Summertime Top Ten: Chuck vs. Santa Claus

Enter The Stranger

We’ve reached #7 in our 13 top 10 episodes of Chuck! That means Chuck vs. Santa Claus is in the middle of our list!

Enter The Girlfriend

You remember how it was that holiday. Friends, good friends and lots of Christmas cheer. Just then, a perfect stranger, Nathan (Ned) Edward Rhyerson (played by Jed Rees), comes barreling into the Buy More at about 60 mph and up-ends more than counters and displays. He’s got a dull, semi-dazed expression on his face, seems to be confused and more than a bit scared. Otherwise, he seems harmless enough, even if he is running from the California State Patrol and carrying a loaded gun.

The Stranger

In his short career as a spy, Chuck thinks he’s seen worse, but he hasn’t. He doesn’t realize that it’s just a disguise. What Chuck sees is a convincing face that Ned is putting out there for the benefit of his audience, the Buy Morons and a few others there that he thinks are also in disguise. Ned’s right about that, more right than we are when we think we know these characters. They are wearing disguises.

Big Mike’s got his Santa suit. I understand that Ebenezer Scrooge made a less convincing St. Nick once, but it was a close contest between the two! Morgan, despite his protestations, makes a convincing elf.

Then there’s Sarah.


From the beginning it seems like Sarah made a decision long ago to put on some sort of face – a disguise – especially around the holidays. It’s been a mask in the truest sense, protecting her from the prying eyes of strangers who need not know about the traditional Annual Salvation Army Con-job way of celebrating the Christmas.

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and
Show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on

You’re probably saying to yourself “Self? Surely Chuck is not wearing a mask or a disguise. He’s the most transparent guy around!” We’ll get to him, but if you’re thinking that, I’d like you to consider Devon first.

He and Ellie come early to the Buy More that day, even before Ned arrived. Awesome is all happy because he’s already bought Ellie’s Christmas present to him from her. Heh.

Devon: Yeah, yeah. I took it upon myself since you never know what to get me.
Ellie: Well, that’s great! What did I get you?
Devon: Weekend sky-diving trip with the boys in Crested Butte, 10,000-foot free-fall. Awesome!

Uh, right. Ellie’s present to him is a one-way ticket to death. That’s nice. He’s so brave, after all; it’s the mask he likes to wear. Just moments after Casey has his toe blown off, Devon tries to convince everyone he can that it’s time to man-up. This guy, Ned, has to be taken out before anyone else gets hurt. Ellie disagrees, to say the least. Her preferred mask is “mama bear”.

Devon: You guys work at a Buy More, but I’m a doctor. Okay? I take risks every day. This is a matter of life or death. Someone needs to man up and take action. Someone needs to be a hero.
Ellie: No, they don’t Devon. Being a hero is being alive to take care of your friends and family.

Maybe it’s time to wear a different mask. Chuck, our deliberative hero, is considering just that. Which mask will he don today, and which part will he play? Is it the time to be bold or is it the time to be cautious? Of all the character-types in this little drama, Chuck’s the only one who knowingly chooses his own. The others are much less aware – Santa, Santa’s helper, Doctor, Hero, bear, fiancé, girlfriend…

We’ll see their characters revealed. When Ned allows his hostages to call loved ones, Jeff calls his mother in Chowchilla, and Johnny-boy calls his, as does Devon with Ellie. Ned himself calls his wife, we think. Lester calls… well, never mind. 😉

Don’t be afraid to try again
Everyone goes south
Every now and then
You’ve done it, why can’t someone else?
You should know by now
You’ve been there yourself

It was a moment to take off the masks, but it’s surprising how many resisted doing that. Sarah, the girl who doesn’t do Christmas, calls nobody. There was never a question about who Chuck would call.

