Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Third Dimension (2.12)

NBC Synopsis: When Chuck (Zachary Levi) foils a plan to kill international rock star Tyler Martin (guest star Dominic Monaghan), the agents kidnap the musician to find out who wants him dead. Later, Tyler convinces Chuck to go out on the town, which only leads to a night of trouble. Meanwhile, Morgan (Josh Gomez) wins a pair of backstage passes to Tyler’s show and holds a contest among his fellow employees, including Big Mike’s (Mark Christopher Lawrence) old football friend Jimmy (guest star Jerome Bettis), to see who gets to be his lucky plus one.

Chuck This Ranking: 86
Dave’s Ranking: A little better, but not much!

Full Write Up: Chuck vs The Third Dimension (2.12) by Dave and 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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42 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Third Dimension (2.12)

  1. Christopher says:

    Of all the episodes this episode ranks last for me. This episode offers nothing to the main story. and what Sarah and Chuck talked about at the end of the episode really should of been said at the end of Santa Claus.

    In wrestling this episode would be classified as a time waster, but not even because we get a terrible BM story and Tyler Martin…SMH

    • atcDave says:

      Well I agree the wrap up would have been better placed at the end of Santa Claus. Otherwise this is mostly forgettable. Although Tyler did make me laugh pretty hard a couple times. Casey needed to tranq Chuck a few more times to cut down on the whining!

      • Christopher says:

        Dave, it s amazing how the guy that took down Alexei Volkoff could be the guy in this episode. I just wonder sometimes did that drive people away from the show. At least this is a stand alone.

        The next few episode are some of Chuck’s best. Especially with Orion on the horizon.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I think the depiction of Chuck in this episode was a terrible miscalculation for a big event like this was.
        I think we still have a rough spot to get over (Beefcake) before that really strong final arc starts, but no doubt the Orion arc is one of the series’ best.

      • Christopher says:

        While I agree with you Beefcake isn’t a strong episode, but I love Sarah in this episode finally speaking up regarding the breaks up Oh sorry I get into trouble on my site regarding break ups.

        She is getting tired of Chuck asking to break up every other episode, and use Cole for that purpose. I never consider Cole a major threat to Charah.

      • atcDave says:

        No Cole is not a major threat, and I like him a lot in Lethal Weapon.
        But like Third Dimension, its a whiny annoying Chuck that damages the episode. And this time he is easily coerced by his sister. Not an appealing portrait!

  2. Christopher says:

    absolutely not, and to think Morgan was the one with common sense. I recently did a top 20 episode list on twitter, and Dave I got a lot of my followers to join in and boy the difference in lists. It was funny how people told me it was the hardest list they had to come up with.

    Lethal Weapon ranked 11 for me because of how strong Chuck was in this episode. He was a bumbling idiot but not as bad as in 3D and BC. I thought Sarah’s I don’t cheat on my cover BF was the best admission of her feelings to date.

    BTW, I often argue that Sarah was asking Chuck out at the beginning of Suburbs what do you think

    • atcDave says:

      I think they both wanted to be out together at the start of Suburbs, but its a good use of their comically bad communication skills. So they’re together, and completely uncomfortable about it.
      This is a scene that gets all messed up for many viewers due to the sequence being all jumbled. When it is run after Best Friend it is much easier to catch the mood.

      I have 33 top episodes, and a top three among those. But I won’t rank order beyond that, it changes too much day to day.

      • Christopher says:

        Well my list was totally, unconventional because my top two episodes will always be Phase three and The Truth. I believe Lou sparked the feelings out of Sarah, and we really see impulsive Sarah begin to take shape, what I mean is she decided to confront Lou and than the kiss. I know you don’t like Lou because your not a fan of Love Triangles, but Lou brought out Sarah the girlfriend

        Agents aren’t suppose to do that, but a woman with real feelings would. Her tears at the beginning of Hard Salami was all real. Great Acting by YS and the same thing for Phase Three.

        I have told people that I don’t need the wedding to tell me how much Sarah loved Chuck after watching Phase Three, we saw just how much.

  3. Martin Traynor says:

    While this one isn’t on my list of favorites (which also changes depending in my mood, time of day or any other arbitrary occurrence), I find that a few points of charm do bubble to the surface.

    I always enjoy when our hero Chuck connects with someone (even the opposite sex, though not nearly as much), and I think he really makes a friend here. He ultimately proves himself, and he finally talks to Sarah, which I also love (sometimes more than others, I’ll admit). But when they communicate, magic happens.

