Season Three Alternatives: Mask

Well, there’s no doubt I don’t care for this episode much.  That may be a horrible way to start a post, but I just can’t find a more neutral way of putting it.  And you all know I loath season three anyway, so I guess there’s little point in being more diplomatic about it.

But that does leave the door wide open again for alternative ways of telling the story.  There is great potential in the story of Chuck becoming an actual agent.  And while there are many details I could nitpick, it is primarily the problems with the central relationship that sink both episode and season.  So let’s look at this part of the story; and once again see if we can find a way well of telling it that would actually not make Chuck look like a jerk, Sarah look stupid, and have some entertainment value for more of us.  So after the jump, we’ll try to make a good parts version of Chuck vs The Mask. 

I hate to spend too much time on the episode itself.  As I’ve said before, it’s just not worth it.  My quip usually goes that they redefined rock bottom a few times during the season.  And there are seven episodes I just won’t ever re-watch.   But we get three of them in the main arc here that I feel special contempt for; Mask, Fake Name  and Final Exam together make a sort of “Dark Age” for the show (Pink Slip equals those three in a way, but its also different from the rest of the conversation.  And the other three I won’t re-watch I don’t hate quite as much!).  Now I do get that some people will like that sort of darker story.  But I don’t, and commentary since the time the season first ran has made it clear a significant number of viewers share my views on this.  Mask is where things really come unglued, and that pretty much comes down to the last ten minutes.  Two things particularly stand out; Chuck being a slime ball for getting involved with Hannah, and Sarah starting to get friendly with Shaw even though it looks like Yvonne isn’t buying a second of it.  As always, the only finger I care to point is directly at the writers.  There is no way this story ever should have even been pursued.  It makes Chuck and Sarah both look terrible, thereby robbing the show of its greatest strength.  I could have maybe bought into half a season of estrangement for them (and for the record, if we accept the split at Pink Slip, we’re now past the point where they need to be reconciled) but another round of tiresome love triangles?  No way.  They’ve already done this theme to death.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have liked estrangement without the triangles either, but it likely wouldn’t have left me still steaming mad three years later.

The execution was pretty horrible too.  Brandon Routh as Shaw never comes across as likable or sympathetic; which reflects pretty poorly on Sarah, who had been the favorite character for many viewers.  But Mask and Fake Name are more about making Chuck look like a cretin.  The damage here is severe enough I will never quite have the same affection for the title character that I did in the first two seasons.  It doesn’t help that after Chuck being a total jerk for a couple weeks, we see Sarah be stupid for quite a while longer.  This isn’t ever about if their actions can be explained or justified; its about entertainment choices.  Nothing in fiction is a forgone conclusion, it can be written any way it can be imagined.  Sure, some story-lines, twists or resolutions may ring false, especially if the characters are disrespected (which is exactly what many of us feel happened here), but there is literally and infinite number of ways this story could have been told.  And whether any single reader likes these episodes or not, the bottom line is, somewhere around a third of Chuck fans despised them. Our polls at this site actually indicate a slightly higher percentage than that disliked the main arc (41%), but of course its only from 156 voters, and we couldn’t measure those who had already quit the show.  This just makes for a very discouraging period to be a Chuck fan.

Which brings us to “Chuckpocalypse”.  Mask first ran before the Winter Olympics in 2010.  It ended on such an uncomfortable note, that Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak were taken to task by a large number of Chuck fans.   They initiated some pretty obvious damage control that ran all through the Olympic break.  I won’t go into all the details here (but really, feel free to address whatever you want in comments) except to mention it was pretty obvious TPTB knew they’d screwed up pretty bad.  Not only was this a terrible episode, it was an even more terrible place for a break.  At a time when many of us just wanted to get this arc over with, it was being dragged out even further by scheduling demands.

So what could have been different? At this point, I have to address that in two different ways.  The entire S3 canon is a burden that is seriously weighing down every episode to the end of the season.  So I feel the need to go back to 3.01 again and just say the whole season needed to be different.  I can imagine Mask being quite a fun episode if Chuck and Sarah were in a secret relationship at this point.  With Hannah and Shaw both getting more aggressive in their pursuits, secret Charah could have been very entertaining in several ways.  Starting with trying to rebuff advances without an obvious good excuse.  Its especially easy to imagine Sarah having to keep the real reason she’s “not available” quiet.  And of course Chuck, never wanting to cause offense, would be very awkward trying to escape Hannah.  I could imagine him constantly trying to set her up with Morgan, without looking like he’s just trying to get away.  Of course Ellie could be complicating matters too, trying to encourage Chuck to “move on”.  Bonus points if Devon has been dragged into things being the only one who knows Chuck and Sarah are seeing each other.  Or I wonder if a double fake could work?  Maybe Devon knows about the spy life but not the relationship, while Ellie is still in the dark about spy world but knows Chuck and Sarah are together!  Hmmm, but then why would Ellie think they are faking being broken up?  I don’t know, this may require further thought later.  Add in a little Sarah jealousy as she thinks Chuck is being way to nice with Hannah, and I think it all could have been an amusing mess.

That’s all sort of “the long fix”.  If we only tinker with Mask itself, that becomes “the short fix” (I may use those conventions again for coming Alternative posts).  The most obvious thing is just that the talk in the hallway has to go different.  I’m actually not thrilled with much of the episode.  But that last Charah talk I think has to be the focal for making amends.  It seems so loaded with things not said.  I can easily imagine it going a little differently.  As Chuck was still the source of Sarah’s grief, he needs to initiate their reconciliation.  Maybe picking up on Sarah’s “I have a type” line.  “I used to hope that included me” is only a little pathetic, and not too terribly different from how Chuck actually does broach the subject in Other Guy.  Anything to trigger an actual open discussion between them would have been an improvement.  We are well into the period now when Chuck and Sarah’s inability to talk with each other is stupid and ridiculous.  This could have been a great place to stop it.  Its one of those small things that could have saved a season.

So how has Mask been served in fan fiction?  The first piece I have is KateMcK again. Chapter six of “Chuck vs The Fight” is devoted to this episode.  She lets the show itself play out as shown, but Chuck and Sarah finally have a heart to heart at their beach just afterwards.  Once again, Kate provides a pretty satisfying resolution.

Another fix to the show’s canon comes from Wepdiggy in “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You“.  This starts shortly after the episode with an awkward date night where Chuck and Hannah end up at the same restaurant as Sarah and Shaw.  From that horrifying set up, comes the mandatory resolution.  This also makes for a fun read.

Many other stories make use of story elements from Mask, but the vast majority of those have Chuck and Sarah in a better place going in to it.  Really its kind of funny, I cannot think of many fan fiction writers who have chosen to draw the relationship drama out this far.  They mostly seem to share my view that things just needed to be better by this point.  There are a few writers who have taken a far darker view of things, but I’ll never recommend any such thing.  And of course quite a few stories will come that “fix” things after a later date, we’ll cover many of those in turn.  A lot of other writers launched stories at this point.  Just like discussion traffic at this blog, the Olympic break became one of the most intense periods of activity.

This could easily be an angry discussion.  I know myself, and many regular commenters here still have a degree of anger and bitterness over what was done on the show.  But let’s try to play by our usual rules; keep language civil, and don’t question the character, motives or integrity of individuals.  That means both fellow commenters, and those involved with the show itself.  We can have strong feeling about content, but let’s play nice with each other!

~ 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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127 Responses to Season Three Alternatives: Mask

  1. uplink2 says:

    There is so much to talk about here over the next number of days. But as one great fan told me:

    “Mask is the point where it became abundantly obvious that the poorly chosen backwards story was more important than the characters.”

    The characters mean nothing from this point on. Whatever they had to do to them, no matter the cost was just fine as long as it pushed forward the LI disaster they had on their hands. Sarah/Shaw was already a failure and they just doubled down on it, damaging Sarah to such an unbelievable extent.

    It is without a doubt the single worst written episode of the series. It was so bad TPTB already had plans for damage control underway before it even aired. They knew negative fan reaction was coming and went to one of the biggest butt kissing reviewers so they wouldn’t have to answer any tough questions.

    If there were a poll of the worst episodes of the series this and the next one would win hands down. Virtually every character looks like an idiot at some point in this episode, well Shaw does the entire episode but that’s to be expected.

    It’s also the point where they lost much of the trust of the fans. It was high risk, high failure, and for no real benefit to the characters, oh yes I forgot. It’s the story that matters not the characters. Possibly one of the biggest blunders a showrunner has ever made.

    • atcDave says:

      I think you’re completely right about this being where they lost the fans. This is such a poorly conceived episode. And the funny thing is, about the only part of it that really works well is the Chuck and Sarah scenes; both their interplay in the museum and the jealous bickering when they steal the mask. And that’s the very pairing who’s screen time has been reduced! Horrible writing, horrible planning, horrible entertainment.

      • Dave says:

        atcDave, et al.

        Now that I’m through venting, back to alternatives. My favorite alternative story was C&S trying to have a relationship under the radar with the issue being Shaw, not Beckman at this stage. Here’s how I would fix 3.0 with a minimum of changes. My changes start with the final scene of Nacho Sampler, but carry forward to here, and I’ll be very specific.

        In the final scene of 3.06 as Chuck is drowning his sorrows and Sarah is watching, Sarah disables the audio recording and then the scene shifts to her arriving at Chuck’s, pushing the bottle away and she sits careful to face away from the camera. She begins to talk to Chuck, after a few seconds, Chuck looks at the camera and frowns. Sarah takes Chuck’s hand, whispers something to Chuck making him smile then frown. Sarah takes the glass of booze away and hugs him and leaves. This doesn’t even require us to hear dialogue.

        Mask stays the same until we get to the “I have a type” scene. They have their talk, but while doing so, Sarah cuts her eyes up indicating a surveillance camera and slowly winks at Chuck. As Chuck leaves, Sarah looks down and hits send on her iPhone. Cut to chuck who looks down at the text and he frowns, then smiles. Then we see the text “Go to Hannah, sell it. We’ll talk later. My place.”

        I’ll hold the rest for now. Even though Pink Slip is my personal most disgusting, the next three were OK and 3.05, while not very good was not as problematic as later episodes, so we’ll leave that and start the repairs in 3.06. This fix also adds more meaning to the jealous bickerfighting during the Mask heist scene.

      • atcDave says:

        So far so good Dave. I do like the idea of minimal changes to make things right. Although it gets tough from here as canon becomes more problematic. But I like the ideas of Shaw trying to disrupt the team, while Chuck and Sarah are completely on to him and working in a more subtle way. That could have been a lot of fun.
        On a related note, I don’t recall if you’ve read any fan fiction or not, but the one writer I’ll be bringing up almost every week for this arc is KateMcK. She specializes in the same sort of thing you’re doing here; that is, start close to canon, make a few small changes, and let them snowball into something awesome. Some of those minimalist fixes are very appealing.

      • uplink2 says:

        I could go along with that. I think the great majority of Chuck fans would agree that the best way to improve Season 3 is to completely eliminate the LI’s, especially Sarah/Shaw. Second don’t make everyone so stupid to sell Shaw. Why is it necessary to diminish your regular stars to falsely prop up a guest star? It’s like they actually thought all you had to do was cast Superman in the role and you didn’t have to actually write his story. We were all supposed to just know who and what he was.

      • ninjaVanish says:

        uplink2: Your point about them taking his role as Superman as his main characterization is really on point. I think they were kind of doing that with a lot of their casting. It’s kind of like Chuck was the post-modern blender of pop culture in many ways. The writers chose actors who most if not all of the audience would know from their previous work. Doc brown as Chuck’s psychiatrist. Freddy Krueger as the scientist developing the fear toxin. Volkoff = Bond. Sarah Connor = Chuck’s mom.
        I think their intention was to comment on stunt casting at the same time they used it in order to shortcut characterization for their guest stars. I don’t think it’s a very effective way to do character work, but I can see that on a meta-textual level it seems like a consistent choice on the part of the show.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah its funny Uplink. I think moron Shaw works fine; but ONLY if team B recognizes he’s a moron! Being star struck by an egotistical moron is pretty unbearable!

