I think many viewers will find The Beard a better episode than the two we just saw before. And I mostly agree. But we’re still at an unpleasant period of the show and nothing really changes here to improve the misery arc, except for a countdown to the end. So even if this episode is a little more upbeat than what came before, there’s still plenty that drags it down too.
I think its easy to imagine some very entertaining alternatives to the canon story. So let’s see what we can come up with for a more entertaining version of Chuck vs The Beard.
I think my initial impression is pretty good this time, at least this episode is an improvement! There is some serious fun to be had with a Buy Moron revolution, another Jeffster performance and Morgan discovering Castle. That last part especially was fun for me. I loved how Morgan found out about Chuck’s little secret. And Chuck finally coming clean about everything that’s been kept secret for over two years was particularly well done. Even if the “bromance” angle of the show is way down the list of things I enjoy about Chuck, it was still good to see it healed after a rough couple weeks. What can I say, I like buddy stories. And it leads to Chuck’s revelation that in spite of all that’s happened, he still loves Sarah. Again.
Never mind he credited Ellie as insightful for discerning the same thing last week. Maybe he thought he was lying to Ellie? That’s hardly better. And if we go back a few weeks, he even told Sarah this back in Three Words. And his dad in Ring. So Chuck is a little slow. This is a big problem for me. The story telling feels just insultingly manipulative when we get the same revelation four times in the span of ten episodes. So I guess we are to believe Chuck finally, really means it; and might, eventually do something about it, now that Sarah is as far from him as she’s as ever been. And given that Chuck runs off in the end to play Duck Hunt with Morgan, it seems it isn’t quite his top priority yet. Yeah I’m being a little snarky.
But for me the most disappointing aspect of this episode is that Sarah is in full zombie mode. She does offer to talk to Chuck about what’s bothering him, with Shaw right there. She heads off on a wild goose chase adventure, and in the end offers only token resistance to Shaw’s attempts to kill Chuck. This is just heartbreaking. The Agent Walker who almost drew on Agent Longshore, and did draw on Colonel Casey (twice) when Chuck was threatened, can only plead helplessly for five more minutes now. To be fair, the five more minutes is all Chuck needs to save himself. But as gestures go it was pretty weak, and in the end she is still with Shaw (!?!). That may be even more insulting than the weak response itself, Sarah is still hanging out with her incompetent boss who almost just killed Chuck. This destroys every last bit of what was good about the episode for me. Write this down as another I don’t care to re-watch.
So what could have worked better? Again, I’m mostly fine with the “A” plot. If we go back to the idea of a season long secret relationship, we could still have Chuck at a crossroads as he tries to deal with the darker side of the spy life. Maybe even with Sarah by his side, its still dragged him down to the point he can’t flash. And maybe the chance to come clean with Morgan is exactly what he needs to get back on course. So I can easily imagine this episode working pretty much as we saw, even with the sort of “long fix” in place that we’ve discussed a few times.
The most urgent part of the “short fix” for this episode involves Zombie Sarah. The first thing being that she cannot helplessly plead with Shaw for Chuck’s life. Sarah Walker is a woman of action not words. In keeping with the more comic side of the show, I think she should have snatched the phone from Shaw’s hands and smashed it under her heel. All done with the sort of deadly glare Yvonne conveys so well. And after Shaw recovers from the shock and moves for a land line, she can deliver a knee (or boot) to the groin. I think a verbal warning might be appropriate at this point (definitely not sooner!) that he will not be killing a member of her team! Gee I’m feeling better already… Nice thing about this fix, it really works whether the long fix is in play or not. If we assume we are about where canon really is, this should absolutely, categorically be the end of Sham. This is a huge part of what is so wrong with Sarah in Season Three, that she is with a man who is so contemptible. There is nothing about his actions that feel reasonable, decent or acceptable. Not only will Sarah be with Shaw through almost three episodes yet, but his worst behavior is yet to come.
I don’t believe The Beard is quite one of the major crisis points that inspires so much of fan fiction. The fan community has never been as enthused with the bromance as the show runners were. I don’t mean that to be completely hostile, I actually enjoy Morgan as comic relief and I liked the way he was brought in on Chuck’s secret life. But this episode has inspired a couple of nice fan fiction moments; nice moments that really don’t involve Morgan…
So the first offering I have this week is the next installment from KateMcK’s “Chuck vs The Fight“. This episode gets a slightly longer treatment and will run for three chapters. It is funny how often we all resorted to the hyperbole that Sarah should have shot Shaw. I know I was kidding (er, I think I was kidding?) Kate will play with that exact idea. No doubt it is satisfying, and it plays out with quite a bit of drama. There’s some new information here about non-canon back-story for Chuck and Sarah that is particularly effective. I really enjoy the longer treatment Kate gives to The Beard. Good story.
Another story set at this time, that otherwise has very little to do with the episode itself, is “Chuck v Trust or Lack Thereof” by rokerroar. This is a fairly short multi-chapter story where Chuck figures out the real issue is that he doesn’t trust the government, Shaw or Sarah. Never fear, the story is all about setting things right. It definitely offers a more concrete solution to problems than canon ever did, with issues involving both the reliability of the Intersect and Charah getting plenty of attention.
That will do it this week. I think that makes this my shortest post yet in this series! As always, I look forward to comments and discussion!