Episode of the Week: Chuck vs First Class (3.05)

NBC Synopsis: CHUCK MUST GO ON HIS FIRST SOLO MISSION TO PARIS BUT HE’LL BE LUCKY TO SURVIVE THE FLIGHT—KRISTIN KREUK (“SMALLVILLE”), BRANDON ROUTH (“SUPERMAN RETURNS”) AND STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN (“WWE SMACKDOWN!”) GUEST STAR—CIA agent Daniel Shaw (guest star Brandon Routh) assigns Chuck (Zachary Levi) to his first solo mission in Paris, ignoring Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey’s (Adam Baldwin) wishes. During the flight to France, Chuck befriends Hannah (guest star Kristin Kreuk) and flashes on another passenger – the imposing Hugo Panzer (guest star Stone Cold Steve Austin). Meanwhile, Casey helps Morgan (Joshua Gomez) battle Jeff and Lester for control of the Buy More.

Chuck This Ranking: 87
Dave’s Ranking: I agree

First Impressions: Chuck vs First Class – Canadian and US Edition by Joe

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs First Class by Ernie and Joe
First Class All the Way by Joe

Alternatives: Season Three Alternatives: First Class 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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32 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs First Class (3.05)

  1. Martin Traynor says:

    And so it begins. I’ll not go into how much I dislike the SHAM coupling and go straight to the “I don’t like the addition of ANYONE new to the team.” Team Bartowski was starting to run on all cylinders again, and I personally see no reason why they need to mess with the formula. I know their reasons, but come on. It’s like the addition of Cousin Oliver on the Brady Bunch (did I really just reference the Brady Bunch on a Chuck sight?!?) – he just doesn’t belong, and he’s not at all needed. The team went on the be the same again (with the addition of Morgan, but he was always part of the show and Chuck’s non-spy team, anyway) and functioned quite well (read, EVEN BETTER) without Shaw or anyone else mucking up the works and messing with the chemistry between all the leads.

    So even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Chuck/Sarah, I was NEVER a fan of the addition of Shaw or anyone else to the team.

    • atcDave says:

      You know I agree exactly with that Martin. AMONG my S3 complaints was just the disruption caused by a long term, unwanted extra character.
      They still could have made it work, but so much of the S3 formula involved upsetting the team. They made it so we literally didn’t get back to the show I loved until 3.13.
      I think Chuck and Sarah together, with Casey as the disgruntled third wheel is the irreducible minimum that is Chuck. At least at this point and time it was.

    • joe says:

      Actually, I think the annoyance of the extra character was compounded by the introduction of TWO new characters. Can’t forget Hannah, here.

      It’s very weird. I was just looking back at the comments made from when the episode first aired. Many of them sorta liked the idea, symbolically, that Hannah was there to represent Chuck’s old, “normal” life and pull him back to that. Shaw was there to pull Sarah back into the spy world. As representations, the fans were pretty much okay with it. But as PLIs, not so much (and for “not so much”, read “I HATED IT WITH THE RAGE OF THOUSAND SUNS!!!”)

      We are all Charah. (And extra points to anyone who can identify the reference I just made.)

      • atcDave says:

        As symbols, or draws back to their old lives, I could imagine both characters having some limited potential (for maybe one episode); but yeah, its the actual LI thing that killed the deal.
        Good old Kosh!

      • CaptMediocre says:

        And yet, for some reason, when my DVR meeded space this was the first episode to go. Fake Name and Final Exam stayed longer.

        I think it’s because when you look back at it over the entirety of the misery arc, nothing truly important happens in this episode.

      • oldresorter says:

        Joe / Dave – IMO one thing that really hurt the show (other than the obvious trip down Angsty Lane yet again) about shaw and to a certain degree Hannah, is how much the show needed more spies on team B to keep the spy part of the show ‘serious’. Even in the Mask ep, the ep was a ‘big’ ep, until the ending screwed the pouch. When Morgan (and Beckman to a certain degree) took that spy team role on in a bigger way, the show’s spy part became too much comedy.

        Some of the genius of s1 and s2 was how serious Orion felt s2, and casey (or Graham) felt s1, and even how Chase sold the comic big bad in s2 (like Dalton did). But Orion and Casey were good guys while adding drama and seriousness to the spy missions. I think the show s4 and s5 (as well as s3) would have worked better with a bigger team B, but just not comic additions to the team. Plus, those types are really easy to both kill to up the consequences, as well as fuel some angsty needs … just not with Chuck and Sarah. The problem with s3, it took so much away from the options the writers felt they had. IMO s3’s ideas were not that bad in the big picture, the exectution of those ideas is where things failed or maybe as simple as the idea of CS needing to have one more fling each prior to hooking up themselves.

