Chuck Versus The Pink Slip (3.01)

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The Very Conflicted Agent Walker

This week I’ve volunteered to step in for Dave to spare him the re-watch.  I hope to be able to keep to the schedule as well as him throughout the front 13, or if you prefer, The Misery Arc™,  and start some interesting discussions as well, but I think this works out well in another way.  Of the two of us I am far more invested in the things season 3 concentrated on, serialized drama, conflict, flawed characters hitting bottom and then finding their strength and moving on.  But most of all this season is about conflict.

I want to talk about conflict, but hopefully without causing too much. In every fictional account ever written, be it a comedy or drama, there is a central conflict that must be overcome. It forms the basis for the characters actions and reactions and its eventual resolution is typically the climax of the work.  Conflict breeds strife and loss and confrontation and adversity and triumph.  All the things that make for great drama.  And with everything else it is, Chuck is also a serialized drama and a love story, despite what we may wish.  Conflict, strife, failure, adversity and inevitable triumph will be a part of Chuck.  The highs are much higher when you’ve seen the lows, and there is no triumph or growth without the failure or shortcomings to be overcome being presented as real.

In Chuck conflict is metaphorically the DNA of the show, represented by every episode’s title. Chuck Versus MacGuffin of the Week. Something that must be overcome, be it the consequences of a Tango or a Seduction, or Sarah’s high school re-union. Conflict is also one of the show’s central themes. How do you resolve conflicting visions of your future, conflicting loyalties, conflicting world views? With a basic structure other themes have been added that run throughout the entire series. I’ll get in to some of those later, but for now let’s stick with conflict.

I know this episode and review is likely to cause some conflicting emotions and opinions, but I want to delve into it anyway, because upon re-watch I am seeing the end run of season 2 and the start of season 3 as a lot more linked thematically than I ever realized. Some of you may not like the way this new view changes the context of things or changes our view of the central characters in the serialized drama part of this, because both of them may be seen in a negative light at times. If this bothers you I’d prefer you not read this post.  I don’t want to be the source of something that upsets any fan.   While I admit that season 3 and this episode have their problems, I won’t dwell on those aspects. I’ve done them to death and have absolutely zero interest in revisiting them. If you feel it necessary to comment on them, fine, but comments that talk about TPTB’s bad choices rather than how those choices play out for the story are just another round of re-writing the show you wanted as opposed to seeing the show we got. This re-watch was to revisit the series in it’s entirety, with the full knowledge of the entire journey and see how the context changes and how we see things now.

I know I see things very differently now, especially regarding these early season 3 episodes.  There are hopeful moments and epiphanies and some great Charah developments even in the dark times.  But still I say this with a bit of trepidation.  Join me for another look at Chuck Versus The Pink Slip, after the jump.

I think readers can rightly accuse me of being an apologist for season 3. In traditional terms an apologist is a defender of something he believes in against what he perceives as baseless or irrational attacks. In this case I don’t think the attacks are irrational or baseless, I think the attacks go to far and too deep into trivialities or misread what we’re shown or told.   They also come from anger that the show you wanted was not the show they made, and while that anger is legitimate and understandable it removes the one from real serious criticism of the storytelling.  If you reject the very premise you will never make sense of what follows.  I intend, in this and subsequent episodes of the front 13, to concentrate on TPTB’s intent to the best of my abilities, in the context of themes we’ve seen come out of this and previous and subsequent episodes, without passing judgement on those choices.

Each time we go through this there is a chorus of “but they didn’t have to go this route,” and yes that is true, but it is a tautology, entirely true, yet meaningless in discussing the way they did go or why.  There are always other possibilities, but for some reason TPTB felt this was the right way to go, and after that the second guessing adds little to the discussion of how we see these episodes now.

I fully acknowledge there were real problems with this season. Some were just taking what had been clever plot devices and using them past their shelf life. They relied on TV tropes that no longer had a place in the story, like my least favorite, each member of the romantic pair must sleep with someone else first, necessitating not only potential, but real love interests for both. Worst of all, to me, they let the plot dictate the pace of the story to the point that any progress on the story was stalled without adequate explanation or exposition as to why, waiting for the right week in the plot to be allowed to move again. When the exposition that gave context to the delay came, it was a bit to back loaded, almost too late for it to re-contextualize what we’d seen. To do this they ended up using some sometimes clever, sometimes heavy-handed and disingenuous plot devices. The most notable being Daniel Shaw. But there was a lot to work out to make a relationship begun out of deception and developed through manipulation, lies, threats and rejection seem not only plausible, but right, and heart-warming.

In Chuck Versus The Ring TPTB pulled a Chuck. They snatched the edge of the tablecloth and pulled it out from under everything, and what you thought was the foundation, the thing everything rested on wasn’t there, but everything was still in place. Well, except when he pulled out that tablecloth a few things had shifted a bit, and were a bit wobbly, and all it took was one little nudge and you’ve burned the soufflé and ruined the dinner party. And that metaphor was the easy part of this intro. Because now I have to make my case that they didn’t, even though they did. In my earlier posts on the end of season 2 I’ve tried to make the case that the seeds of this episode are being sown as early as Chuck Versus The Beefcake and shift into high gear around Chuck Versus The Predator. While by the end of this episode Chuck and the gang will all be in very familiar circumstances there has been a fundamental change in who these people are and what they want from life.  Familiar situations now seem foreign, circumstances once accepted as part of their worlds disturbing, and established relationships, while continuing, inexplicably changed.  Chuck is breaking free and will no longer let others tell him what life to live, and in the last few moments of season 2 seizes control of his own destiny.  To do so he ripped that control away from the person who’d had it for the last two years, Sarah.  That has changed everything.

As they say, how’s that workin’ out for you?

Back in the day I wrote a few pieces that were pretty harsh on the decision to so completely split up Chuck and Sarah in this and subsequent episodes. And I didn’t write a third. The first two were Geometry 101 and Chemistry 101. The third that I didn’t write was Physics 101. I sort of did a version of that here, where I talk about the seemingly inexplicable change in the momentum of the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, likening it to a near collision between two bodies in motion that are mutually attracted.  The mere attraction can draw them toward each other changing their trajectories, but they don’t necessarily come together on that first close pass.  I’m glad I never did the full post, because I never would have been able to properly see or explain how that apparent shift fits with the show until I saw those final moments on the beach where Chuck and Sarah reconnect against seemingly impossible odds.

The theme, present throughout Chuck, that plays out in Chuck Versus The Goodbye, and most particularly on that beach is that we both change and are changed by the people we love. I have to credit Mo Ryan for putting it down in writing so that I could knock my head and exclaim YES! Thank you! I’ll wait till we get there to fully dig into it, but on the exact same beach where the journey started we again have one of our heroes scared, confused and facing an uncertain future, and we have the other strong, confident and caring enough to tell the other it will be alright, that they can count on each other to make it through. Suffice to say it is a very different Chuck, and though she and others may not think it, a very different Sarah on that beach than the first time.

We both change and are changed by the people we love, sometimes in inexplicable and confusing ways. Sometimes those changes can seem like we’ve lost something, even though it’s still there, and sometimes those apparent losses blind us to what we’ve gained. That is a theme that will run throughout the season. But in this episode, we see the consequences of the changes season 2 wrought.

In Chuck Versus The Ring, perhaps without full knowledge of the situation, Chuck made a choice about his future. We saw the process. It was made quickly, but it was a considered choice. Much of it was about how his whole life others had sacrificed to protect him, Bryce, Sarah, his father, and how time after time he chose to turn his back on those who asked him to be a hero, either unwilling or unaware, allowing their sacrifice, but selfishly refusing to do so himself.  A lot of it was probably about Sarah, the last snippet we see as Chuck makes his decision looks in retrospect and from Chuck’s point of view, surprisingly like an invitation to join her team and come with her.  A decision he makes without knowing that Sarah had decided she wanted to stay with him and try “normal”.

The next time we see Chuck he appears to be a very different man.  Beckman is in the role of handler as Chuck works to retrieve a briefcase.  While this time through we know what is up it’s still important to look as if we are seeing the story for the first time.  It is how we see the questions TPTB want us to ask, the ones they will then answer.  We very quickly learn that Chuck is still in training and things aren’t going so well, oh yeah, and he’s still Chuck.  Albeit a more ambitious Chuck who embraces the chance he’s been given… until he flunked out. He sacrificed his chance for nothing.  And he lost Sarah because of it.

And then we see Sarah as Chuck always imagined her, with a man worthy of her, and we are given no indication that this is a mission at first.  Did Sarah leave the spy life, land the big fish (or allow herself to be landed) and opt for a different sort of love than Chuck and his very normal family offered?

With a slight digression to a wallowing cheese-ball addicted Chuck (and I still find those scenes funny) we quickly find that Sarah is still a spy, and Chuck did the right thing, horribly. She was going to give it all up for him if he’d let her.

Here’s where it gets fuzzy, but I think there’s a through-line. Chuck made his choice. He made his choice to stop letting others sacrifice their lives for him and to join the fight, fully aware that he needed to accept the consequences. Chuck steps up and takes control, once again becoming that guy.  He’ll be drawn back into the spy world, and Sarah may have just quit based on what Bryce said. He makes his choice fully aware that he may or may not have Sarah to help him this time, but hopeful that it is the right thing to do for both of them. Remember, Chuck got conflicting stories from Sarah and Bryce. Sarah said she was leaving, Bryce said she wasn’t coming with him.   Sarah had ample time to tell Chuck she was staying with him. Conclusion?  Sarah is conflicted and Chuck knows it.  Sarah may have been willing to quit, but based on their conversation in the morning of the wedding it clearly wasn’t something she was completely ready to do.  And Chuck has seen that Sarah needs someone in her life, a partner who can protect her and help her.  It was to be Bryce, but Bryce is gone and Sarah will need someone, so Chuck decides to be “that guy” for Sarah.

Chuck then is given another choice. Sarah’s phrasing is important. “I’m ready to be a real person again, with you.” So yes, given the chance to finally be with Sarah, he says yes.  But here is where things change for me.  I can see exactly why Chuck says no, and little else.  And I’ll agree it is a selfish choice, with a caveat.  Chuck has seen Sarah’s penchant to run when she fears she is going to lose Chuck, and now knows she has genuine feelings for him.  But Chuck doesn’t like himself and doesn’t feel worthy, and here is where Beefcake plays into his choice.  How long would it last?

