That Perfect Love

“The Show Really Grew Up This Week” (Chuck_Fan_In_MO)

A line from the music used in the Nacho Sampler episode has haunted me for days.

Ooh must be a lie –
Bye bye to the too good to be true kind of love


I was sixteen when I experienced that – a “too good to be true” kind of love. I guess that’s about right. Most of us go through that sometime. Unfortunately, I was much older when I finally understood, as the song says, that it’s a lie. What can I say? I’m a slow learner.

It’s hard – impossible – to understand that when you’re young, I think. It’s impossible to feel that it’s a lie. And it should be. The cathexis (that’s a real word) you discover in youth is special. It’s something wonderful. You grow out of it. You have to. There’s good news, of course. You can grow into something deeper and more meaningful.

That "Too Good To Be True" Kind of Love

In case you’re young and wondering what I’m talking about, for me real love is my 80 year old dad and 78 year old mom happily taking care of each other after raising six healthy children, surviving 57 years of marriage and still enjoying each other’s company. Lusting after a good looking 28 year old is easy compared to that. Literally, it’s child’s play.

After watching this week’s episode, it seems we got a real good dose of that part of reality, that thing called The Truth ™. If you go back and re-watch some of the season 1 episodes the way we were invited to by the use of scenes from the pilot, they might look far less realistic to you now. The characters will look less real, too, almost cartoonish, in a way.

Heh. Using the word “real” to describe a nerd who programs his own version of Zork and has a supercomputer downloaded into his brain and a super-hot, knife throwing, ninja of a spy still seems odd and a bit silly. But we let ourselves believe in that world. It became very realistic to most of us very quickly. Somehow, somewhere we found The Truth ™ embedded in the story, a truth we could believe in despite all the fiction. For almost all of us, that was Chuck and Sarah and what they meant to each other. They were perfect.

And they were helping each other grow; Chuck, away from his debilitating failure at Stanford (and with Jill), Sarah from her grifter childhood and from the scars left by the sins of her father. Oops. There’s the problem. They have to grow and change, and that means they weren’t so perfect after all. That’s relationship counciling 101, pretty serious stuff. It was silly fun before, but nothing we’ve seen lately has been silly, except Jeff and Lester. If you’re not absolutely moon-struck by the fantasy world that’s been created for you, it’s even possible to believe the heresy that Chuck and Sarah aren’t ready for each other, and may never be. OMG! It’s the last episode of The Wonder Years all over again (ooohhh Noooo!).

It’s not. The characters of Chuck and Sarah are indeed maturing. And all you have to do is ask yourself if you think the direction of their growth is towards or away from each other. You can argue and complain about the pace, but you don’t have to be a ‘shipper to know that the false dawn of passion that was so exciting in season two is going to be followed by the real thing. The desire to throttle TPTB for that false dawn is understandable, though.

I can’t help but feel that these characters are not fictional any longer, in the sense that they in anyway represent perfect, unattainable ideals. Despite intersects, mad lock-picking skills and very large firearms, they are very much like the imperfect and perfectly great people I know. They’re not anything like the pseudo superman and hero I wanted to be as a child (and wasn’t that fun!). They are more like the way I try to be every day as an adult.

It’s uncommon that a television show makes you hold yourself to a higher standard by dint of the good people you see in it, and gets you to regret it when you don’t.

– 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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38 Responses to That Perfect Love

  1. amyabn says:

    Joe, I see them maturing, but I don’t see them growing together. Some may argue that they need to do that separately, but they really can’t. One, they are together all the time, based on mission requirements. Two, going it alone flies in the face of 2 years of Chuck and Sarah being there for one another. I’m not looking for sappy storytelling or the perfect hookup, but rather more of those moments that showed us that they were in it together.
    I just rewatched Angel of Death and the ending, where Chuck and Sarah decide to be “friends” justifies (in my mind at least!) that they are still a team. The long hand holding and then Sarah’s hugging Chuck after telling him Devon was kidnapped, were not “friends” moments. But rather than capitalizing on that chemistry, they pull the rug from under the characters and insert the dreaded A word-angst. I think the uneven storytelling from episode to episode is what has left me slightly unsatisfied. I don’t expect easy, but I expect forward movement. Hope that makes sense!

    • Mike B says:

      As much as I love this show the one thing that has always bothered me is continuity from episode to epsiode. I don’t think it is done purposefully, I think it has to do with differnt sets of writers. Each one has their own ideas and opinions on how the characters behave and interact with each other. Tha’s why the story telling is so uneven.

