Oh Baby, What An Episode!

So Right and So Wrong

Way back in the dark ages, when I was an Astronomy student, I was taught there was something wrong with galaxies. You know – those beautiful spiral shaped thingies in the sky that you can see only with telescopes hanging like filmy ghosts, even though they’re actually made up of <voice type=”Carl Sagan”>billions and billions of stars</voice>? We thought we understood them, but the more we looked, the more things didn’t add up, I learned.

Impossible Beauty

Long story short, the laws of physics pretty convincingly indicated their amazing spiral shapes weren’t possible. They couldn’t happen unless 1) the laws of physics (as we knew them) were wrong or 2) something else major was going on, something we didn’t know about.

An it happens, astronomers weren’t exactly wrong and #2 was the right answer. Back then we actually understood pretty well what was happening inside those galaxies, with their beautiful and frail spiral arms spinning around impossibly long in an impossibly orderly manner. But we didn’t have a clue about the forces on the outside that were exerting their influence. Today astronomers talk about invisible dark matter and dark energy that completely surrounds and envelops these galaxies like a blanket. Not that they know much about it. They just know that everything – but everything – is influenced by stuff they can not see.

Just like Sarah.


Me, when I saw Sarah’s cold eyes during Chuck’s first flash on her (way back in the Pilot), and when I saw her permanently take out eleven assassins in this episode, I thought I knew something about her. I thought that, before she met Chuck, Sarah was a loner super hero type, straight out of the classic Batman, Superman, Captain America and Lara Croft mold. That was wrong. Gloriously wrong.

I was thinking about those galaxies when I saw how Sarah Walker had been influenced by events in Chuck vs. The Baby. Oh, I knew all about her father and her con-artist upbringing, and I knew about her CIA training, of course. I didn’t know about the other influences that shaped Agent Walker. There was no way to know about all the other stuff happening around her before she met Chuck.

And it was an amazing story.

If I may recap briefly, the answer to the question “whose baby is it?” turns out to be relatively unimportant. She’s an orphan, but she’s an heir to a large fortune. And for that, Kieran Ryker (White Collar‘s Tim Dekay) will kidnap her.

To accomplish that job he makes use of Langston Graham’s other wild-card enforcer, a deadly and mostly unquestioning Sarah Walker. He’ll need her to take out the eleven assassins who have just slaughtered the baby’s family. She’ll do it, he knows, because she’s cold and follows orders well.

Sarah was trained to be unfeeling and independent and was made reflexively distrusting by both her father and the CIA. But now we know that the job was not. Quite. Finished. You can’t see it as she’s acrobatically blasting automatic fire and throwing knives, but there actually was a heart beating in there still. Yet, it’s encased in carbonite by the time we met her.

Sarah was the agent who was quite willing to find and fill any hole Chuck needed to be filled (so long as it helped her fulfil the mission), the agent who could lie under pentathol, and shoot Mauser, the agent who could give him a hundred reason why they should not go out on a date. Indeed. Remember how upset she became when Chuck began to get through her shields? She screamed at him that “the kiss” (as the bomb failed to explode) was a mistake. Sarah let Chuck know in a hundred little ways that there could be nothing between them. It was inexplicable at times, and we called it “angst” and a mistake caused by central relationship misunderstandings.

No mistake and now I understand. Sarah made a choice, and Sarah’s choice was exactly like Chuck’s.

She chose to run to protect those she loved, just like he would. Despite what I thought I knew, she did think about something besides the mission and Sarah did have a heart to do the right thing. The phone conversation she had in Hungary with her mother proved it. Emma had not abandoned her; Sarah was always welcome in her mother’s life and Sarah was not alone unless she wanted to be. Sarah was strong and independent from the start, but she wasn’t cold-hearted by nature. Her history and training may have been intended to kill all that off, but it failed. Sarah’s heart had been broken by a crying baby.

That’s the thing. It’s not Jack Burton or Langston Graham. It’s Sarah’s desire to keep that baby safe (along with her mother) that made her who she was.

There is a small difference between Chuck and Sarah. When it came time to run, Agent Walker sold it to herself as a matter of tactics and strategy, not fear or desperation. It was the smart move. It was the caring move. Staying away and hiding from any relationship at all with her mother (the baby’s guardian) and Molly was the right thing to do, and closing off her emotions was the only way to go about it. Ryker proved it, and Emma supported it. That’s what she thought.

Don’t call it a curse. It was a decision she made.

Wrong and So Right

Know what was the most fun about this episode? It was how everybody made their decisions and admitted they were wrong! Devon was mistaken about the Calla Lillies, and Chuck said he was wrong to trust Sarah when she went on her own this time. Morgan’s been saying for weeks that he was an idiot not because the Intersect was melting his brain, but because he didn’t stick to the promise he made to Alex about quitting the spy-life.

[Hey wait! Casey wasn’t wrong about the waiter – he knew exactly what was going on with Ryker (and go Casey!). However, I was wrong about Casey’s intuition! 😉 ]

Most of all, Sarah came to understand she was wrong to isolate herself the way she did, all those years ago – not about the tactics, but about closing off her heart.

Today I can think about the episode and have a smile on my face because every single one of those decisions, which were so right and even necessary at the time, were redeemed. Ellie made Devon’s Calla Lillies a special memory. Alex saw in Morgan someone who was good. Chuck, who always fears Sarah’s reaction, has learned to trust his own judgement. Sarah, once worried that she had to be alone is surrounded by friends and family that she can depend on.

