Don’t Stop Believing (It’s All About The Journey)

I know, I just won’t let it go.  Here I go again pounding on the Hero’s Journey and the story and the plot and how they don’t have to be the same thing.  I’ve even created a new category as a warning label for those of you tired of  this same theme infusing my posts.  The thing is that to me at least, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my fandom and the show.  Schwedak have come out and said that this is a Hero’s Journey, and we have the template for that kind of story.  If you’ve missed my previous excessive discourses on the topic you can find a few of them in our archives.  Here or here or here for instance.   I’d recommend the second link to my old post A First Class Journey for a quick explanation.  If you’re averse to re-visiting old posts dealing with season 3 and you aren’t familiar with the Hero’s Journey there are a few links explaining it here and here.   Personally, being familiar with this structure for storytelling really helped me enjoy a lot of season 3.  I expected Chuck and Sarah to seem to lose themselves, only to come back and to come together better and stronger.  When things got dark I tried to look at the big picture and ride it out.  It sometimes helps when you can see things you don’t appreciate in a new light, when they are the building blocks to reach something you do want.  But rather than re-hash season 3 again I want to speculate on how season 4’s journey highlights what has been so great about this show from the beginning, perhaps shed some light on it, and maybe even allow others to either enjoy or overlook some aspects of the season they aren’t happy with.  I’m hopeless, I know, but I can’t stop believing there is a purpose and something to be gained from this conversation as we move forward.  Faith has agreed to join me, to add her own dose of awesome and appreciation, and hopefully to keep me from going to the dark place again (season 3 angst).  So more thoughts on journeys, stories, plots and when they work and don’t, and why Sarah is not a plot device.  After the jump.

Ernie: We often talk about that perfect jem of a season, season 2, as the ideal for Chuck’s genius.  It had it all, love, family, friendship,  bonding, loss, other interlopers in the love affair, a twist or two and finally Chuck taking control of his destiny in a final arc we all describe variously as both epic and awesome.

Happily Ever After ?

So what was that destination?  We’re all so sure that Barstow was the turning point, what did it point us toward?  Sarah leaving the CIA and settling down as a housewife like in suburbs?  Perhaps with a job as a kickboxing instructor at the local health club part time?  Chuck getting a job at the re-organized Roark Industries and doing 9 to 5?  Maybe, but then that’s happily ever after, not Chuck.  Were we really done?  Why?  Because they finally admitted to themselves and each other that they wanted to be together?  Barstow was the beginning of something, but perhaps it wasn’t what we thought.  It was the end of lying to themselves in one sense, though it took some time, and the realization that they both wanted something else, something more than what they had. If the show was going to go on, it had to be something more than before, because our characters had outgrown the limits of that limited life and relationship.  Going after what they wanted, well, given who our heroes are that was a big step and it’s not too surprising that it was initially a disaster.  Sarah wanted Chuck and Chuck wanted to be the man Sarah saw.  But there was more than just that.  Sarah also wanted a home and a family and love, and above all, trust.  Chuck wanted out of Burbank and the life of a BuyMoron.  He wanted to travel and see the world and have adventures that didn’t necessarily involve risking death.  In addition to seeing someone they loved Chuck and Sarah saw each other as someone who could give them what they wanted out of life.  Rather than putting in the hard work they both grabbed for what they wanted with disastrous results.   Chuck thought the 2.0 made him a real spy because he could do Kung Fu.  Sarah thought she could tell Chuck to choose her over everything else.  They grabbed like children at a candle flame, the bright pretty thing, knowing what they wanted but not knowing the reality of grabbing at it before you understand what it means.  Not knowing the responsibility and hard work that having those things meant.  And like children, they both got burnt.

Not a pleasant story, granted, and not always well told.  Also granted.  But here’s the thing.  We wanted more Chuck.  Could you have done another season like 2, where Chuck wanted his “old life” and Sarah wanted to be a “normal girl” and every criminal, spy and terrorist in the world was located somewhere between San Diego and Barstow?  Could you have another season with them never talking because Sarah might get re-assigned or Chuck might get put in a bunker?  Forget theories about what the network may or may not have wanted, other than budget cuts, could they realistically re-do season 2 creatively, or had the characters grown past that?

Wasn’t it about time the spy world cost Chuck something more than a guilty conscience or a missed family dinner party?  Wasn’t it time for Sarah to learn what real heartbreak, the kind she regularly inflicted on Chuck, meant…what it felt like to be told you weren’t enough to make the love of your life take a risk for you?  The very thing that made season 2 genius, the notion of the real/fake relationship became the one thing that was keeping the story and the characters in the same place.  It served it’s purpose, so it needed to go.

The King and Queen of Buymoria

The King and Queen of Buymoria

In season 2 both Chuck and Sarah inhabited a purposefully small world.  Chuck wasn’t ready for the big one and Sarah needed to leave it for a while.  They both needed and found in each other possibilities.  And love.  And it was genius.  Two people who you would never believe together as a couple, and yet through circumstance became the perfect couple.  And yet it was precisely because of that small world they shared that this was possible.  Chuck’s breakups never amounted to much, because Sarah always remained part of his life.  Sarah could only push him so far away.  They had to remain a part of each other’s lives in that world, and with essentially an arranged marriage they learned to make it work and to love each other as much as circumstances allowed.  It was the most amazingly original take on the love story I’d ever seen, two very different people brought together by circumstance chose to love each other even though they were never sure they could actually ever be together the way they wanted.  Clearly for both of them it was the most emotionally fulfilling and simultaneously frustrating relationship they’d ever had.  Maybe that speaks to us as fans too.  I never loved a show as much as Chuck.  I’ve never cared enough about a show to be as frustrated, and to write as much, as I have about Chuck.

Faith: I’m not as well versed into the Hero’s Journey, or much of mythology as Ernie but I do know literature. And psychology. In literature you have to have something called conflict to overcome. Conflict can take many forms, from love interests (the most contemptible kind), to separation, to disease, famine, apocalypse. Whatever form the writer chooses, it’s meant to propel the story forward. So, getting back to Chuck, at its most basic entity, did it do that? I’d say it did.

Chuck and Sarah aren’t the same people as they were. They’re far removed today from the naively in love yet clearly undefined couple they were in the cell in Colonel. They’ve grown from that, more they’ve grown together and become more to each other than either has thought possible. It took all that has happened, yes even hurting each other to get to this point.

See season 4 isn’t genius on the basis of fun, but on the basis of strength. Namely strength in writing, storytelling. They’re accomplishing what few shows in television can even dream of: character progression and they’re doing it with a dash of fun, humor and heart. Lots of heart. As Bones skates through another season of stagnation, Chuck is leap frogging through issues of loss, abandonment, risk, family and love.

Zac Levi remarked in one of his interviews (with Mel from ChuckTV) about how in a way the perennial cancellation threat has propelled the story forward. Propelled the characters forward.

Chuck isn’t sitting at home trying to come up with a font for his 10 year plan any longer. He’s no longer whining  about being helpless with regards to the state of his life, he’s leading. On missions, on finds and most definitely his life. The old Chuck needed to be approached by Sarah because he would never had had the confidence to approach her, much less ask her out. This Chuck knows he’s not only deserving of her love (and it took more than DYLM for that, it took Phase Three and American Hero, etc.) but that he contributes more than his fair share in the relationship and in the job. Remember Couch Lock? A confident, assertive Chuck not only came up with the plan for the mission but he took charge and he moved forward instead of waiting to be asked, “some people want to be heroes and others have to be asked, so Chuck, are you ready?” (Helicopter). See Chuck was never good at going after what he wants; life has dealt him too much and he’s been reeling ever since. Perhaps one of the earliest signs of the current Chuck we see was in Lethal Weapon, “I am going to get this thing out of my head and I will lead the life that I want with the girl that I love.” Even that is a pale imitation to the Chuck we see today. One that braves torture, sacrifice and grabs life. One that planned the ultimate battle royale against James Bond, er the best villain Chuck has ever had, Alexei Volkoff. One that owns his destiny, “I have a plan.” He’s gone from,

Chuck: “Everyone’s been asking me what I’m going to do with my future but the truth is I don’t have a clue, all I know is I want you to be in it,” (Ring) to

Chuck: “I want to spend my life with you  going on missions, saving the world anything. But mostly I want to be with you.” (Note that in both the girl takes precedent, isn’t that the point? The heart never lies and Chuck is a guy that follows his heart. But what he’s willing to do about it and how much he’s willing to risk for it is the true sign of maturity.)

