As we wait to see Chuck vs. The Balcony on January 17, your ChuckThis Bloggers are taking a look back at Season 4 to date, one or two episodes a week followed by a season-recap at the end. This time, just to be a little different, Dave and I decided to have a conversation about Chuck vs. The Anniversary and share it with you.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t want you to join in, especially if you have joined in to Mel’s Hiatus ReWatch on Monday nights!
You’ll see what we were thinking as we re-watched, but really, we’re much more interested in how you see it now that we know more about MamaB, The Orion Cave, The Buy More and Greta, all of which were big question marks in September.
Dave, I had to make a small trip to the store a moment ago, and in the car I was thinking about Chuck vs. The Anniversary. And like I say ad nauseum, I found it to be much, much better than I remembered!
But this time I’m really, really surprised at my reaction, mostly because I enjoyed it so much the first time. I didn’t remember how great the humor was throughout, everything from Morgan finding a new dumpling house (I never knew that Bud the Repo Man loved dumplings!) to Sarah sexting Chuck on the plane (how demure!) to Casey finally getting a chance to repay Sarah for her “Thank you!” in The Nacho Sampler as they parachute off a building in Hong Kong. I had forgotten how fast paced the entire story was as two teams of spies jet across the globe, only to meet in a former KGB facility.
I just watched Anniversary too and was disappointed at how it compared to later episodes in the season, so we have the start of a discussion right there! Did you want to compare it to a specific episode for our post? You mention the Pilot, although First Date or Beard seem logical as well.
Yes. I didn’t think so the first time, but if Chuck was a brand new show, this episode would actually be a pretty good pilot. I think that’s because they went a long way to re-introducing relationships; first, Chuck and Sarah (angst free!) then Casey and Sarah and then Chuck and Morgan.
Casey and Sarah are interesting. She sashays up to Marco (Dolph Lundgren) and smiles like she’s about to kiss him but then belts him with a right hook instead. And Casey with his “Please Move!” comment; Classic. These are not the characters we saw in S3, Sarah unsteady on her feet and Casey acting as a “second” in <em>The Mask</em>.
The characters seemed fresh to me, like in S1. They are different, after all, and in a new situation. We get to see the four of them, counting Morgan, without the tensions of the angst we had in season one (remember “will they/won’t they???”) or the frustrations of PLIs. It’s really very simple, relationship wise, with the only complication coming at the end when MamaB decides that it’s a “very good” thing Marco has not told Volkoff about her family.
Oh, that and the other complication we have at the end. Chuck can’t bring himself to tell Ellie he’s spying again because she’s announced she’s pregnant. That’s not a bad reason!
Now, Dave, why First Date? Inquiring minds want to know!
It is funny how my reaction was a little different. For starters, I would have to say I loved the episode and have loved the whole season. The things I always want from Chuck are the humor, the good action sequences, and the warmth of Chuck/Sarah, friends and family. So Anniversary really sets the tone for the whole season in that regard. It was funny from beginning to end. It was mildly disappointing that the best action sequence of the episode was implied rather than shown (Chuck taking out 10 armed men), but you know, its almost funnier that they didn’t bother to show it. Its like an homage of sorts to the cheesy action shows we grew up on where the stunt/effects budget was so small they often took laughable shortcuts to get the story told. And we did get to see Sarah KO a much bigger man (Mr. “I will break you”; apparently he can only say that when they’re tied up, and even then he talks to Casey, not the very scary Sarah Walker); and Sarah and Casey base jumping in formal wear. Of course I loved the Chuck/Sarah moments throughout; from trying to figure out how to say goodbye for Sarah’s rather lengthy “business trip”, to the decision to treat secrets the same as lies, to Chuck’s declaration he wasn’t willing to risk Sarah (oh, or the “guys” either) in his search for his mom, to the nice talk at the end. I guess I can really get going about what I liked about this episode.
