It will come as no surprise to you that I loved it. I’d ask you to let me show you why but I’m fearful that you’ll think I’m just feeding you manure so I won’t. Instead I’ll tell you why I liked it and how I see it. I’ve been honest in all of my reviews and in this, the very end, I won’t lie. In any case here goes…
At the end of the day, I believe that Sarah regained her memories because I want it to be true. If you haven’t read Mo Ryan’s review of the episode, I recommend a read, it is quite honestly the best sentiment I could give but I digress. See the thing about Chuck from the get go is…it’s a leap of faith. Love is a leap of faith. Against all odds, you had to believe that Chuck Bartowski could get the leggy Valkyrie who was so very much out of his league; you had to believe that through all the roadblocks and the covers that what they felt was real, that the love was real, that it would survive. Even when they tried to tell you it’s over, even when they tried to end it, you had to believe. You had to because you fell in love with them, in much the same way they fell for each other. This situation is no different. You have to believe that Sarah regained her memories because there’s not even remotely any other way possible that she didn’t, that she doesn’t. They gave you just enough for you to believe that if you wanted. At the end of the day it was your choice, your decision, just like it was Sarah’s. At the end of the day it was your choice to trust the love, or not. To “listen to [our] heart[s] because our brains only screw things up.”
There’s such a thing as implicit and explicit memory. Implicit memory is also known as “non-declarative” memory because you can’t verbalize what those memories are; but you know them, somewhere in there you know it. They usually involve “specific step by step procedures,” or “specific feelings or emotions.” Explicit memory is something you can verbalize, it can be declared. Sarah showed that her implicit memories were intact when she moved the cups in Wienerlicious the way they’re supposed to be (step-by-step procedures),
Sarah: “They’re in the wrong order. It’s not how it should be.”
Chuck: “Sarah you know this place?”
Sarah: “No, no I don’t.”
…when she knew that the beach was an important place to her,”This place is important, isn’t it?” She doesn’t know why those things are important, she doesn’t know why she felt she needed to go to the beach to clear her head, but she did. Somewhere in her implicit memory banks she knows these things and feels these emotions but she doesn’t have the explicit memory to be able to explain them, to be able to really know who she is. BUT something’s missing, she knows something’s missing.
The romantic in me wants to believe that that something missing in her was the other half to her whole, her Chuck. She doesn’t know that she loves him, she doesn’t even know that she’s missing him but some part of her knows that something’s missing (obviously something more than just her memories). That part of her seems to gravitate to all the places and all the activities that begs for an awakening. Irene Demova? Why not fruit juice? I think it’s because she fell for Chuck a long, long time ago, after he fixed her phone and before he “started diffusing bombs with computer viruses.” That memory stuck with her, just not the details, “I am, not really sure what that meant.”
Earlier she was compelled to make sure he was okay because…? If there was nothing there, then why? Yes he did just take a bullet for her, and yes she just found out that she’s been betrayed but why? She doesn’t feel what he feels, right? Casey said it best, “funny, when we first met they said the same thing about you [that they said about me].” That she was “unfriendly, unforgiving, unquestioning about her orders.” And yet she hesitated, even after being freed. She, just for a moment, wanted to believe his words, “This is real? You really love me?” She wanted to believe his love, that is until training kicked in. She even recognized the carving, “I wrote that.” So is it really all gone? Never to be recovered? No, it’s not. They showed that. They showed that she retains her implicit memories, and it’s growing by the moment.
Now, how to prime those implicit memories to spark explicit memories. Priming is a way to cue a memory by using a stimulus. Ellie and Morgan had suggestions for priming. Ellie: feelings; Morgan: magical kiss. “It’s clear we can’t force Sarah to remember but emotions, feelings those are powerful things and if you can find Sarah, maybe you can spark some of these memories.” Logically if seeing the carving primed her memory of having carved it, then Chuck should be able to prime her memories with his feelings, with his lips. Their solutions weren’t trivial, they were essential. And it works, to a point. She fixed his tie, that was curious. Agent Walker who has just been betrayed felt the need to…trust Chuck with her mission? Even after seeing the video and all that he’s lost, and all that she has (essentially) taken away from him, she knew she could count on him. Curiouser and curiouser. So Sarah Walker trusts Chuck with the mission, progress.
