Chuck vs The Fear of Death (4.08)

So the Intersect is broken.  And Chuck is pretty desperate to get it back!

That’s right, no Intersect for the next three episodes.  Can Chuck still be a spy?  Will Sarah still love him?  Is Sunday Night Football on Sunday nights?! After the jump, we’ll discuss the first episode of the “Intersect-less Arc”.

Fear of Death scored quite poorly on our rating the episodes poll.  I find that funny, since I really like this episode.  Not an “all time favorite” like.  Not even a “middle third of the season top 5” like.  But I still like it quite a lot.   Of course season four only managed two episodes that I struggle to enjoy, and this isn’t one of them.

Right from the start I enjoy the way Chuck is determined to regain his super-powers.  He really is pretty good natured about it, and determined.  I think this an appealing and mature attitude.  I wish he acted like this more often sometimes!  Sarah is also positive and encouraging.  Casey seems to be having the most trouble; anyone else find it odd the General stuck Casey on babysitting detail?  I mean, Casey surely would have enjoyed getting to do some field work, while Sarah would have likely been fine with some down time home with Chuck.  I suppose Sarah is the only agent apart from Chuck who’s actually seen Volkoff, but it still seems like a funny situation.

Enter Agent Rye.  This character may be part of why this episode is marked down in our poll.  I thought he was very funny, but I know from past comments many viewers found him mostly annoying.  But then I enjoy moron humor sometimes, as long as it isn’t Chuck or Sarah (!).  I think Agent Rye graduated from the Maxwell Smart spy school.  Anyone remember Dr. Leo Marvin from “What About Bob?”  I think Leo may have taught Agent Rye’s psychology classes.  Death therapy.  He really is an idiot. All of these CIA experts are looking for a psychological fix to something that was done through physical means.  Amusing.  But Rye trying to terrify Chuck is good for plenty of laughs.

Another scene I find interesting.  And guys this will be difficult, but listen to the dialogue during the massage scene.  You may have to shut off the monitor and just listen to what’s said.  Sarah clearly tells Chuck she loves him without the Intersect.  In Phase Three she will seem to have plenty of anxiety over this very issue.  She will repeat this sentiment again as the mission to Switzerland is planned.  I love the “safety net” line by the way; another excellent example of funny (and exasperated!) Sarah.

I like the auction part of the mission too.  I get a big laugh out of Chuck being unimpressed with the Russian’s threats.  And then being annoyed with himself for not getting scared when he should have.  The vault scene may be another part of why this episode is scored down for some viewers; Chuck does freak out a little when he can’t flash.  I often say I don’t like buffoonish Chuck, and I can’t deny this scene was a little over the top.  But between loving the previous Star Trek banter, and being impressed with his gemology course and bringing along a loupe, this shows the intelligent and creative Chuck that we have partly lost since the introduction of the 2.0.  I wish we saw more of this Chuck.

All along, I’ve completely enjoyed seeing overprotective mama bear Sarah too.  This has always been a favorite, very appealing angle of her character to me; and I love how its played for laughs throughout this episode.  I think when Chuck and Sarah do have kids, if little Chuck Jr ever gets bullied at school, Sarah will be a frightening avenging Fury on the bully’s parents, teachers, school security…   This leads to the next thing that I think lowers this episode for some viewers.  THE video conference confrontation.  I did feel Chuck’s frustration at being belittled by Sarah at this point. I always though Sarah knew she’d screwed up as soon as she spoke, but I think its interesting where her priorities lie, and its clear she just want Chuck home safe. I completely get how this drives Chuck to take a risk and prove himself. And I love his confession while hanging on for dear life.  What he has with Sarah is more important to him than the Intersect or being a spy.  Rye responds appropriately, gets shot for his trouble, and there was much rejoicing.  That Sarah now blames herself for Chuck getting captured is the most significant fallout; both in terms of the dynamite ending to this episode, and as a motivating force in the much loved Phase Three coming up next.

And of course I just skipped over the issue that I’m sure frustrates viewers most of all and leads to the weak impression of this episode.  On the conference call, Sarah says she’ll catch a super-sonic jet and be there soon.

Slow

Then they insert stock footage of a BAe146 landing.  DOH!  This is a mostly unremarkable aluminum tube that saw service mainly in the 70s and 80s.  It was popular for its short field characteristics, but had a very slow cruise speed for a jet airliner.  Ironically bad choice.  They really should have shown an F-22 setting down instead.  With Super Cruise capabilities it would have been a much better choice; and what could possibly be hotter than Sarah flying a Raptor to the (almost) rescue?  

Fast

Talk about a massive wasted opportunity!  This I cannot forgive…

As a “B” plot, we have Summer Glau as the latest Greta.  I think this was the single best and funniest Greta story.  Errr, ’cause there actually was a story…

So do folks really not like this episode much?  I still don’t get it.  You know you all are breaking Ernie’s heart.  And on his Birthday

~ Dave
ct_bar

High Anxiety

Once again, Dave’s got exactly the take on Chuck vs. The Fear of Death that I have. I’d place this episode in the bottom quartile of Chuck episodes, and it may always be there. But I loved it, and I think I know why.

We're talking about real danger now.

We’re talking about real danger now.

Let me get right to the heart of the matter. We have a confrontation, and it’s the most terrifying, scary and realistic fight scene ever in the history of this show.

Sarah: Chuck, we’re talking about real danger now.
Chuck: I’m sorry. And I can only handle fake danger?
Sarah: Look. I – I know the Intersect is important, but so far none of Rye’s therapies have worked. And the microdot contains highly sensitive information that the wrong people will kill for.
Chuck: Well I can take care of these wrong people without you holding my hand!
Sarah: Why does it make sense to risk your life?
Chuck: Because it’s what I do. I’m a spy.
Sarah: No, Chuck! You’re not!

