Summer Re-Watch: 4.11 Chuck vs. The Balcony

Faith starts off:

“Chuck, we have so much together, we have a real life and a future.”

When I first reviewed this episode, I did so in gushing fashion. What can I say, I am a shipper but in looking back, I am no less enamoured with this episode months removed from my initial viewing and I’m sure Joe is too. With fond memories, and the promise of new ones, Balcony set off to warm the hearts of fans and casual viewers alike in true Chuck fashion, during a mission, the hard way.

Joe Watches and Sees Beauty

Almost perfect.

It started off simple enough, a restaurant, a callback and a reveal.

There was a moment in The First Date(episode 2.01) when Chuck & Sarah were sitting in a restaurant. It went like this:

Chuck: Wow! No faith in the little bearded man. Okay. I think you should know he’s always been very supportive of our fake relationship. And he’s never found it remotely unbelievable that a guy like me could be dating a… you know.
Sarah: What?
Chuck: Um, you know. You…
Sarah: What about me?

In Chuck vs. The Balcony, we saw them in that nice, romantic, Italian restaurant.

Chuck: No… Um, I realized something, you know, after all the stuff with my mom and Volkoff and I, I realized that I – I… haven’t really been thinking about us. You and me. I’ve been so wrapped up in all the things that I couldn’t control, that I forgot to focus on the things that I could. Like tonight.
Sarah: What about tonight?

She asks interesting questions; What about me? and What about tonight?

Chuck is nervous and distracted, but Sarah’s words don’t put Chuck on the spot either time. It’s not the words exactly, but her smile that’s so beguiling and calming. Man, I love that smile. It’s precisely what Chuck needs at those moments. Sarah seems to be completely aware of what Chuck is thinking and of what he’s about to do, and yet, she seems so innocent of it all at the same time. How does she do that?

[Note to all fathers in the audience: Awareness and innocence. Teach that to your daughters!]

So what could go wrong? Well, Sarah (innocently) blows Chuck’s proposal efforts out of the water. It’s okay though, because it’s clearly not a rejection; it’s just a little bad timing and an unfortunate coincidence. It happens. Especially to Chuck, it happens. I’ve mentioned before that I really react badly to humor that relies on embarrassment. I seldom find it funny. It would have been so easy for TPTB to embarrass Chuck at that moment.

And they started to. Balloons, champagne with music, a horse & carriage… Add one Morgan and stir well. It would have been the standard cliché, and I am soooo grateful the cliché was subverted! That would have been a cheap laugh – it would have been too easy. Instead, we get something different. It’s a delay – another one – for something we all know is coming. Chuck’s proposal is inevitable.

Still, Beckman’s call and the intruding mission are almost welcome. Turns out, Chuck&Sarah (no space between them, of course) are heading to a venue much more suited to Chuck’s plans, and wow, is it beautiful. This episode is full of beauty.

The Loire Valley in France is gorgeous, even if you’re being chased by a pack of dogs, like Agent Rosenbaum (named for Chuck writer Scott Rosenbaum). The wine cellar in which he’s trapped is also beautiful. It’s rustic and elegant at the same time. He also finds a beautiful solution to his problem, and it’s almost too bad the French terrorist Pierre Melville kills him anyway.

Back in Castle, Chuck asks with concern in his voice if Melville isn’t one of Volkoff’s men. I have to ask, at the time, did you think that was a “throw-away” line? I’m always so amazed and gratified to discover after re-watching that TPTB almost never show us anything unimportant. That single line becomes a crack in Chuck’s universe.

But this is Chuck, and you can’t have Chuck without teh funny. You want teh funny?

Casey: [Grunt] Colonel in the Marine Corps, demoted to man-servant. For a nerd!

That’s funny! Add in Lester’s pre-occupation with his impinging arranged marriage and you have serious chuckles. Poor Lester has issues with the traditions of “the old country” and his parents ridiculous dietary restrictions. Those of us who are 2nd generation immigrants know the feeling. But “Hinjews of Saskatchewan?” I spent some time cleaning up spewed soda after that.

I love it that Lester’s doing okay in the dating department. He’s dated three “4s” (out of 10, I presume), and everyone knows that’s the same as dating a “12” (out of 10, I’m sure). Nice way to look at it, Lester!

Sarah makes a fateful decision.One of the most amazing things about the way this episode is put together is the deftness with which we go from silly to dramatic. Right after Lester does his “Hinjews of Saskatchewan” bit, we go to Sarah in Castle, asking to talk privately to Beckman. She knows that Chuck is concerned and preoccupied about Volkoff because of the threat to his family and friends and she’ll do anything to help bring back his mother and to bring down Volkoff’s organization. Anything. That’s not meaningless or idle; this is Sarah Walker, super-spy, we’re talking about, and for her it’s a sub-mission. I didn’t know it at first, but just then we were shown Sarah walking deliberately, and with full knowledge, into a trap.

Sub-Missions-R-Us!

But first, Chuck&Sarah have to complete the CIA’s mission. Morgan, being a pretty good spy himself, preps, directs and cajoles Chuck with advice, directions, ring (in the left pocket), earpiece (in the right pocket) and mints (in both pockets) from halfway across the globe. Ring? The sub-mission – operation proposal – is on. What a wingman!

Did I mentioned that the Loire Valley was beautiful? Chuck&Sarah think so too. Even Sarah (she who’s been to the most beautiful places in the world without ever seeing them), finds it romantic, and hey, wasn’t she an “ice-queen” once, long ago??? What a change! Of course, Casey hates everything about it, and you can hear him muttering something derogatory about “frogs” underneath his breath.

