The First Rule

It’s The Hierarchy, Stupid

I am the oldest in a fairly large family; 5 boys and 1 girl. The second in line was always an exceptionally bright, active kid, and a very quick learner. Of course, what ever I did, he had to do too. By the time we reached high school, I was struggling to stay “on top”, succeeding only because I could get my driver’s license at the age of 17. I got there first, and by brother had to wait! Ah, it’s fun, growing up.

The real victim in this little undeclared competition wasn’t him – it was the youngest three boys, especially “the baby”. Poor Jimmy got to live in the aftermath of a long legacy of struggles, competitions, compromises and accomadations the making of which he had no part. They were mostly settled before he was born. Jimmy somehow got along and learned to hit a baseball while I wasn’t looking.

Yes, Jimmy liked baseball, and played little league in the summer. Age 10 or 11, he played like a 10 or 11 year old, mostly missing the ball when it was over the plate, and occasionally letting the fly go over his head. The two “big brothers” didn’t mind – we were too busy practising our run-downs (usually for the express purpose of showing off for the ladies) to be too concerned with Jimmy.

One day, he was playing short-stop, and someone hit a good one to deep left. The kid playing left field had to chase it down, as kids will do, and Jimmy had the smarts to move a bit closer to be a cut-off man. The idea is that Jimmy would be in reach of his throw, and could then relay it in. But that fielder wasn’t real strong, and Jimmy was pretty far out there himself. The hitter was rounding second and third by the time the ball was thrown.

Then I saw Jimmy grow up. The ball was thrown to him, a bit high. Jimmy jumped, wheeled around like a pro and threw a picture perfect, hard throw to home for the out. It was stunning. Jaws were on the ground. Mine was, and he was never the same “kid” player again. Jim had matured into a fabulous (and soon to be major) athlete, just like that. What I saw was that, if he hadn’t already done so, Jim was about to exceed my physical abilities, and that was fantastic.

In some sense, I lost a baby brother that day (which was sad, actually) and found a budding young adult – one worthy of respect. That’s what Operation Awesome did to Chuck last night. I doubt that we will ever see Chuck freak out again.

Devon: If you tell me you can get me through this, I trust you.
Chuck looks to Sarah.
Chuck: I will, Devon. I promise.

Chuck was decisive in the hotel with Devon. Chuck was cool under pressure and just confident enough to calm him down. And that was precisely what Sarah and Casey had to do earlier for Chuck. “Nintendo Duck Hunt”, indeed. Chuck is acting as a fully capable, fully realized agent.


Hey, wait! Rewind that a second. (Insert rewind sound effect zziiipppp! here) Did Chuck flash when he was in the hotel with Devon? Nope. That was all him.

Chuck: I’m the one who put the bullet through Agent Shaw’s chest.
I’m the spy you’re looking for.

What’s going on here? We’ve got a new, major character, Shaw, and he’s sympathetic. By putting his life in Chuck’s hands, the first thing Shaw does is get Chuck to trust him. Don’t kid yourself, now. Chuck does trust him, right from the moment he rises from the dead and introduces himself. Doubts? Yes. Chuck has to fight to be heard, and even Sarah adds her voice to his.

Chuck: There’s something you need to know about me, Shaw. There’s nothing in my life that I care about more than my family and my friends… Being the spy that you are, I’m sure you don’t care about anybody.
Shaw: Families and friends make us vulnerable – make us unable to pull the trigger. And that puts everyone in even greater danger.
Just ask your partner here. She’ll tell you the same thing.

Sarah: Sometimes it helps to know you’ve got something to lose.

I didn’t expect that. After the heartbreak of Sarah angrily putting her emotions some place deep inside where nobody could get to them, to see signs of her bleeding heart still beating – that was just me doing some wishful thinking. Right?

Of course not. “Ye of little faith.”

[Joe looks around.  Hey! Who said that???]

The second thing Shaw does is to get Sarah and Casey to trust Chuck – and to allow him to let go of the apron strings. Chuck’s having a hard time standing on his own two feet, but he’s got to do it. Both of them are having the hardest time sitting still and letting Chuck execute his plan without them (well, they are adrenalin junkies, after all ;> ). But we’re long past the toddler stage now, and Chuck has to hit the ground running.

