She-Ra! Er… She-Male! – Episode 4.09: Chuck Vs Phase 3

Written by Kristin Newman

Directed by Anton Cropper

That’s the power of love!

Many TV series have precious rare moments of alchemy when storyline, series history, character development, writing, acting, directing, music, etc and probably catering too for all that is possible; come together in a rare, magical confluence of energies to create an episode that transcends their normal output. Such episodes become the show’s insignia. Lost fans often refer to, ‘The Constant,’ as such an episode.

Now Chuck has its signature episode; Chuck Vs Phase Three.

And like, ‘The Constant,’ it deals with love and faith and hope and the lengths and strengths that the couples involved will go to and the power they draw from their partnership. In Chuck Vs Phase 3, we see the power of the Chuck and Sarah relationship persevere through its greatest challenge. As is characteristic for the two of them; Chuck fights his battle on a mental landscape while Sarah cuts a swath of chaos on those who are in any way a physical barrier to her finding Chuck.

A defenseless Chuck, Intersect Impotent, kidnapped in the previous episode and whisked away to an undisclosed location takes on a, “Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind,” battle for his mind. Chuck tries to protect his sanity and his memories as The Belgian, played in a delicious evil Dr. Kildare manner by Richard Chamberlain, and his assistant probe Chuck’s psyche trying to find the mental lever that will turn the trick and cause Chuck to flash.

At the same time, Team Bartowski is scouring the globe in a vain and desperate attempt to find Chuck. And we get to see a Sarah Walker that we have been waiting to see since the series started. Vulnerable, strong, frustrated, worried, fearful, angry; out of control. A little crazed. Or in the understatement of the episode as Beckman put it, ‘On the edge.’ As Casey so insight-fully notes we are seeing glimpses of the Sarah Walker that existed before she met Chuck.

This is a tour de force, brauva performance by Yvonne Strahovski. She must have be so pumped when the script for this episode was handed to her. An actor’s dream script. Never has she had to carry so much of an episode as she does in this one. Not just emotionally but physically as well. Have to imagine Yvonne was drained on both planes by the time this episode finished filming. She excelled at both.

On a visceral level seeing Sarah go on a rampage is a thrilling sight to see. From breaking the rules to torturing a source to butting heads with Casey to cutting a swathe through Thailand – generating a fearsome reputation as the ‘She-Male’ in the process – to besting the best in a pit fight, and to storming The Belgian’s hideout; this was a Sarah as an unstoppable force of nature. (Was I the only one who thought Sarah’s hair style in the beginning made her look like a rampaging Indian Warrior with a headdress on?)

It is the emotional beats that Yvonne carried off that make the lasting impression. She got to play the entire emotional spectrum. Often both sides of the same emotion. Sometimes Sarah was instilling fear. Other times she was experiencing it. The moment in the bedroom where Sarah approaches Chuck’s shirt and hesitates slightly before touching it spoke volumes.

Never has Sarah been so vulnerable. Never has Sarah been so strong. Never has Sarah been so open.

Episode Flashes: Add your own in the comments.

  • The entire episode! Pick any moment and its golden.

Writer Kristen Newman suffers no sophomore slump here after her first episode, Chuck Vs The Coup D’Etat. She continues to display her grasp of the characters and comedic beats. The dialogue crackles in this one and this is a very quotable episode. All the characters get moments to shine. Casey gets to growl, stand up to Sarah, kibitz with Morgan, and have amusingly interesting glimpses into his character too. The waitress recognition moment at the pit fight was a wonderful comedic touch.

Morgan continues to be the all knowing sage, The Magnet, gets to display his leaping before looking bravery stepping in between Sarah and Casey, and continues to be relationship adviser to Chuck and Sarah. By the end of this episode Morgan has made sure that Chuck and Sarah are on the same page relationship-wise. Morgan is truly a, ‘Connector.’

Kudos for the stunt team and to the editing team as well. The scene where dream and real Sarah bring Chuck back from the precipice of losing himself was beautifully cut together.

Next week, Frost and Volkoff return. For Thanksgiving leftovers no less. How will this all play out and how will Ellie and the Roark laptop play out? Next episode, ‘Chuck Vs The Leftovers,’ should provide some answers.

