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A Night at the Museum: Breathless Lovers on "Chuck"

While Chuck's emotional heart lays in the thwarted relationship between Chuck and Sarah, it's impossible to maintain the will-they-or-won't-they dynamic indefinitely. We've seen both internal and external rationales for why they wouldn't end up together, not least of which is the pull between professional duty and personal desire.

Some potential love interests have come and gone: there was Rachel Bilson's Lou, Jordana Brewster's Jill, Matthew Bomer's Bryce Larkin. Each of them in their own way cast a thorn into our star-crossed lovers; after all, while Chuck and Sarah might be meant for each other in a cosmic way, that doesn't mean that they wouldn't seek out less complicated companionship in the here-and-now.

I don't think any of us would have predicted that Kristin Kreuk and Brandon Routh would provide perhaps the very best love interests for Chuck and Sarah to date. Yet on last night's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Mask"), written by Phil Klemmer and directed by Michael Schultz, we saw Chuck and Sarah each take an important step towards connecting with someone else.

So what did I think of last night's episode? Let's discuss.

I thought that the introduction and integration of both Shaw and Hannah were handled extremely well over the last few episodes. Routh's Shaw has fit in quite nicely to the world of Chuck, offering the team a charismatic if haunted leader who is determined to shake things up for the Intersect. After two seasons of Chuck being told to wait in the car, here's a guy who not only believes that Chuck is ready to become the spy he's meant to be but plans on helping him achieve that goal, sending him out on his first solo mission and making plans for his handlers--Sarah and Casey--to eventually pull back altogether. In other words: the training wheels are coming off.

Likewise, Shaw offers something very different to Sarah: the opportunity to be with someone who has lost the person closest to them and who wants to love again. And despite the, er, physical similarities, Shaw isn't Superman. He might be a dashing superspy who seems to have all of the answers but there's also a sweet innocence to his courtship, bringing her an Americano just the way she likes it (swizzle stick and all) and using their cover story at the museum to get close to her. Confronted by Sarah, Shaw admits that he is attracted to her (who wouldn't be?) and the two begin the delicate mating dance of modern couples. (Casey, meanwhile, takes his coffee "black and bitter." No surprise there.)

As for Hannah, she holds the promise of happiness for Chuck: a gifted woman who is slumming it a bit with her job at the Buy More and who sees the potential for something more within Chuck. She's not just the damsel in distress (though in this episode, she proved to be just that when she was trapped in the vault) but rather capable of uncovering Chuck's secret with her astute mind. The closer they get, the more dangerous it becomes. She nearly unmasked Chuck at the museum by getting those vault doors open too quickly, after all. But she's also a liability for that reason as well: the more she knows, the more danger she's in and their burgeoning relationship makes her an even greater target.

At the same time, Hannah is also driving a wedge between BFFs Chuck and Morgan. The look of sadness on Morgan's face when he spied Chuck and Hannah making out in the home theatre room at the Buy More was heartbreaking. We've never seen these two as romantic rivals before, so there's a nice tension here developing between the friends and roommates. Morgan's suspicions about Chuck's whereabouts may have been allayed for now (Hannah is a convenient smokescreen) but that doesn't mean that he won't stop poking around and looking for clues. Which does worry me a little bit...

It's also likely that Shaw will make the team more vulnerable by his very presence. The Ring believed that Shaw had been killed by Sydney Prince but now they have reliable (if now dead) intelligence that suggests that Shaw is alive and well. I'm thinking that The Ring isn't going to let him continue to walk around with his head attached to his neck. Look for this evil syndicate to step up their efforts to take out Agent Shaw ASAP.

I loved the conversation at the end between Chuck and Sarah as he tells her that if he has to see her with someone else, he's glad that it's a hero like Shaw. Sarah, for her part, shoots back rather sweetly, "What can I say? I have a type." In unison now: awwwww! It's nice to see these two have an adult conversation on the same level as one another and not have it be accusatory or vindictive. Really, quite cute in fact.

Chuck did manage to save the day this week and nearly with very little help from the Intersect itself. Nicely played, Mr. Bartowski. Could it be that you've actually been paying attention to Sarah and Casey's lessons, after all? As for Hannah, Chuck saved her life, after she nearly died from asphyxiation inside the oxygen-deprived vault and was rewarded by Hannah seeing her boss in a very new light. That Hannah can't quite remember why she was in there or the fact that the baddie actually locked her in there, we'll chalk up to lack of oxygen for now, no?

