Thinkling and Ernie Crawl Inside Cubic Z

Don’t Freak Out Sarah

This season is a bit funny for us bloggers here at ChuckThis.  We all agree on everything, or so it seems sometimes.  For this next episode Thinkling and I team up to do some digging into Chuck Versus The Cubic Z, set up wonderfully by her and Dave’s excellent recap of Chuck Versus The Suitcase.

Chuck Versus The Cubic Z is what insiders and enthusiasts call a bottle episode.  It is a lower budget episode that takes advantage of limited and existing sets and concentrates on character development.  What surprised me on the first watch was the character being developed.  In retrospect it shouldn’t have.  This is a Sarah-centric episode in a Sarah-centric arc.  The return of Heather Chandler obviously points to Chuck Versus The Cougars, where we get a bit of Sarah back story.  I liken it more to Chuck Versus The Delorean, which explores not just Sarah’s back story, but who she is, who she thinks she is, and who she wants to be.  You could also add in (though few will want to) Chuck Versus The Fake Name and Chuck Versus The Final Exam as episodes that explores similar themes.  Who is Sarah Walker, and what does she want?  Does Sarah even know?.  Your intrepid ChuckThis bloggers Ernie and Thinkling will take on the big question, after the jump.


I always learn things from Ernie. Who knew there was such a thing as a bottle episode? Although considering all the duct-crawling and Chuck’s complaint, canned might be more apropos. Before we actually crawl into the episode, I’d like to think back and provide some context for Sarah’s night in the guts of the building.

The Girl On The Inside. … Sarah’s words to Dick Duffy in Chuck Versus The Cougars: I’m still the same girl on the inside.

As we unpacked Chuck Versus The Suitcase, we saw what a small life Sarah had lived, first as the daughter of a con-man, then as a spy. Finally with Chuck she is unpacking everything. Among the things that kept getting stuffed into a corner of her suitcase, was her identity.

We are relational beings. Relationship is the laboratory of self-discovery and the canvass of self-expression. Who we are is experienced, expressed, and tested in relationships. Hustled from one town to another and one name to another, Sarah had little opportunity to figure out who she was. She was a prop for her dad’s cons. She was the new kid in school. She was invisible. She lacked the roots and human connection necessary to develop or give expression to The Girl On The Inside.

Langston Graham sums it up: The question is who are you? In San Diego you go by Jenny Burton. In Wisconsin it’s Katie O’Connell. In Cleveland it’s Rebecca Franco … (Chuck Versus The Cougars)

But Graham didn’t give her the opportunity to answer the question. Like her father, he gave her a new name and turned her into someone useful to him — a spy and his wild card enforcer. And the Girl On The Inside never had a chance at being a real person.

Who – Are – You? The question was shoved to the bottom of her spy suitcase with no thought of being answered. Until Chuck. For the first time someone saw her, the invisible girl, and cared enough to notice even the little things: no olives on her pizza, extra pickles on her cheeseburger, and her favorite flower. (Bryce ordered half the florist shop, but not one gardenia.) Chuck connected with the Girl On The Inside and drew her into a real life of love, affection, and belonging.

We come to Chuck Versus The Cubic Z with Sarah having found her home in Chuck, the person with whom she can be herself. Everything is perfect … until Chuck starts thinking about having kids … out loud … in her ear. Just as she is trying to treat the kids-issue with Chuck, her past, in the person of Heather Chandler, comes roaring back to taunt her and forces her to consider the question. Who are you?


This episode opens in an interesting place.  Chuck and Morgan share a few moments of quiet contentment.  Sarah has unpacked and for the moment Chuck’s fears are eased.  But he’s done what he always does.  A simple out loud contemplation of the next step has freaked Sarah out.  As we’ll see laid out explicitly in Coup d’Etat Chuck’s instincts are always to move forward and change, to start thinking about or moving toward the next level.  For Sarah her life has been movement and change and it’s always meant disappointment and loss.  It’s been a long-standing dynamic that Chuck charges ahead looking forward to bigger and better things and Sarah tries desperately to cling to the status quo because it’s the happiest she’s ever been and is afraid of losing it.  But the opening was a thing of beauty.  Chuck is content and living in the moment, Sarah is freaking out about the relationship.  But this time Sarah realizes that silent clinging to the status quo won’t work.  In Chuck Versus The Suitcase Sarah seemed to finally realize, while he may do most of the heavy lifting in the relationship, Chuck has his own issues.  She needed to unpack to make Chuck feel at home, and safe.  Hiding the freakout will not work, and that Sarah realizes why, and that she knows she needs to take action is a tremendous step forward for her.  Back to the problem at hand, Sarah and Casey lay it out.  They know Chuck, the old Chuck, who would prod and probe until Sarah, the old Sarah, would freak out, leaving Chuck to mope and worry and withdraw.  Before it even happens this time Sarah sees her silence will cost her, so in a moment of real growth, even though the romantic mission is canceled, Sarah decides to actually open up and share her fears and concerns.

