24 December, 2011

CHUCK Vs. the Santa Suit - 5.07: A Tale of Two Kisses

There was a ton of hype about this episode, perhaps some of it due to the fact that CHUCK is the only original network show on. But did it deserve all that hype? DID IT EARN IT?!

Find out after the juuuuuuuump!

Writer Amanda Kate Shuman rides out guns-a-blazing in this one, backed by the directorial brilliance of Peter Lauer who has now helmed at least three, if not four, of the best episodes in series history (Best Friend, Colonel, Last Details, Santa Suit). Supporting them are the cast and crew, all fully engaged in delivering a masterpiece. And it almost all works to perfection.

As we discovered in the previous episode, there is a virus and it is doing bad things. Unlike last episode, our characters behave realistically and don't regress to fit the stupidity of the story. This time, everyone is behaving as heroically as 85 episodes of story have established.

One of the most surprising things in Chuck Versus the Santa Suit is Brandon Routh's excellent performance as Chuck and Sarah's ultimate nemesis, Daniel Shaw. The great thing about Shaw, unlike every other bad guy on the show, is that his hatred for the pair is totally believable, so much that there were times during the episode I actually thought some harm could come to our heroes. Of course no real harm can come to them, but that's how convincing Shaw's passion for hurting them was that I, a cynical veteran of television, forgot the most obvious. At times, the hairs stood on the back of my neck as Shaw beat, tortured, or stalked Sarah. Insanity!

Another excellent element? General Beckman who, as it is now clear, has been underutilized for most of the series. Her kissing Chuck should go down in show history as one of the most hilarious. I laughed, clapped my hands together, and probably screamed when it happened. The subsequent discussion between the two in the car, and the later attempt by Chuck and Beckman to explain it to Sarah, will continue to entertain me for some time.

As all that's going on, the show's also able to create a fun, funny, and exciting Buy More subplot that ended up being very important. As Jeff and Lester eat Subway sandwiches and drink Subway coffee, and get a personal Subway slave, while Subway eye-rapes the audience with its products, they are able to believably discover the true nature of the evil virus, giving Chuck and Morgan a solution to the Shaw problem.

The toughest job may have fallen on Yvonne Strahovski who had to play the defiant damsel in distress Sarah who slowly realizes the danger awaiting her husband. Her fight scenes against Shaw were some of the most violent we have seen on the show involving Sarah and a male character. Usually, this show will save Sarah beatings for a female opponent, but this time it felt appropriate to have Shaw dominate her physically, and it felt necessary as a way to elevate the feelings of danger throughout her ordeal in Castle. I give a tip of the cap to the writers room for going through with it and for Strahovski and Routh for making nearly every scene between them compelling.

Ellie and Awesome also get some focus, with the former getting her hero moment at the end. Big Mike gets a few very good scenes too, but the character continues to be underutilized by the writers. Casey and Morgan both get to be heroic, though I do feel that Casey's arc in the episode was too familiar. His getting shot is much like Kenny on SOUTH PARK getting killed. Except on CHUCK it feels more like a crutch when the writers have to take Casey out because he is too capable. That would be one of my nitpicks. It isn't a major problem, especially since he does get a couple of good moments, but something that did bother me a tad.

If there is a big logic bomb in the episode, it could be that Shaw still has the Intersect in his head. However, after thinking about it, there is a reasonable explanation. Before the CIA could suppress it in Shaw, he turned Decker into his pawn. So, Decker essentially protected him and kept him from being de-Intersected.

Speaking of which, one of the best fights in the ENTIRE SERIES was the one between Chuck and Shaw in the Buy More. Yes, we have seen this fight before, at the end of season 3, but this time neither one of them has the Intersect. To finally see Chuck demonstrate the skills he has naturally learned, and should have learned by now, was like the geek-payoff of the decade. So many times fans have questioned why Chuck's not trained to fight without the Intersect, or to do just about anything without it, and this season the writers have slowly been hinting that he's been working out. The fight choreographers even made sure Chuck's fighting style's similar to Sarah's (I notice such things being the master martial artist that I am), because she would likely be the one to show him most of her moves. Little details like that may not mean much to most people, but I salute everyone involved for making the little boy inside me geek out crazy style. So far, season 5 has done everything I wanted them to do it season 4. It is like the perfect book-end to the series.

