Chuck vs The Masquerade (4.16)

We finally meet the main villain for the back arc, and Chuck and Morgan have a bit of relationship crisis.  That’s a welcome change!

After the jump, we’ll discuss Season Four’s Valentine’s episode.

I have to admit an odd thing, I love this episode.   It scored way down at 82 on our ranking the episodes survey, so it is certainly no “fan favorite”.  And I’m not sure I’d call it a favorite of mine either, more like “average” in my usual “its Chuck so average becomes awesome” sense of the word.

I do see a few reasons for ranking it down.  I would guess the major things to hold against it are a fairly boring character in Vivian Volkoff and a completely underwhelming final action sequence with the spooked horse (and an eerie blotted out face for Yvonne’s stunt woman) and Casey the highly visible sniper.  I’m no apologist for either of those things, I think they absolutely do bring down an otherwise enjoyable episode.

But the things I love about Masquerade, I really love.  That pretty much means the first 25 minutes of the episode.  And nothing about the end ruins those first 25 minutes, it just underwhelms.  Two sequences in particular stand out to me; the first is the Valentine’s Day from heck (yes, I mean heck, its a milder version of the other place…).  I think this sequence is so funny, so sweet, and so funny (YES, twice!) it almost makes the whole episode.  Chuck and Morgan celebrating their mutual good fortune, Sarah giving Chuck a hard time about socks on doorknobs and “Pretty Woman” references, Morgan and Alex and their beyond strange activities with chocolate, Sarah good naturedly playing along with all of it and being just impossibly adorable as a tempting angel; and Casey walking in on the chaos.  The episode may not rise to “favorite” status, but this chain of events does.

The second stand out scene is briefer, but even more favored for me.  That is Sarah choosing to “hang” with Morgan.  It seems a Chuckiversal constant that Sarah/Morgan scenes are always entertaining. And this one is truly something special.  Sarah tries so hard to connect with Morgan.  Can any of us honestly say we expected to see  Sarah Walker of the first couple seasons making growling sounds while playing with action figures?!  This is such an unexpected and happy event I smile just thinking about it.  But wait, there’s more…   Morgan’s revelation that he is, indeed, a child; worse, he’s Chuck and Sarah’s child, is almost as satisfying.

Of course this has fall out.  But I think the fall out here is all good.  I’m not a Morgan hater, really.  I think he is often funny, and is a big part of the show’s humor.  But it pleases me that he is moving out.  I think that’s only appropriate.  I appreciate that this is a big and melancholy event for both Chuck and Morgan.  So I like how it plays out with a fitting level of seriousness, and I like that Sarah is sympathetic and supports Chuck throughout.  This is what adult relationships ought to look like.  And I even mean that for the bromance.

I’m not sure how much to get into Vivian’s character here.  Most of the problems I have with her will start to develop next week.  In Masquerade I really do find her mostly boring. Chuck connects with her some through shared experiences with absent parents.  Chuck and Sarah protect her, at considerable risk to Sarah.  And the episode ends with a pretty heavy hint of Vivian taking up her father’s mantle.  Next week I expect to get into how inadequate her switch to the dark side seems.  Vivian does not undo this, or any other episode completely.  But she clearly isn’t even in the ball game with some of the fun and outlandish characters and villains we’ve enjoyed during the course of the series.

This is another episode with a very minimal “B” plot.  It is funny to see how grotesquely disheveled Ellie and Devon can become.  And I don’t believe it stretches the truth too terribly far (!).  It ties back into the “A” plot pretty indirectly, but it is a sweet moment.  Morgan is such a softy!

We also see Casey being seduced away for a new assignment.  It is funny to listen to the dialogue of the bar tending scene from the masquerade and see how, while talking to Morgan, Casey convinces himself its time to move on.  This will play out over the next couple weeks.  I like how even Casey needs to feel needed.

So I know this isn’t a greatly loved episode.  But I find it a completely enjoyable re-watch regardless.  And a couple of scenes here I can happily watch any time.

~ Dave
ct_bar

At Childhood’s End

Surprise?

Surprise?

After contemplating Dave’s write-up, Chuck vs. The Masquerade starts to get my vote for most underrated Chuck episode ever. Sarah in Victoria Secret Angel Wings? Oh my. Sarah feigning ignorance about the meaning of the sock on the door knob? Zounds! Sarah teasing Chuck that she’s been to “those” kinds of parties …and they don’t look anything like this…

Take me, I’m yours, Sarah Walker!

[Mrs. Joe impatiently taps her foot in irked silence.]

Sorry, dear. Oh yeah, this one is fun and I haven’t even gotten to the wonderful Sarah-Morgan scene yet. That’s okay. Dave covered it well. But that’s not at all the reason I find this episode to be a bit better than the bottom 10%, where it’s been placed. There’s a certain tightness and even forethought in the script that deserves some notice.

Boris!

Boris!

Oh, put those eyebrows down, guys, and let me give you two examples. The first is in the way Alexei is kept in the story line without being present. In the A plot, Boris Kaminsky (David S. Lee) (who cleverly speaks at least four languages before the credits are given) is after a key. Whatever it is, the key seems to be important to the heirs of Alexei Volkoff’s shattered empire. Boris seems to be determined to be the only surviving heir, too.

