Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Pink Slip (3.01)

NBC Synopsis: SEASON PREMIERE—WITH HIS NEW INTERSECT ABILITIES, CHUCK NOW WANTS TO BE A REAL SPY BUT NOBODY SAID THAT WAS GOING TO BE EASY—As the upgraded Intersect, Chuck (Zachary Levi) trains to become a full-fledged spy but hits rock bottom when he flunks out of spy school and loses Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) in the process. Meanwhile, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) comes home from Benihana School to help Chuck get over Sarah.

Chuck This Ranking: 89
Dave’s Ranking: I can’t argue with that!

First Impressions: Open Reactions Thread
Final First Thoughts by Joe

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The Pink Slip (3.01) by Ernie and Faith
The Ring Reloaded by Ernie
Chuck vs The Reset by Joe
S3 Revisited: 3.01 Getting the Pink Slip by Joe

Alternatives: Season Three Alternatives: Pink Slip by Dave


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 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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82 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Pink Slip (3.01)

  1. Justin says:

    And so here we are. The beginning of a dark period in Chuck history. atcDave, I was wondering: what do you think of the Ring as the Big Bad of Season 3? Do you think the season would have been better off without the Ring or a different Big Bad?

    • atcDave says:

      Among my many complaints…..

      Its a small thing, all things considered. But yeah, I think The Ring failed to inspire as a “big bad”. It never really seemed all that menacing. I think they should have just stuck with the Fulcrum name. It had an emotional hook, a sort of gravitas attached to it that The Ring never managed. I really wasn’t even clear Fulcrum had in fact been destroyed back in S2 until fairly late into S3!

      But this really is such a minor complaint it barely registers as a blip compared to the more serious malfunctions of the season.

    • Justin says:

      The way the show could have handled that is by establishing that, though the leadership in charge of Fulcrum has been dismantled, there are remnants of the organization which could cause some serious trouble in the world. And there is always the danger of someone out there who may try to step into the power vacuum left behind by Roark and bring the organization back together as a dangerous whole. S3 could have been about Chuck, Sarah, and Casey dealing with the clean-up of that mess.

  2. Martin Traynor says:

    Just about anything else would have worked well…and been better.

    I was just reading some of the original comments from back in 2010, when this originally aired, and I love the innocence of the comments, but was really surprised at how many commenters genuinely liked/enjoyed the first three episodes. Obviously they had no idea what was to come, but how so many seemed to enjoy the new direction the Chuck/Sarah relationship was taking is beyond me.

    This is a dark time for Chuck – the show and the character. While there are many great moments to come in the next dozen episodes, there is so much to come that just makes me squeam (is that a word?). This particular episode was just de. press. ing. It literally sucked all the air out of the Chuck and Sarah relationship, which is THE driving force of the show for me (and I fully understand that this is not the case for everyone.

    This period of the show, if I can even talk myself into watching, sees my attention spent more on Casey, Morgan and just about everyone else BUT Chuck, and especially, Sarah.

    Going off topic a bit, and about two years too late, but has anyone seen the Zach Levi/Yahoo project shorts “Tiny Commando” (from 2013)? They’re a short series of 4 min. webisodes about a 4″ tall commando played by Zach who runs his own detective agency with a real-size woman played by Community’s Gillian Jacobs. He’s a sort of Agent Carmichael, without the intersect. I find them to be highly entertaining and a LOT of fun.

    • atcDave says:

      I completely agree with all of that Martin. I also looked at some of our old comments from when it first ran; the big thing for me is I still didn’t believe the show would get as bleak as it did! I never would have guessed things would be so terrible until 3.13. If I had, I never would have been as generous in some of my comments.
      But I think about a third of viewers actually, honestly DID like the season! We still have a few them here; actually, I think its even more commonly supported by readers of this site now than it was back in real time.
      You know I’ll never be one of them though. It really rubs me wrong in about every way imaginable. My only way of coping with the misery arc is to ignore it.

      • duckman says:

        I remember when this aired I was an enthusiastic, yet average viewer. I never thought to go online or pursue the show beyond watching when I could and buying the discs. I missed a lot of s2 eps, tuned into colonel in the middle and was so lost I just turned it off. So when s3 rolled around I made a concerted effort to be sure to catch the first ep. and keep up. My thought was basically “WTF is this S-it?” I never even knew about or saw 3 words, come to think about it I never once saw the second ep when they pulled to 2 ep gimmick, probably just as well. I saw Angel de la muerte and just tuned out till american hero, and I was still incredibly fatigued and bored almost immediately, I never would have made it past fake name had I been watching. I certainly would never have bought the discs- dvd AND bluray.
        Three years later I watched again on disc having seen all those missed eps and ps really didn’t bother me that much for some reason. If the misery arc had lasted 3 eps , like they teased, I could have forgotten it and moved on, the artificial holding pattern is what really irks me. There’s still plenty of good in the first 13, it’s just buried in a bunch of typical lo rent tv that I have no tolerance for. I’ve seen ps 4 times now, and really don’t see myself watching it again. The final arc seems to have diminished all the eps for me, the ones I tolerated before I now loathe, the ones I loved, I’m kinda indifferent about. It’s kinda sad really.

      • atcDave says:

        I know a few viewers who quit at Pink Slip, it really sucked a lot of fun right out of the show. If I’d been even a little less invested I never would have stuck it out.