For two years Sarah ran Chuck’s life and looked out for him. Remember, protecting and keeping Chuck out of the bunker was even more important to her than being able to be with him, even though her feelings were, as Chuck now knows, genuine and real. But she sacrificed having either the exciting spy-life he imagined or a real normal life for his sake, and in Barstow, he got a glimpse of what she was proposing would be like. They could be together, but neither would be a spy, and neither would be able to have a normal life. Sarah would basically become his handler with benefits.  He’d forever be dependent on her, and he’d forever feel like that jealous loser in Beefcake who wasn’t man enough to keep his girl.  How long could it last till he started to resent her or she him as they did in Beefcake?  Also, is Sarah doing this for herself or is she sacrificing  for Chuck again? Does she want a normal life as a normal person and that is why she was (according to Bryce) willing to stay in Burbank? Was she ready to sacrifice her desire to be a spy to be with him? Could he live with himself if she did?  Chuck has to say no, it is the only choice he has, if you buy the show’s premise that the two of them couldn’t talk out what they wanted and why, which at this point I do.  They may not fully know themselves as we see  played out in Honeymooners.  At least this time Chuck is willing to step up and stop the both of them from making a huge mistake.  It will cost him, but hero’s are willing to pay a price for doing the right thing.  It also gives Sarah something she has rarely had in her life, a choice about her future.

Sarah has a choice that she wouldn’t have if they’d run. Decide the kind of life you want, not based on what you think Chuck needs or wants, but based on what you want. Chuck is giving Sarah the choice to choose him, the spy life, or neither. But it will be her choice, and not based on sacrificing herself for his benefit. He made his choice to make a difference because he had a gift. He made that choice fully aware that it was his alone and it could cost him Sarah.  Chuck wanted to be a spy. He also wanted to be with Sarah, but Sarah would have to make that choice to be with Chuck too.

It is pretty clear we were meant to momentarily wonder what choice Sarah made as she tosses her phone into the pool, until we find out along with Chuck that she is still in Burbank, and what Chuck needs to do.

Sarah wants to be a spy (so far as Chuck can see), but she’s also had her heart-broken, by him. At the very least he wants to explain Prague. That he didn’t reject her because he didn’t love her, but because he loved her too much to make her choose him over everything she’s ever worked for. There is also likely a part of him that hopes he can win her back, but since she’s made her decision to be a spy it means he has to follow her into her world. Becoming a spy had been the right choice for both of them, and he was wallowing in defeat rather than doing what needed to be done.  Both Prague and Chuck deciding to try to be a spy again was him re-affirming what he did in Ring. Make a choice to stop letting others decide your life, and stop letting others sacrifice for you.

What Chuck doesn’t know is that Sarah sees Chuck as her only chance at normal. Without him she’s just a spy. So while Chuck feels becoming a spy is the only way to give them both a chance to choose each other without asking the other to give up everything, Sarah sees it as a potential nightmare played out in front of her.  Sarah has protected Chuck from the nastier aspect of being a spy, but she knows they are out there waiting for him.  Without her to protect him this time he’ll learn of and confront the moral compromise and the painful isolation that are a part of a spy’s life.  And Sarah knows it will change Chuck the way it changed her.

But as much as Sarah wants to protect and preserve “her Chuck” she needs to let him go and become his own Chuck if he’ll ever stand a chance of getting the life he wants with the woman he loves.  It’s painful to watch her still trying to exercise that control in the kitchen at El Bucho.

Casey: Why’d you knock him out?

Sarah: It was a slap.

Casey: Mmm.  Lemon’s got a glass jaw.

Chuck: I was caught off guard on an empty stomach, okay.  I didn’t eat anything. I can take a punch.

Casey: You mean a slap.

Chuck: I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry, guys.  I didn’t mean to screw anything up. I just came here to help out.  Things went wrong in Prague, I don’t know why, but I know that I can do this.  I can be a spy.

Chuck: Sarah, you know I can.  Please.

Sarah: Get him out of here.

Even the two years Sarah spent building Chuck’s confidence in himself is now working against her, but she can’t take it back.  She’s changed him, and he’ll never even consider staying in the car again.

About a year ago, out of curiosity and with Alan Sepinwall’s assurance that it was OK, I delved into The OC, Josh Schwartz’s breakout hit. I now see his fingerprints all over Chuck, but that is more digression than I want right now. My reason for bringing this up is that the season 2 to season 3 transition is so remarkably similar to Schwartz’s season 1 to season 2 transition in The OC. Throughout the preceding season people have stepped into and been exposed to each other’s worlds, and have formed a family because of that. They have changed each other in the process. But because of events they can’t seem to control, that family has been shattered and scattered. But that scattered family, and how they come back together, how they re-establish that family, even if tenuously, is, like in The OC, the story of this first episode. It was a lot of work for 43 minutes, and may not have been fully complete by the end, but it told the story of our heroes coming back together and reforming, whether they knew it or not, the most important relationships in their lives.

It’s a powerful storytelling tool, because it forces us to ask if the characters can still be a part of that family they formed under very different circumstances and as very different people.  It makes that growth permanent, even if there may be lapses and regression.  They are back together as new people, and the question, will that family, will that love still work, is paramount.  The Sarah Chuck fell for was perfect and distant and unobtainable, she didn’t need him, yet somehow wanted him.  The Chuck Sarah fell for was sweet and gentle, willing to take a back-seat and would never hurt her.  Things are very different now.  The same forces that drew them towards each other have also re-shaped them into different people and we have yet to see how, or if, those two people will make things work.

As for understanding the story going forward it may seem trivial but it needs to be mentioned.  This episode is bracketed with Chuck zip-lining to get out of a situation.  The first time, he fails.  Is it because he knows it’s a simulation and that all he’s doing is unnecessarily risking his life?  Is it because he’s without Sarah?  The second he succeeds.  Is it because there is real danger and lives are on the line?  Is it because he’s with Sarah and she needs him?  Remember also that the episode is bracketed with Sarah first failing to believe in Chuck and then trusting him to save them both.  I’ll get into this more as the season proceeds.

In a way, while they have altered each others trajectories, the changes are still happening.  Sarah has decided that being a spy isn’t enough.  She’s experienced love, perhaps for the first time in her life, and has decided that love and family are worth the sacrifice.  But she doesn’t fully understand that to really give herself to another she has to live with the consequences of vulnerability and devastating loss, like Chuck felt, more than once.  Sarah is new to this and so her concept of how they could be in love was unintentionally selfish.  Having missed her moment during the dance Sarah then asks Chuck to give up everything for her.  In season 3 Sarah will try again to find something, a connection, and will fail spectacularly, because Shaw isn’t Chuck and is, like Sarah used to be, someone who lets his whole world be defined by the fact that he is a spy.  But the lessons she learns are important ones.  You don’t own those you love and you can’t ask them to remain the same for your sake if they need to grow for their own.  Sarah wonderfully bookends this in Honeymooners. “I don’t want you to have to choose me over something you want for yourself.”

There was always a question posed by TPTB.  Was it Chuck that Sarah wanted or Sarah that Chuck wanted?  Or was it what they represented?  A normal life, love, safety, a home. An amazing partner, excitement, adventure?  Those questions were answered definitively in this episode, at least for Sarah, and I think that was the real purpose of such a heartbreaking breakup, and it is what ultimately saves it for me.  Sarah’s heart has been broken, yet we see she still loves Chuck, and that puts to rest the question.  Chuck has failed again and will have to fight to win Sarah over again, all the while getting the life he fantasized about, and while he may lose sight he does remember why he chose to start this journey.  Each of our heroes answers the question in this episode, and this season.  It is Chuck.  It is Sarah.  Now that we know, we just need to get them to that place.  It may take a while.

In the end, the Physics 101 metaphor works. The attraction pulling Chuck and Sarah together was and is real, but they just weren’t quite lined up yet. Sarah has changed Chuck into someone who despite his protestations doesn’t want a normal life. He wants to see the world, be a hero, make a difference, he wants to matter. Chuck has changed Sarah. She’s realized that being a hero and saving the day doesn’t matter to her if it costs her everything, like a real home and real love and you are left as a shell and a tool of others, absent your own moral code. Each has taken on the idealized portion of the other that they’ve craved for so long. The reality needs to sink in for both of them. The trajectory that looked like it would bring them together was in reality a near miss, but don’t worry, they’re still bound, and will come back around even though their separation seems too long and too far for what holds them together to overpower what seeks to tear them apart.

~ Ernie

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Faith: Well I’m back, and perhaps a moment too soon. I say that because…well I love all of you, I love the show but all of this has been pretty tough to take. With season 3 ahead of us (in fact, it starts with this post), it doesn’t look to get any better.

Full disclosure on front 13: I didn’t care for it. Personally, as a matter of taste and as a matter of intent, it was not my preference (don’t you hate it when people open with that?). But through time, through this blog and through all of you I gained understanding and through understanding, acceptance. I feel the fatigue much like Ernie does, but where we differ is that I still see the possibilities of that lightbulb moment for any one of you, much in the way it came to me. Today, I can no more see the series without the front 13, than I can see the series without any stretch of any season. From a story-telling standpoint, I have come to accept (and in fact now insist) that a lot of what took place in this front 13 was necessary for the rest. More on that later I’m sure.

So, Pink Slip.

As emotionally wrenching scenes go, there are few that exceeds, or even matches Prague. Dave will tell you that it’s disingenuous, Ernie will tell you that it’s necessary–I’m somewhere in between. It was a painful, out of character and necessary event. Agree or disagree, it was powerful. The whole point of the scene wasn’t just to play an emotional yo-yo out of us, the fans, but to also illustrate the loss, the pain, the heartbreak (mostly for Sarah) and yes, disconnect. For Chuck, it was a choice.

For too long, we’ve seen Chuck go with the flow. Sarah dictated their relationship for the bulk of the 2 previous seasons–rather Sarah’s non-actions dictated their relationship. I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t want to be a spy, I want–” (Ring) is a choice by Sarah. Indeed, it is a choice, an incomplete one but a choice nonetheless. The romantic in me fills those words in with “..to be with you. I want to be with you. (Damn you, Stephen Bartowski!)” What that entails then becomes the issue going forward. That is after she heals from being anchorless.

As for Chuck, he has never really fought for her, never really went after her until the last 6 of the Orion arc (conveyed best with his “I’m going to live the life that I want, with the girl that I love,” from Lethal Weapon). When he was finally given time, and some space, the best he could come up with was that he wanted to travel with her (weak!). And so Chuck, when push came to shove made the wrong choice. He made the wrong choice–the selfish choice, the heroic choice, however you want to see it–it was the wrong choice for what was for him (at the time) all the right reasons. This is built on in American Hero, more on that when that episode is up for discussion.

So what are we left with? Clearly emotions were cemented in season 2, and with emotions, intent. But what of the extent and the future? Do they…spend their lives as spies… go on as they were? Do they run away together? What do they do? Again it goes back to choices. That’s what season 3.0 was about (to me), choices. The underlying theme in an otherwise thematically dark and painful season, the ultimate in all of humanity: free will. Ernie will of course argue and say it’s destiny but we know how much he enjoy’s the hero’s journey (just kidding Ernie). Choices are hard, and in true form, the season was too.

