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Chuck: Chuck versus the Beard

“You’re a good liar, Chuck, but you’re not that good.”

I know y’all have each and every word of my past reviews memorized, but just in case you’ve forgotten, I said something brilliant in my explication de Chuck at the beginning of the season: “Chuck is right. His emotions screw everything up.” That’s the theme of the season, but what exactly constitutes Chuck’s emotions have lead to the unevenness of the past few episodes, as well as the occasional fan- or Josie-outrage.

When Season Three started, the conflict was between spy-life and love-life. Chuck chose spying (3.01), and the show told us that he chose it to save mankind (3.02). Chuck started to get into the spy life, but we saw (via Awesome), how hard the constant dishonesty could be (3.04). Meanwhile, as Awesome represents Chuck’s innocent side, Shaw represents the hardened spy (3.05) that Chuck is turning into (3.06). Then he meets a pretty girl on a plane (3.06) and tries to balance spying with dating (3.07), as does Sarah (3.07-08). Chuck’s rebound relationship showed us how cold he can be (3.08), but had the unintentional effect of making his angst over losing Sarah seem diminished—the Hannah thing also made his earlier choice of spy-life over love-life seem… um… completely ruined. (I think that ruination might have been at the heart of the fandom backlash against Hannah.) And the big choices between spy-life and love-life that permeated the first few episodes of the season gradually became big choices between honesty and dishonesty: a conflict that centered around Hannah (who got the short end of the stick), Awesome (who will not stop kvetching about how hard it is to lie), Morgan (who misses his friend), and Ellie (who suspects something).

I said last week that my distaste for some of the recent developments centered on the way they were developed: Chuck couldn’t go full-on Evil, because the show would lose its charm, so we were left with characters telling Chuck how evilish he was getting, even if we couldn’t see it. Similarly, a lot of the honesty-drama has centered on everyone else’s reactions to Chuck’s lying, and the negative effects it has on them. Paired with the displacement of the conflict, from love to lying, the meaty emotional arcs have felt hackneyed, as though the writers are swapping out Angus beef with buffalo meat, and sometimes swapping it back. (That is not my best simile ever.)

[You can skip this paragraph: Josh Schwartz’s first show, The O.C., made us of a similar drama-creating series of events, and Gossip Girl continues to do so: one character does something, feels bad about it, and everyone around them begins to spin like tops to fix the lack of happiness. On The O.C., I found this touching, as that show was basically about people trying to do right by each other. On Gossip Girl, it’s feeling hackneyed, especially as Serena’s love life is not that interesting. And on Chuck, the effect isn’t great.]

This week attempted to resolve the honesty-conflict with Chuck’s full confession to Morgan. Along with the summary dismissal of Hannah from Burbank, we can feel the arcs that were set up in the beginning of the season start to draw to a close. That makes sense: this season was originally supposed to be just 13 episodes, so we’re nearing the original end, even though the total final count will be 19. So Chuck set up some shaky pegs, and is now knocking them down.

With iffy results: I’m so happy that Chuck and Morgan and now friends again, and Hannah’s departure means we’re one step closer to the inevitable Chuck/Sarah pairing. The dishonesty snafu, which momentarily led to Chuck being unable to flash, is now resolved: All he needed was a good heart-to-heart. I’m not sure we needed that kick-in-the-face symbolism (yes, Chuck’s good heart is what makes him a good spy), but it made for a fun plot.

Our remaining pegs? Awesome and Ellie, who might be on the lam; Sarah, the love of Chuck’s life, who is doing something with Shaw; Shaw, who is doing something with Sarah; The Ring…am I forgetting anything?

As far as the actual episode goes, it was nifty. Morgan as hero was cute. Chuck and Morgan are funny together. The BuyMore Last Stand was a quaint subplot with disturbing undertones. Shaw and Sarah are a beautiful couple. Casey’s fight with the Ring Spies was rougher than fighting usually is on this show (his shirt came untucked!), and that’s a good thing.

The next few episodes should be good. We’ll get resolution. Of some sort. And when we look back, we’ll forget how uneven this season has been, and remember that it contained a lot of game-changers and was fun to watch.


