Sarah’s Journey

Ernie and I have been talking about this topic at length and decided to co-write this piece.

Quite the journey!

There has been a lot of talk about Sarah and Sarah’s journey lately.  As all of our regular readers know, Sarah is our (Amy and Ernie’s) favorite character to delve into.  As we discussed this post it came out that not only are we on the same page, Sarah-wise, but to us she doesn’t seem to be as much of a mystery as others claim, so here’s our attempt to explain what we’ve come to understand.  A LOT more after the break!

To an extent we agree with Chuck.  We don’t need to know who Sarah was, because we know who she is.  Look for instance at their first date in the Pilot.  Yes, Chuck is the mark and Sarah the spy, but remember, when you’re undercover you’re still you.  We’re seeing the real Sarah Walker.  To an extent.  She isn’t funny, she rarely thinks about music, has no favorite band, recently had her heart broken by her long term boyfriend and isn’t very good on a date.  But she is one helluva dancer.  We don’t know a lot of her back story, but it seems that one thing we do get a sense for very quickly is that she is all about her job.  She basically lives it.  We don’t know much about Sarah outside work and in her downtime because at least at first there isn’t much to her outside work.

Let’s start at the beginning.  Sarah was raised by a con artist father, known to us as Jack Burton (at least that’s the last alias he was using).  He took her from town to town, pulling the annual Christmas Salvation Army con job, robbing armored cars, and living a life of adventure-at least he thinks Sarah had more fun than the average kid.  She grew up in hotel rooms, changing names, and not knowing how to live a “normal” life. There has never been any mention of her mother, and only a suspect reference to a sister during Wookie, at which time many, thought the reference was to Carina, though with no further mention it could have been made up as part of a cover.  A family trip to the beach doesn’t seem to be a part of what we know of Sarah’s past.  In fact, from what we see Jack Burton is the only family Sarah has.

The one time we suspect Sarah lived a “normal” life was after her father was arrested and thrown in jail. At that point she was recruited by Graham while still in high school, but from flashbacks we know she continued in school as Jenny Burton, her last alias before her father’s arrest.   No cover, no con, just Jenny Burton, who carried a violin, wore braces, and was our idealized ugly duckling waiting to blossom.  She was apparently a relatively normal high school student for some time.  She was teased mercilessly by her classmates about her father, and it seems to have left a lasting impression on the “real” Sarah.  In fact Sarah herself spills that the high school girl who went to James Buchanan High was as real as her childhood ever was.

Gen. Beckman: Agent Walker, you have pre-existing social history with the target. Seems to me like you have the perfect cover.

Sarah: But it’s not a cover ma’am, it’s me.

There was a period, however brief, where she WAS Jenny Burton.  Her dad was in prison, so she wasn’t running any cons.  She wasn’t in the CIA yet, so she wasn’t Sarah Walker, but Sarah Walker was Jenny’s escape.  As a CIA agent Sarah could be whoever she needed to be, whoever they told her to be, and Sarah knew how to do that.  It was her comfort zone, developed through years on the road with her dad.  So once she was no longer Jenny Burton who was Sarah Walker?  Well, it’s hard to tell if even Sarah knows that.

Sarah Walker was born the moment Graham recruited her.  In Jenny’s locker there were pictures of how she wanted to be, beautiful, glamorous, strong, perhaps adventurous, but it isn’t clear she ever thought about who she wanted to be.  Graham is a savior of sorts.  He saved Sarah from being alone by recruiting her, presumably sending her to college and into training.  He saved her from the life of a criminal.  She may have felt obligated to right the wrongs of her past with the CIA and threw herself into her duty, but she has never gained the skill set to have friends.  Sarah falls for the guys she works with because they are there.  She has zero friends outside of the spy life that we know of.  The spy relationships were convenient and easy.  Bryce was her partner and her cover husband (Mr. and Mrs. Anderson), but it was always about work.  They surely had fun and cared about one another, but each of them clearly put work first.  And Bryce knows that it’s different with Sarah.  He is aware she isn’t very good at “this”, saying how she feels.  It’s maybe too real if she has to talk about it, and her one experience with real wasn’t a happy one.   Sarah really does fall for the guys she works with for a very specific reason:  they help define her life for her and give her a role she understands.  I can imagine when she was involved with Bryce and they were on missions their cover worked as a “real” life for her.  They had things to do and a job going on, but like her date with Chuck she had something to occupy her thoughts and her time.

Then along comes Chuck and knocks her world out of orbit.  Look at her amazement through Sizzling Shrimp, Best Friend, and Beard at Chuck and Morgan’s friendship.  Sarah has buried herself in work and admitted as much to Chuck.  What snuck up and bit her (so to speak) is watching the interactions while she was “pretending” to be Chuck’s girlfriend.  Chuck and Morgan, Ellie and Awesome.  Real relationships.  And as the seasons progressed Sarah found that she needed that.  Think of Sarah when both Bryce and Chuck were in her life in Nemesis.  Her conflict and indecision were obvious, but her anger at Chuck seems confusing.  For the first time Sarah is confronting who SHE wants to be, because Chuck, for a change, has no agenda of his own about who she should be.  You can’t con an honest man, and that’s Chuck in a nutshell.  He isn’t going to push Sarah for intimacy if he thinks she doesn’t feel it like others in her life (cough SHAW cough) have done.  He makes no demands on her, though he clearly cares deeply for her.  He wants her to love and admire him, but he has no expectations that she will.  The “real” Sarah Walker isn’t sure she’s good enough for Chuck, despite what Chuck thinks.  Bryce, Cole and Shaw were easy to deal with because they each had an idea of who THEY wanted her to be.  Chuck wanted her to be herself, the Sarah he knew was there even if she didn’t.  Sarah’s anger in Crown Vic was that she finally clearly saw the choice, and the difficulty it presented.   She had made her choice at the end of Nemesis, with Bryce calling on the old fashioned phone and Chuck on the iPhone.  She chooses Chuck, in spite of what she knows she “should do” and what is comfortable and easy.  Sarah is forced to realize she has feelings for Chuck.   Feelings that are real, and feelings she shouldn’t have and can’t act on given her situation with Chuck.  At the end of Nemesis Sarah confronts these unfortunate facts and is ready to do the smart thing, the easy thing.  Leave with Bryce.  Make a clean break and never see or think about Chuck again, but just seeing his face on her phone, and feeling those feelings again, and Sarah Walker, the woman is born.  She can’t deny who she is becoming and how she feels about Chuck, and in the end she doesn’t want to lose that, and she hates both herself and Chuck for making her face that reality.  Of course that part of Sarah has been there since the beginning, even if she didn’t know it.  It was that part of Sarah that recognized the good guy Chuck didn’t deserve a life in a bunker.  So we do know a few things about who Sarah Walker is after all.  We see her through Chuck’s adoring eyes and can recognize the greatness in her even if she doesn’t yet.

