Well our timing is nearly perfect. We at Chuck This are watching and writing about these episodes a week ahead of their posting. So we get to watch Santa Claus Christmas week. It’s almost like we knew what we were doing…
But if that were true we would have made it here a week earlier for you readers. We just almost lucked into it!
After the jump, we’ll take a look at a very exciting mid-season break episode.
Overall impression is, dynamite episode. So much of what I love about Chuck is on display here. Chuck is in charge in his self effacing way. We have a funny, yet menacing villain. The Buy More is perfectly integrated with the spy world; in fact, world’s collide might be a better way of putting it. Chuck and Sarah are at their sweet and charming best.
And then something happens…
I think the climax to this episode is dynamite. And for me, this is where Chuck really excels. By making the show so much fun, and the main characters so appealing, the stakes are far higher than on the currently popular darker type shows. I actually care what happens to these people. I care about the decisions they make and how they treat and react to each other. So when Sarah finds herself in a no win situation I can agonize over the decision with her. We can do the math with her as she realizes she has no choice but to do something she’d rather not. And to protect Chuck, she has to do something he would never approve of or ask for.
I mentioned a couple weeks ago the angel symbolism they’d been pushing pretty plainly on Sarah. More specifically; She displays remarkable patience and forgiveness in Gravitron, Morgan refers to her as an angel in Sensei, her dad calls her angel in DeLorean, and there seems to be an angel charm on the bracelet Chuck gives her. And then we have a horrific moment at the end of Santa Claus. Now I must point out, in the Judeo-Christian tradition angels are supposed to be terrifying. The first words they speak to humans (in the Bible) are “do not be afraid.” Every time. Perhaps that’s what Sarah should have said to Chuck after she shot Mauser.
But Sarah really isn’t an angel. We know about her questionable past. We know she doesn’t shy from using deadly force, and other unappealing tactics in the defense of the greater good. And we know she will lie to Chuck. Unfortunately, her lying here is far more about protecting her image in Chuck’s eyes than anything else. And it backfires on her pretty badly, because Chuck saw it all. Actually, that’s not quite true; he may have seen what Sarah did, but he missed some of the context, and the situation looks far worse than it actually was.
Now I have to say, I think the end scene was pretty badly overplayed. I get the impact and the “horror” they were going for. It could have been brilliant. But I think Chuck’s reaction was too much. He gave us a “10” when a “7” might have been more fitting. The thing is, Chuck already knows what Sarah is capable of. He flashed on her at the end of the Pilot (killing two men after she disarmed them). He’s seen her in action many times. This may have been the most extreme situation he’s seen first hand, but not by that much. And surely Sarah is deserving of far more trust than he gives her at this moment.
There is so much that is wonderful about this episode, and it really does remain one of the best examples of how awesome this show can be. But the end takes some of the shine off. To me, it doesn’t play true. I guess I’m partly biased because I still remember two different friends asking me in the days after “what was Chuck so bent out of shape about in the end?” They saw the same thing I did; Sarah’s actions were justifiable and should not have been shocking to Chuck. That, and I’m never so enthused about the more angst filled endings. The good news is; in the very next episode Sarah will apologize for the lie. The even better news is, that’s enough for Chuck. The lie will apparently trouble him more than the shooting, and that seems right to me. The bad news is, it will be seven weeks (!) before that episode aired. This was the longest, and most excruciating cliff hanger of the series to me. Lucky for us, it will only be one week this time!
Taken By Surprise
Perfect timing, indeed, Dave. Ah, Christmas in Burbank. It’s so traditional. You know; the hot temperatures, the angry customers and, of course, the annual Salvation Army con… what more could we ask? Why, a desperate bungler of a man crashing through the Buy More. That’s what.
Chuck had no idea what was coming. For weeks now, I’ve been noting that Chuck and Sarah were being good friends after their break-up. Well, very good friends. In fact, I recall thinking the first time I saw this episode that they were past friendship and really deep into a romantic relationship now. Sarah, the secretive agent who habitually withheld anything “real” from Chuck, was opening up about her childhood. That’s not at all like she used to be. Remember?
She never knew she was a beauty
She must have made a lot of grown men cry
In her eyes she’s always playing out some movie
She just told a dying love goodbye
She was innocent then,
Blind to any help
No one knows what she did,
And she’ll never tell
And Chuck, the guy who couldn’t face women at his birthday party and worried that he could never hold a candle to someone like Bryce Larkin, had become a pretty good spy.
Pretty good? He had saved LA from a missile, saved the mission, Casey and Sarah more than a couple of times. Generally, he’s been a hero and sometimes he had even been Sarah’s personal hero. The kicker – Chuck even impressed her dad, the guy who’s only real talent was to read people. We can’t underestimate what that meant to her.
So with good reason, Sarah had come to trust Chuck. Fact of the matter is, Sarah had also come to respect the way Chuck prioritized his world; friends, family, normal life. Chuck never failed to complete the mission. Was it possible to be “a good guy” and complete the mission, she wondered. Somehow with Chuck, the answer always came back “yes.”
Think of it this way; they were rubbing off on each other.
It was Christmas of 2008 and even the most casual of fans knew that Charah was inevitable. Oh, it wasn’t going to be simple, and Nathan Rhyerson (Jed Rees), a.k.a. Ned, was surely going to be the crisis that our couple had to resolve. But, bungling, mousy Ned? Really? He was just a poor, desperate guy who lost his job and wanted to buy presents for his wife and kids. Certainly that didn’t require the help of the CIA, NSA and the Intersect. The local L.E.O.s could handle that situation.
