S3 Revisited: The Masks

Tense Sarah?

I am a masochist.  That’s the only possible explanation.  There are a lot of people on this blog who don’t even want to watch this episode a second time, let alone the two-ish plus specific scenes it usually takes to get a good review.  And this is my second review.  I am a masochist.  So lets go pick at scabs, after the jump. We can’t really talk about this episode without talking about two things.  The Chuckopalypse and the apparent whiplash of the last few minutes.  And we will.  But first I want to talk about the first 30 minutes, and some of the things I picked up on with repeated watchings.  I mentioned a few in my first review, written shortly after the episode aired.  It’s available here. Shaw isn’t a very good spy in my opinion.  Not knowing the load bearing capacity of a beam critical to the mission is a mistake one lovable nerd turned spy would never make.  But then again, Shaw also thinks he and Sarah would make a convincing couple.  Regardless, it seems Chuck has to bail out super-spy Daniel Shaw once again.  This brings us into Buymoria, where Chuck seems to be enjoying a day of flirting with his newest petite brunette.  Oddly, he isn’t particularly happy to see Sarah, and neither is Morgan.  This is our first clue that the distance we saw starting in First Class, when Sarah went to Shaw at the end instead of Chuck has continued.  Shaw got to Sarah.  He convinced her that she had to let Chuck go, or she’d get him killed.  Since her nearly tearful “please don’t go” in First Class to now, we’ve seen nothing but professional interaction between Chuck and Sarah, and that’s what this is.  Sarah telling Chuck it’s mission time, and being somewhat aggravated about it. Hannah on the other hand is also on a mission.  Spend more time with Chuck.  Sure she’s saying it’s all about Nerd Herding, but we know better.  One server restarted from a backup database later and we’ve got our double date set for the night.  Chuck and Hannah, Sarah and Shaw.  Sarah, despite her professional pullback from Chuck isn’t particularly happy about Chuck alone in a control room with a woman who is a) his type, as she well knows b) obviously infatuated with him and c) comes with no professional complications, and no painful history or emotional baggage.  Civilians on missions?  Yeah, that’s her problem. Well there is also Shaw.  Sarah doesn’t seem to like Shaw.  She’s a little testy.  His questions and his actions are a bit forward.  But here’s the thing.  Sarah Walker, professional spy would not let it get to her, unless it was making her face something she didn’t want to face.  Perhaps that once again she was enjoying the attentions of another super-spy hero type.  I know there’s a lot of disagreement and angst over this, but watch again and you can not only see that Sarah’s reactions to Shaw’s seemingly creepy caresses and kisses is not just disgust, it’s something between resistance and tension.  If it wasn’t having an affect she wouldn’t care.  Remember, Sarah Walker has spent weeks with a mark, Giles, at the beginning of the season, and without going to places where people don’t like to go or venturing too deeply into how much and how quickly Sarah may be changing I think it’s safe to assume Sarah could handle a caress or two or a kiss for professional reasons.  It isn’t done really well, it isn’t totally unambiguous, but this is the sort of WTWT sexual tension most shows play and Chuck always managed to avoid.  The opposites attract or the equals spar rather than admit their attraction is pretty standard fare.  I guess we often just expect more from Chuck. So on to the mission.  Hannah and Chuck, Sarah and Shaw.  We’ve already talked about how Shaw made his move, and now Hannah makes hers.  Even on the first viewing this one seemed natural and unforced.  On repeated viewings I almost root for them.  Chuck obviously makes Hannah happy.  And what Hannah gives to Chuck, well it’s something he’s been missing in his life lately.  He likes being adored.  He likes it when a woman looks at him with love in her eyes.  Chuck likes feeling important, like he matters to someone, and Hannah gives Chuck that feeling.  Plus a few kisses and an apparent dousing in her perfume. The Ring agents arrival and Chuck’s flash give Chuck something else, a reason to spend some time with Sarah.  She’s obviously as pleased as he is, but apparently too little communication between these two takes it’s toll.  Everything they haven’t talked about, all the signs the other is being pursued, signs that only Chuck and Sarah would notice about someone pursuing the other and the associated jealousies come out.  Yes that’s right Hannah is pursuing Chuck and Shaw is pursuing Sarah, Chuck and Sarah are the quarry, not the pursuers.  Their own denial that they still want to be with each other, and their unwillingness to admit it let alone discuss it once again dooms them, and us, to another round of angsty angsty love. So the setup is there.  Well done?  Not particularly.  But as long as we’re on the topic I may as well cover the other trend I saw start in First Class.  Production values were way down, and the writing, the continuity and the plot holes were getting worse.  This  was the episode where it started to get really annoying.  They’ve been endlessly recorded and discussed, so I won’t rehash here, I’ll just say that to me it seems the one critical part of the plot they had to make work, the relationship setups, perhaps didn’t get the attention it needed on the Sarah side since they thought (again, perhaps) that since they were using the obvious TV code, the attractive woman getting ostentatiously annoyed at the attractive man’s advances, we’d all see it coming.  Apparently they assumed too much, hence the Chuckopalypse.  And for the record, amid all the hype and sturm und drang in the media, there was exactly one poster who in a single post proposed a boycott.  That was it, everyone else, while they might have expressed displeasure and disappointment, or as in the case of a few said they were done with the show, everyone else ignored that post.  It was only Sepinwall’s apparently taking it seriously that set things off.  Back to the formulaic TV that we all apparently missed setting off the Chuckopalypse, there was one final scene in the setup.  When Sarah tells off Shaw for bringing her coffee.  This was supposed to be Sarah humiliating herself for betraying her true feelings, that she feels Shaw is hitting on her and it’s working.  This is also standard fare, the lady doth protest too much, as is his alibi.  But we now are to know that Shaw is hitting on her, and it is having an affect.  Cue the confessions of true feelings. OK, not quite yet.  We get to see a bit of our favorite couple working together, just for old times sake before we nail the coffin shut.  The mission is a simple yet fun one.  Chuck comes through sans intersect and Sarah kicks ass.  Sarah takes out the first baddie with one punch then after a brief struggle ends up running around the wall to escape a garrote and deliver a few well placed elbows and kicks.  It’s about the best we’ve seen since she took out two guards with machine guns in a nurses uniform.  Chuck and Sarah come through where Daniel Shaw, superspy couldn’t. Shaw isn’t a very good spy, despite what they keep telling us. Casey had a full containment unit for an unidentified can of shaving cream after Chuck jumped the gun.  Before that he’d set up for a team of specialists to make sure the briefcase wasn’t booby trapped and the weapon was safe to handle.  Shaw sees a hole so he pokes a stick in it, setting off the deadly gas.  Shaw is not a very good spy, but then we had to have the gas.  How else do you get Shaw and Sarah locked alone in a room, apparently about to die, to confess their true feelings? Chuck of course comes through, with a minor assist from Shaw.  It’s not often Chuck has to save two damsels in distress, cut the guy a break.  I’ll leave all the previously mentioned plot holes alone, having acknowledged there are many and they are bad.  The next scenes in Castle are the real plot turn.  Having established Shaw and Hannah’s pursuit, and Chuck having already largely succumbed, we get the nail in the Charah coffin for the next six episodes.  First Chuck is faced with Shaw and Sarah, working in tandem and looking very much like a team and a couple telling him they’d be leaving soon.  Sarah chases after Chuck in the corridor, to make sure he’s OK.  I’m not sure what she hoped, obviously for some sort of Chuck save.  Emotionally unequipped and unwilling to really open up, and with no cover relationship as a crutch, Sarah has no way of pulling Chuck back to her.  The time and distance, and her apparent new relationship, which she does not deny, have sealed the deal for Chuck.  Sarah is gone.  Sarah, once again, watches events unfold unable and unwilling to stop the train wreck.  She says goodbye to Chuck. Chuck, he’d already started to move on.  Hannah is no surprise.  Shaw, however much we want to believe isn’t either.  Sarah basically surrenders to another possibly somewhat satisfying but ultimately loveless relationship with the latest ridiculously handsome and available spy who pursues her.  Both Chuck and Sarah are descending into the abyss.  Sarah back to her old ways, before she met Chuck, and Chuck into new territory.  Sarah’s old territory.  A relationship that may be satisfying on some level, but is ultimately loveless and undertaken out of convenience.  In Chuck’s case, it’s also a lie because he’ll never be able to tell Hannah who he really is.  Chuck is treating Hannah no better than Sarah treated Giles in the end, but for a while you could still root for them.  They made a cute couple, and they made each other happy for a while.  And for a while that’s going to have to be enough for our heroes.  Chuck can have a little happiness and Sarah can feel safe from feelings she apparently fears more than a life without love. Hannah and Shaw are now unmasked as the pursuers they were.  Chuck and Sarah have put on their happy faces and pretended to move on.  Their masks will stay on a while longer. – Ernie

