Season Three Alternatives: First Class

So where to start?  My first reaction to First Class is “I didn’t like it”.  But I can add all sorts of nuance to it like “I really didn’t like it” or “wow I didn’t like that”.  So obviously we’re dealing a very complex situation here.  This is only the second episode (Pink Slip being the first) of the series that I really don’t like at all.  And more significantly, we’re about to enter a lengthy run of episodes where rock bottom will be redefined several times.

But I think the good news here is for alternatives.  There are just so many better ways this part of the story could have been handled, and many writers have taken up that challenge. So after the jump we’ll look at First Class and where else the story could have gone.

Like so much of the “misery arc” there is plenty that’s fun about First Class, and of course there is a point and purpose to this part of Chuck’s story.  The biggest part here is just the idea that at some point Chuck needs a solo mission.  Even if we consider he will normally function as part of a team, Chuck needs to show the confidence and initiative to work on his own.  Now honestly, he already has.  Episodes like First Date and Dream Job already showed us a Chuck who can improvise and take the lead when he needs to.  But its not completely unreasonable to say he needs to accomplish an agency assigned objective with minimal support.  Although just how far the idea of being isolated and without any back-up will be taken here is far fetched in a made-for-TV sort of way.  Especially for a “first mission”.  But to be fair, this is the sort of thing that would hardly be troubling if not for the other circumstances.

A lot of the mission could have been a lot of fun too.  Hugo Panzer, intel being smuggled with a body in a coffin, in flight poisoning by an enemy stewardess, Sarah remote piloting the plane…   this is all great stuff.  And of course I’m a huge fan Sarah the over-protective lioness.  That just never gets old.  But that leads directly to what doesn’t work so well for me.

Let’s back-up a step.  There are two fundamental things that don’t work right here and lower this episode to my bottom tier.  And those two fundamental things are the same thing. Daniel Shaw and Hannah something-or-other.  Its the dreaded PLI, or OLI, or just LI.  At a time (anything post S2!) when watching Chuck and Sarah get to know each other, and learn to work together as partners is by far the most exciting part of the show to me, it is being being put on hold, for quite some time.  That problem starts with Shaw.  From his introduction back in Operation Awesome he is an arrogant, unlikable and stupid man.  As I said last week, I could imagine this working as the difficult new boss character.  But Shaw bonding with Sarah is a particularly repugnant story line.  In most of First Class their interplay works well enough, as in they spend most of their time arguing and pointedly not getting along.  And of course we’ve all seen that meme before, the arguing leads to respect and romantic attraction.  But Sarah and Shaw aren’t Maddie and Dave.  It is just too much to go from Shaw being the jerk who keeps secrets and takes foolish risks with Sarah’s former asset and current “friend”; to having them bond over loosing Eve and Bryce.  It cannot, and will not ever produce a believable or wanted pairing.  Sarah and Shaw making nice at the end can only be called disappointing.  Especially after Casey so accurately identified Shaw as a moron earlier in the episode.  This is the true start of zombie Sarah.

Chuck’s own fling gets underway here as well.  Although admittedly most of Chuck’s interaction with Hannah in this episode is pretty low key, it still rubs me wrong (very wrong) coming so soon after professing his love to Sarah.  Especially after a “friends” handshake, a consoling hug, and Sarah’s ferocious concern for Chuck’s well being at the start of this episode I just can’t see how Chuck could even be thinking about another woman.  I know this sort of love triangle is pretty normal fare on television.  But I don’t really consider that a defense.  It’s a story type I never enjoy, and the more I like the show in question, the less I enjoy the cliche.  So every Chuck/Hannah exchange here gets a big eye roll from me.  And the end, with Chuck looking happily at his newest Nerd Herder, really turns my stomach.  Especially paired with Sarah’s last scene.

Did I mention that I really don’t like this episode?

Okay, enough of that.  What could have been different or better here?  The most obvious thought I have is that Chuck and Sarah should be a team and a couple at this point. Chuck undercover with Sarah on board, observing, would have worked for me.  I could have liked the idea of Shaw as a troublesome moron that Casey and Sarah have to work around to actually train Chuck and provide some measure of protection during the process is one possibility.  The other thing that could have worked is Shaw as an actual villain already, perhaps he’s actively trying to destroy Team B.  So maybe Casey becomes Chuck’s on board back-up, while Sarah stays behind to investigate Shaw.  Bonus points if Shaw is flirting and thinks he has a chance.  Although obviously Sarah should never be so clueless as to actually be involved with him.  Hannah is a pretty pointless character, ideally she simply should have been cut.  Perhaps she could have worked as either a crazy stalker who Chuck had to avoid while keeping a relationship with Sarah secret; or as an operative of Shaw’s.  As I suggested above, the idea of Shaw trying to disrupt the team could have worked; and Hannah there to distract Chuck from Sarah could have been part of the grand scheme.  Obviously though, Chuck is of too good a guy to actually be distracted by such a thing…

My point in all of that is just that the basic structure of the episode is completely functional.  I can even imagine using it to tell the story of Chuck becoming an agent, learning to follow orders to accomplish a mission, and gaining some confidence in his own abilities when things don’t go according to plan.  But it fails as an introduction to the love polygons of the misery arc.  And that is its enduring legacy for me.

We are also now reaching the part of the season that fan fiction writers have played with more.  Kate McK gives us another chapter of “Chuck vs the Fight” that covers First Class. She starts by reconstructing a couple of moments I particularly dislike, and both really highlight Shaw’s jerk factor.  But this time Sarah will draw a more believable conclusion about who means what to her and resolve to make things right with Chuck.  This works perfectly for me.  The end of this chapter/episode makes me smile every time. The perfect fix.  This could have made First Class one of my very favorites.

I previously recommended Crumby’s “Chuck vs The Rogue Spy” in one of these posts.  This story starts on the plane.  I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but I will say Sarah has snuck on board because she can’t believe Chuck wasn’t being provided any real back up.  The story is dynamite.  And it starts with this much more appealing mission for Chuck.

