Season Three Alternatives: Three Words

Week Two of the Misery Arc.  Three Words presents an interesting duality all by itself, an episode that manages to both great and terrible.  Does this inspire great ideas?  How great was this episode all by itself?  We will also hear from a special guest who was motivated to start a classic Chuck epic after Three Words.  After the jump, we’ll have another discussion about hopes, ideas, and might have beens.

I’ll follow the same outline I introduced last week; brief impressions of the episode, my thoughts on what could have been different/better, and tie-in fan fiction.  This outline will likely morph some over the course of this series, and I do have one alteration this week, a guest commentary that sort of falls between points two and three.

For the episode itself, I leave the most detailed analysis to the main post.  Ernie and company are having a great time with the actual episode.  For myself, I’d have to say Three Words was potentially a great episode.  I liked it a lot that first night it ran.  It set things back on a positive footing after Pink Slip.  Some really awesome scenes stand out; from Chuck’s drugged explanation of his utter stupidity to Sarah, to the intense bo training session in dojo, to the climax at the fountain, to Sarah hearing the recording at the end.  Probably nothing could have made me like Pink Slip, but Three Words nearly fixed the worst feeling of it.  Aired back to back with the premier, this episode left me with a more optimistic feeling than I had after the first hour.  I was actually quite excited heading into Angel of Death the next night.  The problem is, it was all a lie.  “Maybe we can clean up this mess” may have been the main take-away I got, but they won’t.  They won’t really even try.  After leaving the romance of the show mostly ignored for the next two weeks, they will drop into the abyss afterwards.  This potentially great episode now rubs me wrong on nearly every level.  Sadly, I don’t really even enjoy a couple of dynamite performances by Zach and Yvonne, because the foreshadowing we see is such a bitter lie.  But for now, I’ll save my most intense anger for a few weeks, the worst is truly yet to come.

So what would I have liked to see different?  Ironically, not much for this episode, at least if we consider Pink Slip an already done deal, this was as good a make up as we could reasonably expect.  In fact, I think if the big “do you love me” moment had come quickly, like maybe right after Operation Awesome, this might have been one of my favorite episodes of the series.  I can imagine a modified version of Other Guy right after the Awesome Arc that really might have made for a wonderful story.  Although if we’re allowed to alter Pink Slip I have some bigger ideas.  As I mentioned last week, the idea of a fake break-up or secret relationship could have been a lot of fun.  Back in Winter of 2010 we were all kicking around these ideas too.  This is nothing new, I think for so many of us it is what we so desperately wanted to see.  In many ways the show would never recover from the direction chosen.  There are just so many ways this could have been more entertaining, and most of them center around Chuck and Sarah trying to figure out how to face new challenges together; instead of the lonely, character destroying arc that lies ahead.

Obviously my feelings for this arc are pretty intense.  It is impossible to measure how many fans felt similarly, or varied only slightly in degree or detail.  Based on surveys done here (specifically “Was it Worth it?“) I would guess about a third of viewers would generally agree with me.  There’s the usual host of disclaimers that come with using a survey drawn from our own fairly small following, but I’m comfortable with drawing broad conclusions from it (like”about a third!”).

One Chuck fan, many of you will recognize, was immediately inspired to start work on his own version of what was happening in season three, and he started work promptly at the end of Three Words.  So I asked NinjaVanish if he could share a little about how he started his “Chuck and Sarah” series.

So, the reason why I started writing what would become a huge, sprawling, nearly 500k word epic trilogy can be summed up in a single word: Delusion!

Okay, I’ll elaborate.

When Season 3 started, I had literally just finished a Season 2 marathon. (I timed it out so that I’d finish vs the Ring ten minutes before the premiere started.) So vs the 49B was fresh in my mind, and I couldn’t believe Sarah would be careless enough to hatch a runaway-from-the-CIA plan in a CIA base well known for its truly stupendous number of surveillance cameras. Footage from which, I might add, had been used just a couple weeks earlier, to attempt to reassign her for being emotionally compromised with Chuck. Did she and Chuck both lose their short term memory and half their IQ between seasons? The old adage ‘show don’t tell’ would suggest yes. We’re told they’re both intelligent people. But it’s not shown in their actions. They don’t even mention they might be on camera? Or just overheard by the dudes in the same room as them, packing up all the Castle gear? Okay, maybe the cameras are already disabled, and we’re supposed to a assume that? Still, it costs you two seconds to have Sarah start that conversation with. ‘The cameras are down…’

Chuck and Sarah’s thought process in the first couple chapters of ‘vs Themselves’ echoes my own reaction to the first few episodes of canon Season 3. I literally could not believe what I was seeing, and thus, I had to formulate an alternative hypothesis for what was going on. I began predicting a secret relationship reveal for the end of Chuck vs the Mask, which was, IIRC, the episode right before the break for the Winter Olympics. Anyway, I enjoyed the first few episodes of Season 3 immensely, because I was seeing things. Awkward ‘just friends’ handshake in the known-to-be-under-surveillance Orange Orange? Evidence! Awkward ‘just friends’/’Devon’s been kidnapped’ hug? Evidence! Was I grasping at straws those few weeks to feed my delusion? Yes. Was I feverishly writing my first fanfic, detailing just how such a secret relationship might work? Also yes.

Still, I was ready and waiting as Mask unfolded, to have my socks knocked off. Just anticipating how awesome the reveal was going to be had me on the edge of my seat. (Half a season of angst, followed by the awesomest reveal in Chuck history seemed about right, given the roll the show had been on at the close of Season 2.) Any second now, I thought, right up until the closing minutes of the episode. Chuck’s gonna get a mysterious text on his phone, and go to some out of the way diner or something. Boom! Out of nowhere, Sarah makeout-tackles him. Or pulls him into one of those instant photo booths and we just see the pictures come out the little slot of her mauling him and then they fall out of frame. Even just a quick kiss and a checking of their watches to determine their little tryst has already run out of time. Then, flashback to other stolen moments ‘behind the scenes’ of the other first few episodes. Then of course, roll credits, followed by extended break for the Olympics. Fandom goes wild with glee! As an added bonus, ninjaVanish can stop writing fanfic and go back to his gradschool homework!

But then instead… my delusion was shattered. I had to admit that the showrunners and I had different ideas about what the show was about in Season 3. If I wanted to ‘see’ that version of event’s I’d have to take matters into my own hands and write it myself. And so I began planning out how to stitch my still nascent, rambling series of brief scenes into a cohesive story. And along the way, I got bitten by more Chuck/Sarah adventure story ideas. 

At that point, over the Olympics Break, I almost went back and restructured the first couple chapters of what I was already calling ‘Chuck & Sarah vs Themselves’, to mirror what I’d been expecting out of Season 3 those first few episodes, even down to keeping the secret relationship a secret from the reader until the last moment. But I decided against it, for the simple reason that I wanted my break from cannon to be readily apparent to my readers. Because I was paranoid about losing my audience given the way the fandom was reacting to Season 3.

That and the fact I didn’t want to be actively posting a Season 3 replacement while the show was going over the same ground. I wanted at least a little breathing room, so I could incorporate cool things if they happened. Or twist them to my own ends, as I would do with several things throughout Seasons 3 and 4.

Which is why the middle section of the story, ‘Chuck & Sarah vs The Bunker’, was posted first, even though much of what would become ‘vs Themselves’ was already taking shape. Even some of the stuff with Sarah teaching at the Farm in ‘vs the Recruits’, was written before I posted word 1. Like I said. Feverishly writing from pretty much as soon as the 2-hour season premiere ended.

The events in ‘vs the Bunker’ were safely far enough down the timeline that I could backtrack and fill in little tidbits from season 3 where applicable and still tell the story that was rapidly swelling in my brain to take the place of what I always saw as the lost opportunity of Season 3. The whole romantic tension of Seasons 1 and 2 was Chuck and Sarah can’t be together, but have to pretend they are together. I Imagined a Season 3 where that’s flipped. Chuck and Sarah still can’t be together, but they are anyway, and have to pretend they aren’t. Of course that’s much too complicated for ‘the average TV viewer’, that mythological being that network execs seem to believe can’t think his/her way out of a paper bag. But that’s a different discussion altogether.

Here’s an amazing fact.  NinjaVanish was not a visitor to this site back in 2010.  He, along with many others in the fan fiction community and elsewhere across the Internet (and presumably a number of more casual viewers who have never even considered reading about the show), had already drawn conclusions about what would have been a fun story that were quite at odds with what we were seeing.  I don’t ever mean to say that’s all bad.  Even an outstanding episode may inspire a lot of “What Ifs” (Marlin, Colonel and Santa Claus all inspired a lot of fiction too).  But no doubt, season three of Chuck left a lot of people wishing for something different.  Over the years I’ve recommended everything NV has written for this fandom.  But this might be a great time to review the start of “Chuck and Sarah vs Themselves” and see one, particularly creative fan’s recreation of the start of season three.  Only catch is, you may not be able to stop.  I started my own re-read a week ago with the idea I just wanted to re-familiarize myself with how that great epic tied into the start the season.  Yeah right.  I expect to finish it (once again) this week.  Not only is this series an appealing alternative to season three of canon, but I think NinjaVanish is the best action writer in this fandom.

So now that I’ve clearly moved into the fan fiction part of this post its time to say a little about KateMcK.  Kate started her Chuck writing after season three was complete (here, apparently it was running behind for her).  But one of her early, defining works is all about re-writing that season.  We will re-visit “Chuck vs The Fight” several times in the weeks ahead because Kate set out to make the season a little better, one episode at a time. Chuck vs The Fight will eventually “fix” ten episodes, and Kate wrote other stories relevant to season three that we will discuss in turn too.  So Kate’s writing will be a recurring feature as we work through the season.  Kate has a way of writing that is very easy for a Chuck fan to invest in, she likes to start from canon and then start making changes.  Usually small changes that snowball into something great.  The first chapter I linked above, starts with the bo training scene,  but makes just a few changes to arrive at a more encouraging end. By the end of the season we’ll have over a dozen (from several KateMcK stories) different fixes, several of which could have started whole new AUs all their own.

Let me recommend another complete season three AU here too.  Crumby was a very active commentor at this site during the run of the season, and she wrote a very satisfying alternate called “Chuck vs The Rogue Spy“.  This goes AU from the very start, and only over-laps S3 in a couple of details.  But it is a very well written, very exciting story.

Next week we get into an episode that really was a lot of fun.

~ Dave


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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132 Responses to Season Three Alternatives: Three Words

  1. joe says:

    NinjaVanish, thank you for this and for your contributions to the fandom. Dave’s convinced me that the fanfics really are a part of the entire Chuck saga, because the fans are too.

    Dave, I may have to re-read some of these epic tomes myself!

    • atcDave says:

      There’s definitely been some great stuff written for Chuck! You know I’m enthusiastic about anything I mention here.

  2. uplink2 says:

    Again thanks so much for doing this Dave and so glad that Ninja was your surprise guest star. I would say his addition to the cast will be far better received that a former Superman’s was.

    I think you and Faith in the other thread captured the most important thing about Three Words, especially in light of the tone of this rewatch. Chuck vs The Three Words is one big lie. It has some really good moments, the always welcome addition of Carina, some really heartfelt scenes but once it was done, none of it mattered. It was another case of bait and switch. Give the viewers a great example of why they loved Ali Adler as a writer, add in the new role for Carina as Sarah’s best friend and reveal Chuck’s motives for his decision, give the viewer hope and then just ignore it, sweep it all under the rug because in three weeks we have another relationship reset coming that will show that what Chuck told Sarah was also a lie.

    If the Chuck we knew really loved Sarah like he said he did, there is no way in hell Hannah happens. It was another douchebag move on his part. Five years to get over Jill, who he thought had screwed the best friend who betrayed him and just three weeks to get over the love of his life and try to move on? Really? Chuck’s speech did show us his character of putting others first but again none of that applied to Sarah who he was telling her he loved. Again he he put himself first. All of that great honest, true selfless character that we loved about Chuck for 2 seasons that this episode and speech could have reinforced in our minds about him was dashed by the second relationship reset in First Class. The only thing you can take from that is that it all was a lie. Bait and switch and use the fan favorite Ali Adler to do it. Something they will do even more offensively later.

