end of Three Words, having Chuck a mess in Other Guy is/was a mistake, I think. Not that he WAS a mess, but his choices.

        This is a 30-year-old man. Be a mess like a man. Go out and sleep with the girl in the copy shop…

        But ice cream, video games and Pretty in Pink? Yeesh… 🙂

      • Jason says:

        Liz – I also hated the premise creating the drunk chuck scene, although the scene itself was great to see – fedak simply cannot supply such audience friendly scenes with giving the material as much angsty spin as possible (the final scene in paris had at least three little angsty jabs at the audience)

        am glad the 13 episode arc is over, I had hoped 14-19 were going to be wonderful. My current working theory is 14 & 15 will be great, but 16 thru mid 19 are going to again be epically dreadful, I simply do not think fedak understands his own show’s affect on his audience – I sincerely hope I am wrong, there is not too much room for error left for the show.

      • JC says:

        Forget the copy shop, isn’t Lou’s Sandwich shop still open?

  4. Merve says:

    Liz, that was a very well-written piece. I don’t agree with a lot of what you said, but I can accept most of it. However, there are two fundamental points that I don’t accept:

    1) Who cares if Chuck follow a hero’s journey formula or not? The fact that the show didn’t strictly adhere to that formula should not diminish it in any way.

    2) Chuck and Sarah aren’t in the same place that they were in at the end of “Colonel” at all. At the end of “Colonel,” Chuck and Sarah were in love with idealized versions of each other. At the end of “Other Guy,” Chuck and Sarah are in love with each other, plain and simple, faults and all.

    • Big Kev says:

      Merve,
      As so often, you’ve written my post before I had a chance to. I’ll flesh it out a little later when I have time, but your 2 points are precisely my response to Liz’s piece.

    • BeCoolBoy says:

      Merve-
      I think, respectfully, that you are wrong on point two. Sarah still idolizes Chuck, which is why she says “You’re still MY Chuck.” And Chuck still believes Sarah can do anything, hence his comments to her in the elevator about her doing all the tough stuff.

      The Chuck and Sarah who are in love at the end of Other Guy are in love with each other for EXACTLY the same reasons they were in love with each other at the end of Colonel.

      And, frankly, that’s all good. We all should idealize and adore the person we choose to be with. That what was missing from Season 3. The adoration.

      • Merve says:

        To flesh out what I was trying to say a little more, by the end of “Other Guy,” Chuck and Sarah have seen the worst of each other and have decided to be together in spite of that and in spite of any future difficulties that they may face. Maybe they were in the same sort of place at the end of “Colonel,” but they never talked about it, so figuring out exactly where they were then comes down to a matter of interpretation.

        To qualify what I’m saying, I’m not arguing that Season 3 up until now has been “worth it.” I’m just saying that the nature of the Chuck/Sarah relationship might be different now than it was then. To be frank, it’s difficult to know how different it will be until we see “Honeymooners.” Based on what I saw in “Other Guy,” I think that it is a different sort of relationship; I took the “still MY Chuck” line to mean that despite what Sarah had seen, she realized that Chuck’s essential nature hadn’t changed. I think that it’s possible to remain attached to someone’s essential nature while embracing any new flaws of theirs that you uncover. That being said, I’m willing to admit that “Honeymooners” might show a Chuck and Sarah who are still very much in love with the same idealized versions of each other that they were in love with during Season 2, but that’s not the impression that I got from watching “Other Guy,” and I hope that TPTB don’t regress the relationship in that manner.

    • atcdave says:

      Merve, I do agree strongly that it doesn’t matter if they follow a formula or not; I think it actually speaks well of the writers (I know, I don’t say that often enough) that they are willing take certain liberties with the formula.

      But I side more with Liz on your second point. I don’t have a problem with where their relationship was in Colonel. I accepted it as a starting point for something better. Real couples grow together, they don’t start fully mature. In Colonel we had two admirable, but incomplete characters. As a fan and viewer, I was eager to see them grow into each others worlds. Sarah needed emotional strength and honesty; while Chuck needed more maturity and wisdom in his dealings with the spy world. It could have been a beautiful story.

      What we got is not. It was TV cliche, and depressing, and ultimately damaging to both lead characters. While growth was needed, they did it in a clumsy unconvincing manner.

      • Merve says:

        Dave, I’m not trying to say that the Chuck/Sarah relationship was well-executed in Season 3 or that all the angst was “worth it.” All I’m saying is that after watching “American Hero” and “Other Guy,” I got the impression that Chuck and Sarah ended up in a different place than where they started.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve, I saw your post above too, and I agree as far you go. I just never want to let them off for what seems to me a poor way of getting there. I know I get tiring, but it does make me angry how much substandard story we got this season.

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      I think in theory you’re correct. That is and was their intentions. In execution though they fell short (I think that is Liz’s point). Instead a lot of the things that happened have to be taken on faith and you have to have a lot of forgiveness for plot holes. Which I do, both.

      In any case I’m torn on this subject (and your and Liz’s view) because on the contrary I don’t consider the season a failure just fell short of my own expectations. But where it ended it ended with hope. That is my most important thing.

  5. Gabbo says:

    The utter absurdity of Season 3 is what Fedak admitted to in his recent interview: The goal of the season was the have Chuck and Sarah together in the hotel room in Paris.

    But Chuck and Sarah were ALREADY together at the end of Colonel. So everything from Ring through the next to last scene of Other Guy were inventions to rip Chuck and Sarah apart, find 14 episodes worth of hurdles and obstacles and PLIs and angst, and then bring them back together.

    So no wonder it feels so insanely artificial. The goal of the entire season was to get them back to where they were at the start. Inane.

    • joe says:

      I hear ya, Gabbo. We saw a lot of running around to get essential no where from where we were at the end of Colonel (and it was exhausting).

      But doesn’t that trace back to the realities of Chuck being a “bubble show”, and the exigencies of network television programming? I think so, and there’s just nothing that could reasonably be done about it.

      I start to think that any alternative for the story-line would have been worse.

      • atcdave says:

        You know I totally disagree with that Joe. I think a far better season would have resulted from Chuck learning his terrible lessons of the spy world with Sarah by his side providing comfort and wisdom; pretty much like she did in the first two seasons. Whatever impact that may have had on them as a couple is almost secondary, the show simply works better when those two are on screen together.

      • Sole says:

        I agree dave, also. Wasn’t Sarahs job this season to keep his emotions in check? Personally, i don’t mind a little angst, as long as it’s played well, but in this case….

      • John says:

        The angst worked great for the first two seasons, with a few exceptions, because the situation was suitably tragic enough to make it sympathetic.

        It just doesn’t work when it comes from contrived circumstances we cannot understand without pages of deep character analysis.

  6. Paul says:

    Gabbo, yes and no. They were together at the end of S2, but only if they left the spy world. The end of S3 allows to be together IN the spy world, and that is the subtle diffence. That is what the S3 journey was about, because they were NOT on the same page character development wise at the end of S2. Both characters are now much different people than they were at the end of S2.

    • atcdave says:

      Paul, I don’t think anyone is arguing the need for character growth from both of them. The argument is, they chose a not very fun way of getting there. There seems to be much agreement that Levi/Strahovski share an awesome screen chemistry, and there’s no denying in April of 2009 the fan base was excited and energized. TPTB squandered the on screen chemistry with a story that kept the leads apart for much of the season; that same story depressed the fan base and lead to falling ratings. Its not hard to imagine a story that accomplished all of TPTB’s goals for the season, without wasting the strengths they had.

      As I’ve said many times before; Chuck and Sarah could have [should have] faced their challenges and growth issues as a couple, and not separately. We would have seen more of Levi/Strahovski on screen together, and kept the energy/enthusiasm up among most fans (I know that is speculation, but I feel pretty sure about it).

    • Gabbo says:

      Paul-
      With all due respect, you’ve changed the terms of the conversation. I said end of Colonel. The characters had been put together (and Fedak gave every indication there was no turning back) at the end of Colonel. There were no questions raised about the fact that Chuck was no longer a spy and Sarah still was.

      It was at THAT point that Ring begins and Chuck gets reintersected. There were a zillion stories they could have told from that point. TPTB chose to break up Chuck and Sarah, create totally new roadblocks, amplify some minor issues from previous seasons, inject new PLIs, etc.

      Now if the path they chose was 1) a fan favorite; 2) a ratings hit; 3) well done; or any combination of the three, TPTB would have had a case. But a huge portion of the fan base didn’t want it. The ratings plummeted with the introduction of the PLIs. And even the most vociferous critics, amateurs and professionals, eventually turned on the Season 3 story arc.

      So the inevitable conclusion: Season Three, as Liz said, was a failure.

      My guess (and that’s all it is) is that the vast majority of fans wanted Chuck and Sarah to move through Season 3 together. Most would have accepted them apart so long as another round of PLIs weren’t introduced.

      TPTB went the way THEY wanted–which is, of course, their right–and they turned a show that started the season as a minor hit back into a bubble show that is fighting for its life.

      So what was gained? Nothing.

      • atcdave says:

        Wow, great post Gabbo, thanks. My only complaint would be, I don’t think any story that kept Chuck and Sarah apart for long could work. I know so many people who were just silly/happy with Colonel; anything that damaged/undid/reset that episode was going to face an uphill battle.

      • Chuck604 says:

        By the colonel, Sarah and Chuck, should have realized that what they had was potentially worth working through together. The way the characters reacted, especially Sarah, in season 3 seem entirely counter-intuitive. Especially the way they acted around each other from the previous 2 seasons.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, I agree Chuck604. S3 was a radical departure for both characters. Even if we accept hard fallout was inevitable after The Ring, it was handled in a way sure to upset fans (PLIs).

      • Chuck604 says:

        Realistically, from my perspective as a fan, in terms of Chuck and Sarah they would have probably exhausted all options of working things out amongst themselves. I wouldn’t even consider PLI’s playing a significant role; I would consider things like Cole from season 2 or maybe a reappearance of Jill shaking things up a little, but not a whole lot.

  7. AngelTwo says:

    With the possible exception of Old Darth, who may still be clinging to his inane “if they were together, TPTB would have had to kill off either Chuck and Sarah” meme, I think the rest of the planet agrees TPTB had a choice when they sold NBC a Season 3 based on a show reset.

    They could have written a season arc with Chuck and Sarah together. Or they could have written a season arc with Chuck and Sarah apart. Or some combination of both. Or any of several dozen other permutations. The season arc they chose–Chuck and Sarah apart, new PLIs, minimal on-screen time for their charasmatic leads and a blizzard of often contradictory story points–failed in the ratings.

    TV is a commercial venture. Ratings rule. Season 3 is a failure.

    From the sparking 3.0 on premiere night (when it looked, from the end of Three Words, that Chuck and Sarah had an inevitable immediate future) to the comfortable 2.5 stasis of Angel, Awesome and First Class, we were okay. Ratings began collapsing as TPTB amped up the PLIs and reduced Levi and Strahovski’s on-screen together time starting with Nacho Sampler.

    Inevitable conclusion? The average viewers watching Chuck were either Charah shippers or people who watched the show to see Levi and Strahovski together on the screen.

    Fairly simple, frankly. Chuck and Sarah should have been together and/or Levi and Strahovski should have been on the screen together more.

    Any other conclusion runs counter to the ratings facts.

    • Merve says:

      Whoa, be careful, AngelTwo; there are plenty of fans, myself included, who thought that the natural course of the story was that Chuck and Sarah would be torn apart by the events of “Ring,” and that doing so was the more believable choice. That sentiment is completely independent of OldDarth’s “one of them would have to die” theory. Whether PLIs should have been used or not, or whether the storyline was dragged out for too long are completely different matters.

    • AngelTwo says:

      Er, Merve, I don’t see anywhere where I said anything about a “natural course.” Read my post, please. What I said was that everyone on the planet (except Old Darth) agreed that TPTB had a choice of where they took the story this year.

      If you agree with the course TPTB took, cool. I don’t. Also cool.

      But the RATINGS rule here. And the ratings plunged from 2.5 to 1.9 during the arc when PLIs were amped up and Strahovski and Levi weren’t on screen together.

      That’s a FACT. Not my opinion. So regardless of what either you or I think was a natural course, the RATINGS show that the course TPTB chose was rejected by enough casual viewers that the show is back on the bubble.

      Ratings rule. Not yours or my perception of what the natural course of the storyline should be. The casual viewers have spoken pretty clearly, I think. They, er, walked with their eyeballs.

      • Rick Holy says:

        And THAT, my friend, is really the saddest part of this season. This show was hyped and promo’d and primed and ready to “grow” at least SOME. Instead it’s now struggling to recover. A wasted golden opportunity, unfortunately.

      • Merve says:

        Sorry, I wasn’t clear on what you meant by “choice.” I took that to mean “believable course of action” and I’m sorry if I misinterpreted what you said. However, unless I’m further misinterpreting what you’re trying to say, TPTB always have a “choice” about what direction they want to take the story in; that’s practically a tautology. Heck, they could have chosen to have Sarah abducted by aliens and Lester addicted to heroin if they wanted to. So it boils down to two things: whether the choice they made made sense in the context of the story, and whether the choice they made allowed the show to be commercially viable. The course of the action that makes the most sense story-wise isn’t necessarily the most commercially viable course of action.

        About the ratings drop, I don’t know much about American television ratings (and I’m Canadian, so I can’t affect them anyway), but there are a lot alternative explanations for the ratings drop. What is probably at work is some combination of all of them.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve, there certainly may be several issues at play in the ratings. But I know many viewers who dropped out at some point during S3, and they all said something along the lines of “the show isn’t much fun anymore.” When pressed for more details, the separating of Chuck and Sarah is the one thing that always gets mentioned; and often in a final sort of way that suggests to me its really the main issue. I was able to convince a couple to hang on, but several have clearly decided they are done.

      • Merve says:

        I just realized that my comment might be vaguely offensive and it wasn’t my intention to apply reductio ad absurdum to your argument, AngelTwo. I understand that the spectrum of believability is a continuum, and that there is a threshold on that spectrum beyond which a storyline is so unbelievable that it cannot be considered a viable course of action. However, the location of that threshold is subjective, and where viewers choose to place that threshold may affect their perceptions about the types of options that were available to TPTB. For me, putting Sarah and Chuck together right at the start of season 3 is dangerously close to that threshold, or perhaps even crossing it. Perhaps I’m alone in that sentiment, but it is the reason that I didn’t see Chuck and Sarah together immediately as a viable option.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve, I don’t think you’re alone in your opinion, but you are in a minority. At any rate, obviously TPTB agree with you entirely; but I think their failing was in drawing it out WAY too long (like 10 episodes too long) and using PLIs as their device. If the actual rebuilding had begun after Three Words, I don’t think there would have been the loss of interest and bitterness that there was among many fans (like me).

      • Merve says:

        Dave, I know that you know this, but anecdotal evidence can mean a lot of things. Out of all the people I know personally who watch Chuck, I’m the one who has enjoyed this season the least. (And I liked it a lot.) Now maybe that has something to do with the fact hat I’m an undergraduate university student and all my friends are young twentysomethings, but that’s no reason for me to discount their opinions.

        I guess that’s why I’m so surprised to see so much criticism of the show on the Internet; I don’t know anyone in real life who is disappointed in the show! (I know, I know, the Internet isn’t real life… 🙂 )

      • Merve says:

        Sorry Dave, you replied before I could, so my previous comment was to the one you made two comments back.

        To reply to the comment you just made, that’s a matter of opinion and I completely respect yours on that issue. I’d say that they dragged it out maybe 3 or 4 episodes too long and that the PLIs weren’t really necessary, but I don’t think that I had as strong a negative reaction to it as you did.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah I do know anecdotal evidence is suspect. You and your friends are in the exact demographic they aimed to please this year, so perhaps it was a success as far as that goes. The people I know tend to be older (no shock there!), but still within the 18-49 demo. Most of us are married with families, which may be why we prefer more stable and mature characters. Characters still sorting themselves out will naturally appeal to a younger audience. While the total viewership drop during the season has been around 20%, among my friends and co-workers its been closer to 60%. That is testimony to the vagueries of anecdotal “proof”. But it also means I’ve talked with many disaffected fans.

      • JC says:

        I have to wonder if the focus of the season hadn’t been on the whole C/S dynamic if people would’ve reacted negatively. The angst and PLIs don’t bother me in moderate doses but they were pretty heavy handed with it from Fake Name till the end of the season. At this point I think the Ring’s only goal was to keep C/S apart.

      • atcdave says:

        And Merve, just for the record, I really enjoy these discussions with you. It is often hard to find someone with such a contrary position to my own who is willing to discuss and explain without getting bitter or nasty. ‘Cause you know Joe just gets mean about it sometimes! (you know I think this is a fun group!)

      • atcdave says:

        That’s funny JC. TPTB certainly MADE the romance (or lack thereof) the main focus of the season.

        Castle was mentioned earlier as an example of a show that pulls some of the same tricks, without generating so much angst. I think part of that is they keep the main story, the main story.

