Reader’s Digest Rewatch: Make-up then Break-up Arc

The next arc we look at is a little more artificial than the previous two.  The Make-up then Break-up arc goes from the end of S1 through the first three of S2.  These are four very strong episodes.  For myself, it was somewhere in this stretch when Chuck became my favorite show ever.  Marlin was such a strong S1 finale, that for me, completely made up for my dissatisfaction with the previous arc.  I knew going into the long break (1/2008 until 9/2008) that Chuck was my favorite show currently on the air; but by the time this arc was over it had risen to something quite a bit more.  Any list of Chuck’s best episodes ever that I could write gets quite long, quite fast.  But all four of these episodes would belong on it.  I think I would add Undercover Lover, Cougars, and Tom Sawyer to any favorites list, which makes this an amazing seven episode run of episodes I completely adore.

You all know I can’t spit the words out like some of my more capable colleagues here at ChuckThis, but I can share a few lasting impressions, and thoughts about character growth from the “Make-up, then Break-up Arc”!

Impressions

Gee, that was good.  Okay, maybe I should say a little more than that.  Marlin was an unintended season finale, that I think actually worked out quite well.  There was no dire cliffhanger, but going into the long hiatus we knew that Sarah had crossed a line.  She still might be lying to Chuck and herself, but there was no question to us, the audience, that Sarah was compromised in the truest sense of the word.  This wasn’t just about stealing a kiss when she thought they were doomed; Sarah was willing to go against orders, and her agency’s best interests for Chuck.  In case there’s any confusion here, that is exactly what the CIA would want to avoid by re-assigning agents who grow too close to their assets or marks.  I know some have brought up the idea she couldn’t protect Chuck if she were involved with him, of course that is utter non-sense.  But the CIA doesn’t want her to just be a body guard, they want her to be their agent when Chuck’s and The Agencies interests conflict.  We see clearly at the end of Marlin that the CIA has already lost that fight, Sarah is now more Chuck’s agent than anyone else’s.  And what a beautiful finale that made.

Sarah's Hero Pose

I hate to boil this review down to just the last 5 minutes; Marlin is funny from beginning to end with a cleaned out Buy More and a search for Big Mike’s fish.  But the ending is dynamite.  I love Sarah’s hero pose at the end; she may be on the outside looking in at the family (and it is soooo sweet to know in hindsight this isn’t as unattainable for her as she may have thought), but she is also watching over them.  Casey warned that she won’t be able to keep Chuck in place for long, but Sarah remains firmly between Casey and the family; anyone coming for Chuck will have go through her first, and we know that isn’t easy!

First Date kicked off a long awaited S2 and may be the single strongest episode of this arc (but I do hate to play favorites…)  Perhaps the most obvious change of the new season was the coming of the Orange Orange.  It seems to me something changed in the look of the show too.  I don’t know if there was a deliberate change in lighting or camera technique, but S2 feels brighter to me somehow.  But there were still some dark themes to explore, starting with Casey’s kill order in 2.01, and continuing with bucket loads of angst between Chuck and Sarah until “take off your watch…”; yet somehow this is the season when many of us completely fell in love with this show and kicked off a save the show campaign that made history.  I think the strongest impression of this episode will always be the awesome stunt sequence from the climax; from Chuck dangling upside down, to Mr. Colt’s “it’s just not worth it”, to Casey’s awesome catch on the fire escape, to Sarah’s anguished “NOOO!”

Not worth it...

and duel with the very imposing baddie.  My other favorite impression of this episode is Chuck using cleverness to overcome the odds, specifically talking his way into swiping the cipher and making a run for it.  I always felt this sort of story was undermined by the Intersect 2.0 of S3 and S4; maybe not always, but we often seemed to get Chuck flashing and punching his way out of problems in the next couple seasons, while we more often saw brains before and after.  I know that wasn’t always true, but the 2.0 always seemed like a bit of a cheat to me.

Moving on to Seduction we get the first appearance of every Chucksters’ favorite Lothario, Roan Montgomery.  I guess my main impression here is of a very funny episode.

Sarah's definitely not interested

Chuck overhearing Sarah’s denial of interest in him is a little painful, but as Roan later assures, “the lady doth protest too much”.  And there’s always one scorching hot kiss if Chuck really has any doubts…  Easily my least favorite part of this episode is the ending cliffie, which leads directly to —

Break Up.  I have to start by saying I think I like this episode a lot more than most of my fellow ‘shippers seem to.  In fact, I like it even more than the episode immediately before (Seduction).  So let me start by getting my gripes out of the way; Bryce staying with Sarah and saying its for the cover is stupid.  This is stupid angst games played by the writers  that truly makes no sense for the characters or setting.  Sarah is on a long term, deep cover mission as Chuck’s girlfriend.  She is surrounded by Chuck’s friends, family, and co-workers; and Bryce says he’s protecting his cover by staying with Sarah???  Sorry, I really hate stupid stick moments and this is a biggie. Its one of those moments when the puppet strings are showing.  It’s even worse because those of us who’ve watched the discs have seen the deleted Chuck/Sarah dinner scene that could have replaced the sad-sack Chuck going home to Ellie and Devon scene we got.  The deleted dinner scene is more fun and makes more sense on every level, but this is a clear case where they chose a scene purely because it ratcheted up tension.  Okay, I still mean it when I say I love this episode.  First big impression, Chuck and Sarah are wonderful together.  I love the Chuck/Bryce/Sarah at the Hotel leading to the “red isn’t really my color” comment.

The mind goes completely blank...

Sarah is just mouth dropping beautiful in that scene, and then she looks crushed.  So perfect, so sweet.  Even better, I love when Sarah takes out her frustrations on Bryce at the event (“you’re a little rusty…”). Chuck and Sarah at the hospital is another perfect scene, just the right amount of sweet and funny.  The Break-up scene itself is important, but it never struck me as very painful to watch (well, maybe a little).  Chuck’s declaration of wanting something normal will be an irregularly recurring theme almost to the end of the show; but I think significantly, by the end of S5, Sarah seems to want it more.  And this was truly a non-break up anyway.  They are still stuck working together, neither their feelings nor circumstance have changed in any way.  Early S2 Sarah was planning to leave when this job was over anyway, at least that is still everyone’s expectation.  I like to think she couldn’t have actually done it, but she and Chuck clearly thought she could.  Maybe if she had spoken first she would have said something Chuck wanted to hear, but I don’t believe Sarah was ready for anything life changing yet; at least not without being forced into it (by which I mean, I think would have taken Chuck and run if she’d known about the kill order in 2.01).

I can’t go away from these impressions without mentioning one huge reason why I love Break-Up.  I think Von Hayes may be one of my favorite baddies in the entire series.  From the funny lines like “were you dropped on your head from a great height as a child?” or “on three or after three?” to the pure anguish of “you have no idea how little leg room there is!” Von Hayes probably made me laugh with more lines in a short appearance than any other baddie in the series.  Roark and Volkoff were both great villains, but they had substantially more time to establish their character, quirks, and villianousness (?).  I really liked Von Hayes (although I am glad they never brought him back).

Growth

This arc shows some growth from several characters.  Starting with Morgan, he is starting to show some progress from the total slacker we saw in S1; possibly because in First Date Chuck forces it on him by abandoning Morgan and making him do Chuck’s job (selecting the new Assistant Manager).  I’m not going to claim Morgan’s process was in any way “good”, but I think Morgan of S2 will take more initiative than Morgan of S1.  Of course really meaningful Morgan change won’t happen until S3.

Likewise we some Casey growth.  Nothing Earth shattering, but at the end of First Date we see Casey will now kill Chuck only reluctantly (hey, its progress!).  He’s still quick with the insults, that will never change, but traces of humanity are starting to pop up.

