Romance

It’s Not Just A Quick Read On The Beach Anymore

As I type this, Ernie has just put up our first S3 Revisited post and there are precisely two comments. That’s okay – it’s only been up for a length of time measured in minutes. What’s striking is that both comments address romance, as did my portion of the post. And we’re guys!

Sweetness and Light

Speaking for myself, I’m a twice-married “flaming!” heterosexual male with a granddaughter, two black belts and a love of football that goes back to Jack Kemp, Vince Lombardi and Cookie Gilcrist. Yet here I am, constantly writing about sweet, fictional moments of hand holding, love discovered, love deferred and love re-found like a teenager. Oops. Almost typed “angst-ridden teenager.” That wouldn’t be too far from the truth, either, except that I haven’t been an angst-ridden teen in decades. That’s not me no more!

Most of our readership is male, as is most of Chuck‘s audience. With Yvonne Strahovski highlighted in each episode, perhaps that’s not surprising.

Shouldn’t we be writing about the spy adventure that’s going on here?

Bye-Bye Buy More

Aren’t there bullets flying and cars blowing up and (bwa-ha-ha) bad-guys to be punched in the back of the head? Sure there are. Good humor, too. Still, those things always comes second. It’s the stick that gently stirs the Chuck drink, and no more than that. ‘Fess up now – you’re as in touch with your “lady feelings” as I am. And if the romance wasn’t so ingrained into the story, you’d be watching reruns of Law and Order, Monk or NCIS. We may have given this show a chance because we saw Chuck ejected sideways from a tricked-out herder in Helicopter and we may have spritzed a soda through our nose when Sarah photographed a gagged and tie-up Casey in Wookie. (“Smile!”) But most of us guys focused on every stolen (and missed) glance between Chuck & Sarah, and heard every errant word. “He’s – my guy.” That ever-so-slight catch in her throat was not lost on us. Not for a minute.  We got caught up because for one reason or another, we wanted to see Chuck and Sarah together.

So I have a question. Where is this coming from? Is it the memories of real-life love-lost – or hopefully, love found? Is it about remembering the struggle, or living through it? Is it simply that “nerd-gets-the-girl” is a modern day fairy tale, or is it more personal than that? Is the chord being struck a shared misery, a shared hope or a fond remembrance?

Now that I’ve successfully channeled Carrie Bradshaw, I’ll stop that and offer some of my own answers to those questions.

Ultimately, I have no idea! I don’t like 99.44% of the stuff my wife subjects me to when she ties me up and forces me to watch Lifetime or The Hallmark Channel (and I won’t comment on if I just like being tied up, you insensitive clods… 😉 ). Besides being extraordinarily predictable, I generally bristle at the blatant stereotypes I see on their shows (um, there actually are more than two kinds of men in the world, one of which is emotionally unavailable, the other a “white knight”).

Chuck has not been about those stereotypes. It’s about my stereotype, the nice-guy who’s bright, but full of insecurities. It’s about the unattainable seeming just within your grasp, and hoping beyond hope you haven’t overestimated your reach. It’s not about the sex – it’s about the touch.

It’s not been about being Superman or Peter Parker. It’s about being an everyday hero, and seeing that hero in the people around you sometimes.

Chuck has changed.  The show is no longer about that angst and those insecurities he used to have. That ended some time ago, as did mine. Like the character, the show has grown up, and presents a world of increased responsibilities and increased concerns, especially concerns for loved ones. That change, from emotional teen to emotional adult continues to feel familiar. It’s recognizably my own, and I suspect, yours. To hold my attention, Chuck needs to keep this adult posture with the characters, and still, somehow, keep the fun excitement and romance that we’ve always enjoyed. That’s quite a challenge.

My hope for season 4 is that they can pull this off.  I think they can, because even though the angst is gone, the romance continues unabated.

With Chuck and Sarah together, what are you hoping to see?

