Two Weddings and a Journey

A Look Back at the Four Seasons of Chuck and Sarah’s Journeys

Our recent rewatch of Chuck Versus the Ring and Ernie and Joe’s post, plus a megadose of hindsight, got me to thinking about Chuck and Sarah’s journeys (not to be confused with the classic Hero’s Journey of Ernie Davis fame). Ring and Cliffhanger (the two weddings) are the bookends of Chuck and Sarah’s journey(s). Ring brought them to a crisis of decision and that important first step (or leap). By the end of Cliffhanger they have reached their destination(s). What about S1 & S2? Weren’t they part of the journey? Well … no. There was personal growth and some forward movement, but movement does not a journey make. A journey needs a clear destination, which neither of them had. No destination = no journey. Seasons 1 & 2 were powerful catalysts without which there would have been no journey. Everything that came before Ellie’s wedding was an awakening for Chuck and Sarah … a growing awareness in both of them that there is a destination worthy of the journey.

When we met them, Chuck and Sarah were people whose past had robbed them of their future. Their journey is one of redemption, restoring the future that was taken from them. It’s all about getting them back to the future — a future, rightfully theirs, that neither of them could have imagined …


To fully appreciate the journey, we have to know the “before.”

Chuck’s life is derailed. Ever since Bryce got him expelled and stole his girl and his mojo, he’s been living in the trenches of mediocrity at the Buymore. Tomorrow, maybe he’ll choose a font for his five-year plan … right after Call of Duty. It’s clear (to everyone but him) that he is more than that. He is, in fact, a hero who thinks he’s nothing but a putz who gets paid to wear a pocket protector.

Sarah, the CIA’s top agent, is beautiful, smart, heroic (and deadly). Her life is filled with adventure but lacks the roots and love of the normal life she subconsciously desires. Why is that? Living from con to con, then mission to mission, her dad and the CIA handed her a string of names and told her who to be but robbed her of not only the chance to have a normal life, but also the basic need to figure out who she was and what she wanted. “The question is who are you? … Jenny Burton … Katie O’Connell … Rebecca Franco? … the name on your birth certificate?” If she ever wanted to be a real girl again, who would she be? The question hangs over her unanswered, until …

The Unexpected. The Intersect brings them together, and their worlds collide. Chuck is thrown into the spy world and the life he didn’t want but was meant to have. Sarah is thrust into his normal world and gets a taste of the life she has sometimes longed for but thought she could never have.


Sarah approaches her mark (piece of cake), and is disarmed. How did that happen? The lanky nerd passes on her flirtations to rescue a ballerina. Without either of them knowing it, Chuck steals behind her defenses and connects with the real girl, and Sarah is captivated. It didn’t take long for her to fall for this extraordinary man with “his gentle nature, moral strength, extreme loyalty to friends and family, and courage in dangerous situations.”atcDave

For Chuck’s part, in theory, he tries his best to avoid any form of danger. But when people are in trouble, he just can’t stay in the car. Thus our reluctant hero is born. Some people want to be heroes, and others have to be asked. So … Chuck, are you ready?

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Chuck and Sarah have a forced association. (Forced? Would it be so bad? They manage to suffer through it.) During that time each awakens in the other an awareness and a desire for something more. Without these awakenings, there cannot be a journey. Chuck would float along at the Buymore, hating himself for not knowing what he wanted to do with the rest of his life or who he wanted to spend it with. Sarah would go on living one mission at a time, never thinking of a future beyond her next mission.

Chuck. The missions and Sarah raise his awareness of what it means to be a hero and increase his desire for something more than the Buymore. I list Wookie, First Date, Tom Sawyer, and 3D as Chuck’s wake-up episodes.

The end of Wookie is the first time that Chuck actually seems pleased at the team’s accomplishments and proud of his part in it. It’s also the episode that he realizes what an exceptional spy Sarah is. She’s not in it for herself. Again in Dave’s words, “She’s fearless, devoted to duty, and capable; yet still moral and decent.” … and way out of his league (he thinks).

By First Date, Chuck knows he wants more than the Buymore. He has actual aspirations. (First on the list is Europe by rail, with Sarah.) Also in First Date, Charles Carmichael (the agent, not the software tycoon) makes his debut.

In Tom Sawyer, Chuck stops WWIII, and gets a hero’s recognition, with pride and praise from Sarah and the cheers of his fellow nerds (even though they don’t have a clue as to the nature of the accomplishment they are cheering).

Third Dimension? Well, he can’t even take the day off that he begged for. Though he doesn’t know it yet, he’s hooked on the spy life. 3D also gives us Sarah’s view of the job, “It’s our job, not only to protect Tyler, but the country and anybody else who needs protecting, and we do whatever it takes, no matter what.”

Sarah. Chuck’s is the first normal life she’s ever gotten to know. In Sizzling Shrimp she learns that Chuck and Ellie somehow managed to create a normal life, despite having been abandoned by their parents. Hope. Chuck has family, love, home, a best friend — all the things Sarah never had. Unlike the con or spy life, everything about Chuck and his world is real, and he’ll accept nothing less in their relationship. Unlike a lot of men, he categorically refuses to extend the fake aspect of their relationship beyond the boundaries of its necessary function. To the contrary Chuck continually draws Sarah into various aspects of a real relationship. Extraordinary.

Sarah is always watching and absorbing, but some of her more pivotal wake-up moments are Wookie, Truth & Marlin, First Date, Cougars, and Colonel.

In Wookie she is settled into her assignment and obviously enjoying family game night. We see a real girl having real-life fun with a real family … a totally different vibe than the double-date night. And of course, the real girl wishing she could share something real with this extraordinary man who cares enough to notice her.

I include Truth and Marlin, both so poignant because we see Sarah on the outside looking in on real life. Her longing is palpable as is her resignation to her post on the outside.

First Date through Cougars show Sarah’s insuppressable growing awareness of real feelings and desires. In First Date, we catch another glimpse of the real girl, on a real date. What strikes me most is her need for genuine affirmation, “What about me?” She is accustomed to being used, not appreciated.

Cougars, to me, is the pivotal moment in Sarah’s awakening … and the window for us to understand her. We see a piece of her past and hear Graham’s question. We see relief wash over her at Chuck’s declaration, “I don’t need to know more, not about who you were, because as much as you don’t think so, I know who you are.” Chuck sees her, knows her, and loves her. If she wanted to be a real girl again, who would she be? … The girl Chuck sees.

Colonel is a moment out of time. Chuck and Sarah are off grid. In that bubble, she isn’t an agent, and he isn’t property of the US government. They allow the barriers to fall and express their love. And it’s real. And then …

The Unexpected. The Intersect, the thing that brought them together and kept them together, is removed.


They are different people than they were before. First, they both want more out of life. Second, they have fallen in love. Though nothing else about their situation was real, the Love IS Real.

That’s where things stand at Ellie’s rehearsal dinner. As far as we know, they sleep on these euphoric feelings (separately) and wake up to face reality and …

The Question. With the Intersect gone, where does that leave them?

In different worlds again … loving and wanting each other, but without any clear path to that life together they wish they could have, or even a clear idea of what it would look like. Their hearts are intertwined. Their love is real. But for lack of a world to put it in, they may be ripped apart.

To get from their cover life — the life, however unconducive, that gave existence and context to their relationship, the life that just got blown out from under them — to a real life together, they have to pick a world and figure out a way to make it all real. Chuck can’t continue to be sort-of-a-spy (especially without the Intersect), and Sarah can’t keep on being a pretend-real-girl.

Neither one fits in the other’s world — at least that’s what each one thinks. Sarah sees herself as “nothing but a spy.” Chuck thinks he is “just Chuck Bartowski, not a hero.”

The only solution in the mind of each is for the other to change worlds. Sarah’s hopes soar, when Beckman offers Chuck the analyst job … then thud as quickly, when he declines. Chuck is bursting with anticipation of exploring his future, which is completely undefined, save one detail … Sarah. His future crashes and burns before it takes off, because she has been reassigned.

Whoa. What Happened?

Sarah’s choice to leave wasn’t a choice to leave Chuck (who hadn’t yet asked her to stay). It was just a choice to follow orders, which isn’t exactly a choice. What else would she do? All she knows is being a spy. That said, she was NOT happy about the precipitous departure or her new/old partner. She wants none of it. Look at her face as Bryce remarks about their his good fortune. “Larkin and Walker, together again. Finally, you can get out of here.” She looks devastated at the thought. When she has to tell Chuck, she can barely keep it together.

Chuck’s refusal of the job that would have put him with Sarah in her world, isn’t too surprising, since his two-year refrain has been that he wants a normal life … and nothing to do with the spy world. That said, he probably thought there would be time to take Sarah on a third first-date and talk her into staying … or at least taking a vacation with him. He just needs to convince Sarah he has something to offer in place of her exciting spy life.

That may be what Chuck thinks, but that is NOT what Sarah needs to be convinced of. She knows that Chuck has everything to offer. She just doesn’t think she has anything to offer this extraordinary man who wants a normal life. She needs to be convinced that if she jumps, he’ll catch her and help her do normal.

Quantum Leaps

What makes Sarah jump? The short answer? That guy … Chuck Bartowski, hero. Oh, and love.

Sarah is in a miserable place — back where she started: old life, old partner, everything just the way it was BC (before Chuck), everything but her. AD (after dreams), her old life seems more like a sentence than an assignment. Chuck has made her more, and she doesn’t want to be “nothing but a spy” anymore. Chuck awakened her dormant dreams … like the dream in front of her. What a fantastic scene, Sarah framed by Ellie and Devon, looking through them to Chuck.

Her Chuck. The spy life had totally wrecked his sister’s big day, and he found a way to make it all normal again, better than normal. (Kind of like the ballerina rescue, only way bigger.) It cost him a year’s pay (or more), but he gave Ellie her dream wedding (not what a normal guy would do). That guy will catch her. They can be together and have a normal life.

What makes Chuck jump? The short answer? That guy … Chuck Bartowski, hero. Oh, and love.

Chuck turns back toward the spy life, when he goes with Sarah and Casey to help Bryce. Because he is that guy, and because he loves Sarah. “I have to go! … Dad, I love her.”

Chuck steps closer to the spy life, when he finds his way, not to get help as he was told, but to rescue his friend … the one he thinks Sarah is leaving with tomorrow.

Bryce is dead, and Fulcrum is winning. Lots of thoughts go through his mind. Like why his friend sent him the Intersect. Destiny. Beckman telling him it’s time to be a spy. Duty. Sarah. Love. With the Intersect, he can fulfill both duty and destiny, and become that guy that Sarah sees. Then they can be together.

