Morgan: Remember when Sarah first walked into the BuyMore? What was it like? Was it love at first sight?
Chuck: I don’t know, but whatever it was it changed my life forever.
And those changes, and what it was, are very much on Chuck’s mind lately. Chuck is becoming a spy, but before he was a spy he was an asset. Sarah’s asset. We open this episode with a blast from the past. Sarah and Chuck’s first meeting. How it turned out is what Chuck is about. How different it could have been is what this episode is about. After the jump.
Back in the present day our newest Nerd Herder, the enormously overqualified Hannah, enters Chuck’s world. The Wild Kingdom indeed. I’m not one who ever saw Kristin Kreuk in anything, never developed a strong opinion, but her initial reactions to the Buy More and it’s denizens are absolutely wonderfully played. A mixture of shock, horror, curiosity fear and disbelief plays across her face nearly as well as some of Yvonne’s work. Chuck, charming as ever manages to protect her, temporarily. The gruesome twosome that makes up Jeffster has identified their next target. However, before Chuck can start the full Bartowski tutorial, it’s yogurt time.
So Team B is back in action, and Shaw is absent, leaving Chuck’s original mentors the job of training him. This weeks mission? Develop an asset with ties to The Ring. Chuck’s initial attempt is hilarious. With both Sarah and Casey in his ear Chuck whipsaws between a weird semi-seduction, cool, hard to get, disinterested, and finally enabling felony theft in an attempt to quickly befriend his mark, Manoosh. Not exactly the piece of cake Chuck predicted. More like epic fail. Epicly funny too. At least Chuck is managing to keep the wolves at bay for Hannah, when he’s around. Yogurt time again means Chuck has to enlist Morgan to protect Hannah from the attentions of Jeffster. Morgan’s motives it seems may not be entirely altruistic.
Back in Castle Chuck is getting half-time instructions from his spy coaches. He’s also getting his eyes opened. Thanks to Morgan’s question Chuck’s mind is on his recruitment into the spy life. Casey and Sarah’s advice, and recollections of Chuck all those years ago take on a new and somewhat alarming meaning to Chuck. Whatever their relationships now, Chuck can’t help but think about how clueless and manipulated he was all those years ago. And the hits will keep coming.
Luckily Chuck is a quick learner. Armed with some good advice and some geek-friendly tools of the trade Chuck’s second contact goes far better. It’s almost alarming how easily Chuck brushes off his earlier behavior and earns the trust of Manoosh. His second attempt is going as well as his first attempt went poorly. Nachos, beer and bonding over common interests is the order of the night, and Chuck is well on his way to a new asset. Unfortunately we only have 43 minutes and Chuck isn’t closing fast enough, so a Ring call and Sarah intervene to hurry things along. Manoosh’s night of male bonding is soon (he thinks) the best night of his life. Sarah’s seduction, both at the restaurant and back in Castle is hilariously over the top, and sadly unsuccessful in getting the information needed. A few tranq’s from Agent Trankenstein later and Manoosh is left to his fate with the Ring while Team B has apparently obtained the weapon they sought.
Of course it can’t be that easy, we have nearly 20 minutes left and Sarah has had only three different outfits this episode, there’s got to be a twist. And it comes in the form of a pair of Oakley sunglasses with the custom Intersect 2.0 option. So it’s off to Weap-Con for Team B, to re-acquire Manoosh and prevent him from selling off the Intersect technology. Two intercontinental flights, an escape, a fight with the only two Chuck flashes of the episode and one Charles Irving Bartowski save via a last minute tranq’ing Chuck is facing a tough decision. Chuck has to do to Manoosh what Sarah would never allow to happen to Chuck. Although it’s only metaphorical this time, Chuck pulls the trigger.
Sarah: Do you want me to handle it?
Chuck: Yeah, I would. But I have to do it.
Chuck is a good guy. He always does the right thing, and he does the right thing again here. Manoosh, while not evil is not a good guy. Manoosh represents the darker side of a Chuck. Where Chuck is bright and talented and his potential isn’t recognized too often he turns outward and uses his gifts and talents to help others. Manoosh turns inward and grows bitter toward a world he feels slighted by. Manoosh is building a weapon and (even though it is the Ring) betraying his employers to make money. He is as Casey said, no innocent. Chuck does the right thing. But that isn’t to say it’s easy to do it.
Chuck’s life is getting a lot more complicated. His casual lies to Ellie and his spy life are starting to affect others. Both Morgan and Ellie are growing suspicious, Awsome is ready to crack, and Sarah, seeing the things Chuck does, seemingly with ease, things that she never thought he could do is pulling away from him. Only Casey seems to have his back. Casey’s sympathy and growing respect for Chuck seems to be Chuck’s only remaining connection to the life he’d known for years. He’s becoming a spy, but at what cost.
We end this episode with an interesting bookend to Chuck’s entry into the spy world. At the end of Operation Awesome, the last episode before Shaw pushed Chuck fully into the spy world over Sarah’s protestations Chuck had everything he could want at the moment. He had his extended family safe and around him, and he still had Sarah to support him, even if there was still some work to be done there. At the end of this episode, where he has crossed fully over into the spy world, he has a bottle of Scotch, and a lot of doubts.
Sarah: They thought you and I could connect.
So we end where we began. Sarah walking into the Buy More with Chuck as her mark. Piece of cake? Clearly not.
For Sarah, watching from a distance it must finally seem that she’s pulled the trigger. She’s burned her asset. The Chuck she met, the Chuck she fell for and the Chuck she’d worked so hard to protect and to keep from the spy world said it himself when he burned Manoosh. I’m not your friend, I’m a spy. The hidden text is there. We do cruel things to people to get what we want. You were a pawn in someone else’s game. Whatever she felt about herself, and whatever she did, Sarah had one thing to be proud of, she’d saved Chuck from Manoosh’s fate. Chuck had a life and friends and family rather than a cell and handlers, and it was because she made it happen. But what did he have now? Doubts about her, a web of lies, and a bottle of Scotch and that too she made happen. He took this path for her.
Casey: The trick is to find the hole in their life and fill it.
Sarah found the hole in Chuck’s life all those years ago. It wasn’t a girlfriend, as she probably thought at first. It wasn’t a need to be loved, or someone who believed in him. Chuck had all those things, and as we’ve seen has no problem with the ladies when he wants one. What Chuck lacked was a purpose in his life. And Sarah gave him that. And Sarah now suspects that the greatest thing she ever did for Chuck may cost her the only thing she’s ever really loved. Chuck.
Casey: Our boy’s growing up, huh? When we first met him, You ever think he’d be able to burn an asset?
Chuck is growing up. He’s learning that a lot of what it takes to be a spy isn’t particularly fun or glamorous. It’s not all stakeout mixes and sizzling shrimp. It’s a willingness to lie and to hurt people, even sometimes the ones you love. And it’s a lot of wondering if you did the right thing, or could have done it better. If you’d been smarter, or tougher, or … something, some poor guy wouldn’t be spending the rest of his life where you should have been, if it weren’t for people who did it right, like Sarah.
When even success feels like failure it’s gonna be a rocky road for both Chuck and Sarah.