Chuck vs The First Fight (4.07)

I like Morgan’s reaction to Chuck calling this a first fight.  Funny.

First Fight is a very big episode, it will end the early part of the Frost/Volkoff arc, and launch the Intersect-less arc.  It continues the Season Four tradition of making the very big episodes, very funny episodes, while having some great action, drama and tension all thrown in.

After the jump, this weeks’s episode.

First Fight I think is another very strong episode.  It has a few shortcomings, mainly in terms of exposing some continuity issues going back to Ring II, but with so much being so well done here, I’m not going to hold much against it.  I do remember having some concerns when this arc first ran that the very real tension at the end of Aisle of Terror would turn into another reset of sorts.  Fortunately no such thing will be happen.  The first fight will be played for epic laughs instead of tragedy.  Chuck airing his grievances to everyone except Sarah is amusing, frustrating and in character.  And it gets better every time Sarah hears about their big fight  from yet another outsider.  “Is there anyone you haven’t told about our fight?!” is completely fitting.  And Chuck does have an odd perspective on it, thanks in part to Morgan.  Much as wanting to get their first fight “right” made me want to smack Chuck a time or two, the tone was kept light and fun.  So no real harm done here.  Some of the input Sarah gets, from Morgan, and later Tuttle/Volkoff is very funny.  Yvonne plays these scenes perfectly; so serious, exasperated, and a bit over the top.  And Sarah’s cultural detachment is even squeezed in, I had to google “Friendster”, apparently it is a real thing.

It's a tiny weapons standoff!

It’s a tiny weapons standoff!

Timothy Dalton is a delight in every sense.  It may stretch credibility a bit to think what Tuttle really is in the story.  But Dalton’s performance is perfect.  Its a joke within a joke that Tuttle is such a sweet likable sort of guy.  I was almost sorry for the Volkoff reveal, just because it was the end of Tuttle!  But its okay, Volkoff will carry on in the same unbalanced vein, except a little less “sweet”.  But of all the “stunt” casting done on Chuck, this may be the very best one.  Right from the start, he threatens to kill Chuck with a plastic fork, then laughs it off as out of his skill set.  Only later do we realize that Tuttle truly came to life in the moment after the threat.  The scene on the airplane is side splitting funny. I won’t do a lengthy recap here, but Tuttle makes this episode.  One of the few really great episodes for something other than Charah.

We can’t forget Mary’s role in this episode either.  There are some significant moments here, starting with Chuck’s first “interrogation” of her.  I just love how awkwardly she tries to be maternal when she hears Chuck and Sarah are fighting.  And the Mary/Ellie/Sarah scene after is terrific.  So much emotional power to it, my biggest complaint is how brief this scene is, and how more I would have liked to hear of that talk.  Perhaps this is the moment when Mary understands that Sarah really is a part of the family, I would have liked to see some of that conversation too.

The bank scene is a blast in nearly every way. From the triangular discs paying off, to Chuck and Sarah bickering so openly (that is so out of character for them; and extra funny because of it!), to a big Chuck/Sarah smack down of four hoodlums.  It is so much fun when the team is working together!

Getting back to Orion’s base is more dramatic than fun.  The big Volkoff reveal is a great moment.  Mary’s “betrayal” and covert aid is a significantly dramatic moment as well.  I love how Mary endorses Sarah’s role as protector.

In the end, it was nice to hear Scott Bakula make one last contribution to the show.  But we still haven’t heard the end of Orion!

A few shortcomings should be mentioned.  In an episode so packed with good stuff, including a few things seemingly cut short, I think it was a waste to have Morgan’s trials with the ear piece drawn out for so long.  It was funny, but not in any way special.  And too much that was special felt a little rushed to me.

Probably the biggest gripe a lot of viewers will have is story/continuity related.  Going back to Ring II Stephen indicated he couldn’t find Mary.  This just can’t be true.  The Intersect suppression device is much newer than 20 years old.  And in a few weeks we’ll have cause to think Orion was capable of hacking into Volkoff’s computer network.  The obvious thing to say is just that when Ring II was written CF hadn’t worked out all the story details yet.  On a viewer level, I think I’ll address this by claiming Chuck received an obsolete/incomplete briefing.  Stephen didn’t know he was going to die when he did, and for reasons we’ll never know, I think he didn’t have his spy will and briefing for Chuck up-to-date and complete.  This is the very definition of a fanwank, but it mostly works for me.

This Tuesday evening I’ll put up my first “S4 Alternatives” post.  I really am happy with where the show is at in S4.  But its still interesting sometimes to think about how things could have been, or even should have been a little different.  So be thinking about what was needed, or might have been a fun twist to our favorite show!

