Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Tom Sawyer (2.05)

NBC Synopsis: EFFICIENCY—TONY HALE (“ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT”) GUEST STARS—Life in espionage takes its toll on Chuck (Zachary Levi) and everyone is taking notice. Chuck tries to explain his unusual behavior to Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and to the quirky Buy More efficiency expert Emmett Milbarge (guest star Tony Hale), but a new assignment only complicates things. After a global terrorist comes searching for Jeff (Scott Krinsky), Chuck is forced to socialize with Jeff in order to find out what role the oddball plays in the mission. Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Chuck are all shocked when they discover that the fate of the world and the prevention of World War III rest in Jeff’s hands.

Chuck This Ranking: 30
Dave’s Ranking: Higher

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs Tom Sawyer (2.05) by Dave and Joe
Tom Sawyer by 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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49 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Tom Sawyer (2.05)

  1. joe says:

    Something’s been on my mind about this episode for a long time – it’s the vaguest of feelings that Tom Sawyer is a bit different from all the other episodes. Am I seeing things?

    Tom Sawyer is a double reference – the song by Rush (oops – almost called it a “’70s song”, but it was released in ’81) is played throughout. But the literary reference hasn’t been brought up, has it? Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer was a bright, moderately lazy kid who barely avoided trouble until he didn’t. And then he got in over his head. Wound up attending his own funeral, you’ll recall. But I’m not sure how that Tom Sawyer fits into the story?

    Is Tom supposed to be Jeff Barnes, the perennially irresponsible character with surprising and unrevealed depth? – a character that others cared about despite himself?

    Is he Chuck? Someone who got in too deep? Someone who found out almost accidentally that the very people who kept swatting him every time he stepped off the straight and narrow were actually caring and trying to help? They were preparing him to leave childhood, just like Tom, I think.

    Maybe. I think I need to read Mark Twain again.

    • atcDave says:

      I could see Tom Sawyer being Chuck. Although really, I think its just a Rush song…

    • resaw says:

      Good question, Joe. Could the song have been chosen not to refer to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, but to Rush’s (or lyricist/drummer Neil Peart’s) vision of Tom Sawyer. These lyrics jumped out at me:

      No his mind is not for rent
      To any god or government
      Always hopeful, yet discontent
      He knows changes aren’t permanent
      But change is

      That seems to me to at least somewhat obliquely refer to Chuck’s chafing at the government’s control of him through his unwanted downloading of the Intersect.

      Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with the lyrics and instead is all about the rather complex music that Rush favours that seems to fit with the challenge and complexity of the Missile Command game.

      I’m not a gamer at all, so a question I have: Does (did) Missile Command actually exist, and was it produced by Atari?

      This was probably discussed on previous re-watches, but what do you think Chuck wished for when he and Sarah were watching Morimoto’s satellite burning up in the atmosphere? My thought is that he wished that his relationship with Sarah could be as real as the diploma he had just received.

      • atcDave says:

        Missile Command is a real Atari game from the 1980s. I believe it’s actually unwinnable and just repeats until you loose. Which could take hours! So Chuck apparently beat it in a few minutes? Funny.
        But it is all about angles and timing, so that part of Jeff’s lament makes some sense.

        I think Chuck wished things could be different for him and Sarah.

      • joe says:

        I have no doubt that the creators, writers and in this case, the cast were leaving it up to us, the fans and viewers to answer the question individually. It was always “What do YOU wish for Chuck, Mr. or Ms. Viewer?”

        Myself, I was always wondering what Sarah thought Chuck was wishing for. She’s no fool – she knew exactly what he wanted, whatever that was. I’m guessing that Sarah thought Chuck was wishing for a normal life with her.

      • anthropocene says:

        He was wishing for a mulligan on the fountain discussion from “vs. the Break-Up.”

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah no doubt!

  2. Martin Traynor says:

    I’d wish for Chuck to have never ended.

