Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Living Dead (3.17)

NBC Synopsis:   CHUCK TRIES TO KEEP HIS SPY LIFE SECRET FROM HIS FATHER – SCOTT BAKULA (“QUANTUM LEAP”) GUEST STARS – After his last dream, Chuck (Zachary Levi) asks Morgan (Joshua Gomez) to help him on a side mission. Their investigation becomes complicated when Stephen J. Bartowski (guest star Scott Bakula) returns and learns that Chuck downloaded the Intersect 2.0. Luckily, Chuck’s father may be able to help his son.

Chuck This Ranking: 66
Dave’s Ranking: I agree

First Impressions: Chuck vs The Living Dead: First Reactions

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The Living Dead (3.17) by Dave and Joe
Living a Lie by Joe
He’s in Charge by Joe
S3 Revisited: Chuck vs The Living Dead by Joe, Dave and Ernie

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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 Living Dead (3.17)

  1. Martin Traynor says:

    I was just reading some of the comments for this episode from the “First Impressions” article, and man, was there a lot of insight. I had previously had some real problems with the earrings scene and the fact that Sarah was still wearing them, but some comments on the idea that they meant nothing to Sarah, that she never loved Sh**w, and maybe she even felt she had “scammed them” (thanks for that, Dave!) from him sit well with me. I still don’t like that scene, but these thoughts and others similar make it more palatable.

    Someone had mentioned that there was one word in the next episode (Subway) that really bothered them, but they never went back to it. Does anyone know what they meant? I thought it might be the word “lover” that Chuck’s dad uses to describe S**w when he summarizes Chuck’s troubles near the beginning of the episode…? Just curious…

    One thing I absolutely love about this episode and some of the troubles presented are that Chuck and Sarah weather them like really emotionally mature, secure-in-their-relationship adults. Finally. And that’s fun to see, no matter how stupid some of the plot devices may be to show it to us.

    • CaptMediocre says:

      “Daniel”

    • atcDave says:

      There are some stupid moments (as CaptM mentions!), but I agree Martin, things are pretty good at this point!

    • Wilf says:

      I like that view about the earrings (never saw it before). Makes a lot more sense and definitely lessens the blow.

    • uplink2 says:

      My problem with that idea is that it portrays Sarah as someone who valued material things more than the morality of it. Even if Shaw meant nothing to her, which certainly isn’t true if you chose to believe canon, they are still a gift from a traitor who tried to murder her and the man she loves for revenge. It says that she is ok with “scamming” diamond earrings from that attempted murderer and traitor and even worse wearing them in front of the man who saved her life, knowing his insecurities fully well and yet thought that it was cool “well because they’re from Tiffany’s” is a pretty shallow, pathetic and insulting view of Sarah IMO. I won’t go as far as some commenters have in the past about it being related to women in general but I STILL find that scene disgusting and an incredible insult to Sarah.

      I realize it was written before Chuckpocalypse and they were still holding true to the absurd and failed idea that Sarah/Shaw actually worked on any level, but I still think that even in that universe it is demeaning and insulting to Sarah to think she would want anything to do with them. Does anyone actually believe Sarah Walker is that materialistic and totally lacking in morality or concern for Chuck’s feelings? Then to play it for laughs as some sort of hand waving so you don’t have to address the real issues it raises behind it is incredibly tone deaf and just poor writing IMO.

      Plus the other part about why I hate that scene so much is that it comes as close as it can to confirming the sexual nature of the Sarah/Shaw relationship. It is probably in my top 10 list of most hated scenes in the series and I find nothing about it funny on any level. It almost destroys what was a pretty good episode outside of that abomination.

      • atcDave says:

        Actually I don’t think that makes her materialistic at all; just not particularly sentimental. Which I would completely buy from Sarah Walker. And I liked that she dumped them as soon as she discovered it bothered Chuck.
        But I agree entirely about the last part, and for that I dislike it. The whole scene makes plausible deniability difficult.

      • uplink2 says:

        Ok, even if I accept that, which I don’t but that’s ok, it still doesn’t excuse the morality part about these being a gift from a traitor and attempted murderer. They are irrevocably tainted and every time she looked at them it had to remind her who they came from and that he tried to kill Chuck. Plus if she didn’t know they would bother Chuck already, the man that saved her life from that traitor, it makes her totally clueless. But I guess you could say she was that way through much of season 3 prior to this.

