The Chuck Supremacy

Jason Who?

By the title, many of you probably realize that I enjoyed The Bourne Ultimatum on the USA network this past weekend. Good stuff! Exotic locales, gripping story line, attractive actors and plenty of action. Tons of action. Non-stop.

Not a laugh to be had, of course. But that was by design. It’s what the young and hip now refer to as a feature, not a flaw.

So I was more than a little surprised to find myself thinking that the movie was very much like Chuck, which really seems like a ridiculous thought when I type it out. I mean, comparing Chuck Bartowski to Jason Bourne? Really?

Oh, you’re jumping ahead already. I can tell. It’s not Chuck who’s like Jason Borne. It’s Charles Carmichael, of course. Better, it’s the Chuck who faced down Alexei Volkoff in his father’s cabin that’s like Jason. It’s the Bartowski who faces down Shaw who doesn’t smile, ever. So, oh yeah. There is a side to Chuck that we only glimpse, and I’m guessing Faith and Thinkling and Amy don’t find that guy “adorkable” at all. He’s magnetic, and we only get him in small doses.

But it has been four seasons, and in that time we’ve seen much of him (and much more action) than can be shown in a two hour movie. Jason Bourne runs over the rooftops of Tunisia (Chuck runs over the rooftops of suburbia) and jumps across a 5 story drop to the next building (Chuck leaps across the building, almost makes it, needing Orion to pull it up as he hangs on by his fingertips). Jason battles a younger, stronger version of himself in a martial arts battle supreme done in close quarters (Chuck battles Shaw, Intersect on Intersect, in the Buy More). Jason has been struggling to discover his identity, and figures out that he’s been, essentially, created as a government project and used like a puppet by the megalomaniacal head of “the agency”. Almost ditto for Chuck.

It goes on. When I think of Chuck racing backwards down a street in Moscow (to stop Vivian and Riley) I’m reminded of several car-chase scenes from the Bourne movies done in the streets of Rome. Or London. Or Brussels.

I'm not gonna let this thing rob me of that. I won't.

And there was one more scene that struck me especially hard last weekend. At the very end of Ultimatum, Jason jumps from a five story roof into a river just as the big, evil government baddy who’s been running his life shoot him. We see Jason floating, apparently lifeless, in the river. The woman he’s been running with (not quite a love-interest, but close) hears that he’s “presumed dead”, and then, intercut with Jason miraculously coming back to life and swimming away, she smiles a very slight half smile, like she knows something. It’s Sarah’s smile at the end of Lethal Weapon. It’s the smile she uses when she hears Chuck say that he won’t let “this thing” (The Intersect) stop him from being with he woman he loves.

You may disagree with me (please do!), but there is so much humor, romance and genuine love shown on Chuck in every episode that it’s almost hard to remember how strong the adventure is. It’s simply not what comes to mind first when I think of the show or hear the music. The adventure is almost like a new discovery when I do my summer re-watch marathons, and as many times as other characters have carried the action (Bryce, Orion and now Morgan anyone?) I followed the romance, which was always focused on Chuck&Sarah. That caused me to downplay it in my mind; a mistake.

But it works both ways. When I think of Matt Damon’s movies now, I can’t help but think that something’s missing, that humor and romance I’ve been focusing on for four seasons. In our comments we’ve often mentioned the balance we hope to see, and we often talk about the interplay between the elements we’ve come to expect. That balance often comes with perspective, though, which is something that’s always changing. After Season 5 ends, we’ll have a different perspective and a lasting final impression.

Tonight is when I start moving to that spot. I’ve been avoiding spoilers, so I don’t know exactly what’s coming with “The Morgansect” and Mama Burton, and I’m trusting that there’ll be a surprise or two along the way. What I do expect, because I’ve seen it for four seasons already, is a story that speaks to me like a conversation. I’m talking to Chuck, to Sarah, to Casey and Morgan (and to Zac and Yvonne and Josh and Adam) and I’m listening to Allie and Kristin and Rafe and Lauren and all the writers and even to Chris and Josh like they’re talking to me alone. It’s been that personal. That’s something very different from what I got in the Jason Bourne movies.