    • Martin Traynor says:

      But given the look he shot her way, I’d venture he either wished for her to be his real girlfriend, or, knowing him, that she should find peace, contentment and real love, whether he be included or not.

  3. Martin Traynor says:

    OT – Just watched Castle. Great episode. Lots of playful fun. Reminded me of the Chuck series finale, without all the angst, drama and depression. And Castle handled the “forgetfulness” of the other characters much better than Chuck, who bumbled his way through that last episode (i know that the situations are completely different…). Chuck is still better, but this episode of Castle is what I liked about the series from the beginning, And it looks like next week will be another fun one, too. Great to see Castle get back to its roots.

    • atcDave says:

      That was a pretty awesome Castle episode. Although I would mention that even more so than Chuck, Castle has had a tendency to do really terrible finales. So it will be several months yet before we know if any good lessons have been learned by the new show runner.
      But for now, all is good. Terrific episode, and next week looks like a lot of fun too.

      • Martin Traynor says:

        I have to agree about Castle’s terrible season finales. Chuck was always good about leaving me content when they thought they might be over. It’s ironic that the only finale I can’t say that for is the only one they knew for sure was the end.

        I could have really enjoyed another episode or two of that Castle AU, and have the chance to see Rick win Beckett’s heart over, as clearly he was. It was interesting to see how much more receptive and kind and patient she was with him when he presented himself to her as a mature, caring individual, rather than the immature selfish buffoon he was in season 1.

      • atcDave says:

        I might not go so far as to say Chuck always left me content! I think the only completely acceptable season finale for me was Cliffhanger. But yeah, Castle by comparison has done very poorly there.

        I also really liked how more Rick did fairly well with Beckett immediately. Well, when he wasn’t being a total nut anyway!

    • oldresorter says:

      Castle was a success last night. I wonder if, due to the similar nature of the story, if there was any temptation to air this story as the Christmas episode 2-3 episodes later, because last night Rick found out it’s indeed “a wonderful life”.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah its not hard to imagine making that parallel more overt.

        That was really a terrific episode. Its one of the few times since Chuck I found myself still thinking about a television show the next day.

  4. Martin Traynor says:

    The thing about the other Chuck finales as compared to the actual series finale is that they left you with the characters moving forward together in a hopeful way, whereas the finale tried to do that, but first you had a take giant leap backward (i.e. memory loss). With Clifhanger, they were married and had the hope of a new business. With Other Guy, they were together, finally. With Push mix, they were engaged. Everything is moving forward with them together in the next logical step. Not so in the finale.

    It was interesting, though, in watching Agents of Shield last night, one of the brainiac characters (Fitz, I think) mentioned that the brain never loses anything, it just misplaces things, but always creates a backup. I immediately thought of Sarah and her memory loss plight. More hope…

    • atcDave says:

      Well I particularly think Ring, Ring II and Goodbye were all lousy finales. All three left too much unresolved and struck me as emotionally unsatisfying. Other Guy was lousy just because it didn’t go far enough at cleansing the pallet from the abusive arc before it. Push Mix was pretty good, except that they knew it wasn’t a finale long before they shot it, so it doesn’t really qualify to me.

      • Martin Traynor says:

        What I liked about Ring and Push Mix (your note notwithstanding), along with Cliffhanger, is that, to me, they each ended on an up note. There was something new and additional to what existed before. A new skill, a next step in the relationship. A new intersect and business opportunity to launch.

        Ring 2 just sort of ended (so we thought) an angst bad guy and arc. But it, too, had the flavor of new potential with a destroyed Buy More (Chuck’s albatross? Or Fortress of ineptitude)

      • atcDave says:

        I thought Ring and Ring II both left too big a question about what comes next to be satisfying. In particular; the impact of the 2.0 on Charah in Ring (and it turned out to be more catastrophic than I would have ever imagined) and Chuck and Sarah embarking on different careers with big secrets between them in Ring II. So I really see both as big fails as finales.
        Push Mix would have been fine. I agree completely with calling that a satisfying end, possibly as good as any end in the whole series. Only Cliffhanger really rates as better to me.