What else do we know about Sarah?  How about loyalty?  Jack Burton, as Chuck describes after flashing, “is a total loser, a bottom feeding, scum of the earth, did I mention considerably older man!”  Despite all of these attributes, Sarah loves her dad.  She is clearly torn between being the agent who turns him in, and being the daughter.  She has challenged authority over and over again.  She was ready to shoot Longshore in Marlin, to keep Chuck from being bunkered.  She disobeyed Agent Forrest in Broken Heart, both in going to see Chuck and in using government resources to track down Stephen.  She ran with Chuck in Colonel, facing charges of treason.  Sarah is more than an agent.  She has developed her own moral compass and will be an agent on her terms.  Even her bosses recognize this.  They don’t even consider giving Sarah the order to kill Chuck.  They leave that to the “burnout” Casey.  The loyalty goes further than that.  Eventually it’s her loyalty to Chuck that keeps her from taking Cole up on his offer of some much needed time off and company.  She’s not the type who cheats on her cover boyfriend, because in her business, finding people you care about and who care about you is a rare thing.

She has an intuition about situations and a keen understanding of Chuck, her Chuck.  Cougars is sort of the high point of their relationship until Honeymooners.  She sees the hero in the nerd and helps him understand his own potential and he sees the insecure nerd in the hero-and he lets her know it’s OK to need someone in her life rather than be alone and strong all the time.  Even though Sarah is again living her “real” life through a guy she met on the job, it’s the right guy.  Just as Sarah helps Chuck see the hero in himself, Chuck helps Sarah see the innate good in herself.  Chuck and Sarah both see the best in each other, and Chuck was really making her confront who she was and what she wanted out of life.

That’s what makes the S3 reset so heartbreaking.  Sarah, even though she was being truthful with Chuck about his potential and heroism, was still handling him.  She was just trying to do it by building him up and making him see what he could do and the difference he could make.  And by doing that, the spy Sarah basically robbed the woman Sarah of her chance to be normal.  Once Chuck had re-intersected, having thought she was gone, she knew she’d lost him.  The panicked plan to run and then later to get him on the train is very reminiscent of the rooftop in Marlin.  She knows she’s lost him, but she can’t help clinging to a thought that somehow she can change it.

So Sarah’s heartbreak comes about because the spy Sarah did what was necessary for the job.  That isn’t a criticism, she did it to keep Chuck safe and out of a bunker too, because Sarah has been walking that fine line between Chuck and the CIA all along.  But because that Sarah pushed him to be great and the woman Sarah couldn’t yet ASK him to be with her, Chuck’s choice was Sarah the emerging woman’s downfall.  Sarah continually put Chuck ahead of what she truly wanted, whether it was Lou, Jill, or Hannah.  Her heartbreak was palatable and so moving because Sarah the woman wouldn’t allow herself what she truly wanted, perhaps like Chuck she still didn’t truly believe she deserved it, and so she returned to the one thing she was good at, and perhaps the source of her doubt that she can ever be deserving of Chuck and a normal life, as was so poignantly seen on the screen.

We see Sarah, again, sorry to say, seducing marks for a living.  When Chuck comes back into her life she’s angry and resentful at first, both because of the heartbreak and because she remembers when she thought she was more “real” and knew who she was.  When Sarah is finally reminded of who she was to Chuck and how real that she’s of two conflicting opinions.  One to get back to being that strong woman, the hero, and two to be who Chuck needs her to be.  They are linked and while she’s still defining herself in terms of what Chuck saw as her greatness, it is a good two steps forward after the three she took back.  Her efforts are mixed since she goes back to a somewhat maternal (since it can’t be romantic) relationship.  She still loves Chuck, but can’t love Chuck, and she struggles with that balance until Shaw shows up, and forces himself into her life and gives her a new role to play. With Shaw, she reverted to what had worked for her in the past-an easy, physical relationship with some caring.  She admitted to Chuck that she had never been in love before. That was powerful because it should put to rest any nagging doubts Chuck has.  The new, open Sarah has really taken a page from Chuck’s book and just blurts out her declarations, like she can’t stand to be bottled up anymore.

Sarah can be the badass spy and also the girlfriend.  She can infuse a bit of the “real” she is still clinging to with Shaw.  Her real name is desperation, the sizzling shrimp, rather telling.  Real is Chuck, the guy that, hard as it is, makes HER choose who to be, and who to be with.  One big tell is that we see Chuck make more progress in getting Sarah to open up and reconnect in five minutes on the stake-date that we saw Shaw ever accomplish.  Sarah throwing herself at Shaw in desperation doesn’t count as Shaw accomplishing something.

Sometimes the nerd gets the guy!

So anyway, who is Sarah and what does she do outside the job?  She hasn’t really thought about it too much.  She’s re-connected with Chuck though, and finally feels safe to actually ask herself and look for some answers.  There’s jokes over her well earned reputation as a humorless spy, there’s blueberries, and helping Chuck come to terms with his father, however she can, but Sarah is still trying to figure out who she wants to be now that she’s found someone who knows who she is.  Who will Sarah become?  A lot of her journey is unwritten.  The Show is “Chuck”, and it seems sometimes TPTB haven’t worried so much as we have.  But we inhabit another world, and one that the recent Comicon panel indicates TPTB now understand.  Chuck and Sarah are real to us, and they matter.

