This week our Summertime Top Ten rewatch, after an (in my opinion) abbreviated trip through season 1, brings us to the start of one of the two most popular arcs in the Chuck fandom; the beginning of season 2. With Chuck Versus The First Date, we are introduced to a new Chuck, who has apparently gone along for some time as we saw in season 1, Going on missions, not staying in the car, and generally getting himself into trouble while saving the day and completing the mission. While he isn’t a totally new Chuck to us, he is a different one. Call him a new and improved Chuck, after the jump.
“Who Are You?” – Mr. Colt
Who are you indeed. We’ve seen Chuck, throughout the first season, deal with that very question. In Tango, we see that he once thought he knew who he was and where he was headed. The fictional Charles Carmichael never quite materialized due to a twist of fate named Bryce Larkin. For Chuck the question remained, and would for a very long time. But it is in First Date that we get our first real hints to who Chuck really is, once you get past the slacker who spent 5 years mourning his lost life and the unwilling spy still stuck in the BuyMore.
In a prologue for the entire season we see Chuck, facing a future freed from the intersect, or at least government service (or so he thinks) contemplating what he wants to do with his life. Oddly none of his dreams include working at the BuyMore for another week. After his years adrift something happened to Chuck in his enforced time as the BuyMore alpha geek. He, and a special someone, started to see all the possibilities ahead for him, if he could only free himself from being “The” intersect.
But the future is a tricky thing, it doesn’t always work out like you want it to, or think it will, and today’s burden may seem like an opportunity by the end of the season. See a someone has come along and flipped Chuck on his head, and it isn’t Tony Robins. The limited life Chuck lives is no longer enough for him, and as set up in this episode, season 2 will be a quest to free himself from the limits imposed on him. But he isn’t the only one looking at the limits of their life and what their future offers, or perhaps the possibilities a change could offer.
That is the single dumbest story I’ve ever heard” – Mr. Colt
So I guess it’s a good idea, when returning after a nine month hiatus, to grab people’s attention right away. Far better than the typical “here are a few things you need to know, or maybe you just forgot” the opening sequence with Chuck and Colt nicely summarizes the whole series in a nutshell. And then sets up this episode and the big question for both the episode and the season. Will Chuck live long enough to become a liability?
Still, for now Chuck is unaware and looking at a future, or the rest of his life, and he likes what he sees. OK, not entirely. An unfortunate bathroom incident reminds Chuck that even though he is the most valuable intelligence asset in the world, he still lives with his sister and works at the BuyMore. Maybe it’s time for that to change.
It seems someone has come along in Chuck’s life and flipped him on his head and shaken things up, and it isn’t Tony Robbins.
A year or so as the intersect, working with his spy-protectors/partners, and Chuck has seen there’s a whole great big world out there he wants to experience and see. The BuyMore isn’t enough anymore. Chuck wants to grab ahold of life and live it, and that just might include stepping up and taking charge, facing his deepest fears, reaching for the stars! Asking Sarah Walker, who is un-ironically speaking, awesome, on a date. A real date. Their second first date (rather telling that slip of Sarah’s).
Oh Chuck, when you are at your best nothing beats you, and you are often at your best with the musical montage setting the mood and the scenes, this time for the both the date and the mission. Chuck has on occasion (like in Ring or Tom Sawyer) elevated the montage to art, and this is one of the best, and not just for the non-gratuitous scenes with Sarah in her underwear, those are crucial to revealing the character’s state of mind (she’s wearing the good matching underwear…) Everything is set, but there is one last thing to cover… Chuck’s future. Beyond the date.
Yes, it is plain now, Burbank and the BuyMore are no longer enough for Chuck. He doesn’t have it all figured out yet, but he knows that much. Chuck is ready to step up and take control of his life, as soon as he gets it back. For now, baby steps.
Well, that didn’t quite go as planned. Casey, the consummate spy, just might be getting sloppy… OK, I didn’t just say that. But you have to admit, other than Sarah, did anyone ever get the jump on Casey? A phony courier, unarmed, with the right verification, yet still, not the guy you want to give the second most valuable intelligence asset in the world to. Still, Casey is nothing if not prepared for all contingencies with chemical showers, adrenalin, the whole gamut. He’s still respectful too.
Chuck should never make promises about dates with Sarah (doesn’t he watch movies?) Still, for a bit, it is fun to see Chuck and Sarah set aside the cover and connect as who they are and who they will become. You get the feeling Sarah isn’t looking forward to the end of this assignment, much as she feels Chuck deserves it, his shot at a normal life… And compare the second first date to the first. You can’t help but notice the chemistry and connection that was there in the first is off the charts in the second. But sadly, our favorite couple is doomed, frequently, to have those special moments interrupted. And unfortunately Sarah is only metaphorically dressed to kill this time.
One drive through later, and Chuck wakes up, back in the present. He’s still the intersect, he still lives with his sister, and he still works at the BuyMore. (Ahhhh… Montage)
In the present Chuck still has to choose an assistant manager (AssMan) for the BuyMore, and I must say, in season 2 the BuyMore works. With Chuck as the straight man the antics of Morgan, Jeff, Lester and Anna were the stuff of legend. Welcome to Thunderdome. Priceless.
“Hello Chuck.” – Mr. Colt
Who are you, that was the question Colt asked. It’s about to be answered. This is one of my all-time favorite Chuck scenes and episodes for what is to come. It’s genius. We’re about to meet Chuck, the real Chuck. Colt doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into.
While I admire Mr. Colt’s discipline, never break a neck cold, he really shouldn’t underestimate Chuck, or Carmichael. As we will see all season long, bad guys do so at their peril. You see, Carmichael, the Chuck that Chuck constructed to embody his “lost” future is where the real essence of Chuck resides. Carmichael is Chuck as everyone always imagined him, and when the need arises, well, Chuck is that guy. Nobody is coming for you? For Chuck, no problem. “Hey, it’s me” takes on a new meaning, and in an amazing scene (and some spectacular acting) we see the Chuck everyone else sees as merely potential. OK, he’s got the facing down an entire gang of mercenaries thing, he just needs to work on the being dangled off buildings part.
Sarah Walker, how we love you. And how we love the fights you do so well. We can almost believe that a bereft Sarah, with no concern for her own life, bent on vengeance, could be a match for a man literally three times her size. One of the all-time great Chuck fights.
The Future (Part Deux)
Back to the future, and the montage. Some great dramatic tension, even though we knew Casey wouldn’t succeed, and we find that Chuck, still the intersect, still living with his sister, and still working at the BuyMore, hard as it may be, is where he’s supposed to be, for now. Why? Well, we may see a hint in the next few episodes. Chuck is ready, and not ready, to move on with his life, but in a way he needs to stay in the BuyMore. They still need him. And who else may need him? Well Sarah may not be where she is supposed to be, but just maybe she is where she needs to be, for a while.