      • thinkling says:

        I power-watched the first 3 seasons, catching up before S4, so that from S4 on I watched week by week. Even power-watching — which makes bad arcs easier to withstand in any show — was painful. So, even though I KNEW CS were going to get together in 3.13 (in fact, I think I even watched Other Guy before PS to give myself courage), I still hated much of the misery arc. There were some great moments in almost every episode, but the misery of the CRM put a dark shadow over the whole arc.

        Had I been watching week by week during S3, I don’t think I would have continued. I might, however, have rejoined later on. (I did that with Murdoch, skipping the offending season altogether.)

        With so many options for TV, I can see how easy it is to lose viewers, either between seasons or with an epic story blunder.

  3. Martin Traynor says:

    For me, it’s kind of like the series finale, in that I’ll stay away from it for a while and indulge in the episodes I love. Then, just when I start to think that I’ve built up an immunity to it, I’ll try and watch it or one of those misery arc episodes. Then I discover all over again that i just don’t like where the characters are/are going. I hate to have so many episodes in a show that I want to watch but can’t, especially when you consider it’s a series with far too few episodes to begin with.

  4. uplink2 says:

    After waiting 9 long months, I don’t think I have ever been more disappointed by a returning series in my life. I was so pumped after “Guys, I know kung fu”. The ending of Ring leads to so many great storylines and I was stunned by the one they chose. I completely agree with the ranking here. It is the third worst episode of the entire series and its main objective was to set up the two that were even worse. What really disappointed me is that what they were trying to do was so contrived and manipulative and so incredibly obvious it was like they didn’t even try to hide it in some necessary plot point. I was totally unaware of Hannah and Shaw coming but I knew some forced OLI’s were. Knowing now how Schwartz described it as “emotional and traumatic” it was anything but. It was predictable and disheartening that my beloved show was going to become just like every other show with pointless OLI’s muddying up what was a great potential spy story. The direction they took just makes so much of the good stuff unmatchable. It was like Seinfeld’s car BO. It just stinks so bad you just have to throw everything it touches away.

    But I hung in there being the optimist and hoping that what I saw was wrong. I was hopeful at the end of Three Words but that turned out to be just a meaningless and one could say hurtful deception. Then it just got much worse when Shaw and Hannah were introduced. To me this arc we are heading into is far more bothersome than the finale. At least those were great performances and the story they chose was executed well. I may not like it but they were great episodes, just a terrible finale. But this arc also suffers from bad execution, poor casting, and blatantly obvious contrivances. It is my biggest disappointment with this show and it all began here after a long wait with great expectations and much anticipation only to see the absolute worst season premier of all five seasons and the third worst episode of the entire series. An episode I will likely never watch again.

    • atcDave says:

      You know I agree with all of that Uplink.

      Although you threw down a challenge I’m thinking about; what other show has ever disappointed me so much? Part of the issue is, Chuck was my favorite show ever at the end of S2. So it had greater heights to fall from than any other show. Perhaps only Burn Notice and its last season comes close; but Burn Notice had been waning for me anyway (by growing progressively darker for a couple previous seasons).
      I’ve quit a few shows; like Covert Affairs, White Collar, Alias, Falling Skies. But those shows were never something I eagerly anticipated every week. They were more marginal to begin with. So when they disappointed, I just deleted and got over it.
      I suppose Person of Interest and Sleepy Hollow are two that I liked quite a lot for a period before giving up on them. But again, started lower.
      So Chuck certainly had the most to loose; and indeed, it lost most of it. Perhaps even more interesting to me is Chuck’s later resurgence. By early S4 Chuck was back to its S2 esteem in most ways for me. So I’d say Chuck has an uncommon fall from grace, and a unique return to glory.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        I actually went back and read my comments from S3, and surprise surprise they were mostly positive until Fake Name. Once Fake Name didn’t right the ship (figuratively speaking) but only sent it further off course, I had had enough and retroactively began not liking the first 7.

        After the misery arc, I find that I have no tolerance whatsoever for poor story telling in the TV that I watch. S2 of Sleepy Hollow, S3 of Haven, S3 of Arrow, shows I used to like, became unwatchable due to bizarre choices (in my opinion) from the showrunners. But what I’m finding out is that these shows usually had a showrunner change or mix-up before the ill fated season.

        BTW, if you want to watch something really good (again, in my opinion), 12 Monkeys is burning through story at a rate that boggles the mind. In 9 episodes we’ve hone through 2 seasons worth of material. It’s worth checking out.

        If often wonder what would have happened if PS has aired by itself, with a week until 3 words.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        EDIT – “I often wonder ….”

      • atcDave says:

        I think I’ve also become a harsher judge of television since Chuck. I feel less inclined to tolerate stories I don’t care for.

        I’m pretty sure if there had been a week in between Pink Slip and Three Words that our ratings drop would have been even worse. Three Words at least ended on a (false) hopeful note that got many of us feeling better for a couple weeks. Until First Class…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Heh. I was pretty positive right through Mask. I actually liked Mask and said so. I did see how the poor execution (which became a regular thing) of the OLI setup gave a lot of people whiplash. I saw the reasons for Fake Name and accepted a few contrivances as poor execution biting the reduced staff again. Beard through Final Exam restored my faith, though I did note that I had to accept that there would be no Chuck and Sarah resolution, and in fact little movement at all until the end. So I lowered my expectations, both in terms of that and seeing season 2 quality stories and episodes, and just enjoyed the episodes. American Hero just about broke me. The first viewing I asked myself why the hell they didn’t just rename the show Shaw and let Zac Levi move on to his next project. My opinion has mellowed with time. While I liked Other Guy and was satisfied, I think if we didn’t know we’d be getting Honeymooners by then I would have felt a bit let down.

