MuhahaNO – Happy Chuckmas, indeed

It seems that everyday for the past few weeks I’ve only ever really had one thought in mind: they couldn’t…they wouldn’t…would they? And yet they did.

I’m not going to lie, I knew coming in that Sarah wasn’t going to have her moment and that honor would be Chuck’s. I’ve told myself to accept it, the show is and always have been called “Chuck” for a reason. No matter how much some of us would prefer it be called Sarah, or more appropriately “Chuck and Sarah,” it isn’t. But though I’ve psyched myself up, I’m still a tad disappointed. I didn’t really think they would eviscerate Shaw, but I had hopes. I didn’t really think that Sarah would be the one to end him, but I had hopes (even knowing first hand that it wasn’t going to be her moment). I knew coming in that this wasn’t going to be Santa Claus but I had hopes.

BUT what it was, was a great hour of television. Was it what I wanted? No. But what it was accomplished its goals. I felt loathe, I felt malice, I felt fear and most of all I felt creeped out. As most of you know I’m a big fan of dramatic tension and this had it in spades. It wasn’t so much that I believed that Shaw would win in the end (let’s face it, at the end of the day it’s Chuck), but that which he went about this…was disturbingly appropriate. The heart of the show to me is and has always been Sarah. If Chuck’s family is the soul, Sarah is the heart. And it was a brilliant plot tool to use her as the reason why Shaw wanted to win so badly, why he was so menacing. Shaw trying to kill Chuck in front of Sarah rang true to me. It showed me that there can be actual dramatic tension within the show even without making me leap for logic and buy into something I refuse to (*cough*Cliffhanger*cough*), or use the magic that is CAM/Gertrude Verbanski. There can be real stakes and real danger even without resorting to the stupid stick.

Yes there were moments when I quite literally groaned, moments when I had to physically restrain myself not to throw things at my 42″ flat screen television, but for what it was, it was great. The callbacks were made of win. The twist with Ellie all the more so. What Chuck did to intersect 3.0 was unexpected and expected (if that makes sense). Yes obviously he wouldn’t just willingly give Shaw the intersect, having figured it out, but I’m sure most people thought that Chuck would fashion an intersect for himself and he didn’t. The fact that he didn’t and that he relied on skill and training is…something we haven’t really seen before. It’s a welcome sight.

The bracelet wasn’t nearly as touching as the first time around, but I applaud AK Shuman for revisiting a loving memory, one long since forgotten by the show. I applaud her for going outside the boundaries of comfort and peace of mind to delve within our nightmares and bring in a veritable monster in our jolly midst. I agree wholeheartedly with Mo Ryan that this is by far the most effective use of BR’s Shaw as a villain, the way they couldn’t and didn’t during previous stints. I applaud Shuman for her effective use of a hated villain, and a hero’s journey.

The only question that remains is…was it worth it? Delving into this depth of…plywood, and all the bad spirit that it was bound to bring (IS bringing), was that episode worth it? For closure’s sake, I would say no. For Sarah’s sake, no. But for the show, “Chuck,” and the tone of the show, yes. It brought stakes and disturbia unlike any other and for that alone, it was half worth it. This is a different Chuck from what we’ve seen previously…it crosses boundaries and challenges itself and for that it’s worth it. I’d still rather not revisit old ghosts, but hey it’s their story to tell, and mine to enjoy. I didn’t like that Sarah was mainly relegated to Chuck’s role in Phase Three, but for every hero, there’s a damsel…and even in this one the damsel got her licks in. Yes, as stated, I would have rather she be the one to institute the Gertrude on Shaw’s ass, but I’m satisfied with how it went down. In the end, it was riveting 40 minutes of television, with a heartwarming end to boot.

Edit: I forgot to mention Beckman and Mo Collins. In typical Chuck fashion, it managed to balance tension, even drama with humor. One minute I’m laughing at Beckman’s DUCK moment, the next I’m tearing up at Casey’s [last] goodbye.

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About Faith

Eternally faith-ful at least as it relates to my beloved Los Angeles Lakers. Yes that's where the username comes from. Other than that self-professed Chuckaholic, Laker blogger and part time internet addict. Ok, full time.
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25 Responses to MuhahaNO – Happy Chuckmas, indeed

  1. Faith says:

    For some it’s already Christmas so…merry Christmas everyone! And Merry Christmas eve to the rest of us in the USA. Or Happy Holidays :).

