Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Wookiee (1.04)

NBC Synopsis:  DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND — Chuck (Zachary Levi) faces an unusual task, when Sarah’s (Yvonne Strahovski) hot colleague from the CIA shows up requesting help for a mission. Morgan (Joshua Gomez) tries to get Chuck to set him up with Sarah’s new friend. When Chuck finds out that a million dollar diamond hidden in a Malibu mansion is being used to help fund terrorists, he must help these two beautiful women steal it back. Chuck is finding out that Sarah’s job of living a double life, which she is all too good at, is really preventing him from getting to know who she really is.

Chuck This Ranking29
Dave’s Ranking: Much lower. In the 60s.

Full Write-Ups: Chuck vs the Wookiee (1.04)  by Dave and Ernie
Chuck vs the Wookie Revisited by Faith

Other Write-Ups: Make ’em Laugh: Top Three Comedy Episodes by Ernie, Amy, Joe and Dave

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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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45 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Wookiee (1.04)

  1. resaw says:

    Hmm, no comments? I see that I made an extensive comment on the full write-up review by atcDave and Ernie back a couple of years ago. Two things that stick with me are: 1. Simply the introduction of Carina as a window for Chuck into Sarah’s past and the attitude of female spies (including Chuck’s assertion that Sarah is not like that), and 2. Carina’s statement to Chuck that she pursued him because Sarah wants her, even though she hadn’t admitted it to herself at that point.

    I’ve never been one to rank Chuck episodes, but at this early stage in the series, I really appreciated any story that gave us more insight into who these characters were. For that reason, this episode has to rank relatively highly in my estimation.

    • atcDave says:

      This will never be a favorite of mine, but it has gone up a lot in my esteem over the last couple years. Especially because, exactly as you say Resaw, we learn so much here about Sarah. And I think, as the seasons went by, “Sarah’s not like that” would be one of the most enduring and important statements about who Sarah was before Chuck. Whatever tough and ugly things she may have done, Carina knew Sarah was different.

      • thinkling says:

        Wookie is one I appreciate more for its story value than its likability. For me the episode is less than the sum of its parts. There are moments that I like: the beginning scene is an early favorite, and the end scene is one of Yvonne’s earliest wonderful Sarah scenes. I like the fedexing of the diamond and the double date. Overall, though, the ep is not all that likable to me.

        Its value is high, as others have pointed out, b/c of what we learn about Sarah (as contrasted with Carina), and more important, what Chuck learns about her. Carina rips off Chuck’s rose colored [Sarah] glasses, and begins to see things the way they are (the realities of the spy world: what it does to the people in it and the stakes) and put aside some of his pettiness.

        In the first and last scene, we see how much Sarah could enjoy normal life and then the toll it takes on her not to be able to.

        I don’t really care much for Carina in Wookie. I liked her much better in her subsequent appearances.

      • atcDave says:

        No surprise, I agree exactly with all of that Thinkling. Even to say, I found Carina very funny in CAT Squad where she is exposed for having the heart of a bridge troll. But I found her pretty unpleasant here.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Dave. I even like Carina in Three Words, where she proves to be a true friend to Sarah.

      • uplink2 says:

        I think for many this is the episode where they took notice quite clearly what a special talent Yvonne Strahovski is. I came to the show later but can easily see how after watching this episode, especially the final scene, said “who is this woman? She is much more than just the hot blonde.”

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah, absolutely Uplink.

  2. garnet says:

    Any episode that has Carina in is can’t be considered bad. She adds a great deal of fun to the proceedings. From her entry as a black clad ninja and a knock-down fight with Sarah to her attempt to seduce Chuck, Casey, and eventually Martin…Carina ranks up there as one of my favourite guest stars. The spy plot is not as involved as it could be, but there is the Wookie himself (he said gleefully), Cuck with an out of the box plan to save Sarah and FedEx the Diamond, and an early confirmation that Sarah wants Chuck… even if she doesn’t know it yet!