Don’t expect a montage involving cheese balls and a bathrobe on the couch for Sarah (hilarious as that would be if she quit the CIA and didn’t know what to do with herself) but Sarah is working things out for herself.   Remember, she’s versatile!

-amyabn & Ernie


About amyabn

My name is Amy and I'm in the active Army as my profession. I love the show Chuck and want to see it succeed for many seasons to come. My twitter handle is amyabn.
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59 Responses to Sarah’s Journey

  1. joe says:

    Oh, wow.

    I had forgotten what 28 was. True story – I was that age when I got involved in an interesting problem. I puzzled for weeks over a very small pointing error that had crept into these satellite simulations I had been running. Late one Friday night I had an inspiration about what might be causing the error, ran up to GSFC and corrected the problem, yelled “Eureka”, called my boss and told him I saved the contract at 9:00 on Saturday morning.

    Nonsense, of course (and he laughed). But wasn’t I the definition of a nerd? Bustin’ my chops for a 20 arc-second error. Why bother going home at 5 every day? The apartment was empty anyway, and “the mission” was way more interesting. That’s what 28 is, when you still have the energy to work 20 hour days a couple of times a week and you don’t yet have the smarts to avoid needing to do that! 🙂 It’s where the rewards are.

    Not any more. Chuck and Sarah have both entered a whole new universe. Sometimes the nerd gets the guy? Perfect.

  2. OldDarth says:

    Whew! Heckuva article. Congrats to both of you!

    Shaw forced himself into Sarah’s life? Hmmm, not the way I saw things play out. Sarah grabbed onto Shaw out of desperation and emotional pain.

    Any analysis of Sarah requires some filtering because the show has used her from time to time as a plot device instead of a character.

    This article does a great job of that.

    • amyabn says:

      Thanks OD. I saw it (the Shaw/Sarah bit) that way because at first, it was so unwelcomed. Many commenters found his advances creepy and she even called him out (incorrectly as it turns out) about the coffee. I think he was working pretty hard; Chucks not catching on at that whiplash inducing conversation in Mask was the straw that broke the camels back and she gave in/fell back into old, easy patterns.

      I also think that looking at the stake-date, you saw how easily she and Chuck clicked again, only to be interrupted. It was the see-saw of reversals that was so frustrating.

  3. Merve says:

    Ernie and Amy, you guys did a really job on this article. It’s the most thorough analysis of Sarah’s character that I’ve ever read.

    There’s one aspect of Sarah’s personality that I wanted to discuss, and it goes all the way back to the end of “Nemesis.” On a practical level, yes, she chose to stay with Chuck. But what struck me is that she answered neither phone. Instead, she went to bed and ran out the clock on making a decision. Essentially, she let circumstances dictate what happened, instead of making a clear choice. It’s interesting, because for all the talk of Sarah being a badass, assertive superspy, she’s reactive at best and passive at worst. It’s something that we’ve seen throughout the series. She let Jill back into Chuck’s life without protest. She took a chance on running away with Chuck only when she thought she would lose him. She just let herself fall into Shaw’s arms. Even her “I love you” came after she realized what she stood to lose if Chuck went insane.

    This gets me thinking: are we going to see a more proactive Sarah in the future? Is that where the writers are taking her character? There are hints of it here and there, notably in “DeLorean,” when she sends her father out for ice cream so that he won’t be arrested. She’s been taking charge more often since “Other Guy.” (It’s ironic that being in a relationship has given her more force, but that’s a different matter.) If this is where her character is headed, I wonder how that’s going to impact Team Bartowski’s dynamics next season. Maybe she’s going to plan out more missions or go above and beyond the call of duty. I’m also interested in how this might affect Sarah’s perceptions and actions with regards to family. Is family something that she’s just going to let herself fall into, or is she going to actively seek it? I’d like to see her interact more with Ellie, Morgan, and Devon – the “family” that she has by extension of being with Chuck.

    Stuff to ponder, I guess…

    • jason says:

      merve – I often don’t agree with your POV – but what you wrote here is wonderful – I would love to see sarah more assertive in S$ and beyond, toward chuck and family.

      I also agree with one has to look at S1 / S2 to understand sarah’s journey.

      Amy / Ernie, another well written sarah analysis, wish it had been written about one month earlier, I really am much more interested in season 4 right now

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Merve, I take your point on the end of Nemesis, but I saw not answering as more out of resignation and not being able to handle talking to either of them. Answering either call would entail Sarah talking about what she wanted or felt. I think it was clear from the packed luggage Sarah had made her decision, but when faced with the reality of it, Chuck calling and her realizing she’d never see or talk to him again, she couldn’t go through with it.

      I also understand your larger point of Sarah generally allowing events to dictate her choices for a lot of the series. I think the telling scenes are in Role Models. At first Sarah is clinging tenatiously to the status quo while Chuck is full steam ahead with the relationship. This has generally been Sarah’s MO. She really only reacts to possible changes in what she’s become happy or comfortable with. Crises like bunkering or Chuck re-intersecting really bring it out, but you can see it as early as Truth and Hard Salami where Sarah uses her role as handler to justify trying to keep Chuck from dating Lou. By the end of Role Models Sarah seems to have decided that she can actually decide to change, or at least allow change, and still be happy. She decides to build something for when the spy life ends for them by moving forward with Chuck and moving in. The next time we see Chuck and Sarah in Tooth they’re watching TV in a scene of such plain normal domesticity it’s almost jarring. And Sarah actually makes a joke at her own expense!

    • Anonymous says:

      On a tangent, I wonder what Chuck would have said to
      Sarah had she answered the phone. I suspect that given
      Chuck’s character development to date (at the time and
      further evidence found in Chuck’s observation that Sarah
      and Bryce made a great team during the Buymore fight)
      he would have been calling to say good-bye.

