Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Tic Tac (3.10)

NBC Synopsis: Chuck AND Sarah MUST CLEAR Casey’S GOOD NAME- ROBERT PATRICK (”Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) GUEST STARS –Casey (Adam Baldwin) carries out a side mission for his old commanding officer James Keller (guest star Robert Patrick) that leads to him committing treason. When Chuck (Zachary Levi) learns the dark truth about Col. Keller, he and Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) set out to break Casey out of jail and clear his name. Meanwhile, Awesome’s (Ryan McPartlin) plan to keep Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) out of danger gets more difficult when she gets her dream fellowship.

Chuck This Ranking: 44
Dave’s Ranking: I agree

First Impressions: The (Formerly Beard) Tic Tac First Impressions!

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The Tic Tac (3.10) by Ernie and Joe
Not Ticky Tacky at All by Joe
S3 Revisited: Tic Tac (3.10) by Dave

Alternatives: Season Three Alternatives: The Tic Tac 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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35 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Tic Tac (3.10)

  1. uplink2 says:

    Dave, I do think you need to add Ernie’s Death to Poochie link as it fits so well in retrospect for this period. Plus its probably my favorite thing Ernie has written for this site.

    Though this episode has some issues, Chuck taking the Laudenol after telling Sarah he was “still that guy”. I do think it is the best of the front 12. First and most important, NO SHAW!! That is always a huge plus for any episode. There isn’t a single episode in the front 13 that he doesn’t drag down when he is in it. That fits so well to the above mentioned posting. But for me it has the most season 2 feel of any of them with the big three working together. It is a very good episode, great by season 3 standards, until the last 30 seconds. To me the unnecessary angst for angst sake of the taxi scene takes away a great deal from the episode. I would much rather have had it end on the deleted scene with Morgan. That was such a great moment and we never got to see it. Instead we got another depressing angst filled ending for another episode. It takes what could be a top 20 episode and drops it down to the middle of the pack for me. About where it landed in the poll.

    • atcDave says:

      One thing I completely agree with; its great to see the cast’s chemistry on full display here without the Shaw distraction. Its a great reminder of how terrific this show can be, and will be again soon.
      I think maybe I’ll post “Death to Poochie” next week; when Shaw is actually in the episode! But you’re completely right its a very good post and we should have it linked.

    • Wilf says:

      I agree with you entirely – excellent episode if it wasn’t for the ending scene. A particular highlight for me, nothing to do with Charah, was Casey’s use of the folded match book to tell Sarah how many there were to take out. It may be a shout out to something else, I don’t know, but I was impressed!

    • uplink2 says:

      I just think that deleted scene is just so much more powerful to end the episode on that the stupid WTWT angst. It’s a great example of the choices Chuck faces, the happy loving life of Devon and Ellie and the empty life of what could have been for Casey. Then Chuck looks at the “road ahead” wondering and hoping that Sarah is on that path for him. Plus you have Morgan being the true friend and sacrificing what he is dying to know about because his friend is hurting and he wants to be there for him and put him first. Its well shot and well acted. That is a powerful moment and it to me is so much better storytelling even in this god awful run than the purely angst generating taxi scene. The taxi scene is just more crap being piled on this LI angst whereas the Morgan scene actually shows so much more and is so much more honest in its emotion and follows in the more optimistic vein of Beard than just another pointless downer ending they gave us.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      While I’m flattered that people liked that post I’d actually prefer it not be linked to the current discussion. It reflected my mood and opinion at a time when I was more invested in writing to the mood of the blog and less able to take apart the story and see what they were trying to tell us. I think it is still accurate, for what it is, but it really no longer reflects my broader thinking on the Shaw character or the show in that period. I’m not saying I no longer support what I said in that piece, just that my opinion has mellowed with time, consideration and re-watches. I’d prefer not to be drawn in to the discussion by past work that I’ve moved on from.

      Some of my more recent takes on that period of the show can be found here or here.

