Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Mask (3.07)

NBC Synopsis: CHUCK MUST PROTECT HANNAH WHEN THEY FIND THEMSELVES PARTNERS ON A MISSION —KRISTIN KREUK (“SMALLVILLE”) AND BRANDON ROUTH (“SUPERMAN RETURNS”) GUEST STAR—Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Hannah (guest star Kristin Kreuk) unexpectedly become part of agent Daniel Shaw’s (guest star Brandon Routh) latest mission. Much to Sarah’s (Yvonne Strahovski) chagrin, she gets paired with Shaw, who seems to be trying to get close to her. Meanwhile, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) continue their mission to get to the bottom of Chuck’s secretive and strange behavior.

Chuck This Ranking: 91
Dave’s Ranking: I won’t argue with that!

First Impressions: The Weekly “Spoil Us oh Canada!” Thread
Chuck vs The Mask by Amy
Reactions to the Reactions by Joe

Full Write Up: Chuck vs The Mask (3.07) by Ernie and Joe
Masking the Bad News by Joe
The Mask, it is Real by Ernie
S3 Revisited: The Masks by Ernie

Reaction: The Right to Complain by Dave

Alternatives: Season Three Alternatives: Mask by Dave

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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37 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Mask (3.07)

  1. uplink2 says:

    Sometimes silence speaks the loudest.

  2. noblz says:

    Not really silent just busy yesterday evening.

    Initially, this episode received an otherDave rating of NTBRW (Never To Be Re-Watched along with PS and FN). However, a few months ago I conducted an experiment that I mentioned on this blog. A number of people who discovered Chuck late or on Netflix, held that watching these episodes straight through would make it better. So I watched three or four episodes a day for 4 days and…..Nope, still bad TV.

    It did, however, cause me to find some good stuff in the first 32-33 minutes of this episode. Sarah stiff-arming Shaw, Casey covering for Chuck and Sarah, the jealous bicker-fight and Vassilis admiring how “Casanova” (ie Chuck) used the brunette to disable the alarms and the blonde to steal the mask. But the final 8-9 minutes is just so mind-bogglingly bizarre (see Uplink’s “we were had” theory) that while I removed the NTBRW rating from this episode it is still an otherDave DUD. Again, speaking to Uplink’s theory, in real time I remember thinking this would be the episode where Chuck and Sarah got back together. TPTB showed me by trotting out that last segment that started 4 1/2 episodes of pure torture as opposed to discomfort we felt up to this point.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree almost exactly Dave, well, except to say I can’t go back to the early “good” part of this episode again either. Too much baggage.

      • noblz says:

        I did say it was an experiment and it is still a DUD. This means I will re-watch in a marathon, but not otherwise. I still stop at the “I have a type” scene, it’s too much to take.

      • atcDave says:

        I think that moment is the series’ ultimate crisis point. There was only one possible outcome for that scene (Chuck IS her type) and the show runner failed the test totally and catastrophically.

  3. Wilf says:

    It was, is, an awful episode with, for me, little in the way of any redeeming features.

  4. anthropocene says:

    Wake me up when we get to “American Hero.”

  5. uplink2 says:

    I think the most interesting part of this week’s posting besides that fact that no one posted anything for almost 2 days on this episode, was rereading many of the old threads. I’m still amazed and thankful that so many folks reacted exactly as I did in my little cocoon of ignorance. That so many also just didn’t want to believe that what was shown was real. How could the quality of the show we loved and fought for and the storytelling that had brought us so many great and special moments have fallen so horribly low? How could they be that clueless and tone deaf? That poorly written and scripted? That terrible a story choice? Something had to be going on beneath the surface that would explain that choice and make it less ridiculous and just plain wretched. But alas Ernie even had to write an entire posting saying it was real. I so wish I could have seen Twitter that night. I bet it was priceless and not entirely in a good way. It’s when the fracturing of the fanbase really turned ugly from what I’ve read. Fan against fan vying for who was the “better fan” or who was the worst “crazy shipper” or “kool-aid drinking apologist.” Sad and very bad times for something that once was so special indeed. It’s really too bad it never fully recovered from this mess they created. If it had we might be getting ready for a season 8 finale.

    • atcDave says:

      Your comment led to me to add another link, my own reaction post from shortly after this ran. It was a few days late for “first impressions” and it isn’t really directly about “Mask” itself, but it does speak to so much of what we were all feeling at that point and it is my view on the fan rift. So I think it may be of passing interest to some readers.

