Season Three Alternatives: 3.17 – S3/S4 Break

Time for another round of “what if” and “might have been”.  Even for a satisfying period of the show there’s a lot we can consider that could have been done differently.  As before, I don’t intend this to always be criticism of the show itself, sometimes its just about different ideas.

So after the jump, we’ll look again at alternative stories.

I’m sure you can all tell from my comments in the last few reviews what sort of things I’d like to have seen different in the show.  The couple of things that remain pretty big complaints for me are Chuck lying, both to Sarah and his Dad; and Chuck abandoning Sarah. even if only briefly, in Subway.  The lying just needed to end sooner.  Chuck looked like a fool for both sets of lies he was telling.  The only one I likely wouldn’t have changed would be with his sister.  I’m fine with the dual life set-up going back to the Pilot, and even if I think the lying was not needed for the last half season or so, I like the way it played out with Ellie.

If Chuck had come clean with Sarah at the end of Tooth, or maybe in Living Dead, it really wouldn’t have changed much.  There still could have been plenty of drama involving Chuck’s degrading health.  It would have cost us Sarah’s excellent reaction moment in Subway, but Chuck would have looked like less of an idiot for three episodes.  That’s a trade off I’m happy to make.  Not lying to Dad would have cost us one knife thrown at the face, but again, Chuck would have looked like less of an idiot…

I likely would have also tweaked Chuck running off with Dad. I’m thinking the best solution might have been to put Sarah’s face off with Shaw before Chuck ran off, so maybe then she’s already under arrest when Chuck runs off, and Chuck is clear with dad the whole point in running is to get Sarah out.  Another alternative (an alternate alternative!) is just to have Sarah run off with the Bartowski boys.  This would change very little of the episode flow, except that Sarah would be with Chuck when they’re arrested, instead of with Casey.

Obviously one other thing I would change is the interrogation scene from Living Dead just a little.  Maybe just inserting a line from Sarah to the effect of “Shaw sure was trying hard to get into my pants, but he never succeeded.”  You know, that might have even made much of the whole misery arc more re-watchable for me (but not Mask or Fake Name, those are beyond help!).  Throw in a line about the awesome ear rings she scammed from Shaw and I’d be pretty pleased!  (And she still can get rid of them when she sees Chuck’s reaction to them).

For those who were reading comments last week, we did have a nice discussion about our views of the show, and how they varied from the show runners’ that I think really sums up a lot of what matters to me in looking at these alternates.   I can broadly say that I like all the various elements that made Chuck such a unique and fun show.  (With a few well documented exceptions!)  But how we rank some of those elements in importance shapes our reactions to many things.  I am quite certain that Chris Fedak’s favorite parts of the show were Chuck, and Chuck’s Hero’s Journey.  Many fans who most liked that same exact element best were mostly or completely happy with the show as delivered.  But for so very many of us, Sarah and the romance were our favorite part of the show.  Again, I don’t mean to say Sarah and the romance did not matter to CF, but I don’t believe they were ever the most important issues to him.  So the major arcs, and Chris Fedak penned episodes in general, tend to have Sarah and the romance a little more in the background than many of us would prefer.  I don’t want to make too big a deal of this; CF did write or co-write some very good episodes for viewers like me; First Date, Other Guy and Seduction Impossible stand out.  But he’s also responsible for some major turkeys from my perspective; and even more to the point, several of his possible finales (I’m assuming as show runner he is primarily responsible for major story issues, even if he isn’t credited as episode writer) involve Sarah being absent or incapacitated at key moments (Ring, Other Guy, Ring II, Push Mix, Cliffhanger).  With Sarah and romance as my favorite parts of the show, I would have preferred Sarah playing a key role with Chuck, instead of being reduced to damsel in distress or bystander at those moments.  I get that those viewers who consider Chuck and his journey to be their favorite part of the show do not relate to this complaint.  But for so many of us, more Sarah is what we always wanted.  S4 and S5 are much better than than the first three seasons in this regard, but we still had Chuck doing all the heavy lifting himself.  Too bad.

So one of my alternate ideas doubtless relates to those above thoughts.  I had always imagined Ellie’s introduction to the spy world coming through Sarah instead of Chuck.  This just appeals to me on so many levels; I love how Ellie has mostly been a big supporter of Sarah’s, she seems to see her as shy, sweet and a bit aloof. And of course Ellie is frustrated since early S1 with “it’s complicated”.  So let Ellie see a “complication” first hand.  Maybe a family outing is interrupted by a threat to Chuck, and Sarah has no choice but to take decisive action in front of Ellie.  That could be soooo much fun.  It would both answer and bring up questions in abundance.  Several fan fiction writers have played around with this idea, especially those set early in the series, when Sarah was still protector to Chuck the civilian.  One particularly fun variation on this is by BillAtWork in “The Cost of Love, Remastered”.  For the record, (and Bill knows this….   or he does now!) the overall story isn’t really my kind of thing; but Chapter 7 has one of my favorite spy world reveals ever for Ellie.  Very fun stuff.  Another really outstanding variation on Sarah spilling the beans is by NinjaVanish in “Chuck and Sarah vs Themselves”.  In Chapter 30 Chuck and Sarah have to run to avoid her reassignment.  It falls to Sarah to break the news to Ellie, which is also Ellie’s introduction to the spy life.  Many other writers have explored similar themes, it is always a favorite thing of mine to see writers play around with.