      • Dave says:

        atcDave and Uplink

        Thanks for your kind words. I have always thought the general theme of 3.0 was good, they just screwed it up with the angst and OLIs. Chuck having to climb a mountain facing obstacles and temptations but ultimately emerging victorious is a good theme. My concept, however, sees Sarah helping Chuck not actively impeding him and becoming one of his obstacles. In my concept, Sarah quickly realizes that Chuck does love her and that her cock-eyed plan would have never worked. I mean really, did Sarah believe she could trip into Prague and abscond with the most valuable intelligence asset on the planet and ride into the sunset for a happily ever after. My view has her realizing this, as she cools down, much sooner and moving back to Chuck while avoiding the inconvenient presence of Shaw.

        In my mind, the scene in Pink Slip where she hatches the dumb Prague plan is actually Sarah peeved because Chuck’s heroism deprived her of her dream…a normal or semi-normal life with Chuck (yes I could easily believe they did IT after Ellie’s rehearsal dinner). So she stays mad for a couple or few episodes but soon comes back.

        Obviously, 3.08 and 3.11-3.12 will be the hardest to fix, but we’ll deal with that as it comes.

      • uplink2 says:

        See NV this is where it gets back to our other debate in terms of Shaw. His version of Superman was unlikable, cold, wooden and had absolutely no chemistry with his co-star. Exactly what we got on Chuck. That kind of stunt casting shorthand only works when the character you are trying to emulate is likable or at least relatable and hopefully well acted, It worked very well for Doc, Volkoff, could have for Mary if they gave her a real back story that actually works and not the ridiculous plot holes like the PSP, but I digress. Using that formula, Shaw/Routh failed because they never gave us a story or character so the one we surmised was one we at best couldn’t relate to or at worst couldn’t stand. Then they ran virtually the entire season through him instead of their leads. It’s mindblowingly stupid.

        To Dave’s point the fact that they kept jamming down our throats that he was a great spy, though actually showing the opposite, or the fact that the real great spies on the show were made to look incredibly stupid to sell the unwarranted hero worship is just lazy and weak writing. From Beckman cowering in front of him in 3W to his “I’m always right” comment to “You make a beautiful couple” to calling him a “True American Hero” 3 freaking times and never actually showing or selling any of those comments it all is just so obviously bad how could they have not realized it until it was too late to fix?

      • atcDave says:

        I think the stunt casting works fine… As long as the actor can actaully pull it off. But sometimes it exposed limitations.

    • uplink2 says:

      I agree Dave. I have this vision of Fedak’s mother slapping him upside the head saying “what the hell were you thinking?”

      Another point I wanted to bring up was I finally started doing a rewatch. I had bought the Blu-Ray boxed set and wanted to see the difference in quality. Then I could loan out my DVD’s when I wanted to and still have the Blu-Ray. I’ll mention that I was disappointed in the quality difference in what I’ve seen so far as it isn’t that noticeable but that is another story. I just finished Wookie the other night.

      I noticed a couple of things. Not sure if this is true or not but it looks like Helicopter was shot around the same time as the pilot. Not only in the look of the episode but in one other small area, Yvonne’s voice. When she is standing on the rooftop with Chuck and Casey she has almost a bit of a lisp in her voice. I hear that again slightly in Helicopter. But it is completely gone by Tango. So I’m guessing she went to a vocal coach in between and worked on her American accent and eliminated that ‘sound’ in her voice. It also makes sense with Schwedak’s comments that they changed the tone of the show a bit after Helicopter,

      Second and this is where we get back to this episode. Chemistry. The chemistry between Zack and Yvonne is so striking, so powerful and so omnipresent from the first time we see them together it is striking and it is something I focused on a lot in this episode. But here in Mask, the complete lack of chemistry between Yvonne and Routh is equally as glaring. They are 3 episodes into his time on the show and already it is just as glaringly obvious that this is going to be a disaster. It makes Schwartz’s comments about how difficult it is to accept a Sarah/Shaw relationship because of the fact we ahve seen Sarah and Chuck for 2 and a half seasons. At the end Tango, we still didn’t know for certain if Sarah was fully trustworthy yet that is especially true in Helicopter. Their intent was to instil doubt in both Chuck and the viewers. But the undeniable chemistry between them and the buy in to the possible relationship was as completely overwhelming. Yest at the same point in Sarah/Shaw I was already screaming WTF? There is absolutely nothing at all interesting or attractive about the Shaw character or the actor’s portrayal. At the same point in screen time the difference was as clear as night and day. And it wasn’t the way it was written. Sarah was as much an enigma to good guy Chuck as Shaw was to good guy Sarah at that point. I really hope that Matt Barber in the editing room was screaming “this isn’t working!!!” And if he did they STILL pushed it even harder to the point it made Sarah look like a complete idiot. And they insult the fans intelligence with that ridiculous “I have a type” scene.

      Dave you talk about how things could have been different and better but the problem for them is that no matter what they did, even the slightest change completely eliminates the possibility of the coming together being believable pushed out to 3.13. And that was the driving force. That’s what I think DR’s mention of the writers meeting was about. The story was failing because when they tried to soften it in Angel and OA it made the destination being stuck in 3.13 seem like it was as contrived as it was. So they chose to go darker and double down on a relationship that was failing already. I think that meeting is when we get the god awful last 10 minutes of Mask and the spit in the viewers face episode that follows.

      The season was focused way too heavily on a character and actor with no charisma, no believability, and every time he was on screen he sucked the life out of the parts of the show that had sustained it’s incredible devotion in the fans. I don’t see how any objective viewer can view Sarah/Shaw that begins here as anything but a total failure and one of the most destructive story choices I’ve ever seen.

      One more point from Scwedak”s season 1 comments. He said after Helicopter and the fight between Sarah and Casey:

      Casey and Sarah tried to kill each other in that and very quickly we were like, “People don’t want to see that show.” We thought of how cool it would be to have the battle in the Wienerlicious and we’ll use the sticks that you stick in the hot dogs and no one has ever seen an action scene involving corn dogs before or hot dogs on a stick before – maybe for a reason – but people didn’t want that version of the show.

      Well Josh, people didn’t want this version of the show either.

      • atcDave says:

        Its funny, I like Helicopter a lot. But I think that’s mainly because of the way things were still developing. I would have been a lot less enthused if the distrust on the team had remained an issue for any longer. Tango is where the show finally starts to take form to me, and I was completely sold on Sarah as a great hero by that point.
        I had noticed the same thing about her voice, there was a slight lisp and nasal sound in her longer speeches that we never heard in later episodes. I’m sure it was Yvonne still getting the hang of talking American.

        As far as “what viewers will like”, I think ultimately the problem was they were so focused on their “epic” end they completely lost sight of providing quality entertainment to get us there. I don’t want to make too much it, I’m sure a lot of stories are actually written to get to a desired end; but in this case they seem to have put too much faith in the “destination”, and not ever given enough thought to “journey”.

      • Joel says:

        Honestly, Helicopter is one of my least favorite episodes, though it’s probably better than Mask. The distrust theme doesn’t work at all, “pretend the helicopter is a video game” kind of makes me cringe, and it’s obvious they aren’t quite sure what direction to take the show yet. Actually, I kind of feel this way about pre-Alma Mater S1 besides the Pilot – even Tango has Morgan weighing it down.

        But Helicopter does have some good comic moments (“I don’t kid about quiche!”) and at least it feels more innocent than Mask and doesn’t have any real long-term story implications, so it’s still better.

      • Joel says:

        I just realized that I’ve been posting so many critical comments about different eras of the show lately that I probably come across as a lot more negative on it than I really am!

      • atcDave says:

        Try this Joel, what did you really like about the show?

    • Dave says:

      I always thought the big reveal would be that Shaw was a mole from the start. I mean everything he did could be viewed as what a mole would do to break up, or at least make the best team less effective. When they didn’t get back together (as I hoped) the creepy back rub scene just reinforced my idea that Shaw was a mole. When it unfolded later how he turned, I just felt cheated.

      • atcDave says:

        I think you have plenty of company in that Dave. I was so sure Shaw was a baddie from the start I ran a whole series of “Shaw’s Evil Plan” posts throughout S3 for speculation about what was “really” happening. And Sarah getting more involved with him was just like a bad dream in so many ways.

      • uplink2 says:

        Absolutely. There seemed to be plenty of speculation right from the start for both Shaw and Hannah. In part because the idea of Hannah being an innocent and Shaw actually being a hero seems so repetitive and boring. Been there done that. In reading past threads thee was a tremendous amount of speculation about the real motives for the characters. Quite frankly all of those s[peculations ended up being much more interesting than what we actually got. Hannah as an innocent was completely pointless to me. Shaw as hero spy was never shown on screen and in fact it was the exact opposite. What makes this episode completely infuriating was Shaw was an awful spy here and simply because he carried Sarah out of harms way because of the disaster HE CAUSED, somehow that qualifies him as her type? It just makes Sarah look like such a fool and I took that diminishing of Sarah’s character very personally.

        What’s interesting in the damage control interview is they said that it was the plan for both relationship to start here in the same episode. Whether justified or not that forced simultaneous change was what drove the episode, not the characters themselves. By this point all concern for actual honest character developmental storytelling had vanished. All that matter was the big ‘epic’ finale. Why else would you double down on a story that they had to see was failing in execution.

      • Dave says:


        I also thought they presented Sarah as being very stupid with respect to her relations with Shaw. On the IMdB board I pointed out that Shaw treated Sarah like crap for 5 episodes and her response was to go on a date with him?

        He was arrogantly condescending to her, made unwanted advances and overtures to her, pulled his gun on her a couple of times, placed Chuck in situations that could have killed him, tried to kill Chuck himself once, beat the hell out of Chuck while Chuck was trying to save his life and manipulated her into giving Chuck his Red Test. Sarah’s response to all this is to have a relationship with him…it was just stupid.

        Someone on IMdB defended Shaw and said that all of these things were work related. I was stunned. I’m not a woman, but it seems to me if someone treats you badly at work you don’t go on a date with that person.

        Put simply, I didn’t get it. When the show runner has to have an interview and explain to us dumb fans that there is a romance here (Sarah-Shaw) then they know they have screwed up…or should have.

      • atcDave says:

        I fixed it Dave, only the six authors can edit.

        I completely agree Shaw was a pathetic character, and Sarah becomes pathetic by association. Its funny how we all have our different “least favorite” moments. But you hit on mine there; Final Exam, and Sarah turning back to Shaw after he manipulated her into manipulating Chuck. That just makes me steaming mad, I absolutely HATE that part of the story. Its why I just have to reject the story utterly and pretend it never happened. Its too grotesque and revolting to accept. Just horrible, disgusting writing.

  2. Jason says:

    Dismal episode, period of time for the show. I’ve watched about 2/3’s of Schwartz’s Heart of Dixie, so off and on. Compared to HOD, Chuck had no number two or three or four plot to warm the heart, nothing else I cared about at all as a fan. In two HOD seasons, near everyone has paired up with everyone, yet, in the maybe ten cast members, nearly every episode I get ‘Schwartz’d’ once or twice, with an ‘awe shucks’ moment that is similtaneously cute, nice, sweet, fun, funny. On Chuck, none of the other characters, other than Chuck and Sarah, do that to me or for me. Hence, when CS were written in absolute misery for nearly 12 episodes, each week the show stunned me, with how unhappy the episode was. I kept waiting for the catch, waiting to get ‘Schwartz’ed’, but there was no happy moments to be had for CS, just pain and misery. OK for a really serious show, but not for this one.

    • atcDave says:

      Although I like many of the secondary characters, I would completely agree with saying Chuck and Sarah are the heart and soul of the show. If they aren’t right, nothing else matters.

  3. Jason says:

    Since I use your posting to talk Castle, I continue to be amazed at how the Castle writers weave their way through and around the love story. If I can’t stand how Chuck was written and wasted two such great characters as Chuck and Sarah, I love how Castle is written to maximize the Rick and Kate story. Theirs will go down as epic TV love, Chuck and Sarah, unless a movie somehow redeems them, more a footnote, as to what might have been. Season 3’s miserableness and ending the show with amnesia will do that.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t quite agree with that. I still don’t think Rick and Kate have the pure magnetism Chuck and Sarah did. But overall I’m pleased with that show.

      My wife and I were recently talking about secondary characters because of Grimm. Its a fun show, but a very odd situation with the characters. I like the main character a lot, but his girlfriend, really not so much. So the emotional heart of the show has become the sidekick and his girlfriend. She was even a late addition to the show, really good thing she was added! The show needed her. And the funny thing is, I don’t seem to be alone in thinking that; in recent promotional material I’ve noticed the newer character is now normally billed as the third major character on the show. Smart move.