All in all, I thought that "Chuck Versus the Mask" showed a definitely improvement from last week's somewhat subpar episode and pushed the series back on track again. I'm loving the inclusion of Hannah and Shaw as the series broadens its universe to include some new characters and I'm actually hoping that they stick around for a bit.

What did you think of last night's episode? Happy to see Chuck and Sarah find love in other people's arms? Concerned that Hannah will uncover too much information about Chuck's double life? Discuss.

Chuck returns with all new episodes beginning March 1st.

Comments

Brian Truitt said…
I never thought I'd say this but I'm totally all for Channah. (Yes, I did one of those cutesy name things.) I like the dynamic with Sarah, but the Hannah thing actually adds a lot more to Chuck's character. Of course, it won't last, but it's nice to see for now.
Gray Jones said…
Jace, I have to say that you are exactly on the same wavelength as me, including most of your assessment of last week's episode.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the ride we call "Chuck," bumpy as it may be (like a good roller coaster).

Keep up the good work,
Gray Jones.
Ramona said…
I really like both Hannah and Shaw (loved the Superman reference) and think they fit in perfectly to the Chuck universe.

I also thought it was fun to see Morgan and Ellie teaming up (the secret knock!) but still hope that, at some point, we see Jeff and Lester "spying" on Chuck as that would be hilarious.
OldDarth said…
Liked last week's episode far more.

I enjoy the show for many other things above the relationship. One that I hold to the highest standard is honest story telling.

A good episode except for the last 10 minutes starting with the framing shot of Shaw and Sarah together and Chuck and Hannah.

If the show wants to mix things up I have no problem with that. There is a story telling requirement that needs to be filled here. If a show is going to dramatize an ongoing relationship that puts 2 seasons of emotional baggage on the two romantic leads then switching them up requires a buildup to doing so. A few minutes of screen time together between Sarah and Shaw are simply not enough.

The proof is in the last Castle scene where not just Chuck and Sarah but Casey all acting out of character. That is what happens when a change in story direction is not handled properly.

The issue here has nothing to do with the relationship. It is about telling a story honestly. The show did not so they had to have the characters act out of character to push the new direction through.

Sad because the rest of the episode was pretty entertaining.

This is a low point for the series right beside the sweeping of the Mauser shooting under the rug.
Unknown said…
I guess I'm not as deep as you guys are! Here's what I hope is happening: Sarah has been asked to get close to Shaw because he seems to have ulterior motives in being part of the team. Chuck is doing his regular silliness in not working harder for Sarah's heart. Once Shaw is exposed, or disposed of, whichever the writers choose, Chuck will decide that Sarah is still his one and only, and they will get together.

After all, if Sarah can get together with Shaw, what is to prevent her from being with Chuck??

To invest so much of the audience's emotional energy in the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, and then so abruptly split them up completely, reminds me of the worst series ender ever: JAG. All that emotional tension in ep after ep between Harm and Sarah MacKenzie (hey! Another Sarah), and in the end they just casually announce they're getting married. If the show hadn't ended, that would have ended it for me. I still haven't seen a good reason why Chuck and Sarah can't be together, so bring it on.

I'm glad Chuck is gaining his independence, but breaking up the team would not make any sense for the show, now would it? So much of the dynamic between the three of them is their need for each other to complete their missions. They are all better together. Witness Casey riding in to rescue Hannah and recover the antidote for the poison with no plan whatsoever, until Chuck comes up with the solution. You see? They're all better as a team.
Jace Lacob said…
Lynda,

They are all better as a team. The series would never split them up. What Shaw is doing however is making plans to eventually take the training wheels off of Chuck, a necessary advancement of his plot. BUT: Sarah and Casey aren't going anywhere and the team would never be split up within the narrative. That make sense?
Jeff C. said…
There's a lot of angst over this episode on some other boards, but I thought it was terrific. And although the Sarah/Shaw, Chuck/Hannah stuff did happen a bit fast, I find it both believable and in character. Sarah has made it plain in recent episodes that she is closed to Chuck, and indeed is quite angry with him. And understandably so--she really put herself on the line for him in Prague, and he rejected her. Even if it was for good and noble reasons, he rejected her. She's bound to be hurt. That doesn't mean she's not in love with him still; it just means that, at the moment, she's closed. The fact that Chuck is no longer the sweet innocent but is growing into his new role (and occasionally behaving like a jerk in the process, as I suspect most of us would if we suddenly found ourselves with superpowers) probably plays a role as well. And as for Chuck's behavior with Hannah: He's a male in his twenties. He's been put off by Sarah. A beautiful, intelligent, and charming woman throws herself at him. Color me shocked that he's responded. I think we're seeing rebound relationships for both Chuck and Sarah. Rebound relationships tend not to last.