Sarah: So, uh, Ned let everyone call their loved ones. That was pretty smart to call me. Protect our cover.
Chuck: Yeah, well, you are my girlfriend. Sort of.
Sarah: So does that mean your offer still stands for Christmas?
Chuck: See? I knew you could be heart-warmed. [Chuckles] I actually, um… I have something for you. I was gonna give it to you tomorrow, but considering the circumstances, I kind of want to give it to you today.
Sarah: Chuck, we’re gonna get out of here. We’ll be fine, I promise. [Sarah sees the bracelet.] Wow. That’s beautiful!
Chuck: It’s good luck. It was my mom’s charm bracelet. My dad gave it to her when Ellie was born.
Sarah: Oh, Chuck, I can’t take this. This is something real, something that you should give to a real girlfriend.
Chuck: I know.

It’s almost painful now, that Chuck and Sarah have to wear these disguises, these covers. Isn’t it? They may look like boyfriend and girlfriend, but they are not. They can’t be. Clearly, no matter how well they play the roles they’d much rather be the real thing. Both of them think they know precisely why they have to maintain the covers. It’s so Chuck and his family can be safe. It’s so Sarah can continue to protect him and Ellie and Devon and keep them safe from characters like…

Lt. Frank Mauser. Wow. It’s taken us this long to get to Mauser, played by Michael Rooker. He’s NOT a hostage negotiator, there to help resolve the situation. That too is a disguise. He’s the stranger whose come to reveal all the others and tear off their protective covers.

The Masks Come Off

When Chuck has to face Mauser and the danger he represents alone in the Buy More, Chuck begins to ask all sorts of questions about the role he’s chosen to play. Maybe it’s time to be a hero instead of being the cautious one. Likewise, when Sarah is ushered out at Ned’s insistence, she starts to question exactly how that cover is helping her protect Chuck. Maybe it’s time to be the girlfriend instead of pretending. When she whispers “Trust me, I’ll never let anyone hurt you.” it’s the promise of a lover, not the words of a handler, and you can see the disguises are coming off.

Chuck is not a passive hero in this drama. His flash rips off Mauser’s disguise to reveal that Fulcrum is at the doorstep, ready to bunker him. They know about Bryce and Agents Walker and Casey, and now they know who the CIA has been protecting. Ned’s disguise as the confused, desperate man who only wants to buy his family a present for Christmas is dropped to reveal a trained killer, complete with a wheel kick that loops Lester. Needless to say, Morgan is not at all the pathetic wimp Anna thinks he is, but is heroic wimp Chuck knows him to be. Devon and Big Mike were always awesome, if a bit slow on the uptake.

Chuck, the one character who consciously chooses his role, is briefly the bystander. Mauser has him, and only some sharp-shooting (which sends the police van in which he’s trapped into a nearby Christmas Tree lot) frees him. Agent Walker’s there to save Chuck – again, and she’s up to the task, ultimately disarming the Fulcrum agent and leaving him defenseless.

But Mauser is not harmless.

Mauser: You may have beaten me, Agent Walker. But Fulcrum’s won. I know Chuck Bartowski’s the Intersect.
Sarah: Chuck’s secret is safe. And you’re going straight to a CIA detention facility, never to be seen or heard from again.
Mauser: Well, you go right ahead, Agent Walker. Arrest me. But say goodbye to Chuck. You see, I’m not like those other Fulcrum agents. They’ll do whatever it takes to find me. And when they do, every Fulcrum agent we have is gonna know Chuck’s the Intersect. It’s gonna be the end of his pathetic existence. So take me in, Agent Walker. I’m ready to go.

Enter the Stranger

After one moment of consideration, she shoots him dead.

Once I used to believe
I was such a great romancer
Then I came home to a woman
That I could not recognize
When I pressed her for a reason
She refused to even answer
It was then I felt the stranger
Kick me right between the eyes

So was that the agent who shot Mauser, or the girlfriend? Because of the holidays, a writer’s strike and a presidential speech in prime time, it took a month for us to hear Sarah’s thoughts on the matter, and it wasn’t helpful. Sarah convinced herself that Mauser was enough of a threat that she had to do what she did to protect Chuck and his family. For my money, that’s not the calculated, deliberate decision an agent would make. An agent would consider execution under these circumstances (Mauser was unarmed) to be “above her pay grade”. Let others worry about the fallout – that’s their job.