      • amyabn says:

        I got the feeling that he was going to invite her over for a fake date and cold turkey sandwiches. 🙂

      • atcdave says:

        That was my impression too Amy; of course, Chuck being Chuck it would have been mainly about figuring out if she was sticking around. So it may have accomplished what he wanted, even if he didn’t know for a while yet.

    • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

      Merve – I also hope we get to see a more proactive Sarah, especially relationshipwise where Chuck has been driving that boat for an awfully long time. Hopefully once proactive Sarah starts it won’t stop. It would be fun to watch.

      • Merve says:

        Joseph, I agree with that, but with a couple of caveats. Firstly, while I want to see Sarah be more proactive, I don’t want the Chuck/Sarah dynamic to be affected too much, and I want the characters to stay true to their personalities. In my opinion, Chuck should remain more proactive than Sarah. Secondly, I don’t want the writers to make Sarah more proactive for the sole reason of facilitating the depiction of the give-and-take nature of a relationship. If Sarah is to become more proactive, it should arise as a result of her character arc. In other words, Sarah should evolve because of the relationship and not because it makes the relationship easier to write.

      • Crumby says:

        “Sarah should evolve because of the relationship and not because it makes the relationship easier to write.”

        Very well said Merve!

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Agreed. I guess what I was trying to say (poorly) was that it would be nice to see Sarah “fight” for the relationship and not cave at the first sign of trouble. Similar to her visit to see Dr. Dreyfus.

        And yes, please write “for” Sarah, not “because” of her.

    • Crumby says:

      “If this is where her character is headed, I wonder how that’s going to impact Team Bartowski’s dynamics next season. Maybe she’s going to plan out more missions or go above and beyond the call of duty.”

      I would like to see her more “in charge” somehow. She was supposed to be in charge of the new Intersect project in Ring I it seemed like a promotion back then. After Operation Bartowski was back, she worked “alongside” Casey and Chuck until Shaw took over the operation. She was supposed to go in DC to head the Ring task force with him after that. Beckman seemed pretty please with her work and it seemed like a promotion too.

      The status of the team wasn’t that clear in the Back 6 but considering that the CIA is taking over the Buy More, I hope they put her and Casey in charge. She needs to evolve in her job, she was already top CIA agent three years ago…

      • Merve says:

        Sarah in charge of a mission would be interesting because she’s not a strategist like Chuck or Shaw. She’s very intelligent, but she doesn’t make elaborate plans. I’d even go as far as to say that the desk job in D.C. that she almost accepted wouldn’t have played to her strengths. I’m trying to imagine Sarah in a meeting room strategizing with Beckman and it seems really weird to me.

        That being said, Sarah clearly has no problem giving orders. She can be commanding when she needs to be. I can see her directing other agents and telling them what to do. But maybe Chuck could draw up the battle plan.

      • Crumby says:

        I’m not sure it was excusively a desk job. She still would have gone on the field.

        I kind of agree with you that she’s not like Chuck and Shaw.

        But she has a lot of experience and I think there are parts of her job that we haven’t seen much but that could be associated with the job she would have been doing in DC. Like when she’s not in mission she seems to always been working on reports or her computer. What is she doing actually, it can be just reports of her missions… unless she’s a really slow writer.
        She also participate to planning with Chuck most of the time. They complement each other.

        But anyway, wouldn’t it be interesting to see her evolving in her own fashion, keeping her touch, I don’t know. Obviously I don’t want her to become Shaw lol, or Beckman for that matter. But I don’t want her to stay the top -field-CIA Agent all her life until she retires.

      • Eli says:

        Curious, I always saw Sarah as the strategist of team Bartowski until Chuck took charge of that role in Vs. the Ring Part II.

        I mean, Chuck resolved puzzles, Casey was the brute force and Sarah was the one who developed a plan (usually in a very, very short time) and seeked for possible escape routes. She’s the daughter of a con man so she’s the expert to find any getaway for any situation (including the emotional ones).

        After the last episode of S3 Chuck seemed the leader (other attempts of him to lead weren’t so successful, as Vs. the Predator is proof of it.) But Chuck doesn’t work for the CIA anymore, so I’m eager to know what would be her role.

      • joe says:

        Great discussion.

        It’s interesting, that when you talk about Sarah evolving, we used to say that it was towards having a real life and family. We got a glimpse at the end of Marlin, when she’s looking through the window at Chuck, Ellie and Awesome, and we saw it again in Suburbs.

        But yes, her role in Team B. isn’t all that clear. Gee. I just realized that since Chuck re-intersected, no one has a clear role.

        I mean, who needs Casey to be the muscle with the intersect nearby? Sarah’s job was always to protect the asset, and now, he can protect her just as well as himself. And Chuck has done best when he doesn’t rely on it – “Before the intersect, you used to be smart.”

        Even before he became an agent, Morgan helped the others more than a little with the skills he does have.

        When I think about it in those terms, the whole dynamic is really different.

      • atcdave says:

        But Joe you forget, Casey and Sarah are needed to protect the world from Chuck! (?)

    • Crumby says:

      About the end of Nemesis, I don’t see it as her “letting circumstances dictate what happened, instead of making a clear choice.”

      I think by staying she chose Chuck, like Ernie explained, but she wasn’t ready to face that choice yet, so she didn’t answer the phones.

      Even if, we consider that whe didn’t choose Chuck, she chose not to choose Bryce. She let him go. She never let Chuck go.. until season 3.

      • atcdave says:

        Its hard to be sure what Sarah choose there, it may have simply been duty over adventure. But I think by that measure, whether she choose Chuck or the job, she certainly rejected Bryce.

      • Crumby says:

        Bryce wasn’t going on vacation. She still would have been working if she went with him. I don’t consider her staying with Chuck as duty.

        When you think about it, considering she was compromised if she had chosen duty, she should have either gone with Bryce or ask for a reassignment.

