S3 Revisited: Chuck vs. The Subway

Which Way To Run?

There is so much to see here, and feel. But much more is happening below the surface in Chuck vs. The Subway than above where it would be more visible.  If you’ve seen the episode one time or six, one scene will stand out for you above all others – the farmer’s market.  It’s so warm and lighthearted – that’s what’s visible.  Chuck and Sarah are enjoying a sunny day, taking a break to enjoy the berries and that’s what we remember.  It’s harder to notice that their conversation is much more serious.  Sarah is trying to calm Chuck by reminding him that he said he has nothing to worry about, and Chuck just can’t go around seeing Ring agents everywhere he turns.  Can he?

There's Always Blueberries

Sarah: You’re going to drive yourself crazy.

Chuck: Well, I’ve been down that road before, haven’t I.

Sarah: The CIA shrink said that you have nothing to worry about.  Remember?

Chuck: Right…. other than the ring trying to kill my father or me, and imagining that Shaw is still out there and trying to kill – me.

Sarah: Your father is safe.  And not only that, he’s here with you, which is great.  And Shaw?  Shaw is dead.
Look, I know what you went through, but you have to start putting it behind you.

Chuck: What if I can’t?

Sarah: (tasting a blueberry) Ummm – then there is always blueberries.



Only days after seeing the episode, I found the music, but couldn’t place the scene in which it was used.  The haunting melody (The High Road by Broken Bells) tells a different story than the one we see on the screen.  It’s a lament about the decisions we make and the paths we choose that change things forever.

Cause they know, so do I
The high road is hard to find
A detour in your new life
Tell all of your friends getting warm

Chuck and Sarah have decided to follow their paths together, and that’s great.  But it doesn’t make it easier for them to decide which path to follow.  When Team B and Stephen locate Shaw on the security video from the subway the four of them will have to decide on their plan of action, and which way to run.  Chuck knows full well the decision his father would have him make, and Chuck is torn.

Casey: What the hell is he doing?

Sarah: We need to follow Shaw and take him down.

Stephen: That’s one way of looking at it.  The other option is they’re leading you into a trap.

Casey: It’s not like we’re going in empty handed.

Stephen: You know how I feel about this, Charles.

Chuck: Yeah. Yeah, I do.   But I don’t have a choice.

Stephen: That’s exactly what the Ring wants you to think.  There’s always a choice.

Chuck: What choice would that be, dad?  To run away?  I’m not you, okay?  I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in hiding.  I can’t leave the ones I love behind.

Chuck has always had this choice – to run away, especially from Sarah.  He’s had the choice to run away with Sarah too.  So far, despite the wishes of his father, he’s chosen not to run at all.  We can’t be too sanguine, though, because there’s another voice from which we’ve yet to hear.

Truth Hurts, Don’t It?

It’s sardonically humorous how everybody thinks they know what’s going on, even when they don’t.  Sarah thinks she knows that the CIA “shrink”, Dr. Dreyfus, has certified Chuck fit for duty, and that Shaw is dead.  Ellie thinks Casey is some sort of evil agent.   Morgan becomes convinced that Ellie is cheating on Devon.  Devon becomes convinced that he is not awesome enough for Ellie, and Casey is convinced that Chuck’s dreams are just screwy.

For his part, Chuck thinks that he’s doing best by Sarah by hiding his worries about the Intersect’s effect on his brain.  There may be one other thing about which he’s fooling himself – the effect Daniel Shaw has on Sarah.

Oh, why should I say that?  After all they’ve been through, why should there be any doubt that Daniel Shaw has no hold on Sarah? Because names are important. That’s why.

Devon: Why would you think there’s something wrong with our marriage?

Morgan: No reason.

Devon: Don’t BS me, little man. If something is up with Ellie, I want to know about it now.

Morgan: Whew – Okay. She’s having an affair.  She’s cheating on you, bro.

Devon: (laughs) That’s impossible.

Morgan: (whispers) Casey intercepted an illicit phone message and he played it back for me.

Devon: (laughs harder) Ellie would never…

Morgan: Devon…

Devon: Whoa…

Morgan: I’m sorry.

Devon: You just called me Devon.

Morgan: Yeah, well this is no time for frivolity.

To Sarah, Casey is almost always “Casey”.  She calls him “John” only rarely, when the closest intimacy they are able to share between them must be found.  Chuck is always “Chuck”.  Awesome is – well, awesome, except when he’s not, and Ellie is always Ellie and Morgan is the little bearded man.  Who is Sarah Lisa Walker, again?

Mwa-ha!

Mwa-ha!

When he-who-shall-NOT-be-named reappears reeking of arrogance, Sarah whispers “Oh My God – Daniel!”.  Chuck certainly noticed, and he didn’t miss the significance.  “Daniel” means something.  Like it or not, it (that big, unstated “it”) is not completely over for Sarah.  We used to say it with a smirk in my youth – “Truth hurts, don’t it?”

There’s more “truth hurts” moments.  Ellie gets the shock of her life when she sees Chuck slug Justin.  He’s simply not who she thought he was.

Chuck too thought he knew what was going on.  He unceremoniously bursts into a high-level meeting of muckity-mucks from Washington who are in the process of deciding the fate of the Intersect Project.  As far as that special committee is concerned, “…the Intersect is unstable, expensive and most of all, dangerous.” Yet another “Truth Hurts” moment.

Shaw walks in much like Boris Spassky in Reykjavic, all bravado, thinking checkmate.  He can do this because he does know what’s going on; he’s the mastermind who’s seen everything five moves ahead.  To him, the truth is a weapon that he wields to hurt Sarah. Chuck’s mental condition and Sarah’s real name are like thrown knives when calls her Sam (names are so very important) and touches her shoulder.  It’s so very painful to watch.