And finally, we close out the episode with Ellie saving Chuck, the CIA accepting the gang back into the fold, and a government designed Christmas party for the gang. Did I forget anything? Oh, yeah! Sarah has a secret baby! But what does it mean? Tune in next week!

Alright, and now to my favorite portion of any episode write-up...

Big Mike being interviewed by a reporter for a local news story.
Big Mike: I'm Michael Tucker, assistant manager Burbank Buy More. I want customers to remember the true meaning of Christmas. And get back to what you're supposed to be doing. (grabs Jeff and pulls him into frame) Buying stuff.
Jeff: Like this iPad, a bargain for $599! Honestly it's overpriced. You can get all this stuff on the Internet.

Big Mike discovers that the store Santa suit is missing.
Big Mike: Damn, hell! What kind of monster steals a Santa suit on Christmas Eve but leaves the eyebrows?

Chuck, having stolen the Santa suit and just received a call from Awesome about it, addresses the situation.
Chuck: My wife has been kidnapped and I'm officially ruining Christmas for the children of Burbank.

Tied up Sarah realizes it is getting cold in Castle and Shaw explains why.
Shaw: I tapped into the internal generator. Lowered the temperature. To stop the mainframe from overheating. Once the virus activates, the resulting data influx could fry it in seconds. You with me? No, you're not. [If] you were, you'd have brought a coat, silly.

As Jeff and Lester work on the Omen Virus problem, Lester contemplates the situation.
Lester: God, can you imagine a world without the Internet? What if it's up to us? Two Buy More employees left to stop the Omen Virus and save the world.
Jeff: Come on. The government has their best people working on this. Right?
Cut to CIA workers getting drunk at their Christmas party.

When Chuck and Beckman are discovered breaking into Decker's office, the general sees only one way out of the situation.
Beckman: Pucker up, Bartowski! You're about to become a man!

After Beckman and Bartowski share a kiss, on the drive home, Chuck feels the need to explain something as the general fixes her lipstick.
Chuck: You know, I typically brush my teeth before I..
Beckman: We never speak of this again.
Chuck: Never.

As Sarah sits tied to a chair, going in and out of consciousness, Shaw decides to take the opportunity to kiss her.
Sarah: You sick son-of-a-bitch!
Shaw: Just wanted to see if any of the old fire was still there. No. Ice cold.

After the highly caffeinated Jeff and Lester reveal to Chuck and Morgan what the virus actually does, Chuck tells them their work is done.
Chuck: You can go home. Happy holidays. Maybe drink some water.
Jeff: Water can only dilute this feeling.
Lester: Plus, fish have sex in it. Jeffrey, let's go for a run.

After Chuck and Shaw fight for some time, Shaw eventually gets a hold of his gun and aims it at his opponent.
Shaw: You're good, Chuck. But you're not lucky.
Ellie bashes Shaw in the head with something solid.
Ellie: That was for me.
Chuck: Nice shot, sis. But I told you to stay at home.
Ellie: I'm Eleanor Woodcomb. Since when do I do what I'm told? That man took our father away from us, Chuck. I wasn't gonna let him take anybody else.

If I had to rate this one, I'd give it:

95 out of 100

One of the best of the series. Dangerous, riveting, funny, action packed, family oriented, with one of the biggest payoffs to an important show arc. A nearly perfect episode from beginning to end. I may even grow to love this one more than I do right now.

So, what did you think? Comment below. As always, anonymous posting is enabled. Though, sign your comments if you want people to know how to respond to you.

Oh, check out our podcast of the episode below. There's filthy dirty language so don't listen if you are 12. Thanks!

Click to listen:



  1. I really liked this episode a lot. Another big question remains, who is the Agent X that's been at the back of things all along [according to Decker]?

    Shame we didn't see Santa Casey! But everything else was close to perfection.

  2. The person behind everything is shaw he blackmailed decker into lying to chuck so that chuck would be hurt emotionally by it.

  3. I'm assuming the baby was either Sarah's from a long time ago (although I would find it surprising if she didn't tell Chuck after all of this time) or that it's not really hers. Or a clone. Unless I missed something, when has she been away from Chuck for long enough to have a baby?