Chuck: You there! Jonathan. Have you unpacked the lady’s luggage yet?
Casey: Call me Jonathan again I’ll break your leg.
Chuck: [Dropping the accent] Cover! Remember your cover. You are supposed to be searching underground for the nano-chip while Sarah and I search above ground for the nano-chip with all the wine and cheese! [Casey turns to leave] Oh, one more thing, Jon-Jon. Could you put my slippers out for tonight? That would be very helpful. Thanks so much. Off you go. Chop-chop.
Casey: [Grunt #8 and leaves]

Can’t you just hear the accent? 😉

Oh, that smile!

Oh, that smile!

It’s romantic, beautiful, and yet Morgan, Casey and the accent make it funny as all get out. Just as Sarah walks up, Chuck sends Casey off to fetch his slippers using that same, British “RP” accent. She’s smiling because of Casey’s grunt, and I can’t help but believe that Yvonne is smiling because both Adam and especially Zachary are so devastatingly funny, charming and witty at the same time. Together, Chuck&Sarah are as beautiful and relaxed as the valley they’re in (and I don’t care if it’s some back-lot at the WB studios. It’s a gorgeous backdrop, and I bought it).

Perfection

A west-facing balcony in the Loire Valley at sunset is a perfect spot to propose, as was the romantic Italian restaurant. Fate has to intrude, right? Chuck gets to chase after a bottle of wine while Sarah gets to save Casey, tipsy blonde style. OMG, Yvonne is hilarious acting tipsy! Chuck’s chase gives the cast an opportunity to do the “Peppery Pinot with a stable on the label and a stork on a cork” bit (straight from Danny Kaye’s classic The Court Jester), and the panache with which they perform it (especially Josh Gomez) is (how do you say in English?) epic.

Chuck: Uh! [Whispering] I didn’t want to have to tell you this, but there is something in your wine there!
Enthusiast: Yes. There is something in the wine. TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF FRENCH HISTORY! The blood and sweat of my ancestors! The pride of Lords and peasants alike! You, sir, wouldn’t know the difference between this and a glass of “Two-Buck Chuck!”
Chuck: First of all, I happen to like “Two-Buck Chuck.” Great bang for your buck. Second of all, you are dangerously close to becoming a walking cliché, sir.

Sarah saves Casey, Casey saves Sarah and Chuck saves the mission. Everything is perfect, especially, it seems, the balcony at sunset. Does that seem too pat? Of course it is. We can’t leave the Loire Valley with incomplete sub-missions. Just as Chuck and Morgan are about to complete theirs, fate (in the guise of Casey’s well-timed grappling hook and ride) has to step in. For all us ‘shippers, this is getting frustrating!

Who’d have thought that General Beckman, no less, would be the one attempting to subvert fate? Chuck&Sarah need to return to the Loire Valley to sell a (fake) chip to Pierre Melville the French Terrorist. It’s a sub-mission, so the sub-mission is on. And, yes it’s true, so is – the sub-mission.

Meanwhile back in Buymoria, it turns out that Lester’s intended, Jensana, is indeed a “12” (out of a possible 10). Big Mike’s little sub-mission is off, and Jeff’s is on (but don’t you love the combination of Jeff’s sitar and NHL Hockey together in the same atmosphere? Certainly the food has to be a combination of curries and Molson). There is more to be concerned about, though, because Chuck and Morgan never seem to realize that the walls have ears. Actually, Castle has air ducts, and Sarah has ears. Before they leave again for France, Sarah finally understands what Chuck’s been trying to do for the past couple of days. For a super-spy trained to be incredibly observant and keenly attuned to the nuances of human nature and its deceptions, that seems a little – uh – incongruous. In other words, Sarah, “Duh!”

Why oh why do I find her naive innocence so alluring? Hum? 😉 Okay, Sarah’s not so innocent, really (she is somebody deadly and hates surprises after all!) when she takes charge of Chuck’s sub-mission and turns Morgan to her ends. She’s just a little slow on the up-take when it comes to relationships. Fortunately, she’s taking charge of the sub-mission for Chuck’s sake (and for hers).

You remember how it went. The hand-off to Melville goes smoothly (and yes, I have absolutely no problems with Sarah-the-spy kissing Melville the terrorist/mark). The sub-mission is complete, and now it’s time for the sub-missions. The only thing more perfect than a romantic Italian restaurant and a balcony in the Loire Valley at sunset is that same balcony in the moonlight. Morgan, Chuck and Sarah know it.

Does that make anyone nervous? Well, yes. Sarah, the super-spy. Remember the woman who used to get merely frustrated when a computer nerd thought she might actually need his help to get out of handcuffs? Now she’s nervous!

Lord and Lady Carmichael

Let me take stock here. So far, I’ve been struck by how beautiful everything looks in this episode. I mean, even before you get to Sarah’s smile, and even before you see “Lord and Lady Carmichael” sampling wine at the French Château, you see beauty. The gentle humor of Lester, Morgan, Casey and even Sarah make me smile after the 6th viewing. We’ll get to the romance part, but there’s one other ingredient that makes a truly wonderful Chuck episode – the action.

Chuck’s fight scene with Melville and his goons is awesome! It rivals Sarah’s best. It’s fast, furious and not overdone. But the best part of that scene (and maybe the most beautiful part of the entire season) is back at Castle when Casey walks in and figures out about Morgan’s little sub-mission. Think about it. Wouldn’t the Casey from Season 1 put a stop to it and then go out for pancakes? The new and improved Casey decides to help them! It’s not just Morgan’s sub-mission any more.

How do you make perfect more perfect? Let Sarah have butterflies, that’s how. For just a moment she’s a minor wreck. Is this a disaster? No, it’s an opportunity for Morgan to be charming and beguiling, and he seizes it. He’s quick to calm and reassure Sarah by giving her “permission” to marry Chuck, and given who they are, it’s audacious. It’s also perfect. For the umteenth time this episode, I sigh with satisfaction.

Now you know fate has to intervene. Of course it does. What we don’t know (until Casey points it out) is that during his fight with Melville, the ring box fell out of Chuck’s pocket. The perfect romantic moment we all see coming (again) is about to be spoiled (again). Now that’s the disaster we’ve all been dreading!

