Chuck Versus The Three Words (3.02)

No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.

BoSince Veronica Mars is so much on my mind as I write this I thought I’d include a quote from the show. Context for Veronica Mars will come later, but just from the aspect of writing drama, easy is boring. We always knew Chuck and Sarah’s road to a real relationship would be a rocky one. We didn’t expect their to be detours (but that’s a few weeks away) but we did expect some additional angst once Chuck decided to take charge of his life. They are both still living with the consequences of that decision, and a reaffirmation of that decision in Prague. We’ll see one last time that Chuck is determined to stay on his path, even if it seems Sarah is on another.

Originally part 2 of a 2 part premier, and usually watched as such, this episode is a somewhat different beast viewed alone. Without the angst of the reset in Chuck Versus the Pink Slip hanging over it Chuck Versus the Three Words manages to be … good, really good. Maybe not happy, maybe not hopeful, though there is a lot of hope set up, but good. We’ve got Chuck in the doghouse, the return of Carina, and Sarah on the warpath. How bad could it be?

Join me for another look at Chuck Versus the Three Words, after the jump.

I re-watched this episode with something in mind. I wanted to separate it from Chuck Versus The Pink Slip. Pink Slip had a lot of work to do. It first had to explain how the team came to be scattered and broken, and then had to put it back together under a very new and different reality. Some of that work is still going on this episode, but mostly this episode is about that new reality. Where Pink slip showed us why and how those relationships and friendships were tested and broken, Three Words shows us how they stand and where they are headed.

When I watched this episode I made a conscious effort to think of it as days if not weeks after the events of Pink Slip. And it helped. We are introduced to a new reality, where Sarah takes nights off rather than spend them on missions and cover dates, and where Chuck and Morgan’s gaming nights are uninterrupted. Carina’s return gives us some perspective on the spy life at it’s least sentimental, giving Chuck a new perspective on just how far out there Sarah put herself, and on just how much he’d have to sacrifice.

In the end, it gives us something hopeful. A reason to believe these two are starting to understand each other.

As much as they love each other Chuck and Sarah don’t yet understand each other. Both Chuck and Sarah hold an image of each other that fundamentally conflicts with their own self-image. Chuck can’t see himself as the hero Sarah sees, because he desperately wants to be the man who can protect and save Sarah. Sarah will never admit, even to herself that she needs, or even wants that, but she does as we’ve seen and will continue to see. Sarah longs to be the girl who can love and is worth loving by a good, decent, moral and “normal” guy, even if normal isn’t her forte.

They sense, but don’t yet understand, that they form a complete whole together, because while each sees and longs for how the other “completes” them, neither yet sees or understands how they complete the other.

Aside from agent MacGuffin’s untimely demise at the hands of this weeks villain, Karl Stromburg, the beginning of this episode showed us something new. Sarah and Chuck are living very separate and very different lives now. With no cover dating Sarah is free for a night on the town with Carina (the mind boggles, but we’ll cover that come Cat Squad). Chuck and Morgan finally get a free game night, in a rather sparsely furnished bachelor pad.  The fact that Chuck is without a woman in his life is also telling.  Freed from both Sarah and Ellie’s immediate control one can’t help wonder if Chuck will go back to drifting aimlessly.  The women in Chuck’s life have always sought to direct him toward a goal or give him a sense of self-worth and purpose.  Agreed, Chuck is supposed to be taking that role on himself with his decision to be a spy, but still…

It’s amusing to watch Sarah’s attempt at nonchalance just dig her deeper and deeper with Carina’s questioning. You start to see how, despite their competitiveness, Carina makes the perfect friend for Sarah. She doesn’t have to say a word (practically) and Carina can figure out what it is that is bothering Sarah.

On the Chuck and Morgan side Morgan is encouraging Chuck to move on, or at least start to move on. Or maybe start to think about starting to move on. Unfortunately, perhaps from years of “dating” Chuck and Sarah wind up at the same night-spot, with Sarah none too pleased to be running into her ex.

“Are you spying on me?” pretty much tells us where Sarah’s head is at. She may still love him, but she’s plenty ticked off at the juvenile immature SOB who broke her heart to play spy. And now here he was thinking they could just pick right back up. Chuck for his part tried to let Sarah know why he did what he did at the end of Pink Slip, but for now Sarah is having none of it.

I have to say watching Chuck and Sarah play the happy couple for the cringe inducing betrothed is hilarious. Their reactions are priceless and Zach and Yvonne play it off each other so perfectly.

