Summertime Just-for-Fun: New Angles on Old Geometry

Our summer rewatch of Chuck Versus the Truth got me to thinking about Lou, and therefore Bryce, and by extension Jill. Well you get the idea.

My thanks (I think?) to those of you who love Chuck Versus the Truth and have inspired (maybe not quite the word I’m looking for) me to look at the OLI’s of Chuck. I owe you. That has two meanings … 😉

All this geometry is giving me a headache, and I was a math teacher … oh, wrong geometry.

New Angles

As I look at Chuck geometry in its totality (minus S3), I see that Sarah is the one whose story benefits most from them, and she is the one who grows through them. The geometry is for her benefit, story wise.

So, this time around I’ve looked at the geometry a little differently than I did before … more like a fly over, rather than a hike through.

Two Points. Aha. The geometry goes back to the two worlds (I guess that’s my June theme). Chuck inhabits and belongs to the real world. We come to see in S1, as Sarah does, that Chuck really does belong in the hero world and is/was destined to be a part of it … the job he didn’t ask for but was meant to have. But he has to be dragged into that role and world inch by stubborn inch, mission by miserable mission, resisting and kicking and screaming … and pouting and whining. The missions and Sarah raise his awareness of what it means to be a hero and increase his desire for something more than the Buymore. I would site Wookie, First Date, Tom Sawyer, 3D, and Ring as watershed episodes, mission wise, for Chuck.

Sarah inhabits and belongs to the spy world. She has never had what Chuck always had. Like Sarah, Chuck’s family life was far from idyllic. Unlike Sarah’s experience, however, from the dysfunctional situation their parents left them, Chuck and Ellie created a warm, loving family and took care of each other. Chuck also has friends and a best friend. Above all, everything about Chuck and his world are real.

In the spy world, Sarah has had to stuff her desires for a normal life (family, children) … bury them in a place deep inside. She had some real feelings for Bryce, but they were always in the context of the spy world, always subordinate to the mission, and at the bottom of it all … still a cover.

Sarah has lived her life on the spy plain, dipping into the real world only long enough to take care of marks and missions … until the Buymore. Piece of cake. Not. Here’s a real guy who is every bit a match for the spy guys she has known, noble and heroic … and more. He’s kind and caring, funny and charming, guileless in his motives and clueless about his charms. Somewhere inside, she’s already fallen for him, and for the first time, there’s something —someone — to attract her to the real world.

The more she sees of Chuck, the farther she falls. The more she sees of his world, the more those buried desires claw their way to the surface.

This is a huge problem for her. Desire wars with duty, and for the moment they are paradoxically intertwined. She can’t have both, nor can she have one without the other.

Because she cares for Chuck so much, protecting him — being his handler — is much more than duty. In that way her desires fuel her duty. Hence her protective warnings to both Lou and Jill.

If she acts on her real feelings in the real way Chuck wants, she will be reassigned and lose her connection to this man she wants. In that way her duty frames her desires.

The only way for Sarah to have Chuck is through their cover, by keeping him in her world. But ultimately that’s not the way to really have him. She can live with it, though, because a) it’s all she knows, and b) it’s better than nothing. The way to really have him would be to step into his world, but she can’t do that because a) she would lose her assignment, and b) she wouldn’t know how to live in his world. Thus her tragic paradox: she can’t have both, but she can’t have one without the other.

Chuck is clueless in Burbank. He has no idea how Sarah feels or how much those feelings complicate her life.

Connecting the Two Points. Every geometric figure contributes to one end … that of raising Sarah’s real-life awareness and increasing her desire to be a real person in the real world, with Chuck.

Lou. Sarah learned the hard way that Chuck won’t play in her sandbox. He won’t take fake for an answer. She is crushed. She’s on the outside looking in. She’s jealous and petty. When they’re about to die, it seems safe to unleash her real feelings. Or maybe not.

Bryce. Everytime Sarah has to choose between Bryce and Chuck, she is also choosing between fake and real. In Nemesis, she agonizes over the decision. She tells herself she is choosing duty. We all know better. In Nemesis her desires are still strongly framed by duty.

Bryce again. This time she chooses easily. She is doing her duty, but choosing her desire. When she tells Bryce that Mr and Mrs Anderson should be only a cover … when she goes to protect Chuck instead of following Bryce to retrieve the chip … and when she can’t pull the trigger. This time her duty is fueled by her desire.

Jill. Sarah watches Chuck in a real relationship and sees how happy he is with normal. Sarah is still crushed, still on the outside looking in, and still jealous. But she is not petty. Her real-life awareness has been raised to the point that she knows Chuck needs and deserves a real girlfriend. As much as it kills her, she protects his right to have it.

All through S2 their love is palpable. They love each other and know that they love each other … and know that they know that they love each other. That’s why Chuck’s pursuit of Jill seems dishonest. But they did it anyway, and Sarah learned some things. Santa Claus and Best Friend highlight their love and the bond of their relationship. The end of Suburbs highlights the challenge of their relationship … real v. fake, normal life v. spy life, desire v. duty.

Cole. Post Suburbs. Because Chuck wants real, and because the threats against his life are raised, duty has gone from framing Sarah’s desires to thwarting them completely. Cole is a chance for her to have … something. Affection, passion, a break from duty and from the ever-present, six-foot reminder that she can’t have real love and a real life with the man she really wants. Sarah crosses over. She can’t be satisfied with fake any more. Sarah chooses real, even though she thinks it’s out of reach. And just like that, Cole Barker loses the girl to Chuck Bartowski.

Chuck takes fake off the table, “I’m not gonna move in with you,” but offers solid hope for real. “I AM gonna get this thing out of my head one day. I will. And when I do, I’m gonna live the life that I want with the girl that I love. Because I’m not gonna let this thing rob me of that. I won’t.”

Bryce. Again?! Maybe it’s just a coincidence *cough*, but Bryce’s timing is uncanny. He always seems to show up right after Chuck and Sarah have made a major break-through in their relationship (the Hard Salami I’m-not-gonna-die-without-kissing-you kiss, the seduction tall-dark-and-caring-combo kiss, and the Colonel almost-more-than-a-kiss kiss). Come to think of it, Bryce is really good practice for when they have kids.

In Nemesis, choosing Chuck (real) over Bryce (fake) had been difficult. In Ring, having to leave Chuck (and the real life he represented) under orders and go with Bryce (back undercover in a fake world) was unbearable and ultimately unacceptable. The wedding tipped the scale. Her desire for a real life with the man she loved finally outweighed everything else. She cut the cord between duty and desire. She chose Chuck and a real life with him.

At this point the OLI’s have served their purpose for the story, and the geometry requirement is satisfied. All future OLI’s are superfluous. Any further geometry lessons are remedial.

QED. That’s my theorum and I’m sticking to it.

~ Thinkling


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.
This entry was posted in Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

106 Responses to Summertime Just-for-Fun: New Angles on Old Geometry

  1. Bill says:

    Thinkling — I have followed the postings on this blog since I discovered it back in April. (I only started watching Chuck in January of this year). You and the “gang of five” plus Jason have provided some remarkable insight into Sarah, Chuck and their relationship. But Sarah’s behavior always seemed to me to be a little inconsistent, in one way or another, with all of the explanations. I never got that “Aha! Now I understand her!” feeling. So I tried to figure out what motivated her actions and wrote up my own take on the situation. I ran a couple of iterations by Joe, who provided some really good feedback. It was too long to put into a reply so I posted it here. It is, as a whole, a different take on Sarah, although you and others have picked up on various elements of it.

    This just seems to be a good point to stop polishing and to put it on the table. Reactions?

    • joe says:

      I’m so glad you put that up, Bill.

      I invite everybody to take a look at the ideas Bill lays out. He has a unique viewpoint there, and it just may provide some more insights for you too!

    • Amron says:

      Interesting. It’s a very refreshing point of view.

    • jason says:

      @bill – my first reaction to what you wrote is writing about season 3 seems to be a very good way to come to terms with the season. At the time last season, I was shocked that the show could end with those 13 episodes such that fans would get robbed from getting to see episodes with chuck and sarah together. Now that we have near 29 episodes on the books with chuck and sarah together, I feel better about the show, in lots of ways, I got what I wanted to see, nearly each week.

      Someday, maybe someone in the ‘know’ will debrief the fandom about season 3, I would love to hear from say fedak’s POV something along the lines – we tried to do…, the purpose was…, this meant …., etc – sort of how some of the talented writers here try to explain season 3, only straight from the horses mouth so to speak.

      Unfortunately, what I saw on screen really did not make that much sense to me, seemed like sarah was more in love with shaw when Shaw gave her back to chuck in the castle toward the end of hero than she ever was …. within 24 hours of that instant, she was professing her love for chuck, claiming she had loved him all along, ever since the pilot. What I want, is a direct explanation of what they were trying to do, with none forthcoming, I think we all will off and on try to rationalize and justify what we saw.

      Nice going with your attempt, it was a fun read and …. welcome to the club.

    • thinkling says:

      @Bill: Interesting POV. Thanks for contributing your thoughts and joining us here at Chuck This. 🙂

      You hit on some very interesting aspects of Sarah Walker Bartowski. I agree with various elements, though perhaps not to the same degree. I apologize for the length, but I’ll try to address some of your specifics.