– joe

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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.
This entry was posted in Angst, Observations, Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Romance

  1. Chuck604 says:

    What really attracted me to Chuck was all the startling similarities we share. I share similar tastes in music, and have a particular interest in technology, and video games. I like a lot of his references from Star Wars to Arcade Fire. I’m kind of in the same situation as far as I’m not sure what exactly I want to do with my life; but we share a value about nothing being more important than love for family and friends. Plus it doesn’t hurt that Yvonne plays a character who is not only beautiful but portrays the emotions of Sarah very profoundly and conspicuously with the smallest of actions.

    I hope that next season they continue to evolve the characters by having them go through challenges together; I’ll be excited with how they deal with those challenges and what dynamics might be involved. But I think with the chemistry portrayed between Zach and Yvonne I don’t feel there is much to worry about, unless TPTB throw a curve ball.

    • joe says:

      Hum… At first, when you used “we”, I wasn’t sure if you meant you and Chuck or you and several million fans. To a surprising extent, both seem to be true!

      • Chuck604 says:

        That’s certainly seems the case Joe, I’m sure there’s many people, fans included of course that have many similarities with Chuck, and to varying extent other characters as well. I think this show is a rare case where I have some kind of connection with the characters the cast portray.

    • Hope says:

      I’m hoping next season we get a balanced mix of light and dark. The drama vs the comedy and the lighthearted moments between our spy family.

      If any romance is involved, which I’m sure there will be, I hope Kathleen can return so she and Casey can be together, and if he approves it, Morgan and Alex can date as well. As for Chuck and Sarah I’d love to see them engaged, and Ellie and Devon to have a baby.

  2. jason says:

    Joe – when u contacted me about writing, and I said I had 2 subjects, first one I wrote, second one was more or less this, I really am not all that much of a tv romance guy, yet the CS thing hooked me. I have kept an eye on other wt/wt romance type shows since trying to understand chuck, I really don’t care all that much about the lead couples in other shows, matter of fact, after 3.1 of 3.13 ruined chuck for me, I sort of hope EVERY show ruins itself – LOL.

    but, to stay on point, why was the chuck romance different – maybe it is the seeing some part of CS in myself – I actually sort of had a sarah relationship – 2 years – although we were a real couple within a few minutes of meeting – so it was very different – but had a prague moment and ended, for good …. maybe I will write about that sometime if anyone is interested.

    My conclusion of the ‘why’ with the CS romance hooking people is, compared to other wt/wt, this show wrote sarah different from other wt/wt leads, she loved & was true to chuck right from the start straight thru & chuck was woefully clueless the entire time, so when season 3 happened, EVERYTHING that was built over the first 2 seasons was just thrown out the window. If I did like the dark, I too would probably be bitter and whiny about 3.14, it just was so great, like the darkness of 3.1 thru 3.13 never happened. Was romance at its finest.

  3. atcdave says:

    I think the Chuck/Sarah romance works for a variety of different reasons. The most intoxicating and compelling ended with S2. Up to that point we had an idealized nerd; honest, compassionate, brilliant, and a leader among nerds. And its obvious many of us here really relate to that nerd, at least he’s the nerd we all wish we could be. I’m not even a computer nerd as such, but I relate in terms of the social awkwardness and strong interest in eccentric topics that leave most people baffled (I’m a nerd, not a computer nerd). Pair him with the idealized super spy; beautiful, capable, dangerous, brave and utterly heroic, yet also gentle, decent, and respectful. Idealized except for her ineptitude with real emotions and relationships.
    So of course we’ll invest easily in getting the nerd we relate to and the spy we can’t help but love together. On top of those reasons, we see them develop a friendship, respect, and affection for each other. By the end of S2 there is serious trust and devotion as well.

    S3 nearly ruined everything. Certainly the trust and devotion was completely destroyed, right from 3.01. The show retained some of its strengths, but the relationship was no longer among them. Starting in 3.13 we saw them come back together, but with no actually apology or justification of what came before we can only have a pale reflection of what there was. Some of what worked before is back for all to see, particularly the easy chemistry Zach and Yvonne have on screen. Its so easy to believe they care for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Add to that the action and comedy that has always been done well and Chuck will remain a fun little show. But the special aspect of the romance has been destroyed. The trust, respect, and devotion Chuck and Sarah previously had ended with S2 because we now know that they might give up on each other. There is no magic anymore.