      • Jason says:

        Dave I agree 10,000%, Kate and Rick don’t have much magnetism at all, while Chuck and Sarah have it oozing from all corners. But the writing, the writing is very good in Castle, and is really bad in Chuck. I only wish …

      • Jason says:

        Dave – the show that has a secondary character stealing the show right now is Arrow. A tall, cute, computer nerd has evolved into Oliver Queen’s Arrow sidekick, while long term love interest Laurel pines for the Arrow, and has mixed feelings about her ex Oliver Queen. Part of all of this is the writing, either the writers really get or like the character, or the actress is doing so well they can’t help themselves. Not sure what happened on Chuck, all of a sudden, Chuck and Sarah quit getting lines, and Morgan and Casey did. But as I said, Chuck needed more good (and serious) characters, so the drama didn’t have to run through just Sarah. When Shaw and Hannah were first announced, I thought both would become members of the team and really help the dynamic, instead as seen in the mask, they were written in about the most miserable way possible. When the mask ended, I was stunned, little did I know, far worse was coming, a dreadfully dark show arc, with no happy endings in the entire arc, just saddness and misery.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah, it sure was the misery arc!

      • Dave says:

        atcDave, et al.

        I am not a high speed Hollywood producer, so I can’t imagine the initial production meeting where some bright bulb suggested that they take arguably the most popular couple on TV (they’ve won awards for this as late as season 4) and tear them apart rater viciously and keep them apart for 12 of the 13 episodes that have been bought. And to make it even better, we’ll take arguably the most attractive woman on TV and make her sad and unhappy for 12 episodes.

        That ought to really fire up the fan base, huh.

        I maintain that TPTB did not realize, or as a minimum dis not take advantage of, the fact that the Chuck/Sarah romance had become one of the most important aspects of the show. They also, apparently, missed the part about needing good ratings to remain on the air. I’m for artistic freedom, but broadcast TV is a business and that business is based on ratings.

      • Dave says:

        Please excuse my typos, don’t type well.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree completely. I particularly like to point to the editors as those who I look to judge if I’m seeing the same thing they are seeing. The hours spent putting the show together and the investment they make in getting it just right is important to me. Maybe it’s because I know a number of editors of different types of content their opinion matters a great deal to me. I would give anything to go back in time and get in that edit room with Matt Barber and see where his head was at. See if he wants to scream “This isn’t working!!!”. “I can’t make chemistry that simply isn’t there!” I can’t show the audience what your are telling them because it simply isn’t on screen.” I would hope that at one point while he was editing Mask he thought to himself, “This episode really sucks and we are going to have a real problem when it airs!” lol.

      • atcDave says:

        Dave I would love to know who all might have mentioned some problems with the story. It seems so obvious now. The number I normally quote is about a third of viewers were very unhappy with the show, but I actually believe it was far worse than that. That same poll I often cite shows another 30% disliked the season as it ran, but later felt it was somehow all worthwhile. Well that’s now over 70% of those who answered our survey admit to being unhappy as the show ran. And again, that doesn’t include those who had already quit (the poll was done the week after Other Guy).
        So really, our survey looks like only about a third viewers were actually happy with the show. Now I can’t proclaim that too loudly or that third does get pretty vocal. And its true, it was a small sample set and only of visitors to THIS site. But I strongly suspect a majority of viewers did not like S3. How did TPTB not see that coming? As Uplink has mentioned, they actually started their damage control the night Mask ran. Now to be fair, it MIGHT have just been a routine interview that turned into something a little different when Twitter went nuts that night. But it sure does make you wonder.

      • Dave says:


        Your survey numbers sound good. I go by Nielson ratings, which are surprisingly similar.

        Season 3 premiered to the second highest number of viewers (7.45 million compared to Season 1’s 9.21 million, as good as season 2 was it premiered to just 6.84 million), probably because of the save the show hype. Either way, by episode 8 they had lost nearly a million and by the payoff in 3.13 they had lost nearly 2 million and by the finale 2.45 million viewers had left the show, and most didn’t come back.

        I just am PO’d that the show runners shortened the life of my favorite show through their ineptitude.

      • Dave says:


        Another thing everyone has mentioned is the damage control. We’ve covered some of the interviews here, but remember the leaked call sheets from 3.14, Zach’s internet videos from the sets and the very revealing promo that aired during the Olympics interlude?

        I think after Mask they were desperately trying to stop the bleeding.

      • uplink2 says:

        In my mind the biggest bit of damage control was Wondercon where instead of actually taking tough questions from the audience they showed them Other Guy instead. No way would the audience scream about how badly Shaw sucked after seeing that. It’s both an admission of failure and in some ways a very smart PR move.

      • atcDave says:

        They did quite a media blitz during the Olympics. It was obvious they were trying to placate us. I think most of it just annoyed me more (“you don’t quit reading a book at chapter seven…”); but the actual extended preview calmed me down. Funny, since much of what we saw was so out of context I didn’t like it when we got to it (the “stake-date”. oh brother, it was from my personal least favorite episode ever), but it did help to see some stuff that looked like fun coming up. Oh, and the deleted scenes from Honeymooners; I’d already sort of guessed the back six episodes would be more to my liking, and I was sure of it by the time the Olympics were over. Even though, I never, ever would have guessed how much I would hate the rest of the front arc.

      • uplink2 says:

        Those ‘leaks’ were definitely intentional. They were trying to throw some water on the growing fire.

        Dave, who else did they do stuff with? All I’ve ever seen from those 3 weeks was the Sepinwall lovefest. I’d like to read them.

        But the chapter 7 comment will go down in history as one of the most clueless statements ever made by a showrunner, especially when it wasn’t chapter 7 it was chapter 42

      • Dave says:


        I don’t recall who the interview was with (probably Sepinwall or Ryan) but the gist was (from memory) was that there was a romance but we (the stupid fans) didn’t see it and that there was a universe out there where Sarah and Shaw would be perfect for each other.

        Sadly, the show was airing in our universe and not the mythical one where Sarah and Shaw were a perfect couple. This is the one I read that infuriated me in that they had to actually explain that there was a romance because what we saw was the exact opposite.

      • atcDave says:

        Uplink we have a lot of stuff from our spoiler pages that was drawn from a variety of media sources. I believe we started the first S3 spoiler page because of the flood of stuff we were getting during the Olympic break. Unfortunately, I was just looking back over it, and we didn’t date a lot of the stuff, so its hard to tell when some of it was added. Obviously our archives from February/March of 2010 have a lot of spoilers as well. I wish I could give you a more concrete timeline of stuff, but right now I can’t.

      • atcDave says:

        I remember that on Dave! They might have said that with Sepinwall; but I remember them trying that line with Mo Ryan and she kind of called them on it. Now THAT was funny!

  4. Justin says:

    In my alternate version of The Mask, Hannah wouldn’t be a part of it since her role was only necessary for First Flight as an undercover CIA operative Shaw sent as a part of his earlier test on Chuck and Sarah. In The Mask, Shaw arranges another test on Chuck and Sarah’s capabilities as a team based on their romantic relationship which they consider to be a strength. The test comes in the form of Shaw pretending to be a couple with Sarah to see how Chuck and Sarah handle the situation. Sarah handles it like a pro while Chuck displays some discomfort with the situation. Ellie’s presence complicates the situation when she sees Shaw with Sarah, thinking that she may be cheating on Chuck. She doesn’t see Chuck at the time and ends up telling him later on what she saw, and that maybe Chuck should break things off with Sarah. Chuck has his hands full trying to fix that situation and seeks Devon’s help to back him up. But Ellie’s mistrust of Sarah isn’t fully resolved by the end of the episode which would begin an arc of her trying to seek proof to bring to her brother that Sarah is a bad girlfriend that needs to be dropped befor she ruins Chuck’s life. My version of the hallway scene would take place on the beach because Chuck and Sarah wants to keep their personal conservation outside the scope of Shaw’s eyes and ears. And in this scene, Chuck shares his discomfort with the undercover mission with Sarah concerning Shaw and Sarah pretending to be a couple. He is aware that Sarah isn’t really into Shaw but seeing the fake displays of affection between them brings up back the old insecurities. Sarah tells Chuck that he needs to bury them better because there will be more missions like that in Chuck’s future as a spy like they have been in the past with her pretending to be with someone else or him pretending with someone else. All Chuck needs to keep in mind in times like that is that it is for the good of the mission and it’s all an act that doesn’t mean anything. The only thing that truly means anything is that they love each other. Now this would be an epic moment between Chuck and Sarah because this will be the first time Sarah says “I love you” to Chuck and when she does say those words, it is impulsively and it is only seconds after saying it that Sarah realizes what she just said. But she doesn’t take it back and Chuck replies with, “I love you too” being emotionally affected by Sarah’s willingness to say the very words he has been wanting to hear for some time.

    • atcDave says:

      The idea of meddling Ellie could be fun. I think her character was often badly underused on the show. Having her snoop around Chuck and Sarah could have been a lot of fun, especially if it led to her finding out about their double lives. Might be just as interesting if she still didn’t find out about spy world, although I’m not sure how she forgives Sarah in that situation without a good explanation.
      I don’t really like the alternate pairing thing, even for a mission. But what could be a fun conclusion to the story is Sarah later having to admit that a cover mission with Shaw is what led to their problems with Ellie (maybe even including Ellie finding out about the CIA); so in the end, she would agree with Chuck that too many layers of cover add too much risk for other reasons. And Chuck and Sarah ought to be the cover couple whenever possible.

    • garnet says:

      Justin, do you write any FF, I’d be interested to read what you do with your version of events.

  5. Joel says:

    You suggested with an earlier episode that they could have done some fun things with Shaw being really arrogant and not knowing what he was doing. What if they took that and ran with it this episode when Shaw screws up the mission twice? Could have made for some great Casey snark (who sorely lacks anything to do in this episode).

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I completely agree about Casey, it would have been so much fun to have him ridiculing Shaw. He got so much undeserved respect from the show runners (and Sarah by default).

  6. garnet says:

    This is the part that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We have Sarah going off with Shaw, which can not be seen to be a rational decision in any universe I can think of, and we have Chuck who is about to be the “horn dog” again. I really didn’t want to see any of that. To top it all off, our family had been watching on DVD up until almost “The Mask” and as a result we were very spoilt. If we didn’t like how one episode ended we just watched the next….until Mask and then we had to wait a long time! Personally, I wasn’t convinced that we would see Chuck and Sarah together before the series was cancelled. I had my fingers crossed that things would not get so bad NBC would decide to pull the plug. Rationally, Routh was a GUEST STAR and we shold not have had to worry, but as we saw even two years later TPTB were not always on the same page as the fans.

    In the end I just don’t see the point of Hannah. Chuck didn’t really need her, and it would have been much more interesting if she had been some form of an agent. Shaw as a baddie from the start would have been much easier to watch (one FF I read suggested that Shaw was drugging Sarah’s coffee and that makes more sense than what we saw).

    As far as Castle, my take on things has been that in the last half of this season the relationship has taken the back seat. They are together, but they are not focusing on relationship issues (much).My wife still is unconvinced that Kate should even be involved with Rick as she hasn’t forgiven him for his philandering ways in earlier seasons.

    • atcDave says:

      Bummer about the timing on when you caught up! I got a co-worker hooked on the S1-S2 discs, and same thing, she was not pleased with long waits during S3!

      I like that idea on Sarah’s coffee, sounds familiar but I can’t place it. It’s the only way to make sense of Zombie Sarah!

      Funny my wife has said similar things about Castle. I do admit, in real life I would advise any friend in Kate’s position to proceed with extreme caution. But I do like the idea of the reformed rogue. Let’s just hope he doesn’t backslide!

    • uplink2 says:

      Wow, what a terrible point to pick up on the regular viewing schedule. I feel for you really. We have discussed many times about how folks that watched the show entirely on DVD have a different view of the misery arc. To them it is much less painful. As I got into the show at the beginning of the Jill arc, it was agony. First with the long wait till Season 3 started and we got that piece of crap Pink Slip episode and then after the worst written episode of the entire series, Mask, we had to wait for three weeks and got the most offensive and hated episode of the series for me Fake Name. All of the waiting makes it so much worse. Plus in retrospect their refusal to acknowledge what a very large portion of the fanbase was saying, and from what we hear the crew was saying also, reeks of hubris and insincerity. Even if they don’t agree I lose a great deal of respect from them when they don’t acknowledge that many many fans saw Sarah/Shaw and Shaw in general as a failure.