Vivian, the innocent.

Vivian, the innocent.

The CIA (and therefore, Boris) knows about one other heir, the reclusive Vivian McArthur (Lauren Cohan) of Somerset, England. She’s Alexei’s daughter and has been trained in equestrian, the martial arts, skeet shooting and not to be forgotten, business – the perfect skill set to run Volkoff Industries. The key, Vivian’s surreptitious training, her swaddled upbringing and innocence – it’s understated enough and a bit clever.

It’s a shame that Vivian, the innocent child of Alexei, has no idea what Volkoff Industries is and what it means for her. She will start to by the end of the episode. It represents a very important turning point, in fact, one that will define who she is.

Han and Chewy

Han and Chewy

And that is the second interesting knot in the thread that I see, one that endows a certain gravitas. Morgan faces a similar turning point, of course. It’s his turn now to define himself separate and distinct from his life-long buddy, Chuck. Is it time to break up Han and Chewy? Yes, it is. Chuck himself knows that this decision is painful for both of them and I can’t help but think he also knows it’s inevitable. As childish as he’s been, I do have some sympathy for Morgan because facing adulthood is never the easiest thing. It’s final and irrevocable and that makes it both painful and important.

Agent Bentley tells Casey Chuck and Sarah don't need him.

Agent Bentley tells Casey Chuck and Sarah don’t need him.

Casey is not to be spared this. He’s clearly the grownup-spy in the group, but being adult does not make anyone immune from the need to grow and change. It’s pointed out to him (by Actress Robin Givens, no less) that, as a spy at least, it may be time to move on.

Casey: You were at the bar. What are you doing in Castle?
Bentley: Director Jane Bentley, NCS. I was in England to observe.
You see, I’m not like Agents Bartowski or Walker, or even General Beckman. I see your true potential. You started working for the NSA because you were America’s best sharpshooter, and now, you’re so much more than this, Colonel. It seems your team doesn’t need you anymore.

Of course, baby Clara needs to grow up a bit also. That’s her job! It’s time to put away the Jeffster music and move onto better things, like her own room, so that mommy and daddy can get some sleep.

Vivian’s key fits the lock every bit as much as the Intersect fits Chuck’s brain; her future path is to be determined by the choice she makes. Chuck and Morgan have decided to grow up a little, make room for each others’ adulthood and nobody can know what that might mean for them. Casey sees a fork in the road as clearly as the others and his choice means everything to Team B. It’s only because none of their destinations are knowable that this episode seems so unimportant at first viewing. It’s not.

Chuck vs. The Masquerade is all about the end of childhood and innocence. That’s never unimportant.

– 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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106 Responses to Chuck vs The Masquerade (4.16)

  1. authorguy says:

    Pretty underwhelming to me. I’ve been rewriting this ep all week and I’m painfully aware of its inadequacies.
    First is my dislike of slapstick, so the whole V-Day opening just made me cringe, although Sarah is cute with the wings.
    Second, I think they pushed the development of Vivian too fast. In almost no time she’s telling us she doesn’t know what to do with her life, as if I cared.
    Third, the action sequences. Where does the horse go when they start shooting? How did they escape the stable with no cover fire? Why does Sarah mumble there’s too many of them, and how does she know this?
    Fourth, the timing. Are we really supposed to believe that they flew from UK to LA, debriefed, then flew back to England, and Boris wouldn’t notice a three-day disappearance?
    Fifth, Vivian just walks into the main offices? Which haven’t been trashed? And no one noticed that the horse was pretty permanently fixed for a mere statue?
    The Ellie-Devon scene at the door of the Buy More is the funniest scene for me, and the only thing that redeems the ‘hanging’ sequence is the sudden awareness to Morgan that he is a child and needs to grow up. His scenes after that are all very poignant and well done.

    • anthropocene says:

      I enjoyed this episode for the most part, but I’d say the most unrealistic aspect was Chuck and Sarah—especially Sarah!—countenancing Morgan and Alex anywhere in their vicinity (Need I say: within earshot? OK, I said it.) on Valentine’s night. If Chuck couldn’t find a way to graciously evict Morgan for the night, Sarah would have dragged Chuck bodily to a nice hotel room somewhere. “Honeymooners” seems a rather distant memory at this point.

    • dkd says:

      “Fourth, the timing. Are we really supposed to believe that they flew from UK to LA, debriefed, then flew back to England, and Boris wouldn’t notice a three-day disappearance?”

      The show was never very buttoned up about the timing of their travels. “Honeymooners” has some serious timing problems starting with how long it actually takes to take a train from Paris to Zurich, but most fans overlook it and love the episode.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah travel times are pretty consistently goofy on Chuck.

      • joe says:

        I’ll say.
        I’ve become a bit more forgiving of that in my old age. Actually, I’ve been noticing timing as a problem in more shows these days, even if I forgive it more often. Oddly, the worst offenders seem to be the most serious minded – NCIS in particular is atrocious that way, and Bones is #2 (and come to think of it, Covert Affairs may be #3) in that regard.

