Casey vs. The Powers That Be

Song Of A Lonely Man

Chuck vs. The Kept Man showed us another view of John Casey, but it wasn’t one that we hadn’t seen before. Face it; ever since Alex and Kathleen arrived on the scene, we knew that John had a heart. Really, we knew a long time ago that the same guy who shot down Bryce Larkin and then advised him “Don’t Move!” wasn’t quite the killer we (or Sarah Walker) we led to believe. We suspected it even in the first season when he balked at taking out Chuck Bartowski on orders from General Beckman.

That’s not right. He didn’t balk. He just let us know that he really, really wanted to, almost as much as he wanted to carry out his orders.

Here’s to John Casey dodging another bullet. It’s not like I want the wife and kids and the Little League practice and the minivan and the Costco runs.

For me, it was that session we saw in Undercover Lover, the one that culminates with a Hot Pocket, a Johnny Walker (Black) and “a little Neil” that told me the most about John Casey. After that, his speech from The Beard where he listed his “favorite” (scare quotes intended) types of people surprised me not at all.

[T]he only thing I hate more than hippies and neo-liberal fascists and anarchists are the hypocrite fat-cat suits they eventually grow up to become.

John’s been a lonely man. Now we have Gertrude Verbanski, his vocational equal and intellectual soul-mate to bring out the best in him. Or, at least, it brings out something. Can Casey be a fighter and a lover? Sure. He’s quite capable of appreciating Downton Abby – or is it Alex he appreciates?

Or perhaps, Morgan? Of course, there’s also Ilsa, Kathleen and now Gertrude. We’ve had John Casey in front of us the whole time and barely saw him.

And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s meant to be broken
I just want you to know who I am

Casey is always the man we’ll know the least, but it’s not because he hasn’t told us. He’s been screaming it out at us from the first This is who I am! No lies, no hiding, covers that barely cover.

That song, Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, is almost an anthem from the ’90s. That’s an odd thing to say – “anthems” are supposed to be uplifting and inspirational (think Melanie’s Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) as an anthem for the Baby Boomers and Nirvana’s Nevermind as an anthem for Gen-Xers). Iris is not like that. It’s painfully truthful and mysterious at the same time, and that’s why it carries weight. The lyrics tell us nothing except the singer’s state of mind. Today, as it has in the past, the song has become an anthem for the first three seasons of Chuck, at least, in my mind.

So I’m going to segue. This is not so much about John Casey as it is about the lonely people we’ve seen and watched on this show. You almost want Sarah to hear this verse:

And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive

… and Chuck singing the first.

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

Maybe that’s just the romantic in me, letting one song speak for those characters at their lowest moment. The truth is, all these characters are created by many talented people who have led successful lives and careers. They are magicians showing us a wonderful illusion. It’s the story, which has taken it’s shortcuts and used it’s tropes and cliches, that often speaks a soft truth to us, a very personal and intimate one. That’s been the real magic. I would guess that’s the reason so many got caught up in the story.

I’m certain that this part of the story comes from one person. I’ll credit Chris Fedak, of course, the way John Rzeznik is credited with writing the song. Like Iris comes alive with the rest of the band, Chuck comes alive with the Adam, Sarah, Ryan, Josh, Yvonne and Zac, along with the rest of the cast and crew. Still, it was Fedak who built that solitude into those characters. John Casey is only the last to come out of it.

He also built them a way out and that, to me, is the amazing thing. They were miserable, lonely people. Yet, almost five years into the story, we can point to a character and say “Hey! That’s like something I did!” It may be something small, like studying just the right page for an exam in college, or writing just the right report for work. It may be something larger, like coming up with the right diagnosis for someone who needed it.

And it may be something as small as saying or doing just the right thing when your spouse needed it. Getting out of the loneliness Chuck had at his birthday party over four years ago was impossible without two things – friends and family. TPTB gave John Casey only that one thing to say, and he said it well.

– joe


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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9 Responses to Casey vs. The Powers That Be

  1. thinkling says:

    Nice look at Casey, Joe. Ha. I’d forgotten the shoot first/”don’t freeze” moment. Casey has changed a lot and hardly at all. He takes his date to the gun range one week enjoys Downton Abbey with his daughter the next. His idea of a vacation is someplace cold and harsh where you might get shot, yet he is at home laughing with his family/friends around the Bartowski table.

    Somehow Chuck turned the burn out cold-school killer into Sugar Bear.

  2. Verkan_Vall says:

    “Can John Casey be both a fighter and a lover?”
    “Somehow Chuck turned the burn out cold-school killer into Sugar Bear.”

    Gah. You two are so hopelessly romantic you make me want to tear a leg off of my teddy bear and beat a My Little Pony to death with it while watching a Sam Peckinpah retrospective.

    Oh, and thanks so much, Tetrarch, for bringing up Candles In the Rain. I haven’t even thought about that stupid song in 20 years, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

    PS: So, has anyone see this Downtown Abbey thing? Is it worth a look?

    • MyNameIsJeffNImLost says:

      Saw part of an episode on PBS the other night (around Doctor Who’s time slot). It was in the middle of what I think was the 1st season finale, so it was hard to figure out who was who. It ended with the declaration of WW I. I recognized Maggie Smith (Prof McGonagall) and the actress who played Prime Minister Harriet Jones in Doctor Who. It won a bunch of Emmys, but didn’t look like my thing. If you liked British period pieces like The Remains of the Day or Howards End, you might like it.

    • joe says:

      Oh, it’s always my pleasure to stick a song in your ear, VV. We won’t even mention It’s A Small World (After All). 😉

      It really is Downton Abbey. I thought the ‘w’ was there too for a bit. Casey makes a point of pronouncing it correctly in the episode. I see that it’s S2 started last week on your local PBS station.

      I haven’t seen it myself, but Mekenna has me interested!

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        It’s a Small World….Aggghhhh!!!!!

        You…You….. OK, fine. Any other earworms you want to hit me with?

        It’s not like it can get any worse.

        Jeff: Thanks for the information. I might give it a look.

  3. Gord says:

    After Sarah, Casey is the other character that has had the most growth on this show and he is my favourite male character on the show. I think the introduction of Alex was TPTB most brilliant move. I just wish we would have gotten to see Alex become a part of team Bartowski. In Curse it looked like she was really her father’s daughter.

    • joe says:

      I can agree with that, Gord, especially Alex. Mekenna has been wonderfully understated in the part; a great counterpoint to “over the top” Jeff and Lester.

      Another of their moves that’s been consistently outstanding – the use of guest stars. Chevy Chase, Scott Bakula, Linda Hamilton, Tony Todd, Tony Hale, Carrie-Anne Moss – gee the list goes on and on – they’ve been amazing. Their enthusiasm shows in every scene, and I’m certain that comes from the atmosphere around them. It comes from the cast, crew, and (as anyone who’s spent time in as many offices as I know) it comes from the top.

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