Reader’s Digest Rewatch: The Arc of Truth

Truth And Consequences.

This week’s Reader’s Digest Rewatch brings us to my second favorite arc of season 1.  I know, rarefied air at these dizzying heights.  I called this one The Arc of Truth, after the initial episode Chuck Versus The Truth.  The entire arc however deals with the various truths, and their consequences that spies and their assets and their friends and families live with.  In all fairness this arc really should include Chuck Versus The Crown Vic, where the consequences of the truths, half-truths and lies the agents and assets tell themselves and each other are resolved, sort of, but this trilogy sets up a lot of the tensions that will play out over the next three seasons.  How much of Sarah’s attraction is real and how much is her trying to keep Chuck under control?  Will Chuck ever have the confidence to see himself as worthy of Sarah?  How close can Sarah let anyone get, and is she capable of the vulnerability it takes to admit another person can break your heart?  It was all so new way back in season 1, join me in re-visiting some old friends and fond memories.  After the jump.

The Honest Truth

Here’s the truth, as we know it now.  Sarah Walker is undercover again, and her cover is probably the only role her life as a con on the lam and a spy never prepared her to play, real girl.  Normal girl.  Girlfriend.  While that cover grew naturally out of how she worked her way into Chuck’s life, it’s tough to believe it’s the one she would have chosen to share with a novice spy who still lives in the real world.  He’s already demonstrated trust is a two-way street for him, and that alone is problematic.  More problematic is that Sarah is having trouble with the cover, as is Chuck.

While Sarah’s formative years included the motto “Fake it till you make it” Chuck is more of a task oriented guy.  Spy is a job, something like the Buy More he wants to be able to turn on and off at the end of the day.  Spy life stuff…real life stuff.  He’s about to find out, as is Sarah, that those two worlds don’t mix easily.  Especially when undeniable truth rears it’s ugly head.

We see the truth in the early prologue of the first episode.  Sarah kind of digs this girlfriend thing.  It’s fun, dreaming about going to movies and picking out the top you know your boyfriend likes, and him ordering for you at the restaurant, and calling each other sweetie.  It’s the kind of thing she must have envisioned any number of times, thinking of growing up in that perfect home.  There’s only one problem, it isn’t real.  It’s true, but it isn’t real.  It takes a real couple to show us (but not Chuck or Sarah quite yet) the difference.  The feelings are there.  When Sarah jumps Chuck in the closet (for the cover, of course) we see his true feelings.  When Sarah watches a real couple and sees their natural affection play out, we see the truth, she wants that, and is a bit put off that she has to coax Chuck to play his part.  People aren’t fooled.  Devon can see it, they aren’t a “real” couple.  Chuck can’t apparently feel it, he doesn’t respond without prompting.

Chuck’s existential spy crisis is the frame for the picture we’re about to see.  Sarah lays it out, but the truth of it is for us to discover.  Chuck’s response to the existential spy crisis is to cling to the truth and the reality he knows.  Sarah’s was to become the spy and live the lie.

Half Truths

Within the cover and the lies lies some truth.  Sarah is devoted to Chuck.  She understands that part, she doesn’t yet understand that it’s love that she’s feeling.  Chuck loves Sarah, or is at least willing to allow that it’s love that he’s feeling.  It feels so real sometimes, but he has doubts.  Sarah is really good at her job after all.  As we saw the relationship develop we saw how two wounded souls could fill in the missing pieces, and allow them to each believe in themselves again, but at this point, they just don’t understand.  So perhaps Sarah is sending mixed signals, with her choice of sleep-wear and telling Chuck they needed to take the “assignment” seriously.  Chuck may be familiar with fakin’ it, but he clearly was hoping for something more than a fight and a lecture on covers and what they cover.  And once again, in true Chuck fashion we’re treated to one of those conversations we didn’t quite get all of, just Chuck saying he’d sleep on the floor because he was feeling compromised enough with Sarah at that point.  Clearly the Lou topic went downhill…

Speaking of spiraling out of control some truths are better left unspoken.  Or unheard.  When the entire team B loses their verbal filters there is trouble ahead.  Chuck of course needs to hear the truth from Sarah, just once.

Chuck: No, wait, wait, wait. Not yet, not yet.

Sarah: Why? What’s the matter?

Chuck: Nothing, it’s just that this…will probably be the last chance
that I have to know the truth.  I know you’re just doing your job here. But sometimes it feels so real, you know?  So tell me…you and me, us…our thing under the undercover thing, is this ever going anywhere?

Sarah: I’m sorry, Chuck.  No.

Chuck: Got it.  Got it. Thank you for being honest.  Even though I guess you don’t really have a choice in the matter.

Pentathol resistance aside, I don’t think Sarah is necessarily lying.  Chuck didn’t ask if she had feelings for him, or if she wanted to see something happen, he asked if anything would.  We know now a myriad of reasons why she’d see no future for them, from her baggage to his status as an asset and the CIA’s policy on compromised agents.  This is where the relationship’s dramatic tension begins.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Sarah: Oh, hey.  I didn’t know you were coming by.

Chuck: Um… Sarah, you know when you think you’re gonna die…and your whole life is supposed to flash in front of you? That didn’t exactly happen for me yesterday.  In fact, mostly it was just a list that I saw. A list of stuff that I haven’t done and things that I haven’t had a chance to say.  So today…I wanna start crossing things off of my list.  And this is the first thing that I promised myself that I’d do.

Chuck: We need to break up.

Sarah: What?

Chuck: You know, like, fake break up our pretend relationship.  I just can’t do this anymore, you know?  The longer we go, the longer we keep trying to fool people into believing that we’re a real couple the person I keep fooling the most…is me.

Chuck feels like a free man.  His sister safe and his doubt erased he feels free to move on to the areas of his life he thinks he can control.  First being pursue that tantalizing possibility of a new relationship now that he knows he and Sarah are never going to happen.  Of course his version of real and Sarah’s reality are about to collide.  There is a lot Chuck has to learn about Spies, truth and lies.