        To me, and it’s probably a really shipper view of things, but she always chose Chuck. From the pilot, her priority became to protect him – keeping him alive, un-bunkerized and with his Chuck-ness. Whatever it meant she had to do, she’d do it. It doesn’t mean she wasn’t still drive by duty and stuff, but the job became second.

      • atcdave says:

        No I still see it as duty. She’s not in a position of getting to re-assign herself. Her mission of record is as Chuck’s handler. She could ask for a new assignment, maybe even ask for a specific assigment, but that clearly hadn’t been done yet. So running off with Bryce would have been professionally difficult.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think was already “compromised” with Chuck which adds some complexity to the situation. So I think she a choose a path that was professionally easy, but personally difficult (because she knew she’d have real emotional issues to deal with in staying). And of course, she initially dealt with poorly (to say the least!).

      • Crumby says:

        Yeah it’s true that going with Bryce wasn’t that simple proessionnaly speaking. She did consider it though, cause she was packed.

        The thing is, the job is the excuse she told Chuck about in Crown Vic: “I’m here because I have a job to do”. It wasn’t really convincing.

        It felt more like she didn’t want to go with Bryce (because of Chuck or at least his influences on how she saw things), and the rational reason was the job, but deep down it was Chuck.

        She just couldn’t leave him. Maybe not because she couldn’t see her life without him but at least because if she left she couldn’t protect him anymore.

        But like you said, it’s hard to know, probably was a bit of both actually.

  4. herder says:

    Tremendous article, I agree with all of it as it pertains to seasons one and two. I still think that for the first thirteen there is little to no journey for Sarah and that she is used as a plot device for Chuck’s journey: a relationship forgone, a regret to be be fixed, a prize to be won. I still have no idea (based on the story as told) why she went with Shaw, why she left Shaw or why she chose Chuck.

    Having said that, in the back six there was a great deal of growth. In Honeymooners “…I want to be a spy but I want Chuck more…” and in the Tooth “…I need him to be okay…”and “…before all I could think of was my next mission now all I can think of is our future together..”. I think that these were litterally the first time in the entire series that she spoke of her own wants and needs (except maybe for Pink Slip where they were used as an example of Chuck crushing her).

    In Role Models she apologizes to Chuck about her reaction to his request to move in “…I’ve been taught how to…but no one taught me how to lead a normal life…” again this is the only time that I can think of that Sarah confesses a vulnerability to Chuck. This is real growth towards being the “real person” that she wanted to be in Pink Slip if Sarah has a journey, it is to become a real person or as Chuck puts it in Suburbs she might turn into a real girl.

    • atcdave says:

      Great comments Herder. I don’t expect to ever buy the Shaw thing; to me its a clear example of destroying a character to fit a preconceived story line, also known as hammering a square peg into a round hole.
      But the back six were wonderful, and restored faith in the show, characters, and writers.

    • JC says:

      I’m with Herder and Dave. Her journey in S3 was never about her as an individual but about her relationship with Chuck. We never got any real explanation for her actions and decisions. There were way too many questions left unanswered that were forgotten about once they got them together.

      She was separated from Chuck for almost the whole season and yet Sarah is still defined by him.

      My question, is she truly a complex character or is it product of inconsistent characterization?

      • atcdave says:

        I think Sarah of S2 was complex and well thought out; but I seriously don’t think they even tried to make sense of her in the front part of S3. I think they had an outline, that by all rights should have been considered obsolete by 2.21; but they forced it onto screen anyway, even though the characters, especially Sarah, had actually grown past it in S2. I do acknowledge some of the growth may have had more to do with performances and viewer perception than anything ever intended by TPTB; but the burden is on them, as professional entertainers, to respond to the truth that is on screen; not to ram through a story arc that the characters and audience should now be past.

        I think Sarah’s actions and decisions of S3 weren’t explained simply because they can’t be. Just look at how tortured our attempts here have been. When even the most serious and devoted of fans can’t agree on what was going on, the product has to be called a failure.

        My season long motto that the story ended where it should have begun applies to both Chuck and Sarah; I think by 3.13 we see the Sarah we recognize again from 2.21 and her growth seems steady from that point. At best, the front part of S3 can be called a detour. And like most detours it was vastly inferior to the preferred route.

      • Eli says:

        Well, to be honest, to me she’s never been really (or totally) complex or complete as a character. She seemed complex in S2 just because she was misterious (which means her background and most of her decisions weren’t told to us), the obvious love interest (which means the fans would try to see a deeper side of her that wasn’t written just because we wanted her with Chuck) and because she didn’t do anything horrible as trying to initiate a new relationship with somebody who wasn’t Chuck.

        Most of her apparently contradictory personality can be explained as the logical passive-agressive sh*t a woman like her (with a less than ideal childhood, big daddy issues and zero self-steem) would display.

        But that’s just me 🙂

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Remember, how she is written isn’t the whole story. We saw a complete person with buried emotions and inner conflict falling in love and learning to value others because Yvonne played Sarah as a person and we were convinced. Now all the writers have to do is put some of that person into dialog. Which from the sounds of it, they plan to do.

      • Joseph (can't be Joe) says:

        Dave – I thought about this the other day. Even with my complete denseness I kinda understood what Sarah was going through in S3 episodes 1 – 6. But in what I beleive to be the “extra” Shaw episodes (7 – 11 & some 12) it seems TPTB forgot to write Sarah and left the fans to interpret facial expressions. Which we are still doing today. Shaw made Sarah confusing and TBH difficult to have sympathy for.

      • joe says:

        Good points, Dave, Eli & Ernie. There’s also the point that we’re meant to see Sarah through Chuck’s eyes, at least partially.

        I’ve been told that if you look at S1 now, it’s clear that Sarah was practically screaming “I Love You, Chuck.” through most every episode. I didn’t see it then, and neither did Chuck. There was always the dual explanation “It’s just a cover.” and “It’s complicated.” Uh-huh. No matter what we were shown we couldn’t believe until Chuck believed.