Ouch. That hurt. Those words hurt Chuck more than Shaw or Roark or Vincent ever could. The disagreement (I use that term advisedly) was also the subject of some conversation here and on the NBC boards, which is an indication that something hit home. We were all asking if Sarah was being inconsistent, not trusting Chuck enough after she said she would. We were asking if Chuck was repeating the disaster we saw in Prague, once again choosing the spy life over Sarah.

Agent Rye

Agent Rye

There’s more than a little lead-in to this confrontation, and honestly, I had forgotten how skillfully Chuck had been led by Agent Rye (Rob Riggle) to this point. It takes only one more quote to highlight his manipulation and to summarize the first half of this episode.

Rye: All right, just follow my lead. If we get into real trouble, you’ll get us out of it. You don’t need Sarah. This is all you.

Yes, I had forgotten, but I should have remembered. Rye’s been telling Chuck all along that a good spy doesn’t need help, and he can do without Sarah’s.

Mamma Lion

Mamma Lion

I’m going to take issue with that interpretation, though. As much as this looks like the same problems Chuck and Sarah supposedly overcame before, it is not; their situation is different. Chuck can’t flash. Sarah being a mamma lion regarding Chuck when he can’t flash is in keeping with the Sarah we’ve always known. Chuck still wants to do something more significant than being a nerd-herder and that’s been true ever since he chose to re-intersect himself at the end of S2. But this just isn’t a decision between the spy life or Sarah. As we saw in The Honeymooners, both of them are struggling to have both parts of their lives reconciled.

No one said that would be easy!

Agent Rye is a cartoon character and I think he is meant to be (which is why is demise is not disturbing). You may have noticed that he’s the only person in the entire episode who is not anxious about something.

GRETA

GRETA

The new GRETA is sure upset, understandably, by Jeff and Lester. Perhaps Summer Glau was underused in this role, but GRETA does serve a purpose. You see, Casey is as anxious as Sarah about Chuck’s inability to flash; it may mean the end of Project Intersect, Team B and for him, his job at the Buy More. Casey feels the need to prepare himself, psychologically, to leave Burbank. And by making Casey choose between his job in the NSA and what he’s found in Burbank, GRETA is just the person to prove him wrong about that.

That’s the same role Rye plays for Chuck. The cartoon agent who fears nothing stands over Chuck to tell him that he must let go of Sarah if he is to get the Intersect back.

Chuck: No, this is crazy. It’s not coming back!
Rye: But you know the rock is Sarah. Tell yourself you don’t need her and give in to the fear.

Now this is what I should have remembered. Chuck makes the right choice this time. And it doesn’t take him the entire episode either.

Chuck: But I do need her. I love her, and I’d rather love Sarah than have the Intersect. Help me up!

That’s better. Agent Rye then proceeds to demonstrate that Chuck’s made the right decision by showing that even a fearless agent who puts the mission ahead of everything can also be an idiot. Bye-bye Rye!

So yes, the tension between Chuck and Sarah and the cartoonish nature of the guest stars made me down-rate this episode in my mind. But once again, on re-watch, I may have been more than a little harsh. All of that, Rye and GRETA and even Morgan dealing with Jeff and Lester are well used to get us to the last portion of the episode.

And those last five minutes are spectacular. Truly, that’s where the cartoonish situations end and Phase 3, a fan favorite, begins. But it’s dark, oh so dark.

The Belgian

The Belgian

Chuck is captured by The Belgian (Richard “Dr. Kildare” Chamberlain), the real bad guy in Fear of Death. Now I remember Chamberlain doing Shakespeare when I was young, and he’s a marvelous actor. His role here was small, but much like this entire episode, it servers as a wonderful lead-in to Phase 3, and we’ll take it as such. As Rye dies, his dramatic entrance as the villain completely changes the tone. Sarah’s desperation to find Chuck somewhere in Europe and Asia, and her determination to do it regardless of the consequences is the same kind of shift in the mood. Fear Of Death changes completely for me, from cartoonish and comedic to deadly serious in a way that I appreciate. It’s dramatic, well executed and makes me return for more.

The change in tone also leaves me with one enduring thought. Chuck realizes he needs Sarah and somehow, from the other side of the world, Sarah realizes Chuck needs her too. That’s how intense their relationship is now.

My face was long
when I heard a whisper in her song
and it pulled me by the wrists
like the words of a hypnotist
make the silence break
yeah, when they snap, you wake.

(It’s just a) Hiding Place

– joe

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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108 Responses to Chuck vs The Fear of Death (4.08)

  1. mr2686 says:

    Dave, I really like FOD. For me, it probably ranks about 8th for the season (which would be last of the top 3rd for season 4 ) but it’s no slouch since season 4 is consistently strong in my book. I thought the chemistry between Rye and Chuck was excellent, and the Star Trek bit was very funny. Of course, the whole Summer Glau as Greta was great (seeing Summer along with Adam Baldwin was great for us Firefly fans), and when Casey tells her he doesn’t know what kind of crew she’s used to working with, it was a nice wink to the Firefly fans.
    I think this ep is a gem that people should go back and check out if they haven’t re-watched it in awhile. It also is a great lead in to one of the all time great Chuck episodes, Phase Three.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with all of that MR. Well, except I wouldn’t quite call it top third. But certainly a fun episode with lots of good stuff in it. I did like Rye a lot, very funny screw up.
      And I thought a lot of the Charah scenes were just awesome, including the way it sets up Phase Three!

      • mr2686 says:

        Well Dave, after a full season 4 re-watch, FOD did slip down a little from my initial prediction, but not by much. Instead of 8th for the season, it actually ended up 11th, which I’m sure is still higher than you have it but that just shows how much I like this episode. This ep, and S4, are a lot of fun to watch.

      • atcDave says:

        I can never define things that precisely. I normally think of three brackets; Strong, good, weak (with “bad” only used for the misery arc). Okay, I could probably break good into an upper and lower part, and FoD would end up in the lower part of good. But as I said in the post, S4 only has two episodes I put in the weak category (Anniversary for the way it starts, Gobbler for the way it ends) and even those episodes I still enjoy on re-watch. There is not a single S4 episode that I really don’t like.