Oh Boy!

This brings us to Season 3.0. For the purpose of this post, S3 will be a black box (mostly) with a big disclaimer bow on top. I don’t want to get into the particulars or mechanics of it. So, black box. Chuck and Sarah go in, stuff happens, and Chuck and Sarah come out. I do want to analyze their mindsets going in, summarize the story apart from the misery, check their progress when they emerge, and continue their journey on the other side. Sound like a cop-out? Well, maybe, but I hope you won’t feel that way when I’m done. … Now, where did I put my asbestos hoodie?

Thinkling’s Disclaimer

Part A. I am a shipper (shocker, I know). Like Dave, I don’t like episodes (let alone extended arcs) that leave Chuck and Sarah in a dark/bad place. However, I am analytical, like Ernie, so I am always trying to understand Chuck and Sarah and their story better. Understanding the story gives it meaning (to me) and changes how I think about the season. However, no amount of understanding has been able to change how the season makes me feel.

Part B. The potentially great story that might have been S3 suffered extensively because pet devices drove the story instead of serving the story. What pet devices? So glad you asked. CRM and WT/WT. The Central Relationship Misunderstanding was more of a Malfunction that quickly escalated to full-blown Misery which was dragged out all season, in order to bring us WT/WT until the epic end. Post Colonel and considering that Chuck and Sarah had both jumped worlds to be together (granted Chuck’s jump involved additional factors), their dilemma had progressed from WT/WT to How Will They. HWT was more logical in light of the unfolding story. The OLI’s (also designed to prolong WT/WT) added nothing to the story. The misery was compounded and maintained by two frustrating techniques: backloading of information and a contrived communication blackout between our heroes.


Sarah’s POV. Where Chuck knows almost exclusively the cool, heroic aspect of being a spy, Sarah’s experience includes the dark underside of deceit and danger and killing. The spy life chipped away at her soul and numbed her desires. It did nothing but rob her. In Sarah’s eyes, becoming a spy won’t add anything to Chuck. On the contrary, it can only hurt and diminish him.

Add to that the reality of the Intersect Project, itself. If the project succeeds, it will make him the ultimate super-spy, lone agent, remorseless assassin … Chuck on laudenol, and then some. That’s what the project runners want. He won’t need anything or anyone, including her. If Chuck fails, he will end up bunkered … or dead.

Mix in her love for him and her dream to be a real person again with him, and Sarah sees only one solution.


Before we moan about how unfair it was for her to ask him to leave his family, live on the run, give up his life, and surrender his choice (to be with her), perhaps we should consider the alternative. As the Intersect he will be the most valuable intelligence asset and the most advanced weapon on the planet. That means he will have to leave his family and live on the move (no calls home, no messages out). The government will own him from his top secret brain to the ticklish bottoms of his feet, from boxers to kevlar. No more life, no more choice … and no more her. So, she warns him and asks him to run away with her, “Chuck, if you do this, if you go, you’re going to be a spy for the rest of your life. Every city is going to be a new mission and a new identity, and you’re not going to be the same person.”

Chuck’s POV. Despite his happy-go-lucky personality, Chuck hated his lack of ambition, so to him being someone different is a good thing. He has no context for imagining the scenario that Sarah sees. Chuck just thinks he’ll to to Prague and come back as James Bond, someone cool who does more and is more than he is … someone worthy of Sarah’s love.

But hey, Sarah wants to run away with him, so it looks like he won’t need to be a spy to get the girl after all. Life with Sarah trumps being a spy any day, so he says yes.

See you in Prague.

First Junction

Chuck gets to Prague, to an entire training facility designed and dedicated to making him the Intersect 2.0. Then a lot of really important people tell him he can make a difference … change the world. No pressure, though. For Chuck that’s a double brass ring. Suddenly his inner loser sees a chance to do things that matter. His inner hero, the good guy who wants to help people, has a higher motivation: doing the right thing. How can he live his dream if it means turning his back on duty, knowing that what he has in his head could help a lot of people. So, for the sake of his friends and his family and his love for Sarah, he chooses to stay in Prague and become a spy.

Sarah warns him again. It’s not that simple. You don’t know who you’re working for. It’s complicated. Nothing is real. This [taking his hand], this is simple. This is a real life. Our girl may not know how to live a real life, but she knows what one is, or more specifically, what it isn’t.

Chuck knows he is probably sacrificing his dream (life with Sarah) to do the right thing. From the look on his face, it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done. What he doesn’t know is that he just sacrificed her dream, too. Besides the simple fact that Sarah loves Chuck, it is in relationship with him that she has begun to know and express who she is. Her being a real girl is dependent on him. So, while Chuck leaves to start his journey, Sarah is left on the platform, ticket in hand, heart broken, destination canceled, journey aborted.

Another Kobiyashi Maru

That’s certainly what it looks like to Sarah. There is no way for this to end well, because Chuck wouldn’t take her way out.

But is there a way through that would allow Chuck to become a super spy without becoming nothing but a spy and also get Sarah back on track for her journey to being a real person with Chuck?

Yeah. There is.

Sarah has knowledge about the things he will face that he can’t yet imagine. However, Chuck has something that Sarah can’t imagine. Chuck is anchored. He knows who he is. He has something to lose and someone to fight for. For him the greater good has always had a face … his family and friends … and her. That’the hope that he can become a spy and not lose himself.

See you in Paris. (After the Black Box)

The Black Box.

What happens in the black box, stays in the black box. Well, mostly. Without getting into mechanics or particulars, let’s look at the main story that happens inside the box.

Sarah’s Journey … Delayed. Sarah lost Chuck. She feels shock, pain, anger, denial, and guilt. Sounds a lot like grief. And so it is. In addition to losing Chuck she fears losing herself. If Chuck loses himself, then part of her, the real part, dies. He is her anchor to a real life, and he just cut her loose. She’s adrift … floundering and grieving. (She’s different without Chuck, and she doesn’t like it.)

I totally understand her reactions and emotions, which were very powerfully played by Yvonne. BUT I didn’t want or need to watch Sarah grieve and flounder for an entire season. What could have been a meaningful dramatic arc became an unbearable season of misery. Her character was poorly served by the pet devices and pacing of the story. (I do not, however, see her as a plot devise.) Resolving the CRM sooner would have better served her and the story (and us).

Chuck’s Journey. Being a real spy is very different from being the asset with Sarah and Casey as his adult spy protectors. It’s not a cake walk, in spite of (or often because of) the Intersect. Chuck faces the dangers of the spy world, dances with deception, and pretty much avoids the killing part. Because he is anchored, his brushes with the darkness don’t change him. He learns how to control the Intersect (mostly), completes a solo mission (sort of), burns an asset, impersonates an assassin, and passes his spy test (with help from Casey). Chuck succeeds (though in nowhere near the measure expected by the project runners), and Special Agent Bartowski gets his badge.

How does this affect Sarah? Sarah’s continued journey hinges on Chuck becoming a spy without losing himself. If Chuck couldn’t become a spy and still be Chuck, then “real” is just an illusion. However, since he became a spy without becoming nothing but a spy, her journey to real girl can continue. Moreover, Chuck has redeemed her profession. Consequently, being a spy no longer means being nothing but a spy, so Sarah’s hero side can also be redeemed. She can be whole … a spy and a real person. Had they run off, had Chuck skipped this part of his journey, then both their journeys would have fallen short of their destinations.

Second Junction

Chuck. I mean Carmichael, Charles Carmichael made it. He got the badge, the gun, the villa, the stipend, and … wait, shouldn’t it feel better than this? Oh yeah, the girl. Sarah. “It finally clicked for me. Sarah is the most important thing. What’s the point in being a spy without her? … I’m not going anywhere without Sarah.”

In the pursuit of his new dream, he had lost sight of an old one (living the life that he wants with the girl that he loves). Thanks to a timely epiphany and a kick in the pants from Ellie, Chuck remembers the most important thing he has to lose and decides to fight for her.

Sarah. What jump starts Sarah’s dead journey? The short answer? That guy … Chuck Bartowski, hero. Oh, and love.

Sarah is a show-me kind of girl. So he shows her. Unlike other guys and spies, Chuck doesn’t calculate this: If I do this, I’ll prove I’m a real hero and get the girl. Heck no! All he may get is blown up. There’s no guile here. Chuck goes after a member of his team who needs help (the other guy he thinks Sarah is leaving with tomorrow). Why? Because it’s the right thing to do … and because Sarah cares about the other guy.

Then he comes back to talk. No eloquence, just blunt, honest words.

I love you.

One more time because it feels really nice to say … I love you. I feel like I’ve been bottling this up forever.

I love you.

Look you were right in Prague. You and I, we’re perfect for each other, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, away from everyone else and away from this spy life.

Sarah mentiones a commitment to [the CIA].

Don’t go. Don’t do it. Leave with me instead. Tonight at 7:00, Union Station … Don’t answer now. Don’t say a word. I don’t want to have to convince you. I just want you to show up.

I’m gonna kiss you now, if that’s ok.

Squeee. (Oh, sorry. That was me)

I’m going to go home and pack, both summer and winter wear.

I love you, Sarah Walker. Always have.

He’s still that guy — still her Chuck. He risked everything to save Shaw and then offers it all up to have a real life with her. He didn’t lose himself … or her. The real girl resumes her journey, and she has a name. It’s Sarah Walker, and don’t forget it.

I’m not sure where to put this, my take on the whole name thing, so here it is (ducks behind riot shield). It doesn’t anger me. I know many fans had long imagined a heartwarming scene where Sarah told Chuck her real name. But she didn’t need to, and in fact couldn’t. He saved her and named her in American Hero. She is Sarah Walker, Chuck’s Sarah. All the rest are just details.

Names. The real Sarah is the Sarah Chuck sees–the whole person he knows and loves, as Sarah Walker.

Sam wasn’t the real girl any more than Jenny Burton or Rebecca Franko. The real girl was all of those names and none of them. Back in Wookie Chuck wanted to know something —anything — real about her, other than that she didn’t like olives on her pizza. (Actually that was more real than the things he asked her.) He began fishing, “I just wish I knew something real about you. Can’t you just tell me one true thing? Just one, like where’d you grow up? (lots of places … no place) Or if that’s too much, I get it. What’s your real name? (which real name?) Middle name? Can’t you just tell me your middle name?” She had been given a long string of names, yet associated none of them with the real girl … until Chuck. It was as Sarah Walker, in relationship with Chuck, that the real girl began to emerge. She was never what you’d call an open book, but behind the cover Chuck engaged the real girl in a real relationship. In those moments, she shared real things with him: I’m not very good at relationships … high school was a tough time for me … if there’s one thing I learned from my father, it’s be ready for disappointment … Christmas at the Burton household meant the annual Salvation Army con job … I don’t really have anyone in my life like that, who cares about me.

