Chuck vs The Suburbs (2.13)

And bouncing around the schedule continues as we come back to the episode intended to follow Best Friend.  After the jump, we’ll discuss Chuck vs the Suburbs, which starts the Suburbs/Beefcake/Lethal Weapon arc.

I have to start by admitting I wasn’t looking forward to this one.  As I’ve stated on several occasions, I have a hard time enjoying any episode that doesn’t end well for Chuck and Sarah.  And while this one hardly constitutes a major trauma, it does end on a down note (or maybe mixed?).  Its down enough that can’t consider this a favorite of mine, and I only re-watch it when doing full watches like this one.  But that said; after a couple years of not seeing this one, it was fun to be reminded of what is good here.  Suburbs does feature a couple favorite, beautiful scenes; in addition to some good humor and a satisfying climax.

I know many viewers have mentioned an odd tension at the beginning of Suburbs too, to be honest I don’t see that at all.  I love the beginning.  It makes me smile and laugh.  I see Chuck and Sarah, after Best Friend, know beyond a doubt they like each other.  But “complex” truly is the operative word.  Chuck may still fear feelings could get Sarah hurt, and he has been rebuffed when he’s tried to get more real with her anyway.  Sarah is even more aware than Chuck of just how closely they are watched, and what the consequences could be showing her feelings.  She is just weeks away from admitting to her v-log the she is in love with Chuck Bartowski, but doesn’t know what to do about it.  So that is what we see here.  Chuck and Sarah are desperately drawn to each other.  And both are afraid to do anything about it.  Chuck offers to give the covers a night off, likely thinking he wants to try something real with Sarah again; but Sarah takes it as a put off, she has a much harder time thinking outside the box than Chuck does!  Then Morgan comes along and forces their hand.  So we get a very awkward Valentine’s date; two people needing and wanting each other, but too scared to do or say anything about it.

A new mission comes as a relief.  And even better, it’s a new mission where they will be required to work closely together, without having to deal with any messy realities.  The mission itself strikes me as fairly unremarkable, boring even.  And you all know me, the Cougar part does nothing for me; I’m no fan of sleaze or neurotic, whiny Chuck, so a big part of this fails me.  But several parts are perfect.  Chuck and Sarah’s morning breakfast is just a wonderful scene.  We see our favorite twosome enjoying themselves with friendly banter, and seeming far more comfortable than they were a couple nights ago. Then jump forward to Chuck getting the Fulcrum Intersect.  I love several parts of this climax.  First of course is Sarah’s obvious, real concern for Chuck all while he’s being told her feelings for him aren’t real.  Then as Sarah is set up for her own download, nice exchange leading up to Chuck shielding her from the onslaught. That is just a beautiful moment, and I love the brief focus on the wedding rings.  What Chuck and Sarah have is real and permanent, even if it will be some time yet to come to fruition.  It was both the breakfast scene and Chuck protecting Sarah that are the enduring memories of this episode to me.

The “B” plot doesn’t work well in this episode for me.  Again, I’m no fan of the more overt sleaze.  An effort is made to relate it to the “A” plot via truthfulness but the connection is too convoluted.  Big Mike is lying.  Chuck and Sarah are in a far more complicated situation that defies such simple labels.  I don’t see a true parallel, even if Fulcrum tried to convince Chuck there was one.  At least the side plot does pay off well; Big Mike’s mystery woman revealed as Morgan’s Mom is good for a wonderful big laugh.

The downbeat end does set up the next episode.  Chuck takes Sarah’s rebuff fairly hard.  Maybe he isn’t crushed, but he is assuming the worst.  He took too much council from a lying Fulcrum Agent and Sarah’s inconsistent signals, and seems to have decided friends and colleagues is as much as he can hope for from her. We the audience, know far better.  We are privy to Sarah’s pain as she watches a dream life dismantled.  Chuck is giving up too easy, again.

~ Dave

Same As It Ever Was – NOT!

Dave, I kinda, sorta understand your slight trepidation about re-watching Chuck vs. The Suburbs. It’s different. It seems to have different colors than any other Chuck episode and it has a different feel, doesn’t it? It’s tenor is – unique. You may ask yourself “How did we get here?” I think that to understand, we have to look at this episode from two points of view; Chuck’s and Sarah’s.

The new normal

The new normal

At the end of Best Friends we thought they were moving forward, but we saw something odd. Chuck and Sarah were not exactly on the same wavelength. As they held hands she stood un-smiling, looking a bit concerned, perhaps over their new status or perhaps even wondering what it meant that they were caring for each other. Chuck, though, was smiling, if only slightly. He looked content, or at least satisfied, with the way things stood. It doesn’t seem he was wondering or concerned about the future and what it might bring.

Yet here at the start of Suburbs it’s Chuck looking concerned as he stares at the John Cusack film Must Love Dogs playing on every TV in the Buy More. Why? The movie is a standard Rom-Com about the longing for domestic life.

Then Sarah walks in and starts talking about celebrating Valentine’s Day – as a couple. I don’t think she means as a fake couple either, at least, not until Morgan interrupts and asks what their plans are. Then it’s all about the cover. Maybe Morgan is fooled by Sarah’s act, but the viewers sure weren’t.

Chuck, though, thinks he knows the real story. He believes that, as far as Sarah is concerned, there’s nothing but the cover, and there can’t be. Chuck can have all the dreams he wants about her and he can give her touching gifts, but he doesn’t – he can’t – expect anything in return.

What’s new is that Chuck is determined to be okay with the way things are and he’s not going to spend his life chasing hopelessly after Agent Walker. Chuck may be a nerd, but he is no fool.

So when Sarah brings up the question about having any plans, Chuck assumes it’s for the cover.

Sarah: Actually, I was referring to the whole Valentine’s Day thing.
Chuck: Oh, my gosh, right! I’m – I’m so sorry. Did you wanna do something?
Sarah: No, no, I was just curious. Unless you wanted to do something.
Chuck: Doesn’t it seem like we ought to do something? I mean, it’s up to you.
Sarah: Yeah, sure. Okay. I mean, we have been cover-dating for over a year now, right?
Chuck: Yeah. It’d be weird if we didn’t do something.
Sarah: Completely weird.

Sigh. It’s getting harder and harder for both of them to tell the fiction from the reality. That’s where we find ourselves in Suburbs, with Sarah wondering what normal life would be like and Chuck not thinking in terms of normal life with Sarah. That’s that “odd tension” you mentioned, Dave. It’s the complete opposite of what the viewers had been thinking about the characters for quite some time.

Fate, Fulcrum and General Beckman see to it that both get a chance to find out what normal is like, though. Ellie was right. Their mission in the suburbs is a dry run. I must say, what I discovered about Chuck and Sarah there in the land of manicured lawns and Labrador retrievers surprised me.

Break Your Thumbs, Chuck!

This is not by beautiful house!

This is not by beautiful house!

The suburbs are a new experience for Chuck, but it looks like he could get used to this life. There’s no way Sarah could. Right?

Wrong. After the Fulcrum bug is found, Agent Walker should be all business. Instead, Chuck finds her cheerfully making breakfast. There’s no more bugs and she can be herself. Herself? Domestic? Exactly whose world has Chuck stepped into?

Martha Walker

Martha Walker

Chuck: Are we gonna invite the neighbors over?
Sarah: No, Chuck. I’m cooking for you.

This is Chuck’s dream, verging on too good to be true. Chuck is appreciative and Sarah really is enjoying this whole Martha Stewart thing. Yes, she may one day turn into a real girl, just as Chuck teases. She even sends him off to work with a grocery list.

That grocery list is a clue – for us and for Chuck, who is, like I said, no fool. Sarah is Agent Walker after all, doing her spy-work even if she can enjoy being a housewife – it’s within her to do both. What Chuck sees, though, is just the spy at work. Maybe Chuck is thinking to himself “That ‘domestic goddess’ stuff I’m seeing is just a cover,” and maybe he should be. Maybe not, but maybe.

It’s a great adventure – the neighbors, Brad (Andy Richter) and “crazy cougar lady” Sylvia (Jenny McCarthey), are in charge of a secret Fulcrum project to recreate the Intersect. Their alpha-versions tend to wreck the brains of their test subjects, though, so when Chuck, Sarah and Casey are captured, it’s not certain at all that any of them will survive the tests to which they are subjected.

Chuck is special, of course, and we all knew the first time that he would survive. The question is, would he survive Sylvia’s words?

Chuck: Look, I’ll do whatever you want. Just let her go.
Sylvia: Don’t tell me you have feelings for your partner?
Brad: You really let her get into your head, huh.
Sylvia: What did she tell you? That someday you two would be together? Maybe settle down in a cute little cul-de-sac like this one?
Brad: Ha, ha. You’re funny.
Sylvia: This place isn’t real. Her feelings for you aren’t real.

