Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Nacho Sampler (3.06)

NBC Synopsis: CHUCK MUST TURN A RING SCIENTIST INTO A SPY FOR THE CIA— KRISTIN KREUK (“SMALLVILLE”) GUEST STARS—Chuck (Zachary Levi) juggles his two lives as he trains new Nerd Herder Hannah (guest star Kristin Kreuk) and gets his very own asset who is caught up with The Ring. Chuck thinks he can handle his asset all on his own but Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) feel the need to intercede. Meanwhile, Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) must lie to Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) when she starts to ask questions about Chuck and Morgan (Joshua Gomez), Jeff (Scott Krinsky) and Lester (Vik Sahay) do some recon work to learn more about Hannah.

Chuck This Ranking: 80
Dave’s Ranking: A little lower

First Impressions: Nacho Sampler Open Thread

Full Write Up: Chuck vs The Nacho Sampler (3.06) by Ernie, Joe and Faith
S3 Revisited: Nachos Anyone? by Ernie

Alternatives: Season Three Alternatives: Nacho Sampler 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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41 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Nacho Sampler (3.06)

  1. I had no connection to Chuck This when the season 3 episodes first aired. I only discovered the deep polarization around the season after the fact. I found it quite interesting, therefore, to read the Open Thread comments for Nacho Sampler from 2010 (wow – 5 years ago!). I didn’t read everything, but I did discover a lot of generally very positive responses. Even atcDave, who declared that he didn’t like the episode nevertheless agreed that it was an important one. Some others gave it a 9 or 9.5 out of 10. Other shorter comments: wonderful episode; all time favourite episode; watershed episode.

    With all these positive initial comments, it puzzles me that it is rated #80 by Chuck This participants. I’d be inclined to rate it in the top 1/3 of all episodes precisely because of the important elements that are brought out in the story. The moral conflict inherent in the covert espionage “business” is presented quite starkly and we see Sarah thinking about that conflict more (and being troubled by it) while advising Chuck to think about it less (and Casey advising Chuck to drink such thoughts into oblivion).

    I also really like it that Morgan and Ellie are beginning to realize that something more is going on with Chuck than immediately meets the eye. That works its way out for Morgan much better than it does for Ellie, as season 3 progresses, in my opinion.

    Russ / resaw

    • atcDave says:

      Well I would agree some good things will come from Morgan’s story, at this point, that’s about it.
      I think this episode scored as low as it did because of its greater context. Too much of what SEEMED important here is not honored, is not rewarded in a reasonable or timely manner. Chuck, both the show and character, is still a long way from bottoming out. Much like “Three Words” this is an episode of false promise. No important lessons have yet been learned and the misery will get worse before it gets better.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      One of the things that I see at play is that a lot of people who comment on this site have declared that they have not and will not re-watch a block of episodes. They all get lumped together as “those episodes” absent any individual consideration of their content. I found a lot to like even in episodes like Mask and Fake Name, even if I found many aspects of them poorly executed and occasionally confusing. Often it takes little more than an angsty ending, like Sarah considering moving to DC in the back of a cab, for the whole episode to be declared a failure and put on the “no watch” list. In the end a lot of people are commenting not on the episodes or their content, but on their feelings about the episodes or the show in general at that time. Which is fine if they want to bond with the like-minded over their shared disappointment. But they should hopefully be aware that that is what they are doing. I do however think that past their feelings there is little to add to any sort of analysis of most of “those episodes” from those who have declared them unwatchable.

      We’ve occasionally, with varying degrees of success, managed to get some discussion of the merits of these episodes in. Probably your best bet is to read some of what Dave has linked to or use the Blog Episode Guide. Still neither may be complete so sometimes just using the archives widget on the lower right (Just under RSS feed, just above the Blogroll) to go back to the original air date to look for content.

      For my part I’ve probably said my piece several times over if not several dozen, so having an original thought or new take doesn’t happen too often anymore.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie I do think the “guilt by association” is a little more nuanced than you suggest. An episode like Nacho Sampler clearly has both good and bad moments. But even a lot of what’s good was generating false hopes. I look back at my “First Reaction” commentary and see that much of what I did like about the episode came from misreading where they were heading. It looked to me like things would take a better turn in the next episode or two. That they didn’t actually robs the episode of much of what I initially DID appreciate about it.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’m sure it is a bit more nuanced, a lot of it, as you mentioned being wound up in unmet expectations, but I think there is a very definite element of what I describe in the way many decent or good season 3 episodes are judged in retrospect.

