Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Santa Claus (2.11)

NBC Synopsis: THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR—Christmas Eve does not go as planned when an amateur criminal on the run from the police crashes into the Buy More and takes Chuck (Zachary Levi), Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) and the rest of the Buy More gang hostage. In order to protect Chuck’s cover and the safety of the other hostages, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) secretly go in to the store to remove Chuck, but the mission quickly falls apart when Chuck refuses to leave his friends and family behind.

Chuck This Ranking: 15
Dave’s Ranking: Lower

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs Santa Claus (2.11) by Dave and Joe
Believing in Santa by Joe
Summertime Top Ten: Santa Claus 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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27 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Santa Claus (2.11)

  1. joe says:

    One of the most interesting and thought-provoking moments in the entire show – the execution of Mauser. Somewhere in the comments, long ago, Dave wrote about it:

    I completely get Sarah’s actions, both the shooting and the lie.

    And I followed up with:

    You know, I’m not sure now that I did get it, at first. I mean, we’ve got characters that we love, Sarah, who we think of as a super-hero, who can do no wrong, and Chuck, who always does “the right thing.”

    Except they don’t. Time and again we see them stumble and fail and disappoint (much like we disappoint ourselves in real life?) and even pay the price for the failures. And still, somehow, they’re better for it and we love the characters more for the humanness.

    Heh. I still think of it that way. Thinking about this episode takes me back to that feeling.

    • atcDave says:

      Although now as then, I find myself far more disappointed in Chuck at the end than Sarah. Chuck blabbing to Mauser puts Sarah in the very difficult situation of having to clean up Chuck’s mess. And because of one of those shamelessly contrived sort of scenarios Chuck conveniently misses all context around Sarah’s actions. And then Chuck gets all put out when Sarah lies to protect his sensibilities. Or as I put it several years ago; Chuck likes when his lioness is all warm and fuzzy, but is put off to discover she has claws.
      I think this stands out as one of the best episodes with a terrible end of the series. And there were a few of those!

      • anthropocene says:

        I mostly agree about the lioness analogy (a good one), but I thought this scenario was more complex. Sarah and Casey didn’t catch on to Ned and Mauser until it was too late, so the mess was partly of their making too. Chuck blabbed to Mauser because he was desperate to protect Ellie. Maybe if he’d had a few more seconds to think, he could have thought of something else—perhaps lure Mauser down to Castle—but he didn’t have that time. Sarah did lie to protect Chuck’s sensibilities, but only because she wasn’t aware that he’d seen her shoot Mauser. I fault Chuck only for not confronting Sarah with the truth at that moment…but could it have been that he was actually a teensy bit afraid of her after what he’d seen (Mauser’s execution) but not heard (Mauser’s taunts)? Maybe the scenario was contrived, but not unrealistically so.

        I’d call the ending darkly dramatic, but not terrible, because it was also a key milestone in Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. He learned something about Sarah that troubled him at first, but which he later came to terms with. He would come to love her claws and all, and in the process change her too, and that’s what made their relationship one for the ages. In my opinion this was an essential event in the love story of Sarah and Chuck.

      • Wilf says:

        I, also, didn’t find the ending terrible. I felt that, a) rightly or wrongly, Sarah wanted to protect Chuck from the dark truth and, b) She was also a little conflicted about what she’d done, or at least about her reasons for doing so.

        Also, it led to the great nightmare scene in the next episode 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Well in the end I’m pleased with how it plays out, I may be one of the few who likes how it’s resolved in Third Dimension (more appropriate tone in the discussion than all the fussing leading up to it).
        I think my main is issue is just purely the degree of the reaction. It seems extreme for the circumstance. Chuck already knows what Sarah is capable of, way back in the Pilot he flashed on her disarming, THEN killing two assailants. Now he’s known her for a year and a half and seen her in action. And he gets bent out of shape when he sees her kill someone with no context. And he KNOWS he has no context, he didn’t hear anything!
        I really think my complaint is mostly a performance issue; specifically, I think Zac over-played the scene. A more measured response would have played better for me. Again, as I said at the time, I felt the situation warented a “7” and he gave us a “10”. It struck me as serious, but not earth shattering.
        Much of my attitude goes back to that first night it ran. My wife asked “what’s Chuck so upset about?” Immediately. And I had two friends ask such similar questions in the next couple days. It was all made worse heading in to a seven week break. We could only wonder what Chuck would be whining about when the show came back. And of course, I think this led to the painfully unfun Third Dimension episode that drew a huge audience, who mostly never watched again.

      • My response to Sarah’s killing of Mauser has been significantly coloured by the fanfic “Becoming.” Arya’s Prayers does, I think, fantastic work in exploring the darkness in Sarah’s past, the moral burden she carries because of all the deaths she has caused, and her deep sense of being unworthy of a relationship with a genuinely good man like Chuck. Watching Sarah deliberate before choosing to kill Mauser, and then when she returns to the Buy More, watching her muster up a smile on her deeply troubled face as she approaches Chuck, I thought about that moral burden that she willingly assumes, aware of what it does to her, but choosing to do it because it was for Chuck’s protection. Her action makes her even less worthy of Chuck, and killing another because it was for Chuck’s protection won’t redeem that action.

