Chuck vs The A-Team (4.18)

Now for something a little different.  After a dose of Volkoff, stand alone episodes, romantic comedy and meeting a new Volkoff; we’re heading back to some Intersect stories for a couple weeks.  A-Team also has a bigger part for Casey, after pushing him to the background.

After the jump, we’ll discuss this week’s episode from Season Four.

Our favorites poll ranked this episode down in the 60s.  My first thought is that I liked it a lot better than that!  But to be fair, that is still sort of a middling episode, at the lower end of average; and maybe I shouldn’t argue with that verdict at all!  As we’ve observed before, even an average episode of Chuck is still a lot of fun.

A-Team does have a sort of different feel to it.  And I think that’s mostly due to a slightly different view of Sarah Walker.  Our super Ninja girl is so often the steady and serious character on the show, but this time we see her more than a little on edge.  When Devon tells Chuck that Ellie is going a little stir crazy, he mutters that seems to be going around.  So apparently “stir crazy” is the connecting theme of this episode’s plot lines.

I suspect one reason why this episode is ranked where it is, is because many viewers find this version of Sarah a little unsettling.  But it does make me laugh.  I see this behavior sometimes in my own job.  I work  at a very seasonal sort of airport.  With no commercial service, we see flight schools and pleasure flyers as the main source of activity.  Well those are two classes of flyers who tend to stay put in foul weather.  So when winter comes, we may go a week or so with nothing to do sometimes.  We so often see people who can’t adjust to so much time to read or amuse themselves on our long winter breaks.  We like to warn people not to come here unless you’re okay with some down time!  So I’ve seen plenty of stir crazy, bored to death controllers in my career.  But I think Chuck knows how to deal with the down time…

Apart from that, there is so much fun here.  Down time or not, A Team or B, Chuck and Sarah are an awesome team here.  Sarah is trying to be useful, and Chuck tries to keep  her from getting in too much trouble.  Providing Casey with unsanctioned back-up, and a mission to extract a dog are the early highlights.  But I particularly like the sub-mission to get Casey’s hand print. Starting with Sarah considering cutting off his hand.  Then Chuck distracting Morgan while Sarah comes in behind.  And of course, small, child-like hand prints.  This is a brilliantly funny five minutes or so.

Back at Castle, Chuck discovers his father’s computer, and two new human Intersects.  I can feel Chuck’s moral outrage at the misuse of his father’s invention; but we all know how life in 21st century America works, there’s no way he wins that argument.  Which leads to Chuck and Sarah as supporting cast to a new Intersect team.  This plays out in a manner both predictable and satisfying.  A team of Intersect automatons may have some advantages, but ultimately fail to show the sort of discernment, initiative and creativity that Chuck and Sarah both have.  And Casey wisely sees the difference.  I’m not sure if using fruit juice to disarm a nuke qualifies Chuck as a great leader; but it certainly shows imagination and outside-the-box thinking.

As I mentioned above, the “B” plot is tied in by the “stir crazy” theme.  There are a few very funny moments here.  I particularly like Ellie’s initial visit to the Buy More.  Jeff shows a bit of insight and legitimate psychic skill; first in knowing how little Ellie thinks of him and Lester (!), and second in arriving at “Cia”.  I like this sort of sub-plot, it provides some big laughs, and really ties back in to the main plot by the end.  I think it also may highlight how underused Ellie was through most of this season.

So I think another fun  episode.  Still sort of “average”, but easy to enjoy the ride.

~ Dave

And Now For Something Completely Different…

A little Peter Gunn type music, perhaps?

Ellie's opinion

Ellie’s opinion

I think I know why this episode is rated in the bottom 3rd (more or less) in our list of favorites. On first blush (you know, the impression that sticks with you the longest), Chuck vs. The A-Team seems a bit BTDT. Sarah and Casey are bored and in need of a mission; Chuck is trying to keep everybody happy, both at work and at home; Devon is struggling to shield Ellie from Chuck’s life, Jeff and Lester are deep in outer space and Beckman is simultaneously in charge of everything and in charge of nothing. So like usual, the situation is critical, but not serious! 😉

Casey: What are you doing here?
Chuck: Saving your life, partner.
Casey: Don’t need saving, idiot.
Chuck: Oh, really? I’m the idiot?
“The Turk”: Please. Let me settle this. [Guns Cocked] You are all idiots.

First impressions are deceiving, indeed. Whaaa? You don’t think that the creative talent knows we’ve seen Chuck defusing bombs without the use of the Intersect before?

Sarah: [Stating the obvious] Chuck, are you about to disarm a nuclear bomb using fruit juice?
Chuck: [nods yes]
Sarah: Okay. Do it.