Pink Slip for the most part was the characters reeling from Prague’s choices. Sarah made her choice. Perhaps most painful for those of us who associate with Sarah Walker–she finally put herself out there, after a lifetime of distance and covers, she put herself out there. She let herself be vulnerable and was rejected. Though her choice was reverting to form in one aspect (she always feels the need to run), it was still a departure for her as this time she thought she was running with someone. Later on, this will evolve into something healthier, something far better in that she is running towards someone/something. First, the pain before the healing.

In general I thought the episode was pretty dark, almost mean (again goes back to emotions and personal taste). It’s as if it is served to punish Chuck for the choices he made, and it wouldn’t let up but that’s sometimes the consequences of free will. As Ernie mentioned above, conflict. True heroism, true character builds from conflict and Chuck started the healing with Pink Slip. More, Pink Slip and the subsequent episodes served to humanize our heroes: make them vulnerable, capable of major mistakes, capable of inflicting pain towards one another. The idealized characters we have grown to love are no more, and in time I’ve grown to love these ones just as much. You may be wondering why, well because they’re you and me. In some ways they’re more honest because they’re real and they come from a deeper place within all of us that we may not acknowledge but is part of the human experience.

Finally as an aside, the machinations outside of the story/outside of the plot should never be far from our minds. In theory, whatever changes one enacts is done with the overall outline in mind but life and television is far too tenuous for that. Especially Chuck. So always remember, season 3 was a reboot in so many ways for so many reasons. To TPTB’s credit, they tried. Whether they succeeded or failed is obviously up to the eye of the beholder.

~ Faith

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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93 Responses to Chuck Versus The Pink Slip (3.01)

  1. Good evening Enie Davis, Joe, actDave, Liz, Faith and Chuck fans all over the world! I wrote a two part blog call CHUCK S3 WHAT WAS IT REALLY ABOUT 2 YEARS AGO! It consist of a short story and my personal opinon of the 13 original episodes. But I’m having technical difficulty with my blog,but I will have it working somtime tomorrow!

    P.S please read my comments on the “RING”.

  2. seguist says:

    Ernie, I really like your analysis. It’s great to have the Misery Arc put into perspective. I’m not sure I agree they couldn’t talk in Prague. Chuck certainly could’ve tried to explain his reasoning (usually he’s very talkative about his feelings). But otherwise I agree with your argument.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      At this point I look at the not talking this way. Old habits die hard. They’ve both trained themselves to not talk, or to talk in code when it comes to each other and their feelings. Frank talk between them has been mostly a source of pain in the past, this looks like just another instance of that. While Chuck has occasionally conceded to being crazy about Sarah when talking about his future he’s never said (until Ring, and poorly at that) that he considered Sarah an integral part of it. Sarah for her part has shown Chuck he feelings through her actions as much as possible, but since protecting him is also her primary job it is often unclear where the professional and the personal diverge. Going on the run was a good start, but then the running away this episode seems almost like regression. Since they’ve never had an honest open conversation it’s tough for me to believe they’d suddenly learn on a train platform in Prague. Chuck does start to try and explain what him being a spy could mean for him, and them, but Sarah quickly shuts him down with a recitation of the nasty aspects of being a spy. He is clearly wavering, and Sarah knows it, so she reverts to earlier form and tries to offer herself as the prize for doing what she wants him to do. The kiss is awkward and becomes even more so to the point that it’s painful to watch Sarah continue to seduce Chuck in to running with her when he clearly isn’t responding. Chuck, for his part, knows what she is doing, the pained look on his face as she continues to kiss him makes that clear, but Chuck has always understood Sarah’s manipulations were to protect him in her mind, to get him to see the right choice was what she wanted, but this time he isn’t so sure that is the case.

      It is a bit of regression for both our heroes, but I don’t see it as out of character for either.

      • FIRST STAGE: CONFLICT

        Good Morning Ernie! I read your post containing to Chuck and Sarah in the “PINK SLIP” and I agree with you. We all saw in S2 where Chuck and Sarah are not good in personal relationship, both been trained not to talk and when they do talk it comes off in a coded language in regard for their feelings for each another due to past setbacks. In the begining of S2 we saw Sarah starting to become conflicted emotionally when it comes to what she really wants; the spy life or the normal life when it’s her job to protect Chuck professionally! But toward the end of S2, we saw Sarah act out in ways that she wants be more than just a spy. Okay, I get that! But Sarah and Chuck never had that conversation. Chuck, eventhough he said that he crazy about Sarah, he never said that she’s an intregal part of his life until the “RING” when she ran off to save Bryce. That tells me that Chuck through this whole process was conflicted as well.

        Which brings to the “PINK SLIP” as Chuck wants to become a spy so Sarah comes up with a plan for them to run away together from Prague did comes off as regression to me since they never had that conversation about their future life together. This is all about Sarah protecting Chuck from the spy life brings from her perspective, “Isolation”. But to Sarah surprise, Chuck told her that e going to remain a spy. Sarah tries to seduce Chuck with a kiss and offer her self as a booby prize to get him to do what she wants him do, but the expression on his face when she did that told the whole story; Chuck is starting to become his own man. He made his decision.

        Sarah loves to control and manipulate the situration to get what she wants; not only a spy, but in her civilian life. Angry and upset, Sarah took it out on Chuck when he came back to Burbank especially when he tried to explain his reason to her on remaining to be a spy, she wants no part of it.

        Sarah reminds me of a child or a teenager and some adults who can’t get his or her way, They lash out!!! You are seeing a woman in Sarah who is now very CONFLICTED emeotionally and that is just the first stage.

  3. I’ve often heard the phrase ‘the misery arc’, but I never used it to refer to the entire first 13 episodes. I saw much that was hopeful in the first 4 episodes, and much more during and after the Beard, so for me it was just the episodes with Hannah that constituted the Misery Arc, although I’m not sure that it’s because of her.
    Anyway, I was only able to watch some parts of Pink Slip, there are some that I find just too painful, sometimes from stupidity, like the failure in Prague and his falling pants. Some are just painful, like the train station. it’s enough for me to know they happened, unless this rewatch goes into a line-by-line analysis of what they said, in which case i’d have to force myself.
    I agree with Ernie that the growth they experienced in this season was necessary to their eventual union as a couple. The handler-asset model is not a good one for a lasting relationship, and it had to be replaced. I do not agree that it had to be smashed as brutally as it was, but then I know they have 19 episodes, which is more than they knew at the time.
    One scene that I especially liked, perhaps my favorite of the episode, was the very end, with Chuck and Casey beginning to spar. Chuck was ready to oppose, and Casey was willing to let him. It would be a lot longer before Sarah could do that.

  4. lappers84 says:

    I’m always going to believe in the Head vs Heart argument – for me much of 3.0 was both characters being driven by their Brains and not enough with their Hearts (at least until Beard)

  5. resaw says:

    Ernie, as an instance of apologia, that was a tour de force. But, then, I’ve always favoured your approach of taking what we got and making sense of it. In fact, as someone who is still smarting over the way Chuck vs. the Goodbye ended, your comments are helping me to find the good in that episode as well.

    Faith, I’ve got to say the same thing: yours is an excellent commentary about choice.

    As Chuck develops this new phase in his life of being assertive, of seeking to be more than a passive recipient of Sarah’s protective instincts, I think I feel the most pain for Sarah. As out of sorts as Chuck was in his bathrobe and unshaven look, Sarah is still the one who seems the most disoriented by Chuck’s choice. For the first time, I believe, she was truly in love, but she also learned the heartbreak that came from it. And so she retreats:
    Sarah: I acted impulsively and it’s a mistake I don’t usually make. And it won’t happen again.
    Chuck: But Sarah…
    Sarah: You’re a spy now, Chuck. You have to keep your feelings to yourself.

    Finally, I just want to add kudos for the well-chosen music. In particular, Imogen Heap’s song, Wait it Out, seemed to have particularly appropriate lyrics:
    Where do we go from here?
    How do we carry on?
    I can’t get beyond the questions.
    These were questions that were worked out wonderfully, if often painfully, over the ensuing episodes.

  6. JoeBuckley says:

    Great write-up, guys. I’ve only been able to give it a quick read this morning, but I must say, you’ve come close to taking the words right out of my mouth. Uh, pen. Uh, PC.

  7. Wilf says:

    Excellent write up – from both, thank you. It did help to put Pink Slip a little bit in perspective and make it more acceptable – well, ok, maybe infinitesimally more acceptable (-; Personally, I found the cheese ball thing annoying and not amusing at all, though.

    I thought this exchange was really nice, touching (and amusing) – “I’ve worked with the best spies in the world and you know what?” … “they’re on their way here to save us?” … “None of them can do what you can do”.

  8. BillAtWork says:

    I think, like Dave, I’m already on record about what I didn’t like about this episode or entire arc. So I promise not to fill these pages with those reasons repeated ad nauseam. I’ll save that until we get to First Class. 🙂

    And at some level we have to respect the story teller’s decisions. I wouldn’t have had Chuck made the decision he did in Prague. I think it was ooc. But he did. We have to deal with that.

    My main issues is that he didn’t stick with it. He never, ever took Sarah’s advice. He always allowed his feelings to rule… except for actually being with Sarah. So did she. It was just reset back to S2 where she was hiding them. And since Prague was flashback, by the time we first saw him, he was back pining for her. And that makes Prague a cheap, manipulative, reset of wt/wt, ust, angst for angst’s sake. By the end of Three Words, she was even back pining for him. And since those episodes aired on the same night, it’s hard to think of them separately.

    So by the end of the first night, we’re reset right nack to First Kill days. Chuck and Sarah pining for each other, with no way to admit it or make it happen.

    I don’t think that anybody disputes that the only reason for Prague, Shaw, the dreaded Trapezoid, indeed the entire first 13 episodes, was because it was to early for a show following the TV formular to put them together. Even JS said that.

  9. Ruthiesw says:

    That’s one huge post Ernie and Faith! I love the insight you bring to the series.

    I’ve mentioned in previous comments that I actually watched these first 13 episodes in the course of a day so lacked the time to reflect or dwell on the episodes and their meanings. The misery arc, to me, translated as just half a day of urging Chuck and Sarah to get past their problems and finally be together while having total confidence it was going to happen. I’m fortunate in many ways that my enjoyment wasn’t coloured by the agonising wait between episodes.

    I found plenty to enjoy even when Chuck and Sarah were apart (though I was always rooting for a resolution). It was only once I started reading fan comments on communities like this blog and ChuckTV that I realised how negatively many fans had viewed 3.01-3.13. I sympathise with the sentiments and now that I’m aware of the criticisms, I regrettably find re-watches less enjoyable.

    However, your comments remind me that in some ways, the direction of the first half of season three is necessary to resolve this ongoing conflict between ‘normal life’ and the spy life.

