The Omen Virus has been unleashed, Shaw is revealed as the mastermind, and he’s abducted Sarah to gain leverage to complete the Intersect 3.0. That leads to the final, epic showdown between Chuck and Shaw.
After the jump, we’ll discuss the final season’s Christmas episode and conclusion of the conspiracy arc.
Weighing in at 36 in our ranking the episodes poll indicates most viewers seemed to rank Santa Suit as just slightly above average. For myself, I might rank this one another ten to fifteen spots lower, but still in that “mid-average” sort of range. There is much that is fun, exciting and all around entertaining about this episode. There’s also a few things that rub me wrong.
But what’s fun is excellent. A few favorite moments of mine being extorting Jeff and Lester into helping crack the Virus (I like how low Lester settles, and that Jeff was thinking bigger, but just shrugs and goes along) and the wicked funny CIA Christmas party. The party has a couple stand out moments; Stan Lee an LA spy, and Chuck and Diane making out. Oh my, that’s a highlight reel all by itself. Especially General Beckman’s attitude and reaction to it all the way through to the end of the episode.
Some of the more dramatic material here doesn’t work quite as well. Nothing that I have a big problem with mind you (or I wouldn’t rank it middle of the pack!), but the Sarah/Shaw scenes just don’t do much for me. Yvonne performs capably as always, but the lack of chemistry is at play even here. And Shaw just comes with so much baggage, I’m just really not interested in anything this character has to bring.
It’s been suggested by some viewers recently that perhaps the conspiracy really didn’t end with Shaw, and once upon a time I had considered that likely myself. But watching and listening to dialogue, I really can’t defend that. Shaw claims to be the end game, that he orchestrated everything from prison, and it was all about him. It does make sense that no other arch-conspirator would just casually agree to let Shaw himself get the Intersect 3.0. But this is a very underwhelming resolution to the conspiracy. Quinn will later do a much better job decloaking and presenting himself as a rival to be feared. I really think this would have played better if Shaw was just another flunky, or better, if someone else entirely played this role. This never rises to be a major complaint, more of a little disappointment.
Some viewers also complained about the nature of the violence against Sarah in this episode. This isn’t huge to me; Sarah is a very tough lady working in a tough business. So she’s at some risk, and gets hurt. Seems fair enough. I admit to be an old enough, traditional enough sort of guy I get just zero enjoyment from seeing a lady beat up like this though. Not to mention I would just generally prefer to see Sarah dishing it out instead of taking it. But again, this isn’t a huge complaint to me.
Actually my biggest complaint seems silly even as I write it, but its bothered me every time I watch this episode. I just hate that after Ellie conks Shaw on the head, Chuck just stops and chats with her for a minute. A minute when by all rights, he doesn’t really know if Sarah is alive or dead. This really rubs me wrong. Now I tried to evaluate more carefully this time; Shaw does brag that Sarah will be watching Chuck’s death, which would certainly suggest she’s still alive. And Chuck does dispatch Morgan even before he fights Shaw to rescue Sarah. So maybe not a big thing. But it still bothers me. I wanted to see Chuck go racing off to Castle as soon as he could get away from Shaw. At least its on my mind that’s what I would do.
The resolution is pretty good. I like Beckman’s new job offer. This will be an issue now to the end of the series. First, we will see clearly where Sarah is at when she decides “no thanks” next week. This is huge, momentous even, for the lady who suggested way back in Crown Victoria that being a spy was the only thing she was good at; and as recently as Hack Off had expressed concerns about what she would do if they stopped spying. And of course it comes up again in Goodbye as the biggest deal of all, when a still recovering Sarah knows something else is more important to her.
I also like Chuck and Sarah’s dirty secrets they confess at the party. Sarah is briefly worried about how Chuck will react about Shaw kissing her. I think its safe to say Chuck is passed be jealous about Shaw! But even better is Sarah’s reaction when Chuck confesses his little action with Diane. I love her reaction. Just too funny.