      Generalities. When I think of Sarah’s inconsistencies, I attribute them to various sources. Your theories treat Sarah like a real person. She is such a compelling character, largely thanks to Yvonne’s incredible acting, that we often forget that she doesn’t have free will. Her behavior bends to the will of the gods. They designed the Chuckverse. They placed the characters in it and determine their actions. Are the inconsistencies we see put there on purpose as part of the character, or are they put there as plot devices, or are they writing inconsistencies? The strings should be invisible, but sometimes, alas, they are not. Sometimes the gods are not consistent, and sometimes they make a character behave in a way inconsistent with her character in order to push the story where they want it to go. Some situations and even inconsistencies I attribute to the windmill of the gods. Perhaps they sometimes forget that they have created this wonderful character whom the fans interpret through the grid of real-life human behavior and relationships? The characters we love the most are the ones who seem most real.

      The cover is one of the things that I accept as penned by the gods. Since Chuck and Sarah are destined to be together, the cover is non-negotiable. That said, however, it makes the most sense to me. Though Sarah doesn’t have to be with Chuck 24/7, she must have free and immediate access to him 24/7, in case something goes wrong, like at the end of Beefcake and the beginning of Lethal Weapon. She must also have easy access to his family, his job, everything about his life. No other cover accomplishes that as well as the girlfriend cover. Then I always assumed that the cover was determined by the CIA, rather than Sarah herself.

      Sarah sees who Chuck is from the beginning and cares about him, as a real person and his life (What about his life? And what about his sister and his job? – Pilot). She is different from Casey in that she does see people as people, even though she can be a dangerous spy. That plus the fact that she is falling in love with him make her want to stay in the job. Nobody, she thinks, will protect him the way she will, not just his him, but his life and all that’s important to him. She will do that, time and time again. Someone else (Agent Forrest for example) might not protect him like she does. Because Sarah is a good person and because she loves Chuck, she is determined to remain his handler. It would in no way be humane to Chuck for her to seek reassignment. Her replacement could ruin Chuck’s life in ways she and we dare not imagine. Now, Sarah is complicated, and obviously her reasons to stay have a selfish side. She loves him … has real non-spy feelings for him. She doesn’t want to leave him. However, if she really thought someone else could protect him better, I think she would put his well being above her own feelings. She said as much to Casey in Crown Vic. He reiterates it in Broken Heart (Walker’s a pro), so her motives may be mixed, but she keeps them in the proper order.

      Occam’s razor. For me all of that is explanation enough as to why she keeps the cover and why she won’t intentionally seek reassignment. I don’t really need a deep psychological reason to go with it.

      Is Sarah insecure. I honestly think all of us have described her that way at one time or another, as she did herself in Crown Vic (not very good at relationships). Sarah is not at all insecure in her job, only in real relationships, and only close relationships. Any time she approaches a relationship through her cover, she’s good at it. Often underneath the cover are currents of a real relationship. That’s obvious with Chuck and his family. I am more of a task person, and my husband is an off-the-charts people person. Initally, I am more comfortable approaching relationships as tasks. My husband approaches everything in life through the grid of relationships. That’s how Chuck and Sarah are. He approaches the whole spy thing from a normal, people-oriented POV. She engages the world through her cover.

      The Redemption Factor. I think her love for Chuck is real from the beginning and that she loves him simply for himself, as a man. I don’t think she is conscious of his redeeming influence on her life, except in retrospect. Therefore, I don’t think she clings to him in desperation like a life preserver or keeps him on a string for her own salvation. I just don’t see her as quite that crippled or self-serving. Yes, healing is taking place, and she is growing emotionally and as a real person, but I don’t think that’s her focus. And I don’t think for one minute she would override his well being and protection for the sake of her own healing process. I think she wants Chuck for who he is. Who she is with him is bonus. Just my take.

      Again, they are fictitious characters and I don’t think she’s presented as or comes across as that much of an emotional cripple or that much of a basket case. I see her as a strong, compelling, engaging character, who has risen above her past on most levels. In her one area of insecurity, Chuck is the one who brings healing and helps her grow. He is a redeemer figure in her life.

      He has also risen above his past, especially in the relationship area. But his past also crippled him professionally. Sarah is the one who brings out the hero in him and helps him grow in his area of insecurity. (Admittedly she causes some other insecurities at times.) They are two people whose pasts have robbed them of their future, who find in each other someone to complete them and build a life with.

      So, Bill, I do find points, especially general aspects, of agreement with you … just not in all the details. In these other posts I deal more in depth with some of the other aspects you bring up about Sarah: her identity and her nomadic childhood. The links save space and scrolling energy. Plus that way not everyone has to read them.

      Thanks for sharing your well thought out views, Bill. Definitley food for thought. Sorry for the length. I realize this is almost another post.

      • Bill says:

        Thinkling—I agree that the writers pull all of the strings and that they can be as inconsistent as they like for whatever purposes they choose. But with respect to a character (especially on a show as character-driven as Chuck) they can only be inconsistent up to a point before that character—or that character’s actions—lose credibility. The character may be fictional—not an existing real person—but in a dramatic (as opposed to a farcical) context, the character ought to be a representation of a real person. Real people don’t always appear to behave consistently, but unless they are truly crazy, the apparent inconsistencies can usually be traced back to some basic underlying cause [Occams’s Razor as you pointed out].

        So let me take your viewpoint for a second and assume that Sarah is a strong, mature woman, with empathy and “sees who Chuck is from the beginning and cares about him, as a real person and his life”, and that “she is falling in love with him” (and understands that), but that she is “ not at all insecure in her job, only in real relationships, and only close relationships”. I assume that you use “insecure” here in the usual sense that she lacks confidence that she measures up to what she assumes are other people’s expectations.

        Such a caring, person, who knows that she loves (or is on the way to love) Chuck would do everything she could not only to keep him physically safe, but also to support his emotional needs. She does the former, but not the latter. Her behavior towards him is best described in the old song—

        Your lips tell me no, no
        But there’s yes, yes in your eyes

        She knows how Chuck feels about her, but through most of 2-1/2 seasons she is a tease… “we need to beef up our fake relationship so I think it’s time we made love… the kiss and subsequent denial of feeling in Hard Salami… etc, etc.

        If she was a mature, emotionally complete, caring, empathetic person she would never do this to him. There were lots of ways to avoid it… she could have let him in on the secret that they really had a future when the intersect stuff was all over, that their relationship was real, and that the idea that the relationship was fake was really for Beckman’s benefit, so that she wouldn’t break them up. Problem solved. Even if she was insecure (lacked confidence) in her real relationships, Chuck did more than enough to assuage those fears. But every time Chuck brought up his feelings for her she shot him down.

        Under the mature woman who loves Chuck from the beginning scenario there is no plausible explanation for why she treats him this way. If the writer’s are making her a tease just to move the plot along, shame on them.

        Now if she didn’t love Chuck and she was just treating him as an asset, then her lack of concern for his emotional well-being would make sense. (But after a few episodes we figure out that there really is something going on between them, it’s just not always clear exactly what that is.)

        My point was that Sarah doesn’t have to be a tease to act the way she does, she just has to be emotionally clueless. I tried to find a simple explanation for that cluelessness (Occam’s Razor again) that removed many of the apparent inconsistencies. Maybe it’s not how the writer’s saw it, but I prefer to think that they had some underlying vision (perhaps not mine) rather than simply capriciously pulling strings.

        Just sayin’.

      • thinkling says:

        Most of that I agree with. I never said that Sarah was emotionally complete. I agree she is emotionally stunted, so your stumbling around in the dark characterization is apropos. Expressing her emotions, developing an open, real relationship would be hard for her under ideal circumstances. She had to learn a lot of that even after they were together. Probably the worst example you hit was the Hard Salami kiss and subsequent freeze. She had blown it on two levels. As handler, she should never have kissed her asset like that. Personally, she let way too much show for comfort. She has to find a way to get back in control, both professionally and personally.

        Coming across as a tease comes from two sources. As you say, she is emotionally incomplete and can’t express her emotions. The other factor is job and the boundaries it imposes. So they are crazy about each other and start to get close. At a certain point, she has to push back or suffer professional consequences (because at the level of handler/asset a real relationship is against the rules). Honestly discussing her emotions and explaining the tight rope she has to walk as his handler would solve the problem, but she just isn’t capable of that level of open relationship or communication, yet. So you get the yo-yo of S1 and 2.

        I agree with the idea that she is emotionally incomplete (maybe a shade above clueless, though) … just not that she manipulated the cover out of desperation for her own healing.

      • Bill says:

        Thinkling—On looking at your two posts “identity” and “nomadic childhood” I can see that we are looking at Sarah from pretty much the same perspective. There’s a lot of detail in there that I had not had a chance to work through.

        I didn’t mean to suggest that she was acting solely to effect her own healing, but rather that it started out that way and it enabled her to gradually develop the self-understanding and relationship with Chuck that you so well described.

        I still don’t believe that she loved Chuck from the start. Not that she didn’t like him, or didn’t care about him, but she didn’t have the emotional tools to love him. And she didn’t have the empathy to understand how her actions were affecting him emotionally. She acquired them gradually, but even as late as the DYLM scene in “Other Guy” she wasn’t completely there. She could merely answer his question in the affirmative. She said that she “fell for him”, from the start, but there’s just a tad of ambiguity in that phrase. “Fell for” could simply be “attracted to”, which she indeed was.