So on to the mission. Gotta say I love the team’s dysfunctional dynamic with Carina in the mix. Carina’s snappy and snarky dialog, Sarah’s sarcastic “don’t be so modest Mr. Super-Spy” and Casey’s innuendos that bounce off Carina harmlessly. Chuck is in for a bumpy ride on this one.  And sadly Chuck isn’t making it very easy on himself.  In addition to the other hurdles he faces Sarah is thinking of all she’s given up and all she lost, perhaps her one opportunity for something real and Chuck’s attempts at re-kindling a friendship are just making it worse.  I believe Sarah is misinterpreting Chuck’s actions as something other than wanting to re-connect with the person whose support he could always count on.  Chuck, for his part doesn’t seem to be doing much more than trying to re-establish a friendship.

Carina manages to toss some gasoline on that smoldering argument by letting on that Sarah is still in love with him. Chuck goes from annoying to downright infuriating in his need to talk it out with Sarah. But after being shut down last week I can see him as needing to force the issue, based on what he just heard and how Sarah must see his decision in Prague. I just wish he’d be less annoying about it.

Chuck’s need to unburden himself to Sarah doesn’t go quite as planned. He ends up talking to an empty hallway, then two of Karl’s thugs (who find the whole thing a bit pathetic). Sarah opens the door only to hear the very last part of Chuck’s confession. We’ll get to that later. For now it’s important to drop down to Chuck’s point of view and realize that after pouring out his heart to explain his decision to Sarah, he wakes to this.

Sarah: It’s about Chuck’s safety.

Beckman: I thought he just needed some sleep.

Sarah: Well, it’s about me managing Chuck and keeping his emotions in check so that the Intersect can work. I’m beginning to think I’m more a part of the problem than the solution. And I think a different agent might have more success in training him.

Beckman: Let me be clear, Agent Walker. I don’t know or want to know what happened between you two. But this is your job, and Chuck’s safety depends on you. So get over it and teach him how to be a real spy.

So Sarah’s reaction to Chuck’s heartfelt confession? She asks for a transfer, and when that isn’t forthcoming she beats him with a stick and tells him to get over it, because she is. We know she isn’t, not really. The pain and frustration that he’d made her drop her guard and put her heart out there to be broken is so evident in this marvelously played scene. Chuck’s confession, that he made the tough decision to be a spy not because he didn’t love her, but in spite of loving her because he knew he’d never be the man she loved if he didn’t do the right thing and use his gifts to make the world a better place.  Chuck desperately wants to be that man.

And now Sarah is throwing it back in his face. You want to be a spy, there is no us, there is no love, there is no future. Heartbreaking indeed. Chuck gets one more chance to tell Sarah how he feels, and that he understands. As Karl holds Carina hostage he basically lays out Sarah’s story for her.

I get it, man. I get it, okay? You took a chance. You… you loved someone, maybe for the first time in your life. All you’ve ever done before is…is shut off your feelings. You… you bury them deep down inside because, in your profession…in your line of work…it’s a liability, right? It’s… it can… it can certainly be a liability. And I know…I know that you think that you messed up your life because you opened up your heart, but maybe you helped her open up her heart in the process. Maybe because you loved her…she’s learned how to love, too.

Spies don’t fall in love. Except they do, just like everyone else. It’s how they handle it that sets them apart.  We see examples of spies in love throughout the series.  Sarah and Bryce in season 1 and Sarah and Cole in season 2 are examples of the spy couple where the job comes first, and while maybe you can catch a week in Cabo now and then, when the order comes, you move on.  In season 3 (and I’m broadening the definition of love to serious relationship) we see Sarah and Shaw, the spy couple for whom the job comes first, even at the expense of your partner’s feelings, then, retroactively, Shaw and Eve, and how the loss and heartbreak that comes naturally with such a dangerous profession can destroy you.  It is a warning to Chuck and Sarah of the dangers they face if they are ever to be together.  But for now, given Chuck’s speech, Sarah now has an inkling that Chuck understands her pain and is willing to try to clean up the mess they created. I see this as two people with a different understanding of what it is they are trying to do.  I don’t see Chuck as trying to re-build a romantic relationship.  He seems to acknowledge that it happened, but as the season progresses he seems to question the reality of it more and more, to the point where he questions the reality of his own feelings.  He’ll eventually come around.  But there is one final piece to the puzzle that Carina slips into place for Sarah.