Chuck knew the real girl. Shaw got a piece of trivia.

After American Hero, Graham’s question and all her names, save one, sank into a pool of forgotten names. Chuck named her for good, “I love you, Sarah Walker. Always have.” For the first time, one of her names is more than a stick-on name tag. It’s a name that gives identity to a real person who is known and loved. Isn’t that what makes us real, after all?

Journey Delayed … Again. Chuck and Sarah go home to pack, so they can run away together. (The whole meet-me-at-the-train-station-at-7:00 thing doesn’t seem to be working out for them.) Before that happens, the other guy shows up and interrupts their plans. So this time it’s Chuck left alone at the train station, wondering if he misread the signals, wondering whether or not Sarah loves him (hence the drunken haze and DYLM). Again, the window for running away closes, and they are caught up in another mission.

Other Guy clears the last obstacles: Shaw is revealed as the bad guy, vindicating Chuck’s spy-worth; Chuck finds the ability to kill when it really matters; Sarah realizes that there are times when even Chuck needs to be able to pull the trigger (you see it all over her face at the café and the bridge) and accepts that under such conditions Chuck can kill and still be the same guy. Oh, yeah, and we get rid of the bad guy (like that worked).

Of course, the most satisfying parts of OG for many of us (me) were the DYLM (yes, yes, yes, yes) and the shut up an kiss me ending.

After lots of kissing and … um … ignoring the Eiffel Tower, they board a train together. It’s about * time!

Europe by Rail With Sarah … Chuck’s dream from First Date finally comes true. The priority of being together is settled. It’s non-negotialble. No going back. The question of how is what gets worked out during this moment out of time … (way out of time, if meal trays are any indication).

Despite their efforts to the contrary, they are both still spies, so they could be together. But, Beckman has the power to stop them, so they decide to run. But, their one-last-mission shows them what a good spy-team they are, so it’s not that easy to walk away. But, it has to be one or the other — being spies or being together — so they choose to be together. But, maybe … it’s OK you can say it. Maybe they can have their spy-cake and eat it too. And why not? (Back to that question later.)

So thanks to Juan Diego Arnaldo and his nut-cake communication therapy, they are off to carve out a space between two worlds and build a real life.


What had seemed an unattainable destination, has now become the strength of their journey:
C: No matter where we go or what we do …
S: So long as we’re together, right?

The journey is one, and they’re in it together.

No Secrets — No Lies. Spying and lying go together. Lying and relationships don’t. The spy world is run on deception; relationships, on trust. Sarah never wanted Chuck to get used to any of it (Don’t get used to it. What makes you special is that you’re not like every other spy.) But he did get used to it. Now, the first thing they need to do is carve out a space for themselves where there are no secrets — no lies. Sarah’s secrets were exposed in a hurtful way to both of them, as were Chuck’s (twice). She takes the first step in establishing NSNL by giving Chuck her spy will. It takes Chuck a little longer, but by the time they get back from Moscow, Casa de Bartowski has a NSNL policy, and Sarah has joined Chuck in the search for his mom. His mom hunt—finding out why she left and putting his family back together—is not incidental to his journey. It is the journey, and Sarah is his full partner and baggage handler, as he is her’s in her journey to becoming that real girl.

Home. What’s up with Sarah’s weird unpacking thing? Me thinks it’s more than just being ready for the next mission. It’s an old habit of hedging against future disappointment. How many times had young Sarah formed fragile attachments or put down a timid root, only to uproot, detach, and depart? Unpacking makes her vulnerable, but not unpacking hurts Chuck. Time to unpack … her stuff, her life, her heart, and herself. Sarah finally puts down roots and finds her home. “You’re my home Chuck. You always have been.”

Unpacking forces Sarah to face other real-life issues that she didn’t have to face as a spy on the move … like growth and change, who she is and what she wants. Wanting to be a real person with Chuck didn’t come with an instruction manual, and Chuck, unlike the other men in her life, won’t tell her who to be. He’s just there, helping her and loving her. A clash with her past and an epiphany about love and change give her the answers that she needs. She isn’t who she was (and doesn’t want to be) and whatever changes come, her love for Chuck will never change.

Sarah being unpacked and all-in is crucial, because things are are about to get dicey on the next leg of their journey.

The Mom Trip. (Whoa! Who is driving this thing?)

Remember the guy from the Buymore: no mojo, no life, no girl? Well, the Intersect gave all that back. Now he’s a hero—a spy—and all but engaged to the girl of his dreams. Life is great. So great, in fact, that he calls off the mom hunt.

Right when Chuck quits looking for his mom, she finds him, bringing danger to his doorstep and uncapping a well of insecurity that’s been building pressure for 20 years.

Nothing in this leg of the journey is wasted. Chuck has insecurities that must be dealt with if he is ever to get his future back. One set of insecurities is held at bay by the Intersect. The other insecurities stem from his abandonment issues. Inside Chuck is a little boy who needs–demands–to know why his mother left him. He is about to get hit with all of it at once. So fasten your seatbelts. There’s turbulence ahead.

The journey takes off, bringing Chuck and Sarah a mystery to solve, dangers to survive, a question to answer, an enemy to defeat, and a family to save. First mystery …

Who is this woman? She left Chuck 20 years ago. When she finally comes back, she tells him she doesn’t want to know anything about him. But to make up for it, she offers the CIA a terror-inducing nerve gas. Then she shoots him and later kidnaps him. But to make up for that she tells him how much she loves her family and regrets leaving them.

No wonder he has mother issues.

Meanwhile, Sarah struggles with how to be the Lover/Protector without being the Handler/Protector. Tricky. She parses Mary’s every word and move, watching Chuck’s back, and protecting his blind side. That’s why she arrests Chuck’s mom. Too much handler in the mix? Ok. Sarah backs off and defers to Chuck’s instincts. The next thing Sarah knows, Chuck’s mom has suppressed the Intersect, and she and Alexei Volkoff are binding Chuck and Sarah and setting explosives to blow them up. But to make up for it Mary surreptitiously sneaks a blade to Sarah and whispers for her to protect Chuck.

As one might guess, this doesn’t help Chuck’s mother issues.

Orion’s base blown to bits, the Bartowski family home in flames, Chuck and Sarah face …

The Question. With the Intersect gone, where does that leave them?

Seems like we’ve been here before. It’s not a rehash of the S3 Intersect malfunctions, but it is a justifiable revisiting of the removal of the first Intersect. Ultimately whatever depends on the Intersect for its existence isn’t real, because it can be snatched away in a flash … or, non-flash.

In a non-flash, his mom, the source of his abandonment issues, takes away the Intersect and strips him of his confidence. Thus one set of insecurities joins another to turn Chuck’s life upside-down … again.

Chuck wonders what he is without the Intersect. Is he still a spy? If he’s not a spy, is he still a hero? And is he still good enough for Sarah?

Sarah, unaware of his insecurities, just fears for his life. To her, he is Chuck Bartowski, great on his own … always a hero. She loves him regardless, and she can — not — lose — him. If Sarah loses Chuck, then part of her, the real part, dies.

Was this Intersect-less stretch part of the journey or just a trail to nowhere? I see it as critical to their journey. Chuck confirmed beyond all doubt that, even if it meant death, the Intersect and being a spy are not as important as loving Sarah. Had Rye been able to convince him otherwise, he would have become nothing but a spy (or dead). Sarah, for her part, realized that her silence cost Chuck and that she needed to tell him what he means to her. She fought her way across Thailand to do just that. At the end of the trial, Chuck’s self worth was no longer tied to the Intersect. This is paramount. Chuck Bartowski stands on his own. What had been a crutch is now a tool — one that will help him, not define him. Just when things settle down, and he has put his issues behind him …

She’s Baa-ack.

And the hits just keep on coming. But not in a musical way. Two assassination attempts have failed and Volkoff sends his 3 top men to get the job done. Mom comes back to make sure Volkoff strikes out.

As Chuck and Sarah question Mary and learn more about her 20 year mission, Chuck’s mom issues flare out of control, but Sarah begins to get a pretty clear picture of Mary’s predicament.

As before, Volkoff the psycho puppy-in-love comes to rescue his crush from the clutches of … her son? No wonder Charles Carmichael didn’t die. Mary somehow keeps Volkoff from shooting everybody in the head, but when Volkoff and Mary leave, the door between Moscow and Burbank is permanently ajar. Volkoff knows everything about them: where they live, where their base is, their names, that Ellie is pregnant. How long can Mary hold the madman at bay? More than anyone, Sarah understands the entire situation, and she knows it time to …

Fight For Your Family. Everything Sarah holds dear Volkoff holds hostage: Chuck, their future, her new family. Every minute that Volkoff is free, they are all at risk. So she volunteers to do anything in her power to help bring back Chuck’s mother and to eliminate Volkoff and his organization. She descends into a darkness she abhors to rescue her family and buy back their future. (It’s part of her journey, a test of her redemption.)

Sarah is no longer nothing but a spy. She’s anchored. She has something to lose and someone to fight for. So Sarah and Mary team up to fight for their family. When things look their worst, Chuck joins in the fight, and together they bring down Volkoff.

Are we there yet?

This leg of the journey winds down with Chuck and Sarah having united the Bartowski family. Chuck is comfortable in his own skin, with or without the Intersect, and he has stepped into his father’s legacy of heroism and spy craft. Sarah is grounded as a real person. That’s what enabled her to do battle in the world that had made her nothing but a spy and return undiminished as Chuck’s Sarah Walker. The hero in Sarah is fully redeemed. The mystery is solved (why mom left); the question was answered (who is Chuck without the Intersect); the enemy is defeated (Volkoff); and Chuck’s family is together and safe. What more is there? Well …

One enemy begets another, and Chuck is still in the cross-hairs. Vivian Volkoff picks the wrong side of the fence and, like her father before her, tries multiple times to blow Chuck and Sarah to bits. Placing the blame on Chuck for her own losses, she sets out to make him feel pain in equal measure and tries to take away the person who matters most to him.

