Meet the New Chuck. Same as the Old Chuck?

Nope, this isn’t about season 3.  Except that it is.  This is about the last time we saw a new Chuck.  I hate to say it, but Chuck doesn’t really change or evolve much in the first season.  Season 1 seems to be more about Chuck uncovering different aspects of the spy world and how that affects him.  As I mentioned in part 1 he learns a lot about sacrificing for some larger purpose, about the need to hurt people he loves to save them from danger, and about trust and how it can be a job requirement or a one way street.  I think these lessons all come together in the last episode with the phrase “Say what you’re not saying.”  He is ready for the truth and wants to face his future as a spy, albeit an unwilling one.  Later when he finally realizes Sarah has real feelings for him, real feeling that cause her a lot of pain when faced with losing him forever, Chuck finally understands that spy life takes a toll on everyone involved.  At this point, though he’s never been the selfish type, Chuck loses a lot of his self-pity.  Sarah was ready to draw on another agent and obviously went to the extraction point to stop the extraction.  It is Chuck that tries to make everything alright. Its Chuck who is the self-sacrificing one this time, convincing Sarah she needs to let him go and make things alright with his loved ones.

As a quick aside I meant to include this little tidbit from the rooftop extraction in Marlin in part 1 but during the editing process it somehow got left out.  Look familiar?

The stage is set for a whole new Chuck in season 2.  We don’t really see him evolve so much as almost immediately see the result of that evolution. Right off the bat he seems more confident, more ambitious, more willing to take the lead if necessary.  Of course this does lead to some trouble as we see in the season opener.  Sarah and Casey manage to come to the rescue before Chuck is dropped out a window, and we see that Chuck has managed to recover the cipher that will set him free.

No more intersect, no more spies or lies or guns.  You know what that means.  He can go on a date with Sarah!  Chuck wastes no time.  The newly confident Chuck manages to break down Sarah’s minimal resistance and gets her to agree to a night of fun with Chuck.  Unfortunately Chuck is still the intersect and some of those flashes pop up at the most inopportune time.  You didn’t think this was going to go well did you?

One speeding Crown Vic through a Chinese restaurant window later and Chuck and Sarah are saved by Casey, but it puts Chuck’s plans with Sarah on indefinite hold.  That kind of develops into a theme.  This whole season they both seem to recognize and admit (at least to themselves, and on occasion to each other in subtle, non-verbal ways) that there are real feelings between them, but that things being as they are they can’t really act on them.  That doesn’t however change one thing that struck me.  Chuck always seemed to display a certain awkwardness around Sarah.  Call it an inferiority complex, or the symptoms of a serious crush mixed with fear, he never seems himself. Where Sarah changed a lot in season 1, from putting Chuck in arm locks and threatening a beating to being unable to hold back the tears faced with losing him, Chuck always seemed to keep himself from going too far when it came to his feelings for Sarah.  In season 2 there is, as mentioned, a new found self-confidence in Chuck, and it shows in all the aspects of his life. It was wonderful to watch, at least in the first few episodes Chuck and Sarah at ease with each other, laughing and occasionally flirting, standing up for each other, and just generally happy with the situation.  It was also wonderful to see Agent Carmichael show up at the end of first date.  The confident yet not cocky, capable and collected Agent Carmichael, stepping up in a crisis and finding a way to save the day against seemingly impossible odds.

In any case things are going far too well, so there has to be some angst tossed in.  First Chuck overhears something not meant for his ears when Roan Montgomery shorts out the audio in the van with his gin.

Roan: “If you’d just admit I’m right we could move on.”

Sarah: “Anything you perceived is me wanting him to think I like him.  I assure I have no feelings for Chuck.  He’s just an asset.”

But there is something different in the new confident Chuck.  He gets over it.  He completes the mission, gets the cipher, and makes good his daring escape.  It never seems to come up again.  Whether it’s because he has to decide if Sarah is worth dying for before he can do anything else or because he’s seen Sarah’s true feelings, instead of immediately pretend breaking up their fake relationship and high tailing it to the nearest petite brunette Chuck gets over it.  He goes armed with the Montgomery to woo Sarah.  Imagine first season Chuck doing that.  Can’t?  Me neither.

