Reader’s Digest Rewatch: The Search for Orion Arc

I don’t know, but I suspect my fellow ChuckThis authors occasionally suffer from the kind of writer’s block I presently am.  I usually start off these recap/reviews by picking a theme or a metaphor that I then use to structure the piece.  It’s a place to start, and once that start is started you can see where it goes, though I usually have a general idea of the destination  in mind.  But this week it isn’t a lack of ideas that is stalling me, it’s how to choose one.  This week’s Reader’s Digest Rewatch brings us to my second favorite arc of season 2.  Maybe my favorite.  It’s hard to tell, but let’s just agree that season 2 both started and ended with some of the funniest, most entertaining, exciting and just plain fun television ever made.  We’ve separated the final 6 of season 2 into two arcs, The Search for Orion Arc, which is comprised of Chuck Versus The Predator, Chuck Versus The Broken Heart and Chuck Versus The Dream Job, and the Defeat of Fulcrum Arc, comprised of Chuck Versus The First Kill, Chuck Versus The Colonel and Chuck Versus The Ring, but in reality they could function as one, it’s just that there may be too much awesome for one review.   In just this arc we meet two of Chuck’s best villains, one of it’s most beloved and best guest stars, see Chuck go rogue, see Casey get tranq’ed and all with some really awesome musical montages.  So where to start?  Well after the jump obviously.

Found and Lost

Found and lost seems to be a theme in this arc, and in each episode.  Or at least that’s the story I’ll stick with.  First there’s Chuck, he has found a purpose after his suburban fiasco with Sarah.  It is never going to work for them if he’s the intersect and she’s his handler.  The job will always manage to get in the way as long as they are living the life of spies, so having stumbled on a crucial lead, Orion, Chuck is determined to remove the one obstacle to him moving forward with his life, the intersect.  He’s found a sense of confidence, and a sense of purpose he’s never had before, and while he may not understand the road it is leading him down, he knows it’s long past time to leave the Buy More, as evidenced by his speech to Ellie in the season opener.  He’s not sure what he wants to do, or be, but he knows it can’t happen while he’s trapped in a life he doesn’t control.  We’ll see that control chafe at him as never before, and his response, to the sound of Luisa’s Bones, is one of the most amazing moments of growth for Chuck in the entire series.

Sarah has found something special in Chuck, a real best friend who cares about her, and who could be something more if things worked out.  But while Sarah may dare to dream, she also has a job to do, take care of Chuck, which comes pretty natural to her, but it also entails controlling him and keeping him from becoming a liability, which means bunker-time or worse.  Sarah will see her faith in her ability to protect Chuck and her ability to maintain his friendship tested, and nearly broken like never before, but it leads her to a conclusion we see played out in the series finale, she loves him, and she can’t bear the thought of losing him, but she doesn’t yet know what to do about it.  In many ways Sarah is as stuck as Chuck in a life she can’t really control either, but Sarah’s evidence of how she becomes stronger through the adversity of this arc will be mostly handled by Joe in the next arc.

Just Another Day At The Office

Well some people have interesting workplaces.  For Team B, it could be sewers or a fancy soiree where one evil bad guy tries to sell another evil bad guy a weapon, depends on the week.  For Orion a typical day at the office means abandoning it and blowing it up, and for the BuyMorons, it means free TP.

So what goes on in those first dull moments of typical days at the office?

Chuck has found Orion, Orion has found Chuck, Sarah has found out Chuck is spying without her, Jeff and Lester have found another way to endanger the lives of everyone around them and Morgan has found Jeff’s office surprisingly comfortable.  Oh, and Sarah found herself unwittingly in the little boy’s room (hilarious reactions).  And Vincent is apparently the last spy to find the Buy More, the spy world’s worst kept secret.

So the various misadventures and missions are on, the Buy More, tonight.  I have to say this was one of my favorite setups of all time.  They manage to make a Buy More heist work like one of those bedroom farce comedies with people mistaking each other for someone else and making some veeery disturbing admissions.  Kudos to Yvonne for selling an appropriate level of revulsion even while wearing a ski mask.

This episode remains at the top of my list for several reasons, but one has to be it is the first time General Beckman interacts directly with Team B.  Bonita Friedericy manages to add another level to an often marginalized character when she can interact directly with the cast, and in this episode Chuck’s dilemma, and Sarah’s, and their strengths, are played out marvelously with Beckman as the personification of the obstacles between them.  She saw that Sarah might place Chuck’s interests above the government’s, but that Sarah has a unique ability to connect with Chuck and keep him focused.  That focus however is something of a double edged sword to Beckman.  For Sarah the scene perfectly shows how she understands both her dilemma and the government’s, but that she knows that Chuck has to trust her, to have someone on his side, and the government needs to understand his limits for the powerhouse that is Team B, the only team to effectively hit back at Fulcrum, to work.

The damage is done.  Chuck isn’t sure he can trust Sarah and Casey.  Sarah isn’t sure she can control Chuck, which at this point is her substitute for trust.  She sees him pulling away when she manages to disappoint him, and she wants to re-assure him that she’s on his side, but he’s seen the game she plays, or more accurately the tightrope she walks between conflicting loyalties, and while he might want to trust her he knows that doing so places her in an impossible position, so he protects her the only way he knows.

Beckman* of course trusts nobody, bringing us to …

The 49B

Orion was found and lost in a single episode (or, was he…?) but he left Chuck with a legacy.  The schematics for a new intersect, the one that can get the present one out of his head and free him from the government’s control.  Speaking of which…

To her credit Beckman actually seems a bit embarrassed at the intrusion, in his bedroom if not his life in general.  The intrusion into his life however is about to get a lot worse.  If Sarah is compromised then Beckman can’t trust her to represent the government’s best interest, which may not align with Chuck’s, and clearly Chuck expects, or at least asks for Sarah to intercede on his behalf.  But if Chuck is coddled, if Sarah is overprotective, the government will never have the intersect they want.  Since they can’t put the intersect into a spy they need to make the man with it into one.  Something not likely to happen with an overprotective handler and a lovesick asset.

In one of Chuck’s more amusing stunt castings we meet Agent Alex Forest, the 49B, an evil robot of an agent who, superficial resemblance to Sarah aside, is actually Casey’s doppelgänger, and perhaps the original Agent Tranquenstein.