With that, combined with Sarah’s wry look at Chuck, I broke out laughing. This time I got the poke in the ribs that said “Look! A little self-mocking spoof!” This lighthearted romp was not going to present something angsty, threatening to tear C&S apart again. Casey was not going to leave Team B and Shaw was not going to return just yet to resurrect Stephen only to kill him again. Nope. Chuck is not NCIS, after all, and Chuck is not Leroy Jethro Gibbs. We’re here for the pure joy of it, not to take ourselves too seriously.

Chuck: Ooooh. What are these?
Sarah: These have a camera inside of them that scan for any bio-residue.
Chuck: Yuck. Sounds like a CBS show.

[Oh, I agree! Take the whimsy out of Chuck and you might get something like this.]

I won’t go over all the laff-lines – Dave’s covered that! But needless to say, I chuckled at everything from “Cia!” to Jana and everything in between. Sarah Lancaster never made me laugh more.

Ellie: Hihoney.Howwaswork?I’msoglagyou’rehomeI’vebeendyingtotalk!!!

That was Ellie talking a mile-a-minute. I’ll electronically slow the rest down for you to human speed, but you still have to read it fast! 😉

Ellie: Remember how I’ve been trying to keep track of Clara’s sleep schedule? Well, I finally crunched the numbers. At first, I couldn’t find the circadian cycle, then I applied some basic biostatistics. Voila. Isn’t that incredible? Oh. Wait ’till you see the data that I gathered during tummy time.
…and here is a chart of Clara’s new vocal sounds. Trust me. You can go a little loony with someone babbling in you ear all day long.
…The problem is, I only have one test subject. So, in order to control my experiment, we’re gonna have to have a second baby.
[Devon looks terrified]

GRETA Cptn. Richard Noble

GRETA Cptn. Richard Noble

There’s little here that pushes the story forward in this case and that’s fine by me. Chuck and Sarah’s romance is strong and on an even keel (Whew!). Even better, Chuck & Co. are not subject to great revelations about their inner strengths or the value of friends and family. Again, BTDT. But that’s not to say there is no movement. Quite the contrary.

GRETA Cptn. Victoria Dunwoody

GRETA Cptn. Victoria Dunwoody

Thanks to the GRETAs Victoria Dunwoody (Stacy Keibler) and Richard Noble (Isaiah Mustafa) we gain a bit of understanding about the Intersect. It is a burden and Chuck is special, if for no other reason, because he bears that burden without losing his humanity. More importantly, Ellie has Orion’s laptop computer returned to her by Director Bentley, who becomes generous for her own nefarious purposes. You can almost hear the dramatic music playing!

For her part, Ellie is quite at home studying Stephen’s files. No background character is she!

For me, it’s always important when Stephen, or, at least, his life’s work, is brought back into the story. It’ll be a little bit before we pick up those threads, but we shouldn’t forget them; they’re important.

One other thing makes this episode a little special to me, personally. Sometime after this episode aired, we were contacted by Stacy Keibler’s publicity agent and given the opportunity to do an e-mail interview with the actress and fitness model. For that, I’m still grateful! It’ll always be one of my best memories of doing this blog.

You’re alive
And you’ll love again
Even though it feels like the end

– joe


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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50 Responses to Chuck vs The A-Team (4.18)

  1. resaw says:

    BTDT… had to look that up, but, yes, it felt a lot like a “Been There, Done That” episode. I suppose that there are two or main emphases in this episode: 1. That Sarah is a woman of action, and the recent ramp-up of her Bridezilla persona does not change the fact that she is a spy who loves her job. 2. That Chuck’s specialness has a lot less to do with the Intersect than it does with his “discernment, initiative and creativity,” as you say, Dave, and his sense of commitment and willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others, which leads to his repeated assumption of the burden of the Intersect, as you highlighted from Rick’s statement, Joe. 3. That Team B is indeed the A-Team.

    Also in the BTDT category was the disarming of the bomb with fruit juice. To me, that is very reminiscent of the Pilot, when Chuck disarmed a bomb with online porn.

    There were a couple of scenes where Chuck’s insecurities were played for laughs in a way that did some disservice to the maturity that Chuck had been showing recently: First, there was the scene where Chuck is looking for validation from Beckman: “I know that you love us equally, but….” He’s so needy there. And later, “Their Castle is so much cooler than ours.” Personally, rather than funny, I cringed a bit.

    Also cringeworthy was the Toyota Sienna product placement, although, in a way, the blatancy of it is perhaps better than trying to be subtle.

    One line I want to highlight was Casey’s explanation of Director Bentley to Chuck and Sarah: “She’s our Beckman, except not as warm and cuddly.” That was LOL funny to me.

    Thanks, gentlemen. I hope you and my other American friends enjoyed your Thanksgiving.

