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Chuck: Chuck versus the Fear of Death

“Neuroscience hurts.”

A friend of mine once gave me this niblet of relationship wisdom, courtesy of his mother: All men want to feel needed, and all women want to feel special. Chuck is a complex guy, though: he wants to feel both special—spy-worthy, that is—and needed by Sarah. What Chuck doesn’t understand is that it’s not the Intersect, or his massive brain that can handle the Intersect, that makes him special. It’s his ordinary qualities that make him seem exceptional to her, along with his sweetness and loyalty and humility.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Theme of the Week is castration, and the Symbol of the Week is Jeff’s tie getting chopped in two. Bear with me: I don’t mean actual castration—everyone gets to keep his penis! [Edited to add: and testicles!] I mean metaphorical castration. Chuck lost his Intersect, Casey lost his missions, Jeff and Lester…well, I won’t ponder what they lost or when they lost it. Both Chuck and Casey struggled with facing the loss of what seemed to define them.

For Casey, that loss was a revelation. For all of his bluster about an itchy trigger finger, Casey was most troubled by what he never thought he would possess, and so could never lose: his friends and family. As always, kudos to Adam Baldwin, who packed a huge emotional wallop into just one line about Afghanistan and Iraq. Just the way he sat up straight and drank his coffee…okay, I’ll stop mooning over him now.

Chuck, though, is stuck between a rock and a hard place: he wants to be a spy, “doing great things, doing them with [Sarah],” and he worries that without the Intersect he’ll lose the new identity he’s been building for the past four years. He worries he will no longer be special, no longer be needed.

We know that’s not really true. Chuck had some good ideas on his mission, even though he’s not an ace fighter. He’s perfectly capable of being a very effective spy without the Intersect—but neither he nor Sarah can see it. When Sarah declared that Chuck isn’t a spy, she hurt him. More importantly, she revealed to us that she doesn’t fully understand just how special Chuck really is.

That tension, between Sarah’s fears and Chuck’s dismay at knowing about those fears, is the real cliffhanger. Sure, Chuck’s been kidnapped by a fake-diamond-buying Belgian (Egad! Belgians!) who wants the Intersect (or maybe the info therein, I wasn’t quite clear on that). I suspect Chuck will survive the kidnapping. But will Chuck and Sarah survive her revelation?

Meanwhile, back at the BuyMore

Dr. Rye (or Rob Riggle, if you’re a Daily Show fan) tried physical, psychological, painful, brutal methods on Chuck, to no avail except comic relief. Jeff and Lester broke Greta almost instantly with their creepy creepiness.

I’d heard in the early part of the season that the writers would be inserting a Greta into most episodes, and that’s why I’ve been referring to the random one-off BuyMorons as Gretas, regardless of gender or nametag. That long, long set-up all led to this moment: Summer Glau. While I love Summer Glau, and I’m incredibly impressed by the way her legs seem to have grown to Amazonian lengths, the BuyMore plot felt sort of empty to me. Funny, yes. Relevant, not so much.

Although we did get a miniature Firefly reunion. That’s worth an entire subplot of set up, isn’t it?

Bytes: (I tried not to go too crazy with the list this time, so if I missed your favorite quote, add it in the comments!)

• Chuck: “Do you ever wonder if this is all life is going to be? BuyMore, Burbank. The best years behind us.”
Jeff: “Whoa, whoa! That sounds like candor.”

• Dr. Rye: “I don’t believe that the psychological rock can be hoisted off the Intersect by watching kittens play with yarn.”

• Chuck: “We are digging deep into his mind right now.”
Sarah: “It looks like he’s hitting you.”

• Chuck: “Aside from the fact the place is populated with a crowd of international psychopaths, the air is fresh, and the chocolate—so milky!”

• Chuck: “I’m not afraid of your phony Russian accent or your finger-gun, okay?”

• Lester: “We won’t be stopped, and we can’t be stopped, and we won’t be stopped.”

• Greta: “The psychotic one follows me with a webcam, narrating the tracking and hunt of the Greta marmot.”

• Dr. Rye: “Are you a spy, or are you a guy with a spy girlfriend?”

• Jeff: “Why did she transmogrify into a woodland creature?”

• Casey: “This is the best damn spy team in the world. We are strong.”

And Pieces

• I love the blatant Subway product placement. Thank you, Subway, for giving us more Chuck!

• Our tax dollars at work: Spies watching YouTube videos of kittens and idiots.