Actually, Sarah never said any such thing. She never promised Chuck that they’d be together and certainly not that they’d have a normal life. I started by saying that we have to think about this episode from both Sarah’s and Chuck’s POV. And from his, Sylvia’s words inadvertently make Chuck understand that Sarah’s feelings are real. You see, despite everything, despite the cover romance and the lies that go with it, Chuck knows that Sarah’s always kept the promises she has made. Always.

The problem is that even if Sarah’s feelings for Chuck are real, the dangers always remain and can chase them into any refuge they find. Even the suburbs.

Chuck recovers his wits quickly enough to fool Sylvia – and Sarah – into thinking he’s been turned into an Intersect-zombie. When Sylvia asks Chuck if it’s okay to test “his wife”, he responds that he doesn’t have a wife. Now look at her face when he says that. From Sarah’s point of view, something important dies in that moment; that faint, newborn dream of a normal life with Chuck.

"I have no wife."

“I have no wife.”

Sarah is despondent when she hears his words, but Chuck is recovered enough to save Sarah. Casey frees himself by taking his own advice to Chuck “Break your thumbs!” Hey, this episode is only the first time we hear about that technique!

This Is Not My Beautiful Wife

Derailed Dreams

Derailed Dreams

Chuck’s speech to Ellie confused me so much, then. But thinking of it in light of Chuck and Sarah’s new understanding of the position they’re in makes much more sense now. Chuck is resigned to what’s happening and he’ll be satisfied with that, if necessary. He’s turning into a great spy. From Chuck’s POV, it wasn’t so much his dreams that were derailed; Chuck is no fool – he knows the score and he’s going to face that square on. It’s Sarah’s dreams that must be deferred.

Dreams Deferred

Dreams Deferred

Ellie: But you guys seem so perfect.
Chuck: Yeah, I know. I guess. But being in that house with her, it was so close to being perfect, the way I had always pictured it would be… And I realized that what was wrong with that picture. And it was us. Sarah and I are never gonna be anything more than what we are right now. [Chuck sighs] And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Things are different for Chuck and Sarah now, but they have to keep it just the way it ever was.

– joe


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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125 Responses to Chuck vs The Suburbs (2.13)

  1. joe says:

    I need to rectify one omission – Patricia Rae (Bolonia Grimes) has been one of my favorite people on twitter. Like most everyone ever associated with the Chuck cast, she’s personable, friendly and frequently happy to chat with fans.

  2. ChuckFanForever says:

    I always thought it was strange for Chuck to NOT to something special for Sarah for Valentine’s day. Cover relationship or not, he’s Chuck, he regularly finds excuses for special moments for her even on non-special occasions.

    • resaw says:

      Gotta agree with your comment here, CFF. I’m still not sure what to make of the Valentine’s Day opening scene. I appreciate both of your respective interpretations, Dave and Joe, but I still don’t get it. At the end of Best Friend, I read Chuck’s slight smile as just as ambivalent as Sarah’s appearance and the ambivalence and the “complicated” nature of their relationship flows through this entire episode, with the tone set right at this awkward beginning.

      The single word that defines this episode for me is “wistful.” There is so much that is hoped for by both of our protagonists, but it’s just out of reach. The breakfast scene gives us — and Chuck and Sarah! — just a glimpse of what could be, what they would like life to be for them, at some level. My, how it must have been tearing these characters up inside. The burdens that each of them revealed at the end, Chuck by means of his conversation with Ellie, and Sarah with those devastating facial expressions, restate the fundamental problem that Chuck and Sarah are going to be dealing for the next season and a half.

    • joe says:

      Yeah, especially when Suburbs is seen before Best Friends (as it was shown originally), that Valentine’s Day scene makes little sense. It doesn’t even do a particularly good job as showing Chuck as an awkward newbie boyfriend. I mean, he wasn’t that awkward before this – he’s been rather smooth, for a nerd, in fact.

      [Sarah seems to be bumbling a bit, romantically, too. That only makes sense if she’s now emotionally involved – something she’s not used to being.]

      All that confusion from the original out-of-order viewing carries over, I think. They left me with impressions about Suburbs (especially that Valentine’s Day scene) that I can’t forget, even five years later.

      And another thing – it always looks to me like someone was trying to say something with the movie Must Love Dogs that didn’t register. I detect a concept that wasn’t communicated. I’m not sure it was me missing something this time.

  3. FSL says:

    In my mind, this episode is built around the breakfast moment. Sarah enjoying herself for once, and Chuck knowing that this could be a real future, just not yet. And his speech to Ellie, I see as him squarely knowing that it is not yet, and he was not going to set himself up too much right now, not until this relationship is no longer a cover.

  4. Wilf says:

    For me, besides the breakfast scene, possibly the best moment in what is surely one of my favourite episodes, is seeing Sarah’s reaction when Sylvia and Brad are telling Chuck that Sarah has no feelings for him. In addition to Sylvia’s words actually confirming for Chuck that Sarah’s feelings for him *are* real, her fantastic facial reaction more than backs up that reality.

    • joe says:

      Absolutely! I went through about two dozen screen caps looking for the right one, and man, was it hard to decide! 😉

      I often take my own screen caps, but this week I had a problem. I updated my Fedora with their new release and haven’t yet restored that particular facility. So I (once again) relied on ChuckTV‘s galleries – they’re a real treasure.

      Thanks, Mel!

  5. authorguy says:

    I love the Suburbs, for some reason, even though I agree with all of your comments. I just love the way Sarah smiles at him across the yard at the backyard barbecue, and of course the breakfast scene makes its way numerous times into my stories. The Cougar scene was just embarassing for all involved, not just Chuck.

  6. Sorry to go off topic, but I saw the final performance of Golden Boy and it was a day I will never forget. Yvonne’s performance was even more riveting this time around because her real emotions came out during two of her most emotional scenes in the play.Her signature park bench scene in the second act is truly Tony Award worthy and is the best acting she has ever done in her career. Later on in the second act, I saw her wipe away tears,

    Her performance during that scene was all the more impressive as she and Seth Numrich had to deal with the distraction of a ringing cell phone! It was ringing about 30 seconds and the audience reacted to it, but they never broke character for one second. Talk about professionalism.

    The most impressive thing about her performance is that there are literally no signs of Sarah Walker in this character. She can play anything. People are calling this a career turning role for her and it really is. It took a lot of guts for her to take such a challenging and demanding role in her Broadway debut, and for her to receive such positive reviews from theatre critics is an amazing accomplishment.

    Congrats to Yvonne on a beautiful, and wonderful run on Golden Boy.

    • Wanted to add that after the play, Yvonne was absolutely MOBBED by fans, yet stayed for dozens of autographs and photos. I was not able to get through. but that’s okay, since I got to speak to her the time before. Yvonne was so generous with her time after all of these performances and she’s such a class act.

      Also, Mekenna Melvin was at the show and was with Yvonne when she came out of the theatre. It was nice to see her there.

      • Chlojack says:

        Jenny comments by females like yourself tend to be much more objective since you admire Yvonne for her talent and personality. When guys talk about Yvonne they tend to think with things other than their brain 😉

      • joe says:


        Actually, talk about Yvonne around here is generally about her acting talent and about her personable way with her fans. I can’t recall anyone not being respectful – really! (and I hope I haven’t missed something here)

        However, talk about Sarah may have once or twice been originating in “other places”, like you say… 😉 If the more crass guys (like me) rate Yvonne a 9 out of ten (she’s only human, after all), Sarah rates a 10 out of 10. “She’s Sarah Walker. She can do anything.”

        Funny how that works, huh.

      • atcDave says:

        There’s no doubt guys will notice a pretty lady. But I always like to point out; television in general, and Chuck in particular, has no shortage of beautiful women present if ogling is a guy’s main interest. Yvonne stands out because of the extraordinary performance she gave us as Sarah. Sarah has depth, strength and character that are the result of a very sophisticated and inspired performance. I also think it was the real breakout performance of the show; Yvonne will be a big name and respected professional, and we got to see it start on Chuck!

      • ChuckFanForever says:

        Sarah Walker is at least a 11+, probably more in Chuck’s eyes. =)

      • actDave,

        I absolutely agree with your assessment about Yvonne being the breakout star of the show. Her greatest strength as an actress is her mastery of subtext and facial expressions, which really sets her apart from the other actresses on television. Her acting style is very believable and natural, whereas so many other actors and actresses overact. Plus she’s very likeable and charismatic.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree entirely Jenny.

      • So apparently they’re making a movie version of the hit novel “Gone Girl” and a few people suggested that Yvonne would be perfect for the role. The only problem? They apparently want Emily Blunt for the role. It seems like a lot of roles that Yvonne would be perfect for go to Ms. Blunt. There are even rumors that Blunt is the favorite for Ms. Marvel.