      Shaw is still a flawed character from conception in my opinion, and casting didn’t help, but I can understand why they thought him an appropriate plot driver, even if they failed to develop him as anything other than a plot device before he became a reasonably good villain. TPTB all but admitted as much at the ComicCon after season 3. It was just another one of those dropped balls in a difficult time of transition for the show.

      • atcDave says:

        Okay, well that’s a shame.

        What I always found fascinating, going all the way back to 2010, was how by and large we all saw the same strengths and weaknesses. That is, whether we liked or disliked the main arc so many of us were in general agreement on what was working and what wasn’t. Even to a scene by scene basis we so often agreed on what was well executed, and where problems were.
        Obviously never completely. There were those who reacted differently, there always are. We had at least one die hard Brandon Routh fan who often visited the site and was convinced that most of us were total idiots.

        But it was the impact of our perceptions that were often radically different. In particular how we weighted the import of particular show elements. So two people could watch the same episode, and agree in detail about what was right or wrong with it; yet one could conclude it was a valuable step in story development, while the other thought it was utter garbage.

        I also tend to think its those earlier impressions that are far more important than later ones. Later we can often make sense of things or find a greater perspective that changes impressions a lot. But that early experience is more visceral, and I think more typical of how the vast majority of viewers will see the show. Whether we’re watching one week at a time, or in a full season marathon; most viewers will only ever watch once. So first impressions become the lasting impression.
        Obviously this all mattered more back when we were worried about ratings on a week to week basis. For any one of us an episode or arc review may be very different now than on first viewing (I can think of several episodes I like far more now than I did when I first saw them); but I’ll always think of that first impression as the most important one.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well I think there was merit to all of us living in the moment together as the show unfolded, but now that it is over we each have to decide what the show meant and continues to mean to us.

        In addition to Death to Poochie I wrote several pieces that were critical of the direction of the show that I’m still proud of as a piece of writing that captured a moment and a mood, but they are not things I would write today having gone through the entire Chuck experience. So while those pieces are interesting to re-visit, and I do from time to time, I don’t think they inform or describe my current feelings about the show.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I agree. One of the big important things that gets lost in later rewatches or in how we may or may not mellow over time is the entertainment value. And isn’t that what the primary reason is for watching television in the first place? We want to be entertained first and foremost and maybe later or lesser down the priority scale comes the analysis of what the story is they are trying to tell.

        Take the finale for example. I have mellowed about it with time but no amount of mellowing or understanding what they were trying to do can ever replace or totally wipe out the loss I felt that night. How no matter the “beauty” of what they were trying to do is measured, I simply felt like a moment I really wanted to experience, saying goodbye to these characters I love so much, was taken away from me and I can never get that moment back. Again, great execution, great performances but terrible finale. And its that entertainment value that matters most.

        Ernie in the case of your posting I think the emotion and tone of that period is very important and I find that analysis perfectly captures the character and the response to that character as it was playing out. No matter how you view it now the mistakes and the negativity surrounding that character drove people away from this series that shouldn’t have been forced to leave. Simply put Poochie wasn’t entertaining and it damaged the show and forced it much closer to cancellation than it needed to be. That is what I think a showrunner needs to realize. Not that maybe 2-3 years down the line folks may mellow on how they perceive what you were trying to do. They need to realize that good work that your audience isn’t enjoying will still get you cancelled. And when it is actually bad work that folks are really not enjoying you will loose 25% of your viewers over that season. Plus Poochie tore the fanbase apart as is quite evident from the comments to that posting and many others during that period and that is probably the biggest mistake TPTB made with Daniel Shaw. Poochie caused fans to turn on other fans and for one group to claim that they were somehow better or superior fans because they saw things one way or the other. Poochie was a very destructive character for both the show and the fanbase and the importance of that should not be ignored. To fully understand this show and its impact on the fans you have to learn about it as it happened. Respect the views at the time and learn the context of why folks felt the way they did. There is real brilliance in what the Simpsons writers were trying to do with that character and it applies perfectly to Shaw and how the fans reacted to him.