        You see, I’ve traveled enough in DC to know how long it takes to travel from Georgetown to Anacostia, or from Falls Church to Quantico. I’d love to be able to make trips around here in the times they make-believe they can do. There’s just no way, IRL.

      • atcDave says:

        My recent favorite would be Sleepy Hollow. When it briefly looks like they need something in London, the 200 year old man complains its a 3 month sea voyage. So close, and yet so far…

      • thinkling says:

        Recent case in point: the progressive CAT Squad party. 🙂

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I always enjoyed imagining how the CAT squad got hold of supersonic transportation to Miami and back…

      • Wilf says:

        Ah, you know, if it’s possible to put all of the government’s secrets into a human brain then obtaining supersonic travel to Miami is nothing at all.

      • joe says:

        Gee. Here I always thought it was the drink that made Sarah’s head hurt. Clearly, it was the supersonic transport.

        Does the same thing to me every time. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Should I point out here that its illegal, even for the military, to fly supersonic over the continental US? Naw…

        I’m sure they flew via the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and up the coast. Works for me!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Yeah, yeah, and its illegal for the CIA to operate within the US and a Marine flew a stealth bomber…

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Wilf, there is that…

  2. andereandre says:

    From experience I know it will take days before I get that horrible ombasayo out of my head. Arrrgh. But it is a small price to pay for Sarah doing comedy. She is such fun!

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    This is an easy episode to like, for many of the reasons already stated by Dave and Joe. But I do recall the complaints around the time of the original airing. Bad CGI, an underwhelming sniper battle, a boring villain, two dimensional Vivian (well that would come later). Most of that is legit, and most doesn’t bother me. The production values of Chuck took an inevitable hit between season 2 and 3 and never recovered. Though they did gradually learn to do more with less, they basically asked us to place less emphasis on the visuals and more on the story. Think of the cable car in Fear of Death or the French countryside in Balcony. I was fine with that. I doubt they’d have shot on location in the Loire valley even in season 2 (but they might have found something plausible in California’s wine country). Instead Chuck and Sarah’s balcony actually overlooks a parking lot. Oh, and Vivian McArthur’s estate is a country club. (More fun Chuck locations here.)

    But I do want to defend one aspect that draws a lot of ire, Casey’s sniper shoot-out. Or at least the way it was staged. Snipers working at a distance often pre-target an area. Wind and the drop of the bullet over long distances can make a very big difference in where the bullet goes, so they must be taken into account and adjusted for. Typically the rifle scope will be offset by the calculated drop and wind so that the target appears directly in the cross-hairs even though they will be aiming high and upwind of the target. In a situation like Casey’s, where he has to engage multiple targets with no time to calculate wind and drop, an experienced sniper with an intuitive sense of those things, able to mentally compensate on the fly will definitely have the edge. Now granted the distances didn’t look all that far (production again, and they needed to be in the same vicinity closing in on Sarah and Casey for the drama), but the idea that Casey could take them all on, hitting the target every time, while they continually miss a relatively exposed target is not that far-fetched. Remember, he’s one of the 5 best in the world.

  4. I’m surprised by the reviews. I came in all gung ho ready to defend this episode. Glad I’m not the only person who thinks it’s great. Dave’s comment about “average Chuck” is spot on. There’s not a big favorite moment in the episode, but all the little moments add up: Sarah/Morgan, Chuck’s empathizing with Vivian, Morgan and Sarah meeting with Beckman in their Valentine’s Day robes (I laughed so hard at Beckman’s double-take), Casey’s general badassness… there’s just a consistent flow of good things here.

    One of Chuck’s more creative notions (along with the “Dude in Distress “angle”) is the way they often film Chuck and Morgan with techniques normally reserved for an actual romance. Think The Worm. The scene where Chuck closes the door on Morgan and cut to the split screen is outright hilarious. Just clever, clever stuff.

    And furthermore, I just found the idea of them moving on to be pretty profound. I remember when my best friend and I moved out of college (ironically, so he could move in with his soon-to-be fiance). It was EXACTLY like this. Just a bittersweet moment, when both people realize the friendship will never be quite the same again.

  5. authorguy says:

    Seven on one should make for plenty of suppression fire to force Casey down while they moved. As it was it was like those kung fu movies with the army of bad guys who all line up and take on the hero one at a time.

    • andereandre says:

      I dare you to find one action scene in the series (or in nearly any other production) which would be believable in RL.
      The hero has every shot or kick right (except when they need some suspense), the mooks line up to get clobbered.
      There is no way around it. That policeman with superior gun skills having a gun fight once a week would be killed by pure statistics before the half of the first season

      • Andre, you’re exactly right. The action and fight scenes (not to mention the bad guy stupidity that usually leads up to them) in Chuck are usually complete nonsense. That’s a valid criticism of the series, but kind of silly for any one episode.

      • authorguy says:

        Or sometimes good guy stupidity. In CAT Squad, Casey should never have let a suspected mole in the interrogation room with him, but they had to do that so she could drug him and stage the escape. I don’t mind silly fight scenes that much, but bad story crafting to make it possible is annoying. The scene in Nacho Sampler where he follows correct procedure and examines Manoosh’s box in a safety container shouldn’t be the anomaly.