        I really hope Yvonne will be able to break through in movies, but the competition is fierce. She’ll have to contend with Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Rachel McAdams, Natalie Portman and others. I honestly think Yvonne could be more popular than any of these actresses if they’d just give her a chance.

      • Chlojack says:

        Actually i made my previous comments about females like Jenny being more objective than guys about Yvonne assuming they are straight 😉

      • Robert says:

        Jenny Chuck Fan,

        Ms. Strahovski has the talent to break through in movies, and she’s probably even better than a few of the actresses you listed, but I think her future is more on TV and theater.

        And I agree with you about her talent and personality; she’s a beautiful woman too, and it’ll help her career, but pretty much every one (critics and fans alike) agree that she’s a very talented and accomplished actress. And we had the privilege to see her prove it as Sarah Walker!

      • Mel says:

        These days the best writing is in television, and it’s not even close. Some older actors are still being snobs and refuse to do tv roles, but the younger generations have no problem with them. I’m sure Yvonne will continue to do tv work in the future too.

      • joe says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised to find you’re right, Mel. The best writing (and maybe even the best roles) are on TV. But I also imagine there’s a lot of back and forth discussion about that amonst the pros!

        But as a desirable experience, I always hear that they love the immediacy – the immediate feedback – of live theater. I’m sure it’s important to them – and that’s understandable. We can tweet them now about our appreciation of something they did a number of weeks earlier, but applause right then and there has got to be nice.

        So given a choice – movies, TV, theater – they all have something to offer the actors, I’m sure. That Yvonne can do it all is to her credit. I’m glad she can take advantage of that!

      • atcDave says:

        I never buy the argument that TV writing is in any way superior, TV and movies both have good and bad writing (Lincoln or The King’s Speech were better than anything on television), but every medium has its own innate strengths and weaknesses.
        Craftsmanship is generally better on movies, but the stories have to be told quickly, even an epic is not much over three hours. Television can get a lot more involved and actors can establish a more meaningful connection both with their characters and the fans who care about them, but budgets and production schedules are tighter; and I always think there’s a fundamental dishonesty about a series story that may or may not get a satisfactory resolution based on weak or strong ratings (a highly rated story dragged out unnaturally too long is just as bad as one that ends without a proper resolution). As you said Joe, stage offers an immediacy the other mediums lack, but it’s generally more stylized and less natural than the others.

        Many actors will specialize in one format or another. But we’ve clearly seen Yvonne has both the interest and ability to excel in any of them. She really has huge freedom of choice.

      • joe says:

        In general, I think that’s true, Dave. Each medium has it’s strengths and weaknesses. But honestly, right now it seems that the only movies that can get made at all are aimed at a particularly small segment of the population with particularly undeveloped tastes (aka, “not me!”). Okay, there are a few exceptions, of course. But really, if the 40s were “the golden age of movies” and 1939 a high point, then this past few years don’t rate anywhere near the running.

        I’m sure writing isn’t the only reason, but they’re not writing particularly memorable ones these days.

      • atcDave says:

        But from the “golden age” we only remember those two or three movies that were made each year that were true classics. While the majority of films that were made as forgettable popular entertainment are ignored. I’d point out too, that a lot of the writers doing television are exactly the same people who write movies.
        At any given time, there is a small amount of high quality programming and a vast quantity of tripe. The exact balance of what’s being done well; whether its comedy, drama, movie or television will fluctuate every year.

      • It’s wonderful that Yvonne is flexible with her career choices and enjoys working in television, theatre, and movies. I think she’ll continue working in all three mediums throughout her career. She might get better offers in television than film, because she won’t have to compete against Chastain, Hathaway, Blunt, Lawrence, etc for roles.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, given your tastes I’m not surprised you don’t see the TV dominance others see. For me I see The Wire, The Sopranos, Justified, Breaking Bad (don’t follow Mad Men but it is a perennial critical darling) Rome, Generation Kill and BSG and Heroes. even though they faded quickly, Dexter, Son’s of Anarchy, Community, Parks and Recreation, and a few others like The Office (also faded and stumbled at times) and there are more that gave me a season or so of great enjoyment, whereas in movies, I can probably count on one hand the movies that I am impressed with in the last few years. Perhaps that’s a selection effect. Most movie concepts just don’t interest me. Not gonna see a transformers movie. Period. Likewise 80’s action heroes parodying themselves … OK, maybe worth a one time rental, but it is cotton candy, not the stuff I invest in.

        What I see, from my tastes, is there is a ton of TV I wanna watch, but don’t always have time for, almost no movies I care about, and come on, they’re down to re-imagining fairytales and comic books as their best options?

        The fact that JJ Abrams (disclaimer, not a fan of his TV work for the most part) is the guy Disney chooses to re-invigorate the Star Wars franchise speaks volumes to me. He isn’t a storyteller, he’s a creature of the TV genre, it’s always about drawing out everything to the end. Never, ever, open that mystery box, because inevitably, fan disappointment is the reaction.

        But sadly, since he sees the unopened box as his greatest storytelling tool, fan disappointment is practically baked into the cake.

        Granted, different genres, but as far as I can see, the storytellers are working in TV.

        As for Yvonne, clearly she can work in any medium or genre she chooses, but, your tastes aside, the meatiest work is likely to be in TV in my opinion, sadly in roles you aren’t likely to like. Sorry Dave.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie all you prove is that there’s more quality that matches your taste on television than in the movies. And you compare quality television to low quality movies, not a fair comparison at all. Honestly I don’t like most of the “quality” movies being made now either, I just disagree with the assertion television has any particular qualitative advantage. Both mediums are products of this age, both have fine art subjects, both have quality popular entertainment, and both have horrible bottom end tripe (I noticed Two and a Half Men or Jersey Shore didn’t make your list of quality television…).Yvonne herself lists Meryl Streep as a role model, an actor who has worked mostly in cinema, even recently. Ditto for Helen Miren, and Al Pacino, and Ann Hathaway. And yeah, I don’t like most of what any of them do, I’m more of an action-comedy guy. I’ve already mentioned I’m unlikely to enjoy much of Yvonne’s future work, but Zach has shown taste closer to my own, and he has also chosen a mix of television and movies.
        I guess to me the bottom line is, I spend more total hours watching television, the pure quantity of fun entertainment is greater. But I BUY far more movies, the level of craftsmanship on any given project is far higher on a movie. Just looking at the math its easy to see why; movies typically take 18-24 months to create a 2 hour product. While television is more like 6 to 9 months for 10 to 15 hours of product. And the difference on production values, including cinematography, editing, soundtrack, FX and script is often vast. Cinema is typically a more polished product. If current material isn’t so much to your taste, well that’s a taste issue.
        As I said, television does have certain advantages, like being able to tell a longer, more involved story. If that’s to your liking its not surprising you would prefer television. But in many cases that advantage is squandered with false complexities (like JJ Abrams is so fond of). To me, the biggest strength of television is its ability to bring familiar, loved characters into my home on a weekly basis. As long as they don’t try to keep dragging out the same story and actually wrap things up every week or two I find television a very satisfying medium. But I’d never call it better than cinema, just different.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh I’d also add, while I’m not a big fan of JJ Abrams television work, his Star Trek movie was outstanding. If he can do the same thing with Star Wars I will be a very happy boy.

      • jam says:

        Yeah, on average the quality of writing on top television shows has been superior to movies for quite some time already.

      • I don’t know about all of those shows, but BSG and JJ Abrams’ Alias both started fantastically, and then fell under the own respective weights after 2-3 seasons. The first two seasons of both shows were arguably better than the first two of Chuck. I like Chuck’s first two seasons better, but I think the quality of the story telling and writing was objectively better in Alias and BSG. All three shows had great starts that buck the slow start tendency of so many shows. As much as many people dislike Chuck season 3, _most_ of the problems were with the Charah story arc. Alias season 3 had problems with the OTP story arc, but also with the other arcs. Seasons 4 and 5 were worse. BSG fell so far it was scary. I don’t think either show had a single “jumping the shark” point, although there were several candidates. The problem was more obvious when comparing the shocking drop of quality between seasons 4 and seasons 1.

        Those two shows helped me recognize how hard it is to keep an intelligent, non-formulaic shows good for more than a couple of years. B5 held off for 4 seasons and dropped off in the fifth, primarily because a lot of the planned fifth season was crammed into the fourth, due to cancellation threats. I think Chuck’s annual resets managed to stave off a lot of drop off better than other shows. Farscape is another show that avoided the problem. (B5 and Farscape had the slow start problem, though.)

        What’s my point? There might be a lot of good or great TV show writing out there, but uncertain renewals and artificial season cuts inevitably hurt story telling and the quality of the writing after time. It’s a problem of writing for the TV medium. Outside influences hurt good story telling.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree 100% Jeff.