  4. Peter Lauer also directed Other Guy and Push Mix. I'm curious as to what you think of those two episodes, as you didn't lump them with the other four

  5. When has she been away from bryce, the cat squad or or the secret service long enough to have a baby? Duh! The answer is she has not. This is a mission from her past that involved a baby and her mom pure and simple.

  6. Amrit - that's what I'm assuming. It would be pretty ridiculous if it were anything else.

  7. I find Other Guy and Push Mix to be about equally hit and miss. Parts are great. Parts are weak.

  8. At Chuckgasmic, I thought your nitpick with Casey was his end scene with Alex. I got a bit confused obviously, but now that you've clarified, I agree with you. Casey getting shot or otherwise injured is getting a little too familiar to take it seriously. Can anyone else in Team B ever get hurt? Particularly when if he was badly shot enough to be convinced he was dying, it feels weird that the focus was on Sarah's peril ("and oh yeah by the way, Casey's off bleeding to death over the the corner"), and that they fixed him up in the end with Ellie slapping some bandages on it rather than sending him to the hospital.

    On the other hand, I do give props for actually making Sarah's peril feel real. I feel like Casey usually gets to be the kicked dog of choice because Sarah's a woman and Chuck is both the hero and a "softer" kind of man. Hurting the big tough guy is an easy crutch. And when Sarah's up against a man, you expect her to kick the shit out of him because they're not going to let the man hurt the woman. And the Sarah fights with female opponents feel more like fanservice than actual risk.

    But in this case, they actually let a man beat on a woman out of revenge. Unusually realistic for this show, and I give props for them being honest enough to go there.


  9. I got to give Chris Fedak props for the whole conspiracy arc.

    When it was originally brought up i thought it was going to be something so terrible and stupid that it would possibly destroy the entire show.

    If the end resolution to it is Shaw was blackmailing Decker then Chris Fedak did a better job with it than i expected.

    Not that the whole Shaw and Decker thing made a ton of sense but it was a better explaination than what i was anticipating.

  10. Before I make my comments I'll start off by saying that I thought this was a very good episode. I think I'll have to watch it a couple more times to decide if it ranks as one of my faves, but either way I definitely enjoyed it. Now onto my comments on a couple specific things:

    Magnus said: "... though I do feel that Casey's arc in the episode was too familiar. His getting shot is much like Kenny on SOUTH PARK getting killed. Except on CHUCK it feels more like a crutch when the writers have to take Casey out because he is too capable."

    THANK you!! I have harped on this in the past on the ChuckGasmic blog, but this is one thing that has always driven me INSANE about this show!! Lol. I mean it is so laughable at this point ... if my math/memory is correct this is the FIFTH time Casey has gotten shot or seriously injured on this show (I am counting 4 bullet wounds and one throw off a tall building)!! And the writers are always afraid to do this to Chuck or Sarah because they don't want them to be out of commission at all, so poor Casey just gets used and abused constantly, haha. Annoys the crap out of me.

    On a similar front, I agree with Magnus and some of the other commenters that I'm glad the writers had the balls to go dark and freaky with how bad Shaw effed Sarah up, because it made everything feel more serious and nerve-racking for our characters. BUT, my ONE nitpick is that even when they have the balls to really rough a character up, they still keep it super UNrealistic by letting the character walk away just fine with nary a scratch on them!! Sarah should have been JACKED by that beating and yet she walked away with just some ever so slight redness on her face and apparently no injuries at all from being thrown onto that hard floor from way up on those stairs. It's that type of thing that takes away from the feeling of nervousness and concern for these characters that I SHOULD be feeling in an episode like this.

    Same with Casey, where they apparently didn't even take him to the hospital for what looked like a decently serious bullet wound to the abdomen, and he was just fine shortly thereafter at the party!! So yeah. That type of stuff does drive me nuts, but at least 95% of t.v. shows out there are guilty of it, it's not just Chuck.