If Beckman was an exceptionally well done personification of a government that feels no obligation to Chuck to free him from his service, Forest is the personification of a CIA that feels no obligation to make that service bearable and as safe as possible for an untrained spy.  Chuck, his family, their relationships and their safety are of only marginal concern to Forest.  What matters is the mission.  And as she doesn’t see Chuck as irreplaceable (remember she didn’t find out about the intersect) he won’t be coddled.

It was lucky for both the CIA and Chuck that it was Sarah that walked into the Buy More that fated morning, because we see that both Chuck and the CIA could make things a lot harder for each other, without much provocation, making the most valuable intelligence asset in the world, useless.  Though to be fair, Forest is the one firmly grasping the stupid stick while Chuck only asks the status quo be maintained.

So Sarah loses Chuck, again, but unlike in Chuck Versus The Marlin it’s her doing the leaving.  I find it interesting that she does.  The parting gift she was to leave him with shows us she’d decided breaking the rules for Chuck wasn’t a mistake she regretted, but we never do find out what her parting words to Chuck would have been.  But she does leave, at least until she thinks Chuck might be in trouble.  It is an interesting window into her thoughts at this point, especially since the finale gave us her confession of being in love, but out of control that seems to happen in this time frame.

Sarah is selfless, and not all in a good way.  She follows orders, but more than that, she has little sense of self, who she is and what she wants out of life.  What path she’s on is largely dictated by others telling her who to be when to leave and where to go next.  She certainly seems to view her time with Chuck as just another brief stay before it’s on to the next town, or the next identity, just as she’s done all her life.  It is only in those rare moments when she thinks all is lost and nothing matters anymore that she can be pushed to act on what she wants.  To keep Chuck safe, and to be with him.  It is also interesting that those actions always seem to point them toward a life on the run as fugitives, a life she knows.  The only real life she knows.  Loss, she seems to know very well.  If Chuck is safe, her being with him is apparently a secondary concern.  Leaving is just the inevitable end to one of the few happy times in her life.

To Chuck losing Sarah is worse than another woman he loves leaving him, though that is a big part.  It’s worse than the future he hoped for being denied, it’s the loss of hope itself.  It’s the loss of his ability to protect his family from his double life.  And it is the woman he loves being taken from him because the CIA thinks he’d be a better intersect, easier to control, without her.

To his credit he doesn’t take it lightly.

Thanks to Agent Forest’s firm grasp on the stupid stick and Sarah’s almost scary intuition when it comes to Chuck, the clash of wills is minimal, and Beckman relents, allowing her best team to function on their terms, for the most part.  For now.

For Chuck however, the damage has been done.  The wall he’d managed to maintain, with Sarah’s help, to keep his family out of his spy life has crumbled.  The damage done by Forest to Ellie’s trust in the men she loves is heartbreaking for Chuck to witness, knowing that he is both the cause, and that he could make it go away if he told her the truth, but at what cost?  It’s another existential spy crisis, and like the last time, Sarah is his only confidant, the only one who will listen, but now he sees at what cost and risk she’s done this for him.

Sarah and the CIA are lucky it was Chuck who got the intersect.  His willingness to serve at the cost to not just himself, but to his family and friends, and his capacity to forgive and hold Sarah blameless, but his insistence on limits or calling to account those who go to far makes for the moral center of Team B as we’ll see so often in the seasons to follow, but for now Sarah has to play the hand she was dealt.  She can’t undo the damage done, but she can maybe help heal the family in another way.

And so it’s off to a hilltop east of Barstow to meet the man whose absence made Ellie grow up way too fast, but whose presence she still wants for the most important day of her life.

While Sarah wants to help Chuck help Ellie she doesn’t realize that she has become the pawn in several players games.  Orion has found a way back into his son’s life, and a way to thwart the CIA’s plans for him, and Beckman has finally compromised Sarah, with the slightly veiled threat that Sarah could resume her position, and she hoped Forest wouldn’t be needed too soon.  The message is clear, protect him your way, make him work your way, but if I don’t get my working intersect, I’ll take him from you again.  Beckman’s decision wasn’t a license to indulge Chuck, it was double secret probation for Sarah.

Dreams.  Of What You Had.  And What You Lost.

Still, for a few wonderful moments it is nice to see Sarah enjoying the fact that she doesn’t have to hide her real feelings anymore, even if it has been made clear she can’t fully act on them.  But she can do what she’s always done, build Chuck’s confidence, let him see what he is capable of.

Unfortunately that kind of backfires on her.  Even Sarah sometimes underestimates Chuck.

The last thing Chuck needed to see was what his life could be if he weren’t the intersect when he’s just seen that the government’s policy is to make sure he remains the intersect, and Casey and Sarah are under orders to make sure that happens.

The dream job.  His name, his resume, his qualifications, and it adds up to a dream job, not the Buy More.  For a few minutes, Chuck sees his life.  A sister who is proud of him, a job that challenges and excites him, and a way to make a difference, to matter, without the lying and the bullets and the hurting those he loves.  He already has parts of that job, he just can’t share it with anyone, most notably the family he wants to see that their support and love is not wasted on a loser.  RI seems to offer something more, the complete package, but once again he’s forced to dash his own and his family’s dreams for him for the greater good.

And it was all for nothing.  The software was released.

Incidentally on re-watch, the scene between Ellie and Stephen watching Chuck, one glowing with such pride knowing exactly what he was doing and the other seeing Chuck throw away another opportunity of a lifetime for someone who wasn’t worth it, while hilarious, also perfectly framed Chuck’s dilemma.  Stephen defending Chuck is amazing, you can see it in his eyes and in the fervor, he wants to tell Ellie what a hero Chuck is, and how everything he does is to protect them all.  But in Orion we see Chuck’s possible destiny, losing everything he ever had, his future, his family, everything.  He says as much to Chuck, don’t become me.  Fight to keep it, no matter what.

But first we see Chuck reach the same conclusion on his own.

I referred to a montage with Luisa’s Bones where Chuck shows growth unparalleled in the series.  It isn’t the one most people think it is.  It’s the first one.  Yeah, there was a first one, not in the armory gearing up, the one where the actual growth happened.  Chuck returns to the Buy More, and seeing the future the government has planned for him, same job, same lies, same distance from those he loves, goes rogue.  Completely.