Teamwork!

Sometimes it really does take a village, and this time it’s Casey to the rescue. He spots the ring, but what can he do from Castle when they’re in the Loire Valley? What can anyone do to not break the spell of this romantic moment?

It’s always a mistake to underestimate Sarah Walker when she’s on a mission. She picks up the ring box, and after distracting him with the moon, deftly places it back in Chuck’s pocket. I take that back. It’s no distraction – it’s perfect. I hate humor that based on embarrassment. I absolutely love the idea of everyone helping everyone else be absolutely perfect.

The Perfect Proposal

Sarah: I’ve been to so many places around the world, but I’ve never been to a place as beautiful as this.
Chuck: [looking at the moon] I have. [looking at Sarah] Every day. Every morning I wake up and I look at you. When we brush our teeth, tandem style. When we watch TV together, whenever. Anything. Always. Every time I look at you it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. I just – I feel like I should be James Bond right now, you know, the guy who’s standing on this balcony with you right now at this moment I mean…
Sarah: I didn’t fall in love with James Bond. I fell in love with you.
Chuck: Sarah, I – I’m gonna ask you a question right now, so please don’t freak out, okay?
Sarah: I won’t.
Chuck: I want to spend the rest of my life with you, going on missions and saving the day and being heroes. But mostly, though, I just want to be with you, at your side, always. Sarah, will you…

The Loire Valley is beautiful, but not as beautiful as Sarah’s smile. The fact that the proposal was interrupted at that moment is – well, almost irrelevant. It was (for the third time this episode) perfect, and all but official, over and done. And really, there’s been no mystery about it or about Sarah’s answer since Coup D’etat.

Chuck is upset that it didn’t come off, of course. He should be. He is about to get more upset that Sarah has accepted a mission to go deep inside Volkoff Industries. It’s the same mission that ensnared his mother for twenty years, and that represents fate not just intervening but something more like smacking Chuck in the head with an Intersect. Casey’s story about his somewhat less than romantic proposal to Kathleen in a Buffalo bus station (one I’m familiar with, btw) can’t lessen Chuck’s anguish.

Shuffle

But the dirty (and dingy) bus station in Buffalo isn’t relevant either. The story serves to strengthen Chuck’s resolve. He’s come so far from the schlub we first met in the Buy More, the one who had already given up on the idea of being someone who meant anything (even an assistant manager), the one who always let fate roll over him, the one who had no chance with the beautiful woman who came waltzing up to his desk… Fate is not going to stop him from living his life any more and it’s certainly not going to stop him from proposing, perfection be damned.

Sarah is different too. The super-spy who once disdained any help whatsoever and who would stop at nothing – including killing – to complete her mission, hesitates out of nervousness, depending on advice from a (former) bearded troll. For just a moment, we watch Sarah struggling with something totally outside her experience, where all her talents and strengths are useless. This is about relationships, after all.

Humor, beauty, three almost perfect proposals, unbearably frustrated love – what more could you ask for?

I know, I know. Patience.

Faith:

Three almost perfect proposals, each typically Chuck.

Initially, I was more focused on the emotion prompted by the interrupted proposals to really examine them. Who was the moment really for? Morgan said to Sarah that the proposals and the emphasis on them were important to Chuck because it’s a new beginning. A beginning he wanted to give to Sarah. We know that Chuck, the hopeless romantic who decorated his sister’s apartment with red rose petals for her and Devon wouldn’t slight the love of his life with a moment as big as this and as Casey so aptly phrased it, we know that in the end, “all you need is the girl.” So what was with the need to repeatedly try and attempt the perfect proposal? 

That smile, as Joe points out. It comes back to that smile. And of course, “Chuck, we have so much together, we have a real life and a future.” There was this moment before Sarah said, “Wait, Chuck was planning on proposing at the restaurant?” where she, for just a moment, softens. It was subtle but no less powerful. That moment illustrates why it was so important. And if that wasn’t clear she puts emphasis on it with, “we’re going to make this proposal happen, for Chuck’s sake and for mine.” This after self-reaffirming her GBSM persona with “I am somebody deadly.” The contrast is brilliant and quintessential Chuck.

Chuck was understandably nervous; he was understandably anxious during every single attempt. They’ve become pros at balancing the job with the romance so it was fitting that the job got in the way, repeatedly, and yet every moment counts. In some ways it parallels their journey to this point, full of pitfalls and interruptions (if they ever have another interrupted kiss, I will revolt! Kidding) but in the end the real proposal, the absolutely perfect moment, came with it that smile and that promise. We just, as Joe pointed out, had to be patient. In the meantime, we had some laughs, some tears, and some heartwarming moments trying to get there. Morgan even got to reverse his Marlin stance of making Chuck break up with her before Chuck ever got to proposing.

Perhaps the only truly negative aspects of the episode (for me) was those that are excusable. Namely, the production values. Unlike Joe, I had trouble buying some of the shots because the green screen was obvious, and I couldn’t understand the awkwardness of the camera angles during Chuck’s otherwise adeptly accomplished fight scene. Then again who can complain when you’re given such a strong episode, fantastic music (plus score), drunk Sarah and of course the banquet of proposals where the acting was top notch, the speech was memorable and the setting, picturesque. Some could even consider it three 4s, for a 12.

Joe responds:

Faith, you asked a really great question. Who was the moment really for? I think I have an answer.

It certainly wasn’t for Chuck. He’s been planning this proposal for weeks and weeks and episode after episode. We heard about the original plans, complete with horses and sports cars, mountains and sea-shore, way back in Phase 3. If Chuck’s anything like the guy I know, he’s been tinkering with that plan in some form or other since high school. Those early plans got tossed out the window when Sarah came to the Buy More looking nothing at all like the petite brunettes Chuck knew in his youth – especially the ones on whom he depended. You know – Mary and Ellie. When it came, the moment almost took him by surprise.