A far cry from the Chuck that just this season claimed he wasn’t ready: “who are we kidding I’m barely on solid foods myself!”  (and he wasn’t ready, neither of them were)

Among the things that are most contemptible (at least to some of the fans) this season is that Chuck seems to have fallen behind certain characters, namely Morgan. So let’s tackle that head on. Has Chuck fallen on the maturity ladder compared to Morgan? Not at all. You have to remember that this is Chuck’s journey, not Morgan’s. Morgan has always been the retail therapist, and his role is Alfred. He’s there to support Chuck in any capacity. The hero suffers through trials and tribulations and triumphs while the sidekick helps. It’s as simple as that. So no, Morgan is not more mature, he’s a sounding board. There’s a difference. Chuck, this season has been more mature than he’s ever been. From confronting and outsmarting Volkoff, to asking more from Sarah, to talking it out. These are the things  he didn’t do previously. Emotionally he’s definitely a lot more mature. He has moments of insecurity but it’s part of his personality. As a hero, he’s far removed from the guy that essentially, although inadvertently used Sarah as a human shield in Nemesis. This Chuck not only knows how to use his fists, but is secure in his convictions as his father’s son, “he taught me appearances can be deceiving, protect your family and never use a gun unless you have to.” This Chuck (the hero) is Orion’s legacy and it took all that has happened to get to this point. Yes, even losing the intersect, because it made him realize he’s Chuck Bartowski and he does that on his own. Sarah in turn has had to learn to let him be on missions, and fight (his) battles with her.

All of this and yet Chuck is still our Chuck, he cares about people and he will lead with his heart. His search for his mom is more than just about family, but heart. His heart. In season 2 Chuck searched for his father for his sister, because he wanted her to have her one dream: walking down the aisle with her dad. In season 4, Chuck is searching for his mom for himself. “I thought I had to bring my family together, but I don’t. You guys, Awesome, Ellie, you’re my family.” He lost his mom at a young age. He wants to save her. Be her hero. At the dawn of his new life (marriage to Sarah), he wants more than a clean slate, he wants answers. He wants closure. To move forward, we often have to look back and this season is about both of that. “Ellie’s right, Bartowskis look out for their family and it’s time I put my family back together again.” Not to mention his father passed this mission on to him, “this was my father’s mission and I have to finish it.” His dead father. One who died through his actions, “I’m the one who chose to be a spy and it’s him who paid the price.”

Sarah has taken a similar path. She’s evolved. Ernie talks about the journey to heroism, well in Sarah’s case the journey isn’t so much heroism as it is to being a “real girl.” One of the things that I find most notable about this season is the incremental and obvious character progression not just in Chuck, but also Sarah-the-girlfriend. We start off with Sarah on numerous missions. In years past Sarah Walker, superspy didn’t have anyone to miss, now she’s not just missing Chuck she’s sexting him (one of the funniest bits of the early season). When once Chuck had to teach her about humor (Living Dead), now she’s joking (Couch Lock). Now she’s not only acting (Colonel), she’s talking (Phase Three). Now she’s not only considering his feelings (Suitcase), she’s feeling some of her own (Balcony). Nervous Sarah is mind boggling! It’s a testament not just to the depth of her feelings but the importance of this relationship to her and her future.

Sarah didn’t set out to “save” Mary because she wanted to save the world, she was saving Mary for Chuck; to give Chuck peace of mind, and she’s doing it for them.  “I promised Chuck, I wouldn’t come home without you,” let’s think on that for a moment. When was the last time we heard Sarah promise Chuck anything? Once upon a time she couldn’t even give him an answer, much less promise a future: “one mission at a time, Chuck.” See Chuck isn’t the only one that wants closure or answers, she does too. But her questions are far more than “why did you leave,” it’s how will I make this work? If this woman with a life and a family couldn’t have both, how can she attempt to? She’s got baggage after all. Yvonne Strahovski put it best (in uplink’s Emmy4Yvonne interview): “it’s been a great journey. As I mentioned earlier she was never very good at expressing herself and to go from that, to growing into someone who started to express herself more is great. I feel like getting together with Chuck has finally started to open her up. This is what she has always wanted, a normal life, within her spy life. Someone like Chuck.”

 

Anniversary

Phase Three

Nevertheless the true genius of this season lies in the details. Subtle details that make what is a good episode into a borderline great one. Even in Balcony, whom among us wasn’t reminded of First Date when Sarah said, “what about tonight?” (hint: “what about me?” was the line Sarah uttered during their second first date, complete with head tilt and intonation). Whom among us wasn’t reminded of Chuck in the gondola admiring the view when Sarah admired an equally beautiful view and said, “Chuck look at where we are!” Whom among us wasn’t reminded of their moment in the beach as Chuck and Sarah enter a different beginning and pledge a future to each other in the hospital hallway in Push Mix? More than that, it’s the emotion and the progression from one to another that’s most impressive. In the gondola, Chuck’s alone, lonely, missing Sarah. In Balcony they’re finally together and are sharing that which they have always wished they can freely share: “a life, a real life,” (Ring) a future. They’re now confident in the feelings they have for one another and they’re finally ready to take the next step (Push Mix). There is no more waffling on trust and devotion, because they’re both all in. Even in Gobbler’s shades of Mauser, Chuck moved to get an explanation rather than stand pat and emotionally distance himself from her. The writers have reinvented that which hallmarked seasons pasts and made it better. This search for MamaB is shades of PapaB. The quest to reunite a family, the risks one takes for love (Sarah going rogue, sounds familiar?), the  culmination of a hero and a lover’s journey–but they’re doing it far more impressively. The continuity is solid, the emotions consistent and the intent on display. All of this in the scope of 11 episodes and there are more coming.

Ernie: I know I dwell on the journey a lot.  To me it is the big story, the one that keeps me in it for the long run when you hit a mediocre episode or two.  As far as I’m concerned there hasn’t been a bad episode since Chuck Versus The American Hero.  But the genius of both season 2 and 4 is that, as Faith says, the writing is there.  They have a great story that now spans four years, and the storytelling has been genius for three of those four.  From the start Chuck was capable of great acts of bravery, like running toward a bomb that needed defusing.  But the same Chuck literally hid behind Sarah in Nemesis when Bryce and Sarah faced off.   Yes, Sarah cared for and protected Chuck bravely from the start, but the same Sarah regularly lied to and manipulated Chuck either on orders or to get him to do what she wanted.  When he got too close she didn’t hesitate to push him away and when he started to stray she didn’t hesitate to draw him back in.  When he wasn’t open to being manipulated or when she slipped up, Sarah took out her anger and frustration on Chuck.  We saw both of them as both heroes and flawed people, and we’ve watched them grow.  Both were admirable and heros in the wider sense from the start, but they had their flaws and it was in seeing them learn and overcome their fears and weaknesses that the story is told.  In Sarah’s case we got a bit more weakness than we needed.  But we needed to see some.  If Sarah Walker was really all Chuck thought, then she didn’t need him.  If she was a super-confident super-spy who could have any man she wanted, or kick his ass if she felt like it, if she truly thrived in the world she inhabited as Chuck first thought, with guys like Bryce and Cole, then he had little to offer her.  But we saw as early as Wookie that there was more to Sarah than Chuck saw, and it was laid out more than once in season 2, in Cougars and DeLorean, that Sarah was as much a lost soul as Chuck had been.