While it won’t necessarily end well, this time, this is one of Chuck’s finest moments.  His determination to have this done, no matter the cost is what feeds into the drama of the montage most people remember.  I like that one too, I just like the first one better.  It’s more Chuck.

It is a testament to Chuck’s honesty and trusting nature, and his loyalty, that he goes to his team first.  And it is heartbreaking to see them fail him.  Sarah has a lot of conflicting motivations.  Obey orders, and she denies Chuck his future, and both of them any hope of being together the way they want.  Disobey orders, and Beckman brings Forest back.  Get the intersect out, and Chuck has his life back, and she’s not a part of it.  Chuck isn’t giving her options.

Casey plays out the dilemma a bit more … un-conflicted?

Chuck’s mission is the beginning of a long journey, because the failure of his partners to back him will have lasting consequences.  Sarah has lost Chuck’s trust.  Casey has lost his ability to intimidate Chuck.  Chuck has found, and lost both his father, and his path out of the spy life, and the government’s reaction (or lack of it) leads Chuck to take a path where whatever it takes, no matter the cost, seems reasonable.

It may take a while for it to be official, but from this episode on, Chuck is a spy.  Like his father before him.

~ Ernie

* I know I usually go on about Dianne’s first attempt to get Chuck into her specially prepared love bunker**, but after the heartbreak of Chuck Versus The Santa Suit, where TPTB threw away 4 years of sizzling Duck chemistry and tension, I just don’t have the strength to go there yet.

** No that is not a euphemism, it’s a real bunker.

P.S.  Some stuff I liked.

I know I usually concentrate on the characters and their serialized stories and growth, but in an effort to expand my range I just wanted to mention a few of those perfect moments that really make this show work on another level for me.

* Chuck the team leader confronting Barkley and silencing that turncoat Lester.

* Sarah ending up in “the little boy’s room” and her reaction.

* Sarah’s reaction to Jeff’s, uh, problem with fear.

* Casey taking out Emmitt; “That felt good.  What? I had to do that.”

* Sarah being told to stay in the van.

* The scariest wind machine entrance the Buy More has ever experienced and the change in the bachelor party-goers faces.

* Chuck freaking out in his father’s trailer.

* Chuck and Ellie moment; “It’s easier just to hate him.”  We don’t get to see how much Ellie relies on Chuck enough, this was a nice reminder.

* Casey and Sarah at the nerd convention.

* Sarah: “Casey, where’s Chuck?”  Casey: “In a world of pain!”

As a closing note, my apologies for this being later than the nominal schedule.  But with Chuck over, other priorities are sometimes going to conflict as I try to remember there is life after Chuck.  😉


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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64 Responses to Reader’s Digest Rewatch: The Search for Orion Arc

  1. resaw says:

    Good comments. However, I think the song you are referring to is Luisa’s Bones, by Crooked Fingers.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      You are correct, the combination of going by memory and limited time shouldn’t deprive talented artists of their well deserved notice, fixed it.

  2. Thanks for the write up Ernie.

    It’s interesting to contrast these episodes with season 4 and 5.

    The plumbing scene was funny. I wish we actually got to see that mission. Seeing Team B’s reactions to their plumbing misadventures would have been hilarious. However, not seeing it makes the Chuck universe seem bigger because it implies we do not see every single mission. In contrast to season 4, Beckman had to remind us that not every mission is about Volkoff. By season 5, we find out that Carmichael Industries isn’t getting missions between episodes. The economy must have really hurt the spy business as well.

    In Broken Heart, Agent Cylon gets away with a shoulder bump and a minor threat from Sarah. In Phase 3, the guy in the Thai jungle bar gets his head slammed into a table. It was nice to see Sarah grow out of her ‘insecure’ phase and into her don’t-mess-with-Chuck-or-I’ll-kill-you phase.

    • atcDave says:

      So bad guys the world over can regret Sarah getting past her insecurities!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        If I recall Sarah had a near “don’t mess with Chuck or I’ll kill you” moment as early as Chuck Versus The Marlin, a full blown one in Chuck Versus The First Date and the mother of them all in Chuck Versus The Santa Claus.

      • Marlin she thought about it with a good guy. In First Date and Santa Claus she was targeting bad guys. By Broken Heart she was shoulder bumping good guys. By Phase Three she was going after innocent bystanders that made the mistake of flirting with her in a crude way. It was a Metta World Peace type of reaction. If Forrest came around in season 4 and put Chuck’s life in danger, she wouldn’t have had to worry about her next assignment.

        Maybe that’s why Beckman distracted Sarah with Shaw’s message in Santa Suit. She knew Chuck told Sarah about the kiss, so she was afraid for her own life. Duck never happened because Beckman was too scared of Sarah.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Fair points Jeff, although the mercenaries in the Thai bar don’t strike me as innocent bystanders, maybe uninvolved third parties, she’s a lot more proactive in her later DMWCOIKY moments, like with the Thai ambassador, rather than reacting to the bad guys actual actions. And yes, Rye was lucky he was shot and fell out of the gondola.

        When look at it that way Morgan should have been more concerned for his life in First Fight and Balcony.

        As for Dianne backing off because she was scared of Sarah that just means we missed out on the epic Dianne/Sarah throw-down in the fountain scene.

      • Innocent until proven guilty. The mercenaries were “independent businessmen” winding down after a hard day of work. Those guys at the campfire were just cooking s’mores and helping Morgan with his backpack so he could settle into the hostel when the GBSM busted in.

        Diane vs Sarah in the fountain… Is that supposed to be like the Miller Lite catfight commercial? Sorry, but unless Diane was hiding a bazooka under her Christmas party outfit, she wouldn’t stand a chance.

      • oldresorter says:

        OK, enough is enough, am I the only one who sees a little Yoda in Diane?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I always liked the way the Chuck team let us know about the things that go on outside the brief period we’ve seen in the episodes. In season 2 we saw that in Chuck Versus The Seduction when both Casey and Sarah were taken he had no way to contact anyone and hadn’t even known about Castle, let alone have access without Casey or Sarah. By Chuck Versus the Ex he had credentials that were sufficient for him to take control of a hazmat site, and by Chuck Versus The Broken Heart, Beckman had a direct line to his bedroom. (heh) It’s the kind of thing that shows that the team is changing and growing, but it’s done so subtly you hardly notice sometimes.

