The Choices We Make

For the first time since the snow started falling, I ran yesterday. I didn’t have to; it was a choice. The sun was shining, but it was cold, and the breeze was bitter – really “in my face” in the worst way. I had to run in the road for the most part, between the drifts left by plows formed ice-walls and and cars. Slipped once or twice on the ice, too. It was – not nice.


Mind if I recap what we know about Chuck and Sarah? Chuck started out as a loser with no ambition and no future, found Sarah and became a hero. When he lost Sarah in Prague, Chuck quickly became a capital-L Loser – no job, no future, even “dead” to Ellie.

Sarah was a con and a known seductress (just ask Casey about her reputation). She had no feelings, she had little soul. She found Chuck and learned about home and family. She lost Chuck and immediately went back to seductive lies and an emotional shell the way other people crawl into a bottle. Poor Gilles.

Chuck and Sarah had hurt each other in Prague. In the months after, they discovered one thing – that what they had tried to leave behind, Chuck’s “safe” cocoon of a world and Sarah’s world of lies, wasn’t all that. They had made a mess, and they even may have trapped themselves in exactly the place they did not want to be any more. But Chuck and Sarah agreed that they had seen better versions of themselves in each other’s eyes, and that they cared. By the end of Angel of Death they may have called each other friend, but the hug they shared was far more tender.

And by Operation Awesome we saw two characters that has re-discovered their better natures. Unmotivated, lazy Chuck was again precisely the hero that Sarah told him he was. Unfeeling, soulless Sarah was ready to force Shaw to shoot her rather than leave Chuck alone when he needed help. In season 3, we see that both have made their choice, again.

Not that these new, strange worlds are easy for either of them. In Nacho Sampler Chuck discovered how hard it is to lie to someone you care about, and once you’ve started, how easy it is to lie to everyone. Sarah discovers again and again that having emotions does make it harder, and far more dangerous for everybody. But they’ve made their choice again, haven’t they? Chuck chooses to become a spy and reinforced that decision. Sarah chooses to care for something other than the mission.

Chuck: I am the spy you are looking for.
Sarah: Sometimes it helps if you have something to lose.
Chuck: Sarah, I am a spy.

We would hope that this is permanent, cast in concrete and frozen for all time! But it’s not. Our choices seldom are.

It dawns on me that Shaw is not Bryce 2.0 or Cole re-do. He’s a perfect male version of Sarah. His soul is not gone; he doesn’t like guns, but he knows when they’re necessary. He cares for Chuck, but has helped the boy be far more self-reliant and effective as a spy by letting him make mistakes, the way she hasn’t.

Hannah is cute and intelligent and innocent, and yes, she is neither Jill nor Lou. She is like the perfect female version of Chuck, motivated without overarching ambition, transparent without triviality. She doesn’t protect Chuck from danger, but leads him away from it. What Sarah sees in Shaw and what Chuck sees in Hannah is everything good at the end of the path before them, if they leave each other behind.

Regardless of any motivation that Shaw and Hannah may have, Chuck and Sarah have been shown both the good and the bad side of the choices they can still make. And so have we.

I finished my run yesterday. Today, I’m paying the price; I’m sore. But you see, I had an uncle who died at my age from heart attack, and heart conditions run in the family. I’m a little motivated to get out in the cold, rather than stay in a warm bed. I do it to spend a little more time on this earth with a person I love.

– 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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22 Responses to The Choices We Make

  1. lizjames says:

    Joe-
    In your lede, you wrote: “the snow started falling.” And in my head I heard Blood Bank by Bon Iver. Even in its bad moments, Chuck does bring out the eloquent in us all…

    • JLR says:

      One of the best songs of the past few years, IMO. I bought the EP, ripped it to my hard drive & it’s on my iPod ready to be played every day!!!

    • joe says:

      Then the snow started falling
      We were stuck out in your car
      You were rubbing both my hands
      Chewing on a candy bar
      you said ain’t this just like the present
      To be showing up like this
      There’s a moon waning crescent
      we started to kiss

      Sigh. Too close to real.