For everyone, the decisions they made were not proved to be wrong, but were redeemed instead.

That, my friends, is akin to a miracle.

Now, like you, I can wonder about the time line and I will have to go back to the very beginning to see what that looks like now. We still don’t know if Emma (played perfectly by Cheryl Ladd) called her Jenny or Katie or Rebecca back then, and I don’t know how Sarah had time for Omaha, Cabo and The Cat Squad. But really, that feels like very minor stuff for my imagination to take care of, and hardly seems worth mentioning. This episode, after half a season of triples and home runs, felt like a homer that went way into the upper deck of the stadium after the bases were loaded.

Watching everyone around the table, it was more than just decisions made right that seemed so joyous. Oh yeah, the bad-guy was dispatched and the heroes were victorious long before the end of the hour, but this went beyond that expected happy ending. This was special, because it was the characters we love who were redeemed and made whole. Ellie and Devon are enjoying all parts of their life together. Morgan and Alex have found what they were looking for – each other. Chuck has found that he does not (and never did) need the Intersect, and Sarah has discovered she has never been alone.

A Bigger Family

Together, Chuck and Sarah will have their home and their normal life, but I can guarantee their life together will also be extraordinary and full of adventure.

Most of all everyone there, especially Sarah, has found their family, and discovered it was larger than they ever thought.

Now, given all that, did anyone miss The Buy More or even the Intersect? Not I. We got all that and Tony Todd too.

Have the best New Year ever!

– joe

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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.
This entry was posted in No Spoilers, Observations, Reactions, Season 5. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Oh Baby, What An Episode!

  1. MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

    Nice write-up, Joe. Casey was wrong about one thing… his Hungarian translation.

  2. atcDave says:

    Some excellent points Joe, good write up. It all makes me feel pretty cocky about my defense of Sarah’s character even before Chuck. We saw her erect barriers and isolate herself in unhealthy ways; things that would require A LOT of attention from Chuck to undo. But her moral center was actually pretty solid. She knows right from wrong and will not be a mere tool for anyone. We can imagine, without Chuck she might have become a burn-out like Casey in time, but she was no where near there yet.
    So this was very much a “feel good” sort of episode. No “dark” secrets here; more of a bright and hopeful secret.

    • joe says:

      Great thought, Dave. I didn’t even think of Casey as a comparison! He was that “burnout, cold-school” killer when we first met them.

      Was Casey at the table at the end of The Baby? I need (desperately!) to re-watch, but I don’t think he was. Right now, I’m not sure why that was.

      • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

        Yes, he was, at the opposite table end from Chuck:
        http://yogaseal.tumblr.com/post/15111479370

        After then got up, he complained about the Chardonnay, and Alex told him where Sarah hides the Scotch.

      • joe says:

        Ah, thanks, Jeff. It wouldn’t seem right to have a family dinner without Casey now.

      • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

        He almost is family. Morgan is Chuck’s ‘twin’, and Casey is Morgan’s future father-in-law.

        After another rewatch… the episode is still awesome. There were so many great little things, like the gun case crib, Molly’s trick-or-treat picture, Morgan suggesting to play Sorry! right before switch to Chuck telling the Hungarian pedestrians sorry for running through them, Sarah’s little smile at Chuck because he was worried if the dresses go on the left or the right side of the closet, and Sarah’s mom’s house having a red door and a white picket fence.

        In the final fight, Sarah actually hits Ryker more than he hits her. He just got the big hits with glass, the wall, and the kick into the dresser. A lot of his swings were misses or were blocked. By my count, he had 7 plus a strangle. Sarah had 9 or 10 plus a fatal stab.

        Also, Sarah apparently has white roller skates with purple wheels.

      • thinkling says:

        Great catches, Jeff! I got most of them and really loved them. Sarah’s facial expressions … wow … another showcase for Yvonne. There was also a soccer picture of Molly and a soccer ball in the yard.

    • thinkling says:

      I’ll tag on with you, Dave, in reiterating Sarah’s moral compass all along. Seems like I said that recently … oh yeah, last week (and my spec was on the money, too, but enough of that). She didn’t relish killing 11 men. She double checked that they had indeed slaughtered the couple. By then it was them or her. Best to be them. Her secret wasn’t horrible. It was quite noble.

      Joe, aptly named … oh baby, what an episode, easily my favorite of the season, but I love all Sarah centered episodes.

      Sarah was strong and independent from the start, but she wasn’t cold-hearted by nature. Her history and training may have been intended to kill all that off, but it failed. So, true, Joe, so true. I could gush on, but I’ll stop for now.

      Wonderful post, Joe.

  3. What we saw…. 1. Lots of BIG GUNS – and some really good fight sequences. There have been a few ‘scraps’ – but I can’t remember such an intense series of fights [ the last 2 weeks] – and really, those two episodes need to be watched back to back.
    2. Casey is a badass!
    3. Did they really need to string out the Alex and Morgan separation for so long?
    4. Devon and Ellie have been GREAT as they pretend to be Mr. & Mrs. Spy…
    I hope this continues – its a really good fit for them.

