Getting My Head on Straight

A Guest Post By Jason

We all had our reasons for tuning in to Chuck when we did, and as similar as they are to each other’s, we all had our reasons for falling in love with the show. What’s more unique are our reasons for sticking with it when the going got tough.  Frequent commenter Jason gives us his and (if I can speak for him this little bit) invites you to give yours.

– joe

Opening Thoughts

I first watched Chuck on the SyFy channel in January of 2010. I quickly became a fan, a shipper for sure, and watched the first two seasons in rapid order right around or before the airing of 3.1. I was not wild about 2.22’s ending, it seemed a little off, but I had hope that things would quickly get resolved in season 3. Boy was I wrong.

The Pink Slip episode caught me totally off guard, and I spent much of the rest of the first eight episodes trying to figure out what hit me. Blogging on this board helped relieve some of the disappointment during those months, while I waited for some episode to fix everything. That episode finally came with 3.13 and even more so with 3.14 and beyond. Yet, nagging questions remained about season 3, about Sarah and Shaw, and about the show, at least for me and from reading our blog. Then, resolution was not helped by Shaw’s staring role in the final episodes, re-stirring up the hornet’s nest called ‘sham’. Read on for both my summary of season 3 and attempt at moving my eyes toward season 4.

Finish the Unfinished Business

The most likely conclusion I reached regarding Sarah’s relationship with Shaw is that she moved on from waiting for Chuck to returning Shaw’s advances in 3.7. When I say waiting, she not only needed Chuck to initiate the repair of their relationship, but to see that repair through, which early in the season, chuck was not up for. The show runners told me that Shaw was the perfect match for Sarah, many didn’t see it on screen, but I have to trust what the story’s intent was, regardless of what I saw.

She may have waited longer if Chuck was not exhibiting certain negative characteristics starting in 3.6 and beyond. These characteristics were different from the ‘old’ Chuck she fell for in the first place. She also may have responded had Chuck pursued her more aggressively as Shaw did in 3.7 through 3.12 or as Chuck finally did in 3.11 and 3.12, but Chuck instead pursued Hannah just as Shaw ramped up his pursuit of Sarah.

The first time Chuck did ramp up his game in 3.11’s stakedate, after which it took him two episodes to win her back (although he just about got in done right away in the stakedate), not all that far-fetched? Fedak said in an interview during that time frame that Shaw and Sarah are getting more serious, again, I can only assume that is right, so Sarah was dating (and responding to) a guy she was trying very hard to make things work with, while she still loved her ex. That happens a lot, both on TV and in real life.

The bottom line is the Shaw / Sarah love story fell flat on its face when told on screen, so much so that the show runners tried to convince fans of the story while they were still telling it, and even attempted to use humor to tell the story 5 episodes later. I think it is illogical to assume there is anything more (or less) there than what the show runners have told us. I’ve stopped trying to figure any more out and want to move on.

I coach, so often I see parents of all kinds of wonderfully talented, gifted kids continual focus on the bad, ignoring what amount to talents in the kids that others only dream of. Like those parents, I need to appreciate the gifts Chuck has given, and let go of my frustration with the bad stuff.

Thank You

To Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz, thank you for allowing your show to move from a “will they / won’t they” story, to become a “they did / a lot”. The “will they / won’t they” ship entered the seas forever at the end of 3.13, but that ship definitely sailed in 3.14 and beyond, matter of fact, the ship sailed around the world many, many times from what I could tell. Just as Sarah appreciated the “tank”, I as a fan appreciated 3.14. I read where both McNeil and Fedak said they were concerned about ending the wt/wt, although to the average fan the choice seemed easy, my guess is the choice was not easy at all for the show runners. You gave an extraordinary gift to your fans by writing 3.13 through 3.19 like you did. Thanks again!

Sarah and Chuck Action Scenes

My hopes may have gotten too high when they slid down that rope together in 3.1, followed by the safe mission together in 3.2. Although the CS action definitely slowed in the season’s middle, when they were in exile from appearing on the screen together, they really made an epic comeback in 3.14. 3.14 alone may have had a half dozen great spy couple action scenes , highlighted by the swing dance kick boxing scene. If the show runners would grant me a suggestion, if you are wondering what to do in each episode to replace the CS angst, just fill in an extra ‘couples’ fight scene, or have them practice synchronized one punching (which should be an Olympic event), or have them handcuffed together or flying down a rope or skydiving or posing as a hot brunette and an old bearded German man and winking at each other, or throwing an axe to knock a flying knife away, any of hundreds of ‘spy teamwork’ moments. I can’t get enough of these.

The B Characters

Season 3 may have been rough on CS, but the B characters had a great season. I have not always been a fan of the B characters, except Casey and Ellie who I adore. But Morgan, Awesome, Beckman, Big Mike, and Jeffster all really had their moments this season. Morgan essentially became a superhero, blessed with some sort of intrinsic imaginary intersect that gave him near unlimited wisdom. Casey seemed to be channelling Sarah Walker and Chuck alternately this season, communicating with subtle nods and glances instead of grunts, while becoming the most popular and emotional guy ever. Ellie stayed on the sidelines way too long, but was left at season’s end with all sorts of intriguing possibilities (please lets have some Ellie and Sarah shipping time in season 4, ok not some, rather lots of it).

Awesome had an up and down season, but with Morgan’s near perfection, someone had to screw something up, Awesome flaws are part of what makes him “awesome”. Speaking of screwing something up, is Beckman’s only job to make the wrong decision on near everything she gets her hands on? I love her anyhow & she may have delivered the season’s most satisfying line “it was about damned time”. Big Mike has become a walking 30 second Subway commercial on the series, lets hope he gets a little something else to “sink his teeth into”, like a plot. And Jeffster, I used to not enjoy them, but they had a decent season, less seems to be more with them, if you know what I mean. They stalked Shaw very well to help Chuck. They were legitimately funny discussing Chuck’s women in 3.8. And they evolved as the house-band, I loved the ‘Jet Plane’ and its dual placement in 3.14’s Chuck Sarah and Ellie Awesome departures.

The Family Business

In the past, I also was not all that high on Scott Bakula. Sorry. But, he really nailed season 3. Perfect. Much as I hated to see him get shot, many comic book superhero’s lose their dads along the way, it may indeed have been appropriate for the show to have Chuck’s dad die. Scotty B is now my best guest star ever, replacing a three way tie among Roan, Jack Burton, and Carina. I don’t know if the mythology is heading toward Chuck becoming Orion, but if so, count me in, I love the concept. Chuck’s apprenticeship under Casey and Sarah has positioned him very well to assume his role running the family business. He has assembled a pretty good team to help him take over that family business, a couple of world class spies, a couple of world class doctors, a unique best friend, and a strong, gifted women who thinks the world of him, couldn’t have worked out any better if it had been scripted that way. Oh wait, it was!

I enjoyed posting this season, and enjoyed a chance to write an opinion piece. What do you guys think? – Jason


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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105 Responses to Getting My Head on Straight

  1. atcdave says:

    Thanks for the guest post Jason. I sure have enjoyed your commentary this season, seems were allies more often than not. So I guess its not surprising I agree with most of your post, especially about Chuck/Sarah action scenes; more please! It is funny how right from Pink Slip the B characters were better served than the leads this season. I loved the Awesome Arc, and the episodes that focused on Morgan and Casey; but wasn’t happy with Chuck and Sarah until Other Guy (OK, maybe the end of American Hero).
    Let’s hope they don’t mess it up. I’m cautiously optimistic for S4, I think the “family business” as you call it has great potential.

  2. joe says:

    Jason, great write up. I don’t write well when I try to describe this show analytically – using the left side of my brain. I’m more successful when I write about my emotional reactions. You just covered that gap. Thanks!

    If I have any point of disagreement, it’s that the epic comeback starts, for me, in 3.13, with Sarah’s most lucid speech of the series. I’ve been trying to re-watch a bunch of episodes in a series. I just had to see The Other Guy and Paris again.

    Yeah, yeah. I’m a romantic. Guilty! The one thing that saved the entire season for me has been the way C&S have quickly over come the obvious pitfalls put in front of them. We know the list; Chuck’s inability to tell Sarah he has a problem, Sarah’s inability to say “I love you” (not to mention her hesitance to move in), and the one we haven’t mentioned much, a residual desire (and ability) to pry into the other’s life a bit prematurely (denoting a lack of trust). If any one of those had lasting significance, it would have wrecked the season for me.

    I’ve said it before, but the way they’ve worked to integrate their lives has been perfect for these characters. Not necessarily done easily, but done confidently and deliberately. It’s been a refreshing change from WT/WT in S1 and S2.

    • jason says:

      joe – for sure the show’s comeback started with ‘I appreciated the tank’ & then her speech to chuck in the apt – I agree – I was surprised at how much harder writing these things is far harder than responding to them – I had no idea mine turned out so long – thx for the opportunity to see ‘blogging’ from a different perspective

      • sd says:

        I was hopeful for a comeback with the stake-date…which turned into a fake out with the ridiculous red test angst.

