Sins of the Father

The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children; therefore, I promise you, I fear for you. I was always plain with you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter: therefore be of good cheer; for, truly, I think you are damned.

William Shakespeare — The Merchant of Venice, Act III. Scene V.

Stephen J. Bartowski is back.  Just as in the climactic arcs of both season 2 and 3 Orion’s legacy and what it means to his children is brought front and center, and the sins of the father are laid upon his children.  Another Ernie & Faith production, after the jump.

We all love Chuck.  It goes without saying that those of us who have been blogging here for up to 2 years really love Chuck.  If you asked some of us why you’d get an answer, most assuredly.  You might get different answers from each, or depending on when you asked you might get two or three different answers from each of us.  There is so much to love about this unique little show.  The characters, the cast and crew, the romance, the drama, the comedy and the action… We’ve been over all that countless times.  Last Monday however something really struck home.  Our faith (heh) in Team Chuck, though it may be tested on occasion, will be rewarded in the end.  In its fourth season with many saying the creative force is gone or the stories played out, Chuck is still a show that can surprise and delight, taking the characters and the story in amazing new directions and remaking the fabric of the entire story without destroying all the richness and texture that came before.

“I am my Father’s son”  — Chuck Bartowski

Chuck uttered these words not so long ago during Chuck Versus The Push Mix. It’s funny to think about it now because back then that was considered by most (not by Chuck, nor the viewers) a sign of weakness.  After taking down Volkoff using his father’s memory and legacy we’re reminded and Volkoff was convinced that Chuck is an able foe. Stephen was a great man, who tried to be a good father and husband, but was somehow caught in a world he couldn’t seem to escape because of his unique gifts and talents. In the end, a father’s memory, a partner’s and a mother’s dedication, and a hero’s sense of purpose could do what a solitary man or woman couldn’t.

Chuck (the show) has the magic. They have this magical strength that pulls at your heartstrings by revisiting Stephen Bartowski’s memory and yet it does this without apology, or explanation for the man that he was. Only that he loved his children. In Season 4.0, there were questions about the sympathy we were supposed to feel for MamaB but in the end, much like Stephen, we love her because he did. Because she loves him. All we needed was a fairytale-esque memory (with spy connotations) told by a loving grandmother of a lasting love.

We as viewers love Stephen as much Chuck and Ellie did. We cried with Ellie when Stephen was killed, we were heartbroken for Chuck knowing that he had a hand in his father’s peril. And we remember that although he wasn’t a great dad, he was a great man:

Ellie: I can’t believe that he’s gone. Our crazy dad.

Chuck: He wasn’t crazy. Our dad was a hero. He was a great man who did amazing things. He wasn’t perfect, not as a dad, no. But he was great.

In the end, Stephen gave his kids all that they needed: each other, and a purpose.

“This is what we call the twist.” — Alexei Volkoff

Alexei Volkoff is back.

It’s an understatement to merely gush about the implications such a twist brings to Chuck. It’s brilliant really.  The psychology of all of this is inspired.  And it is all done without diminishing what came before (much).  Contrast how the stories play out, because we may never know if this was the master plan, or a master stroke.  Sometimes Chuck leaves us wondering whether we have the whole story or whether something got lost along the way.  We never, for instance found out what happened with the release of RIOS.  It may not be that important, after all Rourke was defeated and we can assume the CIA was then able to take over RI and it’s facilities and get what they needed, if we feel the need for closure on a plot point.  Or we can assume, or wish, that there is still something insidious out there growing in the world’s computer networks, and given enough time it will be revisited.  Truth be told, in practice it’s probably a bit of both.  Something that couldn’t be fully fleshed out and close due to circumstances, and a potential story on its own.  In its own way this is brilliant (or GENIUS!).  It allows each of us to take what we want or need from the story either closing, or without closing off the story.

Twenty years ago Mary Bartowski went on a mission that she thought would be her last.  Her mission was to “take out Volkoff” and we are left to surmise what that meant.  Perhaps a simple assassination?  The kind of thing the old Sarah Walker or John Casey would do over a long weekend?  Seems simple enough, but somehow she became trapped in that mission.  Alexei Volkoff discovered she was CIA and she was forced to join him.  But he never fully trusted her.  She was never allowed access to all his secrets, but was privy to enough to know his death alone would do little good in the end.  His contacts and organization and ability to control them was known only to him, but he had made arrangements to hand over control, and as he told Chuck, to extract his last measure of retribution should he be killed.  So Mary is stuck.  She can’t simply shoot Volkoff and walk away, it would do little good and would be suicide for her and a death sentence for her family.  She couldn’t leave and return home.  As we saw, Volkoff would follow.  She could only carry on, hoping against hope that some day she would get the break that would allow her to complete her mission and return home without putting everything she loved in danger.  In the meantime she was stuck in a life where a man’s infatuation and inability to truly love are as scary as they are empty. Sarah said it best, “I was lucky, I was assigned to you, your mom was assigned to Volkoff.”

Are there unanswered questions?  Sure, like why would a married mother of two be chosen for, let alone take on such a mission?  We’re left to wonder, and perhaps lose some sympathy for her plight.  She, like Orion made a choice about her life’s work, and like Orion it led her to make a terrible decision, but she did what she did to protect her family from some evil she had unleashed, and was forced to abandon them.  In the end she’s not that different from Stephen. “The choices [she] made to protect the people that [she] love(d),” for her was “the right choice.” To understand Chuck and Ellie’s story, that’s enough for now.  They were abandoned by their parents and suffered because of the forces their parents had unleashed.  The sins of the father were visited upon the children.

Mary’s break, her redemption, came in the form of our favorite team, and her husband’s life’s work to rescue her from her endless mission.  But now we are left to ask exactly what was that mission?  And the questions and possibilities expand exponentially.

We can now see, because of a CIA experiment gone wrong and a monster released by her husband’s work in the form of Alexei Volkoff, dozens of reasons why Mary might be called upon by the CIA, and feel obligated to take on such a mission.  Was Volkoff to be “taken out”? Perhaps the CIA felt that Mary, who knew the man under the machine and could perhaps still touch a part of him could either extract him, or failing that get close enough to “take him down.”  Perhaps Mary felt that she was the best chance to rescue a former friend, or if not, obligated to remove the evil her family was complicit in creating.  And what went wrong?  Was there some spark of recognition from Hartley Winterbottom that Alexei Volkoff picked up on?  Some residual love between friends, or crush left over between Hartley and Mary that Volkoff twisted and distorted into his weird non-sexual affection for Frost?  Did Alexei Volkoff, the creation of Hartley and Stephen realize that should Mary succeed he would cease to exist?  How self-aware was Volkoff, and how suppressed was Hartley?  And yet all that came before, Mary took on what she thought would be her last mission, and somehow became trapped, remains fully intact.

The choice of the son, or daughter

We are all products of our genealogy. Who we are is greatly shaped by who and what we come from and the life we live. Through all the hardships and the loneliness, Ellie and Chuck learned to rely on each other. Through privilege and wealth, Vivian learned to take and act but what of free will?

Chuck was given the tools through genetics to be a “special” man. Above average intelligence from his father, heroism and courage from both his parents, and a sense of family and compassion. But is he a “special” “good guy who wants to help people,” because he was born that way, or was it because he lived a hard life with only his sister to rely on? Did Ellie shape Chuck’s destiny or did he create his own? Or did Chuck, throughout the years of hardship decide to be the man he is today? What of Chuck’s role in Ellie’s life? She too has recently found her purpose. Is her life dictated by fate or by choice?  “There is always a choice!” Chuck’s path was laid before him by his father’s life and legacy, yet we’ve seen again and again how Chuck has had the choice to turn away, yet chose to continue because of the hero inside. “How many times do you have to be a hero to realize you are one?” (Sarah to Chuck).

What of Vivian? When we first met her we saw a privileged socialite. One whose isolation called on our sympathy and whose lack of direction and need for a purpose reminded us of Chuck. We came to learn that she’s Volkoff’s daughter and from that we drew conclusions. Evil is within. A man with such a capacity for violence and manipulation must have passed it on to his daughter and we see this potential unleashed by Volkoff’s manipulation and unwittingly by Chuck’s unintended betrayal.  Once again the CIA has created a monster, and a Bartowski has played a part.  Then came the twist. Volkoff is not Volkoff but rather Hartley. A man who is eerily similar to Stephen. One of a kind, gentle heart; intelligent, compassionate, one with a loving upbringing. A man who disliked guns. So the question becomes, did Vivian turn to the dark side out of fate, or was it choice? If she didn’t inherit those sinister characteristics where did she get them and what brought them on? Was it simply life and choice? Did she chose to follow in her father’s misguided footsteps, or is there more to it? The story has not fully played out yet, and we may yet see to which father Vivian really is a daughter.  Which legacy does she seek to claim?  In any case, just like Chuck chose to follow a path he could have turned from so did Vivian. In the end each made a choice and it’s one for which they are solely responsible.

With this choice comes purpose. One for good, another for evil. In life there’s always a balance and Chuck’s found himself a true nemesis.  Vivian’s purpose is clear, take back the legacy she feels was stolen from her and take her revenge on those she feels stole it.  Now Chuck’s purpose is clear.  Protect your family and the world from the forces you’ve helped, however unwittingly, to unleash.

The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.  — Ezekiel 18:20

Ernie and Faith. 


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 Observations, Reactions, Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

174 Responses to Sins of the Father

  1. the shrink says:

    First yeah! Ernie as excellent as ever disappointed that you condensed it to one page. I miss the 5 pagers. Go back to the cougar episode. Chuck says that very thing to Sarah.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      First off, thanks. 😉

      Second, Faith had a LOT of input. This is as much her post as mine, if not more. I was very much stuck and running out of time and was ready to abandon this until Faith came up with a way to flesh it out, so all praise is to be shared. Also, re: 6,000 words, since I was/will be otherwise engaged (as is Faith) we decided to keep it relatively (2,000 words, heh) short to get it out there for discussion. It is clearly a theme TPTB like to play with. and again, thanks.

    • Faith says:

      Always nice to see you around these parts theshrink. Hope to see more of you in the coming days 🙂

  2. herder says:

    Ernie and Faith, I wonder if there aren’t bits of Hartley Winterbottom leaking out into Alexi Volkov. He could love his friend’s wife but couldn’t bring himself to force himself onto her, he gave his daughter the life of an english aristocrat, perhaps the aspirations of Hartley for his daughter. Also interesting are the differences between the effect of the intersect on Hartley where it has controlled him and the effect of the intersect on Chuck who controls it, shown by Hartley’s acceptance of gunplay and Chuck’s rejection of it.

    The intersect that Orion gave Hartley is different from the intersect that he gave Chuck or perhaps there is something about Bartowskis that allows them to master the intersect while others cannot.

    • Faith says:

      I strongly suspect that that’s the case Herder. Tuttle was just too convincing, too believable as Tuttle. It’s possible of course that “Volkoff” is that good of a bad guy (master of deception if you will), but at the same time you also have to draw conclusions from all the things we’ve come to learn. Which to me makes Vivian’s decision to “follow” in her father’s footsteps all the more intriguing.

      Also I’m of camp that Hartley was in love with his best friend’s wife and when he turned villainous he found a way to “have” her (so to speak, not literally of course). The subconscious is a powerful, crazy thing!

      • thinkling says:

        I agree that parts of Hartley show up in Volkoff. Like, that he probably was in love with Mary, and that that crush was twisted along with everything else. I also bet that Tuttle is a lot like Hartley was.

        Great post, you two, BTW.

        I don’t mind the retcon. To me it sheds light on motivation. It doesn’t contradict what we know about the details. This new twist also raises questions about the CIA’s part in all of this. Could Mary have been trying to protect Hartley/Volkoff (from the CIA) long enough for Stephen to fix him?

        Has there been a faction in the CIA who have always wanted Stephen dead because of all he knew about the Hartley/Intersect debacle? Was the Bartowski family threatened if Stephen didn’t fix the Intersect? Mary’s “Stephen, what have you done” certainly makes more sense now. She knew this was very dangerous information.

        I think GB is ignorant of Agent X. Mary knows full well, but wouldn’t admit it to anyone.

        It also makes you wonder what PapaB meant when he said he had been his own spy doing things that governments were afraid to do?

        I suspect Stephen and Mary were caught between two enemies, a faction of the CIA and Volkoff and (???), either one of which would have gladly taken or killed their children to further their own purposes. Now it looks like Chuck and Sarah will be similarly caught between two enemies, Vivian and a faction of the CIA …

        I’m pretty excited to see where all this is going.

    • thinkling says:

      Herder … he gave his daughter the life of an english aristocrat, perhaps the aspirations of Hartley for his daughter

      Isn’t her manor in the same place as Hartley’s home … in Somerset?

  3. Big Kev says:

    So this is the third time they’ve used the backloaded exposition/retcon device that I can think of – Sarah’s guilt/Red Test and resurrecting Shaw being the other 2. The Red test was in the front 13, so we can’t argue that they only do it as a result of getting back orders. It’s a tried and tested TPTB trick at this point.
    And I loved the way they did it in this episode, for all the reasons you both pointed out in your post – the additional layers it brings to both characters and story, and the way you almost have to rewatch previous arcs in the light of new information.
    I’m going to say I still don’t like the device though, because it lends an air of almost unreality to watching the episodes first time through. There’s a difference between writing that gives you hints that a twist is coming, and writing that pulls a twist out of thin air that was never even previously hinted at. TPTB love the second, whereas I would much prefer the first.
    I loved this twist and it’s possibilities so much that I’m happy to let the retcon slide – but I completely understand why it would drive other people nuts, and maybe overshadow the whole story for them.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      OK, this is where the term retcon bothers me. Lost, or X-Files, or Fringe can hold back exposition or explanations for years, with absolutely no indication that anything will ever be resolved; they pile mystery upon mystery, and ask you to invest in the plot, in those mysteries, as a reason to watch. Watch and see… yet for seasons upon seasons, you get crumbs. Yet Chuck, a show that asks you to invest in the characters and their stories, and moves those characters and stories at a breakneck pace (with notable exceptions) absolutely fails as a serial drama, because Mary Bartowski’s entire story isn’t explained between 4.06 and 4.13. And to top it off, when the twist comes, 6 episodes later, it’s suddenly retcon. The double standard is mind boggling to me.

