S3 Revisited: Angel de la Muerte (3.03)

This is the start of a two episode mini-arc,  that to me, is the highlight of the season until The Other Guy.   It is largely angst free,  sweet in places,  played for laughs,   has lots of good action,  and feels a lot like an early season two episode.     We start by seeing Ellie and Devon are at a low point as daily life is taking its toll.     After Chuck’s helicopter lands him a little too close to the apartment,  he and Devon have a brief exchange that’s interesting on a couple levels.   We see that Devon envies Chuck’s seemingly adventurous life;  and Chuck has something resembling “routine” missions that are apparently not the subject of any episodes  (like the “plumbing” adventure we see the end of in Predator).   This is all a lengthy lead up to the main story.   After a flash,  Chuck heads off for meeting at Castle,  while Devon is called in to the hospital,  both good naturedly refuse to talk about their “missions.”

The mission briefing reveals some interesting information about Casey,  and his work as an assassin in the 1980s.   Chuck seems to grasp his duty quickly and painlessly,  to get information from Devon about the medical condition of one Premier Goya,  from the fictional country of Costa Gravis (played by Armand Assante).   It is a more mature and professional Chuck we see who embraces the assignment,  and even tells Casey how they’re going to do it.   They make nice use of parallels here with the team learning they must save the Premier’s life at the same time Devon is being threatened with that reality by the man’s military escort.

We get a couple scenes played largely for comedy;  first Chuck’s debriefing of Devon in the courtyard,  then Casey explaining why he has to recuse himself.   I thought the scene of Devon and Ellie not answering the door just screamed “we didn’t have the budget for any Buy More scenes in this episode so we have draw this out as best we can.”   But the next scene is brilliant.   Armand Assante is one of the funniest guest stars we’ve ever seen on Chuck,  and that’s saying a lot.   He is totally over the top as a charming and eccentric despot.   His first encounter with Chuck is classic;  “your brother?  ahh yes,  the same delicate features,  they work better on a woman though.”   I’m sure I misquoted the line pretty badly,  but it makes me laugh so hard I can’t get it all!

Fast cut to the Gala.   This is the first key scene of the episode.  We get a few treats.   Chuck and Sarah working as partners with little drama.  Chuck explaining their complicated relationship to Devon;  he seems resigned and down about it  (we don’t really learn how resigned until several episodes later).   Ellie and Sarah talking,  I believe for the only time so far this season;  Ellie speaks truth,  and Sarah rejects it  (yes, I know that’s an over-simplification,  but given where things go in Mask I don’t see any other way to take it).   After a brief speech Goya calls Ellie to the dance floor in a fun comic scene for both Assante and Sarah Lancaster.   He is at his best “flirting” and strutting while Ellie is overwhelmed and embarrassed.    A potential bad guy is identified,  which leads to a Chuck flash;  Chuck and Sarah then get a dance scene that rivals her S2 scene with Bryce.   Given one of the show’s themes would seem to be Chuck becoming a new and improved Bryce Larkin,  this scene struck me as the first conscience acknowledgement of that.   The possible assailant is overcome by Chuck,  with no flash involved;  another small sign of his growth.    But this leads to a very Chuck moment,  when Chuck and Sarah are ejected for their disruptive behavior.   The final act of the gala is Casey entering to try to stop the real assassin,  which ends in Devon’s tackle of the wrong guy.   I took this scene to be the origin of The Ring thinking Devon was the spy in the family;  if we are supposed to think some mis-information was planted by Shaw in Three Words leading to Devon being misidentified,  the detail was poorly executed.

Casey’s interrogation is another wonderful scene.   We learn a lot about his background (possibly inconsistent with what we learn in Tic Tac,  but whatever) and failed attempts on the Premier;   “Sorry about the dog…”    More good physical comedy,  from Casey kicking the poisoned cigar out of Goya’s mouth;  to Goya finally succumbing with a loud thud.   Very satisfying stuff!

When Devon is called to be the Premier’s doc again,  it gives team Bartowski a way in for a rescue.    A couple interesting tidbits here;   I like Devon’s excitement at seeing Castle.   And Sarah is seriously annoyed with Chuck bringing Devon in.   She really unloads on him about “trying to keep his family out of it.”    I’m not quite sure what the source of her bitterness is at this point.   Maybe she’s just generally calling him a hypocrite.   But this does stand out as the only really unpleasant moment in the episode to me.