      • JC says:

        That was problem because I think the spy stuff really fell flat this year. Not that it was great before but at least in previous seasons it along with the comedy kinda balanced out the relationship stuff.

        I think most of us were waiting for the Shaw turn from the minute he was introduced so that really wasn’t shocking. My g/f commented after First Class that Sarah killed Shaw’s wife. I would even go as far as saying that they set it up with him knowing earlier and it was changed.

        But I’m probably not the best person to comment on this season since I flip flop on it more than Sarah did with Chuck.

      • joe says:

        “‘Cause you know Joe just gets mean about it sometimes!”

        Hey Dave! I still resemble that remark! 😉

  8. Rick Holy says:

    That’s why I’m glad LOST is still around for a few more episodes. A show that everyone can agree on what’s going on and what it all means. 🙂

    Actually, I have a smaller hunk of cud for ya’ll to chew over. Smaller, but still something to chew on. From the early part of this season, Sarah KNOWS that Chuck loves her (if not from “experience,” then from definitive utterance with the three words).

    So how “different” would the “take” on “Other Guy” be (or would there be a different take at all) if it wasn’t Chuck essentially putting Sarah on the spot by flat out asking her if she loved him. I guess what I’m getting at is this. Morgan explains to her why Chuck is trashed and why he’s tied up with video game cables (because she’s leaving with Shaw – and remember Sarah knows he loves her – via video early in the season and by Chuck’s direct face to face profession of it to her in the previous episode).

    So – as Chuck is sitting hung over on the floor – wouldn’t it have been better to have Sarah initiate the conversation and be the one to tell Chuck “I love you” and the reasons why, then to have to have Chuck be – as was referenced above – like the little puppy with it’s you-know-whatz exposed having to ask the question.

    Maybe it makes no difference at all, and maybe the point I’m trying to make is insignificant, but as thrilled as I was to FINALLY have Chuck and Sarah reach the point that the did (esp. after this forgetful season which hopefully isn’t the last), I think it would have been “better” (sorry, but that’s the best word I can come up with after a long day) to have Sarah initiate the “I love you.”

    Maybe it’s just the guy in me, but I would like to have seen that scene “with the shoes on the other feet” so to speak. Chuck had “laid it on the line” with his expressing his feelings for her ENOUGH. Yet he had to do it AGAIN (this time by epxressing it in question form) in order for Sarah to respond.

    Loved the episode. And actually loved the scene, too. Just think it COULD have been better if done a little differently. Just sayin’.

    • BeCoolBoy says:

      Father Rick: But isn’t that what lizjames was saying. We don’t KNOW what Sarah might have said because they decided to have Chuck run off at the mouth again. I think they are holding Sarah’s “I love you” for later (maybe as early as 14, though). But she clearly came over to tell Chuck SOMETHING and probably not mission related. She had decided to run away with him after all and it was clear from everything else she did in the episode that she was still commited to running away with Chuck.

      • Rick Holy says:

        I don’t think we can say that Sarah came over to tell Chuck ANYTHING that WASN’T “mission related.” Because what does she tell him RIGHT AFTER the “do you love me” and the “yes”?? She says get dressed, Shaw and I have a mission and we need you as the third!

        So, no, I don’t think we can say she was coming over to tell Chuck she loved him or was ready to go splitsville with him. She could have been coming over only to do what she wound up doing – telling him something that was mission related.

        But you ARE right in that having them have Chuck run his mouth off again, we can’t know. Maybe we COULD HAVE if Sarah DIDN’T immediately follow up the “talk” with mission related info., but she did. If the scene ended with her “yesses” and the smooches, then I’d be more apt to agree with you and say, yep, she was coming over to tell him she loved him. But the scene didn’t end with that. It ended with “we have a mission,” thus muddying up the waters.

      • Sole says:

        She wouldn’t had gone to his place if she did’n had anything personal to say to him, She would have just asked him to report to castle.

      • atcdave says:

        I think Sarah knew something was needed between them. They haven’t really spoken since she stood him up at the train station, and he made a fool of himself with the unneeded rescue. She knows there’s an issue between Chuck, Shaw, and herself. So I think its reasonable to assume Sarah knew she had to do something. But I don’t think she knew how bad the situation was with Chuck or how epic the moment would be.

    • atcdave says:

      I do agree Rick, but; I really felt like all was made right (um… with the episode, not the season) when Sarah took more initiative in Castle, and in the end (“Shut up and kiss me”). If Sarah is going to be Sarah again, I expect her to fight for the relationship now that she’s finally taken the leap.

      • Chuck604 says:

        I look for Sarah to be more active in the relationship now that she decided to be truly involved; if she were to become wishy washy I would look at it as a step back.

      • bundy says:

        I agree,Sarah finally told Chuck to shut up.She should had done that last season we might be in a different place.

  9. Chuck604 says:

    I agree with atcdave. The TPTB could have made this season about Chuck and Sarah experiencing their growing pains together, with all the ups and downs. Instead they did the exact opposite and it really didn’t work well at all.

  10. odysszeuss says:

    More screentime Zac/Yvonne= Yes!
    absolutely! Thats the Show. I don’t know what TPTB was thinking…
    Less PLI ANGST= Yes!
    Chuck & Sarah as a couple in the
    beginning of Season 3=No (a little angst -see s1/s2 is OK), but Ruth
    in 8 episodes instead of 3 or 4. it wasn’t good fpr the budget nor
    for the story and definitly to long…
    but al least a nice showdown
    .

  11. Jason says:

    Liz – I am so glad you posted again, yet …. I don’t agree with much of what you said. To me, this entire season has been about a very self centered and selfish chuck who finally had to grow up. (sarah would require a whole separate diatribe of analysis)

    Chuck said no in Prague. Chuck went after what he wanted (the spy world) rather than choosing love (Sarah). By the way, no matter what chuck did at that point, his friends and family will never be the same, who is to say the orion solution (running away) was not safer for them than the chuck solution (staying close).

    Chuck inserted himself back into the spy world, back into sarah’s life too for that matter in 3.1, sarah did not invite him or want him there. Chuck confessed his love in 3.2 while sarah watched.

    Chuck decided to pursue the PLI before sarah ever did in 3.5 thru 3.7. Chuck showed for more happiness in 3.8 about being with hannah, than sarah ever did toward shaw. Chuck decided he wanted to get back with sarah before sarah did, in 3.9. Chuck told sarah his intentions to reunite before sarah showed any interest in 3.11 & 3.12.

    cole would have been proud of 3.11/3.12 chuck who used a stakedate to turn the girl’s head, burst into sarah’s date to proclaim his love, saves his rival’s life, and then tels sarah to run away with him – ‘very’ beefcake like of him – wasn’t it?

    Even in 3.13, chuck essentially goes ‘rogue’ twice to save sarah – and he manages to get sarah to initiate a couple of kisses towards him while polishing off some whisky, then at the end gets the girl – this time very ‘roan-like’

    Even in the last scene with Beckman, chuck was orchestrating sarah’s actions with his eyes (which was a great acting role reversal, as normally Yvonne gets to communicate without words)

    Ya – the last ‘shut up and kiss me’ command from sarah was the type of prompting that only a ‘nerd’ would need, but give that nerd a break, he did some big time growing up in season 3.

    Did I like how it was done, no way, it was a woefully written journey resulting in an epic loss of viewership, to achieve a epic ending in a hotel room in paris.

    I am looking forward to 3.14 thru 3.19, to see if TPTB can re-connect to the fans and tell a weekly story that convinces viewers EACH WEEK that they have a worthwhile story to tell – on that, I think the jury is out deliberating – me thinks the show’s future hangs in the balance.

  12. Big Kev says:

    Wonderful discussion as always. I wanted to try and get back to Liz’s original post, and also address some other issues raised in the comments.

    I guess my first observation is that Ernie’s posts about the Hero’s Journey and Liz’s spec about “Charles in Charge” are just that – specs, or theories constructed to try and make sense of the events of the season. And they’re fun to read, and helpful as far as they go – but to then judge what’s on the screen against a spec seems rather unfair to me. You’re not judging the story on its own merits, you’re judging it against a theory – and not even a theory that came from the writers, but one that came from you. There’s plenty not to like about Season 3, but my objections are all about the way TPTB told the story they chose to tell, rather than the fact that the story didn’t match a theory I had about how it should be told.

    No doubt one of the points of the season was to show Chuck’s development both as a spy and as a man, and ultimately to use that development to get Chuck and Sarah together. But does that mean that he has to be “in charge”? Not necessarily. Surely the point in terms of the relationship is that Chuck and Sarah sort things out together, as equals. On that basis, I found the settlement of “The Other Guy” to be profoundly satisfying, because it flipped the normal status quo, showing progression for both of them – Chuck stepped up and acted, and saved Sarah as a spy, while Sarah finally (as Ernie says) took some responsibility for the relationship and expressed herself. And she finally made a choice to be with Chuck not out of desperation (as she had on 2 previous occasions, pre-Colonel and of course Prague) but just because she wants to be with him. And she can be, either as a spy or a civilian, depending on what they decide. The Other Guy was about them both stepping up in areas that were previously the others’ strengths. In other words, they took steps to becoming equals. I loved that.

    And I guess this is my issue with the “they’re in the same place as they were in Colonel” argument. Yes, they are in that they love each other – but that was never the issue. Now that love is based on real knowledge of the other, their sacrifices and motivations in a way that was just not the case after Colonel. It’s a legitimate argument to say that they could have learned those sacrifices and motivations together over the course of the season, but it’s not true to say that they’re in the same place as they were after Colonel. They’ve both developed as characters, and their love is the stronger for it.

    Did Chuck’s character regress in The Other Guy? I don’t think so. I actually thought a little self pity was in order. He’s dragged Shaw out of a burning building, he’s put himself on the line for Sarah yet again, 3 times in one episode, and despite all that, as far as he knows, she’s still not convinced. I think I’ll forgive the guy hitting the bottle, to be honest…..

    Finally……ratings. I see a lot about ratings on this blog, but the fact is that the ratings for Season 2 are only a tick over this season. The back half of Season 2 is accepted to be some of the best of the entire series – Lethal Weapon 2.1 demo, Predator 2.1, Broken Heart 2.1, Dream Job 2.1……even Colonel only 2.3. No doubt 1.9 is not good, but the average this season is a tick under 2.4, and it gets called a huge artistic and commercial failure. By those standards you would have to argue that Season 2 (average 2.5) is only slightly less of a failure on both counts, but of course no one makes that argument, because we all love Season 2. Even at its best, Chuck is a bubble show. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just how it is.

    • Jason says:

      Kev – just a quick thought (not by any means fact) on ratings, the promo done by NBC brought new fans in for S3 – I know because I was one of them. 3.1 started off with pretty decent numbers, the numbers have slowly dropped to around 2.0. IMO this season could have stayed a solid 2.8-3.0 had an epic WEEKLY journey been taken, rather than the woeful path the show took. Again, this is only one man’s opinion.

      • atcdave says:

        I’ll just build on some of Jason’s comments. The ratings in S2 gradually went up in the last six episodes, presumably as be heard how great the final arc was. S3 started with high ratings, then started a gradual slide, presumably because the show was not satisfying those new viewers. We are back to the same core audience we had before (obviously, some shuffling of the deck).

    • JC says:

      The one thing I’m going to have disagree with is Chuck’s knowledge about Sarah’s issues. Her Red Test, the constant lying, etc. While he might have a general idea of what she went through, he still has no idea of what she experienced and how it affected her. Honestly after this season what does Chuck know about Sarah that he didn’t know in seasons 1&2. Sam that’s it.

      • Big Kev says:

        JC – My point is that now he doesn’t always have to have Sarah spell out how it affected her. He understands because he’s lived it for himself. The Red Test. Burning an asset. Living the Lie. He knows exactly what Sarah has had to do day in day out, and what sacrifices she has made, because he’s trodden the same path. The conversations may come as Sarah becomes more confident about opening up to him, but to a large extent they’re not necessary. He gets it because he’s lived it, at least to an extent. And that’s a whole level of knowledge that he didn’t have, either of Sarah or of himself, in Seasons 1 and 2.

      • JC says:

        No I get that he understands it because he lived it himself. My only complaint or nitpick really is certain things like the Red Test, I think should’ve been more personal. Obviously it was something that affected for her whole life, so I think that would be something they would deal with together. Maybe they will in the back six, its just I think they wasted a lot of Sarah opening up on the wrong person.

      • Big Kev says:

        Yeah, I hear that. I had the same problem with Fake Name.
        In Final Exam, I can see a couple of reasons for Sarah not confiding in Chuck about her Red Test. Firstly, she thinks that being a spy is what he really wants, and she declines to exercise the influence that she could to change his mind. She’s stepping away, as she always has done whenever what Chuck says he wants has contradicted what she might want for herself. Her refusal to try and influence Chuck in Final Exam is in character, IMO. Also in character is why she accepts Shaw’s manipulation of her – she knows the Red Test is happening, even if she doesn’t like it, so she makes sure she is the one who is there to potentially protect Chuck from Perry.
        Secondly, more subconsciously, she needs Chuck to make his own decision, without her influence, to decline his Red Test, and prove to her that he’s still Chuck.

      • JC says:

        See both of the issues of her name and Red Test didn’t bother me when they happened, it was just that they were never brought up again.

        I really thought the name thing was going to go somewhere with a resolution to the whole C/S thing or at least start it.

        And then her letting herself be manipulated by Shaw was going to put an end to the Shaw thing. But we get American Hero and its no big deal.

        Those things especially seemingly have no problem about being manipulated are really hard for me to look past.

    • Merve says:

      Kev, thank you for fleshing out some of the things that I said earlier. I agree with pretty much everything you said.

      As far as ratings go, it’s hard to determine exactly what causes ratings to go up or down. I still haven’t seen a satisfying explanation for the uptick in ratings for “American Hero” and “Other Guy.”

      • atcdave says:

        There are so many variables its hard to be sure; but I would guess that many people knowing the main arc was coming to end had something to do with it. I’ve heard a lot of people who aren’t so in the know calling The Other Guy the season finale; just hope everyone knows to show up for the back six! A lot of the promotions for American Hero built it up as Chuck winning Sarah back; I think even casual viewers knew she would make the right choice and the Sham would be over.

      • HenryH says:

        Merve-
        What I find interesting is that you’re searching for a reason for a .2 uptick in two episodes, but you seem to willingly ignore the three times more serious (.6) drop from First Class through Final Exam.

        Here’s the obvious answer: Inject PLIs and ratings tumble. Eliminate them and ratings recover A BIT.

        That was Liz’s and AngelTwo’s points about the ratings pattern in Season 3 being exactly the same as Season 2. Ratings fell hard when PLIs came in, then recovered a bit as they were eliminated.

        Your studious willingness to ignore the correlation is, frankly, troublesome. Not because it matters either way, of course, but because it does tend to cloud your judgment as to what the average viewer is saying about the show.

        I think we all get that you’ve liked Season 3. And that is fine. But you don’t seem willing to accept that a huge chunk of the CASUAL viewers didn’t like the PLIs this year, just as they didn’t them last year.

        Or let’s put it in a context a Canadian like yourself could understand. It would be like putting the Florida Panthers versus the Columbus Blue Jackets on every Hockey Night in Canada and then blaming Mike Milbury’s pre-game commentary for the ratings decline. 🙂

        The average viewers of Chuck, for two seasons running, have expressed this displeasure with storylines that rip Chuck and Sarah apart. Enough of them leave so that a low-rated show drops substantially in the ratings and ends up on the bubble.

      • Merve says:

        Henry, I’m not sure if you’re trying to attack me or not. My comment about the ratings uptick had nothing to do with the previous ratings decline. I was only saying that I hadn’t seen any explanation for the ratings uptick up until now.

        That being said, I have not ignored the arguments about PLIs contributing to the ratings decline; I’ve only stated that there may also be other contributing factors.

        P.S. I really don’t follow hockey all that closely.

      • JLR says:

        ^^^ What kind of Canadian are you!?!?!? 🙂

      • Merve says:

        The kind of Canadian who is too busy trying to pass his classes to have time to follow sports. (Which reminds me, I have an exam tomorrow…)

      • Chuck604 says:

        Not watch hockey!! Blasphemy, just kidding, but I’m re-watching my Canucks eek out a win against the LA kings.