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About Ernie Davis

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

64 Responses to S3 Revisited: The Masks

  1. JC says:

    Nice review

    I won’t comment on the last ten minutes or the budget issues because like you said it’s been discussed to death. Even without those things, this was a below average episode of Chuck. I found most of the it completely forgettable.

    But one thing I’d like to go with, do we know when Routh’s contract was extended in regards to the filming of this episode? I get this feeling that his character arc was changed after this.

    • Jason says:

      me too about the routh extension – I think sham was going to end when shaw was going to blow chuck up in 3.9, probbly casey and sarah stopped him, arrested him, killed him, who knows and sham ended, sarah still was going to stay chuck free for the same reasons until 3.13 – shaw just was not going to be given the 5-10 second sham connection in each episode – do you / anyone think 3.9 thru 3.13 would have played to the fanbase that much better without him????

      just ending 3.9 with shaw arrested or dead or sent packing would have made 3.9 the best episode of the arc, especially if sarah had really stepped up in chuck’s defense, she even could have ended the arc blowing chuck off too – maybe to some ‘pink’ music, ‘so what’

    • Ernie Davis says:

      While I don’t have any evidence I think Routh was originally set for 6 episodes, expanded to 8. My feeling, based on little more than confusion about the purpose of the episode (leading me to conclude there were some serious re-writes) is that the romance was over between Shaw and Sarah, essentially before it started in 3.8, but Shaw was back in 3.11 or 3.12 and 3.13 to be the big bad guy.

      • JC says:

        I would even say at some point, his knowledge of Sarah killing Eve was earlier than American Hero and that was changed.

  2. Merve says:

    Oh, “Mask,” so much fun, but sooooo sloppy:
    – Wait a second, why is Shaw hitting on Sarah all of a sudden? (I mean, other than the fact that she’s ridiculously hot. She’s gorgeous. She’s practically a goddess…Okay, on second thought, I get it.)
    – Wasn’t Hannah kind of pissed at Chuck at the end of “Nacho Sampler?” At least she doesn’t hold a grudge.
    – “Hey, I have an idea: why don’t we use the take where Sarah Lancaster and Josh Gomez whisper their lines in the least intelligible voices possible?”
    – Wasn’t there a containment vessel for dangerous objects in the previous episode? Is Sarah’s memory span less than a week?
    – I can understand being unable to catch Vassili once. But the second time around? Seriously, Casey is getting sloppy…kind of like this episode!
    – Shaw has taught me that if I want a woman to fall into my arms, I should sexually harass her.
    – Do all museum curators put on fake British accents to sound more intelligent? The problem is that when stupid people say stupid things in a stupid accent, they sound even stupider.
    – I thought that Jeff and Lester were supposed to be good at stalking. Are they really worse at it than Ellie and Morgan? If so, then they must have had stalking lessons between “Mask” and “American Hero.” (And between “Best Friend” and “Mask,” they must have had severe brain damage. I can attribute half of that to Jeff’s alcoholism.)
    – Why did no one question Chuck’s presence at the unveiling? Maybe they thought that he was a waiter or something…

    Okay, in all seriousness, I don’t hate this episode. Most of it was good, lighthearted fun. But it was just so sloppy. It could have and should have been way better. (By the way, please feel free to add any plot holes/inconsistencies/oddities to my Long List of Sloppiness™.)