      • atcDave says:

        I think the logic of it all is pretty standard Hollywood action-adventure sort of logic and realism. As such, it may be good for a chuckle all by itself.
        To me, the biggest issue is just that it was sort of boring in its staging. As I said up top, its not a huge problem, and it certainly doesn’t ruin the parts of the episode I did enjoy; but it is a little disappointing they couldn’t have done something to make it look better. So often with Chuck these outrageous action sequences are laugh out loud fun and a highlight of the episode (knocking out a bad guy with a well thrown micro-wave), but this time it was just nothing special.

      • thinkling says:

        Touché Andereandre. There’s just a lot of that in all the productions. Here’s another one that cracks me up every time. It wasn’t in this episode of Chuck, but it’s been in others, and it’s common to other shows as well: The main heroes go in with a swat team. Everybody is all decked out in BDU, helmets and all … well except for the stars. They always go in sans helmet. I mean we have to know which ones they are, right, so no head gear for them.

      • andereandre says:

        Ah but that has a very practical reason. Just realize how much time the make-up artists spend on the stars hairdo. They go on strike if you mess that up with putting a helmet on it.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I always thought Sarah rocked the BDU’s. My favorite dumb villain moment was the evil flight attendant Josie in First class shooting a .25 caliber pistol at Chuck in the luggage compartment. Yes, it was dangerous when pointed up his nose, but at that distance she had little chance of hitting him, let alone inflicting serious injury. Chuck’s nun-chucks would be more effective at that range. He’d have a better chance of seriously injuring her by throwing them at her than she had with that gun.

      • authorguy says:

        I always thought his nunchucks were the perfect weapon for that kind of environment. He should have gotten more credit for the choice than he did. Plus I would have liked to see him really get to use them, rather than the crash-dive solution.

      • atcDave says:

        Sarah looked dynamite in First Date in her BDU… without a helmet!

      • My favorite example of dumb Chuck villains is in Zoom, where Chuck just outruns three trained gunmen down the hallway before jumping out the window. In no possible universe does he not get shot there. (Of course, I love Zoom, proving how blind I am to these issues)

      • Wilf says:

        Not to mention that actually crashing through the window was not likely to lead to the expected outcome either.

      • thinkling says:

        Well, the purpose of all this is fun. And if it weren’t universally fun, we wouldn’t have 60 years of Bond. As for the getaway in Zoom, I’m with Morgan … awesome!

      • authorguy says:

        That was the Chuck I wanted to see, no Intersect, no skills, just his own tremendous ability and the confidence to use it.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I think “fun” pretty well sums up the Rason d’etre for Chuck (and Bond!). That we find so much else to be interesting, or even moving is quite the testament.

      • thinkling says:

        Exactly, Dave. Quite an unusual show packing so much cross genre entertainment into 40 minutes each week.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Authorguy, I was looking forward to the nunchucks.

      • authorguy says:

        I figured they were going for laughs or couldn’t find someone in his height range who could use them properly, as a stunt double.

    • andereandre says:

      Running target. The gunmen were running themselves, had to stop, and aim. No getting their breath under control so just a crap shoot.
      Accurate pistol shooting is hard.

      • andereandre says:

        that was a reply to Arthur about Zoom.

      • Yeah, but running in a straight line away from them in a very confined space without much lead time. I’m not expecting anyone to land a headshot, but egads.

        Although for that matter, I still loved the scene, so I can’t say I care that much.

  6. andereandre says:

    OT: the 2012 NBC series Revolution starts here on Dutch TV tonight. I am recording it but does anyone know if it is worth my time or am I better of doing another Chuck re-watch?

    • oldresorter says:

      I watch Revolution. Serious show. Sci Fi. Doesn’t spend much time with wt/wt stuff. Deals with the ? what would the world look like 15 years from now if the power shut off for good. A great topic IMO. Violent. Characters are grayish, good guys and gals do some bad, and the bad guys can have some pretty good moments. If you give it a try, give it some time, started off slowly, in a confused way, show took a break, rewrote some stuff, and started explaining things better, faster. s2 better than s1 so far.

      The actual consequences of no power is pretty darned interesting to watch. Not telling you if its worth your time or not, but hope that helps.

      • andereandre says:

        Yes that helps, thanks.
        I think I will first record a couple of episodes and then watch them in one session, that should get me beyond the slow start and to the point where I am either hooked or not.

  7. oldresorter says:

    Just rewatched, I miss this Chuck. Nearly perfect ep. I love fun, funny, parody Chuck. In this genre, they can write almost anything and Chuck, Sarah, Morgan and Casey can sell it to me. When you do parody, the story doesn’t have to exactly make sense, it simply has to entertain. The starting scenes – the russian assassin one and the Valentines Day ‘Orgy’ broken up by Mr Grunts, epic Get Smart 2 stuff, I loved it. Did I mention, I miss ‘this’ Chuck.

  8. KeepChuckAlive says:

    Ah… Masquerade. Yes, not a favorite epi, but it served the purpose of simply moving in a new direction.