I liked that Chuck picked up on the need to chat, but still didn’t freak out.  I also liked the subtle hint of intimacy from Chuck.  “There’s nothing I love more than a night, together, with you.”  Just as Sarah seems to be moving forward we see we’re about to revisit some of her past when Heather Chandler turns out to be one of their overnight guests due to a prisoner transfer gone awry.  At least it can’t get any worse.  Right?

We open after the credits with Morgan also facing a figure from his past.  Big Mike is back and wants to be Morgan’s daddy.  Morgan thinks on it, holding the titular Cubic Z and Big Mike at least gets a job out of it.

Sarah and Heather, together again.  Or rather Jenny and Heather.  But Jenny-Sarah doesn’t seem to be as interested in revisiting old times as Heather is.  It is a bit funny to see Sarah obviously flustered in the presence of someone who knows her, or knows who she was, but at the same time exuding a confident attitude.  It’s Sarah Walker, and don’t forget it.  Because the big thing that struck me in this Sarah-centric arc is how Sarah is finally coming into her own.  Sarah is at last enlarging her world to reference Thinkling’s excellent metaphor.  Despite the excitement and travel of being an ass kicking world-class spy, her life had very limited possibilities.

There would be adrenaline and lust filled romances that hinted at greater things, like Bryce, but she’d never let her guard down with another spy, or stick around long enough for anything to progress too far.  Eventually she’d end up dead, or a burnout.  It was only when she met Chuck and had to slow down for a few years that she started to think about who she was, who she wanted to be, and what she wanted out of life.  First it was a fantasy, then a role she played with Chuck, then as it seemed about to be real it was snatched away.  But now it’s back, and Sarah Walker’s world is expanding in ways she never dared imagine.

It’s the past however that Sarah must deal with first.  Sarah doesn’t do normal well.  She doesn’t even seem to know how in a lot of ways.  That’s why we see her freak out over the possibility of kids.  She doesn’t know if she can be who she thinks Chuck wants her to be.  That’s why we get the occasional freak outs, still.  You can almost hear it when Sarah asks in Suitcase if Chuck thinks its weird she hasn’t unpacked.  What she really wants is some re-assurance.  Tell me I’m normal, or if not, tell me I’m worth loving.  It’s those very insecurities brought back to the forefront that have Sarah so flustered trying to deal with Heather.  Taking a bit of the role reversal forward it was absolutely hilarious to see Sarah the one to get emotional and give away the game for a change.

The rest of this episode is mostly just fun.  Heather poking at the caged lioness, two great fights, including  cage match!  Are you freaking kidding me?  Zach Levi doesn’t quite reach Yvonne’s heights at looking convincing in a fight, but in his cage match I thought he pulled it of wonderfully.  Even though he lost.  And lets not forget automatic weapons fire aplenty.  Seriously, what’s not to love?  Well the Buy More was kind of meh for me.  The riot was funny, but it seemed a bit forced.  But I can live with it.

My only other complaint is a quibble about Nicole Ritchie.  She’s not a professional actress, and occasionally it shows.  I can usually ignore it because she sort of embodies the part and brings a wonderful stuck-up girl vibe to it.  But on occasion, like delivering her final speech to Sarah, the strings are showing.  Some of it is the content of the speech doesn’t seem to fit her character, and some is delivery.  That’s OK, the final speech and Sarah’s talk with Chuck are the best exposition to date on where Sarah’s head is at.  She’s not that person, nor does she want to be.  She’s Sarah Walker, and Sarah Walker is not all spy.  Sarah walker can have things like love, a life away from the deceit and treachery, a family… But Sarah Walker is in a new place, and she needs to go slow.


