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
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.