The return to the consulate is another fun scene.   “Sarah,  and her two fists” is my personal favorite line in this episode.    I do wonder,  if in whatever remains of the series,  we’ll ever get a follow up;  where we see Devon (possibly still not believing Chuck and Sarah’s relationship is anything other than cover) more than a little intimidated by Chuck’s girlfriend.   Casey rescuing himself from the poisoner is classic;  “lucky for me,  I’m a Marine”.    Chuck has another useful flash,  even though we’re pretty sure Sarah can remove a bullet;  and Casey saves Goya’s life against his will,  for a fun wrap to the main story.

The denouement is a couple of short scenes.    Devon makes some telling comments about not needing this kind of excitement,  and wishing Chuck and Sarah to take care of each other.   Their declaration as “friends” is a rather painful throwback to a S1 state of things.   At the time we all saw too much affection in the agreement,  but obviously we were all wrong and they meant it.    We see Devon being confronted by the poisoner,  and a final scene of Sarah going to tell and comfort Chuck.   Fortunately,  the original preview left us all with no doubt Devon was still alive;  which meant this episode ended on a fairly high note.   The warmth between Chuck and Sarah was sufficient to misguide us for several more weeks.    Yes I know I’m being petulant.   The ending (actually,  most of the episode) exudes a sort of warmth and fun we wouldn’t get often in S3.   The mood continues fairly well into the following episode.   As the later episodes of the season unfold the tone will change dramatically;   but for two weeks,  it was like we had the old Chuck back.

 – Dave

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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45 Responses to S3 Revisited: Angel de la Muerte (3.03)

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    I thought this episode saved the season for me. If the tone had stayed dark and angsty like the first two I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch live. This episode, however, was just plain fun. They really showed how well they could integrate the supporting cast into the story without dominating the story (something they could have done better later in the season). Assante, the Casey fight, Sarah and her fists, and Chuck operating on Casey, just so much good stuff… And the next episode almost topped it.

    • atcdave says:

      I agree Ernie, I don’t think its coincidence they decided on running three episodes in two days; this is where the show clearly got fun again. Too bad they fumbled so badly in the middle part of the season. But as I said, this feels more like an S2 episode in mood and quality.

      • Lucian says:

        Though these were a couple of great episodes, I had a hard time enjoying them because I felt like the viewers were being fed false hope that things would be fine. This was the fun part of the ride before the big dive. I never did like roller coasters.

      • weaselone says:

        That’s because they were. We were supposed to believe that Chuck and Sarah were working things out, culminating in their exchange prior to the family dinner. Then the plunge…

      • Lucian says:

        It was all about making the “dive” that much more emotional. I have never liked storytelling that seems intentionally manipulative.

      • atcdave says:

        I’m flat out ignoring episodes 3.05-3.08. They did such massive character damage I will never rewatch them. They’ve been deleted from from my “canon.”

        I know that’s technically delusional; but then so is the idea that TPTB had a good idea for S3…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I actually liked First Class. I didn’t see Chuck as being too forward with Hannah, although I could see some people thinking that was the case and that tends to kill the character a bit. I also liked Nacho Sampler and Mask minus a few WTF moments in Mask and the lack of a setup for the last 10 minutes. I couldn’t even see a purpose for Fake Name other than angst for angst sake. And yet I’m signed up to review that one for our re-watch marathon. We all have to take one for the team on occasion.

      • atcdave says:

        You’re a better man than I Ernie, you know I wouldn’t touch those episodes. I do agree they were mostly done in by a few clumsy moments; but they are deal breakers for me. First Class mainly comes down to the very end; I simply will not watch again.

      • Faith says:

        It’s interesting because for me in some ways First Class was worse than Mask.

        It just contained a little too much of the OOC that was prevalent in S3 and to add, there’s the whole Chuck getting his head turned by Hannah thing again. Which is kind of weird because I thought it was settled in Nacho Sampler but nope, Mask…

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, that’s how I see it Faith.

      • Jason says:

        dave – my theory on season 3 has been once the shark got jumped in 3.8’s end (sarah going to shaw in the castle at the show’s end), nothing the show did can make me like it less, I to a certain degree look forward to rewatching 3.5 thru 3.8, I am curious why retrospectively i let it get to me. Funny, last night I watched castle, who slept with an actress instead of his female lead, the angst card played, didn’t bother me in the least – didn’t really seem to bother the female lead beckett all that much either, I don’t think wt/wt’s are ever going to bother me too much anymore – kind of just not going to let it again

      • atcdave says:

        I watch Castle too, and I agree it didn’t bother me as much. But Castle and Becket haven’t really shown much serious interest in each other either. At least nothing like the intensity we saw between Chuck and Sarah, especially at the end of S2. Castle’s fling also ended in a single episode, so there is no stewing over it.

