Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Angel de la Muerte (3.03)

NBC Synopsis: CHUCK ALWAYS PROTECTS HIS FAMILY FROM HIS SPY LIFE BUT CAN’T STOP ELLIE AND AWESOME FROM STUMBLING INTO AN INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT—ARMAND ASSANTE (“AMERICAN GANGSTER”) GUEST STARS—Chuck (Zachary Levi) must use his relationship with Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) to protect a visiting dictator, Premier Goya (guest star Armand Assante), who is the target of an assassination. While Awesome is excited about the prospect of being a spy, Chuck (Zachary Levi) is more concerned about Awesome and Ellie’s (Sarah Lancaster) safety.

Chuck This Ranking: 53
Dave’s Ranking: I agree

First Impressions: Open Reaction Thread, Part Deux by Joe
Final First Thoughts by Joe

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs Angel de la Muerte (3.03) by Ernie and Joe
S3 Revisited: Angel de la Muerte (3.03) by Dave

Arc Write Up: Chuck gets his Walking Papers by Ernie

Alternatives: Season Three Alternatives: Angel de la Muerte by Dave

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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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8 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Angel de la Muerte (3.03)

  1. In his full write up of a couple of years ago, Joe wrote about, “Charles helicoptering in to Echo Park fresh from a mission – the spy we always knew he was meant to be.” In this latest re-watch it occurred to me that the reason he was not successful in his spy training, as shown in Pink Slip, was because he was being trained to follow the standard CIA (or perhaps NSA) model of a spy. Once he was back in Burbank, he was teamed up with Sarah and Casey, and able to go out on missions where he could practice his spy-craft in the fashion that he deemed appropriate for him. Beckman wanted him to fit into some cookie-cutter mould of a spy, including apparently, routinely shooting to kill your enemy. With Chuck in control of the situation, and not forced to kill, his strengths were allowed to come to the fore. He came across as thoroughly competent in this episode.

    Chuck: “I could fake being friends.”
    Sarah: “I don’t find you completely repulsive.”
    Not exactly the words we were hoping to hear, but it suggests a substantial rehabilitation of their relationship compared to where they were in Pink Slip when we saw Sarah tossing her phone in the pool. Unfortunately, both at the level of public cover and confidential professional relationships, they are single, unattached, and this allows them both to explore other relationships, whether or not they are appropriate. Given the way they looked at each other at the Costa Gravan gala, though, while Chuck was talking to Devon, and Sarah with Ellie, it seems to me that they both feel much more than friendship but it’s the best that they can do for now, or perhaps the best that Sarah will allow.

    Russ / resaw

    • atcDave says:

      Yes it sets up a perfectly repulsive status quo suited to a show I have no interest in watching.

    • uplink2 says:

      Russ, I half disagree and agree with your premise about why Chuck failed at Spy school. Yes they were training him to be the perfect CIA/NSA model spy and that didn’t fit his skill set well but I think that position is too simplistic and doesn’t recognize a much larger and much deeper reason. That is Chuck’s emotional state. He knows he screwed up in how he handled Prague and ultimately betrayed Sarah by his horrible treatment of her there. He realizes he has lost her by his own actions in not clarifying that he wasn’t rejecting her but rejecting running away. That forced contrivance and OOC action by Chuck is what they had to do to set up the LI’s that were to come. And it eats at him. So yes they were trying to train him in a manner he wasn’t suited for but even if they had trained him appropriately he still would have failed because his emotions were still devastated by his behavior towards Sarah. He knew he hurt her deeply, and treated her horribly in Prague and IMO he would still have failed spy school. But again Prague has nothing to do with the spy story they are trying to tell. It was simply to tear them apart, reset the relationship back to negative 1 to allow for the LI’s they so desperately wanted. And in this episode he is successful also because he has Sarah by his side again and he believes that they “will clean the mess up”.

      The same can be said about this episode and the scenes you describe as like last week they lose much of their importance and significance because they like the surveillance video are later shown to be nothing but false hope and meaningless. The looks, the easily perceived love they still feel for each other, the “friendship” all is treated like it never happened 2 weeks from now when the second relationship reset gets thrust in our face. When Chuck is made to look like a terrible cad and just like the “standard CIA spy” of feelings mean nothing and all he wants to do is get laid.Trying to have a personal life without recognizing the lessons he had already learned. Therefore taking advantage of a woman who threw herself at him in a pretty disgusting yet spy like manner.

      But again all of the really good stuff about this episode is lost by what happens in two weeks when the real story they wanted to tell begins, 1 more trip to the empty LI well. Watching this episode in a vacuum it comes off very well but in the context of what is to come it is diminished greatly. It becomes meaningless fill.

      This episode is a good example of one of the problems that developed that season. The shipper/non-shipper fracture. TPTB made the Charah relationship front and center this season, not the shippers. Look at this episode, the A plot is the relationship story. And the shippers went nutz because that A story was disregarded. I think many of we shippers here would have been far less disappointed with this season if episodes like this one and Three Words actually were followed through on and meant something to the story. If had led to Chuck realizing what he was becoming and was still the good man who would have rejected Hannah’s advances instead of taking her to bed. Had he been the good man who can’t live a lie with someone when he is in love with someone else. But none of that happens and it only pushes the relationship story further to the front and the spy story further to the background and it just expands the rift in the fanbase. Somethign that the show never fully recovered from.