Emmett and Big Mike even see an opportunity to increase sales, since Mike’s cousin, Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), is on the job. Besides. There’s a real L.A.P.D. hostage negotiator on the job too, Lieutenant Frank Mauser (Michael Rooker). Well, maybe it’s a little more serious than that. Ellie and Awesome are at the store early when Ned comes crashing through waving a gun around, demanding that they lock down the exits. It’s really the perfect time for a hero to show up. Too bad Ellie and Chuck are insisting to Devon that it’s not.
Maybe they can negotiate. Chuck bargains to let everyone call out to let people know they are alright. Ned calls his wife, Ellie and Devon call the very Awesomes, Lester calls the love chat line, Jeff call prisoner 27318, a.k.a. “mom” at the Lompoc Women’s Correctional Institute. Casey, a.k.a. “Johnny Boy”, calls his mother too. Chuck calls Sarah over in the DVD racks (the romantic comedy section), setting up one of the sweetest scenes ever. I TOLD you they were more than friends.
Sarah: That was pretty smart to call me. Protect our cover.
Chuck: Yeah, well, you are my girlfriend. Sort of.
Sarah: So, does that mean your offer still stands for Christmas?
Chuck: See? I knew you could be heart-warmed. [Chuckles] I actually, um… I have something for you. I was gonna give it to you tomorrow, but considering the circumstances, I kind of wanted to give it to you today.
Sarah: Chuck, we’re gonna get out of here. We’ll be fine. I promise. [Chuck hands Sarah a charm bracelet] Wow. That’s beautiful.
Chuck: It’s good luck. It was my mom’s charm bracelet. My dad gave it to her when Ellie was born.
Sarah: Oh, Chuck, I can’t take this. This is something real. Something that you should give to a real girlfriend.
Chuck: I know.
That is a special moment; I don’t think Sarah knew it was coming.
But I meant it when I said Chuck didn’t know either. It’s just that I meant, about the guy with the gun. Ned is no mousy bungler. The change of expression on his face (yet another technical masterpiece of acting) tells us Ned’s a much bigger danger than Devon will ever know, even without a gun, or he wouldn’t have been so gung-ho about tackling him.
A second big moment, a Christmas helping of surprise that makes this episode surpass most everything else on television, is when we realize Ned isn’t the biggest threat. Mauser is. He, and therefore Fulcrum, know that there’s something of importance going on at the Buy More. Worse, now he knows that it isn’t Bryce Larkin. It’s Chuck. Took me by complete surprise.
The depth of the threat is stunning, and the action gets intense. Mauser will have Ned kill everyone, starting with Ellie, if Chuck doesn’t go with him. And that means a Fulcrum cell. Forever. They’re not as cushie as CIA detention centers, I hear. With that, Chuck changes Devon’s mind about this not being the time to be a hero.
Sarah and Casey have figured out what’s going on, and see that Mauser’s got Chuck. At least Devon’s plan actually works, thanks to some great middle-linebacking by Big Mike and more than a little heroic action by Morgan.
Sarah’s shot disables Mauser’s van, and Chuck escapes to a nearby Christmas tree sales lot with Mauser in pursuit. Sarah catches up in time to save Chuck, but has to fight Mauser one-on-one. She orders Chuck to run back to Castle, for his safety, which is more important than her own, it seems. But as he starts to run, Chuck stops, reconsiders and watches. Sarah wins the fight (barely), and has Mauser at gun-point, dead to rights. Now take a deep breath, because it’s not over.
Mauser: You may have beaten me, Agent Walker, but Fulcrum’s won. I know Chuck Bartowski’s the Intersect.
Sarah: Chuck’s secret is safe. And you’re going straight to a CIA detention facility, never to be seen or heard from again.
Mauser: Well, you go right ahead, Agent Walker. Arrest me. But say goodbye to Chuck. You see, I’m not like those other Fulcrum agents. They’ll do whatever it takes to find me. And when they do, every Fulcrum agent we have is gonna know Chuck’s the Intersect. It’s gonna be the end of his pathetic existence. So take me in, Agent Walker. I’m ready to go.
Mauser smiles, surrenders. Sarah hesitates, considers. Maybe she’s thinking WWCD.
Then she shoots him dead. It’s by no means a thoughtless or easy thing for her to do. Maybe at one time it would have been. Not anymore. Now, it’s agonizing. Chuck sees that act, but maybe doesn’t hear Mauser’s threat. We don’t know. What we do know is that it’s what Agent Walker had to do. We also know it’s nothing Chuck could have done.
If we thought that Chuck and Sarah were rubbing off on each other (and I did), then this should have given us pause. When faced with the question “Is it possible to be a good guy and still complete the mission?” her answer came back “no” this time. Sarah reacted, ultimately, like a CIA operative.
Chuck knows he could not have done that, no matter what the reasons. He may not be temperamentally suited to be a spy. Ever. And because of that, because he is the way he is, he did not complete the mission either. Not this time. He failed to be the hero, leaving it up to his partner to do what she had to do.
I did not see that coming.
Yes, Sarah then lies to Chuck about it. Even after what Jack told her about her boyfriend, it is about trusting him, after all. What I said before? It’s all in question now. Chuck and Sarah are still far apart.
She barely prays above a whisper
And when she cries she doesn’t make a sound
She offers tithe
But never takes communion
So scared to death of Jesus finding out
When she’s nervous she checks in some out of town motel
What she screams in her pillow,
She’ll never tell
What she screams in her pillow,
She’ll never tell
We, the fans, loved every second of this episode. The adventure was intense, the bracelet was a perfect gift and we were ready to see our couple celebrate Christmas together.
In the biggest surprise of all, that’s not exactly the way it turned out. If this is a journey, both Chuck and Sarah have further to go.