Mary Elizabeth Bartowski … Why Care?

Mary Elizabeth Bartowski. No fan-love for Mary? I get it. She is not a sympathetic character at this point.

You’ve been close to Volkoff for years. Why didn’t you just take him out?

Good question.

That’s it in a nutshell. How in the world could it take 20 years to complete this mission? What possible justification is there for abandoning your children for 20 years?

We demand answers! Now! Can anything be more messed up than this story?

And now we’ve got Sarah going down the same rabbit hole. Maybe. It looks that way. But like I’ve said elsewhere recently, nothing is as it seems.

This is what I think I see taking shape. I find it very Chuck.

So take a closer look with me, a different look, at Balcony and Gobbler in anticipation of Push Mix. We’ll need to keep eyes on various layers of two different stories and view it all through two different perspectives. Kind of like a stereoscope.

The Stories

I said there are two stories. I lied. But I didn’t mean to. There is Chuck’s part in both stories and his own story, but I want to concentrate principally on Mary’s and Sarah’s stories. The parallel between these two women is a silent presence throughout S4. Faith has discussed it beautifully in one of her posts.

Their stories, which we have seen in parallel, now converge. Mrs. Bartowski, I’m here to help you take down Volkoff and to get you the hell out of here.

Sarah

We’ve talked about Sarah’s story of redemption from a life of cons and covers. I won’t retell it, except to say that we now see the result: a woman in love; a woman on the cusp of the real life and future she’s always wanted; an emotionally mature woman, confident in who she is and anchored in a forever kind of love.

(Disclaimer: Don’t shoot me. I hate to bring this up, but it just won’t go away. It’ll be OK. I promise.)

Now, this Sarah, who finally has what she wants, risks it all for Chuck, for their love and their future, for her new family. Chuck proposed (OK, shy of 3 words). Sarah helped. It is what she wants, but she puts it on hold. This is the twin to Chuck’s decision to become a spy (for his family and friends and for her), with the same ramifications, this time for Sarah instead of Chuck. The Volkoff world has the potential to change Sarah, like it changed Chuck’s mom. Sarah could be swallowed up and never come back. She could lose herself or be killed.

Why now? From the story standpoint … Because now Sarah is whole and anchored; she has something to lose and someone to fight for. She is ready for this test. Her initiation into the spy world didn’t do her any favors. She wasn’t anchored, and she was struggling to even know who she was. She had nothing to lose, until Chuck came along. The real Sarah was always in there, but she couldn’t quite figure out, let alone be, the whole person she was meant to be. Now she is that person.

Chuck is now in the position Sarah occupied, during S3 when he was becoming a spy. He has to watch and worry. Or does he? Of course not. Both Chuck and Sarah are very different now, and they begin this test from a different place, one of love and trust and strength.

Thus ends the short version of Sarah’s back story for this arc (Balcony through Push Mix). Hold that thought.

Mary: Redemption and Extraction

We are behind if we think the MEB story is the one we saw in Aisle of Terror through Leftovers. That’s the back story. The real MEB story begins in Gobbler, when Sarah’s and Mary’s paths converge.

Ah, yes, do remind me. Why is it we want to help Mary? I mean she has made horrible, indefensible choices, and she seems perfectly content to stay where she is. So really, why should we care?

Because Chuck and Sarah care.

Hold on. Even Chuck said, “If my mom were standing in front of me right now, I honestly think I’d say, ‘All is forgiven and good luck being an evil bad guy.'”

Ah, yes. Me thinks our boy doth protest too much. Listen to what else he said.

Our dad gave me this mission to find our mom … to know the truth. I can’t not do this. I have to do this.

Trust me. It’s my mom.

Mom, I already do [trust you].

I wish I would have trusted my mom instead of being so angry with her the whole time. And now … she’s gone. [To which Sarah adds, “And she can’t come back until Volkoff is destroyed.”]

Chuck’s Perspective. She’s my mom. Despite it all Chuck loves his mom. He has the advantage of seeing her through his father’s eyes, but basically, Chuck has a forgiving nature. He made the same choice for his dad. We can hate him for the rest of our lives, or we can choose to forgive him. This is Chuck’s perspective. To care we must see through Chuck’s eyes.

Redemption isn’t about merit. It’s about love. Some victims are more lovable than others, each responsible in varying degrees for his or her plight. Principally, though, redemption is about the motive of the redeemer, not the merit of the redeem-ee. It’s understandable, meritorious even, to redeem a sympathetic victim. It’s truly heroic to redeem someone wholly unsympathetic.

Somewhere inside Frost is a woman who still loves her children, though she has been impotent, for whatever reason, to express that love in any of its traditional forms. The woman who long ago made Rice Krispy treats, tucked her kids into bed, and read them heroic stories is trapped in a dark world she can’t seem to escape.

Chuck remembers that woman. He still loves her. He looks past what she has become and remembers who she was, the reverse of the way he looked at Sarah, discounting her past and seeing who she is.

Sarah’s Perspective. OK, but why does Sarah care? Two reasons. Both of them Chuck. First, because Chuck cares about his mom. We see in Sarah’s interactions with Chuck that she knows just how deeply he cares. Her love for Chuck extends to Mary. Simple. Sarah loves Chuck. Chuck loves his mom. Therefore, Sarah loves her, too.

The second is more … involved. It has to do with compassion and kinship.

Sarah is privy to MEB in ways that no other character is, including Chuck. She has evaluated Mary since their first meet. She interrogated her. She heard and saw Mary reach out to her daughter. She heard her mother’s plea, “Protect him.” She watched Mary risk her cover to save Chuck, “Charles is my son.” Finally, she watched Mary train her gun on Volkoff, in front of his armed guards, to save her … and then go right back to her loveless world of isolation. From day one, Sarah has been parsing Mary’s every action, every expression, and every statement. Most important, Sarah owns the context to interpret what she has seen and heard.

In Leftovers, when Mary explained that she and Volkoff had never been together, but that he was in love with her, Sarah got it. Mary’s life flashed before Sarah’s eyes, and there she saw some of herself, her own life, in Mary Bartowski.

Kinship.

Sarah knows what it’s like to have bits of her soul mangled in the gears of deception; to be numb to the desires that once fueled her dreams; to be a powerful woman, powerless to effect her own rescue from a life gone sideways. That was Sarah’s life before Chuck.

Now, because of Chuck, she knows what it’s like to feel whole for the first time in a long time, if not ever. She was lucky. She got Chuck. His mom … got Volkoff. Sarah can’t leave her future mother-in-law in that world, not if it’s within her power to extract her.

Compassion.

Sarah cares about Mary because Chuck cares about Sarah. Sarah’s redemptive actions toward Mary are an extension of Chuck’s love that pulled Sarah from the same loveless world of isolation, into a real life of love and belonging.

This is Sarah’s perspective. To care about Mary, we must see through Sarah’s eyes.

Bottom Line

Mary abandoned her family. We don’t know the whole story, but from where we sit, she made bad decisions. She appears to have continued making bad decisions to her family’s neglect. She claims to have been protecting them. Surely there was another way, wasn’t there? It can’t have taken that long to bring down one man and his organization, can it? Surely not.