      I’m in love with your honor.

      Thanks, Liz, JLR.

  2. kg says:

    Joe

    The soul, or in this case the body, feels two kinds of “sore.”

    One is the result of lying around all day and doing nothing. This action usually causes more damage or erosion to the brain.

    Then there is the kind of “sore” you feel. There’s nothing wrong with it, for me it’s a good sore. The axiom is true – “No pain, no gain.”

    • joe says:

      Exactly right, kg.

      I spent a dozen years doing the martial arts. Very cool experience. But one thing I became aware of was the difference between “good sore” and “bad sore”. It’s a kind of kinesthetic knowledge (okay – body awareness!) that’s very handy to know.

  3. Faith says:

    I’m not quite sure I understand the point of your piece Joe. Are you saying they made a choice to move on? And that with all the hurts they’ve imparted unto one another they’ve become gun shy and they instead chose the carbon image of themselves?

    Or that they will continue to make choices that they and we have to live with?

    Please explain 😦

    • joe says:

      No, Faith. What I’m trying to get across was that whenever choices are to be made, there are both good and bad consequences, no matter which way the decision goes. Chuck knows he’s a bum without her, and Sarah knows she’s living like an emotional zombie without him. If it’s so awful, if *they* are so awful when they don’t have each other, why shouldn’t they acknowledge that and get together immediately? There is a reason.

      Shaw and Hannah represent the very best of the lives they had before, Chuck as the nice guy who helps ballerinas and Sarah is a great spy who has fun with Carina. If they want to return to those lives, it’s not all bad. In fact it can look pretty good, and they need to know that.

      If Chuck and Sarah are really going to make the choice to be together freely, they should know exactly what it is they’re giving up. Chuck *is* giving up the safety of his cocoon and Sarah *is* giving up sleeping soundly because her conscience is untroubled.

      Now they can legitimately ask if a life together is worth it. I’m betting the answer is still yes, and this time it means more.

      Running is good for me, Faith. But that doesn’t mean my knees don’t ache! 🙂

      • lizjames says:

        Joe-
        It WILL be interesting how TPTB move the characters to whatever ground they reach. Although, in fairness, Chuck will be the bigger winner.

        After all, Chuck has WANTED to become a spy and leave his old life. As you say, it doesn’t come without cost, but he wanted out of what he had.

        Sarah, on the other hand, will be required to continue to live the life she didn’t want and never really chose. It’ll have Chuck in it, of course, and that will make her happy. But she’ll still be living a life she had wanted to leave.

      • joe says:

        I hear what you’re saying Liz, but when I look at it sideways, Sarah’s getting something else, too, besides Chuck.

        You see, I think it’s not exactly right that Sarah wants out of the spy life. What she wants is a life that’s real. For her, her quote “Nothing about a spy’s life is real.” makes having both a contradiction. But I’m not sure that the contradiction can’t be resolved.

        And it’s true that Chuck wanted out of his old life, but he isn’t willing to give up his friends and family. [Aside: We’ve been glossing over how very estranged from Chuck Morgan has become.]

        That is the price Shaw seems to be asking, though, to be a spy. His contradiction will have to be resolved too.

      • atcdave says:

        I think I’ll agree with Joe on this one. Going back to S1 we’ve seen a conflicted Sarah; she doesn’t clearly want out. In Crown Victoria in particular, she asks Casey about ever wanting a normal life; as if she sees the appeal, and may want it someday. But at the end of the episode she clearly tells Chuck that the job is the only thing she’s ever been good at. Excluding material that was never even filmed, I don’t think we can conclude Sarah knows clearly what she wants. Staying in a job she’s good at, with a guy she can trust on the deepest levels, will probably satisfy her pretty completely.

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    Joe, sorry to be late on chiming in, been a bit busy and had a few internet issues, but great post. It has also been on my mind lately, having re-watched S3 start to finish, how complete TPTB made the reset. To pre-season 1. This is Chuck as we imagine he must have been after Standford and Sarah as we imagine her possibly even pre-Bryce. I’ve been nervous to point out one particular aspect of that Sarah reset given how strong some people feel about Sarah Walker, but I totally agree with your take. One of the keys was the Sarah and Ellie talk in Angel del la Muerte where Ellie says it’s like it was in the beginning. In other words they need to get to know each other all over again.

