Worlds Apart: Thinkling and Ernie rewatch the Gobbler

Worlds Apart

It seems fitting that our summer rewatches of Chuck Versus the Intersect and Chuck Versus the Gobbler came back to back. Gobbler revives the theme set forth in the Pilot — the contrast of Chuck’s two worlds. Trying to operate in both worlds and still keep them separate is an ever present tension in the lives of our heroes. Perhaps no episodes show us the chasm between the spy world and the real world better than the Pilot and Gobbler. Watching them back to back, we realize that the pilot showed us only the tip of the iceberg … a small part of the dangers that we, like Chuck, couldn’t see or imagine.

The invisible spy world, always just below the surface, to one degree or another, holds Chuck’s real world hostage. Every once in a while the barrier is breached and the dangers of the spy world threaten to destroy Chuck’s real world: Marlin, Santa Claus, Colonel and Rings I&II … Leftovers, Balcony, Gobbler, and Push Mix … Agent X, Last Details, and Cliffhanger. Aha! I think I see a pattern. Each season raises the stakes and presents greater dangers which our heroes must vanquish in the final arc … or lose everything. Gulp.

It is here, in the undertow of the spy world that Chuck gives us its best drama. S4’s mid-season final arc (which might have been the series final arc) gives us the very best of Chuck … strong drama, interspersed with comedy, action, family, romance, and heart. Classic Chuck.

The Setup


Leftovers sets the stage for the final arc. In order to protect her family, Mary spent the last 20 years of her life struggling to maintain the barrier between the spy world and her real world. In Leftovers, the darkness of her spy world irreversibly spills into her real world when Volkoff discovers Chuck’s real identity and all the pertinent details of Mary’s family. Sarah, more than anyone, understands their new reality.

“Your mom can’t come back, not until Volkoff is destroyed. He knows too much. She’s the only thing keeping us safe right now.”

Volkoff holds all the cards. More menacingly than ever before, the spy world holds their real world hostage.

Fast forward a few months to Balcony, the first act of the final arc. Nothing has changed. Chuck’s real world is still held hostage by Alexei Volkoff. As Chuck tries to ignore the undertow of the spy world and move forward with his life, he plans the perfect romantic proposal to give Sarah a clean slate from her past. Sarah, ignorant of his plans, is determined to wipe another slate clean.

“General, I know why Chuck was asking about Volkoff. He’s concerned for his family and friends, and I want to make something absolutely clear. I will do anything in my power to help bring back Chuck’s mother and to eliminate Volkoff and his organization.”

Meanwhile, we revel in the romance and the couple’s happiness as they move toward the perfect proposal … until the barrier is breached, in an act of remarkably abysmal timing, and the spy world threatens to destroy them … again.


Balcony was a fun, lighthearted episode, with romance and squees aplenty, and some say an unnecessarily angsty ending.  But for the purposes of telling the story, and potentially acting as the coda for the entire series, it was, to me, nearly perfect.

We establish a mood immediately, romance, a couple, a relatively easy straightforward mission, and all the hope and possibilities ahead for Chuck and Sarah as they start their lives together.  But we also see immediately, the spectre hanging over them.  Volkoff.  Or spy life.  Take your pick.  Volkoff however is the perfect personification.  We also see the other spectre, Sarah’s past.

In another one of those lovely parallels Chuck does so well we see the minor issue, Sarah’s past, pushed to the front while the major issue, Volkoff and the need for a clean slate, is played under the surface for the duration of Balcony, only to intrude just as they are about to start their lives together, again.  It is the latter that will be driving the final arc.

The clean slate.  Chuck and Sarah have always sought to do what they feel is best for the other.  Usually without ever discussing it.  Sometimes, and Chuck is usually the more guilty party, they seek to “fix” each other.  To make right some perceived wrong done to them.  On occasion, like with a Stanford diploma, it is a touching and wonderful gesture.  Other times, like a father’s location via government computer or a spy team reunion it has unforeseen, and at least temporarily dangerous consequences.  In this episode they both decide the other needs that clean slate.  This is often where trouble starts, even if it is for the best in the end.

Before this becomes a review of Balcony let me move on to an important question Joe and Faith asked.  Who was the proposal for?  The simple answer from me is this.

The first was for Chuck, the fulfillment of his adolescent fantasy where he’d be publicly seen as the grand romantic he was and charm the girl off her feet.

The second was for Sarah, on both their parts.  For Chuck it was to give Sarah the clean slate.  To “fix” her past, just the two of them, alone and private in a spot Sarah loved was perfect.  On Sarah’s part it was to allow Chuck to feel like he can be “that guy” again, to let him “fix” her, even if she doesn’t want or need fixing, so that they can move on with their lives.