    Faith, I think you describe their choices exceptionally. In the first two seasons, Sarah was never able to just choose Chuck; there was always a consequence to that decision that she couldn’t justify. There’s no doubt that if it was a simple choice, having no bearing on anything else, Sarah would have chosen Chuck from episode one.

    Chuck on the other hand failed to see the consequences, mostly because he didn’t understand the spy life. Season two was about Chuck grasping the consequences: the way emotions can be dangerous (vs the Break-up), the moral grey areas (vs Santa Claus), the personal sacrifices (vs Best Friend), and stepping up to be the hero even when you don’t want to be. Even at the end of season two, he doesn’t see the obstacles between him and Sarah when he asks her to take a vacation with him. It’s not until Bryce dies in front of him and he’s in the intersect room that he understands the gravity of his decisions and what they mean for the people he loves. Where season one Chuck is fairly black and white, Chuck in Prague sees all the shades between.

    In Pink Slip, Chuck still desperately wants to be with Sarah, but he finally understands that he has a responsibility far greater than he appreciated for the past two years. I’d like to think that he finally understands Sarah’s actions over the past two years and why they were necessary at the time. His decision not to run is his way of carrying some of that burden so that she no longer has to be strong enough for them both. And, as you say Faith, it un-complicates Sarah’s own decision – it’s no longer between a life on the run with Chuck or the only job she’s ever known.

    Unfortunately, the sucker punch that is the platform meeting knocks her for six and she can’t immediately see why Chuck’s way might be better for them both.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      In Pink Slip, Chuck still desperately wants to be with Sarah, but he finally understands that he has a responsibility far greater than he appreciated for the past two years. I’d like to think that he finally understands Sarah’s actions over the past two years and why they were necessary at the time. His decision not to run is his way of carrying some of that burden so that she no longer has to be strong enough for them both.

      Ruthie, you’ve hit on a theme that I see as running through the first half of this season. Chuck and Sarah may love each other but they don’t really understand each other and what it is that motivates them or what they need from each other and give to each other. A lot of this season is them standing in each others shoes and learning about each other.

      • mr2686 says:

        First off Ernie, you wrote a perfect analysis and I say bravo! I’m still a little befuddled at people that think Prague was ooc for Chuck, when Chuck spent the whole series proving one way or another that he was “that guy”. Whether it was not staying in the car, hacking in to a ring phone when he was told not to, Prague, downloading 2.0, or using the last download to save everyone and possibly losing Sarah in the series final. He was much closer to being a Cole Barker type and he felt an obligation. I agree with others that these episodes can seem a bit dark, but they have many bright spots and as they say, the sweet never tastes as sweet without the sour.

  10. uplink2 says:

    I debated a lot about whether to comment here or not but there were a couple of things that stood out in this write up that I think I can bring up without getting myself or readers too upset by it.

    First the issue I have with this analysis is to use an inverse of a metaphor I have used before, Too much of it is focused on the man behind the curtain and not enough on the smoke and images standing before us. That somehow the story as beginning to be executed works. That what we see on screen paints us a grander picture than is actually there. TPTB are trying to dazzle us and keep us from seeing the manipulation but the smoke doesn’t work for many very early on. Good intent doesn’t supersede poor execution. It doesn’t make up for how choices that are poorly executed end up having the exact opposite effect on the characters than intended.

    Ernie talked about fans negative reaction going too far but the opposite can be said here. There is some merit to his POV but all of this is conjecture and personal opinion. That there was a deeply thought out intent to drive these characters to be better suited to come together in the end. But I think for many of us it is much simpler than that. As Faith sort of points out, it is just delay Chuck and Sarah till 3.13. with trips back to all too familiar storytelling troupes that large portions of their audience were totally fatigued with. Couple that with poor execution of those troupes and we end up where we did. A very divided fanbase.

    I don’t want to bring Shaw into this yet as when we saw this episode I had no idea who or what he was so I will focus on two things that I think warrant more discussion. The “no talk” troupe. I think we misread what we see on screen if we focus too much on Chuck’s choice to become a spy. Ernie and Faith make a great cases for why Chuck chose not to run. I have never had any serious issue with that decision. But the “no talk” troupe of how it was handled is clearly the biggest disingenuous manipulation of the viewer. Without that troupe there is no story. It feels phoney and I knew that what lied ahead depended on another round of contrived miscommunication. The reason Chuck doesn’t act at all concerned for Sarah’s feelings and how much he is destroying or seeing just how big a step this was for her isn’t character driven, it’s plot driven. There is no story without that manipulation and the sacrifice it requires of Chuck’s character seems to just make that manipulation feel so offensive and unappealing to me.

    The other subject that I’d like to mention from this episode that neither Ernie nor Faith touched on that helps make it the third most hated episode of the series for me. That is the return of Sarah Walker as CIA wh***. The two-month mission that culminates in Pink Slip was based on Sarah “getting close” enough to her mark that she was allowed pool privileges at the mark’s private residence. That she had gotten close enough to Giles that she could prance around his home in her bikini and tell him later on that “you have nothing to worry about from my ex.” I think this sequence confirms even more that Sarah would sleep with a mark than the Lon Kirk mission did. Quite simply it is as close to outright saying that Sarah would sleep with a mark for a mission until we get to the finale where they virtually confirmed she would even go to the point of marrying one.

    It all diminishes both characters and though the journey we are about to take may be necessary for some, for this writer in no way does it end up with growing Chuck and Sarah’s relationship so that the DYLM moment is truly earned. Or more earned at least than it was before it started. It was only earned because it was episode 13 and the delay was over. But nothing about the couples relationship was grown. If anything it was diminished along with my view of the characters themselves. I like characters who overcome their flaws, make mistakes and earn back the trust of the ones they love. But at no point does that redemption happen for them. I take that back. Maybe for Chuck it sort of does in AH but certainly never for Sarah. Her flawed character and mistakes in judgement are simply swept under the rug because it’s time for Chuck’s hero moment and the end of 3.13.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I hesitate to reply, because I know there is no way you will change your mind on these topics, and the most likely effect of me defending my thesis and interpretation is an escalation of how forcefully we state opposing and irreconcilable viewpoints. I had hoped that this could remain a discussion about the episode and what happened and how it informs us of the characters and their new situation. But you raise some points that I feel deserve to be addressed, even if only for our other readers. We see things in fundamentally different ways and will not be changing each other’s minds, so consider this reply not so much a personal one but one for other readers to be able to clarify their feelings and their interpretation of the story as it unfolds even as they consider both points of view.

      The first place we differ is that it strikes me you do not accept author intent as a legitimate way to see the show or to try to interpret it. I see it as the only legitimate way. Your statement that all this is opinion and conjecture goes a bit too far I think. While there may be an infinite number (not really) of opinions and interpretations, not all of them reflect the intent of the authors. For various reasons having to do with personal taste and emotional reactions we each bring a point of view to the story, a point of view that will affect how we see it. Your claim, as I understand it, is that you have no obligation to the storyteller. That if your feelings or interpretation of what you see on the screen diverge from the intent it is entirely their fault for not being good enough storytellers. And don’t take this personally, from what I can tell you feel that any preconceptions you have are entirely the responsibility of the storytellers for them having put them there with unclear or incomplete storytelling. My feeling is that we owe them an open mind and a willingness to let preconceptions go when they interfere with your ability to see and possibly enjoy the story. I’ll just clarify that by enjoy I don’t necessarily mean happy happy joy joy enjoy. I like a lot of occasionally dark and dramatic fare, and can enjoy seeing a character torn down to see them built back up, which I see as the intent of this season. We are coming from fundamentally incompatible ways of watching a show. You seem to see both premise and interpretation as infinitely malleable and wholly the responsibility of TPTB for your reaction, even as you reject their premise and intent. I am confident that there was author intent, and that should be willing to accept their premise as the correct one. That is the only chance we have of understand or enjoying the story going forward.

      What I try to do is lay out the premise by doing my best to see the author’s intent. While I did mention the intent or the methods used by Schwartz and Fedak in telling this story I think that a lot more of what I wrote is about interpreting the characters motivations and situation in light of that intent than you give me credit for. I suppose some of my verbiage can get a bit nuts & boltsy, but it is always to lay out the intent by studying how a scene or episode is constructed.

      There is some merit to his POV but all of this is conjecture and personal opinion. That there was a deeply thought out intent to drive these characters to be better suited to come together in the end.

      If you are telling a love story I’d say the end is the natural place to put the climactic moment your heroes come together at last. So yes, rather than a mere delaying mechanism based on TV tropes, I think that was the plan. Schwartz and Fedak basically told us that was the plan after the Chuckopalypse. They also tried to do the very thing I try to do, realize that some of the fans have missed the premise and try to point them back to what they were trying to show them. This being (but not really) the last season, the fans, or a large fraction rejected that premise and looked for resolution each and every week. IT was a resolution we were told wouldn’t be coming any time soon, yet still many looked for it every episode. Schwartz and Fedak were playing a long game on the serialized elements and told us so. While I’d have preferred better execution at times I think I now understand most of their intent, and it makes season 3 a lot more enjoyable. Not that I didn’t enjoy it the first time through, just that frustration was setting in that they were essentially making Shaw a leading man at the expense of Team B.

      Ernie and Faith make a great cases for why Chuck chose not to run. I have never had any serious issue with that decision. But the “no talk” troupe of how it was handled is clearly the biggest disingenuous manipulation of the viewer. Without that troupe there is no story. It feels phony and I knew that what lied ahead depended on another round of contrived miscommunication.

      I’ve re-watched the Prague scene innumerable times, and actually thought of doing a breakdown of the scene, but at 5,000+ words it seemed a bit much. It now strikes me as one of the best done scenes in the series. Zach and Yvonne are spot on once again in selling the moment, and the miscommunication is the point, not the trope.

      If the break up the gang then put them back together as changed people is a Schwartz trademark then the single scene metaphor for the show/season/episode is Fedak’s. Prague is one of those scenes.

      As Chuck and Sarah approach we see a more mature, resolute Chuck, as does Sarah. She sees not only a change in demeanor and dress, but she sees he’s uncertain, so she starts to steamroll him before he can say what she must sense is coming.

      Sarah: Here is your ticket and your new passport. Your name is Hector Caldaron.

      Chuck: Sarah …

      Sarah: We have plenty of time to talk on the train. Right now we have to act fast. Trust me, Chuck. It’s all going to work out fine.

      They talk, or at least try to, but Sarah knows the conversation’s outcome won’t be what she wants, so she tries to steamroll, then manipulate Chuck. Chuck, for his part is barely able to resist. So the “they don’t talk” trope is actually a deliberate action taken by Sarah to try to fend off what she knows is coming. Chuck tries again.

      Chuck: Think about that. Me, a real spy, you know, living a life of adventure and doing things that really matter.

      Sarah: It’s not that simple. You don’t know who you’re working for. It’s complicated. Nothing is real. This… This is simple. This is a real life.