NinjaVanish also mentions this mission briefly in chapter two of “Chuck and Sarah vs Themselves“.  He expects the mission went as seen, but Chuck is clearly unhappy about his new “stalker”.  And Sarah ordering him to flirt back leads to a most amusing “told you so” sort of moment.  More on that in a couple weeks!

Marc Vun Kannon (AKA authorguy) also tackles this episode in “Nine2five: Stand Up” with a very unique twist; Sarah is the one on that Paris flight.  He apparently felt Sarah needed a friend more than Chuck needed a final fling!  Very good way of dealing with Hannah.

So anyone else have any thoughts on how this episode or arc could have gone?  Now’s your turn.  Speak up, I love hearing from you all.

~ Dave

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 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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58 Responses to Season Three Alternatives: First Class

  1. Thanks for the mention, Dave. I do think that Shaw and Hannah work much better paired off with Chuck and Sarah, respectively. In both cases they are doing what they did on the show, serving as lures to either the spy or normal life, but by reversing the roles Shaw is luring Chuck towards the spy life and Hannah is bringing Sarah towards the normal world. In other words, Chuck and Sarah are headed toward each other, instead of away. The conflict in my version is that they go too far and overshoot.
    This also highlights the fact that I don’t believe that Shaw and Hannah are supposed to be taken as people. Not only is Chuck not flirting with Hannah during the flight, I specifically watched the final scene to see his face as Hannah walked in the door. I saw an initial OMG, followed by a deliberate smile, not his automatic smile that Sarah brings out. Pleased, rather than happy, perhaps still believing he could be a mostly normal guy in a spy world. This is the beginning of his realization of the costs of being a spy, which Manoosh will make much more painfully obvious next episode.
    Your description of Shaw is quite accurate, arrogant, unlikeable, and stupid, especially as the season progresses. This episode shows him at his best, capable, confident and prepared. He’s also manipulative and controlling, trying IMO to replace Chuck’s dependence on his handlers with a dependence on him, rather than truly independent. After Manoosh, I think we see Shaw as Chuck starts to see him, in a much more negative light.

    • atcDave says:

      Although I agree with what Shaw and Hannah represent, and even how they could have been better used, I’m not comfortable with the “not people” pronouncement. I don’t believe Chuck was ever meant to be allegorical, at least not in such a de-humanizing way. You make it sound more like a college creative writing assignment than commercial entertainment. Okay, so maybe it was more poorly written than many student writing projects, but I don’t believe it was MEANT to be so abstract. Even though Shaw’s robotic personality may make a deliberately de-human judgement appealing, I just don’t believe that was ever the intent.

      I also will never quite agree about Chuck’s treatment of Hannah. My read was that he was trying to “get over” Sarah, and that was a completely wrong decision. Even more than disliking Chuck’s behavior, I dislike the writers’ decision to subject us to it. It’s the whole set-up for Chuck’s faithlessness that just rubs me wrong at a VERY deep level.

      We are more on the same page with Shaw. Very unpleasent character.

      • authorguy says:

        The story’s purposes were served from their more symbolic roles, is my point. They are also people, and in that sense I agree with some of what you say about the unfortunate use of their characters, although I think the ‘romance’ between Hannah and Chuck was more her doing than his. She was much more aggressively pursuing him. At the end of FC he seemed torn about her presence at the Buy More, and after Manoosh he realized what a slippery slope he was on, but it was too late then.
        I kept the same symbolic roles while reversing the personal roles in nine2five and I think it worked out much better my way. There was no need for the romantic angle at all, that just obscures what’s really going on.

      • atcDave says:

        No doubt I think the romantic aspect of both characters is the very thing that completely undermined the story and arc as a whole. It was a very poor choice.

      • uplink2 says:

        See Marc that is part of the problem. The fact that you see the romance as more Hannah, and I agree with that, just makes Chuck all that more despicable and not the man we knew for 2 seasons. In that POV it’s just sex for him, taking advantage of a woman who is falling for him but he has no feelings for. That is something we never would have expected from the Chuck Bartowski we knew and makes him incredibly unlikable. Then the way he dismisses her in front of her parents turns him into something I promised Ernie I wouldn’t say on this blog again and yes Dave is right it’s much worse than an ass.

  2. uplink2 says:

    Well there are many things to talk about with this episode but to follow in your idea of the “alternative”. First and foremost way to improve this episode? Dump Hannah as constructed. She is pointless and highlights the contrived story they are trying, and failing, to tell. Nothing is gained by the Hannah arc on any meaningful level. She is completely redundant, Lou 2.0. I’ve said my view of her three purposes before and I stand by them completely. Eye candy, stunt casting, and to justify Sarah/Shaw. Chuck learns nothing from Hannah and ultimately his character is really diminished by his actions with her. Ultimately he will become a despicable bastard.

    Now if you have to have her then actually have her mean something, anything. The reason so many were clamoring that she wasn’t an innocent is that it makes no sense if she is. No storytelling advantage comes from her character as written. Sure Kristin is beautiful and she did have chemistry with Zach but all that does is show even more how Routh had absolutely none with Yvonne. Kristin is a very likable actress and her presence also highlights how incredibly unlikable Shaw/Routh is. So do what everyone thought was her role. Make her a Shaw plant. Have her there to try and tear apart Chuck and Sarah so Shaw can get his secret weapon. Make her the third Ring agent on the plane there to play the honeypot for Agent Carmichael. Have her be working for Beckman to protect her greatest asset WITHOUT Shaw’s knowledge. Show Shaw that she is in charge not him. End the subservient Diane Beckman we saw in Three Words. Give us back the iron lady. Hell you could even have had her be a PLI for Chuck but make her something different like a spy not so hung up on relationships with assets/partners. Then she really would be a threat to Sarah and her fear of Chuck changing. That is where their biggest mistake with her was. There is absolutely nothing different in her character from Lou. Been there, done that. There was no creativity to that part of the story yet we got her for 4 episodes. It’s sad but the far superior actor/actress was given the more pointless role. Kristin as the villain, mentor, or new handler could have been really something.