  2. Jason says:

    Faith – You captured lots of what I felt about this ep, but didn’t quite know how to express. Nice writing.

    One comment about the name of the show, Chuck vs Chuck and Sarah vs Sarah. Sure, it is still called Chuck, but seemingly, each half season or so, we more and more are watching the show ‘Sarah’. We find ourselves learning about Sarah’s inner thoughts, as each layer peels back. Chuck’s not so much, in many ways, he has wore his heart on his sleeve since the Pilot, while Sarah has layer upon layer to explore.

    Chuck for drama is sort of hard to come up with. He is not conflicted between right and wrong (he does right) or haunted by his past choices (he just has not made too many bad choices). With his past, you can only dole out so many negative consequences, you know what I mean? So even though she did not dish out the punishment to Shaw’s arrogant face, her character carried the episode, it was her choices that caused the drama, fitting for a mid season arc.

    I wonder what will drive the final arc’s drama? Something Sarah did or didn’t do, Chuck did or didn’t do, or some mess they jointly get themselves into?

    • Faith says:

      It being the last 6, forever, I’m choosing to refrain from the kind of speculating that is bound to lead to expectations. But I can imagine that the final arc will involve a desire to leave the spy world behind so Sarah’s choices is as good as any to bring that about.

      Interesting perspective about Sarah’s layers and choices. I honestly never saw it that way so thanks for that. In some ways the show is a victim of its own brilliance. Those layers are exactly why some of us hoped for the show to be more Sarah or more Chuck and Sarah. And why on episodes like last night’s we’re left groaning but admiring.

      As for why I maintain it’s “Chuck”—I do that mostly because although Sarah has her moments, even Casey, when the chips are down Chuck will be the hero last standing in an old west gunslinging battle. I have on several occasions wished for that honor to be Sarah’s but it wasn’t to be. And in theory the story isn’t set up for that to be possible. However I agree with you about her importance in this episode. Partly why, “heart.”

  3. Cenodoxus says:

    I have to admit I’m a little confused by some of the criticism over Shaw’s return. He has a clear motivation to mess up Chuck’s life, but he has even more motivation to mess up Sarah’s. To Shaw, Chuck was always a sideshow: He’s the less (obviously) dangerous of the pair, can be manipulated fairly easily, and there was even an element of professional respect in their relationship for a long time. In 3×13, despite his turn to the Ring, Shaw was willing to let Chuck walk away on that bridge in Paris. Nor had he given up Chuck’s identity to the Ring agents, which is an interesting point that the fandom often overlooks.

    His quarrel is largely with Sarah … and, uncomfortably enough, his hatred for her is not unjustified. She ended the future he had built for himself and his wife, and the question naturally becomes — why does she deserve to be happy with Chuck when she’s denied Shaw the privilege of being happy with his wife? (I don’t say this as a wholesale indictment of Sarah; I think it’s a question the episode raises and then stays silent on as a means of letting the audience arrive at its own conclusion. But more on this in a bit.)

    If the show had been called Daniel Shaw and events were told from his point of view, seasons one and two would have concerned themselves with the hunt for his wife’s murderer, and season three would have been the story of how he found her while training the Intersect 2.0 and learned that he had been betrayed and lied to by the CIA, to which he had dedicated his professional life. The Sarah/Shaw relationship was a mistake because Strahovski and Routh really didn’t have much chemistry (and I’d also argue that Shaw’s involvement with Sarah really hurts the point they were trying to make with his continuing grief for his wife: Jesus Christ, showrunners, you can’t hammer home his love for his wife and then show him delivering an unwanted kiss to Sarah without completely screwing the pooch), but the worst part of it is that it obscures the real issues between the two.

    Evelyn Shaw was simply the first of many people that Sarah killed in her line of work. The show has always been a little squeamish about delving into this too heavily, but there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people — the wives, husbands, children, parents, and friends of the people she killed — whose lives were ruined by Sarah Walker. Yeah, she nabbed a lot of bad guys, but even bad guys have their reasons, and they leave their loved ones behind. And then there’s the ugly specter of there being at least a few innocents to near-innocents in the mix, which statistically speaking is pretty likely. The CIA is not infallible. From what I recall, even Evelyn herself was never a confirmed Ring agent, and she may have been executed simply on the basis of a rumor or suspicion, which is horrifying.