        I’m not so sure that near ‘any’ plot that would have stayed true to Chuck and Sarah’s status in the Colonel or even during the wedding dance of the Ring, probably would have knocked people’s socks off in s3. The show probably would still be on the air, same as Castle.

        Big ramble (like usual) – hope it made some sense?

      • atcDave says:

        I think the bottom line is they needed to actually honor what happened in Colonel and Ring and not reset.
        I can imagine even Shaw working as that more serious spy character, but the LI angle overwhelms ANYTHING good or useful that came with him.
        Ultimately it was that one more round of wt/wt that ruined the season. And I think, shortened the run of the show by alienating a sizable portion of the audience.

      • joe says:

        IMO one thing that really hurt the show … about shaw and to a certain degree Hannah, is how much the show needed more spies on team B to keep the spy part of the show ‘serious’.

        I think I know what you mean, OR. But as I think about different arcs, I keep finding examples that work both ways – they often introduced new spies for the comedy, too Although none stayed around as long as Shaw, Roan Montgomery, Carina, the CATS all were in more than one episode and all were used as part of the team at least as much as Awesome.

        Chuck did a pretty good job, all considered, in mixing up the comedy and the drama (and my personal opinion is that no show has done it better. Castle came close at first, but has fallen back in the last two seasons, I fear). Perhaps, if they failed here in S3, it was because there was much less humor and much more drama/angst in the misery arc. The balance was not what it had been earlier.

      • atcDave says:

        Joe I agree completely they altered that balance of comedy/drama for S3. I think they altered it again for S4; more comic, less serious. Obviously the S4 change worked well for me while the S3 change did not.
        I’m pretty sure though that more drama on occasion could have worked fine, especially if they’d explored some dark professional challenges without using the beyond tired love triangle trope, S3 COULD HAVE been quite powerful.

        I agree too that at its best, Chuck managed the mix of comedy and drama better than most things I’ve ever seen. Although I do think the drama occasionally crossed the line into melodrama. But my capacity for enjoying the comedy is pretty endless, they could have done more. Especially the sort that related to Chuck the unconventional spy, and Sarah happily playing along with his antics. Honeymooners and Hack Off struck the perfect note for that.

        I don’t quite agree about Castle loosing a step. Like most shows its always had stronger and weaker episodes, and I think the mix has been pretty perfect this season. I particularly liked their willingness to change structure for a few episodes of Castle, PI. And then I really appreciated that they didn’t stick with it (good use of experimentation without an unwanted reinvention).
        For other shows, I think Grimm comes closest to Chuck. Although its more manic/goofy, less dramatic (at least to say the drama is just as goofy as the comedy!)

      • joe says:

        Dave, I just happen to see (on TBS, I think) the very beginning episodes of Castle again. It was marvelous! The way Castle charmed, joked and cajoled Kate (and the way she resisted) was a textbook example of how “it” should be done, where “it” could be comedy, romance or seduction. (The line “You sorta remind me of Hootch…” struck the cord perfectly.) I sorta miss that interplay.

        Lately, the episodes have been all stand-alones, which are good, but it’s better when they bring in the older plot-lines, like the end of Bracken and 3XK. Those were top-notch, mostly because they connected to the rest of story.

        It drove me crazy, though, when they dropped the “Castle has amnesia” arc after the opener. I realized (actually, I knew it from the first) that they’d get back to it at the end of the season (starting in two weeks?) but the wait and the weight of it was too much! I’ll probably enjoy it when it comes, but it made the rest of this season seem blah.

        I do like Grimm, especially now that I’ve seen the first two seasons. But I like it for the drama more than for the comedy. Really, only Monroe can be seen as “goofy”, right? And even he really isn’t so goofy any more. It’s what they’ve done the the Juliette character that leaves me cold. She’s been a dramatic punching bag from the beginning, hasn’t she? Besides, for my money, Chuck and Sarah had much better chemistry than Nick and Juliette.

      • atcDave says:

        I guess I never expected the amnesia story to be resumed until the end, and I haven’t missed it. In particular, since Castle has such a terrible record with season finales I’d just assume they bailed out of this story entirely. The ULTIMATE amnesia tale; they forget to tell it!