    Dave, you brought this up last week but this is basically the only other episode until AH/OG where we see anything about The Ring. I agree that the evil organizations of Chuck are not really fleshed out but at least you knew what Fulcrum was after and what their threat was. They wanted the Intersect and to know who the host was. They were a “fanatical right wing” element of the Government trying to take over. What the hell was The Ring anyway? From their 2 episodes I have absolutely no clue. Plus let’s look at the giant plot hole in this episode. Why was the Ring shipping a crypto-key in a coffin for a case that the CIA had already captured? I can understand shipping them separately but what was the point of shipping the key if you didn’t have what it opened anymore? It just exposes it to be captured, which of course it was. It just makes the Ring out to be the “amateurs” we ultimately told they were. It’s just a stupid plot device to introduce the real point of the episode.

    It’s all just bad storytelling because none of it matters because the point of this episode is to begin the hated relationship geometry, nothing more. And come on Chuck, besides this more offensive relationship reset does it not seem suspicious that a gorgeous professional used to flying first class would come to work at a minimum wage retail store after just spending a few hours on a plane with you? If the point of the episode was to show Chuck could be a good spy on a solo mission, the way the episode ends shows him to be incompetent for not being suspicious of the brunette stalker walking into the BuyMore in front of him. But then again it wasn’t about the spy story, it was about the relationship geometry story. That was their true intent and we are headed to the biggest failed section of the series Schwedak won’t even acknowledge anymore.

    Lots more to talk about here.

    • authorguy says:

      Your disdain for Hannah completely misses the point that in this season Chuck has chosen to be a spy, and Hannah tests that decision. Lou was trivial, just a girl for the hapless S1 asset to chase in a vain attempt at independence. Otherwise, pointless and unpleasant. In S2 Chuck was more the willing cohort rather than a mere draftee, and Jill was the past he had to overcome to get on with his future. What he learns from Hannah is due to her symbolic role, he learns that he can’t have both worlds and he had to choose one. He couldn’t have learned that from Lou since he didn’t have any choices then. The only thing he learned from that experience was to stay away from normal girls for their sake. Hannah’s character makes complete sense as written, without any need to make her any kind of villain. The power of the lesson she taught him would be diminished if she were. She couldn’t have been the second horn of the dilemma Chuck impaled himself on if she was anything other than what she was. Shaw was villain enough.

      • atcDave says:

        See though Marc that all is exactly what I most disagree with. None of what you describe was in any way “needed”. And what’s worse, no matter who was the aggressor, Chuck will act like a complete ass in the next few episodes. And actually that’s not even a strong enough term. And it doesn’t matter one iota what Hannah “means” or represents. What she is, is another woman Chuck plays around with when things have gotten tough with the woman he loves. If the story is going to work on a human level, then the characters matter far more as people than they do as symbols. Perhaps the great failing of S3 is exactly that, that the writers reduced their characters to symbols such that they lost their humanity. And THAT is a terrifically bad way to write it. Only the tiniest portion of viewers will ever care about what any character “represents”. The vast majority are watching people interact with each other and the world around them. Unless you want to write like John Bunyan and name all your characters for the roles they fill, the characters need to be people FIRST. And by that measure, Uplink is completely correct about what went wrong. Hannah brings nothing new to the table from Lou. Chuck treats her in the worst way imaginable. And it leaves me with the feeling it was all done just to justify Sarah being out of reach for just a little bit longer.
        But I think the bottom line is, the vast majority of viewers were watching the show because of affection for the MAIN CHARACTERS, especially Chuck and Sarah. A story line that made both of them look like idiots for an extended period of time was a very bad idea. No matter what anything symbolized.

    • uplink2 says:

      See I disagree. I think you are way too caught up in the symbolic POV you are taking in my view. I don’t think Chuck the series was ever about deep symbolism. Your assumption that there was a choice to be made is false IMO. He had no real life/spy life choice anymore. He had already made it. His “normal” life died when he downloaded the 2.0. He could never go back to a life with Hannah and he knew it before it began. Besides he didn’t love or care about her. He was just getting laid. That’s why his behavior becomes so offensive on top of him still being completely in love with Sarah that he was rebuilding a “friendship/relationship” with. From Lou he had already learned that you couldn’t have a “normal relationship” with an innocent no matter whether you chose to be in the spy life or not. It’s a false choice because he would always have to lie to her just like he had to lie to Lou. Nothing new was learned from Hannah.

      Plus I think you give them way too much credit in some deep underlying symbolism. They even stated they were going for a “trapezoid” and not just a love triangle. That is her sole purpose as actually shown on screen. Who she is shown to be is so incredibly contrived. A beautiful First Class flying personal assistant that would take a minimum wage job at a retail store because of a guy she spent a few hours with on a plane. Please, it’s almost laughable.

      I really don’t have any disdain for Hannah other than she is pointless as written for anything beyond my 3 points. I actually like Kristin a great deal as an actress. I mean come on she is what “Scotty doesn’t know” 😉 It’s the Shaw character I have incredible disdain for and the only significant point for Hannah is to justify the unjustifiable, Sarah and Shaw.

      • atcDave says:

        Great rant Uplink. Amen brother!

      • uplink2 says:

        One of the scenes that really bothers me is the one in Castle where Chuck says:

        “Shaw, a real life special agent for the CIA thinks I’m ready”

        Hey Chuck what the hell is that gorgeous woman standing in front of you? Just a yogurt saleswoman? After one week you trust that fraud over the woman who has protected you for three years and you are in love with?

    • anthropocene says:

      Nobody has yet commented on the fact that Hannah was portrayed as a highly competent and adaptable tech geek with skills comparable to Chuck’s, not just another cute brunette. Yes, it was unrealistic that she’d be seeking employment with the Nerd Herd given her prior experience, and she did come across as something of a stalker; but her interest in Chuck was sincere, and the few glimpses into her backstory that we were afforded suggested that she was well-grounded and even had a stable family situation (somewhat atypical of principal “Chuck” characters). Hannah was no Lou 2.0…if anything, she was more like a Stanford (pre-Fulcrum) Jill 2.0. She’d have been a great match for Chuck in a normal-life situation.