      • Ernie, I totally agree that the quality of television is far, far superior to film overall now. Cable dramas in particular are far more creative and original than the countless comic book movies, sequels and remakes. The serialized seasons, higher production values, HD picture, availability on DVD/streaming, has transformed TV seasons into 12-24 hour movies.

        MyNameIsJeffNImLost, you made great points about the quality of many shows declining in later seasons. With so many shows becoming serialized, I think we’re going to see fewer and fewer shows lasting longer than 5 seasons. That’s probably a good thing, because far too many showrunners don’t know when to call it quits.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh brother you guys. Television is superior to cinema in exactly the way blue is superior to green.

        You are applying objective language to a subjective issue. That is called bias.

      • I wonder if workload/schedule could also determine Yvonne’s future career choices. Each medium has its advantages and drawbacks for actors.

        Television: An hour long series on a major network is one of the most grueling for actors, as the hours are very long and intense. Cable offers much shorter shooting seasons, while sitcoms offer a more “normal” Monday through Friday working schedule. Since most shows are filmed in LA, most TV actors don’t have to travel, so that’s a huge plus.

        Film: Yvonne commented about the pace of shooting movies being much slower than television, so it’s probably a lot less exhausting for actors. Many movies are shot on location though, so the extra travel and being away from home for months at a time are a major drawback for a lot of actors.

        Theatre. Broadway has one of the most intense rehearsal and performance schedules, with 8 performances in a week and only one day off. There are also two days with double performances, so it’s pretty intense. Plus, it requires living in New York for months at a time.

      • atcDave says:

        I believe Yvonne indicated she wanted to do a movie next a couple weeks ago. That may just mean she likes doing different things all the time, or it may mean she had something specific already in mind. At any rate, opportunity may have more to do with what happens next than anything. Not to say she won’t have choices, I think Yvonne is likely in the strongest position of any of the Chuck cast when it comes to having choices, but at any given time her options may not all be equally good.

      • actDave, I remember reading about Yvonne possibly having a movie lined up next but not being allowed to talk about it. She does seem to pick her projects based on whether the character interests her, and the caliber of the cast more than the medium/schedule. And you’re right that she probably has a lot of choices at this point. She can probably even turn some projects down now.

        Also, there’s still no word on whether or not Yvonne is coming back to Dexter (or in what capacity if she is). Filming is starting in mid-February and her status is still up in the air. I have a feeling that if she does come back, it will be for only part of the season.

      • atcDave says:

        I would be willing to bet she’s already under contract for more Dexter, in fact, I’d bet she signed a two season deal in the first place but isn’t allowed to talk about it. They’re doing just like with Shaw in late S3 and S5 on Chuck, keeping it quiet for the sake of the story. But I would guess she is in one or two episodes only later in the season. It may leak out if she’s seen on set, otherwise they will try to make it a surprise. That could change if they decide she’s marketable in her own right (like if she signs a big movie deal prior to her episodes airing). And yeah, that’s all just wild speculation.

      • actDave, I think there is definitely a chance they’re trying to keep her return a surprise, but it will be almost impossible to keep her return a secret. Showtime releases Screeners of every episode (except the finale) to critics and guild members ahead of time, so friends of friends of friends often get their hands on the episodes (including a guy in imdb). Someone will definitely spoil it.

      • atcDave says:

        But it leaking out isn’t the same thing as a press release. Most viewers will be surprised when it happens, as long as they keep it out of the main stream press. Again, just like (both) returns of Shaw. We all had heard the rumors of Routh on set, but most viewers didn’t know until the week before. If I were a betting man I would say Yvonne’s deal with Dexter was long ago set up, and now they’re just trying to keep things quiet as long as they can. It might be leaked early for marketing reasons, but I’m thinking the writers would prefer to keep it quiet.

      • uplink2 says:

        I said before I would be stunned if the Dexter showrunners didn’t sign her to an option as it was rumored when casting notes came out it could be a multi season role. No way would they make a mistake like Schwedak did with Bomer. The issue may also be that they changed the shooting schedule and she may not be available but I expect we will see her at least in a few episodes towards the end of the season. If she does sign for a film she may be able to do both if the schedule around it.

        I find it interesting that she has gone radio silent on Twitter with the end of Golden Boy. I expect she is home in LA with the dogs or already headed for some vacation time. I don’t think we will hear anything for a little while on the Yvonne front. Though she may tweet on sunday!

      • aerox says:

        ‘mistake like Schwedak made with Bomer’

        There’s a major difference with being on a show that’s on the bubble and being on a show that, for all intents and purposes, is the flagship of the network. Signing an actor with the notes that he ‘might not even get to play that part later on’ is a huge difference to “oh sure, we’ll be here next year.”

      • authorguy says:

        If they’d signed Bomer for season 3 they wouldn’t have had to go with Routh. Bomer wouldn’t have gone for the deal later on, most likely, for the reasons you gave.

      • uplink2, I agree that Yvonne was likely signed to an option when she signed her original contract. She tends to go silent on twitter before a big announcement, so hopefully her absence there is a good sign. Yvonne has dropped a few hints in the past that she’s coming back, so it’s looking very good.

        I think it makes sense to have her enter around the midseason mark and keep her character’s whereabouts a mystery for a while. Hannah could make her presence known by leaving orchids for Dexter or something similar.

        Showtime wouldn’t comment on her return status, but they also wouldn’t comment on Damien Lewis’ status for Homeland. His return is almost guaranteed, so “no comment” seems to be code for “yes, but we’re trying to keep it a secret.” Dexter execs were adamant about Julia Stiles not coming back after season 5, so I think they’d say the same if Yvonne wasn’t.

      • Robert says:

        Ms. Strahovski tends to disappear for a few weeks after her latest job has ended. I remember an interview where she mentioned that after a job, the only thing she was doing is sleeping for 3 weeks in a row…when she’s working, she’s totally dedicated to her current job (and the fans), but when it’s private time, it’s private time. And it’s a sound way of doing things.

        Season 3 wasn’t supposed to happen, until the Subway campaign. Before that, it was difficult to entice Matt Bomer for a role in a show that, to all intents and purposes, was about to be cancelled.

        But it survived!!! And Season 3.0 probably would’ve been an entire different animal had Bomer returned as Bryce Larkin in the role that went to Shaw…more believable, at least.

      • Robert, that makes a lot of sense, and she must be exhausted after going from Dexter to Golden Boy without a break. I really admire her work ethic and dedication to her craft and hope she’s having a nice, restful break.

      • uplink2 says:

        Aweox, my point was that it’s called an option. A good showrunner would have included that option in an actors contract that by a certain point they had to either exercise that option or let it go. From all the rumors we heard the original plan for season 3 was that it would be Bryce in that role of mentor and possibly lover. Now why would you create a season’s outline to pitch to the network if you don’t have the cast lined up? Now they may have had bubble status but you still get your ducks in a row to make a successful pitch.

        What we ended up with was a weak, poorly conceived and poorly cast Bryce clone with none of what made Bryce such a great character and story element. That’s the difference and probably one of the reasons why Dexter had its best season ever in terms of ratings.

    • Chlojack says:

      Very interesting post Jenny. its nice to see some females posting here.

    • atcDave says:

      Great to hear things ended on such a high note. It will be great if that translates into more professional recognition!

    • joe says:

      One of my favorite memories from about 25 years ago was seeing Anthony Quinn playing Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof at the Kennedy Center in D.C. I was amazed at how he had such complete command of the audience. What you and others have said sounds very much like that! Magic.

      Thanks so much for that report, Jenny. I really, really wish I could have seen one of the performances (I enjoy live theater!), but that’s just not possible for me at the moment. Worse, I’m not familiar at all with Golden Boy, though I understand it’s a classic bit of theater.

      Reports like yours have really helped!

      • atcDave, Howard Sherman, who is very influential in the theatre community, recently broke his code of not commenting on performances, and singled Yvonne out on twitter. So I think that’s a very good sign of things to come.

        Joe, you’re quite welcome:D Yvonne has an incredible stage presence and fantastic vocal projection that really commands the audience’s attention. Not all actors are equally suitable for stage and screen, but she really is. She can command the stage and also light up the screen like few others.

  7. anthropocene says:

    Maybe I missed something, Joe, but I didn’t see Sarah’s look (after Chuck says “I have no wife”) as despondent. I thought the despondent look came right before, when Sarah hears Brad say, “Aww, he’s toast.” At that point she looked more like the despondent Sarah we see on the rooftop in “First Date” or after the Nerd Herder blows up in “Best Friend.”

    But in the following scene, I got the impression that the look Chuck gave Sarah as he said “I have no wife” was meant as a signal, and that Sarah picked up on it somehow, and realized that Chuck was still trying to figure out how to save them. To me, Sarah’s wide-eyed gaze up at Chuck after she’s strapped into the chair is an acknowledgment that this time, she’s the helpless one, and her fate is up to Chuck. And then, with a little timely help from Casey, Chuck protects Sarah in a very tender and touching way, with all hell breaking loose around them.

