Season Four Alternatives: The Front Bit

I do love season four.  I’ll always say this is when the show realized its potential and became what I was hoping for.  But that never means it was perfect, there were certainly plot holes and continuity problems.  Add in a few scenes that looked rushed or not completely thought through, and we can certainly find a few things that could have been better.  Not only that, even a brilliant story may leave possibilities or stray threads that were never explored, or simply different paths taken.

So even in the most wonderful story we can still find things that could have been just a little bit different.  After the jump, our first look at Season Four’s alternate possibilities.

We will try to confine this discussion to the earliest parts of the season, up through the end of First Fight.  Obviously I don’t mean to be too dogmatic about that, if anyone wants to pursue an idea or thread further, feel free.  But we’ll try this again, probably right after Push Mix.

I don’t feel any burning need to re-write major parts of this story, so my own treatment will be fairly brief.  My single biggest complaint with this whole part of the show actually comes mostly from Anniversary. The things I would redo here involve Chuck quitting the CIA, keeping secrets from Sarah and lying to Ellie. I think Chuck looks like a child and an idiot for quitting at his sister’s behest.  I would have much rather seen Chuck working with Sarah and Casey right from the start.  If he’s gathering clues about his Mom as he goes, well that works fine.  And when Volkoff leads to Mom, well gee, that works too.  I didn’t like the couple months Chuck spent working separately from Sarah, especially as they apparently were completely out of touch during much of this time, and Chuck was lying about it.  Both situations never should have happened.

Now to the show writers credit, this problem was addressed and fixed quickly in the first episode.  I would have preferred the situation never happened, but fixed in 25 minutes is pretty good.  And no doubt, the season premier delivered some outstanding scenes in getting a better scenario, so I don’t mean to complain too much.  The second problem is a little bigger, that is, Chuck lying to his sister for most of the season.  This really seems a waste to me.  It reflects poorly on Chuck for doing it, Ellie for being sort of psycho for pushing him into it, Devon and Sarah for playing along…    Pretty much everyone.  That talk at the end of 4.01 would have been the perfect time for a simple “Ellie I’m going back to/never left the CIA” sort of talk.  Chuck’s an adult, Sarah is his partner in multiple senses of the word; Chuck’s life decisions are between him and Sarah, not Ellie.  Its funny that the fall out from Chuck deceiving his sister this season is pretty much nothing.  Ellie doesn’t freak out or go ballistic when she finds out she’s been deceived.  She isn’t tricked into revealing any deep family secrets.  So what was the point?  Maybe a little secretiveness involving the Orion laptop and Intersect technology.  But I think this is such a trivial story issue, and it removes Ellie from any kind of meaningful role in Chuck and Sarah’s lives; I just have to consider it a mistake.

Going forward, I’m not terribly interested in re-working things until the end of First Fight.  We discussed a lot of this in other threads, but my preferred direction here would just be for it to be clear Mary and Stephen were working together.  The other possibility that leaps out at me is sort of the opposite; Mary really has been turned by Volkoff and gone rogue.  This likely would have been the more dramatic story, tell it as sort of a Darth Vader story.  Even being Volkoff’s agent, she might still feel some fondness for Chuck and not want to see him destroyed by this mission.  She might even help Chuck (and Sarah) at least enough so they aren’t killed, all while trying to block them from actually taking down Alexei.  Funny thing, this could work with no changes at all to the front arc, it would require more work later.   Ultimately Mary can be doomed or redeemed, either way the story works.  I wouldn’t ever want to see something as dark as Mary actively trying to get Chuck (or Sarah) killed, but actively opposing their mission objectives could work quite well. And finally breaking from Volkoff to save her son and/or daughter-in-law, at the cost of her own life, might have been a really good way to go with it (gee, why does that sound familiar?)

I really don’t think I would mess with much else in this season.  Likewise fan fiction does very little with this period of the show.  It’s kind of a happy relaxed period in some ways.  Volkoff shows up as a villain in many stories, but often in completely different scenarios that really don’t tie into show canon well at all.  One story I’ll recommend is “Father’s Day” by aardvark7734.  It was actually written immediately prior to the season, and has little to do with S4; although there might be an Easter Egg drawn from all those spoilers we were getting…

Another really fun S4 fic is “Anniversaries, Sexting and the Bearded Gnome” by KateMcK.  This really takes place at some undefined point soon after 4.01.  Like much of Kate’s work it is fast paced, fun and very funny.  But it has no impact on show canon, so its not really much of an alternate.

A couple others from this period; “Two Nights on the Town” by Atlee and “Sarah vs Mothers, Daughters and Sisters-in-law” by KateMcK are brief, fun, and have little impact on canon.  CostassTT wrote a much longer AU adventure story called “Chuck vs the Game” that starts after 4.02, but likewise this is more about a fun story with the characters we love, and doesn’t try to spin a real alternate.

As always, I’d love to hear thoughts on what might have/should have been done differently.  It will be interesting to see how this goes as most of us are happier with this part of the story, and even the fan fiction community mostly left it alone.  So I promise not to be disappointed if this only gets five comments!

~ 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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124 Responses to Season Four Alternatives: The Front Bit

  1. Justin says:

    Here are the first two episodes of AU Chuck Season 4. The other five episodes I’m working on.

    RECAP OF AU CHUCK 3×19: The CIA and the Ring’s manhunt of Chuck, Sarah, and Casey come to a head. The trio brings down the Ring and finds evidence proving Shaw’s corruption that exonerates them in the eyes of the CIA. Chuck was close to bringing the Ring Director who killed his father to justice. But he was forced to let her go when it turns out she planted a bomb in the Buy More. Chuck uses the deactivation code the Ring Director gave her to diffuse the bomb only to find out that the code doesn’t deactivate the bomb but accelerate the countdown. People evacuated the Buy More before it was blown to bits. Jeff and Lester go on the run, thinking they were responsible for the explosion which the police will arrest them for (BTW they will remain absent from the rest of my version of the series so Goodbye Jeff and Lester). Casey reconnects with his daughter Alex. Beckman give Chuck, Sarah, and Casey time-off to rest from living on the run. Chuck receives a recorded message from his father that guides to his old family room where he finds a secret file room. The room contains files of Stephen’s spy work as Orion. When AU Season 3 ends, Chuck learns a shocking revelation from his father. For the past twenty years, Stephen has been searching for his wife who disappeared when Chuck and Ellie were young. After years of chasing potential leads and hitting multiple dead ends, Stephen finally found Chuck’s mother. She turns out to be the Ring Director in surgically altered form.

    4×01 (Part 1): The first episode begins immediately where the last episode of AU Season 3 left off. Chuck calls Sarah to come see him at his old family home. After she arrives there, Chuck shows her the Orion file room and reveals to him what his father shared with him. Chuck is hesitant to share the information with Ellie, afraid it would be traumatic for her to know that their mother killed their father. So, for the meantime, Chuck wants to keep the revelation about his mother between him and Sarah. Sarah brings up another point about whether they should share this information with the CIA who is hunting after the Ring Director. Chuck is conflicted over that point and needs time to think about it. As the matter of his mother weighs on him, Chuck remembers it will soon be the one-year anniversary of his relationship with Sarah. So he focuses on doing something romantic for the both of them, partially to distract himself from the other stuff on his mind. Ellie helps Chuck by giving him two tickets to a lovely beach-side resort. They were given to her and Devon by Devon’s parents. But because Ellie was preoccupied with the search for her brother last season, there was never quite the right time to go to the resort. Ellie doesn’t want to go to the resort now because she just wants to lose herself in work to better cope with her father’s death. Chuck thanks Ellie for the gift while her sadness reminds him of the burden of secrecy he carries. Devon promises Chuck that he’ll look after his sister while he is away. So Chuck and Sarah go to the resort to have a lovely romantic getaway. But they have difficulty fully relaxing after coming off of weeks of being hunted by the CIA and bad guys. It stirs up paranoia in them that they may be not safe where they are. Meanwhile, Chuck is unaware that Stephen made another posthumous recording for Ellie. The recording was delivered by the Orion operative from last season. Ellie has been informed by the operative that all of Orion’s resources and operatives are now under the control of both her and Chuck. It was their father’s will for them to inherit what he built and do with it what they believe to be right. When Ellie watches the recording, she learns the very information he has shared with Chuck. Stephen wants Ellie to know the truth, believing Chuck is going to need her during the search for their mother. He also uses the recording to deliver a heartfelt goodbye to his daughter. Ellie breaks down in tears in response before throwing up out of nowhere. While spending time with Alex, Casey finds himself in an awkward position when Alex wants him to see Kathleen, her mother and Casey’s ex. Casey is against the idea, afraid it would put her in danger and how she would feel betrayed by his faked death. Casey only told Alex the truth because he had no choice under the circumstances. Alex agrees to keep her interactions with her father a secret but not forever. Another issue Casey faces is the question of what would happen to his reconnection with Alex once he returns to working for the CIA. Casey is fiercely protective of Alex around a romantically pining Morgan. Hardened mercenaries were close to capturing Casey for information on the Ring Director. But they are told by someone who works for Alexei Volkoff to stand down and that their services are no longer needed. Operatives who infiltrated the resort Chuck and Sarah are at receive the same orders and obey them immediately. During his time at the resort, Chuck contacts Beckman to ask about the hunt for the Ring Director. He was hoping he, Sarah, and Casey would be involved in it because of their experience with the target. But Beckman tells Chuck that the hunt will be conducted by a team led by Decker, the same man who hunted them. Chuck, Sarah, and Casey will be under review by a CIA inquiry board for the actions they have taken last season. Among the things that will be discussed during the inquiry is the previously secret relationship between Chuck and Sarah. Chuck shares what Beckman told him with Sarah and realizes he may to quit the CIA to search for his mother without interference. Chuck tells Sarah that he is willing to do this alone, knowing how much of her life Sarah has devoted to CIA service. But Sarah refuses to let him look for his mother alone, even if it means she has to sacrifice his job to cover his back. Sarah has been thinking about the future since the recent ordeal with the CIA and the Ring. She doesn’t need the CIA to define her anymore. The episode ends with Chuck and Sarah united in common purpose.

    4×02 (Part 2): Chuck and Sarah return from the resort. Ellie tells Chuck about knowing the truth about their mother. Chuck and Ellie have a personal talk on the subject. Chuck tells his sister that he plans to track down their mother and figure out a way to return her to who she was before she was changed. It is what their father would have wanted. Ellie brings up the possibility that their mother may not be brainwashed like their father think. Chuck tells her that if it is true, he still wants to find her even if it means holding her accountable for her crimes. Ellie tells Chuck about their inheritance of their father’s spy network which will come handy in the search for their mother. Chuck and Sarah share with the others their decision to quit the CIA. Casey announces a similar decision for a different reason that involves Alex. The rest of the episode deals with the immediate aftermath of these life-altering choices. Beckman protest what her team have decided, believing it to be impulsive and not well thought-out. But they remain firm in their positions. The CIA is willing to accept Sarah and Casey’s resignations to clean the slate after the mess with Shaw, the Ring, and the manhunt of three of their own. But there is a condition to Chuck leaving the service. They will only let Chuck go if he gives over the Intersect which is considered CIA property. If Chuck refuses to give over the Intersect, he will be taken into custody by force. Meanwhile, Ellie is suspicious of the bouts of nausea she has been experiencing since last episode. She decides to take a pregnancy test. Chuck is afraid that, after the Intersect is freed from his mind, Beckman’s superiors may use it for nefarious purposes. So Chuck takes the risk of taking off the governor to communicate with Evil Chuck through a dream. He makes a deal with his alternate persona to self-destruct the Intersect once it is removed from his head. It would at least slow down the progress of the Intersect project for a while. Chuck presents it as a way for Evil Chuck to avenge the destruction of its Ring masters by sticking it to the CIA. Chuck hasn’t told the CIA about the Ring virus he was infected with during his life on the run. The episode ends with the destruction of the Intersect, Ellie learning her pregnancy test is positive, and Chuck, Sarah, and Casey, being free of their ties with the CIA, facing the new mission ahead.

    • atcDave says:

      Wow, this is still an impressive project Justin. So you’re not a huge Jeffster fan?

      I do like this take on teamwork, and Chuck and Sarah working together. I like what you’re doing with Casey too. The Evil Chuck/Ring Virus thing is still a little odd, but I like the way it plays out, and leaves everyone free of the CIA (for now?).
      I look forward to seeing how you tell Mary’s story!

    • Justin says:

      4×03: Six months have passed since the events of 4×02. Chuck and Sarah have moved into Chuck’s old family home to keep a closer eye on the Orion file room. They are getting used to living together under the same roof. They have also gained ownership of a computer store thanks to some of Casey’s aggressive persuasion. Chuck hired Big Mike, Morgan, and many of the former Buy More staff members to work at the store. He felt it was the most he could do since he failed to stop the Buy More from being blown apart. Chuck and Sarah are co-owners. Casey is the store’s head of security which he takes very seriously. A number of the employees don’t know who to be afraid of more: Sarah or Casey. The store’s basement functions as a meeting place for Team Bartowski, equipped with devices designed to shield it from external surveillance and a security lockdown program if necessary. The computer store is being used as a front for the team’s operations in the eyes of the CIA. The CIA has been keeping an occasional eye on Chuck, Sarah, and Casey because of the potential security risks they pose. Since Chuck moved out to live with Sarah, Morgan mourning the absence of his roommate. But Alex has been keeping her company during the times they spend together behind Casey’s back. Alex harbors as much of a crush on Morgan as Morgan does for her. When she isn’t spending time with Morgan, Alex is being trained by Casey how to handle herself in a fight. She wants her daughter to fully ready to protect herself if ever danger comes her way again. Ellie and Devon have been preparing for impending parenthood. Devon has been overprotective of Ellie, not wanting any harm or complication to befall his unborn child. Ellie harbors some concerns about being a mother when her own mother is a ruthless criminal. The search for the Ring Director has been a fruitless one for the past several months. The Orion network of operatives has been tasked with tracking her down or any clues that may pinpoint her present location. But they haven’t had any luck so far. Ellie has been acting as a liaison between the network and Chuck.