      In seasons 4 and 5 they played the same sort of game with Chuck and Sarah’s bedroom as you saw Sarah’s apparent influence grow from essentially having a side of the bed that she rarely used to the point that by the last few episodes, while the Tron poster and the computer stayed on his side, Sarah’s side of the room had a vanity for her and the fireplace that once housed Chuck’s old computer and record collection now held Sarah’s shoe rack.

      With the missions we don’t see it’s always kind of amusing. They did a very meta version of that at the beginning of Chuck Versus the Angel de la Muerte, when Awesome catches up with Chuck on his way back from a mission:

      Devon: “Where were you tonight? You told Ellie that you were gonna help us out with the TV. She’s a little pissed, bro.”

      Chuck: “Oh, man, my bad. I had a, uh, CIA mission.”

      Devon: “What exactly does that mean?”

      Chuck: “Well, you know, same old, same old. Bad guy throws a fancy cocktail party. Another bad guy’s trying to sell him a weapon. We bust both bad guys, diffuse a bomb, blah, blah, blah.”

      Sometimes I don’t think they get enough credit for just how clever they were in creating this world.

  3. garnet says:

    Nice job again Ernie. I don’t know if it would be possible to add the titles of the episodes that make up the arc somewhere in the intro. It might help to refresh my memory a little. I can usually work it out eventually, but knowing the episodes off the top does help.

    Jeff, the other little hint about other missions that I recall was the nametag (Francois) and mustache. Perhaps there were others? It does make CHUCK seem somehow a bit more real. They are actually doing things between episodes…they have their lives to live too. And before the comments about reality/tv start, I understand that this was a TV show. 🙂

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Good point on the episode titles. I’ve edited to correct that oversight. Thanks for the feedback and the constructive criticism.

  4. atcDave says:

    One of the things with a show like Chuck, so many things that could have been important or dramatic are blown past for pacing, and because the show is largely a comedy. But I would have loved to see a more serious treatment of Broken Heart. In particular, I would have liked to see Chuck lay claim to some of the strengths in his position as the only functioning Intersect. Like being willing to co-operate with the government with the understanding he gets to choose his team (specifically Sarah). I can imagine a story that got quite messy before it was sorted out with Sarah being reassigned and Chuck bunkered and/or seriously hurt. Many viewers have commented that the S3 story line would have been better served if it had been better developed; well much as I loved S2, there are so many things like that I would have loved to see better developed.
    I say that because the stupid stick moments in Broken Heart are a bit much. And there’s a seeming inconsistency in claiming Team Bartowski as Beckman’s best, while at the same time she’s apparently eager to tamper with their dynamic over trivial issues. I’m okay with Beckman playing petty tyrant (I’ve worked with a few of those in government service!), but I would have loved for Chuck to score a bigger win because of it.

    Now all that said, Broken Heart scores wonderfully as one of the best comic episodes of the series. Especially the vault scene (“they can’t all be lady bugs…”) may be my favorite comedy of the back half of S2!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      The funny part is that season 2 was when they last had the time and budget to better develop some things, but as you say, they blow through a lot that could be very interesting. But then isn’t that what Fan Fiction is for?

      While it’s not one of their more notable episodes I actually found Third Dimension pretty much comedy gold. Broken Heart was pretty close, which considering the material is quite a feat.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah fan fiction has filled a lot of those gaps nicely.

      • Gord says:

        Broken Heart was not only comedy gold it was also very emotionally charged. I think that was also a major strength of this show. How they were able to blend the drama and comedy together along with the action.
        It is one of my favourite episodes of S2. Although to be honest just about every episode in S2 is one of my favourites.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      As for the stupid stick moments, I guess they don’t bother me since I see them as part of the show I signed on to. They’ve been there all along, even in the best and most enjoyable arcs. This arc and the final one of season 2 have some of the most stunning stupid stick moments ever, yet we absolutely love the episodes. They can also get pretty hand-wavey about some of the plot, like exactly how did Orion not just survive the helicopter explosion because we never saw him or Vincent get in that helicopter, but escape? We know he was captured, since Vincent recognized him at RI in Chuck Versus The Dream Job, but it’s just a toss away line, “I could see how I gave you that impression, I’ve had to die a number of times”

      In Chuck Versus the Ring we have just about everyone wrapping their arms around virtual pillars of stupid, but man what a fun episode. That’s why I like the exchange at the beginning of Chuck Versus The Angel de la Muerte I referenced above. I think it’s TPTB’s way of saying “don’t over think it, you’ll enjoy it more.”

  5. jam says:

    Did I miss some rewatch blogs, or did you decide to skip some episodes (like the two with Cole Barker)?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      We’re doing an abbreviated re-watch with arcs chosen by our readers in a poll we ran a few months ago. Original posts are here and here. That second one also has a handy list of the arcs you can use for reference, but as pointed out, and I’ll endeavor to do this, it is handy to have the episode titles above the fold.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Forgot to mention Faith made up a calender for the re-watch.

  6. Having followed Chuck This blog for some time now since I was lucky enough to discover it last year,I fully appreciate the sentiments behind your remarks,Dave!!
    I would ,however,like to take this opportunity to thank Ernie not only for this as ever,astute article,but in particular,his totally different perception of “that generally totally unloved arc of season 3” which enabled me at least to re-watch now with much greater enjoyment and appreciation than before.
    The variety of approach and views argued often with such passion is just one of many things that makes this site so great.

  7. garnet says:

    Now I know why I read these posts!.
    I had always thought that Sarah’s “plan” to run away in Prague was ill conceived and poorly planned (and not really worthy of her), but it finally makes sense to me. Her “programming” was to run; first with her father and then as a spy. She knows that the only way for her to survive if she breaks ranks, is to go off the grid and never be found. In episode 1 she tells Chuck that he can’t hide from “them” and she knows the what reaction will be if she tries to take Chuck away. She tries to flee with Chuck in Colonel and again ( just shortly after) in Prague, and even Honeymoon is an attempt to flee their spy life. She just doesn’t have a better solution to the problem, and if you have a hammer. everything starts to look like a nail. So running as far and as fast as she/they can is her only visible option. It is Chuck that shows her that there are other possibilities.