        It turned for real with me at the end of American Hero. Chuck finally, finally spelled it out and told her emphatically what he wanted.

        And unlike some folks who are convinced she wasn’t packing for Chuck until Casey’s reveal…I strongly contend she was going to Chuck. Watch the scene again in castle..the suble head nod yes when Chuck says they could run.

        The show has always used music as a way to move the story forward…the music in that scene is key…she was” taking a chance” that Chuck hadn’t changed. There is the picture on the table…I could go on…doesn’t matter now. I just felt happy at the end of American Hero….even when Shaw showed up.

        As an aside, if the showrunners ever want to be reminded of the amazing chemistry the two leads have together…they may want to watch a preview of Undercover. I know…I know…a preview does not a show make…but I don’t get that kind of chemistry from the two married leads on that show.

      • joe says:

        Oh wow. I couldn’t start with 3.14 when I re-watched S3.5, and you know, I almost couldn’t start with 3.13 precisely because of the scene you laid out, SD. The stake-date is just too good to pass up.

        Every time I get the urge to see my favorite scenes again, my starting point moves “to the left”, just for the lead in.

        I might as well just watch from the pilot!

      • atcdave says:

        SD I do agree about Sarah deciding in Castle, Casey just removed her last doubts. You’re right about chemistry, its either there or it isn’t, and Zach and Yvonne have tons.
        Don’t agree so much about the stakate, I’ll never watch that episode again because of the end. Bummer.

  3. JC says:

    One point that I think gets lost in all the discussion about the characters is the spy story and mythology. Hopefully next season’s Big Bad actually seems threatening and they explore Chuck’s and Sarah’s past.

    I know opinions vary about the journey the characters took this season but the spy stuff was flat out terrible. The mythology of the show was barely touched on other than Chuck getting Intersected as a kid.

    So hopefully with the Chuck and Sarah dating game seemingly over, we can get some focus and consistency in the tragically underused spy world they live in.

    • atcdave says:

      I sure agree with that! One of my big reasons for wanting them to reach this point was so they could focus on other stuff. They did a great job of that in the finale.

    • Chuckaddict says:

      I concur. In the fisrt 2 seasons, the spy plot and Intersect was the A story. C&S were the B story. In season 3, C&S were the A story and the spy plot seemed to be the D story. It was hardly there. The Ring did not seem as important or as dangerous as FULCRUM did. When the spy/Intersect story was brought back in the last 4 episodes, it was great.

      We’ve got a great lead-in for season 4. I hope Chuck and Sarah are a TEAM and we see the spy story move forward. There must have been thousands of boxes in the Orion cave, each one with a story. That’s a lot of potential, not to mention the Mama B’s (Bartowski and Burton?).

      • Gord says:

        I agree that they mishandled the whole Ring story. It had the potential to have a really good backstory, but except for the finale, they just didn’t seem that dangerous to me.

        I found myself agreeing with just about everything stated in the review. I did have my favourite episodes from the early part of the season 303, 304, 306, 309, and 310 (funny not that much Shaw in those ones).

        For me the real downer moments came in Mask and the end of Final Exam. Yet with respect to Final Exam Sarah discussing her red test was essential to the story going forward. I hated it at the time, but in retrospect Yvonne’s performance in that scene was quite powerful.

        Now when I’m rewatching S3 I start with 303, skip 307 and 308, and I find it quite satisfying.

        By the way I found Shaw as a superspy/PLI very lame, but as a bad guy the character “sparkled”.

      • atcdave says:

        Interesting Gord, I know our take on much of the season seemed very different. But we seem to agree on a lot of the particulars.

    • Merve says:

      I might be giving the show too much credit, but I think that they actually did a great job of making the Ring seem more dangerous than Fulcrum until “Operation Awesome.” (Really, they thought Devon was a spy? Come on.) After that, they kind of dropped the ball until the C-plot of “Role Models,” and even then the audience didn’t get an idea of how significant the threat was until “Subway.”

    • joe says:

      I understand about the spy stuff seeming underdone this season. But at the same time, my own psyche was demanding that we see Chuck and Sarah get together. Anything else was always going to be secondary.

      I guess I’m saying that if it was out of balance, it did mirror my own focus.

      My second thought is that although the spy-story was in the background, some of the scenes I’m finding most memorable are the fight scenes! Sarah dropping from the bottom of the car, Chuck decking the Ring operative in Pink Slip “With one punch!”, all the Chuck-Shaw fight scenes, and of course, the several where Chuck & Sarah partnered (don’t forget the one in The Mask).

      • atcdave says:

        I do agree Joe that my own main focus was on the Chuck and Sarah pairing in the front part of the season, but that’s exactly what I see as the problem. I don’t generally watch soap operas, which is really what they gave us. I want to see Chuck and Sarah stay together, while working through grown up issues, as a B or C plot; NOT dominating the mood of the show. The focus mirrored what many of us were thinking, but that’s because TPTB didn’t deliver what many of us wanted at the start, and we had to wade through a lot of c**p before the show was fun again. You know my mantra for the front 13; they ended it where they should have started it.

      • joe says:

        Yeah. In a way, I understand that. I can’t shake the feeling that it was the quickest way to excise the angst, though. Know what I mean? The one thing that S3.5 had brought me is relief from that ache we all had during S2 – we called it s-angst. Remember? I think I’m the only one who’s used that word (and the concept) in months. There’s a reason. It’s gone.

        Gone for good, I think.

      • weaselone says:

        Even this past season, Chuck and Sarah could have been the focus of the fans without the relationship being the focus of the Show. Instead of Sham and Hack, they could have easily devoted a couple of minutes each episode to Sarah and Chuck reconnecting and working through their problems and fears. I thought that was where we were going at the beginning of the season.

      • atcdave says:

        Weaselone, its not often we agree; but that would have worked very well. Although I still prefer the idea of a romantic pairing from the start, I would have been a happy viewer if they had actually delivered on the promise from the end of Three Words; “maybe we can fix it.”

        The trapazoids were s-angst to the ultimate extreme. And my usage of the term always meant it should be avoided. Not overcome or worked past; simply never used. There was no reason for it other than driving away 20+% of our viewers. Not to be contrary Joe, but I really see no point to it.

      • JC says:


        I agree getting Chuck and Sarah together was the focus of those first thirteen but it came at the expense of everything else.

        How was the Ring more dangerous than Fulcrum? Basically the first ten episodes of the season was Chuck and Sarah running circles around each other. The biggest MacGuffin in the series to date were those disks that Shaw wanted so bad. Two episodes about them and we learned nothing. Even in the back six there was no buildup to the Ring taking over the CIA.

        Another failing was somehow the Intersect wasn’t that important until Other Guy. He does have all those secrets in his head right?

        No wonder Fulcrum and The Ring were successful, everyone in the CIA is more concerned with romance then actually doing their job.

      • joe says:

        I’m not disagreeing with you at all, JC.

        What I’m trying to get across is the idea that mid-way through S2, there was nothing bigger than getting C&S together. Nothing was more disappointing than any obstacle and nothing more frustrating than any delay. Even *after* The Honeymooners, my reflex reaction to any sign of relationship difficulty was akin to “Oohhhh NOOOOSSSS! Here we go again.”

        So now that it’s over, I can look back and sort of say “Hey, I really wasn’t watching intently for anything else. My bad.”

        It’s time to get back to the other parts that make up this show – that is, it’s time for me to focus on that.

      • JC says:


        I didn’t think you were disagreeing with me. I just wanted to explain where I was coming from.

        I know Chuck and Sarah will always be the focus of the show but it was always balanced out by other elements of the show. IMO they went too far with the romance part this season and it overshadowed everything else. But don’t get me wrong, I would feel the same way if it was reversed and it was all spy stuff.

        That’s why I loved the first two seasons, it had that perfect mix of everything.

      • Merve says:

        In some ways, it’s all the more frustrating because they did manage to strike the right balance in a few episodes – “Angel de Muerte,” “Operation Awesome,” “First Class,” “Tic Tac,” “Living Dead,” “Subway,” and “Ring Part 2.” All the other episodes had a large focus on the (non-)romance. Sometimes, focusing on the romance paid dividends – “Nacho Sampler,” “Honeymooners,” and “Tooth” come to mind. Other times, it fell flat for me – “Beard,” “Final Exam,” and “Role Models” are good examples of that.

      • atcdave says:

        I do agree Merve there were some episodes where they got it exactly right; Angel of Death and Operation Awesome are good examples from the front of the season. I certainly didn’t mind Honeymooners, it was deliberately over the top and a lot of fun, but not what I want every week.

        I disagree on some examples, First Class angered me a lot. The contrast of Sarah in full lioness mode while Chuck is flirting up a new girl really got my blood boiling. And Nacho Sampler was just too dark for my taste from beginning to end.

        I guess to me it comes down to a proper balance AND ending in a good place. I loved the balance in the season finale, we got a more exciting story and warmth and chemistry on display between Chuck and Sarah but it never dominated the story. I’m OK with straying from a particular formula on occasion (whenever we get to a proposal it BETTER be sappy sweet!), but I’m never OK with triangles or ending with an estrangement.