  3. Gabbo says:

    I actually DON’T think it’s the last 10 minutes of Mask that is the problem. It’s that scene immediately after Chuck and Sarah convince Shaw to leave. They are THRILLED and ELATED to be working together. I mean, that is the happiest the two had been together all season up to that point. They light up the screen.

    Then they start the jealousy thing. As as lizjames noted at the time, they only played serious jealousy at certain points in the scene. Even now I can see why liz would think it was a con they were running on Shaw (and possibly Hannah, who we suspected at the time might have been a spy, too…)

    That’s what is most confusing about Mask, if you ask me. If Klemmer, the writer, hadn’t shown us a gloriously happy Chuck and Sarah just moments before, and had sold the jealousy seriously from the start of the next scene, there wouldn’t have been such an obvious whipsaw effect…

    So that’s why Mask encapsulates the problems of Season 3. There are so many blind alleys that TPTB clearly DIDN’T mean to be blind alleys…

    • joe says:

      I was a little surprised at that scene too, Gabbo, but for a different reason. What I got out of it, at the time, was that C&S really enjoyed being Partners (capitol P!) and absolute spy-equals. I can understand that, and “Partners” is very often TV-shorthand for the very best kind of relationship, better than anything, even marriage. Yeah, to be gracious about it, it’s a cliché and a bad one at that. But there you have it.

      I was sort of glad that they didn’t stick with that cliché, actually.

  4. odysszeuss says:

    i really liked the con theory’s. the real story was tooo bad…

  5. Jason says:

    I think I understand 3.7 less upon 2nd review – I wonder what the point of the CS mask stealing scene together was – that scene was so magical, what was the point of the good bye in the castle thru the glass, that scene had power, along with sarah’s chuck will save us, then kapoweeeeeeeeeee – end of the rationale arc, into some bizarrooooooooo chuck the rest of the way, right up to sarah not answering the DYLM right away in 3.13, the4 you next rationale CS thing was sarah saying ‘Yes – yes – I fell for you after you fixed my phone and ……’

    and the season arc suffered for 3.7 being part of the arc much like prague being part of the arc, Phil Klemmer wrote the stupid stuff & fedak had to defend the episode immediately afterwards …. Fedak also had to come out of the closet prior to klemmer’s disasterous 3.12 dinner scene, and TELL / WARN us the sarah and shaw are getting more serious – before 3.12 for goodness sakes, getting more serious – come on, I’ll bet there was some serious wringing of the hands at chuckland prior to that episode’s viewing.

    3.7 probably will go down as the worst episode of chuck ever, unless there is worse ahead …. well there always is 3.8

    As one final comment to those who criticize the shipper POV, almost all of these episodes, 3.7 included are very good, except for one thing = the chuck/ sarah story – unfortunately that is the ONLY story really being told by this arc…I think those who hated the shippers kept insisting something else was going on …. their biased / self rightous comments slowed to a halt somewhere around 3.11 / 3.12, when it become obvious to them that the shippers had it right all along.

    • HenryH says:

      Jason-
      As someone who came to the blog AFTER Mast/Final Exam, I had to joy of reading all of the posts at once.

      The one that struck me most was a comment before Season 3 started by Ernie Davis. He said that the entire Chuck show rested on the moment when Sarah saw Chuck with the ballerina. It was that moment when she decided not to thrown him in a hole and thus formed the basis for the show’s existence. (And now, as we know, when she started to fall in love with him.) The first response to Ernie’s post was from Liz James, who congratulated him on a brilliant insight.

      The next comment? It was from Old Darth who dismissed the point as irrelevent. And when both Ernie and Liz responded trying to explain the moment’s meaning, Old Darth simply insisted that the show runners could have picked another point to build the show on…

      Well, duh… how right were Ernie and Liz? How wrong was Old Darth?

      Yet who has the supposed “power” positions in Chuck fandom? Old Darth, who couldn’t see the basic foundation on the show when it was served up to him on a silver platter. And the other Darth, who continues to bash “crazy shippers” long after its been revealed that there is nothing else TO care about in Chuck except Chuck and Sarah’s relationship.

      And, of course, both of the Darths had to do embarrassing about-faces about the shape of the season when it became obvious even to them that TPTB had pursued an unsuccessful and ill-considered arc.

      There’s something wrong with a fandom that has, as you say, the “biased / self righteous” types commanding all of the attention.

      It’s not the shippers and the critics of the show that split the fan base. It was the “leaders” of the fandom who are too dull or too stupid or too obsessed with their own “stardom” to speak honestly.

      I honestly DO NOT mean to make this personal. But it’s very hard to care about Chuck enough to hang in even when the show is going badly–and then being accused of being whiny or “crazy” just because we see the truth.

      Mask, unfortunately, was a turning point for Chuck. It and Fake Name destroyed the good will between many of the fans and TPTB and their fannish apologists. The fandom has never recovered, the show’s ratings have never recovered and Chuck will probably be cancelled because of it.

      • joe says:

        “Well, duh… how right were Ernie and Liz? How wrong was Old Darth?”

        Henry, it was never a matter of right and wrong, was it? I suspect strongly that both Liz and Ernie would be the first to tell you that they “guessed” wrong as often as right in the course of the season (and I’ll be the first to admit that they were both far better than I at seeing the directions taken by the show). And what I got from Lou (Old Darth) in particular wasn’t anything like “You’re wrong and shut up about it.” What I got was “Can we at least wait until we see something before we give up on the season?”

        I understand how ‘shippers (those who monitor the temperature of the C&S relationship constantly, anyway) would take offence at DR. Magnus has an aggressive style. That’s his schtick, and he does it well. But despite that fact that he’s met the cast and gets press-review copies of the show, his voice carries no further than his audience. You might be right about his commanding attention, but you know it can’t last if he’s not saying something that people want to hear.