Nope, Mary is not a sympathetic character. We wanted to like her, hoped to find something to admire. We looked for any sign that she deserves the sacrifice her son made to find her. We expected to discover that her plight was not of her own doing, that she’s worth the risk that Sarah is taking, in part, for her. One unfortunate fact remains. After searching for every good reason to care, we’ve come up empty.

But it’s not our story.

Inside their story, if we look somewhere other than Mary herself, we find reason to care.

Chuck and Sarah.

Redemption.

Thinkling’s thoughts

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About thinkling

In my [younger] youth, I was a math teacher, basketball coach, and computer programmer. In 1984, we moved to Brazil, where we serve as missionaries. I like to design things and build things, read things and write things. We now live part-time in Brazil, part-time in the US. Love them both. Wife, 37 yrs; mom, 30 yrs. I am blessed.
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92 Responses to Mary Elizabeth Bartowski … Why Care?

  1. armySFC says:

    thinkling, nice write up. please don’t take this the wrong way, i did like the write up. it was well thought out. i could care less if after this arc mary drifted in the pacific and never came back. but that’s just me. thanks for the time it took to write this up.

  2. herder says:

    I think that you have hit the nail on the head, the theme for the next few episodes, particularly 4.13 is redemption through faith. Mary is redeemed, not through her good works but through Chuck and Sarah’s faith in her. She may not deserve it but she gets the benefit of good people helping her. Doubts about character are set aside and faith saves the day.

    • thinkling says:

      Sometimes that’s all that left.

      I do think Mary will step into the faith they have in her and wake up and take action. That should be fun to watch.

    • First Timer says:

      Um, really, I do think the only meme more tiresome at this blog than the “hero’s journey” is this redemption claim.

      You don’t feel sympathy for Mary because she is NOT apologetic about her mission. She believes in what she is doing and doesn’t ask for your sympathy. And, more to the point, she will be positioned as a hero in Push Mix.

      Both Frost and Orion were given lines that have said they MIGHT have done some things differently, but NEITHER has ever been positioned by the writers as apologetic for the decisions they have made in the past.

      The “lesson,” such as the showrunners can muster, will not be redemption. It will be that Stephen and Mary Bartowski chose the work over their family, but that Chuck and Sarah will chosen each other (and their family, such as it is) over the work.

      You naturally feel sympathy for people who put family above work. But the writers have positioned both Frost and Orion as cold warriors who put the “greater good” over their families. It’s the same kind of dialogue that they have consistently given the Casey character. He chose duty over family and even as recently as the last five minutes of Gobbler he does not regret the choice.

      There will be no redemption for Mary because she is NOT seeking redemption and has asked for no “forgiveness” for the decisions she made.

      • joe says:

        So if the lesson is not redemption, it’s that there is NO redemption when you temporarily put family second and temporary becomes longer than expected?

        As in, when the boss says the forget your plans for the weekend – the presentation is Monday at 9:00 am, you don’t tell the wife “Sorry. We have to postpone little Johnny’s surgery.” Gotcha.

        Or is it “Sorry. No netflix-fest this Saturday.”? I’m not sure where that line is, you see.

        Seems like these kinds of conflict, at least, in the small, are part of the human condition, sometimes easy to resolve, sometimes difficult and dramatic. Valid fodder for TV. Good, even.

      • jason says:

        joe – I think the Mary story reminds me of the 2 other times the show has crossed a line, Mauser and the Shaw seduction of Sarah (or was it the Sarah seduction of Shaw) A 3rd time may have been when cole was tortured, which was quite brutal – very 24 esque.

        20 years under the scenario that at least is on the table, is sort of repulsive, I mean, for all practical purposes, it appears the story I was told in 4×12, Dalton knows Mary is undercover, and enjoys toying with her – it just smacks of things like hitting a women, torturing children, raping, just the sorts of things that 24 maybe can do, but chuck between the quality of the story and the type of story and actors they have – when it goes over that line, too many of its fans are watching the show for that, such that it is repulsive, not ok I can tolerate this, more, what just happened, I was just watching a sweet moment between CS or something done by jeff, lester or awesome and now this – just doesn’t add up FOR THIS SHOW.

        But hey, the mary story does not bother me at all, sort of like the shaw story didn’t bother some of you guys last season, but again, I find myself wanting it over with the least damage possible, rather than wishing it wouldn’t end. That is not a great admission for a fan.

      • joe says:

        Hum… That’s a pretty good comparison there, Jason. You’re right; Mauser and the seduction by he who shall not be named got the same reaction, too. It’s too close to the edge for some, especially the viewers who are more casual than we are.

        What bothered viewers with our profile in each of those cases wasn’t the abyss, I think. It was that we never had the follow-up to bring us back from that edge. After Mauser, we got one statement from Sarah. After L’Affaire Dangereus, we got a semi-joke about earrings. The track record says we won’t get an explanation for a twenty year mission that satisfies everyone.

        I’m hoping that the explanation satisfies enough. For myself, I’m going to be more than a little accepting of Frost’s reasoning so that I can go on to accept what’s happening to Chuck&Sarah. I think that would be true even if she was a lesser character than the one Linda Hamilton has created.

      • atcDave says:

        Joe the comparisons are cause for concern. With both Mauser and S*** we’ve seen that the writers are better at getting themselves into trouble than they are at getting back out of it. But we’re hearing now from many sources that this coming episode is a great one, so maybe they got it right this time!

      • joe says:

        I’ve been staying rather spoiler-free (I barely skimmed the Sepinwall article), so I’m glad to hear there’s room to be positive from the start. You know, all along us die-hards have been willing to think about it, dissect nuances and even pour over lyrics and music to dig out subtle signs that love is not dead (but only sleeping).

        [Props to anyone who recognizes the musical reference!]

        Gee – we’ve done a lot of hard work as fans! For my money, we’ve often been rewarded for it, too. Fully recognizing that we’ve got pretty high standards now, I have quite a bit of confidence that this won’t change.

        I’m really excited about Monday.

      • First Timer says:

        @joe:
        I think you have to accept that the writers ALWAYS posited Chuck’s parents as warriors from a different time. Forget Mary for a moment. Can you find a single moment in canon where they have Orion APOLOGIZE for the decisions he made in the past. In fact, just the opposite: When he listens to Chuck and doesn’t run, he is promptly assasinated. Orion dies because he made a FAMILY decision and went back with Chuck.

        You notice that they NEVER have Casey apologize, either. In fact, there is that brutally honest scene in Season 1(Crown Vic) where Sarah asks “Don’t you ever wonder…” and Casey bluntly tells her about the choices they made to protect the greater good.

        Similarly for Mary. She may regret the separation from her family (as did Orion), but she does not apologize. She has never asked for understanding (at least from Chuck) and she actually ONLY deals with Chuck as a spy. We’ve seen NO mother-child interaction yet between the two. (Obviously, the writers have had her act differently to Ellie.)

