Doing A Letterman

And Doing Him One Better

Do you like David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists?  Oh, who doesn’t!  Our friend Merve does him fifteen better, actually. Please welcome him as our newest guest poster.

– joe

When Joe asked me to write this article, I had three ideas in mind. The first was to rip apart seasons 1 and 2 by zeroing in on their faults, but I realized that that would be no fun. The second was an impassioned defence of season 3, but I realized that I could sum that up in four words: “comedy, action, Casey, Morgan.” The third was a satire about the Chuck fan base, but such an article would be doomed to descend into thinly-veiled vitriol.

So rather than just writing about things that I have liked or disliked, or trying to pick apart story arcs to analyze them in excruciating detail, I wanted to write about things in the series that have impacted me in some way. After rejecting all of my previous ideas, I remembered that Chuck reached an important milestone last Monday: 50 episodes! I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at some of the show’s most memorable scenes. In compiling this list, I’ve certainly made some omissions, and I’d love to hear which other scenes you have found memorable. I’m going to praise some scenes and I’m going to criticize others, but I think that these 25 scenes are likely to remain with us long after Chuck is over.

1. Chuck Versus the Intersect

The dance scene at the rock club

The sexy CIA spy dances around the clueless nerd while fending off an attack from NSA agents. That description sounds absolutely ridiculous, and yet this scene was funny, exciting, and suspenseful all at once, setting the tone for much of the action to follow in the series.

2. Chuck Versus the Wookiee

Sarah reveals her middle name to the audience

Imagine not being able to reveal anything about yourself to the man for whom you’ve developed feelings. Yvonne Strahovski played this scene with a blank expression on her face, as if Sarah was just being professional with Chuck. At first glance, it might even come off as indifference, but note that she remained absolutely silent when Chuck was speaking to her. What if she had opened her mouth? Could she even have bore to tell Chuck, “Sorry, I can’t tell you my middle name?” Probably not, because as soon as Chuck left to get the napkins, she whispered, “It’s Lisa; my middle name is Lisa.”

3. Chuck Versus the Sandworm

Sarah and Chuck take their first real photo together

It is only in retrospect that I realized that the photo was important not only to Chuck, but also to Sarah. For Chuck, it was confirmation that Sarah didn’t just see him as an asset. For Sarah, it was one of her first attempts at having something “real” in her life.

4. Chuck Versus the Truth

Sarah implicitly admits to Casey that she has feelings for Chuck

Even though I saw the revelation that Sarah could withstand the effects of sodium pentathol coming from a mile away, my heart still broke a little when I saw Sarah watching Chuck enjoy coffee with Lou. The reasons for her sadness were twofold. Professionally, she failed to maintain the cover, but personally, and perhaps more importantly, she lost the man she loves.

5. Chuck Versus the Imported Hard Salami

Chuck and Sarah share their first kiss

Sarah went for it when she thought that she had nothing left to lose. Sorry Ross and Rachel, but this was the hottest TV kiss ever.

6. Chuck Versus the Nemesis

The Thanksgiving dinner

Sometimes I think that Chris Fedak woke up one morning and wondered, “What would happen if I put Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Ellie, Awesome, Morgan, and Anna all in a room together?” If that’s true, I’m glad he did. In this deliciously funny scene, Chuck and Sarah dealt with Bryce, Casey and Awesome discussed water sports, and Morgan and Anna participated in an awkward quasi-love-triangle with Ellie. Kudos to the director, Allison Liddi, who turned what could have been a very messy, confusing scene into an hilarious one.

7. Chuck Versus the Marlin

The rooftop scene

We finally got a sense of the lengths to which Sarah was willing to go in order to protect Chuck. She was willing to pull a gun on Longshore and take Chuck on the run. Thankfully, Chuck talked her down. Their tear-filled farewell was one of the most poignant scenes of the series. It’s also one of my personal favourites because Chuck couldn’t resist making a lame joke about the President even when saying goodbye to the woman he loves.

8. Chuck Versus the First Date

Casey’s aborted assassination attempt on Chuck

I love “The Twist” by Frightened Rabbit and I love this scene, but the two don’t go together at all. Now that I’ve gotten that minor criticism out of the way, let’s take a look at Casey. It appears that by this point, he had warmed up to the nerd. He even pleaded with Beckman to find another exit strategy. But Casey is a man who doesn’t take duty lightly. He made his way through Chuck’s apartment with a mixture of hesitation and caution, and despite having several opportunities to kill his target, he didn’t do it. Perhaps seeing Chuck rehearsing what to say to Sarah about a trip across Europe, Casey realized that he couldn’t take the life of a bright young man with so much potential and a desire to see the world. When Sarah finally arrived to tell the news of the destroyed Intersect, Casey left the apartment as if he were never there at all.

