Chuck Versus the Baby is easily my favorite up to this point in S5. It gives us humor, courtesy of Hot Mama and Six Pack, fantastic Sarah fight scenes, a great story, and lots of tension. We get a full range of satisfying Chuck and Sarah interaction throughout, beautiful romance, and a surprising token of their dream future … Sarah style. Chuck Versus the Baby is off the charts powerful and emotional (in a good way). It warms my heart, perhaps more than any other episode.
It’s no secret that Sarah is my favorite character, so how can I not love an episode that gives us such a meaningful look at her past and such a big piece of the Sarah puzzle … one that explains so much of her story and her transformation.
I’ll start at the end and circle back, because this is a big circle. It begins and ends with a normal life in a white house with a red door and a white picket fence. What happens in between is Sarah’s story: ever-complicated, often-exciting, sometimes-painful, and ultimately-heartwarming.
I’m different now. You know, things have changed. You’ve changed me. I don’t want to go back.
Sarah could have had that normal life, but there was conflict at home. I don’t know exactly what it looked like, but evidently mom didn’t like dad’s chosen profession or his influence — go figure. Emma wanted to protect Sarah from Jack, give her a normal life, but Sarah probably didn’t –couldn’t– see it that way. She loved her dad and chose to have an adventure with him. She couldn’t have known where it would lead. What started out as fun ultimately led to major disappointment … and the CIA.
How much did Sarah keep up with her mom? Though we don’t have her phone records, we do have some new information. Emma knew that Sarah was in the CIA and communicated with her at least from time to time. I surmise that at some point, probably after Jack was arrested, Sarah reconnected with her mom and maintained some sort of (probably awkward) relationship. Sarah’s job would have prevented frequent contact, but there was contact on some level.
Her life with Jack and her choice to join the CIA set her life on a trajectory leading farther and farther from any semblance of normal. She became a top agent and a trained assassin. The white house with the red door had faded to nothing but a spec in her rearview mirror.
Emma: “Joining the CIA and giving up everything you did, did you ever think it would lead you here?” Sarah: “No.”
So, this raises the question: what first changed the trajectory of Sarah’s life?
The answer is in The Baby. In fact the answer is the baby.
Then and Now
Present day Sarah and her dilemma. Shaw alerted Ryker that the baby is alive. The baby’s safety may be compromised. Chuck interrupts her research to bring her his big surprise (which can’t be as bad as the one she just discovered).
Chuck’s big surprise is sweet and charming and so perfect it hurts. Sarah, despite how she hates surprises, has learned to let Chuck surprise her, because it gives him such joy … and because his surprises are an extension of his love for her.
As Chuck furnishes the house with big dreams and his vision of the life he wants to give her, Sarah’s heart swells, not so much with the dream, but with the love of the man who has enabled her to dream again.
My heart soars with her confession, “I want this house, and I want the life that you have envisioned for us. I want every single part of it.” … and thuds with her reality, “It’s just that something urgent has come up.” … and breaks with her burden, “This time, Chuck, I can’t tell you.”
Sarah wants normal, but the spy life keeps getting in the way, revisiting the question of whether or not they can have a normal life and still be spies.
Now what? Chuck is beside himself. His wife is headed out on a solo mish with enough guns to supply a small war.
He will deal with the whole no-secrets-no-solo-missions later. For now his concern is her safety. He enlists backup and offers the services of CI. Smart. Chuck does a good job. He convinces Sarah to let him and Casey come with. He stands up to her, and his confrontation in Budapest is warranted. As a side-note, the Casey/Chuck interaction was spot on all the way through … all win.
Sarah is no longer alone. (Ah, hello-oh. Sarah takes a turn with the stupid stick. We knew it was coming.)
The mission is the flip side of the first candle-lit scene in the house. The house scene shows how much Sarah has changed. The scene in Budapest — in the same hotel room where she hid the baby, right across from the sidewalk café, her gun case out on the bed (no baby this time) — shows all the ways she hasn’t changed. She will still kill to protect those she loves. She will do what’s right at personal risk. She is still focused and determined and an awesome spy. Though surrounded by partners/friends — her husband, for crying out loud — she still acts alone, still feels the need to fight her battles solo. Like Chuck in The Curse, her motivation is pure, but her actions, though well intentioned, are misguided. To be so different, sometimes Chuck and Sarah are a lot alike, especially when it comes to protecting the each other and the ones they love.