Sarah: “I just want to tell you that I believe you, I believe everything that you told me about us. But the truth is Chuck, I-I don’t feel it. Everything that you told me about us and our story, I don’t feel it.”
Chuck: “Right. Right of course, I-ah-I don’t know what I was expecting.”
Sarah: “Well, I wanted to say sorry about everything that has happened today but most of all, I just wanted to say goodbye.”
All of this after seeing her video logs. More on the most poignantly devastating event in Chuck history, later. So Sarah felt the need to say goodbye and apologize. She’s changed in these last 5 years and it’s apparent, even to her. Suppressed memories cannot undo that. Now you’re probably yelling, see? Faith? See! She doesn’t feel it, it’s gone! My response? It’s not gone, she does feel, she shows in that very moment that she does feel. Sarah goes out of her way to break his heart, to crush his dreams, why? It’s less cruel than letting him dream. Whatever she feels or doesn’t feel, she still felt the need to say goodbye. What we have here isn’t a lack of emotion like she said, it’s a lack of trust. She doesn’t trust what she feels for him, and she doesn’t trust their love.
Back to the solution. Chuck’s mission is a tall order but it’s got two benefits. One, maybe she falls in love with him again, just by being just who he is, and two he unconsciously primes her with all of his feelings and all that they meant to each other. Fate even helped out with some fortuitous locations. So maybe, just maybe something will spark the flood of memories. But it’s never that easy, is it? Because as mentioned, she still doesn’t trust. She hasn’t fallen for him (again), yet. Not yet.
So what’s the difference between when she tells him not to talk about their life together in the eerily familiar Mexican restaurant, and the beach scene where she asks him to tell her? What took place between those two moments apart from just the mission, apart from just people telling her they’re in love? She fell for him, all over again (but not really again). Seeing the hero that would put the world before himself (remember Sarah Walker has spent a lifetime with men that only looked out for number one, even her father put himself over her)–seeing the guy that wouldn’t take a life in a new light, “you must think I was weak or scared but you taught me to be a spy Sarah…after when we fell in love, you stood up for me. You didn’t want me to be any other spy, you didn’t want me to change.”–those are just two reasons that made her fall in love (again). It’s also important to note that after Chuck told her about her old self standing up for the “Chuck” she loved, she did it again this time. “I heard your pep talk, I think I’m better off finding Quinn on my own. I’m leaving.” The pep-talk part leads me to assume that it was more than just, “Chuck can’t handle killing Quinn, he won’t back me up so I’ll go alone.” Then there’s the fact that Chuck is the kind of guy that would be there for her, assure her that even when painful for him he would be there for her, be someone she can call and do it without strings. So I assume she fell in love with him all over again (you don’t have to buy into it, but there it is) but things aren’t fixed, the problem isn’t solved. Sarah still doesn’t (fully) remember and she still doesn’t trust.
Chuck: “Maybe it’s a fresh start, a new beginning.”
Sarah: “I need some time to think. To be alone. I’m sorry.”
Enter Chuck and the beach. Chuck just knew where she was, and she knew just where to be. That’s love, sometimes it cannot be explained (even though I have tried with implicit memories for Sarah).
Chuck: “I was hoping you’d be here.”
Sarah: “This place is important, isn’t it?”
Chuck: “Yeah, this is actually where you told me that I was going to be ok. That I can trust you. That’s what I’m doing now, asking you to trust me. Sarah, I don’t want anything from you. I just need you to know that wherever you go, I’ll always be there to help you. Someone you can call, whenever. Trust me, Sarah. I’m here for you always”
Sarah: “Tell me our story.”
So what’s changed that she suddenly wants to know their story? She trusts.
