Why Chuck and Sarah Matter

A Guest Post by Liz James

I’ve never known anything about Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker. At least not the Chuck and Sarah that TPTB showed us in Season 3. But I know something about the Chuck and Sarah from Seasons 1 and 2 that TPTB never fully understood.

Simply put, Chuck and Sarah are our future. Our best hope for what we claim makes America great. And, depending on your age, what you want to grow up to be, what you hope you are now and what you want your children to become.

That is a heavy burden for two fictional characters in an essentially silly television program that almost no one watches. But it’s what has kept me loyal to Chuck even when I’ve despised what I was watching this season.


For better and worse, all our tomorrows are in the hands of Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker. Where TPTB take them says a lot about how we see ourselves as a culture and a nation in the perilous decades ahead.

When I watched the Chuck pilot on that late September Monday in 2007, I thought it was an interesting concept, with cute and clever execution and two appealing lead actors. And then, in the last act, Chuck was given a startling moment: He realized that his possession of the Intersect gave him the power to control his own destiny. “You,” he reminds Sarah and Casey, “need me.”

Wow, I thought, this is going to be an average-guy-versus-the-government tale wrapped inside a spy story. It could be interesting.

Then came the tag. Chuck and Sarah on the beach. They didn’t talk of love. As the simultaneously bitter and beautiful “A Comet Appears” played underneath them, Chuck and Sarah discussed family and trust and duty and responsibility and what one had to do to keep the other safe.

Double wow, I thought. This is going to be an offbeat buddy tale. The normal guy is going to teach the government agent about real life. And the government spook is going to teach the normal guy about something beyond himself. They’ll save the world and help each other find their place in it, all while keeping a well-meaning-but-paranoid post-9/11 government at bay. This would really be interesting.

And it was. Listen to Average American Chuck talking to Dedicated Public Servant Sarah at the end of Helicopter: “Instead of not trusting you, I should be thanking you for saving my life and protecting the country.”

And listen to the On-Guard-For-Us Sarah calling for the greater nature of Patriotic American Chuck: “Some people want to be heroes and others have to be asked. So, Chuck, are you ready?”

He was, however reluctantly, and they were off. Average guy and superspy battle ivory-tower bureaucrats (Beckman and Graham) and a host of oddly human-scaled baddies: gun runners, drug dealers, money launderers, terrorists, data thieves, corrupt industrialists. And even when a larger-than-life organization of bad guys appears, as it must in all spy tales, it’s not an evil-for-evil’s sake threat like SPECTRE or THRUSH. It’s Fulcrum, homegrown Americans who believe they have a higher calling, but who are being manipulated by a smarmy, new-wave corporate tycoon.

Were the first two seasons of Chuck perfect? Of course not. But Chuck and Sarah almost always were.

Isn’t Chuck what we want of ourselves, our children and our fellow Americans? He’s honest and unassuming. He learns and he grows and he cares. He steps up when he has to and how he can because that’s what Americans do. He’s a hero because he’s needed, not because it matters to him or he thinks he can profit by the trappings of heroism.

Isn’t Sarah what we want of ourselves, our children and our fellow Americans? She’s smart and talented. She thinks and she nurtures and she cares. She does her job because it is her job. She’s a hero because she’s trained to be one, not because it matters to her or she desires the spoils of heroism.

I never needed Chuck and Sarah to be a couple, but the romance worked as it unfolded over the first two seasons. There were ghosts of lovers past. The chimera of lovers that never could be. The stresses of work. The pressures of duty. The fear and the panic, the doubt and the missteps. It was modern romance and it was … complicated. But, in the end, two incomplete people found perfection in, devotion to and adoration for each other.

Contrary to the belief of some Season 3 ret-conners, Chuck and Sarah were never innocents. They were never blind to each other’s flaws. In fact, they seemed to love and trust each other most when no one else would have thought to do it at all. I can’t speak for the sonnet writers or Father Rick, but that sounds like real, eyes-wide-open true love to me.

Chuck in Marlin, even as Sarah fails him: “You’re Sarah. You can do anything.”

Sarah in First Date, even as Chuck fails himself: “You can do anything. I’ve seen you in action.”

How could you not admire these two people? If you’re not yet their age, why wouldn’t you want to become them? If you are their contemporaries, how could you not emulate them? If you are old enough to be their parents, as I am, don’t you want your own children to be like them? As Americans, we can only hope that Chuck and Sarah are representative of the first generation of adults of the twenty-first century.

I have made no secret of the fact that I think Season 3 has been execrable. But not because Chuck and Sarah weren’t lovers from the start. Not because of the plot holes and the blind alleys. And not even because a poor story was so badly told that we couldn’t find a coherent strand from episode to episode–and sometimes from scene to scene.

I was repelled by Season 3 because TPTB decided Chuck and Sarah were not the heroes we know they are. As much as you can in a fictional tale, TPTB repeatedly lied about Chuck and Sarah.

No matter what else he ever wanted, Chuck would never abandon Sarah on that train platform in Prague without putting up a fight to keep her. No matter how wounded and scared she was, Sarah would never abandon Chuck to despair after burning Manoosh. Chuck would have found a way to stop Rafe from murdering Sarah. Sarah would have found a way to stop Shaw from blowing up Chuck. Neither would have permitted Beckman to strip Casey of his life’s work and his dignity. Chuck was never defined by what he did for a living and Sarah was never appalled by her work.

Chuck and Sarah matter. How they are portrayed matters. That’s because they are the best of what we are and what we hope to be, as individuals, as couples and as an extended national family. Our dreams are wrapped up in how they act, how they treat each other and everyone else around them. As Chuck and Sarah go, so goes America.

That’s why I believe Chuck and Sarah are better than the caricatures we were shown in Season 3. I believe that because I know my children are already better than that. I am better than that and so are you. And it is a shame that TPTB apparently never understood the inherent greatness, the baked-in goodness and the unflinching nobility of the characters they created.

But if nothing else, America is about redemption. We may not forget, but we will forgive. Chuck was right in Cougars. We don’t care who people were because we know who they are and who they can be.

TPTB have six more hours to show us that they understand who Chuck and Sarah really are and who they can be.

— Liz James

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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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109 Responses to Why Chuck and Sarah Matter

  1. Jen says:

    So much of S3 feels contrived… This is what has had us all looking for all possible ways to explain what we’ve seen. Ur paragraph 20 is about C n S behavior towards one another n summarizes in a nutshell why this season has felt wrong. That dumb reset…

    I do feel very hopeful of what’s to come; this new show we r getting. Another sort of reset to a show about a spy couple? Looks like it to me. I’d rather watch that so much more!

    Liz, thanks for ur great article. Thanks for posting Joe. G’night!

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with most of what you wrote. I would go even further with my complain that they were untrue to their characters. The problem with season three is that the relationship between Chuck and Sarah had been deeper than the physical that became all important this season. Bryce sent Chuck the intersect because he knew Chuck would always do the right thing, he had character. Season 1/2 Sarah knew this. She manipulated Chuck (in a good way) in many circumstances when Chuck got frustrated and thought about walking away. And you’re right, she was never appalled that she had to do so, nor was she appalled with the more of the morally ambiguous aspects of her job. Sarah also understood her relationship with Chuck, commenting that they were always better as a team. Picking apart Final Exam highlights most of the problems with the third season.

