Things You Need To Know, Or May Have Missed
Chuckaddict asks a great question in comments. I hope you don’t mind that I quote it here:
Could we get a thread to try and analyse the main story of season 3? I think we’re also beating a dead horse with the C/S discussions. It is what it is and it looks like we all pretty much agree that it’s almost over. I’m beginning to think the writers have presented the PLI’s as a red herring, a distraction to keep viewers from anticipating the upcoming twist.
We need to sit back and figure out where we are. At least, I feel I do. We’ve been riding this train for six week and eight episodes, trying to peer ahead, wondering what’s coming next, guessing (mostly wrongly) and hoping to see something that resembles – happiness. Much as I’ve tried, I don’t see that. Let’s look backwards a bit, to see where we’ve been. Maybe then we can figure out where we’re going.
Chuck deliberately took a bite from the Intersect apple at the end of Season 2. It gave him knowledge (plenty of it), but he lost his innocence and got himself ejected from – everywhere. His home life with Ellie, the Buy More, Castle, Sarah’s heart – all gone. M. Scott Peck once wrote that it’s rather like being born. You leave a nice, warm, comfy spot for a cold, harsh, empty place and no matter what you do, you can’t go back.
But we, none of us, make this trip alone. Chuck’s obvious life-partner, Sarah, is as lost as he is, for she got ejected too. In fact, she was the impetus. There was this real world out there for her, you see, and she wanted it. But Chuck and Sarah were at odds about which way to go next. He wanted to go in the direction that she had just come from, and she wanted to go in the opposite direction. So they each tried their own ways, at first.
Chuck’s journey went nowhere. Dead stop. Sarah’s led her around in circles. Within six months, Chuck is a bum, and Sarah – well, she feels Gilles might just as well have left the money on the night stand. Pink Slip and The Three Words let us watch them make two decisions: They will make the journey together, and for the time being, they will go in the direction Chuck wants to go.
It’s not a bad choice, initially. Chuck is improving as a spy, gaining skills and confidence rapidly. Every day is an improvement, and pretty soon we see him doing well, expertly even, where before he would have done poorly (or at least, come in second). He saves Awesome, a South American dictator and completes a couple of assignments. Not bad. Then Chuck starts to have difficulties. First, there is a asset/mark who reminds Chuck of who he was, Manoosh. When he looks at him, Chuck sees himself. He cares and sympathises, but ultimately Chuck burns him. It was the right thing to do, and it was inevitable. Chuck also knows he did what Sarah could not do to him. What happened to Manoosh is, to Chuck, a personal failure of the worst sort.
And then there is Hannah, the innocent, sweet girl. A year ago Chuck would have said (again) “You’re everything I thought I ever wanted.” But he doesn’t say that this time, because he knows better. What Chuck does tell her is that he *can’t* explain, and Hannah explains it to him. He’s a liar (world class) and not a nice guy. For all the truths I’ve been mulling over for weeks and months in these pages, that’s the biggest. You don’t like Chuck any more? You have no reason to. He’s actually been pretty despicable, for a nice guy.
Hannah’s not Chuck’s biggest victim, just the most innocent. Sarah tells him something we all knew was wrong in Pink Slip; that he can’t hurt her. Oh yes he can. And by The Fake Name Chuck leaves her unconscious on the floor of the bar where she’s come to rescue him. All in the name of the mission, of course. Right.
But don’t think she’s not complicit. Sarah’s no innocent. She’s not only acquiesced to helping Chuck become a spy, Sarah’s done everything she could think of to help him on his way. That includes getting out of the way of his personal life, even using her skills with a knife to help him make a romantic dinner for Hannah. Some call it helping. Others call it enabling. Of course Sarah’s paying a big price. Enablers have to live with the damage done by the person who’s been enabled. She sees Chuck disappearing into his morass, and she is more lost than he is. It’s going to be hard for Chuck when he realizes this isn’t where Sarah wanted to go in the first place. Sarah does not like anything about what she sees, and even claims to be forgetting that anything can be real, even herself.
You remember Sarah Walker, don’t you?
Chuck: What am I saying? You’re Sarah Walker. You can do anything.
Not lately. The closest we’ve come to seeing that girl recently was when she tossed a table knife into a wedge of cheese.
None of this, you may have noticed, has anything to do with the ‘shippers favorite topic, The Romance ™. Nothing at all. Don’t know about you, but I’ve been blinded a bit to most of what’s going on because I wanted to see some indication that they were getting closer and about to find some way to get on with their life together. It’s been pretty discouraging to know that’s not going to happen while they are lost in the dessert and getting deeper into it. But here’s a sign post. At the end of The Fake Name we know that Chuck has decided to turn himself around.
We could speculate for days that Chuck is ready to try it Sarah’s way now. Wouldn’t we all love to see them drop this, get married and live in that suburban cul-du-sac where Sarah seemed so happy. Wouldn’t we all like to think that they’d be successful and happy together in that world now that we know they’re not in the spy world? No, they don’t have to go that far, just back to the middle. Wouldn’t we all love to see Chuck flash just enough to punch anyone who stood in their way right in the nose. Like Daniel Shaw.
Oh yeah, Daniel Shaw. I haven’t mentioned that 800 lb. gorilla, have I? It’s hard to recognize when Chuck and Sarah have been so adamant about making their own wrong-headed decisions; we suspect mightily that maybe, just maybe they have not been in charge of their own destinies. We suspect and even hope that there is a master manipulator in Daniel Shaw who is so subtle that it’s hard to see the strings he’s pulling.
Maybe this is so. Dave has done a masterful job at describing this enigma and his plans. But when all is said and done, what we know that is true about the character can be counted on the digits of one hand, and much of that is self-contradictory.
Shaw is cool, fearless and self-sacrificing, shooting himself and tempting death to show Chuck that he has his best interests at heart and can make him a spy. He shows much more confidence in Chuck’s abilities than Casey or Sarah ever have, sending him out on a solo mission while they make him stay in the car. Shaw’s a super-spy in the mould of Bryce and Cole who never fails at his job. He’s succeeded in making Chuck a spy.
Shaw also stupidly sends a rookie with unreliable skills out alone beyond protection, just to prove a point. He pushes Chuck beyond the breaking point, and when Chuck doesn’t break, manipulates a vulnerable Sarah away from him. Maybe. Shaw goes completely out of control, not once, but twice when Sarah is watching, attacking a restrained Raif and strangling Chuck. He’s broken The Intersect. Casey’s assessment? He’s a moron. Our assessment? He’s evil. And Chuck’s assessment?
And what about Sarah’s assessment?
It seems to early to start speculating on The Beard, the next episode. But we know from the released promo that Chuck is indeed about to make his assessment. We hear Sarah say “You can talk to us.” and see him make a face at the idea. I’ve formed an early opinion on who “us” is, and why Chuck demurs, but these promos have been extremely misleading. Still, my guess is that Chuck’s reaction is not about refusing to talk to Sarah. It is a good thing.
So to Chuckaddict’s comment, I know what you mean, and I understand what you are talking about. But somehow, the way I’m looking at the course of events in season 3, the term PLI (and the way we understand it) just doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the proper place of Hannah and Shaw in the story any longer. They’re not that important to Chuck and Sarah eventually coming together as a couple. And seriously, this part of the story has not been about Chuck and Sarah as a couple, coming together or not. As Ernie has noted, that was me and my desires. It’s been about Chuck becoming who he was meant to be, and about Sarah being who she is. For that, Shaw and Hannah are all-important.
We’re not quite there yet. But it feels very much like we’re starting the next part of the story.