    None of this turns Shaw into a good guy by comparison, but as I wrote on the initial episode thread, it does make him an excellent villain, because everything he says to Sarah concerning her effect on his life is true. The most insidious of all possible threats is the one that doesn’t have to lie.

    And I think that’s where Chuck vs. the Santa Suit injects a needed dose of emotional realism into the story, in addition to making a shadowy point that Chuck has always kinda been about: Sarah’s story arc is that of a monster who doesn’t want to be a monster anymore. She’s a spy because it was an alternative to jail time, and she turned out to be pretty good at it — but unlike Casey, it’s not something that she made a free and conscious choice to do. Her involvement with Chuck is what convinces her that she doesn’t have to be that monster anymore (answered in season four is the question of what might have happened to Sarah if she’d been assigned to a different person — i.e., she might have become another Mary Bartowski), but no matter how many good things she does today, it doesn’t change the agony she’s caused in the past. Santa Suit brings that lesson home in a fairly brutal fashion.

    Sarah is consistently the best character on the show, and I’d argue it’s because she’s someone who desperately wants redemption but realizes she may not deserve it.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Cenodoxus, I have to agree with most of what you say, except that Sarah is consistently the best character on the show. Arguing opinion, I know, but indulge me. I’d agree she is consistently compelling in a way Chuck isn’t and can’t be, and a good part of that is that redemption story we’ve talked about, but where the character a man I’d say it’s be a relatively stock character. It is by reversing the sex and having someone like Yvonne who can put the emotional aspects of that story out front in a way a male hero couldn’t that makes the character so unique and compelling. In short I think that it is her relationship and feelings for Chuck that make her so interesting and make her redemption compelling. At times she’s appeared as little more than a plot device according to some, and I’d agree that the impression isn’t invented from whole cloth if you aren’t following her story looking for the source of her passivity at times.

      Along those lines I usually take issue with those who feel Sarah was Shaw’s victim any more than he was hers. Sarah isn’t owed any closure or revenge for what Shaw did to her, she’s done much the same to others. Shaw was operating within the bounds of their world, one that runs on vendetta and revenge once you strip away the facade of good guys/bad guys. True, Sarah has always seen the “greater good” closer to Chuck’s POV than Shaw’s, which is part of why she deserves some measure of redemption even when we meet her. The big difference however is that having carried out the red test and become a killer Sarah used what she’d learned to become a protector and sought to make her actions mean something good. Something not always easy in her world, especially when Chuck became the focus of that. Having been a victim of a red test and of the deceit or betrayal that are so common in his world, Shaw had no problem using civilians, manipulating those who cared about him, using Chuck’s love for Sarah or Sarah’s love for Chuck to manipulate both of them, even before he was a “bad guy”, or of ordering someone to complete a red test, sending agents to almost certain death without backup to “test them” or in the end, to order a red test on someone else who would leave behind a widow, and perhaps children. Under those circumstances Shaw’s claim of some sort of moral right to revenge is what makes him a villain. That Sarah seeks no retribution based on what Shaw has done because of what she has done is what makes her a hero. Sarah helped to create Shaw. That is one reason Sarah remains largely reactive when it comes to Shaw. She will seek to save herself, Chuck, and others from Shaw, but she won’t seek some vendetta after killing his wife. Chuck is uniquely placed, morally to protect Sarah from Shaw based on what Shaw tried (and failed) to make him do. Ellie was a nice twist. She is the hammer of justice it’s own self even though she doesn’t know Shaw planned to use Devon as a double agent.

      • awelle says:

        Is there a reason you completely dismissed Shaw murdering Chuck and Ellie´s father? Wouldn´t that be her and also Chuck´s motivation for using that hammer of justice on Shaw? They did both reference that. So it felt much more relevant to me than what Shaw planned to do with Devon without any knowledge. Ellie witnessed Shaw shooting her father.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I was mostly trying to highlight the things Shaw did why he was still a “hero” that made him very different from the Sarah we’d come to know. That he dragged Sarah along with him re:Chuck was another mark against redemption for Shaw. Or for his deserving a happy ending. And not exactly a plus for Sarah at that point, but then Final Exam was her rock bottom.

