Chuck Versus The Fake Name (3.08)

AwkwardIf last week it seemed Chuck had found a way to have it all, the spy world, the normal girlfriend and his friends, family and team around him for support, this week will see it all seemingly slip through his fingers. The team fracturing, the girl gone and eventually Morgan questioning their friendship, though the little bearded troll doesn’t actually appear in this episode. At the same time it does have some progress. Chuck does take a positive step or two, as disastrously as that step is accomplished. There may be dark times ahead for our hero, but in true Chuck style it still manages to do it with heart and laughter. Join me for a look back at Chuck Versus The Fake Name, after the jump.

If Ellie’s fears for the dark path she suspected Chuck to be on (if she only knew) were allayed by discovering his secret girlfriend (much to Morgan’s misfortune) that relief didn’t last long. Now she’s wondering why her once open relationship with Chuck is changing. Chuck is finding, as Sarah undoubtedly once did, that it was easier to shut people out and leave them behind than to maintain the web of lies needed to be a spy. It is the process by which she once crossed over to fully inhabit the spy world with no links to the real world left to anchor her in the everyday lives of people like Chuck. In season 1’s last episode we see Sarah as the outsider looking in, literally and figuratively, into the lives of ordinary people. A big part of her journey in season 2 was finding that she wanted to be on the inside, but couldn’t fully commit due to a damaging past and her duty to protect Chuck, no matter how deep her feelings for Chuck or her longing to live in his world. When she couldn’t bring herself to open up to Chuck and tell him her choice until it was too late she set in motion Chuck’s decision to follow her into her world. As he re-traces her path into that world she re-lives hers. And that disturbs her, because this new softer Sarah who experienced the joys of a real relationship and a family and friends through their “cover” in season 2 now values the very things Chuck is turning his back on, and her loss of those things is highlighted by Chuck’s.

It is this new Sarah who upon seeing Hannah in her place has to flee the very sight. She’s losing herself all over again and losing Chuck at the same time. It is this Sarah who runs to Shaw in a desperate attempt to find a sympathetic ear or a human connection who understands the loss and the heartbreak that Chuck is just starting to sense as he listens to Hannah’s toast.

I’d like to make a toast. You know how, in life, there’s always something that just doesn’t line up? Like, either you’re working at the wrong job or dating the wrong guy, or you’re eating some really bad meal? But right at this second, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I want to thank all of you for making me feel that way

We see Chuck’s apprehension and discomfort, and while it is a realization that will come in fits and starts and won’t be fully played out until his red test it starts here, with him starting to suspect that something has gone horribly wrong with his life. Things don’t line up.

I suppose the one thing that seems most off to me is that Chuck hasn’t had anything close to his Mauser Moment. The things that Sarah ticks off as proof that Chuck is changing come off as misdemeanors in a felonious world. Yes, Chuck has gotten tougher and more remote, and seems to have lost some of his emotional intuition and empathy, and these are things that would concern Sarah, but he hasn’t done anything that should turn her into an emotional wreck. Yes, Sarah has gotten softer, and now needs an emotional connection with someone in her life at the very time Chuck is least available to support her, but her reaction seems overwrought.

Shaw also comes off a bit creepy again, using Sarah’s vulnerability to turn what starts as a cry for help dealing with emotions she isn’t used to dealing with and can no longer suppress into a weird competition with Chuck to know something about Sarah that he doesn’t, and then it hit me. Shaw is jealous of Chuck and what she feels for him, but will never feel for Shaw. Shaw instigates the romance out of a sense of competition to posses Sarah. I’m sure there are other layers and levels, but it makes sense to me. Shaw is jealous of what Chuck has so he wants to take it. Perhaps the same goes for 3.5 and the Ring intersect. Anyway, Shaw’s taunt and beating of Chuck now makes more sense. Shaw is a crazy MF and loses it when it turns out Chuck found out Sarah’s real name too. Shaw loses it because at the moment it seemed he had something Chuck couldn’t that Chuck was going to ruin it for him. And the more I write about it the more an unbalanced Shaw makes sense. His desire for and pursuit of Sarah comes from a dark place. Jealousy for what Chuck and Sarah have, what he lost when he lost his wife, and a desire to somehow reclaim what he had with his wife through Sarah.

For Sarah this may have been an opportunity to connect and unburden herself, but for Chuck, overhearing Sarah’s doubt and disappointment in the man he’s become throws him into an existential spy crisis. He started this to become a man worthy of Sarah (even if it seems he’s forgotten that at the moment) and she hates the man he’s become. What is he doing with his life?

I feel like I’m living a lie, Ellie. I used to be able to compartmentalize these things, but it’s, like, it’s all the time now. I feel like I’m not me anymore.
 
 
Maybe things are moving too fast with Hannah,and even though you really like her, it feels dishonest because the truth is that you still have feelings for Sarah. Does that sound about right?
 
 
See, this is… this is why I don’t come talk to you, Ellie, ’cause you’re half a spy.
 

I think the intent is that he’s saying you’re half right. His relationship with Hannah is dishonest and unfair. It’s the interpretation that squares best with his breakup with her and still saves the revelation that he’s never going to stop loving Sarah for next week. It’s a bit clumsily done, but it is apace with the season 3 dilemma, simultaneously too subtle on one level while being hit over the head on another. And here is the not so subtle message of Chuck not being able to flash even though the stakes are very real. He doubts himself and why he is doing what he is doing. He’s lost sight of the man Sarah loved to try to be the man he thought she wanted and needed. Another Cole. Another Shaw. He will become so much more than either of them, but for now his doubts, brought about by Sarah’s overheard confession to Shaw, have him wondering what’s left of himself, doubting he can be saved. So he tries to do the right thing, and does it horribly, because while his reasoning was right he did it not to spare Hannah, although that part was present, but to recover that nice guy he still thinks he is, and it isn’t till Hannah reads him the riot act that he realizes he really isn’t a nice guy. He never considered Hannah’s feelings until it’s too late and he’s dumped her in front of her parents the day after he slept with her.