        Honestly, I think we’re saying something quite different here – many different somethings, in fact. And the hit-numbers tell me that plenty of people like the messages enough to come back repeatedly. Makes me happy!

        Hey! That’s my schtick! 😉

      • HenryH says:

        Joe-
        Well, I invite you to look at virtually any Old Darth post here to see how dismissive he is–and how he agitates for people who don’t like the direction of the show to simply stop watching. I mean, didn’t you have a blow up on this blog on EXACTLY that point?

        And if you doubt the other Darth’s impact, well, consider that his “crazy shipper” label is now applied to anyone who dissents.

        As for the point that Ernie and Liz were making back then, well, I don’t perceive it as a guess. Ernie was making a storytelling observation then, not making a guess about romance. It was his observation that the show’s existence hung on the fact that Sarah saw something in Chuck at the ballerina moment that convinces her not to throw Chuck into a tank. Ernie and Liz were talking about the justification for their being a Chuck show at all. I thought their dialogue was brilliant and one of those head-slapping “Of course” moments. Except for the one person who dismissed it…

        This is all unpleasant stuff, I know. But I do find it interesting how so many of us have been demonized for not being see-no-evil types. And then the demonizers change their mind. And we’re STILL demonized and they still get to spew.

        I don’t have a lot of experience with fandoms, so maybe this goes on in all of them.

        But I was unaware that the price of entry is unquestioned loyalty. The blog you’ve built shows that it isn’t. But even THIS blog has been demonized as “too negative” by the very same types.

        I dunno, Joe, it just makes me angry. Even being right is no defense. It just seems to me the fandom is largely being controlled by the wrong people.

        We need more people like you and Ernie and Liz and fewer Darths.

        Just my opinion. Don’t mean to offend anyone. Honest.

      • Paul says:

        Henry, this blog got a reputation (if you even want to call it that) of being negative because for a long time that was ALL there was on here (or at least it seemed that way). Now, what is a matter of like-minded people happening to congregate together? In many ways I believe it was, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I will tell you that I was getting frustrated at the tone of this particular site for a atretch there. I even considered abandoning coming here because I didn’t feel like fighting the negativity and pesimissim. I’ll tell you it was almost oppressive. Maybe you didn’t feel it, but I sure as heck did.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree that some of the negative reputation of this blog was earned. A lot of us went negative, but that misses a point. We could do that here without getting flamed and those who wanted to look at the positive could expect the same respectful hearing and treatment that the majority got. That was not the case on other boards where comments were moderated and dissenters shouted down. That is why many of the readers and commenters are here. It was the shipper asylum in a very dark period of the show.

        I’ve tried to go positive and do some positive analysis, and through some of the polls remind people of what they like about the show, but at present, re-watching and re-reviewing the 3.6 through 3.8 arc, I have to admit, I’m not very pleased with the show.

        I could perhaps stay silent, which is what some of the aforementioned critics prefer, but they have their platforms and I think it valuable for the opposition to have theirs. Something I think I’ve done well at times and am somewhat proud of. So by all means, post and argue as much as you like, you won’t be driven off this board or moderated out of existence for your opinions. And your opinions, if presented clearly and respectfully won’t be ridiculed or dismissed. That is why I’m here instead of on the bigger boards.

      • HenryH says:

        Paul-
        As I say, it looks like being right is NOT a defense for some people. If this blog was negative, it was because the show was bad at the time.

        I accept that you might disagree with that assessment, but I think it is fair to say now that YOU are in the minority. The show’s ratings plunged and even the “pro” critics who were defending the show’s controversial arc of which Mask is a part have changed their mind.

        I admire this blog because the posters’ passion FOR the show is unquestioned. Yet they don’t hesitate to criticize bad shows and bad arcs. I don’t find that negative. I find it refreshing and honest. And I admire how all opinions are welcome here.

        Without meaning to lionize myself, I think the people who are distressed with a show’s direction yet hang in are the very best example of “fans.” Without meaning to diss you, I think it’s easy to be unconditionally in love with something.

        And, as I say, I didn’t find a single post here telling people who love the show without question to go away. I didn’t find a single post here labeling people who love the show without question “crazy apologists.”

        Yet those of us who stood our ground, raised valid objections as the show spun out of control and down in the ratings, continue to be attacked.

        The show is hanging by a thread again specifically because episodes like Mask and Fake Name drove viewers away by the hundreds of thousands.

        Yet even when we hated the episodes, we continued to watch and devote our time to trying to figure out what was going on. How can that be negative?

        It’s insane revisionism if you ask me.

      • seb says:

        It’s far more honest to call it as you see it when you see it than it is to wait for the arc to end and then go back and say yeah I didn’t like what other people said they didn’t like either.

        Positive and negative, in my humble opinion, are irrelevant. I don’t feel the need to stifle criticism out of some very vague sense of loyalty. The show has an unwritten contract with the fans, the contract stipulates that the show needs to entertain the fans every week. Not every 10 weeks, every week. And if the show fails to entertain me for 9 out of the ten weeks I m not going to shut up about it because the show is the sacred cow that needs to be spared all criticism.

      • Paul says:

        “I didn’t find a single post here labeling people who love the show without question “crazy apologists.” ”

        I would beg to differ. There were quite a few comments alluding to the fact that those who happened to like the direction the show was taking were merely “toeing the party line” (this very line made me seriously consider not coming back here) or were looking at things with “Rose colored glasses”. Quite frankly, I didn’t feel welcome here for about 4 week stretch.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Paul, I do recall some comments, and I probably made a few, about “cool aid drinkers” who refused to allow that there were real problems with the show and the story. It is an unfortunate aspect of all arguments that one occasionally feels that the argument is so clear and convincing that disagreement must be willful ignorance. I would however contend that (in my recollection) nearly all were in the context of someone off this blog inviting shippers to shut up. We’ve rarely had that type of exchange on this blog and I don’t believe, one small incident aside, anyone has been invited to shut up and depart the board if they didn’t agree.