        If you look t the post above we’remostly interested in what makes Shaw and Sarah different. Chuck’s motivation, and Ellie’s wasn’t really part of that discussion.

        Yes, once Shaw turned evil there is plenty to hate him for, but even as a “hero” hewas a pretty unsavory guy.

      • awelle says:

        Ok. I was only replying concerning you bringing up that Ellie was a nice twist and the hammer of justice. And for Ellie that distincition of when Shaw became a bad guy was largely irrelevant. So I didn´t get why it was important, that she hadn´t known about his plans for Devon.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Valid point, I just sort of tacked Ellie on the end there as someone who would have no doubts about Shaw’s true nature. Even if she hadn’t known the full story of what Shaw tried to do to her family as a “goodguy”. Plus it was cool to see her clock him.

  4. SarahSam says:

    Brilliant analysis Cenodoxus. My sentiments exactly. Most of us love Sarah and see her from Chuck’s perspective and how she has acted since arriving in Burbank. I know her childhood history and it was a sad one. We sympathize with her and never let the thought enter our minds that she was that “enforcer” that she’s done some bad things. She knows it. Shaw knows it and at some level Chuck does. Chuck forgives her everything though he knows few specifics of her past. He doesn’t care. He feels lucky. She continues her secrecy even from Chuck. Sarah stated in her wedding vows that Chuck was a ” gift” that she would prove she deserved and I concur with Cenodoxus. Does she really believe she deserves Chuck? Redemption requires so many elements, one of which is truth. Excellent episode to view from the villains perspective. The past is still biting and right now for Sarah, it’s taking big chomps. Good storytelling from Fedak.

  5. Jason says:

    Don’t totally give up on our girl yet. Let 5×8 happen before you write off her past.

    I have a vague notion of how this might all play out, it all fits, even with the teasers, and I have not read the theory anywhere else, it is sort of bizarre. Problem is, with a 5 word declarative sentence, everything makes sense, all of it, even though the sentence causes me more ?’s than gives me answers, everything still works.

    I will throw out just two things, if what I think is going on is going on, whether Sarah is the child’s mother is not as important as one might think (this is coming from a huge shipper mind you), but some of the choices of the mother are more epic than others, depending on ones POV. Second, Sarah would be equally as heroic under either circumstance. And, if I am right, we will never think of Sarah Walker the same way after the 8th episode.

    Finally, boy oh boy, if Fedak wants to, he could really kick people’s butts with these last 6, only to get an enormous last laugh, I can think of one way that is almost breath-takingly epic. The pieces are all set up on the chess board, all Fedak needs to do is make the right moves and he will have every single one of us, checkmate. Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote that! Gotta run, I need to go burn my Fedak Sucks T-Shirt collection.

    And if my story is not the RIGHT one, I might just WRITE my own, that is how excited I am about what I just came up with.

    • atcDave says:

      I’d agree with all of the Jason. Especially, who the mother is of the child makes little difference. Chuck knows Sarah has a history, much of which she can’t discuss in much detail. That’s fine with Chuck and it’s fine with me.

    • mxpw says:

      Not sure if serious. Whether or not Sarah is the mother makes a huge difference, and I am utterly baffled that anyone would think differently.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I’m serious. Obviously it’s a bit of a soap opera if they go that way; but as long as the story for why the child was left with mom (like keeping her hidden from a father who represents a threat or something) it makes no difference to me. Mainly because I can’t see it making a huge difference to Chuck; he would love Sarah and any child of hers without hesitation.

        But all that said, my bet is the child is not Sarah’s. I think it will most likely be a child rescued on mission that would be in danger if it’s existence was known by some party (we’ve heard royalty suggested, but I could imagine a child of a crime lord or some such who’s existence would be a threat to someone.)

      • Jason says:

        I have a little different angle on this whole thing. I think the big ? is not who is the mom, but why, i.e. why is the baby important, why is Sarah willing to cut off contact with her mother to protect the baby, why can’t (as opposed to won’t) Sarah share the baby story with Chuck?