    It might be something they can get back; but I have no confidence in TPTB actually doing it. It would require Chuck and Sarah apologizing to each other. And I’m not talking about sex. Chuck must apologize for ever thinking career is more important than love, he must apologize for thinking he can have a fling when he isn’t over Sarah, and he must apologize for lying even after they’re supposed to be together. Sarah is equally to blame. She must apologize for making Chuck choose between career and her, she must apologize for not believing Chuck can become a spy without loosing himself, and she must apologize for turning to another man while she was still in love with Chuck. They don’t actually need to spell out all the offenses, but they do need to apologize for hurting each other and loosing faith in each other.

    Wow am I grumpy today! please take all of the above with a grain of salt. I’m still not feeling very forgiving about the front 13. I still love the show and the characters. But it lost a lot of what made it special this year.

    • lucian says:

      Well said!

    • aardvark7734 says:

      Are you kidding? That was perfect, Dave!

      So good that I was thinking maybe I could just slip you a five-spot every so often and you could post stuff like that as me. 😉

      *sigh*

      Yeah, you’re right, no one would believe I was that good. LOL.

      • atcdave says:

        I almost hit cancel instead of submit. I’m glad you guys liked my rant. It seems a little petty now as they have fixed MOST of what they did wrong. But obviously, it still sticks in my craw just a little….

        oh and Aardvark, with our avatar’s coming up similar colors, I often get confused as to which of us posted anyway!

    • jason says:

      funny – I was sort of grumpy today too – liked how your words came out lot more than mine – well said

  4. Paul says:

    I am a hopeless romantic. I admit it (I’ll also grudginly admit that I loved the “Notebook”….but had to convince a lady friend of mine to go with me to see it in theaters because it just ain’t right for a single guy to go see that kind of movie by himself… ;)). And I think the story of Chuck and Sarah just happens to fit into a classic love story. Boy meets girl, boy tries to prove he is worthy of girl, boy thinks he loses girl, but in the end they find love. There are literally hundreds of books and movies that follow this theme. So I think we are kind of ingrained in a sense to respond to that kind of story. It also doesn’t hurt that Chuck is wish fullfillment at it’s finest. Find me a guy who was considered a geek as a kid and says they would never date a girl like Sarah Walker, and I’ll point out to you a liar.

    • joe says:

      Paul, if you change “hundreds of books” to “thousands” or even “tens of thousands of books”, I’ll agree with every word and sentiment here. 😉

      • Paul says:

        You are right Joe. I just didn’t want to stray into hyperbole… 😉

        After reading many posts on here, I am surprised so many people felt bitter about the path of the story in S3. I guess one reason why I didn’t find it disaapointing is because I knew that the arc was following the classic romance story pattern: the boy almost loses the girl before they overcome thier obstacles and find love. So in essence, I was never really worried about the outcome.

      • ChuckNewbie8 says:

        At the risk of starting a seven circle of hell thing…I think it’s fair to say that all of us knew things would turn out ok in the end. The destination was never in doubt, the journey on the other hand?

      • aardvark7734 says:

        You’re right, Faith.

        Sometimes participating on this blog is like standing in a room with a known gas leak where you and everyone else is constantly flicking lighters. 😉

      • Merve says:

        Paul, I’d wager that for most people it’s not so much a matter of “Why are we on this journey?” as much as it is a matter of “Why are you smashing my skull repeatedly with that hammer while we’re on this journey?”

      • JC says:

        Or hey I haven’t I been on this journey twice already?

      • Merve says:

        I don’t know about that, JC. It was different this time around. But “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.”

        Just to make it clear, I was just trying to explain what some fans found annoying about the season. I don’t necessarily hold that opinion myself. I’m actually more with Paul on this one but it might be because I’m pretty immune to angst. Or it might be because I don’t really care about romance, which begs the question – why am I commenting on this post? I don’t know. I should go to bed.