    In the end, it even makes a stronger case for her “connecting” with Chuck on the beach. Her first and strongest instinct would have been to run away, but she didn’t she went to a place that somehow she remembered as being important to them. Sarah Walker/Bartowski is done running.

    • Rob says:

      I’m not sure if I’m willing to give the writers credit for writing the finale in that manner. If they did, it is really a brilliant message that things will be okay. Great observation, garnet.

      We have all pointed to examples where the finale contained implicit messages, but lacked the explicit messages of happiness that we wanted. How great would it have been for Sarah to have actually said just that — “My first instinct was to run away, but in the end I couldn’t run away from you [Chuck].”

      • Rob says:

        Ernie — What you just described is the reason why a lot of people (including myself) viewed the finale as bittersweet. The sweet part being the expectation that things would turn out okay. The bitter part being the fact that with all of the heartache of the last two episodes, we didn’t get to see the final resolution.

        I didn’t need Morgan yelling “she’s okay”, like he did with Chuck in Phase Three. But, I needed to know that the relationship wasn’t going to have to start from scratch. I understand the concept that true love never dies. But it is the series finale, and I think that we deserved more.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I’m kind of surprised people missed that. I thought the metaphor was pretty obvious from the point where she left after seeing her own confession of love for Chuck. Her first instinct is to run away. At the end as she’s leaving Castle to go “find herself” she literally finds herself on the same beach where her life with Chuck started. She finds herself essentially at the place where she stopped running.

      Throughout the series they played the theme of Sarah having the chance to leave, or of being ordered to leave, or wanting and waiting to leave in season 3, but each time she decides not to leave because of Chuck.

      I know a lot of people still see the end as a sore spot, and may not want to hear it, but I personally loved that they replayed that theme in the finale and ended on the beach where Sarah stopped running. Those last minutes on the beach were a fantastic coda for the show. Everything else is stripped away and the core theme of the story, a boy and a girl, two wounded souls who fate brought together see what’s best in each other, and come to see what’s best in themselves reflected in the others eyes. They believed in each other enough to believe in themselves again, and in doing so made their dreams come true.

      Who would have thought that an ending where Chuck and Sarah find their way back to each other after a terrible tragedy and are re-living their love story, in love and kissing on the very beach where that love story started would be seen as depressing?

      I know people see things differently, so I’m not trying to delegitimatize the opinions or feelings of those less than thrilled with the finale, but I’m one of the fans that received the love letter Chris Fedak and company sent. I just wish more of people could see it.

      • oldresorter says:

        The problem was they under-delivered vs what they teased all season long. Had they teased ‘kissing on the very beach where that love story started’ with Sarah not knowing what happened the last five years, then delivered all her memories in place, and them kissing under the arch of their white picket fenced house with the red door, people would have hailed it the best ending ever. Instead, all season long, we were fed a steady diet of great expectations on screen, and got something less, albeit, kind of nice, somewhat sweet, something even the show runners and critics called satisfying. Fans don’t create expectations, the show does with what it gives fans on screen. The picture Chuck drew, the fake pregnancy, title an ep BAby, have a few scenes in a dream house, then end with a mind wiped of the past five seasons of the show co star kissing her husband, it fell under the bar, not of stuff fans made up, but of what fans expected based on what was on screen.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’d disagree with one part of that. Fans most definitely DO create expectations. Both positive and negative. I’ve continually watched it happen here for three seasons. Before the finale I watched people going to great lengths creating negative expectations based on one comment from Yvonne Strahovski.

      • garnet says:

        I like your take on this, and accept that it was intended as a love letter. And I have mostly come around to this line of thinking, but I must be a glass half empty type of guy, as my FIRST reaction was, “How do we Know that they are going to be OK and TOGETHER”. In your world they have found their way back, but for many, it is not quite as clear. and that was what I expect many fans wanted; a clearly happy ending, and from what I have read, that is more or less what TPTB intended, but they fell about 30 seconds short (IMO). So I read it as a nice letter but not a great letter.

        The other train of thought is that we really said good bye to Sarah Bartowski at the end of Bullet Train, and for some that was a cruel way to end the show. Which I don’t fully agree with but I see the argument (we did get some great action scenes from Sarah in the finale).

        Over time I have come to accept and almost enjoy the ending (hard to say you enjoy an ending that after at least 20 views still causes a problem with dust in the house 😉 ). I am rewatching season 2 now and to this point the ending has not hindered my enjoyment, and as I stated above, I find new things in the rewatch that may (or may not) have been intended, to show us why/how Chuck and Sarah are destined to be together no matter what. Realizing that Sarah is not running away, but accepting Chuck’s offer and the full circle of the beach is artistic and in some ways beautiful, I just hoped for a little more of a definite happy ending. A reprise of the shoulder bump, a reappearance of the wedding ring, I don’t know, just a little more something to say these kieds are going to be just fine!

        When I feel otherwise I just read Thinkling’s Fan Fic and it all seems good with the world.

      • ArmySFC says:

        Ernie, actually i’m not surprised at that at all. you need to remember not many (in terms of viewers) dissect the show like you or others. all they do is watch the show each week and enjoy it or not, and then go on to the next episode. i would venture to say that a vast majority don’t even view an episode twice, let alone enough times to remember all the fine points.

        also think about what you just said, “Throughout the series they played the theme of Sarah having the chance to leave, or of being ordered to leave, or wanting and waiting to leave in season 3, but each time she decides not to leave because of Chuck.” apply that same idea or logic to what they showed for most of season 5 and you have the reason some fans didn’t like the ending.

      • Rob says:

        It really is an amazing observation. Even Chuck told her to run, but she chose to stay.

      • oldresorter says:

        Ernie – but the show provides the info that drives the expectations. I had no interest in a season 4 wedding for example, after a couple of eps, had they not ended in a wedding, I would have been mad. In some ways, we both agree, as I was the one wanting the wedding, but do you see my point at all, the show started it, by teasing it on and on and on, I just picked up on it. In season 5, they teased it, then delivered something all together different, so they failed to meet the expectations they fueled in me. In frankness, for my eye, season 3’s first part, did the same thing, when for two straight seasons they teased CS the couple, then for 11.99 episodes, they did the opposite, failing to meet expectations they set up. Now at least at the end of the day, in s3, they did deliver what expectations they fanned, but inexplicably, in their final season, they decided not to. From my POV, I find the strategy odd. All they had to do was deliver what they said they would, and only outliers would have complained, and had they come up with a way to exceed the expectations they fanned and built into a huge fire, fans would have gone wild, as they did in Honeymooners / Phase 3 / Colonel l etc. It isn’t that hard, unless whoever in charge makes it so. Fans are the tail of the dog, we pretty much wag in whatever direction we get flung.