      This comment from Vladimir in the episode thread I could not agree with more. It is a perfect description of one of the serious consequences of this storyline and their refusal to admit it failed for a very large portion of their viewers.

      “This episode vaporized the benefit of the doubt large portions of the audience afforded those responsible for its production, as much for the perceived incompetence of its execution as for the thematic and story choices it reflected. That’s a big deal because once lost, it can never be fully recovered.”

      Bravo Vladimir!!

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Vladimir’s comment is spot on. We lost so many long time viewers that season, and it became a constant challenge for me to keep friends who were more casual viewers watching.
        But I think by far the biggest consequence of all that goodwill they squandered was it made everyone far less patient with future weak episodes. Every time they took a bad turn it left many viewers wondering if it would be another prolonged down period, and if it was worth sticking around. If they had celebrated the show we all fought for after S2 they easily could have had a rabidly loyal fan base, that would have given them a lot of cushion for the occasional darker episode. Instead, the squandered it all in the first half of S3.

      • uplink2 says:

        I also like his comment about Yvonne seeming uncomfortable having to do that scene. She knows her character better than anyone and had to realize how poorly fans would respond to this new pod Sarah. That its a fine line between a confused and insecure Sarah and one that acts in incredibly stupid ways to force a failing story to work. She had to know the relationship with Shaw was a terrible idea and that there was absolutely no chemistry with Routh no matter how nice a guy he was on set.

  7. ninjaVanish says:

    I could never wrap my head around why, after faking his death, Shaw was allowed to A) remain in the city in which he has just faked his death. Standard operating procedure is to get the newly ‘deceased’ out of Dodge, am I right? B) go on spy missions at all, much less by himself. What if, as happens in Mask, someone recognizes him? Oh, that’s right, it puts everyone at risk, including the Intersect. C) go out on freaking COFFEE runs in said city where he has faked his death, and which happens to be literally TEEMING with agents working for the people who he faked his death to get away from in the first place, thus putting everyone involved including himself at risk every time he pokes his head up.

    Granted, we’re talking about a show whose main character has a computer in his head, so suspension of disbelief is kind of mandatory, but still, a little bit of logic would have gone a long way to fixing S3 in that and many other respects.

    At the very least Shaw should have been under house arrest in Castle from Operation Awesome on. Of course, then he couldn’t be the target of an assassination plot and get told Sarah’s real name in Fake Name, and he might have got killed in vs The Beard when the Ring invades Castle. Or, he could team up with Chuck in a Die Hard hiding in the vents situation, which has comedy written all over it, to my mind. (And Casey and Sarah have to pretend to be married on that mission instead of Sarah and Shaw, with Chuck and Shaw on the monitors from Castle. Which is hilarious instead of icky.) Anyway, I always felt Shaw could have been a really interesting character if they hadn’t been so hell-bent on pairing him off with Sarah. They first talked about him like he was going to take over training Chuck as a spy, and be his mentor. Instead he just becomes Chuck’s romantic rival, and any mentor-y bits are lost in that and the massive fan backlash it spurred.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah NV there’s so much potential there if they’d just dumped their treasured LI angle. The moment they did it, “romantic rival” dominates everything about Shaw. And what’s worse, most of us end up just counting the episodes until he’s done. There’s no “trusted mentor gone bad” angle, no drama from a betrayal by a friend or partner. He’s just someone most of us want gone. And what just kills me is, if they’d payed even the teensiest attention to what their audience was thinking, they would have known this would NEVER work; really from the end of S2 they should have known, certainly by Comic Con. What a FUBAR, it just blows my mind.

      Sorry, the old rants just come back so easily…

    • uplink2 says:

      And to hinge all of that risk on a weak and wooden actor is insane. In Superman he had no charisma, no chemistry with Bosworth and brought nothing other than his resemblance to Chris Reeve. Yet they risked the destruction of an epic romance on him. It’s mind boggling.

      • ninjaVanish says:

        I think Routh gets a lot of flack undeservedly for both Superman Returns and Chuck. The man follows direction. His Superman was intentionally shaped by the writer and director of that movie, to be a more alien presence in that film. He’d just been on a 5 year rocket trip isolated from any and all human contact, and the whole movie is about how he doesn’t fit in his old life any more and can’t really connect with Lois or his kid he doesn’t know. The Christ imagery running through the entire film doesn’t do him any favors either. But I thought Routh did an amazing job of mimicking Christopher Reeves’ Superman in body language and mannerisms and such, as the director clearly wanted.

        And in Chuck it seems obvious that he was stunt-cast because of his having played Superman, and that the writers explicitly wanted that to be his characterization. Shaw = Superman = superspy is the easiest short-hand in the world for a writer, and they leaned on that crutch shamelessly all season long.

        But Routh is frakking hilarious in his brief part in Scott Pilgrim. Which I think is mostly because he wasn’t being directed to ape Chris Reeves’ Superman anymore.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ve never had strong feelings either way on Routh, I think if the LI angle were removed he would have been acceptable exactly as portrayed. And if they actually chose to play up the whole “we are now working for a moron” sort of angle, I think it would have worked just fine (keeping mind Chuck IS mostly a comedy!)

        But trying to force a stiff portrayal of a total idiot into a romantic angle for a likable protagonist is just hopeless on every level.

      • uplink2 says:

        But Ninja, what made Reeve work in the role was his heart, his warmth and the self-depricating, almost S1 Chucklike qualities of Clark. Plus he had great chemistry with Margot Kidder who was fantastic in the role, too bad chemistry took on a different meaning later on for her. I understand what you’re saying but he simply didn’t connect with the audience and the more ‘alien’ elements can still lead one to connect with the character. I point to Jeri Ryan and Seven of Nine. Sure the uniform and the woman who wore it helped but the cold, Borg was still a character that I connected with. I never once connected with Routh’s version of the Chris Reeve clone. It was all looks and style and no heart. I won’t say Kate Bosworth is a great actress, she didn’t stand up to Kidder either, her only good role was in Wonderland but there was no chemistry there even when they try to at the end.

        But the problem with Chuck is that the writers never showed any of the connection of Superman = superspy. They simply said it. But everything they showed us was the exact opposite and even when they crammed the LI story down our throats he brought nothing to the table in making that relationship click. I think he gave a decent performance as the villain, especially in Subway, but to me he has never shown the ability to be a sympathetic, likable romantic interest for anyone. He has no charm in the role and therefore is nothing like Bryce or Cole. They both had a charming bad boy quality that could be very intriguing to someone like Sarah. Shaw/Routh was a piece of plywood with none of the charisma of Matt Bomer or Chris Reeve. He simply dragged down every scene he was in and everyone with him.

      • Dave says:

        I have to disagree with nV. I have only seen Brandon Routh in 3 things (Superman Returns, Chuck and Crooked Arrows) and he failed to deliver in all three IMO.

        Most people are not familiar with Crooked Arrows because it is a niche sports movie, but as a former collegiate lacrosse player I had to see it.

        Routh was supposed to be a slick player of a Casino manager who is trying to swindle the tribe so his casino can expand. Of course he sees the light and goes back to his roots when he agrees to coach the Indian school lacrosse team to further his swindle. There were many good emotional moments, or should have been, but he failed to be a slick player and proceeded to deliver very wooden depictions of every potentially great emotional moment. In short, he couldn’t add fire or emotion.

        His wife, who I saw in Human Target, was a much better actor.

      • ninjaVanish says:

        Uplink: I kind of disagree at the same time as I agree. I liked him in Superman Returns for the reasons you state that he isn’t a good actor. He wasn’t the greatest, but I thought that the lack of chemistry between him and bosworth was intentional and interesting. They’re trying to make the link that Supes=Jesus throughout that entire movie. And Jesus doesn’t get to have a love interest unless you’re reading the ‘DaVinci Code Gospels’.

        Plus they cast Cyclops as Lois’ actual love interest in that movie, and James Marsden’s character is supposed to be the one with chemistry with her, not superman. It plays against the viewer’s expectations that he’s really just an awesome (human) guy instead of being the person you can wholeheartedly root against in a standard Romantic triangle. The whole movie is playing with our expectations. I really liked that about Superman Returns, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the movie as a Superman vehicle. But let’s not derail the thread too much.

        In respect to Chuck, I agree Shaw doesn’t work as a character, but I think it’s more because they tried to force him into the romantic rival area than necessarily ROUTH who was the problem. Shaw as the cold emotionless spy, who has no interest in the ladies because of a loss in his past, is a much more interesting character, and Routh in that role could have been CHILLING as a cautionary tale for Chuck and Sarah both. Instead we got him feeling ‘betrayed’ by his new girlfriend Sarah, which isn’t a storyline anybody is really interested in, even within the cast, to my mind. Like that outtake where Jeff comes out of the Shower behind Shaw? I feel like that wasn’t necessarily an isolated on-set joke.

        Miscasting and poor decision making on the part of the showrunners is the problem. I don’t know if I see any actor who could replace Routh in the role of Shaw as written and do a good job. Making the character believable requires extensive rewriting not just recasting, which was sort of the point of my earlier post on this. Like that saying, ‘the poor craftsman blames his tools.’ And in this analogy Routh is the tool. Heh. That worked out better than I intended.

      • ninjaVanish says:

        I’ve only seen Routh in three things as well, but the third thing I saw him in was Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and he was hilarious. So…

      • atcDave says:

        Why I say “fatally flawed at conception”; I don’t think it matters who gets cast as Shaw, few wanted to see that love triangle, so any casting choice was probably doomed.

        The way Shaw was played only made the problem worse. Although as NV suggests, letting him serve as the creepy cautionary tale might have been very effective. It is baffling to me how they thought they could show him like they did (cold, remote, amoral) and have anyone buy him as a romantic rival. But it’s just as well it was laughably bad, I would have hated to be the only Chuck fan who hated the season…

      • ninjaVanish says:

        I can see Sarah gravitating to the cold emotionless amoral Shaw, not really in a romantic way, but as an attempt to get back to the Wild Card Enforcer so that it doesn’t hurt so much that she and Chuck are on the outs. She’s trying to turn herself back into the ruthless killer she was.
        That the show conflated this with a romantic relationship with Shaw is unfortunate, but I can even see that too, just barely, if I squint hard enough. AKA the: Sarah has no real feelings for Shaw, and is just using her ‘relationship’ with him to turn herself into someone cold and amoral and emotionless, just like him. It’s a horrible and a tragic turn, and I don’t want to watch it on-screen or read about it or even finish thi

      • uplink2 says:

        NV I guess my final comment to all that, and you make some good points though I don’t necessarily agree with them, I think the fact he wasn’t asked back for the redux and that the sequel with him still under contract never got made speaks volumes.

      • atcDave says:

        Very funny! I was thinking about that, you know I can “imagine” quite a few stories I never want to actually watch!
        I think we’re supposed to conclude something like that IS exactly what they were trying to show. But as we mentioned elsewhere, I think TPTB were never really interested enough in Sarah’s story to give it the attention it would need to get it right. And then, I would like it even less if they did “get it right.”

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        I agree with NV that Sarah ‘hiding’ from the ‘real life’ she wanted but was having trouble embracing for a long time works better.

        I too could even see her hooking up with Shaw temporarily to not go running back to Chuck if they set it up differently. But that would be even darker and harder to bring her back from if she regressed into that ‘Ice Queen’ persona.

        Chuck is full of cautionary tales: Shaw to a degree, Roan, the Turners, Carina, Heather, Casey for a good bit of the show’s run, Orion and Frost were meant to parallel Chuck and Sarah via some nifty retcon, etc.

        Gotta agree: Routh (and I only recently learned that its ‘Rowth’ not ‘Ruth’) was Hi-Larious in Scott Pilgrim. I can mostly take or leave the rest of the movie but if its on – and it’s near the ‘Todd’ portion – I will stop and watch.

        “Tell it to the cleaning lady on Monday.” Most over explained taunt ever!

        I also enjoyed how NV couldn’t even finish his post… 🙂

  8. SarahSam says:

    Difficult to dispute anything said here. You have license to tell any story you want but when said story choices make the titular character look stupid and diminishes the most popular character , you don’t recover. I’m a huge Strahovski fan, my loyalty stayed the course until the bitter end but no doubt this arc is a ” clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk. If you can’t engage and retain a huge portion of your fan base with your story direction, it can only be viewed as failure. We’re lucky we got more after this season. Charah was dead for me after this, in a way, I have a grudging respect for those who bailed and called BS on the whole thing.