A secondary plot is at play here as well. Casey trying to do something nice for his daughter, and finally encouraging her to give Morgan another chance. Awwww, we knew he loved the bearded troll…
Against advice from the General, Sarah does meet with Shaw in prison. This will expose what is apparently her last big secret from Chuck, and set up a very exciting episode for next week.
I Hate This Episode
What can I say? From the opening we see something more than just a major threat looming. We see Sarah brutalized. That alone would be enough to call this episode ugly, but the brutalization continues and continues and continues until I expect to see Chuck vs. The Santa Suit in Webster’s under the definition of gratuitous. You want to turn away – I know I did. What were Amanda Kate Shuman, the writer, Peter Lauer, the director, and most importantly Chris Fedak thinking? That we would like to see that stuff happening to our favorite character?
Oh, it gets worse. The antagonist is none other than the new and improved Daniel Shaw. Improved? Sure. He’s even more slimy and despicable than the last time we saw him, and that was after he murdered Stephen Bartowski in cold blood. This time the taunts and implied slurs he throws at Sarah are as bad as the punches and backhanded slaps. He succeeds in making us forgive her for whatever dalliance she may have had with the jerk, not out of forgiveness but out of sympathy – She didn’t deserve this kind of pay-back.
Again, I ask – what were TPTB thinking? – That we wanted Sarah to be “paid-back” like this??? I don’t think so.
I’m going to pick on Casey, too. Is this for real? Casey uses a “Mr. Pippers, the Preppy Polar Bear” toy to unlock a CIA detention cell? I must ask, why didn’t he just rip the lock out of the wall and cross two live wires together to work the same TV magic they’ve done a dozen times before? Silly. Ridiculous. And like Lester would say, chubby. This time, that’s not a compliment. It’s almost lazy writing.
I can visualize the writers sitting around the table saying to themselves “How can we make this dumber? I know! Let’s have Jeff and Lester figure out how the Omen virus works. We can even throw in the word ‘reverse-engineer’ to make it seem authentic!” /snark.
I’m not done complaining. Imagine, if you will, the voice of the little, slimy, Nazi character in the first Indiana Jones movie smiling and half-chuckling when you read these next words. Now let’s talk about Chuck. Shall we? TPTB play games with his character too. Most all the fans got very tired of whiny, indecisive Chuck way back in S2. This week we see him leave Sarah in danger for a cross-country trip to the CIA headquarters with Beckman to essentially give in to Shaw’s demands. Dave is quite right to rail when C&S are separated so long in S3 and I don’t think the fans needed a recapitulation. Chuck, the guy we’re led to believe is maturing as a person and as a spy, actually freezes when he understands he’s facing Shaw.
Morgan: This is bad. This is really bad. He is shutting down.
Oh, and is Chuck supposed to be a seducer now? I’m not impressed. Even *I* could have seduced that tipsy Colonel Caroline Haim (Mo Collins) – and that’s saying a lot. For an accomplished spy and 30 year old adult, Chuck looks ridiculous.
I Love This Episode
Say what you want, but Routh is great in Chuck vs. The Santa Suit. I can’t think of a character I want to hate more; that’s the actor’s doing. It’s a portrayal of obsession, rage and unleashed power that works to make Sarah completely overmatched. And that’s not easy, considering she’s beaten Casey in more than one fight. Even better, Routh’s Shaw convinces the viewers that Chuck has no chance even before The Intersect 3.0 is mentioned. When it is, the danger is palpable. Recall that Chuck has already beaten Volkoff without the Intersect. Here, Shaw seems like a much bigger threat, which is exactly what’s needed when the fans are shouting “More! More!”
Casey is now officially far from being that “cold-school burn-out” Sarah introduced us too in the Pilot. Now Casey is feeling real human emotion – and we believe him.
Casey: Don’t you ever say anything like that again.
We believe it because those emotions are for Alex and for Morgan. You know… family.
Casey: You know, that Grimes kid, he’s not that bad. You should maybe give him another chance.
Family has been, and continues to be, one of my favorite themes throughout the show, and Adam Baldwin his the tone just right in a character who’s supposed to be the last to get it.