      Of course, none of that justifies Chuck’s abysmal behavior regarding Hannah. Like authorguy, I saw Hannah as a test for Chuck—one that he basically failed. It would have been much more fun to see her as a Ring honeypot or Shaw/Beckman mole, as others are discussing here.

      • atcDave says:

        I think she was a Lou repeat in the sense that she was a normal woman Chuck would have to build a web of lies to have a relationship with. The major life lesson should already have been learned and Hannah brings nothing new in that sense.

        But I do agree with saying she is otherwise a fairly appealing character. I seem to be in the minority that never cared for Lou, but I easily could have bought Hannah as an LI in her place. Chris Fedak once said something to the effect that in another world Shaw would have been a perfect fit for Sarah. I never bought that because right from the start, even as emotionally stunted as early Sarah was, there was a searching for something deeper and better going on with her (spoken to Casey in Crown Vic).
        But Hannah I could have believed for Chuck; in another universe where he never met Sarah. She was a lot like Chuck, and arguably could have been a great match for him. But I think entertainment-wise it was just too late in the game to be going there. A four episode fling when he was in love with someone else only served to make Chuck look like an idiot.

      • uplink2 says:

        I do like the idea of a Beckman mole a great deal. Part of it is because one of the things I hate most about season 3 is almost everyone was made to look like an idiot in order to try to sell the Shaw character. It seemed he answered to no one including the head of the NSA/CIA joint project, one General Diane Beckman. The problem with much of that is it diminishes everyone in the main cast to prop up the guest star. Plus what we saw of him made him a lousy spy to begin with. The fact that he was clearly driven by personal reasons should have been something she was aware of and told Team B, including the most important asset in the entire world to be wary of.

        Beckman had invested a great deal in Chuck and she would have had a back up plan to protect the Intersect while he was still in training basically. But if she actually was as good a spy as we had been shown the prior two seasons they couldn’t sell Shaw as anything more than a buffoon. So instead they made everyone else buffoons at times, mainly Sarah.

        I think the Ring honeypot works well too as it actually makes the Ring mean something other than the “amateurs” we see in this and the last episode. The Ring was never a threat to Chuck or anyone for that matter. The only threat to them was Shaw. But saving that till the end was a big mistake. It added nothing to the drama as even if he was a loyal spy I still wanted Chuck to shoot him in the head. lol.

  3. Justin says:

    I would keep Hannah but only for this episode. In my version, Hannah would be an undercover CIA operative who Shaw planted on the plane as a test for Chuck and Sarah. Shaw has been suspecting that Chuck and Sarah are secretly together so he uses Hannah to look for the truth he suspects in Chuck and Sarah’s reactions to her. Shaw detects Sarah’s jealousy and Chuck’s discomfort with Hannah’s attraction to him especially when he knows Sarah is listening in on them. Believing that is proof enough in his mind, Shaw must decide whether this is a liability he should expose to his superiors or an asset he can use to advance Chuck’s training. It would be perfect if the episode ended with Shaw’s dilemma. I can imagine viewers’ OH CRAP reactions to it.

    I agree with your idea, atcDave, about having Casey on the plane as Chuck’s onboard backup while Sarah remains in Castle with Shaw. But Shaw emphasizes to Casey that he will only act as Chuck’s backup as a last resort. He wants to see for himself how Chuck handles himself on a solo mission to know how much Chuck needs to be trained to fight in the war aganist the Ring.

    I’m not for the whole Shaw-Sarah attraction, two-sided or one-sided. I would cut that out. I stick by my version of Shaw who’s just a spy mentor to Chuck while harboring a personal obsession with the Ring who he blames for the death of his wife. Knowing about this obsession is what will fuel Sarah’s distrust of Shaw and her protectiveness of Chuck while he is being mentored by Shaw.

    • atcDave says:

      I love your ideas for Hannah Justin, that would have played very well.
      I do think the best direction for Shaw would have been no romantic spin at all. They could have actually made him a friend, partner and mentor to Chuck. Then when he went bad, we would have actually cared! But as soon as you add the romantic angle with Sarah he is either reviled or a buffoon. There is no way we will ever like the character after that.

      • FSL says:

        I agree. Dramatically, Shaw would most appeal to me if he were a genuine friend/mentor who turned. Then it’s would really hurt, and make his shooting him in Paris much more of a internal/emotional struggle.

        But of course, given it is Chuck, it would have been difficult after Shaw lied to get him onto a plane alone with 2 ring agents onboard.

    • uplink2 says:

      I agree. I could have lived with that. But please give me anything but Hannah the innocent. It’s just so boring and unimaginative. Why not take a risk and make a woman the mentor, a villain, the agent who get’s turned. Do something different. Three male LI’s all spies, three female LI’s all innocents. Now true Jill wasn’t but they tried to keep her sympathetic and never made her a truly evil agent, just someone who got unlucky and made the wrong choice as a young impressionable college kid, Their lack of vision with this story was just so disappointing.

      • joe says:

        Ack! But wouldn’t we be complaining that Hannah was just Jill 2.0 in that case, instead of being Lou 2.0?

        Doing something different is hard. What comes to my mind is keep Hannah as an innocent, but have her discover Chuck’s secret accidentally. Don’t know how you’d do that, though – if she understood, she’s no innocent.

      • uplink2 says:

        But Jill has the significant role as the ex-girlfriend. The one who broke his heart and started his downward spiral. Plus Jill was portrayed as much more of a victim and not really a spy who turned. She got caught up in things before she realized the reality she was in. I’m talking about something far more devious or even far more honorable for the Hannah character. Have her be the mentor and maybe even try the honeypot to control him like Graham probably wanted Sarah to do in the beginning.

