Chuck vs Real Friendships

A Guest Post by KG

I’m more guilty than most of seeing the Chuck-Sarah romance as the most important element of Chuck. Frequent commenter KG set me straight!

It may be most important thing, but unlike Vince Lombardi’s famous dictum, it’s not the only thing.

– joe

Bartowski’s Strong Bonds Key to his Ultimate Success

“Friends and family make us vulnerable, make us unable to pull the the trigger. That puts everybody in greater danger.” Those words were uttered by one Daniel Shaw in Operation Awesome before he turned traitorous rogue. Frankly, then and now, I must disagree with the alleged super spy.


In fact, Shaw’s complete disregard for the benefits of real friendships even in the spy realm might have contributed to his eventual defeat. Conversely, Chuck’s warm and tender feelings for his friends and family, as well as his reliance, belief and trust in them often carried him through tough situations, undoubtedly never more evident after the aforementioned Shaw captured Chuck, Sarah and Casey in Subway.

A gravely earnest Chuck spells this out to Shaw in the above referenced Awesome episode. “There’s one thing you should know about me, Shaw,” he said. “There’s nothing in my life that I care about more than my friends and family.” And at this point, you as a fan know that Chuck is telling the truth. You can go back to almost any episode and find examples of Chuck backing up these words.

As you may recall, Chuck and Sarah at this juncture in the season are not together. They’re not even in a good place. They’ve agreed to be friends, but you can see and feel the tension between them. They’re not smiling, not having much fun, there’s no meaningful dialogue between them. Motives are unclear. There’s still evidence of hurt feelings and misunderstanding. Some trust I gather has been lost.

And during this exchange in castle, Shaw attempts to use Sarah to validate his point of view. And despite everything I outlined in the previous paragraph, Sarah is still unable to agree with Shaw. Despite all that has changed in the previous six or seven months since The Ring, despite what has come between she and Chuck, she totally gets and believes in this element of his personality and nature. “Sometimes it helps to know you’ve got something to lose.” After she stops Shaw with this line, she turns and stares at Chuck without saying a word, and he, with the same earnest look, makes eye contact, eventually nodding and appreciating his support.

To borrow a phrase often used in season three, this is evidence that Chuck is “Still Sarah’s Chuck.” And it’s also an admission by agent Walker that she herself no longer engages in missions merely because of duty. This powerful line strongly indicates why she remained in Burbank instead of leaving. She and Chuck are not in a good place, but she still cares enough where it is still important for her to protect him. She may not admit it openly, but she isn’t ready to lose him.

Shaw has captured the Big Three. They’re in a truck and on the road. Shaw is overconfident. His reliance is solely upon double agents, cutthroats and power mongers. Shaw’s plan is not to bunker them. He’s going to kill the Big Three. Chuck is feeling defeated. His dad has been murdered. Who’s going to save them now?

The answer: Ellie, Devon and Morgan. Friends and family. Three extremely important and essential people in Chuck’s world. Three unique people completely disregarded by Shaw. His mistake.

But then again, Shaw has never understood or given any credence to the special dynamic that makes Team Bartowski so effective. To him, the team was “dysfunctional.” Yeah, if you subscribed solely to the CIA/NSA playbook.

Jem absolutely correct in her post. Chuck has such a positive effect on people. He’s likable. He’s trustworthy. He’s loyal. He’s caring. People feel the need to impress and please Chuck. Bartowski feels the need to reciprocate.

Chuck completely grabbed my attention in Seduction when he admitted to Roan that Sarah was worth dying for. Then the next night he hurled himself off the Buy More roof in order to save her life. I was all in right there. And he continued to demonstrate his sincerity in revealing scenes from Cougars, Santa Claus, Graviton, DeLorean and Broken Heart.

Of course, look at the times Sarah risked her life to save Chuck, and seemingly committed treason for him – the most memorable moments captured in Intersect, Marlin, Broken Heart and Colonel. Casey’s loyalty to Chuck was mostly clear in Final Exam, American Hero, Other Guy and Tooth. He obviously fully appreciated Chuck and Sarah’s willingness to believe in him, risking their careers for him, and then their efforts to preserve his family.