Great summary Ernie. I really like Cubic Z (maybe more than a lot of people) on two levels: first, the identity issue, which intrigues me; and second, it left me plenty entertained and provided some memorable “Chuck” moments. I will never think of the supply closet the same way again. And who can forget tough-cop/silent-cop? “Remember tough/silent; do not let her get under your skin.” Mostly, it was just plain fun to watch Sarah (kudos again! to Yvonne) in her various moods: Brook no Discussion: “Sarah Walker. And don’t forget it.” Understatement: “I really do not like that women.” The Testy Lioness: “Sorry, foot slipped.” Smug and Satisfied, “That felt good.” And finally, I was amused and heartwarmed by Sarah trying to have her chat with Chuck, by her first painfully awkward attempt, then by the simple, honest delivery in the final act. What Happened? How did the topic that freaked her out all day and all night suddenly become so easy to talk about? … Sarah finally and definitively answered Langston Graham’s question Who are you?

Identity, Perception, Lies, and the Truth. Sarah’s perception of herself hasn’t caught up with the person she is becoming with Chuck. Old perceptions die-hard, and Chuck’s musings conflicted with Sarah’s long-standing perception of herself, “I’m a spy. I can’t even process the idea of having kids right now.”

Enter Heather, and Sarah finds herself trapped with her past and bombarded by the taunts and lies of the loveless person she might have become. “We’re the same … she’s all spy … white weddings, rug-rats and a mini-van — it’s not in her wiring.” It’s a lie, of course. But there was a time when it was true … and it fits her old perception of herself.

Chuck is the one who knows the truth, “You’re nothing like her.” He has always known her, “I don’t need to know more, not about who you were, because as much as you don’t think so, I know who you are.” That’s why Heather’s taunts don’t phase him. It’s only Sarah’s reaction that perplexes him. Why does this bother her?

Sarah knows who she is with Chuck, but the issue about kids has created self-doubt. Heather finds that sore spot and needles it mercilessly. The visual effects of the episode mirror Sarah’s inner struggle. The small gray spaces mirror her self-doubt. While crawling a maze of ducts, she navigates her own labyrinth of identity, perception, lies, and the truth. Then finally the fight itself … as Agent Walker fights to restrain her prisoner, Sarah battles to break free from her captor, a perception of herself that holds her hostage. And what about Chuck? He is her home and her life, her north star. He is with her every inch of the way, never wavering. Part of the physical fight and part of her inner battle is holding on to Chuck, not losing him to the maze. Sarah wins her battles, and it feels good! She emerges from the guts of the building to the expansive night sky, certain of who she is and what she wants.

The change is evident. In the contrast of the rooftop Sarah, “You’re not letting Heather get to you are you?” and the flustered interrogation Sarah, “Do not let her get under your skin.” In her speech to Heather and her trusting Heather. And of course in the comfortable trust and vulnerability during her chat with Chuck.

Sarah’s confessions of her life before Chuck bother us a little.

For a long time I was exactly like her.
I’m different without Chuck, and I don’t like it.
Without you I’m nobody. I’m nothing but a spy.

Could the Sarah we know have been Graham’s wild-card enforcer? Someone like Heather? Yes … and no. For a long time Sarah was who she was told to be rather than who she really was or wanted to be, and it nearly destroyed her.

It’s not so much that Sarah became a different person with Chuck, but rather the person she was meant to be, or could have been, all along. His love and acceptance freed her to be herself. In relationship with Chuck she hammered out her own identity, and the Girl On The Inside, finally found expression in the Sarah Walker we know.


About thinkling

In my [younger] youth, I was a math teacher, basketball coach, and computer programmer. In 1984, we moved to Brazil, where we serve as missionaries. I like to design things and build things, read things and write things. We now live part-time in Brazil, part-time in the US. Love them both. Wife, 37 yrs; mom, 30 yrs. I am blessed.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Observations, Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Thinkling and Ernie Crawl Inside Cubic Z

  1. alladinsgenie4u says:

    @Ernie and Thinkling – thank you for your wonderful insight into Cubic Z. I enjoyed the episode too but as Ernie says the Buy More was just meh.

    It’s not so much that Sarah became a different person with Chuck, but rather the person she was, or could have been, all along. His love and acceptance freed her to be herself. In relationship with Chuck she hammered out her own identity, and the Girl On The Inside, finally found expression as the Sarah Walker we know.

