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Paris, Je T'Aime: Happy Endings on Chuck

On a series that's as fraught with peril as Chuck is each week, the possibility of happiness seems particularly short-lived, if it's ever in fact within any of the characters' grasp to begin with.

Yet, on this week's episode of Chuck ("Chuck Versus the Other Guy"), written by Chris Fedak and directed by Peter Lauer, our main characters all seemed to get exactly what they wanted most, a nice change of pace for a season that's been shrouded in a fair amount of darkness and emotional injury.

It's worth noting that last night's episode was intended to be the season finale for Season Three of Chuck, rather than just a plot-intensive installment. The fact that the writers sought to give several of our spies the thing they've been striving for most was a nice touch that would have ended the season on a hell of a high, while setting up some new dynamics should the series have been renewed.

But instead, we have six more episodes of Chuck to look forward to this season and I'm extremely curious to see just how Fedak and Co. use their momentum going into this next pod to deliver an arc that's either tangentially related to what we've seen so far this season or completely separate... and whether they can recreate the magic of "Chuck Versus the Other Guy" for the actual season finale.

So what did I think of this week's non-season finale? Let's discuss.

Short answer: I loved it for a number of reasons.

This week's installment sought to clear the decks a bit and offer some resolutions to a few storylines, most notably the star-crossed romance between Chuck and Sarah, Casey's suspension from the NSA, the murder of Shaw's wife and his need for revenge, and The Ring itself, seemingly.

Given that the writers believed that they only had thirteen episodes to work with, some things were a little rushed this season with Shaw and Sarah's oddly chemistry-free relationship being one of them, as well as the true nature of The Ring. While we met The Director (Mark Sheppard) last week and got to see him here again, I don't really feel like we have a sense of what The Ring was really after or why they were such a horrific threat, really. They never really quite gelled in the way that Fulcrum did in Season Two, though they followed a similar modus operandi and were another evil splinter group who had co-opted the intelligence agencies and were looking to construct their own Intersect. But other than that, I never really found them to be all that interesting, especially in recent weeks, when they seemed to be pulling Shaw's strings and using the murder of his wife to get him to their side.

But that's a minor quibble in an episode and a season that finally has given fans what they've been waiting for: Chuck and Sarah finally telling each other that they not only love one another but, now on equal footing, actually entering into a full-blown relationship. Sarah's concern this season has been that Chuck has inherently changed from the guy that she first fell in love with, that his murder of Perry during his red test has inexorably changed him and not for the better, but Chuck had an opportunity to prove this week that, while he may have gained some skills, he's still the same old Chuck.

There was a nice juxtaposition in the episode between Chuck's first attempt to save Sarah--aided by Colonel Sanders (heh) and an entire squadron of armed men, tanks, and stealth bombers--and his actual, single-handed efforts to rescue Sarah in Paris, where she had been drugged by Shaw and was about to be thrown into the Seine as payback for murdering Eve. Sarah had been concerned that a Chuck who could kill wasn't really Chuck at all but he disproved that once and for all this week, proving that he could kill if it was necessary to save someone's life and he makes the decision to kill Shaw, not out of cold-blood, but out of the need to save Sarah's life. (It does, after all, balance the scales, somewhat.)

While I initially liked Brandon Routh's Daniel Shaw (especially after we learned of its tragic past), he's definitely irked in recent weeks and I can't say that I am sad to see him go, particularly in such a (potentially) final and irreversible way. His need for vengeance, to exact a form of Biblical justice to pay back whoever was responsible for Eve's death, eventually consumed him from within. His seeming lack of emotion was, according to Beckman, what made him the consummate spy, so it was only fitting that he would be a victim of his own deep-seated anger. Hell, even in death, he seeks to destroy Sarah.

Showing the lengths he was willing to go to for revenge, Shaw didn't even try to kill Sarah when he first learned that it was she who killed Eve but instead set up an entire false break-in at The Ring HQ (severely under-guarded, suspiciously) and then lured her to Paris to reenact Eve's death with her as the victim this time. Shaw, in other words, has been so corrupted by his grief and his rage that he's willing to sell out everything in the name of revenge: his country, his girlfriend, and his own moral compass. (Though, I will give Shaw some credit in that he didn't sell out Chuck or tell The Ring that he was the Intersect.)

I loved that Shaw's subterfuge was discovered not by Chuck or Sarah (though Sarah realizes something's up when she experiences an eerie sense of deja vu when she arrives at the site of her red test) but by Morgan, finally proving his sense of worth to Operation Bartowski, thanks to his knowledge of kung fu movies and bad fight choreography. (I knew Morgan's esoteric knowledge would come in handy one day.) While Morgan's attempt to quit the Buy More were extremely premature, I was glad to see that he was taking his role as Chuck's assistant seriously (perhaps a but too seriously) and was making a huge life-change in order to fulfill his own dreams. Loved that Beckman called Morgan up personally at the end to offer him the job, with the understanding that he'd stay on at the Buy More as a cover. (Huzzah!)