• Morgan: “This conversation is never an easy one to have with an employee…I’m firing you as my best friend.”

• Bellgirl: “May I say you two are a very beautiful couple.”

• Ring Spy: “There’s no need to be conservative here. Terminate the rest.”

• Big Mike: “These corporate fatcats think they can take whatever they want. They can take dignity, they can take all the hot women, but they will not take our jobs. And they will never take our store!”

• Morgan: “Buddy? Don’t freak out.”

• Casey: “The only thing I hate more than hippie and neo-liberal fascists is the hypocrite fat-cat suits they eventually grow up to become.”

…And Pieces:

• Jeff’s chloroform addiction came back into play. When was that last mentioned? Early Season Two?

• Stop. Stealing. Music. The Muse-theme and the Terminator-theme were back. Is there any rhyme or reason to this?

• Zachary Levi directed this episode. He did a good job.

• The Iwo Jima re-enactment was funny—but the snapshot saved it. I was briefly freaked out by the lack of parallelism.

• The Nerf guns.

• The torture scene reminded me of the Firefly episode “War Stories.” Probably because in both episodes, the energy level is kept high through having the buddies not facing each other, which keeps the camera moving.

• Jess, I’ve been watching for pregnancy clues, and Ellie has been drinking in the past two episodes. I don’t think she’s having a baby.


• The BuyMore employees were staging a protest against The Man to keep their jobs working for The Man. The irony? Utterly lost on them.

• Using “Fortunate Son” to energize that fight for The Man, especially in the context of that song’s popularity in the anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the Iwo Jima re-enactment--that ain't right.

Three out of four Duck Hunts.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Great review, Josie. I really enjoyed this episode. The Buy More has taken a back seat this season (and it probably should) but I loved the way it was part of the story this week. I loved all of the Chuck/Morgan stuff; I've never been a Morgan fan, but I found myself so incredibly pleased that Morgan was so heroic, and that he found out freaking everything.

    Is anyone else getting the feeling that Ellie and Awesome are getting written out? I'm also getting the feeling that Shaw might be permanent; Dan pointed out while we were watching that having Shaw as the boss is a lot more immediate and works better than having a tiny woman in a uniform on a flat screen giving the orders. If Shaw doesn't join the cast, having an onsite boss to create more immediate conflict is probably a good way for them to go in season three. Here's hoping we get one.

  2. Billie.... this IS season 3. :)

  3. This episode was a big relief. I hate secrets. One of the reasons my favorite season of Buffy is the 7th one is because she didn't have to hide anything from anybody.

    Now that Morgan is in the loop and it appears that Ellie and Awesome are going away for a while, there'll be no more hiding. This will be interesting if not permanent.

    But if I just consider my amount of *fun*, I enjoyed last week's ep better, though I recognize all the flaws you pointed out, Josie. My brain and heart are not communicating well in this 3rd season. Oh, like Chuck's! Maybe I'm attuned to the season. (Way to rationalize it!)

  4. Finally got caught up with this one. Thanks for searching out the pregnancy clues, Josie. I, too, came to the conclusion that Ellie wasn't pregnant when she seemed to be drinking throughout the episode. It kind of made me sad. A little Ellie and Awesome would be great for them. Not that a baby in the mix is always a good thing, but for fringe characters it could work.

    I really enjoyed this episode. The scene with Morgan revealing the secret CIA base to Chuck and urging him not to freak out was great. And I also loved Morgan's reaction to Chuck finally telling him the truth. So great to have those two back on the same page!

    I see your point regarding the somewhat inappropriate use of Fortunate Son for their revolt, but the scene itself was so hilarious and, hey, Jeffster!

    My favorite moment was Casey's quote about the hippies and neo-liberals. So Casey!

    Hoping to get caught up with this week's eppy soon. A Casey outing! Yea!

  5. I have been fading on this show and was about to switch to something else, but thought I would watch one more episode while I cooked dinner. So, to be fair, I was only watching the beginning with one eye while the other was on the pasta sauce.

    As soon as it became clear that Morgan was going to discover the truth, I found myself engaged again. I love the fact that he knows and the reactions from the three "real" spies as he and Chuck walked out of the Castle were simply hilarious.

    Great review, Josie. As always.


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