In this rewatch I made a concerned effort to be far more critical than my embarrassingly gushing review after first watch (seen here), but I failed. Coup D’Etat was so good, an illustration of strong writing (Kristin Newman, once again) and a testament to Season four’s genius. It’s not just the focus on the relationships, but the light shined within those relationships, the reveals and the parallels. And because it’s so good, we couldn’t capture every brilliant event, but I think what we talked about was in its own fashion: genius (speaking as an unbiased entity ;-)).
Now onto the he-said, she-said review portion.
Ernie: Faith, there’s just no denying the sweet jungle love in this episode. There has been this dynamic between Chuck and Sarah from the beginning, of coming from different worlds and each envying what the other had. Chuck feels stuck in Burbank and directionless. Sarah has a calling but little else. Chuck seeks movement and change and Sarah, she wants a reason for what she does. The genius I see this season is that the light shined on our characters gives us confirmation of the journey they’ve been on from the beginning, in turn giving us more fleshed out and real people who have both the heroic and the tragic within themselves. It even helps me see some of season 3 in a better light, but I understand that’s a bit much for some fans. This dynamic is very apt, because as we saw in Cubic Z Chuck’s instinct is always to move and reach for the next goal or take it to the next level. Sarah’s whole life has been about movement and change, and it doesn’t seem to have brought her happiness.
Let’s start with Sarah Walker, butt kicking spy. Brave, resourceful, intelligent and honorable It is Sarah that saves Chuck from being dropped in a padded cell or shot. Sarah sees something in Chuck that lets her know, or sense, that this is not a guy who betrays people. That heroism is there from the beginning, and she wants to do the right thing, to find meaning for her calling. But we soon come to see another side of Sarah. The side that wants what Chuck has and she can’t have. A life filled with family and friends, and love and trust. It’s in Wookie that we first get Carina filling us in on spy life, and how it takes a toll, and at the end see Sarah, butt kicking take no prisoners Sarah, nearly brought to tears because she can’t tell a guy who is in love with her anything about herself. We later see Sarah fantasizing about the life she could be living, asking Casey, her fellow spy if he’s ever done the same. Notice he doesn’t answer the question, he just says we made the right choice, but at what cost.
Sarah has come a long way since then. She’s finally admitted she isn’t and doesn’t want to be the person she used to be. She is starting to see that some change is good. But the dynamic is still there. Chuck starts thinking about the next step, and Sarah clings to the status quo because she’s never been happier. But from Suitcase through this episode a chain of events has been set in motion, and as the titular Cubic Z so aptly illustrated in its journey, that chain of events leads to the big question for Sarah. Are you ready to take the plunge?
Faith: That’s very interesting. Very. We have this perception of Sarah in our heads as this kick ass spy, one who “doesn’t talk much,” and “is not so good at relationships.” Throughout the three years we’ve only seen her show her love through actions and less through words but it’s dawning on me just how reactive she is. I guess I have to gush here again, I love Sarah Walker; I don’t think there’s a character in television nearly rich as she is: insert oxymoron adjectives here. And the fact that she is reactive and Chuck is active is what makes them perfect for each other.
“Why can’t we talk and change things, why can’t we just be. What if we do I do, and it changes us…everything we love about us, can be destroyed!”
See right there, that’s Sarah living in the moment. She’s a person that lives in the moment while Chuck is a guy that always look for tomorrow. Which in itself (forgive the digression) is what they mean to each other: remember the Chuck that couldn’t even come up with a five-year plan? Now he’s Chuck again, and a better one at that (confident, assertive, the Chuck that Morgan and Ellie have always dreamed he could be). She gave him back himself, and in turn he made her wish for more from herself.
It’s not that Sarah doesn’t want a normal life (side note: normal is interchangeable with tradition in this case: being a wife, mother), it’s that she’s scared of it. She’s scared of failing, of dreaming and of uncharted territory.