        Now think about the end of Ring II. Chuck’s toast to his now-dead father is NOT forgiveness. It’s UNDERSTANDING: Stephen wasn’t a good father, but he WAS a great man.

        So I suggest that you take Mary/Frost and Stephen/Orion on the terms the writers created for them: Old-school warriors whose choices are NOT the choices that Chuck and Sarah will make.

        Mary and Stephen chose spying over family. Chuck, the real guy turned spy, is trying to blend both. Sarah, the spy turned real girl, wants to blend both, too.

        And we KNOW how this is going to work out for them. At the end of the show (whenever that is), Chuck and Sarah walk away. They choose a real life over a spy life.

        It’s what they chose at the end of Colonel, which I feel is the end of the origial Chuck show. It’s what the writers had them choosing in the original end of Other Guy. (Chuck and Sarah walk away hand in hand from the dead Shaw.) The ONLY time you have Chuck and Sarah choose spying is in Honeymooners. And that is required to keep the show going.

      • Faith says:

        I could do without the attitude but I appreciate the sentiment/POV. In fact I buy it. Chuck has always been a show with characters that are never black and white. Mary has and probably never will apologize for the life she has had to lead…that just is. And I like the idea that where Sarah and Chuck differ will be that: choosing love over duty.

        Though at the same time I can’t help but feel it doesn’t have to be either/or. Mary could be unapologetic about her past but looking to redeem her future. She’s got an opportunity now to have a relationship with the children she had forsaken and to do that she needs to reach out and live from now, same as they do. A little word here and there, or an gift of her engagement ring from PapaB would go a long way lol.

        What Chuck and Sarah chooses (which btw I’ve been repeatedly asking for clarification for days now! :P) might just be independent to Mary but it will be the difference in the parallels and why eventually they’ll live the life they want and be happy the way Stephen and Mary weren’t/didn’t.

        Also you make a great point about when it comes down to it, with Chuck understanding has always been key. Isn’t that usually the case though? I know when I look back at my parents’ decisions I come off thinking they did the best they could, it doesn’t make them good or bad people it’s just is. I can either choose to hate them for it or I can understand them, I understand them.

      • atcDave says:

        Faith I think you are completely right.
        Redemption requires action. Back in Aisle of Terror Frost admitted she would do things differently if she could, that is an apology of sorts. So now the trick is to give her the chance. That’s what I expect to see in Push Mix. And then making the new reality will play out in later episodes.

        That is the process of redemption we will see.

      • First Timer says:

        See, this is what I mean about tiresome. Once something is circulated on this blog, it’s almost impossible to get out of the system. Honest, Faith, that’s what I mean. Nothing PERSONAL at all.

        But back to this redemption meme: Really, there is no redemption here. None of the characters have asked for it or wanted it because they don’t think they’ve made the wrong choice.

        Why did Orion show himself? Not because he missed his kids or thought he’d made the wrong choice, but to help Chuck get the intersect out of his head. Then he went back to his mission and his beliefs (sometimes to have to run to keep people safe).

        Why did Frost show herself? To foil the mad scientist. Then she went back to her mission. And every time she re-appears, she goes back to the mission (which is take down Volkoff Industries and keep her kids safe).

        These characters (and Casey and Beckman) don’t seek or require redemption because they believe in what they are doing. Sarah once said simply: Beckman’s a soldier. The writers meant it as a self-contained explanation and justification for how the Beckman character acts.

        If there IS a meme in this show that is discernable, it is one about choices. Choices have consequences, for good and for bad. And you live with the choices you make. Casey gave up his romance for the greater good and accepts the consequences. Orion gave up his family to keep them safe (and we will learn, I believe) to aid Mary. Mary has chosen for 20 years to do the mission. (Yeah, I know a 20-year mission is silly, but it’s what the writers say.) Bryce chose the good fight and accepted that it cost him his best friend and his lover. Even Roan, Cole and Carina fight the good fight and accept the consequences in their own ways.

        What sets Chuck and Sarah apart is the current choice they have made: Try to blend fighting the good fight with a personal life. The show ends when they realize that what Sarah said in Honeymooners is true: It’s one or the other. They will choose each other. That’s what makes them the stars of the show. They are different, and think differently, from the show’s other heroes. They’ll choose each other over being heroes when they realize that they can’t have everything.

        My opinion, anyway, but based on the canon we’ve been shown, not what we’d like to think because we want Sarah to be sorry about Shaw or Orion to be sorry about abandoning his family or Mary to be sorry for taking a 20-year mission.

        And, again, I am SORRY if anyone took the “tiresome” remark personally. It wasn’t my intent. For that, I do seek redemption… 🙂

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        Nice points FT. But I doubt whether CF will take that route towards the end of the show -i.e C/S walking away from the spy life. He has time and again said that he would like to leave the story a bit open ended rather than end with a definite conclusion.

      • atcDave says:

        First Timer we pretty clearly get that you don’t get what we’re talking about, and that’s fine. Redemption is simply defined as a rescue or restoration. There is no requirement to ask for anything. I think you’re confusing redemption with forgiveness. Really, look them up.

        So it doesn’t matter if Mary ever asks for redemption. Simply allowing herself to be rescued and restored to her family is a redemption. Ideally, it will involve a redemption of her character too. That may be a trickier situation to portray in the usual Chuck format. But I think if we see her choosing to help Sarah at great risk to herself during the rescue process, it will go a long ways towards her personal redemption; in this case meaning her association with doing the right thing. The Frost Queen story from Anniversary that you are fond of bringing up is a redemption tale.

        I don’t think it really matters if this is terminology TPTB would ever use or not. For most of us its a pretty easy way describing the process where a character may be restored to her family’s good graces. If she sees the “error of her ways” so much the better, but its not really required.

        Sorry if we caused any confusion.

      • thinkling says:

        Well put, Dave, and very succinct.

      • Faith says:

        Ok. You know you’re correct. It’s about choices. Chuck made a choice in the pilot to be a hero, to be more than he is. Sarah chose Chuck several different ways since the pilot, “don’t freak out.” Casey even made his own choice in Colonel when he chose to uphold his promise versus duty. Casey of the Reagan, military persona, chose to help Chuck. But this is where we go in circles 😉 lol…it doesn’t have to be either/or. Sarah chose Chuck and in choosing Chuck she chose redemption. Chuck in choosing Sarah chose faith. Both chose love.

        I think I wrote a piece about this awhile back. Was it what we do for love? Anyway, I totally get what you mean and again I buy it. 🙂

    • Tamara Burks says:

      There’s may be no real apology but there are definitely regrets on both thier parts. Frost said she would do things differently and Orion said that he would tell Ellie everything and that he would stay.

      Plus the difference in these two characters is how they became seperated from thier families. Mary took an assignment she really never should have took given that any job that requires someone to take down an organization from the inside is a LONG TERM assignment . That was a very bad decision on her part . Especially when we consider the scene at the beginning of Anniversary might have been just before she left and she told Chuck she would only be gone a few days. Given that her job was one where the unexpected could happen that would be a lot more severe than a non spy job unexpected , you can probably say she got cocky .