The moment wasn’t for Sarah. She deliberately buried such thoughts a long, long time ago and covered them with cast iron. Sarah saw it as a mission, one she had to complete for Chuck.

It wasn’t for Casey or Morgan or Ellie – they have all struggled for their moments and can only encourage their friends when they can with all the wisdom, support and love they can muster. Nothing less will do, but nothing more will help.

And all that is exactly wrong. You see, Casey, Morgan and Ellie have helped much more than that. They’ve each sacrificed much – nearly everything – for their two friends. And every bit of it has helped. It’s for them. And that shell around Sarah’s heart was penetrated from the very start. It took everything she had to NOT admit it to herself, and even that effort was doomed to failure. The time it took to get to the proposal is testimony to the obstacles in Sarah’s way, not to faults in her character. It’s for her.

And of course, the moment was for Chuck. He wouldn’t think otherwise for a minute. No sane man would.

Lastly, that moment, and all the moments leading up to it, were for us, the fans. We’re the ones who experience those emotions, again and again.

How’s that? 😉

Faith:

Good enough. The moment was especially for the both of them. Sarah “I don’t get butterflies” Walker and Chuck “proposal plan since the 8th grade” Bartowski. And for us.

Was it awful that the last perfect proposal didn’t come with it the brass ring? Not really, in again typical Chuck fashion, it happened as it usually happens, except this time we don’t have to kill Morgan for stealing the moment. And this time we know, the moment is just to be continued just as Chuck and Sarah’s life together is just beginning.

Stay tuned for Ernie and Thinkling’s review of Gobbler on the 17th of June. 
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About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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48 Responses to Summer Re-Watch: 4.11 Chuck vs. The Balcony

  1. Henry says:

    Just a small remark, and I apologise if I missed the reference, but for me one of the best moments is Sarah in the office of Morgan, in the blue dress and as cute as even she has rarely been, mentioning that “she is somebody deadly”, with a smile that could melt ice. Well, my own ice, at least…
    I think that the few Sarah/Morgan (Sargan? Morah?) interactions have usually been one of the best parts of the whole show: I hope that they will exploit this potential a little more inthe future…

    • joe says:

      Oh, I agree, Henry! Finding a favorite moment in this episode is hard. I love Sarah’s small look of incredulous-ness when she reminds Morgan she’s deadly. There’s an unspoken “Of *course* I’m deadly!” in there somewhere.

      But I also laugh (hard) at Casey’s “Demoted to man-servant – for a nerd!” line, not to mention the “Call me Jonathan one more time and I’ll break your leg.” line. Jensana’s “That was – the most embarrassing five minutes of my life!” line is pretty good too! 😉

      Maybe the best puns are the visual ones, though. The set-up in Lester’s little love-tent is hilarious.

    • lappers84 says:

      I also like the fact that Sarah towers over Morgan, showing us how intimidating she can be whilst showing how human she’s become in 4 years, with her realisation that Chuck was going to propose to her in the restaurant….which btw is still one of the funniest scenes for me. Not just for Chuck’s panic when he hears Sarah’s story, but then to realise he has the whole thing already in motion (cue the music) and Chuck running out to see Morgan in a top hat holding a full store’s worth of balloons just to tell him the proposals off. I couldn’t stop laughing, especially at the end of that scene as you see Chuck leading Sarah out the side entrance and cut to a shot of Morgan attempting to shoo away the horse and carriage whilst he let’s go of the balloons shouting “My balloons”. Brilliant.
      Back to the music, frankly I think Tim Jones is a genius and his soundtracks make Chuck really stand out, just another reason to love that scene. Still miffed me a bit at the end with no proposal yet, but we all new it was coming eventually 🙂

    • thinkling says:

      Agree, Henry. Every Sarah/Morgan scene this season has been absolutely great … and not just the comedy.

  2. atcDave says:

    To me, this is one of those episodes that has improved with repeated viewings. I think initially, I was pretty cranky about the failed proposals. It was taking a joke too far. And I still think it gained them nothing over having Sarah embark on her Volkoff mission as an engaged woman.

    But that said, it isn’t such a big deal in hindsight. The engagement DID happen in all but fact. We know, and the characters know, that they are both completely ready and willing for that next step. Its just a matter of completing the formality.
    And there is so much that is funny, beautiful, and dare I say genius about this episode. You both did a wonderful job of summing most of those up, my favorites being tipsy Sarah, Sarah usurping the sub-mission, and of course the balcony non-proposal. These are the sort of scenes that make Chuck the best thing on television.

    • joe says:

      Dave, you’re becoming a critic and reviewer after my own heart. 😉

      Oh yeah, I ❤ tipsy Sarah.

      • lappers84 says:

        I’d love to see more of that in season 5.

      • atcDave says:

        So we’re all voting for more tipsy Sarah? Or just fake tipsy Sarah who’s about to beat the stuffing out of someone (hee hee, never gets old!)

    • lappers84 says:

      Personally I’d like to see a bit of both 🙂

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Dave, I actually liked the twist and the mission at the end, but then as we know I have a higher level of tolerance for Chuck and Sarah drama (angst?) than many. I sort of saw the twist as returning to an old theme that will probably be revisited one last time next season, the spy-world as the ultimate obstacle keeping Chuck and Sarah from having “it all” or what they want. In season 1 and 2 it was Sarah’s need to control Chuck enough to convince the CIA not to embunker him, and Chuck’s push back and subsequent dissatisfaction at Sarah’s behavior that put a wall between them. I’ll leave out the season 3 theme, but in season 4 it has been played again, in both the finales (as it was in 1, 2, and 3) that the spy world threatens to tear them apart before they can reach that happily ever after. I thought it was both appropriate and well done in preparation for Push Mix.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I get the spy world interferes part; I loved it in Aisle of Terror and was fine with it in Last Details/Cliffhanger. But I still find many aspects of it from Balcony and Gobbler to be annoying. Perhaps partly because I saw it initially as Chuck did, that is Sarah simply stepping into Mary’s unending mission. Even being more assured it wouldn’t last 20 years, I wanted more assurance that the situation was different or at least that Sarah saw it differently than Mary and brought it some expectation of being quickly resolved. What I FELT at the end of Balcony and through Gobbler was a bit of frustration and hopelessness; even if I KNEW the situation would play out differently. Perhaps I would have felt differently about both of these episodes if Sarah had expressed some realization in Push Mix that she needed to end it, instead of Mary being the plot device.
        At any rate, as I said, I don’t see this as a huge shortcoming, just sort of an emotional flaw in the execution of this arc for me.

