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'Chuck': Chuck and Sarah fall in love -- just not with each other

NUP_136821_0121 "Chuck Versus the Mask" probably wasn't planned as the episode that was going to be the show's big cliffhanger heading into the Winter Olympics-mandated break. Remember, the series didn't think it would be back until after the Olympics, and this episode was conceived well before NBC's entire fall prime-time lineup fell apart and the "Jay Leno Show" experiment failed.

So when "Mask" was in production, the show's producers couldn't have known that the episode's final moments would have to be enough to carry the show past a two-week break in its storytelling flow. Fortunately, the final moments of the episode -- filled with romantic intrigue and the first appearance of the Ring leadership -- work surprisingly well as a cliffhanger, and the rest of the episode continues this season's swing toward more tight-knit action storytelling.

The thing that everybody's going to be complaining about on the Internet, I guess, is the fact that the episode ends with both Shaw and Sarah and Chuck and Hannah makin' out. The mind of the Internet shipper is a confusing one, I have to confess.

I don't think there's anyone out there who doesn't think this show will end with Chuck and Sarah apart. While I'm generally in favor of shows not pushing will-they/won't-they relationships too far past their sell-by dates (I don't buy that whole "David and Maddie hooking up killed 'Moonlighting'" piece of conventional wisdom), I'm still mostly enjoying the ways that Chuck and Sarah always seem to just miss with their timing. The show has been so good at throwing obstacles in their way and in having them have moments when they're ALMOST able to be together that I can cut it plenty of slack in regard to stringing this storyline along.

One of the most common techniques a show uses to keep two characters who clearly belong together apart is to bring in a guest star or two who will behave convincingly as an alternate love interest for an episode or two before they have to leave to pursue other career options. No one thinks that Hannah and Shaw are around for the duration because, let's face it, Kristin Kreuk and Brandon Routh are probably above this show's pay grade as far as being made regulars. They join the long, proud tradition of characters as diverse as Julie the paleontologist from "Friends," Karen from "The Office" and Seth Bullock's surprise wife, Martha, from "Deadwood." So if Shaw and Hannah are just obviously stalls in the drama between now and the inevitable Chuck and Sarah pairing, why don't I mind?

I don't mind because Shaw and Hannah are pretty awesome and fun characters in their own right. I loved Hannah from minute one, as the show finds that Kreuk, who can be a limited actress with bad writing, is actually pretty good at playing bubbly and effervescent. The show's also done a darn fine job of coming up with a woman who might actually be a good match for Chuck if not for all of the spy stuff that keeps getting in the way of their relationship. She's got many of the same interests as him, she seems really into him, and the only real issue she has with him is the whole "always hanging out with his ex" thing that's ruined many a relationship. As for Shaw, while he started out mysteriously, he's revealing himself to be a rather fitting all-American guy, just the kind of strong, silent type Sarah seems to normally be attracted to. (And it's a nice reminder that Brandon Routh was a pretty underrated Superman. I speak heresy, I know.)

So while neither Hannah nor Shaw is Chuck or Sarah's all-time love partner, both will make pretty good boyfriend/girlfriend material in the immediate short-term future. Plus, having the actors on the show has been a nice boost of energy, providing some really fun scenes in every episode both have appeared in. And in the third season of a show, when a series must necessarily diversify both the kinds of stories it can tell and the world the show takes place in, having these guys around to suggest there's a world outside of the spy world is a good call. It also helps that neither has been made evil (so far), which would be too predictable and beneath this show (unless it was really, really cool). 

Plus, the show is coming up with really good ways of involving both characters in the action, keeping Shaw in the loop and Hannah mostly oblivious. Tonight's episode revolved around a museum heist, of all things, as the Ring had hidden a dangerous weapon in the base of an artifact called the Mask of Alexander. (This, in and of itself, is a clever conceit, since museum artifacts don't have to go through the kinds of screening processes that would turn up, well, dangerous weapons.) The action sequences here, which often involve the giant, security-laden vault at the heart of the museum are quite fun, particularly one where Sarah's doing hand-to-hand battle with a Ring agent while Chuck dangles above the museum vault floor and Hannah's trying to open the vault doors remotely. It's a giant, rolling ball of catastrophe, and the way the show averts it is clever and fun.

I'm less certain about Morgan and Ellie beginning their plan to figure out just what Chuck is up to. I get that the show needs to push a wedge between Morgan and Chuck (presumably so that he finally is dogged enough to get the actual truth), but seeing these two squabble over a girl is just not the sort of thing that it seems like the show would do terribly well. As with most Buy More subplots, this one was blatant comic relief, but in this case, the main story had enough goofy stuff going on (like everything Casey was up to) that I didn't need the added comedy, particularly in a subplot that should play off Ellie and Morgan's fears about Chuck's secrets at least a little seriously.