    • atcDave says:

      The bomb disposal scene is funny; it is so reminiscent of the Pilot I can only credit it as deliberate. And of course they’ll do it yet again, even more so, for the finale.
      Most of those other cringeworthy moments you mention struck me as funny, including Chuck’s little insecurities and some overt product placement. But I think I still agree with that 2/3s down assessment because even if I find this episode completely enjoyable, it isn’t very noteworthy.

    • JoeBuckley says:

      Oh, I agree. In fact, I thought those things were cringe-worthy AND laugh-out-loud funny at the same time. It was like, they pulled the obvious gag, saw you looking slack-jawed, and said (with a wink) “Made you laugh!”

      More likely, it was “Made you cringe!” though. 😉

      No other show could get away with product placement the way Chuck did.

    • thinkling says:

      Spot on, Resaw. I think the overt product placement just became sort of a running joke for Chuck fans. We mostly didn’t mind, b/c we knew they were footing the bill for a show so loved and fought for. I’ll never see Subway the same again. We had the Hot Pocket (or some such) last week, and the even more cringe-worthy Tide To Go Stick in Balcony. Yeah, Joe, only Chuck could get away with it.

      I like the call back to the Pilot. You’ll notice in both call backs (A-Team and Goodbye) the positions are the same: Chuck kneeling at the bomb with Sarah on the left and Casey on the right. This dynamic is different, though, b/c they’re a team and both Sarah and Casey have the utmost confidence in him. I really like Casey’s respect for Chuck in this scene.

      • atcDave says:

        I wish I’d mentioned that up top Thinkling; how Casey treats Chuck in this scene is awesome. Even if he thinks the future and his team are changing, he has affection and respect for both Chuck and Sarah. Ultimately, more respect for them than his new team.

      • thinkling says:

        I can’t add much to we are happy to you and Joe covered. I really really like this episode. Ranking Chuck episodes from 1 to 91 isn’t a fair assessment for me. As you said this episode isn’t noteworthy, particularly. But is is soo fun! I like glimpses into this Sarah. Thanks to episodes like this one and Yvonnes amazing skills, Sarah Walker is a multidimensional character. Chuck and Sarah are just great fun, and you see Chuck sort of “handling” Sarah, and not for the first or last time this season. It’s a great double role reversal. And as absolutely fun as it was, tell me you weren’t just a little (okay, a lot) indignant and angry at Bentley and her GRETAS. Grrr.

        The other thing is the Intersect itself. The Intersect is a virtual character on Chuck. Its development is not without its inconsistencies or plot holes, but the core theme remains constant: Chuck is the only one who should host it: not only because of his special brain, but because of his noble character. The Intersect always finds him, and, blessing or curse, we know that’s how it’s supposed to be. I liked Rick’s thinly veiled acknowledgment of that.

      • andereandre says:

        @atcDave: I didn’t find it totally okay that Casey had a PTI (T for team) but it was resolved nicely.
        I made the mistake of re-watching the pilot earlier this week so I am now watching Marlin (and probably can’t stop soon) and it so clear now that that affection and respect is already there under all the snark, and really very early on. Casey is really the character they have written the most consistently. The development of Casey after S1 is not about having those feelings but admitting to them.

        Going off topic now and misusing this thread (because I am doing S1 and you guys are not doing a S1 rewatch when I need one).
        One of my brain trains is that Chuck never feels really intimidated by Casey. Starting in the pilot with him pulling free and you need me, next episodes with “hold on the sarcasm” and so on. I thought there were one or two scenes he was but I forgot where. A candidate was in Undercover Lover (which I watched today) where he gets choked against the wall and his reaction is “you are hurting the Intersect” . Is there any instance where he really is afraid of Casey?

        And now really going off topic: two things I never noticed before in Marlin:, Chuck has the Princess Leia picture on his locker door and Ellie is performing a surgical procedure on as chicken (and I feel stupid of missing that on my previous views)

      • atcDave says:

        PTI, I like it!

        In Truth Casey even admits that he respects Chuck. So yeah, there was definitely some connection quite early. But the funny thing is, early on Chuck probably should have feared Casey a little more than he did. As late as First Date Casey would at least TRY to carry out a kill order, even if he didn’t want to. So the burning question is, at what point would Casey have found that order impossible to obey? I actually think early in S2, possibly he couldn’t have followed through in First Date. Obviously this is pure, baseless speculation!

        I always wished they had a copy of the “real” picture Sarah took in Sandworm. But it seems they just kept recycling the “fake” one.

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    This episode features one of my favorite Chuck non sequiturs of all time:

    Sarah: Do you think he’s gone lone wolf on us?

    Chuck (sarcastically): Yeah, that’s it, prowling around the streets at night, administering vigilante justice. I mean, come… (suddenly serious) Actually, that’s, that’s entirely plausible.