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  1. This has to be my favorite episode. I can’t choose a favorite part though. It either has to be the ending where Sarah finds Chuck and is trying to wake him or when she is in the bedroom missing Chuck when Morgan comes in and they talk. All I know is this episode was fantastic!!!! 5 stars…a 10 in my book(: (:
    Thanks for this review! I really loved it and enjoyed reading it(:

    • My favourite scene – that’s easy the one that started at the end of the recap of previous episodes and ended with the closing credits.

      This episode was amazing from start to finish. I did have one internal conflict though between my heart and my brain.
      When Sarah asks “anyone else want to be my boyfriend?” My heart was saying pick me, but my brain was saying don’t go there unless you have a death wish.

  2. You’re about talking hairstyles too!? What is it about this episode? lol.

    Excellent review, Lou. Fitting of an excellent episode. I’m smiling as much whilst reading this as I did throughout the episode.

  3. – this is my best episode so far… phenomenon!!! awesome!!! kudos!!!
    – i agree with you Lou, every moment in this episode its golden.
    – you know, i never stop watch the show until now.
    – Yvonne deserve an emmy for her performance in this episode.
    – Morgan should change his code name become The Magnet or The Connector, not The Cobra, he afraid with that snake.. hahhahaha
    – Once again, great chemistry between Zach and Yvonne, Kudos.
    – and I Vote Yvonne Strahovski to be come the next Lara Croft. Blonde Lara Croft should be Ok,, haahhaha
    – but in Sarah Fight with Thai Boxer, its kinda wierd that is no Blood in Sarah face. you know i think its more sexy, just like her fight with Karolina kurkova.

    This Episode is Phenomenon and I cant wait to see the next Episode and Chuck Magics for Sarah. 😀

    • Not only great chemistry with Chuck and Sarah, all the cast interactions were stellar in this episode.

      The Morgan/Sarah scene at the apartment – wow talk about emotional.

  4. Im the only one that is extremely happy that they are going to get married?

  5. Fantastic write-up! This episode is worthy of Emmy consideration without a doubt… I certainly hope NBC re-runs this one so those who jumped to the DWTS can really see what they missed. This was Yvonne Strahovski’s episode for certain.

  6. Absolutely awesome, fave of the season and series!! Can’t wait to see what’s next, the wait for January is going to be unbearable!! Hopefully with episodes like this Chuck will get a season 5!!!! Praying for that 🙂

  7. this episode is so awesome. i can watch it over and over again. my favorite episode so far.
    it deserves an emmy for the actiong and the stunts.

  8. You put “Roark Laptop” :O its not Roark’s, its Orion’s. lol
    And yes this was an awesome episode, i was thinking chuck may have flashed right at the end, but maybe not 😛
    Had a question when i was watching though. Does Ellie or even Awesome know about the Intersect? Because i dont recall them ever being told or knowing about it

  9. “…How will Ellie and the Roark laptop play out?”

    Why do many of this episode’s reviewers (supposedly fans) keep referring to the laptops that Steve Bartowski designed and built as a Roark Laptops?

    We should all know that this is inaccurate and the episode referred to this one as a Roark 7, because of the Buy-morons (specifically Jeffster) mistook the first one as a Roark creation in vs. The Predator.

    • I know everyone is wondering how chucks dad got the laptop! It’s just like the one Orion sent him chuck versus the predator! That’s how he got it. He made it

    • But it is a Roark laptop as far as everyone’s concerned because he stole the design from Papa Bartowski. Papa B. said that Roark stole all his ideas in Chuck vs the Dream Job. We know it’s Papa B’s, but Jeff and Lester think it’s a Roark 7.

      Oh and this episode was incredible!

  10. What a great episode! When the cliffhanger (of the cliffhangers) faded off the screen, my friend and me were like:


    I can’t even name my favorite parts (okay the ending, as already mentioned by Lou, was really epic (Very nice cutwork :))). I’d have to watch it a few times more.
    Music selection was great too, Santigold’s Creator and Womanc by Wolfmother (even if the latter has been used in nearly every tv show, I know). 🙂

    I can only quote again Pulled Apart By Horses:


  11. I have a new all-time favourite episode, and this writer Kristen Newman wow TPTB really know how to pick talent both in front of and behind the camera.