  2. carrol.chuck.fan says:

    This episode certainly benefits from the absence of Shaw. While I may agree that it does bring out the moral conflicts inherent in the spy business, I found Casey’s and Sarah’s advice to Chuck somewhat off-putting on this rewatch. They both admit the problems with burning the asset in this case and how it may affect Chuck – but basically advise him to drink up the Scotch and leave him alone in his cups. This is not really how they handled their own asset – Chuck – for the past couple of years. Over and over again, they went out of their way to avoid bunkering Chuck or otherwise causing him harm, either physical or emotional. And yet, they were always professional spies. Why now do they advise their former asset to turn around and simply burn his own new asset, and so quickly? Perhaps Manoush does not engender the same feelings Chuck did in the early days, but it just does not seem quite in character. They are teaching Chuck a different type of spycraft than they themselves practiced. This seems to be another example of the disconnect of Season 3 from the show that went before. Not a bad episode on its own merits, just not consistent with the characters we had grown to know.

    • atcDave says:

      I partly agree. I’m willing to believe they would treat Chuck somewhat differently now as a trainee than they did as an asset, but the complete change is jarring. It is a wholly different show with different characters for most of this season.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I think you are comparing apples and oranges here. While yes, we were supposed to see Manoush as a Chuck stand-in, as was Chuck, and to see him as someone Chuck could have had a real friendship with absent the spy-world.

      But Manoosh was not Chuck. He was using stolen government property to double-cross his rather shady employers to sell dangerous weapons on the international market so he could get rich. Chuck was a cooperative asset, pushed in to his situation through no fault of his own trying to do the right thing. Manoosh’s fate was, very much like that of Laszlo Mahnovski in Sandworm, to show us the fate that Chuck had avoided and to reinforce in him the danger and hard decisions that needed to be made.

      In addition, Sarah does offer Chuck her help, which he turns down, saying he needed to handle this (and implied he needed to learn to do this on his own).

      • atcDave says:

        Except Ernie I think its up to us viewers to discern how flawed Manoosh is. The show seems to exaggerate how much Chuck identifies with him and how much we’re supposed to sympathize with him. Ultimately, Chuck avoided Manooshes’ fate because he wasn’t Manoosh. Yet the enduring image is Chuck getting drunk over an immoral criminal he busted.
        They tried to make us believe a stronger parallel than was ever actually in evidence.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I didn’t feel the parallel was any stronger than with Lazlo. I found I had little sympathy for Manoosh, but could see why Chuck would having narrowly avoided a similar fate.

        The bit at the beginning where Casey accidentally has Chuck’s file up was more for the flashback aspects of the episode, noting Sarah’s role in bringing him into the spy world and how each of them looks at those events now, in light of Chuck’s decision.

      • atcDave says:

        I thought Laszlo’s story was better done. We saw the initial connection, and then Chuck realizing how messed up the guy actually was.
        While Manoosh’s story was more heavy handed, trying to force a parallel that wasn’t there.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I didn’t see it as trying to force a connection. Sure Chuck had some sympathy for Manoosh, but he went in knowing that Manoosh was involved in something shady. Sure he didn’t want to see the guy killed or bunkered, but that was about as far as it went. This was more about both Chuck and Sarah reflecting on his initial recruitment, and seeing things in a new light based on their current situation.

      • atcDave says:

        And that was precisely the false parallel. Chuck’s situation was not the same as Manooshes.