  13. cas says:

    Wow! You guys are good. Chuck is lucky to have fans like you guys who are able to read in between the lines and really disect every episode to rationalize what just happened. Very smart and articulate….With that being said, I think Chuck lost a lot of viewers like me who is someone not that smart and articulate, ( they just don’t want to admit it)and don’t always want to read in between the lines. I’m not saying to dumb the show down but to atleast tell the story a little better and not leave us scratching our head and going WTF just happened?, every episode. I mean to this day I still don’t know or understand a lot of things like
    Does CHuck really want to be a Spy or does he just want to be with Sarah?
    How is the ring more dangerous than Fulcrum?
    What has Shaw done to make him a super spy?
    What is the difference between Chuck saying I love You in ep2 and 12?
    They showed Sarah looking at chuck ( fake name) and seing how devastaded Chuck was that he had almost lost her…and they ended the episode with her going to Shaw..WTF?
    Please don’t get me started on the whole Sam ordeal because in the “SPY” world, that is a big deal, bigger than sex
    If Devon was such a bad liar, then how is he able to keep Chuck’s secret about being a spy
    Not convinced that Sarah was going to run away with Chuck had Casey not told her the truth and if that were the case..She chose a pshycho over Chuck and Chuck is only sloppy second
    there’s more but I don’t want to take too much space so Im going to get use a line from the Colonel
    ” HOW MANY TIMES TO YOU HAVE TO BE A HERO TO REALIZE THAT YOU ARE THAT GUY?)So what was the point of his whole heroes journey because as far as I can see He still doesn’t know how damaged Sarah really is because she confided in Shaw not him. Oh well. Still gonna watch the show and if I have more questions I guess I’ll just come here and read your guys’ interpretation of it. Like I said, Chuck is lucky to have fans like you guys

    • sd says:

      Hi Cas….

      I feel your pain…the pain of script “whiplash”. …most evident in the Mask

      You mention the line “How many times….” I think this season was about Chuck finally believing that sentence…up til now, he’s never believed what Sarah kept telling him. IMO that’s one reason why this season was considered Chuck’s “hero journey.”

      IMO The difference between ep2 and ep 12 ILY is that Sarah in ep 2 was still angry, hurt by Chuck’s decision…choosing spy life over her. In ep 12 , he was “all in” with his ILY…he would forgo spy life because she was the most important part of his life.

      As for running away with him…TPTB tend to throw in subtle clues. For example, the terrific song “Down River” by Temper Trap only starts–I thnk–after Chuck first tells Sarah he loves her. Listen to the lyrics of the song. Also, when Sarah packs you see a pix of her and Chuck on the nightstand. She was going with Chuck…”I’ll take a chance on something” from TT stands out. IMHO, that was a song directed at Sarah’s journey back to Chuck.

      Anyway…I am no show expert…but that is my “take home”. I always like listening to the songs…where they are positioned to give me some clues on show/character direction. Also, the songs are amazing.

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      At first I thought you were being sarcastic then I read on and you were serious lol.

      But I’ll try to answer some of your WTF lol.

      – The name reveal isn’t anything more than a plot tool (a dull one at that) to jar Chuck out of his darth Chuckiness. I’m beyond convinced Ali Adler used that instead of breaking the Sarah Rule.

      – The problem with the show getting dark is that they don’t know how to do it. They overshot their mark and they failed, epic-ly. They wanted to tell a deep, abiding story but what they had was this soul-less, devastating piece of nothing that you’re left having to pick up the pieces and decide for yourself to have faith or not.

      – I think Sarah was definitely going to go with Chuck. That picture frame was not there the entire time and considering the fact that they showed that shot I think we’re supposed to believe she chose Chuck even before Casey. There are more but that’s the most powerful one I can remember.

      – Devon was NOT awesome. I hated what they did with his character. Although admittedly he too was redeemed for me with American Hero. Loved that epi.

      – Chuck wants to be a spy AND he wants to be with Sarah. The whole premise (again fail) was that he didn’t know what he wanted to do. Dating back from the pilot where he didn’t have a 5 year plan or wanted one really. I believe the quote was, “I’m working on my 5 year plan, I just have to pick out the font”—that same guy when you move on to American Hero’s “that guy hated himself for not knowing what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be with. But now, finally I know! I want to be a spy and I want to be with you.”

  14. weaselone says:

    Liz, I enjoyed your article, but you struck a particular nerve when you mentioned that we don’t know what Sarah was going to say when she sought Chuck out. Sarah was generally going to do one of three things when Chuck goes on his tangents. She was going to lie, she was try to spit out the very thoughts Chuck does, or she was going to say little of any real import. The idea that a woman who at this point has to reach deep within herself to pull out a a single word in response to a direct inquiry from the emotionally anguished object of her affections was not going to spill her emotional guts to Chuck here, let alone at any point prior to this.

    Besides, there is no need to conjecture about Sarah’s purpose for showing up at Chuck’s apartment or what she was going to say. The writers tell us point blank. Sarah and Shaw needed a third on the mission. Sarah showed up to request Chuck’s presence on the mission, nothing more, nothing less. Sarah showed up in person instead of calling because the writers wanted to do this scene, although one could speculate that Chuck had his phone off.

    As for Sarah emotionally rescuing Chuck at several points throughout this episode. It works because it provides an essential element of symmetry. Chuck physically rescues Sarah and provides grand physical demonstrations of his love throughout this episode, a role that Sarah has had most of the series. In order balance things and avoid a complete damsel in distress cliche, Sarah does the heavy lifting on the emotional front.

    I’m also not certain that this in any way invalidates Chuck’s hero’s quest. Chuck’s quest has always been more about embracing his role as a hero and willingly utilizing it for the greater good as opposed to running away from his duties without losing himself in the process. Chuck has to become his own type of spy, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has to dominate on all fronts. Chuck needs to master the intersect and himself, he doesn’t have to gain mastery of the relationship.

    • lizjames says:

      Weaselone-
      Let me suggest to you that we view a couple of scenes in Other Guy as parallels to a few scenes in Ring. In Ring, Beckman orders Sarah to partner with Bryce. Sarah hates the idea, but accepts, thus ruining her plans to be with Chuck as shown at the end of Colonel. In Other Guy, Shaw pressures Sarah into saying they can stay a team, thus ruining Sarah’s decision to be with Chuck as show at the end of American Hero. In Ring, the hapless Chuck does the “let’s take a vacation thing” and Sarah says she’s going away. In Other Guy, the drunk Chuck asks “do you love me?” and Sarah answers yes. I believe the writers specifically set up Other Guy to show that Chuck had raised the stakes (vacation to love) and Sarah accepted the higher stakes (leaving to love). It’s where you cue Jon Lovitz yelling “Acting!” 😉

      We should keep in mind that this is all storytelling contrivance. After all, why ELSE would Chuck bring up the red test in the scene? Just to get one more bit of angst before resolution in the Paris hotel room. So having Sarah hesitate before saying “yes” and not actually saying “I Love You” allows them to milk Sarah’s declaration of love in another episode.

      • weaselone says:

        Wait a second. Are you suggesting the the writers are cynically dialing up the drama and that the honorable Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz are countenancing such activities. I’m shocked, absolutely shocked at such an accusation! 😉

      • lizjames says:

        Weaselone-
        Know what I find increasingly hilarious? While we waited for Season 3, we all bemoaned how Chuck and Sarah never talked.

        I find it interesting that all Chuck ever had to do to “get” Sarah was ORDER her. I mean, that is the inevitable conclusion of American Hero. The first and only time Chuck ever TOLD Sarah what to do, she listened.

        They didn’t even have to talk to each other, according to the writers. All Chuck had to do was command her (which actually IS in keeping with her generally subservient reaction to anyone who assumes a mantle of authority over her…)

        Since Fedak now claims Sarah was in love with him since the pilot, how different would the beach scene have been if Chuck had ordered Sarah to… I mean, she already had her boots off… 🙂 We could have had a From Here to Eternity moment!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Wait a second. Are you suggesting the the writers are cynically dialing up the drama and that the honorable Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz are countenancing such activities.

        I’m just upset that it isn’t working anymore.

        I really liked the scene where Casey was creeping up behind Chuck at the end of First Date to execute the termination order. We knew how it would end, without Chuck dying, but it still worked. Now imagine they tried re-playing that same sort of scene every week with yet another last second interruption by someone causing Casey to once again back off, only to try again next week, yet we’re supposed to believe that the few attempts we see on screen were Casey’s only opportunities to kill Chuck. I think it’d get old fast. In addition there is some point where viewers wouldn’t accept the character Casey still being willing to kill Chuck, because the character has grown past that point. Why not play a 10 episode arc of Casey getting ready to kill Chuck this season? The characters and the story are past the point where it works.

        With the PLIs I think most of us were willing to allow one more go-around was inevitable, and were just hoping they could find a way to pull it off well without regressing or hurting the characters.

  15. Ernie Davis says:

    Well Liz always does have a way of starting a conversation doesn’t she? As I mentioned I’ll probably have some more thoughts on this when we review Other Guy at the end of the re-watch, but I also want to respond generally to a few points that have come up.

    The Hero’s Journey I mention is a template, one that Schwedak have explicitly stated they are using and one that virtually leaps off the screen at you in some episodes. First Class was the example I used, you can see that post here. That said, it doesn’t matter how closely they follow that template if they tell a good story. In fact if they tell a good story nothing else matters. It is ALWAYS about the execution. But a big part of the execution is to set out a coherent, compelling and entertaining story that people want to watch week to week, not one where people are asked to endure for a few more weeks till the payoff. One of the reasons The Hero’s Journey (hereafter THJ) is so popular is that it is a template developed from long established storytelling techniques, and one that seems to have a lot of resonance. It is not so much a theory as a tool, and understanding that tool in the writers kit can help you see the story and where they are going more clearly. That is all I ever tried to do with the analysis of episodes and the season. I’m not in any way trying to dictate how the story is told or to hold TPTB accountable for some perceived digression from a formula. The template provides an outline that can be very flexibly adapted to the needs of the story and the characters.

    That said there were some very specific things TPTB have said were their goals this season. Among them were: 1) Give Sarah a real choice to make with regards to a new PLI. 2) Make Chuck a hero. 3) Put them together in the end. And though I don’t know if or where they said it, but I think we can assume 4) Bring in new viewers while retaining the core audience. The last one being the ONLY thing that really mattered for getting season 4, and would be determined by how well they integrated the first three into an entertaining and compelling story. How well could they execute those goals was all that mattered, and what I believe Liz is saying is that you can’t honestly look at the season and say they pulled any of them off well.

    Did Chuck become a hero? Sort of, but look at his progression. In Prague he made a decision to follow a higher calling even if it cost him Sarah, the love of his life. True, he might have been a bit clueless on what she was offering or how she felt, but he made that decision. By the beginning of American Hero he’s decided that if he can’t be with Sarah he’s not going to be a spy. He seems a lot more self absorbed now that he’s supposed to be a hero and a spy then when he was a failure with both Sarah and as a spy at the beginning of the season. Sorry, that is throwing the character under the bus to advance the plot.

    Did Sarah have a real choice? The reasoning here I guess is that with the cover relationship and her duty Sarah was always constrained. She couldn’t really choose another guy so long as she was bound to Chuck in the way she was. Well, we could argue about her ready to leave with Bryce at the end of Nemesis in season 1 or in the middle or Ring in season 2, where she explicitly told Chuck she was doing so, but we’ll stick to the season we’re talking about. Did Sarah have a choice? They fudged it. They showed her making a choice at last, but it was so contrived and unrealistic in her decision process it just struck most as confusing rather than compelling. And we also know that by the time she made that choice it didn’t matter, Shaw was already turned and planning to kill her. What that choice did was ensure Chuck would find her and save her, which he already did once at the start of the episode. In Sarah’s case however that choice, meaningless as we know it was, did help show some growth. At last she saw that no matter how she felt things weren’t going to just work out, she actually had to step up and do something or she’d lose Chuck again. Incidentally I think the tears she shed in Paris were the final recognition that leads to her hopefully permanent change of heart. She thought she was about to die and she’d wasted every opportunity to be with Chuck by her refusal or reluctance to open up, her unwillingness to talk, and her incomprehensible standards for how he has to remain unblemished for her to be with him (or something that still isn’t quite clear), and now it was going to end before her shot at happiness ever began. Notice she stopped crying just as Chuck came into the frame. Anyway, just a thought.

    Did they get them together in the end? Sure. And for some of us that makes it worth tuning in again, now that the painful journey is over. But was it well done? That’s where the ratings come in. We can rationalize daylight savings and other shows, but one thing is clear. There was a lot of excitement for this show at the beginning of the season that was basically gone by the Olympic break. The ratings reflect that.

    Was the season a failure? Well the season isn’t over yet, but if this is close to the original plan I don’t think you can call it much of a success. Ratings are down, they seem to have failed to entertain a large part of the fan base, let alone bring in new viewers, and they’re right back on the bubble, except with no extra budget to cut this time. If the show is canceled, it will be because they failed to tell a good story this season.

    Was it a bad season? Well it didn’t hold together nearly as well as season 2, but then when it comes down to it my objections, things that I actually didn’t like as opposed to things that failed to meet my expectations, come down to 2 or 3 weak episodes and a poorly developed and used new lead actor. So I lowered my expectations, and they were met, and now I’m pretty much over the show as anything other than a diversion like other shows I’ve liked. It used to be the one show I loved. But that was a different show, last season.

  16. lizjames says:

    Wow, I am honored to have sparked such a wonderful dialogue and forgive me for not acknowledging it earlier. I didn’t know the item had posted.

    If I may, some observations about your observations:

    1) I find it absolutely amazing that those of us who came to the show BEFORE Season 3 (in my case, from the pilot) tend to have a different view of Chuck and Sarah than those of us who were brought in BY season 3. I suggest that those of us who lived with these characters for up to two and a half years in real time (September 07 to January 10) perhaps feel there was a character development that the newcomers simply can’t experience. We can’t see Chuck and Sarah any differently than we do because we were there with them on their Season 1 and 2 journey. Those of you who came in Season 3 can view Season 1/2 in a totally different light because to you it was backstory, not a living, breathing thing. I honestly don’t know WHICH view is correct.

    2) That said, I urge those to came in Season 3 to remember the ACTUAL state of affairs we had reached in Colonel and Ring. By Colonel, Chuck and Sarah were together with no conditions and no fears about whether one was a spy and one wasn’t. And in Ring, for the first 40 minutes, Sarah was going away to continue to be a spy. Everything people say about why Chuck and Sarah would naturally be ripped apart by the last scene in Ring was introduced in Season 3. Chuck’s desire to be a spy was nothing more than a fantasy in Seasons 1/2. What he wanted more than anything was to go back to his admittedly slightly-slacker lifestyle. Sarah’s disgust with the spy life was never discussed in Seasons 1/2; at most, you could make the case that she wanted a normal life. (I personally took it to mean it was her biological clock ticking…) There simply was no sense in Seasons 1/2 that Sarah hated her life as a spy, just that she now MIGHT want something different. All of the obstacles that Season 3 fans find realistic were introduced in Season 3 along with the reset. None of them existed in any serious form in Seasons 1/2.

    3) Those who claim there was no basis for judging Season 3 as hero’s journey (Ernie’s meme) or Charles in Charge (mine) are not looking at the real-world facts. In order to save the show, TPTB sold NBC on a reset that would be more traditional: i.e., the eponymous hero of the show would actually BE a hero. So every decision in the storytelling in Season 3 needs to be judged on the merits of what TPTB were trying to do: Get Chuck out of the car and into the center of the action.

    4) The decision to separate Chuck and Sarah at the beginning of Season 3 was simply that: a storytelling decision they made, almost certainly influenced by their belief that romantic angst would be good for the ratings of this new Chuck show. But since all of the reasons for keeping them apart were Season 3 inventions, there simply is no “organic” reason for keeping them apart. Had they wanted to write a Season 3 story with Chuck and Sarah together throughout, they could have. There were a hundred ways to do it, including not giving Sarah the “red test”/spy life crisis to having Chuck talk her into staying on the platform in Prague. I could even make the case that all of Season 3 could have been condensed to a single “flash.” Chuck flashes on Sarah, sees her red test, they (gasp!) talk about the realities of spy life and off they go fighting bad guys and trying to be a couple. I accept that TPTB went another way. But it wasn’t REQUIRED. It was a choice they made about how they would tell the tale.

    5) The ratings in Season 3 are largely consistent with the ratings pattern of Season 2. When PLIs were injected, the ratings dropped–and dropped quickly. Season 3’s rating plunged more quickly because TPTB also decided to keep Levi and Strahovski off the screen together. At least in Season 2, there was the cover of a couple. It’s hard to argue that Season 3’s ratings are a fluke when Season 2’s ratings follow the same pattern.

    Thanks again for all the wonderful commentary and thank you Joe, Ernie, Amy, and Dave for creating a blog where all views (and ALL passions) are permitted.

  17. Stef62 says:

    APologies for not putting this in the correct location, but thought you’d be interested.

    + Ask Ausiello:

    Question: Now that Agents Walker and Bartowski are together on Chuck, what’s next for our favorite couple? —Charles
    Ausiello: A new obstacle! “Chuck has a secret he’s keeping from Sarah,” teases exec producer Josh Schwartz. “A secret that could cost Chuck what Sarah loves most about him — his mind.” Um, yikers!

    Question: Two weeks in the row without any Chuck spoilers? What’s the matter, sad that Shaw is finally gone? I’m not! What’s next for Team Bartowski? —Marie
    Ausiello: That Shaw crack may come back to haunt you, since I have it on very good authority that someone from Chuck’s past will return in the finale to do him great harm. Guesses? Hit the comments!