      • oldresorter says:

        Dave I’m with you on this, didn’t like the final eps at all, none of them actually, except season one – lol. I realized the show works much better from me if I look at season arcs based on the .5’s, with both a spy story told and a romance milestone achieved.

        Season 1: Pilot to Best Friends ep: Stay in the car / exploring friendship while flirting (A LOT)

        Season 2: Cole eps to Other guy: Spy in training / coupling up angst (hi’s and lows)

        Season 3: Honeymooners to Push Mix: I’m a spy, but not sure the intersect is helping me / let’s get married

        Season 4: Cat Squad to Baby: A real spy couple having fun / happily ever after

        Season 5: Kept man to Goodbye: At 5 eps, 42 min per ep, makes for a 210 minute movie. If taken that way, it was a fine movie, with a artsy movie ending. But like many movies that follow a tv show, it wasn’t quite the same. Maybe if the writers had been given another half season?

      • atcDave says:

        OR that’s really an excellent break down. I even particularly agree about the final “season”.

        Funny thing about Marlin; the one finale that was never meant to be a finale, and it really is pretty terrific.
        Also I guess Other Guy. Really a good episode, and it could have been a terrific finale. For S2. It’s undone by its own proceeding season.

      • duckman says:

        Something I’ve noticed is that for the most part, for me at least, the show is at it’s worst when tptb are supposedly trying the hardest, and at it’s jaw dropping best when they just get out of the way and let it happen. Of the possible finales, I have to go with ring. It wasn’t a good way to end at all, but for me it was much less unpleasant than the others. I saw an interview once where fedak joked about how ring would have been a bad finale, had the show ended there. After seeing all his other “finales”, I’m convinced it was intentional, he seemed to have a thing for screwing with viewers, and I really don’t go in for that sort of thing.

  5. carrol.chuck.fan says:

    Definitely a fun Castle episode. Nathan Fillion was in top form and very funny. Though I could have done without the green screen effect at the wedding, the smaller, intimate setting seemed appropriate and heartfelt. I like the serious Castle episodes, but I do love the funnier ones, so am hoping for more of those.

    As for Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer, I did like the episode, but just did not love it. I am not sure why, exactly, as it has a good pace and fun story. Jeff is not my favorite character, so perhaps I just did not enjoy spending that much time with him. While I thought the Chuck/Sarah dynamic still seemed pretty romantic in Cougars, it seems more friendly in this episode to me. They definitely care about each other, but the intensity is a bit less even with the wishing upon a satellite missile station at the end. Though maybe that is a setup for the upcoming Jill arc.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah the green screen was pretty clumsy; but hey, we saw worse on Chuck!

      I’ll cautiously say I think Tom Sawyer plays better with guys. Not that we’re all Jeff fans, but so many of us relate more to the games and the music. At least I think that’s true. Unofficially, that’s a trend I think I’ve seen.
      Sarah’s “I trust Chuck” line was almost shout out loud awesome, and I liked Chuck and Sarah both being heroes by doing what they do best. I also loved Sarah’s gushing praise for Chuck afterwards.
      To me, this epsiode got pretty mch everything right.

      But I do think they pulled back just a bit at the end. Presumably, as you said, to set up the next arc. I think that’s a shame. I mostly like S2, but Ex is one of the real clunkers of the season. And I seriously could have done without Jill.

      • duckman says:

        I think they really diminished the show overall just with the order and pacing of the various…obstacles. I think Jill is legitimate, but it feels like they just look at the calander and say “hey- it’s time for some angst, who we got?” Back in Crown vic it felt wayy to early for that jelousy crap, that felt like mid s2 at the earliest. Same here, Jill belongs, just not right after what came before. They could rearrange their arcs-o-angst and have much less complaining from “lousy shippers”, because it might actually make a little sense.