      I’m sure Fringe rocks, but I watched half the first season and didn’t care anymore. And if someone wants to tell me I need to wade through another 1.5 seasons I don’t care about to get to the good stuff, yet Chuck fails as a serial drama within 6, or 13 episodes, well your argument wears thin with me.

      • Big Kev says:

        You may well have a fair point about those 3 shows, but I never saw any of them (I really don’t watch much TV) so I can’t comment.
        Retcon to me (and I’m happy to use another term if I’m using the wrong one) is anything that changes the accepted history or canon of a show without any previous hints in canon that such an event may have occurred. If you’ve left a hint, even a crumb, that points to your new scenario, then that’s not retcon. To me, the best writing leaves a series of clues. They may be so subtle that you miss them and they only make sense when the reveal comes – but they’re there. Best example of that I’ve seen recently is the UK show Ashes to Ashes. The final twist was seriously extreme, but the clues were there over the previous 2 seasons to tie everything in. We don’t always tend to get those clues with Chuck – the reveals often come out of the blue.
        I don’t think Chuck fails as serialized drama because to me the story and the resolution is more important than the mechanics of the writing or strict continuity. And I loved this episode. My point is that by pulling the reveals out of a hat, the writers run the risk that some people won’t buy the twist.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        A fair point Kev, and my argument probably shouldn’t be with your definition of retcon, though I think it is a bit too restrictive. Sometimes, seeing the story through a character’s eyes has some value, and what we call retcon, seeing something unexpected, is actually important or necessary to the story.

        My beef is with people who have virtually infinite patience with some shows, yet seem determined to call foul on Chuck at the first opportunity.

      • mxpw says:

        @Ernie – I don’t think you actually understand what retcon means if this is what you think people are talking about when they use the term. A retcon is not leaving a trail of bread crumbs across multiple seasons of a show. A retcon is when you change something that has been previously established into something else. That’s why it’s called retroactive continuity.

        Chuck has been overly fond of the retcon for a while now. Especially Season 4. And I think pretending otherwise is really misleading.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        mxpw, I understand retcon, and what it means. My objection to the term in this case is was to Kev (and others) mis-use of the term to characterize a plot twist coming from unresolved story-lines. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument when it pertains to Chuck, and if you read my post you see that I am specifically saying it is misapplied in this case, using other shows as an example.

        I know people like to call retcon on Chuck, but for the most part, from what I’ve seen, there are very few cases where established cannon has been changed. In most cases it is our assumptions or speculation that have been changed. This often happens when we take a certain character’s statement or opinion as cannon or literally when it was just part of a scene that may or may not be important or even truth.

      • Big Kev says:

        I guess the point of my post wasn’t to get into a discussion about what is and is not retcon, it was more to pose the question – what do people think about the show’s tendency to add whole chunks to canon, without any previous reference point, to the extent that the perspective on whole arcs or episodes changes?
        Does it lessen the storyline when you first watch if you know that, at any point, the writers could present you with a completely new, or additional set of facts out of the blue, with no prior reference?
        In this case, I loved the twist, so I’m happy – but the show does go to this well a lot (whether you want to call it retcon,
        or something else) – and I would contend that it’s dangerous to continually pull rabbits out of hats.
        What do others think of the show’s recurring use of this particular device?

      • mxpw says:

        @Ernie – You are correct that a show taking an unresolved storyline at some point down the road and tying it up is not a retcon. Unless, of course, in the process of tying up that storyline, they change the previously established canon to fit the new storyline. Then it would be a retcon. Chuck does this often, though in the case of this Agent X reveal, they have a little more leeway as this is one of the few times where their open-ended storytelling left them more maneuvering room than usual.

        I personally think this whole Agent X thing is pretty borderline. Fortunately for them, they were so vague and circumspect with so many of the details during the Volkoff plot during 4.0 that I don’t think you can outright call retcon on what’s going on until we’ve seen the whole storyline play out.

        I know people like to call retcon on Chuck, but for the most part, from what I’ve seen, there are very few cases where established cannon has been changed. In most cases it is our assumptions or speculation that have been changed. This often happens when we take a certain character’s statement or opinion as cannon or literally when it was just part of a scene that may or may not be important or even truth.

        This is where we part ways. Everybody knows that the Chuck writers play fast and loose with continuity. I don’t think anybody can deny this. I mean, Season 4 started with a retcon of the whole timeline. But more importantly, I just disagree with you on the last part of your paragraph. Of course we take literally what a character says onscreen. We HAVE to. That’s how you establish continuity. There is no such thing as “just part of a scene” in writing, especially for a TV show. The only way to establish canon is to take what was said during a scene and hold it as truth. You can discount what was previously said onscreen as canon without it being a retcon (even though this too is really a gray area) when we, as the audience, know that the character was purposefully lying (such as Sarah telling Chuck that they had no future in Truth and then telling Casey later that she actually lied) or that the characters admit to being mistaken about what they said earlier.

        There are no unimportant scenes. As a writer, you have to account for everything you say. Yes, you may write something as an offhand comment that seemingly seems unimportant. But if you, ten episodes later, contradict what you established in that offhand comment, you are still retconning what you wrote. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have changed things, but it is STILL a retcon and it’s perfectly legitimate for somebody to question you on it. That’s just how writing goes. And believe me, you will be questioned on it by somebody.

    • OldDarth says:

      I don’t consider those two RETCONs Kev. Neither of those contravene previously told story telling.

      The one RETCON from the previous seasons was Chuck’s TRON poster reveal. An example of a good RETCON – though personally I find RECONs far more loathsome than anything Angsty. That reveal strengthened Chuck’s character and fit into previously established story continuity without changing it.

      Though imagine how much more empathetic we would have been to Chuck if those TRON poster notes had been shown being recorded as those events had played out. That is the problem with RETCONS.

      RETCONs break the implied bond of trust between the writers and the audience by the writers not telling us, or at least supplying hints ahead of time, the TRUE story.

      It all comes back to telling a story honestly.

    • joe says:

      Great discussion, on ret-cons. I think we need to be a little careful for the reasons stated. There’s a difference between a retcon and a twist, and like OD says, there are good retcons and bad retcons.

      Of course, this is only my opinion, but what we saw with Volkoff seemed to have more and deeper roots than things we called retcons before. In other words, it didn’t change things so much as enlighten us. Mary’s actions for 20 years are better explained (at least, to me they are now understandable – Winterbottom was Stephen’s *friend*!) as is the MI-5 Tuttle and Volkoff’s “weird” (Chuck’s word) affection for Mary. Those were all there, as was Stephen’s strong insistence that he and his family stay away from the CIA/NSA while they were all obviously masters of that world.

      Ernie, Faith, you express so well the way I buy it! I’m so glad I’m not alone in that. 😉 I take it for granted that what we learned about Volkoff won’t (and probably can’t) satisfy everyone in the fandom, but I’m not tying myself into knots in order to love it, the way I started to with, say, the Name reveal.

  4. atcDave says:

    While its no secret I’ve loved this season from the beginning; the Hartley/Alexei twist may be the most satisfying element of the spy plots all season. I think it sweeps away most of the reservations I had previously had. I’m suddenly sympathetic with Frost for choosing to leave her husband and children to try and fix a great wrong she had a hand in doing (possibly only indirectly via Stephen and the CIA; but still…). She no longer seems careerist, or overly dedicated to the “greater good”; no, she’s trying to fix something that was her fault (okay, maybe mostly her husband’s, but still…).
    Not only that, we get the delicious possibility that even Volkoff is not beyond some sort of redemption.

    While my favorite episodes will always be the sweet ones (like Wedding Planner) or the ones that make me laugh hardest (Seduction Impossible); Agent X was still a deeply satisfying episode on a pretty deep level.

    • JC says:

      That kinda shocks me Dave. If Hartley is the reason both Mary and Stephen abandoned their children, it makes them look terrible.

      • atcDave says:

        I wouldn’t say terrible. Their priorities were misplaced, but if the situation was at all their fault it’s quite understandable why they would go to extraordinary means to fix it.
        I mean, Volkoff was a monster of their creation. It creates a conflict of priorities. So Mary, like good soldier, goes off to do battle with the enemy she helped create. And yes, even soldiers who are married with kids are sometimes called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.
        Stephen at least seems to have waited until he was sure Ellie could run the household.

    • mxpw says:

      Yeah, I’ve got to go with JC on this one. Agent X did little to mitigate the damage that Stephen and Mary did. Before Agent X, at least one could take solace in the fact that while both Mary and Stephen made mistakes and were terrible parents, what happened to them was due to events largely beyond their control.

      But with Agent X, that doesn’t appear to be true. They were actually responsible for the problems that tore their family apart. That they seemingly purposely abandoned their kids in some effort to right their wrongs doesn’t make them look good, it makes them look worse. I actually think Agent X made me think Stephen and Mary were even worse parents than I initially believed.

      • OldDarth says:

        Totally agree mxpw.

        The ONLY thing this RETCON explains – and it is absolutely a RETCON – and it really warrants no explanation, is Volkoff’s English accent.

        This is a Retcon, of the worst kind, because:
        a) it whitewashes previously established canon
        b) and in the process diminishes the Bartowski elder’s, especially PapaB
        c) is an admission by the writers that the original story was broken
        d) still does not fix all the previous story logic gaffes – PSP and laptop anyone?
        e) breaks the contract between writer and audience of trust by not telling us the true story to begin with

      • atcDave says:

        Wow, I just think you guys are totally wrong. How can you begrudge a soldier (or government agent) doing their job. Especially once you discover they’re trying to fix a problem of their own doing. I think this makes perfect sense of everything in a far more satisfying way than what we knew before.

        And I think it’s completely disingenuous to call this a breach of trust. This is fun story-telling and an exciting ride without going dark or undoing what we already knew. It enhances and explains without undoing anything. That is perfect.
        I think you guys are being critical purely because you like being critical and dislike Ernie (that is NOT aimed at Big Kev!). Much of what you’re saying is based on twisting our words and taking things out of context.

      • armysfc says:

        dave i agree with JC and MXPW. i would specifically like to address the good soldier part. i know what it takes to leave your family to serve and this risks it entails. a soldier would not allow nukes to be pointed at the country he/she swore to defend, would not let the continued sales of illegal arms to go on. if he/she did i would have a hard time with that as well.

        this sounds like another discussion that nobody can win, but it is fun to read whats being said.

      • OldDarth says:

        “And I think it’s completely disingenuous to call this a breach of trust. This is fun story-telling and an exciting ride without going dark or undoing what we already knew. It enhances and explains without undoing anything. That is perfect.”

        Sorry if someone tells you one thing at the start and then comes back with a different version years later that IS a breach of trust.

        Nothing disingenuous about it at all.

        Telling the true story the first time is fun.

        Being hoodwinked for several seasons is not.

        It is fascinating to see the rationalizations being generated to accept a storyline about terrible parents for a show that is supposed to be high on family values.

      • atcDave says:

        But we were never told anything “different”; we previously had no information about older Intersects or how the Volkoff mission came about. This is new information that enhances and explains without CHANGING anything. I don’t even see it as a retcon, it’s just filling in some gaps.

      • Big Kev says:

        I’m confused now about what is a retcon. If a genuine retcon is something that expressly contradicts previous canon, then I’m with you and Ernie – I don’t see a retcon here. My working definition is a little broader – anything that adds to historical canon without any previous reference. Under that definition I think this is a retcon. This one doesn’t bother me – but others the show has done definitely have bothered me.

      • atcDave says:

        Army you are right Frost may have been involved in some unsavory business in her time at Volkoff; but first of all, we know she was not in Costa Gravis for the nuke sale. And the thing is, she was a specific type of soldier, a covert agent. Which means she would have had to do enough to get inside the Volkoff organization. That is unpleasant to think about. And I’m quite certain it would have been against actual CIA rules to do some of what she did. But that isn’t quite what we’re talking about. The issue is, would a government agent leave her family for a possibly long term mission? A mission to a fix a problem she (or her husband) was partly responsible for causing? I think that’s an easy and resounding yes. Maybe in a perfect world she would have provided support for the mission from home, but it’s not hard to imagine, with some personal responsibility from the start, that an agent might jump at the chance to do this mission.

      • atcDave says:

        Big Kev I think there’s some nuance in the term. I would only use it for information that changes something we knew. I MIGHT use it if we were strongly mislead into believing something that isn’t true. But mostly I reserve for actual changes in canon.
        I think some use the term much more broadly to describe things they simply didn’t understand earlier.

        As I’m sure you realize from a year and a half on this site, I’m far more likely to be fired up over changes in character, personality and motive than I am over story details; but that’s just my bias.

      • jason says:

        one thing I started last night was rewatching season 4 from the beginning, now that we know more (certainly not all) of the mary / orion / volkov backstory, I am curious if some bread crumbs were dropped along the way – I hope so – only watched two so far, loved them, not sure if I saw a bunch of bread crumbs or not, my enjoyment got in the way.

        At some point, to borrow on the sins of the father use of famous quotes – the show needed to learn from Hamlet’s “to thine own self be true” . For me, chuck is just a nice little warm comedy that has remarkable chemistry with chuck and sarah, and to a certain extent with beckman, morgan, ellie, awesome and casey – that ruins itself near each mini arc (or the entire misery season) when it gets serious.

