Ernie And Thinkling Never Travel Light
One of the few benefits of the way Chuck was treated by NBC under old management, essentially as schedule spackle, is that we can have a satisfying mid-season potentially happily-ever-after episode that ties up a lot of the ongoing stories and allows a breather, if you will, to do some stand-alone episodes that don’t have any implications for the big-bad or the season finale, other than they are a lot of fun and let us spend some time with, and perhaps learn something new about our favorite characters. Chuck Versus The Seduction Impossible is one such episode. Coming after the epic ending of Push Mix there is a very Honeymooners feel to this episode. It seems more about new beginnings, or a new life and a new day if you will. For the most part it is another of those feel-good episodes where we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Well we do some of that, but it is Thinkling and me, so you know we’re going deep and long. Join us as we do just that, after the jump.
Seduction can be a loaded word. Thinkling and I were talking about this BTS in preparation for this recap and review. It is often, perhaps even predominantly seen in the negative light that associates the word with manipulation and deceit. As we’ll see there is a bit of manipulation in even the nice kind of seduction. But I think there is another part to it. Sometimes we see only what we want to see, and we allow ourselves to be seduced by a dream, or an idea, missing the fact that nearly all seduction relies on our fantasies of what life could be like. It goes back to the Hero’s Journey, the two worlds, and Chuck, and Sarah’s decisions to enter or leave them.
In season 2 we saw, starting with Chuck Versus The First Date, that excitement and travel held a lot of appeal to Chuck. He wanted to leave home, get out of Burbank, and experience the world. We see that this has also been a part of Sarah from the beginning, but that seductive possibility the life of a spy offers is perhaps a bit misleading. Sarah tries to warn Chuck at the beginning of season 3 that it isn’t what he thinks it is, a life of adventure and fun, but since all she knows is that life she doesn’t know how to offer him anything more than a parallel life on the run. By Chuck Versus First Class, Chuck starts to see that things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. He flies to Paris, nearly dying twice in the process, and he can’t even get off the plane to fulfill his dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower. Sarah confirms that in Chuck Versus The Honeymooners. She has traveled and lived all over the world, but she’s never really had a home, and she’s never really experienced it, seen it.
Together Chuck and Sarah have found a solution, with each other. They have feet firmly planted in both worlds and they help balance each other. Chuck is still a bit of a slacker and a doormat, Sarah is still a bit manipulative and controlling, and a bit too closed off, especially from Chuck. Neither seems good with tough decisions, yet somehow they muddle through together. We keep seeing why spies shouldn’t fall in love or put down roots, and the dangers of that, but we’ve also seen that it happens, and how some can seem to beat the odds, so maybe there is hope for Chuck and Sarah after all. The Turners were their first role models, of a sort. They showed them that some point they might need to walk away to keep each other. Chuck’s parents were the next cautionary tale. They showed how the life can tear you away from those you love, or hold them hostage, the fate they narrowly avoided. This episode Chuck and Sarah have a new pair of role models, of a sort, and we see another of the possible futures for spies in love. But there is also another recurring theme that pops up in this episode, and dare I say it, it is presented in a way that is pure genius.
Seduction. There is that built-in side of seduction, the lure of the life we want or imagine for ourselves or the draw to something we perceive as a tool to get us what we want. Interesting concept, Ernie. The seduction of Chuck and Sarah, each by the world of the other … and not only the world of the other, but also the life they could have together in that world.
Sarah’s seduction was similar to Chuck’s. Sarah all but admitted in Crown Vic that she sometimes dreamed of having a normal life. Family. Children. She had never experienced that kind of life, yet on some level she was drawn to it. She saw Chuck as the guy who lived a normal life the way it should be lived … and the guy she wanted to live it with. Now they are living it together. But with normal life, as with most things that seduce us, there’s always the fine print. Seduction Impossible is a window into the humorous and the heartwarming, as Sarah adapts to the realities of normal life … love and openness, family and weddings, nieces and diapers.
Then there’s the other side of seduction … the act and art of seduction — manipulating people to do what we want them to do, by bating them with something they want or respond to. We acquire some level of seduction skills early in life, passively, almost innately … like babies. We perfect these skills on into adulthood … like Morgan convincing Casey to talk to Kathleen. The master seducer though, lures someone through his (or her) desire and gets him to transfer that desire to something he doesn’t even want … like Chuck and Sarah in the belly dance scene. Seduction Impossible is also a window into the laugh out loud funny world of infiltration and inducement, ahem … seduction, Chuck style.
What a way to go…
Once again Chuck goes international, as we open to a scene that evokes a Casablanca feeling of intrigue and betrayal. Roan Montgomery, the Silver Fox appears to be back in the spy game, and back to his old games. While signing off the phone with a message to one apparent conquest he lines up the next victim. In both a parody of, and a tribute to the Bond method he goes right for the no-nonsense approach. Start flashing counterfeit bills and see what turns up. Well, there are some potential problems with that method. But what a way to go.
