you take the road I’ll take the river,
you bring the fire I’ll bring the jewels,
and in the evening underneath the roaring sky,
we will meet and wait and pray for the monsoon
– Luisa’s Bones by Crooked Fingers
Chuck vs. The First Kill begins, like usual for Chuck, at the end of the previous episode (Dream Job). Chuck is watching his father being taken away by Vincent Smith, and Stephen is going willingly. He’s made a bargain with Roark and therefore with Fulcrum – Chuck lives if he “fixes” the Intersect. Orion takes that deal and in one of the most dramatic and memorable scenes ever, Chuck is held back from saving him by – Casey and Sarah, the very people he counted on to help him.
It’s like we need the whole world to be washed away.
Everything’s Different Now
Sarah heard Orion say the words “Maybe I was wrong,” and I’ve wondered since if she understood what he was talking about. What she didn’t hear was the rest of Stephen’s admission and advice to his son, to trust his handlers. We have to ask – Does he?
Chuck’s been different ever since their adventure in the suburbs. He seemed to make a definite decision, one that felt like a punch to the gut; Chuck wasn’t going to move in with Sarah. Instead, he put his relationship with her on hold and threw himself whole-heartedly into something else, something even more important than their problematical future together. He was going to search for Orion and search for his father, and nothing, certainly not the CIA, was going to stop him.
Surprisingly, we saw Chuck hide important information from Sarah, the schematics Orion had given him, hiding them behind his back. You recall that when Sarah discovered his rogue internet search, she was a little upset.
Did I say “a little?” Sarah went ballistic for one very special reason. She wanted his trust. Not like before, when she wanted to protect him. This time she needed him to trust her. In Dream Job and in Predator we saw Sarah trying to prove she was worthy of that trust by helping Chuck find his father, even illegally. Now Fulcrum and Roark had taken him away again, and Chuck’s mission to find Orion, Sarah’s mission to find Chuck’s father and the CIA mission to destroy Fulcrum became one. Big. Monsoon.
But Does He Trust Her?
Sarah: Fro-yo? It’s time to try our latest flavor, Obama Guava. I didn’t make up the name.
Chuck: Uh… no thanks. Not that I’m not thrilled that the CIA has found a new yogurt recipe. I was just, I don’t know, kind of hoping the CIA would find my father first.
Sarah: The government is doing everything they can to find him.
Chuck: How do I know I can trust them? The government wants to keep the Intersect in my head. My father is the only person who can get it out. It’s not rocket science.
Sarah: Okay, I know that you don’t trust them, but do you trust me?
Chuck answers ‘yeah’ – he trusts her. It’s the CIA he doesn’t trust. [Little voice in the back of my head says – “Hey! Isn’t Sarah CIA?” Shut up, little voice.] Maybe it’s just that Sarah can’t help him right now.
There is someone who can help Chuck find his father, someone who knows Fulcrum and their facilities. That would be dreaded Jill Roberts, currently in CIA custody. No, Chuck doesn’t dread her. Sarah does, you know. She’s Chuck’s first love, she once tried to hurt him and kill Sarah and all that comes flooding back instantly.
The adventure is hilariously awesome, with Jill and Chuck pretending to be married in order to get the information they need from a family friend, “Uncle Bernie” (Ken Davitian) (aka “The Carnivore”) who had recruited Jill into Fulcrum. They make quite a team until Chuck’s lethal move (“The Morgan”) kills Bernie before they can find out where Orion has been taken. Jill is still useful, though. And despite Sarah’s strenuous objections (“Chuck, you have to realize that there are some people you just cannot trust.”) they go to Fulcrum’s testing facility to rescue Stephen.
That too is a hilarious bust as “The Morgan” claims the life of yet another Fulcrum agent. But one scene stands out from all the great scenes; at the testing facility, after discovering that Stephen has been moved to Blackrock, Chuck sets Jill free. He gives her the expensive, CIA supplied engagement ring so she has some means to escape, and he lets he go.
With that, he lets go of Jill and his past life and has learned to trust his own instincts, even over Sarah’s. Chuck has traveled a little further down the path he started in Predator, when he hid those schematics from Sarah. This time the act costs him everything.