      I do make some content choices on these posts; I decided long ago to skip spoiler and speculation posts. Although obviously they could be of some interest from a pure historical perspective; by and large they aren’t terribly interesting (to me) in a “big picture” view.
      But on occasion I have (and will) add some more tangential things we did.

      • oldresorter says:

        Dave / Up – one comment area I’d add, this ep with a good ending, probably would have been a top’ish type ep. One problem the writers had was paying off the angst all 5 seasons, up to the final scene, rather than going on and on and on with it.

        Had this ep paid off the season long angst, and then the story moved into the existing spy tale with the only change Chuck and Sarah more together than not (even if not consumating until the 13th ep) – this ep could have been a top 10, heck maybe even a top 6 (I think I have a top 5 locked in stone, but off the top of my head, not sure about that even).

        I don’t think that much would have had to change after that, and the next 6 eps all would have been really great once the angst was paid off. 90% of each ep could have been left alone. The spy story would have worked much better, if the dark miserable shadow of the angst wasn’t hanging over the story line. There were plenty of real stakes ahead, that story might have been exciting, if not for how angry I was watching each ep over the never ending angst story.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah absolutely OR. This episode is completely undone by the end.
        If say the last scene had involved Chuck and Sarah discussing this estrangement, and that neither of them wanted that…
        Maybe fade to black with them getting a cup of coffee together and things would have been a whole lot different.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, thanks for that. It was an interesting read. I so wish that one damn poster on Sepinwall’s blog had never said that about a boycott. Though he was probably a kid and just kind of lashing out, it became all the ammunition the “apologists”, TPTB and the “reviewers” needed to dismiss everything as the whining of “crazy shippers” and never once focus on the real issues that OD pointed out both on ChuckTV and in his postings on Sepinwall’s blog. I still think this show, and an analysis of “Chuckpocalypse” would make a fascinating course at some college.

        OR, I don’t think I’d go that far as there is still the blind worship of Shaw the spy in this episode that makes everyone except maybe Casey look like fools but if Chuck said to Sarah, “let’s go for a ride” and ended up on the beach out of the prying eyes of everyone and had a talk as you describe, it would have been a much better and more real, storyline. But that idea creates far too many other problems for the rest of the story. It makes Hannah even more useless than she already is. If you don’t have the LI story there is absolutely no reason for the Hannah character other than eye candy. If what happens at the end of Mask is as you describe, Hannah is a one episode temptation and not a 4 episode arc. Plus the further destruction of the Sarah character that follows, like the ending of Beard, being manipulated into giving Chuck his Red Test by Shaw can’t happen. Too much has to change after it as well. Welcome change absolutely, but I don’t think you could still have the rest of the actual spy story happen without major rewrites.

        The big issue with the last 10 minutes is that there was no set up. The about face of Sarah is so startling and so ridiculous that it is offensive that anyone would expect the viewers to buy into it as being real. Plus what happened to the Chuck that said he did it all because he loved Sarah? Nothing changed about Shaw that would cause her to see him differently. He didn’t save Sarah, Chuck did. In fact his incompetence as a spy is what almost got her killed. All he did was carry her out of the death tomb he created. It was a completely unbelievable turn of events and it took what was a season that I didn’t like but was willing to sit through hoping for some worthy resolution and made it a season I absolutely hated and almost quit the show because of it. To me that is a massive blunder on the showrunner’s part because it wasn’t just me or a few “crazy shippers” it was a very large portion of the entire fanbase that was pissed off by so many elements of this story. And it wasn’t just the story being told that people hated, it was HOW it was being told. We had invested in these characters and this show and that investment was squandered by a lousy story choice and even worse execution. If only that discussion had been allowed to happen instead of focusing on one kid’s ranting about a boycott.

      • oldresorter says:

        Up – I only said 90% of the rest of the arc could stay the same. A few random small changes, say the end scenes of fake, beard, tic, and final exam needing to be replaced.

        How about Shaw ‘drugs’ chuck with long lasting laudinal (spelling???) at the start of fake name, causing Chuck and hannah to hook up and chuck to act like a jerk in fake name, maybe in fake name thru final exam when something causes him to snap out of it ??? This causes Sarah to spriral down and take a step back from the happy ending of , just not into Shaws bed, but maybe leaning on him more than any of us would like. Have Shaw set up the red test in Sarah’s place at the restuarant?

        But the major building blocks of the spy story and each ep probably could stay somewhat the same, with the Laudinal affecting chuck all the way to the red test, making us all wonder if Shaw would win by getting Chuck to kill?

        Sounds like a reasonable fan fic project. I really need to finish my uncompleted one b4 I start a new one.