    Season two is tough for me, actually, because the wt/wt is all over the fresking place! We start the season looking like they are/will be together. By Ep. 2:3, they are broken up. Suburbs looks like they could get together, but Beefcake (my most hated ep. Outside of S3), apart. It was a tough roller coaster that was only amplified by S3, kicked off by Pink Slip.

    Even the best of S2, for me, is overshadowed by what is to come. I actually almost like the entirety of S3 better than S2, which makes no sense, as it’s S3 that blemishes S2 for me.

    At least they righted the ship for good by the end of S3, if not without a few minor bumps along the way.

    • atcDave says:

      Well Martin you know I completely agree that S3 undermines my enjoyment of S2 too. And I also like the resolution at the end of this episode. I think it hits exactly the right note of clearing the air.
      I can see what you’re saying about S3, at least it comes to a definite resolution and ends in a better place. But the Misery Arc remains my least favorite period of the show by a wide margin.

  4. joe says:

    We’ve always seen the most agreement about this episode. No one thinks it’s up there with the best of ’em. Or even in the middle of the pack, for that matter. AND, to make matters worse, it’s surrounded by exceptionally fantastic episodes as far as the eye can see in either direction.

    I haven’t quite figured out why that is, yet – why it remains so forgettable. Really, the theme is decent – Chuck as prisoner of his circumstances, as are Butterman and Tyler Martin – needing to do “the right thing” regardless. And you know, Chuck’s speech to Tyler, the one that explains it, is actually one of the season’s high points.

    Well, maybe by itself, it isn’t. But Chuck’s speech comes after Sarah’s speech to Chuck, explaining that “doing the right thing” is what they do, even if it means trudging through sewers on occasion. Funnily enough, THAT speech is the resolution of The Mauser Incident (T.M.I.), much more than C&S’s chat at the fountain at the end. Together, they make a surprisingly resonant moment in the show.

    Sure was an easy moment to miss, though.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I agree with most of that Joe; but I do think the reason why this episode doesn’t score well is simple enough, Chuck comes across as a whiny dweeb for far too much of it.

      • joe says:

        Yeah. But Chuck being a whiny dweeb isn’t unique to 3-D. I mean, that’s the way we meet him in the pilot and the way he is in Beefcake. In fact, despite everything, he’s that way in Sarah at the end of S5, at least for a bit.

        There is something extra-annoying about that whinyness here in 3-D, though. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Well I would add Beefcake and Curse are also generally disliked episodes, I think for exactly the same reason.

    • Martin Traynor says:

      Some episodes seem to tackle the C/S relationship directly and evolve the show at a more microcosmic level, I.e. Dealing directly with episodes to follow closely behind. The arcs are that way , as are some others.

      Then you have these episodes, that don’t really contribute immediately to what’s happening now. But what I like about them is their big picture impact. Chuck learns a lot this episode about himself, his situation, how others feel in similar circumstances to his own (intersect notwithstanding), Sarah’s overarching motivation, and several other nuggets that will help shape and define his character.

      I see great value here, even if not immediate or Gratification. Still , this episode ranks lower for me , too. I equate it to golf. 17 holes of crap can be undone with a great last hole. 40 minutes of “ehh” can be redeemed with 2 mins. Of Chuck and Sarah getting back on track ( even if the tunnel of love is still miles away).

  5. noblz says:

    atcDave will kill me (we seem to have very similar tastes) but I always liked 3D better than Santa Claus. Neither made my top ten (29), but I thought despite Chuck’s whining, some very important info was conveyed in this episode. I also thought the look on Sarah’s face after she manipulates Chuck into Manipulating Tyler is an interesting mix of hubris and sadness. This is about the “I’m in love with him but don’t know what to do about it” point. I found this a very instructive episode.

    • atcDave says:

      Neither is a “top” sort of episode for me so no offense taken!

      I agree completely Sarah’s look is conflicted at that point. She’s proud of Chuck and what he says, she’s proud of what he thinks of her (even if he’s currently stressed and confused), and maybe a little guilty about the life he’s been forced in to. This isn’t the first or last time Sarah was the highlight of the episode!

    • joe says:

      Don’t worry noblz. The GRETAs are here to save the day. Hey Hey Hey Hey Hey HEY!