    So – the big question: What was this episode for? Why did they write this story?
    Joe – I think you’ve done an excellent job in making the connection from last week – to what we saw at the beginning of the Pilot….. and why Sarah is Pinocchio = wanting/waiting to be a real girl.
    Mostly though, I think the whole episode was to meet Sarah’s mother – whether its a tight story or not…
    5. Without question – that was one of the warmest resolutions to any Chuck episode…
    Other than the very ending [ D’oh]… and if you think about it – if you swapped Chuck’s picture on that folder – with a photo of Bryce – then everything makes perfect sense… [ for me anyway]
    So – if the show had been called ‘SARAH’ – as is often the joke…. that would have been the perfect ending…. but Alas – the show is ‘ Chuck’… and we are left with 2 relationships to be resolved:
    I think it comes down to the classic WTWT: Casey + Verbanski, and the even more important relationship between Chuck and the Intersect.
    Shaw has revealed the technology for the Intersect 3.0…. complete with new glasses…
    We’ve learned that Chuck does not NEED the Interesect – but will he be seduced by the dark side and fulfill his destiny and follow in the footsteps of his father?

    • Just watched 5.8 again…. you know – as sweet & emotional as some of it was – I’m really really happy that was not the last episode of the series ~ there’s a bad aftertaste with that last scene….. and the whole notion [logic???] why Sarah was separated from her mother for so much of her life seemed to be more two steps back – than three steps forward…

  4. sd says:

    Hello fellow followers of Chuck…

    I don’t have a DVR, I know, I know. Anyway, I have always re-watched Chuck on Hulu…not anymore? Where can one watch 5.8 again?

    Thanks!

  5. Cenodoxus says:

    This episode really bothers me. Not because the story in itself is a bad one — told well, it actually could have slotted into the existing canon as a great explanation for why Sarah’s always steered conversation away from her family and is a somewhat unusual person for a CIA officer — but the continuity problems and Idiot Ball moments drive me insane. It’s demoralizing to see a great character and actress be given sloppy material, and so many of the mistakes could have been fixed so easily that it just adds to the agony.

    The thing that drove me nuts the most was the callback to the pilot with Chuck’s picture as the “new asset.” Except he wasn’t an asset at that point; the CIA and the NSA thought he was Bryce’s scumbag partner. Sarah was sent to retrieve the Intersect, not handle anyone. This could have been fixed so easily by just having Sarah say she’ll be spending a little downtime with Bryce in D.C. Or, if you really want to tie Sarah’s new timeline into the beginning of the show, have Graham tell her that he’s got some bad news, and tell her Bryce went rogue. The audience already knows what’s coming either way, and it knows that — given that Sarah can’t have dealt with the baby all that long before the Intersect became an issue — Sarah won’t be in D.C. for long before the proverbial stuff hits the fan. We can figure it out! It would have been a wonderful, subtle moment, and it even would have tied beautifully into Sarah’s comment that it’s okay to be surprised without clumsily trying to beat everyone over the head with it.

    God, I hated that scene (as if you couldn’t tell), but it just exemplified the sloppiness with details that killed the episode’s claim to greatness.

    I don’t hate the episode — the emotional beats are as true as they’ve ever been, and they’ve always been the show’s saving grace — but I do hate that it could have been so much better than it was. Sarah as a character deserves better, and so does Strahovski.

    • Shepperf of Lost Sheep says:

      Don’t worry. As much as I want to choose to ignore the final Graham / Sarah scene because there is simply no way that it makes any sense for the reasons you describe above, I’m quite sure TPTB won’t let me because they are using it to set up some final overarching conspiracy which will somehow hinge on this “false” scene. It pratically screams it. There is no other reason for this rewriting of the show’s history.

      Like you I didn’t hate the episode, but these discontinuities and unanswered mom questions do detract from what should have been a gem.

    • joe says:

      Oh, Bah!, Cenodoxus. Bah!, I say (as I wave my little paw, much like Dogbert in the Dilbert cartoon). That’s a game that you’re trying to play here (and yes, I know that others do too, so I don’t mean to pick just on you). “Let’s list the details.”

      But it doesn’t ever work out, mostly because so many of the details in any and in every good story are in our imagination. And we’re GOOD at that here. Good stories inspire our imaginations. Sarah talking about a little “down time” with Bryce at that point in the story doesn’t conform to the details that I’ve filled in my head for that moment AT ALL! There’s no way Sarah doesn’t think that Bryce is a turn coat and a traitor right then. There’s half a dozen times she makes that clear in the first two or three episodes.

      But it’s precisely the emotional beats that are perfect and re-enforced by what we did see that are the strong points of this episode. That is the strong point, and they could not have been better, I contend. Indeed, those minor incongruities almost disappear with a little less imagination than it takes for us to write the story of what happened before the pilot in the first place!

      We can pick out the inconsistencies, but that really misses the point in a quickly produced mass medium like TV. Gee – the worst mistake they made was, in my estimation, not reshooting the scene in Couch Lock where Casey knocks the helmet off his head. I mean, what soldier does that??? For 5 seconds, they couldn’t reshoot?

      Apparently not. And in the bigger picture, it was really, really unimportant.

