Sarah vs. Sarah

This may cause some friends to raise an eyebrow, so please bear with me.

I have a question (and coincidentally, after I wrote the majority of this post I see it’s come up in comments).  Has Sarah Walker been herself in the last few episodes of season 3?

Well, Sarah did get to clock Shaw a couple of times late in the season.  That seems in character.  The ax-throw (complete with sparks) was rather cool.  Certainly, she’s been quick to put herself in the middle of the action.   But with exceptions (the wonderful partnering scenes in Honeymooners), the butt-kicking of late has been mostly Chuck’s.  Well, okay.  Morgan got to face down a tiger, too.  My favorite Sarah brawl this season was in Tic-Tac and that seems like a long time ago.  It really doesn’t jar the fight with Smooth Lau (Best Friends) from 1st place in the list of all-time great beat-downs in my mind.  Sarah Walker’s not exactly been a love-struck bunny, but with Chuck able to defend himself, well, it’s been a while since she’s had to face another Lizzy or La Ciudad.  Sydney Prince comes closest.

So here it is.  We’ll take it as axiomatic that Sarah Walker is a strong female character, and maybe she’s not seemed quite so strong lately.  Given the way “strong, female character” is normally defined, I find myself saying “So, what?” more and more.

Ack!  No, no, no! I’m not saying that I’ve developed a sudden fondness for Chrissy in Three’s Company or Melrose Place‘s Allison Parker (Courtney Thorne-Smith).  The TV universe has many strong female characters who can throw rhetorical or actual hay-makers.  It has had them long as I can remember; Ziva David, Temperance Brennen, Fiona, Law Order, SVU‘s Olivia Benson, House‘s Dr. Remy (“Thirteen”) Hadley are in the current batch. And if you want to go back further, there’s Maude, WKRP in Cincinnati‘s Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson), Taxi‘s Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner) and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.  These characters were comedic in nature, but they were not characters to mess with.

Early 70’s? Sure. M*A*S*H‘s Margaret “Hotlips” Houlihan, Julie Barnes in The Mod Squad and all five or six Charles Angels.  Earlier? There was never a question that Jeannie could zap Astronaut/Buffoon Major Nelson at will, and that both Darrins were no match for Samantha Stevens, magic or no.   And back when television signals were broadcast using smoke signals, Father Did NOT Know Best.   Mother (Margaret Anderson) did. OMG!   The guys were outnumbered!!  At least, the smart, strong ones were.

[Whew! Sorry.  Started to get on a twenty year old soapbox there.  I’ve just seen too many dumb male/father stereotypes portrayed on prime time television over the years.]

I’m not really impressed by this portrayal of strength, female or otherwise, especially the kind we’ve seen for decades on cop shows. Remember the main lyric of Frightened Rabbit’s Keep Yourself Warm?  It also takes more than kicking somebody’s butt to prove you are strong.

I contend that she doesn’t have to.  Besides the fact that Chuck doesn’t need that kind of protection any longer, it was never Sarah and her two fists being Chuck’s army, or Sarah performing as if she had an Intersect too that shows me the strength I’m seeing.   It’s Sarah telling Chuck that it’s all been a lie; they have to run.  It’s Sarah holding Chuck up, because she’s had to tell him that Devon’s been taken.   It’s Sarah begging someone else to help Chuck because she couldn’t.

And oddly, it’s when Sarah’s most unsure of herself that I see the most strength.  Will she let Conway take Chuck from the rooftop to the bunker, or will she pull out her gun?  I doubt Sarah knows for certain.  What can she do when “the asset” just won’t listen to her, and won’t run to safety before the bomb explodes?  She has no clue.  What will she do now that she knows for the first time someone cares for her, he’s holding her hand and this will NOT be easy for either of them? Sarah has no answers, she has no guidelines to follow and the 30 ft. rules that govern her life have long played out their usefulness.

This season there were many times it looked like the program in Sarah’s head had hit it’s last line of executable code.  There are no more instructions left to follow.  After that, there’s only mute silence and a universe that is beyond her experience, and way beyond her control.  Maybe Sarah was dragged there by Shaw grabbing her wrist as he fell into the river, and maybe she took that leap of faith when Chuck reached out his hand to say “I have to go this way.  Please follow me!”  Either way, it’s to Sarah’s credit that she didn’t try to run for the exits, not to get away, but to try to get back to solid ground. It takes much more strength to navigate in this new world, in the dark, than to fight against the known opponent in the daylight, you see.  There’ll be plenty of that regardless, and honestly, those fights almost seem like yawners now.

So I’ll ask again.  Has Sarah Walker been herself?   No, I don’t think so. Not to steal Ernie’s thunder, but she’s changed even more than Chuck has this season; she’s decided to trust someone, to not to go it alone, and I’m going to call it a good thing.

Morgan will tell you that her eyes are as intimidating as ever, and I’m sure that we will see her give many more punches than she takes in season 4.   But ultimately, Sarah Walker’s strength has never been in her fists any more than it’s in her ability to pick locks.  Like Chuck, it’s been in her ability to give up everything for someone else or a bigger cause, even if that cause is just her boyfriend.  If Shaw thought that caring for him was her problem, it’s clear that it’s a feature, not a bug.

– joe


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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330 Responses to Sarah vs. Sarah

  1. steph says:

    wow. first time commenter… this is great. lots to think about.

    • joe says:

      Greeting, Steph. Welcome to the discussion. Giving you things to think about is my goal!

      • jason says:

        joe, put a topic up there about sarah walker and get 100 replies or so, pretty standard stuff, why does she intrigue the fandom so?

      • joe says:

        If you find a good answer to your question, Jason, let me know and I’ll post it! 😉

      • jason says:

        joe- after reading the 100 or some odd posts thrown up in less than 24 hours in the middle of summer 6 weeks after the last episode and prob 8 weeks b4 the next, I’ve come to one conclusion, this show is about chuck and sarah

        They drive this show, no topic comes even close to boiling fandom’s blood the way they do, individually and collectively

        CS gotta make sense, they gotta be well written, they gotta be a little real, they gotta be a little comic book hero like, they gotta be a little funny, they gotta be a little ‘awe shuckysie’ or water fountainieee and unlike season 3’s shaw arc, they just gotta be, in each story, all at once, yet apart, everything in the right amounts – the show may be called chuck, but the show in reality is about ‘The Charlessssss’ –

        I (we) cannot seem to get enough – even if I (we) gotta invent it in the middle of the summer

      • joe says:

        Well, I’m not going to say I was intensionally fishing for comments by using “Sarah” in the title… twice. But…

        You said it, Jason. Even in the middle of a 90 deg. summers day between seasons, after Lord knows how many words and ideas, we can’t get enough. Peter O said it below, as have many others – these characters are very real to us and we care about how they’re portrayed.

        Hey! If anyone here ever gets to write for stage or screen, remember that!

        I’m not going to say that we live vicariously through them; this crowd is far to mature for that, actually. But we do see Chuck and Sarah and the others in ourselves, friends, family and loved ones. It really is the magic of the theater.

        John Sebastion sang that the magic’s in us. He’s right. (Here’s the young-kids version.)

  2. OldDarth says:

    Timely blog Joe. I have concerns about the Sarah character going forward into S4.

    Here is why.

    Her main story arc; finding real love and family have been largely accomplished. Yes marriage and discovering how to make a relationship and home life work will still provide challenges for Sarah to work through. The rub is that the remainder of that arc is not enough to sustain her individuality. People are already voicing concerns that she has been relegated to becoming an appendage to Chuck and playing the girlfriend role.

    Sarah needs to be given a new, and major, goal going forward in Season 4. Since Season 4 is about family it could be something related to her mother (and father). It could be something that is in synch or opposition with what Chuck and the Orion legacy is going to be about. Whatever it is, it should be something vital to the Sarah character and the Sarah character alone.

    Such a story arc would serve to deepen the complexity of the Chuck and Sarah relationship while allowing the Sarah character to not have all her motivations tied solely to Chuck.

    • andyt says:

      I agree and disagree, OLD DARTH.

      First, here motivations from the very beginning have been tied solely to Chuck. That is part of why she did not leave with Bryce in Nemesis or Cole in Lethal Weapon. It is also why when she believed that she was loosing “her Chuck” she went into that spiral that led to Shaw. As another point, Casey’s motivations have also always centered around Chuck. The show is called Chuck for a reason.

      Second, I believe you are correct that Sarah needs to be given an additional storyline. Casey now has an additional “motivation” in his daughter Alex, who we know will be making some appearances. Sarah needs something as well to balance her stories with Chuck and learning to live in a relationship.

      • OldDarth says:

        Andyt – yes her actions have been tied to Chuck but she rationalized them by making them mission based for the first 2.5 seasons. In 3.13 Sarah dropped that pretext and switched her loyalties from the mission to Chuck.

        “All I could think about was my next mission. Now all I can think about our future together.”

        This is a

    • Ernie Davis says:

      OD, you raise a good point, but I think you also point out the future for Sarah. Sarah has connected with Chuck, and through him has found love and a family, but it’s still not her family, and I think some of the last episode showed that Sarah’s only “real” connection is still just Chuck. Not to diminish that by any means, but to be “real” she needs more. She has never dealt with Ellie, Morgan, Awesome or for that matter even Casey (outside a few telepathic spy hugs) on much more than a superficial level. She was one of Ellie’s bridesmaids, but it’s pretty clear that Ellie doesn’t think she even knows who Sarah is. Devon is impressed with Sarah, Morgan is intimidated. While Chuck may know who she is, and be satisfied with that, I think Sarah is still an enigma to the rest of the extended Bartowski clan. They accept her because Chuck loves her, but they don’t really know her. I think there is a lot more potential to the Sarah character in a season about family than we may know.

      • OldDarth says:

        Hmmm. I see what you are saying but feel that is merely a matter of time now that Chuck and Sarah are together before she feels part of the family. Those connections may be dealt with swiftly. Heh, they could even be in place at the start of Season 4.

        Even if there is family potential for Sarah it is still an extension of Chuck. Sarah needs a story arc that exists outside that community and is solely hers IMHO.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree, there isn’t much mystery or angst about whether Sarah will be accepted, but I still think it is an amazingly rich area to expand on who Sarah is, who she thinks she is, and who she eventually decides she is.

      • sd says:

        I agree, Ernie, with your assessment! I think there is a lot to be mined in S4 about the way Sarah interacts and grows.

        While Sarah–due to YS’s acting–has seemed multi-dimensional–that’s really not the case. Now is the time to delve more deeply into exactly who she is and who she is becoming as Chuck’s partner.

        I mean, who is she really? And I have to say–besides the physical attraction, interest in blueberries and derring do, what do they have in common?

      • joe says:

        Hum.. it’s getting late and I’m getting spacey, SD. But I’ll give you one non-facetious answer.

        Chuck and Sarah have a shared sense of justice and of what’s right. Chuck’s was buried in apathy and Sarah’s was covered in cynicism when they met, but they each help to get the dirt off the others’ soul.

      • Rick Holy says:

        I’m hoping/looking forward to a deeper exploration of Sarah as well in Season 4 (which will hoepfully be 22 episodes!).

        As much as I love Chuck, I’ve found Sarah to be the most intriguing character in the Chuck ‘verse [okay, I’m using a Firefly term here – ;)].

        I’ve heard – apparently from TPTB – that S4 is going to be “all about FAMILY.” If that’s the case, then there’s still “room” to find out more about Sarah’s family. Yes, we’ve met “dad,” but the “mom dynamic” was missing. If we dont’ see the appearance of Sarah’s mom – maybe what we’ll get is not only CHUCK’s interaction with Mama B, but also Sarah’s. What (good) mother (-in-law_ doesn’t want to get close to the woman in her son’s life – especially one who has SAVE his life on numerous occasions.

        Anyway, CAN’T WAIT for Season 4!!


    • joe says:

      Yeah, I hear that concern too, Lou. Especially if the majority of the season is taken with the search for Mamma B. With, presumably, an arc for Morgan & Alex and the requisite Casey oriented episode or two, that doesn’t leave much room for Sarah outside of the girlfriend role. Panic sets in with the possibility that there may be only 13 more episodes ever.

      I still see some room for drama, though, and certainly for more growth, especially professional growth even outside of her relationship with Chuck. I can imagine it, even if I can’t imagine exactly which path TPTB will take her down.

      Pregnancy scare? Cheap trick! I’d love to see Sarah and Ellie together have to face down Mary Elizabeth for Chuck’s immortal soul!

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      @OD – “People are already voicing concerns that she has been relegated to becoming an appendage to Chuck and playing the girlfriend role.”

      I respectfully do not believe these concerns to be true. If you give a cursory look at all the episodes from 3.14 to the finale, Sarah has held up her own in each of these episodes. And IMO there was a neat balance between Sarah (the spy)and Sarah (the woman in a relationship). In no way did it look like she was just an “appendage” to Chuck or if her role was in any way diminished to just being arm candy. Some examples :

      3.14 – It was all about team work and Chuck/Sarah both came through with flying colors.

      3.15 – Who deduced that the Turners would still be in town at the Grand Ambassador? Who came up with that effective cover story to get the Turners off the hook?

      3.16 – OK! This mostly dealt with how Sarah handled Chuck’s institutionalization , but in the end she was the one who saved his life.

      3.17 – She may have gotten Papa B’s address for Chuck, but did it not lead them to the cabin and help save both the Bartowskis from certain death. Who was in charge at Shaw’s penthouse (thermal glasses)? Who found the safe?

      3.18 and 3.19 – Sarah was equally committed to taking down Shaw once they spotted him at the Subway. She tangled with Shaw on her own accord ( in order for him to confess the truth about Paris). She came up with the cover identities to infiltrate the convention. She encouraged Chuck in confronting Shaw (to place the mobile in his pocket). She took out two Ring agents and later helped Casey in capturing the Ring Elders. She saved Chuck from Shaw at the conference.

      P.S: Pn second thought,hasn’t the focus through these past three years been about the development of Chuck in to someone special(in the spy game). Earlier on when he was just an asset – major roles and responsibilities automatically fell on Sarah and Casey. But now Chuck is much more than that. He is a fully functional spy. In the current set up of Team Bartowski, one can fully expect him to take charge and have a much greater role to play. Perhaps, this is causing some people to think that Sarah’s role has lost importance. I am confident it has not. And I am sure Season 4 will prove it furthermore.

      “Sarah needs to be given a new, and major, goal going forward in Season 4.It could be something that is in synch or opposition with what Chuck and the Orion legacy is going to be about.”

      IMHO if Sarah;s role is something in opposition to Orion’s legacy, (no doubt it makes for good drama)I do not trust TPTB to play the cards right. They tend to screw up things when lead characters work in opposite directions. Now if her roles are in sync with Orion’s legacy, then I am all for it.

      • joe says:

        You bring up some good points, Genie. But I think the concern OD mentioned is quite real. Looking at the last six episodes, even considering that both Honeymooners and Role Models are meant to be fun romps, the Sarah who helps Chuck find his dad’s cabin by using her spy skills isn’t quite the same as the woman who fights La Ciudad on the Buy More roof.

        I’m arguing that this may be so; it’s just not necessarily a bad thing. Sarah is still capable of being a strong character even as Chuck’s girlfriend. (I expect to hear some opposition to that, too!)

        Of course, TPTB can always prove me wrong… 😉

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        @joe – Ok! I agree that she is not the same person who fought La Ciudad on the roof. As for me, I love the two sides of Sarah that TPTB were trying to convey in the Back 6. And I say it’s a good thing. The best way that TPTB can project Sarah in Season 4 – strike a balance between Sarah (the spy) and Sarah (the woman). Show both sides of Sarah in equal measure and you have got yourselves a winner.

      • atcdave says:

        I mostly like the new aspect of Sarah we’ve suddenly seen in the last six episodes; I don’t like her smaller role in some episodes, significantly the season finale where Ellie seemed more important than Sarah. But this has happened before. Even in S1 we saw several episodes (Sandworm and Undercover Lover come to mind) where Sarah actually had little to do.
        I think this all plays to something I’ve mentioned before; a significant (possibly majority?) number of us want the show to be “Chuck and Sarah.” But that isn’t the show TPTB intend to give us. Sarah will always be secondary to Chuck. I hope we will get some more Sarah-centric episodes. And I hope Sarah will be a very involved partner for Chuck. But I don’t expect her to get more development or story apart from Chuck and family issues.

      • BDaddyDL says:

        Whether TPTB understand it or not, I agree that most of the fans think of the show as Chuck and Sarah. Thats why I had a problem with the show. It was as if the color in the show was slowly fading.
        I have come to think as Sarah Walker as the heart of the show. I think Chuck is its soul. Falling in love is hard. I am not talking about the love my daughter will profess to her boyfriends in the near future (ugh), I am talking about accepting someone into your heart and trusting them unconditionally. I would say a good 90 percent of people planet want this.
        Thankfully, I found this wonderful program. We all see a part of ourselves in Chuck Bartowski. We all have our nerd moments, but deep down we all think that doing the right thing, and protecting your family is important.
        We also struggle with Love. Love is not easy. It takes nurturing , compassion for someone other then yourself, and so many other things. It also means that you have to let someone in to share it with you.
        We can empathize with Sarah. She is bad ass Sarah Walker. At the same time she is a strong women, and a women who struggled mightily on whether or not to completely trust someone. Her father, Director, ex-partner, and i am sure countless others said never to trust someone like that. That internal fight, in my mind was in Sarah Walker last season. It looked like Bryce had won for a while, but Chuck came to the rescue.
        Unfortunately, the damage had been done. The heart of the show had been cold for a while. I am hoping now that there is love it can bring them back. We all want to be Chuck in one form or another, and we all want to be loved by someone whose love would be the hardest and best thing they have ever done at the same time.

      • BDaddyDL says:

        Sorry the last sentence goto cut off

        We all want to be Chuck in one form or another, and we all want to be loved by someone whose love would be the hardest and best thing they have ever done at the same time. That is why we want to be Loved by Sarah, and thats why the fight between Sarah the agent vs Sarah the person provokes, at least in me, such a strong reaction.

      • atcdave says:

        Some great comments bdaddy. Especially about the color of the show fading away, the middle part of S3 has zero appeal to me with Chuck and Sarah not interacting. A huge part of the draw of Sarah is that mix of tough and capable with sweet and devoted; when she was stripped of those characteristics Chuck (both the show and the character) felt pointless. The last arc of the season felt so much better than the front part its like they’re completely different shows.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Dave – I agree with what you’re saying. That middle arc, where no one could figure out what was going on with Sarah, I believe, did more damage to the character than it was worth. Some people call this growth, I didn’t see it that way. Damage that is not completely fixed yet, in my opinion. The whole Sarah falling for Shaw, name reveal, being pissy with Chuck was so not the Sarah that we we’re familiar with.

        Just pick the name reveal for example. We just finished discussing why names don’t matter in the revisit of the Subway episode. The only reason we are discussing that names DON’T matter is because of how the name reveal was handled. She gave her real name to Shaw, and no one wants to believe that (me included), so we have to come up with concepts that make such an action not matter. While the fact of the matter is if Sarah had revealed her real name to Chuck, it would have been a very intimate moment THAT mattered.

        TPTB need to treat Sarah as more than just a plot device, or supporting character and I fear that they don’t know how to do that because they are so focused on Chuck’s story.

      • atcdave says:

        I agree 100% Joseph.

  3. Cas says:

    I think it’s still the same Sarah, the side that we have never seen until just recently. Sarah is alot of things but she is still, just a girl. A girl in love and a girl who finally let her guard down. Even some women who have a strong rough and tough personality are very warm and caring around their loved ones, especially when no one is watching.

    • joe says:

      Hi, Cas. I think that what we have in Sarah Walker is a character that we really want to have for ourselves.

      A lot of the guys here really want her to be that perfect woman, and then want to be worthy of her so she can shine for them. A lot of women (I imagine) want her to be that perfect woman also, and want her to shine on her own FOR them.

      More than any other I can think of at the moment, Sarah Walker is a character on whom we project a lot of own desires in more than just sexual ways.

      Someone’s PhD thesis is gonna be on this topic, no doubt.

  4. jason says:

    both darth and joe – I have wondered exactly how they will portray sarah in season 4 too. I understand your comment darth about making the relationship complex so it is interesting, as you might guess, I don’t want such an arc, I think we just suffered thru that in season 3, yet, I do understand what you are driving at.

    My opinion is at season 2’s end, the writers wrote chuck and sarah into a box, when they did season 3 ‘on the limits’, sarah’s character broke the spirit of alot of fans, but by the end of season 3’s sarah was written almost as ‘starry eyed in love’ as ‘leave it to beaver’s’ june cleaver to go with joe’s theme, I am just afraid if she is not written very carefully in season 4, the show will end with episode 4.13.

    Interesting, and certainly a challenge, I am not sure how I would handle Chuck and her going forward, probably in a manner darth would hate, like 3.14 thru 3.19 I would guess – a spy couple – I would let all the lying, angst, drama, tragedy and sleaziness get handled by the rest of the cast??????

    I do look forward to what the creative people do in season 4, few creative teams have gotten more feedback about what the fans think than chuck’s showrunners.

    • atcdave says:

      You know I’m with you on this Jason. I’d prefer to see Chuck and Sarah handled as a unit in S4, and all story lines impacting both of them. We already know Chuck’s mom will be a major part of the season, so we may get a single episode about Sarah’s mom or something. But I do hope all stories are framed around them facing their challenges together.

      • joe says:

        Yeah, I agree with you both. I understand the fear that if the stories are framed around the couple then the Sarah character is going to be secondary – she’ll be merely Chuck’s girlfriend.

        But I don’t want to believe that having Chuck & Sarah together (partnering together and living together) automatically means that Sarah disappears as a person, any more than the Chuck character would.

        It all comes down to good, intelligent screen writing, though. Doesn’t it?

      • amyabn says:

        Dave, your comment made me think of the end of Broken Heart with Sarah helping and almost consoling Chuck when they thought Stephen wasn’t inside. I also think of Chuck returning the favor (well, actually he was first) in helping her deal with her dad in DeLorean (the articulate schnook conversation-classic!). Something effects one, the other helps.

      • joe says:

        Beautiful examples, Amy. What affects one affects the other.

        That’s pretty much why there was so much objection to Chuck withholding the truth from Sarah in the back 6; we were denied exactly the moment we had at Stephen’s trailer before he opens the door. We like that gentleness. We want to see again the things embodied in Chuck putting his jacket over Sarah’s shoulders to shield her from the chill.

      • atcdave says:

        Good comments Amy and Joe. I like the gentle affection we often see between them, going all the way back to S1 that was a big part of the chemistry that made Chuck and Sarah so appealing together. And yeah, the lying in Tooth and later was a little deflating. It hasn’t been a huge problem between them yet, but I always want them to be better than that.

  5. Ernie Davis says:

    Joe, I’ve always maintained that the questions you raise are often the most important part of a post. This one just struck me as a perfect post. I’ve been trying to work through some of the Sarah storyline, and this has highlighted a few things I’ve thought about.

    Some of s3, IMHO, was Sarah having to deal with the fact that Chuck was becoming a man. He wasn’t the malleable asset and puppy she’d had before. Yes, Sarah was hopelessly compromised early on, but the Chuck she had to deal with was still a bit puppyish and would never hurt her. This I think goes and in hand with the protection issue you raise.

    I think one of the more interesting possibilities for s4 is that both Sarah and Ellie are going to have to come to grips with the maternal side of their relationship with Chuck. Sarah is a lot further along than Ellie, but there is still a part of Sarah that wants to fix everything for Chuck. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, in context and moderation. I still think the most interesting angsty plot-lines involve a Sarah/Ellie tension over Chuck.

    • joe says:

      Awwww, shucks, Ernie.

      The one time Sarah didn’t act maternal was in Paris, when they stole the scooter to save Casey and Morgan. Chuck looks at Sarah, Sarah looks at Chuck, they both nod slightly and next we see the scooter crash through the plate glass window. It’s neat when they act like a team that way.

      It’s the most fun when they have the confidence to trust each other like that.