        Just anything other than an other innocent that gets stretched out way too long. Well even 1 episode if her only purpose is to justify Sarah/Shaw. But maybe tempt Chuck then have him reject her like the honorable man we thought he was rather than the despicable bastard he was shown to be. Then we get no Mask and no Fake Name and that would have been a HUGE plus in my book.

      • atcDave says:

        Joe you do bring up an interesting idea. What if Hannah was basically an innocent, who somehow found out about the CIA, Castle, maybe even the Intersect. Could have made an interesting story. Even better if there is no romance (you know that’s always a requirement for me!), maybe just some one-sided stalking leads to her discovering stuff. It could become a sort of test for Chuck as to how to deal it. She maybe a little nuts (smitten stalker type) but harmless. So can she be trusted to keep secrets? Can something be done to keep her quiet that isn’t, you know, completely evil? This is starting to sound like an ersk4 story, “Chuck vs The Super Spy“. Which is no bad thing, very fun story.

        I usually think something really nefarious would be better for Hannah, but clearly there are a number of ways the story could have gone.

  4. FSL says:

    I guess the episode more or less works. Shaw is driving a wedge between Chuck and his team. I can sort of sympathize with Chuck going along with it, but no matter how willing / enthusiastic, the entire team should flip on Shaw after he knowingly lied to send Chuck on a solo mission. That alone should have started team B on a secret mission to monitor and perhaps even to overthrow Shaw. Even if Shaw don’t eventually turn to the Ring, he would be a mentally unstable agent that General Beckman will have to kick out.

    Hannah… Well, I guess if Chuck was not willing, I could have lived with a stalker Hannah following him to the Buy More. Like I said, minimum change to the stories as written. What if team B also suspect that Hannah is a Ring agent and agreed, reluctantly, to have Chuck get close to her solely to root her out as a spy. That way, Chuck would have to fake a relationship with Hannah, while not blowing his cover with Sarah, and not acting in anyway that would hurt his real relationship with Sarah.

    Of course, if the secret relationship route was taken, it would have been funny if Shaw, seeing that Chuck is chatting up with Hannah, orders him to flirt with her, thereby distracting Chuck with another girl, and further securing his place as the only available man near Sarah. Casey cna even make fun of this.

    • atcDave says:

      I’m not sure what all you’re getting at there FSL, but if you mean just a huge comedy of errors with the various fake/non relationships it could have been amusing.
      I completely agree Team B going “rogue” against Shaw’s incompetence could have been a good story.

      • FSL says:

        Sorry. 3 different scenarios.

        1. Team B goes rogues against Shaw. (more serious drama)

        2. Hannah stalks Chuck, Team B suspects her to be Ring, orders Chuck to start a fake relationship. (mostly comedy, fake dating Hannah, cover dating Sarah, etc)

        3. Secret Charah. Shaw attempts to use Hannah to lure Chuck away from Sarah. (rather rom com)

      • atcDave says:

        Okay, I get it now. Yeah any of those could have worked pretty well. I particularly like the rogue sort of operation. Although I’m often a sucker for romantic comedy too… I think I like it even better than wife, go figure.

  5. Jason says:

    Dave, you said:

    ‘My point in all of that is just that the basic structure of the episode is completely functional. ‘

    The longer I’ve been away, I think what you said is true of the entire season. First Class, Manoosh, Mask, the Gruber Mission, the reveal to Morgan, Tic Tac, the Red Test, the reveal of Sarah’s Red Test victim, then Paris, it probably all could have worked, such that shipper and non shipper could have been equally entertained, with just a few changes here and there. Chuck and Sarah had plenty to work through, that process would have been great entertainment. Shaw (and Hannah) being around could have made the process angsty at times, funny at other times.

    A few tweeks here and there, a little more Chuck and Sarah dialogue, a little PLI, jealousy, comedy mixed in with drama, instead of a six episode affair that seemed almost sadistically sad, it all could have worked, such that at least most would have enjoyed the journey. Because, in tv, a 13 episode journey needs to be enjoyable and entertaining, irregardless of the epicness of the destination.

    Of course, it would all be fixed, if Sarah woke up in Paris in ep 3×13, and said, “Chuck, I had the strangest dream.” Chuck replies, “Sarah, oh good you’re awake” Sarah asks, “What happened, the last I remember, I was in the lab in the Castle with Shaw and some poison gas detonated.” Chuck replied, “Shaw poisoned you becaue you killed his wife in your red test. I got the antidote and saved you, but he framed both of us for treason, so we’re on the run until Casey can clear us. You’ve been recovering from the effects of the gas.” Shortly after, we get a ‘Chuck, kiss me …” and we’re ending 3×13 no worse for wear, in a Bobby Ewing dream sort of way. Heck if Dallas could do it, why not Chuck?

    I’ve been going thru a bout of writer’s block on fan fiction, hence I’ve been posting a bit here, maybe that ‘rant’ will get my mojo back.

    • uplink2 says:

      Great rant Jason. Not sure I agree entirely but still fun to read.

      There has been an interesting discussion on DR’s blog, and yes I know it’s DR but I do believe his sources were real. In it he basically says virtually everyone knew Sarah/Shaw wasn’t working and failing. That “people working on the show realized it(Sarah/Shaw lack of chemistry and failed story) very early on, but by then the scripts were written and several episodes in the can. There was no time to change anything. He even says that some of the things he was told “if I didn’t care about protecting their identities, I would blow your mind with some things they had to say about Shaw and Sarah.” For me much of that commentary rings true and actually makes me feel a little better about the professionalism of the people working on the show. I simply can’t believe they didn’t see what I and it seems many others clearly saw. Unfortunately they felt it was too late to fix it and we ended up with the rather arrogant view of “we’ve moved past it”. It just goes to show that “intent” is irrelevant if it doesn’t make it to the screen.

      • atcDave says:

        It is encouraging in an odd way if some of the professionals saw it too. I wonder if even JS and CF knew they could have a problem pretty early. They did start damage control immediately after Mask ran, which is really early. I think Fake Name is where it spirals out of control, yet they started damage control THREE WEEKS before that ran.