        I think her key turning point was in “the Tooth” when Chuck was about to be locked up (and lost to her) and she was completely helpless to do anything about. That’s when she finally internalized the fact that love was a two-edged sword—giving yourself over completely to someone else provides immense satisfaction but also amplifies the risk of loss beyond your control. And as she confronted what appeared to be that loss she finally understood what it meant to love.

        I think that that scene at the doctor’s door was one of the best in the show, and one of Yvonne’s best as well. When she told the doctor that she loved Chuck, and he responded “did you ever tell him that?”, you could see her saying to herself “how could I have screwed up so bad that I never said that to him, and now I may never get the chance?” It’s the only time that Sarah appears to be hopelessly and completely defeated—reduced to begging the doctor to help her (help Chuck).

        When Chuck returns from the hospital victorious, she cuts him off before he can say anything and straight out tells him that she loves him in no uncertain terms. Now she knows it, she says it, and she means it.

      • thinkling says:

        I would agree that she didn’t love Chuck in the beginning the way she did by Tooth. Or maybe that’s what was stirring deep inside, but it was totally new to her. She probably couldn’t have given a name to it, but it was certainly written all over her face. She couldn’t express it and could only act on it within the cover relationship and her determination to protect him … from anything(!). Like she said in Tooth, “I’ve never felt this way before.” For someone like Sarah, feelings of real love would be overwhelming and could produce some of the erratic emotional behavior we saw. For a long time it confused her and scared her. She could only act on it in fits and starts. Then she would get scared, or duty would get in the way, and she would back off. She had a lot of growing to do relationally and emotionally before she could define her lady feelings and live them out. Finally she was able to integrate the various pieces and aspects of her life.

        The moment with the Dr. (ever tell him that?) is a precursor to the Phase 3 scene with Morgan. Verbal communication remained difficult for her, both of them actually. But finally in the back half of S4, we see them really improving on that. What a relief.

      • jason says:

        @bill / @ think – the way chuck tied sarah’s heart in knots during season 1 / 2 was some of the hook of the show – I recall descibing the show to my son as this loser guy gets a computer loaded in his brain, becomes a spy, and his blond CIA handler falls for him near immediately, because of how nice he is, even though she is dating presidents of countries, and he is getting said no to by girls behind the counter at the nearest fast food joint – only she can’t tell him or anyone, because she would get reassigned, and he does not have a chance to survive as a spy without her. It was a great hook, until season 3 came around.

      • thinkling says:

        Succint and well said, Jason. 🙂

      • atcDave says:

        It was a great initial hook. I know I was hooked right away!

      • Bill says:

        It certainly got my attention.

      • thinkling says:

        I was totally hooked from the pilot.

  2. Verkan_Vall says:


    I have always felt that the use of love interests in S3 was unnecessary, pointless and destructive; your post does a good job of mapping out why I feel that way.


  3. atcDave says:

    Thanks for organizing some of that Thinkling. To me, one of the more intriguing things is how Sarah is more constant in her drive towards Chuck than he is towards her. That may simply be because of their different positions. Sarah is smitten with Chuck, even early on before she realizes it. So Bryce and Cole are only momentary distractions, even if they confuse real/fake and professional/personal for her.
    While Chuck seems more flaky in a way, he knows he loves Sarah, but spends much of the first two seasons convinced he can’t have her. He thinks she is either not interested, or not interested enough to take a chance on him. So he periodically (with Lou and Jill) makes an effort to distract himself. Which of course. is always doomed to failure.

    I know I’ve been clear on many occasions I don’t care for triangles so much. But these from the first two seasons are mostly tolerable. Certainly Bryce and Jill constitute history and something hard-wired into the show at the start. So even as I say “The Ex” is one of my least favorite episodes from the first two seasons, I have to admit this is a story I always knew they meant to tell. And in the end, I don’t hate the Jill arc. Similar for Bryce. I can likewise see a point/function to the Lou story. Cole is dramatically mixed for me; I really disliked Beefcake, and mostly really liked Lethal Weapon.
    But I suppose the bottom line for me in all of this is I don’t like the distraction. I really do find Chuck and Sarah together as the number one draw of the show; or at least its the thing that makes Chuck special. So to some extent, the triangle episodes just feel like a waste of time. Its like having tickets to a big game, only to discover the star quarterback won’t be playing. Or going to Cedar Point and discovering Millennium Force is down for maintenance.The show just isn’t the same when something (someone!) stands between Chuck and Sarah. I could occasionally accept the distraction, and I even get the point of some of it; but I SURE am glad that phase is over.

    • thinkling says:

      You know I agree with you. Geometry, while serving a purpose, just isn’t as fun as Chuck and Sarah together. No geometry episode ever makes my favorites list, not because I don’t get it or see some story value (this post shows I do), but because I just love Chuck and Sarah together. Period. *sigh* My apologies for my shallowness.

  4. joe says:

    Wonderful post, Thinkling. And of course, you inspired a thought.

    As much as I’ve enjoyed Suburbs (gotta be in my top 10, I think), the ending, where Chuck explains to Ellie that there’s something wrong with their relationship – them – has always bothered me. I’ve hung onto the rest, especially Chuck’s promise that “Sarah’s not going anywhere” and Sarah not shown returning the ring, like a life jacket. I could never shake the bad feeling, though. And you just showed me why.

    I’ll use your term. This is the point where Chuck begins to decide that Fake is not endurable for him. He hasn’t taken it off the table yet – you’re absolutely right that he does in Lethal Weapon while Bloc Party plays Signs (sigh!). But he’s about conclude that he has to, regardless of the consequences.

    Hard decision.

    I’m having a harder and harder time using that word, fake, though, to describe what Chuck is shying away from. Chuck & Sarah’s cover is fake, certainly. But that is so thin, even to them, it hardly seems to be an obstacle. It’s the whole spy world that Chuck is resisting.

    What’s funny is that he’s not resisting it any more than Sarah’s resisting being a suburban housewife and resisting considering having a family. Chuck’s heroic moments are as “glowing” as Sarah serving Chuck’s breakfast, and about as frequent as the times Sarah is a “normal girl”.

    I love to think that they are both magnets, attracting the other to join their world. They haven’t met in the middle so much as decided to live in both together.

    • Herder says:

      Another thing that ties into this is when they admitted to themselves about how they felt about the other, in Break Up Chuck starts out by saying “we both know how I feel about you”, so he had clearly decided for himself before that. Sarah is much harder to figure out, clearly she struggled with how she felt for longer than Chuck did, others knew how she felt before she did: Carina, Ellie and Bryce all spotted it before she would admit to herself. I think she may have been in denial as late as Leathal Weapon, not about the attraction, but that the attraction was for something real and permanent rather than superficial and transitory.

      • joe says:

        Morgan spotted it too, Herder! I think Devon was in agreement with Ellie about that. That leaves only one group of people who didn’t know how Sarah felt and that would be … (drum roll, please)…

        The Buy Morons!

        And of them, even Big Mike got it! 😉

      • kg says:

        How awesome is it that folks can still analyse this stuff between seasons four and five?

        Since the airing of Cliffhanger, I’ve watched all of season one again and viewed Seduction last night as time has allowed.

        Therefore, add Roan Montgomerie to the list who saw exactly how Sarah felt about Chuck.

    • thinkling says:

      Yeah, Joe. Great observations. You’re right about the two worlds. Fake and Real seem to be only convenient banners, but it’s the spy world vs normal world. They’ve found a way to inhabit both and to create their own real space apart from both. I love this show.

  5. Faith says:

    Great topic and interesting perspective. I would argue that each situation was brought on by its own grays, and that each have an explanation, yes even season 3’s. BUT since I dislike going “there” I’ll just say that for these two pairs it was a revelation. One that was solely needed on Lou’s and Bryce’s, and Bryce again’s part and Cole, well I never really considered him in the running. And in all honesty, I’m sure he didn’t either. But then again my problems with Beefcake weren’t the LI, or rather it wasn’t just that, but everything else.

    If you examine each relationship and how each progressed you can glimpse at their growth both as individuals and their emotions for each other. If for nothing else that’s something to celebrate.

    Then again, I enjoy jealous Sarah tremendously. I absolutely love seeing that shell pierced on those rare occasions when we get a glimpse within. It was fun, until it’s not.

    With that said, I would like it if Bryce were to return in season 5. 😀

    • thinkling says:

      So, Faith, are you saying you think the OLI’s also learned something or only that they catalyzed growth in Chuck and Sarah?

      • Faith says:

        Both. I think more in Bryce and Jill’s part than Lou, but mostly they learned they missed out.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, I agree. I think Jill already realized she had. I think Bryce never thought he could lose to Chuck. At least in the end he bowed out graciously.

    • herder says:

      I miss jealous Sarah too, I’d kind of like to see a bit this year, maybe a new customer following him around the Buy More a bit too much (no triangles or other geometric shapes). Would Sarah act like she did the first time she met Lou at the Buy More (the picture is in one of the posts last week) or would she go into full blown “Morgan, we don’t talk enough” mode from season 3.5.

      I think a Sarah, confident of her situation with Chuck would give a gentle hint to get lost, but if that weren’t followed, she would unleash the giant blond shemale and scare away anyone getting too close to her Chuck.