      • atcDave says:

        But again Uplink, you’re applying sentiment to the thing. The earrings are just a thing of no moral dimension whatsoever. Metal and stone, that is all. The importance we assign to them, good or bad, is sentiment.
        Most of us, including Sarah Walker, will assign our own sentimental value to some things, but not to others. Some people (like obviously you!) will do this easily and often. What things symbolize and represent takes on a huge importance and is difficult to separate from the object itself. Other people (perhaps like Sarah) will only assign such value to a very few things of extreme importance (like maybe a charm bracelet and an old photo of Chuck and Sarah together).
        Its just not difficult for me to imagine Sarah applies no sentiment to the earrings at all. They’re pretty and she kept them. End of story. I credit it to her as caring that she removed them when she found out they bothered Chuck. I think that actually tells is something good about her character; and its the opposite of materialistic. She was free enough of it to just dump them when she discovered they had baggage for Chuck.

        When I got married, my wife had a decorative white vase that she had on display in the living room. Several years later I discovered it was a gift from an ex. I told her that bothered me a little, and it disappeared. I haven’t seen it in ten years…
        Its not a big thing, but I do appreciate her consideration of my sensitivities. I see Sarah’s actions in exactly the same light.

      • thinkling says:

        I dislike the scene … a lot, but Dave’s non-sentimentality reasoning is good. I dislike it more for what it does to plausible deniability — something that TPTB said they always wanted to maintain. However, the complete lack of sentimentality may restore a shred of deniability.

      • atcDave says:

        Its funny, I can still arrive at denial, but it sure takes more work!

      • uplink2 says:

        Ok well we will just have to disagree on that. But again its another case of you have to come up with a plausible reason to not be offended by a scene. Unfortunately that’s a problem that was rampant throughout that season.

        Same with the plausible deniability. They were writing based on the illusion that folks accepted the Sarah/Shaw relationship as real. Because they thought folks believing in the idea of them being intimate had already been established and part of the universe they were writing to, you know that distant false universe that only exists in Fedak’s mind where Sarah and Shaw were perfect for each other. If you live in that false world the idea of them doing what is described in that scene is perfectly fine. Unfortunately in the universe many of us live in, its totally repulsive.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah you know I totally agree with that last part Uplink.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        Let’s just say that my opinion of “Sarah Walker as the girl for Chuck”, which has been recovering somewhat from the under the basement level it had been at, takes a sharp dip downward again because of the scene in question.

  2. Martin Traynor says:

    Oh, yeah! I remember hating that, too. The much more personal first name. I even mentioned that to my family when we saw it….that it was strange and unsettling, her using the familiar Christian name when she saw he was alive.

    Thanks, that was bugging me. Now that I remember, I’m more mad! Arghhhh!

    I know I’m jumping ahead, but that really bugged me. I’d like to know if anyone has some kind of explanation as to why she would use his first name there instead of the less personal surname (shock? Surprise?) that would help that make some sense and not be as personal. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps she was considering his lost “humanity” in turning to the dark side. Because her last memory him is of him trying to kill her, but she never had a chance to confront him with it. In like, “Oh, Daniel, why’d you do it?!?”

    I don’t know. At least she calls and refers to him as Sh** from then on…I think.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t really like it, but it seems believable enough. I mean, it seems normal to remember an ex differently than you would a former co-worker. Even if he did later prove evil, it doesn’t surprise me if he would be “Daniel” to her.

      It is a little different than “Get Smart” (“Max why do you always call your wife 99″”because I don’t know her name”)

      • Its similar to Albus Dumbledore calling Voldemort by his actual name when in his presence (Tom) even after he ditched it; it humanizes the person who has fallen so far…

  3. noblz says:

    This episode wasn’t quite bad enough to be a DUD, but it did come in closer to 80 than 60 in my book. Here’s why…

    Chuck’s lying is a problem, but for me the least difficult item. He always does it to spare feelings and he always gets burned, ultimately teaching him a lesson.

    Next the Jeffster part of this episode stunk up the place, IMO. Probably worse than all except maybe Balcony.