        Now if Sarah is the mother, all of that makes sense, except the Chuck part I suppose. That is what we are supposed to think by the way, the MacGuffin.

        But, forget the who is the mom part, and focus on why the baby is important to everyone. Once you see the reason, the whole thing jumps out at you.

        To go full circle, in my story, the story works best if Sarah is the mom, but it works fine if she is not. But, in my story, the best ? might be who is the dad?

      • atcDave says:

        Jason I do agree who the dad is will likely be more important than the mom. More and more I’m quite sure the mom can’t be Sarah anyway, but again I’m fine with however they tell it.

      • Jason says:

        Dave – In my little fanfic’y spec, there are 2 dad choices, that would just blow people away, each with a best corresponding mom choice. The reason Sarah is the hero of not only 5×8, but of the past 5 or 6 or 7 years is obvious once you get ‘why’ the girl needs protecting. My big fear is the ‘huge loss’ teased about toward the end is going to be the little girl is going to get killed or die.

      • atcDave says:

        I REALLY hope they don’t go that dark.

  6. joe says:

    Great write-up, Faith!

    I have a slightly different idea about only one thing, really, and that’s the bracelet. I never really forgot it!

    It’s oddly in keeping with Sarah’s character that it’s been barely noted these last three years. She’s like that – quietly and unobtrusively almost-but-not-quite displaying it. Sarah would never let herself be burdened if it was lost. She knows it is not Chuck. It’s just a token. But in the quiet of her private thoughts, it’s important to her nonetheless, as is the memory of the day she got it.

    Just like it’s important to us.

  7. atcDave says:

    I agree almost entirely Faith! Good write up. This was a very good episode on several levels. There are some things I wish had been different (I would have much preferred to see Sarah take down Shaw than Chuck; the big showdown felt WAY too much like Ring II). But on balance it was an exciting and fun episode.

  8. SarahSam says:

    Man jason. I always respect your viewpoints, but I would really have a hard time grasping that the “professional” agent that Sarah was would have a child.

    • Jason says:

      Me too Sam. But still, I think this ep is going to be a keeper either way. I could be wrong, I thought I would like the first 12 eps of season 3 before I saw them, so anything can happen, but I have high hopes for 5×8 and ‘the baby’.

      I think Sarah as the mom is a fake out and that Sarah is not the mother. But, I also am not freaked, at least without seeing the ep if she is, either the good old fashioned way, or in some other way.

      By other way, both Alias and The Pretender did episodes where special people’s genetic material was unknowingly obtained and going to be used or used to create a special child. Seven years ago, what better genetic material to matchup in a test tube than Steven’s son’s (since Stephen was missing) and your best agent’s eggs? How cool would that be? Maybe even assign the young woman to be the child’s nanny? Sarah may not have known even then, or may not know yet, either whose baby it was or who the father was?

  9. Ernie Davis says:

    Glad you liked it Faith, despite hoping for something different. It’s sometimes tricky that way. I was almost expecting that at the end where we see Shaw sitting in what seemed to me to be a cell with an open door we’d see Sarah show up and pull a Mauser on Shaw, not as any sort of personal revenge, but because he’d never leave Chuck alone in his quest for revenge on her, and she wouldn’t allow herself to be the cause of putting Chuck in danger, so it was Shaw or her, and Shaw made that clear. Still then Sarah becomes the instrument (though not the cause) of both Shaw and his wife’s death. A little too dark too early for Sarah. She’s got to be Chuck’s anchor through his personal low point and redemption (now complete for Chuck). He’ll be hers in the next few.

    So here was my wish for the end, and it would be almost too much awesome. Play the same scene, someone walks up to Shaw’s open cell door as he looks on slightly amused with the beaten face (knowing his demise is at hand). A hand raises with a silenced pistol, Shaw gets one between the eyes. The hand lowers, and we pull back to … yep, General Dianne Beckman.

    Now theres’ expectations that’ll never be met. 😉

    • Jason says:

      I don’t know Ernie, she has been the hero of this season, sort of in a way that Morgan was last season. I have never thought much about her role, but I really have enjoyed her this season. The show has used their ladies better this season, Ellie, Verbanski, Alex, and GB all have had great seasons so far, as had SWB.

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