    • atcdave says:

      I do agree Ernie, at least to say that’s how I want to see it happen. Any future tension comes from Sarah/Ellie and their conflicting ideas on how to treat Chuck. Ideally Ellie will learn the hard lesson she first had a clue about in S1; that she is no longer the most important woman in Chuck’s life. What concerns me is that even in S1 Chuck seemed more clueless on the issue than Ellie was. I thought he had grown past it in 3.14 (among the things I liked about that episode), but he regressed frighteningly in 3.19.
      Sorry I’m sort of rambling. A Sarah/Ellie conflict could be interesting for a while, but in the end it needs to end well; and ultimately this is another of those issues that’s largely about Chuck, not the ladies.

  6. OldDarth says:

    Perhaps, and if the writers are smart, one of Orion’s case files will have a direct impact on Sarah.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      What? The writers smart? That’s just crazy talk! What on earth could you be thinking? It’s been well established that the writers are either intentionally insulting or incompetent. 😉

      Yes, I’m being snarky, and yes, I know that usually gets me in trouble. That and I’m in a mood to lighten up a bit.

      • OldDarth says:

        I hear you. After the Season 3 fumbles it is quite understandable. It is why my expectations are pretty grounded for S4. I feel the show is in the best position it has ever been but only time will tell if the show can meet the challenge.

      • Judy says:

        I think that would be a terrific plot line! Let’s hope someone’s reading.

      • jason says:

        can’t believe I am writing this, but how about a file on eve shaw’s assassination?

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        @jason – I am all for an episode where we really get to see some more details about Sarah’s Red Test. It would be really interesting if in the end it is found that Eve Shaw was indeed a Ring agent

      • jason says:

        or graham?????

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        @jason – Well it could have bee Graham. But if Eve Shaw really was a Ring agent – think about the irony. Wasn’t it Shaw telling Sarah that she had been manipulated etc,etc., when in reality it was our superman himself who was led on the garden path by the nefarious Ring Director. I would love such a scenario. lol.

    • Chuckaddict says:

      We’ve learned that it was no coincidence that Bryce sent the Intersect to Chuck. I think we will find out that it also was no coincidence that Sarah was assigned to be Chuck’s handler. The prospect of a box in the Orion cave tying Chuck & Sarah’s destinies together is amazing. I think it’s too big a story prospect for TPTB to ignore.

  7. PeterOinNJ says:

    This is a thought provoking blog Joe. But instead of questioning if Sarah Walker has been herself, my question is – does Sarah Walker know herself? Her entire life, she has been defined by her circumstances, by her environment, by others. The daughter of a con man, constant change was a necessity dictated by her father. As a CIA operative, she did what she was told to do and was who she was told to be. As Chuck’s handler, she had to be whatever was necessary to get close to and control her asset. And in the front 13 episodes of S3, she was an agent first and foremost. She was told point blank that she’s an agent and she should start acting like one. She told Chuck early in the season that agents need to bury their emotions deep down inside and she did just that. But when you do that, the real person gets buried too.
    She glimpsed freedom as we entered the back 6 and frankly I don’t think I ever saw Sarah stronger than in Honeymooners or more sure of herself than in Role Models. But this was new terrain and she has had to learn to navigate with caution. She made great strides until her past came back to haunt her and in the process almost take everything away from her for good.
    So now that’s over. Sarah has found true love, but I doubt she has found herself. Finding out who she is needs to be her mission this season. It’s a perfect parallel to Chuck as he discovers the legacy of Orion. Her journey of self discovery could get very interesting indeed and as OD said earlier, “serve to deepen the complexity of the Chuck and Sarah relationship while allowing the Sarah character to not have all her motivations tied solely to Chuck.”

    • Ernie Davis says:

      This is the perfect example, the questions a post raises are often the best part of the post.

      It also highlights a favorite meme of mine, the blog and the commenters are an amazing resource. Agree or not, the questions we ask and the thought process they provoke is amazing.

      • PeterOinNJ says:

        Thank you Ernie – I’ve always enjoyed following the thought process on this blog!

    • OldDarth says:

      Quite true Pete.

      The neat thing here is that in finding Chuck and having a place and person to come back to and let her guard down, Sarah may finally begin that journey of self discovery that was impossible until now.

      • PeterOinNJ says:

        And Lou, isn’t that part of what true love is?
        This discussion reinforces what I like the most about this show – the characters maybe scripted parts but in our hearts they are human, they are real. Sarah having that person to come back to, being able to begin that journey of self discovery – isn’t that what we all yearn for? I can only imagine how gratifying it would (will!) be to watch it.

    • joe says:

      What Ernie said, Peter.

      Does Sarah Walker know herself?

      Sarah comes swaggering in to the Buy More, and Chuck is going to be a “piece of cake.” By The Break-Up she can barely hold back the tears, by Best Friends, it’s “What am I going to do now?”. And don’t forget, by Fake Name it’s “I don’t know who I am anymore.” There’s your answer, Peter.

      If Sarah’s on a journey (and she is), then it’s a roller coaster. Sarah is a very smart person. She can find herself and get herself grounded faster than anyone, especially with Chuck’s help. But I can’t help believe that she’s still dizzy from it all at the end of S3.

      I’d be acting a little different too. 😉

      • PeterOinNJ says:

        Oh, I’m sure she’s dizzy. And when she gets herself on solid ground, it’s clear to me that she will know what she has to do. She is very smart and I’m sure she won’t settle anymore. She wants Chuck, she wants her life, she wants her purpose (mission). She will want it all.
        And it all starts with the first step – who am I?

  8. Judy says:

    I’m not crazy about the direction they’ve taken Sarah in the back 6. Of couse I’m glad that she’s with Chuck. But the thing I liked best about Sarah was that she was kickass and smart. I liked that she had the upper hand in the relationship with Chuck and that, as Chuck said in First Date, that she could kick the ass of everyone in the room. It was good to see Chuck and Sarah as equals in Role Models, but through the rest of the episodes it seemed that her role was mainly that of supportive girlfriend, which is not interesting to me.

    By the end of Ring 2, Chuck seemed to be the actual leader of Team Bartowski and not just the titular lead. This seemed evident when he asked Beckman by video how to take down the Ring. I hope going forward that Sarah isn’t second banana to Chuck. I would prefer to see them at minimum as equals, but often with Sarah retaining the lead. If not, Sarah isn’t Sarah any more.

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      Please refer to my reply to OD above, regarding Sarah’s role through 3.14- 3.19. I would only like to impress the fact that IMO, her role has in no way been diminished to just a “girlfriend”. With all the changes Chuck (character) has been going through – it is inevitable that he takes on more responsibilities with each passing day. And as for Sarah retaining the lead – I believe she is happy with how things are turning out. She continues to be a spy as well as take giant strides towards leading a normal life. In the past three years, we the audience have only seen her in overwhelmingly spy mode. Now we are getting to see the two sides to her – both as a spy and a woman striving for a a normal life. And as you say – seeing Chuck and Sarah working as a team on equal footing is a joy to watch. And as for retaining control – it’s not a competition or game (where being ahead of others matters). Here it’s all about getting the job done.

      And as for your last sentence- Sarah isn’t Sarah anymore. She has changed. There’s no going back but there is much to look forward to.

    • joe says:

      Hi, Judy. I’m really glad to get a woman’s POV on this.

      That notion of “who’s on top” between Chuck & Sarah has been a fascinating one over these three seasons. I started thinking about it a while back, but outside of the ebb and flow between them, I couldn’t say much that was intelligent about it.

      I mean, from the beginning, Sarah’s definitely in charge – except that by The Break-Up he’s the one saying “no” and she’s on the verge of tears. But then he’s chasing her for all of S2 until he’s not because Cole Barker is and they both give up so they’re running away together and…
      it’s a mess like I haven’t seen since high school 😉

      Oh, I’m kidding, if only a little. You’re right that the whole dynamic is best when they’re seen as romantic equals, which fortunately has been almost always the case. Our perception sometimes wants to tell us different, but neither one of these characters have been willing to settle for second best for very long.

  9. JC says:

    I have to wonder if Sarah might have had contact with Mama B pre Chuck without realizing it. It does make the world smaller but it would fit the trend of how people from his life are tied together.

    The problem I have with getting a handle on Sarah is she’s written to the extreme. Its either Agent Walker or love struck Sarah, nothing much in between. It just feels like nothing about her outside of being a spy isn’t tied to Chuck. While its cute that Chuck has introduced her to music, sizzling shrimp, etc it hurts her character that she has no wants beyond Chuck.

    She really needs an episode without Chuck or Casey where she interacts with the rest of the characters on the show.

    • joe says:

      Those are pretty good ideas, JC, so long as it doesn’t get too soap-operaish, I think.

      Having Sarah interact more with Ellie and other characters is something that could be implied effectively, and be “off screen” if the writing is done well, right? Having Sarah achieve a more normal life in the Bartowski Clan (and in Echo Park, in fact) is something that could be done by suggestion and use very little screen time if they’re clever. More dinner parties!

      But you’re right. I’d love to see the interaction on screen too. More “Chuck is like a duck!” scenes!

      • JC says:

        I’d love to see an episode where she enlists Morgan for something. Perhaps the two of them don’t fully trust Mama B so they team up to investigate her. Throw Eliie into the mix too.

        It would create an interesting dynamic on the show. Chuck torn between the family he knows and his mother.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        #JC- Aha! Conflict!! Team Chuck vs Team Sarah. Turns out everyone supports Sarah and Chuck ends up with only Casey at his side.

      • joe says:

        Ah! Jeff and Lester, being on the lamb, hire themselves out as professional stalkers. Morgan sub-contracts out the spy-work on Mama B. to them! 😉

  10. Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

    All good post. Lots of Ying and Yang.

    Sarah is an important character and she needs to be written as a lead character not just a supporting character. In a sense, she is now (or six episodes ago) where Chuck was in the pilot. So there should be some story to tell. What her next “life goal” will be remains to be seen.

    But honestly now, do we really believe that Chuck is not going to get himself into some deep doggie doo that only Sarah can get him out of. And as much as I like to see Sarah kicking butt, it would be cool to see her using other spy skills (questionable connections, spy connections, government connections, computer hacking, insider trading, starting a revoltion with a fork, you name it) in order to save a team members bacon.

    There still a lot about Sarah we just don’t know, that her (Lord help me) journey to find herself could be a pretty cool thing to see. If she happens to have to find her mom in order to find herself, then so be it. Hopefully she likes what she finds.

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      Throughout these past three years there has been not one mention of Sarah’s mother. Let’s hope that details concerning her mother also come up during the search of Mama B – maybe she opens up to Chuck about her mother. If Sarah’s mother makes an appearance too – that would be great, although I would be glad if Jack Burton also turned up in an episode.

  11. Merve says:

    Apparently, I’m one of the few fans who has always found Chuck more interesting than Sarah. (To be honest, during season 1, I found it difficult to even care about Sarah.) To me, a journey about finding out what you want is more interesting than a journey about finding out how to express and seize what you want, so Chuck’s journey has always been the more compelling one.

    Sarah tends to be discussed more than Chuck because she’s more in the background; her intentions and actions aren’t always clear when compared to Chuck’s. She’s an enigma, and that’s why she’s so fascinating. In “Wookiee,” she tells Chuck that when you adopt an alias, “you’re still you,” but in “Cougars,” she slips back into “Jenny Burton” mode. In “First Kill,” she refuses to help Chuck because of orders one minute and goes on the run with him the next. We never see the big “a-ha!” moments that cause these shifts because they tend to happen in the background. Sarah is full of contradiction, and if there’s anything that fans love to analyze to death, it’s contradiction.

    That being said, I don’t want the show to become “Chuck & Sarah.” The show is called Chuck, and I like it that way. It’s about Chuck’s journey and the people in Chuck’s life. So many TV shows go down the crapper when their focus wanders away from the central character. Bones took a nosedive when it started focusing more on Booth than on Brennan. How I Met Your Mother lost its way when it brought Barney and Robin to the forefront and pushed Ted into the background. If Sarah is pushed too much into the foreground, I fear that she will become less interesting, and the show will crumble.

    I also don’t want this show to become all about Chuck and Sarah as a couple. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said this, but the show is built on the strength of all of the interpersonal relationships. An unbalanced focus on just one at the expense of the others will kill it. For me, the best part of (finally) getting Chuck and Sarah together was that the show could move on. Progressing their relationship at breakneck speed before the season finale allowed their relationship to be accepted as fact. (Nobody seriously thinks that they’re breaking up any time soon, right?) Now that Chuck and Sarah are in a strong, committed relationship, each episode need not feature a Big Relationship Moment™. The show is free to explore other character dynamics.

    However, if Sarah is to remain an interesting character, she needs to have a journey next season. She needs to progress as a character. I like a lot of the suggestions that other commenters have posted. I like the idea of Sarah reconnecting with her mother. Though such a storyline would be secondary to the search for Mama Bartowski, it would give a direction to Sarah’s character arc. It would even be nice to see Chuck and Sarah help each other out in their respective mother searches. I also like the idea of Sarah interacting more with the rest of Chuck’s friends and family. Right now, Sarah has two “real” relationships: her romance with Chuck and her partnership with Casey. I would love to see Sarah discover more about other kinds of friendship. She could bond with Morgan over unorthodox espionage techniques. She and Devon could talk about what it’s like to be with a Bartowski. And she definitely needs to have some more chats with Ellie, if only because I’m curious about how Chuck is like a buck or a truck.

    Sarah isn’t the central character, nor will she ever be, but she’s the second most important character on the show. She needs to play a big role, and she needs to have a clear character arc (which should be easier now that she’s more open). As long as she’s taken on an interesting journey next season, I’ll have no reason to complain.

    • atcdave says:

      It is interesting Merve; while I disagree with your first paragraph, I agree with almost everything you said after. From the very start I thought Sarah was the best traditional heroic character (action hero) I’d seen on TV in many years (compared to Chuck who is more a thoughtful and moral type of hero). It is interesting you’ve made an issue of not caring about the romance in general or Sarah in particular; gee, I think those two may be connected!
      Sarah is the second most important character on the show; and I want her to remain that way. I do agree all the characters and relationships are important to the show. But I always hope for more Sarah time. I seriously miss some of the S2 dynamic where Chuck was important for his brains and Sarah was the brawn. The main thing I’ve had against Intersect 2.0 is blurs the distinction between the main character’s roles; I suppose that’s why Casey is often paired with Morgan now, he’s somewhat redundant when Chuck and Sarah can kick butt with equal ability; and that’s a shame. But I really hope Sarah doesn’t just become Chuck’s accessery. Sarah smack-downs were one of my favorite features of the first two seasons, and we saw far less of that in S3; I feel a sense of loss…

      • Merve says:

        Just to be clear, I care a lot more about Sarah than about the Chuck/Sarah romance. I didn’t care much about Sarah in season 1 because her character was pretty ill-defined. Once her character was fleshed out in season 2, I started caring about her more. I think it’s important to look at Chuck and Sarah as individuals instead of as two halves of a whole. They complement each other and they make a great team, but as you point out, they each have their own strengths. I think that a little of that was lost in the back 6, when Chuck and Sarah started adopting each other’s roles, but if Chuck is going to be participating in Orion-like activities next season, I think that Chuck and Sarah will fall back into their original roles.

        I’m not worried about a lack of Sarah smackdowns in the future. In the back 6, Sarah had a fight scene in every episode but “Subway.” I think that next season, we’re going to see quite a bit of Sarah and Chuck kicking butt together. (To be honest, I kind of miss Sarah/Casey fight scenes. I hope to see a couple of those next season too.)

      • amyabn says:

        I want a Casey/Morgan fight scene or a Sarah/Morgan fight scene. 🙂

      • OldDarth says:

        Merve our viewpoints are in line I think. Chuck is the reason I watch the show. My earlier posts were pointing out what I see as a potential issue for the Sarah character going into S4.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah Amy, a Sarah/Morgan fight scene, that would be classic!

      • herder says:

        A Sarah/Morgan fight sequence, that strikes me as a Bambi vs Godzilla situation. I mean, really what would be the compromise here? Morgan does exactly what she wants or else? She shoots him in one leg only as he is retreating?

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well I assumed everyone meant Sarah and Morgan fighting on the same side, but how that would be much different than a Sarah fight escapes me. We did see a Casey/Morgan fight in Honeymooners. Morgan was nearly as good as Chuck at being Casey’s battering ram.

      • Merve says:

        I don’t think we were talking about Sarah vs. Morgan. I think we were talking about Sarah and Morgan fighting off baddies together. Sarah could beat the living daylights out of the baddies while Morgan…I don’t know…flipped shrimp at them?

      • jason says:

        I’m picturing morgan being threatened, sarah protecting him, and morgan sort of helping sarah, so sarah – morgan vs 8 bad guys, sarah knocks 7.9 of them out cold, and morgan finishes the last one off like in the beard scene with chuck, then morgan says to chuck who arrives as it ends, “chuck, you should have saw it, I never had so much fun, they never had a chance, col casey has trained me better than I ever thought” Sarah just has the biggest grin on her face and smiles to chuck and goes “Thats right, Morgan is a real american hero” – now that is the kind of lies and deception that I can live with, maybe even have morgan follow chuck and sarah into their house still talking about ‘his’ fight

      • herder says:

        My bad.

      • atcdave says:

        Jason nailed it, that’s exactly what I was thinking of. It might resemble Chuck “helping” in a fight from S1 or S2; but Morgan’s reaction to it would be different, and I imagine very funny.

    • joe says:

      Well stated, Merve. It’s clear that we’re drawn to the character in large part because we *don’t* know her.

      I also don’t want this show to become all about Chuck and Sarah as a couple.

      And that caught my eye. It’s true, most of us (me included) very much wanted for Chuck & Sarah to be a couple, probably from the moment of that shoulder bump. I can’t think of anybody who’s been shy about saying so.

      You and I agree it’s very different from wanting the show to be all about that. As pleasant as it was, that would be Hart to Hart again, wouldn’t it? BTDT, and we want something more.

      Just like last summer, we’re back to waiting and worrying that the runners’ imaginations won’t be up to the task of creating something that’s meaningful, inspiring and entertaining, all while living up to the standards they set earlier and the strictures placed on them by the networks. It’s a tall order.

      I’m empathetic, but that’s why they get paid the big bucks. 😉

      • jason says:

        on rewatches, I FF thru just about everything that is not chuck or sarah, unless I remember it as particularly funny or meaningful, which does not happen that often. I just don’t find the show that good other than those two, who for some reason, I find great. No wonder I did not like season 3’s front 13.

        I thought if anything, on the back 6, the showrunners bent over backwards to try and establish casey, morgan, ellie, and awesome, they gave them their own plots, they brought in a new character for casey and morgan. I think they are mistaken and that they should go more chuck and sarah, more Heart to Heart – although I suspect that is not the case, time will tell.

      • atcdave says:

        I’d say Hart to Hart isn’t a terrible model to follow. By current standards it wasn’t a very sophisticated show, but I vastly prefer the mood over what most of S3 actually was.

        And Joe I’d say this summer’s anxieties are different in a couple ways; first, I’m more confident of what the intended direction of the show is, I’m sure Chuck and Sarah will be together in every way that matters all season long (yes, that matters more to me than virtually all other issues combined). And Second, my confidence is undermined by how badly they messed up in S3.

        Its obviously hard to balance things well, look how few shows actually succeed. Chuck has the added burden of having to recapture something that was lost. Fortunately, they made a good start of it in the back six of S3.

      • joe says:

        We have to follow that up, Dave. Just what is it that we DO expect for S4, now that C&S are together? The expectations for them are less well defined than they were last summer, and I think we have greater expectations for Morgan and Ellie! (Well, Alex and Casey too.)

        I half expect to see the dynamics between everybody change, but then again, that’s what I said last year.

        Hum… I saw a comment about House recently, to the effect that that show had effectively re-invented itself season after season. I assume they were talking about the regular and surprising cast changes they’ve made at regular intervals. But I couldn’t help think that for all the cast changes, it was still the same show. It was always House & Co. being presented with some unusual presentation of a disease while simultaneously trying to play musical beds more or less successfully. No matter what the current cast was, that was the story.

        It would be as if Chuck was still chasing Sarah (and the petite brunettes were still around) and Morgan was still chasing Ellie, substitute Alex for Anna and Fulcrum was still around. With the Buy More gone, Ellie and Devon married, Morgan involved with Alex and Sarah living with Chuck, it’s about 5 miles down the road from where House is.

      • atcdave says:

        Its always easier to define what I don’t want than what I do. Contrary to how I often come across, I really don’t want to write stories for them or dictate how every aspect of the show must be handled. I guess the key things for S4 would be I want a balance of action/humor/advenure that remains true to the setting and characters I’ve loved for 2 1/2 non-continuous seasons (get it?). Chuck should be a fairly capable professional at this point, whether its with the CIA or as an independent operator. I’d prefer to see Sarah with the same employment status as Chuck and function as his partner in every way, I want an engagement this season, wedding if we get any back pick-up.
        I don’t care if Buy More, Orange Orange, or Castle exist. I don’t care what anyone elses jobs or cover situation is; but I want to laugh a lot, see many fights and explosions.
        I hope to see Morgan struggle to fit into the spy world; and Casey struggle not to kill Morgan when he screws up missions and dates his daughter (but this is speculative and secondary).
        I don’t really care what’s up with Mary Bartowski, as long as it facilitates the other things I mentioned.

        The only thing completely off limits should be episodes like 3.01-3.12!

      • joe says:

        You left out the tanks, Dave. I’d really appreciate the tanks!

        And Predator missiles!

      • JC says:

        I expect a well thought out spy story with a Big Bad that actually does something or seems like a threat. No idiot ball moments to drive the story forward. Plus it wouldn’t hurt if they got someone to handle to continuity and canon of the show.

        If they get extra episodes that’s great but don’t change those 13 because of it. Write this season like it’s the last, I want an ending for the show not a cliffhanger.

        Personal request, Bryce Larkin flashback.

      • atcdave says:

        Good ones JC. Cliffhangers for a show teetering on the edge of oblivion are rude. I’d love to see Bryce again.

  12. Eli says:

    I momentarily leave my lurker status because the topic (and, in general, the debate about this topic) is so interesting.

    I share the worry (as a female, myself) of some people about Sarah turning into “just the girlfriend.” Which eventually (I know this from experience, as a comic book reader) could lead to Sarah fading into the background, not interesting side-plots for her at all and in the end, with her stuffed into the refrigerator. But, on the other hand… Sarah has been in the background and with no real side-plot for her from the beginning. It’s just that it didn’t look like that because she was the love interest and she looked relevant, when she was just relevant as something the hero wanted, more than relevant for herself.

    So yes, I’m with others that she needs some plot for herself. Perhaps that she’s still with the CIA and she has to work while Chuck is at home. Or that she has to work with Morgan (he didn’t quit, did he?) instead of with Chuck. Or that Ellie doesn’t trust her at all now that she knows she’s a spy. I want more scenes between Sarah and Ellie, by the way (knowing that Sarah is “slightly” afraid of Ellie, I think that if Chuck’s sister asks her, Sarah will tell her everything, even her account number.)

    I don’t like “the search of Sarah’s mom” as a plot, because frankly I hope (for her mental sanity) that she’s dead. Otherwise we would have a mother that left her with her father, the con man. I mean, that’s… unsettling.

    But I want to know more about Evelyn Shaw, her connection to Sarah and why in the world did Graham send Sarah to kill Eve. It’s just… Is it only me who sees something weird between Graham and Sarah? I mean, the guy (Director of the CIA) goes all the way to San Diego to recruit an unknown girl with (possibly) a criminal record longer than my arm. As the scene is shown it looks almost as if Sarah’s father is an excuse to recruit her. And then, years later, Graham order Sarah (just a newbie) to kill Evelyn Shaw, a very experienced spy and wife to one of the best CIA agents. Why Sarah? Why not another more experienced spy?

    My crazy theory (and since it’s mine is very crazy) is that while Bryce was Stephen Bartowski’s candidate for the Intersect (or that was the conclusion I drew from 2X22) Sarah was Mama B’s candidate (which means they met in the past, unbeknown to Sarah.) I know, it’s totally ridiculous, but it’s my theory and I stick to it.

    Sorry for the lenghty commentary. I love this site, by the way, it’s very inspiring for Chuck fans and full of wonderful articles.