Faith: Rita Hayworth once said, “men fell in love with Gilda but they wake up with me.” I like that you brought up the humanity in Sarah, Ernie. She’s a bit like Rita Hayworth in that on the surface almost too good to be true but beneath lies a real person. Chuck needed to see that person (we saw it, but Chuck really didn’t, initally). The flaws, the vulnerability, the struggle. It made her more real and made her more identifiable. Delorean and Cougars are two of the best episodes of all 4 years because of that; and the story and the introspection hasn’t ended. Even in season 4 we’re still mining the field that is Sarah Walker. I just can’t get over how casually she revealed the story about her parent’s proposal. Nor the flash of the vulnerability she showed with “I don’t get butterflies.”

Something I didn’t really get into with my diatribe about storytelling is that on Chuck there always seems to be a microcosm and a macrocosm growth, progression and story. Throughout the 4 years these characters have grown leaps and bounds but there is a story and a progression to be told within the 4 years.  It’s only to be expected that within the season there will be moments of ups and downs, of development and of milestones, none more so than on Chuck (the character). That’s how the best stories unfold, and why it is that Chuck is one of the best shows (if not the best in recent memory) in television.

Ernie: Which brings me to my next point. (You didn’t really think we were done did you?)  Chuck has managed to stay at the top of my list because like it’s characters the show has evolved and grown.  I know some people miss the lighthearted nature of much of season 2.  I often go back to some of those episodes for a refreshing taste of just that lightness and fun.  I still enjoy them just as much, but a part of me now sees the limitations of that show, the one set in a Buy More in Burbank where the government concealed their greatest intelligence asset.  Where did most of the fun, the drama, the danger and the action come from?  When Chuck got out of the car.  The premise that carried the show forward was Chuck, who for years had done nothing to move forward, was now stuck in that life, and he finally started to push back.  It was Chuck pushing against the boundaries that were suddenly real and not of his making and the threat that those boundaries could become a bunker that gave us a show worth watching.  But was it just about Chuck growing up?  Well sort of.  If you look at Chuck, the character, and what his leaving that small world did to everyone involved you see that it is and always has been the wonderfully written and acted characters and the real-ness and warmth of their relationships that was the foundation for everything else.  We cared about the show because we cared about the people.  By preserving those aspects the show has managed to move forward, to grow along with the characters, but still retain enough of that season 2 genius to hold most of it’s audience.  Chuck got out of the car, and he brought Ellie and Awesome, Casey and Morgan and especially Sarah along with him.

And here I arrive at my final (heh) point.  The show has grown up.  A thought struck me in First Fight, when all the betrayals and twists start to fall in place at the end, and you see how thoroughly Chuck has been played by everyone.  Finally he’s playing against grown-ups, was my first thought.  While I don’t want to detract from great villains past like Roark or Vincent, Fulcrum and The Ring never seemed that threatening.  It always struck me as a scrimmage game among a bunch of mid-twenty-somethings with no larger experiences or smarts than Chuck.  At first I thought it was a generational thing, seeing Timothy Dalton and Linda Hamilton, an older generation, as the villains, but it wasn’t.  It was more like what Scott Bacula brought to Orion.  A sense that he’d lived in, inhabited this world for years, and he knew his way around it.  Remember in Living Dead, how utterly foolish and fruitless Chuck’s denials to his father seemed.  Orion wasn’t fooled for a second.  Ever.  And at this point it was established Chuck could be a pretty good liar if he needed to be.  That was the sense I got from both Mary and Volkoff.  This was their world.  Chuck was a tourist.

So the bar has been moved on Chuck again.  Both the show and the character.  Where we used to have Ned and  Mauser crash into the Buy More to see what it’s hiding, or have Vincent get the drop on Chuck to steal a laptop and lure out Orion now we have Volkoff take over a fully armed base with a team of mercenaries and an incendiary device, ready to kill everyone if he didn’t get his way.  Which had more emotional impact, Sarah’s tears and panic on the roof with Longshore in Marlin, or the end of Phase Three?  Which seemed the more real and heartbreaking loss, Sarah driving off in Broken Heart, Prague, or the simple look over her shoulder as she’s led away in chains at the end of Balcony?  Despite the awkward teen years Chuck has accomplished something remarkable few shows can do.  It’s brought us along for the journey the characters have been on for four years.

Wookie

Marlin

Faith: You make a great point Ernie. Chuck isn’t a sitcom with a villain of the week, at least not any longer. No longer is Chuck battling against Lazlo, he’s dealing with Volkoff. It is and has become a show with high stakes and real emotions. Yes at times the logic falls to the side but the emotion is always real and this idea of what he risks losing is always genuine and compelling. All the more so now that he has a future, with Sarah and she in turn has one with him.

The Chuck Bartowski who could only secretly search for his father through computers and guile (i.e. Chuck’s board) is now using that strength on a much larger scale, and more he’s expanded on it. He’s storming through barriers, he’s devising elaborate plans (the plan to take out Volkoff was genius) and he’s traveling the world and encountering challenges head on (Tangiers, nonewithstanding ha). Chuck is not your typical spy but he pays attention to people, he sees their strengths and weaknesses and he knows how to work within or if necessary outside of the system to do what needs to be done. Time was he needed to call information to get to General Beckman, now he’s leading the charge with his plan and with Beckman as backup. Conviction has become one of Chuck’s greatest strengths but it has been hard fought. He had to fight (his) demons, both internally and externally to get to this point. He’s been doing that all season long. The Chuck Bartowski who could only hint at his feelings and could only hope to get girl:

Chuck: “We both know how I feel about you so I’m just going to shoot. Sarah you’re the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. You’re beautiful you’re smart, you laugh at all my stupid jokes and you have this horrible habit of constantly saving my life. The truth is you’re everything I thought I ever wanted and more. And for the last few days all I can think about is our future together, about what it’s going to be like once I finally have the intersect out of my head, how we would finally be together for real, no fake relationships, no covers no lies. But the more I think about it the more I realize it could never really be real…I’m a normal guy, who wants a normal life and as amazing as you are Sarah Walker, we both know, you will never be normal,”

now goes after her. With everything he’s got:

Sarah: “I’ve been in so many places around the world but I’ve never been to a place as beautiful as this.”

Chuck: “I have, everyday. Every morning I wake up and I look at you, and we brush our teeth tandem style, when we watch TV together, anything, always. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. I feel like I should be James Bond right now you know the guy that’s standing in front of you in this moment.

Sarah: “I didn’t fall in love with James Bond, I fell in love with you.”

Chuck: “Sarah, I want to spend my life with you  going on missions, saving the world anything. But mostly I want to be with you. At your side, always.”

and the funnest part is that the girl? She’s in there for the ride too, driving in tandem with him!

So yes, the journey has been beyond satisfying and the heart? It makes Chuck, the best show on television bar none.

Ernie: So to wrap things up, this could have been the end of the series, and a very satisfying one at that.  The genius season gave us the closure both we and Chuck crave, yet left enough prologue to move forward.  Chuck has finished his journey.  He’s taken on his fathers legacy and triumphed where his father failed.  He has reunited his family and can now start his own.  He has saved Sarah Walker from becoming just a spy, like his mother was.  Like he did with the ballerina, the little girl who due to her father’s mistakes lost something precious, Chuck has found a way to give Sarah back that which she lost, a way home to a loving family and a future.

Yes

Having triumphed against the final enemy on the threshold of his home, the hero may then return, a  changed man, to his life and his family and the comforts he turned away from to undertake his journey and fulfil his destiny.  That is happily ever after, and genius.

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
This entry was posted in Ernie's Lame Hero's Journey Meme, Observations, Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

98 Responses to Don’t Stop Believing (It’s All About The Journey)

  1. joe says:

    Satisfying. That’s absolutely right.

    I know some fans look back at season 1 and especially season 2 and say to themselves “I miss that.” I understand. Every time I hear the music (and thank you for that wonderful montage up top, Faith), I miss that too.

    But you guys are right. Chuck has outgrown those boundaries. It could be great fun, but to go back there could easily seem limiting.

    Honestly, as Chuck has grown he’s taken us along with him.