A girlfriend considers it to be her job, and she’s willing to pay the price. The problem, of course, is how this might appear to Chuck. Would he understand? Sarah is rightfully unsure about that, and stumbles when she realizes the light in his eyes may go out the moment Chuck learns the truth. It’s a legitimate fear.

Well we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger
Did you ever let your lover see
The stranger in yourself?

Sarah has to be questioning herself. Just who is she, anyway? Is she the kind of person who doesn’t do Christmas, kills enemies and is very alien to Chuck? Is she at all “normal?” No matter which decision she made about Mauser, no matter which way she turned, Sarah Walker is not “normal.”

Morgan: Let me ask you something. What do you do when you see your girlfriend do something so horrific it gets permanently burned into your brain?
Chuck: I don’t know, buddy. But I know exactly what you mean.

Small wonder Sarah decides to cover herself once more and lie to Chuck. It hurt like hell to watch her do it, and you could understand that it hurt her at the same time. It wasn’t Ned and Mauser who were the strangers in the room. All they did was act as catalysts. They brought out into the open someone nobody recognized, someone who had been locked away for a long time – Sarah Walker. What will Chuck think of this person?

You may never understand
How the stranger is inspired
But he isn’t always evil
And he is not always wrong
Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire
You’ll give in to your desire
When the stranger comes along.

There’s about 50 different episodes of Chuck that I place in my list of top ten favorites. But this one definitely belongs there, even when you get very picky and discerning. It’s a watershed, with tour de force acting from the guest stars, the supporting cast and from Yvonne and Zac, just like we’ve come to expect. It has to be – each character plays a dual role as their natures are revealed.

It’s true that we all love the bracelet scene and what it represents. Chuck is showing Sarah exactly what she means to him, and by accepting it, Sarah privately and personally – but not yet publicly and maybe not even to herself – becomes his girlfriend. The cover remains, but it is filmy white gauze that fools nobody but them. Sigh.

On top of that great scene, though, is the dark tragedy of Sarah lying to Chuck, leading to his haunted nightmares. It’s the stuff of Shakespeare. It makes it easy for us to cherish those scenes and place them high in the canon. But the contrast between the bracelet and the lie also draws our attention away from the important decisions that Chuck and Sarah made in this episode.

Oh, there will be pauses and even backsliding. You know it. There will be obstacles and heartaches down the road. But here, in Chuck vs. Santa Claus we have both Chuck and Sarah on the precipice, about to decide how much they are willing to reveal to each other.

And it’s still amazing to watch. Prepare to be heartwarmed!

– joe

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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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32 Responses to Summertime Top Ten: Chuck vs. Santa Claus

  1. Cenodoxus says:

    Excellent perspective on an excellent episode. “Santa Claus” pretty consistently appears in just about every top 10 list I’ve seen different bloggers and commenters assemble.

    Sometimes I wonder how Chuck and Sarah’s relationship might have developed if she’d been honest with him straight off the bat about what happened with Mauser. The problem with her lying to Chuck is that he can’t help but obsess on what else she’s lying about, and that includes how invested she is in the fake/not fake/not sure relationship. Season 2’s various ups and downs hammered this point home; for every omelet breakfast Chuck got, he also got a bucket of cold reality tossed in his face. Any reasonable man would have wondered how much of Sarah’s encouragement was real and how much of it was manipulating him into a semblance of good behavior. Scarier still? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Sarah’s a good person, but she’s not a stupid one … and here’s your dual-role argument again.