Morgan merely needed Chuck to tell him the truth in Beard. There is no Chuck and Sarah without Morgan stepping up and proving Shaw a fraud. Chuck trusted Awesome enough in Colonel to the point he was eventually valuable in two missions. Ellie did a hellova job raising Chuck and reminding her brother that Sarah was special and fully worthy of his absolute best fight to the end.

Fast forward to the final showdown between Shaw and Chuck. In addition to having the ability to “fill out a pair of slacks,” Shaw has a distinct size and strength advantage over Chuck. He also has a fully operative intersect within his head. Chuck’s intersect is malfunctioning and seemingly killing him. Quite frankly, to use a bit of slang, Chuck has no business beating Shaw here.

Sarah, Casey, Awesome, Ellie and Morgan have helped Chuck to reach this point. A flashback to scenes with his late dad revealing Steven’s belief Chuck is special prompts a “reboot.” The rest is history and Chuck defeats Shaw. Predictably, the loser implores the hero to kill him. Chuck can’t/won’t.

“Did that once already,” Chuck says. “That’s what makes you weak,” Shaw interrupts. Sarah frees herself and knocks Shaw unconscious. “No,” the lovely and admiring blonde reminds him. “That’s what makes you great.”

Chuck’s sincere regard for his friends and family. It could be argued that quality had always made him great. Long before Bryce Larkin emailed him the intersect.

Ken George (KG)

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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.
This entry was posted in Fan Base, Observations, Season 3. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Chuck vs Real Friendships

  1. Paul says:

    Great post! I concur with your closing remark. Chuck was on the road to great things before Bryce sabotaged him (albeit to protect him). That greatness was always there. Everyone around him recognized it from the start. Everyone, except Chuck that is. The REAL story arc in Chuck is him realizing his potential and taking charge and putting his life back on the track to greatness that he was always destined for. All of the angst, misunderstandings and conflict in the series stems from this key concept.

  2. OldDarth says:

    “Chuck’s sincere regard for his friends and family. It could be argued that quality had always made him great. Long before Bryce Larkin emailed him the intersect.”

    Yes, yes, yes!

    This is my second favorite element of the show.

  3. Merve says:

    That was a wonderful post, kg. In my view, this is what Chuck is about.

  4. jason says:

    kg – a great post – friendships would be #3 for me, but let me explain why.

    In a show like castle, the show revolves around beckett and castle solving cases – everything else is a B plot. But, if a LI causes beckett and castle to not interact on screen, then the B plot of a LI trumps everything else, since the show is no longer about a team solving murder cases. So #1 for me is Team B solving cases. I prefer the writing to be parody oriented in these Team B plo

    In season 3, the B plot LI of shaw sarah, along with the A plot disruption caused by shaw, to a certain extent fragmented the entire show. Each character had a reason to interact with chuck, but little reason to interact with each other

    • jason says:

      sorry about that, hit enter early. #1 is the team b solving cases, #2 is CS’s relationship, #3 is the friendships that revolve around #1 & #2. My opinion is when CS are not getting along, both the spy plot and the friendship plots fall flat. CS give the show an energy, sarah’s smile and chuck’s humor maybe, I don’t know for sure. But team B still has to go on missions for there to be a show – I am pretty sure of that?

  5. sd says:

    Excellent post, KG. I am currently re-watching S2 when Chuck spent as much time in the Buy More as he did in the car—where it’s always dangerous.

    I had forgotten how much of the dialog centered around Chuck being the “go-to” guy from his Buy More co-workers and even Big Mike.

    We know, he knows and they know he has no biz working there–the job is soooo beneath him. But Chuck never throws that in their faces…he regards them as people…people he cares about. As such, they look up to him..and especially in the case of Morgan…will rise to the best version of themselves…by I think, asking themselves “What would Chuck Do?”

  6. joe says:

    Great post, kg. And beautifully written, too.