But there’s something below the surface here, something that’s hard to see. You see, Shaw made a mistake, if only a small one.  Sarah’s visceral recoil at Shaw’s touch could tell Chuck everything he’ll ever need to know about her feeling towards the man.

Chuck and Sarah are preoccupied with Shaw’s threat just then, too preoccupied to know.  So is Casey.  He too has to make his decision about running, and his decision is to run away from Shaw and to Alex to protect her.  Chuck is convinced also, to protect Sarah.

I will always choose to protect you.

Sarah: Chuck, wait! Where are you going?

Chuck: Sarah – I have to leave.  My dad is coming.

Sarah: You can’t.  You have to stay and fight.  If you run they’ll put a burn notice on you and you’ll be running forever!

Stephen: We have to move – right now!

Sarah: You can’t do this – If you run, there’s bulls-eye on your back.  They’ll never, ever stop looking for you.

Stephen: If you stay, everyone you love will be in danger.  You have to choose who you want to protect, you or her.

Chuck: Dad – please don’t make me… [the alarm goes off.]

Stephen: Right now, Charles! You have to run to protect her.

Chuck: I’m sorry, Sarah.   I’m sorry but if I have to choose, I will always choose to protect you.

You run with Sarah, or you run away from Sarah to protect her.  Choose one. Chuck makes the same decision Stephen made.

Truth Be Told

My name Is Alex Colbern.

Alex is not yet a major character in our story, but she’s not spared painful truths in this episode either.  To stop her running from him, Casey has to tell her something important, because your true name is important.

Casey: Alex – I’m your father.

Alex: That’s impossible.  My father’s dead. He was a war hero.  He died before I was even born!

Casey: No.  I didn’t.

Alex: STOP IT!

Casey: You were named after your dad, Alex.  You’re named after me. My real name is Alex Colburn.
Please.  You have to trust me. You have to get to your mom and disappear.
Go Alex! RUN!

All these truths are coming out all at once.  Ellie discovers that Morgan Grimes, the boy who took her pillow as his date to junior prom, knows more about her family than she does.   Shaw is going to let Sarah in on his plan too.  She’s pretty harmless to him now, and he’s not above kicking her when she’s down.

Sarah: You wanted to see me, sir?

Shaw: I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you, you look great, Walker.  Love suits you, I guess.

Sarah: (impatient) Shaw, this is crap, and you know it.

Shaw: Only two people know what happened that day in Paris.  It’s your word against mine.

Sarah: Chuck saw what happened.  We all know that you tried to kill me.

Shaw: But Chuck has become an unreliable witness.  His mind has been compromised by the Intersect, and now that he’s escaped, he seems so – guilty.
I’m sorry that you had to learn about his mental deterioration in such a public forum.  It’s sad he never told you in a more – intimate setting, Sam.

Sarah’s true name is being used as a weapon against her.  She knows it, Shaw knows it, we know it, and the people who wrote the lines used by the characters know it.

Sarah is more than affected.  For three years she’s struggled to keep her emotions in check for Chuck’s sake, and for the sake of his family, and it’s all blown apart. Sarah’s pain isn’t so much from Shaw’s manipulation, but because her worst fears have been realized. Her emotions have been Chuck’s undoing.

Shaw: I knew you’d bite.

It’s a shame. I remember when nothing affected you.  Now you’re as emotional as your boyfriend.

Truth hurts.  Sarah lashes out with a vicious punch in frustration, and the punch comes from all of us watching.  It’s our frustration.  Sarah, why did you tell him your real name?  Chuck, why did you withhold the truth from Sarah and from Ellie?  Casey, Stephen, why did you run so many years ago, when you should have stayed?

There’s an answer for us hopeless romantics. They do it for love, of course; the real thing.  Oh, by the way – did you think The Real Thing ™ was limited to something between Chuck and Sarah?  It isn’t, you know.

There’s an ocean below the surface here.  Shaw’s mistake was subtle, and it’s Morgan’s subtle mid-course correction that starts Chuck down a different path.  His phone call tells our boy that Shaw is winning, and Chuck has to change his mind – and Stephen’s.  You see, truth has a way of healing too, if only slowly.

Chuck: I just can’t walk away, dad!

Stephen: I am your father.  You can not ask me – please do not ask me – to put my own son in jeopardy!

Chuck: I just can’t walk away, dad.  Why did you come back this time? You came back because you wanted to protect Ellie and me.  Because you know no matter how far you run, you could never live with yourself if something happened to somebody that you love.

Stephen: If we do this, we gotta be smart and not think emotionally.  We can do this.  We’re Bartowskis.

They are Bartowskis, just like Ellie reminded him.  What about real names?  Oh yeah – they are important.  With everything in him, Chuck wants to run, this time towards Sarah, and danger be dammed.   But that’s still running in the wrong direction.  His father may have been wrong about Chuck’s running away to protect her, but he’s not wrong about thinking with his head.  They’re not going to storm Shaw’s CIA fortress.  With Ellie’s help, they locate something else.

I mentioned earlier that there was someone else who had yet to weigh in about Team Bs course of action.  Ellie’s influence is not clearly visible to anyone but Chuck. It’s still below the surface.  There are times when what’s below bubbles up, however.

Casey: You’re not going to get away with this, Shaw.
Shaw: Yes I will.  Love struck Bartowski will try and come save you, and this time, I’ll be ready for him – and his father. (Mwa-ha)!

You picked a good one there, Walker. Finally

My nominee for most satisfying scene of season three is the moment when Shaw realizes that Chuck has found the regeneration lab where the second Intersect is hidden, and both Casey and especially Sarah know that Chuck just surprised him in a major way.