        That’s one on the biggest reasons Sarah is so complex to us. Through everything, up to The Other Guy we’ve been seeing a filtered version, filtered through Chuck’s perceptions. That makes it tougher to understand her.

        Question: Is that still necessary? Can the writers and PTB write Sarah for Sarah now and still give us the character we love?

      • atcdave says:

        Joe, I agree with the comment about S1, I’d say it applies to S2 as well. To me, that was huge part of the appeal of the show was Sarah’s conflict between what she obviously wanted and her various personal and professional “issues” would allow to happen. That feel was missing or damaged through most of the front of S3, which is PART of why that story fails for me. But yeah, it did add an intrigueing complexity to Miss Walker.

        My guess is Sarah will always remain a sort of secondary character, granted a very important secondary character. But, as I’ve said before, the show is called “Chuck”. And no matter how much some of us might actually prefer the show to be “Chuck and Sarah”, I think the show will always be seen mostly through Chuck’s eyes.

      • Merve says:

        Not to put a damper on the hatefest for 3.1 to 3.13, but I think we’re falling into the trap of “rationalize what we like; dismiss what we dislike.” Kudos to you if you made sense of Sarah’s actions from the pilot to “Other Guy.” I’m still confused, and that confusion goes all the way back to season 1.

      • atcdave says:

        Merve, I do sort of agree. I watch to have fun, as long as I am, I’m not going to be overly critical. I love Get Smart. I can safely say I see some plot holes in the show and even occasional OOC moments! But it makes me laugh so I don’t care.

        I don’t mean to say sloppy writing doesn’t matter. But it probably won’t get on my nerves until I don’t like what’s going on. I saw a (mostly) appealing character in Sarah Walker in the first two seasons. I didn’t see her (mostly) in 3.01 – 3.12. Of course my opinion is based on my emotional response to those episodes; it is not a rational thing. Much of what I’ve discussed here is my attempts to understand my own reactions.

      • JC says:

        Don’t get me wrong all the characters have had OOC moments over the course of the series. It just seems like Sarah is the victim of them the most. And it was these OOC moments that drove her story throughout most of S3.

        I admit I overlooked things on the show before because it didn’t take itself serious. But when the show tried real drama, those OOC moments and plot holes seem a lot bigger.

      • Crumby says:

        @Merve Wasn’t it the point that we didn’t really know what was Sarah’s intentions in Season 1? They played the fact that we would always wonder if she was handling Chuck or if she really cared about him, and where was the line between the truth and the handling.

        I’m curious about specifics when you say that you didn’t like Sarah that much in Season 1 and that her character was all over the place. Do you have specific moments in mind that could illustrate?

      • Merve says:

        @Everyone: Frankly, I don’t like calling actions “OOC.” To me, it’s usually a cheap way of saying, “I don’t like what this character is doing.” (And I really don’t mean any offense when I write this because I’ve been guilty of this too.)

        @Crumby: I don’t think I’ve ever said that Sarah was “all over the place” in season 1 (and if I have, I take it back), but I do think that she was a little ill-defined. In season 1, we don’t know anything about her background. All we know is that she’s the CIA’s top agent and she used to be involved with Bryce. We barely know anything about her abandonment issues, her struggle to grab onto an identity, her thoughts on the morality of killing, or what she really wants out of life. All we see is competent CIA agent who can turn from nice to nasty at the drop of a hat. But we keep hearing how great Sarah is. It was a little strange then, but it really jumped out at me when I first watched “First Date” and Chuck made his speech to Sarah in the restaurant about all her qualities. She then proceeded to demonstrate all those qualities in season 2, but I felt as if the show didn’t do an adequate job of portraying those qualities in season 1.

        A few things made Sarah unlikable in the first season. Part of the problem was that “Sizzling Shrimp” and “Wookiee” were aired out of order, which made Sarah’s attitude towards Chuck’s friends and family in “Sizzling Shrimp” seem harsh. The other major issue was the arc from “Imported Hard Salami” to “Crown Vic.” Sarah was jealous, petty, vindictive, and mean. It might have worked if I’d had a better sense of Sarah’s personality at the time, but because Sarah was so ill-defined, it made her very unlikable. Again, if I’d had a sense of her motivations and where her character was coming from, like I did in seasons 2 and 3, then it would have been a lot easier to swallow.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Merve, you know I’m generally with you on this, especially with the out of order episodes, but I liked Hard Salami through Crown Vic. That’s right, I even liked Crown Vic. I think there is a context of Sarah getting more and more compromised and essentially trying to first run away and then revert to a hard assed handler when she’d completely compromised herself, but then finding that Chuck refused to be handled that way and she needed to meet him somewhere in the middle and show him some respect. In a way I thought Crown Vic was Sarah’s first lesson in re-gaining her humanity for lack of a better word. Maybe integrity is a better word. Chuck did nothing wrong, and they both knew it, and yet Sarah’s solution was to essentially beat up on him. In the end Chuck refused to take the beating, but he was willing to make peace when she showed a willingness to trust him and deal with him honestly. I think it was appropriate to show Sarah as not a nice person. She was a spy after all and wasn’t supposed to care about Chuck or his feelings. Look at the deleted scenes, it origionally played a lot darker and worse for Sarah.

      • Crumby says:

        Merve I apologize the “all over the place” thing was me. I was indeed making reference to your previous “ill-defined” comments. I just forgot how you had put it.

        I get your point on “why is she that great?” I guess as I was rooting for Chuck and Sarah really early I didn’t see it that way. I could explain all her “unpleasant demeanour” by the job. And she always came through for him in the end.

        Like Ernie I liked the all Hard Salami-Crown Vic arc. It made sense to me. Ernie explained it better than I would. I did find her mean at times, but I could find reasons to excuse her.

      • Crumby says:

        Also my judgement might be biaised by the fact that I watched the first season all at once. It’s easier to forget what bugged you and remember what you liked I guess when you don’t really have time to think about it between episodes.