    Wonderful description, Thinkling. It ties in with her statement at the end of Cubic Z – that she is “nothing but a spy without Chuck” – on the outside it looks like Sarah had a wonderful adrenaline fueled life but when she speaks these words we come to know that although what she has been doing her whole life (cons, spying) has sort of defined her, it’s not the thing she wants for herself. It’s like her spy life was a cover that kept her real self suppressed. Being with Chuck has changed that. Now, both Spy-Walker and Inner Girl-Walker are seamlessly integrated into a one happy and contended individual.

    • thinkling says:

      I didn’t want to dichotomize Sarah too much, but you almost can’t help it. Great word you used … integrated. Because that’s exactly what Sarah is now … finally.

  2. jason says:

    I will probably post more, sort of breezed thru the writings and saw the ep last week when I watched suitcase, but one thing on ernie’s comment about nicle ritchie not being a pro actress, this is strictly opinion, on some level, that is what makes chuck fun, and why dark chuck does not work … it is fun to see nicole on the set, sort of stumble and fumble thru, same as chuck does for pretend (zach does this great), same as sarah does in relationships, same as jeffster (does for real), same as chevy chase playing a heavy, Chuck does drama yea, but chuck is a comedy, a parody, and NR was funny

    but I agree, in this case, they almost made NR act too much, any more and it would have really showed, they pushed the limit

  3. joe says:

    Wow – you guys are good!

    There’s so much here, I refrain from writing a tomb here just exclaiming and trying to re-enforce your points.

    But one thing I want to point out is how your words also sent me back to Colonel and evening part of the famous motel scene.

    Chuck: Thank you.
    Sarah: You don’t have to thank me. It’s my job to protect you.
    Chuck: And what about when it’s not your job? What happens to us then?
    Sarah: [softly] One mission at a time, Chuck

    Now it’s Sarah trying to think about the day after tomorrow, and Chuck content in the moment. I love it that when Heather finally realizes that Jenny/Sarah has changed – Maybe you’re right. Maybe we’re not alike at all. Maybe you are capable of love, affection and vulnerability. I hope so. Chuck seems like a really nice guy. And he’s really in love. Are you? – Sarah doesn’t answer her question directly. She just says good-bye. The question has already been answered. She has.

    There’s so much here about self-perception. Jenny wasn’t at all like Heather. She was a teeth-brace wearing, slump-shouldered, raggedy-Anne haired girl who made a great punching bag. Perhaps some part of Heather was an inspiration for Graham’s wild-card enforcer, someone who became all-spy later on.

    Yet Heather, the “spy” who tried to walk away and escape when she had the chance (when Hugo was dragging Chuck down the shaft forcing Sarah to let Heather go), the “spy” who said “You would have done the same” also saved Sarah with her last bullet. Apparently, people can change.

    I think that may have been Sarah’s lesson for the day.

    • thinkling says:

      Yes. People do change. Because of Chuck, Sarah changed. Because of Sarah, Heather changed.

      I really liked watching Heather watching the exchange between Sarah and Chuck on the roof. I think that’s when it started to sink in how different Chuck & Sarah were from her and Ratner.

  4. atcdave says:

    Thanks for a great write-up and some good insights. I love the first interrogation scene of Heather, “tough cop, silent cop”; too funny. Even better is Sarah lecturing Chuck about not letting her get under his skin while Sarah is clearly the one freaking out.
    I remember thinking when I first watched this episode that Heather wasn’t really describing Sarah at all, but was playing on Sarah’s worst fears about herself; I had some fear this would be drawn out over several episodes. I was quite pleased in the end to see Sarah had actually processed things quite well. I appreciate you pointing out how Sarah has grown faster than she herself realizes, it’s been fun in some ways to see at every crises point Sarah has risen quickly to the challenge; she’s better at this relationship stuff than she gives herself credit for.

    • joe says:

      I love the stance Chuck takes, too. “Tell me. Why are we saving your life again?”

      He’s perplexed about how Heather gets under Sarah’s skin, but he sure isn’t oblivious to it. He stands up for her very nicely.

      • atcdave says:

        Yeah Joe, the awareness of both characters was nice to see.

      • JC says:

        I don’t remember the line exactly but doesn’t Chuck say something along the lines of “Wow you’re a charmer” and then Heather smirks at him. I’ll probably be killed for this but they had tons of chemistry in that scene.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        JC, I’ll just say this and hope it doesn’t totally devolve. Zach has chemistry with all his co-stars. Yvonne, nearly all her co-stars. Given the love polygons, I guess you can understand it. Sarah and Beckman, wow, serious lack of chemistry, and it works perfectly for the story.

