Summertime Top Ten: Chuck Versus The Ring.

Epic and Awesome, Complete with Fireworks.

Chuck Versus The Ring is one of those episodes.  Actually it was probably the first of those episodes.  Others would be Chuck versus The Other Guy, Chuck Versus The Ring II & Chuck Versus The Subway, Chuck Versus The Anniversary, Chuck Versus the Push Mix and Chuck Versus The Cliffhanger.  Yeah, those episodes.  The ones that are so packed through with events and changes and story and closing down some lines while opening others and all the while trying to make it the most epic, awesome and game changing episode of Chuck.  Ever!  Chuck Versus The Ring is definitely one of those episodes.  Join me to relive the epic, awesome and game changing ride that is Chuck Versus The Ring, after the jump.

Chuck Versus The Ring is epic.  We have Chuck freed from the intersect and a moneyed individual ready to move on with his life.  We have Bryce’s return and death and Casey’s departure and return.  We have Chuck leaving the Buy More, and Ellie and Awesome ready to start a new life together.

Chuck Versus The Ring is awesome.  We have a wedding, Chuck’s sister threatened, an airborne commando assault on a reception hall and Jeffster.  And that is only about the halfway point.

Chuck Versus The Ring is game changing.  We have Sarah ready to leave, then deciding to stay, we have Chuck out of the spy life, then deciding to enter it voluntarily, and we have one foe defeated, only to have another emerge.

But was Chuck Versus The Ring a good episode of Chuck?  I say yes, and clearly so do a lot of Chuck fans, given it’s place in the top 13 top 10 episodes poll.  But in a way that I don’t want to ignore, Chuck Versus The Ring perfectly captures some of what is best, and some of what is most frustrating about Chuck.

Let me start with this.  Season 2 of Chuck was awesome for so many reasons, but chief among them was that the Chuck writing team had established, very well, a few great lines of plot and story to provide continual dramatic and romantic tension.  Chuck couldn’t trust the government, but they were the only ones who could protect him.  Both the government and Fulcrum represented threats to both Chuck and his family.  Sarah (and to a lesser extent Casey) was the perfect personification of that in that he wanted to believe in her, and did, as much as she let him.  But he couldn’t help but see Sarah’s evasions, lies, and manipulation of him.  Sarah wants to protect Chuck, and wants to give him back the life Bryce stole, but he is the intersect, and while her duty to protect him comes first for her, there is a professional complication.  To the CIA, he’s an asset, until he’s a liability.  Sarah is the CIA, until they decide she no longer represents their interests.  Sarah needs to both keep Chuck working, willingly, and protect him.  The two come into continual conflict.  To let Chuck know the precariousness of his situation would lead to some very uncomfortable questions for Sarah.  Sarah wants to re-assure him and build confidence, but doing so to keep him working and safe puts her job in jeopardy if she seems compromised.  At the same time to allow the CIA, or her, to treat Chuck as a disposable asset is unacceptable.  Because she’s falling in love.  And so is he.  They really haven’t come up with such a perfect no-win to constantly provide a dramatic pivot on a moments notice since.   But to their eternal credit, they knew it had a shelf life if they wanted to keep their characters growing and sympathetic.

Season 8 of Chuck, who’d survived 8 years of missions still telling himself and Sarah he wasn’t meant for this, and this was just until he could get his real life back doesn’t work.  A hero’s journey requires actual movement.  Sitcoms don’t.  Chuck, while a comedy at heart is not a sitcom.  The Chuck team, bless them, chose to confront the comfortable and stable go-to world they’d written head on.

Chuck: “Why are you doing this…why are you here risking everything that you’ve worked so hard for?”

Sarah: “…because after everything you’ve done for this country, you deserve to find your father, to get the intersect out of your head, to have a chance at a normal life.”

Chuck: “What about when it’s not your job? What happens to us then?”

Sarah: “One mission at a time Chuck.”

They did it.  They burned their entire premise to the ground.  In Chuck Versus The Ring, TPTB confronted it head on.  What happens when it’s over, when there is no mission, and both Chuck and Sarah are free to choose their own path?  It’s a rough ride before we get to happily-ever-after, so buckle up, there’s turbulence ahead.  The consequences of a relationship, however real the feelings, built on control, lies, manipulation and resistance and defiance were not ignored.

Was it the only possible path?  No.  Was it the only possible resolution?  No.  Was it the best possible? … Given what the writers may have known about both Chuck and Sarah that we didn’t, I’ll defer.  I’m on record as having wished for a different path, but we may never know the constraints and requirements.  Was it real?  Yes.  Why all the season 3 talk?  This is Chuck’s first episode of season 3, and I will defend that statement to the last.

One Mission at a time Chuck.

Chuck’s last mission is over.  His life is his own, once again.  And his old life is no longer nearly enough for him.  First order of business, buh-bye Buy More.  You can see the twinge of guilt Chuck has as he makes his way through Emmit’s new Buy More.  Sadly the BuyMorons will have to do without Chuck to overthrow Emmit’s reign of terror.  He’s moving on to bigger and better things.  Other than a nice champagne buzz and a slow dance with his date however, he hasn’t really figured out what.  Well that’s not quite true.  He knows it involves Sarah and for a change doesn’t involve guns and bombs and spies and lies.  For Chuck, this is his chance to finally make it real with Sarah.  The feelings are real, and acknowledged, and in the open thanks to a trip to Barstow.  For Chuck, that’s the starting point.  Now he just has to convince Sarah he has something to offer in exchange for her glamorous and fulfilling life as a spy.  There may be some problems with Chuck’s plan

Finally, we can get out of here.

Sarah is leaving.  Going back to Chuck Versus The First Date, the other bookend to this season, we see that was always her plan.  She may have considered or longed for a future as a normal girl with Chuck, but it appears she never took it seriously.  She clearly reveled in getting to play real girl with Chuck, and to feel something, but Sarah has always seen happiness as an ephemeral thing, and the happy time was coming to an end.  Still, she did something good.  She helped give Chuck back his life and now, the strong confident guy she always knew he could be could go on to do great things, and would hopefully keep a place in his heart for Sarah Walker.

Does a part of her wish it could be different?  Clearly.  The spark of hope she shows when Beckman makes Chuck an offer, join the team as an analyst, then the deflation when he turns it down.  One more “if only” for Sarah’s baggage train.  We come to understand later why Sarah is convinced at this point she can only be with Chuck if he joins her world.  Sarah doesn’t do “real” real well, and she knows what real with Chuck would mean.  Opening up, being truthful, and she knows the inevitable progression of events would eventually lead to where she was un-equiped to go.  Perhaps if he’d taken that job, with time, they might have something real-ish, but Chuck made his choice to return to his world, and Sarah couldn’t leave hers.  Chuck chose real over Sarah.  It’s interesting to see the result of Sarah’s “decision” (since this is my interpretation and never clearly spelled out).  Immediately she’s back where she was before she ever met Chuck, a spy with a mission and Bryce as her partner.

This Perfect Day

On this perfect day everyone’s dreams seem to be coming true.  Ellie and Devon are about to have their perfect wedding.  Chuck has his life back, and the government is about to have their perfect intersect, Bryce.  Of course we quickly see that those stage managing all that perfection aren’t in control.

First we have Chuck.  Finally, he has his life back, and while he doesn’t have it all figured out yet, he knows he wants his future to include Sarah.  Chuck however has always felt himself a little unworthy of Sarah, even if recent events have shown him her feelings for him are real.  So Chuck has a plan.  Thanks to his newfound wealth, he’ll try to convince Sarah that normal and real life has something to offer.  No guns, no lies, just the two of them, just like Barstow.  But somewhere nice.

It’s a frustrating scene, there is a lot going on and frankly I’m not entirely sure I understand it now.  Think of it as Prague before Prague.  Sarah, for reasons noted above, feels she needs to leave and let Chuck live his life, but Chuck, ever the romantic, starts to lay out the possibilities, and Sarah starts to see that life she’s dreamed of, with them together, perhaps thinking maybe it is worth trying.  Chuck’s “proposal” clearly has Sarah nearly breathless waiting for the question… wanna take a vacation?

Chuck and Sarah, as is often the case, are operating on different levels here.  For Sarah it is an all or nothing, no turning back decision to be made within hours, and for Chuck it’s a natural process of the courtship they were denied for so long.  Sarah has the additional burden of knowing what Chuck (and we at this point) don’t.  The job that has been a barrier for so long is also Sarah’s excuse, a way to keep it from going to a place where she’s vulnerable and Chuck can hurt her.  And that is why we get a dumbfounded Sarah, numbly re-stating that it’s her job, because in reality there isn’t a reason in the world she couldn’t take that vacation, and some time to see if she wants real, other than her own fear.

And so, on this perfect day, the one we’ll remember for the rest of our lives, Chuck sees that it isn’t just the job with Sarah, he’s not enough for her, and Sarah is afraid she’s lost that place in Chuck’s heart she’d hoped to have.

Oh, sorry, I forgot the threat part.

Ted Roark, one of Chuck’s better villains, is back.  And I have to add, he’s brought a gross of stupid sticks with him for this next bit of plot.  See Ted will kill Ellie, who, like the rest of the wedding party and guests are free to wander the halls unmolested if Chuck doesn’t go, unobserved and free, to his secret spy base to get the intersect cube, where instead of calling in a tactical team, or, you know, getting Ellie and/or the guests out, he brings Bryce, with one pistol, back to the church, where Sarah and Orion look for steak knives rather than maybe, I dunno, contact the CIA?  Get Ellie out of the church?  Set off a fire alarm?  This firm grasp on the stupid stick is exceeded only by Ted Roark and his men, sitting calmly in the reception room, waiting for the CIA agent they set free to dutifully return with the intersect cube or they will kill his unobserved, free to wander the halls sister.


But it sets up the one of the most epic musical montages/fight scenes in Chuck history.  So I’m cool with it.

Chuck Versus The Kobiyashi Maru

The un-winable fight, the impossible decision.  That’s what we’ve been dealing with.  Chuck was no longer a spy, but he and his family were still in danger.  Sarah was still a spy, so she wasn’t free to follow her heart.  Ellie’s wedding was destroyed because of Chuck, and his not over yet spy life.  Her life saved, but her dreams destroyed, all because of him, and he couldn’t even tell her.

Sarah is an eerie parallel.  Chuck’s life saved, but her dreams of something more were gone, and she couldn’t find a way to tell him either.

But this is Chuck.  He doesn’t play by spy rules or real life rules.  He plays by his own rules.  There is no Kobiyashi Maru, unless you accept the rules imposed on you.  Chuck doesn’t.

Time for one last mission?

It’s not what a normal guy would do.  But then whoever thought Chuck was a normal guy.  Other than him of course.  Chuck sees it in a completely non-intersect flash of brilliance.  Change the rules.  Spy rules (lots of money, resources and pressure from the government) applied to a real world problem (how fast can you throw a wedding?).

And Chuck makes Ellie’s dream come true.  And Sarah’s.  Sarah has a problem with normal, and real.  But Chuck, real as he is, will never be normal.  And he wants her in his life.  We don’t know the depth of Sarah’s fears and the weight of her baggage yet, but even on the first viewing it was clear.  If there was one guy Sarah could risk it with, it’s Chuck.  Nobody else would be as gentle, as understanding, as patient, and as unwilling to give up as Chuck.  With Chuck, it just might be worth the risk, so even while we see their world being turned inside out again, Sarah is ready to take that leap, and Chuck is ready to become the man he always could be.  See Chuck has Sarah, and Sarah has Chuck, and even though it may take a while, they make each other the best version of who they are.

Guys, I know Kung-Fu.

I’ve written so many times about how this episode was pivotal to both Chuck and Sarah’sjourneys.  In a way it is where they start.  It is real is the end of the prologue, and the beginning orf the struggle to make what is real permanent.  Chuck’s decision, to embrace and own his destiny will test him, as will Sarah’s decision.  But to me both were due.  You can’t have a journey if you go in circles, and so by taking a risk and destroying that stable premise, that go-to canned drama and angst (good drama and angst, but still, kind of canned) TPTB launched what was a special show into its next incarnation.

It’s tough to review Ring, the reset, without acknowledging or commenting on what came after.  Initially I had a lot more… a LOT more discussion of how the seeds of what was laid down in this episode bore fruit (some would say stunted and incomplete or rotten fruit) in season 3, and eventually 4.  But in the end, I decided that it wasn’t part of this episode.  This episode, like so many others, was about change, growth, possibilities, and about bringing the awesome by the keg.  There may be another post out of all the parts hacked out, but for tonight, I just want to savor some of the best of Chuck, complete with stupid stick and frustrating hanging plot and storylines.  All I can say is I’m glad the “To Be Continued” was true.

~ Ernie
Oh yeah, The Ring is awesome
Just listen.

We were born in the desert
We were reared in a cave
We conquered in the sun
but we lived in the shade
Yeah baby we were savage
we existed to kill
Our history is damaged
at least it was a thrill
But Now We Can See

Gets the blood going. The song is an anthem. It’s bold and brash and can be sung only by youth who’ve come out on top with an early win and are feeling their oats. Think graduation. Think making the winning shot in the big game. Think getting your black belt. Think: “Just wait until real life hits you upside the head, kid.”

In The Colonel Chuck got through his test. He saved his father in time for Ellie’s wedding, he beat Roark, he got the Intersect out of his head and he got Sarah. It was all real. The next step, to the Buy More.

Chuck: Emmett! You don’t understand. I quit. No more Buy More. No more you. You can take your flag and your job and shove it.
Casey: Ditto.

When Emmett screams at him “What do you think you’ll do with the rest of your life???”, Chuck’s snide answer, under his breath, is: “Anything I want.”

Well, yeah. But exactly what would that be? You see, when the question keeps coming to him, from Emmett, from Beckman, from Casey, from Ellie – he still doesn’t have an answer and Chuck’s victory starts to sound a little hollow. After two years of thinking about it, isn’t it about time he came up with an answer? It’s interesting, Ernie, that independent of what you wrote above, I chose the same word – “frustrating” – to describe this. It’s interesting because, just like you said, this is an absolutely amazing episode on all sorts of levels, and yet, that same reaction, frustration, has been detected from many quarters. I want to discuss one of them, and it starts with this memorable little speech:

I’ve recently come into a little bit of money, so, any place you want to go, any place at all, as long as it’s sunny, with little umbrella drinks. What I’m getting at here is, Sarah Walker, will you do me the honor – of taking a vacation with me?