True Lies

Sarah doesn’t want Chuck to be with Lou.  It makes her job harder, he’s vulnerable, Lou, or her ex, could hurt him and if she’s not there she might not be able to protect him, and she needs to protect him, for the job.  At least that’s what she tells Chuck, and herself.  It also appears that it wounds her, though she wouldn’t admit it, that it’s so easy for them.  So Sarah, either subconsciously or not, does what any competent spy whose asset isn’t listening would do, make sure the date fails spectacularly and convince him there is no future in dating civilians.  The problem is that she doesn’t really offer an alternative.  Well, until she does.  Accidentally.

The Brutal Truth

Sarah Walker has some impulse control problems when it comes to Chuck Bartowski.  (A minor version seen above.  A more obvious one to the left.)  No matter what she says, or believes, or tries to convince Chuck or herself, when it comes down to it, she’s in love.  As we’ve seen it will take quite some time before she admits it even to herself, but that doesn’t keep her from acting on it.  The jealousy, the protectiveness, and the impulse to kiss him when at last it seems nothing else will ever matter again tell the tale.  Sarah Walker has fallen, hard.  And Chuck knows it.  But she never thought she’d have to face the consequences of what that means, let alone him knowing.

We see Chuck’s reaction…It was real, make it real.  Sarah however has the luxury of a distraction to keep her, or Chuck from dealing with the fallout.  For now.

Bryce Larken, You Magnificent Bastard

Oh how I loved to hate you and your clueless ways.  In so many ways, so often, Bryce served as a perfect mirror to both Chuck and Sarah.  For Chuck he was the guy who was willing to sacrifice almost anything to do the right thing, without Chuck’s limits or empathy.  For Sarah, he was the reflection of what the spy life offered, required, and took from people.  In Nemesis we see him play out everything that separates Chuck and Sarah.

“What happened to you Chuck?”  Seriously?  His best friend betrayed him.  In Bryce’s world (and Sarah’s) such lies and betrayals are common currency.  In Chuck’s they are reasons to question your self-worth.

Bryce didn’t trust Sarah, and all of a sudden she isn’t sure the smart spy move excuses that.

We finally see Chuck and Sarah moving towards each other, slowly.  More on that later.

Bryce, the clueless magnificent bastard has no clue what he did to Chuck, or what has happened between Chuck and Sarah, or how deep Chuck’s resentment still runs, and a kiss in Chuck’s bedroom is enough to get Chuck spiraling.  It is not a minor bit of jealousy to question what the hell is happening when the spy handler who told him she wasn’t interested, then kissed him, is making out with the guy who ruined his life, then used him as a human shield to escape.  Truth, or any connection to it can be hard to find at times in this new world.  Sarah’s apparent confusion and vulnerability, and Chuck witnessing them out of context doesn’t help.

Given that Chuck is prone to rash decisions.

Helping Bryce isn’t one of them.

Chuck once again shows his strength of character.  He defends Bryce, offers his help, and eventually his friendship, because it’s the right thing to do, just like saving his sister was, even if it wasn’t the smart spy move.

It is a marvelous thing when you can see new aspects of the story after so many re-watches.  This show never ceases to amaze me, and I never cease to find something new, or a bit more depth, or a new angle.  Indulge me for a bit.

In the end, Sarah is left with a choice, two realities, only one of which is true.  Bryce, or Chuck.  One is simpler, known, perhaps even comfortable.  Move on, take on the next role, it’s better for everyone.  The other is complicated, but real.  Messy.  There are real feelings, real vulnerability, and real professional challenges.

So Sarah takes the easy way out.

That picture at the top is no mistake, that is the critical moment of this arc, and one of the most critical in the series.  There is no mistake or misinterpretation.  She’s packed.  She’s leaving.  All she needs is Bryce’s call and a meeting point or confirmation.  It’s over.

Then Chuck calls.  And everything changes.

He knows.  Of course he knows.  And if he doesn’t, he’ll know tomorrow.  She’ll be gone, and it’ll be clear she left with Bryce.  Chuck will have lost another girl to Bryce.  Chuck will have lost another girl he cares deeply about to Bryce.  Sarah will be the new Jill, and Bryce, who Chuck just reconciled with will be…Bryce again.  Suddenly, the right play, the smart play, the spy response, isn’t the right thing to do.

She can’t do that to Chuck.  In that moment, frozen between getting herself free and doing her job in the process and devastating Chuck again, becoming Jill in the process, she can’t do it.  The humanity, the real girl wins out.

It’s the beginning of a long and painful journey.  But in the end, the things that matter matter more than the pain.

Epilogue: The Ugly Truth

As I alluded to at the top, Crown Vic is a part of this arc, but I left it out for a specific reason.  This arc deals with the truth.  Crown Vic is more about denial.

Sarah’s decision, she couldn’t leave with Bryce, was about the truth.  She couldn’t bring herself to do that to Chuck.  But the reality she denied was that she couldn’t still be just a spy with Chuck, that she couldn’t go back and maintain some distance, go back to just his handler.  That option was long gone with him, and the consequences play out, painfully, but truly, in Crown Vic.

Sarah has shown a rather ugly side of herself to Chuck, and while his affection is not extinguished, there is some trepidation about exactly who this woman is, and how deeply he wants to be involved.  For now Friends will have to suffice.

Fear not, Sarah’s impulse control problems will get these crazy kids back on track.


~ Ernie 


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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70 Responses to Reader’s Digest Rewatch: The Arc of Truth

  1. joe says:

    Bryce served as a perfect mirror to both Chuck and Sarah. For Chuck he was the guy who was willing to sacrifice almost anything to do the right thing, without Chuck’s limits or empathy. For Sarah, he was the reflection of what the spy life offered, required, and took from people. In Nemesis we see him play out everything that separates Chuck and Sarah.

    Ernie, that was the best analysis of Bryce I’ve ever seen put to words. Magnificent Bastard, indeed!

  2. ““What happened to you Chuck?” Seriously? His best friend betrayed him.”