Casey, meanwhile, ably assisted Chuck in Paris and successfully bartered The Director for his old job and rank back (as well as Morgan's job), managing to apply some pressure on Beckman. Casey's toothlessness the last few weeks, in the wake of his status as a civilian, is finally reverse. Whereas earlier he gave Chuck the means of "rescuing" Sarah from the warehouse with a phone number, he later breaks protocol to fly--coach, no less--with Chuck to Paris to help him save the life of the woman he loves. (Could it be that Casey's secretly a romantic at heart? Hells yes.)

We all knew that it was only a matter of time before our spy trio was reunited in the field but it still made for great drama to see Casey attempt to adjust to life as a civilian (he hits rock bottom once Jeff and Lester offer to make him a member of their crew) and then manage to regain what he loves best: his duty to his country. I can't wait to see Chuck, Sarah, and Casey back together again, this time with the addition of Morgan as the clueless newbie, taking over Chuck's role from Season One.

Then there was Chuck and Sarah themselves, who were finally able to tell one another how they felt. I loved the scene on the floor of Chuck's apartment--with Chuck in boxers and holding a Guitar Hero plastic guitar--as Sarah admitted that she's always been in love with him and was afraid of him losing the essential qualities that make him who he is. Hell, I would have been happy with the kiss they shared then but the final scene between the two in Paris, as Sarah regains consciousness and realizes that Chuck killed Shaw to save her life, was the icing on the cake. I loved the passion and honesty of their kiss, that lone Converse peeking out of the duvet, and the shot through the window of their hotel room.

Looks like Chuck Bartowski not only finally got to see the Eiffel Tower but he finally got everything he always wanted as well: the girl of his dreams and the gig to match. He's now a full-fledged spy and on an equal plane as Sarah Walker herself. Only fitting that they would break the connection with General Beckman and finally focus on each other. Aw, young love.

What else did I love about this episode? Chuck tying up Morgan; the knife fight between Chuck and Shaw at the French cafe; the Pretty in Pink reference; Colonel Sanders; Beckman's reluctant call to Morgan and his confusion with sir/ma'am; Casey stuck between Chuck and a stranger on the flight to Paris; Chuck turning up at precisely the right time in Paris and having to use--not his Intersect-derived abilities--but his own smarts (and shooting skills); a request for a new Crown Vic; and, of course, that final scene of Chuck and Sarah in bed together, along with Sarah's "shut up and kiss me" line.

In other words: a happy ending, not just for Chuck and Sarah, but for all of us watching at home. And the best bit is that it's not an "ending" at all: with another six episodes to go this season, we'll be able to see just how these latest plot twists play out on screen before Chuck wraps up its third season... and very hopefully returns for a fourth next season.

What did you think of this week's non-season finale? Was it everything you hoped for? Happy to see the back of Shaw? Thrilled that Chuck and Sarah finally got it together? What do you think will happen in the next six episodes? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Chuck returns in three weeks with "Chuck Versus the Honeymooners," in which Chuck and Sarah discover they are aboard the same train as notorious Basque terrorist Juan Diaz Arnaldo.


kat said…
I loved this episode!
Tres magnifique!
Asta said…
There were two problems with Shaw. Because the writers thought they were dealing with a shortened season, we didn't have as much development of Shaw's backtory and the, apparently, all consuming grief he felt over the murder of his wife. Last week, Shaw was willing to allow himself to be blown up for his country and this week he's willing to sell out his country - based largely on information provided to him by The Director, who we never got to know.

The other problem is Branden Routh. I'm going to be blunt. He can't act. This is the second time he's had to follow in Matt Bomer's footsteps and I don't see a USA series in his future. You pointed out Shaw's "seeming lack of emotion" which Beckman stated made him a consummate spy. Wasn't the same thing stated about Bryce Larkin? And I cared about him and never wished him dead.

I'm a bit worried for Morgan the Spy, but he did prove his value to the team. And there is no way Casey would have made a deal with Beckman to make him part of the team if he didn't recognize some sort of potential in him.
Marissa said…
Branden Routh actually didn't bother me but I do feel that his storyline was very rushed at the end and wish they would have just originally ordered those extra six episodes to give the writers more time to fully flush out the plot.

Aside from that, I really loved this episode as it had many hilarious moments as well as some poignant ones. And I'm glad that Chuck was finally able to pull the trigger when it really counted. He will, obviously, never be a cold-blooded killer but we need to know that he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect those he loves.
Jeff C. said…
Here's how simultaneously perceptive and clueless I can be: early in the episode, when Shaw was fighting the Ring agents by the elevator shaft, I thought, "wow, what a bizarre fight scene--I can clearly see that the punches and kicks aren't connecting." That's the perceptive part. My takeaway at the time: "The budget cuts must really be hurting the fight choreography, and this director stinks." Like I said, clueless.