  2. atcDave says:

    Thanks for this excellent post you two. I loved your take on S2 (and S1); well mostly, I thought Fulcrum was a pretty intimidating heavy. I think the problem both Fulcrum and The Ring had was that they were organizations, which means at some point they need to be personalized to add emotional impact. Roark was credible villain, nearly on Volkoff’s level, but they failed in not making the Roark/Fulcrum/Ring connection clear. Fulcrum seemed to simply go away when Roark was defeated (or was it absorbed by the Ring?) I think these are the sort of things that drive some fans nuts; and Volkoff was certainly easier to “get” as a villain. I’m only mentioning this because I don’t agree about dismissing the earlier baddies as somehow adolescent, Fulcrum, Roark, La Ciudad, etc were all well conceived villains; only finally overshadowed by a truly gifted actor like Timothy Dalton who was able to carry so much menace in a typical, off-beat, Chuck sort of way. My bet is we won’t get another villain this season who can really compare.

    Much as I did appreciate you not dwelling on S3, you know I can’t leave it completely alone. You seem to approach the strategic issue here as if the only choices were to repeat S2 or go dark. I think there is a huge number of options, including a large number that would have been more satisfying to viewers and been better received. I don’t think there’s any disputing Chuck and Sarah both needed growth in order to be anything like a healthy couple; but it was a strategic error on the level of “Barbarossa” (errr, just a little hyperbole there!) to think the show could plow ahead with its number one asset (Levi/Strahovski on screen together) not in use all season. The heart of the show was always Chuck and Sarah on screen together, so after a needed fan campaign to save a bubble show; we get a show none of us even recognize. Oops! I think a season of Chuck learning the ropes as a real spy while Sarah helps him cope with a host personal/emotional/moral quandaries; while contrasted with Chuck helping Sarah learn how to separate professional and personal issues to become a “normal” girl; would have satisfied most of the growth issues and audience desires far more effectively.
    I know I’ve belabored this endlessly and have been a bit of a broken record, but no matter what the demands for character growth (or any other story telling need) may be, it is the job of the entertainer to serve their audience. Or as I put it the other day, when the entertainees are not entertained the entertainer has failed. There is value in trying to understand what they were doing, but I never want to loose sight of the fact they failed most of us, and they needed to find a better option.
    Okay, sorry about that, rant over.

    I loved your handling of S4. It has been so satisfying to watch; and I love your examination of all the levels of “genius” at work. It is helpful for us mere simpletons to look closely at all the different things going on in this story. I can’t find much to say about it than that, but I loved reading your far wordier take on things!

    And Ernie, I’m sorry things are looking bad for the Duck!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Much as I did appreciate you not dwelling on S3, you know I can’t leave it completely alone. You seem to approach the strategic issue here as if the only choices were to repeat S2 or go dark.

      Dave, you have a point, and I guess my point is that based on the place in the structure of the story season 3 was going to be dark in parts. How dark is the issue, I agree. I said I expected them to lose each other because that is a big part of the Hero’s learning curve. He tries something before he’s ready and is humbled by the loss. Next time around he knows better.

      We can argue endlessly whether the LIs were needed as part of this, I frankly don’t think they were, and frankly they needed to spend some time with Chuck and Sarah at least attempting to get together, more than two conversations lasting less than a minute total, for the loss to have impact in my opinion. But I expected a rough season for both Chuck and Chuck and Sarah. I didn’t expect quite so rough of one for Sarah, but did predict some character damage from the LI arc. Now damage can be repaired by, well a little retcon and some more depth, and I think they’ve done that, but point taken, it could have been largely avoided if they didn’t go down the creative path they chose.

      • atcDave says:

        And I would certainly agree most the character damage has been repaired. Especially by focusing heavy on Sarah this season; and having her be the pursuer some (I’m thinking of Phase 3 and “taking over the mission” in Balcony). There are some other things I would do if I were calling the shots, but I’m mostly satisfied with the effort they’ve made.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        There are some other things I would do if I were calling the shots
        Permanently finish off Plywood? 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Maybe something involving a wood chipper…

        Kidding really, I don’t even care about Shaw.

      • JC says:

        I’ll second that, most of the damage has been repaired. In fact I would say they went out of their way with Sarah this season. Now that did lead to some regression with Chuck but after three seasons of nothing it was nice to see them expanding Sarah’s character. They just need to realize one character doesn’t have to regress or look stupid to have the other shine. Basically its an issue of balance and I’m hoping they’ve learned from these front thirteen.

        I do think there are a couple issues still hanging, one I would love for them to explore and the other could open a can of worms.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        I do think there are a couple issues still hanging, one I would love for them to explore and the other could open a can of worms.

        Do expound on them. We (I am) are eager to see what the issues are that you would like to see explored. 🙂

      • atcDave says:

        I thought they’d really fixed most damage to Chuck too, right from Anniversary just by rejecting the lies/secrets and rejoining the agency behind his sister’s back. My only real complaint with Chuck this season had to do with his insecurities coming back in force during the Intersectless arc. It would have been a fun opportunity to show a new, more confident hero even without his crutch.

        But seriously I never saw it as that big a thing (sorry JC, I know that was a big issue to you).

      • JC says:

        @Genie

        The one I want is how far can Chuck go as a spy in Sarah’s eyes. That’s something the show was never clear about and IMO could lead to some real dramatic stories. They kinda blew a great chance in FOD with the whole emotional rock idea because in some ways I could see it being true. He holds back as a spy because he fears how Sarah will react.

        The second is the name reveal but that’s treading dangerous waters and could lead to some unpleasant memories. I just can’t see how it won’t be addressed with a wedding coming. Although they just might skirt the issue with her saying her legal name was changed to Sarah Walker at some point. Maybe on one those DC trips 😉

      • jason says:

        @genie – “There are some other things I would do if I were calling the shots …..
        Permanently finish off Plywood?”

        I could see about a 60 second scene, where Mary pays a visit to Daniel Shaw, reminds him (and us) of who he killed in cold blood, the next day, Beckman tells the team that shaw committed suicide in his cell, that somehow, he was able to sneak a gun into his cell.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        they just might skirt the issue with her saying her legal name was changed to Sarah Walker at some point. Maybe on one those DC trips 😉

        I heard that she might have gone to the Registrar’s office straight from Tiffany’s – for the name change that is 😉

        With a wedding coming up in the future, I do wonder how they will handle it. I expect them to gloss over it completely.

      • atcDave says:

        Agree about the name thing. I think the “how far can Chuck go” issue is stickier.
        At this point, you would think the relationship would be strong enough for Sarah to have considerably more confidence in Chuck’s character and judgement. Really she just shouldn’t be as worried about it. I don’t think Chuck should be worried about it either; I mean he’s run missions and plans, he’s used deadly force in the appropriate situations, he has a good sense of right and wrong and he knows it. I know it still irks you JC, but it doesn’t really register with me.

        My own issue, and I know I’m in a pretty small minority who’s still bothered by it, but I still wish they would just erase the Sham. It wouldn’t even be that hard, but after they made everything worse in Living Dead I know they have no intention of ever doing anything about it. But even so; it would still be so easy to undo it all with a simple Sarah line “Shaw sure was trying hard to get in my pants but he never did.”. That still irks me as much as Sarah’s standards for Chuck seem to irk JC.

      • JC says:

        @Dave

        Yeah that did get under my skin mainly because it was just a setup for Phase Three. I said it above they don’t need to go there. It they wanted Sarah to rescue Chuck and feel guilty because of something she said there were other ways of doing it without making Chuck look like an idiot.

      • JC says:

        @Dave

        Yeah it really does bother me. But I do admit my opinion is biased since I really didn’t see Chuck doing anything wrong or different than he had in previous seasons in the front part of S3. And to have him do those things again in 3.5 and this season kinda cemented the stupidity of it in my mind.

      • jason says:

        @jc – to borrow your example, kind of the executions vs the slide which I think is a brilliant analysis, I view chuck as a get smart character (i.e. the slide), hence, I accept that he is written inconsistently, sarah on the other hand has always been the mauser character, so she needs to be written painstakingly accurately … I thought after 3×13’s shaw shooting, & honeymooners, that the two would meet, but that lasted exactly one episode, I sort of feel like here we are again, after 4×13 (and a few other times in season 4, like after 4×1 or 4×5), will the two of them get on the same page, I sort of think not, too bad really, I think the show is better when they are playing from the same play book.