      It is hard, if not impossible, to see how Sarah would hold Chuck to the standard she did in season three. Chuck, I trust you to do the right thing always, unless it means you might have to kill someone? It just doesn’t vibe with everything we learned about them in the first two seasons. As you mentioned, they were aware of each others faults, were accepting of them, and their relationship was so central to the show because of this. Final Exam Casey showed greater insight into Chuck’s character, and a greater respect. He knew Chuck most likely wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger, yet he respected Chuck enough to let him make his own decision on the matter. He waited until the last moment to take out the mole, when he knew Chuck wouldn’t.

      Furthermore, I really had trouble with Sarah’s actions at the end of Final Exam. The relationship between these two people in seasons 1/2 doesn’t mesh with her decision to not answer the phone when Chuck calls her at the end of the night. She knows her red test was the worst night of her life, yet she isn’t going to help Chuck deal with the emotional repercussions? Romance aside, the Sarah of season 1/2 would never have let Chuck deal with such an event on his own.

      I probably wouldn’t be upset if the resolution was handled better. Sarah should have made her decision regarding Chuck before finding out what happened in Final Exam. The “true love” motif that has underlined their relationship from its earliest beginnings demanded nothing less. Where did the trust go? Like you, I had trouble with the dissipation of the relationship that existed between the two in the first seasons. The acceptance of Chuck killing Shaw felt forced because of this, and I find myself unable to enjoy the resolution of Other Guy and Honeymooners because I’m still not sure that the complete acceptance of each other that they had in seasons 1/2 is back or not. Following Other Guy, it’s going to be much harder to address this problem, but I don’t think we will have Chuck and Sarah back until it is solved.

      • rb says:

        “Sarah should have made her decision regarding Chuck before finding out what happened in Final Exam.”

        What makes you think she had not? I thought it was pretty made clear that Sarah was going with Chuck even before Casey told her what really happened.

        * Her smile when Chuck mentioned Mexico
        * The picture of her and Chuck on the night stand
        * Her comment to Casey that it’s not necessary to plead Chucks case.

      • Crumby says:

        The discussion has been made several times here, and I think it’s fair to say that Sarah’s decision to go or not with Chuck before Casey’s revelation wasn’t clearly stated, but was let to viewers’ interpretation.

      • rb says:

        Well I think that it could not have been made any more clear, especially with Sarahs comment to Casey.

  2. FrancesM says:

    I’ve been lurking here for months and never felt compelled to post a comment before. But I read this line five times and cried the last four times:

    “They seemed to love and trust each other most when no one else would have thought to do it at all.”

    That may be the single most amazing line about a couple, real or fictional, that I have ever read.

    Amazing. Thank you, Liz.

    • joe says:

      Chuck and Sarah matter. How they are portrayed matters. That’s because they are the best of what we are and what we hope to be, as individuals, as couples and as an extended national family. Our dreams are wrapped up in how they act, how they treat each other and everyone else around them.

      I fancy myself a decent writer, for someone who’s essentially been a techie all his adult life. But when I read this, I realized that I’m just an amateur. Liz often seems able to see clearly things that are barely ghosts in my own consciousness. This quote in particular is something I’ve felt for 48 episodes and could only express poorly.

      Frances, I’m glad you came out of lurking. Let me encourage you to continue commenting!

    • lucian says:

      Liz – you have articulated what I loved about this show; it inspired me – as a person, a father, a husband… (a well told hero’s journey will do that). I’m hoping they can recapture some of that magic again.

  3. The shrink says:

    I agree amazing post Liz. Maybe the rest of season 3 can teach us forgiveness. Much like you I did abandon the show during tbtb striping the gears of our porche as I got tired of seeing the illogical path they took us down by their sloppy writing. Much like chuck and Sarah tbtb lost sight of what made they great. The cruel hard fact is that it will cost them and us the show that we love so much. Hopefully like you and I Liz the rest of the chucksters will come back and get the ratings up. If not we still have Omaha.

  4. HenryH says:

    Liz, this is awesome, of course. And I know you were using it as a rallying cry to look forward. But I do think your point about the failure of season 3 is worth examining a bit more.

    We’re apparently supposed to view Season 3 (among other things) as Chuck struggling for his soul while learning to harness his powers.

    I never saw that struggle. More to the point, I don’t think it was there. Chuck as a facile liar? Hello, he was lying for two seasons and he’ll be lying when they come back to Burbank. Part of the situation they created and for two seasons his deceptive abilities were seen as a strength.

    Chuck doing things on missions (pulling Casey’s tooth, burning Manoosh) that were nasty? He’s ALWAYS seen as reluctant and remorseful and doing it only as the last resort.

    Chuck as dangerous? As early as Pink Slip, we see that he can control himself even with Emmett. The only times he actually lost control was when he was drugged (Tic Tac) or drunk (Other Guy).

    So if we don’t see Chuck’s terrible burdens, then Sarah’s angst over them is phony, too. Moreover, all the crap they put into the Sarah character because of it also rings phony.

    We saw 13 episodes of manipulation, deus ex machina and hard-to-swallow ret-cons of established canon. And it ALL seemed to be aimed at tearing down Chuck and Sarah so Chuck could be redeemed and Sarah could be saved.

    In a show like Chuck, we want our heroes happy and relatively pristine. It is amazing that TPTB forgot (or ignored) that.

  5. Paul says:

    “So if we don’t see Chuck’s terrible burdens, then Sarah’s angst over them is phony, too. Moreover, all the crap they put into the Sarah character because of it also rings phony.”

    I disagree with this. WE as the audience may see that her fears are unfounded by the examples you provided, but the CHARACTER is not omnipotent like we are. To the charcter, those are very real issues, whether we agree with her or not.

    • HenryH says:

      Sorry, Paul, doesn’t wash. We can only judge on what we see. We can only judge Sarah on what we see. She sees what we see of Chuck.

      Dangerous, creepy Chuck isn’t on the screen. There’s no reference to stuff we don’t know about Chuck that Sarah might know.

      So it’s crap and it’s phony.

    • BeCoolBoy says:

      Paul, I would have to agree with HenryH here. You can only sympathize with Sarah’s plight if you can understand it. Being worried about Chuck changing plays only if we can SEE what she is worried about.

      Besides, Sarah’s plight as defined through the Red Test is also implausible because they undercut it. Not only do we hear her say she had decided not to do it, they have her doing it only in self-defense. So her fears for Chuck (and her loathing of herself) are not plausible.

      Shaw was, ultimately, crazy. And disposable. So as badly handled as his character became, his damage to the mythology is limited. He’s gone.

      But what they did to Chuck and Sarah (not even talking about the romance here) was very hurtful to the characters. And when you damage your lead characters, you hurt your show. It’s terrible storytelling.

      And I think you’ll see TPTB essentially admit to this in the back six. You won’t hear about the Red Test again. Sarah will agree to remain a spy in a heartbeat. She’ll go back to being the Season 1/2 Sarah as if nothing happened. And while Chuck will continue to struggle with being a spy (hero), it’ll all be about the physical toll of the Intersect.

      IMHO, it’ll be as if the first 13 issues of angst and melodrama never happened.

      • Crumby says:

        Sarah actually never knew if it was self defense or not. She could have killed her because the woman was taking a tissue in her purse.
        And even though it wasn’t exactly cold blood assassination, she can still feel bad about it. I mean why not? That day had changed her and that’s what she didn’t want to happen to Chuck.

