Chuck and Sarah Versus Clean Slates

So here’s the thing about this episode, it’s not really about  a proposal.  The proposal isn’t really even about, well, proposing.  This season we’ve seen a lot about how Sarah’s past and Chuck’s insecurities keep haunting them.  Chuck’s story is about his family’s legacy, and Sarah’s is about redemption.  I know I keep saying that, but it was never more evident to me than tonight.  Where Chuck and Sarah seem like two very different people on very different journeys they are remarkably similar when it comes down to it.  Both were robbed of something precious and irreplaceable, their childhoods and their families.  Both are looking for a sense of who they are and where they fit into the world because of that.  Sarah, as we continually learn more, comes from a troubled and damaging past.  It now appears that her parents never even married and she may have never really known her mother or her family other than through her father’s stories.  Sarah has always had trouble opening up, and it now seems a childhood deprived of normal human relations is the cause.  Chuck had love and family for a time, but no sense of security came from that as everyone he loved except for Ellie and Morgan either left or betrayed him.  Both are looking for a sense of who they are and where they fit into the world because of that.  They have found some of the answers in each other.  Sarah’s story is about redemption and Sarah’s redemption is a sometimes difficult thing.  She apparently (or so I think) felt she could gain some measure of redemption through life as a spy, serving a greater cause than herself or her father’s latest con.  At some point it seems she lost herself in the spy world and became, or so she feels, no better than Heather Chandler.  Chuck gave Sarah another path to redemption, so she thought.  Chuck offered Sarah something she never thought she could have or deserved.  A do-over.  A clean slate.  Sarah has learned that isn’t quite the same thing as redemption.  After the jump.

Both Chuck and Sarah are looking for a way to overcome their past or their family legacy.  They have found a path with each other.  But what they give each other is more than just a sense of home and family, security and safety; they give each other courage and the will to be the Chuck or Sarah the other sees.  Sarah sees a man destined for great things.  Chuck sees a hero.

The funny thing is that Sarah doesn’t often do heroic things and Chuck’s greatness seems to be pretty tied to his family legacy.  Hear me out before you object.  Chuck was going to end up in the spy world one way or another.  If we know nothing else about his journey, we know that.  His family, Mary and Stephen, through their choices saw to that.  By luck or providence Chuck was given the ideal guide to bring him into that world in addition to his perfect partner in every sense.  But Sarah wasn’t a hero in the traditional sense.  She is brave and skilled and does heroic things, but that is the world Sarah lives in.  She didn’t give up or risk everything to cross into that world like Chuck did.  Sarah had nothing and nothing to lose for quite some time before she met Chuck.  Though she may have had a vague sense of the hole in her life, though she may have tried to fill it with adrenaline and passionate affairs with Bryce or wild times with Carina, it was only when she met Chuck and saw what he had that we see Sarah actually learning about sacrifice.  She sees Chuck take on the role of hero at tremendous personal risk and cost, and she admires it.  Actually she admires and loves him.  He isn’t saving ballerinas or becoming the intersect because it gets him anything.  He’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do.  So we see Sarah doing something perhaps new to her.  She does the right thing, protects Chuck, for the right reason, it’s the right thing to do.  And it costs her something.  Those walls and that hole in her life is now a part of her every day existence.  She both sees and feels the pain, maybe for the first time in a long time, and a new Sarah Walker is born.  But she still isn’t a hero.