Chuck is taking more charge in the spy world, often to Sarah’s dismay.  I never love Chuck more than when he comes up with a stratagem that works, often to his own amazement.  The compound bluff in First Date, and arranging the swap for the cipher in Break-Up being two excellent examples here.  To the end of the show Chuck will be good at this sort of thing.

As a (non) couple, Chuck and Sarah are quite close throughout this arc.  No doubt that is high on my list of reasons for loving these four so much.  Sarah seems content to be close to Chuck too, and not so worried about Agency doctrine.  In seduction she still rejects Chuck’s vacation plans, but clearly the walls have never been lower.  We know Chuck and Sarah still have a long ways to go before they take that major step, and the expectation here always is that Sarah will leave with the job.  But Sarah has grown very close to Chuck and clearly enjoys his company very much.  Even the (non) break-up at the end of 2.03 will not change that for the next couple episodes.  It undoubtedly has some impact on how Chuck reacts with the return of Jill; but it still strikes me as more of a statement of intentions than a break up. If we’re paying close attention, every one of Chuck’s stated reasons for the break-up will be addressed and corrected by the time they’re married, most of them by the end of this season.  Of course its another lie at its core anyway, Chuck thinks he’s protecting Sarah.  There may have been a shred of truth about Chuck wanting a normal life, but we all knew long ago he was ready to settle for extraordinary.

~ Dave

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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80 Responses to Reader’s Digest Rewatch: Make-up then Break-up Arc

  1. Verkan_Vall says:

    Sorry, I had a comment to make, but then saw picture…red…

    Who are you people again?

  2. joe says:

    And while Verkan recovers slowly from his memory wipe… 😉

    Great write up, Dave. One thing that’s hitting me like a ton of bricks when I watch this time, something that I truly missed before, is the change in Sarah. When she looks through the window at Devon and Ellie getting engaged, now I can see that she’s feels a void – family. When Carina was chiding her about the “assignment” (“If a yawn could yawn.”) we had our first clue. Sarah responded “I’m good here.” The hot superspy really has a domestic side. The thought of Chuck being taken away from Ellie and his friends (and from her) brought Sarah to tears in Marlin. We saw that too rarely.

    Because of the finale that idea means more to me now. Sarah’s longing for family was there even in S1, it’s part of her, and is going to be a reason she stays. This is going to sound odd, but the finale has made these early episodes even better.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t know if I would say “better”, but I certainly agree that we can see Sarah wanting what Chuck has to offer right from the beginning. And that does make the ending easier to see, Sarah will never leave.

    • Verkan_Vall says:

      RED!

      • atcDave says:

        Hmmmm, still broken VV?

      • Verkan_Vall says:

        I dunno. I don’t feel broken, it is just difficult to…focus.

        RED!

        Mustnotlookatpicture, mustnotlookatpicture…Must NOT look at picture!

        I enjoyed your post, and agree with your assessment of these episodes: some of the best entertainment ever!

        Excuse me, I have to get back to making a voodoo doll for Aerox. Squirrel indeed.

  3. Faith says:

    “There may have been a shred of truth about Chuck wanting a normal life, but we all knew long ago he was ready to settle for extraordinary.”

    Fantastic close, Dave. The rest is well read too. I’ll comment more once I get the chance to watch all 4 episodes.

    • atcDave says:

      You know I have you to thank for that closing Faith. I know I didn’t quote the break-up speech verbatim like you were wanting, but your comments and suggestion lead to those last couple sentences.

  4. Excellent write-up, and I agree on all points. First Date is my favorite episode of the whole show, in fact, and the scenes of Chuck becoming Agent Carmichael and Sarah beating the crap out of Colt are the best of that. If only they could each have seen the other in those scenes, they would have known a lot more about what was going on, but for the sake of the romantic tension I guess they had to miss those moments. I’m not sure about Intersect 2.0 being a cheat. Chuck was the focus of the first two seasons, but now that his character has developed it’s time to focus on the others, with Chuck as the center of gravity. (I just thought of this so I’ll have to rewatch S3 with this interpretation in mind.) Certainly the best use of I2.0 was in S4E1, when he wiped out Volkoff’s goons over the phone.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I can’t deny the 2.0 was occasionally a lot of fun (I also really enjoy his “partner” fights with Sarah); and I believe I may hold a minority opinion anyway, but I do feel like the 2.0 diminished what was special about Chuck for most of two seasons. That is, the ordinary guy, with no special training, who was able to survive and even be useful in a very dangerous world through his wits and strength of character. I really liked Chuck the leader and planner we saw in most of S5, and I feel like we saw the genesis of that in S1 and S2; but then the 2.0 was sort of a diversion. I don’t want to make too big a thing of this, I completely loved S4, and a couple episodes from S3 too, so its not like it ruined the show, its just not a direction I wish they’d gone.

  5. Rob says:

    Great summary Dave.

    These episodes are great as we really start to see Sarah having a harder time hiding her feelings for Chuck. There are two aspects of this arc that really stick out for me (other than the ones that you mentioned). We start to see Sarah giving Chuck more emotional support (i.e. telling him that he could do anything he wants with his life). I can’t remember a scene prior to this arc where Sarah really opens up and tells Chuck how she feels about him (other than as an asset).

    The 2nd scene that I think is critical for the series is in the train station where Sarah can’t take a shot at the Fulcrum agent, Juliette. At the beginning of the episode, she didn’t hesitate when Bryce was in a similar predicament. With those two scenes, we are beginning to see the differences between Bryce and Chuck (in Sarah’s mind). With Bryce, she was willing to risk the man for the job. With Chuck, she wasn’t going to risk hurting him.

    • atcDave says:

      Really good point about the train station Rob. Although I always figured seeing double from her concussion had something to do with not taking the shot too! But of course I agree Sarah sees Chuck differently than she ever saw Bryce.
      We did see encouraging and affirming Sarah a few times in S1, I think it was a very appealing part of her character from the start. But what was hard to be sure of, was how much was just about her being good at her job. We always suspected Chuck was more to her than just an asset, Marlin provides the proof. Which she later affirms clearly in Other Guy.

      • thinkling says:

        First off, great write up, Dave. I’ve been on the dark side of the internet moon for a couple of days, so I couldn’t comment, but you did a great job with some of the best and most pivotal episodes. Von Hayes always makes me laugh out loud, and I still picture him trying to get comfy in his Lamborghini.

        I totally agree about the “cover” line from Bryce. What were they thinking!

        This episode highlights the differences between Bryce and Chuck all the way through … a comparison that began a little in the Pilot, Sarah having come from the beach with Chuck, reviewing Cabo pictures of her and Bryce. New man, new beach. Then she’s faced with the contrast again in Nemesis, one of my favorite scenes being when she looks back and forth between the two after Chuck is shot. You can see Bryce wondering about it even then. But in Breakup the comparison hits us … and Sarah … over the head, probably producing more confusion than the concussion for her. Bryce was the spy, down to the real bow tie, but Chuck was the man Sarah loved. On most scales Bryce, as Chuck thinks, comes out ahead, but not with Sarah, where it counts. Fantastic episode. It explores exactly what Roan told Sarah in Seduction, that Sarah had feelings for Chuck, not spy feelings, real feelings. Here we see the difference, and so does Sarah, between real feelings and spy feelings. The lie that Sarah told herself, and Chuck, in Crown Vic, that she chose him over Bryce, because it’s her job … that dog just won’t hunt any more … for anybody.

        Like you, these are some of my favorite episodes, throwing in Cougars and Tom Sawyer. to finish the run.

    • I know the train scene was an important moment, and I know, Rob, that you captured the intent of the scene. Unfortunately, logic tends to get in the way when I watch that scene. Sarah had a severe head injury. She had no business pointing a gun at anyone. Sarah couldn’t be blamed that she didn’t realize this because, after all, she had a concussion. If she took the shot, she probably would have missed completely or hit Chuck. (I know. The show is not realistic. I don’t need it to be. Just stay with me.) This all means when Bryce was telling her to take the shot and later told Chuck she should have taken the shot, he was saying he really didn’t care if the government’s most valuable intelligence asset and his supposed best friend was killed.