    While this is true, it’s not the whole story. What destroyed Chuck, paralyzing him for those 5 years, was not Bryce’s betrayal but Jill’s, and Bryce couldn’t have known she would do that or name him as an accomplice.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      As Jill later tells Chuck, she was ordered to “get close” to Bryce. Assuming she did so (a safe assumption since her friend tells Chuck “she’s with Bryce now”), Bryce would have known the assumption was out there. It’s partially part of the retcon problem that Bryce and Jill were never “together”, something that was pretty well established from the get-go that they later decided didn’t fit with making either Jill or Bryce sympathetic, but in the pilot and up through the Jill arc nobody challenges the idea that Bryce and Jill were together, including Jill when confronted on it in the restaurant in Chuck vs. the Ex

  3. gringochuckfan says:

    Ernie – Nice summary – and most eloquent as always…..
    So much happened in Season 1 – its hard to keep up with the pace…. your review has done a great job in dividing the story into parts that are easy to see more clearly.

    Interesting also – that the show establishes an interesting standard:
    The special guests are always more important to the story than the regular characters.

    I often wonder what would have happened withing the dynamic of the show if Bryce Larkin had been a recurring regular – rather than say…hmmmm – John Casey?
    They could have even used your naming…. Where Devon Woodcomeb was Captain Awesome,
    we’d have also had Bryce Larkin as the Magnificent Bastard. I’d have loved that.

    I also was wondering what you thought of the pace of the story at this point?
    After watching, and rewatching, and rewatching….
    I’m suspicious if they didn’t try to move too quickly through too many things?
    [ although all the layers – and parallels between the spy story and BuyMore
    was always ambitious and entertaining]

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I guess it never occurred to me that guest stars were often the plot drivers, but that is often the case in weekly procedurals, at least for the non-serialized portions of the story. Baddie of the week and all.

      As for Bryce, I think they had his role about right, he pops in every so often to screw up Chuck’s life again. I once used the scene where Bryce shoots Chuck to save him as a metaphor for their friendship. I thought friends were supposed to take the bullet for you, not do the shooting. There is an unconfirmed (as far as I’m aware) rumor that the Shaw part was originally meant to be Bryce’s return till Matt Bohmer got White Collar. But let’s not go down that path again. Please.

      As for the pace, I recall that the first time I watched the series I was shocked at how quickly they moved the romance aspect of the story to the forefront, but then that probably got accelerated when they realized how well Zach and Yvonne worked together.

      If there’s one thing they dragged a little too long in season 1/2 IMHO it was the idea that Casey would be Chuck’s executioner when the new intersect was set up. Not the fact of it, but the timing and Sarah apparently being clueless about that likelihood. But it’s one of those stupid stick moments you need to let go I guess. But then season 1 they were still figuring things out, and it did get shortened by the writer’s strike.

      If you read the interviews they’re well aware that they hit their stride in season 2, with the budget and time that got cut after season 2.

      • garnet says:

        I don’t really fault them for using the guest stars the way they did. As Ernie has said, it is common and almost unavoidable. Think Castle, how would you do the show if they had to have one of the cops at the station be the killer (or killee) every week. The special characters in Chuck do serve to move the family/relationship side of things fairly well in my opinion.
        As far as the issue of the kill order hanging over Chuck, I think that CHUCK lost something when that was laid to rest. In seasons 1 and 2, you could see that Chuck could quite easily end up dead or bunkered. Seasons 3-5 didn’t have that tension. Now, you can say that only an idiot would consider the possibility that they might kill the title character, but nontheless there was a sense of “how do we get him out of this” that seemed much more urgent in the first two seasons (and by extention a bit more Chuck and Sarah vs the world). Decker added a bit of this in season 5, but it was too little too late.

      • Paul says:

        Actually, I think it would have worked a whole lot better (and much more painful to watch…but in a good way) if they used Bryce instead of Shaw in S3. It would have had more dire consequences for C&S….

      • atcDave says:

        I do agree Bryce would have worked better than Shaw in that role. But as you say Paul, I don’t think I would have actually “liked” it any better.

      • jason says:

        I’m thankful Shaw was in the role. The epic, miserableness that the character cast upon the entire show in season 3, marked the end of such types of stories in Chuck. Had Bryce even worked a little bit, I am afraid the show would have continued to use the contrivance.

  4. gringochuckfan says:

    Do you think they might have been able to keep Matt Bohmer if he was a regular? I’m tempted to say YES. Then you could have had John Casey wander in and out of the script : throwing wrenches into things and adding tension – as the Government assassin….
    So in a sense – they would have isolated Chuck and Sarah in their own little spy world [ plus other guest agents] against both Bryce and Casey…. who are constantly at odds against each other as well. [ Am I too far into Fan Fiction now?]
    Not to change directions entirely – but I’m going to change directions entirely:
    I recently did a Season 3 marathon [ not exactly sure why] – but I was struck that the biggest problem with the misery arc – was, in fact, everything that had been covered in Season 1.
    Again my mind wandered into the dangerous territory of WHAT IF:
    What if you started at Chuck vs the Pilot – then jumped right into Chuck learning how to be a spy [ season 3…. without most of Pink Slip of course] – It occurred to me that all the tensions and disruptions seem to make more sense] – you can stop Season 3 around The Beard – and go back to the 2nd Episode of Season 1……. [whew – I am doing way too much thinking here!]
    I think it could work – becasue the plot for ” The Ring” as any real threat, never seemed to build any momentum…
    Anyway – its amazing that even so long after those first few seasons – we can still enjoy talking about them.
    ~ cheers

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Just my personal take, but there’s no way would I trade Bryce Larkin for John Casey as a regular character. Or want to in any way reduce Casey’s role. Adam Baldwin just brought too much to that show that I wouldn’t want to lose.

    • ArmySFC says:

      just my 2c, the big thing to consider about the bryce for casey switch is how much different the show would have been. casey and sarah had no idea who chuck was prior to the pilot, but bryce did. sarah had a past with bryce as well. to have bryce as his handler, with the past between him and chuck and his past with sarah as well, the show would have been changed a lot. future episodes like nemesis could not exist, and others would have to have changed.