Throughout season 1 and 2 Sarah does a lot of heroic things.  She is brave and resourceful and self sacrificing, but on occasion the caged lioness slips loose and we see what else motivates Sarah.  She’s found Chuck, and she can’t bear the thought of losing him.  She will face down Longshore to keep her guy, or go rogue rather than deliver him to the bunker.  Or in the end, she’ll run away with him rather than deliver him into her world.  But in each case she acts to keep what she has, her newfound home.  Often, like in Pink Slip, she really doesn’t let what Chuck wants or needs factor into it.  Prague and season 3 showed us a lot about Sarah.  A lot of it wasn’t as pretty as she is.  Sarah wasn’t ready for Chuck was the story we were told starting in The Ring.  For one thing she’s ready to leave the morning after Ellie’s wedding.  For another she’s absolutely unable to open up to Chuck in any way, even when the professional barriers are removed and when Chuck tries to meet her in the middle.  He doesn’t know yet what he wants to do with his life, he just wants her in it.  She can’t even say she feels the same, even if it is complicated.  So we get Prague.  Some people think Prague was a giant mistake for Chuck and a grand romantic gesture for Sarah; that it represents her finally giving herself to Chuck.  At best it was running away to Barstow or trying to stop Longshore from taking her guy away.  At worst it was no different from her worst attempts at manipulating Chuck when he was her asset.  Once again Sarah Walker dangled herself, or at least a part of herself, as the prize for Chuck doing what she wanted.  This time however what she was asking wasn’t the right thing to do, so Chuck, as he always does, did the right thing rather than what he, or she, wanted.  Without dwelling on plot contrivances or disturbing aspects of the story, Chuck was doing much the same, acting like a child and grabbing for something he hadn’t earned.  Sarah took on the hard work of the spy life, Chuck never really did.  Intersect 2.0 gave him a head start, but the hard work was burning Manoosh, losing his friends and family.  Giving up Sarah.  Watching his father die.

A part of Chuck, as we see again, still doesn’t think he’s earned it.  He still isn’t James Bond enough in his mind.  But he loves Sarah and he wants to give her something.  He’s been offering it since Cougars.  He doesn’t need to know who she was, he knows who she is.  She may not be a normal girl, but she’s his Sarah, so he doesn’t ask for more.  He wants to give her a clean slate.

A part of Sarah still doesn’t think she’s earned it.  That she doesn’t deserve it.  She got lucky.  She got assigned to Chuck, and her perfect guy and her clean slate were dropped in her lap like a gift.  But as she sees again she hasn’t really given herself, all of herself to Chuck.  Each little quirk or fear she has or reveals pokes at Chuck’s insecurities and his neuroses.  Once again she unintentionally makes him feel inadequate.  She’s trying to do it right, she tries to share, to take the pressure off.  It’s not as if either of them is in doubt as to what is coming and what the future holds.  She knows he wants to give her that moment, and she wants to let him be that guy who can sweep her off her feet, to have that feeling that he’s good enough for her.  He knows she’ll say yes, but he wants to give her that one perfect precious memory.  He wants to give her the magic and the love that has been missing for so much of her life.  The proposal is really about them each accepting themselves and each other as good enough, as having earned it.  The problem is, as we saw on the balcony, even when you’ve earned it someone can still take it all away.

Sarah hasn’t quite earned it, redemption that is.  And Sarah’s story is about redemption, not a clean slate and happily ever after.  To earn redemption she has to not only face her past, all of it, she has to accept it and make it mean something.  She also has to be a hero.  That means she has to cross the threshold willingly and risk everything, even Chuck and her newfound future, because it’s the right thing to do.  The Bartowski family lost a lot.  Mary lost her children and her husband, Ellie lost her childhood and both parents and Chuck lost any sense of safety and permanence other than Ellie.  The Bartowskis deserve a clean slate and Sarah can give it to them before she officially joins them.  Everything Sarah was in the past has prepared her for this mission.  If she can pull it off it is the last obstacle to giving Chuck what she feels he deserves, a future with her with no doubt, no fear, no Volkoff threatening to take it all away.  It helps her too, because if she can do it, she’ll finally feel she’s earned it, that her past meant something and had a purpose.  It’s quite a story.

There’s a reason I often talk about the story and the journey rather than the plot.  The plot doesn’t always tell the whole story.  Tonight was a fun and funny episode with a tremendous dramatic twist, and the first act of the original finale.  This season is a lot different from last.  Rather than backload the denouement for a shocking dramatic revelation the plot is laid out and built to a crescendo.  We see our characters grow and change and struggle like real people, and we connect with them, and we invest in them.  It still isn’t the same show it was in season 2, but to me it verges on, dare I say it?  Genius?