        I’m kind of thinking, when we finish this re-watch in a few months, to run a series just evaluating seasons and episodes. Of course, such things can get contentious, so maybe not. But it might be interesting to look at each season and compare our own reactions to the poll results. Especially if we each share thoughts about the how and why of our differing reactions. Could be fun.

      • BillAtWork says:

        It’s hard for me to judge episodes that way. Almost all episodes have some scenes that I could take or leave, some scenes that I hate, and some scenes that I really like. When I rewatch, I ff to the scenes I really like. So my judge of an episodes is usually the number of good scenes vs the ones I hate.

        This episode doesn’t have any scenes that would inspire me to rewatch and ff to them. So in that sense, it would have to rate lower for me. But it also doesn’t have any scenes that I hate. I’m not particularly happy with Chuck’s panic that he wouldn’t be worthy of being a spy… or be worthy of Sarah without the Intersect. It seems to me that the character had grown past that.

        So Anniversary ranks much higher. It doesn’t have any scenes that I hate. And ‘if you touch a single hair on Sarah’s head’ is a ff favorite of mine.

        Gobbler has some scenes that I would ff to. But it also has a scene I hate, Mary mentoring a clearly clueless Sarah.

      • atcDave says:

        Well in FoD I would definitely consider the first discussion between Rye and Sarah a highlight, and the briefing scene before the mission. I like the message scene, apart from its more obvious appeal, I really like what’s said, and Rye’s ambush cracks me up. I like the auction scene a lot, and yes, I even really like the last video conference. I like Sarah’s panic at what Chuck is doing, and Chuck’s determination to prove himself. And I love the end at home, with Sarah packing. Only about 10 seconds in the vault would rate as “skippable” for me, and I never skip.
        As for Gobbler, I completely hate the same thing. And that sour note to end the episode is what makes it pretty weak to me. But there’s a lot of good stuff earlier, so I can’t consider the episode a bust either.

      • mr2686 says:

        For me, one weak scene (especially at the end of the episode) will not affect an ep greatly but it could be a deciding factor if the B or C plots are just average. In FOD, the scene in the vault where the temp is going down is just average at best, but there’s so many great scenes and the chemistry between Rye and Chuck is so good, that an average scene doesn’t really drag it down. Add in an excellent Buy More plot and the ep really works for me. Gobbler works the same for me, although the ending does drag it down a little bit, and I downgrade the episode accordingly, but pretty much all of the prison scenes are a total silly crack up to me.

      • atcDave says:

        The ending is generally the single most important part of an episode to me. Its the take away. Its the last impression for a full week or more. There are exceptions, where the ending doesn’t seem particularly important, but many episodes are made or broken for me based on the end.

      • joe says:

        I’ve heard it said, about writing music, that the most important thing is the beginning and the end, so yeah, I think the ending is supremely important for stories too, even on TV.

        There seem to have been two types of endings used almost inevitably on Chuck to the extreme; the happy resolution and the cliff hanger. I seem to be one of the few that enjoyed both types equally.

        Gee. When I think about it, the only exception I can point to is The Goodbye, and I enjoyed that too, even if it was the last thing I expected.

      • mr2686 says:

        Dave, I think we agree, but have a different definition of weak. Weak, for me, can be anywhere from a bit below average to very below average. Now, if an ending sucks, well that’s a different story. That would affect my overall rating of an ep. I guess the ending for Gobbler is a bit weak for me but doesn’t suck. I suspect, by my definition, it sucks for you.
        By the way, I love your idea of possibly doing a series of evaluating seasons and episodes. I think that would be fun, and we gotta make sure that S4 gets plenty of love. 🙂

      • atcDave says:

        Joe I think I enjoy both happy endings and cliffhangers (well, to some extent anyway); its the third sort, the sour twist, that I really don’t care for. Episodes like Gobbler, if we left it at Casey getting hurt, and Chuck and Sarah feeling isolated, it would have been an okay cliffie. But the whole making Sarah look like a rookie dope seeking bad advice from an incompetent colleague was the sour twist the off put the whole thing.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah MR I may have had a stronger reaction to that end of Gobbler, but even then it wasn’t enough to totally ruin the episode.
        But I don’t think our definitions of weak are all that different. A number of unsatisfying scenes and/or an uninspiring ending are the most typical characteristics to me. The quality of Chuck is such that even the weakest episodes still have some good moments. An episode like Curse was awesome for both The Woodcombs and Sarah. Really some terrific stuff for those characters. But it gets a weak vote for me because I just want to punch Chuck. I am not amused…
        An episode like Murrrder I’ll still call good or average. It’s funny, I was entertained, and it left me with no particular complaints. It may be at the lower end of average, as it left me with nothing to be excited over either. Some might call that weak, in some ways it is. But I have no complaints that make me want to call it out like Gobbler.
        I reserve “bad” for those things that really anger me and I want nothing to do with. Fortunately that only happened in the one cluster.

      • BillAtWork says:

        For me, the scenes that I hate are when they mess with an established character, especially Chuck or Sarah. So the end of Gobbler qualifies. Leftovers even more so. Chuck standing there looking drugged when Volkoff was pointing a gun at Sarah ruined that whole episode for me. The same with Curse. That one scene of throwing Chuck’s growth under the bus for a single plot point ruins the episode.

      • mr2686 says:

        Good description of Muuurder. It really had nothing to get me excited, which I like less than an episode that has some ups and downs (unless those downs are real stinkers). That’s what I like about S4, it has fewer flat line moments for me than any other season.

  2. olddarth says:

    A horrible episode littered with examples of not just ONE but EVERY character being clobbered by the Stupid Stick to serve the porous plot. At least it is bookended by good opening and closing scenes. But what a limp lead in to probably the best episode of the season.

    My least favorite episode of the series.

    • joe says:

      Glad you’re still reading, Lou. But you still haveta consider that the threshold, where silly (one of positive attributes) becomes stupid is determined more than a little by individual tastes. There’s plenty of room for interpretation here, and in this episode, more room than usual.

