A Guest Post by SD
I can’t believe we’ve gone this long virtually ignoring a major character in the Chuck saga. It’s a major oversight. SD goes a long way to rectify that situation, and I am forever grateful.
The “other woman” to whom I am referring isn’t another dreaded potential love interest– she is rather the longest female relationship in Chuck’s life– Eleanor Fay Bartowski.
Over the last three seasons, we have seen Chuck’s sister gently prod, push and praise Chuck. She has always had his best interests at heart and has lamented at times over the last three years that Chuck has been distancing himself from her.
She has—gladly– thought it was his “relationship” with Sarah and then later his goal to climb the Buy More ladder that have kept Chuck from coming to her with his problems. Her engagement and marriage to Awesome have likely provided distractions in her concern over Chuck’s emotional distance. But as we saw in the season finale, she now knows the real reason—and she is having none of it.
There is a moment in Chuck vs. The Ring Pt. 2 that I think could prove pivotal in their future relationship and what it may mean to Ellie’s—up until now—positive feelings toward Sarah.
“I made a promise to protect you and I can’t do it—not from this.”
When the gang meets up after rescuing Team Bartowski, they start to game-plan next steps. Going off grid is a plan everyone but Ellie thinks will work. Ellie chews out Awesome and runs to the car and it’s Chuck—not Awesome—in pursuit. Sarah, concerned about both of them, follows. It’s clear at this point; Ellie doesn’t look at Sarah as a friend or potential future sister in law. She certainly doesn’t ask her to jump in and help come up with an acceptable solution….something, it seemed, Sarah wanted to do. Ellie, in my opinion, coldly asks Sarah if her husband is “safe” with her. When Sarah, confused, says “yeah, why?” she speeds off with Chuck to talk things over.
“Okay, I’ll get Shaw and I quit. I promise.”
A promise made. But will it be one that potentially drives a wedge between Chuck and Sarah, Chuck and Ellie and/or Ellie and Sarah? Remember, the show runners said Season Four is all about family but that doesn’t mean the family dynamic will necessarily be played without angst.
It was underscored during the Season Three finale what we knew all along: For Chuck, Ellie has been his big sister-mother figure for most of his formative years.
Chuck, the emotionally sensitive soul he his, knows their mother leaving and then their father meant she had to grow up and deal with adult issues. You get the feeling she did the heavy lifting and Chuck was a passive but grateful observer who benefited from her love and guidance.
We witnessed as early as Chuck vs. The Truth the horror Chuck felt when his burgeoning spy life and home life collided—and that Ellie was in the cross hairs. We felt his pain when in the hospital room he told an unconscious Ellie the secret he would have to keep another two years.
This is a guy who we are led to believe has never kept a secret from his sister. During the most embarrassing period of his life—getting kicked out of Stanford—he didn’t withhold it from his sister. We get the feeling that as painful as it was, he needed to confide in her as soon as it happened.
Ellie has always been his emotional anchor and I, think, he feels he owes her an enormous debt that he doesn’t think he will ever be able to repay. It is the debt of a nurturing childhood given to him by a sister—a child herself– who was forced to grow up fast. It is also the accumulated guilt of three years of forced deception with the person he never thought he would deceive.
In that car, remembering his sister’s sacrifices and burdened by guilt, Chuck decided to put her desires above his own and above the woman he loves.
But as the last minute “reveal” in the season finale shows us, the promise he made Ellie is one he can’t possibly keep.
Chuck is at an emotional crossroads. Depending on whether the writers choose to have the characters walk this path, the decisions Chuck makes—or doesn’t make…the way he involves—or doesn’t—his sister and Sarah in those decisions, potentially threatens his relationship with the two “loves of his life”.
From what we are led to believe, Sarah’s interactions with Ellie have been mostly peripheral. She has been part of family dinners and organized events. With the exception of this season’s “you still have feelings for my brother” dialog in Chuck vs. The Angel De La Muerte, Sarah’s hilarious “Chuck is like a duck” conversation with Ellie has been the only other time the two have had any kind of meaningful one-on-one interaction.
Her fairly limited interaction with Ellie doesn’t mean she hasn’t taken in all the nuances between Chuck and Ellie and Ellie and Awesome. Again, in “Truth”, Sarah seemed so interested in the way Ellie and Awesome acted as a couple in love…you could almost see Sarah filing that bit of “normal” away for future use.
Early in Season One, watch Sarah actively listen to Chuck explain “Mother’s Day.” By this point, it can’t be lost on Sarah that she and Chuck have not grown up “normal”—so why is Chuck so “normal”?