Casey: Don’t know when it happened, but our boy became a man.  Bartowski’s a spy. Picked a good one, Walker.  Finally.

Even more than the closing of the laptop computer in a Paris hotel room, Sarah’s smile says it all.

But it’s a hopeless, almost wry smile.  Shaw shoots Stephen (presumably dead) in front of Chuck (and unknowingly, Ellie), and takes him with Casey and Sarah to be executed on route to a detention cell.  Team B. is together but defeated, and there’s no one left to help them.

– except everyone who’s ever loved them.  You know.  The real thing.

– joe

My take on Subway was everyone choosing love and loyalty.  Sounds trite, doesn’t it?  From the opening set up of Sarah taking Chuck to the market, and having a nice interaction with PapaB, to picking the person you love over yourself, the episode rang true to the characters I’ve come to love.  Joe has already done a great job of capturing most of this, so I’ll try to be brief.

Sarah.  The look of hurt and dismay on her face as she shrunk to her seat in the chamber after finding out Chuck lied was amazing.  But instead of reacting out of an angry place, Sarah knows and has embraced her feelings for Chuck.  She tells Casey that everything she cares about is there.  She chooses to support Chuck, which is what a true partner does.  Shaw’s line about her being as emotional as her boyfriend and remembering how nothing could have affected her stung me as a viewer.  That tells me how baseless their relationship was.  It was nothing but a physical relationship, with Shaw using her to forget his dead wife.  Her punching Shaw was sweet vindication to me.  She doesn’t fight the accusation and has come out better for loving Charles Irving Bartowski.  The sweet knowing smile of acknowledging Casey’s compliment of Chuck in the cell was just icing on the cake.

Casey.  He has steadfastly been characterized as a man who gave up everything for duty and love of country.  Are those chinks in Casey’s armor we are seeing?  I would argue no, as we have watched him grow from a cold ruthless man in S1 to a man who has found a family in Team Bartowski.  Sarah once said it best, “it helps to know you have something to lose.”  We find out that John has been getting to know Alex and is using his skills to protect his family.  He knew they walked into Shaw’s trap, but he chose to put himself on the line for his daughter.

Chuck.  The lying.  The lying has come to a head and he devastated Sarah.  But Chuck, our hero, always chooses love over, well, anything.  He does use his heart more than his brain in many cases, and thankfully he has his father to snap him back into being a Bartowski.

Ellie.  The lying is over.  Her world is shattered.  Everything she thinks she knows about her family, and even Morgan, is potentially a lie, and she certainly doesn’t know what is going on.  Her brother and his girlfriend are spies!  Her father has been MIA for most of her life, and her husband doesn’t think to get answers.  And to make it even worse, she doesn’t get to hear answers from her father before he is murdered.  Ellie does what she does best and goes into big sister/mom mode.  My problem with this is that she, like her father, has no idea of what Chuck (and Chuck and Sarah as a team) can do or why he chose the spy life in the first place.  Intersect or not, Ellie needs to see her brother as a man and understand the world he and Sarah live in.  She can’t protect him any more than Devon could protect her by stealing her off to Africa.  Loving Chuck means trusting him, and she followed along with the plan to bust Shaw and the Ring, but I think the price (making Chuck quit the spy game) was too high.

Morgan.  Wow, the guy has grown on me a lot!  His defense of Team Bartowski and attempts at helping Devon and Ellie were really commendable.  His clear respect for Casey has shown through, his rousing defense of Casey’s character to both Ellie and Alex were awesome.  And who knew he was a lapsed vegetarian?  Loyal to the end, he always chooses the love of his family.

-amyabn

Hell to Pay

Truth, lies, secrets, and the price we pay for the choices we make. These may seem like the themes of this three act finale (that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it). I’m not going to argue too vociferously with those who say it is. But I see something more.  The secrets, lies, truth, and the consequences are about something deeper.    It’s a direction I think the series has been heading since the beginning, but has lately picked up steam. It plays to the strength of the show, and what the show has always been about at its core, relationships. We’ve all said it. Chuck is not the funniest comedy, or the most dramatic drama, or even a particularly compelling spy/action story. What Chuck is though is a unique combination of all of the above with that little something extra. It makes you feel like it matters. The drama (usually) doesn’t come from overwrought or artificial conflicts, but from the just slightly different from normal people interactions between the characters. At the core of the show is an amazingly talented cast, capable of incredible range from comedy to action to drama, who above all can sell their chemistry as something real you should care about. It draws us into their world, and we live their lives, feel their pain and their triumphs and make them a part of our extended family, and so, even though we need to overlook a lot sometimes, it matters to us. The final arc of season 3 is finally getting around to the core question the extended Bartowski clan must answer. How do we protect those we love?

Chuck wanted to be a spy, and as we saw at the end of Chuck Versus The Living Dead, Chuck had crossed the threshold, finally accepting the new life and the consequences of that life. Chuck is aware that it only takes one slip up, one moment of weakness, and he could lose everything.  And so Chuck sits down to write his will, his last words to those who he’ll leave behind. Sarah has made her peace long ago with the life she lives but now things have changed. Sarah now has a family.  People will mourn her and so a part of her, all she knows and who she is, will stay with Chuck after she’s gone. Stephen has realized he can’t protect Chuck, but he can help him. The prologue is set. Shaw is alive and an intersect. Ellie has been deceived into exposing her family to The Ring. Her secrecy and unknowing betrayal is the result of both Chuck’s and Stephen’s, and to a lesser extent, Awesome’s desire to protect her. But Ellie isn’t a fawn in the woods. She’s more like the mother bear as opposed to Sarah’s lioness. Ellie has her own mission to protect those she loves, and she will not sit idly by if she feels they are in danger.  While it’s most obvious in Ellie’s case it’s the very attempt to not just protect those we love, but shield them from the reality of the danger that leads to their downfall.  The price that is extracted may be less than the original danger, but there is hell to pay nonetheless.