~ Dave
ct_bar

Right and Wrong

FIGHT!!!

After re-watching Chuck vs. The First Fight this week, I almost think that calling it great is to damn with faint praise.

Not Tuttle, Not Hartley. Volkoff!

Not Tuttle, Not Hartley. Volkoff!

What? Did you think that Timothy Dalton was merely “chewing the scenery” as he transformed from plastic fork wielding Tuttle to the regal and imposing Alexei Volkoff? Nah. It’s magical.

And – I know some will disagree here (and that’s alright) – but my money says he’s outdone in this episode by Linda Hamilton ebbing and flowing between Frost and Mary. It’s even more magical as she maintains that balancing act after reuniting with her daughter.

Speaking of which, Ellie has been portrayed so convincingly and seamlessly as a concerned, older sister, loving, patient wife and confused and conflicted daughter by Sarah Lancaster, that we forget the difference between actor and character. Kudos for that, too.

The power of just talking.

The power of just talking.

Then there’s our main characters; Zac convinces me that Chuck is red-faced, walk-out-the-door angry at Sarah, but no, he’s only practicing to achieve the right level of passionate anger for the hard-bitten, worldly-wise and emotionally cautious woman he loves. For her part, the ever-alert-to-danger, always ready to take action Sarah wants desperately for Chuck (the man who talks constantly about – everything) to talk to her about their problem. Just talk. And I believe her.

Sarah: This is exhausting.
Chuck: Tell me about it. How do you always fight these big guys all the time?
Sarah: No, I mean, fighting with you is exhausting. [Wheel kick to the bad guy’s head] I hate it!

I’ll bet that you thought this episode was about Chuck and Sarah’s first fight. I know I did. Well, that may be, but there’s another fight being waged; Morgan and Casey are fighting too. Casey used Morgan as “The Magnet,” after all, and I don’t think that Casey ever really forgave him for dating Alex. It’s a reflex.

Okay, that was just a little silly. But it’s still true that there are other fights going on. Remember when Mary/Frost was being interrogated by Sarah and Casey?

Sarah: Chuck came here this morning because he trusted you and now he’s gone.
Mary: If he’s with my handler, I know he’s safe.
Sarah: Right, then why hasn’t he called in?
Mary: Perhaps he doesn’t want to see you. Chuck told me about the fight.

Oooohhhh – low blow. Mary has just told Sarah that she is a force to be reckoned with – again – and this time it’s personal. That certainly appears to be the case when Mary tricks Chuck into revealing where Orion has kept his files. It’s painfully true when Mary robs Chuck of his ability to flash.

It’s mother fighting against son too, it seems. Mary is being very in-your-face here, with Orion’s PSP and her insider’s knowledge of the situation. However, I realized the truth of Mary’s position in all these power struggles is stated much more quietly when she finally gets to meet with and talk to Ellie. That’s when Mary leaves one small clue for her daughter, once again bringing up the burgundy Mustang with the custom ordered blue leather seats. And she does it right in front of a vigilant, untrusting CIA agent. It’s all the information Ellie will need. If that’s a fight, it’s a fight between Frost and Mary and all these battles are being waged on multiple levels.

I began by saying actors gave wonderful performances in Chuck vs. The First Fight, but there’s yet another character who’s dominating every scene, and who’s also in the middle of a brutal fight.

Ellie: I just want to know what happened. I want to know the truth.
Mary: I guess it all begins with a scientist. His code name was Orion. But his real name was Stephen Bartowski.

That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you, I’d have a little trust

I’ll never quite understand how one show can have scenes that are so knee-slapping funny as “a tiny weapons standoff!”, so satisfyingly action packed as the fight in the bank and still make make the characters seem so real you want to cry for them. But Chuck does, consistently. That, to me, is magic.

– joe

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 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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62 Responses to Chuck vs The First Fight (4.07)

  1. authorguy says:

    It’s a great episode, but the triangular disks were a dead giveaway. The Swedish Slip, the car and the blue seats, and the underhand toss of the knife that somehow manages to impale the henchman to the hilt were others, although I loved the airplane fight on the whole. It’s a tribute to Dalton that even with all this material pointing to the ending, he nonetheless manages to make the reveal a huge surprise.
    I quite agree about the PSP, Orion and Mary must have been in contact for her to know where it was that easily in such a large warehouse. As for why she didn’t use it on Volkoff directly, the answer is simple. It didn’t work on his type of intersect. Volkoff didn’t flash, his version was static, not dynamic, so I can see a device made for Chuck not working on him. The later version, based on Ellie’s changes to the Intersect code, was more generally effective.
    I’m still working on why Orion didn’t want Chuck to see it. Hmm, how about, Volkoff is checking out Carmichael personally, so Mary ensures that Carmichael is shown in as poor a light as possible, so Volkoff will underestimate him when the time comes. I can also see Orion (at one time) viewing a suppression of Chuck’s Intersect as permanent, and not a perfect solution since it would still be there overheating his brain. Mary had to be the one with the ads, so she was the one arranging for Ellie to get the Intersect code. Ergo, she would expect Chuck to get a later upload to reverse the effects.
    Working on the rest.

