Season Three Alternatives: Nacho Sampler

Well I have to start by admitting I have no strong feelings for this episode either way.  I remember when it first ran thinking it should be an important episode, yet it left me pretty unmoved.  Let’s see if we can find something fun to say about Nacho Sampler after the jump.

I think possibly more than any other episode of the entire series, Nacho Sampler suffers from guilt by association.  This should clearly be an important episode as Chuck learns something about developing and betraying an asset.  He should gain some insight into his and Sarah’s relationship from the early days.  But the parallels really never click.  Manoosh is just not a very sympathetic figure, he certainly isn’t very Chuck-like, at least not in any important ways.  He’s really a pretty bad guy.  So Chuck betraying his trust seems more like a shrug than a big moment.  Honestly I’ve never even been motivated enough to watch the episode again since it first ran.

But the drama of Chuck learning and experience this part of the job is most diminished by big picture issues.  The show is never better than when the two leads are sharing a scene together.  In particular, the staple of past seasons, Chuck and Sarah talking through the issues related to the spy life is so conspicuously absent here the episode is wholly void of passion or even interest.  This is the part of show formula that was completely undone for season three, and this is the first episode where its absence is overwhelming.  I think Nacho Sampler stands out more for what’s missing than anything that’s in it.  I really don’t want to spend much more time on the episode itself, I just don’t think its worth it.

So what would I have liked to see?  Well a couple things stand out.  The first is just that this should have been an important episode.  Chuck learning the tougher, uglier parts of the spy world has much potential.  But Chuck in the spy world just doesn’t work at all for me without Sarah.  Even when she’s physically present, she’s not with Chuck in any meaningful way.  Her absence is so overwhelmingly depressing it completely undoes anything good; so the obvious fix is Chuck and Sarah talking things through.  That could include both the actual teaching stuff we did see a little, and the counseling part we completely did not see.  The last scene in particular screamed for a visit from Sarah as Chuck wrestles with what he’s done.

In a bigger sense, this is the point when Chuck and Sarah’s estrangement simply had to be over.  Of course I never bought into the S3 LIs, so much of what lies ahead is just a void to me.  I can imagine Chuck’s “do you love me?” question flowing pretty easily from the end of this episode.  If we assume he’s wondering what was ever real and how he can live with what he’s done, I think Sarah being there to support him, and affirm that she loves him for real could have been a dynamite moment.

This episode has been served in fan fiction, but not extensively.  Manoosh is a regularly recurring character in many stories, especially in complete AUs he often appears as a government tech support guru.  The ending has been re-written a few times too.  KateMcK gives another installment of “Chuck vs The Fight” for this episode that does exactly that.  We get what I think is the mandatory ending, Sarah stops by to comfort Chuck, they reconcile and talk.

NinjaVanish also visits this scene at the end of Chapter Two of “Chuck and Sarah vs Themselves“. The treatment here is very brief, Sarah recommends ice cream in addition to whiskey; but the situation is quite different from the show.  They are already in a secret relationship, so no real healing is needed between them, and because of their cover, private contact is impossible anyhow.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say about this episode or alternatives.  As I said at the start, it left little impression on me.  Next week will be a very different story.  Things may get very interesting.

~ 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.
This entry was posted in Alternatives, Fan Fiction, Season 3. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Season Three Alternatives: Nacho Sampler

  1. uplink2 says:

    Dave, I agree. It should have been an important episode but your point about Manoosh being a pretty unlikable character is right on point. He is nothing like Chuck so the analogy fails. I really don’t see why Chuck is so broken up about burning him. He was selling his father’s work for profit to some potentially unsavory characters. He deserved to be locked up. Plus the bond between them was never there as friends to any real degree. Chuck’s reaction just feels so fake.

    The Hannah story was pointless but well she’s Hannah so that’s nothing new.