    I don’t know how long this will remain my all-time favourite episode because this show has a nasty habit of outdoing itself on a regular basis. But it will remain in my top 10 at least until 4.20.

  12. It is such a shame the ratings were an “all time low” for this episode as it was probably the best one of the series with only “The Ring (part 1)”, “The Alma Mater” or “The Colonel” coming close. Do I see “CHUCK VS THE RING PART THREE” in the future? Yes, yes I do, and it’ll be awesome. Season 4 has been so freaking good I can hardly believe it because I was down right concerned after Season 3’s myriad of ups and downs. Budget cuts and staff changes have not diminished this show one bit. I want a bumper sticker that reads – FEDAK IS MY CO-PILOT

  13. I loved this episode but I still feel that there will be even a better one yet to come! I loved Sarah in this ep–like you said the range of emotions she covered in this was amazing!! I would have liked to see a little more emotion from Chuck but when you consider that he was trying to be lobotomized and he was out of it you can’t expect too much! But afterward he could have said something to her. I was thinking back to season two and how much you saw Chuck’s feelings for Sarah and this season it’s all about Sarah’s feelings for Chuck. Can’t wait for next week!!

  14. Excellent episode, everything I wanted it to be and more! Also, I loved Kristin Newman’s writing in Coup D’Etat especially her grasp of the characters, but this episode blew me away with the dialogue and the interactions. The directing was great as well, especially the scene in their bedroom with Sarah hanging onto Chuck’s shirt. Lastly, I definitely think “There were several race cars involved” just became this season’s “I appreciated the tank”.

  15. The best episode by far. Great review Lou,have four great scenes

    – Sarah was confronted by Casey and realized that she is different without Chuck.
    – The much long awaited talk between Sarah and Morgan. The”Connector”.
    – The giant blonde she-male will do anything for find her man.
    – And of course the Chuck and Sarah moments.

    Kudos to Kristin!

  16. Pulling for Sarah!

    I loved the part when Sarah sniffed Chuck’s shirt. You could tell that was new territory for her;
    to care for someone as deep as she does Chuck that she would smell his shirt to experience his scent.

    Morgan was fantastic in his, “…and he knows this because you told him.” line when she confessed to Morgan that she loved Chuck with or without the Intersect.

    Yvonne was the super in this episode in revealing parts of Sarah that Sarah has kept hidden for so long. If this episode doesn’t show viewers how Yvonne’s character has grown over the last years, then nothing will. I was glad we saw a Sarah-centric episode this season and I hope there are others coming down the pipe, along with Season 5!

  17. great write up, Lou. All because this is a really REALLY great episode in the first place! It’s an all-Sarah show, and I agree this is truly phenomenal. Congratulations, Yvonne, you’ve really carried through the whole episode – AWESOME!

  18. Great review for a great favorite this season was Coup d’etat, this is my new fave, no coincidence they were both written by Kristen Newman who is the best new writer this season. Kristen has definitely captured the voice of the characters in her writing. Thanks to Yvonne for showing us her tremendous range as an actress. I loved the entire show except for the parading of the Buy Morons, which was a little distracting for me, but it is still up there with one of my favorite episodes of the series. Can’t wait for Monday!

  19. ur review is shorter than usual showing us all how blown away u are by the episode, because it was just so incredible u are left without words

    would say more but hav a cat to deal with
    and really there isnt anything to say except every positive word, i’ll go with awesome

  20. I’ve seen this episode everyday since it aired. And I still feel like it’s a very special episode of Chuck. It was such an emotional and character driven episode. It was almost as if everything Sarah Walker had been bottling up emotionally for Chuck since S1, could no longer be contained. Yvonne did such a tremendous job in this episode. The rest of the cast wasn’t too shabby either. The drama really made you believe the stakes were high, and the comedy was a much needed diversion. Which led to one of the best scenes in all of Chuck. The transition between reality and dream sequence was masterful. Kristen Newman took these characters to a place we’d all been waiting for, emotional equilibrium.

