As we expected, the Gobbler was big and ugly and scary and a little on the heavy side. Oh, and he eats people. As for the episode Chuck Versus the Gobbler, it shared many characteristics with its namesake. The episode opens a window into Sarah’s dark, new world and shows us some pretty scary things … not like war and bears, more like the cost of love and the pain of commitment. For all its weight and gloom, The Gobbler was not without its positive side: a few lighter moments, some very interesting story setups, Mary/Sarah interaction, and Sarah Walker action.
Chuck took a left turn at the end of Balcony. In Gobbler we awoke to find ourselves in a whole other reality. Despite some great individual elements, the down notes of the episode left me feeling … well, down. I had to take a step back and retreat a bit to analyze what I saw … to try to understand the story better and draw my own conclusions about The Gobbler.
As I set aside my somber mood and rising fears to analyze the episode, I found a story that’s authentic and worth exploring — one that I liked better than I first thought I did. Depending on what comes next, it may even turn out to have been a great story.
Nothing Is As It Seems
We begin the episode on that famous Egyptian river, which oddly enough, now runs through the Buymore. Instead of moping around eating cheese balls and watching … The View? … Chuck enters the Buymore as though he just won the lottery. Zippity doo dah, zippity aye. He has convinced himself that Sarah’s success is at hand and that she could never change like his mom did. Morgan’s not buying the mood, and Casey knows Sarah’s risks all too well. It is a fragile denial-détente that they are willing to help Chuck maintain. Their friendship and support of Chuck is one of the highlights of the episode (a big check in the win column).
Back to Chuck’s denial. If or how much Sarah will change and how Chuck will handle it is the story. The Gobbler calls back Sarah’s fears when Chuck chose to become a spy. Just in case we missed it, Sarah reminds us. Sarah knew the spy world and what it could do to a person, and she was rightly afraid for Chuck. For various reasons, she lost faith.
Now the situation is reversed, and Chuck must watch Sarah enter a world that could change her. Chuck’s naiveté about the spy world, especially its more unsavory neighborhoods, puts a thin layer of denial between him and the fear she might not come back. His faith in his Sarah is his shield against the worst of all fears that she might change, like his mom did.
No sooner does this sentiment escape his lips, than we cut to the cold, confident Babe-in-Black striding into Volkoff’s office. Meet the all-new, old Sarah Walker. (This scene is another check in the win column.)
Acknowledging yet defying his invitation to sit, Sarah tells Psycho Romeo a story he could believe, or at least one that intrigues him. It turns out that the unhinged Romantic, has more surprises up his Renaissance sleeves: paintings and poetry, for starters. Our Ms. Walker shows off some of her uber moves and offers him a chess match he can’t refuse. She is just so much fun! The game’s afoot, Walker. Watch yourself.
Enter Frost, with the same confident stride as Walker. First she reads Sarah, who quickly explains everything by claiming Frost as her inspiration. Next the master spy puts her own plan in motion. She plays the faithful right hand to Volkoff and bends him to her will. She is good.
As Sarah toasts her suicide mission with a shot of Vodka, we cut to Chuck eating a bowl of cereal in sunny Burbank. The abrupt changes between the two worlds and the juxtaposition of scenes highlight the dark chasm that separates the normal world where people eat cereal and go to work, snuggle and fall in love, from the dangerous world that Sarah infiltrated to do battle with a mad man. At Volkoff industries, Phyllis cleans up dead bodies with the same nonchalance that Chuck and Morgan mop up orange juice and pizza spills back at Casa Bartowski.
Morgan skips off to cuddle in a nice warm bed, and we are transported back to a frigid world and the only unsurveiled square meter inside the Volkoff compound … and the meeting we’ve all been waiting for. Mother/Spy meets Daughter/Spy. This is one of my favorite scenes and begins a new chapter in the bond between Sarah and Mary. (Another check in the win column)
Mrs. Bartowski, I came here to help you take down Volkoff and to get you the hell out of here.