      It’s a real “Tale of Two Cities,” starting off with the supercilious Agent Rye and finishing with Team B in C&S’s bedroom uniting to go rogue in order to save Chuck. That’s the part I do like.

      And that silly part actually does a decent job of getting us there!

      • atcDave says:

        Well put Joe. I agree exactly. I thought this was a great example of how to have a pretty serious bit of drama transported by a ridiculously fun story.

      • olddarth says:

        Silliness should not come at the expense of character integrity. The fact that it is one of the lower rated ones is not a coincidence.

      • atcDave says:

        What was wrong with character integrity here? Chuck was trying to prove his worth without the Intersect, and hopefully get the thing working again. He was a little insecure, but pushed ahead anyway.
        Sarah was mostly worried for Chuck’s safety.
        that all seems perfectly in character to me.

      • authorguy says:

        One thing that seemed kind of stupid to me was the idea that they could fix something done physically with a psychological cure. Only the fact that they tried 31 days of physical tests and failed makes it plausible that Chuck would be ready to try like that.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I do agree Marc that was a pretty weak plot device. But it was funny. And really, the government seems to have no actual Intersect experts at this time. Not until Ellie unlocks the Orion computer.

    • BillAtWork says:

      I think I line up more with Lou here. Maybe not so much with the intensity. It’s not my least favorite episode (First Class, Mask, Bo, Beefcake, and Pink Slip are all lower for me) but all of those episodes rank low for exactly the reason Lou articulated. They took liberties with the characters, made them look weak and stupid, all for a plot point.

      Chuck being worried that Sarah wouldn’t love him without the Intersect is particularly silly (maybe a better word than stupid, lol). They had already resolved that specific issue in Ring II. “Do you think you could love a regular guy?” “Well, i fell in love with a regular guy.” It’s one of the more serious issues I have with the writting. Often times the writer of an episode looks like he/she had never seen the show before.

      • authorguy says:

        I don’t recall Chuck being worried that Sarah wouldn’t love him without the Intersect, so much as he couldn’t be a spy without the Intersect. He was quite disappointed that Sarah thought he wasn’t a spy without it, and couldn’t take care of himself. Not until the end of season 4 and then season 5 does he show that he can be a spy without it.

      • atcDave says:

        Bill I agree entirely with the episodes you rank lower than this. For the record, I do rank Fear of Death pretty low, but that’s not the same as disliking it. Chuck never sinks to the level of “dislike” for me, outside of S3.

        And as Marc said, I never heard Chuck worry that Sarah wouldn’t love him, only that he wants to be useful and respected too.
        Sarah seems to be the one who will worry that Chuck thinks she doesn’t love him. Likely due to enough self awareness to know she’s not a great communicator. But that particular point never seems to actually be at issue for Chuck.

      • BillAtWork says:

        I think that was the inference we were supposed to come away with. Morgan certainly thought so, he told Sarah exactly that in Phase Three.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that was even mentioned in the synopsis for the episode.

      • atcDave says:

        Well its all funny because Sarah actually does clearly say twice that she doesn’t care if Chuck has the Intersect (message scene and mission planning scene).
        I guess its more about both of their insecurities; Chuck about being respected and useful, Sarah about not being clear in her affirmation.

        There’s a bit of conventional wisdom that its more important to men to be respected, to women to be loved. I’m never sure if I buy that. But they both seem most worried about success in their traditional gender roles. I guess that does make this episode a Chuck reversal!

      • Jason says:

        Dave, maybe lots of the goofy, seemingly hard to watch Chuck antics in s4/s5, like in Family Curse were meant to perpetuate that character flaw. I’m pretty sure schwartz said that finally on the beach in 5×13, Chuck no longer was insecure. It may have been the point of the entire show??? Sad eh???

  3. anthropocene says:

    Funny you should mention Sunday Night Football tonight, Dave. Congratulations.

    • atcDave says:

      I was pretty worried in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. It is nice when the defense becomes a scoring machine!

      Sorry to any Steelers fans out there.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I’ll just paraphrase Jeff. Congrats, I’m glad it was you buddy (to hand us our 0-3 opening). I gave up at half-time. I was pretty sure that if I watched the third quarter it’d be the usual rally just enough to give me hope then rip my heart out on the last drive that could save the game for us with a turnover. From the looks of it I wasn’t wrong.

      Looks like we’re back to the 1980’s form for a while.

      • atcDave says:

        Well if it’s any consolation your guys sure made me sweat it out!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        That’s nice of you to say, but you say that only because I’m guessing you haven’t seen the Steelers play as much as I have. The heart-rending 4th quarter come-back drive turnover is basically in their playbook.

      • atcDave says:

        Hey! That was a takeaway not a turnover!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        So he did an audible for the takeaway option. Same difference. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        No, no, no. A turnover is what happens to the other team. A takeaway is what your team does to the other guy!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        It’s funny, one of the things that bugged me most about local sports coverage when I moved to the DC area was that you’d never know there was another team on the field when you read the Redskins coverage. All turnovers were fumbles or bad passes if the ‘Skins lost the ball, a brilliantly jumped route or stripped ball if they recovered. A brilliantly executed 7 minute touchdown drive by the other team might warrant half a paragraph with the other half describing the ‘Skins three-and-out. I suppose it was only maddening to an outsider, but it was funny, and reminded me of the Saturday Night Live skit with “da Bears” when they started that. There is one team on the field that matters. Mine.

        Perception is a funny thing.

      • atcDave says:

        And of course I totally botched that joke. A turnover happens to you, a takeaway is what you do to the other guy…

        But yeah the local coverage thing is often funny. I (we) grew up in an era when our home teams were still usually covered by a local station on TV. Maybe a couple times a year we’d be a featured national game, and it was always funny to hear what the network guys might say about your team that was so different from the local guys. Now every game is a network game, and of course I’ve lived out of market for almost 25 years now so I don’t get to listen to Chicago radio or read The Chicago Tribune anymore. It’s actually become harder for me to know what the hometown thinks, except for the Bears own website that I read at least daily.
        When newspapers all started e-editions a couple years ago I was tempted to switch from my Detroit paper back to the Tribune. But apart from the Bears I don’t really care about Chicago local news anymore. Of course I don’t really care much about the Lions either….