Chuck and Sarah stuff out-of-the-way I’ll say some more of what I loved about this episode. Ellie and Hannah meet, and Chuck gets to see it. The awkwardness was absolutely delicious. Yvonne knocks it out of the park with a conflicted and emotionally adrift Sarah looking for a port in a storm. In the end, though she makes a terrible choice it is because of a realization that she wants something more than the spy-life, she wants something real. Sarah is good at lying to herself, and Shaw is just that, a lie she tells herself because it makes things easier here and now, even if it is doomed from the start. Sarah being ready for something real just as Chuck is his furthest from her is a heartbreaking development, but an understandable one based on how the season was constructed.

I loved Jeff and Lester’s reaction to Chuck the lady-killer and I loved the reprise with Big Mike. Jeff has always been the Buy More’s Number one Charah shipper.

Chuck and Hannah had great chemistry, and while a bit over the top, I thought the PDA was well-played. It showed us something Chuck craved in a relationship that Sarah could never bring herself to give, but will give by the bucket-full on the slowest train in Europe in a few weeks. It’s not sex, it’s the way she looks at and acts with Chuck, like he is the only guy in the world for her and she doesn’t care who knows it. It’s adoration, and admiration and respect is a part of that Sarah, while she feels it and says it hasn’t always shown Chuck through her actions. It was nice to see Chuck get to drink in the utter adoration of a delightful and charming woman. It was painful to see it end.

Chuck reaching out to Ellie as the last bit of solid ground in his crumbling world was a great moment. They really under-used those moments when family mattered like nothing else. It was great to see Ellie sum it up, even if it takes Chuck a while to take in the full implications of her answer.

Overall, an episode that plays a lot better to me on re-watch, but that’s been true of this arc for a while. I don’t know when or why, but at some point something clicked for me and I’m able to enjoy these episodes like never before. The true test will come in a few weeks when we watch the only episode I think I ever disliked, Chuck Versus The American Hero. For now I’m just glad we got this season in its own right in addition to a set up the next two marvelous seasons of my favorite show.

~ Ernie

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“You had your chance and you blew it.”

What Ernie wrote above is is spot on and hard to improve upon. So, I’ll try to keep this short (which should be surprising for everyone, because I’ve got a lot to say). It comes down to this: I thought Fake Name was going to be the emotional nadir of my re-watch. I thought I was going to semi-skim over this one, mostly because there would be very little good to say about it. I was wrong. I discovered that this episode is wonderful now (much better than the first time through) and even mis-understood. At least, a bit.

The rest here is just exposition, so please let me be expositive!

Being expositive

Being expositive

Ernie’s got it right: Yvonne hit’s it out of the park. Even more to the point, like many episodes of S3 it’s simultaneously too subtle and too obvious. We’re hit over the head with the idea that Chuck is sick at heart with “Living The Lie” (the song we heard first in Angel de la Muerta, when Chuck and Sarah shook hands and “friendzoned” each other) and I can tell you outright that I missed half the point.

Matty Walnuts

Matty Walnuts

Yvonne’s did an amazing job, but she’s not the only great actor here. I’m speaking first about Zac this time, but I must take a moment to praise Tony Sirico (aka, “Paulie Walnuts”), who’s Matty here and Louis Lombardi as Scotty, Matty’s sidekick. The parts may seem a bit nondescript or even generic, but Sirico and Lombardi played two of the least threatening and most comical characters in The Sopranos. For stunt casting, they’re both particularly well chosen to carry on the comedy in an episode without Morgan and with very little Jeff and Lester.

Scotty

Scotty

As for Zac, he has to take on the persona of Chuck taking on the persona of Rafe Gruber, as played by Johnny Messner, noted bad guy and bada$$.

Impressing Casey

Impressing Casey

He does it “Chuck’s way,” always letting the threat be understated and understood. It’s enough to impress Casey, and it’s enough to impress me, but not in the way you might think.

I always enjoy seeing those moments when Chuck comes into his own, when the character either overcomes or actually uses his natural nerdiness to win the day (and win the girl, of course), as he starts to when first meeting Matty and Scotty in their bar. But it goes beyond that.

Being Rafe Gruber

Being Rafe Gruber

Here, Chuck’s ability to assume the identity of the hyper-threatening assassin, Rafe, is eerie. When he’s in danger of being made, Chuck becomes possessed by a different spirit. We can think it’s the new Intersect, the one that Chuck now knows how to control, but it’s not. It’s Chuck. He changes himself completely – but only because Sarah asks him too.

Chuck: Oh my God, Sarah, I’m freaking out right now. I’ve never been so happy to see you in my life.
Sarah: Stop! You’re not you, you’re Rafe. You have to be him in this situation. Think what he would do. Live the lie.

At that moment, Chuck does precisely that – he fights Sarah, even to the point of kicking her through a table. You can say “That’s not Chuck – that’s the Intersect!”, but it amounts to the same thing. All that light comedy we just saw with Jeff and Lester and Matty and Scotty is overwhelmed by something much more important, an amazing transition.

Chuck is different, and Sarah knows it.

Chuck is different, and Sarah knows it.

But Chuck kicking Sarah through a table? Sure, that was a calculated thing, done in order to carry on the ruse. But calculated (indeed, Intersect-calculated) deception or not, that’s an even bigger transition for Chuck than the episode’s transition from light and humorous to serious.