      So yes, this scene shows Sarah loves Chuck. But even more so, I think it shows Bryce was a tool.

      Dave, I agree this arc is when I realized Chuck was something really special. If I extend the arc to Cougars, it is my favorite five consecutive episodes, with 3 in my top 11 and 4 in my top 20. That’s by far the best run in the series for me.

      • atcDave says:

        Oh yeah Bryce is a tool (staying with Sarah for their “cover” too!)

        Funny about consecutive episodes; Chuck was already my favorite show on the air, and I’ll cautiously say parts of S4 and S5 are actually my favorite seasons, but something about this start to S2 just defines Chuck for me. Cougars is actually specifically when I knew the show was really special, but that was when I realized I’d loved every episode of the season.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Well, I agree Bryce is a tool, Chuck said as much in his little meta-reference to Sarah’s ex being back in town.

        Chuck: This dude has a really nasty habit of popping into my life at the most inopportune of times.

        Bryce was a tool, that was his function, just like Shaw was a bigger tool. (Sorry, Chuckwin’s law, don’t go there).

        That said I’ll defend the character to an extent, to the same extent the Shaw character failed due to being purely a plot device. That sort of works for the villain of the week, but for the team, members of it, and regular parts of the show they need to have a little more substance and purpose. They need to have their own motives apparent to the audience, not just act a certain way to make Chuck react.

        In that sense I’ll give those in the Bryce is a tool category the hotel sequence, although I’d have to say he still probably considers Sarah his girl, so a bit of competitiveness on Bryce’s part seems apt. Sarah, however, letting him stay there is a bit more iffy. But then we know she’s a bit conflicted and has trouble sorting things out.

        The thing to keep in mind for the next two scenes that are the save the chip/save Chuck is that in the initial briefing TPTB did establish that losing the chip compromised their cover anyway, meaning losing the chip means losing Chuck at the very least to an underground bunker. Losing Chuck temporarily, if he can be rescued before they realize he’s the intersect, is not as bad as losing the chip permanently.

        The second thing to recall is that we saw what was on the chip at the end. The intersect update. In other words the most recent, freshest, and newest intel from the entire US government spy apparatus, destined for the intersect. Allowing Fulcrum to have that intel is unacceptable, giving Bryce’s actions the first time some context.

        Now Sarah had a point too. Without knowing what was on the chip she made the right call.

        OK, the train station. Here’s the thing. There was only one acceptable outcome to the standoff from the government’s perspective. Fulcrum gets neither the chip, nor the intersect. The most unacceptable outcome? Fulcrum get’s both. The very outcome Sarah almost allowed.

        Spies take big risks, and while we can rationalize a concussion being on Sarah’s mind we know how quickly people heal on this show. It wasn’t a concern. The point was that spy Sarah, who knew Chuck’s best shot was her taking the shot, even if it risked him, couldn’t bring herself to risk him. Even though spy Sarah must have known that as far as the government was concerned losing the intersect, or the chip, or even both, to prevent Fulcrum from getting either was an acceptable risk, she couldn’t act, risking losing both.

        Bryce on the other hand has clearly been more the spy, willing to risk Chuck for the government’s interest being preserved. Bryce may also have ulterior motives of his own, but convincing Chuck to break it off with Sarah also preserves the government’s interest, an uninvolved un-compromised handler who will act in their interest, not the asset’s.

      • joe says:

        I’m not sure I understand the idea behind “Bryce is a tool.” As a character, he is, of course (as is everyone else to one extent or another). But he’s an important one, isn’t he?

        I’ve come to see Bryce these days as more the “anti-Chuck”. Chuck’s awkward in a charming way, Bryce is cool in an reckless way. Chuck’s too concerned with the “what if…?”s and Bryce is too unconcerned with the potential downsides (he’s always ready to take the flashy risks). Chuck wears his heart on his sleeve and Bryce… well, he never had to.

        And Sarah is in love with both of them for just those reasons. I suspect that had Bomer not left the show, season 3 would have been about Sarah going to Bryce after Chuck rejects her in Prague with the rest of the season being about Chuck realizing he’s made a mistake and trying to win her back.

      • I understand the role that both Bryce and Shaw played. The problem I always had was not their interpersonal role with other characters, but the fact that the CIA seemed to think they were good, not to mention competent, agents.

        They knew the chip was an Intersect refresh at the beginning during Beckman’s briefing. The chip was in the hands of someone who was fleeing from Fulcrum. Von Hayes would be easy for the CIA to track with the security system likely to be in an expensive sports car. Chuck (with zero pain tolerance) was actually in the hands of Fulcrum. Chuck also had the original Intersect which would presumable contain more information than a one year refresh.

        The smart play would be to split up. Both Chuck and the chip were important. With two targets and two agents, it’s an obvious decision. I guess Bryce knew he wasn’t competent enough to catch bumbling Von Hayes by himself. More importantly, Casey was the agent in charge for the mission. It was Casey’s call. He’s the one who said Chuck was captured.

        About the train station… If Chuck’s safety wasn’t a priority, Bryce could have taken the shot at the train station himself. Instead he told Sarah to take a longer shot, with just as bad of an angle by the time the elven queen backed up and with a concussion. That could be taken as Bryce intentionally putting Sarah in a position to where she would kill Chuck. If Bryce killed Chuck, she’d be mad hat him., If Sarah killed Chuck, she’d run to Bryce for comfort. Sounds Machiavellian to me. I know that wasn’t the writers’ intent for the scene. I also know the writers were assuming super healing powers and ignoring that qualified doctors thought she should be in a hospital less than an hour before. But I still have trouble getting past that ideas. The plot problems don’t bother me because they just reaffirm that Bryce Larkin is a tool. 🙂

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Jeff, at a certain point you need to separate clumsy storytelling from intrinsic character traits. That’s my point. Bryce was shown as a competent, if not super-competent spy in the pilot and again in Nemesis. That he seems to suffer from idiocy or incompetence at times (as Shaw did and Sarah and Chuck do frequently) occasionally arises out of a clumsy plot. Something I’ve always maintained Chuck has often done from the beginning.

        Many complained Chuck came across as an idiot in Curse because he took the virus to the meeting point, but eventually the other “real spies” came to agree with his view that they had to take the real virus. At that point you need to allow that it is the fact that the episode is straining against some weak plot and plot devices, not that they want to portray Chuck as an idiot or that he should be seen as an idiot (along with the other spies).

        Bryce was a somewhat more important character to the Chuck mythology and needed a bit more depth than they gave him, but then part of what they seem to like was that his motives were never clear.

        I agree, the wheels squeak at times, and sometimes you need to accept their premise as presented, even when it’s a bit of a stretch.

      • atcDave says:

        Or Bryce just knew Sarah was better shot… Even with a concussion!

        As I’ve said before, I think Bryce instead of Shaw would have made S3 a little more palatable. Possibly even made the difference between watchable and unwatchable for me, but I still don’t believe I would have enjoyed a prolonged triangle arc. But at least Sarah would have looked like less of an idiot by being torn between two men we already knew she had feelings for.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Remember Dave, it’s Sarah. Her face is nearly impervious to bruising and she heals almost instantly, and as all spies knows the exact amount of force necessary to hit someone with to render them unconscious without danger of killing or causing permanent damage.

      • The show’s plot issues don’t bother me most of the time. I liked the dynamic that Bryce brought to the show. When Chuck, Sarah, or Casey made mistakes, they were pointed out. When Bryce or Shaw did, they were always ignored. The guy got away with killing an agent who was just defending a government building. Blowing up the Intersect to protect the country is one thing. But that’s little comfort to the family of the person he kicked down the stair well.