      • amyabn says:

        Mike, I agree. We are on a roller coaster. I usually lose my “nausea” when we are given an Ali Adler episode-she seems to get us shippers, but then another writing team is at bat and here we go again.
        I don’t know much about the process of writing, but I would have thought that they have an arc designed within which the writing teams build their stories, which then would logically dictate that things are more consistent.
        I’m not giving up on Chuck, but would like to enjoy the ride more!

    • joe says:

      …moments that showed us that they were in it together.

      I like that! My reaction to the “just friends” handshake followed by the hug was just the opposite of yours, Amy. I think it may be my history. The handshake was devastating to me – like they were giving up. The hug showed me that they were still “in it together”, as you said.

      I wonder if it’s a guy/girl or man/woman thing, the way we interpreted those two scenes.

      • amyabn says:

        I guess I saw a glimmer there-that the feelings were in fact real and as much as they are hurting right now, underneath it all, they really love each other. There was melancholy there.
        And it may be our gender differences in our perceptions. It’s all good and thanks for starting this forum so we can talk them through!

      • kg says:

        Joe I had the same reaction as you the first time I saw it. The first thing I could think of was CRAP, then LAME. Especially as Chuck hung on and Sarah quickly and awkwardly recoiled her arm.

        Watching it again, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I originally thought and began to understand what Amy was alluding to. So, yeah, it could be because we’re men. Maybe we’re a little impatient big guy.

        The hug, her expressions, her concern and hurt for Chuck, were such a relief for me. “Finally,” I exclaimed. “It took three bleeping episodes in this frustrating reset to finally have a sweet, tender, hopeful (albeit very brief) C&S moment like we were often accustomed to in the middle season.

      • joe says:

        Well said, kg. It sounds like I went through exactly the same thing as you.

        It got a lot better (and more understandable) the second time through.

  2. atcdave says:

    I think they’re simply straying too far from the original format. In some ways, the characters may be deeper now, but its at the expense of fun. I don’t mean the characters should be cartoony and unbelievable; but to me, they’re substituting negative cliches for positive ones. This is TV by formula. If it isn’t Moonlighting, its Friends. I think its lack of creativity or fear; TV 101 doesn’t cover how to depict a real, adult relationship, so let’s not go there. So far, this season, they’ve done a whole two episodes that have any replay at all to me (3.03 and 3.04), and four episodes that are in my bottom 5. Three Words might have scored well if it really fixed anything, but now we’re back to where they were in S1. I expect things will get better, but the first half of this season isn’t really must see TV for me. If I were a new viewer, I would likely be gone by now.

  3. OldDarth says:

    I hear you Joe.

    Maybe because we are older, we appreciate and understand the arc the characters are going through right now. Bringing the two leads together, which if it happened now would be fatally disastrous, by evolving and maturing the characters is the only honest storytelling way available.

    Their pairing is pre-ordained. Enjoying the journey there which will make that moment as memorable and triumphant as possible.

    They are growing up. So is the show. I find it more fun, more engaging, and more emotional because it is being done honestly.

    My favourite season by a mile already.

    • joe says:

      Yeah, I’m starting to think it’ll be mine, too. Actually, I think my favorite season will be the last six or seven of S2, combined with the first 8 (I think!) of S3. For me it’s a seriousness of purpose that I’m taking in a very personal way.

      At the same time, I completely understand Dave (Hi, Dave!) or Ernie not enjoying it this feeling as much as, say the feeling Tom Sawyer gave them.

      It’s more than “to each, his own”, I think. There’s something about the things I’ve seen, I guess, or perhaps the stage in life I’m at…

      • atcdave says:

        I don’t recall how old Ernie is, but I’m about the same age as you two. I think its more a matter of personal taste. I’ve seen enough real drama in my life, and suffered through it with friends and family. I choose television that’s fun and funny. Small doses of drama can be appreciated, even enhance the experience; but for nightly entertainment, I seek things that make me laugh and leave a smile on my face.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, as I recall you are my evil twin, or I’m yours. We were both born in September of 1963 and started in Federal Service around the end of August 1986.

        I don’t really buy this as an age thing, and the idea that one has to grow up alone in order to be able to connect as a mature individual to have a successful marriage is a stretch too, as Weaselone points out so well. There are many examples of both.

        It is clear that TPTB picked the one they thought more dramatic, but for a show built on the chemistry of the leads together I’m not so sure it was the right one.

        The good news is that NBC basically can’t afford to cancel any show with decent numbers, let alone one with a dedicated cult following willing to support sponsors, so more than likely TPTB will get another chance to fix this, and my impression is that they are in the back 6.