        There has been a bit more venom directed at TPTB on occasion, something I’m not entirely comfortable with, especially when names and presumed motives are involved, but as I said, we do our best not to censor any viewpoint, and because of that people have remained largely courteous and respectful.

        My overall view is that we shouldn’t import arguments from other sites onto this board, especially when one of the parties isn’t a regular reader or poster, and especially if one of the parties has their own board.

      • HenryH says:

        Paul-
        Having someone claim you are toeing the party line or are wearing rose-colored glasses is NOT being labeled. And no one, as far as I can read, called you a “crazy” anything. Nor do I think you can find a single post suggesting you go away.

        Plus, and I say this will ALL due respect, your case would be bolstered if you can at least accept that the tide of opinion has simply not gone your way. Those of us suggesting that Mask/Fake Name were not good have been vindicated by the ratings decline and the sudden reconsideration of the very critics who were most disrespectful of our views at the time.

        You shouldn’t change your views, of course, to suit anyone or any blog. But you should at least accept NOW, in retrospect, that the very concerns we were raising then were proven out by the falling ratings and revisionist criticism from the show’s most vociferious “pro” and “amateur” fans.

        After the PLIs were introduced in First Class, the ratings tumbled from 2.5 to 1.9. And the show has only marginally recovered in the last two episodes.

        Facts are facts. And while I can ONLY speak for myself, I won’t apologize or accept continued criticism because I (and many others) pointed out the Emperor had no clothes.

      • Paul says:

        Henry, when the hell did my complaint about the vibe I was getting from this board back in February become about who’s right and who’s wrong????

        MY thoughts were about the negativity on this board at the time(and name calling on BOTH sides), and how it was creating an atmosphere that I was not wanting to be a part of. It’s gotten significantly better in the last month, which is why I stuck around.

      • Jason says:

        ernie, in response to your last post, I am guilty of both introducing comments from other boards, as well as railing on specific creative people on the show. I will stop the other board stuff immediately, I actually thought I was helping this board by giving a wider spectrum of thought … but no more. Second, I am a troubleshooter for ‘sick’ companies, when my team comes in, we hold individuals accountable – lets face it, we fire them, my nature is to observe the chuck team of show runners, writers, actors, etc and do so, I really have no right to do that, and will also stop that. But, here is a prediction, if S4 exists, heads will roll, someone will pay for season 3, that is the way the world works & generally it is not the powerful guy at the top.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Jason, I wouldn’t consider you a great offender on this count. There is a fine line we have to be aware of. We can’t shut out everything from other boards, otherwise we live in a bubble, but there are some aspects of other board I think are better left on other boards. It is always a judgement call. I think for the most part we’ve had a good balance and I don’t want people to feel constrained. I think it does however cross a line to impugn the character or motives of specifically named people, be they bloggers or TPTB. Now legitimate criticism of creative failures doesn’t cross that line IMHO, but it does call for some tact and sensitivity on the part of the writer and people who comment lest it become a Schwedak bashing party. That’s when I start to feel guilty about the negativity.

        In large part I think we’ve done a good job, and there is very little that we need to worry about as far as I’m concerned.

        Now on another point, who was right or wrong. I want to point out I was not predicting or hoping for failure. Certain posters had presented arguments that the direction TPTB seemed to be indicating was a) The only possible direction, b) the logical direction, or c) the best direction. I countered with several arguments, depending on the post or the poster that none of those were necessarily true, but that the direction TPTB indicated was certainly the direction the show would BE going. In addition I made the argument that given that direction I saw several dangers. One big one being character damage and fan fatigue. I wasn’t predicting that by any means, I was saying the direction TPTB chose wasn’t necessarily a safe one or one guaranteed to work. It would all come down to how well they could pull it off with a smaller budget and a tighter shooting schedule.

        If some people are happy thinking that my warnings have proven prescient, I’m not really among them. I’d have preferred to be proven wrong and enjoyed the show a lot more.

      • Merve says:

        I’d like to add the following to the above discussion: Chuck fandom isn’t a contest. It’s not a contest to see who likes the show the most. It’s not a contest to see who is the best fan. It’s not a contest to see who is the best at making predictions. It’s not a contest to see whose interpretation was most in line with TPTB’s. It’s not a contest to see who is the most dissatisfied with Season 3. It’s not a contest to see who is the most eloquent or vocal commenter. It’s not a contest to see who can bash “Mask” the most (although that might be kind of a fun contest ;)). And it’s definitely not a contest to determine whose opinion is the “best.” What Chuck fandom is, is a bunch of people who care way too much about Chuck…and who don’t care that they care way too much about Chuck. Though we may all disagree on things like whether Chuck’s mother is working for the Ring or if the colour purple has any significance, remember that at least we have our Chuck obsession in common.

      • JC says:

        Early morning post, so. . . Group hug, huh?

        Awesome

      • ChuckNewbie8 says:

        holy crap the blog exploded. I’m gonna second JC’s post instead to keep the peace lol.

  6. Lucian says:

    Great review, Ernie.

    It caused me to reflect on some of the problems with season three. I’m thinking a major part of the problem (for those who think there were problems) is that TPTB forgot that “Chuck” is, at it’s core, a fantasy. It isn’t a drama. We all know that computers don’t get downloaded into people’s brains that allow them to do all kinds of neat stuff. But, we are willing to suspend our disbelief because we:
    – like the characters
    – like the story they are telling.

    With Chuck, the spy story has never been particularly strong, it is really about how well we empathize with the characters. The spy story is realy just context for the characters to act in ways we like. In order to tell the story they wanted to tell this season, which really had to do with getting to episodes 12 and 13, they had to make certain things happen in certain ways. IMO, the season was clearly written from the last chapter backwards, which is tough to do. This is the episode that Shaw shifts from primarily being Chuck’s mentor to being his romantic rival, and they really could have pulled off that transition more successfully.