        Now you know my motto; fatally flawed at conception. I don’t think ANY execution details really made a difference. And they had surely been hearing a lot of fan discontent since July 2009 (7 months prior). So perhaps when everything blew up after Mask, between simmering unhappiness and their own knowledge of how flawed the coming content was, they knew they had to jump on it. Funny how much of their damage control made me even angrier! But in the end, the extended preview they released did give me patience to see it through, even if we took a lot of that preview completely wrong.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree but much of that I think is hubris. They thought the grumbling was just shippers being shippers and their grand story that seemed so great on paper would change peoples opinions. Unfortunately if you can believe what he is saying even the crew was seeing it wasn’t working but it was too late to fix it. They simply didn’t have the money to re-edit, re-shoot and certainly not re-cast. So they did things like the Ali video, and some of the promos etc. Then they were waiting for Mask to air and do their damage control because they knew that episode sucked. They couldn’t fix it, they couldn’t admit it was failing though most people on the show knew it was, so the only course of action was to simply dismiss it and say “we’ve moved on” or “we are further along in the story” or the most clueless of all, “you don’t put a book down after chapter 7(42).”

        Hero/LI Shaw didn’t work on any level. It was completely unnecessary and it diminished the leads and it damaged the show. I think that most of even the biggest season 3 apologists would agree Sarah/Shaw was a failure. And for me at least if you believe that the only reason for Hannah was to justify Sarah/Shaw then Hannah is a failure as well. It’s that failure that starts in this episode.

        The most important “alternative” to make Season 3 demonstrably better is to completely eliminate the LI’s but especially Sarah/Shaw. Even though I hated Pink Slip and the direction they took, it was the arc we are about to venture on that made me despise that season and poison much if not all of what was good in it. It amazes me to this day how emotional and angry it still makes me.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with all of that Uplink. I also dislike Pink Slip a lot. But they could have overcome one bad episode. Its the stuff coming up next that fails horribly.

    • atcDave says:

      Jason I know I’ve said it many times that just removing the LIs would have helped enormously. Maybe not removed all my objections, but at least changed it from something I can’t even re-watch, to something I maybe could have tolerated.

      And hey, I’m missing “Long Island Debutante”. Back to work buster!

  6. joe says:

    Great analysis, Dave, and great comments from everyone too. You may not believe this, but after noting that your allergic reaction to anything that hints of infidelity is a bit greater than mine, then I only have one real disagreement with what you’ve said.

    I’d only demure on the idea that Shaw is stupid. As a character, if he’s stupid, that really hasn’t shown up yet. I’d rate him otherwise exactly like you did, and add “cocky” too.

    I agree with a lot of the ideas about Hannah too. If Lou hadn’t been part of the story, Hannah would serve a much more important role in Chuck’s development. As it is, she’s only a larger version of that same temptation. It’s a good thing that she’s gone relatively quickly.

    You’re right that it’s more important that Chuck has his solo mission here. That, followed by his upcoming burning of an asset in Manoosh is his graduation – he’s no longer a metaphorical virgin in Sarah’s eyes. I have a gut feeling that in a 13 week season, that would have been enough. We would not have seen Hannah any more than we saw Lou.

    Shaw is so deeply embedded in the rest of the story that I fear we would have seen him being shot by Chuck followed by The Honeymooners like we did as a season finale, and his resurrection, intersecting and taking over the CIA coming in the following season. But his romance with Sarah would have been foreshortened.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I base my stupid judgement on my very first impression. The whole idea of asking a rookie agent he’s never even met before to shoot him seems pretty stupid to me. Then add to that his assertion that Sarah and Casey are what’s wrong with Team B; well that’s both arrogant and stupid. Especially since we’ve been told several times Team B is the best the government has. Seems to me they should be looking for what’s so great about them, not making up problems where none exist. Shaw makes up a problem, that the Intersect isn’t working as advertised, to be their big failing. If he were smart, he’d be looking at why things work the way they do. His whole approach strikes me as trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. He wants Chuck to be a certain type of agent, so he sets about dismantling their best team to make it happen. This strikes me as very stupid. And also typical of a government bureaucrat. But it really only works for me if Casey and Sarah continue to recognize him for the moron he is. Sarah being impressed, or even tolerant of him, severely damages her character for me.

      I do agree the idea of making a big deal of Chuck’s training at this point in the season is a good idea. Many of the details of this training will drive me nuts in the weeks ahead, but I’m on board at least as far saying they did need to go there. But I will always wish they’d had Chuck and Sarah in a new, young relationship at this point in the show. I think it would have been far more interesting to have them talking through issues related to the spy world, living with the things they do, and the spiritual/personal cost that comes with it; instead of having it stew until the post-Red Test blow up. That always struck me as cheating the viewers of something that could have been wonderful.

      It sure would be intriguing to see how the story morphed during its development. We did hear one plan involved Shaw going bad much earlier, something about the Paris showdown coming in episode 8 (or thereabout). It’s possible the more compressed story would have been less offensively bad to me; But yeah, allergic to any infidelity probably sums it up well for me. Few things make me angrier.

    • uplink2 says:

      For me what’s worse is they had to make everyone else look stupid to prop up Shaw. I would also contend his shooting of Prince was “stupid” from a spy POV as it wasn’t at all like the situation in Break Up with Casey shooting Von. She had a gun to “the Interset’s head and in the case of Prince she was just reaching for a hidden knife to throw at Chuck who we find out later could have grabbed it in mid-air and never been a theat to him in the least. Plus they lost a chance to interogate a Ring operative, the first Team B had really encountered since the day Chuck downloaded the 2.0. That is a critical and stupid mistake. But it also showed everyone else was stupid because no one questioned it. They had to simply accept Shaw shot her in the back for the whole Shaw can shoot Chuck can’t storyline.

