You May Ask Yourself
We’re more than halfway through season five of Chuck now, so I decided to take stock over the holidays, and re-watch the first seven episodes in a mini-marathon. Maybe a mini-micro-marathon.
Some may not understand this, but the only way I can describe these first seven episodes is – wonderful. You may say “huh?” to obnoxious, “7th grade” Morgan, and you may scratch your head at the alleged super-spy all smiling and moon-eyed as she regards her husband. You may even wonder about the reasons Chuck himself would consider himself a spy at all without his “superpowers”. Really, what is this show without The Intersect?
What’s up with that, hum?
Same As It Ever Was
Oh yeah, there have been a lot of changes.
Jeff Barnes used to be a fool. All of a sudden he’s responsible, hard working and reliable. Devon, the awesome, mountain climbing, life saving doctor, is a baby sitter! Ellie, the wise and motherly big sister is now an Intersect expert and maybe even a spy wannabe.
Devon and Ellie have been struggling with the changes in their lives, changes that have a name – Clara. Ellie loves being a neurosurgeon. She loves being a mom more. Devon loves being a stay at home dad, but when he saved Jeff from carbon monoxide poisoning, he was in his element. Both of them rather enjoy the exciting and romantic spy-life and being like Chuck and Sarah – for a day! After that, Six-Pack and Hot Mama are happy with a little alone time.
Casey has one foot in two worlds also. Somehow or other, Alex is the most important thing to him now, so important that his job and partners come second. (Intersect or no, Morgan is toast the moment he insults Alex.) But then there’s Gertrude Verbanski, dragging Casey back to the spy life the way Clara brings Ellie back to the apartment and the way Jeff drags Devon back to being a doctor. Casey’s not about to leave the spy life just yet, and Gertrude reminds him exactly why. Both parts of his life are tied for first place.
Devon, Ellie, Morgan and even Jeff – these characters are working hard to devote 100% of themselves to two separate lives. That’s a tall order.
And that’s the problem too, isn’t it? They are conflicted. Each of them has had to compromise, at least a little, so that they can continue doing what they’re doing and be who they are, especially Chuck and Sarah. To give up one part of their lives now would be like chopping off an arm or a leg.
Chuck still wants a normal life, just like he always has, yet he misses the Intersect in his head. The Morgansect arc reminded him of that and left me no doubt that “superhero” is part of his character. Sarah wants to be a spy. She’s good at it and a part of her remembers Cabo, Omaha and St. Martin with Carina (not to mention her Porsche).
Sarah also wants the simple house in the suburbs with the red door and the white picket fence. They fear it has to be one or the other, and so do we.
So why did I enjoy watching this wretched conflict so much? There actually is a reason. Chuck and Sarah have steadfastly made a decision to do both. Chuck was a loser who feared (that’s the right word!) being a spy. Oh, it was worse than that. He feared winning Sarah. You remember the blankets huddled up to his chin as he first lay next to her, right?
And Sarah feared giving up being a spy for a normal life. Her palms were sweaty when she thought she might be engaged, and when she thought she might have to change a diaper. Well, that was her little joke, anyway. But a normal life is so alien to her, that it might as well be a dark tunnel. It’s more fearsome to her than the spy-life she’s familiar with!
Now we see them just starting to live both sides of their lives well. It hasn’t been easy for them to do either. But you can see with every step that they are starting to succeed. Even Carmichael Industries is starting to succeed.
Chuck has been put through constant change. This time, just when his friends, his family and now his wife need him the most, he has to live without the Intersect to give him an edge when he needs it.
You’re on your own, buddy. You win now, and you know it’s all yours, and it had nothing to do with The Intersect.
As I watched these first seven episodes, I smiled so often through jokes and lines and expressions I had heard the first time because I discovered another connection or a subtly within the gag or a call-back that I had missed. Chuck did explain how the arcade game in Castle was part of their process, you remember. But when I saw Missile Command standing there, could not help but recall the arcade games in Best Friends and Sandworm.
Indeed, there were many instances where the exciting high point of a episode got my pulse going just the same way it did when I first came to love the show. Chuck jumping through the window to the van below in Zoom brought back the feel of Sarah and Casey running up Castle’s stair case to save Chuck from Jill Roberts, Fulcrum Agent, as Keep Yourself Warm plays over silence.
Chuck laying next to Sarah with blankets huddled up to his chin can’t compare to the two of them now. A handler can’t kiss her asset on their morning jog. Chuck lets his fears get the better of him sometimes still, and he sometimes misjudges the dangers. That’s a good thing, because that makes him just like me.
Then Chuck does one better. He’s still an inspiration when he doesn’t give in to the fear and faces his Daniel Shaw head on.
Fans can say (and have said) that Sarah has been too forgiving of Chuck’s insecurities and his lack of trust at this point. But the Sarah I see forgives him because his heart is always in the right place and because she’s discovered that his judgement, even about he spy stuff, is pretty good. Doubt this? Recall that Sarah wasn’t the only one who agreed with Chuck about giving Robbin Cunnings a fake Omen in The Curse. So did Casey and Beckman. When you look at it from the beginning, they both trust each other much more than they did at first. And they trusted each other a lot back then too.
Morgan, Casey, Chuck & Sarah have changed a lot. That’s of necessity. They’ve been through a lot. Every time I see them, though, I realize that they’re the same as ever, just wiser, stronger and even better than they were when I first met them.