    • Warp says:

      I concur with everything you say.
      The problem is that Shaw did not deliver in any way (and I don’t think this was intentional):
      IC: He is a bad spy, bad leader (mentor), he has no self-control, he’s reckless (against his own team), he interrupts the existing team structure, he has some serious psychological issues.
      OOC: there’s no chemistry at all between S&S, half of their relationship (relationship????) is never shown nor told, Mr. Routh badly needs to take some acting lessons…
      The problem with Hannah is, that she simply “happens” at the wrong time: We are already so offended by Shaw that we do not tolerate yet another perpetrator in our Charah situation.
      Which is in fact kind of unfortunate because She (and Ms. Kreuk) is rather nice…

  7. Rick Holy says:

    I was going to write a most eloquent commentary on “Mask,” but as soon as I began to ruminate over the episode, I suddenly became violently ill and had to regurgitate this morning’s slim fast shake. So sorry, I won’t be commenting.

    Here’s to hopefully an excellent, uplifting “back six” and a possible renewal of ANY sort for a Season 4. There, my stomach seems to be settling down already.

    A Happy & Blessed Sunday to all. And PEACE!

    • joe says:

      Oooff! I hope you’re speaking metaphorically, Fr. Rick, and aren’t really ill. With slim-fast shakes in the mix, either is a strong possibility! 😉

      Prescription: Take two S2 episodes, a lite lunch and call me in the morning!

      • Rick Holy says:

        Joe – I think “First Date” and “Colonel” should do the trick and settle that old stomach down!!!

      • Warp says:

        For me it’s always the seduction that can settle things down: “Did you ever have sexual intercourse before?…” what a scene – and what a (second) kiss…

  8. JAB says:

    Season 3, to date, works out just as well if you skip over episodes 7 and 8.

    Not everything in these episodes is irrelevant, just not much.

    • SWnerd says:

      I’m telling you some good DVD ripping and video editing software and I honestly think I could salvage the season (completely eliminating those two episodes and cutting up the others). If only I wasn’t a poor college student… 😦

  9. joe says:

    So, I’ve been behind in the marathon viewing, and just catching up. Just moments ago I rewatched Nacho Sampler and The Mask. I’m stunned.

    I really, really didn’t expect to enjoy them, or even accept them, the way I did. The first clue was Sarah’s sing-song “Thank you!” when Casey does his patented “I stand corrected.” line. I defy you to not smile when you hear it. 😉

    I’m sure most of you have seen my discussions with Liz and seen too much of my reaction to 3.12, Am. Hero, where I basically come to the same conclusions as many of you – the ones Dave expresses so well – about S3. It’s a very personal reaction, though, so I’m never going to be sure that my meaning is getting across. I’m not sure I understand myself.

    But lots of thoughts are evolving in my head, though, as I rewatch. So if you haven’t been doing that, I gotta say that you’re missing something.

    Here’s a new one on my part. I recognize that some of you pointed this out, but yes, I just didn’t get it, before, that Chuck, the way we knew him, has disappeared by the time The Three Words has ended and Operation Awesome has begun.

    It was awful that Chuck burned Manoosh. He was very professional – and he has been since 3.03. He makes the hard choice and does exactly what he should have done. What he learns is to have a great deal of sympathy for Sarah, and he learns that even if she cares for him, she can’t. She never could. Every look between them in Nacho Platter shows that he understands now the distance between them, and with the help of Johnny Walker Black, accepts it.

    Sarah watches Chuck be part monster and knows a few things herself. She has to keep her emotional distance – still. She more than anybody has made Chuck who he is. She hates herself for it. Chuck is all but gone.

    Chuck. Is. Gone. When it comes to Sarah and Shaw in Am. Hero Liz tells me that I’m seeing something that’s not there. I know what she means. But to play on her words, no – I’m not seeing something that I should be seeing. If Shaw is just another super-spy/hero that fits her type, he’s just another empty suit – nothing. So she gives up on Chuck for – nothing? That is, finally, what’s been bothering me so much.

    But that’s not exactly it. She’s not leaving Chuck at all if Chuck’s not there any more. I lost it because of Hannah. Chuck appears to be just the way he was, trying to be normal with yet another petite brunette. But that person could not have handled Manoosh professionally. That person could not have lied to Ellie about Paris and ignore Morgan the way he did.

    That person always seemed to find a way to save the day. But it would not have been by catching the Mask that Sarah threw down to him, by being a spy.

    I am finally glad I watched again.

    • Merve says:

      But that’s not exactly it. She’s not leaving Chuck at all if Chuck’s not there any more. I lost it because of Hannah. Chuck appears to be just the way he was, trying to be normal with yet another petite brunette. But that person could not have handled Manoosh professionally. That person could not have lied to Ellie about Paris and ignore Morgan the way he did.

      Maybe I’m trying too hard to rationalize this, because it’s something that I didn’t really get at first, but I see this sort of contradiction as part of Chuck’s transition, encompassing parts of the old Chuck and parts of the new Chuck. Perhaps, Chuck seeing Sarah’s reaction to what she perceived to be changes in his character, tried to grasp at the scraps of the old, more innocent Chuck that remained. (But that doesn’t exactly make sense because Chuck didn’t think that he was changing all that much.) In some ways, if Chuck had changed immediately, it would have been less realistic.

      Or maybe it was just because, well, Hannah was pretty.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Hey Joe,

      I just finished my review of Fake Name. I think I understand what you are saying, re-watching gave me a lot more insight into things that they were using to tell the story that I might have missed. And it reminded me of how much good stuff there was even in the episodes a lot of people hate. But, and you knew there would be a but, it showed me a few other things about the direction this season has taken. This could be a long one, indulge me.

      First, we once had a pretty good conversation on scenes that picked up a beat too late or ended a beat too early. Some of them were epic, such as the “worst valentines ever” in Suburbs. This season, they seem like big horking plot holes and mistakes. Its as if they want us to fill in the story, which we can do, as we’ve amply demonstrated, but then when the story goes a different way we’re left scratching our heads. If you want us to know something, tell us. On the screen, not in an interview.