    • atcDave says:

      Some solid fanwanking there Marc, I’m impressed!

    • joe says:

      It’s pretty easy to make too much of Mary’s Your father never wanted you to see this. line. It’s almost a throw-away, isn’t it?

      My almost worthless theory is that Stephen was the kind of father who wanted his son to fulfill his potential. He had it in the back of his mind that The Intersect was now part of that, or, if you prefer, part of Chuck’s fate with which he had to come to terms if he was to reach his potential. Even more, I think one of the writers put the words into Mary’s mouth to make her seem motherly in an overly-protective sort of way.

      That seems too much Freudian schmaltz, though, and probably too much amateur psychological analysis on both me and Fedak. 😉 I must admit, It’s also a conveniently terse way of saying that the parents had discussed this a lot and never came to a solid agreement.

  2. billatwork says:

    This is exactly why this show doesn’t rewatch well. Once you know the reveal, none of it makes sense. Volkoff and Frost would have had to know things they could not posibly know.

    • atcDave says:

      I’d say the opposite Bill, the performances and entertainment value are just sky high. Brilliant acting by Dalton in particular and just fun all the way through. I’ve probably watched this episode over 20 times, it just never gets old.

  3. mr2686 says:

    Great recap guys. I always felt that when Stephen tells Chuck he couldn’t find Mary, it was a lie to protect what she was doing undercover. That’s not farfetched since he himself basically left his kids without an explaination, just to protect them. Everything about that mission was under the radar so that fits IMO. This episode is a lot of fun, and Timothy Dalton is the villain we’ve all been waiting for (and hoped someone else would have been).

    • mr2686 says:

      I forgot to add, that if Stephen was lying, he could have been in touch with Mary, or at least in touch long enough that she knew about the suppression device. Her saying that Stephen never wanted Chuck to see it could have meant that he never wanted Chuck to get involved with the intersect in the first place, hence never needing to see the device.

      • atcDave says:

        I’d buy that. Although I also have no problem with saying she lied just to get Chuck to look.
        I think there remains a disconnect about sending Chuck off on a potentially very dangerous mission with bad and incomplete intel. But as I said, unexpected circumstances (death) works for me.

  4. Wilf says:

    Nice recap, thank you. One of my favourite scenes in First Fight is the encounter between Sarah and Morgan in the apartment when she first learns that much of the world knows about their fight. Sarah almost killing Morgan with her (very) high heel and her reaction to Morgan touching her chest are great moments.

    • atcDave says:

      Oh yeah, very funny stuff Wilf.

    • joe says:

      Oh yeah – great scene! It’s a good example of the way this show makes me guffaw before taking me deep into a period of serious contemplation.

      • andereandre says:

        This episode was one of my favorites when I binge-watched it the first time.
        On consecutive views it still is great fun but analyzing the logic diminishes it a bit.
        The next episode holds much better in that respect.

  5. thinkling says:

    Hind sight, gotta love it. I loved this episode the first time, and I love it as much now. Maybe more because I know that Chuck and Sarah stay in a good place. I know that all the pieces don’t exactly fit, but I really don’t care. Well, on one level I do, but mostly I can ignore it for all the pluses of Chuck and this episode in particular. Dalton is amazing. I think Linda Hamilton really shines here, too, as Mother/Spy. It is such a layered episode. Sarah, Ellie, Mary and Volkoff/Tuttle are all layered and nuanced. And the episode itself spins on a dime and gives us all the extremes (multiple times) that we love about the show, without me feeling jerked around. What’s the word?… GENIUS (you’re welcome, Ernie).

    I see some things a little differently this time around. One of the best scenes of Chuck (ever) is the LR scene with the three women. Sarah is riveted to the scene, and of course before, we could imagine how it touched her because of her own absent mother. At the time, however, our speculation ran contrary to what we found out later. Sarah, as it turns out, can identify with both women. She herself, now maybe more than at the time, felt her mother’s absence, so she really feels for Ellie, and it’s obvious. However, we now know that she can identify with Mary, because she also left the ones she loved to protect them (Emma and Molly). She is a kaleidoscope of emotion, and of course, Yvonne shows it so well.