    On a plus note for the episode, first big plus for me is no Shaw as I already wanted him gone. Though it could be said him not being there hurt the development of Sarah/Shaw and that makes the disastrous rushed 180 coming next episode even worse. But the Sarah/Shaw relationship was never gonna fly under any circumstances so I’m glad he wasn’t in this episode. The die had been cast already and it was doomed to failure with or without him in this episode. If only they had included that deleted scene last ep.

    Second plus is the Frak Off shirt. nuff said there.

    But the contrived final scene of Sarah watching Chuck drink hard liquor alone as if it is some proper way for a spy to deal with things is offensive on so many levels. It’s forced, unnecessary and manipulative. That somehow getting drunk makes Chuck more of a spy. That somehow what Shaw told her last episode would make her trust that idiot more than 2 and a half years of friendship and knowing how Chuck works. It’s all this blind acceptance of things from him when he was never shown to be deserving of that trust or belief that he knew best. His character is already failing and every person on the show is made more stupid by trusting him.

    But the point of that scene is all about expanding the latest relationship reset to give us the horror that is next week. About not being the friends they had told us they were just a few weeks ago.

    On our make it better note, why not have Sarah go talk to him afterwards? Why not have him ask her how she deals with this stuff? Give us the kind of scene that made this show great because nothing in this episode is, well except the t-shirt. But that can’t happen because they are not trying to have them earn DYLM, they are trying to delay it. That scene could have been a fantastic fountain scene, a significant moment in Chuck’s journey as well as an experienced friend guiding him. It’s not about babying him or standing in his way, its about training him and making him a better spy. “Partners” don’t let you drink alone and drinking alone will not make him a better spy more capable of standing on his feet. It will just extend the distance between them so we can have the grand OLI “intent” that is going to save the season and make it all make sense. Yah right. lol

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah no doubt the end scene is what really sinks this episode. Sadly, that will be true a few more times in the weeks ahead. I agree completely about how much the episode needed the Chuck/Sarah scene at the end. I do get the whole “solo agent” deal they were trying for; but that’s part of the fundamental failure that is S3 for me. I just not interested in Chuck the solo agent. From S1 on I was sold on the team that made the show work. So trying to make an issue of the solo agent just strikes me as a little depressing. If this was an idea in the background, and maybe explored in more depth for an episode or two it might have played better with me. But the way Chuck and Sarah are estranged for so long in this season its just depressing, and not the show I wanted to tune in to watch.
      As I said above, part of this is a context issue. I disliked the previous episode, and Nacho Sampler did nothing to lift my spirits. And, well, nothing will really lift my spirits for quite some time now. Tic Tac will rise to the level of an “okay” episode, but still suffers from a few painful moments and depressing big picture. Really, the show is pretty bleak now until Other Guy.

      Really unfortunate for me, the “Frak Off” shirt does nothing for me either. I’m not into trashy. And I found that whole look for Sarah/Yvonne one of the least attractive on her of the entire series. I think only the French waitress look from The Ex was less appealing to me. Go figure…

  2. oldresorter says:

    This would have been the second or third worst ep of the season for me, had Chuck punched shaw in the nose, and Sarah ran to Chuck in Fake Name, with the ending, Sarah getting Chuck chinese, and them finally kissing.

    Do you realize how powerful the Shaw ordering Sarah to go as his wife in the next ep would have then been? And how the illogical ending of the Morgan ep would have been dramatic, if Sarah had been with Chuck by then? Also, how Sarah and Shaw getting sort of back together after the Red Test would have been really dramatic / ugly but also would have made sense, ‘you love him?’ by Shaw. That scene could have been at the Castle originally. And how the line, ‘we should have done this sooner?’ at dinner would have made sense. Also, Chuck locking Sarah in the lab to rescue Shaw would have carried enormous weight in Hero, rather than sort of looking / feeling stupid.

    If what Uplink said was true about a script change around this time to make the story darker, I’m thinking everyone had a big fight right before the Nose changed to Fake Name, the darker elements of the show won, but the changes to the script / story caused so much of the story through the end of the arc to be illogical. It probably didn’t help that half the writers didn’t like the story they were being forced to write. I’ve been around too long, all those writers quitting was not a coincidence, in my opinion of course.