Before he’s through, Shaw also tries to get Sarah and Casey to trust him. Not only has Chuck’s plan gone awry, Casey and Sarah aren’t exactly up to the task of saving him this time either. When Chuck was unable to pull the trigger, my better half was on the edge of her seat, shouting “Shoot! Shoot her!!” We heard the shot, and saw Sydney Price (Angie Harmon – and wow! Wasn’t she good?!) fall. “Did Chuck just shoot her? Sarah??” That was perfect. It was Shaw, we both realized together. The spy who doesn’t like guns knows when they’re necessary.

The next question is, will Chuck ever find out when they’re necessary? Will he ever be able to pull the trigger? And lest we forget, in the much more metaphorical sense of Shaw’s lame joke, will he ever be able? Oh, ye of little faith.. Chuck has a way of coming up with his own answers, you know.

I haven’t mentioned the the B-story yet. That’s my failing as a writer! There are two, really; the comedic “Fight Club”-ala-Buy More hilarity with Jeff and Lester and several great pop-culture/movie references.  We’ve come to expect that.  And Morgan!  Has our boy grown, or what? First, Carina, then the promotion, and then, win or lose, he shows that he’s grown into both. We’ve seen a lot of first rules lately – the first rule of being a bachelor, the first rule of being a spy, the first rule of Big Mike Management, and finally, the first rule of working at the Buy More. Apparently, it’s “Morgan is in charge.” I like that.

Our friend Gord noticed one very important thing before I did, and posted it to the boards last night. It’s worth highlighting. In the denouement, at Morgan’s surprise party, Chuck lied to Devon about Sydney, saying she had been captured. The reference back to the end of Santa Claus is more than welcome. Chuck (and “old” fans) now have something to add to the half-answer Sarah left us at the end of 3-D, and it shows, once again, that TPTB listen to and speak directly to the loyal fan base. More of Chuck’s naiveté is gone, and some of ours should be as well.

Did you have a reflexive distrust of Shaw? I did. Despite everything he did, things that we absolutely know were right for (and to) Chuck, all the speculations and rumors and casting calls and the square jaw make me not trust him. Chuck told us something important about that. Best not to speculate. Nine times out of ten – well, seven – you freak out about nothing. … Get yourself worked up about nothing.

[Who SAID that??!! Who’s there???]

Were your worried about Chuck and Sarah, or that they did not “talk” in what we saw of Morgan’s dinner party?  You shouldn’t.  It too was a reference to the dinners and Thanksgivings we saw in season 1.  It’s good to have you back. And although we may have forgotten (I know I did), someone was watching.  Sarah knew. Probably Chuck did, too.

The final scene was intriguing. In one, wordless moment, we learn that Shaw his his own pasts and secrets. The wedding ring shows us that there is more to his story than we’ve seen, and he’s more than just a cold spy. He too has something to lose, or knows that loss. The last thing Shaw does before the scene fades is ask us to trust him.

– joe


About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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21 Responses to The First Rule

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    Great post Joe. I think Chuck’s growth has made the past two episodes a lot more enjoyable and interesting. But, there’s always a but, I’m on the fence about the whole shooting thing. In one way it WILL change the Chuck character a bit too much, as you alluded to, or at least I think you did. But it also makes Chuck selfish and immature, to constantly need others to make the hard choice for him, like Sarah did in Santa Claus. If it does happen I think it has to be to save someone like Ellie or Sarah, or even Casey, now that would be good, not as part of a mission or to save himself. If there is one thing I’ve noticed its that when someone he loves is depending on Chuck the intersect works perfectly. Where Shaw may say connections are weaknesses in Chuck’s case it is the opposite, he needs to know what he is fighting for to work properly. If Chuck ever does use a gun I think this is the context that it has to be in, willing to sacrifice something of himself for someone he loves.

    • joe says:

      You got it exactly right about “the shooting thing”, Ernie. And I was trying to be ambiguous. I have absolutely no idea which way it should go to be better for Chuck – that learns to pull the trigger, or hope that he always find a better answer. Both could happen; only one will. I’m not sure which I want to see happen!

      As for Shaw’s double entendre about that, well, I do know which way *that* should go…

    • atcdave says:

      I still like the idea of Chuck being the agent who won’t use guns. Of course, its already sort of a cheat in that he has impossibly fast acting tranq guns. But I would like to see a situation where Chuck’s aversion to firearms is not a handicap for the team.