    • Wilf says:

      Yeah, that moment where Chuck says to Tyler “I can’t tell you how much I’d give for that” is very poignent and Sarah’s facial reaction to it says how much she understands and empathasises with what Chuck means. Actually I have always rather liked the episode, although it’s by no means one of my top scoring. I also felt that the resolution to the Mauser shooting, low key and almost throwaway as it is, was actually just about right but, of course, as many of you have said, it should really have come immediately at the end of Santa Claus. However, if it had, then we wouldn’t have had a reason for the nightmare scene at the beginning of TD 🙂

  6. Christopher says:

    3d offers the lack of communication at some points in the episode. TB still don’t trust Chuck could handle himself. Except how often does Chuck do well under pressure. Chuck vs Alma Mater was a great example. He went off on his own to call people to help from the disk.

    It’s great spy work if you ask me. As I am writing up an article about the struggle of Casey and Sarah when it comes to Chuck’s lady feelings. Chuck doesn’t understand the life of a rock star isn’t and better than a spy’s life. Rock stars are told where to be and what to do by their managers (handlers) I just don’t like Chuck whiny and complaining Chuck like we got in this episode or in Gravitron when telling Sarah not to kill jill.

    or when Bryce returns in Break up, He sometimes takes his frustrations on missions with him and as Casey once said, “Bartowski and the CIA how can it not go wrong.” The next episode is great example of it.

    He never was able to grasp what a spy has to do to get the job done’ Sometimes missions don’t go to play and you have to improvise or use a opening as a chance to stop bad people. When Casey and Sarah tell him he has to cheat on Sarah in order to gain access to the Fulcrum computer it amazes me his reaction.

    As i said, He has the ability to defuse a bomb using apple juice and on the other hand screwed up a mission like in Three Words. Oh the pain…..

    Joe, you are right Chuck started the series complaining, but it doesn’t work anymore when he has been a spy for a year and half, and if I had a sister like Ellie hounding me I would develope complaining as well.

    • Chris
      I read your article on how Yvonne is a master of facial expressions and body language and I think you sum it up nicely…anyone who doesn’t see how well Yvonne Strahovski can act; we simply feel sorry for…I knew she was great after Chuck but once i saw her completely separate Sarah Walker from Kate Morgan (24LAD) i knew she had serious natural ability as an actress and i’m fully confident in saying she’s one of the best in the modern era at her craft!

      I have tremendous respect for her because even in the lowest moments for Sarah Walker (misery arc and the final two episodes) she fully committed to it and perhaps that’s why there was such a dislike of the former and a polarized reaction to the latter; it takes true talent to sell that change in a character and she did it…technically on a weekly basis because as you said she was pretty much playing two personalities from the very begining!

      • CaptMediocre says:

        “and perhaps that’s why there was such a dislike of the former and a polarized reaction to the latter”

        Or perhaps the stories were inadequately told (former) and unfinished (latter).

      • authorguy says:

        S3 was definitely an extremely good story that was poorly told. The amnesia arc I wish they had never started. They could have done the Decker conspiracy in 13 episodes, I don’t know why they truncated that storyline the way they did.

  7. Martin Traynor says:

    I actually just watched this again last night. When it originally aired in 3-D, was that technology well received? I ask because I watched in 3- D and wasn’t impressed at all with the “Effects.”

    But I found myself laughing a lot. Chuck was too whiny for my liking, but it didn’t bother me THAT much. I like how Sarah tells Cadey she’ll handle Chuck. That caught my attention the first time through as well. She’s still manipulating him, and I wonder, esp. With seeing her video log, just how conflicted she is here. And I wonder how much she does or does not respect Chuck for coming around to her view of things so easily. Though one could argue she is right and so is he for ultimately agreeing with her.

    • atcDave says:

      The technology was sort of a weak gimmick. It looked okay in places, especially some of the bigger, brighter settings like the Buy More. But it looked dark and muddy in a lot of the action scenes. It was no where near the quality we’ve become accustomed to in the theater.
      I think, best guess for Sarah’s v-log confession is somewhere between Predator and Broken Heart. So we’re only about a month from that. She is surely struggling with her feelings here, but isn’t quite willing to admit to anything.

      • Martin Traynor says:

        A bit OT, but I wanted to thank you for directing me to Thinkling’s and BrickandBrill’s? FF stories. I read and loved them both. Great reads that had me laughing, crying and living Chuck in a wonderfully hope-filled way. (unlike the finale ). These were the finale I was hoping for. Thanks again and again. And my daughter is enjoying Thinkling’s story as much as I did. Now to get my wife to read them…

      • atcDave says:

        That really makes my day Martin. I’m so pleased they helped you out.