    This episode can also be pointed to as the beginning of the failure of Daniel Shaw. The introduction of his character in this episode was “intended” I believe, though I don’t know the “intent” for certain, for me at least to show a new “exciting, mysterious” character was coming. But what was “shown” was an incredibly creepy character that seemed to be Beckman’s boss. She acted subservient to him. I immediately didn’t like him and it only got worse from there. The execution failed. In his first appearance he had already diminished a favorite character by his presence. TPTB, the Director and editor had begun by their choices of how that scene was written, shot and edited set the character of Daniel Shaw down a path that led to a significant part of the fanbase rejecting him completely or at least until he became a villain. In my mind his fate was almost sealed right here in Three Words. I didn’t like him immediately and only grew to hate him with a passion as time went on. God I wish they had included the deleted scene later on. That scene fits perfectly with this one. But it became a lie too once it got deleted.

    You talked about “I hope we can clean this up” segment. Couple that with Carina being Sarah’s true friend and trying to help her. Both great optimistic moments. They stand in stark contrast to the earlier scene where just after Chuck admits to Sarah that he loves her, she asks for what she had fought tirelessly for 2 seasons to never let happen, a reassignment. Much of her logic for not being together was because if it was discovered she would be reassigned. It was something she feared and when it happened in Broken Heart she disobeyed her orders, threatened a fellow agent all to protect her former asset. But now she is hurt and asks for it herself. But then in the same episode she is saying that “maybe” they can clean up their mess. The 180 flips of Sarah Walker in a single episode had begun. But of course it was all a lie and they never even try. It gave the viewer hope but it that will be hope that is never realized because another even worse reset is coming.

    There is so much about this episode that could have made it one of the absolute best of season 3 IF it was shown to actually mean something later on. But it didn’t and the fact it was all such a big lie that makes it so frustrating. I haven’t even talked about the final scene and I know there is a lot to talk about there. But I’ll comment on that later.

    On the concept of what could have been better, with Three Words it’s simple. Make the episode actually mean something. Have something that happens in it be the truth and actually moves the story forward. Hell even the spy story meant nothing as the case they worked on to recover and built the episode around just ended up being those stupid irrelevant disks and Eve Shaw’s spy will and rings. Nothing that drove the actual spy story about who or what “The Ring” was or what their threat was based on. It was only about Shaw’s disturbed personal mission of vengeance.

    Finally, don’t give your viewers hope and then simply ignore it. If the hope is misplaced show them why it was misplaced. Show them the reasons for the characters actions that make what was done here just a lie. It’s ok to to have it all be a lie but there better be a damn good reason for it and we were never shown one. It was all just part of the forced contrivance to get to the OLI’s.

    When this episode first aired I liked it, especially in light of how much I hated Pink Slip. Too bad all of the reasons I liked it were shown to be meaningless.

    • atcDave says:

      We’re pretty much in the same place with this episode. It almost makes me shake with anger when I think about how asinine they will make Chuck look in First Class. Here Chuck admits his love for Sarah, he claims to have changed all his life’s plans and goals for her; and yet, in just a couple weeks, he’ll be flirting with the next cute girl to come along. I loathe Chuck’s behavior in First Class, and it starts here. This could have been a great episode, but the lie of it makes it one of the very worst.

      • authorguy says:

        Not sure where you see the flirting going on. I just saw Chuck being Chuck. Hannah was flirting, maybe, certainly interested, and he seemed completely oblivious to me. That’s why when she showed up in Burbank at the end he was so surprised, and horrified. That’s the whole point of her presence in his life, the clash of normal and spy that he he creates for himself.

      • atcDave says:

        Marc I saw non-stop flirting, and he looked completely happy when she showed up in the end. Which is almost beside the point, since he eventually went far further than flirting. I still find his behavior disgusting.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree Dave. At no point do you get the idea he is in love with someone else and just told her he made the biggest decision of his life because of her. What you see is a guy flirting in his own sweet way with no hint that he cares deeply for someone else. It’s like what he told Sarah never happened.

      • authorguy says:

        I wonder then what you guys think flirting is. While it’s true he never says he’s in a relationship with anyone else, he also never says anything to indicate he’s interested in her either. I see it all coming from Hannah’s side.

      • lappers84 says:

        I agree with you Author – in my mind, Chuck is simply being Chuck. He can;t help it if women fall over him.

      • authorguy says:

        Thank you. I viewed the whole Hannah arc as simply him being Chuck in the beginning, and getting himself in trouble by not thinking like a spy. He drops one pebble and starts an avalanche. He brings disaster on himself and her by failing this test. He learns the lesson with Manoosh but it’s too late by then.
        I see Hannah as the instigator of (almost) everything with him unable to say No. I’d have to rewatch to see who invited her to dinner with the family, because he shouldn’t have done that, but it may have been Ellie instead.

      • lappers84 says:

        Actually it was Chuck who had the dinner idea in Fake Name, during the awkward Ellie/Hannah/Chuck scene early in the episode.

      • authorguy says:

        That was definitely a mistake, but since Hannah’d already jumped his bones after the Mask it’s less of a mistake than it might have been. The damage was already done.

      • uplink2 says:

        The thing is Chuck may not even be consciously aware of it but Hannah certainly was. In her mind he is giving out all kinds of signals that he is a nice guy, single and AVAILABLE. That to me is flirting. It doesn’t have to be overt, Hannah was doing that enough for both of them. Yes he is being Chuck but at no point does he rebuff her advances. It’s a different style but it can be just as effective if not more so.

        Would Hannah have come to Burbank if he wasn’t flirting in her eyes? She wasn’t there for a low level job, she was there for Chuck and at no point did he give her any signals that her efforts were unwanted or that he was in fact deeply in love with someone else. Or had just told her so and the fact he had made a monumental change in his life because of her. His behavior is much like it was with Lou. He was most definitely “Chuck flirting” there. The only difference is that he had just been told under the influence of Truth serum that there was no future with Sarah. But here he had just told her he loved her and she had responded that she wanted to “clean up the mess they had made”. That statement was more than he had been given by Sarah on many occasions and it should have been enough to sustain him like it always had been.

      • authorguy says:

        Wow. That is just the most concept of ‘flirting’ (or indeed any action)’ve ever heard of. I don’t have to do anything, but if someone thinks I am then it’s my fault. So if a man has a lustful thought about a girl, do you punish the man or the girl?
        You’ll pardon me for not blaming him for something *she* did, which he didn’t know she was doing and didn’t tell her not to do.

      • oldresorter says:

        Hannah – Chuck seemed oddly written, in terms of what point was being made (the point being he loved Sarah, amazing eh?). Once I accept Sarah is going to be banging Shaw for half the misery arc, I think Chuck needed to be with lots of girls to realize what being a seducing spy was, rather than pathetic in his misery for the most of the 13 eps, even pathetic in his short and really odd LI episode or two. That is lots of pathetic. Had chuck been on a mission and had to sleep with a girl with the team watching, that would have created some real drama, played off what Sarah did or didn”t go thru. Could you see Sarah coaching Chuck on what he did wrong (or right) the morning after. Or even Chuck and Sarah on a mission, and Chuck making a pass at Sarah – for the mission. Or Shaw ‘ordering’ his girlfriend on a real seduction, showing chuck (and all of us) why spies don’t love, and take what they can get in terms of companionship from someone that understands the nature of being a spy. Once you accept 13 episode of rotteness is coming, the writers had some room to make some pretty important, albeit tought to swallow, points. Instead, much like the beach at the end of s5, when s3’s misery finally ended, I was left scratching my head wondering, wondering I guess how I could like such a poorly crafted show.

      • atcDave says:

        I would admit Chuck’s flirting is pretty low key in First Class, even to the pioint of saying IF he had been confronted by Sarah for his behavior on the plane that she maybe needed to relax a little. BUT, when she showed up in Burbank he needed to put out clear not interested signals. Its the fact Chuck doesn’t apply any breaks to the situation that make it so damming of his character, even given that Hannah is the aggressor. And Chuck’s happy sigh at the end of First Class just left me furious, so inappropriate. Even if we only define it as Chuck going along for the “ride”, it was a ride he had no business being on.

      • uplink2 says:

        Marc, are you really going to say that Chuck didn’t know Hannah was flirting with him? That her coming to Burbank was really just because she needed a job? An entry level, practically minimum wage job at a chain store when she was used to flying First Class for her employer? The Chuck is unaware of when women are interested in him troupe is a creation of FanFiction and is never shown in the show. It’s the same as Sarah’s obsession with her car. It has become quasi canon only through FF but was never established on the show. From what we were actually shown it is equally plausible that Chuck was completely aware she was flirting with him. He’d be a idiot if it didn’t enter his mind once she walks into the BuyMore. He certainly responds very quickly once she does.

        Speaking of poorly crafted elements to this story how about the fact that at no point does Chuck question how she ended up showing up AFTER he was almost killed on his first solo spy mission? Or that it was all too convenient that she showed up on a mission Shaw planned and was beginning to show some interest in Sarah. Couple that with the absolutely ridiculous idea of Shaw helping make the dinner for Chuck, Hannah and the Awesomes. The fans were screaming she was not an innocent but Chuck never once questioned it. Is he really that lousy a spy?

      • atcDave says:

        I think for me the bottom line goes back to the fact I had personally identified so strongly with Chuck back in S1. So when we get Chuck making decisions or behaving in ways I find unacceptable it makes me very angry. Really, more so than about any other character or show I can think of. Even right here with Chuck and Sarah; Sarah’s later actions will mostly make me sad, while Chuck’s make me angry.

      • authorguy says:

        Which I take to mean that you can’t see yourself doing any of those things. That’s fine, but it doesn’t make the episode bad. I’ve never identified with a character that strongly that It annoys me when we diverge, so I don’t know what I’d do in such a case. I wouldn’t blame the show or the episode, though.

      • atcDave says:

        Marc its an entertainment issue. As I said, a big part of the show’s appeal at the start was how strongly I identified with Chuck. So when Chuck becomes less relatable, especially in ways I find grossly unappealing, it IS a problem for the show. And of course I can only judge per my taste, I would never presume to say I like/dislike something therefore you should too. But those like/dislike moments ARE what define my connection to the show. If I dislike something, of course it means its bad, to me. There are other examples involving Chuck the whiney buffoon that draw my ire too. But none of those whiney incidents draw out for half a season and leave me thinking our protagonist as become an immoral slug, so in the end, they aren’t nearly as big a deal.
        Chuck’s treatment of Hannah in First Class is not massively offensive in its own right; but kind of like my comments here about Three Words, the episode cannot be judged in a vacuum. And where the Chuck/Hannah relationship heads is utterly repulsive to me. Its origins lie in First Class, and I clearly see the start of Chuck’s inappropriate behavior there. The fact it will become MORE inappropriate later makes the earlier behavior worse, not better.

      • authorguy says:

        My issue is with saying an episode is bad because you don’t like it. There are objective elements to a show that one can use to say it’s bad. Dialog that isn’t appropriate to an established character, for example, plot points that make no sense or are due to constraints other than the story’s internal logic. If you don’t like what the character says or does, it’s unpleasant, but not necessarily bad.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I agree. Especially in light of the fact for me at least that there was no redeeming storytelling value to the whole Hannah arc to begin with. Nothing was gained by the distraction except to diminish Chuck as a character and get him to act like a douche. Chuck is NOT better prepared for DYLM and the payoff of that because of what happened with Hannah. It only served to make me and you I guess dislike him and broke the bond we may have once had with the character.

      • joe says:

        AuthorGuy, I agree with your criteria and would add transparent and blatant emotional manipulation to the list. Subtlety counts for a lot!

        But I must say that every time I think in those terms it feels like the left side of my brain has taken over and my right side has gone catatonic. Without studying the issue too much (and overthinking it), I need to have both the logical side and emotional side engaged enough to support the other, which is why I’m such a LOTR fan.

        When Chuck fails, it’s almost always on the logical side, and even that’s permitted in a show that’s part fantasy and part farcical. I do believe that fans, Dave in particular, are most upset when Chuck fails them emotionally, like when Chuck treats Hannah badly. Everyone has different balance points.