    I love all the development of the Sarah/Mary relationship, and this episode gives each of them a big piece of the puzzle. In the LR scene, Mary realizes that Sarah is really the girlfriend (hence the I love my family speech). And by the end, Sarah understands Mary a whole lot better (better than anyone, and that remains true). And Mary and Sarah bond over their primary mission: protecting Chuck.

    I’ve changed my mind about Mary’s knowledge of the car. I now see that as a true coincidence. She was just talking about something special to her: their long rides in their classic car and watching her child sleep. True mother stuff. I changed my mind based on her genuine surprise later that Ellie had Stephen’s computer. (Stephen, what have you done.) Stephen set it all up. He was the one who knew that Ellie could handle it, and he wanted his kids to carry on his Intersect research. It was all him.

    As for Mary and Stephen communicating, I don’t think so, unless perhaps it was like his communication with Ellie, which would still make it true that he never found her. I think before she left, he was working on a way to help Hartley. They had some contingencies in place, so Mary knew more or less how to find what she was looking for.

    As to why she de-Intersected Chuck, my current theory is the same as Chuck’s own conclusion in v. Sarah: that the Intersect needed to be destroyed, because that’s the only way their family would be safe. I think it’s quite possible that by de-Intersecting Chuck and blowing up Orion’s base, Mary thought she was guaranteeing her family’s safety. A side benefit was protecting her cover with Volkoff. I suppose it’s possible that she had to choose between saving Hartley or saving Chuck. But if there is a PM (which she hints at with her comment about Volkoff having people inside the CIA), then getting rid of all things Intersect would perhaps lessen the threat against her children and leave her with only one front on which to do battle.

    Oh well, the bottom line is that this episode is still a ton of fun, and its rewatch value only improves with time.

    • atcDave says:

      I’ll agree with most of that, including Mary knowing nothing about the Mustang. I do still disagree about Mary/Orion communication, I think between Mary finding the suppression device, and learning in Push Mix that Orion had the technology to infiltrate Volkoff’s computers leaves me pretty sure there was at least a basic information exchange going. Although it is possible, even likely, they hadn’t actually seen each other in twenty years.

      I’m not terribly bothered by her decision to blow up the Orion Cave, she was trying to protect her kids by keeping them away from Volkoff and her new life. But I do wish they hadn’t done that, it was a fun, cool thing that they ultimately didn’t do enough with.

      • authorguy says:

        Most of the data on those pages would probably have been in the Intersect Orion left Ellies, so nothing was really lost. We can imagine the show going forward with missions based on data that only Chuck knows about.

      • thinkling says:

        I agree that all the essentials were on the computer, which was why the computer reveal was so cool and well timed. But you’re right, Dave, they didn’t get near enough mileage out of that cool space. Budget perhaps?

        I still really love the almost identical scenes of explosions in the background as CS realize that the Intersect is gone (along with some of the implications).

    • Ernie Davis says:

      If you watch the episode with the commentary on (may only be available on BRD) they talk about how that set caused problems for them. I agree it was a cool idea to have Chuck have his secret base apart from Castle, but then we lost the Weinerliscious, the O-O and Sarah’s apartment too, even as we added Devon and Ellie’s place. My guess is that cost cutting played a role.

      • atcDave says:

        I never doubted it was a cost cutting measure. But it is kind of funny to think of dealing with set problems by blowing them up.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        “Blow it up” seemed to be their go-to solution on Chuck.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah but they fixed the others (Castle, Buy More); I think that ends up costing MORE money!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        But it was CGI blown up for the most part. It was only season 2 when they actually blew stuff up all the time. The ‘splosions after that were generally a mix of small ones to start the sequence and then CGI to fill in. The last thing I can remember that they actually blew up was Sarah’s Porche.

      • atcDave says:

        Was there a swinge on that Porche?

        Funny thing, I thought the Porsche looked like CG too; but yes, I’ve since read otherwise.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        oops. Porsche. I suppose there were real ‘splosions in Agent X when they blew up the Winterbottom house, but there was added CGI there too.

  6. Dave says:

    I really like this episode…

    Favorite scene is the bicker-fight in the bank, hilarious… and cute.

    Most powerful scene is Mary, Ellie and Sarah as Mary tells her story. Well done. Would like to know what was said!

    Biggest observation… Sarah and Chuck, but especially Sarah, further shows that when Chuck is upset she caves immediately. Given the inexperience of the two with relationships, I’m not surprised.

    Good solid episode despite the issues with Mary and Orion’s base.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I agree with all of that Dave. Good point about how Sarah caves. Funny since apparently everyone agrees she was in the right!

      • Dave says:

        remember, she’s never had a real relationship of this seriousness. She may fight a bit, but she is always hypersensitive to Chuck being upset, almost as if she’s afraid of losing him (haha).