But any fears I might have about the show not taking its storytelling seriously are wrapped up by that final scene, where the Ring agent goes in to confront his superiors and tell them just why everything failed and is shot in the head. The Ring is up to no good, and they've got Chuck, Sarah and, especially, Shaw on their radar now. What they do with that information can't be good, and I'm genuinely excited to see what happens when the show comes back in -- can it be true?! -- three weeks.

Some other thoughts:

  • So, those five Ring agents in shadow ... can anybody say ... final five?
  • Look, I get that the show needed to get Hannah in the vault as quickly as possible, but she still doesn't seem too bright for just wandering in there like that and not realizing the doors were sliding shut behind her.
  • Once again, Entertainment Weekly breaks "Chuck" casting news at a time when it works better to just insert here down at the end. Michael Ausiello reports that one of my favorite live-wire actors, Christopher Lloyd, will be joining the show. Man, this series is good at coming up with actors who've been out of the spotlight too long and giving them great roles.
  • And with that, I'll say bye for a few weeks. If there's any "Chuck" news worth posting here, though, be sure that I'll post it. See you in March!

-- Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: Brandon Routh plays the debonair Daniel Shaw on "Chuck." (Credit: NBC)

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Comments () | Archives (24)

I have no clue what Josh Schwartz is doing, but it isn’t working. I’m not a shipper or anything; I’m simply a fan of the show that likes all parts, and don’t like this undying devotion by Schwartz to have artificial angst in the form of other people, in this case Shaw and Hannah. Is there anything original he can do this time around?

Review of the episode on my blog:

Wait you believe that the show will ultimately end with Chuck and Sarah going their separate ways? I have to disagree. The show has consistantly hinted at the idea that Sarah no longer loves the spy life and would be happy to walk away. I think that in the end we will see Chuck and Sarah happy ever after.

I agree whit @Chris! Definitely Sara and Chuck will be together at the end, ther is no other way!

If you don't like the direction they have taken the Chuck/Sarah relationship you are a "shipper" who has the patience of a flea and doesn't see that all will end well. I disagree with that assessment. For many viewers, it CAN'T end well now. They can throw them back together, but they have ruined the essence of Chuck and Sarah. The angst is fun, but we've always been shown that these 2 want each other--obstacle after obstacle. Not the case last night. There was no interaction between them that led us to believe they haven't moved on. That is a death knoll for a series based on a conflicted relationship. I no longer care because they don't. I have been a devoted fan of Chuck, but I feel they betrayed those characters last night and it was simply poor writing to blame. The change in writers was very evident last night.

Chris, you misread what was said in the article. He said there is nobody that thinks Chuck and Sarah will end up apart. Everyone thinks (knows) they will end up together and Kristin Kreuk is not to bad to look at while waiting for that to happen.

I of course want to see Chuck and Sarah together at the end, but I don't have any real problem with last night's developments. Well, I guess I would prefer they weren't done simultaneously. But Chuck and Sarah have agreed they can't be together, at least for the time being. So why should they have to sit there alone?

Of course Sara and Chuck have to be together. But it isn't fair to the superman girl. The only answer..... a threesome.

Incidentally, this isn't the first look we've had at the Ring's leadership. We had a brief tease of them in Chuck Versus the Predator (everyone thought they were Fulcrum's leaders at the time. Surprise!)

u know , i cant believe i was the only one that noticed the hint that shaw wasnt gonna turn out to be good, did u see his face when he said he was harmless, shaw is a member of the ring..wanna bet?

I think that after all the sexual tension that built up between Chuck and Sarah, it does not make sense that a cool dude shows up and makes Sarah fall out of love from Chuck. First I don't buy that for a second and second I don't feel the chemistry between Shaw and Sarah, furthermore I think that will be a good way to end the show all together leaving everybody with a bitter taste, what, so it is that? Just like that. Look I think that Kristin Kreuk its hot and all, but, I just don't feel Hannah is right for Chuck. Chuck needs to be with Sarah, and Sarah Loves Chuck and no one else ever! (That sounded creepy lol). It's just that there is too much water under the bridge between them and their chemistry made the show what it is. I have been a fan of the show for a while now, I wrote a letter to help to keep the best show on TV "Chuck" for another season, furthermore, I have never been a fan of another show in my life. I really disliked the way that they said good bye to each other when they were in castle, kind of like, oh yeah what we got was nothing, this is the real thing, me with Shaw and you with Hannah... Bologni NO!. We want to see Sarah crying her eyes off (sorry about that Yvonne), She has been very difficult with Chuck and even mean. And, whats up with her just breaking the "rule" that she should't fall for another spy, in that case, please, what is in for my friend Chuck from Sarah; More Bologni. And you know, even Casey seems to not like it, I can tell he thinks that it is bologni too, I kinda saw it in his eyes when he was leaving castle (great acting by the way)