What the heck is that? Chuck came strutting into the Buy More and in one of most incredible, hilarious, poignant and powerful scenes in the entire show, told Emmett to shove it. Chuck the boy has obviously taken the reigns of his life and walked out of the creche. Yey!


Then he proposes to Sarah – NOT! It’s a vacation. It’s funny and it’s very Chuck-like and it’s precisely why that word – frustration – comes so easily to mind. It gets worse, too. In The Colonel, we left Chuck & Sarah at the fountain, holding hands, telling each other that “it’s real”, giving each other one of those precious, meaningful looks Morgan later tells them they do so well (for crap communicators…) Then Chuck quits the CIA, Sarah takes on the Intersect Project, Bryce reappears, Chuck gets paid off, and they couple of the century just seem to want go their separate ways. What just happened?

This wasn’t what I was hoping for either. Chuck and Sarah should have fallen into each others’ arms (or bedrooms, it seems) the night before, after the reception. And then, they should have… should have what? Ernie, I’m standing at the same spot you described. All I can say now is that sometime between the fountain at the end of Colonel and the opening of The Ring Chuck and Sarah should have changed.

It’s taken me this long to realize they did, just not in that obvious, made-for-TV way. They started with halting and tentative steps to grow up.

I’m not that good an observer; I did not recognize, at first, that the guy who (almost bitterly) thanked Sarah for coming to the wedding (Good for the cover.) and the girl who could not bring herself to tell Chuck what she wanted were any different from the angst-ridden romantic morons we’ve come to know and love. It’s not that they acted out-of-character. It’s that they didn’t act the way we hoped.

[For the life of me, after seeing the end of The Cliffhanger with the power-couple firmly grasping the reigns of their destiny (and after imagining little super-hero kids wearing capes around their house in the suburbs), I don’t remember why.]

The Fat Lady Sings

But have you noticed, I’ve only so far described the first 21 minutes of a 42 minute episode. It is the end of some of the most (if not the most) amazing TV I have ever seen. What happens next is something even more amazing, because it’s the beginning of exactly what I wanted to see. Even though Chuck and Sarah seemed just as angst-ridden and romantically bumbling as before, even though Chuck was as un-directed and Sarah as reticent as always, the next 20 minutes changed everything around them.

It starts with Chuck doing not doing something a normal guy would do. It starts again with a white wedding on a beach and Ted Roark smiling in his cell. It starts with Sarah silently indicating to Bryce her intentions to stay with Chuck, no matter what.

Just come on home.

They’re Not Different. The World Is

And oh, does it change. We discover Fulcum doesn’t matter; they’re just one part of The Ring. Chuck has the Intersect back, except the CIA has changed Orion’s base architecture. Even he doesn’t know what it can do now. It’s not a good day to be Bryce. It’s a bad day to be Ted Roark. Everything that did or did not happen after the wedding rehearsal dinner matters not at all.

There are two more things that are exploded in those last 20 minutes. With flashbacks of Beckman saying “It’s time for you to become a spy”, Chuck asking Sarah on the beach why Bryce did this, Sarah telling him “You can do anything – I’ve seen you in action.”, his own condemnation “I’m just Chuck Bartowski. I’m not a hero.” and Sarah’s answer “How many times do you have to be a hero to realize that you are that guy?”, the Intersect prompts him:


It’s his choice. He’s decided.

The second is this. I finally was able to finish Sarah’s unfinished sentence. You remember.

Chuck, I don’t want to save the world. I want…

Sarah wants a normal life. Between that and shaking her head “no” to Bryce’s question, I understand now Sarah decided to give up the CIA and go with Chuck because he saved Ellie and her wedding even without the intersect. We weren’t going to know that for sure until Pink Slip, months later, and like Chuck, she’ll want to change her mind before it’s all over. But at the end of The Ring neither of them are going to give up on what they already have and both realize what they have is not complete.

At this point the only question is, will they still go after what they think is missing? We got our answer. Standing alone and aesthetically speaking, The Ring is simply a wonderful episode to watch. With the passing of time and two more seasons of Chuck now in hand, this episode only gets better.

– joe


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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117 Responses to Summertime Top Ten: Chuck Versus The Ring.

  1. Amron says:

    Joe, Ernie, you are absolutely right about everything, although I would to know, just for curiosity, why Ernie believes this is the real first episode of S3. Joe, you said everything I think about vs. the Ring in this sentences:

    “Is the end of some of the most (if not the most) amazing TV I have ever seen. What happens next is something even more amazing, because it’s the beginning of exactly what I wanted to see.”

    EXACTLY! The last five seconds just blowed my mind! And it was perfect because it was Chuck’s choice! He wasn’t forced, he took it and finally embraced his destiny. And the Mr. Roboto sequence… pure genius!!!

    Thank you for writing this!

    • joe says:

      Oh, I think it’s the start of S3 too, Amron. The demarcation is clear. Chuck (with a little help from Bryce, Sarah, Orion and a special forces team led by Casey) defeat Roark once and for all, saving the lives of everyone at the wedding. But he doesn’t save the wedding, at least not until he does “not what a normal guy would do.” From that point on, the old problems are over and done, the new ones are about to be revealed.

      More importantly, I would argue that Chuck & Sarah have put their relationship on a different plain right there also. I’ll always agree that it began earlier, in Barstow, but they both momentarily stepped back from what they had in that dingy motel room, took a deep breath, and decided to step forward again. We didn’t see the end of that until the beginning of The Other Guy waaaay in 3.12, and maybe, not until they got engaged in Push Mix, 4.13.

      I’m glad I got to see it all!

      Oh! And I agree with you about the Mr. Roboto sequence too, Amron. 😉

      • Amron says:

        Thank you! I was just being curious… And again, best cliffhanger ever!

      • Jonny says:

        Amron, I think when Ernie said it was the start of season 3 I think he meant that the writers chickened out at the end of colonel and reset the landscape in order to continue Chuck’s hero journey. If you think about Colonel, fans can say that during the episode Chuck and Sarah in that motel room decided that they were in love and at the end of the episode when they say it is real, it is! it means that Sarah did not move over during the night by accident, it was no accident that she held is hand in the morning, it was no accident that she pulled Chucks hand into her stomach…those moves were not by accident or by chance or her just testing the waters…it was her desire and want to be close to him and be intimate with him. It was real! So ring part 1 the writers just tossed that moment of growth out of the window and decided that they might have either gone too far or made a mistake, they may feel they have made a mistake because they may have believed that fans would lose interest in the heroes journey if Chuck and Sarah were together. Season 4 showed that was not the case, we lost .5 of a ratings point over a whole 24 episode season, the problem was not fans, it was that TPTB did not have faith in the fans, faith that they would continue to watch a great show even if it gave them what they wanted, faith that the show was strong enough mythologically for fans to stay, faith in themselves as writers. It is a shame but understandable…many a show has done the exact same thing, it may mean admitting they were not as special as we thought they were, they were just human.

  2. joe says:

    Thanks for letting me chime in on this one, Ernie. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed re-watching this episode!

  3. herder says:

    One of the best of the series and my personal most rewatched episode, more than Colonel, more than Seduction, more than Honeymooners. First and formost a great story with so much in it that is just fun. Then the fun is amped up musically with some of the best music of the entire series, although it may not have the best individual song of the series I would think that it has collectively the best group of songs in any single episode from the start with the Thermals to Mr Roboto montage, to Christmas tv wedding montage to Friday I’m in love reception and many others.

    To my mind the sheer fun of this episode and the great score give a pass to any stupid stick or frustration concerns that Ernie and Joe mention. This is one big batch of fun that I can watch over and over again.

    Ironically having spent two weeks in a cottage with no phone and a non-working tv I’m home with my rewatch set to resume at this episode and while on holiday I finally purchased a set of season four dvds ($19.99 at Target) so I’ll likely get into some of the things that Ernie says he left out of his review, but first there is the Firefly purchase to finish (captain tightpants, too funny).

  4. jason says:

    I do not like the ring. Still, I do appreciate how / why some fans do like the ring, especially after reading so much great stuff from all of you to help me understand, even if I don’t agree. I do agree with the statement ‘ring is the first ep of season 3’. For me, once I accept as drama sarah saying yes (even if for a moment, even if only for a job) to bryce and agreeing to move away in the ring episode, little that occurs in s3 is much more shocking.

    The difficult part then is the schizophrenic apartment scene, where sarah more or less acts like the prior 14 episodes never occurred.

    I almost never watch comedy but I do watch lots of drama. When I see the drama, I don’t mind subtle drama, but at the end of it all, I want the ah-ha moment that puts it all together. I never felt that ah-ha during ring to explain the sudden interest in bryce after the colonel ep and even less of an ah-ha during season 3’s shaw sarah love affair arc, which unfolded over the course of nearly 8 episodes, a long time to wait to say ah-ha wouldn’t you think?

    Had the ring been the last ep ever of the series, it wouldn’t have mattered, as the bryce thing was sort of settled. Overall Byrce would have been a little thing & the ending was pretty good to nullify any lingering irritation. But since I cannot change what followed, the ring ep is at best the best episode of the show’s worst arc, rather than a decent finale to the show’s best arc.

  5. Sam Carter says:

    Great episode, one of the best, and one of the very first episodes I watched. I thought, ‘wow this show is so cool!’ And then I went back to watch the series from the beginning.

    However, I always thought that it was pretty lame from Bryce to just bring a gun and a few bullets to fight Roark. I mean, seriously? LOL. It was also really contrived how Sarah all of a sudden didn’t want to go with Chuck on that vacation. Sure she had a new assignment with Bryce, BUT she just seemed like she really didn’t care either way. Still really fun episode.

  6. Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

    I struggle with Chuck vs the Ring.

    As a series finale, (which it pretty much was at the time) it works fine because it introduces Intersect 2.0, which promises adventures ahead for Team B.

    As a S2 finale / intro to S3, it fails because it introduces Intersect 2.0, which IMO was the beginning of the end of the show, because it did away with everyman Chuck.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t hear that comment often. I agree to a large extent that the 2.0 was just generally a bad idea. But “end of the show” is far stronger than I would put it. I’ve been pretty happy with things since 3.14, I just consider the 2.0 to be one of the smaller mistakes they made getting there!

    • joe says:

      In a way, you’re exactly right, Shepperd.

      But as Ernie tried to point out, the moment Chuck “got the girl” (and a lot of fans would say that happened in Barstow), everyman Chuck had his story completed. The question becomes “What next?”

      Before I go on, can I tell you a relevant personal story? I have a black belt (2nd Dan, actually). Having that experience was an amazing thing for me, and yup, when I took that exam (well, part exam, part demonstration, part performance and all party!) I came out feeling like superman.

      Oh yeah, met my first wife in that Dojo, too. I got the girl!

      But “superman” doesn’t last all that long (and come to think of it, neither did that 1st marriage ;)). Sooner or later you come back to earth, more and better challenges come along and you succeed or fail on the basis of the last one. That’s life.

      So Chuck, with the Intersect 2.0 in his head, is superman, and he’s still everyman as far as I’m concerned. Well, I can see him that way, at least. As the story developed, of course, Chuck had to prove that he was a spy both with and without that computer in his head. And really, Sarah had to be sure he was still the “normal guy” she fell in love with before they could move forward. I thought it was pretty good, myself; a clever way to show Chuck was indeed still “everyman”. Heh. I thought it was great, actually.

      But I don’t intend to change anyone’s mind on it. This group has spent a good deal of energy discussing already if the writers and creators succeeded in making a worthy story out of what remained in S3 and S4. You just know my vote on that is “yes”.

      And really, it’s for each one of us to decide for ourselves if we enjoyed it or not.

  7. mxpw says:

    I think Ring was a good but not great episode, I’d say, or that’s at least what I thought when it first aired. The attack during the wedding, with Jeffster doing their performance, was the highlight of the episode for me. That was maybe the best action set piece the show has done so far, and probably the best use of Jeffster in the series. But I remember being upset at Sarah’s contrived rejection of Chuck in the beginning, rolling my eyes at Bryce’s stupid “rescue” plan, shaking my head at Sarah never telling Chuck what she had decided (not that it would have mattered much since it’s obvious she couldn’t stick with it), and being surprised by the Intersect 2.0.

    The Chuck and Sarah stuff really didn’t help this episode for me. Not because I’m a huge shipper or anything like that, but because the writers didn’t do a very good job of hiding the man behind the curtain. It felt so artificial to me after Colonel and I could see the authorial hand guiding things instead of it fading into the background like it should have. Add to that what this episode launched and I think it’s only a middle of the pack S2 episode for me.

    I think hindsight has not been kind to this episode in my mind. I somewhat agree with Ernie’s assertion that Ring was the first episode of S3, but I don’t think that goes far enough. I think Ring was the first episode of a brand new series, to be honest. The Chuck of S1 and S2 died with Colonel and Ring ushered in a new version of the show that just wasn’t as good, I don’t think. This episode really highlighted a lot of what would plague the show in the future: Sarah and Chuck contrivances, Sarah-as-plot-device, sudden and unsupported plot twists, odd characterization, etc…

    I think the funniest thing about what this episode means to me is that I remember after it aired and how upset many people were getting over Chuck getting Intersect 2.0. I remember how they were really wary and thought it was the show jumping the shark (I know quite a few people who either stopped watching the show or were no longer fans after Chuck got Intersect 2.0). And I remember defending the decision, telling people to trust the writers, they knew what they were doing, we should wait and see, I didn’t think the new Intersect was going to turn out as bad as people were making it out to be. And then S3 debuted and Prague happened and the Intersect 2.0 turned into a huge mess and an even bigger crutch and all the stuff people were bemoaning the new Intersect for came true. I got suckered. I just don’t think I can look at this episode like I did when it first aired anymore.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t think we agree often, but you hit the nail on the head here. I watched the episode many times shortly after it aired; I loved both wedding montages, the first being one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen on television.
      But once the countdown to S3 started it became obvious the trouble that started here. Of course I’m an avowed ‘shipper, and the continuing use of miscommunication and misunderstanding feels cynical and manipulative from this point forward, I especially like your “man behind the curtain” allusion. And of course, the 2.0 basically became the “I know Kung Fu” crutch. I can imagine that it might have been made to work; but in the end its too much like The Force in Star Wars in that it mainly diminishes the human/every-man element that had previously been such a fun part of Chuck.