      But I’m still glad you stated your case, C! 😉

      • BigKev67 says:

        Joe,
        I guess it depends a lot on your definition of “minor incongruities”. I’m not so sure that trashing the timeline of your pilot episode and almost retconning a major character from the first 2 seasons out of existence is minor though.
        Everyone has their own levels of tolerance for this stuff, and I think mine are pretty high after 5 seasons of watching this show, but this episode just had more WTF moments than any in the series, I think.
        From the whole idea that Sarah or the CIA could be complicit in the kidnapping of an heiress from another country, to Ryker miraculously knowing the exact location of Emma, to Sarah being bugged as easily as a six year old, to Sarah supposedly choosing life on the run with a conman over a seemingly normal mother…..and so on. And that’s before you even get to the Sarah/Graham scene that can’t be squared with events established in the pilot and Nacho Sampler. I know people have tried, and I’ve tried to agree with them, but it just can’t be done.
        The good stuff in this episode was really really good, as you say, but five or six genuine facepalm
        moments is way too many. It’s unnecessary, and it comes across as careless – and in this case I think it really spoiled what could have been a genuinely great episode.

      • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

        I won’t go over Nacho Sampler again, because you didn’t buy my previous easy explanation. The other issues are plot holes (common on Chuck). Plot holes can sometimes be filled, and this episode’s are easier than many Chuck episodes. You probably won’t buy these explanations either, but I’ll try for other readers:
        – “the whole idea that Sarah or the CIA could be complicit in the kidnapping of an heiress from another country” – Ryker was turning traitor and cashing out. The CIA didn’t know it. Sarah figured it out after seeing the baby. She did the heroric thing, shooting Ryker and saving the baby from Ryker and the CIA’s feeble version of witness protection. Most of this was in the episode.
        – “Ryker miraculously knowing the exact location of Emma” – that one has a couple explanations. One, as an audience we saw a visual representation of Sarah’s story to Chuck. Sarah actually told Chuck a story with no pictures. The audience doesn’t know her exact words. She might have said her mom’s name and or the city where her mom lived. If you don’t like that version, we know for a fact Sarah told Chuck that she left the baby with her mom. Ryker had a van with a team of guys and seemed to be able to get information from secured intelligence sources (i.e. he knew Shaw was back in the prison hole he will die in). His team could look up Sarah’s file and find her age (Verbanski knew it from the prop mistake). Ryker probably knew she had a father with a prison record from the first mission. He could look up the father’s aliases, determine which one was used in the years around when Sarah was born, look up marriage licenses for that name, find Sarah’s mom’s name and current address. The scene would have been boring, like it is when shows like NCIS show it, so I’m glad it wasn’t in the show. If you think all of that is too much to easily do on a computer, I’ll just say this is TV. Computer hacking and intelligence gather is always too easy on all TV shows and movies.
        – “Sarah being bugged as easily as a six year old” – Sarah was unconscious (Casey carried her out). They could have shown the moment Ryker planted the bug, but that would have ruined the surprise with bad storytelling. She also has thick hair. It’s not as if anyone took the time to wash, brush or style it. In the end, missing the bug is Chuck and Casey’s mistake–more Chuck’s because Casey’s not going to look over Chuck’s wife too closely with him around. The feedback from the “magic iPhone frequency interference app” was my problem with that scene. I though they found the bug too easily. Like I said earlier, computer stuff is too easy on TV.
        – “Sarah supposedly choosing life on the run with a conman over a seemingly normal mother” – She was eight or ten when she sneaked out of the house. To a kid, Emma probably seemed like the strict parent, and Jack seemed like the fun one. Sarah was too young to know better. After pulling a few bank truck heists, she was probably on the run herself. That eliminated her choice. If she stayed with her mom, she’d be arrested and through into juvie. As an adult, Sarah made effort to stay in touch with her mom at least a little. She was too old to go back. The CIA was her life. But it was clear she regretted he decision, which is what made the lullaby and Molly drop-off scenes so powerful.

      • atcDave says:

        Great response Jeff. I do agree, as Kev suggested, there are some troubling issues in this episode that require a bit too much effort to reconcile. If I were a more casual viewer I likely wouldn’t bother and would simply be annoyed by them. And I admit I wouldn’t have bothered here either if I didn’t love the good parts of this episode so much. But the thing is, with a little effort sense can be made of MOST of what happened. Bryce was NOT retconned out of existence, he simply played no role in this episode, once we got a concrete time for these events (at the end) it becomes obvious Bryce would have been working undercover on his Fulcrum infiltration during most of this episode, and of course sending the Intersect to Chuck and getting himself “killed” while Sarah was dropping Molly off at mom’s. As early as S1 we knew that Sarah knew nothing about Bryce’s Fulcrum mission; so we know they worked apart, if not often, at least those last few weeks. And its not even a big shocker that Graham made no mention of him or “Sarah’s loss”; first of all the scene was truncated, such niceties could have been dealt with outside of what we saw; secondly, two agents involved with other is apparently frowned on and Graham may have had no interest in bringing the issue up. Especially if we consider Sarah may have been a favorite of his and Bryce is recently disgraced.
        We maybe aren’t sure exactly what Sarah knew about Chuck and when, but nothing has changed in the basic idea she was sent to California to find out what happened to the Intersect. That her cell phone in Buy More might not have been the first time she saw Chuck’s picture is not a terribly big deal. And I admit, not having liked Nacho Sampler very much I have no interest in re-watching that one to find problems. I can reconcile the Pilot and Baby and that works for me.
        On balance, any continuity issues here strike me as less than most TV shows deal with over the course of time. Most viewers I know regard the show as a comedy first, we (more serious viewers) are unique in caring far more about minor continuity issues than the majority of the audience ever wiill.