There’s a mystery behind the mystery, wrapped in another mystery, and Ellie finds just the right thread to unravel it all. It all started with a couple of scientists. Chuck’s dad agreed to use the Intersect to help his best friend, Hartley Winterbottom (nobody names a person that) go under cover. The cover identity, Alexei Volkoff, took over, and Hartley was lost. The Intersect project gone sideways created one of the most murderous men in the history of the world and caused a cataclysmic shift in Bartowski family tectonics. It explains so much … and raises a few more questions.

And then there was one. One more question, that is. I said we’d come back to it. This is it:

Maybe they can have their spy-cake and eat it too. And why not?

We’re about to find out.

Sarah. She completed her mission. She and Chuck are engaged. She is a woman in love, and it looks great on her. What more is there? The best part. I’ve never enjoyed anything more (TV-wise) than watching Sarah face the daunting delights of engagement and real life, as she and Chuck head down the home stretch toward the …


Sarah. The real girl.

The girl who didn’t have friends, apart from her stuffed animals, now has restored friendships from her past. Oh, and a little, bearded best-friend-in-law, whom she appreciates as much as she intimidates.

The girl who had a fractured family, when she had one at all, finds herself in the middle of a united family. They are warm, loving, sweet, and sometimes intense; but they accept her as she is. She finds in Ellie a friend, a confidant, and a kindred spirit.

The girl who always took care of herself, could fix anything, and never needed help from anyone comes to realize that she needs Chuck’s help in a thousand ways every single day.

The girl who was always on the outside looking in, is fully on the inside. Besides being part of a real family, Sarah will have a real name … one she will keep for life. She will be Sarah Bartowski. Yes, I know she’s Sarah Walker (I won’t forget it). But Sarah Walker didn’t belong to a family. Sarah Bartowski does. Sarah Walker never had anything real until Chuck. Now she’s part of the Bartowski family and the Bartowski legacy. Sarah Walker would have become a forgotten fallen hero, her cover name engraved on a wall of cover names. Sarah Bartowski is grafted into the Bartowski family tree, and future generations of Bartowski’s will tell her story.

Two rehearsal dinners and one fantastic journey.

At Ellie’s rehearsal dinner, nothing about Sarah’s life was real, except her love for Chuck. That seed of love, with patience and a love to match her own, has blossomed into the normal life she scarcely dreamed of, but was meant to have.

At Sarah’s own rehearsal dinner, we see the fully-emerged woman-in-love: radiantly happy, confident in that love, and ready to take possession of her real life. This is the Sarah that Chuck has always seen and loved. It’s the Sarah everyone else has always seen when she’s with Chuck. Sarah has never seen what others have always seen. She sees herself that way for the first time in Jeff’s montage and is mesmerized by the real girl who’s been there all along.

Minutes later, the strong, amazing woman who has always protected Chuck and kept him safe, is unconscious, and her family and friends are taking care of her … like any normal girl.

Chuck. The hero.

Chuck, the putz who got paid to wear a pocket protector becomes The Protector.

The guy who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life or who he wanted to spend it with; who couldn’t pick a font for his 5-yr plan … that guy now knows beyond any doubt that Sarah is worth any sacrifice.

The guy who uploaded the Intersect 2.0 so he could be a hero; who, not too long ago, didn’t know who he was without the Intersect … that guy no longer needs it. It was a tool. It’s gone. He has other tools. He saved Sarah without it.

The guy who wasn’t cut out for the adrenalin filled life (where you disarm a bomb, steal a diamond, and jump off a building) rides a motorcycle at 250mph, kidnaps a government prisoner, and takes on six tasers. He never quits, never stops, never gives up. He disarms his enemy with the truth and his raw love for Sarah. Then he jumps out of a plane and parachutes onto the hospital mall to save Sarah.

That guy. Chuck Bartowski. Hero. Gave everything, held nothing back, and won it all.

The future that neither one of them could have imagined is here. Whatever was taken from them has been restored … with interest. Even Charles Carmichael, the software tycoon (not just the spy), has become a reality.

Are We There Yet? Of course not. We’re here. There’s always more … there. So what’s next?

Remember the question. Maybe they can have their spy-cake and eat it too. And why not?

Because. It’s not that simple. You don’t know who you’re working for. It’s complicated. Nothing is real. This [what they have now], this is simple. This is a real life.

There’s one last thing to resolve before their future is really their own. The Bartowski tragedy all circles back to a Puppet Master in the CIA. Until they find him (her) and cut the strings, the CIA will always have a measure of control in their lives.

Chuck and Sarah. One Journey Done — Another Begun


About thinkling

In my [younger] youth, I was a math teacher, basketball coach, and computer programmer. In 1984, we moved to Brazil, where we serve as missionaries. I like to design things and build things, read things and write things. We now live part-time in Brazil, part-time in the US. Love them both. Wife, 37 yrs; mom, 30 yrs. I am blessed.
This entry was posted in Analysis, Inside Chuck, Inside Sarah, Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4. Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to Two Weddings and a Journey

  1. Thinkling, thank you for your insights and the courage of your convictions. It was an interesting read – one that I will have to do a couple of times to let it all sink in. Now please forgive the musing of a hopeless romantic. Like you, I don’t pretend to take all that is presented in The Black Box and say it was good. Like you, I am always trying to understand Chuck and Sarah and their story better. That said, there is one part though that really struck me in your piece – the Second Junction. Reading this, I was struck by the transformation that occurred in Sarah – one that looked oddly familiar to me but couldn’t place at first – but then I realized that it reminded me of the Aldonza/Dulcinea story from Man of La Mancha. (theater geek = me)

    In the show, Don Quixote meets a woman named Aldonza and proclaims that she will be the lady to whom he will dedicate his quest. Judging that Aldonza is not a suitable name for someone so noble and beautiful, he chooses instead to call her Dulcinea, a name which means “sweet one”. Aldonza’s reality, however, is far from that of a lady and refuses to believe in the goodness he sees within her. She simply has no idea how to accept the kindness and devotion Don Quixote is offering. At the end of the story through his belief in her, she has come to see herself through his eyes and to believe in her own goodness. Now transformed into his lady, Dulcinea, she is strong enough to reach out to Don Quixote in return – to love him and affirm him and help him see his own goodness.

    He has called her by another name and the power of his love transformed her.

    I guess in hindsight, a real life, a real relationship with Chuck was an impossible dream to Sarah. And then he called her by another name – he named her – and the power of his love transformed her. It brought her from despair to real life.

    Anyway, thanks again – I’ll probably have more to say after I let this all sink in. And thanks for reminding me of a really wonderful transformation story!

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    First of all, epic post. In a good way. It is great to be able to follow these characters through four seasons of change and growth and struggle. Like you said, there’s still a bit more to the story but this piece shows pretty clearly why I feel the organic story has about one more season left before happily ever after.

    I also like that you highlighted that even the supposed bottle episodes add a lot to the characters and put their growth in context, thus are still important to telling the overall story. I’ve always been more interested in the characters and the larger story than the plot of the week or arc, and in that sense I think the writers have done a great job with the character and story continuity. The role reversal at the end is a nice touch that they’ve dabbled with before, but fully fleshed out this time. Sarah can be taken care of, and saved, like a normal girl, and Chuck can be the hero without a supercomputer in his head.

    Now for my one quibble. You took away my title as the wordiest blogger on ChuckThisBlog. This shall not stand. 😉

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks, Ernie. I differentiate between mythology and character story or journey. Some of the bottle episodes are crucial to character development and journey but have almost nothing of mythology. Many of those are my favorite episodes.

      I eagerly await your next epic post and will gladly restore the title to its original owner. 🙂

  3. luckygirl says:

    This is such a fantastic write-up. You’ve pretty much read my mind with regards to Sarah’s character during Season 3. I really appreciate the time and thought you put into this. Lovely, lovely work.

  4. uplink2 says:

    Great write up Think. I always learn so much from your take on things. I don’t have too much to add except for this one topic that surprise surprise I can’t let go.

    While I understand your POV and interpretation of the name reveal as you very eloquently expressed it, my view is that it is just a way of rationalizing the mistake that it was. Just as the OLI’s of season 3 added nothing to the story, neither did the name reveal. What’s worse is that it actually damaged the story instead of pushing it forward. Your point about Sarah Walker being her real name is beautifully expressed and I completely agree but as far as actual storytelling goes, throwing away the most anticipated payoff of 2 and a half seasons, and yes I view it as more important than even the proposal in a way, makes absolutely no sense when it did absolutely nothing to advance the story and then was ignored going forward.

    Later in your write up you use the line of “Nothing in this leg of the journey is wasted.”. Well the name reveal was completely wasted and probably the biggest single mistake they ever made. We can analyze and rationalize and somehow come to terms with it but to me at least the inescapable consequence of it was that it was pointless, and took away something precious for the fans with no real benefit to the story. So with that it will forever bother me. I never got a very meaningful moment I felt I was promised if I invested in the relationship/show and what I did get meant nothing. That’s a trade I will forever be amazed and appalled that sane people made.

    • thinkling says:

      I understand Uplink. It’s OK. I think it’s more of a disconnect between TPTB and the fans than Chuck and Sarah (I think Chuck was long past needing or wanting to know what name was on her birth certificate, but the fans weren’t /aren’t). I know it’s a really big deal to some people. If my POV lessons the sting, great. If not, that’s fine, too. It’s not a hill I want to die on.

      When I said nothing was wasted I was really talking about the leg from AoT to Leftovers, most notably the Intersect-less arc and Chuck’s mother insecurities (another sensitive subject with some folks). The name reveal was technically inside the black box where many wasted things dwell. I singled the name out (not just the reveal, but the whole topic of Sarah’s name) hoping to present a less painful (maybe even positive) view.

      • uplink2 says:

        Think, I knew you were using that line in reference to other segments of their story but I chose to use it because it highlights again just how horrible that decision was. It was exactly the opposite of the great decisions they have made at times in pushing their story forward.

        Look I know I have been pooh poohed on this at other sites but I am absolutely convinced that some of the decisions made during the “Black Box” period led at least in small part to the mass defection of writers after season 3. Many have told me it was just they needed to make a decision about jobs and the late renewal complicated that. That is probably the main reason, yes. But the truth is that the renewal after season 2 came in even later than the renewal after season 3 and yet those defections never happened. Artistic differences are always a factor as a show moves forward and attrition is natural. I’d just like to hope that there were some in that writers room who knew what they were doing was doomed to failure or at the very least to a fracturing of the fanbase and were not happy with it so they did what they could and then left.

        Ok soap box is put away again till next posting.