Still, all that is not what we remembered about the episode before the re-watch, is it? No, what everyone thinks about when recalling Fake Name is Hannah, Shaw and most importantly, Sam, the 800 lb. gorilla raging around the room. Of these, Hannah is the easiest to discuss.

She’s a PLI, with the emphasis on P. Yes, we see her come out of Chuck’s shower dressed inappropriately for prime time TV and Chuck should have had (almost) nothing to do with her outside the Buy More. But you know, she’s cute, she’s as available as Chuck is, she’s treating him right (especially in the Buy More in this episode) and Chuck really does have almost nothing to do with her except be reflexively attracted to his type of girl…

No, it’s not justifiable in real people, and we expect Chuck to be better than that. But it is understandable in our boy’s emotional make-up. When you get down to it, Hannah really disappears sort of quickly. Even if it seems to have taken forever, Chuck realizes now that, with Hannah, he’s not even close to doing the right thing and as soon as he tries, Poof. She’s gone.

I think I too was misled, the first time, by the scheduling that aired The Mask on Feb. 8 and Fake Name on Mar. 1 of 2010. It was easy to dwell on it longer than did the story.

In the short time that Hannah was Chuck’s love interest, though, she did give us one important truth:

PLI no longer

PLI no longer

 

Hannah: No, you’re not a nice guy. We slept together last night, and now you are dumping me.
Chuck: No, it’s not like that.
Hannah: Then how is it? Explain it to me. Look, I have dated a lot of liars before, so I usually know how to spot them. But you? You’re, like, the best I’ve ever seen. I hope that your lies keep you warm at night.

Yeah, Chuck really has changed. He’s been what we call a jerk. The good news is that Hannah just snapped Chuck’s head back ’round and he is on the road to redemption. Yeah, the jerk disappears as quickly as Hannah. It’s one thing I missed the first time that makes this episode so much more enjoyable now.

But if Chuck’s on the right path, not so Sarah. I’ll get to her in a minute, but I need to address Shaw first. The character is a problem – he’s not a good match for Sarah at all.

Losing it

Losing it

Yes, Shaw is creepy, and getting creepier by the scene. In fact, the maniacal look in his eyes when he states that Chuck “blew it” with Sarah (this, even after knowing Chuck is trying to save them from Rafe) confirms he has a tenuous hold on sanity already. In fact, Shaw completely loses his cool, and that is great. Shaw as hero and PLI for Sarah is not beloved by the fans. Shaw as insane villain is much more palatable and that’s where he’s headed.

But is that right? Could Shaw still be a hero, in his mind fighting a rival for his girl, or is he on the verge of losing it when he forces the issue with Chuck? What is Sarah seeing? It’s that very ambiguity that rankled the fans so long in the spring of 2010. But going through the episodes again, it doesn’t rankle nearly so much, if only because we know what’s coming. In fact, the intentional ambiguity starts to look – well, I want to use the words “artful” and well done. Oddly, I recognize it is also too obvious for those of us who were anxious to see this particular PLI gone.

It’s not like TPTB didn’t know what the fans were thinking.

Chuck: [As Rafe] Me and Sam are on-again, off-again, driving everyone in my life a little crazy.
Matty: I hate those “will they or won’t they?” things. Just do it already.

Finally, there’s Sarah. Why on God’s green earth is she attracted at all to Shaw? You may not believe it at this late date, but after this viewing, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s not, and it absolutely makes the episode for me.

How’s that, you say? Did she or did she not confide in Shaw, telling him the biggest secret she has before even considering telling Chuck? Did she or did she not end up knowing waaaayyyy to many details about his room? Did she or did she not have a “couples massage” in Langley VA with the schmuck and let him buy her Tiffany ear rings? [Oh wait. That comes later…] She even brings him Chinese food, for Pete’s sake!

Sure. She’s guilty of all that.

Sarah: [About Chuck] … he’s not like you and me. We are both used to living somebody else’s life.
Shaw: That’s the job.
Sarah: Yeah, but where does the job end? I can barely remember who I am anymore.

Sarah’s more than turned around. She’s been in love (maybe for the first time) and the person she loved has pretty much disappeared. Ernie, I have a slightly different take when you say Chuck hasn’t had a “Mauser moment” yet. I think he has already, and not his last one either.

For me, the Mauser incident was more about Chuck than about Sarah. He started to see her differently. She was no longer an ideal woman, but someone who is forced to compromise. Now it’s Sarah’s turn to perceive Chuck as less than perfect(ly innocent), and it happened already when he burned Manoosh. That may seem less important than shooting an unarmed man, but Sarah’s a old hand in this world, where everything is a lie and no one can be trusted. Chuck, until recently, was new to it. For that reason, when Chuck burned Manoosh, Sarah didn’t take it as hard as Chuck when she killed Mauser. But make no mistake, she was just as disappointed in her love’s actions.

Giving up

Giving up

And it’s getting worse. If Sarah wasn’t disappointed before, she is now, because Chuck has become a consummate liar. He lies to Ellie and Morgan, teaches Devon to lie and he lies to Hannah, all because he is a good spy. What is Sarah to do? Sarah gives up.

Remember Sarah telling Shaw that she has a reputation for getting involved with her partners, a pattern that she wants to break? We assumed that meant Bryce and maybe even Cole. Now I ask, does it mean Chuck too? No. Chuck was her asset, her charge. He was different from the others.

Then, sometime around Operation Awesome and First Class, Chuck became her partner. Yes, Sarah has a type, and her type is not “Hero” or “James Bond” at all. It’s not Bryce or Cole – she would not have turned them both down so firmly if it was. She may consider them for a bit, but Sarah’s been turning down her partners all the while and Chuck is slowly disappearing into that same pile of discards.

