Joe Has His “Duh” Moments
Let me start out with the obvious, Thinkling. Chuck and Morgan found a much more interesting self-defence class than then ones I ever taught! Chuck vs. the Leftovers starts off with a whole lot of revelations like that – we’re told: Chuck is training, he’s working on his proposal (but keeping it “close to the vest”), convinced that his mother is evil, about to propose in front of a jewellery store, and that Sarah is worried a lot about family, that Frost responds to Alexei Volkoff like a top lieutenant… hey wait! Back up a second!
Chuck: Speaking of looking forward to the future…
He was about to propose??!! I missed that! No, I didn’t miss that TPTB placed C&S in front of a 4 foot neon diamond ring and a sign flashing Brandt & Eisner. “Wedding Rings and Fine Jewellery”. Hit me over the head with a two by four, will ya. I thought it was just a feint! I missed that Chuck was actually going to pop the question right at that moment when the assassins attacked. I was just too smug about uncovering the coded message left for my subconscious by those wily Powers That Be. Watch again – it’s no feint.
There was little chance that I would enjoy Leftovers as much as I enjoyed Phase Three. I must admit, this is one of the few episodes that I did not appreciate more with time. I know why, too. We’re still wondering about Mary Elizabeth Bartowski’s nature. She responds to Volkoff like she would to a boss with whom she’s having an affair, yet she has no trouble undermining her own position by sabotaging the mission she got from him. Chuck wants to get past his blind spot and almost forces himself to not trust her. Mary’s awfully convincing, though.
Chuck: We should believe you ’cause last time, trusting you worked out so well.
Frost:Chuck, I didn’t want to have to do the things I did.
Chuck:Most people’s moms don’t have to explain to their kids why they shot them or tied them up and blew up their childhood home!
Frost:I didn’t have a choice!
Chuck: [shouting] There’s always a choice! You could choose to let me know what your plan is!
We’ve been a little – what’s the word – concerned? upset? – that Ellie still doesn’t trust Chuck to be a spy; she doesn’t quite trust that he’s not “normal people”. Ellie wants normal. Yet it’s barely registered with fans that Chuck doesn’t trust Frost in the same way; he doesn’t trust her to take care of business. It’s taken this long for Chuck to realize that Sarah’s really wasn’t fooling him about their relationship at the beginning, and that he wasn’t fooling himself either. Is Frost fooling him? Now Chuck thinks his blind spot has moved from Sarah to his mom, and it’s hard to know if we’re supposed to trust MamaB or not, especially trust her to take care of business. My head hurts with all the possible interpretations of her words, especially the words she doesn’t say and the words we did not hear her say.
Speaking of interpretations, what are we to make of Alexei Volkoff? He’s a great villain! The best since Roark and Vincent, for my money. He’s been wily, subtle, commanding, intimidating, and now… NUTZ??? HAND FROST THE DAMN PHONE!!! That made my head snap. When his voice became loving and tender to Frost, inquiring about the quality of her food while under the CIA’s gentle ministrations, my head snapped off! I mean, how could someone who warps reality so much also see clearly enough to run an evil industrial empire? That, my friend, is a contradiction!
As for the obvious, the whole Cinnamon’s-School-of-Self-Defense gig was about 10 degrees below unappealing to me. Anyways, I sort of figured that it wasn’t like the classes you taught, Joe.
This episode was bound to be received differently from Phase 3. To go from larger-than-life to subtle is a huge swing. The rampage of the Giant Blond She-Male is a sharp contrast to the tightly wound tension of Leftovers. However, there is a lot to love about Leftovers. The story isn’t over, of course, but Leftovers made a nice bookend to Aisle of Terror and primed us for an even more dangerous game. My reaction goes the other direction from yours, Joe, in that I like it more with each rewatch.
Let’s start with an obvious one … Volkoff. Timothy Dalton is fantastic as the World’s Biggest Psychopath (WBP). He plays the range brilliantly, wanting to have a perfect family dinner with the same people he threatened to incinerate an hour earlier. See, he’s not without his charm … half the time. His shift from wanting to kill “Charles” as a romantic gesture for Mary, to welcoming “Chuck,” Mary’s secret son, like long lost family was great. And he gave us one of my favorite lines … “Kids love me!” Charades … very apropos. How can you not love this villain? Best villain since Vincent and Roark? At least that. For my money he is certifiably the best ever. Plus, he’s just getting wound up.