As Thinkling mentioned some time ago it looks as if baby Clara has the seduction thing down. Even Sarah and Casey are making cooing noises and funny faces, OK, in Casey’s case it’s almost a smile, but for him he may as well be wearing a clown nose and floppy shoes. But babies are the one thing that can make Casey beat a hasty retreat, leaving the other two spies of team B to face the wrath of the extended family. Devon jumps right into enlisting the somewhat freaked out betrothed couple into diaper duty and feeding while the rest of the family starts asking those questions, about, you know, the wedding. It’s a lot to handle for a couple that had to take down the worlds most deadly arms dealer just to make the engagement happen. It seems like they could use some down-time, but the only way they see to relax, is a mission. While Chuck and Sarah, and Casey all seem to enjoy the family time, it seems none are really ready to settle down, completely. Luckily, duty calls, or rather they place a call of duty, or to duty, in the person of General Dianne Beckman, the hot mess.
While there may not be anything the government needs right away in that brief peaceful period we always get after Chuck and Sarah take down the worlds biggest problem, but Dianne needs a favor. It seems Roan Montgomery, the legendary seduction master and womanizer has gone missing. Well, not missing, but into the fortress of a supermodel crime boss. And her all woman army. Clearly Roan needs to be rescued. Immediately.
Casablanca, indeed. Roan really is from a different era, with a different style. What a fun look at the romance of Roan and Diane, in contrast with Chuck and Sarah. Roan’s phone conversation doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all … until rewatch when we know who’s on the other end. He has to be the only man who has ever called GB my flower (and lived).
We shift from the Seduction Master on his back in defeat to the novice seducer, controlling her world from the comfort of her bassinet. She has 2 (almost) adults, 2 doctors, and 4 top spies reduced to cooing, kiss-blowing saps, who are at her beck and call. However, Sarah is finding normal life a little more stressful than she expected. Yvonne is hilarious in this episode and this scene with one of my favorite lines from the season. I’m actually sweating. The last time I sweat, there was gunfire involved. I guess you could say that all of TeamB is a bit of a hot mess, but nothing compared to General Hot-Mess Drown-My-Sorrows-in-a-Bottle Beckman.
Roan Montgomery, the legendary seducer. Can I just say that it is such a pleasure to see the character, and John Laroquette back. And MAN does he have some great lines. I actually find him a lot more convincing than I did Roger Moore in his later Bond films, but then those were parody, this is Chuck. And Roan, the CIA pig, well he makes rolling around in the mud seem like a good idea… Maybe there is something to this whole Bond method.
Meanwhile Chuck has over-packed. Really? Chuck Bartowski carries too much baggage? Maybe he should learn to travel light like Sarah and Casey? Still, I love the scene for a few reasons, starting with the incredible Levi-Strahovski chemistry making these characters so real. Sarah’s amused look at Chuck, his reading her and asking, and the playful banter that has developed between them, then the subtle shift as Sarah watches for Chuck’s reaction to her proposition. It is funny, as we’ll later find out, that this scene is really more about Sarah’s baggage than Chuck’s
I have to agree with you, Ernie. The Levi/Strahovski chemistry is at its finest in this episode. The chemistry, nuance, and facial expressions are what make the episode great, instead of merely good.
Take the packing scene in the armory. It is the patented Strahovski blend of playful, sweet, subtly poignant … and mildly seductive. It’s playful and sweet right up until Sarah offers her proposition. In what appears to be a seductive inducement, there are poignant undercurrents. As Sarah tries to seduce Chuck with this romantic picture, you can see she gets caught up in it herself. Sarah would leave tomorrow to run away with just him to some beautiful, romantic, amazing place. Seduced by her own proposition, she slips into true candor, all of this stress and pressure could be avoided, before regaining control. Just think about it.
In a round about way this brings us back to the packing theme. As you said, Ernie, this is much more about Sarah’s baggage, which has been the focus of a number of episodes, beginning with the Pilot. Sarah’s of-the-cuff remark about coming with baggage was an honest, if not intentional, revelation. And Chuck is still learning how to be her very own baggage handler. If Sarah comes with baggage, where is it? She claims to pack light and indeed hauls her life around in 2 suitcases (aided by CIA wardrobe). Chuck’s life is full of stuff and he takes too much with him wherever he goes. But Sarah is the one with more baggage … internal baggage. Chuck may have too much external baggage, but he has learned to deal with most of his internal baggage, through forgiveness and talking … lots of talking … I presume some to Ellie, but mostly to Morgan. Sarah never had anyone in her life like that who cared about her (until Chuck), so she learned to handle her baggage alone … well, if you consider hiding it as a way of handling it. So, the issues first addressed in Suitcase and Coup, though somewhat improved, continue to need refining. Chuck and Sarah are still fine-tuning their communication skills. Sarah still has some things to unpack. And Chuck is learning how to help Sarah with her baggage.