    Finally the biggie, the interrogation retcon. While I agree with Uplink that the earrings were bad, the character assassination of Sarah was far worse. Up until here, the Sarah/Shaw thing was one date that Chuck and the boys crashed, Chuck saving Shaw and Sarah choosing Chuck. OK, bad enough but doable (I still maintain that the Sarah/Shaw thing began when Sarah declared she no longer loved Chuck at the end of FE). Now we have this. You can dismiss the dinner in DC as just dinner (Sarah and Shaw said the date at the beginning of AH was their first), but the other two items make Sarah look terrible. Apparently minutes after declaring she no longer loves Chuck, she rushes off to Shaw’s loft for a 24 hour sex-a-thon. She did such a great job (let’s face it, Sarah Walker is great at anything she does) that Shaw sprang for a couples massage and hideously expensive earrings from Tiffany’s…then they went on their first date after all of that. Incredible, it was clear TPTB had no regard for the Sarah Walker who had become such a fan favorite. Just terrible. Glad we never hear about Shaw again after this season…no, wait, they resurrect his sorry a$$ for season 5…pathetic, this infatuation with a failed character.

    The good stuff was all the interactions we had. Sarah/Chuck, Chuck/Steven and Sarah/ Morgan. Those saved it from the DUD pile for me.

    • atcDave says:

      Some great reasons why I basically prefer fan fiction to canon…

    • duckman says:

      “the scene”, when it aired, was completely lost on me, went flying right over my head much like the prenup scene in s4. They might as well have been talking about the weather. It still baffles me what they were trying to say, what I get from it these days is that I’m being ridiculed for caring about these characters and being a “lousy shipper”. So many times they try to sell or spin an unpopular story choice when they would get far more respect from me if they just came out and explained what they intended for me to see, cause I have trouble believing they intended to point and laugh at a large section of the viewing audience.

  4. Martin Traynor says:

    Some good points made here. I’ll agree that no matter how you slice it, Sarah looks bad in the interrogation scene. For me, the lesser of evils is that the earrings meant nothing to her, and Sh** meant little more.

    I choose to think that she didn’t just jump in the sack with him after FE, but rather, she was feeling so despondent over Chuck that Sh**, still trying to get into her pan*s, whisked her off to DC for a change of scenery and a day of spoiling her to make her feel better and show her just what a great, classy, understanding chap of a man he was (he said, dripping with sarcasm).

    Maybe she finally succumbed, maybe not. But the way they parted ways shows (not that they showed it) that the “relationship” was really nothing to either of them. Though it is interesting that Sh** references it both later this season and in season 5. But that’s just his warped brain trying to make sense of the senseless…

    I also choose to think that it’s still plausible/possible that they never did the deed. Or if they did, maybe once, like Chuck did with Hannah…

    • atcDave says:

      I like your way of looking at it Martin.

    • uplink2 says:

      Not to be a stickler but Sarah going to DC with Shaw and all of those things that are mentioned in this interrogation scene, the “couple’s massage”, the “non-business” dinner, the bottle of Pinot and the Tiffany earrings happened BEFORE Final Exam when supposedly had begun to fall out of love with Chuck, according to what she says at the end of FE. Canon wants us to believe she is trying to move on with Shaw. She went to DC in that God awful scene at the end of Tic Tac and met him there. She returns with Shaw, both their suitcases and the Tiffany earrings inside hers, at the beginning of Final Exam. It’s Chuck that goes to DC AFTER Final Exam and that is when she goes for her, according to this interrogation scene, all day sex romp with Shaw in his “loft” with the Kama Sutra instruction manual.

      Again this scene just really damages the Sarah character on so many levels. And I will refine my earlier statement that is it probably in my top 3 of most hated scenes in the entire series. Only Prague and the name reveal do I hate more.

      None of this seems like it meant nothing or next to nothing to Sarah if you watch that scene from the view of canon. It seems to me that canon wants you to believe there was something there between her and Shaw. And Sarah’s reaction to the interrogation shows me she is defensive and embarrassed that she DID in some small way fall for Shaw or at least was trying to. That is what canon wants you to believe. So with that it makes this scene even more offensive as to why she wears those earrings. Canon wants you to believe they were a gift she readily accepted from someone Chuck knew “how much she cared about”. A romantic gesture from her new boyfriend. You can’t just reject canon because it makes her actions look less bad. No matter how we try to rationalize this scene and her motives, it all makes Sarah look pathetic and diminishes her once again for a cheap uncomfortable laugh. The only way you can deal with it is to ignore all of canon before the Paris hotel room. It really is that horrible a scene because the intent was to double down on the canon view of the Sarah/Shaw relationship and as repulsive as that already was, this scene only makes it much worse and there is nothing humorous about that for me.