        @dave – the crazy fanboys got such a kick out of making fun of the shippers over the tiffany earing scene, I would love for TPTB to make a similar scene like you describe, played for jokes, I’ll bet the crazy fanboys would cry like school girls if somehow sham was retconned away, I would laugh and laugh – I’d suggest using jeff & lester in the scene somehow

      • atcDave says:

        Geez Jason, that would be so funny. Especially having everyone laughing at the thought Sarah would have ever been with the two by four.

      • andyt says:

        Ernie I would agree with this take on S3. I have re-watched some of these episodes in recent days(iced in and can’t go to work). There is only one element that I would change about S3 and it would be the Sarah/Shaw relationship. Instead of LI, it would have been a friendship/spy partnership. To Chuck this would look like losing Sarah since he knows about the Bryce/Sarah relationship. I would not change the Hannah “flirtation” because I believe that it taught Chuck a valualbe lesson about both who he loves and the consequences of the choice he made to be a spy. All of the other dark material was very necessary. I think Sarah had to believe that she was losing Chuck and Chuck had to go to some bad places in order to grow up and lose much of his naivety about the world.

    • Verkan_Vall says:

      I’m a member of that small minority that Dave mentioned, only I’m farther out towards the edge. How far out? I didn’t see any hyperbole in the Barbarossa reference.

      Ernie & Faith: thank you for the post. As always when I read the writeups on this blog, you highlight things that I discounted or missed entirely when I watched the show. Ernie, your mention of the hero’s journey brought into focus something that has been lurking in the back of my mind for some time: I see Chuck as Telemachus searching for the father (Odysseous) that he never knew. The analogy isn’t perfect, so I’ll drop it, but thanks for opening that door for me.

      I agree with you, Dave: season 4 is great, maybe even genius, but they haven’t repaired all of the damage yet. To use a few words from another thread, the “Stench of Season 3” isn’t going to be lifted until they neuter Shaw once and for all. It can be a simple sentence or two as you suggested, or it could be Jason’s idea of a full blown scene complete with Jeff and Lester (I do like that), but removing Sham would have a significant effect.

      It would shed a whole new light on entire sections of Season 3. It could make episodes that I’ve sworn I’ll never see again watchable. And it might be exactly what we need to bring up the ratings. A neutered Shaw, a classy name reveal and a wedding would be a great way to round out the season. And of course you’re right, it won’t happen. We might get the wedding this season, but the name reveal will be glossed over and Shaw is untouchable.

      Ah well, just have to take what I can get: Push Mix was very good, this was a much better season that I could have hoped for back in May. I need to escape now and then, and Chuck is still the best escapist entertainment on TV.

      Thanks for your time.

      • atcDave says:

        Very funny Verkan; here I was wondering how many people would even get the Barbarossa reference, I didn’t expect any agreement!

        I love classical mythology and I can certainly see the Telemachus parallel (as long as it isn’t pushed too far).

        But I think I agree with almost all of that. S4 has been wonderful and an absolute blast. S3 was not; they will likely never fix all they did wrong, but at least they’re moving past it.

      • Faith says:

        And so should we ;). Ok me heh.

  3. JC says:

    I always look forward to these posts since Chuck’s journey is one of favorite things about the show. So dwell away Ernie.

    And I agree with most of what you guys said but I do have some issues, shocking I know.

    I don’t think the show really knows what to do with Chuck as a hero. Part of it seems to be they don’t want to lose that everyman aspect or connection to the audience with him. But I think it also has to do with their retcon of the spy world in S3. They tried to turn it into a dark and gritty place where to be a real spy you lose your humanity. That doesn’t track with the first two seasons, in fact it contradicts it a lot. So Chuck can’t be a “real”spy like Bryce or Cole but they don’t let him shine in other areas because they want the Kung Fu Chuck. And like a lot of the story, I think they hold back on his heroics till the finales to make it epic.

    With Sarah for me it seems like they’re starting from a clean slate with most of her characterization and journey. Again I think this started in S3 with the whole losing yourself in the spy world issues and they’re working from there. In fact my guess is the little bit of Sarah’s development we saw in the first two seasons has been scrapped.

    • atcDave says:

      There is some validity to your points JC. Some of it may be unintended consequences, but making the spy world darker in S3 certainly has had negative impact on both Chuck and Sarah’s growth. Although I think they’ve kind of reverted back to S2 status on some of that, I don’t believe we’ve had any Red Test mentions this season; but we’ve had plenty of “con-man’s daughter” talk, and we’ve certainly seen a kinder General Beckman (well, mostly).
      I think, in spite of the “needed growth” we got out of S3, TPTB would mostly rather forget it.

      • JC says:

        I know I’m in the minority but I really do think the direction they took the spy world last season really damaged everything on the show. It has nothing to do with dark or light but changing the world and characters you created to suit the story you want to tell. Having a CIA who orders hits like a gang and then having them build a castle slide doesn’t gel in my mind. You can go dark and dramatic but do it within the boundaries of your world.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        2 things.

        Firstly, the “dark” story they were trying tell I think would have worked or at least worked better without the additional burden of either of the LI’s. If you sit back and start erasing all the LI foolishness (I truly wish I could) there is a decent story there. Just don’t take 13 episodes to tell it.

        Secondly, if your going to go dark don’t hold back. Don’t be Alias, but don’t hold back. Just think how satisfying it would have been to have Chuck essentially lose himself completely in the spy world only to have the now more “human” Sarah be the one to show him his human side again. They’d meet in the middle.

      • JC says:

        @Joesph

        The idea of going all out with dark Chuck makes sense and would’ve worked but we all know they would never taint him like that.

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      Ernie and Faith – Thanks. 😉

      JC

      And like a lot of the story, I think they hold back on his heroics till the finales to make it epic.

      I really hope TPTB give a dose of Chuck’s heroics in every episode from now on. Episodes like 3×13, 3x18and19, 4×13 have set a high bar on Chuck’s abilities, smarts and planning skills. So, if in the future we see him acting clueless, terrified and out of depth – it is like a backwards step for the character (although I am confident that TPTB would not go down that path again). Now that he is engaged to Sarah and has shown the necessary confidence to take down nefarious bad guys, it only stands to reason that whatever hurdles (personal and professional) that come in his path should be handled with confidence, maturity and a strong sense of purpose. No sense in harping back to his insecurities – bringing back Mama B, getting engaged to Sarah and earning high accolades from Beckman should hopefully be enough to put an end to them (insecurities). All the above and less screen time for Morgan (my personal opinion) will surely make Chuck(character) a delight to watch and root for.

      • James Bond says:

        I think take shaw out of season three and a better conversation at the prague station then season 3 would have been fine

  4. Jen says:

    I’m so lookign fwd to reading this.. damn work!!!!
    Miss discussing Chuck w all u guys 😦

  5. jason says:

    @ernie, are you going to write a hero’s journey summary when the show finishes, fitting the entire show into the format?

    @Faith – I tend to look at the show more like you than ernie, but isn’t it fun to watch him struggle to make that darned structure fit the show, I mean the show fit the structure, ah, I give up.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      The fun thing is Jason, they are using the structure. I can tell you ahead of time that there will be two “down” periods for each aspect of the Chuck story in every show, arc, and season. The first will come in the middle, the second just before the climax. At the beginning of each season Chuck appears to be done as a spy, but then is pulled into the spy world by something. At the end of each season he seems to be leaving for a life as a regular guy or a life with Sarah away from being a spy. It’s actually almost too easy. One of the things that makes this season a bit lighter in general is that in the structure it fits under the general category of celebration and journey home.

  6. joe says:

    Would you like to get a sense of what I remember of the last 67 Chuck episodes, and why I’d like to see more?

    Ernie, Faith, somehow this doesn’t seem completely OT.

