Does anybody really want to talk about this episode? Naw, I didn’t think so…
Funny with the anniversary event this week, and Phase Three coming up in our regular re-watch, sure seems like a “best of” sort of week. After the jump, we’ll discuss this favorite from mid season four.
Phase Three shows up on most “top ten” lists we see. Of course all five Sarah centered episodes tend to score well. Even Yvonne Strahovski has mentioned this as her favorite a few times. Its hardly surprising. This is a fun episode all the way through, Sarah is at her best and baddest, Morgan is well used and funny, the “B” plot manages to be funny; only Chuck is under served here, and that gets bonus points for the pure novelty of it.
But make no mistake that Sarah owns this episode.
Almost every scene she’s in is pitch perfect; stand out moments to me include the Sarah/Casey show down in Castle, that Morgan bravely diffuses. Then the scene back home; all the way from Sarah investigating Chuck’s shirt, to her conversation with Morgan. Sarah’s interrogation of the Thai official, and her handling of Casey both before and after; including her declaration of being better with Chuck. Then we get a show down in Thailand in two acts; both the thug in the bar, and the big pit fighting match. Notice Sarah basically destroys the star fighter twice, the first destruction is undone by the sand trick.
All leading up to the epic rescue including Sarah emerging from a fetid pond with a knife in her mouth.
And at this point I have to mention Chuck’s part of the story. Although a much smaller part this time around, we do get a story of Chuck battling The Belgian’s attempts to access his mind. His interactions with dream Sarah manage to be dramatic in their own way, including the heartbreaking plea for dream Sarah not to leave him. The implementation of “Phase Three” and the destruction of Chuck’s personality is an interesting faux life, where Chuck’s family and friends all leave him. Until real Sarah intrudes. Really a fun and fascinating sort of dual scene; Sarah sobbing for Chuck to come back while his dream reality is punctured with an uber composed manifestation of the same speech. Very powerful, perfectly executed, and just a wonderful wrap up to an excellent story.
As I mentioned up top, I thought the “B” plot with the Buy Morons helping Devon get the Orion computer fixed is amusing, but otherwise unremarkable.
The episode concludes with Chuck and Sarah happily reunited, and a more confident Chuck who’s only concern about proposing seems to be how to surprise Sarah.
And this all means another short write up this week. I could mention I’m sick; food poisoning and a prolonged day in the bathroom. But naw… Phase Three is a nearly perfect episode. There’s nothing I need to say to defend it, and nothing worthy of complaint.
Consider this about a page and a half of nothing but superlatives, and an admonition… he who finds fault with Chuck vs. Phase Three is a fool who has no heart!
Okay. Now that I have that out of the way, let me see if I can find something in this episode that I hadn’t noticed before. No, I have to start with what we’ve already seen, because it’s so fantastic, and that would be Sarah. There’s a strong sentiment among the fans that the best character in the entire show is – not just Sarah, but badass Sarah. You know. She’s the one who fights Smooth Lau in close quarters to Wannamamma in Best Friends – and wins. She’s the one who rolls from the bottom of Casey’s van in Tic Tac to best five armed guards, knowing there’s five only because of Casey’s signal. Badass Sarah is the one who KO’s Casey on occasion and subdues Morgan with a look or a shoe and Lester with an advance and innuendo. There was some concern after Fake Name and even after Honeymooners that we were losing that character in favor on someone much more deferential to Chuck. We were losing her to someone much more secondary called <music type=”Ominous And Scary”>The Girlfriend</music>.
What? Did you think she was gone? Here’s a confession: that’s not a view I shared. As much as I like the badass, it’s the other Sarah, the one who seemed to give up (maybe even give up on life itself) in Fake Name and the one who could barely hold back tears in both Alma Mater and The Breakup that haunts me. She’s also the woman who glows while making breakfast in The Suburbs and the spy who is ready to give it all up and go on the run in Lethal Weapon and in Pink Slip. That’s no cartoon character; she’s very human.
Every time Sarah resists taking the next step in the relationship (which was nearly every episode after Honeymooners, you know), I worry unconsciously that this Sarah is in danger of disappearing. I worry that the woman often described in the NBC boards as an “Ice Queen” with armor around her heart is Sarah’s default mode, her go-to persona and always, always, always dominant.