Chuck: “Sarah I don’t want to regret not telling you everything I need to tell you. I’m not a normal spy, you know that, I know that. I’m a regular guy who works at a Buy More. And the decision that I made in Prague, I know what it looks like, I know that it looks like I chose being a spy over being with you but that’s not what happened. How I felt about you is real, it’s very very real. And I know that you know how I’ve felt about you for a long time. You know, but when Carina told me what you said, those three words that I’ve been waiting to hear for so long… Look, Sarah, I know that you’re probably very hurt that I didn’t run away with you in Prague. You have to know that you were everything I ever wanted, but how could I do that, how could I be with you, knowing that what I’d turned my back on. Knowing that what I had in my head could help a lot of people. And you’re the one that[sic] taught me that being a spy is about something bigger, it’s about putting aside your own personal feelings for the greater good and that’s what I chose. I chose to be a spy for my friends and my family and you. I chose to be a spy because [door opens] Sarah, I love you.

There is no misunderstanding now. Sarah now sees that while Chuck became a spy because of her, because of her example and her encouragement, and he accepts the consequences of that decision.  Her example of sacrificing a personal life and romance, the way she did for 2 years has led Chuck to decide the best way to show his love for his friends and family, and Sarah, is to be willing to give up his dreams and possibly his life to defend them.  Once again, she’s forced to swallow the sacrifice, even as she fears the worst for Chuck. We are left with an image of agent Walker, perhaps wondering how long she can keep it up, especially with someone she loves.

Doubts are removed this episode. We don’t doubt Sarah’s feelings for Chuck, the obvious pain and hurt in the Bo scene let us know she is suffering like never before. When Chuck says he doesn’t want to hurt Sarah it is the recognition that he has done so, like never before that informs his obsessive need to talk, to make things right. When Sarah says Chuck can’t hurt her we know it is really an admission that he is the only one who really could.

While it seems there is a new distance between Chuck and Sarah there really isn’t. But there is an emotional barrier that wasn’t there before. They now realize just how much they’ve changed each other, and how much they can hurt each other, and consequently how important they are to each other. In many ways they are closer emotionally than they have ever been, and one step closer to understanding each other.

Oh yeah, that Veronica Mars context.  It comes from a scene between Veronica and smoldering bad-boy Logan.  They’d had a bit of a fling, but Logan, reeling from everything from an abusive father to finding out that father first slept with then murdered his girlfriend has gone off the rails.

Logan: I thought our story was epic, you know, you and me.

Veronica: Epic how?

Logan: Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed. EPIC.

Veronica: Logan…

Logan: I’m sorry about last summer. You know, if I could do it over…

Veronica: Come on. Ruined lives? Bloodshed? You really think a relationship should be that hard?

Logan: No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.

~ Ernie

Faith: Ernie did such a good job recapping I’m not even going to bother. Instead I’ll talk about my impressions and how with time they have changed/evolved.

You know what one of the best things about Chuck is? The fact that it gets better with time, like fine wine. Some that you left you feeling unsettled, off, or were objectionable at first glance (Pink Slip and Nemesis are two examples for me specifically) turn out to be that hidden gem that you never imagined coming. Most of the time this change in perspective comes with clarity–whether by continuing storylines or through discussion with all of you.

Well, Three Words is the exact opposite. Pink Slip was so jarring that I was drawn to Three Words as a saving grace, initially. I remember saying in this blog that I was thankful the Sunday premiere was a 2-hour premiere (fun fact: it aired on a Sunday! Brought Chuck one of its best ratings…NBC really should have tried to shuffle it on Sunday, a family day but I digress). I don’t think I could have survived with just Pink Slip and the weight of that episode. But again with time, and some introspection, Three Words changed for me. Why? It was a lie.

Where as Pink Slip was an open vein of complete and utter honesty, Three Words (not unlike the other three words) was a band-aid of a lie. More it was a lie within a lie, within a lie. I’ll explain.

Ernie says above that spies do not fall in love–we certainly heard that enough in the previous 2 seasons, and yet again here. We see what Sarah could have been, in Carina. With a different destiny, a more game personality and without that little bit of longing, she could have been callous like Carina. We see some of her in Sarah in Nacho Sampler’s “piece of cake.” Well within that “spies do not fall in love” line, is lie number 1. Obviously we know that this spy, Agent Sarah Walker, did fall in love. She fell so deeply she would never be the same (I hate to stress it but it’s true!). But more, or in my perspective the more objectionable lie/discovered truth here is that Sarah Walker of the many faces and covers actually falls in love plenty. She fell for Bryce (see pilot for her reaction), she fell for Cole, she fell for Chuck and in time we will see that she has some sort of feelings for Shaw (vomit). You may be thinking, that’s insane! She didn’t love those guys, she loved Chuck. I agree completely. Her feelings for Chuck both before and after Prague were beyond what she’s ever felt before, and perhaps something she’s never even dared imagine. But it’s without a doubt in my mind that with those guys, she was always trying to fall in love (her type of love–the surface, companionable, spy-kind), always wanting to believe in some sort of connection that may or may not be there. It’s like she puts on a coat and becomes that person for a while because she wanted to; it’s not unlike Sarah playing house in Suburbs. This epiphany is perhaps one of the reasons why I no longer enjoy Three Words and why I have changed my tune about it (specifically). That said, yes Sarah Walker did break the cardinal rule of spying: she loves Chuck. “You idiot, the reason Sarah’s cold is because she loves you.”