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Ernie's Lame Hero's Journey Meme, Observations, Reactions, Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Chuck and Sarah Versus Clean Slates

  1. Katsumaro says:

    An awesome, *awesome* read here. Really enjoyed it, and I do agree. I also like your touch on the latest episode. There’s a ton of mixed reactions it seems out there. I’m one of ’em. On the one hand, I missed Chuck’s comedy, and we got a little bit of that last night, but I just felt the first half was.. slow. The second half, though.. when Sarah demanded to be let in on the proposal plan with Morgan? That was good, and to me, that really got it kick started. To me, it wasn’t even about the mission of the evening, but everything else.

    As far as Chuck and Sarah’s relationship, and Sarah being out for redemption… I can really see that. I hope the writers go more in depth with Sarah, honestly. Know what I imagine? Chuck proposing during 12 or 13 (I’m guessing 13), we get some engagement stuff leading up to the finale, to where we maybe see some Sarah family-backstory, and then end with a wedding where Sarah’s dad walks her down the aisle. That’d be enough to satisfy me for sure, but.. I doubt we’d get that.

    Thanks for the delightful read in this early afternoon. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Mike says:

    Great episode. Great post.

    I’ve noticed the negativity sometimes gets out of hand on this blog. Thanks for helping to restore the sanity, Ernie.

    • joe says:

      Perhaps we’re just sensitive to it, Mike, ’cause we’re fans who *really* like the show. I used to feel like any criticism of Chuck was a personal slap, but it’s not.

      From an entertainment and storytelling POV there are aspects that can be reviewed with a critical eye, and in fact, I think some of those have actually been read and taken to heart by the show runners (and yes, sometimes they reject the ‘advice’). It’s a discussion often worth having.

      But it comes down to how much we like it (or don’t) and this has been a forum to say why. We may have more fun, but those of us who go “squeee” on a regular bases are really being as irrational as someone who merely states “I don’t like this!” without explaining why the next person should feel the same way. I personally feel that’s not a critique; that’s a personal preference and should have limited weight on the reader. But it can also be a POV worth exploring, so long as the person writing “I don’t like this” is open to other POVs and discussion in a polite way.

      Either way, I love it when people write from the heart AND take the time to explain themselves honestly. I love it whether I agree with them or not.

  3. herder says:

    Great post Ernie, I think that you have the story that they are telling. I still have some hestitations about this episode, although I didn’t love it, I am quite fond of it.

    Now that they have scratched the beach proposal, the fancy restaurant proposal, the magnificent vista proposal and the moonlight proposal there remains Casey’s point, it’s not the place, it’s the girl. Fountainside proposal in Push Mix at the end when Sarah finally gets home from her mission (six to eight weeks).

    • alladinsgenie4u says:

      A simple proposal now looks very likely to happen and what better place than the Fountain. But I hope Sarah comes back home soon and not in the ending 10 minutes of 4×13.

    • Big Kev says:

      Or a final scene where Sarah brings Mary home, reuniting the Bartowski’s, who are all gathered to welcome BabyB into the world. Chuck proposes, surrounded by everyone he cares about, and Sarah accepts, surrounded by her new family.

  4. joe says:

    Ernie, please forgive me for stomping over your great post with OT news, but COMCAST now pwns us. Uh, Chuck. Uh, NBC.

    From The Washington Post:
    The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, allowing for a joint venture that puts a vast library of television shows and movies under the control of the nation’s biggest cable and broadband Internet service provider.

    Well, okay, not us, and not Chuck. That’s still Warner Bros. But it will have an impact eventually.

  5. Faith says:

    I’ve already gushed about this piece via email so I won’t here lol. But I will say regarding the plot/journey/more than a proposal viewpoint I’m reminded of Tom Sawyer.

    Chuck, the show, is kind of like Chuck the character. It’s like a duck. On the surface it looks like its just gliding along but beneath the water its little feet are pedaling like crazy. There’s so much hidden depth, meaning, emotion and plot points beneath the surface. And it’s got heart. It’s full of heart. It is why it is and continues to be in my opinion the best show on television.

    Oh and kudos on redemption. It’s a very valid and very important character motivation. In this one and in years past.