How do we protect the ones we love? Stephen tried by keeping his life and work a secret, and in the end by leaving everything he loved behind, hoping to preserve it by his absence. He substituted one hard truth for another, one set of struggles for his children to face alone rather than a presumably more difficult set for the family to face together. Right? Wrong? We see the same thing again with Casey. The choice he made was to protect something larger than just a family. His choice called for the cost to be paid up front, kind of like Stephen’s, but a bit more extreme. Leave it all behind, cut all ties. You’ll have no weaknesses, no family, no need to deceive the ones you love to protect them, but you give it all up now. They mourn you now, not when the final price is extracted. Between then and now is a lifetime of living with that loss. And both Casey and Orion, in their own ways have found it doesn’t work. The big lie can bite you just as easily as Chuck and Sarah and Devon and Ellie’s smaller deceits. Casey and Stephen still have loved ones and family, they just don’t realize they are in danger, and Casey and Stephen’s protecting them is all that much harder.

Can it even be done? Can you protect them? Sometimes the decision to protect someone can lead to even more danger. Chuck’s decision to delay telling Sarah about the Intersect’s potential pitfalls leads to the disclosure making the team look like they’re trying to hide something, and to crushing Sarah in public. Orion and Chuck’s decision to “keep Ellie safe” has put her directly into Ring custody, and them back in jeopardy. Sarah’s attempt to force Shaw to tell the truth has put Chuck and his father in danger by giving Shaw an excuse to arrest her and use her as a hostage against Chuck, and Chuck and Stephen’s decision to run has left Sarah alone and vulnerable.  OK, emotionally alone and vulnerable.  The theme is there though, much as they try our heroes only seem to make things worse.

I’m going to take it one step further.  Sometimes those choices, even the best and the unavoidable ones come at a terrible price.  The stakes in Living Dead were some uncomfortable situations and hurt feelings and the requisite big fight to save the day.  Now we’re seeing a much greater cost extracted.  Could they have done something different that might have avoided all the pain, or does even the right choice cost you?  I’m going with the latter.  For my example consider the following.  Chuck created Shaw.  Not the slightly creepy and charmless love interest and supposed super-spy mentor, but this Shaw.  The evil driven mastermind Shaw.  But Chuck had no choice.  Shaw wanted revenge on the CIA through Sarah and through giving the Ring what they needed.  But in stopping Shaw, killing Shaw, Chuck created a new, more evil, more driven, and more dangerous Shaw.  Shaw was no longer using the Ring to extract some petty revenge, he became the personification of the Ring.  But Chuck was still right to kill him in Paris.  We know Chuck did the right thing when he downloaded Intersect 2.0.  Sarah and Casey would have died, the Ring would have the intersect, and Chuck’s family, and Orion’s still wouldn’t be safe.  But that right choice set in motion a chain of events Chuck recognizes, and sees the outcome.  The cost of Chuck becoming a spy and fulfilling his destiny was his father’s life.  He can never know the cost had he not become the man he is, had he run with Sarah, or never re-intersected.  He can only see what it cost him.

And so it is now.  Orion is dead.  Chuck, Sarah and Casey are on their way to a roadside execution, and those they sought to protect are now their last hope.  But there is hope, because at long last our heroes, all our heroes, have realized shielding those you love from the truth doesn’t protect them.  It just has its own set of consequences.

– Ernie

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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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46 Responses to S3 Revisited: Chuck vs. The Subway

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    One thing that struck me about watching this episode as a stand alone for the first time was how well it actually worked as a cliffhanger. The last scene, with Chuck despondent and Morgan and Awesome heading to his rescue with a “Let’s do this” struck me as tonally perfect for a cliffhanger. There was a sense of danger and dread (remember many of us thought one or the other, Morgan or Awesome was a candidate to join Stephen) but it wasn’t oppressive. There was the hopeful sense that all was not lost and that Ellie and the gang would somehow come through for Team B.

    • joe says:

      Exactly!

      If I imagine myself in place of the editors/creators/decision makers for this episode, I suspect that it would have ended with Team B. locked in Shaw’s van, riding to certain death. Great cliff hanger! And absolutely wrong.

      There’s no way that even casual watchers were going to buy into that, and of course, we just knew that Devon (cool!), Morgan (cooler!!) and then Ellie (coolest!!!) were going to get involved, pronto.

      It’s amazing that even when you know it’s going to turn out just fine, they still make it enjoyable for us to watch.

  2. JC says:

    You can really see the influence Ellie had on raising Chuck here. Orion sees the best course of action to protect his loved ones is to run. But running away isn’t an option for her, she fights for the people she loves.

    When Chuck decides to go back, its him choosing to fight and not make the same mistake his father made.

  3. OldDarth says:

    My favourite episode of the season and series. Bar none this episode has the best mix of all the elements that make up the show and best use of the entire cast. Plus Scott Bakula’s presence alone elevates everything.

    Throw in a break out episode for Ellie and the Shaw character finally given a fully defined goal and Routh goes to town as the villain.

    Fav moment is the Sarah sucker punch to Shaw. It is a nice call back to the Shaw/Rafe sucker punch with Shaw taking over the mantle from Rafe as the douche. Plus it is an excellent dramatized encapsulation of the status of the Sarah/Shaw relationship from the first time when Shaw called Sarah, Sam and got a kiss.

    The only thing to mar this one is Chuck’s unceasing, and totally unneeded, lying in this one.

    Finally the Sarah/Morgan scene was priceless.

    Yeah, I love this episode.

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      @OD – “The only thing to mar this one is Chuck’s unceasing, and totally unneeded, lying in this one.
      Finally the Sarah/Morgan scene was priceless.”