  7. uplink2 says:

    What I have grown to like so much about this site in the last month or two that I have been coming here is that each time I read one of these essays I pick up on little things that I have never really thought of. Small aspects, comparisons and connections on the show that once they are pointed out to me by some of the great writers and thinkers here help me understand why this show has become such an important part of my life. Why I spend time re-watching and re-watching certain elements and in some cases absolutely refuse to ever watch again. How I wish I could erase a few of them from my brain. I really have to think about how I see certain elements if I’m going to match wits with so many of the great members here. You have all helped make me a better fan, focus my thoughts and gain a better appreciation for this little gem of a show.

    Now that I have stroked some egos, here is that small part of this story that really caught me the first time I read it and the more I think of it the more I see its simple beauty.
    Chuck has finished his journey. He’s taken on his fathers legacy and triumphed where his father failed. He has reunited his family and can now start his own. He has saved Sarah Walker from becoming just a spy, like his mother was. Like he did with the ballerina, the little girl who due to her father’s mistakes lost something precious, Chuck has found a way to give Sarah back that which she lost, a way home to a loving family and a future.
    Sarah really is like the ballerina and Jack Burton and the CIA are like the ballerina’s father. Sarah lost the precious gift of normalcy. She never even had the chance to have it till she walked into that Buy More with a broken phone. In the simple act of kindness and heroism Chuck gave that little girl and her father a chance at getting that something precious back. He didn’t do it for any reason other than, that was who he was. He did the same for Sarah. He gave her back a home and a family and a precious love that until that day at the Buy More was never within her grasp. There was no “digital tape” in her heart till Chuck put it there.

    For Chuck, Sarah and his journey have brought him to where he could do what his father and mother couldn’t because they tried to do it alone. Chuck knew the key to greatness lies in the relationships you have and how you honor them. Like Bryce once said, he had one friend while Chuck had a store full of them. He knew that his strength came from that store full of friends and family and that in the end they would always triumph. Coming to that place is what made the scene in the hallway possible. His heroes journey and Sarah’s growth brought them to the right place together. A moment that couldn’t have been possible without each other and the strength they gained from the people around them.

    • Joeeph (can't be Joe) says:

      Deep. 🙂

    • Verkan_Vall says:

      Agreed.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Uplink, I feel well buttered up, thank you. I have to say that I sometimes feel a bit self-indulgent with these posts, and sometimes I tend to gush a bit, but I’ll let others take care of the negativity sometimes and just gush. There is so much richness to this show that I think people sometimes miss and I want to share that. So I absolutely love posts like this, writing them is a blast and it really is nice to hear that someone else enjoys them maybe almost as much as I do.

      I want to also point out that I’ve really enjoyed a collaboration with Faith on a few posts, and this shouldn’t be construed as meaning that I haven’t enjoyed all my collaborations, but Faith and I started this project a few weeks ago, and a few other things grew out of it because I found, and I hope she agrees, that sometimes our styles, different as they are, end up being complimentary. I talk big arcs and journeys and growth, and Faith brings those points home, constantly shaming me by providing concrete examples of my vague allusions both visually and with the quotes. It’s easy to sound insightful when someone else makes your case. 😉

      I also want to say something about our readers (and I’m getting out the butter…in a non-creepy way). We have some of the best posters out there, and it makes my hobby so much more fun and easier. Back in the day I worked as both a waiter and bartender at times, and there was an axiom we lived with. A satisfied customer rarely talks to more than one or maybe two people about a satisfying experience. A pissed off one tells everyone. That we have so many satisfied readers warms my heart, so thanks. And this applies to everyone who says nice things, or just lurks and enjoys, or even the ones who care enough to tell us we’re wrong, because the one drawback of getting so many comments and points of view is, as you know keeping up is sometimes a bit much for a hobbyist and part time blogger.

    • joe says:

      Can’t thank you enough, Uplink.

      Short story. Sometime in the early spring of ’09 (about the time of Best Friend and Suburbs) I was on a kick of introducing myself to new people, making eye contact, greeting people and making a lot of new friends. After only a couple of weeks people were responding big time.

      Met a lovely young lady that way, and since it was a Monday morning, she said (a bit reflexively) something like “It’s Monday. I hate Mondays.” To that I responded (with a twinkle, I’m sure). “I used to. But my favorite show is on tonight.”

      “Do you mean Chuck?

      Yeah, devilish grins all around. It was like we belonged to a secret club, and it wasn’t the only time it happened like that.

      That’s my way of saying the rewards of meeting everyone and getting to know a little bit about you all have not been small – for any of us, I’m sure. This may have started as a labor of love for the show. But honestly, I don’t think love sits still like that. It tends to grow and expand when it can, even to the virtual community.

      Have I got you all to go “Awwww” yet?? 😉

      • milkyway says:

        You don’t know me but I know you because I listened to the CNN. Then I discovered this site 2 weeks ago. It’s amazing. I love Chuck very much, for all the reasons that you guys do. And I discover with this show a community of fans who are intelligent, dedicated, enthusiastic and generous. I like the way that people on this site analyze the show, all the layers and subtieties. I see all the richness of the show too, even if it’s not a perfect spy show or comedy or drama. It’s about something else:family and relationships. Thank you for all the interesting articles.

      • atcDave says:

        Milky way we’re always happy to have new commenters here so, welcome!
        We’re a pretty talkative community and have a variety of opinions. We love debating and discussing, so feel free to express yourself. And most of all, we’re all here because we love this show.

      • joe says:

        I feel the same way about the community, Milkyway. But you knew that already! 😉

        Welcome to the group – Like Dave said, we always enjoy new people adding to the discussion.

        As for not knowing you, well, we know a little. You are a Chuck fan, and that tells us something. Almost always it tells us something good.

  8. andyt says:

    Another great essay Ernie. I know that I have said this before, but I do feel like I am in a minority at times. I love Chuck alot, it is obviously my favorite show, but I truly do not have a favorite season. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, but each has been thoroughly enjoyable and fun. Also, I seriously do not know if there is a single “bad” episode of Chuck. Even Buffy had a stinker in some of its seasons(Bad Eggs, Doublemeat Palace I’m looking at you), but I have found many things to enjoy in each episode of every season. Chuck is still the same show/not the same show that I started watching now almost FOUR years ago(it doesn’t seem that long). It is still funny, silly, warm-hearted, heroic and has a killer soundtrack. However, the characters have grown and become much richer and interesting. Think of Morgan G. Grimes from S1 to today, or John Casey(let alone Sarah and of course Chuck himself). I guess that I look at each season and find that each is wonderful and joy to watch.

  9. Gringo Chuck Fan says:

    Next up….
    I like where all the characters are right now – and although some might nit pick at the flaws – Episode 4.13 brought some sense of resolution… But ~
    1. Chuck and Sarah need to tell everybody that they are finally engaged.
    2. Chuck still needs to explain to Ellie – that he has been spying [ for a long time] again.
    3. Chuck and Morgan have some ‘domestic’ issues to resolve…
    Can you have 2 couples living in the same house?
    4. What has Alex been telling her mother? – About Morgan G.? About John Casey?
    5. What ever happened with the wedding for Mike?
    [ I’m immediately thinking 3 weddings and a funeral]
    6. What happens to Mary Bartowski? Somehow I think she has lots of explaining to do. [Both to Chuck and Ellie – as well as the CIA.]
    7. They arrested Volkoff – but what about all his facilities, property, henchmen???
    8. What ever happened to the Orion laptop? The Mustang?

    • andyt says:

      I don’t think that Chuck and Sarah will keep the engagement secret.(1) As far as Ellie knowing about Chuck spying, I got a sense from the scene in Casey’s hotel room that she has suspicions about Chuck. And the CIA team showing up at her door to take her to the hospital was probably finally confirmation. She probably figures that this is how Chuck found MEB and got her back.(2) As for Alex, I would assume that she has told her mom nothing both because Casey wants it that way and because she is a college student who apparently does not live at home so she can keep Casey a secret from her mom as long as her mom does not make any unexepcted drop-ins which seems less likely in the cell phone age.(3)

      • andyt says:

        sorry meant hospital room

      • Paul says:

        I agree with your take on Alex. I think she knows “kinda” what her dad does, and that she hasn’t told her mom yet. I have a sneaky suspiscion that she may be holding out hope that Casey tells her himself.