      Orion OTOH hand started out as a scientist and became Orion the spy after his wife disappeared until he crossed paths with people and actually endangered his children and had to leave. He eneded up leaving after trying to restore his family. His motives were different than Mary’s , that another reason why it’s easier to forgive him.

      And one point I was wondering about, Volkoff knew about Orion being but had no idea about thier children.Why is that? And which aspect of his persona was Volkoff angry with, the scientist , the spy or the husband of the woman he wanted.

      • thinkling says:

        I think Volkoff is first and foremost arrogant. Obviously, morally, he is evil, but his personality trait is arrogance. It will be his downfall.

        So, he is insanely jealous and angry that a pissant scientist, who fancies himself a spy, had (in the husbandly way) Frost, while he, Alexei Volkoff, never has.

        Besides that, I think Orion was a constant nuisance to his organization. If only he had caught on to public transportation, he might have succeeded. 😉

  3. Olddarth says:

    Little empathy for MamaB. Not much more for Chuck.

    Another unintentional parallel this season? Both of their ‘partners’ get to shine at their expense. Unfortunate for a guest star. Inexcusable for the show star.

    • armySFC says:

      agreed

    • jason says:

      Lou, you and I agree far more about this show than you might think, been listening to the CNN podcast lately, I like them, you guys love the show, even when I am a bit down and pi$$y about something in an ep (4×11 comes to mind), your podcast seems to lift me up.

      Hope you can be doing it for a while – seems to me like Season 5 is likely.

      I on purpose have watched all the new NBC shows, the only one that I really like is Harry’s Law, but it is sort of strange, seems like NBC could right now put Gone With the Wind quality on screen and still get about a 2.0 demo, but if they shot something like – lets watch the grass grow while we see how many taco’s people who weigh over 500 lbs can eat in an hour, they would win the night, sort of a sad state?

      • OldDarth says:

        Thanks Jason!

        Chuck has pretty well become a ‘love the characters, tepid on the writing’ experience for me. Given their track record the last 3 seasons the show runners would do well to drop season arcs and do stand alone episodes – which is the only way I can enjoy the show anymore. Especially this season, which has had the most pedestrian arc to date.

        Thank goodness they have been able to procure such great guest stars.

        Glad you are enjoying the podcasts. Like to believe that Jan, Karen, Joe, and I provide a good cross section of the fandom.

        If you want to see a show firing on all cylinders, highly recommend you give Fringe a try.

      • jason says:

        OD – when I was fed up with shaw last season I started watching fringe hoping to find a new show & liked Fringe enough that I caught up to current, and yep, I would recommend it to anyone that likes chuck

      • silvercat42 says:

        Well, OD, I happen to like Season 4’s story arc better than you, but perhaps that’s because the acting is so good that I’m able to put up with the flaws. I thought Zach and Yvonne absolutely nailed their characters in the last two episodes. And what can I add about Timothy Dalton that hasn’t already been said?

        It’s interesting you mention Fringe. I’m staying with my sister right now, and discovered my nephew has recorded every ep of Fringe. Right now I’m in season 2, and it’s really helped me deal with the 7 week Chuck hiatus. Old Darth, I’m encouraged that you say it’s running on all cylinders. Gives me something to anticipate.

      • OldDarth says:

        Hey silvercat glad you are enjoying the season!

        Awesome that you are getting into Fringe. It really kicks it into gear with in the second half of the second season. Wait till you get to the Peter episode!

        The current season – the third – has been FANTASTIC!!!!

        Enjoy.

  4. > why does Sarah care?

    I have a third possible reason, which I hope the show explores in the back 11. It’s related to your first reason. We still don’t know the story behind Sarah’s mom, but it appears that somehow Sarah lost her. Maybe she doesn’t want Chuck to go through the same thing.

    • thinkling says:

      Great point! I hope we get to know more about that, too. I think there was some of that vibe in Mary’s talk with Ellie in First Fight … the one Sarah witnessed. Wow, watch Sarah’s face.

  5. JC says:

    Great Post Thinkling

    I’m weird about Mary I like the character but I don’t care or sympathize with her. Does that make sense? I think that’s the reason why I haven’t loved the season either. Dalton’s portrayal of Volkoff is the only thing that’s saved it for me.

    • thinkling says:

      He has been brilliant.

      I think a character can be a good character without being sympathetic. So, yeah, it makes sense.

  6. Paul says:

    Thinkling, oftentimes I have a feeling we’re not supposed to feel compassion for Frost….at least not yet. We haven’t been given any reasons to….although we’ve been teased with reasons why we should. I think the next eps will really show us who the real Mary is, all the pain and hardships she’s endured, behind that cold spy code-named “Frost”. What an appropriate name……

    • thinkling says:

      I agree. They’ve left her vague and difficult to understand and difficult to love. That serves to show the quality of Chuck’s unconditional love, despite all the grief she has caused him.

      We may see the real Mary and a renewed Mary in coming episodes. Chuck has impacted everyone for the better.

      It will be interesting to see how the Mary/Sarah dynamic plays out, too.

      Frost is a great code name, and all the better in those frigid snow scenes. Brrr

  7. atcDave says:

    Excellent post on a surprisingly difficult subject. The ultimate theme; that Mary will be saved because she is loved, not because of anything she’s done to deserve it; is familiar and powerful. That is something I truly look forward to seeing play out.

    But it is difficult in the short run. Mary has been a difficult character to assess (by design, we do know that from interviews). Even when she does the right thing it’s often in ways that are unclear what all of her motives and goals might actually be. And of course, she’s been brilliantly played by Linda Hamilton as tough and cold, with just the tiniest trace of humor.
    We can even all guess that she will side with the good guys when the shooting starts(literal or figurative? don’t really even know that yet!). The really interesting thing to me will be how (if?) she re-enters the “normal” world when her mission is over. Will she show enough warmth and normal reaction for us to find some affection for this character? Or will she always be difficult to relate to?

    Very mysterious character.

    • thinkling says:

      Agree on that, Dave. LH has done a great job. As unsympathetic as Mary is, the character could be downright detestable in the hands of a lesser actress.

      I do wonder about her future.

    • JC says:

      Completely agree about Linda Hamilton, I don’t she’s given enough credit for the job’s she done. But I think that’s because Dalton has basically stolen this season from everyone.

      One thing though they’re making the same mistake with Mary like they did with Sarah last season. Holding back too much of the plot and motivations till the end of the arc. I doubt some gigantic reveal in 4.13 is really going to make me care at this point.

      • thinkling says:

        You may be right about the lack of exposition for Frost. It’s kind of tricky. How can they keep her enigmatic, and how can they leave you wondering about her loyalties, and make her sympathetic. Like I say, it could have been much worse with a less capable actress.

        They put in just enough humanity, the teddy bear, and the scene with Ellie. Leftovers showed that in matters of life and death, she chose to protect her family. So she’s not detestable; she’s just not sympathetic. We’re not 100% sure about her yet.

        I really will be interested to see how it plays.

