Hating Yourself For Liking Nacho So Much

Piece of Cake

I so wanted to write a detailed, scene-by-scene analysis of Chuck vs. The Nacho Sampler this morning, but I can’t. It’s far too big. After two viewings, I’m still dealing with my first impressions.

Chuck: I’d like to consider myself the Jack Hanna of this wilderness.


Chuck is not Jack Hanna, even in the Buy More. He’s given a new assignment (a new “mish”), to handle his first asset. The guy is a nerd with a bio that’s uncomfortably close to Chuck’s own, and it’s obvious that they have much in common; a connection, as Sarah put it. “Piece of cake.”, Chuck says, thinking he’s in control of this zoo.

Before he’s through, he’s kept control alright (I say with sarcasm). He’s done it by lying to Morgan, Hannah, Devon, Ellie and his asset, Manoosh Depak (Seattle comic and aerospace engineer Fahim Anwar). Worse, he’s lied well, and that makes a liar out of Sarah.

Casey: I stand corrected. He’s not ready.
Sarah (sings): Thank you!

What makes this episode so emotionally powerful are the flashbacks to the pilot episode. Chuck remembers the day Sarah walked into the Buy More and left her card for him to find.

Chuck: I felt like I was having the luckiest day of my life. I was pathetic.
Sarah: No, you were sweet and innocent. I liked you. It made it that much harder.

You want to think that Chuck is gaining an understanding of what Sarah was going through then. Or at least, I wanted to. I thought he was gaining a sense of empathy for her experience, at first. But his very next word he utters is the unanswered question, “Why?” That’s not a show of understanding. That’s Chuck saying that he didn’t really understand Sarah’s feelings before. He’s missing something. That’s Chuck saying that he wants to understand why it was hard for her.

The most emotionally difficult aspect of Nacho Sampler is exactly that difficult time Sarah has been having all along, dealing with the fact that, from the very first, she liked Chuck, and it’s more than merely gotten in the way of her doing her job.  Chuck himself doesn’t make the connection that comes next, and Sarah doesn’t hear it.  Casey makes this connection I’m about to reveal, and bludgeons Sarah with it.  We the audience are shown the connection when Manoosh echoes the very words Chuck used after being seduced by her.

Manoosh: Wow – this is the best night of my life.
Casey: Nice job, Walker. Another geek bites the dust.

Sarah and Chuck exchange expressions of pain at Casey’s words, and I think I wore that expression too.

One of the many things I got wrong when I anticipated this episode was my not-so-stunning observation that Chuck hates seduction missions. It was bolstered in last week’s promo where Chuck was so obviously discomforted by Sarah seducing Manoosh in the Mexican restaurant.   But that’s not it.   It’s the lying, which is implicit in the seduction, that’s killing him.  And Chuck knows that his portrayal of friendship is every bit as bad. He cares enough about Manoosh to be concerned.

Chuck: Imagine what The Ring is gonna do to him if they find out he doesn’t have it!
Sarah (sadly): Just don’t think about it, Chuck. It makes being a spy a lot easier.

For all his concern for Manoosh, Chuck is quick to lie to both Devon and Ellie.  He knows the same thing is on the line, but with them it hits closer to home, literally.

Chuck: I understand that ‘the line’ is very difficult at this point right now. But trust me, it gets easier.

No it doesn’t. To my list of people Chuck is lying to, add – Chuck.

Casey: Told you he was ready. The kid’s a good liar. You taught him well, Walker.

Way to kick her when she’s down, Casey.  Sarah grimaces at that.

It’s been noted that this episode is a watershed, and it is in many ways. Not once did Chuck’s pants end up around his ankles, figurative or literally – and I think that’s a first. When Manoosh flashes and subdues the Ring agents in the parking lot, the scene could have been part of Burn Notice. Morgan acted much more like Sam from that show than anything else, especially when he’s hitting on Hannah in his “office”. Oh – and did you catch how Tchaikovsky’s music from Swan Lake is “French New Wave?” Hilarious. Casey’s one liners were the best ever, and the comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy Jeff and Lester have never been better without Jeff’s keytar. We even saw the Sarah who snapped Casey’s picture in Wookie make an appearance, sing-songing “Thank-you!” to Casey when he admits Chuck is not ready. There’s no Shaw, and Chuck is not emotionally involved with Hannah. It’s simple, even wonderful, before you consider what’s happening to Chuck and Sarah. Hold that thought.

To show us what’s happening to them, we’re treated to flashbacks to remind us how far they’ve come. But the episode does more than just re-show scenes from the pilot. Recall Chuck on the roof, trapped by Casey and Sarah.  “You –“, he says, pointing to Sarah, “You” (he points to Casey) “need me.” Manoosh mocks him unknowingly with his own words when he confronts he Ring Agents in Dubye.

Ring Agent: We don’t need you.
Manoosh stomps on his glasses.
Manoosh: Looks like you need me now!

This scene also shows us what might have been had Sarah let Chuck go in the pilot. Unlike Sarah and Casey, Chuck does lets Manoosh go at first, and that’s a mistake. It’s dramatic when Casey sees he’s escaping and draws a gun. In the action climax, Chuck stops Casey, but then stops Manoosh himself with a tranq gun. He had to.