Moving into the break between seasons, we all spent a lot of time kicking ideas around, as we always did!  One common issue was that almost no one wanted to see Chuck lying or keeping secrets from Sarah going into the new season.  This is an issue I’ve always felt very good about TPTB (I suspect CF deserves a lot of credit for this) responding to strong fan sentiment that we didn’t want to see Chuck the liar, or Chuck keeping secrets; because it sure looked like we might see more of it at the end of S3.  But it was dealt with quickly in S4, and mostly never came up again.

One fan fiction writer did a pretty awesome job of exploring the issues that were important to so many of us after Season Three.  That is aRegularJo, who wrote four connected one-shots between the seasons.  They really do a nice job of exploring the lying, secrets and trust issues while pondering what the new season, and new reality may look like.  In some ways, this sort of AU seems more like S5 than S4, so the writer was well ahead of their time.  The first story is “The Heart of the Matter“, followed by “Do the Right Thing“, “To Bear the Weight” and finally “Push into the Sky“.

Funny how when I started this post I wasn’t entirely sure if I had much worth saying.  Well some of you may still be wondering, but I managed to say plenty anyway.  Funny.

I always look forward to the discussions on these posts.  So I’m sure I’ll do another before long, but right now I’m not sure when.

~ Dave


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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40 Responses to Season Three Alternatives: 3.17 – S3/S4 Break

  1. atcDave says:

    And just a heads up. Marc (AKA AuthorGuy) is working on a complete re-edit of his Nine2Five series. This will be available as a PDF file from Marc in the near future. Watch this site for notification when it comes available.

  2. Justin says:

    RECAP OF AU 3×16: Chuck gets taken over by Evil Chuck during a post-traumatic nightmare he was having. Evil Chuck is an alternate personality produced by the Ring virus which has infected his Intersect. Sarah and Casey come across a potential lead in the copied Ring files the Turners have helped given them. Decker’s interrogation of the Turners gives him some information that he thinks could help track down Chuck, Sarah, and Casey.

    3×17: We learn in this episode that the Ring utilizes an advanced data network. It allows its operatives to exchange information with each other and with HQ. The CIA is aware of this network and has used its most skilled hackers to try to access it. But the network is heavily encrypted. The one who knows how to access it outside of the Ring is the one who created it. Codenamed Prometheus, the brilliant tech designer offers his services to the highest bidder in the black market. The CIA has had difficulty finding him since no one has ever managed to get eyes on Prometheus. Sarah and Casey found the CIA file containing what little information the agency has on Prometheus and some of his activities. They know of a way of finding Prometheus and using him to access the Ring network which will contain the information they need to clear their names. While Evil Chuck helps with the mission, he secretly reports what’s going on to his Ring masters. The Ring plans to launch a trap for Sarah and Casey when they have Prometheus in their clutches. They want Sarah and Casey for intelligence and want to use this opportunity to kill Prometheus, his knowledge of the Ring network representing a nagging loose end. Chuck turning himself and his Intersect in to the Ring under the influence of the virus would just be the cherry on top. Sarah fears there’s something wrong with Chuck. She feels there is falseness in the ways Chuck is acting. But she isn’t quite clear of the cause of it. Casey thinks Chuck may just be putting up a front to ease everyone’s concerns. Sarah sees how that is likely but feels there’s more to it than that. Trapped in his own mind, Chuck fights to regain control of his body. But he encounters obstacles set up by the insidious virus. They come in the form of Chuck’s most personal fears. One of them is the fear of how Ellie would react to his brother taking a life.

    Meanwhile, the Orion operative has gotten a beat on Chuck, Sarah, and Casey and informs Ellie of it. Ellie orders him to bring them in immediately. The Orion operative is unaware that he has a tag-along in Morgan. Tired of sitting on the sidelines for the past few episodes, Morgan follows the Orion operative without his knowledge. Once finding out Morgan is on his tail, the Orion operative tries to get rid of him. But when he realizes that is easier said than done, he is forced to indulge his presence. Decker predicted that Chuck, Sarah, and Casey would try to come after Prometheus and uses the file on him to guess what the trio may be going next. Decker uses this opportunity to spring a trap for them.