    • uplink2 says:

      I agree. It’s amazing how the Carina character is probably the #1 guest star used by authors in FF. That shows how much of an impact she had on fans of the show. Brilliantly written and cast.

    • joe says:

      Really. I’ve seen Mini Anden in a couple of other shows – one NCIS episode comes to mind. She may never get a reputation as a top, must-have A-lister, but she really is great as Carina. It’ll be forever hard for me to see her in any other way – she’s the cool spy who flips the diamond out of a bumbling Chuck’s hand, grabbing it and control of the situation at the same time.

      • atcDave says:

        I saw her as a murder victim on Monk….

        It is hard to think of her as anything other than Carina though.

      • duckman says:

        She was a nanny on “My Boys”. She was in quite a few episodes but the character had no meat, she was just kinda there. Looking back, that was a criminal waste of talent on that show’s part. I got curious enough to look on imdb a while back and was surprised at how much she has been in. It’s like chuck was the underrated actor club. I’d really like to see Mini get a nice big juicy role, if for no other reason than so I could watch.

    • aalleess says:

      She is too good for this store!

  3. aalleess says:

    This is the episode which got me addicted.

    Board game at Casa Bartowski. Briefing. Carina in Buymore. Double date. Midnight phone call. Chuck and Morgan talking about their relationships. Casey in the elevator. Pizza without olives.

    Most certainly among my ten favorite episodes.

    • atcDave says:

      Sounds like Wookiee serves the role for you that Tango does for me.

    • duckman says:

      This used to be a top 5 episode for me, then 2 things happened. One, I read this blog and realized how porous the spy story is, two, I saw fake name. I like all the things others here have mentioned, and Carina is my favorite guest star, but the last scene was something special to me. Then they tarnished it.
      I remember thinking after this episode, “wow, they’re gonna move the relationship along at a healthy pace, how refreshing, this is gonna be a special show”. To me, the last scene is really the first half of what would have been the most beautifull thing I’d ever seen on tv. I was expecting the other half mid s2. First they jerk the e-brake on the relationship so often I stop giving a crap anymore, then they throw the bucket of icewater known as fake name in my face. Congratulations, powers that be- beautifull thing ruinated. It’s like they were trying to purge all the “lousy shippers” like myself and replace them with new, better, fans. I’m not even angry, just incredibly disapointed. It’s still top 20 for me, but the special is gone. If there’s one thing I’d like fixed in the movie, it’s the name reveal, and I don’t think they’ve got it in them.

      • atcDave says:

        I do agree the end scene here was pretty completely ruined by Fake Name. It looked like they were setting up something really awesome and special; then said “only kidding, nothing special here…”

      • uplink2 says:

        I’ve heard the arguments from some of the S3 supporters that it was their intent to “throw something special, the name reveal, away as if it were nothing” as a statement about the story they were telling. It was intended to hurt Chuck and show how lost Sarah was. But what I see is still a clear indication that they didn’t understand fully what the audience saw in this moment from Wookie and in the other 5 episodes Sarah’s real name is mentioned. It always goes back to a risk/reward thing about storytelling for me. It’s ok to throw away the payoff you are building towards but the reason for throwing away the reward better be worth the risk. Here it clearly wasn’t. The reveal was shown to be nothing more than angst for angst sake and as duckman said was a bucket of icewater (or spit) in the face of those that invested in that payoff with absolutely no storytelling value. You can take away a potentially magnificent payoff to your fans investment but it better be for a damn good reason that those same fans will clearly see and maybe not embrace but at least understand why it was necessary. That never happened here. In fact they ran away from it like the plague. It was a huge risk and absolutely no reward. A brilliantly setup payoff thrown away for nothing other than as some view it dismissing and snarking at those who did invest in it.

        If there is any more Chuck they will never, ever deal with it. All we will ever get is the almost retconning of it in the pre-nup. The fact that even in Santa Suit,Shaw never calls her by her real name when he is trying to torture and ultimately kill her shows they will never mention it again.