      • atcDave says:

        Funny thing is, many viewers did in fact boycot the show. The ratings plummeted at an alarming rate through this season. And that strikes me as completely fair. That I happened to enjoy the later seasons doesn’t change that the poor product delivered at this time deserved to loose viewers.

        As far as changing the show goes, I think it’s fair to say very little tinkering actually needs to be done apart from just NOT doing the love triangles. Cutting maybe two or three minutes from each of the next few episodes would result in a far more watchable product. Fake Name may require more attention than the others; but most of what lies ahead is ruined by just a few moments of bad material.

      • atcDave says:

        BTW, just a little anecdotal addition to that. Back when we were discussing all of this ferociously every day, it seemed very few viewers actually LIKED the love triangle aspect of the story. The big determining factor on who liked the season vs who didn’t mostly seemed to be if the viewer could look past the triangles and get something out of the greater story; or if the triangles dominated the tone of the show for the individual viewer.
        Obviously I can’t speak for everyone. But we all often seemed to agree on what was good and what was bad even in the midst of our arguments. It was how we weighted that good/bad that determined our attitude towards the season.
        You know where I stand…

      • Duckman says:

        I boycotted the show without even knowing it. I had no knowledge of the online community at all, I just disliked the show, and stopped watching for awhile. I tuned back in at (not for) Ah, hoping shaw would get the hell off my screen while I was gone.It was still a chore to watch the show I once loved. By the time og was over I was just glad it was over.

      • atcDave says:

        “Glad it was over” is a common sentiment!

      • uplink2 says:

        And that is the missed payoff of Other Guy. It was far, far, far, too many folks first reaction that they were glad what they, the viewers not the characters really, had been through for an entire year was finally over and not that they, the characters this time, had finally earned their moment. That is a showrunning mistake in my book and a big one.

      • noblz says:

        OR, et al

        In my alternatives, Pink Slip and Fake name needed a lot of work but if you lost the OLIs you could alter the entire show with only one or two scenes per episode. I heartily agree.

    • I held back from commenting because I haven’t yet re-watched it this time around and I was uninterested in another occasion for vituperation. I also found it interesting to read the old threads, and in particular, glad to read Joe and Ernie finding positive things to say about the episode on first viewing.

      Anthro, really? American Hero? I am really looking forward to re-watching Beard. I think that Chuck’s “confession” to Morgan is momentous. In fact, I think all of these “misery arc” episodes bring our favourite characters to a critical point and, to me, that makes for great television.

      Russ / resaw

      • uplink2 says:

        Russ, not to get into anything but I have to ask why you view Chuck’s “confession” or “epiphany” in Beard as momentous when he had said, maybe not in so many words, that exact thing four different times in the past?

        Seduction:

        Roan: “Lesson number one for being a spy, NEVER fall in love”
        Chuck: “Well then I guess I’m not much of a spy”

        Lethal Weapon:

        Chuck: “I’m crazy about you and I’ve always been.”

        Ring:

        Stephen: : No you don’t… You’re not a spy”
        Chuck: “Dad…… I love her.”

        Three Words:

        Chuck: “….because Sarah… I love you.”

        With those things coming before, that scene in Beard is anything but momentous to me. It’s a well done scene from the actors POV but if anything it’s redundant, repetitive and simply stating what Chuck had said on multiple occasions before. The only reason I liked it at the time was because it meant that the misery was likely over soon. Sure it was 4 episodes away but there was a small light at the end of a long dark tunnel. It also meant that we had probably seen the last of douchbag Chuck. It was never an admission that meant anything other than that for me.

      • atcDave says:

        You missed Fake Name when he credited Ellie with being “half a spy” for discerning he was still in love with Sarah. Unless we consider he was lying to Ellie but then telling the truth with Morgan?

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The epiphany wasn’t that he loved Sarah, though much of what leads up to that moment this season does show Chuck questioning how real things were between them and feeling guilty over his decision to become a spy and how it was blinding him to the way he was changing. The epiphany was that it was OK for him to still love Sarah and accept that he did. He didn’t have to feel guilty about it or deny it to be a good spy. In short he was walked up to a moment we can imagine in Sarah’s past when it became easier to shut people out rather than risk letting them in, and he came out the other side as Chuck, not Agent Carmichael.

        I personally liked Hannah and Chuck and thought they worked very well for story purposes. Sham was poor largely because they didn’t seem to have any idea of who Shaw was outside a plot device and the eventual big bad for the season. Some of it was casting, some chemistry, but a large part of why Shaw didn’t work is because they never really bothered developing him in to a real person.