      • JC says:

        At least to me the romance and PLIs felt like a rehash of previous seasons. They really didn’t add anything to the story that I hadn’t seen before. Add that to the terrible execution and IMO the fact it took time away from the rest of the story. That’s what bothered me.

        I have no problem with angst and other romantic interests. But when they’re clearly used just to extend the WT/WT they become tiresome.

      • atcdave says:

        Some great comments here. I’d say, among my complaints was that the story was predictable (of it was the classic wt/wt dance, it was just a variation on what they did in S1 AND S2, don’t they know any other way of telling the story??!!), drawn out too long (that was true as of 2.22, there was absolutely nothing they could do to redeem using this methodology AGAIN in S3), and just generally not well done.
        I guess I could also say ditto to Faith, JC, Aardvark, and Merve (at least the part where he understands, not so much the part where he disagrees!).

  5. Cas says:

    I’m not really much of a writer so I will just go with “DITTO”

  6. aardvark7734 says:

    Joe, I think you really nailed it in this paragraph:

    “Chuck has not been about those stereotypes. It’s about my stereotype, the nice-guy who’s bright, but full of insecurities. It’s about the unattainable seeming just within your grasp, and hoping beyond hope you haven’t overestimated your reach. It’s not about the sex – it’s about the touch.”

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself. That was both eloquent and succinct. Kudos!

    Chuck and Sarah’s “meet cute” just exuded raw charm from the get-go. It’s something about Chuck’s disbelief in Sarah’s interest evaporating in her (apparently genuine) attraction. We’re sharing, somehow, in Chuck’s incredibly good fortune, because we know how rare it is in the real world.

    And it’s something about Sarah’s dispassionate agent persona being knocked off its moorings by a guy whose only apparent qualities (let’s all pretend of a moment that Zach’s an average looking guy) were humor and genuine caring. I think everyone reading this thinks that they, too, have some measure of these qualities at their core. We want to believe that these qualities are important. That they’d be the differentiators in winning the heart of a girl like Sarah.

    But beyond that, and speaking only for the males in this audience (because I have some experience with that), I have to say that those of us who have truly been in love at some point in our lives get what a transformative experience it is. How once your brain chemistry re-balances, nothing you cared about before seems to matter as much. And how the slightest touch from someone you desire can spike the pleasure center in your brain and reverberate through your entire body. It’s a potent narcotic.

    Admit it, guys. You remember.

    I think that when we watch Chuck and Sarah awkwardly exchange date-speak at the Mexican restaurant in the pilot, we feel a faint echo of that experience. The heightened awareness of the other person. Being high on adrenaline. The mix of anticipation and fearfulness. Of wanting to put it all out there but not knowing how much is too much.

    And when Chuck gets it right with his save about restraining orders, and Sarah rewards him with a laugh and a genuine compliment, we know the date’s a success and they’re on their way. We revel in Chuck’s win because we recognize the signs and we’ve been there.

    When Chuck wins, we win.

    • joe says:

      I’d forget my head sometimes, if it wasn’t attached, Aardvark. But you bet I remember that first love, and the first time I actually “got it right.”

      Thanks for bringing that back! 😉

  7. ChuckNewbie8 says:

    Joe, nice!

    Here’s an interesting fact…studies show that men are actually more romantic than women. When I first read that I thought wha-ha? That can’t be. I’m the one that reads romance novels by the truck load, I watch hokey romantic comedies while my guy friends and varied boyfriends have scoffed at the very idea…but really who’s right?

    I think we get caught into these stereotypes but what’s great about Chuck is that it challenges that…challenges those stereotypes in a fashion that doesn’t just prompt identification, it also does it in a matter in which makes you feel good.

    Why do I care about the romance? Because I just do, they just work, and rooting for them and seeing them together finally…feels right.