        I agree that an element of Sarah’s lie to Chuck regarding Mauser was to protect Chuck’s sensibilities, but I think it is also because she is repelled by her actions even while believing that she had no other choice.

        Feel free to disagree on all of that, of course. Although I always appreciate the joy, love, friendship, and loyalty that is at the heart of Chuck, I am also drawn in by the flaws, failings and subsequent redemptions that are woven into the story as well.

        Russ (resaw)

      • atcDave says:

        Resaw I also remember saying, way back, years ago, that Sarah’s dilemma was far more interesting to me than Chuck’s hissy fit. But the show puts all the focus on Chuck. And it won’t be the last time I have that complaint…

      • CaptMediocre says:

        It not so much that the show goes “dark”.

        It’s that there doesn’t ever seem to be any meaningful consequences that come from the “darkness”.

        The solution (I refuse to call it a resolution) is to gloss over it as fast as possible (if even that) and move on. Otherwise it cheapens the drama.

        (After Mauser, the show did this all the time – have a meaningful, juicy storyline that petered out into nothingness because it was easy)

        Don’t do the drama if you intend to just make it go away.

      • atcDave says:

        CaptM I sort of agree, but only to make the point, “don’t go dark”. There is enough that’s dark and dramatic on television; what set Chuck apart was just how well they did “fun,” I think that was the greatest strength of the show was how uniquely fun it was.

        As for this specific case, I would have been fine with an even briefer resolution than we saw, at the very end of THIS episode. Like say Chuck directly confronting Sarah on what she did, Sarah explaining what Chuck didn’t hear, and Chuck and Sarah bonding over the tragic and ugly life they’re living. Bonus points if it involves the promise to protect each other in the ways they are best; Sarah protects Chuck’s life while he protects her humanity.

      • anthropocene says:

        “Get Smart” was a spy comedy without any darkness, it was perfect for its time, and I’ve always loved it for its Mel Brooksian craziness. But a dark side was needed to keep “Chuck” meaningfully (if not necessarily authentically) rooted in the spy world. I’m not a huge fan of the portmanteau word “dramedy,” but that’s what it was. So many of the great moments of the series featured Chuck and Sarah (and their love) triumphing over dark forces. The finale (which fell short in the estimation of many) was the exception that proved the rule. I loved the dark parts of Chuck—and as Resaw put so well, also the flaws, failings, and redemptions!

      • atcDave says:

        I thought the drama on Chuck was occasionally excellent, and occasionally too much. Obviously only S3 struck me as offensively overdone.
        But I do think some drama is useful. It emphasizes what’s on the line, and adds an air of reality to the proceedings. Something “Get Smart” made no effort at. Which was fine, but no drama at all means no emotional investment either. My main objection to some of the drama on Chuck is actually the same as my objection to some of the comedy; they pushed things in directions that reflected poorly on the main characters. On both counts, they occasionally pushed too far and diminished my ability to relate, and my desire to relate.

      • anthropocene says:

        I agree completely, Dave. Cheap laughs or cheap thrills at the expense of a good plot or authentic characterization were never welcome!

    • Christopher says:

      Joe,

      The lie is justified, I did a poll in my episode article. Was Sarah justified in killing Mauser, and the results were in favor of her killing Mauser. I also understand the lie, but the problem we have here is the lack of trust. Chuck is new to the game, and there are things that he will always have trouble getting used to. Like finding out Jill was Fulcrum.

      There is also a lot of evidence that while she is an assassin, Sarah doesn’t like to kill for the thrill of it like Casey does. She thought about it before pulling the trigger. What is also interesting is she looked at her bracelet for a brief second before actually firing. What Sarah needed to do in my opinion was tell him one of her half truths. You know the ones where she is saying one thing, but meaning another.

    • Christopher says:

      @Dave,

      The resolution to this situation was done correctly, She can sense something was wrong and asked him flat out. Communication does wonders in that way. They talk it out, and things get back to normal.

  2. anthropocene says:

    The timing for this particular episode rewatch is perfect! Well played, gentlemen!

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah! uhhh, we planned this very carefully! That’s it!

      Its funny, on our last re-watch we got to this one the week after Christmas.

  3. oldresorter says:

    It really was a great episode, but for me, an example of how the ‘style’ the writers chose for the show interfered with my complete enjoyment of the episode. Had the Mauser shooting scene gotten ‘sweetly’ resolved by the end, say under a missletoe or even in the calm of the night with a christmas tree in the background and a great Christmas song playing softly, this is a top ten ep, even with the miserable Mauser execution scene. The scene could have been taken advantage of for even greater sweetness and blossoming love between the two, instead, it sort of festered like an untreated sore until the next week, when the wound had become too infected for some, and maybe even somewhat forgotten by many, such that the ultimate resolution didn’t capitalize on the gravity of the situation as it played out. For some reason, the writers of Chuck didn’t see the show the same way I did, so this becomes one of many pretty darned good eps that fell short of greatness due to this failure to capitalize on situations of their own making.