Like she had said earlier to Casey, Sarah insists to Shaw that Chuck is – was – different, “not like them.” He is – was – not a killer and cares about others and by “them”, Sarah means everyone else she knew, including herself. But ask yourself if Sarah is really like that. Is she a cold-blooded killer who doesn’t care? My answer is no, not since we’ve known her. Not since Chuck.

Sarah says she is trying to remember the person she once was, but we know she used to be a person who sought adventure and adrenaline fueled thrills in exotic places with hard men, a person rather like Carina. Or maybe like Heather Chandler. She was a person who didn’t care about the consequences or costs. That’s not her now. With Chuck, Sarah was someone who was better than that. Now, with Shaw, she can once again forgo having a conscience and the emotions she’s been dealing with for three years – but dealing only with Chuck’s help. Shaw can keep her safe from that burden – and numb – the way her partners always did. Shaw is the safest person she’s ever known. Sarah isn’t attracted to him – the agent needs him to hide behind.

For three years we’ve known Sarah Walker as someone who cares a lot about Chuck, enough to give up everything for him. Who is Sam? I’m starting to think Sam is not just the sweet, precocious child we’ve seen only briefly. Sam is someone who wanted to be an agent of the CIA and maybe someone who wanted a life different from the one she had with her con-man father. Maybe Sam wanted to make a difference and maybe she just wanted a different kind of excitement; we don’t know. She certainly wanted something to change her life. The only thing Langston Graham did was train her to lie better.

I thought Daniel Zott’s song was Chuck’s theme, and it was. Now I know it’s also Sarah’s.

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

– joe

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It’s always amazing to me to take one thing and have two (or three people) come away from it with completely different perspectives and insights. Much like Joe, I felt that Fake Name would be my emotional nadir. In the grand scheme of things–namely the arc, my biggest grievance was First Class, followed by Mask. As for Fake Name? Well who has time to dwell when your world was already off kilter from those that came before? Now I’m not so sure.

As this is a rewatch the whole point is to really dig deep, see something in there that you haven’t seen before. I commend Ernie for seeing the parallel in Chuck’s Mauser moment to that of Sarah’s but I vehemently disagree that Sarah overreacted in that his Mauser wasn’t “that bad.” I’ll explain more later. Overall, I tend to agree with Joe; Shaw was unhinged and Hannah served best to illustrate the Chuck that was and the Chuck that is becoming. More on this as well.

First, the stupid stick. If you’re unfamiliar, “stupid stick” is a phrase we use often here that basically explains the dumb thing people do to one another and the ways that they sometimes (okay often) hurt themselves and others. In Fake Name, the stupid stick belonged to Sarah. Caught between the lie, love and the job, she both pushed Chuck into being what she feared most and punished him for doing it. It’s certainly understandable, Sarah is coming off unanchored from Prague and the consequences of losing Chuck’s anchor. More importantly her job as his asset, now handler is to cultivate whatever despicable thing he has to do. When once there was a clear delineation between her job and Chuck, now there’s only the job, for both of them. Coming into the bar to essentially slap him upside the head with what he has to be (ruthless) was just that: her doing her job. The fact that doing her job means that she also screws herself over (emotionally) isn’t seen or felt in the moment but it’s inescapable. Now that she believes that this is what he wants (over her), Sarah essentially sacrifices her own wants for his. Chuck isn’t the only one Living a Lie, Sarah is too (kudos Joe!). For Sarah, the lies had to stop for her “real life” dream to come to fruition, the “real girl” to come out and be free. Unfortunately, Fake Name wasn’t that moment, because as she faced some harsh truths (that she pushed Chuck into becoming what she fears), she continued to lie to herself. Shaw isn’t any different from all the other men she knew, their relationship wouldn’t be any different from every shallow-spy-ish-can’t trust anyone-life she led. Sarah’s stupid stick moment here is that instead of fighting for the man she wanted, she did what she does often which is run.

Chuck’s soul is in a tenuous position in Fake Name. The spy-life seduces, we saw the allure in First Class, we saw the adrenaline from danger in Mask and we saw the despicable in Fake Name. In this I agree once again with Joe: the real low point of this episode wasn’t the name reveal, but Chuck’s actions. In a weird way, ending his relationship with Hannah was both something he had to do but yet the one thing that illustrated best what he is becoming, what he has become. Without Sarah’s name reveal, I don’t think Chuck wakes up to the harsh reality of this path of lies and deception. Without that lost moment (to him) and all its importance, I don’t think Chuck realizes what he has lost (in Sarah), what he has done to her (anchorless). And that is what that moment is, that is the only thing it is–it is not a betrayal, it is not a romantic moment, it’s an emotional nadir to jar Chuck from his reverie. The spy life seduced and Chuck could only have been saved by Sarah. Even without knowing it, Sarah saved Chuck. She did exactly what Chuck said she did later in Goodbye, she fought for him, she saved him. She may not have fought for what she wanted, or their love but unbeknownst to herself, she’s been fighting for him this whole time. She saved him. This is an important distinction because as we see in American Hero and later that Sarah could have only been saved by Chuck (and their love).

Now for the despicable moment, the breakup.

Chuck: I feel like I’m not me anymore.

That line, and that reveal is why I disagree with Ernie, Sarah wasn’t overreacting. She had it right–she was the only one that had it right. Well, Ellie. But Ellie only knows Chuck’s heart, not his mind, not his entire being, only Sarah knows that. Sarah may not have been witness to Chuck’s actions towards Hannah at the end, but it is unimportant because she knows enough. Mauser just confirmed her fears, it didn’t create them. It is not a coincidence that Chuck walked alone at the end, it was symbolism. Chuck was exactly what Hannah said he was, despicable, “the best I’ve ever seen.” But unlike Joe, I don’t think Hannah awakened Chuck to the wrongs he’s done/doing, it was Sarah. She saved him. Now it’s up to Chuck to save her. Stay tuned.