But as always happens when things are going best for Chuck, with his usual exquisite timing Bryce steps back into the picture.  He’s really got to work on those entrances.  Bryce works his magic once again, and Chuck is convinced (perhaps not without reason) that for Sarah’s own good he has to put some distance between them, so even though they aren’t yet dating, they need to break up.

I can’t tell you how much the shipper in me loved this scene.  It sounds counter-intuitive I know, but to me this was the absolute best Charah moment in the series to that point.  It came on the heels of Chuck seeing Sarah hurt while trying to protect him and then Sarah being unable to protect Chuck by taking the high risk shot. They both knew they were getting in too deep given the realities they lived with.  But the breakup was something unseen so far.  There was no attempt to be anything other than honest between them, once it started neither tried to hide their feelings, with the possible exception of Sarah getting up and walking away a few steps so Chuck wouldn’t see her cry if she couldn’t hold back the tears.  I saw that more as a kindness from Sarah to Chuck. Chuck returns the favor, giving her time and distance to compose herself so she doesn’t cry in front of him.   They both knew this had to happen and they both knew it wasn’t easy for the other.  There is that last moment before they walk through the door, they pause, both devastated, wondering if they can do this, and then they look at each other and find their strength, put on their smiles, and walk through the door. In short their best couple moment so far, the moment they didn’t hide but faced their emotions and problems openly and together, was the moment they broke up.

In two years of knowing each other Sarah has never had a personal life.  Even her high school reunion was an assignment.  Suddenly faced with Sarah taking a day off for some personal time Chuck gets a bit stalkerish, but remember he was also curious about Sugar Bear Casey.  He seems both shocked and fascinated that his handlers had lives before they came into his, and may have lives outside Team B.  One embarrassing faux pas later Chuck has met “Jenny’s” dad “Jack”.

The part that I found interesting, and the shippers know this scene well, is after Sarah’s dad has abandoned her again.  Chuck showing up at Sarah’s door unannounced is seems normal.  Chuck wanting to comfort Sarah and Sarah wanting Chuck to do so, like real friends if not lovers was a genuinely touching moment.  Sarah isn’t hiding her past and Chuck isn’t prying, they are just taking comfort in having each other in their lives, whatever form that takes. I think this is where I started to lose patience with PLI/angst themes.  These are two people who clearly care for each other.  There is none of the sense of conquest or dominance that so often characterizes the WTWT themes.  These are people who like each other.  They know they like each other.  Each knows the other knows they like each other and that they like that they like each other.  This is not a battle of wills, not a bad boy seducing the good girl, not the vixen corrupting the straight arrow, this is two people who want the same thing, to be together in whatever way they can.  Angst starts to wear thin.

This continues to be the theme in another one of my favorite moments.  The charm bracelet in Santa Claus.  I alluded to this moment in part 1.  I think this is the moment where Chuck tells Sarah something important, though not overtly, just like when he invited her in for family time at the end of the Marlin.  This time, although it takes a second or two, she gets it.

The Valentines date.  Shouldn’t we do something?  Sarah is hiding behind her cover again, but still wants to see Chuck take the Valentines initiative.  That is a sure sign of “relationship”.  The guy is supposed to plan Valentines day.  Chuck has a plan of sorts, lets give our covers the night off (and you and I can have a real Valentines day?).  Sarah, despite the comfort level we’ve seen misunderstands, thinking Chuck has turned her down.  Chuck backs off thinking Sarah wants out.
At least Morgan acts as a catalyst as opposed to a roadblock this time. Fake date, paperwork, cover.   There is something brewing, they both know it, and it comes up.  “This is the worst valentines ever”.   Sarah is trying to start a discussion, she clearly has something she wants to talk about.  It apparently happens, but we aren’t privy.  We do however see what I think is the aftermath of something.  What happened between this

and this.