9. Chuck Versus the Break-Up

The “break-up” scene

As much as I love this episode, I’ve tried time and time again to make sense of it and I just can’t. (The deleted pizza date scene doesn’t help.) When did Sarah suddenly become incapable of protecting Chuck? And why, after what Bryce tells him, does Chuck’s break-up speech have nothing to do with being safe or professional? Where did all this business about “real” and “normal” lives come from? Perhaps you guys have some answers. But let’s just leave that all aside and zero in on the “break-up” scene, ignoring the rest of the episode. This scene is interesting because Chuck can’t possibly know how much he hurt Sarah when he made his speech. By the end of the front 13 of season 3, I got the impression that two of the things that Sarah wanted were a “real” life and some degree of “normalcy,” with the former being more important to her. Imagine how heartbroken Sarah must have felt when the man she loves told her that she could never have either of those things. It’s no wonder that she couldn’t stop herself from shedding a few tears. This scene only proceeded further into heartbreak territory when Chuck and Sarah were forced to put on fake smiles to maintain their cover and Devon told Chuck, “Maybe you’re next,” in reference to the upcoming Woodcomb nuptials. The irony of those words must have been devastating for Chuck, but all he could do was laugh it off. Altogether, it’s a beautiful, poignant scene. (Plus, “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver is an excellent song.)

10. Chuck Versus the Fat Lady

Casey and Sarah rush to save Chuck after it is revealed that Jill is working for Fulcrum

I think that the version of Frightened Rabbit’s “Keep Yourself Warm” with the f-words left in is more apt than the censored version that plays over this scene. On another note, who can forget the looks of absolute shock on Casey’s and Sarah’s faces when they discovered that they had arrived at Chuck’s apartment too late?

11. Chuck Versus Santa Claus

Sarah shoots Mauser

I found this scene to be an incredibly dark, shocking twist. If there were any previous doubts about it, this scene sweeps them away: Sarah will kill to protect Chuck. The image from this scene that stays with me is the look of horror on Chuck’s face when he realized that he had given his mother’s charm bracelet to a killer.

12. Chuck Versus the Best Friend

Jeffster! performs “Africa” by Toto

Morgan and Anna reconcile, as do Chuck and Sarah, while the music of a ridiculous prog-rock cover band plays in the background. Only a television show like Chuck could pull that off. There are two important things that happened here. Firstly, Morgan manned up and all but told Anna that he loved her. Secondly, Sarah realized that not only was Chuck the man of her dreams, but he was also her best friend. I don’t know what Chuck and Sarah were thinking about when they looked down and saw that they were holding hands, but I know that it wasn’t vintage cars or Jeffster!’s next gig.

13. Chuck Versus the Suburbs

Sarah cooks breakfast for Chuck

Who’d have thought it? Sarah Walker, domestic goddess. This scene gives the audience a good idea of what life would be like if Chuck and Sarah got married, lived a “normal” life in the suburbs, purchased a Toyota and a dog, and planned to have 2.1 kids*. Watching this scene, I couldn’t help but smile. But I also couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something artificial about it; I knew it was all going to come crashing down soon.

*That’s the average American fertility rate. Sorry for the lame joke.

14. Chuck Versus the Lethal Weapon

The Tron poster

This might be my favourite scene of the entire series (and “Signs” by Bloc Party is also now one of my favourite songs). It was certainly a surprise to find out that Chuck had been working on getting the Intersect out of his head all along, but it showed us that our hero was not just a passive observer; he was a man of action and he would do whatever it took to get what he wanted. I should point out that Chuck often said that he wanted his old life back, but that was somewhat of a lie. What he wanted was a new life, one that included Sarah. After all, how could the journey be worth it if he couldn’t be with her in the end? The wealth of information included on the back of the Tron poster provided a lot of fun tidbits. “No olives, extra pickles” was written under a photo of Sarah. Beckman was hilariously listed as “Roan’s girlfriend.” These extra touches are what made this already great scene truly excellent in every way.

15. Chuck Versus the First Kill

Sarah takes Chuck on the run

“Take off your watch.” “Why?” “Because it’s all a lie.” That might be the most haunting exchange of the entire series. In the lead-up to that point, we saw the expression on Sarah’s face change from fake happiness to a real mixture of concern and panic. We can debate endlessly about what Sarah’s actual intentions were when she initially approached Chuck at the entrance to the Buy More, but one thing is for sure: after Chuck’s apology, Sarah realized that she could never betray the man she loved.

16. Chuck Versus the Colonel

Morgan quits the Buy More

Emmett Milbarge had been antagonizing the Buy More staff since his first appearance in “Tom Sawyer,” so I actually stood up and let out a little cheer when Morgan finally stuck it to him. One of the many delights of season 2 was seeing Morgan’s transformation from bearded loser into bearded leader. When Morgan quit the Buy More, I realized that he had a lot of potential beyond being Chuck’s awkward fifth limb. I couldn’t help but feel pure joy when Lester yelled, “You’re free Morgan!” while Morgan and Anna raised their arms in the air to enthusiastic applause. More so than Chuck and Sarah making out in a motel room, or Stephen Bartowski removing the Intersect from his son’s head, this scene is the reason that I love “Colonel” as much as I do.

17. Chuck Versus the Ring

Jeffster! performs “Mr. Roboto” by Styx at Ellie and Devon’s wedding

This scene is so chock full of awesomeness that it defies description. I’ll leave it at that.

18. Chuck Versus the Pink Slip

The railway station in Prague

This scene has been called out-of-character, poorly-written, overdramatic, ill-conceived, and vomit-inducing, among other things. But if your heart didn’t break a little when Chuck told Sarah, “Sorry; I can’t,” then it’s probably made of coal.

19. Chuck Versus the Three Words

The vault confession

Personally, I found this scene lame and overdramatic, but hey, the fans seem to like it, so here it is. To be fair, something like this was absolutely necessary for Sarah to understand why Chuck did what he did in Prague without directly confronting him about it (since if she had confronted him, then they might have reconciled and there wouldn’t have been any angst, and that would have been no fun, right?) But thirteen episodes later, Sarah still hasn’t reciprocated with those three magic words. Maybe Lil’ Chucky Boy jumped the gun a little.