      That Sarah chooses simple as the way to describe them together on the run is telling. Complicated has been their buzzword since the beginning, and while they may remove one set of complications, their lives and path forward would never be simple, or normal. Neither yet understands what the other needs. Sarah needs to feel safe, and does with Chuck, her Chuck, but she doesn’t realize that asking him to stay that safe Chuck forever isn’t love, it’s selfish. Chuck needs to matter. That being Sarah’s hero at this point, when he doesn’t feel very heroic running away is understandable. Each makes a selfish grab for what they want at the cost of what the other wants, and miscommunication, or the inability to communicate born of two years of talking in code and hiding or denying their feelings has caught up with them.

      I also see it as highly significant that this scene opens with Sarah handing Chuck an identity, telling him who he is, and it ends with Chuck handing it back, telling her he wants to decide who he is.

      The other subject that I’d like to mention from this episode that neither Ernie nor Faith touched on that helps make it the third most hated episode of the series for me. That is the return of Sarah Walker as CIA wh***.

      You’ve been asked, numerous times, to dial back the inflammatory language. And not just by me. This apparently sums up your attitude towards polite requests to moderate yourself for the sake of others.

      Sorry Dave but for me the less vulgar words simply aren’t strong enough. He isn’t a jerk he’s a p…. Sometimes the vulgar has it’s place and this Chuck in season 3 deserves the vulgar description.

      That aside, if you want to discuss the darker aspects of Sarah’s character, that’s fine, but as you yourself concede, they are there in canon from the beginning, and Beefcake was a far more explicit example than the allusions of Crown Vic and Pink Slip. They dial what Thinkling and I refer to as the Sarah Walker Darko-meter up and down at times, but it is a part of canon, Sarah Walker was a lot more like Carina (who was actually more the mellow one) and Heather Chandler in the past. It is her own self assessment and we need to give her credit for being self-aware enough to see herself for who she is and was.

      That said, I think we treated it the way TPTB have constantly treated it, as a possibility that is put out there, but never explicitly dealt with. The dark aspects are hinted at, but not explored in an effort to not let them overwhelm the story.

      All that said, I’m done. I asked that we refrain from making the discussion about TPTB and their bad choices and failed execution, I have no interest in reading or responding to the 3,000th re-iteration of how manipulative and false TPTB’s choices where. In addition Dave was kind enough to provide an entire post for that. But apparently that isn’t enough.

      For my part I’m done arguing. There is clearly a contingent of the fandom that feels that the most important thing fans can do is express their outrage and disappointment over the direction and story TPTB chose to tell for 13 out of 91 episodes. I might have agreed that there was some validity to that while the show was on. At this point however, I feel it is utterly without purpose to whip factions of the fandom into a collective frenzy once again.

      • resaw says:

        Ernie, thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I’m inclined to go with your approach of seeking to understand the author’s intent. On the other hand, there is a whole genre of literary analysis known as reader-response criticism. Perhaps that is the foundation from which Uplink2 is doing his analysis. Among this group are there any trained cultural anthropologists, for example, who could make use of yet another theoretical paradigm to interpret the story?

      • BillAtWork says:

        I hestitate to get into this. But it is impossible to judge author’s intent in a single episode. And that’s my frustration with this format.

        Yes, looking at a single event, you can always paint a picture where that makes sense. If Pink Slip was the only episode of Chuck that you ever watched, I’m sure it would make sense, and maybe even be entertaining.

        But most people here watched all of the episodes. So when you judge author’s intent, which I agree you must, you have to judge it based on the entirity of the story, not just in a single scene.

        So that’s where this episode breaks down for me. Because even if you accept the change in the characters, they don’t stay that way. Whatever changes happened in Chuck only lasted long enough to reset the relationship, only to reappear in First Class when the relationship needed resetting again.

        And that’s why so many have a bad taste. What’s clear to me was that the author’s intent was to reset the relationship and milk one more season of angst before putting them together, story continuity be damned. I don’t even think they’ve tried very hard to hide that. When you look at the story as a whole, I feel that’s the only conclusion that makes sense, because it doesn’t make sense (does that make sense, lol?) The manipulation is too blatant.

        And yes, Ernie, I understand your frustration. I get that you’re trying to keep this from crumbling into a show bashing forum. I’m sypathetic… to a point.

        But if we’re going to have an honest discussion, it has to include the flaws, right?

      • uplink2 says:

        A few things and then I’m done as well. After this I will refrain from posting in any episode thread till we finish this arc.

        Much of that posting is a misinterpretation of what I was saying and that is probably part of the problem. We see such completely different shows it can become defense of position without real consideration of the other’s POV. Ideas can get rejected out of hand simply because they challenge our own position. I will try to avoid that here.

        I think you overstate my position on writers intent a bit. I do look for the writers intent and execution and 4 conclusions can come from that. I can accept the intent and accept the execution of that intent (season 1 and 2). I can accept the intent but reject the execution. I can reject the intent and accept the execution(finale) and worst of all I can reject the intent and reject the execution. I think you view much of what I’m saying as the last option but in many cases it is more accepting the intent but rejecting the execution. I agree I do have some responsibility to be open to a differing intent than I may want but it is still the job of TPTB to sell me on their intent by a well executed depiction of that intent. In the case of this episode I went into it with no preconceptions of what I was about to see. I had no idea of any of what was going on for those 9 months prior. So my vision was a completely blank page and I was thrilled the show was back. So Schwedak tell me your story and show me how it works. But what I saw clearly was simply an intent to delay by manipulating the the viewer with a contrived story based on another trip back to the miscommunication well. You call that the point, I call it the troupe. It has been used countless times. Plus no disrespect Ernie, unless you were in the writers room or are part of TPTB in disguise you view of intent is simply that, your view. You state your position very eloquently and I admire you for that but it is simply your POV and is no more or less valid than anyone else’s. I think sometimes your presentation comes across as “this is the way it is” I realize that could be said for me as well. I need to focus more on the idea that my views on intent and execution are only valid for me. But I will say this, I think my POV is not to insult the consumer because they didn’t react to the “intent” and execution the way I think they should have. Personally I think much of the PR disaster of that season was because they came across as doing just that.

        You talked about my use of more inflammatory language and if I have offended anyone by that I sincerely apologize. I won’t do it again but TBH it is quite tame compared to what I have read happened here in the past. I tend to be a straight shooter and some adult language definitely has it’s place.

        On the train station scene I don’t agree with your use of the idea that Sarah is “steamrollering” the conversation. I see it differently as she is trying to execute the mission they BOTH agreed to 3 weeks earlier. That is what she does. Steamrollering comes across a bit insulting.

        I won’t go into everything else in that posting but will ask you this. You talk about writers intent to put the climactic moment for our heroes at the end and I would agree that is a valid storytelling idea. As we move forward through these episodes I’d like to have you or anyone for that matter show me how this journey they took us on grew the relationship to the point that they deserved that climactic ending. What moments between Chuck and Sarah in those 12 and a half episodes showed us how they were finally ready to be together? What happened to Sarah and how did she grow to be deserving of that moment in light of all her flaws and mistakes she made? Why is Chuck more deserving of Sarah risking it all for him now than he was before Prague? How do you reconcile Sarah’s distrust of Chuck after Final Exam with being ready to tell him she loved him 42 minutes of screen time later?

        I wanted them to have that climactic moment. That moment after all the crap they went through that was even more deserved and built to than that epic morning in Barstow moment or “It is real”. The culmination of the intent of the season you said they were telling us the long haul was going to bring us to right from this episode. But it simply didn’t happen. The way it played out was for me at least simple reinforcement of the “intent and execution” I saw on January 10th. They didn’t sell the story because they never delivered on that intent. DYLM isn’t the culmination of the journey that began long before Prague. They aren’t more ready to be together than they were at the end of Colonel because of the journey they took us on. At least not for me.

        In the spirit of this rewatch of looking at episodes in how they impact the whole, I just don’t see how the “intent” of this episode and the arc it sets us out on moved that relationship in a positive direction and made them more deserving of DYLM than they were of “It is real”. Believe me, I’d love to see it, but I don’t.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        But if we’re going to have an honest discussion, it has to include the flaws, right?

        Yeah, ’cause we’ve never delved into that before.

      • mr2686 says:

        There is something I’m really curious about and would love some feedback from everyone. I hear a lot from people here about TPTB and the writers, but little about the editors. It’s my understanding that episodes of Chuck came in notoriously long…I mean real long and much more than the little extra scenes that are added on the DVD’s. I’m just wondering if the way the episodes were edited (for time) caused that fork in the road between some fans, where part of them understood the characters and story going one way, and the other felt both were going in another direction. By the time that Chuck and Sarah were together, it was enough to get both sides of the road on to one road again no matter how the rest of the episodes were edited.

      • authorguy says:

        Wow, I seem to have missed the whole Dark Sarah thing. She always struck me as more of an Ice Queen, except where Chuck was involved. I found the many allusions in fanfiction, that Sarah was the master of controlling men through their desire for her, to be a perfectly fine and believable idea. Maybe that explains why I never bought her ‘relationship’ with Shaw either. I’m less willing to read stuff into the show that they don’t explicitly present on screen, I know they sleep, I know they go to the bathroom and eat and all that. I don’t know she did anything with Lon Kirk. On the contrary, I saw Sarah rise up out of that pool, the golden goddess, and thought that this guy was such a fool. If anything he was whoring himself out (and his pool), in order to have this treasure on his arm in public, and he would soon pay the price for his lack of vision..
        But this is example of where Ernie isn’t completely right. The author’s intent matters, yes, but he has to create his show based on his belief about what the audience is willing to see, or capable of seeing. It’s all smoke and mirrors, the issue is whether the gaps they had to leave in their story were gaps that the viewers cared to fill. I for the most part, am willing and capable of filling in a lot of those gaps. This episode wouldn’t have been so painful to me if I wasn’t. Probably the only place the illusion failed for me was the zipwire scene, which poisons the whole training scenario. The idea that such a basic stunt would need to be in the Intersect, and that a movie buff like Chuck hadn’t seen it a million times before (it’s this thing called gravity), was simply unbelievable. I choked on that smoke, but probably a more believable scenario, involving danger to himself caused by the Intersect, was probably beyond their budget and time restrictions.

      • oldresorter says:

        I have one question I’m interested in knowing from your perspective, I promise it is a civil one. Rather than leaving fans to figure out possible author’s intentions, would it have worked better for a larger portion of the viewers if the author clearly revealed his intentions (whatever they were) through the script such that most viewers could better understand the story when the arc aired?