    That said, I’m not sure that telling Chuck the truth right off would have ended any better. Having your handler/fake girlfriend/maybe not fake girlfriend tell you that she shot someone in cold blood to keep you safe would have been unnerving at the very least: “Yep, I shot him. Am I still invited for Christmas?” (shudder)

    So, yeah. There’s really no situation where Sarah was going to walk away from this with a solid win. Oddly enough, her lying to Chuck is a neat little parallel to a moment played by Adam Baldwin in the “Firefly” episode “Ariel,” in which the surest sign of Jayne’s remaining humanity is his attempt to keep Simon and River from finding out what he did.

    • I agree with what you said, Cenodoxus. Sarah was in a “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

      And I wonder, knowing that Sarah killed Mauser because her “girlfriend” side and not because her “spy” side, and realizing that she sees actions as more important than words, if her reaction at the end of Vs. the Other Guy wasn’t precisely because she reflected herself and what she did in Vs. Santa Claus. Because, well, that’s what she would do for him.

      • joe says:

        Hi, Josh. Great observation! The answer could very well be ‘yes!’

        I’m a little surprised to see the general acceptance of the idea that it was “Sarah the Girlfriend” who pulled the trigger. I hadn’t thought about it in a while, but I used to use the Mauser incident as one of my examples of “Agent Walker” at her most cold and calculating. I’m not sure when I changed my mind on that, but it’s clear that I did.

        There may have been less separating the agent and the girl than I thought. What’s funny is that I’m seeing the same thing in Chuck, too. There seems to be very little if anything between Bartowski and Carmichael at the end of S4, and I believe that’s by design.

      • Cenodoxus says:

        The josh-oi-squirol from Livejournal? I LOVE your recaps, fantastic work!

    • atcDave says:

      Some excellent comments on both the episode and post. I guess for myself I’d rate this episode as just barely out of the running for my personal top ten. But then I’m clearly a happy ending sort of guy, too much angst for this to be a “best of the best” for me. Again, I really do love this episode, just not quite top 10. Just for the record, my only real dislike is that Chuck seems to over-react to me. I completely get Sarah’s actions, both the shooting and the lie; and I get that the lie is the more troublesome issue. Maybe my issue is even more with Zach’s performance than anything written; but to me, on a 10 point scale of legitimate worries, I’d rank Sarah’s actions as about a 7. But Chuck reacts like its an 11. Going all the way back to the Pilot, Chuck didn’t actually learn anything new about who Sarah Walker is or what she’s capable of (deadly and a capable liar); he just saw it all first hand. So as I said, I see where its a big deal, but not quite to “the sky is falling” degree we saw on screen. He cannot have any legitimate concerns that she is his protector and friend; at least no more so than he has had for a year and a half. He may legitimately question if she’s really someone he would even want to be involved with, or if inviting her to more family functions is a good idea. But these concerns have been there all along.

      Sorry, I got distracted by the one and only element I dislike in this episode (which is what keeps it from my top 10!). There is so much that is good and fun in this one. And I especially appreciate Cenodoxus’ observation that Sarah’s lie ultimately speaks well of her character. It’s the proof she still has humanity, that she still has the decency to be horrified by her own actions and knows a decent man will not like what she did.

      • joe says:

        I completely get Sarah’s actions, both the shooting and the lie

        You know, I’m not sure now that I did get it, at first. I mean, we’ve got characters that we love, Sarah, who we think of as a super-hero, who can do no wrong, and Chuck, who always does “the right thing.”

        Except they don’t. Time and again we see them stumble and fail and disappoint (much like we disappoint ourselves in real life?) and even pay the price for the failures. And still, somehow, they’re better for it and we love the characters more for the humanness.

        We should be so forgiving to ourselves and our friends.