    I think I’m one of the few that actually liked Vivian early on. There was great potential there and we an clearly see the setup. Vivian is a lot like Chuck in many ways: her innocence, her alienation, and her obvious intelligence just to name a few. And it is obvious that Chuck feels that way too. And so, I thought we were really going to get a Chuck vs. NegaChuck (couldn’t resist) story moving into the end of S4 and possibly S5. A true nemesis. But alas, the following epis in this story line fell short. But that is a topic for another day.

    Masquerade is good fun. Much better than that other episode with a very similar name.

    • andereandre says:

      Count me in as one who liked Vivian in this episode.
      And I agree that there are some serious problems in the rest of her arc (which I will ignore while watching because I like the episodes themselves).
      One blatant problem is that the story makes it a point that she does not cross the line of killing someone (like Chuck, and with no problems to let others do the killing for her). Except that she kills Kaminsky in this episode. And very decisively, no hesitation; her grandmother would be proud of her.
      See you at the next episodes 🙂

      • Andre, this reminded me of something that always annoyed me.

        My biggest problem with Chuck as a character was when he became the team’s boss, but still didn’t carry guns while Casey and Sarah did. I always though his independent decision not to do so was admirable, even if the morality of that decision was more ambiguous than it seemed (potentially putting Casey/Sarah in danger).

        But once Chuck became the boss in S5, he became responsible for Casey and Sarah’s actions taken on his behalf, including shooting people. For him to put them in situations where they would have to carry and use guns, while being unwilling to do so himself, always smacked of moral cowardice to me. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but Chuck was always a character whose morals and fortitude I admired, and this disappointed me.

      • andereandre says:

        I agree. But that is an aspect I prefer not to think through, because it touches the premise of the show.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Actually you do see several times that Chuck is willing to use real guns under some circumstances. Rescuing Sarah for instance. At the end of Chuck Versus The Bullet Train he is armed with a semi-automatic rifle.

        Other times when Chuck is armed with a real gun, but isn’t forced to use it are Role Models, Ring II, Cubic Z and Leftovers. It’s clearly a last resort for him and one that both Sarah and Casey seem more comfortable with. And let’s not forget that he actually shot Perseus (by accident) in Lethal Weapon.

      • atcDave says:

        And speaking of Role Models, Mr. Turner didn’t seem to use a gun either. It doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, there are a few “MacGuyver” agents!

      • I don’t think I said he never used guns under any circumstances. The point is about his role as the leader of a team, specifically in Season 5. Not using guns except in the most extreme circumstances is admirable. Allowing your subordinates to use guns on your behalf while you refuse to do so is shirking responsibility as a leader.

  9. noblz says:

    I really liked this episode, only a couple of down things for me. I didn’t like the overblown “bromance” segments (never could get behind the bromance, I merely tolerated it) and the equestrian series needed a suspension of belief. Neither is a show-stopper.

    A lot of people have mentioned the Valentine’s Day “Orgy” (and Sarah is hot as a naughty angel), but for me the best part was when Casey barged in. Casey’s reaction and Sarah’s reaction were priceless. Casey trying to control himself, Sarah torn between embarrassment and fear that Casey would snap and kill Morgan. A real hoot!

    And can I say that Sarah is gorgeous even with a mask on her face.

    Good, funny, campy episode. Definitely upper third for me.

    • atcDave says:

      Wow! I wouldn’t go so far as upper third, but it definitely is a good time.
      For the bromance; well, I’ve had a few of those painful, melancholy sort of farewells. I don’t think anything quite as close as Chuck and Morgan seem to be, but a few painful goodbyes that represented permanent change. So I guess that’s how I sympathize, I think of when I was transferred from Chicago to Michigan 25 years ago, and what an upheaval that was, and imagine Chuck and Morgan thinking on the same terms.

      • noblz says:

        atcDave

        Remember the upper third is 31 episodes…let me see….maybe borderline top third definitely upper half.

        I have said that campy and funny is OK with me. I became a professional soldier when I was 17. Never did the bromance thing, so it’s hard for me to relate. Hell, I would have shown Morgan the door around episode 1 of S4, but that’s me.

      • atcDave says:

        I like the campy funny stuff too. But that’s why I broadly like the show, there’s really less than a dozen episodes I don’t like very much, and this one sure isn’t on that list!

        I would agree with saying I don’t think Morgan would have ever been one of my best friends. But for Chuck’s sake, I can sympathize with loosing someone close; or at least knowing that relationship is about to change big time.

  10. joe says:

    Speaking of Campy fun, I’m going to take my weekly Castle diversion here. [Minor spoilers ahead, all ye who venture here.] Once again, we have an episode with zero relationship angst or, really, movement. Well, maybe a little movement, but just a touch. But much to my surprise, there was also, for the second consecutive week, no mention of Palexie. (Ugh! Did I just type that?) We did get, though, an answer to the question someone posed a while back about the larger arc. I thought that Beckett’s mother’s death was not quite resolved, but perhaps that’s not true – it is. [major spoiler ahead, now] It looks like 3XK is THE arc of the season.

    It’s a totally different structure than Chuck, which is not surprising, given it’s murder-mystery novel inspiration. Totally not a hero’s journey. But honestly, if they turn the show into a version of The Mentalist, I’ll be a bit disappointed. So I hope they don’t go that way.