        Now try “Chuck vs The Sound of Music” and its sequel by Quistie!

  8. Martin Traynor says:

    My last comment was to Dave for recommending “the long road home” and Sarah vs finding herself.”

  9. Ernie Davis says:

    Having watched this episode quite a few times I feel it is highly under-rated as a comedy episode, Dominic Monaghan as a rum soaked narcissist alone is comedy gold if you ask me, let alone Casey as Dr. Tranquenstein ( I feel like a daffodil…). I also find complaints of a “whiney” Chuck to be a bit overblown. I’ve often observed a phenomenon where any time Chuck pushes back against Sarah he is often characterized as “whiney”. I like that given his being dragged in to the spy world and being both a vital assets, yet simultaneously treated as a child, I like that he chose to push back for a change. Quite frankly, as both Sarah and Casey acknowledge, Chuck is right. He is undervalued and ignored as a team member, his team mates constantly take him and his time and cooperation for granted with little consideration for him as a human being. The fact that he has been pressed in to full time government service essentially against his will alone should warrant some consideration, at least from Sarah, who is supposed to be the member of the team on Chuck’s side. Instead she states to Casey that she’ll “get him under control”. Not the best side of Sarah, as we’ve seen before, when she treats Chuck as someone she needs to control as opposed to someone she can talk to and appeal to his sense of honor and duty. Granted she does come around in the end, but quite frankly I look at this episode as reflecting poorly on both Sarah and Casey. They constantly belittle and scold him for ad libing his way through a situation to both keep their cover and to make sure Tyler is watched, and yet they still expect him to be the one to cary the load for the team when it comes to Tyler and his cooperation.

    • atcDave says:

      Hey it polled at 86! I think it at least deserved an 82…

      I put it in that very bottom tier of episodes I don’t “dislike” along with Beefcake and Curse.
      It’s not that Chuck pushes back, it’s that he whines like a petulant child while doing so. There’s obviously a problem here, we pulled in a lot of eyeballs for the “event”, but very few of the new viewers stuck around. Chuck himself being annoying strikes me as the most likely reason. Especially since many of the “big picture” issues related to Chuck’s situation would be unknown to those new viewers.
      All things considered, I think things play out pretty well here. But for a big event episode, it wasn’t very much fun.

      • Dave

        Gotta side with Ernie here; this is a highly underrated episode! Frankly I thought Tom Sawyer was much worse and very dull! Plus i am from Cleveland so the mistaken shout-outs

    • oldresorter says:

      I’m with Ernie on this one too. Watched it again last night, and I have to say, I loved this ep on rewatch, more than I recall. I didn’t see the whiney in this ep as counterproductive like I do / did at other times. I liked how honestly both Chuck’s and Sarah’s POV’s were expressed both symbolically thru dreams / Tyler’s predicament, along with the dialogue later on directly addressing some of the spy issues regarding Chuck and Sarah. I liked Chuck eps the best when the endings were happy, and this one had both a water fountain type CS moment, and then ended with a comic relief moment with Chuck jumping in the car, eliciting a CAsey grunt and a Sarah smirk. Classic Chuck greatness.

      The ep really had no angst, or grating CS moments, did it? I thought this ep nailed the nature of the pre ‘I love Chuck Bartowski and I don’t know what to do about it.’ Chuck / Sarah dynamic.

    • anthropocene says:

      When Sarah tells Casey that she’ll “get [Chuck] under control,” it seemed to me that she was running interference for Chuck: “handling” Casey with the sort of words that he would best relate to and which would mollify him. I suggest this because when Sarah actually does confront Chuck about his recent attitude, it doesn’t seem controlling at all. She doesn’t back down from her position, but she can see Chuck’s side of things too and acknowledges that. When Team Bartowski has a problem with Chuck it is always Sarah who takes responsibility for dealing with it, and I think we are supposed to notice that it isn’t just because of a strong sense of duty.

      • atcDave says:

        I’ll agree with that!

        As is so often the case, even when Chuck isn’t at his best, Sarah has a good episode.
        I only thought it a little funny that Sarah even brought it up to Casey. But I like that Casey cares, even if he completely doesn’t “get” Chuck.

    • Angus MacNab says:

      I agree with you, Ernie, on every single count.

      Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        While I appreciate the brevity and succinctness of Angus’ analysis, now that I have the chance I feel a bit more of a response might be appropriate, even though we have moved on to Best Friend on the re-watch.