    • atcDave says:

      Wow, great alliteration there SS!

      You know it’s funny, I was able to get my enthusiasm back for the show, I liked S3.5 and loved S4. But I still feel a certain bitterness that something really special, and really beautiful, had been destroyed by S3. The show did become fun again. But some of that specialness was gone forever.

    • SarahSam,

      Great post! I didn’t start watching Chuck until Nov 2011, and watched the entire series on DVD. I can’t imagine what it was like watching it unfold on a weekly basis, because it was difficult enough watching it marathon style. It felt like TPTB were forcing the Charah WTWT drama to go on a year longer than it needed to. That stuff never works and always gets stale after a while (see Ross and Rachel on Friends).

      • atcDave says:

        The long breaks were excruciating at times. Especially when you consider from Ring to Other Guy was an entire year.

        I know the current thinking for studio execs and writers is to drag out WTWT as long as they can. And I do understand wanting to get the most milage they can out of leading up to a big moment. But of course the problem is, so much television (really, almost ALL television) errors by dragging things out too long; that is, PAST the breaking point for most viewers. And the really big problem with that is, they usually make the protagonists look very bad before they resolve that aspect of the story/relationship. It will really require a complete rethinking of how these things are handled. I’m glad that Chuck did ultimately show that good story can be told with the leads in a committed relationship. Castle seems to be doing the same thing. I hope this can become a new SOP, I would love to see more shows with believable and relatable relationships at their center.

      • Jason says:

        Dave – I think I might watch more TV than most of you. Last night, another first year show (Arrow) shot cupid’s arrow through the wt/wt suspense. I think many of these shows (Beauty and the Beast took a dozen eps) realize that you can become hostage to your wt/wt, and the quicker you get it out of the way, the faster you can tell the story you want to, because I doubt many of these action / adventure shows want to tell a wt/wt as their main story.

      • atcDave says:

        Jason it’s encouraging to me if more shows are doing that. Imagine if Chuck had resolved it early, like early S2! Don’t get me wrong, I really have no problems with them taking until the end of S2, but it sure would have been interesting how the story would have been different if the central relationship had been different. I know KateMcK has played around with starting it at different points (“A Common Spy Problem” is very good!), and it’s always interesting to me just how very, very good the story still is with much less wt/wt.

  9. SarahSam says:

    It was the destruction of an epic love story Dave , that’s what killed that “special” vibe. The show and characters were still mostly engaging. I’ll always love the characters. it’s part of why I enjoy FF so much. Thanks, but I can’t take credit for the alliteration…all credit to L. Frank Baum.

    • atcDave says:

      Very well put!

    • uplink2 says:

      SarahSam, that is the perfect description of the major failure of this story choice. The S2 Chuck/Sarah romance was on another level from normal TV romances. The incredible and immediate onscreen chemistry of the two leads was something so incredibly rare and needed to be cherished and utilized to its maximum potential. All you had to do was watch the pilot and know THEY were what was going to make this show great. In season 3 they chose to throw that away and put all of their eggs in the basket of a poorly crafted rival played by a weak, wooden and unsympathetic actor that the very fact that Sarah would be anything but repulsed by him diminishes her character to a point that a large part of the fanbase simply didn’t care about the Chuck Sarah relationship anymore. TPTB showed that THEY didn’t care about the characters anymore either. All they were concerned about was stunt casting and what they thought would be an epic ending in 3.13. It is clearly evident they didn’t care what the effect was going to be on the characters themselves. Casting Superman and Lana Lang and putting the couple together in 3.13 was all that mattered. Oh and Chuck had to shoot to kill. Too bad he didn’t kill Shaw in Operation Awesome when he was asked to shoot him.

      When I saw the beginning of Colonel after the credits when Chuck and Sarah were waking up in the motel room, I was cheering. I was cheering because this epic couple had made it and earned that special moment. It was a beautiful and it was deserved. When I saw the Paris hotel room scene I cheered but not because it was deserved and that this epic couple had finally found their happiness. I cheered because the misery was over and Shaw was ‘dead’. It was relief at the end of a betrayal of what I loved about this show but it wasn’t anywhere close to what it was in Colonel. That magic was thrown away to pay homage to the WTWT gods one more time. Even the most ardent shippers will say that OG was not the culmination of an epic romance, it was the ending of a disastrous trip where both of the main characters will never be viewed in the same abundantly positive light again. They were not “more real” they were not finally “ready” they were not “better people” and they were not a more “deserving couple”. In many ways I no longer cared about the Chuck character in particular and my heart broke for what they had done to Sarah.

      The great epic nature of the Chuck and Sarah romance was thrown away for the same reasons the name reveal was thrown away, teen soap opera angst. They tried something that failed on many levels and to now still ignore that failure shows how clueless they truly were. They may have done some things right in season 3 but what they did wrong is Quantum leaps worse. They took the essence of what made the show special and so beyond just average fan affection for so many and threw it away for nothing more than their love of teen angst and stunt casting.

      • Bill says:

        You nailed it Uplink, particularly about the hollow feeling we shippers felt at the end of OG. Yes, it was nice to see Chuck and Sarah together, but it didn’t feel nearly as compelling as it had in Colonel. It was more a sense of relief than anything else.

      • uplink2 says:

        Thanks Bill. It really is sad because there was something uniquely different about this show and those two actors. In my rewatch, up to Sandworm now, its just so powerful and so compelling even then. They draw you in like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Plus it only gets stronger from there finally building to a perfectly executed crescendo in Colonel. Conversely in the first few minutes os Sarah/Shaw you already knew there was nothing there. Yetr they continued to jam it down out throats.

        The episode we are discussing reeks of betrayal of that unique and special connection they made with each other and the audience. How anyone could possibly think putting Sarah and Shaw together would in any way enhance the show is beyond me.

        If atcDave’s stats of 1/3 of the audience hated this arc then we can extrapolate that to 1/3 of the writers/crew/actors and staff of the show had to hate it too. Was it all just that it was too late to fix it? Or was it just hubris?

        In the Mo Ryan interview one of the many things I find interesting is this quote from Fedak.

        “You know, it’s not like we plunked Shaw into the show just to be the other guy. We brought Shaw in because we not only wanted to deepen the emotional dynamic between Sarah and Chuck, but also because he allowed us to learn more about who the bad guys were and to kind of deepen the spy side of the show too. “

        The huge problem there is that Shaw did none of that. He didn’t deepen the emotional dynamic for Sarah and Chuck, he helped almost destroy it and for some fans he did destroy it. Plus because of the complete dominance and failure of the LI element we never once really saw “who the bad guys were” or that it deepened the spy element of the show. It was purely a story of revenge, relationship geometry and betrayal of the true essense of what large portions of the fanbase saw and invested in the show for. No matter how much he believes that was the case on paper, it never translated on screen.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Uplink, as I’ve said many times (!), I think as soon as the romantic rival aspect was introduced, Shaw was ruined for any other function he might have served. But in fact, I think it’s even worse than that, I saw no other function for him at all, and it feels EXACTLY like they “…plunked Shaw into the show…” For no other reason.

        I would advise caution however in assuming anything about what was seen by those involved in the show’s production. I would be fascinated in an actual glimpse behind the curtain; I would love to know if anyone really saw the failure of the story coming and exactly what they did see. But I don’t think we can assume they saw anything the same way we did. I think the very nature of writing and producing a show leads to a very different perspective. And I do believe its possible (?!) most people involved just honestly believed they were creating the best and most exciting and satisfying story imaginable. They all certainly have a professional interest in doing so. But where the cracks appeared between professionalism and reality sure would be fascinating!

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I know I can’t assume anything and the source of the info that the crew did see it failing is just that, a third party source. But I do believe based on past history that those sources were legit to an extent. Plus the failure of the LI story and the complete and total lack of chemistry on screen is so blatantly obvious that I can’t imagine anyone not seeing it. I just don’t see how talented people like they were, especially those who saw it in the edit room in particular could possibly think they had “creat(ed) the best and most exciting and satisfying story imaginable. ” Even the biggest season 3 apologists, except for one fangirl I can think of, admit that Sarah/Shaw had nothing between them and it made Sarah look incredibly stupid for pursuing or allowing that relationship.

  10. SarahSam says:

    I couldn’t have phrased it any better uplink. The thrill was gone. There was never any resolution to the forthcoming killing blows to Charah and C/S just suddenly decided what they (and we) both knew and made a go of it, because it was near the end. Never any discussion of previous stupidity. I agree, I never felt the same way about Chuck ( the character) again and I kept waiting for Sarah’s atonement because as great as Phase III was, that didn’t quite do it, it needed to come much sooner IMO. As I’ve stated before on this blog, it’s almost as if they never watched their own show and never realized what they had. Our runners were seemingly just as clueless as NBC. Here we are , still discussing this show, because in our souls, we know, this show, had the potential to be iconic and forever television, had it been respected for it’s sole uniqueness. It is something I will forever lament and this episode is the beginning of lamentations.

    • uplink2 says:

      Perfectly stated. I could not agree more.

    • SarahSam,

      Great post! I think the Chuck/Sarah dynamic lost something after season 2 and it’s really apparent when you watch an episode from season 1-2 and then watch one from seasons 3-5. Their chemistry was still amazing, but it just lacked the magic of seasons 1-2. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Shaw arc played a part in that.

  11. Jason says:

    I think Chuck’s appeal to me in S1/S2 was an endearing sweetness between Chuck, Sarah, and to a small extent everyone else in the main cast. I thought the actual plot was a parody of a real spy story, or a parody of a real drama. So when S3 stopped being endearing and sweet and actually got dramatic, actually somewhat morbid, the episodes left me dumbfounded, as the rest of the cast was walking around farting and giving each other snuggies, while Sarah and Chuck were absolutely devastated for 12 episodes.

    So when the Shaw ended his love affair with Sarah when he ‘heroically’ gave Sarah back to Chuck in his Hero ep (OK it was Chuck’s, but the scene in the castle was so stupid), the show went back to trying to be sweet, but somewhere along the line, it lost something, that it never got back, other than for a few scenes in ‘Other Guy’ and the Honeymooner’s ep. For some reason, the show never again even TRIED to do an ep like the Honeymooners, let alone an important arc.

    The mask ep wasn’t the last chance for the show to redeem itself for those who did not take Chuck seriously, but was pretty close. By then, the show had fans significantly upset such that a Chuck Sarah relationship win would have been epic. Instead, mask signalled the beginning of epic losses for Chuck and Sarah’s relationship.

    • atcDave says:

      I liked much of the drama in the early seasons, things like Sarah’s dilemma at the end of Nemesis or Chuck facing his bunkering in Marlin were powerful moments. BUT, they worked because of how likable and warm those characters usually were. They worked because I could so easily relate to Chuck at the start and respect Sarah as a hero with a conflict of interest. They worked because the show never clubbed us over the head with despair and hopelessness. And they worked because the show was a lot of fun and we always believed things would work out for the best.
      Season three just undid so much of that. I seriously think Angel of Death and Operation Awesome were the most upbeat endings until Other Guy, and both of those had ominous overtones. Really, they went 12 episodes with little hope or joy. It just wasn’t the show I fell for anymore…

  12. Arya's Prayers says:

    Have you guys noticed that I love long posts.
    Words taste like peaches!
    This isn’t so much about what they could have done differently but more about what was missing that MIGHT have made the story we did get make more sense.
    I can’t talk ‘Mask’ without talking about the whole ‘era’…so, Buckle up – here we go!!

    I almost get what they were trying to do in Season 3 but I (a) don’t agree with it and (b) didn’t believe it

    I have to agree with uplink’s ‘stunt casting’ characterization of casting both Routh and Kreuk but have to question how many ‘Chuck’ fans even realized that they were Superman and Lana Lang? And how many of those cared? I didn’t know at the time – I’ve still only seen a handful of Smallville episodes. I didn’t know who she was. And what did they do in Routh’s ‘Superman Returns’? – BROKE UP SUPERMAN AND LOIS LANE!

    But I digress…

    The biggest problem I have with this extended arc isn’t so much what happened (even though I was looking forward to Chuck and Sarah together at last when I tuned into Pink Slip – and kept expecting them to ‘fix it’ wishing it hadn’t consumed so many episodes) but rather the poor portrayal of the motivations.