Now for lie number 2. Chuck’s gas-induced ILY speech/Prague explanation–touching as it were, was also in its own way a lie. He wasn’t just accepting a destiny she ushered him into, he was doing it for himself too. They made his declaration sound like an altruistic, no-brainer when in fact it was anything but. Chuck wanted to be a spy, he wanted the Villa, he wanted danger, he wanted the rush. In time he admits this, but only after hitting rock bottom (past rock bottom really), and losing her. In time he learned: none of that is worth it without her. That lesson learned invalidated his altruistic and “you were the one who taught me…” speech. Yes she showed him how to be more; she showed him that he was a hero but what he didn’t know/wouldn’t acknowledge in Three Words was that he had always been that guy–he didn’t need to change, he didn’t need to break her heart and her certainly didn’t have to give up what it is that made her fall in love with him to begin with; he just needed to grow. So altruistic-fate-of-the-world ploy: not quite. Truth is he chose that life over Sarah and he acknowledges that (with a caveat) later.

Lie number 3 (the last lie), came during Pink Slip but is applicable here. I’ll say first that I liked Sarah’s line from the end of Pink Slip, “you’re a spy now Chuck. You have to keep your feelings to yourself.” That was a very powerful line that packed a hell of a punch–well delivered by Yvonne. But in that conversation, they vowed to be friends, to fix things that have been torn asunder. That was a major lie, they didn’t try to fix anything in Three Words and wouldn’t until after all hell has broken loose. At the end of Three Words, Sarah again with a well delivered, powerful line: “quite a mess we made.” And yet they wouldn’t be fixing it together anytime soon, either. If anything, that’s what hurts the most–but like most things there was a big picture to look to, and to draw from. In this case, not fixing it, not cleaning up the mess (in fact adding to it) is and was part of Chuck’s heroic downfall and eventual rise. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much on the way there. Sigh, patience is virtue.

The lie within the lie, well I probably don’t need to explain it. But just in case: they’re acting like a real couple who recently broke up and now have to act like a fake couple and do so with real feelings–feelings that Sarah is trying to act like no longer exists and Chuck can’t quite stop talking about. “Spies do not have feelings, feelings get you killed. You need to learn how to bury them deep inside.” Was Sarah talking about Chuck or herself? Lie within a lie, and yet she used those feelings to beat him with a stick, literally. “Keep your feelings to yourself,” indeed. And that’s just one of many duality speeches of the night.

Now this episode wasn’t without its redeemable qualities. Carina was a welcome returning guest–as she is fondly remembered for Wookie. Plus she has great chemistry with “Uncle” Casey. Who didn’t like Casey giving a “much younger” Uncle speech? And most of all, after all of this, we finally hear those magical three words. If I’m not mistaken it’s the first time we’ve heard it said aloud, ever.

In the end I come away with this thought: if Pink Slip was peeling off the band-aid, Three Words was letting the wound breathe and that brings its own type of pain. Never fear though, Angel de la Muerte and Operation Awesome are up next and they bring with them some healing. And Bears (both the imagined mammal variety and a fantastic tune)!

-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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25 Responses to Chuck Versus The Three Words (3.02)

  1. resaw says:

    Thank you, Ernie and Faith, for your very thoughtful reflections on this episode. I like Faith’s metaphor of the wound, although, if I may extend the metaphor somewhat, at times it felt like Chuck was picking at the scab on Sarah’s heart.
    A lot of people have said how much they hated season 3. For me, it was the last great season. Only episodes like this could lead to such well-written reviews as yours.
    Ernie, I really like your observation about how good a friend Carina is to Sarah. As “improvisational” as Carina is, she is also very intuitive about Sarah’s emotional state. She picks on Sarah’s scab, too, but it’s done, I think, with genuine love. In fact, in her own way, her love is relentless: at the beginning in the bar, when they are getting dressed and she sees the charm bracelet that Chuck gave Sarah, and at the end when gives Sarah the flash drive. Even at the party, when she confronts Chuck, in addition to her stated concern for the success of the mission, she is telling Chuck that Sarah loves her because she loves her dear friend. Carina may think that romantic love is for suckers, and she’s no sucker, but she doesn’t begrudge Sarah for having found someone, even if Sarah’s in a very tough place right now. It’s a nice little tidbit that when she comes into the Buy More, she refers to Chuck as “Agent Romeo.” I bet she wonders what it is about this guy that has made Sarah the way she is, has made Sarah want to stay in Los Angeles.