      • BillAtWork says:

        I think that is pretty consistent behavior for Sarah. She didn’t want to move in. But when she realized that it bothered Chuck, she quickly caved. Same thing with ILY, unpacking, the prenup, getting engaged, lots of things.

  7. uplink2 says:

    I finally got to rewatch tonight and I agree with a lot that has been posted above. But the thing about the PSP that has always bothered me and I still have absolutely no idea of a justification for it is what Mary says when she shows it to Chuck.

    1. How did she know Stephen didn’t want him to ever see the PSP? That meant she knew he was the Intersect.

    2. Why didn’t Orion want him to see it? He never wanted Chuck to have the Intersect, especially the 2.0 and had worked very hard to remove the 1.0. So why wouldn’t he want to have it removed?

    3. Why did Mary think he was wrong? What was her point?

    4. If she wanted Sarah to protect him the why not let him keep it so he could protect himself?

    That scene will never make sense to me, especially that line. But as we sometimes talk about maybe the best way is to not think so deeply and take the simplest route. She says it to keep his attention so she can show him the PSP and it is completely meaningless. And she shows him the PSP to simply set up the 3 episode intersect-less arc. Giving us Phase 3 and Chuck being worthy of the CIA even without the Intersect.

    • thinkling says:

      I watch with a bit of a different eye on this rewatch. One thing I notice is that things that used to bother me a lot don’t bother me nearly as much (except for the ninja in the pilot).

      My thoughts on 1-3 is that Mary’s line was just an enticement to get Chuck to look at it. So, I’ll go with your “meaningless” explanation. Nothing else really makes sense.

      As for question # 4: Let’s assume that Decker’s rant implying a bigger conspiracy is at least to some degree true. And we know that even Chuck finally concluded (in v Sarah) that the only way for the family to be safe would be to destroy the Intersect, I think Mary was trying to do just that … de-Intersect Chuck and destroy the Intersect lair. If the conspiracy centers around the Intersect, then destroying the Intersect will defang the conspiracy and lessen its power over her family (maybe not her, but her family). Now that I think about it, Sarah is key to her plan. The Intersect brings more danger than it offers in protection, but it is a layer of protection. What’s the Mother/Spy to do? Mary found a kindred spirit in Sarah … someone who loves her son and wants to protect him as much as she does. And someone who is fully capable of protecting him. With Sarah to protect him, she can get rid of the Intersect and all its dangers, without leaving Chuck unprotected.

      My 2c this time around.

      • atcDave says:

        I was thinking along similar lines for the first part. Its mostly a “made you look” sort of thing, so it truly is meaningless.

        Good spin on the last thing. Another true fanwank, but it works for me.

      • thinkling says:

        We have to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes and think like Mary, which is hard because nobody thinks like Mary.

        Her mantra from beginning to end is to protect her family.

        We have enough in canon (Stephen’s paranoia, which wasn’t paranoia if they were really out to get him, which Decker confirms. And Mary said Volkoff had people inside the CIA.) to know that Mary and Stephen were indeed, as Bill said in the other post, fighting their own private/secret war. Capable spies in that position would have established contingencies and some sort of covert means of communicating, even if it was only one way. So, S/M have a mission to complete (bring down the Volkoff network), a friend to save (Hartley), and above all a family to protect … all fought on the razor’s edge between an evil conspiracy inside the government and the world’s biggest cabal of bad guys lead by the world’s biggest psychopath.

        Everything went along like that for 20 years. So, what happened to make Mary do what she did? Why come back now? Simple. Stephen died. As I think about it this time, I can imagine that he might have even instructed her to destroy everything if he died. With Stephen alive, he could watch over Chuck and Ellie. He could continue the Intersect research, try to save Hartley, support Chuck, and keep the Intersect out of the wrong hands … while she was containing the Volkoff situation. So, both of them were fighting against the PM from different directions. But with Stephen gone, Mary can’t fight the war on both fronts. So, she has to end one side of the war and get her family out of the cross hairs and destroy the Intersect. By faking Chuck’s death, she gets Carmichael out of Volkoff’s cross-hairs. By destroying the Intersect, she makes Chuck Bartowski less interesting to the PM.

        So, there’s the PSP contingency. Perhaps, plan A was to save Hartley at the right time, but with Stephen dead, she has to execute plan B. She can de-Intersect Chuck, but she can’t save Hartley, too. So, she shows Chuck the PSP, blows up the base, leaves Chuck in good hands, and goes back to her side of the war alone.

        (The PSP is much more of a fanwank, because it was so random and came out of nowhere. But if it was the plan B in case of Stephen’s death. Then they certainly would have hoped Chuck would never have to see it.)