      • Duckman says:

        Ok, now I’m dissapointed AND pissed. It seems like my favorite moments of this show- moments staggeringly superior to anything else I’ve ever viewed, are always accidents. I can just see the writers saying to themselves, “did I do that?” Then when they try to be “epic”, the opposite happens. Maybe they need to visit the Midwest and see what real people are like.

      • uplink2 says:

        Duckman, for me what makes that amazing scene in Sarah’s hotel room isn’t the writing, it’s the performances. Especially Yvonne’s. She is the main reason why that moment became so important to fans. I don’t think the writers saw it that way because they come at it from a different POV than the fans do. It’s up to the showrunners to be in touch with what the audience is responding to. In this case they ultimately seriously miscalculated. But that I think is where most of the issues come from. They simply didn’t see the same show much of their audience did.

      • atcDave says:

        Certainly the show runners have a very different sort of attachment to the show and characters than the viewers do. Some of that is just completely natural given their different relationship to it all. But ultimately I agree with Uplink, it is their responsibility to figure why its working; and when things go wrong its all on them. But for what its worth, I’m ultimately more impressed with the performances and some of the staff writers than I ever was with the show runners.

      • thinkling says:

        Curiosity: what were the other 5 episodes (where Sarah’s real name was mentioned), Uplink?

      • uplink2 says:

        Not real name mentioned actually but where the idea of Sarah’s real name being an issue.

        Helicopter
        Wookie
        Breakup
        Cougars
        DeLorean
        Fake Name

        I think that’s it. Sarah’s real name or that Sarah wasn’t her real name was a plot point in 5 episodes leading up to its reveal in Fake Name. That is how you setup a payoff and get fans invested in it. Unfortunately they threw away that payoff for pointless angst and no long term storytelling value.

  4. anthropocene says:

    I’ve always found a lot to like in this episode. The entire scene at the Wookiee’s mansion, especially the theft of the diamond and the ensuing fight around the pool, was a fun, classic mix of spy action and physical comedy. Though it was petulant of Chuck to toss the diamond to Carina, he learned from the mistake (as did Sarah)—and Carina’s escape on the jet ski was amusingly Bondian.

    I liked that Chuck’s skill set enabled him to contribute to the mission: locating the thermal cameras, flashing on the deadly electrical trap around the diamond (saving Carina from possibly frying herself)—and then using his own intellect to figure out how to grab the stone (though Carina definitely played him on that!). The FedExing scene showed how well he could think under pressure. He also seemed somewhat more able in the (brief) battle with ninja Carina than he was against ninja Sarah in the Pilot. And, of course, Chuck’s single-minded determination to go save Sarah and Casey evinced his courage and big heart. So, the brief lapse on the beach notwithstanding, Chuck did pretty well in this episode, in my opinion.

    I smiled when Carina mentioned that Sarah had told her Chuck had “a big brain.” See, she’s bragging about him already!

    And…others may see it differently (or may have already pointed this out in an earlier post), but Carina came across to me as an early Chuck-Sarah shipper, perhaps the first on the spy-world side. Her attempts at seducing Chuck, and especially the question, “Are you sleeping with Sarah?,” were—ironically—endorsements of the (then) still-nebulous idea that Chuck was someone Sarah COULD actually want. Carina’s acknowledgment to Chuck that she wanted to have him before Sarah could was confirmation.

    Each week we see a teeny bit more potential for Sarah and Chuck as a real couple. It played out very well in seasons one and two.

  5. Unpacking Chuck says:

    I agree with those who rank “Wookiee” more highly, along with “Tango.” Both belong in the top 4 episodes of Season 1 and top 20 of the series due to their respective roles in defining Chuck and Sarah. Whereas “Tango” strategically figures Chuck’s brave new world with the painting featured at the beginning of that episode (though it reappears in the middle), “Wookiee” figures Sarah’s upended internal world through the indistinct presence outside the game night party and the goldfish sequence at the start of this episode.