      • Merve says:

        No worries, Crumby. It’s funny; I watched seasons 1 and 2 all in one go, and since Chuck was far my favourite show at the time, I didn’t think about it much. It’s hard to remember exactly what my gut reactions were at the time, but I remember that I debated about watching season 2. Luckily, I found that I really liked season 2.

        Where my perception might differ from watching all in one go is that I didn’t take the time to think about Sarah’s character. I wasn’t given a good reason to care about it. So when “Crown Vic” aired, instead of thinking, “She’s being mean because she’s never had to face these kinds of feelings before,” I was thinking, “She’s being mean and I don’t like that.”

      • Crumby says:

        It’s funny I mean she wasn’t THAT heartless. We’ve seen her care, like at Bryce funeral or and at the end of Alma Mater. We’ve seen in Helicopter that Bryce betrayed “everything she believed in”. Carina conceded that Sarah wouldn’t just turn her back to her if the situation were reversed in Wookie. And she always tried to make Chuck feel better. She was the person he could go to even though she had to put the job first at times.

        But hey, we all see different things! That’s what’s interesting!

      • JC says:


        Isn’t OOC just a general term people use to lump together all the ways writers move the story forward. Idiot ball, whiplash, characters as plot devices, etc.

      • Merve says:

        OOC = out-of-character.
        You’re right. Like “central relationship misunderstanding” and “jumping the shark,” it’s often applied as a blanket term, to the point that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s like when people refer to various genres of music as “emo.” Who knows what “emo” means anymore?

      • atcdave says:

        Little late to the game here but just my two cents worth; I liked Sarah immediately, I thought Tango and Wookie portrayed her in a very positive light and I never really doubted her “character” after that. I didn’t like the S1 “triangles” arc for the simple reason I never like such stories, but that said I only really disliked Sarah for first 2/3s of Crown Vic. My dislike there was intense and jarring, but made her “moment of redemption” that much more appealing. Certainly by Marlin she was back to being my favorite character on the show. For whatever reason, I rarely saw her as simply “handling” Chuck; I felt she liked him immediately (and her comments in Other Guy would seem to bear that out), I read her actions in the Pilot as keeping Chuck out of the bunker contrary to NSA wishes, and I thought she always tried to make his unasked for job as safe and painless as possible. I guess I’d say I saw her as an idealized “white knight” from the beginning.

        As for the OOC thing, I think of it as a bit of a joke. A fictional character is the product of writers who are free to portray their creation in a consistent or erratic manner at their whim. But as a consumer of that fiction, I’m free to accept or reject the writers product at my whim. When I use the OOC term it is simply shorthand for any number of character related disconnects that may occur between the writer(s) and me. At some point, it will vary from show to show, I will choose to stop watching a show if those disconnects become too unpleasant to me. I do believe it is a serious writing challenge to present a long term character in a way that will consistently work for me; many shows succeed, many fail. With Chuck, the successes have been among the best I’ve ever seen. I have more affection for many of the characters than I ever have on any show before. But that just means some of my disappointments have been very painful. I can honestly say there has never been another show where I felt compelled on a regular basis to express my feelings and opinions; I consider that my endorsement of the first two seasons. I’m just glad, that after fumbling badly at the start of S3, they seem to have come back to a place I like.

      • Crumby says:

        Yeah Dave I was a shipper by the end of the pilot and most of the time I like Sarah more than Chuck. That’s why I found Merve POV so interesting, it’s so far away from mine. lol

  5. Robert H says:

    Great article. Sarah made her choice in Nemesis when
    she didn’t answer Bryce’s call. Deep down she knew
    what that choice implied and what would follow. She
    knowingly made herself vulnerable, realized her
    defenses had been penetrated by the “mark” (Chuck),
    the last thing she expected and it infuriated her.

    It explains why she was so defensive the next day
    and why she picked a fight with Chuck that didn’t go
    quite the way she thought it would. He forced her
    to confront her feelings over the “incident” ( the kiss) after she brought it up trying to blame him
    for her inner conflict. Of course she had the last word in the arguement that followed but she was also
    the one that made the tactical retreat, not Chuck,
    He didn’t budge an inch.

    Oddly enough even Casey seemed to understand not
    only what is happening to them as a couple but what
    is happening to Sarah personally. Remember when he
    demanded to know if she had compromised herself with
    Chuck and her asking him what it would be like to
    have a “normal” life-a home, family, etc.

    Sarah is caught in quicksand or a web she hates on
    one hand but doesn’t want to escape on the other.
    She is in a Catch 22 of her heart-the journey of her
    heart, her “Undisclosed Desires” of her heart as Joe
    so accurately put it in an earlier post.

    The journey has yet to be completed. It is and will
    be the most important one she will ever make.

  6. Jan says:

    Great article and wonderful comments. Sometimes it seems the people here spend more time and are more connected to these characters than any of the writers.

    Many of the Comic Con comments from Fedak and Schwartz were encouraging. But I agree with aardvark…I hope Fedak is reading this blog

  7. Robert H says:

    I hope Fedak and Schwartz are reading these blogs
    too, particularly on this website as well as others,
    and pass the info to their writers.

    If they had done this prior to filming Season 3 they
    might have avoided the mess they got into and Season
    3 might have turned out a lot better than it did.

    The posts made here are very informative, imaginative, not to mention fun to read. Let’s hope
    TPTB at least read some of them and use them for a
    better Season 4.

    Once again my thanks to all for your contributions.

  8. kg says:

    Outstanding. I pretty much agree with the whole thing.

    It would be nice if, say, during the upcoming season Chuck and Sarah could getaway for awhile and devote a nice chunk of an episode discussing what went wrong, why they did the things they did and the general misunderstandings.

    Or, they could fall into some trap like Morgan and Chuck did and accomplish the same effect.

  9. Faith says:

    I apologize for being tardy on this as well.