    • JC says:

      Pretty much in total agreement with this. The only thing I would add is the loss of Bomer/ Bryce hurt the show more than some people think.

    • joe says:

      Hi, mxpw. Good points. I’m a little amused that I happened to notice some of those exact same things.

      Like I said to Shepperd above, I don’t want to even try to change your mind about it or anything, but I came to some different conclusions.

      Yeah – Sarah’s moving on to leading The Intersect Project sure seemed like a rejection at the time. Between that and Bryce’s sudden reappearance, I definitely felt a bad vibe back then when I first saw it. This time around (um… viewing number 18? 19? something like that), I noticed that Sarah was as started by Beckman’s job offer as was I. If you take the time to watch it again, look at how carefully Yvonne portrays Sarah’s confusion. She’s massively conflicted. And like usual, Sarah says nothing.

      It works for me now only because Chuck did essentially the same thing to her, not by leaving the agency, but by asking to take a vacation with him. I mean, weren’t we all thinking in terms of a proposal for them? The writers led us that way, right up to the last second. We were supposed to think that, and so was Sarah. She was supposed to be disappointed.

      So Chuck is not a spy, and Sarah is not going to have a white picket fence in the suburbs. Chuck is going to have a normal life, and Sarah is going to remain a spy.

      NOT. By the end of the episode they both change their minds on that. S3 then is very much about Chuck trying to re-find that normal life after becoming a spy, and Sarah trying to remain a spy while looking for love (I’m thinking of The Mask here).

      Man, you’re right about the “man behind the curtain” stuff. When I think about it, it’s pretty clear that the agenda had been set. I’m pretty easy on that, though – I sorta like to suspend my disbelief when I can. Everyone’s got their own threshold, right?

      • mxpw says:

        @Joe – I…I don’t know if I can quite agree with your thoughts on Sarah in this episode. I mean, we had a whole 13 episode arc in S4 about Sarah coming to terms with and deciding that marrying Chuck was something she actually wanted, and that’s after they’d been dating for at least six months. And in a lot of ways, she had to be dragged kicking and screaming to get to the point where she was willing and ready to say yes. So I have a hard time believing that Sarah would have been actually disappointed that Chuck didn’t propose to her in Ring. Even if he had, I have a hard time seeing her say yes. They hadn’t even slept together yet, and were clearly on different paths regarding the relationship.

        And by that point in the episode, Sarah had already agreed to leave with Bryce. It leaves me a little uncomfortable to think that Sarah would have needed Chuck to propose to her in order to get her to stay. That undermines the foundation of the relationship even more, in my eyes, which that scene already does quite well on its own. Case in point: Sarah HAD to know what her leaving, and with Bryce, of all people, would do to Chuck and yet she still was willing to go through with it anyway. But you are right that this is stuff that we will probably not be able to convince the other of.

        I will agree with you that the way Chuck approached the vacation question was unnecessarily leading and I’ve always considered that a poor writing choice on Adler and Fedak’s part. They were trying to be cute and funny, just like the whole funeral thing during Cliffhanger (and they failed, in my opinion). That only compounded the contrivance of that whole scene.

        I think the man behind the curtain was quite apparent during Ring, and you’re right, we all have our thresholds. Ring just pushed up against mine in a lot of spots.

      • joe says:

        We’re not too far apart on this, mxpw. I’m sure I enjoyed the episode a bit more, though! 😉

        But I do want to comment on the proposal idea, and what I’ll call the waffle. I almost have to force myself to remember that this was very much a series ender – they made it with no confidence of renewal. Given that, yeah, Alder and Fedak teased us (mercilessly!) with that “proposal”, but then they brought them back together just enough to be acceptable, with a promise that the story would go on.

        Wasn’t easy for ’em, I’m sure.

      • Jonny says:

        @Joe and mxpw

        Please check my first comment, this whole episode, the whole of season 3.0 is a stall to the inevitable. TPTB had no faith in the fans….simple as that. Sarah and Shaw and Chuck and Hannah was a stall, it is known from an inside source that the writers were worried that in season 3.0 that the will they wont they would feel tired and old and so their best idea to prolong it until they told “their” story….. was to throw in love interests. I do not think they thought of consequences, because a love interest is just a line of text on a script in a writers room in LA to them, but to fans it is so much more. Ce La Vie….

      • joe says:

        Jonny, I hear ya, but I really can’t buy the idea that the writers (Ali Adler in particular) didn’t or don’t have faith in the fans. I have a far easier time believing that they were brought kicking and screaming to postponing C&S getting together by the NBC network execs (the only species of animal in the world known to still believe in “The Moonlighting Effect”). And even then, we had The Honeymooners and Sarah’s four yeses only 12 episodes later. (Oh, okay. It seemed to go by quicker when I had my marathon!)

        I mean, Tony and Ziva (on NCIS) have moved about 1″ this season. I really don’t know what Booth and Brennen are doing these days (Bones) because I gave up on them a couple of seasons ago.

        I’m still sort of hoping for Hank and Jill (Royal Pains), because something’s in the works. But they were closer in their first season than they are now, with Jill admitting she has one foot out the door.

        Oh! I almost forgot Big Bang Theory. Penny & Leonard not only didn’t get back together, but Leonard had a season long fling with Raj’s sister, and Penny ended up with Raj (sort of) in the cliff-hanger.

        Gee! Maybe Hollywood writers as a group really DON’T like happy couples. If that’s so, Chuck‘s got the best of it.

      • atcDave says:

        Jonny I think you’re mostly right. I think the “formula” and common wisdom of writing television has been set in stone for so long that TPTB, including Chuck’s writers, were all scared of taking that next step. They know wt/wt; a happy stable couple, not so much. So they draw wt/wt out until they’ve beat it into the ground. On many shows they get away with it, probably for a variety of reasons. But on Chuck, they had delivered good, creative story telling for two seasons. I think that led many of us to change expectations and expect something really wonderful and ground breaking to happen next. But we got 12 more episodes of cliche wt/wt instead.
        I’ve long been a bit cynical about serialized television writing anyway; but I let myself get excited about Chuck, about a season too soon.

      • Jonny says:

        Actually Joe, I have heard from a friend who knows a friend who knows another friend that works at NBC and he said that NBC were not concerned at all. In fact even when they put them together NBC was cool and did not worry, it was Fedak and Schwartz that were worried. Fedak admitted that in the Mo Ryan interview that him and Josh were concerned, also if you look at Community or Parks and Rec, NBC allow these shows to do whatever they want and they let them push the envelope so much. No I am sad to say that as many sins as NBC have commited over the past few years, the season 3.0 was not one of them. This was the writers doing and I think we do not want to believe what I am about to say because we love the show….but….if the ratings were more solid and fedak and schwartz did not think that 3.13 was the end…they would never have put them together, I can guarantee it. Just think how half-assed the eventual coupling was…from 3.11 to 3.13 there was 11 episodes of setup and 2 episodes to sort it out and in those 2 episodes they spent 4 minutes on talking out the issues. Lets just say Fedak and Schwartz screwed up and leave it at that.

      • ArmySFC says:

        joe, interesting comments on NBC executives, lol. then you point out its on all networks. i agree, they do shy away from couples. it’s one reason i don’t ship, you know going in there is such a small chance the couple you want to be together, will actually get together. so i base if i will watch a show on the other aspects of it. certain shows are strong enough to survive on their on without the couple getting together. bones is a good example. you don’t last 8 seasons if the show is not good enough to hold fans. BTW bones in pregnant with booth’s kid and they kinda worked it out. on TBBT i believe the break up occurred do to personal reasons. the actors were dating in real life and split up. later that season they broke up the couple on the show.

        TPTB of castle already said , despite castle telling becket he loved her, they will not be a couple this year because the fans are not ready for that yet. i do think the network fear is justified over fans leaving when a couple gets together. a very good friend of mine will tell you flat out he will stop watching a show the minute the couple gets together, and has. he thinks it changes the show to much. i don’t agree, but there are fans out there that feel that way.

        we only hear, on fan blogs what the online posters say. we don’t get to see what the networks get via email or letters. thats the other side of the coin we sometimes forget about. there may be groups of fans that are just as vocal who hold the opposite view as we do. we don’t get to see it. i’ll give an example. the show rizzilo & isles as received so many emails and letters asking when the leads would get together, that TPTB made a formal announcement prior to this season that they are just friends and will never become a couple.

      • BigKev67 says:

        I’ve certainly never shipped before Chuck and Sarah – I hadn’t even heard the term before I came onto here – and I’d have to say I think the idea is a double edged sword.
        The good side with Chuck is that Zach and Yvonne are so good together that they’re impossible not to ship. And the premise is elegant and original – the girl as the strong and silent protector, the broader themes of love vs duty, protect vs serve, destiny vs sacrifice. I shipped Chuck and Sarah because of the spark, wit and originality behind them.
        But the bad side is that a dominant
        ship overtakes every show. It can overwhelm other story options and drown out other characters. Ross and Rachel. Booth and Bones. Chuck and Sarah….
        I think the amount of attention that
        ships get answers the question of why wt/wt is so popular. One begets the other. Double-edged sword.
        How do you maintain a dramatic hook once you bring your couple together? It’s hard to do. You move too far away from the couple in question with your story, fans get upset. Drag the wt/wt out too long and the fans get upset. Chuck’s solution was to forgo the dramatic hook entirely and change tone. For me that didn’t work at all but I can see why they did it. It will be interesting to see if Chuck is seen by future writers as a show that proved or disproved the wisdom of putting your dominant ship together.

      • atcDave says:

        Some good comments Big Kev. I guess I’ve ‘shipped before on other shows to some extant or another (even before I knew the term!), but certainly never to the degree I have with Chuck and Sarah. Obviously I’m a lot less tolerant of the big misstep that was S3. But I grew up with a lot of older television where it wasn’t such a big deal to bring a couple together at some point. It didn’t become television doctrine to keep them apart until the mid-70s. So, to a degree I’ve been agitating against that for a long time. The Internet has certainly provided an outlet for some long-term frustration; and Chuck proved to be the stimulus.
        It is my deepest hope from this show, that a “new model” will be developed that includes recognizing when wt/wt has to end. Although I don’t watch Bones, and I don’t believe it matters one iota on NCIS, other shows like Castle could benefit greatly from knowing when to move on (since I think the writers may be repeating the mistake this season).

        As an aside, I think many television writers make a mistake in treating a central relationship as a major plot device; instead of as an emotional hook. The problem with that is; I think many adult tv viewers have figured out that the central plot of the show won’t be resolved until the final episode. Dr. Kimball CANNOT catch the one-armed man until the finale. The show is over, by definition, when that event happens and we all know it. By making the central relationship a central plot it simply subjects it to the same cynical and arbitrary manipulation as any other issue that cannot be resolved until the end. The audience quickly recognizes the dishonest story-telling as contrivance piles upon contrivance until things can actually be resolved in the ultimate episode. I strongly believe it is in the best interest of any television writer to keep those central issues and contrivances to a minimum. If they are willing to see major changes in setting and situation as the story unfolds everything feels more natural and less set-up. I’ll even take it a step further and say I think audiences would be more excited about scripted shows if more important events could occur somewhere OTHER than season premiers and finales. Again, I think many viewers, like myself, are just very cynical about the rhythym of serialized story-telling.
        In some ways, I’m more cynical than ever. I had seen Chuck as something daring and original for two seasons. And then for most of a season it wasn’t. Now I really do appreciate that they’ve finally gone somewhere few television shows have. They may have been forced into it by numerous possible series finales. But whatever the reason, S4 of Chuck has finally told a story I’ve been waiting 35 years to see. Much as I hate S3, I will always love what they did with S4 (and S3.5). I HOPE other shows learn from this.

      • jason says:

        IMO beckett and castle is a much tougher write as a couple than CS, the workplace bantering humor based on wt/wt is probably 20-25% of the show (i.e. moonlighting). I don’t look forward to them coupling up. I would call chuck and sarah s1/s2, more overt sexual tension than wt/wt humor, CS seemed ready, willing, and able to tackle each other at any time, any place during the first 2 seasons – on beckett, they seem much more interested in making ‘fun’ of each other than making ‘out’.

        Three other shows I follow put the couple together this season, eureka, burn notice, and fringe in one way shape or from, although in eureka and fringe literally anything can happen or unhappen. Was it just ‘time’ on these shows or has chuck’s problems with its fans sparked change? I don’t know, just asking?

        The show that seems to really have learned from chuck is covert affairs, the cia agent female lead has in 1 1/2 seasons by my count had 2 LI’s, 2 PLI’s, near every male guest star more or less has romantic tension of sorts with her, she even slept with her tai kwon doe instructor or so she said in the pilot – there is so much action, none of it matters much. I have a fairly low tolerance for sleeze, somehow, it doesn’t feel sleazy, like I said, it feels unimportant, for now. That has allowed the dramatic story to come from the missions as both kev and dave are hinting is better.

        Kev – I am repeating, but paid weekly characters on chuck, nobody seems willing to tell drama with ellie, awesome or morgan – none of whom are exactly dramatically written in the show to start with. the little drama ellie did with jason in the return of shaw was gruesome in s3.5, it simply doesn’t fit the show or the characters. any time I suggest they hurt morgan, or have him lose alex to some cia stud, people boo me off the site. they can’t tell a dramatic story with jeff, lester, or mike – none of us cares, at all, and the 3 of them make morgan by comparison seem like robert de Niro. That leaves chuck (who really is more funny than serious & is the star, so he can’t be hurt), casey (who is becoming more a comic in the show than not, but still gets hurt the most of anyone) and sarah – the show’s resident damsel in distress to cap off the major arcs, a role she seems to handle, but is mostly OOC for the giant blond shemale of thailand who most of us love on the saving end of the story, not the being saved. Finally, the most successful guest stars of late have been more quirky, goofy in nature (Dalton, Bakula, Roark, the devil laywer), the least have been serious (shaw, mary, jason, vivian) if you want drama that works, I mean that really works, in chuck, what would you suggest for s5?