That’s certainly where Sarah goes in this Chuck vs. Phase Three when she can’t find Chuck. Worse, the Intersect is gone, so Chuck is basically helpless and she is frustrated at every turn for days. Much like the Hulk, you don’t want to see frustrated Sarah. Sarah doesn’t want to see frustrated Sarah.
Sarah: You were right. I’m different without Chuck, and I don’t like it.
The aide to the Thai ambassador, one Anand Chanarong (James Lew), thinks he can get past this she-hulk; he happens to have dealings with The Belgian. But even this resistance doesn’t last long. It’s Morgan who provided the clue that leads to him, and Morgan who notices Sarah going “all Kill Bill” on his butt.
Yes, I just stole that line from the episode, and it too is fantastic in context, as are most all the quips in this episode. But what I bet you remember first is not the quips, but Sarah threatening to kill him. That is dramatic and, I think, some of Yvonne’s best work. At least, it is until we get to Thailand and she does even better.
Sarah: Anyone else wanna be my boyfriend?
But all in all, I don’t think the moment in the Muay-Thai pit (or Sarah raging through half of Burma for that matter) is Yvonne’s absolute best-of-all-time performance (it’s merely great). I think Yvonne does far better when Sarah Walker breaks. And make no mistake, that ice queen, the girl who always had trouble “talking about your feelings” really is shattered here. At least, her heart is. Our good fortune as fans is to see it twice.
Yes, twice. It happens first in front of Morgan, when the goof admits Chuck’s been planning to propose.
Sarah: When was he planning on doing this?
Morgan: I dunno. Ever since he lost the Intersect, The proposal plan got put on hold.
Sarah: Why? Did he think that I wouldn’t wanna marry him without the Intersect? [concerned] Is that how I made him feel?
It happens again, in Chuck’s more-real-than-real dream, when we can even see the shattering glass. I’m going to gush again. This whole show has been gracenoted by memorable scenes that seem like technical tours-de-force. I always enjoy (and hold my breath) seeing Casey and Sarah running silently up Castle’s stairs to rescue Chuck from Jill when they finally discover she’s a Fulcrum agent. My adrenaline still pumps when Chuck claps the butts of two pistols together in preparation to save his father as Luisa’s Bones plays. I’m sure this is stuff they teach in cinema classes (TV 201, perhaps), but it gets me every time. Chuck walking through the breaking glass as Sarah speaks softly, and as she cries miserably, is perhaps the best of these.
Chuck: But you’re not. You’re not real. This is a dream.
Dream Sarah:[gently] I came to rescue you. I’m right here, Chuck.
Real Sarah: [sobbing] Chuck, please, come on.
Morgan: Hey, hey, hey. Tell him what you told me before, okay? He’ll hear that. I know it. This is your chance. Don’t be Sarah Walker the spy. Be Sarah Walker the girlfriend.
Sarah: Chuck, please. Chuck, I love you! Please wake up. I have so much that I wanna tell you.
Dream Sarah: [gently] I found your proposal plan.
Chuck: No, no, no. This is my mind playing tricks on me. You don’t know anything about my proposal plan.
Sarah: You were gonna do it on the beach in Malibu, where we watched the sunrise after our first date. There were [smiling] several racecars involved.
Chuck: I revised that.
Sarah: Chuck, I wanna spend the rest of my life with you.
Real Sarah: I don’t care if you have the Intersect or not. Without you…
Dream Sarah: I’m nobody. I’m nothing but a spy. Come back to me, Chuck. I wanna marry you.
The old Sarah, the one we often described as having a shell around her heart and as an ice maiden, is broken, but not gone. Instead, Sarah is whole. Chuck knows it and the fans can sense it. Is there any question left or angst about Chuck and Sarah and there future? Chuck is awake and that’s all the answer we need.
miss friday don’t you know
I don’t really care about taking it slow
I’m gonna dream about the fire in your eyes
I’m gonna sleep all day
I’m gonna give ’em hell
and you’ll say wake wake up get out o’ your head
you gotta wake wake up get out o’ your head
you got a lot to live
you got a lot to live for
so bye bye bye misery
Richard Chamberlain was appropriately subdued as the bad-guy who didn’t even realize he was in over his head. There was simply no room in this episode for a stronger evil villain, because that was filled by the Igor-ish Torsten Voges as Dr. Müeller. This story was, after all, not about good vs. bad or the CIA vs. arms dealers or the Intersect against anything. It was about Chuck and Sarah.
The Intersect? Oh yes. It’s gone. But much like Orion, it’s not going to stay away long. Knock, knock.