~Faith

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About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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40 Responses to Chuck Versus The Fake Name (3.08)

  1. joe says:

    Um… for an episode that was received so poorly, we sure seem to like it a lot! 😉

    Faith, I already told Ernie that I thought his analysis was excellent (and that was just in the rough draft!). But this one…

    Without that lost moment (to him) and all its importance, I don’t think Chuck realizes what he has lost (in Sarah), what he has done to her (anchorless).

    …is brilliant. Thinking of what we’ve seen and catching the lost moments – that’s an approach I hadn’t even thought of.

    And you got it right. It was Sarah’s fake name that turned Chuck around even more than Hannah’s slap. See? The fans knew instinctively that her name was something important.

    • authorguy says:

      Don’t worry, Joe, I still hate it.Mainly because it could have been a great episode, not only because of all the points made above, but from my own experience trying to write my AU version of the story. Most of the plot works, just not with those characters in the roles they had. The dentist torture scene was unnecessarily grotesque, Sarah was weak and insipid, while Chuck as Gruber was painful to watch. Only casting the hotel room scene as a last desperate attempt by Sarah to reconnect to her spy life can I make any sense of it at all. And then Gruber comes in, and both her spy life and her Chuck life fail her.

  2. Bill says:

    Sorry if I came in too hot. Feel free to delete my comment if you feel it was immoderate.

    • joe says:

      Actually, Bill, it wasn’t too “hot.” But it was a good, terse, re-statement of the complaints this episode has generated over the years. Here, in this thread, we’d like to have a discussion about how the episode fits and adds to the canon. Dave is going to put up an alternate-viewpoint post later this week where the viewpoint you detailed is going to feel right at home!

      • Bill says:

        Thanks, Joe. I suspect you’re right that my view of this episode will be at home in Dave’s upcoming thread.

  3. Joel says:

    I don’t like the way the characters behave in this episode, but I can still enjoy it on some level because it has some good comic moments.

    “My dessert is contained within your dessert” is quite possibly the worst flirting I’ve ever seen on screen.

    • Joel says:

      And good Chuck/Casey moments to.

    • joe says:

      Mrs. Joe says that I’m a terrible flirt, and that I should really learn how to do it better. But you’re right, Joel. Even my flirting is better than that! 😉

  4. Abed says:

    Chuck Versus the Fake Name leaked over from The Darkest Timeline. I’m surprised Sarah and Chuck weren’t wearing goatees.

    • joe says:

      Abed, to this I say (and I’m trying to be verbose here) huh? I don’t understand. Could you expand a bit?

      I must say, I have no idea what “The Darkest Timeline” is (could it be a fan-fic?). And goatees? Oh wait. That’s a Star Trek AU reference. Right? 😉

  5. Abed says:

    Uh, sorry, I thought the Chuck/Community crossover fandom was a bit larger. The Darkest Timeline is a Season 3 conceit on Community where the worst things happen to all the characters. And Abed, the pop-culture-addled character, decides that all the characters should adopt goatees in The Darkest Timeline, a clear shoutout to the Spock thing on Star Trek:TOS. The new showrunners of Community revived The Darkest Timeline for the Season 4 finale last Thursday. And it just struck me that maybe all of Season 3 of Chuck was actually taking place in The Darkest Timeline.

    And, by the way, if you HAVEN’T seen the episode (Remedial Chaos Theory) that introduced The Darkest Timeline (and the Spock-like Goatees), I highly recommend it. For laugh out loud craziness and TV tropes lampooned, it’s at least as much fun as Chuck versus the Ring.

    • joe says:

      Ah, thanks, Abed. I know some of the readers here (and even some of the principals) enjoy Community, but I’ll confess to being ignorant.

      That Spock goatee is all over the place. Just yesterday I saw a re-run of TBBT, the episode where the boys return from 3 months at the North Pole sporting full beards. Except for Sheldon, of course. He’s got Spock’s goatee down pat. It’s officially an icon.

  6. resaw says:

    Way back when, when I first re-watched season 3, I decided I didn’t need to watch the “trapezoid” episodes. Of course, eventually I realized that I had to re-watch the whole thing, and have done so multiple times since. I think I get Marc’s criticisms, and I suppose that means I’m not much of a writer, but I am sticking with the opinion that this is an important episode, perhaps not pivotal in itself, but part of a series of episodes that portrays crucial events in the development of Chuck and Sarah.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ernie, Joe and Faith, for your comments. Once again, Chuck seems to be so much more than “mere” entertainment, and the thoughtfulness of the discussions here suggest that the people involved are more than just fanboys and fangirls.

    Re Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory”: I watched it but failed to get your reference, Abed. An excellent episode!

  7. Vladimir says:

    Notorious canon error introduced here. Paulie Walnuts instantly recognizes Casey as Alex Coburn, an acquaintance from the military. But in a few weeks, Kathleen–his former fiancee–looks him right in the eye and is oblivious.

    Because the intersection with Paulie necessarily preceded the “death” of Coburn, and that “death” coincided with the end of contact between Casey and Kathleen, it is logically impossible to posit ‘post-Kathleen but pre-Paulie plastic surgery’ or some other saving convolution. The show just screwed up.

