S3 Revisited: Operation Awesome (3.04)

This is the second and last of the Devon “mini-arc.”   It is another wonderful episode that combines the action,  heart,  and humor many of us love so much about this show.   It also is the start of the generally less popular Shaw arc   (I’ll try to be polite about it!).  

After a brief establishing scene we see Chuck as a nervous wreck in Castle.   This is very much “old Chuck”.   He is a stressed out and getting on Sarah and Casey’s nerves.   After they shoo him off to work at the Buy More,  we get our first really good comic sequence of the episode.   Chuck is loosing control of his emotions,  and the intersect.   As near as I can tell,  this is the closest we ever come to General Beckman’s admonition to “protect the world from Chuck” having any relevance at all.    Chuck flashes on a language that is technically something I don’t speak to scold a hapless customer;  then kicks Lester,  which can best be described as something he’d deserved for a long time.    So to protect the planet from the impending doom that is Chuck;  Sarah heroically calms him down.  

We next see Devon’s return and the start of a plan to get to the bottom of things.   This is intermixed with Chuck learning about Morgan’s promotion at Buy More and we see how Chuck has inadvertently started a fight club among the buy morons.  Chuck returning Devon to a very worried Ellie may be the best comic moment of the season:  between “decapitating the bear”   and Casey wetting and exposing himself this scene seriously needs to be watched a couple times just catch the dialogue you miss when laughing the first couple times.   Chuck is now tasked with handling his first asset (Devon).   Casey delivers one of his characteristic great one-liners;  “for this mission Devon is you and you’re her;  be her Chuck.”

Devon has long been my favorite secondary character on the show.   By secondary I mean anyone other than Chuck,  Sarah,  or Casey.   This episode is Ryan McPartlin’s biggest and best usage to date.   His character may become tiresome and annoying in the next few episodes,  but then so does everyone on the show except Casey.   We see clearly here,  when Devon is well written,  he is an Awesome character.

There’s still more good comedy as the mission itself gets started.   I loved the little detail of “good guys”/”bad guys” labels on the two watches Devon must keep straight;   and an encounter with the sympathetic security guard Julius is comedy gold.   Finally,  we even see Chuck behaving like a calm professional;  he keeps Devon calm and dispatches six security guards with tranq darts.   We first meet Shaw at the end of this sequence.   His introduction is well handled;  and its easy to see if TPTB had been less ambitious in their use of this character he could have been a good addition to the Chuckiverse.   Although his plan is somewhat flaky  (relying on an operative he’s never even met to shoot him,  and then save his life);  it does seem both serious and preposterous in a way fitting the show.

But next I have my first of many problems with all things Daniel Shaw.    When Chuck is challenged to come up with a plan for tracking the Ring cell that doesn’t put Devon in harm’s way any further,  he does.   He hacks the Ring phone to call Sydney to him,  should be a simple trap and grab.   Perhaps he should have cleared the plan with someone first;  but Chuck knows he can trust his team.   Until Shaw mucks everything up.   Yes,  the same guy who thought having a stranger shoot him and then save his life was a good plan;  ridicules Chuck’s tactic of calling fire on his own location,  and tries to get Chuck killed.   Angie Harmon as Ring agent Sydney is very funny in this scene,  and briefly is one of the best villains of the season.  Fortunately,  Casey and Sarah haven’t been Zombified yet and storm off to Chuck’s rescue.   Maybe Sarah has been a little weakened by her time around Shaw already;  she actually looses a one on one against Ring agent Sydney.  I don’t think we see her win another fight until  Tic Tac,  when Shaw is conspicuously absent.   Coincidence?   Or does Shaw really have supernatural energy draining powers?   um… OK,  probably not.

After the baddies are all dead or in custody,  we see Shaw scolding Chuck for coming up with a more practical plan than his own;   and are treated to Sarah’s surprise defense of Chuck’s value system.   It seemed like a big deal at the time.   The brief denouement this time is the only large “friends and family” gathering we’ve seen this season.   It was a fun scene full of false hope for Chuck and Sarah ‘shippers.

Sorry if my tone turned a bit cynical towards the end of this.   But that does reflect my view of the season.   This show can be so much fun when it aims to be.   Most of this episode was a good demonstration of that.   Towards the end though,  Shaw invades.   Much of his tenure on the show is built around pushing Chuck into new and difficult situations.   Had they used Shaw as an honest player that would have been good.   But so often the lessons he teaches are stupid or wrong;  seriously,  Chuck’s plan with the Ring phone seemed like a good one to me.   Shaw “vetoing” it was a contrivance.   We can forgive such contrivances when the show is fun,  but this episode is the end of that for a while.