    I've got thoughts on the baby thing too but I'll have to post those later cause I need to go start cooking for Christmas Eve dinner. ;-)

  11. Don't get me wrong first off, i'm a huge chuck fan, my favourite show ever but this episode left me worse off than any other episode has done so far.
    I loved the Shaw story arc, and loved the fact he was going to escape but i wanted him to have escaped and simply wanted to take revenge but not be the mastermind behind this whole conspiracy. Such an anti-climax to the whole, chuck is so important and this must be his final chapter stuff! i thought this would be something going right back to the first series, and although it's nice to see shaw return as easily the series' best villain i think the episode would of ended in a much better and mysterious position if shaw had turned around at the end and been like, what? this wasn't me? i was just taking advantage of the situation.
    and this baby thing seems ridiculous unless it's not what is being suggested.
    Sorry rant over! :)

  12. Maybe it's just me that I noticed, but it was freezing in Castle and you didn't even see the nipples of Sarah peeking through the tight top. A bit weird. :P

  13. There's always at least one person who hates awesomeness.

  14. Ok so i absolutely loved this episode and your review, it was spot on but i have one remaining question. If Shaw is the agent decker was talking bout than why does he say at the end of season 4 that everything was planned and shaw and the intersect and all that didn't happen by accident? It seemed to me like he was saying that everything that has happened has been setup or am i just confusing things and getting it mixed up :S this is something that just started puzzling me as i was reading the comments anyone who wants to clear it up for me be my guest :)

  15. Kayla when decker was saying all those lies at the end of season 4 he was saying them because not because they were true but because shaw had been blackmailing him to do so. Shaw most likely told decker to tell chuck there was a conspiracy .....it was something that shaw knew would hurt chuck....it did not really, chuck called decker out in 5.01.

  16. I didn't like the story arc... it's kind of pushing something....I was expecting unpredictable , shocking things from the writers... I was thinking Chuck's being intersect was part of decker's plan to revenge from stephen J. bartowski but I was wrong... the plan was so simple so ridiculous...

  17. Joel's comment reminds me of something I heard on a TV critic podcast recently when four critics were discussing plot vs. story vs. character. I believe the critic's quote was something like "if you go into a serialized TV show only concentrating on plot, you will almost always be disappointed." But, if you go in concentrating on the characters, you usually won't if the show does right by its characters.

    Over time, most of the people who end up getting disappointed by this show mistakenly focus on plot. It's not the overarching plots on Chuck that amaze me. I've grown to not focus on that much from them. It's the character stuff and occasionally the story being told in the episode that are satisfying.

    That's what made this episode great, along with some pretty damn good execution of the material.

    I think the podcast was the latest Ryan and Ryan one. It was a really good discussion.

  18. That is why most critics (apart from sepinwall and fienberg and a few others) were satisfied with LOST. They fucked up the mythology royally but they nailed the characters in the end and that is what probably matters most. I mean most tv plots are been there done that. I mean people say chuck season 2 was awesome yet they were just ripping off the matrix who ripped off someone else. Plots are just regurgitated crap that does not really matter as long as you are invested in the characters taking those journeys. I think that is what keeps season 3 a little below season 2 for me....the writers were just stalling a lot of the time and it came off as a little disingenuous. But it is all good considering when you get episodes like the constant, the end, through the looking glass, honeymooners, colonel, cliffhanger..... Plot just means fuck all.

  19. Lost actually did something awesome....they played the long con brilliantly :)

    Fans kept tuning in to the bitter end hoping for answers....lol. Now that is great gameship and it takes huge balls.

  20. I think the nearly perfect finales were LOST and BSG. Sure, some crazies freaked out like assholes about it because they didn't deliver the shit they wanted, but as I often say, or quote Ronald D. Moore, "It's the characters, stupid."

    Shows that depend heavily on mythology and then try to actually give satisfying answers to them in the final moments, tend to fail badly. You can't possibly do it unless you map it out 10 years in advance. And even then, you get fuckin' SMALLVILLE.

    If you love the characters above everything else, then the CHUCK finale should satisfy you. If you love plot more, or if you have specific bullet points for what HAS TO HAPPEN or the show will be dead to you, then you are fucked.

  21. I also forgot SOPRANOS as a perfect finale show. Instead of delivering on the story arc, they went out on the characters, literally slamming the door on the audience in mid-scene. That took some massive balls.

  22. Chuck has so many times delivered potential series finale's (and yes I loved all of them) I am quite relaxed about the ending. I think there are like two things left for them...pregnancy and moving into the house but I am still happy to let it play out. I am actually really surprised that they have parsed out almost perfectly the relationship milestones considering how tempting it would be for them just to throw everything in :)

    Man I love this show.