    • weaselone says:

      Not really certain that it’s an age thing. Joe’s point regarding the passionate, immature love of youth and the deeper love of maturity is certainly something that I recognize in my own relationships, but I’m hardly an old timer. I think your point and Joe’s about love is epitomized by high school sweethearts separating, enduring life’s trials and lessons and then reuniting years later, courting and marrying.

      Of course, the shippers have a point as well. Whoever Chuck and Sarah may be, they certainly aren’t teenagers. They’re both pushing 30 and while they both have a degree of emotional immaturity, they aren’t at a point in their lives where they have the option to wander off, explore themselves and return to one another in ten years. Plus, that hasn’t been the nature of the characters which have been established. They’ve grown while they were together. Prior to meeting, they both stagnated.

      There are endless examples of couples where immature love sprouted into the mature variety over the course of their relationships. My suspicion is that Joe’s mother and father probably fall into this category. Numerous existing couples fall into this category. They may have married young, or simply immature, but their marriage survived the ups and downs and they have remained together. 3 years in these individual didn’t exclaim “Crap, we need to split up, see other people, mature emotionally and come back together later. We can’t possibly mature together, we need to find PLI’s or we’re doomed!”

  4. Lucian says:

    There are, of course, many forms of entertainment and storytelling. I’m a big fan of good drama / conflict. This show, however, is built on the positive relationship between the leads (at least it has been for two seasons). Pull that out, and it feels a lot like many other shows that do drama/action, sometimes better. We all are entertained differently. There are no right answers. We watch an episode and either we enjoy it or we didn’t. I don’t read a book because I think I will like the end. Same with a tv show. Weekly contract.

    • joe says:

      Ooohhh! Read this just after my comment directly above, Lucian. You said what I wanted to say, but better.

      • kg says:

        Ernie’s correct.

        It’s not that we don’t necessarily understand Lou’s appreciatation for the journey, the storytelling, the realization, honesty and maturity level of the characters or any other of his whims and visions.

        He makes decent, articulate arguments and observations. He’s passionate and committed.

        Back to Ernie, who is on the money when he claims that TPTB are wasting the incredible on-screen chemisty between Zack and Yvonne which has been clearly evident since the pilot episode.

        Now, of course, there are more successful elements to this show than just Chuck and Sarah, but damn, these two together are electric and the main reason why folks of all ages, men and women have been hooked by this phenomenon.

    • herder says:

      I guess a way of putting my disquiet with the show so far this year is that in previous years the sum of the viewing experience as a whole was greater than the sum of the individual episodes. This year I feel that the sum of the viewing experience is less than the sum of the individual episodes, so while I am enjoying the episodes, the whole story seems somehow less.

      • joe says:

        You may find this odd, herder, but I understand and agree. But I also felt the same in S2, not only up through, oh, Nemesis (the episode that aired around Thanksgiving), but also again after those long weeks after Santa Claus and before 3-D. 3-D was “okay”. Faint praise. Best Friend was great, but Suburbs was – confusing (the out-of-order sequence didn’t help). Then Beefcake. That was a long stretch of TV I thought was “only okay, for Chuck” at the time.

        Excepting Best Friends, in real time, it was about two months where the show just didn’t seem to live up to the standards we saw in, say DeLorean or Tom Sawyer.

        Only after started watching on-line, removed that wait between episodes and see them in correct order did I come to really enjoy that whole section. If I see any of them, I find it very difficult to not watch the next, and the next after that until Colonel.

      • atcdave says:

        Funny you’d mention those two episodes, I just rewatched them today. What a total blast. Those episodes are fun and exciting, even after umpteen viewings. It makes me wonder if they’ve simply lost whatever it was, and it can’t be recaptured. We had a couple of fun episodes this year, but the overall mood is one of great sadness. Its especially heartbreaking after some of the highs they achieved last year. For now, its a shadow of its former self. I hope they get it back, but after reading JS interview I have little confidence that they even realize they’ve lost it. Very sad. I’ll continue to watch for now, but my expectations are very low.

  5. OldDarth says:

    The beauty of serial story telling there is no definitive end – this season is the conclusion of a volume not the final chapter.

    • Big Kev says:

      At least we hope it’s not the final chapter!! How are the ratings going, btw? How are we placed for a Season 4? From the other side of the world here in Oz, I gather there are a few things going on within NBC at the moment?

      • atcdave says:

        The ratings are good for NBC. But NBC is the worst rated network. It should be safe for another season, unless they do a whole house cleaning.