        The reason is the show’s cast is often not where the drama comes from, it is the guest stars (vivian, wise, volkov, mary). Hence a large part of each season the regular cast fools around having fun, then lots of stuff that has not been shown on screen gets referenced in some way shape or form to fill in the backstory that isn’t told on screen in order to pull off the dramatic mini-arcs.

        This is something I realized around episode 4×12, it might make ernie, kev and olddarth fall off their chairs laughing that I would admit it, but season 3 was the best dramatic season where the back story was explored / told in detail on screen – yes – at the expense of the warm romantic comedy, but yet the drama was done fairly well.

        The problem as I see it, and I see it both from chuck this bloggers, as well as on screen for both the actors and writers, is to borrow from Mark (or is it Matthew), “A house divided cannot stand”. I think the multi-genre thing that many tout, got in the way of chuck being anything more than a cult hit, frequented by serious fans willing to work hard to find the mythology or equally crazy fans willing to sit thru extended periods of drama, while waiting for the warm romantic comedy they so love to return.

        As far as expanding audience share in the future based on ANY potential change (either to more serious or more warm fun), well I am afraid “That ship has sailed” – at this point “we are what we are” (Kesha song – honestly)

        I do love these quips – LOL

      • armysfc says:

        dave, i thought i remember her being described in that episode and the dude saying she was there. oh well doesn’t matter. knowing of the event before or after and not stopping it is still not a good thing.

        crazy part of this whole thread is it’s based off facts not revealed yet. we don’t know stephen intersected hartely. we just know when it happened. they were colleagues and could have been working on the intersect together. hartley could have tested it on himself or volunteered to be the test subject. and caused his own problems. mary might not even known hartley just of him. at this point in time i see both as possibilities.

      • Big Kev says:

        Not sure I agree that S3 was the “best” explanation of backstory of the seasons, but it was certainly the Season which attempted to tell the most “substantial” story.
        I think you’re right about the multi-genre thing being a reason why the show is only a cult hit. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m glad about that. Because if they made Chuck “just” a light comedy, or “just” another spy show, or even “just” another relationship soap, I probably would never have watched. I genuinely believe that it is the combination of genres that is the genius of this show, and when the show loses balance and tries to be too much of one genre at the expense of the others that it gets into trouble.
        If cult status is the price we’ve had to pay to get that unique combination that is the essence of Chuck, I think that’s been a price well worth paying.

      • atcDave says:

        I’d agree the multi-genre issue is a mixed blessing. It’s funny we all came to love the show so much in the first two seasons; but I do think we’ve seen division ever since. Those who loved S3 have generally disliked S4, and those who disliked S3 have generally liked S4.

      • mxpw says:

        The issue is, would a government agent leave her family for a possibly long term mission? A mission to a fix a problem she (or her husband) was partly responsible for causing? I think that’s an easy and resounding yes. Maybe in a perfect world she would have provided support for the mission from home, but it’s not hard to imagine, with some personal responsibility from the start, that an agent might jump at the chance to do this mission.

        @Dave – I am just totally confuzzled that you think this is okay. She abandoned her kids! There is no excuse for that. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think there is. This wasn’t a mission where she was gone for a year or even two years. She was gone for 20 years! And I think she is a terrible parent.

        Stephen and Mary are parents. They were responsible for the lives of two young children. They do not have the luxury of assuaging their consciences because they screwed up. It doesn’t make them righteous or noble because they abandoned their family to fix a mistake they themselves caused. It makes them look awful. I feel no sympathy for them. None.

        A soldier doesn’t abandon their family when they go off on deployment and I find it a little offensive that you would compare what Stephen and Mary did to their children as equivalent to what a soldier does when they are deployed. When a soldier goes off to war, their children know what they are doing. They know that, unless their parent is killed, that their mom and dad will be coming home again in a year. The soldier actually says goodbye and talks to their children while they are gone. The children know that they are loved, and aren’t made to feel worthless because their parent just up and left in the middle of the night with no reason. The soldier takes responsibility for their children and makes sure that they are looked after while they are gone. They don’t leave their children to fend for themselves (if they are any kind of decent parent, at least). Stephen and Mary did none of these things. They put their own needs ahead those of their children. That’s how I feel. That’s how I’ve always felt about them. And while this Agent X storyline might fill in the blanks, it still doesn’t change my perception of them.

        Also, I don’t believe I have once claimed that what happened in Agent X made no sense or was a bad storyline, and I think it’s incredibly insulting to state that just because I (or anyone else) think that Mary and Stephen were bad parents, are doing so just so that they can be overly critical or because we don’t like Ernie and so want to stick it to him. Seriously?

      • Silvercat42 says:

        Well, I may be only one fan, but I happen to like both Season 3 and Season 4. I know you have no way of knowing this, because I didn’t post on Chuck This until Season 4. Also I have generally stayed away from Season 3 discussions because they end up generating so much acrimony.

        As for the whole discussion on so-called retcons and unexpected twists, I’m one who doesn’t mine that TPTB drop in sudden twists that completely change direction of the show. It’s what keeps Chuck interesting for me and keeps the storyline from being predictable and redundant.

      • ArmySFC says:

        MXPW very well said. i have never liked what stephen did to his kids and have said so in the past. you expressed my thoughts way better than i could. i have had several deployments over the last few years so i know full well what goes on in a parents mind as well as the child’s. he not only left once but several times, once trying to get chuck to with him and leave his family behind. i could never do that to my kids, and i am surprised the idea is so readily accepted here.

        the mary bit if she indeed did get stuck and burned by the CIA is acceptable to me. i may not like it but i can accept that.

      • alladinsgenie4u says:

        I had no sympathies for Mama B and her 20 yr mission but the latest Agent -X reveal has painted even Papa B in a very bad light – and given what has transpired in the previous seasons (specifically Orion arc in S2), I feel that his image as a father who did it (went away) to protect his children has also been tarnished.

        Going back to the scene in Leftovers where Chuck was asking the RIGHT questions when Mama B showed up again – I don’t find his behavior that neurotic now. His questions were disregarded by Mama B with the addition of lie upon lie.

      • atcDave says:

        I think it’s perfectly legit to say Stephen and Mary weren’t great parents or made bad choices. But I think what they’ve shown us is their fundamental conflict of duty and interest. I’m completely baffled how you can deny the soldier parallel. I think I clearly said they handled the dual responsibility poorly; but a dual responsibility it was. Mary may have believed she was covered by leaving Stephen to take care of the kids; and it is certainly true covert operatives have to keep many details from their family. In fact, many Cold Warriors disappeared on highly classified missions and left their families in the dark for decades. This is historic fact, and Army you should certainly know that. Many hundreds of regular military and civilian intelligence operatives gave their lives in covert circumstances.

        AGAIN, I would never nominate either Bartowski for a parent of the year award. But their responsibilities and motives seem clear and easy to understand. Ideally, they each would have defered and let someone else complete mission. But they just showed us WHY the Bartowskis felt personally responsible for the Volkoff situation.

      • ArmySFC says:

        dave i agree with you on the getting stuck part and said so. why you ignored what i said confuses me. this is what i said about mary, the mary bit if she indeed did get stuck and burned by the CIA is acceptable to me. i may not like it but i can accept that.

        orion had no reason to bail except for personal ones. that is wrong and trying to defend it to make it fit what you want it to, boggles my mind. the other point about giving their all was stated well by MXPW. we don’t plan on something going wrong, we always plan on coming back. just because something happened in the past does not make it right or acceptable to me. i feel there should be no conflict of interest when it comes to family, none. family comes first and foremost to me. that’s where the difference comes in. to you it may be ok for a person to leave their family to help a friend because they feel responsible for what happened. that is your right. same as mine is to say what they did was wrong. our opinions just differ and i can accept your point of view. that is why this episode cast the bartowski parents in a worse light than they were in before.

      • ArmySFC says:

        on a side note and only because this thread is getting so much play. i posted link to a new chuck promo on the spoiler page a while ago.

      • patty says:

        I don’t think that you can fairly conclude that mary and stephen were bad people who willfully abandoned their kids. I think they were trapped it a situation in which they felt that they had no good options only varying degrees of bad ones

        I think that Mary thought that she could extract Hartley and return fairly quickly (as she told Chuck). Once she got there she found that the pseudo personality had taken over and she could not extract him. By then she had been made and running home would have led Alexi to her family (she doubtless expected that Stephan would take care of the kids). I think that Volkoff had a reputation for hitting loved ones because the guy who designed the Hydra said that Volkoff told him that he “would kill everyone I knew” if he didn’t cooperate. In that situation she was paralyzed because if she didn’t bring down the whole organization then the kids would be endangered, so only a foolproof plan was acceptable (there is no such thing). She was trapped.

        Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Steven was desperately searching for Mary. He may or may not have known about Hartley/Volkoff being where she was at first. At some point Orion tripped up and was also made. He also left home, hoping to draw the attention onto himself and away from Chuck and Ellie. When he was killed he warned Chuck that he had been distracting these really bad guys and would no longer be able to do so. (Chuck, of course, started looking for his mom the next day)

      • atcDave says:

        Patty I do agree with most of that. I think Orion’s actions are harder to defend than Frost’s; especially trying to run again in Subway.

        Army I thought I stated clearly I did not approve of the Bartowski decision to abandon their children, only that it is a classic conflict of interest that many have dealt with. And I do feel this latest episode added much depth and significance to their decision. They were both bad parents, but not nearly as bad as we previously thought they were (even if they made wrong choices, at least now we can know why).

      • Faith says:

        Things are never that black and white to say and judge otherwise is disingenuous to both the show and the characters.

      • JC says:

        You also have to question Stephen’s motivations at the end of S3 now. Was the reveal of the Orion cave about Mary or Hartley? And even worse he sent his son in blind without any indication of what he was getting into.

        That’s the problem with retcons, unintended consequences.

      • atcDave says:

        JC that’s another case of drawing conclusions without data. We simply don’t know what information may have been in the Orion cave. This may all be a case of shame on Chuck for not really doing his homework.

        Although I would tend to blame Orion, he did seem to be a bit on the paranoid side where information and disclosure issues are concerned! But I think we should be wary of being too sure of any conclusion until it’s made clear. Again I don’t see where this is a retcon problem, we already knew Stephen would never win “world’s greatest dad.”

    • Crumby says:

      I don’t think it changes what they’ve done to their children in any way. They were terrible parents at the beginning of the show and they still are. We have a better understanding of what happenned but that’s all.

      Last year, Orion still thought that running away was the good solution, and encouraged Chuck to do that to his family and friends (including Ellie that had been abandoned by her mother, her father twice, and now would have been abandoned by her brother).

      This year Mary still didn’t want to have anything to do with her children, and the only thing that made her change her mind was learning that Ellie was pregnant.

      Even after they reunited with their children, they both repeatedly lied to/hide things from their children, this new revelation is just a new addition to the list.

      Truth is, Orion and Frost knew they were terrible parents and probably thought at some point that their children were better off without them…

      However, I think it’s unfair to say they left their children in order to repair what they’ve done. If Mary left to follow Volkoff because of the Intersect mishap, she never intended to be gone for 20 years. Somewhere along the way, she/they failed and she got stuck with Volkoff. Later Orion, that had originally stayed with them, thought (wrongly) that the only way to protect them from the consequences of their failure was to leave them.

      What they’ve done to their children was the consequence of the failure to their attempt at repairing what they/Orion had done working on the Intersect for the government, and the misguided belief that running away/leaving was the way to go to protect their children.

      Moreover, the whole “the CIA is covering up its ass” thing could explain their stubbornness to lie/hide everything.

      Finally, I believe that put in a similar situation, Chuck and Sarah or Ellie would do the same thing (trying to make things right/repair their mistakes) except that they would never leave their family, because they’ve learned the hard way the importance of family and that running away doesn’t solve anything.

  5. Waverly says:

    Excellent post.

    Perhaps next season we’ll learn about Volkoff’s son that Mary had to help raise without him learning anything about his evil father, for fear that he might become like him. As the sister is now doing, with Riley taking Volkoff’s place to provide guidance.

  6. Crumby says:

    I don’t really see which previous facts the Hartley revelation contradicts and why it would be called a retcon.

    • atcDave says:

      My first instinct is to agree entirely Crumby. But I did just spend some time on Wikipedia, and there really is a mild sort of retcon that only means a revelation that sheds new light on previous events, even if it changes nothing. I think that’s the sort of situation we have here. I honestly don’t understand why anyone would take offense at this, I can’t imagine a TV show running more than a season that has never used this technique. To me, a retcon is only troublesome if it complete redefines past information or renders past information wrong. And none of that has happened here.

      • OldDarth says:

        ‘To me, a retcon is only troublesome if it complete redefines past information or renders past information wrong. And none of that has happened here.’

        You need to examine previous history more closely then. It absolutely redefines the original reasons the show led us to believe as to why Papa and MamaB left. To try to mitigate or obscure that is, as you love to phrase it, disingenuous.

        It also undermines the basic precepts of the show about family sticking together and being honest with one another.

        There are no hooks in the previous 3.5 seasons built in to support this retcon. This is no extension of previous backstory. This is a redefinition of previously established story history. It is a cover up, a white wash, a spackle job; a reset.

        And a poor one at that as those same flaws and cracks continue to exist in the continuity, plus new ones have been added to boot. And as an added bonus Mama and PapaB are further diminished in the process.

        Lovely job.

        Just like Ellie was misled for almost 4 seasons, so have the writers misled their viewers. The basic precept between a storyteller and his audience about telling a story honestly has been broken.