20. Chuck Versus the Angel de la Muerte

The dance scene at the consulate

The great thing about Chuck is that it’s often just plain fun, and this scene exemplifies that perfectly. Who didn’t get a kick out of seeing the lecherous Costa Gravan dictator dance with the reluctant Ellie, while her husband watched with a combination of discomfort and horror? In addition to that, we were lucky enough to see Chuck using his Intersect skills on the dance floor, putting Sarah through some impressive dips and dives. (Yvonne Strahovski must be really flexible.) Altogether, this is probably my second favourite scene of the series.

21. Chuck Versus the Nacho Sampler

Flashback to just before Sarah met Chuck, from Sarah’s perspective

“Piece of cake.” That line echoes an earlier one spoken by Chuck about handling Manoosh. But when Sarah says it, it stings. That’s when we realized that prior to the first meeting of our two heroes, Chuck was just another assignment to Sarah, and a simple one too. Of course, we know from the pilot episode that it didn’t take long for Chuck to melt her heart by helping a little ballerina and her father. But that doesn’t change the fact that Sarah initially thought that handling Chuck would be easy, just as Chuck thought that handling Manoosh would be easy. Ironically, both ended up being deeply affected by their experiences as handlers. Chuck realized that there are ugly, difficult choices to be made in the world of spying. Sarah found stability, normalcy, comfort, and love, and then had it all ripped away as the Chuck she thought she knew disappeared before her. But seeing what her life might be like if all of that were real, she couldn’t go back to who she was before. The beauty of this scene is that all those things are expressed with one simple line: “Piece of cake.” Chuck has always been good at irony. Usually, it’s used for humour. But here, it’s both eye-opening and poignant.

22. Chuck Versus the Final Exam

Sarah recounts her Red Test to Shaw

It was haunting, chilling, and utterly discomforting to hear about what was probably Sarah’s first kill. Who can forget the stunned look on a younger Sarah’s face when she realized what she had done? Present-day Sarah’s narration of the event was at once calm and emotional, as if she were on the verge of breaking. Once the folks at the Academy finally get their heads out of their behinds, maybe they’ll finally nominate Yvonne Strahovski for a much-deserved Emmy.

23. Chuck Versus the American Hero

Chuck says, “I love you” to Sarah in Castle

This wasn’t just an emotional release for Chuck; I suspect that it was an emotional release for much of the audience as well. Chuck finally took his sister’s advice, threw caution to the wind, and just went for it. I don’t know about you, but I applauded. (Okay, I didn’t actually applaud. I was watching with my friends and they would have given me a weird look, but I felt like applauding.)

24. Chuck Versus the Other Guy

Chuck shoots Shaw

If you hated Shaw, then you were probably cheering, and if you didn’t mind Shaw, then you knew he had it coming. In the moments leading up to his character’s death, Brandon Routh showed the world that he actually could act, playing a revenge-obsessed psycho to perfection. But the most important thing that I took from this scene is that Chuck would do anything to protect Sarah. Nobody messes with Chuck’s woman. Nobody.

25. Chuck Versus the Honeymooners

Chuck and Sarah relax to “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone

It’s finally real. No covers, no lies, no motel rooms, no train compartments, and (hopefully) no surveillance. This wasn’t a kiss of desperation. This wasn’t a libido-fueled romp on a train. This was two people finding comfort in simply being in each other’s presence. No expensive bathrobe or well-groomed hair for Chuck. No sexy lingerie or fancy makeup for Sarah. Just the two of them and a song. Shippers around the world experienced cardiac arrest brought on by excessive squeeing. Anti-shippers around the world vomited into the nearest trash can. But most of us just smiled and felt immensely satisfied. After all our heroes had been through, they deserved to end up here. They couldn’t find love in a hole, and they couldn’t find comfort in a bottle of Johnny Walker, but they could find both in each other.

So there you have it: these 25 scenes have largely defined Chuck for me. Some were heartwarming, some were hilarious, and some moved me as close to tears as something fictional can. Like I said earlier, I’d love to hear which scenes defined the series for you.

When I started writing this list, I originally intended to limit myself to just ten scenes. But ten grew into twenty which grew into thirty, and I had to do a lot of thinking to cut the list down to twenty-five. (I thought it would be fair to mention half the episodes.) There are so many memorable, quotable, and well-acted scenes in Chuck. One thing is clear to me: we have a great show on our hands.

I’d like to thank Joe, Dave, Amy, Ernie for giving me the opportunity to write this article. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope that you enjoyed reading it too.

– Merve


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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55 Responses to Doing A Letterman

  1. 904 says:

    Related to two of your scenes:
    During a recent rewatch, I noticed on the back of the Tron poster that Chuck included “Lisa” next to the CIA photo of Sarah. I never got the impression that Chuck heard that confession while getting napkins in Wookiee. I guess a little nugget for us fans, even if it doesn’t fit with Chuck’s actual knowledge at that point.

    • Merve says:

      I think that that’s probably a production error; I don’t think that Chuck was supposed to have heard the name. (Or maybe Chuck just has hypersonic hearing.)