    • John says:

      I am really annoyed both by the nature of those spoilers and how they are phrased. Wait Chuck has a secret he has been keeping from Sarah right after he specifically said he would never lie to her or keep secrets from her?

      Meh. Why have him say that then?

      But then I don’t know the details of why and what.

      And bringing Shaw back? Seriously? If you are going to bring somebody back it should be a well written and rounded out character not one of the worst efforts in writing a character since the Star Wars prequels.

      • herder says:

        Hmm, Special Agent Jar Jar Binks, aka Poochie, aka Plywood aka Daniel Shaw.

      • John says:

        I think of Shaw more like Anakin Skywalker, we are told he is the noble and great guy who is a good friend to Obi-Wan and who Padme falls for…but on screen he is totally unsympathetic and obviously immature and unstable. Nothing we are told about his character matches up with what we are shown.

        The same with Shaw.

    • HenryH says:

      My suggestion: Enjoy e14, folks. It may be the only unambiguously Chuck-Sarah-happy-together episode we EVER get. Especially since the showrunners seem hellbent on jamming a dark, unhappy show down the throats of viewers who simply aren’t interested…

      • HenryH says:

        Stef62-
        I don’t doubt that TPTB are putting Chuck and Sarah together “permanently.” But rather than give them at least the back six as UNAMBIGUOUSLY happy together, they are going go start picking at the relationship almost immediately.

        I simply surmise that e14 will be the one and only one where there is no “crisis” or “angst.”

        I’m also assuming that the show will keep going dark and be cancelled after this back six.

        That’s why I said I suspect only e14 will ever give us a glimpse of the show a lot of us WANTED to see…

    • Stef62 says:

      There’s also this out there too.

      + TVGuide:

      Will Sarah and Chuck ever become a real couple on Chuck? — Paloma
      MICKEY: Funny you should put it that way. An upcoming episode asks the same question when S&C pretend to be married for a mission — and end up exchanging some real vows. It’s an interesting, slightly distorted echo of that poignant scene earlier in the season when the pair talked about running away together

    • atcdave says:

      JS has always had a particular knack with spoilers; you know the kind that leaves you asking, “why would I ever watch a show by this man?”

    • weaselone says:

      Hmmm. Chuck’s promise to not lie or keep secrets from Sarah sure doesn’t appear to last long.

    • atcdave says:

      Its entirely possible, that by the end of 3.19 we’ll all be ready to say good riddence. Time to get back to our previous lives!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      My guess is that it isn’t so much a secret as a discovery about the intersect that we’ve long speculated on, and I doubt Chuck knows what it is or consciously tries to hide anything he feels is important from Sarah. We’ve been speculating on this particular plot since before the season started when they announced a therapist for Chuck in 3.16.

      I’m more worried about the possibility of Shaw coming back, other than in a dream sequence. And even then…

      • John says:

        Well it is annoying for Schwartz to phrase it that way then. I don’t get it, he needs to build up hype about the show and get us excited to watch it not dread watching it and be captain buzzkill.

      • atcdave says:

        Chuck being haunted by Shaw could be almost as bad as his actual return. At least if he comes back, he isn’t likely to be a romantic rival again; but geez, of all the villains, why on earth would they choose to bring back Shaw!

        If the intersect is to be a health hazard, perhaps they just mean he hasn’t mentioned his headaches.

        But I sure do wish they would just let the show be fun. This kind of talk is killing it for all of us.

      • herder says:

        In fact I think that Adam Baldwin in one of his interviews let slip this “secret” of Chuck’s. Nothing to do with lies or secrets. The Shaw comment is concerning, except that he might be better as an out and out villan rather than someone we are supposed to admire and empathize with.

      • weaselone says:

        While I also lean towards it being a discovery about the Intersect, Chuck could also be struggling with guilt surrounding his killing of Shaw and be unwilling to burden Sarah with it as she would feel responsible.

      • Jason says:

        could somebody find BR a job so he does not keep coming back and ruining chuck? I predicted b4 i ever saw him in a scene, that this would not be good for his career, but I’d never have guessed he would have ‘pooched it’ this much. TPTB didn’t understand the crowd they are playing to when they wrote this season, maybe they are trying to get all the bad news out as quickly as possible, while 3.13 / 3.14 / 3.15 are rallying the base????

      • Jason says:

        unfortunately, he (Shaw) makes almost the perfect villain at the end, take out chuck to get the perfect revenge on sarah, maybe on her wedding day?

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Come to think of it Shaw got off pretty easy. Just two shots to the chest. Maybe if we’re allowed to hate him rather than have his impressiveness constantly stated by other characters in an effort to convince us that it’s there even though we plain don’t see it and really celebrate when Chuck (or Casey, but really maybe Sarah would be best) riddles him with bullets to the point he is blown out a skyscraper window and falls 50 stories into a fuel truck that explodes, that could be fun. (Sorry, another Simpsons reference)

      • JC says:

        So wait the huge emotional payoff of season 3, Chuck killing to save Sarah. Something he couldn’t do to save himself, could be erased 6 episodes later? Awesomely epic failure.

      • atcdave says:

        I seriously hope JS finds other work; and we get an S4 with someone else at the helm.

      • JC says:

        If its Shaw returning, it might be the worst kept spoiler in the history of TV. Levi posted Ustream footage of him, Ausiello mentions him directly, etc

  18. lizjames says:

    Given my spectacular flame-out with the Mask/con scenario, I have no right to inflight this on anyone, but since I started this thread…

    What if we’re all wrong about where they are going with this?

    1) Dial back to the cafe scene in e13. It’s interesting to hear what Shaw says after he stops Chuck’s flash by threatening Sarah. What he says to Chuck: “You can’t flash, can you?” and “Those emotions again” and “I didn’t tell them your SECRET.” Not that he didn’t tell the Ring about Chuck, just not about his SECRET.

    2) Suddenly Schwartz is teasing us with a SECRET Chuck is hiding from Sarah.

    3) We know Orion comes back, but from the preview, he shows up in Burbank and his arrival seems to surprise Chuck. It doesn’t seem that Chuck was trying to find him.

    4) There is speculation about a major “death” on the show and one of the reporters on set of the 3.19 finale says there were some hush-hush scenes with Sarah and Casey…

    So what if Chuck’s secret isn’t that he’s being corrupted by the Intersect, but that he can’t flash AT ALL anymore? The set-up is that his strong love emotions for Sarah have blotted out his ability. Maybe he fakes it (ahem!) with Sarah for a while, but then she learns he can’t flash. Hence the shrink visit… The ever-wise Orion finds out about Chuck’s problem and comes to help…

    Who dies in 19? Zombie Shaw? Maybe. Orion? Maybe. Or how about a faked death for Sarah in the hopes that her death will shock Chuck into flashing again to save the world from The Ring…

    As I say, my track record here stinks. But it’s worth considering…I think…

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Whatever it is I’m sure it’ll be traumatic, but really really great. Or epic.

    • atcdave says:

      But Liz, they said we would like 3.19. Surely they wouldn’t lie about that!

    • Jason says:

      how about my manchurian candidate scenerio – shaw is perched high above and has chuck in his sights while CS are saying their wedding vows, bam a shot rings out, then a second ….. to be continued next season

    • Gabbo says:

      Liz, The problem with your theory is the same one as your con theory for Mask: It’s WAY better than what TPTB gave us.

      Stop giving us good stuff while TPTB are dishing up slop… You’re raising our hopes too high.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Goodness what cynics we’ve become. Well not me I guess. I was already a cynical misanthropic curmudgeon before I ever saw a Josh Schwartz show.

      • Gabbo says:

        Ernie: A serious question. Do you STILL think TPTB “learned their lesson” about what viewers and fans wanted and how they’d react?

      • Lucian says:

        I was a cynic when Schwartz and Fedak were in training bras. 🙂

      • Stef62 says:

        On the bright side? If you listen to the TV Guide vid, it does sound like we’re heading towards a marriage in ep18/19

      • Gabbo says:

        Got a link on that Stef62? Thx…

      • atcdave says:

        You know its funny, the whole format demands a certain level of angst/tension (normal guy forced into a dangerous double life, trying to keep secrets from family/friends). But I think we’re all so spent right now we have no tolerence for it. I feel like we’ve earned six episodes of pure fluff.
        If there is still drama and tension within the episodes that really needs to be fine; that is the format. Hopefully, they won’t take the happy spot away from us this time though.

      • John says:

        I have a hard time imagining them bringing in Christopher Lloyd and Scott Bakula and having it not be very entertaining. I really do not care for Schwartz trying to be clever and putting out “spoilers” that are not only huge buzzkills but probably massively misleading as well.

        So naturally we go right from enjoying where we are and talking about past episodes to groaning again.

      • Gabbo says:

        Actually, John, Schwartz’s spoilers haven’t been misleading. We just didn’t want to believe them because they sounded so nasty. Well, they were all as nasty as they seemed.

        He really does seem to be a one-note type. Even when he gets bashed around the head and shoulders by the fans AND the ratings, he comes right back to the same crap that didn’t work before.

        I think it’s long past time that fans admit that TPTB are going to torture Chuck and Sarah for as long as this show continues.

        Which is why, truly, I’m okay letting it end with this season.

      • Stef62 says:

        If you think about we really shouldn’t be surprised about them bring Shaw back, as they’ve got prior for bringing Bryce back

      • John says:

        Yeah but bringing back Bryce was a great plot twist…but you shouldn’t reuse the same plot twist twice.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Ernie: A serious question. Do you STILL think TPTB “learned their lesson” about what viewers and fans wanted and how they’d react?

        My guess is we’ll know by about 3.16 or 3.17. I’m not going to base anything on an anonymous spoiler that people are ASSUMING is coming from Schwartz or Feydak.

        If you look at some of the Wondercon footage Zach says there was an unknown leaker on the set that lead to scripts being controlled even more tightly than the usual paranoid way.

      • Gabbo says:

        Yeah, John, thankfully they’ve avoided THAT mistake by giving us a host of dazzlingly different PLIs for Chuck and Sarah these past three years. And they’ve never been one to reuse plot devices like interrupted conversations or miscommunications or anything like that… 🙂

      • Gabbo says:

        Ernie-
        Ausiello’s spoiler is a direct quote from Schwartz. I’m just saying.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Sorry, lost track of which spoiler we were on. Yes, Schwartz says that “A secret that could cost Chuck what Sarah loves most about him — his mind.”, not that Chuck is keeping it, or even knows what it is. As I’ve said we’ve been speculating on this since the casting notice for 3.16.

      • Stef62 says:

        About using the same plot twist….PLI’s Nuff said, lol

      • sniderman says:

        “Cynical Misanthropic Curmudgeon” would be a great rock band name.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Ernie and the misanthropes will be touring this summer. Catch us at your local Renaissance fair or theme park. Or you can catch my gangsta rap act. In an odd coincidence my rap name is also Ernie Davis.

        My Indian name is “Runs With Scissors”.

    • Josh says:

      I think we may be overreacting a bit to the Aussielo spoiler. It’s entirely possible Chuck is “hiding” some symptoms from Sarah, probably so as not to worry her, it’s not necessarily a huge crisis, just a thing that will be dealt with within the space of an episode. Chuck and Sarah are due to start dealing with things together, that’s pretty much the whole premise of a couple, and also what they haven’t done at all. You know all that overcoming obstacles makes you stronger thing.

      • Stef62 says:

        Speaking personally, I hope you’re right, but we’ve seen so many false dawns this season, that when this appeared, it just felt like, ‘here we go again’

      • Jason says:

        and if it is something ‘bad’, the show is over, I’m not sweating it, 3.7/3.8 were so bad along with how sarah and shaw and fedak acted all the way thru 3.12, this stuff will be small, no big deal at all – other than if fedak doesn’t get it right, the show will be canceled – all the eps are shot, just sit back and enjoy the ride, no sense worrying about it.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, actually Josh, that would be great. I like the idea of problems to be dealt with, that don’t involve more s-angst!

      • JC says:

        I think this problem may be sticking around till the end of the back six. But I really wouldn’t worry about the C/S angle.

        I was convinced because of the flashback we’d Mama B, but now I’m more convinced we’ll see kid Chuck flashing.

    • Jen says:

      Chuck flashed, though, in 3.13… when he tied up Morgan with all of those controllers, and later when fighting Shaw. The secret has to be that he is the Intersect.

  19. AngelTwo says:

    Remember when I called “jump the shark” after Fake Name? Anyone want to jump on the bandwagon with me now?

    It’s actually a problem with high-concept shows like Chuck. The creators keep feeling they need to up the stakes and every added complexity makes the original concept seem more absurd. And it gets harder and harder to suspend disbelief.

    The ludicrous thing about the show now is that Levi and Strahovski are so good together that the SMART move would be to get rid of the Intersect. Chuck has now been “trained” and Sarah and Casey have always been positioned as superspies.

    It could be a somewhat modern take on Man from UNCLE. Instead of a tailor shop as cover, there’s the BuyMore. Two really smart, really attractive spies with a still mostly brutish Casey and Morgan as the comic foil could work. The Intersect stuff really isn’t necessary anymore.

    But I don’t think we’re going to see a Season 4 (I never did, frankly, because history is against it) to test any of these theories.

    • BeCoolBoy says:

      I find it interesting that the people who scream about “crazy shippers” and claim these supposedly crazy people don’t see the other aspect of the show are silent when the ONLY spoilers Fedak and Schwartz give out are about the relationship.

      If the Chuck-Sarah relationship is only PART of the show, how come that’s all Fedak and Schwartz talk about? And how come the ratings plunge whenever they fiddle with the chemistry between the leads?

      There’s going to be Harvard B School story on how Chuck was destroyed, I’m telling you…

    • atcdave says:

      I’m am sure there will be much professional/trade attention paid to the demise of Chuck. It does give me hope for the future of such entertainment; it will stand as a case study on how to ruin a show with an enthused fan base, and should benifit many shows not yet even imagined. But it won’t help Chuck.

      • lizjames says:

        Dave-
        It wasn’t for nothing I submitted that John Larouquette Show post earlier this year. It’s virtually impossible to take a show from dark to light or light to dark. Viewers form an impression of a show or characters and quickly have expectations.

        And as you’ve said several times 1) The show only works when Chuck and Sarah are in a good place together and 2) People have limited patience for dark, unhappy shows in down economic times.

  20. Rick Holy says:

    Now that I think about it, I have to ask the question, “Is anyone on this show going to be allowed to BE happy?” And I don’t mean just happy for an episode or two, but actually happy, content, etc.

    If someone can, please name me a character that hasn’t had some kind of angst in the 50 or so episodes. Big Mike? Nope. Went through a painful divorce. Jeff and/or Lester? Nope. They’re pathetic losers and they realize it. Casey? Nope. He’s had to relive the angst moments of his past – and there’s been at least one angsty thing for him each season? Ellie and Awesome? Well, it seems like they might be happy now (in some sense), but Awesome has been tranformed into a nervous wreck and Ellie has spent much of this season being pissed at someone or the other. Chuck and Sarah? Nope. Yes, a rare moment of happiness the past episode, but ya’ll know that aint gonna last. Morgan? Well, he may be riding a “high” now, but he’s been through the loss of his “dream” (the Benihana Chef thing), the loss of his girl (Anna).

    I’m not trying to be all gloom and doom here, but for a show that was advertised from the beginning as being action, drama, and light-hearted fun comedy, it sure seems like the characters aren’t allowed to enjoy any level of sustained happiness. Someone’s always getting crapped on – eventually. And the periods were the crap is stuck to them seem to last a great deal longer that the periods in which they’ve been “wiped” (if you follow my rather crude analogy here).

    So, do I expect to see Chuck and Sarah maintain some level of happiness while dealing with the difficulties of being a real couple in the spy world? No. I expect that I’ll see Chuck and Sarah be mostly miserable while dealing with the difficulties of being a real couple in the spy world.

    I keep HOPING that it will be different, but in my gut – based on around 50 episodes now – I’m not expecting things to be anything but “more of the same.”

    So for those who’ve said enjoy e14 because it will probably be the only episode where Chuck and Sarah get to enjoy some happiness for more than 5 minutes, I’d have to (sadly) prognosticate that you’re probably right.

    Bottom line is these guys just don’t have it in them to make this show what it was originally advertised to be. They keep going to back to the “let’s make character X miserable this week, character Y next week, and character Z this week. That’s not what you’re supposed to get from a show that although it contains drama and action, IS still primarily supposed to be – or at least advertises itself to be – a comedy of sorts.

    Believe me, I know that real life aint a bowl of peaches and cream. I deal with the sludge quite frequently. But this show at times makes real life look like that bowl of peaches and cream. That’s certainly not going to lift up anybody – and it certainly doesn’t make for the type of “comedy” (whatever else it’s mixed with) that you look forward to watching.