        I watched a bit of Arrow. Never really got in to it, but I’ve heard they are basically re-doing Chuck season 3 right down to a Buy More and using Brandon Routh.

      • uplink2 says:

        It’s funny I was thinking about that when I wrote my comments earlier. What would the reaction have been if Three Words came a week later? More negative I expect. Three Words gave the false and as I mentioned, one could almost say mean-spirited, deception that this awful road would not last that long. But as Dave said that was all thrown away when First Class aired and the real intent of this season began to play out once and for all. But the Captain is right that Fake Name is where I really felt like I was being dismissed and almost laughed at for actually caring about good storytelling and what happened to these characters. It’s why I contemplated leaving the show very seriously then. All hope for a believable and enjoyable story was lost and I was made to feel like the writer was almost spitting in my face. Mask is just such an awful episode that it didn’t bother me as much. It is so terribly written and executed that its laughable.

        I agree with the comments about how the disaster of season 3 has made me less tolerant of shows poor writing and TV troupe filled storylines. After Dan Harmon left Community I watched 4 episodes of the next season and have never watched again. Even when he came back the crappy writing of that season just turned my stomach and the show was no longer funny on any level. As far as Arrow goes I had said once they cast Routh I wouldn’t ever watch it but decided to give it a try and I have to say I found this season juvenile and the scene with Felicity getting all tingly seeing Shaw, I mean Ray, in a towel with no shirt on and then jumping into bed with him was so cliche and such an uncomfortable deja vu that all it needed was Scott Krinsky to walk into the scene and take Felicity into the bathroom for the blooper reel to make it all complete. I found it not to my liking and have since stopped watching.

        Network TV is just too caught up in the same predictable storylines that you can almost write their outline for the 6 seasons and a movie. I like Scorpion but they are taking the same predictable path with their central relationship as every other show and distract you with a secondary relationship actually happening while they delay the primary. I guess that’s why cable with its greater freedom is attracting the better writers and sometimes the unexpected actually happens. Chuck had the chance to be different in season 3 but they chickened out and went for the contrived and predictable and lost a chance for some real greatness.

      • thinkling says:

        Ernie, funny about Arrow. I guess it is S3 all over again, but somehow it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I don’t even mind BR. I’ve never watched Arrow for any of the romances, so … meh. It IS a CW show, after all. I set the bar low for CW shows and have a hard and fast rule not to invest in the romances. It’s just a fun super-hero show, kind of like Smallville or Flash.

      • atcDave says:

        I wish I could have found peace by lowering expectations like Ernie did. But I was just so furious that something beautiful had been so utterly ruined.
        Although my exact timing may be different than some. Much as I disliked Pink Slip I was okay with the next few. I disliked First Class and Nacho Sampler but it wasn’t until Mask and Fake Name that I realized I’d been played. And in a way, I’ve mourned for the great show that was Chuck ever since. It just could never be the same after that.
        Tic Tac was a slightly better episode, but I am so angered at how easy and obvious it is to fix what was wrong, and yet things got worse again before they got better. By the end of American Hero I was just glad for the light at the end of the tunnel.

        I can’t actually do the “watch” part of this re-watch.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, to me Tic Tac is the best of those first twelve for two reasons. First, no Shaw. Any episode in that first arc without him is better than any with him except maybe this one Pink Slip. Secondly it felt the most like a season 2 episode to me. It was about the team I was invested in dealing with and working together to fight the baddie. Plus after the totally pathetic version of Sarah Walker we saw in Beard it was nice to see a bit of Agent Walker’s brilliance again. Plus her dismissal of meeting Shaw was great. But unfortunately that was all thrown away with the taxi scene. I would have loved the deleted scene to be used instead as it is one of my favorite scenes both from the symbolism and a great Chuck and Morgan moment. But I can rematch Tic Tact and enjoy it. I just stop it 30 seconds before the credits roll.

      • atcDave says:

        Uplink I agree exactly with all of that.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        But Ernie, isn’t the lack of resolution, in essence, what kills the story that came before it. (For me it is.)

        In this case Other Guy isn’t enough of a payoff for the misery arc. More globally, the finale wipes out the series (you know what I mean).

      • duckman says:

        I’m far,far less tolerant of tropes, idiotic storylines , and particularly characters I hate. I got burned by 5 shows within a year pulling all the s3 stunts, I haven’t invested in a show since. I considered watching a few eps of arrow and then quitting when shaw showed up just out of spite, but just said screw it. I suspect part of it is I’m older now. I know for a fact the finale affected my view of tv, it absolutely retroactively tarnished everything before it as well a other shows. I’ve said it before- fedak ruined it for everyone, with both extremes, the pilot and the finale.

      • atcDave says:

        The older thing is funny; I know beyond a doubt I’m more sure than ever of my taste and opinions. And Chuck did leave me a little cranky with starting a show I had to love, then using elements I despise. Oy!

        Funny about BR too. I truly don’t blame him for what I see primarily as a writer’s malfunction. But when I’ve seen him show up on other things I watch I feel very disappointed and unhappy about it.