      • thinkling says:

        You’ve hit on why I like putting a lot of it in a black box. There’s a legitimate story that I tried to distill from all the noise. I agree there were some bad decisions. I enjoyed stuffing all that in the black box and trying to understand Chuck and Sarah and how their journeys progressed (Chuck) or not (Sarah) and why. Forgetting the details, I concentrated on them. There were reasons in the characters for how they went into the black box, no matter how poorly things were handled inside the black box. So they come out on the other side and we get on with the much more enjoyable, better elaborated story of their journey.

      • jason says:

        I think the black box is a great concept. Joe can chime in here, but as an ex-aeronautical engineer (back when Abe Lincoln was president), we commonly referred to our flight control systems as ‘black boxes’. We would get spec for the inputs and outputs, then design the electronics to accomplish, in any way shape or form we wanted, more or less. The interesting part of that metaphor, is how much profit we made, was how efficiently we ‘stuffed’ the inside. The USAF is lucky TPTB are not in the engineering business based on s3!

        A ? needs to be asked now however. Did Chuck and Sarah’s feelings for each other change as result the black box season (so much nicer than the misery season, isn’t it?)? I for one, might be able to make a case for O=I being the equation to define that time (output equals input), or the wires passed straight thru the block box in s3, with no changes made. In other words, Chuck and Sarah were already flight worthy as they arrived in Prague, and the black box was a plecebo like gadget that placed them in the very same state in Paris – wow – been writing today like I have been drinking – I honestly have not – might have to start after that posting.

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

        I think I’m with Jason on this point. What went into the black box is pretty well what came out of it. Which means we spent 12.5 episodes essentially trying to overcome the obstacle that is the black box.

      • atcDave says:

        Jason I do agree, at least as far as saying there were so many BETTER ways they could have told the S3 story. I think the strength of love between Chuck and Sarah did indeed end right where it started; some growth and personal issues may have been resolved, but all of those could have been just as easily accomplished if they’d been a couple all along. The misery part of the black box was truly pointless. It was a decision to make everyone suffer instead of have fun (I’m sure they didn’t internally say “let’s make the fans suffer this season”. But whether they called it “maintaining suspense” or drawing out the process or whatever the result was the same. A season long journey that was more ordeal than fun).

      • thinkling says:

        I think the black box is a little more complicated than just O=I. When I left the hospital with my newborn son, I weighed the same as I did before I got pregnant. Looking at my weight chart you could say that output=input, but I assure you that was not the case.

        Sarah’s continued journey hinged on the success of Chuck’s journey, on two levels. When Chuck becomes a spy and is still Chuck, her hope of completing her journey to real girl sky rockets. Likewise, her love is even more firmly anchored, and her real girl even more real. Chuck is Chuck in both worlds, a hero in both worlds. (I mean think about it. If Chuck isn’t real in both worlds, then what good is it being real?) That’s important. He had already begun to redeem her inner girl. But there’s more to it than that for her. By succeeding at becoming a spy without becoming nothing but a spy, he redeems her profession, as well, which means the hero side of her can likewise be redeemed. Hence her test in Gobbler. So, Chuck becoming a spy was important to his journey back to his future, but his becoming a spy was important to Sarah’s complete redemption, too. If they had run off (i.e. Chuck didn’t become a spy), Sarah’s redemption would have been incomplete, and Chuck’s journey, incomplete as well.

        So there was a journey and story going on in the black box. The details and mechanics could vary; pacing could vary; angst meter needed serious adjusting; no LI’s were necessary — like I said in my disclaimer. But some very important things were happening inside the black box. Chuck completed that part of his journey, and his success was foundational to Sarah’s journey. Her being all-in was necessary for him to make it through the mom arc. His success in the Intersect-less arc was foundational to his success in Cliffhanger. And so it goes. Genius.

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

        For S3, I have no issue in seeing Chuck’s journey as you describe it. That story about Sarah’s journey is indeed powerful stuff. To me, it’s a shame it was never told.

        For S4, I have less of an issue seeing Sarah’s journey as you describe it. (I will admit to seeing Gobbler rendered as a pointless episode the second Mama B taps Sarah on the bum in Push Mix and tells her to be on her way.) The story about Chuck’s success through the intersectless arc also good stuff. If it was ever told.

        I am sooo not trying to discount anybody who can string together an epic tale from the journeys of both Chuck and Sarah. All I’m saying is that from my chair, in front of my TV, I didn’t see the same story.

        Who’s right and who’s wrong? And why can’t we both see the same story?

      • jason says:

        @think – your reply makes for a powerful interpretation of the black box season:

        “But there’s more to it than that for her. By succeeding at becoming a spy without becoming nothing but a spy, he redeems her profession, as well, which means the hero side of her can likewise be redeemed. ”

        Unfortunately, nothing on screen told or sold that line of reasoning while the black box was ACTUALLY flying the jet.

        By the way, I do think you are capturing the essence of what the writers SHOULD have had in mind for the black box season or even how they COULD explain it away. I honestly don’t think that is what did happen. Here is my theory, a powerful NBC exec wanted to retool the show (I think he gave them money too, the begin of S3 appeared to be promoted very well). His plan was to bring in a powerful male action superstar to serve as the villain (possibly a permanent one), and try to move the quirky, little show onto the big stage, with more drama, less ‘nice’.

        Given how some viewers saw Chuck in s1 & s2, this plan for a more dramatic show was not a terrible one – in theory. Where it went wrong, I think it caused a huge civil war among the staff (a few other things did not help, but that has been over blogged about). Who was on what side I do not know, but the show runners, actors, writers, producers and directors were all involved, to the point, the NBC inspired version of the show was all over the map in terms execution, writing, and tone, depending on whether a Confederate or Yankee wrote / directed / produced the ep.

        Like all Civil Wars, it did end, and the fall out was a turnover in staff, one of the two show runners has very gracefully stepped to the background, and a fairly simple, focused, albeit battle scarred show has emerged. The ‘new’ show is near opposite of the S3 show, like all civil wars, the winning side gets to set the terms. Hence light action, friendship, romance and comedy have become the pillars of the new Chuck ‘Republic’.

      • thinkling says:

        @Jason: lol Chuck Poly Sci 101 … hilarious. 😉 You got me laughing, not at your content but your parallels.

        I agree that S3 was way too subtle at the time. And I think much of S4 has given us the commentary and exposition we needed to understand S3, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not, but as the story has gone forward, it helps me understand what was behind. Ideally though, you get story and (some) exposition concurrently, no? This is what I see looking back. I don’t think I’m making up stuff that’s not there. It makes sense to me. But Schwedak might laugh themselves silly at my analysis … who knows?

      • atcDave says:

        I think Sarah’s line from Phase 3 about being “just a spy” is sort of the key revelation that does let us make more sense of S3. Its where we finally see how she perceives her profession. Especially in conjunction her speech in Prague (Pink Slip). And it is that context that some sense can be made of some of Sarah’s erratic behavior (although it doesn’t help with OLIs much at all) in S3. Of course it still leaves a big problem that we don’t really get a lightbulb moment until a year after the season in question. I’m somewhat content to say I understand what they were trying to do; but I will always remember it was no fun to sit through.

        Jason I think there may well have been some sort of Civil War among TPTB. But I don’t think NBC was much involved, we’ve never heard any comments about directions from on high. And show runners and writers often are quite vocal about the mandates they receive from above. My guess would be either a Schwartz/Fedak difference of opinion; or Schwedak vs the staff writers. But this really is pure speculation, we’ve never heard ANY indication that such was the case. And the biggest curiosity of all; Fedak, who early on said he wanted to do a more serious and darker spy story; now seems to be calling the shots on a lighter more upbeat show. Go figure!

      • jason says:

        @think – I mostly fool around when blogging here, only Poly Sci 101? I am insulted, at least has to be 102 or 201? But, I think you are wrong, TPTB would not laugh at all at your analysis, rather the opposite, what you wrote is the ‘passion’ that the whole creative gang unanimously lauds when talking about the fans.

      • thinkling says:

        Thanks, Jason.

        How about Post Grad status for your thesis 😀

    • atcDave says:

      I sort of get both sides to this. I love the idea that “Sarah Walker-Bartowski” is who she really is. I like that Chuck reclaimed her by that name, and I love that she came to proudly wear it.
      But I agree with Uplink that it was terribly flawed story-telling. The deeper truths are too subtle, and the slap to the audience is loud and clear.

    • jason says:

      What do you all think the meaning of “Fake Name” was? Was Sarah Walker the fake name, or Sam, or was the title not about Sarah at all? All of this has to be in the context of the time they wrote the episode, since for all they knew, vs the Other Guy was the last episode, so they had to know the ‘name’ was not going to matter much in the short run one way or the other?

      • atcDave says:

        Or was Rafe the fake name? I think it was just ambiguous in the way Chuck titles often are.

      • thinkling says:

        I think it was, as Dave said, ambiguous and applied to Chuck using Rafe and to Sarah and to the spy life in general. Nothing is real. The spy world is run on deceit. And then of course “Living a Lie” the song at the end.

      • uplink2 says:

        Jason, I agree there is ambiguity in the title but like Dave I think its just their nature to have at least a dual meaning to the episode titles.

        But your comment about Other Guy being the last episode makes this decision even worse IMO. If you really think your show is going to be over in a few episodes do you really want to deny the fans that have invested in your show as deeply as Chuck fans have the payoff they have all been waiting for? As our renamed Capt said Sarah revealing her name to Chuck would have been more significant than DYLM or in fact much that comes after that as well. Call it disconnection or even hubris but they just didn’t see that it seems. They felt that DYLM was enough of a payoff for folks to disregard all of the misery before but they misread the fanbase in a big way. As you said further down this thread if their decisions, explanations and spin were so good then why are so many fans still unconvinced? Even after everything that Think has so brilliantly written about that happens after DYLM the bitterness of the “Black Box” and the name reveal is just as distasteful or in fact even more so to this day.

        Ultimately the only way for me to deal with it is simply follow their lead and ignore that period. It started on a false and contrived pretense and it simply never recovered. With that I can never re-watch those episodes and season 3 will always be the biggest missed opportunity I have ever seen on something I care about as much as I do this show.

      • atcDave says:

        I can’t even say how glad I am that Other Guy wasn’t the end. That would have been one of the greatest television disappointments ever.

      • thinkling says:

        You got that right. Wow. That would have been a big loss on investment. DYLM was really nice. Shut up and kiss me … nice. But not near big enough to compensate for the misery.

        Happily we’ve had lots and lots of wonderful payoff since then, and OG was only the first small step. And it was a nice first step, but would have made a terrible finale.