Casey: Permission to drop the twerp into a deep dark hole, General.
The General orders Casey to detain Chuck and prepare him to be sent to the bunker. She orders Sarah to use Chuck’s trust to bring him back to Castle. In a time-split screen, we hear the orders being given, Sarah arguing with Casey, Morgan saying he trusted the wrong person and Sarah walking into the Buy More to execute the plan. Then we watch her lie.
Did I ever imply that there was a more heart-stopping moment in this show? Maybe I was wrong.
Sarah: [smiling] We have good news.
Chuck: Can it wait? Computer emergency.
Sarah: It’s about your father. We found him.
Chuck: What? How? Where is he?
Sarah: One of our recon teams intercepted his transport as Fulcrum was moving him. He’s back at the Castle. He’s safe, Chuck. It’s all over.
OMG, it’s over! Chuck visibly relaxes, and confesses to Sarah that he had started to think he couldn’t trust her anymore. The CIA was never going to let him go. He apologizes so sincerely for his moment of doubt and thanks her for being the one who was always on his side – it’s heart wrenching. And Sarah’s heart breaks wide open. Then comes my favorite line, first among many.
Sarah: [looks back to the CIA camera watching them, hugs Chuck and whispers] Take off your watch.
Sarah: [Whispers] Because it’s all a lie. Your dad is still out there. Beckman sent me to get you to bring you back to Castle. They’re gonna take you underground. We have to run.
They have to run, this time from the CIA and the only world Sarah has known. Fulcrum? Who are they? In the face of the storm swirling around Chuck and Sarah, Fulcrum is nothing. This is them against the world.
The Squeee Heard ‘Round The World
The Colonel begins where Chuck vs. The First Kill left us, in that most romantic of situations; lovers on the run.
Chuck:You’re committing treason, Sarah. You could go to jail.
Sarah: I know.
With those words we’ve reached an absolutely amazing point in our story. I know you’re all familiar, so I’ll resist retelling every second of it here. But I can’t help but point out one thing.
Everything is different. Chuck’s trust changed Sarah’s mind and changed her life. Now the priorities are different.
But what comes first? Finding Chuck’s father? Keeping Chuck out of the bunker? Fulcrum? Dodging that “cold school killer”, Colonel John Casey? Chuck is more than a little confused about – well, everything. It hardly matters. While Sarah’s brain is methodically and rationally judging their odds of survival, Chuck is wondering about all that and one thing more. Why is Sarah doing this?
“This?” Why has she decided to run away with him, turning against the CIA and her life? Why has she decided that Chuck’s father – Chuck’s mission – is so important? We can wonder all day about what “this” means (and Chuck certainly does) or we can shout out It’s because she loves you, stupid! (and we did).
But “Why are you doing this?” an open ended question. When Chuck finally asks her directly in a dirty motel room east of Barstow, Sarah has an open ended answer, one that satisfies, but only temporarily. “One mission at a time, Chuck.” That’s not going to be the way it goes.
Lots of unasked questions, very few answers. The only truth is that Chuck and Sarah are on the run from the CIA, from Casey, Chuck’s father is in danger and they are tired. It’s time to turn the brains off, because thinking will not help. Not now.
For the moment Chuck and Sarah have decided to not think at all, but to simply be. By the morning Sarah is nestled comfortably into Chuck’s embrace. Where in the list of priorities does this fit? We don’t care. Half asleep and half dreaming, Sarah caresses Chuck’s hand and he wakes to caress hers. Let me tell you about holding hands. It’s often the most sincere, truthful and passionate expression of love. It’s almost always the first and the most innocent.
Chuck and Sarah have that moment, their fingers dancing in morning light as Bon Iver plays Creature Fear.
Even if some events in their lives later come close, I’m convinced nothing is more important or more meaningful or has to be. It’s not Sarah who kisses Chuck next, like she did when she thought they were going to die, and it’s not Chuck who initiates like Roan Montgomery demanded. This time, for the first time, they kiss each other with nothing separating them except the entire world, a world that just doesn’t matter.