    • joe says:

      Hum…. It seems obvious when you say it, Vlad, but I know I missed that one. I won’t let it mess with my head, though. I’ll just chalk it up to Paulie having a good eye for faces and Kathleen being more like – well, me. 😉

      • anthropocene says:

        But Paulie was not informed of Coburn’s “death” whereas Kathleen was, no? Paulie would not have had any reason to doubt that he was looking at Coburn, whereas Kathleen would have.

      • Kathlen was also stunned or something, as well.

      • joe says:

        And actually, Matty/Pauli was probably thinking of the best snipers he ever knew too. Maybe it’s not tremendously far fetched.

    • Joel says:

      Kathleen was just recovering from unconsciousness, so her memory would be a little shaky. She does recognize him later in Wedding Planner.

  8. fsl says:

    Something just struck me. I was always of the opinion that Hannah was just Lou 2.0. But I now realise Chuck did not fully learn his lesson last time. Casey bailed him out with Lou. This time, Chuck has to dump the girl himself. And Hannah’s words were probably hitting him for the first time. It’s not about dating a civilian. It’s about not dating another woman unless you’re really over with Sarah. For that, he really wasn’t a nice guy. I think, for the first time, he learned about that part of his personality.

    • joe says:

      That’s not bad, fsl. If Chuck is going to grow up, that’s got to be one of the most drastic changes he’ll have to make. I know that when he re-intersected at the end of The Ring, I got the impression that he was looking to Sarah and Casey to tell him what to do next. It was like they were his mommy and daddy. “Guys? I know Kung-fu.” was pure befuddlement.

      Being worthy of someone is much harder than that, especially, I imagine, if that someone is Sarah. This is about the right time to face that.

      By the way. It looks like little Ricky Castle has had his own moment of maturation in tonight’s episode. After last week’s (enjoyable) little romp that he and Beckett had with the RC toys, I thought growing up was never going to happen.

  9. Hannah was never Lou 2.0. Chuck was an entirely different person in S3 than in S1, and the ‘lessons’ he had to learn were entirely different. Hannah was a test of Chuck’s determination to stick with his choice, Lou was simply an opportunity. Chuck had no choices in S1.

  10. aerox says:

    Speaking of couples gone wrong, Castle and Beckett’s relationship took a freakin’ nosedive. I think they have Chuck and Sarah beat by a mile.

    • joe says:

      Well, Casket sure is all over the map this season. I saw Molly Quinn tweeting that the cast doesn’t know yet what Beckett is going to do, either with the job or with Rick. My guess is that they’ll return to the status-quo for most of next season before really taking it to the next level, but that really is just a guess.

    • Arya's Prayers says:

      I had the same thought. SPOILER WARNING for Castle season finale (I’ll try to be vague and end up being transparent)

      I told someone that the one thing they absolutely could NOT do was what they did.

      From Beckett’s POV she would always wonder if it was for the right reasons or a desperate ploy to keep her in NY. From Castle’s POV wouldn’t you want to know her answer about the job independent of his question?

      I had said that – even if he had been planning it for weeks/months – after the last few episodes he HAD to wait for her answer on the job offer before pulling the trigger. So after I convinced myself of what they just had to avoid, what ends up happening on the show?…

      Given the corner they had written themselves into, it would have been so much better if she left and he had held off and she (and/or we) had found out what he was thinking of doing all along if she hadn’t decided to bail. We may still partially get that.

      We thought Chuck and Sarah were crap communicators but compared to Castle and Beckett they’re freakin rock stars. No matter what Beckett decides now, someone is going to end up resenting someone. The most probable outcome I see is the Castle version of Pink Slip complete with regrets, a time jump and expository flashbacks. I’d be shocked if it picked back up exactly where we left off.

      So this Chuck re-watch is timely – I think Castle season 6 is going to look and feel a lot like Chuck season 3 for a good chunk of the season.

      • joe says:

        I love the analysis, Arya! And you’re right. Rick & Kate really are worse than Chuck & Sarah at communicating.

        But I’m going to disagree. As I see it, you’re worried that, no matter what, both Rick and Kate will feel like the other forced their decision, so there’s going to be residual resentment for both no matter what Kate decides.

        But I’m not sure about that. Worst case, non-tv continuation is that Rick follows her to DC, continues to write successfully and they live happily ever after in Georgetown, where Rick makes new, powerful acquaintances with DC’s hoi-polloi and Kate has a successful career saving the world. No resentments.

        The non-real world, but very much TV solution, is that Kate realizes it’s not the job (neither homicide, nor saving the world) that she must have, but the partnership. Doesn’t matter what problem she’s solving, she must 1) have a mystery to solve and 2) be capable of solving it only with Rick’s help. No resentment, and it takes one episode to convince her.

        That’s why I think their next season is going to look a lot like the last. It’ll be back to the status-quo this time with Rick stalling a bit on the wedding date.

        And *that* will be the source of their next bit of romantic tension, not the job.

        That’s my prediction!

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        I hope you’re right, joe.

        They’ll have to stay in NY (or at least end up back in NY) because the rest of the cast will presumably be coming back!

        But it’s a simple matter of weight ratios (or something like that):

        She says Yes/Yes – both in DC, happily ever after, best of both worlds but won’t happen because it fundamentally changes the show, there’s also a ‘secret agent’ element to the job itself and Castle is a prominent ‘celebrity’ of sorts so that would be problematic, I half expected a condition of accepting the job to be she couldn’t have a high-profile ‘Page Six’ relationship, can’t see how they would pull this off…

        She says No/No – follows Phish around for a couple of years – this is the only one that really, really can’t happen…

        She says No/Yes – no to the job, yes to Castle, could work if she was GOING to turn the job down for him anyway and I think that’s in line with your scenario, but every indication was that was not the case, so if she flip-flops based on his proposal she will wonder whether he was asking for the right reasons (they even played the proposal as a desperate, hopeless thing) especially if he shows any hesitation, if there’s any continuity to what they’re doing with her character this season I think Castle trying to ‘force her hand’ could even backfire leading to…

        She says Yes/No – thinks he’s only asking because she’s planning on leaving and that’s not good enough, or worse she was going to stay but it ticks her off (doubtful)

        Now I agree with you that within an episode or two they’ll be back to status quo work-wise (or something like it) somehow. But it’s what happens between A and B…

        She’s back to NYPD? Seems unlikely if she leaves. If she never leaves, then never mind.