      • JC says:

        On an episode basis they did hit that perfect balance on a few occasions for me.

        But unlike the romance episodes the spy ones never went anywhere or meant anything in regards to the arc. Most of the villains could have no ties to the Ring and still it wouldn’t have changed the story. They all felt like generic villains of the week that had a Ring name tag slapped on.

      • Merve says:

        Dave, I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear about “First Class.” I’m certainly not defending the episode – it’s not one of my favourites – but I think it struck the right balance between focusing on the romance plot and focusing on other stuff. If the episode had problems, it certainly wasn’t in the balance of the show’s different elements.

      • atcdave says:

        I can buy that Merve. Sorry I misunderstood.

  4. herder says:

    Great article Jason, I agree, at least for myself that there is a tendancy to focus on the negative, it is nice to see a review of the positive developments that have taken place. I have been guilty of being disproportionately negative about the Shaw stuff without mentioning how much I enjoyed the back six. Not only did the powers that be end the WT/WT but they also would bring up a personal issue and resolve it in that episode: to spy or not to spy, to move in together, to say “I love you”, to trust the other with the past all raised and resolved in a single episode.

    As for the first thirteen, I might not have liked the journey but I did like the destination, then TPTB built on that destination and I am looking forward to season 4. To coin a phrase, “I’m good here”.

  5. weaselone says:

    Jason that was a great submission. I do have to quibble with your suggestion that Chuck needed to step up and repair the relationship. He tried the active pursuit in the first couple of episodes, complete with a confession of love. From his perspective, Sarah’s response to his attempts was to request that Beckman transfer her. At that point a full court press seemed like a bad idea.

  6. Jan says:

    Great post, Jason. Thanks for sharing your insightful comments

    • jason says:

      thx jan, herder and weaselone (and everyone else) – was surprised by the positive feedback, glad what I wrote was enjoyed, jan – have not seen alot of posts by you here, one thing that makes this board so much fun is how encouraging the moderators (joe, amy, dave, ernie) are of new posters

  7. PeterOinNJ says:

    Like Joe, I have a lot of trouble talking about this season in analytical terms, but that hasn’t stopped me reliving this season over and over again, thinking of and revisiting scenes from all the episodes, reliving them along with the characters. I think that is what is sticking in my mind most right now – I am reliving it. I know this is a television show and these characters, this story is fictional. And yet here I am, reliving the events of the season. That is a real testament to the show, the creators, the writers and the actors. They created a story and characters I care about.

    I may not have liked all of the developments of this season, but I certainly could feel what was going on. I felt Sarah’s hurt after Prague and the anger and deeper hurt she felt when Chuck returned. I knew Chuck’s despair thinking that he had given up everything and gotten nothing but a cheese ball addiction in return. I knew his desperation when he tried to explain his reasons to Sarah, and the pain he was experiencing knowing he had hurt her so badly. I felt the acute lonliness Sarah had as she watched everything she wanted in life slip away with the Chuck that was slipping away from her. I knew the joy Chuck experienced completing his first solo “mish” and the terror Sarah had while he was on it and the resentment they both experienced at different times. When they were lost, so was I. When they were grasping for drift wood to keep from drowning, I was flailing away with them. When it looked like there would be no future for them, no hope, I experienced the utter emptiness that was written in their faces and their body language.

    And there was joy and happiness too, and it was all the more real and vibrant after the pain these two went through – it was almost like reaching a tropical oasis after a life threatening treck across the barren desert. Who could deny the sheer joy and happiness in their eyes and in their smiles. It felt like weights being lifted as they rapidly progressed into a real, exclusive, committed relationship. Even the little heartbreaks – Sarah finding out Chuck had lied about his mental health, Chuck waiting for Sarah to move in or say I love you – demonstrated the depth and strength of their relationship. Their embraces feel different too – like two lovers, secure in each other, taking strength and comfort in each other. I honestly don’t know if it would be the same without the struggle, without the journey, without the growth – they do call them growing pains after all and the end result is very satisfying. I still care – and I am even more invested in these characters than I was before.

    I’m not trying to be an arm chair quarterback – rationalize the season or putting a different spin on it. And I’m certainly not saying that hindsight is 20/20 because even today, I’m finding more nuggets in each episode. What I am saying is that there have been few shows that have caused me to keep thinking about them and reliving them after they were done for the season. All this leaves me with only one question – if it was so bad, why can’t I get it out of my head?

    How long till September?

  8. lucian says:

    Though it is more entertaining (IMO) to talk about what doesn’t work, or what we don’t like, I agree with you completely that it is still a really exceptional show. I think it is safe to say that most of us are more “engaged” than makes sense. They are doing something right.

  9. atcdave says:

    While I agree they created a wonderful setting, and would say through the first two seasons this was my favorite show ever; they really messed up S3. If we hadn’t had the back six this year, I’m not sure I’d be sticking around for an S4. The season did end on a really strong note, 3.14 and 3.18-19 being among the best of Chuck we’ve ever seen. But I’m still very grumpy about much of the early season. I can’t get beyond cautiously optimistic for the future. I may start getting seriously excited when we start hearing more. But cautious, wary, and burned sums it up for now.

    After all, the journey matters, not just the destination….

    • Cas says:

      Do you think that we would have appreciated the the ending as much if we had a smoother journey? Me personally, I say yes but the only reason I ask is because my roomies girl, who introduced the show to myself and my girl stopped watching after the fake name. Anyway, I told my girl to tell her to watch the Honeymooners,which she did. I asked her yesterday waht she thought about it and if she would start watching again and she said ” I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel the same”
      Sorry, didn’t really aske her to elaborate because I didn’t feel like having girlish conversation at the time.

      • atcdave says:

        Yes I do Cas. I think we earned it through the first two seasons, S3 was just cruel and unusual punishment. You know my motto, S3 ended where it should have begun. They really ruined something special in those first 13. (your girlfriend is wise!)

      • jason says:

        cas – I’d be interested in you and your g/f’s opinion on this?

        would it have been better to have 19 eps of seasons 1 /2 repeated in season 3, lets say with with some CS kissing, maybe 3 or 4 episodes of CS romance, 1 or 2 episodes of weak / slight / annoying PLI’s, lots of angst, and not much resolved at the end?

        or 6 eps in neutral, 6 eps in utter hell, and the last 7 episodes with things in a great place like we actually had?

      • atcdave says:

        While I can’t answer for cas I still have an opinion (I know, shocking ain’t it!).

        Repeating last years formula would have been disappointing, but I don’t think it would have angered so many people in quite the way the actual season did. I think the drop in ratings wouldn’t have been as pronounced either. The problem is they have to advance or show growth for the main characters; what they did actually cast the leads in a negative light for much of the season, which is actually worse than not showing growth (at least from an entertainment/ratings perspective).
        Obviously I advocated showing a more linear growth from the end of 2.22. Hopefully we won’t have to sit through another season like last (I honestly think things will be much better in S4!)

      • jason says:

        Dave – I agree it was hard on the ratings, the 3.1 to 3.12 plot was shockingly misguided, but if that means whatever gets thrown at CS they deal with it like they have so far in the back 6, I’m going to get increasingly more satisfied with the show in spite of the bad arc

        Someone else blogged about this, but since the bad arc, near every CS issue gets resoved either immediately or within an episode – here are some examples I can think of:

        3.14 – the ‘to spy or not spy’ conundrum, the going off on missions separately lasted about 10 seconds when back together, used a great line “chuck, I can’t fake it anymore’
        3.15 – living together resolved by the end, again, with a pretty great scene
        3.16 – going back for chuck always. no sarah issue when he went to morgan for help, I love you from sarah by the end
        3.17 – the dream lying was left unresolved till the next ep
        3.18 – at the ‘trial’, shaw reveals chuck’s illness and taunts sarah about chuck’s deception, sarah essentially did not back down from her commitment, within minutes the ‘everything I care about is here’ line
        3.19 – chuck quit the spy life without asking sarah, she was unfazed, then the unresolved orion issue at the end

        will be interesting to see if TPTB continue the trend of rapid issue resolution, I sure hope so

      • atcdave says:

        I hope so too Jason, I was pretty happy with the back six. I know Fedak called it a S4 preview. I really hope so, but I’m not sure how completely to take that. I like the way the story built during that time, but the personal issues were dealt with on a week to week basis. That is about ideal to me.
        I hope that the lying doesn’t continue, one of the problems with S3 was it became harder to respect Chuck, and the lying is sort of a lingering part of that. Obviously its OK if “civilians” are kept in the dark, but keeping things from Sarah is groan inducing every time (dad too, but we know that won’t be a problem again!).
        As I said above, my watchword now is cautious optimism. I liked the back six with few reservations. I hope they keep it up.