      • BeCoolBoy says:

        Crumby, feeling bad about it? Sure. That is fine. But to call it “the worst day of my life” and then use it to judge the man you love when he is in a similar situation? Ridiculous.

        And that is part of the overall problem with Season 3, too. They don’t want to break the “Sarah rule,” so the Sarah-Shaw relationship is bizarre and convoluted. They DON’T want to show Sarah’s Red Test as a cold-blooded assasination, so they fuzz it up, but try to leave in the loathing.

        I’m pretty sure that’s what liz meant about a poor story being badly told. It’s not just that the story was bad, but it was really badly executed for a long list of reasons.

      • Crumby says:

        BeCoolBoy I completely agree that the story was badly told.

        I just disagree on the red test thing.

        IMO it was “the worst day of her life” not only because it was her first kill (and we gave a huge importance to Chuck’s first kill) but also because it’s basically the only kill she can’t really justified.
        Sarah knows she has to kill in her job. She has been fine with it. We saw that. But here she never knew why she had to kill her, who she was, etc.

        I don’t think she used it to judge Chuck. In her mind, Chuck could never do that (and she was right). And the fact that he would was the ultimate proof that he was gone.

      • Chuck604 says:

        What is the “Sarah rule”? I’m not entirely clear on that at all.

      • JC says:

        The writers were to afraid to pull the trigger on dark Chuck, so he always had an out. The same goes with Sarah/Shaw relationship.

      • Josh says:

        Chuck604

        Sarah rule is she doesn’t have sex with anybody except Chuck

        Chuck Rule is he doesn’t say I love you to anybody except Sarah

        That’s IF you believe in that kinda thing … IMO both rules are mostly fanmade

      • Chuck604 says:

        Thanks Josh. Really? Who made those rules up, it would be nice to think that. However, it would be way too idealistic for reality. Especially if people are ignoring pass history.

      • joe says:

        Chuck604, I think Josh has got the rule right, but there’s a nuance. It’s really that they’ll never come right out and say unequivocally that Sarah has had sex with another character. They may very well leave us to infer that, if we’re so inclined. But if our inclination is to leave that part of the story “out of mind”, we’ll be allowed to do so.

        I have a feel that it’s not done that way just “for the children”, either. It’s a way to let more people see themselves in the characters, no matter who “we” are.

      • Faith says:

        I did. I came up with it 😉

      • Chuck604 says:

        Ah I see, it kind of makes sense. The aspect kind of adds a little something that makes the relationship between Chuck and Sarah more ‘profound’ I guess.

      • Chuck604 says:

        An idealistic rule, not bad, but idealistic nonetheless.

  6. Jason says:

    liz – to me – this season sucked, I will not rewatch much if any of it, other than 3.13. But, I think you missed one thing, here is your quote:

    “Contrary to the belief of some Season 3 ret-conners, Chuck and Sarah were never innocents. They were never blind to each other’s flaws. In fact, they seemed to love and trust each other most when no one else would have thought to do it at all. I can’t speak for the sonnet writers or Father Rick, but that sounds like real, eyes-wide-open true love to me.”

    What you wrote is not in dispute, what this season is about is how much sarah disliked the cold blooded spy named sarah walker, and how much chuck disliked the underachieving loafer who ‘settled’. Sarah did not need chuck to change – she saw a hero in chuck and loved him -day 1, chuck did not need sarah to change for much the same reasons – but each of them needed to change their attitude about themselves.

    The cool thing about S3 (man I dread giving Fedak any credit) is sarah learned to live with herself – and chuck was able to see he was a hero.

    • Gabbo says:

      Jason:
      I think lizjames’ point was that cold-blooded killer Sarah and self-loathing Chuck were inventions of season 3.

      In Seasons 1 and 2, Chuck wanted nothing more than to go back to what liz called “Average American” Chuck. That was the GOAL of the first two years. And while Sarah sometimes wondered about a “normal” life, she was always presented as a dedicated warrior who, unlike Casey, brought thinking and compassion to her job.

      • Jason says:

        Gabbo – we are going to have to diagree. I am not sure even that was liz’s point, I guess she can speak to that?

        mauser in S1 / S2 – was probably the single most chilling thing in the entire show so far?

        little doubt chuck was a loafer in S1 / S2 also, Ellie was on his case about doing more? Sarah getting him a stanford degree. The quips with jill about working at the buymore. I am not an expert on S1 / S2, but my guess there are dozens of things.

        I do agree with you about S3 inventing lots of things, I hated it. I also think both CS characters were compromised severely.

        Did I mention I did not like season 3 very much?

      • Gaboo says:

        Jason, I don’t disagree that Chuck was an underachiever in Seasons 1/2. But it certainly never defined his character. That was the point, IMHO, of his always stepping up to be a hero. In the venacular of the show, he had lost his “mojo,” but Sarah knew he was always “that guy” (a hero) even when Chuck didn’t think so.

        As I think liz was pointing out, Chuck and Sarah always saw beyond each others’ flaws. They were always heroes in each others’ (and our) eyes. And we always liked the Chuck that Sarah saw and always liked the Sarah that Chuck saw.

        And I know you didn’t like the third season, either. 🙂

      • Gaboo says:

        Jason:
        I agree the Mauser incident was the most chilling. And it could have been an interesting story thread, but they swept it under the rug.

        I’ve actually been meaning to go back to Sarah’s justification of her decision in Third Dimension. Is the “I did what I had to do” line Chuck uses in the final scene or 13 a repeat of Sarah’s justification of Mauser? I don’t have my discs at hand so I can’t check…

      • Crumby says:

        Yes that’s the same line.

        “I did what I had to. He knew who you really were. Your whole family was in danger.”

        Nice parallel with: “I couln’t let him hurt you Sarah. Trust me I did what I had to do.”

    • lizjames says:

      Jason: I guess my point was that the Chuck we came to know (and love) was NOT defined by his job. Of course he was an underachiever at work. But Americans like people who step up. As for Sarah, well, the point that made her likable was that she wasn’t Casey. She thought before she acted and she never just followed orders. Even her cold-blooded incident with Mauser, which I admit was distressing and was MEANT to be distressing, came from her belief that it was the right thing.

      For me, I put it in the crazy-in-love Sarah category along with LongShore, running with Chuck at the end of First Kill and then proposing the runaway in Pink Slip. What’s out of character for crazy-in-love Sarah was NOT doing something drastic after Three Words…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Hey Liz, great post and wonderful thoughts, as usual. I may work up a post with some more ideas, but for the most part I agree with a lot, OK, most of what you said. My take on it written around The Mask is here. I have a bit of a different perspective on the larger story as we’ve discussed, outside how well executed it was. But one point I think we need to make about Sarah and Chuck.

        In s1/s2 Chuck did not control his destiny. Sarah did. The intersect essentially made Chuck government property, and we saw again and again that Chuck was only safe with Sarah’s repeated intervention, starting with the pilot. Sure Chuck could call in the occasional favor, but he was really only safe as long as Sarah could protect him (the Mauser incident) and keep him cooperating and the government happy. Crazy in love Sarah happens when the government is about to take Chuck, and she knows what happens to assets without someone who cares to protect them. So no, Sarah never loathed what she did, but for two years she was at war with the spy world to keep Chuck out of it. And then he CHOSE to join it. Crazy in love Sarah would possibly have shot Longshore if Chuck hadn’t talked her down, because Chuck was being taken against his will, but notice how Chuck talked Sarah down. He accepted his fate and gave her a mission to make it alright with his family and friends. At the end of Three Words and Nacho Sampler Sarah is watching Chuck embark on a path he chose to take, she’s not watching a hapless unaware Chuck be shipped off to a bunker.