  6. joe says:

    Ernie, I think I like the episode even more now, after your write up, more than after my 2nd viewing, which was more than last night. And last night, I thought the episode was superb!

    I can only disagree (ever so slightly) with the idea that Jack and Sarah’s mother were not married. I came away with the idea that they were, but that it didn’t last long. Other than that, about your post, I quote Dylan:

    Every one of the words rang true
    And burned like a burning coal!

    I’m still wrapping my brain around the idea, introduced in Cubic-Z, that Sarah was like Heather. You’ve crystallized the idea, and now I think it was true; she was.

    It changes the way I see Sarah in S1 and Chuck’s flash at the end of Helicopter, when he recognizes Sarah, Graham’s “wildcard enforcer” and assassin. That agent was quite able to carry out her orders without a second thought as to the reasons or consequences. She had been living on adrenalin with Bryce and Carina for quite some little time, and adrenalin, we know, is a drug.

    I think what I didn’t see for the longest time was the hole that was left. I was too busy letting Chuck be my proxy, still trying to answer the young man’s question: “What do I possibly have to offer her/the world.” Sarah was telling us the answer all along. She had to find a person who could understand the evil that exists in the world and still exist without the deceptions and cynicism of fighting it.

    I almost wrote “protect her from the deceptions and cynicism of fighting it”, but that’s not right. Sarah doesn’t want Chuck to protect her; she wants him to keep her from becoming the very thing she’s been battling – the Heather Chandlers of the world.

    Okay, as to the episode, I love it that Sarah took charge. She did everything except propose to Chuck outright. Perfect! Chuck’s proposal *was* perfect, several times. What remains of it feels inconsequential, and as far as the mamaB story line goes, that’s fantastic, too!

    The rollicking beginning, with the “Agent Rosenbaum” in the French Chateau, seemed sooooo much like Season 1! It was exciting! Now, by the time the episode was over the immediate spy story seemed overwhelmed by two things, the proposal story and Sarah’s going undercover. Well, those two lines *were* overwhelming!

    I’ve never liked Jeff and Lester more, right up until the time Jeffster started playing! Really – they were hilarious! While they played, the scene deftly and mercifully shifted to Chuck and Sarah in France, so even as Jeffster was becoming too much, they got off stage. Just in the nick of time 😉

    I realized later that Ellie and Devon were absent. If I can watch an episode and not miss them immediately, it tells me that the rest of the story held my attention.

    The fight scenes were awesome, and even 10 seconds of tipsy Sarah was a treat. Levi was great, never letting Chuck sink into embarrassing, even while passing for James Bond. Yvonne went from “lovely girlfriend on a date” to delightfully drunk to killer spy (with Morgan and with Pierre’s gang) to crying-distraught over leaving… One Emmy is no longer enough.

    By the way – someone should start teaching women’s self-defence classes in “High-heel Fu”. Deadly stuff.

    • Faith says:

      Joe if you can, check out this song. It touches on exactly that and what Ernie brought up and what you expanded on IMO.

      • joe says:

        Great video, Faith. It made me read my words as if someone else had written them.

        It’s hard now to think of Sarah as ever having been cold or heartless – walled off. The video makes it almost impossible to remember how she was before, all spy, even thrill seeking. I guess we only glimpsed that and watched her change from the very beginning.

        If that was deliberate, I’m impressed.

      • Didn’t know that version of the song. Kings of Leon’s is pretty great as well.

        Thanks Faith!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Hey Joe, I’m not banking on Sarah’s parents having never married, I think they just left that door open as a possibility. I have the feeling we’ll find out later this season.

      In addition I think I need to make the point again about Sarah being like Heather as Sarah’s perception of herself, not necessarily gospel truth. I think Sarah has always had a moral core that she struggled with that would never let her completely lose herself, but at the same time would cause her a lot of damage while she lived as a criminal or a spy.

      Faith, I was having trouble getting that to play (I may need to change my default applications). Was it the Frightened Rabbit song?