    • atcDave says:

      To be fair, a couple of the writers clearly left for big career opportunities. But yeah I do wonder how much they were being directed to do work they maybe didn’t believe in. Whatever the real story, we made out well in the end; I think LaFrank, Judkins, and Newman were excellent pick-ups.

    • uplink2 says:

      Well we do know that Fake Name was changed from Nose so something happened then and I don’t think it was just a name change. I’m not saying that DR is accurate, though I do believe his sources are real, but something happened. Meybe its that they saw the lack of chemistry so they tried to force the pairing by going darker and having Sarah hurt Chuck with the name reveal. But if anything it made the hatred for Shaw worse and really had a very negative effect on Sarah’s character and how many people saw her. I will be forever amazed that Ali wrote it considering her affection for Sarah and Yvonne. But it is quite probable she had no choice in the matter.

      OR you bring up the “You still in love with him” comment by Shaw. That directly contradicts the earlier belief that Shaw was talking about Bryce in First Class. How did he know Sarah loved Chuck? Pillow talk? No way. That comment was just a throw away to ramp up the angst after the Red test in anticipation of Sarah’s betrayal of Chuck. God they made Sarah look stupid throughout so much of this arc.

      • atcDave says:

        I mostly agree with your speculation on the episode itself Uplink, but it is very hard to KNOW. A few other episodes got name changes before airing, like Wookiee was a late change that only happened when they discovered how shaggy the actor was during filming. So a name change doesn’t prove anything big changed in the episode, but it does make you wonder.

        I do however think absolutely Shaw’s original assumption about Sarah was she was still hurting over her lost love of Bryce. He may have figured out that Chuck was the real lost love at some point as he got to know her and the team better, or it might have even been a wild stab at figuring out why she cared so much. Ultimately I don’t think it matters, it’s really nothing more than the writers ramping up the angst in a shamelessly obvious way. Because I can’t take anything seriously about Shaw, Sham or Zombie Sarah it doesn’t really matter much to me. It’s flushable dialogue from a flushable episode.

      • uplink2 says:

        Oh I agree that was the original intent even if it was meant to be a little ambiguous. But this is another example of how they played fast and loose with continuity. Were we supposed to think he knew from pillow talk, no matter how disgusting that thought may be? Why was he so casual about it? Asking the woman he was sleeping with if she was still in love with another man. The woman he had just used to put Chuck into a Catch 22 to manipulate him into doing his bidding. Plus of course Sarah just went along with it because this wasn’t S2 Sarah this was a new Sarah, a terrible spy completely subservient to the worst male spy the show ever gave us. Oh wait we are supposed to believe she has fallen for her because “He is a spy much like herself, they’re cut from the same cloth and in some ways he’s the type of guy she should be with. “ Oh yea, that is soooooo well displayed.

      • atcDave says:

        It’s always funny to use those quotes!

        And no doubt the creepy factor is very high.

  3. Justin says:

    In my alternate version of the prior episode, Shaw finds out about Chuck and Sarah’s relationship through a covert experiment that involved the use of undercover CIA operative Hannah.

    In Nacho Sampler, Shaw tells Chuck and Sarah what he knows and that from this point on, he will closely observe Chuck and Sarah’s interactions in and out of the field. He wants to gain more data on their relationship to decide whether he should expose it to his superiors or not. If it proves to be an asset that supports Chuck’s spy training, he is willing to keep his mouth about the relationship. But if the relationship is doomed to be a distracting liability that undermines Chuck’s training rather than support it. Shaw’s stance pressures Chuck and Sarah into wanting to prove to him that them together is a strength and not a weakness. The Manoosh mission becomes a way of putting it to test when the mission requires Chuck to not only be in the field on his own but to engage in some of the tougher, uglier aspects of spy work that Sarah isn’t comfortable with Chuck being involved in.