      • atcDave says:

        A popular theme from fan fiction is always a slightly deranged Jill who is convinced Sarah is evil and Chuck is for her alone. That could be fun, but I really don’t want to see Sarah have any cause to actually be jealous. I think the jealousy thing is one of those elements whose time is mostly past, unless she’s jealous of Morgan…
        Maybe they could play out all of our worst fears and have Chuck start to spend too much with Morgan, until Sarah stages an appropriate sort of intervention (I would be VERY worried about our guy Chuck if Sarah can’t distract him from Morgan!)

  6. Henry (aka Saraholic) says:

    Interesting post, but on one thing I have to disagree, and it is skipping the whole S3 (aka “the S**w arc”, or “the misery”) from the discussion.
    I think that, as it might have a lot of flaws, starting from the poor execution, it has to be considered for better understanding the character’s development, that is, in my opinion, what makes Chuck the great show that we all love.
    If you have a couple of hours, you can make a test: just watch the Pilot episode and Cliffhanger one after another. You will see the characters with the same name, but thay are completely different under all aspects. I mean Chuck, Sarah, even Morgan and Casey have grown up so much in the four years that they made a 180° turn (so much for the geometry :)) from where they were.
    In this sense, S3 is an important part of the show. It starts from Sarah being mad at Chuck, because she thinks that Chuck “betrayed” her by downloading the Intersect 2.0, and then being different than “normal”, as she wanted him to be, just because it was, in her mind, what could rescue her from being a spy forever. So she did what she never did before: drop her dreams, and follow S**w (sorry, I can’t write the name, I just blame him!), what she didn’t with Bryce and Cole, as you remarked. Leave the “normal” dreams behind, and just go on a “spy relatioship”, as if it could be the only possible real life for her.
    On the other hand, Chuck had nothing to do but let his life to go on, and accept the avances from Hannah. Maybe he just gives up a little too quickly, and when he realizes (in Fake name) he decides that he could not give up without a fight. Then, and here we come back to the reversal of roles that I mentioned before, in American hero he decides to take a step back, and let her go with what he thinks is her new love: just what she did before, with Lou, with Jill, and again with Hannah. But this time there is a difference: Chuck has grown, is more confident, as a spy and as a man, he doesn’t think anymore that Sarah is just another league than his own, and he won’t give up without a fight. Even if this involves mixing gaming and whisky (and some mint ice cream) he finally comes to understand what she said to him several times, from First date to Ring: “Well, I believed in her. I just didn’t believe in me.”
    Only when she realizes that he is “still her Chuck” she knows that the time has come for the truth, for real this time: and also if it will take some time to say those three words, and even more to drop that suitcase, the path is taken, and she will be Mrs. Chuck Bartowski, even more than he will ever be Mr. Sarah Walker.

    P.S. maybe I was a little too long on this, sorry… 🙂

    • atcDave says:

      While I would agree there was important growth that took place during S3, I don’t believe the triangles had anything to do with it. If anything they were a nuisance and distraction that undermined the significant story that could have been told. Everything we knew about Chuck and Sarah’s problems, issues, and challenges at the end of S2 was simply repeated in S3. NO NEW ground was covered in the romance until 3.13. It was all just variations on a theme. And not very fun variations either, it simply sucked the fun right out of the show for a significant portion of the fan base.

      Now there was important growth happening. Specifically Chuck growing into the role of professional spy. There is no doubt Chuck came out of S3 more capable, confident, and poised than he went in. Many of us will always WISH that had been the main focus of growth for S3. In fact, most adult men I know reach that extra step of maturity only WITH the partnership of a good woman. I think Chuck would have been a far better show if we had seen Chuck’s growth to professional maturity with his life partner, not fighting her every step of the way. It would have been more faithful to the tone and characters we knew through the first two seasons, and would have been a more fun experience all along; which, by the way, is the point of entertainment. Chuck has clearly positioned itsellf as a more fun show as opposed to a realistic show, except for a single season of misery.

      I do agree the growth we’ve seen from the lead characters has been wonderful and amazing. But that growth has largely been in spite of S3, not because of it.

      • thinkling says:

        I’m with you, Dave. The geometry was done and done by Ring. I don’t think it served the story of S3.

      • Faith says:

        Well said Henry! While I agree that they learned a lot from being with other people, I think a lot of the teachings came from Chuck and Sarah themselves. I don’t know maybe I’m clouded by my immense dislike of both Hannah and Sh@w, but even though I recognize that they were important for Chuck and Sarah’s growth (if for nothing else just intentions) towards one another I still can’t swallow it.

      • ladycat713 says:

        If they wanted to have Chuck and Sarah apart at the beginning of season 3 and slowly work themselves back together there was plenty of material right there at the end of season 2. And that is the way Sarah reacted to Bryce’s body being taken away and the fact that Sarah had told Chuck she was leaving with Bryce and for all Chucck knew that was the end of that. Bryce’s telling him she wasn’t leaving didn’t make a difference since with Bryce you have to take what he says with a barrel of salt. Every time Bryce pens his mouth he causes Chuck pain. Sarah reaction to his body drag negated any positive effects from that statement to me. He looked completely crushed to me.

        they could take her not making a commitment to Chuck clear BEFORE Bryce’s death add in her basically wanting him to abandon his family, friends and future and just run off with her (without letting his family and friends in on the secret info that they now know) while she risked far less. Have it where Chuck wanted her to clearly choose him (because she never really did that in front of him) and her failure to stand by him when he went against her wishes made him think that she only chose to be with him as some sort of knee jerk reaction to Bryce’s second death and that he was chosen by default.

        Instead of taking what could be a great basis and running with it we got early season 3. Where we got yet another appearance of Chuck being chose by default. Not to mention Sarah wearing earrings given to her by the scumbag that tried to kill her. Her constant enabling and rewarding of every creepy thing Plywood did and how even after she was with him she made Chuck work for what she gave to Plywood easily.

        My biggest wishes for season 3 – Sarah’s mother, the spy ladies learn to open up and apologize more (including Mama B) , Papa B somehow coming back or mama B maybe having a private breakdown moment over him (possibly while looking at photo albums) , an explanation for Sarah’s behavior with Plywood that makes sense

  7. Herder says:

    Nice overview thinkling, I’m sure that this was the intent of TPTB when writing these episodes, my own personal reaction was that I was ok with them for Lou, Bryce and most of Jill, but by the end of the Jill arc I was at the end of my patience with them. Like many others I disliked Beefcake (in my case intensely) but loved Leathal Weapon so there is a bit of a disconnect there. Like Faith I had other reasons to dislike Beefcake besides the overused love triangle, namely the other overused trope, the suave superspy arriving and emasculating Chuck. That was beaten into the ground in Beefcake and was at least as objectionable as yet another love triangle if not more so not to mention Sarah and Casey suddenly treating Chuck like an incompetent child.

    I think, like Beefcake, the problems of season three were a lot of factors being agravating at the same time, the triangle or trapezoid or what ever simply got the biggest scorn as it was the most overused. The problem is that we don’t judge how we feel about a show or a particular episode by what TPTB wanted to show or intended to be the lesson, but rather on how what we see effects us. An overused plot device can easily diminish what was supposed to be the point. With various viewers the geometric shapes became more of a distraction rather than an enjoyable part of the story. For some that point was reached as early as Lou, for myself it was at the end of Jill, for others it was Beefcake or even as late as American Hero. The thing is for too many it was before the story was finished being told and in the end it detracted rather than added to the story.

    • atcDave says:

      Great comment herder. While I never like triangles, I think Beefcake was the moment when I felt “enough already.” And I do agree, as you mention, there was far more wrong with that episode than just the overused cliche. Ditto for S3.

      • lappers84 says:

        here’s an interesting thing, well most people here probably already knew but wasn’t Bryce meant to be in season 3 originally but Matt Bomer couldn’t do it? Makes you wonder how that could have affected that season. Would it have been better or worse?

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Lappers, that’s what I’ve heard. Matthew Bomer was committed to White Collar so they couldn’t get him back. I think the results would have been mixed. On the one hand, it would have been a lot easier to buy into Sarah’s conflict; since she already had history with Bryce and we saw enough to like and admire in his character. Add to that Chuck’s history with him, and the idea of Bryce being such a complicated character as team-mate/mentor/friend/romantic rival/betrayer likely would have worked much better. But on the other hand… many of us went into S3 ALREADY sick and tired of the triangle cliche, so repeating it with someone Sarah had already rejected three times might not have really made the situation any better. Although if TPTB could have been persuaded to change the part so that it was more about Chuck’s fears and insecurities, and NOT dragged Sarah’s character through the mud to accomplish it; well, I think that would have worked far better with Bryce than Shaw.

        But as always, the bottom line to me is, I WAS sick and tired of triangles before S3 ever started; I don’t think there’s ANYTHING TPTB could have done to actually make me LIKE the story they were determined to tell.

      • thinkling says:

        Definitely agree with both of you. I didn’t like Beefcake at all, but really liked LW. All that Herder mentioned plus the here-we-go-again (eyes rolling uncontrollably) Sarah-we-have-to-breakup moment. Come on, even Sarah had stopped taking it seriously. I did like, however, that he immediate saw the error of his ways (as did Ellie). I can almost laugh that he was 5 minutes too late … almost.