Many satisfying moments in this one (and some of the Beckman scenes were hysterical), but I felt the scenes worked better as individual scenes, rather than connected as a story. I agree that the Shaw/Ring stuff felt rushed and therefore unconvincing. All season, the Ring hasn't projected the sense of menace that Fulcrum did last year, and that was true straight through tonight. Andf although I'm happy to see Chuck and Sarah together, finally, those two scenes might have been my least favorite of the evening. Maybe it's just that I haven't liked what the writers have done to Sarah's character this year (culminaating in her helplessness in her final encounter with Shaw).

I don't want to be a downer, though. There were far more satisfying moments than unsatisfying ones for me. And I'm thrilled that we get another six episodes.
Deb said…
I think Chuck is terrific, and I really enjoy your recaps! So glad the gang is back together, and it should surprise no one that Morgan likes being the Alfred to Chuck's Batman. It will be interesting to see the new dynamics out of them being a crime fighting quartet now with the weak link of Morgan.

Really hope they get a season 4, and I hope it does not take a Subway effort to make it happen. I have been pleasantly surprised that there has not been too much forced advertising from Subway during the show itself. The commercials woven in on the breaks, well those were always going to happen!
Unknown said…
Awesome episode! This would've been a very satisfying series finale (which is obviously what the writers were hedging against). Fortunately, that's not a problem. I look forward to the next six (and beyond).

For the most part, I enjoyed Branden Routh's performance. He was more involved with Team Chuck than Bryce was, although I agree his relationship with Sarah seemed forced and emotionless. But, then again, who wants to watch too much of that.

I'm less enthusiastic about Morgan joining the team. I really hope they don't have him going on missions, learning to be a spy a la Chuck. Morgan belongs at home or in the Buy More.

I'd like to see more Devon and Ellie.

I loved Sarah's earnest "Thanks for saving me! I really appreciated the tank." line (when they return to Castle after Chuck's full-bore "rescue").

Sarah's high-heeled boots were terribly impractical but perfect.

Ms. Strahovski's understanding and forgiving expression in the final scene (when Chuck's trying to defend his killing Shaw) was spot on. She once again shows how much can be conveyed by the simplest of expressions or words.

greebs said…
Such a satisfying episode. Both Yvonne Strahoski and Zach Levi really sold the love scenes. The discussion in Chuck's apartment was pitch perfect - when Sarah said, "You're still the same Chuck .. MY Chuck," I must admit it got me. Good stuff.
Kendal said…
Great episode. I hope they don't pull another "oh Chuck and Sarah are together but then not" thing again. I really want to see the change in their dynamics while working a mission. I for see more sexy and awkward moments that will really lend itself to the character of the show. Lovers quarrel while dodging bullets, very Mr. and Mrs. Smith :-).
I do hope that eventually Sarah has a kind of spilling of her guts to Chuck since he pretty much has let it all hang out these past two episodes, at times painfully so.
I am also really excited that the team is back together plus 1/2 (Morgan). I am looking forward to the next episode and I hope the writers don't lose their momentum.
Samantha Hunter said…
Thank you!!! (See I was pestering on Twitter this morning because I had to write all day and couldn't get back here until now, LOL).

Anyway, excellent recap, I agree on all points, and I couldn't be happier with this episode.

I get so tired of endless TV relationship teasing... it gets boring, predictable, and irritating (sidenote: as much as I like Castle, it's quickly getting on my nerves in this regard), but I am so glad the Chuck writers went for it and decided to have a happy ending as the midpoint of a story instead of the end of one -- awesome!

The fantastic thing about this episode was how many emotional notes they hit, and they did it all seamlessly -- humor, sadness, grief, passion, surprise, happiness, relief, irritation -- all of it. Really amazing. I got the feeling the writers and the actors were really "going for it" -- not pulling punches (like Shaw, heheh).

I'd love to see if Casey ever goes back to the woman he loved once, that he met in the house that time... His stuff with Jeff and Lester was great in giving him a little diversity and balance in his character that I hope he pulls forward.

The next episodes look like a lot to look forward to.

LockeCole said…
I agree with Samantha that the whole "will they won't they" thing with Chuck and Sarah is getting very tiring. This whole season was going to originally be based on spinning the tires on that. I find it really disappointing that "The Relationship" seems to be the only thing the writers believe brings us back to Chuck. Seriously, they were going to end the season AGAIN with Sarah and Chuck seemingly happy. If the next 6 added episodes don't move the relationship forward and away from the shows entire focus and the show back to interesting spy stuff I don't think I'll even care if there isn't a season 4.

Yes, I know other things happened this season... But what really happened? There were a dozen hints that they were going to do the Rome thing, but then it threw the relationship in the way every time. Either move the show or stop making fake drama that things ARE going to change and just make a Burbank CIA branch already.
G said…
No one actually thinks Shaw is dead do they, I'm pretty sure that'll be the season finale, Chuck finally killing Shaw.

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