        As I’ve said, I never like triangles, but what they’ve done with Chuck is single biggest disappointment I’ve ever had with a TV show. I do agree they jumped the shark in Mask, and certain details in American Hero that bothered Joe, didn’t bother me so much, I’d already stopped caring. To me, the burning question is, can they win me back. Other Guy was a good start, and I will fight for the show; but my support is more cautious and conditional than it was. 3.19 might be the end of the line for me even if they get renewed.

  2. Jen says:

    This ep and Operation Awesome are 2 of my faves this season.. and like you said, still gave me hope that we had the Chuck that we alway knew, and that C&S could fix things.

    I never took that whole “friends” thing seriously, cause c’mon, are C&S the only blind ones as to how they feel for each other? it turned out that YES!

    • Josh says:

      The friends thing was believable, they had issues they needed to work out plus a 2000lbs gorilla in the room in the shape of train station in Prague. You need to be friends to deal with those things. What sucked was they never bothered with the friends thing, Chuck went of on his usual tangents and Sarah went off on her usual distance.

      • Jen says:

        And that’s what i meant. They can be “friends” and trying to fix the issue. The being friends is temporary when both have a desire to fix the problem and move on, get to being together, but that didn’t happen that way… they drew appart.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think the problem was that we all saw this as the beginning of patching things up when we were apparently, based on Chuck’s fling starting in 3.05, supposed to see it as a reluctant acknowledgment that they were moving on. I think that is where TPTB sometimes get schizophrenic. We are regularly blasted for reading too much into scenes or subtle cues, but when they need to set something up, like Chuck or Sarah or both deciding to move on, or Sarah being attracted to Shaw it just isn’t there, and the WTF moment just kills us. The big problem is this “they don’t talk” black hole they used to explain away every mis-communication and the resulting distance when the opposite, a breakup like scene, would have set things up far better.

      • John says:

        Maybe I simply have a different definition of being ‘friends’. I mean yes you are also a friend to the person you love but ‘friends’ means you are giving them up and saying you are ok if they move on to somebody else.

        You are phrasing being ‘friends’ as if you are going to back off a bit and work on the relationship. That strikes me as something very different and what they discussed at the end of episode 1 more than this.

        I think Sarah proposed it with the idea she was going to help him become a spy and get the heck out Burbank as soon as possible.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The “I’m good here, for now” certainly could be read that way, but then how do we read the “hope we can clean up the mess” and the “friends” scenes? They did this so well in S2 with scenes like the breakup. It was clear that there was still a great attraction, but they needed to put some distance between them. And they made it clear by having them actually, you know, talk to each other.

      • Josh says:

        My definition of friends is the dictionary definition of friends. People that interact socially and communicate. Not a precursor or an in between stage for a relationship.

        What I also said was that IF their issues were to be resolved in a manner that was believable they needed to be friends, ie keep the communication channels open. What actually transpired was the exact opposite, no communication, no steps, just a giant leap in the end that felt a bit like whiplash.

      • John says:

        I absolutely took the friends scene as an acknowledgement they intended to move on. I thought they were nuts but there it is. As for how it relates to wanting to clean up the mess stuff from earlier I think Sarah realized she was too angry/upset/hurt whatever and just wants to get out.

        But in my world ‘lets be friends’ means ‘lets break up, this is not going to happen’. So maybe other people saw it a different way.

      • John says:

        Josh you have never ended a relationship with the ‘lets be friends’ thing before? Of course you are not going to be around talking to that person, you are trying to let your feelings go and find somebody new. You usually want to be friendly and civil and such in that situation. Chuck and Sarah do try that but they just cannot help themselves.

        I did not get whiplash at all, that is precisely what happens when you do the “friends” thing. You both find other people and try to move on.

      • Jason says:

        On second view, i liked 3.3 and recall as I watched it the first time I still had tremendous hope for CS in season 3, the formal dance scene with ellie and sarah talking, a fav shipper scene of mine, unfortunately, these early episodes were just teasing the viewers, for the shaw arc’s miserably epic failed journey leading to its epically satisfying conclsuion, while leaving viewing audience stranded on other channels with each miserable moment that this fiasco of a journey went on, but as of 3.3, I recall still having a crapload of hope.

      • Jason says:

        sorry, I would edit that to a ‘boatload’ of hope, which is a far shippier term

      • John says:

        Hey Jason, I thought we were going somewhere after all the looove in 3.2 and I was really surprised nothing ever came of it after that. Sarah never even seemed to address it.