      • atcDave says:

        Well I’m just generally no fan of the love triangles at all. I think they tend to bring everything to a screeching halt and suck all the fun out of the show. There’s really no time I would have wanted for such a thing to happen. But all that said, I do think the Jill arc was the best of the bunch. Because of her history, she can shake up Chuck, and disrupt the cover relationship; without making Chuck out to be a total doofus. Bryce too, but in a different way (I’m not willing to believe Sarah is interested any longer, but I do believe he shakes Chuck’s confidence completely).
        Now I completely, utterly, totally, unreservedly would have liked the show better without any such disruptions. But I am willing to concede those were in character and were one way of moving the story along. Just its a pity, that the writers didn’t actually think they were moving the story along until it had left without them…

  6. noblz says:

    This is one of those episodes I initially relegated to the dud pile. Gave it a second chance and promoted it back to the gen pop.

    I was never a fan of the Emmett character but the other stuff in this episode more than compensate for that.

    This is the start of Sarah being more overt about her feelings for Chuck. Casey, since last episode is a bit of a Charah shipper and Sarah picks up on that.

    Stormy times ahead, but this is a good solid episode. I wouldn’t rate it as high as 30, but definitely around 50. Just my tastes.

    • duckman says:

      Emmett is a character I could have really done without, I just thought I disliked Tang. Emmett is just so… for lack of a better word…conventional. The character, like decker, is one I expect to see on low quality, throw-away tv. Not Chuck. I will say that he was great in the raid on the hollywood buy more.

    • atcDave says:

      I thought Emmitt was occasionally very funny. Like as the perfect two faced weasel in Santa Claus.
      But I think his potential was ultimately squandered in the macabre way he was disposed of. It would have worked so much better if he’d lived to be defeated/humiliated by Chuck or Morgan. Or even Sarah. I would have loved to just see him get fired by any of those three later in the show. The more I think of it, I love the scenario where Emmitt is the first to learn who the store’s new owners are in S5; when he insults Sarah and she fires him while forcibly removing him from the store. THAT would have made years of annoying Emmitt all worthwhile.
      Or more likely, Emmitt coming around looking for a job after Morgan is made manager in S4, and being bluntly rejected.
      So much potential…

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well I think like Anna Wu, Emmett was a victim mostly of season 3’s budget. I thought they got a lot of good use out of him, especially in episodes like Fat Lady and Predator. He was the petty tyrant that made us cheer when first Morgan, then Chuck let him know that he could keep his little kingdom, but he didn’t own them. With the different dynamic of season 3 I think he’d outlived his usefulness. Chuck had made a decision that rendered his Buy More battles moot. He basically was no longer a part of that world and became more an observer than a participant. Morgan more than adequately filled Chuck’s role with Jeffster taking on their nemesis role.

      While I agree that Emmetts departure was a bit macabre, I think it was apt and properly set up. As early as Predator they were showing us that sooner or later Emmett was going to tick of the wrong guy. At the beginning of Pink Slip it was almost Chuck. Then later Havier.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I know it was all budget related. But I think his exit is pretty indicitive of what I loathe about S3. It’s a darker, grotesque style that’s typical of modern television, but was an ugly change for Chuck.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        No, I understand your dislike of the direction, and of the potential for Emmetts comeuppance in later seasons absent that. Just saying they had reasonable cause, that granted you don’t like, for their direction from a storytelling perspective as well as the financial aspect.

      • joe says:

        Great discussion.
        Dave, I too understand and agree with you about the way Emmett was “squandered.” (great word choice). Honestly, I think Lee’s Harry Tang was squandered too. I’ve enjoyed both actors in other, very different roles since.

        But I wonder what TPTB and the writers would have done if they did not have the budget and time constraints. Oddly, I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be much different.

        Harry Tang was a buffoon, meant for nothing more than comic relief in the Buy More. And moreso, the Buy More itself was Chuck’s cradle, one he outgrew before S3 began, I think. My suspicion is that the writers thought both really had to evolve or go. Tang evolved is Emmett, no doubt. Morgan evolved. Anna Wu left (Sob!) and the Buy More itself evolved into a base of operations for both Chuck&Sarah and the CIA.