The third.  The real one, in the final act was for them.  When Chuck and Sarah try to be what they think the other needs or wants or give the other what they think they need or want they risk losing themselves, and consequently the very thing the other loves.  When the simply let it go, accept themselves and the other without question and choose to be together, it works.

For now they are still trying to fix things.  On to Gobbler.

Sarah has had to go back to being her old self, to fix things for Chuck, and as we see in the opening Chuck has had to go back to being his old self, a bit naive, and trusting, despite all he knows, that Sarah Walker can do anything.  He needs to believe because, as we’ve seen since season 1, he can’t let her die, or lose herself for him.  He believes because he needs to believe that Sarah, his Sarah will come back to him before life on a mission changes her the way it changed his mother.

Meet the new Sarah Walker, or the new old Sarah, or, well it’s complicated, but Sarah is back in full spy mode fully immersed in the spy world.  She knows she’ll be playing a dangerous game.  For now though we can still have some fun.  We love it when Sarah kicks butt, and so does Volkoff apparently.

Sarah Walker, meet Alexei Volkoff, again.  Once again I get the feeling it’s the grownups playing, and the spy game is elevated.  We see the spy game not through some convoluted plot or twist or mission, but, as Chuck does best, through the players.  Now, we start to see Mary’s dilema through Sarah’s story even while we see the dangers Sarah faces in through Mary and her situation.

Volkoff knows Sarah, and knows her weakness.  While he doesn’t trust her, he takes a perverse joy in the opportunity to control her.  His complete knowledge of everything she has to lose and the position it puts her in both makes Sarah the perfect mole, and makes her uniquely vulnerable.   Sarah knows she (nor Chuck) can’t remain a spy, loyal to the country and true to her calling while Volkoff knows and can threaten Chuck and his family.  Chuck is in the same position (as we saw in Balcony) which is why she volunteered for the mission to begin with.   But Sarah is also uniquely vulnerable, as is Mary now that Volkoff knows her secret, and her weakness.  Neither can’t afford to have Volkoff doubt them.  She knows Volkoff knows, and she knows he knows she knows.  A very knowledgable bunch.  But Volkoff can have some fun.  He has Sarah, and Chuck, and Mary right where he wants them.  He has hostages.  Everybody.

The Heart of the Story


I just have to say that the contrast of worlds is brilliant in Gobbler. The dark spy-world is shown in negative parallel imagery with the sunny real-world … like the negative of a photograph. In the real world, Chuck’s friend falls in love, and his sister picks out baby names. In the spy world, disappointing the boss is fatal, and world domination isn’t a board game. Chuck may inhabit the real world, but his heart and soul are with Sarah. The reverse is also true. Sarah inhabits the spy world, but her heart is with Chuck, and her mind is on taking down Volkoff and bringing Mary home.

I will always love the image of the all-new, old Sarah Walker striding into Volkoff’s office and everything that follows, especially the move she puts on the three guards. Sarah tells Alexei the truth, pretty much. She did ask Chuck to run away. They are trapped in a CIA run world, and she is indeed trying to buy a future with the man she loves. (Little does she know that the man before her really will help her cash out and build a life apart from the CIA.)

As Ernie said, we see Mary’s dilemma through Sarah’s story. Sarah herself cites the parallel, in such a way that Volkoff and Mary both hear what she needs them to know. “Your actions did serve as a sort of inspiration.” Volkoff hears that Sarah, like Frost, is betraying the CIA to come and work for him. Mary hears that Sarah is still one of the good guys, under cover to take down Volkoff and protect her family.

Ernie and I draw the line in a different place between what Volkoff knows and what he thinks he knows. I think Volkoff believes Mary is loyal to him. His shock and anger at her betrayal in Push Mix is genuine. Yeah, he’s a psycho-control-freak, so he never fully trusts anyone. But she comes closer than anyone to being a person of trust. That’s why she immediately pulls Alexei aside to tell him that Sarah will betray him. Mary protects her cover by feigning loyalty to him and closes the deal for Sarah by challenging his need to control people.

Wherever you draw the line between what Volkoff knows and what he thinks he knows, one thing remains far beyond his knowledge. Love. He only knows how to control, so he is blind to their strength. He cannot fathom their indomitable heart and unyielding love.

Back to Mary’s dilemma and Sarah’s story. Mary’s love for her children has kept her tethered, however tenuously at times, to the side of the good guys and to her primary goal of keeping her family safe. The group she cares about and wants to protect has grown by one, and that one has just risked everything to join her.

“Mrs. Bartowski, I came here to help you take down Volkoff and to get you the hell out of here.”

Mary now has something she hasn’t had in 20 years … an ally … and hope. Finding Hydra is the key to taking down Volkoff, and finding Yuri is the key to finding Hydra. Working together, they may be able to pull it off. Besides sharing a mission, Mary and Sarah also share a dilemma. As much as she welcomes Sarah’s partnership, if Mary could choose, she would spare this young woman, the woman her son loves, the heartache that’s sure to come.