      • atcDave says:

        Actually OD I was acknowledging it qualifies as a retcon under certain definitions of the term, because indeed you are right that there were no prior hooks.

        But that is as far as I’ll agree. Previously, we were simply led to believe Mary went on a dangerous CIA mission, and got trapped with no way out. Now I would agree with, and even initiated much criticism of her at that point. For a married mother of two to still be accepting dangerous undercover work makes her look cold and careerist. I had no affection or respect for her character at that point. The latest information however, let us know she (mainly Stephen) had some responsibility in creating the Volkoff situation, and the man was even an old family friend. So I suddenly catch a glimpse of Mary’s conflict; she may be responsible for unleashing a true villain in the world. Of course she would feel some responsibility for fixing the situation. Now I do agree with the criticism that she still shouldn’t have left her family; but for the first time I feel some sympathy for why she might have felt she had to.
        The situation with Stephen is only slightly different. We previously only knew he disappeared to keep the CIA away from his family and his research. He was his kids only parent after Mary left, which clearly makes him a bad dad. BUT, he also would have seen the Volkoff situation as his fault, and MIGHT have even feared that Mary being with Volkoff for so long would eventually lead him after Stephen. So perhaps he felt his kids would be safer if he was nowhere near them. Like Mary, I never respected his decisions in leaving his family; but now, I can at least understand a little better and can sympathize with his divided loyalty.

        To me, this revelation adds a layer of depth and sophistication to the story that absolutely makes everything better. Mary and Stephen were still bad parents, but they weren’t totally hopeless human beings.

    • ArmySFC says:

      well for me… mama b left because she was ordered to, now because she wanted to. papa b left to protect his family now to find and fix his friend. to me that’s a complete change. sorry just how i see it.

      • Crumby says:

        They never said Mama B left because she “wanted to.” Chuck barely made an assumption as to “maybe she was trying to fix Volkoff” but we don’t know yet.

        The mission to take down Volkoff may very well have been the CIA attempt to cover up the whole thing. They sent Frost to do that, and she got stuck. That’s an explanation that works and that doesn’t question previous statements. Is it what happened? Probably not but we just don’t know yet, so saying everything is different is a little much.

        They never said that Orion left to fix his friend either. He was trying to fix his friend, yes. Is that the reason he left? We don’t know. The previous reason that was gave to us: protecting his children, still works as well. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they did change that, but that’s not what happened in the episode.) He could have tried to fix his friend which put him and his family in danger which lead him to take the decision to leave. Once again, we don’t know for sure, yet.

      • ArmySFC says:

        crumbey thats what i have said all along, several times, lol. i’m basing my arguments here on what has been said by people on this blog as to the explanation for the episode on how it cleared up the past.

        i have said several time that these theories are presented as fact with out evidence, same as you just did. for those that do believe this was what was intended why it would change the fabric of the show that’s all. here is a bit of an earlier post of mine.

        crazy part of this whole thread is it’s based off facts not revealed yet. we don’t know stephen intersected hartely. we just know when it happened. they were colleagues and could have been working on the intersect together. hartley could have tested it on himself or volunteered to be the test subject. and caused his own problems. mary might not even known hartley just of him. at this point in time i see both as possibilities.

      • Crumby says:

        Well, we agree then. 😉 lol

      • atcDave says:

        Crumby I completely agree with that.

        Army none of us said it was simple or only one issue. But adding some personal responsibility to Frost and Orion’s actions makes their actions more understandable.

      • ArmySFC says:

        dave again to me knowing it was a personal choice vs an order makes it less understandable. we have beat that point to death way above. as long as each view is accepted as it is then it’s all good. when one side says the other is wrong because they disagree then it’s not. this has been a great discussion so far but for me it’s reached the point where we are just repeating the same thing over and over. so i’ll bow out of it now.

  7. OldDarth says:

    ‘I never wanted you to be a spy.
    I knew how dangerous this world is.
    What it does to the people in it.
    That’s why I kept something from you.
    Something about me.
    About Orion.
    I’ve been a spy for the last 20 years.
    Working for myself.
    Doing things governments are afraid to do.

  8. OldDarth says:

    Oops sorry hit the wrong key….

    Maybe being a spy is in our blood.
    And maybe I should have told you all this long ago.
    But Chuck your story is only just beginning.
    It’s time you know the truth about my work,
    And about the people who tried to destroy me because of it.
    If I’m gone then your not safe from them anymore.
    And neither is Ellie.
    These people; they are ruthless, cunning…
    Chuck its time you learned about your family.
    Because I did it all for her.’

    No mention of anything beyond the family and for a ‘deathbed confession’ one tends to divulge everything.


    Unless the ‘she’ in PapaB’s message is Volkoff and part of the retconn includes Volkoff having a sex change operation too. 😀

    PapaB did it ALL for her. All. Nobody else. Just MamaB.

    • Gringo Chuck Fan says:

      There seems to quite a bit we still don’t know for sure… [ In the Chuck universe – this is nothing new… so what the beef now?]
      Did the CIA know that Stephen and Mary were married?… with children?
      Did the CIA know that they Intersected Hartley Winterbottom?… or was that their own experimental research? I think there is a difference between the Intersect project – and the ISIS experiments… slightly related – but still slightly different.
      I didn’t know that there are RULES for how a story is written or composed[?]
      Sure there might be well trod conventions that are tried and true – but Rules… breaking trust??? Isn’t this just a work of fiction?
      Ok – back to the CIA – I still think they play a larger role in all this:
      We know there is a big ‘Eraser’ on the horizon – perhaps this is what Stephen and Mary feared more than anything else… Maybe the CIA were responsible for the creation of Volkoff – maybe the did order Mary to go and clean up the mess… but that’s where I think things went sideways. Including Stephen having to leave his kids – to protect them from both the CIA and from Volkoff – and keep them safe from all the other things that go bump in the night…
      Maybe Stephen used the Intersect project as a bargining chip with the CIA.

      So the parallel stories still hold up though:
      Stephen was responsible for the entity known as Volkoff…
      and Chuck is responsible for creating a nemisis in Vivian Volkoff.

      Stephen lost his wife for 20 years over Volkoff – and now I wonder if Chuck will loose his wife literally… strap yourself in – this ride is gonna pick up speed.

      • ArmySFC says:

        well i don’t know about rules per say or breaking trust. look at how the name reveal turned out. using what you said nobody should be upset, but they are. take the first 13 episodes of season 3. it went in a completely different direction from where they hinted it might go. look at the mess that caused. i’ll take it one step further. in the finale sarah tells chuck to piss off, it was just a scam to keep him under control and she leaves. from what you said nobody should care. but you can bet you butt this blog along with every other one would go bat crap crazy over it.

        i really can’t explain it but i hope those examples explain my thoughts a bit.

    • atcDave says:

      OD I still fail to see how Agent X changes anything. Was he required to recite his full biography in his last testament to his son? He expressed his love for his wife with a warning to his son there was work to be done and he was entering a dangerous life. We saw that the Orion Cave was full of information that was left for Chuck. Surely some of it was actually important, yet he didn’t list an inventory or rank order his mission priorities in his last testament either.
      Especially when we consider Orion didn’t know he was going to die when he did, he actually did a good job of leaving information for his family to follow up on.

      My point here is just that I see nothing in the line of a serious retcon here. You have to know in any serialized story we’re going to learn important information about past events as we go. And here you are complaining when they come up with one that makes perfect sense and explains actions and motives quite nicely. I think you’re putting an expectation on the writers to front load all their story-telling that likely couldn’t be met by anyone. This isn’t even in the same ballpark as “Leia is my sister”; or Bobby in the shower; or James Bond on his first mission in 2006, 53 years after the character was created.
      Serialized story telling will ALWAYS involve a certain amount of retcon, if uncovering a family secret is the biggest of S4 I’d call that an awesome success.

      • Olddarth says:

        Sorry Dave but good serialized shows do plan their twists ahead of time.

        As for the bad ones, who cares?

    • Big Kev says:

      Definite food for thought, OD.
      The “ruthless, cunning” people trying to destroy Orion because of his work are now clearly the CIA, with PapaB’s reaction identical to Casey’s. Orion’s pathological aversion to the CIA, and Chuck having any involvement in it is further explained rather than changed by Agent X. No issues there as far as I can see.
      “I did it all for her” – means the same as it’s always done, to be honest. That Orion spent the last 20 years devoting himself to finding his wife and extracting her. I’m not sure how the revelations of Agent X change that? All it does is add some new perspective on why the original mission was undertaken in the first place, and makes that mission a lot more personal than originally believed. Yes, a reference at that point to Hartley would probably have made sense, but I’m not going to die in a ditch over it.
      I’ll concede that the “doing things that governments are afraid to do” has been swept aside – but that has been swept aside over the season as a whole, long before Agent X.
      I hear what you’re trying to say about “throwing PapaB under a bus” – but I just don’t see it. I’m not a fan of the “dropping new facts into the story without prior clues” device, as I said earlier, and I agree with your point about telling a story truthfully, but I just don’t have the visceral reaction to this retcon that you do. For me, resurrecting Shaw did much more damage to one of the most significant resolutions of S3, as did Sarah suddenly becoming overwhelmed with guilt over the spy life/red test, having given no hint of any remorse for the previous 2 seasons. Those were damaging to me. This one, not so much.

      • atcDave says:

        I’d agree exactly with all of that Big Kev.

      • Faith says:

        I think you’ve hit on it right on the head (or however that expression goes), at the end of the day it comes down to if it works for you on a personal note or not. To me it does, not all things Chuck have in the past (let’s not go there lol), but this one does.

        More than the contention on what is or what is not retconning (jeez I just made an adverb out of it!), the consequences this twist brings to Vivian and Chuck’s immediate future is most intriguing to me. Then again I also see the grays of Mary and Stephen’s spy pasts, the way Chuck and Ellie have come to accept them.

      • Big Kev says:

        Agreed Faith. In amongst the debate about whether Papa and MamaB have been bad parents, and whether this reveal makes them better or worse, the most important point has been lost. How will Chuck and Ellie come to reconcile their decisions? The possibilities that this story opens up about how the siblings come to change their lives and learn not to repeat their parents mistakes are fascinating.
        Mileage for good or bad writing is personal in the end, as you say. I can agree 100% with Frea that it’s objectively a very bad idea to lather on a new set of facts without laying any groundwork to do so – but I can then say I don’t care much in this case, because I love the twist and the possibilities for the story. Take another episode that I didn’t enjoy so much (ie Balcony) and it’s the perceived bad writing that I remember. It’s complicated – and it’s personal.

      • armysfc says:

        kev agreed on them not repeating their parents mistakes. form what i saw they are about to make the same mistakes, kind of. casey has warned them about what can happen if it gets out. in fact he said something to the effect of sending someone like me to put a bullet in your head. yet ellie seems to be willing to go down that road to save hartely because she feels its what her dad wanted them to do. isn’t trying to save hartely what started this mess?

      • Big Kev says:

        But that’s what makes them Bartowski’s. That compulsion to do the right thing, no matter what the potential cost. You lose that, and you lose the essence of who they are and why their story is so appealing.
        Here’s the difference. Papa/MamaB did what they thought was the right thing – but they did it at the expense of their kids, and they did it with no support. MamaB got stuck, and PapaB had to find her/extract her on his own.
        Chuck/Sarah/Ellie will find a way to do the right thing without losing those they love. They have a team to help them. They may sometimes repeat their parents mistakes but they will learn.
        I so want Season 5 to be Team B against the CIA fighting to expose the cover up and working to find beneficial civilian uses for the intersect. Orion gets the legacy he deserves. Would be an awesome way to end the series!

      • armysfc says:

        kev oh i agree. i was just pointing out that they are headed there. as for next year, if there is one, i hope you get what you want and others do as well.

      • atcDave says:

        Kev you’re being quite the visionary today! Love your ideas.

  9. Frea O says:

    My take:

    So I don’t think the Volkoff/Hartley reveal is a retcon, per se. There’s been nothing in there actually conflicting that’s been previously established. On the surface, Hartoff seems to be a “deepening of the mythology and backstory” behind this Intersect project.

    In actuality, it’s just a flagrant show of really, really, really terrible writing.

    Before I go into that, I’ll temper my analysis with a few things: I know a lot of what I’m about to say could be called “the nature of the beast.” Chuck is a bubble show, which means from one day to the next, they don’t know their fate. If they had a full season to play at a time, things might be different (I highly doubt they actually would be, but that’s just the pessimist in me talking). They might actually have a chance to apply not only that, but a decent budget to the visions the writers have. Planning for the future isn’t easy when you don’t even know if you’ll get a shot at that future, so they might think that planning for anything beyond the next amount of episodes they’ve been officially given is just bad luck, and they don’t do that.

    And so, they shoot themselves in the foot. Which is honestly what I think happened here.

    In writing, the best way to lay out a major twist is to, well, actually lay it out. Put in groundwork and drop in things like foreshadowing and red herrings and clues that things might not be like they seem. These are the things that make your readers, when the twist is revealed, snap their fingers and go, “Oh! Now I know why Harry could hear the voices nobody else could hear! He’s a Parselmouth!” The best twist is the one that completely shocks the hell out of you, but in retrospect, you can see that it was supposed to happen all along. A writer that does this really well is Brandon Sanderson. During his third Mistborn book, he gives outright clues about the whole world he’s established and it STILL shocks the hell out of you when you realize he’s actually talking about this or that character.

    Chuck writers, however, do not do this. And part of it is, yeah, the nature of the beast. But that excuse can only carry them so far and in my book, this whole Volkoff arc is much farther than they’ve been allowed to carry that excuse. To me, this reveal was just lazy. They’ve done absolutely no set up for it previous arcs, so this whole thing came out of nowhere, just like every other continuation of the Intersect project. This is why people are able to call it a retcon even though it doesn’t outright conflict with what’s established already: because there’s nothing establishing it or grounding it to the plot. It feels “tacked on.”