      In this episode sending the most important asset in the Intelligence community off on a solo mission after a week with the only backup an untested and dangerous remote control system of a passenger aircraft loaded with hundreds of civilians thousands of feet over the ocean when he lied to his agent about the mission he faced is incredibly stupid but that’s maybe on the writers part. Plus its all to get a crypto key that opened up his wife’s spy will and some 5 year old intelligence is incredibly stupid and should have set off lots of warning bells if Team B were actually good spies. At no point does Sarah go after him for risking Chuck’s life and the Intersect for a personal mission. She just blindly trusts him that the info was worth the risk.

      There are countless examples of Team B including Beckman made to look stupid to somehow create the image of greatness for Shaw that fails at virtually every turn. I can’t think of one moment he is actually shown to be a great spy, but I can think of plenty where Team B was made to look stupid and be terrible spies. Chuck, Sarah and Beckman in this episode all had moments where they were lousy spies.

      This is where I had to believe that folks working on the show would have stood up and realize how flawed this story was, especially the editors. How damaging it was to Sarah’s character in what they had her do or not do to create this failed false image of Shaw. I’m glad it seems they did but unfortunately it was too late and so TPTB ultimately just ignore it and arrogantly move on.

      • aerox says:

        “and in the case of Prince she was just reaching for a hidden knife to throw at Chuck who we find out later could have grabbed it in mid-air”

        Did you know this at the time? Did anybody know this at the time? A direct, possibly fatal threat to the Intersect. Seems plenty reason for me to pull that trigger.

      • Jason says:

        Sarah Walker would have shot the knife out of her hand. Bryce would have winged her. Casey would have grunted to make her turn, and when she saw it was Casey, she’d have surrendered. Shaw, he executes her.

      • Jason says:

        Maybe if the threat was more real, like Casey, Sarah, and Chuck are pinned down and out of bullets, she pulls the trigger and says, “Agent Bartowski, you’re dead first, then you’re pathetic team, then I’m going to your home and shoot your family and firends.” We pan to her, hear a bullet fire, and she crumbles down to the ground, then we see Shaw standing as she falls. He’d at least not look like a complete tool that way, and we’d have a little respect for him.

        S3, it had lots of decent ideas, then consistently fell short on delivery, I thought the Rafe execution thru the window by Casey had an excellent opportunity for Sarah to react, by either going to Chuck, going to Shaw, or splitting in between them and saying not now to both of them. About a half doz miserable eps later, same scene almost, as Chuck pulled shaw out of the burning building, what did Sarah do? Who knows?

        I think one thing that distinguishes those who like s3 (or even the final s5), they tend to like ambiguity, and the ability to imagine what might have been, maybe even considering what they imagine to be fact. I tend to like the ambiguity, try to guess, then find out what really happened.

        S3 will forever be a season of lost opportunity for me. The great news, at least more show followed, but it became pretty clear to me as more Chuck aired, the writing did not warrant the rapid fan support the show garnered. For me, I realized I loved Chuck, Sarah, and Casey, the stories they were written in, not so much. Possibly the best s5 show was the interview with those three and Morgan after the whole thing ended.

      • atcDave says:

        To be fair though Uplink, Chuck spy world was always full of ridiculous contrivances and outrageous situations. If we analyzed every episode we would find tons of stupid or implausible moments. It’s really only a problem for me when the main characters look stupid or if it is used to force a story I don’t like. And those are the things that will happen entirely too often in this season.

      • atcDave says:

        Jason I do agree that I like the characters more than the writing. Although even the stories work for me more often than not, the show was often sloppy, and left us to fill in more blanks than I would have preferred. The misery arc is the only time things were offensively bad for me.

      • joe says:

        Fantastic discussion – again.

        Jason, you hit on something particularly important with your idea; S3, it had lots of decent ideas, then consistently fell short on delivery. As I read that, and your description of the number of times the characters fell short of what we might have expected, I realized I had been saying the same thing about Chuck’s backsliding to form.

        I mean, the number of times he reverted to his “girlish screams” is countless, and continues long after we see him become confident and even polished. I cringe every time. I guess it pushes my buttons the same way Shaw pushes Uplinks!

        And the same dynamic goes on with Team B’s spy-craft, not to mention between Chuck and Sarah.

      • atcDave says:

        Joe I’d add extremely neurotic Chuck to that list of things that don’t work for me. Although Curse remains the only episode that was mostly ruined for me by it, there are several other episodes with a cringe-worthy moment or two!

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I agree. There were tons of contrivances throughout the series run. But as we have stated many times when you are enjoying the story they are telling it’s easy to ignore the contrivances. But when you hate it, like I did here, they are as glaring as the sun from the surface of Mercury.

        I mentioned it up top but the idea of shipping a crypto-key in a coffin for a case they had already lost to the CIA seems an absolutely ridiculous contrivance if you even glance at it objectively. It makes the Ring look like incompetant boobs instead of this “grand threat” that required a “real life special agent of the CIA” to dedicate 5 years of his life to bringing down. But if you are enjoying the story you simply ignore it.

        Aerox, shooting a woman in the back who is just reaching for a knife to kill her is a pretty big overstepping of what was necessary. They needed more “intellegence” that they could have gotten from her than they needed one more Ring agent dead. The intent was to show Shaw saving his team and that he can shoot to kill but it never comes off that way. It is just another expression of the arrogant, self-rightous, lone wolf beyond the control of his superiors image that is actually being shown rather than the intended “great spy” they are TELLING us he is.

  7. Jason says:

    “Everyone in the episode spent so much time talking about what a big deal Eric Vaughn was that nobody seemed to notice that he wasn’t that interesting.” … A reviewer’s quote (TV.com) about the introduction of Beckett’s new PLI introduced this week in castle, rings a bell eh?