      During the episode, a lead on the Ring Director finally emerges in the form of Heather Chandler. The Ring Director had Heather secretly released from custody shortly after the events of Chuck vs. the Cougars. It turns out she was working on behalf of the organization back then. For a time, she was the Director’s second-in-command. But during the downfall of the Ring, Heather made a run for it. She has just been apprehended and is being transported to a CIA detention facility for interrogation. Heather possesses knowledge about the Director that could help Chuck find her. But the clock is ticking for Chuck to access that knowledge before the access is severed by the detention facility. Chuck and the team organize an ambush of Heather’s transport. But they have to be careful not to leave any trace of their involvement in it that can be found by the CIA. A team of Orion operatives is assembled and sent to carry out the ambush. After getting their hands on Heather Chandler, the Orion spy team brings her to the Team Bartowski meeting place during the computer store’s after-hours. Driven by her disdain for her personal nemesis, Sarah takes the lead in interrogating Heather. But Heather turns the tables on Sarah by poking and prodding her insecurities like Sarah’s fears of inevitably failing at living life without the CIA and her relationship with Chuck coming to an end one day. .

      Things get complicated when Hugo Panzer arrives at the store after tracking Heather down to this location. He was hired to assassinate her before she turns rat for the CIA. Hugo was on the transport Heather was on and it was his plan to kill her on the way to the detention facility. But her escape forced him to alter that plan. His employer turns out to be Volkoff. A fight ensues with Hugo at the store. Chuck and Sarah try to evade him with Heather in tow through parts of the computer store. Hugo is eventually taken down with great difficulty. After learning that Volkoff wants her dead, Heather gives Chuck and Sarah something to use against him as payback aganist Volkoff for trying to have her killed. She reveals that there is a connection between the Ring Director and Alexei Volkoff, a dangerous arms dealer. They had a business relationship when the Ring was operational. Volkoff provided the Ring with advanced weapons to use in their war against the CIA. But Heather sense there was something more between them by how Volkoff likes to stop by and spend time with the Ring Director or the number of times he has called her on the phone for chats. Chuck finds this information a bit disturbing but it is something for him to go on at least. Hugo and Heather are given amnesia pills to erase their memories of meeting Chuck and the others, and are left somewhere for the CIA to pick her up. Chuck calls Beckman to give her the location and the information that Hugo is an assassin paid to kill Chandler. Beckman is willing to turn the other way for Chuck and the others because of their history together and her need for some progress to be made to track down the Ring Director since there has been little of it for months. Chuck doesn’t tell Beckman that the Director is his mother. The episode ends with Chuck and the others cleaning up the mess that was made by Hugo’s assault before the store re-opens. Chuck has a moment of deja vu and nostalgia about the Buy More at that moment.

      • Justin says:

        I just realized I made some errors in typing this. Sorry for that and I hope you know what I actually mean when you come across them.

      • atcDave says:

        Well I think you had a few too many “her”s in there!

        Just tons of fun though. I love the way you’re working several different seasons sort of elements together; with the electronics store and free agent spies like S5, but a more similar story structure to S4. I also like your modification of the Frost/Volkoff relationship. Very creative and fun.

      • Justin says:

        Did you like the bit I did at the end with Chuck’s Buy More deja vu moment?

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, a very fitting Cougars call back!

      • Justin says:

        4×04: This episode is mostly similar to the original 4×04 except for certain changes.

        When Devon and Ellie go on the romantic getaway to Costa Gravas, Chuck and Sarah don’t accompany them. I felt it would a bit repetitive for Chuck and Sarah to go on a romantic getaway a second time early in the same season. Besides, I saw this as an opportunity to make this episode into a Devon and Ellie-centered one with Chuck and Sarah mostly on the sidelines.

        When the offer of a romantic getaway comes up, Ellie saw it as a chance for her and Devon to break away from all the baby stuff. It turns out there is an issue between her and Devon on the subject of parenthood. Because it hasn’t been addressed, it is creating some tension between the couple.

        Devon and Ellie somehow stumble across the Soviets-era weapons system and contact Chuck and Sarah on the phone how to handle the situation. Chuck and Sarah tell them not to do anything to put them in danger but the situation takes a turn when Hortencia launches her coup d’e’tat.

        Devon and Ellie don’t escape Costa Gravas with Premier Goya. Instead, all three of them are forced to stay after the private jet gets blown up. Chuck and Sarah send Casey to the country to help Devon and Ellie. Before Casey’s arrival in Costa Gravas, Devon and Ellie rely mostly on their experience working with Chuck, Sarah, and Casey in the past to guide them in the situation they are in. They are the ones handling the nuclear threat and trying to help Premier Goya return to power.

        When Premier Goya and Horentcia have their martial spit in the nuclear control room, Devon and Ellie are the ones who are stepping into the roles of mediators. In the process of doing that, the tension that has been going between Devon and Ellie comes to a head. Ellie confess to Devon her fears of motherhood. She has been afraid to share them with him because of how excited he has been about being a father and she didn’t want to ruin that for him. Devon tells Ellie she hasn’t ruined it. He only wants Ellie to be open with him because they are in this together. She isn’t alone and Devon will never abandon her like she has been in the past. Devon and Ellie save the day by helping Goya and Horentcia resolve their differences and ending the nuclear missile crisis. They learn about the missiles’ connection to Volkoff from Goya who provides them with his files on all his dealings with the man. Ellie thinks the files may be helpful in the search for his mother. Chuck and Sarah have only been getting bits and pieces of information on Volkoff through the Orion spy network such as him being an arms dealer, his company Volkoff Industries, and his influential connections that keep him from being convicted of a crime. Volkoff seems to be a man who keeps himself mostly in the shadows. The episode ends with Devon and Ellie back at home, oddly rested and fully on the same page.

      • atcDave says:

        That’s a fun way of working an Ellie/Devon episode in Justin. It is interesting how all that was needed, even on the show, was some marital counseling. No need for CIA agents for that!

      • Justin says:

        4×05: Like my version of 4×04, 4×05 is similar to the original except for certain changes.

        Chuck, Sarah, and Morgan arrange Casey’s funeral as an ambush for his old team with the aid of planted Orion operatives.

        Employees of Chuck and Sarah’s computer store are called upon by Casey to pick him up after his first fight with the old team and drop him off at Morgan’s place.

        While Chuck is caught up in the laser sensor and Sarah works on disarming the explosive the laser sensor is attached to, Chuck admits to Sarah his fear of being useless in the field without the Intersect. This is the first time he has been out in the field since the loss of the Intersect since 4×02. Chuck was pressuring himself to succeed without a hitch because if he did, then he would feel better about not having the Intersect anymore. Sarah tells Chuck that he isn’t useless. He has brains and heart which an Intersect can never provide.

        The information on Volkoff and his mother that Chuck was hoping to gain from Casey’s old team ends up being no different from what he has already learned. That Volkoff and Miss Frost (I’m going to call her this now instead of the Ring Director all the time) worked together in the past. This adds to Chuck’s feeling of failure which leads to him deciding to give up on the search for his mother now that it has hit another dead end. But a phone call from Miss Frost herself changes that. She wants to meet with Chuck in person.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting Justin how little change that episode needs for your universe.

    • Justin says:

      4×06: Chuck and Miss Frost meet face-to-face in Griffith Park with Sarah acting as his backup. Miss Frost tells Chuck that she wants to make a deal with the CIA. She wants full immunity for her past crimes in exchange for evidence she’ll provide them to bring down Volkoff. She reveals that Volkoff has been providing her with protection and refuge from her pursuers. But Frost doesn’t want to be in Volkoff’s debt forever and is looking for a permanent solution to her problem. Giving the CIA the means of apprehending one of the most ruthless arms dealers in the world is that solution. Miss Frost wants Chuck to speak on her behalf to the CIA because if it’s coming from him, the one responsible for the downfall of her organization, the agency would consider it to be on the up and up. Chuck tries to use his meeting with Miss Frost to tap in what is left of his mother in her. Miss Frost finds the way he is acting peculiar and suspicious. Their meeting gets ambushed by Decker and his team who have been hunting after Miss Frost for some time. They recently learned of her presence in Burbank. Frost is taken into custody while Chuck and Sarah are taken in to be interrogated by Decker about the reasons for their secret meeting with Miss Frost. While not disclosing their own personal search for Frost or her familial connection to the Bartowski clan, Chuck and Sarah tell Decker that they received a call from Frost out of the blue to meet with her. They wanted to know what she was up to and, because of the immediacy of the occasion, they didn’t have the time to contact the CIA. They tell Decker about the deal she is proposing. Decker suspects Chuck and Sarah are hiding something but Beckman steps in before Decker’s interrogation of Chuck and Sarah goes any farther. Beckman is told about Frost’s deal which she is strongly against because she wants Frost to be punished for her crimes. But Chuck thinks the opportunity to bring down someone like Volkoff is too big to pass up. Beckman reminds Chuck that Frost killed his father which is why she is confused by Chuck’s willingness to consider this deal. Chuck finally tells Beckman that Frost is actually his long-lost mother, Mary Bartowski. Beckman is surprised by the revelation. Chuck tells Beckman that he believes his mother to be brainwashed somehow which makes her crimes the responsibility of her programming and not her true self. Beckman disagrees and thinks Chuck’s mother needs to be held accountable for her crimes, brainwashing or no brainwashing. Chuck pleads with the General to give him a chance to talk with Frost one-and-one. But Beckman can’t do that, saying it’s out of her hands and in Decker’s and Decker isn’t going to let Chuck near Frost. Beckman will promise to keep Chuck informed of any developments during the interrogation of Frost.

      Chuck and Sarah are forced to return home empty-handed. But Chuck doesn’t intend to stay that way and works on developing a plan for him to reestablish contact with his mother. Sarah thinks they should wait until they hear something from Beckman and reminds Chuck that they aren’t exactly equipped to take on the CIA. They were just lucky to get away with their retrieval and return of Heather Chandler in 4×03. Next time, they may not be lucky. Chuck finds it hard to sit on the sidelines after coming so close to having his mother back in his life. He tells Ellie about what happened and Ellie feels the same frustration Chuck does. The following day, Chuck and Ellie find it difficult to move on with their lives. Chuck and Sarah’s computer store is preparing for Halloween which Morgan takes the lead in planning to get the load off of his friends. Ellie and Devon are visited by Devon’s mother Honey who plans to stay over at their place.

      Meanwhile, Frost refuses to say one word as Decker uses various tactics to try to make her talk. Beckman presses for a DNA sample from Frost so she can to compare it to Chuck. She wants to know for sure if they are biologically connected for Chuck’s sake. But her attempt to do this sets off a secret security alert to the Director of the CIA. Afterwards, the order to capture Frost changes into the order to kill her which Decker receives loud and clear. But before he executes that order, Frost releases a fear toxin that makes Decker and his team hallucinate their worst fears. While they are distracted, Frost escapes her cell and uses the facility’s computer access to check up on something. That something turns out to be Chuck’s Intersect status. According to files, Chuck doesn’t have one anymore and hasn’t for over several months. Frost reacts to the information with disappointment. Then she uses her concealed communicator to contact Volkoff’s men stationed outside of Ellie’s place. She tells them to go ahead with the plan which is to kidnap Ellie and Devon. Honey is kidnapped as well for just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Frost sees her as additional leverage. Later Chuck and Sarah are surprised to find Frost in their home. Their surprise turns to horror when Frost reveals that she had Ellie, Devon, and Honey kidnapped. She will only release them under one condition. She wants Chuck to leave the country with her. She reveals that she knows Chuck doesn’t have the Intersect anymore. But, Intersect or no Intersect, Frost wants to run tests on Chuck to know how someone like him can handle the Intersect so well without any training or damaging side-effects. When asked why by Chuck, Frost refuses to say. While Chuck tries to negotiate with Frost, Frost takes a look around Chuck and Sarah’s home. She admits to finding it oddly familiar but she can’t quite place it. While she is distracted by the familiarity of her surroundings, Sarah takes a tranquilizer gun out of a hidden compartment which is kept there for emergencies and uses it on Frost. The episode ends with Frost rendered conscious but, from the worried looks on Chuck and Sarah’s faces, her present state does nothing to resolve their situation.

      • atcDave says:

        Hey Justin I was just thinking I hoped we’d get another chapter or two today! You’re more reliable than a lot of fan fiction writers.
        Definitely an exciting chapter. Frost is a most challenging sort of foe, and I like how Decker entered the story. It will be fun to see what they do with Frost, and how they can get to Mary.

      • Justin says:

        Always appreciate your compliments, atcDave.