        Man, am I being poetic today or what??? 😉

      • ladycat713 says:

        Actually I can see Chuck’s reaction as him finally seeing her as a killer , live and not in a flash plus the possibility that his subconcious has realized that he may be executed by his own government and that Sarah may be the one to do it. (though we know it was Casey who was given that order)

      • atcDave says:

        I agree ladycat that seeing it for the first time is the issue; but as I said, he’s known since the very start. Which is why I rate it as an over-reaction. I think it is a bit of a reach to draw conclusions about a kill order from this. As far as we know Chuck never knew anything about that; nor did Sarah. Really it was never mentioned again after First Date, I don’t think the issue was even on the radar at this point. As Chuck indicated in 3-D, I think he was just freaked out by the realities of his new life; but as I said, too freaked out. After a year and a half he had no excuse for not understanding.

  2. joe says:

    Hi, Cenodoxus. I have to apologize for not putting this post up last evening. We had an amazing storm come barreling through the area last night and we lost power here for about 4 hours.

    My cat did not enjoy that at all! My wife and I, however, did enjoy the candlelight evening. Very romantic.

    The problem with her lying to Chuck is that he can’t help but obsess on what else she’s lying about, and that includes how invested she is in the fake/not fake/not sure relationship.

    Absolutely. And because the audience is led to believe that it’s privy to some extra truths about Sarah, things Chuck doesn’t know, that’s true for us as much as it is for him. Every twist and turn about that “fake/not fake/not” relationship feeds our obsession with the characters too.

    I mean, two seasons later, and I’m still obsessing! 😉

  3. jason says:

    joe, I apologize, this will be somewhat long – as u may have guessed, I have an opinion with a particular POV. First time ever eh?

    1 – I am glad you wrote this review, loved it. Of you bloggers, ernie and think write logically, faith and dave write emotionally, and you write from the heart. If ever an episode needed analysis from the heart, it was mauser, and Joe you stepped up to the plate and provided heart, nice job.

    2 – This ep gives us all a window into ‘what if’ for season 3 – what if s3’s darkness had been written well, what if the reasons for chuck and sarah apart made sense (like the execution of Mauser made sense), what if the sham chemistry worked (giving an impression chuck is losing sarah, rather than this loser is still on the show this week), what if while your heart was breaking in s3 (rather than popping blood vessels in your brain) & you understood why it all was taking place. Those were the sensations that was the mauser episode. I didn’t like the kill shot (or the lie), but I understood it (them).

    3 – Mo ryan wrote a general thing when she started her new job early this season – sorry I do not have the link. She made a comment about chuck – something like it can be really great, and it can be really bad & both frustrate her. Mauser was that type of ep for me.

    4 – For my POV, this ep provides some of the best chuck romance and heart ever, followed by one of the ugliest, darkest, most dramatic scenes that a show can write. Evidently this ep showed that an ugly scene can ruin an ep for me (the execution joins all of shaw’s scenes with sarah as my least favorite of the series).

    5 – When vs santa was over, was the only time I considered quitting chuck, the only time, although after my bitter disappointment with beard’s scene where sarah stood idly by while shaw was in the process of terminating chuck, i did not watch 3×10, 11, or 12 live, nor did I watch shaw’s return in 18 or 19 live. I have not watched those eps more than once or twice – but I have watched vs santa, maybe a half dozen times, I just give the execution scene ‘the morgan’ (FastForward).

    6 – Honestly, I still don’t like the ep, probably not in my top 50 for chuck eps. But I do understand why others do like it, the execution of mauser by the orange orange chick was stunningly dramatic … and very well done by TPTB – and would have fit perfect in 24 or Alias.

    7 – in 4 seasons has Chuck done dark drama well only a few times, and has made major fumbles with darkness vs hundreds of comedy, action, romance, and heart scenes done well – the % of great vs terrible for dark chuck scenes is pretty ‘miserable’. My 2 cents, chuck should stick to warm, action, comedy, and romance – and leave the misery alone for other shows to explore.

    • joe says:

      Wow! Thank you, Jason. I immediately thought that Amy writes with heart, which gives us a perfect symmetry, the way you broke it down. Love it!

