Keeping your eye on the ball won’t be easy in Chuck Versus the Wedding Planner. Everybody is conning somebody. Daphne cons Chuck and Sarah. Chuck and Sarah con the CIA. TeamB cons the hotel, so they can un-con the Gerlichs, so they can con the Klügs in a sting to get Iranian nuclear Intel. That doesn’t even include the Burton cons, both old and new.
The biggest con of all is The Wedding Planner … not Daphne … the episode. This hilarious hijinks and merry misadventure is one big misdirection. The real story, set against a backdrop of loves and hidden among the cons, is about a woman seeking adventure and finding a home, being ready for disappointment and discovering unexpected happiness.
If you could have anything in the whole world, what would it be?
An adventure somewhere … just you and me.
I tell you what. You save up, and maybe we can do just that.
The exchange squeezes my heart, because I know how the story turns out. Eight-year-old Sarah was filled with innocent adoration for her father and wanted to live endless adventures with him. She craved his love and wanted to please him.
Jack was a charming rogue who loved his daughter … just not as much as the next con. The years turned adoration into disappointment, “If there’s one thing I learned from my father it’s be ready for disappointment.” Twenty-three years later, she doesn’t even want to tell him she’s getting married, much less invite him to the wedding. “Chuck, my dad hasn’t been there for a single important day in my life.”
In spite of everything, Sarah is still a daddy’s girl. Deep down, she loves him and still wants his love and approval.
All Cons Old Are New Again
The Cookie Con.
Eight-year-old Sarah was one cute kid … and one sharp cookie. She also had the cookie con down pat. Offering a 20% discount for the pre-paid order of one box of each flavor cookie, she shows a chart with only three flavors. As the mark gets her money, little Sarah surreptitiously counts it and expands the chart of options accordingly. In an amazing coincidence, the order total exactly matches the sum in the woman’s hand. Slick. A perfect scene for both con and mark. I laugh every time.
Remember, once you know all the cons, you’ll never be a sucker.
The Wedding Con is a retread of Sarah’s cookie con. No doubt Daphne develops a feel for how much money her marks have to spend on their wedding (our account has been emptied out). Gradually she spins their dream wedding, perfect beyond their imagination and their budget. To seal the deal she offers a 40% discount for pre-payment. I don’t know how she is as a wedding planner (since none of her wedding plans are ever executed), but she is wicked good as a con artist … OK maybe just wicked.
I love this scene (squeee): last minute nerves giving way to certainty, Chuck reading Sarah and pulling the trigger for them, their clasped hands, and the look of utter happiness on Sarah’s face. She is so pleased with herself, and Chuck is pleased with her happiness. It would be such a win, if it weren’t such a loss.
Just think, if it weren’t for Casey, they wouldn’t have found out until the big day. Say what? Yup. You think Morgan would ever have referenced Chairman Mao or noticed socialist colors before he moved in with Casey? Uh, no-o. The new Morgan/odd couple thing really works for me. It’s a great niche for him.
The discovery of the con was a hoot with Sarah daughter-of-a-con-man Walker, realizing that she fell for her own con. Sarah on the war path and Chuck trying to keep up is always comedy gold.
After using every available resource to find Daphne and coming up dry, Chuck concludes that she is a ghost. You know why, don’t you? … She expertly uses public transportation to avoid being tracked.
Chuck suggests asking Beckman for help, but Sarah dismisses it, “To locate our wedding planner? I don’t think that’s going to go down too well.” Right. Because the plan she came up with worked out so much better.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Sarah searches out her dad for some fatherly advice. Not wanting her dad to know anything about her life, Sarah plays things close to the vest (and wears a coat over the vest), confessing only that she and Chuck were swindled by a party planner. Jack, whose only real gift is reading people, begins reading his daughter very carefully, “You’re still in Burbank with the Schnook. How’s that?” Watch Sarah’s expression as she tells him it’s fine. Eyes down, hiding something, but unable to hide her smile. (I can’t hide mine either) She recovers, “Anyway, the party planner, she ran off with all of our money.” Our money? If Jack had really been paying attention, he would have noticed Sarah fingering her bare left ring-finger … the one that usually sports her engagement ring.
Having used his Burton skills to discover what kind of cop his daughter is, he suggests she use her vast CIA resources. Still reading her, … ohh, she didn’t want him to know that. His surprise is no surprise, but when he confesses his pride, some of her tension melts away. (General, my father is unaware of my CIA career. In fact, I’m not sure he would be all that proud.) Her father is proud of her, even though she is some kind of cop.