    Long story short: Decker and his men get the jump on Evil Chuck, Sarah, and Casey before they could move onto the next phase of their plan to track down Prometheus. Evil Chuck uses the skills and knowledge of the Intersect to fight back which leads to a firefight. Casey gets hit in the leg. Seeing him as a lost cause, Evil Chuck abandons Casey and takes Sarah with him as he escapes. One spy to give over to the Ring for intelligence is better than none. Sarah learns the truth of Evil Chuck but can’t do nothing about it with a gun to her head pointed by the alternate personality. The Orion operative and Morgan cross paths with Evil Chuck and Sarah. Evil Chuck threatens to kill Sarah if they get in his way. But Evil Chuck finds it increasingly difficult to keep holding his gun as Chuck overcome enough of his fears to regain some of the control he has lost. With Evil Chuck fighting to remain in control, the Orion operative uses the distraction to render him unconscious. The Orion operative brings Sarah, an unconscious Chuck, and Morgan back to the United States.

    When Chuck wakes up, he is back in Burbank with his sister, Devon, Morgan, Sarah, and his father who returns late in the episode. Chuck finds himself wearing what appears to be a watch but Stephen calls it the governor. Stephen invented it as a means of controlling whatever mind-altering negative effects the Intersect may produce. Stephen is wearing a governor as well. The governor is what keeping the influence of the Ring virus firmly at bay, allowing Chuck to fully back to himself. Chuck learns from Sarah about Casey being captured by Decker. Chuck wants to rescue his friend but Stephen has bigger news which is the other reason for his return. He reveals that he has been keeping personal tabs on the Ring Director. But he won’t get into how he managed to do it or for how long. All he’ll say is that the Ring Director has gotten frustrated with the lack of progress in bringing Chuck’s Intersect into the Ring’s fold and is going to be to take a more active role in ending this cat-and-mouse game. Things are going to be a lot more dangerous around here. Stephen also has another interesting bit of info. The Ring Director isn’t a he but a she. The episode ends with the Ring Director,a hardened middle-aged woman onboard a jet plane looking like she means business.

    atcDave, I’m still working on the last two episodes of AU Season 3. So you’ll have to wait for that.

    • atcDave says:

      I really like what you did there Justin. I mentioned before that mind control is not favorite story device if mine, but I really do like Chuck overcoming the alternate personality when Sarah is threatened. That’s how it ought to be!
      And I also like how you brought Orion into it. Very fun.

      I look forward to the next couple episodes.

      • Justin says:

        Glad you like this so far. And, just to tease you, there’s a reason why I made the Ring Director a woman.

  3. Justin says:

    3×18: At a CIA facility on US soil, Decker interrogates Casey for information on how to find Chuck and Sarah. When Casey proves to be very hard to crack befitting his reputation, Decker brings in Casey’s daughter Alex in an effort to change his mind. Casey feels the overwhelming need to kill Decker with his bare hands. Decker gives father and daughter time alone to be reacquainted. There is awkward tension between Casey and Alex.

    Meanwhile, Chuck and Sarah have their hands full with thinking of a way to liberate Casey, trying not to get caught by the CIA, and preparing for the threat of the Ring Director. Ellie, Devon, and Morgan do their best to hide them from the CIA. Stephen advises his son for him and Sarah to leave Burbank for their own safety. Stephen knows of a way for them to lay low and not be detected by their pursuers. But Chuck refuses to leave Casey in Decker’s clutches. Though he was taken over by Evil Chuck at the time, he feels responsible for his friend’s predicament. Chuck arranges for a meeting with General Beckman to ask for her help in getting Casey free. Beckman provides him with the location of the facility where Casey is being held. But she warns him of the danger of trying to breach a place like that. Chuck, Sarah, and Stephen work on a daring rescue plan.

    After giving them enough time to get reacquainted, Decker threatens to torture Alex in front of Casey if he continues to withhold information. Casey buys time by giving Decker inaccurate information. As Decker goes over the information to confirm it, Chuck, Sarah, and Stephen launch their rescue operation. Casey and Alex are freed from imprisonment. Casey isn’t happy to see Chuck concerning what happened the last time they were together. But Chuck explains the reason for his actions back then. Casey quickly pushes that aside to get himself and Alex out of the facility they are in.

    On their way from the CIA facility, Chuck, Sarah, Stephen, Casey, and Alex find themselves surrounded by men working for the Ring. Leading them is the Ring Director. She has one of her men remove the governor off Chuck’s waist, suspecting it of being the reason why he isn’t Evil Chuck anymore. But despite the governor being removed from him, Chuck has gained enough strength from fighting his fears last episode to keep the alternate personality from taking him over again for a time. Chuck is ready to fight the Ring Director and her men with the power of the Intersect 2.0. But to hinder that, the Ring Director shoots Stephen in the chest. Chuck is shocked by the act and holds his dying father in his arms. His last words to his son is, “Don’t…don’t hurt her, Chuck…I love you, son.” Chuck is too overwhelmed by the pain of losing his father to ponder the question why his father cared about whether the Ring Director was hurt or not. As Chuck and the others are being hauled off to a Ring facility for Intersect extraction and interrogation, Sarah activates an emergency beacon hidden in her possession which alerts Ellie. The emergency beacon is a part of a back-up plan if things went wrong. The episode ends with Ellie telling Devon and Morgan that they are on.