        Fanwank or no, I think that scenario is reasonable, given what we’ve actually seen and heard on screen. And it’s overwhelmingly tragic. I think Mary was a tragic character. Unfortunately, we didn’t get enough exposition to sell it that way. The only real peak at this tragic view of Mary came through Sarah’s POV. We have to do a whole lot of reading between the lines.

      • uplink2 says:

        Thanks Think and I guess that really is as far as we can go with it. But I have to admit it is a bit of a disappointment if “made you look” really is all that it was. That’s because there is so much more that could have been done with it and I remember over the next few episodes all the way till Push Mix I kept wondering when it would come up and the big reveal of Mary and Stephen being in contact and having different opinions of what what the Intersect was and it’s impact on their family etc would be played out. They set up a big mythology that could have been tied to a great conspiracy but nothing ever came of it and all we ended up with was a dramatic kids game moment that simply was to give us 3 episodes without Chuck having the Intersect.

      • thinkling says:

        You’re right Uplink. They did miss a golden opportunity and left a great story untold. I’m not complaining with what we got. I love S4 and S5. I’m happy with it and have enjoyed rewatching every episode. But I do think they taunted us with a really nice thread and never pulled on it.

      • authorguy says:

        This is my first time watching S4 and S5 since they aired, pretty much for these reasons. The individual episodes are OK, but the lack of a coherent story made this season much less palatable to me than S3, which had a plot, even if it was buried under a pile of manure. But I will fix it, although I expect it will take a much longer time and harder work than S3 did. The grand conspiracy of S5 will get its day in the sun.

      • atcDave says:

        The problem I see in that Thinkling is that Stephen told Chuck about the base and sent him after Mary. If it was truly just about covering their tracks, he would have told Mary and left Chuck out of it.
        Of course its also possible Stephen and Mary were in touch with each other, but not completely on the same page. So Stephen was worried that if he were killed, it would leave no one watching over Mary. So he put some things in place so his son, the CIA agent, would track her down if anything ever happened to him. But Mary doesn’t like that plan. She would prefer to keep Chuck out of it. So when Chuck starts snooping around, Mary makes the unilateral decision to take away his super-powers and destroy Stephen’s work. So Chuck will be of no further interest to Hartley/Volkoff. Of course Mary doesn’t know Stephen had another contingency and got information to Ellie too; or that a new member of the family will not let the chase go so easily.

      • BillAtWork says:

        But see, the problem I have with any of these scenarios is that Steven didn’t tell Chuck what he knew about Mary. In fact, he explicitly told him that he didn’t know anything. He sent Chuck off on a dangerous mission. He almost got killed more than once. And he risked Mary’s cover. Certainly, if they were in any sort of contact over the years, Steven would have given Chuck those details so that he could protect himself and his mom.

        The other problem is that the show both explicitly and in Fedak interviews shoot that down. We are meant to take the Mary story at face value. She is a tragic figure who left for a mission 20 years ago, leaving her husband and 2 small kids not knowing where she went, and got caught up for 20 years.

        There is simply no fanwank that ties that up.

      • atcDave says:

        Actually Bill I think a fanwank is exactly what we’re left with. You’re right there’s contrary information about, so we have to fudge one way or the other. No solution can explain all the information. I’m simply most happy with the idea they had some contact, Stephen knew more than he let on, and assumed Chuck would figure it out as needed. Which he did. The elder Bartowskis will never win parent of the year awards, but we already knew that.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Or, we just admit that it is a huge plot hole, that the writing was sloppy, accept that and move on.

        Why spend so much time and effort trying to defend the indefensible? Just to avoid admitting that TPTB of the show we love so much were sloppy and at the end of the day their story doesn’t make sense?

        I’m very willing to make that admission and move on. It’s the defense of the indefensible that sticks in my craw. The argiment that I find most offensive is that a character simply lied as a way to make sense out of something.

        Once you go down that path, where do you stop? Did Sarah lie to Chuck when she said ILY? Did Chuck lie to Morgan when he said (for the 20th time) I love Sarah? If we start to accept that a character was just lying, what about the show can we believe?

      • uplink2 says:

        That’s the sad part. It is so easy to see a great story there. I was really excited about it after this episode in particular and as each week went along I kept asking “Hey guys, do you see that story over there? When are you going to tell it?” Now like Think I’m not complaining too much about season 4 as it is my favorite because of Sarah’s story but there was such a conflicting mishmosh of elements that as Bill says no fanwank can pull them all together becasue it simply seems like it wasn’t important to them for it to be pulled together into a coherant story.