        I probably would have been placated if we saw Bryce being called to the carpet just once, by Graham, Beckman, Sarah, or even Chuck.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I understand your point Jeff. At a certain level Bryce was designed to be the anti-Chuck. The guy who could do no wrong, always got the girl and completed the mission, with only slightly (and stylishly) mussed hair. To that extent I forgave TPTB for never showing him called to the carpet, other than the possibility it happened briefly in his debriefing at the end of Nemesis. As for his actions in the pilot who knows if he was supposed to return? Clearly they retconned a lot about both Bryce and Jill to make them more sympathetic when they returned. In addition Chuck has always walked a fine line with the death and darkness. It needs to be a part of the show, but it’s a tough call.

        In one sense the show suffered from never letting anyone other than Chuck (or very occasionally Sarah and even more infrequently Casey) be dressed down for his failures for far too long. You see this again at the end of Broken Heart. Within hours of becoming his handler Forest has linked Chuck and his family to international espionage and allowed him to be captured by terrorists, yet she’s still supposed to be the proper choice for his handler till Chuck and Casey speak up? Sarah’s the one being dressed down for not following orders when the only reason they still have the intersect to protect is because she did? In that sense Chuck and Sarah and occasionally Casey are the only remotely competent spies in that universe.

        Thinking about the plot just makes your head hurt. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed it for the occasionally fluffy and often paper thin MacGuffin it is and enjoyed where it took the characters and how it let them interact, change and grow.

  6. oldresorter says:

    Dave – you sell your writing skills short, you hold your own with the other erudite principals on this site. I enjoyed the comment the others brought up about ‘extraordinary’, as well as this one:

    “As a (non) couple, Chuck and Sarah are quite close throughout this arc. No doubt that is high on my list of reasons for loving these four so much. ”

    Me too, Castle is just beginning its struggle through ‘not being close’, it is a tightrope these shows walk, I understand most shows with romantic pairings are going to do angst to a certain extent, but when they do, they can’t afford to make many mistakes.

    I have written my first fanfic, I found it highly therapeutic, as I got to finish the ending on the beach and at least attempt to answer the famous West Wing ? – “What’s Next?”. I forced myself to rewatch an ep I needed to for my writing, an ep I did not even enjoy that much, Tic Tac. If I finish my project, I will have to rewatch most of the second season (which my story will resemble most), maybe pink slip, and honeymooners a couple of dozen times, Ok that last one was a lie.

    Thanks for your efforts to sell fanfic to us, I was one of the least enthused about it while the show was running, yet here I am talking about it, in no small part thanks to your efforts. Aces!

    • atcDave says:

      Awesome to hear about another convert to fan fiction! I look forward to seeing your efforts.

      And thanks for the kind words about my writing; I feel unworthy along side my partners here, as you may have guessed, I’m not always humble about my thoughts and opinions, but I feel my writing merits buckets of humility!

    • joe says:

      Dave may not have written as many posts as some of us have over the years, but there’s two things. The obvious is that the quality of Dave’s posts have always done us all proud. The other is the incredible job he’s done here responding to comments and keeping the conversations alive. I don’t know anyone in the history of the internet who’s done it better.

      Dave, many thanks!

  7. YozaWB7C says:

    Loved the article,Dave,and your choice of picture for Sarah’s hero pose is an outstanding one,reflecting articles I have read in the past arguing the character of Sarah Walker to be “the most noble hero in television history”,even if the writers’ tried their best to damage this at times,particularly in series 3.
    Your complete run of episodes referred to could truly be described as “The Magnificent Seven”.Although First Date will always just shade it as my favourite,(I feel the increased budget was most evident immediately),I always have thought Tom Sawyer to be an underappreciated episode within the fandom.It gets better every time I watch.Not only is it unusual for the emphasis on Jeff but it is significant for Sarah’s response to Casey regarding bringing down the satellite-“I trust Chuck”.This at the time when you correctly point out Chuck did not have the 2.0.

    • atcDave says:

      Thanks Yoza. Sarah is certainly among the most noble television heroes we’ve seen in many years, in a very traditional sort of way; a fearless hero of action over words. And part of what’s so special is how much depth was there even without words! Can you tell she became my favorite character on this show?!

      I do think part of what is special about S2 is the better budget, at least to say S3 and later suffered some in production quality. You know I love S4 and S5 too, but oh I wish they’d still had more money!

      I’ve always loved Tom Sawyer, I’ve even used it to introduce new viewers to the show on occasion. It represents what’s awesome about Chuck in many ways.

  8. Ernie Davis says:

    I’ll just add my voice the chorus of those saying great writeup. You can hold your own as a wordsmith with anyone on the blog IMHO. Some of whom (ahem) seem to have a 2,000 word minimum, (which you almost met with this one) but brevity doesn’t imply any lack of quality. I think you captured just about everything I would point out about these episodes. Except one.

    One of the things it is fun to do is re-examine the episodes in the context of what came later. Sometimes it’s little things that seem unimportant, but keep coming back, giving us hints of where the characters where. In Cougars we saw Sarah had started to keep a picture of Chuck in her room, a picture taken on the trip to pick up Roan, and later we saw that she made sure to replace it with a new one after skewering it. She kept it with her even after Prague. It regained it’s place on her nightstand after he told her he loved her in American Hero, and then it traveled with her wherever she went during her time away from him. It lends a depth and texture to her inner life looking back.

    Casey had a similar growth moment this arc. He was reluctant to kill Chuck, but he was at least appearing to follow orders. We don’t know at this point if he’d go through with it, but later episodes show us that after that night he wouldn’t ever consider it again. Consider the interesting conversation in Colonel when he captures Chuck, after the Fulcrum shootout and fight.

    Casey: How far do you think you’re gonna get?
    Sarah: Until we rescue Chuck’s dad.

    Note the tense. Future. He’s not about to take them in if it means a firefight, but he seems to have concerns about their ability to elude capture. Walker’s too emotional and Chuck is too green, so he takes them in for their own protection I think. And not a little because he feels slighted by being betrayed, or not even consulted.

    Chuck: Casey, my father is here. You said you would rescue him. You gave me your word. I thought that meant something. I guess I have a lot to learn.

    Casey: Yeah, that’s right. You do. You made three crucial mistakes. You didn’t realize you were being trailed, you didn’t bring nearly enough firepower and you didn’t ask me to join.

    Now lets go to the next time Chuck is at odds with the CIA, the end of Cliffhanger.

    Casey: Chuck (handing him some sort of computer disks) New identities. Untraceable. Extremely rare. I made them years ago for an occasion just like this.

    So at some point, and we don’t know exactly when other than apparently, but not definitively after this episode, Casey had his contingency ready for Chuck and Sarah. Interesting…

    • joe says:

      That is a great observation, Ernie.

      But next question: does his relationship with Morgan have anything to do with that? I, for one, am sure it does. Casey’s growth is not only indicated by what we learn of his past (he did not know that Ilsa was a spy until we meet her in Undercover Lover) and Kathleen, but by what he’s become after meeting Chuck, Alex and Morgan.

      And maybe after meeting Jeff and Lester too. 😉

    • atcDave says:

      Interesting about the identities Ernie. You have to wonder if at some point in early 2010 he thought they’d been a wasted effort!?

      The picture is intriguing. There is also another from the same set that showed up in their rehearsal dinner montage. Practically speaking, it just means they took Zach and Yvonne outside somewhere for some “casual” photos the same day they shot the first Roan scenes. But it leaves us with some interesting thoughts. This was an afternoon when Chuck and Sarah were still cover dating; on a mission/road trip, WITH Casey, and yet some pictures they must have taken on a break during that trip have remained special to Sarah even after getting married. It really indicates how real that cover relationship was to Sarah that she still wants to remember it. And we can only imagine they must have been having fun together that day (even with Casey there!)