Because of that private conversation, no matter what happens this season, Chuck will always be superior in my mind. It’s already there.

– joe

Added: Speaking of mistakes, I’ve corrected the spelling of Bourne. Thanks, Michael!


About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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19 Responses to The Chuck Supremacy

  1. armysfc says:

    Joe, very interesting comparison and you did it well. TBH when i first saw it i wanted to laugh out loud because i thought it was so far out there. then i began to read what you wrote and understood what you were saying. you were talking in general terms and not specifics. it was a lot to take in. but the more i read i began to compare it to something else, another TV show. which to me is even more similar than the bourne series.

    i realized last season it reminded me of kim possible, yeah really. ron stoppable has a kick ass girlfriend, has mystical powers that enable him to fight. like the intersect with chuck. kim is always protecting him, like sarah with chuck. his best bud is rufus a naked mole rat that saves the day from time to time, chuck has morgan. they both didn’t want the powers they got but deal with them. they both work for a gov’t. agency, ron has dr. director and chuck has beckman. it took three years for them to get together. they have a villain that was a hero went bad, got hit with a ray and went back to good. can you say hartley to volkoff to hartely? there are more but you get the idea.

    i suppose if we look hard enough we can find other shows and movies that would match up as well. so i can honestly see where you are coming from and don’t think it’s crazy at all. good write up BTW.

    • joe says:

      Heh. You just made my day, Army. Your reaction was exactly what I was hoping to get.

      Kim Possible? I’ve heard of it, but never seen the show. Animated cartoon, right? I may have to investigate!

      Someday I may have to write a comparison between Chuck and Johnny Quest! Race Bannon -> Casey, Haji -> Morgan, Dr. Benton Quest -> Stephen… All it needs is for Johnny to double in age and find a Sarah.

      • armysfc says:

        yeah its animated. don’t look to hard it may scare you, lol. it’s freakishly close to chuck. in fact i think they got some ideas from KP FF. in the last ep of chuck he gets 870 mil buys a jet and goes solo with his mate and team right? in a KP fic, she gets 870 mil buys a jet and goes solo with her mate and team. that story came out before chuck. what are the chances that the same three things happened at random with the dollar amounts the same in the same episode/chapter? pretty log odds i would say.

      • joe says:

        Oh, that’s funny! I’ll plead ignorance, but isn’t KP dedicated to a (slightly) younger demographic than Chuck???

        Hellofa coincidence regardless. And like Leroy Jethro Gibbes, I have a hard time believing in coincidences!

      • armysfc says:

        yeah it is but that doesn’t mean the ideas didn’t come from there! all ya need is kids that you watch it with to spur creative juices! plus if it’s FF it’s most likely written by someone not in the age range but older. trust me some are very adult in nature.

        just like i think the idea for the intersect came from STV and seven of nine having all the borg information in her head she can call on at any time. just change the fact that chuck needs to see a clue to get the information and you have the intersect. didn’t they say he had a computer in his brain? isn’t that what sevens cortical node is?

    • I’ve been too embarrassed to make the KP analogy before. Thanks, Army. I thought of it because in Chuck Season 3 had a tendency to lose his pants like Ron. Ron whines more than Chuck could ever dream of.

      Every spy wanna-be wants to be like either Bond or Bourne. It only makes sense that Charles Carmichael would act like he does.

      • armysfc says:

        oh no doubt, but in general terms of the show it’s close. you have to admit the volkoff/ hartely is the same as the shego episode where she turns back to good. one used a ray the other the psp!

  2. Faith says:

    I know this isn’t the point (and a very well explored one at that), but I’m still mad that they killed off the girl. I liked her and how he was with her. In the books she didn’t die.

  3. Amron says:

    Well, if I may say, it is perfectly plausible that you all found similitudes between Chuck and other shows that are about heros. In fact, it’s the subject of a certain book that, I believe, Ernie had already read, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, the author of neither more nor less than the Hero’s Journey! So, yeah, Chuck, Jason Bourne, Kim Possible, every one share, even a little of the same essence.

  4. Good evening Joe, Ernie, lizz, Faith, Rick Holy,Thinkling, and all the rest of Chuck fans I’ve failed to mention! Less than 2 hrs.from now the S5 premier of Chuck will begin. If S4 season finale of the “CLIFF HANGER” is any indecation of what’s going to happen in S5, expect the unexspected!