      • JC says:

        Jason is on to something. Other shows with wt/wt couples have other factors driving the story week to week and each season. On Chuck the romance is the story and everything else really doesn’t matter in the end. That pains me to say but after the last two seasons thats become crystal clear to me. Having the romance drive the story is OK as long as you can keep the characters likable and believable something that the writers have struggled with these last two seasons. Its not about keeping a couple apart or putting them together its how the writers achieve it. Rehashing the same stories and issues every season gets tiresome for fans

      • atcDave says:

        JC that’s the crux of what I’ve been saying for two years. Although I think they fixed the last of the S3 character problems in 4.01 when Chuck’s lying mostly came to an end. I never expect a show, story, or character to be perfect; but a character driven show like Chuck is pretty dependent on the audience liking the main character.

      • BigKev67 says:

        Jason asks a great question and part of my answer comes back to the point that JC and I both made in different words – with Chuck, the ship is now the show. The story is the romance –
        and that’s why there is never any real attempt to do drama with any of the other characters. All the major stories have to go through Chuck and Sarah – look at the reaction to Morgansect if
        you need proof of that – so any drama has to go through them too. I think the limits of that from a storytelling perspective became apparent in S4 but I don’t think it’s going to change.
        To answer your question I think we need to some stakes return in S5 – a sense of a clear and present threat, the idea that the baddies may be cartoonish, but they can still do bad things. Getting back to some bigger themes – destiny, heroes journey, greater good – would be good too. Those stories just seem more rewarding than every Big Bad having a personal connection to the Bartowskis. The conspiracy has the potential to be just that sort of story if it’s done right.
        Other than that, I’d say just let things play out a little more. Don’t rush the payoffs quite so much because whatever feeling you’re trying to create – be it drama, romance or whatever – it’s better if you let it bubble for a while.

      • JC says:


        To be fair I think the negative reactions to the Morgansect were because of his overuse in S4 and even more watering down of Chuck being special.

        The one thing we seem differ on is the ship, looking back I see it was always the driving force of the show even during S1 and 2. The only thing was they hid it underneath hints of mythology and a larger story which never materialized or made sense. At this point I’d much rather them do episodes like Seduction Impossible, Coup d’Etat and Wedding Planner than this conspiracy idea since those types of plots are the weakest part of the show.

      • atcDave says:

        I’d agree with all of that JC except maybe for the last. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the main arc stories, and I look forward to what they do with the government conspiracy. But in the end, the show is about characters and relationships. So a big bad on Chuck is there mostly to see how the characters we love deal with it. I do agree the central relationship has always been the main focus of the show. All the way back to S1, more episodes ended with a look at Chuck and Sarah than any other issue or relationship. Even when Sarah was largely sidelined in many S3 episodes, they often still ended with the various Chuck/Sarah malfunction scenes.

      • jason says:

        Kev / JC – i think s2 was more about a great idea met an OK script with awesome luck in casting – bakula and chase. Since then the writing, the casting, and the ideas all have taken turns being lousy.

        i liked S4 more than S2 … but …. IMO for S4 to have worked for the drama fans, Mary had to be evil, a layered, complicated villain – then the 20 yrs away makes sense. Plus, chuck needed to be tougher, more mature, more capable and competent all the way along, not just for 5 minutes at the end of each major arc. But again – I don’t think fans want evil mary or really don’t want to run any drama thru any cast member & TPTB don’t have the courage to do it. The only character they seem willing to butcher for drama’s sake is sarah. Everyone else is off limits.

        Here is my take on S5 in order to satisfy all of us – I think Sarah’s mom needs to be the big bad – this will automatically raise the stakes for chuck and sarah, and consequently for all of us. I have given this about 30 seconds of thought, but if sarah’s moms objective was the intersect project, and she had power, maybe she could have been the one to get sarah assigned to chuck in s1 – i.e. nothing is random??

        My one hope, is Sarah is more GBS of thailand working with chuck in the final episodes / arc, and less the fair damsel in distress who chuck needs to save. My point is about hurting morgan always has been, Morgan acts recklessly with no clue what he is doing – make him pay the consequence – this would be a great object lesson to chuck / sarah & casey that ellie, awesome, alex, and morgan do not belong in the dangerous spy world, and that maybe chuck sarah and casey need to get out too! Plus, having morgan in distress would be something new. ON top of it, I think saving him, would be quite emotional, much more than saving casey or sarah for the eleventh or twelth time at this point.

      • BigKev67 says:

        Agreed that C/S have always been the crux of the show. My perception is that other stories and other characters have never been thinner or more marginal than they are now – but that’s just me. Others clearly disagree or don’t see it as a bad thing even if it’s true.

        Morgansect? Both of the reactions you mention are common – but also common is “too much Morgan eats into C/S time”…..

        The Conspiracy? I see it’s potential, as I said, but the record on longer arcs isn’t good over the last 2 seasons, so to avoid disappointment, I’d agree with you that solid standalones are probably a better bet. I still hold out hope that they might surprise me!

      • JC says:


        I completely understand where you’re coming from about other aspects being marginalized. And I do agree with it but looking back at the first two seasons I think it was the same way we as fans just didn’t know better..We thought there was more to the story on the show Orion, the Intersect, etc but there really wasn’t. It was a trail of bread crumbs that led of a cliff. When it comes to the other characters I can see the frustration especially Ellie. I appreciate how they brought her into the spy world but man did her character suffer. Casey’s growth on the other hand has been handled better than anyone on the show including Chuck and Sarah. His journey to me has been the most realistic and believable. I do hate how he’s taken a back seat though. Give me my Chuck and Casey episode like Undercover Lover especially since he has a LI this season.

        My worry about the conspiracy has to do with what I always gripe about continuity and the complete misfires the last two seasons when it comes to the spy story. Do they really want to base a season on that? Look at the reactions to the Agent X reveal, can you imagine that over a whole season.

  8. Gord says:

    I am probably one of the few fans that had no problem that Sarah was going to leave with Bryce.
    I had a long military career (25 years) and postings/deployments are considered part of the job. You either take the posting or leave the service.

    Sarah was clearly conflicted by this assignment. She felt obligated by her duty/professionalism yet wanted to stay with Chuck. By the end of the episode she was ready to leave the service to be with the man she loved.

    As for the Ring, I loved this episode and the part where Casey and his special forces team are planning the wedding is near the top of my list of funniest moments in Chuck.

    Is it my all-time favourite episode – no – but it certainly is on my favourites list (a list that seems to get longer with every season).

    • joe says:

      That’s an aspect I hadn’t considered, Gord! You’re right. This was the first time I really noticed how conflicted Sarah seemed, but putting it in that context makes it much more clear why she felt that way.

    • mxpw says:

      I don’t think duty really had anything to do with her choice to leave in Ring, to be honest.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree Gord that Sarah had a conflict of interest. And for the most part, I liked the way they handled that conflict of interest for the first two seasons of Chuck. The problem with the vacation proposal scene, I think, had more to do with the mis-communiction than it did with the actual conflict of interest. It FELT like cheap manipulation, because after Colonel, it felt like Sarah should have been able to find her tongue and be a little more forth-coming about what her issues were.
      As it was, when Ring first ran, I didn’t feel like it was a huge problem, because it seemed like things were mostly resolved by the end. At least, had the series ended, I would have assumed they worked things out quickly in the aftermath. And then Pink Slip ran and I let out a huge groan…

      • Gord says:

        atcdave, I think a lot of fans groaned after pink slip. I think all of us were surprised by the reset in early S3 – or at least with how long it lasted. The funny thing is that as Op Awesome ended with the family dinner I was thinking ok Chuck and Sarah have turned the corner. Little did I know the angst was going to last another 8 episodes.

        However, when you consider Ring on its own it was a great episode in spide of the stupd sticks. What kind of spy brings one gun and one clip of ammo to a firefight with a room full of bad guys. At the very least you would think he would have brought a gun along for Sarah.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with all of that Gord. Ring, like many other Chuck episodes, has the occasional stupid moment (rushed production, sloppy continuity, half thought out moments), but on balance its a very fun episode. I even agree about your S3 comment. I doubt I ever would have liked Pink Slip, but it wouldn’t have been such a big deal to have one episode I didn’t like if things really had gotten better after Operation Awesome (as I REALLY hoped they would)

    • Big Kev says:

      Completely agree with you on that, Gord!
      I think, more than most Chuck episodes, Ring is coloured by whatever your perceptions are/were of Colonel.
      If you believe that Colonel marked some tipping point, that Chuck and Sarah had decided beyond all doubt that they were committed to being together, then Sarah’s conflict in Ring (and what came after in S3) might strike you as manipulative. If you believe that Colonel marked nothing of the sort, and didn’t resolve anything in particular, then it’s a lot easier to be convinced both by Sarah’s initial decision and her change of mind. Colonel is the point at which Sarah admits to herself, and to Chuck, that her feelings are real – but come the end of the episode, she’s still an agent, he’s about to be a civilian, and nothing has actually been decided. In fact it hasn’t even been talked about, at least not on screen.
      That’s why the most significant scene in the first half of Ring is Beckman’s job offer to Chuck. Sarah is clearly surprised by it, but she sees immediately that it’s the one chance she has to have everything – the job of her life and the love of her life. The one way that she wouldn’t have to make a choice. Chuck rejects that chance, and quite casually too, and you can see how disappointed Sarah is by that – a fleeting chance, snatched away just as quickly. So for her to react to her training and choose the mission, and then to change her mind and choose Chuck, seemed perfectly fine to me.
      Ernie’s right – there are some stupid stick moments, but they’re easy to forgive because this episode probably has more packed into it than any other episode of the series, and so much of it is absolutely top drawer. A fantastic episode!

      • jason says:

        @kev – although I did not like the ep, I agree with near everything you wrote, for me, in the delorean, best friends, the act of treason for love (unless we want to call it for compassion?), as well as the colonel – TPTB put themselves on a path. It is not so much that they couldn’t take themselves off the path, but you nailed it when you said:

        “In fact it hasn’t even been talked about, at least not on screen.”

        As a fan, when TPTB 100% derailed chuck and sarah in the ring, I needed a compelling reason, it would have been nice to hear the compelling reason in the ring, but not only was it MIA then, but CS seemingly NEVER talked about why on screen, ever. The scene in the other guy some 14 episodes later, seemed more like TPTB saying ‘uncle’ or ‘i give up’, without ever explaining thru dialogue what had been going on. Matter of fact, the dialogue in the other guy, was more consistent with the relationship picking up exactly where it left in the courtyard at the end of colonel, as if the misery arc never existed?

      • BigKev67 says:

        Yeah – the lack of dialogue post rehearsal dinner and into Ring starts the pattern that they built the front 13 of S3 around, and even for someone like me who sees the merit in the story, and enjoyed it for the most part, the writing mechanics of that are indefensible. The man behind the curtain, indeed. I can forgive some of it because it’s such a pervasive Hollywood technique, but this is definitely the part of Chuck where it gets old – and continues to be old into S3.
        That said, it doesn’t devalue the story for me – just the execution of it. Because to me there’s enough compelling evidence – 2 season’s worth in fact – to suggest that Sarah would be conflicted, even if they had talked. Barstow happens expressly because they are off grid, and Sarah believes her career is over. Schwartz said as much in an interview. Once she is restored to the CIA and Chuck is safe, and Intersect-less, her conflict is restored – nothing is resolved. Would talking have resolved the conflict? Maybe. But even if they’d finished their conversation while dancing in the courtyard, Chuck still has no choice in the white room – he downloads 2.0 or Casey and Sarah die – so broadly events would have turned out the same. So at this point the lack of communication is an irritant rather than anything else to me.
        Don’t get me started on Prague though…..!

      • olddarth says:

        Applaud everyone’s tenacity at trying to reconcile characters with their actions but it is an impossibility when story drives character.

      • Jonny says:

        Yeah some would say the beauty of serialisation! I think what gets fans on these types of shows is that characters reflect our own failures in our lives. We should have said something but did not, we should done something but did not, we should have not said or done something but did! It all comes down to the choices or lack of that we make or cannot make due to circumstances beyond our control. Should a tv series make us feel that way? procedurals and comedies such as two and a half men would say no..they give us the best of the characters and just keep hitting that sweet spot all the time and their is never much growth, if there is growth it gets forgotten in the next episode or season. CHUCK is destined to have fans on any site quibble well after the show goes off the air and that is a testement to storytelling process. Should Chuck or Sarah chosen different paths after Barstow? as a fan I would say oh yes! as a human being who has shot himself in the foot more times than I can count I would have to say no….their failures make me want to face my own and that can only be a good thing…if you are willing to change for the better!

      • BigKev67 says:

        Fair point OD – but there’s a pretty solid argument to be made that story drives character most of all in S3 – and we’re both fans of S3 in spite of that. I do take your point, but I think the application isn’t constant. Ultimately, if you like the story and it entertains you, your tolerance level for the contrivance involved to get there is higher, right?

      • atcDave says:

        Kev I mostly agree with this. The scene felt like cheap manipulation to me because after the previous installment I had some expectation they should be able to say something about their conflicts. Especially for Sarah to give some voice to what she was thinking would have felt more honest. I do agree that is purely my expectation; but I think its the start of the disconnect between writers and fans that was S3. Somehow the end of S2, Colonel in particular, felt vastly different to a large number of viewers than it did to TPTB.
        But I completely agree with your comment where Ring is concerned. It didn’t register as a big deal or diminish much from the episode at the time it ran. It felt like it had been mostly resolved in the reception scene. Sure we knew there was still room for misunderstanding; but both main character’s wants and realities seemed to mesh again, so the details could be worked out in a couple episodes time, right? At any rate, that’s how I, and many fans I was exchanging thoughts with at the time, felt about it. So I would still say Ring was mostly a very fun episode, but the seeds of my discontent are clearly sown.