    I keep advocating/hoping for a season four thinking that “maybe at some point they’ll get it” and make this show a little less angsty FOR ALL THE CHARACTERS (and the ever dwindling fan base). But as can happen in life, sometimes we wind up with egg on our face. I just hope by the time we get to the end of this season, I won’t have the four egg omlete smeared all over mine.

    • lizjames says:

      FatherRick-
      Well, you know, this is why I largely gave up on trying to make sense of season 3 after they went so dark and nasty with Fake Name.

      But even putting that aside, there is THIS issue: Everyone–shippers, crazy shippers, casual fans, overall show fans and I assume just viewers–is happy now. 3.13 pretty much satisfied everyone. And you have what we all assume is a very happy 3.14 coming.

      Why in heavens name (sorry, in your ballpark, Father) would Schwartz go out there and start talking about secrets Chuck is keeping from Sarah and Chuck losing his mind? Shouldn’t he be out there promoting the hell (er, again, your ballpark) out of the happy stuff that may be coming, even for just one week. You know, “We knock the romance out of the park in the next episode. It’s epic romance! Game changing romance! The greatest love since time began!”

      What reason is there to throw out negative stuff now? It’s awesome in its stupidity.

      Truly, it does seem like they want to destroy their own show. What possible advantage is there to being Captain Buzzkill NOW?

      • Lucian says:

        We can fault TPTB for many things, but dishonesty is not one of them. They have said from the beginning that angst is fun, and it’s pretty evident it is what they enjoy producing. Letting the viewers revel in their shipper’s high is just not in their DNA.

      • SWnerd says:

        In response to your why would Schwartz give out those spoilers: the only logical answer is he just doesn’t get it. He’s a good teen drama writer but he’ll never grow out of that mindset. It’s what he does. Simple as that. He doesn’t know how to promote a show to a more mature and sophisticated audience.

        And just to be clear (since this was mentioned earlier on some post) I am an undergraduate student at a university and my 3 roommates and I all rolled our eyes at most of the season so I’m not sure this season appeals to the majority of that demographic either.

        And my parents always watch the seasons after I buy them but unfortunately I did some ranting and my mom just decided to make up her own ending after season 2. I told her that hopefully the back six would be good…but I guess we’ll see.

      • Anonymous says:

        liz. Why would he do it? I really don’t know. Perhaps when he was a kid he never saw reruns of shows like “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Leave it to Beaver,” or others of that ilk where people could actually be happy and the show could still be good, POPULAR, and entertaining!

        Truthfully, it makes you want to pull your hair out of your head. It’s almost like there’s this addiction to angst. Some people just aren’t happy unless they’re experiencing some level of discontent and/or misery – or inflicting it on others!

        It’s like you want to say, “C’mon brotha!” (Pardon my little homage paid to Desmond from LOST). You’ve got something that could be AWESOME on your hands. Quit trying to screw it up!

      • Rick Holy says:

        Anonymous above was me. Sorry. Didn’t notice my name and email weren’t in the little boxes!!

    • herder says:

      Fr. Rick, this is one of the things that makes me sad about this year, the loss of trust in TPTB to deliver on the promise of the show. I’m looking forward to the back six, but not with the same sense of anticipation that I had when this season started. I still beleive that what is to come can be what I beleive the show to be about; fun, action, comedy and romance but I wonder if TPTB have the will and the wit to do it.

      In truth I was prepared for a rough start with the reset that was talked about, but it was more mean spirited than I had expected. Through Natcho Sampler things seemed to be getting better then with the Mask and the Fake Name came the “love trapezoid” (is that phrase ever going to be used to promote a show again) we were promised. Again I was prepared and again it seemed overdone.

      The next few episodes were pretty well done; the Beard, Tic Tac and Final Exam, but they were pulled down by having to carry around the unresolved issues from Mask and Fake Name, kind of like trying to dance to a dirge. American Hero and especially the Other Guy did put me in a good place again.

      Like some others I expect that the next two will be mostly happy episodes, I am hoping that the “tension” that TPTB create after that won’t be relationship driven but job and intersect driven. This is where the lack of trust in TPTB comes in, in the past I would expect the best and deal with it if things were not what I wanted to see, now I hope for the best but have a real fear that it will be an unhappy bunch of campers.

      • atcdave says:

        It is funny how a year ago we were all so happy about things. Now we really don’t trust TPTB at all. I still expect to enjoy the final six, but I’m not nearly as sure as I thought I would be at this point. My enthusiasm and optimism are a lot more guarded than they were last year after Colonel. Once burned, twice shy.

      • JC says:

        Are we going to have a back six speculation post?

      • Anonymous says:

        @atcdave – I can’t remember the name of the “80’s hair band” that did the song, but I believe the title was, “Once BITTEN, twice shy!” 😉

  21. Robert H says:

    I have read most of the comments and agree with the
    following:

    TPTB had a huge bank of emotional good will and buy in on the show, hyped it during the long wait for all it was worth, and then wasted it. They blew it completely. They either didn’t know their audience or arrogantly ignored it. They had plenty of warning about what wasn’t wanted and proceeded to do what they wanted to do anyway.

    NBC deserves some responsibility for this fiasco
    also. They signed off on it when there was still time to make corrections or do reshoots but NBC is
    NBC. They are where they are because they don’t know
    their audience either. Witness the Jay Leno/Conan
    O’brien mess. By the time the show aired in January
    most of the episodes were already shot and the dye was cast. They had to go with what they had, for
    better or for worse. The viewers got the worst and
    responded accordingly, the progressive slide in the
    ratings tell the story, period.

    Granted TPTB finally got the two main characters
    together but at what price? TPTB took the viewers on
    a journey that the viewers made clear long before the season began they did not want. Now the show is
    on the bubble again and the question is whether or not the viewer base can be regained by the middle or
    the end of May when a renewal decision has to be made. Even if the main characters are kept together
    for the last 6 episodes getting the base back will be extremely difficult to do and with NBC being NBC
    anything can happen.

    If the ratings show a steady uptick in May, it may
    come down to a business decision whether or not to
    keep the show. If a deal can be struck with Warner
    Bros. and if Subway can be kept as a sponsor or a
    new one found, NBC may keep it for one more year but
    that is no guarantee. It’s a shame that all of this
    has happened because it didn’t have to but there it
    is.

    If all of you above want the show to come back for
    one more year, despite the real disappointment Season 3 has been, then everybody needs to watch the
    show during the next 7 weeks and get the word out to
    the rest of the fan base to do the same. Otherwise,
    no matter what we all think, the show will probably
    get cancelled, which would be a shame. Get as many
    people as possible to watch it in real time and hope
    for the best.

    I would, despite all of the problems, like one more
    22 episode season with the budget cuts restored, the
    loose ends tied up, all relationships resolved, and
    a happy ending most of us want. Chuck and Sarah leave the spy world on good terms, get married, and
    have the life together that they were always meant
    to have. I know that’s asking a lot but I never thought the show would last beyond 4 years anyway.

    So let’s see if we can get a renewal and go from
    there. As dreadful as Season 3 has been, if we want it back, then let’s end it on a strong note and get
    the ratings up for the final 7 weeks.

    Really enjoyed reading the comments and the analysis
    by the guest writer but at this point I don’t really
    care about character motivations any more. I’m more
    or less fed up with direction the show has taken this season with the exception of the last two episodes. Hopefully TPTB have learned their lesson.
    I just hope it’s not too late. If they split the
    main characters again and resort to teasing the
    viewers as was done before, the show will be definitely be finished. People won’t put up with it.
    If the characters are kept together where their chemistry can shine and the show’s charm restored,
    maybe, just maybe, the lost base might come back,
    if only out of curiosity for the 2nd arc of Season 3. Guess we will have to just wait and see…

    • atcdave says:

      Great initial post Robert. I would agree with most your comments. I do think they intend to leave Chuck and Sarah “together” at this point, but that doesn’t mean angst free. I’m sure they’ll find ways to crank up the pressure. Which I guess is fine, I just kind of hoped after this season we’d get a fun home stretch.

      Apparently we only have six weeks to get the ratings up; 3.18 and 3.19 are being run back-to-back on the same night.

      • JC says:

        Lets hope they don’t take the ratings for our two hour season finale in account for renewal.

        Its going against the two hour series finale of 24. And the season finales of HIYM, Rules of Engagement, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.

      • drosejr says:

        NBC’s upfront is May 17, Monday morning, so the only new episodes that will make a difference in their decision-making are 3.14-3.16. Not much time to rally the base

      • John says:

        They should have made the decision for renewal before the finale anyway I am thinking.

  22. SWnerd says:

    Ok this may be long (alcohol makes me loosed lipped) so bear with me.

    I don’t think the concept of season 3 was the problem at all. Both Chuck and Sarah probably did need to understand and accept both themselves and each other, flaws and all. As most of us agree, it was the execution that was the problem. They really drug the characters through the mud to accomplish this. And in my opinion, that is never a very good idea when it comes to a weekly television show.

    In my screenwriting classes, we learn that film is plot driven while television is character driven. This is obvious because the only way we can stay engrossed in an extended story is by connecting with the human aspect of it.

    Sarah’s discomfort with Chuck changing is not unfounded. It’s actually quite plausible especially because she blames herself. Chuck not telling Sarah his reasons for being a spy until six months after Prague: contrived; Sarah revealing her name to a virtual stranger: contrived; Chuck being easily distracted by the next pretty brunette: contrived; lack of adult conversations: contrived. The point is this story could have been told in a more condensed and logical way.

    I honestly believe that given some good editing software and the season 3 DVDs I may be able to salvage the story. I would probably leave the first 4 alone, do some cutting on 5 and 6, completely eliminate 7 and 8, and do some cutting on the next 4. Episode 13 could be left alone.

    The truth is there are parts of season 3 that will never redeem themselves in my eyes. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch some of the episodes ever again. I’m really hoping for a good back 6 but honestly I’m preparing for the worst.

    If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Chuck it is never get so invested in a television show again. I will never watch a show weekly. I’ll find out if it’s good (for its entirety), wait for it to end, then watch it on DVD. That’s what I did for BSG and that show was awesome.

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      pretty good liquored up and all. Definitely. Execution vs. concept.

      • Gabbo says:

        Faith-
        It was the mint in the ice cream that sobered him up… 🙂

      • ChuckNewbie8 says:

        lol funny. Although I’m pretty sure SWNerd is female.

      • Gabbo says:

        Sorry. Too many cupcakes… 🙂

      • SWnerd says:

        I am indeed female. And I don’t really like mint ice cream. 🙂

      • atcdave says:

        Although Firefly’s run was tragically short, I never even heard of the show until it was out on disc; so I never felt the anguish of the show being cancelled, and just accepted it in all its 13 episode, one movie glory. Maybe that really is the way to go!

    • Ingrid says:

      “If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Chuck it is never get so invested in a television show again. I will never watch a show weekly. I’ll find out if it’s good (for its entirety), wait for it to end, then watch it on DVD. That’s what I did for BSG and that show was awesome.”

      That was my practice before Chuck, and will probably be my practice after… I like knowing things will end well and not hoping against hope for an extra season or two… not that I’m unhappy with Chuck right now, episode 13 made things okay with me… I just don’t like uncertainty… lol….

    • Rick Holy says:

      @SWnerd. I’ve learned the same lesson from CHUCK that you have. Never, NEVER will I let myself get so wrapped up in a T.V. show again. NEVER. I’m embarrased to admit it, but I’m a 40 something who owns 4 different CHUCK mugs, two different CHUCK hats, and 5 different CHUCK Tee shirts. (Oh, yeah, and a Chuckaholic sweatshirt, too). I think it’d be more appropriate for ME to have the NERD after my name, rather than you!

      LOST will end this season and so possibly will CHUCK. From here on out I’ll take the “listen to what’s good, then eventually get it on DVD approach.” (Incidentally, I did the same thing with BSG!!).

      Good night all. And PEACE!

      • SWnerd says:

        Yeah right now I watch Chuck, V, and FlashForward but they’re all in danger of being canceled. For some reason I always pick shows that don’t do very well. I guess I just like different things than the majority.

      • atcdave says:

        I had one year a while back where I lost my 5 favorite shows at once. The life of a nerd is never easy!

  23. Ernie Davis says:

    OK, my quick confession. I’m a scientist by training and a sceptic and cynic by nature. I look for what doesn’t fit. And I dwell on it. It’s my job, and my nature. I think I often end up overindulging those aspects of my personality in my writing. And I regret that. Yeah, the season didn’t live up to my expectations, but it didn’t suck.

    Liz made an argument, and on certain of her terms, did TPTB succeed, I think her conclusion is virtually irrefutable. No. This season, so far, did not succeed. It did not bring in new viewers, it did not increase ratings, and it did not hold the fan base. So yeah, much as I still like the show, empirically, Liz is right, and I have to acknowledge that.

    On certain storytelling elements and hope for the future, well, that’s a matter of opinion, but again, Liz has made an honest argument. As have I. Regardless of how you may feel personally about certain of TPTB, and we should (here comes the Ernie scold) confine the discussion to that, opinions about how well it was done, not the evil nature of TPTB.

    • herder says:

      I agree that although big parts of the season were a disapointment to me the show didn’t suck, if it did I probably wouldn’t still be watching. That said it didn’t leave me with the urge to continually rewatch large parts of it like previous seasons did (I have rewatched the Other Guy many times already, but only that one).

      As to going forward and hope for the future, TPTB aren’t presenting revealed truth here, they are telling a story. The best predictor of the future stories are the past stories, in the past TPTB have suceeded wildly and, more recently disapointed. I have hope for the future because they have in the past created stories that have captured my imagination and I hope they do again. I worry because in the more recent past they seem to have lost that somewhat.

      I would argue that it is impossible to form an opionion of the future without having an opinion on the past and the stories that TPTB have chosen to tell. The fact that the last episode left us in a good place lends hope for the future, that this arc is over and in a way we all are starting with a clean slate. Personally I’m not alarmed about the most recent spoilers as they are sufficienly vague for a person to put what ever spin on them that they wish or fear.

      We were told that the next six episodes would be a preview of season four. As I read that the story becomes Chuck and Sarah as a spy couple dealing with the challenges of being a couple and the problems that a spy career brings with it which is almost exactly what many have been saying that they want. So generally I am upbeat about the next six.

    • lizjames says:

      Ernie-
      Not sure I know for sure what you’re talking about, but I try never to miss a chance to drop in a Simpsons line:

      There’s your problem! It’s set to Evil!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Short version. Much as I enjoy over analyzing and picking things apart, I often feel like I get carried away by the negatives. Then I feel guilty when people start bashing. Yeah, there are real problems with the writing and execution, but I’m getting tired of dwelling on them. No, I don’t enjoy this season as much as I did last (and last could stand up to my nitpicking analysis) but I did enjoy the show this season, minus a few moments and an episode or three. This show is likely on its way out and rather than bash and wallow in the negatives I want to enjoy it while it lasts.

      • JC says:

        Since I’ve been here, I think most of the problems you’ve pointed out were valid concerns. But I do understand at this point, that dwelling on them really doesn’t serve a purpose other than venting one’s frustration. Of course people should be able to vent or complain still if they want, because I know I will when we get to American Hero on the rewatch.

      • Jason says:

        ernie – I am sort of where you are on enjoying the next 6 as best I can, I plan on ignoring the spoilers. My gut says Fedak fashions chuck to be a ‘tween’ drama, many of the fans desire an action comedy with no drama – I think drama requires a much more buttoned down script & / or plot than this team can provide, including the cast and the ‘canon’ upon which the show exists (a computer in a nerdy man’s brain is a funny concept, not a dramatic concept, an eye poppin ‘killer’ blond falling for a nerd is a funny ocncpet, not a dramatic concept). Anyhow, the season has already been completed, it is what it is – enjoy.

      • ChuckNewbie8 says:

        I’ve actually been in a really good mood from American Hero on. I’ve even been able to revisit season 1 and 2. Something that I’ve previously expressed a semi-phobia of with season 3. But no matter how happy I am or how glad at the return of “Chuck” I can’t help but look back and BE negative. I guess it’s a regression to my bad is better than good post.

        But honestly I’m trying to leave all that in the past. It may be foolish but for now I look at the future with new hope for Chuck. Go, don’t stop 🙂

      • amyabn says:

        @Cn8, I feel the same way. Check out my latest entry and let me know what you think!

  24. BDaddydL says:

    I fell in love with the show when my lovely wife gave me season 1 on DVD for Christmas last year. I quickly bought season 2, and caught 3.1 and 3.2 on NBC before I started watching live. I agree that because of that I have a diffrent perspective. If you remove a few minutes here and there all of season 3 was not to bad.
    I personally feel that Shaw was Brice originally, and when Brice couldn’t show a 2 by 4 was born. I think the character was misused and sucked some fun out of the show. I also think it has a horrible timeslot.
    I absolutely love the show and this forum for giving me a place to see how other Chuck obsessed fans are doing having said that, I think a deep breath is in order. I knowthere is not a lot of, ok almost no trust in TPTB, but they gave us the other guy, quite possibly the best show ever. Also, the cast has sId 2 things for months 1 episode 13. Was epic (it was) and the last 6 were a lot of FUN.
    I think we are getting spoilers to stir up intrest to get raitings up. Just think, after the spoilers were posted that’s all that was talked about. Please remember parts of 3 and season 1and 2 some fantastic tv.
    If we are blessed with a season 4 it will be entertaining. So I will take A deep breath dwell on the positive ( Chris Lloyd and scott bakula And c/s being a couple) and enjoy!