Dad’s advice? No authority? No problem. Jack draws a big smile from Sarah when he reminisces about the summer they conned their way into a governor’s mansion and stayed a month on pretense alone.
The meeting leaves Jack with a burning curiosity … and the address where he can find some answers.
Sarah returns to Burbank with an idea. Fake it ’til you make it.
The Flash Con is the mansion con on steroids. It does not go as planned and ends up marshaling all Federal resources toward locating and apprehending the world’s most dangerous … wedding planner. The mission is successful, but the agents are suspended.
More comedy gold from our favorite couple. Sarah’s imitation of Chuck’s flash was hilarious. The flash faking, could it have gone more wrong? Chuck unwittingly connecting Daphne to someone who just blew up three American embassies. Sarah’s kick under the table and her reaction to his blunder. Beckman’s, umm, enthusiastic response to the flash … the most important piece of US intelligence work in the last three months (gulp). Chuck and Sarah’s synchronized response to the small war they just started. Side-splitting funny every time.
Best of all? Chuck, a CIA agent, knew nothing about one of the CIA’s most wanted terrorists but knew that some socialite chick’s GED was probably fake.
Fathers. Jack and Devon, what a contrast of fathering skills. Devon is protecting his family, while Jack is breaking and entering to spy on his. Nothing’s more important than family. Watching Devon with Clare reminds Jack (again) what a lousy father he was/is, but he’s a great con man, and he does discover the source of his daughter’s distraction. Better stick around.
Great scene with Jack teaching the shell game to Clare, and I loved the look on Devon’s face when Jack equated Clara’s signals to poker tells.
Our other father is Casey, who can’t find the right time to tell Kathleen that he’s still alive. Unfortunately, or fortunately, because of Morgan and Alex’s botched attempt to help, he gets made … by Kathleen.
The Daphne Debacle. With the CIA closing in, Chuck and Sarah have to find Daphne first. Great Chuck and Sarah teamwork and an absolutely hilarious take down when the CIA nets its mark. Guess she fell for the government con in spite of herself.
Back in Castle, Beckman is not amused. Another great scene. Contrite Agent Walker is almost painful to watch. Casey’s response should NOT go unnoticed, “We all have personal lives, Walker. It shouldn’t interfere with the mission. You know that.” Two years ago, Casey didn’t know the meaning of personal life. Now he easily claims membership in the club of people that have them. Savor the moment.
The gavel falls … suspension.
Have you noticed that Chuck is always willing to talk back to Beckman. It doesn’t always work out (Buymore chutes come to mind), but he stands up for what he thinks is right, even to a general. This time? Fail. Even Chuck’s real flash gets no traction. They are on their own if they want to get the Zephyr and all of Iran’s nuclear research.
The Shell Game.
In another glance in the rear view mirror, we see Sarah practicing her shell game with her stuffed animals, “You see the secret to the shell game is the ball’s not in any of these. It’s right here in my pocket.”
Once you know all the cons, you’ll never be a sucker.
After overhearing an argument between her grandma and her dad, she resolves to run away with her dad. She gives him her piggy bank as a down payment on their adventure, “Plus we don’t need that money to have an adventure together.” Dad knows the right answer, “You’re right. All we need is you and me.” Another heart-squeezing scene.
I couldn’t help remembering a similar conversation over a dining-car breakfast, “No matter where we go or what we do,” … “as long as we’re together, right?” Sarah has found the man who will share all her adventures and never leave her.
Back in the present, Sarah is in the doldrums. When Jack apologizes for his advice not panning out, Sarah brightens, “Is that why you’re here, because you were worried?” Another tug at my heart strings. Jack gets her to talk, “What’s wrong?” (I bet he could always do that.) As Sarah explains the Klügs, Jack understands, “Your mark are the Klügs, and the Zephyr’s the package.” He totally gets it. And he explains the plan to the team on his state-of-the-art … overhead projector.
They have to un-con the Gerlichs and make the wedding reception happen in order to get to the Klügs and acquire the Zephyr. The un-con becomes a sting. To pull it off, they only need to pull a simple, little con at the hotel ballroom … one of those Bat Mitzvahs with a Hungarian Wedding Theme. I hear they’re all the rage.