      • atcDave says:

        I think ignoring all prior to the hotel room is fine. I take a pretty fluid view of canon anymore. I take the scenes and episodes I like and dump the rest.
        As far as I’m concerned, the show’s strengths were comedy, adventure and performances. Story telling is generally much better from other sources, so I mostly get excited about non-canon story; and watch the show to SEE the characters and laugh along with them.

  5. So, this is all about the interrogation scene and the earrings, eh? I may not like it, but I don’t think that viewers can deny that there a sexual relationship between Sarah and Shaw. In some sense, it is symmetrical, given the relationship that Chuck had with Hannah, although we never saw Sarah coming out of Shaw’s bathroom with nothing more than a towel wrapped around her.

    There was a suggestion that Sarah fell into Shaw’s bed rather quickly. I’m of two thoughts on that. One explanation could be that the amount of time covered by the episodes when Shaw and Sarah were “dating” was much greater than we might initially perceive. A second explanation is that, although Sarah took love very seriously, perhaps even thinking that love doesn’t happen for women like her, sex was treated more casually, and given that Shaw fits into her default type “pre-Chuck,” a sexual relationship with Shaw would not be as offensive to her as it would be to us “Charah shippers.”

    As for the earrings, I’m with Uplink2 on this; I just don’t see a plausible explanation for why she would wear them. I can’t imagine Sarah, now happily with Chuck, and alive and well on the other side of a murder attempt by Shaw, would hang onto earrings that were a gift from him. That whole interrogation was played for laughs: Casey was his usual self, digging into Chuck and Sarah about their “feelings,” and causing both Sarah and Chuck to squirm. Chuck’s desperate search for innocent explanations was kind of silly; Sarah’s behaviour was interesting, almost like she was ticked off that Chuck was so obviously bothered by these events. I think the writers just decided, let’s see how far we can twist this Shaw knife into Chuck’s gut. They had an idea and decided to run with it.

    Even so, this was a relatively brief part of the episode, and there were elements to this week’s story that I thought were either important to the unfolding story, or simply entertaining. I enjoyed the Jeffster storyline. The lies being told by Chuck and Ellie were important and caused serious trouble for a lot of people, including themselves. I’m glad that Ellie actually had more of a role to play in this episode, even though the lies told to her and by her put her and others in danger.

    The “spy will” element is interesting, although why it would be so strategically important for Shaw to recover it at that point is beyond me. However, it did set up the scene where Sarah asks Chuck to hold her will in safekeeping and inspires Chuck to write his own will. And then we hear that quite incredible song, “I am your skin,” by The Bravery. The song speaks of a profound intimacy; it’s jarring to me, therefore, that we know that Chuck is still hiding the truth of his mental health from Sarah. I guess I’ll regard the song as a promise that is yet to be realized at that point.

    Finally, I also thought about Sarah’s spy will in the context of the series finale. When Sarah is still under Quinn’s influence in 5.12,, when Chuck brings Sarah to the house that was to be their home, I wonder what might have happened if the first thing he had done, while she was still tied up, was to present to her the spy will she had entrusted to Chuck.

    • atcDave says:

      Very interesting idea about the spy will, that could have been a fun scene.

    • uplink2 says:

      Russ, you make a great point. There is symmetry to the Chuck/Hannah, Sarah/Shaw relationships both being extremely fast and both actually doing the deed. Both Chuck and Sarah had sex with their new partners BEFORE they even went on their first official date. And the concept of symmetry was something that Schwedak specifically mentioned was by design in the fact that both relationships started in Mask. When asked if that was something they intended they specifically used the word symmetry to confirm it was in fact planned that way. I don’t think it is a stretch at all to extend that to the sexual part of their relationships as well. And in that case, I don’t believe you can simply say it and they meant nothing to Sarah. Canon states or tries to get us to believe that Sarah cared for Shaw, enough so that Chuck was willing to sacrifice himself and his future with her to make her happy by saving Shaw from his idiotic suicide mission. In fact that kiss between Sarah and Shaw in AH is the only moment there was ever any chemistry between them. So in that case wearing those earrings is despicable because they and Shaw did mean something to her at one point and it is just an awful destruction of the Sarah character one last time. Thankfully it is probably the last time they damage the Sarah character, well until the finale but that’s an entirely different matter.