      • atcDave says:

        Um, I’m not trying to defend anything, I just admitted its a mess. I’m just trying to make sense for my own peace of mind. I overtly don’t care about the intent on this point, only my own understanding.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Yeah, Dave. I’m not really talking about you. You’re perfectly willing to say that TPTB messed up, lol.

        But there are others here who seem to take personal offense when it’s pointed out that there is no way to make the story we’ve been told make sense. And that infers that the writing was, inattentive at best, and unprofessionally sloppy at worst.

      • Jason says:

        S4 and s5 other than the XMAS ep Sarah got beat most the ep and then the final two joyless eps, I’m perfectly content to watch and enjoy, like I do most all TV, with the added bonus that when Chuck and Sarah are having fun, very little in TV has ever been better. I’m more than willing to tolerate any and all bad writing, ignore is probably a better word. That being said, Chuck after s2, was probably about as poorly written a TV show if (when) taken seriously, of any I’ve ever sat thru. Luckily, in s4/s5 it was easy to not take it seriously, and have a great deal of fun watching, which I did.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Yeah, Jason. I agree. Almost all of the episodes are fun when you watch them for the first time. It’s only when you try and piece the episodes together to tell a story where it breaks down.

        It also makes Chuck not rewatch well. You can never watch Dream Job again, look at Steven’s honest and heart felt concern for the horror his invention had wrought, while knowing that he was actively working with the CIA and he had a secret lab under his house.

      • atcDave says:

        That’s where I completely disagree. Chuck has absolutely the highest replay value of any show I’ve ever seen. Period.

        The fun value is sky high. The stuff we’re fussing over, story continuity stuff, is completely irrelevant to me on a re-watch. Once I know the story, I never need to watch again, for the story. Re-watching as all about the interactions, the interplay, the character details, and spending time with “the gang”. Chuck is the best show I have EVER seen for that.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I guess I can agree to disagree.

        But I’m curious.

        You’re telling me that you can get the same thrill over watching C/S come together in Colonel, knowing that by the beginning of the next episode, it will totally be walked back?

        You’re telling me that you can get the same fist pump moment from American Hero when Sarah throws her gun on the bed, knowing that her retirement lasted 10 seconds and she never, ever, once told Chuck that she was on her way to meet him?

        You’re telling me that you can watch Dream Job and feel so much empathy for Steven telling his son that he never dreamed his invention would find him… knowing that he knew all along?

        You’re telling me that you can watch Sarah drawing the picture of her and Chuck holding a baby in Bullet Train and get the same aww feeling, knowing that would be the last time we ever saw Sarah as we knew her, and even if the beach scene was a happy ending, having a family wasn’t even close?

        Sorry, I can’t.

      • Jason says:

        ‘Rewatchability’ is tricky. Take ‘The Other Guy’ ep, I could probably watch the – I appreciated the tank, the apartment ILU, and the final scene under the eiffel tower every day, but most of the rest of the ep makes me want to tear my hair out. Overall I can’t rewatch an entire ep of Chuck, I FF thru almost all non Sarah or non Ellie / Awesome scenes (I also watch any Casey or Chuck scenes not with Morgan, my worst scenes are Jeffster or chuck and Morgan scenes, Casey and Morgan started off great, but how many times can you laugh at the same joke?).

      • Jason says:

        Bill, me too, the joyless last two eps, and the melancholy final scene hurts the rewatchability too, but I still enjoy nearly all the Chuck and Sarah scenes. I find very little value in the rest of the show however, and none in trying to rewatch to put the spy story pieces together, be more interesting to pull my lawn out and try to reassmeble it in place.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Yeah, Jason, exactly.

        I don’t watch episodes. I jump around to the scenes that I like.

      • atcDave says:

        Well no, the show’s internal reality, as wonky as it is, does matter to me. That’s why I fanwank certain things, even if I know it’s sort of lame.

        Colonel isn’t a tenth as enjoyable as it was, context badly damages it. But the others you mention, yeah, Sarah’s gun toss at the end of American Hero is enough all by itself to make the episode enjoyable for me. I’m 100% happy she finally has her priorities right. The details of how things work out matter far less to me.
        Stephen in Dream Job doesn’t move me either way, but then he never did. I know the Intersect is important to the story, but I never cared. It’s just a device for getting Chuck into the spy world as far I’m concerned, the less said the better. The good stuff is the action, adventure, humor, romance, and character details. Mythology and back story can matter when they’re interesting, but when they fail, well there’s plenty of other things I can enjoy.