    Before Chuck goes off on his mission, Sarah takes the time to teach and counsel Chuck for what he is in for in this type of mission and what he may have to do for the good of the mission. She is doing this not only to show to Shaw that she can be good for Chuck’s spy training but because she has come to realize that she needs to treat Chuck more as an equal partner and less as an asset she has to babysit. It wouldn’t good for Chuck’s growth as a spy or for their relationship.

    When Chuck learns what Manoosh really is like and what he intended to do with the Intersect, Chuck uses a combination of Sarah’s advice and his own rationalizations to harden him for what needed to be done to protect Manoosh. Sarah comes to Chuck after the mission is over and, though he appears not to be really broken up about what happened, she knows from experience that a part of him may be morally troubled by the mission’s outcome so she offers herself as a sounding board. Shaw observes the couple’s personal moment through surveillance and has a pensive look on his face, leaving us the audience wondering if he has made his decision on them yet.

    • Justin says:

      Oops. I made a mistake. I meant: “If it proves to be an asset that supports Chuck’s spy training, he is willing to keep his mouth shut about the relationship. But if the relationship is doomed to be a distracting liability that undermines Chuck’s training rather than support it, Shaw will make it public and suggest reassignment for Sarah.

    • atcDave says:

      That’s a really fun idea Justin. I love the twist of C&S fighting to be together like that. I think that would have been a natural progression from S2 when they so often fought to be a complete team; we could have had an S3 where Chuck and Sarah were fighting to be officially recognized as that team. Sort of taking it to the next step. It sure would have made more sense than breaking up what we’d been told several times was the government’s best team.

  4. uplink2 says:

    Interesting posting from you know who today. He was told that in the middle of writing season 5 they were told by NBC to keep the ending as ambiguous as possible in case they got a back 9 contrary to what they were saying in public. Man if that had happened and we got a Honeymooners 5.14 type episode. I could be on my 3rd series rewatch instead of having only minimal rewatch interest and seen just 2 full episodes in 16 months.

    • atcDave says:

      Oh that just hurts.

    • uplink2 says:

      I know. What is sad is that in today’s climate at NBC, it might have gotten that back order.

      • anthropocene says:

        So are they still holding out for that back order, given that the ambiguous ending was aired anyway? 😉

      • atcDave says:

        I’m sure we’ll be hearing about the pick-up any day now…

    • Robert says:

      Well, it’s just the same situations than 3.13, 4.13 that happened, except we didn’t get a 5.14 (a Honeymooners style 5.14, which is what would probably have happened, considering what we got in 3.14 and 4.14, would’ve been awesome!).

      And the fun part? Had 3.14 or 4.14 not happened, we would’ve read the same comments about the finale pay-off not being enough compared to the angst that lead to that point, etc.

      And has it occurred to some that, since everything got well/better between Chuck and Sarah after 3.13 and 4.13, that it’s the same thing that would’ve happened after 5.13? That’s in the show’s DNA; that even after the worst problems, obstacles or mistakes (character’s or writer’s), Chuck and Sarah always pulled through, and got closer as a result!

      • anthropocene says:

        Yes, it has.

      • uplink2 says:

        Robert, I would challenge a couple of assertions in that post. First I would never have complained about 4.13 being the final episode if it was. That “possible finale” is the one episode that works absolutely best. It was a perfectly executed payoff to a season long build up. I completely disagree that there would have been any comments about not enough payoff to the angst build up. To me that is the one time they got the balance perfect. My only quibble is I would have liked to have seen Sarah hug Casey instead of more Jeffster but that is extremely minor compared to what I thought was a very well executed payoff to a well executed build up. There were things in that story that could have been better but to me Push Mix is by far the best of the almost finales and I would never have been upset if it had been the end though I’m certainly glad it wasn’t. It’s why its one of the only 3 episodes I’ve rewatched since the finale.