  3. atcDave says:

    One story I’ve been following that parallels our Chuck S3 discussions is the current season of the CBS show Elementary.
    Elementary has been a more successful show; but after loosing 25% of its audience, even more among younger adults, it is now considered a bubble show and its future is in doubt.
    And I find myself among those viewers who mostly enjoyed the controversial main arc. So I guess I’m on the “other side” of the divide this time. Well sort of. As much as I’ve enjoyed Elementary, it’s never had the sort of strong emotional draw for me that Chuck once did.
    But the season started with Holmes and Watson professionally and personally estranged. Watson had settled into a steady romance and Holmes took on a new associate. I didn’t particularly LIKE this format change, but I wasn’t distraught by it either.
    The real lightning rod seems to be the character Kitty, who was Holmes new associate. As the arc (long arc, most of the season) unfolded Kitty was the central figure of a dark and depressing tail. As a character, she was morose and melancholy; basically not a fun person. Now Elementary is not Chuck. I don’t think an overwrought dramatic story is that out of character for the show. Nor is a depressing major character or story. Yet somehow Kitty managed to earn strong fan disapproval. The most obvious thing I can think of is she took screen time away from the Holmes/Watson interplay. She was major part of the show for a dozen episodes. Even with no romance involved from any angle of this (well, maybe for Watson, but that was a minor aside) it seemed to muck up a successful chemistry.
    And THAT is, I think, what the major lesson of Chuck, Elementary and many other shows that tamper with their formula should be. New characters can cause so much harm, especially if they are seen to intrude where they aren’t welcome. Kitty’s major crime may just have been stealing screen time from the real stars of the show. I think all too often writers feel the urge to do something different even when their fans feel no desire to follow. I think it is wise for fans to always be clear exactly what they like best about their favorite shows. But ultimately we are at their mercy. We can only hope a particular show runner can satisfy over the whole run of a series.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      No doubt that is true and was said of Chuck at the time. Routh’s lack of chemistry with Yvonne, and the extensive screen-time with her were thoroughly discussed at the time. Unfortunately one of the story-lines of season 3 was how Shaw came in and disrupted the way Team B had always worked and tried to make Chuck in to a traditional spy by making him less dependent on Sarah and Casey.

      For writers I think they walk a fine line between trying to keep things fresh with new angles and letting things go stale. Overall Chuck was one of the shows that handled that balance best.

      • atcDave says:

        Well you know I can only agree in the context of calling S3 the one major exception. They handled many changes in form and tone well, but went disastrously wrong in S3.

        But I completely agree it has to be a difficult line for the creative staff to play with. They need to keep things interesting without disrupting the major hooks of the show. On Elementary I would say that means the Holmes and Watson interplay is key; even if it has never been a romance per se, it is a friendship people will tune in for. When that friendship is not in evidence over a multi-episode arc many viewers will get bored or discouraged and go elsewhere. I think the show runner miscalculated as to how key that platonic friendship was.
        Much as on Chuck, the show runner misjudged how much latitude he would be given, and how key the main relationship was to the appeal of the show.

    • Justin says:

      Yes, Kitty wasn’t always a picnic due to her traumatic past. But I felt she brought something meaningful to the show. She helped Sherlock bounce back from the failure of his time back in England, allowed Sherlock and Watson to develop a more equal partnership instead of going back to the way things were, and worked as a bridge through which they could rebuild their friendship. And I thought Kitty was starting to come more into her own as a part of the show before her departure. Kitty is an example of how to properly use a new character without undermining the other characters on the show. Shaw is the opposite.

      • atcDave says:

        Well I cautiously agree. At least that was how it felt to me.
        But for a significant number of fans it would seem Kitty = Shaw. At least to say the show’s ratings fell drastically, and the on line community is clearly blaming her character.

      • Justin says:

        I don’t think the introduction of Kitty may be the sole reason for the rating drop. I got to admit that, outside of the memorable few like the one about Kitty’s rapist, most of the cases of week this season are nothing special and by-the-numbers.

      • atcDave says:

        Just like S3 of Chuck, it was never really all about Shaw either. But like Shaw, Kitty seems to have drawn the most ire and become the symbol of all complaints.

      • oldresorter says:

        I thought so too Justin, Kitty really did very little harm to the Holmes / Watson dynamic, as you said, almost the opposite, she allowed Watson to become Holmes’s equal.

        I thought the problem with Elementary is the problem that every show has around year 3, they aren’t willing to go forward with the obvious issue in front of them, so they create a new storyline. I think more and more fans revolt, it’s simply has taken place too often on too many shows.

        Arrow is doing the same thing, with maybe the big difference, only one of the two has a LI, and the LI man appears more sincere about the new relationship than the lead lady. When I watch Felicity and Ray, I see they have an incredible amount of chemistry and that Felicty should be attracted to Ray, he is handsome, smart, and really nice to her … I think the chemistry and success of a story is in the writing of the fictional characters more than some here are willing to admit, rather than much of anything about the real life actors.