      • uplink2 says:

        As far as BR goes what will be interesting to watch is they reportedly are spinning of “The Atom” for his own series. I will say that his character is better written on Arrow than it was on Chuck but still his performance leaves a lot to be desired. He simply isn’t a charismatic actor and I wonder if he will be able to carry the series as a lead. His appeal is his looks, not his ability to act or engage an audience. That goes back to Superman when he was cast purely on his looking so much like Chris Reeve and the character. Now true as Think points out this is the CW and the standards for quality and viewership are much, much lower, but I find it hard to believe that he will be able to carry it off. We shall see I guess. But I know I won’t be watching that’s for sure.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        OK, yeah, so Chuck was a life changing event, the greatest thing to ever hit the airwaves. But it was also just a TV show that hit a rough patch. It was a bunch of folks trying to do the best with what they had and working really hard to try to give the fans something great, and falling short on occasion.

        When they were great, they were really great, and that deserves celebration, but when they were struggling, I think that deserves sympathy and understanding as opposed to hostility and derision. Disappointment is fine, possibly disillusionment too. But these are just people working on insane schedules under intense pressure. Season 2 was astounding, but to expect them to produce at that level with a shortened production schedule, a reduced staff and a smaller budget is just plain unrealistic.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie I truly do understand that. And when I look at the good of Chuck I can mostly convince myself to give them a Mulligan for S3. But it is very easy to feel less charitable too.
        At this point, it is what it is. I see a mostly brilliant TV show. With one major, spectacular screw up.

      • uplink2 says:

        Ernie, while I understand the point you are trying to make I don’t think it really excuses poor performance. In my job as a manager I’ve had to deal with reduced budgets, reduced staff but equal or even expanded expectations. I’ve been told on a number of occasions that those points were simply excuses and did not change what I was expected to do as a manager. I had to use the budget and staff I was given to the best of my ability and to still meet expectations. Sure we could use some technology to assist us and bought a number of automation systems to help us but the expectations never changed. If I don’t get the job done well even with those constraints I will get fired. It’s as simple as that. I think the same can be applied here. One fewer shooting day and changes in some of the staff doesn’t excuse bad writing, poor casting and poor execution. It’s just an excuse to try to explain away that they, the show runners in this case, made some really bad choices and it showed in the final product. I don’t believe they intended to make a bad product in the least but I do think their ego and hubris got in the way many times. The post Mask damage control interview for example was offensive and dismissive and they seemed completely tone deaf. But the fact of the matter is they stumbled, and stumbled greatly at times. There were plenty of ways to write a tighter, more well crafted, more enjoyable storyline but they chose one that didn’t work. I can’t and I won’t give them a pass on that. I know my boss wouldn’t do that for me either nor should he.

        The fact of the matter is they had their greatest asset, and one that was not affected by the reductions in staff and money, the Chuck and Sarah chemistry, and they benched it for 12 and a half episodes. Hell they even benched their second best asset, Team B for almost just as long. And they substituted it with an incredibly weak and destructive character and storyline that tore apart what had worked so well for them. Yes they tried to give something great but the fact of the matter is they chose to misuse, or not use actually, their best assets to tell a great story and they failed. It’s as simple as that. They made choices that didn’t work and that weren’t caused by the lack of money or shooting days or staff changes. When a team loses some of its assets (players or money) they don’t bench their best assets for third stringers and cast offs, they give them more minutes. But that’s exactly what Schwedak did. For that they don’t get a pass from me.

      • thinkling says:

        I can, and did, have sympathy for difficulties of schedules and budgets and pressure. And that might have mitigated by feelings about S3, if the disappointment of the misery arc could be directly linked back to those burdens. But the disappointment of the misery arc (for me, and I suspect the majority of torch and pitchfork bearers) had nothing to do with any of that. It was their choice of story, which I wouldn’t have liked, even if they had continued to produce the show at the same stunning levels of S2.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah what she said! Very well put.

      • uplink2 says:

        Exactly my point Think. I agree completely. What made S3 so miserable and so disheartening to watch wasn’t based on anything that involved money or resources really. It was the choices the showrunners and writers made before spending a single dime and shooting a single frame of video. The first script written was this one. And the entire raison d’etre for this script is to do a total reset on the central relationship and bring in one more round of OLI’s to get to the couple finally getting together in the finale. Where in that statement does shortness of money become involved? It doesn’t. It was purely the story choice the made that failed and then they executed it even more poorly. That’s why they get no pass from me.

  5. noblz says:

    I haven’t decided which is worse, PS or FN, either way they are numbers 90 and 91 on my list.

    As some of you know, I did not watch Seasons 1 and 2 as broadcast but on DVD. In fact I powered through S2 between Friday evening and Sunday (premier day) afternoon. Imagine my shock as I settled in with an adult beverage and then was treated to PS. Good thing 3Ws and Angel (next day) were good episodes or even I might have bailed. None of the people we recruited made it through PS. I hung in there and am glad, but PS started some bad TV, The nadir of which was from the last 8 mins of Mask through the middle of AH (TicTac excepted, that was a good episode).

    This episode set up what was for me the thing that did the most damage to S3, FauxSarah. You know the dumb, cruel and incompetent one. First she dreams up an idiotic plan that makes her look like, well…an idiot. Then the way she treats Chuck as a result of the failure of her dumb plan. Yikes! it just went South from there.