      • Merve says:

        I think that there are upsides and downsides to speedy issue resolution. The advantages are that problems don’t create a lingering feeling of dread and that the story moves along at a quick pace. The disadvantages are that the resolution can seem to be forced and that the show can burn through too much of the story too fast, leaving nowhere else to go. In the back 6, the upsides of that approach definitely outweighed the downsides. The episodes even tied up past problems, such as the running away dilemma in “Honeymooners” or Awesome’s “deawesomeification” in “Tooth.” Furthermore, most of the issues raised in the back 6 seem to come organically out of the story, rather than coming out of nowhere. (Sarah’s sudden inability to protect Chuck in “Break Up” is a good example of an issue that came out of nowhere yet was speedily resolved.)

        All that being said, I actually don’t mind if issues are stretched out over several episodes. But it has to be done right. The issue can’t overpower the story, but it must be addressed often enough. (Plot threads that would disappear and then reappear ten episodes later were the reason that I stopped watching Scrubs. It’s also the major problem with the first half of the first season of Chuck and why so many of my friends find it hard to get into the show.) This approach had mixed success in the front 13. Morgan’s relationship with Chuck and Chuck’s spy development were handled particularly well. But Chuck and Sarah’s disintegrating relationship sometimes ended up overpowering the story when it should have been left more in the background. Other issues, like the tension in Devon and Ellie’s marriage or Morgan’s crush on Hannah, were just dropped. (By the way, I think that Devon’s reaction to the spy world was handled well; it just wasn’t an arc that I enjoyed, so I didn’t want to use it as an example.)

        Overall, I’d like a balance of larger arcs and mini-arcs or sub-arcs that take up one to three episodes. I don’t think that one approach is undeniably better than the other. The key is handling both approaches properly and mixing and matching them to keep things fresh.

      • Cas says:

        Let me just start by saying that TPTB should give guys warnings when putting out an episode like pink slip. Something like. WARNING: Do not watch with a girl unless she is already your wife. After the initial sadness, the anger phase somehow got directed towards me….not cool!
        She is a crazy shipper, ( slowly turning my head back…k I’m safe) She would have preffered to erase pinkslip completely and start the season with a secret relationship. To sum it up. 2 light, 4 dark, and stretch out the back 6 to 12. She loved the back six but felt that some were a bit rushed.
        I have come to terms with season 3. Although I hated most of it, I still feel that it was slightly better than season 2 because of the character growth. Season 3 wasn’t just a heroes journey for Chuck, it was the season where all the characters realized what they wanted in life, how far they’re willing to go to GET IT, and how hard they’re willing to fight to KEEP IT.
        My main problem with season 3 is watchability (is that a word?) I have watched every episode from season 2 at least 3x, some episodes even more during our recruiting days. I cannot sit through and watch all the episodes from season 3 if I were to recruit new viewers because it was either too dark or way too light for my taste. Even some of the best episodes I can’t watch. I looked and sounded like Casey after watching the Honeymooners the 2nd time and I’m with the ladies about the lying, I UNDERSTOOD but it was still annoying to see. My conclusion: Season 3 made Chuck a great show but lost its magic in terms of connecting with the audience

      • atcdave says:

        You do make some good points Merve, a lot of issues are well served by developing them a little further. I mainly dislike when “bad feelings” are left lingering, I watch Chuck because its usually a good time. Feeling bad at the end of an episode isn’t what I’m looking for. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be a tidy bundle at the end of the episode.
        My main concern, of course, ties back to your comment about letting the “disintegrating relationship” dominate the show. I think enough people are invested in that relationship that anything harmful to it WILL dominate an episode, simply because of what it is, no matter how little actual screen time is involved. So the only way to keep the spy stories front and center is to have Chuck and Sarah in a good or hopeful spot at the end of every episode. I am sure TPTB intend to yank our chains on that again in the future, I simply don’t believe they can leave it alone; and it will get a strong negative reaction from a large number of us every time. But hopefully that will not be a regular feature of future episodes, and it will be easier to focus on more fun or exciting elements of the story.

      • atcdave says:

        Some very interesting comments cas. I do agree the final state of all the main characters was great at the end of S3. The growth process for Casey and Morgan was particularly satisfying. But I so strongly dislike the process for Chuck and Sarah (and Awesome) I really can’t feel good about the front part of the season. I guess I’m more with your girlfriend on this. And even though I am a guy and I love football, explosions, chase scenes, greasy food, and (ahem) women; Honeymooners leaves me all happy and fuzzy inside.

      • Merve says:

        Dave, I might be misunderstanding what you mean by “good or hopeful spot,” but I think that there have been a few instances where Chuck and Sarah weren’t in a great place but it didn’t dominate the episode at all. “Predator,” “Dream Job,” and “Angel de la Muerte” come to mind. Again, I’m sorry if this is just a matter of semantics; I’m just a little unclear on what you meant.

      • jason says:

        one theory I have is part of the Morgan / Casey build up on season 3, is so some drama can strike them down in season 4, early in season 3 I made a comment that CS have to be hurt, because in order to have drama, those are the only two characters we have any emotional investment in, I think the writers really worked hard to get us invested this season in casey and morgan, my prediction is TPTB will make a withdrawal from the casey and or morgan accounts in season 4

      • atcdave says:

        Sorry Merve, I was a little obtuse. But I think you guessed what I meant, they have ended episodes where things weren’t great between them, but things weren’t awful either and we knew it was a work in progress. That’s OK. What becomes very distracting is when they’re clearly hurting each other or apart; like Mask, Fake Name, or Final Exam. When they do that the relationship will dominate fan discussion every time. Of course, now their relationship has changed, so the standard of what we’ll accept has changed too. The end of Nacho Sampler was only unpleasant the first time around, if they end an S4 episode like that it’ll be another fan meltdown (and yes, I’ll be among those melting!).

      • Merve says:

        That a really good point, Dave. It’s all about context. “Nacho Sampler” worked for me because it made sense to me in the context of the plot. But if something like that were to happen now, it wouldn’t make sense at all. Heck, the way that Sarah treated Chuck in “Dream Job” or “Angel de la Muerte” wouldn’t fly now, and neither would Chuck’s distrust of Sarah in “Predator.” But I don’t think that we have to worry about any of this. We’ve seen from “Other Guy” onward that TPTB know how to work within the new context that they’ve established. And anyway, I don’t think that season 4 is going to focus on Chuck and Sarah’s relationship, so it would be hard to force them into a bad place.

  10. Gord says:

    I think the one crucial thing that the back 6 demonstrated is that this show works really well with having Chuck and Sarah as a couple. So much for it being the death of a show.

    If you ask me, when it comes to Chuck, it is the rebirth of the show. That plus the whole Mama B/Orion’s lair plot and S4 the potential to end up being the best season to date. I just hope it wont be the last season, but if there is one thing I’ve learned over the past 3 years, it’s don’t ever count Chuck out. Obviously NBC came to the same conclusion.

    • atcdave says:

      Agree entirely Gord. I wish they’d figured that out a bit sooner, but I’m glad they finally took the chance.

  11. Hope says:

    Wow. great post Jason. I think you said it all. And I agree completely.

    Let me see now where to begin for my reasons for coming into the show fan base.

    I loved Chuck first because he was so sweet and good and Sarah next because next to him she was the most gentle and kinder of the two handlers. Casey I didn’t begin to love till Fake Name (I started late only came in this season) but he just kept getting more and more awesome with every episode, I went back to the other seasons and found myself wondering how in the world that I had disliked him before. He was/is a badass intriguing hero I found myself liking him as much back then as well as I do now and it was so much fun figuring him out. Morgan was sweet and cute and funny from the start I liked him and there were times when his imatureity got a bit tiresome but I’m glad I stuck with him and he’s been quite the hero this season two. Awesome is of course a sweet lovable clueless ditz, this season he disappointed me a little telling Chuck to leave him out of it when poor Chuck needed someone to talk to. But in the finale he redeemed himself completely.

    I’m finally glad poor Ellie had a story line there at last they gave her something to do instead of being the hand wringing older sis. And I hope she comes to her senses in season 4.

    the buymore sub plot was the most boring i thought. Hope jeffster can come back.

    Shaw’s story line was all over the place at first and I agreed with most you guys about him to the writers, now he totally works as a villain and I kinda hope he’ll be back at least for an episode.

    This season with a few speed bumps was very fun and enjoyable. I’m proud to be a Chuck fan. 🙂

    • jason says:

      thx hope – awesome really had a great moment in the finale, when he said something like ‘are you sure, because once you do this you can never go back’ to ellie, that was firsthand knowledge, and maybe some of the best advice someone who has been thru the spy stuff could give to a naive civilian – I have no firsthand knowledge of Ellie’s role in S4, but if she ramps up in Orion’s world, it will be interesting to see how Awesome’s role is written, and how their ‘marriage’ is affected by all the change – I think a ‘little’ awesome would seriously impede their story in S4, hoping that gets put on hold for a later season (optimism I know)

  12. andyt says:

    Great essay Jason, it got me thinking about the reasons that I love Chuck. I must confess that I was an “early adopter”, since I have been watching from the Pilot on 9/24/07. I was bummed out that the writer’s strike cut season 1 short as I was addicted by then. The show is especially important to me because it got me through a rough stretch in the fall of 08 when my mother passed away from a brain tumor. I even watched Graviton the night after she passed away, and it was enormously helpful in giving me even a little bit of uplift. I was willing to go wherever the show went in Season 3 just feeling grateful to have gotten those original thirteen episodes. In fact, each Monday night from 8-9 was really the best hour of the week for me this year so far.