        I did a catchup of season 8 of The Murdoch Mystery files. I’m pretty sure I know what took place on the big cliffhanger, a great twist, or was it too transparent as to who the real killer is?. But two awesome lessons from Murdoch season 8, first, it’s great to use non lead characters to generate the drama and the angst, while the lead characters are then in position to fix things. And second, how seamlessly the power couple has maintained separate, yet intertwined story lines. Their coupling up didn’t change anything in the show. Still Murdoch had a really bad season or two, the same issue with Chuck season 3.

        Finally, any bets on Beckett being written out of Castle? The real life actress seems committed to not returning? Or will Castle get cancelled? Sounds like all three of the major creative people are done?

      • atcDave says:

        Hopefully they’ll have the sense to just end it if Stana is done.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I had heard that Stana was without a contract in addition to the show getting new show runners, but I hadn’t heard anything to indicate she was ready to call it quits. If that is the case I say cancel it, though they’ve wrapped production and I’m guessing they closed with another of their famous cliffhangers… Maybe they could get Stana and Nathan to commit to a TV movie or shortened last season to close things out. In any case, while I think Nathan Fillion is capable of carying a show I don’t think it is this show when the dynamic between costars is basically the main thing people tune in for. I don’t see a way to realistically write her off the show and continue other than pull a “Darrin Stephens” which would likely fail. In any case I don’t think these two will have trouble finding work and they’ll probably be back on out TV sets pretty quickly.

        Yvonne was on Dexter the same year Chuck ended (granted it was 10 months between) and Zach did get a pilot the very next season but didn’t get back on our screens outside of a few movies and guest appearances, but he also doesn’t virtually disappear when he’s not working steadily like Yvonne tends to.

        Still it’ll be sad to see it go, even if it’s just because I really wanted Nathan to get Zach and Yvonne to guest star as the Charles’s

      • atcDave says:

        Castle has consistently been my favorite show since Chuck ended, so no doubt I would miss it a lot.
        But Stana is sort of critical to the show! If she does want out, whether its to do something different, take a break, start a family, whatever; I do hope they just end it.

        And just maybe they can get Stana, Nathan and the whole crew together for a movie or mini-series.. or five…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well I hadn’t thought much about this as being more than rumors. Then I checked out Stana’s Instagram page. She certainly seems to be saying goodbye to the show.

      • Justin says:

        I agree. They should end Castle if Beckett isn’t coming back. The Castle-Beckett relationship is central to the show. To have Castle go on without Beckett would be if Chuck went on without Sarah. Not that it couldn’t work. Just that a major part of what made the show special would be gone and that kind of void cannot be filled by anyone or anything.

  4. noblz says:

    I was grooving to my new Chuck CD ( very pleased but wish they had kept the Chuck and Sarah Love Theme as a stand alone), when I realized it was new episode time.

    Nacho Sampler is maybe a little better rating than 80 for me but not much. I have one major and two minor beefs with this episode. First the minors. I hate when they make Chuck look like a completely inept buffoon and I hate the Sarah as defenseless spy whore schtick. The major beef, for me, is the final scene. Why does Sarah just watch Chuck drink himself oblivious. They were at least “friends” right. This is part of Uplinks false hope scenario.

    This was just a very below average episode overall for me. Much like First Class, it just wasn’t very good to me.

    • anthropocene says:

      Yes, the “Chuck” soundtrack is great, but it’s unfortunate that the producers chose to stitch a whole lot of short musical pieces into a handful of longer tracks. I love all the music on the CD, but sometimes the transitions from one short piece to the next within a longer track are a bit jarring to my ears. Also, I create “soundtracks” on the website 8tracks for readers of my season 6 FF stories to listen to while reading—but I won’t be able to use any of the “new” tunes from Tim Jones unless I can figure out how to easily cut the longer tracks back into individual shorter segments. Most, if not all, of the soundtrack CDs I own have every individual piece of music, no matter how brief, on its own track.

      • noblz says:

        Yeah, some of the transitions are a bit rough, but I felt for artistic purposes alone the Love Theme should have been kept separate.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree exactly with this. Its maybe not a huge thing, but I would have preferred more short tracks by themselves.