    I expect to see Pi back next week.

    • atcDave says:

      It was definitely a darker episode. But I like the way Castle slides back and forth pretty effortlessly.

    • oldresorter says:

      Joe, I can’t resist commenting on Castle, nor The Mentalist for that matter.

      I agree, I hope Castle doesn’t get too wrapped up with a long term behind the scenes, omnipotent big bad like Red John.

      I also always seem compelled to wrap it back towards Chuck. Chuck mostly used an unknown big bad each season too, fulcrum then Roark, the ring then Shaw, Mary then Volkov, Decker / Quinn. I don’t know if the reveal ever quit matched the scariness of the unknown, when compared to the showdown brewing in the Mentalist for example, most the Chuck final arc spy stories still felt pretty ‘campy’ to me. The drama seemed to be driven by what was going on with Chuck and Sarah. I wonder, so many of you bloggers like the final arcs, did you like it for the Chuck/Sarah drama, or for the drama the big bad’s brought?

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting question Jason. What I liked about the finales? Well for starters, you know the more episodic mid-season episodes are more often my favorites. But for the finales; I like when a villain actually is a villain and poses some real threat; but since I always saw Chuck as a comedy, I liked when the villains were fun, campy, over-the-top (Roark and Volkoff being the standouts). I liked when Chuck rose to the challenge and had a clear moment of triumph (especially like Ring 2 or Push Mix). I also like that the stunts/FX budget seemed to be raised for the finales, they were more often explosive and exciting, which really does matter to me.
        Of course the single most important issue to me was Charah, and the finales were generally not the best episodes for this. Even Push Mix and Cliffhanger, which I think are the most completely acceptable as Charah finales, the characters spent too much time apart during the bulk of the episode for them to ever rise to favorite status for me.
        But I guess I still like the finales. That I can imagine liking them even better than I did, doesn’t mean I really disliked any of them.

      • thinkling says:

        The only finales that are top tier episodes for me would probably be Push Mix and Cliff Hanger. Can’t beat a wedding and the official “yes” to a proposal that’s been such a long time brewing. I also liked both of these episodes for the team work and Chuck being at his hero best. Gotta love this Chuck.

        Other than I appreciated the tank, DYLM, and Shut up and kiss me, OG is not a particular favorite. OK, I like the bridge scene, except knowing that it’s not permanent does diminish it a little for me.

        I do like Marlin. It’s just too early to think of it as a finale. It has a mid-season-wrap feel, not a series ender. But it has great humor, and we get visual confirmation of how Chuck and Sarah feel about each other.

        Ring is also good, very funny, some good CS moments, but just doesn’t rise to the levels of Push Mix and Cliffhanger.

        Ring 2 is mixed: nice wrap up, but the Chuck/Ellie agreement is a downer, as well as Chuck going off without Sarah at the end.

        The series finale is mixed. It probably ranks 3 as finales go, but just misses the cut for a top tier episode: outstanding episode in many regards, out of the park acted, legitimate story, but not as unequivocally happy as I like for a finale.

        So in a finale, first and foremost, I want Chuck and Sarah left in a really happy place. I want the current story thread tied up, and I like seeing Chuck at his hero best.

        Like Dave, it’s not that I dislike any of them, but that’s how I draw the lines as to how much I like them and why I like some of them better than others.

    • JC says:

      I don’t know how Castle will play out this season but I think there was some heavy foreshadowing going on. Beckett telling him not to chase ghosts like her screamed that something bad was going to happen to Rick in the finale, I don’t read spoilers so if a marriage happens this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got shot after it. And a hospital would be a place Castle has never spent his Honeymoon in.

  11. Slightly OT but definitely timely, I just thought I’d mention that I just posted the last chapter of my current episode this morning, over at Fanfiction.net. It’s the last part of my remake of the Masquerade, with lots of pieces of Cubic Zirconium mixed in.

  12. resaw says:

    Well, I missed last week’s extravagant comment session while in San Diego, on a mission to uncover more of Sarah’s a.k.a. Jenny Burton’s past to help her with her memory, er… on a vacation with my wife. In fact, we did come across one high school, but neither the names James Buchanan nor Cougars were on display anywhere.

    Anyhoo… maybe it takes a half-dozen rewatches or so, but season 4 is actually beginning to grow on me. I appreciate and agree with Marc’s critiques, but I am nevertheless able to find some pieces here and there that are at least fun to watch and watch again. I thought the opening sequence in the apartment was hilariously well done. I really liked the thread about the friendship between Morgan and Chuck that was woven throughout the episode. The enthusiasm that Morgan displayed over the fact that both of them have girlfriends on Valentine’s Day, an enthusiasm that was equally reciprocated by Chuck, was just great. I thought that the way Morgan’s moving out process unfolded, symbolized by the problem of what to do with the Han Solo – Chewbacca set, was also well done. Sometimes Morgan’s antics are a little over the top, but the themes of friendship and loyalty are so important to Chuck, so important to the Chuck and Morgan relationship, and really, so important to human relations, that I appreciated that they spent this much time on it.