Neither of them needs or expects tomorrow to come. In one wordless scene, Chuck and Sarah change from innocent children holding hands to desperate lovers, about to see the monsoon sweep everything away. There’s no looking back. The fans would not permit it, and we are very close to the end.
Meanwhile, Back In Burbank
But it’s all about the priorities, and like I said, they’re all different now. Emmett has ruthlessly taken over the Buy More and Morgan was used like a puppet to make that happen. It comes down to submitting to Emmett in order to save everyone’s job. Is Morgan the only one who cares?
Anna asks him one question, though. Why should he care? It’s only the Buy More. Doesn’t he have any larger dreams? Emmett asks him the same question:
Emmett: Do you want to be a loser for the rest of your life?
Morgan: It’s a fine question, Emmett. If you had asked me that this morning, I would probably have said yes. Now, I’m not so sure.
It’s actually a pretty important question, one that Chuck has been facing for a long time now (and we’ll shortly see him decide to be a spy “in order to make a difference”). As she sits in a cell in Castle, Sarah doesn’t know it yet. But it’s she will soon be facing that question, just like Morgan. But not now. We can only say that the ground has shifted under her feet.
In his Readers Digest Review of The Orion Arc, Ernie wrote this: “Sarah is selfless, and not all in a good way. She follows orders, but more than that, she has little sense of self, who she is and what she wants out of life.” So far, that’s been absolutely true, and I can’t agree more. In fact, since before Barstow, Sarah has been in full spy mode, knocking Casey silly with a piece of lumber, battling Fulcrum agents and arguing with Beckman about saving Stephen. She lost the argument, btw.
But look what happens next. Locked in a cell with her, Chuck displays a bit of dark humor, chuckling that this isn’t so bad.
Chuck: Look, for whatever it’s worth, if I have to spend the rest of my days in a dark, windowless room, I can’t think of a better person to spend it with.
Sarah: It’s not really how this works.
Chuck: What? We can’t request a cozy, little, two-bed, two-bath cell?
Sarah: [smiling] Two-bed?
Touché, Chuck. Maybe Sarah isn’t “just a spy” 24/7 after all. Maybe we’ve just seen Sarah find a little bit of that “sense of self” that Ernie wrote about. See? I told you everything was different!
Regardless, that little bit of jail-house humor shows us that the situation is indeed critical, but not serious. In short order Jeff and Lester save Chuck and Sarah, Sarah wallops Casey for the second time, Chuck spills the beans to Devon and Casey tells the rest of Team B about the three mistakes they made. It is, in a word, awesome.
But not so awesome as the guest stars. Both Chevy Chase as Ted Roark (“Can you dig it?!”) and Scott Bakula as Stephen/Orion (“No, you had it right the first time. I’m going to KILL you!”) loom larger than life, especially in the scenes where they interact. Add in Arnold Vosloo as the spy who would not die (“Feel free to use whatever despicable means are in your nature. Eat them if you want.”), Vincent Smith, and Colonel becomes an episode that only the dead can’t appreciate.
Oh! We need one or two more ingredients. Chuck and Sarah are in a very deep hole, after all. It’ll take more than even the super-spies John Casey and Orion to get them out – it’ll take an air strike by the US military. It’ll take Orion finally saving Chuck from the Intersect. In this story all that explosive firepower and all that wizardry is not overkill, because it’ll take that much to bring down Fulcrum.
Fulcrum? We can’t forget about them – they’re at the heart of S2’s last big story arc! But you have to admit, compared to Chuck and Sarah’s awakening, Fulcrum is almost unimportant. Almost.The last ingredient is much bigger than Fulcrum. Chuck has the Intersect out of his head, he’s out of the CIA and there’s nothing stopping him from being with Sarah. How does that feel?
It feels great, actually, like everything is finally real.
Say it with me. “It is real, Chuck.” These are words that none of us will forget.
One last, little thing. Roark is still alive. Fulcrum isn’t quite done, yet. Ellie isn’t quite married yet.
To Be Continued! – in Part II, The Defeat of Fulcrum, Rise of The Ring.