  5. Hey Joe et al, hope this doesn’t get lost in all of the premiere discussion, but running across this article made want the share something about the connection that Chuck has with Bond. I’ve posted this elsewhere, hope you don’t mind if I don’t copy and paste large parts of it.

    So over the summer I watched the entire Bond series and I was surprised to find out how much of Chuck’s DNA comes from 007. This really shook up the Chuck fan part of me. I mean yes, I knew of the cultural references like having the bomb timer stop at 0:07 in Sandworm, the Season 2 Boxart, or Sebastian Carlyle, MI6. I feel like this goes further though. Chuck uses elements from Bond not only as reference, but as parts of it’s foundation.

    Some of it is pretty explicit and some of it is feeling. Some examples:
    – In the ‘Living Daylights’, a new Q gadget releases poison gas after certain bars of notes are sung. This is just like in ‘Vs The Fat Lady’ where Casey opens a music box by singing a High-C.
    – Tango. Having a discussion during it, using it as a distraction. From ‘Never Say Never Again’ and in ‘Vs The Tango’, ‘Break-Up’.
    – In ‘Vs The Push Mix’ there was a gag about Morgan’s clothes still being dry under the wet suit. I forgot what Bond film this was in, but this exact thing was done in Bond (and was played straight there).
    – The whole Agent X storyline feels a lot like the Bond villain Max Zorin from ‘A View to a Kill’. Government experimentation yields a psychopathic villain.
    – Speaking of ‘A View to a Kill’, all the horse riding action scenes seem to have inspired the horse riding action scenes in ‘Vs The Masquerade’.
    – A marlin wall sculpture is a big centerpiece in a bar fight in ‘License to Kill’. Yes, I do to think this possibly inspired Big Mike’s marlin. Maybe a stretch.
    – Fedak has said at Wondercon that if the show had ended at ‘Vs The Other Guy’ he would’ve had the climax be bigger in scope: an action scene on top of the Eiffel Tower. ‘A View to a Kill’ features such a scene.
    – The church sign gag/fake out in ‘Vs The Cliffhanger’ is a very Bond-esque. The early Bond series loved to do death fake outs even if you knew he would obviously be alive.

    So yeah, that’s quite a bit. I’m sure I would’ve caught more if I took better notes and had done a Chuck rewatch before diving into Bond. I suppose in some ways, this shouldn’t be too surprising as Fedak often mentions Bond in his interviews (i.e. “We’d never done a season-long villain. We’d had Chevy Chase, had Brandon Routh, but we’d never built a villain in the Blofeld tradition”). Still, I never realized the extent of how much Chuck borrows from Bond.

    • The way Vincent kept coming back from a near death experience I think was supposed to be like the actor’s role in The Mummy, but it also reminded me of Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

      • joe says:

        Jaws has always been one of my favorites! Can’t help thinking of the Addams’ Family butler, Lurch, when I see him, though. 😉

    • joe says:

      Captain, I don’t recall seeing your name before; sorry if I missed it and otherwise, welcome! This is great stuff.

      I’ve seen Bond movies since Sean Connery was a young man ( 😉 ), but this is stuff I would never have picked up on. Very cool.

      I have a feeling that there are going to be many times in the future when I’ll be watching an old movie and my mind will go “SPROOONNNNGGGGG! That reminds me of a scene in such-and-such episode of Chuck!”. The truth will be just the opposite, of course. It’ll be a well planted movie reference of which I’m currently unaware.

      It’s going to be fun tripping over those for years to come.

      • Yes, I believe this is my first time posting. Learned of your guys awhile back through the podcast. Unfortunately, I currently don’t have as much time to dedicate to the show, but I do enjoy keeping up with the blog. These observations were too good to pass up—I *had* to share with someone and knew you guys would take an interest. I imagine there are many more well planted references that we as fans have yet to pick up on. I’ll be sure to ask Fedak a bit about Bond when I see him next week for ChuckFest and do a followup.

        Keep up the great work. I’ll try to poke my head in here a bit more 🙂

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