      • uplink2 says:

        I agree but part of that is also that Other Guy is simply a really bad episode except for those 2 good moments. The more you analyze it the worse it gets. In a way Sarah and Beckman were at their absolute worst as spies. Trusting Shaw completely and never once questioning his motives. Sarah going to the city she knew she had killed Eve in with no backup. Walking arm in arm with Shaw after she had professed her love for Chuck, Routh’s horrible performance in the cafe scene. The list goes on and on. I am so glad it was simply the last episode of a journey I will never watch again.

      • patty says:

        They trusted Shaw because he had a never seen but often referenced track record of successful spying. At least the married couple were introduced with a list of accomplishments to show you that they were competent at some point! The only thing they really established with Shaw is that he had a death wish.

    • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

      Name Reveal – **shakes head**

      I’m with Uplink on this. The show has made it necessary to rationalize the name reveal into something other than what they showed us. They blew completely.

      In that moment, we (the fans) are Chuck and that tidbit of information belonged to us, no one else. We were robbed. The name reveal given to Chuck would have been easily better than DYLM, the proposal, and the wedding, because it meant so much.

      I would rather never have known.

      • thinkling says:

        Well, obviously I don’t agree. In principle, I don’t think the fans are Chuck. I do think TPTB have a weekly contract with fans and must tell an entertaining story. But the characters are inside the story, and we often refuse to get inside the story with them. The tidbit or name reveal doesn’t belong to us. That’s like holding the story hostage. While I’ve been vocal about all the things I think are wrong with S3, I can’t say that the name reveal or the bracelet or the proposal “belong” to us the fans.

        As to the specifics of the name. To me the topic of Sarah’s name is so much more than the 10 second name reveal. To condense the issue of her name to that 10 second Sam reveal trivializes the whole topic and the great thing that Chuck did in making Sarah Walker real and giving significance to her name and later a real name and a family to go with it. I wasn’t so much trying to rationalize the Sam reveal as put it in its much larger context. That’s what I was trying to get across.

        You’d really rather have Sarah tell Chuck the name on her birth certificate (when it wasn’t a big deal to him) than to have a proposal and a wedding? Because it’s that important to you? Seriously?

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:


        It was THAT important to ME (not Chuck) in Wookie.

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

        Try that again, sorry.


        It was *made* THAT important to ME (not Chuck) in Wookie.

        We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  5. atcDave says:

    I’ll join the others in saying awesome, epic post. I particularly liked the way you handled the S3 “black box”; the no secrets, no lies issue; and the Intersectless arc. I never had the negative feelings towards it many did, and your explanation of things helps me get why it [the Intersectless arc] never rubbed me so wrong. I think S4 in general gets mistreated and disrespected quite often, so it was good to see its value so clearly highlighted.

    It always makes me happy to see at least one ‘shipper has a brain in their head!

  6. jason says:

    @think – it was a remarkable write up, having tried to write a few things for this blog, I can appreciate how hard it is to write something … very ernie-esque in a good way.

    You wrote a bunch of stuff I would tend to agree whole heartedly with, the beef I would have is with season 3 – sorry for being so predictable. If Fedak had written your analysis, I’d have the same beef, what you (or he would have) wrote was not shown on screen.

    The one single thing the writing staff did much better in season 4 than s3, is they told their character story on screen, often thru conversations with Chuck or Sarah and Morgan / Casey / Ellie, as well as between Chuck and Sarah directly. Fans of S4 had a much better idea of what the characters were thinking in s4, which was appreciated!

    Sure, there had to be some point to how Sarah acted in s3, the writers had some idea in mind, most would have to acknowledge that. It may even have been near exactly what you saw and eloquently wrote about, but the show did not communicate that message to its fans very clearly.

    You can take as empirical evidence of that failure to communicate, that the many dozens of attempts to try to explain s3 to disgruntled fans including your own what amounts to near a year and a half later have failed. Near everyone has tried, those who liked s3, by those who didn’t, and even by Fedak himself – heck, I even took a few tries at it last year. If the evidence were clearly presented on screen, the written explanations would start to hold water and converge, and the angry mob would have dispersed by the truth. The mob has not been moved by the words at least yet.

    OK – enough metaphors …. your well written and thoughtful analysis probably is the ground breaking attempt at putting all 4 seasons in context, whoever tries to best your analysis, will have their work cut out for them.

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Jason. I replied to this earlier, but it didn’t take.

      I think I said that I largely agree with you. I can justify my POV with stuff we have seen and heard, but a lot of it is hindsight and stitched together. It helps me now, but I needed it then, when I felt sucker-punched by PS and what followed. So yeah, one of s3’s shortcomings was its appalling lack of exposition.

  7. Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

    I got part through your eloquent article (and it is eloquent) when I stopped to print it off to check something.

    When printed your article takes essentially 4 pages for S1 and S2, yet requires 5.5 pages for S3 and 5.5 pages for S4. I know they told more story (IMO too much) in the 2 later seasons, but do you think that more effort is required for those 2 seasons because so much of the story was left untold and left for the fans to intrepret and finish?

    • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

      Oops. Ninja’d by everyone. Apologies.

    • atcDave says:

      Thinkling did start this with the thesis S1 and S2 were more or less warm up, and the relationship journey really started with S3. So it would be reasonable for those two seasons to take the bulk of the post (especially if you allow “Ring” to sort of be the start of the S3 journey). But certainly a major problem with S3 is that the major stuff going on was too subtle by far. The simple fact we still struggle to make sense of it is NOT a good sign of craftsmanship. I don’t think S4 was nearly so subtle, but the fact many things were resolved and tied back into so much earlier material can likewise make for some lengthy exposition.

    • thinkling says:

      Dave explaination is well put and succinct. Thanks, Dave.

  8. atcDave says:

    For those who read fan fiction at all; the latest chapter (12) of quistie64’s “Return of the Ninja Librarian” has one of the most beautiful scenes written on the Sarah Walker-Bartowski name. Sarah’s attitude about her name and identity plays out exactly like we’ve discussed here with Chuck MAKING Sarah Walker a real name for a real person.

  9. SarahSam says:

    Beautiful analysis thinkling ,as always. You make me realize things that I never realized before and for that I am always gratetful because I truly love this show. However, I consistently agree with many others that there is no plausible explanation for the name reveal to Shaw ( save Shaw/Superman and the thing, is if he was so great as Kal-El, why was he available for Chuck in the first place?) In watching a TNT special about the glory days of the old Hollywood studio system, I was struck by one particular segment. In their discussion about Cary Grant, they mentioned that he revealed to one of his biographers that ” Cary Grant was great…that he wished he could be Cary Grant. In his mind he was always talking to Archie Leach” His birth name was Archibald Leach. That’s our Sam. That’s our little Sam pulling the cookie con and that’s our Samantha playing the shell game with her stuffed animals. Those are the memories of who she really is that she held most dear to her. If it didn’t have significance why did she desperately try to hold on to it when she felt she was losing herself? Because, like Cary Grant (nee Archie Leach) that’s who she really is in her mind. It is her birth name with which she identified and socialized herself with. The name reveal was a colossal error by TPTB, and to run from it,.If anything , show me Sarah’s birth name on the prenup to admit what we all realize….Fedak. You F@*#ked up. BIG TIME. Don’t be a coward and never broach the subject again because there is no way fans can forget that, especially after the emotional investment they janked us with in Wookie. If it doesn’t matter to Chuck that’s fine…… I hope Sarah has told him by now and Chuck forgets many things that a normal person would never be able to let go of. Forgive? Yes. Forget? …Never. That is what really dooms a relationship. The forgetting part is the difficult concept for us because we remember and learn through experiences. Love can overcome though and thankfully Chuck and Sarah’s has done just that. For that I am grateful.

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks for the kind words, SarahSam. I really do get the emotional attachment with Sarah’s name after Wookie. And I agree that, for that reason, it was a bad story telling decision (amongst other bad story telling decisions) that amounted to a slap in the face to a large number of fans. I’m not defending the decision, or that moment on screen.

      My take on the broader issue has evolved. Wookie was early. Chuck didn’t care what piece of info Sarah gave him. In fact he first asked where she grew up. Later he learned many real things about her that were very personal, and in Cougars, he said he didn’t need to know about her past (he went from doggedly curious to incredibly understanding after seeing a bit of her past). So, I don’t think her given name was that much of an issue to Chuck. [The girl in Wookie projected such sadness, perhaps because she didn’t have a real life and name and home town to talk about like Chuck did. The real, normal stuff he was asking were a void in her life. Even the questions reminded her of that emptiness. The whole spy issue, which we thought was the main issue, may not have been. I’m also guessing (and it’s a total guess) that Lisa was always her middle name.]

      Rather than trying to explain away the name reveal (which touches on things *cough* I said were unnecessary to the story) I was looking at the topic of Sarah’s name in a broader perspective. I see Sarah’s case as different from Cary Grant’s. Cary Grant actually was Archibald Leach, i.e. with a normal life and friends who knew him as Archie all his life, from K through college. Even after he became CG, he was still Archie to himself and his family and friends. “Sam” did not have that. From age 9 on she lived under a string of names. She didn’t have friends or anything approaching a normal life under the name Sam or Jenny or Katie or any of the other names. All the names she had with her dad were essentially name tags that she stuck on at school (like the class reunion of Cougars: “I am if it says I am”). When she wore those name tags she wasn’t anybody. She was no longer Sam, nor was she Jenny or Rebecca. The whole process robbed her of the chance to develop her identity and cheapened the concept that a name gives identity to a real person who is known and loved.

      The CIA gave her the name Sarah Walker which, though still a cover, was her legal name (hence the prenup). Still, whoever Sarah really was never got a chance to develop, until Chuck. He knew her and loved her, and that’s what gave her life and her name, Sarah Walker meaning.

      That’s how I see the whole topic of Sarah’s name, whether the name reveal ever happened or not. The name reveal doesn’t affect how I see the issue of Sarah’s names. It’s just one of those messy, unfortunate things that happened inside the black box that obscures the real story.

      Chuck has given Sarah a clean slate. It’s intentional on his part. Included in that is the Bartowski name which gives her a real, real identity (she is known and loved) and assures that her legacy will live on in future Bartowski generations. That is beyond anything she ever had in her whole life, under any other name. Her dad and the CIA made her and her names insignificant. Chuck restored that significance completely in the name Sarah Walker Bartowski.

      I know it’s a sensitive issue, and I’m not even saying people should suddenly be OK with it. Just that to me the issue of Sarah’s name can’t be distilled to just those two moments, so I really wanted to address it. I didn’t really expect a lot of hearts and flowers over that part of my post, though, so the discussion is expected and all good. 🙂 Thanks.

