Monday, March 1, 2010

Review - Chuck Season 3 Episode 8 Chuck vs the Fake Name

Last time Chuck aired, all hell broke loose. Shippers were threatening to stop watching and hated on the episode and the writers in any way they could. Some people were making fun of them, and the usual flaming happened. I guess I would be on the side of the shippers, but not for the same reasons. My feelings for the show have nothing to do with the state of Chuck and Sarah. My feelings for the show are based...on the state of the show.

In this case, the show brought in two new characters to hook up with Chuck and Sarah to further separate them, and create angst. We've seen it before. There was Lou, Bryce, Jill, and Cole. Now we can add Hannah and Shaw to the ever growing list. But that isn't the only problem. Would Shaw really hit on Sarah after his spy wife died? Would Sarah really turn to Shaw, who is as bland as they come? There's also the sense that the relationship issues are close to overwhelming everything else. Normally, there's plenty of comedy, some action, and maybe a smidgen of relationship issues. This season, relationship issues have taken the predominant role. "Chuck vs the Fake Name" had plenty of funny moments, but they came to a screeching halt as the relationship problem was sorted out (or not).

If shippers hoped the situation would be remedied quickly, "Chuck vs the Fake Name" probably discourage them a lot. It expanded on the relationships built in the last episode, and ended with Sarah and Chuck still far apart and unable to get on the same page.

That being said, it looks like this is the last push of melodrama before the initial 13 episode run is up, and everything returns to normal. I think (more like hope) the writers realize that the jig is up. At one point, everyone will be mad at them, and milking the UST won't help. Several times during the episode, characters were speaking almost as if they watched the show, asking why Chuck and Sarah weren't together or why they keep going back and forth. Do the writers know they are doing that? Yes. Do they know it doesn't work the tenth time? We'll see.

The story was tailored to shows Chuck's advancement as a spy, and Sarah's growing disapproval of what he's become. The two mobsters were played by Tony Sirico and Louis Lombardi of The Sopranos, so the Italian gangster vibe was already there. Chuck impersonates Rafe Gruber, an assassin who is one of the few in the world who can hit a target over half a mile away. Chuck goes to see who his target is, and it's none other than Shaw who's talking to Sarah. She explains how Chuck has changed. Rafe Gruber comes in, and after taking out all three of them, grabs Sarah. A gunshot rings out, and Sarah falls to the ground. Obviously she isn't dead, but it would be easy for Chuck and Shaw to believe that.

The relationship development has been spotty whereas the character development has been a booming success. In Season 1, Chuck was the bumbling nerd who slowly grew into the role in Season 2. He was still reluctant, but was somewhat capable. The end of Season 2 swung his character in another direction. Seeing his father as Orion and seeing Bryce die, pushed him to download Intersect 2.0, and take the mantle as a spy who could do real good in the world.

In Season 3, Chuck is very capable as a spy. He can believably pretend to be a cold blooded assassin, lie easily to Hannah, and be brutal, actually pulling out Casey's tooth. Sarah sees this, and wonders where the Chuck she knew has gone. He is a spy now, and he's no longer the Chuck Sarah fell in love with. At the same time, seeing Chuck change gave her insight into her own character. She, like Chuck, lost who she was, and is trying to rediscover herself. That alone would have been enough to keep Chuck and Sarah about. Their situation is already complicated. The addition of two characters does nothing other than further complicate everything.

I don't know if the effect of Sarah actually saying her name was intended to be shocking, because Sam kind of caught me by surprise. I may have a perverted mind or something, but the thought crossed my mind that she had a sex change operation. (Well she could have said Samantha to leave no doubt.) I paused for a second to mull over the options. Sarah's real name is Sam, because she used to be a guy. Ok, probably not on a broadcast network at 8 o'clock. Sam's her real name, and it's as simple as that. She opened up first to Shaw instead of Chuck.

Then there's Hannah. Oh boy. The episode begins with a Kristin Kreuk in a towel at Chuck's place and ends with Hannah teary eyed, calling Chuck the best liar she's ever seen. Everything is great between them, and just when their relationship is taking off, the mess with Sarah and Shaw happens at the hotel. It makes Chuck reconsider Hannah, Sarah, and pretty much his whole life. He realizes the only person he can be with is Sarah, and dumps Hannah. As quickly as he and Hannah got together, they're done. Hannah's abrupt exit is a reason why the two new characters have been so puzzling. What exactly did she contribute to the show? Sure, it was fun while it lasted, but neither Chuck nor Sarah gained any insight into themselves or the other.

Casey had a few great moments. First, he is proud of Chuck for taking the new step in spyhood by pulling his tooth while pretending to be Rafe. Casey doesn't have the sentimental side Sarah does, and Chuck being able to hurt a friend is a tool that will be needed. Second, Chuck flashes on the name "Alex Coburn," presumably part of Casey's dark past as an assassin. More Casey backstory!

The Buy More was largely shutout of the episode, and they spent most of the episode cooking. There was a meta-ey discussion of Chuck and women. They list out all the girls Chuck has been with, but recognize that Chuck's eyes shine when he sees Sarah.

Looking forward, Hannah is out of the picture, and Sarah and Shaw are together. Is there more than meets the eye? How else will Shaw leave? He has to have a secret up his sleeve, right? I've always wanted more mythology and even better, more coherent mythology, so it would be nice to explore the Ring instead of the relationships.

Score: 9.0/10
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