      • Justin says:

        4×07: Frost is being held in the basement of Chuck and Sarah’s computer store. Chuck, Sarah, Casey, and Morgan are there, debating over what to do with her. The option of turning her over to the CIA is brought up. But their failure to hold onto Frost for long makes that option a very questionable one. The debating ends when Chuck decides to use Frost as leverage to get his sister, his brother-in-law, and his brother-in-law’s mother back. He contacts Volkoff’s men using Frost’s hidden communicator that was found on her. He proposes to them a prisoner exchange. They’ll give back Devon, Ellie and Honey. In exchange, they’ll get back Frost. Chuck picks a plaza as the exchange’s location and tomorrow afternoon as its time. Meanwhile, Ellie and Devon try to figure a way out of their predicament. Honey is completely confused by what’s going on. Ellie and Devon do all they can to help her keep her wits. Beckman contacts Chuck to inform him of Frost’s escape and how the order to capture Frost has changed into a kill order. She suspects that her attempt to perform a DNA test on Frost may have caused it. It makes her wonder if someone within the CIA or more knew about Frost’s connection to the Bartowskis. But Beckman assures Chuck that the kill order for his mother won’t be executed anytime soon with Decker and his team still suffering from Frost’s fear toxin attack. But eventually Decker will be on the warpath and Beckman warns Chuck to be careful of it. Chuck doesn’t tell Beckman about him having Frost in his custody. As much as he trust her, he doesn’t want her or the CIA to interfere with the exchange tomorrow in any way. Frost wakes up from being tranquilized and becomes aware of her circumstances. She thinks Chuck is an idiot for not just handing himself over to her. If he did, the mess they are in wouldn’t be happening. Chuck apologizes to Frost for her being tranquilized and Frost asks him why he is treating her so differently. Back in 3×19, there was hatred in his eyes. But now there is only sympathy in his eyes yet Frost has no idea where it comes from. Chuck doesn’t answer Frost’s question, finding it not the right time to drop the bombshell on her about being his mother.

        When it is time for the exchange, Volkoff’s men fail to arrive on time. Chuck sitting at a table, nervous that something may be wrong. Casey is on one of the roofs surrounding the plaza with a sniper rifle which he will use when needed. Sarah and Morgan are in a car in the parking lot with a restrained Frost in the back. While impatiently waiting for the arrival of Volkoff’s men, he crosses paths with a bumbling, noisy middle-aged man. He notices Chuck’s behavior and takes a pesky interest in the source of his unease. Chuck tries to keep the man out of danger and his way. But the man becomes impossible to get rid of. Then he reveals through a chilling change in personality why he really won’t leave Chuck alone: he is Alexei Volkoff and he demands to see Frost in person. If she is unharmed, Ellie, Devon, and Honey will be released in the same condition. Volkoff warns Chuck that he has several snipers already in position to take him out if he proves to be difficult. Casey notice the snipers but he can’t take them all out without Chuck getting killed in the process. Chuck is forced to go along with Volkoff’s demand. When Volkoff checks on Frost in the car, he displays a moment of relief and tenderness with her. After making sure that there isn’t a scratch on her, Volkoff gives the order to his men. A van drives into the parking lot and drops a disheveled Ellie, Devon, and Honey off. Before leaving with Frost, Volkoff tells Chuck that this isn’t the end of the matter involving him. Due to how recent events have gone awry, Volkoff chooses a different approach to get Chuck to participate in the tests he and Frost want on him. Chuck is given a two-week deadline to turn himself over to them for testing. If he does it willingly, things will go smoothly and painlessly. If he tries to fight it like he has done so far, terrible things will befall those he loves, worse than abduction. Volkoff tells Chuck that he has barely given the young man a full dose of what he is capable of.

        By the end of the episode, Ellie, Devon, and Honey are safe at home. Honey is given an amnesia pill to erase the memory of her abduction. Ellie and Devon make Honey think she simply fell asleep. Meanwhile, Volkoff’s deadline for Chuck looms for Chuck and his team. Chuck faces a choice between sacrificing himself and sacrificing his loved ones. Sarah is confident that they’ll find a way out of it but Chuck isn’t so sure.. .

        So, atcDave, what do you think of 4×07 and the overall first seven episodes of AU Chuck Season 4?

      • atcDave says:

        Justin I think you’re doing a terrific job, and this has been a lot of fun. You’re the only reader who has continued a single AU from the start of S3 through mid S4. That’s a significant accomplishment. Do you have all of this outlined? I hope you’re keeping track of what all you’ve written! It would be awesome if you fill this out into an actual story for posting; although I understand completely if that sort of writing isn’t for you, I know it’s not something I could do!
        Even if that never happens, it’s been something fun to look forward to with everyone of these of Alternate posts. I really wish I’d started this way back in S1. Maybe when we finish the re-watch I’ll go back and cover the earlier seasons, it might be fun to look at the different ideas fans have had for the earlier part of the show.

      • Justin says:

        I rather stick to writing this way. It’s easier.

  2. thinkling says:

    I pretty much agree with all of that, Dave. From S4 on I’m a pretty happy camper. Ellie telling Chuck to quit was understandable, though not her call. But Chuck agreeing?!#@? Huge eye roll moment. Never should have happened, especially after S3 and Honeymooners (Do you agree to not quit the spy life and be with me? I DO.) Say what?? So, I’m with you on all of that.

    I liked the mom story better than most. I enjoyed the ambiguity of her loyalties in the beginning. They could have done some better exposition as to why it took 20 years, but really I can live with her explanation and read between the lines. Sarah clearly reads a whole lot between the lines, but she has the context to do so.

    I would do the large conspiracy story. Although that comes later, leaving some bread crumbs for it in S4 would have been good.

    The only other thing I would definitely change in S4 is the way Fedak promoted it (or didn’t, as the case may be). Someone once aptly said that he could announce the end of world hunger and create a state of panic. He should have let Yvonne do all the PR work. 😉

    • atcDave says:

      As always, we mostly agree. I really like the way Mary was shown in the front part of the season, I liked that level of ambiguity. But I think her story needs a stronger resolution. That’s where my one way the other comes in. Like either; she’s developed a bit of Stockholm Syndrome over the years and needs help escaping the life, or that she is truly Volkoff’s agent now.
      I guess where the story fails me is that Sarah seems to have so little to contribute to her final escape. Of course this whole issue will be more a part of the Gobbler/Push Mix discussion. But I really wanted to see how Chuck and Sarah were in a better place than Mary ever had been, rather than have Mary be the one to get Sarah out.

  3. BillAtWork says:

    Here is my thinking. If you’re going to tell a serial story, tell a serial story.

    Sarah being afraid to unpack… or afraid to talk about commitment… or afraid that Chuck might find out she saved a baby in Hungary (I know, wrong season) is cute and light and fun at some level. But it’s also not engaging or compelling in the way that S2 was.

    They had a big story to tell. Tell it.

    Mom isn’t a moron who left her husband and 2 small kids in the middle of the night to be gone on a 20 year mission with her only excuse being ‘I just got caught up.” Come on guys.

    Here’s is what I would have done.

    Put C/S quickly together, compact the mini false angst of wt/wt get engaged/married into a couple of episodes. Then stop messing with them. They are now a couple facing their challenges together.

    Tell the story of Onion and Frost, the team that was fighting a secret war, not totally allies of the CIA, but not totally enemies either. They reluctantly left their kids so that neither side could use them against them… but they always looked after them from afar. Frost was the guerilla fighter, constantly a pain in Fulcrum’s (or whoever the big bad is) ass. Orion was the brains. He was even more a pain in Fulcrum’s ass than Frost.

    Fulcrum makes sense to me because they were undefined and because of the history between Steven and Ted Roark. But The Ring, Volkoff, anything could be made the big bad.

    Show the parallels between Orion/Frost and C/S. Have Frost try and recruit C/S to become the next generation and carry on the fight.

    Make the central conflict C/S’s future. The fight is compelling. The cause is just. It’s exactly what they always wanted to do, serve the greater good without the BS of the CIA getting in the way more than helping. But they also saw what it did to Chuck’s family. And are they willing to make that sacrifice?

    I know that story sounds a lot darker than the show. But it wouldn’t have to be. It could be played for a lot of laughs. Use Ellie/Devon and the Buy Morons (if you must). No more B story. Make them part of the team and play off Sarah’s exasperation trying to get Jeffster to do the things she needs them to do without throwing a knife at them. Have them go on assignments together and play it for laughs. Maybe sometimes Jeff/Lester save the day (unwittingly). Maybe even have Sarah over time grudgingly come to accept them as part of her extended family.

    Make Ellie and Sarah BFFs. Make a large part of Sarah’s conflict that more and more she is wanting that normal family that Chuck always talked about. Put Morgan and Casey together as a team, sometimes working on missions with C/S, sometimes on assignments of their own. Make Beckman the secret liaison between the team and the government (sort of like Batman’s Commissioner Gordon).

    Tell the history of the Intersect. Explain why Chuck is the only person who can hope to use it effectively. Make Fulcrum want Chuck as badly as they wanted Orion, and for basically the same reason. Have the team understand that Chuck is the key. They must protect him at all cost.

    That story could easily last several seasons.

    • atcDave says:

      Bill I have no doubt I would completely enjoy this version of the story. I completely agree with just getting C/S together and having the main story about something else, with the couple as a solid team. (for the record, I had fun with how the show did it too; but I never believed things NEEDED to be drawn out so long).
      I do think the fragmented way seasons/episodes were ordered was always a part of the problem with a fully serialized story. But no doubt your vision here would have been outstanding. I’m not so sure about ever making Jeffster apart of the team, I have a hard time imagining them ever following orders well. Although if they were left at the Buy More, but manipulated into helping out more often (like in Santa Suit) that might have worked. That especially would have worked later when Chuck and Sarah owned the store. And I wouldn’t have objected to Sarah threatening Physical violence to get them to do their jobs!

      • BillAtWork says:

        I think that Sarah playing off Jeff/Lester could be very funny. They did some of that with Morgan/Casey. But nobody was ever rally afraid of Casey. I would play it such that Jeff/Lester would genuinely be afraid of Sarah… and she would have absolutely no problem using that.

        It could be very, very funny in an organic way that actually makes you root for them. Imagine Sarah having to join Jeffster (the band) for a mission. They could find that she makes them successful (in a Robin Sparkles sort of way). That could be a scream. Naturally Sarah would have to wear a rock babe outfit. 🙂

        Part of the beauty of this path is that it’a a serial story. But the things that make it serial are pretty much undercurrent things. Episodes could be very much stand alone missions. So late additional episode orders really wouldn’t matter that much.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh the rock babe story would have been awesome!
        As for intimidation, I’m thinking Jeff and Lester see Sarah punish/obliterate some scumbag they think was just an innocent schmuck (they only hear his slightly lewd comment aimed at Sarah, and know nothing about smuggling weapons grade nuclear material in a bus for handicapped orphans). So then Sarah just has to growl a little, or raise an eyebrow, and Lester needs to change his shorts…

      • BillAtWork says:

        Exactly. They would be scared to death of her on multiple levels. First, she would give them a demonstration of how well she can throw a knife (why did they not ever show that skill again after building it up so much?) But they would also be intimindated because they have never been around a woman that beautiful. Lester especially wouldn’t be able to complete a sentence around her. Imagine a Zoom type situation where Lester and Sarah had to go to some event undercover as a couple. Maybe something to do with the band. He’d be a bumbling wreck, lol.

    • Angus_MacNab says:

      Write it, Bill. I’ll read that story – as you laid it out – before any others I’ve seen lately. It sounds very entertaining, and compelling.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I don’t know, Angus. What I’ve laid out really isn’t a story. It’s more the background for a series of stories. I did a little of that in Long Road Home.

        I’ve never written Jeff/Lester into any of my stories. I don’t like them, don’t think they are particularly funny, and are more caricatures than real characters. Not only that, it often frustrated me that the B story I was totally not interested in took so much screen time away from the A story that I was interested in. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that a valid criticism of the show is that the A story often felt rushed. It often seemed like a record played at the wrong speed (for those of you who don’t know what a record is, it’s how us old fogies listened to music back when you couldn’t download it on your i-Pad).

        But having said all that, I am intrigued by putting Sarah together with Jeff/Lester and see what happens. I think Team Chuck would quickly find out that Sarah is the only one who can get them to behave. And she would hate that role, but realize it was required. Jeff/Lester could actually be funny with Sarah as their very straight man. Imagine if Sarah had been standing there when Jeff asked Ellie if there was room in that womb for 2. She would have him up against the wall with her hand around his throat in a heartbeat. “If I ever hear you disrespect my sister like that again, you’re going to find yourself suddenly missing a testicle… not that you are using your testicles for anything anyway.”

        That could be funny.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh my, that could be pretty funny! Sarah and Morgan were an excellent pairing, I think every scene they had was fun. Sarah and the idiots could be even funnier. It would lack some of the human dimension (you are exactly right about them being caricatures), but would be great as pure lunacy.

        Trying to write something more like the show in tone has to be a very special challenge. The show often used sorts of slap stick and absurdism that is both hard to write, and works better in a visual medium. I think Anthropocene has come as close as anyone, but he has avoided Jeffster so far.

        I also agree completely that the B story often took too much time away from what I actually WANTED to see. But I would point out one advantage of written stories is you’re free of the 43 minute issue! You can devote as much time as you want to each element.

        For the record though, I’m not trying to get you to write a story you don’t want to! Just sort of thinking with my key pad…

      • anthropocene says:

        Thank you, Dave…I appreciate your comment because I am trying to write as close to the actual show as possible. It is not too difficult to keep an A plot going, but weaving in a relevant B plot is a real challenge, especially since Chuck and Sarah are my overwhelming favorites (as they are for many fans). My wife’s fondness for Casey ensures that I bring him in frequently as well. But be warned that I still plan a Jeffster! appearance at some point! My apologies to readers for the long intervals between updates recently (day job and all that nonsense); episode 6 is in the works.