Ernie: Yes, and in season 2 we see Sarah start to embrace that “normal” life as much as her situation allows. We also see that this is a life Sarah has NEVER known as far as we can tell. This makes her desire for normal almost tragic. She doesn’t know that normal requires work and vulnerability. She’s starting to learn, but still doesn’t quite understand till Best Friend that Chuck’s ability to love and connect with his friends and family comes with both a duty, don’t hurt them, and a cost, to truly experience love you have to open yourself to them hurting you.
Faith: But even though they’re different in a lot of ways, Chuck is really Sarah’s match in more ways than one. Sarah will always brave a dangerous situation, but Chuck is braver than he’s given credit. He’s not afraid to act, to risk. “Change is unavoidable, life is full of changes, constantly changing. But the real question is no matter what the changes are, is the love still there?” I think most guys would be just happy that Sarah Walker is living with them, in love with him, and all that jazz. But Chuck, he’s a guy that is brave enough to ask for more, to bring up more.
His bravery is no less crystallized than in his conversation with Ellie. While Ellie is comfortable leaving the past in the past, Chuck braves the unknown, “I think we should know the whole truth about why she left us.” Ellie: “what if our mother is exactly who we think she is,” “then we’ll find that out too.” Chuck isn’t afraid to get his heart-broken, he isn’t afraid to fight for his family, his love and that is who Sarah Walker has fallen for and is ready to marry, “if you ask me for real, then my answer would be yes.”
Ernie: For Chuck he had it all figured out. Stanford, a software startup, wealthy and semi-retired by 27, married to Jill and starting a family at some point. When he got knocked off that track he didn’t see a future. In a way it was taken from him, and he had no idea how to get back to it. He never saw that he was perhaps meant for greater things. Sarah came along and gave him what he lacked. A higher calling, a sense of purpose. A way to matter. With that his self-confidence grew and his sense of himself returned, slightly enlarged if you’ll pardon the parallel with Sarah. He started to see possibilities for himself beyond his standard model future from Stanford or being a Buy More ass-man.
Faith: This may be a tangent but I think one that’s important and fun. Chuck was always a hero, we know that. Sarah told Chuck and thereby us that in so many ways. Even when he was the Buy More loser, he exhibited many of the leadership qualities necessary for heroism. But did he always know that?
It seems as if the people in his life did. “When he’s with Sarah, Chuck’s the guy we’ve always envisioned” – Morgan from Beefcake. But they also recognize just how important Sarah has become to his development and confidence. One of the most humorous and on point lines regarding this was from Chuck himself, “you should know he (Morgan) was always supportive of our relationship. He never questioned how a guy like me can get a girl like you.” (First Date). Even in this episode, Ellie had firsthand view of the dynamic duo: “you just seem so alive, back there.”
But for Chuck, I don’t think he did. And I think apart from the glamour of the future he envisioned, there was no purpose to it. Sarah gave him purpose. And that purpose has served to make him whole as it were: one that is brave, heroic, intelligent and loving.
Ernie: Faith, you nailed that one. As early as the pilot we saw the heroic take charge Chuck, and his innate leadership abilities and others faith in them and him are never on display more than in Santa Claus. Everyone in his life looks to him. He may not be the all-star starter when we start the series, but he’s the go-to guy on the bench. When its falling apart, bring in Bartowski to settle things down and get back in the game.
But now that we’re about 1,500 words in, maybe we should talk about the episode in question specifically. Again, I see genius in both the season, and individual episodes. I’ll start us off with this thought. You can see this episode as an encapsulation of the entire relationship. From season 1, don’t talk about it. Pretend it didn’t happen, run away, and move on. From season 2, OK, it’s there, but what do we do about it? From season 3 we get the what were you thinking vibe along with some of the Sarah understatement, and finally, we settle into season 4, find a way forward.
First the opening. This is classic season 1 Chuck and Sarah. The ring and the knee, the realization. The bad news is that this is kind of an uncomfortable situation. Pretend it didn’t happen. In a world of awkward Chuck and Sarah moments, this is a moment “so awkward” …
In the van we get a classic season 2 moment. They both acknowledge something is there, and it’s probably something that needs resolving, but the second they start to talk the hesitation takes over. Chuck opens, Sarah, attempting to calm his fears overstates and makes Chuck a bit nervous. He starts to overcompensate, Sarah starts to pull back. They really are crap communicators. Precious looks and whimsical makeups aren’t going to get the job done this time.