      Your second point, the “what-if” hypothesizing a dark story in S3 as effective as it was here, is salient. It’s a great notion. When Chuck is working on all cylinders, it’s appealing to the heart, head and emotions at the same time. It’s magic, and that’s a lot more that most shows can say when they struggle to hit on even one.

      I have a feeling that many viewer (the vast majority) were okay with the heavy drama we saw here at the end of Santa Claus. It was the relatively weak (and artificially delayed?) resolution we saw later that was more disturbing. I’m sorta like Dave here, in that I do think they do “dark” well – it often comes out of the blue and suddenly in a way that I personally enjoy watching. But I certainly understand the frustrations when something I think is a major issue (in this case, both the Bracelet and Mauser) are left hanging in a way that’s not equal to the rest of the story.

      Almost equal, but not quite.

    • Faith says:

      Of you bloggers, ernie and think write logically, faith and dave write emotionally, and you write from the heart.

      Interesting. Never thought of it like that.

  4. Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

    Jason,

    The problem was never the execution of Mauser.

    The problem was that it lead nowhere in 3D.

    Something that has since then, become a trademark of the show.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I’d take a position somewhere between you and Jason on this. I’d agree the problem was not the execution of Mauser, but rather Chuck’s over-reaction to it. So while I think 3-D was a weak episode on several levels, I thought it was actually fitting to underplay the confrontation. Not to completely defend the scene, I think a more heartfelt apology from Sarah would have been fitting. But I did like that Chuck had achieved some understanding of the situation on his own before he even faced Sarah about it. I would have liked it far better if that understanding had come more quickly (like say, way back in the epilogue to Santa Claus) and he hadn’t acted like a petulant child for much of 3-D. But at least they didn’t make too big a thing out of Chuck “learning” something he’d actually known since the Pilot.

    • jason says:

      i was glad it got dropped, and the execution was the bad for me. but I didn’t even like when jack bauer executed unarmed agents (I think he off’d that lady in the finale in cold blood) or jack bristow (he got his wife, plus a traitor from his office that I recall at least), and I really like watching both alias and 24 – the difference, those scenes fit alias and 24, the execution of mauser sticks out like a sore thumb in chuck.

      and even your notion, that it was not followed thru in 3d – which is true, just further proves my point chuck does not do dark drama well. I think nearly everyone has to admit it does comedy, action, romance and heart-warming stuff very well most of the time.

      • atcDave says:

        I think the occasional dark/shocking moment has been very well handled on Chuck. I would have liked the Mauser shooting if the denouement had been handled a little differently; and I thought Sarah arresting mom at the end of Aisle of Terror was a brilliant scene. I also like the potential for Decker and hope to see him defeated and humiliated in S5.

        But I do agree the core strength of the show is in the warmth, friendship and humor aspects. To me, the great failing of S3 was that it strayed from those strengths for too long (and yes, I still believe there was absolutely no way to do OLIs in S3). But they could have explored a few darker themes, like Chuck having to betray an asset or just how much the lying was going to be a part of his life; as long as those themes of family and friendship (and that directly means Chuck/Sarah; Chuck/Ellie or Chuck/Morgan is very poor substitute) were on display weekly and always showed the hope for dealing with it.

        The dark is very effective as a contrast to what is good and right.

  5. thinkling says:

    Great review, Joe. I like the concept of the masks. Well done. I love this episode, except for the end of course. I agree with Dave. I totally get Sarah’s actions and motivation, and I thought Chuck’s reaction was exaggerated and naïve, to say the least. Like Dave said, this is no new revelation … although it might be harder to deal with, considering their developing relationship.