      • atcDave says:

        I know you’ve tried Anthro, its been a pretty successful effort I think. It will be interesting to see the results when you do try Jeffster!

        I vaguely remember reading somewhere (maybe it was only for a single episode?) about the “B” plot being written by someone different from the “A” plot? I could see good and bad from doing that. Anyone know if this happened or was typical?

    • Jason says:

      Bill – a big plus one to the long post you made about alternative ways the show could have been written. Sometimes when you write, you scare me, because it reflects my POV so vividly. With the many points you made, I think I agree with every one!

      I think the marriage of epic casting / acting with uneven (1 part genius / 2 parts not so much so) writing / story telling made Chuck one of the most maddening entertainment pieces I’ve ever been part of. A couple of dozen times in the 90 or so episodes, I was left stunned, in both good and bad ways.

      That alone is fine, but the thing that gets to me, is the great stuff seemed to come easy for the show by simply following standard TV practices (like tell an interesting story each week and give the hero and heroine a happy ending, Castle’s done it like 500,000 times), while the bad stuff felt like the writers had to go out of their way to make things bad. My guess is the easy stuff bored the writers, and they tried to hit some homeruns with things like the Red Test Love Interest Horror Story, Intersect Incongruity Idiocies, Momma Mary’s Misfotunate Mission and finally the Amnesia Ambiguity Gambit Gaffe. Not too many homeruns after Orion, were there, mostly stand alone episodes like Honeymooners and Phase 3 to celebrate?

      • BillAtWork says:

        Jason, thanks.

        But trust me. It’s not because I’m particularly perceptive. It’s because I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people over the past 6 years, and how you and I feel about the show is the overwhelming majority view with no close second. Is it unanimous? Of course not. No single view ever is.

        It’s what I’ve tried to argue to MR over and over a week ago (plainly with zero success 🙂 ). But in MR’s defense, Chris Fedak never understood this either. He didn’t understand his audience or what they wanted. And the Chuck audience was pretty unique. That fact actually saved the show more than once. It’s audience was more male, more affluent, and clearly more passionate.

        We identified with Chuck. He was the everyman. He was one of us. We wanted him to succeed. We wanted him to prove to the professionals that their thinking was short sighed, that ignoring your feelings was counter-productive. And we especially wanted him to beat the odds and get the girl that common sense told us that he had no shot at. And we knew that it wasn’t going to happen over night. But we could also see that she was falling hard for him as well. It was only a matter of time, if Chuck (and we) would just hang in there.

        Fedak tried to tell the story of a hero’s journey. What he didn’t realize is that we always thought of Chuck as our hero. Making him a spy didn’t help. It actually took away his underdog status and made us like him less. And that’s, IMO. What caused the massive viewer hemorrhage mid S3. it wasn’t that C/S weren’t together. It’s that the reason they weren’t together didn’t ring true. What they did to the characters to tell that story of them not being together made us stop liking him… and more importantly made us stop identifying with him.

        So from Honeymooners on, the show was less painful, no question there. But it was also less powerful.

        If Fedak understood us at all, there are some things that he never would have done.

        Turn Chuck into a dick in Pink Slip.

        Take a shot at us for caring in Fake Name.

        Turn Chuck into an even bigger dick in First Class.

        And he paid a big price for his miscalculation. But so did we. We lost a show that could very well still be on the air.

      • atcDave says:

        Bill I think you hit the nail on the head with most of that. I would only hedge a little on saying they didn’t have to be together in 3.01. I think once you get to Colonel the shelf life on wt/wt is VERY limited. It was a very slim tightrope to keep it going at all past that point. And they didn’t slip, they jumped. Without a net. Into a tankful of sharks. With lasers.

        I also think much of the buffoonish humor we saw from Chuck (Curse is the worst, but not only example) failed badly for exactly the reasons you brought up. So many of us saw ourselves AS Chuck. Especially going back to S1; he started NOT as a parody of any sort, but as a nerdy Everyman. Straying into parody was literally alienating.
        But I do agree making Chuck a spy as they did may have been a mistake as was the 2.0. I would have preferred Chuck become a brilliant, but unconventional mastermind and tech genius sort. While Sarah and Casey remain the muscle. Don’t get me wrong, some of those big Chuck/ Sarah fight scenes were a lot of fun. But I think there were better way to tell the whole story.

      • mr2686 says:

        You’re absolutely correct Bill…you had zero success! 🙂 You talked to hundreds of people, so I’m assuming when you say the overall majority view, your talking about of those “hundreds”, because last I looked there were millions that watched the show at any given time and I still do not believe that yours was the majority view. Look, you are correct that Fedak wanted to tell a heroes journey, and he has every right to do that…it’s his story. He also wanted to put in as much pop culture as was important to him (even when it didn’t really fit like Bo Derek…but I did like Bo) even when some of the audience didn’t like it. They were constantly under the gun with threat of cancellation, and to their defense NBC had/has an abysmal track record in that regard. I really get the feeling that he was trying to get the story he wanted to tell in before they really were cancelled. Why worry about a small vocal group when the numbers are not there to sustain the show anyway (and I’m not going to argue ratings numbers again but Chucks numbers were well within NBC’s cancellation sights). If as Dave says, straying in to parody alienated some fans because they identified with Chuck, then I say that those people, and others, were going to eventually be alienated somewhere down the road based on a number of stories that those fans might not have been able to identify with. It’s great to identify with a fictional character, but at sometime in the story you have to release and just see where the journey goes.

      • BillAtWork says:

        MR, I’m not going to try and rehash our earlier argument. But I have to say that your main point makes no sense me.

        Yes, I haven’t talked to the millions of people who watched the show. I assume you haven’t either. But I have talked to literally hundreds of people, mostly all with a consistent view. And it is true that I’m extrapolating those hundreds to the general public. That does make sense to me, but of course it is un-provable. Have you talked to hundreds of people who share your view? I’d like to know who they are. Because I’ve been as involved in the fandom as anybody, on several different levels, and I’ve yet to run across your viewpoint in any appreciable numbers.

        Your last point makes even less sense to me. Why did they ever have to stray into parody? I think that Dave’s point was that was a mistake. I agree.

        And you’re also missing the viewer’s other option. Give up and just see where the story goes is certainly one option. Simply stop watching when the story no longer interests you seems like another viable option. Millions did.

      • mr2686 says:

        Well of course they had a consistent view, you were all seeking out each other because you did share that view. Do you know how many people seek out fan sites for a tv show? I don’t know either, but I’d bet it’s a small percentage compared to those that watch the show. I’d bet that a lot of those people that were not active on sites while the show was still on, are here now mainly to get info regarding a possible movie, and then stay to give their opinion on the show.
        As for your last point, I guess I don’t understand people that give up on a show when a few episodes don’t interest them. If that were the case, I would have given up on Chuck during the Jill arc. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that the average fan did not think Chuck was a ‘dick” in First Class, or even understood (if it was even there) that the show took a slap at fans for caring in fake name.

      • BillAtWork says:

        It’s a very small percentage. So what? Political pollsters take a much smaller relative sample and consistently predict election results within a defined margin of error.

        Is the sample tainted? Are only people who care about the relationship driven to fan forums? Impossible to prove one way or the other. I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that. My take is that the percentages represented in views on the forum is probably relatively consistent with the general audience.

        And I would like to point out that NBC marketing agrees with me. Almost all of the promotion of the show leaned heavily on the relationship aspects. Why would they do that if they believed the numbers were small? They wouldn’t. Does that mean they’re right? Of course not. At least I can point to evidence that supports my theory.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        BillAtWork, Let me add this. When I worked in a restaurant it was a well known fact that a dissatisfied customer was about 10 times more likely to write a review, contact the company, or fill out a comment card than a satisfied customer. If you judged the quality of the restaurant by the comment cards you’d never understand why we were still open, let alone had a 30 minute wait on weekends.

        This dynamic extends into other areas of life, like going on blogs and commenting on TV shows. I can tell you for a fact that there are a number of readers of this blog who have contacted me BTS saying they agreed with me, but didn’t want to get pulled into an argument with a far more vocal portion of the fanbase here. This blog is a self-selected subset of a self-selected subset ad nauseum. Those who are still commenting even more so. And even our own polls indicate a diversity of opinion on episodes that you would never get from reading the comments. In fact both ATCDave and I (hardly birds of a feather on many aspects of the show) have guesstimated, based on those responses and our readership vs comments, that your (and his) POV probably represents about a 30-40% share of the on-line viewers.

        While it is true that the plural of anecdotal is data I still think it’s a mistake to associate the most vocal portion of this (or any) blog as being representative of the audience at large.

        This in no way diminishes your feelings about the show and it’s choices, nor your decision to share them, but I think many here often go too far in assuming they speak for more than a substantial fraction of the on-line community about what “the fans” enjoyed or disliked about the show.

        Josh Schwartz, in an interview for The OC’s 10th anniversary talked about the fact that he knew his fans better than we thought. He specifically talked about the death of a major character in season 3. He outright said that he knew one faction of his fans would crucify him for it, while another would consider it the best thing he’d done since the stellar first season. So what’s he to do when the very thing that excites or satisfies one faction will be the very thing that enrages the other? Embrace the fact that at least the rage means they’re invested, bite the bullet and consider writing for them and enraging the others next time.

        We like to think all circles can be closed, all conflicts resolved in a satisfying way, but that’s only possible if we all like the exact same things and have the exact same priorities. It’s the scene in Life of Brian where the crowd chants “Yes, we’re all individuals. Yes, we’re all different” in unison. It doesn’t happen that way in real life. There is no perfect way to write a TV series, only a multitude of flawed ones, each limited in different ways by it’s own particular flaws.

        This doesn’t however mean we can’t have some fun talking about it.

      • BillAtWork says:


        I think I would argue almost the opposite of your conclusions. People join fan forums because they are passionate about the product. I think that body of people is more likely than the general public to give TPTB a pass and hence impassionedly defend their every decision. We can’t prove or disprove any of this. All I can do in support of my theory is present evidence. Ignore it if you want.

        Josh Schwartz knew that he miscalculated. He went to ComicCom before S3 and was confident that he would be well received. The people there were the core of the core of his most ardent supporters. He could have read from the phone book and gotten a standing ovation. Go back and look at the tape. When he was booed (maybe that’s a bit strong) you could literally see the color leave his face. He went way out of his way before S3 started giving interviews telling people to hang in there and that there wouldn’t be wt/wt fatigue. They were ready with Sepinwal’s interview before the credits had stopped rolling on Fake Name. So I ask myself… why would he do those things? Why go so far out of your way to appease a small insignificant number of minority complainers? I know my answer to that question.

        I really don’t claim to speak for anyone. But literally hundreds of people have PM’ed, reviewed, posted, and emailed me saying that they agree. I see no reason to believe that doesn’t apply to the general audience.

      • atcDave says:

        MR it’s the sort of parody that makes Chuck look comically bad that I’m referring to. As I said, Curse is the worst example, but we see it briefly on other occasions. You are right on a show like Chuck they are bound to offend someone no matter what they do. But I only bring it up because it was a change as the show went. We didn’t see this behavior much in the first two seasons, and it gradually showed up more in later seasons. I mean specifically the over-reacting buffoonish sort of stuff. It may just have a lot to do with what Zac finds funny. But it’s been brought up numerous times by different commenters here over the years, it clearly grated on many viewers.
        Generally, I think it’s a mistake to make your protagonist an object of ridicule. Chuck was hardly unique in doing this, and I don’t believe it’s a huge issue. But it is on the table as one of those things that maybe should have been handled a little differently sometimes. I just wonder if the writers realize that this is an issue of particular sensitivity when your main character, and by extension a big part of your audience, is identified as a nerd. Which is specifically (by definition) a group who deal with ridicule and rejection in their daily lives.

        I think it’s extremely hard to prove either way what “majority” opinions are on some of this. Different sites have different moods, sometimes radically so. I strongly suspect a majority of viewers had major problems with S3, for a number of reasons I’ve gone over before. But there were clearly viewers who felt otherwise. There were also clearly viewers who dislike S4, or liked it but consider it badly flawed or inferior. There were also viewers at both extremes on the finale. And it’s impossible to know what constitutes majority opinion on any of it.
        But there’s no doubt a lot of us saw things exactly as Bill suggests. Its not that CF didn’t have the right to write his show exactly as he saw fit. Its about knowing what we would have liked better and why.

      • mr2686 says:

        Well it’s probably no surprise that I completely agree with Ernie, and he basically said what I was trying to, only more eloquently.
        Bill, your argument that pollsters use an even smaller sampling to predict an election does not hold water, because those numbers only mean something if they are totally random. Taking your numbers seriously, would be like polling people at the DNC or RNC and asking them which party is going to win the election.
        Since there’s no new info to share regarding any of this, I don’t see a point of going on with this argument other than to say there were MANY factors for why Chuck only lasted 5 seasons.

      • BillAtWork says:

        What is your evidence that the sample is flawed? It isn’t link the RNC or DNC at all. The truth is that you have no evidence. You just want it to be true.

        We do agree on one point. This discussion is pointless.

      • mr2686 says:

        Sorry to inform you that based on everything you’ve said, you have no evidence either. As for NBC marketing being in agreement with you, well, that’s not really a glowing endorsement since they can’t seem to get out of their own way. They ruined more good shows than I can count. Re-read Ernie’s response…he’s bleepin’ brilliant! 🙂
        By the way, at least, for once, when you said Schwartz was booed at Comic-con, you also said that “that might be a bit strong”. So often when you’ve said that in the past it was just matter of fact.