As for his most valuable agent, his top lieutenant, and the woman he loves … how would you like to be in her shoes? Shiver. Mary Bartowski, aka Frost. What was it you called her, Joe? An enigma in a riddle in a mystery. Good description. By the time leftovers are consumed, though, there is clear and convincing evidence to back up her claim of loyalty to her family. I fully expect the evidence of her commitment to take Volkoff down to be forthcoming. For this juror, that mystery is cleared up. The riddle of the details of her mission are yet unsolved. As for the enigma? Well, she’ll always be that, Joe.
Why else do I believe her? Her face tells the story. She fears him, even as she manipulates him. When she says that Alexei Volkoff is in love with her, she looks annoyed in the extreme — put upon. When he gushes over the phone about her safety and the tastiness of her meals, her responses are matter-of-fact and detached. When she thanks him for coming for her, with the expected hug, her face shows no gratitude, no warmth … none … z-e-r-o. This is not a man she is “with,” in any sense of the word. In fact, I get a definite three-against-one vibe during the whole encounter (or more appropriately, one against three). I love the Chuck/Sarah/Mary dynamic that takes shape in Leftovers. I would like to see it as a permanent part of “Chuck.”
Back to you Joe.
Oh, I believe her too, Thinkling. After re-watching, I’m certain that she working to protect Chuck and Ellie, and I should have been from the moment Chuck broke into her safe-house, and from the moment we heard her say “Oh, Chuck!”
I caught that Sarah says the exact same works in the exact same way just minutes later.
Well, I didn’t quite finish my list of reasons why this episode left me cold; there’s also that ending. Non-ending. Frost leads Volkoff away, and Chuck gets the Intersect back. End of Story. But starting with the motivations of MamaB (and also the amazing acting of Tim Dalton), we’ve started on the reasons I think I underestimated the plot line.
About Tim Dalton, I was w-wr-wrong! I only recognized the two distinct characters Tuttle/Volkoff before, and based my appraisal on that. But Volkoff himself is both master villain and completely love-struck insaniac. That’s three characters in two episodes. I tried to imply earlier that seeing Volkoff as insane sort of made the “master of the universe” Volkoff less effective. I take that back. Now they co-exist in my mind.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been mystified by Frost, too. Justifying 20 years away from her children was never going to be easy. Doing that and maintaining the characters integrity and believability, even more-so. Honestly, I started to fear that it couldn’t be done. Yet, there’s something about Mary… Like you, I see it when her eyes show disdain and disgust for Volkoff. I saw it when Frost noticed Chuck and Sarah holding hands in the Castle elevator.
I’m developing a theory. This is going to be speculation of the highest order, but I think Stephen and Mary were communicating and came up with a plan together. Mary knew to remind Ellie about that ’68 Mustang, and she knew about the PSP device and what it would do to Chuck. But using it wasn’t Stephen’s plan, or at least, he didn’t agree with it completely. Mary’s improvising. I think if we were to find an encrypted e-mail between them, it would look like this:
Decryption Key Accepted
Decryption Key Verified…………………………………………..……………
From: Stephen <Orion>
To: Mary Elizabeth <Frost>
Subject: Phase 2
This has to end soon, but not this way. Chuck and Ellie are safe for now. Volkoff knows nothing about them. Chuck is becoming more and more able to protect Ellie every day, but, you see, he has other things on his mind that are important to him too. He has – someone else – to think about besides Ellie. He’s not ready yet and if I don’t keep him away a while longer, he’ll rush in and fail and, and he’ll die and everyone will be in danger.
I’ll keep them safe. Maybe later Chuck can protect everyone. But not now, Mary. Not yet. Besides, there are still one or two things I need to fix before he can fully use the Intersect.
It makes me so angry to wait longer. Yes, yes we could destroy him and half of Moscow now – I can control nearly all Volkoff’s Predator missiles from Hong Kong if that would do any good. But, Mary, all those innocents! Please don’t make me pull that trigger, darling. I’m so angry because we – I could have stopped Volkoff long ago, and I should have, before any of this was necessary. But he got lucky. Dumb luck. And now, now that I could destroy him in 10 minutes with just one of those missiles he himself built – now that just means his organization will come after everybody. They’ll find Chuck first because he’ll go after them, I’m certain of that. Then they’ll find Ellie. I can’t let that happen.
No, you still control Volkoff, Mary, and that’s kept a lot of people safe for a long time. Please don’t let my failure endanger everyone now. He’s trying to control the world, but you can still control him. So long as he trusts you, we have have a chance.
I did solve one problem, darling. All those files in my workshop, they just weren’t safe. Almost all the information we need to take his empire apart is now stored properly. I could give it all to Chuck at any time, and even put it in the palm of his hand. But if I did that, it’s only a matter of time before he would try to access it directly, and I don’t want him to see it.