    • jason says:

      eli – I am a frequent poster here, have to say female opinions are always appreciated, I think we get far too many thoughts from the nerdy Chuck perspective. I do have one ?, why does the plot as it stands, say the 3.14 plot, get assigned to ‘chuck’ and not to chuck and sarah, what is lost from your perspective about sarah, that is not lost for chuck when they are together as the major plot? or are you talking about more interactions, like when sarah kicked the chair over for morgan to sit on – which I easily could stand seeing happen once or twice an episode, as I think Yvonne is a hoot when she interacts with the rest of the case without chuck???? sorry for the rambling, hope my ? came thru???

      • Eli says:

        sorry, instead of replying I submitted the reply as a new comment, the comment is just below 🙂

      • joe says:

        Jason, as much as I appreciate Eli’s opinion (and I do!), you know who’s got a real strong opinion on this, don’t you? The Articulate Schnook. I hope your watching her site as intently as I am for her POV on this.

    • herder says:

      I think that the Sarah character did get a bit lost in the back 6, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it at this point. Once they got the two of them together TPTB wanted to show that this was going to stick, so you had the job issue, the living together issue and the ILY issues all dealt with, relationship stuff. At the same time they wanted to show that the show wasn’t just about Chuck and Sarah so they did the Ellie story, Casey as a dad and Morgan as a dependable if incompetent spy stories.

      If Sarah got a bit lost in this that is ok so long as it doesn’t carry through to the new season. Give her some issues to deal with, what are the consequences of a spy falling in love, we were told that they shouldn’t now show us why that is so difficult. Maybe the difficulty isn’t in protecting one person but rather in protecting an extended family sort of like Papa B’s dilemma, leave to save them. Perhaps there should be a test of loyalty for her between the CIA and the BIA (Bartowski Intelligence Agency), maybe the General assigns her to keep an eye on Chuck for the CIA.

      What ever it is let it be more than “I agree with Chuck” all the time.

      • Eli says:

        >> “What ever it is let it be more than “I agree with Chuck” all the time.”

        YES to that.

        In fact, yes to everything you said.

    • JC says:

      I like the idea that Sarah was once a candidate for the Intersect. It also similar to my idea that Sarah might have met Mama B before she met Chuck. Plus it adds to mythology of the show and might shed some light on Omaha project.

      • Eli says:

        So I’m not the only one? Good, I thought I was just delusional.

      • JC says:

        Honestly it fits with what the show does. Chuck has always been a part of the spy world whether he knew it or not. So his mother somehow being part of Sarah’s past make sense.

    • atcdave says:

      Eli, its always great to see a new poster here; especially one of you rare female types! I do like the idea of Sarah discovering an earlier connection to the Bartowski family, and I certainly agree I hope her character is well served by the writing in this coming season. Ironically, I think the worst of Sarah fading into the background may have been as Shaw’s girlfriend; not as Chuck’s. As I was saying above, the Intersect 2.0 always concerned me a little because it makes the professional spy characters a little less needed; this is in addition the dreaded “girlfriend” status. There are several things they can do to keep Sarah relevent without giving her a seperate story. First thing that occurs to me is her interaction with the extended cast; even if she gets along well with Ellie, their relationship will always be interesting because the two women are so different, yet both devoted to Chuck. And of course any dealings with Morgan would be interesting.
      Second, her skills will always be a little different than Chuck’s just because she doesn’t have to flash, her skills can function continuously regardless of her emotional state or wearing a governer.
      Third, Yvonne is a strong actor. I just don’t see her fading into the background as long as she’s actually included in a scene.

      I guess the bottom line is, I’m concerned about how Sarah will be used/portrayed in S4, but there are other things I’m more concerned about.

      • Eli says:

        I agree about Sarah and Shaw. But since I see that as something the writers wrote on purpose (yeah, my faith is big)I tend to dismiss it. Or perhaps it’s because I try to forget that era with all my will.

        By side-plot I didn’t mean different plot. Your ideas could work perfectly fine by me. Just give Sarah something to do. And more female interaction would be great too. More Ellie/Sarah, bringing Carina back… Sarah could train a younger female spy even. Oh, why not her training Alex, Casey’s daughter? That could be interesting.

        I have faith in the writers, however, so I’m eager to see how s4 develops.

    • joe says:

      Eli, add my voice to the choir – glad to see you un-lurking. But stop writing so well! You’re making us look bad by comparison! (grumble-grumble…) 😉

      About a year ago we made a list of un-resolved or dropped plot points. If I’m not mistaken, the bracelet was one of those. Well, maybe TPTB heard us, and maybe it was in the plan all along, but it obviously came back. With Mama B., it could be a major thing very soon in S4.

      I’m hoping Omaha is like that. If the mythology is revealed to be that Sarah knew Mary Elizabeth back then, it could be (at minimum) a lot of fun and (even better) a fabulous (dare I say Epic?) plot line, especially for Sarah.

      I wrote above that what affects her affects Chuck, and this certainly would affect them both in completely different ways.

      Wouldn’t you love to be a fly in the writer’s room when this comes up?

      • Eli says:

        Thanks for the welcome guys, much appreciated. But please, don’t grumble, you have nothing to envy of my writing. Your posts are wonderful. All of them. In fact, I don’t remember exactly which one, but one of your posts about the first episodes of S3 and how Sarah and Chuck were in different levels in Prague and later in Chuck Vs The Three Words, left me in awe. Because I thought I understood those episodes and I realized I didn’t and that you were right in oyur insight.

        So kudos to you.

        My crazy idea was that Sarah knew Mama B before Omaha. Mama B’s computer screen showed a DNA helix, so it could mean that she’s an expert in biology or medicine or something like that (Papa B the computer, Mama B who could download it.) So perhaps the CIA ran tests in some high schools with Mama B showing coded images to students to know who sees more of them. And perhaps Sarah was in one of them was Sarah. Just that that isn’t her name. So Mama B runs the test, the results are oustanding but when she wants to talk to the girl again she has dissapeared, and what’s worse, her name was false and they don’t know where she is. So when Graham (who in my crazy theory would work for Mama B, or at least, would be aware of her studies) learns about a con man making some dangerous deals and he discovers “Jenny Burton”, he personally recruits her.

        So in short, yes, I would love to be a fly in the writers’ room. I would pay for it.

      • joe says:

        Oh gee, Eli. I suspect you just inspired a few fanfics!

    • amyabn says:

      Eli welcome! It’s great to have more women joining the chorus!
      As far as your theory goes, I think it would be interesting if they took the plotline that MEB was Stephen’s handler and the driving force behind developing the Intersect in the first place. She could still be looking for candidates for the Omaha Project and could have come across Sarah before. We could find out that she had Graham send Sarah to protect Chuck.

      The other thought I wanted to share is about Sarah’s mom. What if Alex hears Sarah’s story about not knowing her mom, and innocently seeks Sarah’s mom out. Alex didn’t know she had a dad and is trying to help. Could be interesting, particularly in how TPTB write her character. And I still think Peta Wilson would be awesome as Sarah’s mom (she would have had to have been VERY young and naive to hook up with Jack Burton).

      • Eli says:

        Thanks for the welcome.

        I like your theory about Mama B being Stephen’s handler. It would make sense and it could gave a parallel with Chuck and Sarah.

        As I said before I have my reservations with Sarah’s mom. I don’t want her to be alive, because if she doesn’t have the hell of an excuse, then we have to accept that she left lil’ Sarah with her criminal father, who was arrested (don’t know if he went to jail) in 1981 and 1985 [if I read Chuck’s flashes in Vs. The DeLorean right.] In 1990 Sarah was still with her father, helping him in his crimes. The mother never appears, so I can only assume that she wasn’t with them and I don’t want to believe a normal mother would go away and leave her daughter with such a man.

        Although Peta Wilson as her mother is very interesting…

      • joe says:

        Ooohhh! Not having seen La Femme Nikita, I wasn’t familiar with Peta Wilson. Here’s some interviews. I can see why she’d be a good choice for Sarah’s mother.

      • amyabn says:

        Joe, LFN is one of my all time favorite shows. If you haven’t watched the series, I highly recommend it. And the music on that show? AWESOME! I had so much exposure to new music (new to me, anyway), just like Chuck.

        I would love to have Peta on. I keep going back to the idea that she was young and naive girl, daughter of some rich family Jack was conning. They fall in love, bam, Samantha. Jack takes off with the baby to spare the mom, but mom gets disowned anyway. She immigrates to the states (she’s Aussie-it’s an easy way to explain Peta’s accent too), and ends up in the FBI. She has always looked for her daughter and was on their trail for a while, but then nothing. That ties in to when Sarah was recruited and her file was probably sealed by Graham. Sarah gets a mom who never abandoned her, a woman of action (FBI) which would be a fun way to explain Sarah’s reaction to stress-action! Oh, and the mom’s name could be Josephine (which was Nikita’s code name), and go by Josie.

  13. Eli says:

    No, not rambling at all jason, I get you 🙂

    As a female, the worry is that the entire universe of Sarah could end orbiting around Chuck. And not Chuck as “the asset” or “The Intersect”, but as “her boyfriend.” Which would make the show suffer, since that would mean a overexposure of Chuck and Sarah in the wrong way. Sarah is a professional spy, let her be. Let her pursue her career and see how that affects her, now that she has a family (or, at least, a stable relationship and friends.) Sarah is different to Chuck, she has her own quirks and virtues. I don’t know why, but (at least in comic books) when a female character, known for her personality and badassery, begins a relationship with the main hero she loses all that personality. She ends being just a mirror, reflecting the hero and not more. Like the “best friend” of the female main character in a romantic comedy: her only task is to make questions to her friend like “are you sure you like him?” that will develop the plot further. Nothing more.

    Casey retains his personality and he has his own side-plot, why not doing the same with Sarah?

    But, to focus on the topic, I didn’t see a blatant demoting of Sarah to “just girlfriend” status in the “back six.” Perhaps a little in 3X16, but otherwise I tolerate it because: a) it’s the beginning of the relationship and b) the main plot later was about Chuck and his family, with Sarah not having much to do. Although I liked the touch of having Sarah confront Shaw alone. That was good.

    • joe says:

      You reminded me of something here, Eli. It’ll serve as a signpost to see if your fears are being realized or not.

      Remember the scene in Role Models, as Chuck & Sarah are figuring out where there Turners have gone with the chip in the tiger’s collar. Chuck is frantically washing dishes – “I’m a Bartowski – cleaning is what we do when we’re stressed.”. To which, a moment after they’ve figured it out, Sarah cocks her gun in reply. “This is what I do when I’m stressed.”

      That’s the way her individuality can be maintained even as she’s being “the girlfriend”. It’ll be in the little things as much as in a plot line.

      • Eli says:

        Yes, that’s how it’s done. The example is perfect.

        That’s why I’m not really worried, since the writers kept a good balance. Episode 3X16 seemed a little… off, but it’s nothing serious. It’s more a feeling than anything specific. epsiodes 14 and 15 were great in that sense (in episode 14, for example, with Chuck and Sarah searching through Arnaldo’s room in different ways.)

  14. OldDarth says:

    Excellent example Joe! Exactly the type of moments that Sarah needs.

    • joe says:

      Thanks, Lou. Now I’m *really* hoping that TPTB see this stuff. Maybe they’ll get some really good ideas right from here. 😉

  15. Robert H says:

    Thanks for the article and the video posting.
    “Undisclosed Desires/Sarah Walker” was great as were
    the other videos. Do you know who the recording
    artists were on “Undisclosed Dersires/Sarah Walker”?

    Please advise, thanks.

    • joe says:

      Robert, I’m sorry, I didn’t make a note of it (and I should have). I need to run out for a bit, so I won’t have a chance to research it until later. Perhaps you can get a head start here where it appeared on YouTube. The artist may have been mentioned in the comments.

      Update: Robert, I’m back. The song is Undisclosed Desires by Muse, and it appears on their 2009 album called The Resistance.

      I know you’ve suffered
      But I don’t want you to hide
      It’s cold and loveless
      I won’t let you be denied

      I’ll make you feel pure
      Trust me
      You can be sure

      I want to reconcile the violence in your heart
      I want to recognise your beauty’s not just a mask
      I want to exorcise the demons from your past
      I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart

      You trick your lovers
      That you’re wicked and divine
      You may be a sinner
      But your innocence is mine

      Please me
      Show me how it’s done
      Tease me
      You are the one

      I want to reconcile the violence in your heart
      I want to recognise your beauty’s not just a mask
      I want to exorcise the demons from your past
      I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart

      Please me
      Show me how it’s done
      Trust me
      You are the one

      I want to reconcile the violence in your heart
      I want to recognise your beauty’s not just a mask
      I want to exorcise the demons from your past
      I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart

  16. joe says:

    A little off topic, but I thought you might like to know.

    I sent off the following tweet to Mekenna Melvin (Alex Colburn) late this morning.

    @MekennaMelvin Our readers are already counting on Alex being a #Chuck regular! Best of luck to you!

    (The tiny-url is to the main page of this blog.)
    She was kind enough to respond thanking us all for our support.

    I noticed that she’s been responding personally to well-wishers (please don’t overwhelm her now! 😉 ). That’s a very nice thing to do, to say the least.

    I can’t help notice the contrast between the cast of Chuck and, say, Mel Gibson and Lindsey Lohan. Someone is consistently choosing quality.

  17. OldDarth says:

    According to Ausiello it is a done deal that Mekenna will be a recurring guest star.

  18. Articulate Schnook (aka lizjames) says:

    Joe, great post, of course, and some very excellent comments, too.

    But there’s an issue regarding the Sarah character that is so large that we’re only now, and quite slowly, beginning to see it. Bottom line: Sarah no longer has her raison d’etre in the “journey” that has been the Chuck television show.

    Until now, Chuck (the spy) has largely been the creation of Sarah. He might be the titular star of the show, but he’s literally nothing if not for the Sarah character. As Ernie Davis so astutely pointed out months ago, the show Chuck as we knew it in Seasons 1 and 2 existed only because Sarah decided at the ballerina moment in the pilot that Chuck shouldn’t be thrown into a dark hole. Chuck’s motivation for what he does next is provided by Sarah in Helicopter. In other words, Seasons 1 and 2 exist because the storytellers had the Sarah character create both the opportunity and the motivation for Chuck.

    The situation is radically altered in Season 3, of course, but the Sarah character again provides both the opportunity and motivation for Chuck. He is in the position to download Intersect 2.0 only because he follows Sarah into danger. If he didn’t realize that he loved Sarah and reject Papa B/Orion’s plea to stay out of it, Chuck doesn’t follow Sarah, doesn’t go on the mission to rescue Bryce and isn’t in the position to download. Moreover, when we finally get Chuck’s rationalization for downloading Intersect 2.0 in Three Words, it is a regurgitation of Sarah’s clarion call in Helicopter.

    But who is “creating” Chuck in Season 4? If the end of Ring II is to be believed, it is Papa Bartowski. He tells Chuck to continue the work of Orion. So for the first in the show’s run, the opportunity and the motivation for the Chuck character will not be coming from Sarah.

    That is a seminal shift in the storytelling logic and a situational change much greater than the Season 3 reset. And it raises the question: What do you do with the Sarah character now?

    That’s the real issue. It’s not whether they can write for Sarah the girlfriend or write for Chuck and Sarah as a co-equal couple. It’s not even does Sarah remain a “kick ass” spy or a strong woman. It’s what do you do with the character in Season 4 now that she no longer provides either the opportunity or the motivation for the next step of Chuck’s journey?

    • Eli says:

      Oh, excellent point.

      But perhaps the series finale gave us a clue? Everything Stephen Bartowski did was to protect his wife. Knowing that the writers of the series love parallels, maybe they’ll try to make Chuck’s mission important not only to find his mother, but also to protect Sarah. The question is why and from what was Papa B protecting Mama B. Perhaps who wants Mama B would want Sarah too.

      Or perhaps not and Sarah’s character will be wasted, who knows.

    • joe says:

      Someday, Liz, I’m going to get used to you pwning me! Talk about your razor-sharp analysis… 😉

      I’m not sure I have an answer. Well, I do, but it’s not very satisfactory. It’s another one of those coincidences, but I was thinking over something I noticed in The Ring pt. II that led me to a conclusion about Chuck that’s almost the opposite of one of your premises here, but it doesn’t help. It doesn’t change your conclusion or really address the dilemma facing TPTB, the one you bring up. I’ll go ahead with this anyway (and apologies because this is still have baked and a bit scattered).

      I’m not 100% convinced that it’s right to think of Chuck as Sarah’s creation, or even to think that she’s his motivation. She is *a* motivation, of course, probably the biggest one, but we still have to ask why Chuck is making his decisions at the end, and it’s not her. For three seasons now, we’ve watched Chuck become more and more his own agent, changing from a passive, unmotivated surfer of life’s waves to the guy we see choosing to face down Shaw in the Buy More. And he doesn’t just make a choice. Chuck approaches his foe almost gladly, certainly with determination and confidence. [Personal note: this resonates! I remember that kind of feeling (writ small) the day I took my black belt exam, and the first time my band played for an audience. It’s very cool!] That confidence and determination isn’t something that comes from the outside; not from Ellie telling him he’s a Bartowski, or Stephen telling him he’s special, or even from Sarah telling him he’s a hero. It was there from the beginning, and Sarah saw it when he fixed her phone and defused the bomb. Her purpose was to show Chuck he had that within him, not to give it to him.

      And if someone, Sarah or Bryce’s email or Stephen’s alpha-version Intersect did create Chuck, then what is it that he has become? The answer was given in The Ring, Pt 2 when he asks Sarah if she can love a normal guy. Chuck really has quit the CIA and the spy life to be normal once again, and it’s not just because Ellie asked him to do that. Sarah doesn’t seem to mind so much (and even smiles when he informs Ellie that he has) because it’s his decision – it’s what he wants to do. Chuck is his own agent, and he chooses to be – normal. Regardless of what Sarah or anyone has done to or for Chuck, he’s really, finally and still the guy in the Buy More helping the Ballerina and her father. It’s not without meaning that the Buy More is the place where Chuck defeats Shaw, either. That’s where Chuck has always been the guy comfortably in charge, and his own agent.

      So now that Chuck has gone full circle, what is *his* opportunity and motivation? Well season 3 ends with family being the most important thing. Season 4 begins with a call from beyond. His motivation is barely given to us in about 10 seconds. Sarah’s is not, but considering everything, it’s possible that it’s not too far behind, even if I can’t imagine what that is just yet.

      I know. Unsatisfactory, and once again we have to trust TPTB in exactly the same way we had to before. How did that work out for us?

      – To Be Continued!

      • ArticulateSchnook (aka lizjames) says:

        Joe: I didn’t even know what pwning is. Had to google it. Trust me, that wasn’t what I was going for. 🙂

        I guess my case here was that the Sarah character was used to “drive” (I used create earlier, six of one…) where Chuck was going in each season. This year, the drive comes from Papa B. It’s not that Chuck doesn’t have free will or isn’t in control, it’s that others have, so far, set the agenda and spurred him to action. Now it’s his father instead of Sarah.

        And that raises questions of what they do with Sarah. I am actually looking forward to Season 4. Much less chance of messing up, frankly, because they are on new ground. Although if they weaken the Sarah character (and by that I mean turn her into a bauble rather than an intricate part of the plot), it’ll be a tough sell.

      • joe says:

        Heh! Glad you got it, Liz. 😉

        I see what you mean. But you know, I think the answer is the same! It’s all about the relative importance of Sarah Walker to the story.

        And seeing as any poll that asks the question will put Sarah ahead of even Chuck in popularity, I’d put the question to Fedak in a way that only a “guy” can do…
        “Hey Fedak! Don’t even think about making Sarah Chuck’s baubble!”

        Then again, I’m hoping Lauren Lefranc has done precisely that.

      • gabbo says:

        @liz I think you hit on a crucial point. I was a little concerned about how little Sarah had to do in Subway/Ring II. Except for clocking Shaw twice (good for her!) all she did was be the girlfriend. That can’t be too good a sign for season four.

        @joe I don’t think anyone questions the popularity of Sarah. Who doesn’t love Sarah? (Okay, Merve, you apparently don’t.) But the issue is not whether she’d be written out of the show or anything, it’s whether or not she has a role to play now. Liz’s point about Sarah “driving” or “creating” Chuck in seasons 1,2,3 is very valid. Now what role does she have?

        Maybe TPTB have thought this out (let’s hope so), but Subway and Ring were not particularly good signs for Sarah, if you ask me.

      • jason says:

        i don’t understand the what will sarah do POV at all, what did she do in the shaw arc other than serve as shaw’s miniskirted lapdog? her and chuck together, they will be out and about punching out bad guys, stealing stuff from terrorists, foiling plots to overthrow our government, she will be back, in season 3, she was put on the bench, or on her bosses lap to be more appropriate, THAT should have concerned you folks, not what she did or didn’t do in the back 6 or will or won’t do next season, she will not only be ok, she will be – awwwweeeesoomme

      • gabbo says:

        @jason It’s not the Sarah point of view, it is a realization of how they used the Sarah character to create Chuck. You’re talking about results, liz and joe and I are talking process to get those results.

        And, for me, I didn’t think Sarah was all that well used in the back six. And there’s no reason to think (or not think) that Sarah will be used well in Season 4. You just don’t know, I just don’t know.

      • atcdave says:

        I thought Sarah was poorly served on 3.18 and especially 3.19; but I thought she was very well handled in 3.14-16. Maybe the finale just leaves us with a bit of a bad taste (for the use of Sarah, not in most other ways). As I said above, Sarah has been reduced to minor character status on occasion, in each of the previous seasons too. And I strongly agree with Jason, she was very poorly served during the Sham, much worse than “Chuck’s girlfriend” status. I HOPE this was just an isolated case and she will return do being an important part of the show in the future.

      • ArticulateSchnook (aka lizjames) says:

        atcDave–Actually, Dave, I thought the only back six episodes where the Sarah character was well handled was 14 and 15.

        While she does get some “action” in 16 and 17, it is all in service of Chuck. In other words, Sarah isn’t being so much a spy as the girlfriend of a spy. And in 18 and 19, it was like there was NO story for her except clocking Shaw, once for herself (in the office) and once in service of the meme they won’t let die (Chuck is great because of some arbitrary line about killing).

        As I said at, I don’t think ANYONE would have liked the Shaw-Sarah arc any more had they told it better and less timidly, but at least we wouldn’t have hated it so much.

        Going forward, well, I do have my worries because of the fact that Chuck will now be moving in Orion’s orbit rather than hers. I have no doubt they CAN find a good storyline for Sarah if they want to. The question is: Do they want to?

        We’ve seen that TPTB are resolute when they start a story arc, even one that is being nearly universally rejected. So if they decide that Sarah in Season 4 is the girlfriend, well, there ain’t much to stop them…

      • jason says:

        Liz, I am convinced you could have written 3.7, 3.8, 3,11, and 3.12, not changed the charactere status of any of the episodes (i.e. sarah with shaw at the end of 3.7 & 3.8, sarah devastated at the end of 3.11 & made her choice by the end of 3.12), and the show would have been fine. it was not impossible. The writing of the details was just so poorly done, embarrassing really.

        I have read the stuff on your new site, thanks for taking the time to do so. As usual for your writings, I don’t agree with everything, but your writing style is both riveting and thought provoking.

        I do have a ? about your last comment, if sarah in 16 & 17 was only in role as the girl friend of a spy, what was she in all of season 1 & 2 other than the handler of an asset? – I read what you said about chuck’s purpose, but so what – she and chuck are a team, always have been except for parts of the front 13, that is his role and her role, in s1 / s2, he was a submissive little schoolboy member of the team, now he is an equal spy partner, is that really so bad?

        Other than the two of them as a team of spies, what other role should she have, chuck really doesn’t have any other role – at least in the A plot, it is the two of them ‘saving the world’? Chuck and Sarah’s roles seem really simple looking forward, professional and real life partners. I thought most of 14 thru 17 were handled that way.

        18 & 19 were not only off the mark for sarah, chuck was all over the map too, I guess that is what happens when a show has several powerful executive producers who are great writers, along with a creative showrunner and a josh schwartz all trying to write epic / gamechanging stuff, can’t sing simultaneously out of 6 different hymnals and stay on key.

        I am looking forward to a new creative team in place for season 4, I think Fedak will be 100% in charge this season, the buck will stop with him, and things will be FAR more consistent – maybe. Going to be interesting.