  6. OldDarth says:

    My favourite quote from this recent USA interview:

    http://tinyurl.com/y9qzes9

    ‘Chuck co-creator Josh Schwartz says that when the show returns from its break on March 1, it will continue to build on the emotional cost and the toll of Chuck becoming a spy, in terms of how it affects Sarah, his family and his own soul.’

    Which is most awesome. By pushing Chuck hard this way it is going to force Chuck to grow up quickly in the spy world.

    The true measure of a man’s character can be found by how he acts when things are at their darkest.

    Can’t wait to see Chuck rise to the occasion. 8)

    • kg says:

      Completely agree Lou.

      And, yah know what? I’m starting to see that I’ll probably appreciate it more, as you’ve suggested, because I will have suffered and endured with and for my favorite characters.

  7. jason says:

    if in the end (3.13 or 1st scene 3.14 or God forbid even sooner) they get together because of season 3’s ‘growth’ rather than in spite of it, then the writers nailed it. BUT, in a 50 episode show, where 50% of the fans want to see max CS interaction, 13 episodes is a long time to waste ‘growing’. I think the sarah turning point will be sarah having a lucid moment where she realizes chuck was right about lisbon and becoming a real spy (so CS can stand up and fight for themselves in burbank rather than run)- I think shaw is going to be the one to get her to that point, but not exactly how the spoilers might lead you to think. I also think there is a slow turning point going on, chuck has to accept sarah’s ‘baggage’, her killing people, her seduction of marks, her being in love with bryce, the fact cole could get her attention – I think this is what the slow dance in season 3 has been about – I hope it is worth the wait.

    • Lucian says:

      From where I sit, Chuck has accepted Sarah’s baggage pretty much from the start. Their lack of progress is coming from her. The obvious exception being Pink Slip where she asks him to do the one thing he can’t do (and would have never worked anyway, based on what we know of the world they live in). Sarah, on the other hand is starting to feel more like that song my daughter listens to “you’re hot then you’re cold, you’re in then you’re out, you say yes than say no….” Chuck has issues, but his commitment to Sarah isn’t one of them. Which is why I find Pink Slip such an ill-conceived way to do the reset. At this point, Chuck is trying to “fix things”. Hard to fix someone else’s issues. She’s got to own that one.

    • joe says:

      Gotta say, I think you’re exactly right. And about Sarah realizing Chuck was right in Prague – every time he succeeds in his missions I see her start to believe that a bit more. She’s already starting to see he was right.

      We’re still trying to understand what she’s feeling at the end of Nacho Sampler, though. Most people think she’s looking at Chuck and saying to herself “Who is this guy? – Sarah doesn’t like what he’s becoming.

      My interpretation is a little different. I think she’s looking at him and saying “He’s becoming like the part of me I don’t like any more.”

      Carina reminded Sarah that nothing about a spy is real, and that’s the one thing she can’t abide any more. Chuck was showing her how to be “real”. How’s he going to do that now if he’s a spy?

      Chuck is having his crisis lying to Morgan, Ellie and Devon, and Sarah sees that. Sarah’s having a crisis too, but it’s harder for Chuck to see her’s.

      • amyabn says:

        Joe, I have to disagree with one line-sarah doesn’t like what he’s becoming. Maybe it is just semantics- I don’t think it is about becoming a spy, it’s about him losing himself. I think you are right in Sarah seeing Chuck succeed and realizing he made the right choice. I keep beating this drum, but the key to them being happy is together, with some middle ground.
        I see your parallel with Carina, but I think Sarah left that years ago when she met Chuck. I think this is showing her how far she has come from being that cold hearted unfeeling spy she used to be. Chuck needs to see that he is successful, without the Intersect. There are tons of examples, but Chuck always comes up with something because of who Chuck is. That is what needs to come through so they can get back to real.
        The last two seasons the relationship was real-they just didn’t acknowledge it. They labeled it a cover, but they got through all of it-spying, lieing, living-together, and there wasn’t all of this dreaded angst. This season they labeled it real, and are distancing themselves with disastrous personal consequences (and who knows if this will play out in a spy setting). I’m really not sure how they fix this, but I hope they do really soon!

      • atcdave says:

        Good points Amy; I find the current mood oppressive, hopefully it will lift soon.

      • joe says:

        Yes. I don’t believe that “Sarah doesn’t like what he’s becoming.” either. That’s my interpretation of what the last scene of Nacho Platter tried to make us see until we look below the surface, or until more is revealed.