Manoosh: Chuck – you have to help me. I thought you were my friend!
Chuck: I’m not. I’m a spy.

With that, all the comedy I mentioned is overshadowed by the heartbreaking drama.

Chuck had to burn himself. Sarah not only doesn’t want to be a spy, the guy she loves is becoming one, with all the traits she now hates in herself. The wrenching scene in Prague comes flooding back when we realize that Sarah saw this coming and tried her best to prevent it. Her desire to be with Chuck was second to her desire to prevent him from being that spy, and it’s been that way at least since Colonel, if not earlier, when they ran in Broken Heart.

Casey: Our boy’s grown up, huh. When you first met him, did you ever think he’d be able to burn an asset?
Sarah: No.
Casey: He’s turning into a spy. That’s a good thing.
Sarah (to herself): Is it?

If Sarah is not happy with what Chuck is becoming, she’s less happy that he’s become like her, unable to not lie, and not able to do the right thing even when she wants to. The last bitter irony is the flash back to Sarah walking into the Buy More three years earlier. How hard is it going to be handing Chuck as her asset? No harder than it’s going to be for Chuck to handle his. Piece of cake.

There’s only one small consolation to the universal bitterness of Chuck’s downing his Johnny Walker Black. It’s the experience of losing the last of his naiveté and innocence about himself.  Chuck knows.  So much for the Garden of Eden. Chuck’s been expelled.

I’ve been sleeping for 40 days and
Yeah, I know that I’m sleeping
Cause this dream’s too amazing
She got gold doorknobs
where her eyes used to be yeah
One turn and I learned
What it really means to see, yeah

Oooh it’s the magical mystery kind
Ooh must be a lie
Bye bye to the too good to be true kind of love
Oooooh I could die
Oooooh now, I could die

– joe

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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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15 Responses to Hating Yourself For Liking Nacho So Much

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    Joe, Outstanding. I was working on a reprise of my seduction piece along these very lines. But you nailed it. It’s about what it says about the seducer. Chuck not only got to see the seduction from the other side, but was in a sense the seducer, and he did see what it costs to be the seducer. Nope, Chuck does not like seduction missions, but it isn’t about jealousy. What he may have sensed with an unease before he now feels to his very core.

    • joe says:

      I’m so glad my point came across, Ernie. This one was really hard. There’s so much more I haven’t been able to put into words – especially about what Morgan, Ellie and Devon are seeing right now.

  2. PeterOinNj says:

    Thank you Joe for putting into words what has been spinning around in my head for the last two days. I rate how good an episode is by how long I think about it afterward, how often I think about it, and how much new detail I pull out with each viewing. By that rating, this was a powerful episode and one that sets the scene for what comes next. Chuck’s Road of Trials is more emotional than physical, and I think as a result, much more intense. In this episode alone he had to confront what he was and what he is becoming and it’s obvious to me he likes it less than Sarah does. That ending underscored the lonliness and isolation that is a spy’s life. A life Chuck chose.
    It was Lou (OD) that said this was a watershed episode and I couldn’t agree more. So where do we go from here? You may have given us the answer – “Chuck knows. So much for the Garden of Eden. Chuck’s been expelled.” Knowing is the first part. I think we are very close to the fork in the road, and the next stage of this hero’s journey.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • joe says:

      Thanks Peter. You reminded me of something I once read by M. Scott Peck – The only way out of the desert is through it. Chuck can’t go back – I doubt that he ever really could.

      I have a greater appreciation for the job that Sarah’s done, too. Her trial has become just that more poignant.

    • joe says:

      Thanks, Lou. You’re comment on the Podcast, that as Chuck is getting “cooler”, Sarah is getting “warmer”, was spot-on. It’s something I have to pay attention to.

  3. joe says:

    In the post I put a list of people Chuck lied to in this episode. It’s a long list. I failed to note that Sarah was not on it.

    Can anyone think of a scene where Chuck *did* lie to her? I can’t (but I admit I may have just missed it). Is that a significant thing?

    • ND2488 says:

      I think the fact that Chuck has not lied to Sarah is a very important point. It is true that Chuck does not have a need to lie to Sarah because they are working together as fellow spies. But that is exactly the point. Nothing can be really real about a spy to the outside world to protect themselves and their loved ones. However, Sarah and Chuck can have something real because there does not have to be any secrets between them. Sure it takes a supreme act of trust to love another spy and it can lead to tragedy (as in Shaw’s case), but at this point, Sarah and Chuck are each other’s only hope of having something totally real and honest in their lives. Shaw believes his choice to love was a mistake (or at least that is what we are led to believe at this point). Chuck wants and has made the choice to love Sarah. The burden now rests on Sarah. She needs to make the choice to trust Chuck and open her heart up to him. She needs to decide if she thinks Shaw is right or not.

      • amyabn says:

        I made a mental note that when Shaw was carrying on about his wife and telling Sarah that they both made the same mistake (falling in love with another spy), Sarah was very non-committal in her response. I don’t think she agrees with his assessment and I think we will see her assess her own life and what it would be like if Chuck weren’t in it. Maybe then she will decide to fight for a life with Chuck, whatever that looks like.