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Jason, that is a question every writer or director faces, how much to show versus how much to tell. Too much direct exposition and the show becomes boring, too much show or subtext and the audience can get lost or lose the through-line you are hinting at. You have to find the balance that pleases the bulk of your audience, enough exposition that they can follow the story and put the character’s actions in context, enough subtext and mystery to keep them interested and engaged, which can be a tough thing. And even as you please the bulk there will be some on each side dissatisfied by too much or too little of both exposition and subtext. If season 3 had one main problem it was that balance, personified by the character Daniel Shaw. He was intended to be a mysterious super-spy but came across as a poorly characterized plot device. They needed to give him more back-story and more of a purpose than “defeat the ring”. The vendetta angle needed to be part of his character from the beginning, not just sort of kind of hinted at in First Class and then dropped on us full force in American Hero. Unfortunately a man bent on avenging his dead wife to the exclusion of all else makes a poor potential love interest, so even conceptually the character has problems.

      • authorguy says:

        That was my issue with Shaw. He wasn’t really cut out for a romance with anyone, and neither was Sarah, by the time they were supposed to hook up.

  11. garnet says:

    Much as has been said, the main issue is not the story they wanted to tell, but the way they told it. In dong so, they brought down a relationship that they had build up over 2 seasons, and was as far as I am concerned, the best portrayal of WT/WTand chemistry I have had the pleasure to watch. And in doing so, they lost the epicness of the romance they had created. I agree that Chuck and Sarah were not in a position for a real relationship at the end on The Ring, and each of them needed to grow to be “ready”, but the return of the hapless schmuck was unwelcome. The regression of Sarah Walker (sounds like a movie title) is just as hard to take.
    Let’s face it CHUCK is much more fun when Chuck and Sarah are together (or working on getting there) than when they are on the outs. I accept this arc, because they needed to grow, but there were more than a few weeds offered along the way!

    • authorguy says:

      Very true. There was no need for them to make what would undoubtedly be an unpleasant journey even more painful.

    • BillAtWork says:

      I’ve heard the ‘they were not ready’ argument a lot. Maybe I have a different take. I agree that nether was equipped for a mature long term relationship. But that’s what I wanted to see. I wanted to see them grow into that together.

      The things that made me wince in S4 (Sarah not unpacking, all her committment issues, etc) would have been a lot more believable and cute in early S3.

      After all of what they went through to be together, those things seemed more manipulation.

      • lappers84 says:

        between 3.13 and 3.19 I don’t think they really had the time to delve into the relationship issues – hence why we saw it in season 4.

      • authorguy says:

        They could have delved into those issues right off the bat and done it right. Facing those issues would have been a perfectly believable jumping off point Ask me how I know this.

      • Justin says:

        I agree with authorguy. Those issues should have delved into right off the ball if Chuck and Sarah hadn’t been pushed back into the will-they/won’t-they dance that was at the proper point of resolution at the end of S2.

      • BillAtWork says:

        A lot of the charm of Chuck from the pilot through maybe Santa was that C/S each gave the other something they lacked. Sarah gave Chuck protection and taught him how to survive in the spy world. Chuck gave Sarah true love, the sense of family, and taught her how to survive in the real world.

        So I think you could have put them together after Ring and still have plenty of challanges. Maybe Beckman thinks they’re living together for the cover. Sarah could teach Chuck how to be a spy. And Chuck could teach Sarah to be a girlfriend. It could b played for more laughs. Sarah not unpacking after they had been living together for six months was kinda creepy. Her not wanting to unpack after being together for six weeks would have been a serious issue to work out.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think we already have a post for discussion and speculation on alternate versions of the story.

  12. Bill says:

    Ernie, I am going to take a stab at not focusing on the negative during this re-watch of S3. I might not always succeed, but I will try.

    Besides the most obvious disappointment (the relationship reset), I recall having issues with pacing (too much ground to cover in 43 minutes) and production values (farewell big budget days) upon initial watch. However, this episode has fared better for me as I’ve re-watched it since then (perhaps in comparison to what happens later?). We get some shared screen time with the original Team B, we are shown Sarah’s ongoing internal conflict about Chuck, and we also see Casey to the rescue.

    My most recent re-watch reminded me of themes that this episode sets up for the entire arc. Most notably, that in order to be a spy, Chuck needs to be able (i) to shoot to kill, and (ii) to control his emotions. In fact, I was struck by the connection between Chuck’s inability to shoot Frank during the simulation and his dismissal by Beckman. Chuck’s willingness and ability to shoot to kill threads its way throughout the next 12 episodes (sometimes in maddening ways). And of course, we’ll hear lots about Chuck’s emotions, and their impact on the Intersect, as this arc proceeds.

    Ironic line of the week: Beckman to Chuck, after he fails the simulation:

    “Chuck, you can come down now.”

    (And how.) (Hey, I said I wouldn’t always succeed.)

  13. Justin says:

    Tell me if any of you would have preferred this instead of the misery arc we were stuck with:

    So Chuck gets downloaded with the Intersect 2.0 and kicks the butts of the Ring henchmen at the end of S2. When S3 opens, the CIA try to take Chuck to the facility Bryce was supposed to go after taking on the Intersect 2.0 for training and protection from the Ring. But Chuck refuses to be torn away from Sarah after coming so far to have something real with her so he uses his Intersecct 2.0 to gain the upper hand on the CIA and ask Sarah to run away with her. They can live a life outside of the CIA’s control and seek revenge aganist the Ring together for Bryce’s death. Chuck feels he has nothing much holding him back in Burbank. Ellie and Awesome are married, he doesn’t have a job at the Buymore anymore, and Morgan has Anna. Sarah agrees to run away with Chuck because she doesn’t want the CIA to keep her from what makes her happy anymore. So off they go with Stephen’s help. But Chuck doesn’t tell his father about the Intersect 2.0, afraid that he will take it away which Chuck doesn’t want because it would be an important tool to use during his life on the run. He does tell his father to remain behind to keep Morgan and Ellie safe. Beckman sends Casey to hunt Chuck and Sarah before they get captured by the Ring who will take the Intersect 2.0 from Chuck’s mind and use it for their nefarious purposes. Beckman is unaware that some of her superiors have sent another operative to hunt after Chuck and Sarah to increase the chances of having them found and who wouldn’t be hesitant to kill them for the sake of national security unlike Casey who has developed some genuine attachment to the two. The operative would be the ruthless Decker. Meanwhile, Chuck and Sarah navigate the uncharted waters of coupledom on top of hiding from the CIA and going after the Ring.

  14. FSL says:

    This is helping me appreciate the first half of season 3 better. I originally finished all 13 episodes within a week. So it was less excruciating. But still, Pink Slip was really a low point, especially coming in from quite a “happy” season 2.

    In retrospect, Prague might have worked better not as a flashback. And in a way, this blog helped me sympathize with Chuck’s decision on that platform. I get it he’s trying to grow up and perhaps to emotionally protect Sarah in return. But putting it in a flashback and starting with cheeseball addict was… I don;t know… too much. From “I know Kung-Fu” to fighting his urge to kick Emmett…

    But I can see some hope. That is… until Hannah…

    • fsl says:

      And of course, even with a lower budget, we get Casey, machine gun and helicopter. At least some of the fun is still there.

    • authorguy says:

      What is everyone’s problem with Hannah? She’s Chuck’s perfect mate from the ‘normal’ world.

    • Wilf says:

      I agree with you, authorguy … I really liked Hannah. She was misused/abused by Chuck, but her character was very likeable and normal.

      • authorguy says:

        That was the point of the role, Wilf. Chuck was on his own, his first mission, and hadn’t yet learned to keep normal people at a distance. I don’t think he truly realized what he’d done, the dilemma he’d created for himself, until he saw her in the store at the end. His abuse of her was unintentional but a direct consequence of his other choices. A very hard lesson, one of the reasons I call these episodes the misery arc, and not the whole front 13.

      • lappers84 says:

        I didn’t dislike Hannah, as you guys say though she was poorly utilised in the grand scheme of things. She was merely there because Chuck believed things with Sarah had stalled (I’m pretty sure that’s what Sarah thought as well).

      • authorguy says:

        Incorrect. Her role was to be the perfect woman, from the ‘normal’ world. She was there to test Chuck’s choice to be a spy. If any of his love interests could be described as ‘mere’ it would be Lou, who was otherwise useless. Hannah is his supreme test, an alternative to Sarah, even more than Manoosh, who represents Chuck himself. Chuck has proven time again that he can sacrifice himself, but never sarah.

      • FSL says:

        It’s not Hannah. I know in his normal Buy More life, it’ll be exactly the right girl for Chuck. It’s how he handles the situation that troubles me. He knows she’s a civilian, he’s trying to work things out with Sarah, but he falls for her anyway. This is like Lou again, except this is the second time around already.

      • authorguy says:

        It would be like Lou again, except that this time he’s made a choice to be an agent, where with Lou he was simply the choiceless asset looking for some kind of freedom. It’s a very different situation that gives the character a very different meaning. Hannah is a threat to Chuck’s choice to be a spy in a way Lou could never have been. Chuck is supposed to handle the situation badly. He impales himself on the horns of his own dilemma.

      • FSL says:

        Interesting. That does makes more sense to me now =)

      • authorguy says:

        Most of what happens in this arc is intended to show Chuck the downside of his choice, as Sarah warned him at the train station. I don’t know off the top of my head if there are similar consequences for Sarah, regarding her choice. Her choice wasn’t so clearly defined.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Sarah’s low point is at the end of Final Exam when She manipulates Chuck into killing the mole (or so she thinks) by once again dangling herself out there as the reward Chuck gets for doing what she wants. Joe wrote a great piece about it called Saving Agent Walker.

      • authorguy says:

        I was thinking of that as one of her negative consequences. These aren’t things the writers can just hang out a sign and say ‘this is bad’, but watching Sarah’s face will show all her despair.

      • authorguy says:

        Thanks for the link, I’d never read that article but it’s really good.

  15. JJ says:

    I think Fedak said once in an interview that they had known they’d have 19 episodes from the beginning, Chuck and Sarah probably would have been together by episode 8 or so. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with them keeping Chuck and Sarah apart a little longer, but it does weigh down on the season over time, especially with Shaw.

  16. JJ says:

    Since I’m not that much of a shipper, I can put up with the angst more than a lot of people here, though it still drags it down somewhat. Even though I basically like the front part of season 3, though, here are a few other flaws I find with it:
    1. The reduced budget. This is most noticeable in the music and the absence of some characters.
    2. Strange editing in some of the action scenes with overdone camera work (most noticeably the knife fight in Final Exam, but that’s not the only one).
    3. With some exceptions, the Buy More feels marginalized. I know some people get tired of Jeff and Lester’s antics, but to me they’re an essential part of Chuck. Jeffster! is overdone while the characters themselves sometimes feel like a minor sideshow.

    • authorguy says:

      There was no need for the Buy More after S2. As I understand it they were required to put it back in for business reasons that had nothing to do with the story.

      • JJ says:

        Well, I meant more Jeff, Lester, and Big Mike than the Buy More itself.