      • authorguy says:

        Well, if the show had been at all logical, a lot of the emotional failures would never have happened. Chuck treats her badly because he was set up to do so, her story could end in no other way. I could make a logical case for it (and I did, with the Hannah HISHE), or I could agree with you that it’s just bad writing (because I had to write the Hannah HISHE). It’s the possibility of a good story line that saves the episode for me. The bad episodes are those where there is no good story to be found. Fortunately there are only two of those, but there shouldn’t have been any. Every single unpleasant episode had at least one, if not dozens, more pleasant and more logical alternative available.

      • atcDave says:

        Good/bad are subjective terms. I understand labeling something “bad” that you enjoyed can be annoying, and I’m sorry if that rubs you wrong Marc. But seriously, I qualify my statements so often I think it’s a major distraction as it is. I just can’t go much farther than I already do. Every opinion I give is mine. And that applies to everyone else too. I find First Class very “bad”; but your disagreement is as much opinion as my initial statement.

        Joe did hit the nail exactly on the head. To me, how I relate, respect and like the characters comes first. Story matters, but it is secondary to the characters. So when Chuck becomes unlikable to me, the whole episode goes the same way. No story can save it.

    • JC says:

      I think people are forgetting that Chuck overheard Sarah asking for a transfer after making his confession to her. The audience knows she didn’t hear it at that point but he doesn’t. So he made his pitch to her and it failed in his mind and decides to move on. I’m no fan of the way things went down but to me that was one of the most adult and realistic decisions he made on the show.

      • atcDave says:

        I really don’t see anything mature about moving on when you’re actually not over the ex. Some of this is a normal television problem, it’s difficult to capture a sense of time with the demands of weekly programming.
        But the way this is framed is just all wrong for that. Sarah is treating Chuck with considerable care, well beyond the bounds of mere friendship, at the start of the episode. And she continues to fight for his safety the whole while he is flirting with Hannah. I just really hated Chuck in that episode.

      • uplink2 says:

        Wait so after probably 25 times of Sarah saying things like “It’s just a cover or I’m sorry Chuck, no, or You’re my asset and Chuck saying You’ll never be normal or I am going to live the life that I want with the girl that I love” where he doesn’t give up, that now because he mistakenly overhears her speaking about something he misinterprets as a reaction to something he said while drugged it’s now the proper decision to react by moving on? Really? He gives up on the love of his life because of that overheard misinterpreted conversation but rejects her agreeing that they can maybe clean up the mess they made that she said directly to his face later on.

        It took 5 years for Chuck to get over a woman he loved whom he believed slept with his best friend that betrayed him. Plus he really didn’t because as soon as she showed him any interest he ran back to her so fast Sarah’s head was spinning. But now after just 3 weeks, Sarah who never betrayed him, who never rejected him but he rejected and hurt her, but she still said she might want to clean things up we are supposed to believe he was moving on? Really? It’s only logic is that it is convenient for the story they wanted to tell. Every decision was based on creating miscommunication and getting to the LI geometry and not a mature and rational adult reaction to what she said and did.

      • atcDave says:

        ROTFL! Too funny.

        I apologize JC, I’m not laughing at you. I do understand what you’re saying, it just never played that way for me. Uplink’s response works better for me (and better than my own up above!)

      • uplink2 says:

        Thanks Dave and JC I understand your point. I’m just saying why now? After all he said and did and all Sarah said and did for 2 years why give up on his persistence now? Why was this time different? Especially when the basis for what you are saying was an overheard miscommunication between them and yet it was chosen over what she later said directly to his face. The only way it makes sense is to simply drive the miscommunication troupe so they can get to the LI geometry they were so enamored with. It doesn’t make sense for the Chuck we knew for 36 prior episodes.

      • JC says:

        No worries Dave and don’t get me wrong I see where you guys are coming from. What I’m getting at is throughout the series he’s told to move on from failed relationships by Ellie, Morgan,etc. So he finally takes that advice to heart, now whether that’s actual character growth or was it just needed for the story they were telling well your millage my vary. At that point in the series that was probably was the most direct and honest he’s been with Sarah about what he feels for her. And again in his mind he’s shot down completely, so I can understand moving on. I have no problem with people saying it was stupid or bad story telling to get that point but for a show that had a horrible track record on character motivations and reasoning this IMO wasn’t one of them.

        One thing about Sarah never rejecting Chuck. What about Vs The Ring and the trip he had planned? Honestly I’m shocked it was never brought up again myself as it might have been a more acceptable reason for Chuck not running away with her for some fans.

      • uplink2 says:

        @JC I realized after I clicked “Post” that I needed to edit that comment. I was talking about Sarah never rejecting him in Prague. There were plenty of times she rejected his advances in season 1 and 2. My point was that it wasn’t Sarah that rejected them becoming a couple it was Chuck. Sorry my misspeak. I really wish there was an “edit” function here.

        My point still is that Sarah didn’t reject his drugged speech. Chuck basing his decision to “move on” on an overheard conversation that led to a complete miscommunication when he had a direct conversation that in many ways could have been seen as the exact opposite of that miscommunication just seems so incredibly forced and manipulative. Why then? The only answer I can come up with is that it is needed to drive the OLI story they were in love with. It wasn’t really character driven it was plot driven and flies in the face of much of the story Ali was telling.

  3. oldresorter says:

    Funny thing about this ep, had it been the ‘worst’ of the misery arc, it might have been one of the ‘best’ episodes of the arc. But in contrast, since it was the nicest or most ‘Chuck-like’ episode of the arc, the episode was absolutely depressing in hindsight, in many ways since the episode reminded me of how well the show can do unhappiness, right before the payoff. The episode was written in a hopeful manner almost like the writer didn’t get the memo that the show was going to suck for the entire arc, getting worse and worse and worse with each passing week, instead of on the edge of returning to the fun, sweetness and happiness the show excelled at. Why was s3 so miserable? Well IMO, that’s the type of show Chuck was. The only difference between s3 and the rest of the show, in S3 the misery was taken too far, for too long, with less logic, and with less cleverness, then the bad was paid off with very little sweetness at the end.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah no doubt Jason, they took it too far for too long.

    • uplink2 says:

      I agree with most of this. Three Words “feels” most like a true Chuck (S1-2) episode of any of the misery arc and that is what is so infuriating. In many ways THIS was the show we fought for and wanted back. A show where yes there was some misery and conflict but it was short lived, resolved well with an optimistic look towards the future. The one step back two steps forward mantra of so much of the previous 35 episodes. The problem is that this and Operation Awesome are the ONLY steps forward. Everything else is a huge step back piled upon step back. So that in order to get back to where they were after Colonel, though not one bit better off as a couple because of all those steps back, they had to have an unearned gigantic leap where everything is simply swept under the rug to give us DYLM. As is mentioned here IF DYLM happened after OA and even if it ended with yes but we still can’t be together just yet because of this this and this it could have played out beautifully and true to the show we fought for and loved so much.

      But none of that happens. What we get are 8 more episodes of pointless OLI’s, characters we love being stupid, exhibiting loathsome behavior, no relationship or personal growth and a forced contrived, unearned payoff.

      Three Words is much like the Lethal Weapon to Pink Slip’s Beefcake, in terms of feel. The kind of short, difficult, dramatic arc with a solid positive payoff. But it gets ruined by the fact it was all irrelevant and a total lie. The optimism and relationship progression that Ali Adler was known for shines brightly here but the reset that is about to come just makes it all look so much worse because it was all just a big lie. Look at the previous Ali Adler episodes; Wookie, Truth, Cougars, Santa Claus, Best Friend, Broken Heart and shared credits on Ring. Every one of them had a major impact on the show and the direction of the story. They all moved Chuck and Sarah forward. Three Words could have done that. It could have saved the misery and the fracturing of the fanbase IF the movement of the relationship forward actually was part of the upcoming story which is wasn’t.

      Taken on its own Three Words is a very good episode it’s just that it and the characters get betrayed by the arc ahead

  4. lappers84 says:

    I think the worst point before the reset is Operation Awesome – Three Words we were led to believe that things could be fixed, but it’s at Operation Awesome were we’re led to believe that things are finally looking up, then BAM!! It all goes to crap.

    • atcDave says:

      Yup. As I said above, if the “do you love me?” Moment had come right after Operation Awesome season three still could have been something really good. Three Words had the appearance of setting things back right. Funny how a little thing like context can ruin a potentially great episode!

  5. Thanks for the shout-out, Dave. The funny thing is that I didn’t intend to write a S3-AU when I started Chuck vs. the Rogue Spy. Or at least, that’s not how I was thinking of it. But it fitted the story I wanted to tell, so that’s what it became.

    Not to mention, I think I’ve said this before, but I honestly couldn’t see myself writing any post-S3 story. (By that I mean, unaltered canon S3.) It would mean effectively accepting what happened in S3 and it’s such a mess, I couldn’t justify any of the characters’ actions/motivations.

    I had a hard time with this while writing Rogue Spy actually. For example, if you’ve read it, you know that I kept the idea that Chuck and Sarah were supposed to meet in Prague intact, which was on itself a very annoying thing for me to do. I needed it for the story, but it was difficult to justify any of it. Especially the Train Station scene, which made zero sense whatsoever.

    Also, I second Dave’s earlier rec on “Chuck vs Knowing” by ne71. Liked this one-shot a lot!

    • atcDave says:

      Crumby I’ve also noticed you only described Rogue Spy as “post-S2”; I almost followed suit, but you do incorporate a lot of S3 elements, so I decided not to belabor the distinction.
      I also considered waiting until First Class to bring this one up, since that’s sort of where you start. But you know, I think Rogue Spy is such a solid story all around, I kind of wanted to bring it up before someone beat me to it!
      Again, thanks for writing such a treat. There’s really a lot of S3 FF out there (I would guess almost half of the total), But Rogue Spy is really among the top stories.

    • uplink2 says:

      I also want to say that Rogue Spy was a great story and a very enjoyable read.

    • Crumby says:

      Yes, Dave, definitely. It is a S3 AU. I even ended things very closely from where things ended with the season. I only like saying post-S2 because my intention wasn’t to re-write S3, if that makes sense. The appellation is more of a question of where I come from writing the story, than what it ended up being.

      And at the time I started posting, it was also a question of letting the story be told, the imagination going, without revealing the ending/villain or making it too obvious. Now that it’s done, it isn’t an issue anymore.

      Thanks again to the both of you for the compliment.

  6. jam says:

    I always thought that the best thing to come out of Chuck S3 was inspiring fan-fiction writers to write stories far better than anything we saw on the show.

    “Not to mention, I think I’ve said this before, but I honestly couldn’t see myself writing any post-S3 story. (By that I mean, unaltered canon S3.) It would mean effectively accepting what happened in S3 and it’s such a mess, I couldn’t justify any of the characters’ actions/motivations.”

    That’s understandable, and for me the finale ruined canon compliant fics even further. What’s the point in reading about stuff that Sarah ends up forgetting? 😉

    I still love the characters though, and good AUs are a delight to read.

    • atcDave says:

      I sure do agree about the best part of S3! Really a great period for fan fiction.

    • uplink2 says:

      I’m working on one now and it has surprised me that the most difficult part of writing this angst filled story is accepting canon until the point where the original story I am making an AU of an AU of breaks with it at the end of Final Exam. It hasn’t been the Charina, the Sham, or the ultimate capture of a broken Sarah Walker. It has been accepting canon as written to that point where the original story begins.

      • Crumby says:

        Yes, that’s exactly what I meant, uplink. Not only it’s so damn hard to explain it, makes sense of it to tell a story, but I personally just don’t want to to go there, you know? It just makes me sad.

      • uplink2 says:

        Fixing the mess is going to be even harder lol. It may take me another 5 seasons.

  7. uplink2 says:

    I think now is as good a time as any to bring up the surveillance video scene. I was having a very interesting and enjoyable discussion of that scene with another great fan a short while ago on Twitter. We had this discussion before and I find it one of the fascinating things about online discussions like these. He proposed something very different from what I saw and taking a look back I do see where he is coming from. Now I don’t necessarily agree as I see so much more than that in the scene but here goes and I hope I do it justice.