      Ahem. Are you referring to 3.17 or 3.18? If my memory serves me correct – there was no Sarah/Morgan scene in 3.18.

      As for Chuck’s “unceasing” lying – there was only one instance in the beginning – when he didn’t correct Sarah’s assumption about the C.I.A shrink giving the O.K to Chuck.

      • OldDarth says:

        Ooops sorry about that. Got carried away.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        @OD- Sorry, I also forgot the scene in the Castle where both the Bartowskis lied so easily to Sarah about the Governor and concealed from her the fact that Papa B was not talking about a “vacation” (Chuck’s lie)when he wanted Chuck to leave everything behind and go. (Although Chuck spoke out the truth when Papa B asked him again to run when they found Shaw was alive)

        And therein lies my major concern for Season 4. If the writers decide to make Chuck into a liar (especially to Sarah)for any longer – IMO it will make him look like an insensitive jerk.

      • atcdave says:

        I agree about that, Chuck’s lying was excessive and overdone. I suspect we won’t see so much of it S4; but then a year ago at this time I thought the worst was past for Chuck and Sarah too, so go figure…

  4. alladinsgenie4u says:

    Absolutely wonderful posts from Joe, Amy and Ernie. Thank you all for your detailed and comprehensive analysis.

    @joe – When he-who-shall-NOT-be-named reappears reeking of arrogance, Sarah whispers “Oh My God – Daniel!”. Chuck certainly noticed, and he didn’t miss the significance. “Daniel” means something. Like it or not, it (that big, unstated “it”) is not completely over for Sarah. We used to say it with a smirk in my youth – “Truth hurts, don’t it?”

    Can you please explain a little more about the sentence – ” that it (big unstated it) is not completely over for Sarah”?

    Does it mean that Sarah is still under Shaw’s thumb (emotionally)? or Does she still carry feelings for him? or Does she realize her ordeal is not over (Shaw attempting to kill her and might try again)? O

    And as you say Chuck noticed her reaction and didn’t miss the significance. Kindly elaborate the “significance”.

    I apologize for bugging you to explain your post (even though it’s very lucid) and I blame my denseness for that.

    • jason says:

      joe – not sure what you were getting at with sarah and shaw in 3.18 either, much like other attempts at humor which some liked and some found revolting, I think the ‘daneiel’, papa B’s ” Sarah’s ex-lover” is still alive comment, as well as the “rafe” puch and “sam” are just funny to the writers, the 20% who think it is funny hate when I say this, but another 20% hate this stuff (because they hate reminders about shaw and sarah together) and the other 60% just wish it would go away so real spy, drama, and comedy writing could occur. There is a personality type that someone on the chuck creative team must have, that when something bombs, you keep trying to laugh about it and bring it up, rather than write it away (i.e. really talk about it) or ignore it, that is what I think happened with sarah and shaw, hope they get over it on the off season.

      • Merve says:

        Nice made-up statistics. 😉

        I’m positive that the Sarah/Shaw scene in “Subway” wasn’t intended to be humorous. As for really talking about the issue of her relationship with Shaw, Sarah clearly prefers firearms and fists to dialogue and discussion, so any taunts from Shaw would be unlikely to set her off on a fierce tirade. Watching her punch Shaw in the back of the head was more than satisfying for me.

      • jason says:

        actually merve, the stat use I described is a bell curve, although the 60% is really 66.66667% if you want to be technical. Bell curves describe many things in life – some would argue bells curves can apply to most everything if in the hands of the proper practioner.

        Simply speaking, the theory is 2/3’s of the folks are indifferent or content, approx 1/6th are radical on each side, actually the 1/6th has a fanatical contingent on each end that amounts to a few percent, I really didn’t make the stats thing up, I did make up the application.

        One memorable use for me was to get an A in college Philosophy 101, 2/3 of the folks in the world are neither good nor bad, just sort of muck along. 1/6th are pretty bad, 1/6th are pretty good. On the very far ends .0001% are your hitler and mother theresa types. The philosophy point, if you were God, where would you draw the heaven and hell line. in the middle where everyone was or off on some end? Whereever you draw it, the worst person you let in and the best person you let out will be very close in ‘works’. Of course, God did have an answer for this conundrum. They should not let EE’s into philosophy classes I guess.

      • Merve says:

        I’m a math major. I know all about bell curves. An assumption of normality for the fandom could very well be untrue. Based on how polarizing some of this season has been, might it not be more appropriate to assume some sort of bimodal distribution? Of course, this begs the question: how do you quantify fandom anyway? And how would you go about collecting data if you were to quantify it? And even if you could collect the data, is the assumption that fandom is a continuous random variable appropriate? Should it take on a discrete distribution with some sort of normalized counting measure? …These are the things I think about when I’m not thinking about Chuck.

      • jason says:

        merve – You asked, so I gave you my rationale, a perfectly ‘normal’ (i’m too funny) answer, the chuck fandom might be bi-modal over the chuck shaw sarah issue – I don’t think so, but I probably could make an argument for such a theory if I wanted to.

        if asked, here would be the normal way of looking at things – at the extremes, I am hitler, you are mother theresa, and joe and most of the fandom are somewhere in the middle, but actdave is a mean radical over by me and old darth is all warm and fuzzy over in your neck of the woods, I have no idea where ernie is on chuck and sarah, just when I think I have him figured out he posts something that stuns me, good and bad – LOL

        maybe you could design a data collection survey to prove me wrong, of course, I could always argue the bloggers here do not represent the ‘normal’ fandom.