  7. kg says:

    Thanks SD. You sum up quite well part of what I was attempting to convey in your last paragraph. That’s the essence of Chuck.

    We always wondered how much impact Chuck’s handling of the ballerina issue had upon Sarah. And she answered it in Other Guy. “Chuck, I fell for you after you fixed my phone and before you started difusing bombs with viruses.” Wow. That’s not a huge window. What happened between those two points? The ballerina fix and their interrupted date. Obviously, it had a profound effect upon Sarah. Well, well. This wasn’t going to be a piece of cake afterall.

    Thanks to all of you, before I forget. To be perfectly honest, so many wonderfully dedicated and intelligent fans have submitted excellent POVs. I absolutely love this blog. I was so enamored and touched by the invitation extended by Joe and the gang. I didn’t want to disappoint obviously, but it seemed I was reaching for something, anything that was remotely interesting and not covered ad nauseum.

    The hated and oft-maligned (as a spy) Shaw finally stepped up in the finale. He had a sound plan. (Finally). Discredit Beckman and oust her using her best, but non-prototypical and dysfunctional team against her.

    Shaw’s belief was that Chuck was weak because of his regard for people. Family and friends. His emotions made him even weaker. Couldn’t flash. Use Ellie. Draw out Orion. Go after Casey’s daughter. Use intimate details to anger and distract Sarah so she’d bite. Lovestruck Bartowski would undoubtedly come to the rescue. Gun down Orion in front of him. Seemingly haul off the discredited and rogue team members to government prison, but actually eliminate them when he makes it appear they were escaping.

    He was dastardly evil and nasty. Although I felt terrible for our favorite characters, I finally liked Shaw! It was a brilliant plan and it was working. He was at his best taunting Sarah I thought.

    Shaw’s a very capable and ambitious guy. Attracting women? Nary a problem. He virtually can have anyone he wants. Briefly had the best one (Sarah) in my humble opinion. But who does he really have in his life? Who was there for him when his seemingly beloved Eve was murdered? It appears no one. Who’s in his camp? Double agent Justin Sullivan and other mercenaries. Comforting.

    By contrast, Chuck has all these people in his corner. And yes, SD, that was my point. NOT BY ACCIDENT. Family, friends, professionals and civilians all along could see chuck’s potentianl for greatness. Everybody but him. But no matter how down he got, Chuck went out of his way to NEVER mistreat people. I find this fascinating.

    And the shipper in me, like many of you, easily recognized how these same people (hell even Jeff, remember?) saw how Sarah glowed when she looked at Chuck.

    For the purposes of this topic, Chuck watched helplessly while his father was shot to death. Chuck had loving, caring people to pick him up. Shaw didn’t.

    Another speculative discussion might arise if the tragedies for Shaw and Chuck were similar. Say it was Sarah who was killed instead. Emotionally, I believe Chuck would be devastated, but I’d like to think that his team and family could help him through it. But we don’t really know.

    But we do know that Chuck flew from LA to Paris to save Sarah from a crazed super spy, and that same spy could not prevent or save his wife.

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      Absolutely fantastic post, which so comprehensively captures the essence of Chuck (the character). After reading the posts on this blog I only wish I could be that articulate.But whatever thoughts and concerns I have about this fantastic show are time and again echoed by much, much more qualified posters here. Thank you all for that.

      KG both your initial post and follow up reply are so profound that I found myself nodding my head in complete agreement throughout. You have compared Chuck and Shaw beautifully and what a contrast they both make. The very qualities that made Chuck an all round great guy (both in spy life and his normal Buy More life) were starkly absent in Shaw who was touted as a “super spy”. To me he always appeared manipulative and it best came out in 3.13 and in the finale.

      Which also reminds me that Sarah never forgot
      Chuck’s qualities that even in her eyes made him great.I also believe that Sarah’s decision to go with Chuck at the end of 3.12 was made very easy for her because whatever she had with Shaw was “different” (her own words). There was no emotional component to their relationship and it did not mean anything to her so when it came down to making a choice in 3.11 (stakate) ,in the restaurant(3.12) and finally at the end of 3.12 – it became easy for her. All that was needed at these three instances were a reassurance from Chuck. If the writers had not decided to prolong the agony I feel that Chuck won her over twice before putting forward his final proposal to run away with Sarah to Mexico.