        Based out of NY in her new role? Castle still works with the 12th because THEY need him. But that would be much harder to write with overlapping jurisdictions and such.

        And it could be the way you describe it. But is there an aborted move to DC? Does she spend any time in that role? Do they continue to date or take a ‘break’? If she says ‘No’ to Castle in anything other than the gentlest way possible I don’t see him ever asking again given the issues they touched on this season (I also thought Martha and Jim’s advice to their respective children was both off base – moreso Martha’s – it’s like she doesn’t even know him – wants him to avoid his own issues for his ‘own good’ – Jim told it like it was but wasn’t particularly helpful). Is Bracken involved at all? (Either has some influence/control over her or she has a shot to finally get him from this role – that’s another card I thought they would play.)

        But I think it’s more likely she turns him down (gently – as if that helps), goes to DC, is traveling all the time, maybe they’re trying to ‘date’ – maybe not, is miserable, comes back and somehow Castle gets back on the team – was maybe there all along without her – but now there’s a ‘thing’ between them. Maybe Castle/Beckett and Espo/Ryan switch teams for a while. I see this being a ‘three/six months later’ kind of thing – they’ve done it twice before. And it feels like ‘Pink Slip’. The best thing working against that scenario is that its too predictable.

        But TV writers seem to love that kind of ‘tension’ even though fans hate it (or sometimes love to hate it). I just don’t see how they unwind what they established in Beckett’s character over the past three or four episodes. They’re writing her from a very selfish place – and there’s nothing wrong with that but it would influence her decisions.

        I hope I’m wrong and you’re right but if you are they’ve still got some ‘splaining to do!

        If you are right I think it would be Kate stalling on the wedding now that Rick is supposedly all in – even if he’s secretly freaking out he’ll keep it to himself so he doesn’t spook her/make her think he wasn’t ready when he asked. 🙂

  11. Ernie Davis says:

    It has taken me a while to get around to this. And I needed a re-watch. I violated one of my cardinal rules for (hopefully) objective viewing of an episode. Accept their premise, Chuck is changing and it’s freaking Sarah out, and then I forgot that you sometimes need to remember to look at events through a character’s eyes rather than your own.

    Chuck and Sarah had their Mauser moment. We’ve gone from refusing to flash in Three Words because he didn’t want to hurt Sarah to kicking her across the room to preserve his cover, and Sarah does react to that. Incidentally, that is the last flash we see till the end of Beard.

    Sarah didn’t want to be Sarah Walker anymore, she wanted to be Sam, but if you watch her closely in the next few episodes, she’s a very season 1-ish Sarah (when she wasn’t having lapses). She is encouraging, supportive, but totally professional with Chuck. Just ignore Shaw and watch Sarah in Tic Tac and Beard. All spy.

    Shaw is a d-bag and insanely jealous of Sarah’s feelings for Chuck. He takes every opportunity to highlight their status in front of Chuck, whereas Sarah is embarrassed by his obviousness. Even as she relies on it.

    • Faith says:

      Exactly. *Sarah* got hurt. In ways she has never let herself be hurt since leaving behind *Sam* and her father’s daughter, she got hurt bad. In some ways she has begun to see that she’s lost her way somewhere in there. It’s an extension of the anchor-less feeling–she doesn’t know what she wants, she doesn’t know who she is anymore. What she does know is that this is what Chuck wants (believes anyway) and is responsible for it. She’s got anger in there and the stupid stick comes into play. Her earnestness in Beard, “you can always talk to us” (she meant her) was so heartbreaking. And yet so *Sarah* Ball is on Chuck’s court now. It’s up to him to save her from herself…and well, Shaw. Make her believe that she wants to be Sarah again. That Sarah can be safe, that she can be all the extensions of herself that she needs to be/is best at much in the way she has fostered within Chuck/believed in all that he can be. Not a nerd, not a loser, not ‘just’ a hero but all of it. Love every single one. Trust every single one. It helped to have a tank 😉 Free.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Exactly, the “talk to us” is a perfect example that she’s abandoned the empathy and emotional intuition she developed through Chuck. Compare how Sarah reacts to Chuck’s questions about Cole in Lethal Weapon to how she offers to help Chuck work things out with a talk to “us”. She may have been sincere, but I doubt she was going to be ready for a real talk about what wasn’t working with Chuck and “us”was the perfect way to prevent that talk a part of her wanted to offer and another part was terrified about.

      Sarah wants to be safe. Shaw is safe. Chuck isn’t anymore. Once she learns that keeping Chuck at arms length still doesn’t make her safe, but letting him in does, things get a lot better.

      • Faith says:

        Definitely! And that’s partly why I loved American Hero. It reinforced that she wasn’t wrong, that she can be safe with him.

        I also think she couldn’t help herself be there for him in the “talk” comment. But you’re right too, the “us” is the extent of her gun-shy-ness and desire to disconnect. To be safe.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’ll just say I am definitely seeing things different from previous re-watches, and I see a lot more merit in their decisions. Still problematic at points, but a lot easier to watch.