        I realize that you stand by those comments as you should but my reason for asking for it to be linked is that it is a big part of the history of this time period and I think that is a part of the narrative about this show that new readers and old readers here alike should, if they choose, study as it is some very well thought out analysis and I still believe is right on the mark.

      • uplink2 says:

        One other quick point. That piece was posted during the Beard/Tic Tac time period and I don’t think anything that happens in the final 3 episodes changes what is written in that piece. The big reveal of the Shaw storyline has, at least to me, absolutely no impact on my appreciation or understanding of the story they were trying to tell. Sarah killing Eve was irrelevant when it was finally revealed and that I think fits the concept of Poochie very well.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Here is the thing. I was entertained. I loved the finale. I liked Mask. I allowed others, negative people, to color my enjoyment, and my writing. I have no desire to relive that.

        I was entertained at the time, the blog was the tough part, and now that the show is done, I continue to be entertained, and prefer my words not be appropriated by others to convince fans they shouldn’t be.

  2. Chuck is such a unique show..loved and loathed in alarmingly equal measure..but fans have jumped ship on a show for much dumber reasons than bad writing; so at least there is a legit reason why the people who stopped watching Chuck, as opposed to say, people who stopped watching The Big Big Theory because of Kakey Cuoco’s hairstyle or the fact that Sheldon has actually “become a real boy” and stopped being some OCD wack job….

  3. DKD says:

    I love this episode. Chuck on Laudanol was one of the most interesting things they ever did. I wish they revisited it.

    Is it crazy that there is more angst in the comments I read on these pages than I ever saw in the show?

    It’s why I rarely participate.

    • uplink2 says:

      Personally I’m glad they never revisited Laudanol. It totally contradicts the “I’m still that guy” message from that great scene in Castle with Sarah. Plus super agent Chuck was never anything that interested me. It takes away from the ordinary guy doing extraordinary things theme which for me at least is much of the shows appeal. As Sarah said the “thinks that make Chuck great” are that he isn’t like any other spy and that’s what Laudanol turned him into, everything that Sarah hates about her job and feared he was becoming. As he looks at his hands he is horrified with himself for what the drug made him become. I don’t think Chuck would ever allow himself to use it again unless it was to save someone he loved like Sarah or Ellie. So for me one and done was fine.

      • atcDave says:

        I pretty much agree exactly. I was much more interested in Chuck the ordinary guy than I was in Chuck the super hero.

      • uplink2 says:

        Exactly. And that story of this episode is exactly the kind of spy story that I think was needed/wanted in season 3. It is Chuck facing the dark side of the spy life and having to deal with what he could become if he let himself fall into that trap. It also illustrates perfectly Sarah’s worst fears of what downloading the 2.0 would do to him. Plus having her bring him back from the brink and staying true to who he is at his core would be great growth for them.

        It tells what may have been the essence of the intent of the spy story for this season without all the silliness, bad storytelling, character diminishing and pointless angst of the LI storyline. No Sham, no Channah, just our beloved team facing the challenges and changes Chuck’s reborn involvement in the spy life would bring to them all. It’s why I still think this is the best episode of the front 12 up until the needless taxi scene. Though it could be said the taxi scene without the ridiculous LI story could have worked as its Sarah thinking about moving on with her career as Chuck seemingly embraces the solo spy life. It’s the Sarah/Shaw angle that makes that scene so repulsive to me. But this episode needed to happen much earlier in the season without the destructiveness of the LI story. If it had and we had no LI story this would easily become a top 20 episode for me.

      • atcDave says:

        It certainly was nearly a great episode. And I think they actually did TRY to tell some of the more sophisticated story of Chuck finding his place in the spy world; but the love triangles just overwhelmed it all. This episode plays better than some of the others because the romantic malfunctions are a little more understated.
        It was like trying to enjoy some Tchaikovsky next to someone using a jack hammer. Its just too much of a distraction to really work.

  4. oldresorter says:

    Seems as true today, as the day Tic Tac aired, some bloggers complain about the story, some about the bloggers who complain about the story. I’m certainly a member of the former group. I liked this ep, it could have easily fit into the second or even 4/5th seasons, with a few changes here or there. I’m a big fan of happy endings, so the ending kept the ep from being a really good one for me.