But that doesn’t matter. I don’t have that pesky brain-interface problem solved yet. The pathwayn should have the bandwidth, but somehow the brain just can’t utilize it. In fact, the Intersect would just shut down if I overloaded it like that – there’s something I still don’t understand about the synaptic connections.
It’s frustrating because I’m certain Ellie knows the answer. When it comes to neurology, she’s always been a genius, just like her brother with engineering. But I’m NOT going to get her involved. I’m going to do everything I can to keep her out of this – this spy world, and away from the Intersect. I promise. I’ll solve the problem soon.
Use the delta encryption key next, darling. And don’t lose heart. Together we’ll get you home soon.
I don’t know how Mary Elizabeth answered, Thinkling, but I’m guessing that she agreed to ride the tiger a bit longer. Then, when Stephen died she realized that she had to bring Chuck and Ellie both into the spy world, and Stephen himself had already started halfway down that road. He had this big blind spot, you see. He wanted Chuck and Ellie to stay far away from the spy world, but he always kept trying to solve problems. Sadly enough, each solution just brought his children tighter into it.
I’m guessing, of course. But I think TPTB have taken us in that direction.
So now when I think of where we are, it’s pretty clear that Leftovers is a bridge. We’re about to see the end of Nerd Gets the Girl and (now that Chuck is on the verge of making the proposal that Sarah’s already accepted), we’re about to start something else.
At first I thought it was odd that they did not go there directly, and even thought that TPTB might be marking time until 4.13. Few questions were answered. Instead, much to my surprise, we were shown that answers were coming and that’s really not such a small thing. If we wondered if something in Stephen’s legacy was going to help Team B, why, yes it will. He’s the unseen hand guiding them still. We don’t know what that something might be. If we wondered if Mary Elizabeth was good and about to save Ellie, Chuck & Sarah, or bad, and she’s going to be an impediment to them or betray Stephen, she is good, but has taken her on a dangerous path. We just don’t know how she’s going to pull off her mission yet. If you wondered if Chuck and Sarah have jumped the last of their relationship hurdles and can make it permanent, the four-foot, neon diamond ring tells me the answer.
There were so many little things in Leftovers that made me smile, Thinkling. Not only the movie and cultural references, but things like the way Mary reacted when she saw Chuck & Sarah holding hands. Then, there’s this.
Sarah: Hey – are you okay?
Chuck: How can I trust anything she says? Every time I do, I end up getting shot or almost blown up. I haven’t been stabbed, yet.
Sarah: Chuck, going undercover for so long and staying well is an extremely hard thing to do as a spy. I mean, I got lucky – I was assigned to you. Your mom got Volkoff.
And with that, Sarah explained to Chuck what knowing him has meant to her life. Not bad. Not bad at all.
This episode may very well end up as my least favorite of the season. But if it does it’s only an indication of how much I’ve enjoyed everything else that’s been going on and how strong the season has been.
Joe, you’re such a romantic, but we already knew that. “Stephen’s e-mail” made me smile, as did the four-foot neon engagement ring. Sarah’s conversation with Chuck seems like such a small thing, but it reveals so much, like how fortunate she feels to have gotten Chuck (that has two meanings, as Jeff would say). It also hints at some very ugly spy realities (ones that Chuck doesn’t — can’t — see), and it betrays a burgeoning sympathy for Chuck’s mom.
That brings me to something I have watched with fascination in this arc … the Mary/Sarah relationship. I want to look at that and two other things that struck me during my rewatch of Leftovers: the totally out-of-control situation, and the fleeting glimpse of what might have been.
Mary/Sarah bonding. We knew it was bound to happen. We saw it on the horizon as early as those Oh, Chuck’s you mentioned. (Sorry, but I can’t resist just a bit of backtracking.)
How about you, do you remember the day you met your future mother-in-law? Sarah and MamaB. Hasn’t their relationship has been FUN to watch from the first gun dance to the last. Sarah studies Frost with extreme distrust from the moment they meet. I can hear the song in my head, “Don’t think your story’s quite true … can’t take my gun off of you …” Sarah will never let anything happen to Chuck and doesn’t trust his long, lost mom to have the same priority. Mary, for her part, pays surprisingly little attention to Sarah, at first. In retrospect I think she thought Sarah was Charles Carmichael’s partner/cover-girlfriend (remember she knows everything about Carmichael and nothing about Chuck). In First Fight Chuck’s remarks about their fight let her know that Sarah might be both Carmichael’s partner and Chuck’s girlfriend. That’s when Mary begins to scrutinize Sarah with reciprocal interest. The bond between Ellie and Sarah further convinces her that Sarah is indeed Chuck’s girlfriend. That realization prompts her remark, “I know you think I don’t care for my family, but I do.” By the end of First Fight, Mary trusts Sarah with what is most precious to her, “Protect him.” Sarah has earned Mary’s trust by demonstrating her love for Chuck as well as her ability and willingness to do whatever it takes to protect him. The one woman for whom protecting Chuck was always her number-one priority has found her match … (oh, Chuck). After Mary gives Chuck & Sarah a way out of the explosion, Sarah sees a glimmer of hope that MamaB does indeed care for her family. However, she is still watching, still wary, and still guarding Chuck’s blind spot.