    • atcDave says:

      Very well put on some of the disappointments Noblz.
      I’d say your complaints about Chuck and Sarah specifically are part of why I didn’t even like this episode much initially when I thought it might be important. When it was later shown to not even be very important it just seemed very weak.

  5. oldresorter says:

    I haven’t been the biggest fan of Forever, IMO it shares a flaw that limited Chuck, i.e. not enough main characters to mess with, so the messing has to ‘always’ be with the lead pair … but anyhow, yikes, last night’s episode was spectacular, really a great job of story telling. The big ?’s I’m left with after last night, is one now that the writer set the hook on a whale of a story, is will / can the story teller reel it in? And two how or will the potential cancellation affect the story told? But last night, Forever hit story telling gold – kudo’s.

    • atcDave says:

      You hit on the real burning question to me, will we see a good wrap up for the season/series. I’ve seen all too many shows exit on a cliffhanger. And I get that the show runner doesn’t want to play all their cards in the first season. But if that’s all there’s going to be…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        You realize the show-runner you’re talking about wrote or co-wrote both Chuck Versus the Colonel and Chuck Versus the Pink Slip.

        Also Chuck Versus the Tango, Chuck Versus the Imported Hard Salami, Chuck Versus the Seduction, Chuck Versus the DeLorean, Chuck Versus the Beefcake, Chuck Versus the Nacho Sampler, Chuck Versus the American Hero and Chuck Versus the Subway

      • atcDave says:

        Yes, Forever’s writing staff is a source of much anxiety. The next couple weeks could determine if “all is forgiven” or if some sort of “never again” rule will need to be invoked…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Wow, I hadn’t really paid attention to it much before. I knew both Fedak and Miller were involved, but I looked and more than half the writing staff are Chuck Alumni. Also according to the Wiki (if you trust that) the last episode this season is co-written by Fedak and Miller

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah it’s never surprised me I would find another show by so much of the same crew appealing. Right now it’s a matter of if the good-will or il-will will win out!

      • oldresorter says:

        I can think of several ‘angsty’ or at least cliffy directions the end could go that I would not exactly mind, ones that if the show were cancelled, I probably would be OK. One might be Henry dying in front of Jo for example and we are left with our imagination how she will find out that he reincarnates. I can think of an even more exciting expansion to that end related to Henry using the weapon that he thinks might kill him or his nemisis using that weapon to kill Henry in front of Jo or not. The most blatant ending would be either Henry beginning to tell Jo or Henry telling Jo his secret and the audience left to imagine Jo’s reaction (which would seem like a ‘Fedak’ style open ended ending).

        The big difference in Forever being open ended at the end of season 1 vs Chuck’s open ended wipe out 5 seasons of progress, is they don’t have 5 seasons of story to pay off, and in many ways, this weeks ep paid off the story they told so far – i.e. his wife’s fate. This group tells a great romance story, but their problem in Forever is the same they did in Chuck, the s1 story is told too hot, too blatant, too obvious, such that 3 plus seasons of two steps forward, one step back gets a little old. Plus, they don’t have enough other interesting characters going on such that when the two leads are not working, that enough other stuff can work organic to the main plot line. Again part of this is just how well (epically well) this group writes the main romance story. But the chuck 600 steps back resets in season 3 or season 5’s concluding arc were both the killers for me, I hope Forever doesn’t conclude either the season or the show in that manner.

      • atcDave says:

        OR I agree pretty much exactly with all of that. Given how early this is in the story it’s fine with me if things are left a little open ended, I’d actually be shocked if they end S1 with too much of a resolution.
        I very much liked the end of Abigail’s story, and I loved Jo’s curiosity “who was she to you?” With Henry all shook up, that is clearly the difficult question I’d like to see answered even more than an actual new romance start.
        The central not-quite-romance-yet is clearly the only one that even could be satisfying going forward. Although I think Henry and Abe’s odd situation is terrific in its own way.

    • I’ve enjoyed Forever a great deal. It’ll be a shame if it’s cancelled.

      • atcDave says:

        I completely agree Russ. But last I knew ratings were sinking as we near the season end, so I’m expecting the worst!

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