    And after it’s over—the looks that Sarah and Chuck give each other! They came about as close to a passionate embrace as is possible without actually doing it. And Casey notices and turns respectfully away.

    So maybe I’m over-romanticizing it all, but that whole scene is one of my favorites in the series, and I rank “Close your eyes” right up there with “Save you later” and “Take off your watch,” and other similar snippets. I loved those instances when Chuck had to save Sarah and nearly always came through (“Suburbs,” “Other Guy,” “Cliffhanger,” “Baby,” even “Goodbye” in my opinion—the agonizing exception coming in “Bullet Train”).

    • joe says:

      I’m not gonna say you’re wrong, Anthro. That particular scene, when Chuck saves Sarah from Fulcrum’s Intersect, is unclear to me for a bunch of reasons and open to interpretation, fer sure!

      I know that I’m convinced, without justification I admit, that Chuck winks only to Casey (saying, in effect, “I’m alright”) and that Sarah doesn’t realize Chuck is still with her until he says “Close your eyes.” The look on her face throughout could be from her thinking “Chuck is gone” or “He’s going to kill me!” or even surprise that he wants to say something specifically to her in that zombie-like state – sort of like “I don’t know what’s going on here.” It mostly looks like panic combined with a kind of hopelessness to me (and maybe I could have found a better word than “despondent”), the kind of look we don’t see often from Sarah Walker. To my eyes, she starts looking that way as soon as Chuck says “I have no wife”, as if she’s reacting to that.

      I always like the scenes where Chuck isn’t bumbling and comes through. Well, maybe excepting when he’s crawling through the Buy More’s air vents. 😉 This one is definitely one of my favorites, and done with very little physical action. That’s pretty cool in and of itself!

      • anthropocene says:

        I can agree that whatever she was thinking, that was not typical Sarah in that lab. Fortunately for her, that battle was being fought on Chuck’s turf.

    • atcDave says:

      I definitely saw it like you did Anthro. I think it would have been an intensely romantic moment except for the very end. The tragic part, that makes me less enthused with this episode, is that Sarah responds to General Beckman’s challenge by shutting Chuck down. And even worse, Chuck reads the rejection as personal, rather than professional.

      So I see this episode as an intensely romantic near miss. In another year they will have sorted this stuff out, but for now, I find it painful to watch. As I said at the very start, there are some awesome moments in this episode, but I think the ending renders it one of my less favorites.

      • anthropocene says:

        “Romantic near miss” is a good way to characterize the episode. Chuck and Sarah had too many of those over 2.5 seasons. Still, the occasional on-target moments, like Chuck taking care of Sarah in the Fulcrum lab, kept me confident that things would eventually work out for them.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, I never doubted they would get there eventually!

  8. resaw says:

    “That’s my wife. That’s Sarah”: Words Chuck had been wanting to say for a long time.

    So, when Chuck comes down for breakfast in his PJs, seeing Sarah delightfully cooking up a storm, I suppose we are to assume that they slept in separate rooms….

    While Sylvia (Jenny McCarthy) is busy seducing Chuck, we get cutaways of Sarah listening in. I’m not sure I understand Sarah’s expression there. Is she listening intently, concerned that Chuck get this part of the mission done correctly, or is she genuinely bothered that another woman is seeking to have her way with him? Or…? I’ll accept any reasonable interpretations.

    The “red” Fulcrum Intersect download contains Fulcrum intel. The more important thing is that he survived. I think that, to this point in the series, Chuck is uniquely capable of accepting Intersect downloads. Even Prof. Fleming at Stanford indicated that Chuck had a remarkable aptitude.

    I think that this episode might have been a better introduction for newcomers to the central themes of Chuck than Third Dimension. There is the conflict between the two worlds that Chuck inhabits, there is the mutual but oh-so-complicated love that Chuck and Sarah have for each other, there is the uniqueness of Chuck’s brain, there is even the download of an Intersect, albeit a Fulcrum version. We also get to see Casey, Sarah and Chuck working together. Even the sadness and disappointment at the end of the episode sets the context for the tension that drives this show forward. This is not as joyous an episode as some, but I still think it is a very good and valuable show in the series.

    • atcDave says:

      I think Sarah is unhappy with the situation, but is being professional as she always did in those first two seasons. She can convince herself she is simply concerned with the security of the Intersect, since Chuck has no training for this sort of work. Although I do think she has more awareness of her growing feelings for Chuck than she often did in the past, I keep coming back to only being a couple weeks from her self admission she was in love with him, and didn’t know what to do about it.
      This is definitely not an episode I’d use for introducing anyone to the show. I think its way too downbeat in the end, far more than is typical or representative. It plays too much like most television, and lacks some of the optimism and joy that so often set Chuck apart from most of what’s on the air. I also can’t imagine many of my friends appreciating some of the extra sleaze factor in this episode (Big Mike’s adventures and Cougar Lady); just way too much lowest common denominator stuff here, actually I think its a rather embarrassing episode. It is too bad, because there is some great stuff here (pretty much everything else involving Chuck, Sarah and Casey!), but to me the final verdict is too mixed.

    • anthropocene says:

      I agree, resaw, that the idea of Chuck’s unique brain was an important plot element, and unfortunately (imho) one that was not used consistently. Fleming introduced it in Alma Mater; then it reappears here; much later, Stephen B confirms it in the S3 closing arc (and it helps save Chuck in the S3 finale)…and then there’s something of a negative confirmation in S4-S5 as we see how Intersect uploads (albeit buggy sometimes) successively damage Hartley, Morgan, and finally Sarah. The instant superpowers of S3-S4, meh…but I was always intrigued by the idea of Chuck being fated, by paternity and maybe genetics, to be the only fully functional Human Intersect—even past the end of the series!

      • You know, I kind of agree, but only for the plot’s sake – especially in certain spots in season 4-5 when it seemed like everybody and their mother could download the intersect. It just didn’t hold up.

        On the other hand, I really enjoyed the thematic motif of later seasons – that even once the technology made Chuck’s memory abilities obsolete, Chuck’s strengths as a person made him the ideal intersect, not just the only person who could have it. I always thought it was such a huge statement of how far the character had come during the series that even when any agent in the world could get the intersect, Chuck was ultimately the only person capable of handling that power both responsibly and effectively. That was one of their more inspired ideas, if only they had introduced it better.

      • Wilf says:

        We also saw how the Intersect did not function properly in the two Gretas. They were rendered sort of soulless and robot-like and could not operate outside the parameters which the Intersect set for them. For example, Rick couldn’t defuse the nuclear device because it was too complex for the Intersect, but Chuck was able to use his own brainpower to think beyond what the programming was telling him.

      • anthropocene says:

        Arthur, I agree with your point completely—Chuck was not only fated to be the only right vessel, he was the only one truly worthy of it. And thanks, Wilf—I’d forgotten to mention the Gretas as other great examples of failed Intersects.

      • I never agreed with the stolen personality theory with the Gretas (although Wilf’s overall point is good). I just think that the Old Spice Guy dropped a bit of formality once he was dismissed from the mission and Casey was no longer his direct commander.

      • authorguy says:

        No, I always saw an opening for a plotline in which the Intersect took over the host, and to me the Gretas were that plotline. After Ellie made it more compatible with the human brain, others could hold the Intersect, but only Chuck was able to control it with his special advantage.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Since MyNameIsJeffAndImLost seems scarcer in these parts lately I’ll post the link to his Evolution of the Intersect page that usually gets put in these intersect discussions.

  9. Bill says:

    I have a nit to pick, folks. While I like this episode, and am a HUGE fan of Season 2 in general, I do find fault with Chuck’s conversation with Ellie about his relationship with Sarah.

    As Dave has pointed out, when these episodes originally aired, they ran Best Friend after Suburbs, not the other way around. On first viewing, that created alot of uncertainty as to exactly where the relationship was going, as Chuck and Sarah went from “never going to be anything more than we are right now” (Suburbs) to “yeah, you do” (Best Friend) to “do you want to break up with me again” (Beefcake)?