  2. atcdave says:

    Really excellent list Merve. I might argue over a couple choices, but surprisingly very few. I want to add something from Tango, but I’m not sure what. Prior to Marlin, Tango was my favorite episode. I still use it sometimes for introducing newbies to the show. Maybe it was the mission briefing scene between Chuck and Sarah; maybe when Sarah runs to Chuck after the hotel shoot-out; maybe its the dual fight scenes of Casey in the Buy More and Sarah on the roof. This was the first episode that ignited the romantic aspect of the show to me. I loved the balance of humor and action; plus the friendship theme. Yet for all that, I really can’t argue for any single scene here displacing anything on your list.

    • Merve says:

      I felt really guilty for leaving “Tango” off the list because I love that episode; it was in my top 5 until “American Hero” aired. But it didn’t have a scene that really stood out for me; it was just a solid episode from start to finish.

      (On a completely random note, have you noticed that each season’s third episode features a lavish party of some sort?)

      • atcdave says:

        That is an interesting, and very random observation.
        And I almost forgot, Devon teaching Chuck the Tango, one of their best comic moments ever.

        One thing I’ve been thinking about. You and I have very different overall impressions of S3, but looking at your list and considering other comments you’ve made, I think our key difference may be very small and specific. You seem to like S3 in spite of the use of outside LIs (don’t recall if you dislike them entirely, or just felt they dragged out too long); whereas I dislike S3 almost entirely because of the use of outside LIs. So our difference of opinion may come down almost entirely to how big a deal we make of that one thing. I know there are other issues, but that seems to be the key in our different impressions.

      • Merve says:

        Like I’ve said before, Dave, we agree far more than it would appear on the surface. I’d go as far as to say that I almost never like seeing outside love interests. They rarely add anything much to television shows. But that being said, I accept them because they’re in so many TV shows, and I wouldn’t want dismiss a show entirely if there’s a lot of other good stuff going on in it.

        As far as the love interests on Chuck go, they annoyed me when they were filling their love-interest-related roles, but when they were doing other things, they generally entertained me. Case in point: I loved Hannah in “Nacho Sampler” but hated her in “Fake Name.”

        I think that I’ve said before that there were a lot of valid reasons not to have Chuck and Sarah together immediately at the start of the season. Love interests were an unnecessary angst-prolonging complication.

      • atcdave says:

        I often do just grin and bear it where outside love interests are concerned, Castle being a case in point. Even on Chuck, the first THREE usages (through Jill) where tolerable. My response to Cole and Hannah is arguably similar to yours, I liked aspects of both characters. But for me, something dramatic in my perception of the show and characters changed at Colonel; unfortunately I was a beat or two premature, and Shaw and Hannah made me VERY angry.

      • jason says:

        it probably would take fedak or adler or maybe levi or Yvonne to answer this in a totally honest moment – I have two reasons why shaw the LI failed

        1 – yvonne was not interested & did not care what whe was told to sell – she legitimately sold the cole interest and the bryce interest, she did not sell the routh interest


        2 – it was supposed to not work, i.e. she was told to not sell it, to look miserable, etc – until the dinner in 3.12, at which point fedak himself told us sham was getting more serious?

        I don’t know if I have ever seen an actess enjoy herself less than Yvonne from the point BR showed up on set until he left (maybe he made a real life pass at her???)

        the reason I say this, I would have believed she loved manoosh if she had kept at it in 3.6, she CAN sell the goods if she puts them on the market so to speak!

        What I really think is the BR LI was a late storybook / script addition, in some places it was integrated reasonably well, in others not so much at all, and I do think the cast may have understood how weak the story was more than the creative powers, making the entire thing a fiasco.

      • Merve says:

        I doubt that Brandon Routh made passes at anyone; he’s married.

      • JC says:

        Yeah that assumption is pretty ridiculous. No matter what you may think of character, no need to go there. Every interview and fan interaction with Routh makes him out to be a really nice guy. If anything I feel sorry for him. He took all the heat for Superman and now for Chuck.

      • atcdave says:

        I really don’t blame Routh much for the problems. The wood jokes are funny, and were even used in American Hero, but I don’t think any actor could have made the conflicting demands of that part work. I’ve never heard any insider talk about BR being a problem on set (not that I seek that stuff out, but we do often hear if a cast gets along or not, and I’ve never heard of problems from the set of Chuck).
        And I HOPE Yvonne is more professional than to make an actor look bad based on her likes or dislikes; but she may have decided, with or without direction, that this direction was a mistake and Sarah (as opposed to just Yvonne) knew it.

      • oldresorter says:

        I was actually trying to cut routh a break, I have said in the past, if someone came out and said he was ‘supposed’ to make it look like the two of them did not like each other, it would let him off the hook.

        The silence on this issue from TPTB is deafening. I am not or did not assume routh did anything, but SOMETHING WAS WRONG. Sarah just about feinted when cole kissed her, and after the scene in 3.6, if she and manoosh made baby manooshes by seasons end, I was sold, with shaw, well no – it was not there. WHY if not acting – Had to be something?

      • JC says:

        TPTB aren’t going to admit script, casting, etc mistakes. Especially when the show is constantly on the bubble. Mo Ryan pushed the issue and got nowhere.

        We all have theories and every Chuck fan site, podcast have discussed it to death. Do I wish they addressed the issue of course but we can see they aren’t going to.