      • authorguy says:

        I don’t know how you’d get them without the store, unless they went on tour with Mike as their manager, and somehow were always wherever Team B was.

      • JJ says:

        I’m not sure, but Fedak basically said in a post-finale interview that they had plans to get them new jobs after S3 but NBC really wanted to keep the Buy More.

      • authorguy says:

        I heard they wanted the BUy More for product placement opportunities.

      • JJ says:

        Anyway, the comedy is an essential part of Chuck. And while the Buy Morons (could they have been separated from the store itself? I don’t know) aren’t the only funny thing in the show, they do provide a whole lot of the laughs.

  17. aerox says:

    I think this episode is the worst of S3, because I just can’t wrap my head around the changes of the characters. With that said though, I really do like S3 (massive minority, I know) mostly because I can deal with angst. But the starting off point has to be solid for the angst to make sense for me. It doesn’t here, which is why I dislike this episode. But if we take this episode as the blueprint for S3, then everything that happens makes complete sense in the way they go around things. So like I said: dislike the episode, but because of that, I’m okay with other ‘fan favorites’ such as Mask and Fake Name.

    • authorguy says:

      Fake Name is by far the worst episode of the series. This one fails in key areas but not all.

      • JJ says:

        Fake Name’s overall story is problematic, but it isn’t the worst. It has Chuck playing the assassin and some other good comedy.

      • authorguy says:

        I had to suffer through all these episodes in order to write my current fanfic (not that it’s done yet). Fake Name was by far the most painful. Poorly written, badly acted, OOC behavior (especially Chuck’s), bad story logic, just abysmal in every respect. Pink Slip has some decent character development and good action sequences. Most of what I hate about Pink Slip is my own preference (precisely because it’s reasonably well done), what’s bad about FN is bad regardless of who you are.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I’m at a disadvantage having never seen Fake Name. But my worst episode is Bo, followed closely by First Class, then Pink Slip and Beefcake.

      • authorguy says:

        The only ones I actively dislike are Fake Name, followed by the Mask, and Pink Slip in distant third. Consider yourself lucky never to have seen FN, I had to study the damn thing. (The funny thing was that when I did my revision of it I was able to use almost the entire plot as it was, just the characters were in the wrong places.) Maybe when we get up S5 and I sit through those episodes again I may change the list.

      • JJ says:

        Even just in S3, at least Fake Name has some good laughs and tries something new with the spy story that the show hadn’t really done before. Mask is just a mediocre episode on every level. In addition to the double love triangles, it’s not funny and the spy story is as perfunctory as you get. The only good part is seeing Morgan and Ellie working together. Chuck is a mix of comedy, espionage/action, and drama, and Mask fails at all three.

        I actually think the weakest era of the show is the early phase of season 1 though (not the Pilot, that’s good).

      • authorguy says:

        What did you find funny about FN? I cringed for just about everything.

      • uplink2 says:

        I know I’m breaking my plan to not post in the episode threads but just wanted to add this. I think there is a difference between “worst” as in worst written and most hated. To me without question Mask is the worst written episode of the entire series. Its part of why it doesn’t really bother me as much. It is just so horrendously written and bad that it is almost laughable. There isn’t a single moment in it that makes sense. It’s part of why I wasn’t all that excited when Klemmer came back. He is so hit or miss as a writer.

        But obviously for me Fake Name is my most hated. It isn’t poorly written as Ali never is a bad writer, its just so offensive on so many levels. After watching it I felt like I had to wipe my face. I almost quit watching the show because of it. I even find the lame attempts at humor offensive. It’s part of the whole, insult the consumer strategy I mentioned earlier.

        So Fake Name, Mask and then Pink Slip on my worst/most hated list. All from this arc lol.

      • authorguy says:

        I would say FN is the worst written precisely because Ali is so good. I don’t mind if a bad episode is written by a bad writer.

      • lappers84 says:

        I’m with you JJ, can’t stand to watch Mask again, but Fake Name I can just about stomach – plus there are a couple of good Chuck and Casey moments.

    • lappers84 says:

      lol Uplink, it’s just because you love us all. Admit it.

      • uplink2 says:

        Obviously I wouldn’t hang around here if I didn’t.;) But I am really looking forward to Dave’s threads. They should be a lot of fun. But it is funny that here we already have some good back and forth with lots of passion and we haven’t even gotten to the most controversial (read hated) part of season 3. The OLI disaster and the pathetic 2X4. Hell even Schwedak have tried to disassociate themselves from pre-villain Shaw he was such a failure.

  18. JJ says:

    Chuck pretending to be the assassin is pretty funny (“I want to kill him, not some secondary infection!”) Captain Awesome awkwardly fumbling at the dinner table (“Chuck’s…chicken? I don’t know!”). The Buy More plot isn’t much, but it provides a couple of good lines.

    And Casey actually gets something to do while in Mask he may as well not exist, even tells Chuck “I’m proud of you.”

    • lappers84 says:

      See my above comment

    • authorguy says:

      I found the idea of Chuck playing the assassin cringeworthy, plus his attempt at a sinister snarl was ridiculous. S1 or S2 Chuck would have found a way out pulling Casey’s tooth, so Casey being proud of him isn’t a big deal to me. Shaw punching a restrained man, Sarah checking cuffs that haven’t been loosened, simply to give Gruber a chance to say something to her that will annoy Shaw, the totally phoney and unjustified Sam reveal, just a mountain of garbage from top to bottom. I wasn’t amused by Devon playing so un-Awesome about Chuck’s spy life, and I saw no purpose to the Buy More, so there’s not much left to be happy about.

      • JJ says:

        Chuck’s act as Gruber is supposed to be a little ridiculous – it’s just enough to get by with the mafia (but really it’s the fake police raid that seals the deal), but he’s clearly out of his element and says some rather silly things. The fact that Beckman has him pretend to be the assassin is contrived, but Chuck’s spy plots often are.

        I know not everyone likes Captain Awesome’s un-awesome phase, but I think it’s funny (for the most part), and it’s basically consistent with his behavior in Colonel.

        Agreed on the Shaw stuff though. “My desxert is contained within your dessert” might be the worst flirting I’ve ever seen on screen.

      • authorguy says:

        It’s the tooth that threw me, and the other elements indicating poor story structure, Sarah checking the cuffs, Sarah in Shaw’s room, etc. When the structurally sound elements of your story all depend on viewer preference to work, it’s a bad story. I don’t recall so many of these in Mask, and Pink Slip is quite solid by comparison.

  19. Good evening Joe,Ernie, actDave,Liz,Faith and Chuck fans in this country and around the world. Sorry for the delay due to technical problems with my computer. But my blog post of CHUCK S3: WHAT WAS REALLY ALL ABOUT PART ONE is up and running!
    The web address is bernardthisblog.blogspot.com
    P.S. you can also use RSS Feed as an option when veiwing this blog!

    Read it and send me your comments!

  20. Christopher says:

    As a fan of season 3 , in fact if i was able to rank my seasons of 1 through 5 I would rank season 3 for me no. 1

    First let me just say and it is not a secret on this site by now I am a big fan of Shaw. I think Shaw got Chuck out of the van if you link the deleted scenes with the episodes on how they aired it can be said that Shaw wanted Chuck to reach his potential as a intersect spy. so, let me begin by sharing with you guys an article I wrote on my blog. with you all. I like to call the Prague season of this episode, which lets be honest is the factor of this episode and all of season 3.

    If you want to see the pictures that I linked with the article than visit my blog. the photos enhance tue article. I consider us all friends and welcome all to read my stuff. well here goes.

    The journey to the infamous Prague Incident began way before Chuck downloaded Intersect 2.0. It actually started when Orion took out the original Intersect. There was a scene that foreshadowed the upcoming turmoil for Chuck and Sarah. A change was coming and they didn’t even know it was happening. This article will be about the connection between Chuck vs the Colonial through Chuck vs The Pink Slip, and why at the train station Chuck had already made the tough decision that would ultimately create distance between the two.

    Sarah reaches for Chuck’s hand

    In the beginning of the Colonial, we see Chuck and Sarah on the run. The mission was to rescue Stephen J. Bartowski, which leads to a dead end because unbeknownst to them the hideout was underground. They check into a hotel. Sarah once again shows wiliness to share a bed with Chuck. Sometimes that Chuck was still uncomfortable with especially when she is only in her underwear. It is quite comical to see Chuck make notion to sleep on the floor. The next morning the most magical moment happen for the both of them. It is not the kissing session they engage in. It is more about Sarah reaching for Chuck’s hand. The first sign of intimacy from Sarah.

    It was a positive sign that Sarah has shown some feelings towards Chuck, and it was well received by him. However, the problem is much like other times work gets in the way. This time Casey interrupts the festivities. Casey arrests the two of them and brings them back to Castle. Meanwhile. Orion signals Chuck to come back at 12 because of Roark planning to create a intersect army.

    2 beds

    We have another intimate moment from Chuck and Sarah. A simple expression of feelings inside a holding cell. This was the beginning of Sarah starting to want to pursue a relationship with Chuck. Sarah’s eyes have nothing but love in them now and she is beginning to not be afraid of showing them to Chuck, which Chuck is beginning to see as well.

    Chuck Bartowski: For whatever it’s worth, if I have to spend the rest of my days in a dark windowless room, I can’t think of a better person to spend it with.

    Sarah Walker: Not really how this works.

    Chuck Bartowski: What? We can’t request a cozy little two-bed two-bath cell?

    Sarah Walker: Two-bed?

    Sarah Walker is opening her heart to Chuck for the first time. However, once they get back to Barstow, Chuck’s father was rescued, while Chuck went to stop Roark from accomplishing his evil plot, and in the meantime, Orion tells Chuck to look at the screen. Chuck does and it wipes out the Intersect, which everyone is happy right?

    Not really let me show you. I have watched this episode many times, and I never notice the back of them. The explosion happens as Orion is saying

    Orion: Its out son, you’re free.

    Everything goes up in smoke

    Chuck and Sarah’s dreams are blown up. Sarah realizing that she will never see Chuck anymore and Chuck not having the Intersect means he loses Sarah. The only way to fix this would be if the government asked Chuck to join the agency as an analysis. However, Chuck turns them down much to the chagrin from Sarah. She saw it as an opportunity to still be with Chuck.

    Already beginning to miss Chuck

    Throw in the General telling Sarah that she will be working with Bryce on the new Intersect Project and that she was leaving in the morning made Sarah depressed. You can tell in her eyes that she is lost for words. Her world is being turned upside down and for the first time in her life Sarah does not want to leave an assignment. Most importantly she does not want to leave Chuck.

    In my view, the season two finale was when we begin to see Sarah expressing her desire for Chuck and falling in love with him. The presence of Bryce didn’t even deter her feelings anymore. Which is when we get to another key scene that also leads us to the decision made in Prague.

