Well if Role Models last week was completely average, Tooth is a different thing altogether. I think this episode represents the extremes of Season Three all by itself. There are some beautiful perfect moments, and some pretty ugly ones I don’t care for at all. Now I do think the good outweighs the bad here. Really there’s some terrific stuff in this episode that makes it quite easy to enjoy the re-watch. And with this episode we really start the run up to a very exciting season ending arc.
After the jump, we’ll look at episode 3.16.
I have to start by saying I think this episode has held up extremely well. It really manages to be entertaining from beginning to end. The highlight here is clearly Sarah’s story, and how she finally comes to tell Chuck what he needs to hear. Her growth into being more emotionally open is now fully underway. She will prove to be remarkably patient with, and tolerant of Chuck’s foibles. Good thing too. Because Chuck is returning to his lying dirtbag ways that we saw much of earlier in the season. I wanted to cut Chuck some slack this time. Especially in the end when Sarah has her big moment; so Chuck decides to enjoy the moment with her, right? Well, he’s already fudged on his health issues earlier in the episode. And he flat out lies in the end. Chuck has become entirely too comfortable with lying to those he claims to care about. Its one thing if its work/mission related. But of course this is no where close. Just the opposite. Rather than clue in his partner and significant other, he lies. I would have completely understood had he said “The doctor cleared me for duty, and we’ll have some other things to talk about later…” That would be a decent thing to do and say. But no, he says he’s fine. That’s a lie and I’m not fine with it. And then he lies about his nightmare too…
It is however, just one little thing. And I don’t mean to let it ruin the episode for me. There was so much that was done well here. Chuck’s dreams are both interesting and very amusing (Sarah looking for Zamibian food, too funny). Chuck and “Cobra’s” mission is amusing too. I have occasionally complained about too much Morgan time on the show, and honestly, if I were writing, this mission never would have happened. But it sure was fun to watch. I really can’t complain. And Cobra is so funny, especially getting tranqued. I love Sarah’s determination to believe in Chuck, especially after the funny scene where she gets the tooth. The lab work scene is beautiful and heartbreaking, and so well played. Which of course leads to the scene at Doctor Dreyfus’ house which is really awesome to see. That scene alone almost makes the whole episode a winner. Continuing on to the hospital scene; “spies attack!” and Sarah’s real rescue. Very strong episode.
The return of Anna Wu was great fun too. “I always knew when Anna left to break Morgan’s heart she’d come back to break mine too”. Oh my. Anna was always written funnier than Alex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for Morgan, he got the better girl. But Anna was so much more fun to watch. Bonus points for Morgan telling her to shove off. And he hadn’t even met Alex yet.
Even though I find the lying to Ellie a bit tiresome at this point in the show, I do like the way her story will play out. And I like how keeping her in the dark is now the source of major trouble. Of course that makes next season’s lies even stupider. But Ellie’s introduction to the spy world is wonderfully conceived.
Tooth is an episode of extremes. Those extremes; from lying Chuck, to Sarah’s breakthrough moment, sort of symbolize the entire season for me. But the balance here leans far to the good. I wish they’d done a better job of achieving this balance all season long; with the bad not dragged out for so long. Perhaps if Chuck’s struggles with the spy world, his health, and knowing when to tell the truth and when to lie; had been balanced from the start with a growing, healthy primary relationship the whole arc would have worked far better for me. But for now, at least this back arc is getting it all right.
You hit it exactly right, Dave. The good stuff in Chuck vs. The Tooth – Anna Wu, Morgan, Merlin! – is top notch. But Chuck’s inability to bring Sarah into his complete confidence and (something you didn’t bring up) Sarah’s reluctance to finally say “I love you” are more than disconcerting. Those last things have a weird effect on me; they make me uncomfortable and always make me raise an eyebrow in a very Spock-like fashion. They are disconcerting, almost disappointing at this point and, I admit it, painful. But I can’t exactly say I see them as negatives.
Those dream sequences are indeed awesome. I don’t know why, but dreams are hard to portray. The combination of reality and unreality may be different for everyone, so that makes it hard to capture on TV. But in Tooth there’s a mix and a tempo, not to mention a combination of chaos and order, that are as close to my experience as I’ve ever seen. I mean, Beckman clanging cymbals? Perfect! I know I dream of that often. Don’t you? [Paging Ernie Davis!]