Sure, there are some significant differences in Chuck and Sarah’s maturation. Sarah’s dad was a crook who used his daughter in his cons. They seemed more partners in crime than parent-child—a modern day “Paper Moon”. At this point, it’s unclear whether she even knew her mother. But from a young age, Chuck also didn’t have a mom and he had an absent dad who eventually disappeared. The one constant–the one person who likely helped Chuck turn into a caring, giving, good guy is his sister, Ellie. For that alone, I think Sarah has enormous respect for Ellie.
“Can you love a normal guy?”
Despite the respect Sarah has for Ellie, it clearly must have hurt when Chuck blurted out in Castle that he promised he would quit the spy life for Ellie without consulting his partner and now live-in girlfriend. Chuck had to know when he made that promise to Ellie that he would impact Sarah but he made it anyway. In The Ring Part 2, Sarah understands…she is standing by him. She knows how important Ellie is to Chuck. But when does this start to impact a relationship? Chuck tells Sarah “I meant it. I can’t lie to her.” Ouch. Chuck has already broken a significant promise to Sarah about 2.0 mental problems– to spare her worry–but he has also broken a promise to not lie to her.
It can’t be lost on Sarah the sea change the revelation of Chuck’s “other life” and her involvement in that will have in Ellie’s friendship with her. Again, it may have been the stunning revelation of her father’s murder, and her brother’s secret life…but before she drove away with Chuck to discuss “next steps” Ellie seemed to look at Sarah as part of the problem—not the solution.
If, indeed, Ellie’s perception of Sarah has changed or if Sarah feels as if Chuck keeps ignoring her in deference to Ellie’s demands– this could drive a wedge in the family.
It also raises another question. How does Chuck handle these potential problems? If he tries to lie his way around the uncomfortable truth, he may lose both Sarah and Ellie.
“I have seen the way that girl looks at you and she is into you.”
It was clear from the get-go: Ellie thought Sarah was the best thing that ever happened to her brother. And she knew before Chuck that Sarah had fallen for him…”that girl is into you” line from Chuck vs. The Tango was prescient especially with what we know now about Sarah’s “falling for him” before he defused his first bomb.
She saw Chuck grow as a person and as a man and attributed it to Sarah—not knowing his secret life full of danger and deception was also making him grow up pretty fast.
She was so enamoured with the Chuck-Sarah coupling and seemingly so happy with Sarah as a friend she even made her a bridesmaid. As a woman, who has more than her fair share of taffeta bridesmaids dresses hanging in the closet, you don’t ask your brother’s girlfriend as a bridesmaid unless you think– or hope –she will soon be a sister-in-law.
Through three years of “relationship” ups and downs she counselled Chuck to hang in there—with the exception of her conversation with Chuck in Chuck vs. The Suburbs. But in the end, she told him what he needed to hear. She told him to fight for her because he was, after all, a Bartowski.
But she wanted Chuck to fight for a woman who she now knows she never fully knew. She didn’t know this is a woman who was initially dispatched to capture—and given orders to kill—her brother if he ran. This is a woman who put her brother in harms way, who has led him by the hand down a road that involves deception and death. This was not the brother she raised. Perhaps he wasn’t a go-getter before Sarah but he wasn’t this guy who has led a double life for three years.
She also knows Chuck has a lot of their dad in him. She now knows, by Chuck’s admission, that their father was a great man. But he was a great man at the expense of a “normal life” with “normal” friends and family…. their family.
“Protect Chuck. Be there for him no matter what.”
So what does Ellie do? For three years, she has wished that Sarah and Chuck get together Does Ellie now think Sarah is part of the problem? Perhaps.
“There is nothing broken in this whole world that the two of you can’t fix if you work together”
Family will be central to Chuck this upcoming season. But will the family fragment over lies or the truth?
At the end of Chuck vs. The Ring Part 2, everyone was together. It seemed that all was right…promises made, allowed and meant to be kept. But we know everything will change. And as such will the way the characters treat each other change as a result?
Does the truth of Sarah’s early involvement with Chuck create a chasm in Ellie and Sarah’s friendship, which forces Chuck to choose?
What if Chuck continues to acknowledge Ellie’s feelings and demands over Sarah’s?
Or, will Chuck come clean and tell his sister he can’t leave the spy world. Will that truth telling drive Ellie away?
Does Chuck lie to his sister to protect her feelings…something that forces Sarah to question whether Chuck—the guy who was never comfortable lying—has been changed by the spy world.
As a viewer, I find these questions all valid and all valid exploring. My hope is they are handled honestly. I, for one, would like to hear meaningful dialog between our leads as they move through the transformative moment in the Ring Part 2—the moment before Chuck gets a message from his dad– when everything was on the table…when there were no lies…just the truth.