      • JC says:

        I’m with you that in the hands of less capable actress she could have been hated. Very similar to Yvonne and her portrayal of Sarah.

        And I understand that they want to keep her loyalty up in the air but does anyone really think she’s bad? I don’t see the TPTB having the guts to go there. We needed to see more of her humanity and less of them trying to be mysterious with her.

      • thinkling says:

        No, we don’t think she’s bad, but she could be somewhat compromised and be snatched back from the brink by her family.

        But we know that by the end of 4.13, she’s good, because in 4.14, she is bonding with her family, presumable not from jail. 😉

        It is what it is, I’m going to see how it plays out. Maybe we’ll get more than we think at this point.

      • atcDave says:

        In a way they are doing the same they did with Sarah last season. But I think it works better here; mainly because Mary isn’t Chuck or Sarah. I think it’s okay for her to be mysterious and even a little unlikeable for a while. The show doesn’t hang on the fans loving her. Whereas making Chuck or Sarah unlikeable can only have bad results (as TPTB have now proven!)

      • JC says:

        Don’t get me wrong, for the story to work they needed her loyalty to be in question for awhile even if we didn’t buy it.

        And while I agree that as guest star holding back on her motivations isn’t the same as doing it for one of the main characters. When that characters starts influencing the decisions of your leads it does matter. Its a domino effect in some ways. By keeping things back with Mary we haven’t seen Chuck really show any affection or personal want in saving her. So when you have Sarah take her undercover mission and one of reasons is to bring Mary home to Chuck it’s hard for me to buy it.

  8. Faith says:

    I’m not convinced we’re supposed to be certain she’s good as of yet. That’s pretty much why I think it’s left ambivalent whether we’re supposed to root for her or not; whether we’re supposed to identify or sympathize with her or not.

    I don’t know who said (First timer?) it earlier but for most of the characters, the lines were clear (PapaB for example), for Mary it’s not and hasn’t been. And when it comes down to it, right or wrongly, for duty or country she abandoned her kids and love for a mission. There are some fantastic parallels between Mary and Sarah but from the beginning one thing has always been different: when it comes to the mission or Chuck, Sarah has always chosen Chuck. Even in this mish, she’s choosing Chuck.

    • thinkling says:

      You’re right Sarah always chooses Chuck, and this mission is no different.

      She is still a mystery. I think we’d like to think she’s one of the good guys, but there’s still that shadow over everything.

      I do think she will end up on the good side, even if she has been compromised somewhere along the way.

      The point I think is still valid, whether she is a good guy or not and even though she was a terrible mom, Chuck still thinks she’s worth saving. Not on her merits, but because he loves her. Because of Chuck, that is also Sarah’s position. Although, Sarah is also protecting her life with Chuck from the Volkoff threat. Part of the story is that Chuck and Sarah root for her, even though we don’t find any reason to, yet.

      Does that make sense? I think she is ambivalent by design, for the surprise factor, but also to highlight the quality of Chuck’s love.

      Sorry I went on for so long.

      • Faith says:

        Perfectly. You previewed Ernie and mine’s Journey piece right? That’s pretty much why I think Chuck chooses to save her. Which is interestingly enough less about her and whether or not we should sympathize with her.

        Though I will say she’s not entirely unidentifiable. I did feel for her during that scene with the bear and before abduction.

      • thinkling says:

        Exactly. It’s Chuck’s motive, not her merit.

        I did preview your piece, and I remember loving it, but I didn’t remember all of the details. In fact, while I was writing this, I kept thinking I hope I’m not treading too much on Faith and Ernie’s next e**c post 😉

        Yes, I have felt for her a time or two, and that was one of the times. Mostly I think we have been able to see Sarah feel for her.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I think we’re still ambivalent about Mary because she’s the person we’re hoping Sarah DOESN’T become, and that is a lot easier to do when we aren’t sure we like her. On the other hand Orion/Stephen is who we are supposed to hope Chuck DOES become, a great man.

      • atcDave says:

        Good catch. Well about Mary and Sarah. Not so sure about Chuck Orion; I mean sure we want him to be the super spy/hero, but Orion still had kind of the weird recluse, abandoning family thing going.

      • patty says:

        We liked Orion because about 5 minutes after we found out that he was Chuck’s dad he traded himself for Chuck. Also he understood Chuck as a man, probably because he left when Chuck was in his teens. He had problems dealing with Chuck as a spy.

        Mary, on the other hand, seems really only comfortable relating to Chuck as a spy. She does not understand Chuck the man at all since she left when he was only 9.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Fair point on Orion Dave, but Orion navigated the spy world through smarts, not by flashing on Kung Fu, and we saw that potential in Chuck even in season 2. That’s the part I meant about we want Chuck to become Orion.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree 100% about that Ernie.

      • thinkling says:

        Yes, Orion in his smarts and Chuck all the rest of the way.

        PapaB said Chuck was smarter than he was, so … maybe we’ll see some of that.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Thinkling, so far the whole Chuck is smarter than Orion thing has yet to be proven. I think it was just part of Orion’s loosing his mind bit. Okay kidding, sort of. It would be nice to see Chuck be brilliant again.

      • Faith says:

        In fairness to Chuck he hasn’t has many opportunities to show off his smarts versus his brawn. They’re doing less reconnoissance and more defending so he has been less nerdy. When given opportunities for his brain he uses it…attempting to hack into the computer last epi and loupe and gemology in FOD.

        I know some people are hoping he engineers an intersect like his dad but I don’t think that’s in the cards. Orion was a scientist from the get go, Chuck’s origins aren’t similar. More zork and less mechanics.

        As for Mary and could be Sarah, you have a point Ernie. We want her best characteristics but not her bad ones.

      • atcDave says:

        I know Faith. I have no beef with any of the existing episodes, mostly. Its more of an overall planning thing. I’d like to see Chuck as the mastermind and problem solver sort. TPTB apparently want him to know Kung Fu. Oh Well. Not a major gripe.

      • thinkling says:

        We saw his master mind in Anniversary and Couch Lock, too. He saved the day by his wits in Coup d’Etat.

        I just think the loss of the Intersect and his mom stress over-shadowed the good things he did this season. I also really believe that the heroic, smart Chuck is knocking at the door. He may even bust down the door in Push Mix.

      • atcDave says:

        You may be right Thinkling. It just seems like since Couch Lock is kind of a long dry spell. But with all the exited talk we’re hearing about Push Mix it hopefully play into what happens.

      • JC says:

        If the TPTB can get away from the 2.0 crutch and make it into another skill Chuck has like his smarts they’ll be fine. Just mix Tron Poster flipping Chuck with kicks the crap out of Shaw Chuck and I doubt people would be complaining about his character.

      • Tamara Burks says:

        Patty I think you’re right about Mary only relating to Chuck as a spy. I called that in Aisle of Terror. I think she’s more comfortable relating to Chuck as a spy because of the files she’s read on him and that way she can keep her walls up. In AOT though , Chuck got through to her by telling her Ellie was pregnant and it is Ellie that is starting to break down her walls not to mention that trip down memory lane designed to have Ellie find out about the car. With Ellie she has no spyworld buffer the way she has with Chuck . Hopefully once Vokoff is defeated she can start to thaw out and find out what she missed out on. Meanwhile Chuck’s really getting the short end of the stick maternal behavior wise.