      • weaselone says:

        Actually, Chuck’s use of tranquilizer darts in this episode largely wasn’t a liability. If he’d been using a real weapon, he would have terminated about half a dozen CIA agents on his way to Shaw.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah, that’s kind of my point about the impossibly fast acting darts being a cheat. They’re basically just as effective as a firearm, so who needs one?

      • weaselone says:

        I doubt they have any penetration. All the bad guys would have to do is stand behind a curtain.

  2. atcdave says:

    I was very happy to see the return of family and friends time. I like seeing Casey as a part of the gang, still a bit of an outsider (and lush!), but there nontheless. Interesting Sarah was there “as a friend”. Just like she was hugging Chuck as a friend last week. Who do you think is fooled?

    • joe says:

      Ooh – ooh! Me too! Family and friends time is great. Those are the best of Sarah’s smiles, too.

      Sarah was there “as a friend”, but that didn’t bother me too much, because they agreed to try it as their new cover. I can’t imagine it lasting too long. So long as it’s a cover, I can take it.

      • Gord says:

        I noticed a few things in that scene. When Sarah walked past Chuck at the end of her exchange, she had the exact same look on her face as she did at the end of Tango (forced to kiss you scene). Sort of a “I’m looking forward to what the future will bring us” smile.

        Also noticed the genuine smile on Casey’s face. In any other scenes with Casey interacting with Chuck’s friends and family dinner scenes it is sort of a “I can’t believe I have to be here” smile, where in this episode it was an “I’m really glad to be here smile”.

  3. lou federico says:

    One thing I noticed when rewatching the episode is the last 4 seconds. Take a look at the seating arrangements . Normally it is Elle and Chuck at the head of the table. This time it was Chuck and Sarah. Foreshadowing? Or did Sarah replace Elle as Chucks favorite gal.

    • joe says:

      Hum… This may a good catch, Lou, but I would have expected Chuck at the head, and then Sarah opposite because she’s his girl.
      But if they’re officially “just friends”, then I would have expected Chuck and Morgan at the head of the table. It’s their apartment.
      It’s odd that it was Chuck and Ellie before, when it was Ellie & Devon’s apmnt, isn’t it?

      Maybe there’s something here, and maybe they just cut the scene quick!

    • herder says:

      I had noticed that too, I took it as a nice little touch of the closeness of Chuck and Sarah but you may be right about her taking over as Chuck’s favorite gal.

    • atcdave says:

      As if proof is needed, we all have way too much time on our hands, I noticed the same thing. It was part of what made me laugh about the friends cover.
      My wife and I were friends for six years before we started dating. The last couple months, all of our friends knew what was up, long before we admitted it. Its when long time buddies start laughing about your friendship and using air quotes when they mention it. I wonder if we’ll get an episode when the much repeated theme of the night is all their friends and family saying “I told you so!”

    • AngelTwo says:

      Also worth noting: They shot Chuck looking over the family tableau just as he was looking over the life he had instantly inherited in Suburbs. Same goofily blissful look on Levi’s face, too…

  4. Gord says:

    By the way, how many people caught the other movie references in that episode – all done in the little exchange between Lester and Morgan. In addition to fight club there was “The Warriors” (come out to play), “Officer and a Gentleman” (I have no where else to go) and Animal House (Double Secret Probation).
    Have I missed any?

    • joe says:

      I got 2 of those, Gord. I missed “The Warriors” (hadn’t seen the movie).

      I suspect I’m missing a ton of those. I really haven’t seen many new movies since 1997. I missed The Matrix (Can you believe that???) and never saw it until this summer, AFTER Chuck said his famous season ending line.

      I’m here to tell you that the whole scene works anyway, but it’s even better if you are familiar with it.

      • atcdave says:

        1997 is no excuse Joe! Warriors goes back to about 1979 (and by about I mean exactly). And you haven’t seen The Matrix? geez, what’s wrong with you man! (I saw it about two weeks ago after watching The Ring with a co-worker, he finally convinced me I had to see it!)

      • joe says:

        Heh! Well, I’ve always been a little socially retarded… ;>

    • AngelTwo says:

      Isn’t Chuck’s “Live or Die” line to Sydney a reference to Karate Kid 2, when the Karate Kid has his defeated foe in a death grip? And, of course, there is Chuck’s “Hi-de-li-ho, neighbors” greeting to Devon and Ellie, a Ned Flanders/Simpsons homage

  5. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Operation Awesome (3.04) | Chuck This

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