    He proposes that the video scene is probably the most misunderstood scene in all of Chuck. That what the majority of “shippers” see isn’t at all what he clearly does. His view is that shippers see it as a very hopeful, optimistic scene that shows Sarah coming back to Chuck and moving towards and I paraphrase, cleaning up the mess they made and coming back together. His point is ” It was never meant to be the great romantic confession that shippers see it as.” but that ” Sarah’s guilt is what’s in play here. Sarah’s lost everything she wanted. The man she loves and her chance at a normal life. And the confession from Chuck just confirms that it’s all her fault. He did it all for her. The tape shows that her bitterness and anger at Chuck is unjustified and she’s the one who’s set him on this road – to being precisely the opposite of the man she fell for. How is it possible to see that as romantic?
    Besides which – do you honestly think she’s surprised that Chuck loves her? It’s hardly news after all. His explanation of his motivation is the key – and it’s the very worst thing that Sarah could have heard. That Chuck and Sarah are at total cross purposes.”

    While I do see his point that there is definitely a feeling of guilt in Sarah’s reaction but Yvonne’s performance is so much more than just that. We both agree that Carina’s intent is to help her best friend, no question about it. She may never want to break the cardinal rule of spying but she knows that Sarah clearly has and is miserable because of it. She wants to comfort her friend and let her know for certain what Chuck’s motivations were and that in fact he loves her too. That Chuck’s confession is to finally explain why he did what he did and that it was out of love. Now we have debated here already that part of that was a lie as well certainly in light of his actions 3 weeks later but on principle at that moment his confession was done out of love.

    But it’s Sarah’s response that we disagree on or at least in part. I now think we do see guilt in Sarah’s reaction but that isn’t everything. I also see love certainly, she is most definitely deeply in love with him still. I also see some joy that he wasn’t rejecting her but being who she always knew him to be. Plus sadness that she misinterpreted his actions and her anger is misplaced. And yes I do see hope. Hope that things can somehow move forward. Maybe that is in part my hope being projected but there is just so much in her brilliant and subtle performance. She shows Carina when she first is asked if she wants to come that even with the hurt and bitterness she feels, this is where she belongs. Carina knows she would say that and just wants her to know her reasoning is justified. But once Sarah watches the confession not one word of dialog is spoken yet Yvonne tells us so much in how she reacts to it. Love, guilt, joy, sadness, hope and loss all in just a few moments. Unfortunately it is only the guilt that seems to be carried forward. The rest of those emotions as just swept away because we have another round of pointless relationship resets with unnecessary LI’s coming that even my friend here knows that throwing in the LI’s was a terrible and unjustifiable decision.

    Just curious how the folks here see it.

    • joe says:

      Wow. Your twitter discussion hits the mark, Uplink. I think there’s a lot of merit in the scenario – Sarah’s inner dialog – that your friend proposed.

    • atcDave says:

      Uplink we’ve seen commenters make that connection from the night the episode first ran. In hindsight that view would seem to be mostly correct. But I don’t actually believe they’re correct for how the scene was shot or first intended. The writers actually claimed, in interviews at the time, that Three Words had mended most of what was broke. Add in the deleted scene of Sarah not trusting Shaw, and I think the original intent was closer to the ‘shipper assumption. Later, when the misery arc was extended I think they made Sarah’s “guilt” more a part of the story, and the scene in question had enough ambiguity about it to be read that way.
      So in full context, the bleaker interpretation is most correct. But those of us who saw hope and healing in the scene weren’t actually wrong either. We were merely made fools of later. But I turn that all back on the writing. That a significant number of viewers took so much hope from something, only to have the hope later snatched away, reflects on the material more than the viewer. Ultimately, it’s THEIR job to make us understand. I don’t mean to hold them accountable for everyone understanding everything, but when huge numbers of your audience are misreading what’s on screen (again, maybe a third?) it’s a story-telling error.

      Oh and for the record, the “correct” interpretation doesn’t really make anything better. It might have removed the stench of “lie” from Three Words; but it substitutes bleak which I like just as little. I guess being honestly told “you will hate this coming arc” is marginally better than being lied to that “everything is better now”. But we’re dealing with degrees of bad, there’s nothing good in either case.

    • uplink2 says:

      Joe, I can see some of what he is saying but my point is it isn’t all that’s there. As Dave said if the writers said that Three Words had mended most of what was broken then his interpretation is not completely accurate. That their intent was also to give the viewer hope. But it’s the hopeful aspect to that scene that is disregarded. going forward so what they are telling us is a lie. Plus I agree completely with Dave that if a very large part of your audience sees things differently than you intended, it isn’t their fault it’s yours. A few individuals or a small percentage misinterpretting it is one thing but I think those that see that scene as hopeful and then yes disregarded going forward is a very large part of the audience.No matter which way it’s interpretted some part of it is a lie. Either the story itself or what we were shown and told.

      • authorguy says:

        I’m not comfortable with the word ‘lie’, which implies that the failure to develop this story was deliberate. At the time the episode was written it may not have been a lie. In subsequent development the writers may have lost sight of all the threads of the episode. If they had all the threads in sight and said, “Eh. Let’s discard that one, we need more episodes and that one won’t work”, then yes, it would be a lie (it would also be wrong) but do we know that’s what happened?

      • atcDave says:

        Marc you’re right in saying we shouldn’t assume intent, and I’m sorry if I did. But I was thinking more in terms of the mood of the episode itself being a lie, and the later direction of the story made it a lie. Perhaps a lie of neglect or omission more than anything else, but the line “perhaps we can clean up this mess” becomes a lie to the viewer. And it’s a painful lie that’s hard to let go, because the hope and optimism many of us felt at the time proved to be completely false.

    • BigKev67 says:


      Thanks for the reference to our discussion – and you did do it justice!

      I just want to clarify that I don’t think the confession scene is totally bleak. The genius of the scene (and I do think it’s brilliantly done, both in writing and execution) is that it shows both sides of the very discussion that we’re having. The confession, of itself, is romantic, of course it is. But it’s much more subtle than that. The confession is also the very worst thing that Sarah can hear, at that point, for all the reasons discussed. The scene takes what is, on the surface, a romantic moment, and uses it to demonstrate how utterly far apart Chuck and Sarah are at that very same moment. Chuck has done something “for” Sarah that is the very worst thing he could have done, while Sarah has it confirmed that Chuck is exactly the hero she always thought he was, but that knowledge leaves her further away than ever from what she wants. Again, I think that’s brilliant writing.

      As for the whole idea that this episode is a lie, I respectfully completely disagree. When they talk about “fixing what’s broken” at that moment, where are they at, as a couple? They haven’t seen each other in months, they’re barely talking. Chuck has poured out his heart to Sarah, and Sarah has asked for a transfer and beaten him with a stick. And Sarah has realised that she is directly responsible for the very decision that is going to cost her what she most wants – a relationship with Chuck. Taken in that context, “fixing the mess” cannot possibly mean “let’s start a relationship”.
      But it could mean “let’s decide to be friends, make Team B functional again, and be able to do our jobs” – and that’s exactly what they decide to do in the next episode. So not a lie at all.

      My point here is that if you go into a scene, or an arc, with a fixed expectation of what must be accomplished, and that doesn’t happen, that’s not necessarily the writers fault. I think this episode accomplishes precisely what it was intended to – illustrate the duality of Chuck and Sarah’s situation at that point. Some don’t want to see the duality because they’re only interested in one outcome. That’s a legitimate response – but I don’t think it’s fair to blame the writing for “misleading” you.

      The problem of course, is that all of this is setting up a story that a lot of people just didn’t want to see. But I think sometimes we’re way to eager to conflate “I don’t want to see this story” with “this story is badly written or manipulative”. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is plenty of objectively poor writing in S3, but Three Words isn’t it. In fact, I think Three Words is quite the opposite.

      • Exactly the point I was trying to make earlier, although it is true that a writer can start a story heading in one direction, find it going in a different direction, and forget to clean up the hooks he left behind. That is poor writing.
        This is an incredibly complex story being told without words half the time (thank God for Yvonne’s talent!), that most viewers simply didn’t catch all the nuances to. Even the best writing may not be up to such a job.

      • uplink2 says:

        Thanks for joining us Kev. I thought this discussion was important and wanted to have an open, honest dialog about it in this alternate thread. I’m glad you stepped forward to express your opinion more cohesively than I.

        First, I agree and said above that I think this is a very well written episode. Let’s face it all of Ali’s are, I may hate Fake Name with a greater passion than any episode of this series by a mile but part of the reason I do hate it so much is because it is well written and uses what I love most about her writing to basically spit in my face. But Three Words isn’t like that. As I said I think it could have been the best episode of 3.0 except for how it is shown to be a lie later on. Even with that objectively speaking I’d say it’s the best written of those front 13.

        I agree with your assessment of “fixing the mess we made” is not jumping into a relationship. Its a long and difficult road. If you look at if from the narrow context of what comes in OA, step one of fixing the mess is becoming friends, making Team B functional again and doing their jobs. Based on that yes, you are correct, mission accomplished. The disconnect comes from the fact that step one is the only step they take. Plus I don’t see anywhere where Chuck or Sarah says “this is as far as we will ever go in fixing things. There is no possibility of anything beyond step one.” That is where this episode becomes a lie with what happens 2 episodes later in First Class. In fact they even stop being friends after First Class except for Tic Tac when it is their connection to Casey that brings them back. But in First Class Chuck turns 180 degrees away from step 2 and heads off towards a completely different direction abandoning Sarah who is basically pleading with him to not go because she is worried about him beyond just as her friend and partner. Sarah wants to take step 2 and he rejects her again. It’s not Sarah that doesn’t want step 2 as some have said therefore justifying Hannah, it’s Chuck that rejects it. Isn’t that the lesson of another Ali episode, Best Friends? Sarah having someone in her life, a true friend who cares about her? And doesn’t that lead us towards the Lethal Weapon statement? But here Chuck isn’t Sarah’s friend who cares about her and puts her first working to get to step 2. He’s now a selfish spy and a single guy who an attractive brunette accepts a menial minimum wage job so she can be around him. That is where the lie and betrayal of Three Words comes from. The romantic speech by Chuck is shown not to be the romantic confession we were led to believe it was but only a confession for that moment in time. That if he truly meant it he would have focused on being her friend and partner and moving towards someday taking step 2 instead of chasing the next shiny object that distracts him.

        I know you agree that there is no justification for the LI’s but it is that storyline that tarnishes this one. For me and many others it is that storyline that makes a great episode like Three Words unwatchable now. That the promise of Three Words of a slow, messy at times, enjoyable, heartfelt journey back to each other from how far Ali eloquently has shown them to be is simply thrown away for a story that I at least had absolutely no interest in seeing and had no positive growth for either character. A pointless journey to an empty LI well. Give me that redemption story Ali is showing us is a possibility here. It wasn’t Ali’s story that was badly written it is what comes a few episodes later that tarnishes and diminishes the great work she did here.

      • Fake Name is the single worst written episode of the entire series. I was quite shocked to find that she wrote it, it’s so bad.

      • atcDave says:

        You know I almost said up above “that sounds like Big Kev”. Funny.

        I do think you misunderstand or misrepresent what ‘shippers were complaining about Kev. You’re combining two separate issues. There’s no doubt I wanted a happier 3.01 that would have led to a completely more upbeat S3. And yeah, Chuck and Sarah together is a requirement for that to work.

        BUT; Three Words is not 3.01. Given what we already sat through there was no doubt that cleaning up the mess would NOT involve a fast fix. That was abundantly clear. But there is a huge, HUGE leap from cleaning up messes to a happy couple. I think we all knew relationship drama lay ahead. Saying we didn’t wan’t it is a different issue that can only go back to 3.01. Once Pink Slip was done, we were stuck with some measure of drama.
        And that’s fine (well not really, but fine enough for now). But the LIs are the most offensive and unwanted element of the story, by far. And I think the LIs are the difference between “not a favorite”, and “loathe”. At least for me. And the LIs are what make the lie of it. They quit trying to clean up their mess and went their separate ways. And that is not what I was tuning in to watch.
        But I think you also misrepresent in saying there’s only one way I would have accepted the story. Have you ever looked at my favorites list at 245 favorited stories at last count. And that doesn’t include the much larger number of stories I’ve read and enjoyed that just fell a little short in some regard. That’s hundreds of ways of telling parts of the Chuck story that I’m quite enthusiastic about.
        Although it is true I’m not always fond of the “official” version. I think its safe to say I would have accepted any one of several possibilities at every turn where I was unsatisfied. But I never feel obligated to accept whatever I’m fed. I am a critical viewer/reader and I know my own taste. And that is the crux of my issue with season three, I find it profoundly unsatisfying.

