I know for me, The Tic Tac was easily the best episode from this part of the show. In fact, I’d say apart from the Awesome Arc this is the best episode until Other Guy. In theory its a “Casey-centric” episode; but even more importantly, there’s no Shaw. So we get some of the team dynamic that many of us first loved about this show so much. We will see a lot of Chuck and Sarah working together, even having fun together for a while. And Casey in his usual “big brother” sort of role. Only a few lines that reference the greater context at this point in time really drag down the episode.
Not surprisingly for such a fun episode, there may be less here that we feel a pressing need to re-write, and fan fiction is pretty quiet about this one. After the jump, we’ll see what we can say about Chuck vs The Tic Tac.
As you all likely know, this was the only “misery arc” episode I showed when doing an S3 marathon with friends a couple weeks back. One friend mentioned, just from the three S3 episodes we’d seen at this point, that this season did have a much more down and depressing vibe to it than what they’d seen before. Now admittedly, that’s hardly a scientific finding, and they were likely looking for reasons why I was less enthused about this season. But I found it interesting what they’d picked up on, from watching the three episodes I actually liked best.
The Tic Tac does have a sort of melancholy feel to it. Largely because of the Chuck/Sarah interplay and how so much seems to be about what’s changed, and what’s been lost between them. Even when they’re having fun with Fitzroy or planning how to rescue Casey it seems clear something has been very wrong with this season. The team interactions can be such a source of fun and warmth. This is the show I want to see, the show I fought to save, and the show that’s been missing since the end of S2 (except for the Awesome Arc). The references to Sarah’s coming trip and possible relocation to Washington serve as a reminder that all is not well yet, while the rest of the episode is a good reminder that what’s great about Chuck isn’t gone, its just in hiding.
I think the real highlights here are Chuck and Sarah deciding to rescue Casey in the first place, in spite of what it might cost Chuck; their return visit to the holding facility and interactions with Fitzroy; and Sarah telling Chuck exactly what she’s most worried about. Add in some awesome action sequences (Sarah having Casey’s back, and Chuck protecting Kathleen) and this is classic Chuck. Oh and Casey has a daughter… Hmmm, will that ever come up again?
The other slightly troubling note to me is the Laudanol story. I’m not nuts about the idea suppressing emotion would also suppress morality?! Spock would not be pleased. I think perhaps what they were getting at was a sort of Intersect Zombie story. That is, Chuck suppressing his emotions would let him completely surrender to the Intersect. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really care for such stories. Although I do like the idea Sarah can still get through to him; but I would have liked it so much better she’d seen this as proof that they still need each other, instead of the “he’s changing” idea the writers were clearly leaning towards.
Moving on to what I would have liked to see different; I think this episode has only a little need of change for either a long or short fix. Obviously, I would prefer Sarah wasn’t even considering moving. But I could imagine this being an issue even if all is well between them as a couple. People struggle with job separations ever day. Even with Charah in a good place I could imagine there being a big issue here of if Chuck was going to be a solo operator once done with his training, or if they would find a way to keep the team intact. Young couples deal with similar issues all the time, I would have loved to see this as a first real test of their relationship; that is, how are they going to overcome the forces that are trying to separate them. Even better if we already know Shaw is trying to destroy the team. Perhaps a big outcome of this mission is gaining Beckman as an ally for keeping them all together because they obviously work best together.
Turning to fan fiction, this episode has seen little of the fix/alternate sort of treatment that other episodes have received. Being such a strong episode episode a midst so much tripe it doesn’t seem to serve as the inspiration for change that many others do. The Tic Tac has been referenced many times in longer AUs, especially Col. Keller and the idea of Casey being removed from service for treason. But the only episode specific treatment I’ve really seen comes once again from KateMcK; and uniquely, this episode gets two separate alternates. The first is known as “The Monday Version“. I believe the title is simply reference to Kate first publishing this story on something than her normal day to post. And it is mostly for laughs. We find Chuck still stoned on the Laudanol, and Sarah, slightly drunk, deciding to pay him a visit instead of running off to DC. This piece is all dialogue, and another example of how much help even a largely incoherent discussion might have been.
But the main event is in the following chapter. This is one of Kate’s signature fixes, with small changes along the way leading to a far more appealing conclusion. Once again the Laudanol plays a key role, but this time the lessons learned has more to do with what the Intersect is really capable of, and exactly how much Chuck needs his team. That means Sarah. Once again, Kate is fighting against a ton of baggage accumulated from canon. But at least this fix spares us the outrage of Final Exam coming next week. And this story is plenty appealing on its own merits.
This was another short(er) write up for this series. That’s one happy consequence of a better episode. But no doubt we’ll still find plenty to talk about. I look forward to everyone’s input as always.