    A highlight of this episode for me is the sparring session with the Bo between Chuck and Sarah. With the beautiful sad song, “Model Homes” playing in the background, Sarah knocks Chuck’s legs out from under him and says, in response to Chuck’s concern about hurting her, what is, again, for me (but a thematic tip of the hat to Faith) the biggest lie of the episode: “Don’t worry, Chuck. You can’t.” As Ernie quotes: “No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.”

    Faith, I really appreciated your review, although it does not change my opinion that this was a good and important episode. Although, I’m going to suggest that Chuck wasn’t lying about his altruistic motives for not running away with Sarah. I think in fact that it was an extension of his decision to download the Intersect 2.0 into his brain at the end of season 2. I think his motive there was not because he wanted to, but because he felt it was the only choice that was faithful to the memory of Bryce, who, for all his failings as a friend of Chuck, had just given his life in the service of the country, and it was the only tool left in his possession to combat Fulcrum. He could have simply destroyed it, but then he would have had nothing.

    A couple of random observations. 1. Morgan says to Chuck: “Very tall women have very short memories.” I don’t remember hearing that one in previous viewings of this episode. 2. Even though I lived in Japan for 10 years, I cannot vouch for the assertion that there are 730 words in the Japanese language for “yes.” It’s probably more accurate to say that there are many ways of saying something that sounds like “yes,” but really isn’t. The corollary is that there are several ways of saying “no” that don’t really sound like “no” but save face for both the speaker and the listener.

    Once again, great stuff. I really enjoyed season 3 and I am grateful for your comments.

    • Faith says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments Resaw.

      I must admit I didn’t even consider Bryce’s influence in all of this until just now after you’ve brought it up. See that’s what I love about all of this–the discussion, mining of what one may see but another hasn’t. Anyway I do agree that Bryce’s death (in fact his life) had a profound influence on Chuck. Maybe a little more really on the kind of person he wants to be than who he thought Sarah would love. Going back all the way to Lethal Weapon and seeing Bryce in a new light changed him. All of a sudden his life of blame and bad breaks is a whole other thing altogether where he has control and possibilities.

      Which is of course built on later in Living Dead (a fantastic episode in my book), albeit much, much later. His dad is yet another who lived a life much like Bryce where seeing it in a new light teaches him a lesson.

      Finally I will second your thoughts about this season. While I enjoyed both 4 and 5, thematically in my opinion there wasn’t a tighter one than 3.0 and that had a lot to do with going toe to toe with the cancellation bear. This is partly why it is far far easier for those who saw it in one sitting/without breaks versus most of us who lived it (almost literally) week after week. There’s the good and bad of intense and raw storytelling.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Resaw, I’ve always tried to paraphrase Chuck’s decision more generically based on the last montage of people asking Chuck to join the fight (and one of Bryce protecting him) and him refusing to join the fight.

      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.

      While your explanation only focuses on one aspect, I like the way it puts the decision in much sharper relief than mine.

      I think his motive there was not because he wanted to, but because he felt it was the only choice that was faithful to the memory of Bryce, who, for all his failings as a friend of Chuck, had just given his life in the service of the country, and it was the only tool left in his possession to combat Fulcrum.

      This is built upon when in the next instant Miles enters with Sarah and Casey captive. He’d failed to protect them and let them down because all he ever worried about was getting his life back. Sarah is distraught over Bryce and Chuck mouths “I’m sorry”. He’d let them down, all of them.

      From the end of Lethal Weapon on, Chuck has been off-mission doing whatever it took to get his normal life and a shot at the girl of his dreams, and look what it has cost. Bryce is dead, he, Sarah and Casey are captives without hope, and the one tool that could have won the fight, the one he’d had for two years, the intersect was about to be lost. His decision to join the fight seems to have come too late. I think in that moment Chuck decides he isn’t going to let anyone else die so he can have his precious “normal life”, or his shot at getting the girl. And there is born the decision in Prague.