      • BillAtWork says:

        See this is where you’re just plain wrong. I have tons of evidence. I’ve articulated it over and over. You just don’t believe it.

        Go look at the ComicCon panel. I think it’s probably somewhere on Youtube. JS was clearly taken aback by the crowd reaction. If we can’t agree on that, then I don’t know what to tell you.

        And, yes, they didn’t boo him off the stage or throw rotten fruit at him. But in that setting, anything other than fangirl adoration was telling. Trust me. He got it.

      • Jason says:

        Remember the Iceberg effect that Toyota used to ursurp the US auto market, for every customer who takes the time to complain, many (hundreds, thousand, tens of thousands, maybe more) simply switch products. GM / Ford learned this the hard way, when they smugly dismissed the vocal minority while the many hidden underneath the surface looked for other options. 30-40% failure among trusted loyal customers who love you is an abhorrent performance (Even I doubt it was quite that high by the way, 10% is awful in all honesty).

        Since any smart mind (from ANY POV) can easily refute most of this he said she said stuff about fan popularity based on viewership vs the episode, I try to no longer gauge how bad it was for others, and I focus on my own reaction, be it to s3, s4 or s5. One reason I watch other tv is to compare to my Chuck reactions. Much as I loved Chuck and Sarah, I’ve found dozens of shows I consider better written, and few written worse than s3 thru s5, with the exception of a handful of eps. Chuck contained many scenes in those seasons I loved, but the way it all was brought together was rather abysmal, again from my POV.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie just to be clear, I do believe general discontent with the misery arc was actually higher than that, but 30-40% is as high as I’m really sure about. Even at that, it’s a high enough percent the show runners were right to be very concerned about it. I think fan morale dropped significantly that season.

        But I also think that was the only one of the various failings and shortcomings we delve into here that I think had an impact on the broader group of casual fans. The finale greatly upset a smaller number of fans (smaller group, bigger upset!). But I’ve never heard big complaints about anything else show related. And yeah, I’ve heard a lot of general comments and observations from casual viewers, even from those who noticed production valued declined in S3 and later.
        But we all notice problems and have complaints about the shows we watch. It’s part of the game. It’s only important (to TPTB) when it may effect our viewing habits.

      • atcDave says:

        MR even if booed is an exaggeration, there was a noticeable and unhappy reaction to the whole Comic Con panel that year. I think the point remains, they knew this would be an unpopular story. And yes, I get that there are times and reasons to take an unpopular turn (especially like in the case Ernie mentioned, a MORE popular actress told JS “it’s her, or me”. So someone had to get killed off…). But to flush most of a season on a story that you know will PO a major portion of your audience simply cannot be considered wise.

      • mr2686 says:

        Dave, let me start this out by saying that I don’t dislike season 3, but that I love season 4 (probably the most consistent of all the seasons in my opinion). Ok, next, I will not agree that they pissed off a “major” portion of the audience for season 3, but I will acknowledge that it po’d a portion (anything over half would be major in my book because you’re still pleasing the other half), anyway, let’s say for argument sake that they had two ways to go for season 3, the way they went or the way that would have basically brought us to episodes a lot like season 4. Great right? I’d be happy and I know you would (can’t predict what makes Bill happy 🙂 ), what do you think that would have done to the men 18-34 demo? The numbers may have very well gone down earlier and we might not have made it to a season 5. Maybe TPTB took a gamble based on what other shows have done in the past and been successful. Maybe they just miscalculated not understanding how the internet has really brought out the most vocal of fans. Who really knows. What I do know, and I often get really frustrated here because of it, is that nobody…NOBODY in the industry is going to take intentional pot shots at their fans and try to alienate them on purpose. Nobody is going to mess with their money, or for that matter, the money of the people that are employing them and will or won’t employ them in the future.
        I’ve brought up Castle before, and I know you can’t compare all shows, but I think it’s a valid comparison in the way show runners use the WTWT. That show has gone back and forth until (I’m assuming) the start of this coming season. It’s taken a lot longer to get the characters together, and they have not been real nice to the characters in keeping them apart. So why is Castle’s numbers pretty consistent and their fans not as upset. I’m not sure, but maybe it’s the type of story. Castle is more of a procedural and each case is the main part of the story…and that’s accepted. The WTWT and other stuff is very important but it always seems to be put aside, even within the story by the characters, so that the case can get solved. With Chuck, it was so much of the whole story…Chuck always wanted to talk about his feeling in the middle of a mission, etc. If you ask me, that’s what turned off the “average” fan, especially the 18-34 demo, but that was also part of the charm of Chuck to some of us. By the way, I don’t consider the hardcore fans that go to Comic-con as the “average” fans.

      • BillAtWork says:

        MR. Who says that they intentionally alienated their fans? I don’t think that they did, at least not in S3. Who would be stupid enough to do that? They simply miscalculated. In JS’s other shows, the teenage girls would have loved the wt/wt angst of a trapezoid. When they went to ComicCon they fully expected to get the fangirl reaction. They were clearly shaken when they didn’t. I don’t think that’s even subject for serious debate. I think that they themselves admit it.

        That’s my main point. They didn’t understand their audience and what they wanted. And it cost them.

        If they had started S3 with Honeymooners would the show have declined just as rapidly? We’ll never know. It’s possible, depending on what they did next. But if I was WB, and CF came to me looking for an investment of my money, I would have insisted on a storyline that pleased a fan like me. Because I firmly believe that identifying with Chuck is the show’s main draw. Then I would have dropped the relationship as a story altogether. It would just be background. I would tell an exciting spy story of C/S facing threats together. Lots of ways to do that. I outlined what my plan would be. But there are others that could work just as well.

        The show totally depended on wt/wt angst for the first 2 seasons. And wt/wt angst has a definite shelf life. Anybody who frequented the NBC board knows that I was saying that in S1. By Colonel, it was put up or shut up time. They simply went to the wt/wt well once to often. The reaction was totally predictable. Read the comments to Mo Ryan’s (who I like) interview right after CC. There were pages and pages of comments that were so scathing that Mo Ryan offered them another interview to repair the damage.

        Could they have successfully told another story, one that doesn’t depend on wt/wt? I think so. But again we’ll never know.

        BTW, the CC fans are not normal. Who would say that? They are the most rabid of the rabid. They put you and I to shame. That’s why ANY negative reaction from them was a shot across the bow. Re-watch some of JS’s interviews from later in that day. He was massively depressed. Because he knew that he had just miscalculated.

      • atcDave says:

        Okay, as perceptions go, I completely agree with Bill on this. I’m maybe a little more hesitant to call those perceptions fact, but I certainly interpret things just as Bill describes. I believe JS thought, even after Comic Con that he could still make it work, and we’d all be dazzled.

        I also think MR, that many of those 18-34 year old males who later left the show during S4, were newer viewers who had signed up for S3. S3 caused a changing of the guard of sorts. The premier brought in a lot of new viewers, and scared off a lot of old ones. I suspect those new viewers who liked the darker tone and story are the ones who most liked S3 and disliked S4.
        And yeah, that’s a pure guess. But among my group of casual viewers I never knew a single one who complained about S4, and several of them did complain, and even left for a while due to S3.
        My suspicion is, those viewers who had been with the show from the start would have likely been more happy with a happier, more light hearted S3.

        Castle is a wholly different thing. For starters, Castle himself started as a bit of a cad, and I think the audience was ready to accept a longer growth period. Some of it also the nature of procedurals, we expect less to “change” on a week to week basis. There’s also a structural difference, even when Castle and Beckett were involved with third parties, the show remained completely about their partnership. So the bulk of the screentime was still Caskett interplay. It made it easier to accept interlopers, when the show actually continued to be about the leads.
        And you know, in spite of some issues, they have actually been together for a year already. So even on Castle the wt/wt had a time limit.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        BillAtWork, as a stats geek I have to say this, using hundreds of people who tweet, e-mail, and PM you to say they agree with you is the last thing you should consider a sample of broader opinion.

        Yes, many people come to fan boards out of passion for many reasons, you missed my point. The disappointed are always the more vocal portion of the population.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I don’t disagree that the unhappy are often the most vocal. Not sure that applies so much in this discussion. Most people that would take the time and effort to post on a fan forum were probably (at one time anyway) overall satisfied with the product.

        But Ernie, I think you miss my point. Those, what I admit are anecdotal, stats are all we have. I do believe for what they are, they are conclusive. And I do believe they are collaborated by what we saw in other areas… the reaction at CC, the drop in viewers, the marketing (which I don’t think you can overestimate), TPTB being so quick to offer an explanation after Mask.

        Is the sample flawed? Perhaps. But I have seen no… zero evidence to suggest that. So to conclude that my sample is flawed, and draw the exact opposite conclusion that my numbers would suggest, doesn’t seem like valid logic to me. If you have that evidence, I’d love to see it. If you have other numbers, I’d be just as glad.

        What you seem to be doing is invalidating my evidence with zero facts, then using the lack of any evidence to conclude what you seem to want to conclude. That TPTB could do no wrong. Again, the logic doesn’t seem too solid.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Is the sample flawed? Perhaps. But I have seen no… zero evidence to suggest that.

        It is inherently, irredeemably flawed, that is what I’, saying. It is made up, according to your description, of people who contact you to tell you they agree with what you’ve said. There is no way to see that as not skewed monolithically in agreement with you. It is not evidence by any reasonable standard, it is conversation among likeminded individuals. The only thing you can conclude is a tautology. People who agree with you agree with you. Here is your characterization of your “sample”.

        I really don’t claim to speak for anyone. But literally hundreds of people have PM’ed, reviewed, posted, and emailed me saying that they agree. I see no reason to believe that doesn’t apply to the general audience.

        Can you really not see that this in no way whatsoever constitutes a sample or evidence? I’m sorry if I’m coming off harsh, but this really does not constitute anything close to evidence, and I’m not dismissing it for no reason, I’m dismissing it based on your description of how you obtained the sample. Again, sorry to be so blunt.

        I don’t draw the opposite conclusion based on finding your sample flawed, I draw a different conclusion based on, an admittedly also skewed sample, our and other websites polls that show a lot more diversity of opinion than we get in the comments section here.

      • BillAtWork says:

        No, Ernie. It’s more than that. It’s also 6 years of forum posts on NBC, ChuckTV, here and other places. And it’s far more than people just saying they agree with me. Often there is some detail where they don’t agree with me. That’s not the message I’m referring to.

        You seem to be refuting an argument that I’m not making. I’m not saying that my evidence supports that there is dissatisfaction with the show. I would say that most of the data I’m referring to is wildly supportive of the show. What I’m arguing is that the main reason a majority of people watch Chuck (at least up till S3) is that they identified with the Chuck character.

        It’s my inference that if the reason you watched was that you identified with the title character, S3 probably wasn’t that enjoyable for you. I also think I have facts to back up that opinion. But it is clearly opinion..

      • BillAtWork says:

        Oh, and identifing with the title character also meant that you probably rooted for him to get the girl.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Oh, and I also think that my data is sort of backed up by your polls, to the extent that your questions are fair anyway. I can’t remember ever seeing an option for — I watch Chuck because I identify with him in any of the polls. Most of the polls that ask that question have options like The Love story, The Spy action, The comedy.

        Yes, given those options I am sure that you would get a diversity of opinions. I’d answer that question differently myself, depending on what mood I was in that day.

      • atcDave says:

        You’re both being too stubborn about this. Bill knows perfectly well his experience isn’t statistically valid. Its anecdotal; the measure is flawed, and the sample set is small.

        And Ernie you know perfectly well Bill’s experiences are repeated in many different samples and instances. Including our site surveys, commentary here, at the NBC forums, and at other sites both Internet and twitter, and in first hand experience of many visitors we’ve had comment at this site. And even if we allow unhappy viewers are more likely to comment, unhappy casual viewers are more likely to leave without a word.
        Even in your restaurant example Ernie, I am certain management was taking a close look when they saw multiple complaints that were about the same thing.
        I think at a minimum we have to say around a third of the audience was unhappy with S3. I believe, and so does Bill and many other here, that number of unhappy viewers was actually much larger. My guess is closer to 2/3s but that is only a guess.

        But whether it was 30%, 60% or 99% this is a huge portion of the audience. No show, never mind a bubble show, can afford to alienate so many viewers. Even if NCIS, with over 18 million weekly viewers, suddenly ticked off a third of its viewers it would loose advertising revenue; that would lead to budget cuts, that could end up meaning loosing cast and a drop in quality and possible cancellation. In one season. It could happen.
        I think the point will always be they took a foolish risk with the S3 story. They knew they were taking a risk by Comic Con 2009. Exact numbers, projections, ratios etc can only be guessed at. But they changed the tone of the show to something darker, and extended wt/wt 12 episodes past its expiration date. And I think by the end of S3 CF recognized that. He switched to a much lighter tone (lighter I believe than would have been necessary if they’d ended wt/wt a season earlier) and did not threaten Chuck and Sarah’s stability again until the end of S5 (when it arguably no longer mattered).
        Ryan McPartlin said at Comic Con 2010 that they’d learned a lessen not to mess with Chuck and Sarah. Sure that was an actor not a writer, and he may have just been talking. But I believe him. He was at least a partial insider, and I believe him.

      • atcDave says:

        Quick addenda: I completely agree with Bill’s statement about those who strongly identified with Chuck.

        And the most useful Chuck This poll about S3 I think is this one.

      • atcDave says:

        BTW I’ve always considered the changes made to the show for S4 to be a direct response to the backlash of S3. And I’ve credited this to CF as intelligence. So if we deny this, should I call him lucky or stupid?