    I like your observation that Sarah’s promise is a lover’s promise. The bracelet is a deliberately defining moment. He gives the bracelet to the real girlfriend of his heart, and she accepts it as such. It’s an admission of the love that’s in their hearts and an acceptance of their situation, that they may never get to confess their love or act on. Except Sarah does act on it. I think it is Sarah the lover that shoots Mauser (look at her face). The execution is the moment of proof. It’s proof of what she felt when she accepted the bracelet and proof of what she said before she left the Buymore. She’s all in when it comes to Chuck. She’ll risk anything to keep him safe, including his love. She is unlike any girlfriend he’s ever had. Maybe that’s what he starts to figure out on his own. Maybe that’s why her explanation in 3D is so short and inadequate. The real explanation dips into her heart too much. This same Sarah Walker shows up in Broken Heart and First Kill/Colonel and Phase 3, only in Phase 3 there’s no more pretense.

    Chuck has parallel moments in Other Guy and Cliffhanger.

    • Rick Holy says:

      Thinkling. You wrote my reply before I could write it!! Take this as a compliment (which it is intended to be). As I read your words and felt how strongly they reflected my own sentiments, I thought to myself, “I’m thinking like a WOMAN!!” 🙂

      The “Bracelet” scene is one of the defining moments in Chuck-lore (or at least the Chuck/Sarah part of it) for me. It was PERFECT. From the “Sarah who has no one to call at the moment when all the others are calling their loved ones,” to the story Chuck tells about the bracelet and the obvious important meaning of it, to the look on Sarah’s face as she glances down at the bracelet after Chuck departs were all “golden” for me.

      I think the Mauser execution would have been EXTREMELY disturbing if she had just gone and shot him in cold blood. But it was the words that he spoke to her before she pulled the trigger that pushed her into doing it. Mauser, in effect, GUARANTEED that Chuck would be killed. The ONLY way for Sarah to “save” Chuck was to eliminate the threat. It was essentially “kill or be killed,” or “self-defense,” but in regard to Chuck, not to Sarah herself. After just promising Chuck that she would never let anyone hurt him, she kept her promise – and took him out. And my recollection is that it wasn’t a kind of “ha,” take that! kind of reaction from Sarah, but by the look on her face you could tell that it wasn’t an “easy” choice for her. She actually almost puts the gun down before Mauser’s words about Chuck’s “miserable existence” coming to an end before she aims it at him and ends the threat.

      So, yes, one of my Top 10 episodes. The ending – the execution and the lie – were not as cold and callous as they appeared to be on first watch. It was a woman saving the man she loved in the only way in that situation that she knew how – by eliminating him.

      • atcDave says:

        I loved Sarah’s anguish over pulling the trigger. It was the complete opposite of cold blooded; calculated perhaps, but not cold. Fascinating and excellent scene.

      • joe says:

        Powerful too. Isn’t it?

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Dave, fascinating and excellent indeed. We talk often about the many amazing faces of Yvonne. This is one of the best. The layers of emotion are powerful.

        Thanks, Fr. Rick. Always good to be on the same page. As for “thinking like a WOMAN,” just take deep breaths. It will pass.

    • joe says:

      Thank you so much, Thinkling.

      You’re right. Those episodes you mention – Broken Heart, First Kill/Colonel and Phase 3 (and maybe the fountain scene at the end of Lethal Weapon too) – these are the places where Sarah is figuring out where she stands on all this.

      It’s not such a small thing. To have Chuck is to essentially tear down her world. She’s willing to run away and forget the CIA, for Pete’s sake! And it only gets worse throughout S4.

      Hum… I just got a new appreciation for how much they’ve affected each other.

  6. joe says:

    Hum…
    Something I didn’t consider, but maybe should have, was how the Mauser incident relates to Chuck (not) shooting the agent Hunter Perry in the train yard (Final Exam). Different circumstances, different motivations, different outcomes – same considerations for both Chuck and Sarah.

    I was just writing a response above about how weak the resolution to Mauser came off – in 3-D. It’ll strike some as a reach, but I’m willing to say that some of the resolution comes much later, even if it’s hard to recognize.