    The camera links Sarah, recently Ryker’s “loner” (“vs. the Baby”), to the solitary goldfish in her apartment by showing her face through the transparent bowl as she feeds it. The bowl is subsequently knocked over in her struggle with a masked intruder (Carina), who throws it back into the bowl and rights the bowl before the fight ends. Likewise, Chuck has already upended Sarah’s emotional world, and Sarah will often flounder like a fish out of water for the rest of the season as she struggles between how to reconcile the spy world in which she is comfortable if lonely (thus the return of the fish to the bowl) and her emerging feelings for Chuck (the final scene of the episode is a prime example).

    In the middle of the goldfish sequence, the shower episode reinforces Sarah’s internal conflict by figuring her dual desires (spy world vs. Chuck and his normal world) with the distinct reflection of her face in the shower tiling. While testing the temperature of the water, she considers stepping in to immerse herself (potentially a baptismal image) when the masked intruder (the personification of her fear, introduced as the indistinct presence distracting her from the ‘family’ game night) prevents it. Accordingly, Sarah is not yet ready to leave the spy life and pursue a ‘normal’ one with Chuck in Season 1.

  6. oldresorter says:

    I quit my exercise to focus on the good only with this ep, the lies, the sadness, the future misery permeates thru this comedy, making being happy and having fun almost impossible. Still, my ten favorite things about this ep:

    10. Martin vs Carina – one of Morgan’s better episodes in the first two seasons. Carina, although unlikeable, is a great gues star!

    9. Casey vs Carina – The superior spy won that battle. Carina may not have been likeable, but for a single ep guest, she impacted the ep in many different ways, impacting almost all the major characters in a provacative manner.

    8. Team B vs Beckman and Graham, I like when the team is in communication with DC during the ep and the mission. Budget wise, I can see why Beckman took over, but I liked it more when two of them were involved.

    7. Chuck vs Game night – I’m a fan of the first scenes, but this ep contained one of the best first scenes until maybe a certain train car began an ep. Olives. Morgan’s man crush on Chuck. Sarah being normal. Sarah’s sister.

    6. Chuck vs Double Date Delight night or Carina vs Sarah Round 2 (or was it round 3?) – Loved the Carina and Sarah exchange beginning with: ‘Cutest couple ever. How do you stand it? I’m good here.’ Carina does have a point, doesn’t she? Geez Sarah really, I’m nearly sixty years old, and Morgan and Chuck’s plan for a double date bored me.

    5. Chuck vs The Mission Part 1 – The escape scene after stealing the diamond was great, the whole scene was great. I wish the show did more of this type of action, I think the budget caught up with them in later years.

    4. Sarah vs Casey – Wow just like prague huh. Sarah takes a picture of Casey left in an embarrassing state, best by non other than Sarah’s bestie, Carina.

    3. Chuck vs the Mission Part 2. With Sarah and Casey in trouble, Chuck has to bring the diamond to save them. Chuck convinces Carina to help. There is that word again, Carina.

    2. Chuck vs Carina. Carina had mixed results with Chuck. Much like Casey, Carina made Chuck not trust Sarah. Still, she had no luck seducing Chuck. And, the final scene between Carina and Chuck was a big step forward for fans of the couple, as Carina confirmed that Sarah was interested in Chuck. I love taking what Sarah wants. She probably doesn’t know it herself yet, but I do. Carina again is the recurring theme of this episode, wasn’t she?

    1 Chuck vs The Water Fountain Scene – Vegetarian, no olives, I know you don’t like olives, chuck and sarah music. He always got the great girls.