      • ArticulateSchnook (aka lizjames) says:

        The roles of Chuck and Sarah are fully defined as Seasons 1/2 developed: Sarah as defender of the asset. In Season 3, well, you know…

        Season 3.5? It was supposed to be a spy team. But in 16 and 17 Sarah is literally on the scene to save Chuck ONLY because she arrived as the girlfriend. She gets to the hospital because she went to the doctor to plead her case. She was at Orion’s cabin only because she drove Chuck to his father’s. (Heavens, Chuck even tells her to wait in the car!) So, in both instances, her actions come as Sarah-the-girlfriend, not Sarah-the-spy.

        Would that be terribly worrying? Well, if she had something really spyworthy to do in 18 and 19, no. If Season 4’s reset had not removed her as the driver/creator of Chuck’s universe, no,

        But when you look at two girlfriend episodes, two episodes where she has almost nothing to do and a reset that removes her as Chuck’s driver, well, it is worrisome.

        As for the Sarah-Shaw tale, it is a piece with the rest of the first 13. The more you look at it, the less impressive it is. All you have to do is look at the tortured logic some folks are going through to try to defend it.

        Bottom line: Season 3 was a bad story, badly told. And I will go so far as to say that not ALL of it was the creators’ conscious fault. They clearly had planned a full-season arc, then had to hastily rejigger things after the very late renewal, the huge budget cuts and the truncated, 13-episode commitment.

        They SHOULD have gone back to the drawing board and told a different tale. But sometimes creative people get stubborn. And vain. They try to jam square pegs into round holes just to prove they can. And, usually, they can’t. (Trust me, I know. Some of the worst media disasters in history have come when the creative people refuse to clean-sheet a product for current conditions, but instead rely on assumptions based on past realities.)

        If Schwartz, Fedak et. al had started fresh after looking at the conditions they were finally given to work with, I suspect a very different tale would have been told. Maybe not a tale you would have liked or I would have liked. But certainly one that held together better, that did what it set out to do better.

      • Merve says:

        I’m not worried. “Subway” and “Ring: Part II” weren’t really about Sarah because they didn’t need to be. And if Sarah is no longer the main motivator on Chuck’s journey and is given another role to play (like a storyline of her own) wouldn’t that actually give her more agency?

      • Ernie Davis says:

        They clearly had planned a full-season arc, then had to hastily rejigger things after the very late renewal, the huge budget cuts and the truncated, 13-episode commitment.

        Is this something we know, or speculation based on problems you’ve seen with the story? Regardless of your expertise I think it’s important to make a distinction between actual knowledge supported by facts on the record and informed speculation.

      • andyt says:

        Ernie, I can see your scepticism, but when they pitched the s3 storyline they had to anticipate that it would be for a full season. This is how you need to sell it to the network. I don’t believe that you can think in only thirteen episodes, because then when you get the additional ones what story do you have left. Also, Chris Fedak stated in interviews that they did have to change the sequencing and pacing of S3 once they knew it was only 13. For example, he has stated in interviews that Other Guy would have happened around Episode 7 or 8 in the 22 outline; instead of Mask, we would have had Paris and Shaw “apparently” killed at that point. Instead they decided to stretch that storyline into thirteen, but then they get another curve with the back six. Again they decided to tell the second half of the original s3 in those six. I know it is confusing but it happens on shows. For example, I know from commentaries and articles that Season 4 of Buffy went through major changes when one the key recurring performers left and they had to change the storyline and advance elements to the middle of the season. Also, don’t forget the Firely get canceled after only 12 episodes were shot, clearly Joss Whedon planned for the full 22 because there was no “end” point in the story at that juncture.

        Dave, you are right that shows are extremely collaborative processes. The observation that I have is that whatever we think S4 should be, it is already decided because the network has bought that story outline, or they would not have renewed the show. Just as they endorsed the Season 3 storyline, not only by renewal in 09 but with the additional six episodes.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Ernie, I can see your scepticism, but when they pitched the s3 storyline they had to anticipate that it would be for a full season. This is how you need to sell it to the network.

        Why? Is this some SOP I’m unaware of? I’m serious, please, explain it if I’m missing something. I understand pitching a season long story, but assuming a number of episodes or how much could be told per episode is still something I want to understand.

        Were scripts written? I doubt it. Do TPTB sell a season episode by episode? Or do they sell an overall story and direction with details TBD?

        I’m asking. If you can definitively inform me please do so, and I will gladly concede my skepticism was wrong.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        So, given the chaos, would you agree then that laying the blame on Schwedak seems unfair?

    • ArticulateSchnook (aka lizjames) says:

      Because planning and storyboarding for a season starts almost immediately after shooting ends for the previous one. So to TPTB credit, they haven’t used budget or anything as much of an excuse. But it was clearly part of the package.

      This year’s delay in the internal word from NBC, for example, cost them two writers (Klemmer and Adler) who went for solid offers from new shows rather than risk not having a gig if Chuck didn’t make the cut.

      And they have admitted that if they had the 22-episode commitment up front, they would have made the entire Season 3 storyline what we saw in episodes 1-13. That much they have admitted in interviews. You could look it up…

      • jason says:

        I am pretty sure fedak told us somewhere along the way, that once 13 shows extended to 19, that they decided to leave chuck and sarah together at paris, but that was not their original intent, so I would have to guess honeymooners and role models were newly written shows independent of the arc, while in lots of ways, the other 4 (16 thru 19) could have been part of the original plan with a little bit of tweaking to show chuck and sarah as a couple? This might account for why sarah did not have real much of a role in 16-19 (much like 3.1-13) and why CS seemed a bit choppy as a couple in 16-19 & maybe even the lying.

        I am of course mostly guessing.

        now for a hope, I hope 3.14 and 15 are representative of season 4

      • ArticulateSchnook (aka lizjames) says:

        Btw, word leaked out about Chuck’s Season 3 renewal on 17 May 2009. The Season 3 storyline was pitched to NBC in early April. (Sorry, I don’t have an exact date.) And as you recall, Chuck wasn’t even on the NBC schedule at the official 2009-2010 up fronts. The renewal came AFTER that, when Subway agreed to pick up some of the slack after NBC demanded a huge cut in license fees. And even with the Subway money, an actor (Ling) was dropped; three other regulars (Gomez, Lancaster and McPartlin) were not in all episodes; two writers were not replaced; and the shooting schedule was reduced to 7 days from 8, which is a murderous pace for an hourly show. And, of course, the order was for 13, rather than the current standard of 22.

        Now this DOES NOT excuse the problems of the season. As I said above, TPTB would probably have been smarter to re-storyboard the whole season rather than try and fit what they were planning into a reduced budget and a fewer number of episodes. So the creators are ultimately responsible for the work, but it’s not as cut and dried as what we saw on the screen. It never is.

      • atcdave says:

        I’ve seen that before, which actually leads me to be thankful things unfolded the way they did. At least we got the garbage over with more quickly. I’ve never been convinced a well crafted story line I hated would be better than a shorter, poorly written story line I hated.
        While I do understand better writing is, well…. better; it makes little difference from an entertainment perspective. The only difference is a shorter or longer story arc I dislike; I’m glad for the shorter one. But I do of course hope for better things in S4.

      • jason says:

        dave, I was ecstatic when 13 was done, but I was also pretty happy when 19 was over and nothing was ruined, now my fingers are crossed that season 4 becomes fun again. One thing about the last 2-3 weeks of blogging here, I am less sure this fanbase can find a way to enjoy the same show any longer, seems like season 3 fragmented the base, it is going to take some pretty fancy storyboarding to pull everyone back together?

      • atcdave says:

        OK sorry, the way things posted my reference was unclear, Had the main story arc been better formatted to the thirteen episode order and reduced budget; it would have been good, but it is of minor consequence to me, its unlikely I would have enjoyed any itteration of the story they were planning. Had the main story been drawn out over the full 19 it would have been even worse; I am thankful they wrapped up the whole mess when they did.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        From a Fedak Hitfix interview:

        “I think the only thing that we would have done differently was if we had known we were going to get the order for 19 episodes, we would have parsed it out differently. We might have told the first story more quickly.”

        That would have been nice.

      • atcdave says:

        That is a tough question Jason, I don’t know. Many of us who are looking for something funny, fun, and sweet are already be gone. But if you look at our favorite episode poll Honeymooners was the most popular by quite a bit.
        I think (That means this is speculation!) much of the arguing now is just about details and perceptions. I would guess only a very small portion of the viewership actually wants to see something bad happen to Chuck and Sarah; and a slightly larger minority is indifferent to what their fate as a couple is. I would also guess most of us WANT to see more time devoted to the actual spy stories, and look forward to action sequences. I think we all enjoy a good laugh too.

        I think much of the current dissension just comes down to a long break after a devisive season. Things will probably get better once real news starts to come about S4.

      • atcdave says:

        Joseph, I’ve seen that quote before and it makes me laugh. It sounds to me like an admission they screwed up. He’s saying (?) ‘if we had more time we would have told the main story more quickly’ (?!?). I think its an acknowledgement the main story was poorly received and should have been handled differently. Which of course, is exactly what I wanted to hear. Obviously I don’t quite buy it, but it is great if the realize, even after the fact, that too many of us weren’t pleased with their “vision.”

      • ArticulateSchnook (aka lizjames) says:

        I KNOW you were unhappy with Season 3. So was I. But believe me when I tell you that if they had gone back to the storyboard and rethought it based on available episodes and budgets, everything WOULD have been different.

        You might have hated what they came up with even more than what we got. You might have liked it better. But we’ll never know because they didn’t do it.

        One of the sure signs that there was a lot of cut and pasting going on during the seasons were the changes we saw in characters from the call sheets to the final footage. There were also a lot of sides that leaked that were never shot. And the supposed “mystery” about the number of episodes Routh and Kreuk were getting may simply have been that TPTB themselves didn’t know how the later part of the original third season was going to play out and which characters would play into which episodes.

        And as for timing and how compressed things are, consider: They got the script for Ring II in late January. Which means they have been thinking about what Season 4 would be like since then. In Season 2, Ring was probably written in late February. Which means they had all of March and April to storyboard and plan Season 3 with the expection of filming beginning in mid-July. They are planning a full-budget, 22-episode season at that point. Yet in mid-May, with filming just two months away, they find out they are only getting 13 episodes and are going to be doing it with much less money and many fewer actors. They chose to forge ahead and rewrite rather than start from scratch.

        These are the kind of decisions you end up making in the commercial world. It is what it is…

      • JC says:

        You mentioned the spy story Dave and that’s why I was so disappointed in this season. It seems like one giant wasted opportunity.

        Chuck’s training, The Ring and the villains were failures on every level. Last season we had a shootout at Ellie’s wedding, Chuck storming Roarke industry, the hunt for Orion, etc. This season the Ring was caught in a stairwell.

        Shaw might have been a good villain had he not looked like an idiot during those middle episodes. Vincent is still the best villain the show has and hopefully they bring him back next season.

        Even the back six were a waste because of how rushed they were. The Ring taking over the CIA/NSA a great idea that was over in one episode. How awesome would it have been to see Team B on the run for a few episodes. Trying to rescue Beckman while getting help from “criminals”.

        They have these great ideas but it seems like they don’t follow through with them. I don’t mind any story they want to tell, just do it good not what we got this season.

      • atcdave says:

        Well Liz, I will have to admit we’ll never know. I know I sound mostly bitter, and in a way I am. But I was mostly happy with the back six, and I expect much better things from S4. It seems they’re finally planning a season that I’d hoped to see last year, better late than never.

      • atcdave says:

        I agree with most of that JC. In spite of how little screen time Chuck and Sarah shared in the front part of S3, it was virtually THE ENTIRE payoff of the main arc. I would have loved to see a spy themed main arc with a payoff of busting Shaw and The Ring, while the emotional impact of the romance was paid off in installments during the whole arc. Its almost like they thought the spy story was so inadequate they had to with-hold the emotional satisfaction to the end too. Of course, with the story we saw that was true; but it never had to be.

      • andyt says:

        One thing to add to Liz’s point about the timing of story development. The Season 3 story was sold to NBC in March and April 09, this was the story that convinced the network to give Chuck a third season. So going in it was everything that we saw, but it had to be compressed once they knew it was only 13. Also, Chuck got the back six episodes based upon the first batch of S3 episodes, remember 1-7 or 8 were probably in the can by the time the show premiered in January. So the network certainly liked them well enough to give the show 6 more(also their royal FUBAR with Jay Leno helped, but they could have given those hours to something else and something cheaper so they apparently like Chuck). Also, whatever the Season 4 storyline, the network knows and approves else they would not have renewed.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        They are planning a full-budget, 22-episode season at that point.

        So we know this? It’s established fact? As I recall, and correct me if I’m wrong, Chuck NEVER had a 22 episode order at the start of a season’s production, can we really assume they planned a 22 episode season and that a massive re-write was a problem?

        I thought the biggest problem with the front 13 was that they didn’t move some parts of the story quick enough. After a poorly handled and ill conceived reset in 1&2 I enjoyed 3-6. And sad to say it 7, aside from Sham. Fake name was probably the worst episode, and had little to like. From Beard through Final Exam, I enjoyed most of it, but since Sham was being shoved to the front as a major part of the story and didn’t actually progress I tired of it quickly. American Hero, I just didn’t like. It was like they pushed Sham for so long, trying to convince us it was real and mattered, but then couldn’t figure out how to end it. Other Guy I liked, but it suffered American Hero hangover. My guess is that there are a few others on this blog who share my view. The front 13 weren’t great, and there were a few clinkers. Rushed storytelling? That was the least of my concerns aside from trying to establish Sham within one episode.

      • atcdave says:

        Andy, I know many people have a hand in crafting a modern television show. One reason we use the term “TPTB” is because its hard to know exactly who was responsible for any given decision. Not only writers and network execs, but studio execs, show runners, producers; all the way down to directors, actors, effects, and stunt people! Its a massive collaborative effort. I think its why most TV storytelling is cautious and unimaginative. Chuck stood out as so original and clever after two seasons, that many of us had too much faith in them. That problem may have been internal as well; I’ve often been slammed for this criticism but I seriously believe it was too much confidence internal to the show’s process that lead them to conceive and produce a main story arc that was clearly contrary to what a majority of fans wanted to see (that’s my nice way of phrasing it, the “hubris” word always gets me in trouble! oh, oops I said it). I am pretty sure there is more awarness of fan preferences this season (recent interviews are far more “fan friendly” than what we saw a year ago).

        And Ernie, I agree with your main point if not all the specifics. I never quite buy into the “rushed” argument as being among the failings of S3. While its clear many elements of the main arc could have been improved on…. well everyone knows what I think…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, I usually use the WTF filter. Short version if a large portion of the fanbase says WTF, it wasn’t done well.

        Chuck re-intersecting, no problem. The relationship reset, WTF? Chuck and Hannah, not popular,but not WTF. Sham, WTF?

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, I even agree with that. I didn’t like the Hannah story and wish they hadn’t gone their, but at least I accept that she was likeable and could have been a good match for Chuck (um, if I didn’t consider him TAKEN!). But Shaw???!! oof!

      • andyt says:

        Sorry guys, I’m an idiot and posted my reply to you above. I was having trouble with Youtube on the other window and got mixed up. I, unlike Chuck, am not a computer genius.

      • AngelTwo says:

        Ernie, allow me to correct you, since you invited correction.

        Generally speaking, scripted shows on network televison start their lives as a concept that a network hopes to have on the air for five years. In fact, they now take pitches specifically expecting the showrunners to have a five year arc.

        For virtually all shows, you are given a 13-episode commitment with the back 9 given a greenlight based on ratings and other factors. A standard season is 22 episodes. (It used to be 26 and then 24 and, once upon a time, 32, but it has been 22-episode seasons for a decade.) Shows that are really strong in the ratings (NCIS, for example, or Lost) will occasionally get full-season 22-episode commitments up front. But that is increasingly rare. The industry standard is 13 with an network option for 9 more.

        In Chuck’s case, Season 1 was interrupted by the writer’s strike. So only 13 were filmed. And contrary to the current meme about woe-is-Chuck, the show was literally the first show picked up by NBC from the 2007-2008 season. It also explains why “season 1” ends with a Sarah-Awesome scene. Episode 13 was not meant to be the season finale.

        Season 2 began with some scripts that had actually been written before the strike but not filmed. It got its back-9 commitment in normal fashion and has a standard 22-episode season. (I’ve heard some scuttlebutt that the original storyboarding for the first season had it ending with the cliffhanger in Fat Lady. It might also explain why Fedak wrote Graviton, which would have been the Season 2 premier based on original storyboarding.)

        As Liz has already explained (and it is not only common knowledge, it is VERY old news) Chuck’s ratings fell fast in season 2. The Season 3 pitch was in April. But Chuck was not given an external or even internal renewal until AFTER the NBC upfronts. The renewal was officially announced on May 17 and it was for 13 episodes ONLY. (Heroes, which NBC owned, also got only a 13 episode commitment.) The initial premiere date for Season 3 was March 1.

        When the Season 3 premiere got moved up to January, NBC ordered six more episodes after looking at the first few weeks of ratings. (A 3.0 for that Sunday, then a couple of consistent 2.5s on Mondays.)

        As for your bigger issue, Schwartz and Fedak would have gone into the Season 3 pitch meetings with NBC a 22-episode season in mind. That is what networks expect and what showrunners design. This really isn’t voodoo, Ernie, it’s how network TV works today.

        By contrast, the late renewal this season is, at least, more standard. It is for 13 episodes with an option for 9 more at the network’s pleasure.

        As for your claim that anyone said the season was “rushed,” well, you seem to have set up that particular strawman. No one except you in this strand claimed that. So I don’t know what you’re arguing there. What others (specifically Liz) is saying is that the Chuck showrunners compressed an arc created for a full budget network show of 22 seasons and banged it into a 13-episode, reduced-budget season.

        That doesn’t lead to “rushed” storytelling, however, and I don’t know where you get that idea. What happens is that stand-along episodes get dropped and the rest of the arc gets chopped up and rewritten. Characters get combined, concepts get dropped or overlapped, etc.

        It is ugly, as Season 3 of Chuck proves pretty conclusively.

        But rushed? Uh, no. Even if you overlap the dialog and have the actors talk really fast, you can’t get “rushed.”

      • AngelTwo says:

        Excuse my typo. I meant to say season 1 ended on an Ellie-Awesome scene.

      • andyt says:

        Angel Two explained the process much more articulately than I ever could. As to Ernie’s point. No scripts were not written but there is an outline with the major story parceled out over the chapters. When outlining for a story, there is the intro, the middle and the climax, so they knew where the rhythm would be in the season. Yes, they must plan for 22 even though it is the standard thirteen plus nine order. If they are lucky, they could find out(God forbid) that all they are getting is thirteen and be able to craft an ending in thirteen but this is often not the case. See Firefly which some are watching on the board as the perfect example; it only got twelve and its last three did not even air. They were put on the DVD. That was one reason the Joss Whedon was so passionate about doing the movie so he could finish the main points of his story. It happens sadly in network tv.

      • andyt says:

        Just to add to Angle Two, Season 3 got advanced to January and the back six were ordered at the same time, so the back six came before any ratings were in for the season. Those six were based on: 1)the need to have Chuck now fill a January through May schedule(because NBC FUBARed the Leno/Conan situation), 2)what NBC had seen from the episodes shot and presented. If I am correct, the decision to advance Chuck and order more was made in Nov. 09. By that point, at least 6 or seven episodes were shot and much of the remaining thirteen were being finished in script stage. This year the show starts shooting on July 19th, so by the time the season starts two months will have passed and as many as 6 or more episodes will be done before the show ever goes before viewers. This also is what causes trouble if NBC decides not to order the back 9 by that point there might not be many episodes left to shoot if they want to wrap up the series storylines.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        For virtually all shows, you are given a 13-episode commitment with the back 9 given a greenlight based on ratings and other factors.

        This is the point I’m curious about, Given a 13 episode commitment as an industry standard, why on earth would you plan on a story that requires 22 episodes, and why in gods name would a 13 episode commitment be a shocking surprise that required story killing re-writes?

      • andyt says:

        I believe to answer your question about the need to have a 22 episode story: this what the network demands. They may only give you thirteen as the upfront, but they expect you to have a storyline that will fill a full season otherwise why give you a plus 9 episodes if you do not have storylines ready to go right then.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        But this basically re-inforces what we got. Assuming your standard, TPTB, if they were remotely sentient beings, would plan for a self contained 13 episode season, with another 9 as a possibility.

        You are saying contradictory things. In one case you are saying that networks demand 22 episodes of story, but will only commit to 13 episodes. That seems pretty stupid. On the other hand you are saying that show runners know they can only count on 13 episodes, but will for some reason plan for 22.

        I’m sorry, you aren’t clearing up my confusion, but then I’m a rational human being, maybe hollywood doesn’t operate by those rules.

      • herder says:

        Last year was unusual and non-standard in that NBC was going to a split season approach. Heroes was given a 16 episode order to run on Mondays at 8pm from September to the Olympics and then Chuck had a 13 episode run from the Olympics to the end of May. There was talk of maybe, if it did well that there would be extra episodes ordered to air in the summer (another inovation) but that was always a long shot.

        So TPTB who likely had a 22 episode story had to rejig it to fit 13 (a guess on my part) because of the way the 13 were likely to fit into the shedule. Ordinarily there is a 13 + 9 contract but last year wasn’t an ordinary year for NBC. I think Parenthood got the same 13 episode order without a shot at a back nine and was likely structured for a 13 episode season.

      • andyt says:

        No Ernie it is confusing, this is the way that Hollywood works. As I pointed out, look at Firefly as the perfect example. Joss W. planned for a 22 episode first season arc. He only got to tell 12 of those stories before the plug was pulled(and the last three of those never went on air, only showing up on the DVD). Objects in Space was clearly not a final episode. Or Chuck S1, Chuck v. Marlin was never intended to be the last episode, but because of the writers strike it was. It could have easily been the last series episode if NBC decided to kill Chuck after only thirteen. It gets even more confusing. I was listening to the commentary for Eureka S1 the other night, and the showrunners pointed out that some episodes get moved around in the schedule from there original order. This happened on Chuck in S2 originally v. Best Friend was to air before v. Suburbs but NBC reversed the order to promote Suburbs as a Valentine’s Week episode. That is why the storyline with Chuck/Sarah breaking up/ not breaking up was wonky for those weeks.(Remember Ellie’s pushing Chuck about the relationship in Suburbs, not in Best Friend, and again in Beefcake) Network tv is not rational or predictable, it is an asteriod field to be negoitated by the showrunners the best that they can. They plan for 22 but get what they get.

      • andyt says:

        Sorry about the grammar but it is late here in the East. Great discussion Ernie, it is alot of fun.

      • andyt says:

        Not necessarily Ernie. I, as you know, generally liked Season 3 and thought it was fun and entertaining(but I was having a pretty depressing period in Feb. and March this year and Chuck was an anchor of happiness in that sea of awfulness). But for those who were upset, I do believe that they can be critical of the showrunners it is their profession to take all of the obstacles, pot-holes and other craziness into account and craft an entertaining show. If it wasn’t for some then it is fair to be critical. However, it is important to understand the context under which they were working if one wants to understand their mode of thinking. Remember, when the intense reaction to Mask occurred, that episode probably been done for almost two months. With a show like Chuck, the episodes that we see are many, many weeks after shooting and the creation of the storylines were even longer before that.

      • atcdave says:

        It does seem like it would just be wise to plan every season like two half seasons. Make them look more connected than they need to be if it pleases the network. I often wish networks and studios both would be more considerate in their application of cliffhangers. As a viewer I’m seriously tired of the method anyway, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve got many friends who just hate the “season finale season”, it means a bunch of stories that won’t be resolved for four months.
        Fortunately, with Chuck, TPTB have been pretty clever and thoughtful in their use of cliffhangers; that is, resolving major story elements but leaving a good hook for the next season.

      • andyt says:

        Dave I agree with your point about cliffhangers alot. Many shows do it as a cheap trick to create anxiety and interest for the start of the next season but it gets old after a while. One of the things that I loved about Buffy was that each season was largely self contained and told a complete story. Only twice did Whedon use the cliffhanger-at the end of S2 and S6(although six wasn’t really much of a cliffhanger). Eureka did a good job of ending its third season with a nice episode that was touching and sweet but not a cliffhanger (By the way Season 4 just premiered last week) Probably the best and most perfect cliffhanger was STNG with Best of Both Worlds I, but that was twenty years ago now.