      • Haven’t caught up on this thread, but this might be informative:

        This can happen on both sides of an argument (because as Kosh from Babylon 5 says, “Understanding is a three edged sword.) Everyone, including myself, falls victim to it on occasion. Or am I drawing too much of a conclusion based on my own experience bubble? 😉

        FYI, First Class (my least favorite) has a 8.7 on IMDB, while Honeymooners (the winner of rewatch poll and my favorite) has a 8.5.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        BillAtWork, in the end I asked two very unbiased questions. What were the best episodes of Chuck, and was this episode a good episode of Chuck. The results, while not scientific, show that even on this blog, there is a diversity of opinion not apparent in the comments.

        If you wish to frame this as a much narrower discussion, people who identified with Chuck hated when Chuck failed to live up to their expectations, as I’ve said, continuously, that’s a subjective argument. Evidence and facts don’t apply.

      • BillAtWork says:


        I’m not sure what you mean by diversity. Certainly people, even like minded people, might disagree on what their favorite and least favorite episodes were. Depending on what day you asked me, there would be diversity of opinion in my responses. Sometimes I think Phase Three is my favorite. Sometimes Seduction. Other times DeLorean.

        I looked at the list (it took some time to find it, lol). And while I could possibly rank some episodes higher or lower than the list, in general, I’d have to say it reflects my views pretty well. The episodes where C/S were in an emotionally good place (Honeymooners, Colonel, Phase Three, Other Guy) were high on the list. And the ones where they weren’t (Pink Slip, Fake Name, Mask) generally don’t do so well.

        But here is where I think that my viewpoint is maybe a little different. I (I almost said we, but I’ll only speak for myself) identify with Chuck Bartowski. And no question, the show made getting the girl the main manifestation of that. But it’s not the complete picture. There are episodes that had the relationship in a great place, yet I didn’t care for them as much (Zoom, Frosted Tips, Bo, Leftovers, Curse). And in all of those episodes (Bo is an exception. It was just creepy, lol) C/S were firmly and happily together. But in all of them, I didn’t feel like I could identify with Chuck.

        So here is where I slightly disagree with Dave. I also think it’s where JS/CF made their major miscalculation. I believe that you could have started S3 with them not together. In fact, I believe you could have gone longer than 3.13 before putting them together. But they would have had to do that in a way where I could still identify with Chuck. What I would have done is put them emotionally together, both knowing that the other loved them, fully committed to being together someday, but realizing that this was not the time, it simply wasn’t possible yet. You could still introduce Shaw. You could have him make a major play for Sarah. You could even have Sarah play him by pretending to be interested. But we would know that both are doing all that they can to get to the day when they could finally be together. Every third episode or so, I’d have a scene where they’re kissing in the dark someplace telling each other to hang in there. You still have tons of UST. But that way, I can still identify with Chuck. In fact I argue that is more romantic and would appeal to me more than what happened. Other Guy was not all that romantic. There was no build up of getting closer to each other. In fact I question what changed between Three Words and Other Guy. It just seems like the wt/wt clock expired and suddenly they are together.

        So here is TPTB’s miscalculation. They didn’t have to put them together. But they couldn’t make me stop identifying with Chuck. And it was impossible for me to identify with Chuck during the entire first 13. He was a dick. I didn’t even like him, much less identify with him. At the end, I don’t even think he deserved the girl. And I question why she would even consider being in love with him. To a large extent, it ruined the love story for me. I can totally understand why so many people bailed on the show at that time. It stopped being fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Honeymooners as much as anybody. But after that, it was more relief that the pain was over than that I was in love with the story they were telling.

        Part of me identifying with Chuck is that, once you put them together, you’d have to transition to a new story. Wt/Wt doesn’t work anymore. If anything, it’s frustrating. Chuck would have had to transition from nerd to husband. That’s where I would have shown his growth. Make him fiercely protective of Sarah, not only physically but emotionally (that’s why Leftovers and Curse are pretty low on my list). Make the threats external. Show C/S as fiercely in love, as fully dedicated to protecting each other a team that is much stronger than the sum of its parts, thriving together in situations that would have easily defeated them separately.

        I’m still convinced that show would still be on the air.

      • Jason says:

        Of course if you quit watching a TV show, the show could broadcast an address that would send you a million dollars, and it does you no good. And its hard to come back to a show once you decide to quit. By the time Honeymooners rolled around, I’m shocked anyone was still watching other than those who looked at spoilers and realized that a good episode was finally coming. Too bad after Role Models the show went back to the ‘woodshed’ by insisting on jamming Shaw back down fan’s throats.

      • atcDave says:

        Actually Bill I think our only disagreement on this is how we define “together”. What you describe would have been completely acceptable to me. In fact, I had thought a secret relationship phase would be a ton of fun for quite some time. I certainly think it would have been better than what we saw, and probably more satisfying than just “together” with no outside challenges.

        The IMDb ratings are amusing. I’m guessing there’s some randomness in even who all is responding (different viewers rated First Class and Honeymooners) and different people scaled things differently. But I’ve never seen a poll anywhere else that put First Class above Honeymooners! Our vote for re-watch episode had nothing else even close, although admittedly that vote is a little different from simple rating.

      • Dave says:

        Bill, atcDave

        You perfectly described my S3 alternative. My approach was to stay as close to what aired as we could. Except for Pink Slip and Fake Name, which needed a lot of rework, you could have made it by making minimal changes.

        I agree with what you both said here.

    • dkd says:

      I think it’s very easy in hindsight to lay out a story that “could easily last several season”. But, the real writers faced a couple of things:

      1. The high probability they only had 13 episodes and had to fashion those episodes to reach a conclusion that possibly could be the series finale.

      2. The availability of actors you might want. For all we know, they did want do to some flashback material with Orion and Frost. Whether they did or didn’t, Scott Bakula was a regular Men of a Certain Age at the time. Similarly, in Season 3, they originally wanted the “other guy” to be Bryce. But, Matthew Bomer got White Collar. Plus, neither Bakula or Linda Hamilton can convincingly look young in flashbacks.

      3. The fear of too much syndication jeapardizing the show’s syndication value.

      4. Budget.

      There are some good ideas here, Bill. But, the writers probably had dozens of ideas that were great, but just couldn’t be executed with the resources they had and imperatives they had at the time.

      • BillAtWork says:

        But DKD, I’m not describing the idea for an episode… or a season. I’m doing what the show runners clearly didn’t do… plan a background story and write to that.

        So all of your issues, budget, fluid episode orders, actor’s availablity, they’re all real. But as long as you write every episode with the background you’ve designed in advance, none of that really matters. You could work around all those issues. Simply don’t ever, ever write anything that contradicts the plan. sine they didn’t have that plan, they often wrote themselves into corners that you can’t make sense.

      • atcDave says:

        DKD I know all those issues are real, and we’ve discussed them several times here. But a big part of what these “Alternatives” threads have been all about is just pure fantasy. It’s about we would like to see, no budget or time issues, no contract or availability issues. It’s all about what we would have liked to see.

      • aerox says:

        They clearly planned a lot of things in advance. S1+2 together essentially formed their view for the first season of Chuck, if it were to be shot the way Fedak and Schwartz had wanted it to. Same with S3, which is where they started running into problems. They weren’t sure if they were gonna be renewed, so they had to make certain they were going to go out with a bang. Then they did get renewed, but Bomer (who they had wanted to cast in their original outline as the other guy) wasn’t available. Then they were suddenly renewed after they thought they were over and done with (3.13) and had to create a bunch of new episodes, and this trend continued. Any semblance of a back story they may have had planned out for the course of multiple seasons was thrown out of the window due to external events. Look at Volkoff? That story in itself was riddled with flaws (or well, the Mary part) but it gets even more ludicrous when you add the second batch of episodes, and introduce Vivian. They had to come up with things on the fly, and it’s all well and good telling people to plan in advance, but that’s like telling someone who got fired because of staff cuts that they should’ve prepared for that eventuality. It’s not like it’s their fault they got fired, is it?

        I think they were in fact writing with the background they’ve designed in mind, but that all got thrown out when they thought they had finished writing the show four or five times, give or take.

      • BillAtWork says:

        They planned S2? Really? The Jill arc stood out like a halter top in church. And before anyone tries to say that it was a result of the late back order, JS/CF always claimed that the Jill arc was originally going to be in S1. Would it have fit any better then?

        Part of the problem is that they always tried to end the season with some sort of conclusion. Except that their conclusions hardy ever were. S2, Fulcrum is defeated. But 10 minutes later they are replaced by The Ring. Could somebody explain to me the difference between Fulcrum and The Ring? Neither was defined at all. And since The Ring ‘conclusion’ was 5 accountants being captured in a stairwell, I’d argue that they couldn’t have been all that menacing.

        I think there is a lot of confusion over what I’m talking about as a plan. I’m certainly not expecting them to plan every episode in advance. I agree, their circumstance wouldn’t allow that. But I do think they should have planned an overall story strategy that all episodes writers would be required to follow. And yes, that means that you might not be able to use Tim Dalton when he suddenly becomes available because you had already ‘concluded’ him.

        So I would have stopped trying to have a grand season that had a climatic ‘conclusion’. Tell a background story. Have all of the episodes be consistent with that story, and don’t try to time it so that it ends on the 13th or 22nd, or 24th episode. That way if the network throws you a curveball, you can always stick a standalone mission in and it still works.

  4. Jason says:

    Dave in my weekly comment about ‘other’ TV, can’t help but add that Covert Affairs is having a great s3 (mid season final just aired). Most tv has a really bad season, I took BN this season in stride without even blinking, but s2 of Covert Affairs left me scratching my head. S3 has been great, with the use of Joan / Arthur better than ever, and Henry Wilcox is one of those characters you can’t get enough of (reminds me of Arvin Sloan from Alias). Augie and Annie, I’m not a huge shipper, and they are having issues, but the issues are the sort I’d expect. In some ways, S2 makes the S3 issues work better for me, I think of Annie as liking Auggie far more than head over heels in lust with him, and s3 reflects a strong bond, stronger than a sexual relationship. I though of CS almost the opposite, Sarah had a strong sexual attraction for Chuck in most of s1/s2, even though they had almost nothing in common. I’d wonder if in the final two eps people thought Sarah showed attraction for her unknown Chuck. I thought I saw it, but I’ll bet some did not, while others thought there was a perfect amount, and they loved that part of those two eps.

    • Dave says:


      CA is in season 4. I skipped on S3, didn’t like it. I’m giving it a new chance in S4, and yes, I’m liking it so far.

      • atcDave says:

        We gave up in S3. I may get back to it some day, hearing its been better does help.

      • Jason says:

        thx Dave – my bad – s4 of course, went off memory, which is increasingly unreliable.

      • Dave says:


        Had they not rebounded in S3.5 of Chuck, I might have forgot about that. I started on S3 of CA and it was just bad (worse to me than the initial part of the misery arc) and I left. It may have gotten better, but I certainly did not like how they moved forward from the S2 finale. Castle was much the same after the S2 finale left me flat, the did not deal well with it. I think, perhaps, all S3’s must be like the doldrums for sailors.

        The CA and Castle S2 finales left their characters in a far worse spot than C&S were at the same point. While I wasn’t a fan of what they did in CA and Castle, in Chuck TPTB took a better S2 finale, turned sharp left and drove off a cliff.

  5. dkd says:

    I think if the PTB wanted to re-write Season 4, they’d want to find out why young men exited the show at a greater rate that older men and try to fix that:

    I split the season into groups of six episodes and averaged the ratings

    Men 18-34:
    First 6 1.7
    2nd 6 1.6
    3rd 6 1.3
    Last 6 1.1
    Diff. Last 6 to 1st 6 -38%

    Men 35-64:
    First 6 2.6
    2nd 6 2.7
    3rd 6 2.5
    Last 6 2.1
    Diff. Last 6 to 1st 6 -22%

    Note: It’s common for rating to drop in the Spring when the last six aired and this happened for all demos. The 3rd 6 ran in the winter when TV viewing is still high.

    On a personal note, my biggest complaint about Season 4 is the emphasis on the engagement and, then, wedding planning. If I was interested in wedding planning, I’d watch “Say, Yes to the Dress.” I DO NOT watch that show.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Totally off topic, but how is First Date holding up on Broadway. Just realized I don’t have a free weekend until October 26th. I assume it will still be open, but know things can change fast if a show starts losing money.

      On topic I thought they did a reasonably good job of using the wedding stuff to highlight Sarah’s changing nature and growth toward the Sarah we saw in season 5. I get that it was a little much for some at times.

    • atcDave says:

      DKD you may score like the young males then. Speaking as an older guy I loved the engagement and wedding sub-stories. I thought they were fun and sweet, and exactly what I wanted to see.
      But no doubt the younger guys will prefer more of the spy stories and outrageous humor. I think that’s the audience they were trying to reach with the S3 re-invention. And when the show changed again I think those newer viewers were the first ones they lost.

      I honestly don’t know if there’s a story that could have kept us all happy. If I didn’t believe the misery arc was ending when it did I would have left. Actually, if I thought some of those changes were long term I would have quit at 3.01. I imagine there were some viewers (mostly younger males I suspect) who felt that way about Honeymooners or Suitcase and threw in the towel then.