      Oh and Joe, while I kind of agree on Jeffster and breaking it up to get them offstage the best part of the Jeffster story was Brimful of Asha. Now in heavy rotation in Ernie’s playlist. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Agree entirely on Sarah/Heather. Going back to Cougars its almost comical to consider Sarah and Heather as much alike, but I can mostly believe Sarah might have seen something that bothered her.

      • Faith says:

        No it’s a song from Kings of Leon covered by Dutch singer Laura Jansen called Use somebody. Here’s a few lines:

        “I’ve been roaming around, I was looking down at all I see
        Painted faces fill the places I can’t reach
        You know that I could use somebody
        You know that I could use somebody

        Someone like you and all you know and how you speak
        Countless lovers under cover of the street
        You know that I could use somebody
        You know that I could use somebody
        Someone like you

        Off in the night while you live it up I’m off to sleep
        Waging wars to shake the poet and the beat
        I hope it’s gonna make you notice
        I hope it’s gonna make you notice”

        Haven’t been able to find that specific version in amazon or iTunes so it’s a bummer.

        As for Sarah and Heather parallels. I agree, much like Chuck the perception outweighs the reality. Is it possible she was shades of Carina but never so crass? Yes. We were told often enough that being a spy changes you and I like the idea that falling in love has changed her. But I do consider what happened in Nacho Sampler retcon. A bad one. But one doesn’t necessarily have to do with the other. “Piece of cake” Sarah may be different from, “I can fix this!” Sarah but not by much. She doesn’t think it is and that’s all that matters. I like how SD put it, she wants to be as worthy of him and he strives to be for her.

        In all honesty you still see shades of the manipulation and spy persona she used to have at times. It’s just now it’s brought on by heart. Sarah to me has always been a person that struggled between being the person she is and the person she has had to be. Chuck doesn’t just free the inner girl, he also saves her from returning to the cold unfeeling robot that can turn her emotions on and off on a whim. And that is why she’s doing this for them. And why she’s worth all the foiled proposals…every one.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Remember, “piece of cake” Sarah hadn’t met Chuck and still thought him to be Bryce the traitor’s accomplice. “I can fix this” Sarah had figured out that something didn’t quite fit and didn’t want Casey to take over.

      • atcDave says:

        Great observation Ernie.

        Even “piece of cake” Sarah isn’t quite as cocky as the line may sound; she was an honest investigator, and quickly saw something didn’t seem right.

      • Faith says:

        Actually I didn’t really take exception to the distinction on behalf of Chuck but rather the Bryce aspect of it. In the pilot we were told it was already more than just a mission for her because she felt betrayed by Bryce. Whatever it is they had that was complicated, she was betrayed by her spy partner. And he died to boot. For someone who already doesn’t trust people and have a world of abandonment issues that was not a walk in the park. And yet she had the heart (shades of and exactly why she and Chuck fit) to not just protect Chuck but see him, as he is. Was she playing him? Undoubtedly but there was more emotionally weighing things from the go. That’s the retcon part I took exception to.

        But back on topic. I don’t really see that being independent of the shades of Carina spy persona. She was charmed but she was still a spy. Even a year later she was manipulating someone she already probably loves into doing what she wants for the mission in First Date, without remorse. That’s the person she referred to as her old self and one I think she feels needs the redemption we agree on.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Faith, I think I know what you mean, I just put it down to Sarah being good at compartmentalizing. In the pilot and Helicopter we saw her use anger at Bryce or Chuck when it suited her and mourn or indulge her real feelings later. In Nacho Sampler I saw it as her convincing herself more than anything. But when it comes down to it I liked Nacho Sampler and thought it added a lot to both characters, so maybe I’m more forgiving.

        I’m also of the opinion that Sarah’s road to redemption started with Bryce who is oddly both the alpha Chuck and doesn’t quite measure up to Chuck. Sarah would initially be drawn to the alpha charmer, but she would eventually see there was more to him. Still, Bryce never fully trusted Sarah, nor did he truly believe in Chuck. He wasn’t enough Chuck to do more than pave the way for the real deal.

      • joe says:

        I’m down with that, Ernie. You’re right. It’s a bit of an open question about Sarah’s parents.

