It’s been hard for me to write about Chuck vs. The Balcony, not because I’m out of words (I’ve written thousands this week, just not published them!) but because my thoughts keep moving to different aspects in scattershot fashion and then one of my amazing co-bloggers writes about it better than I could! I really don’t want to review the episode again for you – suffice it to say, I really, really liked it. I started the week thinking it was my second favorite this season, after Phase Three, but now I’m not so sure it’s not number 1.
Could Balcony make the list of my top five favorites? Is it better than Best Friend, Colonel, Honeymooners, Subway and one of about a dozen that I could put into the last spot? I start to think so. I really laughed at Lester and his “Hinjews of Saskatchewan”. I thought the spy adventure with Pierre Melville in the Loire Valley was great, very much like the spy adventures of Season 1 and Season 2 (do you remember the “bad guy” in The Breakup? It wasn’t Von Hayes, but an unnamed, female Fulcrum agent. Sometimes the spy story *does* serve the romance very well indeed!).
I really enjoyed the humorous nuggets in Balcony. Casey was marvelous, reduced to muttering about his demotion to “man-servant – for a nerd!” and threatening to rip off Chuck’s leg if he calls him Jonathan again. Of course, my favorite Casey moment was reminiscing about that incredibly romantic bus station in Buffalo where he proposed to Kathleen, but that’s just me. I know the place. Trolls and orcs and golums of all sorts get romantic there! They love the grit and grime and the depressing brown color scheme. 😉
Morgan was, once again, the Morgan we always hoped he would be. He makes a great quarterback, wing man, double agent… Only he could give Sarah permission to marry his best friend.
I can’t exclaim enough about the amazing acting done by Yvonne Strahovski, playing romantic girlfriend, deadly spy, interrogator, glowing fiancee-to-be and distraught lover – again. I say she did it with the help of amazing supporting from Zac Levi, Josh Gomez, Adam Baldwin and even Bonita Friedericy. They had to be perfect to make all that work, and they were.
But the spy story, the humor and Morgan were not at the center of the story. Two things loomed much larger – Volkoff and Chuck&Sarah.
Chuck was a bit nervous and almost awkward throughout much of the episode. Certainly, he was not completely with it. Was that off-putting to viewers? Many fans want to see Chuck be that James Bond character he talked about, suave and confident in himself, able to rise to the occasion even if the occasion is proposing to Sarah Walker. Seeing him like that would really help wash away the memory of the $11 an hour nerd with the girlish scream who cowered in his room rather than attend his own birthday party and meet cute girls. That guy would rather play Zork or Halo. Don’t you hate to see him revert to that stage at all? Man-up, Charles.
Not to worry. Chuck can’t be James Bond all the time, but he certainly makes the grade sometimes. Even his aborted proposals were not embarrassing; they were just – thwarted. Chuck is not regressing back to the point where he could pine for the days when “we had so much fun.” Those days with Bryce and Jill at Stanford are gone from his memory. He doesn’t want that any more, and in a way, it makes me sad.
It’s like this: That Chuck, the one we first met, used to play at being a hero, and didn’t we all? I did, tying a towel around my shoulders and “flying” around the room (mom hated that!) and using my super powers to fight eeeeevvvvviiiiillllll! But I was 6 years old. Fighting evil (especially the evil we’ve been seeing it in the news lately) is not fun any more. It’s sad and depressing and requires (at minimum) hard work and (often) sacrifice. That’s what Sarah’s been doing.
But why? Why would she do that? It’s no fun.
Rising to the Occasion
Something major happened at the end of The Balcony, and yes, I missed it, even after several viewings. When Sarah reopened a channel to Beckman to explain why Chuck keeps thinking every bad-guy works for Volkoff, she was telling us about how important Chuck’s mom was to him and how important it was to protect his family. Thinkling put it exactly right – they were all being held hostage, and it’s going to take a hero to rescue them. Not Chuck – surgeons do not operate on members of their own family for good reasons.
Sarah has good reasons to stay with Chuck and let him continue his mission his way. In the course of the episode, Sarah got her perfect proposal (a few times, in fact) and we had the pleasure of watching Chuck pull it off. Her moonlit smile on the balcony told me how perfect it was. And by the way, fans who wanted Sarah to take charge and make the proposal herself should be as happy as the fans who wanted Chuck to do something more traditional. It almost feel meaningless that Chuck never got to finish his sentence, and Sarah didn’t get to make it official.
She’s already accepted, of course, and Sarah should trust Chuck. But still (and just barely) it’s not over. Sarah can still be the unemotional, detached and dispassionate (read, cold and heartless) super-spy for a little while longer and the dagger pointed at Chuck’s heart – and at hers – makes it imperative that she do so. That’s why it has to be her – it can’t be him. She’s doing it for Chuck; she’s doing it for the both of them. What I missed earlier was the extent of her sacrifice. Chuck didn’t. What he saw was the Sarah he’s always known, the Sarah he loves.
The Art of Becoming
Maybe you can tell, I bought it, hook line and sinker. To me, it has nothing to do with a need to extend the story line until the next sweeps month, and it has nothing to do with artificial delays or other contrivances. Sarah’s jumped with both feet into the fight of her life and it’s a fight to save Chuck’s family. Those people will be her own family soon. If she does not try or if she fails, she has nothing. We’ve talked about redemption before, but this is the only way she can be alive. This is her chance at resurrection.
Even though we just saw lots of it, I tried to imply that Chuck is beyond the boyish awkwardness of youth. That doesn’t make him bitter or jaded or, as they say, down on life. He has no need for kid’s games any more, but he hasn’t lost his sense of wonder. Chuck discovered the real world is just as exciting, has more colorful sunsets, shinier moonlight and Sarah. Oh, and milkier chocolate too. Is that being childish? Not at all. It’s being appreciative. If Chuck has grown and changed it’s not because he no longer dreams of knights, sports cars and princesses. It’s because he now sees knights, sports cars and a princess in his life every day, just like he told her. In that, Sarah sees the Chuck she’s always known, the Chuck she loves.
After saying for a year that Chuck and Sarah have grown and changed, I am amazed to see that they are still exactly who’ve they’ve always been. They are still characters that matter to me. If they’ve grown in my eyes, it’s only because they matter more.