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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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