      • Merve says:

        Ehhhh…I’m far from warm and fuzzy on the Chuck/Sarah/Shaw issue. I usually don’t like love triangles (and I’m pretty adamant about the fact that they didn’t accomplish much this season). But I also don’t really care about the Chuck/Sarah romance, so if I have an issue with how it’s handled, it barely bothers me.

        (Now, if we’re still talking statistics, to expand the model, one would also have to quantify the fans’ level of investment, which may not be orthogonal to level of satisfaction, since extremes in satisfaction are probably correlated with high levels of investment.)

    • joe says:

      @genie & @jason, I’m chuckling, because I almost CAN’T elaborate! I’m not really certain what they (TPTB) were trying to say with Sarah’s “OMG – Daniel!”. But I know they were trying to say something.

      I’m in the midst of a wonderful conversation about that right now, and honestly, I’m still thinking through it. My best guess is that they were not trying to say that Sarah has some residual affection for Shaw, but maybe she’s just affected by him. (One of my pet concepts is that hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is. Sarah is not indifferent to Shaw.)

      Regardless, I think the bigger message might have been in Chuck’s reaction. He obviously noticed, and maybe is even momentarily troubled by it. But unlike Chuck 1.0 (remember him? The insecure guy with the girlish scream, the one who got whiny-jealous easily?), he didn’t let it get the better of him this time.

      Or maybe I’m being too generous to the writers. Maybe they were just tweaking our noses about how much importance we placed on Sarah’s name reveal. If it wasn’t meant to show us that Chuck has confidence when Shaw reappears (confidence in himself and in his standing with Sarah), then it didn’t mean much. Did it?

      • JC says:

        I hate to say this by I doubt TPTB but half the effort into these like we do. The show isn’t subtle so when then things are left vague I question whether it meant anything more than it is.

      • Merve says:

        TPTB put a very different kind of effort into this. Unlike us, they have to worry about shooting schedules, production costs, the actual dialogue (and not just the story), network and studio demands, conflicting fan opinions, and a whole bunch of other issues. And even if TPTB spend massive amounts of time thinking about their plots and characters, actors and directors may not interpret everything as the writers intended. Frankly, I’m surprised that any TV show can make it out of that mess.

      • joe says:

        Fair point, Merve. That’s something I believe too.

      • herder says:

        I’ll take a stab at “Daniel!”, the only other time that Sarah used his first name was at the end of American Hero “Daniel where are you taking us”. One of the things that had bothered me with the end of the first thirteen was that Sarah had never dealt with Shaw and the end of their relationship, what ever it was.

        The “Daniel” at the end of American Hero was something that bothered me as it implied continuing closeness betweeen the two as shown by them walking arm in arm in Other Guy. My take was that Sharah never dealt with the end of her relationship with Shaw, that with the revelation that she killed his wife meant that the whole thing would just go away. This is reinforced by her statement at the beginning of Subway “…and Shaw, Shaw is dead.” In otherwords, nothing to deal with.

        When Chuck hears the “Daniel!” at the beginng of Subway he knows that there is something there that she hasn’t dealt with, that is why he was so reluctant to bring up the idea that Shaw might be alive in Living Dead.

        Sarah’s way of dealing with the issue isn’t to say anything, she is after all a woman of action not a woman of words. She visibly recoils when he touches her in the meeting, she sucker punches him in his office and then cold cocks him with a pipe at the Buy More. I think that this is all the dealing with the issue by Sarah Walker that we are going to get.

        As to the Sam thing, maybe the lesson learned is that your real name and who you are is something that you only share with someone who is real and for whom you have real, unreserved feelings for, otherwise it is – as she so often says- a mistake. One that is thrown back into her face by Shaw.

      • Merve says:

        Herder, the thing that struck me the most was that both instances in which Sarah referred to Shaw as “Daniel” occurred in tense situations. It’s almost reminiscent of Sarah referring to Casey as “John” in “Tic Tac” when she learns of Casey’s treachery. In most cases, the use of a first name implies familiarity, or perhaps a certain level of intimacy, but when Sarah says, “Daniel,” I hear tension and urgency. (Or maybe the writers were just trying to remind us that Shaw actually has a first name. ;))

  5. kg says:

    Great compilation review piece. Have some thoughts that are probably not original at this point.

    However, must admit Sarah looks awesome in that photo Joe cropped where she and Chuck are walking through the aforementioned Farmer’s Market. Has she ever been truly happier?

  6. kg says:

    Liz James recently finished “Why Sarah and He Who Shall Not Be Named Mattered” on ArticulateSchnook.com.

    Worth reading.

    • PeterOinNJ says:

      Thanks for the note kg – this is a great read and the first posting I’ve read that actually made sense of the Sarah/Shaw arc for me. If you haven’t read it yet – http://www.articulateschnook.com/10/070510shaw.html. – you should. If you are unhappy (displeased? disgusted? etc), the article will not ease your burden. It might, however, leave you with a greater appreciation of what Chuck & Sarah have achieved. True love “is never tired of waiting”.
      Thanks Liz for a great article!

      • joe says:

        I’m not so sure it didn’t ease my burden either, Peter. 😉

        She puts forth the idea that what Sarah felt for Shaw was quite real. It was. Trying to deny that was only going to be frustrating for viewers – it was for me.

        But explaining it in terms of spy-love (the only kind that Sarah had real experience with, and the only kind with which she was comfortable) explains how she could say that with Chuck “it was different”, and still not drop everything for him immediately like we all wanted.

        Now Sarah wasn’t being un-true to Chuck so much as she was being true to herself. Or at least, trying to be.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        I read Articulateschoonk’s (sp.?) article and can appreciate the point she is trying to make. It also did not ease my burden, but did help me realize one thing.