      • andyt says:

        Great discussion, it’s been fun and insightful but I got to sign off for awhile.

      • jason says:

        so in the spirit of the split season concept, are we looking at engagement for 4.13? Seems like several of you guys have a pretty good idea of how this works, around what episode is the show given the renewal for the back 9 (i.e. at what point in the shooting schedule do they know)? Also, lets face it, season 3 was not a success by most measures, what would smart money say the odds of getting past 4.13 is?

      • andyt says:

        Jason, they might do that around episode 13 or 14 as those episodes might air around Feb. sweeps and would make a good sweeps episode; if, they want to go with a wedding in the finale in May. Also, an hour long show like Chuck would probably gets its back nine order in November or December. It would be based on only about the first five or six episodes ratings. By that point in the schedule, I would imagine they would be shooting episodes 12-13 if not wanting to move past that into the second half of the season. Again this is the gamble that showrunners make in network tv.

      • Merve says:

        An engagement’s placement in the storyline is dependent on how important TPTB want to make it; if it’s a big thing, then it would be in a sweeps episode. A wedding would almost certainly be in a sweeps episode. When a show’s leads are getting married, it’s easy to promote the crap out of it.

        But that’s assuming that either of those things are going to happen. Heck, I’m still waiting for the Big Mike/Bolonia wedding. I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        That doesn’t lead to “rushed” storytelling, however, and I don’t know where you get that idea. What happens is that stand-along episodes get dropped and the rest of the arc gets chopped up and rewritten. Characters get combined, concepts get dropped or overlapped, etc.

        Fair enough, “rushed” was my assumption of what you and Liz were getting at with a 22 episode season wedged into only 13 episodes, but I don’t think it was an unfounded assumption. Liz specifically said TPTB had to hastily re-jigger the story to fit. I assumed she meant that a lot of story got dropped and what was left didn’t tell the story properly. OK, perhaps it was more rushed production than rushed storytelling. So if the problem of re-designing a pre-conceived 22 episode season to fit into 13 episodes wasn’t rushed storytelling what was it?

        Clearly production values were down with the more limited budget, I’ll agree with that, and there were a number of continuity problems, but they were relatively minor and didn’t impact the overall story IMHO. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t have much problem following the story. It wasn’t that complicated. To me what didn’t work was character motivations. Some of the stars have been very clear about that. They had no idea where their characters were going or why. That is a problem TPTB did cause with their production methods. They are spoiler-phobic but rather than, like seasons one and two, telling a story with a pretty stable situation and only limited changes in the characters, they had the main characters go through some major developments over a number of episodes and basically overturned the original premise of the show to replace it with a new one.

        I can accept that perhaps their plans were too ambitions given the bubget and time to turn out episodes, but I really don’t see how more episodes would have made a difference. For the most part the front 13 dragged on and beat the stories to death with no apparent progress. We had two full episodes dwelling on the traumatic breakup, 10 of Chuck and Sarah going their seperate ways, 7 episodes of Sarah worying about Chuck changing, 6 of Sham basically going nowhere, 12 of Chuck coming to terms with what being a spy might cost him and whether it was worth it, two back to back episodes of Chuck realizing he still loved Sarah and 3 of Chuck trying to win Sarah back. What am I missing? I don’t understand how the front 13 stories may have benefited from more episodes.

        I understand people trying to identify some sort of intrinsic structural problem being baked into the front 13 that makes their failure inevitable, and I appreciate the insight, but I really don’t think it is that complicated. They tried to get a whole season out of romantic angst because they simply assumed they should, and it became the 800 pound gorilla that overwhelmed everything else when it didn’t work. It didn’t work for a very specific reason. They made a new romantic lead out of an ill defined character with absolutely no chemistry with his leading lady and then tried to sell it for 6 episodes without ever explaining their mutual attraction.

      • andyt says:

        Ernie, I think what the TPTB did when they found out that they only had thirteen episodes instead of twenty-two was make the Chuck/Sarah story the central throughline of those thirteen. Fedak has stated that the whole purpose of those thirteen was to get them to the hotel room in Paris. However, he has also said that in a 22 episode season, the events of Other Guy would have taken place in episode 7 or 8 which would have been Nov. sweeps time. Thus the Sham as people call it would not have lasted for 6 episodes if it would have at all. Also, the Chuck and Sarah breakup would have been shorter. In fact, they dropped the dark intersect/Shaw is villain storyline out of those thirteen, except for Other Guy. In a longer season, I think much of what people hated would have been in the first 6-7 episodes and it would have played differently. We will never know, but they had to compress the story into thirteen and move parts around. Last year was an unusual year; let’s hope this one is more normal.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        OK, that actually makes some sense. So the problem wasn’t intrinsically being cut from 22 to 13, but in having too little story and dragging it out too long, which would be my main criticism of the front 13. I could see that being the case, though I still find it mind boggling that professionals wouldn’t be prepared for the very likely contingency that a bubble show would only get a 13 episode order and would need to do a rush job.

        I still say this is the root of S3’s problems.

        Josh Schwartz: “Part of your job as a storyteller, part of the writer’s jobs here on the show is to mine all of these characters for maximum conflict and drama.”

        Angst for angst sake. That and Shaw.

      • andyt says:

        Ernie, that is American network television. What NBC tried with Chuck by giving it only thirteen episodes is much more common in British tv, where the series are short runs. The problem was that Fedak and company pitched for normal American tv season then at the very last minute found out they were only getting thirteen and they had to scramble to change the season in only about two months before shooting started last year. Again, it was unusual.

      • JC says:

        I think one the real problems is that they’re two camps behind the scenes on the show.

        One side you have Fedak who’s sees this as his comic book spy fantasy. Chuck and his journey are the story that he wants to tell. Everyone else is secondary and they’re there just to serve that purpose.

        On the other is Schwartz who is more versed in romance. The problem is he writes teenage love stories. And his style relies on angst, love triangles and characters not talking to each other. Chuck’s main audience isn’t the same as the OC and Gossip Girl.

        So we get season 3 which seems like an opportunity to tell both stories. But for a multitude of reasons neither story the romance or spy was fleshed out and what we got was a jumbled mess on an arc.

      • jason says:

        jc – what you said point I have been trying to blog about but haven’t figured out how, but you made it for me, I also think fedak fell on the sword for schwartz this season like a good emplopyee does for the guy in charge, in return, I’m guessing he will get to tell his story from now on, since 3.8, schwartz has been no more than a cheerleader for chuck, I think that is good news for all of us, my hope is the show returns to spy comedy, not spy drama, morgan, chuck, and beckman are simply not dramatic characters

      • atcdave says:

        Wow, this thread is officially getting a little cumbersome!

        Andy, I agree entirely about your ST:TNG “Best of Both Worlds” comment. I remember well how exciting it was to discuss and specualte about that all summer long with friends. I think there were two big differences there; first the show was in no danger of cancellation, we knew perfectly well it would be back. Second, the style wasn’t so overused 20 years ago, so it was something special and exciting.

        Someone had mentioned that Fat Lady was originally to be the S1 finale. I hadn’t heard that, but I did hear they meant to end S1 with the Mauser situation. I’m guess I’m glad for the writers strike (not really!); but I certainly wouldn’t have liked either of those as a season ender. So far, we’ve got something much better for each of the three finales (even if we totally lucked into it for S1).

      • jason says:

        merve – orion and burn notice, will be interesting indeed, fiona’s role is definitely just the ‘girl friend’, I think sarah will be utilized in far more ways

        dave – funny how a topic titled sarah vs sarah, becomes a review of the entire show, I don’t think it is yvonne that makes her so important to the show (or to the fans), I think it is the CS relationship, obviously there are fan exceptions among us, but for the most part, we can’t shut up about the two of them

      • JC says:


        I think it was here someone mentioned that originally Fedak pitched Chuck as a darker show. I’m guessing more in line with Alias and Burn Notice. Along the way Schwartz was brought on and show turned into more of comedy, action, romance. So I think some of the ‘darker” episodes this season are his original vision for the show.

        As for the romance, they wrote themselves into a corner. I’d say for a large majority of the fanbase Colonel was the emotional payoff to the romance more so than they thought. So we jump to S3 and Chuck training to be a spy. They want to keep them apart so Chuck can grow into a hero but how do you keep them apart? That’s where I see Schwartz’s hand, they went the easiest route, a reset and new love interests. The worst part of it was these new love interests were poorly rehashed versions of Bryce and Lou.

        Sure they tried the whole spies can’t fall in love gimmick. Which might have worked if one your new LIs hadn’t been married to another spy.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        It would almost have been worth resurecting Bryce one last time or bringing back Cole just to have Sarah’s PLI work.

        As for Chuck and Hannah, I thought that the fact she was another Lou was part of the point. Chuck SHOULD have known better, but he was getting so good at handling people and lying he didn’t even think of what it was doing to her and how unfair it was. That was his moment realizing he wasn’t a nice guy anymore.

      • JC says:

        Honestly the way Chuck treated Hannah felt like a typical rebound relationship nothing more. I never saw it as representation of him changing. But like both LI she served no purpose other than an anvil in the way of the inevitable.

        But Hannah did serve two purposes for them. Her relationship with Chuck let the door open for the Sarah/Shaw mess. And it let someone other than Sarah call Chuck out for being a jerk. Because having them talk at that point would’ve been crazy.

      • JC says:

        I wish we could edit our posts.

        I forgot to add neither LI served a purpose for character growth which is what they usually do.

      • atcdave says:

        I hesitate to even reply here as my feelings are so well known on the subject. But I think the problem may start with TPTB not understanding how “Colonel” was viewed by a major chunk of their fanbase. Maybe I should say the problem even goes further back to TPTB not recognizing the impact of the chemistry between Zach and Yvonne. To many of us their pairing read as something far greater than what we were apparently supposed to think. Look at old fanfiction pieces; much of the fan base was ready to marry them off at the end of S1. I think they always read as comfortable and happy together in a way that was far greater than the actual dialogue justified. So its like they continued forward with some outline they may have had in place since before production even started, without regard for how viewers were actually interpreting what was on screen. I’ll accept that my view of Colonel was likely not what TPTB ever intended it to be; but given the percentage of viewers who felt the way I did, it puts the burdon back on TPTB to adapt to the viewers reality, rather than try to hammer a square peg into a round hole like they did.
        I do understand my view probably horrifies much of the “artistic purity” crowd out there (my wife has a BFA, I really do understand that). But Chuck was not a school project, it was a commercial TV venture that lost half its audience of the course of S3. Oops.

      • Merve says:

        Half? How is 5 million/7 million equal to 0.5?

      • Merve says:

        Sorry, that was probably hyperbole on your part. But being a math major, I instinctually jump on things when the numbers don’t seem right.

      • atcdave says:

        Sorry Merve, I wasn’t going for precision. But the key demo numbers were worse than the overall; I belive they dropped from 3.0 to 1.6 or 1.7. Its been a while since I looked at what they were exactly, but of course my point was a dramatic loss

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think the problem may start with TPTB not understanding how “Colonel” was viewed by a major chunk of their fanbase.

        Dave, we’ve talked about this before, and I tend to agree more than not. We see a lot more than what’s on the written page or storyboard, and what we see is what ultimately determines the success of the show.

        Just to bring this back to the topic of Sarah (imagine that) Yvonne has made that character what she is. We obsess over Sarah, who some have pointed out on this thread often is there merely as a plot driver or the girlfriend/sidekick, specifically because Yvonne has managed to convince us that there is so much more to her than we see.

        Think of one of the most jarring images this season. Sarah watching TV in her socks with a cup of tea Chuck’s head on her lap. Sarah watches TV? She drinks tea? She channel surfs? Think of how we know virtually nothing about Sarah outside of her work for the better part of three seasons. Yet she’s the character we obsess over and scream most mightily when they seem to slight her or diminsh her. Since this thread has grown cumbersome I’m going to re-start it with this post at the bottom.

    • AngelTwo says:

      Uh, after this long “Educating Ernie” thread, you’d think you’d all understand that story is not the only thing that drives a show. NBC is heavily committed to Undercovers, a husband-and-wife CIA spy team. It is pretty clear that is NOT what they want from Chuck, hence the switch to the off-the-grid/Orion-for-hire meme. So I’d say that a marriage would be a hard sell to the network. An engagement maybe. But even that would be the season finale, if, of course, they get the full-season pickup.

      • jason says:

        angel – you seem to have a pretty good idea of how tv works, I do not, so I appreciate your info, but I find that means very little vs what you just wrote about NBC / Undercovers / Orion – if anything, the decisions made by the show Chuck in the past season, moved them closer to a spy couple of equals show, rather than the more differentiated boss / handler role chuck and sarah previously enjoyed.

        I do not pretend to know what NBC is thinking, but I can construct possible guesses about near any subject with the best, and that is all your last post appeared to be regarding the relationship of undercovers to chuck visa-vie NBC’s influence on decisions made or to be made???

      • AngelTwo says:

        You can’t look at TV as a static entity. When Schwartz and Fedak went in to pitch Season 3 in April 2009, I am not even sure NBC had heard from Abrams on his idea. I’m not even sure they were talking specifics with Abrams when the back six was approved in January. NBC didn’t even pick up the pilot until late April.

        But NBC’s big hope for 2010-2011 is Undercovers. I can guarantee you that Schwartz and Fedak know what they can and can’t do. Besides, both Undercovers and Chuck are Warner shows. They’ll know what is what.

        Or forget that. Make yourself the head of programming at NBC. You are staking a lot on a star producer’s new show. He even directed the pilot, the first time in years he directed a TV episode. It’s a show about a married spy couple working for the CIA. And you have this low rated, bubble show called Chuck that has an unmarried spy couple.

        Do YOU allow the low-rated show with the unmarried spy couple to complicate the network sell by making THEM get married, too? No, you don’t. You roll your dice with Abrams and you make sure, as much as possible, Chuck doesn’t look or sound or have a similar sit to Undercovers.

        If Undercovers is a huge hit this year, well, then Chuck can possibly move the characters into a marriage scenario because it won’t hurt Undercovers. If Undercovers tanks and disappears, well, then again, Chuck can do what it likes.

        But until NBC knows how the market responds to Undercovers, it is going to make sure they is NO confusion between the shows. Thus Chuck and Sarah stay in place and Chuck the show is refocused on this kind of Dread Pirate Roberts/Millionaire independent do gooder.

        It’s not personal, Sonny, just business… (Okay, The Godfather was Paramount, but you get the idea…)

      • andyt says:

        Angel Two, I was just giving a scenario based on Jason’s question. However, your points about Chuck vis-a-vis Undercovers are very prescient. In fact, I hesitated to answer Jason’s question for just this very reason. I agree with you that NBC is going to focus most of its energy on Undercovers. They want to be in the JJ Abrams business and who wouldn’t at this point. His track record on TV is very good and he may be the next “Spielberg” at the cinema, especially if Super 8 hits big next year. They will not want any confusion between the two shows.

      • herder says:

        I don’t see the conflict with Undercovers being as great as some seem to think. The shows are different, Chuck is more of a comedy, I understand Undercovers is more of a spy story. ABC has Brothers and Sisters and Modern Family, both about extended families but coming from a very different approach, I know that the similarities between Chuck and Undercovers are greater, but so long as the approach of the show is different so what.

      • BDaddyDL says:

        There is another diffrence, even when Chuck and Sarah get married, they will be newleyweds. The undercovers have been together for a long time. 2 completely diffrent story archs.

        Also the undercovers is not a comic book story. Chuck is much more like a graphic novel.

      • BDaddyDL says:

        There is another difference, even when Chuck and Sarah get married, they will be newlyweds. The undercovers have been together for a long time. 2 completely different story arks.

        Also the undercovers is not a comic book story. Chuck is much more like a graphic novel.

      • atcdave says:

        I don’t see how a Chuck/Sarah marriage can really detract anything from Undercovers. If anything, weddings are big draw stories on most shows, which would allow for some cross promotion between the shows. Promoting a big wedding also might lure back some of the viewers who left in disgust last season. And of course, as BDaddy mentions, Chuck and Sarah will then be the newlywed couple compared “Undercovers” more mature pairing. I would also think after all the positive buzz from The Office wedding this season the network would be pretty open to the idea. Historically if you look at all the similar themed shows that have often run concurrently (cop shows, family sit-coms, medical dramas) there have often been overlapping or parallel romantic or personal themes between similar shows.

        My guess would be an engagement for 4.11 (likely the Christmas episode) with a wedding for the season finale. I would prefer things happen sooner; but as a lifelong TV addict my bet is what I said.

      • Merve says:

        @AngelTwo: If that’s NBC’s thinking, it seems kind of silly. To prevent Chuck from turning into Undercovers, they’re going to turn Chuck into Burn Notice? That doesn’t seem to be a clever move on NBC’s part.

        @BDaddyDL: Unfortunately, to the simple mind, marriage is marriage is marriage. Marketing newlyweds vs. long-term couple could prove difficult.

        @everyone: Early reviews are already comparing Undercovers to Chuck:
        TV Squad
        Dan Fienberg

      • atcdave says:

        That was an interesting article Merve. Saying its what Chuck would be if Chuck and Sarah were married is probably a small distinction to many people. Bottom line is another spy-themed action/comedy/romance. If they keep from going too dark, I bet both shows will feel significantly similar.

      • AngelTwo says:

        Your comments to the others are the answer to your comment to me. When reviewers are already making comparisons and limited-atention-span viewers hear just the concept (spy couples in the CIA), NBC wants Chuck as little like Undercovers as possible.

      • atcdave says:

        I never get why similarity would be considered a bad thing. TV is full of copy-cats and rip-offs. How many Law and Orders does NBC Universal have? How many CSIs on CBS? NCIS:LA clearly is meant to exploit NCIS’s success. Even more significantly these shows are often paired together. If Chuck and Undercovers are seen as similar shows it just makes it easier to cross-promote; that is, tell viewers of each show how much they’ll love the other. Sure some people will be turned off by it, but many will give the other show a try. Its a proven and tested method. Most people value familiarity, not uniqueness, regardless of what they may say. I have no doubt Undercovers was at least, in part, inspired by Chuck anyway. Embrace the heritage!

      • Merve says:

        @AngelTwo: I understand why NBC might not want Chuck to be like Undercovers, but if avoiding one comparison leads to inviting another (perhaps more unwelcome) one, then nothing is gained.

        @atcdave: Cross-promotion is a great strategy. The USA network does it quite often, and it’s easy for them because almost all their programming is light drama. If I recall correctly, they were doing Burn Notice/White Collar promos a while back. Unfortunately, NBC’s upcoming Monday-night fall lineup doesn’t lend itself to such a strategy. I don’t see what Chuck, The Event, and Chase have in common, but if NBC can find a common thread between a lighthearted action dramedy, a FlashForward-esque thriller, and an action procedural, then all the more power to them. I could see NBC marketing Monday nights as “Action Night,” but that’s about it.

      • atcdave says:

        The cross promotion doesn’t have to be the same night. As you mentioned, White Collar and Burn Notice are not. And now they’re doing joint promos of White Collar and Psych; those two are even more different in tone, in addition to different nights; yet they’re not only promoting them together, they even did a bit with the stars all together.

        A similar approach for Chuck and Undercovers could easily work, they’re even both the same studio. I can easily see both couples exchanging stupid dialogue over a dinner table as they brag about each others shows.

      • Merve says:

        I don’t know what NBC is thinking on this one, to be honest. Undercovers/Chuck cross-promotion could work, but the network hasn’t indicated any intention to do that. If NBC wants to distance Chuck and Undercovers from each other, then they’re not gaining much. The comparison was going to be made, regardless of what they did. Trying to replace one series with another, instead of letting the new series find its own voice, could cause a backlash.

        Of course, all this speculation about the network’s intentions might be totally off-base. We don’t know that TPTB weren’t planning a big Mama B arc from the outset.

      • atcdave says:

        You know what’s funny Merve, when I first heard of Undercovers I was excited about it (cool, I love that genre!). But recently I’ve had this fear, “I don’t want it to be too successful and bump Chuck off the schedule!” I know that’s wrong, there should be room for both shows. But without even seeing the new show I’m quite certain I’m not willing to trade Chuck for it.

      • Merve says:

        That’s a very valid concern, Dave. Think of what NBC is seeing: Chuck has exceptionally good critical reviews, a dedicated fanbase, and a lot of Internet buzz. Why isn’t it a bigger hit? The solution: do the same show with a big-name producer (i.e. J.J. Abrams) and with a bigger budget.

      • jason says:

        The prevailing theory when I studied business was copy cats tend to promote the main brand, the more successful the copy cat the more it helps the main brand, even in these reviews, a potential new Chuck fan or two may crop up, how many, I don’t know.

        I predict chuck will win monday night against the other two shows – will the demo rating be good – now that I do not know either.

        Seems I know alot less than most.

  19. BDaddyDL says:

    There is something I need some help with. It has probably been answered, but I haven’t seen it.
    Sarah was angry for Chuck downloading 2.0. Heck they almost made a whole season about it.

    Why was she angry at Chuck? Why didn’t Chuck just look at her, and say I had no choice. In my mind there was no choice. If he did not download it they would be dead. If he had gotten backup, Sarah would be dead.

    Sure, at some point during any day I will eat something, but the only choice I have is what that will be. I don’t was to die, so I have to eat. Those are the only 2 choices Chuck had. He could live by downloading 2.0, or he could die because his heart stopped beating, or just as bad for Chuck, Sarah’s stopped beating.

    So in my mind, there was no choice. That’s hat makes me so…ANGRY about season 3 its a bunch of bull. All Chuck had to do was say that. Sarah would have realized it.

    Have I missed something?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well Chuck had no idea that 2.0 would save them. Even Orion didn’t realize there were physical skills included. Chuck downloaded it to preserve it and then destroyed it to make sure The Ring couldn’t get it. Saving the team was the bonus.

      I didn’t see Sarah as angry with Chuck so much as scared for him at first. When he refused to run, seemingly seduced by the idea of being a super-spy then she got angry. And there’s that whole broken heart thing, and I think her misinterpreting his return to the team. I thought that Sarah was pretty much over the anger by the end of Three Words and was going maternal again from Angel de la Muerte through First Class and Nacho Sampler when she seems to have realized, well something…

      It’s at that point where Sarah’s feelings and motivations, and Shaw’s, become something of a muddle.

      And you’re suggesting they talk? Really? Where’s the angsty misunderstandings that can be dragged out for half a season in that? 😉

    • Eli says:

      Sarah wasn’t angry with Chuck for downloading Intersect 2.0, she was angry after he dumped her on Prague.

      Which was surprising for me, because if it was me I would have shot him in… the knee after he downloaded it. He couldn’t even have time to say “I didn’t have a choice.”

      Why? You could ask. Well, Chuck is saying, from the pilot no less, that he wants to be normal, that he doesn’t want to be involved in the spy life. He tells Sarah this in every opportunity he has. Later, after The Breakup, he makes it clear that if he’s going to have a relationship it’s going to be with a “normal” person, since he’s a “normal guy.” He makes clear to Sarah that if they want a real relationship they can’t be in the spy world. So after saying this again and again and AGAIN, Chuck gets free from the Intersect and then Sarah decides that yes, she wants to be with Chuck, so she leaves her life, everything that until then gave sense to her existence (her purpose in life, her job) for him (it would be great if she told him that, though). And what does he do? He downloads the Intersect (the computer he apparently hated) again, ruining any chance between them. Way to go, hero!

      But as you said, BDaddyDL, he didn’t have much choice (of course, he could have not gone with Casey and Sarah, but that’s another question.) That’s why she isn’t angry with him then, only after Prague.

      PS: By the way, if we consider leading the new Intersect project with Bryce as a promotion and leading the operation against the Ring with Shaw from Washington as another promotion… Did really Sarah pass up two chances to advance in her career for Chuck? Or am I just exaggerating?

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Yeah well I still wonder about the line where she says to Chuck in 3.12, “I made a commitment, and not just to Shaw”.

    • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

      BDaddyDL – No you missed nothing, but at the same time WE all missed something. A truly great story.

      What we got was Gossip Girls for 13 episodes.

      I remember it was said that:
      1. Sarah was to be angry with Chuck for downloading the 2.0.
      2. Sarah and Casey we’re going to be Chuck’s senseis
      3. Don’t even start me on the “P” of PLI.
      4. We were going to learn something about Sarah we really wanted to know
      5. The Ring was evil.