      • Silvercat42 says:

        I’m with you Ernie. I find all the complaints about “angst” to be rather, ahem, off-putting. After all angst is usually a big part of dramas, and Chuck is, after all, a comedy-drama. I realize people were disappointed when they didn’t get an actual, completed proposal, but after all it’s the twists and unexpected developments that keep me and many other fans coming back week after week. (Granted, we’re getting fewer compared to other shows, but there is still a very loyal fan base, or NBC would not have renewed it for Season 5.)

  3. thinkling says:

    Joe and Faith, thanks for re-review of Balcony. What a great episode and you two reminded me how much is there.

    The greatest thing about the proposal isn’t so much that it’s for both of them, but that to each it’s for the other. In Chuck’s eyes, it’s for Sarah, and to Sarah it’s for him. He wants to give her a clean slate and the perfect proposal. Sarah wants to give him the opportunity and happiness of doing just that. It was like a lot of other aspects of their relationship. Sarah is happy with Chuck + nothing. She wasn’t pining for the perfect proposal, but once she found out how much it meant to him, she was all in to do anything to help make it happen. This is one of her most endearing qualities.

    • joe says:

      Beautifully put, Thinkling.

      You know, it just dawned on me that too many of my favorite shows center on characters who are essentially unhappy (even damaged) people. Bones, NCIS, The Mentalist, Burn Notice, maybe even Covert Affairs – all of them struggle with an inner sadness.

      Not so Chuck. For the longest time I thought that both C&S were “damaged” characters, but really, they’re not. At least, not now, and they haven’t been for a while.

      I can think of shows where the central characters are perfectly fine – Royal Pains comes to mind. But it seems to be a rarity these days.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting point Joe. We often talk about how damaged Chuck was at the beginning, or even how Chuck and Sarah saved each other. But really, compared to most of what we see on television, both characters were in fairly good shape from the start, and are downright well adjusted now.

      • joe says:

        Precisely, Dave. Even at first, they are fine – maybe a little discouraged, though. Their circumstances are a bit weird. That’s for sure.

        What I like is, for all the weirdness, what gets them through (and really, what attracts C&S to each other) is the the strength of their character. We may not have the Intersect or killer knife-throwing skills, but good character is something we can aspire to have. It makes C&S good role models.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Joe I agree 100%. To me, one of the strongest hooks of the show from the very start was the strength of those two characters. Chuck was someone I could relate to, and WANT to relate to (the nerd I’d always hoped I was…); while Sarah was a likable, traditional hero (conscientious and fearless like we want people in her position to be).

      • thinkling says:

        Agree, guys. Chuck and Sarah both were dealt way less than ideal circumstances, and both emerged somewhat damaged, but with their integrity and character in tact. Each had gaps that they were compensating for, but not fully overcoming. The fully overcoming part came in their relationship, as each completed the other … extremely satisfying.

  4. jason says:

    Ok – I liked the ep right away, still do. 38 minutes of top 5 type genius, rivaling phase 3.

    But,, …. I ask myself (and anyone willing to address my issue), – Why does this episode, with clear greatness, seldom make top ten lists? My answer is after near 38 minutes of complete romantic comedy perfection, those last 4 minutes occur – 4 minutes of season 3 style misery. In some shows, this type of drama is 100% appropriate, it simply does not sail for this shipper in chuck, it runs the show aground in my opinion.

    Another group of ?’s, had the last 4 minutes become the first 4 minutes of 4×12, and 4×11 had ended with a success on the balcony and / or a joyful celebration back home – would 4×11 not been a top 3 top 5 level episodes – it would for me? And a followup, would the movement harmed 4×12 at all? For me, the misery of 4×11’s end would have worked in 4×12, making a great 4×11 episode, and only ruining one episode with misery instead of two.

    Finally, without the engagement at the end of 4×13, would the episode been harmed? For me, not at all, 4×13 had very little romance, I would have been quite content with the engagement at the end of 4×11, and 13 ending with the family together in some way, shape, or form after or during the birth of baby clara.

    • atcDave says:

      I think I agree with all of this Jason except maybe for the intensity of your response. Balcony would indeed have been a vastly better episode if the balcony scene had ended with a yes and a happy wrap-up; then start the undercover mission interrupting something else at the start of Gobbler (like maybe a private celebration for Chuck and Sarah) It wouldn’t have had any negative impact elsewhere and would have raised Balcony up a notch or two for most ‘shippers.

      But as I said, I don’t think its a huge issue. The episode is excellent either way, Push Mix did benefit from Balcony’s failure; and I think most of us ‘shippers were pretty pleased with S4, so the few missteps aren’t that big of a deal.

      • jason says:

        Dave – I find this ep fascinating as a fan of chuck. This ep was the point where viewership went down, might have been the ep (combined the contrived angst leak of what was coming in 12), might have been DWTS coming back around that time, might have even been Harry’s Law changing the Nielson patterns on Monday’s, we really NEVER will know.

        I wrote down on rewatch 10 scenes that I liked, 6 had chuck and sarah in them, 2 quick chuck fight scenes, 1 had chuck and casey in the ‘it’s the girl, not the place’ scene, and the other had sarah and morgan in the famous “let’s do this for chuck., and for me” scene – a top ten scene of the season.