      • Merve says:

        Why didn’t Sarah do anything at the end of “Three Words?” Because she was still hurt about what happened in Prague.

        Why did the Prague incident happen in “Pink Slip?” Because Sarah and Chuck didn’t communicate properly on Devon and Ellie’s wedding day.

        Why didn’t Sarah and Chuck communicate properly in “Ring?” Because they made assumptions after what happened while they were on the run.

        Why were Sarah and Chuck on the run in “Colonel?” Because Chuck let Jill go, putting his life in danger, so the government wanted to take him underground.

        Why was Jill around in “First Kill?” Because Chuck wanted to rescue his father.

        Why was Chuck’s father captured in “Dream Job?” Because he built the Intersect, and he had come out into the open after Sarah found him.

        Why did Sarah find Chuck’s father in “Broken Heart?” Because Chuck was looking for his father.

        Why had Chuck been looking for his father since “Sensei?” Because Ellie wanted her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.

        Why was Ellie getting married? Because Devon proposed to her in “Marlin.”

        So really, this entire mess is Devon’s fault. You should blame him.

      • JC says:

        I know this TV story telling 101 but the fact that neither Casey or Sarah brought up the issue of the Red Test until Final Exam boggles my mind.

        Clearly we see it was a defining moment in Sarah’s life. Casey knows Chuck isn’t wired that way. Yet neither of them thought to bring it up while training Chuck to be a “real spy”. Did they think he was going to get a free pass on that.

      • lizjames says:

        Ernie: You know I love you, but what you wrote–Sarah is “at war with the spy world to keep Chuck out of it”–is not correct. It’s dangerously close to an unsupported ret-con.

        In Seasons 1/2, Sarah is at war with the spy world whenever she thinks Beckman or someone else is gonna throw Chuck into a deep, dark hole. She always urges Chuck to let her handle the icky stuff, too. But she NEVER, EVER tells Chuck he shouldn’t be a spy or shouldn’t step up whenever he has to do his job.

        In fact, the whole point of Season 3 is that Chuck is being a spy because Sarah felt it was a higher calling and he loves Sarah and is doing it for her/to be with her. (Not sure which of these TPTB mean, because it changes from episode to episode to suit their needs…)

        So we can argue the Platform scene forever, but we know we aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. I don’t see what the point is, frankly. We’re both exhausted by it.

        As for the Three Words scene, you always conveniently ignore the dramatically changed circumstances from even Pink Slip. In Three Words, Chuck has heard for the first time that Sarah LOVES him (present tense) and Sarah hears Chuck say for the first time that Chuck LOVES her (present tense). And while we can say the three words don’t matter, you run into the problem of TPTB hanging the ENTIRE reconciliation in Other Guy on Chuck asking Sarah about it.

        But, again, like the Platform scene, we’ve argued it to death. Whose mind will be changed? Probably no one’s.

        Honest, the point of my post was to try to address the larger issues of why Chuck and Sarah speak to us and to set the outline of how TPTB should handle those characters going forward.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Liz, “At war” may be a bit much, but clearly Sarah is walking a fine line of loyalties, and every time it comes to a real test, she sides with Chuck. The icky stuff? Why does she prefer to handle it and tell Chuck not to get used to deception, to leave it to her? Yes, she also encourages him, in very general terms. You can do anything you want, not you could be a spy.

        Clearly I’ll need to do a post on this, but I want to point out one thing about the platform scene. EVERYTHING in that scene is practically screaming Chuck has changed. From the clothes, to the hairstyle, to the confident walk, it is one thing about that scene that worked well. It is VERY clear this is not the same Chuck.

      • lizjames says:

        Ernie: Again, it’s hard to ret-con Season 3 sensibilities on Season 2. Not just this spy stuff, either. I’m having REAL trouble with the claim that Sarah fell for Chuck in the pilot. I see a lot of things in the pilot. But love? Smells like a ret-con to me, too.

        As for your comment about Chuck having changed when we see him on the platform, I agree completely. But, careful here: If you’re selling a tougher, stronger, more determined, more focused Chuck, you then have trouble claiming that he wouldn’t be more determined in keeping Sarah with him. He’s the new Chuck in everything but how we interacts with the woman he loves? Hard to sell.

        See, that’s the problem. In my opinion, they couldn’t write a plausible scenario where Chuck abandons Sarah or Sarah walks away from Chuck. It’s probably part of the reason why they went for a non-linear format in the episode. Using a direct pick-up from the last scene of Ring to the post-Ring let’s run away to three weeks later Chuck walks away from Sarah in Prague would be unsaleable.

      • Merve says:

        “She fell for him” and “she fell in love with him” are two very different things.

  7. Crumby says:

    What’s also amazing in the show is that all the other characters know how great Chuck and Sarah are two. Ellie and Morgan have always known who Chuck was even when he felt like a loser working at a buy more. They always knew what he was capable of, and kept reminding him about it.

    Also, Sarah has always been seen as “unironically speaking” Awesome by Chuck family and friends even though they practicaly has known nothing about her. And she doesn’t really seem to have more a better 5 years plan than Chuck, she serves Yoghurt.

    And finally, of course everyone in the show has seen that together they were unstoppable and at their best.

    • AngelTwo says:

      Crumby-
      As far back as Helicopter, Ellie was pitching Sarah to Chuck as “special.” Yet as far as Ellie knows, this is a girl selling yogurt. If they choose to keep Ellie in the dark for long, it is going to be interesting to see Ellie trying to push Chuck and Sarah into doing more with their lives. How is she going to balance how these people with such potential are working dead-end jobs?

      • atcdave says:

        So far in S3 the subject has been ignored. Perhaps Chuck’s melt-down after loosing Sarah in Pink Slip has left Ellie thinking Buy More Chuck is better than catatonic Chuck.

        But it is funny Sarah has never been accused of being an underachiever in the same way Chuck is. Maybe being beautiful is all it really takes to be special! Or Ellie figures, the girl drives a Porsche so she must secretly be the owner of a major sports franchise. Or maybe Ellie means “special” in a different sense of the word, and thinks yogurt girl is all Sarah really is capable of.

      • Angel2 says:

        Dave-
        I’m convinced Ellie will be clued in somehow before the end of the year. If for no other reason than the last time TPTB said sometime would likely never happen (ie, finding out Sarah’s name), it happened. I note that lately they’ve said Ellie won’t find out. So she probably will.

      • atcdave says:

        My suspicion has always been that Ellie wouldn’t find out about the whole “double life” thing until near the end of the series. But finding out about Sarah might be a separate issue. (although, I expect it would be a real sore point if she found out about Sarah only). Its been suggested elsewhere the whole neurology thing might tie into the intersect at some point, so perhaps Ellie’s days as an outsider will be ending sooner than I thought. So then is Chuck only keeping secrets from the Buy Morons (I guess they represent the world at large)?

      • Merve says:

        I might be misremembering something, but I think that in a recent interview, Chris Fedak implied that Ellie wouldn’t be finding out about Chuck’s secret this season; he heavily hinted that it would be something that would happen towards the end of the series.