    Hearing Sarah has to leave with bryce in the morning

    Chuck’s eyes as Sarah tell him that she was leaving in the morning and with Bryce was something Chuck was not expecting to hear after he requested to go on a vacation with him. This is where Chuck made a mistake. He didn’t express how he wanted to not only go on a vacation with Sarah, but he wanted her in his life. It almost seemed like a vacation was the easier thing to say, which in reality was something that was always wrong with Chuck and Sarah. Their unwillingness to acknowledge what they were feeling and tell the other was what was holding them back. It was not like the love was not there. The eyes tell you everything especially for Sarah, who watches Chuck walk away from her saying

    Chuck: Thanks for coming, it’s good for the cover.

    For Chuck we have begun to see the frustration take its toll even for a man that knew how to keep his cool, but what he doesn’t see is the pain in Sarah eyes. Her eyes wet with tears because she was not there on an assignment she was at Elle’s Wedding as his date and so much wants to tell him that she wanted to be with him.

    When they get to the reception, Sarah offers Chuck a chance to dance, and while dancing Sarah eyes tell the story. Closed and enjoying the moment. It is a feeling of being where she wants to be. There is nothing like it. She has never felt this way before.

    Sarah wanting to dance

    Sarah loves being in Chucks arms

    What I find beautiful about the look Sarah has on her face was a transition look. As she comes into his arms she has proclaim herself as his girlfriend. It has not been spoken yet, but Sarah has happiness, love and most importantly has Chuck in her arms. In his arms she wants to stay.

    Chuck Bartowski: You belong out there. Save the world. I’m just – I’m just not that guy.

    Sarah Walker: How many times do you have to be a hero to realize that you *are* that guy?

    Chuck Bartowski: But I want more Sarah. I want a life. I want a real life.

    Sarah Walker: Chuck, I don’t want to save the world. I want –

    Sarah was going to tell him that she was not going to leave, and want to stay and see how they feel about each other. This was a big step for Sarah because she refused orders and told Bryce she was not coming.

    As the path continues, Chuck is thinking about how he was losing Sarah to Bryce and the CIA. There is only one thing he can do, which is when given the choice this time. He downloaded the Intersect 2.0. For Chuck it was about being able to be with Sarah, and he needed to enter her world in order to do it, but Chuck never gave Sarah a chance to explain her side. Like he will say to Sarah in Chuck vs the Other Guy. I never asked you an important question.

    Intersect 2

    As good as it was for Chuck to download the new intersect, Sarah was not happy about it. She didn’t want him to be a part of this world. In her eyes, the normal life he was living was what she wanted, and by him deciding to enter her world, she was losing that chance.

    The feelings were there, but the fact that they did not communicate it to each other was where the problem really was. This of course until Sarah decided to take action. She asked Chuck to run with her and unfortunately for Sarah, even Chuck was capable of letting her down. He did what she did for the last two years.

    He chose duty over her. He explained that he did it for the sake of helping others and for the chance to be with Sarah because he loved her, but he never listened to what she was saying. Look at what she told him

    Sarah Walker: We could run? You and me. We go now and never look back.

    Chuck Bartowski: Are you serious?

    Sarah Walker: I have some money saved up. I’d have to get us some new identities. Create an escape route. For now go to the training facility in Prague. Then meet me in the Nadrazzi Train Station in 3 weeks time at 7:00. And then I can figure out the rest later.

    Chuck Bartowski: What are you saying?

    Sarah Walker: I’m saying I want to be a real person again, with you. That’s what you want, right? I mean this is it, Chuck. Will you run away with me?

    She is not asking him to join her world..She is telling him I want out and start a life with you. She explained to him the downside of being a spy. How every city is a new mission and new Identity, soon you will lose yourself.

    Chuck Bartowski: [Thinks about it] Yeah.

    The nerd in him was telling him something else. Sarah Walker was telling him that she was ready, and it flow right over his head.

    Finally, we arrived at Prague. Sarah is waiting for Chuck, which he arrives, but he is not the same Chuck that told his father that he loved her. He came as Agent Walker. Three simple words that would pay the way for the entire season 3

    Sarah Walker: this is simple. This is a real life… We have to go Chuck… Are you coming?

    Chuck Bartowski: [Long pause, Chuck let’s go of Sarah’s hand] I can’t. I’m sorry.

    Chuck said I can’t, something she told Chuck for two years now has turned against her. The road that followed really began four weeks prior to Prague. WE just didn’t notice.

    Everything goes up in smoke

    • CaptMediocre says:

      And yet if you don’t buy what happened at the train station, because Chuck all of a sudden can’t talk (not because of surveillance, because the writers don’t let him), because it was necessary to make him into an unrecognizable character, then the entire premise of S3 is built on a clearly visible falsehood,

      By not letting the characters talk for 13 episodes, (amd letting the fans decide what was going on) Chuck and Sarah became the villains of their own story, which render the resolution (as shown) to this story just as false without any time given for the character to reconnect. The story as presented on the screen does not give more depth to the characters, it make them shallow.

      So yes, everything went up in smoke, and NEVER came back.

      • Christopher says:

        I am not going to kill the writers for the story they try to tell because after all it is their story plus at least we get a conclusion with other guy but unless we get good news from Zack about a movie goodbye is worse than this. Plus Charah was not the villain in my view as much as the spy life and if I need to blame one of them blame Chuck because he never listened to Sarah even in ring 2 she fell in love with a regular guy not because he had to be a spy he made that choice

      • CaptMediocre says:

        But you see, to me, Other Guy wasn’t a conclusion, certainly not a satisfying one. Other Guy simply got rid of the angst, it didn’t answer for ANYTHING that came before it. A conclusion can be inferred because there were more episodes afterwards. But since Other Guy doesn’t resolve the story that came before it, to me, the entirety of the story that led to that point has failed.

        I agree with you regarding the finale btw. The finale episodes are similar (very similar in fact) to the misery arc, except there is no conclusion, because nothing came after. In this case, with no resolution, the entirety of the series is rendered pointless (to me).

      • atcDave says:

        Just so you all know, We spent more time discussing the shortcomings and might have beens of S3 in the “Alternatives” posts. Really starting with the Run up to the season in “The Long Wait“, then with the first weekly post for Pink Slip.

    • revdr says:

      I think that Pink Slip was more about accepting responsibilities, and making decisions based on one’s feelings. Let’s face it; 30 seconds more in the dance scene at the reception in Ring, and maybe Chuck doesn’t download 2.0. But he did, and now he has to face the decision of love over duty. For the prior 2 years, all we heard was: “I want this thing out of my head/I want a normal life”. Well, 1 out of 2 aint bad. He got his normal life, but it because after everything, he failed at being spy because he failed at accepting love. The scene at the train station set the tone for the 1st 11 episodes of the season, and it was all because Chuck didn’t communicate. He just said no. I still contend that if he had said what he said in Three Words, combined with what he said in PS, then things could have changed dramatically, Instead we have Sarah, who finally put everything on the line, decided the follow her heart, and after all that, she gets a flat out rejection. Chuck was pretty much destined to fail after that. I know that it was designed as more of the hero’s journey concept, but that doesn’t mean that the hero has to be flat out stupid. He (they) could have had it all, if only they had talked things out. Sure, Shaw got Chuck out of the van, but Chuck was never all that he could be without Sarah, and he almost blew that. What he said in Broken Heart was true: the team was effective because they cared about each other, and in the end it was Chuck himself who damaged that dynamic with the decision he made in Prague. This should have been the point in his journey when Chuck and Sarah should have been together, not further apart. I like to mention Chuck’s stupidity quotient from time to time, and at this point it was pretty high. Neither he, nor Sarah seemed to realize that they were just better together. They couldn’t seem to reconcile the head and the heart, and combine the best of both. Lack of communication can do that.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Chuck is stupid here. And to me that’s what just breaks that suspension of disbelief. It just screams “the writers lost their nerve” to me. Its funny when it isn’t so frustrating. Chuck was great when he was clever, imaginative and a good guy. The whole formula, the whole show falls apart when he isn’t. And unfortunately, this whole arc through 3.13 is just a case study in that.

        But again I want to emphasize, we want to try to keep our more critical commentary in the “Alternatives” posts. The “pro” and “con ” perspectives on S3 are very polarized, and at this point its unlikely either side will convince the other of anything.

      • Christopher says:

        Lack of communication is a certainty when Sarah and Chuck talk about their feelings even when they are together they struggle with it look how they acted when the fake proposal, out in Cubic Z one seems like they didn’t want it and the other seem like they did. In pink slip, the focus so much on what the writers did wrong, in the focus on season 3 being a disaster to some can’t seem to see that Chuck and Sarah are not ready to commit to relationship only when Chuck has the balls to say to Sarah do you love me . whether the writers drag on too long is subjective. but i do feel the writers recycled a storyline with Hannah. This is where I feel Chuck screwed up and he was the driving force for Sarah to even consider Shaw remember the only guy she figured will not hurt her did so

  21. James Picard says:

    I’m going to be honest, this is my least favorite episode of the entire show. To me it feels like Chuck left, and some strange clone took his place. When he seriously said that he wanted to live a life of adventure, I just lost it. There is NO way to reconcile that with the character we had been watching the last two seasons, especially since in just the last episode he said “I want a normal life.” While yes, he did ultimately decide to upload the Intersect 2.0, that doesn’t mean he would do a complete 180 on his previous characterization. Thankfully, the next episode provides a MUCH better explanation for Chuck’s decisions, and at least make the direction the show was moving in make sense.

  22. Selena says:

    Every time I think of this episode, I always think “Wait, why did Chuck give up running away with Sarah to be a spy again?”. I mean really, I don’t blame Sarah for acting “cruel” when he was trying to win her back.

    Poor Chuck? Poor Chuck, you’ve treated him less nice than pulling someone’s fingernails out? Huh? Don’t you mean poor SARAH? Sarah has felt nothing but endless conflict throughout her life, and it’s always haunted her, but the sad part was that there was nobody she could go to for comfort, without worrying about whether or not she should trust that person, or whether or not she would be endangering that person. Finally, come the first episode of season 1, she can’t help but love Chuck and let him, she can’t help but open the door a crack to that gigantic hall of secrets she has. She’s never done that before, and she ends up opening that door more and more, every day, inevitably falling in love with him. Finally, she realizes that the spy life has hurt her too much and is too complicated, and she can’t bear being reminded by all those fake lives she’s lived, so she wants to run away with Chuck, obviously, and what does he do? HE WALKS UP TO HER AND HE HAS HER HEART IN HIS HANDS BUT THEN HE CRUSHES IT SLOWLY BY SAYING NO, NO TO HER BEING A REAL PERSON AGAIN, NO TO LETTING HER LOVE SOMEONE.

    All I can say, is who is this man and what has he done with the real Chuck?

  23. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Pink Slip (3.01) | Chuck This

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