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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chuck vs. the Fake Name: Thoughts from a Ho

Coming into this episode I did not know what to expect. From the pre-screener’s warnings to the few somewhat discouraging words from the critics and the awful fan reaction to the Mask, I prepared myself for the worst. Maybe since I was prepared for the worst, I ended up quite enjoying the episode. No it wasn’t perfect nor was it was my favorite of the season, but for the most part, it was a strong episode and Ali Adler as usual did not disappoint.

One of this season’s major themes: Being a Spy Has Consequences. From the very first episode, Sarah (yes I’m afraid my fingers are too used to typing Sarah) told Chuck that if he went off to become a spy he “wasn’t going to be the same person.” This episode epitomizes that warning. In stark contrast to “First Class” a few weeks ago, Chuck jumps into leading this mission with confidence and a willingness to get the job done at all costs. I mean he pulled a tooth out with only slight hesitation. To sort of steal from Casey’s sentiments, who would’ve thought our boy would be capable of that a few years ago?

Over the past few episodes this “new” Chuck has been evolving from lying to forcing Manizzle into witness protection to his break-up scene with Hannah. Punching Hannah in the face in our BOOM BOOM POW game seems kinder than what Chuck did to her. Seriously, who breaks up with a girl in front of her parents after being seemingly on board with the whole relationship!? However, I’m going quickly brush aside the fact that Chuck was a dick to move along to the bigger aspect of the scene. Chuck finally realized how true Sarah’s words were and in that instant Chuck understood how valid Sarah’s concerns are. Watching Chuck’s speech to Hannah, it felt as if I was watching a déjà vu with a role reversal twist since it reminded me of so many previous talks and unvoiced thoughts between Chuck and Sarah. I hope that because of Hannah’s verbal bitch slap, Chuck finally fully appreciates Sarah’s constant struggle in the first two seasons and gives her the credit she deserves (as she never was this much of an ass). However, I do think Chuck’s douche level will be brought down a notch because Hannah calling him out was just the icing on the cake. I’m of course talking about the reveal of Sarah’s real name.

Now I realize there are issues with this whole scene in general. Yes, even though it doesn’t bother me, I accept that Sarah would have more chemistry with a __________ (you can fill in the blank here) and Shaw is a life-size wooden boy. And yes, the name reveal was probably not done in a way that any fan planned it (though let’s be honest – Chuck would have taken the shot at Shaw if it were up to the fans). Despite the reveal not being a romantic tender moment between the two as a symbol of trust that might have occurred in a season past, the reveal in this episode had the same emotional meaning. I believe Sarah did not say her name was Sam to Shaw as a sign of her trust in him, but rather as a sign of her desperation to hold onto her dream of a real life. However, the best part of the scene for me wasn’t involving ‘I’m Not a Real Boy’ and Sam (yeah I finally said it) but rather Chuck’s reaction to the whole reveal. Credit to Zac because I definitely felt this scene and the cold-water wake up call it was for Chuck. In an instance Chuck was no longer Rafe, or the dick that had Sarah cook for the girl he’s sexing up (and practically bragged about), but he was the Chuck who remembered why he downloaded the new Intersect in the first place- for Sarah. So yes, the reveal wasn’t between just the two of them nor was there a romantic reward, but the emotional impact was still big enough in my opinion.

Right now I think what we are seeing is Chuck’s struggle to find that perfect balance between great spy and that guy he used to always be. He hasn’t quite found it yet, but he’s getting there and I’d think by the end of this “season” he’d be there. I know that some don’t feel this way, but I’ve personally liked this journey and aspect of this season. Whereas some find it angsty and unnecessary, I think that this darker side of the show has brought some great scenes and given the characters greater depth. I like that the writers didn’t take the easy way out and make Chuck a superspy but rather show us how a guy like Chuck would fair in a world full of lies and no-win scenarios. Chuck isn’t the same guy we once knew; he is growing up and it isn’t always pleasant.

On a lighter note I felt that this episode brought some of the laughs I was missing and much needed after last episode. From the two villains analyzing the relationship to everything that Casey said or did was breath of fresh air. Also, the Buy More guys talking about the ladies in Chuck’s life and how he gets them was hysterical.

Some final thoughts:

  • Chuck had sex with Hannah. Surprisingly this didn’t upset me like I thought it would. Perhaps it was because I thought Kristin Kreuk was adorable as Hannah, but I think it is more the fact that I never saw her as sort of a rival to Sarah. In the end I think Hannah’s purpose was to show Chuck just how far he’s come along in the spy world, and not always for the better. (As a side note, I’m happy Hannah turned out just to be a girl as too many people turn out to be spies in Chuck’s life.)
  • Finding out that Jeff wants Chuck to be with Sarah as much as the fans do alone was priceless.
  • Why is Sarah with Shaw? Honestly. Yes, I’m sneaking this in here now but it is a valid question. Shaw was not a hero in this episode or the guy that has encouraged Chuck who I’ve come to like. He was cocky and seemed like an ass when he went to punch Rafe (and please, Sarah can take care of herself). Basically, Shaw is a spy and everything that Sarah seems to hate (she gave a whole speech about it)… so again I ask, why is she so into him? Also it seems that the cheesiest scenes and lines usually involves these two. “You don’t look like a Sarah.” Seriously? I want to play the BOOM BOOM POW game for that alone.
  • Best Line: Chuck in his Christian Bale Batman voice- “Yeah. I know where that is. Across the street from the cupcake place. Because I like cupcakes, that's why. Who doesn't like a good cupcake?”