      Second, most episodes used to end on an up note, at least for Chuck and Sarah. Angst was resolved, or partially resolved within an episode or two at the most. Aside from that, most episodes ended on an up note. Compare that to this season. From First Class on just about every episode ends with one major character being devastated, and not in a cliffhanger way, in a lost something they may never get back way.

      Shaw didn’t work, and they seemed to realize this early on, yet they expanded his role and kept him the focus of far too much. There are tons of throw-away lines that seem to come from nowhere, and they fall into two classes. Shaw is awesome and he and Sarah are a great couple, and Shaw is wooden and boring. I’ll let others speculate why TPTB felt it necessary to go there.

      Where they managed to avoid TV cliches in the past, they seemed to count on them this season. I think my review of this episode covers that aspect.

      I’m sure more will come to me, but for now I’m just relieved to be done with these reviews. It was tougher than I thought.

      • JC says:

        You brought up a point in your review and again here. Everyone on the show kept mentioning how great of spy Shaw was but I never saw it once. If he’s considered great than Bryce and Cole must be Greek Gods in comparison even S1 Chuck was more competent.

      • Faith says:

        It’s a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive…

      • joe says:

        I hear ya, Ernie.

        I’m forgiving, and I can forgive this show a lot. Shaw makes it hard.

        Here’s the good stuff in the character that I saw. He was complex. The character was credibly a hero, credibly a Bryce-class spy, credibly insane and credibly a villain. Shaw was a good choice to grow Chuck into a world class spy, and a decent choice to show Casey and Sarah that they were indeed holding Chuck back. I have a feeling that Gen. Beckman got something out of interacting with Shaw, too.

        The down side was that the character totally lacked humor, which is a major sin for all but the most cartoonish of characters in this show (and the lack of humor sucked the life out of too many scenes). The best bad guys have been the most humorous – Roark comes to mind. Much more importantly, Shaw was never credible as a love interest for Sarah.

        To be fair, we have to quickly add that an acceptable love interest for Sarah, other than Chuck, is hardly possible. It isn’t to me. Credible may have been an attainable goal, and Shaw didn’t make it.

        I’ll agree with you about so many episodes ending on a down note this season. Seemed that way to me too. Oddly, so did my favorites in S2, with only one or two exceptions (like Tom Sawyer). One of the things I’ve noticed in re-watching is that it matters a little less to me this time around.

        You’ll have to point out the TV cliches to me, Ernie! I think I can point some out, but I’m interested to know if my list and yours correspond.

      • JC says:

        The character was credibly a hero, credibly a Bryce-class spy.

        I could see after his first two episodes to a degree but after that? From Mask on his abilities as a spy and his operations were terrible. He was so inept that I figured he had to be a double agent.

      • seb says:

        the most basic TV cliche re Shaw is that .. obviously he’s attractive and obviously Sarah will be attracted to him.

        Second obvious TV cliche specific to the mask is that Sarah was protesting Shaw’s advances too much (ie it wasn’t meant to demonstrate she didn’t like Shaw, it was meant to demonstrate she liked him and was just being you know damsely)

        Third TV cliche is that Shaw carrying a semi conscious Sarah to get the antidote was a heroic act.

        TPTB relied on those (and more) cliches to tell a story that viewers weren’t seeing on screen.

      • Jason says:

        seb – yep – those 3 of those cliche’s – great observation – the writers really were afraid to write a sham love story, so they sort of danced around it, if fedak came out now and said that sham never dated or had a relationship, that it was just starting in 3.12 and stopped before it started, most fans would be estatic, what difference would it make, but the on screen stuff was totally chicken poop on the part of the creative team

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Sorry I missed your request for TV cliche’s, the big ones were the Sarah Shaw setup I mentioned in the main body. That was done so much in the standard WTWT mode that was pretty alien to this show I think a lit of us missed it. The antipathy = attraction, the guy seemingly taking advantage but the girl really likes it, the standard opposites attract or refuse to admit attraction, hence spar, and the usual girl tells off guy for hitting on her only to find it was all in her head, but has unwittingly reveled her true feelings. They were all there.

        As for some other issues there were two big ones. One I touched on, ending scenes too soon or coming in late. Where it used to feel fun and get your mind going this season it seemed to be done just to draw out the angst. Someone mentioned it on the Fake Name post as a prime example. The other was that episodes not only didn’t hold together, they contradicted each other. For example at the end of Mask Sarah and Shaw tell Chuck that the Intersect was designed for autonomous agents, so he won’t have his team much longer. At the beginning of American Hero Beckman feels the very idea Chuck would work alone preposterous. So were Shaw and Sarah lying to him, or did Beckman change her mind? Sorry, something like that needs explanation other than we wanted Chuck to be heartened by the realization he could choose Sarah for his team only to be shot down by her.

  10. Warp says:

    As this might only be partially an answer to Joe’s above post, I’ll make it a new one.

    The episodes 3.5 to 3.8 clearly mark the bottom of the whole Chuck thing.
    And loss of production value is just one part of the whole soup.
    The producers strayed nearly as far as possible from the expected path as did Chuck. He lost himself in being a spy (man, what was he annoying, dabbling about “his” operation and being able to do whatever spy stuff…) and it took Morgan, his best friend, to bring him back on track (luckily, he succeeded) – But, if you go astray very far, it takes some time to get back to where you belong, so it took another 2 or 3 episodes before we had back the better parts of the old chuck (maybe spiced with a few new ones). Well, he showed some promise in Tic Tac, when Sarah asked him about the consequences of helping John – But TPTB took 2 more episodes to let Chuck realize where he belongs.
    – Actually, I find it interesting that Chuck’s ability to flash is directly connected with him being “at peace with his inner self”, meaning to “have” Sarah and to “have” Morgan. Something that might give us something in future episodes.-