Sarah calls Mary Mrs. Bartowski. Not Frost, the spy. Not Mary, her adult equal. But Mrs. Bartowski, a familial name … what a woman would call her future mother-in-law. The message is one of grit and caring and kinship.
Mary the spy explains the mission to Sarah. Yuri has something to do with Hydra, Volkoff’s entire database and network. Hydra is the key they need to bring down Volkoff. We remember Hydra as one of the files in Orion’s Base. (I hope it’s in the 3.0, but that would still be speculation.)
The Mother/Spy, from her experience as a double agent, warns Sarah of the risks of the mission, Sarah, I need you to realize that going undercover in a place like this can require certain difficult choices.
I’m well aware. Sarah didn’t come home from spy camp yesterday.
Finally the Mother speaks, You might find yourself becoming someone you no longer recognize. A warning from her heart, from her own life, as a woman. A voice of concern for the woman her son loves. (Remember the elevator-hand-holding moment?)
Sarah considers the cost. One last chance to back out. She does not waver. I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
While Mary warns Sarah of certain difficult decisions and Sarah chooses to stay on the dangerous path, an ocean and two continents away, Ellie asks Chuck for help with her difficult decision — one that, according to Devon, will set their daughter’s path for the rest of her life. Dude! A little perspective. The name game was light hearted and entertaining. I especially loved how it was all a set up the whole time. Ellie fooled everyone, while no one fooled her. Chuck was right. She is half a spy. (Win column? Yes.)
Seems Like Old Times
The scene in Castle was a taste of sweet relief for everyone. Chuck’s face is the one to watch this time: shock, recognition, relief … my world is OK. Big hug. Chuck can’t take his eyes off of the new Sarah. His Sarah? Is it because he’s so glad to see her? A little weirded out? Or is it because she is 9 shades of evocative? All of the above. Sarah catches his lost look and waits until he sees her eyes … sees her. After the brief briefing, Chuck finally comes to his senses and chases her down. They share a more fitting reunion. Intimate. Poignant.
See you in prison.
As Chuck, all decked out in jail-bird orange, is led into the prison REC room, I couldn’t help recall another REC room and another group of scary faces (Tooth). We even find Merlin’s cousin, who wants to give Morgan love advice. In this REC room, however, the mugs are scarier and the Kung Fu is real. It was a great scene for all of TeamB, and felt like the good old days … until the poignant good-buy, as Sarah returns to her mission, Yuri in tow. Unlike Morgan and Casey, she won’t play into Chuck’s denial. She gently lets him know that she may not be home next week.
(Two more checks in the win column.)
Harsh New Realities
Chuck realizes Sarah may not come back for a while and flirts with despondency, “Did we record The View?” His friends try to fill the void and take his mind off his loneliness with a rousing game of Risk … the board game of world domination.
Meanwhile, back in Moscow, we watch the real deal. Even prison is tame compared to the world of Alexei Volkoff. Yuri should have stayed in jail, where he was top dog and had his own comfy chair. Despite Yuri’s apologies, Uncle Psychopath can’t contain his disappointment. (I’d hate to see what he would do if he were angry instead of merely disappointed.) Mary and Sarah barely mask their horror, as Alexei dispatches Yuri to another world in order to retrieve Hydra from Yuri’s head. May he never, ever learn what’s in Chuck’s head!
The data base, and the genius of Volkoff’s operation, is a network of global operatives, none of whom knows anything other than his own tiny part in the operation. Volkoff, through Hydra, controls his entire evil empire. Now that’s world domination.
Mary manages to recover the brains of the shattered … storage device, before they depart to take care of one last item of business.
(I even put this scene in the win column . But from here on out the C/S and spy scenes go in the sad or pain column.)
Kill John Casey.
This is where we’ve been headed all along. A test of loyalty. Another “red test” … one that Sarah has no intention of completing, but must sell as real.
Another good moment between Mary and Sarah in the stairwell, as Sarah wracks her brain to figure out how to believably fake Casey’s death. Mary slips Hydra to Sarah for her to give Casey, in the event that they succeed in faking Casey’s death before Volkoff loses patience and finishes the job for her.