  4. Jason says:

    I really didn’t like the ep on first viewing. I’m sure I rewatched it around the time I first viewed it, but have not returned to it since. Unless I’m forgetting an ep, this was my least favorite episode of the season, although the story where Sarah goes undercover in the Balcony followed by the Turkey episode was a worse story, as was Mary’s godawful story. The good news for FOD, bad eps are far less damaging than 12 bad eps telling a story around a bad idea in a row.

    • atcDave says:

      I absolutely agree with that last Jason, one or two bad episodes is not nearly as big a deal as a whole bad arc.
      I would also agree the conclusion of Mary’s story was weak.
      But I still mostly like this episode!

      • Jason says:

        Dave – shows how great s4 was for you and I, the ep we both disliked near the most, you anniversary, me FOD, the other liked. That left 22 eps for s4 we both liked. I wish TPTB had written a wedding ep prior to their usual sort of woeful season ending ep, had the wedding ep been a bottle ep around 4×21, it would have been a top five ever for me. Cliffhanger was almost that anyhow, but the Norseman killing Sarah was such a stupid plot, that it lessened the wedding, which was about 38 minutes too short.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree with all of that. Although I still think the best wedding scenario would have been an elopement in Paris, at the end of 3.13…

        Oh, for the record, I think my least favorite S4 episode is Gobbler, mainly because of how it ends (Sarah getting lousy coping advice from Mary). I dislike the first 20 minutes or so of Anniversary, quite a bit, but I really like how it ends. And THAT makes a huge difference!

  5. authorguy says:

    Not my favorite episode, I was never very sure what the point was. It seems more like Sarah who develops the most, first with her “no you’re not!’ and then conquering half of Thailand on her own.
    It seemed that there was something to Rye’s methods, at least. The flashes get a bit more complete each time, but never all the way there.
    I also liked the attempt at an international tone, as well, the little Buy More guy racing across the map, and the kitschy special effects of the Swiss landscape. That was a cute touch.
    Even the Buy More stuff was less pointlessly annoying than usual. I could have done without the Subway ad in the middle, but it so OTT that it was funny.

    • atcDave says:

      I think they always handled Subway that way, and it was generally well done. Make it so outrageous and stupid it just has to be funny. Actually, I think that’s what they did with most product placement (Toyota and Super Shuttle also stand out to me).

      I think the overall point here is pretty simple, they’re setting up Chuck in jeopardy in such a way that Sarah will not only be desperate, but she’ll be blaming herself some too. So yeah, I think that part of the story is much more about Sarah than Chuck.

      • joe says:

        It’s an awful testimony to the effectiveness of advertising, but I do miss those Subway product placement spots. On occasion I still hear that jiggle – “Any – any – any Five. Five dollar footlong” – and get the urge to put on a random Chuck episode.

        Oh, wait. That’s *not* the effect they were shooting for…

      • atcDave says:

        Hah! Joe I notice the same thing! Almost any Subway commercial makes me want to watch Chuck. Of course it doesn’t take much to make me want to watch Chuck.

  6. andereandre says:

    I loved the tail, so furry!

  7. Ernie Davis says:

    I’m going to disagree with Dave here on one thing, and it goes to my constant FoD complaint about viewers ignoring obvious exposition, both literal and implied in the setup for certain things, then claiming “stupid stick” when they don’t like where the exposition the writers gave takes the characters. The obvious reason Sarah was sent to search for Volkoff is that she knows what he looks like, Casey doesn’t. We are told from the beginning that Volkoff is a recluse, Chuck doesn’t flash on him and Sarah doesn’t recognize him as Volkoff in the bank when she and Casey have been hunting him for months, leading to the obvious conclusion that nobody in the CIA knows what he looks like. Now Sarah does, and is one of only two people in the CIA who does. The other just lost the intersect. I thought it a clever way to ground Casey and send Sarah off for a bit. I was surprised so few people caught it.

    • atcDave says:

      I did say that Ernie. It’s true you had to point it out to me, but I did say that in the post.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Oh, I must have missed the revision. Sorry, the downside of seeing the piece in production is that I often skim the final version rather than a full re-read.

      The larger point stands, quite often we are given plenty of information to buy into a premise, but don’t see it, or refuse to do so for a variety of reasons. When that happens I think blaming our disappointment fully on the writing or the stupid stick isn’t entirely fair.

      • atcDave says:

        Although it often means information wasn’t well presented. But yes, it’s often helpful to take a closer look before we just assume stupid.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Ale a closer look? I don’t see how an ale would help, but any excuse is fine by me.

        iOS7 spell-check really helping you out there, eh?

      • atcDave says:

        Oh my. Auto fix is so much fun.

        I normally use a separate keyboard now, which disables the auto fix while leaving spell check intact. Its much easier to work with.
        But it does mean, when I’m using the virtual keyboard, I’m out of the habit of proof reading as closely as I used to!

      • joe says:

        Serves you and your fancy do-dads right, you anti-luddites you.

        [Dang sarc key is stuck again. Just assume voice=Kramer, everyone.]

    • andereandre says:

      It makes total sense, but it takes some smart reasoning.
      Which is the fun of this site by the way, quite a lot of seemingly plot holes get resolved by good reasoning. For some of the issues it is just making it not impossible, but I think in this case this is actually what the writers had in mind but could not spoon feed to people like me in the 42 minutes they had.

      • authorguy says:

        All it would have taken is one line.
        Casey: “I’ve got an itchy trigger finger.”
        Morgan: “Sorry, big guy, only two people know what Volkoff looks like and we’re not them.”