    However, I don’t think that viewing the episodes in the intended order fixes the relationship progression problem, or makes it any more comprehensible. In fact, I’ve come to view Chuck’s conversation with Ellie at the end of Suburbs to be an early indication of the showrunners’ struggle with the very powerful chemistry between Chuck and Sarah, and the increasingly necessary resolution of their romance. The showrunners were truly scared about bringing them together at any point during Season 2, and this is the first of several times they “punted” on the relationship to buy time (what happens (off-screen) between Colonel and Ring being another obvious example). So, I can only make sense of Chuck’s conversation with Eliie if I view it as the showrunners’ effort to put the relationship progression on hold, and therefore, the conversation does not ring true for me.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I agree exactly Bill. As long as the episode order is fixed, we’re only left with the period from the end of Suburbs to the end of Beefcake that is a little off feeling (one episode basically). But I felt pretty much from the beginning that much of the wt/wt on Chuck was simply serial television doctrine, and not really needed or even a good thing on this show. Now I don’t want to take that too far, I think there is a fascinating and legitimate issue/barrier that needed exploring; specifically everything related to Sarah’s professionalism and fundamental conflict of interest in loving Chuck, while needing to “handle” him as a government agent. And I don’t at all object to Sarah’s wrestling with those issues causing angst and uncertainty for Chuck. In fact, that energy and tension provided a lot of the emotional energy in the first two seasons. I think it was a unique and exciting way to tell such a story.
      But all the various love triangles involved (especially the next three; Cole, Hannah, Shaw) strike me as completely detrimental to my investment in the story and affection for the characters (they all feel like television formula, and cause me to like the main characters less). And as you observe Bill, they all feel far more like the writers getting cold feet and being scared to pull the trigger on the relationship. All three coming triangles feel contrived and false to me. Although Cole is the least of these, arguably, nothing really happened with Cole at all except Chuck got jealous for little reason.
      But Ellie’s role in it all particularly bothers me, possibly even more than the triangle itself. Largely for the same reason I don’t appreciate her role in Chuck “quitting” the agency at the end of S3; I simply don’t understand why Chuck is such a slave to her whims. I mean I know all the arguments others will use to justify his actions, but to me it reads as mentally deficient in a clinical sense. Chuck knows the issues that Ellie doesn’t. Chuck also loves Sarah even if the barriers currently seem impossible. I think he is an utter fool for first; what he tells Ellie, and second how he responds at the start of the next episode.
      Now no doubt, there are plenty of utter fools in this world, I know a few of them. But with Chuck’s likability and relate-ability as major selling points for this show, every time they portray him in such a pathetic manner undermines the entire foundation of the show. And THAT, will be a major problem with some of the stories ahead.

      • Robert says:

        Yeah, it’s clear that TPTB were scared to put them together. And when they finallly decided to put them together, they had a lot of trouble to do it in a proper and well written manner. At least, they did it!

        And while I’m not a big fan of the WT/WT trope, at least, Sarah dealing with Bryce, and Chuck dealing with Jill kind of make sense; they had to close a chapter of their respective past before getting together.

        But in a way, the main obstacle to their relationship becoming real was themselves. They weren’t on the same page, Chuck was ready, Sarah wasn’t; Chuck backed off, while Sarah was ready for the next step. As soon as they got on the same page, and told each other was was really going on, they got together (3.12, especially 3.13).

        I must admit that I often thought that Ellie was becoming more and more annoying regarding deciding what was good for Chuck. I especially remember a scene in 3.19, where Ellie is discussing with Chuck in the truck, and Sarah immediately comes at the window and asks is everything is allright; Sarah is competing with Ellie for Chuck in some extent. On the other hand, why Chuck seems a slave to Ellie, is that, in many ways, Ellie is Chuck’s mom, so it’s kind of a mother, daughter-in-law conflict…

        But as soon as Chuck decided that Sarah is his girl, Ellie kind of take a space back, even if it took a long time for Chuck to do it.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree with most of that Robert. I don’t entirely buy that Jill and Bryce stories HAD to be told, but I agree the intent was built in to the show concept to deal with them. And I’m mostly okay with how they were dealt with. I would have liked it better if Chuck and Sarah had, in turn, clearly chosen each other at the respective times, even with all the question marks and long odds against them. But both stories worked, even if they were a little more understated than I would have preferred.
        And I sure do agree that at least they finally delivered on the promise! Obviously I think they delayed too long, but they did ultimately give us two awesome seasons in a way that is very uncommon on television!

    • joe says:


      I don’t think that viewing the episodes in the intended order fixes the relationship progression problem, or makes it any more comprehensible. In fact, I’ve come to view Chuck’s conversation with Ellie at the end of Suburbs to be an early indication of the showrunners’ struggle with the very powerful chemistry between Chuck and Sarah, and the increasingly necessary resolution of their romance.

      Yeah, I understand, Bill. That discussion has been going on for a long time in a lot of forums, too. I can’t say you’re wrong.

      But Ernie’s often made a point about this that resonates with me. He’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s that, in general, we have to deal with the story as it was told. All the back-office stuff that you just know in your bones that went on between WB and NBC, between NBC and Schwartz, between Schwartz and Fedak and finally between Fedak and any particular set of writers and directors had to have it’s effects. Mostly, it means that no one concept came through unsullied and unadulterated, I’m sure.

      Sometimes I think that getting anything enjoyable at all out of all those stresses, strains and corporate needs is amazing. That more than a few can enjoy the final product is a miracle. So I won’t complain too much about about the oddities.

      I guess Chuck’s speech to Ellie at the end is a case in point. At the time, I thought that Chuck was being way too calm and giving up on Sarah way too rationally. It made no sense to me either, mostly ’cause I would have been ranting and raving in that situation (not the spy part, but the playing house part, ending the way it did). I didn’t really see it any differently after 3 or ever 4 viewings, either.

      But after seeing all five seasons (especially after S3, believe it or not), two things are different in my understanding. The first is that I have a much better feel for what’s in Sarah’s head now. I mean, I found Sarah to be impenetrable at first. Chuck understands her better than I did and knows how conflicted she is.

      The second is that Chuck is in love with her, yes, but not stupidly infatuated like a schoolboy. Chuck will bungle, be awkward and occasionally embarrass himself, but he won’t compromise his principles. That only becomes apparent later, but it’s a bigger driver in that speech than I ever understood before.

      Together, Chuck being rational, and Sarah forcing herself to take off the ring become more in line with their characters and with the story as it developed, at least, in my estimation.

      As for how enjoyable all that is, well that’s a whole ‘nother discussion!

  10. Bill says:

    Thanks, Joe, for your thoughtful reply. There’s no doubt that the showrunners put much magic on film over Chuck’s five year run, notwithstanding the many many pressures they faced given the show’s perpetual place on the bubble. That said, there were occasions when the showrunners’ plot and story decisions disrespected the characters to a greater or lesser degree (most notably in S3 of course). Chuck’s conversation with Ellie is an early example of this. It is a set-up for his ill-advised decision in the next episode to break up (again) with Sarah, which, in my opinion, only makes sense as a plot device, and doesn’t ring true to Chuck’s character, or the character’s understanding of his relationship with Sarah at that point.

    I’ll also say that I note my views on this not to denigrate the show, which is one of my all time favorites (and the only one I own in its entirety on DVD), but to think out loud about what brought about the events of Season 3.5 that ended my deep investment in the show, and turned me into a spectator rather than a participant.

  11. garnet says:

    I remember the “whiplash” feeling that I got when going from Best Friend to Suburbs. And even after several years it still doesn’t feel right.

    In any event although Suberbs is not one of my favourite’s, it isn’t a bad episode, I can’t say I am overly fond of the bedroom farce/Cougar storyline as I find CHUCK much more entertaining when I don’t feel the need to wince when one of my younger children are watching.

    What really was dropped was the potiential effects of the FULCRUM Intersect. We could have had then tension of a potentially rogue intersect, but really it doesn’t come up. Another opportunity missed.

    • atcDave says:

      Agree with all that Garnet. I was somewhat disappointed with most of the Intersect story-line from the 2.0 on, I think Chuck was much more interesting as the normal guy trying to survive in a dangerous world. No super-powers, please! And really, apart from noticing his occasional flash tinged in red, nothing else was ever done with the Fulcrum Intersect. I would have liked more of a story around Chuck having all the enemies’ records in his head. Might have been really interesting if the government and Fulcrum Intersects occasionally gave conflicting data! Make Chuck use his brains to interpret the results.

      • FSL says:

        Yea. That would have been a great subplot. Or certainly make Chuck more uniquely valuable because he has enemy intel, something no Gov issue Intersect will ever have.

    • authorguy says:

      Hmmm. I’ll keep that in mind when doing the next section of nine2five. Chuck’s been captured by the Ring and they’re going to be monkeying with the Intersect befor he gets rescued. That’s a complication I hadn’t thought of. Thanks for mentioning it.

    • joe says:

      Hum… I have a feeling, Dave, that you’re right. Chuck is more interesting as the normal guy who’s out of his element. But isn’t it true that TPTB agree with you too? I have a feeling that they weren’t all that interested with the Sci-Fi semi-hocus-pocus of the Intersect so much as in the nerd and the hottie. That’s why cool stories like conflicting data from the two Intersects (!! Love It!) were not done.

      And as I’m typing, I’m thinking of Castle right now too. These past two weeks, they’ve done just the opposite. They’ve ignored the romance in favor of the murder-mystery stuff.

      It’s a matter of balance, I think. They get to decide.