      • BigKev67 says:

        “I don’t see anywhere where Chuck and Sarah say “this is as far as we’ll go in fixing things…..”
        Um – who says they have to say that? Usually that’s a given in the “let’s be friends” conversation isn’t it? Let’s be friends is the conversation you have when the romantic involvement is finished – or at least that’s how I read it. You don’t normally have to spell that out.
        And I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to be thinking of moving on at that point. Chuck has laid it on the line for Sarah and she has, as mentioned, asked for a transfer and beaten him up. I’m tipping that the most forgiving man in the world might take the hint at that point.
        And Sarah’s heart has been shattered. She’s consumed with anger and guilt – and Chuck is on his way (she thinks) to losing the very things that she loves about him. Putting up the walls and beating a retreat seems pretty sensible to me.
        I don’t think there is “no justification” for the PLI’s – in fact I think moving on is perfectly feasible given what they (mistakenly) think about what’s happened. But I do think there was no justification for the specific PLI’s they chose. Sarah falling for another spy and Chuck falling for another civilian added nothing to the story that I could see. I’m not actually sure what PLI story they could have written that could have added much – but that doesn’t mean that I think the idea of them calling it quits and moving on is unreasonable at this point – because I don’t think it is.

      • authorguy says:

        I’ve always said that Hannah, at least, was intended to be Chuck’s perfect woman, in order to test the strength of his resolve to be a spy by offering him a hefty reward for quitting.
        Shaw, on the other hand, was more of a warning for Sarah than a prize. I had an epiphany on this subject a few chapters ago, probably due to something someone on this board said.

        “Suddenly she saw herself in him, five years down the road in a world without Chuck. The very stuff of horror, terrifying and repulsive at the same time. He hadn’t survived his wife after all, just…continued.”

      • oldresorter says:

        100% of the fans who started watching season 3 liked Chuck. A significant portion of those did not like season 3, that was a stunning fail.

        There is an INFINITE number of stories which could have worked in season 3, not just one. Saying only one story would work is making stuff up, onlly God could know that. Unfortunately, this is a fact, the story told did not work for many fans, not casual observers. But the thing that still bothers me, after all this time, is trivializations of my POV. I think recognition that the story failed would go a long way toward healing the bad feelings.

      • BigKev67 says:

        Apologies for misrepresenting you. I didn’t mean to do that. I don’t think for a second that anyone should be uncritical about what they watch. I’m certainly not. Everyone has their tastes, and you can’t be made to like something you don’t like. But from a writing standpoint, it’s impossible to write something that everyone will like. What you have to do is convince your audience that your story is at least possible, within the parameters of the characters you’ve laid out. I think Ali does that in this episode, which is why I don’t see it as “the lie” that others do. But even if you see an arc or a scene as “possible” or “in character” that doesn’t mean you have to like it. But it does mean – in my opinion – that the writer has done their job.

      • BigKev67 says:

        No arguments from me. I liked S3, for the most part, but I can’t argue that it was a storytelling success or a commercial success, because clearly it wasn’t. Anything that alienates as many people as S3 did has to be marked down as a failure. Although in partial defense of the writers, how you keep a fanbase as broad and varied in its tastes as Chuck’s, intact without upsetting a large portion of it at some point is something I’m
        glad I don’t get paid to worry about 🙂

      • atcDave says:

        Kev I think the lie I see was caused more by the show runners than the episode writer. As I said above, I think Three Words itself was well written and I was eager to see the cleaning up of messes I thought we would get. Especially when the next two episodes were more upbeat, and I could imagine a story unfolding in ways I wanted to see from there. But it was a show runner’s decision, and arc decision that ruined it entirely for me. And that’s what put the lie to it. The moment Chuck started flirting with Hannah, Three Words became a lie.
        And yes I know some viewers find Chuck’s (and later Sarah’s) behavior acceptable, understandable or even “mature”. But I don’t.

        We’ve been having these discussions for three years now. I’ve seen every possible attempt at explaining, justifying, rationalizing and defending the S3 main arc, but it just doesn’t matter to me. Its not an issue of understanding anything, its an issue of the show I loved and fought to save being turned into the sort of show I don’t even want to watch. It is primarily an entertainment issue. That supersedes any story, theme or character defense/rationalization a person can come with. Chuck turned into, for most of a season, a show I was not interested in watching.
        Which leads back to the entire point of these “Alternatives” posts. I am not terribly interested in rehashing everything I found wrong with S3, again. I had hoped we could spend more time focusing on the ways the story could have been better. What could have been more entertaining, or what story threads were left hanging that we would have liked to see developed. I really don’t want these posts to be non-stop complaining, we’ve done plenty of that. There are so many better options for how things could have been done, and THAT’S what I want to talk about.
        Obviously, my original complaints about the season remain. And to the extent that seems to be what draws the most the most attention, I guess I’m willing to play along. But it isn’t my first choice.
        And just for record, I do not mean to say defenses of the canon story are pointless. I actually came around, more or less, to liking the finale (still with reservations, but no longer hostile). But I think S3 is beyond redemption for me.

      • aerox says:

        As much as people talk about S3 alienating the viewers, objectively speaking, season 4 and five also experienced pretty big drops in viewers. Plus, S3’s major drops come around the time of Honeymooners (and Pink Slip had a pretty big drop too). So maybe there’s a little nugget of truth in the fear of getting the two leads together.

      • joe says:

        There might be, Aerox. Does anyone have information about the ratings for Castle lately? It may be too early to tell, but it seems a little “off” since Kate and Rick got together too.

        The last episode was a case in point. I imagine the writers thought that they were clever in putting Rear Window on the small screen like that, but ultimately, it came off as a bit of a trivial, throw-away episode. It was a decent murder/mystery for Rick, but IMHO not as riveting as Kate and Rick struggling together to find each other.

      • oldresorter says:

        Chuck’s creative team figured out during s2’s Beefcake arc how magic Sarah was in creating passion among fans, by having something happen to Sarah that affects Chuck. The show since then (in the big arcs) always had an element of Chuck vs Sarah or her situation (Byrce/Shaw/Sarah away for 6 mos/first fight/Sarah arrested, then undercover for mama B/Sarah norseman’d/Sarah captured and beaten by Shaw/Sarah solo in Germany/Sarah amnesia.) That is the show. S3 might have gone too far, I think Fedak used the word ‘limit’ to describe s3. The amnesia story went way over the limit again for me, but Chuck vs Sarah is how the show was written. I always wanted more for the show than this, I wanted Chuck and Sarah (and Casey) vs the world, with the three of them in a good place, and near everything else crumbling around them as the source of ‘epic’. But, that isn’t the show I got. My peace with the show is that once I realized I don’t like how the show is written, it’s pretty easy to let go. I love the good the show gave, and realize for me, the show had lots of bad. S3 is part of that, along with many other things, in all 5 seasons. The thought of the old team making a movie scares me, I hope it never happens, as I can think of many, many ways to make a movie where Chuck and Sarah spend a great deal of time not as a happy, in love, and in trust team vs the world. And I don’t think a happy ending is a guarantee, although I would guess an unhappy (for Chuck and Sarah) movie with a happy ending is the most likely scenerio.

      • aerox says:

        I’m quite interested in seeing a film, mostly because I’m honestly curious to see if Fedak and Schwartz (if they’re involved) will basically prove themselves to be as untrustworthy as people claim they are. After all, we have it on record that, the moment the finale ended, Chuck and Sarah were in a good place. Plus, with a project like crowdfunding (which basically is the only way a movie is happening), not delivering what the majority of fans want is basically the director/writer/actors throwing away a large trust.

        With that in mind, does anyone REALLY think that Logan and Veronica won’t end up together in the movie? Okay, yes, they’re in a shitty spot (according to Rob they haven’t even seen each other in the nine years between each other) but unless he’s completely off his rocker, he’s gonna end up putting them together. Mind you, I’m not now, nor was I ever a part of the VM fandom, so I don’t know how big Logan/Veronica is, but given that he dedicated a FAQ question to it, be it in jest, shows that it’s an issue among the fandom at least. Does he really want to risk the ire of a large part of the fanbase (who paid much, MUCH more for this film than a simple $10 ticket)? I’d hope not. For his sake, and the fans’

      • atcDave says:

        I actually like Castle better with Rick and Kate together, just as I liked S4 of Chuck best of all (actually, I like the IDEA of S5 most of all. But S5 had more clunker episodes than S4). But I do think there’s an issue with how coupling changes a key dynamic of a show. There have been many successful, long running series with a stable couple at the center of the story (Hart to Hart, Macmillan and Wife); but I think the trick is, making that transition. I think there are, in some cases, just completely separate sets of viewers who will appreciate the pursuit best, vs those who enjoy the stability more. So I think the trick is, when a show makes that transition, to market it slightly differently to reach those viewers who will appreciate what has changed.

        One of those things that really needs to be dealt with too, is the fact that a prolonged wt/wt may have cost you many of the viewers who will most enjoy the end of it. I am certain this was a huge problem for Chuck. We lost a huge number of viewers in S3, who would have loved S4. Obviously, I think the best solution is to end wt/wt sooner, as in before you’ve started scaring away original viewers. Once that hemorrhaging has started it’s difficult to win people back.
        Of course the flip side to that is; the viewers who most like the angst and the pursuit, may not like the happy stability phase. Keeping an audience committed and engaged is surely not easy.
        And based purely on discussions we had here, I would guess SOME of those viewers we lost in S4 can still be tied back to S3. I think there was a fatigue and cynicism about the intent of the show runners that led to little patience with any story involving angst or tension even after the end of wt/wt. And I think some really dynamite episodes like Aisle of Terror actually scared off some viewers because they feared a return of some sort of wt/wt. I can only speculate; but I suspect, if wt/wt had ended in a more timely and natural manner that was less damaging to the main characters many viewers would have had more patience and trust with letting the show runners tell their own story. In a nutshell, all that incredible goodwill built up in S2 was squandered in S3. A more enjoyable S3 could have left the goodwill intact and bought the writers a lot more freedom with difficult stories told over the course of the series, instead of wasting it all in one misguided arc.

      • atcDave says:

        Aerox and Jason I do agree how a future Chuck project unfolds will be fascinating to see. My first thought is just that I hope Schwedak are not directly involved, I’d be much happier with LaJudkins or Kristen Newman writing. Of course that brings up a host of additional questions, like how much of the blend of moods and themes that makes up Chuck depended on the original show runners? Or can a former staff writer(s) recapture enough of what was essential to make it work for most of us?

        But I have to follow that up by quickly saying I’m not horribly worried about it, even if Fedak is at the helm (and I do trust him FAR more than Schwartz). For starters, I think Zach will clearly be the organizer/initiator on whatever happens next. And Zach clearly gets what fans were most concerned about at the end of the show. Let’s say I’m 90% sure with Zach taking the lead we’ll get a fan friendly project. The only reservations I have are that Zach did occasionally fall under the spell of his writers during the run of the show. But I think with over a year off now he’s more aware than ever what fans are most concerned about. And since Yvonne has said she’s on board, and I feel even better about HER knowing what I want to see (let’s say that raises my confidence level to 99%) I’m feeling pretty good about things whoever writes.

        The whole crowd funding scene does add a new dynamic to the whole process. Creators will become more closely tied to their customers than in the previous commercial broadcast model. There may be some risk of projects being done as pure crowd pleasers that loose all dramatic tension or consequence. But for now, I’m pretty optimistic about what this means for Chuck.

      • ArmySFC says:

        Joe, to answer your question about ratings on Castle, season 4 averaged 2.3 in the demo, season 5 has averaged 2.2. not much of a drop off. Bones another show in which the leads got together had a big drop from season 6 to 7 (but there was a move from thursday to monday and a change in hours) from a 3.0 average to 2.1. but in season 8 they have gone up in ratings to a 2.3 average and getting better ratings each week.

      • uplink2 says:

        @Kev here is the conversation that I think proves my point.

        Devon: You two take care of each other.

        Sarah: He would have made an awesome spy

        Chuck: Yea I guess it runs in the family (long pause)

        Ahh listen I’ve been meaning to ask… What do you think our cover should be moving forward?