      • Ernie Davis says:

        And certainly some of the blame goes to the writers (allowing that their script gets interpreted, acted out, directed, filmed and edited by others before we see it). I didn’t think Authorguy’s line was a necessary one, I’d already internalized that the Volkoff reveal had put Chuck and Sarah on the front of the “get Volkoff” queue for the CIA and it would lead them into the final conflict, but it is an example that in a perfect world and production environment might have been recognized as helpful for some viewers who watch more casually. But then the viewers who watch more casually are generally less concerned with the show’s internal logic.

      • authorguy says:

        Plus FoD was at least a week after First Fight and lots of viewers may not have made that connection. I was told with my first novel that I couldn’t count on my readers to make those leaps of logic I did, so I had to add lots of what I call connective tissue to bridge those gaps. The writers should have spelled out every step, the trick is to do it in such a way you don’t imply the viewers are morons. If Beckman had said something about it in the briefing, it would have smacked of an “As you know, Bob” scenario, but and itchy Casey could plausibly need the reminder.

      • andereandre says:

        True, but during rewatching and rewatching and reading up on the series a lot of these minor issues which would not have been an issue with an extra line get resolved. All those extra lines would add up.
        One of the remarkable things about the series is how condensed the episodes are. I remember when I started rewatching that I often thought “now we are getting the series of episodes where this or that plays out” and it was in fact just a single episode.
        The mentality of the writers that enabled that probably also caused them to be a bit too sparse on helpful lines.

      • andereandre says:

        Ernie, not only for the casual viewers but also for binge viewers like me.
        When I got sucked into the abyss only a couple of months ago I just rode the wave (Prague to “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life” was just one day for me, and yes luckily the next day was a Sunday).
        No time for analyzing.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie its not just casual viewers who miss some of this! I think its fair to mention that the reason for Sarah being sent and not Casey was not presented in THIS episode. You have to remember a detail from the previous week that is never mentioned as important here.
        I think Marc’s suggested line is a good one.
        Although Ander also makes a good point, the episodes are often so packed it was no doubt difficult to squeeze in even bare essentials at times.

      • Jason says:

        I am not a fan of making up back story to make the plot work. I want to see specfic lines and or actions to tell the story to me. I do love when something is ambiguous and I’m left guessing, and I’ll speculate as much as I can, but at the end of the day, I want to know what happened, not what some fan makes up as a plausible theory.

        I’m going off memory, but what I recall is Sarah asked Beckman to let her ‘go get Mary for Chuck’, I don’t recall ‘getting Volkov’ being mentioned, although I haven’t watched any of these eps since s4, even if Volkov was mentioned, I seem to recall the mission being more about Mary’s retrival?

      • joe says:

        That’s all true, Dave. Marc’s suggestion (and yours, on the beach for The Goodbye), always seem like easy changes to solve those nagging questions.

        I’m not sure it’s really that easy, though. I got to thinking that the scenes come in chucks, not just lines of dialog, like Tetrus blocks. They sorta have to fit in right, and throwing out one or even part of one can have cascading ramifications (the smallest of which would be to force other blocks to be changed or even removed late, all for 2 seconds of time).

        Yeah, I can think of objections to that idea too, but because I've never worked in the industry, I can't say it's not that way either.

      • atcDave says:

        Joe I think there’s just so much going on, in such a short time, its difficult to make it all “just right”. It doesn’t surprise or offend me that sometimes we find things that could have been done better. Especially after the S3 budget cuts, there was less staff and less time to fine tune everything. Of course I’ll always think the “fix” I suggested for the end of Goodbye was important and really should have been done, the little fix for this episode is a significantly smaller issue.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        …the trick is to do it in such a way you don’t imply the viewers are morons.

        We also have to remember that the writers are marinating in this story in the writers room, and by the time they get around to the script what seems obvious to them might not be so to us, and a line they consider condescending spoon-feading might be just what some viewers need. There also wouldn’t be a lot of people in the production process without a similar handicap.

  8. Dave says:

    This is an episode I liked better after re-watching. Again, an ep that had good stuff hooked to not-good stuff.

    Good stuff
    The opening till Chuck and Rye go to Switzerland
    The ending scene- too good
    You rarely hear me say this, but Jeff and Lester were great in this one. A throwback to S1 and S2 Jeff and Lester…back when I could stand them more.

    Not-good stuff
    Chuck and Rye in Switzerland…did not like this story wise or production quality wise.

    When I saw it the first time my reaction was “meh?”. Upon re-watch it got better for me.

    • atcDave says:

      I’m glad it got better for you Dave. I think its safe to say this isn’t ever going to be a “favorite”. But I think there’s enough good stuff we can still have fun with a pretty average episode.

  9. Niteshade says:

    Ernie, the problem I have with your rationale for Sarah going after Volkoff, is that it assumes there were no recordings made while he was in the Buymore. I think its a stretch that the CIA/NSA would bypass a chance to capture an electronic emission.

  10. uplink2 says:

    Rewatched tonight and I agree with Dave that this got better on rewatch. The whole Switzerland thing was a bit weird but it creates a great setup that is probably one of the best if not the best payoffs to a setup in the series. In many ways it rivals the end of First Kill into Colonel. What is to come is an Yvonne Strahovski tour de force that started the whole #Emmy4Yvonne movement that I was proud to be a part of.

    I actually liked the B plot in the BuyMore. Sure Jeffster are creepy but it doesn’t rise to the level of the comments about Ellie’s womb thankfully. Having never seen Firefly till after this aired it didn’t get the connection as much as I did in this rewatch. I was a Sarah Conner Chronicles fan of her at the time.

    Also when it first aired I thought they never really dealt with that moment of Sarah telling Chuck he wasn’t a spy. I thought it was another of those great dramatic moments that go nowhere we have seen too often in the show. But now that I think about it, it does get dealt with next episode. An episode that I really can’t wait for. #2 on my all time list.

    A couple of slightly off topic things. We’ll probably talk about it more next week but I think the surprise that Schwedak showed at the response to Phase 3 was another example of not getting their audience.