    • jason says:

      joe – I had hoped at some point in s4 that chuck would face that decision, a dis-armed bad guy saying go ahead, arrest me (maybe decker?), I know where sarah lives, where ellie lives, where clara lives, where morgan lives, they will all be dead tomorrow. What does he do?

      Maybe casey and sarah come up on him guns raised, a shot goes off, sarah intensely asks, ‘casey did you fire that shot’, chuck answers, ‘no I did’. Sarah and Chuck would be able to have closure at that point about the mauser incident – it would be intense, but not cringeworthy.

      • joe says:

        Great scene description. That would even be more dramatic than shooting Shaw (who was armed).

        Heh – already I see Decker as becoming a perfect candidate for that.

  7. Faith says:

    Well done Joe, just…well done.

    To this day the bracelet scene still does me in. It’s not so much the significance of the moment/gesture it’s the implications beyond it. Chuck is acknowledging her importance to him and she’s realizing how deep she’s gotten. If you look at the episode as a whole you’ll see a microcosm of Sarah and her feelings becoming deeper, her priorities all the more so.

    She starts out saying she won’t spend Christmas with him, then when he gets abducted she mentions protocol. Sarah Walker lost her grasp of that fine line between real and fake long ago but she still struggles to maintain distance. Well towards the end of Santa Claus she was fully compromised. We start to see it when she’s watching Ellie and Devon. When she starts dreaming of having more than what she’s accustomed to, and that phone call. I don’t think we realize the magnitude of that act for her. I said last week that it’s almost unheard of for someone to put her first and there’s this charming, reluctant hero guy who does so…every time. The catch in her voice when she was trying to convince herself that it was just to make their cover all the more convicing was great. Especially since she was disproven the moment she saw and was given the bracelet and all that it means. So Sarah Walker got even deeper. It’s like emotional quicksand. The more she fights against what she feels, what they both feel the deeper she sinks.

    Then comes the moment when she has to leave him. There are very few true moments of speeches, that which usually takes place near the fountain–because Chuck always interrupts her!–for Sarah. This was her moment. She meant what she said, no one was going to hurt him. Whatever she must do, she’ll do to keep him safe. And to this day that promise she made to him and herself she’s kept.

    So I agree with you Joe, Mauser wasn’t the action of an agent, it was an action of a girlfriend. One who is sunk and fully into Chuck.

    As for Chuck, I go back to what Sarah said in Helicopter. Some are born to be heroes and some have to be asked. Chuck isn’t flashy, he’s not your typical alpha male, he’s a hero that reveals itself when needed. He came through in the end, like heroes do.

    • joe says:

      Oh, thank you, Faith.

      It’s the oddest thing. There is so much that’s comically unrealistic about this show; the knife throwing, the sharpshooting and other spy-craft, Jeff & Lester, the Intersect itself. But the one thing that’s always real to us is Chuck&Sarah. Bracelets are real.

      We think of our lives as so ordinary sometimes. We don’t have exciting adventures once a week and we go around convinced that the nerd never gets the girl. But what’s really important are the small things like the bracelet. What’s important is way they respond to the other, the way they focus on the other. It’s very much within our abilities to do that and to have that.

      I’m very lucky to see that look in my spouse sometimes. But I learned the secret. It’s not in revealing myself as a hero (at least, not yet)! It’s in focusing on her the way Chuck does on Sarah.

      Go figure.

  8. kg says:

    Excellent effort Joe. You got me to think about it from a completely different angle. And I loved how you used Billy Joe to tie it all up.

    • kg says:

      “Joel.”

    • joe says:

      That was my intent, KG! Thanks.

      I was surprised about how well the song’s lyrics fit the narrative. I mean, like most lyrics, they’re more than a little ambiguous and cryptic, but it fit so well! The episode featured Silent Night and used it to make the Mauser scene haunting and unforgettable. But I think The Stranger should have been used if this episode had happened at any time except the Holidays.

  9. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Santa Claus (2.11) | Chuck This

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