–  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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19 Responses to S3 Revisited: Operation Awesome (3.04)

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    You raise a great point about a credible compelling and funny villain. That was something sorely missing for most of the season. Steve Austin wasn’t all that scary for some reason. I found Serena the evil Stewardess to be more scary. The Ring guys in Nacho Sampler, Mask and Rafe Gruber, not too scary. Or compelling. Beard was a little better, but they seemed to treat bad guys as cardboard cutouts this year when they used to be interesting, like Colt or Sasha Banacheck, or Vincent, or even Roark. Armande Assante and Angie Harmon were really the only good villains until we got Badger in 3.13. (Sorry, Firefly reference. Badger = Mark Sheppard as the Ring director).

    • atcdave says:

      Yeah, and Armand Assante wasn’t really even a villain.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well he was going to off Casey, or at least torture him a lot, if the Ring agent hadn’t gotten to him first.

    • Merve says:

      I’ve been alright with the villains this season, for the most part. The only one that really sucked for me was Vassili, who was memorable only for stupid reasons:
      – Half his face was burned off.
      – Team Bartowski failed to capture him…twice!
      – The Ring killed him, mainly for dramatic effect.

      For me, the really good villains have been: Karl Stromberg, Jack the Ring poisoner, Serena, Manoosh (I’m counting him as a villain), the Italian guys, and Colonel Keller. You’re right: most of those came from the first half of the season.

  2. John says:

    This episode did neatly tie up the first quarter or so of the season and preview the crapstorm to come. I think that dinner scene is the only part of the entire season where all six leads are present. Even it is sorta ruined by Shaw creepily looking on.

    While alot of funny and good stuff does exist in the upcoming episodes, the characters all decline a little bit with the exception of Morgan and Ellie and what you say about the villians is absolutely true. With the possible exception of Tic-Tac (best spy episode of the rest of the season IMO) the villains only seem to exist as vehicles to advance the Chuck-Sarah story.

  3. HenryH says:

    Dave-
    I guess the only quibble I have with your review is the failure to mention Bears, the song they played over the final scene. It presages what is to come rather well. Probably as good as any song except A Comet Appears in the pilot.

    For all of the momentary comfort of the family scene, Bears playing over it was a sure warning that things were going to get ugly…

  4. Jen says:

    I know this is off topic, but there is yet another poll goign on out there that has Chuck listed on it as a show to save. This one lets you vote often, so if u can, do so!If these polls help prove the point tha tCHuck should have a season 4, i’ll keep voting.

    http://scifiwire.com/2010/04/poll-which-show-in-danger.php

    Hope you all are having a nice day!

    • Ingrid says:

      Glad you posted this! I’ve been voting like crazy. 🙂

      Also, Chuck season 3 is available for pre-ordering on Amazon. I believe it ranks #50 sales-wise out of all the movies and tv on Amazon…(There’s no release date yet, but who cares!) I’ve pre-ordered my copy. 🙂

  5. aardvark7734 says:

    Hello, everyone!

    I’ve been lurking for a bit in the rarefied air here, enjoying the insightful analysis and diverse viewpoints. I thought I’d just pop in a small comment for variety’s sake.

    I think Dave’s right that this feels like the end of the diving board for a fun atmosphere in S3. The initial momentum of the leap makes it seem as though more fun will be had in ‘First Class’, but by the conclusion of that episode it’s clear that we’re in a dark dive that will not begin to resurface until ‘Beard’.

    It’s not that there aren’t fun moments embedded within the four episodes following ‘Operation Awesome’, because there are. Even ‘belly of the beast’ journeys have moments of levity and exultation. But they also marked the onset of gloom and dismantling of hope, the latter of which had, at least, been kept alive through the first four episodes.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that without conscious thought, 3.04 is the last episode from the start of the season I can bring myself to watch in sequence. I actually like ‘Nacho’ for what it is (more on that in a couple of days, perhaps) but I have yet to watch ‘First Class’, ‘Mask’ or ‘Fake Name’ again. I find them depressing on many levels, both structurally and creatively.

    In hindsight, whatever lingering bits of confidence I had in the season – as a whole – rebounding from its questionable beginning to become truly epic expired with 3.04’s end titles. In my eyes, only piecemeal redemption remains, but thankfully in letting go of what’s come before I have regained my optimism.

    Could the back six exceed our expectations, however improbable that may seem? Visible clues tease that this is so. In fact, the way things ended in 3.13 has produced a setup that many of us have been clamoring for since 2007. At last, it’s here.

    I know I have my fingers crossed.

    • atcdave says:

      Great initial comments Aarvark, welcome to the site! I do think, at least the next couple episodes will be a lot of fun; I’m just not sure these writers know how to stay happy for long. I do agree there are some laughs to be had in almost every episode really; but my dislike for the journey chosen outweighs any good, at least for the next four episodes.