      That decision made, suddenly fate intervenes and gives him the power to save them, because it isn’t about him anymore, it’s about being a hero not because he wants to, but because he needs to.

      You’ve clarified what I’ve been trying to muddle my way through for years. Concentrate on one aspect, the others fall into place. Bravo.

      • anthropocene says:

        My thought is that “letting them down” is perhaps a bit too harsh on Chuck. Letting them down would have been taking his father’s initial advice at the dinner and not following Sarah. And whether it was intentional or not, what Stephen and Chuck pulled off was, on its face, what the CIA wanted—removing the Intersect from the untrained Chuck while salvaging another version that could be uploaded into fully trained agent Bryce.

        Chuck did make the heroic choice in the Intersect room given three alternatives: (1) do nothing and let the Ring take the Intersect; (2) destroy the Intersect so nobody gets it; (3) upload the Intersect and then destroy the original. No doubt that Chuck would choose alternative (3), although he certainly could not have known in advance how doing that would end up saving the day for all three of them.

      • authorguy says:

        My take on it agrees with you:
        “With what alternative?” asked Carina. “Oh that’s right, all of you dead. Some choice.”
        Sarah gave Carina a dirty look. “I think he’s a hero. Only the skills saved us and he didn’t know about them when he did it. What he did know–”
        “Was that Beckman would have him locked down the second she heard about it, if he lived. Same old same old. I’m surprised you didn’t just run.”

        If he’d destroyed the Intersect they would have all been killed. By downloading it, even though he didn’t know about the skills, he could at least have bargained for Sarah’s and Casey’s lives with his own. In essence, by downloading the Intersect again, he could only expect to have been someone’s ‘slave’, in exchange for the lives of those he loved. Truly a heroic choice.

      • anthropocene says:

        Well, Sarah said it much better than I did!

  2. Eugene M. says:

    Chuck’s hairdo–the true villain of Season 3.

    • resaw says:

      Them’s fightin’ words…. 🙂 If anything, I think his season 3 hair is the best of series. Hah! One more reason why season 3 rises above the rest!

  3. Bill says:

    I’ve always viewed Chuck’s speech in the vault in this episode as the thesis, or starting point, of the hero’s journey he takes in S3. As such, it rings true to me.

    My absolute favorite moment of this episode is the final one, when Sarah silently lets us all know that, contrary to her outward bravado, she remains quite vulnerable indeed. Exquisitely portrayed by YS.

  4. authorguy says:

    The flash drive makes the episode for me, another moment of them not talking to each other that Carina nips in the bud. I agree with Bill that it was the central declaration of what S3 was all about. Chuck’s little speech at the courtyard was another. I also liked the way they trusted Chuck to have a plan up his sleeve in the courtyard, enough to put their guns down when the bad guys have theirs already out.
    On the other hand, Casey’s comic turn with that ridiculous toast was pretty painful.

    • Arya's Prayers says:

      I love the fact that – even after everything – when Chuck says ‘Trust me’ Sarah puts her guns down immediately. Like he said the magic words.

  5. Bill says:

    Two episodes, two dangers:

    Episode 1: Beckman tells Sarah that Chuck, with the Intersect 2.0, is dangerous. She says something to the effect that the world needs to be protected from Chuck.

    Episode 2: Beckman worriedly tells Shaw (who is offscreen) that “it’s too dangerous!”

    Are either of these statements explored, explained, or resolved in S3?

    • lappers84 says:

      I suppose Beckman telling Sarah that Chuck is dangerous – I guess we can see that in Tic Tac when he takes the laudenol, fearless intersect 2.0 Chuck – and it took a horrified look from Sarah to pull him out of it.

      As for the plea from Beckman to Shaw, would that not have something to do with the whole set up with Awesome?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Protect the world is explored in Pink slip and Operation Awesome, but there is a hint early in Pink Slip. When Chuck gets agitated that Beckman has canned him she immediately has him tranqu’d. In Pink Slip Chuck struggles to keep from strangling Emmitt when agitated, then (apparently) kung-fu’s out on an innocent Mariachi (he didn’t know it was our villain of the week) These have already set up the “protect the world from Chuck”, before Beckman even utters it.

      Both themes are explored in Operation Awesome. Chuck, when agitated threatens the Thai woman and then kung-fu’s Lester. In Operation Awesome Shaw has set up Awesome to become a mole inside The Ring, the job that got his wife killed. There is some disagreement on whether it was supposed to be Chuck or Awesome, and whether it was a Ring Mistake or Shaw disinformation, but neither was ready for the mission Shaw had in mind and would have certainly resulted in either one’s death had Chuck not sabotaged the plan.