        Emmett’s death though, was something else. I think it was meant to be a shocker for the fans to signal that everything was much more serious, the same way The Ring was supposed to be more “serious” than Fulcrum. TPTB were going to do that regardless of the budget.

        Heh! For my money, that was the real failure in S3 – it was very hard to imagine The Ring as a more deadly threat to Chuck and Sarah than Fulcrum. S3 could have been/would have been the depths from which Chuck&Sarah had to emerge as our vision of their best possible selves, but The Ring never quite got them that low. I still find some great things to enjoy in S3 because, as it turned out, Shaw served exactly that purpose. He was a much more serious threat than the Ring ever was (and I recognize that his joining The Ring was only a vehicle for saving them as the ultimate bag-guys in S3). He became the personal existential threat to Chuck&Sarah twice.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Joe I agree Harry was also quite the buffoon. And its pretty common for these sort of minor characters to come and go on a show, as actors get better jobs or other external factors change.
        And I think its good and fitting that the Buy More became a smaller part of the show in later seasons, as it became a smaller part of Chuck’s life.
        But I would have liked to see a more comic comeuppance sort of thing. At least that would have been much more fitting to my taste.

        And sorry, I know we’ve had this talk before, but when we get to Pink Slip I just start to see red all over again…

      • anthropocene says:

        As Casey put it, “We’re playing for keeps here, Chuck.” The occasional sudden, violent, unexpected deaths of supporting characters were in keeping with that sentiment, and also kept the drama in the “dramedy.” Emmett, Graham, Stephen…and Chuck, Sarah, and Casey all came very close to buying the farm at various points.
        I was okay with the dark side of the series (until 5.13 anyway), because without it, “Chuck” was “Get Smart.”

      • atcDave says:

        Emmett irked me like none of those others. Because it was gratuitous, it was foul, and it signaled a clear change in mood and tone I loathed.
        Any of those other deaths I would agree had dramatic value, and were well done. Emmett was not.

      • oldresorter says:

        Dave your reaction to Emmit really surprises me. I have to tell you, I’m not sure what season he died, who killed him, or much of anything about him. Other than my initial view, Emmit, Harry, almost all scenes that didn’t have Chuck and Sarah (or Ellie / Awesome or Casey / anyone) got / gets FF’d, or more generally maybe, most buymore scenes that didn’t have Sarah in them got FF’d.

        I’m trying to think of the darkest things Chuck’s writers did – I came up with a couple:

        Darkest – Sarah’s took the show’s biggest bad as her lover, seemingly he didn’t care for her much at all, and his seduction of her seemed bornerline a felony in many government facilities as he used his position as her boss to seduce her. Then the show, even as late as season 5, kept reminding fans that this took place. I can’t think of real many coming of age romcom shows that went in this direction, both the almost criminal, loveless, nasty ugly relationship between the lovers (Shaw and Sarah) along with the hapless and helpless portrayal of the lead actor in watching it all unfold, not for an episode, but for an entire arc. Not exactly romcom’ish type material.

        Second Darkest – The final two eps, and the artsy, inconclusive ending.

        Third Darkest – Shaw beating the crap out of Sarah for an episode.

        4th Darkest – the plotless execution of Stephen. Stephen’s death should have been linked on screen to some very meaningful lessons for Chuck, the most obvious being it should have marked the end of his lying to ellie (cause Ellie being lied to indirectly tied into Stephen’s death), and probably of his lying all together.

        5th – the Mauser execution.

      • atcDave says:

        Emmett’s execution bothers me as one of the big indicators of the major, ugly turn the show took in Pink Slip.

      • Wilf says:

        Me too, Dave (re Emmett). That was darker than dark for a show of this kind. His exit should have been tinged (at least) with comedy, c.f. Tang’s exit.