“Sarah, I need you to realize that going undercover in a place like this can require certain difficult choices. … You might find yourself becoming someone you no longer recognize.”

Sarah is all in, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes.” Unyielding love.

Heart. Chuck is a show, we say, that has heart. We see it in the sweet moments and tender scenes. It makes us smile and sigh … and squeee. Sometimes it makes us cry. This episode is full of heart, nowhere better depicted than in this scene that shows caring and kinship, grit and determination … and indomitable heart.

An alliance is formed. A bond is forged. There’s an enemy to defeat and a challenge to survive. Finding Hydra? Yes. Bringing down Volkoff? Yes. But more than that there’s Sarah’s challenge of maintaining her cover and not losing herself. This is the story. It was Chuck’s story in S3 … becoming a spy without becoming a different person. It is Sarah’s story in Gobbler … going back to being her old self (nothing but a spy) without losing the real person that she has become with Chuck.

Sarah has advantages that Mary lacked: a partner on the inside, partners on the outside, active ties with the CIA, and Chuck. But when tests come, each challenge is hers to overcome.

The other side of the story is how Sarah’s dilemma affects Chuck. Ultimately Sarah’s biggest advantage will be Chuck, himself … and his unyielding love and indomitable heart.

Volkoff doesn’t stand a chance. He thinks he holds all the cards, but he’s definitely not playing with a full deck … in more ways than the obvious.

I’ll pass it back to Ernie to look at dilemmas and changes and tests … oh my.


Back in Burbank, life goes on at a leisurely pace.  People eat breakfast, fall in love, go to work, and have their spy base invaded by … wait, what was that?

Meet the new, new Sarah Walker, employee of one AlexeiVolkoff.  Sarah looks, well…different.  Has she changed?  Well hair color and tailors at the very least, but she still seems to be Chuck’s Sarah, albeit apparently a bit more mission focused than usual.  Hey, who doesn’t love a good suicide mission?

So the mission is set, break out The Gobbler and see if he leads them to Hydra.  Chuck and team have the tough part, I mean you didn’t want a literal suicide mission did you?  Subdue the Gobbler, distract security, help Sarah move a 300+ pound man into the delivery truck.  You get the point, she still needs her team.

So as Chuck says, see you in prison, where the closer you approach, the bigger the Gobbler gets.  I must say I like that even with the intersect Chuck finds himself either evenly or outmatched on occasion, and still relies on a bit of brains to win his fight.

The Gobbler secured it’s back to their temporarily separate worlds for Chuck and Sarah.  Sarah’s, where as Thinkling points out the price of disappointing the boss is death, and Chuck’s where world domination is a game, not a business model.

As Thinkling said, we come down perhaps a shade or a hair apart on Volkoff’s trust of Mary.  I think he trusts her loyalty, to a degree, because he trusts in his ability to control her.  More now than ever since he knows her weakness, her family.

We’ve seen that at times, according to Heather Chandler, Mary is always at Volkoff’s side, like when setting up a weapons pipeline for a superbomber.  Other times, like selling nuclear weapons to Costa Gravas, she’s merely heard of, but never seen.  Clearly, as with Hydra, Volkoff keeps his cards close to the vest even with Mary.  But he also has his psycho sense of fun and whimsy, and it is in the scene in Volkoff’s office that we start to see the man’s nature.

Volkoff is the devil.  Yes he’s evil and all, but more than that, he’s a tempter and a seducer.  He knows what Mary and Sarah are after.  Hydra.  While simultaneously securing the database by downloading it, and whetting their appetites with some explanation of its importance, he tempts them.  He dangles it in front of them, the one thing that could free them from his control, practically daring them to make their move, and then he snatches it from their grasp.  Not today, not yet he seems to be saying, now you do something for me, take another small step to prove your loyalty.  Compromise yourself just a little more.

Along with the carrot is the unmentioned stick.  Well mentioned in passing to Phyllis, whose job it is to clean up the bodies.  Disappoint me and you and those you love will pay.


Volkoff is the devil. Really? Shiver. And let’s never forget that he has a hard time with disappointment. Great line, and TD is perfect in this horrifying scene. Unhinged … a bit boyish … and completely diabolical.

Since I hold to the theory that Volkoff thinks Mary is loyal to him, I’m not wholly convinced that he knows that Mary and Sarah are after Hydra. Maybe, but I lean a bit in the other direction. I think his arrogance blinds him to the possibility that Mary might be disloyal or that Mary and Sarah might pose any real threat.