    Three questions/observations: 1. Is this the first time that Morgan has been involved as a front-line agent, as a bartender assisting Casey? Aside from the training he received from Casey, in which he failed miserably except for his boldness in luring a tiger, what qualifications does he have to be on any sort of mission? 2. Casey says to Morgan, “You live in ‘Charah’s’ apartment.” Fanboy/girl language. I can’t really see Casey saying that. I don’t even like using that language. 3. Sarah says, in front if Vivian, as they prepare their escape, “Chuck, get ready to flash.” Are we to assume that Vivian did not hear those words, did not have her curiosity piqued, and that Sarah would be so casual about Chuck’s secret ability?

    Near the end of the episode, Vivian asks what happens to Volkoff Industries. The response was rather lame. For better or for worse, Vivian was inheriting a criminal enterprise. It’s quite natural that she would want to find out more about her father and the legacy left to her. Although well trained, in some respects she was sheltered and naive. I would have thought that the CIA would have had an interest in making sure that her new (to her) business was turned toward a positive purpose, rather than just ignoring it and assuming it wither away.

    Finally, I well remember when our first child, also a daughter, was a few months old. Even so, Ellie and Devon’s haggard appearance may have been a bit over the top, but I appreciated the recollection of those exhausting and exhilarating days.

    Thanks, Dave and Joe, for your reviews, and everyone for your comments. I always enjoy this.

    • atcDave says:

      Morgan has been in action/harm’s way a few times, and in Couch Lock he even had a spoken part to play. Even so, he does always gets a sort of supporting role, like Chuck used to get. Maybe Casey just needed help with the drinks!
      The use of “Charah” was pretty transparently a joke for us hard core fans. I don’t particularly like the term myself, but after so many years writing both names together I have accepted it as an expedient. I can’t imagine actually saying it aloud. I find it funny that Casey of all people would do so.
      Sarah telling Chuck to flash sure did seem sloppy! Maybe they just figured Vivian had enough on her mind she’d never remember one phrase that made no sense anyway.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, I thought the flash remark was a real head-snapper. We can only hope that Vivian wouldn’t have any way to process or remember it.

      • oldresorter says:

        Dave said:

        “The use of “Charah” was pretty transparently a joke for us hard core fans. I don’t particularly like the term myself, but after so many years writing both names together I have accepted it as an expedient. I can’t imagine actually saying it aloud. I find it funny that Casey of all people would do so..”

        This type of humor works really well for me in comedy episodes, but is also what drives me crazy mad when an episode is not fun. But I think the show pretty consistently uses such humor, I’d have to guess it works more often than not, but seems to really stick out for fans when it misses, mentioning no episodes or scenes by name of course, Muhahaha!

      • atcDave says:

        I know what you mean Jason. When I’m not having a good time, such meta-humor seems patronizing or insulting.

      • You know, Sarah says “flash” in front of a few non-castle people. I never minded it, because if I were in Vivian’s situation, “flash” would never denote “activate the government supercomputer in your brain” to me. Not really much of a giveaway.

    • thinkling says:

      Welcome back Resaw. Glad to hear S4 is growing on you 🙂

  13. thinkling says:

    I like Masquerade. It’s not one I rewatch often, but when I do I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s cram packed and subject to various mood swings. There’s cold blooded assassinations juxtaposed with Valentine celebrations, an unknown entity in Vivian, the very UN-Awesomes, Casey leaving TeamB(?), wonderful Sarah/Morgan, and poignant Chuck/Morgan. Besides that the episode successfully jump-starts the various plots for the back half of S4. Ive enjoyed revisiting its themes and seeing new connections, because hindsight is now foresight.

    The highlights (fun, hilarity, and heart): pretty much all of the TeamB stuff. The valentine scene was just a hoot from the zen patty-cake mating ritual to Sarah’s cluelessness to Casey’s untimely interruption and Sarah and Caseys twin remarks “what do you mean have?”

    The Sarah/Morgan scene has its own range of moods (so well played by both Josh and Yvonne). Initially awkward, it moves through hilarious and ends on heartwarming. (Whoever decided to give Sarah scenes with Morgan has my thanks.) Watching that scene, I can’t help thinking back (like Dave) to S1 Sarah, whose reaction to an evening with Morgan was scant tolerance (even as a handler) … and S2 Sarah who didn’t understand Chuck’s friendship with Morgan. Now her level of caring for Morgan and her empathy with Chuck over Morgan’s departure are priceless and a testament to her growth. Now, I also can’t help thinking forward to Frosted Tips, when Morgan is broken and homeless. It is Sarah who invites him back into their home. Nice bookend.

    The Chuck/Vivian Connection: Vivian comes to us as a complete unknown, except for a mysterious connection to Volkoff. As Chuck talks to her about opportunity, we begin to see the Chuck/Vivian parallels unfold. By the end of Masquerade we know that Vivian’s necklace is her opportunity as the Intersect was Chuck’s. Both represented family legacies of sorts, and both would propel their recipients toward destiny. Vivian, like Chuck, has the aptitude and grooming for her destiny. Only the question of character remains. We know of course that Chuck has always proven himself worthy of his destiny. We can only hope that Vivian’s character will keep her from hers.