      • garnet says:

        One could also make an assumption that Casey might have been involved in the picture taking. The photo is not a classic arm’s length type, so unless they had just happened to take a tripod along, it must have been taken by someone….Casey was with them so he would be the most logical trigger person.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I always imagined that was the case, Casey as photographer, grumbling about lady feelings and mixing peanut-butter and chocolate and Sarah justifying it as necessary for their cover and with both Chuck and Sarah secretly enjoying torturing Casey just a bit.

      • garnet says:

        I’ll be honest and say that I think they just had the shot “done” and it may not have even seemed important at the time, but it did take on a life of it’s own, and I like the idea of Casey being tortured by having to take the picture.
        The only concern with this view, is that it would have taken some careful footwork on the part of Sarah, and to a lesser extent Chuck, to avoid letting Casey know that things were getting somewhat out of hand. So I wonder if Sarah would have been OK with Casey taking what seems to be more than a cover picture…..I don’t suppose that Roan,,,no, no way!

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I think Casey was the photographer. I can imagine Sarah selling the idea as “good for the cover”. Yet Chuck and Sarah were apparently able to relax and just have fun, surely with Casey grumbling. This is only a couple months before Sarah was able to admit to her v-log that she loved Chuck, so I’m thinking she was maybe starting to come to grips with it that day. Maybe that’s why the photos stayed special to her.

  9. aerox says:

    Is it me, or does Sarah/Yvonne look a bit like a squirrel in that last picture?

  10. ww1posterfan says:

    Okay, what struck me most about this arc was how intensely vested Sarah was in the relationship and loyal to Chuck. While she was always the most reticent about verbalizing her feelings, what little she did have to say and her actions always spoke volumes about her extreme devotion and love for Chuck and how well she knew him on certain levels:

    Marlin: Arguing with Casey about how to break the news to him re: not finding the Fulcrum mole. Ready to draw her weapon on Longshore. “He’s my guy.” “He has me!” “Save you later.”

    First Date: The willingness to go on a date. “Yeah, you are (fantastic).” Her epic anguished “Nooo” and battle with Colt. She obviously accepted a second date with Chuck because that’s why she showed up at the apartment when she let him know about the cipher being a Trojan and Graham being killed.

    Seduction: one of the sexiest kisses ever on the small screen. Sarah continuously reinforcing to Roan that Chuck was fully capable of seducing Sasha Banachek using his own charm all the while denying she had fallen prey to it.

    Break-up: To me the truly pivotal scene is the one where she leaves Bryce to go after Chuck to protect the “asset” that results in her injury –Bryce is pretty livid and reminds her she is going “off mission”. She clearly puts saving Chuck and ensuring his safety first, apparently in direct violation of typical spy protocol which was to secure the chip with the DNI info. I also found this to be an interesting comparison and contrast to how she and Casey had already developed their partnership arrangement. Casey always understood very early on that “the asset’s ” safety and well-being was Sarah’s #1 priority and her purview. In Marlin, Casey tells Sarah he’ll take care of the mole, you go get the “asset.” This played itself out over and over again.

    As for Casey’s growth, I was most struck by his pretty aggressive lobbying for Chuck during First Date—“the results speak for themselves”….”demonstrated value as analyst” ….”served his country with honor.” He was clearly uncomfortable with Chuck thanking him for keeping him safe all the while oblivious to the death sentence getting ready to be levied- Casey genuinely appeared to be struggling with guilt about his impending Kill order. He had certainly developed a grudging respect for Chuck by this point in time, and I think a fondness. I also find it interesting that Casey knew Sarah was compromised from Truth on and seemed very aware they were in love (“….love is for suckers.” “Where’s Sarah?” “Sucker.”-Cougars) He could have brought in a 49B at any time, but he didn’t. I don’t know when he started rooting for them or when he decided a compromised Sarah was still better than a by the book agent, but as Ernie pointed out by Colonel he was fully on Team Bartowski.

    Lastly, Chuck’s growth and epiphanies during this arc seem to be lost during “Ex, Fat Lady, and Gravitron” which is why Chuck is my most frustrating character. Sarah and Casey’s emotional growth always seemed to be a fairly stable ascending trajectory. Chuck’s lapses into self-pity such as at the beginning of Seduction frustrate me to no end. He’s clearly got some mojo going in First Date, rebounds in Seduction with Roan, and then plummets in Break-up at Bryce’s appearance.

    As for Bryce, I always thought he was an arrogant prick. For someone who went to such great lengths to “protect” his friend from the CIA, he sends him the Intersect which he knows is being sought by an internecine and rogue group within the CIA, i.e. puts him in inconceivable danger. It never made sense.

    • That scene you describe where Sarah goes after Chuck is another example of how Bryce is a tool. The Intersect would contain everything that is on the chip, so Chuck should still be the #1 priority.

      Throw in almost blowing Sarah’s cover several times and later taking only one gun and no extra ammo to Ellie’s reception–he’s almost as incompetent as Shaw. With the CIA thinking Bryce and Shaw are good agents, it takes a little away from Casey’s season 4 comments about Sarah and Chuck being the best spies he ever worked with. The bar wasn’t very high.

    • atcDave says:

      Chuck does seem fickle on occasion. Although a lot of Sarah’s extreme devotion Chuck doesn’t really see; like in Break-Up Chuck doesn’t know how Sarah split from Bryce to come after him. That and Chuck was always shown as a very verbal character while Sarah is all about actions; Sarah’s reticence is something Chuck just doesn’t understand and he seems to take much of her silence as rejection. To me, that part of the old CRM worked well through the first two seasons.
      Bryce does come across as a jerk and a fool sometimes. As I said above, his staying with Sarah is just stupid beyond belief; stupid to the point I blame the writers more than the character. I simply can’t believe a trained spy would jeopardize a partners long-term cover like that; I have to write it off as manipulative story telling. And of course his whole speech to Chuck about Sarah’s feelings getting her in trouble is so self serving its sort of sickening (he was involved with her while they were doing missions, it seems like a bad attempt at shooing Chuck away from his girl. Bryce must be shocked when it seems to work!)

      • Rob says:

        As many have said above, I think that the Bryce character is well-meaning, but a bit clueless as to the impact of his actions. He asks Chuck in Nemesis — “What happened to you?” Well, duh, you got me kicked out of school for cheating (of all things). Kind of hard to recover from that professionally.

        Then, he clearly sees that there is something real between Chuck and Sarah in Break-Up. And, so he proceeds to send Sarah tons of flowers in the hospital, and then convinces Chuck that it isn’t good for Sarah’s safety to have feelings for him. Ok….way to treat the “only friend that you have in the world.”

        In the end, I’ll chalk it up to Bryce still having feelings for Sarah, and simply doing everything he can to get back to the “Andersons.” Even in the Ring, we’ll see him work hard to get Sarah to go with him. So, I’ll blame his cluelessness on love and leave it at that.

      • ww1posterfan says:

        Bryce’s actions may have been because he was still in love with Sarah, but he was also one of the most selfish and hypocritical characters ever written.
        -Chuck was being recruited for the Omaha project–I think Bryce was too and I think it was theforerunner of the Intersect
        -Bryce gets Chuck kicked out of school…one might also say eliminate any competition in the Omaha project given Chuck’s special abilities and high score on Fleming’s exam
        -Bryce then engages in some sort of relationship with Jill
        -Bryce sends him the Intersect undermining all the “sacrifices” of the above
        -Bryce uses Chuck as a human shied and manipulates Chuck to escape his holding faclity
        -Bryce applies a double standard wrt him having a relationship with Sarah as compared to Chuck
        -Bryces little homily to Chcuk about him having one friend and Chuck having a stiore full of them and family that loves him rings hollow because Bryce chose his life–Chuck had his thrust upon him
        -Bryce’s first interaction with Sarah at Chuck’s apartment was to emotionally manipulate her via seduction to get her to help him-he was using her
        -I interpreted Bryce’s actions in Break-up as more a form of competitveness/jealousy-he was stung by Sarah’s rejection in Nemesis and didn’t want to lose out to Chuck who he clearly thought was inferior given his deprecating exchange with him prior to them leaving for the mission at Von Haye’s party=the writer’s even went out of their way to play this up with the bowties,

        I really developed a dislike for his character the second time around in viewing these episodes. The first time I didn’t pay much attention, but now he’s one of my least favorite. With friend’s like him Chuck didn’t need any enemies.