Whether Volkoff backed up Hydra and destroyed the eye for Mary and Sarah’s benefit, or just because having all his eye balls in one basket is a bad idea, he now feels smug and in control. Ahh. Now it’s time to have some fun with his newest acquisition … time to bend her to his will. Alexei Volkoff doesn’t inspire loyalty. He doesn’t even demand it. He imposes it and takes perverse pleasure in doing so.

The Test


Kill Casey.  That is Sarah’s final test.  In an eerie callback to last season’s Final Exam, once again one of our heroes is pushed to the brink of what they are capable of, tested with the no-win situation.   I still cling to the idea that Volkoff values his control over others loyalty, and while perhaps only metaphorically the devil, he does want his people to join him in his own personal hell.

Sarah and Mary dare not lose Volkoff’s trust, or run.  And while he knows that, he controls them.  Sarah’s and Mary’s dilema is straight out of Godfather 2.  In seeking to protect your family, can you lose them?  Can you become someone they can no longer love?  Can the distance between you make you strangers?  Volkoff obviously delights in this game of his as Chuck, perhaps as he hoped, arrives just in time to see Sarah’s test.

Chuck, you’re just in time.  There’s a particular moment when an agent makes the decision to stop pretending and to take the leap to join the other side.  It’s a game-changing step.  Your mother made it all those years ago.  And now, if you’ll come with me, we’ll see if Sarah’s going to make the same step.  I think she will.  Come on.

Volkoff has manipulated the situation perfectly.  Sarah can not fail, knowing the consequences.  Volkoff wants not just a show of loyalty and her admission of his control, but to sever the last ties to any world other than his.  Sarah is tested, and the question is explored.  At what point does your cover become your reality?  What if Sarah has no home and hope to return to, as perhaps happened to Mary.  Is Mary really one of the good guys anymore?  Will Sarah be able to remain one?  How far can you go in selling your cover before you really are working for the other side?  Chuck sees this.  He sees who his mother has become, whatever her original motives.  She stays with Volkoff and does his bidding to protect her family.  At what point does her moral compromise become Chuck’s problem.  How far is he willing to let Mary, or Sarah go to protect, or to “fix” him.  How can he ever have that clean slate if it costs Sarah who she is?

And how far are Sarah and Mary willing to go?  How much distance can they put between themselves and those they seek to protect before the connection is lost? As perhaps once happened to Mary, Sarah cannot afford to fail this exam, to disappoint Volkoff and have his disappointment taken out on her or her new family to be.  But completing his assignment is unacceptable.  Once again Casey is there to help out and take one for the team. Once again, one of our heroes, seeing only part of the story, is left to wonder, alone, how much the love of their life has been changed by a determination to to fix things so they can live in that space they try to carve out for themselves between two worlds.

Maybe there is a reason spies should never fall in love.


Gee, Ernie, thanks for leaving me holding the questions.

Gobbler is a heavy episode, yet still Chuck-like. It weaves Chuck’s main dramatic theme — the delicate balance of opposing worlds — with comedy (funny! Ellie), action (Sarah and the Volkoff goons), family (Grunka/Clara), romance (the Castle rendezvous), and heart. Despite the heavier tone, it’s a win for me. It explores questions that have been lurking about, ever since Chuck’s mom dispatched Volkoff’s men at the end of Anniversary. It shows us light and dark: the dark side of the spy world and the danger to the real world when the barrier is breached. Maybe spies shouldn’t fall in love, but Chuck is about our favorite heroes beating the odds. Gobbler reminds us of the odds.

Mary’s dilema. Gobbler shows us the world Mary inhabited all those years. You can’t just walk away. Failure is not an option. And whatever you do, never ever disappoint the boss.

Mary survived. She remained loyal to her family and succeeded in protecting them. Despite some of the things she had to do to survive, she never sold out. She’s still one of the good guys. The woman Chuck remembers is still in there, held hostage by her own love for her family and her determination to protect them. The spy that Chuck never knew, but was always in there … that’s the only side of herself Mary can show, until she brings Volkoff down.

Being able to survive, keep her family safe, and still be one of the good guys is only part of her dilema. The personal cost to herself and her family is the other part. The cost to Mary and her family was incalculable … heartbreaking.

Now Mary’s dilema is Sarah’s dilema, only with an elevated risk because Volkoff knows everything about her family. Volkoff is Mauser on steroids. Tomorrow, next week, next year … they can’t know when, but one day Volkoff will mess with them again, quite possibly destroy them. Until then, he holds the entire Bartowski family hostage and controls Chuck and Sarah and Mary. They are useless as agents, because any CIA aggression against Volkoff is a threat to Mary’s life. Any misstep on her part is death to her family. Hence, Sarah’s offer to General Beckman and her willingness to follow through when it would be easier and happier to take the ring and stay. Unyielding love. Indomitable heart.

Now that Sarah has inherited Mary’s dilema, what is our assurance that her story … Chuck’s story … their story will turn out differntly? That’s the question left hanging at the end of Gobbler.