    • Jason says:

      I watched the beginning, then ff’d thru the shaw part on until the last scene. I already saw ‘angry’ sarah seemingly in this episode. Matter of fact, this is the first episode on rewatch that I didn’t like, not even sure why. Pos

    • joe says:

      Hi, aardvark. Sorry I didn’t respond to this sooner.

      I have much the same reaction as you, maybe just starting an episode or two later. I’m finding it hard to rewatch The Mask. I remember quite well that I enjoyed the first 50 minutes (32, not counting commercials) both times I’ve seen it. But those last ten are a bit burned into my brain. Having seen the rest of the season, the Shaw-Sarah romance (or really, the separation of Chuck and Sarah) seems to hurt more, not less, starting right here in The Mask.

      Did I say ‘hurt’? Yes. I asked for something that would affect me. I said I wanted something that would be emotionally meaningful and lasting. Foolish person. They actually listened to me.

      My expectations of S3.5 are sky-high.

      • atcdave says:

        Be careful what you wish for Joe!

        My expectations are still pretty high for the back six too. I’m really excited for 3.14!

    • aardvark7734 says:

      Dave, at the risk of sycophancy I’m going to admit that after reading literally hundreds of posts on this blog I’ve found that my own particular response to S3 most closely matches yours. While you remain open minded in exploring with others the possible alternate interpretations to what we’ve seen, you’ve never gotten so lost in elaborate rationalizations as to forget those most important first impressions. In fact, one of the reasons I hadn’t posted until now is that you (or Joe or Ernie) already covered everything I would have said, and there seemed little benefit to redundancy.

      Joe, I remember your thoughtful posts from ChuckTV.net, and I’m glad you were able to find a venue in which you feel comfortable to share them.

      You know, I feel strongly that the reason I fall head over heels with a show or not has everything to do with how much emotional resonance it evokes for me. The stronger the reaction, generally the stronger my entanglement. I’ve seen smart shows, stupid shows, quirky shows, spectacle shows and through it all, while I liked some better than others based solely on the cleverness of their writing or the finesse in the actors’ performances, these shows only grabbed me when they connected with my heart.

      I say all this to reinforce what you just wrote about “wanting something emotionally meaningful and lasting”. Of course you want it – it’s what makes Chuck more than the sum of its parts. It’s what was such a compelling undercurrent in S1 and fed the show’s momentum throughout S2. And its what, poisoned by miscalculation and trodden upon disrespectfully, proved the undoing of S3. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

      The upcoming 3.5 season has capital to expend in the Chuck-Sarah growth, the Morgan-Casey comedy and the Papa B family drama. If it can build and hold narrative momentum while delivering those satisfying moments we know they’re capable of, the show (if not the season) is still redeemable. If, on the other hand, what we get is squandered opportunities and lukewarm payoff scenes, it’s going to be a grim Spring.

      • atcdave says:

        Thanks Aardvark, and really, you can be a sycophant any time you want! Seriously, its OK to be redundant. Whatever one’s view its nice to have company.
        It is a good point about connecting with an individual show. I’ve seen many shows I liked in every definable way, that never really excited me (Monk comes to mind). And conversely shows that I knew were stupid or inferior, but I loved anyway (Sledge Hammer!). The first two seasons of Chuck worked well on every level, and clearly left me completelt hooked.

        I do have some concerns for 3.5 (the biggest being ratings); but I think we (core fans) will be pleased.

      • joe says:

        I’ll second Dave’s statement, Aardvark. Heaven knows, if “redundant” was banned from this blog, three-quarters of my stuff would be gone instantly! 😉

        You caught me at an interesting moment. Between my last comment to you above and this one, I re-watched Nacho Sampler and The Mask. You’ll find what I think now in the later threads, but guess what. I can’t believe I enjoyed them as much as I did.

        And yes, I’m more affected now, weeks later, than I thought possible.

        One major surprise; I’m affected in a completely different way. “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” is exactly right. And I was laying there bleeding, even this morning.

        Much to my amazement, my love for the show is not dead. The heart doesn’t give up quite so easily, it seems.

        This may seem a contradiction, after all I’ve said. But ATM, I can’t wait to see The Fake Name in a bit. Imagine that.

      • JC says:

        I’d just like to say that everyone here, has made me see a lot of the episodes in a different light. Not that I always agree but it has helped me get a different perspective on certain things. Because I feel like I’m the biggest flip flopper when it comes to this season.

        My real concern is that as the hardcore fans, we know about certain things and pour over details to help it make sense for each other. What about the casual or new viewer who sees things as is.

      • joe says:

        JC – I thought *I* was the biggest flopper here!

        You know, I really just wanted a place to say what I wanted to say about Chuck. It makes be glad that people have described and found other perspectives here. That’s our job!

        As for the casual viewer, I’m kinda hoping that they read enough to become not-so-casual viewers. 😉

  6. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Operation Awesome (3.04) | Chuck This

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