      • As a member of the Byrce anti-fan club, I agree with almost all of that. However in all fairness, Bryce never said he was involved with Jill. That was what Jill and her friend, Shari, said to get rid of Chuck (on Fulcrum’s orders–maybe Shari was also Fulcrum). In Break-up, I thought it was odd that Chuck never confronted Bryce about Jill. Then in Gravitron while she was connected to the lie detector, Jill confirms she never slept with Bryce. My assumption was they were never really involved.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Jeff I don’t think Bryce even knew he’d been implicated by Jill. But on balance, that does little to redeem his character.

  11. garnet says:

    I am not Bryce’s biggest fan, but I think, to be fair, Bryce was a fairly complicated character. Probably more complicated than most on TV. He had a pretty good sized ego. He did get Chuck expelled, but we find that it was for Chuck’s own good as he wasn’t agent material, and I think the Chuck we see in season 1 and 2 supports Bryce’s assessment. He takes a bum rap for sleeping with Jill. He clearly has feelings for Sarah, but not enough to trust her when the chips are down, And he is willing to fight for the girl he wants (loves??) much like Chuck must win her again and again and again. He even is perceptive enough to realize that Sarah is not coming with him after all. Finally, with his dying breath he tells Chuck that she wasn’t going to leave with him….Sarah had chosen Chuck. What an admission that must have been for him! So he was Bad but Good, Bad, Good, Bad,Good (see if you can follow my reasoning through the episodes).

    No Bryce isn’t my favourite character, but he does serve a purpose by showing Sarah who is really important in her life, and he is likeable in a superficial way. Our family followed Matt to his show White Collar because he did a great job with a difficult character and he continues to do so.

    • ww1posterfan says:

      I follow your reasoning totally. The first time I watched this series of episodes, Bryce was more of an annoyance. Like I said, it was on the second watching, I developed a distaste. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy how they used his character to further the plot and highlight relationship issues. I guess it’s how they wrote his character to have somewhat of a slight martyr complex—he gave up Chuck’s friendship to save him, he only has one friend, etc.and yet it was his actions that put Chuck in the gravest danger for which I never recall him apologizing for. And Chuck was the only person that even remotely called him on it. Regarding his interactions with Sarah, what Bryce didn’t do spoke volumes: he didn’t trust her when he realized he needed to destroy the Intersect, he didn’t ask to speak with her upon his revival. he never learned her favorite flower, he assumed what her priorities were in the mission and that she would do as he commanded. Again, my perception is that he didn’t quite think of Sarah as an equal-he didn’t value her the way Chuck did or even Casey for that matter. As for Matt Bomer as an actor, his casting for this role was perfect. He seems to be a genuinely nice guy, as well and I wish him continued success with his show.

      One last thing you mentioned that caught my ear when re-watching was the forshadowing of having to win Sarah over and over again. It definitely made me think of the finale’. He always wins her, one way or another. Chuck is the balm for Sarah’s troubled soul.

      • Rob says:

        Great last point. In the last arc review, we talked about how Sarah had been looking to Ellie and Awesome as a solid relationship to emulate. It is interesting that Ellie (in this arc) is now asking Chuck how he and Sarah keep their relationship so alive and vibrant. Interesting turn.

      • garnet says:

        I was just thinking about that as well! I had been intending to try and see just how many times Chuck has had to win Sarah over, and compair with the number of times he says “and over and over”.

      • thinkling says:

        We sort of pretend we’re not dating, so I have to win her again and again … and again — one of my favorite lines 🙂

      • garnet says:

        And one that makes the ending a bit easier to accept!

      • ww1posterfan says:

        Okay, here’s a rough count of Chuck wooing Sarah:
        1. Initial meeting through first kiss
        2. Bryce’s first return through Break-up
        3. Break-up through Beefcake
        4. Beefcake through Colonel/Ring/Pink Slip
        5. The whole first half of season 3
        6. Finale
        You could say #’s 2,3,and 4 sort of run together because there was no real wavering of Sarah’s love for Chuck after she decided to “stay for the job” and not go with Bryce in Nemesis. He knows all of her walls and defenses by now….it shouldn’ take him too long after the beach to reseal the deal. And Thinkling’s doing a wonderful job of filling in those blanks.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I think the last round is sort of a fait accompli. Not that there isn’t any work or heartache involved, but the end won’t be in doubt.

      • I’d break season 3 into two parts: Pink Slip through Operation Awesome and Beard through Other Guy. Chuck gave up from First Class until the end of Fake Name.

      • joe says:

        I’d have a few more check-points in that list, WW1.

        I’ve been struck by how C&S advanced in S1 and S2. The fake relationship becomes real (especially to Morgan, Ellie and Devon) long before it does to Chuck and Sarah, and then they struggle with how to deal with that for a long time. But somewhere along the line (I think during the kiss in Imported Hard Salami there’s no fake relationship – only the real one. Bring on The First Date!

        I love S2 so much because, even though Bryce shows them both explicitly why they can’t be together (it’s dangerous for Chuck, it’s more dangerous for Sarah and most dangerous to everyone else!) and both fight it, they give in. At this point it’s an epic story, which, inevitably, had to come crashing down.

        And it did in S3. Chuck started as a fake spy but a real hero in S1. In S3 he has to do the opposite. He has to become a real spy by losing his heroism and pulling the trigger. The real question for Sarah was; can he retain his humanity or is the spy world going to crush him?

        While I was looking at the romance and getting frustrated with the geometric shapes and he-who-will-not-be-named, the better part of the story was in Chuck’s progress as a spy and his growing up in the much more morally ambiguous world of adulthood. It’s actually pretty good.

        But we love a romance, and the last six of S3 and S4 are wonderful because their all about Chuck&Sarah finding their feet as a spy-couple. By S5 they’re awesome at it – both romantically and spy-wise. Chuck’s got an amazing story to tell Sarah on the beach.

        Woops. Sorry, WW1. I really got carried away there. You do have a great list, but these are the things on my mind now that I’m rewatching in ernest.

      • garnet says:

        The other thing that makes Bryce’s giving the Intersect to Chuck a bit odd is the fact that he KNEW Orion/ Steven and knew how far Orion had gone to protect his family from those looking for the Intersect.

    • aerox says:

      If anything, White Collar shows how underused Matt has been on Chuck. While Bryce was a complex character, he often gets dumbed down to asshole, egomaniac. And that’s a shame really. With Matt’s talent, they could’ve gone even farther in Bryce’s life, his history even (even in those seven or so episodes he appears in) and he would’ve pulled it off.

  12. kg says:

    Great job Dave. I was always most moved by Seduction. So many wonderful things in addition to Sarah “claiming” from the van Chuck was just an asset and that crappy ending you alluded to.

    Sarah totally didn’t want Chuck on this mission. The fear and trepidation in her face alone told us so much. And she didn’t just fear for his life with Sasha the slasher. I mean remember the horror she exibited when they were kissing on the elevator. Priceless.

    And although Sarah briefly stung Chuck, she did afterall defend him to Roan. Explaining that Chuck was charming on his own, didn’t have to be somebody else and certainly didn’t require Roan’s dopey, conceited prongs of the Montgomerie.

    And Sarah and Roan’s verbal sparring in the van was epic. He really pushed some buttons. Sarah was livid. And that scene was also comical. He demonstrated nary a care for his lack of professionalism by spilling his drink on the equipment. “I know,” he quipped after Sarah chided him. “That was expensive gin.”