        I truly do not care what TPTB “intended” to do. The fact is, the only way they have to show us their intent is to put it on the screen. When people are still trying to make sense out of nonsense (the middle arc) and the showrunners have to give after show interviews to explain what we just saw, and how it was meant to be in an alternate universe, makes it very clear that there was a disconnect between intent and final product.

        Hopefully this can be rectified in the upcoming season and the show will be more fun to watch.

      • BDaddyDL says:

        I re read a favorite fan fic of mine. it is called Chuck vs therapy. Chuck is not the one in therapy, Sarah is.
        In the story the assertion is made that Sarah is pushing Chuck away because if she lets chuck in then she has to trust somone, and that is her biggest issue.

        The story is set early season 2, but it stopped and made me think. Its as good a reasson as any else I have heard. For me its enough to stop worrying about it, and get ready to watch season 4.

      • JC says:

        Liz as always puts together a strong argument for her theory of what the Sarah/Shaw story was supposed to be. But when I think about Routh’s contract extensions and the supposed changes to his arc, I honestly believe his arc had no real purpose. If anything his character made a terrible storyline even worse.

        Sarah’s character is basically the same as she was at the end of s2, albeit more vocal about some things. It also damaged her character in regards to her playing a role in Chuck losing himself. But like the the Mauser shooting, it will probably be swept under the rug.

        Both love interests were horribly rehashed versions of S1.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah JC, I agree with most of what you say. They have changed Sarah some; mainly by making her more communicative. But there was absolutely no need for another love interest to make that happen; that’s a personal choice issue, and you’d think nothing would make her more open and trusting than being involved with someone who was open and deserving of her trust. I think way too much effort has been made in trying to understand S3; it was a FUBAR until 3.13, I’m ready for what’s next.

      • Kisku says:

        Let’s just say i disagree with this article entirely, because if Shaw/Sarah really mattered (and it really didn’t – it was always about Sarah, Shaw was nothing more than plot device character to show that Sarah is moving away from Chuck the more spy he is becoming + to have someone Sarah character can talk to so we can hear what she thinks)they would devote more screentime to it (and they really did very little, maybe 5 mins combined of scenes that are even remotely romantic in nature in all those episodes) and develop Shaw character better.
        This big spy love vs true love was already dealt with and it was with Bryce. Cole was about choosing personal happiness vs choosing duty and someone you care about but with whom you may never find that happiness.

        And Shaw was all about choosing something safe and emotionless, but also doomed from the start, since neither character was into another. If they oh so cared about each other why on 4 separate occasions they put someone else above each other :
        a) Sarah choose to go and help Casey instead of going to Shaw
        b) Sarah gave up to Chuck advances in Final Exam and lied about them to Shaw,
        c) Shaw was going to leave Sarah behind to sacrifice his dead wife
        d) Sarah was leaving with Chuck when Shaw was in hospital and that was before she found out about his wife and before he went nuts.

        And the final argument is that Fedak said something opposite in few of his interviews :
        a) well before season premiered he said that Shaw is not really someone that stands between Chuck and Sarah, there are far more important issues…so it wasn’t never really about a chooice Chuck vs Shaw
        b) after Mask episode Fedak said Sarah is in different place emotionally than Chuck is and that next episode will explain things better…and it did…but it wasn’t about her being all that much into Shaw (Chuck was really into Hannah at this point).
        c) After season Fedak said that during first 13, Sarah was in state of emotional crisis and i don’t know about you, but when you are in crisis you don’t look for big love, but rather for smth safe.

        Put it simple Chuck never have to fight Shaw for Sarah affection, just prove he hasn’t change (so it was always about Sarah perception of Chuck after Prague), so the moment he did, Shaw was dumped without knowing it.

      • Kisku says:

        *was suppose to be “sacrifice to revenge his dead wife”

  7. Merve says:

    Wow, Joe! You’ve managed to put into words something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, and so I want to thank you for making it easier for me to organize my thoughts.

    “Subway” reinforced the idea that names have power. An alias isn’t just an alias; it’s a persona. We’ve seen it throughout the series with Chuck. His Charles Carmichael alias conjured images of a debonair superspy, and though Chuck might not have lived up to that image for the first season, by “Predator,” he clearly had, to quote Lester, “a certain following.” Later, in “Fake Name,” aside from a couple of lapses brought on by an appreciation for cupcakes and music, Chuck was able to inhabit the persona of Rafe Gruber so well that he impressed Casey and scared Sarah.

    Joe, you wrote about some key scenes in “Subway” that I hadn’t tied together in my head, but now that you have, I see the thematic similarities. First, we have Morgan and Devon’s scene at the Buy More. The implication here is clear: “Devon” = family, duty, and business; “Captain Awesome” = fun, frivolity, and adventure.

    Next, we have Casey referring to Sarah as “Sarah” and Shaw referring to her as “Sam.” I used to think of Sarah’s real name as some sort of intimate secret that would hold the key to the “real” Sarah, but it turned out that that wasn’t the case. “Sarah Walker” is what Sarah wants to be. “Sarah Walker” is strong and confident. “Sarah Walker” is in love. And “Sarah Walker” kicks bad guy ass. Sarah does not want to be “Sam,” and furthermore, she doesn’t want anyone to think of her as “Sam,” the emotional basket case who was on the verge of giving up what she was best at for a desk job in D.C. That’s why Sarah punching Shaw was so cathartic. It wasn’t just saying, “Don’t taunt me;” it was also saying, “Don’t tell me who I am.”

    Finally (and this is what I find the most intriguing), there was the scene where Casey revealed his real name to his daughter. (Remember, this is the same guy who was going to kill Sarah and throw Chuck in a bunker in the pilot episode.) Casey is at a crossroads now. On the one hand, he could be “John Casey,” a hardened soldier who fights for his country. On the other hand, he could be “Alex Coburn,” a family man who fights for the people he cares about. I wonder how much of each we’re going to see next season. Is Casey going to be 50% John, 50% Alex? Or is he going to make a choice one way or the other?