      • BigKev67 says:

        With respect, if you don’t want to create negative expectations, then you probably shouldn’t send your major co-star out to give an interview in which she says, “guys, brace yourselves – this isn’t the ending you were expecting”. How else are people going to react to that statement? If you’re not prepared to write the conventional happy ending that you know most of your audience are expecting – and you tell them that – then you have to deal with the fact that some people aren’t going to like it much. And your job as a writer then is to convince people that your vision is better than what they wanted. But expecting people to be happy when they get told they’re not going to get what they want is expecting way too much IMO.
        Granted, sometimes people form unrealistic or incorrect expectations and there’s not always much a writer can do about that. For the record, I think that happened at the end of S2 with the expectations of C/S as a couple for S3. But there wasn’t anything unrealistic or incorrect about what Yvonne said. She was exactly right.
        Funnily enough, I wasn’t worried about the ending at all, even after that statement. I’d liked all the previous “finales” – they’d all tied up their story arcs unambiguously – albeit leaving it late, and with some understatement. I saw no reason that the finale would be any different. Besides which, leaving any doubt as to whether Sarah got all her memories back, or ended up happy with Chuck would make the whole show unwatchable for some people, right? Surely they would know that? Ah. Damn those expectations again.

        Agree with you completely. Fans go where they are led. Raising expectations and then delivering something different is an essential part of the writers’ gift – but doing it too often becomes manipulative and annoying. But expectations are inevitable. Frankly, the only shows I don’t have expectations for are ones I don’t care about enough to watch.

      • atcDave says:

        Currently I think I’m exactly where Garnet is on my attitude towards how things ended. And I really do like that last episode, I just needed something a little more definitive to wrap it up.
        But also agree entirely with Jason and Kev’s comments. I had been so happy with how the show had delivered the product I wanted to see, mostly since 3.13, that it was frankly shocking to me to get an ending that felt so utterly unsatisfying. I never expected an ending I would struggle to make peace with. And it does still make me a little angry that the writer would call such a thing a “love letter to fans”. I can do without that sort of love letter…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’m not going to re-start this argument, but I will say this, the reaction to Yvonne’s statement had more to do with some peoples expectations than anything Yvonne said.  Here’s the actual interview.

        When asked about her expectations for the five-year-old series’ capper versus what it actually presented itself to be, the Aussie beauty – perhaps skilled by her time playing a savvy CIA agent – ably sidestepped that “trick” question, saying, “I can’t tell you my expectations, because then I reveal what the finale is not.”

        But then, measuring her words with some care, Strahovski went on to share, “I had very specific things that I thought it was going to be, and it turned out to be not what I thought.”

        In fact, she says, the final leg of Team Bartowski’s journey “surprised me to the point where I kind of felt like an audience member myself, sitting on the edge of my seat wondering, ‘Oh my gosh, how is this going to get resolved?’”

        Wait, there are things to be resolved? Edge-of-seat kinds of things? Should fans prepare to be left hanging? “There will be a satisfying ending,” Strahovski reassures, “but it’s almost slightly, slightly tragic, the lead-up to what happens.”

        I’d also add that while a very vocal group has repeatedly made their displeasure known, there is absolutely nothing in any of the polling available to suggest that they represent a majority of even the online fandom.

      • joe says:

        Wow. In hindsight, Yvonne really gave us a powerful statement about the finale.

      • oldresorter says:

        Ernie, when you start with 100% of the fans on your side, you don’t need to poll 100% rejection to fail. It could be argued, that 10% rejection is a failure. One NBC poll I saw had it pretty close to dead even, 41% hated it or didn’t like, 35% loved it or liked it, and 24% in the middle.

        That being said, I was shocked so many people did not like the ending. I for one, liked the ending, far more than the joylessness of the pair of episodes. I think the joyless nature of the pair of episodes, implied a real happy pay off, instead the pay off was somewhat melancholy and subtle, satisfying, not electrifying.

        Again, and to repeat, it does not take real many negatives from a captive audience to prove failure.

        Funny Ernie, when it comes to much of this, you seem to be the one who can’t let go, and can’t stop bringing it up. My role, to keep counter punching, unless you can make a more logical compelling argument than you have been able to muster thus far.

      • joe says:

        OR, I’m glad to hear that you liked the ending. I rather appreciate everyone who’s been willing to look for and find the subtle positives that was put there, buried deep.

        But you say Ernie’s the one who can’t let it go? I thought that was me! In all seriousness, I’ve had a hard time not thinking about that ending. I chalk it up to the writer’s ability to create characters that I (we) really care for, and my own capacity for empathy. These characters are fictional, the events are un-real, and it still feels like friends had something precious tragically taken from them.

        I always return to my mantra from season 2; I don’t need for them to make me happy. I need for them to make me feel. In that sense, they succeeded.

      • For reference, here’s my previous summary of polls about the finale:
        The polls I listed probably have lower ratings for the finale now. That always happens with these types of polls on IMDB for new shows and movies. The ratings start higher and then drop a little.

        I had forgotten about the NBC boards poll. It has a smaller sample size than the others. Last fall, a lot of people there were at Morgansect, Shaw, and the world of Chuck were too vocal there. The level of discourse on a board can skew results of a poll there, which is why I would trust IMDB, and spoilertv more than Ernie’s poll or a poll on the NBC boards. (No offense Ernie. I still like your polls.)