        Actually Juliette on Grimm just makes me laugh. Her story is so stupid its hysterical! And apart from S1 when she didn’t actually have a story that’s sort of how her character has gone. Although my wife has mentioned I’m actually an anti-‘shipper for Nick and Juliette. I really don’t like her. I like Adilade much better. Sure she’s insane and a psychopath, but SOOO funny! Nick is the only mostly straight character I think, and he’s pretty reliably a good guy so I’ll play along with that.
        Munro and Rosalee are the only couple I have much interest in; the secondary characters are the romantic heart of the show! They make a better Chuck/Sarah analogy than Nick and Juliette ever can. Not to say they come close either; but I really like both characters and will happily root for them.
        And that sort of sums up Grimm for me. Its all loopy fun, never to be taken seriously. Like the wedding from heck that ended last season; I was laughing so hard with everything that went wrong, right up through Truble crashing into an all Vessen wedding. Too much fun.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        The true question about the amnesia arc is was it worth delaying the wedding. Fans were in a frenzy at the end of last season for the Caskett wedding. A frenzy that was never recaptured again when it happened earlier this season, while the amnesia angle landed with a thud.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree CaptM that was a terrible way to end a season. It showed a gross disrespect for the audience.
        That’s also why Marlowe was fired. Let’s see if the new writers have learned their lesson.

      • thinkling says:

        I think Castle has done some of the worst season finales ever. In fact I can’t think of a Castle season finale that I liked. But the interrupted wedding with the [ridiculous] implication that Rick was dead has got to be the worst season finale of all time. It was a waste of story and momentum, as well as an insult to the fans and their intelligence. I still get involuntary eye roll just thinking about it … and I’m not all that invested. Imagine the apoplexy and outrage of die hard fans.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah, I’d have been apoplectic if they’d done that on Chuck.

        But I do still remember laughing hard when soon as the credits rolled the voice over said “Castle and Beckett will return in September”.
        It was a stupid cliffhanger anyway, and then they pulled the punch!

  2. Martin Traynor says:

    Right. What those of us who longed for either Chuck/Sarah or an intact Team Bartowski really get to hold on to early on here is Chuck and Casey. At least their relationship benefited some from what happened here. I think Casey grows to really appreciate Chuck and his abilities, with and without the intersect. Two-thirds are better than none, but not sustainable (at least not these two. a two-thirds featuring Chuck and Sarah, OK).

    That’s what I found myself holding onto the tightest during this period – Chuck and Casey.

  3. When I first re-watched season 3, I was tempted to skipped the Hannah arc. Eventually, my adherence to canon won out, and I’ve not skipped an episode in any of my re-watches. Nevertheless, I find Hannah, on the surface, anyway, to be little more than a distraction from the larger story. However, in the full writeup by Ernie and Joe of a couple of years ago, combined with Authorguy’s (Marc’s) responses, I learned to see Hannah as symbolizing so much more. Prosaic thinker that I am, it’s a bit hard for me to remember the symbolic value of her character on these re-watches, but as a symbol of normalcy, she plays a valuable role in Chuck’s journey.

    I wasn’t a part of the Chuck This community in the earliest going, but I was fascinated by Joe’s First Impressions reproduced at the top here. Of course, the rest of S3 hadn’t yet played out, but I was struck by the much more open-minded and open-hearted attitude toward this episode in the responses. Or at least, so it seemed to me. I’ll have to keep on reading those first impressions to see how the responses unfold over the next few weeks.

    Dave, the Chuck This ranking for this episode is 87, with which you agree. If I recall, the season opener was even worse, 89. I get that, even though, personally, there are several episodes of seasons 4 and 5 that I rank worse than these, but I continue to find Third Dimension to be one of the most uninspired episodes of the entire series. I guess we’re not that far off, since 3D is ranked 86. I think I’d still rank 3.01 a better episode because of the potential it offered to viewers as well as the sheer shock value of what occurred in the story.

    Finally, I’ll add that I continue to be delighted by Morgan at this stage of the series, and found it quite entertaining in the way he enlisted Casey to help him deal with the Buy More insurrectionists.

    Russ / resaw

    • atcDave says:

      I’m never really a fan of “shock value”, so that doesn’t get traction with me. I really have about seven episodes I’d like to rank 91… or worse. Basically, its all this arc. So that leaves episodes I consider “weak”, and that includes Third Dimension, in the 70s or low 80s.
      I abhor the whole “symbolizes” idea. I think a character has to connect first and foremost as a person or any symbol is meaningless. And since Hannah and Shaw can be nothing more than unwanted distraction to me, their value as characters or symbols is pretty much zero.