Seduction Impossible is a perfect example of what Chuck does best, what sets it apart from other TV. The episode is laugh-out-loud funny, with humorous family distractions, mirthful seductions, and hilarious spy romps. But as always, under the comedy that tickles our funny bone, there’s a story that touches our heart.
Morgan is Chuck’s inner voice…remember that. This is not about Chuck asking Morgan for advice, it is Morgan standing in as Chuck’s more adolescent side. I know lately some fans would be happier if Morgan really was only inside Chuck’s head as an imaginary friend or inner dialog, but really, there has to be someone around for Chuck to work on his inner dialog with. It really is more about Chuck growing a bit, and learning he doesn’t have to accept Sarah, or Ellie’s, or his mom’s suggestions as something he must do, like quit the CIA, or leave taking down Volkoff to the women, or eloping. Chuck has to learn to stand up for what he wants (not what Morgan wants, remember, inner voice), and with a lot of strong women in his life, it’s going to take some practice. Maybe even practice no?
Here’s the only problem. The women in Chuck’s life usually know what Chuck needs, or at least have the best of intentions for him, and they all, in their own way, take pretty good care of him. Even Dianne wasn’t dumb enough to leave Chuck alone with Rye on a mission with violence guaranteed. Sarah takes care of Chuck, she always has. It has however left Sarah with a still lingering maternal streak when it comes to Chuck. She feels she knows what’s best for him, and will see that he does it, even if, as in the past, it takes some harsh words or her putting her handler hat back on. But then we have the clash of the Bartowskis (to be). Sarah’s spy instincts run up against Chuck’s insecurities, and his need to feel some measure of control over his life, and we get obstinate Chuck and slack-jawed Sarah. In these moments they really are about the worst spies in the world.
Roan the love doctor
There is something about Roan Montgomery that brings Chuck and Sarah together. Unfortunately at the moment it’s because they’re chained together. Still he has always seen them as an exciting young couple, not as something somehow forbidden or wrong or impossible, as they often saw themselves. But Chuck and Sarah have grown into that, and while not happy, at present, Chuck pretty much lays out their new status. They are happy, in love, and soon to be married, present difficulties be they the dungeon and the ball and chain or the argument aside. This is their new reality, one that includes a Chuck who can speak for them both (Sarah being her ever talkative self) and where Chuck can say no. The look on Sarah’s face when Chuck shoots down the idea of eloping says it all, this is a new reality, and she isn’t getting out of this one so easy. She needs to convince Chuck, not just tell him.
Well before that can happen, they need to get out of the dungeon, so enter Casey, the charmer. This is another scene of pure comic gold. Chuck and Sarah, and Roan’s reactions, Casey’s attempts to make the connection and be smooth, and the eventual tranq and explode (how charming). Wonderful writing and acting all around. All the way up to Roan’s reaction to being tranq’d
Obstinate Chuck and slack-jawed Sarah. Too! Funny! Here we have some random communication efforts between two people who aren’t very good at it … like random shots fired in the dark in hopes of hitting the target. It is so undefined, it doesn’t even rise to the level of discussion, just random acts of talking.
Sarah is trying to suggest an elopement without really communicating her reasons for wanting to elope. Chuck is trying to say NO, without saying what he’s saying NO to.
Since Chuck didn’t jump at her Magical-Romantical-Elopement Package, Sarah offers a Mysterious-Moroccan-Marriage Quickie (but this offer is good for a limited time only, so please say yes).
Chuck’s random practice NO’s give us more laughter and one of Sarah’s funniest facial expressions, ever — shocked, indignant, a little hurt, and totally confused.
However, being chained in a dungeon with Roan the Love Doctor (good one, Ernie) catalyzes some real communication finally. It is funny, how the Love Doctor was able to read them, before they could even read themselves. In Seduction I, Sarah was unwilling to face the obvious, or even admit it to herself: she was in love with Chuck. Roan did at least give Chuck some hope, and forced him to admit the obvious: he had fallen in love with Sarah, and she was worth dying for.
Comparatively speaking, they are now communication all-stars … comparatively! speaking. With a nudge in the right direction, Roan gets them to communicate. And surprisingly, it’s Sarah who starts the dungeon dialogue. What’s with all the NO’s lately? By the end of their short dungeon stay, the issue is out in the open. They are at an impasse, but at least they know what that impasse is. More active communication tactics will be required.
