This may be the least consequential episode of the season; Role Models seems more about having fun with the new format than anything of actual importance. Not to say nothing happens, but this may be more about laughing, and being happy with our characters than anything else.
After the jump, we’ll see what’s so funny, and if there is any significance in this week’s episode.
I think of Role Models as a completely average episode. In a season of extremes, that may make it uniquely average (!). There are plenty of fun moments. I completely enjoy this episode every time I watch it. In fact, I feel obligated to use the common Chuck truism; an average episode of Chuck is still better than almost anything else on television.
There is just so much here to laugh at. the highlight moments for me being Morgan’s Hart to Hart dream sequence, The Turners outrageous distraction at Otto’s party (which later seems to have been at least partly on purpose), Chuck and Sarah’s encounter with the tiger, ambushing the Turners in their hotel room, the return of the tiger, and Morgan discovering his special strengths as the stupidest agent Casey has ever worked with. That’s actually quite a lot to laugh at. It also shows how important one particular furry guest star was to this particular episode. And I’m pretty sure running from said kitty is the only time we ever heard Sarah Walker scream, in a surprisingly girly sort of way. So Chuck’s not the only one who can do that.
A few thoughts about the various story elements. Sarah balking at moving in together seems sort of silly after trying to run away together the week before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an old fashioned sort of guy, I thought they should have really eloped while they were in Paris. But Sarah’s waffling now seemed like a pretty obvious sort of story contrivance. But it was played for fun from “are you going to ask me to move in again?” to guns in the apartment (did Chuck really think he could ask Sarah to move in and then say “no guns”?!). And the ending was one of those trademarked sweet Charah moments. Even though this particular issue seemed forced to me, I do appreciate that we will see pretty steady growth for Sarah, from here to the end of the series.
Forcing Chuck and Sarah to play observers to the Turners was sort of a weak plot device. Not a huge problem mind you; but it did seem beneath them, especially beneath Sarah. Very funny though how everyone kept up the “30 years ago” bit when they obviously meant 45…
It seemed to me Morgan was being tested more than trained. I guess that’s fine, testing can be used to establish a base-line before starting training. And there sure were some funny moments in Morgan’s “training”. Especially when Big Mike woke up.
The Ellie/Devon story-line felt like wasted screen time (except for “Doctor Super Amazing White Person”; that line was almost funny enough to carry the whole story). BUT, and this is very important to me, I really like where this is heading. I think Chuck’s lying to Ellie has been pointless for a long time, at least since Devon found out. And Chuck’s lying in general is getting really, really old for me. So I like how this will play out; Chuck will pay a price for lying to his sister when she falls for a simple deception that never would have worked if she’d been read in. I think this is a very skillful implementation of a B plot tying into the A plot; and it will pay off brilliantly in Living Dead and Subway.
So on balance, I think it is fair to call Role Models an average episode. But on a show like Chuck, average is a very good thing. Even if nothing “epic” or important happens, its nice to have a week to rest and enjoy the new normal.
Groping In The Dark
I remember coming out of Chuck vs. The Role Models thinking that I had seen an average episode too, Dave.
The only surprise seemed to be in how much I had anticipated correctly – the accomplished, suave Turners (Fred Willard and Swoosie Kurtz as Craig and Laura) tasked to show the newbies how to make it as a spy couple, the rough transition Chuck and Sarah would have to their new lives, the triumphant passing of the proverbial torch as the younger couple proved themselves. No surprises; standard TV fare punctuated by a jazzy theme that I was just old enough to appreciate.
Oh man, are the Turners sophisticated. Mel Torme was “Mr. Cool” back in their day, second only to the leader of the Rat Pack himself, Frank Sinatra, in what we now call street cred. His music set the tone, and it was precisely what I wanted to hear at that moment. I think I needed some “cool” after the tensions we all felt as S3 progressed.
Chuck was well on his way to being that kind of cool. Then the record playing in my mind screeched as Sarah said Why would we do that? to Chuck’s invitation. Sarah doesn’t want to move in? Ouch! Cool gone. I saw metaphorical elbows flying, if gently, as they argued over such things as the “30 foot rule” and who’s giving in to whom.
It was disconcerting. I really don’t like bickering, especially bickering involving my favorite TV couple. Whatever feelings I had going into this episode, they began to change into a gnawing fear that we were once again going to see Chuck and Sarah separated for a time, fighting over dumb domestic issues much like a hundred other sit-coms about domestic life that came before. Despite the nice Hart to Hart homage, I didn’t want this!
No, Chuck has always been at least a smidgen better than that. Sarah’s right to be cautious about moving in – that’s what normal couples do and despite Chuck’s fondest wishes, they are not a normal couple. At the same time, Chuck is right about not having a cache of weapons stored in the sofa. After all, what if Morgan found them?! (Heh. You must always consider the children first when firearms are nearby.)