        Acid test will be American Hero. Hated it first time around. (come on, if we agree on everything the universe may just implode.)

      • Arya's Prayers says:

        Ernie/Faith – Do you two think the prevailing motivation for Sarah deciding to get involved with Shaw is being hurt by Chuck? Certainly, no one in the world can hurt her like Chuck can because she’s still in love with him. He did in Pink Slip and again with Hannah maybe even by ‘trying to push her toward Shaw’ but what is Sarah trying to accomplish?

        Real human relationship – with someone still obsessed over his wife’s killer? Or do you see Shaw as more human and capable if providing that need?

        Or is she just hiding from Chuck?

      • Faith says:

        Short answer: yes.

        Long answer: I’m of mind that Sarah would have started a relationship with Elmo had he been around during her lowest point. It’s not so much that she was needy, it’s that she was needy and needed escape at the same time. Abandoned by Chuck, like a kite without strings, she reverted to status quo or in her case pre-Chuck persona but in some ways worse. She’s lost some of the things she’s learned by being in love with Chuck and instead is left with doubts. Does she want to be Sam or Sarah? Sarah can get hurt–shock–she can have her heart broken. When Langston Graham gave her the spy life he armed her metaphorically. She wasn’t that girl scrambling for money buried under dirt and fatherless anymore. She was Sarah Walker, capable spy. Power to be what she wanted to be, to no longer be that vulnerable little girl whose life is subject to the whims of her father. Well essentially *Sarah* just found herself under Chuck’s whims and it hurts. She’s acting accordingly. Almost defensively.

        Do I think Shaw had redeeming enough qualities to appeal to her? Probably. In general I don’t consider that relationship all that meaningful. Sarah did what she does without Chuck–foster superficial relationships with Bryce, with Cole. One where she’s in control and is far removed from the possibility of being hurt. “It’s complicated.” She even says as much to Chuck in American Hero, “it’s not like with you…”I think Shaw (provided he’s taken his sane pills) would probably say the same. No one could have made him forget his wife, or the emotions he felt with her. Their relationship is superficial at best. Served both their ends in their own way.

      • JoeBuckley says:

        Arya, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a stab at that question – you posed it in the last “alternate” thread too, I see. And that’s good. It’s a question that speaks to a lot of the issues in both sides of this conundrum.

        There you said that you were looking for a “Chuck-related” reason for her actions re: Shaw. I’m not sure that’s where the reason lies. I start to think that “everyone’s” biggest complaint about S3 is right – Sarah is a zombie, not the decisive, indeed, powerful agent of her own destiny she was during S1 and S2. If it’s true (and intentional on the part of TPTB) then it’s because Sarah simply isn’t doing what she wants to do. She’s doing what she feels she must do – I’ve been saying, what she aught for a couple of weeks now, because in her mind it’s the best thing for Chuck, the best thing for her and the best thing for everybody.

        In other words, her rational isn’t about Chuck, or about her and Chuck, but about doing what she thinks she aught to do no matter how it feels. Sarah’s been told that she and Shaw make a perfect couple, because that’s exactly what they look like (and I’m guessing that “look” is precisely what Routh was hired for the part, btw). Chuck is obviously (obviously to Sarah) moving on. So she’s going to play the part everyone’s assigned her – she’s going to be “the hot girl-friend to the hero-type dude.” Sarah’s a zombie or on auto-pilot and falling into that roll is the easy thing to do.

        When you get down to it, my sole justification is that Sarah looks particularly dead when she’s interacting with Shaw. There’s no joy there. But it’s completely different when she’s with Chuck.

        That’s why I still resist the notion that she and Shaw got all that intimate. Certainly, I don’t think they have yet in the story. I mean, she blanches and asks Shaw to put on some clothes when he appears in a towel from the shower. I know that’s in contradiction to what we’re supposed to intimate much later on, but even then, that intimation is planted to work on assumptions we build later, not on the facts we have now.

        But hey, I’m naive that way. 😉

      • That scene in Living Dead was probably meant for laughs and cringes and created at a dead run, with not much of an eye toward continuity or even good sense. There’s no reason for a perpetually mourning husband to have a penthouse or a Kama Sutra. I never got a vibe that they’d ever been in bed together and so that is not my view of their relationship, just as I never got a vibe that Shaw was originally from the same background as Chuck, which I’m told was part of his backstory. But they never showed that.

      • JoeBuckley says:

        Faith, you are on a hot streak. I think you said what I wanted to say, only better, and then you figured out Shaw on top of that.

        I bow to your expertise! 😉

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I don’t think you can pin one single motivation on Sarah given her mindset. She’s lost Bryce, had her heart broken, faced seeing Chuck do things she never thought he would and is slowly coming to the realization that Chuck is transforming himself because of her, al the while re-living her own entry into the spy world. Shaw represents something familiar and safe, something she can use to give her a role to play as well as keep Chuck at arms length, to keep her from letting her guard down again, thought she does let it down momentarily to Shaw.

        As for Shaw I’m starting to think that he sees Sarah as a proxy for his dead wife. Someone who understands what it is like to love a spy, and in some twisted way sees saving Sarah or defending her, or connecting with her a twisted way to save the wife he failed to protect.

  12. Ernie Davis says:

    The other thing that occurred to me was that Sarah understands Chuck wanting to be a spy about this time. She was once lost and becoming a spy gave her purpose and direction in her life. It eventually lead to her burning her last bridge with the real world, her mother, to save an innocent, but that lead to Chuck and her road to redemption.

    At this point I think she starts to make her peace with the fact that Chuck, like her, needs to find a way forward. Her fear of what it may lead to is battling wanting Chuck to find himself and be happy in a way she never managed.

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