    • atcDave says:

      Yup, sounds like Casey to me…

    • JoeBuckley says:

      Heh! This belongs under Think’s comment too – I am finding nearly all these episodes incredibly enjoyable this time around – almost unexpectedly. The streaks of subtle dry humor either got past me the first few times, or were forgotten (and yeah, I know that’s one of the first signs…). Either way, I find myself chuckling at those lines a lot these days.

    • Yeah, this episode is hilarious. Sarah seriously considering cutting off Casey’s hand is just priceless. I thought Old Spice Guy was great as a straight man. (And Robin Givens is impressively hateable) I can only imagine Casey reacting to Chuck the same way if he’d just met him. “Improvise? It’s a nuclear bomb!”

      I also love the idea that the Gretas were talking smack about Chuck to the prisoner. “I heard about you. You’re the dog walker!”

      I know people get bummed out about Chuck’s plot holes, but A-Team jumps the shark so far that I actually found it funny. I mean, if you could quantify the amount of sense something makes, A-Team’s plot (and Season 4.5’s intersect arc) would rank a -15.

      Of course Chuck knows more about disarming nuclear bombs than four highly-trained agents. Of course the CIA would try to keep an intersect project secret from Chuck by hiding it in his base. Of course they’d remove the intersect from both agents because one of them made an error. And of course the CIA needs Ellie Bartowski to figure out a message on an old computer to unlock a technology they already had two years ago. Why would the CIA make a back up of their most important technology, after one had already been destroyed? Their disdain for plot is so brazen that it’s become part of the show’s charm.

      • JoeBuckley says:

        You’ve got me jumping up and down going “Me too! Me too!” today, Arthur.
        What you said about their disdain for plot being so brazen it’s charming? [Joe touches index finger to nose.]

  3. I wanted to add to thinkling’s point about Casey, because it’s one of my favorite parts of S4.5. The transition Casey makes from mentor to support member isn’t something that gets mentioned a lot here, but it really comes to a head in this episode (and takes away from the BTDT element) and the next.

    For a few episodes now, we’ve been seeing Casey grappling with the idea that he’s a third wheel, and no longer needed. Chuck has become a spy in his own right; he no longer needs hand holding or oversight. Because of that, Sarah has a new partner rather than an asset she needs to protect. So Casey’s role of spy partner and asset protection have both been eliminated; it’s only natural he feels this way.

    Chuck and Sarah feel betrayed initially by his decision to start a new team, but really, he’s paying them the ultimate compliment: he feels that they’re too good to need him anymore. He clearly has more faith in them than the CIA does, and intervenes when he sees them being sidelined.

    We don’t talk much about the Chuck/Casey relationship, but it’s growth is the most deftly handled of the series. It’s amazing to watch Casey’s assessment of Sarah as a “CIA skirt” and Chuck as an idiot and think about where it leads – with Chuck and Sarah being the two best spies he’s ever worked with – event without the intersect – in Cliffhanger. By the end of the show, Chuck has become the man Casey works for (not with), and he’s given Casey everything he values: Chuck reunites him with his daughter and saves her life, helps Casey find the (maybe) love of his life, helps him find a real home for the first time, and helps mold Casey into a more complete person in much the same way Casey molds Chuck as a spy. It’s a mutual bond of trust, friendship and respect that completely changes both of their lives, and just one of the great things about S4.

    In A-Team, Casey already knows that he’s no-longer needed to be a role model for Chuck, but it’s here (and Muuurder) where he realizes Chuck still needs and relies on him, and unlike everybody else he’s worked with, Chuck is worth following. There’s no “yes, yes, yes” moment in A-Team (thank goodness), but I’ve always found that Casey’s growth said more about Chuck as a person than any of his spy moments.

    • atcDave says:

      That was all very well put Arthur, I agree.

    • JoeBuckley says:

      Seconded! Every time I see the Pilot, the transformation in Casey stands out the most.

      • Indeed. The growth in character and relationships throughout the cast is really what pushes Chuck over the “favorite show ever” line for me. Funny that Casey and Morgan are the most-changed characters over the course of the show. I need to think of an overly complicated theory of why that’s the case.

      • atcDave says:

        Arthur I’m thinking it starts with them being the most dysfunctional! I know we all love to talk about Chuck and Sarah’s growth, and no doubt there’s plenty to see. But they both started as good admirable people anyway, maybe its more a matter of “completing” them. While Casey and Morgan were really badly flawed. Their growth seems even more dramatic.
        Sorry, that probably wasn’t complicated enough!

      • Dammit, Dave! 🙂 Not only is that way under-complicated, it also makes total sense. The worst of both worlds!