      • atcDave says:

        Well I think different writers liked different parts of the story better. I don’t mean to stir up trouble, but I think Fedak was mainly interested in Chuck as a super-hero, which really isn’t my favorite part of the story. I think the LaJudkins team and Kristen Newman had an interest in the characters that more closely matched my own. Most other writers were somewhere in between. Before this turns into another round of Fedak bashing I do want to say I think he is primarily responsible for the balance of action, adventure and humor that were such a big part of what I loved about the show. But ideally, I wish he’d done less with story and nothing with individual episodes, and played more of an oversight role.

      • atcDave says:

        I’m shocked Joe! I never expected you to agree with that. I’m just waiting for Ernie to tear into me….

      • joe says:

        Heh! I’m not sure what you thought I might object to, Dave. I too think Fedak is most responsible for the balance between the show’s different aspects that we did ultimately get, and it’s certainly true that you would have liked him to do a few less of the individual episodes in favor of more oversight. Right? 😉

        Anyway, yeah, it’s true that I’m okay, more or less, with the balance we got AND with the number and tenor of the individual episodes he wrote. I’m guessing that you’d prefer his input seem less “heavy handed” in some places. I certainly can live with that opinion if you can live with mine!

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, I just expected more objection to me not liking several of the Fedak penned episodes so much. I think the bottom line is I like more of the overtly romantic themes, and CF episodes always placed those second. I would have ended most episodes, and every arc or finale with JUST Chuck and Sarah together. Basically having their relationship anchor the show. But Fedak penned episodes virtually never did that, really Goodbye is the only time he did it that way, and we all know I have other objections to that ending…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        No worries Dave, you aren’t a Fedak basher by saying you are less interested in his forte, which is Chuck and his hero moments. He’s my favorite writer, with Matt Miller and Scott Rosenbaum coming close behind. Kristin Newman and LaJudkins are particularly good with Sarah, so I’m not surprised they rate a lot higher with you and others here.

        I think if you look at season 4 you can most clearly see Fedak’s hand, as the sole show-runner at that point, and you are right, he’s most interested in the superhero story combined with the comedy and action.

        The intersect always was one huge MacGuffin, so much as I’d love to get hold of Fedak’s notes or the show’s bible I doubt The Intersect makes more than a passing appearance as a plot device. When the intersect was important it had more to do with the family and the chaos that resulted from unleashing it.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave I should point out that Chuck Versus The Other Guy was a Chris Fedak episode that put Chuck and Sarah’s romance at the core of the episode, made it THE issue to be resolved, and then put them together from then on. I’d also contend he handled the romance pretty well in that episode.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie there is no writer I always disliked, and that includes Fedak. Other Guy was an excellent episode in its own right, had it been 3.01 or 3.02 instead of 3.13 it might even be a favorite of mine.
        I just looked over our episode guide again specifically looking at writers and pretty much everyone had some very good episodes to their credit. LeJudkins and Newman are consistently my favorites, but I also MOSTLY like Matt Miller and several others. In fact, every one of my least favorite episodes was written by someone who also wrote a favorite. Now you know I pin some of that back on over all direction (show running), especially those episodes that could have gone either way (like say, Suburbs) except for a sour ending.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I was just noting that Chris Fedak did have some interest and skill at the Chuck and Sarah stuff, though as you correctly point out he didn’t delve into it that often as a writer. I always think of Chuck Versus The Predator as the signature Fedak episode.

        I think more of the relationship angst came from Josh Schwartz’s side. Through season 3 he was more involved than 4 and 5, and it is his signature. That’s why I say look at season 4 and 5 for Fedak’s influence being most evident in the overall direction of the show and how the various writers respond. Now it does get a bit complicated because you also had a lot of turnover in the writers room in and after season 3, but compare season 2 to 4 when the writer’s were relatively stable (even though two very different groups). There are big issues between Chuck and Sarah, the kind that could cause a breakup, like First Fight and Fear of Death, but most are resolved within an episode or two and almost always end on an upbeat note for them.

        As for ending the episodes with Chuck and Sarah I think that would be tough to keep fresh and interesting as a matter of style, but then I’m not a fan of procedurals that recycle the same plot points weekly.

      • atcDave says:

        I do agree entirely about the influence of Josh Schwartz. Although obviously many excellent episodes were done under his watch, but the relationship angst was clearly his thing. As I mentioned elsewhere, much of that uncertainty and tension was a driving force in the first three seasons. And I think it worked, except as noted elsewhere, I’m no fan of triangles and I’ll always say it was dragged out 13 episodes too long. And yeah, I know there may have been multiple influences on that, but I consider it a very serious error regardless. Just by way of comparison, my wife and I had been watching Covert Affairs, and this last season we pulled the plug on it after about three episodes in a row we were pretty unhappy with. So Chuck staying in our queue over 12 episodes we disliked is a pretty significant investment/commitment for us.
        I do suspect I enjoyed the S4 we got far more than I would have enjoyed a S4 done under JS’ more direct supervision. CF did have the sense to move on to other issues for which I’m thankful, it was past time for it. My complaint that he didn’t focus enough on the romance is mostly a nit-pick. I think the final scene of an episode does more to establish the lasting memory than any other single scene (usually) can. And since the romance was THE dominant force in my investment to the show from about mid-S2 on I would have preferred it being the “anchor” scene for most episodes. And don’t get me wrong, I know that it often was, it just stands out to me that Fedak episodes in particular usually ended with something else. It wouldn’t even be worthy of a comment except that Fedak himself so often wrote pivotal episodes. So I end up with the situation where those big climax episodes are often not really my favorites (like how I end up liking Colonel FAR more than I like Ring).

      • Robert says:


        I must be blind! It’s the first time I notice plainly that Season 2 and 4 are very similar in the way they are constructed and resolved, except that in season 4, Chuck and Sarah are a real couple, or should I say, in the open now. Maybe that’s why I love Season 4 so much! I couldn’t put my finger on it (other than C/S together)…

        I may have some (small) quibbles with Seasons 3.5, 4 and 5, or things that I would’ve done differently, but overall, I’m very satisfied with Fedak’s job at the helm; not sure it would’ve felt the same with Schwartz pushing the WT/WT for another season…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well Robert, I would, and frequently do, contend that all seasons of Chuck are structurally similar based on the storytelling method and template they work from. In addition the arcs are likewise structured on the Hero’s Journey template, so you can often see similar arcs in similar parts of the season. Season 1 was cut short, so it isn’t as obvious, and seasons 3 and 4 were initially set to be only 13 episodes, so the back order can seem tacked on after what looks like a finale to the show, but the similarity is always there in my opinion.

        However, now that you mention it 2 and 4 are remarkably alike.

      • While I definitely agree that Fedak’s primary interest was Chuck as a hero, you could tell that he became completely entranced with the romance as the show went on. I still remember his last interview with vs. the Podcast, where he spends half the time talking about how the finale let the romance live on for him in his imagination – and you could see that in how it was the only part of the story that didn’t come to a definitive conclusion. Of all the story’s elements, that was the one he didn’t want to let go.

        Of course, I’ve always loved the maturation of Chuck’s (and Morgan’s) character, so I’m biased.

      • Robert says:

        I hadn’t thought about that, Arthur, but it’s true!

        Everything in the Finale was resolved; Morgan moving in with Alex, The Awesomes moving to Chicago, Casey going with Gertrude, Jeffster making it big in Germany…

        But Chuck and Sarah? All we know is that they are back together, but we don’t really know what’s gonna happen next. As if it was Fedak’s way of saying that their romance goes on, and that we can all imagine how it continues, but it goes on…which is nice, and very romantic…

  12. Mel says:

    Third Dimension, Suburbs and Beefcake are among of the weakest episodes of season 2, with Best Friend there in the middle being a bright spot. I remember being quite frustrated with this episode on the first viewing, and re-watches don’t make it any better.

    Variety had some new info on “Remember Sunday”.

    Apparently it’s directed by this guy:

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah it is a weak grouping; 3 of 4 episodes falling short to one degree or another. Easily the weakest stretch in S2.

      Thanks for the info about “Remember Sunday” Mel. Sounds more than a little like “50 First Dates”, but I’m sure we’ll give it a try anyway!

    • Remember Sunday’s plot sounds almost identical to 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and and Drew Barrymore.

  13. I don’t know why, but I find it hilarious that over 5 years, none of the Buy More crew (Jeffster, Mike, Emmitt, or Tang) ever bother to learn Sarah’s name.

  14. mr2686 says:

    I believe with a show like Chuck; one that has action, comedy, drama, romance, etc etc., fans latch on to certain aspects of the show that they really like and then feel an episode is weak if it centers more on other aspects. I personally feel it’s hard to find any weak episodes, and actually think 3D, Beefcake and Suburbs are great. The more I rewatch the series (I’m on my 4th rewatch), the more the series works as a whole and the more each individual episode fits in to the puzzle…but that that with a grain of salt since I really like season 5 as well as Chuck vs The Goodbye. In fact, the only thing about Chuck that I didn’t like was the way the Morgan character was written in the first few episodes of season 1, but that was changed/developed pretty quickly to become a character I really liked.

