Trusting The Person You Trust The Least
“Fro-Yo?” Sarah keeps pitching, but Chuck’s not having any. He’s much more interested in what Beckman and the CIA are doing about his father. “I know that you don’t trust them, but do you trust me?” The question will be asked again and again in Chuck vs. The First Kill.
Let me recap the trust issue. We’ll see a lot of it in this episode. Chuck doesn’t trust Jill (Jordana Brewster). Why should he? She’s betrayed him twice. Sarah asks Chuck if he trusts her, and he answers yes. But does she believe him? Do we?
The General trusts nobody, and nobody trusts her. But Casey is trustworthy. Right.
Morgan doesn’t trust Emmett for a second. But he has to. That’s just like Chuck, who doesn’t trust Jill, but has to. And that’s just like Sarah, who doesn’t trust Jill either, but has to. Have I used the word “trust” enough yet? Seems I stumbled into the Sipenwall trap!
It’s easy for Chuck to not trust Beckman, however.
Beckman: I’m sorry, Chuck. Fulcum’s kept a tight lid on your father’s where-abouts.
Chuck: That’s your update? Well, I’m sorry that’s a non-update. And you know what? That’s not good enough.
Wow! Standing up to the General is more than his handlers seem willing to do. In fact, Chuck’s willing to do whatever it takes, by any means necessary, and he says so. Jill is the means of which he speaks.
Did you notice that Chuck’s relationship with Jill is different than it was? It’s honest, but different. He’s not pining any longer, but needs her help desperately to help find and rescue his father.
Sarah, however seems to have nothing but contempt for Jill, and she doesn’t like it one bit when Casey quips that Chuck now qualifies for conjugal visits. It’s almost like Chuck has to protect Jill from her. No trust is ever to be expected between the two of them.
Jill is freed to aid Team B., Agent Walker is in “protect Chuck” mode, the bad guy, “Uncle” Bernie (Ken Davitian) (the man with his own theme song), is as funny as he is fearsome, and the Buy More is deep in Emmett’s reign of terror, forcing Morgan to face the same issues as Chuck. It’s very tempting to say that Verses the First Kill is at the start, structured as the archetypical Chuck episode, the way we’ve come to know it from season 1 and most of season 2, complete with Buy More humor that echos Chuck’s difficulties.
But. (That’s a big “but”). In the previous weeks I had been exclaiming about the runaway train of emotions we saw in Dream Job and Predator. It’s been thrilling. This episode, on first viewing, was far funnier and campier. It’s true that the thrills we had in Dream Job are not swamped or negated by the comedy here. They’re just calmed for a bit. The comedy plays through Chuck’s adventure when Bernie chases them through the house:
Bernie: Are you wired?
Chuck: That’s preposterous.
Bernie: Are. You. Wired?
Chuck: Why, yes. Yes we are.
It’s a running gag. Sarah, as Chuck’s cousin, married to Casey, needing to find the bathroom after a very long drive, The Morgan! It’s all funny and tense at the same time, if not the emotional runaway train we’ve seen. Now – hold that thought.
Why does that issue of trust keep popping up? Did I mention that Sarah does not trust Jill?
Sarah (angry): You know Jill. She’s a Fulcrum agent!
Chuck: Exactly. That’s exactly why we need her. She knows Fulcrum, their procedures and secrets.
Sarah: Chuck you just have to realize that there are some people you just can’t trust.
Chuck: Sarah, I already know that. I don’t trust anyone, except for you. And right now, I need you to trust me.
But her answer to him is “no”. Watching the first time, we worry that despite his words, Chuck does not trust Sarah and she doesn’t fully trust him. I shout to the screen, “Thank you for that, Agent Walker! You don’t trust Jill? Don’t you trust Chuck? And Chuck? You said that you trust Sarah, but why is it that you don’t seem quite convincing?”
The mission goes all wrong. Chuck’s adventure and first recorded kill is all for naught, as the information about Orion’s whereabouts dies with Bernie. But we’re left with one important thread.
Chuck: I’m sorry about your uncle Bernie. I had no idea that The Morgan was so lethal.
Jill: I’m glad you haven’t lost your sense of humor. They changed me. Promise me that you won’t let them change you.
Chuck: I’ll do my best.
Jill: They were never going to let me go, even if we found your dad, would they? NSA, Fulcrum, CIA. They’re all the same. They all lie. They’ll never let you go either, Chuck. Watch your back.
Don’t let them change you, Chuck. That’s a promise made to the audience, isn’t it?
The remarkably unsecured call Fulcrum places to Bernie’s cell phone gives them Orion’s location, and Jill can still help. “Guys – we need her.” The set-up is complete. The person Team B. trusts least is the one Chuck needs to trust the most.