      • armysfc says:

        Jeff, i have read your previous easy explanation and they do makes sense, they however have holes in them as well in order for them to work. you say grahm removed the device from lock up. that assumes casey took it to lock up. my bet is he took it to the DNI techs where they looked it over during the night while he watched them and kept an eye on the device, why, because we have been lead to believe casey is not very good computer wise, ie not a nerd. he says hard drive is fried. he would have to be told it had a hard drive and not a sim card (or other form of storage used in the time it takes place in) because he would not be the one looking at it. isn’t taking a look at something as soon as they get it usually done on this show? that would take time. also grahm would have to know where they took it. he wasn’t at the capture point so how would he find out? keep in mind the DNI/CIA weren’t playing nice at this point, casey’s dead CIA agent is a gold star in my books. it also assumes the DNI informed graham the night it happened. what if they waited until they found out what was stolen and where it was sent before they called him? it was their facility after all.

        next the location. they knew it was larkin who took it, they tracked the signal and found out where it was sent. then they failed to tell their boss until later where it was sent, while grahm had it earlier so he could send sarah out before casey. yet casey knew where the email was sent and he also waited to tell his boss.

        the what if game is hard to play because once we begin using things not shown on the show we are never really wrong. i know if you put time into it, you will find holes in what i just said and that’s fine, i expect it.

      • atcDave says:

        Army there’s nothing wrong with the “what if” game. The only issue is that it should coincide with show canon as much as possible. When there is an apparent conflict the best explanation is the one that explains what’s on screen. We can speculate any direction we want, but at the end of the day what’s on screen will always be canon. If the result is hopelessly confusing something may be wrong, and to me the “emergency relief” for this episode is that we saw all flashbacks from Sarah’s perspective. So it is possible some of the meeting with Graham is incorrectly sequenced in Sarah’s mind, it has been five eventful years after all. As I said a few days ago, it doesn’t offend me at all if some of what was said in that meeting is in fact mis-remembered from a phone conversation Sarah had with Graham the night after the fake date. But the more we’ve discussed things here the less I see any problems with. Right now, I’m not sure I need that “emergency relief” at all! Just as Jeff pointed out that Sarah may have TOLD Chuck something a little different frrom the flashback we saw, the actual event of Sarah’s meeting with Graham may have been slightly different than she recalled.

      • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

        Actually, Army, I like some of your alternate theories with the DNI techs. Casey was a burn out at the time, so he probably went out for a sandwich after shooting Bryce and handing over the device. Graham would definitely have been informed one of his agents was killed. That would have been motivation enough to get the ball rolling while Casey was taking a nap and waiting for Beckman to finish with that man friend we’ve seen behind the camera at her home. (I think Beckman had a ring in early episodes, so maybe that was her now ex-husband.) Sorry, bad image, I know. I apologize.

        You’re right that a lot of this requires assumptions about actions off screen (that would be taken out by any good editor anyway). It also requires of very compressed timelines. Not every story has Peter Jackson, who don’t know how to edit his four hour extended editions (which I still love). But even Jackson ignores the space-time continuum like the rest of TV and movie writers. Maybe Chuck needs novels. I really like the Harry Potter movies, but I doubt they would make any sense if I hadn’t read the books. My reaction to Umbridge in HP7 would have been like most people’s reaction to Shaw: How is she still alive? Wasn’t she killed two movies ago?

      • atcDave says:

        Oh and for the record I’m not calling that sort of rationalization a “good” thing. Its only a fact of life. TV shows develop continuity issues over time, as a viewer we need mechanisms to deal with them. Especially if we really care about the story we’re watching. I mentioned the TV show “Hunter” here a few days ago, which led to remember a huge “oops” in their story-line; in that show’s S1 we learned one of the main characters was widowed when her husband, a rookie police officer, was killed in thine of duty. Years later, they decided to tell his story largely via flashback (geee, does this sound like a recipe for trouble?!) So in the course of a big two-part episode we learned he’d actually been an internal affairs detective who ran afoul of crooked cops. (a rookie cop detective? not how it works…) These screw-ups have been a part of television for ever. I think more modern shows actually make a bigger effort to get these things right than they did years ago. But they’re not perfect. On balance, I think the fact we can make sense of most of what we’ve seen on Chuck with little effort actually speaks well of the effort they make on continuity.

      • thinkling says:

        Great summary, Jeff. You explained the plot holes perfectly.

        I’ll join you on the recon issue only once, because it’s not worth arguing over beyond that. The only — ONLY — potential conflict created in Baby is with the last scene in Nacho Sampler, and I find it wholly insignificant. Sometimes there is a difference between what we know and what we think we know. All the other retcon rage falls into the latter category.

        There is no canonical evidence that Bryce and Sarah were permanently partnered. The only mission partnering we can be sure of is Bogata in 2005 and a vacation together in 2005 in Cabo. They may have had dalliances (or not) in between. They may have had a more recent mission or two, but we cannot know that from what is presented. We know Sarah wasn’t a part of Bryce’s last undercover mission that ended in sending the Intersect to Chuck. That and Bryce’s surprise that Sarah is still in love with him (Nemesis) would imply a longer interlude since they were last together. Her being on a mission in Hungary sometime in 2007 before her assignment to Chuck is not a conflict with the pilot.