      • Sam Carter says:

        Interesting post, BigKev. Yeah, seeing it that way the whole thing makes more sense.

        @Jason: “The scene in the other guy some 14 episodes later, seemed more like TPTB saying ‘uncle’ or ‘i give up’, without ever explaining thru dialogue what had been going on. Matter of fact, the dialogue in the other guy, was more consistent with the relationship picking up exactly where it left in the courtyard at the end of colonel, as if the misery arc never existed?”

        This is interesting too. We all know that both Chuck and Sarah are very damaged individuals (plenty of insecurities, etc), so I can totally buy that they would need to go through hell in order to realize that their love was strong and really Real. Like Joe said in another post.

        I also never expected that Chuck was going to propose to Sarah in that scene in Ring. I thought he was going to ask her to become his REAL, real/official girlfriend. Honestly, these two still needed to talk and to get to know each other a lot better in order to commit. Sure, the passion and frienship was strong, but both Chuck and Sarah still needed more maturing to do as people, especially Chuck. He became more of a real man (and spy) by the end of S3 to me. Sarah too needed to talk more about her real feelings and wishes and goals in life.

        Unfortunately, they regressed Chuck character too much in S4. He was whinier than ever. So much fail in that. I even wondered why would Sarah want to marry him.

      • Olddarth says:

        Kevin – ‘Ultimately, if you like the story and it entertains you, your tolerance level for the contrivance involved to get there is higher, right?’

        Right. 😀

      • uplink2 says:

        OD and Kev, valid points and that is also why I hate much of season 3 because of the contrivances. I did not like the story being told at all and the contrivances of Pink Slip get worse and worse the more I think about them Had they had the scene at the end of Three Words actually mean something and not be thrown away then the contrivances of Pink Slip would not have been as bothersome to me. But they took the story to an even worse place and it makes so much of the contrivances throughout all of the arc so bothersome to me.
        They forced these characters to fit the story they had decided to tell and when it was rejected by many fans the flaws become so much more evident. The same could be said for both of your opinions of S4. I love the story being told and the contrivances don’t bother me as much but it works the opposite for you.

      • olddarth says:

        Uplink if you want to see a WTWT story done with the stories subservient to the characters highly recommend you check out FarScape. John Crichton & Aeryn Sun were a dynamite combo on the same level of chemistry as Chuck and Sarah. The series put them through hell but there were never any WTF or contrivance moments in FarScape.

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        I would like to heartily second Olddarth’s recommendation of Farscape. That relationship was very well done, and the Man Behind the Curtain was rarely much more than a shadow.

        Well worth a look.

  9. Verkan_Vall says:

    Fascinating. I’ve always felt uneasy with this episode, and you folks have done a great job of bring out why.

    Man behind the Curtain, indeed.

  10. Sam Carter says:

    @BigKev: “Ultimately, if you like the story and it entertains you, your tolerance level for the contrivance involved to get there is higher, right?”

    Very well said. I just think that some of us more obsessed fans pay too much attention to details, unlike the more casual viewers who just want to be entertained. Most entertainment out there –movies, tv shows, etc;– is full of flaws and far from perfect, but if you like most of it, then it’s all ok. Not many masterpieces out there really.

  11. Sam Carter says:

    Interesting. I really like Pink Slip. I think it’s a solid episode. My 11-year-old son liked it too. In fact, he likes S3 a lot. It’s the one he watches the most.

  12. Sam Carter says:

    @JC: “On Chuck the romance is the story and everything else really doesn’t matter in the end. That pains me to say but after the last two seasons thats become crystal clear to me. Having the romance drive the story is OK as long as you can keep the characters likable and believable something that the writers have struggled with these last two seasons.”

    I disagree. This happened mostly on S4. There was no balance like in the other seasons, including S3. In S3 there was also Chuck’s development as a spy, Morgan’s growth, Casey and Sarah’s humanization, Awesome’s inclusion in the spy world, and Shaw’s story. I liked these characters and their stories a lot. The small contrivancies didn’t matter to me much because I liked the story over all. Can’t say the same of S4. Chuck was so unlikeable, sadly.

    • atcDave says:

      Wow, completely 180 disagree. Awesome was winy and annoying in S3, Shaw was dreadful, Chuck and Sarah were completely dehumanized. Only Morgan and Casey were well served by S3, and as secondary characters I only barely cared. I thought S4 was a vast improvement on every level, especially Chuck. No more lying manipulative scumball; he came clean in 4.01 and stayed that way, it was like the character I loved from S1 and S2 returned. Ditto for Sarah; she was back to the encouraging and supportive character we met in S1, and her baggage was finally, properly handled!

      • uplink2 says:

        Not that anyone would be surprised but I completely agree with you Dave. S3.0 was an abomination for Chuck and Sarah in particular. It starts in Pink Slip and just gets worse and worse. It gets so bad that even some of the better episodes have become unwatchable for me.

        Sorry Sam but Shaw’s story? What story? Shaw was one of the worst written and executed characters ever on network television. Plus he was played by a very limited and weak actor that made it even worse. What was Shaw? We were told he was a great spy but what we saw was a horrible one who almost got his partner and himself killed by his incompetence. He was supposed to be Chuck’s mentor but never trained him and simply put him on his first solo mission, for completely personal reasons BTW, and almost got him killed. We were told he was a Ring expert and all we saw was a man driven by vengeance even to the point of killing the countries most important asset along with countless civilians by blowing up Castle to protect worthless disks about himself and his wife we never heard from again. By the time we knew about Sarah killing his wife no one cared. All we wanted was that story to be over. They ran the crux of the season through a guest star who many fans simply hated. And not hated in a good way. The only point he came off well was the look through the subway window and killing Stephen. Had they had him a villain from the beginning it might have worked but we never knew what he was and because of it we didn’t care in the least. We just wanted him gone. They tried to make him into too many things and did none of them well. He sucked as a spy, sucked as a mentor, sucked as a team leader, sucked as a LI, and in his signature moment that defined his story, the cafe scene, Routh gave one of his worst performances. He was flat, lifeless, unthreatening, and passionless. Coming at what should have been his defining moment he gave a classic rendition of why he got his nickname in the fanbase of plywood because that is exactly what that performance was.

        I won’t go into how badly they served the Sarah Walker character except for would S1 or 2 Sarah have ever let Shaw blow up Chuck? Would she have asked him to wait “for me”? Would she have failed so miserably at her primary mission of protecting the asset? No she would have pulled her gun and dropped him. At the end of Beard Shaw in effect put a termination order out on Chuck and Sarah did nothing. Was that humanizing her? No it was a contrivance forcing her character to fit their stupid story. Between Fake Name and that moment I hated Sarah Walker and what they forced her to become to fit the story. And she is why I watch the show. So for me she was horribly served by the writers and I almost left the show because of it.

      • atcDave says:

        Great rant Uplink! you know I agree entirely. I also no longer even re-watch the “better” S3 episodes; just too much baggage, and it just isn’t worth it to me. Right from Pink Slip, I no longer knew these characters; and perhaps more to the point, I didn’t want to. Chuck and Sarah each made so many dreadful, stupid, and downright sleazy decisions in those first 12 episodes…
        I never doubted things would get better; but for most of 12 episodes Chuck simply wasn’t the type of show I watch, and I resented having to sit through it. As I’ve said many times, if I were even a little less invested than I was, I would have deleted Chuck from the “to do” list and never watched again.

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        Sorry I’m late.

        I agree with you and Uplink, Dave. And I think I cannot disagree more with Sam Carter.

        I don’t think there wasn’t much balance in S3 at all:

        They turned Casey into a traitor.
        They turned Awesome into a whiny coward.
        They turned Ellie into a dupe who betrayed her own father.
        They turned Charles Bartowski, quite possibly the most likeable male lead on TV, into a shallow jerk and a serial liar.
        What they did to the character of Sarah Walker defies easy or brief description. A charitable description of her actions might be “flake” or “schizophrenic”.

        Season 4 has been much better, but for me, that’s a very low bar.

        I’m not tired of the fight, Dave. I’m just a guest here, and I don’t want to be rude.

      • jason says:

        dave – I think it is hard for some to let s4 go, you and I of all people understand that feeling – as it was hard to let s3 go. Adding fuel to s4 bashing fire, is the notion that shipper passion changed how TPTB wrote s4, further making some upset both at s4, and at shippers in general – funny, those same folks mantra in s3 was let TPTB ‘tell their story’.

        By and large, I understand the frustrations, and while I am not rolled up in a ‘Morgan’ hoping the angry s4 fans don’t hurt me with their mean words when logic can’t defend their position, I try to mostly stay out of the way.

        My wish is that s5 is one that a larger, broader part of the fan base enjoys.

      • atcDave says:

        Jason it was really funny to see a lot of the S3 apologists reverse their position completely for S4. I think its fine to like or dislike any story arc; just be clear about what you like or don’t like. My biggest complaint is the tendency to apply qualitative judgements to taste issues. That essentially insults everyone who has different taste from the writer. And I’d say there are very few matters of pure quality; those are mostly production values issues.
        To me, the bottom line for S3 always comes back to the central relationship. There are other issues we can nit pick (even S2 and S4 have things I can nit pick), some are bigger deals than others. But the Chuck/Sarah malfunction killed the season for me. It does come down to a matter of my expectations not being met; but I see it as being like a new car getting half the MPG I was expecting, it IS a pretty big deal.

      • ArmySFC says:

        jason, good points. now here’s mine, you say, “is the notion that shipper passion changed how TPTB wrote s4”. that very statement has been said here, by posters and owners. look back and you’ll see many times people here say that they finally listened to the fans and gave us season 4. look at other blogs as well, you will see many shippers say the same thing, over and over. they help push the notion along. in a way it’s self fulfilling. i believe that if the shipper part was not as loud and vocal they may not have done season 4 as they did. in an attempt to sooth the angry fans, they changed season 3 as soon as they could, 3.14 and carried it over to season 4.

        i didn’t like season 4 much, and will not watch season 5, except maybe the finale. i can defend my position using logic and what went on in the show, i choose not to because
        i made i deal that i would not in the future. i’ll stand by that. the bottom line for me about season 4 is as was said earlier, big kev, maybe? the entire season even the big bads were intertwined with the C/S family in some way. that alone tuned me out on most episodes.

        i did notice in one of your earlier posts that you seem really not to like sarah getting hurt or needing to be saved. i can see your point on that, but here’s the counter point. forget the names just look at the positions. a cia agent, nsa agent, baby spy who won’t kill or carry a weapon and the pet . who are the most likely to get hurt or captured? the 2 spy’s because they would most likely be involved with the heavy lifting. for me it’s ok. i never liked a character that is so far above anyone else they become not believable.

        now as to who got hurt/ saved (rescued) the most in 4? my numbers maybe off but here’s what i got. casey got wounded 2 times, sarah once, morgan once. sarah and casey got saved together once, chuck once, and all of LA once. from what i recall, the break down is just about even.

      • atcDave says:

        Army I do believe we had some impact on the writing of S4 (but probably not S3.5). It was always my intent to have an impact, just like it’s my intent to have an impact on any other product I complain about.
        And I feel like I got exactly the S4 I would have wanted. The issues I do have with it are all pretty minor.

      • jason says:

        army – we count different, but I appreciate your abiity to enter into a debate without name calling! My count in s3 & s4 is sarah 5 casey 1, everyone else zero. I only have been griping about finales and / or final arcs. 3×13 sarah is kidnapped and drugged, chuck saves her 1-0. 3×19 sarah is beaten and handcuffed by shaw, chuck saves her that 2-0, 4×11 sarah dramatically leaves chuck standing on the proposal balcony to go undercover (drama by hurting chuch thru sarah 3-0), 4×12 sarah betrays chuck when she tries to kill casey (running drama thru sarah 4-1)), 4×24 sarah is poisoned, chuck saves her that 5-1. My point is running drama thru sarah is getting boring, they have no other character they are willing to harm, willing to get dirty, none, zero, nata, nothing, have morgan betray chuck in s5, have him get poisoned, have him leave the show and go undercover and hurt chucks feelings, let sarah be on chucks team fixing stuff, rather than the damsel in distsress part VI

      • joe says:

        @Army i didn’t like season 4 much, and will not watch season 5, except maybe the finale. i can defend my position using logic and what went on in the show, i choose not to because i made i deal that i would not in the future.

        Army, I like you as a contributor to the comments. But really, logic doesn’t have much to do with it. Not watching S5 may make sense for you and for others who didn’t care for S4, but that’s an emotional response, not a logical one.

        Perhaps you’ve noticed that your comments tend to bring out emotional responses in return. That’s the nature of the beast. Besides, most of us are here because we love the show, and emotions are not a bad thing in and of themselves.

        Love is an emotion after all.

      • ArmySFC says:

        jason, ok i was going on all of season 4, just season 4, lol. i didn’t count the emotional stuff. my count was 4.01 casey and sarah. coupe casey gets shot, gobbler casey gets tossed, FOD chuck gets kidnapped (that to me was part of a major arc), chuck loses the intersect (same arc)…

        i guess it depends what you want to use as a base. my thing is not to limit what goes on to a certain group of episodes, rather all of them. to me that seems the fairest way to go. that the same way i view an episode. as a whole not just one part, if one part rocks and one part stinks, then for me its a mediocre episode.

        as for name calling and such, its a show, lol. some folks like liver, venison, and squid. i think they are all vile, lol. so to each his own.

      • ArmySFC says:

        jason, opps sorry posted to soon. i’m with you on the morgan thing. let him show off during a mission and get wacked, gone for good. i might even start watching again. the problem with a show like chuck is the characters are the show. chuck is the hero of it. there is only so much they can do and keep him relatively the same. fedaks and my ideas are far different as to what badass is. sarah and casey can be badass. chuck making a plan then having to talk his way out of trouble is not my idea of badass.

      • ArmySFC says:

        joe, i know you didn’t read my post carefully, lol. the logic part was said in response to this from jason, “By and large, I understand the frustrations, and while I am not rolled up in a ‘Morgan’ hoping the angry s4 fans don’t hurt me with their mean words when logic can’t defend their position”

        as for not watching season 5, season 4 didn’t live up to my expectations, and with the character i like the least on the show getting the intersect, well i can find better use of my time, than to hope it will eventually get there.