      • JoeBuckley says:

        Besides being the most dysfunctional (with Casey being dysfunctional in a sad, damaged sort of way) I also think it’s got something to do with them being the most human. They’re your very flawed buddies, Morgan playing second fiddle to Chuck (who is YOU, right?) the guy with no ambition past working in the Buy More for $12 an hour, and Casey being the competent guy who got further, but completely burned himself out in the process. He’s always on the verge of saying it wasn’t worth it.

        Now we’re getting complex!

    • authorguy says:

      I always saw Casey’s move to the other team in a ‘give them enough rope’ sort of way. He knew the project would fail. He just wanted to make sure Team B was around to prevent the failure from being catastrophic. They want to give the appearnace of him feeling unneeded, but that’s just for show.

  4. JC says:

    This episode really grew on me. Chuck and Sarah at their best as a couple and as spies. The anger over losing missions and being put out to pasture. It also had my favorite movie reference of all time, Morgan’s “Clever Girl” from Jurassic Park. Comparing Sarah to a velociraptor on the hunt was fantastic and after her suggestion of cutting off Casey’s hand very fitting.

    The only things that really bugged me was that Sarah’s reaction to Casey’s new team seemed over the top at the beginning. And I wish they had shown Sarah finding something she enjoyed outside of being a spy during the downtime. It would have been an easy opportunity to give her more depth and show some growth.

    I’m curious why they never went any further with the side effects of Intersect or if it was dropped. The episode set up so many things they could have went with. Both Gretas relief at having it removed and the notion it was so bad the one pitied Chuck. Then you have the Volkoff reveal later in the season with the Intersect taking over the Gretas actions. It seemed like they were working to something big and it just disappeared.

    • atcDave says:

      Sarah the Velociraptor seems oddly fitting!

      I think they were pretty consistent though about the hazards of the Intersect. All the way to the end it was a pretty dangerous thing. Chuck remains the only user to not be badly damaged by it (well, possibly Daniel Shaw was already badly damaged…). In the end, it seems possibly the pristine Intersect could have worked for more users, but it seems we’re destined to never know.

      • JC says:

        I wasn’t talking about the general danger of having an Intersect but how specific they were in this episode. Not a big deal, just something that could have been interesting had they moved forward with it.

  5. Dave says:

    I’ve read the posts here and am…well, speechless. Everyone has covered about everything on this one. I especially liked the arrogant, sort of stuck up Sarah slighted by being benched. Sarah-raptor was good clean fun.

    I always liked this episode, which was not so well viewed when it first came out, but I always liked this one. Arthur is right about the brazen disregard for plot…I found it a hoot.

    Good clean fun!!

  6. oldresorter says:

    Joe last week I made a comment about liking layered bad guys, bad guys who do some good. You fired back (I think, you did at least) that you like good guys that way too. Casey being a bit hard to read for a while in this ep, gives me a chance to followup with a combination of comments and questions.

    In bad guys, I like them to be basically motivated by evil intentions, while having some good character traits, say like loving their family, or being loyal to those who do evil with them, etc.

    But in good guys or heros, I like them to be motivated by good intentions, especially in those who star in my favorite TV shows I do accept that they can have bad character traits. But what I want to see are those weaknesses become key parts of the story told, and the hero to triumph not only over evil, but over their own weaknesses.

    Additionally in TV, I like to see growth occur, such that characters might defeat not only an enemy, but overcome a character flaw one season, then show not only a new enemy, but a new character flaw to overcome in the following season.

    So to your point about liking heroes to be layered, I’m not sure I agree. I’d like to see them 100% motivated by good, even if they have some (many) character flaws.

    Be interesting to know what the many sides of the Chuck fan divide view as Chuck’s (Sarah and Casey too) flaws, and whether he / they is a 100% good guys and gals or shades of grey. I did it in my head, then compared to Beckett, Castle, and the two sidekicks, along with Reese, Finch, POI Shaw, Carter, and Fusco. It is something I’m going to watch for more now, thanks for keying me into that sort of thinking.

    • atcDave says:

      Wow Jason, some good questions there.