  5. gringochuckfan says:

    Hmmm….. so, what happened to the element of tension that Casey created at the beginning of Season 1?
    I happen to think that John Casey – the stone cold killer – was perhaps his finest hour. [ grunt]
    As the seasons went on, he seemed to have lost his edge…. the third wheel, last picked little fat kid. We’ve hashed and rehashed the character journey of Chuck and Sarah – but for Casey ???
    I think the effectiveness of his role diminished somewhat over the seasons…… I mean – I’m not sure I really like a kinder – gentler – softer John Casey [ complete with lady feelings]….
    I enjoyed his persona as the unquestioning call of duty and following orders – against [ complete opposite] Chuck’s need to discuss his feelings and emotions…. with Sarah torn between their two worlds.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I always saw the show as more comedy with dramatic elements, so Casey’s quips and barbs were more of his function than the threat he posed to Chuck early on. He did function for a decent potential villain for a lot of season 1 though. As far as his later roll on the show, I loved the Morgasey. I know Morgan causes some disparate reactions in the fanbase, but I thought the character was well used, especially with Casey. There was so much comic gold in that odd couple. And then Alex, and Cabansky? Seriously, who didn’t love that banana hammock scene? All set up with Casey developing a soft mushy center, but maintaining the killer instinct (as seen at the end of Business Trip).

  6. garnet says:

    A huge part of the story of CHUCK is the growth in Chuck’s character, but a big part is also the effect he has on the spies around him. I’m not talking just Sarah and Casey, but also the more minor characters (like Carina) who actually seem to regain a bit of their humanity due to their exposure to Chuck and his unique way of doing things. Because at its heart, the “spy life” as presented in CHUCK is not what one would consider “normal” or even good. By that I mean that once a spy views people as a problem to be “solved” they are placing themselves outside of societal norms, and the cost of that is a loss of compassion, friendship, and humanity. Sarah and Casey may not have been emotionless robots when they met Chuck, but they were well on their way.
    Although I wrote about the loss of the tension when it appeared that Chuck was safe from a kill order, the effect Chuck had on Casey was evident quite early on. Casey even pled his case when the kill order was given in First Date. And that is what I also like about CHUCK, as Chuck’s personality was able to work a form of magic on those around him . I think that as Casey mellowed, they needed to use more external forces to present a significant threat to Chuck and his family’s safety. The biggest success of the finale, in my view, is that they chose to greatly up the stakes, and the tension was definitely back. The final scene on the beach was just not quite the big payoff I would have hoped for as a result of the tension (and although I am largely ok with it, I would have hoped to be more than ok with the final scene).

    • atcDave says:

      And Casey even voiced some his respect for Chuck in Truth. I think it was manditory that Casey become more of a friend and mentor as the show unfolded. As a slightly seperate issue, the threat from the government subsided when Chuck became an egent in S3, but finally came back a little at the end of S4 with Decker. Interesting to me that Beckmann mellowed almost as much as Casey did. I was personally happy to see the show become more fun and comic, but I think for many viewers that was a change they didn’t welcome.

      • Balancing character evolution with the tone of the show is tricky. Farscape is a show that managed it. In the beginning, the characters were all running from the law and didn’t trust each other. As they evolved and became friends, the show had to introduce new characters that were even more untrustworthy. It worked better in Farscape than Chuck (Shaw for Casey, Bentley for Beckman–’nuff said).

        I liked the more fun and comic tone, too, but changing a tone can alienate at least part of an audience.

      • atcDave says:

        Although I did think Decker was great as a vile baddie. Perhaps if he’d been tampering with teamB’s missions earlier on it could have added some of the menace/tension that some viewers felt was missing in S4. Although throwing away his conspiracy by making Shaw the source of it was a waste; even someone like Quinn, a burned agent who’s whole existence was about the Intersect might have worked better.

      • garnet says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I logve the comic part of the show, but the underlying tension, with the possibility Casey would be asked to do something permanent about Chuck added that little bit of an element of danger -that WE knew about and Chuck was unaware of, and kept things a bit more unsettled than later seasons.

        What has always troubled me about the Truth is Sarah’s response to Casey’s question regarding comprimising the asset, “No but I might have if I hadn’t been trained to withstand the effects of pentathol”. She has just clearly admitted to Casey that she has feelings for Chuck, I would not have expected this and it was unnecessary for her to tell this to Casey, it seems to have been really for our benefit, and as such I have a feeling like it doesn’t quite fit her character. That said, the fact Casey asked the question suggests that he was aware of what was happening. at a very early stage.

      • I always took that reveal as a double meaning. It could mean Sarah was admitting her feelings, or it could mean that she compromised some details behind her cover. The audience knew it was the former. Casey might have been talking about the latter because he was more concerned about security than feelings.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Given the way the show seemed to love to play with miscommunication and misinterpretations I always took Casey’s question in the same vein as Jeff and Sarah’s answer as being for our benefit, even if she intended it to be about regular cover details, so that we’d know she didn’t mean it when she told Chuck no (even though his question, “is this ever going anywhere?” could be honestly answered “no” for any of a number of reasons that had nothing to do with her feelings). If you recall in Tango and Sandworm Casey grilled Chuck about what he might have said to La Ciudad or Lazlo that could compromise the team’s cover. That said, by the next episode Casey suspects, based on Sarah’s impulse control problems that she’s fallen for Chuck, and by Crown Vic he knows they’re both in deep.

        Even though it is one of my favorites I have to admit that Truth is one of the clunkier episodes at times, so the dialog not quite fitting isn’t surprising to me.

      • atcDave says:

        That makes a lot of sense Jeff. What always bothered me about suggesting it was about feelings was that Sarah was compromised simply by having those feelings for an asset; whether she admitted those feelings to the asset or not was irrelevant. Now admitting those feelings to the agency could get her in deep doo doo…

        And ironically, Sarah NOT sleeping with Chuck could be seen as somewhat incriminating by the agency too. Although I like to think Sarah was always a bit cautious in her behavior, sleeping with Chuck could have been an effective tool of control. Showing Chuck that extra measure of respect by not giving him false hopes could have raised some warning flags about her feelings within the agency. Of course if her behavior was about her own feelings that would also be a warning she was compromised.