    Kaboom – Tell me one true thing. She won’t answer. So sad as she whispers out, ‘Lisa. My middle name is Lisa’. And what amounted to a great rewatch just sunk through the floor, knowing what Chuckwin’s Law had in store for the future. But, if only looked at for the present, this was an awesome scene, one of the very best, until misery struck in season 3. Then again, what does it matter, since the series ended with Sarah not remembering any of this anyhow? Yikes. If Chuckwin’s Law is all Chuck comments ending up complaining about s3, what law describes all Chuck comments ending up complaining about the bittersweet ending on the beach?

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with all of that OR.

    • noblz says:

      This is one of the 28 episodes in my top ten. I’ll follow OR’s lead on firsts and add…

      Sarah vs Jealousy in the way she was watching Carina interact with Chuck during Peyman’s party. Sarah clearly doesn’t want Carina getting her mitts on Chuck.

      Loved the episode. In my top 5 of S1. Laid the ground work for everything else.

      To jump on with Duckman and Uplink, the name bit that was at the end was a home run at the time, that got turned into a fly ball out by FN. TPTB really blew it with 3.1.

  7. Wilf says:

    Best one-liner in Wookiee, possibly even one of the best in the show … “If a yawn could yawn”. Brilliant.

  8. Bill says:

    As someone who watched Chuck’s original run, my take on Wookiee is simple: if I hadn’t been hooked before (which, frankly, I was), this ep would have sealed it. The more we learned about Sarah, the more appealling she became. And of course, Carina’s comment to Chuck about Sarah’s latent interest in him only made the relationship more compelling. A+

  9. uplink2 says:

    I think this episode is one of probably 5 crucial episodes of season 1. It is a turning point in the story because it shifts much of the focus of the show on to Sarah and for me at least she is the most interesting and important character. Intersect, Wookie, Truth, Hard Salami and Marlin to me are the episodes that most impact the season 1 story. They all changed things in crucial ways. The other episodes were good but they, for me, don’t impact the overall story like these 5 do.

    • thinkling says:

      I have to agree with that, Uplink.

    • oldresorter says:

      Think, Up, Dave, others – I am thru season one rewatching on my own with a fine tooth comb. One overwhelming thought came to me in this rewatch, season one taken on its own, without knowing what is coming to ruin it, is really, really great. I wonder if / how season two will top it, as in many ways, I don’t find a single episode of season one objectionable, or unhappy comedy, as I did for most of s3 and a couple of eps from s5.

      Another thing, I used to (just a few weeks ago) think that Sarah fell for Chuck in the Pilot with only a few shades of grey involved. I don’t think that is the best POV to watch the show from, even if it may be sort of true. I think it makes much more sense to view the show from the POV that Sarah still loves Bryce, first getting over him or grieving, then actually still loves him whenever he returns. Only she is amazed herself at how confused she is, and has trouble understanding what it is she feels for Chuck, as evidenced by this scene when she whispers out her middle name. YS portrays this confusion very well, as does ZL portray the receiving end of the mixed signals well.

      So I think she retrospectively in s3 might have admitted she fell for him in the Pilot, yet real time, it took her until the middle of s2 to admit what she felt, even though it took Carina about 5 seconds to see it. And its also then is not near so hard to see how when she finally is ready to go for it, when Chuck falters in Prague, how she retreats far, far away in s3, and turns back to Shaw, who in the writers minds was simply Bryce in a different set of clothes.

      • atcDave says:

        No doubt S1 and S2 both play a lot better without the baggage of S3. That’s how I try to watch the whole rest of the series.
        Its always a tricky game to figure out when someone fell in love. Obviously Sarah wasn’t ready to dump her career and spend her life with Chuck Bartowski after the Pilot. I think it took two full years for her reach that point (although its fun to speculate she might have been ready enough that she could have been pushed into it quite a bit sooner, like if there was a kill order she knew about). It was only in retrospect that she knew she was a goner right from the start.
        But I don’t think Bryce plays large in things. I think she was hurt and confused by how he was “killed” right at the start. But by the time he returned from the dead she was mostly over him. Bryce could still rattle her cage, but she was already Chuck first in her thinking.