        As this is about Tom Sawyer, I’d just like to say that TS is actually one of my (many) favourite episodes. Following hot on the heels of Cougars, it developed Chuck and Sarah’s relationship and I really liked the ending, from the touching gesture by Sarah (and presumably Casey) in obtaining Chuck’s degree for him, through to the wish – I’ve always thought Chuck would have wished for a real relationship with Sarah.

      • atcDave says:

        We’re exactly on the same page Wilf.

  7. Martin Traynor says:

    I wasn’t a big Emmett fan, though he had his moments. I actually loved how he had manipulated Morgan into helping him become Manager. He turned out to be master of the Buy More World. But when his world collided with the spy world, he, unlike Chuck, met his maker. I actually didn’t mind the way he left the show, though I agree it was way dark. But surprises like that, to characters I don’t really like in the first place, don’t tend to upset me much.

    I find that on re-watches, I tend to skip a lot of the Buy More stuff, though on initial viewing I enjoyed them, if for no other reason than they gave me a chance to soak up what I had seen earlier in the spy stuff, and allowed me to eagerly anticipate what was upcoming (whoa, run-on sentence much?).

    Steven’s death was also shocking, and even though I loved him and really, really wished he had been around longer, It too was a surprise that didn’t disappoint. But him being a spy in the spy world, a violent death for him was likely, if not imminent.

    Going back to an earlier topic…As for the finales, I think my views are tainted by the fact that I pretty much marathon watched the entire series on initial viewing. It’s hard for me to think of a possible finale in a vacuum, because all the episodes run together for me. So I have a hard time judging what would have been O.K. because, of course, I do know what happened next. I guess I can say that “Ring” would have been o.k. as a finale, but that’s because I already have the knowledge that have the Intersect 2.0 is what gave Chuck the confidence to pursue Sarah.

    • atcDave says:

      I think the way you watch does have a major impact on how you experience the show. For a lot of us old timers, the finales represent many months off of no new episodes. Some of those breaks were brutal!

  8. Martin Traynor says:

    Agreed. And I can only imagine. That would have been brutal to wait, even just the one week between episodes (when it was only a week!). We have an unofficial policy in our house of trying not to start a book series until they are all done (i.e. Harry Potter), because waiting between books is just too hard.

    My simple point above was just to say that I feel that all the possible finales were sooo much better than the one we ultimately got as far as how good I feel about where the characters were (read Chuck and Sarah specifically) at the end.

    • atcDave says:

      And there’s some, like Ring, where we all feared we’d been canceled for almost a month after it ran. And then, we started hearing about all the problems it would bring. The anticipation and dread were brutal.

    • joe says:

      Heh! I’m like that too, Martin. Currently I’m living with anticipation for the dvd version of Game of Thrones S4. I shouldn’t have started those before the run was over. Never have that first potato chip!

  9. Martin Traynor says:

    Yeah, when TPTB started talking about what was coming…I would have had a real hard time with that, because I tend to look for, expect, and dread the worst (which is what we ended up getting). Really, they could not have gone in a worse direction. I think S3.0 is the only time my worst fears in a show – any show- were ultimately realized…and for an extended period of time. But to know its coming and have nothing to do but wait would have been torture. AND THEN, to have to live through it real time…! and with all those breaks. Pure evil.

    • atcDave says:

      If I were even a little less invested I’m sure I would have dumped it. But it was seven months from when Ring ran until Pink Slip. Five of those months we were getting ugly spoilers, from Comic Con on.

    • CaptMediocre says:

      TPTB also didn’t do themselves any favours with a PR campaign they thought was “smart” and quite a few fans thought was negative. They were pushing the story uphill after SDCC.

      They literally introduced Sh*# as someone the fans would hate and then were surprised when fans did. (Today, most Chuck / Arrow fans are still waiting for the other shoe to drop.)

      But essentially all hell broke loose when the words “potential love interests” were spoken/written.

      As a fan, it was indeed interesting times.

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