    But like Joe, I prefer to see the Chuck glass half full to half empty. So, even though I read Liz’s very sophisticated and rather true post, I want to believe in Chuck as a Show and in Chuck and his future relationship to Sarah. For me (and I hope to interpret Joe’s post right here) for him as well, Chuck’s change and the ridiculous SS thing as well as the untimely Chuck and Hannah affair was necessary for his catharsis, which leads back to Sarah and to accepting what his strengths are (those that he had before he went superspy).
    Still some things taste bitter after all that TPTB put them and us through, like four times yes but no ILY – and yes, we are closer to the pink slip than before – but does it matter?
    For me it doesn’t. At least we have a chance to enjoy CS and hope for some maturing of their relationship.
    There are so many things left: Sarah has still to be rescued in the emotional way. She has to learn to confide in Chuck as a girlfriend and to “let go” – Soften up babe!! (And please, less idealization)
    And Chuck has to learn, that he can have Sarah even as being a nerd and that his real strength is not the intersect but his character (as Sarah described it in the Seduction and as Bryce said in the alma mater). More appropriate confidence, Chuck!!

    Well, yes here speaks a hopelessly romantic (nerd) but still, didn’t someone write before, that this show is not about the silly spy story in the first place but about the development of relationships between the different characters?

    So let’s just hope that TPTB deliver during the next x episodes and that we get a 4th season starting fresh and likeable…

    • joe says:

      Not bad, Warp! I like it.
      And it really jibes with the feelings I’ve been having since this afternoon.

      Oh – BTW, did you notice as much as I that, not only did Chuck not need to flash when he entered the warehouse (opening scene of The Other Guy or to track down Shaw is Paris, when he DID flash while fighting Shaw, it didn’t help?

      You can bet I’m going to bring that up again when we re-view that last episode.

      • Warp says:

        Yes – and my guess (and hope) is that this will become a (major?) topic in the next episodes. It might even “level” Chuck’s skillset: more of himself and less the intersect could actually make him stronger.

        I’m looking forward to your re-view of episode 13!

      • Jason says:

        chuck also did not flash when he shot shaw – the most important ‘spy’ related thing he did in the show, he might just be a great shooter (last duck hunt with morgan??)

      • seb says:

        Chuck never needed to flash to shoot (the tranq gun) … Manoosh in Nacho Sampler, Fulcrum agents in Roark Instruments last year, Cia agents in Op Awesome, Ring agent in American Hero.

        Show has been telling has for a while Chuck is a good shot without intersect assistance

      • weaselone says:

        It could be a set up to removing the Intersect, or at least skill related flashes in the season finale. There’s been a lot of speculation that the Intersect 2.0 could be harmful/malfunctioning so maybe this is a prelude to Chuck losing the skill crutch, but still being able to maintain something akin to full spy status…or the big deal in season 4 is that Chuck is once more reduced to being a glorified database with his status once more knocked down to asset by Beckman and how this effects his place on team B and his relationship with Sarah.

      • Warp says:

        Yes Weaselone, this might be what TPTB have in mind for us…
        Even though it would be another step backwards, I wouldn’t mind that much. For me, Chuck dealing with problems using brain over muscle was always more fun than the superspy skill flashes – it would also help to complement the whole team effort (Charah) – Sarah’s fights always looked much smoother (and sexier) than Chuck’s and Chuck simply has the better ideas to solve problems (most often involves less dead people, too).

  11. Faith says:

    I’m pretending this episode didn’t exist. So all you guys’ comments don’t make sense 😉

    • seb says:

      you can’t pretend this episode didn’t exist, you just can’t. It was the leadin to the greatest line ever spoken on Television: My dessert is contained within your dessert.

      • Faith says:

        haha. Man that takes the cake (pun!). But I prefer the endearing nature of:

        “Well I can be your very own baggage handler”

        and

        “I don’t think I’m able to receive calls because I didn’t get one from you”

        Cheesy but endearing lol.

    • joe says:

      You have a question, Anonymous? 😉

      • cas says:

        No question. Sorry..=) I actually liked Hannah for Chuck. I would have preffered that love triangle rather than the Shaw, Chuck, and Sarah trio. It was a little less excruciating to watch and even somewhat beleivable.

      • joe says:

        That’s a pretty universal feeling, Cas. I think so too. And you know, I think I finally have a handle on why that is (and the Shaw character is only part of it).

        It’s a half baked idea, though. I hope to have more when we get to the final episodes.

  12. Judy says:

    Say what you will about Mask, and you certainly have, but the end of the episode contained a terrific song, Astair, by Matt Costa. The music throughout S3 has been very good.

    • seb says:

      Yeah Astair was a great choice for the whole final 10 minutes of Mask (it was playing in the background in the Chuck/Sarah castle talk in the end). And the lyrics of the song do resonate with the story told and where Chuck/Sarah are at that point.

      Astair you’re there and I’m still here
      I swear I’m so confused
      The signs you wear are making me
      Feel like I’m the one to lose

      But the canyons and the seas
      Are they just what you need
      Or are they less than what
      You’d expect to see

      And if you’re leaving well come
      Give me reason why I let you down
      Before you turn around now, now

      Before you turn around

    • joe says:

      I was pretty blown away by Astair today. The first time I saw the episode (and the second, I think) it blew by me.

      I don’t know why, but I’ve had a much harder time noticing the music in S3. When I’m pointed to them I enjoy the music every bit as much as I have in previous seasons (excepting only Luica’s Bones, which is one of my all time favorites, ever). This time I have to work harder for it.

  13. Merve says:

    Not to add too much fuel to the fire, but I noticed that in this episode, none of the characters leave a good impression. Casey and Shaw come off as incompetent spies. Shaw also comes off as a lecherous creep. Hannah comes off as a weird stalker. Chuck and Sarah come off as easy pickings. Ellie comes off as easily fooled. The only character who leaves a positive impression is Morgan, and even he feels wronged by the end of the episode.

  14. MikikUxy9 says:

    Impressive web-site, exactly where did you obtain the design template?

  15. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Mask (3.07) | Chuck This

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