        If I were to go out on a limb into Crazy Speculation Land, I’d guess that in Season 4, the Intersect starts to affect Chuck’s brain. So of course, Chuck must seek CIA medical help. The CIA sends Chuck’s brain scans to the top neurologist in the country, who happens to be Ellie’s supervisor at her fellowship, but Chuck’s name is redacted from the medical records for the sake of national security. Ellie and her supervisor examine the brain scans, unaware that they’re looking at scans of Chuck’s brain.

  8. BeCoolBoy says:

    Liz, wonderful, wonderful post. I also think it puts the lie to this “crazy shipper” meme and the claim that the only critics of season 3 are those who didn’t see its greatness because we were obsessed with the relationship. That was never true and I am glad you showed the larger problem with the season.

    But I wanted to raise this issue, which you touched on briefly in the post. As far back as the pilot, Chuck understood that having the intersect made him able to control his own destiny.

    But why do TPTB never play that card? It could be a great source of humor, drama and conflict. Chuck has what the government needs and if he shuts it down or refuses to share what he knows, the government is SOL.

    Yet Chuck spent most of all three seasons cowering from Beckman rather than playing his trump card.

    We really do need more “You…need me” moments.

    • Merve says:

      They didn’t do that because Chuck isn’t Manoosh. Chuck is a good guy who does what’s right. (But of course, since Manoosh was part of the “execrable” season 3, I guess that that notion isn’t valid.)

    • amyabn says:

      First off, great post Liz! BCB, I agree about the trump card. I can actually see both Chuck and Sarah having to play it on Beckman in the upcoming episode. Beckman may well want Sarah to report to DC still. It would be nice to see her (Sarah) stand up to Beckman for once.

      Getting back to the original theme of Liz’s post, I have to say that the storytelling was poor and we never fully “got” that Sarah had turned into a self-loathing person. I never understood the whole “I have to be a spy so I can get the girl” bit either. The first two seasons were all about getting the intersect out, then Chuck switches and does a 180 (I understand the re-intersecting) and HAS to be a spy.
      We will never be able to undo the damage done, so I choose not to watch those episodes. Childish? Maybe. But I think the back six will bring the characters back to where they should have been all along, and much (like Mauser) will be swept under the rug for yet another retcon. I can live with that, only because most of this season rings false with me.

    • BeCoolBoy says:

      You missed the point, Merve. Controlling your own destiny and pushing back against the bureaucracy, as Chuck did in the pilot to make sure he wasn’t put in a tank, is not being Manoosh.

      Or do you not understand the difference betwen Manoosh, who tried to use his version of the Internet for profit, and Chuck, who is trying to make sure his life isn’t rolled over by the bureaucracy?

      • Crumby says:

        Chuck never played that card to save himself. He only did it for his family and friends.

        In the Pilot, his “you need me” his triggered by his “you have to leave my family and friends out of this” to which Casey ansewered “we’ll see”.

        He kind of saved Morgan from being put underground with this too. “You need the Intersect, and I need him”

      • Merve says:

        I’m with Crumby on this one. Even in “Seduction,” when he does “play that card,” so to speak, it’s for Devon and Ellie.

      • BeCoolBoy says:

        Merve, hence the point: Chuck can control his destiny and he uses it to protect himself and the people he loves from harm, either from bad guys or from an overwhelming bureaurcracy. Manoosh was a financial opportunist.

        My initial point was very simple: It’s a good card to play for Chuck. Rather than let himself get pushed around by Beckman and Shaw and the authority of the moment, you want to see him use his position from time to time to force the bureaucracy to do the right thing.

        You were the one who brought the specious Manoosh straw man into this.

      • Merve says:

        Which is exactly what he does. Sorry, I misinterpreted what you said. I thought that you wanted Chuck to be pushier with regards to his demands of the government. I think that what we’ve gotten is fine. If he pushes them too much, then he ends up in Manoosh territory.

    • atcdave says:

      There’s a lot of times I would have liked to see Chuck play the “you need me” card that he didn’t. They’ve moved past it in some ways, by elevating him to agent. The most obvious aplication to me that they never used would have been Chuck saying “I will help in any way I can, with only the condition I get to choose my own handlers.” Given his utterly unique special talents, it shouldn’t have been that hard to insist Sarah remain assigned to him regardless of how “compromised” Beckman might feel she was. Seriously, from Beckman’s perspective, she wouldn’t trust Walker if a kill order were needed anyway (she’d assign someone else to the task); but who would be a better bodygaurd than crazy-in-love Sarah.

      Its one of those illogical situations we lived with in S1 and S2 because the show was fun. But, as I said, the story has moved past that sort of situation now.

  9. Angel2 says:

    It’s getting harder and harder to tell when TPTB are speaking the truth about their intentions. I don’t mean that totally as a criticism because logically they have to promote the show and defend the storyline even when it is being roundly criticized.

    But if current meme on the show arc (Fedak claiming that the entire season was designed to put Chuck and Sarah together in Paris in the last scene) is true, then the failure of the season is easy to understand.

    They created 13 episodes of angst and obstances and blind alleys and misdirections to fill up the time. They did it badly and didn’t seem to have any other overarching objectives (Was Chuck being trained to go autonomous or run a team? Did the Ring want Shaw dead or did they want to turn him?) to guide them. They did whatever was expedient for an episodes (and sometimes even for just a few scenes) because they just didn’t have enough material to delay the “payoff.”

    And it shows you that the craziest shippers of all were TPTB. They wrote an entire season to get to one romance scene even while the see-no-evil types were claiming fans were wrong to stress the relationship over everything else.

    Turns out there was no there there. Just a relationship conclusion that TPTB were determined to string out for 13 episodes.

    • atcdave says:

      And we still know almost nothing about the Ring…

      You are completely right Angeltwo, the entire payoff was about the relationship. TPTB made the show entirely about the relationship this season. And then made fun of fans who became pre-occupied with it.

  10. cas says:

    If only we can get Fedak and company to read the reviews from this site….

    • joe says:

      Don’t you spoil my fantasies that they do, Cas! 😉

      • cas says:

        yeah I’ve been thinking about that since I read his last interview. If only Joe, Ernie, and especially Liz has done the interview then maybe I would been able to see If can truly forgive them for season 3. I think I was too emotionally invested (if thats even a word)in the show that even 3:13 didn’t satistfy me because it didn’t really answer a lot of the questions I had. Anyway, I won’t make that same mistake again so I can fully enjoy 3:14 and so on

  11. Zsjaer says:

    Enjoyed reading your post Liz..that is why i feel so angry about this Season..because Chuck and Sarah matter. They were special and what made this show so different…i couldn t believe how the writers could go from brilliant to awful with this Season. I refused to believe that could be possible. Now let´s see if we can really forgive.

    • lizjames says:

      Zsjaer: Well, you know, what stunned me, strictly from the quality of writing standpoint, was 7 and 8.

      My personal all-time favorite Chuck episode is Suburbs, written by Phil Klemmer. He specializes in misdirections and things aren’t what they seem kind of scripts. Yet Mask was a mess.

      And who doesn’t love Ali Adler? Wookie, Cougars, Best Friend are all among everyone’s favorite. Yet Fake Name was dreadful.

      So when you have a season-wide failure and yet it comes from proven writers, you have to think that it is the story arc creating most of the problems. In serialized storytelling like Chuck, the individual writers often are cogs moving a bigger wheel rather than focusing on their personal writing strengths.