      Anyway I started out commenting on Chuck’s qualities and somehow ended up involving Sarah too.couldn’t help myself. lol.

      • joe says:

        Always remember Alladin. We’re a bunch of articulate schnooks here! 😉

        Oh yeah. And you fit right in. It’s good to see your comments here too.

      • kg says:

        Thanks a bunch Alladin.

        Sarah – the character/Yvonne – the actress never seemed to sell any real interest in Shaw until(unfortunately) the middle of American Hero. You know, when he was about to give himself up to the Ring. Mask and Fake Name really bothered some of the fans.

        Concentrating on the end of Mask, I believe Sarah was talking to Chuck as much as she was talking about Shaw when she opined, “You know, I have a type.” Nobody’s perfect. For a guy with all his tremendously warm attributes and high IQ, a lot of things eventually go over his head so to speak.

        Sticking with that scene, it’s almost hilarious how terrible liars Chuck and Sarah are to each other. They might be excellent on missions and to civilians in this capacity, but you could see how they struggled to compliment Shaw and Hannah to each other and how it was respectively OK. It was another case of Chuck simply stepping up there and I think Sarah was his.

        And I recall during those frustratingly angsty episodes that I was nearly as upset as Dave et al.

        But like Ernie points out, most of your better heroes are not born naturally like Gods from Olympis. There’s a process they must go through. They have to find themselves. They have to learn to believe in themselves.

        And Old Darth was probably right all along. There has to be a journey to get to the destination. Like sports championships, they’re not supposed to come easily.

        Perhaps we love and appreciate the best of Chuck and Sarah now that they’ve lost each other and found their way back to each other. We suffered with them, for them. From what I’ve read, most agree nothing could be worse than Mask and Fake Name. It’s just a shame that we lost some viewers apparently along the way.

    • Hope says:

      Way to go kg brilliant post. I love it. And I’ve always felt so refreshed by the strong family and friend them on this show. Others have tried it on other shows but CHUCK has made it flow seamlessly into the picture if you will. The cast truly feels like a real family, just the chemistry they all have. It’s beautiful to watch. I never get tired of it.

      Shaw really was one nasty sadistic SOB. Even when he was ‘good’ I did notice he never really treated the team like they aught to have been treated. But he changed dramaticely in the finale. Though I bet the only one who loved him was Eve, and every one else was cutthroats, mercenaries, and double agents. Chuck has a family who would willing suffer and die for him if it came to that. Chuck has never abused or mistreated his teammates and they’ve all been touched by him so he has their love and loyalty knowing his family and friends would never betray him.

  8. amyabn says:

    KG, great post. Glad you shared this. I really hope that, like in Other Guy, Chuck will be reminded that he was smart before the intersect. I’d like to see them get back to that a bit more rather than relying on a kung-fu flash every episode. We need more of Chuck being Chuck and the unusual methods the team uses to be successful.
    Everyone sees how Chuck and Sarah feel and I hope they don’t try to retcon that again. I think it will work best in the background, as TB try to chase down Orion’s enemies.

  9. ChuckNewbie8 says:

    First off, KG, thanks for the shout-out lol. I’m flattered you remember enough of my babble to revisit it.

    Second, I wholeheartedly agree. I think Chuck’s valued importance for his friends and family is exactly among the things that he was missing this season (an illustration of Darth Chuck if you will) and exactly what he has taught Sarah in these 3 years. It’s a very good representation in my opinion of how far they’ve gone and how far she’s gone.