        But even in the chuck and sarah scenes, morgan is a non stop annoyance, TPTB can’t keep him out of scenes. Had they had the courage / brains to do a Honeymooners II, somehow I picture morgan in near every scene, not sure how, but that is what this show has become. Added to that, for me, this ep used jeffster way, way, way too much – with no bearing on the plot (other than in an imaginary mythology parallel thing going on, which may be ok for 1 or 2 minutes of tv, but not 8 or 10 or 12). Then, to top it off, the joy that an engagement could have given me to save the ep – since I put up with morgan and jeffster, was stolen by the last 4 minutes. Had I been on the fence with the show, that may have been enough to push me over the edge.

        Again, I really liked the ep, but in analysis mode, I simply ask why did I not love the ep, why was it not top 5 level for me. Given what was going on from a whiteboard perspective, it could have been.

      • joe says:

        Great analysis, Jason.

        Respectfully, I disagree with you about Morgan (I really don’t find him annoying, and I have really enjoyed his growth this season) and about Jeffster (I thought their use was appropriate for the episode; not too much, and not too little), but I come to the same conclusion as you. This is a top 10 episode, but not a top five. Cool!

        Separating personal preferences from the technical evaluations is hard! Music is like that too. Back in my day, it was “Who do you like better? – The Stones or The Beatles?” Then we went on for days trying to say why.

        I like your term “analysis mode”. I’ve been fighting with that notion all year. I mean, when I sit down to watch an episode for the first time, I really want to just sit, watch, absorb and enjoy. These days it’s been impossible for me to avoid thinking about what everybody else is thinking about the episode or any particular scene, and it makes for a more analytical (but less enjoyable) experience.

        I get around it by forgetting that I’m going to be writing about the episode, though, and watching more than a few times before I do. The first and last time, I watch straight through without pausing or taking notes. Much more enjoyable that way!

        The payoff is that I get to recognise some of small things I otherwise would have missed with only one viewing. My wife will never understand how I can sit to watch a repeat of anything! I keep telling her “But there’s so much I missed the first 3 times! 😉

      • jason says:

        @joe – this may help –

        morgan literally was in on near every chuck & sarah romantic communication in this episode, essentially being the brains for chuck – contrast that with the single casey – chuck and how powerful the one scene is, the single sarah – morgan scene was an instant classic in many fans minds. Morgan gets overused, overwritten, overplayed & it is annoying – it had to contribute to what was an outcry over his getting the intersect – I think most fans are ok with morgan, but he is not what the fans love. One scene where he is on the com helping chuck would have been awesome, two or three ok, but less memorable, near a half dozen or even a dozen – too much.

        in terms of jeffster, I FF thru them after the first view, when I watch an ep for the 3rd of 4th time, I develop a mental note of just how much FF’ing I must do – my point is- for a top five’ish type ep, from my POV, I had way to much FF’ing. Plus, this plot in particular, 8-12 minutes of a story, with no payoff, the gal just shrugs her shoulders and leaves, I get the feeling one million fans did the same thing that night – just too bad, the proposal episode had way more potential than that!

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t know Jason, most casual viewers I know really like Morgan; its us, the more committed viewers who get tired of him. For myself, I often find him funny, but I am jealous of him stealing Chuck/Sarah time. So I’m almost completely okay with S4, but I am somewhat concerned over the Morgansect. Again, most casual viewers I know enjoyed the finale completely and think Morgan as the Intersect will be a lot of fun. As I’ve said before, I really have no explanation for the viewership drop we saw this season, every casual viewer I know enjoyed S4 (well, one says the show has never regained its S2 form; but it is still an enjoyable night of TV).
        We do need to remember too that more serialized shows pretty much always shed viewers as they go. I think when a viewer falls behind, they often figure it isn’t worth the effort to catch up. While more episodic series often don’t have this limitation; if someone misses a week or two they just jump back in when they can. So perhaps, over the last couple seasons, Chuck has just been perceived as more serialized than it used to be, leading to the typical drop off.

      • jason says:

        dave – he is on the com giving chuck directions pretty much in this ep – I get the feeling he tells chuck which hand to unzip with – chuck is not retarded versus morgan either intellectually or emotionally – really nearly the opposite is (was) true, I simply am saying Morgan telling chuck what to do was overdone – to the point the awesomeness of the final when morgan and casey are helping out – maybe got a little boring – overwritten – overused – overdone – in the right measure – it is really good – at some point – sort of gets redundant

        but I never said fans quit watching over morgan – I think I wrote we don’t know, but they may have over waiting 17 episodes since the one titled honeymooners, fans watching while chuck or sarah insinuate engagement countless times, including 4 times in the ep, then have sarah get dragged away to volkov industries – the handwringing nature of not being able to close the deal with plots really hurts fedak’s style … as far as jeffster, that was lots of screen time which essentially did not accomplish much if anything, then the 13 th ep got everything crammed in – jeffster needs to contribute to the a plot, such that by FF’ing thru them the viewer would miss the story, in this ep, not so much

      • dave – he is on the com giving chuck directions pretty much in this ep – I get the feeling he tells chuck which hand to unzip with – chuck is not retarded versus morgan either intellectually or emotionally – really nearly the opposite is (was) true, I simply am saying Morgan telling chuck what to do was overdone – to the point the awesomeness of the final when morgan and casey are helping out – maybe got a little boring – overwritten – overused – overdone – in the right measure – it is really good – at some point – sort of gets redundant

        @Jason – This^^^. WORD.

      • AgentInWaiting says:

        @jason – I don’t agree with this at all. Yes, Morgan pushed the sub-mission and gave Chuck three locations for the proposal. But Chuck’s words (the important stuff) were all his own.