    And to me, that’s insulting. That’s insinuating that these writers can and will change the rules at any moment, given their own whims and where they want the characters to—oh, wait, they already do that to the point where I don’t know if I even want to cheer the characters on because I don’t even know who the characters are going to be week-to-week. Why bother to get invested? This is exactly the same reason I stopped watching Glee at the beginning of the second season: because the writers can play fast and loose with anything they want. I’m a little more invested in Chuck, so I hope they’ll stop doing that, but this Hartoff nonsense tells me it’s probably never going to change. *sigh*

    And yes, I know all of these are unpopular opinions. And I didn’t write this to “stick it to Ernie” (I think he’s a rather nice guy), but to say, “This is how I see the Hartoff Reveal, and It Disappoints Me.”

    • atcDave says:

      Frea, thank you for a well thought out and politely worded response. I would even agree some sort of foreshadowing would have been appropriate. But the vast majority of foreshadowing we see on television and cinema is so obvious and heavy handed I actually prefer a twist I didn’t see coming. And when the twist actually serves to enhance the characters while honoring the shows history (as in, not invalidating anything!) it just seems like a win to me. To me the “didn’t see it coming” part is huge; an actual surprise on network television is a rare thing. A surprise that brings some clarity is even more appreciated.

    • Crumby says:

      Now that I can *mostly* agree on. 😉

      To me it wasn’t a retcon, which isn’t to say it was well done.

      However it has been that way since the end of S1 with Chuck. S2 is full of that kind of “revelations.” Which isn’t an excuse either. But I actually thought that this time around the idea (not the execution) was well thought and interesting, and actually makes sense.

      So I’m not as bothered as some seem to be.

    • Big Kev says:

      See my last post and others. I completely agree with you about the preference for writing that leaves clues when twists come. I’ll repeat my earlier recommendation for Ashes to Ashes – the best example of it I’ve seen in a TV show for years. When you see the reveal and go back through the seasons, you see the minute details the writers laid out from the earliest episodes of Season 1. Stunning. That’s how it should work.
      Sa far as Chuck goes, I think the point at which I decided I just had to accept the writers’ MO or move on was the resurrection of Shaw. At that point, I decided there was pretty much nothing that was sacred in terms of previously revealed truth. And I guess that makes this one a lot easier for me to deal with. I actually love this twist and the possibilities it sets up. It does seem to be the final straw for a few people though (yourself and OD included?) and I can understand anyone thinking that they’ve gone to the well once too often.

      • armysfc says:

        Kev…well they lost me as well. i have made my displeasure known for a while that this season revolved to much around the bartowski clan. this was just the final nail in the coffin so to speak. i would have much preferred it to have been some other agent. so now i not only find out the mysterious agent x was volkoff, but he was a friend. maybe i just got confused along the way and thought orion developed the intersect on his own. with all the chuck following in his dad’s footsteps that was touted all over the web. i may have let that color my view. now i find out it may have been a team effort and it went sour. that his dad may have known all along his mom was alive. it just made me more down on orion. i didn’t watch this one live. i only watched it to see what all the hub bub was about on the blogs. the same feelings about the reveal are on other websites as well.

        i’m a big believer that ratings tell a fans mood about a show. i think this tuesday will go a log way to showing to me how it played out. if they stay the same or rise it was accepted by those that watched it last week. if they fall it says they reacted badly.

        at this point i am pretty down on the show and this week got me there. i’ll wait till after it airs just like this week and see if it’s worth my time. if the reviews run the same as this weeks did i’ll, pass and watch the last 10 minutes of the finale to see the big twist they have coming.

        for those of you that do watch live i hope it meets and exceeds your expectations.

      • Tamara Burks says:

        Army , actually it was said that Orion developed the cool parts (in Dream Job) ,Not that he was the only one who made it. Plus Orion said Chuck was a better engineer than him so it seems more a matter of him follwing in his father’s footsteps but doing it better than him.

      • armysfc says:

        thanks! like i said i might have gotten confused along the way! still the ties to the clan is to much. all B all the time equals oring to me.

      • Tamara Burks says:

        I’m also pretty sure that Busgang from the Cole Barker arc was involved in some way but I’m not going back to check since that arc made me cringe and then they went and made it the test run for something even more cringworthy.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah there’s been a few comments indicating there was a team behind the Intersect. Although it does seem Orion was the driving force, at least until he got spooked and left the program.

        I kind of wonder now though if Ellie will prove to be Orion’s heir; while Chuck may be more like Frost.

      • armysfc says:

        now i’m even more confused. if orion wasn’t alone on the project, why would he feel the personal need to fix hartely? now it makes even less sense to me.

      • atcDave says:

        In 1980 it was probably all him. We know when Chuck downloaded his first intersect in the late ’80s Orion was working from a lab in his home. So the additional staff likely came on board sometime after Orion had a working model. When he ran away from the project in the mid-90s there was apparently enough staff to continue to refine his work.

  10. Olddarth says:

    ‘This is why people are able to call it a retcon even though it doesn’t outright conflict with what’s established already: because there’s nothing establishing it or grounding it to the plot. It feels “tacked on.”’


    ‘And to me, that’s insulting. That’s insinuating that these writers can and will change the rules at any moment, given their own whims and where they want the characters to—oh, wait, they already do that to the point where I don’t know if I even want to cheer the characters on because I don’t even know who the characters are going to be week-to-week. Why bother to get invested? because the writers can play fast and loose with anything they want. I’m a little more invested in Chuck, so I hope they’ll stop doing that, but this Hartoff nonsense tells me it’s probably never going to change. *sigh*’

    Absolutely – keep changing the landscape and the character’s triumphs are rendered meaningless.

    Kev – yes, this was the final straw for me. I am done with Chuck. The writers broke the implicit deal of trust. I no longer believe in their intent to write a honest story and can no longer can maintain my emotional investment for the characters.

    The good news is this is my last Chuck post on the Internet.

    If I can summon up the energy I may put up a final post at my blog to cleanse the palette but it is time to move on to other shows that honor the trust relationship with their audience.

    Best wishes to those who continue to watch the show. May it fulfill your every wish and dreams.

    • Big Kev says:

      Really sorry to hear that. I’ve always enjoyed reading your episode reviews, listening to the CNN podcasts and discussing stuff with you via ChuckThis and Twitter. I’m about to start watching “Fringe” (following so many recommendations from the Chuck fandom) so hopefully we’ll catch up again somewhere.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks Kev. I’ll mod the CNN podcasts for the remaining two episodes but won’t offer any opinions.

        BTW if you want to see a Chuck/Sarah type relationship and series story continuity done right, highly recommend you, and anyone else who might be interested, to check out FarScape.

      • Verkan_Vall says:


        Why didn’t someone TELL me that you were going to discuss one of the best shows on TV in the past 30 years?

        Huh? You’re leaving?

        Oh, frell me to tears.

    • armysfc says:

      OD sorry to see you go but i can’t blame you. i could relate to most of your views more than others. enjoy where your life leads you and good luck!

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      Best wishes to those who continue to watch the show. May it fulfill your every wish and dreams.

      Thank you. But sorry to hear that your wishes and dreams will remain unfulfilled as you bid adieu to the show.

  11. Kris says:

    Oh Lou. That hurts me. But I understand. I guess I’ll see you around. Let’s talk Fringe instead.

    • Olddarth says:


      • Amrit says:

        Yeah Lou, Fringe will do the same thing in the future, have no doubts about that…I mean that season finale was a horrendous side step…I agree with Ryan Magee and Alan Sepinwall…Fringe has just blown a season worth of build up…only because unlike Chuck they were not even willing to go for a payoff and give some closure…..

      • OldDarth says:

        Amrit you can listen to our next FBI podcast and comment there.

        Let’s leave this blog for Chuck discussions as it was set up and intended for.

  12. Amrit says:

    I think fans may be jumping the gun here on critising the show…everything can be explained if we allow our minds to tell the story we think the writers are telling…

    1) Stephen Bartowski created the intersect, it was never established when he exactly did that….so in the season 3 finale flashbacks when he was working on it he was probably trying to fix what it did to Hartley…that is probably why he said to little chuck…you are ok…it did not make him crazy like hartley and that is what made chuck special at the time…
    2) He did not trust the CIA, now we thought it was because he did not trust what they cia would do with the intersect and fulcrum and the ring, etc. Now he never said why he did not trust them totally, we assumed that is was because fulcrum et al were evil and would use it for evil things…well learning that the cia did that exact same thing adds to the story it does not diminish it.
    3) Now people say he is a bad parent…what if when the cia first tested hartley and turned him into volkoff, the only two people he met in the cia were the scientist that uploaded it (orion) and mama b the handler for the project…now what if after a few years doing missions for the cia so that volkoff could establish his identity and so he became powerful and well known within the arms world…lets say the cia was using him to sell weapons to enemies of the cia’s enemies…what if at the time he went crazy volkoff was so powerful that when the cia disadvowed him he got angry and wanted revenge…but here is the kicker! he only knows orion the scientist and mama b his handler…so when project isis is over….mama b to protect her family has to follow him or he will kill everybody she knows including orion. People ask why not shoot him in the head straight away…well what if she did not know how well established he was…I mean she did obviously come back from missions every so often..she read chuck when she was away he could have given people orders in his organisation to kill mary if she left and her family…so mary is stuck..the only way to be free is to take down volkoff and his whole network. Now why not contact the cia and ask them to give her and her family witness protection? well lets say the cia are a bunch of small minded beaurocrats who would rather put a bullet in the bartowski family then admit that they created the most powerful and evil men on the planet.

    So with all these ifs and more ifs…does this soften the blow for some fans who say that she and papa b were bad parents…or in the end of the day were they the only two people left to hold the bag when project volkoff went to the crapper? The only way out for both mama b and papa b would be death…that would protect chuck and ellie…but they did what they could. You see when a soldier fights a war he has team mates, he has the public knowledge of a war…spies like mama b and papa b have no one because everything is black ops and nothing they ever do should really exist (watch burn notice to understand). For all intents and purposes nothing chuck has done in the last 4 years exists on paper…nothing casey has done or sarah has done should exist…look what they did to michael western when they no longer needed him…he did not exist…no job not anything….so what do you do?

    Finally papa b’s will…what if the files in his basement was everything mary ever did with volkoff and the work he did with the cia. When he said he worked as a spy on his own…we all assumed that he worked taking down other organisations..what if he worked on only taking down volkoff…what if when he said governments are afraid to do that…he meant that the cia or US government was afraid to chase a man they created….what if when papa b said that these people are evil and cunning he meant the cia and volkoff…what if everything he told chuck was about what they cia and volkoff had done to his family over the last 20 years since mary’s been gone….you see if you look at information at a certain way it all makes sense…I guess if you love chuck then you will do that I suppose!

    • Amrit says:

      Oh and something I forgot…How come no one blames the CIA for any of this? I mean on fringe everyone blames Walter for causing this mass destruction but it was the Observers who screwed up! On CHUCK it is the CIA who started this chain of events! Look how many times they were willing to screw chuck over when it suited them…they really are a bunch of small minded beaurocrats…

    • armysfc says:

      well you make good points. the best one is the last. “you see if you look at information at a certain way it all makes sense…I guess if you love chuck then you will do that I suppose!” anyone here can take bits and pieces from the show and make a good case out of it. is that what you want? a show that’s so ambiguous that looking at it a certain way creates a different out come? one way you get parents that are hero’s another has them as dead beats? one that suggests the lead female character is a slut for the CIA or the other that shows her as almost virginal? one that has the male lead as a bumbling idiot or one that has him as a hero? all of these things and more can be argued based on happenings in the show.

      that’s why there is such a big divide in the fandom. things are fluid and constantly changing.

      the moody blues sums up this show the best…
      Cold hearted orb
      That rules the night
      Removes the colours
      From our sight
      Red is gray and
      Yellow white
      But we decide
      Which is right
      Which is an Illusion

      • Faith says:

        There’s the other side of that too Army, if you’re looking for dirt, you’ll find it. I argue it’s easier to do that than to appreciate the strengths and positives of the show.

        Amrit, nice read. I think what I take away the most from your post is that although we got a “twist” in this episode, questions also came with it. That works for me, the ambiguity on some details of the past works for me. I guess it goes back to the kind of medium television is. Not everything will be answered, just like we’ll never know what exactly took place after Chuck and Sarah went to the rehearsal dinner in Colonel and I’m fine with that. I’m never going to know exactly what the characters are thinking, nor will I ever be privy to exactly why characters made certain decisions but at the end of the day, I buy into it. I buy into the situations and the decisions because to me they’ve constructed the plot and the characters in such a way that you can buy into it, you can sympathize or not with their situation. Not everyone agrees or sees similarly, that’s fine. To each his/her own.

      • armysfc says:

        faith isn’t that what i said? i think these lines pretty much cover both sides…one way you get parents that are hero’s another has them as dead beats? one that suggests the lead female character is a slut for the CIA or the other that shows her as almost virginal? one that has the male lead as a bumbling idiot or one that has him as a hero?… parents as hero’s = good or parents as dead beats = dirt? slut for CIA = dirt or near virginal = good. i tried to be clear on that but guess not. sorry for the confusion.

        that was the whole reason i used the quote to begin with. those loyal to chuck will twist anything they can find to make it seem better or ignore the things they don’t want to. fans that are more critical and not as loyal will ignore the better things and twist anything they cab find to their point of view. thats why the last three lines apply the most WE decide which is right and which is a illusion.

      • Faith says:

        There’s no need to apologize for the confusion. I understood, I was just making an opinion/stressing the power of one over the other.