      • BigKev67 says:

        I completely agree that if a show doesn’t make you feel something then it’s not doing its job – but I think you’re letting writers off way too easily.
        There’s more to good writing than just making you feel. Great writing does that of course, but it does that while honouring its characters, staying true to them and to the tone of the world that’s been created.
        Compare and contrast the fountain scene in Break Up to the Prague scene. I absolutely felt the emotions in both cases. But one scene felt organic, a genuine moment of pefectly conceived heartbreak between 2 characters that I cared about a great deal – while the other reduced Sarah to an idiot and Chuck to a mute, and felt contrived and manipulated. I still felt the emotion, because I was invested in the characters – but one was earned and the other was not, at least for me.
        Chuck’s genius as a show is that it could produce those moments of genuine feeling, often effortlessly with just a line of dialogue or a look, and it could make you care about its characters and its world. It’s biggest flaw was that it too often wrote to a pre-determined outcome (or feeling) and trampled over those characters in order to get to get there.

      • I probably shouldn’t admit it publicly, but I liked the Prague scene better than the Break-Up scene. To use your stupid and mute analogies for break-up, Chuck was being stupid by listening to Bryce (his nemesis), while Sarah was being mute about her real feelings. Those behaviors were in character, but that didn’t make them any less frustrating.

        Both scenes were painful and heartbreaking. I think the different reactions to the two scenes are due to more of what people expected, rather than due to the screenwriting, acting, or direction. I know that’s not true for everyone, but it seems like the biggest complaint I’ve seen about Prague is because when it is, not the scene itself. Most people expected the real relationship to start after Colonel and Ring. That made Prague more jarring to the audience.

        I had a different take. I thought Break-up weakened the great relationship development from First Date and Seduction. Prague, on the other hand, didn’t surprise me one bit because I fully expected some kind of separation to happen at the beginning of season 3 because TV shows always stall WT/WT longer than they should. The spoilers were out early about ZL’s beard, so that implied some kind of separation as well. My expectations for Charah progression early in S3.0 were low. I was expecting the CIA “rules” to get in the way again. (At the time, we didn’t know if he would be an asset or an agent.) So I wasn’t as disappointed or angry as most. Getting the events of Colonel and Ring after 33 episodes is extremely unusual. Even the events of Other Guy after 47 episodes is unusual. There was a lot about S3.0 I didn’t like, but Prague wasn’t in the bottom 10. Plus I like Backwards Walk just as much as Skinny Love. It’s not rational, but a well selected song can save a scene for me.

      • BigKev67 says:

        Different strokes and all that 🙂
        Like you, I wasn’t expecting C/S to be together in S3. I assumed Chuck’s decision to reupload at the end of Ring torpedoed Sarah’s plans to quit the CIA and lead a normal life, and she was going to be mightily pissed for a long time. And plus, as you say, it was the start of the season, and resets are what shows do. So I had no expectations either – and despite that, I still found the set up of Prague to be grossly manipulative and seriously damaging.
        Obviously these things are subjective, and what is a giant stupid stick to some is writing genius to others – but I think my point still stands. Making you feel is only one part of the equation. Doing it at the expense of your characters only cheapens those feelings.

      • oldresorter says:

        The example of ‘feeling’ I like using in the Chuck show was Stephen’s execution. It made me feel. Such an emotional feeling would have been remarkable, had it been linked to a lesson that was told lucidly on screen, like Chuck could have linked his father’s being brought out in the open, to his keeping the truth from Ellie, hence setting Stephen up to get killed. Then Chuck concludes, ‘I won’t lie anymore’. As it was, Stephen’s execution felt like a milestone on a Gantt Chart, ‘time to kill Stephen’, done.

        But, I will say this. Not for me, but what I see from many of you fans on this site. The closer the show got to the line, the better it got, most of the time, up to and until it crossed over the line. The area on the other side of the line was a cliff, and when the show went over the cliff, the show did not do well. Joe, falling off a twenty story high cliff will make you fell something, but it is not recommended.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting, Kev I think that’s the first time I’ve seen you voice a major S3 complaint! I would certainly agree that’s the point where things started to go wrong as far as my enjoyment of the show went. I could never buy the characters’ actions, especially Chuck’s. We could too clearly see the man behind the curtain. I think in Break-Up, we could imagine Sarah accepting Chuck’s statements because, even though I believe she did already love him, but she WAS still planning on leaving when the assignment was over. While Prague, even though we did all see it coming ever since the writer’s comments at Comic Con, felt too much like television cliche, and NOT respectful of the characters we were so invested in. For me, that very fact of television cliche enraged me more than any other single factor. Literally, right when you start thinking a show is really special and different, they go and proove they aren’t…

    • joe says:

      This is a great discussion, guys. And Garnet, that was a brilliant observation (about Sarah’s reflex to run) to start this off.

      I’m still waffling back and forth, and really, I’ve been nodding in agreement with most everyone’s feelings about the finale, both good and bad (bad feelings? how about satisfied and unsatisfied?). I’m just starting S3 in my re-watch, and I’m starting conclude that I’m going to be more satisfied with it this time around.

      But still. I don’t even think that 30 seconds more was necessary. If Sarah had just said “Will you take me home now?” – maybe 3 to 5 seconds more – what would everyone have thought then? I’m betting everyone would have been happy (at least, happier).

      But they didn’t do that. I’m also convinced that what they did was intentional and masterfully conceived to leave us feeling exactly like they wanted (which makes me want to scream “Fedak, you magnificent bastard!!!”). It wasn’t supposed to be a happy ending. It was supposed to be just that ambiguous and it was supposed to make is feel hopeful and slightly unsatisfied. 3 seconds from satisfied.

      It was easy to see Chuck as a show that made us smile and laugh and feel good. Jeff and Lester were meant to be cartoons. But the show was really something more; for all the “live happily ever after” fantasy, it had a brutal streak of reality running through it. You can see that in the last half of S2 also. What’s funny is that we also consider it the best aspect of the show. At least, I do.

      Just my $0.02.

      Great job, Ernie. Once again, you rise to my expectations!

  8. garnet says:

    I can’t argue with you as I have previously posted that I feel the finale falls short of a really happy ending, but looking at things like this does seem to support the possibility that the happy ending is just around the corner (Thinkling has to take a great deal of the credit for my thinking on this). Whether or not it was deliberately considered when they were writing the ending or not, I think you can see a difference in her responses that, in this case, support the idea that they were not trying to slap us in the face.
    In the end I guess I’d rather go looking for reasons the finale is sort of happy rather than reasons it is tragic, and I think I am finding some happy reasons!