Well, I don’t want to leave it hanging, so I’ll give just a tiny preview of the good things to come in the final act. Push Mix wipes all the slates clean. Sarah helps Mary complete her mission, and Mary makes sure Sarah doesn’t follow in her footsteps. Chuck completes his father’s mission. Clara is the clean slate for Mary and Ellie, and of course Chuck and Sarah get their clean slate.

The final showdown — Volkoff v. Chuck/Sarah/Mary — answers the question Gobbler left hanging. Volkoff’s arrogance is no match for their unyielding love, and even he can’t control their indomitable heart.

~ Thinkling and Ernie


About thinkling

In my [younger] youth, I was a math teacher, basketball coach, and computer programmer. In 1984, we moved to Brazil, where we serve as missionaries. I like to design things and build things, read things and write things. We now live part-time in Brazil, part-time in the US. Love them both. Wife, 37 yrs; mom, 30 yrs. I am blessed.
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31 Responses to Worlds Apart: Thinkling and Ernie rewatch the Gobbler

  1. joe says:


    Okay, it’s confession time. I’m behind again, and haven’t had the chance to re-watch Gobbler. Now, after reading this, I HAVE TO!!!

    Can you think of any episode where the sacrifices made by both Chuck and Sarah are more obvious? At the same time, they serve to remind me of the sacrifices made by Stephen and Mary. It heightens my awareness, in fact.

    Casey and even Morgan are immediately part of that, too. They’ve always stood ready to pay a price for Chuck and Sarah’s happiness.

    Small wonder we love these characters so much.

  2. atcDave says:

    While Gobbler remains one of my least favorite S4 episodes, that isn’t entirely a bad thing. It speaks more to the very high quality of the season as a whole than it does to the weaknesses here. A few moments rub me wrong here, starting with Chuck’s painfully naive statement the Sarah “will never change.” I’m sure that constitutes good foreshadowing for some, but to me its just stupid talk, and its beneath our protagonist. My second gripe was the overused Chuck cliche of the rejected phone call at the end, and of course the closely related issue of Sarah taking coping advice from Mary.

    I’ve mentioned all of this before. I can mostly overlook these shortcomings because this season and this arc was ultimately so satisfying. From Dalton’s wonderfully demented baddie to Chuck and Sarah being so desperately in love (the Castle reunion scene really is beautiful). And the whole “Grunka” sub-plot is perfect as light hearted comedy relief in an otherwise pretty heavy episode.

    No this isn’t my favorite episode; but there is plenty to enjoy here. And we know the best isn’t so far off…

    • joe says:

      You have a point about the rejected call at the end. We get the idea pretty quick in the next episode that it’s not a harbinger of the end of the world for Chuck and Sarah. But it’s sure played up like it is in Gobbler. We were left to agonize and let our imaginations run amuck for a week. Clearly, that was intentional.

      I gotta admit, I didn’t fall for it this time. That means it only took [Joe looks at his watch] three and a third seasons for me to figure that one out. It also means the cliché was used at least one too many times. Right?

      The translation is that it was either too effective for the fans or not effective enough. And either way, that small moment was a bit of a miss. The good part about it, though, and the part of it that worked for me is that the moment effectively showed Sarah’s isolation and agony. – um, self-imposed isolation and agony. Right at the point where we think Chuck&Sarah are going to deal with the world together from now on, they have to be alone a bit longer.

      I once said that I love Chuck first and foremost because it makes me feel something. That scene certainly did, even if I understood the mechanism from the first.

      • thinkling says:

        I can’t begin to imagine how Sarah felt. She felt OK about things when the platform caught Casey, but her face changed when she saw him fall the rest of the way. Casey is very likely dead. That’s bad enough. But then she turns and sees Chuck, the look on his face, and hears what Volkoff says to him. She can’t react or respond without getting them all killed. If Chuck reacted to Mauser like he did, imagine how he would react to Sarah killing Casey. It’s done. She is dealing with a lot … more than she ever has. This is way worse than her red test.

        Probably all the more reason to take the call, but how often do we run away from what we should run toward when we feel like that. I’m beginning to have a little more sympathy, even though from my arm chair I can definitely tell her she should have taken the call. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        She should have taken the call! (hey I’m a simple guy…)

    • thinkling says:

      I certainly understand how those moments in particular rub people wrong. Even so I like the episode a lot more than I did the first time I watched.

      At some point they needed to explore these issues of the similarities between Mary and Stephen and Chuck and Sarah. The darkness of the spy world was shown with the really great other things you mentioned, so that it was still Chuck. Chuck and Sarah, as you say desperately in love. If you have to do drama, they did it really well in Gobbler … imo.

      • joe says:

        I can only hope they explore those similarities, Thinkling! I mean, that is something I really, really want to see in the canon.