        I knew once they did the friends thing it was going to be a long wait.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well I sort of did [see the friends comment as a breakup setting some boundaries], but then in that same scene Sarah is asking what friends do, as if she wants to hang out with Chuck and do something to be around him. Not a let’s both move on kind of thing to do. And the “Maybe we’re not there yet” also implies she wants to move forward with some sort of relationship. “You don’t work anymore Chuck, it’s over” or “It’s just a cover” were pretty definitive breakups. In comparison this one looked like the first tentative steps toward re-establishing something.

      • Jen says:

        It was Sarah’s move and Chuck didn’t object… which possibly confirmed for her that he was not gonna fight for them. Chuck should have said somethign there.

      • Josh says:

        John that lets be friends scene is not a breakup, breakup happened in Prague, there was no relationship to “end”. Supposedly Chuck and Sarah broke up in Prague, went their separate ways, didn’t so much as speak to each other for 6 months, makes no sense to have a lets be friends breakup speech 6 months after they broke up :).

        If Sarah wanted to shut the door to Chuck she could have easily given him a very convincing variation of her this is just professional speech. That’s what I ‘d do if I had to work with somebody I was in a relationship with 6 months ago. She didn’t, she left the door ajar, she still wanted to be around him away from work (what do friends do?) but probably she was still pretty hurt from the Prague thing and needed some time (and probably some effort from Chuck) to mend. But Chuck being Chuck misread it and went off on his little brunette thing.

      • John says:

        But they had talked about working out the mess in 3.1 and Chuck had confessed his love in 3.2.

        This scene basically shut the door on any progress of any sort for awhile so long as they seriously thought they could just be friends. Seriously bummed me out.

      • John says:

        Also again this may be a personal viewpoint. I would never say “friends” to anybody I had feelings for. If I ever call you a friend it is because that is indeed all I want.

        I think it would be enormously foolish to say that to somebody I wanted to work out issues with, because it would free them to seek other options. Naturally this is exactly what Chuck did. If Sarah wanted to back off and work things out then she said one of the worst things possible.

      • Paul says:

        I took thte “friends” agreement as the first step to getting back together (as in friends now, maybe more later). Chuck devastated her in Prague, and she just wasn’t going to put herself out there again so soon, particularly with the guy who just hurt her. But you can still see that they have deep feelings for each other in the way they looked at each other and how they lingered holding hands in the handshake. Unfortunately, other things intervened in the following eps.

      • weaselone says:

        Actually, Chuck invited Sarah to dinner with his extended family at the end of 3.4 so there was apparently some attempt on his part to create a friendship. At the very end of that episode I was beginning to think maybe JS and CF had been pulling our collective legs regarding the PLIs. Even after 3.5 when there was a lot of dumping on Chuck for talking and smiling at Hannah during, and Sarah seemed to be playing Chuck’s shrewish mother things seemed to be heading in that direction with Hannah sidelined for all of 3.6. Then there was the ending with Chuck drinking alone while Sarah watched on the video monitor. That was the point which we all should have suspected things were going to go wrong. Sarah failed to make an appearance to console Chuck, and I suspect that distance led Chuck to latch on to Hannah during 3.07 as he perceived Sarah to be moving on with Shaw.

      • Merve says:

        I agree with Weaselone. I’d say that Chuck and Sarah were “friends” up until the end of “Nacho Sampler.” Then between the end of “Nacho Sampler” and the end of “Mask,” things sort of fell apart.

        So, going back to the fountain scene at the end of “Three Words,” they did clean up the mess; they just made another one.

      • Crumby says:

        They never really said they wanted to be friends. They were talking about their cover.

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    I probably should have included Casey being put under by Chuck and Casey waking up in comedy moments. Both were pretty good. Plus “Favorite movie is Terms of Endearment, always showers after making love…”

  4. John says:

    If either of them thought they could truly be friends they were both delusional. I think they just wanted a break from the pain of the relationship for awhile. But by this point Chuck and Sarah could never be just friends. Only physical separation could allow them to get over each other.

    When I saw that scene I rolled my eyes and said ‘yeah right.