        Having Casey ask about information rather than feelings seems to make more sense in every way. If Sarah was talking feelings she did give away too much.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Interesting thoughts Dave, and it brings up something I’ve always been hesitant to speculate on. We know they’ve had a darker persona, or at least a darker history in mind for Sarah regarding seduction as a tool she employs. They dialed back one scene that basically said it up front, she sleeps with marks. As I’ve said I am glad they did dial it back, but watching the bedroom scene in truth it hit me at one point what probably caused the fight after Lou came up. They were calmly discussing Chuck’s interest in Lou when Sarah plays the handler card and basically vetoes it citing the necessary vetting process and background checks for any perspective date (have someone in mind Sarah?). Chuck objects, then the next thing we hear is Chuck deciding to sleep on the floor, Sarah playing the cover card again, and Chuck saying he feels compromised enough. Was there a hint there, or a version in mind where Sarah offers to handle her asset?

        Now I’m not Sarah bashing, the other cut scene was far worse for her character that this would be IMHO. We clearly see at the start that Sarah has real feelings and thinks there is something lacking in their chemistry. Could she rationalize sex in that slightly darker Chuck-verse? And what would happen if Chuck shuts her down and then breaks up with her? The Sarah jealousy is a little more visceral, and we know she has real feelings she wants to act on, but this immediately displays her emotional problems with love and commitment. Puts Bryce in another context too. She is willing to go through the motions of a real relationship, but not make herself emotionally vulnerable.

        Just a few random thoughts. No offense intended to anyone who doesn’t like taking the characters down some of the darker paths TPTB considered.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie I think it’s perfectly valid to assume there could be a darker AU Sarah that is perfectly willing to use sex as a tool of control like that; and I think another agent, like Carina, probably would do so. I’m glad they never quite went that route in canon (even if they did toy with it). I’ve certainly seen fan fics that did have a trashier Sarah (although I don’t read such stories for long!). I think in canon it’s one of her more appealing characteristics, that she seems to draw that line in general (she didn’t want to go too far with Cole either. And in Crown Vic she pretty firmly stated Chuck was assuming something was about to happen with Lon Kirk, implying that it actually was not) and she particularly treats Chuck with more respect than that. Given her comments in Other Guy, about falling for Chuck right from the start, I would guess she was protecting both of them by not getting more physical.

        I think the logical issue remains that the agency wouldn’t care at all if she was sleeping with Chuck or not. Her job as a handler is to control him; keep him willing to do the governments bidding while paying some attention to his physical/mental/emotional health (enough that he’s functional for as long as they need him). The compromise issue is purely about Sarah being faithful to the government’s best interests; and not ever placing Chuck’s interests above their own. Part of what was so fun in S1 for me was knowing that Sarah actually was somewhat compromised from the start, and we saw awesome proof of it in Marlin! What a beautiful scene that was…

      • joe says:

        One of the ways to know how much Sarah is “compromised”, and really, how much she cares for him, is to compare and contrast her actions with the 49-B, Agent Forrest.

        Casey may like the cut of her gib, but the “I’m-doing-it-by-the-book-no-matter-what-the-cost-to-the-asset” approach is a stark contrast to Sarah’s trying to leave a note on his pillow. And we know it’s a personal thing after Sarah’s shoulder-slam.

        Forrest: You were fired for exactly this reason.
        Sarah: Then there’s nothing stopping me from kicking your ass.

        Oh yeah, she’s compromised.

        One of Sarah’s most endearing qualities is the way she slowly comes to understand that. We got to see it earlier than she did, I think, like in Marlin, when she’s in tears listening to Chuck saying he’s not ready to disappear.

      • Lou — ‘friendly’ warning
        Longshore — almost pulled a gun
        Jill — not-so friendly warning
        Forrest — shoulder slam

        They all got off easy. Ask the Thai mercenaries.

      • atcDave says:

        Of course the Thai mercenaries came long after she was no longer compromised; she had flat out changed teams!

        If your math is correct Jeff, Forrest came right at the time Sarah was owning up to it, so she was ready to be a little more overt.

      • A week later and Sarah might have actually kicked Forrest’s ass instead of the shoulder bump. When Sarah knocked her head off, we’d know if she really was a Cylon.

      • thinkling says:

        I am exceedingly glad they didn’t go down the darker paths with Sarah. It would have made the romance almost impossible. I agree with you Dave that it is one of her more appealing traits, and one that, in my mind, proved how much she cared about Chuck.

        Bravo, Ernie for the post. Great job on, as you say, such a pivotal arc and moment. This arc is a mixed bag with me. It has some great moments and some really funny moments, not to mention THE kiss. It is also significant to their journey in all the ways you mention. But it is still hard for me to really like.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree with that exactly Thinkling; some really good stuff in these episodes (add Crown Victoria also), but overall my least favorite stretch of S1.

    • Rob says:

      Carina provides a fairly solid comparison as well. We have two spies Sarah and Carina who have enough in common to be “friends.” But, unlike Sarah, Carina consistently tries gets her way merely through seduction — Chuck, Casey, her “fiance”, Morgan.

      • joe says:

        Carina is still an interesting case, Rob. I get the idea, from the scenes where we first meet her (spying on Sarah) that they had a very competitive relationship, almost like siblings. It really was fun.

        Hum… I happened to see Mini Anden was on twitter a couple of days ago and couldn’t resist tweeting her that I missed Carina. Mini probably thinks I’m a nutzo fan, of course. 😉

      • kg says:

        Yes, you’re right Joe. And her competitive nature was evident in more than just their brawl in the hotel room. As early as episode four Carina is telling Chuck that Sarah has feelings for him or actually “she wants you, she just doesn’t know it yet. And I want what Sarah wants.” And of course, Carina can’t help but make a play or two for Chuck even though at that time she has no real feelings for him whatsoever.