    Next: the AU S3 finale.

    • atcDave says:

      So I’m guessing Mary is the Ring director! (Wouldn’t Chuck recognize her?)
      I definitely am liking all the details of this version.

  4. Justin says:

    3×19: The episode opens with Ellie, Devon, and Morgan’s rescue of Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and Alex from the Ring. Casey’s Crown Vic is used like it was in the original 3×19. Chuck takes the governor back from one of the Ring operatives. The Ring Director shoots at our heroes as they flee like Shaw did in the original 3×19. Once safe at a secluded spot, Chuck tells Ellie about what happened to their father which leaves her deeply heartbroken. She wants to go back to get his body but Sarah warns her that, with the Ring and the CIA on the move, it is too dangerous to do so. Chuck could care less about Decker or the CIA when all he can think about is revenge against the Ring Director. He wants to kill her and when Ellie express her doubts about her brother doing such a thing, Chuck tells her about how he killed Shaw to protect Sarah. Ellie is shocked by his admission. She was aware of Shaw’s death through his father’s network and thought it was Casey or Sarah who did it. But Ellie pushes down her feelings on the matter when she tells her brother that there is a difference between killing someone in self-defense and killing someone in cold blood. She thinks the latter would be a disrespect to his father’s memory and would eat up what is left of his brother’s conscience. But she still wants the Ring Director to pay somehow for what she did. At that moment, Chuck remembers Prometheus and the plan to find him before it was derailed by Decker and the Ring virus. Chuck thinks the idea could still be of use to resolve both the problem of Decker and the problem of the Ring.

    Now I haven’t fully worked out what comes next exactly. This is basically the gist of it: Prometheus ends up being found thanks to Beckman. Prometheus’s access to the Ring network is used not only for the information it has proving that Shaw wasn’t on the up and the up and Sarah wasn’t a Ring double agent, it was also used to bring the entire Ring organization down. This somehow leads to a confrontation between Chuck and the Ring Director. Chuck is tempted to kill her, knowing very well that he has the capacity to do so. But he chooses not to for his father’s sake and thinks her going to prison for her crimes would be punishment enough. Before Chuck could put the cuffs on her, the Ring Director gives him a choice between letting her go, and letting the Buy More and those inside it blow up. She reveals that she has planted an explosive device somewhere in the Buy More. She has already activated it by remote and knows of the code to deactivate it. The Ring Director will only share it with Chuck if he lets her flee. Chuck is conflicted at this moment. If he lets the Ring Director go, other people will suffer from her being set loose in the world. She may build a new Ring to replace the one that has fallen. But if he arrest her, the innocent people at the Buy More will die. So Chuck chooses to let the Ring Director go and as she escapes, she gives Chuck the bomb deactivation code.

    So the Buy More is evacuated like it was in the original 3×19. Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and Morgan search for the explosive device in the Buy More. Morgan accidentally it and Chuck uses the bomb deactivation code to deactivate it. But instead of deactivating it, the code ends up speeding up the bomb’s countdown. The Ring Director lied to Chuck about the purpose of the code. So Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and Morgan race out of the place before the explosion happens, turning the Buy More into a pile of rubble. Jeff and Lester run off, thinking they are responsible for the Buy More’s destruction and Big Mike thinks the same. Just so you know, the Buy More stays destroyed and doesn’t get rebuilt.

    In the aftermath of the Buy More explosion, there is the celebration and memorial for Stephen. Alex shows up for it. She doesn’t want Casey to simply leave her life it did years ago and wants to continue spending time with the man. Casey has come to want the same with his daughter. Beckman informs Chuck and Ellie that Stephen’s body has been recovered and will be given a proper burial in honor of him and his family. Beckman also gives Chuck, Sarah, and Casey some time-off to recover from their trials and tribulations. The episode ends with Chuck receiving an automated recording from his father which leads him to his old family home. Chuck discovers his father’s secret room of files from his Orion days and finds out that one of them is on Chuck’s mother. In the recording, Stephen reveals that out of all the missions he has undertaken, there has been one of great importance above all the others that he has been spending the past 20 years on. The mission of finding Chuck’s mother, Mary Bartowski. And after years of searching, he has finally found her. But Stephen warns his son that something happened to her that has left her changed. Her face has been surgically altered and he suspects she has been brainwashed too. And it is with some hesitance that Stephen reveals to Chuck that the Ring Director is…his mother.

    Cut to black.

    Well, atcDave, what do you think of my version of the finale and the overall Season 3.5?