    • Interesting post SarahSam. One line really struck me though: “Forgive? Yes. Forget? …Never. That is what really dooms a relationship. The forgetting part is the difficult concept for us because we remember and learn through experiences” See, I don’t agree with you.
      No one ever really forgives and forgets. Forgetting what happened doesn’t help, because all it really does is bury it and all too often it gets dug up during the next crisis. True forgiveness is complete only when one can remember the incident without the pain associated with it. That’s what enables us to move on. Chuck was able to do that. Sarah was too. Whether I agree with the way TPTB handled the Black Box really doesn’t matter. We can’t change it. But what Thinkling’s piece really made clear to me was that we also got a real transformation story about the power of love. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

      • thinkling says:

        Great commentary on forgiveness, Peter. I’ll take it a step further. The girl in Wookie was oozing pain in that last scene. Why? Compared to Chuck’s past (captured in family game night), she has nothing to bring to conversation he wants to have, even if she could. Her memories are painful, not normal, not happy. Chuck is the one who drained a lot of that pain away. As much as she didn’t want him to know about her past, when she let him in, the pain started to drain away … in Cougars and DeLorean, both … and then Seduction Impossible and Cat Squad. It really is a love/transformation story, and Yvonne has done such a fantastic job showing it.

        (Fixed your duplicate post)

    • uplink2 says:

      SarahSam Surprise Surprise but I agree completely. Also Think I’d like to add that Sarah’s real name’s importance was not simply a 2 episode item. It is mentioned 2 other times for a total of 4. That makes it a very significant item to the viewers and I would have hoped to the writers but because of the way it has been handled I’m not so sure.

      Sarah’s real name is mentioned in Helicopter. The first episode after the Pilot. That makes it significant right from the beginning of the series. I would also contend that her real name in Wookie, 2 episodes later, is referenced beyond just that amazing final scene. The talk between Carina and Chuck where she mentions how a spy doesn’t want you to know anything real about them brings us to that amazing scene at the end.

      Sarah’s real name is also mentioned in one of the other most important moments in the series. The talk at the end of Breakup. Chuck references not knowing it as a reason they could not be together for real. Without it their relationship was still just an illusion and ultimately he broke up with her because of it among other factors. So that makes 3 times in the first 16 episodes that Sarah’s real name was mentioned. To me all of that is why the fans got so invested in it. When you include that amazing performance by Yvonne in Wookie, a point that many fans I have read have stated as the point in which they started really looking at her as an incredible actress and not just the hot blonde. Her performance in that scene sealed the fans love for her and for Sarah/Lisa.

      It may have been a throw away item to Chuck, though not really, and certainly they were trying to make a point by throwing it away so cheaply which was a horrendously bad decision. But what makes it even worse for some, myself included is the point SarahSam makes so clearly. Fedak has taken the cowards way out with it. He has virtually ignored it except for that one scene in Subway that was written BEFORE the disaster of Fake Name even aired. It was included with no real knowledge of how the fans were going to react to it. That actually was a good decision and not cowardly. Use it or don’t make that decision. But I at least hope that some knew it was a mistake and would be very very poorly received. But after he saw the fan reaction he ran. If he truly feels it was the right decision, be a man and use it. But if you know you screwed up be a man and say so. It’s simply makes it worse when you run from it. We have all seen that in our lives.

      The sad part too is that Think you make such incredible points in your discussion but many of us are still lost with this issue and we can’t as Peter points out remember it without the pain associated with it. We are now discussing the hugely important concepts of forgiveness and forgetting. The problem comes in that we can’t forgive also because he simply has never asked for it. Or shown us any reason why he thinks he shouldn’t have to. In fact the pre-nup only emphasizes how much of a coward he is by including Lisa in it. Keep the name the fans love and ignore the one they hate.

      No matter how many great discussions and eloquently written pieces that talk about Sarah Walker’s growth and how Chuck gave her the home and real life she always dreamed of this mistake will always haunt them. Plus we hopefully are about to see a story in season 5 that may bring up this pain once again but more likely Fedak’s cowardice. Sarah’s mom. I would bet there is absolutely no mention of Sam and she will simply use Sarah or a pet name for her. Hell he might even chicken out with the whole story of Sarah’s mom no matter how many times Yvonne mentions it. I surely hope not as it is my #1 desire for season 5. But who knows.

      But my ultimate point here is that this issue is the most important for fans because they the writers made it important. It is mentioned in 3 important episodes of the first 16. Coupled with the fact that they have run away from the mess they caused in such a cowardly manner only exacerbates the issue. If you think you made the right decision, stand behind it. If you know you made a mistake stand up and admit it somehow. Don’t simply ignore it like it didn’t happen. That’s not what adults do. And as a consequence that decision is simply the stench that will never go away.

      • uplink2 says:

        Actuall;y I forgo one. It’s mentioned a fifth time in another hugely important scene. Its on the back of the Tron poster.

      • Dale says:

        I think they just used these bits of information to stengthen a weak storyline. Eve Shaw should have been a major thread that intersected the whole season yet they could never get that to work, so how do they ramp up the tension? Let Sarah give her real name to Chuck. Shaw is coming back in the 3.18/19 finale and instead of using the living dead to reaffirm Eve Shaw’s inportance they use that scene in Castle to invent a relationship between Sarah and Shaw that never existed only to ramp up the tension. If the story was strong enough they would never have had to use Chuck and Sarah’s relationship to link Shaw into the picture. Shaw should have been important because of Eve, not because he dated Sarah superficially for a couple of episodes. Shaw and Eve Shaw’s story was so crap that they lost their characters for me to be honest, I mean did anyone really care for Eve Shaw in that entire season? I highly doubt it and that is dissappointing. The other dissappointing aspect of the season 3 journey is that the buymore crew (3.08), Captain Awesome (3.03), Morgan (3.09), Casey (3.10), Ellie (3.12) and Morgan, Casey and Awesome (3.12) all had to tell either the audience or Chuck the character that he belonged with Sarah. How unsatisfactory is that? Chuck should not have to be told, the audience should not have to be told why he loves her and why she is worth the risk…that was already established in season 2m it makes 3.13 so unsatisfactory. I mean come on Chuck, you and only you should know why you love Sarah, you should not have to be told…if you want to run away with her then you should on your own come to that conclusion and take the iniative to do so. It came across as Chuck was now viewed as a stud that he was now a cool spy who had earned the right to nail the cheerleade…r Sarah (Fienberg’s review backs that opinion (other guys review)), what a tragic mess to a beautiful thing, they so royally screwed up. Fedak says he is proud of that arc….you should be ashamed of it, a lot of people were….not just single people but married people, young people aspiring to love, etc. It is a bad example of why to enter a relationship…very contrived and inchoherant. What else was bad about the overal journey in that season….the stucture was off, how can Chuck go on a solo mission before he has an asset or has taken on a fake identity? should they not have come first..since in the solo mission he took on an alias and had to woo the ring guy as an asset…why was his training so incoherant and dissoranised? very, very bad stucturing of a season….whatever….Schwartz and Fedak have made some amends since so ce la vie…lol

      • thinkling says:

        Ah, Dale. All very good reasons why I invented the Black Box. Once you get into the mechanics and particulars (inside the black box), you lose site of the wonderful story worth telling. So, black box. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Dale you certainly identified a lot of the major complaints with S3. Not only did Chuck need to be told he loved Sarah, but Sarah did NOTHING during the arc. At the end of American Hero it felt like Chuck has worn her down nothing more. Okay, I admit I’m exaggerating a little, but not much. Chuck moped and Sarah wandered aimlessly away; until Chuck snapped out of it and claimed his prize.
        This though is part of why S4 seems like such a triumph to me. The writers seemed to recognize some of the biggest shortcomings of the previous season and Chuck and Sarah actually fought to be together. Several times in fact; and Sarah in Phase 3 fixes the biggest S3 fubar for me, she fought for Chuck.
        S3 is basically Chuck sausage to me. I love the finale result, but I have no desire to ever see the process again.

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

        It would have been nice to hear a little of the forgiveness noted a little further up. That and them saying they behaved like hoseheads.

        The implied forgiveness only gets you so far.

  10. Verkan_Vall says:


    Thank you for the time and the effort you poured into this post. It shows.

    While I don’t see S3 exactly the same way that you do (to my eye, Sarah Walker was used repeatedly as a plot device. Either that, or she’s a certified Schizophrenic, with multiple, distinct personalities), I wonder if having some friends of mine read this might help them see past the elements of S3 that destroyed the story they were hoping for.

    Worth a try.

    • Dale says:

      Sarah was the damsel in distress and Chuck was the macho manly quaterback stud who huffed and puffed and swept her off her feet! YEAH! that is the story we all wanted to see! We wanted to see Chuck treat Hannah like a one night stand…we wanted to see Chuck tell Sarah in Prague that he had better things and more exciting things to do then spend any more time than he had to with her…she was just there when he was done being the most coolest dude ever! That is what Chuck the series wanted it to be! Chuck the man, the hombre, the big cheese! the guy who kept on saving the girls and boys and the day episode after episode! Yeah Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz were not too sutle in that arc….

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks VV. I know we don’t all see things the same, but there’s always overlap. Hopefully what we all see at the end are two people who have become all they were meant to be through each other’s love. The transformation in both of them was complete and stunning. Sarah helped Chuck just as much as he helped her. The journey was certainly worth the trip, at least for me.

      • jason says:

        think – I am laughing, honestly not at you, and maybe the joke is on me but, isn’t that ‘the destination was certainly worth the journey’? Somewhere in all this mess of posting the last few weeks, I wrote that for viewers who watch the show in the future, all 5 seasons in a row, s3 will just be a blip. The body of work, the ‘journey’, will indeed be worth the destination, even if delayed for 13 episodes in s3.

      • thinkling says:

        Glad to amuse, Jason … even at my own expense. 🙂

        For Chuck and Sarah their destination was worth their journey. For me their journey was worth my trip, the trip of riding along and also the trip of writing this monstrosity, because I enjoyed not just their destination, but the journey … especially since I put part of it in the black box. Now, I must say that the destination, seeing Sarah the real girl and Chuck the hero is especially sweet.

      • Shepperd of Lost Sheep says:

        It’s been a while. Let’s see if I remember how ….

        In S1 we met the nerd, who was charming and tall.
        And his CIA handler, who was really on the ball.
        When a dimwit dad showed up and seemed torn.
        While helping a dancer, she saw a hero be born.

