Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Breaking Down (and Building Up) Chuck (1)

By now I've mentioned a couple of times that, through our Extension class, Jul and I are planning to outline episodes of Pushing Daisies (Jul) and Chuck (me). I've also mentioned that eventually I'll be posting a lot more about Chuck--and at least linking to some interesting stuff on Pushing Daisies--in the near future.

So you can expect a lot more, but here's the first step. I'm using a slightly different format for this Chuck breakdown than the one I used for Dexter a while back. This is due to the fact that I unfortunately did not jot down the act breaks or even how the scenes were organized (e.g. A, B, A, A, B, A, B, B, etc) while watching. But, again, it's a start.

This should be obvious, but there will be spoilers below.

Episode 113 - Chuck Versus the Marlin

Short description

This is the final episode that just aired a few weeks ago. In this episode Chuck finds a bug in the Buy More that wasn't put there by Casey or Sarah and is entrusted with the protection of Captain Awesome's engagement ring for Ellie.

Story threads

I could probably break this down further, but for now I'm just separating into A and B stories, since the smaller story threads that wind through the episode eventually fit into one of these two larger stories.

A - Chuck finds a bug in the Buy More and must find out who put it there.
B - Captain Awesome plans to propose to Ellie and entrusts Chuck with the engagement ring.

Beginning, Middle and End


A - Chuck finds the bug and takes it to Casey, thinking it’s one of his. Casey recognizes that it’s not his or Sarah’s and they speak to their superiors and learn that Chuck may need to be taken away from his life and into hiding.

B - Captain Awesome tells Chuck he's going to ask Ellie to marry him and entrusts Chuck with the ring. Chuck puts the ring in his work locker for safe-keeping.


A - Thieves literally clean out everything from the Buy More and the entire staff is interrogated by the police. Chuck is sent to bring Casey to work and discovers that the feds are the “thieves.” They cleaned out the store to check for a receiver that's been collecting the information from the bug. A surveillance video shows Jeff and Lester stealing the receiver accidentally and Chuck and Casey interrogate them…and then others as they seek out the receiver. Chuck discovers the identity of the bad agent, but she still manages to trap Sarah, and before Chuck can rescue her, he’s taken by another agent to go into hiding.

B - Chuck discovers that his locker has been cleaned out along with the Buy More, and the ring is missing. When he realizes Casey and Sarah stole from the store, he asks for the ring, but they don't have it. Chuck's search for the receiver leads him to Morgan, who admits to taking the ring and hiding it in the Weinerlicious because he thought Chuck was going to propose to Sarah and he would lose his best friend. When Chuck goes to the Weinerlicious to get the ring, he finds that it has already been taken by the bad agent. Naturally, a few times throughout this middle section Awesome calls Chuck to get the ring from him and Chuck tries to stall him. By the end of this section, the jeopardy is such that Awesome is about to propose in the middle of a romantic evening, but can't because Chuck can't bring him the ring.


A - Casey releases Sarah and she goes after Chuck while Casey goes after the bad agent. Everyone ends up in the same place and Sarah manages to save Chuck from the bad agent and let him stay free for a while longer.

B - After defeating the bad agent, Chuck and Sarah have to dig through the dumpster where the agent fell to find the ring. Once they do, the two of them rush back to Awesome and give him the ring. They spy from outside the apartment as Awesome pops the question, then Chuck goes in to celebrate with them. He invites Sarah in too, but she won't go because she doesn't feel like she belongs.


In my quick breakdown while watching the episode, I counted 36 scenes/beats that amount to:

A - 24 beats
B - 12 beats

I'm not sure if this is a typical episode structure for Chuck since it's the first one I've broken down, but I just managed to get my hands on a copy of the pilot and I still have another episode saved on my DVR, so hopefully in the next week or so I'll be able to break down another episode or two (using the Dexter format, but with act breaks) and get a better sense of what's typical and what isn't.

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