The fan’s nightmare is Shaw. You didn’t like Shaw? Great! He is a nightmare. Ominous and foreboding, (understatement of the year!) his re-introduction makes that explicit. But if that’s not a big enough nightmare for you…
Morgan’s nightmare is back too. Anna Wu returns, but wow, is she changed. Emmett’s characterization (slightly slutty with too much makeup, heels that were too high and skirts that were way too short) is meaningless now. She’s transformed into a glamorous figure. It’s not out of character either – this is where Anna was headed in Best Friends while Benji Hughes played. It’s her theme.
Anna thinks she’s moved on, changed for the better and taking a few steps forward. The worry now, though, the one we share with a certain bearded troll, is that Anna is now very much out of Morgan’s league. That’s Morgan’s reality. He is the bearded troll, after all and that’s all he’s experienced.
Chuck’s real worry isn’t that Shaw is still alive. He knows in his bones the Intersect is telling him something that’s more metaphorical than literal. Better, he knows that even if Shaw appears at his door this very evening bearing Zamibian carry-out, he’s capable of shooting his former boss again. That’s the past; it’s dead and gone. Chuck is much more concerned with his present, the amazing blonde spy upon who’s lap he can rest his head, the one for whom he struggles to be worthy. Anna has found the courage to move past The Buy More. But after all this time, is Chuck still so insecure?
The episode makes us wonder if Chuck still isn’t who he (and we and Sarah) want him to be. Maybe he is. But that doesn’t mean the nagging fears and all his insecurities just go away, you know. They nag that, after three years, everything could disappear again or be undone; he may make a mistake or Sarah may change her mind. When Sarah balks at the words “I love you” it pricks exactly at Chuck’s biggest insecurities and his worries don’t go away when Chuck wakes up, like Shaw does. His nightmare, the one he keeps tamping down deep into his subconscious, is that life with Sarah is just a fantasy.
The biggest nightmare of all, of course, isn’t the one Chuck’s having or the one Morgan’s having, but it’s Sarah’s. She knows he’s having “bad dreams” and that he’s holding something back; the only reason for Chuck withholding is the fear it’s more serious than it seems, and when Chuck starts acting irrational, it’s proof. IN fact, Chuck may be literally losing his mind (and note that we’re a long way from Season 5). It’s her first indication that the Intersect can have a powerful negative effect on a person’s brain.
Or, it would if Chuck wasn’t such a good liar now. Of course, she’s right to worry. We shouldn’t forget that Sarah’s fears are so large that she’ll grab onto any ray of hope she can find.
Ah, it’s a classic Chuck adventure, with the president Kuti of Zamibia (played by Welcome Back Carter‘s own Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs III – What? You don’t remember Freddy “Boom-Boom” Washington???) endangered by his own Dr. Kowambe (Allan Lewis), a ring agent. Only Chuck knows the truth but because of his dreams. No one could believe him.
That’s not exactly true, is it? Morgan believes him. Sarah? That’s harder to say.
Sarah really goes the extra mile to trust Chuck in Tooth. But every time she goes out on a limb for him, something shows her she’s wrong to do that. At first, it’s Chuck not telling her he’s gone a little rogue to protect Kuti. No matter, she’ll trust him. Then it’s Chuck hitting a Zamibian VIP and creating an international incident. That’s okay; Chuck has done ridiculous things before and he’s always been proven to be right. Then there’s the little lie about his first visit to the CIA shrink, Dr. Dreyfus (the inestimable Christopher Lloyd).
Then Chuck insists that the tooth will set him free! Uh, sorry. – that the tooth contains the proof Dr. Kowambe is a ring agent. No such luck. The tooth is 100% tooth, and that’s devastating. If you were in Sarah’s shoes, what would you do?
It’s more than disconcerting. As much as they want to, as much as they believe they should and and much as they are trying to do the right thing, Chuck isn’t 100% trusting Sarah to stay, Sarah isn’t 100% believing in Chuck. Frankly, neither of them should. That would ridiculous, foolish and more fantastical than The Intersect itself – it’s the stuff of which bad dreams and bad marriages are made. The stasis can only be broken if one of them changes and makes a move in a different direction.
Chuck can’t do that. He’s looking, acting and labeled insane, then is locked in a CIA psychiatric facility. That leaves Sarah, the girl who was, as Bryce so elegantly put it, “never good at the talking about her emotions part.”
Yeah, what would you do? Sarah gives up. Isn’t that the least likely thing you could imagine? Sarah gives up. The woman who knocks on Dr. Dreyfus’ door is defeated, without hope and desperate, something unimaginable just a few months earlier.
Sarah: [knocks] Good evening.
Dreyfus: Let me guess. You’re here because of Chuck.
Sarah: Doctor, I know that there has to be something more to his condition. He can’t just be deteriorating in this way.