      • uplink2 says:

        True Dat. But I just have to chalk that up to the fact that I have consciously tried to cleanse my brain of that most hated episode of the entire series for me. lol Brain bleach simply was never strong enough however.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think Fake Name was more about Chuck realizing that he wasn’t being fair to Hannah. She was falling in love and envisioned things progressing with Chuck and he knew that he could never let her get to know him and that he’d be leaving her in a short time. In other words he was experiencing something Sarah had experienced the previous season when, as we now know, she admitted to herself that she loved Chuck, but didn’t know what to do about it.

      • Actually, it wasn’t the loving Sarah part that was as momentous for me as it was the revelation to Morgan of his involvement in the CIA. I loved Morgan’s reaction.

        Chuck was smitten with Sarah from the Pilot onward. His admission of love, once again, meant, as you said, that a resolution to Chuck and Sarah’s estrangement was approaching. We knew all along that they both loved each other but various roadblocks, often of their own making, kept them from making that love into a commitment to each other. I guess you might suggest, Uplink, that these roadblocks were the work of the tortured…nay, sadistic minds of TPTB. I probably wouldn’t disagree. But I accepted the story as presented. These episodes, “the misery arc,” felt to me like Chuck and Sarah were in the midst of a crisis, and it was either going to be the end of all hope for the two of them or they were going to find their way back to each other.

        In all honesty, the series finale is where I find myself still having a hard time accepting what was presented. The only real relief to that has been the remarkably well written post-finale fanfic, from various authors, that gave the hope and joy to Chuck and Sarah that was barely hinted at in the final scene.

      • Wilf says:

        Indeed, Russ. Sadly, though, the only mitigation of the series finale situation could be off-screen, via fan fiction, whereas at least there was (eventually) in-show, on-screen relief from the awful misery arc.

      • uplink2 says:

        Russ, ok I can see that. Unfortunately for me Morgan has never been a significant character. I found him extremely annoying in season’s 1 and 2 and would not have been unhappy if he stayed in Hawaii with Anna. So his finding out Chuck’s secret was never that important to me. Now Ellie was a different story. I still think she was the most under utilized character on the show.

        But I have to say that I agree that in many ways I would have liked that kind of “midst of a crisis” type story for Chuck and Sarah. My problem was that I don’t think they ever showed that onscreen. It was just cliched, contrived WTWT angst told poorly. That’s where I think most people’s gripes came from. Telling a painful story that folks may not like or want to see but done well is still a good story. But telling that same undesirable story as poorly as they did makes the anguish so much worse.

        I think most of us on this side of the fence would have enjoyed this season so much more if they simply threw the LI’s out the window. They still could have waited to put them together in 3.13 but the LI’s and the last 10 minutes of this episode doomed this season for many of us. It is a bad, un-entertaining story told horribly at times and this episode broke the backs of many a fan.

      • atcDave says:

        I think the biggest issue (apart from any qualitative opinions) is just that this was too dark, for too long, for this show and audience.
        Virtually every casual viewer I know was tuning in for a fun and entertaining show. Getting overly dramatic for too long was going to cause such viewers to get restless. One complaint I heard was just a simple “spy Chuck isn’t any fun”. The season’s tag line was “no more mister nice spy” which strikes me a pretty dreadfully bad advertisement. They might as well have said “established viewers will hate this reboot!”
        Even in February of 2010, at one of the low points of the show, JS described Chuck as being about wish fulfillment. At a time when the show was miserably no fun. Now obviously he had a big picture view that real time viewers did not. But even more to the point I think it points to confusion at the very highest creative levels of what the show was actually about. I think it says a lot about why so many viewers who loved the first two seasons of the show loathed S3.
        From the start there was a duality in the mood of things. But the darkness and tension saw release on a regular and frequent basis in the first two seasons; while in S3 it really didn’t for 12 episodes. Now some of that may just be because many viewers were defining that release or satisfaction almost wholly on the romantic story, and really didn’t care so much about Chuck and Ellie or the bromance.
        But as I’ve often said before, TPTB should have known better. I think audience reactions in previous seasons and during the lead up to this season should have left no doubt this story simply couldn’t work for entirely too many viewers.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        Imagine if episodes 1 to 12 happened offscreen and the season started with Other Guy (not a favorite ep of mine), or something like it.

      • oldresorter says:

        It isn’t that big a stretch that eps 1-13 took place off screen, and Chuck said yes to Sarah’s request to run away resulting in the epic Honeymooners ep. Then one can imagine that the show ends with the baby ep in s5 or even the wedding ep in s4, and was one of the most beloved shows in tv history.

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