Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12)

NBC Synopsis: SARAH EMBARKS ON A MISSION THAT COULD BE HER LAST – MEKENNA MELVIN, LINDA HAMILTON AND TIMOTHY DALTON GUEST STAR – Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) takes dangerous measures to help Mary Bartowski (guest star Linda Hamilton) bring down Alexei Volkoff (Timothy Dalton), as Chuck (Zachary Levi) worries that she may be getting in too deep. Sarah, though, must enlist the help of Chuck, Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) to complete her undercover mission. Meanwhile, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) and Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) are at odds over what to name the baby.

Chuck This Ranking: 75
Dave’s Ranking: I agree

First Impressions: 4.12 The Gobbler! First Reactions Post

Full Write Ups: Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12) by Dave, Joe and Thinkling
Worlds Apart: Thinkling and Ernie rewatch the Gobbler by Thinkling and Ernie
Nothing is as it Seems by Thinkling

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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36 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Gobbler (4.12)

  1. authorguy says:

    A ridiculous episode. Sarah’s entire rogue period is handled ofscreen, with no sense that they’d ever been apart, so no emotional payoff when they finally get back together. Sarah completely fails to convincingly portray a rogue agent. She can barely walk on those heels, when she’s walking away from Chuck you can see her wobbling. They travel back and forth from Moscow to LA as if they were driving around the block. The two fight scenes and Volkoff shooting Yuri were the best parts.

    • Justin says:

      Yeah, they could have done a better job portraying Sarah’s time pretending to be a rogue agent. And I was never a fan of the black wig.

    • I don’t have a very high view of season 4 in general. For me the previous peak of ridiculousness was when Agent Rye had his brief stint before being shot and falling out of the gondola. Sarah’s rogue outfit, like most of her outfits, was ridiculous. I recall sensible (for action work) shoes and boots in season 1, but that eventually evolved into ridiculous heels and skintight clothes. I mean, if one is going to go over to the dark side, one best be dressed for the occasion.

      Of course, the storytellers were trying to highlight the questions and anxiety in Chuck’s mind over Sarah’s safety and moral character. Would she still be Chuck’s Sarah? Would she fall into Frost’s situation? And seeing how Sarah just about killed Casey, Chuck was beginning to wonder. But, as usual, they don’t explore these things in detail. Concerns like these are barely hinted at before they move on. Just like Sarah’s period as a rogue trainee as she works her way toward Volkoff is given little more than a line of dialogue.

      It would have been interesting to see Sarah struggle with her role a bit more. Life with Chuck is “domesticating” her; to a great extent she has already been redeemed from a life that was built on deceit and cons in her childhood and violence and assassinations in her adult years, albeit in the service of her country. Nevertheless, she recognized herself as unworthy of a decent man like Chuck, a “normal” life with Chuck. This rogue period could have been about a real struggle to either return to Chuck or to reclaim her inner spy, to revert to her “nothing but a spy” mode of existence that she was familiar with. It may have been a bit too dark and dramatic, and perhaps too Sarah-centric for a show that is still actually mostly about Chuck Bartowski, but I think it would have been interesting. (And no doubt some writers much more imaginative and skilled than I have already written a story or two like that.)

      Oh, and a slightly belated Happy Thanksgiving from Canada (Monday the 12th was the holiday)!

      • atcDave says:

        I am always grateful they didn’t explore some of those darker options! I think this style is consistent with the first two seasons, we saw suggestions of conflicts and complexities, but things were generally resolved in an episode or two and we were often reminded of the connection between Chuck and Sarah.
        As far as Sarah’s attire goes, I also prefer a more reasonable look. But going all the way back to the Pilot we did see her in some pretty outrageous heals on occasion. I still remember that scene with her stepping out of the totaled herder onto those skinny tall heals. I think Sarah as “Spy Barbie” was built right into the DNA of the show.

      • authorguy says:

        I’d agree with you about most of that, Russ, except that I sort of liked Rye. He was a buffoon, and a good one. The episode as a whole was pretty weak, another case of Beckman paying attention to the wrong ‘experts’.
        I didn’t mind the clothes so much, as long as YS was able to make it work, which she did not in that scene. She was clearly wobbling as she walked. The only scene that I can think of that failed because of the footwear is the beginning of the Goodbye, where she comes out of that carry-on bag with these insanely high heels and soles. I actually checked to see how she managed to walk across the beach in those, but somehow she’s in flats! (I’m doing the last part of the Hackoff for my story, and the scene where they blow up Decker is equally sloppy. They were just going through the motions at this point.)
        Chuck’s concern over her falling to the Dark Side was only possible because she did something stupid to make it work. When he called her on the growler-phone of his, she could easily have told him to check Casey’s pockets, where they would have found the Hydra fragment, but of course she didn’t because everyone loves pointless angst. They might have been able to engineer some other scenarios where she seems to be going bad, not necessarily dark and dramatic but hopefully more genuine and organic, but that would have required a longer Russia mission, for which they had no time and a sizable portion of the audience had no interest.
        Nine2five season 2 is sort of like that, but my story didn’t have Sarah going bad, just making an unpleasant transition from Spy to Normal girl. even as Chuck was making an unpleasant transition from Normal guy to Spy. If Arya’s Prayers ever produces more in his story Becoming, he may have some really good stuff about this part of her life. I don’t know that many writers have dealt with a prolonged Sarah-Volkoff interaction, but since most people view Sarah as a good girl in a bad place, I don’;t know that she would be in much danger of falling. Can you imagine ThereIsAnother’s Valkrie character going to work for Volkoff? Now that would be a slippery slope!