      • atcDave says:

        There’s no doubt Uplink that you, Crumby, Kate McK, NinjaVanish and many other Chuck fans came up with vastly more appealing stories for this time period. Canon manages to pull off the one thing I can’t stand, Chuck and Sarah give up on each other.

      • I’m clearly going to have to read the stories you mention, Dave. So many out there, so few waking hours in my day. I’ve got Marc’s (Authorguy’s) latest instalment of “Nine2five” to read, and the next chapter of Arya’s Prayers’ “Becoming” just came out today. I’ll stop whining now.

        Uplink, I don’t know what to tell you. You see things so differently than I. I agree that Chuck wasn’t the same show, but for me, the story-telling really started getting weak in season 4. Even in the darkest episodes of season 3, I always felt that there was a way forward for Chuck and Sarah, and in the meantime, the tension in the show drove the story forward and had me hooked deep. I always looked forward to what was coming next. In season 4, it was more like, I hope they do better in the next episode. I guess we simply looked at different things, or I overlooked what you clearly saw as egregious mistakes.

      • atcDave says:

        The bottom line for me will always be that I disliked Chuck and Sarah in most of S3, so story makes no difference whatsoever. Pink Slip created a new, grotesque parody of the show and characters I previously loved so it earns a special spot in television history for me. Easily the single greatest television disappointment of my life.
        S4 returned us to a good place. By the end of Anniversary I felt like I could like these characters again, and it was mostly all good from there. In spite of a few hiccups S4 remains my favorite of the series.

      • uplink2 says:

        Russ, I will agree with you that at times in season 4 the storytelling got weak. There were huge plot holes, the suppression glasses and how Mary knew about them or that Orion didn’t want him to see them etc. Mary’s 20 year mission etc. There were lots of them. So on that we agree, but I take 2 big things from that. First it brings up a discussion we have had many times. If you like and are enjoying the story being told and how the characters are reacting, you tend to ignore the problems because you are being entertained. The whole suppression of disbelief is much easier if you are enjoying what you are seeing. If you don’t, then the problems get amplified. Things become so glaring that they even bury the good stuff under a mound of crap. This is a perfect example of what happened to me. I hated the story being told in season 3 and the problems are so glaring and obvious to me that I can’t get past them. In season 4 its the opposite. I loved the characters and the tone of the story. The fun was back and the blatant flaws didn’t bother me as much. This was the show I wanted to see. Plus Volkoff and Dalton were fantastic villains and I absolutely loved the final showdown. Push Mix is to me at least the absolute best possible finale episode they ever did. Its a perfect culmination to that journey. And Other Guy, though it has 3 fantastic scenes is really an unearned resolution and to me at least in the culmination of the entire Shaw storyline to that point, the cafe scene, Routh give his absolute worst performance of an already poor season. He was simply dreadful in that scene. Other Guy is made great because we got Honeymooners. If we hadn’t I think many would have been upset with it as a series finale.

        Second I attribute the lack of any real tension and “stakes” in season 4 to the failure of season 3. Instead of realizing what they had done wrong in season 3 and simply doing it better, in season 4 they took the easy way out. They gave us a very enjoyable but safe season instead. I remember OD saying that he loved season 3 as the best of times and the worst of times. He saw that it was the last season that there were real stakes in the show. On that I can agree to an extent. But for me the problem is that the worst of times was so bad that I have great difficulty enjoying the best of times. This episode and the previous one are great examples of that. Viewed in isolation they are very good episodes but viewed in the context of the entire season they are diminished because they never fulfilled the promise of these episodes. They were false hope and therefore my enjoyment of that is lessened because I feel deceived by them and not in a good way. They just feel hollow now and I feel like a fool for believing in that hope. What we got instead made me dislike the central characters immensely. They weren’t simply human beings making mistakes but they became a total douche as in Chuck’s case and a total loser and incompetent in Sarah’s case. Who wants to root for those kind of characters? I went back and reread the Alternatives threads for these episodes yesterday and one thing I mentioned back then that still rings quite true is that it really bothered me that in order to sell the Shaw character instead of writing a good character and showing it to us, they reduced the shows leads to support a guest star. Every character in the spy world, Chuck, Sarah, Beckman and Casey to an extent are diminished to prop up Shaw. Each are made to either look like a douche, look pathetic or simply look like terrible spies. And the reason they did that was they had to, in order to sell the story they were telling. Shaw was a poorly conceived, poorly executed and poorly cast character and the only way to make their story work was to make everyone else be even worse. They lowered the bar in order for Shaw to grasp it. And it showed. Plus after these next two episodes Devon and Ellie disappear so we can get MORE Shaw and Hannah instead of less, like they deserved.

        So I can see how you feel the way you do, you enjoyed the tension and stakes of season 3 more and therefore you can overlook its flaws more easily than season 4 where the stakes and drama are minimal. I get that I really do. I just happen to see it exactly the opposite way.

      • uplink2 says:

        Oops, not suppression glasses, suppression PSP.

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