        S2 started, with a them on a date.
        Sarah was stunning, and Chuck wasn’t late.
        Bryce was at the beach, all ready to go.
        I’ll never forget, when she shook her head no.

        In S3 Chuck decided, it was time to be a spy.
        And fans were wondering, why Chuck why?
        Sarah’s S3 journey, was much more confusing.
        What’s inside the black box, is not too amusing.

        S4 showed a couple, working through life.
        Phase 3 showed a Sarah, ready to be a wife.
        Now belly dancing Sarah, is imprinted in my head.
        And by seasons end, our heroes were wed.

        Now S5 is coming, and things may run a muck.
        With our couple together, we won’t hear about Duck.
        But with comments made, like “journey was worth the trip”.
        I can’t help but wonder, if Thinkling had a sip.

        I needs work, I know.

      • thinkling says:

        LOL, Shep. You’re cracking me up here. Good one.

      • atcDave says:

        Very funny Shepperd!

        Don’t give up on the Duck too quickly though; I hear Ernie is working on a lengthy rebuttal post about Chuck and Diane’s journey…

        And we do have to take Thinkling’s “enjoying the journey” comments in context. She constructed the whole “Black Box” metaphor precisely because she didn’t want to look at many of the S3 specifics too closely. I think its safe to say she does mean to exclude certain aspects of S3 (…Sham…) as being an enjoyable part of the journey. I’m also pretty sure she was dropped on her head from a great height when she was a child… but you didn’t hear that from me.

      • thinkling says:

        Absolutely Dave. Let’s hear it for the black box. Lots of stuff can stay in there.

        Hey, that’s one of my favorite Chuck lines. Von Hayes cracks me up. (Actually … trips to the emergency room to sew up my head were a regular thing when I was a child.)

      • joe says:

        Shep, for this I feel the need to channel Carina as she spoke to Morgan near the end of Three Words.

        I’ve heard better poems.
        But not many. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Geez, Thinkling you didn’t have to admit to it!!!

        I loved Von Hayes; possibly my favorite one-shot villain of the series. (…you have no idea how little leg room there is…)

      • thinkling says:

        Mine, too, Dave. Hilarious.

    • Verkan_Vall says:

      I have to agree with you, Dale. There was a really big disconnect between the showrunners and large part of the fanbase; and they never seemed to get it. Even after Honeymooners, they had to come back and do more damage in 3.17 and 3.18.

      And now Fedak says he wants S5 to be a love letter to the fans. Why does that make me nervous?

  11. joe says:

    I’m baaaa–aaaack!

    Actually, I’ve been home for two days and I’m still trying to catch up with this discussion. It’s not trivial, by any means. Forgive me for not chiming in, but I’m not able to add to the discussion without considering everything much more carefully than I have so far, and that’s a complement to everyone who’s commented.

    There’s been a rush of Chuck news and semi-spoilers recently, including Yvonne’s recent interviews. Ack! I lost the link! But I was struck by one where Yvonne pretty much describes Sarah’s journey the same way you described it, Thinkling. She has no identity, and is looking for something called normal and is looking for family.

    Gee. Maybe she read your post to prep! 😉

  12. Faith says:

    I know I’m tardy on this, time has not been my friend but I really wanted to allot this reading proper time.

    So here goes. Great job Thinkling. A very comprehensive and complicated piece. And yet in spells I found myself thinking “oh, but” or “huh, that quote fits so perfectly there!”

    Needless to say, I am a romantic. I believe that when we meet someone special, our hearts just recognize that someone and things become clearer for us. And yet it still requires some work on our part to make things work, or in your words, for their journey together to begin. I’ve always said it’s one thing for Sarah to fall in love/lose herself in that love, yet another to allow herself to be vulnerable, lose control and change her priorities. All these things are part of her personal journey that we saw unravel throughout the first two seasons. Colonel was that moment where everything changed. Everything firmed.

    I like that you used otherwise ho-hum or unfavorable episodes (Ring, 3d) to illustrate your points. Isn’t that the most amazing thing? Even in those we wouldn’t otherwise think of, there is forward progression. With that in mind I would actually put more emphasis on Ex, Fat Lady over Cougars. Cougars is about who she was, how far she’s come from that person who was amazingly normal and nerdy. But Fat Lady, it shows what she’s working towards, her daily struggle to be that person and that girlfriend she dreams of (if only in her head) “I’m just his cover girlfriend, Chuck deserves a real one.” This kind of thing is why I’ve always been appreciative of PLIs (up to a point). They show sides of our beloved characters that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

    Jumping ahead to season 3, you mentioned that though it was painful, it was essential to their growth. I agree. You talk about anchors and to me that was one of the better explored themes of season 3. You see it time in and out everytime Sarah catches a glimpse of the monitor and Chuck is interacting with his family. People she has come to associate as her own, until. But yet I don’t take away from the decision and the mistakes they had to make within this journey. Not many will agree but I like Pink Slip for this reason–and hate the lies in Three Words for the same reason. The problem is that they damaged one character to grow another. In Ring Chuck says, “everyone’s asking me what I want to do, the truth is I don’t have a clue…” Even dating back to Colonel that question pervaded. What happens after one mission at a time? Do they just quit, rent a condo together? Does Chuck keep on working at the Buy More? After quitting and that vacation to the Eiffel tower’s been taken, what then? Running away was too easy. Staying is hard. Chuck had to say no to her (his heart’s desire) to grow. “That guy that I was back then hated himself for not knowing what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and who he wanted to be with. But now finally I know. I want to be a spy and I want to be with you.” The latter isn’t new, but the former is and in my POV equally important. I believe you can’t be with someone if you’re unhappy with yourself, you can’t love yourself (that sounds like psychological hooey but I believe that). One has to be whole to be a part of a couple. Sarah’s personal journey and the firming or her priorities in season 2 is mirrored in Chuck’s journey in season 3. Albeit far more palatable and well told in season 2. So if for nothing else, Pink Slip and American hero completes a step in the journey.

    Going of from that, I’m just biased against Rye. I don’t believe the premise and I don’t see the point of deintersecting and blaming Sarah. Having said that Sarah had the best line that summed it up: “is that how I made him feel?” This wasn’t about the intersect at all but communication and insecurities. Those too needed to be dealt with before marriage. Last point: I wish they gave more time to the actual wedding than they did. I still to this day find Chuck’s vows lacking.

    • Verkan_Vall says:


      I agree about the wedding. I think it was a missed opportunity on more than one level. I do realize that there have been an absurdist slant to Chuck’s humor right from the beginning, but they went a bit too far.

      I think they should have made the wedding in S4 just as a big a deal as the wedding in S2. Too late now though.

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks, Faith. It was a fun piece to think through. It’s interesting about different episodes. Plot/mythology people would never choose the episodes I chose. Like you say they are less favorite. They don’t really move the plot or mythology at all. But for character/story people they are golden. They give us great insight into the characters, while the heavier mythology episodes, e.g. Alma Matter, show us the events that helped shape them.

      I agree that the PLI’s (up to a point, cough) helped (especially) Sarah in her inner process of waking up and wanting something real. I talked a lot about that in my geometry piece. So I agree with you. Even though I didn’t like the geometry, I see its usefulness to Sarah’s awakening. I still go with Cougars, though, as the most pivotal. It was in Cougars that the inner girl gained hope and found someone who gave her a clean slate … someone she could respond to and become real with. Without Cougars, Jill would have been another Lou. Anyway, Sarah is this amazing character who seems to always be growing. There are lots of episodes to choose from that show her growth. I don’t know how much of that is the writing staff and how much is Yvonne, but it’s fun to watch.

      Colonel is another of those episodes for both of them. Without Colonel, Ring would have been the end of them. By removing them from their official confines just, long enough, they took that step. As you say everything changed. Sarah gave up control and for a moment became real and vulnerable. The loss of the Intersect forced the decision from both of them to grab for something more and to move toward each other in definitive ways.

      S3, I think we overlap a lot, even though we might draw lines in different places on the details. I didn’t “like” PS at all, but I defend the decision of both characters, and see Chuck’s decision as necessary to both of their journeys. (I don’t think it had to be as apocalyptic as it was. The apocalypse was necessary only to pave the way for S3 geometry. Hence my black box. There’s just too much inside the box that’s messy and unnecessarily angsty for too long. To me much of it damages the main story, rather than helping it.)

      Ah, the Intersect-less arc. I agree that it was all about insecurities and communication. I just think that the Intersect masked those insecurities. As long as the Intersect was in place, Chuck would never have been forced to deal with that set of insecurities. But I know I’m in the minority on the arc. Rye is sort of like the 49B Forrest, who misinterpreted Sarah’s emotional attachment to Chuck as being a weakness It was shown to be a strength. It still is. Forrest thought it kept Sarah from doing her job. Rye thought it kept Chuck from doing his. To an outsider looking in, and knowing that emotions had caused problems in the past, his assumption is believable from his standpoint (not from ours, of course). It forced an odd dilemma for Chuck. Chuck thought he needed the Intersect to be good enough for Sarah (confirmed by Morgan in Phase 3). In that way, in Chuck’s mind, deserving and keeping Sarah were linked to the Intersect (the dream Lester do you really think you can keep a girl like that without flashing). But Rye convinced him that he couldn’t have the Intersect unless he gave up Sarah. Horrible catch 22. Rye managed to separate Sarah from the Intersect, forcing Chuck to choose. So he chose Sarah, which forced both of them to deal with his insecurities. Rye was a plot device that pushed some necessary buttons to move them both forward.

      Wedding: I would have been more upset about Chuck’s vows had he not just gone to such extreme measures to prove them. But, yeah, the vow itself was weak.

      • jason says:

        I think TPTB in S4 wanted to keep the intense aspects of the CS relationship as low key as they could, they did not want to over feed the shipper frenzy. Certainly, each 30 additional seconds of wedding would have been lauded by many fans. But, I can understand why the wedding was how it was.

        Something I’d like to add about S3 which our whole Castle discussion enlightened me about Chuck. IMO TPTB underestimated how much equity they had built up with the actual CS ‘mission’ chemistry. This mission chemistry (not the courtyard scene chemistry, which was sweet, the payoff) was of central importance to the show, to making the spy stories work for EVERYONE. So in PS, when Sarah stopped caring outwardly for Chuck, it stopped the quirky, fun, romantic ‘mission’ and subsequent ‘payoff’ formula in its tracks.

      • thinkling says:

        I think you’re right, Jason. The episodes where some of that was restored were the ones we all liked better, I think, certainly having at least the mission chemistry has been appreciated in a lot of the comments, though nobody phrased it the way you did.

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