    Another thing. It’s been funny watching the reaction to the Dexter finale. So many arguments sound so familiar but the most angry are much worse than the anger at the Chuck finale. I liked the Dexter finale and think it will get better with age as well but it’s been funny being on the other side this time lol.

    • atcDave says:

      I’m glad you liked it better too Uplink. There are some fun moments. But I think its ultimate legacy is just how it sets up Phase Three.
      I look forward to that one too!

      • mr2686 says:

        I really think this one gets better each re-watch. It’s not as light and breezy as Role Models, but it’s much more fun in a silly way. The only thing initially that held it back for me was the “no Chuck, you’re not a spy” comment, but that has softened over time especially when considering Sarah’s concerned for Chuck’s safety. Other than that, the quips and one-liners are too much fun to keep this ep down for me.
        Greta – The only thing now is to decide how you want to die; With your wig on or off?
        Lester – Are you talking about my hair?

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree MR. Although I think I liked it right from the start, the “no you’re not a spy” was troublesome on first viewing. It just doesn’t bother me anymore.

    • BigKev67 says:

      I’ve decided I’m giving up on series finales. In the last few years I’ve barely seen a decent one – with the honourable exception of Cold Feet, a British show which produced the best one I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t invested at all in Dexter but parts of that finale were so unbelievable – even for Dexter – that I could only shake my head. I read that they’re considering a Hannah spin-off? As much as I love Yvonne I think that’s an awful idea – and can you imagine the reaction of Dexter fans, given the ending? Burning pitchforks at 20 paces 🙂
      You can’t please everyone obviously – but based on Chuck, Lost, the Sopranos and now Dexter, I reckon “upset as few people as possible” might be the way to go when writing a finale!

      • Jason says:

        Burn Notice gave the typical happy ending story that I as a fan want. Seems writers hate doing that. On violent shows where the A plot characters do lots of bad things, I’m all for having their lives ruined forever. But in a gentle comedy like Chuck, come on, amnesia, starting over, an artsy ambiguous ending simply isn’t a nice thing to do to fans, even as many fans were able to accept the lousy ending by watching it enough and talking it through. Happy endings near please 100% of the fandom, and those who protest do so meekly. Unhappy, artsy, ambiguous endings still please many (most) fans, but the protests are usually loud and persistant. One of the great things about social media, the writers get trashed pretty well for it, even if by a vocal minority, I’d have to guess it makes them think twice when they decide to jack people around at the end.

        Since I could care less about Deb or Dexter, I love that they both got what they deserved, and seemingly Hannah got the only happy ending (not that she deserved it, she at least showed some capacity for change and disliking what she is / was / had done. And I thought it was beautiful that Dexter left Hannah and Harrison ‘for love’. So beautiful, epic even. The problem is about my opinion, I could care less about the show and the two lead characters – LOL!

        I’m with you on the spin off, did Yvonne sign some sort of contract with the showrunner already? I thought I saw that somewhere? I hope she does not do that spinoff, she really needs to get involved with a traditional project that is not so dark in a coming of age type romcom. At her age, she only has a couple of projects left before she becomes the B plot (the teen star’s mom) in many shows / movies / stories. I love her acting and she seems to be a great, great person, but I don’t think dark plots is her wheelhouse, she is better at comedy.

      • authorguy says:

        Interesting, since she was the most dramatic component of Chuck, with very little comedy to her credit. She did it well, but the drama was her thing.
        I haven’t seen the finale of Dexter yet, just read some reviews, but I will say that my preferred ending would have been for Dexter and Hannah to have died together, with Deb taking Harrison in hand. An HEA would have worked (Dexter and Hannah in Argentina) but the show was too dark for that. Dexter achieving his humanity and realizing what a monster he’d been could only really have ended one way.
        I think the issue with the finale has more to do with the business end of things trying to leave an opening for a renewal of an exploitable franchise, rather than anything the writers might want.

      • Jason says:

        Authorguy – like your ending idea, would have ‘fit’ better. Maybe even Hannah getting shot instead of F bomb girl, and Dex throwing Hannah off to sea and doing his thing. That probably would have been better even from the business side, which I also think is a smart observation.

        As far as Yvonne, I agree that she was Chuck’s drama go to gal, but I didn’t like drama on Chuck at all, and I’ve seen all of her movies, etc. I like her as much as any fan here, still I don’t think she is a remarkable dramatic actress, not terrible, but not remarkable. IMO as a romcom type heroine, I think she could pop off movies / tv series roles one better than the next, and anything that requires running, punching and kicking, she’d be a top 5 leading lady in all of Hollywood.

        But her A plot, coming of age, type role life span is a ticking time bomb, and her next choices will be important. I hope she hits a homerun and gets a TV series that suits her talents. IMO, a dark, dramatic, Dexter spin off would not be a good idea vs the other types of TV projects out there. Yet, I don’t think she is any position to say no to any leading lady type role, so I’m hoping whatever comes her way works out really well!

      • authorguy says:

        I was thinking a Romeo & Juliet ending, only more so. Dexter and Hannah would kill each other simultaneously. Batista, Quinn, and Co. would find them together.
        “Deb, you’re not going to believe what we found.”
        “No, Angel, I would.”
        But that’s too much closure, with no chance of a movie follow-up or spin-off, except maybe Deb.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I’ve not been extremely happy with finales recently. The trend seems to be to do something outrageous and memorable. And I think that’s a horrible disservice to fans. I would prefer to see finales that better honor the show they conclude.

        You know I completely agree with saying I hope Yvonne avoids ever playing Hanna again. I really would like to see her as another likable and admirable character in a more uplifting sort of show. I don’t think it has to be comedy, but I sure would like something fun. Obviously, I’m just saying I’d like to see her do something I would watch!