    As an aside, I think part of the problem for some people was not only the story line but the method that the showrunners chose to tell the story. Rather than use an episodic structure, they decided to tell a single story broken into thirteen chapters, or more appropriately issues. Dave has commented frequently that the some episodes did not have an upbeat ending. I think that that was a result of the TPTB using a serialized format this season. If one looks at a novel or in Chuck’s case comic book series, storylines are not resolved at the end of each issue and the hero is not in a “happy” place at the end of each issue. In fact, if you grew up reading Spider-Man, Peter Parker was always getting the beat up physically and even more emotionally and psychologically. The angst on Chuck this season can’t hold a candle to the pain that they put Peter through. I think that is what Fedak and company tried this year. It didn’t work for some viewers who like a neat resolution each week. I hope you get what I am saying.

    Sorry for such a long winded reply.

    • atcdave says:

      I understand Andy. And I’m OK with the occasional cliff hanger. But I did think it was over used this season. I think my frustrations were compounded by feeling like the angst had played itself out last season, and having to sit through the same brand of it all over again. Add to that the real fear this season was the end of the road, and I just was not a happy camper for much of it. They ended well, and we have another season to look forward to; so I’m (mostly) OK now.

    • jason says:

      andy – thx for the compliment, the endings were pretty much drama’s and not warm comedy most of the season, 13, 14 & 15 ended with a smile, a couple of early episodes did, that was about it – I wonder if that was on purpose? I might vote for all 19 episodes ending with a smile if I could, but I would have to think the proper ‘balance’ would be for at least 2/3’s of them to be that way – it would make the other 1/3 carry more dramatic weight in the ‘serialized’ story, but still keep the show fun for the more casual fans?

    • lucian says:

      Your post caused me to reflect on what I like so much about this show. Though there are some good shows on tv, “Chuck” is the only one I can watch multiple times and still enjoy. I have come to believe it is largely due to the unique format of the show – when it is good, it’s a perfect mix of action, romance, comedy, drama, and human relationships. It is the best “feel good” show on tv. I have grown to like and respect the characters, and I empathize with them. They kind of lost me on the train platform in Prague in that they took the CRM past its usefulness, but that is water under a bridge in Paris. I think season 4 is going to be outstanding (assuming Chuck doesn’t spend a whole lot of time hiding his new mission from the people he loves).

  13. Aardvark7734 says:

    Jason, I haven’t been reading this blog for very long, but as I’ve mapped out the various regular commentator’s positions I’ve come to rely on you to express a very consistent, Chuck and Sarah, shipper-oriented outlook on things. One that, much to my occasional discomfort, matched up very closely with what came out of myself, unfiltered and uncluttered by considerations of what works best for drama or sustaining the series or any other ancillary reason.

    It was just what I felt, deeply.

    As much as I love the other characters, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that without the charm of Chuck’s uphill battle to win over Sarah and Sarah’s own, tantalizing reawakening having been played out over the previous three seasons, I would not have had even half the interest in the show that I did. To me it wasn’t just the heart of the show. It *was* the show.

    From that position, I wanted to congratulate you on a great post. It was well organized and comprehensive, yet it retained the same, unique viewpoint I remember. I’m glad, because whether you realize it or not, you’re staking down one corner of the “Chuck” fan continuum, at least on this blog.

    Thank you for doing that.

    • jason says:

      aardvark – wow thx – I wonder how much the uphill battle caused interest or was it the amazing chemistry between the actors or maybe it was simply the way it was written, where from the pilot on they were given lines indicating they had real feelings

      • Aardvark7734 says:

        Jason, the simple answer is “all of the above”.

        It was in the symphony of the situation, characters, dialogue, direction and actors that the charm of Chuck and Sarah’s relationship was birthed. Without any of these it could easily have fallen into mediocrity. Getting all of these ingredients right owes as much to luck as to skill, if the failure of shows with eye-opening pedigrees is any guide.

        We were just lucky.

        Clearly there’s an audience out there for living through that kind of relationship vicariously. I think an identification with one or the other of these characters is an important facet of the appeal as well. For many of us, being drawn to root for Chuck in his quest to woo the beautiful but seemingly unavailable agent or help Sarah find her way from cold pragmatism to a future with love and family is a strongly compelling attractor.

        Plus, in the end, many of us want to believe that once in awhile the fairy tale can be real. That love *can* conquer all, even if the odds seem daunting. That the geek can not only get the girl, but that the girl was every bit as lucky to have found him.

      • atcdave says:

        Wow, really well put Aardvark. The chemistry in particular can’t be faked. But yeah, so many things have to go just right. And we’ve seen how even a brilliant staff can occasionally screw things up.
        The part that can be controlled, characters we want to root for.

      • joe says:

        You’re becoming a poet, Aardvark.

        Well put.

      • Aardvark7734 says:

        Thank you, gentlemen!

        I only wish I could look at my own posts and not immediately see several things I want to edit. 😉

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Even with the ability to edit that doesn’t stop. 😉

        Yours was a wonderful post, thanks.

        I’ve always been of the opinion that there is a little magic that happens. Somewhere between the writer, the director, the costumers, cameramen and the actors, real art comes to life. It’s bigger than any individual involved, and the best artists recognize that, and honor what they all created, rather than try to take sole credit or bend it to their vision alone.

      • joe says:

        What Ernie said. And the urge to edit *doesn’t* stop, believe me. 😉

  14. chuckfan says:

    Great post Jason. I have very similar views on Season 3 so thanks for putting your great thoughts in writing. And the comments from fellow fans -they give the feel that I was not the only fan who suffered through Season 3 First 13 (specially 3.07, 3.08,ending of 3.10 and ending of 3.11)

    For me the Chuck/Sarah dynamic was something special – one that I hadn’t seen on any other show. TPTB made a mess of that. Thankfully they got their act together by the end of 3.12.

    I was also really thankful we got the back 6. They somehow softened the hurt suffered initially. As for abundance of romance in 3.14, 3.15 and 3.16 – I enjoyed it a lot because personally speaking I felt that I deserved to see Chuck and Sarah happy and totally in love with each other after the PLI hell they were put through.

    As for Season 4, I hope TPTB learn from their mistakes and come up with episodes that strike a neat balance of spy work with Chuck and Sarah love. Because in my opinion the Chuck and Sarah relationship is the real heart and soul of the show.

    • jason says:

      chuckfan – funny, my NBC handle is chuckfan75 – great name – thx for the compliments – I think ACTdave is correct in saying he is cautiously optimistic for season 4, one mistake I made in the early part of season 3, I so much rooted for what I wanted to happen, that I did not want to watch the story I was told, then, somewhere around 3.7/3.8 – I realized not only was my story not getting told, but it was going to get a whole lot worse b4 it got better, I’m going to try to stay more ‘balanced’ for season 4

    • atcdave says:

      Chuckfan, it sure is true you didn’t suffer alone. I think having this blog to discuss and share played a huge part in making it through the season. Its also nice to be able to celebrate with fellow fans when it gets better.

    • Aardvark7734 says:

      Chuckfan, you touched on one point here that I’ve been meaning to address myself but never found the time. Thanks for the prompt. 🙂

      When you said you “deserved to see Chuck and Sarah happy and totally in love with each other after the PLI hell they were put through”, you exactly captured how I felt.

      And it also explained perfectly why I had such a violent negative reaction to those who wanted a quick return to the more balanced episodes of S2. It’s not that I disagree with them, necessarily. ‘Honeymooners’, ‘Role Models’ and to some extent, ‘Tooth’, were on the light side to be sure. They don’t represent what I want the median “Chuck” tone to be.

      But I had a huge, gaping hole to fill in my soul that the first two-thirds of S3 had carved out. And even though ‘Honeymooners’ was a nuclear bomb of Charah joy (as in the ‘OMG I’m drowning in the flood of endorphins’ type joy) and the next two episodes kept up the rush of touching milestones, that hole was still not filled. I felt cheated out of my due recompense.

      I wanted balance. And I didn’t think it had been achieved yet.

      In the time since then, I’ve mellowed somewhat. I still wish they’d had 22 episodes so the relationship events could have been spread out a little more, but that’s water under the bridge now. All I can hope for is that next season, as you suggest, TPTB learn a little about balance and avoid putting their most ardent fans on starvation diets.

      • Merve says:

        Aardvark, you’ve touched on something that’s kind of been eating at me for a while. I kind of have mixed feelings about the back six. Here’s why: Do I think that putting Chuck and Sarah together was a good idea? Yes. Do I think that putting them together made the show worse? Definitely not. Do I think that putting them together magically made the show better? Eh, not really. It was certainly a necessary step, but it wasn’t a panacea for the show’s structural problems.