      • thinkling says:

        @Patty, Tamara
        I agree that MamaB has been less maternal to Chuck than to Ellie. I think there are several reasons for that.

        She knows Chuck better as a spy. On that level she is relating to him much the same way she did Orion, if indeed they were in contact. Chuck is the new head of the Bartowski family and that includes its spy legacy.

        We have seen some maternal interaction, if not real warmth.
        You activated your tracking device. Good boy.
        Do you want to … talk about it?
        Chuck, I’m sorry I shot you.
        Chuck, I’m sorry for everything. I hope someday you’ll trust me.

        I think, given time, she’ll come around. I cut her some slack, here. It’s hard to go from being the mother of a little boy to the mother of a man. It’s just a different dynamic, and you have to figure it out, even under ideal circumstances (trust me on this). With Ellie it would be easier, just because she’s a woman. She relates to Chuck where she can, and she has thrown in some mother/son type dialog. She’ll figure the rest out once she’s free from Volkoff clutches. Plus Chuck will help navigate. At least, I hope we get to see some of that.

  9. Rick Holy says:

    Definitely the “kinship” aspect as to why Sarah cares about MEB. When she “sat in” on the Mama B and Ellie coffee table talk (make that lemonade table talk), you could just see in her glances at what was going on the look on her face that said, “that could be ME in those shoes.”

    Sarah never had a mother around with whom she could bond and who could understand her. Mama B would fit that bill perfectly. And at this point, Sarah probably understands her better than her own son does. Not that’s something to “blame” Chuck for. It’s just that Sarah has “lived the life” that Mama B has – to a certain degree.

    Plus, how can you not like Mama B.?? Shes freakin’ SARAH CONNOR for cryin’ out loud!!!! 😉

    • thinkling says:

      Yeah, Rick, I can’t wait to see where the Mary/Sarah relationship goes. Agree with you about Sarah understanding her better than Chuck can.

      I agree about the kinship. For me, it all clicked into place right before Mary asked Sarah to explain it to Chuck, in Leftovers.

      There was a whole lot going on in the “lemonade table” talk. Wow. Compassion for Ellie. Wondering about her mother. Maybe wishing she could talk to her mother.

  10. Big Kev says:

    Thinkling,
    Excellent post, as always. You capture the essence of why we should care, through the eyes of Chuck and Sarah, and I love your point about redemption being about love, rather than merit, and the motives of the redeemer. Perfectly expressed.
    But you don’t really answer the question that you pose in your second sentence – “You’ve been close to Volkoff for years. Why didn’t you just take him out?” – and that, to me, is the problem with Mary’s story.
    I have no problem with the idea that Mary has crossed lines and become a morally ambiguous character, and I don’t need to sympathise with her to be invested in her story – but the writers need to give me a convincing reason why she’s still there.
    Show me that Volkoff is only a small part of the whole, that the network is indeed powerful enough that it might take someeone 20 years to bring it down. Or show me someone who has actually crossed over to the dark side, and is in love with the evil mastermind. I could be convinced by either of those stories. All I’ve seen so far is a so-called network that is indeed completely reliant on one man, who should have been taken out 20 years ago. And I’ve seen a spy who has taken 20 years to figure out a connection between Yuri and Hydra. It doesn’t add up.
    We know that these guys love back-loaded exposition, as Ernie said, and it may turn out that Frost and Orion have been fighting a secret war together for 20 years (and I’m guessing that’s where we’re heading) – but you can drive a bus through Mary’s backstory as it stands, and I think that’s the issue. I can handle Mary being unsympathetic – but at the moment, she just looks incompetent, and I don’t believe her story.
    I think Linda Hamilton has done a great job this season, and I can enjoy the arc in spite of the structural flaws – but I do wish they’d put more effort into constructing believeable backstories. The last minute reveal only works if it’s powerful enough to overcome the accumulated scepticism that’s my response to what I’ve currently been shown. It didn’t work with Shaw last year. Hopefully this year will be better. We’ll find out in 3 days!!

    • atcDave says:

      Agree entirely Big Kev, both the good and bad of it.

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks, Big Kev

      The question is the big problem. If we could fathom a reason, we wouldn’t be so unsympathetic to her plight.

      I honestly don’t have a good answer to it. I think about it, but only have musings, no great answers. We’ve assumed that she and Orion were working together and in contact all along. If that’s true, then this network they are trying to shut down must be big and very evil, as PapaB indicated to Chuck in his last voice over.

      PapaB talks about his work and the people that tried to destroy him, that now pose a danger to Chuck and Ellie. Before that he said something I just now caught, “I knew how dangerous this world is and what it does to the people in it. Boy, do I know that.” Hmm. Now, that is interesting.

      If they were working closely together, they may have stayed in position just to keep their family safe. It may have taken all their efforts all this time just to keep these ruthless cunning people away from their kids. Maybe Volkoff is like the tip of the iceberg.

      The above assumes that Chuck got it all wrong about his dad looking for his mom. I don’t buy that. We don’t learn from the voice over that she was a spy, but that is Chuck’s statement in Anniversary along with his mission from his dad to find his mom.

      The other possibility, which I lean toward, is that they were both working to destroy the network, but had no contact with each other. Distance. It is entirely possible that Orion was looking for her, but that she was willing to stay hidden to carry out her mission or, in her mind, keep her family safe. Something like this: he was trying to find her, free her, and destroy the bad guys. But in reality he kept enraging the giant, like Chuck did in his search. Volkoff did compare Charles Carmichael’s quest to Orion’s. The unintended consequences … her position on the inside was made more delicate and all the more critical to keep the danger away from Stephen and Chuck and Ellie. They could have both been trying to do the right thing, she from the inside and he from without, but because they were not doing it together, it wasn’t effective. The practical result being that each effectively canceled out the efforts of the other. Sounds like a theme that might play, especially the not working together part. That would have left MamaB cut off, isolated, and essentially going it along, having to juggle her mission and the increased dangers brought about by Orion’s successful damage to the giant. He would then be trying to find a woman who avoided being found for his sake, their children’s sake, and the sake of her mission. In so doing that world changed her.

      Like I said, just musings. There are holes in anything I come up with. It will be interesting to see if Schwedak can answer that one.

      But, bottom line, I’m not sure we’ll ever really get a good answer for the 20 years.

      • atcDave says:

        Not to be too cynical, but I’m betting we never get a full explanation of all the machinations. I would love something to make sense of the 20 year mission and Orion’s connection to it; so I hope I’m wrong. But my guess is we’ll see Volkoff, and some portion of his network taken down, and that will have to do. They may fill in some gaps later, but I think the mythology will always have a number of gaps.