    I am absolutely with Uplink on the false hope point. End of 3Ws, Angel, Awesome, even the end of Nacho Sampler could have been a positive. Take Mask, to me with Sarah’s refusal of Shaw and the bicker-fighting, I was sure the misery was going to end there, but then they made Sarah pull a 720 degree spin at the end. It must have made Yvonne dizzy.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with all of that Noblz. It was a tough time to be a Chuck fan!

    • uplink2 says:

      noblz, that’s why I felt so insulted. The false hope was there just to distract us. There never was any real hope until Chuck had his “epiphany” of saying he loved her,… for the third time. I mean how can he have an epiphany of something he said to his father, to her directly, and now to his best friend? It didn’t make sense. And we could also throw in Seduction and Lethal Weapon as times he sort of said he loved her. If we didn’t get that moment after almost leaving after Fake Name I probably would have quit the series. I hated the pathetic version of Sarah in Beard but at least there was some hope for Chuck. But none of the moments that you mention as places for reconciliation meant anything because it was all driven by nothing being resolved till 3.13. And as the Captain has pointed out many times that strategy lessened that moment greatly. It didn’t seem earned nor did it make up for all the misery it took to get there. As we have talked about before holding off on the Sarah killing Eve element did nothing to ramp up the drama. If we had learned that tidbit earlier it would have added a much needed element to the spy story. But waiting till I was so over this story and just wanted it to end to reveal that critical element made it meaningless. I couldn’t have cared less that Sarah killed Eve by that point. I had no investment in Shaw’s story, I just wanted him gone.

      • duckman says:

        I was willing to forgive and forget until they brought shaw back from the dead. That just feels like an fu from the writers. I doubt it is, as I know plenty on here like those eps, and I suspect that was planned before they could have known anyone’s opinion good or bad. the s5 return is the one that gets to me. I sometimes wonder if they really were so out of touch as to think there’s only a handfull of folks like me, were they stuck in “sell it” pr mode, or were they really as arrogant and uncaring as they seemed to me. That’s the lasting impression I get personally- that the writers hated me as a person.

      • atcDave says:

        I felt that way on occasion too duckman. But I think the bottom line is the show runner has a different relationship with his own creation than we ever can. He may have thought we would all laugh along with him about it, and he may have felt it was a lunatic fringe of hard core ‘shippers who disliked S3.
        I know CF described Shaw as a villain the “fans loved to hate”. I think he badly misread it. Roark or Volkoff would be villains we loved to hate; Shaw we just wanted to be gone.
        At best, I’d call it a joke that fell flat.

      • uplink2 says:

        Here is where I will agree with Ernie. Shaw was brought back in the back 6 of S3 for 2 reasons. First, money. It was simply cheaper to bring him back than to create a different storyline to get us to a finale. Second, the pressure of writing a believable last only 6 episodes. They needed a villain and didn’t have time to really set up a convincing villain for the finale arc. Shaw was used out of convenience mostly. Plus Fedak thought he was a great villain and said so. I will admit he was a better villain than good guy but he still ranks at the middle of the pack for me behind Volkoff, Roark and a number of Fulcrum baddies.

        But bringing him back in S5 was pure hubris. He knew how he was viewed and even said something about bringing back characters even if the fans don’t want them back. It was also probably a mis-guided attempt to grab ratings. Leaking it 2 weeks before was a blatant attempt at that. That wasn’t very successful either. But it still reeks of hubris and a bit of “its my show and I don’t care what you think” and a bit of laziness in terms of writing a convincing conspiracy. Having Shaw behind it was a total cop out and a surrendering that they couldn’t write a decent conspiracy behind all of it like the promised at the end of season 4 and in Zoom.

      • thinkling says:

        And then to bring him back again in S5. Oy.

        Personally I think they should have left Shaw dead and brought Eve back as the big bad for the rest of S3. That would have made it very interesting, and it would have solved two big problems: Sarah’s red test guilt and burden would have been lightened, and Chuck’s killing Shaw would have been given the weight it deserved.

      • atcDave says:

        Eve would have been an interesting baddie.
        It is funny how Chuck shooting Shaw was one of the show’s really great dramatic moments, certainly the best of S3. And then they undid it…
        ‘Cause they couldn’t have just undone the whole rest of the season…

      • uplink2 says:

        I’ve seen Eve used in a few fics as both a baddie and a victim. But this idea makes a lot of sense. But in their mind when the back 6 was ordered they were still under the illusion that “it is going to be great”.

  6. Martin Traynor says:

    Funny thing, but I’ve been a fan for a few years, but only now have I seen the season 3 deleted scenes. I guess when it comes to season 3 episodes, I either liked them so much I wanted to go on to the next one, or hated them so much I couldn’t wait to extricate them from the DVD player. Some of those scenes, esp. With Morgan, we’re pretty good.

    With regards to Arrow, I’m not disliking Routh, but if I at all cared about the Oliver/felicity relationship, I’d be crying déjà vulgar all over again. Even his back story is similar in that his wife was shot and he’s still harboring thoughts of revenge.

    • thinkling says:

      I’m on the same Arrow page as you, Martin. I made a conscious determination not to invest in the various Arrow relationships (it’s being a CW show and all), so Routh doesn’t bother me. I did roll my eyes at the plot similarities, however. That said, I too would have doubts about him pulling off the lead of his own series.