  6. lappers84 says:

    Sarah is clearly trying to gain that balance of Head and Heart in this arc – but unlike in season 2 she’s all over the place, which naturally Carina picks up on pretty quickly.

  7. Arya's Prayers says:

    I prefer to watch this episode separated from Pink Slip. If you go in with the acceptance of the fact that C&S are ‘estranged’ (rather than the open wound of it) then Carina the matchmaker really shines through. It seems like she does a lot here to try and help Sarah get out of her own way while trying to decipher what her friend really wants and needs from this situation but she doesn’t really know how to relate with what Sarah is going through.

    I love that Carina – knowing things are messed up between the two of them – ‘sticks’ them with the cover of bf/gf by introducing them to Karl that way.

    Carina at first seems a little inconsistent though: she tells Chuck at the party that Sarah loves him then when Chuck talks Karl down (in a monologue – is it still a monologue if others are present but only one person speaks? – clearly intended as much or more for Sarah than Karl) Carina breaks out the ‘spies don’t fall in love’ then drops off the flash drive but ONLY after confirming that Sarah is going to stay (not saying she WOULDN’T have given it to her otherwise but…)

    I think the ‘spies don’t fall in love’ in the courtyard was to give Sarah an easy out from an awkward conversation after Chuck’s heartfelt speech. I can’t imagine Sarah would have turned around and run into his arms otherwise but I can dream…

    To me, it feels like Carina is testing whether she can trust Chuck with her friend’s fragile heart. But twice she can’t let her own prejudices go enough to really help – getting ready for the party when Sarah asks about ‘if this were real’ and the courtyard.

    I loved Chuck’s courtyard speech and how it mirrored Sarah’s comments from the bo fight: ‘bury them deep down inside’

    I love when they do these ‘parallels’. I remember thinking the same thing with ‘hard to walk away’ from the Cole episodes. It happens physically later in Tic Tac with Casey snapping Keller’s neck (which Sarah is OK with) to moments later Sarah witnessing in horror as Chuck NEARLY does the same thing to one of Keller’s men at Kathleen’s house. I’ll wait for that rewatch thread but I think that was almost as big of an ‘I-can’t-believe-what-he’s-becoming’ moment as the red test.

    But my favorite line from this episode is a minor moment and belongs to Sarah at the party when Karl suggests that maybe they are next to be married. Chuck says ‘I’d be the luckiest guy in the world’ and she responds with ‘He really would be’ and a sarcastic/forced/bittersweet laugh that makes me think she continued that though in her head and tries to make it obvious to Chuck as well with ‘…if he had just got on that train.’

  8. lappers84 says:

    I forget how the courtyard standoff is called back to in coup de tat – of course things are different at this point, but in some ways similar (except in Coup de tat we get to see Yvonne pull THE funniest expression perhaps of the entire series.)

  9. joe says:

    Ernie, you made me blush last week by referencing and complimenting an earlier post that I had written, and now I’m going to return the favor. What you wrote here, connecting the two parts of Chuck’s speech to Sarah as he’s being gassed, is inspired genius. I really recommend everyone going back to read it.

    My overwhelming observation, both this week and last, is that Pink Slip and especially Three Words are much more enjoyable watching that I remembered. Maino’s Here Comes Trouble got me movin’ when Carina appears (and I don’t even like rap!)

    When you think of what she’s doing to Morgan’s head, it becomes Carina’s theme song.

    I’m going to confess – Chuck’s fountain speech in Three Words (saving Carina from Karl) fell flat for me the first time I heard it. I didn’t like Sarah’s anger at Chuck – it even seemed to be petty to my eyes.

    “Are you spying on me?” pretty much tells us where Sarah’s head is at. She may still love him, but she’s plenty ticked off at the juvenile immature SOB who broke her heart to play spy.

    So they’re both immature at the moment. Right?

    I’m looking at both differently. I think now that Sarah isn’t mad at Chuck anywhere near as much as she is at herself. Every step of the way, when she meets out punishment, it’s directed inward, not outward, at Chuck.

    Except once – the Bo is pointed at his throat and she knocks him down. Even then Sarah’s words “You can’t (hurt me)!” are lies, words that she damn well knows are untruthful.

    And that’s what made me think twice about Chuck’s speech to Karl. If you’re thinking like I was that the speech is about Chuck or Karl or even Sarah, it comes off as dumb (especially after Carina confirms that they are all suckers right after). But it’s not. It’s about the situation they all find themselves in. It’s not that any of them have fallen out of love. It’s that for spies, love is impossible. Sarah’s anger is really a measure of her frustration.