        Think we will, with only 13 episodes left? It’s going to be hard to know in advance exactly what it is they want to tell us before the end, and as satisfying as it might be for me to see that parallel spelled out, I’m not counting on it making the final cut.

        My consolation is that whatever it is we do get to see will be more important in their minds. That will be enough.

      • thinkling says:

        Oops. I meant needed to explore. I think they did that in Gobbler and Push Mix as much as they are going to. Chuck and Sarah managed to avoid Mary and Stephen’s life, at least from Volkoff. There is still the CIA conspiracy though, so I expect some obstacles for them to completely get their life back.

        I’m pumped. I like the conspiracy angle and the H2H meets A-Team. Not so wild about the Morgan angle, but I can chill about that for now. It must be hard to select the final 13 stories to tell. 😦

      • atcDave says:

        I think we’re still on the same page Thinkling. I’m even okay in theory with Chuck not having an Intersect and Morgan having one; I just don’t want to see Morgan get more screen time than he already does.

      • jason says:

        the farther season 5 is from the gobbler the happier I would be – I want them to explore the future, not the past, the future as a ‘hart to hart’ themed elegant, wealthy, fun spy couple – cannon, mythology, gobbler, shaw, clyde drexler, those sorts of words don’t make me happy – again – how often can the theme of hurt chuck by hurting sarah be replayed – hurt that darned morgan or alex or awesome or even mary – but put sarah and chuck on equal terms and have them fix the hurt together, have the famous chuck ‘plan’ to win in the end, be one that sarah and chuck hatch together in front of our eyes this time – no more american hero, ring 2, gobbler, or cliffhanger type eps where sarah is left quivering in some corner

      • AgentInWaiting says:

        @jason, I’m not too sure I want the show you’re describing – it sounds too much like Undercovers. Hart to Hart was fun, but unmemorable. And while “elegant” might describe Sarah on some missions, it certainly doesn’t describe Chuck. We’ve been shown over and over again that Chuck isn’t James Bond – that’s part of his appeal. He’s grown as a character in confidence and abilities but he’ll never consistently be a smooth and suave Bond (at least I hope not). There’s still plenty of potential issues for Chuck and Sarah to work through (e.g., Sarah getting used to being out of the CIA, Sarah going on missions with an Intersectless Chuck, differences in how to handle an Intersected Morgan, not to mention Sarah’s backstory) without resorting to misunderstandings and false jeopardy. Like it or not, their future *is* dictated by their past.

      • atcDave says:

        I think I’m mostly with Jason on this one. Although I hope Chuck always stays true to some level of nerd appeal and awkwardness; I think the past should be left behind in the sense that there should be no more silly insecurities between Chuck and Sarah. That device is way past worn out, and Chuck doubting Sarah’s devotion or loyalties at this point would reflect very poorly on his judgement. I’m a big fan of the “Chuck and Sarah vs the World” theme, and I really don’t want to see any new tensions added BETWEEN them.

      • AgentInWaiting says:

        Oh yeah, no insecurities about their relationship but they’re still two very different people so there’s bound to be some disagreements/spats. TBTB could do a lot worse than take ninjaVanish’s excellent fanfics Chuck & Sarah vs. Themselves and Chuck & Sarah vs The Bunker as a model for their relationshp.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah AiW, NinjaVanish presents an excellent model for what the relationship could look like. But then really don’t even remember any spats between them in his writing, the tension I remember is all from external sources. I do like the way his version of Sarah is a little scary sometimes; but really only to those who would hurt her or Chuck.

      • jason says:

        agent – 4 things about chuck vs undercovers – my opinion, you are entitled to yours:
        1 – I watched every ep and sort of liked it – a little bit at least – anyhow – I did watch every ep
        2 – IMO – JJ had some big mythology brewing, he just never got time to reveal it
        3 – again, my opinion, on screen chemistry cannot be gifted to a couple, it must be earned on screen, with longing glances and stolen looks, lines, time, and something intagible, I am not sure stephen and sam had any of that, on paper they had chemistry, on screen, Undercovers very likely had no chemistry for the lead couple (much like sarah and shaw had none, even though in some universe they were perfect together) – sarah and chuck have it, both earned and intagible – hence – they can go the hart to hart route now, the other story is told, it is old news, the future is more interesting, more fun, and more appropriate than hurting chuck thru sarah somehow for the 78th thru 91st time
        4 – almost never do ‘me too’ shows make it, with main characters named stephen, sam, and shaw, I get the feeling undercovers was written as a better version of chuck, truth was, it wasn’t, chuck is

        Strictly opinion of course

      • atcDave says:

        Jason I would add to that the sense of humor that has always been present on Chuck. That alone is a major difference between Hart to Hart or Undercovers; Chuck and Sarah’s love is accented by jokes and humor, what a pleasure that is to watch.
        And that does need to continue. I’ve often brought up the Thin Man model of a romantic, loving, and fun couple. Now that The Bartowskis have money that parallel seems stronger than ever. THAT is exactly what I want to see for the rest of the series.
        And for those who aren’t familiar with the Thin Man movies; watch them now! The six movies were made in the 1930s and 1940s, but they are as fun as ever. Not to mention being THE archetype for a loving couple in a modern series (movie, because it predates television), and they make it work on every level. Chuck and Sarah would be perfect as the new Nick and Nora Charles (and I’m positive the name they used in Honeymooners is no coincidence!)