As usual Casey interrupts with a mission, informing they’ll have to drop their dating cover, which oddly seems a relief to both at this point.

Life in the suburbs turns out to be something of a revelation for Chuck.  The casual comfort that Chuck and Sarah find in each other’s presence really shows the first morning in the suburbs as Chuck comes down to find Sarah cooking him breakfast.  Chuck seems a little taken aback at just how far the comfortable relationship they share has come.  Unfortunately the real and the cover start to get a bit fuzzy.  Chuck seems to see Sarah’s goodbye in the driveway as a continuation of breakfast.  It wasn’t.  It was for public display.  “Sweetie” is a dead giveaway, as is the whole straightening the tie and lapels bit.  Chuck should know Sarah’s cover tells by now.

And Sarah should know Chuck hates seduction missions.  Both hers and his.  He’s just not the exploiting type.  In the aftermath of Chuck’s mission the Carmichael’s divorce hits him pretty hard.  Sarah’s methods for re-establishing some professional distance don’t help the situation.  They are never fun.  And I hear she likes to kick puppies.  Sarah may have hurt Chuck, but remember this is season 2 Chuck.  Remember what I said about getting over things?  I think Chuck has a better idea of what happened this time when he tells his sister “Sarah and I are never going to be anything more than we are right now, and that’s OK.”  Unfortunately for Sarah karma can be a bitch.

Sarah may cause Chuck some angst with her sometimes crude (if not somewhat cruel) methods of re-establishing some distance.  When Chuck causes Sarah angst it’s usually because he’s clueless.  This is definitely the case in Best Friend.  While Chuck may not realize it he is Sarah’s best friend, something that sometimes gets lost in the quest for Charah.  There were a few great tells in this episode.  Sarah is wearing the charm bracelet Chuck gave her practically the entire show.  When Chuck in his cluelessness is belittling his and Sarah’s friendship when he tells her how important Morgan is to him Sarah is playing with the bracelet.  She is clearly hurt, and to make things worse the mask slips again.  At the end, the hand holding scene, the part I found most moving was that Sarah was basically begging Chuck to tell her she is important to him, that she does have someone in her life who cares.  As a side note on this, whether a continuity error or on purpose the charm bracelet pops up again, or doesn’t. In the post mission debriefing Sarah is again wearing the bracelet.  But back at the Buy More she isn’t.  I’m not sure if that was intentional, but if so I’m not quite sure what to make of it.  I’m going with a continuity error.  The alternative makes my brain hurt.

To me the Cole PLI was one last grasp at angst too many.  At least of the PLI variety.  I thought it tried to make a lot out of nothing more than Sarah kind of enjoying a stolen kiss from, lets face it, a good-looking guy.  The fact that she won’t really cheat on Chuck, and the fact that she decides Beckman’s order for 24 hour protection means she sleeps over and they get an apartment together was far more telling.  As someone on the NBC boards remarked Sarah is definitely marking her territory after Chuck’s attempted breakup this time.  No more petite brunettes for Chuck.  And its good to see Sarah happy every so often.

At this point the relationship arc of the season is almost over, IMHO.  They have, for better or worse, intentionally or not, established Chuck and Sarah as a couple.  They might not be able to be together, but it is clear they want to, and are hoping for that at some time in the future.  The final exclamation point comes in the Colonel.  I’m not going to mention the Ring because, well, you know how I get.  That and I consider it the first episode of season 3.  I’ll soon see if I’m right that they’ll fill in some of the mind-bending holes I see.