        For me seeing that they serve some purpose of the story makes them less objectionable, but still not likable. Does that make sense?

      • jason says:

        @herder – I was glad bryce was not the guy – a 2nd (or maybe 3rd) resurrection from the dead is one or two more than God took – keep Bryce dead – let him act on his own tv show and leave chuck alone.

        Plus, I loved that Routh portrayed shaw such that I could use words sexual predator, creepy, work place stalker, felon, incompetent, bafoon, fool, coward to describe him, Bryce is none of those. I am glad Shaw was a failure another words, I am not sure Bryce would have been. Makes me wonder if the writers intentionally portrayed shaw that way?

      • atcDave says:

        Jason just one quick observation about the possibility of Bryce in S3; I always make the assumption he was killed off in 2.22 simply because the actor was no longer available. Had Bomer been able to do S3, Bryce would not have been killed off in 2.22. There was even some talk that Cole was originally meant to be another return of Bryce; but that situation was prevented by the shooting of the White Collar Pilot. While 2.22 was shot about the time White Collar regular season was starting filming, Bomer was able to get free long enough to “finish” his role as Bryce.

        I do agree with some of what you say though, I’m just as happy the triangles arc is mostly reviled; if it had much critical or fan respect more details of it might still hang over the show. The plus to a dismal failure is that TPTB have been eager to distance themselves from it.

      • joe says:

        Lappers, the “For Shaw, replace with Bryce” idea is, like, the most fertile starting point for fan fiction that I can imagine. Endless possibilities.

        Not to start that kind of speculation here, but I can’t imagine that it would be anything like the canon we got. I can’t see Bryce betraying the CIA, Sarah, Chuck or (most importantly in my mind now) Stephen the way Shaw did. I’m guessing that he would still be a doomed character, but that in the original concept he would save them all from the Ring.

        It’s okay. I can’t imagine Awesome as a Russian spy either, and I understand that his character started out that way. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Awesome as some sort of baddie is one of those ideas I don’t think I’ve ever seen attempted in fan fiction; a buffoon maybe but never a villain.
        Now Bryce I’ve seen the full gamut on. But I think that reflects the range of views on both characters. Bryce is loved and hated by many, Devon is mostly just loved.

    • uplink2 says:

      Sorry I have been away from the site for a while. Work has been very busy and my Chuck time has been taken up reading FF till the wee hours of the morning. Thank you Dave for adding another addiction to my life! 😉

      On this subject to me at least though I wasn’t as bothered by Beefcake as some mainly because Lethal Weapon was so good and the fact that in the end Cole was the only honorable man of all of Sarah’s other suitors. So I liked him ultimately. What changed everything was Colonel. That changed the story from love triangles to Spy life VS Normal life. I’ve had this discussion with BillatWork and from the point of Colonel the show changed from a choice of Sarah or Lou, Sarah or Jill, and Chuck or Bryce or Chuck or Cole to a choice of Normal life or spy life. So when they threw Hannah and Shaw in it simply didn’t work because the choice in the story was no longer about that. Adding to that how terribly that story was told made it seem even worse. They had fundamentally changed the show forever with Colonel and once they did that there should have been no turning back. They didn’t need to be together yet but their choice was no longer the same. It was a far more interesting choice but the show didn’t seem to have have the courage to try and tell that story. They got lazy. Told a worn out story unenthusiastically and it failed miserably. Schwedak may have said at the time they knew they could only go back to that well so many times but they did it anyway and got the result they deserved by that mistake in judgement.

      • thinkling says:

        Good observation Uplink. I agree. And welcome back.

      • atcDave says:

        Wait a minute… what idiot got you hooked on another vice??? geez, let me have a word with him!

        I agree with most of that Uplink. I do think part of the problem is that Colonel read as more of a watershed moment to us viewers than TPTB possibly realized. Clearly, they saw things as same old/same old for a beat longer (a season long beat!) than us viewers did.
        You know my mantra… no triangle after Colonel could possibly feel true to the characters. That was the moment the show had to change, but it didn’t. oops.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave I’m even helping out on one now. Been as big a change in my Chuck life as coming into the online community was a year ago. There is some amazing talent out there with great views of these characters.

        I also agree that TPTB on many occasions are/were out of touch with how the audience sees the show. Its called hubris I believe lol. I still often wonder if they even watch the show the create sometimes.

    • Faith says:

      “The problem is that we don’t judge how we feel about a show or a particular episode by what TPTB wanted to show or intended to be the lesson, but rather on how what we see effects us.”

      Very well said. QFT actually. To me part of the reason why I rewatch episodes is to see what I miss, get something more of what I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy, maybe something that they meant to show me that I missed. On first watch, I didn’t like the Jill arc. I enjoyed it (mostly because of Sarah), but I couldn’t understand why Chuck, after “make a wish Chuck, it’s yours” would all of a sudden start listening to his JIll mix. It just didn’t make sense. Enter the boards and the kind people there/now here (you guys), you brought up Stanford and how Chuck’s finally graduated from Stanford. He’s finally put that behind him and it brought back Jill. Make sense and makes Chuck’s actions towards Jill more palatable.

      In any case, you’ve got a fantastic point, and really who can blame us? The medium is such as it is.

      As for Beefcake, don’t forget whiny Chuck! Grr.

  8. Verkan_Vall says:


    Agreed. (sigh. why can’t I write posts like that?)

    Hey! Who locked the door on the Amen Corner?

    • atcDave says:

      Hey I’m pretty sure the amen corner is always open, and VV has a reserved seat! It’s always encouraging to know when more folks agree than just the couple of us commenting. And besides, last I knew you’d managed to put up a couple of respectable epic comments yourself!

  9. Herder says:

    Not really the place to put this but 5.01 Chuck vs. The Zoom, not sure of what that means although my first thought was Aretha Franklin’s “who’s zoomin who”.

    • joe says:

      I saw the news this morning, Herder! Exciting. It prompted me to start a “Season 5 Spoiler Page”, but I haven’t had time to finish it and link it to the menu up top.

      Thanks for being our On-The-Spot Reporter! 😉

      Added: Hey, I figured it out! The S5 spoiler page is up. So far our only “spoiler” (and I use the term loosely!) to report is the title of 5.01.

      But check the page regularly! I’m sure with ComicCon coming up in just over 4 weeks, there will be plenty of spoilage coming our way. 😉

  10. lappers84 says:

    The mistake Shwedak made in season 3.0 was the fact that they worked backwards, they had an end point but they had no clear way of getting their so the reverted to form and decided to throw in plenty of unnecessary angst and LIs. Though like some of you may agree, I did see what they were trying to do and to try and move back into the point of the main discussion I found it interesting that unlike the previous PLIs, season 3.0 benefitted Chuck more than Sarah.

    Firstly, Sarah who wanted desperately to start a real life with Chuck was suddenly stuck in limbo after the Prague fiasco, Chuck now wanting to be a spy tries to hold on to his normal life and starts a relationship with Hannah. Sarah now essentially freaking out because she believes Chuck was losing himself regressed and found solace with Plywood. That infamous scene leading Chuck to wake up realise what he was losing/lost and decided to start fighting again. So to me both PLIs, despite being completely stupid did serve as a catalyst for Chuck.

    • atcDave says:

      I do agree the working backwards was a mistake. Although it does beg one question to me, if they had used the flash-forward sort of story telling that’s been so popular the last couple years… Imagine S3 starting with the hotel scene from 3.13; then doing a “3 months earlier” title as they pick up Pink Slip and run it exactly as they did.

      Okay, I still probably wouldn’t have liked it much, but it might have provided us ‘shippers with just that extra bit of hope to take the sting out of what was to come. Of course the problem is, they actually wanted to deliver that sting, no matter what mess it made of the show and characters. We’d still have all the maddening OOC and clumsy story telling issues.

      But I wouldn’t argue that the LIs did serve as a catalyst for Chuck. That was never the problem. The problem has to do with how big of a jerk they made Chuck (and Sarah) out to be to get that change. I will always say there were SO MANY better ways they could have accomplished the same thing. It sort of brings to mind Volkoff’s favorite Joseph Stalin quote (“err, sure buddy, that’s one way to look at it…”)

    • uplink2 says:

      Well a lot of this discussion when it comes to season 3 is usually to try and justify what they did and why they did it. But that is exactly where the serious problems with season 3 stems from. We shouldn’t have to. We should have been clearly shown what the intent was, what the characters were thinking and why they did what they did. Like season 1 and 2 the reasons for the geometry should have been clearly defined and come from honest known aspects to the characters we knew and loved. But none of that happened.

      The reason season 3 fails for me doesn’t begin with the Geometry though, it begins with Pink Slip. The Chuck of Pink Slip isn’t the Chuck we knew and loved because he couldn’t be. In order for their story to work he had to be someone else, not the spy someone else, the douchebag someone else. Someone who didn’t consider how what he was doing would affect Sarah. Someone who wouldn’t worry about how she was doing. Someone who wouldn’t take 5 years to get over her but let others talk him out of a life with her in just 3 weeks. The story fails because the premise is flawed from the beginning and everything after that seems forced,contrived and unnatural because it is. Even the parts and episodes that work don’t ultimately because of it. There are many examples of that but a perfect one is Tic Tac. Mostly a very very good episode in great part because there is no Shaw in it. But it is damaged by the last scene with Sarah in the cab. In order to continue their contrived story they had to force that scene in. A much better choice for the final scene would have been the deleted scene of Chuck looking at the choice of Real Life VS Spy life clearly shown by view into the 2 apartments. Then we end with a great moment of friendship between Chuck and Morgan.