        And I’m not one for rigid thinking. Things are never as clear cut as whore-virgin (and as a woman I’m offended at that distinction) in general. In terms of Chuck though, I’m a firm believer that one can be loyal but still be critical, one can be disenchanted but still open minded. These things aren’t mutually exclusive to me. I am admittedly a loyal fan but I am also not above criticizing the show, but then again I am also very conscious of not crossing the line between criticism and cynicism.

      • armysfc says:

        faith sounds good. i though maybe i was unclear. you wrote somewhere who wrote the episode. i stay away from noticing who wrote what. i just watch as it unfolds each week. i don’t want any preconceived notions going in. i do that for the same reasons as above, liking or disliking a writers previous episodes can sway a point of view. that way each episode stands on it’s own merit not a writers past performances.

        on a side note sorry to hear about your lakers. that had to be tough to watch.

      • joe says:

        Ah, I hear my name!

        those loyal to chuck will twist anything they can find to make it seem better or ignore the things they don’t want to. fans that are more critical and not as loyal will ignore the better things and twist anything they cab find to their point of view.

        Can’t say I disagree with you, Army, at least, not completely. But I think it’s possible to be a little more generous to both sides.

        Some of the most popular and most watched shows on TV have some of the least redeeming qualities, I contend. I mean, really. The world would be a better place without Jersey Shore, as far as I’m concerned, as well as The Housewives of -Anywhere, USA. Have you ever seen World’s Dumbest…? I mean, really.

        But my cable has room to admit something like 1800 channels. There’s more bandwidth available than programming. There’s about a thousand times more available than quality programming, so I guess nearly every (reasonable) taste can be accommodated.

        So yeah, I’m going to latch onto all the shows I like and watch them obsessively (at least, to the point where it drives my wife insane). But my reasons are my own. I have no need to force them on anybody.

        Tell you what I do take extreme pleasure in, though. I love it when I find someone who shares my tastes. The coolest thing ever was when I discovered a couple of “secret” Chuck fans in the same week.

        It’s not that any of us were trying to ignore some (rather obvious) shortcomings, really. It was more like we uncovered a gem from the muck that we wanted to share. Sometimes those gems were just personal to us. They said more about us than about the show.

        [As an aside, only one other show has ever struck me so personally – The Wonder Year.]

      • armysfc says:

        joe…well i was using extremes to make my point. but you got the general idea of it. it’s pretty much the same with anything, just look at any political opinion from anywhere. it’s the same principle. same can be said for musical tastes as well. there are fanatics on both sides and those stuck in the middle. in the end though isn’t it those folks that get hurt the most?

  13. Sarge_87 says:

    Maybe the writers could reset the whole series after getting a renewal from the network with a convoluted alternate universe angle, and mix in an even more ridiculous to suspend disbelief time traveling angle with wormholes created by a mad scientist, ending with a reset to Chuck and Sarah running away from the CIA circa season 2.

  14. Prue says:

    I can’t wait to see what all you people who are ‘done’ have to complain about after you actually do watch the last two episodes.

    Quit being so overdramatic. ITS A TV SHOW. This Agent X business is not the end of the world and the story hasn’t even finished being told yet.

    • atcDave says:

      Not only is it a TV show, its mostly a comedy! Oy!

      • Prue says:

        Exactly, this is a spy-comedy! Don’t take it so seriously people, lighten up. A lot of people are so quick to be critical and undermine the writers (especially the new ones) often and it’s just such a copout. You’re not writers and if you think you can do a better job go and be a writer and write a better episode of Chuck. The writing hasn’t been the best this season in comparison to previous seasons but the show is still better than a lot of other crap on TV. Seriously, if you get SO down and pissy about the quality of writing on a light-hearted TV show then yeah, you probably do need to re-evaluate your life.

      • Faith says:

        While I will never presume to draw conclusions on anyone’s livelihood (if anything I’m the most guilty of all because I all but eat, drink and sleep Chuck at this point 🙂 ) I do see what you mean about being overly critical of the writers, especially these new ones. Do they have as good a grasp of the characters, the motivations, and the mythology as the original writers? Maybe not, but they’re far from awful. And here’s the most interesting point, this episode was co-written by Phil Klemmer. An original writer of Chuck so to judge him for lapsing in judgement on both continuity and plot isn’t fair to him IMO. He’s human obviously so he is bound to make mistakes, but at the end of the day he lives/lived with these characters and these situations from day one and he probably knows more than we assume he does, or we assume we do. I say that being a self-avowed non-fan of PK. Even then as stated we’re left with questions to go with the intriguing big reveal (my opinion of course). Perhaps patience is best at this point in time. Just my 2 cents.

        By the way I want to apologize for not being around to respond, as stated I’m dealing with some time constraints and you guys are a fount of verbiage and intellect 🙂 to try to wade through with half an attention span.

      • mxpw says:

        Seriously, if you get SO down and pissy about the quality of writing on a light-hearted TV show then yeah, you probably do need to re-evaluate your life.

        Hold on, point of clarification please: Are you saying it’s okay to get down and pissy about the quality of writing on a serious TV show? If so, excellent, I’ve got more than a thing or two to say about Game of Thrones but I don’t want to have to re-evaluate my life in order to say it. That’s too much work.

      • Frea O says:

        Man, no wonder we joke about needing protective gear to come over here. We air our very real grievances with the show on a Chuck fanblog, and it’s all, if you take it this seriously, maybe you need to reevaluate your life. And then, of course, people attack my other favorite show, which isn’t even a competitor to Chuck, as they’re on different nights and in different time slots anyway.

        (Oh, and in attacking my favorite show, gave away the ending that I hadn’t had a chance to see yet, thanks to my schedule lately. Y’all are just swell)

        I for one am very sorry to be losing OD from the fandom, as he can usually be counted on to feel exactly the opposite that I do about something (this case excepted) on Chuck and therefore he serves as an appropriate emotional barometer for me. 😉

        However, more seriously, I don’t ever recall thinking or telling him, “Hey, maybe he should think this way” or “his opinions are wrong” or “he’s wrong to feel as strongly as he does.” Why? Because I’m really not rude like that.

        Oh, right, it’s also rude to correct etiquette. Guess I am rude like that. My bad.

        So when I have a problem with the show’s writing, I can’t point it out and say why it’s not working for me because I don’t write for the show? That’s a pretty low population that can. And I did have a problem with the writing of this episode, but I guess I can’t voice that.

        Sorry for being snippy, Prue, Amrit, but I do think you’re being a little unfair.

      • atcDave says:

        Frea I don’t believe any of the venom was directed at you. And it certainly wasn’t about the idea of criticism. We had lively debates here all through S3 and things rarely got so personal. I think the problem is certain comments suggesting those of us who do like the current show are stupid for doing so. That will raise blood pressures quickly and makes it hard to have a civil conversation. If the initial “rebuttal” comments has been as thoughtfully constructed as yours this wouldn’t have gotten so heated.

        And I think it’s sad any time we loose a viewer, especially someone who once loved the show very much. But the timing of these meltdowns is very odd to me. I’ve seen no such parallel among casual viewers; unlike S3 where splits among casual viewers mirrored those among the hard-core. This season I’m not seeing any disaffected viewers (and no I can’t account for the drop in ratings; everyone I know who was watching still is).

  15. Ernie Davis says:

    Wow. Well Faith and I did want to get some discussion going, not quite this direction however. Still, nice to see a lot of passion, even from people who are insulted or done with the show. It reminds me of the old days in season 3. 😉

    I’d love to weigh in, but sadly I’m traveling this week for work and blogging time is limited. I plan to watch tonight, and I even found a Subway nearby. I may try to get back and comment on some of the discussion, but if not I’ll be back for the finale!

    • atcDave says:

      Thanks Ernie, for throwing a grenade and running off!

    • thinkling says:

      I’m in a similar situation as Enie. I would have loved to do a post and weigh in this week. Unfortunately, I’m on my 9th straight 12-hr day of Tornado disaster relief work, so I just haven’t had the time or energy (or mindset) to participate.

      I’ve been a little surprised at the passion, especially the negative passion. I think Agent X is a great twist that adds a lot to the story, both looking back and going forward. At this point in 4.0, we had a similar negative back lash (Balcony), and everything worked out great. My advice … chill and enjoy what looks like it’s going to be a great ride. Oh, and be ready for 4.23. It’s going to be tense, maybe even a little dark (remember Gobbler?) But I’m confident that this arc is going to be great.

      I’m planning to enjoy every minute. It’s TV … like Dave said above. It’s entertainment … some of the very best.

  16. jason says:

    so I guess my prediction that chuck fans would unite near the end of the season like I thought Friday Night Lights fans did maybe was wrong – oh well – for me, I mostly view chuck in a serialized fashion, such that cannon, mythology, OOC story telling and the like mostly don’t bother me, I think that was the only way I could continue watching & enjoying after the shaw misery season.

    I rewatched 4×3 and 4×4 last night, don’t think there are many orion/ mary / hartley bread crumbs out there (yet), but I have enjoyed the first 4 episodes of season 4 more than any chuck rewatch ever – knowing what is coming makes the sarah / chuck banter / interplay even more fun than I remembered the first time round.

    At this point, I just hope the next two eps and the cliffhanger are not morbid – pretty much how I approach every dramatic finale with chuck, my hope is the drama is pure excitement with little or no misery, such that if more seasons are around the corner, the show can continue to be a fun, warm, romance rather than getting thrown off course by an ill conceived ‘twist’.

  17. alladinsgenie4u says:

    Not to sound contrite or sarcastic – but I am loving/enjoying this thread of discussion. 🙂

    • jason says:

      @genie – I am too & generally I do not enjoy these types of threads but this one is hilarious to me, I am not even sure why?

      both smallville and fringe pretty much had big time WTF moments friday night, that put me in an even better mood – I love when other shows screw their audience, after shaw’s misery season did it to me – does that make me a bad person?

      One problem with writing ‘big’ episodes, you are stuck with those ‘twists’, such that the only way out may be perceived by angry fans as retcon, OOC writing, or whatever other word you want to use – even if the creative team did not mean it or intend it to be. At that point, you borrow from emotional capital that you have built up with your audience, and if that becomes a deficit, bango – you lose a fan.

      • Big Kev says:

        Happens on any show though, doesn’t it? Unless it’s some procedural that trots out the same story every week and never moves it’s characters. And you’re welcome to those.
        I hate to see the show lose fans. Hell, after Balcony I was nearly one of them. But I’d rather the show move along, and try stuff, even if I don’t like it, than just tell me the same story week after week. This show has (almost) never done that, which is one reason I continue to love it, in spite of it’s flaws.

      • jason says:

        @kev – I agree that all serialized dramas do twists, especially around season end, from my POV neither twists nor drama are Chuck’s strong suit – so I would not mind at all if chuck was a procedural comedy.

        One distinction I make, is characters can grow thru procedural TV (Castle more or less is a procedural) – it is just stories grow slowly or not at all or not as dramatically as a story like Alias or Lost. That is my take on Chuck at its best, the characters grow, morgan becomes an adult, chuck marries sarah, sarah becomes normal, etc ….. without having the dramatic serialized spy stories but while on weekly, fun, spy adventures (the show held its audience easily early this season when it held to that format). It seems that chuck’s serialized drama has done little the past 2 seasons other than annoy a portion of the fans who like spy stuff as well as those who like the warm, romantic comedy.

        And really, annoy is probably OK, but Chuck’s creative team has done more than that, what they did has infuriated some fans who at one point were very loyal and very committed, I don’t think that is either normal or something to be applauded.

  18. BillAtWork says:

    I’d like to weigh in here. I’ve read a lot of discussion here on the technicalities of what is or isn’t a Retcon. I don’t think it matters all that much. Because I think it misses the point.

    I don’t anyone would disagree that Chuck is full of plot holes. People like Sepinwall openly make fun of them regularly.

    There are plot holes that I can live with. Sure Sarah couldn’t have traveled back and forth between L.A. and Moscow 23 times in a single day. Of course. Bad storytelling, but I can forgive.

    There are things that just couldn’t have happened. Shaw is floating face down in the Seine with 3 in his chest and not only shows up a few weeks later without a scratch but is back in charge. Okay, whatever.

    Fulcrum is such a large and powerful organization that they have a multi-story building dedicated to recruitment. And they are but a subset of the Ring. Yet the Ring is crushed by Morgan capturing 5 accountants in a stairwell. Okay, whatever.

    There are even silly things. In early S3, Shaw’s wife’s spy diary was so important that Carina engaged in a long term seduction mission to retrieve it. It was protected by lazars and a poison gas chamber. The Ring sent the key to Paris (why?) hidden on a dead body. When they finally get the thing open, Shaw say “now we might have a chance.” And it was never, ever referenced again. Okay, horrible story telling, but I can forgive.

    And don’t get me started on the odd ooc behavior.

    But there are simply too many things on this show that happen and you say to yourself, “that couldn’t have happened that way.” In S2, the CIA is desperately looking for Orion. Then we learn in Ring that Bryce Larkin (a CIA Agent) had an ongoing relationship with him. Huh?

    In S3 they tell us that the intersect has a flaw. Anyone without a governor. Goes crazy. It started to happen to Chuck after a couple of years. Then we find out that Chuck was intersected as a child, and Volkoff was intersected even before that. Huh?

    A basic tenant of good storytelling is that the story has to make sense. You take events and facts and build on them to tell the next part of the story. And sure, you don’t tell all the facts. Sometimes you hint and deceive and twist. I get that. But you don’t tell events that directly contradict previous facts without explaining why. And Chuck writers do that regularly and without conscience.

    It makes trying to predict what’s going to happen next silly at best, and frustrating at worst. Because all you have to go on is logic and what’s happened before. In this show those things rarely apply.