    Lets assume positive intent here and imagine that ‘they’ had a ‘murder board’ set up in the writers room that very clearly laid out the details of how Chuck could misconstrue some of Sarah’s misgivings about the one ‘pure’ person in her life turning into someone ‘more like her’ (with all the negative connotations of her poor self-image). She in turn assumes she’s pushed him too far away and he’s into the new nerd herder. We can only assume what each is thinking from that point forward. Lets further assume that at one point it all made sense but then way too much ended up on the cutting room floor to make it fit into the original 13 episode order. We never get confirmation of what they were thinking but here’s some of how it plays in my head…

    There’s ways this could make sense – not that anyone would WANT to see it but it could make sense. The fact that Hannah is Lou 2.0 and Shaw is Bryce 3.0/Cole 2.0 (we’re talking about concept not casting or execution yet) actually plays into this. Sarah’s seen him ‘dump’ her for a ‘normal girl’ before and she’s been pushing him away although she may be faltering in that position. (I like to think so.) Chuck still doesn’t get that she sees him as a hero despite the fact that he doesn’t fit the stereotypical image like the others did. He’s ‘that guy’. He’s ‘her type’. She has said it multiple times in multiple ways but always in cryptic Sarah-speak. He still doesn’t see it that way, thinks he missed his chance with Sarah and sees Shaw as another ‘hero’ he can’t live up to. (Again – concept not execution.)

    So I think it falls apart in three areas:
    Set up (per-Mask)
    Execution (portraying the underlying motivations)
    Clean up (post-Mask/Fake Name)

    Chuck’s setup has some problems. I know not everyone agrees with me – I may even be in the minority – but I thought (with the exception of two specific expressions on Chuck’s face) that the Hannah flirting was pretty mild. Then he was pretty dismissive of her in ‘Nacho’. He had other things on his mind when Hannah tagged along in ‘Mask’ and I can forgive him for not throwing her off of him when she kiss-ambushed him. Lets face it he and Sarah are on the outs and – you may not think she’s on Yvonne’s level – some may even disagree who wins that battle on looks alone – but ignoring personal taste and investment in characters and to be both crass and objective about it we’re talking 9’s and 10’s here. If you disagree, your disagreement is probably proportional to your distaste for the pairing. Even so, until that point I never got an indication that Chuck was ‘tempted’ by Hannah.

    The biggest problem to me in First Class is Chuck valuing Shaw’s opinion over Sarah’s and Casey’s. An alternate opportunity would have been if Chuck appreciated Sarah’s concerns but needed to convince Shaw of his abilities. If we were clear that Chuck was pushing it (maybe against his own better judgment in addition to that of his longtime teammates) in order to cement his agent status so he and Sarah could pursue a relationship it would be more palatable. But alas, we got ‘honest to god special agent with the CIA’…whatever that means compared to Sarah Freakin’ Walker and the Angel de la Muerte.

    Sarah’s setup also has some misfires. Shaw’s ‘interrogation’ over her whereabouts in Europe was botched in multiple ways. As I mentioned in the other thread – Lisbon is crazy far from Prague and she was supposedly off grid for only three days so lets just ignore the fact that the writers are geographically impaired – the show has made worse logistical blunders. Most importantly, I think we are meant to understand the “we both made the same mistake, we fell in love with spies” to be some kind of bonding moment between S&S. I never saw it that way.

    Shaw is fishing for info on a deeper than known relationship between C&S. Why? To figure out motivations? To bust up the team 49B-style? Just for leverage? But Sarah sells the Bryce/Lisbon story. She should be relieved. She can’t admit these feelings to herself at this point – much less to her new ‘superior’. If anything her reaction to the Evelyn reveal should be concern that if Chuck continues down this path they are just as doomed as Mr and Mrs Shaw. Or add to her misgivings about Chuck’s spy training in general because of that scenario regardless of if she is part of the equation (not everything has to be about Charrah, her concerns for Chuck are beyond their stalled romance). But it should NOT be a bonding moment between Sarah and Shaw and I never saw it that way.

    Oh – side note. Sarah’s a pilot! She’s awesome. But honoring the rules of the Chuck universe how did she not have a red test (first kill) until ’05? Just what the heck kind of missions was she on prior to that? It had to be earlier, so Eve should be dead longer, Shaw should be crazier and whatever intel was recovered should be more stale…but if Shaw’s crazier I see him having sacrificed multiple agents to recover that case just because it is his last connection to his wife. Maybe he says agents over the years have added their intel to it or something…

    Shaw is absent in ‘Nacho’ and we get more of Sarah’s misgivings around Chuck becoming more like her and Casey. It’s clear to me she still loves him. Then the jealous argument atop the ‘Mask Chamber’ (of Doom). This was actually briefly encouraging. If they’re both reacting this way over perceived interest in the actors from Superman stories they should realize they are still into each other. Right?

    There were execution issues in all of the above but this is where it falls apart.

    First the ‘neck touching’. Why was it ‘nice’? Is Sarah just starved for human affection? Why now? And the fact that a strong female character said ‘no’ multiple times and was portrayed as just playing hard to get really ticked me off. If Sarah Walker says back off you better by god back off. I guess it was a ‘concession’ to Shaw’s pursuit of her to parallel Chuck giving in to Hannah’s kiss. But why is Shaw pursuing her anyway? Is he obsessed over his dead wife or not? I have a thought on his true motivation but I’m saving that for a story!

    When Chuck sees Shaw comforting Sarah I guess we’re intended to understand that Chuck has resigned himself to the ‘fact’ that Sarah has moved on. Apparently that means he MUST move on to Hannah. IMMEDIATELY.

    So Chuck thinks Sarah’s interested in Shaw. Sarah thinks Chuck is interested in Hannah. If they had better portrayed it as ‘settling’ to get out of each others’ way it might have worked.

    All the pieces were there. Sarah’s “I’ll be in your way – and not just professionally” (I might not have that quote exactly right) and “I have a type” are, in my mind and as I understand her nature, as close as Sarah Walker can get to BEGGING Chuck to say something to indicate that they aren’t over. This conversation is actually pretty huge for Sarah but Chuck – as oblivious as ever – doesn’t get it.

    The whole “I have a type” (and its you, Chuck, you big, dumb, dummy-head) conversation feels like whiplash because they never quite portray why they are both explicitly giving the other their blessing to move on when neither one really wants to.

    It just never ties together on screen. We’ve all gotten accustomed to deciphering what Sarah DOESN’T say but now neither of their thought processes are explicit. I think we’re meant to understand that Chuck and Sarah are misreading each other, making reactionary moves and then each further misreading those moves until they are further and further apart but it just never materialized.

    So Chuck leaves – apparently for a booty call in lieu of a first date with Hannah. Man he works fast. So fast it made me doubt that Chuck didn’t want to move on from Sarah. Lets say its a ‘dejected’ Sarah that ‘lets’ Shaw rub her shoulders. Then we get the aftermath. Why are they both suddenly so desperate for physical relationships after being mostly celibate (Jill) for two years and dancing around each other?

    It’s funny how the little things bug the heck out of me. In ‘Mask’ it was ‘neck touching is nice’. In ‘Fake Name’ it was Chuck sliding down the railing in Castle. At least have the decency to act a little sheepish. There’s still surveillance all over Chucks apartment – how do we know Sarah didn’t peek? (Poor thing.) She did it in ‘Nacho’ and she’ll do it again later. I think she did.

    Chuck as Rafe was farcical but that’s par for the course with ‘Chuck’. The name reveal was awful – I get what they were going for but that’s a future moment C&S should have had together that they robbed us of. And when Chuck revealed that he had overheard there wasn’t sufficient indication on Sarah’s part that she understood how significant it was and how betrayed Chuck felt. Cooking Hannah’s dinner had to have been miserable for Sarah – it should have been a call back to ‘Suburbs’ but we didn’t get that either. Although we got a glimpse with Sarah watching on the surveillance feed – this is where she peeks and Hannah is sitting in ‘her seat’!! And was that Bamboo Dragon Sarah brought to Shaw??! It better not have been sizzling shrimp! Can’t they find their own place? Grrrr.

    HELP REQUEST: And what was Shaw doing in the building Rafe was targeting when he has a penthouse in the Hoff building? Seriously, someone help me on this one. Do you know that for the longest time I thought the Hoff building was in DC and they just messed up their timelines in another logistical blunder with C&S getting there and back so fast in ‘Living Dead’? It’s in LA. What’s that about? Even if Sarah only spent one day ‘with’ Shaw in his penthouse (I’ve finally conceded that this and a weekend in DC happened) when did that happen?

    Once Chuck dumps Hannah, S&S is just a shallow obstacle to Chuck getting Sarah back (and more fundamental to his story – while he shows that he isn’t letting the spy life drastically change him). Sarah has plenty of misgivings about Chuck and how he is changing without her having to find another relationship. Casey’s quips aside, there’s no reason to believe that Sarah has a long history of falling for her colleagues. I think Bryce charmed her and represented the life of adventure she always thought she wanted but she found something deeper with Chuck. Regressing to a spy-spy relationship doesn’t make sense and is unnecessary. It’s just there as an obstacle and maybe that’s part of why S&S are less than believable.

    You have to think that the events of Beard damaged the S&S ‘relationship’ and using her to administer the red test should have destroyed it. But again, NOT portrayed on screen. I like to think Sarah was going to break up with Shaw at dinner in American Hero for that very reason despite her laughing as they approach the restaurant.

    She’s still planning to go to DC (…”commitments – and not just to Shaw” … She’s already mentally and ’emotionally’ past Shaw) Chuck doesn’t ‘need’ her and she was shaken by what she saw Chuck almost do in Tic Tac and the red test though she was almost swayed by the stakeout in between (all of these elements are completely unrelated to Shaw). Sarah never answered Chucks question about whether she would be living with Shaw. I have to think ‘no’ considering her later reluctance to officially move in with Chuck (even though it still happened pretty fast) and she didn’t answer just to spite him but c’mon…

    And was Sarah going to meet Chuck at the train station before Casey’s reveal? I like to think so – after some soul searching and considering that, even if Chuck is less than what she idealized him to be, he’s still the best man she’s ever known – but Casey made her feel loads better about it. But what were they doing? The same ill-conceived plan Sarah had in Prague? Or just taking an AWOL vacation? And Sarah still hasn’t ‘broken up’ with Shaw so she nearly cheated on him on the stake out and plans to here. Miiiind cheateeeeer.

    By the time we get to Paris I’m just too exhausted to be happy for them unless I mentally bake all of these unseen, non-canon, underlying motivations into my viewing experience. This story may have worked better as a novel where we could be privy to what they each were thinking at each step of the way.

    Here’s the kicker: I can rewatch these episodes without gagging! But I do have to mentally bake-in all of that above (and more) for it to make any sense to me. Its still not enjoyable, not the story I wanted to see after ‘Colonel’ but I can tolerate it. There’s a lot to be said for giving your audience some credit and not being explicit with everything but there were too many missing pieces for the puzzle they assembled to form a coherent picture. You shouldn’t have to fill in the blanks on half the story!

    I think a lot of the problem is that TPTB, specifically Schwedak, (a) never made any secret of the fact that they always viewed this as Chuck’s story and Chuck’s alone, (b) are overgrown adolescents in a lot of ways and (c) don’t understand what they have in the character of Sarah Walker. That’s what I blame for a lack of understandable motivation for Sarah’s actions and Chuck jumping into bed with Hannah. It’s also why the finale is ‘the conclusion of Chuck’s five year plan’ at Sarah’s expense.

    As much as I enjoy and can somewhat relate to the ‘retail hell’ experiences of the Chuck story, I actually find the Sarah story more interesting and compelling. But Sarah’s story is far less ‘fun’.

    I actually think they had the bones of a good story if they could have conveyed some of those motivations better. But doing so would have drawn it out even longer. And I think a lot of Chuck fans enjoy the lighter fun elements of the show and nothing about this arc was ‘fun’.

    This post written entirely on an iPhone.
    I know, right?

    • uplink2 says:

      Wow great post here! I may not agree with everything but there certainly is a lot to think about. What’s interesting is that in that entire amazing post, you virtually ignore the spy story behind all of this and that is a perfect example of what the consequences were of this failed execution. Fedak was wrong, they did just plunk him in to be the Other Guy as there certainly is virtually no spy story underneath all of the layers of missed opportunities, failed storylines and stunt casting.

      BTW I did know Kristin though had only watched about 10 episodes of Smallville. I did know she was Superman’s girlfriend. But what I knew her more as was who “Scotty Doesn’t Know” about. 😉 Love that song!!