      • JC says:

        Liz do you think some of the problems could be attributed to rewrites as the season progressed. I’m no expert on the TV writing process but I can’t help but think a lot of things were changed as the season progressed.

      • lizjames says:

        JC-
        I don’t know. We can make some guesses. Fake Name as shown on screen does not match the casting call. The assassin had an italian name and called for a great physical resemblence to Levi. Obviously, that was different. The name of the episode was changed, too, which would indicate to me the name reveal was added.

        But you often don’t know about rewrites and emphasis changes until and unless the writers and showrunners talk about the process. These guys don’t really talk about the process…

  12. Gord says:

    An interesting take on Chuck, Sarah and S3. I still think there were some good episodes in S3. I have about half a dozen S3 episodes I consider amongst my favourites and have a slightly different perspective on S3.

    Even heroes will have their moments of doubt, and I fully understood the direction the characters took. In fact, with the exception of the Mask episode, I really didn’t get upset with the story line until the end of Final Exam. After that stake-out date and the Orange Orange scene it seemed rediculous to have Sarah do such a complete 180 at the end.

    I could understand Sarah being upset because Chuck killed, I could understand her doubting if she could still love him, but instead of telling Shaw about her own red test she should have been telling Chuck. She of all people should have understood how Chuck would be feeling about his red test (if he had actually done it)and would know he needed a friend to talk to.

    Finally, being from north of the border, I would like to point out that the example being set by Chuck and Sarah does not just apply to Americans. It is an example that transcends borders. Selfless acts of heroism are admired everywhere.

    • lizjames says:

      Gord: First the easy part. I thought it presumptuous to suggest that a US citizen (me) could speak for Canadian hearts and minds. Some of the show’s themes are universal, but it’s a mistake to think that other cultures, even two as entwined as ours, would see things the same way.

      As for Season 3, I looked at it two ways: Through the romance filter, then strictly as a spy dramedy. And the harder I looked, frankly, the less I liked the season.

      Only 3,4,5 work without issue for me and 7,8,11 are unfixable disasters.

      Pink Slip is destroyed by non-linear storytelling and the Platform scene. I can’t accept that an entire season was hung on Prague and we didn’t get more of it–regardless of what TPTB had in mind. Besides, Chuck wasn’t even shown having to choose. He decided before he got there. That’s the biggest problem to me. Chuck UNILATERALLY decided to give up Sarah. I can’t see it happening. Fighting for her and losing her? Yes. Sarah walking away? Yes. But Chuck saying to himself, “Well, you know, I guess I want to be a spy after all, so when Sarah comes I better just tell her I won’t go with her and walk away.” Absurd. Laughable. And about 40 other adjectives I can think of.

      Three Words and Nacho Sampler are ruined by the endings. I cannot accept in either situation that Sarah would do nothing. In Three Words, she has now seen the man she’s loved for 2+ years say he LOVES (present tense) her for the first time. And that he is headed off on a path she despises and she set him on. She does nothing? Impossible. In Nacho Sampler, I can’t imagine her not trying to talk with Chuck about his distress. It isn’t plausible for her as lover, friend or even just colleague.

      Beard would have been fine if they hadn’t let the five minutes Sarah bought Chuck expire. That forces it into the Sarah abandonment territory. Tic Tac has that awful scene where Chuck and Sarah do nothing as Beckman destroys Casey. And while I get it is a setup for what is to come, it is a mirror image of Colonel, where Casey DOES save Sarah (and Chuck’s) bacon. It probably could have been done if the Beckman-Casey interaction was private. But Beckman sliced and diced Casey in front of Chuck and Sarah and they gave up on him. Hideous.

      Which leaves 12 and 13. I’m okay with them by and large. But they have to work so hard to establish so much that they don’t hold together. It’s like slamming all the parts of a jigsaw puzzle with a hammer. You got where you wanted, but it’s weird looking.

      • herder says:

        Liz, don’t worry about the American vs others thing, we all hope for the best for our children and want them to be like admirable characters, it is a universal theme. Personally, I haven’t posted in reply to you article not because I disagree in any way but rather how many ways can you say “I agree with what she said”. Sort of like the Chris Farley skit on SNL – remember when you said that season three was way off base…that was great”.

      • joe says:

        Liz, someday you and I are going to have an amazing discussion about the male vs. female dynamic. I can see that coming, and honestly, I really look forward to it.

        I can accept the end of Nacho Sampler, but I think it’s a guy-thing. For me, Sarah could do nothing, and the best thing for her to do is nothing. There’s a colloquial term for it that used to be popular. Chuck’s crawled into his man-cave, and the worst thing Sarah could have done at that moment was try to enter it. That’s sort of simplistic and crass, but it shows the point. If Sarah knew anything at all about Chuck at that point in their relationship, she knew he needed his moment alone to escape, not just from his actions but from what he had learned about her. She should have known that, and I believe she did.

      • atcdave says:

        I’m with Liz on this Joe; I thought it was one of Sarah’s lowest moments of the season. Even if they were only friends she should have been there for him.

      • lizjames says:

        Joe: I’d make only two points about this.

        1) Chuck doesn’t have a man cave. And him drinking is UNHEARD of, too. (In fact, there is that funny season in season 1 when she asks Chuck, “Since when do you drink martinis?” and he answers: “I don’t but Charles Carmichael loves them.” But you do raise a fascinating point about personal space going forward. I wonder if we’ll see Chuck and Sarah fighting over accommodations going forward. Neither of them (Chuck a life-long border, Sarah who calls a hotel “her personal residence”) are exactly experienced here…

        2) Chuck has NEVER been bothered by Sarah’s spy presence. And he wasn’t dismissive of her personally when she offered to burn Manoosh for him. I think we should be careful: We’re told Sarah hates what she thinks she’s done to Chuck, but we never see Chuck resentful of Sarah’s getting him into the spy life. I mean, I think I’m comfortable with saying that. But I ain’t a guy.

      • Russ says:

        I think Sarah let Chuck deal with his emotions alone for two reasons.First,Shaw told her and Casey to stop coddling him.Second it would have made her feelings exposed again.

      • joe says:

        I can almost agree with that about Chuck, Liz. But somehow, Chuck turning to drink when he did, the way he did, struck me as totally believable. It was one of Chuck’s evolutions, I think.

        What I find interesting in this, is that you (and Dave!) see Sarah as unbelievable in the scene and I agree with that. But I happened to focus on Chuck at that moment, and found him totally credible. We were concentrating on different things.

        Here’s a question that you got me thinking about in your response. It’s quite right that Chuck never resented that Sarah got him into the spy life. That’s not him. But it would not surprise me at all if he didn’t show some resentment about something at some point. Quite the contrary. It would be strange to me if he didn’t.

        Chuck is pretty much type A, isn’t he? He lets out his frustrations in small bursts. But Chuck-the-Spy, Charles Carmichael, isn’t. I’m not sure he’s type B yet, holding it in until the explosion, but he tends to that I suspect.

        Ack! I shouldn’t even try to psychoanalyse fictional characters! 😉

    • Zsjaer says:

      “I would like to point out that the example being set by Chuck and Sarah does not just apply to Americans. It is an example that transcends borders. Selfless acts of heroism are admired everywhere.”

      No doubt about that.