      • mr2686 says:

        I’m not invested at all in Dexter, in fact I stopped watching it after the 3rd or 4th season and started up again when Yvonne joined the show, so based solely on what I know about the show and the finale as a stand alone, I thought it was pretty good. I understand that reviews are mixed and fans are PO’d, but I think it’s expected that fans just don’t want to let go of a favorite show and mostly won’t like a finale. I’d hate to think that every show that lasts more than a couple of seasons would have a nice happy ending. If they had ended BN a few minutes earlier as Sam and Jesse walk away from the funeral, I would have been just as happy, but I know a lot of people that wouldn’t have.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I definitely preferred the BN finale we got over something darker. It’s the whole rest of the final season I could do without.

      • mr2686 says:

        Dave, I had pretty much given up on BN after last season, and uneven as this season was, I thought it was a heck of a lot better. Definitely darker, but better. Covert Affairs has pretty much hit it’s darkest right now, but I think it’s another show that’s better at this point than last season.

      • atcDave says:

        Burn Notice as a series just got progressively darker after about S4. And that just isn’t my sort of thing, regardless of quality.

      • uplink2 says:

        Well I think the show runners comments about a Hannah spin off are just words with no real significance. He was asked about a Hannah/Harrison spinoff as he has just signed a 2 year development deal and the president of Showtime wants to somehow keep the franchise that made his network a player in original programming alive. Even with the bad reviews the finale was the highest rated show ever on Showtime. That’s what a programmer looks at, not reviews lol.

        But in a similar sense to Chuck, the show is named Dexter and everything and everyone else is a plot device to tell his story. Now many fans won’t like that as they identified with other characters, in this case Deb was a HUGE fan favorite for exactly the reasons atcDave probably doesn’t like her at all, lol. Her potty mouth. But a someone who was invested in the show, she was my favorite as well but I think she got the right ending for this series and that main character. I didn’t think Sarah in Chuck did however.

        As far as Yvonne goes, I don’t think she wold be interested in one as she has said she wants to focus on movies for now but as she has nothing that has been released just yet for her future plans we will have to just wait and see. I have a feeling she is booked for something already but is just keeping it under wraps for some reason.

        But as someone just messaged me, Dexter is a lumberjack and Shaw is a piece of wood, Oh the possibilities!!!

  11. Chris Byrnes says:

    One of the best things abut Sarah has always been her need to protect Chuck from himself. In this episode, it is clear from the time that the General and Rye decide that Chuck should do the mission without Casey and Sarah at the auction was something we have seen before. Think back to First Class when Shaw did the same thing. This was one of things I did enjoy about Shaw, he took off the training wheels and pushed Chuck to be the spy he becomes in the latter part of season 3 and all of season 4 Thus, getting back to Sarah’s feelings as a girlfriend is the driving force behind her concern. In First Class, she didn’t call 6 times to make sure he was there. you can also see the defeated look in her face during the briefing Then when get this line

    Sarah: Chuck don’t…don’t be a hero… Just come home safe to me, ok

    The development of Sarah and her emotions over the course of the these two episodes are the best in the entire series in my view. This is what make Yvonne such a gifted actress because we have seen glimpses of the bubble being busted, but not until now when protectiveness and feelings are both on the same level towards Chuck. I could actually feel Sarah’s heart come into her chest when General Beckmann was giving the details of the mission.

    Regarding Chuck, I find it interesting when someone outside Team Bartowski, comes and challenges him to be the spy that we all know he can be, but the reality is the Intersect is more of crutch then Sarah. His fear of not having it has always been his downfall. He has to be reminded that he was smart long before he ever had the intersect. He used his experience and intelligence to figure out that the diamond had intel in them, which I was proud of him for because it showed that the intersect only was one part of his skills as a spy.

    The fight scene where Sarah says that chuck is not a spy..right now is something that needed to be said. As I said above, sometimes Sarah has to protect Chuck from himself, it can be hard to watch someone you truly love be put in dangerous situations and not do or say something about it. Overall, I had to watch Chuck vs The Fear of Death a few times to be able to include it in my favorite episodes, but like it has been said before it is the set up for Phase Three which is the best episode of the season and one of the best in the series.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t know that I could ever call Fear of Death a favorite, but certainly it has some great moments. And great point about the Intersect as a crutch, I was never a fan of the 2.0 anyway, and I think we saw what Chuck was really capable of in S5 with no Intersect at all (but WITH Sarah!).

      • Chris Byrnes says:

        After watching the Orion Arc recently, I began to to understand the importance of Chuck and the relationship with the Intersect. Remember Chuck had downloaded an original application when he was a kid. His brain was already set up for future updates-the one Bryce gave him was like a “psychological rock” if you will. in other words, Chuck has always had a form of the intersect. This is why Chuck was the only one able to not lose himself with the program. He didn’t use it like Morgan or Sarah did in season five.

        Sarah said it best in the beginning of the episode while giving Chuck a massage.

        Sarah: You don’t need the intersect to do great things
        Chuck: but am I a spy?
        Sarah: Yes, yes.. but your Chuck Bartowski, and you do all that on your own.

        Now from the facial expression that Sarah gives after Chuck’s question what she was saying was not the truth…and this is why if she would of said what she said later in the episode during this scene it would of not went over so badly, However, blowing up on him during the briefing in front of everyone was what gave Chuck motivation to accomplish the mission to prove his worth. however, unlike previous fights these two have had. the final 10 mins. of the episode showcases the growth of these two.

        Sarah realizes that it was her fault that he did this, and Chuck knows that Sarah was right in that he should of listen to her advice and not be a hero, but this is Chuck we are talking about.

      • atcDave says:

        Although we know Morgan and Sarah actually had a defective version of the Intersect, so its hard to say how they would have done with the same version Chuck had.
        I do agree both Chuck and Sarah are showing some wonderful growth at this point in the story. I love Chuck’s realization that Sarah matters more to him than the Intersect or being a spy (although really, this is just consistent since Honeymooners) and Sarah’s determination to fix what she blames herself for (that too has really always been consistent, she values Chuck more for just being Chuck than for the Intersect or being a spy). But its that they have their moments under pressure and with confidence.

  12. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs the Fear of Death (4.08) | Chuck This

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