But for all that I find the beginning depressing. That’s why this is in the lower tier of S4 episodes for me. Way before the season ever started, we were discussing the likelihood Chuck would involve Morgan in his quest for mom but not Sarah. Of course that’s also tied to Chuck and Morgan not being actual government agents at that time, but I still don’t like the situation. Episode-wise its nicely dealt with, and by the end we have Sarah (and Casey) brought on board and Chuck back with the agency. But it still means Chuck and Sarah ran off on separate missions for 3 months and apparently never saw each other. THAT is depressing. Chuck also deliberately kept Sarah in the dark about his actions during that time (and ran up $43000 of credit card debt). That is also depressing. So the early humor of the episode is sort of melancholy to me. Perhaps that’s intentional; it certainly helps explain why Chuck is so determined to get the Intersect back later, being left home alone while the little lady goes out to kick butt without you can’t be a happy thought (and of course, plays directly into Chuck’s sense of self worth).
Things take an abrupt turn for the better when Chuck re-enters the Buy More. This is even more pronounced on re-watch because we know what’s coming. But the look and tone of the show instantly seems brighter. Chuck can’t escape General Beckman. I love Sarah’s rooting for Chuck via surveillance camera, I love the General in a snit dumping Chuck down the slide, and I love Chuck and Sarah’s happy interplay when they’re re-united in Castle. They run off in different directions again; but not for long. And by episode’s end we know the band is back together. If anyone was in doubt before, that alone is the single biggest issue in my enjoyment of the show.
My list of what’s great in Chuck is precisely the same as yours, Dave; humor, action and the warmth of Chuck & Sarah, friends and family. And oddly, I understand what you mean about that beginning of The Anniversary. But here’s my take.
This was the start of a new season, and S3 was a roller coaster, to say the least. But it ended very strong. So after four months I came into the first episode a little “nervous”. Mostly I was nervous for the State of the Relationship ™ and the fan’s reaction to what was coming, I’ll confess. Who knew what TPTB would give us? First viewing, well it was “okay.” Chuck and Sarah were “okay.” Breathe sigh of relief.
Now, after seeing 9 more episodes (and especially after Phase 3), the beginning looks much better to my eyes. C&S are solid but not clingy. They’re obviously new to this being together thing, but as a man who’s been married for 16 years of his life, the freshness is nice to see. That’s brought out in the scene where Sarah and Casey think he’s been killed by Marco’s men (Casey: “I’m going to tear you limb from limb – from limb!”). Having Chuck come back so quickly with his threat and seeing the relief on Sarah’s/Yvonne’s face was perfect, almost triumphant. If it had been drawn out I would have enjoyed it a lot less.
Dittos on the team being back together, too. That solidified that feeling of triumph I felt this time through.
I have to ask what you thought about the music. That first song by The Constellations, We’re Here to Save the Day! has become an anthem for me, not just for The Buy More, but for the entire season. (“We’re not afraid to say, we’re here to save the day; hey hey hey-hey-hey HEY!”).
Then it gets even better with the music used for those sexting scenes. That would be Howlin’ For You by The Black Keys. I defy anyone to hear that beat and not tap their foot! I break out into a grin too, myself!
Anything else? 🙂
I think I agree with you on all specific points, Joe. Perhaps the only difference in our reaction to the re-watch was expectations. I really see Suitcase, Aisle of Terror, First Fight, and Phase 3 as being as good as any Chuck we’ve ever seen; really outstanding entertainment and as such I’ve watched those episodes several times (as in more than any of the other episodes). So where Anniversary suffers a bit is in comparison to those episodes. When I re-watched Anniversary for this discussion it had been several weeks since I had seen it; so my disappointment was perhaps just because I’d focused on those stronger episodes more recently. As I said before, I did like the episode, and I thought it got a lot stronger from the first Buy More scene on; it just surprised me how down I felt about the first 15 minutes.
My reaction to the music has never been as strong as yours. The music on Chuck is usually well chosen and sets the right mood for the scene. I particularly thought the music was a fun part of the sexting scene; and I laughed and smiled all the way through. But with few exceptions I haven’t been moved to hunt down the songs or research the exact lyrics. What can I say, I’m a prosaic sort of guy (just don’t get me started on fan fiction…)
We had talked some about parallel episodes in these discussions. I guess generally I would compare this to previous premiers. The Pilot and First Date were, I think, both better episodes; but Anniversary scores major points for ending in a better place. We start this season off with Chuck in the best circumstance we’ve seen yet, and likely the best circumstance he’s been in in his life.