    Now as for Sarah seeing Chuck as a ticket out I think there was some of that, but I’ve thought about what Sarah saw in Chuck and/or his life and what she thought she wanted, to be a real person, with Chuck. Thinking about this in another way she may have seen part of the attraction as having friends and a family with Chuck, but the two of them were only real with each other. Both she and Chuck lied to his friends and family regularly, not to mention letting them down and putting them in danger on a regular basis. What she really saw in Chuck was someone with no hidden agenda, and that transferred over to his family and friends. She could to an extent let her guard down around them because she didn’t have to worry about what they, especially Chuck really wanted. This was probably the first time she’d ever experienced that in her life.

    Now we come to Shaw, and why I think Shaw is Sarah’s modified Jill. Sarah may be seeing Shaw as someone she doesn’t have to hide herself from. He knows she has feelings for Chuck, but that she is willing to step aside for him too. She knows he understands the kind of loss she’s experienced too. It may be that she thinks there can be something real between them since they are similar and both inhabit the same world. I think the realization on her part will be that the real she wanted was intrinsic to Chuck, not to his world or another guy in hers. This would be highlighted if Shaw has a hidden agenda he is keeping from Sarah, which we know he does.

    • joe says:

      [T]he real she wanted was intrinsic to Chuck.

      Well put, Ernie! Much of the discussion we’ve been having since 3.07 aired comes down to that. Is Sarah focused on Chuck, or focused on getting a “real life”? Is Chuck focused on Sarah, or on being a spy? We want them to be focused on each other, but the last ten minutes of The Mask seems to tell us otherwise – and we. don’t. like. it.

      And why does it have to be “either – or?” Can’t they have both?

      The attraction of the scenarios where either Shaw/Hannah or Chuck/Sarah have agendas is that it permits C&S to have both each other and the lives they want. Especially, if Chuck and Sarah are actively playing their respective marks, that means they’ve been focused on each other all along.

  5. lizjames says:

    Joe/Ernie-
    I think the balance that will have to be struck between Chuck and Sarah is going to tell a lot about whether TPTB can write a, ahem!, real show.

    I think Chuck can find a balance between his real life and his spy life because he has always wanted bits of both. The character has been written so broadly as to allow that, even back to the pilot, when he reminds Sarah and Casey that they can’t push him around because they need him!

    But, Sarah, trickier, because we really DON’T know what she wants. She wants Chuck, but as for the rest of it, a mystery. I assume (because the show must go on) that there is an approach to spy life that will work for her. But we actually have not seen the path to that approach. For her, spying (like so many things) has been an all or nothing proposition.

    In fact, Season 4 might be the real eye-opener to that extent: Sarah will spend all her time working reluctantly and looking to get the metaphoric version of the Intersect out of her head. And Chuck will spend the year taking what he can from the metaphoric fake relationship with Agent Walker.

    I don’t know. But it is pretty clear that TPTB have more game changers planned for tne end of season 3. I’ve even given some consideration that Shaw might actually, somehow, get all or part of the Intersect in episode 13. From the mythology side, they have something large planned, that much we know…

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Again, I have more to say on this in a post I’m working on, but I think what we will see in the back 6 is a preview of what S4 will/would be. My personal guess is that S3 was originally designed like S2 to have the Chuck and Sarah together but not “together” for the final spy arc leading to the grand finale. In one of those last episodes they would get an upgraded version of “together”, but still not the full on Charah together so that an end of season cliffhanger like Ring could be used to sell a S4 with both the fans and the network. When it finally became clear after Comicon that WTWT was played out with most, if not all the fans and was now a distraction to the rest of the story, apparently before they thought it was, and the back 6 were ordered they had the perfect opportunity to put them together and show the network it could work, so they will.

      • joe says:

        S3 was originally designed like S2 to have the Chuck and Sarah together but not “together” for the final spy arc leading to the grand finale.