Hilarious from start to finish. Sarah was fantastic as Daphne the Bah Mitzvah co-odinadah. Everybody did his job. I loved Chuck’s mixes, especially Chuck Loves Sarah, Vol. 1 of 6. Ready. Out with the Bat Mitzvah and in with the wedding cake … Styrofoam. I’m sure I’ve tasted worse. If they had used white Styrofoam, they might have gotten away with it. Did you notice Jack watching Chuck as he worked with Morgan? And then watching Chuck and Sarah admiring the bride and groom on the cake. Can we still call it a cake if it’s made of Styrofoam?
Uh-oh … the Wedding Crasher. Casey is watching out for them. After weighing the facts (and maybe remembering Keller and Kathleen), Cop Face joins the team. This time he is … security. Some things never change, except we do have the welcome addition of Morgan, who does a great job.
The sting was just fun to watch. Chuck and Sarah’s non-verbal communication across the room. Sarah swinging a very mean cake plate. Got mine. Morgan’s incoming and spy high-five. And of course the squeaky cake. So funny.
But it wouldn’t be Chuck without an infusion of heart, like Jack’s dance with Sarah: her initial hesitation and timid but pleased acceptance; Chuck watching with love and pure satisfaction that she’s getting time and love from her dad.
Jack starts the conversation they need to have, “This may be my only chance to dance with my daughter at a wedding.” Seeing Chuck gave her the courage to break the news, “Chuck and I are getting married.” He knows. She smiles — relieved, “I’m sorry I didn’t invite you.” She was right not to, he tells her and laments his track record of not being around. She still feels the sting of it. He never thought she’d settle down. She feels she’s disappointed him. He wants to make sure she’s happy, “I thought you’d end up more like me, just one adventure after another. Isn’t that what you want?” She smiles, remembering their adventures, “It was. But, um, I found a home here, a good one, and I’m happy. I’m sorry, Dad.” Sorry? All he wants is for her to be happy, he wants to tell her, … but the Klügs are here.
Meanwhile, Kathleen corners Casey, not knowing he’s acquiring Iranian nuclear research. “I don’t understand. We had your funeral. They gave me your flag. But you didn’t die.” She thinks he left her for a security gig and moonlighting at the Buymore. Why here, why now. She needs to leave, to be safe. She presses harder, “I talked to Alex, and she already knew. She thinks you’re some kind of hero or something, that you work for the government.” His daughter thinks he’s a hero. His ex-fiancée thinks he’s a heel. His job has made him both, “You should go.”
Wow, two fantastic, emotionally powerful scenes right in the middle of a hilarious con. And it works. It is Quintessential Chuck, and one of the reasons I love the show so much.
Back to the sting. No Zephyr on any of the Klüg brothers. The con man figures it out. It’s a shell games, which means that someone else has the device. Bingo. Morgan finds him, right after his gun finds Morgan. Let’s tie up loose ends in the lovely parking garage, shall we?
Like Chuck, Jack has an aversion to bullets, and he’s good at talking. In this one carefully woven speech, he targets two people, approaching both as a father. He talks down the Father of the Bride, appealing to him to do one right thing for his daughter … don’t take a bullet in the head on her wedding day (women hate that). In the same speech Jack confesses his regret for being a lousy father and lets his daughter know that all he wants is for her to be happy. Messages received. The sting and the dance are complete.
As Col. John Casey, NSA, cuffs Klüg and holds off local police with his badge, we see that Kathleen witnessed the whole thing … Morgan (her future son-in-law?) held hostage, Chuck and Sarah (did she remember them?), and Casey (a true hero). A picture is worth a thousand words … another pending conversation rounded out.
GB is still plenty ticked. Fortunately for Chuck and Sarah, her superiors caught wind of the zephyr and the threat of suspension has pretty much blown over. Fortunate winds indeed.
Casey and Kathleen continue their conversation. It is a perfect scene, one of Casey’s best ever. They talk things out, feeling their way in uncharted territory. It’s a timid beginning, but definitely a beginning.
The Men In Her Life
Dad. Sarah was caught between her parents and forced to choose sides. Though we don’t know what that looked like, we can imagine what it felt like. She obviously chose dad. I’m guessing he was persona non grata to everyone but her. All she knew was that she loved her dad, and he loved her … and he was fun. She was too young to see the negatives that everyone else saw in him.
The thing she wanted most was adventure with her dad, just the two of them. The adventures were fun. They were an escape from a troubled home life. Mostly they were a way to be with her dad.
A car with a comfy back seat and a string of motels served as home, and adventure replaced security. From her reluctance to tell him about her wedding and her apology for settling down, I suspect that Jack sold their life of adventure as superior to a traditional home life.