        On 3.13 yes I would have been upset if it was the finale as 3 short scenes of payoff for weeks and weeks if disastrous agony wasn’t anywhere near enough of a payoff, especially since they didn’t earn it. The build up wasn’t there and the payoff felt as contrived as the original reset from 3.01. It was simply 3.13 and time to put them together and bury all of the plot holes and poorly executed contrived angst under the rug hoping the fans would just be happy it was over. It was more being glad the misery was over rather than enjoying that they earned that moment.

        As far as 5.13 goes, that is my biggest complaint in that it was incomplete. It was nowhere near enough payoff for the agony they put them through. Was seeing douchebag Morgan run after a 50 year old Bo Derek more important than redeeming Sarah? Plus with the real possibility that Sarah doesn’t ever remember the past 5 years why would I want to retake that journey? If you leave the most important character on the show to me without an assured final redemption then your story isn’t finished. I needed to know she remembers Chuck and their time together and what he meant to her not the order of cups on a counter or Irene Demova. That she carved that name WITH Chuck not that she simply did it. The reason why the beach was an important place and not just that it was. None of the context of those memories was ever shown. Those are the things I wanted from 5.14. Memories of Chuck himself are what mattered and we saw none of those. Give her a few scenes where the other people she had come to love actually act like they care about what happens to her instead of running off to a high paying job in Chicago and abandoning her when she needed them most. They left her isolated and alone much like what her life was before she walked into the BuyMore until Chuck walked up to her on the beach.

        But if 4.13 had been the end I would have been sad it was over but thrilled with the way it ended.

      • aerox says:

        “Give her a few scenes where the other people she had come to love actually act like they care about what happens to her instead of running off to a high paying job in Chicago and abandoning her when she needed them most.”

        Uh… what about Chuck? I mean, shit, that dude had it way, WAY worse than Sarah.

      • uplink2 says:

        Sorry dude, you know my love for the show ALWAYS goes through Sarah first and foremost. Though I admit there is a real honest debate over who has it worse the one who lost their memories or the one who didn’t.

        BTW I’ve begun a re-watch tonight. Saw the pilot and Helicopter. I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed both. I’ve got some points to bring up when we get our alternate thread up on tuesday I hope this week.

    • Dave says:


      Interesting post here. For more than a year I have postulated that we got the less than fully satisfying series finale (felt more like a season/mid-season finale) because Schwedak was peddling a scaled down, less expensive to produce version of Chuck going forward.

      They had eliminated the most expensive set to maintain and use (Buy More, maybe Castle as well). they moved 7 of the 11 regular characters from regulars to potential guest stars.

      The timing fits as they wrapped around Thanksgiving 2011 and there wasn’t an official announcement of cancellation until, I believe, the second week of January or thereabouts.

      I have always thought this was what happened.

    • Dave says:

      Almost forgot this part of my theory. Many people stated there was no more story to tell after 5.13. I heartily disagree. The slimmed it down and still left a good story out there to develop.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree completely with that Dave. A modified, simpler version of the show centered on just Chuck/Sarah, with Morgan/Alex as the regular sidekicks, and everyone else in occasional/recurring roles would have worked just fine for me. I would mention Anthropocene’s hypothetical season six as a great example of how that might have worked (starting with “Chuck Versus What Happens In Vegas“), although his stories are hardly scaled down!

  5. First Impression says:

    What a arrogant little snot. Did they really expect us to believe Manoosh was an asset like Chuck?  He was calculated, conceited, and willing to do the right thing only for himself.  He was the antithesis of Chuck and the constant comparison was degrading to Chuck and annoying to me.  

    In the end, the idea that the agency had finally turned Chuck into a real agent because he burned an asset was ridiculous. The dialogue was mediocre and I didn’t even notice the music.  Somehow this episode lost the heartbeat of the series. 

    • atcDave says:

      I completely agree. The Chuck parallels were superficial at best, and we were supposed to buy something more. This is a big part of the disconnect between the writers and me with this season.
      I don’t know if you’re paying much attention to the review parts, I know want to stay spoiler free, but the first couple paragraphs above play to exactly that.

  6. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Nacho Sampler (3.06) | Chuck This

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