        I like the idea that she’s reacting to Chuck losing himself, Amy. But you know, I’m not sure I understand that in the same way others do. You see, it carries the concept that he doesn’t know what he wants or who he is, and I think he knows he wants a life with Sarah. He knows that “normal life” – the Buy More world – isn’t doing it for him any more. It’s like he knows, but despite all his powers and abilities, he feels very, very constrained. It’s not that he doesn’t know if he’s Chuck or Charles; it’s that he wants to be both and can’t be completely either.

        But like you said, that may be semantics!

        Absolutely agree with Chuck’s need to be successful without the intersect. Does Sarah need him to be successful without it? – or does she already believe that?

        And I really, really like your idea that C&S *did* have a real relationship before, even if they called it a cover. Maybe the biggest difference between what Dave’s been expressing and what I’ve been feeling in S3 is that it actually feels *more* real to me now than it did before. They’re both reacting very strongly to what’s happening, and people just don’t do that if it’s not important to them.

      • atcdave says:

        Agree withmost of this, except I think Sarah doesn’t like what she sees Chuck becoming and blames herself (she’s created a monster!). She commented in Nacho Sampler on her first impression of Chuck, I think we see deep regret over how Chuck is changing. She probably wants to help but doesn’t know how. That will presumably change in the near future (get on with already, I’m really bored with this!).

  8. jason says:

    when I say slow turning point – I mean he say how hard it was to burn an asset in nacho, and also how hard it would be to ‘save’ someone (like sarah did for him). I think in hannah, he is going to find out how hard it is to seduce a mark, then see how it hurts them (he saw this in nacho too for that matter). At some point, he is going to see how hard it is to have his gun pointed at someone, who says I know who they are, and one call and your girlfirend, sister, and brother in law will be dead by morning – sarah’s santa claus scene. I really don’t ave any idea what chuck will do at this point, nor what sarah would want him to do – I know what shaw expects him to do. This is a guess, but I think this is a test shaw has failed – leading to his own wife’s death.

  9. Jen says:

    Here guys, a preview of next week’s ep.

  10. kg says:

    Amy is money. I argued the same thing last season about Chuck and Sarah’s relationship.

    It WAS real. Unorthodox sure, but genuine. Sarah was the one who usually insisted that it was a cover. And we could plainly see that deep down she didn’t believe it all to be just a cover.

    Bryce, Roan, Cole, Ellie, Devon, Casey. They could all see something was going on between these two beyond the surface, and/or Chuck’s family and friends certainly bought the concept of those two as a couple. They sold it well, however, it wasn’t a presentation. They had fallen for each other. For real.

    I had alleged that these two had spent more quality time together and shared more intimate moments than any couple I knew real or imagined.

    Zac had mentioned over the summer that “I wanted Chuck to get out of the car, I wanted in on the action.”

    That statement was ironic, because Chuck NEVER stayed in the car. He always got involved and contributed to missions in ways without the aid of the intersect.

    Sarah partly fell for Chuck in my estimation because he was resourceful like that. She also fell for him because he was charming, loyal to family and friends and honest.

    Absolutely. Chuck and Sarah were considered a real couple to everyone except each other. And as many have opined, it appeared as though they had agreed with everyone’s conclusion in COLONEL.

    Hell, even Carina wanted a piece of Chuck as early as episode four. “I always want what Sarah wants.”

    Even during the breakups, Sarah gave herself away some. “I just wanted you to know that I never thought our time together felt like work.” WOW. “Is that what you REALLY want?” she angrily asked him after the second BU in the Orange Orange.

    • herder says:

      Yes but she would never admit it and Chuck could never beleive it. Before her comment in Orange Orange Chuck had said “that is just another lie, we’ll never really be together?” then he left a pause for her to contradict his doubts, she wouldn’t or couldn’t.

    • Big Kev says:

      Agreed KG…..and Amy. As early as Sandworm (I think) Sarah says to Chuck, “we are a real couple – we’re just a different sort of a couple”. For the girl who uses “real” when she means love, I think it’s been real for Sarah for a very long time – but so has her conviction that they can’t be together as long as Chuck is an asset. She’s never ever entertained the possibility that “spy” Chuck and “spy” Sarah could be together….because to her, Chuck will only be Chuck if he’s not a spy. Chuck in the spy world will inevitably be corrupted and compromised, as everyone in that world is. And that’s what she’s seeing now.
      I still have a suspicion that the eventual reconciliation will involve them leaving the spy world – and then getting dragged back in by unexpected circumstances maybe in the back 6.

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