I like to think that as Chuck tells her their story–as we relive their journey–she remembers some things, though not others. Nevertheless, Ellie’s plan is in motion: he’s reminding her with his feelings. As she laughs and cries about the last 5 years, maybe she falls in love with him even deeper and remembers. But that’s just one part of the plan, the other part is that magical kiss. Is it Disney-ish? Is it so ridiculous to think that she could remember with just a kiss, as if it were a fairytale? Or is it ridiculous to think that a kiss wouldn’t help her regain her memories, after all of this? I pick the latter, I pick it because to me Chuck has always been a fairytale in some form or another. Chuck was the Frog, and she always saw the Prince. This time, Chuck was kissing Sleeping Beauty, and she had to awaken. She wanted so much to remember, how could we not want it for her?
Sarah: “Chuck, kiss me.”
A steamy kiss that continues, during sunset. To me there is no way that she doesn’t [remember]. And there’s no better way to end it. In the beach, where it all began.
Other notes: I couldn’t have imagined a more emotionally resonant episode than this (note: In my mind vs. Sarah and Goodbye are one). Chuck begging, and urging her to remember…so sad and yet so lovely. I quite literally felt my heart break in that moment. I fell for him in that moment just as my heart was breaking. Zachary Levi shined in this episode, and none more so than in that moment. Completely bare and totally vulnerable, great call. But the crowning glory of all things emotional were the video logs. Yvonne Strahovski and the content of the logs, completely did me in.
Day 1: My mission is simple, find out what he knows, gain his trust, monitor his actions until the agency decides what to do with him.
Day 21: Chuck came over to my hotel room today and brought me a pizza. Vegetarian, no olives. I think he’s making it his mission to get to know me. It’s sweet.
Day 49: Chuck broke up with me today. Well, uh, fake-fake broke up with me. Technically.
Day 56: Chuck and I were defusing a bomb today and there was a moment where we were sure we were going to die. He closed his eyes, and I kissed him. I kissed him.
Day 564: Things are calm for once. No missions, nothing really to report, except I still find myself sitting here, talking to myself because… Because I love him. I love Chuck Bartowski and (voice breaks) I don’t know what to do about it.
More than the clips, more than Sarah falling in love with Chuck all over again, more than all the callbacks, the video log was my love letter from the show. It’s a letter I cherish, and one that means just as much in that moment (believing that all is lost) than it does in the last 5 years, because of the last 5 years. It’s very rare for TV Shows to delve into the mind of its characters, it’s just not an easy thing to do but they did it, with Sarah. Breathtaking. Every reaction, ever emotion, just magnificent.
Casey picking a life with Gertrude over his career, and in some ways his daughter just felt right. Alex has grown up, he has to let go, and as he has grown as well, Alex has to let him go. She’s got Morgan now.
The Woodcombs and their affluent future in the Midwest also felt right. Ellie needed to let go, she’s been protecting and taking care of Chuck for far too long, Chuck’s all grown up…he doesn’t need her anymore, he needs Sarah.
Jeffster riding off into the sunset, all the way to a record deal? Couldn’t have ended any better. Subway as the Buy More though? Pure laugh.
I can’t think of any actor that didn’t act their heart out in this one. From Bonita to Adam, to Sarah Lancaster and Linda Hamilton, they all brought their A game and it was, if not their finest performances (definitely Linda Hamilton’s finest performance), it was close to it. Even the Buy Morians had lines!
In the end, it was to me, a fitting conclusion to a memorable and lovable series called Chuck. Full of heart, drama and laughs. Yes I will admit that it would have been nice, preferable really, for them to make it explicitly clear that she regained her memories before fading out but I don’t need it. They showed me, as indicated, in many ways why I should believe what I believe. They showed me, why it’s a given. They showed me 5 years of love in 87 minutes. They showed me two people falling in love in 87 minutes. They showed me exactly why I should and have been trusting that love. Love is after all, a leap of faith. Even more amazing, they made me feel it. All of it, every single one. Thank you for the lifetime of memories Chuck (TPTB), and especially this finale. Now how about that movie…