  4. OldDarth says:

    Perhaps – but their interaction was strictly professional and since they had the same goals the need for lying never arose.

    It will be interesting to see if lies do arise between them in the remaining Shaw episodes. Of course if Shaw manipulates them into lying to one another, that is a different matter.

  5. BDP says:

    I feel no guilt for loving the nacho sampler ep.

    I hope Chuck is not lost in his wilderness for too long, but i think he is going to need help escaping, specially if he’s got other forces he wouldn’t expect against him, pushing him further through this rabbit hole (ie Morgan, Awesome and Ellie)

    lets hope Team-Bartowski can pull him through.

    Thanks for the 40 day dream link – tried but failed to find this last night

    • joe says:

      You’re quiet welcome, BDP. And I’m glad you posted. This idea of Chuck being lost in the wilderness/desert is very Biblical in nature. The more I think on it, the more surprised I am by it.

      Heh! And your reference to Alice In Wonderland show me again that we have a very literate audience here!

  6. Big Kev says:

    Joe,
    Great post.
    It’s not just Chuck who has lost his innocence – Sarah has too, at least with regards to Chuck. The boy she fell in love with has gone, never to return. And to judge by some of the reactions to this episode, some fans have also been expelled from the Garden of Eden that is the Chuckiverse!
    I watched this episode after reading the comments (I couldn’t help myself) – so I was expecting something a lot darker than what transpired. I think I agree with Weasel One – the intensity of some of the emotions just added to the comedic value of the remainder. There are so many things that I love about the set ups at the moment.
    The potential comedy and role reversal of Chuck (and by implication Sarah and Casey) being “investigated” by Morgan, Jeff and Lester
    The continuing use (or non-use) of Intersect 2.0 skills in ridiculous ways – Nacho plates and nunchuks
    Finally, a comedy line for Sarah – “told you!!” – and hopefully more to come.
    I loved this episode. Definitely in my top 5. Yes, the walls are closing in on Chuck, but I loved the way that all the scenes foreshadowing those clashes were played for laughs – definitely the way to go.
    Originally, I also thought that it was incongruous to have Chuck drinking alone, without Sarah. Certainly season 1 or season 2 Sarah would have been there. But season 3 Sarah is only just beginning to mend her own broken heart, and as with the Bo scene, she may have decided that this is one decision she’s not going to protect Chuck from. Unlike the Bo scene though, this time I don’t think she’s doing it out of anger.
    Surely the burning of Manoosh is ambiguous in the end? Chuck actually saved him from a bullet in the back (from Casey) – and then he had no choice. His original decision was to let Manoosh go – a decision that was revoked by Casey, not by Chuck.
    I’m guessing Episode 7 refers at least in part to the metaphorical mask that Chuck has to wear to handle Hannah in the next mission – which is clearly a seduction mission. Just as Sarah’s mask is cracking, and she is less and less able (or even inclined) to hide her emotions. With the name reveal in Episode 8, hopefully these will be 2 episodes to warm my hopeless shipper heart!!

  7. kaybee2517 says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. It had the ‘spy stuff’ and enough of the comedy(“Just like Bartowski, bring a knife to a gun fight”)that I enjoy, along with some good drama.
    I don’t know if it was on here, or the NBC boards, but I’m sure I’ve read comments where it was implied that Chuck saw that Casey was about to shoot Manoosh and/or that he heard Casey say he knew Chuck couldn’t do it, and that was what prompted Chuck to shoot Manoosh himself. It didn’t appear that way to me though. Chuck was in front of Casey and Sarah so he definitely didn’t see Casey draw his gun, and was probably out of earshot also. It was totally Chuck realizing what needed to be done.
    Which brings me to the next thing, which is that it did need to be done. Only two things could have happened at that point 1-Manoosh gets put into a deep dark hole somewhere so he and his knowledge can never get into The Ring’s hands. 2-Manoosh becomes part of Team Bartowski so they can protect him(um, no).
    I didn’t like Devon in this episode. At first it was O.K. with him being sort of jumpy, but by the end it was just too much. “You have to obey me;I forbid us to go to Paris??” really????
    Now, I have 2 questions.#1. In the pilot we didn’t hear the phone conversation Sarah was having as she entered Buy More, correct? Shouldn’t the voice we heard on the other end of the line have been Grahm? It really didn’t sound like him. #2. (and forgive me because this is sort of a silly one) Normally the TVs in the BuyMore are playing something that has to do with the episode (ninja movies in Sensei, the ‘kill the wabbit’ episode of Bugs Bunny in Fat Lady, etc). This episode there were schools of fish and some dolphins. I don’t see the connection. Do fish have something to do with nachos that I don’t know about? 😉

    • atcdave says:

      The voice on the phone was not Graham, but I think it was meant to be; Tony Todd is no longer with the show.

      I do agree Chuck didn’t know Casey was about to shoot, I agree with his actions there. But overall I found this one dark and no fun.

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