        That’s a good point about her self-perception. It’s seldom worth psychoanalysing fictional characters, but the idea that Sarah would try to protect herself from Heather by seeing herself to be like that is pretty tempting. The young Sarah we saw in Cougars was unpopular, slumped over (to show insecurity, I’m sure) and I’m guessing, weak. Heather was the popular, strong queen-bee. What teenager wouldn’t want to emulate that, even if it was just a cover.

        Thanks for the tip on Cornershop, Ernie! Listening to it now.

    • Faith says:

      Compartmentalizing is perfect! As she got deeper and deeper into Chuck that part of her life got tougher and tougher until ultimately there was Chuck and Phase 3.

      From “one mission at a time,” to “I need Chuck” and now to, “Chuck we have so much together. We have a real life and a future.”

  7. atcDave says:

    Well I have to disagree a little. While I certainly wouldn’t argue the growth and maturity Sarah and Chuck have both brought out in each other; I think you undersell their qualities at the start.
    Sarah was and is a hero. Anyone with her talents and skill set, who risks life and limb for a government pay check is a hero. That’s really a huge sacrifice she made long before Chuck; no selling her skills to the highest bidder, no solo life of crime, not even a corporate job using her brains and charisma. No, she risks her life daily for less than six figures and a government pension. And she knows it, she spelled it out to Chuck in Helicopter. She risked her life for Chuck in the Pilot only on the intuition he was a good guy trapped in a bad business. And to me the biggie is Wookie; when Carina explains the game and careerism to Chuck he objects that Sarah isn’t like that, and Carina concedes the point.

    Now if we consider S3 to be a giant retcon of the characters to their very core; you could make the case for the new redefined Sarah as being a far uglier character than the one we met in S1. But if we can reconcile them in any way, Sarah was a hero to be respected from the start. She has become a more mature and complete person as the show has unfolded, but I think its a mistake to diminish where she started.

    • I agree with you Dave. We always talk about how Chuck is special, but Sarah is special too.

      Chuck was left by both his parents, but Sarah didn’t have an Ellie and a Morgan. Her father is a conman, and she was recruited at 17. She said it in Best Friend she never had anyone that really cared about her before Chuck.

      So meeting Chuck was huge and it changed her. But she was special from the start.

      I kind of see them as two pretty similar person at heart. Chuck grow up in a “normal” environment. Sarah grew up in a “deceptive” environment. They’re now meeting in the middle.

      • atcDave says:

        I also agree Crumby that Chuck and Sarah are mostly similar at the core; the small bit of stability (and legality) that was in Chuck’s life may account for most of the difference.

      • JC says:

        I agree but I have noticed how both C/S are both having growing pains from opposite ends.

        Like Crumby said, Chuck grew up relatively normal because of Ellie but only recently discovered how screwed up his family is. Sarah had a messed up childhood but is finally getting that stability and family she needed. Its an interesting dynamic.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well Dave I did split a few hairs, so I won’t take much objection to your objections, but the not a hero should be taken in the very tightly circumscribed Hero’s Journey definition as one who gives up the life they know and risks it all to return with the prize. I agree in the more general sense she is a hero, though how she came to be is not so necessarily noble as early as 2.04, and her having a less noble past is hinted at as early as Joe said, in the Pilot and Helicopter. Carina also makes note of her surprise that Sarah is good where she’s at in Wookie.

      I do think TPTB did do some retcon on Sarah in S3. Starting with the Ring we start to see that it isn’t just the job and the professional barriers that make Sarah unable to speak or open up.

      • atcDave says:

        I won’t argue most of that Ernie, except to point out Carina’s reaction to Sarah in Wookie may simply mean she was an adrenaline junkie and Carina was surprised she was ready for a more sedate life; which has only a little bearing on the hero issue.
        But I would agree she was not on a particular “Heroes Journey” prior to Chuck.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh and I do want to mention my agreement about 2.04. Although I don’t believe it diminishes her in any significant way, I don’t believe the con-man’s daughter angle was part of her background at the beginning, and I’m pretty sure Luke and Leia weren’t meant to be brother and sister either…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Don’t get me started on that Lucas ba***rd. No, Luke and Lea were supposed to be part of the Luke, Leia and Han triangle as late as Empire (and Han shot first damnit!!!).