  21. We’ve seen how scary Sarah can get when somebody kidnaps her Chuck. Now, I’m wondering how things would have gone if Shaw and the Ring’s plan in season 3 was to kidnap Chuck…

  22. I must also say that this was the greatest episode of the season so far, and wil be remembered for the key episode for season 4. A truly emotional episode which made great use fo all the characters including the buymorons and amazing acting by Yvopnne once again definitely a show case role for her which she deserves an emmy for. the scene when she is in the bedroom smelling chucks shirt for his scent was amazing, and really brought out a side of sarah that we have never seen before, watching back to how she was in season 1 she really has changed and its incredible to see the emotional side of her and how she played all the emotions from either side of the spectrum and the last scene where thy have her voice in a dream like way and teary desperate way intertwined was a very powerfully scene which i can watch back over and over and still makes me as emotional as her in that scene :).

  23. And i forgot to say that i second what Gord says about the scene when Sarah asks “Does anybody else want to be my boyfriend” definitely conflicting emtions as my heart was saying i will for deffinate can t think of a better woman to be with, then my brain and the sensible side of me was saying “you must be nuts” she’d kill you. However I don’t know about other but I would suffer all the torture in the world to have someone like Sarah a truly amazing character and has Casey points out she has changed since the Sarah walker before chuck and definitely for the better, we finally get to se the truly emotional side of Sarah which we have all wanted to see from the beginning. I would love for Bryce or Shaw to come back now and look at them together.

  24. I think the one aspect of this series that we forget is not only how sarah feels about chuck but how chuck feels about sarah. When you look at zach levi you sometimes forget that the premise of this show is that sarah is supposed to be way out of chucks league! I mean way out of his league! But the fact is when a girl as beautiful as hannah likes him for him and wants a relationship with him you can take for granted what a beautiful relationship he and sarah have. That is what is heart breaking about his dreams and sarah knowing deep down how he felt through morgan, he may date other beautiful women, he may be smart, he may be sweet, but to him he will always put sarah on a pedastle and she will always be very special and so although as an audience we forget that, this episode shows just how anxious he is to be the best he can be for her. I felt for chuck man, to carry that anxiety around all the time to try and win sarah’s heart every day, every day! and it puts into context what she said to him last episode about not being a spy and it makes the emotional beats in this episode all the more powerful.

  25. @Amrit – I totally agree with everything you have said, and I don’t think its something we forget so much on how chuck feels for Sarah, but i thinks its more that Sarah is as you said someone that is meant to be way out of his league but is also someone, the way she has been brought up with her job someone that is not meant to fall in love, and finds it extremely difficult to express her feelings the way an ordinary girl would. and to-see these emotional scenes from Sarah is just truly amazing and does really make you think how much she has changed since when they first met ion season one. However i must agree with you that it is very much about chuck as well as Sarah and i to mainly in season 1 and 2 when he was clearly showing Sarah how much he feels about her and she wouldn’t show it back and i hurt for chuck as well as I couldn’t imagine the pain he much of been going through working with her everyday and seeing her with Bryce and Shaw and as much as we could see she loved him he couldn’t see it and that’s why i really loved episode 13 of season 3 when they finally get together. and i second with what you said that no matter who he dated even with gill and Hannah he always loved Sarah and she was the most important thing to him and that why he dumped Hannah because of how he truly feels for sarah, and when he arrested jill and said I would have let you go however when you threatened Sarah that settled it for him. Morgan is a true connector and is the one to get both of them to open up, as they are “Crap communicators” and they should be truly honest with each other which i think after this episode they will be. 🙂

  26. Best episode of the season for sure–probably series too. Loved every minute of it.

    I flashed on Full Metal Jacket when Casey told Morgan to get in the back of hid jeep, “in the rear with the gear.” Made me think R. Lee Ermey would make a grat GRETA.