      None of which turned out to be true or even remotely true. Which is why, although excited for S4, nothing I hear about it will excite me, until it airs. Maybe my attitude toward S4 is a shame but it’s a product of 13 episodes of S3.

      • Merve says:

        All of that was true. There was a lot of other stupid crap that happened, but the 5 things you listed are all true.

      • atcdave says:

        Joseph, that’s exactly the issue I struggle with. S3 was such a massive screw-up until near the end my confidence in S4 is guarded to say the least. We’ve been over it a dozen times and seen some very impressive writing on the subject; but bottom line is I never really bought into Sarah’s anger, especially once its revealed she does want to be an agent. So she’s really ticked Chuck choose to join her in her profession so they can be together and she doesn’t have to quit “the only thing she’s ever been good at.” What a tragedy. The anger basically misfires from the very start and things go downhill from there; finally leaving fans (at least those who choose to continue watching) more angry than the characters.

        Poorly conceived story that was more about following a certain outline than any particular truth to characters, setting, or plausibility. I do expect better from S4, but I still feel fairly blah about it. Hope the best, expect who knows????

      • Eli says:

        @atcdave, I never had a big problem buying S3 (the execution of some things wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t bother me much) or Sarah’s motivations, frankly. What you have or what you want for yourself isn’t always what you want for others.

      • atcdave says:

        Eli, I know many fans were fine with S3, or even enjoyed most of it. Seriously good for them.
        But I can’t even describe how angry it makes me. I am outspoken about it here not so much to argue with those who were pleased, but to ensure that those who were not pleased are represented. There are obviously a few of us who will still watch, but so many quit and I think I know why. So that’s why I’m often ramming home such repetitive thoughts.

        And I do understand the idea that Sarah was OK with herself as a spy but worried about Chuck’s loss of innocence. At least I understand that was the story they meant to tell. But it seems so weak to me (both the idea and the execution). Had they told the story of Chuck learning his spy craft with Sarah by his side; growing professionally and as a couple at the same time, it would have been so much more satisfying. I mean like a 0 out of 10 compared to a 10 out of 10 more satisfying. To me the story we got was simply unacceptable.

      • Eli says:

        Please, atcdave, I didn’t want to imply that you’re wrong or that because I don’t see much problems in s3 I think everybody sees it peachy. I just wanted to say that I understand Sarah.

        As I see it and as much as I hate Shaw, without him there is no Chuck spy with Sarah at his side. Sarah letting Chuck kill and burn an asset and whatnot without being forced to do so? No. She could begin training Chuck but eventually the two would grow apart for the simple reason that Chuck would want (and being ordered) to do things and accept missions that Sarah wouldn’t want him to (as it happened in Vs. The First Class.) It was a matter of time.

        But that’s just my opinion, based on my perception of C/S. It’s obviously non transferable 🙂

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        @Eli – [ As I see it and as much as I hate Shaw, without him there is no Chuck spy with Sarah at his side. Sarah letting Chuck kill and burn an asset and whatnot without being forced to do so?—]

        You have a valid point when you say that Sarah would not have been able to put Chuck on the path to burning /killing a mark. She would have become a professional impediment to Chuck, if she had her way. So Shaw as the person who pushes Chuck into these things is okay. IMO, one major gripe of mine rises specifically from the events of Chuck’s Red Test. Even Shaw knew that Chuck would put down the order to kill Perry if it came from him. So he basically forced Sarah to do his dirty work knowing that Chuck would do anything that Sarah told him to. Now, instead of having an issue with Shaw about his manipulative behavior – she choses to blame herself and Chuck for the subsequent events and does not feel any personal disconnection from Shaw.That was very disconcerting for me.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        In continuation with my reply to Eli – maybe Sarah was feeling obligated towards Shaw. After all he bought her earrings from Tiffany’s. She was forever indebted to him. lol.

      • atcdave says:

        Eli, I do accept that another trainer could have been brought in, its mainly forcing him into the LI role that I object to. But saying it “had to be” a certain way is accepting the contrived reasoning of TPTB. I object to the whole “Red Test” almost as much as I object to Shaw himself. Its not a real thing, they made it up (OK, its not actually original to Chuck, its made up for the spy movie genre); so they could have just as easily made up a reason why Chuck didn’t have to do it, or used his brains to make it unnecesary. Given how much Sarah dislikes the idea, they could have made her a co-conspiritor in the whole thing (“OK Chuck, Beckman wants you to kill this double agent, but neither of us wants to do that, so let’s figure another way to make this work…”) Seriously, the whole idea is contrary to federal law, it shouldn’t be that hard to foil an illegal and immoral order.
        I much prefer the idea of Sarah helping mold Chuck into a “good spy” (as she herself told Shaw she wanted to be in 3.13) than the hand’s off Sarah we saw.

        I’m certainly not saying they had to do things my way either. I’m just looking for options given how poorly the actual story played out.

      • Merve says:

        Sarah molding Chuck into a “good spy” sits a little too close to Pygmalion for my comfort. Chuck certainly needed guidance, but ultimately, he needed to make his own decisions.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve I did say “help mold.” Chuck is already a good guy; the issue was keeping that “goodness” while becoming a spy. Sarah should have been the ideal mentor for that; she was a good spy who made some mistakes, and would have been perfect to help Chuck learn from her experience.

        I have had many trainees as a controller, and I always strive to mold or form them into good controllers; it just lacks some of the moral dimension we’re discussing here.

        And Eli, I know tone is sometimes hard to read in these comments, so I want to be sure you know: I am having a very good time here with our “discussion.” I like the back and forth with intelligent people I happen to disagree with (just ask Merve, he knows!)

      • Eli says:

        atcdave, it played poorly for you, it played good for me. We are like at the beginning. Lol.

        I agree in a way that Shaw as a PLI wasn’t necessary. He could perfectly be just a friend. But, on the other hand, Sarah suddenly falling into a new relationship just when the previous one has failed is her pattern. Season 3 is somewhat like Season 1 with Chuck in the role of Bryce. Would I like that pattern to be broken for Sarah’s arc? Yes. I didn’t have that, but I had Sarah growing a little and getting over her idealization of Chuck when she chose him before she knew Chuck didn’t kill the mole (again, this was obvious to me. Later I discovered that not everybody saw that as clear.) She chose the Chuck that personally failed her over Shaw.

        To connect this with what alladinsgenie4u says. It seems strange how Sarah didn’t say anything to Shaw when he was manipulating her. But you could get it from another perspective (and here I warn you that I know I’m minority in the next theory.) From her perspective, Shaw is doing his job. She doesn’t have much expectations in Shaw: he’s a good spy, he wants to save the country and he lost his wife, which means he’s a bird with a broken wing (a type that somebody like Sarah is attacted to.) On the other hand, we have Chuck. She had a lot of faith and expectations in him. But he’s just a man, so he isn’t that idealized version she imagined. But anyway, she gives him a last choice: if you do what I order you to do, you’re doing it because you want a relationship with me. In other words, you’re going to kill a man because you want something with me. If you don’t kill him, I’m not going to lie to you (because I don’t want you to kill for me), possibly we couldn’t have a relationship, but you’ll still be the guy I like, the guy that is worth fighting for, the guy that matters. You may ask: so then he wouldn’t get Sarah no matter what he chose? Perhaps. But the point is that it looks as if he’s going to kill somebody just because he wants a relationship with Sarah. That’s… not very positive.

        Or perhaps the Tyffany’s earrings clouded her judgment. Lol.

      • Merve says:

        Dave, I always saw Casey as the better mentor. He never tried to shield Chuck from harsh realities as much as Sarah did. Also, Casey is not totally amoral, so he would have been able to provide moral guidance, especially with regards to duty. I never bought Sarah as a mentor because her emotional attachment to Chuck clouded her judgment – the scene in “Three Words” where she takes her anger out on Chuck is a great example of this. Sarah herself acknowledged that she might have been hindering more than she was helping.

        It all goes back to how Chuck’s decision to become a spy was viewed. Casey saw a man accepting his duty. Sarah saw a man doing the exact opposite of what he said that he’d wanted for the past two years. The former fell more easily into the role of a mentor. The latter would have needed a massive change in attitude in order to be able to mentor Chuck.

      • joe says:

        Ooof! Eli, that’s a brutal way to put it, and it’s precisely the reason it’s possible to say TPTB have seriously damaged the characters.

        If we see The Am. Hero in those terms, Chuck is diminished by accepting the Red Test. Sarah is diminished by even putting the question to him like that, in those terms.

        And boy, do we hate it when our beloved characters are revealed to be less than honorable and pristine when they make their decisions. Yet, in this situation, they can’t be. We hate TPTB for doing that to them, and to us.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        @ Merve – I actually missed Casey in the first 13. After his snotty comment to Shaw in First Class I expected more head butting between the two (which would have been great) that never came. Really, other than Tic Tac, when you think about the first 13 Casey isn’t on the radar that much.


      • Eli says:

        Well, joe, yes. The characters are damaged. But on the other hand, Chuck couldn’t kill the mole, so he isn’t that type of guy (he couldn’t kill when he was ordered to or for petty reasons.) And Sarah is obviously crushed by the fact that she ordered Chuck to kill and for Chuck being in that situation is her fault.

        But you could have hit the nail on the head with how troublesome if for us fans to see our heroes as less than perfect. A lot of s3 and how reacted to the plot is also connected with their level of tolerance to make the characters “grey.” I have a high tolerance, but I understand that for others a particular path could ruin the characters. This is a clear “your mileage may vary” kind of thing.

      • Merve says:

        @Eli: You’ve touched on why “Final Exam” is the only episode of the series that I actually dislike. Neither Chuck nor Sarah should have brought up their relationship at the restaurant. Sarah should have called Chuck out on bringing up their relationship in the first place, and Chuck should have called Sarah out on her B.S. catch-22.

        @Joseph: I agree. I wanted to see more of Casey mentoring Chuck. I also wanted to see Casey arguing with Shaw more often. Casey had a good opportunity to tear into Shaw when Shaw screwed up the mission in “Mask,” but then Casey failed to catch Vassilis, so I guess Casey didn’t have a leg to stand on.

      • atcdave says:

        Eli, to me, Chuck and Sarah simply should have been together after Colonel; anything that seperates them damages their characters; period. I’m not saying anyone else has to agree, just that is how I see it; TPTB had zero wiggle room on the issue after 2.21.

        And Merve, I do agree Casey would be a good mentor, TOO. He was “redeemed” largely through his association with Chuck in S2; and I like him as a heroic character in S3, he is one of the few characters I really liked all the way through S3.

      • Merve says:

        Eli, the funny thing is: if they intended to make the characters “grey” in “Final Exam,” they didn’t go far enough. The second Sarah left Chuck at the restaurant, it was all about the mole, and Chuck didn’t consider killing Perry until Perry tried to trick him. If they were going for “grey,” then Chuck should have considered killing Perry in the bathroom. Instead, they didn’t commit to the moral ambiguity, and there was no point in bringing up Chuck and Sarah’s relationship at the restaurant.

      • Eli says:

        Merve, I think they tried to make The Nacho Sampler and Fake name a more grey episodes, actually. Last Exam was more like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kind of episode combined with the typical “one of the characters has a wrong vision of how the things happened.” Last Exam is more grey for the Sarah/Shaw relationship, it looked highly unhealthy for both of them (which I could accept.) And about what they should have done… Are we setting out the matter like something “we know the characters would do inevitably because that’s their core personality” or more like “they should have done it in a perfect world”? Because people don’t always do what they should.

        atcdave, yeah, I know what’s your point of view. I don’t think they were ready for that step yet, especially for Sarah, but we could have the development of their relationship (in a broad sense) in any other way. But s3 is what it is and the writers wrote what they wrote, what can we do?

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Eli – As far as what we can do. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll have a drink – or two. 😉

      • joe says:

        Johnny Walker Black. Works for me. 😉

      • jason says:

        one of the few CS topics I am not a radical shipper, I do get why season 3 had to be apart for a while, chuck to stop cowering around every hot guy who came within 10 feet of sarah, and sarah to stop near feinting each time some hot guy was in that same range, having sarah hook up with a hot, perverse, psychotic, lying, emotionless, man without honor, without conscience, without loyalty, who tried to kill sarah, tried to kill chuck, and did kill chuck’s dad probably cured her, seems like in episode 11 & 12 chuck mostly got cured too, time will tell I guess – were there better ways to go about it? – you think maybe?? Geez???

      • jason says:

        one more thing then I will stop the rant, in the colonel hotel room, sarah seemed 10 years older than chuck, in the paris or the train or his room, she seemed his age or even younger, I think they needed season 3 to catch chuck up to where sarah was, they sure seemed on equal footing in the back 6, sarah still seemed the boss, but at least chuck had a fighting chance with her

      • atcdave says:

        I know you’ve said that a lot Jason, and I’ll never quite get it. I do agree both characters needed to grow; Sarah needed to learn to be more honest and open, Chuck needed to be more generally mature and secure. But Chuck will always have a sort of manic, youthful energy, while Sarah is more steady and poised. That has more to do with demeaner than actual maturity, and I think Sarah will always read as a little “out of Chuck’s league” as far as that goes; but that’s part of the fun of it.
        I still think the growth would have worked better with them together than apart. I admit I’m thinking of more from an “entertainment” perspective than a pure internal logic perspective. As I know I’ve mentioned here before, of the four families I know who stopped or reduced watching this season; all four mentioned the relationship issues as a primary reason for their dissatisfaction. Two didn’t make it past “Pink Slip.” One said simply, “when Sarah threw her phone in the pool my wife said ‘change the channel now, I’ll never watch this show again’;” and she didn’t. Another said “we were so sad Chuck lost his girlfriend, so we quit after the first hour.” Those are viewers who won’t come back. Others I know were less dogmatic, and actually returned after I convinced them Chuck and Sarah were “together now.” These are people who had already watched S1 and S2; they were already burned out on the wt/wt and had no desire to watch it again. It doesn’t matter HOW the story was told.

      • Merve says:

        @Dave: In my books, teacher and lover roles should be separate, no questions asked. (Sorry, I’m pretty stubborn about that one.)

        @Eli: In “Nacho Sampler” and “Fake Name,” I always felt as if Chuck were doing the right thing in the spy world. He just wasn’t handling his personal life gracefully. If they were going for “shades of grey” there, I didn’t feel it.

        As for what characters “should” and “shouldn’t” have done, I apologize – that’s a silly way of putting it. And I’ve called people out on wording it that way before, so I really shouldn’t have put it that way. To be a little clearer, I’d have expected Sarah to tell Chuck that the Red Test wasn’t about “them” when Chuck brought up the issue. But in all fairness, Sarah had been having a lot of trouble compartmentalizing from “Fake Name” onward. I’d also have expected Chuck to tell Sarah that she was putting him in a catch-22 situation. He’s called Sarah out before; the confrontation in “Crown Vic” and the scene where Chuck prevents Sarah from rescuing Casey alone in “Angel de la Muerte” are good examples. But, again, in all fairness, Chuck was in a tense, emotionally-charged situation. Really, the way Chuck and Sarah acted at the restaurant is just a minor gripe that ignores my larger issue with “Final Exam,” which is what you touched on a few comments back. For most of the episode, Chuck was presented with the illusion of choice, but he wasn’t allowed to actually make any choices of his own. He wanted to be with Sarah, but couldn’t because of the catch-22 that she presented him. He wasn’t given the chance to decide whether or not to kill Perry at the train tracks because Casey made the shot. He didn’t have anyone to talk to after the red test because Casey wouldn’t discuss the events further, Sarah wouldn’t pick up the phone, Morgan was out of town, Ellie and Devon were conveniently out of the picture, and the CIA official came to take Chuck to D.C. If Chuck was supposed to be making choices and dealing with their consequences, it was just plain stupid to see him spending an episode dealing with the consequences of choices that he didn’t make, or even worse, choices that other people made for him.

        @Jason: That’s exactly why the motel scene in “Colonel” felt hollow to me. Add that to the fact that Sarah had to order Chuck around for a lot of the episode, and that they never truly talked about how they felt about each other, and you can see why “Colonel” didn’t give me the impression that Chuck and Sarah would be getting together any time soon. (But, to be fair, they could have done it in “Ring” if they had taken a very different approach to that episode. It might not have felt completely right then, but I think that it had the potential to be believable.)

      • atcdave says:

        Merve,most human relationships are not so easily defined. My wife and I often alternate between mentor/student type roles depending on the specific situation we are in. Even on something as specific as computers, we have different areas of expertice and our roles switch depending on who knows what. I have no problem with Sarah as the professional leader, while Chuck is more the relationship and moral leader.
        I don’t actually care that much that Sarah be a teacher to Chuck or not, had they made Casey and Shaw Chuck’s primary teachers while Sarah was more of a partner to him, that would have worked fine. My primary point was just I think S3 would have played better with them together than apart, no matter what the specific details were.

      • amyabn says:

        They could have easily used the salary they wasted on Routh and rotated various spy experts in to teach Chuck. Casey and Sarah would be there too, but Sarah could have served as that voice of reason, to try help preserve Chuck’s “Chuckness” and serve as a counter balance to Casey.
        How would Nacho Sampler have looked if Agent Forrest was helping Chuck burn Manoosh? You get the idea.

      • atcdave says:

        That would have been a lot of fun Amy. Lost opportunities….

      • SWnerd says:

        That would have been awesome to bring old and new guest stars in to help train Chuck. I’ve loved most of the guests they’ve had and would love to see many of them again. Plus when they’re only around for an episode they don’t muck up the team dynamic like certain extended arc cancerous growths…

    • joe says:

      BDaddy, you’ve put your finger on one of the BIG QUESTIONS that the show puts forth. For me, questions like that are the biggest reason stands head and shoulders above most anything else on TV. It’s not trivial.

      In fact, you could (and probably will) spend a lifetime wondering if Chuck (and you and I) had a choice. We all do. Stephen told him directly, yes (“There’s always a choice.“), and he meant it, too.

      Sorry if this sounds like I’m talking down to you, but it’s hard to put in other ways (and my 80 yr. old dad confirms it). The older you get, the more you’ll come to believe that you always do have a choice. It seems that this is one of those life lessons, you know?

      • BDaddyDL says:

        @Joseph I almost woke up my teenage daughter laughing at the gossip girls refrence. There is 1 point that I completely disagree with though. After the Beard Chuck pulled his head out of, well you know.
        Sure, Chuck had to get Sarah to do the same thing. That was a lot better then the gossip girls

      • BDaddyDL says:

        Joe I have to admit I have told my daughter there are always choices.

        Sometimes those choices define who we are. Of course those choices define us. Chuck would not be Chuck if he did not download 2.0.

        Going back to the topic, that may be what so off about season 3. Sarah and Chuck made some strange decisions.

        As far as season 4 TPTB already said it was about family. Hopefully they will let other people make other stupid decisions.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Yes, after The Beard it got better – way better. So much so that I have doubts that the first two S3 DVD’s will ever see the light of day.

        I know it a little off topic but since you mentionned Chuck going after Sarah (again for the umpteenth time), am I the only one who was “disappointed” with the lack of build up for when Sarah’s brain started functioning properly again? It seemed to me that she pulled a 180 in a split second in near the end 3.12 that really left me wanting more.

      • BDaddyDL says:

        I am watching the ring. again. I think i can see when Chuck made his choice.

        When Chuck put on the armband he made his choice.

        BTW what happened to that armband.

        @Joseph Maybe Sarah just needed Chuck to go after her once the pain died down a bit. Until the Beard it was all about being the spy.

      • Anonymous says:

        @joseph (cant be joe) – well , it again comes down to TPTB focusing mainly on Chuck’s epiphany, journey and struggle to win back Sarah and forgetting completely about Sarah’s journey ( her realization that she loved Chuck).In previous seasons – Sarah’s decision about Bryce and Cole wee well highlighted and a build up to that also happened.So like you – I was looking for such a build up right from “the Beard” onwards, but none came. Instead we were treated to a wildly out of control oscillating pendulum (that was Sarah) – to be honest it left me really irritated and soured good episodes for me.

        P.S : By the time 3.12 came about, I personally had given up on seeing any epiphany from Sarah. So although the 180 was surprising, I accepted it as the only thing TPTB were going to give us.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        @joseph (cant be joe) – Sorry that Anonymous was me. Forgot to add my name.

        @BDaddyDL – It may be so. But a lot of people wanted a journey to the truth from Sarah’s perspective too.

      • atcdave says:

        Some great discussion here. I’ve been on record as saying I want some sort of apology between Chuck and Sarah for the hurt they caused each other. But I think this talk about how jarring Sarah’s 180 was is the why I feel this way. What we got was satisfying for the characters and the future direction of the show; but it was NOT satisfying as far as the actual story unfolded. Sarah just went from one disappointment after another with Chuck, to all of sudden she was over it. The interrogation scene in “Living Dead” actually makes things worse as we discover the Sham was possibly even more serious than we previously knew. So Sarah’s thoughts for most of S3 are a bigger WTF than ever.

      • JC says:


        Honestly has Chuck ever had a choice really?

        He was born into the spy world and its always been his life whether he knew or not. The Intersect is his destiny, how many people sacrificed to keep from it and yet it always found him. Bryce and his father tried and I’m willing to bet Mama B did too. I’m guessing she left after Chuck uploaded it as child to protect him.

        In Final Exam and after the season finale I question whether the government would let him just quit. And even without it, he still has the potential that’s why in my own fanon Beckman offered him a job on Bryce’s team. Chuck was her fallback option back if something went wrong, she knew he could handle it. Chuck with the Intersect is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world. Throw in his “training” and new found confidence, Chuck is a very scary person.

        As why he uploaded the 2.0, there’s lots of reasons but I have one that never gets mentioned. It was leverage, like Ernie said he didn’t know what abilities it would give him. But having it would put him in position to save Sarah and Casey. You want the Intersect, let them go. It was a huge gamble but we know Chuck goes head first when comes to people he loves.

      • joe says:

        JC, I appreciate the idea that Chuck lives in a universe that seems to dictate, or at least, constrain, his responses. But really, Chuck is a character who’s completely controlled by the writers! The question about the choices he has is meant to be answered ultimately by each one of us in our own fashion. It’s as rhetorical a question as I can conceive. Honestly, the answer seems to change from day to day and from situation to situation, even for me.

        But I give TPTB props for addressing it at all. 😉

      • kg says:

        I don’t really doubt the validity of what Chuck said to Sarah in Karl’s vault, but I’m not convinced that was his main reason for downloading intersect 2.0.

        I do believe at the time, this reasoning was on the back of his mind, but it was revealed that way in Three Words because he knew Sarah was hurt, and it hurt him, so his true emotions and strong feelings for her surfaced.

        And he didn’t do it to necessarily save Sarah and Casey. He knew there was some gun play involved, but he also knows they can handle themselves. He didn’t know they were captured.

        What Chuck ultimately understood was that although Sarah was very fond of him, and intimated here and there he was hero, he didn’t fully believe it himself.

        While he realized Sarah appreciated how he helped ballerinas, diffused bombs, the manner in which he treated and respected people, in his mind she was never going to love him because he wasn’t a real spy. He wasn’t a dashing man of action like Bryce and Cole.

        I believe he thought Sarah was gone with or without Bryce (thanks dad). The intersect was out of his head. The mission was over. Maybe 2.0 could help him become the man he thought Sarah wanted. At the very least, if he’s the guy with the 2.0, he again becomes a valuable government entity and that forces Sarah to stay.

        To which he can continue to work on charming and melting her heart. And even if that’s not possible, any scenario that involves Sarah Walker in his life is infinitely better than the alternative: Her not in his life and quelling a revolution with a fork.

        Recall how excited he was in castle after kicking the ass of the Ring agents. And how thrilled he was that “they” were going to train him to become a real spy.

        Again, I don’t doubt he wants to tackle this career because he believes he can help people. But Chuck wasn’t thinking about Sarah, friends and family and putting aside personal feelings. Moments after the rush he got from his new-found Kung Fu skills, Chuck wanted more. It was personal. He thought this might impress Sarah some.

        He didn’t get it from her point of view, though. Remember how she mentions among other things that becoming a spy would change him. He’d become a different person and undoubtedly would lose himself? Chuck says, “Yeah, that’s a good thing.”