As for Shaw, I'm fixated on his facial expression at the end when he declares himself the safest man in the world. It's not a loving, caring, or even lustful expression. For some reason, it brought to mind Libby's expression after kissing Hurley in the LOST episode "Dave": after he turned away from her to walk away from the cliff, her expression turned from a smile to something very dark and sad. Shaw is up to something.
Anonymous said…
Really good ep. Exciting and tense. I also like the new pairings. Seems logical within the story told this season. And I agree with those who think that Shaw is up to something. Hope he doesn't turn out to be a Ring agent, though. Too predictable. Poor Morgan.

~Star
Kelly said…
Did we watch the same episode?? NO offense, but I feel Phil Klemmer wrote the worst episode of Chuck to date and I am a diehard Chuck fan. It wasn't that we didn't know the love interests were coming, but it was completely tone deaf-like someone who had never watched Chuck, had never watched Chuck and Sarah, came in and wrote an episode. Not saying that's true, it's how it felt. Love interests can come and go, but how much longer? And these love interests were especially rushed and forced Chuck and Sarah in this episode to choose the love interests over each other --in front of each other. It was jarring to watch and it felt "off" to watch Chuck run to Hannah and hold her while we also watching Shaw stroking Sarah after Sarah has almost died. Wouldn't our hero run to the woman he supposedly was in love with a few episodes ago to comfort her? Would he run to the theater room to make out with Hannah and leave Sara with Shaw basically in the next room? It made no sense and I think made many us just go "ug". I for one don't think KK and BR have any chemistry with ZL and YS, but some do like them. Guest stars aside I don't like how this has been executed. Josh and Chris can't really surprised at the fans reactions. They've spent 2 seasons making us care about the C/S relationship..aren't we supposed to want the nerd to get the job and get the girl? But if they are insistent on dragging it out with the same plot devices it needs to be consistent and not take away the heart of C/S and that episode did just that. The season is written and it's too late to change course. I'm worried about what is to come after watching that episode and their surprised reaction to the reaction to it-it tells me they think they are on the right course and as of last week they aren't.
Anonymous said…
First off, as to Sarah being mad over Prague, I would love for someone to say to her maybe Casey )or for her to realize) that ti was a stupid plan> Chuck has always shown that maintaining contact with his family and friends is his highest priority and that he wouldn't leave them so asking him to go into hiding and never see them again made no sense. They should have had Chuck tell Sarah that at the train station but then they wouldn't have the angst to prolong. He rejected the plan though , he never rejected her.

2cd. Shaw is suppossed to be some kind of super spy and says he always has a back up plan but where the heck were his skills this ep? First he went into the vault without testing the gear properly to make sure it held his weight and had some sort of portable air supply (like those little thermos sized air tanks ) since the specs for the vault would have listed the air sucking system. He had to call for help and be rescued by Chuck.

Later he messes with a statue he knows something is in out of the containment unit that Casey used in Nacho Sampler . He puts himself and Sarah in danger and again has to be rescued, Either Shaw is good at planning and terrible at execution or he's planning something and doesn't particularly care if someone else is hurt in the process.

I can see Chuck being interested in Hannah. She's open and truthful (as far as he and we know) and after years of beating his head against the brick wall of Sarah's emotions he's given up on her. He's put himself out there time and time again with very little return and with Sarah's lifelong vocation of running cons (both pre CIA and as a CIA agent) he really can't be sure if they are real or have some hidden agenda. Plus if you add in that he heard that she wasn't going from Bryce (a very unreliable source) and not from her before Bryce's death makes it seem that she was only willing to be with him fully once Bryce was dead and only on her terms.

Shaw and Sarah though don't click in any way. He creeps me out. Him showing her his wife's engagement set in ep 5 just plays as him trying to evoke sympathy in her to schmooze closer .

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