    • joe says:

      “I think a deep breath is in order.”

      What you said, BDaddydl. I’ve got a total of 2 scenes all season that got me bummed (“Let’s be friends.” and the Sarah/Shaw date). That’s not bad. Compare it to anything else (with one exception) and it hardly seems to be a contest.

      And the exception? – my own ‘shipper imagination.

      Thanks.

  25. BDaddydL says:

    I am sorry about the typos , I mixed a lack of sleep and typing on a touch.

  26. Jan says:

    Rewatched “The Colonel” last night after reading Liz’s essay and comments. While I feel that Season 3 has not been as satifying and enjoyable as previous seasons, I’m not sure that the Chuck/Sarah relationship would have survived a prolonged hookup after “The Colonel” and “The Ring.” Chuck was in such a different place than he is now. As was Sarah. They both had explored the idea of a relationship…but on what terms. “Stay in the car” Chuck with his handler, Sarah? Seems like a doomed union to me. Chuck needed to have a more equal footing for a relationship to survive.

    As Beckman points out in “American Hero” Chuck’s “process” involves doubt and handwringing. And, he’s been whipsawed by Sarah’s emotional upheaval for 3 seasons. So for him to retreat into video games and whiskey when he’s chastised by Beckman and left hanging by Sarah (he stll doesn’t know she was headed to meet him at the train station) doesn’t seem a stretch to me. What’s more important to me is that he didn’t stay down, even after Beckman suspends him. He knew what he needed to do and he does it…from going to Casey for help, to researching the Shaw’s files (instead of relying on the Intersect) and ultimately shooting Shaw. This is not the Chuck who can’t run with Sarah coz “really important people” think he can be a spy…this is a person who has made his choice and will do whatever it takes to succeed.

    And, after Chuck’s declaration of love in “American Hero” Sarah has finally moved from (your brilliantly described) “Sphinx of Burbank” to a woman with real feelings and real needs. Are all the “damages” of Sarah’s past healed? Hardly. But is she finally willing to move forward? Yes.

    TPTB has prolonged the “I Love You” declaration from Sarah…coz we need more drama in this relationship. Perhaps they want to allow Ali Adler the chance to write those magical words for Sarah. But, for almost the first time in 3 years, Sarah’s actions and words are coinciding. This cannot be a bad thing.

    The journey this season has not always been satisfying…but as Chuck and Sarah,and the series…move forward toward a Season 4, let’s hope The Temper Trap’s “Down River” resonates: Dont Stop Now.

    • Jason says:

      jan – I really like what you wrote, excellent analysis, might be the 5th or 6th great thing written that puts season 3 in perspective, all slightly different – all somewhat brilliant, trouble is, the ‘real’ story was never told on screen, so the loyal fans are left to retrospectively invent a solution to the perplexingly epic journey we were taken on

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Jan, I don’t think I’ve seen your name before, so let me welcome you to the site on behalf of everyone here in our dysfunctional little corner of the Chuckverse. And let me compliment you on a great first post.

      I think we can all agree that after Colonel Chuck and Sarah were headed for a rocky road no matter what. A lot of us were interested in something different than the usual angsty breakup and wanted to see the story where they made that journey together. Others of us, Liz included I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) believed that after Colonel there needed to be some sort of short relationship, or at least talk of one, before the big breakup to be at all realistic. The premise that there was never a chance to talk before Chuck was whisked off to Prague other than a 30 second plea to run away just struck many of us as too contrived.

    • atcdave says:

      I can’t agree with much of this Jan. I have no problem with a more linear developement from Colonel, because it seems to me, real couples enter relationships from completely different worlds all the time. Successful couples grow and mature together. They come to understand each other as time passes, by being together and committed together. That seems more believable to me than growing apart to grow together (!?). What we got was a TV serial romance. Not like anything I’ve ever seen that actually works (I could get far more specific about how their actions compare to real couples/now non-couples I know). After two seasons I had expected more from these writers, and was badly let down.

      Were you joking about needing more relationship drama? I think we mainly need more action scenes and comedy; the relationship drama has been way over-done and needs to scale back. Obviously, I’m a guy, but aren’t you tired of this stuff?

      Sorry if I come across as gruff, I do appreciate hearing your perspective and the chance to respond! I do mean this all in fun.

    • Jason says:

      dave – I liked what jan wrote about ‘stay in the car chuck needing to be on equal footing with sarah’ – in 2.21’s hotel room scene, CS in bed almost seemed like a teacher in bed with her teenaged student, in 3.13, the two of them looked absolutely ‘right’ in Paris.

      The problem is, with the limited amount of sarah, chuck or even shaw relational communication given to the viewers (things like chuck – morgan in 3.9 discussing sarah), we as viewers don’t know much about our show, and are left to invent it.

      As an example, Routh is going to answer fan ?’s later this week, one ? came from Oldarth – something to the effect ‘was the nature of Sham’s relationship ever explained to routh’, dating, sleeping together, not dating, etc – this is oldarth, one of the bastions of the chuck series, not even knowing something that basic about season 3, how would the average viewer expect to have a clue???????

      • atcdave says:

        I never saw their relationship in such unequal terms. I saw them as two incomplete people with different strengths. Specifically, Chuck was better at real relationships, Sarah was better at the life and death stuff. I would have loved to see them grow into each others worlds because they wanted to be better partners to each other; Sarah learns to be more open and honest, and really care for the nut-balls who make up Chuck’s world; while Chuck learns to protect himself and Sarah, without panicking when a mission goes wrong. Actually, to the end of S2 we’d seen a satisfying amount of that already; that’s why I call it linear growth. To me, the story we got was inferior in every way.

      • Rick Holy says:

        atcdave – as usual, you express what so many of us are feeling about this season very well. Hopefully, it we actually get a season 4, it won’t “suffer” from the shortcomings of this season and we’ll see more of that development in the C/S relationship.

        If we DO get a S4 and it turns into a re-run of so many of the aspects of S3 that were troublesome, it will be EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, if not downright IMPOSSIBLE, to tune it week after week.

        I still fear for CHUCK what happened with HEROES. I LOVED that show in S1. But toward the end of S2 it got muddled up, and by S3 it was so muddled up that the mud was too thick to deal with – and I abandoned the show and haven’t tuned in since. And that was too bad, because that show had great promise as well.

        Keeping my fingers crossed for an S4 – and for an S4 that will be the kind of show that we KNOW that down deep TPTB and the Writers have the talent and ability – if not the desire – to give to the fans.

      • atcdave says:

        Rick, I completely agree about S4; I’m really hoping we get it, and holding my breath if we do! (please, don’t screw it up!!!)

    • lizjames says:

      I would only repeat what I said in the follow up to my post: It is a mistake to retcon Season 3 “reality” on what we knew of Chuck and Sarah at the end of Colonel or even at the end of Ring.

      At the end of Colonel, Chuck and Sarah were together. Period.

      At the end of Ring, there was still no reason to think they could not be together. Chuck was now a superhero, which we thought was okay because a) Sarah liked heroes and b) She kept saying that Chuck “was that guy.” After initially deciding to go at the beginning of Ring, Sarah said she didn’t want to save the world, but (and we assume she would have said she wanted to be with him). There was NO indication at that moment she was appalled by the spy life or the chance of Chuck becoming a spy. Did we expect a coupling could be trouble free? Of course not. What coupling is? But there was no built-in impediment.

      All the changes that came were part of the Season 3 reset–and were baked in to justify the break-up in Pink Slip. You can accept them or reject them. But they were NOT inevitable. They were the story the writers chose to tell.

      But the changes were not immutably part of Season 1/2’s reality. They just weren’t.

      • Jason says:

        liz – I saw the eps in order, 3.1 after 2.22, so I am not retcon’ing, I just saw them very quickly in january of 2010, and I DID NOT THINK chuck was anything more than Mrs walker in the colonel scene and in season’s one and two – a cowering little schoolboy compared to what they were up against as a couple, he was in no way shape or form sarah’s equal in my eyes – 3.13 yes indeed he was an equal and maybe even more, maybe it is a guy thing but i guarantee you it is not retconning on my part, it is an honest appraisal of what I saw and felt as I watched 2.21, with no benefit of season 3 to slant my judgement

      • lizjames says:

        Jason-
        Well, I can only say that NO ONE saw what you saw at the time. I’m just saying that the Chuckverse was in total nirvanna after Colonel. I mean, if you can find a contemporary criticism of it, I’d appreciate a link because I just have not seen it.

        As for the motel scene, well, gee, I would only refer you to the Paris scene. Chuck, at least, hasn’t changed. He still hesitates before “going in” to savor his good fortune. As for Sarah, in the motel scene, I think most all of us (man or woman) saw a woman who finally let herself be swept away by her emotions and passions.

        As for the overall Season 1/2 arc, well, of course, Chuck was a lot of things, but NEVER a coward. Overmatched and frightened, yes. But NEVER a coward. And that really is the point of Chuck’s growth. Whenever he had to, he stepped up.

        And NO ONE admired that more than Sarah. From the first, she found someone who was a hero without wanting or needing to be. He could fix little problems (the ballerina) and defuse bombs because he had a head and a heart and a desire to do good.

        In fact, if you don’t accept that, you miss the entire point of what TPTB claim now about the romantic resolution in Season 3. Sarah fell for Chuck in the pilot and continues to be in love with that guy–MY Chuck–even now. She loves him because he HASN’T changed, not because he has…

        And Jason, look at the position you’ve put me in. I’m now defending TPTB for a season I hate.

        But to their credit, they gave Sarah the right motives in the end. Sarah ALWAYS falls for the hero. They just made her wait an entire season before admitting Chuck is the same hero he was in the pilot…

        Sarah doesn’t see him as an equal. Never has. She’s always thought he was better than her. And she still does…

      • atcdave says:

        Wow! excellent post Liz. even the twisted S3 defense!

      • lizjames says:

        Dave-
        The joy of seasons 1/2 were Chuck and Sarah’s absolute faith in each other. Chuck to Sarah in Marlin: “You’re Sarah, you can do anything.” Sarah to Chuck in First Date: “You can have anything you want. And I don’t just mean…”

        Was it BeCoolBoy on another thread who mourned the loss of simple adoration between Chuck and Sarah?

        I dunno. I think adoration is the basis of any good relationship in the real world. If you don’t adore the person you’re with (even while you see their flaws), why are you with them?

        It’s too bad TPTB didn’t, er, believe in us–or themselves. As Worf was so fond of saying in a different context: “It would have been glorious!”

      • Merve says:

        All I have to say is that putting two people on more common ground or on more equal footing is not the same thing as changing their essential natures. Take that how you will.

      • Jason says:

        liz – not really looking for someone else’s opinion to corroborate mine, but what started me on the ‘equal’ thought was something jan wrote, so I might not exactly be alone?

        here goes my defense:

        CS’s relationship likelihood has never been a save the world hero issue, chuck always has been that hero to everyone (esp sarah) but just not himself

        Chuck’s manhood has never been an issue with sarah, sarah would have gone to chuck’s bed in 1.1 if he had asked her (probably at least, she admitted in 3.13, she fell for him then)

        this is a chuck thing – chuck does not feel sarah’s equal – sarah’s equally sexually or sensually (chuck’s dated college girls, sarah the world’s sexiest playboys) – let alone sarah can beat the living tar out of chuck and would had to have protected him in that life on the run

        s1/s2 chuck had no self confidence, esp with sarah, usually when an alpha male shows up at sarah’s door in s1/s2, chuck heads for cover & whines (that I would say the board has seen and talked about)

        finally, in 3.11, chuck DOES SOMETHING, it is all he would have had to do way back in 1.1, possibly would have even worked in 3.1, he just never did it – not because he did not want to, because it was not in s1/s2/early s3 chuck, sure was by 3.11 however.

        there would have been near infinte numbers of better ways to get chuck to that point rather than the woeful journey we were put on in S3, but nothing you or I can do about it now.

        by the way, did I mention how happy I am to be debating ‘chuck’ issues with you, nice to see you back!

      • lizjames says:

        Jason-
        Always a pleasure to talk with you. But trust me. It’s a one-time appearance for me. I gave up trying to figure out what Season 3 was about, so I no longer fully understand the characters.

        One thing we DO agree on: It does turn out that Sarah was just waiting to be told what to do by Chuck. That’s the lesson of the end of American Hero. And you can say, in fairness, that Strahovski leaves virtually every moment in the first two seasons open to that opportunity.

        I know, I checked. Except for her lie in Truth and her I-can’t-handle-the-truth rejection of Chuck’s advance at the end of Suburbs, virtually every scene shows Sarah hoping Chuck takes the lead. I REALLY was impressed with that as I’ve reviewed them in the last few days. It’s even there as far back as the return from the first Zarnow meet in Helicopter. Strahovski turns to the camera (and away from Levi) as Chuck is saying goodbye and you can now see how she has the Sarah character hoping Chuck had chosen to do something else.

        Even Strahovski is not that good an actor. It has to be in the character sketch she was given right at the beginning. Always play Sarah as hoping Chuck will do SOMETHING.

        But for the sexual/sensual thing, well, oddly Jason, I don’t know if anyone has ever raised that. I personally always saw Chuck’s reluctance as emotional, not, er, performance related. And that is even restricted to Season 1. By First Date, he’s in there pitching. He just never realized that he should have been telling Sarah what to do.

        My take, anyway.

      • Jen says:

        That was very well put Liz. I am happy now that they have brought C&S together, but i’m no way happy with the season, even if it’s had it’s good moments. As it has been stated so well already, TPTB just HAD to tell their story, one that none of us cared to see and one that went agaisnt everythign they had built for 2 season and that has made viewers turn away. I never bought the need for PLIs for personal growth or the theory that Chuck neede to grow into his spy life away from Sarah… all of this could have been managed in a different way. S3 could have started with C&S figuring out their new life as spy/life partners, and th we coudkl have had S3 be what the back 6 promise to be… Viewers, i think, would have been more inclined to stay, and the show probably wouldn;t be on the bubble.

        I dont’ get the whole re-pitching of the show to NBC and how this new show was supposed to bring in new viewers. Everything tha thappens between C&S in S3 has significance only because of S1 and S2… and when you have Sarah confess to Chuck that she has loved him since the pilot, well then.. you need to have watched the pilot!!!

        Really, i don’t know what went through TPTB’s minds!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        If they’d have just come to us in the first place we could have avoided all this angst. 😉

      • ChuckNewbie8 says:

        To sum: Chuck was an idiot.

        Now he’s less idiotic haha. (the boards’ rolling is much needed with this post but you get it).

      • atcdave says:

        Wow, a little time of actual work and I sure do fall behind. I just had to respond to Liz; I agree about the loss of adoration. That was a wonderful part of the first two seasons. It can only come back by ignoring most of S3. They had something special and beautiful, now nice and sweet is the best we can get.

    • BDaddyDl says:

      Liz, I am truly awed by the fantastic way you and most of the people of the people on the board write. So in honor of that I will try to make myself as articulate as possible when I disagree with you. I decided to re watch the ring again, but this time without the colonel as an appetizer.
      I wanted to see if I agreed with you on whether or not C/S were together at the end of the episode. If you exclude the moment Chuck became 2.0 then you are right, but after that is where we begin to disagree. Once Chuck became 2.0 he was once again US Government property. Sarah wanted to run away, because she did love Chuck (did Chuck think she changed her mind in season 3, maybe). Once Chuck made the decision to be a spy, and it was his own voluntary decision, then he had to e a good one.
      Until that point, Chuck never had a choice. Once it was made is where the quest began. He loves Sarah, but he now feels the only way for them to be together, and for him to be a “Man” is for him to live up to potential. Once Chuck thought he was a real spy was he able to ask Sarah to be together. That was nice and all, but it wasn’t till he became the greatest American hero could he demand it. I think that episode is huge for Chuck, before he saved Shaw he thought he was a spy, afterword he KNEW it. That was the only way he could demand Sarah could go with him. I think that also made is hard for Sarah because she thinks this new confidence is the red test, but also Chuck was now able to be strong around her.
      That is why he looks so deflated after calling in the tank, he looses a little of his mojo, and thankfully John Casey was there to help. Do I think the mini season stretched it out to long, yes! Do I think of knocking on Shaw, to make sure that I don’t jinx something? Of course!
      My biggest out of character moment is when Devon didn’t try to get the evil dictator to stop flirting with his wife. I think they kept the characters realistic for most of the season. I even think Sarah tried to forget her love for Chuck out of pain and duty to him. In the end she realized they both needed saving, and I am so glad TOG was so good. For me, it made up for some of the nonsense.