  3. AgentInWaiting says:

    @jason Having watched all of Undercovers I agree with most of your points. But I think the Chuck/Sarah relationship is much more interesting than the Hart’s who have been married for years. And having disagreements does not mean hurting each other as Chuck is *still* the more open, lead with the chin one and Sarah is the more guarded, jaded one. Their differences may lead to some clashes.

    @atcDave, I actually have the Thin Man collection on DVD but haven’t watched it yet. Sounds like a good summer project. Along with the humour*, one thing I hope the writers remember is that Sarah is supposed to be a world class spy and Chuck, however gifted he is, is still not as experienced as her (this is evident in ninjaVanish’s writing where Sarah tends to get upset when Chuck doesn’t use the proper techniques and risks himself).

    *From Last Minute Details
    Sarah: Chewie? Why are you calling him Chewie? He didn’t even eat anything off that disgusting platter.
    Chuck: Honey… It’s a reference to Star W… Oh, I love you.
    Sarah’s silent and totally confused reaction: What?

    These are the kinds of almost throwaway lines that make the show great.

    • joe says:

      AiW, I can’t recommend The Thin Man series to you too much! Each movie is great, and I will end my days still crushing on Myrna Loy.

      Really, it’s the interaction between her and Powell that is so charming. A few of us have pointed out how much Nick and Nora remind us of Chuck and Sarah, and I think that’s even more true now after we’ve seen The Cliffhanger.

      And PS, you’re absolutely right about the throw-away lines. 😉

    • atcDave says:

      AiW I agree about the throw away lines, the one you cite is such an excellent example of what makes Chuck and Sarah special.

      And Just to keep crushing on The Thin Man a few tidbits: The Thin Man title actually refers to the victim in the first movie, not Nick Charles. The Charles’ part is much smaller in the novel than in the first movie; and they finally become the clear stars of the series in the sequels. Their clever dialogue and the wonderful chemistry of William Powell and Myrna Loy was by far the most popular aspect of the first movie and became the focus of the later movies (gee, there was no planned end point or “going out on their own terms”; they simply kept making movies as long as the stars and studio wanted to keep going). The Thin Man title was kept because the studio was concerned no one would remember a name like “The Charles(es)”.
      The novel (and first movie) were released in 1934, shortly after the end of prohibition. And boy does it show! The story is loaded with drinking parties and alcohol fueled humor. Nick is kind of a lush. But the alcohol references are dialed way back in the third movie (Another Thin Man, 1939) when Nick and Nora have a son to care for. And no eye rolling over the idea of baby/kid stories! The baby party at the end of Another Thin Man is a cinematic classic and laugh out loud funny. And the Charles remain an affectionate/romantic and funny married couple through all six movies, whether Nick, Jr. is around or not.
      There can be no doubt they inspired many movies and television, including a short duration TV series called “The Thin Man” in the 1950s. I would say Hart to Hart clearly took its cue from Thin Man; but without much of the signature humor. The Bartowskis can do FAR better!

      • joe says:

        Agree with all that, Ernie!

        That alcohol-fuelled humor is really startling at first, isn’t it? It seems like a real indication of how the culture has changed since the 30s.

        I always am surprised when I see movies from that era about how newspaper reporters are portrayed. They’re really thought of as “low class”, just a bit above Nick’s friends at the “Y” (and the boxing rinks). Around the time of Watergate (and sometime before the time of “Lou Grant”) reporters had a much higher and more noble social standing.

        Seems they’ve regressed of late, though. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        I enjoy a lot of the cultural shifts you see in watching something from that era. The sorts of clubs and entertainment, smoking, drinking, the way kids are treated; and look, design, and style of everything. So much seems so different.

        …but then the human element is largely the same. Whether people do good or bad things, and their base motives all seem painfully familiar (sorry, that’s the hard core history nerd coming out. I love older entertainment, all the way to classical mythology).

        Oh and Joe, wrong Ernie.

      • thinkling says:

        As we’ve talked about before, Chuck and Sarah have elements of a lot of the great TV/movie/spy couples. Now, I just HAVE to rewatch the Thin Man series. I’m due; it’s been a while.