      • atcDave says:

        I’d also rather see Morgan victimized than Sarah! The damsel in distress motif is funny. For the first two seasons the damsel was usually Chuck, I think 2.02 may have been the first reversal of that. For the most part, they’ve done a good job of evening things out as Chuck has become more capable. But they do like to make Chuck himself the big hero in the pivotal episodes. I’m mostly fine with that (I do mostly watch the show for Sarah, but I really don’t expect her to be the hero ALL the time), but I would rather see Sarah as Chuck’s helper and partner than just as the damsel in distress.

  13. andyt says:

    “Ring” is my favorite Chuck episode. I have watched it more than any other single episode of the show. There is not a single wrong note in the entire piece to me. It flows beautifully, the action is top notch. The music selections are possibly the best in the entire series, particularly Slow Club for the beach wedding. My enjoyment of “Ring” probably comes from the fact that I didn’t see “Colonel” as a game changing episode. While I liked the episode, it did not dramatically change the C/S relationship for me. She still did nothing more at the end than go to the rehearsal dinner with Chuck as part of the cover. Chuck might have had expectations, but Sarah’s conflict had not changed. She knew that there would be another assignment and it would take her from Chuck. The surprise was Bryce which brought everything to a head. She had to choose in “Ring” which she did in the beach sequence. The fact that she couldn’t tell Chuck before he uploaded at the end was fine and made perfect sense. And the last ten minutes were AWESOME. Chuck had to make the hero choice conciously, Chuck-Fu spectacular. All in all the finest hour the show has produced.

    • joe says:

      I’ve stayed out of the conversation, mostly because I’ve had my say (many times!) and I’m interested in knowing what others think. I like the insights.

      I have to say, it’s been an amazing divergence of opinion! And thank all of you for that! It’s not like the fable about the blind men and the elephant, though. We’re each seeing the whole thing perfectly well.

      Instead, it seems to come down very much to personal preferences. Actually, I suspect it comes down to things that are very personal to each of us. Andy, you mentioned the music, and I can’t help but agree. But then, I’ll hear Luisa’s Bones from Dream Job or A Comet Appears from the pilot, or God & Suicide or Backwards Walk or… about two dozen songs in a dozen episodes come to mind – and I’ll be struck by how personal that song is to me, and declare THAT my favorite episode, or scene or line or moment.

      It’s been like that all along.

      • andyt says:

        Joe–I know from past comments by you how much music matters to you. I feel that I am on the same wavelength. The music on Chuck often deepens the storytelling and emotional impact of the show. I found Slow Club because of “Ring”. You mentioned one of my other favorite shows the Pilot and the Shins song at the end so perfectly captured the mood and emotion of the end of the episode that it made want more the next week and I have not stopped watching Chuck since Sept. 2007. Another of my top episodes is linked to music–“vs. the Nemesis” which has that great closing song by Band of Horses(my personal favorite band of the last decade) that captured the Chuck/Sarah relationship so perfectly in season 1 and 2.

      • joe says:

        No One’s Gonna Love You, right? Wonderful song. Great band.

        This is off topic, but tonight I was watching Royal Pains. I enjoy the show. For the first time I noticed that they had used a fantastic music selection, and all I could think was that they were inspired by Chuck to do that. Maybe once every three episodes (and really, only this last season) NCIS has had that same kind of quality music selection.

      • BigKev67 says:

        You’re so right about how the music can personalise the show for the viewer. I watch Prague, and even though I think the scene is forced, all I remember is Backwards Walk. The Bo scene in 3 Words is made even more powerful as the song ponders burning things to the ground just as Chuck and Sarah are doing exactly that. Sarah in the cab to DC as Frightened Rabbit sing about a man trying to cling to any sense of solidity as things change around him. So many songs that provide so much additional insight to where the characters are, and so many different emotions and feelings – so much genius!

  14. Sam Carter says:

    @uplink: Not everybody hated Shaw or his story. Lots of people liked S3. Fact. You won’t find those people here, but they do exist out there. The internet is a huge place. And I disagree with you on almost everything you said in your reply, especially on Routh. He was fine in the role to me, and he was particularly great in the cafe scene in Other Guy. He hit it out of the park, IMO. IGN even named him Best Villain of the year. Really, all the actors were superb in that fantastic scene. I think you’re just too blinded by your hate for his character to see his merits.

    Sure, if one gets really nitpicky, one could pick apart every season and every character, including your beloved Sarah. Chuck the show is FULL of plotholes. I think Shaw wasn’t always very well-written, especially in the middle part, but it wasn’t the disaster some say, IMO. It’s all about preferences like someone said. I loved the First Class episode, and I think Shaw was portrayed well. Same with Op Awesome and many others. He wasn’t always portrayed as the great spy he was supposed to be, but neither was Bryce, or Sarah, or Casey. If the story called for making him more human and fallible, then that’s what happened, and not just to him but to the other spies that have been on the show too. Even Cole got shot. A few times. Spies are human too and can make mistakes. But then can be very smart too when the story calls for it. Shaw showed on several occasions how brilliant and manipulative he could really be. But I’m sure I”m wasting my time with this since you obviously hate him so much. Just remember, it’s JUST a TV show. 😉 don’t take it so seriously. Besides, the show itself has NEVER taken itself too seriously. It’s still part comedy, and many of the plots are full of cheese. I still love a lot of it, though. Chuck is just… FUN!

    • atcDave says:

      We somehow have a reputation here as all hating S3 which is utterly untrue. Two of the six principals at this site, and a significant number of our regular contributors are consistent S3 defenders. The very fact this debate is ongoing proves that fact beyond a doubt (there would be no debate if everyone here agreed!). We have a half dozen or so regulars (including me) who completely despise S3; yet this place is nowhere near a “safe haven” of any sort for us. We are consistently told our position is ignorant, uninformed, prejudicial, naive, or in some other way defective virtually ever time the topic of S3 is brought up. The debate continues because if we ever drop it we concede the ground to a position that I believe is actually a minority position among the total fandom; even if S3 apologists currently have the upper hand among most of the die hards who post on-line, I remember so well the overwhelming majority of negative posts that were coming out during S3 itself. Sadly, most of my fellow ‘shippers have left the blogosphere, many have even quit the show.

      Where the writers of this blog ARE united is in our love for S4. All six of us found the most recent season to be first rate entertainment. Of course there are nits to pick; the perfect show has not been made. And a show like Chuck that is so eclectic in style and mood and is doing so many things it is bound to miss the mark on occasion. But the six of us listed as authors here, and a significant number of regular commentors find S4 to be a total blast.

      Just be careful when you paint with such broad strokes. Most days this site DOES NOT feel very friendly towards ‘shippers who disliked S3. The daily fight gets VERY tiresome.

    • uplink2 says:

      Well I won’t go into too much in reply as we obviously see things very differently but I will quibble with you about my dislike for Shaw coloring my view of Routh’s performance in the cafe scene. An example is I hated the Bryce Larkin character as well but not because it was badly written because it wasn’t. My hatred for the character is based on his betrayal of both his best friend and his supposed girlfriend. Bryce never ever thought of the consequences of his actions. The justification for getting Chuck kicked out of Stanford of him trying to protect Chuck is completely false and indefensible to me. No matter what his motives were in fact he simply had no right to do what he did under any circumstances. He had no right to send Chuck The Intersect that could quite easily have led to his death and Larkin damn well knew it. His reasons for telling Chuck that feelings get you killed and to break up with Sarah never applied to himself with her so why was Chuck different? I could go on and on about how all of his motives were selfishly motivated but that being said it has never colored my opinion of Bomer’s performance. He was fantastic in the role. Too good almost. Bryce is a character I love to hate. Shaw I simply hate.

      But in the cafe scene where is Routh’s passion? He is about the murder the woman who killed his wife and get back at the people who ordered it. But he is as flat as his nickname. The Director shows far more passion and is far more evil than Routh is. He is stiff, just recites his lines and never once shows any real honest emotion. There’s a reason he was not rehired to play Superman again even when he has the perfect look for it. He was weak and flat in that role as well. I disliked him as an actor long before he was cast as Shaw. So I take offense at your characterization that my opinion of his performance is biased by my hatred for the Shaw character because for one you don’t know me and two my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. He didn’t impress me until the window scene in Subway. He was actually decent in that episode as a villain but that is about his only real solid performance. IMO

      • Sam Carter says:

        Yeah, well I’ve always liked Routh as an actor, and his performance here was very understated and subtle. He was earnest and downright haunting, IMO. And he caused quite an impact because people can’t stop talking about him. At least he wasn’t ignored. 🙂 And I adore him as Superman/Clark. He embodied that role for me. WB are stupid for not re-hiring him.

        I also like Bomer/Bryce. And yes, he was a real jerk to Chuck sometimes, but it worked for the story just like Shaw, IMO. I don’t think he was fantastic in the role like you said, though. That’s a big word that I don’t use often. But he was quite good in the role and very handsome. Let’s agree to disagree.

    • jason says:

      of course somone will like shaw, nearly 100% of chuck fans liked the show when s3 started, so it is only logical some fans would like the season 3 plot. heck, the world is full of people with different tastes. The number fans who disliked vs those who liked shaw , nobody can answer that.

      The issue with shaw and season 3 is the intensity of the passion of those who disliked. Intensity to the point the fan base of chuck became polarized.

      Was this intense dislike important, you need not ask me, just remember how the showrunners reacted at the time it became apparent that the shaw arc was a failure. The showrunners did little else for nearly 2 months than plead with fans thru interviews to wait for the destination & do damage control. They leaked production documents of a post misery arc episode. They released a short clip of some of the best chuck and sarah moments upcoming, TPTB made the clip, not NBC. Just because some fans liked shaw, does not mean he was an effective character for the show, matter of fact, logically speaking, SHAW FAILED MISERABLY – how is that for turning a phrase!

    • joe says:

      Sam, if you don’t know, I’m one of the two that atcDave mentioned. But even then, I seem to hold several inconsistent reactions to S3 at the same time.

      I mean, I can watch an episode like The Mask (which is almost universally anti-hailed as one of the low points of the entire series to date) and enjoy 40 minutes of it thoroughly. Then I get to the last 2 minutes and feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.

      But that’s wasn’t true the last time I watched it – I know by now what’s coming, and it comes surprisingly quickly in the course of a “marathon viewing”. It’s not so bad.

      Then there’s the left-side-of-the-brain critiquing, which is something I should not be doing too often. I’m not an actor, or a director or an editor or any of a hundred technical jobs that go into making a finished product for television. They do the (sometimes microscopically) tiny things that collectively influence of level of enjoyment. I think of them as often being the right hand of that “man behind the curtain” OD referred to, because if they do their job badly we can tell. When they do it well, they’re invisible. For my money, given the limited resources the crew has had to deal with, S3 was surprisingly good. For instance, I was surprised to see how my music collection has many more picks from S3 than it does from S2.

      Finally, there’s my personal preference. I’m one of those whose experience of The Honeymooners was enhanced by my experience of American Hero (which wasn’t good, btw).

      Of course, I fully accept that my reactions are certainly not going to be universal.

  15. Jonny says:

    I think COLLIDER did an interview with Zac and Josh Gomez in season 3 and asked if the new intersect was used as a plot device to keep Chuck and Sarah apart and Zac and Josh both refused to comment! They could have said no or it is more complicated or something else….but they just said please ask Josh and Chris! To be fair I think the interviewer gave a specific example…like in the intersect room when the guy pointed the gun at Sarah the intersect worked but not at other times and so on and so forth…..But even OD cannot say the story pushed the characters on that one, lol. The fact is it did not, the writers did. Also I think Shaw was just dead inside, he lost probably the only thing that mattered to him. After watching loads of spy movies and tv series I think Michael Western from Burn Notice descibes it best, Spies in the field tend to be loners, people who have narcasistic tendicies where they can blend in unknown and do what they have to do and move on. I do not think these people have friends or family or anything to tie them down and the only way to open up is if they fall in love with a single person who changes their outlook. Now you look at Sarah and the only reason she opens up to Casey or Ellie or Awesome or Morgan is because of her love for Chuck. You take that away like in Phase Three and you see a side of her that you do not want to see and casey and sarah herself do not want to see. I think Eve Shaw was that person for Shaw and taking her away from him meant that Sarah took away Shaws chance of a real life and family that Sarah now has, I think not having that made him what Sarah was in Phase Three and what she could have been if anything happens to Chuck. Shaw was dead inside and I do not blame him for what he did. Bryce at least made an effort to do better, he did it through Chuck and tried to help him and backed off Sarah when he realised he could not offer what Chuck could. As for Chuck almost getting recruited in Standford…I doubt it would have been field work, Chuck has problems using and abusing people…Bryce was right that the CIA would have got Chuck killed…I do not hate him for that.

    • Sam Carter says:

      Great insights on Shaw/Bryce/Sarah, Johny, I agree.

      • Jonny says:

        Thank you Sam! to be honest a lot of that is based on me watching way too much tv, lol. But yeah I think if the story had more time and they actually spent an episode which was a flashback to Shaw with Eve and showed what kind of person he was like then that would have negated a lot of the problems shippers had with his character. I think the look he had on his face when he saw her video in American Hero was one of true sadness and loss, he almost cried. The fact that Eve got lost in the shuffle is a real shame, they should have had him talk about her more, let the audience sympathise with him. Sadly Shaw got lost in the shuffle along with Sarah and Casey as they were solely concentrating on Chuck’s hero journey stuff got missed out. I think Fedak and Schwartz will learn from this, they are young and have time to make better stories as they go along ala vince gilligan on breaking bad.

  16. Jonny says:

    I have a bit of a problem in the conceptual area and I was wondering if you could speak to that. This season with the Intersect 2.0 we’re being told that Chuck has to learn to control his emotions to use it properly. But at the end of Season 2 it kicked in when he was panicked because he thought that he, Casey and especially Sarah were about to die.

    So my problem is, is this an actual thing that could be referred to again or is it possibly that someone higher up has noticed the relationship shift between Chuck and Sarah and have intervened through this method?