    • atcDave says:

      Although if we all felt that way it would make for some pretty boring discussions…

    • joe says:

      What? Don’t you know by now that EVERYONE MUST AGREE WITH ME, Dave? 😉

      Hi, Mr2686 (and may I call you by your first name, 26?). And a tiny bit more seriously, I do agree. 3D, Beefcake and Suburbs got a smidge of a bad rap, IMHO. Maybe some of it is deserved for the reasons we’ve discussed here, but I have no problem enjoying any of those episodes.

      • resaw says:

        For my part, I liked Suburbs a great deal, as well as Beefcake — even though I suspect it is about to get lambasted here in a few hours — but I continue to find 3D quite uninteresting; I have rewatched it multiple times, however, if for no other reason than it is part of the “canon.”

  15. mr2686 says:

    Hey guys! For the record, I always like discussing all things Chuck and love to hear other people’s opinion. It’s just that there just seems to be something in every episode that I really like a lot. Whether it’s pop culture reference (I love Chuck vs Operation Awesome in that regard) or episodes that bring either the story or a character to a new place, there’s just always something (even after 4 rewatches) that still makes me smile. I would say that after the original airings of the show, I was very uncomfortable with a few things in the show, but sometimes that had more to do with the spacing between shows whether it was recording a show and not watching it for an extra week, or the writer’s strike, or just between seasons, it just seemed like some story items seemed to exist a lot longer than they actually did. After purchasing the dvd’s and starting to rewatch, I can stop and start where it makes sense and just seems to flow real nicely.
    By the way, I really like this blog and it’s sure nice to see that there’s other Chuck fans that love the show as much as I do…and you can call Mike, but 26 is fine too…agent 26 🙂

  16. Christopher says:

    After the first few times I watched this episodes, I liked it especially the opening scene from Charah. This scene often tells me how clueless Chuck can be and its comical because Sarah bascially asked him out and he didn’t see it. Funny stuff, but I am not too thrilled with how Sarah was being very cold to Chuck about the cover
    She lead him on by cooking him breakfast, but was quick to take the ring back, and than became hypocritical by keeping the ring on. Don’t make any mistake about it Sarah Walker is my favorite Character on the show and I usually support her decisions especially how she acted in Season 3 after the Prague Incident, and Dave already knows how I feel about season 3.

    I am not a fan of encouraging adultery even if it is cover and for Chuck he still struggles to differentiate the two, which ultimately leads us to our third break up of Charah and the next one will bother Sarah more than the previous two just watch her body language.

  17. First Impression says:

    Valentine’s Day was apparently not a happy holiday for Team B.  Funny how all three were now living for the next mission.  Casey’s “Good luck as a normal couple,” was funny after Beckman tells him, “Not you Major Casey, we need a ‘normal’ couple” heading to the suburbs.  Then we entered a mix of the Twilight Zone and the Stepford Wives.  The whole neighborhood was Fulcrum?  Bizarre.

    Chuck spoke my favorite lines in this one.  First, “Oh, that’s … that’s my wife.  That’s Sarah.” He relaxed, smiled and melted.  No pretending there.

    Later, after Chuck woke up strapped in a chair, his first words were, “Sarah, Sarah.  Where’s Sarah? Where’s my wife?”  Again, no pretending.  When they asked him to join Fulcrum, his concern was for Sarah.  “I’ll do whatever you want, just let her go.”  Simultaneously, Casey broke his thumb to escape the cuffs.  As expected, but still enough to make me grimace. 

    With the Fulcrum download complete, it was as if Chuck then had the ability to outsmart these agents.  He acted as if he’d been programmed, but was playing it against them to free Sarah.  (Did it never occur to them that loading that information and not retaining control could be a danger to Fulcrum?  They were certainly sloppy, turning their backs on Chuck.)

    Casey reset the download. “Close your eyes.”  Chuck pulled Sarah’s head to his shoulder and grabbed her hand.  It was over.  “Are you ok?”  “Yes, you?”  Honest concern for each other.  Very nice!

    If Beckman had not told Sarah that the honeymoon was over, would she have gone back to the suburbs for a movie night with Chuck?  I’d like to think so.  Instead, Beckman reigned in Sarah, Sarah slammed on the brakes, and Chuck got whiplash – again.  

    • atcDave says:

      Hey good to see you’re still with us FI. It’s still a lot of fun seeing your posts as you work your way along.
      Definitely some good moments in this one! I actually love when Sarah smacks Chuck; kind of twisted, but so funny.
      Prepare for whiplash! Both weak and strong episodes ahead…

    • Christopher says:

      First Impressions,
      I kind of disagree with you here in this episode. We still see an immature Chuck here in the spy world. not like we will get in the next few weeks. In fact, I once wrote that this is an example of Buffoon Chuck in this episode. He could not leave alone the fact that she was cooking breakfast for him. She is glowing making the man she loves food and not have to worry about this is a similiar scene you will get in season 3 in Chuck vs the fake name in which Sarah will be glowing.

      Sarah for five min. was a normal girl, and the words out of Chuck here in this scene is the exact wants for each,
      Chuck Bartowski: You better be careful, Sarah. One day you might actually turn into a real girl.
      He is right and the truth is in the pudding she wants to be a normal girl and with Chuck she can be, but the elephant in the room always weer its ugly head

      We can blame the job for it. its easy to do that, but the truth is its the immaturity of Chuck in the spy world. much like Sarah’s in ability to understand Chuck and his need to save Morgan no matter the cost.

      Chuck forgot it was a mission they we on and if they go back than there is a chance Fulcrum will find him and her. and don’t forget Sarah kept the ring on longer keep that in your mind.

      • Joe says:

        You know, Christopher, I think you’ve got it. Except, I see that Chuck is immature, not only in the spy world, but in the dating/romance world too.

        I think we’ve watched Chuck mature in the Buy More, the spy world and in the relationship world throughout the series. The only place he never seemed to be a klutz was in the Buy More. But otherwise, he had a lot of room to grow.

      • Christopher says:

        Joe, they both are crap communicators even when married they cant get out of their way ever notice it takes a tradegy of sorts to bring the two together whether its phase 3 or best friend or baby

        Thesr two are in synch than going rogue to save Orion it makes u sratch ur head

      • Christopher says:

        The reason he is because he is the big potato there is no Ellie lecturing him or Beckman ordering him even Casey knows his role

      • joe says:

        Yeah, I think I understand. Sarah was as at-home in the spy world as Chuck was in the Buy More, but they both outgrew those worlds. Sarah was pretty much a klutz in relationships too, even if she did know how to fake it, like she did with Cole Barker in Beefcake and with Manoosh later on in Nachos.

        And Sarah as girlfriend was someone who was definitely out of her element, as we see in the last half of S3. 30 foot rule? Really? She has no idea how to share her space, which is rule #1 for intimates (and for those of us who grew up in large families, which is a whole ‘nother story).

        Maybe that was the whole point of Sarah taking so long to move in with Chuck after Paris and taking even longer to say “I love you.” When you think about it, she was as awkward in that world as Chuck was in spy world, and both had to learn how to cope.

      • Christopher says:


        The issue we have when it comes to Chuck and Sarah boils down to 2 things he is new to her world she is new to his world I am a firm believer when Sarah walked into the buy more she assumed that it was going to be a simple assignment. However, 2 scenes changed everything for Sarah the little ballerina and 1 line that change an assignment into a real date “i can b your baggage handler” from this point on Sarah was never going to leave Burbank.

        We fast forward to suburbs we get a glowing Sarah cooking for Chuck she’s happy. Fast forward to fake name and we see a glowing Sarah again cooking alive until reality strikes I don’t understand the purpose of Hannah. After several re watches I have come to the decision the Hannah was pointless. If you can tell Sarah in Prague I can’t then follow it up by jumping into bed with Hannah it makes no sense writing wise to do such things.

  18. First Impression says:

    Thanks Dave! Work has been getting in the way of my Chuck viewing. (How dare they!). But I reaIly can’t complain. I just returned from a week-long conference in CA. The weather was perfect and my kids better vote me #1 Mom for taking them to Disneyland on their Spring Break! For now, I’ve returned to the real world playing catch up with everything. 🙂

    Congrats on completing your rewatch! FI

    • atcDave says:

      I hate when work does that! Glad you had a good trip though.

      We had so much fun doing the re-watch. Even those episodes that generated more argument than entertainment, it was fun to discuss over everything here.

    • Joe says:

      Ditto what Dave said. It’s been great to re-visit all these episodes again.

      You know, I’m almost ready to start over from the beginning.

  19. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Suburbs (2.13) | Chuck This

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