In Costa Gravas we get a tribute to Sarah in season 3 parts 1 and 2. For part 1 we get the be a spy and stay on mission, but in a much nicer way than kicking his butt with a Bo this time. As for season 3 part 2, she really needs to work on her adjectives. Her description of Chuck is only slightly more romantic than an APB on a suspect. Subject is a tall caucasian male with brown hair.
Faith: LOL, I thought we were doing a great job capturing the essence of the episode while encapsulating what we know from before and where we will be going in the future but ok, to your point: while most people argue that season 4 is just a rehash of what was done, I think you’ve pretty much illustrated why that is not so.
“You don’t know whether or not you proposed, or if you did, if you’re happy about it, or if she said yes or no to what may or may not been a proposal or if either of you ever want for you to ask her for real.”
In the past where we would have left off is exactly that. Morgan “the retail therapist” Grimes summed it best but what differs from now and whence we came is the attempt at something more. That purposeful action to develop a far deeper intimacy between two people who are not just crap communicators but walled in-emotionally-defensive individuals. She’s no longer beating his love with a stick (quite literally in S3) nor is she remaining reactive to the situation, but rather like Chuck she’s attempting (such a difficult step) to be far more intimate and far more open in a relationship where she is just as lost and as uncomfortable, but as earnest as he is. And therein is where Season 4 is genius.
I do have one criticism though and it’s almost like a dead horse from me at this point: steam. In particular steam from the passion between Chuck and Sarah. Chuck, your girlfriend is parading around in a bikini and all you can do is give her what is pretty much a peck? And in Costa Gravas, I find it appalling that Awesome and Ellie had more oomph in their relationship and “supply closet” scene (albeit hilarious on Chuck’s part: “Good Lord, get me out of here!”) than in Chuck and Sarah who are for the most part still on the honeymoon of their own courtship. Ugh. But I guess even genius has faults.
Ernie: Faith, exactly, on both points. Season 4 is resolving the issues that have been stewing for years, and in a way that is natural to the progression of the story, while both preserving the story of the earlier seasons, and repairing a bit of season 3 that seemed to deny the earlier seasons. And they need a bit more heat. They made a good start with Sarah rather playfully sexting and with Chuck tossing Sarah on the bed, but as my missing hours spec indicates, they aren’t quite selling the heat yet.
But back to the episode (yes, boring Ernie, I know). I find it great that Chuck, when busted on the book, just lays out his case. I know you said slow, but seriously, did you really not know where this conversation was headed? Sarah, to her great credit just lets Chuck know she needs his help, she doesn’t feel ready to talk about it. Luckily the seeds are planted. Chuck let her know it’s OK to drag her feet a bit, as long as she can be honest with him and herself. If she can’t say it out loud to him, say it in a whisper when he’s asleep. At least she can take the step of admitting she wants it. And Chuck, that clever boy, finds a way to move forward while not freaking out Sarah.
Faith: That’s a great point. She originally made fun of talking to him when he’s asleep but when it comes down to it, she needed to. At this point this is as far as she can go (which she’ll build on in later episodes).
Ernie: Overall this was another in a streak of fun episodes. Great moments include much of the cast beyond just Chuck and Sarah. The Awesome statue, Armande Assante serving up enough ham to feed a village, Ellie running a little caliente and then seeing Chuck-fu first hand (and kudos to Zach who seems to be getting a lot better at his fight scenes). I loved seeing Beckman go nuclear and seeing Casey facing down the Costa Gravan secret police, in a wheelchair no less. Just wonderful performances all around and enough fun and action to balance out all the relationshippery. And on that note I think they did the right thing. From this episode on Chuck and Sarah are a team and a couple. This was the episode where they crossed that threshold and are all in. Both of them. They may still have to fight and struggle and they may fear loss and separation, but just as the intersect and the Bartowski family mythology are a part of the story that may play a more prominent or lesser role in an episode, Chuck and Sarah has entered the realm of permanence in the show. To quote Dianne, “Off the record, it’s about damn time.”