    Fitzroy brought out some of the Sarah humor that season one Bartkowski stimulated. I really enjoyed that part of the ep.

    I think Chuck not on drugs would have made the scene with Katherine much stronger, I would have used the Laudinal in Mask, then in Fake Name, probably had Shaw drug chuck in Mask, and that drugging causing a change in Chuck making sarah hate him along with make his powers go away in Beard. Oh well.

    Casey, Sarah and Chuck teaming together was the best. The show really needed to find the 4th partner, made a mistake making that 4th person morgan later on. Needed Carina (or any female spy who was somewhat flirtatious and out of control) to do it, then many of the themes of the first two seasons could have been kept. Shaw or Bryce would have been the wrong fit too, the missions needed to conflict both Sarah and Chuck and help them grow. A man rival for Chuck really brought out the worst in both Chuck and Sarah, while Morgan brought nothing to the table except making Casey into the butt end of all the jokes.

    • atcDave says:

      I completely agree with the first part OR. Especially Fitzroy was a real ,highlight of the episode. It was one of Sarah’s few chances to be funny prior to Honeymooners and felt much like the earlier part of the series.

      Interesting thoughts on the Laudinal; if such a malfunction was needed that certainly could have been a more appealing stimulus.
      I’m okay with the team we had in canon, except for Shaw. Not to say Carina or someone else couldn’t have been used more; I think more complicated character interactions could have been a lot of fun. But I liked the core team and Morgan as the pet moron, mostly.

    • uplink2 says:

      My suggestion for expanding the team, Ellie, not Morgan. I think the idea of a neurologist on the team is a great idea. Plus I’ve always felt that Ellie was the most under-utilized character on the show. By the end of season 3 I was so over the Ellie needs to stay in the dark troupe and the continued lying to her in season 4 bothered me. I’ll talk more about her being allowed to tell Chuck he had to quit when we get to Ring II.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah I agree completely with that. Its not hard to imagine Ellie being used more as the Intersect expert in S4.

      • oldresorter says:

        Ellie would have been an excellent addition to the team in the lab, maybe on a mission or two also. Morgan was OK to be in the van running computers and going on a mission now and then.

        But in the field, a four man team of the big three and a 4th seductress / cold blooded killer would have really shook things up.

  5. Just checking in to say thank you for keeping these re-watches going. I was away from home last week so I didn’t have a chance to watch/comment on Beard during its allotted time (so to speak) so I just watched it and Tic Tac back-to-back today. I really enjoy these episodes. Morgan becoming privy to Chuck’s secret was an outstanding element of Beard, and the relatively positive way in which Sarah and Chuck interacted in Tic Tac was good to see, too. The effect of the laudanol on Chuck was also an interesting element and raised a bit of spectre of what Chuck could turn into if he were to ever gain spy-like control over his emotions. Great stuff.

    Russ / resaw

    • atcDave says:

      Russ I agree with all of that. I’m not quite sure I buy suppressing emotion as equaling suppressing morality, but it does make for an interesting story.

      • That’s a thought-provoking comment, Dave. But isn’t that the premise for a lot of spy stories; indeed, isn’t it fundamental to Chuck? Sarah’s major concern is that by Chuck training to become a spy he will lose the personal moral centre that guides him in favour of doing what is required of him by his employer. Sarah felt herself unworthy of a guy like Chuck because he was genuinely good, and she was morally compromised because of the work she had done as an assassin-spy. Chuck feels revulsion at taking a life, but if those feelings can be suppressed (by laudanol in this case, or by training in the world you and I inhabit), and the enemy consequently dehumanized as a mere obstacle to accomplishing a mission, then the only moral imperative is the completion of the mission, not the intrinsic worth of human lives, irrespective of their politics or citizenship.