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        I think I saw her on Chuck first but I will always think of her as Chun Li from that Street Fighter spin off movie!

        The spy story was secondary in a lot of ways. I feel like every ‘mish’ from First Class through Other Guy (except ‘Beard’ and maybe ‘Fake Name’ and even these focused on other elements of their relationship) was just a device to push this idea of: Chuck is changing/Sarah’s not OK with it.

        It’s not until the very end of season 3 that the Ring’s Pinky and the Brain plan is revealed!

      • uplink2 says:

        lol. It so flies in the face of Fedak’s statement that Shaw “allowed us to learn more about who the bad guys were and to kind of deepen the spy side of the show too” THAT is a complete and total misrepresentation of what’s actually on screen. I almost wonder if he was laughing on the inside when he said it.

    • atcDave says:

      AP I certainly agree with a lot of this analysis. Especially the part about Schwedak never understanding how important the character of Sarah really was. For many of us she was the real reason for tuning in, and yet in S3 she is just treated as the prize, and her actual story is abbreviated to the point of obscurity. I am pretty sure this is why Yvonne presented herself as a pretty major ‘shipper from late S3 to the end of the series, she realized joining her story more closely to Chuck’s meant her story grew more substantial.

      But I would add I don’t believe fixing the story’s shortcomings would have helped me any. I simply had no interest in furthering the wt/wt post Colonel. Analyzing or understanding don’t help. It was simply no fun, and not anything I wanted to tune in for. 3.01 needed to be more like Honeymooners; anything else is just no fun.

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        Yeah, I have no good reason why they had to be kept apart any longer. And no doubt what we got – no matter how you doctor it – was zero fun.

        Yes, Chuck had taken the download but he didn’t know it would give him the Intersect skills patch. So he went into it thinking he would become ‘the asset’ again. And yes, what’s in his head can help a lot of people but that would be true without the skills.

        WITH the skills I can understand him wanting to become an agent. He wouldn’t have to be subservient to his ‘protectors’ – he could be their peer. And most importantly he could try that date again with Sarah.

        Put her and Casey in charge of his training. And then my favorite summary from the old hard copy TV Guide days – Hijinx Ensue.

        She’s just as motivated to get him to a ‘peer level’ as he is. She could still have all the same concerns about what the spy life could do to him, share her stories with him afraid it’s going to scare him off, maybe he gets bigheaded briefly at some point (ala Morgansect), etc. But they grow together – Chuck faces some hard realities and Sarah realizes he loves her regardless of her past.

        They run similar missions: ‘flying’ solo, burning an dangerous asset (parlay this into him finally understanding the Mauser kill), you could still mostly use the mask and fake name missions (you know, if they weren’t so stupid), Morgan finds out the same way (maybe Beckman wants the air strike – in the heart of Burbank – and Sarah and Casey delay it), we still find out about Kathleen and Alex, etc.

        In either case Chuck is still trying to help the world but still also doing it ‘for’ Sarah. It also never made sense that Sarah would run away with Chuck in Colonel to save him from the bunker but then felt the same thing was necessary once he was in agent training.

        There’s nowhere I can run is there?
        Not from us.

        The ‘us’ hasn’t changed really no matter how skilled they are. She was desperate in ‘Colonel’ but in ‘Pink Slip’ its a more manageable situation.

        I think its meant to be more reflective of what Sarah realizes she has become now that she has what she wants to be to compare it to. The fact that she considers him becoming a spy as dangerous to him as being bunkered is telling. There are some pretty gritty ‘realities of the spy world’ issues they touch on in the misery arc but honestly no more so than in S 1&2. Just with estrangement between the two leads.

        I happen to like those kind of stories when they’re well done, like Marlin and Santa Claus. But this season took a darker turn more frequently and really beat us over the head with it and I realize its not for everyone (especially when it’s NOT well done).

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I’m completely fine with some of those darker themes on an occasional basis, especially when they pay off fairly rapidly. But exploring those darker themes for longer (with estrangement thrown in!) wouldn’t have worked for me even if it was done much better. Although I must admit, as a pretty hard core ‘shipper, the estrangement is the real deal breaker. They could have explored a number of the darker themes in sequential episodes, and as long as Chuck and Sarah were dealing with things together I likely would have been fine with it. But then, I suppose the bottom line for me is that the estrangement itself was THE darker issue that broke the season.
        The sort of halfway point we occasionally bring up, estrangement without the other love interests, I think would have done less character damage. I have no doubt I wouldn’t ever want to re-watch those episodes even then, but at least they wouldn’t leave me with such a sick feeling.

        You know AP you actually did pretty well with the “Hijinx Ensues” part. You ought to try your hand at fan fiction…

    • Dave says:

      I rationalized my way through the misery arc a different way. I went with what I actually saw on screen. Meaning, absent one kissing and make out session at the end of Fake Name, nothing happened between Sarah and Shaw. Here’s my reasoning:

      We never actually see anything and Sarah never acknowledges a relationship. I believe the end scene from Mask where Sarah says this is very dangerous, she is referring to the isolation of Chuck to make him an autonomous super agent not some romance with Shaw. In fact at the beginning of Fake Name she shoots down Shaw’s flirting and goes for the make out session because she thinks Chuck has moved on. By the beginning of Beard, we’re back to totally professional, zero emotion between Sarah and Shaw because by then Sarah knows Chuck has dumped Hannah. As an aside, Sarah in the taxi at the end of Tic Tac is not a woman in love.

      At the end of Final Exam, Sarah admits she no longer loves Chuck and embarks on a totally befuddling relationship with Shaw, I still don’t get it. Anyway, Sarah and Shaw go on their first date in AH and of course Chuck proceeds to fight for Sarah and wins her back. So with that rationalization, despite the length of misery, I was able to move forward and it made some sense, sort of.

      But Schwedak weren’t through with us. It was almost as if they had to prove once and for all that there was a romance, of sorts, between Sarah and Shaw so they gave us the interrogation of Sarah at the beginning of Living Dead. That damaged Sarah’s character for me more than the misery arc (as I said I had rationalized that). I dismiss the dinner in DC, hell I have dinner with colleagues on travel, usually with adult beverages, all the time and don’t have sex with them (I note the adolescent attitudes of our show runners), but the other two tid bits would have us believe that seconds after admitting for the first time that she doesn’t love Chuck anymore, Sarah ran off to Shaw’s loft for a 24 hour sex-a-thon (date for being off grid matches the day after Chuck’s red test) and then had a couples massage, diamond earrings and presumably more sex before ever going on a date. Ridiculous and even more OOC than the original misery arc.

      Someone mentioned that it was like they never watched their own show, this Living dead scene pretty much proves that for me. I felt like they had spit in our faces with that one. They just couldn’t let it go.

      • uplink2 says:

        Oh I can’t wait for the Living Dead scene discussions. I agree I found that scene so incredibly disrespectful and offensive to women it is beyond belief. Especially when it was played for laughs. But for Sarah to actually wear earrings given to her by the man who tried to murder her and the man she was in love with was disgusting and showed once again their complete and total misunderstanding of what they had in Sarah Walker. It borders on…. I won’t say it.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah the Living Dead scene ruined my own version of the season too.

        The best I can say is that Sarah did dump Shaw in record time once Chuck proved himself in American Hero. Never mind that after three years such gestures should have been totally unnecessary.

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        Sarah had two chef’s tasting menus and a bottle of Pinot with Carina. They were talking about Chuck. Carina threatened to come back to Burbank and take another run at him if Sarah didn’t get her head out if her rear end…

        Sarah’s rushing out the door to get to the briefing and grabs the first matching pair of earrings she finds in her jewelry box out of a jumble of dozens in the same drawer. Contemplates wearing the charm bracelet which has a drawer of its own. Doesn’t even realize what they are until Casey calls her on it…
        (I know, still not good)

        Daniel had an allergic reaction to the oil they used at the couples massage. Sarah dropped him off at the ER before meeting Carina for dinner and dancing…

      • uplink2 says:

        I like that. lol. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I do give LeJudkins a small pass on that scene because it was written BEFORE Mask even aired and they got the feedback from the fans as to how apoplectic many were about the pairing. Plus those 2 were new writers and were “just following orders.” But it doesn’t excuse the earrings. How anyone could think that was funny is beyond me.

    • JC says:

      Valar morghulis

      I hate to generalize such a well thought out post but I think you hit on two flaws that are at the heart of most arguments about the show from S3 till the end. Intention vs execution and unintended consequences. The first one you hit on right away what they intended never really came through on screen and not just in S3. Most fans are more tolerant of the one pasts S3 since it didn’t directly threaten the relationship but I’d argue S4 was even worse in some cases.

      The other is things like the name reveal, PSP, red test, etc. Those ideas might work in the moment but they damage the story moving forward. Sarah’s mother calling her Sarah instead of Sam or getting married under that name makes zero sense. The fact they complete side stepped the issue is even worse. Yeah we can fanwank it to death but it shows a lack of care or respect for your audience.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree. Even Shaw didn’t call her Sam in Santa Suit. The pre-nup basically ret-cons the name reveal out of existence. I just wish it had for real. We will talk about it next week but the Name Reveal is probably the biggest blunder they ever made for me. It should have been one of the series signature moments and it was thrown away cheaply for pure unadulterated teen soap opera angst. They ran as fast as they could away from it. I remember lots of discussion about weather Emma would call her Sarah, Sam or some term of endearment. But it was clear they want no part of that reveal and the fans hatred of it. So much for believing in your story. The3y could have soothed some of the pain from that open wound if they simply had Sarah say this is who she is and who she wants to be. She will always be Chuck’s Sarah. But nope, side step, ignore and retcon was the choice instead.

      • atcDave says:

        To me, the bottom line is always entertainment. I can forgive a lot if its fun or good for a laugh. But the standards are higher if it hurts. If I LIKE an episode, it is no burden for me to fill in the blanks myself. But if I don’t like it, I will resent the imposition. But even then, I try not to get caught up in the details, because honestly, if Shaw’s plans ever make sense or not have little or nothing to do with my enjoyment of the episode.

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        I should respond properly with ‘Valar Dohaeris’ but Arya is all about the ‘Valar Morghulis’ part of the credo!

        There are some identity things that they play fast and loose with. ‘Sarah’ has probably had a hundred different names as a child and as an agent. Seeing her called ‘Sarah Walker’ with the CATs was another time they whiffed on it. At least Bryce knew her as Sarah Anderson. Maybe. Then again, Bryce Larkin was Bryce Larkin.

        The idea that ‘Sarah Walker’ is widely known as one of if not the best agent in the world is just dumb. A famous agent is a dead agent. It would also draw enemy agents to Buy More like bees to sugar water. But like it or not a lot of people would find it too confusing to call her anything other than Sarah.

        They do often have trouble adhering to their own mythology.

      • aerox says:

        AP, don’t even get me started on the amount of times I scratched my head when a baddie comes in and proudly proclaims: “Agent *name here*” like he knew Casey/Sarah their entire life. Who needs to be stealthy when the baddies can’t even hunt down someone based on a name that they keep using over and over >_<

      • atcDave says:

        And James Bond always goes by James Bond…

        Obviously we’ll get to this more next week. The Fake Name reveal is an insult to me personally. And I think several million of us feel the same way.

        But I don’t otherwise have a problem with Sarah always going by Sarah. She was quite insistent on it in Cubic Z. And from then on, I’m fine with the idea she legally changed her name. It’s who she wants to be.
        And I’m even okay with saying, after Graham gave her that name as some sort of “alpha alias” that she even told her mom that’s what she was going by (mom did seem to know what she was doing for a living, even if the CIA didn’t know about her).

        But what a tragic fumble. They set it up so nicely in Helicopter and Wookiee and Cougars to be this big moment when she shared her real name with Chuck. And then they made it something they were afraid to even bring up again. That’s just a stupid error.

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        I know, right?
        And they started out so well.
        Think back to Wookie when Carina and Sarah had to reveal their current cover identities to each other.
        I know it complicates things but its a show about spies…

      • JC says:


        I don’t think the name reveal could ever be smoothed over but it did need addressed. I can’t see that not being a point of contention between the two of them moving forward. Let alone the the same person she shared it with murdered his father. Nor do I think the show needed Sarah apologizing but they needed a scene that showed those two had talked about her past including her real name. We don’t need to see it but to know it happened.