    Nobody (or few) predicted Agent-X would be Volkoff. For good reason. It doesn’t make any sense.

    And actually, MamaB going undercover to protect/control Volkoff almost works. But when you look closer, it breaks down. It’s like trying to fit a Ford transmission in a Chevy. It looks like it might work. But the holes just don’t line up.

    Chuck was a much better show when it was a mission-of-the-week. At least then it didn’t have to make sense.

    I still watch the show. But I’m done being invested in the characters. That’s too painful.

  19. BillAtWork says:

    They had the chance to tell a sweet romantic story. And they still might. And not C/S this time.

    Consider that Orion and Frost never left their kids. They only appeared to. They were always watching over them from afar. They were fighting their own war, as much against the CIA as against anyone. They were together as much as circumstance would allow for the past 20 years until Orion was unfortunately killed.

    Alas, now even that sweet story has some major holes. but it’s the best I can come up with.

    • atcDave says:

      I do wish they’d told that story, but I don’t believe it was ever their intent. I was really hoping for some signs from Mary that she’d kept in touch with Stephen over the years, but they’ve really given us no reason to hope for it.

  20. Prue says:

    @mxpw that wasn’t what I meant, but since you guys seem to over analyse everything than SURE go ahead 😀

    @Frea O my comments are mainly directed at those who have quit the show (with two episodes left, give me a break) and those who are so quick to criticise the writers and act like they can do a better job (this is not unfair).
     I have no problem with an opinion of an episode, whatever, there have been episodes I haven’t liked, but sometimes Chuck fans are so over the top with their passion for the show that it just breeds negativity, like this thread has shown. Everybody gets all high and mighty. “Terrible writing!” “jumping the shark!” “Too many retcon’s!” and acts like stuck up little amatuer critics. You aren’t getting paid to review Chuck, so just enjoy it ESPECIALLY since there will probably only be 2 episodes left ever. Just let the show be and know that there’s nothing you can do to change the story & complaining about plot holes or motivations will get no where. NBC will have no problem taking this low rated show off your hands.

    • Crumby says:

      Isn’t that what this blog is all about? Reviewing the show? Sharing about the good and the bad? Exchanging reactions and discuss the content of the episodes?

    • armysfc says:

      prue…good points and it does apply both ways like i said earlier. as for leaving the show with 2 episodes left. i have been losing interest since about episode 7. it isn’t a sudden thing to me. the direction of the show in general has caused me to become disinterested over the long haul not because of one episode. there is nothing that binds me to the show in anyway.

      Bill at Work just did a nice piece explaining issues that have been there for a while. whether a person agrees or not is up to them. the same goes for if you want to see more of it or not. some of the people like OD are very knowledgeable about the show. some like me are not. when any show is not enjoyable to a viewer they have the right to leave.

      looking at the ratings should tell you something. there are many reasons people stop watching. the big one to me which is mostly ignored by the fans of ANY show but shouldn’t be is because people no longer enjoy it. my son loves the event, it’s his favorite show. he can’t believe people don’t like it. almost everyone i have talked to says it stunk, including me. i would bet if you checked with people that stopped watching any show that would be a big part of it. i posted an article about why people leave most shows. it was at the top of the list as well as the reasons. for some of us the time is now for others it has happened already and for some if they get a season 5 it may happen when they don’t tune in next year.

    • atcDave says:

      Well Prue you know I can’t agree with some of that. I think we’re better than professional critics, we’re fans. We’re emotionally invested in the show, which means passion and usually deeper thought than professionals will ever invest in the subject. Not only that, many of us have far more viewing experience than the writers have writing experience; I know I’ve been taking my entertainment pretty seriously since before Josh Schwartz was even born. This is also a pretty literate and well educated fandom. And several of the commenters who visit here every week ARE fan fiction writers who turn out product that is in some ways clearly superior to what the “pros” are doing. Although it is true none of us know all the workings on a business or production level; and even the most gifted of fan fiction writers are working in a different medium and different creative environment, so there are always some difficulties with drawing too many parallels.

      But all that said I agree with your final analysis. We likely have only two episodes left; I intend to enjoy every minute I can.

  21. uplink2 says:

    Wow, I certainly missed a lot by spending the day with the mother of my children. I guess that makes me a better dad than Stephen Bartowski lol. Very interesting discussion however. There are many diverse viewpoints and many different ways people approach the show and their critiquing of it.

    I don’t want to offend and don’t want to come off as being overly critical of the critics but man some of you really take yourselves and the show way too seriously. However I do love reading what you say even if I think its complete crap. 😉 From what I see and know about some of the posters here I think there is a big distinction very evident in the comments. Some view themselves as writers, critics of writers, people who want to be writers, people who enjoy writing and take if very seriously. Others see themselves as simply fans of the show who like to be critical of things they don’t enjoy but praise that which they do. That can lead to a very interesting debate and some very interesting comments. I enjoy learning and reading how the more serious “writer” group views the show and what we see on it but me personally I fall into the fan first aspect of it. I critique the show based primarily on whether I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy what I was seeing. If I enjoy it the flaws tend to not bother me but if I don’t they simply standout as huge issues.

    On the subject of retcons, I tend to be more in line with Dave in that to me a real retcon changes or contradicts what we have known previously, especially about the characters themselves. Case in point. Hey remember what I said about “never letting anybody hurt you”? Well forget that. I’m going to allow this selfish, vengeful bozo blow you up just to protect worthless disks that we have never even referenced or shown what they had on them because they told me he was a great spy, he’s my boss, I think his kissing my neck “didn’t feel so bad” and I know no one should ever do anything just “for me”. THAT is a horrendous retcon. Giving new information about something that doesn’t change what we knew but only adds another layer may in some definitions of the term qualify as one but it isn’t horrendous IMO. OD brought up what in that definition is a big retcon, the Tron poster, but THAT was simply awesome to me. So there are great retcons and ones that completely suck. Chuck has lots of both.

    But what I did get from reading alot of the stuff in this thread is that much of what is being criticized about the Hartley reveal simply doesn’t matter to me. I LOVED it. It has added so many great possibilities for future stories, explained to a somewhat satisfying manner much of what I had questions about in 4.0 and I was thoroughly entertained. That is what I want from the show and why I am as dedicated a fan as I am.

    For me and me alone this show isn’t a lesson in writing TV. It will never be viewed in my eyes from the lens of was that set up properly, did I know the characters motivation well enough etc first and foremost. For me it will always be viewed first from the angle of did I enjoy what I watched and feel like it was a well spent hour of my time. In the case of Agent X and all of season 4, it excels on that level in spades. Whereas I find the more I analyze season 3.0 the more I have problems with it but that always starts from the fact that I didn’t enjoy the story they were telling in the least. In fact for much of it I absolutely hated it. Even if the drama was better, the stakes were higher, as some here claim I really don’t care about that. I hated what they did and almost gave up on the show because of it. I don’t want to ever get to a point where plot holes, lack of setup or writing techniques are the lens I view this or any show from first and foremost. To me that will only lead to disappointment. Just sit back and enjoy a show or not first and then talk about the rest of the stuff.

    That being said I guess I really don’t care that much about most of this discussion. However I tend to a agree with much of what Ernie and Faith have pointed out in their original post. To me this is a top 5 episode of season 4 and if it drives away some of what I see as overly critical “fans” from the show, so be it. IMO its your loss. But I will say I welcome differing opinions and love reading them but I reserve the right to think they are total BS.

    • atcDave says:

      First of all Uplink, shame on you for doing something frivolous like the Mother’s Day thing when there was serious Chuck discussions to be had! But secondly, of course I agree with most of what you say. Chuck has had plenty of both “good” and “bad” retcons; but the bad sort all seem to be confined to 3.01-3.12, funny that!

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, as usual we are on pretty much the same page about a lot of our discussions of Chuck. So again I thank you for pointing me to a lot of great FF that “un-retcons” many of those bad ones in 3.0.

      • atcDave says:

        Its funny Uplink, I think the one completely good thing I can say for S3 is it sure inspired a lot of fun fan fiction!

  22. Rac2873 says:

    Who knew Agent X would be such a hot topic.
    I actually didn’t mind Volkof being Agent X. It made sense on who he is was and why he was so crazy. I think they determined who Volkof was at the time of First Fight. It’s explains Tuttle and how he can be 2 separate people.

  23. BillAtWork says:

    Let’s remember why we fell in love with this show in the first place. I claim to speak for no one. I can only speak for me.

    I got chills in Seduction when Roan asked Chuck if she was worth dying for and he said yes. Even typing this makes me want to go rewatch that scene.

    I pumped my fist in the air in Lethal Weapon when Cole asked Sarah how is it was fair that you should have to pretend that you don’t care for someone, and she replied that it isn’t. Except she was talking about Chuck.

    I melted a bit in Santa when everyone was calling their loved ones, Sarah didn’t have anyone to call, and Chuck called her.

    I was on cloud nine in Colonel when Sarah asked “two beds?”

    Those were moments that television rarely delivers. Sadly, we just don’t get those moments anymore. When Sarah threw her gun on the bed in American Hero was nice. But the very next scene of the next episode, it never happened. Yes, the proposal at the hospital was a nice moment… but they diminished it by teasing it for half the season.

    So when I criticise the show and it’s writing, it’s not anger, it’s sadness. We lost something great, and we’re only left with something pretty good.

    When did that happen? For me it happened on that Train platform in Prague. when the story screamed for C/S to be together, yet they wanted to artifically milk wt/wt for one more season. Everyone else might have their own moment.

    I seriously think they’re better off going back to the mission of the week format. At least that doesn’t have to make sense.

    • uplink2 says:

      Bill, we have discussed this before and I agree with you completely. I have finally resigned myself after the debacle that was season 3 to the fact that the show will never be as great as it had been or could have been and that all ended at exactly the same moment as you suggest, the train station in Prague. However being the optimist I am, I will say that I think it could have been rescued after Three Words or even Angel but the direction they took from that point on especially starting with First Class ended any chance of it ever being a truly great and extremely special show. It as you said just became a good one but still better than most.

      For me at least Season 4 has been much better because it has been so much fun but I will agree I no longer view it as I once did. I just enjoy what I’m being shown a great deal and want it to continue because most everything else on TV simply sucks and even a diminished Chuck is a top 5 show for me.

      I also agree that I view much of my discussions of problems with season 3 from a viewpoint that also includes a great deal of sadness along with the anger. Lost greatness is something worth mourning but unfortunately it is a part of the reality we live in and being that optimist I have chosen to find and enjoy the good while still mourning the loss of the great.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with most of this Bill (and Uplink too!). Although I guess I’m a little more upbeat about how much S4 has been able to rebuild for me. But that attitude requires pointedly ignoring most of S3. Through S2 Chuck had something really magical going; and a lot of it came down to the beautiful and improbable central relationship. But after S3 it can never quite be so beautiful again.

      But I do agree about the more episodic structure. In fact, part of what I initially loved about the show goes back to those first seven episodes of S1 that were mostly episodic. And the first episode I disliked was 1.08, the first episode of the first arc. Now its funny that in time I’ve come to like most of the story arcs they’ve done (except S3, duh!); but I always prefer the more self contained stories (like Wedding Planner, wow!).

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave its funny because even though I believe that the shows greatness was diminished with Prague and never to fully recover, season 4 has been my favorite by far. Now maybe it is in part because I didn’t start watching the show till the beginning of the Jill arc in season 2. I never saw what I believe is the best 4 episode arc of the show’s history, the first 4 of season 2 until I got the DVD’s. Therefore I may never have developed the height of passion for that season that those who watched from the beginning did. But by DeLorean in particular I was pretty much convinced it was the most special and yes, epic romance/relationship story I had seen on TV in many many years. But Honeymooners in all of its greatness still could not repair the damage of the 13 prior episodes. Season 4 has gone a long way to getting it close but the bridge to that final place of greatness simply was bombed out of existence after that train left Prague without them on it.

      • jason says:

        @uplink – chuck and sarah did leave the train station together in 3×1, the next 13 episodes were a dream, the explanation will come out in 4×24, we will find out chuck’s 13 ep dream was caused by an adjustment period for the intersect 2.0, the next real moment after sarah touched chuck’s cheek and said ‘this is real’ at the train station was when she opened the door on the train for the dining cart in 3×14. Now that is what I call some game-changing epic retconning!!!!

      • atcDave says:

        Jason that’s a retcon I would be happy to live with! Its pretty much my standard assumption the discussion in Castle after downloading the 2.0 led directly to Honeymooners anyway. I think the intervening episodes were mostly a non-fan fiction.

  24. James says:

    The thing is that these continuity errors have always existed on chuck….but when it was popular in seasons 1 and 2 people looked over it. I think this abandonment by fans just shows really how they were nothing but poser fans! Being fans when it is fashionable to do so does not a fan make and so I say good riddance!

    • BillAtWork says:

      Wow James,

      I gotta disagree. Say what you want about the people who have posted critical comments on this thread, but I don’t think it’s fair to call them fair-weather.

      Most of them have been prominant in the fandom since the beginning. They bought subs, wrote fanfic, moderated forums, did podcasts, and generally supported the show.

      Certainly this show has never been all the careful with continuity. I’ll agree there. But it got much worse when they started with the methodology story after Colonel. It got pretty rediculous in S3.

      I’m personally not giving up on the show. But I can’t find fault for those who have. And since 6 million people used to watch the show every week, and now only 4 million do, I think there is some cause for concern.

      • uplink2 says:

        Bill, got to agree with you again here. I completely agree that calling them fair weather fans is unfair at the very least. I love reading most if not all of their postings, I just chose to reserve the right to think what some folks say is a bunch of crap lol. 😉

        I am not giving up on the show in the least. I have been actually more excited for these back 11 than much of my time ever on the show. And I will be for season 5 as well. But I do agree that I don’t fault those that may be done. I was very very close to being done after Fake Name in particular and it was only Chuck’s aha moment in Beard that saved me. Too bad so much of the rest of that episode was total suckage.