        Sarah immediately frowns and panics and decides they should run away together.

        I know this has been said before, but right here is where she should have said what she wanted to tell him during the slow dance. Here is where she should have called him out for downloading the intersect after all the times he whined about getting it out and living a normal life.

        My point is he couldn’t have really downloaded the intersect for his friends and family. He had to know that’s more lies and more secrets. He primarily did it for Sarah. Because he didn’t want Sarah to leave.

        And it was only after they parted for a couple of weeks, and a little government influence and ass-kissing that Chuck realized he couldn’t run. And as we know, it was the right decision, but poorly handled by Chuck at the train station.

        I just can’t believe he left her like that with no secondary plan. Without her in his life. A cold, emotionless kiss.

        The beginning of Pink Slip causes one to think I’m wrong about my premise, but I know I’m right. Season three got off to a terrible start. More ways than one.

      • SWnerd says:

        I think for the most part you probably are right. But that’s the problem, season 3 reset or contradicted most of what we knew from the other seasons.

  20. Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

    You know, I’ve been reading thoughts of the people here for quite a while and boy do they swing from one side to the other, which tbh make the reading far more entertaining.
    I know that I’ve recently started posting more and sound like a negative nancy (I truly don’t want to be), but it still appears that a lot of us still “don’t know” what happened in S3.

    Someone earlier posted something similar and it’ll never happen, but:

    in order to clean up the mess TPTB made of S3, at least the first 13, episode 4.01 should start with C&S in a coffee shop having a serious 10 minute discussion about what happened to “Chuck and Sarah” after Chuck downloaded 2.0 until he shot the character from hell. I don’t need a recap of S3 (God NOOOOOOO! 🙂 ), but we need to know what the two lead characters were thinking (whether we like it or not, but preferably like it) in order to put S3 to bed forever.

    • atcdave says:

      I’d like that by way of an apology I mentioned earlier. Not to be too sappy, but such a scene must include tears from both parties. I’d like to see tears from TPTB too but that ain’t gonna happen.

      • jason says:

        I still am not sure TPTB understand what an ugly, perverse story sham was – about as entertaining as shaw beating sarah with an iron bar while he was having his way with her for 7 episodes – and since shaw was in charge, he was ordering sarah to enjoy it while he was ordering chuck out of the room and casey out of the CIA

        the apology no longer interests me, fedak and his new writing team have 13 episodes to apologize in season 4, I want them to show me THIRTEEN great episodes, 13 hours of greatness, not 12 hours and 55 minutes of crap, to justify 5 minutes of bliss.

      • atcdave says:

        Hah! I’ll buy that Jason. The front 13 of S3 still makes my brain hurt (and heart too I suppose) so I like the apology idea, but an excellent S4 would be its own treat. I do think you’re right that TPTB truly have no clue. I think they understand enough not to do it again, but I don’t think they get why so many of us were steaming mad.

      • Merve says:

        TPTB know what some fans didn’t like, more or less. That doesn’t mean that they agree with those fans.

        (And for the record, that doesn’t mean that I agree with TPTB.)

    • joe says:

      Joe, I admit that I reflexively see the negative aspects routinely in your comments. But that’s okay. You’re being honest and forthright (and it goes without saying, respectful). I’m not giving you anything – you’ve given us the benefit of your POV.

      In fact, I consider it a challenge to address the valid points you’ve brought up. It’s not that I don’t see them, it’s that my mind tends to emphasize different things.

      And it’s only a matter of emphasis. Trust me in this, I have your comments in mind when I write about aspects of S3.

  21. Robert H says:

    Joe, thanks for the info on the video posting above.
    Really appreciate your time and effort. That’s why I
    enjoy reading your posts. You always go the extra mile. Thanks again.

  22. Robert H says:

    One more comment on the above posted video “Undisclosed Desires/Sarah Walker”. It is primarily presented in a black and white format with
    interplays of color mixed in that give off almost an
    eerie, surreal, mystical quality when combined with
    the music. Ordinarily I don’t really look at music videos all that much but for some reason it just
    really hit me hard. Maybe it was just the title or
    or maybe it the romantic, mystical part of me that
    tuned into it. I don’t know and I don’t want to sound weird but it really struck me emotionally in
    a unique way. Anyway, thanks again for posting.

  23. BDaddyDL says:

    The 2009 fan fiction award show is now on you tube. Frea, the one and only, produced the awards. Its worth the time to watch.

  24. Ernie Davis says:

    Continued from above

    I think the problem may start with TPTB not understanding how “Colonel” was viewed by a major chunk of their fanbase.

    Dave, we’ve talked about this before, and I tend to agree more than not. We see a lot more than what’s on the written page or storyboard, and what we see is what ultimately determines the success of the show.

    Just to bring this back to the topic of Sarah (imagine that) Yvonne has made that character what she is. We obsess over Sarah, who some have pointed out on this thread often is there merely as a plot driver or the girlfriend/sidekick, specifically because Yvonne has managed to convince us that there is so much more to her than we see.

    Think of one of the most jarring images this season. Sarah watching TV in her socks with a cup of tea Chuck’s head on her lap. Sarah watches TV? She drinks tea? She channel surfs? Think of how we know virtually nothing about Sarah outside of her work for the better part of three seasons. Yet she’s the character we obsess over and scream most mightily when they seem to slight her or diminsh her. Since this thread has grown cumbersome I’m going to re-start it with this post at the bottom to continue.

    So as Amy and I have been working on a Sarah post this is one of the things we’ve talked about. Start with the first date in the pilot. Sarah doesn’t think much about music, she doesn’t have a favorite band, she’s not funny, and isn’t very good on a date. But she is one helluva dancer. Think of the Sarah we know at the end of Honneymooners. We know a bit more about her background, and we’ve seen her get a lot more emotional, but do we really KNOW much more about her, aside from a first name?

    And yet, she’s considered the creation of the writers? Apply the same to Chuck, although he’s a far more fleshed out character, or to Casey, or even to Awesome. Ryan McPartland, even by the end of season 1 had taken a one dimensional character and made him something real that fans identified with.

    So yes, I agree. What we see and what was storyboarded or scripted can be two different things, the more important being what we see.

    And this brings me back to a question I want to pose about my feeling where the front 13 “failed” for so many. If another actor had played Shaw, and there had been some palpable chemistry in some of the rote WT/WT Sarah/Shaw scenes in Mask, would you have reacted the same? If they convinced you this Shaw guy was a decent guy and that he and Sarah were good together, would 7-12 have worked better? I mean we knew Shaw was going to be out of the picture eventually, and many people have pointed out that you can’t really point to a conceptual flaw with Shaw, it was more in the execution. And while I agree, the script is a big part of the execution, I think in this case it was more a casting decision that failed than anything else.

    When you cast a Diedrich Bader or a Cedric Yarbrough who doesn’t seem to catch fire for an episode it’s one thing, but when you basically design a season around a guest star, and he doesn’t catch fire, well you’ve bet the season on it. This isn’t a personal slam directed at Routh. I think he more than redeemed himself as a villain in the finale, but he really didn’t work in a long arc as the leading man and romantic lead. And, yes, the script can make a difference, but as mentioned we’ve seen Yvonne spin gold out of thin air for three seasons. Had TPTB perhaps come to take amazing performances filling in the blanks for granted? Or even confused the actors success with their writing skills?

    Sadly I think we’ll never know until there is a post-Chuck post-mortem, which I’m not hoping for any time soon.

    • SWnerd says:

      Well, I would never like the idea of taking so much screen time away from the main cast to give to a guest star. That, for me, was one of the worst things about Shaw’s story no matter who played the part. But I guess had we seen some plausible chemistry and even attraction between him and Sarah, maybe it wouldn’t have been quite so head scratching. I still wouldn’t have liked it because I’m not a fan of love triangles to begin with but understanding the character’s motivations would definitely help.

      So it was the writing and even the concept of developing the entire front 13 story around a guest star that was the real crime of season 3. Ok yes, it was about Chuck becoming a real spy but Shaw was the main tool (both literally and figuratively) that drove that storyline. And the other characters suffered for it. Other than a couple of centric episodes, Casey was shoved mostly to the background, the secondary cast got shoved way to the back, and Sarah was just kind of there pouting most of the time.

      Seriously Shaw was supposed to be this super spy Ring expert but he wasn’t written as either of those things. He also wasn’t written as a good love interest. All he really did was give Chuck orders, something Beckman could and should have done.

      So for me Routh’s lack of chemistry with Yvonne wasn’t the main problem. His character’s complete destruction of the Team Bartowski chemistry and taking up so much of their screen time was.

    • Merve says:

      I’m usually the first to blame acting/directing/editing for things that I didn’t like (e.g. the apartment scene in “Fake Name”), but I think that the most significant problems with Shaw stemmed from the writing.

      I’ll give the writers credit where it’s due. In his first two appearances, Shaw was interesting. He was calm, smart, and calculating, and he was messing with Team Bartowki’s dynamic. I enjoyed that. Routh’s performance wasn’t Emmy-worthy, but it was good enough to make me believe that he belonged in the Chuck universe. Unfortunately, Shaw was never given a fair shot. A lot of fans who had read the spoilers already hated him because they knew that at some point, he was going to become a love interest for Sarah. A lot of other fans hated him because they didn’t like Superman Returns. (The only thing in which I’d previously seen Routh was Zach and Miri Make a Porno, in which he was hilarious, so I had a positive opinion of the actor before he appeared on Chuck.)

      But then came “Mask.” All of a sudden, Shaw went from being a clever superspy to an idiot who messed up the mission twice. He went from mourning the loss of his dead wife to creepily hitting on Sarah. I don’t see how any actor could make that kind of shift believable.

      Now, as far as the Sarah/Shaw relationship goes, I-hate-you/no-wait-I-love-you stuff only works when there’s no sexual harrassment involved. I can deal with coffee and swizzle sticks, but unsolicited neck kisses? Come on. Instead of letting Sarah and Shaw actually bond, the writers took the silly route. In my opinion, that was a mistake. I would have had a much easier time accepting the Sarah/Shaw relationship if it had been set up properly.

      Here’s where I might differ from a lot of people: I don’t have any major gripes with how the Sarah/Shaw relationship was written afterward. It appeared ill-defined because it was supposed to be ill-defined. Notice how Sarah never refers to anyone but Chuck as her “boyfriend” (except for in “First Kill,” when she pretends to be dating Casey for cover, but that doesn’t count). Sarah never put a label on her relationship with Shaw. Spy relationships don’t seem to be well-defined, and the fact that Sarah was having major emotional troubles at the time would make it even harder for her to define her relationship with Shaw. As for how far her relationship went, it’s television: “romantic relationship” = “sex” unless implied otherwise.

      What I understood from the Sarah/Shaw relationship is this:
      – Sarah and Shaw didn’t label their relationship.
      – Sarah and Shaw slept together.
      – Sarah and Shaw cared for each other on some level.
      – There is some version of the universe in which Sarah could imagine settling down with Shaw in D.C. and maybe not feeling truly happy, but at least somewhat content.
      If that’s all that I was supposed to understand, then it’s good enough for me. I get it, and I don’t feel as if I had to bend over backwards and analyze it in excruciating detail. Beyond the awful manner in which “Mask” set it up, I’m fine with it. I wish that “Beard” had been less subtle with it, but that’s a minor gripe.

      I’m not going to disagree entirely with you, Ernie. On some level, I think that Routh was a casting mistake. For one- or two-episode stints, it’s alright just to bring in any big-name guest star, but for a long-term character, it’s critical that the actor meshes with the rest of the cast. To me, Routh was fine in his scenes with Levi and Baldwin. But when he had romantic scenes with Strahovski, things didn’t work as well. Here’s where things get tricky: chemistry is a two-way street. It’s not that the actors didn’t work; it’s that the pairing didn’t work. Sometimes, two people just don’t click. Maybe a more formal casting process in which different actors were tested would have eliminated the problem. Unfortunately, I don’t know how the TV industry works or whether that would have even been a possibility.

      Oh, just for the record, I didn’t mind Cedric Yarbrough’s performance. But I didn’t like Diedrich Bader’s, and it was all the more painful to watch because I’d seen him do better before.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Merve, good points all. I understand your contention that the writing wasn’t up to snuff with the setup in Mask and the room scene in Fake Name, but as I mentioned we’ve seen them work with pretty weak material before and pull it off. As I said, I’ll admit there are some writing problems there as a given. I also agree that chemistry is a two way street, but I’d contend the two don’t always meet in the middle of the block. A talented actor can pull a heavier share of the load for a weaker partner. I thought Zach carried a heavier part of the load in the Jill arc and at least made the pairing plausible.

        The other thing that got me thinking is your point that Routh worked well as the mentor. They pretty much killed that role for Routh very early on. In Nacho Sampler, the episode where I think we saw more Chuck progress Shaw was MIA. In Mask Shaw did more to mess things up than anything else, and in Fake Name he gave basically one order, impersonate Gruber, then went home to shower and wait for Sarah’s crisis. In Beard they left Chuck alone, Shaw wasn’t in Tic Tac, it was Sarah and Beckman who gave most of the orders in Final Exam, though Shaw was in communication for part of the first mission. Shaw was done as a mentor in any meaningful way after First Class, and yet here he was supposedly the catalyst for Chuck’s growth.

        They almost sort of kind of established Shaw as a confidant for Sarah, a role I would have bought since she lost her best and perhaps only friend in Chuck (or at least thought so). That might have been something that could have lead to a more graceful setup for Sarah leaving with Shaw AFTER Final Exam, but they apparently felt the need to make him Sarah’s boyfriend in fact if not name from Fake Name on at about the same time he’d ceased to be important to Chuck’s development or the team.

        I guess we could play the what-if game all day.

      • Merve says:

        Ernie, I don’t think that Shaw made a great mentor from an internal story perspective. Knowingly endangering the Intersect is a pretty stupid idea. But for pure entertainment value, I enjoyed seeing Shaw teach Chuck hard lessons in harsh ways. When Casey took over the mentor role in “Mask” and onward, Shaw played that role less. He slapped Chuck in “Fake Name,” and he had some strong words in “Beard” and “Final Exam,” but that’s about it.

        You also touched on the confidant role that Shaw played. That’s exactly what I think should have been done to set up the Sarah/Shaw relationship in “Mask.” I didn’t mind Shaw as a confidant later because it made sense to me: both Shaw and Sarah were experienced spies who had dealt with the harsh realities of the spy life. But I wish that it had been better set up. In fact, “Nacho Sampler” had set it up perfectly: Sarah was horrified when Chuck burned Manoosh. There was an opportunity to have Sarah express her fears about Chuck to Shaw. But instead, Sarah seemed to be genuinely happy to be working alongside Chuck. That didn’t make much sense to me.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Ernie, I don’t think that Shaw made a great mentor from an internal story perspective. Knowingly endangering the Intersect is a pretty stupid idea.

        Agreed, but then they’d pretty much abandoned The Intersect as an irreplacable resource and a matter of national security to just something that would be cool to have in a spy, but could be disgarded if he flunked out. It’s one of those things that could have been fixed with a line or two about how Chuck’s “old life” he would go back to was as a handled assett, not as a free civilian. They sort of set it up in Pink Slip with Chuck suspecting something sinister in Beckman’s pending decision about his “final status”, but they just dropped it. It could have added something interesting, essentially once Chuck started down the path to being a spy the only good outcome was success, that could have caused Sarah some real conflict. Chuck too for that matter.

      • Merve says:

        They definitely should have continued with the more sinister idea from “Pink Slip.” I can just imagine Beckman telling Chuck, “You’ll back to your old life if you fail,” then as soon as he turns his head away, mouthing “No you won’t,” and miming shooting him in the back of the head. 😀

        In all seriousness, Chuck facing the threat of bunkering or secret execution would have made the stakes a lot higher.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well I would agree with you Merve (begin snark) but the bunkering and secret execution plots had clearly been played out a long time ago. You wouldn’t want them to keep recycling the same overused plots and devices season after season, would you? (end snark) 😉

        P.S. General snark directed at un-named and mysterious “TPTB” for rather lame recycling of the PLI arcs and thinking it was somehow something new and exciting but missing out on other arcs that could have been made new or exciting or more dramatic with the new stakes in season 3.

      • Merve says:

        Well, if they wanted originality, they could have introduced General Merriweather earlier. If Chuck failed, Beckman could have wanted to keep the team together and maintain Chuck’s status as an asset, Merriweather could have wanted to put Chuck in a bunker, and Shaw could have wanted to have Chuck killed for national security reasons. And then they could have all told Chuck that if he failed, he would just go back to his old life, keeping Chuck unaware of the stakes.

        But that would be a story arc involving tertiary characters, so it’s not a great plan.

    • Kisku says:

      I don’t think he redeemed himself, he played the same as he played it before. He was still stiff, creepy and had monotonous delivery. The only difference is that such performance worked for one-dimensional and calculated villian, but it didn’t work at all for good, heroic and supposedly charming agent.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Agreed, he was well cast as a villain, not as a PLI. I have to admit I was starting to feel bad for Routh by American Hero, so maybe I wanted to see him redeemed.

        But you raise another good point. Sarah’s type isn’t just a hero, though that’s a part of it. Aside from Shaw, Sarah has fallen exclusively for real charmers. Bryce the dangerous and exciting charmer, Chuck the sincere charmer, and Cole, the rougish bad-boy charmer. And Shaw.

      • jason says:

        ernie – you got it all wrong – shaw was the real charmer – he was the only one who got the goods evidentily – his charm was contained within sarah’s charm

      • BeCoolBoy says:

        I think LizJames got it right over at with her Why Shaw and Sarah mattered: The arc wouldn’t have made most fans happy, but a better-drawn relationship would have made fans feel less negative toward the season. (Her insanely great piece is here:

        As for Mask, which set it all in motion, I think Liz also delivered the quintessential explanation: “Sarah has a type, but incompetent, insufferable, lecherous boob isn’t it. Yet that’s what the creators gave Brandon Routh to work with and he should be forgiven for failing to turn scripted dross into on-screen gold.”

        Didn’t Routh himself admit in an interview that he would have played some of the episodes different had anyone told him what was coming? And Strahovski, who is rarely critical, made it clear that there was no guidance and that each episode essentially came as a shock when they opened the script.

        Usually, main players in a scripted, serialized TV show are given a briefing on the season arc so they know what is coming. It’s clear that TPTB could not or would not give guidance this year.

    • JC says:

      One main problems with the Shaw character was making him a LI and driving force behind Chuck “changing”. It might have worked with Bryce or even Cole but to have Sarah hoping into bed with the man she hardly knows who’s sole purpose is to turn Chuck into what she hates really hurt her character. It made her character quite unlikable and any sympathy I had quickly disappeared.

      Shaw as a whole had too many jobs on the show which were never explored. His mentoring in First Class almost got Chuck killed. He was supposed to be a super spy yet he was an incompetent moron. He was a Ring expert but didn’t know anything about them. He was a LI interest that came off creepy not charming.

      As for Sarah I still don’t think we saw much growth for her character. She’s still used as a plot device who’s actions are quickly swept under the rug. Her part in trying to change Chuck are never mentioned or her indirect hand in Orion’s death. By American Hero I wondered why Chuck wanted anything to do with her, she was poison. Casey by that point showed more caring for Chuck than she did.

      I honestly question whether her character will ever be fleshed out. She’s far to effective of a device to spur Chuck into action. The writers can just make her react anyway they want for an episode to make Chuck be a hero or rethink his actions.

      • FrancesM says:

        Is it possible that when they only got 13 episodes instead of a normal 13 with a back nine TPTB combined Shaw’s character with what was meant to be a different love interest for Sarah.

        Because when you think about it, Sarah killing Shaw’s wife would have sent Shaw around the bend no matter what. He wouldn’t have had to be in an affair with Sarah to go nutty and want revenge on the CIA and the CIA agent who killed his wife.

        Shaw wasn’t so bad as the team leader. He’s great as the crazed villain. He wasn’t too bad as Chuck’s mentor and superspy in several of the episodes. He sort of failed primarily as the love interest.

      • atcdave says:

        Hi Frances, I’ve seen no mention of an additional character in the mix. I think what we saw was the original concept, modified only by the slightly non-standard way the episodes were ordered. I do agree the romantic angle was the biggest shortcoming of the character. In fact I’d say as soon as they added the romantic element, he was no longer a potential mentor. I think the character was flawed in concept, and fatally flawed in execution.

      • JC says:

        I have to disagree with you about Shaw being a good spy, mentor or team leader.

        Look at his decisions as leader and mentor from First Class to Am Hero. His stupidity put everyone in unnecessary danger.

        As for him being a super spy compare him to Bryce, Cole or even S1 Chuck. He’s not even in the same league as Morgan.

        He kinda works as a villain but whether its Routh acting or just complete dislike for the character I really don’t want to see him back.

        The key to great villains is we love to hate them. That’s what makes characters like the Joker, Darth Vader, etc iconic with Shaw he’s hated because people were sick of seeing him.

      • Merve says:

        I think that it’s important to distinguish between a character failing to fulfill a role in the story and that character failing to be entertaining in that role. The latter is totally a matter of subjectivity. For example, Shaw was an awful mentor to Chuck and unnecessarily endangered his life on more than one occasion. But I enjoyed that aspect of Shaw’s character.

      • atcdave says:

        I guess I’m not always specific between theory vs. reality. I think Shaw, as he was actually written and portrayed, was a bufoon on every level (right from the start, he was willing to trust an agent he’d never met to shoot him and save his life; but then he criticized the same agent for calling enemies into the open so his well known team-mates could nab them. Shaw was portrayed as an utter idiot from the start).
        But in theory the character could have worked, and I even liked aspects of Routh’s portrayal enough to say they could have done it with him specifically. To me, it was only the romantic aspect of the character that was flawed in concept.

      • JC says:

        I have no problem that Shaw was a terrible mentor or spy my problem is the fact that none of the characters realized it. Every time he screwed up people would say how great he was.

        If the intention was to make him an idiot I would go along with it but he was written to be the same caliber as Bryce and Cole which wasn’t shown on screen.

        Everyone had blinders on when it came to Shaw and were running freely with the idiot ball.

      • atcdave says:

        Casey saw through him right away, which is interesting to me. It suggests even the writers knew he wasn’t coming across as a perfect agent. But then why do they defend him so staunchly in interviews? I think the disconnect on Shaw goes all the way back to some division in the writer’s room. But as Ernie mentioned above, that’s the sort of thing we won’t know until the show is long over.

      • JC says:

        I agree Casey saw through him to some degree but also praises him in Am Hero. I remember sitting there watching Beckman, Casey and Sarah all talking about how brave and heroic his plan was and it left me speechless. Nobody noticed how stupid it was? I was waiting for at least Chuck to point what an idiot Shaw was being but it never came.

    • atcdave says:

      Man I hate coming to this thread so late! Some excellent commentary. I don’t dislike Brandon Routh, and the Shaw character could have been made to work. I really think the relationship reset is what nearly undid the show, and Shaw simply became the focal of that. Look at Hannah by comparison, the character was much better written and performed in the romantic capacity; but I find her four episodes completely unwatchable. The problem is Colonel, not Shaw or Hannah. I think a large number of us watching for two years already, felt the wt/wt was already played out and wanted Colonel to actually mean something (a Fedak interview at the time called it a complete “game changer”, which certainly exagerated the perception that something important had happened).
      I think Merve hit on a great point in that, if Shaw had been played only as a confidant for Sarah, a lot fewer of us would have boiled over. They could have even had some central relationship problems (although Pink Slip took it too far, again Colonel should never have been reset!); but bringing in new LIs (no “P” about it) would never have been accepted by a significant number of us.

      As I said above (way above, wow this has been a long discussion!) I do think TPTB failed to understand how a large part of their viewership was seeing things. They may have been following parts of a three year old outline when they conceived S3; I strongly suspect the unraveling actually began with the casting, Zach and Yvonne clicked so well on screen, they really needed to re-evaluate the outline. You all know I am a government employee, so part of what I see going wrong with S3 is a beaurocratic mentality; that is, too much resistance to change with the on screen realities.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        I’m late to the “love in” but here I go.

        Shaw went sideways in 3.07 and never recovered, because no one (me) ever believed anything about Sarah and Shaw after 3.07 no matter how hard TPTB wanted to shove it down our throats. Still don’t – doubt I ever will – Retcon be damned.