        Sarah: Well I think we should keep it simple. Sooo How about friends?

        Chuck: Friends huh? … Yea that could work. I supposed I could fake being friends with someone like you..

        Sarah: hmm And I don’t find you completely repulsive Sooo

        Chuck: Thanks

        Sarah: So ya friends?

        Chuck: Yea friends

        (very emotion filled extended handshake)

        (Morgan friends discussion)

        Sarah: Maybe we are not quite there yet.

        Chuck: Okay we can work on some other options

        (big smiles on both)

        First they are talking about their cover but of course there is an incredible amount of emotion and subtext. Sadness, hope, caring all kinds of things but I really don’t see where there is the unwritten limit you are talking about. Besides they were never really together. Plus in their history there is always something so much more behind the “friends” subtext and it is very clear here as well. But this is just step one and I really think what happens later does another disservice to this great moment. The “other options” Chuck talks about are ways of building their friendship and none of it happens. There were no “other options” plus what comes next is a hug that is far far far more than just “friends” when Awesome is captured.

        That scene is not just a couple breaking up and becoming friends with the implied nothing more. It is a scene of step one being taken with an open end of what may follow. They both know and see the emotion between them I think the promise, like through out their history of more.

        As far as the OLI’s being justified, first I was talking about the specific ones they used. Though I don’t think any would have worked after the monumental moment of “It is real”. It all would still come of as contrived manipulation. It was just made worse by the type they chose and in Shaw’s case the terrible story they wrote for him and the failure of the actor who was given the role.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with all if that Uplink. Clearly a big difference among fans is how we read the intent of cleaning up messes and the friends dialogue. To me it was all pretty overtly romantic, which made later episodes repulsive to say the least. I would say those who took a more literal view seem to be more correct, but the staggering number of us who took it differently can only be called a story telling failure. Of course much of that failure has to do with the mood established at the end of S2. If percentages from this site’s poll are even close to having broader implications, it looks like over a million of us were done with wt/wt, no matter what the show runners thought.

      • uplink2 says:

        I think the lyrics to the song in the background Living a Lie by Daniel Zott also add to the the fact this is NOT a normal couple breaking up and becoming just friends with the implied limit.

        when i wake up with the morning light i can always breathe
        somehow that never has meant much to me
        and i can’t say i am thankful for the things i have
        i’m a hell of a guy
        living a hell of a lie

        and if i gave it all way i’d expect something back
        i’m never sure that i could tell you where my heart is at
        cause every good thing i do is a selfish act
        and i’m a hell of a guy
        living a hell of a lie

        that’s why i don’t understand where you come in
        showing a son of dirt how to be a man
        i tried to refuse your name, still you love the same
        singing hallelujah
        singing hallelujah

        I tried to refuse your name, Still you love the same. That is Chuck telling Sarah that even when I reject you, you still love me and that I’m a hell of a guy living a hell of a lie. Too bad the lie was made much much worse as all this emotion and growth gets thrown away as this is the last step forward for a very long time and the countless steps back that are ahead simply were not worth getting us to the point they can finally put the lie to bed.

      • joe says:

        (but sometimes I think this un-plugged version is better, somehow. )

      • jam says:

        Aerox wrote:
        “I’m quite interested in seeing a film, mostly because I’m honestly curious to see if Fedak and Schwartz (if they’re involved) will basically prove themselves to be as untrustworthy as people claim they are. After all, we have it on record that, the moment the finale ended, Chuck and Sarah were in a good place.”

        If they are involved, I have no doubt that they’ll prove their untrustworthiness and take back everything they said about Chuck and Sarah and go back to wt/wt for the movie. Of course, that’s also possible even without their involvement.

      • aerox says:

        Dave, from a sustainable point of view, making pure crowd pleasers is about as suicidal as completely ignoring your fanbase, in the long run. Sure, at first it’ll all be good, but what happens when the producers start going wild and throw out the same regurgitated bile over and over: they’re gonna lose fanbase out of boredom.

        I’m pretty sure that the people who produce such things know this as well, so I highly doubt you’re going to see crowd pleasers.

        Jam, based on what do you think this? I don’t think CF has ever blatantly ‘lied’ about something. Skirted around the edges, sure, but never outright lied. And I’m going to pre-empt a S5 attack, because as much as I disliked the season, CF did what he said he would. The story was a love-letter, recounting the good ‘ol times. That the execution sucked and pretty much destroyed a lot of people’s goodwill towards the show, is a completely different discussion.

      • atcDave says:

        Aerox I agree entirely that such pandering is not sustainable. It does concern me a little though that it may be a strong temptation for many writers. Real crowd pleasing, without pandering, will be a difficult balancing act. But I suppose that balance is as timeless as the arts anyway, this just adds a new dimension to it.

      • jam says:

        “Jam, based on what do you think this?”

        I think he has demonstrated many times that he’ll sacrifice characters for what he thinks would be a cool plot twist, or even just a stupid joke. I don’t put much weight on his post-finale comments.

      • Robert says:

        I kind of agree to some extent with Jam, here;

        Chris Fedak did say that what he envisioned for Chuck and Sarah’s future (after the beach scene) was them being a happy couple, starting up their computer security firm. And that they probably wouldn’t always have to dodge bullets, although it was making his writer’s brain part thinking.

        But he ended by saying that FOR NOW, they’re happy, together, and thinking about their future.

        He left himself an open door. It also kind of imply that, like most of the show, it’ll take a turn for the worst before getting better. After all, it is the “Chuck” modus operandi.

        My only hope for the movie is that he will not sabotage the hopeful beach scene with having Sarah still not remember a lot of things after a few years. I don’t mind seeing Chuck and Sarah struggling with their new life, or having a happy life and suddenly the s**t hitting the fan, and then having them overcoming the problem TOGETHER.

  8. atcDave says:

    Here’s my Chuck movie vote… Quistie64 for lead writer. If there was any doubt before, today’s update of SOM II (chapter 39) kind of removes all doubt.

    To be fair,I’ve read a lot of dynamite fan fiction. But just a perfect chapter today.

    • Ruthiesw says:

      I’ll look forward to catching up then as I’m on chapter 8 at the moment! I love the SOM AU and Quistie64 is certainly a very talented writer who can bring together all the elements of the show I enjoyed.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah Ruthie. SoM has been a wonderful AU, I look forward to every update. And it’s massive now too; but that’s great, just more to enjoy.

  9. uplink2 says:

    In light of Dave’s request for some more “alternative discussion” in the thread and not just total bitching I have a couple of thoughts.

    dettoit has been writing some great oneshot ficlets from prompts on her tumblr page. I suggested one that I really do hope she writes that fits into Dave’s model here. I suggested a scene where Carina runs into Chuck leaving Castle after she gave Sarah the video. I think that could be an incredible moment. What would she say now that she knows what Chuck said and would she tell him that she gave it to Sarah. How could that all play out and what would happen if he went down to Castle after speaking to her or would Carina tell him to give her some time.

    But I will say this about our other discussions. From what we have been talking about it is even more clear to me that the more in depth we talk about this season, the more I realize there were some pretty great moments but it was the OLI’s and particularly Shaw that ruined the season for me and I believe many others. That even though I hated Pink Slip and the contrived direction they took, I could have lived with and been much much happier if the First Class reset had never happened. But unfortunately the resets, and lies that the OLI stories demanded and created ruin those great moments and make them unwatchable in retrospect.

    As one great Chuck fan said to me “I truly have never seen a show where one singular character could suck the fun out of everything like Shaw did. He was like a Dementor.” He sucked so badly that he even makes the episodes he isn’t even in unwatchable. It’s truly amazing that a guest star could be so poorly written, conceived and cast that he would actually almost destroy the love many felt for this show. What a dismal failure. Mo Ryan was right, he drags down every scene he is in and I would add even the ones he isn’t.

    • oldresorter says:

      Shaw in season 3 was kind of like leaving the co-star of the show with amnsesia as your love letter to your fans when TPTB at the network gave you a chance to go out on your own terms. Or near killing the same co star right before her wedding. Or leaving her helpless as she gets beaten senseless by Daniel Shaw for an entire episode, again keeping her from being part of the team. At some point, you have to realize, Sarah’s seperation from Chuck and misery is the nature of the show. Shaw in season 3 accomplished exactly what was intended.

      • authorguy says:

        I was talking this over with Dave last night, and I realized that in fact, there are no OLIs in the show. Neither Hannah nor Shaw are real people, nor are they intended to be. They are simply stand-ins for their two worlds, normal and spy. Sarah isn’t trying to love Shaw, she’s trying to love that life. The instant Chuck is alone, real life starts whispering in his ear. When I see them as symbols rather than people the whole thing makes more sense. Except for Fake Name, of course, which is always just bad.

      • oldresorter says:

        Aguy – might be true. Makes a bunch of sense. So many comments made on this blog about s3 make sense, usually in the area of what the intentions were, in this case symbols of spy vs normal lives. If only, when Fedak knew fans were struggling with understanding his intentions, he’d have said ‘Sarah and the spy life are getting closer and closer to each other’ right before 3.12, instead of Sarah and Shaw – LOL.

        But honestly, what you said, I think may be correct. I google Fedak, Schwartz, Ali, a couple of others maybe once a month to see if anyone ever comes out and tries to explain the season better. I have never found a single hit. As a subscriber to Occam’s razor, I will hold on to the show’s white board said keep Chuck and Sarah apart from Prague to Paris, and the rest was filled in, without a great deal of connected thinking, as the big picture ‘moral of the story’ or lesson was left ambiguous intentionally (b4 you scoff at that, think of how the show ended in S5).

        My opinion is Ali made Chuck s1/2 what it was in a way that she will never get credit for. So much of Chuck seems to reflect her biting sense of humor, and unique way to interject sweetness into romance. Once she left, the show never was quite the same in terms of wit and deep connection, was it? I wonder if Fake Name was kind of her way of saying to the fans, I don’t like this any more than you did, so rather than write an epic Shaw – Sarah beginning, she did what she did. Crazy theory, not Occam Razor like at all. Conversely, b4 she left, she did deliver when given an opportunity to writer Chuck and Sarah, assuming she had a large role in the Honeymooners ep.

        But, until someone comes out and tells us, we are all left to guess, as what we saw did not measure up to the quality of what we expected.

      • authorguy says:

        Doing non-visual symbolism in a visual medium is very tricky. I know I had a problem with Return of the Jedi, the only way they could represent the Emperor’s evil mastery of the Force was by having a choir of bass male voices vocalizing in the background, but that never worked for me. It’s the same here. It’s much too easy to take Shaw and Hannah at face value. They might have had an easier time if the genders had been reversed so the LI angle would be negated, but more likely they wanted the confusion, or thought it was a minimal price to pay.
        I like your theory about FN, she’s such a good writer it’s hard to imagine her doing an episode like FN other than deliberately.
        I honestly like what S3 was trying to do, so I spend a good bit of time, especially as I write my stories, trying to see the logic of it as clearly as I can. I don’t believe what they did was as random as it looks, but figuring out what’s going on beneath the surface isn’t easy. I don’t say that my interpretation is right, but it makes sense and that’s critical for me. Shaw acts randomly because the spy game acts randomly. If Chuck flirting with Hannah in E5 is a deal-breaker, my interpretation makes it less so, and may perhaps save the show from utter ruin in your eyes if you can change the way you see these things.

      • atcDave says:

        Except to me, it doesn’t really matter what any of it symbolizes or really means. The end result is no fun. I’ve seen many attempts to explain, some work better than others. But none fix the entertainment failure.

        I think I’m hesitant to give Adler either too much blame or too much credit. I think t goes back to the show runners. They conceived and first executed the wonderful Pilot and established the mood and direction that served the show so well in its first two seasons. No doubt they were served by some wonderful and talented staff writers, Adler being among them. But they also get the blame for establishing the horrible outline that ruined the majority of S3. I am sure Adler, just like all the other writers, did the best she could with the episodes she drew for. She may have failed some by getting too cute, meta, and self referential. But ultimately it was the greater outline that failed all of us.