That brings us to Leftovers. As usual Frost planned her mission perfectly. She ordered a close-range, silent kill to insure that Sarah and Chuck would have a chance to fight back and that she could provide backup. During this visit, her demeanor is different … more mother than spy. Well, aside from shooting three people. Sarah is still trying to figure things out, though. Why would Volkoff pull off a full-on assault on a CIA facility for one agent? Other than the fact that he’s … what do you call it? … Crazy! When Mary says that Volkoff is in love with her, Chuck and Sarah are both horrified, but from different perspectives. What follows is the first real Bartowski family (Chuck/Sarah/Mary) conversation. Mary explains, “Alexei and I have never been together. It’s just that he … he’s in love with me, that’s all.” In that moment, Mary’s life flashes before Sarah’s eyes. Mary addresses Sarah by name for the first time when she asks her to explain her [Mary’s] situation to Chuck. The bond begins to form on Sarah’s end.
After failed negotiations, they get ready to deal with Alexei-the-psychopath Volkoff. From this point forward, non-verbal communication tells the real story. The elevator scene is fleeting, but significant. Nothing says intimacy like holding hands while, at the same time, holding machine guns. (There really is nothing typical about this couple.) MamaB notices. I can’t help wondering what’s going through her head … her own life with Stephen, perhaps; or wishing for a better life for her children, for Chuck & Sarah? With the knowledge that Volkoff has Casey comes the sinking realization that the madman is in control and one step ahead. From there things slide sideways and wildly out of control. Mary scrambles to find a way to regain control. She maintains her cover with Volkoff as his loyal right hand, whose CIA son uses her maternal love against her. Mary’s face, however, tells the story of a mother trying to keep the WBP away from her family. Every time Mary seems to find her footing, the situation gets worse … and harder for her to explain. Sarah’s face conveys the sickening reality that the Bartowski family threat level is rapidly rising to red … redder than red.
The family dinner continues with the same duality of keeping up appearances in order to hide what’s really going on. Devon and Ellie’s faces portray the enjoyment of a happy reunion and a normal family dinner. They love having Mom back home, and they have totally fallen for Alexei’s charming side. Watching the facial expressions of Sarah, Chuck, and Mary shows the intensifying tension and danger. Of course, Daddy Psychopath is having a blast fitting in and playing charades with his new family. On the surface, all appears normal, a sad reminder of everything this family lost. For me, two moments capture the loss: the moment when Mary is returning from her daughter’s kitchen with her glass of water and catches a glimpse of Alexei’s fun side; and the moment when Ellie looks back at Chuck to share her delight with him. Two women, tasting for a fleeting moment the happiness that might have been.
The after-dinner good-bye’s were haunting because of the tension coiled beneath a facade of normalcy. After bidding Devon and Ellie a fond family farewell, Alexei turns from charming to chilling. He demonstrates his tough love approach to fatherhood as he cocks his pistol to kill his potential daughter-in-law. In this hopeless moment, MamaB finally regains control of the situation and her life. While not the Giant Blond She-Male, her quick thinking and courage were breathtaking, in this conclusive demonstration of her loyalty to family. Watch the faces again, because that’s where the story is. Mary stood up to the WBP and risked everything to save Sarah. The bond is sealed, and Sarah feels not only gratitude, but profound sadness and a kinship and compassion for Chuck’s mom.
The episode isn’t action packed and exciting, like Phase 3. Leftovers is totally different from any other episode I remember. It oozes tension but keeps its humor. I love the progress of all aspects of the Chuck/Sarah/Mary triangle. TD and LH were superb, as always. Alexei Volkoff had me laughing one minute and quaking in my boots the next. I felt MamaB’s fear and lived the coiling tension right along with Chuck & Sarah. Now what? The Intersect 3.0 is online, and TeamB 3.0 is about to do perilous battle. Leftovers brought Chuck & Sarah and TeamB to a new level of readiness and whetted my appetite for the rest of the MamaB/Volkoff story. Bring! It! On!
Joe and Thinkling