        I buy that, too. But when do you think they’ll finally be together, then? S3.5? S4?

        Ya know, I have a growing conviction that the writers are getting tired of this game, too – keeping a small separation between C&S. What would it look like if they were getting impatient to remove the road-blocks and get creative with entirely new story-lines to tell? My answer: not too different from what we’re seeing now. There’s lots of threads to be tied up before that can happen, a season of scheduled shows to fill, some flexibility to be maintained. With all that in mind, the ground they must cover to get to the destination is large. The amount they’ve covered so far is considerable.

      • atcdave says:

        I hope, and suspect, you guys are correct. Except I’m not sure the writers really believe its played out. JS rather terse “the romantic sub-plot will be resolved” seemed somewhat bitter to me (yes I know, tone is very hard to gauge from a brief line of text). Like he’s being forced by (network, studio, the rest of his writers?) someone to “get on with it.” But I am optimistic season 3.5 will be a taste of the show to come.

    • joe says:

      I think the balance that will have to be struck between Chuck and Sarah is going to tell a lot about whether TPTB can write a, ahem!, real show.

      When you put it that way, Liz, I’m pretty sure they know how. It’s a matter of when they’ll be allowed to do it, given the ratings realities, the NBC imperatives and the need to appeal to a broader audience. Not to denigrate the wisdom of “the common man”, but those of us who communicate here and in the boards are after something different than the story that appeals to the mass-market.

      Oddly, I think we’re getting our way a lot more than they are! How’s that for a positive spin?

      • atcdave says:

        I object, I think I’m pretty common! I also think NBC is probably not real happy with S3 so far. They have clearly said they want lighter fair, the ratings are slipping, and NBC has stopped promoting the show (entirely as far as I can tell; although I’m sure we’ll see a little something next week). My bet is, if there is to a S4; it will have to be more fun like S1 & 2; which will sit better with the many simpletons like me.

      • joe says:

        Okay – now we disagree, Dave.

        You ain’t common at all, buddy! 😉

      • atcdave says:

        I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I am serious in a way. I don’t want deep, thought provoking, or important. I love when a show or story works on many levels, when you can find connections and complexities below the surface. But I don’t like when a show becomes too full of itself, and that’s what much of this season has felt like to me.

        This break is a killer. Ideally, we’d be past Mask by now, maybe on our way out of this hole; at least one step closer to being out of it.
        The last big work of fiction I read was Stephen Lawhead’s Hood trilogy. Great read, good time. Plenty of ups and downs, lots of subtle complexities, especially if you’re familiar with the source myth and dark ages history. It took almost four years for all three books to come out. I waited until the last book was in my sweaty palms before I started, because I hate cliffhangers and unresolved issues. I finished the trilogy in three days. I really don’t like this wait. Maybe I should have waited until the show was over to get started!

      • joe says:

        Hum… Now you’ve articulated something in a way I didn’t grok before. This idea of getting pretentious is something important. It’s a real danger.

        And history says it’s something I’m prone to. So does my wife. 🙂

        Lots of truth in that. I don’t think the story or the characters are particularly pretentious, mind you. But the idea that TPTB are planting subtle clues and playing games with core fans… well that’s something else, if carried too far, anyway.

        But in the show’s defence, let me argue that most shows that involve spies (every show? Get Smart excepted?) must of necessity involve some use of subtle clues, deceptions, lies and machinations. They’re directed at the audience, too. Gotta expect some of that.

        I certainly agree that in a show that’s first and foremost about a romance (and a comedy to boot), there’s a point at which other good things can be lost.

      • atcdave says:

        I guess I see as pretentious the whole darker tone this year; because it is so different from what came before, it is obviously a decision to procede in a readically different direction. Which I still see as a swipe at the fans who saved the show. (I didn’t participate in saving the show because I wanted it to be different, I did it because I loved the way it was). I realize that seems to be a minority view here, but I don’t believe its a minority view among more casual viewers. So, I guess that makes me a hard-core casual viewer (?!).

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