        I’m not knocking people who like the lighter aspect of the show. How ever you enjoy it is fine by me. I admit I’m a nitpicker and like serialized shows with deep mythology so this show drove me crazy. Minor details annoyed me but didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the show but the larger ones did. And that only began when the show went for more of serious and darker vibe. I was all for that but the how many major plot points were changed or ignored throughout the show? We saw three different versions of the C&S meeting from the pilot. So either they didn’t care/ remember or they thought the audience didn’t which is pretty lazy IMO.

      • Arya's Prayers says:


        I agree that Sarah was likely legally Sarah sometime between her engagement and wedding.

        However, in my mind Bryce Larkin was Bryve Larkin BECAUSE James Bond was James Bond.


        Zero basis in canon for either!

      • uplink2 says:

        JC I agree. I didn’t need to see it happen but know that it did. I don’t think the name on the pre-nup is enough. I just don’t like it when you have to sometimes believe normal adult things happen off screen, like talking to each other, and then other times, like after the rehearsal dinner activities, believe they don’t. It’s trying to have things both ways.

        I actually would have liked when Emma introduces Molly to her ‘sister’ that she said I want you to meet someone important, your sister…..” and let Sarah say her name.

      • uplink2 says:

        Funny thing about James Bond, did we ever know that it was his actual name before Skyfall?

      • aerox says:

        I think you just uncovered another retcon. If Sarah Walker was her alpha alias, and she got this from Graham when she was 16 or something, and she was in the CATS with Carina as Sarah Walker, then why did she need to ask for her identity, and why, when she said Sarah Walker, didn’t ‘Carina’ recognize this?

        I swear, their timeline makes swiss cheese look like solid material.

      • atcDave says:

        Uplink I’m pretty sure Skyfall was the first time we knew James Bond was a real name. But its been an amusing part of the mythos since Dr. No, he proudly introduces himself by that name to everyone, all the time. I think in what 26 movies? he’s used an actual alias just a handful of times.

        Aerox you are right that they changed something about aliases and expectations pretty quickly; we were told early on that Sarah has had many, many names over the years, and Carina acted like she’d never heard the “Sarah Walker” name prior to Wookiee, and yet we’re later forced to conclude she’s used it pretty regularly since 1999 or thereabout. But seriously, this is nitpicking. I challenge you to find a show that doesn’t play such games. Early in the show they were making a point of how little Chuck can truly know about the mystery woman who holds his life in her hands. But over time, it is too much of a WASTE of narrative energy to recover the same ground every time a flashback or back story is called for. We, that is us folks who are still discussing the show over a year after it went off the air, are likely the only ones who ever even noticed, much less thought to complain.

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        Aerox – I’m working on a story that addresses Sarah’s ‘identity’ in many ways and attempts to resolve these issues (although its not critical to the plot).

        SW is basically her “alpha alias” (where does that term come from? I’ve not heard it before but I like it) in that it has a specific non-mission purpose…i.e. no one will be in awe of meeting ‘Agent Walker’. And she won’t be SW with the CATs (and Carina isn’t Carina yet either).

        As part of that set-up, while it was nice of them to give Tony Todd a final cameo, I reject the ‘handler’ retcon entirely (and make similar adjustments to many other inconsistencies). The canon timeline is TOTAL Swiss cheese and I try to address that as well – because its such a mess I don’t feel compelled to blindly adhere to it! I also have her recruited at 16 (due to a childhood lived under aliases) which I believe is a bit younger than implied by canon.

        Sorry Dave, this one will be a little dark in places – I know that’s not your usual cup of tea but it’s been a bit of an obsession the past few months. There’s some ‘spy world’ ugliness I want to explore with an eye toward a dynamic where neither Chuck nor Sarah think they are good enough for the other for various reasons. Maybe I’ll do a lighter one if I ever get this one off the ground and in a state I’m comfortable sharing but this one will still have a fair bit of fluff…just ‘restrained’ fluff most of the time.

        Sarah is the ‘Warrior Goddess’ in the show and much of fan fiction and I wanted to explore the idea that she definitely doesn’t see herself that way.

      • atcDave says:

        I’m pretty sure “Alpha Alias” is mine. But I’ve had so many of these discussions for over four years (well, three here, one at the NBC forums) its possible someone else used it first.

        AP as I said, I’m not completely opposed to dark. It is often satisfying to see what has to be overcome. Especially if we assume Chuck and Sarah sort of saved each other. I will look forward to seeing what you’re working on and giving it a chance. If I like it I’ll tell everyone; if I don’t I’ll just keep it to myself…

      • JC says:


        Gotcha and I’m right there with you. The funny thing is those types of scenes are so easy, just mention a city and have Chuck mention an old mission Sarah told him about. It takes about five seconds but shows the viewer they have a real relationship. Instead they wanted to keep her mysterious which doesn’t work for her character as a wife.

        Skyfall completely ruined the fanwank that James Bond was just a code name for multiple agents. It was the only way I could explain Roger Moore’s Bond compared to Craig’s.

      • Joel says:

        Chuck’s mythology is kind of a jumbled mess, yes. The constant false endings dangled by NBC are part of the reason, but it can’t be entirely blamed on them.

        It doesn’t really bother me all that much though. Even in season 1 and 2 where there was a (mostly) coherent mythology, it wasn’t the reason to watch the show. To me, Chuck is all about the comedy, the relationships between the characters (of which Chuck and Sarah is probably the most important, but still only one of many), and sometimes some good action.

        The thing that probably bugs me most is that the reason Orion went into hiding is so muddled, but even that’s not a huge deal.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Joel I agree almost entirely, except that Mary’s 20 year mission bothers me more than Orion’s. But that’s not really what I was watching for, so it’s a small thing.

  13. Jason says:

    Holy bejebbers, if Arrow moved the story fast this week, Beauty and the Beast is moving along at breakneck speed. Maybe they don’t plan on being around for long, but I love how both these shows are written. Matter of fact, other than Chuck, I tend to like how nearly all shows that I start watching are written. Why do I so dislike the way Chuck is written? I almost never watch comedy by the way, and like drama – 24 or Friday Night Lights are two of my all time favs?

    • uplink2 says:

      Speaking of 24, there is a rumor going round of it coming back. That would be something new, a show that was cancelled and given an “ending” might come back to life? Hmmmmmm

      • atcDave says:

        Actually I think that’s moved from rumor to “news”!

        I was no real fan of 24, but of course It’s interesting to see a cancelled show return. Chuck returning as a show would be even better than as a movie. But that is getting way ahead of ourselves, and any sort of return would be good news.

  14. uplink2 says:

    Interesting thing from my re-watch that I think has relevance here to our discussions about how they play fast and loose and how all of a sudden in S3 everyone had to be such lousy spies to sell the LI’s. I’m up to Imported Hard Salami

    Beckman: “Let me get this straight. Some woman comes in off the street and starts dating the asset and this doesn’t strike either of you as suspicious?….. I want to know everything about this woman before she get’s too close.”

    Ok General, some woman meets the asset on a plane full of Ring agents starts dating him and that didn’t strike any of you as suspicious including you, your best spy team, and the Superman, Super Agent, true American Hero, Ring expert?

    • Dave says:


      You are so spot on with this one. I mean Lou was so much more plausible than Hannah. Why wouldn’t a cute young lady who owned a business next to the Buy More come in for help from the Nerd Herd and find Chuck attractive…and tall. In Hannah we have a stalker who follows him from Paris to LA. I seldom re-watch that portion of the show, but I don’t recall anyone saying “I ran a complete check on her and she’s clean” or “I ran a check on her and something doesn’t add up”. Hannah should have been a Ring agent using Chuck to get to Shaw. That would have played much better.

      • atcDave says:

        Or I remember thinking at the time she was working for Shaw as part of his plan to break up Team B.

        Pretty much anything we can come up with would be better than what they did!

      • Dave says:


        I would prefer not to have Hannah work for Shaw. That would make Shaw much too smart and effective.

        I prefer inept moron Shaw. Who through his ineptitude is placing Chuck in constant danger….Oh, right, that’s what actually happened.

      • uplink2 says:

        Personally I would have been happier with anything other than what we got with Hannah. The ‘innocent’ storyline was pointless and redundant. She was simply Lou 2.0 and taught Chuck absolutely nothing different than what Lou did, that you can’t have a real relationship with an innocent when you are part of the spy world of lies, deceit and danger. Plus they made Chuck look like a complete douchebag pr… in how he treated her after he got what he wanted from her. Again all contrived angst and darkness to cram the Sarah/Shaw relationship down our throats.

        But the point of mentioning it is that when I saw that scene last night it just screamed at me, “where the hell was this Beckman, Sarah or Casey when Hannah appeared on a plane with Ring Agents who almost killed Chuck? Where were they when a beautiful woman used to flying first class takes a minimum wage job she is incredibly over qualified for at a retail store to be near the ‘asset’?” It doesn’t happen because Hannah was only there for the 3 reasons I allude to often, eye candy, stunt casting and to justify Sarah/Shaw. And to do that all of the great spies in this show had to look like complete idiots to falsely prop up the one who actually was the idiot.

      • atcDave says:

        Dave I can accept a lot of alternatives that could have made a better show than what we saw. In keeping with Chuck the comedy, I think inept, moron Shaw is the best way to go. But as I’ve said, Casey and Sarah have to be consistent about recognizing him as the moron he is (obviously, no Sham is a given!).
        But I can imagine a different sort of story working too. One with Shaw as a real danger. Shaw as the master schemer and manipulator who is trying to fragment Team B. I can imagine one “weak spot” that could work for him, a little, that is stroking Chuck’s ego as he tries to convince him he is capable and ready and doesn’t need his team. But Shaw’s schemes need to unravel on that last point. Because Chuck doesn’t actually want to be independent of Sarah and Casey, just earn their respect. This is a very good scenario for the secret relationship story, and it might put some pressure (as in, cause some fights, sort of like we saw early in “First Class”) on the new couple. But ultimately, Shaw can never really tear them apart, even if we have to sweat it out for a week or two.
        The other group of options I see involve Shaw the mentor and trainer. Really build up a friendship and trust between Chuck and Shaw (obviously, Shaw can’t even have delusions of being a romantic rival or this fails utterly), that is shattered when Shaw turns traitor.
        Hannah really was a waste of a character. As I’ve said before, I could see a small sub-plot for her as a crazed stalker, or an agent (of Shaw’s or The Ring), but she really should never be a big character. As an agent I see two good alternatives; the first of which is Shaw trying to get Chuck free of Sarah’s influence. The other works better with a secret relationship story; Hannah is a Honey Trap sent by The Ring, who is frustrated in her failures to seduce Chuck, and can’t figure out that Chuck isn’t interested because he’s with Sarah. That could be played for both laughs and drama (adventure drama, NOT LI drama!)

      • Dave says:


        I really like Hannah as the frustrated Ring honey-trap sent to try to get to Shaw through the supposed weak link, the team analyst (Chuck). After Hannah retires from the fight, then we get the full-on assault in the Beard. It would have worked so much better.

        I like the Shaw as a mentor/trainer till he’s turned. He begins to get to Chuck who has a minor case of fan worship going. Shaw is still inept and Chuck keeps saving the missions, often with an assist from Sarah and/or Casey. Shaw manages to lead Chuck on for a while keeping Chuck fooled into thinking that he (Shaw) is why the missions are successful refusing to believe Sarah and Casey’s misgivings. Sarah and Casey don’t buy it for a minute, but for a period of time, say till the end of Beard, Chuck remains fooled. By Tic Tac Chuck comes around.

        Needless to say, C&S are having a relationship since the end of Nacho Sampler, hiding from Shaw who can still have Sarah reassigned. It would be a hoot to see Hannah strike out with Chuck because of Sarah and have Sarah shoot down Shaw every week and he’s too befuddled to figure it out.

  15. First Impression says:

    Overall the plot wasn’t too bad, once you discounted the ill-conceived pairing off of our favorite characters.  But it seemed that the cast was just acting. They were not absorbed in their characters, they weren’t  connected to the story, they lost their heartbeat.  Replacements could have come in to play the roles just as well.

    The best moment was when Shaw had to bail on the mission and Chuck said, “Well, what do you say partner?” With Sarah’s first real smile in forever she said, “Let’s go.”  Sarah’s whole face lit up with pure joy.  It was as it should be.  It lasted only a blip in time, but at least it was there. 

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I think that was a common reaction when this first ran too. A single sweet moment in an otherwise unpalatable episode.

  16. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Mask (3.07) | Chuck This

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