This episode wasn’t the strongest, funniest, or most romantic (still waiting for something to top Colonel) but it was a solid episode. More so, I feel like it was an episode setting the stage for what is to come, something that the “Mask” failed to do. How Sarah’s real name, Sam, will come into play and the identity of Alex Coburn are only two of the questions lined up for upcoming episodes. Add the fact that the next episode has gotten rave reviews across the board and we are in for a treat.

To wrap up I’d like to point out that these are just my thoughts on the episode. I did not cover everything since I’m pretty sure you don’t want to ramble on when I’ve probably said too much already and barely in a coherent sense. Please add your own comments as I’d love to hear your own views on the episode, what you noticed, and what you disagree/agree with.

Rules of Commenting:

  1. Be nice!
  2. No throwing cheeseballs ;)

Remember check back and stay tuned for a podcast with a group Ho discussion on the episode coming later this week!


  1. Agree on the review. Of special note to me was Zac's emoting during the confrontation scene with Shaw over the name reveal. Yvonne got the surprise/horror/guilt down well, but Zac did an amazing job of slipping between Rafe and Chuck as he was confronting Shaw. You could tell that while he was trying to save them all by playing the Rafe character, he was also very hurt and out to win Sarah back as Chuck.

  2. I agree with Andrew and big props to Zac on the episode. Usually it is Yvonne who steals the stage with her emotional scenes but last night was all Zac.

  3. Oh, girl. That was a spectacular review. It looks like you and I are definitely on the same page with this one - you couldn't have explained my viewpoint any more perfectly. In fact, you brought up some points I hadn't even processed yet...I don't even know why I didn't think about Chuck seeing the parallels between his struggle to keep himself away from a civilian like Hannah and Sarah's struggle to keep herself away from him. I need to watch this episode for a third time, it seems. lol.

    Once again, great analysis, Yoka! :)

  4. *Catches cheese ball in mouth and throws an open bucket of cheese balls.*

  5. Great recap/review. I enjoyed your analysis of Chuck's transformation. Zac really did pull of a phenomenal acting job. I was feeling bad for Chuck even as I was thinking he was being so uncool to Hannah. I will miss her if she's gone.

    Anyway, I have a few potentially unpopular opinions to share about Sarah. I posted them on another fan forum and wasn't sure I'd still agree with them a day later, but I do.

    My problem is with Sarah. I'd like to think it's the writing, but she has come off as wooden to me for a while now but especially in this episode. She says things and says them in a way that doesn't fit her character at all, like with Shaw in the van where she's thinking out loud about how Chuck is changing. I want to glance past it, but even I'm not buying it. She's not a shrinking violet and the way they have her angsting over Chuck's transformation like a schoolgirl is painful to watch. I much prefer her shooting bad guys in cold blood in a Christmas tree lot because she knows it's the only way to protect Chuck. And she even got her butt kicked by Chuck AND Rafe. Your insights about how she can take care of herself are spot-on. Why DID Shaw have to knock out Rafe? To defend her honor? Please. And in the end she goes against her instincts, as she just expressed at that lunch date in the beginning of the episode, and hooks up with Shaw in the end.

    Her character is being abused for some reason, and I don't like it. Nor do I blame Yvonne, but she's been tough to watch for me.

    NOW you can start throwing cheeseballs. Sorry.

  6. @Brian- I totally see where you are coming from though I will admit I'm not as bothered by it. I think part of Sarah bring more vocal is for the audience (the plights of TV) and also the fact that her character has changed. As I said I don't get all of Sarah's actions (Shaw - really?) but I think she's going through an identity crisis. Yes, that is painful at times but so has part of Chuck's change. Hope you can make it through it though and no cheeseballs being thrown at you :)

  7. Nice review. I begin to think I was the only one who liked how they revealed Sarah's real name and that they dared not make it a special romantic moment between her and Chuck. I thought it was even more effective.

    However, looks like I'm still the only one who feels like I kinda get why Sarah's with Shaw. I do think he's a tool and I don't think she's really that into him, but just needs someone at this point. I'd have to do a whole blog post to answer the "Why Shaw?" question though. However, I think it's fare to blame the writers, Routh and the lack of chemistry for not making it clearer.

    I also wonder if it's intentional on the writers part to show Sarah's been kind off her game ever since Prague. She's lost a lot of fights lately as she's going through this emotional identity crisis.

    Anyway, I'm happy with where they're going this season, I just think the execution has been a little clunky.

  8. @Hortencia- Glad you liked the review and I'm with you the reveal. As for Shaw, I agree with you more than you know. I definitely think she just needs someone and Shaw just happens to be the most convenient. So yes, I do get why she is with Shaw in that sense. I just don't get beyond that why she'd be with him or have interest. When it is up you should check out the podcast because we have a whole discussion on him (though I don't know what made it in) and have some pro-Shaw people :)