      • joe says:

        BDaddyDl, I saw what you said in response to Liz’s note to me below. But you’re wrong. Your words here here are second to none – not even Liz’s (and I consider Liz to be an amazing writer).

        In fact, you’ve said something that’s making me reconsider. Not about the episode, mind you, but something about my own story. I’m not sure how this will turn out, because I’m still thinking about it. But reconsidering the episode will be a mere side-effect of what you’ve said here.

        It’s okay to be “in awe”. But know that you really should be in awe of the power of your own words, my friend. I am.

  27. Jan says:

    Thanks for the welcome…even the criticism. What I’ve discovered in reading peoples’ comments is we are all passionate about this show and these characters. We may not agree. But we share the passion. And, we all hope to have another season to give us more to enjoy and critique.

  28. Ernie Davis says:

    So Liz had another great point above (Stop that Liz, we’re never going to finish out this thread!) Something I’d noticed on occasion but never really put together. I’d always said Chuck was always Sarah’s for the asking, but now we’ve pretty firmly established that Sarah doesn’t ever do the asking, and will only (finally!) respond to a direct question or to being told what to do. As an interesting aside it seems Cole had that figured out about Sarah. He kissed her and she responded, he apparently had the right approach with “just close your eyes and say yes”. OK, so back on topic. To me is seems now Sarah may have been Chuck’s for the asking. As Liz pointed out Sarah always seems to be hoping for him to make a move, but Chuck’s too much a gentleman. The perfect example is them waking up together in Lethal Weapon. Everyone usually concentrates on Chuck’s pained panicked look with the blankets around his neck, but if you look at Sarah, who is also wide awake, the look is pure loneliness and disappointment. Her chipper morning banter doesn’t match that first look where she’s obviously disappointed that she’s waking up alone on her side of the bed rather than in Chuck’s arms like in Colonel. So I know it’s dangerous to mix s1/s2 and s3 psychology, but in s1/s2 Sarah constantly put herself and Chuck in situations where only Chuck’s restraint kept something from happening (and his uncertainty and fear she could easily hurt him if he overstepped his bounds). So the thing that gets me is it makes The Ring and a few scenes therein EVEN WORSE THAN I THOUGHT!!!!! AAAARRRRGGHHHH!!!!! If Sarah is just waiting for Chuck to make a move why does she shoot down his vacation proposal?!? If Sarah never does the asking why is she about to tell Chuck she wants to stay with him while they’re slow dancing?! Now The Ring not only doesn’t track with Season 2, it doesn’t fit Season 3 either? What’s an over analytical blogger to do?

    • JC says:

      Its almost like someone is pulling the strings to draw out the sexual tension. Very strange

    • SWnerd says:

      I think the answer to your last question is we just have to accept that TPTB don’t know how to tell a coherent story and because of that the characters suffer and plot holes abound. It’s as simple (or complicated) as that.

      • John says:

        Well they clearly do. They have told a few well done arcs before.

        They just seem to forget from time to time or telling a coherent story is pretty hard.

      • atcdave says:

        I think the value a “dramatic” story over a logical one.

    • lizjames says:

      Ernie-
      First of all, this thread drove me to to look at Sandworm again instead of eat lunch. And there is that scene with Sarah and Chuck on the bed when she gives him the picture and he says, it’s almost like we’re a real couple.

      And Sarah says: We ARE a real couple, just a different kind.

      Wow. Just wow. You look at that now and you say, my god, Strahovski was brilliant just there…

      You and I have been the main proponents of the meme about “The relationship moved only as far and as fast as Sarah moved it.” I still believe that, but now we do have to modify it to also say that Chuck clearly could have had Sarah whenever he decided to take her.

      It is/was an interesting dance. Her inching closer and closer, sometimes imperceptibly. And he never getting that all he has to do is take ANY step. Powerful stuff…

      As for the moment that makes YOU nuts (you know mine is post-Colonel), I still think it makes sense. Chuck didn’t say, “We’re taking a vacation.” He asked her. And Sarah, of course, says no because she’s just been told by someone else (Beckman) what to do. Actually, Ernie, I don’t know if what we know now changes that. I’ve always felt that was the case. Sarah follows orders, either from Beckman or from Chuck.

      I guess we’re supposed to take it as a measure of her progress that when Shaw tells her what to do in Other Guy (We can still be a team, right?), she says yes, but actually goes to Chuck. The only conclusion: She was still acting on the previous order–from Chuck, at the end of American Hero.

      • Jason says:

        liz – one last thing about the quadrazoid – chuck gave hannah exactly what sarah wanted, the normal, real life that she watched over the video, yet sarah gave shaw exactly what chuck wanted, the DC super spy life (to use chucks words in 3.13 ‘out saving the world’). as a side note, I wish sarah had said “I don’t want to save the world anymore chuck, I want a relationship with someone real, in the real world, will you live that life with me … maybe she will get to that point in about 5 more seasons

        What is going to be interesting, is how TPTB will reconcile the opposing views of the world for CS, to follow your analysis, seems like sarah will do what chuck wants (for now), as it appears for at least the short term they will be spies, but …. longer term, sarah appears to be great at passive resistant behaviour, so who knows ….

    • Merve says:

      The problem with looking at trends in character behaviour is that they’re just that: trends. Characters break that trend on occasion; it’s what makes them characters and not caricatures. (That being said, the other extreme is to have no clear trend at all, in which case there’s no point in even bothering to analyze what’s going on, and I can see how that can be frustrating.)

      As Liz rightfully pointed out, there is a trend in Sarah’s behaviour; she wants Chuck to make a move. But that doesn’t make any deviation from that trend “out of character” or “lazy writing for the purpose of plot advancement.” Perhaps we can call it “out of caricature.” Characters sometimes do things that we don’t expect them to do. Otherwise, we could just watch the first ten minutes of an episode and figure out what happens from there.

      Though, to sort of tear down my own argument, sometimes it may seem as if the writing is deviating from the character’s behavioural trend solely for the purpose of plot. And in that case, I do become frustrated. But the key thing is that may seem that way to me. Someone else might not see it that way.

      Not to speak for you, Ernie, but I think that you view Sarah’s behaviour in “Ring” as a plot device. And I view it as a simple deviation from trend. I guess that’s why it’s easier for me to swallow.

      • lizjames says:

        Merve-
        I don’t think Sarah’s actions at the beginning of Ring are out of character. Sarah ALWAYS defers to authority–and especially to Beckman. Her first impulse is ALWAYS to say yes to duty. That’s what she did at the beginning of Ring.

        That’s why Sarah seeking out Chuck at the beginning of Other Guy works. She said yes, reflexively to Shaw. Then promptly realizes she wants Chuck. That’s the flip from Ring.

        And that’s why her closing the lid on Beckman in the last scene is ALSO powerful. She NEVER even talked back to Beckman before. Now she’s made a choice.

        It’s one of the few things TPTB have been totally consistent about with Sarah.

      • Josh says:

        Sarah did the exact same thing in First Kill,Ring, American Hero and Other Guy. She defaults to “duty” till her switch gets hit and she follows her heart. She said it a couple of times through the series already, “I m not very good with relationships”, that’s why I think she keeps expecting Chuck to do the grand gesture, to validate for her the choice she wants to make, else it just scares her to go there.

  29. herder says:

    I don’t think this quite goes here, but I heard a song today that I think would fit in with what is likely to happen in the next episode. “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders, if Chuck and Sarah try running but realize that they have an obligation to their job some of the words really fit, “those were the happiest days of my life” “but it’s back to the chain gang”. It also helps that it is an eighties song.

  30. sarahwalkerCIA says:

    THE ADVENTURE RESUMES:
    http://twitter.com/CIASarahWalker
    Do follow us!

  31. Gord says:

    Liz some valid points and an interesting perspective, but Chuck’s hero’s journey for me was about more than just pursuing his relationship with Sarah. It was about finding his boundaries. What was he prepared to do and prepared to sacrifice to accomplish his missions.

    We saw that he could not kill in cold blood, but he could kill to save someone he loved even if it meant that person might not love him anymore. I was fine with Sarah taking the lead in the apartment and hotel scenes. I don’t think there was any other way to go.

    I honestly didn’t mind Sarah having emotional turmoil in this season. What did bother me is how long they stretched it out, and how they handled the PLI’s (especially in Mask).

    If I recall, BR originally was supposed to be in the season for 6 episodes. I think they could have easily told the story in 4 to 6 episodes.

    That being said, I wonder if 3.13 would have felt as satisfying if they hadn’t dragged out the relationship turmoil and on the flip side would it have needed to be?

    I just hope the gamble TPTB took with the storyline doesn’t end up getting the show cancelled. There is such potential of the show to be great going forward.

    • joe says:

      After all these months, I’m still agreeing with you down the line, Gord.

      I just watched a later episode to start thinking about my next write-up. I had what I already described as a visceral reaction to it (and one scene in particular). I went in hoping to have a different reaction.

      I didn’t. Well, okay, there are others, now, and some deepening of thoughts that were only seedlings before, but I’m still getting that same kicked-in-the-gut reaction that I had weeks ago to one very big aspect of Season 3. You just highlighted it. What did bother me is how long they stretched it out, and how they handled the PLI’s.

      I think of myself as patient. But this really hit my limits.

      • JC says:

        The date scene in American Hero?

      • SWnerd says:

        Yeah I went back and watched 3.9-3.13 yesterday thinking that I might appreciate the episodes more after I saw the endgame…but no there was still a lot of eye rolling and head scratching. And 9-11 were a lot better than 7 and 8 to me. I’m pretty sure I can never watch either of those again.

  32. lizjames says:

    Joe:
    Your turmoil over the date scene is deep, I know. I know it bothers the hell out of you, but I think you are seeing something that isn’t there.

    I just looked back at Break-Up and it was interesting the dialogue they created between Bryce and Devon. Bryce seemed to indicate that he had stronger feelings for Sarah than she ever had for him. It throws interesting light on the earlier Bryce-Sarah dialog in Nemesis. We all take it to mean that Bryce thought Sarah couldn’t express her love for him. But I think Bryce understands that she just doesn’t have any GENUINE love feelings for him.

    Bryce loved Sarah, I think. But I also think he knew that Sarah wasn’t capable of truly loving him. Oh, there was sex and friendship and some happiness. But real love? Deep emotional intimacy? I think Bryce got that Sarah wasn’t capable of that with him. He would take what he could get, but I think he knew the score. I think that’s why he was so shocked when she “couldn’t take the shot.” He was honestly and truly amazed that Chuck was able to go somewhere where Sarah that he never could.

    I think you should accept that Sarah Walker had always resigned herself to a life of rather empty, superficial relationships. And she was going back to THAT with Shaw when she gave up on Chuck.

    You can see at the end of American Hero that, even when she decided to GO with Chuck in Castle, it was painful for her. Easy and superficial, with Bryce and Shaw, she understands. Real with Chuck is terribly hard for her. This really is a woman who never expected real love in her life. In some ways, she doesn’t want it, either.

    And I actually think we’re going to see more of this in the back six and if there is a Season 4. Sarah has ZERO experience being a real person. Her entire life has been a lie and a compromise. So even when she says she wants “real,” she has no idea what she’s talking about. It’s one of the very few things I think TPTB have done well in Season 3.

    So, really, don’t sweat that date scene. If you can’t accept her with Shaw on that rudimentary he’s-better-than-being-alone level, you can’t have fully savor Chuck as her savior.

    Chuck really does SAVE her. From her old ways, from Shaw–and, most importantly, from her own limited expectations of her life.

    The Sarah Walker YOU love, the Sarah Walker we ALL love exists because Chuck is there. Without Chuck, there simply is no Sarah.

    • BDaddyDl says:

      I just spent some time saying that i disagree. Then here ya go saying something I am in complete and total agreement with, and to mkae matters worse you said it a lot better then I would have. Great assesment.

    • Merve says:

      If there’s anything that bothers me about the way that Sarah’s character developed in season 3, it’s what you’ve pointed out, Liz. It’s the fact that her only version of “reality” includes Chuck. Without him, she has no anchor to anything that she considers “real.” One of the good things that came from keeping Chuck and Sarah apart this season is that it gave Chuck the opportunity to develop further as a person, independent of Sarah, so that when he finally decided to go for it with her, it felt as if he was doing it not because he needed to, but because he wanted to. The same opportunity existed for Sarah, but it wasn’t seized. I had hoped that Sarah would discover some form of “reality” without Chuck and then realize that she wanted a version of “reality” that included Chuck. Before season 3, anything “real” in her life came from Chuck (and to a certain extent, her respectful professional relationship with Casey). Now, she is still in the same situation, the only difference being that she has decided to embrace “reality” instead of running away from it.

      • Josh says:

        I think Sarah doesn’t just want a normal life, she knows she’s no good at it and it scares the crap out of her. She wants a normal life with Chuck specifically. It’s not about comparing shades of normalcy with different guys including Chuck, what’s normal for Sarah is the life she led pre Chuck (and the option Shaw presented). Put it this way, a normal life is Sarah’s version of climbing Mount Everest. It’s a nice dream but she’s not really equipped to handle it, nor is she going to risk it, unless Chuck is there.

    • lizjames says:

      Merve/Josh-
      I think you have to accept that TPTB have written Sarah as a character with ZERO real life experience. I mean, literally NOTHING of a real life. She was positioned as on the con for her childhood and scooped up by the CIA immediately after her father’s arrest.

      So it’s not that she doesn’t want a real life, it’s that she doesn’t know how to get one. And it’s not that she can’t learn how to get one, but that she has no one (but Chuck) to whom she can turn to teach her.

      For her, Chuck is literally her ONLY option. And, of course, he’s even more attractive to her because he also is a hero in the “real world” in the things that matter: a sharp mind, a good heart and a caring nature.

      Is a character like Sarah realistic? No, of course not. But it is the character. And the fact that most of us have come to love her and be insanely attached to and protective of her shows that TPTB were at least right about this.

      They’ve show us a 30-year-old blank sheet of paper. And we all write on her what we want to see. And Strahovski is such a good young actor that she is able to bring this sheet of paper to life.

      And BDaddyDl, express yourself as you can. EVERY voice matters…

      • Merve says:

        I agree with you Liz. That’s one of the interesting things about Sarah’s character, and maybe the writers sort of wrote themselves into a corner here. We haven’t yet seen Sarah come to the realization that Chuck is what makes reality something that she wants, not that reality is Chuck. Perhaps that sort of self-discovery will come later in the series as she becomes aware of all the other “real” things about her life that come with being with Chuck, but that aren’t directly related to Chuck. However, that sort of self-discovery is what I wanted to see before she chose Chuck.

        Like I said, the writers sort of wrote themselves into a corner here: she couldn’t turn to Ellie because she had broken up with Ellie’s brother; she couldn’t turn to Morgan because Morgan would never betray Chuck; she couldn’t turn to Casey because Casey doesn’t talk about “lady feelings;” she couldn’t turn to Awesome because Awesome wants nothing to do with the spy world. There are really no other people in her life who could help her become “real.” One of the great things about her transformative journey in season 2 was seeing Chuck help her discover reality, bit by bit, piece by piece. But as far as that transformation goes, at the end of “Other Guy,” she’s still at the same place as she was during “Ring.” (She has changed in other ways, though, but that’s besides the point.) Chuck, and her love for him, is still the only thing anchoring her to the real world. Maybe what TPTB were trying to tell us with Prague and the train station in “American Hero” is that love is the only “real thing” that matters. Perhaps I’m cynical, but I don’t see the world that way.

    • joe says:

      I think I understand what you’re saying, Liz. My shorthand for that has been to say that Sarah decides to “settle” for Shaw/Bryce/Cole. What gets to my stomach (yes, a real, physical reaction, which tells me I AM the one who’s seeing things here, just like you said) is Sarah’s smile and her words “This is amazing.” That’s not in congruence with “settling”, and combined with the “Let’s be friends” handshake in The Three Words, I desperately wish it had been played differently, somehow.

      Why is “Real with Chuck” so damn hard for her? Why doesn’t she want it? She started to say she did in The Ring episode, didn’t she? I can intellectualize the story. But I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why she would not expect it.

      Um… You recognize that I’m “off the rails” with this. Sorry. I have “issues” and could rant for hours to no effect.

      But BDaddyDL did say something key that I’m trying to leverage in order to come to grips with this. In Am. Hero one other person, besides Sarah, comes away knowing who the hero is. Finally. It’s a real change, and something that should make a difference.

      Thank you for helping me think through this!

      • JC says:

        I found Sarah’s actions in castle after Shaw leaves actually harder to swallow than the date scene. Not that it bothered me as I found it amusing. She was hell bent on going after him so he wouldn’t die, nice to see she decided to act after she did nothing in Beard.