Before I close out this post however I need to talk about Chuck outside the context of just the relationship with Sarah.  Clearly that was a big deal in season 2, almost sucking the air out of the rest of the show.  But at the end of Lethal weapon we see the first really big change in Chuck since the new Chuck present at the beginning of the season.  Did I describe the new Chuck as more confident and ambitious?  We find that after Cole’s talk he’s also a lot more focused than we thought.  He decides not to move in with Sarah, and then in the big reveal I think we see one of the reasons.  Its been there probably all along though unseen by us.  If the government doesn’t have a plan, Chuck does.  Find out where the intersect came from, how it works, and how to get it out of his head.  He can’t do that with Sarah watching him 24/7, so he makes ashort-term sacrifice to focus on his goal.  This really is a new Chuck, and the Orion arc really shows how much he’s grown up.  I was hooked in season one, but I got addicted at the end of season 2.  Here is the focus and tenacity that will seem new in season 3 from what we’ve heard.  Here is where the new Chuck gets his start.

So why the re-cap of two seasons of Chuck and Charah?  Other than a review to fix the characters and their progress in my mind before the new season starts, and just plain having fun writing about Chuck, I think the clues are all there for what season 3 holds.  We’re going to open with a whole new Chuck.  We won’t necessarily see his evolution, but we saw where it started and we’ll see the result.  The whole Chuck and Sarah relationship is going to a new level.  A lot of the time it will probably seem like things are on hold or going the wrong direction, but when we look we’ll see that there has been a fundamental change that won’t go away underlying everything about them.  But here’s the point, we’ve seen this happen before and it turned out great.  Chuck in season 2 is very different from Chuck in season 1, but he retains his Chuckness.  Chuck and Sarah have taken the relationship to a totally new place before, from season 1 to season 2, and we loved it in the end.  The spy stuff and the arcs in the Orion arc was far more entertaining to me than anything I saw in season 1.  If I was hooked in season 1, addicted in season 2, where does that leave me for season 3?  Hopeful.  I think they can pull it off.  They’ve done it before, so bring on the Chuck.


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
This entry was posted in Angst, Inside Chuck, Observations. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Meet the New Chuck. Same as the Old Chuck?

  1. joe says:

    Son-of-a … Now I just have to watch Truth, Marlin AND Break-Up again, before I lead into S3 with Colonel and The Ring. I’m blaming YOU, Ernie! ;>

    Alright. Nobody call me now! I’m gonna be busy!

  2. atcdave says:

    Is it too redundant to say “great post Ernie?”
    I also really liked the Break-Up scene. Mostly for the same reasons. My impression at the time it aired was it was the first time Sarah really knew she was in love with him. I know we’ve discussed this at length, and there really are a lot of important events both before and after. Truth and Marlin both containing huge scenes for relationship growth; but to my mind, everything before was either about possibility or immediacy; I think in Break-Up she knew she never wanted to leave him.

    I liked your take on Best Friend; I’ve thought that a few times, that Chuck really is Sarah’s best friend, and really, Sarah is Chuck’s best friend too; he just doesn’t notice as much because of his Morgan history/baggage. One of the reasons I relate to Chuck and Sarah so well, is a similarity I see with my wife and I; that is, we were friends long before we started dating (I know, you thought I was going to bring up the government assassin thing). So I guess that’s part of my bias in thinking this is a good situation. Of course it makes the pain of any malfunctions that much more intense (you can’t exactly turn to your best friend for help!)
    I like the Sarah marking her territory comment about Beefcake/Lethal Weapon. My own take on that (totally unverifiable mind you), is that it was all Sarah from the beginning. I think she thought she could keep the cover relationship, and protect Chuck from bunkering (again). I don’t think the General or Casey ever even knew; for two reasons: 1) The “going off the grid” order came down awfully fast, almost like Sarah hadn’t had a chance to discuss her plan with anyone yet, and 2) That Chuck was even able to back out of it at the end. If the General had ordered it, I doubt Chuck would have been able to say “no thanks”.