      • Big Kev says:

        Dave, I think you’re right. It’s frustrating. I don’t need a particularly high burden of proof – it is Chuck after all – but I do think the writers would have more credibility if their mythology stood up to at least cursory examination.
        If they can’t do that, I’m beginning to agree with OD that they shouldn’t bother and the show should just be a standalone “villain of the week” type setup. I think it would be a much poorer show for that though – albeit one with fewer facepalm moments.
        Ah well. It is what it is. And in spite of that, I’m still looking forward to seeing how it plays out – so in that sense, the writers have done their job 🙂

      • atcDave says:

        Kev I’m often leery of bigger story arcs, not just on Chuck but on many other shows too, for exactly that reason. The more ambitious the story the more potential for big gaps (and the feeling of badly forced manipulation). I generally prefer a more episodic format for the “A” plot, with just a few connecting elements that pop up once or twice a season. More like the USA format, although I often feel the USA series tend to draw out a single mega-plot too long (a totally new one every season or two might work better, than some “big” issue that everyone knows won’t be resolved until the series ends).

        I think movies, that can invest far more time and resources into script and continuity do a better job with very complex plots. Serial television just doesn’t hold up that well to close scrutiny.

      • JC says:

        What annoys me is there are shows on right now or recently ended that had compelling characters and a strong serialized mythology behind them. I just don’t know why this show can’t do the same.

      • Big Kev says:

        JC,
        On that subject, I just finished watching the final season of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes. Just a stunning example of how a tightly-written mythology can elevate a show.
        The finale was very back-loaded, and on the wilder end of what I thought was coming, but it was so well-written that it actually made many seemingly throwaway moments across the whole 5 seasons make sense. You can rewatch the seasons with a fresh set of eyes, and it becomes apparent that the writers knew exactly what they were doing, from the very first scene of season 1. Stunning.
        Any fans of serialized, long-form storytelling who haven’t seen it should give it a try – the original, UK version. I think it’s one of the best TV series ever made.

        Dave,
        What you say makes sense. I can handle more episodic stuff in short seasons like they do in the UK, but I usually can’t stomach watching 20
        plus episodes when I know they are all going to be variations on the same 2 or 3 themes. That’s my worry with regard to Chuck. Actually, who am I kidding? I’ll be watching this show till it’s done, no matter what they do with it 🙂

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Kev, and others, I want to make a point about the tightly scripted continuity we all apparently crave. It can become a straightjacket. If you have the time and money to develop it and the budget to make it happen, I say great. The Wire is one of my all time favorites, but that show could never happen on network TV. The same is true of most BBC shows. HBO and BBC operate under a totally different set of rules from network shows, and we are seeing that more and more. So would it be great if Chuck had the budget and the time and the schedule to create a multilayered mythology with air tight continuity and multi-season arcs? No. Because if that were the type of show they were making there would be absolutely no way they could respond to the fan reaction or adapt the show to a new direction. We would never have Chuck-Fu or Chuck and Sarah before the last five minutes of the last episode. One of the big weaknesses of season 3 we’ve all pointed out is that their shooting schedule was so far ahead of the air dates they had no chance whatsoever to adapt or re-shoot. Budget is likely a problem too. So I think that is something to consider when we all bemoan how Chuck seems to lack the punch of 24 or the drama of The Wire. That’s not Chuck. Chuck is a comic book on film, that is mostly about having fun. I like having my Chuck and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

      • JC says:

        @Big Kev

        I’ve heard nothing but great things about Life on Mars. I got curious about the series during S3 of New Who when I looked up John Simm who I thought was fantastic. I’ll probably pick it up on DVDs since the BBC America butchers shows they air.

        @Ernie

        I don’t think anyone is calling for the show to turn into Lost or anything of that nature. But I do have problems when the same continuity errors start cropping up with character back stories and motivations. It’s detrimental to the story they’re telling and lessens my enjoyment. Sarah and Casey’s pasts are perfect examples, they’re a jumbled mess of random stories thrown together to serve the story at the moment.

      • OldDarth says:

        BigKev wrote:
        ‘Dave, I think you’re right. It’s frustrating. I don’t need a particularly high burden of proof – it is Chuck after all – but I do think the writers would have more credibility if their mythology stood up to at least cursory examination.
        If they can’t do that, I’m beginning to agree with OD that they shouldn’t bother and the show should just be a standalone “villain of the week” type setup. I think it would be a much poorer show for that though – albeit one with fewer facepalm moments.’

        Kev it was a painful decision for me to reach. Serialized drama is my favorite form of TV series but Chuck has stumbled three seasons in a row now. Time for a new tactic. Since the episodes are best viewed as stand alone entities the switch to episodic form is the best recourse for the series. Or very small arcs no more than 2 or 3 episodes in length. Face palming would be reduced to a minimum.

  11. Robert H says:

    With you all the way on this one Big Kev. This episode is simply a bridge to what could have been the season or series finale if the backorder had not come through from NBC. I’m simply curious to see how it all turns out.

    I don’t really care about Frost’s motivations one way or another. To say she’s been with Volkoff for over 20 years and not be his lover is just absurd, not really believable, but it’s TV right? No one really cares anyway.

    Once again the women in the show make the men look
    bad with the exception of the Casey and Volkoff characters. Dalton is just simply terrfic. His casting was pure genius and is carrying the show right now. No one on that show can touch him in terms of pure acting ability and presence. He simply
    dominates each scene he is in and is a pure joy to watch. The Casey character is the “Rock of Gibraltar” for the series very consistent as always.
    Adam Baldwin (hope I got the name right) does a great job as usual.

    The Morgan and Chuck characters look more rediculous
    each episode and simply can’t be taken seriously any
    more at all. That’s all I’m going to say.

    Maybe the show name should be changed to “Sarah” rather than “Chuck”. Just kidding, but it does reflect the current realities of the characters as I see it (whatever that’s worth).

    Episode 13 should be interesting….thanks.

    • joe says:

      I sort of agree with you about Chuck, Robert. Oh, he’s had his moments. But we do expect a bit more out of him these days, I think.

      He’s come a long way since S1, but not as far as Morgan. He’s been looking sharp all season. Who’d have thought that the little bearded one would look so dashing in a gray suit? Not I. Not Devon! Now Morgan is tucked, has tamed the mane and knows ‘product’!

  12. Mr Cobb says:

    As someone has already stated….So Mr Bartowski are you ready to take a leap of faith or grow to be an old man all alone filled with nothing but regret, waiting to die…..Chuck, Team B and the audience may not know or ever know for that fact whether saving mama b and potentially giving up everything that they built up together could or will ever amount to anything, but they are taking a leap of faith.

    That is what they have always done with each other and other people (e.g. Papa B). That is why we as fans love them, they have heart and courage and they always look for the best in people even if it is not apparent to us on the surface.

    So I am willing to just go with it and hope that in a small way they are vindicated and find the eternal hapiness they continue to strive for, for everyone in their lives.

  13. silvercat42 says:

    Maybe I’m just a pushover, but I actually do have some sympathy for Mary’s predicament — not that I particularly agree with her choices, particularly abandoning her family.