    It’s amazing how much attention is paid to names on this show. Heck, even Big Mike is referred to as “Michael” or “Mr. Tucker” to show when he’s not in charge. And there are so many more examples: Jill vs. Sandstorm, Perseus vs. Howard, and Orion vs. Stephen, to name a few. I’m interested to see where the show takes these ideas next season, because if Chuck has taught me one thing, it’s that a name is never just a name.

    • joe says:

      The use of names came jumping out at me even as I was capturing the dialog, Merve. Except for Sarah/Sam, I didn’t notice it so much either, until I wrote down what they had said. Time and time again, it was to say their name, or to call somebody by name, and it was always an invocation like that.

      You just reminded me of something, too. Didn’t Sarah tell Shaw in The Fake Name that she didn’t know who she was anymore? Name = identity seems to be a powerful idea.

      Oh gee. It must be past my bedtime, and my thoughts are getting scattered. Did we ever discuss that concept during The Fake Name? Not in that way, I think. And besides. If “Sam” is her real name, then is Sarah the fake name in the title? What would that mean for us? Now I feel there was a big point I missed back then!

      • Merve says:

        To me, it seems as if calling “Sam” Sarah’s “real” name is a little inappropriate. Perhaps “original” name is more appropriate. “Sarah Walker” is more real to Sarah than “Sam” is now. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say that “Sam” is one of the “fake names” referenced in the episode title. (Incidentally that would fit well with calling the Sarah/Shaw relationship a “Sham.” ;))

    • aardvark7734 says:

      Awesome post, Merve.

      You made strong points about name and identity that both reinforced and extended Joe’s original essay, and intriguing ones at that.

      The insights on both Sarah and Casey choosing their identities by the labels affixed to them rang true for me. It sparked a memory from ‘Cougars’, of all places, where the reunion receptionist asks Sarah if she’s really Jenny Burton.

      “I am if it says I am,” Sarah replied.

      Interesting, no?

      • OldDarth says:

        Interesting yes.

        Names do indeed have power.

      • aardvark7734 says:

        It was late and I botched that reference.

        It should have said:

        “I am if it says I am,” Sarah replied, referring to the name tag affixed to her waist.

        But, you know, probably everyone here already knew that. 😉

  8. BDaddyDL says:

    Aussileo is reporting that Alex will be a recurring guest star on season 4

    • joe says:

      Here it is!

      He says: “That noise you hear is Morgan fantasizing about their awkward first date.”

      Thanks, BDaddy!

    • atcdave says:

      I was hoping to hear that! great news.

    • jason says:

      I liked how she fit in the show too, almost the opposite of season 3’s recurring guest star, every scene alex was in seemed better for her being there. The new ‘bond’ between casey and sarah may get really sappy, how about:

      Casey: “Sarah, Alex wants to join our life”

      Sarah: “John, our life has some really bad things about it, did you tell her all about it”

      Casey: “I did, but also there is nothing more heroic in the whole world than what you and I do. I watched you train Bartkowski, I’ve never seen anyone do a job with more class and compassion than you did. He became a world class spy without losing his humanity. That is why I’m asking you to be the one who trains Alex”

      awwwwe shucks – wouldn’t that be nice

      • joe says:

        It would be nice!

        You’re right about McKenna Melvin. She more than held her own, and improved scenes as much as Scott Bakula did (man, I still love his characters). She was understated, but fit right in.

      • patty says:

        Maybe she is planning to join the FBI. That would be fun! 😉

    • BDaddyDL says:

      I have to admit there was a bit of selfish relief when I read that story. In the fic I am writing Alex plays a part in it. So at least I’m not as far off the reservation as I could have been.

  9. SWnerd says:

    For me, Sarah’s “oh my god, Daniel” did hold emotion, but in the form of fear and anxiety. I mean here’s the guy who tried to kill her and turned to the Ring. Like Morgan said he knows everything about them which makes him incredibly dangerous. And he’s probably a little angry at Chuck for that whole “killing” him thing and still angry at Sarah for killing his wife.

    Although while I’m here let’s take a small tangent. I admit, it seemed weird to me that he all the sudden didn’t really seem to care about exacting revenge against his wife’s killer when that was all he obsessed about in the beginning. I guess falling off that bridge rearranged his priorities. So instead of suicide missions, it’s world domination. Muhaha.

    Ok, now to Chuck’s reaction to her comment. I saw it as a look of concern, both for her physical and emotional well-being. Even if she and Shaw hadn’t had a relationship, it would still be hard to face the person who came within an inch of taking your life. You wouldn’t necessarily want to see them again.

    That’s how I read that scene. It seemed awfully simple to me in that regard. Perhaps I just projected what I wanted to see or interpreted it differently than others, but it’s all subjective anyway so I’m gonna stick with that.

    So as far as names being important…meh, who really cares. Our names don’t make us who we are as people. We, our personalities, our character, our intelligence, our feelings, our quirks, even our shortcomings make us who we are. A name is just something to identify each other so we don’t have to call out “hey, you” (which I do when I forget people’s names; actually I’m really bad at names so maybe that’s why I feel this way…) and then everyone turns around to look. That would be frustrating. Not to get too romantic or anything 😉 but I’ll quote Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” See I think I’ve finally figured out how TPTB could even think having Sarah do the name reveal to Shaw was a good idea. Because it’s not important. It’s not who she is. Chuck knows who she is. She knows who she is (now). Shaw doesn’t.

    As a side note, Chuck isn’t his real name either. It’s not the name on his birth certificate. It’s a nickname that some people with the name Charles use. So are “real” names really that important? 🙂

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