      • seb says:

        American Hero, at least parts of it, will never make sense to me so … I gave up trying. Maybe because I find the whole race on whoever’s more heroic wins Sarah kinda ridiculous as a concept. Maybe because Sarah makes no sense to me at all in this episode. Date made no sense, Castle scenes with Shaw then Chuck then Casey made no sense either. Frankly, neither did the whole teary eyed Sarah in the final Chuck/Sarah Castle scene.

        Overall, I decided AH was just a delaying tactic, to push the “resolution” one episode later and that “epic” Parisian Hotel scene. Which kinda sucked to be honest, because it really didn’t feel all that epic to me. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, but mostly happy it was over and done already rather that awww that was amazing kinda happy.

      • atcdave says:

        You know that’s my assessment of the season; its just great that its over. Not entirely, but everything about Sham rubs me wrong. I do understand we were supposed to see Sarah as “settling”, at least Other Guy played out well!

        Sorry, you all knew I had to weigh in.

      • cas says:

        JC- I felt the same way

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      very well put. I don’t even have to say anything lol. Good to have you back Liz, even temporarily.

  33. andyt says:

    Hello,
    Long time lurker and first time poster. With all due respect to those who feel this, I believe that Season 3 is not a failure rather it is a successful conclusion to the show that began in Sept. 07. To wit, the two major themes were the boy becoming a man(hero). This is the Peter Parker journey, if you think I am whacked, re-read Spider-Man and try not to compare Chuck to Peter it is scary how much they are alike. The other theme was the will Chuck and Sarah become a “real” couple. The journey of the last three years have been about both of these. The complaints about the PLIs ignores that this was always a part of the show’s DNA. For example, there was to be a competitor for Sarah’s affections from the beginning for Chuck. Her name escapes me at the moment, but there are pictures of her in the cast photos from the pilot. Every women since then: Lou, Jill, Hannah has been a version of her. Chuck was always meant to have a choice between Sarah and this other woman. Conversely, Sarah has had choices as well: Bryce, Cole, Shaw. Each represented a possibly choice for her has well. I do not think it was set in stone that Chuck and Sarah had to be together. The writers always let themselves room to change the dynamic from the very beginning. Season 3 resolves these two storylines. In many ways, in re-watching Season 3 there are frequent call-backs to Season 1 which was great for me because that is when I fell for Chuck.
    Also I would respectfully disagree with Liz about “The Colonel”. I do not think that Chuck and Sarah are a couple in any sense at the end of that episode. They go off to the rehearsal still playing their role of fake couple. Sarah is playing out the role until she leaves, and Chuck believes that she will leave. In fact, re-watching Season 2 episodes, it is clear that Chuck expects Sarah to vanish from his life entirely. In The Breakup he explicitly states that they can not have a relationship since he want a “normal” life. In Best Friend, Chuck says “…before you showed up and long after your gone Morgan will be there. He is family.” In both Chuck clearly expresses the anticipation that no Intersect means no Sarah. He does not know that she decided to stay with him in Ring. There is not ride into the sunset moment in Colonel. In fact my own impression was that Sarah and Chuck were done, and he had lost his chance with her.
    I hope this is not too long winded for a first post, but except for a few uncomfortable moments(and these actually mean that the show is good for me) I loved Season 3 and wanted to get a few thing off my chest. I am actually more scared about where they go from here since the wrapped these two storylines. Thanks for letting me ramble

    • joe says:

      Hi, Andy. Great first post! – and I say that as someone who rambles on forever. Needless to say, I wanna hear more.

      When S2 ended, when The Ring ended, I came way feeling that it was inevitable that C&S would get together. It was merely a question of when. So even last summer I knew that S3 would have to have one mission; they had to convince me it simply was NOT inevitable. I’m stubborn. I didn’t give up on the idea until 3.12 (most everyone else, I think, gave up much earlier, most in The Mask).

      Technically speaking, that alone makes S3 a “success” for me, at least. Fun and enjoyable? No. Not like S2 (and S2 wasn’t all that until the last 6, IIRC. Beefcake caused a stir). But any reviewer (hum… I should pretend to be one!) would know not to make that sort of comparison. On it’s own, S3 has plenty of great moments and plenty to comment it, even before you get to The Other Guy.

      With that in mind, I love your take on The Colonel, and by implication, on The Ring>. C&S shouldn’t be seen as inevitable at that point. Well, I’d like to see them as a couple, or as soon-to-be a couple then. But for a lot of reasons, some doubt had to remain. And you picked just the right quotes to remind us of that.

      It’s still too early for this, but we’re going to have to face the fact soon that Chuck is nearly over. Complete. C&S are together, and there are only so many more obstacles, complications and mis-steps we can tolerate before their happy-ever-aftering becomes part of the canon, or we abandon the show. Either way, this story is ending, soon.

      Which is not to say that a new Chuck isn’t beginning, say, in S4. It will have to stand on it’s own, though, despite the strong character legacy. Very little, not much more that Chuck & Sarah and maybe Casey has to remain, and that is a scary notion.

      • andyt says:

        Thanks for the welcome. I agree that there are more dramatic moments in Season 3 and more uncomfortable moments in this season than Season 2, but this is not a bad thing. If you really care about a story, you should feel worried about the characters and about their journey. Without that sense of jeopardy the story would lose its power, particularly at this stage. I still believe in the Joss Whedon quote, “Give the audience what it needs, not what it wants.”
        As far as what I find scary, I agree completely that C&S as a couple has been accomplished. This was one of the missions as I stated. Maybe scary is the wrong word to use, but the show must change now that the two main themes have been largely wrapped up. This means potentially losing many characters and settings that we have come to expect.

      • atcdave says:

        I really dislike that Joss Whedon quote (he’s obviously a better writer than philosopher). Sorry, but I make my viewing decisions based on what I want, not what I “need.” Based on S3, I would add, I don’t think JS has a clue what I need or want. OK, not quite true; he created an awesome universe, and delivered the goods for two seasons. But I find real life has enough drama and stress for me, I choose programming that’s fun. If Chuck had started like S3, I never would have stuck with it.
        I would also add I care about story a great deal; I like being excited and worried about how things will resolve. But there is a line between excitement and disgust that Chuck crossed this season (got really close to the line in 3.05, crossed it in 3.07). For the main part of the season, we got a story that regurgitated the least appealing aspects of S1 and S2, in a far less enjoyable fashion.

        Its fine that we don’t agree. Not agreeing is something we do here often. But that doesn’t mean either side cares less about story or is out of touch with what they “need.”

    • lizjames says:

      Andy: I think your view of the end of Colonel is simply not what you were supposed to believe. They both talk about it being “real.” They repeat the music and the hand gestures from the motel scene. Even Casey doesn’t wish to intrude on the moment.

      And if you want further proof, go back to Chuck and Sarah being held in Castle. Chuck says maybe the CIA will give them a little 2 bed, 2 bath cell. And Sarah says “Two beds?”

      I get that you like Season 3 and I am loathe to admit I am old enough to have bought Spider-Man off the newsstand at the beginning (Okay, my brother did).

      But it is simply not reasonable to suggest that Chuck and Sarah were not together at the end of Colonel.

      In fact, scroll ahead to Ring, to the scene Ernie Davis despises. Chuck is crushed when Sarah tells him she’s leaving, something she had only been informed of at the beginning of the episode when Bryce reappears. And it is clear that Sarah was stunned to hear she was being sent to Zurich with Bryce.

      So like Season 3 or hate it, Colonel ends with Chuck and Sarah together. If you want to talk about the impact of the last scene in Ring, well, that is open for debate.

      But end of Colonel? Nope.

    • atcdave says:

      Andy, I think many of us consider S3 to be a failure just in the sense we didn’t enjoy it. The ratings slipped substantially during the run which would indicate that was a common opinion. Last season, although ratings were weak overall, they did build during the final 6 episodes; which would indicate people tuning in due to good word of mouth, as opposed to people tuning out for whatever reason.
      As far as the PLIs; I have absolutely no interest in what the original concept was. An original concept can be as messed up as any later revision. Had S1 bombarded us with relationship angst from the start, I would have never watched the show. And if you go back and look at forum comments from March/April 2009, when S2 was building towards its climax, its clear the majority of viewers felt the Chuck/Sarah relationship was building towards becoming a real and lasting thing. I think from Lethal Weapon on Chuck and Sarah both came to think no Intersect meant they could really be together. I assure you the vast majority of us posting after Colonel saw it that way. As Liz said, between the hand dance and certain comments made by both characters in Colonel and Ring; the vast majority of viewers considered them a real couple by season’s end. That is also why there was so much outrage after Comic-Con in July 2009. We felt like the characters were clearly beyond the sort of game-playing TPTB wanted to play.
      Many of us continue to feel the main arc this season did only damage. Both characters needed to grow and learn many things; but had they experienced the major issues of Chuck’s professional growth this season together, they would come across as a stronger and far more “romantic” couple than they do now. To me, the biggest issue is just that the entire season would have been more fun; and I believe, the ratings would be much better now. If you look at our highly unscientific survey from last week, 60% of voters claimed fairly high levels of discontent with the main story arc. And that’s among us, the rabid core, who aren’t really likely to give up on the show. Even though roughly half of those claimed they were now OK with the story since they knew the end; that still means a majority of us were unhappy with most of the season as it ran. No wonder ratings dropped by over 20%, most viewers are no where near as dedicated as we are.

      • andyt says:

        I understand that many here on this forum feel that the season was a failure, but on other forums and among my circle of Chuck fans that is not the case. Also, I disagree with your implication that season 3 was a revision of the show. In fact, it was the culmination of the original vision of the show by the creators. They probably thought that this was their last shot to finish that vision and they went for it. One can disagree with it, but it is there. Also, Season One had much relationship angst. The Wookie, The Sandworm, The Truth, The Nemesis, and especially Crown Vic where they shook hands and agreed to be “friends”. Again a connection to Angel of Death. That might be why I liked this season because it went back to the beginning.

      • andyt says:

        Sorry I should have said Hi Dave, I briefly forgot my manners there.

      • atcdave says:

        Hi Andy, it does look like we’re going to butt heads some, but that is OK. Again, original show vision doesn’t matter one bit to me. I watch on a week to week basis; and I watch to be entertained. A show can start good and mess up; or start flawed and work the bugs out. What matters to me as a viewer is the entertainment value while I’m watching.
        I do know many viewers were well pleased with this season; that’s great for them. But our viewership fell in excess on 20% during the season, and as someone who sees much to be unhappy about S3, and has many friends who have called it quits or threatened to; I can speak for some of the discontent.
        I know there was some romantic angst in S1. I’ve mentioned here many times how close my wife and I came to giving up on the show during Crown Victoria because of the dark mood. But again, I think my main point is not about any particular revisionism, but rather that many of us felt the story/characters had grown past the credible use of PLIs by the end of S2; so their use in S3 was never going to be enjoyed or appreciated by a large number of us. Its fine that you enjoyed the show; just understand they told a story in S3 that many fans wouldn’t ever like. My feeling since before the season even started was that they would end it where they should have started it. So this season, we all fought so hard to get, was almost a zero sum game that mainly damaged our regard for our favorite characters. If it weren’t for the back six order placed before the season even aired, this season would seem a total waste (to some of us).

      • andyt says:

        Its okay that we butt heads. I appreciate the passion that you bring to your writing about Chuck. My own background and interest(I am a historian by training and a teacher) makes me much more fascinated in the past and the connections between past and present in everything that I watch. An occupational hazard you might say. That is why the fact that the show connected back to those Season 1 themes and tropes made it so much fun for me this year. I enjoy that kind of stuff. Also, when I said the the PLIs were in the shows DNA, I mean that the showrunners always wanted there to be a choice for Chuck between Sarah and another woman. That is why they had not outgrown them by the end of S2, they did not have a “real” relationship yet. They were on the verge of it by the end of Colonel, but it was not there yet it was still only potential. Consequently when Chuck and Sarah went through the changes early in the season it was only natural for them to consider other choices. I didn’t mind that because I believed that in the end they would end up together. Also, it created some fun comic material for Team Chuck in American Hero. (Also if you want real angst talk to some Buffy fans about that fact that Buffy’s romantic interests were never fully resolved at the series end, “the cookie dough speech”, at least Chuck never went there. I know that is hard to accept for many but it is what they intended from the start, and I am happy that they got to see their vision through. I also believe that some of our disagreement comes from the issue of ownership. I know that many who worked hard to see Chuck come back feel that they have an invested interest in the show. That is understable, but I come from the perspective that the creators own the material and do with it what they want. It is their vision. I own what I create, whether others like it or not is beside the point for me. I own it and I am proud that I succeeded in creating it. This issue of ownership is not limited to Chuck, but it is part of my perspective on entertainment and any creative work. I may not agree with the creators choices or conclusions but I respect their right to make them. Sorry about being so rambling and long winded again I can’t seem to help myself when I get started

      • atcdave says:

        Andy, we’ve had several variations on the business versus art of television discussion. We call TPTB what we do for exactly that reason, they are the powers behind the direction of the show. But as a historian, you should surely recognize the ancient relationship between artist and patron. The moment a creative person decides to pursue a vision that precludes other gainful employment, they subject themselves to the marketplace. Commercial television is, by definition, subject to market forces. If a certain number of viewers can’t be sustained, the show goes away. When a very large portion of invested fans objected to the writers comments at Comic-Con, they SHOULD have re-examined their plans. Our reactions should have been regarded as feedback; not dismissed with “give them what they need.” That attitude is part of why scripted programming is fading and people turn to reality programs. I know my opinions don’t sit well with artistic types; but artists who ignore market forces are HOBBIESTS (yes there are a fortunate few who pursue their vision AND find a market for it; but television is BIG business).

        For the record, I do believe I will like the show better from here on out; I don’t see them going the PLI route again (at least for Chuck and Sarah). But if the show is cancelled this season, I am certain its because the writers went one PLI too far. A clear majority of forum posters between the seasons felt the time was already past. When S3 started, viewers started leaving, right from 3.01, because they didn’t like the product. I’m not sure if most viewers felt that way, but enough did to drop the show back into bubble status.

      • seb says:

        andy, it has nothing to do with ownership. It has to do with the simple fact that as you, as is your right, enjoyed the Season 3 journey, others didn’t, and it’s equally their right.

        I fall in the others category. Sure I knew Chuck and Sarah would end up together in 13, I had known since those French spoilers were leaked. That doesn’t mean that the destination, for me, was worthwhile. Noone, certainly not me, argues that Fedak and company have any obligation to tell the story the way I want to hear it, far from it. They can tell any story they choose. But I, as a member of the viewing public have no obligation to blindly support them. I want to be entertained, if I m not I switch over to House. And that’s pretty much what happened this season, starting with a 3 on the demo Chuck went down to 1.9. Had it been a 3 on the demo that had risen to a 4.1 I promise you, I would call myself a minority and keep quiet about it because obviously lots of other people were enjoying the show. But that’s not what happened, is it? So I consider myself entitled to voice my criticism, since no matter how anybody tries to sweeten it the reality is that the show has been bleeding viewers every single week this season. This was supposed to be the big lets get new people onboard reset, that’s what we were told at least. Did it deliver? There’s a resounding NO there. So if JS has a “right” to ask fans to support his show (and salary) [he’s twitted twice this season about fans needing to “save” Chuck] then I feel entitled to say, yeah you know … Why should I? I didn’t enjoy what you sold me. Convince me I should buy from you again.

  34. andyt says:

    Hi Liz thanks for the welcome. I understand that many feel that The Colonel was a turning point for Chuck and Sarah and their relationship, but as a tell my students there needs to be evidence. All they really did was nearly have sex(aborted because of Morgan)and joking about being imprisoned. This banter is not significantly different than in Marlin when Chuck says that now he and Sarah can go on a date if he is allowed them in his cell. Also, the positive they have a relationship vibe was present at the end of Cougars, Tom Sawyer, Sensei, Delorean, and other episodes. Although, it is a bittersweet feeling in Best Friend. I see them at the same place in Colonel in many of these other episodes. Chuck wanting to try a relationship, but deep down I don’t think he believes that it will or can work, since Sarah will be in the spy world and he is now out. While I understand your point, I just do not see the evidence in show to agree with it.

    • lizjames says:

      Uh, then you would be the only one…

      And interesting your choice of the words “turning point.” Because the showrunner, Chris Fedak, called Colonel the “point of no return” for teh Chuck and Sarah relationship.

      So maybe you ought to check with him…or at least tell your students what the show’s co-creator said about the episode.

      Just saying…

      • Merve says:

        It’s a matter of interpretation. You can choose to see “Colonel” as Chuck and Sarah on the cusp of admitting their feelings of deep love for each other, or you can choose to see it as partial resolution of the unresolved sexual tension between them. I’m not sure that I want to open a can of worms and attempt to judge which interpretation is more valid, but I can see supporting arguments for either one. (Personally, I lean more towards the former, but I don’t think that that completely invalidates the latter.)

        On another note, just because Fedak says it doesn’t mean that we should or will believe it. Fedak also told us that Shaw was a superspy, but many fans are convinced of Shaw’s incompetence.

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