  4. Christopher says:

    Chuck vs The Santa Claus is an episode that has a bitter sweet feel to it. we have a wonderful scene with the bracelet. and here is where I begin my take on the episode.

    I will begin with the end, as it is the dark part of the episode, but a interesting one.

    we have a tale of two romantic gestures in this episode,

    Chuck gave the normal life portion of it, he gave her a bracelet and as Sarah became Agent Walker by saying “Oh Chuck, I can’t accept this..this is for a real girlfriend.” the thing is the expression and what she said don’t match. in fact, after Chuck said I know and went off with Ned. She had a smile and really was happy with the gesture. Now how does Sarah return the gesture.

    She shot Mauser that’s how.

    Sarah’s version of a romantic gesture is one of being a hero, and while Chuck doesn’t hear what Mauser said. Sarah’s life was also being affected by the threat. Now was there really anything stopping her from arresting him and following protocol. No, they could of taken measures in preventing Mauser from opening his mouth, but Sarah pulled the trigger because she was doing it for both herself and Chuck. A gesture of this magnitude was not well received. Chuck didn’t hear the threat all he did was see her shoot an unarmed man.

    Much like Sarah did with the Red test. She didn’t see Chuck kill the mole, all she heard was the shot and Sarah seeing Chuck standing over the mole’s body. What I don’t like is the cover up.

    Sarah should’ve of been upfront with Chuck when she came back to the BM. Chuck and Casey should’ve trusted Sarah enough to let her know the truth instead Chuck voiced his concerns in 3D and Casey told her the truth in OG

    Communication is the problem with these two and it’s a prime example in this episode. Two romantic gestures ruined by communication breakdowns.

  5. Christopher says:

    @Anthropocene @ Dave

    Chris Fedak said in season one DVD about his vision of blending in all the genres into one series. It was daring and inventive, but execution and organization seem to be an issue. For example, the huge mistake coming up with order of episodes. even earlier in the season. They have that powerful break up scene and follow it up with Chuck and Sarah smiling like nothing happened. While I love Cougars, How do they not show a episode with the aftermath of what happened.

    They did it for Hard Salami through Crown Vic. Grant it Bryce’s return put the kiss on the back burner but at least Chuck had his man up moment and confronted her about it, which is another Christmas episode fellas.

    Break up scene didn’t get that closer at least with Santa Claus you do with 3D even though I though 3D is the second worse episode of the series only 5.12 is worse for me

    • Terrible episodes are subject to opinion but I think the finale arc doesn’t qualify at all…i’m captivated by superb acting and thus 5-11-13 don’t bother me. Mask is one of the worst tv episodes ever (smallville’s “Craving” -S1; and “thirst” S5 are my other two) i define bad as not believable and without any point-I wish people would not define a terrible by there personal taste but something tells me that’s unavoidable…pink slip, mask and…,,,,,,,i don’t loathe any other episode of chuck enough to call it terrible because all others have something that makes them bearable for me:) Those 2 though are so bad i wish they never existed.

      • oldresorter says:

        Josh one fallout of S3 was IMO ZL acted the misery season really well, might have been some of his best work, thought he nailed the material he got, Mask, Fake Name, all the way thru Role Models, he was on top of his game, switching genre’s effortlessly. I thought his best work might have been in Fake Name, even as it was some of the worst material the show ever put together in an ep. It wasn’t until the lying arc that he seemed to lose his mojo. In some ways, the Chuck character was lost with the new writing team, they seemed to lose his epicness, and largely switched the way Morgan and Chuck were written, Chuck moving in and out of complete cluelessness, while Morgan was the sage wise man sitting back and figuring everything out.

        As for the final arc, I disliked the story idea, but easily concede the cast did quite well with the material they had to work with. The heart breaking portrayal was of Sarah, who even on the beach at the end, never connected the way she did in the past with Chuck, even the tell me our story or kiss me lines felt distant, disconnected, a far cry from where she was at just three eps earlier. The notion of two steps back, one step forward, was the teased modus operandi for the show all along. But for CS, the final arc seemed to go 94 steps back, then managed to take one step forward on the beach. That plain and simple, as artful as the idea was, that was not enough.

      • authorguy says:

        The first 13 episodes of S3 were written by the same team that did the first 2 seasons. It wasn’t until Honeymooners that they changed writers, to the show’s great detriment. The first part of season 3 was a logical development of the story from S2, and should have been followed by an uplifting story arc (either the back 6 of S3, or S4) bringing Chuck out of the darkness that S3 put him into. I said elsewhere (in one of the notes to my story ‘Haven’) that the proper response on Chuck’s part to killing a man should have been in a church, not a three-day romp on a train. But as someone said above, they were always wimping out on showing us the actual Hero’s Journey they liked to claim Chuck was on. Lots of good dramatic moments, not a bit of growth from any of them.

  6. anthropocene says:

    Merry Christmas to those who partake, and here’s a little present for Sarah Walker Bartowski: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/11307411/Cure-for-memory-loss-could-be-on-the-horizon.html

  7. Pingback: The Chuck Versus Santa Claus; The Execution | Chuck This

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