      • Justin says:

        “It would have been interesting to see Sarah struggle with her role a bit more. Life with Chuck is ‘domesticating’ her; to a great extent she has already been redeemed from a life that was built on deceit and cons in her childhood and violence and assassinations in her adult years, albeit in the service of her country. Nevertheless, she recognized herself as unworthy of a decent man like Chuck, a ‘normal’ life with Chuck. This rogue period could have been about a real struggle to either return to Chuck or to reclaim her inner spy, to revert to her ‘nothing but a spy’ mode of existence that she was familiar with. It may have been a bit too dark and dramatic, and perhaps too Sarah-centric for a show that is still actually mostly about Chuck Bartowski, but I think it would have been interesting. (And no doubt some writers much more imaginative and skilled than I have already written a story or two like that.)”

        That would have been a compelling direction for the rogue-Sarah storyline to take. This is exactly what I mean by wanting that period to be better portrayed.

  2. DKD says:

    I only saw the promos, but didn’t Scorpion, which has an ex-Chuck writer on staff, recently have one of its characters go into prison with a phony tattoo on his face?

  3. oldresorter says:

    I never quite got how the writers could ask the viewers to take the show seriously. My line always was an unhappy comedy is a bad formula. Gobbler was unhappy comedy at its finest (or worst). The entire show all 5 seasons except maybe when Casey was a serious character (s1) or when Orion was (s2), was a parody of a spy. The lead actor almost never took his lines seriously, always played them off center, and the lead actress often looked like a glamour queen imitating a spy to make us laugh (the wig, cat suit and heels were supposed to be funny while many of us were completely pissed off). And usually a third of the show was devoted to some barely related or unrelated hijink by Morgan and his morons. Is there any wonder that the show, in spite of the remarkable three person team of Casey-sarah-chuck had mixed viewership at best?

    Castle continues to have not changed one bit, same show as always. Beckett is almost nicer to Rick now than she was last season. The writers could have easily avoided their mess, as the show itself hasn’t changed at all. Using baseball, I’d say Castle is in the batter’s box with a full count, continually fouling off pitches.

    Using baseball, Scorpion keeps hitting singles. Show delivers a decent episode of comic spy stuff with a water fountain type ending each week. I could watch ten seasons of it and never complain once. But, I might be the only one left by then – LOL.

    Madam Sec – they keep hitting homeruns. The ball cleared the fence week one by 25 feet. This week by 50 feet. At some point, the show has to stop getting better. But it hasn’t hit it’s high water mark yet. The great this season is how well the dad / husband is being used. And the show hits the family stuff on the sweet part of the bat each week. Kudo’s.

    I watched my first new show sunday. Think rec’d it I think. Limitless. Another Chuck – like show. Pretty good so far. May not watch each week, but will power thru it at some point for sure.

    • DKD says:

      Limitless is a surprise. I’m behind, but I did like the first 2 episodes. I like the way they portray the powers at work. Much better than Chuck’s “flashes”, IMO. It’s doing okay ratings-wise. So, I’m hoping it’s not a “one season and out” show, like Forever was.

      • oldresorter says:

        the other clever thing they are doing – think this might be in ep 3, but they create a plausible case for him keeping secrets. Secrets are a good thing in these shows, but they need to be done in a manner that keeps me from wanting to beat my tv senseless with a stick. I agree about the powers at work. The renewable part is cool. I wonder if long term some permanence will be involved? Plus how can a show afford Cooper as the behind the scenes big bad? That has to cost a bundle?

      • DKD says:

        Bradley Cooper is an Executive Producer. That means it’s in his best interest to sell his acting services for non-superstar prices.

      • oldresorter says:

        thx dkd – didn’t know that, then again, the sum of what u know about tv that I don’t might fill a season 3 ‘black box’. The lead man’s mom and dad are fun blasts from the past, don’t know their names, but the lady, nina I think from Fringe and the man was the great arvin sloan from Alias. Add in the lady from Dexter and Cooper, and the cast is not exactly slumming.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Wow, what a coup for that producer who got Bradley Cooper for scale.