  27. This my most favorite episode of the series. The small attention to details made the episode special. I had four favorite parts. The Crazed Love sick Sarah
    searching not for a man but her man. How Yvonne portrayed a calm cray person who was willing to kill. Yvonne’s facial expressions when she was saying “”he loves me and wants to marry me, and the “you got me” The next best scene was when she found out that Chuck was Ok and how they showed the emotional release (as she broke down over Chuck’s shoulder)that she could relax and things would be OK and the cray journey was over. I enjoyed when Beckman was noting that Sarah was back to normal, Sarah took Chuck’s hand saying without words that she was ok because Chuck was with her. And finally Yvonne looked like she was trying not to crack up at the end when Chuck was trying to tell her about his magic. This to me pointed out that it was and emotional journey for both Sarah Walker and Yvonne Strahovski.

  28. From the beginning of this series almost every other episode was the best ever (in my opinion). So… I stopped saying that some particular episodes are the best ever. I just say that I love all of them (maybe almost all). The last episode was great, like this whole series. Sarah Walker is so cute.I love her face expressions. Go Chuck!

  29. ALL HAIL THE GIANT BLONDE SHE-MALE!!! That episode was so amazing! Also, before I go, I have one thing to say to Ellie and Awesome:


  30. I don´t know, I must have seen another episode. Yes, Yvonne was good but the episode itself was weird. Not too funny, not too dramatic (we all knew Chuck will be OK). And I don´t understand why does Morgan keep giving advice to them when he A) has his own girlfriend, B) wasn´t able to stay in a relationship just over a year ago. Isn´t anyone else bothered how he keeps getting glory as Chuck´s shadow? Not in a good way. Yes, he is a loyal friend but since he was six, he has been living Chuck´s life.
    But OK, I admit, it was OK in this episode and instead of creating problems (“why didn´t she unpack yet?”…) he was actually there to help Sarah who is even less emotionally developed than he is in some ways.

    I loved Casey. His support to Sarah (he held her hand at one point), the revealation that he is well known among the bad guys (“as usual, Mr.Casey?”) and also his dedication to once again give up everything to help Chuck, that was a subtle character development only Adam Baldwin can do (with the little he is given).
    I also liked Beckman, who obviously knew that the Thai ambassador was abudcted by them.
    I hope next episode will start with Casey training Chuck 😉

  31. Simply superb ! I wonder ( hope ) that the Season 4 finale
    will be Chuck and Sarahs wedding.

    • I second that, cant wait for the proposal, how they going to do it I think wil be amazing, and i also would like to see chuck and Sarah wedding at end of season 4 possibly leading to mini intersects season 5 🙂

      • Pulling for Sarah!

        I’m not sure the series is ready for the Chuck and Sarah wedding yet! I want to see them get engaged as much as anyone but there is so much more that can happen before we see little intersects walking around. Even though Sarah can be the girlfriend, we still need that question answered, “Can she be a wife and eventually mother?” There is still a lot of growth that Sarah needs to go through. I do look forward to her playing the “aunt” to little girl Awesome.

      • Yeah, i do agree thinking about it logically, thats the problem with this show that it gives you the conflict of emotions. my heart wants to see them get married at the end of this season but my brain is saying as youve said that as much as we have now seen that sarah can be the girlfreind it has taken this long to get to see that, we now need to see if she can be a mother as well as wife. which i think thats goign to be great, sarah with kids, ooh now just thinking of it thats going to be a gret episode. 😉

      • I think it would be cool if Sarah proposed to Chuck 🙂

  32. I have watched this episode at least twice a day since it aired and it still hasn’t gotten old (: <3 I love love love it! Can't wait until Monday! It's almost here but not coming fast enough(: (:

    • same here, i have watched this episode another four times since it has been on, and still dont get bored of it, its just AWESOME. and that scene when morgan and sarah in the bedroom taking about the proposal plan, and the last scene when sarah rescues chuck is just so powerful, never get bored of watching them two scenes. 🙂

  33. Enjoyed the write up–thank you for sharing it with us. I appreciated all the time and effort you put into the piece.

  34. Hi Old Darth,

    I have not seen the latest cnn podcast for chuck versus the leftovers or your written review, is everything ok?

    • Yes. Both have been delayed a week due to the fact I have been out of town.

      Both will be up no later than Wednesday.

      Thanks for asking.