    In Santa Claus she goes, “there are rules Chuck and we have to follow them,” to which Chuck replies, “I understand there are rules but when it comes to family and friends it’s a time to break them.” You fast forward to the one you pointed out, “sometimes it helps to know what you’re fighting for…”

    In Chuck’s enamored state of Daniel Shaw and the spy biz, he forgot that (momentarily) and he forgot who he was fighting for, why he gave up the things he gave up (momentarily). This was of course brilliantly illustrated (again) by Morgan dumping him. Yes he was always “my Chuck” but he forgot the aspects of the person that made him “my Chuck” and just like in all things…it’s his friends and family that brought him from the edge. Just like it was Ellie and his relationship with Ellie and Morgan that have turned him into the man he is today.

    • kg says:

      I enjoyed all of the guest posts, Joe and the gang chose some fine folks; but yours especially Gem.

      At first I was like, holy crap, a lot of what you talked about was what I wanted to do. I chastised myself, muttering, “that’s what I get for lollygagging.”

      Then, the more I thought about it I guess what you were really saying was that “Love Suited” Sarah more so than Chuck. In the sense that, Chuck had already declared his feelings for Sarah in each of the three seasons. He just needed to follow through.

      Officially becoming Chuck’s girlfriend, Chuck saving her, moving in, you came back for me, saying those three words, etc. have freed Sarah from herself. Someone (Joe I think) recently noticed how radiant she looked in a photo. Absolutely. She’s better than ever.

      Trust me, I love that they’re together. Wanted it as much as anyone. Just hope he doesn’t blow it with all his little lies adding up.

      So, that’s when I thought I might come from the support of team/family Bartowski angle.

  10. aardvark7734 says:

    A well ordered and well executed argument, kg!

    It’s hard to find anything to differ with, in fact. Not to get too anthropological on you, but I believe Chuck’s loyalty to and reliance on his family resonates with our own, deeply-embedded ancestral behavior. It’s probably why most of us feel the “rightness” of his approach to life.

    Shaw, on the other hand, is more like a lone predator – a tiger or cheetah. He counts on his own, innate strengths to get what he wants, even using resources around him (other agents) to get what he wants but having no loyalties to them if they become obstacles. I think, as a species, we’re bred to hate this kind of behavior, but that could just be me. 😉

    Anyway, great post and just more proof that the community here is overflowing with intelligent, articulate analysis. Or fanatical obsessiveness, depending on your point of view!

    • Paul says:

      Nice analogy Aardvark. I think the idea of wolves is also a good one. Wolves operate both in packs (the preferred way) or alone (outcasts). Both are natural states, but one is more efficient than the other.

  11. atcdave says:

    Great post KG, thank you very much for this contribution. I agree wholeheartedly with your main point about friends and family. I think its Chuck valuing, and investing himself in those around him that make him such an appealing character; both to those around him on the show and to us as viewers. I don’t agree so much about the value of this journey they chose, but I do like most of the lessons learned in the end. Now, if he can just find the right balance between being honest and knowing when to protect people from the truth…

  12. Hope says:

    I just remembered something that never accured to me till now. When the trio is in Shaw’s custody, Chuck and Sarah are the ones to protest and as a result, get the taunts and mockery, while Casey has the sense to keep quite. With age comes wisdom I’ve heard. Just a thought…

    • atcdave says:

      I don’t know Hope, speaking as an old guy I’d have to say, “there’s no fool like an old fool!”

  13. kg says:

    Hope I wouldn’t argue with you that Casey is an example of the veteran, sage NSA colonel, but I don’t think that’s what happened here.

    Early in the season, Casey termed Shaw and “idiot” and then basically had no interaction with him. He kept his distance and had zero emotional investment.

    Why has Casey offered so much crap and wise cracks to these two for three years? Because as much as it pains him to admit, he cares about these kids, and long before it was plainly clear in the latter part of this season. For 2 1/2 seasons that was his way of showing it outside of grunts.

    Shaw, Chuck and Sarah were once a love triangle. In addition to competing with him for Sarah’s love and attention, Chuck also sought approval from a spy he originally sought as superior. Sarah killed Shaw’s wife and eventually chose Bartowski over him.

    So, whether Chuck and Sarah protested or not, he was always going to utter the mu-ha-ha, evil, mock taunts due to his emotional investments.

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