    • atcDave says:

      I like it a lot Justin. You definitely win the ChuckThis prize for most thorough and well developed S3 alternate. And you know, with that prize, and a buck, you get a hash brown at McDonalds….

      I’ve really completely enjoyed reading through your project. You certainly took the spirit of S3 alternates to heart. Thank you very much.

      • Justin says:

        Thank you very much, atcDave. A lot of my passion in the project comes from the issues I had with S3 and thoughts I’ve had about what I would have done differently with the season if I was in charge.

        What did you think of the twist with the Ring Director? And my decision not to have the Buy More rebuilt next season?

      • atcDave says:

        Well I like the idea of Mary being a BIG baddie. I think a good story could be told that way. I thought the plastic surgery was a nice touch.

        I’m all for getting rid of the Buy More. Although I think a really good story could be told with Chuck and Sarah as owners, the S4 version of Buy More was pretty weak.

    • Justin says:

      I completely agree with you on how bad the S4 version of the Buy More. It’s because of that and that I felt the Buy More has run its course at this point in the series. But the idea of Chuck and Sarah being business owners may happen in my version of S4.

  5. uplink2 says:

    I will comment later on the subject matter here but I thought this was an appropriate place to post some sad news related to our FanFiction community. My good friend and pre-reader Esardi passed away on July 22nd after a long illness. He was a great inspiration to me in his fight over the last many months against the illness that finally claimed him. Any of you who have read story reviews have probably been entertained by some of his postings as he was usually very colorful in his POV. You may not have always agreed but I know I will miss them dearly.

    The FF community meant a great deal to him and the work of many great writers in this community helped him a great deal as he fought his fight. He was a great help to me in my lame attempts at writing. He was always there to point out plot holes, what worked, what didn’t and just be a great source for me to vent and discuss ideas and plot.

    One of the last things he said to me was to give my wife a hug, tell her I love her and cherish my time with my family. I will surely miss him and those emails popping up. Our community is a little smaller and a little less fun with the loss of our friend Esardi.

    • atcDave says:

      No doubt his influence in the community was extensive. He will be missed!

    • aerox says:

      When I first started, he was a great boost to my self confidence with regards to writing. I didn’t always agree with his point of view, but the discussions were always civilized, and he allowed me to see a point of view, other than my own, along with uplink and others. I don’t know him well enough to say much things about him that were of a deep, personal nature, but it’s definitely terrible news to receive. RIP esardi.

    • joe says:

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Uplink. I can’t say I’m familiar with his works, but I start to feel a loss anytime something like this happens in this community and the larger Chuck fandom. Gee – I’m going to be sad when I realize that LittleChuckFan has grown up! Sometimes I hate change.

      Which makes me feel old. Sigh.

      Thanks for passing the information.

    • BillAtWork says:

      Wow. That’s horrible news. I knew that he was very sick and fighting. But the last time I talked to him he had found some renewed hope.

      There are certain people that review every single chapter that I’ve written. And Esardi is the 2nd one that I’ve lost. PassionOverMind was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago.

      Esardi was always very astute in guessing where my stories were going. Maybe that’s because we saw the central story in the same vein.

      I’ll really miss him.

  6. uplink2 says:

    So in light of the intent of this rewatch now that we have finished the most controversial and disruptive season on the show I think it is probably appropriate to talk about the “alternative” for the entire season. Many folks like me do tend to view season 3 as 2 separate seasons but in reality the problems we have with 3.5 are rooted in 3.0. So we do have to at some degree talk about the season as a whole and what alternatives would work better for the fans as well as better for the show in general.

    I think I’m safe in saying that any alternatives for season 3 first have to include the rejection of the OLI storyline. Even the biggest of the season 3 apologists would likely agree that though there were plenty of reasons to keep Chuck and Sarah apart after the 2.0, other love interests were not one of them. Sarah/Shaw in particular was a complete and total disaster for everyone involved. That idea working came to an abrupt and absolute end the moment Sarah said “It is real”.

    Second I think the show needed to fall in love with good actors and not just stunt casting. They needed to focus on telling a believable story through the work of someone who could pull it off instead of taking shortcuts by who or actually what they cast to play the role.

    Third, they needed to focus more on telling a consistent story that respected canon. Their audience is in many ways a bunch of nerds and one of the reasons nerds fall in love with a show is a consistent mythology or at least a universe where things make sense. In the Star Trek universe there was a well thought out “science” that worked in that universe and was respected throughout the series to a great degree. A show like Big Bang respects the nerds in it’s audience because it’s science and pop culture references are correct and respected throughout the show. Plus the characters have grown consistently as well. The Sheldon of today is very different than the Sheldon of season 1 but those elements of his character we saw are still in there but have simply evolved because of his interactions with the other characters and his experiences.