      • oldresorter says:

        I’m identical to that think and martin. It’s interesting how much control the writers have in how I feel about characters. Ray Palmer is a fun character, written as likeable. I hate the story, but the character is well done. In many ways, he’s getting all of the fun lines fed to him Felicity used to get. Felicity on the other hand, is getting awful writing this season … or is it she is being asked to carry a heavier dramatic load? Either way, she went from a lovable wisecrackin sidekick, to a real debbie downer in any scene she’s in with Team Arrow.

        I think the POV of the lead character comes into play. Oliver or Rick Castle not getting the girl for a while is funny. Chuck Bartowski not getting the girl has to be done carefully and is usually painful to watch, especially when he is being portrayed as a loser anyhow – i.e. Pink Slip or most of season 3’s early arc or even at the beginning of the final ep of the show. It’s why Sarah not getting Chuck was always funny, almost charming watching her get jealous. Some interpreted that as sexist, I think it’s more about who the more dominant sexually attractive partner is / was.

      • atcDave says:

        Excellent point OR about how we see these characters and its effect on the romance.

  7. jifw52 says:

    I love these compilations of recaps of Chuck episodes that Chuck This has been doing, but why have you all not posted anything about the upcoming Chuck Official Television Soundtrack from Chuck composer Tim Jones?

  8. oldresorter says:

    I came to the internet after Pink Slip, to find answers. I was somewhat in a state of shock over the story told, was curious if I was the only one. I found out when I looked, I was not. The divide between fans that took place still remains today, bitter ugly feelings, still exist. Amazing really. Oh well?

    Chuck S3 changed how I view tv forever. I no longer let myself root for the leading couple, as I pretty much know they will go thru the cycle:

    1 – incredible writing leading to great chemistry
    2 – lovers introduced to scale back the relationship
    3 – then they find each other after a while

    Chuck did phase 1 as well as I’ve seen it done, phase 2 as poorly, phase 3 had a few hickups, but overall was back to pretty darned good. I find myself liking shows the most that manage the cycles the best. Some shows do the cycle more than once even.

    As for season 3, it’s not my least favorite part of Chuck any longer, that would be season 5’s last two eps. At some point I’ve grown to be OK with Chuck, I simply accept that I don’t really like how the creative team viewed their show when they introduced ‘drama’. That was not true only in S3 or S5’s final. I almost never liked it, Cole, Bryce, Morgansect, Rye, Sarah almost killed Casey and leaving to save Mary, Sarah getting norseman’s, killing Orion, Santa ep from Hell, Shaw showdown in the ring, etc. I sure liked the Rom-com version of the show. I don’t think I’ll ever like one part of a show so much, and the other part of the show so little again. In some ways, I won’t let myself.

  9. Martin Traynor says:

    As I’ve said before, the C/S relationship was the anchor of the show for me, but I easily could have gone another season or two of them dancing around each other, only WITHOUT the OLIs. What I loved about seasons 1 and 2 was the growing relationship between them. The flirting. The longing. The giving in. The two steps forward, one step back (or one step forward, two steps back). We even got a little of that in S3 until Hannah came into the picture. But those darned “love” interests really mucked up the works.

    But getting back to off topic, I’m really enjoying Flash much more than Arrow this season. Except for the love rhombus that is Linda/Barry/Iris/Eddie. But the whole Dr. Wells story is fascinating.

    • atcDave says:

      I think it could have worked if they’d built up the external obstacles. Maybe with increased security due to Chuck’s heightened value with the 2.0.
      But I was more than ready for them to just get on with it already. And given how awesome Charah was from Honeymooners on, I would have preferred more of that, not less.
      No doubt though, the OLIs were the real deal breaker. They were the difference between me being a little impatient, or so POed I couldn’t see straight.

    • uplink2 says:

      I agree. I wanted them to be together but there were so many ways to keep them apart that were real, honest and built from existing canon and mythology. The problem was they picked the one way that wasn’t viable anymore, OLI’s. After Colonel that was a non-starter even if it was better written, better cast and better executed. It was simply not going to play with a significant portion of the fanbase. That “ship” had sailed.

      After Ring the threat of being bunkered was discarded so they needed some external threat to the relationship still. Personally I’ve always loved the secret relationship idea as it retained some possible drama of them being reassigned and separated if caught. But OLI’s just were the wrong choice.

  10. Martin Traynor says:

    I agree with all that. I wanted them together from the pilot. But I could have handled them being together without them being together, if you know what I mean. As long as there was some momentum moving forward in their relationship (however defined), even at a snail’s pace, and there were “moments” between the two of them, I was OK…Sure I wanted them together, but under no circumstances did i want them with others. EVER.

    I’m just glad they didn’t go even further and have someone get pregnant by someone else…I’ve seen other shows do that, and it’s the worst. Stupid TV at its finest….

  11. I was thinking of making some comments on this particular episode, but if the comments so far are sufficient evidence, we’ll be talking about the “misery arc” every week for the next three months. My sentiments are a bit unusual here, but I still think that season three was the last really good season of Chuck. I had very much of a “sitting on the edge of my seat” feeling during this season, as I did with seasons one and two, and unlike seasons four and five, for the most part. I cared for Chuck, and especially for Sarah, in the struggle they were going through. Arguments I hear are that the angst was contrived and the eventual resolution in 3.13 unearned. I’m no expert in story composition, but to me it unfolded organically and in keeping with the essence of the characters as we had come to know them over the previous seasons.