      • jason says:

        agent – I agree that the important words were chuck’s, the amount of morgan in each episode is a personal thing, I must admit, his role in 4×11 did not strike me as odd when watching live, but did when he showed up as the preacher and the chaueffer driver in 4×24, seemed like every frameable chuck / sarah moment has morgan’s face in it all of a sudden (phase 3’s dramatic chuck / sarah moment too) – so 4×11’s annoyance was simply my opinion, certainly I wrote such to encourage debate or even to hear some words which might convince me otherwise, which you helped with (a little) – thx

      • AgentInWaiting says:

        @jason – While Morgan as the preacher was a bit startling, I think it worked well if you like the comedic aspects of Chuck. Sarah actually giggled (how often has she done *that*?! and could she imagined herself doing that four years ago?) after Morgan’s “by the power invested in me by the Intergalactic Federation of Planets” line. Too much seriousness without the quirkiness/nerdiness and you’ll get the boring, perfect couple in Undercovers.

    • AgentInWaiting says:

      @atcDave – I think you’re exactly correct regarding casual viewers. Over the last few months I’ve tried to get my parents turned onto the show by watching an episode with them whenever I visit. At first they probably watched to humour me but they’ve now gotten hooked (early season 2) so they’re watching on their own. Anyways, when I do watch an episode with them I notice they actually laugh out loud at the Morgan/Jeffster/Buy More stuff. They’re silent during the Chuck/Sarah scenes so I can’t exactly discern what they’re thinking when those occur. It’ll be interesting to see how they react to 3.1-3.13.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah AiW my experiences have been similar. You might want to just skip to 3.14…

        I’ve seen really violent hostility towards 3.01, 3.08, and 3.11 from casual viewers. In my experience, those are kind of the crisis points that determine if casual viewers will bother to continue or not.

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        @AIW:

        I second Dave’s recommendation of skipping from the end of S2 to episode 3.14; if your parents are enjoying the show at the end of S2, why bring them down for no reason and risk losing them? You might want to make an exception for Angel of Death, but I’d say let them watch the rest of the show’s run (up to the end of S5) before bringing in 3.1 to 3.13. I mean, are any of those episodes THAT crucial to the show?

        The Morgansect: I recognize that Morgan is an important link to who Chuck used to be, and that he is a big part of the element of absurdity/whimsy that the showrunners mine for humor, but my Morgan tank topped out when he displayed his mastery of Yoga in the Chamber of Laser Beams. I enjoyed S4, but it got so that my favorite Morgan moments consisted of him being tranqed.

        Unless it gets Adam Baldwin some much needed screen time, I’d be ok with Morgan losing the Intersect sometime during episode 5.1. Sooner, if the Morgansect is going to cost Sarah/Chuck any of their screen time.

      • AgentInWaiting says:

        That was my main beef with Push Mix. Those 150 seconds spent on the laser beam scene could have easily been chopped to 30-45 seconds and we could have gotten back the much more desired Sarah-Casey interaction and a scene with Chuck and Ellie or Chuck/Sarah and Ellie.

    • Silvercat42 says:

      It’s one of my all time favorites… and the reason is definitely not the overall story but rather the character interactions: Chuck and Sarah, Sarah and Morgan, Casey and Chuck, Casey and Sarah, etc. Also, the final (albeit unsuccessful) proposal was wonderful. Since I’ve always enjoyed the emphasis of dangers of the spy world, I liked the end. I couldn’t wait for the next episode. BTW, I’m just about as strong a shipper as many of you, but I’ve never understood all the unhappiness with PLI’s or failure of Chuck and Sarah to communicate in Seasons 1 & 2, or the supposedly over-used “angst” primarily because I always had faith that they would end up together, and, yes, married. Just my opinion.

      • atcDave says:

        Well SC, I agree I never doubted Chuck and Sarah would end up married; but that’s actually part of the problem. It made every step they took apart from each other feel like a waste of time. I don’t want to take that too far, some lessons were obviously learned in the process; for example, its easy to say Lou was a lesson for Chuck about getting involved with a civilian and the impossibility of building a relationship around too many lies and secrets. And Bryce and Jill can easily be seen as important stories about the characters’ pasts and growth.
        But myself, and every single more casual viewer I know, saw S3 as a massive disappointment. S2 ended with so much hope and promise, while S3 WASTED 12 episodes before it delivered on that hope. To me, 3.01 is simply the point when things HAD to happen; when they didn’t the result was disappointment, nothing less.

        Now we are completely past that. I have no major issues with S4. I am completely satisfied because they delivered the program I wanted to see. I expect more of the same for S5. But I am not an easy audience. If they disappoint me again I will be vocal and clear. I don’t expect to be disappointed, but I won’t just accept another season of teen relationship melodrama either.

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        @SC:
        I’m glad you kept watching, but I think that Dave’s description of S3 as a massive disappointment is an understatement. For many viewers, Season 3 turned what was the best escapist entertainment on TV into something that wasn’t entertainment at all. So they left, and for some people, the damage done to the characters of Chuck and Sarah was so severe that it made the idea of marriage unbelievable. I know 3 of those people, and I can’t get them to watch any of the S4 episodes even now.

        I’ll watch Chuck right till the end (for Yvonne Strahovski and Sarah Lancaster, at the very least), but I really hope the showrunners avoid the teen melodrama, and show us their best.

      • atcDave says:

        VV that wasn’t an understatement; I was trying to be nice! And I’ve done enough angry venting on the subject (read some of my S3 comments!); this may be as close to “letting go” as I get.

  5. Rick Holy says:

    My two favorite lines/parts of this episode. One from Sarah, one from Chuck. I think the Sarah line was one of my all time favorites of hers: “I don’t get butterflies!”

    And, of course, Chuck describing ANY moment with Sarah as the most beautiful place he’s ever been. Don’t know which writer can take credit for that one – but truly an AWESOME expression of Chuck’s feelings – think his words on the balcony were even BETTER than his “non-vow” vows at the wedding.