        Leaving aside the two-part finale, which as far as I’m concerned was just in a completely different league from the rest of season 3, in my opinion, about half of the front 13 was just better than the first four of the back six, and that’s despite Chuck and Sarah being apart, a lower budget, a reduced cast, Shaw being a good guy, and a general feeling of sadness hanging over some of the characters. The back six certainly had a better underlying arc, but I feel as if sometimes the episodes didn’t live up to the arc, if that makes any sense. I can’t quite put my finger on the exact reasons. Maybe it was because the disparate storylines didn’t really coalesce until the finale. Maybe it was because there was too much lying and backstabbing. Maybe there were tonal issues. Or maybe I’d just set my expectations too high. I’m not sure. What I do know is that the back six of season 3 just weren’t as good as the final six of season 2.

        I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy the back six. I had a lot of fun seeing how everything played out. But “Role Models,” “Tooth,” and “Living Dead” will never be among my favourite Chuck episodes.

        I’m not sure why I’m rambling about this. I guess that I’ve been a little confused seeing the explosion of positive fan reaction since “Other Guy” while I’ve been thinking, “Really? Is it that much better?” I’d wager that my attitude is related to the fact that I’m not very invested in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. What I am invested in is entertainment. In my eyes, Chuck has failed to be entertaining only once: “Final Exam.” If things continue the way that they’re going, I’ll almost certainly continue to be entertained. I just hope that some of the awkwardness of the back six was just a result of the series transforming into something new, fresh, and better, and that it isn’t indicative of the beginning of the show’s creative decline. But I have faith that things are going to be great.

      • Aardvark7734 says:

        Merve, don’t let it eat at you. At the risk of impersonating the little girl in ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, your quandary is missing a naked truth.

        Everything you see can be explained by letting yourself believe the most basic of explanations – that each of us brings a specific sensibility to the show as a viewer, replete with our own value system and perception of what’s funny, touching and meaningful.

        What I’m saying is that looking to the show to find the discrepancy in other fans’ attitudes toward a given episode is misdirected. What’s different is in you and in them.

        We could use you and I as a more focused example. Staying within this premise, both of us could agree that a particular episode was artfully crafted (or not), yet disagree completely on how satisfying it was.

        In ‘Role Models’, for instance, I could summarize that episode as, “Sarah works out her reticence to move in with Chuck after evaluating their mutual encounter with an older, successful but fractious spy couple.” That was my ‘A’ story, and what I would give the most weight in an episode rating. Would you have done similarly?

        I think not. 🙂

        At this point, if we were rating the episode overall, you might be pointing out the lackluster impact of the Turners, or the heavy-handed dialogue, or the tepid presence of Otto or maybe even the lack of connection to the season arc. You might be pointing at these things because you expected better and you didn’t get it. And you’d be right to do so.

        But what I’d counter with is that for me, they didn’t matter that much. Because for me, many of these elements were just packaging for the Chuck-Sarah story. A fragile latticework to hold those key scenes in the right places, with only enough premise required to not break the illusion.

        Those other fans, the ones that thought things had gotten dramatically better in the back six? In various measures, they just valued a happy, light tone and two characters allowed to be in love more than you do. Probably a *lot* more. Technically, you could pick apart these episodes element by element and find them wanting. You might even convince them you’re right. But, in the end, it wouldn’t matter. Because they’re agreeing with you wouldn’t make the episodes any less satisfying to them.

        Without delving into a comprehensive analysis of human psychology, I think we’re at a roadblock in further pursuit of this. What I mean is, asking why one element is more important to you than any of them goes beyond the scope of this post.

        I want to leave you with this, though, and it’s something you can genuinely believe is true: The back six saved S3 for me. ‘Honeymooners’ was a soothing balm, and the succeeding episodes have restored much of my lost faith. However you feel about these episodes personally, you should take solace in that, if there are more fans like me in the Nielsen viewing group, they hung on solely due to the lighter turn.

  15. Anonymous says:

    merve possibly the most remarkable thing about season 3 chuck is you and I watched the same show, had near opposite reactions, and still have faith that things are going to be great next season – LOL –

    my one serious comment to your post would be I could not imagine watching the series without being invested in CS – to me – the show is pretty marginal without them –

    I guess hence my outcry at 3.1 thru 3.12, and celebration over 3.13 thru 3.19, and your somewhat opposite reaction – pretty funny really

    • Merve says:

      For the most part, I think that my reactions to season 3 have mirrored the general fan reaction pretty closely, but perhaps not to the same extremes. I wasn’t very pleased with the two-part season premiere. I really enjoyed the two Awesome episodes. I consider “Mask” through “Beard” to be the second most frustrating slump of the series. I thought that “Other Guy” was excellent. And I enjoyed the first four episodes of the back 6 (though maybe not as much as the best episodes of the front 13).

      We all approach the show from different angles. If we all had the same perspectives, there would be nothing to debate, this blog wouldn’t exist, and I’d spend a lot more time sitting in my underwear in front of my television eating fishsticks. For me, Chuck is about journeys. (I don’t know if they’re heroes’ journeys or not; sorry Ernie!) Chuck’s journey has taken him from unmotivated slacker to superhero with a purpose. Casey’s journey has taken him front hardened soldier to caring man of duty. Morgan’s journey has taken him from bearded loser to courageous, loyal sidekick. Awesome’s journey has been about learning to cope with whatever life throws at him – the good and the bad, the “awesome” and the “unawesome.” Sarah’s journey is a little harder to define, but I think that it can best be summarized as being about finding her humanity. Even Big Mike has been on a journey from lazy cheater to proactive father figure. And Ellie has had a journey about learning that no matter what, she can always count on her husband, but I think that she is about to embark on a new journey related to her family.

      There have also been journeys that characters have taken together. Chuck and Morgan have been on a journey together. They’re no longer just friends; they’re truly brothers. Chuck and Casey have been on a journey from mutual distrust to mutual respect and friendship. Casey and Sarah have had a similar journey. Chuck and Sarah have undoubtedly been on a transformative romantic journey, but their journey is one of many on the show. Since I don’t place much emphasis on romance, if I’m enjoying most of the other journeys, it’s not a huge deal if there are bumps on this journey. Nonetheless, from a more objective standpoint, it’s certainly an important journey, perhaps the most important behind Chuck’s solo journey.

      I don’t think that most of these journeys are over, but I think that it’s time for the focus to shift a bit. Now that Chuck and Sarah are together, the show can bring the other journeys to the forefront. I’m completely on board with this kind of change in direction; romance isn’t what draws me to the show. The new direction may not please everyone – I certainly expect a large volume of negative comments when the next season starts – but I hope that the characters’ journeys continue to be interesting and that enough fans stick around to see those journeys unfold.

      • atcdave says:

        I agree with your main ideas, certainly this blog wouldn’t be much fun if we all agreed about everything. The specifics of which episodes I like are even similar, but not identical to yours. I do admit I care very deeply about the central romance. But I think most people will be happy with S4, at least, assuming Chuck and Sarah remain together. So much depends on what happens next. It all hangs on how a committed couple will sell. If Chuck can maintain or improve in the ratings, it gives me hope for how romantic relationships are portrayed on television for the next couple decades. If the show bombs, it may mean boring unfullfilled relationships remain the norm on TV for the rest of my lifetime. Other than that its no big deal.

        Kidding, sort of. I do think many people are watching what happens with Chuck. I do believe most of us diehards will be pleased. I just hope that translates into ratings.

      • jason says:

        merve – I don’t think I understand your POV at all, oh well, I’ll keep trying …. I think S4’s shipper POV and complaining will boil down to one simple issue, how quickly does chuck bring sarah into the orion plot, if he does immediately it will be great, I would calculate anything after the first few acts of episodes one, and you can start the count of losing fans, a few percent each half episode

      • Merve says:

        @ Dave: What I’m interested to see is how Chuck will be perceived outside the diehard fanbase. I think that if Chuck does reasonably well next season, the media will pronounce it a success for committed couples on television, even if that success has little to do with how Chuck and Sarah were portrayed. They might even call it the death of the Moonlighting curse (although apparently there’s a show called The Closer which has already succeeded admirably in disproving that curse, though I don’t know much about that show). If Chuck tanks next season, then inevitably the Moonlighting effect will be partially blamed, even if the show’s lack of success has nothing to do with how Chuck and Sarah were portrayed.

        You know, if there was any anxiety about bringing Chuck and Sarah together on the part of TPTB, I don’t know why; TPTB have shown that they know how to write Chuck and Sarah as a couple (aside from maybe in “Role Models,” but I’ll let that slide because to quote Alan Sepinwall, “funny forgives a lot”). Heck, they even had Devon and Ellie as a template for a well-written (albeit secondary) couple. Devon and Ellie have been through ups and downs together. They’ve even ended a couple of episodes in a bad place. But aside from the fact that their fight in “Nacho Sampler” was never really resolved, I have no major complaints about how that relationship was written and portrayed. Obviously, Chuck and Sarah’s relationship will be a bit different, but I’m confident that if TPTB have done it well once, they can do it well again.