      • cas says:

        I’m sorry but for the life of me will never understand what Sarah saw in him which is why the LI never really worked for me. Even Casey thought he was a moron and Casey is easier to impress than Sarah when it comes to Spy stuff ( Bryce, Cole, 49B,and Chuck in the fake name) I can’t even tell if its Y/S not selling it well or just me refusing to beleive it. I for one don’t buy the whole he was convenient or he was there and he showed interest theory. I mean seriously, Have you seen Sarah Walker? I mean if I were to dump my girlfriend because she was a bartender then I sure as hell wouldn’t date an alcoholic as a rebound girl, especially when I know I can get a nurse.

      • atcdave says:

        Very funny analogy cas. Its all funny that we’re so eager to give them an out; just admit, “Sarah knew something wasn’t right, she was so desperate to give Chuck his space/get on with her life she tried to force something she knew wasn’t there….” or something along those lines. But they keep holding to a story none of us bought from the start. I just really think they are blind to what is actually on screen.

      • lucian says:

        Interesting list Merve; always interesting to see what different people like and don’t like.

      • lucian says:

        Regarding Sarah and Shaw, I think we are supposed to believe that Sarah really didn’t have strong feelings for him – they were spies, looking for companionship. He was safe (basically a partner with benfits). It began to look like they really did care for each other when he was getting ready to sacrifice himself (IMO). So, the lack of chemistry, was, I think, intentional.

    • Michael says:

      I loved the “getting ready” montage in Tango, with Awesome teaching Chuck to Tango, our introduction to Casey’s bonsai habit, and Sarah’s lipstick shiv. It’s the one I want everyone to watch too, because the pacing is good and there’s so much humor – Morgan trying to intercept Casey, Casey always keeping Chuck on edge, Morgan trying to ride herd on the nerds, the Sarah/Malina parking lot dance. Etc. etc.

      • Merve says:

        I especially love the part where Awesome just rips off his bathrobe. I must have seen it at least ten times and it still makes me laugh.

  3. JC says:

    Chuck Versus the First Date

    Chuck: Please. I’m fantastic.
    Sarah: Yeah. You are.

    When they leaned in to kiss and he flashed, well I can’t say here what my g/f and I yelled at our TV.

    Chuck Versus the American Hero

    I have tons of issues with the episode but Chuck’s declaration of love was damn good. Especially “I Love You Sarah Walker, Always Have”

    Chuck Versus the Alma Mater

    Chuck finding out why Bryce got him kicked out of Standford. He always was looking out for Chuck and Sarah no matter what.

    Chuck vs The Ring

    Bryce at the beach wedding and him walking away. Bad day to be Bryce Larkin. If you couldn’t tell I’m a Bryce fanboy.

    Chuck vs The Tic Tac

    Casey finding out he has a daughter and his reaction. “Whats dead is dead”. I swear he was afraid when he saw her.

    Chuck Versus The Other Guy

    Everything from the double cross till the end. Probably the best shot (pun intended) scenes of series. Merve got it right don’t mess with Chuck’s woman.

    • atcdave says:

      How did Shaw’s line go? “I didn’t tell them your secret Chuck, you’re free to go, I’m just going to kill Walker..” all time dumb bad guy mistakes. Right up there with “if you won’t turn perhaps your sister will…” dumb, dumb, dumb. Such villains deserve spectacular death scenes!

      • Paul says:

        I don’t think that’s a good analogy. Vadar was goading Luke into a fight to try to turn him. Shaw was warning Chuck off because, in the end, he kinda liked him and had nothing against him. Also different end results. Vadar’s to his redemption. Shaw’s to his downfall. IMHO a better analogy is comparing Shaw to all of the stereotypical Bond villains with their overly complex schemes. Who would have thought that Scotty Evil was soooooo correct! 😉

      • atcdave says:

        I was comparing the stupidity of the villain and the backfire of their words. Their motives were, of course, different.

    • Merve says:

      JC, when I was compiling this list, I considered all of those scenes. It’s too bad that I couldn’t include them because those are all really good ones.

      To give you an idea of some of the other scenes I considered:
      – Helicopter: Chuck flies the helicopter
      – Sandworm: Morgan and Chuck recreate a scene from The O.C.
      – Nemesis: The pineapple evacuation
      – Undercover Lover: The wedding scene
      – Marlin: Devon and Ellie’s engagement
      – Seduction: The kiss in Chuck’s apartment
      – Seduction: Chuck saves Sarah by wrapping the banner around himself and leaping off the roof of the Buy More
      – Break-up: Sarah fails to make the shot
      – Cougars: The revelation that Sarah had been living under fake names her entire life
      – Tom Sawyer: Chuck reaches the kill screeen
      – Tom Sawyer: Sarah gives Chuck his Stanford degree
      – Gravitron: The chase scene in the Gravitron
      – Gravitron: Chuck breaks up with Jill
      – Sensei: Casey beats the crap out of Ty Bennett
      – Sensei: Chuck tells Ellie that he’ll find their father
      – Delorean: The team sets up Lichtenstein Enterprises
      – Delorean: Jack and Chuck have a final conversation before Jack leaves
      – Santa Claus: Chuck gives Sarah the bracelet
      – Third Dimension: Chuck’s nightmare
      – Best Friend: Sarah and Smooth Lau’s fight in the car
      – Suburbs: Sarah watches the CIA dismantling her fantasy before pocketing the wedding ring
      – Beefcake: Sarah tells Chuck that they have to move in together
      – Predator: Chuck finds out that Orion has left him the Intersect plans
      – Broken Heart: Sarah takes Chuck to his father’s trailer
      – Dream Job: Stephen gives himself up to save his son
      – First Kill: Chuck gives Jill the ring and tells her to run
      – Colonel: The motel scene
      – Colonel: Stephen removes the Intersect from Chuck’s head
      – Ring: The slow dance at the wedding reception
      – Ring: Chuck re-intersects
      – Pink Slip: Chuck impersonates the guitar player
      – Mask: The fight scene above the vault
      – Fake Name: Sarah reveals her real name to Shaw
      – Fake Name: Chuck breaks up with Hannah
      – Beard: Chuck reveals everything to Morgan
      – Tic Tac: Casey’s, Sarah’s, and Chuck’s fight scenes
      – Final Exam: Casey makes the kill that Chuck couldn’t
      – Other Guy: The “Do you love me?” scene
      – Honeymooners: Jeffster!’s rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane”
      – Honeymooners: Chuck and Sarah agree to try to “have it all”
      – Role Models: Sarah agrees to move in with Chuck