    I believe that the reason her mission ended up lasting 20 years was because she was looking for the key data (which turned out being in Hydra) to bring the operation down in one fell swoop.

    Sure, she could have killed Volkoff, but the shattered empire would still exist as hundreds (perhaps thousands) of entities, and it’s much harder and more time consuming (not to mention it would take a lot more resources) to bring them down one by one. Plus, Mary probably also rationalized that as a number two, she could keep Volkoff from completing any truly heinous plot.

    As for the resolution of her story arc, I do think we’re going to find out she and Stephen were in touch and that she was actively protecting her children.

    I’m still very curious exactly what was going on at the end of The Ring Part II when Mary was told over the phone that she would have to be moved. At the time I thought it had something to do with Stephen’s death, but that has never been followed up on. Hope we find out.

    • Tamara Burks says:

      I have to wonder why it took 20 years to find out what Hydra was. You think she would have had an inkling that it was a physical thing.

  14. silvercat42 says:

    By the way, Thinkling, I totally agree with your assessment that even if we don’t particularly care about Mary, we care that Chuck and Sarah care… and redemption will come through two people who have in effect redeemed each other.

  15. armySFC says:

    i am posting this with mild trepidation. my opinion will vary greatly from many in this thread. i by no means wish to offend anyone here. redemption in terms of chuck and ellie i can get behind, mildly. it’s the other side of mary that i can see no redemption for. her mission was to bring down volkoff. for whatever reason she failed to complete her mission. those reasons have been discussed and speculated on in this thread.

    while she was working for volkoff i can speculate she had to do many things to help volkoff carry out his plans. in some cases protect him from his enemies. she was his enforcer after all. i know he is heavy into arms dealing and many other criminal activities. sticking with the arms dealer portion of his empire, how many weapons found their way into friendly hands? my guess not many. his weapons most likely went to terrorist groups, military groups seeking to take over the countries they live in. criminal groups like drug runners and human slave traders. how many of those weapons could have made it to the US? how else would they get their weapons. i was thinking of the move “the art of war” while writing this. all in all not a nice picture of what he supported. mary helped enable that by not doing anything. how many thousands maybe millions of innocent men women and children were killed because she did nothing. i’m not saying she could have taken down the empire any sooner. by ending his life at the beginning or early on maybe it would not have gotten so big and powerful. i can’t believe that during her entire time she was under cover she could not have gotten any information out. any bit would help. again my speculation.

    its been speculated that she may have been working with orion during part of her mission. if she was doesn’t that make papa b as guilty as she was? why would she contact him if not to pass on information about her mission? in the past underlings have been held accountable for carrying out atrocities ordered by their superiors. while i applaud the effort it took her to keep her family safe, i can’t condone the actions she took to allow volkoff to continue on.

    bottom line for me is she should be allowed redemption from her family for doing what she thought she had to do to keep them safe, but for the crimes she let happen against humanity, no.

    again i hope i didn’t offend anyone, it was not my intent.

    • Olddarth says:

      It’s the Darth Vader quandry once the prequels were done. Vader maybe redeemed in Luke’s eyes but his crimes in the prequels negate any such redemption. 20 years of MamaB serving Volkoff most certainly gave him an ample window to have MamaB do bad things. Her original good intents have long been twisted and corrupted by Volkoff.

      • atcDave says:

        Darth at least had the good story-telling courtesy to die at his moment of redemption. I think mamaB will be a bit more problematic. I don’t think we will ever get a completely acceptable explanation for her behavior.

    • atcDave says:

      There’s no offense army. But for starters I would say redemption and consequences are often two different matters. A mass murderer may be redeemed in a spiritual/personal sense of the word, but that does not absolve them of the consequences they may face under human law. Justice and mercy are two diametrically opposed ideas, and yet there are often reasons why both are appropriate. Only exacting discernment can find the right balance.

      But I expect with Mary the situation will be far simpler. For starters, I doubt a show like Chuck will really worry about all the nuances. I am sure Mary will heroically and at great personal risk help Sarah; and she will be desperately eager to be reunited with family and see her first grandchild. I think for Chuck’s narrative purposes that will probably be enough redemption. I HOPE they take the time to make some covering excuse for the last 20 years like “she re-routed shipments and sabotaged critical items in every order she actually had access to.” Or even that she was getting information to the CIA the whole time, something.
      But you know Chuck tends to go really light on that sort of exposition. I think we’re unlikely to ever get a detailed justification of her behavior.

      I would seriously suggest enjoy the moment for what it is, and don’t go looking for “Chuck” to be “Law & Order”.

      • armysfc says:

        dave. i don’t want chuck to be like those shows. i was giving my opinion on why 1) i don’t care about mary and 2) why i don’t think she deserves redemption. it is an opposite take from most here. all the redemption talk has been from the family side. i just wanted to bring out the bad side of mary that i had not seen talked about much. nothing more and nothing less.

    • JC says:

      I don’t think they’ll ever touch what Mary had to do as Volkoff’s enforcer because I doubt they considered the ramifications of what that entailed.

    • silvercat42 says:

      I doubt that it will happen, but I would like to see an episode where MEB, having returned to the CIA, has to go before an investigative committee to detail what she did and didn’t do as a higher up in Volkoff’s operation.

    • Tamara Burks says:

      Excellant point. At what point is there a difference in helping the bad guy to maintain a cover and actually being the bad guy’s helper. Especially if you add in her having no way to get info back to the CIA since her project was closed soon after she left.

      If she didn’t do anything to actually subvert Volkoff’s operations in any way or if she wasn’t passing info to Orion so that he could actively subvert Volkoff than she really wasn’t doing any good at her stated purpose for being there.

      The only subversion we’ve seen is post Papa B’s death and after Chuck started looking for her and that might have only been to have an excuse to make contact with her family (even though she later played Chuck ) or to get him to stop looking for her.

      There is the possibility that she would have gone to Papa B with the guy in Aisle of terror (if they were working together) or she would have done nothing if Chuck hadn’t been looking for her and she needed the excuse to make contact.

      Even if she was equally help and hindrance (or more help than hindrance) to Volkoff that would make things be a stalemate and her a failure as wife, mother AND agent.

      Was it worth tearing her family apart and missing out on her children’s lives? NO. Not even if it had taken one year instead of 20.

      The minute she realized her cover was blown she should have started figuring who to kill and working out how to hide her family.

      It could be training actually screwed her over here. After all look how much rules, regulations and training screwed over Casey and Sarah. If it hadn’t been a superior officer telling him to abandon his fiance and fake his death do you think he would have done it? No again. He would have found out he had a daughter a long time ago.

      And look at all the damage Sarah did to Chuck and herself because of rules and suggestions . For instance her training telling her to trust fellow agents and not assets or civilians. To not think of the consequences of your actions outside of the mission parameters.

      Maybe that’s why Sarah didn’t get that Chuck wasn’t built to just go on the run and abandon his family and friends . Heck he couldn’t even go without a prescription for skin problems and a favorite comic. Her childhood probably helped play into her inability to understand strong ties like the ones Chuck has.

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