      • authorguy says:

        That would depend on the definition of ‘entertainment’ you’re using. If it means romance, HEA, smiles, togetherness, and other story elements like that, then no. It won’t add story elements, just change their significance. Sarah’s unhappiness becomes a different kind of unhappiness, with a different kind of resolution, but she’s still unhappy.
        For me it makes the story more logical, which is one of my requirements. I can live with them unhappy for now as long as there’s a purpose to it that gets resolved at some point, such as the DYLM moment. (Of course, there’s some bad writing there, too. In AH Sarah says she fell for Chuck, and Chuck says to Casey ‘Sarah fell for me’, so the DYLM moment is actually kind of anticlimactic.) But it is earned, I think. Shaw and Hannah are not threats to C&S in my interpretation, not alternative romantic interests, just life choices that threaten and test their relationship.

      • uplink2 says:

        In reading some of Schedak’s comments about Shaw there is a real disconnect between what they conceived in their heads and what was shown on screen. Here are a couple of comments from them that illustrate that from the Sepinwall interview.

        JS: I know there’s some question, “Why can she date Shaw and not Chuck?” She’s still there to protect Chuck. The bodyguard component of that professional relationship remains intact. Shaw is an equal – her boss in fact – and the same issue of Sarah’s feelings for Chuck compromising her ability to do the job in the most cold-blooded way possible remains.

        The problem with that comment is that the ending of Beard makes that statement a complete lie. Sarah pleading with her “boyfriend” for Chuck’s life and to do it “for her” is the complete opposite of this statement. It’s not her feelings for Chuck that compromise her ability to protect Chuck its that she barely even tries. The pre-Shaw Sarah would have pulled her gun and dropped him long before he makes that call to Langley. But in Beard she was going to let Shaw kill him after the five minutes. Never once did she threaten Shaw and act like Chuck’s bodyguard. That statement above is only shown in Schwartz’s head, not on screen.

        CF: There’s also the part, too, that Shaw and Sarah share so much in common. They’re spies, they speak the same language, have gone through the same spy school. This is the type of guy that Sarah, in any other spy show, would fall in love with.

        The problem with this is that if this was another spy show the pilot never would have been picked up as the complete and total lack of chemistry between them or the inability of Routh to play a sympathetic character you connect with, Routh’s “Q”, is so low the audience would have turned the show off before it even ended. Then add in how terribly his character was executed and Fedak’s POV is disillusional. People didn’t buy into Sarah/Shaw because there was nothing there to identify with, no chemistry and it made Sarah look like an idiot for falling for him. Hell even many of the season 3 apologists say that Sarah/Shaw was a failure. And supposedly DR’s contact said the folks on the set said the same thing that it wasn’t working. We can talk about intent and what the show runners concept was but none of that matters if it never gets translated to the screen. They could have intended to write an Emmy winning season of epic proportions but if none of it gets to the screen it is all irrelevant. TV is not like kiddie soccer where everyone gets a trophy for just showing up. You live and die with what you put on screen and in S3 they failed at many points but especially with the Shaw character and actor.

      • atcDave says:

        Marc I think I was pretty clear I meant “my” entertainment. I’m not really very interested in defining it beyond that. And I stand by, categorically, S3 was an entertainment failure, for me, and understanding or explaining it will not help. I had a lousy time with it. And because of the way I like Chuck and Sarah I simply will not enjoy them unhappy. I understand from a storytelling perspective that attitude does present certain problems, but it is what it is. It’s the price they pay for insane levels of charisma and chemistry.

        Uplink I think a lot of those, and other comments, do show a complete disconnect between the show runners, what was happening on screen, and where much f the audience was at. Sort of a perfect storm for trouble.
        As I’ve said many times, I wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing ANY love triangles post Colonel I reject the idea utterly. BUT, a bad situation was made even worse by the complete lack of charisma from Shaw. I found him contemptible and insufferable from the very start. And pairing him with Sarah made HER look like a complete idiot.

      • joe says:


        The pre-Shaw Sarah would have pulled her gun and dropped him long before he makes that call to Langley.

        I see what you’re saying, Uplink, but I think this much is not quite correct.

        We saw the pre-Shaw Sarah pull a gun on a fellow agent – not Mauser but Longshore – in Marlin, and she explicitly didn’t shoot. With Shaw, her boss and her “boyfriend” (scare quotes intended), I think she’d be less likely to drop him, not more likely.

        Personally, I think she does try to save Chuck, but the struggle is internal – with her heart against her head (which makes the physical struggle ineffectual). Professionally, she’s committed to deferring to her superior (who, so far, is a trusted superior) as much as her heart is to Chuck, with the caveat that right then, she and Chuck are trying to go their separate ways.

      • oldresorter says:

        go their seperate way? Come on fellow? Were talking Chuck’s life? That may have been the most reprehensible moment of season 3, and that is saying something. Disgusting.

      • atcDave says:

        Joe I think the problem is its just such a frustrating and unsatisfying scene. Sarah looked pathetic. Again, it hardly matters that you can explain it, it’s just another “boo, hiss” moment from a season full of them. I remember when KateMcK was writing the scene I jokingly told her Sarah should shoot Shaw, imagine my surprise when she did! The well thought out consequences were amusing (and not at all what I expected!).
        But I think the point remains, the scene was profoundly unsatisfying for many of us. Starting with the stomach turning “boyfriend” situation. This could have been an appropriate moment to end that nonsense when Sarah smacks Shaw upside the head, or knees him in the groin… This is the sort of scene that proves the lie in “violence doesn’t solve anything”. Of course it can, in the right situation.

      • joe says:

        Why, yes, OldResorter! Maybe I’m mis-remembering (I haven’t re-watched those episodes yet), but I have a suspicion that Chuck would be the first one to say that Sarah must be her best spy-self here, and that means, trusting her boss, the same guy who has just taught him how to be a spy and the same guy who just rode off to save Devon and Ellie.

        But I absolutely agree (with you and Dave!) that she looks pathetic (which may be intentional) and that it’s miserable to think about, much less watch. It is reprehensible, especially for this character, and very unsatisfying. It’s not irrational, though, which is why it’s so hard to watch. No heart at all.

        I think the only difference we have, actually, is about the scene’s level of importance. Compared to the interactions with Morgan, I thought that scene was a throwaway, which is not a justification, of course.

      • authorguy says:

        It’s not so OOC on a symbolic level. The spy life has just betrayed her, after all she’s done for it. It’s a turnaround moment for her. Then she betrays the CIA in Tic Tac to save Casey. The spy life punishes her with the red test. She trusts Chuck to do the right thing and he appears to fail.

      • oldresorter says:

        Joe – funny – I keep switching between oldresorter and jason, not sure why, I’m not trying to pull any funny business. I promise. I tend to agree with you that the scene might have been intended as a throw away scene, and that the ep was supposed to be about Morgan and Chuck. But, ‘intended’ is such a dangerous game to play in the analysis work, we really don’t know. I’m guessing 3×9 was written, shot, and maybe in the can by the time 3×7 aired, so nobody was watching the ep wondering ‘how would all those fans in an uproar over mask react to Sarah letting Shaw murder Chuck?

      • atcDave says:

        I agree it’s really a throw away scene. There were several of those during S3 that went over poorly; like the meta humor in Fake Name or Sarah’s interrogation in Living Dead. Again, I attribute a lot of that to the extreme disconnect between the writer’s room, the actual show being made, and the audience.
        And we do know Beard was long done before Mask ever aired; remember during the Olympics break they showed us an extended preview that included material from American Hero, Honeymooners, and even Role Models. So production was running way ahead at that point. JS (or maybe CF? I’m not 100% sure who) stated they were “beyond that now” several times when questioned about the misery arc at about that time. Maybe he thought that would make us all feel better, but we still had to sit through it.
        And that’s all part of the frustration. I’m left with the feeling my favorite characters were not being taken very seriously by their creators.

      • uplink2 says:

        See the problem with that Joe is that by deferring to her “superior” she is violating a direct order given to her by HIS superiors, Langston Graham and Diane Beckman, to protect the “Intersect” at all cost. Plus by deferring to him he would have killed Chuck with absolutely no remorse from Shaw because all that mattered was protecting those worthless disks from his wife. He said they would have access to everything but that is easy to fix by simply shutting down communications. Plus even with all that Chuck, the Intersect, is worth more than all of it and Shaw had no problem at all with killing him for his own agenda of revenge. Everyone and everything was expendable if it hurt the Ring in Shaw’s mind no matter how important.

        Sarah pulled her gun on Longshore, also a supposedly trusted agent doing his job, to protect Chuck from going to a bunker for his protection but when Shaw wants to blow him up and kill him she does nothing but plead pathetically as his girlfriend? Sarah Walker’s “prime directive” from the head of the CIA and NSA was to protect “The Intersect”. That is what Schwartz is trying to say but the problem is in Beard she does virtually nothing. That scene has Shaw make Sarah look weak and pathetic. Now sure my use of the phrase “drop him” is probably more desire on my part than anything as there isn’t much Sarah Walker could do that would make me happier than put a bullet in Daniel Shaw’s brain at that point lol but still. We had seen her pull her gun an a fellow Agent to protect Chuck once before when his life wasn’t even threatened just his freedom, we also saw her kill an unarmed man to protect Chuck but here she simply says do it “for me” to the guy who is going to blow him up? Then after the 5 minutes is up she makes no protest as he is about to initiate the self destruct command. How pathetic did they need to make her to sell their story?

      • JC says:

        I could buy into Sarah being conflicted if she didn’t go against orders in the very next episode to help Casey who technically was a traitor.

      • uplink2 says:

        Very good point JC. It’s like whenever Shaw was near her her IQ and spy skills dropped 80%. She became weak and pathetic whenever he was around. With Shaw/Stupid Sarah, No Shaw/Great Sarah.

      • atcDave says:

        Shaw finally saw a smarter Sarah in Ring II!

      • uplink2 says:

        Finally he did. But JC brings up a great point. In Beard we see a pathetic Sarah, weak and passive about protecting Chuck from being killed by her alleged “boyfriend” all for some worthless disks. Yet in Tic Tac she tells Chuck “I was hoping you would say that” when talking about helping and protecting Casey a man who committed treason. How do you mesh those two reactions together and actually make sense? Especially in light of the fact that Casey committed treason and she had already reached for her gun when Casey took the fifth. But yet when Shaw was going to blow up Chuck, the man she is ordered to be the bodyguard for and according to Schwartz it was still in play, she doesn’t pull it then but acts like a weak pathetic girlfriend? It’s times like these where you wonder what the hell was going on in that writers room. There is no cohesiveness to the characters. They, especially Sarah, are only there to serve the plot instead of the other way around.

      • atcDave says:

        That’s all part of why I find the season utterly flushable. It just wasn’t the show I wanted to see in any way. It wasn’t even about the characters I had loved in the first two seasons anymore. So I flush it all away…

  10. Wilf says:

    Aw, now you’ve made me feel really sorry for Brandon Routh, although not sorry for Shaw, of course!

  11. oldresorter says:

    Castle’s been brought up. I have always been fascinated by what other Chuck fans recommend. Wonderfall and The Pretender are two shows I found from Chuck fans. Recently, I power watched and enjoyed Veronica Mars start to finish, with the aid of FF’ing a bit, after reading here about the kick starter.

    One thing on new TV I take note of is how the main romantic arc is handled, vs how Chuck did it. I find myself very cold toward investing in romance on TV after Chuck’s s5 on the beach, along with s3’s misery. This season, I found 5 new shows to enjoy, Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, Revolution, Elementary, and somehow or other, I’m watching Nashville too.

    I find Arrow to be handling romance by letting the Sarah character live with Bryce, while the hero, her ex, kind of gets life figured out. This would be painful to watch, other than Oliver has a new girl near each show. The lesson with that one for me, Chuck needed more action, not less, if we had to sit through a season of Shaw and Sarah.

    Beauty and the Beast has gone all in already in s1, with just a little bit of distraction. I wonder how that is going to work out? Since the guy is a Beast and unable to fit in society, I suppose it’ll be OK. Again, if chuck and Sarah had a secret love in S3 while learning about spy vs normal together with Shaw as the antagonist, I’m pretty sure that would have been fun for nearly everyone.