      My main point here is we should never have to have any of these discussions. Do we really have them about season 1, 2 or 4? The answer is no, not really. We discuss many things about them but it isn’t really based on trying to justify or understand what we witnessed on screen. Its about better understanding the motivations we saw and the impact on these characters. The actual plot instead of the contrivances. Season 3 fails because it starts with a false premise, changes the characters to fit that false premise, throws in some unnecessary geometry that doesn’t grow the characters one bit beyond where they were before them and works backwards to a forced and in many ways unsatisfying ending because we never saw their journey to get there. It was simply “Hey its ep 13 lets put them together and everyone will forgive us for the garbage we put out the previous 12.”

      Think, I love your analysis in the posting and think you made a wise choice in ending it with Cole because nothing after that helped grow the characters in the least bit IMO.

      • thinkling says:

        Roger that.

      • atcDave says:

        Awesome comment Uplink; glad you’re back!

        I know I’ve said several times that half the viewers I know who quit in S3 quit at Pink Slip! It was not only out of character, it was utterly no fun. But I think the triangles will always get more attention because it was the long, exhausting, demoralizing slog through to the end. Pink Slip was partly forgiven by Three Words (even though that one proved to be a lie in the near future!), Angel of Death, and Operation Awesome. We actually got three pretty good episodes right after 3.01, and IF the promise of Three Words had been delivered, Pink Slip would not have turned S3 into a dirty word. But instead came the misery arc from First Class to American Hero that was long and depressing. Pink Slip might have remained as a stand alone dreadful episode; but it took the misery/triangles arc to create a horrible season.

      • thinkling says:

        You’re right Dave. As of 3W it was salvageable, but not by much. As a rule, people don’t come back from that. By 3-13, I didn’t care any more that they resolved nothing. I was just glad it was over.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I have also always thought that the promise of Three Words if followed up on could have saved the disaster of Pink Slip in part at least. But if it was then the Geometry could never happen. So again they forced the story in a more contrived direction because they couldn’t let that happen. If Three Words is real then there is no Sham and there is no stunt casting, window dressing Hannah. We get no Mask, we get no Fake Name and we get no betrayal at the beginning of American Hero. We see an actual journey to the DYLM moment that works, makes sense and is ultimately satisfying like it should have been. It still started with a false premise in Pink Slip. It still was salvageable but unfortunately you are right they turned it into a lie to allow for their lazy storytelling.

      • atcDave says:

        Sounds like we three are in total agreement. By the time of 3.13 it was more about relief than resolution. 3.14 is when things actually got good again!

      • BigKev67 says:

        Not to get into another circular S3 discussion (honest!) – but I think you’ve both completely missed the point of 3 words. Yes Chuck declares his love, and explains his reasons for the whole Prague debacle, but it’s not just a declaration of love to Sarah – it’s also a kick to the guts.
        We know Sarah is angry that Chuck chose the spy life over the real life she was finally ready to commit to. We know she feels betrayed. And we know she’s terrified that Chuck will change, as she believes all spies do. And when Chuck says, “I did it for my friends, my family and you”, that’s just confirmation that everything she’s lost, all the bad things she thinks will happen to Chuck…..are all her fault. He said it himself. He did it for her.
        The 3 Words aren’t about love for Sarah – they’re about guilt.

      • atcDave says:

        Kev I don’t dispute what you’re saying at all. That is clearly the point of the episode. The problem is, that has not previously been the tone of Chuck. So few, if any of us, will catch that purpose on initial viewing. In fact, that intent won’t be obvious for quite some time yet. That is part of why it fails, too clever for its own good. The other major problem is just that many of us who became hooked during the first two seasons, just don’t want to watch shows like you described. I’m not into guilt and angst. I have better things to do with my time, like play solitaire or wash my hair. In short, its an abrupt change of tone for a show I previously loved very much. I have never denied that sense can be made of S3, only that I don’t want to make sense of it. I watch to have fun, and when the show changes its mood and tone so drastically, it has broken its contract to entertain with me.
        I’m just glad they changed it back to something closer to S1/S2. Otherwise it would have remained one very sad TV memory. There have been other shows I’ve been disappointed in; but if S3 had been the end of Chuck, it would have been an absolute record setter.

      • atcDave says:

        And just to be more precise. If the guilt/angst angle had played out quickly (say one or two episodes, tops!) I likely would have been fine with it. As I said before, IF they had delivered on the promise of fixing things, I would have been completely fine with a little bit of drama there. But drawing it out over the course of the entire season exceeds my tolerance by at least six-fold.

      • thinkling says:

        Hmm, Big Kev, I honestly didn’t get the guilt part of the 3W confession, as much as I’ve watched and thought about it and parsed everything about S3. That puts a different meaning to her tears. *facepalm*

        OK. A short list of S3’s failings. The misery went on far too long. The LI’s (IMO) just muddied the waters. As Dave said they were too clever for their own good. We, the viewers, needed to be let in on Sarah’s fears and emotions from the get-go. We needed to know what the CIA expected of its Intersect. Allowing us to share Sarah’s fears and emotions and watch Chuck with her eyes (this is critical and would have helped people understand Sarah), resolving all of it faster (putting CS in a good place again, preferably with some honest communication), and ditching the LI’s (and the red test) would have made it palatable, maybe even entertaining. But as someone said in this discussion, most viewers don’t watch for the story for what TPTB want to tell; they watch for the entertainment value, how it makes them feel, what they like. Chuck had established a track that its fans enjoyed, and they derailed lots of folks in S3.

      • Big Kev says:

        Yeah, even I would agree with that 🙂 It was dragged out much too long, and I’m completely in agreement about the perils of constructing a season backwards. The estrangement was a 6 or 7 episode story at most.

      • uplink2 says:

        Kev, that was my point in the long winded post above. I shouldn’t have to try to think about your point regarding guilt. I didn’t see that then and frankly I still don’t. But if that is what they were intending they should have done a better job of showing me that. To me its about him praising her for teaching him the lessons of the greater good. “Because I love you I want to be a better person.” Her pained expression I felt was because she is saying to herself that “I love you even more now Chuck but because of what you have done we can’t share that love I was finally able to embrace.” Its the agony of loss but at the same time its pride in him because she knows he is just being the hero she always knew he was. The appropriate response to that going forward to me at least would have been for her to do what she always had done, protect him. Fight to protect him from the new dangers and fears this new life will bring. No matter what they were or were not romantically they were best friends and in a way he was Sarah’s only true friend. But they couldn’t do that because 3 episodes later we were getting stunt cast eye candy to make Chuck into an even bigger jerk and justify the ultimate failed idea.

        The point is they gave us a beautiful scene that tore at my heartstrings but at the same time they were spitting in my face because they never intended for it to mean anything as far as the overarching story. Or at least that is what I saw. Ignoring it going forward is, though not as bad as the name reveal, similar in a way. Its being disingenuous telling the viewer you shouldn’t really get invested in these scenes because we will just throw them away cheaply when it suits us. Not a real smart move. In many ways its just lazy writing. So much of season 3 is lazy writing. The LI’s were just there to stretch out them getting together till ep 13. They did nothing to move the characters along. The ones that Think cited however did. The sad part of that is it deprived us of seeing their journey back to each other. Sarah goes from the biggest betrayal of Chuck ever when he needed her to trust him the most to saying she loved him 45 minutes of screen time later. Simply awful story telling.

      • BigKev67 says:

        Completely agree that Sarah’s motivations should have been better explained. Specifically, the depth of her revulsion at her Red Test would have much better explained her desperate desire to run and the depths of her fears for Chuck. And the LI’s are indefensible and cliched.
        But I don’t think seeing guilt at 3W is a reach. I saw it at the time although I didn’t realize the depths of it until later in the season. I thought the poignancy of the love/guilt mix was beautifully done and 3W remains a wonderful episode to me.
        I blame the writers for some of S3 but not all of it. Many people only want to see one story at the start of S3 and they reject anything that doesn’t fit that story – even if the evidence to put the pieces together is on the screen. People say you had to dig to see it. I don’t agree. You just had to be open to seeing it, and not to reject the premise of what you were being shown.
        And I get that you close off if you don’t like a storyline. I do the same with whiny Chuck and the Intersectless arc. I saw some point to it at the time, but I just didn’t like it – so I had little interest as people pointed out more meanings. Ultimately if you like a story you’re more open to seeing the strengths and subtleties of it – that’s human nature, I think.

      • Verkan_Vall says:


        Welcome back, and I heartily agree with everything you, Thinkling and atcDave have written in this fascinating thread. But one thing you mentioned really leaps out at me, and this is something that Frea O’Scanlon touched on in one of her posts a while back:

        “Well a lot of this discussion when it comes to season 3 is usually to try and justify what they did and why they did it. But that is exactly where the serious problems with season 3 stems from. We shouldn’t have to. We should have been clearly shown what the intent was, what the characters were thinking and why they did what they did. Like season 1 and 2 the reasons for the geometry should have been clearly defined and come from honest known aspects to the characters we knew and loved. But none of that happened.”