  13. JustSayin' says:

    This is the first time I ever felt the desire to post a comment about a TV show. This may be the most generous and optimistic view of a show that has fallen on hard times that I have ever seen. I applaud Liz for so wonderfully describing why we cared about Chuck in the first place, why it was so disappointing this year and why, despite all the bad things, we hope for redemption.

    Chuck and Sarah do matter. They really do. I never understood why I let them affect me before. But I do understand after reading this. So thank you Liz for seeing things so clearly and exhorting the creative team to live up to their best, not their base, instincts.

    • joe says:

      Hi, JS. This is the first time I’ve blogged about a show, too. Or participated in any sort of fan activity.

      The very best thing about it was discovering that I wasn’t in it all alone.

  14. The shrink says:

    Useless chuck info
    did you know. Chuck birthday is 9-18-1981…. He lived in Stanford ct.. And got kick out of Stanford with a 2.8 GPA…
    Amazing what you can pick up on the 20th viewing of season 1

    • joe says:

      You’ve always had an encyclopediac knowledge of the show, Shrink!

      I find this kind of info very cool. Someday I’m going to go through all the flashes in slo-mo to see what they tell me in detail.

      • The shrink says:

        You trying to say I don’t have a life. Raining today in Michigan no golf so chuck. Man I need to find a lac(life after chuck).

      • joe says:

        Weeeelllll…
        In my own inimitable fashion, I was trying to say “Hi, again! Lotz of people here remember you from our NBC-Board Dayz, and we’re all really, really impressed with what you’ve always brought to the table, Shrink.”

        But that was a horrible, run-on sentence, so I shortened it to “encyclopediac knowledge”. 😉

    • lucian says:

      I’m guessing he was a 3.8+ student until he met Jill. Love will do that to a nerd in school (I speak with great authority from a long, long time ago).

      • Ernie Davis says:

        typically in an expulsion scenario, for cheating (speaking as a former professor) when one cannot either withdraw, or complete classes, and say one is given an F for cheating, well one full semester of F’s can play havoc with a GPA.

      • weaselone says:

        Well, we know that Chuck has his academic strengths and weaknesses. Computers, programming, electrical engineering, etc. would be strengths. Biology and biochemistry would be weaknesses. Probably other natural sciences and some of his core classes as well. So a 2.8 isn’t unreasonable when you factor in the full semester of F’s which he would have received in his final semester.

    • cas says:

      Wasn’t Chuck on a full academic scholarship program? If so, don’t you need atleast a 3.5 to stay in the program?

  15. Chuck604 says:

    The thing that I like that liz touched on is that Chuck and Sarah, despite all their flaws, bring out the best in one another. There isn’t a thing that either of them won’t do for the other in any situation, which kind of makes this season frustrating, the multitude of OOC moments over the course of season 3.

  16. kg says:

    Wonderfully brilliant and insightful, Liz. Unequivocally agree with just about every word. Enjoyed reading it.

  17. The shrink says:

    My god he got a b in bowling. How do you get a b in bowling?

  18. Rick Holy says:

    Wow. Don’t “check in” for a couple of days and you miss a lot! Wonderful post, Liz – as always.

    I’ll be presumptious here and speak for “the viewing public.” Why do we watch TV? To be entertained, sure. To take our mind off our problems, sure. (Because we’ve forgotten that books exist, sure). But no matter why we watch what we watch on TV, I think when we plant ourselves on the couch and click on that remote, we want what we watch to exemplify/illustrate/demonstrate (plug in whatever word you want) what we value and hold dear in life. Things like the importance of family, real friendship, honesty, integrity, etc., etc.

    Yes, I know there are shows that some of us may watch where we just want to laugh our behinds off (I admit it, I watch South Park because it’s just d**n funny. But when I watch South Park, I know it’s satire, so I don’t expect things from it like I do from the other shows that I watch).

    For me – and I think this echoes what Liz is saying – the problem with this season was that the way it was written, the characters – specifically Chuck and Sarah – on a number of occasions “let me down” by letting each other down. The Chuck and Sarah that we came to know in Seasons 1 and 2 – who were there for each other, who sacrificed for each other, who put the other first, etc., – that Chuck and Sarah seemed to be so often missing in Season 3. I think part of the reason for the ratings drop is not necessarily the excessive presence of Shaw, but the fact that the two main characters became “less likeable.”

    I think – TBTG – that we’ve (meaning TPTB) have moved past that now – at least by the loooks of the previews for the upcoming episodes. I’m thinking (and hoping) that we’ll have back the Chuck and Sarah who not only fell in love with each other during seasons 1 and 2, but the Chuck and Sarah that WE fell in love with during seasons 1 and 2.

    If the whole, “you need to read the whole book” concept that came from Schwartz or Fedak or whoever applies, then much of this season has just been a bad chapter in an otherwise good book. I only hope that it’s not too late, and that not too many who were reading the first part of the book either returned it to the library or threw it in the trash. Time (and the Nielsen’s) will tell. It’d just be a shame to see the show die now – now when it seems like it’s getting back to what made us fall in love with it in the first place.

    • joe says:

      That’ll learn ya, Fr. Rick. Stay away too long and you fall behind! 😉

      I had a funny thought when I read your words. I realized for the first time that this isn’t the usual kind of escapism I experience when I spent an hour a week in the Burbank Buy More. Well, maybe that 1 hr. is, but then I spend a good part of the week thinking about how events in my own life have weird parallels. Struggles, rejection, under-confidence, OVER-confidence, defeats and of course, some very unexpected victories,(especially to me). I’m hardly escaping, it seems. Just the opposite. It tends to inform my inclination to be introspective.

      Heh. I remember the first NBC promos for Chuck that I saw prior to the pilot. I would never have thought from those that this is the show I would get.

  19. Faith says:

    I’ve yet to read the comments so apologies in advance if this has already been said. This is the kind of stuff I missed from emailing back and forth with you Liz lol. I’ll get back to that soon as I get a minute lol but for now I’ll say this. This post brings me back to earth. For several reasons…

    1. There are excuses. I can list them out verbatim. I even have my own rationalization of what went wrong and why things had to be the way they are. But in the end they pale in comparison to one true fact: it just was not good storytelling. When you tell a good story there is no doubt, just like there was no doubt with seasons 1 and 2. The growth they evolved into were organic, the emotions they expressed genuine. Sure there were hiccups along the way but in the end you don’t find yourself more relieved than ecstatic. I was ecstatic in Colonel, I was relieved, albeit happy with Other Guy.

    2. In some ways I think we give too much credit TPTB. I say that more as a personal aside than anything. I expect them to tell a good story, I expect them to be adventurous in that story-telling, I expect them to funny, and I expect congruence within that story. It’s a very long and what I can only deem as pressure packed year…especially as it relates to the budge cuts. And in some ways the things that went wrong and the things that went right are a direct descendant of those cuts.

    3. In the end who they became (for a time) are forgettable. Hopefully forgettable, I chose to focus on who they will be from this moment on. And with what I’m seeing and with what I’m reading these are the people I want in my TV and dinner table from here on out.

    • Faith says:

      I also think there’s something to be said for TPTB overshooting their mark. They tried to write a dark, lasting tale and what they ended up with is one that showed they didn’t buy into their own theories. How often did it seem like things were getting better and then not? And how often did they go for the least common denominator in “dark” which is ending badly? Too often. And in the end some of us has had to lower our expectations lower and lower until we didn’t look forward to so much as lived with certain events.