        My biggest issue with the Shaw arc (and yes it was the “Shaw arc” not the “Chuck becomes a spy arc”) is that a season long arc (at the time) should not be about some fly by night character, it should be about one of the main characters. The second people stopped believing in Shaw, the rest of his story did not matter. It only dragged it out to the point where a what should have been a good episode (3.13) was viewed as “finally the crap is over with and we can move on”.

        Which in all honesty, in order to remain sane, is how we (yes we, as in all of us) need to start thinking, finally the crap is over and we can move to S4.

        Doesn’t mean we can’t go into S4 with a nice healthy dose of cynicism though.

      • HenryH says:

        I actually just got around to going to the lizjames thing and I have to admit I am impressed with her finding TPTB’ intent in the Sarah-Shaw arc. It makes sense in how she explained it and TPTB should pay her for at least making their intent clear. And she IS right: It doesn’t make me any happlier, but it at least makes me feel less bad about Season 3. Still, they shouldn’t have done it.

      • atcdave says:

        Joseph, I agree with all of what you said. You and Ernie hit on what I forgot to mention, the whole thing of making a guest star such a major force of the season. That’s another thing that went wrong before it even started. I never really care for guest stars that mess up a well functioning dynamic anyway (I’m not really nuts about the new guy on Burn Notice this season either!) and because we all knew he was there as a love interest for Sarah, a large number of us didn’t want to give him a chance; we simply wanted him gone before he even got started. Its hard to care about a character when you are pretty sure in advance you won’t like what they’re doing with him.
        I think that all means such a character has to be very carefully crafted and managed, when his actual presentation came across as sloppy it went downhill fast.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Dave – I just reread your post and noted how you find the Hannah eps “unwatchable”

        I know I’ll probably need my flame retardant underwear after this, and it is a little sad, but I find the Hannah character completely “forgetable”. In that when looking back on the season, it truly didn’t matter that she was there. If she’d have been a psycho, or a spy, or a lady of the evening, or the president’s favorite niece (yeah, I know) we would probably still be talking about her. But truly her name never comes up other than to compare the LI 😛 arcs.

      • atcdave says:

        Its a funny thing Joseph, I certainly never hated Hannah like I did Shaw. But I did find myself hating Chuck during her arc. I know that was sort of the point, when Hannah told Chuck off in the end, she was completely right. But part of the strength of the show from the beginning was how likeable and relateable Chuck was; so when we got a month of dirt-ball Chuck, it just didn’t play well with me.

        And I know some will take offense to my characterization of Chuck as a dirt-ball. I don’t like thinking that of him either, but for four episodes I did.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Funny thing is, I didn’t care for Sarah during the Shaw fiasco, which is probably why it didn’t really matter if she was having emotional issues or not and why her choosing Chuck in the blink of an eye carried no weight or importance.

        Had there been some build-up to “her choice” (I hate that term, it shouldn’t have been a choice) it may have redeemed her.

      • atcdave says:

        I do agree Joseph. For starters there never should have been a choice. Then the way they presented it was odd, I kind of felt like if she really can’t decide between these two she is an idiot. So yeah, I didn’t really care for Sarah during the Shaw arc either.
        I know I’ve been spouting off about it a lot, but I’d really rather forget 3.01 – 3.13.

      • Merve says:

        If they were trying to make Chuck look like a “dirt-ball,” I don’t think that they succeeded. He did most of what he did because he had to. Perhaps he could have handled Morgan and Devon with more tact, but that’s about it. So when Hannah told him off at the end of her arc, it carried no weight for me.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Merve, I split the difference between you and Dave. Shocking, I know. I saw the “dirtbag” Chuck as twofold.

        He was lying to Ellie and Morgan out of necessity and was probably putting too much on Devon just because he didn’t have anyone else, but backed off, or tried to when Devon asked him to. I think these all were showing Chuck coming to terms with the cost of his decision to be a spy. It was damaging and threatened to fracture the most important relationships in his life, even if it was necessary and distasteful to him.

        Hannah was something else. While I don’t think he treated her particularly poorly I think the point was he had no real feelings for her but pursued a relationship of convenience for himself even though he was aware she had real feelings for him. After having slept with (seduced?) her at the family dinner we see the smitten Hannah clearly placing Chuck at the center of her life and Chuck starting to realize what he’s doing to her is unfair, and he should have realized that. When Ellie finally calls him on it and he does the right thing horribly I thought it was pretty much Chuck realizing being a spy might cost him too much and make him into someone he didn’t like. A point re-inforced in Beard when the benched Chuck realizes he’s set aside everything he values in life for one goal. By Tic Tac he’s reconciled that there are things he won’t give up or sacrafice just to satisfy his own ambitions, which he basically states to Sarah in two scenes “It’s Casey” and “I’m still the same guy”.

      • herder says:

        I always figured that a part of the anger over the Shaw arc was a reaction to the way the reset was sold at the beginning of the season. We were told that something emotional and traumatic would happen between Chuck and Sarah but that it would be great. In fact, judging by Ernie’s polls, they were among the least favorite episodes of the year. Over sold and under delivered.

        So when the next big thing that people didn’t want to see, actual love interests the goodwill for TPTB had been used up in Pink Slip and we got the reaction that we got. If people were groaning about “something emotional and traumatic” at comic-con they were outright angry at the Mask and the chuckapocalypse ensued.

        This is something that does concern me going into season 4. While the back six may have mollified most of the fans, I don’t think that it has rebuilt any goodwill that is necessary to have to get over any bumps brought about by telling multiple episode stories.

      • atcdave says:

        Herder I agree entirely. I think they can restore goodwill among those of who are left just by presenting a fun S4. Winning back the disgruntled would be tougher; but given that most of the discontent I’ve seen centers around one issue I think they could win fans back fairly easily. If they start S4 with a Chuck/Sarah engagement, and then a heavily promoted wedding by November sweeps, I think many viewers would return.
        Now I honestly don’t think they will act that quickly; end of the season (May sweeps) is more likely when they’re planning on it.

      • Kisku says:

        That is why i hope they will go with a format they used in season 2 with 2/3 episodes arcs. While season long arcs can be more rewarding they also are more difficult to tell and can have more failings (like unsuccesfull guest stars that damage the story + structure problems – for me episodes 6-8 main problem are that their structure is not right, since most stuff that we deal in episode 8, were setup in episode 6…imo succesfully and then ignored in episode 7, ofc they used also to setup some things there too, but did it in wrong way, considering the theme of episodes 6 and 8…they shouldn’t ignored the whole “Chuck is changing” theme in that one).

        So imo they should start a season with 2/3 episodes arc that will establish new role for Chuck, and as well for Sarah + Casey. Then mid season have similar arc in lenght that maybe will focus more on Sarah character – like for example troubles within CIA, dating back to whole Eve Shaw fiasco…that would give us proper look at Sarah past and her dealings with the agency (maybe even try to bring Sarah dad for a while). And finally toward the end 3 episode arc dealing with Chuck mom. And inbetween 4-6 self contained episodes, dealing with either some fun spy stuff, allowing to play the new dynamic or some additional character dealings for Casey or Morgan.

  25. jason says:

    Season 3 left pretty many fans feeling bad about the show, from reading the now near 300 comments in a few days, that much is clear – thanks for letting me know I was not the only one angry enough to not let it go – but,

    I am predicting to all of you, if collectively chuck fans do not stop obsessing over the poorly done ‘$h@w arc’ soon, the series chuck will end with 4.13, somehow or other we gotta start throwing some positive energy out there – any ideas?

    • atcdave says:

      Jason, we’re just venting until we really have something new to talk about. A well crafted S4 will generate excitement pretty easily, and we should start getting spoilers in a couple weeks.

      • jason says:

        I know dave, but this topic feels like adrian monk wearing his wedding ring 8 seasons after his wife died in an explosion, there is a point when it is no longer venting and moving toward a visit with ‘doc brown’, with no sarah or merlin showing up to rescue us

      • jason says:

        ernie – my day on my first job in executive management, the founder (very senile at this point) wandered into my office – didn’t introduce himself, said point blank, “Young man, don’t get in a pi$$ing match with a skunk” – after all these years, that advice seems wiser and wiser with each passing season – LOL

    • JC says:

      Once comic con hits and spoilers start coming I’m sure people will be talking about that. Until then there’s not much to talk about. I think the show has a less than enthused fanbase at the moment and there is some question if the TPTB can reclaim the magic of the first two seasons.

      Now if the show ended after next year I’d be OK with it. I’d rather a show end before it started dragging on and we got more rehashed story lines.

    • joe says:

      Jason, I too am surprised by the energy this thread has revealed. But I think it’s ultimately a good thing.

      If we have “issues” with aspects of the story (and clearly we do), there’s no better time to get them out than right after the season is over. Right now. For us it could be cathartic and even healing. For the writers and runners who read this blog in my fantasies, it’ll be either informative or instructive about the fan’s relationship to the show and to the characters.

      Good word, “obsessing”, though. We’ve done nothing but that for the better part of three years now. It’s only a shift in the focus of our obsessions, right? – from Charah to Shaw. Must be something about us!

      It is. We’re obsessed because the show speaks to us. When it stops doing that, so will we.

      • atcdave says:

        Joe, I also have that fantasy that someone might be reading this. Perhaps that’s why I reiterate my thoughts as many different ways as I can think of, hoping it will not only be seen, but understood by someone who could make a difference.

      • joe says:

        Don’t kid yourself, Dave.

        You speak for one heckofalotta fans, and you have influenced many others. – Probably more than you can imagine. They hear you. 😉

      • atcdave says:

        You can’t fool me Joe, you’re just stroking my ego. And no I won’t lend you money!

        Seriously, I have seen thoughts that I first saw mentioned here echoed on other forums (and fanfictions) and I’ve often wondered about cause and effect. But that is all within the fan community. I’d be surprised if TPTB really care about our specific comments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they try to get a read on initial fan reactions after an episode. Which is why we saw damage control right after Mask aired, but I would be surprised if they continue to monitor our discussions and “wish lists” months after the fact.

    • AngelTwo says:

      Might I say that you suggesting that you’ve had enough “obsessing” so everyone else had better do the same or disaster awaits is just a BIT self-centered? Of course, this is also the thread with Ernie Davis denying the facts of the TV business and dissing anyone who challenges him and HIS idea of “rational,” so maybe it’s just a self-centered kind of week.

      But, really, nothing ANYONE says here is going to stop ANYONE from watching Chuck Season 4. If you’re taking the time to post on the blog or even read this blog, you’re watching the show. It’s the people who stopped watching just last year because the show wasn’t particularly entertaining from about Nacho Sampler through American Hero that you need to obsess about. If you’ve got any ideas about viewer outreach, THAT might be useful.

      Ernie, on the other hand probably can’t helped because he thinks television must conform to his personal definition of “rational,” so count yourself lucky!

      • jason says:

        point well taken angel – thanks for being such a smart person – you saved me – are you really that great?

      • AngelTwo says:

        Actually, I am 🙂 Thanks for noticing.

        But I also take your comment to mean that you don’t have any actual ideas to INCREASE viewership. You’ve just decided that since you’re finished complaining everyone else should be, too. As great as I am :), even I don’t think that I have the right to tell people when they should stop voicing their opinions, good or bad.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        A2, Sorry if I came off wrong, I wasn’t denying I was dumfounded. Let me explain why. I have done contract work, while not as a writer per se, that involved a lot of writing. I have developed several course sylabus’ for colleges with widely dispersed facilities. This was significantly different than a professor developing his own course, which I’ve also done. I was required to produce curriculum, goals, lectures, tests, labs, and essentially a users manual for other professors. I’ve done this several times. Before ever agreeing to a contract I knew what I was being paid, the scope of the work, and the timeline to complete the work. I’ve also hired contractors and prepared contracts for the government, and again, a contract has always been specific and fully understood up front.

        If someone came to me and said, I want you to develop a product for me. I’ll decide later, after you’ve put in significant work on the design and presented it to me if I want it or not and how much I’ll be willing to pay. I need you to design 22 versions of this product but I will, if I decide to buy it, only commit to slightly more than half so that if I buy at the time and price I decide upon the first thing you’ll need to do is re-design all the features of the 22 to fit in what I’m willing to commit to. Then later, if I decide I want the rest you need to re-do them to make sure they work with the first redesigned part.

        Now I’ll fully admit to my ignorance about the pitch and pickup process before it was explained. That’s why I kept asking for clarification. Frankly I have little to no interest in how shows are financed or picked. I’d pretty much assumed that like other contracts there was a back and forth, a negotiation, starting some time after the pitch, where both sides would come to an agreement on what they would do and for how much, resulting in a decision a few months before production was scheduled to start but the general scope of which had been under discussion for weeks. I’ve been involved in contracting for the government and as a contractor, and this is pretty much how every contract I’ve ever been involved with works from both sides. At that point, I would assume, or rather did, that the general arcs would be expanded as necessary or cut and shrunk as necessary to fit the number of episodes ordered, then scripts, etc. I can see now why re-writes would be necessary and would be more extensive than I imagined, but the very idea that someone would expect to be able to name a price and drop a contract on someone at the last minute struck me as, sorry to say it, dumbfounding. The idea that anyone would put up with such a process, or wouldn’t at least have contingencies, equally dumbfounding.

        Now, given what I’ve been told about the level of detail required in a pitch, and the special circumstances of S3 that it is a plausible, even self evident argument that major re-writes were probably necessary.

        Now for the part that I probably wasn’t clear about. Liz went further than that in her post. She also stated, in what sounded to me like a categorical manner that Schwartz and Fedak had done one thing when they should have done another. They cut down a full 22 episode order to make it fit as opposed to starting from scratch. Now minus some inside information or specific statements from Schwedak on how they went about preparing other than a general had we had this we might have done that, it sounded pretty speculative to me, which is why I felt justified in asking about it and for some clarification of what we knew versus SOP and speculation. There’s nothing wrong with speculation IMHO, I just think it should be identified as such.

        So sorry if there was a misunderstanding, I probably should have taken more time and been more clear, but posts were coming fast and furious at times and I probably didn’t read as thoroughly as I should have or state my questions as clearly as I might have (and it was late). So my apologies if I came off as telling people they were wrong, what I was trying to do was reconcile what I thought was contradictory information.

        Now allowing that a perfectly valid argument was made, I still don’t think it is self evident that storyboarding decisions made in April and re-writes made in June for production starting in late July or early August can be blamed, or even identified as the major problem with episodes that probably hadn’t been scripted yet and weren’t produced till October and November. Though I can see that they could certainly be a contributing factor in a season where a lot of things seemed to head south.

        But I’m sure someone will be kind enough to explain to me how it’s not only self evident, but that I’m being intentionally obtuse and/or insulting for not agreeing immediately with what they know is obviously common knowledge. 😉

        Oh, and the part about being rational, it was a frickin’ joke about hollywood and I thought that was pretty evident. So give me a break, I forgot to put a frickin’ smiley on it. 🙂 🙂

      • AngelTwo says:

        Forgive me, this will sound harsh, but this is how what you wrote reads to me:
        1) You didn’t know what you were talking about.
        2) You don’t want to know what you were talking about and you haven’t wanted to know in the intervening year-plus.
        3) You have no interest in knowing what you’re talking about going forward
        4) You just assumed that what you didn’t know about was just like something you did know about that has absolutely no relationship to creative commercial media.
        5) You’re going to question the credibility of anyone who does know what they are talking about and knows how to look at 1 + 1 and conclude it is 2.

        Yet with all of this incredibly aggressive ignorance of half of the equasion of the making of a television show, you feel qualified to write 3,000 word dissertations on things and make deep analyses on all sorts of minor points of a story arc.

        Remarkable, truly remarkable.

        As for Liz, well, I cannot be objective, as you know. And I certainly will not disclose what I know about what Liz knows. If she doesn’t talk about it, I certainly have no right to say what I know about her relationship with the show.

        But I will tell you that companies (including the firm for which I work) make multi-million-dollar decisions based on her creative instincts and insight and her ability to work with creative people.

        I am truly sorry that this comes across (and is) harsh. But your defense of your self-adopted mantle of ignorance is simply startling. And I apologize to Joe and Amy and atcDave and all of the readers of this becasue this is supposed to be fun, not about whatever you’ve made this about, Ernie.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        A2, sorry, but I don’t agree, I think it was more like this.

        1) I didn’t understand someone’s point and asked for clarification.

        2) The clarification I got was confusing. At various times I was hearing from various posters that 13, 22 or both were an industry standard that everyone should know.

        3) Despite 13 being an industry standard no producer would expect to get an order for only 13 episodes and so wouldn’t have prepared a largely self contained 13 episode season.

        4) No producer would expect an order for anything but 13 episodes at the beginning of a season, but would obviously have made crucial production decisions that were based on 22 episodes and could not be changed without causing major problems.

        Now on to your post.

        1) People who can’t immediately reconcile the above are questioning the credibility of their betters and should shut up. Jokes about the above seeming irrational are in fact insults and challenges to the credibility of those seeking to inform.

        2) For offering an apology if I was unclear or caused hard feelings by not fully absorbing all seemingly contradictory arguments before expressing confusion/skepticism that all could simultaneously be true I should further understand that I am in fact an idiot and should shut up leaving all discussion of such things to professional writers.

        3) For the above I am responsible for any hard feelings or harsh tone on the board.

        I think I got it, thanks. 😉

      • andyt says:


        1. Just to let you know I found the discussion that we have been having to be fun, informative and one of the most enjoyable exchanges that I have had since I came to the blog. I did not find your questions insulting or personally harsh. In fact, I found the back and forth to be fair and balanced. If others took offense well… I say keep up the questioning and the commenting it is fun. A2 clearly knows more about the inner workings of the entertainment industry than outsiders and their insights are informative, but I think they misunderstood your questions and thoughts.

        2. I perfectly understand your thinking about preparing course syllabuses. As a teacher I have to prepare a year long course with tests, quizzes, projects, etc. However, with all of the vagaries of a school from firedrills, calamity days, assemblies, etc. not plan ever works out the way it is initially conceived. That is why as I said they are the professionals and it is their job to figure out how their initial outline has to be altered to fit changed circumstances.

        Keep up the good work

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Thanks for the kind words andyt. I appreciated your patience in the discussion.

  26. Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

    OK, first off, I know nothing about TV, please don’t forget that when you read below.

    Secondly, I’m not entitled to anything.

    TPTB are spoilerphobes, we know this. However if in S4, they choose to tell 1 – 13 hour story, they should let their actors know where the story is going and what is the ultimate goal so that the character’s motivations and behaviors can be played out over the 13 episodes.

    If they choose to tell 13 – 1 hour stories, tell them nothing. It doesn’t matter because it will be resolved within the hour.

    I’ve never been a big fan of holding on to all the information until the final few episodes for the entire season to make sense (never liked Lost) and I hope that won’t be the case in S4.

    • joe says:

      That’s a fair point, Joseph.

      After this whole discussion, I have more respect than ever for what TPTB have to do to actually create a show, balance all the interests (especially the ones with their fingers in the pie) and still put some quality in it.

      I shouldn’t be too awed. They’re the pros, after all, and they are in that position precisely because they know how to do that. Or they should, anyway.

      Even though I know it’s a trick, I still enjoy it when the magician actually pulls it off, though.

  27. kg says:

    It’s the middle of July. Joe writes a nice, little between seasons piece about Sarah Walker and it evokes nearly 300 respones.

    That, is awesome.

  28. BDaddyDL says:

    Just a little fun. Frea of “what fates impose” has a blog. I happened across it today. A couple of posts down is a supposed campaign between Frea and another great author MXPW. As a Chuck fan and Chuck fan fiction fan, I could not stop laughing while reading it.

    again its a couple of posts down. Btw as a bonus a sneak peak of the new chapter is up also,

  29. Judy says:

    JC,what do you mean in your observation that Sarah had an indirect hand in Orion’s death?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I think the implication is that had she not lost her temper and gone after Shaw he’d have had no cause to arrest her, and no hostage to use against Chuck, who talked his dad into coming back, ultimately leading to Orion’s death.

      • JC says:

        There’s that and more.

        After it was revealed she killed Eve, she had complete faith in Shaw yet ignored Chuck’s warnings that he was emotional swiss cheese.

        All this lead to Chuck coming to her rescue and shooting Shaw. Shaw didn’t want to hurt Chuck in Paris but once he robbed him of his revenge that changed. Chuck became the focal point of his hate and it was his family the suffered for it not Sarah.

      • kg says:

        And yet, JC, Chuck would have none of it. Sarah attempts to convince him that none of their predicament is his fault.

        Still, he blames himself going all the way back to Ring Part 1 for merely downloading intersect 2.0 and choosing to become a spy.

      • JC says:

        That’s the nature of the show. It never matters if he’s right or wrong. Chuck either takes the blame on himself or other characters call him out on his actions.

        While Sarah gets a free pass or her actions are conveniently forgotten about and never mentioned again.

      • Merve says:

        Shaw had taken Casey hostage too. I’d like to believe that Chuck would come back to rescue him, even if Sarah hadn’t been captured.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Good point Merve. Chuck had risked it all for Casey once before after all.

      • herder says:

        I have thought that Sarah’s indirect part in Shaw killing Papa B (Shaw had no dispute with Chuck, except as regards to Sarah, right up to the end of Other Guy) might be a cause of discomfort between Sarah and Ellie. I mean Sarah’s ex-whatever killed Ellie’s father, it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of likelihood that Ellie might blame Sarah in part.

      • Ernie Davis says:


        “Is my husband safe with you?” I like it herder. We’ve danced around some potential Sallie (I just made that up, Sarah/Ellie) conflict, but I think you’ve put your finger on something, and a possible reason for the demand to quit. How that might play out could be their big angst for next season.

      • JC says:

        Not to mention that another one of Sarah’s exes Bryce who I’m sure isn’t an Ellie favorite brought the whole spy world into her life.

        Ellie could end seeing Sarah as poison for her little brother.

      • patty says:

        I think it was obvious in Living Dead that the Ring’s orders were to obtain the Governor then kill Orion. Shaw killing him in front of Chuck in order to handicap Chuck’s use of the Intersect was an added bonus to Shaw’s way of thinking.

      • Kisku says:

        That is very weird argument, considering that him finding out was completly separated of his relationship with her and he would try to kill her even if he wasn’t romancing her. So Chuck would be in this position regardless. And frankly at this point Shaw gave no indication that he was nuts, no matter Chuck opinion, Beckman believed him and Sarah felt really guilty about the situation, so her trying to help him was logical behavior considering what we saw.
        Even Chuck at one point started to believe him.
        Overall blame for this situation can be spread to many characters, Graham in the first place, Chuck for downloading the intersect and thus bringing Shaw attention, Chuck/Orion leaving Sarah at the CIA base where she was vurnalable, Ellie for trusting a guy she didn’t know at all and not sharing with her family about it etc etc.

        Although i see potential conflict between Sarah and Ellie about what Chuck should become + what influence Sarah has over Chuck, which in her opinion is negative influence.

    • BDaddyDL says:

      that is definitely an interesting idea. Unfortunately, Ernie due to slash fan fics Sallie has been around for awhile in the “mature” ratings of fan fics.

      As far as what slash means, well I’m sure there is a definition somewhere. You are not getting it from me.

      • Merve says:

        Dude, Chuck fanfiction is scary! The amount of Jellie smut and Chuck/Bryce slash is mind-boggling. That’s why I tend to stay away from fanfic in general…

      • atcdave says:

        Just avoid the “M”s Merve! in particular even defaults to filtering that stuff out; you have to go out of your way to find it. But bdaddy is right, there is a shocking amount of smut if someone wants it.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’m apparently missing something in the fan fic I read… I’m not sure I want to know what it is.

        Addendum: I looked up slash. I was right. I didn’t want to know. Why do I get the sneaking feeling Carina would be a popular regular feature of the genre?

      • BDaddyDL says:

        one f the fanfics nominated for the 2009 awards was a story with Carina and Sarah. I now know that m in the rating means MATURE.

        That’s why i leave the settings alone. The writers are usually really responsible about it. That’s another reason to read the authors notes, before you read the story.

        On a different note, one of the winners of the fic awards is a crossover of Chuck and the Tom Clancy universes. Its pretty good, but its still being worked on, so the ending is not there yet.

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