        @ Jason: I hope that I haven’t given the impression that I have absolutely no investment in Chuck and Sarah’s relationshp. The same things that bothered large portions of the fanbase about how their relationshp has been handled have bothered me as well, just perhaps to a lesser degree.

        When I started rambling on about journeys, perhaps I should have added that I’ve enjoyed seeing the story of how Chuck and Sarah fell in love, got together, and became completely committed to each other. But I think that I’m ready for different stories now. I want to see the stories of how Chuck and Ellie find their mother, how Casey reconnects with his family, and how Chuck and Sarah decide what kind of family they want.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve I agree entirely. I’m REALLY hoping that Moonlighting rule is destroyed once for and for all.

      • Merve says:

        Dave, I’ve always thought that the Moonlighting rule shouldn’t be a rule at all. Bringing a couple together and then writing that relationship poorly can kill a show – it happened with Robin and Barney on How I Met Your Mother. But writing that relationship well can breathe new life into a show, like on Chuck. It has very little to do with the fact that the couple is now together and everything to do with how well the couple is written.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The funny part about the Moonlighting rule is that what really happened is the exact opposite of the perception.

        Ratings were already falling, so they threw the two together only to immediately break them apart and keep them apart, literally with the two characters sharing almost no screen time, for much of the next season. When they did bring them back together they put Maddie in a serious committed relationship and tried to milk some more angst out of it. By the time they got them together again ratings were tanking and never recovered, and nobody cared.

        Sound familiar?

      • atcdave says:

        Ernie beat me to it! I was going to say the funny thing about the Moonlighting rule is, for 30 years we’ve had mediocre television thanks, in part, to a misinterpretation of what happened to Moonlighting!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well Dave, if we both keep saying it maybe word will get around and even Hollywood might figure it out, someday.

        The other Hollywood SOP that seems to have taken hold is the end of season cliffhanger. It bugs me too.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, that irks me almost as much as unending WT/WT. I think they got it right for Chuck this season. But on so many shows my response at the season finale is “gee, now we get wait four months to find out how they weasel out of that!” (um, no offense intended to weaselone or any other member of the polecat family!). Maybe that’s the “Dallas Rule”. Not so much misinterpreted as over-applied.

      • jason says:

        one thing different about chuck and sarah, the typical wt/wt is a playboy man who expresses extreme interest in the girl seemingly because of the challenge, and the cool aloof women who slowly melts in spite of her knowing better, then the man realizes how much he cares, and the lady notices the change and runs, they go thru several iterations of that –

        with sarah – she really liked chuck immediately, and chuck was the opposite, the goofy nerd who like sarah IN spite of the challenge, not because of it.

        Somehow, the story got retold in season 3.1 where sarah was cool and aloof and chuck was pretty cool and it became a classic wt/wt, but it did not start that way at all.

        Also, that is why it will be easy to write CS as a couple, it going to be hard to write Rick Castle as a loving, caring partner and Kate Beckett as head over heels over ‘her Rick’, chuck and sarah are just fine going there as we saw (sarah has not been typecast as cool and aloof, jsut as ‘too cool’ for his own skin), these two essentially got fixed on the honeymoon and are ready for action.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, it amazes me how disconnected Hollywood seems to be from reality or viewers. I’ve talked before how I basically gave up on TV nearly a decade ago, and it is amazing how many people chime in with the same story. I moved to rentals and iTunes so I can sort through the dreck and find the few quality shows that I want to watch. Usually after they’ve been canceled. Firefly was a perfect example. No network seems willing to let a quality show build an audience anymore.

      • Merve says:

        I’m not opposed to the idea of an end-of-season cliffhanger, but it has to be done right. I agree with Dave: Chuck got it right this season. The season finale resolved most of the major threads from the season, and then proceeded to throw in a major twist. So now instead of being angry, disappointed, or confused, the fanbase is speculating about what the big twist could mean for season 4.

        In my opinion, there are a few ways to get it wrong. I don’t know how many of you watch Community, but its season finale resolved nothing and the cliffhanger left me thinking, “Oh crap. How are they going to fix this one?” White Collar‘s season finale suffered from a slightly different problem. It was an excellent episode, but it didn’t explain much. And then at the very of the episode, a plane exploded for no apparent reason. Now instead of being excited and speculating endlessly about what’s going to happen next, all I can think is, “WTF?”

        If I had a preference for season finale cliffhangers, it would be that they shouldn’t be based on lingering storylines which feel as if they should be resolved. I like everything to be tied up in a nice little package. Then the showrunners can feel free to throw that package into a blender, if they so desire.

      • atcdave says:

        Jason, what you bring up is one of the main reasons I’ve said the CS pairing would work almost since the beginning. The two characters are decent characters who like and respect each other from the very beginning. There are growth issues, but neither has to “change their stripes” to become a good partner. Add to that, the humor in the relationship is either shared or external (meaning they don’t tease or humiliate each other) so the show looses NOTHING by having them just admit they love each other and pursue common goals. A show like Castle will loose some of its edge as Castle and Becket start treating each other with more kindness and respect; and of course Rick will have to be willing to make significant changes to his character and lifestyle to actually be a good partner for anyone (gee, what a shock on modern television, the female lead is pretty much perfect as is). So to end the wt/wt on Castle means they will have to do a lot of planning on how they will keep it fun and engaging. Chuck has no such structural problem.

        Ernie, do you think its a delusion to think the internet (forums and sites like this) provides some hope? Until the last decade I think TV writers/producers had a real challenge on their hands to figure out what their audiences wanted, what they thought of developments on any show, how characters were being perceived by their fans…
        Now they can assign an intern to surf the net and find out in a few hours how fans are responding to these things. Not that it did us much good for S3. But you and I have both talked about the role of fans in the creative process. Perhaps at some point we’ll see more shows providing the types of stories and characters we actually want to watch.
        Before anyone cries foul, I am well aware the process can go too far the other way. Shows that simply pander will seldom be satisfying either. But there is a balance to the process where writers are satisfying their creative desires, and viewers are getting types of shows they want.

      • joe says:

        Not to answer for Ernie, Dave, but my 2 costa gravan pesos says it’s made it a bit harder, actually.

        I’m sure they thought it was simpler back in the days of 3 networks and only the Neilsen ratings to rely on. Very cut and dry (and you understood the competition, for the most part).

        Now they have to worry about things like “Chuck’s audience is smaller, but they are more active and willing to spend bucks at their local Subway shop.” There’s more to be considered (especially the blog-o-sphere) and they know it.

        It must seem like an Ocean of Noise to them – to coin a phrase (not!).

      • atcdave says:

        Merve I do agree with much of that. I’ve seen cliffhangers I’ve enjoyed, and some I didn’t. I think an all time favorite was ST:TNG “Best of Both Worlds”. I remember spending all summer discussing the episode and resolution with friends. Although in many was it was not a “modern” show. The story telling was mainly episodic, so the cliff-hanger was essentially just a two part episode. We hadn’t been waiting for months for resolution or explaination only to be defered for another season at the climax.
        You mentioned White Collar, which was exactly one of the unsatisfying season enders I was thinking of. Perversly, I’m hopeful they have indeed gotten rid of Kate. She truly added nothing to the story or characters. I think for a satisfying romantic interest we need to see how the characters interact and effect each other. I believe Alex was the character who was a sometimes partner to Neal in the last few episodes; she seems a vastly better romantic interest to me (if they go that way at all). Even the hispanic FBI agent who’s name eludes me (sorry) would be a far more interesting pairing with Neal than Kate ever managed to be.
        Um, sorry for the aside, but the finale failed in that it resolved little and was manipulative in several ways to get there (did Peter seriously think he was going to talk Neal into not running off with Kate?!). In the end, it was neither satisfying nor true to the characters.

      • atcdave says:

        That is a valid point Joe; but on the other hand, when the audience atarted slipping badly in the middle of S3 there could be little doubt as to why. I suppose there’s still some margin for error, after all the complainers are heavily invested viewers, not the ones who are just drifting away. But those of us complaining were pretty clearly focusing on one MAJOR problem. There were other minor issues brought up, but it was pretty clear what one thing had people discouraged and POed. If you go all the way back to last July, there was one consistant source of discontent, even anger, among the hard core fans. So it shouldn’t be rocket science (does that mean you won’t get this Joe?) to figure out what went so wrong last season.

        As I said in the paragraph above, I’m not talking about pandering; that is, I don’t expect them to try to tweak every detail to make everyone happy. What I’m talking about is identifying major concerns and issues. TPTB easily could have (and in my opinion SHOULD HAVE) looked at posted opinion last August and said “there’s a strong opinion against us doing this, let’s find a different way to tell the story.” Obviously there are timing issues, and they can’t magically change everything that’s been done; but they’d really have to be clueless to introduce PLIs into the CS mix again this season (I’m not suggesting they ever considered it, only that they’d be stupid if they did).

        When we were kids, if a show started slipping in the ratings, it could be a major job to figure out why. I think we’ve really given them a new tool, if they can use it wisely, to sort out what works and what doesn’t.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Too much good stuff… MUST reply.