    The resolution to the main problem in season four, the search for Mom Bartowski, and the confusing roadblocks thrown in Chuck’s way, was not compelling TV, in my opinion, although there were certainly compelling episodes or scenes within episodes, here and there. Season five, with Sarah’s Intersect-induced amnesia, was a trope that belonged in a daytime soap opera. The highlights for me during those last two seasons probably revolved around Yvonne’s incredible acting at critical points. I read an article recently about how one can evaluate acting quality. As I recall, the main point was, if the actor was not speaking, did you have any sense of the interior life of the character. Well, with Yvonne, we often got as much or more from Sarah when she didn’t speak as when she did.

    Thus endeth the “rant. Hereafter, I will try to focus on the episodes.

    Russ / resaw

    • atcDave says:

      My main dispute would just be that S3 is when I stopped liking the character of Chuck. The show managed to be fun again; but I no longer had as much respect or affection for the main character.
      To me, it has to be about the character first, before the story matters at all. And since the character lost me in S3, the story never mattered one iota.
      I might agree with saying the main story of S4 was less compelling than S2. But at least with the character being better behaved I was able to enjoy the show again. Even if some aspects of its specialness were gone forever.

    • uplink2 says:

      Russ, I’m not going to comment on the contrivances as I think I’ve said enough about that but I will comment about the unearned resolution. The first point that really sticks out to me is how did Sarah go from not trusting Chuck for the very first time in the entire series, breaking that connection she had with him and her belief in him we saw countless times throughout the first 2 seasons to saying she loved him, then telling him she is leaving him to be with Shaw in DC to saying she loved him for the first time in the series less than 42 minutes of screen time later? Its as big an about face as she did in Mask. At no point during that entire season to that point does her relationship with Chuck grow to anywhere near approaching what it was at the end of Colonel. But we are just to accept that they are now together. Though I loved the moment when I look at things in total I think it was an unsatisfying and unearned moment. Its one of the reasons I loved Fogh’s Rome Assignment story so much. That moment should have broken Chuck and gotten him royally pissed because he realized she had put him in the no-win scenario with his red test. She went along with Shaw’s plan and willingly used herself as the prize he would never attain and when he confronted her and asked her to believe him that it was more than she thought, she didn’t. She walked away to go with the man that manipulated her into doing it. But then in less than one episode’s time she is saying she loves him. Which is it Sarah?

      Again I loved the scene but the resolution in Other Guy was more about it is episode 13 and we need to put them together and less about it actually growing out of the story being told.

    • uplink2 says:

      Damn no edit button. But I should have deleted the first “to saying she loved him” in that sentence before the comma.

  12. So a couple of comments about this particular episode:
    Watching the opening scene, and especially Sarah’s expression of her desire to get away from the spy life so that Chuck doesn’t turn into her, I find that my thoughts are informed by Arya’s Prayers’ “Becoming” fanfic. That story outlines the dark personal formation of the woman known as Sarah Walker, her sense of unworthiness of a normal life, of a normal relationship, and suggests why she might choose to run away from the spy life. She would want to do so in order to keep Chuck from that life, no matter how impractical it may be, or how out of character it would be for Chuck to abandon his sense of duty, loyalty and connection to his family.

    Chuck: “I can’t. I’m sorry.” I was quite moved yet again, when I saw Sarah’s expression in response, and Chuck’s for that matter, too, when he declines to leave with Sarah in the flashback to the Prague train station. These scenes never get old for me.

  13. anthropocene says:

    I think the events that led up to the scene at the train station, largely glossed over in the rush to reboot Chuck and Sarah and their relationship, would themselves have made for a much more interesting season opener. So: Start with the mission against Javier; but with the team still intact, Chuck struggling to control the Intersect 2.0 (with some spectacular and perhaps comedic failures) but doubly determined to become a true spy—while Sarah, worried about the effects of the 2.0 and of losing “her Chuck”—gradually devises a more thoughtful plan to extract them both from the CIA. Casey could be on the fence, seeing merit in Chuck going super-spy but also in a normal life for the partners he clearly cares about. Meanwhile, Beckman clearly wants the super-spy and clearly pushes Chuck in that direction. I could envision Sarah and Chuck’s private talk in Castle as a climactic scene at the end, in which Sarah delivers her heartfelt plea for them to escape together, and Chuck has the opportunity to counter with the equally heartfelt intent to become a spy—because Sarah herself set the selfless example for him. Sarah, through tears, nods in understanding and agreement, then turns sadly away from Chuck—and the last thing we see before the episode ends is Sarah taking out two plane tickets to someplace far away and tearing them up. I’d see something like that as a more in-character way to set up the fresh angst and separation that seems to have been foreordained for S3 by TPTB. The nature of the angst could have been Chuck and Sarah’s attempt to revert to a purely professional relationship, in spite of their still-strong attraction, without the silly love triangles. And it could have been resolved by means of much of the basic S3 plot we saw, just with Shaw as hard-ass spy-trainer to Chuck rather than half-assed LI for Sarah.

    • atcDave says:

      That all still sounds a bit dreary for me. But no doubt, just getting rid of the LI angle would have helped enormously. The difference between “not favorite episodes” and “character destroying idiocy”.
      Then if we’d actually had a story of Chuck and Sarah trying to prioritize work vs love together; it could have ultimately grown the characters instead of looking like just another WB teen soap.