        Chuck has the laptop. Ellie has the Mustang. They are not plot points anymore. It can be assumed that they are around but don’t need to be in every shot…..just like the bracelet.

      • andyt says:

        Agree Paul about the mustang and laptop. As far as Alex, she knows that Dad is a spy that is pretty obvious; in fact, one reason to keep him secret from her mother is his profession.

      • Paul says:

        Well, I think she knows that her dad works for the government, but may be a little sketchy on the details.

      • thinkling says:

        They had that conversation, “I know you haven’t been on a mission in a while.” I’d say she knows he’s a spy. The details of his job and mission would be top secret, and always will be.

    • TomM says:

      Gringo,
      I agree with your list, especially to top two. One of the things I have missed about season 4 is the relationship between Chuck and Ellie. It seems that the only members of the family who knew about an impending proposal were the Castle “family.” A Chuck/Ellie conversation about a proposal in the last few episodes would have more meaning to me than Chuck getting proposal advice from Casey. And of course, Ellie needs to know that Chuck is a government intelligence agent.

      On another note, it is interesting to me to see how Sarah has changed and possibly how Chuck, and what Chuck represents, has changed Sarah. Did anyone notice that when Sarah burst in to rescue Mary in 4.13 she used only to knife to wound one of the guards–it was Mary who did the killing? Only one of Chuck’s tranq guns would have been better.

      • Faith says:

        Nice catch! I definitely think that’s what they’re going for here.

        Saving Mary isn’t the only the thing different about Sarah, it’s the other things too. Like Bryce said way back in S2, “she has feelings for you Chuck! Feelings that will get her killed.” Well it’s not as grim as all that, but certainly one that strengthens more than weakens.

    • joe says:

      Gringo, great list. But I had a thought about…

      2. Chuck still needs to explain to Ellie– that he has been spying [ for a long time] again.

      This episode was so full of subtle things. But one of the most subtle was Ellie, right at the beginning, comforting Alex about Casey. She says: “He’s family. Chuck & I will do anything for family.”

      Yes, that’s right, and Chuck gets it. He should by this point. It’s the reason that Ellie didn’t persist in asking him all about his first date with Sarah way back when – she’s not a busybody trying to control him, she just wants to make sure he’s happy. It’s the reason that she tells him that he’s a Bartowski. He should not stop; he cannot go too far for Sarah, because she knows Sarah is special.

      With those words I’m quite happy and convinced that Ellie is going to be fine with Chuck’s activities. You’re right – he needs to tell her, but I’m sure he could tell her “between episodes” and we’ll find out about it quietly. No major fountain scene is needed anymore. At least, not by me.

      Just my $0.02 on it.

  10. OldDarth says:

    The picture of the power sweeper is hilariously appropriate. No doubt all the dangling season threads are being swept up by it! LOL!

    • OregonLt3 says:

      Dont be too sure. The laptop for sure and probably PSP will be addressed before seasons end. heck, Volkoffs not even finished yet … many miles to travel before we sleep.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ve read that too Oregon.

        I loved the sweeper shot on its own merits too. It was the perfect contrast to the balcony in France. Chuck remembered Casey’s advice!

      • JC says:

        Fedak tried to explain the PSP in the interview with Sepinwall so my guess is its finished. I’m still holding onto hope about the laptop and the fixed Intersect. And I really wouldn’t call Volkoff a dangling thread I’m sure they’ll just try to flesh out his network/Hydra more. Hopefully they’ll show why he was so bad beyond keeping Mary away from her family.

      • patty says:

        He sold Nukes to a semi stable dictator!!! That is pretty bad.

      • atcDave says:

        I really thought they covered Volkoff’s badness pretty well. He was psychotic arms dealer selling nukes and high tech weapons to unstable governments.
        That’s the very definition of a national security risk.

      • JC says:

        Was he menacing and evil yes but his threat never seemed to reach beyond the Bartowski family. They need to show that his existence threatens everyone not just our heroes. If they had done that it would would have went along way in explaining the whole twenty year mission also.

        Its the same mistake they made with Ring, I never bought into the fact the world wasn’t safe with them around. If they could combine Volkoff with how they handled Fulcrum that would be perfect.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Man, you guys dismiss all the great Dianne moments. Costa Gravas is Nuclear?!? (As Dianne goes likewise…) Says it all. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        How can international arms dealer selling nukes not be evil enough? And you forget, when he was talking with his flunkies on The Contessa, he didn’t share his ice cream. The man is as purely evil as any villain ever!

      • OregonLt3 says:

        I didn’t mean to imply Volkoff was a dangling thread, just that there is a lot of seaon 4 left before we can call out the Mauser Mop.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        I’m still a little upset that there was no resolution to the compelling sheep, from 4.07, storyline. I mean come on “lamb chops” is pretty weak and should have been developed in prior episodes in order for it to carry any weight. The sheep storyline left me wanting.

        (I still think they were being taken to a prison farm to be “tended to” **nudge, nudge, wink, wink** by Shaw)

        😀

      • OregonLt3 says:

        totally agree Joseph! and what about the dog from Suburbs? I’m STILL waiting to learn his back story and what happened after the cage door closed.

      • joe says:

        Hey! Stop that! It’s Ernie’s job to do the bad satire!!!

        😉

      • OldDarth says:

        Too little, too late.

  11. Jake says:

    You know I find it hard to critisize this season let alone this episode simply because after the bashing TPTB got after season 3 from everyone (fans, critics, press) they have tried to return the series to season 2 in it’s hayday. They have tried to return chuck to his sweet innocent self that sarah fell for, they have tried to be better with the buymore, they have tried to give sarah her personalilty back……..they have tried and tried and tried all with new writers who are learning the characters and ropes themselves. I commend them on their effort and I actually think the back half will be great, it will pick up like always.

    • Big Kev says:

      Agreed Jake. Even though I haven’t quite been feeling the season like most of you, I think the showrunners have made a real effort to learn from the mistakes of S3 and take the show back to where the bulk of their audience is. You can accuse them of various things this season, but you can’t accuse them of not being responsive to their audience, and I really think that deserves credit where it’s due.
      I also have hope that some of things that I haven’t enjoyed so much about the season will improve as these writers get bedded down, and more comfortable with the characters. It’s easy to forget just how big a turnover they had in the writers room after S3. I think Kristen Newman has been outstanding, Myers and DiGregorio pretty good. Nick Wootten has been the weak link, although in his defence, he’s had little meaty story to work with in his 2 episodes so far.

      • OldDarth says:

        Well you know the old saying – careful what you wish for, you may get it.

      • JC says:

        Kristen Newman has been fantastic, her two episodes are in my top ten.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        IMHO, Kristen Newman and LeJudkins must be given the major bulk of the writing from now on. 🙂

        Speaking of writers and story lines reminds me that although there have been some lows (for me) in the first thirteen episodes – Intersect-less arc, Mama B’s failed 20 yr mission, Morgan overkill, testing the boundaries of time travel and geographic locations and delaying Chuck’s heroics to the last episode – I still find that there have been a lot more positive and awesome moments that have sort of covered up for what I consider to be deficiencies.

      • JC says:

        @Genie

        Completely agree those three really blow any of past or present Chuck writers out of the water IMO. In fact I’d love to see LeJudkins plan out a season arc.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree those writers are the best we’ve had.

      • Big Kev says:

        Hmm…..not sure I’d go that far Dave. They’re certainly very good – but better than Matt Miller at his best? Better than Ali Adler (Fake Name aside?) Now a writers room of Miller, Adler, LeFranc, Judkins and Newman, with Fedak back to his Pilot/First Date/Gravitron best? That would make for a sensational show.

      • atcDave says:

        Well, I’m pretty enthused about this season. And I’m pretty unenthused about the last season delivered by the previous crew. I know I’m not being completely fair, and Schwedak is likely the main culprit in the S3 fubar anyway; but I am very happy with the show right now.