        Merve, well said about the cliffhangers. This season Chuck got it right, which makes me feel that TPTB learned a lot and we can hit the ground running next season rather than have the lingering reset and fan disconnect.

        Dave, Joe. Joe makes a good point, Hollywood used to be a far more insular place. I think now that there are so many other options and choices for viewers they are still trying to adjust. It used to be that all the studios and networks had the same single goal, viewer ratings to attract advertisers. Now the studios have larger foreign markets DVD sales, iTunes, Amazon and product placement, all of which can raise revenues outside just licensing fees. The broadcast networks only have ad revenue for the most part. In addition with so many choices the market has sort of fragmented and you can’t necessarily count on an ad reaching 20 million viewers. But if for instance you are Apple you might want to lean to a show where the demographic is better suited to your product. Or if you are Subway and you’ve earned some brand loyalty by saving a beloved show (or being perceived that way) it might be worthwhile to support advertising in a smaller audience pre-disposed to react favorably. For a studio it may no longer be such a bad idea to produce a cult hit or a niche show if you can convince advertisers it will reach the eyes they want to reach. I really don’t think anyone has it figured out yet, but I think looking at the music industry they have to be aware that you either adapt or perish.

        As for what the forums bring, I’d like to think we get read by people who can make a difference, but I doubt they can afford to admit it. I think the best thing we can do is offer our honest opinions in a polite and constructive way, so they aren’t as likely to be dismissed out of hand, and hope that somehow it helps someone come to a new understanding of what people want and watch.

  16. jason says:

    merve, that anonymous was me, for some reason, my computer lost my identity

  17. JC says:

    One other thing I’d like to bring up. Hopefully we get an episode about Sarah that doesn’t have anything to do with romance at all.

    Her character got lost this season, we still don’t know anything about her really. Even in the back six, she felt like afterthought. Maybe bring back Jack Burton or have some flashbacks about her mother. I’d take an episode with her and Carina that explores her history before Chuck.

    I really hate to be cynical but sometimes I feel like the TPTB don’t explore her character for the sole purpose of using her as plot device to move the story forward.

    • joe says:

      I would love to see more exposition on the Sarah character. We had Cougars in S1 and DeLorean in S2, and that’s been about it.

      But Jason has a point (above). The show doesn’t do well when Chuck & Sarah are separated, and if Sarah does something, say, involving Jack or her mother, while Chuck is in the “Orion Cave”, it won’t work.

      I’ve love another Sarah-centric episode, but it seems much harder to do that now is S4, the way it’s been set up.

      Someone convince me it’s possible, please!

      • herder says:

        Sure, just do an episode about how Sarah’s experience in life is that when things are going good, the most important person around will let you down. A couple of flash backs about Jack Burton or Bryce leaving, then back to the present about her being in domestic bliss but suddenly becoming very clingy around Chuck. The end could be a situation where he seems to be letting her down and her being resigned to that then Chuck really stepping up and committing to her even more than before.

      • jason says:

        joe, I’d like to see the orion team be more like the fantastic 4, casey, sarah have obvious fits, we might have to teach morgan how to lite himself on fire, with chuck as the leader, smart guy, yet subservient to the others in their own areas of expertise.

        I too would love to see sarah have a plot line of her own – just have chuck either be part of it or at least supportive of it, I just don’t want CS to have secrets, which I fear may be the direction or theme of their post consummated relationship

        How about ellie and sarah agree to help each other find their mothers, after they independently find enough info that they a few things in common, maybe even jack burton? Heck, that I could even tolerate being kept a secret from chuck for a while, but only if ellie made sarah promise not to spill the beans – as you do stuff like that for family

      • joe says:

        Oh gee, Jason. I love the FF analogy! Can’t believe I haven’t seen references to (or thought of) that one before!

        Casey as “The Thing”. Heh! 😉

        I rather like the idea of Chuck single-mindedly searching for Sarah’s mother, and Sarah searching for Chuck’s. The virtue in that, is that the story could become more episodic. Every week they could work together on one problem and overarching, each have their separate, entwined goals. It addresses the “new-viewer” problem that Zac Levi brings up in this interview.

    • Merve says:

      More than that, I’d say that Sarah needs a storyline where she isn’t just reacting to things. I don’t want a retread of “Cougars” or “Delorean.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if Chuck and Sarah agreed to help each other find their respective mothers? As long as the moms don’t turn out to be each other’s best friends or nemeses, I’d be totally on board with that.

      • JC says:

        That’s a good point Merve.

        It’d be nice to see Sarah do something because she wants to, instead of it being forced on her.

        Perhaps have her ask Chuck to help find her mother or reconnect with her father especially after what happened to Orion.

    • atcdave says:

      I think we mentioned this a couple weeks back; I pretty much always wish we knew more about what was really going with Sarah. I notice a common theme among us fans, we all really seem to wish the show was “Chuck and Sarah”, that is how we think about it and really want it to be. But TPTB are determined to keep the show “Chuck”, and we will never get the development and detail for Sarah that we wish we would.

  18. Cas says:

    My biggest fear about Chuck following Orion’s path is him actually follwing his fathers foot step. We only knew of fulcrum and the ring, and now we know that there are a lot more evil organizations lurking around. Orion said something like ” Now that I’m gone, they’re going to come after you” ( i’m probably way off..sorry). We know that Orion’s first instinct is always to run to keep his loved one safe. We also know that if Chuck had to choose, he will always choose to protect the ones he love. I just don’t want Chuck realizing that just like his father, he will have to run to keep his family and loved one safe. I am very optimistic about season four but I just can’t shake off the feeling that seasons 4 finale cliffhanger will be Chuck leaving his family behind.

    • atcdave says:

      I hope you’re wrong cas. My biggest fear is how long Chuck will try to keep Sarah in the dark about his Orion activities. I would hope he’d run home and tell her all about it immediately after 3.19 ended. My fear is we’ll get a few weeks (or more) of Chuck lying to and deceiving Sarah. Fedak did mention they had learned not to keep “main characters” seperated for so long, hopefully that means we have nothing to worry about.
      Ending the season (series? Chuck is still a bubble show) with Chuck on the run would be very depressing.

      • chuckfan says:

        @actdave- You are absolutely right in saying that the biggest fear for the next season is how long TPTB drag on the issue of Chuck keeping Orion’s base a secret from Sarah.As we all saw in 3.17 continuous lying damages the character to a large extent. Now that Chuck and Sarah are in a committed relationship, I hope TPTB have the sense to resolve issues in a an adult manner and not just drag out secrets and lies just for the sake of angst.The show will be competing next season with Undercovers when it comes to couple dynamics. Comparison of both couples is bound to happen. TPTB need to hit the ground running and go forward with the relationship. Not regress it with continuous lies and deceit.

        On a positive note, I am really hoping that Chuck tells Sarah about the base by the second episode (and I absolutely do not want Sarah finding it out from others – IMO such a repeated scenario weakens relationships).

      • chuckfan says:

        Further commenting on your post. It would be senseless to show Chuck following the same path that his father chose – going away from the family, giving up a life with them etc. If he tries to follow that path it will only lead to heartbreaks and broken relationships. Somehow TPTB have to show a Chuck who is now basically the new Orion minus the mistakes his father made. TPTB have the perfect couple in hand and if they are brave enough to roll with them being together in every sense (missions,life, sharing secrets etc), they could work wonders with Season 4.

        Unnecessary lying and secret keeping from the person you love tends to be a distracting factor for fans from the show’s mythology. Instead of the missions, the main focus and worry of the fans would be on how these secrets and lies are resolved.

        That’s the end of my rambling and I apologize if you found it repetitive and boring

      • aardvark7734 says:

        Chuckfan, I’m not Dave, but I want to expand your last point. Unnecessary lying and secret keeping not only distracts from the show’s mythology, but from every other worthwhile plot or character development.

        How many times does the “Gravitron” incident need to be repeated? (Chris Fedak once remarked in an interview that he went online after this episode to see what people thought about the Chuck-Leader tussle in the carnival ride only to find that all anyone was talking about was the Charah).

        I implore them to let Chuck and Sarah stay a committed if imperfect team if they seriously want to keep our attention focused elsewhere. There is SO MUCH rich potential elsewhere to play with. Just as we almost never doubted Devon and Ellie’s commitment to each other in S1 and most of S2, let it be so for Chuck and Sarah in S4.


      • aardvark7734 says:

        Oh, and for Christmas this year, I’m asking for the ability to NOT repeat the same word in successive sentences.


      • atcdave says:

        I appreciate all your comments guys. So we’re agreed then, no more lying Chuck in S4 (oh, no running away either; um at least not alone, I could imagine a scenario where Chuck and Sarah hit the road together). That should settle it.

        Unneeded angst between Chuck and Sarah not only is a distraction from everything else they choose to write about, it undermines the respect and affection we have for those characters. The Graviton example is funny, I hope they really learn from it (although S3 would tend to suggest otherwise). No matter how good everything else on the show may be (and how much effort they put in to other details), if Chuck and Sarah are estranged we will not enjoy or appreciate anything else.

        Shocking but true!!!

  19. Crumby says:

    Great post Jason!

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