      I think, like you, I prefer my good guys to be true good guys. That is, honestly trying to do the right thing. I’m no fan of “anti-heroes”, those who end up cast as heroes because they’re forced into acting against their nature. And I’m certainly no fan of all the villains who are main characters in so much television, especially cable television, these days.
      That’s never the same thing as saying they should be perfect. I like a lot of quirks and flaws, I particularly like a hero who has a past to overcome. I don’t put any expectations on what should be fixed or overcome in the course of a season or series. As long as the heroes stay heroes I’m mostly happy.
      On Chuck, Chuck and Sarah were both straight up heroes; and they both had issues to overcome. Chuck was a moral hero; that is, a completely decent and honorable guy who mainly had to overcome his own fears and self doubts (and lack of any training or experience!). Sarah is a more traditional sort of hero, a physical action hero. As the story unfolded, we learned she HAD grown from a criminal past to become a great hero; unfortunately we were never really privy to the thought process that led to that change. (I could go on much longer about this, but I won’t for now). We did see her come to grips with her more human and emotional side over the course of the show, that was a great journey on its own, and I think made her the most interesting and appealing character on the show. I do think, Casey served as a sort of warning of what she could have turned into if Chuck hadn’t gotten involved with her.
      Casey himself was also a hero, of sorts. But at least in the beginning, he had no moral authority at all. He followed orders and abdicated all responsibility to his less than deserving superiors. He was a burnt out shell. But we saw the team assignment, and later reconnecting with family, restored much of his humanity. In the end, he could go against orders to do the right thing. So that was very satisfying growth.

      As for the other shows you mention, it is the nature of those strong characters that appeals to me most. I would call both Castle and Beckett traditional heroes. Although Castle has gone through a lot of personal growth, he has always had some drive to do the right thing. Beckett has changed less, but she was a more committed heroic type from the start. And also more mature. Again, there’s more I could say, but I’ll leave it at that.
      POI has those sort of more layered characters. More flawed, more interesting (but less likable to me). Carter would be the most “pure” of the bunch. Reese has come from a very dark place, and is capable of very dark deeds; but he has been committed to righting wrongs and helping people for most of the run of the show, that really makes him a great hero in my book. Fusco is interesting, a very flawed man who has turned his life around at great risk and cost. He may be the new moral authority of the bunch with Carter gone. Shaw is more of an anti-hero. She is currently aligned with the good guys, and likely to stay that way. But it’s due to no conviction or belief on her part, it’s simply where her loyalties currently lie. She is a fun character, but would not work as a series lead for me. Harold gets overlooked; he’s that show’s Chuck. He is the moral force behind it all. Even with his life ruined and a tragic past, he is determined to do right, even if actual physical heroics are completely beyond him.

      Now I look forward to Joe weighing in!

      • thinkling says:

        Great topic … so often at the core of what fascinates us with stories and fictional characters … and often the determining factor behind the extent to which we identify with them, love them, or loathe them.

        I think Dave and I are pretty much on the same page, no surprise.

        I like clearly delineated good guys and bad guys. Not that I don’t want any layers … I like layers, but the good guy’s moral compass should point mostly north most of the time.

        I like growing or overcoming characters, like Casey, who grew and changed kicking and grunting all the way, and Sarah who grew quite naturally in relationship with Chuck, albeit with a tad of resistance.

        POI has so many interesting characters, most of them having to overcome something from their pasts. I really like it for that. Reese had a huge past to overcome, but it’s clear which side he’s on. Fusco is back on top. And Shaw doesn’t see the need to overcome her past at all. Oddly enough, I do like her, as an anti-hero (great term, Dave) … as the main hero, not so much. Still going to miss Carter. What a void!

        I’m glad dkd brought up Elementary. It is a well paced journey for both leads … endearing at times. The opposite of that would be (and I really don’t like this) alcoholic leads or characters who crawl into the bottle instead of trying to overcome: Canterbury’s Law, for example or House.

        I am much pickier about my good guys. I can go with a fairly broad range of bad guys and still enjoy the conflict, but I don’t like it at all is when the bad guy wins (movies like Usual Suspects and Seven). Sorry, that’s just all kinds of wrong. I can read the paper or listen to real life stories of bad guys winning. I watch TV or Movies, like Dave said for something inspiring or cheer-worthy … uplifting.

        I really liked Monk. The characters’ quirks were indeed their charm. Great show. Went out at the right time and did a great finale.

        Castle is just great for the character interaction. They’re doing the relationship really well. There’s been some growth, but not nearly as much as Chuck. Still fun, though.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Thinkling we’re about exactly at the same place.

        I am very encouraged by strong ratings for the live production of Sound of Music the other day. No doubt it was a flawed production. But it really encourages me that something so positive would be so well received.

      • oldresorter says:

        I loved Monk, couple of us did evidentily

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah, big Monk fan.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        It isn’t that I dislike procedurals per say, it’s that I find them utterly un-engaging. I can have an episode of NCIS on in the background while fixing dinner and no matter which episode, the characters are in the exact same place behaving the exact way they did in every other episode (OK, maybe not, but it strikes me that way). If Law and Order is on I can time my cooking by checking off the plot points and scene changes. If I know exactly what is coming I quickly lose interest.

      • joe says:

        Historically I favor serials over procedurals too, at least, I have ever since Babylon 5. I suspect, though, that a running tab of my current favs since 1965 would include more procedurals, though.