    • Jake says:

      You know sometimes fans around the globe and web need to remember exactly the kind of things we (a collective we) through at TPTB during season 3 and remember that when complaining. I mean some fans said that sarah and the audience ended up with a chuck who was Bryce/cole/shaw etc and not the guy sarah and us fell in love with and that they were chicken because they did not have the guts to put sarah with the chuck we loved in season 2. Some fans say that shaw was the worst character ever to be brought in, some fans say that the angst and darkness was not necessary to tell a good story, some fans say that we saw a 6-7 relationship between shaw and sarah and if that was the last 13 episodes of the series was it worth that as a substitute for not seeing chuck and sarah…..

      Then the critics laid in and mo ryan went to town on fedak, so much so that I felt sorry for him only months earlier everyone was lauding his show and now it was very publicly being dragged through the mud. So they have tried to return chuck back to what we like, is it smooth, no, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t quite feel sorry for Fedak; as a professional it’s his job not to make the sort of mistakes he did with S3.
        Now I say that in the context of loving S4. It is a huge accomplishment to turn a show around so completely. They’ve gone from a show I would have quit watching if I were any less invested; to the best thing on television. I guess that’s a testimony to the fact they’d set the stage so well those first two years. They many have gone off cock-eyed for a while, but they’re producing a beautiful show now.

      • Jake says:

        I think that sometimes fans overhype season 2…yeah I said it, it had angst and darkness and some weak episodes like sensei, beef cake, broken heart, third dimension. But I get a feeling that people equate season 2 to the 2 best episodes that this show has ever done creativly, I mean colonel and ring part 1 will always be in my mind the best this show has ever done with every element (buymore, spy, chuck and sarah, team b, cia, nsa, etc) they were creatively firing on all cylinders, they were the last 2 episodes that had chuck and sarah passion and the wedding scenes were awesome not to mention I know Kung Fu.

        So it was always difficult for the show to match those episodes, unless they did every episode like colonel were all chuck and sarah do is make out and have sex and slip in missions inbetween. Season 3 put people off because sarah was angry towards chuck for most of it (first 13), SHAW SUCKED!!!!!!!, Prague was never a good enough scene to explain what was going to happen in the next phase of the season!

        I think season 4 needs to up the passion and up the stakes a little and we will be ok!

      • JC says:

        Fedak deserved a lot of what he got during S3, his comments about not finishing a book after seven chapters and intentionally poking a certain segment of the fan base came off as clueless and stupid from a business standpoint. And his interview with Mo Ryan showed how tone deaf and stubborn he is.

      • atcDave says:

        Jake I think S2 was stronger than just its end (I absolutely loved Broken Heart by the way, one of the best of the best to me). In fact, I would only call The Ex, Sensei, and Beefcake complete dogs. Ever other episode was wonderful.
        S4 is close so far. The post-S2 budget cuts are often obvious in terms of production quality; but only Anniversary really strikes me as sub-par. Depending on how the season plays out it certainly can rival S2.

      • Amrit says:

        But the story was never that cohesive, chuck and Sarah were up and down all season and fulcrum never got their act together….as I said all this season 3 hate comes from a motel room in Barstow!

      • weaselone says:

        There were a fair number of strong episodes in Season Two. In addition to Colonel and Ring I, there was Break Up, Seduction, Best Friend and De Lorean.

      • atcDave says:

        …and Cougars, and First Date, and Tom Sawyer…

        Very strong season.

      • weaselone says:

        Although to be fair some of the episodes felt a bit out of order. Tom Sawyer directly before the Jill arc for example. It may have fit better as a filler episode directly before Seduction.

      • atcDave says:

        I’d agree weaselone, that may be among the reasons I didn’t care for The Ex so much. It just seemed jarringly off after the way Tom Sawyer ended.

      • JC says:

        First Kill, Broken Heart, Lethal Weapon and Predator.

        Other than 3D, Sensei and Beefcake (whiny Chuck) S2 was extremely strong. It’s only real weakness was the rushed and out of blue nature of the Jill relationship.

      • Faith says:

        You guys are making me nostalgic…where’re my S2 Chuck disks at…

    • joe says:

      I like the way you think, Jake.

      We had a discussion when the news came out about all the new writers. Even with Judkins and LeFranc returning, it seemed like everyone was new and “untried”.

      I gotta say, the one thing I’ve seen throughout is their love for the show. It shows in all the call-backs.

      I too believe that they (I really mean everyone in the cast and crew) listen to the audience – seems like they always have. Mostly they even seem to agree!

      What am I saying? Sometimes I think they read this blog!

  12. Jake says:

    But yeah they should have put them together and have them work together while he became a spy…..

    • atcDave says:

      Agree entirely, even if they had still wanted to explore some darker themes like Chuck burning an asset and the whole Red Test business; I think more viewers would have been pleased with Sarah helping him make sense of that stuff. The way they did it left most of the season feeling depressing and desolate. I can understand why a writer might feel that is something they want to deal with; but it violates what Ernie calls the “weekly contract.” It was too long a stretch of being no darn fun and over 2 million viewers gave up.

  13. alladinsgenie4u says:

    Random Thoughts on Chuck (the character)

    Is it fair to paint Chuck as just being reactive and not proactive for the whole season – when IMHO Leftovers was the only episode where he was left completely in the lurch and kind of faded to the background? I believe that until 4×07 he was doing okay and even in FOD, he was doing everything he could (although Rye’s methods were BS) to regain the Intersect. Does the fact that for the three straight episodes – 4×08 through 4×10 that we didn’t see him saving the day justify us in portraying him as “spineless”?

    Thoughts?

    • atcDave says:

      I would agree. I think we sort of exaggerated Chuck’s “uselessness” for a while just because of that arc. He really did a few significant things in that stretch, not least of which was hanging on to himself when the Belgian was trying to destroy him. It may have seemed worse too because it took us to a long holiday break without any recent Chuck heroics. Clearly since Balcony he’s been a fully contributing member of the team again.

      I still attribute a lot of our worrying about these things to S3 hangover. If S4 had run after S2 I don’t think we would be nearly so concerned every time something happened we weren’t nuts about.

    • andyt says:

      I agree with much of what you say Aladdin. I have never understood this talk that Chuck has been spineless and reactive this season. From the beginning through “First Fight”, he was very proactive, strong, and more of a spy than in most of S3. This was not the Chuck from S1 and S2 who at times screamed like a little girl(to quote Casey). He planned missions(the search for MamaB in Anniversy, luring Casey’s ex team, etc). He used both his intelligence and the Intersect very well. Even when he was in Intersect limbo, he was proactive for the first episode, remember Chuck endured 30 days of experiments to get the Intersect back, and it was Chuck who wanted to go on the mission without the Intersect(even though Rye’s methods were complete garbage as you say) Chuck should real strength and courage. Also he proclaimed that he was a spy even without the Intersect, while it was Sarah who did not have faith in Chuck. The only episode in which Chuck was a cypher was Phase Three in which he was virtually absent(and why it is not among my favorites of the season although I enjoy what it does well). I disagree about Leftovers, in the sense that everyone was neutered by Alexei Volkoff. They were confronted by a truly deranged and homicidal individual; none of them reacted well to the situation which was not unexepected. Overall, Chuck was very strong this season other than a few episodes; he is not the assest who has to stay in the car anymore.

    • JC says:

      He was reactive in the sense that I never got the feeling after Anniversary that he wanted to find his mother for his own reasons. It felt like he was doing it out of obligation to his father and Ellie. I really want to see them establish Chuck’s desire to be a spy is to help people again.

      And when it comes him being spineless I look at as him not standing up for what he wants in life. He’s still has that problem when it comes to the women in his life but I’m hoping its been rectified in the spy world by going him going right at Volkoff in his own way.

  14. thinkling says:

    Brilliant piece, you two. Epic to say the least.

    Faith, I love the way you show the growth of the show. It’s easy to forget how far they have come individually and in their relationship. It really is stunning.

    Ernie, I especially love your last section. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

    The season is genius. Thanks for outlining it. Greatest Chuck season yet!

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