    Yvonne’s performance was much more subtle than I thought. On re-watch, every time Sarah seems to get angry at Chuck, she now appears much more frustrated that she can’t do anything about her feelings except work at being a spy.

  10. joe says:

    In the end I come away with this thought: if Pink Slip was peeling off the band-aid, Three Words was letting the wound breathe and that brings its own type of pain.

    Truer words seldom spoken, Faith. You hit the nail on the head.

    Throughout this episode, Sarah seems desperate to be the cold-school spy she once was with Carina, and she seems frustrated and angry when she fails at being that person. That’s the source of the pain, isn’t it?

    • Ruthiesw says:

      I agree Joe, Sarah’s stuck somewhere between what she used to be (cold-school spy) and what what she put herself out to be and that creates a lot of her anger and frustration. She can’t move forward with Chuck like she wanted to, yet she can’t go back to how she was before him. I would have liked to see this explored better in the following episodes with her having to tack deliberate steps to get to one place or the other.

      Faith, I think you’ve done another great job in your analysis, but I disagree that Sarah’s “You can’t” was another lie. Rather, I think she finishes that sentence in her head, “You can’t (hurt me) – any more than you already have”. I think Sarah believes she can’t get much lower than she felt after Chuck’s rejection in Prague; of course, we know that just being around Chuck is continuing to hurt her and seeing him lose himself in his quest to become a real spy will cause her more anguish.

      • Ruthiesw says:

        Actually, I think that was you Joe, that said that Sarah is lying when she says that Chuck can’t hurt her, my apologies!

      • joe says:

        Sure, Ruthie. Even when I wrote that she knew it was a lie, I was wrestling with another thought. It’s like she knew those words weren’t right either – which is why Sarah doesn’t really finish the sentence.

        Sarah may well have wanted to add “- any more than you already have.” But she didn’t. Something, if only her own reticence, stopped her, and that is a very interesting thing about the character.

  11. Christopher says:

    As much as we focus on the relationship of Charah in this episode, we actually see a rare man up moment from Morgan

    To Carina,
    Morgan: There is 700 words in the japanese language to say yes, none to say no, so instead of saying no I will just say Sayonara.

    This line to me showed how much Morgan as grown since season one and he is maturing as we go.

    now on to the elephant in the room sort to speak. Chuck and Sarah have a lot of work to do. The Prague Incident will take more than just one episode for the two if them to reconcile and you know what unlike before when they had fights, This to me is more than a fight this is more of for their relationship was on a respiratory.

    I think back to the pilot when we see Sarah on the helipad upset about Bryce being killed for sending Chuck those secrets and what i think about is how emotional she was than. What we have here in this episode is something deeper than that day on the helipad. Bryce hurt her because he betrayed the CIA and she didn’t understand why, However, what Chuck did was worse that that he betrayed her when she was the most vulnerable. For the first time in her life she was choosing to put her heart out there and Chuck said I can’t

    see in wrestling they have a term called the double turn and it happens in a match where the bad guy and the good guy roles reverse. here in prague it happened Sarah became Chuck. She felt what he felt for the last two years except Sarah never experienced it before. Strangely Chuck does he been through the whole Jill break up. For Sarah, we have woman for the first time opened her heart and what seem like a certain especially how they were connection at the reception things seem to fall into place until Bryce told him to destroy the Intersect. Until he flashback to Sarah saying how many times do you have to be a hero before you are that guy.

    A hero, sacrifice for the greater good. Carina makes him focus on duty after telling him she love you thats why she is cold. which than Chuck becomes Buffoon Chuck and screws up the mission.
    which brings us to the bo situation after hearing on the mission how chuck wanted to fix the friendship and closeness they had. it almost seems like to Sarah that he was over her and she will see it more in about two episodes when Hannah comes to town. I also feel bad for Chuck also because here is a guy for the first time took initiative and wanted to be more than a nerd herder and follow the advise of all those who told him he can do anything he is smart enough to accomplish anything he wanted and have what ever he wanted chose the very thing that SArah was telling him

    of the 19 episodes of season 3 this is on the bottom tier for me because it really did nt do much for me not like the next 11 episodes do

  12. Selena says:

    I’m confused! I just read Chuck’s confession and at first he talks about choosing “the greater good” over Sarah, that he couldn’t just run away knowing how much he could help people, how much he could help the world, but then he says he chose to be a spy because he loves Sarah? Huh? Does he somehow think making that decision made him into the man Sarah wanted him to be?

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