      • kg says:


        Precise first and secondary choices. We all thank you for this detailed list.

        One more important scene I believe from Seduction. Obviously, the heroes have feelings for each other.

        Just watch their chemistry and interactions and their big slobbering kisses in Salami and this episode I’m referencing.

        Sasha has bagged both Sarah and Casey. Chuck and Roan are having their private talk after the latter bolted. Chuck wants to help them obviously.

        Roan is admonishing Chuck for “falling in love with one of the agents.”

        Roan directly asks Chuck if he’s willing to die for Sarah. Chuck fairly quickly answers in the affirmitive. That was huge for me.

        It’s one thing to have feelings for a young, hot woman but it’s everything to put your life on the line for her.

        A moment later Roan tells Chuck he’s not much of a spy and a pissed off Chuck quickly retorts, “Well, you’re not much of a legend.”

      • herder says:

        No disrespect to any of Merve’s excellent work, but I love that courtyard scene between Roan and Chuck. Every bit of it from the drunken, smoking Roan saying “Poor boy” to Chuck’s “not much of a legend comeback”. One of my favorite guests in one of my favorite episodes.

      • Merve says:

        Yeah, that scene is great too. It’s hard to list all of the great ones! John Larroquette and Zachary Levi did an excellent job in that scene.

        Like I said in the article, I certainly made a lot of omissions, and that’s why I love reading about everyone else’s most memorable scenes; it puts a smile on my face to think of all the awesome things that have happened on this show.

      • JC says:

        – Sandworm: Morgan and Chuck recreate a scene from The O.C

        This right here, I laughed so hard at that.

        Chuck versus The First Kill

        Jill’s redemption. I know people didn’t like her but she really did care about Chuck.

        Casey’s fascination with “The Morgan”

        Jealous Sarah is always good

        “We’re not going take it” used during the shootout.

        It really is hard to narrow down the great scenes in the series.

      • atcdave says:

        JC mentioned the shoot-out from the end of First Kill, what an AWESOME action sequence. There have been so many on this show we can loose track, and that particular one my be overshadowed within minutes by “take off your watch.” We have an embarrassment of riches!

  4. Paul says:

    Very nice Merve. You did a better than job than I could have narrowing it down to just 25…. 😉

  5. BeCoolBoy says:

    With all due respect for your effort, I feel you MUST be called on the first kiss scene in Hard Salami. It reveals why you literally understand so little about Seasons 1 and 2 and overvalue Season 3. (Again, I am saying this with respect…)

    Sarah doesn’t go for it because she has nothing to lose. She kisses Chuck because she realizes he’s the first man in her life who won’t abandon her. Chuck refuses to leave the “bomb”–and refuses to be cowed by her pointing a gun at him. The fact that he steadfastly chooses to stay with her in the face of what seemed to them like certain death at that moment is why she “goes for it.”

    In fact, Chuck’s consistent refusal to abandon her is why TPTB can sell Sarah’s confession of love in Other Guy. She pinpoints it–between the time he fixed her phone and defused his first bomb–and everything he does in that period of time is not so much heroic, but refusing to abandon her.

    Sarah’s love for Chuck is totally intertwined with his proven desire to stay with her no matter what.

    You might want to do some more work on what’s really happening in Seasons 1 and 2. It’s really important if you want to understand the show. And it would give you some insight into why so many of us consider Season 3 a failure.

    • Merve says:

      The two explanations for the kiss ARE NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, I think that it would be incredibly difficult to argue that both reasons aren’t at play. BeCoolBoy, I must give you credit where it is due, and point out that you have identified the deeper reason behind the kiss. But the reason that she kisses him in that moment is because she doesn’t want to die without ever having done it.

      The reason I didn’t write more than a couple of lines about this scene is that it’s already been analyzed to death. My intention in compiling this list wasn’t to pick apart each scene and analyze how it fits into the larger character and story arcs. However, there are some scenes that I did want to analyze further, either because I thought I had something not often discussed to add to the analysis, or because they were interesting to examine more closely. Those are the scenes that I wrote more about.

    • Merve says:

      Whoops, the only part of that that’s supposed to be in italics is “in that moment.”

    • kg says:

      I have to agree with you on this one BCB. I think, in fact, you have made this analysis before.