    LEVI: Oh…

    GOMEZ: Wow. I don’t know, couldn’t you ask about Twitter or something and isn’t there…

    LEVI: Actually I mean, I quite appreciate when people give the attention to detail that I think, you know, anything merits. And so no I don’t think you’re over-thinking it at all. However I will say that I don’t know if Josh or I could answer that adequately or appropriately.

    I mean, there are certain things that, you know, that happen in the dynamic of the show that are outside of our power or understanding. And so we just kind of, you know, have to go on the journey. And – but an astute observation for sure and I think one that Josh Schwartz or Chris Fedak would be able to answer and satisfy because I really couldn’t tell you.

    • atcDave says:

      There’s no doubt that the bugginess of the 2.0 was used as a plot device on several occasions. It’s one of those things I think has been dealt with far more effectively by many fan fiction writers than the show ever did.

      • Jonny says:

        Zac’s initial “Oh” came across as…oh man we have been found out! lol. As for fanfic writers…yeah I do not read that stuff, CHUCK writers have to write scripts that are constrained by budgets, the wb execs, the nbc execs, the budget, fan response, etc. Fanfic writers are not, so it is easier to write something when your the sole proprieter of the story.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh no doubt. And the overall quality of the professional writing is absolutely higher. I’m not even saying most fan fiction writers handle it better. Only that I’ve seen some better treatments. Quite a few writers have given pretty serious thought to how it might work and how it might malfunction. One of the great strengths of written fiction in general (as opposed to a visual format) is that it allows for more detail and exposition. Add to that lack of time constraints and more singular vision. So any writer, amateur or pro, who wants to really explore a theme has a huge advantage over someone working for a tv show.

  17. Sam Carter says:

    @Joe: I know how you feel about S3, I’ve been reading this blog for a while. I liked the way you think even though we don’t agree 100%. I know you ship C&S hard, so that means something. People just should remember that they are not real, that this is fiction. I find it quite scary how passionate some people can get over a show. Just doesn’t seem right to me. There are more important things in life to worry about in such a way, imo.

    @Dave: You’re right, there are a few people here and there who are fans of S3. It’s just that they hardly post in support of it. The overwhelming consensus (going by the comments) is that S3 was an abomination. And the absurd belief that almost most in the fandom absolutely hated/despised it, which in my experience is far from the truth. I feel like a lot of the posters are very biased here and I think that a lot of times they view Sarah with color-rosed glasses. I like the character and the actress, but most here practically worship them. I think Sarah is a great characater, but she’s also capable of doing some not very good things. She’s a spy, a good one, but she also had a really bad childhood and a horrible role model while growing up. She, like Chuck, are damaged characters that are trying to find their way. And that makes them interesting to me. I’ve never been a shipper, and I never will. I prefer to watch the story the writers want to tell, even if I don’t like everything. I became a fan for a reason, because I liked the show as a whole.

    I also find it extremely amusing how important is for you to ‘prove and convince everyone’ that most people didn’t like S3. No matter what anybody says, I don’t think there is a way to prove that. Millions of people watch the show, and only a very few of them post their comments on the internet. And the ratings? That is even more complex to explain, there are many factors in play (by the way, I remember the ratings actually increase for Fake Name..) Yes, shippers (mostly) were very upset about Shaw and Sarah hooking up, and they were very vocal about it and still are. But not everybody hated it like you guys do. Not even the way it happened. I was ok with it. I even wanted to see more, but I do understand the show is not really about that so that’s ok. The show is about Chuck mostly.

    Finally, I thank you all for at least allowing me to post my opinions on the show, even if you disagree with a lot of what I have to say. But this place just isn’t as friendly as you say. I mean, there are forums where one can say that Mask was really fun, that Fake Name was a really good episode, that Shaw is an interesting character, and nobody judges them or tells them they’re WRONG. So yeah, I guess I will continue to post my comments here and there, but I won’t try to change minds that have been made long ago. For instance, I will never love S4. I just found very little to like about it, but you think it was first rate entertainment. You know lots of people disagree with that, but that won’t stop you from enjoying it, and that’s fine. People like what they like. I found the first 3 seasons must watch TV, but I will never recomment S4 to anyone. To each their own really.

    • atcDave says:

      I’ve never tried to prove that S3 was despised by most fans. But I do believe a majority of viewers had significant problems with it, and I never want that to be forgotten. I think we’re seeing a lot of “retconning” of what happened with that season, and those who disliked it are vilified by a lot of the on-line fan community now; that is what I’m opposed to. Those of us who disliked the season need to be heard now more than ever; as the trend is towards writing us off as a lunatic fringe there is the risk that “lessons learned” both on Chuck and television at large will be forgotten.
      Of course Chuck and Sarah are fictional characters. They matter exactly as much as fictional characters in any fictional setting. That is, some fans will invest in their “well being”, some will not. For me, how much I like and relate to characters is often the major determining factor in if I will enjoy a show or not. So when a character I like or respect suddenly becomes someone I don’t like or respect its a big deal. That is a BIG deal on any show I choose to watch. I doubt I’ll ever get so involved with a fandom again; but for now I intend to be sure my opinion is understood. And when its misrepresented I intend to set it right.

      I completely disagree about your “overwhelming consensus” about commenters here. In fact, if we break it down by individuals, I’d bet some serious Costa Gravan Pesos that over the last several months there have been far more defending S3 than attacking it. Most days I’m the only person being critical of it; I suspect Jason, Uplink, Verkan Vall, et al are all tiring of the fight. I am too. It is a clear trend that those who are unhappy tend to have more energy for such things than those who are content do. And as of S4 ‘shippers are mostly a happy crowd. But whatever the reason, most days S3 apologists are in the majority anymore.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree as usual Dave. I am tired of it. If anything the longer I’m away from S3 the more I dislike it. When in years to come I sit down and re-watch my DVD’s I will be happy to watch 78 episodes out of 91. I suppose that is a pretty good ratio but I will never re-watch the Misery arc again. The stench of the contrived story they began in Pink Slip and the ridiculous trapezoid has overtaken my enjoyment of even some of the good parts from a few episodes. I will spend my Chuck time re-watching episodes I truly enjoy.

        As Jason said above, Chuck fans were united in their love of the show following S2. The biggest failure of S3 is that it did polarize the fanbase and it has never recovered. In that sense the story was a gamble that failed miserably. It showed a lack of understanding of what the fans saw in the show and reacted to but it also shows an incredible laziness on the part of the writers. We all know that the Shaw arc was intended for Bryce and the relationship tension was supposed to be over by about the time of 3-08 or so. But when they didn’t lock up Bomer and he got White Collar instead of writing a different story they tried to force that same story onto an under developed and poorly cast replacement. There is a good reason why Routh got reviews like this on for his latest film Dylan Dog from The Hollywood Reporter The terminally bland Routh brings little conviction or energy to his portrayal, failing to provide the sort of sly humor that might have made the proceedings more bearable. and WB dumped him from the Superman franchise. He has slid into small genre films and his career has been on the downswing. Bomer on the other hand is at the top of his game with a hit show and was just cast in the new film Magic Mike with Matthew McConaughey. Plus they decided to stretch out the story far longer than it warranted and shove too much into a poorly crafted character. Simply put they got lazy. And what we ended up with was a very unfulfilling DYLM scene because we never really saw how Sarah got from betraying Chuck and not trusting him for the first time ever to that scene 42 minutes of screen time later. It was as if they said Hey its the 13th episode time to put them together no matter how far apart they were last episode. The fans will still love it. It was contrived and took a moment the fans had waited 3 years to see and lessened its value because we didn’t see how they got there. Then Sarah STILL leaves with Shaw for the city where she killed his wife, with no backup, never breaks up with him, never questions his motives and mental state, and walks arm in arm with him towards her death. Absurd.

        They forced the characters to fit a story that was conceived for a different character. A character that the fans knew, many loved and many loved to hate, but who had an established relationship that fit where they wanted to take both the spy story for Chuck and the central relationship. Plus that story was supposed to be finished earlier and not dragged out to the point of nausea. That laziness and poor execution fractured the fanbase and it still reels from it today and never will fully recover as evidenced by the discussion here.

        Sure not everyone hates S3 and not everyone loves it but the passion it developed among those that hated it is not a positive for the show. That is why they panicked and tried to manage the spin and audience reaction. The story was failing and they knew it. But in fact in many cases they only manged to make it worse. Josh came off as arrogant and Fedak came off as clueless. Instead of spending time on spin and releasing spoiler content to tamp down the hatred that was developing they should have simply written a better story. That is what we wanted. They didn’t have to put them together but they certainly shouldn’t have tired to force down another bit of relationship geometry by making these characters do things that were just ridiculous.

        The entire premise of Pink Slip is a failure and that was the linchpin moment the story hinged on. First of all lets talk about the very concept of sending Chuck to spy school. Chuck was supposed to be the most valuable piece of government intelligence and knowledge of who and what he was was at the highest level of clearance with only a very small handful of people knowing the truth. They had spent 2 seasons showing us that. He was to be protected at all cost. Yet they send him to spy school in an eastern European country where his new skill set that made him even more important was to be exposed to any number of new trainers and security risks. Then he is allowed to walk freely to the train station to meet Sarah who is awol at the time. Then he says he isn’t leaving but never once considers her feelings or puts her first. Completely opposite of what he had done for 2 seasons. He always tried to protect her at his own peril. But they can’t have him talk to her because we would never get their stupid trapezoid. She never asks him why he downloaded the 2.0 and he never asks her about what Bryce had told him before he died. Again you can’t do that because then you can’t get the trapezoid. He fails at spy school because he doesn’t trust the people that he was training with and never attempts to contact Sarah, Casey or Beckman and explain that to them. Even though he had been allowed to walk freely to the train station. He is and was at his best with his team because he thrives on trust. But again you can’t do that because that character trait won’t fit the contrived story of angst for angst sake. They had Chuck do things that he never would have done in S1 or 2 so that it would fit that contrived story. They never had the characters we had been shown drive what could have been a great story and deal with the game changing event of the 2.0 download. They had their contrived story drive the characters simply because they were lazy.

        The more you look at it the worse it gets.Yet had they had the surveillance video in Three Words actually mean something, not be completely ignored and have them actually talk about it the season could have still been saved. IMO they should have had Shaw be a defined character as a Ring double agent who knew what had happened to Even early on. Have him be out to get both Sarah for killing his wife and Chuck because he was so vitally important to the people who ordered her assassination. They should never have brought in Hannah, the most pointless recurring guest star on the series, to justify the other corner of the trapezoid, Possibly have Chuck warn Sarah about what Shaw was doing because he flashed on him being dirty. Or use the deleted scene where Sarah doesn’t trust Shaw as a way to have them figure out who and what he was, again it could have very easily worked and been a great story. Then you get to the point where the stake date was a real date like was originally intended we get a well set up DYLM scene that we had been shown their journey to and you get a story that would not have torn the fanbase apart. It was all there but they took the lazy way out.

        But its all water under the bridge now and there is a division in the fanbase that will never be healed. So with that I no longer participate in much of these discussions. I never post anymore at some of the fanboy sites where you can’t say anything negative about the showrunners decisions. I just am going to watch S5, hopefully learn about Sarah’s family, not throw up at stupid Morgansect, and re-watch 78 episodes of Chuck and read some great FF. But Dave you know I’m right there with you on all of this no matter how out numbered you become.

      • atcDave says:

        Uplink your comment about not even being able to comment at some sites anymore is most telling. I think there was a faction of this fandom that was just determined to love whatever Scwedak delivered, and shout down any of us who disagreed. I got that in some conversations right after Comic Con 2009 where many posters were just using insults and bullying language to try and intimidate those who dared question or criticize the show runners’ direction. That situation continued through much of S3, although this site saw less of it than others did.
        I think the real irony is that TPTB recognized the merit in fan criticisms anyway, and delivered the show many of us wanted in S4. Now I know there is some room for legitimate criticism in S4 too, I”ve certainly found some. But I think the previous fanboys turned on the now happy ‘shippers like a school of piranha! They seem furious that we got our way. I think this leaves the fandom in a pretty hopeless situation. Especially since so many of those ‘shippers left during S3, or at least withdrew from the on-line community. Those of us who are now very happy with the show are portrayed as the villains on many sites. While I’m sure not sorry for what we accomplished, I do wish we’d managed to keep the larger community intact.

      • ArmySFC says:

        uplink very good post, now do me a favor. do the same for season 4. just kidding. as i was reading your post many of the same type situations were present in season 4. as gets said here alot, i look beyond that. as an example the moma b story. it went on a while and most folks had trouble with why she was gone so long. no acceptable explanations were given, then bang agent x pops up as kind of a reason. the main difference was the characters were closer to how they were in season 2. the same things have been there from the start in some form or another. chuck has never really done long arc’s well. some get accepted some don’t.

        taking a guess as to why the s3 folks are in the majority as of now, i don’t think season 4 was as well accepted by the non shippers. if you don’t follow the relationship as the 1 or 2 reason you watch the show, season 4 fell flat, IMO. do i have proof, no, just anecdotal evidence as dave says. look back during the season when the original episodes aired, the majority of posts deal with the relationship, and not much more. so instead of berating and bemoaning about season 4, they bring up why season 3 was better. unfortunately like you say the division is so great that it will be that way forever.

        that being said, it doesn’t matter to me why you watch the show as long as you enjoy it. thats what tv is for, to relax and unwind for an hour.

      • ArmySFC says:

        dave, i have a strictly clinical reason for the fact jason mentioned it earlier, the notion that shippers were the cause of the change. shippers got something they wanted and they didn’t. then shippers keep bringing it up over and over, like you just did. it’s like when you were a kid and got the toy your friend wanted and you keep telling him. you get ice cream and he didn’t. it’s just human nature to be like that. most folks just get tired of hearing it. ask silvercat about it. he gets tired of hearing about him being a nerd. like i said it doesn’t bother me, but it must bother some folks.

      • uplink2 says:

        @Dave, thank you for the nice comments. One of the frustrating things I found on some of these sites is that they became so worried about access to the showrunners that they lost their objectivity. Many of the podcasters, bloggers etc are afraid if the ever criticized the show or even allowed others to criticize it on their podcasts etc that they would lose the access they coveted. Now the CNN podcast that members here are involved in was not really like that and folks like DR and his site certainly don’t worry about access and that is why I found myself more comfortable there. But we all know there are some sites you simply can’t say anything bad about a decision like the name reveal, Morgansect, the trapezoid or you will be accused of being too negative and repeating yourself. So I left.