        Ryker as Sarah’s handler is just not a big deal, as Dave has explained elsewhere, agents, both seasoned and green, have handlers for different reasons. Ryker had a mission to complete in Hungary. He probably made up a good cover (e.g. that a wealthy couple and their baby were assassination targets) for his own rogue mission. He requested Graham’s best agent for his mission. As such he was her handler. No problem there.

        Oddly enough, the objection to calling Sarah Chuck’s handler from the start is explained away by Nacho Sampler. Chuck is ordered to develop Manoosh as an asset from the moment he shows up on CIA radar (before they know his motivation or whether he will become a cooperative asset or one to be used and burned). Manoosh is paid a large sum of money by the Ring, and the CIA needs to know why. Therefore, Chuck becomes Manoosh’s handler to find out and find a way to use his connection to the Ring. It’s very similar to the pilot … Chuck is sent the Intersect, the CIA wants to know why. Therefore, Sarah becomes Chuck’s handler to recover the Intersect and to find out everything she can about how Chuck got it from Bryce.

        The last scene in Nacho Sampler appears to contradict the pilot, and could be a retcon, but it’s one I can live with. In the Pilot, Sarah just walks into the store. She had to be sent, but we have none of those details. From NS we might infer that she got a call to head to the Burbank Buymore and then got more details (not very likely, if that’s all there was to it). Baby shows Graham meeting with her, giving her a file on Chuck, and sending her. (This seems more likely. Casey had a meeting with his superiors, so it would make sense for Sarah to have had a similar meeting with Graham.) How could both scenarios be true? Well, the voice in NS is not Graham’s. The voice in NS is someone else touching base with her about her assignment, and she is just mining for a little extra Intel, not revealing anything about her meet with Graham (which is above the voice’s pay grade). I know … it seems a little odd, but it is possible to harmonize them, and it actually fits with the idea that there was a conspiracy. However, If it turns out to be a retcon, it’s just not that significant.

      • ArmySFC says:

        Dave, Jeff, i love the what if game! i also agree that big opps happen all the time. i love white collar. they had a huge one at the begininng of season 3. at the end of 2 peter confronts neil about a piece of burning art that he found when they arrested the bad guy. he says i found part of the painting from your place at the scene you stole the art from the sub. flash to next season and neil has no idea peter has the burnt piece of art until several episodes in. now thats a big goof!

      • joe says:

        Love this discussion!

        Thinkling? This got me wondering. You said:

        That and Bryce’s surprise that Sarah is still in love with him (Nemesis) would imply a longer interlude since they were last together.

        The “him” is Bryce, I assume? I’m still wondering (after all these years!) about the state of Sarah’s mind back then, and the state of the relationship between Sarah and Bryce. What puzzles me – and probably will forever – is Sarah’s inability and apparent unwillingness to decide between Bryce and Chuck at the end of Nemesis. She doesn’t answer either phone.

        I’ll always think that Sarah’s been asking herself ever since Bryce’s “funeral” if she actually loved him. She wonders if she even knows what love means, and when Chuck comes along, it’s that uncertainty about herself, more than any uncertainty about Chuck, that causes her to pause.

        She’d rather not think about it at all, which is why the next episode, Crown Vic, starts with her almost unable to face the day.

        It’s those early mysteries about Sarah that are so intriguing! We’ll never really know what she was thinking, so anyone’s guess could be the right one.

      • thinkling says:

        Yeah, Joe. Sarah is figuring out what she wants. She liked what she had with Bryce, and some of those feelings were real-ish. But the events of the Baby have shaken her world and Chuck just keeps on shaking it. She no longer knows what she wants, but she is tilting toward Chuck and that normal life.

      • atcDave says:

        I always figured Sarah’s decision at the end of Nemisis was mostly about Chuck either way. Bryce may have represented her old life and the life of adventure; but it also involved abandoning her current assignment. I think the only reason she even stewed over it was because she knew she was emotionally compromised in her current assignment, or soon would be. So she had professional sense telling her she may not be the best candidate to remain in her current post in spite of the fact she mostly wanted to stay. Basically she knew staying would change her forever (I don’t think she realized yet it was already too late!) I’ve enjoyed quite a few FFs that start with the idea of Sarah leaving with Bryce, and being miserable for it.

        But of course, that’s just pure fan speculation and not canon…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume, even though there is little to support it, that Bryce and Sarah were still personally involved when he went undercover on the intersect mission. There are enough breadcrumbs to find that trail IMO. With that knowledge, that Sarah had her heart broken when Bryce turned out to be a traitor, then she found out he was a hero after all, I can see both some willingness and some reluctance to re-join him. On the plus side it was an easy escape from a bad situation she’d gotten herself into. On the minus side Bryce was a spy, and like her had no room for trust or possibly love in his life, after all he said in Nemesis that he didn’t know if he could trust her, and essentially had left her. That had to sting. All that said we have to remember what was on the screen. Sarah was going with Bryce. She was packed and waiting for his call. She’d made a decision. She changed her mind, or at least couldn’t follow through, when Chuck called and she saw his face on the phone, but she was initially intending to leave. It’s something that we often forget as canon, that Sarah always saw her time with Chuck as a temporary thing as late as Ring I. She in fact left in Broken Heart when ordered to do so and apparently fully intended to do so again until a moment of epiphany at the second wedding. All of this is a roundabout way of saying what Sarah wanted rarely seemed to factor in her decisions, if she even knew. That’s why the end scene was so amazing. She’s not only decided what she wants out of life, but she can now feel confident enough to ask Chuck to make sacrafices for her and the future she sees for both of them. I think it’s pretty clear he’s still rather enamored of being a spy, and Sarah has been ready to quit for years, but chose to stay a spy with Chuck to let him have his dreams for a while. Also in no small part to make sure he’s protected for that day when their spy-life is over, approaching fast I might add.