        I think that as early as Cougars however they were sowing the seeds of Sarah as being very different from the awesome confident super-spy that Chuck perceived. Which is why I never bought the Sarah as a plot device argument completely.

  8. Ernie Davis says:

    Thanks for all your kind words everyone, this was a fun one to write and work through in my head, so I’m glad to hear someone other than me got some enjoyment out of it.

  9. sd says:

    Great post, Ernie!

    I do agree and it was never more apparent—this idea of redemption– than Sarah explaining to Chuck why she was going on a potentially deadly mission to return his mother.

    Remember when Sarah shot down Shaw by saying something to the effect that sometimes you need to know what you are fighting for? That line leads me to the word hero and why I don’t think of Sarah–for most of her spy life– as a hero…but someone who does things a hero would do. She had nothing to fight for except an ideal foisted on her and one which she could buy into.

    She always has thought Chuck a hero because he knew what he was fighting for and knew how much losing would cost him.

    So, I very much agree that Sarah is doing this mission as redemption…to be worthy of this guy..a guy who feels he isn’t worthy of her.

    In real life…I’d give them 2-3 years unless they got lots of couples therapy—ha!

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  11. mark says:

    loved the analysis. I have always wondered what the greatest arcs are in the show. This is an excellent review. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  12. Faith says:

    Meanwhile the reviews for Balcony have been largely positive. Even Mo Ryan who has stated she hasn’t enjoyed this season as much apart from Phase Three liked it.

    This all means that Chuck’s back in more ways than one ;-).

    • Ernie Davis says:

      The best part? We only have to wait till next Monday for a new episode. The worst part? Still no iTunes and now it appears no Amazon for new episodes. It looks like NBC is trying to force fans back to the network if they want to watch Chuck.

  13. First Timer says:

    I have never bought into the hero’s journey meme for either Chuck or Sarah. Like a lot of viewers, I have believed Chuck and Sarah were each heroes from the start (

    The journey for Chuck was to manhood from his childish and insulated little world. The journey for Sarah was to womanhood from her sterile and insulated little world.

    The reason why the Chuck show has had a following since this pilot is that we saw and knew each of the lead characters were heroic from the start. It was their development as PEOPLE that is the journey. If the showrunners get it right, Chuck’s journey to manhood and Sarah’s journey to womanhood will intersect at exactly the right moment.

    Of course, the problem is that the right moment was at the end of Colonel. Everything since has been rather odd. Prague was odd. Shaw was odd. A lot of season 4 has been odd.

  14. thinkling says:

    Great piece Ernie. I agree that the clean slate line is a key and that Chuck has given her that clean slate since Cougars. And I think there’s much more to the proposal than a balcony. It is significant to the core of the story.

    I mostly agree with the article. I see Sarah’s journey and redemption from a slightly different angle, though. (In my line of work, we deal a lot in redemption, clean slates, and futures — really long ones … Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

    Chuck and Sarah are indeed people whose past robbed them of their future. Sarah was robbed of the chance to be, a real person, with a real life and real love. Her dad sold a piece of her to make her a prop for his cons. The CIA sold a piece of her to make her a super spy. The Sarah we know and love, the one Chuck has always seen, was in there all along but couldn’t find her way out, couldn’t redeem herself. Chuck’s love redeemed her, bought her back from her loveless life of cons and covers. He gave her a clean slate. That’s Sarah’s redemption. In relationship with Chuck this new, redeemed Sarah grows and becomes the whole, emotionally mature, vulnerable woman we see in Balcony.

    OK, just a brief word about redemption. Of course Sarah didn’t earn it. The nature of redemption is that it’s a gift, something we can’t earn or do for ourselves. In that sense we don’t deserve it. But after the fact, with the new slate and the way we live henseforth, we can try to be deserving of it. It’s a fine line, perhaps, but that’s what I see in Sarah. The reason she puts it all on the line for Chuck is not to earn redemption or his love, but to love him in equal measure, to give back to him what he has given her. I don’t see her trying to earn something she doesn’t think she yet possesses. I see her expressing her love and gratitude for what she knows she has.