    • atcDave says:

      BTW, it always makes me laugh looking at my own comments from this site’s early days (or early in S3). So much of the confidence I initially had was so misplaced. I just couldn’t believe they would actually go dark, or leave tension between Chuck and Sarah for more than a couple episodes.
      If I knew then what I know now! Very good chance I would have quit the show. I think this community is the only reason I stuck it out. Scratch that, I’m certain. If Joe hadn’t asked me to join this site I never would have watched past Pink Slip. I’ve quit so many shows for less offense.

      • Garnetflint says:

        Well I for one am really glad that you stuck it out. I don’t know where the site would be without you! I have to agree that Castle season finales have been generally speaking downers….Beckett shot and dying…Castle presumed dead . It makes me glad Chuck writers did somewhat better…until when it really counted.

      • atcDave says:

        It’s good to be appreciated! Thank you Garnet.
        Of course I know that’s part of why I remain so grumpy on the issue, I feel like I was sort of trapped and couldn’t move on quite so easily as I have with other shows. But obviously by late S3 and beyond I was perfectly happy I’d stuck it out.

        Castle is almost comical how such a good show can have such dreadful season finales.

      • joe says:

        Trust me on this: You’re not as glad as I am that you stuck it out. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Thanks Joe, I’m feelin’ the love!

  4. oldresorter says:

    I know many of you have given up on the Arrow. It’s a different show than Chuck, to be sure. Broken Arrow (3×19, this week’s ep) was one of the best in the entire series … so much greatness, some of the best wit the show has had, still some serious things, real consequences, a great fake out of or on Oliver, a stunning, unexpected by me at least ending, wonderful Oliver angst (which IMO is great, Oliver has ‘earned’ his angst), and possible the best single line that a lead male has ever said to a lead female, about his rival: “There’s a decent chance you two are related.”.

    Plus, if any of you are baseball fans, the bad guy of the ep, was spotted on the corner of Gantner and Yount. Must be a Wisconsin guy in the Arrow’s writer’s room.

    One reason to keep watching tv that irritates you, is based on it’s potential to hit a grand slam, sometimes that manifests itself as an ep, sometimes an arc, sometimes even a season. Rarely does it last the entire duration of the show. But when the great can be epic, for me it is worth watching. Arrow still qualifies for me. As did Chuck, all 5 seasons, even when the bad really put me off.

    • atcDave says:

      Agents of SHIELD is a show I would say much the same about. I often find it tiresome, I’m particularly unimpressed by all the internal squabbles and dissent type themes. But at least last season they scored a brilliant and satisfying resolution. Let’s hope this season works out the same.

    • thinkling says:

      Arrow was stunning this week, but it will take me a while to be okay with it. This season has been a little dark for me. However, you’re right about this episode and Oliver’s line to Felicity and Ray. And I must say that Routh has provided some much needed comic relief to the dark overtones of the show. I have enjoyed his character so far.

      Here’s hoping Malcolm Merlin finally gets what he deserves for the horrible machinations he set in motion.

      I’m behind on SHIELD, but still watching.

      • Martin Traynor says:

        I loved the meta humor in Flash when Felicity mentioned that Central City was supposed to be the fun one. I agree, and the last Arrow went a little dark for me. I love both Arrow and Flash, but Flash is leading with us in terms of pure fun. Arrow doesn’t have the angst, but it is HEAVY on drama this year. Not necessarily bad, but like I said, just dark.

        I am actually loving Routh on Arrow. Very fun, funny and an interesting addition to the team. Loved the line about them possibly being related.

        With Castle, I’m just glad there’s a better balance between Castle the character and Beckett. For a while there, it felt like the show should be called Beckett. I’m also not interested in all about where Castle was or why he disappeared. I found the whole thing to be insulting, as mentioned above, to the fans who deserved a great wedding. Like Dave said, it seems they just forgot about his amnesia, so I have, too.

        Looks like Forever, another fav, may be going the way of the dodo…too bad, I’ve come to really like it.

  5. noblz says:

    Pesky job has had me out of town for a while. I will say that Angel and Awesome were good episodes as far as S3 was concerned. First Class was just a below average episode. I didn’t have any specific beefs with this episode, it just wasn’t very good. The Buy More stuff left me very underwhelmed.

    And, if there was any doubt that BR (can’t bear to write his name) was a terrible actor this episode following his terrible performance in Awesome should have made it clear to any and all. Absolutely terrible.

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