Jeff and Lester really are idiot savants, aren’t they? It’s not they sometimes save the day. It’s more like they sometimes actually pull a rabbit out of a hat. And every time they do that Scott Krinsky and Vik Sahay convince me that they’re the funniest comedy duo since Laurel and Hardy. Having them , not “reverse-engineer” code (written in C++, a dense and obtuse computer programming language if there ever was one), but figure out what it’s doing – a much more reasonable task – was actually quite smart and within the range of their characters. They succeed in the primary mission, which is to make me laugh!
The real surprise star of this episode is the redoubtable General Diane Beckman. After this, I’m sure Dave’s going to point a finger at me and shout “DUCK!” again, but the fun scene(s) are spot-on and only enhance the effects of her throwing her first Bartowski-family Christmas party. Perfect.
General Beckman also gets off a chance to dress down the redoubtable Stan Lee. What more could you ask for? Bonita Friedericy, pour yourself a drink for a job well done.
Beckman: We all have to make sacrifices for the job.
I’m going to reserve my greatest praise for Chuck and Sarah. Just when I thought Chuck had made a bad mistake tactically and romantically – twice! – Chuck actually comes up with a plan that both Ellie and Sarah appreciate. Why? How? Seconds after Morgan recognizes that Chuck has gone catatonic, the Chuck I like to see, Carmichael, comes out is spades. When facing the enemy (and “This time, it’s personal!”) Zac shows that Chuck is simultaneously brave, selfless, shrewd and lucky. He’s also angry.
Chuck: Daniel Shaw murdered my father and now he has my wife. He’s gonna wish he never left that prison cell.
There is no whining and there is no self-doubt. That part of Chuck’s character continues right through to his fight with Shaw.
Chuck: If I remember correctly, the last time we were face to face, I kicked your ass.
Shaw: I’ve made sure that’ll never happen again. No Intersect to help you this time, Chuck.
Chuck: I wouldn’t be too sure about that. I’ve been training for a while now.
Shaw: Oh, really? Well… can you compete with the Intersect 3.0? I can practically catch a bullet in my teeth. But you did some push-ups? You hit the heavy bag?
That is a bully’s taunt. There’s few things more satisfying than seeing a bully taken down, even if it’s with the help of a little “Frying-pan Fu” by Ellie.
And Sarah does even better. Fresh off her justified anger at Chuck’s lack of trust in The Curse, Sarah shows nothing but confidence in her husband, even when the situation seems hopeless. Just when Sarah could have taken the opportunity to berate him for having Morgan, of all people, try to free her, she gives Chuck the credit.
Sarah: Thank you.
Chuck: For defeating Daniel Shaw? For stopping the Omen virus? Or was it me getting us invited to rejoin the CIA?
Sarah: For saving me.
Chuck: Technically, Morgan saved you. Because of all the saving going on, I wasn’t able to get you your gift in time for Christmas. However… however, [Chuck holds up the bracelet Shaw took.] An oldie, but a goodie. I hope that this will suffice for now.
Sarah: [whispers] Thank you.
Oh yes. It’s THE bracelet, the one that Shaw stole (thus securing his place as the most despicable bad-guy in the series ev’a). It’s a perfect reminder of their history.
Part of that history, though, is Sarah’s past with Shaw. We don’t like to think about it, but here, we finally see that Sarah’s been troubled by it all along. In a moment that gave me pause, Sarah gently confesses that Shaw kissed her, there in Castle. You can tell that she’s nervous about revealing the incident to her husband and not at all certain how he’ll react. Sarah may be the best and most effective non-intersected agent ever, but she’s also a concerned, caring and fully-human being now. Quite an amazing change.
And how does Chuck react to her confession? Why, with a perfectly humorous confession of his own. Of course, he does that with the help of General Beckman too…
Makes me smile!
Cause it keeps me up for days and it keeps me up for days…
Never wanna let you go
Never wanna see you leave
[Added: Sorry ’bout the bad proof-reading, folks. I went back and made three corrections that didn’t change the meaning.]