    In Chuck that idea was thrown out the window in many ways in season 3. They talk about real stakes for Orion but chose to ignore those same stakes for Shaw. They said one of the important things that was absolutely necessary in season 3 was Chuck had to kill someone. But for convenience sake they stepped back from that, taking away that very critical lesson. IMO the reason for bringing back Shaw had little or nothing to do with storytelling, it was economics first and a desire to salvage something the the disaster his character had been through the first 13 episodes.

    Now we head into season 4, not the best season but my favorite season, They did embrace what much of the fan community was saying that the central relationship that drove the passion of many of the fans needed to evolve, face danger externally but never internally. I would also contend that the Chuck and Sarah of 3.5 and 4.0 are much more consistent with the Chuck and Sarah of seasons 1 and 2 than the doppelgangers of 3.0. The Chuck and Sarah story of season 4 I absolutely love, it’s the Mary and Vivian stories that were weak.

    Fedak has always said that they always wanted to tell more story but many times the more story they told the weaker and less setup those stories became. The excitement and set up of the Mary story at the end of season 3 was great, but the delivery wasn’t. They did have their high spots but more low spots than I hoped. The PSP still boggles my mind. I also think that not having Mary and Orion in some contact was a mistake. Orion was one of the great minds in the universe and his son could hack into Volkoff’s computer systems using his father’s work, you mean to tell me he couldn’t figure out a way to contact Mary? How could she have a 20 year mission with absolutely no contact with the CIA or her husband who in a way sent her on it to fix Volkoff.

    I’m looking forward to these episodes in rewatch because to me season 4 is the season of Sarah Walker and she is the most important character on the show for me.

    • atcDave says:

      I pretty completely agree with all of that Uplink. I think the OLIs are as close as we all come to agreement on anything; although I believe there are a number of S3 apologists who do like even that. But I think for so many of us that is the single biggest issue, all other complaints are secondary. And that is where this look at late S3.5 is interesting, because so many of S3’s shortcomings are present, and bothersome, yet doing away with those OLIs makes all the difference between “I liked it, but…” versus “I didn’t like it at all.”
      And I think this ties directly into what we were discussing last week; it’s the difference between viewers who consider Chuck’s journey to be the highlight of the show and those who focus on the romance.

      And of course I agree completely about S4 Chuck and Sarah being far more like S1 and S2 Chuck and Sarah than the S3 versions. In many ways, S4 is simply where the show needed to go after Ring. S3 was more like an experiment with a wholly different show. At least, that’s how it looks to me.

    • uplink2 says:

      Dave, I agree. Even with it’s similar problems, without the weight of the failed OLI story I can enjoy the spy story they were trying to tell us in 3.5 even with the things I don’t like, like Chuck’s lying, his choice to run and Ellie’s dismissal of Sarah. I can watch that stuff and enjoy the story being told because I’m not being repulsed by the OLI story. Take away Hannah and Sham, Chuck’s journey to the dark side and back in 3.0 could have been something I could have enjoyed. Even the ridiculous Red Test idea seems much more appealing if is wasn’t wrapped up in Sham. The decision in Prague could have worked if it didn’t have Chuck’s disgusting mistreatment of Sarah to set up the foolish OLI’s. Pull the taxi scene from Tic Tac and you have possibly a top 20 episode.

      But thank god we got season 4 and got back to the show I invested in so heavily. But there is one thing I am absolutely sure Fedak was wrong about, there isn’t a single universe out there in an infinite number of them where Shaw actually works.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah we’re on exactly the same page on all that, even about Tic Tac. Great episode except for the trace evidence of Shaw.

      • Dave says:

        Uplink, atcDave

        Agree with all of the above. You could almost go from 2.22 to 4.01 and not lose any traction. The idea of a hero’s journey was good, but boy did they ever mess it up.

        Like I said before, we could have had a very good (difficult) hero journey without the relationship angst. We could have had the journey strengthen their relationship, not nearly destroy it. I wonder where the idea for the dark, overly dramatic arc for a lighthearted show came from? It was just dumb and squandered (or nearly so) their strongest assets (C&S and Sarah Walker super spy) when they should have exploited them.

      • atcDave says:

        It looks like great minds think alike!

      • uplink2 says:

        Guys, while I agree that the transition from 2.22 to 4.01 could have worked on some level I still think there was a need to have Chuck learn and see about the darker more disgusting side of the spy life that Sarah in particular tried to shield him from both for Chuck’s sake as well as her own. Once he downloaded the 2.0 it was inevitable that he would be exposed to it on a very deep and honest level. I wanted to see that story even in the light fun show that Chuck was. Mainly because I thought that we would see a very similar presentation to season 1 and 2 where the darkness was tempered by humor and sweet romantic moments between Chuck and Sarah in particular. Moments like Cougars, DeLorean, Best Friend, Lethal Weapon and Break up even. That was what I was hoping for and expecting at 7:59pm on Jan 10th, 2010. Unfortunately a few minutes after that I was grossly disappointed and disgusted even as the contrivance needed to set up the ridiculous OLI arc was shoved down my throat.