      • joe says:

        I think it makes much more sense to view the show from the POV that Sarah still loves Bryce, first getting over him or grieving, then actually still loves him whenever he returns.

        Absolutely! I was very lucky – you’ve articulated pretty much exactly the way I felt about it from the beginning.

        Sarah’s confusion over her own feelings are palpable. And the most amazing thing is how Yvonne consistently shows us that confusion in favor of telling us. That’s the old actor’s saw, isn’t it? Makes for wonderful storytelling!

        It’s funny. I almost started to say that the first time Yvonne really tells us how she feels about Chuck is when Sarah sees the herder blow up (Best Friends). But as much as I hear the character scream it out, the actress isn’t saying a word. Amazing. It’s not until The Other Guy that we actually hear her say for the first time what we all knew.

        Sheesh. Now I think I have to go and rewatch everything again!

      • thinkling says:

        Actually there is a verbal hint at her having feelings for Chuck in Truth, when she tells Casey that she might have compromised herself, if she hadn’t learned to lie under truth serum.

        And there’s a verbal admission that she has fallen in love with Chuck in Cougars — to Heather Chandler in the locker room brawl.

        I agree with Dave as to the timing of her falling in love with Chuck, the slow dawning of it in her mind, the willingness to admit it to herself, and then the willingness to act on it.

      • anthropocene says:

        Let’s not forget The First Kiss, no matter how hard Sarah tried to gloss over it or disavow its significance afterward.

      • joe says:

        Wow – so many “first moments!”
        Now I really do have to see it all again.

      • Bill says:

        Oldresorter — for me the first two seasons will always be the best two seasons. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  10. I’ve actually reached the point where I’ve gotta take an indefinite break from Chuck…still love it obviously but watching it 12+ times in a 6 month period finally burned me out… this is a fantastic episode though and I’m still getting plenty of people hooked on the show!

    • mr2686 says:

      I haven’t got to that point yet. Even after God knows how many rewatches, i’m still seeing and hearing things I hadn’t noticed. Things said under one’s breath, especially in the Buymore, or more recently, I realized that the bedroom set that’s in the hotel room in Colonel is the same one I had as a kid. As a matter of fact, I refinished the night stands and they are currently in my theater room. I thought that was too funny.

  11. DKD says:

    I recapped this episode for another website, so I pretty much watched it very slowly to make notes for my recap–which was assigned to be a very detailed recap.

    I was afraid that when I rewatched it yesterday, it would be so familiar to me, that I would bore. But, I didn’t. It’s a very strong, important episode.

    One thing that still strikes me are the technical aspects of the production. It was directed by Allan Kroeker, who is a seasoned director and who directed other Chuck episodes. It is really apparent how much money and time they had to do these early episodes compared to later. If you look at the early “game night” scene, you notice how much coverage there was to the scene–lots of camera angles, energy, and movement. The editing is really strong. Throughout, the episode, there are interesting camera angles that could only be achieved by a director given time to seek them out. If you compare Kroeker’s work on this episode to later season episodes (e.g. Murrrrder), it’s like a different director did them.

    There is also a more realistic look to the Buy More. I feels more like a real store than it did later.

    One thing that is clear to me is that the writing staff did not dawdle when it comes to exploring the backstory of the characters. This is only the fourth episode and we–and Chuck–learned a lot more about Sarah than we had before. Some groundwork was already laid for her nascent feelings for Chuck, while we are still being reminded about her feelings for Bryce. Ali Adler did a fine job in balancing it all with a pretty fun “caper of the week”. Many a show would have held off exploring Sarah until later, but Chuck jumped into it relatively soon in the show’s lifespan.

    The last scene is one of the gems of the entire series. The way Zac Levi plays Chuck in “super adorable” mode makes you want to hug him as a he begs Sarah for information. I would have capitualated in a second. He could have my social security number and PIN number if he wanted it.

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