      • anthropocene says:

        I don’t think we could have avoided further angst and wt/wt in S3, but it could have been handled better as most fans agree.
        Regarding dreary: I do admittedly gravitate a bit more toward the darkness in “Chuck,” mostly because (for me anyway) it renders the spy world more authentic and also heightens the thrill when the happy events do happen.

      • atcDave says:

        I was done with that particular brand of dark at Colonel. I get that the spy world could occasionally be scary, but the ship had sailed on that game.

  14. On a totally different matter, my wife and I packed up our car with my dialysis equipment and supplies and took a bit of a trip recently. atcDave, I suspect you would have been interested in the part of our trip that took us to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I’m a bit reluctant to confirm gender stereotypes but it was interesting to see all the men geeking out on the airplanes, etc., while the women accompanying them were often yawning or otherwise walking along with a glazed look in their eyes.

    • atcDave says:

      Ah yes, I know that look well! My poor wife…

    • anthropocene says:

      Not to diss the incredibly cool Air & Space Museum, but I hope you saw some of the other Smithsonian museums too. Not to mention the nearby Spy Museum…?

      • atcDave says:

        There are other museums?

        Kidding. I particularly like the American History Museum. And even the art museums my wife dragged me in to weren’t completely awful!

        (Russ is on his own!)

      • We didn’t have much time, unfortunately, Anthro, and on top of that, the inevitable slow walking involved in museum-ing (that’s a verb, isn’t it?) takes its toll on my back and feet. Anyway, we saw the Holocaust Museum and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian as well. I wish I’d seen more of the latter, but we got there too late in the day. We immediately talked about going back to DC for several more days sometime in the future to give the others their due. American History and Natural History would be my two other must sees. I saw an ad on the Metro for the Spy Museum. My wife, not a fan of Chuck (sigh), was not as enthralled at the prospect as was I.

        Art museums: we’ve bought CityPasses for a couple of places in the past (San Francisco and New York) which included art museums or galleries. Both of us tend to speed walk through those places (uncultured philistine!).

      • anthropocene says:

        For sure, it’s difficult if not impossible to see all of the Smithsonian on one trip, Russ. I worked in Washington for two summers and spent most of my weekends there—and still didn’t get through it all. The NMAI is one of my favorites (and I know one of its architects), as is the Natural History museum.

        My wife and I visited the International Spy Museum last summer for the first time, and it took us an entire afternoon to see it all. It was absolutely fantastic—and even those who are not fans of “Chuck” or any other form of espionage stories will probably enjoy it just for all the history it holds.

      • atcDave says:

        My wife an I spent a week there and still left plenty undone; like the Spy Museum!

  15. It is intriguing how the declining series arc of Chuck made not just me, but many of you, less tolerant of poor story telling choices.

    Quite fascinating.

    Recent shows I have dropped include Arrow and Sleepy Hollow for the very same reasons. I agree with Cap that 12 Monkeys is doing great stuff. As is Hannibal.

    The other thing that the declining series arc of Chuck did for me is to retroactively appreciate how wonderfully Farscape handled it’s and really stuck the landing – especially with John and Aeryn.

    • Grrr – lack of an edit function is a killer.

      ‘Farscape handled it’s and really stuck the landing – especially with John and Aeryn.’

      should be

      Farscape handled it’s series arc and really stuck the landing – especially with John and Aeryn.

      Also, Farscape was far from perfect and had bumpy patches – though ironically its third season was its best – but it stay true to the characters throughout.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      One thing season 3 taught me was how to watch Chuck, specifically, and how to watch TV more generally. It was the process of taking apart episodes that either did or didn’t work and seeing what it was that kept it from working that really helped me appreciate how hard it is to make something with as many moving parts as Chuck, or any TV show really work. It made me appreciate the ones that click really well so much more and while it made me a bit less forgiving as far as sticking with a show that wasn’t working, I don’t get angry about it, I just quit and move on. I tried to get in to both Flash and Arrow based on a lot of the Chuck fandom loving them, but couldn’t. Sleepy Hollow lost me late season 1. Started Farscape but found the whole muppet thing off-putting and just sort of fizzled out. Of course it is now even more heartbreaking when you see one that nails it right out of the gate (Enlisted anyone?) and it gets “Firefly-ed” by Fox.

  16. DKD says:

    (Only dropping this here because, it’s the most active place currently)

    This is a good, thoughtful piece on criticism. I thought you might be interested. BTW–it was the Farscape group on Facebook that brought it to my attention.

    Reading what Lou just read about Farscape “sticking the landing” makes me remember otherwise. There was actually a lot of criticism when the show aired about how they were doing John and it was pretty heated. I didn’t share it, but I remember the arguments.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with most of that commentary; and readers can find our own more Chuck-centric version of that editorial here.
        It is always a fine line between having a passionate opinion and making it too personal, too directed at the individuals involved and not at matters of style, taste or opinion. We do need to remember that even in the strongest differences of taste its not a moral judgement. If we conclude a particular story-teller or performer has radically different style preference from our own it doesn’t make them a bad person, even it does impact our viewing or reading choices.
        I think the first point or objective to criticism is to inform others who may have similar taste; the second point is to improve something (as a trend or style, already produced or published works are unlikely to be altered!); and a final point, especially if the others fail, is as notice that a particular story-teller has certain tendencies that may require an adjustment of expectations or even avoidance of their work. But even in the most extreme cases a measured tone is more likely to make a point than a more inflammatory one.

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