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?
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