Dreyfus: Why? Because you care about him?
Sarah: No. You don’t understand. He’s not like other people. He is… incredibly special.
Dreyfus: Ah. Especially to you, I gather.
Sarah: He needs to be okay. I – I need him to be okay.
I’d like to go to the hospital tonight and talk to him, try and figure this out and then help him somehow, you know? Please? I love him.
Mrs. Joe has a saying I’ve heard often. “Sometimes you just have to let go and let God.” Sarah’s reached the point where she has to let go of the control stick. She’s not in charge of this situation and she’s that desperate. The good news is that she has friends and so does Chuck.
Dreyfus: Ever tell him that?
Sarah: Please, doctor, I’m begging you.
Dreyfus: You’re not the only one.
Chuck’s friend inside the psychiatric facility is Merlin (Kevin West). He’s loyal, but not exactly helpful. That’s okay. Sarah and Casey are both and that makes all the difference. Chuck is only as insecure about Sarah as I am (amazing how Zac portrays that) and once she saves him, Chuck knows he’s been foolish that way.
Chuck: You came back for me.
Sarah: I’ll always come back for you.
Morgan’s overcome his inclinations in a different way. Maybe he was just lucky that Anna came waltzing into the Buy More just when he was so distracted by everything going on in this video-game of a world he entered into. And maybe it was lucky that the James Bond life just fit into his fantasy life in a way that made sense to him. In any event, Morgan’s grown up a bit. He doesn’t look on his Buy More past in quite the same way.
Anna: Morgan Guillermo Grimes! I refuse to be denied an audience with Buy More’s assistant manager. If you run off on me one more time, I swear, I’ll call corporate.
Morgan: I owe you an explanation. I’m so sorry. Last few days have been insane.
Anna: Morgan, I’ve been trying to get a second of your time to give you this – some stuff you left behind in Hawaii. Thought you may want it back.
Morgan: [sifts through the box full of games and toys] I’m okay without it.
Anna: Well, here’s something else you may have forgotten. [Anna plants a big wet one unexpectedly on him.] I gotta hand it to you, Morgan. You know how to play a girl.
Morgan: Well, you know, some men have it and… What are you talking about??? I don’t…
Anna: You know what they say about not knowing you want something until you can’t have it? It’s true. You’ve changed, Morgan. I want you back.
Morgan: Wow. Really? If it took me running from you to realize that I’m somebody you want, then I don’t think you’re the person I want. So, yeah, you’re right. I have changed. I’ll see you later.
It’ll be a long time before I stop missing the character and Julia Ling. If it’s any consolation, Anna, Jeff doesn’t mind leftovers.
There’s one more nightmare to resolve, though. It’s ours. You see, Chuck still has a problem; The Intersect still may be overpowering his brain. He’s not sure, Dreyfus is not sure and the whole situation may amount to nothing. Or it may kill him. It’s not like he didn’t try to tell Sarah the whole story.
Chuck: Hey, Sarah, hey. We need to talk.
Sarah: Sure, but…
Chuck: No, look, this is very important.
Sarah: I love you. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to say it, but I’ve never felt this way. Before you, the only future I could think about was my next mission. And now, all I can think about is a future with you. I love you, Chuck.
Chuck: I love you too. [they kiss]
Sarah: So, what did you wanna tell me? Is it about the doctor? What did he say?
Chuck: [hiding the truth] He said that… I’m fine. So… [they kiss again]
Sarah found a way to finally do the “talk about her feelings part” and Chuck knows exactly how much courage that took. He knows exactly what it means for her to say those three words. He still fears worrying her needlessly, though. The consensus is that Chuck’s being very much a coward here but I’m not quite so sure. What he doesn’t know is how much pain the news will cause her, and hurting Sarah is the last thing he wants to do. This is neither the time nor the place.
It’s hard to tell you this,
It’s hard to tell you this.
Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.
But when is there a better time or a better place? It’s a very hard thing to discern sometimes, with many ramifications; not cut-and-dried at all, if you’re honest. That’s pretty deep for a mere TV show.
In the course of this episode I found myself laughing (especially at Merlin) and cheering (especially at Morgan) and really, really happy that Sarah has finally told Chuck she loves him. All that, yes, and then I found myself wondering about the implications and ethics of what I had just seen. That’s why I chose the word “disconcerting” earlier. I always wind up wondering what I would do in that situation. (That’s what the J is for – Joe.) I know Chuck should have spoken up. Maybe it’s a moral failing of mine; I’m just not sure I could do any better.
And that’s not something negative. That’s amazing.