    Now, the proposal plays a significant role, not just the proposal in this episode but the one in Phase 3, the proposal plan and the knowledge that Chuck was indeed going to propose. The proposal brings her redemption full circle. Chuck not only redeemed her from her loveless past, he wants to keep her. It’s not only real; it’s forever. The significance and impact of the proposal are evident, ever since she learned about it. Silly as it sounds, her case of butterflies signals her complete transformation. No longer guarding her heart, she has given it fully, and with that comes a vulnerability she has never let herself know.

    Her growth will continue, always, but the woman who walked out onto the balcony to secretly help Chuck get through the engagement he so wanted to give her … that woman is confident in the love that redeemed her and in the woman she has become because of it.

    She knows what she has, what they have … a real life and a future. In giving herself to this new mission, she’s not earning her life and future. She is hedging it, fighting to guarantee it.

    If anything I see Sarah in a redeemer roll as she goes to buy Mary out of her 20 year bondage.

    • Loved this Thinkling! 🙂

    • atcDave says:

      Great comments Thinkling. I loved the butterflies bit; what a great way to have fun with Sarah’s now fully functioning heart. I also thought it felt similar to Awesome’s line back in Best Friend, when he answers Jeff’s question of “have you ever had a dream that didn’t come true?” Devon simply says “no”; very funny and very fitting for the Captain. Well here we have something similar, Sarah has no idea what it is to be nervous; but unlike Awesome, she’s becoming more like the rest of us.

      • thinkling says:

        I had forgotten about that Captain Awesome comment. That was funny. From what I hear, though, fatherhood may transform Captain Awesome into Captain Normal. Should be fun.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thinkling, lovely reply, and I won’t disagree with your perspective. I was going for a more secular sense of the concept, but even given that difference I’ll add a few points that may split the difference.

      Redemption is a gift, true, but you do need to act to achieve it. You need to feel you are worth it and you need to ask for it. That was Sarah’s season 3 problem in a nutshell. So when I say earn it in the sense of Chuck and Sarah, the proposal is where they finally accept themselves as, perhaps not quite deserving of each other, but worthy of asking for and being given that gift not out of obligation or right, but out of love.

      As for Sarah earning her redemption I think there are two parts to that. Her regular life as the girl who Chuck saved, and her spy life. I think my point about the spy part is that we’re about to see Sarah go back to her old ways, and we’ll see she’s done some pretty bad stuff. She needs to not only acknowledge that part of her, but willingly turn away from it. In a more secular sense she needs to make all the spy stuff mean something in the end, the way Chuck does.

      • thinkling says:

        I do think we’re seeing similar things taking place, but from different perspectives. For the story, we agree that the important thing is that Chuck & Sarah have come to this place of full acceptance of the love and worth that each offers the other.

        As for Sarah’s past, I think she has turned from it. I’m different without Chuck and I don’t like it. and It took me a night in the guts of the building to realize I’m not [like Heather] any more, at all, and I don’t want to be. It’s a sacrifice of redemptive love on her part to become that person again for his sake and the sake of their love/life/future. I suppose I can agree that spy redemption will come full circle in her using those skills — that life, that Sarah — from a pure motivation and for truly worthy ends … the guarding of their future and the rescue of Chuck’s mom.

      • thinkling says:

        Sorry to add more, but the more I’ve been thinking about this, the more I see Sarah as embarking on her own mission of redemption, not of herself and not just of Mary, but also of all that she has with Chuck … a real life and a future.

        As it stands right now, Volkoff essentially holds Chuck’s family and Chuck and Sarah’s future hostage. Sarah, because she was redeemed from that world, is the one who must return to that world, playing the role that was once her life, in order to buy back her future (and Mary and the safety of Chuck’s family). The test for her, as for any redeemer, is to free the hostages without becoming captive to that world again herself.

  15. Pingback: Reason To Hope « Chuck This

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