        @Army, also thank you. I do have my issues with S4 though it is my favorite simply because the fun was back. But I found fault with much of it though I can overlook it. Much like S1 and 2. there are problems that have been there since the beginning but if the story is good with real character motivations driving the story then it is easier to watch and deal with. When you lose the character honesty as we did in S3 then it becomes a serious problem. Many of my problems with both S3 and 4 have their origin in the old show me don’t tell me. We were told lots of things about Shaw but were shown something completely different. Same applies for Mama B and her story We were told about the PSP and Papa B not believing Chuck was ready for it but we were never shown why. It was dropped completely. They never explained about the 20 year mission, then never dealt with the aftermath of Sarah saying Chuck wasn’t a spy well enough. But that is less disturbing because what they did with it was give us Phase 3, the best episode of S4 and my #2 of all time.

        So there are issues with both of the last 2 seasons and the fracture in the fanbase was really never healed. Maybe they will take a run at it in S5 but the stupid Morgansect idea doesn’t give me much hope.

      • atcDave says:

        Army my response to the fractured fan base issue again is just that S3 was divisive. Had they skipped strait to a S4 type story I don’t believe the fracture or animosity would have developed. Sure we would have lost a few viewers, but serialized shows always loose some viewers. But I am pretty confident we would have finished S3 with more viewers than we actually did (simply based on the show being more like its own first two seasons, we wouldn’t have had so many disgruntled viewers), and we would have a more unified fan base. That’s a win/win.

      • ArmySFC says:

        Dave, i agree with you 100%. in fact one of the first posts i made when i came here was that season 3 killed chuck. not just the misery arc, the entire season. i don’t feel season 4 did much to help close that gap either. as i said many times both seasons in question went to far. 3 was to dark and 4 was to light. they both got away from the balance of 1 and 2. while season 4 by your standards was great, by mine it wasn’t. that’s just personal taste. while i am happy for those of you that got the show you wanted, i feel bad for those of us who didn’t.

      • Jonny says:


        It is not a misery arc, it is an arc. An arc on a serialised show where character growth happens. You say that Sarah just went with Shaw with no backup? you must realise that she killed his wife! she killed the love of his life, she killed what chuck is to her…a person that completes her. She had a lot to process in that episode! Also her changing her mind about Chuck may have seemed quick and unsatisfactorily told from your point of view but you have to remember when she was confronted with a choice of whether to kill or not kill on her red test, she killed. How can she trust Chuck not to make the same mistake, the reason she changed her mind is because Chuck begged her to trust him in the restaurant scene in American Hero and what confirmed her trust when she was packing to meet him was Casey confirming that Chuck is different and does make a different choice, a better choice, a choice that does not ruin who he is as a human being. As she said your still Chuck, you are still my Chuck. There is her reasoning for telling her that she loves him, at the end of final exam she said I cannot believe that he would kill someone and he did not he reaffirmed her belief in him. As for Prague actually lets put all the things you say as plot contrivances under one simple explanation…this is a serialised show! serialised shows have characters that have good and bad traits, the fact is season 3 showed all the characters displaying their bad traits, I would prefer to see characters work hard for their victories, why should it be easy. Is a promotion easy in real life? is making a relationship easy in real life? is anything you really want badly in real life easy? NO! Serialised shows are the closest thing on tv to telling a story that mirrors real life, for Chuck just to breeze through the whole process and not grow and learn from his mistakes would be so unfulfilling. But this is a tired arguement as you say, Shippers will never let it go because they felt bad for 13 straight episodes and hated what they thought would be the last season of Chuck to be no relationship…so there it is….

      • mxpw says:

        @Johnny – Er, yeah, I don’t think you actually know what a serialized show is. At least from the way you talk about it, I don’t think you do.

        A serialized show does not mean that you can wave away plot contrivances (as you did). It doesn’t mean plot contrivances are acceptable either, or should be expected. It doesn’t mean characters can act out of character or that there can be plot holes or inconsistent continuity. It doesn’t mean that characters have good traits and bad traits (that has nothing to do with a show being serialized whatsoever). It doesn’t mean that characters have to struggle in order to achieve anything (that is conflict, which is separate from something being serialized). In fact, serialized kind of means the exact opposite of most of that.

      • atcDave says:

        I’m still on the same page as mxpw.

        And for the record Jonny, we call it the misery arc here. You don’t have to agree, but it’s the short hand we’ve using almost since it started.
        And more Shaw would categorically NOT have helped ‘shippers like him any better. His character was fatally flawed at conception. Once they determined he was a romantic interest for Sarah no conceivable casting or scripting decision could have saved the character. We’ve actually had this conversation here 274 times (really, go back and count, I’ll be waiting).
        I believe the only thing that would have made Shaw work is if they’d dumped the whole silly love quadrangle story. If Shaw had been a mentor/ring expert/traitor his story would have likely worked quite well. We might have even cared about his tragic story instead of counting the minutes until he went away. And Chuck’s coming of age while he and Sarah were working on a new relationship and sorting through how to be spies and real with each other could have been serious, sweet, and fun all at the same time. Then we even could have had a plausible friendship between Chuck and Shaw; instead of the whole creepy “boss is stealing Chuck’s girl” thing.
        Not to mention adding some consistency to like when the Intersect works or doesn’t; like say it works when Sarah can keep Chuck calm and focused, and fritzes out when Chuck is stressed.
        And just do away with Chuck sleeping with someone else 2 weeks after telling Sarah he loves her! Oy! (what did we gain from Chuck relearning his S1 lesson that he can’t build a relationship based on lies?).

      • atcDave says:

        Oops, hit enter too soon…

        My point with all of that is that we’ve been over S3 many times. Jonny it’s really fine if you want to like it. But you won’t convince most of us ‘shippers. We’ve talked it to death, and still find it fatally flawed at conception.

    • Jonny says:

      Yeah I forget that fans on this site and on many other shows get too angry and upset over storylines. You should check some of the responses Sam straight after the episodes in season 3. It was like every episode fans said they jumped the shark and ruined the show and made horrible mistakes and duped the fans into buying subway and short changing the fans! The amount of abuse the showrunners were copping was confusing and unnecessary, it is like some of the fans take it way too personally and see it as an afront to them! It is not a personal vendetta people! it is a show! lol, certain fans say they know the difference, but I do not know, when you hear that Ali Adler and Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak get a bucketload of abuse on their twitter feeds, I am not so sure. I mean the abuse is unwarranted, it is not like they are executives of a multinational that lost shareholders millions through bad investments or polluted the earth via an oil spill or created a drug that hurt people. That is the level of abuse they recieved, they just created an arc that some people did not like, sad, really, really sad!

      • atcDave says:

        We have a long standing policy of discouraging personal attacks on anyone at this site. But that doesn’t extend to critical opinions of the show. Critical analysis is what we do here. Sometimes it’s a fine line between criticizing the product and the individual, but overall I think we’ve been very successful at stamping out personel attacks before they really got going. I can’t speak for what has happened elsewhere in the fandom, but I’m proud of this site. We’ve kept discussions civil here in spite of some occasionally raised blood pressure.
        I’m not sure why we’re suddenly under fire from posters who were not even participating here during the season in question.

      • Sam Carter says:

        Good post, Jonny, I agree with all that. I’m just glad I enjoyed 3 seasons of Chuck. It’s like a complete story from S1 to S3 to me (withouth the Mama B cliffhanger, of course).

        I also wanted to reply to what you said previously in anothr post.

        You said: “I think if the story had more time and they actually spent an episode which was a flashback to Shaw with Eve and showed what kind of person he was like then that would have negated a lot of the problems shippers had with his character.”

        I’m not sure some shippers would have liked him more, but I totally agree that we needed to see some more of him with his wife. It was an important character that needed a bit more fleshing out, no doubt. At least we got his scene on First Class with the rings. He seemed to have loved that woman a great deal. He seemed truly sad that she was gone. Good acting from Routh.

        “I think the look he had on his face when he saw her video in American Hero was one of true sadness and loss, he almost cried.”

        Agreed! Similar thing happened on First Class like I said above, and also in the cafe scene on Other Guy when Chuck is pointing the guy behind him; you can clearly see a deep sadness in his eyes for a few seconds. He had a deep pain.

        “The fact that Eve got lost in the shuffle is a real shame, they should have had him talk about her more, let the audience sympathise with him. Sadly Shaw got lost in the shuffle along with Sarah and Casey as they were solely concentrating on Chuck’s hero journey stuff got missed out.”

        Well, I still think/feel the writers did a good job overall. Not perfect but it worked for the most part for me. I never truly disliked any of the characters. Not even Chuck when he was going through his dark period during Fake Name. And of course I never hated Shaw, I think he had some valid reasons to do what he did. Ok, I kinda hated him when he killed papa B, lol. I think it helps that I like Brandon a lot. 🙂

        @Uplink: Yeah, Dylan Dog was not a very good movie, I agree with a lot of what the critics say, but I don’t agree on Routh. I think he did pretty well with very poor material and direction. When the material and the direction is good, he can be really good and even great. Go got lots of praise for his roles in Scott Pilgrim and Superman Returns. Also, I recommend you watch him on Table For Three. It’s a decent comedy, and Brandon is very expressive, charming and funny in it. Not stiff at all. He was playing a very cold and bitter spy on Chuck, that’s why he was that way most of the time. Like someone said, he lost his soul when he lost his beloved wife.

  18. Verkan_Vall says:

    @Sam Carter:

    I think that the posts concerning S3 in the past few days do a great job of illustrating how the differences in what we want from a show have such an immense impact on how we view a television show.

    You’re not a shipper; in fact, the relationship between Chuck and Sarah is not a priority for you at all. For a great many viewers, it is (or was), to the point where it affected almost every part of the show. This isn’t surprising, considering that Schwarz & Fedak are on record as saying that their relationship is the heart of Chuck. But it wasn’t what interested you; you wanted something else, and S3 entertained. It attracted a number of people to the show, especially younger males (I have 7 nephews between the ages of 10-25, and they all seem to like S3. S4, not so much).

    Which means that the loss of viewers during S3 may well have been understated. TV By the Numbers put the loss at more than 2.5 million for that season, and if Chuck attracted new viewers in S3, that means the loss of old viewers was worse than most people realize. That was disastrous.

    By industry standards, Chuck was not JUST a TV show when S3 opened. It had come back from cancellation; if it was just another TV show, that wouldn’t have happened. In large part, this was because Chuck had an energized fanbase that was willing to do almost anything to have their favorite show return: write letters, send postcards, buy from Subway, hold flash mobs, you name it. They invested interest, money and TIME in bringing Chuck back, and they were emotionally invested in the show to a degree that is extremely rare. Advertisers PRAY for an audience with that kind of dedication. Then TPTB threw that away with S3.

    They deliberately risked an established audience in a gamble to attract another section of the market and it blew up in their faces. TPTB must have thought that the fans would watch ANYTHING they did to Chuck and they were wrong. They changed the show so much that even viewers who weren’t shippers (casual or otherwise) stopped watching because Chuck wasn’t fun anymore, it ceased to entertain. That is one reason why favorable views of S3 seem so common: a great many fans who didn’t like S3 are gone. The fanbase is much smaller now and has a different compostion.

    I’m glad you liked the show during S3 and that you at least watched the show during S4. Chuck needed as many viewers as possible. Now, I realize that viewer numbers is an imperfect yardstick, but it has some weight. Otherwise, why would Josh Scwartz get on Twitter and repeatedly plead for fans to find more viewers? Think if we had only lost half as many viewers in S3, would we be looking at the end of Chuck now?

    As far as recommending S4, I can and will, because I’ve been able to get people who left the show during S3 to come back after seeing a couple of S4 episodes. I do get why many didn’t care for it though.

    As far as anyone here trying to prove that S3 was despised, I think you must mean me. Dave and Uplink are really rather moderate in their views, except inre Brandon Routh. I don’t have an opinion either way regarding his ability; I think any actor would have been a mistake in the role of Daniel Shaw as it was written. In my opinion, most of Season 3 Chuck was badly plotted, poorly written, amoral slop.

    Although, I do like the music.

    • atcDave says:

      Great post VV; very rational and well explained. But for the record, I have also never criticized Routh’s performance. I agree with you 100%, the failure was in the writing. No actor could have saved that role for me, it was hopeless at conception.

  19. herder says:

    Wow, tough crowd. Here I thought that this was one of the best of the series, I obviously that opinion isn’t as widely shared as I thought. I still recall Alan Sepinwall’s review of the episode when it first aired, sort of a hosannah to the show. As to all the season three stuff, I’m going to have to try and remove it from my memory (brain bleach anyone?) as the current plan is to start my first ever season three rewatch to see if my initial reaction wasn’t somewhat hasty.

    • ArmySFC says:

      Herder, some folks did think it was the best, some didn’t. if you want a different side, visit SWFgirls and listen to the final podcast they did.

    • atcDave says:

      Herder I think Ring was a good episode and is generally liked (especially at the time it first ran). But it sure does open up a can of worms!

  20. Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

    Wow. You leave for a few days and the place goes nuts.

    I’m not a fan of the first 13 (whoa, big surprise). I honestly think most SW fans aren’t. (Since SW was no where to be seen in the first 13. – “Do it for me.” PUH-LEASE!)

    But whatever you might think about the first 13, I think it’s safe to say the true tragedy is the story TPTB never told and left for each of us interpret and finish in our own way. I’ll bet, in general, we all saw the same stories in the other seasons, whether we thought they were well done or not.

    You just have to look at Casey to see that S3 was a mess. In what universe does Casey only insult Sh** once and then keep commenting on how great a spy / hero he is.

    My hope for S5 is that Beckman never refers to Chuck as a “good spy”. It’s the kiss of death.

  21. Gord says:

    She was replaced by Sam – a bipolar version of SW. For a while in S3 I was calling her flip-flop Sarah.

  22. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Ring (2.22) | Chuck This

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