  23. Anyone who expects huge mythos answers from "Chuck" at this point is going to be disappointed. Yeah, I always have my nitpicks with plot/logic and I'm not going to pretend I don't.

    But they don't genuinely bug me unless it's in an episode like "Business Trip" that ALSO takes a massive shit all over the characterization. Then the plot holes just seem all the worse.

    HGF, I forget which podcast it was where you said it looks like, from what you know, 5x13 is going to run pretty short on the wrap-up for the characters. (If I remembered that wrong please correct me.) I could understand Schwedak going balls to the wall on the action when the finales were always "is this the end?" type episodes before, but I'd really hoped that knowing this was it, they'd spent a good chunk of 5x13 just dealing with the characters.

    Because face it, we don't tune in to see how they'll defuse another bomb or defeat another villain. We're there for Chuck and Casey and Sarah and Morgan and all the rest. I agree that the Lost and BSG finales were two great ones. That's because in the series finales, they quit early with the guns and blowing shit up, and spent a LOT of the final hour just wrapping up the various character threads and letting us say goodbye properly. We didn't get all the mythos answers, but we felt fulfilled with the character journeys.


  24. Cor, what I meant was that don't expect 5.13 to be all wrapping up character arcs. Based on the things I have been told, it sounds like at least half the episode is action packed. But shit could have changed. I don't know anyone who has seen 5.13 in any edit. But there is definitely material there for them to use that would make the finale very satisfying to any fan.

  25. HGF, no worries. Even if there was only five minutes of character resolution I'm sure I'd still enjoy that one last escapade with the Chuck gang. But thanks for the clarification there, I appreciate it.

    Oh, and everybody knows the baby is the spawn of Bryce and Shaw, using Sarah as a surrogate. Shippers commence to freak out in 3...2...1...

  26. No, the baby was created by artificially inseminating Sarah with the sperm of Steven Bartowski in a secret CIA eugenics project. It's Chuck's half-brother and is being raised to be the next Orion.

  27. You guys are getting way too close to figuring it out!

  28. I really liked the episode.

    The one thing i thought that should have been different was that Shaw shouldn't of still had the intersect.

    He didn't really need it anyway because being a man and a super spy Shaw should have been able to defeat Sarah without it.

    He shot Casey when he was up in the vents.

    So, It's not like they needed Shaw to still have the intersect just for the purpose of this weeks episode.

  29. don't expect 5.13 to be all wrapping up character arcs

    They better at least wrap up the main ones (especially Chuck/Sarah).

    I too don't care for mythology and just want to say goodbye to the characters and get an idea of what the next stage of their life will be so to speak.

  30. "The one thing i thought that should have been different was that Shaw shouldn't of still had the intersect."

    As I explained in the article, he still had it because he immediately turned Decker and kept him from removing it. And they "needed" him to still have it so he could easily defeat Sarah and then have the moment where Chuck de-Intersects him. How else would Shaw:

    1) Defeat Sarah so easily and...

    2) We get such a great build-up to his fight with Chuck where he is so overconfident that he will win?

    So, him having the Intersect was totally necessary to the plot.

  31. Why was Shaw perfectly fine with his version of the intersect? Last time we saw him it was messing with his brain. Did he somehow get a govenor or did he take that version out and download a safer one?

  32. When did we see it messing with his brain? We saw it messing with Chuck's brain.

    In any event, I guess they got him a governor, or he got a new Intersect. After all, Decker was his pawn. Decker got him whatever he needed.

  33. Good explanations, HGF. That Shaw has always been smarter than crazy shipper give him credit for..

    I love this episode, it had REAL stakes and a sense of realism and danger the likes we hadn't seen since VS Subway. That's why Shaw is the most dangerous villain in the series.

    My only complain is that Chuck defeated Shaw a bit to easy and fast. This fight was good, but it was a bit short.

    And I too join in the praise to BR's excellent performance as a vengeful man (but then I always liked him in the show). Everything just made sense if you see it from his point of view; Sarah did kill his beloved wife. Shaw is Sarah without her Chuck.


  34. Oh and it sounds like this is the end of the big conspiracy as told by Decker at the end of S4? If true I like it I guess; I just don't think the showrunners would give it justice otherwise.. Finally, I'd love to see Orion once more.. BUT only in flashbacks. I think it'd best for the story if he stays dead. It give it more realism and gravitas to the story, IMO.