        So I’ve mentioned that a lot of people often see Chuck as juvenile or whiney when he contradicts or pushes back against Sarah. I think I need to expand on that. In seasons one and two, Sarah is nearly always the dramatic anchor, playing it straight. Yvonne’s only forays in to the comedy aspect came for the most part in the fantasy slow-motion sequences (one of which is very prominent in this episode). In the spy world, in seasons one and 2, Chuck is almost always used as the comic foil, whereas Casey is the action hero stereotype played ironically for laughs, he is still largely a straight-man for Chuck in the spy-world. This leaves Chuck as the single totally comedic character in the spy-world at times, and Levi is often playing broader comedy while Strahovski is playing straight drama and Baldwin is playing a far less broad dry humor. It leads to some disconnect.

        Those more invested in Yvonne’s drama will often miss that Zac is doing a broader comic reaction based on him being a foreigner in the spy-world, and thus a broader comedic beat from Zac is seen as incongruous or not serious based on Yvonne’s performance. Which is true. We’re supposed to see the stakes based on what Yvonne does, and the absolute absurdity of it based on who Chuck is and how he reacts.

        Sarah dramatically lays out the amoral, abnormal and “by any means necessary” dramatic story lines and spy-world consequences, and Chuck rebels, perhaps petulantly to some, but in the spy-world context they have established, Chuck is a child, and an innocent. And he is treated as such and recognizes that. As Chuck is often treated as a child his only recourse is to react as a child, to rebel, to stamp his foot (gingerly) and to simply say no, as no other avenue has been left to him. His arguments, his suggestions, his reasoning and objections are often dismissed out of hand, for the comedy they generate.

        Look at one particular aspect of this episode. Casey tranq’s Tyler, assuming he will be out 12-24 hours. He awakes in 20-30 minutes. Casey tranq’s him again, and both Casey and Sarah assume that the second dose will obviously last 12-24 hours, leaving them free to leave Chuck alone with a kidnapped rockstar so they can go investigate the real spy-stuff.

        OK, so if you want to treat Chuck’s comedy reactions to Sarah’s spy-world drama as petulant and unwarranted based on the fact that Sarah is laying out real dramatic consequences, how do you treat Casey and Sarah seriously as spies based on them assuming that something proven ineffective will suddenly be effective and mean that Chuck can be left alone and responsible for the one man critical to the mission, to set up the comedy aspects of how Chuck handles the situation.

        It is less a problem in later seasons, but does still happen. One episode in particular is Kept Man, where Chuck is supposed to be absorbed in a manic caffeine fueled rush of trying to transform Carmichael Industries while Sarah is dealing withy the reality of their attempts to live a non-spy life. The whole point is that they are each trying to deal with something in their frame of reference, and that the comedy comes from the disconnect. It is in some senses a tonal problem brought about by the unique nature of the show.

        But the undercurrent that runs throughout Chuck is that Casey and Sarah have to some extent lost or sacrificed their humanity for duty, and Chuck needs to simply say no on occasion to let them see how far they have fallen, and to ultimately bring them back. Third D is one of the episodes that makes that really hit home, both with how the team treats Chuck and how they depend on him, despite him having very good reasons to rebel. Reasons that Sarah herself sees as Chuck talks to Tyler, and reasons Sarah is forced to acknowledge by offering Chuck a choice. It is the beginning of the rehabilitation of Sarah Walker as a human being, even if there is a degree of manipulation in appealing to Chuck’s better angels by aligning herself, and her availability to Chuck, to his being a part of the spy world.

        In many ways Chuck tried to teach us how to watch the show, but it’s success was always dependent on people being willing to accept the show on it’s terms, which were fluid and shifting at the best of times, and somewhat jarring and alarming to many at the worst.

  10. Dune_sea_jedi says:

    Ernie, I always love your analysis of the plots and characters from Chuck. I agree that sometimes it’s easier to criticize the show for not being what we want it to be than to think about the shows and stories that we got and try to understand the subtleties and nuances of what’s before us. Of course, opinions of episodes and the series itself are directly proportional to the motivation for watching the show in the first place. I know I enjoyed watching Designing Women back in the day (yeah, I’m really that old) until it got too preachy for my taste. I watched to get a laugh, not get some sort of sermon from Julia. But you know what?…that’s ok. It was their show to do with what they wanted. As much as I have enjoyed the Chuck fan fiction, the show that we got is canon and I always like to understand more about what we got.

    Anyway, Ernie, thanks again for your insights (and everyone else’s too!). They have added a depth to the show that I didn’t get before finding this blog.

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