      • joe says:

        That’s why the end scene was so amazing. She’s not only decided what she wants out of life, but she can now feel confident enough to ask Chuck to make sacrafices for her and the future she sees for both of them.

        Forehead slapping moment. Of course! So well said, Ernie.

    • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

      Cenodoxus, please read the responses from atcDave and me in the “Chuck vs The Baby, first reactions” thread: https://chuckthisblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/chuck-vs-the-baby Every single misconception about that scene is dealt with. The highlights that address your issues are:
      – The word “asset” is never used in the scene.
      – Graham never calls her Chuck’s handler. He calls her a handler for the “assignment”, which is the entire folder, not just Chuck. The folder probably had information about the Intersect and about Bryce’s death.
      – Sarah could not be spending a little downtime with Bryce because the broken email device is on Graham’s desk. They think he is dead.

      • armysfc says:

        i think whats causing all the problems with the grahm scene is pretty simple. the pilot and nacho laid a pretty clear and long standing view of what transpired. there was not much imagination needed to arrive to the conclusions people drew. nobody questioned the events that took place after the pilot. dave is a big FF fan. look back at all the early stories written. almost all use the same events on how chuck gets the intersect (unless its AU). before now i can’t remember one story that has grahm meeting sarah and assigning her to being in LA. why? because they went with accepted canon.

        this new scene changed that in one way or another requiring a large amount of imagination for it to work. all the possible explanations are good and with enough work and imagination they work. the question is should an event that big require so much work to fit? there are a whole bunch of ideas and new theories out there on how the new scene happened and when. should there really be that many? heck i must have read 50 of them and they were all different. but with enough work they fit. to me that’s just a bad choice, like getting a 2″ dowel rod for a one inch hole. with a lot of work you can still make it fit.

        SLS said it best and i did before. they plan for something big to come down the line that would not work with the original story. so they changed it now to make the new story line fit. my guess is they paln to reveal that sarah was part of the big plan all along, willing or not, she will be a pawn in this game. this change screams it. why change being there to her being given an assignment unless they plan on making her part of it. i’ll even take it one step further, chuck finds out either at the end of 11 or the start of 12. my question is if sarah was a willing participant in controlling chuck from the start as opposed to the one we saw in the pilot, will you be upset? that the mission from grahm was to get chuck to fall for her instead of how it played out, will that bother anyone? it would me.

      • herder says:

        Army I think that they almost certainly are going to be running something through that scene. I can’t imagine them messing with that part of the story without a reason and as the episode was written by a non-staff writer there almost has to have been specific direction to include that scene. Having said that we have to keep perspective, it was one wrong note in a pretty darn good episode and it doesn’t diminish my own enjoyment of it.

      • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

        As a FF writer let me say FF is never canon. For most of what I write, I try to be canon-compatible when I write the story. I find it a little funny when each of my stories later becomes canon-inconsistent because of little details. I’m not yelling “retcon” just because the show contradicts my incorrect preconception.

        For example, Sarah did not “love” her Porsche. If she did, why didn’t she buy another one? In fact, we don’t know if she even bought either car. They could have been a seized DEA vehicles that Carina directed Sarah’s way. Or they could have been prizes for “spy of the month” with the CIA. The only person we know loved his car is Casey (and he didn’t buy his last one). Casey was the one who gave Chuck a hard time about getting Sarah’s car blown up, and he was likely projecting his residual feelings from Crown Vic. Sarah never said a word about the car. She cared more about the double agent in the CAT Squad.

        A straight-forward and reasonable assumption is that people with Porsches love their cars. That does not mean Sarah loved her car in canon. In fact, until Chuck, she was not big on attachments.

        FF stories tend to have a small set of collective head canons like Sarah’s love for her Porcshe. There is nothing wrong with that. They are fun. However, none of those people were in the writers room and know what the plan was. I think the most likely scenario is the writers had a couple of larger ideas about Sarah’s possible back story and didn’t worry about the details. When they decided to fill in the details, a “fact checker” on the crew was responsible for checking consistency. For example, iPhone’s were very rare in September 2007, and Sarah didn’t use one until a couple months later. The details in the scene do not contradict the show itself, the dialogue doesn’t contradict, and the overall plot doesn’t contradict. The fact checker can’t be responsible for what FF writers and blog posters happened to think. Most (nearly all?) show writers don’t read that stuff. Some of have directly said so. I know of one writer (JMS from B5) who was paranoid about avoiding speculation, despite his Internet presence. They do not want to be accused of stealing story ideas.

        Sometimes the writers or prop masters screw up and the fact checkers miss it. I’ve seen birthdate discrepancies in multiple shows, including Chuck. That is human error, not a retcon. A lot of shows have plot holes, especially Chuck. Chuck vs the Baby is actually better than most. The couple plot holes I saw fine with me because they have possible explanations with very little creativity and they make the episode tighter with less boring exposition. It also leaves a nice whole for FF writers to try to fill.