    • joe says:

      And just when I was about to complain to Aardvark above that I was *really* hoping to get the female perspective –

      Faith to the rescue! 😉

      You’re absolutely right about how it challenges the stereotypes (even if it does so incredibly gently). It’s not that “Nerd gets the girl” isn’t a stereotype. It is. It’s that it’s so easy to see Chuck and Sarah in other people, the ones you meet everyday. It’s not The Intersect and the hot CIA Agent you root for. It’s the guy at the box store and the girl at the check out counter who may have something special and surprising. You don’t have to be jealous of them. You can root for them!

  8. alladinsgenie4u says:

    Great post. Loved every bit of it. It captured in essence all that I feel about Chuck (show).I am a guy and a flaming heterosexual with a keen interest in sports and extracurricular activities but if there is one thing that makes me go all mushy and fuzzy inside – it is the romance of Chuck and Sarah. To be honest, I was never a shipper for any wt/wt tangles on any other shows that I watch. But I was converted to a C/S shipper, right from the Pilot. Every episode, I felt like a fellow traveler with Chuck and Sarah on their romantic journey – I reveled in every cute moment and touch and despaired when things appeared bleak. But I was assured that whatever new trouble that C/S came up against, it would soon be gone and the whole of Season 2 just proved that.

    And then came Season 3 and shattered all that. I now felt like a spectator on the sidelines as Chuck and Sarah hurtled away from each other.All the trust,affection and caring built over the past two seasons was smashed beyond repair in 3.01 and was further grounded to dust during 3.07 and 3.08 and their aftermath. I confess that after 3.08 – I watched each episode with hope that things would soon turn out right. But I was left disappointed each and every time until 3.12. By that time, major damage had been done. When 3.12 came – I just wanted the torture to end . I found that I no longer cared about the journey. The back 7 did a lot to heal my wounds, but I still feel a bitterness when I revisit Season 3.

    As ChuckNewbie said – we care a lot about this C/S romance because it matters. It challenges stereotypes and makes us feel good. Enough said.

    • atcdave says:

      I don’t remember your name here before, so welcome! I agree almost entirely, thanks for a great first post.

    • ChuckNewbie8 says:

      Alladins is an old hand over at the boards…nice to see you here Alladins. Welcome to shipper island 😀 Haha.

  9. alladinsgenie4u says:

    @Dave and Cnewbs – thanks for the welcome.

  10. SWnerd says:

    I see I’m not the only one who still has a bitter taste in their mouth over much of the front 13 story arc. Even knowing what I know now with the “payoff” and the good stuff after in the back 6, I admit I still get a sinking feeling just thinking about those earlier episodes. I probably always will and for the most part won’t be able to bring myself to re-watch a lot of it.

    I told my parents that when I buy the DVDs they may want to just watch from Other Guy on. Of course they’ll miss some things, but really with plot holes, dropped story lines, poor execution, and resets the only important things that happened were Chuck officially becoming an agent, Morgan finding out, and Casey having a daughter. Though my mom thinks watching those may make you appreciate the later ones more, but in my opinion it’s at a awfully high price.

    • atcdave says:

      What, me bitter?! There is some value in those earlier episodes, but really not much. I think the awesome episodes will stay watchable. The Beard and Tic Tac are OK, but with later episodes being so much better I haven’t felt like going back to them.

    • jason says:

      I probably can rewatch the bad arc by turning off in the with about 2-3 minutes to go in 3.6 (optional probably could stomach watching that even), 15 minutes to go in 3.7 & 3.8, 2-3 minutes to go in 3.10 & 3.11 & 3.12. The problem was just about every episode in the dark season was ruined at the end – what would be some pretty good episodes (3.12 just sucked the whole way thru really, given the potential it had) – I wonder if they realized what they did with the endings (i.e. was it intentional) – I also wonder if they realized what bad strategy it is to end shows bad? Especially for a bubble show that had kind of found a niche in the water fountain type endings????

      • atcdave says:

        I think they knew exactly what they were doing, they just misjudged how ticked many of their core fans would be, and even worse, how many casual viewers would simply tune out. I know JS is happy to upset fans, I think he feels like he’s “making us care” or “earn the payoff” or some such thing; but I think they were surprised and concerned when half their audience tuned out.