  6. Jason says:

    Funny how the commentary keeps going back to season 3 isn’t it? As for s4 alternatives, in many ways, I was looking for Frost to be a stonger character and story leading to a few knock my socks off moments about the way the past of Frost and Orion blending into the present with Chuck and Sarah. I was also looking for with Orion’s death, Chuck and Sarah filling that void, even if that meant taking the show darker, because Orion was dark in s2. I wanted Chuck and Sarah to fill that void, as a Hart to Hart type couple, but I honestly thought the writers were going to have Chuck go solo as Orion by night, while remaining with Sarah and Casey by day. I might have even bought into that, IF Chuck had a compelling reason for not telling Sarah and IF they got along really well and IF when he finally told her, it didn’t become an excuse to split them up (Lots of IF’s!).

    I’m not a single guy between the age of 18 and 34, but the 24 eps of engagment teases and wedding teases sucked for me (as did the 13 eps of teasing about a happy ending with a white picket fenced house the next season), even as Chuck and Sarah being together produced some great moments. I read / viewed somewhere that Schwartz wanted to marry them off by 4×13, I think that would have been smart. Chuck and Sarah could have become this generation’s Jonathan and Jennifer Hart. Just look at the smile each of them have on the top of this article, how could they go wrong? This way the light relationship drama (it made for lousy drama) took control of the story that originally was something else. By marrying them and making them stable, the sci fi / spy / ‘Orion doing things nobody else would using tech’ part of the story could have kept control of things in s4 and beyond, after the detour that season 3 took.

    • BillAtWork says:

      Yeah, Jason.

      But I don’t think you can have a discussion about S4 without addressing what happened in S3. When you think about it, S4 wasn’t new story, it was an epilog. WT/WT was the only story they felt comfortable telling. And when they answered that question in Other Guy, what could they do? They knew that breaking them up wouldn’t work. So wt/wt transitioned to wt/wt get engaged. Then wt/wt get married. Then wt/wt start a family. It was lame, sometimes cute, never painful, but also not compelling.

      Part of what I love about the show is that it (pretty uniquely) gave me moments where I actually pumped my fist in the air. And I can point to scenes in every season (even S3) where I pumped my fist. But what were those inn S4? The only one I can think of is Phase Three. “I’m different without Chuck. And I don’t like it.” They should have done a lot more of showing them insanely protective of each other and a lot less of pretend wt/wt.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Oh, I forgot the other S4 fist pump moment. In Anniversery. “If you touch a single hair on Sarah’s head.”

        Them being protective of each other was compelling. They should have done more of it. It was why Leftovers was so bad.

    • atcDave says:

      S3 is so pivotal for the show and fans, it will always be an issue. Too bad, I’d much prefer if the stronger seasons, especially S2 and S4 dominated more of the discussion. But as it stands, it will always come up. Chuckwin’s Law.
      I do agree Chuck and Sarah as the new Hart’s or Charles’ would have been my absolute favorite thing to see. And I think it’s too bad that was never a part of the show runner’s vision. Well, maybe by S5. I do understand they had a bit of a problem though; the audience that would be drawn to that show is possibly different from the audience they had. And certainly it’s a different audience than what NBC normally wants to court (older and stable).
      The most obvious thing to say is just they needed to promote the show that way. S5 got little enough promotion as it is. But I think if they’d made a big deal of a fun show with husband/wife super spies, lot’s of comedy and action, Chuck and Sarah together in all the promos, and an emphasis on all new story-lines for new viewers they might have been able to forge a new identity and find new viewers.

      • mr2686 says:

        I think your right Dave, but if they did that there’s always a chance they would have lost some existing viewers, and that’s the rub for a show like Chuck. Most shows try to do one or two things well. Take almost any other show that has consistent ratings and you’ll see more consistency with overall show structure. With Chuck, it tried to do way too many things…A, B and sometimes C story lines, and more of what I’ll call main secondary characters (buy morons). For someone like me, that didn’t matter. I loved it all, which is probably why if an episode didn’t center on the Chuck/Sarah love angle, I still liked it as long as the Buy More or the Devon/Ellie or Casey story was good. Most of the EP’s that are at the bottom of my list, are ones that are also on the bottom of most everyone’s list, but not because of the misery arc etc, but because they didn’t have a good B or C story line either.
        I’m curious as to how many of the younger crowd lost interest in the show once Chuck was less of a gamer with tape on his fingers, and more of a boyfriend/husband? Again, that didn’t bother me a bit, but you know with this type of show that every type of change, no matter how big or small, is going to turn on and turn off some viewers. I think it was a no win no matter what.

      • atcDave says:

        Well MR I think anytime you make changes to the feel of a show you’re going to see a certain turnover in the audience. Obviously that’s never ideal, but as we were saying elsewhere, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Coming out of S2 things were certain to change. With a huge promotional campaign and lots of good press the S3 premier drew a large audience with a lot of new viewers. I think if the mood had been the lighter feel of Honeymooners and S4 right then, I think we just would have retained a different subset of the premier night audience. I also think we would have kept more of the original audience, but obviously I’m just guessing.
        If S4 had received a big “fun spy couple” sort of ad campaign it still might have succeeded in bringing in new viewers who would have been happy with what they saw. That’s pretty much what the show was that season anyway, we can imagine some content changes too (I’m all for a faster engagement/wedding cycle, although I never required it). The viewers we lost would likely be the same however the show was promoted or tinkered with in this vein. But by that point the network had stopped most advertising.
        Ditto for S5. Better promotion of the fun couple themed show might have reached some new eyeballs. And given NBC’s dismal ratings, even a modest improvement might have bought more episodes. But I think both show runner and network were hesitant to embrace that as the show’s identity. It doesn’t match NBC’s target, and might have alienated some younger male viewers, so they failed to embrace what the show was becoming anyway.
        Obviously this is all conjecture. It’s impossible to know if anything would have really helped. But I suspect it would have bought us more time.

  7. Jason says:

    I haven’t released new fan fiction for a while, this week I had one of those weeks as a writer we all really appreciate, where I got a complete set of reviews from a new reader, 27 reviews worth. Caused me to look at my viewing stats. Needless to say, I write shipper friendly stuff, at least I think I do. But … when reviewing stats on some of my other stories, I came across a funny, very small sample size phenomenon.

    In my first story, a 15 chapter job that took place starting on the beach scene, I was most pleased to see after the 2nd chapter, the same number of folks more or less who started the story ending it, six for the month, which is good news. The exception, I have a chapter called Shaw right in the middle. Only 2 of the 6 readers read it, the other 4 skipped Shaw and the following chapter, then picked up again.

    The sad part, my Shaw chapter might be one of the chapters I was proudest of, and if actDave recalls the chapter, I think he’d agree that any / every shipper would probably enjoy it as the chapter presents a plausible, albeit unlikrly explanation for Sarah’s use of Shaw in season 3. I’m tempted to change the name of the chapter, and see how it would change viewing patterns over the next year. Again, the sample size is not huge, but it would be interesting.

    • atcDave says:

      I just went back to review that chapter, no doubt it was fun!

      Is it hits? or just reviews that were off? I know reviews are important to writers, but as a reader I so often feel like “good job, more please” is all I can say. And I’m not always inspired to review when that’s all I can think to say. I’ve been trying to review more faithfully, especially now, realizing the fandom is shrinking. Encouraging writers seems more important than ever.

      • Jason says:

        That story hasn’t had a ‘review’ in over a year so I’m lalking hits for What’s Next, but LID got 27 ‘reviews’ this week, which for my type of stories is awesome, and might encourage me to take another shot at Chuck and Sarah Charles vs the 1930’s.

        None of my stories were / are ‘smashing’ successes, Uplink shared some ‘hit’ info with me, my stories were not even in the same league, like comparing Mash in its heyday to reruns of Hart of Dixie in terms of views or hits. I noticed the What’s Next Shaw chapter’s poor performance a long time ago, but hadn’t looked at any hit stats for probably a half year. When I did yesterday, I simply laughed that the low relative numbers in the month of September continued for that chapter. In many ways, the low volume of hits made the issue even more obvious, not less, as it appeared six people read the story complete, but only two read those two chapters.

        It may not have been due to the title, but it shows how frustrating some things involved with creating a story can be, for FF writers in my case, but my guess is same sort of stuff happens to all writers. Cause lets face it, TPTB didn’t think s3 would turn out how it did with fans, nor the final two s5 eps / the scene on the beach, both were written with enthusiasm and optimism. Sometimes ideas that writers like, just don’t work out for as many fans as the writer would hope.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, I’m sure no writer wants their work to be unpopular! But of course it’s always a bit of a balancing act between writing what you want to write, and writing what is more likely to be popular. An amateur has far more freedom, especially if they’re willing to loose some readers! And it is interesting how a smaller sample set can draw attention to an issue. It’s really hard to know why a particular chapter from a story might not be read (I’m either reading or not reading), although it is possible the hits were somebody looking for something? There are occasions when I’m looking for a particular scene. Although it wasn’t me! Apart from new stuff I’ve recently been reading early S4 material.
        I’m not surprised LID would be your most successful work, it’s easily your best. Although you’ve always had interesting and fun ideas, LID shows more skill and polish in your writing. And I think the setting suits your style very well.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Trying to make exact sense out of’s stats is difficult at best. For one thing, they aren’t captured in real time. The site caches them and applies them at scheduled intervals. Sometimes that application process breaks and you’ll see no hits for up to a day, and them a lot of hits as it catches up.

        Having said all that, in my experience I definitely get more reviews when people are angry about something (so Ernie and I do agree on at least one thing, lol).

        My sense is that a lot of people are uncomfortable leaving reviews. So they favorite a story instead. That’s become my gauge to judge how successful a story is, how many people have it as a favorite.

      • atcDave says:

        Reviewing can be awkward. For one thing, I’m afraid to give away spoilers in my review, because I’m sure I’m not the only reader who sometimes looks at them before I read a story! But that can be hard to do if you’re reviewing chapter 10, and everything about chapter ten spoils chapter two…
        The other thing is, and I seem to be a minority about this, but I’m just not going to be extremely critical in a public review. I’d much rather be encouraging, especially if I actually like the story. Its more important to me that the writer continue writing, than risking discouraging someone.
        I also never want to pressure a writer to do something they have no interest in doing. I see no point in trying to get the story I want, if it will undermine the writer’s enthusiasm for their own work.

        When I believe criticism is honestly wanted, or deserved, I’ll use a PM. But even then, I feel no right or entitlement to trash on a story that simply isn’t to my liking. Taste will obviously influence what I read, what I favorite (and recommend here) and the type of material I seek out.
        But its not necessarily the same thing as quality. I’ve seen interesting and fun stories with serious technical issues. And I’ve seen extremely well written stories that I just didn’t like. Expressing all of that in a review is extremely dicey.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Reviews are funny.

        About 80% of my reviews are some variant of – “I love the story. You’re the best writer in the history of the planet. Please update soon.”

        Okay, they never really say that I’m the best writer in the history of the planet, lol. But they make me feel good. I’d be lying if I tried to say that I didn’t like those reviews. But I don’t learn much from them.

        About 10% correct some minor flaw. A misspelled word or some fact from the show. Sometimes they’re even wrong about the fact.

        About 5% try and preempt the story direction. “Don’t let Ellie sleep with Cole.” “Don’t make Sarah so stupid as to go up to Eric Gold’s suite.” Those usually amuse me. Sorry but the story is already mostly written. If Ellie sleeps with Cole or Sarah stupidly goes up to Eric Gold’s suite, it has already happened.

        About 4% try and guess what is going to happen next. These are my favorite type of review. They are when I learn the most. I have actually changed stories because I saw a good idea in the speculation and wrote it in, lol. The idea for ‘Hello Jill’ came directly from a review from Long Brick Road’. Esardi (I really miss him) was my favorite. He was uncanny at guessing some future detail that wasn’t all that obvious.

        And that leaves the 1% who are just mean spirited trolls, often making no sense, and almost always anonymous. “Sarah is a whore” is probably the most common.

      • uplink2 says:

        Well I think everyone has seen a drop in reviews, or at least most everyone. Even Frea’s new story with MXPW isn’t at the level she has traditionally gotten. All of this is to be expected as we approaching 2 years since the show went off the air. Plus writing activity was dead a few weeks ago and has been brisk lately and there are fewer readers. My last chapter of LL&L has the fewest reviews of any chapter but the hits were very similar in fact they were up from the prior few.

        All I can say is its bound to happen with time but it always did amaze me that review counts were generally less than 2% of “visitors”. The # of folks who review is definitely small compared to those that read.

      • atcDave says:

        Some of that may involve multiple visits from the same reader too. And you can only review once!

        Word Press does record hits vs unique visitors separately for us here. The difference is around 4 or 5 visits a day per each unique visitor (I would expect ff to be less than that). Obviously those of us who comment regularly probably hit more often, while those who only plan on reading may only visit once or twice a day.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ll sometimes comment on minor factual errors, usually in jest, and usually only if its aviation or history oriented.
        I like speculating, but I do worry about that as the “trying to manipulate” sort of thing. On balance, I’m probably a pretty boring reviewer!

      • mr2686 says:

        About 5% try and preempt the story direction. “Don’t let Ellie sleep with Cole.” “Don’t make Sarah so stupid as to go up to Eric Gold’s suite.” Those usually amuse me. Sorry but the story is already mostly written. If Ellie sleeps with Cole or Sarah stupidly goes up to Eric Gold’s suite, it has already happened.

        Somewhere, TPTB are chuckling.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I seriously doubt it. I don’t claim to be a professional. But I do understand my audience. Ellie didn’t sleep with Cole. Sarah did go up to Eric Gold’s suite… where she and Chuck kicked major ass.

      • BillAtWork says:

        And you’re missing the point. TPTB aren’t chuckling. They know better than anyone that they made a major mistake, that they misread their audience, and it cost them big time.

        TPTB had a financial motive to make the right decisions… and they didn’t. I seriously doubt if they find that at all amusing.