      • atcDave says:

        Jeff I think a big part of what you’re getting at with fan fiction is just that all viewers make assumptions of things that aren’t necesarily stated. The Porsche/car lover thing is a perfect example. We still don’t actually KNOW if Sarah is a real car afficianado or just driving whatever looked cool on an impound lot (although she has kept the Lotus which would suggest ownership!). But as you say, when you see someone in a Porsche, you assume “serious driver”.

        The scene with Graham in “Baby” is actually pretty carefully constructed to avoid any true contridictions with past material while providing a complete and satisfying moment for more casual viewers. Graham never actually says Sarah will be handling Chuck or even what Chuck’s role in the coming mission might be. He doesn’t even say he just handed her a folder ABOUT Chuck. He only says he’s sending her on a new mission where she’ll be the boss (he says handler, but not what or who she’d be handling). He gives her a folder that happens to have Chuck’s photo as the first page, we draw conclusions. Its actually sort of our own fault if we draw erroneous conclusions about things that were never said. I would agree the scene leads us to some conclusions that are a bit of a problem with the Pilot, but it doesn’t actually SAY anything that must be wrong.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree with Jeff that there are MANY bits of fannon that make their way into the collective knowledge. Most start as a bit of canon that then gets enlarged. As far as we’ve seen in the show Bryce and Sarah were working together (and vacationing together) in 2005, but as early as Nemesis it was apparent that they still each took solo assignments. Bryce’s discovery of and infiltration of Fulcrum wasn’t an overnight job from the way he explains it, and Sarah wasn’t part of that mission. We now know what she was doing at the time, but you still see people complaining that Bryce has been retconned out of existance. What we know is that they had worked together in the past and apparently had an ongoing personal relationship when the series begins. And yes, Sarah refers to Bryce as her “partner” but that is when she is trying to explain her presence at his funeral to Chuck without disclosing the true nature of their relationship.

        That said, I think the Graham scene, though you can fit it into the timeline, is a bit of retcon when you compare it to the end of Nacho Sampler. My standard is does it take an assumption on your part to make it work, or not work. If you have to assume facts not in evidence for it to be retcon, then it isn’t retcon. If you need to work and make a few assumptions that seem to go against what is shown on screen, then it is. With the Sarah/Bryce timeline you have to assume that they were constant partners from 2005 on to make Sarah’s solo mission with a handler retcon of her spy life. The scene with Graham where she gets a file on Chuck seems to contradict the call she got at the end of Nacho Sampler that seems to be identifying Chuck for her. But then that scene at the end of Nacho Sampler was a bit of retcon itself, but still pretty good.

        I can live with both, even if it does take a little work. As standalone exposition they both served their purpose. I think the scene with Graham is some sort of setup for a larger conspiracy involving Chuck. I think they wanted to introduce the idea that Chuck was on the CIA’s radar even before the intersect was sent to him. Perhaps he didn’t escape Project Omaha after all (it essentially became intersect 2.0). My big question is did Sarah burn her assett in Alma Mater when she found out Chuck was being recruited? She told Chuck never to mention it, but we did see the pain in her face when she left his room with the disk. Perhaps there was more to that anguish than seeing Bryce again, like realizing that her job required her to burn Chuck and turn over the information that the intersect had been the prime recruit for Project Omaha.

        Then again, maybe that’s just the fanon talking.

    • BigKev67 says:

      Cenodoxus,
      Once again, I agree with every word. The irony here is that I spent last week defending Santa Suit against it’s detractors by essentially arguing that the only way you can enjoy the show is to ignore the continuity errors and the plotholes because otherwise they’ll drive you nuts. To me, the sloppiness has got particularly egregious since S3, although it’s always been there – and on that basis, you just have to ignore all of them.
      But man, this episode really tests that theory because there are just so many, and most of them are so blatant. And ultimately, despite my own best intentions, they got in the way of my enjoying the episode.
      The Graham/Sarah scene that could never have happened is the most obvious but there are so many others – questions that just beget more questions until you stop caring because your head hurts too much.
      And it’s such a pity because the family stuff, the emotional stuff and (some of) the character progression is worthy of a best of series episode, it really is. It still gets a solid 7.5 or 8 from me, but with just a little due care and attention it could have easily cracked my top 10.

      I guess there’s a possibility that the rewritten Graham scene sets up the great conspiracy in a way that doesn’t make a nonsense out of the Pilot and Nacho Sampler – but I’m doubtful. The show isn’t known for that level of complexity – but it is known occasionally for sloppy retcons. My money’s on that.

  6. herder says:

    This episode is a key step in the evolution of Sarah Walker. In Pink Slip she wanted to run away and to become a real person again, with Chuck, it was impractical, impulsive and not thought through (how could it ever have worked). In Honeymooners she was willing to quit the spy life and run away with Chuck, no matter how much she wanted to be a spy she wanted Chuck more, This too was impractical, impulsive and not thought through.

    Now she is in a position to return to the spy life she thinks it through, looks at what it has cost her, acknowleges that it was the right decision for her then but no longer. This takes care of the impulsive and part of the not thought through problems of earlier decisions. I suspect the answer to the impractical and the rest of the not thought through portions will lie in the answer to the question of “what will I do in this new company that you are planning” I think that we will learn of some sort of new passion of Sarah’s that will answer that question and show her leaving the spy life as practical, reasoned and well thought through.

    • atcDave says:

      Great point herder about Sarah finding a new interest. It will be interesting to see what developes. (fast food service maybe… not!)

  7. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Baby (5.08) | Chuck This

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