      • JC says:

        Yeah, no need to discuss the one exception again. I do think there was something off with Jill though, it wasn’t bad but it didn’t have that spark either.

        One pairing I wish they gone to more was Chuck and Bryce. Something clicked when those two were on screen, it’s not shocking since Bomer has chemistry with everyone too.

      • atcdave says:

        Bomer is a very good actor, I think he carries White Collar. I think “good actor” is always a starting point for good chemistry.

      • JC says:

        No doubt about that Dave, not many actors could play the role of Bryce and still come off likable.

        That’s why I wish they paired them up on a couple of missions. Bryce reverted to his nerdy frat boy persona around him. And you could see Chuck wanted to hate him but couldn’t.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think losing Bryce was a big blow to the show. Having him around as Chuck’s mentor and Sarah’s renewed love interest in season 3 would have been interesting.

      • atcdave says:

        I don’t know if I would quite say “interesting” Ernie! I have no doubt I would have hated the misery arc either way, BUT, I think it would have been much less damaging to Sarah’s character, and all around more plausible for her to have fallen in with an old flame instead of the dreck we got.

      • JC says:

        I’ve said that myself, people might not have liked it but it would’ve worked. He was already established as a great spy and had history with everyone on the show.

        I’ve always wondered if that was the original story until Bomer got White Collar.

      • atcdave says:

        I think that was the intent JC. I heard somewhere Bryce was meant to be a recurring character for the duration of the series. I think that’s one of the gambles in serialized story telling, that you’ll be able to retain all your cast.
        I wonder if that means Bryce was meant to be a villain eventually or if that’s a change they made for Shaw.

      • JC says:

        Even though I love Bryce in some ways it would have been fitting had he been the villain. If the arc had played out the same way, think about it betraying Chuck again, trying to kill Sarah and murdering Orion. That would have been epic.

        And honestly as fans who wouldn’t have loved an Intersect battle between those two.

  5. Faith says:

    “until Chuck starts thinking about having kids … out loud … in her ear.”

    LMAO. Bartowski’s the king of cool!

    Actually Bartowski needs the girl’s guide to a relationship aka not to freak out men in your life and what do you know…he’ll get one soon enough! Ha.

    As one who didn’t particularly express giddiness with this epi, I love having your thoughts, and I’ll be thinking of them as I watch it again tonight. Hopefully I’ll see something different and start to like it more.

    • thinkling says:

      Hope you like it better this time around, Faith. Happy rewatch!

      • Faith says:

        Thanks! I will, I think.

        Oh and I should probably add for everyone else, while in theory my differing view in contrast to Thinkling and Ernie’s would have been interesting (seeing as I was the only one that largely didn’t care for this epi out of all the bloggers), I had a scheduling conflict, not to mention my input wouldn’t be nearly as concise and profound as these two combined. I think they make a dynamic team! 🙂

      • thinkling says:

        Thanks, Faith. I’m looking forward to your thoughts tomorrow. 🙂

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Faith, I think one interesting thing to come out of these tag team write ups is how often bloggers with different POV’s can agree on a lot. I often see Thinkling and Dave sharing a common view and often you and I share a slightly less shipperish view of some aspects of the show than Dave and Thinkling. But on this one you and I differ and I find myself in Thinkling and Dave’s camp. Then on our soon to come Coup d’Etat post we’re on the same page again. But then I love them all this season. It is after all, genius. 😉

        Now Fear of Death on the other hand could be an interesting write-up.

  6. DignityRLI says:

    Nothing I like more than a study of Sarah. Nice Job. I would only comment that Heather isn’t the backstory that drives her, maybe Heather represented that angst, that dread of characters in her life and choices that she had made that she just couldn’t find a way to rectify. Jenny was probably a bit jealous of Heather in HS, and yet so DIDN’T want to become her. What we know about Jenny/Sarah is that her con-man of a father taught her loyalty, trust in family along with self-reliance, and somehow, the value of good. These were the beacons that brought her through the trials of her life. She is a good spy, but a better person than even she realizes. We know Sarah has these stops, these limits to who she is even before she is ‘self-aware’ (hand on pistol when Longshore has Chuck, ‘Take off your watch,’ and finally, to Heather, ‘you don’t know the thoughts in my head’). Now she’s a lioness, secure and confident in her home, growing everyday. Watch out world. Watch out Chucksters!