        That being said, though the journey Chuck needed to take was in some respects shown I simply can’t escape my repulsion with the relationship contrivances and the pathetic character and performance that was Daniel Shaw. So I can’t really feel like I took that journey I wanted to take. It is simply too muddied by pointless, contrived and unnecessary relationship angst and a weak and show killing character played by a limited actor cast because of what he had been not by talent to play the role he was given.

        I think the transition works more from 2.22 to 3.14 as there is some elements of that dark story in 3.5. In a very similar fashion Chuck and Sarah go on the lamb but decide to “have it all” because that is the right thing to do and they don’t want to run away from their friends, family and responsibilities. Now they didn’t have to tell Beckman that and we all seem to love the idea of the secret relationship a la vs Themselves, but it is a natural flow from 2.22 to 3.14 and we could have had Nacho Sampler, Tic Tac, and the Red Test all without the stench of the OLI’s that almost destroyed the season. No OLI’s means no betrayal in Prague, it means we get the payoff for investing in Sarah’s name, we don’t see Chuck turn into a despicable pr… nor do we get zombie Sarah. We could still have had her fears of Chuck changing, her apprehension about him in the spy life but the OLI’s were a mistake, a big mistake and without them I am really curious if we would be anticipating a season 7 right now.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with all of that Uplink. I think the talk about skipping all of S3 is just about all the emotional baggage, and the fact that so many disliked themes remained in place to the end. S4 was a fresh start, more in keeping with what I was expecting and hoping for at the end of Ring. The relationship tone of S4 is exactly what I would have preferred for the whole S3. But of course, we needed a professional coming of age sort of story for Chuck.

      • Dave says:

        Uplink, atcDave

        Remember I said “almost” skip. As I said the hero’s journey was a good idea. In fact my alternatives series kept that, had Sarah help Chuck and lost the OLIs. That would have been OK with me.

        I agree with Uplink’s view above for the most part, I was being a bit facetious when I suggest we could almost skip the whole of S3.

  7. BillAtWork says:

    I enjoy the show. I know that I complain about it… a lot. But there are parts of every episode (well almost) that I really enjoy.

    But I’m also often frustrated by the show. They had such a great asset (no pun intended) in the chemistry between Chuck and Sarah. And they didn’t use that effectively.

    Okay, I get that Fedak wanted to tell the story of a heroes journey and not a love story. But I would suggest that he failed at both. I reject the notion that in order to become a hero he had to become a super spy. All that did was make us not like him very much. And since identifying with Chuck is probably the most important aspect to a majority (not everyone of course) of the audience, not liking him became fatal.

    The original charm of the story was of this average guy (that’s being generous) being given a curse that made him valuable to a ruthless government. The only good thing about that was that it also brought Sarah into his life. She was his protector. She helped him survive in a new world, one that he wasn’t equipped for. And he became her protector as well. He helped her survive in the world of real relationships that she wasn’t equipped for. So even though it seemed incredibly unlikely, we knew that they both were falling hard almost from day 1. The first two seasons were basically about them coming to understand that they loved each other and finally admitting it openly.

    Then the fatal mistake – Intersect 2.0.

    It took away the original charm. It was a classic Deus Ex Machina. When it met the storyline, Chuck was the most powerful spy in the world. He could disarm 10 men with guns pointed at him. But other times, the Intersect made him basically an average spy. He often struggled to fight a single opponent. It made Chuck not need Sarah any longer. In fact, now Chuck was a more talented spy than Sarah. It also took away Chuck’s most important quality. He looked at problems not through a spy’s perspective, and that’s what made him often thrive.

    I would have always had Chuck and Sarah dependant on each other. I would have had them become a couple after Colonel, at least in their eyes (and ours).

    I know that most people think that I would make the show all about the relationship. In fact, it’s the opposite. That’s what Fedak did. They invented all of these pretend angst moments. Will Sarah unpack? Will she want to move forward? Will they ever get engaged? Married? Kids? I quickly became tired of that WT/WT. Mostly because the outcome was never in doubt. Did anybody ever really think that they weren’t going to become engaged? Did anybody really doubt that Sarah was going to survive Vivian’s attack? Come on.

    I would have ended the WT/WT story after Colonel. From that point forward, all of the threats would come from the outside. And they would face those threats as a couple. Sometimes Sarah’s skills would be the solution. Sometimes Chuck’s. But we would learn that they were much more powerful as a couple than either would ever hope to be separately. The relationship would stop being the focus of the episodes. It would just be there in the background.

    I also think they wasted Ellie. I’ve always written Ellie as becoming a best friend / sister / mentor to Sarah. But I’m also intrigued by the opposite POV. I helped Liam with a story called Road To Innocence. It’s a shame that he abandoned it because it was really going to get good. But in that story Ellie hated Sarah, thought that she was bad for Chuck. In fact she was actively trying to get Chuck to forget about her and be with someone else. It would have been a great background storyline for Sarah to eventually win Ellie over. And maybe that would take an entire season.