There are so many funny scenes packed into the segment where Chuck and Casey enter the Fulcrum testing facility. Chuck & Casey in horn-rimmed glasses is so cool. There is a well placed Subway ad for $5 Footlongs, used by Morgan to bribe Big Mike for Emmett. I’m amused by the way the term “Auditing” is used in the sense of testing. It seems cult-ish, which is perfect for Fulcrum. We see “Leadership First” posters, complete with Nazi-like salutes to set the mood in the facility.
Casey and Chuck take the test, and Chuck not letting Casey cheat is another hoot. But they are discovered. At the same time, Morgan discovers how he been manoeuvred into betraying Big Mike. Indeed, the sense of betrayal is everywhere, and Sarah is forced to trust Jill to save Chuck, despite knowing that Jill is quite capable of betraying Chuck’s trust again.
There’s that word again, but this time, we’ve come full circle. Everyone is trusting the person they trust the least. And one more time, Chuck is asked if he has any trust left.
Chuck: Look, Jill. There was no deal. I lied to you because at the time I was willing to do whatever it took to find my father, but not any more. You kept your side of the bargain. Now I’m going to keep mine. I told you I’m not going to let them change me, and I won’t.
When Jill asks if he can trust “them”, meaning Sarah and Casey, Chuck doesn’t answer. We don’t know what he’s decided. And neither does he.
Chuck has had his first kill. With under five minutes left to go, the episode has been funny, adventurous, clever and a touch mystifying. However, Orion is still missing, Chuck and Sarah are as heartbreakingly far apart as we’ve seen them in quite some time, Emmett is in charge of the Buy More, and no one is happy, least of all, General Beckman.
Beckman: We have a Fulcrum agent who knows all our secrets running free.
Casey: Permission to drop the twerp into a deep dark hole, General.
Beckman: It’s over. The human intersect project has become too hard to control. I can’t afford to wonder any more if this team or Chuck Bartowski is a liability.
Operation Moron is over.
In the darkest, most terrifying scene yet, Sarah is instructed to use Chuck’s trust in her to bring him back to Castle, where Casey will tranq him and put him in lock-down. In flash-forwards, we see her following her instructions, walking up to Chuck in the Buy More with an obviously fake smile on her lips. Sarah is about to betray Chuck and hurt him more than Jill ever could.
Sarah (to Casey): How can you just stand there and say nothing?”
Casey is silent and stoic. A frown comes to your forehead as you watch. Sarah is fighting this? Did she give in??? But we flash forward back to the Buy More suddenly.
Agent Walker starts to manipulate Chuck. Oh no, Sarah! Don’t do it! He accepts her lie and is relieved that his ordeal is over, even apologizing for not trusting her. Chuck! Don’t! Don’t believe her!
Chuck: I was beginning to think that Jill was right that the CIA was never going to let me go – that they would always put their bests interests ahead of mine. But not you. You’ve always looked out for me – thank you.
Agent Walker looks back, over her shoulder, to the camera Casey is monitoring. She hesitates – the smile is gone from her lips and she is deadly serious. Chuck does trust her. He has all along. She looks back again as if to see Casey’s reaction.
And Agent Walker, the woman who knows her duty, who knows how to manipulate and con men, and Sarah, who knows her heart and desperation, merge and becomes one whole person. A hug and a whisper:
Sarah: Take off your watch.
Sarah: Because It’s all a lie. Your dad is still out there. Beckman sent me to get you and take you back to the castle. They’ll take you underground. We have to run.
She trusted Chuck all along, but now she has to trust one more person.
Vs. The First Kill ends earlier than this scene. It ends in Castle when Beckman dissolved the team. Those last moment are the start of a whole new episode, full of the tensions and thrills we had been experiencing for weeks. I don’t know about you, but from that moment, my heart was racing with them, through the night.
Chuck: You’re disobeying orders for me? You’re committing treason, Sarah. You could go to jail.
Sarah: I know.
We have lovers on the run, and this might as well be Shakespeare. An episode that was fun and clever, but verging on middling for Chuck, ignites to join the final six of season 2 as some of the most thrilling television ever seen. Critics started to beg NBC to renew Chuck after this.
We have learned one big thing, and it changes everything we know about what’s coming up. Chuck and Sarah have learned not only to trust each other, but to trust themselves.
Addendum, Two Hours Later: One of the most exciting, amazing and well regarded moments of this episode wasn’t even part of it. At the end, we, the audience, were treated to a teaser for The Colonel that contained a two second segment which caused fans all over the world to jump up and cheer. It took us by surprise, and the fan-boards had an explosion of activity that lasted for months. Only the dead felt nothing after seeing that clip.