  7. ww1posterfan says:

    I loved watching these 3 episodes because you start to see more and more of the Chuckisms and aspects that make it in my opinion a budding cult classic in its own right: the continued use of “it’s complicated”; “don’t freak out”; the homages to “Raiders..”, “Titanic”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Casablanca”; the team dynamic-Sarah calling Casey her partner in Truth. Of course, the tie in to the much later Mission Files–2 of the entries deal directly with the first 2 episodes of this particular arc-the real break-up of the fake relationship and the kiss which both occur less than 2 months after Chuck receives the Intersect. Obviously these were considered extremely watershed moments. Sarah emphatically telling Lou that Chuck is indeed a great guy “It’s a fact,” “If it’s any consolation, I never felt like our time together was work.” Ernie mentions Sarah’s issue with impulse control. It not only included her inability to keep her hands off of him it extended to her verbalizations, too. Carina clued into Sarah’s desires in week 4 and Casey knew she was a goner sometime before the end of week 8. Nemesis is so chock full of stuff I have to watch it one more time before I can comment on it. I’m loving this–these episodes only reaffirm in my mind that they basically fell in love during their first encounters (phone/ballerina/first date) and the rest was all just figuring it out.

  8. gringochuckfan says:

    I’m still surprised by how quickly they pushed the Chuck and Sarah relationship…. or maybe I should say – the priority they gave it.
    Looking back at the first part of Season 1 – I think we could have been satisfied with the funny – the nerdy – some danger – all the pop culture references – antics at the BuyMore….. with maybe a few hints here and there about a budding romance….

    ~ and, I think I was interested enough in the whole intersect concept.
    What information was in there? – how he could access that info.[ or not] ?
    How would he interpreted that information?….- which they never really explored.
    – we did see a few false assumptions/interpretations in the beginning.

    Instead – it was obvious that their theme of the Nerd getting the Girl was the main force behind the show. So, when that element is given such a high priority within the story
    – is there any real tension?
    I think its like teasing a wild dog with a piece of meat… if you don’t hand it over soon –
    you’re gonna get bitten.

    OK – back to the Arc of Truth…. Truth about what?
    Truth about Chuck being a spy?
    It took a very long time for Chuck to embrace the fact that he wanted to be a spy.
    I wonder if his father had not been involved – if he would have chosen that path.

    Truth about Chuck being in love with Sarah?
    That was painfully obvious to everyone that ever watched to the end of Pilot!

    Truth about Sarah being in love with Chuck?
    I think that everyone figured that it was only a matter of time –
    until her heart would overcome her fears…

    well…. things that make you go hmmmmm.

    • ww1posterfan says:

      Maybe it’s not so much about truth but about who’s lying to whom about what is real…
      Sarah lying to Casey about her feelings for the “asset”, lying to herself about her feelings for the “asset”, lying about her feelings for Bryce to the “asset”, Chuck lying to his family about what he is really doing, Chuck lying to himself about the realities of his own situation, Chuck lying to Lou, and Casey, well being Casey. 🙂

      There is something funny about the definitions of real and true. One definition of real is “not imaginary, existing as fact, rather than as a product of dreams or imagination.” True is actually defined using the term “real”, but I think the definition that applies here is “not pretend, artificial, or insincere.” Chuck and Sarah’s cover relationship is technically not real. Sarah’s feelings appear to be true. It truly is “complicated.”

  9. Rob says:

    Ernie — Great summary. “The Truth” really does extend into the next couple of episodes. In Crown Vic, in particular, Chuck asks for the Truth….”did you kiss me because I was most convenient, or because it was me?” Casey asks for the Truth … “are you sure that you didn’t compromise yourself?”

    Sarah isn’t prepared to answer either question. She bolts from Chuck, and answers Casey’s question with a another question pondering life in general. The latter gives us the first sign that Sarah is not “all spy” and provides one of the likely reasons that she didn’t go with Bryce. She really wants a “real life” and a “real family” … something she didn’t have growing up. Bryce can’t provide that life, but Chuck can. You can see the pain in her eyes when Chuck asks why she didn’t go with Bryce. He doesn’t even understand what she actually wants. But, instead of telling him that she may not want that life any longer, she says that she stayed for the job — thus, causing Chuck to back away again.

    It is that mutual lack of understanding/communication that will cause our relationship agnst over the next two seasons. Even Morgan can see that they are “crappy communicators.” It is great to look forward to see the walls finally crumble in “Phase 3” when Sarah really opens up and tells Chuck how she feels.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks for the kind words Rob. And you raise an excellent point about Crown Vic shedding some additional light on Sarah’s reasons for staying. Still she is pretty ticked at herself, since she’s made a mess of things, and is taking it out on Chuck. I think that, and the other spy-side of her, the woman willing to go “flirt with” or “get intimate” with a mark, has Chuck feeling a bit of trepidation as to how involved he wants to get, emotionally. At the very least he feels a bit burned, thus settles for just a dance at the end of Crown Vic.

      You see at the beginning of Truth Sarah was really into the girlfriend/member of the family cover to the point where she was fending off real rivals, and getting a bit ticked when she failed. When she got to the point that when she brought out her sleepover less than covering cover outfit and it actually backfired on her we start to see that the cover of boyfriend/girlfriend is important to her more than just for the job, and she cares about Chuck’s safety and well-being in ways, and a lot more than, the job requires. That becomes pretty evident throughout the Lou situation. She even defends Chuck to Beckman (It’s not totally plausible, he is a reasonably Charming guy…)

      Also note that after Bryce “escaped” Sarah was pretty ready to resume her role by immediately agreeing to come to Thanksgiving (but again without wanting to put her “real” self out there and be vulnerable), and seems to have things well in hand till Chuck catches her with Bryce, and suddenly she’s showed herself not just to be vulnerable and impulsive about Chuck, to Chuck, but she’s shown herself to be a bit fickle by also being vulnerable to and impulsive with Bryce. At the end of Nemesis, when she looks between Bryce and Chuck, you can see the wheels turning. Then bryce offers her an escape. She’s messed things up with Chuck, both professionally, and personally at some level, and the smart thing to do is go, but she can’t apparently bring herself to do so. Perhaps it’s the lure of something real-ish with Chuck, or not wanting to be another in a long line of women to abandon Chuck (with Bryce again no less) or perhaps they all play into her decision to stay. But the next morning when she realizes what she’ll have to face, it’s bad news for the clock. (And Chuck.) As a crappy communicator, and being very closed off and not a talker, Chuck is left to fill in far too many blanks.