I agree with Lee. I don't mind the new love interests all that much, but last night, the writers had Chuck and Sarah making desicions that I wouldn't say are true to their characters. Putting them with other partners so soon makes their bond seem a little weak. Especially since Sarah is supposed to be a cold-hearted CIA agent. It took the better part of three years for her to trust Chuck, and now after 4 episodes, she's with Shaw? I guess I misunderstood the characters.

I like Chuck/Hannah, but not Sarah/Shaw...Chuck/Hannah have great chemistry and look good together, but the Sarah/Shaw situation seemed too rushed considering he recently lost his spy wife and Sarah looked and acted like she hated his guts until the end of the epi...it wasn't a smooth transition. They should have given that relationship a bit more time to develop. I think Chuck & Sarah will end up together in the end, but it was necessary to put some distance b/w them for now b/c their dynamic was getting to be a bit stale and boring.

Yeah, I don't see a way this show ends with Chuck and Sarah as anything other than a happy couple. Sorry if that was confusing!

here is what I believe. I believe that Shaw is really under cover as a ring agent. I believe the the Ring shot the guy at the end because he recognized Shaw. He takes Sarah and Chuck saves her getting them back together. I believe Christopher Lloyd will be one of the Ring Leaders and could actually be Shaws father (or something corny like that). Call me crazy but watch the last few seconds of the show when they flash to Shaws face. That's someone who is thinking and not concentrating on Sarah. Not sure what they will do with Hannah, but she is cute. Maybe she ends up with Morgan for a while before she's off the show. Just my thoughts

This only makes it so that when Chuck and Sarah finally do hookup it will be a million times hotter.

the ring leadership looks suspiciously like Bill and Ted's Future Counsel.

I think I've finally put my finger on why Shaw bothers me so much. It's because I feel like his character does Sarah a disservice. In one episode's time she fell for him, which just isn't something I buy into. Correct me if I'm wrong, but before "Chuck vs. The Mask" there wasn't even a hint of any chemistry between Sarah and Shaw, and Chuck and Sarah have so much chemistry you can cut through it with a knife. Hell, just weeks (I'm assuming weeks, maybe months) before, Sarah was willing to throw everything she'd worked for away to run away with Chuck in Prague, yet now it seems as though both have completely moved on? I don't know, I'm just not feeling the direction this is taking. I'm willing to wait it out though, because I know the writers aren't stupid enough to end the series with Chuck and Sarah not being together.

Yvonne Strahovski and Kristin Kreuk are the two hottest girls on TV - a blonde and a brunette. I can't believe that Chuck has both of them. For that reason alone it's worth watching.

I think that there is room to make Hannah and Shaw evil characters and break both Sarah's and Chuck's heart. Shaw is like Bryce so far, so it's reasonable to see the attraction that Sarah would have for him. The death of Shaw's wife also would be a possibility for the Ring to compromise him or make him more patriotic - it depends on who Shaw views as responsible for her death although he did acknowledge he had some role in that tragedy.

It's just that Hannah seems too over-qualified to be working at the Buy More and although Chuck may be a fascinating guy that's usually not enough to tempt someone to relocate in another country/state even when they've lost their previous high calibre job. Which leads to how would Hannah's handlers (the Ring?) know Chuck was on the plane to set up that contact. Which would also have implied the mission was a fake set up by Shaw but, did have the advantage of building his credibility with Casey and Sarah as well as Chuck.

On the other hand Shaw and Hannah may be just the type of characters that continue throughout the run of the show so that at the end Chuck and Sarah can be separated or together and still provide a plausible ending. After all how many times can Chuck come back from the 'brain' bin.

I don't know how it's ratings have been but, to be honest I don't know too many people that watch the show. Sometimes it seems like I'm the only fan.

BTW I really liked Brandon Routh as Superman. I wish DC would get it's act together and come up with a decent story for another movie.

There is no way this show can end good without sarah and chuck together. I believe this is just a bump in the road but come on shaw and sarah. These relationships will be over as soon as they started.

The Ring is actually a group of evil fashion industry moguls.

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