    • joe says:

      Oh, I agree, Fr. Rick.

      I was going to save this for when we write-up The Cliffhanger later this summer, but it’s worth mentioning now; Chuck’s proposal here and Sarah’s vows later, the way she practised them in private with Chuck, are like a pair of bookends in my mind. They fit together, they are different and exactly alike in their honesty and simplicity.

      Oh, if only I had been so eloquent when I proposed! 😉 I wasn’t; I was merely “good enough.”

    • jason says:

      @rick – I think you are an alias fan, at least as much as I am able to remember these days, if you are, chuck’s proposal might remind you a bit of vaughn’s to sydney on the airplane right b4 the mission in season 4’s finale – not identical words, but certainly the ‘wake up every day part while you are still sleeping …. part’ – I agree with you about liking chuck’s words there and how they mirror sarah’s in cliffhanger – also – I think the ‘butterflies’ thing is one way morgan has been used well this season, morgan has become sarah’s way to communicate her feelings about chuck to the audience, without having to always talk to chuck, almost like her girlfriend, casey too, but more and more it has been morgan

      • Rick Holy says:

        I’ll have to pull my ALIAS DVDs off the shelf and “re-view” Vaughn’s proposal to Sydney. I’m sure at the time it stuck in my head, but…….

        Personally, I saw A LOT of “parallels” with CHUCK and ALIAS. I don’t want to say the writers/show runners “borrowed” from ALIAS, but how about THESE comparisons?

        Chuck (Sydney)
        Sarah(Vaughn) – yes I know the male/female roles are reversed, but you get my point.

        Mother and Father of main character are somehow involved in “the spy life,” as main character later discovers.

        Close friend to main character is featured (Morgan/Francie).

        SD6 = Fulcrum (then “The Ring).

        “Competing Love Interests” theme.” (Forget the name of the blonde that Vaughn married when Syd was missing and presumed dead for two years, but she was a “baddie.”)

        Main character and handler (Chuck/Sarah, Sydney/Vaughn) eventually get married.

        You can’t tell me SOMEONE(S) with CHUCK hadn’t watched ALIAS and borrowed certain themes from ALIAS and adapted them to CHUCK. Not that I have any objection to it – none at all.

        I don’t think it’s coincidence that I LOVE both shows! And BOTH will go 5 seasons! Lucky me, lucky me.

        Although I am LONGING for a “back 9” pickup for CHUCK, even though it seems like it’s destined NOT to happen. There would just be something WONDERFUL about “going out” on a 100th episode – quite a milestone for “the little show that could!”

      • atcDave says:

        Those similarities are certainly not accidental. Way back in the beginning (S1 disc extras maybe? I’m not sure where I saw it) Yvonne stated clearly she’d been told immediately after being cast to watch the whole series of “Alias” as preparation for her role.

      • Rick Holy says:

        Dave – that doesn’t surprise me. What other shows, recent or not, have featured a kick-a** yet vulnerable female “super-spy” like ALIAS. Different shows, yes, but the Sarah character and the Sydney Bristow character also have key similarities.

        As much as I love Jennifer Garner, there is just something about Yvonne when she’s doing the fight scenes. That look on her face – I can’t quite describe it – whether it’s the teeth gritting or what, I don’t know – but it just SCREAMS – “I’M KICKING YOUR A**!!!!!”

      • jason says:

        rick – A fav subject of mine, I can’t resist – one is different than you picked & i added one – morgan of all people, although I see the fancie thing, she was killed in s1 or s2 I think – I was not so lucky with morgan?

        dixon – casey – no nonsense, by the book primary spy partner
        Marshall – Morgan – elf-like, annoying, know it alls, both very funny

        OK – as a guess – how about sloan – beckman – as both the immediate boss and the mysterious big bad pulling all the strings behind the scenes?

        I’d be quite content with the same ending for chuck as alias had, the last 2-3 minutes of s5 alias would fit chuck and sarah very, very nicely.

      • Rick Holy says:

        I’m all over what you’re sayin’, Jason.

        One of the things I LOVED about CHUCK was the number of stars or guest stars that it had from two other shows I loved – ALIAS and FIREFLY. “Marshall” was in Season 1 as that creepy little gymnast with the antidote (Loved when Sarah shot him in the knee and Casey gave his approval). “Dixon” was of course in “Vs. The Sensei.” That’s why I was hoping beyond hope that the the actress cast as “Sydney” would have been Jennifer Garner (although Angie Harmon was fine in the role). It would ahve just made the ALIAS connection complete.

        As far as FIREFLY, there is obviously Adam Baldwin. Summer Glau, of course (wish they would have made better use of her on CHUCK). But there’s also been the English guy (Mark somebody?) that played Badger in Firefly as the Ring Director. The actress who played the “Madam” of the whorehouse in Firefly also played Sasha Banacheck (sp??) in the 1st Roann Montgomery episode. What I would have LOVED to see is Gina Torres play the role of a “baddie” on CHUCK. She was in both Firefly AND in ALIAS (as Sydney’s nemesis, Anna Espinosa).

        Concering the possible similarities in a “CHUCK” ending and the ending of “ALIAS,” wouldn’t it be something to see Sarah and Chuck walking with a little “Chuckie” toddler on the beach where they had their first “date” of sorts – and then have the kid “flash” on something? That would be ‘the kicker!” We’ll see.

      • joe says:

        Oh yeah, I just love those connections! I’m generally pretty oblivious to such things, but lately I’ve been amazed at how many faces I recognize in NCIS re-runs, too, faces I first noticed in Chuck.

        Mini-Anden had a role, Adam B. was in at least one episode. He played a marine, of course.

        I saw John Billingsley, (the real life husband of Bonita Friedericy) in one, and I spotted Jesse Heiman (Fernando) in another. Just recently I recognized the actor who played the part of Lazslo Mahnovski’s handler in Sandworm.

  6. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Balcony (4.11) | Chuck This

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