        OTOH if I misread my audience, it costs me nothing. Yet, I’m still very careful to respect my readers. They are my friends. I take pride in the fact that they allow themselves to become invested in something that I wrote. I always felt a responsibility to them. It’s not monitary, I’m not being paid. With me it’s personal.

      • mr2686 says:

        …and now I’m chuckling.

      • uplink2 says:

        This pretty much acknowledges what you are saying Bill.

        (Sepinwall) So season three: Shaw, Hannah, Chuck and Sarah hooking up with other people.

        Josh Schwartz Thank you for reminding me of these things.

        In that interview they admit they didn’t know how to write for Routh, that he was brought in because of who he was and the visibility he brought (stuntcasting) and not what he brought to the character as an actor and that they didn’t write a good character or story for him till they made him a villain. That’s about as close to admitting they screwed up big time as we will ever see probably. They didn’t throw him under the bus, just jumped in front of it and pulled him along with them.

      • atcDave says:

        Huge difference between amateur and professional in terms of expectations and response to an audience.

        And MR, in the circumstances mentioned, Bill did deliver exactly the sort of scene audiences wanted. Just not in the way they may have expected, and Bill is laughing because he knows he’s going to deliver, even if it’s a bit of a fake out at first.
        While the pros, completely and utterly failed to deliver.

      • mr2686 says:

        No, they delivered, it’s just that some of you didn’t like a few of the episodes before it happened. You didn’t like the “fake out”. I have a question for Bill. If you write a story, and 30 to 40 percent of your readers tell you they don’t like what you did to one of the characters, but 60 to 70 percent say they like it, what do you do?

      • uplink2 says:

        MR not sure what you mean by that in terms of “before it happened”. I don’t get what your trying to say but I keep coming back to this, I had absolutely no idea any of anything related to Comicon, the Ali video, the WTWT fatigue damage control, or anything at all about Chucpocalypse. I just watched week to week and my only spoilers were the NBC promos and after Fake Name aired I almost left the show for good. I was an example of those that didn’t post on forums etc that hated that arc.

        My boss tells me this all the time and I think it works here. If we get one call or one email about a problem with something we are doing there are probably at least 10 others that are not complaining so we need to address it. In the case of Chuck, I was one of those 10 who didn’t post but hated it just the same.

      • mr2686 says:

        Uplink, that was in reference to what Dave wrote about “Bill did deliver exactly the sort of scene audiences wanted”. What I’m saying is so did TPTB, it was just dragged out a bit, and when I say a bit, I still say that a lot of those episodes in early S3 are not bad episodes. Yes, Mask and Fake Name are the weakest of the series, but if I was going to leave a show based on two weak episodes in a row, I would have left during the Jill arc. Those are just as bad in my book. The problem with your work place analogy is that when people complain about service (and I’m assuming you’re talking about service and not an actual problem with a product), you can address those individually. People having problems with parts of a tv show are quite a bit different. You have too many external factors playing in to it, not to mention that every time you make a change, you affect the people that may have liked what you were doing in the first place. I believe it’s safe to say that most people on this site would rank Honeymooners in at least the top 3 of all Chuck episodes, but if you go out on the internet and type in Top 10 Chuck episodes, you will actually find a few sites that don’t even list Honeymooners in the top 10 (sometimes not even in the honorable mentions). Heck, check out the comments (as of this writing) for Fear of Death. Two of us like it a lot (in various degrees) and one person thinks it’s pretty much unwatchable. What does that prove? It proves that there is no typical Chuck fan and making any one segment of the audience happy was not going to save the show.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Your statements are intentionally misleading.

        I did just what you suggested. I Goggled ‘top ten chuck episodes’. And I did find some that didn’t have Honeymooners listed. But they were all a blog of some sort… one person’s opinion. I could see that a critic is looking for different things than a typical fan. In any of the fan forums, the top episodes are fairly consistent, as are the bottom ones.

        So I conclude that you’re just wrong. There is absolutely a typical Chuck fan, at least there are characteristics that a majority of Chuck fans share.. There isn’t a monolithic one. Writing S3 to play to that typical fan would have saved the show. I think that TPTB understand that better than anyone, hence their overcorrection in S4 and S5.

      • atcDave says:

        MR the show writers delivered exactly what a major portion of the audience dreaded and did NOT want to see. In most cases worst fears were realized, and many viewers were bitterly disappointed.
        Even if such a thing did happen in the cases Bill mentioned in his own writing (and I’m quite certain they did not, at least not then); it is an amateur work and there’s no obligation to entertain and make money.

        The biggest difference being, the show runners KNEW they were delivering a product that a significant portion their audience did not want and would not ever be “okay” with. That was an audience that had a business obligation to.

        And there is also a huge difference looking at a single episode like Fear of Death vs a whole season long arc. Even if Fear of Death did fail a number of viewers, they quickly made good, and one week later made nearly everyone happy.
        While the season before they followed a course that left a major portion upset for 12 episodes. I will always call that foolish and irresponsible.
        If they were hobbyist writers doing exactly the same thing; then so what. They can do whatever they want.
        But professionals have a different responsibility to their audience, to their studio, and to their own employees.

        Here they are in no particular order:
        Santa Claus
        Phase 3

      • BillAtWork says:

        Even JS/CF are shippers, lol. I wonder if they read my fanfic. 🙂

        Funny that not one episode CF wrote is in the list. Come on, CF. First Class didn’t make your list, lol?

        That could very well be my list. DeLorean, Seduction, and Other Guy would also be in that group for me. But if I had to pick 4, they could very possibly be these 4. It would depend on what day you asked me.

      • atcDave says:

        Well one thing I think is true, no matter how hard a time we give them sometimes, they are happiest when we’re happiest. So I think they consider their best work to be the fan favorites.

      • BillAtWork says:


        Nobody is saying that they intentionally tried to drive us away in S3. They simply miscalculated.

        I can see what they were going for. I actually agree with MR (a little, don’t tell him) on this one small point. They were trying to set up a dramatic, romantic get-them-together moment in Other Guy. They were honestly stunned at the reaction they got.

        Their miscalculation was 1) They underestimated the wt/wt fatigue that the base was already feeling. 2) They underestimated the displeasure at what they did to the characters we identified with generated.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with that exactly Bill. Although I do think they should have known better, the evidence was there, they thought it would be hugely popular once we all saw it or something.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I’m not sure how these things work. I do know that JS was visibly shaken at CC. Maybe it was too late to do much about at that point. It had already been pitched to the network, Negotiations for Routh were perhaps in progress. And maybe they softened some things based upon the reaction. I think that’s entirely possible. It would explain why the tirnaround in Mask seemed so abrupt.

        I do believe that they realized they were going to have a big problem when Mask aired. They were ready with that ‘calm down’ Sepinwal interview much too quickly to think that it wasn’t anticipated.

      • mr2686 says:

        Their miscalculation was 1) They underestimated the wt/wt fatigue that the base was already feeling. 2) They underestimated the displeasure at what they did to the characters we identified with generated.

        Bill, believe it or not, I don’t disagree with you. I do however think there’s a big reason as to why they underestimated both the fatigue and the displeasure over character treatment.
        If you look at Chuck through the first 2 seasons, there are only 35 episodes. That’s well short of two full seasons. I would say that most of us could point to a boat load of tv shows that have used the WTWT and have used far more episodes than that to come to a conclusion. I believe it’s possible that TPTB still felt they were in a good timeframe for that. Now you add in the constant threat of being cancelled and only a half order for season 3, and they felt like they wanted to go out with a bang, resulting in what some people feel was severe abuse of the characters to help bring us to a great conclusion. Now, in my opinion, what they didn’t take in to account, or were unwilling or unable to work around, was the unusual amount of time between seasons. Most shows end around May and start back up in September leaving a 4 month hiatus. Chuck had an 8 and 8.5 month hiatus in the first two seasons (not to mention any extended time between some of the episodes). This gave fans way too much time to think, and when they found out that Chuck and Sarah were not together at the start of S3, they revolted (and by they, I mean the vocal group…I won’t say minority or majority because that road isn’t worth going down). As you’ve said, JS seemed surprised, and maybe his surprise was from a perspective of where they were in the show using what seems to be a tried and true plot device.
        One thing that has helped soften this problem is how new fans, and casual fans, watch via DVD. Any time lapses between episodes or seasons are strictly self imposed, and any arcs that are less than popular seem to be fairly short in duration especially when binge watching.

      • Jason says:

        MR I first watched an ep less than a week prior to Pink Slip, Sci Fy channel had an 8 ep marathon, I caught enough eps in those 8, to pique my interest, so I power watched as much of s1/s2 as I could p;rior to s3’s beginning. Pink Slip horrified me, I thought maybe I missed something, which is why I turned to the boards. turned out many shippers missed the same boat, and it took nearly a half a year to right the ship.

      • atcDave says:

        MR I completely agree with all of that. I even admit I may have been expecting too much breaking from television convention going into S3. I had seen Chuck as a unique and innovative show, and was in part disappointed when they were less innovative than I had hoped for and expected.
        The only other thing I would add is that the nature of the Charah relationship was quite different from most television wt/wt. There was little of the bickering or rivalry; and Chuck and Sarah seemed to establish friendship and trust VERY quickly even back in S1. Ending that season on a high note, then a hot/romantic START to S2, sure seemed to fuel a lot of high expectations. We got to the end of S2, and were TOLD by CF that Colonel was a complete game changer (his exact words), and yeah our expectations went nuts. Yvonne was interviewed the week Ring first ran and made the comment she hoped they got an S3 because she most looked forward to seeing how Chuck and Sarah got to know each other better. This is all stuff that you don’t get when watching the discs straight through, but it sure had a huge impact on us all going into that long break. It was enough that when Comic Con 2009 came along it was a pretty brutal shifting of gears and expectations.
        CF did later say something to the effect he misused/overused (? I don’t remember the exact quote) the “game changer” phrase. And of course Yvonne was actually completely out of the loop when she made those interview comments (she had been in Australia for several weeks). But this all formed strong expectations back in spring 2009.

      • BillAtWork says:

        Besides, they had already overused the jealousy / triangle device. Bryce, Lou, Lon Kirk, Byrce again, Jill, Cole, Jill again, Bryce yet again. Who was Hannah except a Lou retread? And not even as compelling of a character. Who was Shaw except for a Bryce clone only without anything approaching a personallity?

        On other shows with a wt/wt, they had other stories so that the wt/wt didn’t dominate so much. So when we actually got the game changer of Agent Walker actually committing treason, they was really no story intregrity way to back off that.

        But having said all that, I still believe that they could have been sucessful at not putting them together. I’ve described what I would do. But there were other ways.

        What they couldn’t do was make us stop liking Chuck. That was the fatal flaw. And the Chuck in Pink Slip simply wasn’t the character that we had been sold for the past 2 years.

      • mr2686 says:

        Yep, TPTB and the actors certainly didn’t do themselves any favors with their off the cuff comments.

      • atcDave says:

        I’m still thinking about those off the cuff comments. And I know we, as a fandom, took a lot of heat from some for our “entitlement” attitude. I’ve always seen it as more expectation than entitlement; but looking back at how First Kill generated SO MUCH excitement with that last scene, the thrill of Colonel plus the statements from CF about its significance; and it sure fueled a lot of the passion going into the “save the show” campaign (it really got rolling the week after Colonel, through the finale, and forward for the next couple weeks). It felt like an implied contract, actually more than that, like a simple statement of the good things that lie ahead; and we felt like we knew what we were fighting to save. We KNEW what promise the show had and what great things were coming. And so many of us felt utterly betrayed at Comic Con. In hindsight it can maybe written off more as misunderstanding. But at the time it was betrayal.

        Some the understanding that comes with time does help ease some of the anger I felt towards the show runners. But it does NOT make the show itself any easier for me to enjoy.

  8. uplink2 says:

    I know this is off topic but I had to post this.

    IMO This is little Stephen Bartowski’s Christening party!

    3 girls and a baby! #love ❤

    A post shared by Mini Anden (@theminianden) on

    I really love this pic and in many ways the real honest friendship that the “alumni” of the show is quite a testament to it and the great people that were involved. I think that came through on screen and is one of the reasons it holds such a special place in our hearts.

    • Dave says:

      No doubt Mini Anden’s baby and she’s probably taking the photo. Lucky kid, I know grown men who would pay good money to be the center of attention for these four ladies.

      And yes, their continuing friendship of the cast is a testament to how well they worked together.

  9. SuzyW says:

    Sorry, didn’t know where to else to put this. It’s already been a pretty good night for Chuck alumni at the Emmys. Tony Hale (Emmett) won for best supporting actor in a comedy. And Gail Mancuso (Chuck Versus the Suitcase) won for best director….

    • atcDave says:

      That’s great Suzy, thanks for the good news!

    • BillAtWork says:

      First off, it wasn’t a fake out. Chuck was actually a dick in Pink Slip. Chuck actually was with Hanna. Sarah actually was with Shaw. Sarah actually did say that she didn’t love Chuck anymore because he had killed someone. Those weren’t fake things. They happened, for most of an entire season. People who identified with the title character didn’t have much fun during those times.

      Second, I don’t totally understand or buy the premise of your question. I’ve never gotten anything close to 40% of my reviews saying they don’t like my story. I don’t expect that would ever happen. I would expect that those people would simply stop reading. If enough people stopped reading and I noticed that my hits were low, I’d probably consider stoping posting. That hasn’t come close to happening.

      But in any commercial enterprise, 40% customer dissatisfaction would be cause for panic.

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

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