When Sarah finds out that Ryker doesn’t know where the baby is, she no longer needs to kill him. The problem is that he will probably kill her. Thanks to Chuck and Casey, he doesn’t get the chance. Ryker, meaning to taunt her, spills a few more drops of truth … and lies: “Do you know why I brought you to Budapest in the first place? Because your file screamed loner. You had no family to speak of, never trusted anyone. … And you still don’t, do you? I bet no one even knows that you’re here.”
Bingo. Ryker is right, she was exactly like that. But he is wrong! She’s not alone any more. Her life is completely different. She has someone she loves and trusts completely.
It’s time for Sarah to live out of her new life, not her old one.
Her heartfelt response to Chuck’s gentle rebuke is sweet relief. At long last perhaps this one particular stupid stick can be retired. These euphoric feelings are cut short by the discovery of a bug and the realization that her mom and the baby are in danger.
A New Trajectory. This is where we entered the story. The baby had changed Sarah’s trajectory. Chuck picks up where the baby left off. The lion’s share of Sarah’s transformation is because of Chuck, but from now on, I will rewatch Chuck through the lens of The Baby.
Is it any wonder, that on the heels of this mission, when Sarah walks into the Buymore, Chuck’s rescue of a little girl (and the restoration of a normal moment) captivates her so completely. Now we know why.
The Baby mission put Sarah in a place where Chuck could reach her and connect with her inner girl. It made her fight even harder for Chuck to keep his normal life. It made her dread what the spy life might take away from him —It’s not that simple. You don’t know who you’re working for.
The Baby mission opened Sarah up to Chuck’s normal life … a life she began to desire, but didn’t think she deserved. Her transformation happened in much the way we’ve understood it, in relationship with Chuck Bartowski, with the added reflection of a woman who first began to value and desire the normal life she never had, because she had saved a baby.
Just when Sarah’s transformation is almost complete, she revisits the Baby mission and comes full circle.
The final take-down of Ryker is a team effort. This time Ryker faces a new Sarah. (Incoming–funny line: Nice apron … Thanks.)
I’m not alone. She’ll never have nightmares, and she’ll never even know that you existed. She’s going to have the life that she deserves, a normal one.
These words break loose from deep within and free Sarah from the last of her past. Sarah’s nightmares will never touch Molly. Thanks to Sarah, Molly will have the normal life that every little girl deserves … the life that Sarah finally accepts that she herself deserves.
The Family Circle Is Complete
This Bartowski party is the best yet, and it is certainly a love letter to this fan. Sarah’s mom drinking in Sarah’s wedding picture, the mother/daughter reunion, Sarah meeting her “sister” … powerful, emotional, perfect.
Chuck and Emma’s meeting was as perfect and appropriate as Sarah and Mary’s meeting. It’s interesting that Chuck and Sarah both relate well to their respective mothers-in-law. Sarah and Mary share their common love for Chuck and a desire to keep him safe. Chuck and Emma share their common love for Sarah and a desire to make her happy. Each mother found in her child’s spouse the person who gives her child all that she couldn’t. Isn’t that what every mother wants? Sigh … bonding, Chuck style. (Incoming–favorite line: She was always a tough little thing. )
As wonderful as it was watching Chuck and Emma watching Sarah and Molly, it was equally wonderful watching Sarah and Emma watching Chuck and Molly. The open adoration on Sarah’s face says it all. The surprise that is Chuck Bartowski … she never saw it coming, but now she can’t imagine life without him.
The Pursuit of Happiness
The life that Sarah has fought to preserve for others (her mother and Molly, Chuck and his family) she will now pursue for herself.
Back in their house, in the intimate glow of candle light, Sarah quietly and simply speaks her heart’s desire for their future.
You know, I really want the life that you imagine for us, Chuck, but if we go back to the CIA, it’s just going to be missions and secrets that we have no control over. … I gave my life to the CIA for a really long time, and I chose it over my family and my friends. And that was the right thing for me to do at the time, but …
I’m different now. You know, things have changed. You’ve changed me. I don’t want to go back.
She waits for Chuck’s response.
Chuck’s desire is her happiness, even if it means giving up the bonus and the house … and the dresser from Anthropology. They only need each other.
Sarah carves their names and their dream into the frame of the house, her promise and a down payment on the future and the happiness they will pursue together.