    Fantastic summation into the psyche that is Sarah Walker. But I have 2 gripes 😉

    1. She didn’t choose Chuck (in my opinion) in Nemesis. She chose the job. The job is easy, the job is always easy. There’s a progression there from Nemesis into Break Up where Agent Walker turns into Sarah Walker that’s very important and I think brilliant.
    2. In S3 it was again about something easy. She turned to Shaw because it was easy. Easier than facing the danger that Chuck has brought into his own life (the one thing she has treasured for 3 years, if not ever), easier than sinking even deeper into love and lost and all that love brings. Easier than confronting both her future and her past. Far easier than talking to Chuck.

    Chuck is a risk, always has been always will be. While she has fallen for him “a long, long time ago” the questions that goes with that emotion has always remained unanswered. Running away is easy; it’s a return to familiar for her…but staying, that’s the real risk. Just like moving in with him, just like crossing the threshold from Marlin’s “it’s a family thing” (Awesome’s proposal) to being a bridesmaid in Ellie’s wedding…these are tough (for her).

    In the end fearless Sarah Walker has shown herself to be fearful of one thing: not being love, not loving someone but what loving someone and them loving you back brings.

  10. Robert H says:

    Great idea kg. that indeed would be very interesting to watch. Hope the producers do it but
    they probably won’t (it’s too good of an idea).

    Faith very good observations. Enjoyed your comments.
    Very insightful. I just have one question.

    If Sarah had gone with Bryce in Nemesis, couldn’t that also have been rationalized as “the job” rather
    than staying with Chuck and being forced to deal with her feelings whether she liked it or not?

    After all she does admit to Chuck in Season 3 she
    “fell” for him in episode one when he fixed her phone and helped the young ballerina, displaying the
    “charm” she admited in the Roan episode that “worked” on her. It seems to me she was rationalizing “the job” not only to herself but to
    Chuck next day when he asked her about her possibly
    leaving. It also explains her frustation with herself in her morning scene when she wakes up, has to face her decision to stay, and infuriated with the fact she now has to deal with emotions she didn’t have before, angrily throws a knife at the
    alarm clock, kills it, and ducks back under the covers. That did not look like the start of a regular day in her job to me.

    I suppose it all boils down to a point of view and
    interpretation. Thanks for your post.

  11. thinkling says:

    I am so so late, but just found the site. Loved the analysis of Sarah. Chuck is a WYSIWYG kind of guy. We almost always know where he’s coming from. But Sarah is more layered …more interesting.

    Like her dad, she reads people well. She knows instantly that Chuck is a grade-A, genuine good guy. And it looked to me like she really liked him on there fist date, even though she was still doing her job.

    He liked her, too, but was realistic. “…if our relationship were remotely real.”

    I think the song at the end of the pilot sets up Sarah’s character and the Chuck/Sarah dynamic, but I only realized it in retrospect. “There’s a numbness in your heart and it’s growing,” the verse that played as Sarah looked at Bryce pictures on her phone.

    Chuck just would not play in her comfort zone, refusing to take fake for an answer. If only he would’ve played her game, it would have been so much easier for her.

    From the beginning, Chuck snuck behind her defenses and touched something real inside her, maybe for the first time. Just by being himself, he massaged feeling back into the numb areas of her life. With the return of feeling comes pain, and with the pain comes anger. Anger that explodes full force in Crown Vic.

    The anger erupts again in Cougars (one of my favorites). Chuck is at it again, waking up feelings that she would prefer to remain dormant. But this time she discovers a wonderful thing. Even as he massages feeling back into the numb spots, he has the ability, through his love, to drain away the pain. And she lets him. Chuck really is the man. In a great role-reversal, Chuck is the handler, handling both Ratner and Sarah. He tells them both, “I’ve got your back.”

    He gives her a true gift, something she has never had … someone who sees *her* and knows *her* and loves *her*. “I’m still the same girl on the inside.” Indeed. And only Chuck sees that girl and connects with her.

    Later when Chuck invades her past, she is irritated but no longer angry. With an annoyed she lets him in, “Chuck this is my dad.” Again he covers her past with understanding and frees her from some of the issues.

    So, by the end of season 2, they are in a good place, until the last 5 minutes. Then there’s this mushroom cloud and angst fall-out from the atomic opener of season 3. Unfortunately we don’t see any remotely rational explanation until Final Exam, when we learn about Sarah’s red test. Only then can we come to terms with her irrational behavior. It is a behavior born of loss and dread and fear …loss of her own innocence and a piece of her soul; dread that Chuck will similarly lose himself; and fear that if he does, she will lose herself all over again. So she buries her emotions deep inside (like she tells Chuck he has to do). And she settles for the familiar …another spy relationship. It is all on Chuck to rescue her – to win her back, b/c she’s not going to take the initiative again. In American Hero, he rescues two people: Shaw (of course) and his Sarah, b/c as much as he is her Chuck, she is his Sarah, redeemed by his love and his genuineness.

    Sorry about the length … if anybody made it this far 😉

    • aardvark7734 says:

      That was just beautiful.

      Insightful, poetic and on target too. I’m glad you took the time (and length) to lay out Chuck and Sarah’s history the way you did.

      It made me feel good about them again, for a change. 🙂

    • joe says:

      Oh, we made it this far, Thinkling. As many times as people here have written, read and thought about Sarah (and Chuck) we’re not done with it yet.

      The song you referenced is “A Comet Appears” by the Shins. It’s on my iPod, of course. And I can’t hear it without reliving the story again each time. Thanks.

      And to you, Aardvark, I want you have a cheery thought. If you can read everybody’s comments with the idea that they’re here because they care about the story and about the characters still, you’ll discover that it’s true. It’s really an amazing thing.

      Heh! Everyone should be bored out of their minds, and we simply are not. Emotionally exhausted sometimes, but not bored. People are showing a lot of interest in the spoilers and rumors and stories coming out lately. I mean, really. Who gets excited over the title of next season’s 4th episode?

      The answer is, we do.

    • amyabn says:

      Welcome thinkling! Great post. I love the numbness analogy-wish I would have thought of that!

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