Ultimately the adventures stretched out in front of them didn’t make up for the discarded names and broken promises that lay behind them, and Sarah learned to be ready for disappointment. Woven into their life of adventure (I’m not sure how, exactly) was the pattern of his leaving her. Adventure became her way of life: every city, a new con and a new name. It’s no wonder she was a perfect candidate for Graham and the CIA, which offered her more of the same.
Her CIA adventures ultimately led her someplace she never expected to be. Home.
Chuck. You’re my home, Chuck. You always have been. For the first time in her life, adventure had serious competition. Chuck Bartowski was unlike her dad and every other man she’d ever known. He was charming, yet guileless, and he loved selflessly. Her dad loved her, but used her. The CIA just used her. Chuck just loves her. Chuck makes her feel loved and comfortable and safe … all the things that make someplace — anyplace — home.
Jack knows that Chuck loves his daughter. He once bet 10 million on it. He knows she’s found a better man. In some really bizarre twisted reasoning, he keeps leaving her to keep from hurting her. Chuck will never understand this. He tries to get Jack to come to the wedding, walk his daughter down the aisle. Jack refuses. He persuades Jack to stay for dinner and goes out for groceries, pleased with his small victory and the happiness it will bring his fiancée.
Sarah comes home to an empty house, both men gone. One she knows is gone for good. The other she knows will never leave.
Chuck comes in talking about a romantic, affordable! Courthouse Wedding and carrying the groceries for her favorite dinner … with her dad, “Where is he?” She hates telling him, “He’s gone.” She watches for his reaction, not wanting to see his disappointment, not wanting to reveal the depth of her own. The love in his eyes is all she needs. She’s OK, “Once you know all the cons, you’ll never be a sucker.”
They both know it’s not true. … She’s still a sucker for her dad.
Of Piggy Banks and Prunups
Sarah’s been looking out for her dad since she was a kid. Nobody chose him? She did. He needed money? She did cookie cons. He needed more money? She gave him her piggy bank.
When he was arrested in San Diego, she was devastated. He left her lots of money, but that wasn’t the same.
Years later, her bravado notwithstanding, she couldn’t bring herself to let him be arrested after the Amad con. Come to find out, she’s been saving money all these years, in case he gets arrested again. (It would have been pointless to arrest him and then turn around and post his bail.)
He has left her and disappointed her all. her. life. He hasn’t been there for a single important day of her life. Regardless of all of that, she loves him and will always be there for him.
The prenup was her new piggy bank, a safe place for money for her dad — only not for adventures … for bail. It didn’t take her long to realize how unnecessary the prenup was.
Chuck is not her father. His love is constant and selfless. He doesn’t disappoint. He doesn’t leave. Her life, her heart, and her fortunes are safe with him.
The piggy bank comes full circle. (This scene is Chuck perfection.)
The irony of the piggy bank and the prenup is that all those years that Sarah was socking away money for her dad, he was adding to her piggy bank. The return of the piggy bank fills so much more than the hole in her bank account. It mends the hole in her heart. It relieves her of the self-imposed, life-long burden of taking care of her dad. And it releases her from the disappointment of her past to the full enjoyment of her present happiness.
Her dad is not Chuck. His love is flawed. He leaves and disappoints and breaks her heart. He was never there for her, but he never stopped loving her.
He guarded her piggy bank — her treasure — adding to it all these years, until she found an adventure and a man worthy of her love.
Maybe she’s not such a sucker after all.
~ Thinkling’s thoughts
Parting Thoughts: One of Chuck’s best episodes. The cast were absolutely perfect. Adam put in one of his best performances, and Clare Carey played Kathleen perfectly. I hope we get more of her. Gary Cole was so great as Sarah’s dad. I think we need a con-mission every season. Zac was fantastic as well. We talk a lot about Yvonne’s face, but Zac is great with his facial expressions, too. Also loved GB’s, Let me guess. You flashed.
What can I say about Yvonne (and her amazing face)? Another outstanding performance and a broad range: her indignation/mortification/anger over being conned, her fake-flash and crazy plan to con Beckman (so not Sarah), her reaction to Chuck, her contrition, her NY accent and performance as the Bah Mitzvah Co-woh-dinadah, her telling Chuck about her dad, and of course the last scene … oh, and every scene she had with Gary Cole.
A perfect stand alone episode. They didn’t blow anything up, but Beckman blew up a few times. Man, I can’t wait for what’s coming … and I hope that there’s a LOT more coming (S5).