        I have noticed one thing. In line with Ernie’s thought that you can have an episode on in the background and find the characters pretty much in the same place as they’ve always been, that tends to heighten the effects of significant changes when they do happen. Tony is Tony is Tony. But every time there was a change in his status with Ziva, fans took notice. Big time. Perhaps the best example of genius I can think of in Castle is how they expertly played those changes. Face it. Castle is a procedural, but it refuses to neglect the best aspects of a serial. When Rick and Kate dance towards each other the SQUEES are heard nationwide.

        Is there an element of surprise or fan insecurity involved? Maybe. We knew that Tony was always to be played as a swinging bachelor, give or take a certainty factor of about 10%. Ever since Sarah adjusted Chuck’s tie and dusted his lapel, fans knew that they’d be together ultimately with about the same level of uncertainty. But with Rick and Kate I have a feeling fans were always uncertain about the prospects, maybe to the 50% level, at least until this season.

      • atcDave says:

        NCIS is sort of the poster child for how to do a procedural well. I can, and have, watched it both with full attention or as background noise. It sort of depends on what all is going on in my life at the time, just how much attention I’m willing to focus on it. I think the stories are well enough conceived and executed to be rewarding if one is fully paying attention. And yet, it can be reduced to simple crime of the week and whodunit when other interests intrude.
        And as Joe observes, when actual significant moments do come, they draw extra attention.
        I think it also is appealing to me as an example of admirable characters trying to do the right thing.

        Castle always manages my full attention. Its also the only show currently on that I routinely watch more than once. But of course the main draw is not usually the case (although the case of the week is often highly entertaining in its own right) but rather interplay of a likable assortment of characters. That may mostly mean Rick and Kate, but other good characters add to the experience.

        I think Grimm is an excellent example of a more serialized show I enjoy quite a lot. But again, its the strength of several likable and admirable characters (especially Monroe and Rosalie) that really make the show for me. As always, that matters more to me than if I need to remember many carry over stories from week to week or not.

    • joe says:

      Very little to disagree with here, Jason. I don’t think I really accept the statement “I like heroes to be layered.” either. There’s always a subtly involved, right?

      How to explain. When I was growing us (and Baby Boomers were just putting down their hula-hoops), Superman was the #1 cultural icon for “hero.” He was, in a word, flawless. He had no weaknesses and I recall one comic panel of him standing on his head, looking like he was doing nothing but clowning. Next panel, it’s revealed that he’s actually saved the earth by putting it back in it’s proper orbit.

      Ultimately, I (and the boomers) grew bored with that, Batman became the flawed, dark, conflicted, complex hero-icon and even Superman moved in that direction. That’s sorta what I meant by layered.

      I think what we were looking for was a hero who was human. This would be someone with flaws and weaknesses who, as you said, overcame the flaws, weaknesses and the evil-doers. The hero was us in our fantasies.

      Then we required that the hero not defeat 100% of his enemies, mostly, I think, because we didn’t. We still wanted a happy ending, though.

      Here I am, virtually psychoanalyzing an entire generation. I just hate when I do that! 😉
      Ultimately, it’s that concept of humanness that intrigues me. I look for that in the characters I see in TV and literature, more than I look for good or evil.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting point Joe about how the hero is ultimately so much more important than the evil. I mean, I like a fun villain too; but I NEED to like the hero. That’s what makes the story for me. I guess I’m one of those who will root for “good to triumph” regardless of the personalities involved; but finding the good guy(s) likable, relatable and interesting is FAR more important to me than anything the baddies can ever possibly do.

      • oldresorter says:

        I like how you explained your POV Joe. Thanks.

        I’m trying to come up with a list of charachter flaws / weaknesses for Chuck and Sarah over the five seasons, and how / if they overcame them. Joe, part of this thinking was inspired by you, part by something one of the showrunners said about the final on the beach about Chuck. I won’t even attempt to paraphrase what was said (I won’t even say which showrunner the quote came from), but the quote involved character growth displayed by Chuck at the end.

      • joe says:

        Yeah, Dave. I find myself measuring TV shows by how likable I find the characters. I’ve been watching a bunch of old Monk re-runs and have been surprised by how much I enjoy all of that cast. Their flaws become their charm, apparently.

        The thing that grabbed be about Chuck was the charm of the relationship, though. Perhaps that’s a strong indicator of humanity (Heh! It should be!). For me, that’s new. I see good relationship shown on TV now all over the place now (especially, Rick and Kate, obviously). But I can’t think of many that come close to this level. Never watched Moonlighting, but I hear that’s an early prototype.

      • atcDave says:

        Monk is so much like Chuck. The character is just shockingly decent, but is quirky, sometimes way past annoying. Perhaps Monk is what Chuck would be if Sarah died a tragic death. Actually, I guess Monk was pretty quirky even before his wife died; but that crushing melancholy makes him endearing regardless.