  5. Ernie Davis says:

    As we’ve seen above, opinions vary about the “friends” handshake and it’s meaning, but I think you need to look at it more in the context of the entire episode and the episodes before this. After seeing Sarah beat up on Chuck, both physically and emotionally, for most of Three Words we’re treated to the first glimpse of Sarah’s regret about where they are emotionally. In the video of Chuck’s vault confession we see that she starts to understand that she is stuck, because there was no way the Chuck she loved could have turned his back on people who needed his gifts. He wouldn’t be the Chuck she loved otherwise. But she also saw that he needed her still, because she helped him realize that part of him was there, and he could be “that guy”. By essentially putting Chuck in a position to have to choose between the two most important things in his life, making a difference and her, she’d broken him. I saw Angel of Death as Sarah getting back to supportive Sarah and trying to patch things up to some extent. She’s supportive and encouraging on the missions, and obviously proud of him, and she seems to admit to Ellie that there are still some strong feelings for Chuck on her part. Given that context, and that Chuck asks about their “cover” essentially offering her the chance to set some ground rules and limits, or to shoot him down, after the emotional beating she’d given him the previous episode this was her essentially saying we can try, but it’s going to have to be slow. In Three Words she’d responded to Chuck’s comments about how glad he was to be working together as friends again with “it’s just a cover”. Pretty definitive. In this instance she both invites the possibility of real friendship (“what do friends do?”) and the possibility of growing close again (“Maybe we’re not there yet”). This trend continues through 3.04 and 3.05 when Shaw basically tells Sarah that unless she cuts the apron strings she’s going to end up getting Chuck killed because he won’t be able to be self reliant enough to survive in the spy world. Sarah can probably hear Bryce’s words to the Stanford professor echoing in her head… “He’s got too much heart.”

    So this is the long way of saying that at this point in the season I think Sarah was still thinking she and Chuck might be able to clean up the mess and build something. She obviously wanted to from the prolonged handshake. And when she knew Chuck would need her the most, when she broke the news about Awesome with the long and obviously tender hug, she wanted to be there for him. It’s only later, after Shaw pushes her buttons about getting Chuck killed and falling for Chuck and/or Bryce being a mistake (highlighted by the fact that he reminds her about Bryce’s death) that Sarah starts to pull away. The next time we see Chuck really need Sarah, at the end of Nacho Sampler, she offers to be there, but when he declines, realizing he needs to step up, she backs away, even though she could have let him do the part of the job he needed to do, but still be there for him by supporting him emotionally, like she did at the end of this episode.

    In a way I saw the end of this episode, where Chuck needed her and she wanted to be there for him, and the end of Nacho Sampler, where he needed her and she wasn’t there, as sort of the bookends to their attempts to fix things. In a way it was Sarah’s decision not to go to Chuck at the end of Nacho Sampler, seeing more of the spy than her guy, that started the process of her guy disappearing before her eyes.

    • Josh says:

      Exactly Ernie, IMO you pretty much nailed it.

    • Crumby says:

      Agreed. Very well summed up.

    • Lucian says:

      Ernie, I don’t think there are many times when I disagree with you, but this is one. I thought Nacho Sampler was a good episode because we see Chuck starting to “man up” and take responsbility for his decision to be a spy. He clearly took little pleasure in burning Manoosh, but knew it needed to be done, and he needed to do it. Sarah’s response indicates, IMO, how dysfunctional she is. She was in love with Chuck the man-child, not Chuck the adult. I can buy it as another indication of how messed up Sarah is, but it doesn’t fit with the fact that she really cares for Chuck and wants to support him in the choice he has made.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I don’t think we disagree as much as you may think. I also liked Nacho Sampler and was glad to see Chuck “man up” and do what needed to be done. Sarah’s reaction was more puzzling. My feeling is that when Chuck did the deed without her help she felt less needed, almost rejected by this new grown up Chuck. Rather than go to him at the end she watched him hit the bottle and started to dwell on every change in his personality as “her Chuck” disappearing.

      • JC says:

        And this seemed to be the beginning of everything Chuck did was blown out of proportion by Sarah.

      • Lucian says:

        I can understand Sarah turning away from Chuck because she doesn’t like him becoming a competent spy. I can’t easily reconcile that with her turning to a guy that is pretty much the personifcation of everything she doesn’t want Chuck to become (plywood or no).

      • Josh says:

        I don’t think it dysfunctional to not like a path a person you love is taking. Especially if you yourself have already been down that exact same path and know it’s not a pretty one. Rewatch first class (if you haven’t) which came before Nacho Sampler. Sarah was pretty much begging Chuck not to start on the whole agent path

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The way I look at it is that like Chuck just sort of falling into the Hannah thing Sarah just kind of let Shaw happen after she saw Chuck move on. Still doesn’t help a few of those WTF moments in Mask.

  6. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Angel de la Muerte (3.03) | Chuck This

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