      I’d also note that some of their communications problems linger, very amusingly, well into Seduction Impossible.

      • Rule #1: A TV show’ couple cannot communicate well.
        Collary #1: If the couple does communicate well, one of them is killed off, making way for a new love interest who doesn’t communicate well.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Jeff, I believe you meant a TV show’s primary couple cannot communicate well. Devon and Ellie could be communication all-stars at times to be a counterpoint to Chuck and Sarah. Some of the great communicator couples are tropes in themselves, like the charming gay couple in the circle of couple-friends who are great communicators and usually the most emotionally stable and grounded couple in the show.

      • atcDave says:

        Of course a huge part of what was so fun about Sarah was watching her overcome those limitations. By the end of S3 she was able to tell Chuck how important he was to her, early S4 she realized secrets were as hurtful as lies, by late S4 she was basically as open as any normal person, and in S5 (with the baby and her mom apparently being a “special case”) she showed notable wisdom on relationships and communication, even upstaging Chuck in that regard.

        Perhaps like a recovering alcoholic who has acquired wisdom and self knowledge about drinking; Sarah became a model student for honesty and communication.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Dave, I think the phrase you’re looking for is “more Catholic than the pope.”

  10. gringochuckfan says:

    Funny – it just struck me – that I’m having difficulty describing / discussing Chuck and Sarah as if they were real people – with real motives/attitudes…..
    I just can’t seem to get beyond the fictional barrier…. with all the machinations and manipulations within the realm of making a good story…. hmmmm…..

    • dkd says:

      I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s when people start to think that they are real people that I get worried.

      There’s nothing wrong, IMO, with treating fictional worlds as hyper-versions of our own, as long as they are consistent in their own internal logic.

    • joe says:

      I’m with dkd on this one, Gringo. There are a few who do have difficultly separating the fictional from the non-fictional, and that is the bigger worry.

      But having said that, oh yeah, it was always easy to consider Chuck & Sarah and all the rest as friends and acquaintances, all the more so because of the open friendliness of the cast and crew. Receiving a tweet from Adam may not be a rare thing (heh!), but it’s still exhilarating. I had a great e-mail exchange with Tim Jones once (the person responsible for the background music). Very nice. My favorite tweets were from Pat Rae (Morgan’s “mother”), Julia Ling and even Fahim Anwar (Manoosh), all of whom are very personable.

      And now that I’m done name-dropping for the day ( 😉 ) one of the best things about this blog has been for me the sense that we all share in this fictional universe. All of us here understand it and in some real way believe in the things we’ve seen, if only in the abstract.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Joe, I also had a twitter conversation with Adam Baldwin about his preferred damplung cure. (Firefly reference.) I went with Scotch, he prefers Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon. This was right around the last weeks of shooting when apparently a flu pandemic ripped through the Chuck cast and crew (Yvonne tweeted about being in bed three days with the flu over Thanksgiving and getting so bored she actually watched the Star Wars pre-quels on TV). It makes their dedication to the fans seem that much more wonderful when you see the finale and realize that just about all of them were suffering from or recovering from the flu.

      • joe says:

        Proof that what they do, though sometimes glamorous, can be hard!

  11. garnet says:

    People still make the trip to London to see 221B Baker street where Sherlock Holmes had his fictional digs 🙂

    Chuck’s characters, however did seem to jump out of the screen more than almost any other show I could name. The writers and actors created genuinely likeable characters that would have been great to meet. Most shows I have watched I could take or leave many of the characters: For example, I would not want to come within 100km of Sheldon and Leonard. To top it off, the actors also seemed more grounded than most, recognizing the role the fans played in keeping them on the air, and seeming genuinely grateful for the support.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I have to say one regret I have as a fan is never getting to visit the set of Chuck like some of my lucky co-bloggers. I know it’s a fictional world, but I think it takes on it’s own sort of reality, as do the characters, for us fanatical fans. I would really have liked to walk through that world once, just to take in the minute details that add to the texture and depth of that world.

      As for both the characters and the actors, I consider them friends I’ve never met. In fact I’d extend that to the whole production crew. They really do seem to have a connection to their fans that I’ve never experienced before, and seem to encourage us to consider them friends. Within the limits of propriety of course. Zach once tweeted about a Chuck fan showing up at his front door. Appreciating the connection has it’s limits.

      • garnet says:

        In the end, I’m not sure I’d want to meet the actors of any of my favourite shows, there is a big risk of disappintment, and any connection would be fleeting, so it is better to admire their work from afar. Having said that, I spoke recently with a woman who had won an auction to a lunch with Michael J Fox, and had already spoken to him in preparation.It sounded like she was going to have an amazing time!

      • jam says:

        I’m with Garnet on this one, while I really like the performances of the actors (especially Zac, Yvonne and Adam) I have no desire to meet any of them.

        Not only that, I don’t want to know anything too personal about them either.. there is definitely a risk of disappointment there. I like their work on the show, and that’s enough for me.

      • atcDave says:

        I’m some what in between on this. I could imagine asking any one of them a few Chuck related questions and it might be a good time. But I’m not really in to the whole celebrity thing, and I’d prefer to keep any interaction with them purely “professional” (ummm, their profession, not mine, unless any of them are pilots…)

        I don’t really have any context for dealing with any of them in any capacity apart from Chuck. I’m also the sort of person who doesn’t do well at parties… The whole casual, small talk thing doesn’t often interest me much. Especially not for a one time meeting. It’s funny, I’ve crossed paths with many celebrities and public figures in my job, but by and large it doesn’t interest me much (although I was amused once when a co-worker of mine started grilling a member of the Ford family about if they actually cared about the Lions at all…)

      • Ernie Davis says:

        When I say I wish I’d visited the Chuck set I mean that, the set. I’d have loved to walk through that world. As for meeting the cast and/or crew, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to do so, but I don’t think I’d pass up the opportunity to do so either if the time and place where right. For example I’d never interrupt an actor’s dinner at a restaurant seeking an autograph, but at some sort of public event or place where it wasn’t disruptive to their life I’d certainly want to shake their hand and say a personal thanks for so much and such great entertainment. Faith’s day on the Chuck set was the perfect example of a way to do that.