      And this is what is so distressing about that scene. There are some really good and important moments in this episode and that scene was unnecessary and the cheap laughs fell flat for many of us at best or we found them offensive at worst. Remember Sarah’s comments in season 1 about Bryce betraying everything she believed in? So did Shaw and he even tried to murder both her and the man who saved her life that she was now living with. Sarah woke up that morning in their bedroom and chose to put on a gift given to her by the man that tried to murder the man she woke up next to. There simply is no way to justify Sarah doing that even in the failed canon story they were still trying to force us to swallow.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I’ve always been clear Chuck and Sarah BOTH behaved contemptibly in S3.

      • thinkling says:

        Yes. Exactly. I’ve always though Chuck, even more so than Sarah. And I’ve always said that of the two (throughout the series) Sarah was the more faithful.

      • atcDave says:

        I think it’s sometimes more jarring with Sarah in S3 because it is so out of character and Shaw is such a gross slug.

      • uplink2 says:

        On that I agree completely Dave. It is just so repugnant on so many levels that it makes her look so bad for even entertaining the idea let alone acting on it. It was so obviously not working yet they continued to push it and then doubled down on it in this episode that made it so much worse.

  6. Martin Traynor says:

    Great points, Uplink. Darn, I hate when my theories are shot to heck-fire. Well, let me regroup here…Yeah, I got nuthin’.

    There simply is no excuse or rationale behind the earrings. The Sarah of seasons 1/2 wouldn’t have kept them unless she was mad at Chuck and wanted to hurt him with them, and she clearly was NOT in that place by this point. So there is no plausible reason. Let’s blame the writers/producers!

    As for Sarah in DC with Shaw (may as well spell it out now!)…whatever. I’m tired of trying to reconcile/explain/accept it. I’m with Dave on this (forgive me if this isn’t your view, Dave)…it never happened. None of it.

    I will say this, though. With all that Chuck and Sarah had been through, and all the suffering it seems Sarah experienced not being able/willing to date Chuck early on and love him from (emotionally, anyway) afar…she never dated anyone until Shaw. Yes, she had the occasional kiss with Bryce or Cole, but she always chose Chuck, even when she didn’t really get to have him. But there was always, I think, the promise of him.

    By the time of Shaw, I believe she felt/thought that she had ruined her Chuck. The promise of what she wanted with whom she wanted it seemed not only gone, but beyond what she felt she deserved. Chuck had changed, and it was her fault. She ruined him. I get this only from what I observe, what I feel and want to believe, and some thoughts I’ve read by others better at this analysis than I. So I consider her a lost soul at that point.

    None of this explains the earrings, but like I said, I don’t think anything does. It was simply stupid on the part of the writers.

    • My thoughts exactly! Also, Casey is the reason that the scene looks so much worse than it actually is; his favorite sport was always making Chuck and Sarah uncomfortable and the writers saw one last major opportunity for him that is perhaps the simplest explanation!

  7. Greg says:

    Sorry, I’m late to the party on this one, but I just returned from two weeks out of the country and couldn’t resist commenting on the interrogation scene.

    I agree with all the comments above regarding the character assassination of Sarah. Chuck comes across as wimp and Casey is just a jerk.

    But the other part of this scene that I have an issue with is that they all come across as incompetent from a professional standpoint. When you find a traitor in your midst, you want to know how much damage they’ve done. We assume there was an investigation, but they don’t need to cover it from an entertainment perspective – unless you bring the Shaw story line back. And when they do – we discover they did nothing.

    The interrogation scene covers 2 minutes of show time and what is the result? They decide to search Shaw’s apartment! I remember thinking WTF – it should have taken less than 5 seconds to figure that out – and somebody should have already done it after they discovered Shaw was a traitor.

    This scene was very high risk for the TPTB – given how bad they’re making the main characters look – and the potential for upsetting a lot of fans. Since there was zero benefit from it, I cannot understand for the life of me why they did it. Given TPTB are in the entertainment business – upsetting a big chunk of your fan base for no good reason – just shows very poor business sense on their part.

    Given how great Chuck was, TPTB had a lot of great ideas. I just wish they were more business savvy about some things, especially when it came to season 3. Chuck would still probably be on the air if they were.

    • atcDave says:

      I mostly agree with all of that Greg. The only defense I have for the story tellers is that this was written prior to the “Chuckpocalypse”, and I think they expected and hoped we’d all be a little more ready to laugh “with them” about the whole business than many of us actually were.

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