      • James says:

        Well I bought subway and recently two toyoas for my family….and I wrote to Toyota to tell them I am buying because you have been great to chuck and I support you….BUT I do this on good faith not that I expect something in return and I do not need chuck to be popular to support it. Hence fans leaving are free to do so….I will not bat an eye

      • BillAtWork says:


        I think there is something that we will agree on. If you post on this blog, you love (or did, anyway) the show. But that doesn’t mean you can be critical of it’s faults.

        Watching Chuck has always been an exercise in suspending disbelief. You’re right about that. How could Sarah have possibly been the only employee in a working fast food resturant, yet come and go as she pleased, lol?

        But it’s also hard to get excited for the next big moment, when they’ve diminished so many of those big moments in the past.

        Let me give you an example. What were you feeling when Sarah threw her gun on the bed at the end of American Hero? That she had chosen to run off with Chuck? That she was done being a spy? That it was a pivital moment in her (and the show’s) life? If you did, you’re not alone. Except that it clearly didn’t mean that. Because the very same day she was back to being Shaw’s partner and she never, ever mentioned to Chuck that she was on her way to meet him. Why? To set up the same emotional DYLM scene in Other Guy.

        It’s hard to trust this team and the story they are telling us. Becuase they are willing to throw in under the bus in the next episode.

        That’s a fair and valid citicism, IMO. Does it mean I quit the show? No. But it does mean I enjoy it a hell of a lot less tham I used to.

    • Crumby says:

      When was the show ever popular anyway? They’re is no such thing as better fans than others, and you can’t possibly ask somebody to keep watching something than he/she is not enjoying at all, whatever his/her feelings for the previous seasons were.

      Thank god being a fan of something doesn’t mean you’ll support whatever is done to it, forever!

      Continuity errors always existed, yes. But the sum of it becomes tiresome and just disappointing.

      I’m just talking for myself here, but I do think S2 is often overrated and that a lot of what is bothering in S4 already existed. But there were reasons to let that go, and enjoy it. However at some point, there’s just so much you can take. The reasons to get past continuity errors, unresolved issues, contrived angst or else are just not as numerous now. And there is a “I’m just tired of this” factor.

      And I’m saying that as someone that actually liked the idea they came up with Agent X.

  25. Michael says:

    I am not agree with either side of this current debate here…yet! let me put a few thoughts down and then lets see where my head is at…this current situation James alludes to reminds me of the episode of Frasier where Frasier and Niles were so embarrased to be seen in a cancellation line that they missed a chance at seeing a great show and a great perfomance by a retiring actor. At the bar when the actor (not knowing that Frasier had missed the show) asked him what he liked..Frasier whinged it, he recited a scene from a newspaper review and made it seem that he was only interested in the gestures..the actor taken aback simply said you are the reason why actors act…because you enjoy the moments that we actors give, because you have integrity and principles…he points to a room where all the high society were in and he says that those people only got to the theatre because it is fashionable…he said he could spot them from a mile… the frauds and the posers.

    Well I can spot them too! I agree with James…I enjoy chuck for those special moments, ones they have given in abundance…I am not going to call people out specifically because that is not right…this is a free speech country and as such people are entitled to their opinions and berating them shows a lack of class…but lets put it this way…to the fans moaning and groaning about how this season does not stack up to season 2 and want to jump ship! WE as a fandom all know who and what you are! Posers! Frauds! Fans who only stay when it is fashionable and do not have the gumption, principles and dignity to stick through a rough patch! Good day!

    • Frea O says:

      Going by those standards alone: man, too bad I’m not really a Cake fan, since I don’t find “B-Sides & Rarities” to be as good as “Fashion Nugget.” 🙂

    • atcDave says:

      I can’t agree with this Michael. I think critical analysis is healthy for both the individual and the development of the show. Now I do find it frustrating when we can’t sit back and enjoy the show; but each of us will have issues that make it difficult or impossible for us to do so. If someone has unreasonable or eccentric expectations their opinions will likely be ignored by other fans and TPTB. But healthy criticism and analysis helps form opinions and sort things out. When something rubs you wrong, someone else’s comments may help you figure out why. And most importantly, well reasoned criticism and feedback is what gives writers, producers, execs, et al; valuable information so they can improve both current shows and shows yet to come. In fact, I say if you have a clearly reasoned thought on why something didn’t work for you; you do all of us (and TPTB!) a disservice by keeping your mouth shut.
      Entertainment IS a collaborative process. Performers, writers, producers who loose sight of that fact render themselves and their work irrelevant.

  26. mxpw says:

    I have to say that I laugh at the people who think I’m a fairweather fan (or people like Frea or OD). I personally have been a member of this fandom since the very beginning. Since longer than probably most of the people who post here. My first Chuck fanfic was one of the first ever published in the fandom. I’ve been to cons, I have merchandise signed by the cast, I buy the DVDs every year (in fact, I pre-ordered S4 on Amazon months ago). I post on multiple message boards. I bought subs at the end of S2.

    Normally I’d resent anybody questioning whether or not I’m a fan of a TV show. Like what really gives you the right to make that kind of judgment call? What gives you the right to question somebody’s enjoyment of something? Normally I’d resent that, but frankly, I just think the people making those comments are ridiculous and foolish.

    There’s been a lot of talk on this blog lately about certain posters being overly critical and that they should stop, but nobody ever says anything when certain other posters on this blog throw around the word “genius” and describe the show in very glowing, incredibly positive tones. Really? Calling the show genius is acceptable, but saying it’s terrible is not? They are both extreme opinions, yet only those who are perceived as criticizing the show excessively are taken to task on this blog while those who praise it excessively are never told to knock it off or to stop taking the show seriously or to simmer down. It would be nice to get some balance and for people to be treated more fairly.

    I’m not sure why I still come here sometimes. I think it’s mostly because of the spoilers. I’m thinking maybe I should just stick to that page from now on.

    • Kris says:

      Completely agree! Yes, Si, Oui, Wa, Oo!

      This type of behavior is not just here though. It’s everywhere online where people are allowed to be faceless.

    • Crumby says:


      Also, was your first fic “Chuck versus the Man in Black”? Because everybody should go and read it, it’s awesome!

      • patty says:

        I think that is the one that got me hooked on Chuck Fanfiction in the first place! It is short and good! Everyone shoukd read it!

    • ArmySFC says:

      MXPW…i know for a fact from responses i have gotten in the past that if i claimed the ideas of the majority of this blog were total crap, i’d get either edited or close to banned. i would definitely be told about it. my ideas run different than most here but i have never claimed their opinions about the show were total crap. i may not agree with them but i respect them. i don’t know why some people can’t understand that their version of the show is not the same as someones elses. 1.7 million people have stopped watching chuck since the start of the season. that’s an awful big minority to be talking about. it’s almost 35%. your right with the fairness.

      • atcDave says:

        And army what you “know for a fact” is simply wrong in this case. We have never banned ANYONE. And we have only edited comments where inappropriate language or personal insults were involved; and I can only think of that being done once in almost two years of our existence.

      • ArmySFC says:

        thanks for clearing that up.

      • uplink2 says:

        Army, I think to some degree you are missing my point if you were referring to my reserving the right to think peoples ideas are crap. First of all part of my reasons for choosing that term was an attempt at some humor, something that this thread is really missing IMO. I said in my posting that I love reading what others think about the show especially when I may not agree with them. Many times I don’t agree with what you say but I would never want you to stop saying them. I completely agree that we should not tell people that their ideas are “crap” as that gets into a personal aspect to anonymous internet postings that I loath. But I do reserve the right to believe in my mind that the ideas they are posting about I disagree with, they are simply wrong and I then disregard them as yes, crap. But I would never say that to the poster specifically.

        I never want to go to a site where everyone sees things exactly the same and we all agree. How boring would that be? I have come here to learn other peoples views, be challenged in how I state mine, and simply learn more about how this show has impacted my life in such strong ways. Yes I come here to vent a lot about season 3 but I have come to a much better understanding of how I feel about it because of the views of others. OD and I have disagreed on many many aspects to season 3 and I completely disagree with much of what he says on it but I would not have wanted for him to not post them or engage with me in those debates. I’m a better and more knowledgeable fan because of it. And I feel much the same way about almost all of my time here and it is why I keep coming back.

        Thinking someone’s ideas are a load of crap is not something derogatory unless you make them personal. It simply means to me that you disagree with them and you can’t understand how they feel that way. But if you or anyone else finds that offensive I’m sorry and will find another term.

      • ArmySFC says:

        uplink… i wasn’t referring to anyone in particular. there were quite a few posts today that could be considered insulting. i said before i was told i was wrong, hinted that i was a troll and told i was spreading doom and gloom. i personally can accept it and move on. some people may not be able to. you can tell me that my point was crap as long as you don’t mind me saying yours is as well. that’s fair. like i said others may not like it. it’s an area i won’t even say i think about.

        it’s like the people who come here and don’t post, then run to another blog and make fun of the people that do post here because they hold a different opinion. i won’t even venture a guess as to why, but they do. all in all this is a fun place to be but sometimes the chats get carried away and tempers flare.

        this episode seems to have ignited that for some reason. i can’t wait to see the reactions after the finale.

      • uplink2 says:

        Army, thanks for that. I do really enjoy reading your take on things many times and please any time you want to call an idea of mine a load of crap please do. Hey I’ve been married 26 years so I’m used to being told that my ideas are a load of crap lol. Besides I’d love to hear your reasons as to why you think they are. It helps me grow and refocus my thoughts more clearly.

        But I also agree on those that read and then bash elsewhere. They are cowards, pure and simple. At least those that post here and get into some of these heated discussions I would never accuse of that.

        For me this was a great episode and I love it when a great episode generates a lot of heated discussion. I learn something from that. What I don’t like is a really bad episode like we saw too many of last season. IMO there are probably only about a half dozen or so episodes from last season I would rank above the worst of this season. To me that’s a lot more sad than anything being discussed here.

      • ArmySFC says:

        uplink…as you may have noticed i don’t give my take on an episode anymore. parts of it maybe but not the overall episode. glad you noticed those people as well.

    • patty says:

      Just because you disagree with someone does not mean taht you should say rude things about them or try to imply that they are somehow inferior to you. I think people are getting worked up mostly because they are scared the show will be cancelled altogether. It is likely that that descision has already been made one way or the other and what bloggers had to say on here was not a factor there so chill people!

    • atcDave says:

      mxpw I have never called you a fair weather fan. But I would think it would be obvious that giving negative criticism requires more care with your words than positive does. Especially when criticizing the show or professional writer ends up insulting a fellow fan or blogger (who’s site you are at). We have a long tradition of doing negative criticism here, and it is always allowed. But it is less welcome when the criticism becomes personal insults towards fellow fans. Ernie and I have argued and debated almost since the inception of this blog, but we have always been civil to each other. Some guests have managed to be insulting even when I agree with them. Being insulting is a bigger problem than being wrong (I’m sorry! I meant “having a different opinion than me!”).

  27. Matt says:

    Hello all, first time posting here. I’ve followed the fandom since the start of Season 2, but haven’t really participated much since the end of that season besides posting on a board with a small Chuck community and sending out some tweets related to the show within my own group of friends. That said, I’ve lurked around and really enjoy what the hardcore community (you guys!) have to offer in the form reviews, podcasts, “how to save the show” tips, and so forth.

    Anyways, I wanted to offer a bit of an outside perspective and to say that I really enjoyed Vs Agent X. I thought the twist fits in the framework of the show and found it to be an interesting development. The Chuck community I participate in online feels the same as do friends in real life, so I’m genuinely shocked to see it get such a rise out of people.

    For me, Chuck was always weak in the spy story, mythology, long-term arcs. Nothing became of Fulcrum/The Ring, Shaw coming back from the dead was out there, etc. Not to say that I don’t enjoy some of the mythology, but the main reason I watch Chuck are for the laughs and warm/fuzzy feelings (the end of Wedding Planner!). For me, those are the main priorities of the show.

    Now, the reason I’m posting, and what’s been bothering me, is that I get a feeling that it’s dumb of me to enjoy and approach the show this way. Whether true or not, it feels like some hardcore fans assign too much weight to the spy story, mythology, the hero’s journey. “The spy story must be good for the episode to be good” kind of sentiments. It’s fine having that view, but it’s gets obnoxious when that view presented as objective fact and the authoritative barometer of quality regarding the show.

    Chuck fans are a nice and fun bunch so it annoys me more than usual when I see this this behavior and see comments full of “RETCON RETCON RETCON”. I’m not active in the fandom or a writer, but I’m far from the casual viewer (I read this blog after-all). I feel like everyone’s viewpoint should be accounted for and that it’s wise to acknowledge that what you are looking for in a show might be different than what someone else is looking for. It’s one thing when there’s near universal agreement (Shaw!), but from what I’m getting is that many people are ok with the Agent X development and I liked the exploration of it in this fine post by Ernie and Faith.

    Anyways, atcDave sums up my comment in a sentence: “I think the problem is certain comments suggesting those of us who do like the current show are stupid for doing so.”

    • Faith says:

      Thanks for the post Matt, hope you find your way posting a bit more. 🙂

    • atcDave says:

      Matt I figured you for a kindred spirit long before you quoted me! Appreciate your comments, and I would say almost all the casual viewers I know see things the same way too. Although we may be more of a minority in more committed groups. Obviously I see nothing wrong with getting more excited about the spy story than other aspects; but like you, I watch to laugh, have a good time, and enjoy the warm fuzzies!

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