  6. Gabbo says:

    Casey’s assasination attempt is the highlight of First Date for you? Your favorite part of Colonel is Morgan quitting the Buy More? Your favorite part of Other Guy is Chuck shooting Shaw?

    Interesting view of such crucial episodes in the development of what the creators call “the heart of the show.”

  7. Kris says:

    I zoomed right to your Honeymooners list which I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks. Even now, when I think about it, it fills me with warm fuzzies. That was some amazing directing and acting by the two leads, underscored by a fantastic choice in song. So many double-meanings and in the end it just is a perfect way to tell us that this isn’t the end of the WTWT but the beginning of a new day for the two characters.


  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for this great post Merve, I enjoyed it very much. I can agree with you on most of the scenes. Here are two of my personal faves:

    1. Sarah wakes up in Paris after Shaw tried to kill her. This could have been an overly romatic “all’s good now” scene, but they included a wonderful twist in it: Chuck fears that Sarah might not see him as ‘her’ Chuck anymore after he shot a man, although he could only do it to protect her. I remember holding my breath when Sarah, with an almost terrified look on her face, says ‘Oh my god, you shot him’ and then, after Chuck has explained himself, goes on ‘You saved me’. I will remember the change in her facial expression, especially her eyes, when she speaks this line for a long time. Kudos to YS for the performance. After that, it’s just a kiss and “bye bye bye” kicking in, and once again you can’t help thinking they ordered these songs especially for the series:

    “What’s gonna happen to you
    you have woke up to soon
    and found the world rearranged
    and now your feelings have changed.”

    2. Chuck invites Casey to Ellie’s rehearsal dinner. A very short scene, but I liked it very much. It reminded us of the fact that not only Sarah is influenced by being Chuck’s handler, but Casey also has come to rethink his opinion of professionalism vs. friendship. I might not be 100% correct with the quote, but I think it went like this:

    Casey: “The intersect’s out, Bartowski. You don’t need me anymore.”
    Chuck: “I’m not asking you as the asset, I’m asking you as a friend”.

    3. This is really 4 scenes in one (actually five, but you already mentioned the flashback afterwards), tied together by the marvelous “40 day dream”: Devin refuses to accept Chuck’s tickets for Paris. Morgan and Ellie meet at the fountain and talk about Chuck being caught in a web of conspiracy. Chuck meets with Johnny Walker (black), to cope with burning Manoosh, just as Casey told him, while Casey and Sarah watch him.

    Casey: “He’s finally turning into a spy. That’s a good thing.”

    Sarah (when Casey can’t hear her anymore): “Is it?”

    Well, I could go on for hours, but I’ll leave it with that. By the way, if some of the stuff I wrote sounds a little bumby to you – I’m german. 😉

    • kg says:

      Good job Mike

      I might add, Casey slams the door in his face and a dejected Chuck is attempting to rationalize by muttering that he tried. Casey then opens the door, has a sport coat on, takes a puff of his cigar and utters in character because he can’t totally let on that he’s touched, “I trust there’s an open bar.”

  9. jason says:

    I really enjoyed your effort merve, a couple in there that did not do much for me, but then again, I probably would just start with most of 1.1, throw in the desperate kiss as the bomb was ready to go off, most of the delorean, the hotel romp in the colonel, then jump to 3.13’s scenes in the apartment, then in the paris hotel and all of 3.14 / 3.15. I also could easily have been your target for a crazy fan to make fun of – as there is certainly a theme to what I enjoy about chuck.

    the mauser scene and the nacho sampler’s end impacted me as a fan a bunch too. Those represent the willingness of the creative team to cross a line, where warm characters and lite dramedy are replaced by something else. I know the critics & lots of fans like this multiple personality characteristic of the show, but I think these two scenes (as well as most of the rest of the shaw / depressed sarah character) is why chuck can’t turn any corner – it can’t sustain any theme to draw the marginal fans from a fan demographic.

    I have long (and somewhat unsuccessfully) argued that the writing isn’t good enough and the characters are ‘dark’ enough to pull off the ‘mauser / nacho’ theme – but Chuck is wonderful as a ‘warm dramedy’ theme – will be interesting to see what the last 4 episodes bring to this overall equation?

    • Merve says:

      Jason, don’t worry! 🙂 The satire that I had intended to write wasn’t going to be directed at shippers. (There’s plenty of satire about shippers out there already. ;)) It was going to be about three things:
      1. The fans demanding an apology from TPTB
      2. The fans jumping on Jace for making a criticism that he never made
      3. The fans jumping on Sepinwall for making a crticism that he’d always made

      I don’t want to get into all of those issues again because they’re water under the bridge now (along with Shaw’s corpse, haha). That’s why I chose not to write about those things.

    • lucian says:

      I always thought the Mauser scene worked pretty well; what didn’t work was Chuck’s response. Of course, he is a wiser man now (and I don’t think he had a concern about giving his bracelet to a killer).

      • atcdave says:

        I’ll ditto that almost entirely. An excellent scene in an excellent episode, almost undone by contrived angst from Chuck (he’d known what Sarah was capable of from the Pilot; and then the scene is manipulated in such a way Chuck can only see things in the worst possible light. And if that’s not bad enough, they re-use this clumsy technique in Final Exam).

        I disagree a little Lucian, I think we are meant to think Chuck is rattled by the thought of having given his mother’s bracelet to a cold-blooded killer. I just thought Chuck already knew Sarah better than that; and then they swept it under the rug in 3-D in such a way to suggest Chuck does know Sarah better than that. Shocking twist.