• Did the ceilings look really low in the scene with Chuck and Dr. Rye at about the 40 minute mark, including commercials? Or am I just not used to seeing ceilings, ever, on TV?

• How brilliant is it that the writers chose to soften Casey up not by giving him a love interest, but a daughter? He took her advice, too, about helping his friends.

A solid episode with lots of great emotional development. Sure, the BuyMore plot wasn’t great (but it had Summer Glau!) and the spy hijinks... well, they weren’t supposed to be important. It’s Chuck’s reactions to them and his situation that matter.

Three and a half out of four psychological rocks.

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


  1. I liked this one a lot. Rye trying to scare the Intersect back into Chuck led to a lot of amusing moments, but I really love that it culminated in that devastating confession from Sarah that she doesn't believe Chuck really is a spy without the Intersect. For once, it actually felt very organic for this "relationship" angst to come out in the heat of a mission. Can't wait to see how they attempt to repair this rift.

    Loved, loved, loved the confrontation between Casey and 'Greta' at Castle. I was so delighted by the mini-Firefly reunion, I rewound it to watch it twice!

    One of my favorite quotes was Morgan following up Greta's complaints about the "psychotic one" by asking, "Out of curiosity: which one do you think is the psychotic one?" (Or something like that.)

    Nitpick: Even if we were talking about actual castration, everyone would still get to keep his penis. His testicles, on the other hand, ...

  2. Castration is just testicles?!

    Is there a word for penis removal, then? It seems like it would be handy to know.

  3. "Bobbitt"? :)

    (I think this may be getting upsetting for our male readers.)

  4. I think emasculation means the removal of the penis and/or testicles. Apart from that, all I can think of is a penectomy.

    Suddenly the sausage sandwich (not a euphemism) I was about to eat for dinner seems less appealing. I think I'll have cheese instead. Unless someone wants to bring up pongy feet and totally make me gag... lol.

  5. Paul, I can't bring up pongy feet, as I have no idea what that is.

    I'm grateful for that ignorance, too.

  6. I think it means happy. Or maybe sad. Perhaps it has something to do with penises.

  7. The episode was good, but what a waste of Summer Glau.

    Speaking of emasculation, she appears cutting a very fallic subway sandwich in half as well.

  8. Yep, Josie's got it. Chuffed means to be happy about something. It could apply to penises, I suppose; if you were especially enraptured with a particular specimen. It's also odd that
    "chuffed" should mean one thing and yet "chuff" something completely different (being a slang name for the female equivalent of a penis).

    I can't help but feel that a bulk of the English language was concocted by perverts. Even Samuel Johnson, the guy who wrote "A Dictionary of the English Language," has a euphemism for a surname. Sheesh!

  9. I haven't even seen the episode yet -- but somehow, I'm intrigued.

  10. Chuck is a show that has always known who is watching and has often "shouted out" to fans. I was so looking forward to seeing the Firefly reunion between Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin. And I was so disappointed! It came and went with... nothing. I wanted her to come back at the end and say, "Oh and Corporal Casey? I can kill you with my brain!"... I mean, they cast her as an assassin!

  11. "what a waste of Summer Glau"

    Word. I didn't even like her character. She was so unprofessional. And what's the point of this Greta thing, anyway?

    The episode was ok, but it lacked something. Chuck as the intersect is common knowledge now? And why Richard Chamberlin took so long to apprehend him? They better have a good explanation to this sudden threat.

    I had a big problem with Sarah saying Chuck wasn't a spy. She was the one who said "how many times do you have to be a hero to realise that you are that guy [capable of being a spy]?", after all. She believed he was capable then, why not now?

    Before he had the Intersect 2.0 downloaded, Chuck proved to be, well, clumsy, yes, but useful too. And it's hard to believe that after having the fighting skills activated so many times, he wouldn't have retained most of it. Plus, this Chuck-is-not-ready-to-be-a-spy was covered last season. What's the point of going there again?

    Complaints aside, great review, Josie. I laughed out loud at "everyone gets to keep his penis". And I didn't catch all the simbolism, so I'm willing to watch the episode again, or at least parts of it, because it sure had an interesting theme.

    I loved the preview for next week's episode. Can't wait for it.

  12. Sarah's telling the room that Chuck is not a spy broke my heart. It's one of those moments we have all experienced. Something comes out of our mouth and we would give a limb to turn back the clock thirty seconds. Kudos to absolutely everyone in that scene. The reactions were superb.

    Can I just say that the exchange of comments above had me laughing out loud. You've got to love a site that discusses both feminism and castration -- all in the context of fiction.



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