    I loved the end of Lethal Weapon, and not just for “‘shipper” reasons. Chuck’s chart really showed he was paying attention; and he wasn’t going to be just a pawn. He was trying to understand, and fix, the whole situation.
    I kind of wish he had figured out more quickly that the intersect was the best thing that ever happened to him. It gave him a purpose, an opportunity to do good, and of course, a certain blond. But I honestly don’t believe I would have been eager to embrace that life either, so I can’t really blame him for wanting out.
    Either way, Lethal Weapon is when Chuck’s new, more serious attitude first really shows itself. And it starts one of the best TV story arcs I’ve ever seen in my life.

  3. Gord says:

    Once again a very inciteful look at Chuck Bartowski. One comment you made I had never thought of in that way before:
    “If the government doesn’t have a plan, Chuck does. Find out where the intersect came from, how it works, and how to get it out of his head. He can’t do that with Sarah watching him 24/7, so he makes ashort-term sacrifice to focus on his goal.”
    The idea that he sacrificed living with Sarah 24/7 so he could still work out his plan. I always took it at face value – that it was because living together just for cover, being around her all the time without taking the relationship to that next level was too painful for him. He was so convincing in my mind. However, your interpretation might actually be right.

    As for the breakfast scene, I think by the end of the episode Sarah’s character was feeling that is what she really wants and knowing that scared her and forced her to withdraw into her Agent Walker persona. Because she is pining for the normal life with Chuck, is why she will be so angry at Chuck in beginning of S3.
    I still think when they finally make up, the payoff for the shippers will be huge.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Gord, as usual Chuck can only seem to lie with half truths. I think he was telling part of the truth, just not the whole truth.

      I also think S3 Sarah soul searching is going to be both riveting and heartbreaking. At some level she’ll be angry because she was almost out and ready for that normal life with Chuck. On another I think she’ll come to realize that with her hesitation, mixed signals and fears she inadvertently communicated to Chuck she couldn’t be with him unless he was a spy. She’ll realize that he re-intersected and gave up his longed for normal life to be with her. The real angst will be that in becoming a spy she may lose the Chuck she loved, and be responsible for it.

      • atcdave says:

        I sure do hope they address some of that. Not in in great detail mind you, the show needs to stay fun and funny; but there is such a point there of how Sarah pushed Chuck into the spy world, and the impact it will have on his character. She needs to take some ownership of that; and I really hope she is part of how he hangs on to that core of morality and decency.

      • Gord says:

        I also think, that Sarah will come to realize that underneath the exterior of Charles Carmichael superspy, it is still the same old Chuck. It will take a while for that to become apparent to her (maybe most or all of the season), but I believe when that happens we will see our 2 favourite spies become the superspy couple we hope they will be.

        Thanks alot, now you got me feeling all warm and mushy inside. I guess I will have to take Casey’s advice and go out to kill a goat.
        (If you havent the special feature “John Casey Presents: So you want to be a deadly spy” yet, you don’t know what your missing.)

      • herder says:

        In season one and much of season two Sarah would say they couldn’t be together because it was her job to protect him. I think at the begining of season three she will take the same all or nothing attitude, that they can only be together if they are both out of the spy business. Partially because she fears that as a spy she is not “normal” and partially because she fears that Chuck becoming a spy will cause him to lose the innocence that she loves.

        I think a good part of the story will be not only Chuck showing that by becoming a spy he isn’t changing who he is but also him showing her how she can be a spy and still be “normal”. The two of them working towards a livable middle.

  4. OldDarth says:

    The TALK from BreakUp is my all time favorite Chuck and Sarah scene as well.

    Agree if one charts the relationship through each season that the end game is in sight with the third.

    More thrilling for me will be seeing a role reversal happening with Chuck becoming more professionally secure and Sarah more emotionally open.

  5. OldDarth says:

    This AP interview with Zach pretty well maps out Chuck’s character arc for Season 3.

    Can’t wait to see it play out.

    • Gord says:

      Thanks for the link OD. That was a very encouraging interview, whether your a shipper or not.
      I liked his statement -“Rest assured it’s the same Chuck at heart”.

      Only a few days to go. I hope nobody expects me to answer a phone on Sunday night, because there is no way I am going to be interrupted on Chuck night.

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