  9. Gord says:

    Great job on the recap, BTW you are right there would have been too much awesomeness to handle all 6 episodes in one recap.

    I am just amazed that you could cram all of the awesomeness from these 3 episodes into one recap.

    I thought it was interesting that you consider the first Louisa’s Bones scenes as your favourite of the 2.

    For me it was definitely the second. It was like Chuck was finally taking Casey’s advice to “man up”. Also the fact that he took down Casey in that scene was a bonus. It took almost as many tranq darts to take down Casey as it did to take down Jeff in Suitcase.

    Also he took all of those Fulcrum agents down with the tranq gun – pre skills intersect, which makes me wonder why he needed to flash to take down all those guards in Op Awesome. His Duck Hunt skills were sufficient.

    • Duck Hunt probably was sufficient for shooing, but the Intersect helped him readjust to shoot after throwing Awesome out of the way and also to drop down and shoot between his legs. (Because this show is all about continuity. Right?)

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks Gord, glad to see you still hanging in with us. Joe will be covering the rest of the awesomeness next week so there’s that to look forward to. And frankly I think I probably left too much of the awesomeness out. I paid virtually no attention to the Buy More and Ellie/dad plots (though I did touch on the bachelor party).

      As for the two montages, I understand what you mean, but I see the second as merely the consequences of the first playing out. In fact I see those consequences still playing out right through season 3. To me the first montage is where Chuck takes control of his life. That he has a few lapses where he seems ready to cede that back doesn’t really change that. It is the series changing moment is the conclusion I came to on re-watch.

      The other notable thing is who he’s taken that control from. Sarah.

      • Gord says:

        An interesting perspective Ernie, as for still hanging in, I guess I’m just having a hard time letting go.
        There has been no TV show in the past and not likely anyone in the future that will be as great as Chuck.

        I really hope we see it in syndication – not so much for me as I have all the seasons (or at least I will when S5 comes out next week) – but for all those who never discovered this show. To this day, I can be mentioning this show to someone and find out they have never heard of it.

        Of those that I have persuaded to watch this show, they have all loved it.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Isn’t that the heartbreaking part Gord? I haven’t gotten anyone started who hasn’t liked it enough to keep watching through the end. If only they could have supported the show when it was on we might not have had to endure the cutbacks and the uncertainty that the cast and crew talk about.

        In any case, we’ll soon have all 5 seasons to share, hopefully with enough people that we end up eventually convincing someone to revisit Chuck, even if it isn’t with the full original cast. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a prequel based on the lives of Roarke, Hartley, Mary and Stephen. You have built in heroes and villains, and while it’d have an ESB sort of ending, we know where the story goes from there.

    • joe says:

      Gord, Ernie, you bet I’m all about the awesomeness in this week’s recap (to be posted in just a couple of hours). On the question about which “Luisa’s Bones” montage is better, I’ll come down squarely in favor of both, for exactly the reason you said, Ernie. Chuck takes control of his life. They both show that.

      Did you notice that he had long since stopped pining away for Sarah in such a futile way?

      • Gord says:

        Ernie, regarding a Chuck prequel, I’m kind of hoping for a CAT Squad prequel myself.

        I was reading that The Finder is not doing well in the ratings, which means Zondra would be available for the show. Just how amazing would it be to see Carina, Zondra, Sarah and Amy saving the world in sexy outfits.

  10. Faith says:

    My shipper heart would of course like to focus, ok dwell, on Broken Heart. That episode is one of my top 15 favs and it gets better with subsequent viewing. But really the other two are just as significant for the big picture.

    The reveal of Chuck’s board, Chuck doing what no one in the CIA could, finding his father, and the strength of heart and family he infused to accomplish what even his father couldn’t (reunite his family) is one of the many reasons why I love Chuck (the character, not the show). Plus Orion was just so freaking cool.

    I love, love, love how Sarah–post 49B–became a stickler for rules once more. After many months of living another way, putting Chuck above it all (as they illustrated with the 49B’s report), Sarah had to dial back and revert to form. But this time, she’s not being a stickler for the good of man, she’s doing it because to do otherwise would mean being separated from Chuck. Just think back to how often she reminded Chuck of the consequences in Dream Job. And yet when it comes down to it, there is and can only be Chuck.

    All that aside, I enjoyed seeing Beckman in person and the reveal of her tiny form. I like to think that that’s when the triangle begun…we all know how much Chuck loves them tiny brunettes heh. For her part, she was hesitant to part with him…in her own way. Hey, Ernie didn’t get into it (much), doesn’t mean I shouldn’t!

    P.S. “ladybugs can’t all be ladies, then how would we get little lady bugs?!” Still great, years later.

    • The board reveal is one of those moments that gives me chills every time. It followed one of the most promising fountain scenes yet. It was hopeful rather than sad like so many were. It even had a hint of a smile from Sarah. Just when we shippers thought awwhhhh, that was sweet. Bam! What has Chuck been doing? I love “Signs” by Bloc Party. Too bad that was part of Lethal Weapon. I guess it gets an asterisk because those back-to-back scenes really were the launching point for the Search for Orion Arc.

      • Faith says:

        I knew that 😉 lol. Actually I got it confused but as it ties into to him finding Orion, I thought it was worth mentioning. Goosebumps indeed!

    • Rob says:

      Thanks for getting us back on track Faith. Couple of my memorable moments:
      1. The moment when Emmett knocks over the display racks is one of the funniest Buy More scenes.
      2. Sarah is still conflicted — you can tell from the beginning of Dream Job that she really wants to make Chuck happy, but she is still concerned about following orders when she allows Chuck to invade RI alone.
      3. Scott Bakula is awesome.

  11. resaw says:

    I am more of a lurker on this site, but certainly appreciate the thoughtful reflections of the various Chuck This contributors. I should also add that as much as I enjoy reading these “Reader’s Digest” arcs, I am personally working through an unabridged rewatch, currently having just completed viewing S04E01. If I dare to throw my two cents in regarding the finale, I viewed it as containing seeds of hope, but thanks to Thinkling’s “Sarah vs. Finding Herself,” I am enjoying seeing those seeds watered and fertilized, nurtured into a flourishing life for Sarah and Chuck.

  12. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs the Predator (2.17) | Chuck This

  13. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Broken Heart (2.18) | Chuck This

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