Casey is prepared. He didn’t get home from spy camp yesterday, either. Of course, he could have been more prepared, but then we wouldn’t have a story. Casey and Sarah fake fight long enough to devise a plan. I loved the scene. Two seasoned spies, partners, doing all in their power to save each other.
The brilliant plan turned into everyone’s worst nightmare, not just because the platform gave way, but because Chuck witnessed the whole thing. Alexei Volkoff … there are not enough synonyms for evil in the dictionary to describe this despicable man, as he manipulates this circumstance to try to destroy Chuck and Sarah. Mary feels a mother’s pain.
Sarah leaves Chuck and Casey unconscious. Her nightmare is only beginning, while in another galaxy, far, far away (that would be the other side of Burbank), Ellie and Devon are realizing their dream.
We’ve spanned the story and some of the angst of S3 in one hour, with one huge difference. This time, we started from a platform of love and trust, instead of pain and doubt. It will make all the difference.
Chuck confronts his worst fear. He watches Sarah change, externally at first, and then at her core, or so it appears to him. He watches Sarah carry out a kill order. Sound familiar? (Final Exam) Once again, only Casey can clear things up, but his coma is his vow of silence. No longer in denial, Chuck feels the pain of loss. His world is crumbling around him. Clinging to a seed of faith, he reaches out to Sarah.
Sarah hates the game she’s gotten involved in. She is in a world of her own pain. Mary comforts her the same way she did Ellie. She stills Sarah’s nervous hands and offers the only solace to be found in their world.
M: It gets easier.
Cold comfort. Cruel encouragement. … Survival. In an effort to numb her pain and survive, Sarah ignores Chuck’s call. Dumb. But, this is the story they want to tell. They want us to feel Chuck’s pain of loss and Sarah’s pain of isolation.
Now, with so many checks in the win column, do I feel good about the episode? No. I don’t think I’m supposed to. Do I like the episode? On some levels, very much. Do I feel hopeful about Push Mix? Definitley.
Good grief, if Other Guy can snatch a happy ending from the jaws of misery, Push Mix should be a walk in the park. All throughout Season 4, they have laid a foundation of strength and love. Gobbler is a test, no doubt about it. But have faith. Chuck and Sarah will pass the test!
Casey, of course, isn’t going to die.
Chuck will recover his faith. Either Casey will tell him what happened, as he did Sarah (in Am Hero), or Chuck will find Hydra and puzzle it out on his own.
Sarah will reconnect emotionally and physically with her home and her real strength.
To sum up: Chuck and Sarah will find their way back to each other and to a good place. The bad guy will go down. Clara will be born. MamaB will be there. Casey will be ambulatory. … Savor the moment.
And yes, I’m still hoping for a proposal in 4.13. Why? Because it is the 800 pound gorilla in the room … with a ring in his pocket. (Well, if gorillas had pockets.) Because backing away from it now would be bad story telling. Because it would diminish the entire C/S story from Suitcase through Phase 3 through Balcony, rendering the best moments of the season pointless. Because it would be a sour note to end on, and sour C/S notes cannot exist in anyone’s concept of the best 10 minutes of Chuck, ever … ever.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Kudos again to the whole cast. There wasn’t anyone who annoyed me this week. TD was brilliant, as usual. Yvonne once again sold Sarah’s cover and conflict through nuanced acting and her amazing face. LH, well, she’d better stick around. I love her character, and things are just now getting good between her and Sarah. Zach did a great job, too, giving us Chuck in all phases of denial and grief.
I appreciated the parallel. I loved the back and forth between the two worlds. They succeeded in showing me the stark contrast between the normal world and Mary’s world. I understand Sarah’s empathetic compassion and determination to get her out of there. I feel the full weight of Sarah’s sacrifice and heartache. Her risk is crystal clear. I am convinced. I feel Chuck’s helplessness and loneliness. They’ve sold me the story. Now they have to deliver the pay off, and it needs to be BIG.