The first time I saw the episode, I started to fear that we were going to see Chuck and Sarah squabbling, negotiating and compromising their new arrangements for the entire episode and beyond. I was relieved when, despite their differing opinions, they got through the first arguments as an intact couple. Then the second. In fact, when the Turners seemed to be dysfunctional (she a lush and he a philanderer), Chuck and Sarah took it as an opportunity to prove they are the stronger couple. They successfully completed the Turners’ mission in style, retrieving encryption-cracking software from a cat’s collar.
It’s significant that the “cat” is a female Bengal Tiger and the Turners are master double-crossers. Yeesch! Nothing is going to be easy here. Chuck and Sarah must prove themselves, not only as spies, but as a couple, to get past these obstacles. Of course, they do so. Chuck and Sarah resolved yet more differences and found compromise where compromise was difficult and I got happier, that first time. I finished Chuck vs. The Role Models glad that I had seen an episode that worked its way back to being fun and inoffensive, rather than one that left us on a precipice of worry. We had had enough of that this season. The lighthearted comedy of Morgan and Casey (best-buds in training) add to the good-times! feeling that made me say “Okay. This’ll do in a pinch.”
[Don’t leave us there, Buckley. Hit ’em with a zinger of a twist that’ll prove this is the best episode you’ve ever seen!]
No, I’m going to say something else instead. This time around, on re-watch, I actually got wistful at the end. Surprisingly, I was quiet and contemplative, almost – but not quite – crying with a subdued joy, feeling like I had just had a reconciliation with a loved one. How odd.
It’s not necessary to study the lyrics too much. It’s about the sound. Yes, it’s difficult for Chuck and Sarah as they start their new life together. Should we have expected anything less? Thinking personally, I’ve never had a perfectly painless life transition like moving in with somebody. Even without the tigers, spies named Otto and friends like Jeff and Lester, starting a life with Mrs. Joe came with it’s own adjustment period.
I’m sure those of you who are married went through something like that, learning to reconcile and accept, compromise without compromising your principles. And even those of you who are not married understand what I mean if you consider your first day of college, or high school – or the first day after school ended and real life began. And of course, there’s that first new job.
And my mind was on the ledge.
sayin’ “Who’s gonna help you now?”
Transitions are hard. Sans Soleil translates “without sun,” and that’s appropriate when we have to make our way in the dark, seemingly without much help. Everyone winds up groping around for a bit and that’s never comfortable. Yet, the gentle sounds from that song tell us that it’s going to be all right.
Without sun we pull what feeds us from the heat that’s in-between us
This time around, I realized I had been afraid that everything we saw and believed was a chimera and that the promises we thought we heard in The Honeymooners were feints – head fakes. I had been so conditioned to Chuck and Sarah being held apart by forces outside of their control and by their own mistakes I half expected them to be apart forever.
Or, at least I half-expected them to fall apart at the first signs of a problem. I was wrong. Sarah accepts Chuck’s invitation, taking the dive into new waters where before she had stuck in a toe. Still afraid, yes, but it really is all different now.
It’s all the opposite I think
The ladder runs side to side
Enough to make you want a drink
But there’s no place to hide
Chuck vs. The Role Models is not romp through Paris, a thrilling, romantic adventure, a comedic tour de force or a cliff hanger that leaves us wanting more – things that we had seen done so well in this show. This is about Sarah’s fears and Chuck’s insecurities about the changes and new beginnings in their lives. It is a surprisingly poignant slice of life that most of us understand, I think.
“Poignant?” After all the pain our favorite characters went through in S3 the fans were more than a little upset and angry. Chuck&Sarah (with no space between them) are fine, but there’s no getting around it. A wall of distrust had been raised between the fans and TPTB. We dreaded the idea that Chuck&Sarah might come apart again. At least, I did. They made it hard.
But yes, poignant. Chuck&Sarah are growing quickly and are stronger as a couple than I dared to believe at first. I like that. If the episode is average for this show (and I too think it is), then that’s only because Chuck is so effective at getting to me personally that every episode seems “above average”. It quietly and gently raises that particular bar.
Like I said, I did feel something odd this time around. It was something that left me a little drained, subdued and relieved, just like those early days when my wife and I were struggling, fighting and learning to accommodate and understand each other better. What happens, of course, isn’t that a couple becomes resigned to each other. Instead, they become resigned to the idea that life is going to be different.
It was hard, but we had survived as a couple and that was the most important thing. I saw in this episode the same kind of quiet reconciliation; It’s that little personal truth that makes this show great. But much to my surprise, this time the reconciliation was not just between Chuck&Sarah.
It was between my concept of their new life and the one being shown to me on the screen. And as hokey as it sounds, it was between me, the fans and TPTB. Like Chuck&Sarah, I had to recognize that things were going to be different. We would struggle and learn to accommodate and understand, and like the couple, we would be fine.