      • Merve says:

        I don’t think anybody involved with the show likes pissing off large portions of the fanbase. If you’re working in the TV business, at some point you’ve got to realize that trying to please everyone isn’t worth it.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve, I think there is a fine line between getting people excited and getting them ticked off sometimes. If a baddie does something awful it defines them as a baddie and causes viewers to want them busted; but we’ve all seen shows (I mean generically, not just Chuck specifically) take it too far and do something terrible to a loved character, or just so awful many viewers choose to stop watching — exciting people without angering them (or maybe just not angering them in the wrong way) is an art-form. I’m pretty sure it was JS (might have been CF) I heard say he “likes upsetting viewers.” I’m sure he didn’t mean anger to the point of not watching; but obviously, for many fans, he crossed that line this season.

      • Paul says:

        Dave, I think that’s were personal tastes and “not trying to please everyone” comes into play. I have stated before that the ‘angst’ in the early eps didn’t put me off. Yes, it was uncomfortable at times…but I think it was supposed to be. We were supposed to feel that it was somehow not right for Chuck and Sarah not to be together and them being with others. I know some folks had issues with this and the “overuse” of it as plot device. For me, it made me want to tune in next week and see if the problem got solved yet or not.

      • atcdave says:

        I know Paul, and it is good it worked for you. But you know it was way over my limit, had I been any lest invested in the show I never would have stuck it out. And the drop in the ratings (depending on when you count from between 25-50%) indicates too many more viewers felt like I did.

  11. Robert H says:

    Dave, excellent post. Season 3 was at best just
    awful. There were some good episodes but by and large it was a disaster. I’m surprised the show got
    renewed as easily as it did. The finale was not that
    good either. Bringing Shaw back cancelled the emotional impact of Chuck saving Sarah which finally
    brought them together, at least for the time being,
    I just don’t trust Fedak/Schwartz any more and am
    extremely wary of whatever they say or do now. I’ll
    watch the show when it returns but with no real
    anticipation and just wait and see.

    Season 2 was the show’s high watermark and it’s been
    downhill ever since. Yes Chuck/Sarah are together
    now but for how long? Under what circumstances will
    it continue if it even does? The charm of the show
    has been lost. The personalities of the characters
    has been changed, Papa is gone, the Buymore with all of its characters that were so charming is gone,
    the team has been seemingly broken up, Ellie has been turned into a shrew and nag, Chuck and Devon
    were turned into pathetic weaklings, Chuck’s lying
    to everyone has turned into a way of life, and Sarah
    has been reduced to just watching from the sidelines. Shaw is apparently going to be brought
    back. The only consistent bright spots are Morgan
    and Casey. TPTB are no longer to be trusted so why
    take them on faith anymore? I don’t trust them one
    bit.

    As far as Season 4 goes my attitude will be show me.
    Why I should continue to watch the show? TPTB are
    guilty until proved innocent. It is up them to restore the show’s charm and credibility. Free passes handed out on faith are over, period.

    Now I’ll wait until the fall to see. Until then I am
    not going to be waiting on pins and needles for the return of the show.

    As they say from Missouri “Show Me”.

    • Cas says:

      I’m not as disappointed as you about season 3 but I guess in a way, I’m not as passionate about the show as I use to be. I’m actually more eager about the return of the show Spartacus than I am with Chuck. Although I am very hopeful about seaso 4 of Chuck because I do terribly miss that special kind of feeling that I use to get from watching Chuck during season 2

      • lucian says:

        Your comment struck a chord. I was thinking how, after watching season two and then hearing what was said at Comic-con, I was upset they were going to do another round of PLIs. I really cared about these characters. Though I think season four will be good, I know if they said there was going to be a fourth round of PLIs, my response would be “whatever”. There was something quite special about the old Chuck.

      • atcdave says:

        My feelings don’t seem to be quite as strong as Roberts, but I mostly agree with Cas and Lucian. I think S4 will be very good, early indications are that TPTB have learned their lesson. But they really did real damage, and I don’t have the enthusiasm I did a year ago.

  12. Robert H says:

    I appreciate everyone’s comments, thanks.

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