        Exactly. Time and again, for more than 30 years, I have been told that the First Rule of Television is:


        The audience cannot read minds. They have no way of knowing what a showrunner MEANT to do, or what they TRIED to do. They only know what they see and hear. What they saw and heard in S3 was a boatload of rejection, loneliness and heartache that made no sense and which was portrayed by characters that seemed completely different from the Chuck and Sarah of seasons 1 & 2. Intent and motivation? Awww, who needs that?

        This aggravating mix of bad plotting, lazy writing and the decision by the showrunners to drag it all out across 13 episodes (with a 2nd dose of poison in 3.17 & 3.18) produced a depressing stew of angst, frustration and disappointment.

        Which brings me to what I have been told is the 2nd Rule of Television:

        Entertain the Audience.

        With a handful of exceptions, season 3 was not only NOT entertaining, it was depressing as heck. Who needs that? I really hope we don’t get this sort of mess again in season 5. It is pathetic I know, but I really need the kind of escape Chuck can provide.

        By the way, would you and Dave mind if I put a refrigerator in the Amen Corner?

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah VV I think the bottom line is S3 failed as entertainment. But I really am optimistic for S5. I think lessons have been learned and I expect a fun ride to close us out. The only complaint I’m expecting is that there’s no way I want this ride to end at 5.13.

        And no problem with the fridge! (just remember to clean up after yourself and don’t drink all the Diet Coke!)

      • Judy says:

        What deleted scene are you referring to? Where is it available?


      • jason says:

        @kev – I did not see the guilt as the primary thing with sarah either. A weakness of the show for seasons 1 thru 3 is we never quite knew what sarah thought – even when she says no to bryce’s offer to run, we don’t exactly know what she is thinking for example, we are left to guess. What she lacked for much of those seasons is someone to talk to, to tell the truth to, and someone who could feed truth back to her, so we the audience knew the truth THAT THE WRITERS WERE TRYING TO EXPRESS. Several times characters told her the truth, carina, cole, montgomery, but she never seldom told it back. So much of chuck’s so-called cannon the first 3 seasons was left to the bloggers to develop.

        Funny, and not surprising given his overall status on the show, morgan sort of became the audience’s go to guy for sarah in season 4, he helped her sort thru first fight with a give and take, thru phase 3 with a give and take, and finally in balcony. Those 3 conversations rank as some of the best of chuck for me and left no doubt as to what sarah (and chuck thru morgan) were thinking.

        Shaw / sarah conversations were probably supposed to define her feelings in season 3, in episode 5 (can’t recall the name), in mask, in fake name, in final exam, and in hero their dialog was supposed to tell us what was going on in terms of sarah’s feelings for chuck. As far as I can recall, those feelings were not well defined. I would think your concept of guilt is more as result of sarah watching the tape of 3 words and the feed of chuck drinking after manoosh went down – you might be right, but I can come up with a different reason near every episode based on words spoken, as well as guessing based on sarah’s face (lust, convience, getting even with chuck for hannah, friendship, career advancement, dislike / hatred for chuck, guilt, hatred for herself, love for shaw, etc). It was a lousy way to tell a story – by far the most any tv show has ever failed me as a fan.

      • thinkling says:

        @VV: My turn to sit in the amen corner. Glad there’s a fridge … how about a coffee maker. 🙂

        @Big Kev: Now that you point it out, the guilt in 3W it’s obvious, but it really wasn’t at the time. We agree on a lot of things here, as to what was wrong with S3, and what it needed to really tell the story. Good point that people close off to stuff they don’t like, especially when it’s such a wild departure from everything that came before. We just differ on personal tolerance levels for different types of Chuck episodes … FOD and S3 being the pertinent examples.

        However, I’m not sure there’s anything they could have done to make the red test viable. It was way too dark for Chuck and retconned too much damage to Sarah’s character that, at least to me, wasn’t hinted at before. There was no way to take time to adequately resolve it and recover from it. I get why it was there, but surely they could have used something else. Just a kill in the line of duty would have sufficed as the worst day of her life, and Eve S could have been killed in a set-up — a mission gone wrong. The red test was too dark, too much damage with no foundation, and no possible resolution. I still puzzle over how they could test Chuck’s ability to kill, but the red test just didn’t work.

        I’ve enjoyed the discussion. It’s been pretty objective all around.

      • atcDave says:

        Funny observation Jason about Morgan as Sarah’s sounding board. I do agree about the failure that was S3. Among the issues, if Shaw had not been used as a romantic interest, he would have been FAR more effective as someone for Sarah to talk through as she sorted things out. Although I know I’m not kidding anyone, I would not have been happy if she was talking too much to anyone other than Chuck.

      • atcDave says:

        The red test is one of those things that was very poorly thought out. Although it may fit with some of the darker elements of government we’ve seen in this show (the same government that was willing to kill Chuck when he became inconvienient) it doesn’t fit at all with the Sarah Walker we’d known for two and a half seasons. They’d even made a point back in S1 – 2.01 to exclude Sarah from kill orders involving Chuck; which I think left many of us thinking she was never that sort of problem solver. We could buy Casey as a cleaner while Sarah was more of a troubleshooter. To be fair, they did refer to Sarah as an assassin as early as Beefcake; but the line was sort of a joke. But the whole Red Test thing casts a dark shadow on Sarah, Chuck (by association), and the whole government apparatus (okay, that was shown pretty dark anyway). It’s just a contemptible and ugly idea that doesn’t fit the tone of the show or the lead characters.

      • Herder says:

        Jason, that ambiguity about what Sarah is thinking is constant through the whole series, until as you say Morgan starts talking to her. For instance to this day I am not sure why she tears up at the end of Alma Mater, is it that Bryce isn’t the bad guy that she thought or is it because Bryce really did ruin Chuck’s life. How was she going to fix things at the end of Breai Up, what was the meaning of the look at the clasped hands at the end of Best Friend. Season three just made her even more inscrutable.

      • thinkling says:

        Agree again, Dave. To work, Shaw needed to be a good spy and mentor … someone liked and accepted by TeamB. He should have had good chemistry with the whole team. Chemistry with Sarah that was never acted on romantically, but channeled as a sounding board/friend would have worked well. It would also have made him a tragic villain later on. As it was he was ineffectual on all fronts. We preferred him as a villain, only because we hated him as a member of TeamB and a scum-of-the-earth lech, preying on a vulnerable woman. If we had liked him all along, his decent into madness and evil would have had much more impact.

        I would have made Sarah part of a team that killed Eve in a mission that had been a set up. All these years later an unknown agent with an axe to grind (Shaw) is going after them, killing them off, one by one, as he discovers them. She’s the last one living. He wouldn’t yet know that Sarah was part of the team, and she wouldn’t know that he was the one killing them off. Better drama, to me, and less damage to Sarah.

      • thinkling says:

        So, true, Herder. Yvonne’s facial expression are fantastic, but facial expressions have their limitations, even Yvonne’s.

        How would you have fixed that? Chuck, a far less complex character, had Morgan to talk to, and he always wants to talk about … everything. How could we have gotten into Sarah’s head a little better?

      • jason says:

        think – sarah has needed a girlfriend in the show, near all the spy boys have taken turns being her girlfriend, casey & morgan (maybe even shaw). In s1 / s2 / s3 that girl would have had to be CIA, in s4 it maybe could have been ellie but since morgan knew the secrets he did make sense, I sure hope in s5 it IS ellie. If I were running the show, I would give the team a girl spy in s5, someone who could do seduction missions, would bring up a great moment – chuck & sarah on the com listening to the ‘seduction’, and chuck asks – ‘is that what you did ….’ – give TPTB a shot at addressing some cannon – anyway they would like

      • atcDave says:

        Thinkling I really like the idea of the team mission gone wrong. There would would been an element of betrayal within the team, but Sarah really needed to be innocent personally.

        I think keeping Sarah mysterious the first two seasons was effective, and even part of the hook for the show. But having her gradually open up about her fears and demons needed to handled with far more care. As we were discussing, Shaw could have been used as a friend and confident; but it really needed to come back to Chuck. We could have seen Sarah, over the course of a few episodes discuss with Shaw the importance of remaining distant and the risks of opening up; but then see those barriers come down anyway. Maybe have a cautious romance developing all season (Chuck/Sarah), but with hesitation and secrets, until Shaw’s betrayal moment, which would lead directly to Sarah deciding Shaw and the CIA way lead only to heartache. So in this version of Other Guy, Chuck and Sarah have been together all season, but the payoff scene is the start of full disclosure.
        It’s not hard to imagine how many of us would have been far happier with that!

      • thinkling says:

        I like that Dave. In AoD Sarah offered friendship. It was clear she meant it when she backed Chuck against Shaw in OA. By the end of FC, it should have been pretty solid with a subtle turning toward romance. What you said about the whole progression with Shaw as a confidant turned traitor. That could have worked.

        @Jason: Carina served that role a couple of times. Even a pet could have done the trick.