    So it’s really hard for me to comment on anything that happened after Colonel. Because I think it was all based upon a mistake. You could have still told the story of a hero. Chuck didn’t need to have superpowers to be a hero. It was a hero that jumped off the Buy More wrapped in a banner. He just would have been more of a reluctant one. And his love for Sarah would cause him to do things he really wasn’t equipped to do in her defense.

    That’s the show I fell in love with. I still maintain that show would still be on the air.

    • atcDave says:

      We are almost exactly on the same page for all of that Bill. I even agree that Ellie could have been handled either way, especially after she found out about the spy world, I could see her either blaming Sarah dragging Chuck into it, and taking a while for Sarah (and Chuck) to win her over; or being very close to Sarah and believing in her as Chuck’s protector.
      I was mostly okay with the way the romance story was told in S4. The “issues” were mostly played for laughs, although some were sillier than others. But obviously I think the more “real” tensions of S3 were horribly conceived.
      As for the 2.0, I can imagine it still being made to work, especially if it only worked a few times a day, or had more outrageous and amusing malfunctions.
      But I much prefer of the idea of having Chuck remain the “normal” guy who matures into being a mastermind and outside-the-box thinker, while Sarah (and Casey) continue to provide the more professional (and physical) sort of spy skills. Maybe he can get better at using the Intersect as an information source. But the combat skills were poorly conceived.

      All that said, I did enjoy the last two seasons a lot. But obviously, I’ll always think the show could have been far better than it was.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I think for 2.0 to work, a couple of things would have had to happen. First it would have to be defined and consistent. If it made Chuck a superman, it needed to consistently make him a superman.

        More important, the decision should have been made after they were together by both of them.

        In all of my stories, I’ve written it so that 2.0 is only really effective when it’s in Sarah’s defense. They did the opposite. For a long time Sarah was the reason it wasn’t working. They used it as a wedge. One of my favorite scenes if the entire series is in Anniversary when Chuck defeats the 10 men and tells the bad guy “If you touch a single hair on Sarah’s head…” What happened to that Chuck? I really liked him. And we never really saw him again. Contrast that with the Chuck of Cliffhanger. Yes, he saved Sarah but by begging Vivian for the annedote.

      • anthropocene says:

        I must disagree, Bill. The Chuck of Cliffhanger took everything the dreaded Decker (feared by Casey, no less) threw at him, from spiriting away Volkoff to a taser barrage to armed resistance at the hospital…and pressed on even after losing the Intersect. He walked unarmed into Vivian’s lair. He jumped out of a plane in the dark and landed right on target. And he told Decker exactly where to go. All that for Sarah’s sake. Sure, he had to plead with Vivian—he had no cards left to play—but all the while he was still trying to reason with her, trying to get through to her (very S1-like, I thought). And in the process, he more or less “saved” Vivian and Hartley too. I think our boy did pretty well in Cliffhanger. We were never told whether Sarah ever got the whole story of how Chuck saved her, but I think that if she had, she would have been proud as well as grateful.

      • atcDave says:

        The only issue I have with Cliffhanger is the decision to make Sarah’s part so small; which is the issue discussed above.
        I thought Chuck’s behavior was admirable.

        But then, after Anniversary I will only have a few minor complaints about Chuck’s behavior. Well, maybe a little bigger than minor in Curse; but otherwise no biggie.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Cliffhanger is my least favorite of all the possible finales. Sarah was unconscious for almost the entire episode. I hated the Morgan Intersect plot. Just more of 2.0 being a Deus Ex Machina.

        And they spend more screen time on the stupid black hawk chopper than C/S wedding which they had been playing wt/wt with all season. Just like the Ring being 5 accountants captured in a stairwell, the wedding was supposed to be the payoff for the season. The payoff was underwealming to say the least..

      • atcDave says:

        I’d agree with saying the wedding should have been a bigger deal, but that’s different from Anthro’s point; Chuck’s character and behavior were well depicted.
        I never had strong feelings about Morgansect one way or the other. Its more of a shrug.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I’m not sure that my point was that Chuck was weak in the episode. It was that they used 2.0 as a Deus Ex Machina plot device. Making him almost superhuman at times. Other times making him just an average spy. Then they took it away 3 different times when it met plot points.

      • anthropocene says:

        I should save this for the actual vs. Cliffhanger discussion, but I thought the biggest lapse in that episode was not showing Sarah waking from her coma with Chuck at her side. It would have made for a nice symmetry with vs. Phase Three. It seemed to me that they left it out so they could play the silly, inconsequential game with the church sign.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree exactly Anthro, it was silly sight gag, that I think many viewers even missed it was so fast.

  8. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Ring II (3.19) | Chuck This

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