    • herder says:

      Heather Chandler calling her Jenny/Sarah was a bit of a fun way of saying that names for spies are simply a further bit of disguise or cover. I got the impression that Heather was saying “call yourself what ever you want it’s irrelevant, I know who you are deep down, a spy”.

    • DignityRLI says:

      Perhaps I didn’t say much new… so I’ll emphasize that watching the new Sarah (she’s not Sam, she’s not Jenny/Sarah, she’s Chuck’s Sarah) become self-aware is great televison. Confrontations with her fears, and with her high school nemesis are giving us a wonderful opportunity to watch her grow. Illustrations like “wildcard enforcer” and “different with out Chuck” are the negative print of the positive photograph we know Sarah to be since she watched a young Ballerina dance…

  7. herder says:

    Although Ernie did write a bit about the conversation at the end, I think it deserves a bit more of a look. This is one of the most adult/mature conversations that the two characters have had. Sarah expressing her worries in a way that leaves little doubt as to where she is now and that is a very good place. Chuck accepting that and at the same time sticking to his view that he would like more…someday, maybe.

    The “are you ready” give and take was fun, sharing tooth brushes but not bathroom sounds, Sarah wearing her teeth bleaching system in front of him. The ring falling from above was a bit much, but by the end of the next episode the question about a proposal isn’t if it’s when and that allows the writers to deal with it in a more fun and relaxed way going forward rather than in an angsty manner (what does she really think). I actually thought it was pretty well done.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Herder, I understand what you mean about that conversation at the end. I think it comes directly out of the scene at the end of Suitcase. In Suitcase Sarah still isn’t one to talk much and she shows a lot of initial resistance to talking about her fears. But she is ready to unpack (before the second trip to Milan) just to get Chuck to drop it. What she doesn’t realize till the end is that the suitcase was important to Chuck, because her being constantly packed poked directly at his insecurities regarding her. When Chuck spilled about the Achilles Heel at the end, you see the realization dawn on her that the suitcase was a real issue and she didn’t even realize what she was doing to him. The scene in Cubic Z that I thought represented real growth for Sarah was the realization at the beginning that she needed to do something to keep Chuck from freaking out about her freakout.

      In the end the Heather Chandler time before the dreaded chat did add a lot of context to the chat. It basically told us the source of all Sarah’s fears concerning children, and I think it even informs us as to why Sarah wanted to run in the beginning of season 3. It wasn’t totally about Chuck being a spy that made her want to run. It was about her ability to be a spy and be with Chuck. With that information, a definitive laying out of Sarah’s self image, a lot of season 3 makes a bit more sense. She feels she can’t be with Chuck not because he’s a spy, but because she is, and sooner or later she’d pull the ripcord. Or he’d wise up once he was a spy and do it himself. Add to that her guilt of having led him down the path to becoming a spy while she thought she was doing right by him and you have one seriously messed up Sarah Walker. Not necessarily a fun and admirable butt kicking spy, but a real character. I had assumed a lot of this based on other things I saw, but when they lay it out it feels good to know I wasn’t just making this up.

      • thinkling says:

        I’ll add a bit to the mix here. I agree with what you’ve said, Ernie.

        The Aquiles heel realization was powerful. Chuck is pretty easy going and doesn’t talk about his junk. He’s said as much several times. So he’s really no better than Sarah on that score. Therefore, it’s easy for Sarah to assume, as she probably did, that he doesn’t have baggage. Aha! Now she’s sensitive to it and responds as soon as she realizes; and their relationship has had good growth b/c of it. If only Chuck would learn to go directly to Sarah, instead of to Morgan. Episodes 2-9 have been a wonderful growth arc, for Sarah primarily and for the relationship. Leftovers cements it.

        But my main reply, which I thought about including the body of the post but didn’t, is this. I think Sarah’s identity issues, or rather her lack of a well developed identity, were at the heart of her wanting to run in PS. It’s right there in the dialog, but it’s easier to see looking back. Chuck if you do this, if you go, you’re going to be a spy for the rest of your life. Every city is going to be a new mission and a new identity, and you won’t be the same person. How in the world could Sarah Walker, who is just beginning to define herself as a real person with Chuck, have a relationship with him, if he became a spy (read: non-person) like her? And that’s the only scenario she could fathom, b/c that was her life in a nutshell. Then add in the whole very poorly executed red-test issue, the thing that nearly destroyed her, and Sarah is desperate. She feels her world about to implode. What she didn’t factor into her freakout was that Chuck’s identity was already well established and would probably survive.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Tninkling, you just turned the lightbulb on over my head with that one. Again, Chuck becoming a spy and Sarah withdrawing has less to do with what Chuck will become than what Sarah did become. With a less developed sense of self and no support system Sarah didn’t survive spy training with any sense of self. She was Heather Chandler.