      I have a very good contrasting story/TV show to this chapter blah of book blah. I watch Legend of the Seeker. It’s this syndicated TV Show about Richard Cypher who unbeknownst to him is the seeker of truth and that he has a destiny to be the world’s saviour many times over. He started out as an innocent, albeit heroic farm boy. But he grew to be a decisive and right leader. The story/plot itself is an adaptation of actual novels by Terry Goodkind. The series was called Sword of Truth and most of the elements were left out of the show but the story and the journey remained similar. Richard’s development most of all.

      Now you would think in this 22 episode 1st season (which was essentially book one of the series) you would feel left out and you’d find yourself wanting to close the book in “chapter 7” but no. They knew coming in that they COULDN’T do that. And so for the most part every episode ended as satisfactory as can be but the overarching story remained upmost.

      I bring this up in contrast to what they tried to do this season. They had good intentions, they had in my opinion (apart from the PLIs) a story I would have wanted told but the execution fell short. They didn’t believe what they were doing and the story showed that. There’s a very well saying in literature in which you write what you know, this isn’t what they knew and that’s why I and most of us found distasteful. Because in the end (for this season at least) these characters aren’t ones we wanted to know or examine.

      • russ says:

        I agree they went to the episode ending bad too many times.They said we are going in new territory, which is commendable.But it fell short with this show and these characters.Seeing the characters faults and failures make them relatable to the veiwer.But I agree they over shot the mark with dark drama.

  20. Robert Haar says:

    Well Joe, thanks for the welcome the other day. I
    took your advice and read Liz’s post and you were
    right. Excellent article, thanks Liz. Really appreciate your insights. Read all of the above
    comments and thanks to you all. Very interesting to
    read.

    I guess tthe main reason I got so angry with Season
    3 is what many of the above posters pointed out,
    poor story telling, making indirect fun of the audience, etc. However the main reason for me is
    what was so well pointed out above by various people. The main characters were changed radically
    in appearance, personality, motivation, and even
    hair styles. I know it sounds silly and picky but
    essentially TPTB took away what people had come to
    like and expect about the show with devasting consequences for any possibility of a 4th season.

    Of course the the show had to evolve for the characters to grow. I had no problem with that but
    as is pointed out above the execution was terrible
    at best and a complete disaster at worst simply in
    part it was done with virtually no consistency with
    what the viewers had come to know and like in
    Seasons 1 and 2. In going off on a completely different tangent without that consistency TPTB
    disrespected their audience and have paid the price.
    The very sad thing about all of this is that it could have been and should have been avoided.

    Hopefully the last 6 episodes will veer away from
    the previous 13 episodes and take us to a better
    place. I just hope it not too little, too late.

    Thanks again Liz, Joe, and all of the posters above.
    It’s a shame the TPTB don’t seem to appreciate their
    own show as much as all of you do. If they are lucky
    enough to get renewed they would be smart to read
    the posts on this site. I’m sure they could learn
    something worth while.

    • joe says:

      Absolutely, Robert.

      We (and me in particular) don’t demand that you pledge allegiance to the show or to Fedak and Schwartz or anything like that. I tend to believe that anyone who takes the time to follow the show and this blog AND makes the effort to comment likes something about the show (or else that person wouldn’t bother).

      What you’ll find here is a bunch of people who feel free to air their complaints but still understand that there is a common experience expressed here. One way or another, we all found something special in these characters.

      Personally, I give them a lot a leeway for that.

      Being intelligent and articulate, as you are Robert, only adds to the discussion and makes this blog a better read for all of us.
      So thanks!

  21. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why Chuck and Sarah Matter « Chuck This -- Topsy.com

  22. Impressed Jimmy says:

    That was very, very well-written and inspirational.
    I definitely think someone should send this link to Josh Schwartz through Twitter. (@JoshSchwartz76)

    • joe says:

      Hi, Jimmy. I’m falling behind in my reading here, but I wanted to greet you and say that I hope you continue to comment.

      I have a secret fantasy that those guys (Schwartz & Fedak) actually *have* taken a moment to read this blog. Sometimes the character’s dialog seems to be directed right at us! I know for a fact that Adam Baldwin has stopped by, which is a pretty cool thing.

      My goal: get Yvonne to read us! 😉

      • lucian says:

        Joe – on a different topic, I was thinking this morning of the role of train stations in Chuck as locations for significant events and conversations (replacing the fountain). It might be an interesting discussion.

      • weaselone says:

        That’s not uncommon. Crossroads of commerce and travel are often utilized as locales for significant dramatic events in literature, TV and film.

      • herder says:

        Lucien, my reaction to the train was a bit different. It made me think of the “icebeaker” used by a buddy of mine years ago. He would go up to a girl and say that he had a dream about her, they were on a train, he had a cigar in one hand and a snake in the other and the train was heading into a tunnel, did she think that the dream meant anything.

        Every exterior shot of the train made me think of that. On a more related topic, didn’t they have a train station scene in the Break up too, the exchange of the cypher and Sarah failing to take the shot.

      • lucian says:

        Herder – wow – your buddy was a lot more confident than I ever was.

        Yes, they did have a train station in Break-up. The other three that come to mind
        – Prague
        – Final Exam
        – Honeymooners

        Not sure if that is all, but they have all been significant regarding the story. There is, the literal connection with leaving or staying in Prague and Honeymooners, but Final exam and Break-up didn’t have to occur in a train station, so there is more of a metaphorical/ symbolic connection.

        It is interesting what kind of stuff you can think about when you’re brushing your teeth…

      • joe says:

        Pretty good topic idea, Lucian. I’ve been dwelling a bit on the whens and wheres of those important revelations.

        We saw a big one, when Chuck & Sarah see Morgan and Casey tied up through the window from the Vespa. You can see the idea form in Chuck’s head, and he looks at Sarah, who has the same idea. She looks back and with a very slight nod confirms that…

        It’s more than just “we need to save them.” The unspoken truth they both realize at that moment is also that they are, capable of doing the dangerous thing, together. The bigger truth is that they WANT to.

        Why then? Why there? Maybe it’s just because Paris is magic and special like the fountain. But that doesn’t seem right.

  23. Hans says:

    Bit of a late reaction but I can’t help but ask: Is it okay to feel that way about C&S if you’re not American? 😦 😛

  24. Hans says:

    You’re right, neither can I.
    Finally caught up to this heartbreakingly fantastic show. Let’s just say: I wish I had done so sooner.

    Honeymooners even manages to lift my spirits from my own emotional/feewing-related pickle.
    I do not believe in ‘the supernatural’ at all, but this show comes pretty close to something like it. 😀
    Now off to read the remaining 200 comments for Honeymooners.

  25. Hector says:

    Can someone tell me what TPTB means?

    • joe says:

      Hi, Hector. This is a pretty old post. Come join us in the more active discussions, up top!

      TPTB stands for “The Powers That Be”, usually referring to the show runners (like Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, in this case) and sometimes to the network execs who pull the strings.

      If you look along the right hand column, in the “About Us” section, you’ll see I put up a link to our “Lingo And Acronyms” page. There’s a bunch of our commonly used short-hand phrases in there. Of course, that list is constantly evolving. 😉

      • Hector says:

        I found that meaning on the net, but i wasn’t sure if that was it.

        I thought that TPTB maybe stands for someones name (like YS stands for Yvonne Strahovski)

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