        As for the cast and crew, I’d say Adam and Zach would be the ones I’d most like to meet. Nothing personal, but I don’t think I’d survive meeting Yvonne. 😉 I’d love to have a long conversation with any of the writers if the opportunity presented itself.

      • joe says:

        Oh gee. Now I have to bring this up…
        Mrs. Joe *is* a member of the Ford family, Dave, albeit fairly distant, and not at all from the wealthy side. 😉

        I do believe her maternal grandfather was a 2nd cousin to Henry.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie we may be in about the same place. With the added issue of…. After I tripped all over myself if I met Yvonne I’m pretty sure my wife would hurt me; so just really not worth it. It would be much safer interacting with the sets…

        I could imagine talking to cast or writers maybe at a Chuck event, if such a thing ever happens again. But at this point I think I’d be more interested in meeting various friends from here than I would be anyone else.

      • joe says:

        I wouldn’t interrupt them at dinner either. That’s just rude.

        But given the opportunity, I’d love to talk to Josh Gomez, Zac and/or Adam. And of course I’d be an incoherent puddle if I ever saw Yvonne, which is a shame because I have a feeling she’d be a lot of laughs. Damn that being star-struck! 😉

        And by the way, ATCDave is kidding. I’ve met her, and his wife is one of the nicest people you’d ever meet. If Dave had a chance to be star-struck in front of Yvonne, she’d probably laugh (and then pick him up off the floor)!

      • atcDave says:

        But Joe she’d be laughing AT me, not WITH me, that hurts…

      • joe says:

        Well, *my* wife would certainly laugh at me, Dave! 😉 Of course, I’d make a funny looking puddle…

  12. My first ever blog on this site.Firstly, thanks for all the enjoyment that joe,dave ernie thinkling&faith have given me over the last 12 months since I found this wonderful site.Whilst Thinkling and Ernie have been my favourites for entirely different reasons,a special mention for Faith for her first and most positive response to the finale with which I fully agreed.Also for her article on the WB tour which helped us immensely when we visited from the UK.
    Ernie(and others),re the Chuck set and Yvonne-when we arrived we were told by our tour guide on 15 November that as Chuck was in production on stages 4 &10 we would be unable to see the sets.Stage 17(The Buy More) was also off limits as they were building a temporary set inside.
    We were very disappointed but as she was a Chuck fan she said she would try to give us the best tour she could.
    Even though no one else on the tour trolley had ever heard of Chuck,she took us to stage 10 to show us Zac’s sports car with the Nerd Herd plate.Fate showed it’s hand as we were blocked in.My wife,bless her,was the only one who noticed a tall,blond,statuesque figure rushing to set with a script in one hand and a half eaten apple in the other!She shouted “Look” to me just in time for me to move across and see the giant blonde she-male of Thailand!!
    Even more amazing,Yvonne must have heard my wife as she took the time and trouble to stop before she went through the door and. treat just us both to her wonderful smile.On my part-total brain-freeze!!!We were told later that Yvonne,Zac and all the cast will always do all they can to provide such a moment for the fans whenever possible.
    To complete our day our tour guide Jessica never gave up and on the 4th attempt persuaded security to allow us to enter the Buy More set even though it was in breach of health and security regulations.The guard told us this would never have been allowed on any other show and that it was not because we were from the UK but simply as Chuck was the most beloved show at Warner Bros.
    My wife and I would probably never have taken this trip had it not been for all you guys on this site(including MyNameisJeffandI’mLost) so I hope you are happy for me to share this with you.
    Never have any doubts,all the cast and crew are truly AWESOME!!As are YOU ALL!!



    • thinkling says:

      Hey, Graham. Thanks for joining the conversation. And thank you for such an encouraging report of your visit to the set. I love that Chuck was the most beloved show and that the cast went out of their way to be friendly. It makes me feel good about the show that I love.

      Thanks for your kind words about the blog. Hang around and chat with us on our rewatches.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks for posting Graham. While we know there are a lot of readers who just like to read it is still nice when one of you decides to add another voice and join the conversation. And thanks for the flattering words.

      I am however a bit jealous, even though glad for you that you got some of the Chuck tour and saw Yvonne in person. And glad our site could be of some small service.

      There was apparently a way, developed by someone on SWFG to get a Chuck tour. If you and enough others to fill out a group bought a VIP tour and specified you were a Chuck fan they would schedule the tour around the shooting schedule so they could take you to all the Chuck sets that were available. There were apparently several of these organized, but I only caught wind of these near the end of the show.

      • dkd says:

        Last year, the day before Chuckfest 3, there was a tour in which three trams were Chuck fans. It wasn’t the VIP tour. They just told WB Tour people that they were booking for a ton of people and everyone was most interested in Chuck. So, they were very accommodating. I participated. One of the other trams saw and took their picure with Zac. My tram did not. The trams don’t travel together. But, we did get an extensive tour of the apartment complex set. The Buy More was in use that day. They were filming “Bullet Train” that week.

        Unfortunately, I doubt any of the sets are still standing. I saw crew people show pictures of the dismantling of the sets. You can still see the cabin and the lake where many scenes were done. You can see other external places they filmed on the lot.

  13. YozaWB7C says:

    Humble apologies to amyabn-I loved all your work too!! You are equally AWESOME!!

  14. YozaWB7C says:

    Thinkling-thank you so much for my first response.I will now have the courage to post further in such esteemed company!!

  15. YozaWB7C says:

    Ernie-thank you also for your response.All the cast have portrayed their characters with so much warmth and heart that it was uplifting to hear first hand that they are no different in real life.And I agree,these sentiments extend to the whole production crew as demonstrated durig the final farewell to fans around the world.

  16. YozaWB7C says:

    Or “during” even!!

  17. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Truth (1.08) | Chuck This

  18. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Imported Hard Salami (1.09) | Chuck This

  19. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Nemesis (1.10) | Chuck This

  20. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Crown Victoria (1.11) | Chuck This

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