        I’m so glad we got a S5, but I’m sad it’s the last, because I could watch Chuck and Sarah indefinitely.

      • jason says:

        I do like thin man, but if there is a single Chuck versus plot moment I would pick, it was in honeymooners when sarah looked at chuck and said ‘What’s the plan’ – no casey, no morgan, no beckman, chuck and sarah fixing stuff. In thin man, I get the impression nick tolerates nora, sarah is nothing at all like that in my ideal chuck. In balacony / gobbler, sarah more has the plan, and chuck is along for the ride, Chuck being more like Myrna Loy / Nora than Nick Charles. Then, in push mix, Chuck becomes Nick Charles like – my ideal chuck, chuck and sarah are more in sync, working to the same plan, as equals, which is why I loved the notion of hart to hart for chuck and sarah, and the a team for casey, morgan, chuck and sarah in season 5 – my thinking is this might almost be perfect.

      • joe says:

        True enough, Herder.

        But I always thought that it wasn’t Nora that Nick was “tolerating” – he loves her. It’s her snooty high-society friends and family he tolerates. Likewise, Nick’s friends are all from the Bowery, much like Chuck’s friends are from the Buy More.

        The big difference I see is that Nick is already established, and we’ve been watching Chuck get established these past 4 seasons. Nick and Nora are married at the start, and we’re just at that point now with Chuck and Sarah. The way C&S looked together at the end of Cliffhanger was exactly what I saw in the very first Thin Man movie, so I’m rather hopeful! 😉

      • atcDave says:

        There’s obviously differences related to how a woman’s role in something like crime-fighting was depicted. Nick was the detective, and Nora was mostly a side-kick as far as that goes. But their personal relationship is where I always see the parallels. As I said, clearly in love, funny and romantic.

        I agree with Joe, the end scene from Cliffhanger sure had a Thin Man sort of vibe to it.

      • joe says:

        Isn’t it amazing that in 1934, Nora could be portrayed as such an active part of the crime-fighting duo? She’s not a passive character at all; she’s clearly Nick’s equal in many respects. I’m guessing that it’s not a completely inaccurate portrayal of the era either.

      • atcDave says:

        Now you’re getting the history nerd going…

        Although the different ways gender roles are portrayed in older media may seem superficially shocking to us; I think the truth of the matter is actually much less disparity than many modern commenters would have us believe. While the man may have been viewed as the “head of the household” and his career defined what the family did or was; marriages were absolutely seen as partnerships. And throughout western history this has usually been the case. A man who didn’t trust his wife as equal partner was foolish indeed. Even today, the Proverbs 31 woman is impressively accomplished.

        It is a pet peeve of mine when people view those of the past as inferior or stupid.

        But I do agree a big part of what’s been special about Chuck and Sarah is how they want to be a part of the other’s worlds. Even today we identify “role reversal” as part of the story. But really what we have is a wonderful partnership.

      • joe says:

        That’s a great point, Dave you-history-nerd-you… 😉 It is about the partnership.

        Sarah’s universally described as “kick-ass” and Chuck is just as universally described as a nerd. But that’s too limiting now. They’re both bigger than those descriptions, and together they’re obviously bigger still.

        And I just flashed – that’s what we see about ourselves too, I’d wager.

    • jason says:

      yep I loved the last scene of cliffhanger which had a great ‘charles’ feel to it – sarah and chuck had a plan – it was a ‘we’ feeling as they ushered morgan and casey around their new ‘batcave’ – just how I would like the show to continue.

      Joe don’t you think nick did not want nora involved with the mystery cases because he loved her and she was not trained to be in danger, think of the going home ep when nick asked his buddy to lead nora on a wild goose chase while nick solved the crime or when he and the police detective ditched her in the cab in one of the first movies for example. That is the one way I think chuck will be different in season 5 from nick and nora, I think sarah and chuck are going to enjoy being together on missions in danger.

      I think Sarah thru push mix would have been content to work for the cia, while chuck did anything but be a spy (she sort of told us so in FOD). Things sure were different at the end when intersectless chuck saved helpless sarah’s life, but in a manner consistent with being mary and sarah’s ‘chuck’

      Going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in season 5.

      • joe says:

        Oh yeah. The way Nick had to constantly keep Nora from getting herself in trouble by getting involved in his case is much more like Chuck&Sarah in reverse. “Stay in the car, Chuck.”

        The analogy is weakest when we think about their separate worlds. Nick really didn’t want to be “high society”, and Nora merely tolerated Nick’s old pals from the other side of the tracks. Chuck&Sarah, on the other hand, have really fought to be in each other’s worlds, mostly because Chuck did want to be a spy and Sarah did want to have a normal life, at least, in part. They had to fight for that while not losing their own worlds (and themselves).

        Wow – it’s such a cool story! 😉

  4. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12) | Chuck This

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