      • uplink2 says:

        We’ve had this discussion before but it took me almost a year to be able to rewatch anything other than I watched the extended version of the finale when I got the DVD’s. I have always said that was it’s biggest failing. Why take that journey ever again with no clear understanding that my most important character remember any of it? But I rewatched Colonel, actually almost forced myself to, and did remember why I loved the show. At that point I chose not to dwell on the betrayal that followed and just focus on remembering what I felt that night back in April of 09.

        But as time has gone on I’m more able to rewatch and enjoy what I’m rewatching. Sure those things make me scratch my head as it seems that a consistent mythology and overall 5 year plan seem to have been sacrificed after season 2 ended but it’s much easier to not have them upset me from Honeymooners on because I enjoyed the fun and Sarah’s growth so much.

        I’ve gotten better with time about the finale but I deeply regret that there was a moment I wanted dearly to experience that I was denied and it can never be replaced or repaired. It’s lost forever. But in the course of these rewatches it’s interesting to me that I am more angry and more bothered by season 3.0 than I was which is hard to believe I know. Instead of making it less painful, it has made it more so because I see a little more clearly the necessary spy story that is at least in some small part under the weight of the garbage above. That crap simply tastes worse and worse when you know that something is there instead of what is there making the crap less offensive. It’s almost an opposite reaction with time to the finale.

        As has been said many times, if you like the overall story they are telling then the mistakes bother you less but if you don’t they bother you so much more. In season 3 it was simply a story I hated, told poorly with the biggest casting mistake of the series thrown into the critical character.

        The finale simply ended too soon. We needed 5.14 or we needed Goodbye to be 5.12 and a proper 5.13 that Sarah B was back and she remembered her journey so we could enjoy retaking it again. Far too many fans have not rewatched one single episode since it aired.

      • mr2686 says:

        I agree with Dave on the fact that I think Chuck is very re-watchable. Yes, the writing is a bit sloppy in regards to plot holes and story history, but for this type of show, one in which so many genres are used (including slapstick comedy and bits of syfi), it’s hard to not let a lot of stuff get swept under the rug. Call it fanwank or whatever, but when I re-watch Chuck, it’s from beginning to end, but each episode is watched in the moment and I really can’t be bothered with what a character said three seasons prior that might contradict a small portion of what’s currently going on. Now, I can’t say that about most TV shows, but then again I think it’s safe to say there very few if any shows exactly like Chuck.
        Chuck is supposed to be fun, and often time emotional experience, so if you get that from only watching certain scenes, or watching certain ep’s, then cool. To me, picking apart the story to level that this sometimes goes to is kind of like getting the best Christmas present ever from Santa Claus, and then spending the rest of the night trying to disprove Santa’s existence.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I’m mostly with Uplink and MR on this (now this is a strange alliance…)

        Even Colonel and Ring play better for me now than they once did, as I mostly just ignore S3.
        This weekly re-watch we’re doing is the first full re-watch of the series I’ve done since it ended, and I’m pacing myself not to get ahead. Apart from that one arc I mostly skipped, its been very satisfying and a ton of fun.
        I still often watch favorite episodes, all out of order, just whenever the mood strikes.
        I guess I’m fine with all of it, because even if the ending initially left me frustrated, I do accept the good of it now, and it doesn’t trouble me for reliving the show I loved.

      • uplink2 says:

        Hey, MR and I are always in agreement that the casting of Routh was a disaster so we are always in that alliance 😉

      • mr2686 says:

        Yep, that’s a fact. Worst casting on the series and maybe all of television. Ya know, I never did see the entire Superman movie he was in but it was on cable not to long ago and when I turned it on he was getting he ass kicked by the bad guy. I really enjoyed that. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        At times like this I miss Sam Carter (huge Routh fan), she sure could liven up a discussion…

      • Dave says:

        You mean there is a Routh fan that frequents a Chuck blog…Oh, MY!

        I saw him in three things and he was terrible in all three. That was enough to convince me to stay away from him. (I knew before Crooked Arrows, but as a lacrosse junkie I had to see it despite Routh’s presence dragging it down).

      • atcDave says:

        Used to anyway, we haven’t heard from her in a year or so. Always made for lively discussion.

      • uplink2 says:

        Sam Carter aka Stargazer. You will see that SN in a number of places if you look back in the history. Hey I’m sure there are folks who find him ok but when she tried to explain his pathetic performance at the cafe as him showing “great understated technique” and that he showed he was “incredibly conflicted” about Sarah and why he wanted to kill her but not have her suffer I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read it.

      • mr2686 says:

        I just realized that Routh reminds me of Andrew McCarthy…not in looks, but in that weird way they try to act with their eyes, and it only looks weird and out of place. Now, McCarthy got better with age, so hopefully Routh will too, but as for his Chuck performance…AGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

  8. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The First Fight (4.07) | Chuck This

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