      • atcDave says:

        I can certainly see them as both related to the spy life, and as issues Sarah would be particularly worried about for Chuck.
        But I guess I was always too much of a Star Trek fan; and Vulcans were always moral AND dispassionate (well, except when Spock had a beard…). So now I see them as separate issues!

      • CaptMediocre says:

        So then really Sarah had nothing to worry about unless Chuck started growing facial hair? 😉

      • atcDave says:

        That’s always been my theory. Or if Morgan shaved? that could have been bad too.

      • Now I see the symbolism inherent in Chuck’s growing a beard in Pink Slip. It portended the evil to come.

        On another matter altogether, I thought the season finale of The Flash was an outstanding episode. Like Chuck at its best, the great thing about the lead character in this episode was not the superhuman characteristics he possessed but the emotional and moral struggle that he worked through.

  6. noblz says:

    Of the five “Casey” episodes, There are three in my top third of good eps (Undercover Lover, Tic Tac and Couch Lock), one in the middle third (Kept Man) and one in the lower third (Sensei), but no DUDs among them. All are very re-watchable.

    Stand out scenes for me:
    Casey’s reaction to Chuck catching him stealing the laudanol
    Casey and Sarah standoff when Beckman orders Sarah to disarm Casey
    The Stanley Fitzroy scene (includes Chuck bounding down the hall running into the barrier)
    Chuck and Sarah catching Casey
    Chuck’s fight (should have won the third Emmy with that)

    I pretty much liked it all except the final scene. Very Good ep!

    As an aside, there is a new 1 min promo for “Astronaut Wives Club” and Yvonne is all over it. I think she’ll have a huge part of the show. Rene (“Reen”) Carpenter was the big news story of the first astronaut group in real life. I knew she would be perfect as a platinum blonde, permed little homemaker. Not really into prime time soaps, but Mrs otherDave is excited to watch it.

  7. Martin Traynor says:

    I, too, enjoyed seeing the team together again in action. Regardless of any feelings for the Sarah/Shaw coupling, he certainly disrupted the pre-existing Chuck/Sarah/Casey dynamic. I guess some people could have liked that, but not me. That said, I did enjoy Chuck on the Laudenol (sp?), if only to see that he had a bit of the old bad-a** with an edge in him. Wouldn’t have liked to see it after that, but I thought it was an interesting window into “Dark Chuck,” and gives Sarah a good idea of what Chuck avoids turning into…

  8. Martin Traynor says:

    Make that “Darth Chuck” in lieu of the upcoming Star Wars movie…given what a fan he is…

  9. Greg says:

    I thought this was one of the best episodes of Season 3. Chuck on Laudanol was a very interesting story line. The team dynamic was great and the comedy well done. The taxi scene didn’t bother me – mainly because I really like Yvonne’s nonverbal acting – she does an amazing job of an emotionally conflicted Sarah.

    To me, Tic Tac shows the missed opportunity of Season 3 – having the Intersect take over and turn Chuck into a cold-school spy. Shaw encouraging it (since that would be best for the CIA) and Sarah, after first basically abandoning Chuck, realizing she has to save him before he completely loses himself to the Intersect. However, given the limited funds available for S3, it may not have been a realistic option for TPTB.

    I did find it interesting, that with the second episode after Fake Name, they would highlight the risk of someone knowing a spy’s past and who they really were (since I binge watched S3 on Netflix – it really stood out to me). I’m not clear on what message TPTB were trying to send (if any), but to me it reinforced that saying her real name was a very stupid spy move on Sarah’s part.

    • atcDave says:

      This was definitely one of the best of the season. I found it a bit frustrating to get reminded how good this show could be at a time when TPTB seemed more interested in not being very good. But the good news to me is only one rough episode left. Things will soon be looking up!

  10. Russ

    i was highly impressed with The Flash all season and thought Berry and Iris’s relationship was written very well..there is a uniqueness to it and whatever tension they have doesn’t feel forced…i like that they left us guessing as to whether the timeline will change come season two…i really hope they keep Tom Cavanaugh on the show (maybe as the real Harrison Wells) his chemistry with Grant was very good and reminded me of Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville!

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