    But the key to this whole episode was Chuck actually admitting he loved Sarah. For weeks we could see it. And despite all his protests to the contrary, his whining and sniveling and girlish screams, this was the first time Chuck displayed his ability as an action hero. Every other heroic sighting involved using his brain and wit or internet porn.

    Roan knew from the kiss that Chuck was in love with Walker, but after running out on the mission, he directly asked Bartowski if he was willing to die for her. Chuck unequivocally answered yes. That, to me, was huge.

    And then he jumps off the roof of the Buy More to accurately prove it with action, saving Sarah’s life. Awesome stuff.

    • atcDave says:

      Thanks for weighing in kg! Yeah those are all great moments, Sarah’s reactions have sold so many great Chuck moments, but her reaction to Chuck getting on the elevator with Sasha may be one of the best. And there’s no doubt Roan was a great addition to Chuck, it’s too bad we only saw him one more time. And Chuck acknowledging that Sarah is worth dying for really makes this an important episode too.

  13. uplink2 says:

    Well I said I wasn’t going to be commenting here as I’m not doing the rewatches yet but the Bryce Larkin discussion got my attention as it always does. So I thought I’d add my two cents. To me I agree with the concept of Bryce being a tool but more in the fact that Bryce is simply a plot device and therefore following much of Fedak’s line of thinking in this show. His logic doesn’t have to make sense or be clearly understood. He has a role to play and who cares if it makes sense. Did his actions create the necessary situation of tension etc. and if he did then that’s all that matters to Fedak and ultimately to us I suppose. Bryce is part of the suspension of disbelief that we have to have to allow us to enjoy the show.

    What makes me accept Bryce much more that Shaw is IMO two fold. First he was a much more developed character with a clear role we see evolve over the 6 episodes he is in. We never see that for Shaw in the 8 episodes he is in before he becomes a villain. Plus and I know I sound like a broken record but a great deal of why he works and Shaw didn’t lies at the feet of Bomer/Routh. Simply put Bomer was great in the role on many levels and Routh wasn’t. The casting of Bomer was one of the many great successes that established the show and made it work. Routh was probably its biggest miscast. He simply didn’t have the skills to make most of us feel anything but pure dislike and hatred for his character. While I dislike Bryce for many reasons he was sympathetic and I loved to hate him. Shaw I simply hated.

    My biggest issues with Bryce the character is that nothing he did makes logical sense outside of the singular moment it takes place in. Starting at Stanford he feels he has the right to make decisions that effect the direction of Chuck’s life without his knowledge. His reasons for doing it aside he simply does not have that right ever. Plus the logic fails in that we are told “he couldn’t (tell Chuck) because he had already been recruited” simply doesn’t wash. Bryce and Fleming committed conspiracy and treason by denying the CIA their best possible candidate but he can’t tell Chuck because it would be against orders and therefore treason? Huh? So Bryce picks and chooses the orders he obeys. Plus as Ernie pointed out so well I simply don’t believe the retcon of Bryce not sleeping with Jill. I firmly believe he did. I base that on the fact that the show clearly established that a trained agent can withstand the effects of Pentathol and therefore could easily fool a lie detector test. If their “proof” to us it didn’t happen is Jill’s test then they have already shown us it means nothing. Plus again as Ernie pointed out it makes sense that Jill would make a play for Bryce. Even her friend said they were together. But we are supposed to believe that Bryce would commit treason and destroy his best friends future without his knowledge but he is moral enough not to screw his girlfriend? Really? Again it was a retcon to make Jill and Bryce more sympathetic but it failed to me as the story works much better if it did happen.

    Now as far as sending Chuck the Intersect that to me completely destroys the reason for what happened at Stanford. If Bryce wanted to protect Chuck from this world he has a rotten way of showing it when he sends it to him. Not only is it basically a death sentence for Chuck, it also endangered everyone around him. Ellie, Awesome, Morgan were all threatened because of it. So much for protecting him. It simply served Bryce’s needs and as he did at Stanford he could care less about the consequences of his actions. He simply never did. He’s impulsive and never thinks about collateral damage.

    Now we come to this arc. As Dave said Bryce staying with Sarah was absurd from a logical standpoint but was simply a tool for the writers to ramp up the angst. It makes no sense from a cover perspective. Chuck and Sarah’s cover is far more important than Bryce’s. Everything they needed to establish for their mission had no bearing on where he slept. Plus Bryce’s talk with Chuck about what happened was IMO purely self motivated. I never understood why Chuck never questioned, or anyone for that matter, why Sarah’s feelings for Chuck would get her killed but her feelings for Bryce wouldn’t and were fine. Bryce wanted Chuck to “do the right thing” and for Bryce that meant Chuck backing away so he could have Sarah back. It was purely self motivated and had nothing to do with protecting Sarah. But again we have to accept a bogus story because it serves the purpose of moving Chuck and Sarah backwards at that point. Bryce doesn’t do the honorable thing until Ring 1 when he finally realizes he has lost Sarah forever. But again his ego and his role as plot device comes into play by showing up with only 1 gun and 1 clip. It was simply bad spy work to create his surrender and ultimate demise. Well not demise when it was written however. It was so bad, Shaw would have done the same thing. So much for showing that these guys were great spies.

    All this shows to me that Bryce was never anything more than a plot device to first create the scenario of the show, create tension and angst for our heroes, and drive the story in the direction the writers wanted at the time. He was a tool. But he was a tool played by a very good actor in the role. We saw so much more from him. If you look at the 2 main plot device characters of the series, Bryce and Shaw, what’s interesting is that Bryce trying to protect Chuck helps make him more sympathetic but Shaw’s wife being killed by the Ring or so we thought at the time, didn’t make him sympathetic at all to me at least. Simply put Bryce worked and Shaw didn’t until he became a villain. Much of that goes to the writers successes with Bryce and failures with Shaw. But no matter how I slice it a good portion of it goes to the actors who played these characters themselves.

    • atcDave says:

      Although I agree Bomer was an excellent casting decision, I always think the biggest Bryce/Shaw difference is just timing. In the aftermath of Colonel, I was simply unwilling to accept that Sarah would be drawn to someone else. I might have begrudgingly accepted a return of Bryce in that role, but no actor could have made Shaw work for me; and that has more to do with how I see Chuck and Sarah than anything another character or actor could bring to the story.

      • Some of this recent Bryce discussion has made me wonder what the viewer reaction would have with Bryce instead of Shaw assuming the plot was exactly the same. (i.e. Bryce was married to Eve before working with Sarah. Since Bryce and Sarah did not talk about their pasts, they had no idea Sarah killed Eve. Bryce was promoted to be in charge of the team. etc.) Dave, I know you and many others wouldn’t have liked the story line, but I wonder if a lot of viewers would have been more accepting of S3.0. While I don’t dislike 3.0 as much as most people, I think for me Bryce might have been worse than Shaw, or at least the same.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting question Jeff. You’re right I wouldn’t have liked it, I was completely ready for the wt/wt part of the story to end and wouldn’t have been very accepting of any delays; BUT, one of my biggest beefs with S3 was that Chuck and Sarah both came across as faithless creeps with their willingness to move on so fast. If Bryce had been in Shaw’s role the situation would have been somewhat different due to him being an ex. I suspect for me, the difference would have been that although I still would have disliked the same episodes, they wouldn’t have left such a bitter taste in mouth. That is, they would have been just as unpleasent on their own, but they wouldn’t have done such damage to Sarah’s character.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I’m not saying it would have worked with another actor necessarily but Routh made a badly conceived and executed character worse. I agree that much of the Trapezoid failed simply because it was so obviously a contrived and forced delay of the outcome of Colonel and simply never felt real to the characters. But I’m also talking about the character itself notwithstanding the LI role. Shaw was never shown to be a great spy, we were simply told he was. We saw how good Bryce was in the Pilot and every episode he was in, well until the wedding absurdity. Even in the scene where Shaw is looking at his wife’s rings, I felt nothing for him. I could have cared less about that because Routh simply didn’t make me want to care. As I had not been following spoilers at the time I had no idea he was headed to be Sarah’s LI but still didn’t care at all about him. Shooting a woman in the back was never heroic, it was cowardly. Plus shooting himself was such a farce and simply unbelievable as if Devon/Chuck/Carmichael was as great as the Ring thought no way he misses and hits him in the shoulder. It should have looked suspicious from the beginning. Plus I never saw the spy/mentor logic of why he lied to Chuck about his mission on the plane. Jeopardizing the single most important asset in the intelligence community by not giving him all the information he needed to complete his mission makes simply no sense and is reckless. Plus lets not get into Beard and that absurdity as it is too painfully ridiculous to think about. I never felt Shaw’s declaration of having a backup plan for his agents was sincere because Routh never made me feel it or see it. He simply told us his reasons. Again we saw Bryce’s reasons and believed his sincerity in Fleming’s office even if we disagreed with what he did because Bomer made us feel them.