  4. Occasionally there has been some discussion here about the espionage trope of spies sleeping with assets or targets in order to further their mission. It’s come under some justifiable criticism, and Arya’s Prayers’ fanfic “Becoming” has done a fantastic job of exploring that in a critical yet integrated fashion in his story. I mention this as an introduction to a new series debuting on the CBC here in Canada tonight that seems to make this particular trope at its thematic centre. From the CBC website: “THE ROMEO SECTION is an hour-long serialized espionage drama set in Vancouver. It follows spymaster Professor Wolfgang McGee, an academic who secretly manages a roster of espionage assets. These assets, referred to as Romeo or Juliet spies, are informants engaged in intimate relations with intelligence targets. Wolfgang himself is a semi-retired Romeo operator, having worked his way up in an officially deniable “service” under the umbrella of Canada’s Intelligence Community. They operate in a seemingly serene cosmopolitan city whose underside acts as a haven for drug barons, fugitives and covert financiers.” Elsewhere, the show is said to have the style of a John le Carré-esque British spy story. I don’t know whether it will be broadcast elsewhere, or whether one can even watch CBC shows online outside of Canada, but it may be of interest to some.

    • DKD says:

      I’ve heard a lot about the series The Americans and I believe the husband in the couple is the one who does the seduction of targets. From everything I’ve heard–and the multiple top ten critic’s lists the show makes–I’ve heard it’s really well done.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        The Americans is a fantastic show. One of the best on TV. It doesn’t shy away from that aspect of their work, yet still manages to treat in an honest way that is neither trivializing nor salacious. Both members of the couple do seductions. The husband however has taken it furthest, actually marrying a long term asset. (Sorry for the spoiler). It isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is great drama.

      • Totally agree with you about The Americans, Ernie.

      • Wilf says:

        I did watch a couple of seasons of The Americans because I liked its concept and I enjoyed the episodes. However, I do like there to be someone to identify with and since there was no-one at all who I could say was a sympathetic character (they’re all horrible in some way, IMO) I gave it up.

      • DKD says:

        While tropes are used in good drama as well as bad melodrama, I find that when people use the word in a critique, it is usually applied to the latter and not the former.

      • authorguy says:

        Badly written drama rarely rises above the tropes, and often depends on them to have any story at all (like season 3). Good drama has more to offer.

    • anthropocene says:

      The two recent and popular spy novels by ex-CIA man Jason Matthews, “Red Sparrow” and “Palace of Treason,” deal extensively with the sex-as-weapon and handler-asset-relationship tropes, and feature a very Sarah-like (though Russian) protagonist.

      • I believe I’ve seen your recommendation for Red Sparrow before, Anthro. Another book for the “to read” list.

      • anthropocene says:

        Neither of the books is great literature, Russ, but both are engaging reads, and my wife and I enjoyed them. I imagine they’ll be made into movies at some point. For my part, I looked into “The Romeo Section,” and I hope it makes it to US television at some point! Very interesting.

  5. thinkling says:

    I actually kind of liked Gobbler for what it was. I thought the contrast between worlds was its strongest element. I think I said all I could here in my post episode review (not listed above).

    As to fall TV, I’ve settled on Limitless, Blind Spot, and Quantico (in that order) for new shows. They all have their strengths and keep my interest so far. I do think the way Limitless shows the working of the drug is great, nuanced and not cheesy.

    I’ve finally watched the end of Scorpion S1 and the first of S2. I don’t keep current with the show, but every time I get back to it, I remember how much I enjoy it. I hope the central relationship will progress rather than getting stuck in the middle-school-romance eddy.

    Agree with OR about MSec … probably my favorite current show. They’ve created a new mystery/threat for the season and someone to take Russell Jackson’s place (since he and Bess have reached a truce of sorts) as the thorn in her side. I love the progression of the characters and relationships, the solid marriage, the way they use Henry, the family stuff. The president is really the weakest character IMO.

    • atcDave says:

      I added your post to the links Thinkling; but you sure don’t make it easy on me when you don’t even use the name of the episode in your title!
      No doubt they painted a pretty stark contrast between the worlds Sarah inhabits, but I’ll always think they fell down here by not giving Sarah much clarity in how to deal with it. They made her look too young and foolish, and had her turn to an incompetent agent for a voice of reason.
      There were certainly some good moments that keep this episode from being a total bust, but in total it failed to really inspire me.

      There is just so little television that really excites me right now. Its all too serious, too self important. I have been watching Blindspot, which I find interesting but not really fun. Madam Secretary is probably my favorite for all the reasons you mention. Scorpion is fun as long as they avoid aviation or aerospace themes, I particularly like the cast changes we’ve seen this season.
      Still watching NCIS and NCIS: NOLA (actually like the newer show better for now). SHIELD is off to a pretty good spot this season, but then it often wallows more mid-season/arc.
      I miss Castle, and haven’t even gotten around to Simpsons this season. Last Man Standing is the best sit-com in many, many years! The Middle is often funny but I have a hard time getting enthused for it.