        In the dark days of season 3 when Chuck started to lose himself he had people to turn to. Ellie in Fake Name, Morgan in Beard, Casey at the end of Tic Tac and in Final Exam. Chuck tried to turn to Sarah more than once, but could she have helped? She was his main support in season 2 when the goal was to keep him safe and spare him the ugliness, Sarah does that well, but could she tell him how to get over a red test she thought he passed when she never got over hers? Given how she felt about herself in general and how she felt about putting Chuck in that position it’s no wonder she couldn’t answer the phone. So what a lot of us wanted to see in season 3, Sarah sticking by and helping Chuck, was it even possible given the now revealed narative about the characters? After all we now know that Sarah really did need saving, and it’s still an ongoing process.

      • atcdave says:

        Of course she could have helped Ernie. They could have helped each other deal with Chuck’s challenges and her demons. The result would not have required a season of corrective action, or caused such massive damage to the show’s fan base. Having a main character so broken and destitute was never required and is fundamental to why S3 failed as entertainment. Chuck saving Sarah could have easily worked from a positive perspective.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, obviously they could have written it differently, I was thinking of it from a creative POV based on the character they seem to have had in mind. We have to remember this character is their creation and sometimes allow that the writers have a more in depth knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses. They may have thought that the direction they took was the right one. I’m trying (again) to get this from the storytellers POV. I guess I just didn’t phrase it well.

      • thinkling says:

        I think the topic was worth exploring. But they prolonged it too long, went too far, and explained it too poorly … or basically not at all.

        I think there were other ways they could have explored the drama without doing all the damage they did.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree. I like the way they’re handling this season so much better.

      • joe says:

        For what it’s worth, I think you’re on to something, Ernie. From Fake Name on, this is what they were shouting at us. At the time, Sarah just seemed lost. It was harder to recognize that she had been all along.

      • JC says:

        Isn’t this just trying to justify what they did after the fact. Since they were going in that direction shouldn’t we as viewers gotten this type of information during that arc? And even if we did it still hinged on the Red Test. I saw nothing that made me believe Chuck would murder someone. Also by having both her and Casey hold back that information makes them look like terrible people.

      • atcdave says:

        That’s more along what I was thinking JC. They reduced Sarah to a plot device to play up Chuck’s isolation; it was never really about Sarah, it simply let’s them write off her erratic actions later when we’re supposed to care about her again. Part of the reason it fails s because a sizable portion of the fan base (I think far more than they ever expected) had been relating to her character. All of a sudden she was behaving in ways that didn’t make sense, and were far less than the heroic people had come to expect. It MIGHT have helped if we’d been given more clues along the way of what Sarah’s own struggles were; but I really think the tone of the show turning darker and less fun doomed the main arc regardless of little fixes they might have tried.

      • JC says:

        Yep, I’ve been saying she was nothing but a plot device since the end of S3. Everything her character did was to push Chuck in a certain direction and make him an action hero. She was the only character you could dump back into S2 and see no difference.

        While I do love the attempt at fleshing out her character what they’re doing seems like a mini retcon to me. Dirtying up her character’s past and the idea she was nothing but a spy before Chuck feels like they’re trying to lessen the importance of the name reveal.

      • atcdave says:

        Well, I think they’ve actually portrayed her as a more complete character since S3. I’d say from a pure Sarah perspective things got a lot better with the start of S4 (S3.5 was a little better, but I think they really re-examined how they were writing her for S4).

      • JC says:


        I didn’t mean this season, I was referring to the end of Other Guy. There was absolutely zero growth.

      • atcdave says:

        To me the most telling thing about Sarah’s so-called growth in S3 is that she was pushing Chuck to run away with her in Pink Slip, and in Honeymooners they ran away together. To me the entire season in between can just be skipped. Obviously the fun factor matters a great deal to me, and a couple of S3 episodes manage to be fun; but to me the rest of it registers as a big fat zero.

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