Roan’s New Mission
Never disappoint a Volkoff, or a general apparently. Roan’s new mission, apparently a spies worst possible punishment looks a lot like Chuck’s life, well former life. But at least Chuck got the girl, It seems Roan’s problems are because of spy/girl trouble too. Enter Droan. Dianne and Roan, together again, or at least that was the plan until Roan decided to infiltrate an all female crime organization and leave the General hanging. Gotta wonder at that thought process. But here we have it, the other fate Chuck and Sarah avoided. The one that might have happened had Chuck completed training and Shaw hadn’t been a tool. Always on missions, paths crossing briefly to allow them to re-live or re-kindle the passion, but always waiting for that some day when they’d finally settle down and be a normal couple, finding that when that day came, they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t be the person they thought they wanted to be, some day.
You gotta be who you are, and Chuck can’t be a guy with no family or friends around for the wedding. He needs to convince Sarah, and Roan is there to help. Chuck arrives home, ready to create the sexy situation Roan advises helps the naaaeeeiiiooouu’s disappear. Unfortunately it’s not Chuck the student, but Sarah, the instructor who shows how it’s done, and Chuck is a goner, until, and again, the fantastic acting from Yvonne, plus the camera work and the editing, all perfect to create this moment, on Chuck’s yes Sarah’s facade breaks the tiniest bit. It’s clear to the audience that were this not Chuck, it’d go un-noticed, but the spell is broken, and the no’s return, and the argument remains. I love Sarah’s horrified shock that Chuck would actually try to do to her what she was doing to him, and the classic argument and Chuck’s babbling semi-apology/protest… Ah well duty calls.
Casey apparently can’t resist the urge to live in a wall for a few weeks. And speaking of Casey, Morgan has acted as the Chuck to Casey’s Sarah and decided to fix things. Uh boy. As with Chuck, fixing things for the spy partner rarely go well, or smoothly, especially when you don’t ask before deciding they need to revisit their past. Well, it is Morgan. Besides, Chuck would never do something like that with Sarah, would he?
Talking and Baggage and Growth
The seduction scene has to be one of the funniest ever. Great catch on the slight change in Sarah’s face that pulls Chuck from the seductive trance … and Sarah’s utter indignation that he would do the same thing. A perfect scene indeed.
Well, it’s clear that seduction won’t work. Looks like it’s back to old-fashioned communication and compromise. What is it about missions that brings out Chuck and Sarah’s willingness to communicate? However unprofessional it may be, it seems to be effective for them.
I love the simplicity and openness of their conversation as they make their way to Casey’s hiding wall … and the growth that takes place. Chuck realizes he should have been a little more attuned to Sarah’s situation. Sarah realizes she should have been more open about it to begin with. A proven template for communication.
As for the baggage, it may take a little more time to unpack those really heavy bags, but at least by the final scene, there seems to have been an admission that they exist. In the midst of … let’s not call it a sexy situation, but an intimate one, Chuck and Sarah have talked, not randomly, but intimately. Chuck makes a gentle offer to help with her baggage. It’s clear from the look on Sarah’s face that it will be painful to open up the remaining bags, but she didn’t resist or retreat. She’s learning to receive love, something that was never offered to her like this before, and to rest in someone else’s strength. Stunning growth.
And you know I can’t leave this recap without mentioning DUCK!! Aside from my famous shipping the name, the scene was one of the funniest of all time for me. I had no inkling anything like it was coming, but seeing all 5’1″ of General Dianne Beckman fire a rocket launcher as the last ditch attempt to get Roan, her Roan (and her agent) out of the suicide mission she sent him on was just too much, and the greatest musical cue of all times. Or not.
So we see that the unprofessional spies and the professionally unprofessional have their similarities. Those crazy kids remember they are in love, and how to talk, and those crazy big kids get to play spy again. Spies seem to carry a lot of baggage for such light travelers. For some, like Casey and Sarah it’s about the past. For others like Mary, Roan, and Dianne, it’s about the future they never seem to get to, because the mission always comes first.
Roan still has it, and the spark is still there for both he and Dianne. This is the future for spies we’ve seen hinted at. Affection, perhaps even love, but not sufficient to pull them loose from the seductive lifestyle they’ve chosen. The greater good.
Chuck and Sarah are different, the seductive life Chuck saw was to be with Sarah and to make a difference, and for Sarah she was seduced with thoughts of leaving the past behind and starting fresh as a real girl with Chuck. Their path ahead is still a bit rocky, as Sarah’s trepidation at Chuck’s offer to help rather than wipe the slate clean shows. Are they the perfect couple so many yearn for? Not yet, they’re still a work in progress. Chuck is still a bit of a doormat on occasion, but he helps Sarah realize she doesn’t have to deny or lose her past to be redeemed from it, with his help. Sarah is still a bit manipulative and sometimes treats Chuck as if he’s still her charge rather than her fiance (and she’s a bed hog), but she is starting to see that letting him in might be scary, but maybe he can help, and it might also be the right thing to do.