        In Bryce’s case I never questioned how great a spy he was or how well he and Sarah worked together. What I was shown of Shaw and how Routh played him never made believe he was anything but incompetent and dangerous. We never saw Sarah working well and when they were working together in Beard, Sarah is never an equal partner, she is always subservient. With Bryce they were true partners and teammates.

        Now you may be right that I had already rejected the direction they were going in from the moment I saw the ridiculous and contrived nature of Pink Slip but a better actor could have made me at least felt something other than hatred and laughability. I never felt that with Bomer and he was a much bigger threat to the Chuck and Sarah relationship than Shaw ever was. I believed he was a great spy and exactly the kind of guy Sarah would go for prior to meeting Chuck, but listening to the way Fedak described Shaw in his Mo Ryan interview simply never happened on screen and much of that lays at the feet of Routh to me at least.

      • joe says:

        Jeff, that’s an interesting question, but Eve seems to be one of the details I suspect came only after Bryce had to be replaced with Shaw. She wouldn’t have existed (or needed to!) in Bryce’s world.

        If Bryce had returned one more time there were plenty of opportunities to tie him closer – much closer – to Sarah, because they had been partners. It might have even been more effective if the event that tied them was no secret to Sarah, but something she had been hiding from Chuck all along. Maybe something in Omaha.

        Once I get thinking in that vein the possibilities just seem endless. But it becomes impossible for me to think of Shaw and Bryce as interchangeable, even if they served similar functions – to provide a deadly threat to Chuck&Sarah’s relationship.

        Heh. I can’t imagine Bryce threatening their lives. Maybe their careers, though.

      • I didn’t like them moving on so fast, but the fact it was Shaw made me feel like Sarah wasn’t that invested. She was (unsuccessfully) trying to move on and was maybe using him to get a transfer to DC so she didn’t have to continually face the man who left her at Prague.

        Bryce and Sarah would have seemed like a more serious relationship because of their history. Then again, it wouldn’t have made sense to be mad at Chuck while Bryce did his our share of betraying Sarah.

      • ArmySFC says:

        Jeff, just my opinion but that would be a hard one to sell. we know several things about those years, one sarah popped eve sometime in 05 (other guy) and from this you posted before “I know the Cabo pictures in the pilot were from 2005 and Bogota was 2005.” the same year. so either bryce would have been a huge dirt bag cheating on his wife before sarah popped her or he really wouldn’t have cared that much about her to be with sarah right after eve was wacked. both would have lowered peoples sympathy for him, like i said a hard sell. now they could have reworked the timeline but you get the idea.

    • garnet says:

      I like to nit-pick with the best of them over plot holes and inconsistancies, but I will disagree with you on the issue of Jill sleeping with Bryce. Bryce was Jill’s excuse. Bryce had little if anything to do with this. The roomate that said Jill was seeing Bryce could reasonably have been told to say this by Jill. Jill failed to control her reactions at least once during the test. So, it seems she can’t fool the lie-detector. That being the case, I think the statement that Bryce did not sleep with Jill is suportable and reasonable.

      I had a love/hate thing going with Bryce. He is a great spy, and he does seem to care about Chuck, and put in a situation where he has no one left to turn to, he does turn to him knowing him to be a “good guy”. He also cares for Sarah, and is willing to use all his skills to woo her back (who wouldn’t). And on the surface, he would be great for Sarah. He is her equal. Chuck, however, is a whole different story, and that is what makes us come back again, and again…and again!

      • uplink2 says:

        Well the problem for me with the Retcon was that the thing they used to change what we have been led to believe for a year and a half and Chuck for 6 and a half was completely worthless. They had clearly established that trained spies, which Jill was, could easily have fooled a lie detector test. Plus at the time it was to her advantage for her mission to do so, just like it was for Sarah in truth. There is no way to state positively it never happened using a lie detector. The only way to have done that was show it didn’t and that wold have been a waste of time. As Ernie pointed out it it much more logical to believe that Fulcrum told Jill to dump Chuck and hook up with Bryce as one could easily assume they knew he had been recruited and what better way to get an in with the agency than to establish a personal relationship between a Fulcrum recruit and a CIA recruit.

        We can all certainly interpret it differently but they discredited their own “proof” long before that. Jill was lying to Chuck all during her arc, why would she suddenly tell the truth about Bryce? A lie detector test result is beyond worthless in the very world Fedak created. To me it is just a big plot hole I can’t accept. Plus it makes for a better storyline if they did I believe.

      • garnet says:

        I’ll just say that I think that a lie-detector test and a truth serum are not quite the same thing. THey established the truth serum was beatable, I don’t recall them establishing that liedetectors were unreliable (if so there was no point to even trying to use it). As far as Bryce goes. did he ever say anything to lead us to believe that he had hooked up with Jill? I am not being argumentative, I just don’t recall him saying that he had. I am happy to be corrected.

    • Rob says:

      Despite all of the questions, some consistency can be found in the Bryce storyline. As Bryce told Chuck at the end of S2, his actions at Stanford were at Orion’s request. Getting Chuck kicked out of school (while a possible unintended consquence) was consistent with Orion’s desire to keep his son out of the spy game.

      In the end, many of the characters come to the realization that Chuck doesn’t need to be protected, and is capable of great things. Maybe Bryce came to that realization (even if out of despiration), and sent the Intersect to Chuck (ultimately against the wishes of Orion).

      • They established Sarah could beat truth serum and the Business Trip hand detector. Jane the Viper could beat the hand detector. Sarah can do anything and Jane was the perfect record assassin, so just because they could do it doesn’t mean everyone could.

        Jill failed the machine test twice: once when being interogated at the beginning and another time when Chuck released her and was no longer looking at the results. I think after that test we are supposed to assume Bryce didn’t sleep with Jill because they continually made him out to be “the guy who was always looking out for Chuck”. I don’t think he was working in Chuck’s best interest, but that doesn’t mean I think he did every bad thing either. The show never nailed down everything 100%, so there is a chance it happened. Most TV shows never down anything completely because they don’t want to close out potential future plot lines.

      • garnet says:

        Thank-you Jeff, I had forgotten about Viper. As a spy however, I don’t think Jill ranked up there with Viper and Sarah so the idea that she could outwit a lie-detector (especially when we saw that she didn’t) seems a bit iffy.

      • atcDave says:

        We were also never really told Jill had any particular training beyond being a biologist. In fact Leader suggested she had never killed anyone, so even if she had some training she was clearly an inexperienced operative. I don’t believe Jill’s “spy skills” went much beyond using her feminine wiles.

      • garnet says:

        That was my feeling too. I had, at one time, thought that Chuck was to be Jill’s “red test” as she really didn’t seem to be on the ball spy wise, but, as I recall, the whole thing was a setup and they didn’t really want to kill Chuck, they wanted in to Castle.

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