    • atcDave says:

      It’s funny, my wife and I both really disliked that episode. It just baffles me, who likes the love triangle theme? My suspicion is always no one but the writers do. It’s like a Writing 101 device for adding conflict to a romance. But the big problem I always have with it, is I don’t set out to watch romances. I like adventure, mystery, comedy, etc. but when they start using romance geometry it forces that part of the story on to center stage. And the story becomes something much less than it was before.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, that’s a great point. With the god awful relationship geometry of Chuck S3 it forced Chuck and Sarah center stage and helped create much of the fracturing in the fanbase with “:shippers” being blamed for over-reacting and focusing so strongly on the relationship. Some of it got pretty ugly. But the thing is TPTB brought it front and center, not the fans. They simply reacted to what they saw on screen. And when the geometry was failing so badly it poisoned much of the decent spy stuff underneath because we couldn’t ignore the failed geometry. That is why I can’t rewatch virtually any of 3.0 because the stench of the geometry is so bad it sours the bits of good spy story underneath.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I think that’s exactly right Uplink. Even many (most?) of those who claim to like S3 admit the triangle part of the story didn’t work very well. So the whole difference between many ‘shippers and non-‘shippers may come down to if the viewer can overlook that part of the story or not. I freely admit I can’t. It ruined the season for me. But I think the majority of us actually perceived what was working and wasn’t about the same way, it’s the degree of emotional reaction that varies so much.

      • uplink2 says:

        I don’t watch Castle but I think there is a lesson here. If you take 5 seasons of WTWT to put your central relationship together IMO you need to keep it that way. If you want to break them up again you have to put them together earlier and show why you have to break them up. If it takes 5 years to get together the necessary lessons should have been learned already.

        Though a sitcom I think the way TBBT did it worked. The put the CR together at the start of season 3 then broke them up because it was clearly obvious that they were not ready for a real relationship. They then brought in some PLI’s that highlighted exactly why they weren’t together anymore and what lessons needed to be learned. For Penny it was that dumb hunky guys were no longer viable for her. For Leonard he needed to stand up for what he wanted and needed in a relationship more and not accept second place status. Priya (yuk) was embarrassed about him and he finally stood up for himself. He then realized Penny was who he wanted, she realized she wanted Leonard and they put them back together in season 5. They deserved that payoff. They are no longer the central focus, their new relationship is strong, solid but just another piece of the puzzle for the show. It doesn’t dominate so I have every confidence they won’t break them up again.

        To me that lesson can be translated to drama as well. In the case of season 3 for Chuck they got it all screwed up. They were ready for a relationship of some sort after Colonel and never showed an honest reason why they had to keep them apart. The OLI’s they brought in made the characters look stupid, less likable and diminished the relationship instead of growing it. And it took a “Chuckpocalypse” to get them to realize they needed to keep them together for the spy story to come back to the front again. It’s like they watched TBBT and did the exact opposite.

      • joe says:

        I’m going to disagree mildly about TBBT, Uplink. I think the break-up lasted about a season too long (it went on for nearly two, right?). But that’s just my preferences.

        Because TBBT is 90% comedy, it’s okay to play around with Len-Pen much more than TPTB did with Charah. The fans won’t disappear because of it. One thing they’ve been doing right, so far, is Raj’s new love interest, Lucy, assuming they bring her back as a regular (or at least a semi-regular) pdq.

      • uplink2 says:

        Yea it did but I was ok with it. I disliked the Priya episodes a bit except for the one where she destroys the roommate agreement, that was great, but what made it ok was the Priya bashing between the girls, that was hilarious. You knew Priya was never a real threat. But I think by keeping the focus away from Len-Pen was a good way to develop the new characters and relationships with Amy and Bernadette. Amy in particular has really brought new life to the show and so the rather long breakup worked for me as TBH I was distracted by the other stories and what made it work was no LI for Penny really. It was fun and in some ways necessary watching her squirm that Leonard had a new LI and she didn’t. It helped her realize how much she cares for him and what a great guy he is.

        I realize all of that is easier on a sit-com but I think they made all the right choices with their WTWT and well you know how I feel about Scwedak’s choices.

    • joe says:

      …the introduction of Beckett’s new PLI introduced this week in castle, rings a bell eh?

      Heh. I was looking for a way to bring Monday’s Castle into the discussion. You found it, Jason. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Looks like next week is a clip episode. But then we have what, 3 or 4 more episodes to the season finale? We may just skip to the end. I like Ian Gruffoud, but I’m not interested in watching any of this…

        I’ve considered just deleting the show. But I’ve liked Castle too much for that.

      • Jason says:

        Dave – next week’s ep called Still will be odd, since it was aired out of order, was supposed to be before mondays PLI ep, but dealt with terrorism enough they pushed it back. Then only two eps remain. I have not read any spoilers about the last two eps, but I’m guessing the PLI will be around for both of those. If done well, Im OK with about that size of story, if done reasonably well.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Jason next week is a clips episode shown out of order, so I expect little from it in any sense.

        Only two episodes after? That’s good. They can’t get it too much trouble. Right?!

        I’m actually feeling better now….

      • joe says:

        I didn’t realize that it was out of order! I have a feeling that it’s no where near as important as the switch with Suburbs and Best Friend, though.

        So far, I’m okay with what’s been happened last week on Castle. It only looks like Beckett was “distracted” momentarily, but now realizes she wants something more from Castle. I guess she thinks she’s become another of his conquests and is being taken a little for granted because of it. That is his track record, of course.

        For his part, Rick hasn’t gotten it yet. The things that used to work for him so well, including his boyishness, won’t cut it anymore. I suspect that’ll be the focus of the last two episodes.

      • atcDave says:

        What’s really funny to me is that right now even Psych is doing a bit of relationship drama. The situation makes sense, but its too much on a pure comedy.

        This is always the time of year shows get a lot less fun.

  8. First Impression says:

    “Let me out of the car.  I’m ready.”  Chuck performed as Chuck would on his first solo mission, bumbling but creative and somehow effective.  When he had trouble, Casey gave him the perfect advice: Scream like a girl, find a weapon and flash.

    Chuck hiding in the coffin was just gross and not realistic at all. The whole ‘take over the plane’ idea was a bit of a stretch for me to accept.  The idea that the pilots would be no wiser seemed ludicrous. 

    There just wasn’t much to this episode. But now I’ve been introduced to both Hannah and Shaw.  They would have been perfect together.

  9. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs First Class (3.05) | Chuck This

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