      We’ve also been enjoying Expedition Unknown, which is basically archeology for simpletons. No serious history involved, but it does look at a lot of different stories in some pretty exotic locales. But the Arthur episode had me gnashing my teeth from beginning to end…

      • thinkling says:

        Sorry, Dave. In hind sight I should have included the names of the episode in all reviews. I did post episode reviews on all but two episodes from First Fight on, but unfortunately only later did I start referencing the name of the episode in the title.

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t think any of us where thinking that far ahead five years ago! Our blog episodes guide is also very incomplete on these later seasons; I’ve updated it on occasion, but I’ve been lazy these last few months! So that means the Word Press search feature is mostly what I’m using, and as I indicated, that doesn’t work so well when we got creative with post titles.
        But I will try to look a little deeper into search results, there may be many such posts I’m missing.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        What I’ve always done to find first reactions is go to the Chuck Episodes Wiki or IMDB (but I prefer the Wiki) to get the original air date then use the Month and Year widget to go to that months posts. It doesn’t get you re-watch reviews, but I’m pretty sure we’ve always referenced the title in those. It’s just Thinkling and her artsy titles that’s the problem (JK, I’ve been known to indulge in the clever or artsy titles too.)

        I’ve been very lazy on site maintenance/updates, but WordPress has changed so much stuff that It takes me some effort to figure out what is where and how it works now. I’ve noticed that formatting from some of my older posts pictures has to be re-done with the new editor for them to display properly, which is a major pain.

        I have a broader range of types of show I can find entertaining than Dave (I’m sticking with Castle for instance and I can’t imagine Dave finding The Americans acceptable fare) but I have to admit I’m lacking enthusiasm for new TV. Even things that I’ve seen critics I trust gush over and I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy don’t get me excited enough to take them on.

      • atcDave says:

        Word Press sure has changed around a lot of their formatting and editing utilities. I try to get more creative with certain things at Plane Dave, or at least I take more ownership of it, but it’s hard staying on top of things that seem to arbitrarily change every few weeks.

  6. oldresorter says:

    I might check out the supergirl show, with Greg Berlanti and ali Adler, who for some reason I don’t hold near as much ill will toward as some about s3’s disaster. I still think her ‘touch’ was one of the missing pieces in s4/s5’s lack of heat. I saw bits and pieces of the pilot for Supergir, I was hoping that Yvonne might get the role, but from what I can tell, they wanted more a ‘girl’ more so that a ‘woman’. The lady in the role seemed near perfect, kind of bumbling’ish just out of college role, very early Clark Kent like, which is what sparked my interest. Plus her boss seems a perfect fit to pull off the ‘Perry White’ role.

    • authorguy says:

      S4 and S5 really suffered from the lack of the old writing team, that’s for sure.

    • atcDave says:

      Ooof, I was interested until just now when you said “Ali Adler”.
      I do see JS as the main villain for everything that went wrong with S3, but I’ve always seen Adler as his chief accomplice. I blame her even more because of that insulting “love writer” video. But I think she favors sleazoid humor and teen angst.
      This doesn’t bode well…

  7. noblz says:

    There were a number of episodes that when I first saw them, my reaction was “meh?”, but on re-watch I found a lot to like in each. Gobbler is one of those, Helicopter, TS, Predator, Role models, FoD, CAT Squad and Curse were the others.

    Things I liked: the fact that Sarah and Chuck were in constant contact, the way Sarah was the one to “Lose it” and jump Chuck in Castle. I was not bothered by not seeing all of Sarah’s nefarious work (rather not see my heroes tarnished) and her attire did not bother me (that cat-suit was great and that little wobble on the heels did interesting things to her derriere reinforcing the “Barbie spy” parody aspect of the show). I found Mary’s manipulation of Volkoff puzzling, in that why didn’t she end the mission sooner?

    I was already tired of Morgan (although Casey threatening Morgan is always a plus) the whole “distance” thing was a bust and again with Mary’s obvious control of Volkoff, why did it take 20 years.

    As a general rule, I’m okay with a fairly large dose of parody (like “spy Barbie”), this show was, to me, a extremely entertaining parody of the whole spy genre (except for when they tried to make it dark and more serious…yeah, didn’t work).

    • atcDave says:

      I think I agree with most of those specific comments, but it still didn’t add up to much of boost for me. Some good moments, and I wasn’t “bothered” by this like I was misery arc, or even about some of the “story” issues others bring up. But it doesn’t rise much above that initial “meh” reaction either.

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