      • BigKev67 says:

        Completely agree that the idea that enigmatic Sarah starts as a hook for the character and the show and then was badly handled in parts of S3. The pieces were there – the Red Test, the guilt, the idea of losing her grounding (Chuck) and being adrift – but they were revealed too late, or in the wrong order, taken too far and for too long. Where I differ I think is that I loved that they tried to tell a “deeper” story, but still keep it within the confines of “Chuck”. Because I liked what they tried to do I’m much more inclined to be forgiving of the many flaws in the execution. Except Mask. That’s pretty much irredeemable to me even now 🙂

        Always a pleasure chatting to you.
        Final Exam and the Red Test is a weird one. It’s one of those episodes where I completely understand why people didn’t like it, and I even agree – but I liked it anyway. I loved the stake date, the comedy of the guys in the van, and the scene at Tracks – even while I was confused by Sarah’s actions and betrayal. I don’t think you can have Chuck be a real spy without some exploration of how far he’s prepared to go and in what circumstances, so on that basis I had no problem with the whole Red Test idea, and it would have been too dark if Chuck killed the mole. As it was I didn’t actually think it was too dark – but Sarah’s actions and motivations were a mess, and as much as I liked the episode I can’t get away from that. Then they brought Shaw back from the dead which undermined the whole resolution that flowed from the Red Test idea. But don’t get me started on that…..!!

      • thinkling says:

        @Big Kev,
        I understand (though not until way too late to appreciate it) that the CIA project runners wanted the Intersect to be kind of a lone agent/assassin. [In retrospect, I see that Sarah realized that all along. Chuck obviously did not. So she feared that a) Chuck would become someone else and be taken from her and his family via the spy life or b) he would fail to become that person and become a target for termination. No wonder she asked him to run away.] In that process they would have to test Chuck to see how far he could go … could he kill someone. Obviously there was a darker reality to the spy world that Chuck would have to face and still naively didn’t know existed. I get that Chuck’s general inability to kill, contrast with his specific ability to kill to save Sarah, was a big part of the story of his progression to spy without losing himself. But I still can’t swallow the red test … not so much Chuck’s as Sarah’s and the state it put her in. Killing in the line of duty would have been a better test and focus, instead of the assassination angle. I can’t help thinking that there were better ways to explore all of this.

        Even in the midst of the context I hated (trapezoids, betrayal, angst, estrangement), I liked some of the same things in Final Exam and American Hero. The plans to help Chuck, the van, Ellie confronting them, and Ellie’s speech to Chuck, and Chuck’s speech to Sarah, his hero moment, her decision to go with Chuck, Casey confessing … scenes I liked. But all the things I liked individually in the episodes were ultimately tanked by the overall failure of the season, with its poor execution of a dark and angsty story that went on way too long. Final Exam was darkest, not at the point of Chuck’s actual test, but that Sarah was forced to set it up. American Hero … it was her not believing Chuck.

        You forgave a lot of the shortcomings because you didn’t mind the context. I hated the context, so I couldn’t enjoy the good stuff that I might have otherwise thoroughly enjoyed. I bet between the two of us we could probably find some fixes that would satisfy both of us. 🙂

      • jason says:

        kev – I thought TPTB were cowardly during season 3 & stupid – even if near nothing changed, I will rewrite 5 things for you more bravely:

        #1 – in fake name – after casey saved sarah’s life with his shot, the next 5-15 seconds should have been shown – you want misery – sarah should have run to shaw’s arms and chuck should have been crushed

        #2 – in beard – chuck should have found out the terminate order was in play while he was on his way out the door & he should have confronted sarah

        #3 – in final exam – the gun on the mark should have been dealt with, ideally, shaw should have been shown finding it, and destroying it, sarah should have asked shaw, shaw should have lied, even better, sarah should have started an investigation on her own, casey should have known, and when he told walker later on, he should have confirmed that, hence had chuck not shot and casey not been there, chuck would have been dead

        #4 – full circle – again – as chuck runs from the building in hero with shaw, the next 5-15 seconds should have been shown, what did sarah do now, still run to comfort shaw, who had just passed her off to chuck, or something else, but you want drama, there it is, all set up for the taking, at least by brave clever writers

        #5 – at some point in other guy, sarah trusting chuck should have been part of her being saved directly (indirectly chuck did save her, in spite of her own incompetence, stupidity, some may say near bimbo status)

        Bonus: stephen’s execution should have meant something, he should have been saving chcuk, ellie, sarah, a stray dog or even morgan – as it was, stephen died and nothing was different – horrible writing – yikes

        by the way, you are far braver for standing up to this group of shippers here than that writing team in season 3, please don’t go, if you want, I’ll start taking your POV to give you backup, I think I could defend season 3 pretty well right now, I know the argument, I just don’t agree – LOL

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        @Thinkling – I laid in some raspberry lemonade for you.

        @BigKev67 – agreed, especially about “Because I liked what they tried to do I’m much more inclined to be forgiving of the many flaws in the execution.” I think this happened to me with S4. I know that there are a number of flaws in this past season, but for some reason my critical facilities got turned off in the the first episode.

        It might have been Yvonne’s legs, I…I…..
        Good Lord, what time is it?

        I’m gonna be late for work! (again)

  11. Amron says:

    Ha! I always wondered what exactly was the Misery Arc some of you talked about… Figures. Although I don’t agree with you completely about S3 being an absolute disaster, I do with the Pink Slip thing, in fact, I always skip it from my rewatch marathons…

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah for many of us that whole stretch was just no fun. I think sometimes we call all of S3, from 3.01-3.12 the misery arc. Other times, if we’re being more specific we may just mean the triangle episodes from 3.05-3.12. (how about “Misery Major” and “Misery Minor”!)

    • jason says:

      since shaw returned to ruin the last couple of episodes too, I sometimes refer to season 3 as the misery season – less TWO great episodes, honeymooners and role models.

      • atcDave says:

        My feelings about the back arc aren’t quite as strong as yours. Separating out S3.5 as its own thing (which I usually do in my own mind) yields another weak season, but not disastrously so like S3. I think I’m more bothered by lying Chuck and Sarah’s interrogation scene than I am by the return of Shaw. But it does all add up.

        My scores would be
        S1 – A-
        S2 – A
        S3 – D
        S3.5 B-
        S4 – A+

  12. joe says:

    What a great discussion! Everyone – Uplink, Big Kev, Dave, Jason, Amron, Thinkling, Herder, Verkan – who did I miss? – really everyone has contributed something that should be considered a treasure and a resource by TPTB, if they have half a brain.

    And I believe they do, btw.

    That’s the thing about S3 discussions, isn’t it? It’s not that we disagree or that we have to agree. It’s not even that we’re seeing different parts of this particular elephant. We’ve each explained the part at our fingertips very well by now.

    It’s that all the analysis is so good that everyone has risen to a higher level, something like a good opponent on the sports field raises your game. Makes for intellectual rough and tumble sometimes.

    But today, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the good spirits I see in this discussion.

    We now return you to our regularly scheduled show.


    • uplink2 says:

      Well I’m not so sure about TPTB having half a brain but then again they are giving us Morgansect and that idea proves to me that they don’t have a complete one that’s for sure. lol

    • atcDave says:

      It was nice today too to have a larger cast of contributors than we often do! It made for some interesting debate having several different views going at once. IN JUNE! I mean we’ve had whole days with nothing posted recently. And yet a good debate gets going and everyone jumps in, AWESOME!

      • thinkling says:

        Yes, thanks everyone for the great amicable discussion … especially during summer hiatus. Group hug!

    • Verkan_Vall says:


      Thank you for the kind word, but I haven’t contributed anything to this discussion. I’ve just been spectating, and it’s been a pleasure.

  13. lappers84 says:

    speaking of great discussion, I’m looking forward to Ernie starting the conspiracy theory thread because I have a few things I’d like to see happen in season 5. I even made a few notes during my series rewatch (which included some things from misery arc. Namely Sarah’s red test.)

  14. Waverly says:

    I don’t get a chance to read this blog as often as I would like, but when there are discussions like this, it’s great! I doubt I would be able to make a meaningful contribution, though, so I’ll offer one possibility and a suggestion.

    Another angle on the geometries might be to consider other geometries in the show. Of course these aren’t as fully developed as the ones involving Chuck, and many are rather two-dimensional. The ones involving Morgan come to mind. Or Big Mike. And don’t forget Mrs Heditsian.

    Have there been posts/polls about the 10 best scenes and 10 worst scenes of the show?

    • thinkling says:

      Ha. I hadn’t even thought of those. Big Mike always has more going on than we know. But by far the funniest other triangle was Morgan with Carina in Cat Squad.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah, and I’m hunting Unicorns…

        You know Waverly we do try to avoid some sorts of trouble. The whole Devon/Ellie/Mrs Haditsian is WAY more explosive than we want to get into here.

      • thinkling says:

        LOL. Somehow I picture Mrs Haditsian as a modern TV version of Mrs Cravitz (only probably younger and sexier) watching Devon in his bike shorts, Devon cooking without a shirt, Devon pumping iron (Babe, this didn’t happen by accident). Yeah … we should never go there.

        Did I miss the Unicorn post? Darn.

      • atcDave says:

        Too obscure? That was Casey’s response to Morgan stating Carina was after him. That was the funniest “triangle” by far.

      • Ernie Davis says:


        That is all.

      • thinkling says:

        Ok now I remember Casey’s remark … funny. Yeah. They had a double date and a one night stand, and Morgan calls her his “ex.” Unicorns indeed.

        And speaking of Unicorns, Ernie. I didn’t know they quacked. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s