    Elementary, hmmm. Not sure how that one will go, or if the pair should even pair up. The ambiguity keeps things interesting. Chuck’s team could have done that, but instead, from the pilot on, Chuck and Sarah were too close, such that any and all PLI / LI action was distasteful to me. I think distance has to be written in, for a great WT/WT, Chuck and Sarah were too close all along, such that new LI’s or even PLI’s amounted to ‘breaking up’. And, for chuck and Sarah, breaking up simply was not epic.

    Castle? I have little seriousness invested in the pair. If Kate had a threesome with Javier and Kevin with Rick handcuffed and watching, I’d laugh. Castle deserves any and all misery he is given. Chuck, he didn’t deserve s3, any more than he deserved his wife still stricken with amnesia as the credits rolled. Not fun.

    • authorguy says:

      I love Bones. They have good chemistry on that show.

    • atcDave says:

      I like Elementary too, but I really hope they never do a romantic angle on that one. That would just seem wrong. Holmes brokenness and narcissism just makes the whole idea unappealing.

      I think I care a little more about Castle than you do Jason! But I do agree I’m not nearly as invested otherwise.

      We’re also really enjoying Person of Interest, which has no central romance. But I keep thinking Reese and Carter would be fun….

    • BigKev67 says:

      I’ve gotta admit I’ve pretty much lost interest in Castle. Most of my S5 episodes are unwatched. I was wondering if the focus of my interest has gone now that Rick and Kate are a couple? In some ways that’s what happened with Chuck – they never found a story that remotely hooked me as much as “will Chuck and Sarah find a way to be together?” On further reflection, I think I’ve realised that 3/4 seasons is about my limit with any show. I drifted away from Fringe in S4 too, and I never remotely cared about the Olivia/Peter wt/wt. 4 seasons seems to be about the time when everything that can be done with the characters has been done, at least for me.

      • atcDave says:

        I always think the end of wt/wt brings new life to a show. But then, I rarely get tired of shows I like either. Chuck and Castle both I enjoyed the later episodes as much, or more than the earlier ones. SG-1 stayed a favorite of mine for all ten seasons, as has NCIS for that length.
        Although I am getting tired of Burn Notice. But that’s largely because it just keeps getting darker.

  12. Jason says:

    On the subject of AU’s to season 3. If you had a choice for a movie to explore what’s next with Chuck and Sarah after the beach, or a movie to redo Prague to Paris, which would you choose?

    • atcDave says:

      Good question Jason!
      I’d rather keep it moving forward, explore the future. Although its nice to imagine they finally get a SAFE happily ever after; the idea of having to save the world while juggling the details of a normal life (family, friends and home) is the most compelling part of the Chuckiverse to me now.
      Now all that said, I’d still be open to a sort of “shippers edit” of S3. We could at least remove the love triangles, and down play the more overt parts of the conflict (Pink Slip). Maybe even add some scenes to make the season play more like the secret relationship story we’ve kicked around here a few times. But I would hate to ever make a major production out of it. Any time the cast can actually be re-united to work on new content, I would want to see NEW content.

      • atcDave says:

        I wonder if it would be interesting to deal with some of the more questionable decisions while exploring Sarah’s memory recovery. Like Sarah trying to figure out why on earth she did some of what she did; which of course would lead to Chuck’s failings too.

        On the other hand, it might be better left alone…

      • authorguy says:

        That would be good for a miniseries, several of the post-finale fanfics would work in a slightly longer format. But a movie is too short for that degree of detail.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Marc, screen time is always the enemy of such ideas. At one point, Zach was talking about an annual reunion webisode. Obviously that’s very unlikely to happen, but I think it’s the only way things like that would ever get done.

    • authorguy says:

      A fix to the finale could more easily fit in a movie context than a revision of S3.

    • Jason says:

      not that it would have been perfect, but I’m thinking had Sarah seen Chuck out of the corner of her eye and ran to him while Shaw tried to kiss her after her near death, Chuck and Sarah ended the Mask as ‘secret’ partners, how effective most of the main scenes would have been, with just a little rejigging, including SArah being worried that Chuck is ‘going to far’ or becoming something other than ‘her’ Chuck.

      In no particular order, she could have still confessed to Shaw she was worried in FN, the scene in the hotel could have been different, but pretty intense for all three, esp if Shaw doesn’t know SArah and Chuck are back to being ‘near’ lovers and best friends.

      Shaw maybe ordering Sarah to fullfill her fake marriage obligations on the mission in beard, only to have Casey screw up his plans. Sarah and Casey not realizing Shaw ordered Chuck’s assassination. Tic tac changes very little. Red test gets a thousand times better, as Shaw orders Sarah to convince Chuck, and tells her that Chuck will be bunkered if he fails to comply. Shaw could even sort of be lurking around Sarah at the end of Red Test. Shaw finds out about his wife then, and all hell breaks loose, my guess is, that becomes pretty awesome to me, if I am not near vommiting over the Shaw Sarah story which by the 12th ep took place for about 5 episdoes too long.

      Flawed yes, but with a minimum amount of change, it maybe could have been pretty darned good.

      Oh well, won’t happen, maybe some day, Yvonne’s daughter will do a remake of Chuck season 3, with Zac’s son directing and Schwarta’s or Fedak’s son playing Chuck – LOL!

      • atcDave says:

        Those are all appealing ideas Jason. Or here’s another thing for producing that version; nobody plays Chuck and Sarah, it’s just all fixed with CG. I think we’re quickly approaching the point where such things can be done almost seamlessly to the original production. And in a couple years, I bet it could be done inexpensively too. I could imagine a lot of movies and TV shows being released in alternate versions for particular audiences. And before anyone screams foul, we already see much of this in extended cuts, directors cuts, etc. anyway (not only high profile things like the multiple versions of Star Wars, even the SG-1 Pilot got a make over with new effects and sound track). I think there’s some exciting possibilities.

      • authorguy says:

        There’s a novel by Connie Willis called Remake which uses this exact idea. Hollywood no longer makes movies, they simply use computers to morph in actors and props into already existing footage.

      • atcDave says:

        It’s funny Marc I can easily see some really terrible things being done this way, even worse things than colorized classics. But some really great stuff could be done too; and a ‘shippers edit of Chuck S3 will always be on my wish list.

      • authorguy says:

        If I had a computer the size of the Earth I’d have made all my stories into full-fledged movies long since. Since I don’t the written word will have to do.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah, that’s how it is.

    • uplink2 says:

      Well for me I think that I would go with a post beach movie for a number of reasons. First I think one of the biggest problems with the finale was that for me and a number of others, it took away all of the desire to re-watch the show because why bother if the most important character on the show was so brutally reset and may not remember any of that journey. That’s what I would like to get fixed most. I want episode 5.14 much more than a redo of any of the misery arc. Simply there isn’t enough time to fix all the screwups appropriately in a single fan funded movie. Plus there is so much great FanFiction out there that does a far better version of season 3 than anything Schwedak came up with or will come up with.

      Plus I know this is completely selfish and “entitled” but I have no interest in putting my money up for anything with Shaw in it unless it is a James Bond style opening scene where a Crown Victoria style GPS guided missile is launched with the coordinates of an implant Sarah injected Shaw with programmed into it. Cue the explosion and the opening song!

      But seriously the biggest story that needs to be told is what happens next. Does Sarah regain any memories of Chuck himself, not the insignificant things the show gave us. We never saw her regain even one memory that connected her to Chuck. All we saw were trivial things. That is what I want to see. A story of growth and redemption. To quote Hitler, “Don’t you talk to me about the Weinerlicious, she needs to remember Chuck!!”

      As far as season 3 goes we got 3.14 and what comes after that can take the sting out of it. Besides I simply don’t have to ever watch those front 13 again because I can easily make the jump from 2.21 to 3.14 with no problem whatsoever because as far as the “relationship” goes there was no growth from those episodes in between. It was all just distraction and contrived delaying troupes. It’s a story that added nothing for me so I can simply ignore it. But the ending in part negates all that came before it and that needs to be fixed IMO.

      • uplink2 says:

        And before anyone says anything, the carving memory was not of Chuck and it’s significance, just that she carved it. It’s the carving she remember, not Chuck. It could just as easily been part of the marriage “cover”. The beach is an important place but she has no idea why or that it is because of Chuck until he tells her.

      • atcDave says:

        You’re completely right about the relationship going nowhere in the Misery Arc. A few important things did happen, like Morgan finding out, Chuck becoming and agent and shooting Shaw. But I think that could all be covered in a single edited down episode. It might be amusing to do a single “arc-be-gone” episode that reduces the whole thing down to 40 minutes. I’d happily watch that instead of the actual episodes.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree. That is why I think any movie project has to firmly resolve the finale questions. It can lead to many different areas but the bizarre decision to end an entire series with an ambiguous memory loss storyline that almost destroys one of your leads entire 5 years of growth has to somehow be at least part if not the main focus of any movie project.

        Resolving season 3 is easy, as far as Chuck and Sarah goes they were no more prepared or “ready” for a real relationship in 3.13 than they were in 2.21. So simply give it a “Bobby Ewing” and we can move on easily. Because I certainly didn’t like or care about Chuck and Sarah more in 3.13 than I did in 2.21. If anything I cared less, for both of them.

        As far as the S3 spy story goes, what little we actually saw of one, that could easily be resolved in a single ep. Chuck went to training, became a spy, and off we go.

        And Dave, at one point in the alternate discussions I do hope we have a discussion of what the hell was the Ring all about. Who were they and why they were “amateurs” because if anything it seems like the writers were the “amateurs” as far as a decent evil organization goes. We never saw what their threat was or what their mission was even with a supposed “Ring Expert” taking way too much screen time. We only get some idea in the back six and that was pretty nebulous at best. Plus any organization that would trust the safety of their entire inner circle to an incompetent spy like Shaw really were “amateurs”.

      • atcDave says:

        Let’s plan on starting a Ring specific discussion with Operation Awesome, that seems as good a place as any.

        I do think there was some good stuff in S3, I’ll be putting up the Angel De La Muerte alternate post tomorrow night. When I had my S3 marathon with friends a couple weeks ago I really enjoyed that one, and a couple others. But it sure is a shame how the fun stuff was dragged down by so much baggage.

      • uplink2 says:

        Works for me Dave. And I agree there was some good stuff but it is very few and far between. The reset that is coming with 3.05 virtually ends all of it and takes away any of the enjoyment that there was in at least 3.02 and 3.03 by showing the lies they become.

  13. First Impression says:

    Retrieve a dangerous weapon from an arms dealer with lots of stunts and action.  Not a bad plot for a spy show.  I’m even overlooking the impossible (just because it’s in your mind, doesn’t mean your body can do it) gymnastic stunts in the vault for the sake of entertainment.  And it’s funny how the CIA spends millions trying to train Chuck for 6 months, pulls the plug, then Beckman tells Sarah to “get over it and teach him how to be a real spy.”

    When things get out of control at the apartment, Chuck says, “There’s got to be a contingency plan … a button you push to call in the calvary.  Where’s the button?”  Casey says, “Me.  I’m the button.” and grumpy neighbor sprays everyone away. Casey’s great joy in dousing the Buy Morons is classic Casey.

    Chuck has them drop the guns.  “Trust me,” he says.  They do it.  Did you hear that?  They do it!  They put their weapons down in a standoff because Chuck said to.  It’s not just their trust he’s earned, it’s also their respect.  

    But it all comes down to the cardinal rule of spying: Spies don’t fall in love.  Still, there was much said about love from both Sarah and Chuck.

    In combat training with Sarah: You learn to ignore your emotions.  Spies do not have feelings.  Feelings get you killed.  You need to learn to bring them to a place deep inside.
    Chuck: I don’t want to hurt you.  
    Sarah: Don’t worry Chuck, you can’t.  
    Sarah has shut down.  I’ve been there. It’s a steely place you go after your soul has been crushed.  It’s a hard shell surrounding you that no one can penetrate.  Her resolve is strong.  She felt like a fool, but she won’t let it happen again.  She can be kind, but from a distance.  It’s too painful to take the risk again, at least in the near future.

    Then there is the video of Chuck in the vault:  You have to know that you were everything I ever wanted.  But how could I do that…knowing what I turned my back on, knowing that what I had in my head could help a lot of people.  And you’re the one that taught me that being a spy is about choosing 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 Sarah, I love you.

    Things are still looking good to this first-time viewer.

  14. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Three Words (3.02) | Chuck This

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