    On rewatch, I can’t watch without thinking of the terrible tragedy that turned best friends into nemeses, tore two families apart, and put Chuck and Vivian at the center of the S4 storm. But at this point, Vivian is still a mystery, and the Chuck/Vivian parallel is the tip of the intriguing iceburg that is the rest of the story.

    The key to unravel the mystery lies hidden just over the river and through the woods from where Masquerade begins: Somerset England. Another nice bookend.

    Last, but not least — Growing Pains: It’s time for everyone to close one chapter and open another. Everybody is moving on up. Masquerade is wonderful, funny, sweet, and hopeful in that regard. Chuck and Sarah are moving toward marriage. They gain an empty nest as Ellie and Awesome lose theirs. Clara gets her own room. Casey may take on a new challenge, and Morgan takes a giant leap into adulthood. And let’s not forget Han and Chewy. They trade in the labels of Toy and Collectible for coveted Family Heir Loom status. I can’t help loving this episode for this theme that is so very Chuck.

    • atcDave says:

      Great comment. Thank you!

    • YES! I was struggling on how to put why I empathized with this episode, and you put it beautifully. This whole idea of growing and changing, leaving one thing and moving into another is quintessential Chuck. I know for most people, the “Charah” relationship is their favorite part, but for me it was always the growing and deepening family dynamic among the entire cast. (Granted, Chuck/Sarah are the undeniable centerpiece of that dynamic.) Bravo, Thinkling.

      This episode is gripping to me because it catches that dynamic in the middle of host of difficult and important changes: Morgan and Alex growing, Casey searching for more, Morgan and Chuck moving apart, Chuck and Sarah getting even closer, Ellie and Devon’s new parental life… All of it is putting stress on their group, and they’re recognizing it without having any real solutions yet.

      Ultimately, that change is my favorite aspect of Seasons 4/5 – the idea that this extended family not only doesn’t break apart from stress, but they actually get stronger and closer because they’re so committed to each other.

      • thinkling says:

        Thanks Arthur. That, too, is one of my very favorite aspects of Chuck, and Masquerade highlights it so well. Yep, S4+5 are my favorites exactly b/c of this.

  14. oldresorter says:

    Person Of Interest spoiler alert over the episode Crossing. WOW!

    My link back to Chuck, I wanted Orion’s death to be in an episode something like POI’s ep last night, something uforgettably dramatic and heroic. And we even got to see the broken thumb trick in action, along with a decent C plot for the ever increasingly lovable Agent Shaw. We aren’t going to start shipping Shusco, are we? But that ending, WOW!

    • resaw says:

      Yeah, that ending evoked as emotional a response as any I’ve seen on TV since Chuck. IGN’s reviewer, Matt Fowler, scored it a 10/10 and called it a masterpiece. I agree.

    • joe says:

      Yeah – great episode and a superior show. The ending *was* amazingly well done, but for my money, what really made it was the performance of Kevin Chapman as Fusco. The character was always on the edge of being a clown. In this episode he became really human.

      And so did Shaw, btw.

      Root is still a psycho freak, though.

      • resaw says:

        Chapman’s performance was incredible. The ads leading up to the broadcast suggested he was the one to go, and with Shaw coming on the scene, I thought that Fusco was quickly becoming extraneous to the show. Finally, he became a character we really cared about.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ve liked Fusco for a while. I really like the corrupt cop whose cleaned up his act story, and I’ve always liked the world weariness he brings to the part. And we were sweating those previews! My wife was really concerned, I think she has a thing for chubby guys (!).
        But no doubt he delivered a perfect performance.

    • atcDave says:

      Agree with all of this. Dynamite episode. Although I’m disappointed for the future of the show, the loss will be felt.

      • resaw says:

        I don’t want to give away too much to those who haven’t seen it, but the actor leaving the show spoke in a TV Guide interview of looking forward to doing more movies, so it was not an entirely unhappy event for the person in question. I agree, Dave, that the loss will be felt, but that’s what was intended, wasn’t it? We watched what happened and we joined in the grief of loss. It was an “artistic ending” that really worked, in my view.

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t know. I mean it was an awesome performance and very well done.

        But the damage is great when they do stuff like that. In particular, do we want to continue watching? I’m never more likely to quit a show than when a loved character has left, whatever the reasons. We dumped NCIS this season for that reason (and yes, I know that was ALL the actor). But I find this sort of change a heavy burden on any show. In this case I am likely to continue, for now. But I would likely not stick it out for another such change.

      • thinkling says:

        Wowwww. I hadn’t seen or heard anything in advance, except Jason’s comment, so I was/am in shock. Agree with all. Excellent ep. Well acted by all. But I will really miss the character. You’re right. They can’t do this often. And world weary is a great description of Fusco.

  15. ben says:

    baffled why they would choose somerset, then film it somewhere that is almost the antithisis of someset.

    • atcDave says:

      As an ignorant American I don’t get it? Why is Sommerset a bad choice?

      • authorguy says:

        I don’t think he said it was a bad choice, just that the locale they showed looks nothing like Somerset.
        I think they just decided to throw the laws of time and travel to the winds. They flout them with such abandon it could only be on purpose.

  16. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Masquerade (4.16) | Chuck This

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