  35. The end of the big conspiracy? Or the beginning?

  36. He did put something in motion, didn't he?

  37. Brandon played Shaw great in this episode. There was one scene where Sarah is unconscious and he slaps her to wake up. I actually felt a little uncomfortable with that scene. Had to remind myself it was a TV show and they probably busted up laughing when the director said cut. Looking forward to next weeks episode.

  38. HGF, great review as always. Menacing performance for Brandon Routh. (which is a good thing!)

    question though: so the main root of the conspiracy and the ensuing conspirancy was all Shaw?

    I kinda thought that Shaw was just a puppet of an even bigger bad.


  39. Well, you will need to keep watching for that answer. But yes, the episode did suggest that Shaw was the mastermind.

  40. "To finally see Chuck demonstrate the skills he has naturally learned, and should have learned by now, was like the geek-payoff of the decade."
    SO TRUE!!! All season I've been so mad that Chuck can hardly fight but he's had the Intersect for so long - surely he learned SOMETHING? When this scene came and Chuck was actually fighting properly, I was like Damn, I just got what I wanted for Christmas! Lol it was so good and overdue.

    Routh was so good as Shaw, as usual. I was glad they brought him back because he's the best villain Chuck has had so far, but at the end I was thinking OK, did they not learn their lesson, why aren't they killing him once and for all?? The fights between him and Sarah seemed really realistic. They freaked me out doubly because normally Sarah has the upper hand in all fights with males, and he was seriously beating the crap out of her.

    One gripe: what was with the kiss Chuck and Sarah exchanged? It was like a peck. Granted, they have life or death experiences all the time and I'm not saying that they should've started undressing each other right in the middle of the Christmas party, but it seemed a little lackluster considering the fact Sarah was almost a popsicle and Chuck had his first non-Intersect badass fight, beating the guy who tried to freeze her to death.

    The pregnancy thing...? I have no theories. Nothing seems to make sense. Although the Bryce/Shaw baby suggested above seems like a good idea, lol.

    Shaw being in control of the whole conspiracy thing is a bit disappointing, I have to admit. I thought Chuck was a part of something way huger which excited me for this season. Ultimately, though, loved this episode. Sorry for the long comment and thanks Magnus for the article :)


  41. "He did put something in motion, didn't he?"

    yeah he did. Hope it's something interesting.. a baby eh? Hmm, I loved his evil smile when he said that to poor Sarah, he was really enjoying it it seems, and if I remember well he said that it'd help him feel warm at night? Wow, Shaw is so insane, lol. He also mentioned to Sarah --when he was torturing her-- that he had implicated Chuck in a conspiracy.. not sure what he meant.

    Speaking of the baby, could it be Sarah's and she HAD to hide him/her for his safety? Can't wait to find out. Hope the show gives a plausible explanation if that's the case. Sounds like Sarah really had a very dark past. Poor girl. Seems her former handler wasn't a great guy.


  42. "..There was one scene where Sarah is unconscious and he slaps her to wake up. I actually felt a little uncomfortable with that scene. Had to remind myself it was a TV show.."

    Same here. Shaw is just too bitter and insane I guess. And to think that he and Sarah were once so close. Boy is this show dark sometimes. And I like it.


  43. Oh, yes. Poor baby Shaw. He must've been really insecure to want the Intersect 3.0 in order to take on Chuck - even though Chuck has no Intersect whatsoever.

  44. This was close to a perfect episode for me. I agree with all of the Chuck fighting without the intersect payoff comments.

    The only area I would have loved to see changed was the ending, it would have been great to see Ellie shoot Shaw. It would have been a darker ending, but in my mind, it would have been more fulfilling

  45. I would not have minded if a Bartowski had killed Shaw. I think that thematically, you couldn't have Sarah do it, since she already killed his wife. You can't have Chuck do it, since he already tried and failed. So, Ellie would have been the perfect person to do it. Or... Devon, while protecting his wife.

    But they decided to keep him alive. Maybe for some purpose other than as a setup for the next, shitty, episode.

  46. Or even better, they could have harckened back to Chuck vs. Santa Claus and had Devon walk in on Ellie Killing Shaw..... all of a sudden his wife is a bit more dangerous...