        A big problem with any Moonlighting comparison is that Maddie and Dave were not ultimately very likable people. They were selfish, self-centered and self-important in that very 1980s sort of way.

      • Dave says:

        I don’t know…I like my heroes as heroes and my villains as villains. I accept the “good bad guy” and “bad good guy” concepts as TV is full of them now and I’d see no TV if I didn’t accept. But I long for the good old days where John Wayne vanquished the bad guys winning the girl in the process…why can’t this still be the case?

        I believe Chuck, Sarah and Casey are straight up heroes. They each have a ton of personal issues but are always trying to do what they perceive as right.

      • atcDave says:

        I just can’t accept much of what’s being made now Dave, so I simply watch less television. I agree entirely about missing old fashioned heroes. It doesn’t even matter to me what’s “realistic”, I’d rather see something inspiring, something to strive for. I don’t need some one who’s as cowardly, selfish, greedy or lazy as I am (or worse).

      • dkd says:

        As I read what you guys are saying, I’m trying to think of what I like in regards to characters. But, my conclusion is that I like variety. While I can watch a show with clear good guys and bad guys, I can also immensely enjoy a show like Breaking Bad which had a main character who went bad.

        The shows I like the most do incorporate some sort of journey for the characters to be on. Chuck’s “Hero’s Journey” was the aspect of the show that I like the most. Most of the commenter’s here focus on the romance, but the romance was a subset of the hero’s journey to me.

        The shows whose characters don’t progress much or change much over the course of a series are the ones I get bored with. I got bored with Monk after a few seasons, but skipped to the final episode. I’ve even grown bored of Castle. CBS-type procedural shows are lost to me except for Elementary. But, that one has character journeys for both Holmes and Watson.

        So, it’s not about whether characters are good, bad, or some variation in the middle, it’s about whether the character is on a journey and whether (1)the character is interesting, and (2) the character is on a journey that’s worth following along.

        Keep in mind that TV shows are different from films in this regard because the time we spend with the characters in a film is limited.

      • atcDave says:

        One thing I’ve become convinced is a major difference in how viewers watch; is obviously some, like presumably DKD, are most interested in the stories and journeys. While I think many of us are more interested in spending time with the characters, sort of inviting them into our homes as we unwind at the end of the day.
        We are simply looking for completely different things. Chuck was uncommon as a show that often appealed to both sorts of viewers.

      • dkd says:

        Well, there ARE different types of TV viewers and I noticed this long ago. There’s the type of viewer who craves familiarity. CBS has banked on these viewers with their shows.

        There’s a type of viewer who craves unfamiliarity and dynamism with their characters. HBO, Showtime, FX, and AMC are banking on those viewers.

        The CBS model generally appeals to older viewers. The other one skews younger.

        Castle, which many of you seem to like, skews older.

        I do think that Chuck was somewhere in the middle since it had younger and older viewers.

      • atcDave says:

        I think assuming “familiar” is the main issue is a huge example of what’s wrong with much television. Many, possibly most viewers would like more imaginative and innovative programming. The problem is more one of world view. I am simply not willing to subject myself to corrupt and immoral characters so continuously. Many of us will enthusiastically support a wide range of projects, as long as the message is positive and uplifting. There is no reason way that has to equate with boring or stale. Shows like Chuck, POI, Elementary, SG-1 I think all show that an audience exists for shows that stretch formulas and conventions but are still mostly positive in their tone.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I don’t think it will be any great surprise where I come down on this topic. I rarely watch procedurals, Castle is about the only one I can think of (though I am following Agents of Shield presently). I need the serialized elements and character journey and growth, and I’m willing to follow a compelling tragedy, and even invest in the anti-hero if there is a compelling story there. But I need even the anti-heroes to be looking for that redemptive ending, even if they can’t reach it. There need to be consequences. And those consequences need to play out.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie I would nearly flip that around, although I suspect I don’t dislike serialized shows as much as you seem to dislike procedurals. To me the biggest issue is neither the type of story nor the existence or absence of growth and journeys. The biggest thing is a main character I can respect and root for. Especially the respect part. I’m utterly turned off by characters who routinely make bad decisions.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        It isn’t that I dislike procedurals per say, it’s that I find them utterly un-engaging. I can have an episode of NCIS on in the background while fixing dinner and no matter which episode, the characters are in the exact same place behaving the exact way they did in every other episode (OK, maybe not, but it strikes me that way). If Law and Order is on I can time my cooking by checking off the plot points and scene changes. If I know exactly what is coming I quickly lose interest.

  7. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The A-Team (4.18) | Chuck This

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