      • Merve says:

        I think that the issue was handled fine in “Santa Claus,” but where “Third Dimension” failed was in its emphasis of the killing over Sarah’s lie. To be fair, the lie contributes to Chuck’s view of Sarah as a cold-blooded killer; in his view, she killed without remorse and had no qualms lying about it. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there was still a major trust issue between them that was swept under the rug.

  10. John says:

    That scene in Fat Lady was one of my favorite moments from season 2. I just remembered you didn’t even need to see Sarah’s face move a muscle, her eyes said everything the second the looked up.

    Of course I had just told my wife ‘You know what would be totally awesome? If Jill was on that list.’ I love this show.

  11. cas says:

    DeLorean- When Jack explained to Sarah why he put the money in Chucks account

    • kg says:

      Another very good one

      “I know people, it’s the only thing I’m really good at. I know that kid would never betray you. I made a 10 million dollar bet that he loved you. Turns out I was right.”

      • Michael says:

        I tend to forget some of the good scenes with “the other guys” who fall for Sarah… 😉
        This one had totally slipped my mind. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Tinman says:

    Quick post.(I am on the road right now). Off subject, but if anyone visits there is a report that the President of NBC has said that Chuck is there strongest Monday show. A good sign! Let’s hope it means what we thunk it means!!

  13. Aardvark7734 says:

    “Like I said earlier, I’d love to hear which scenes defined the series for you.”

    Okay, you asked for it. 🙂

    Chuck vs. the Intersect
    The Mexican restaurant scene.
    Chuck: “…but that’s all over with now and her restraining orders are very specific.”
    Sarah: “I like you, Chuck.”

    Chuck vs. the Helicopter
    Casey and Sarah fight it out. Sarah proves her lethality and ability to improvise using wiener sticks, broom handles and eye opening athleticism to not only hold her own but best Casey. This is not just a pretty girl holding a gun.

    Chuck vs. the Tango
    The ending scene, as Sarah departs Casa Bartowski.
    Chuck: “You know, if we were really dating, this would be the part where I’d be forced to kiss you goodnight.”
    Sarah: “Forced? Would it be so bad?”
    Chuck: “I’m sure I could suffer though it.”
    Sarah: “Me too.”

    Chuck vs. the Wookie
    The “Lisa” scene steals the episode and damn near the whole first half of the season. I’d like to start it a little earlier than most do, though, from the point that Chuck says, “What, me? Sarah doesn’t want me.” And Carina responds, “She probably doesn’t even know it yet. But I do.”

    Chuck vs. the Sandworm
    The Editors’ ‘Weight of the World’ is playing and Sarah’s hanging around to convince Devon and Ellie that Chuck’s “getting lucky”. I’m not sure if it’s the hair or the wardrobe, but Sarah looks amazingly beautiful in this scene.
    Chuck: “Wow, we look like a real couple.”
    Sarah: “Well, we are a couple… we’re just a different sort of couple.”

    Chuck vs. the Truth
    ‘Fresh Feeling’ by the Eels is playing.
    Chuck: “We have to break up.”
    Sarah: (stunned) “What?”
    Chuck: “You know, fake break up our pretend relationship.”
    Sarah’s caught trying to decide how she’s going to react when Chuck leans in to kiss her and doesn’t see this one coming.

    Chuck vs. the Imported Hard Salami
    The entire date mission with Lou, from Sarah’s distraught rubbing of her pendant as Casey gives Chuck the rose “so he can get laid” through her antsy distress in the van listening to Stavros’ threats to her deliberately leaving her hand on Chuck’s shoulder to mark her territory to her guilty reaction curbside when Chuck asks if the government is deliberately c*ck-blocking him. 🙂 All of it is just funny as hell.

    Chuck vs. the Nemesis
    ‘No One’s Going to Love You’ by Band of Horses is playing. Both phones are ringing and Sarah stares out into space as the scene fades to black. I don’t know what differentiates this angst from other angst, but I loved it here.

    Chuck vs. the Crown Vic
    In a rare moment of candor, Sarah divulges the deep-seated doubts she has about her life choices to Casey.

    Chuck vs. the Undercover Lover
    Casey opens up to Chuck about Ilsa, and in his emotionally vulnerable state lets Chuck talk him into seizing the moment. The first major chink in Casey’s armor that leads inexorably to the closet Charah shipper that he becomes by the end of S2.

    Chuck vs. the Marlin
    Ok, nothing beats the rooftop scene, it’s huge. But almost as important for me was Casey seeing Sarah’s distress in front of Beckman and Graham and letting her go after Chuck, as well as the scene where she and Chuck stare in the window at Devon and Ellie’s engagement. It was so poignant then, but in light of recent events it’s much sweeter.


    Okay, let me just anoint this post “Defining moments of Season One” and do a follow-up later. Gotta run off and watch ‘Tooth’. 🙂

    • atcdave says:

      Great list Aardvark. I would continue with the end of Marlin though. I love Sarah looking longing through the window after Chuck goes in. Casey comes up and says something to the effect of “he won’t get to stay here long.” We get sort of a set, determined look from Sarah that blows me away, like I can imagine her thinking “not if I have anything to say about it.” Its sort of her best hero pose.

  14. EclipSE says:

    Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article.

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