Chuck vs The Alma Mater (1.07)

While still mostly a “stand alone” episode, Chuck vs The Alma Mater will explore a lot of back story.  This is the episode where we will finally learn more about what happened to Chuck at Stanford, what Chuck and Bryce’s friendship looked like, and why Bryce betrayed Chuck and got him kicked out of school.

Much simpler times

So let’s get right into this mid-S1 mythology heavy episode after the jump.

Alma Mater is an episode I’ve watched many times. I think of it as completing the introduction to the show.  The next four episodes will be the show’s first real arc, while these first seven have established Chuck’s world and situation.  Here we learn that Chuck really is special, and was nearly on the CIA’s radar back in college.  Bryce’s image may be partially restored; he got Chuck expelled from Stanford to protect him from a life that he knew Chuck wasn’t cut out for. Whether taking such unilateral action was actually fair to Chuck or not is another issue.  And we still don’t know why he stole/destroyed the Intersect and sent it to Chuck.

Several things stand out as particularly good about this episode.  I think the biggest is just what Chuck learns about his end at Stanford, and that it does bring him some measure of peace.  Sarah being with Chuck at the end is a beautiful scene; I love how it reflects well on both Chuck and Bryce.  Chuck inspires loyalty even from Bryce, and Bryce’s actions are partially redeemed in Sarah’s eyes.  When Bryce’s death turns out to be somewhat exaggerated  this redemption will cause some grief.  But for now we can call it a good thing.

I also like the Buy More sub-plot more than I often do here.  Particularly the first break room scene and Anna offering to have Harry killed (okay, I’m sick.  But it sure makes me laugh every time!); the Lord of the Rings symbolism; and Morgan’s victory over Harry with the remote [although, I owned a Logitech Harmony 880 for many years (the remote being used) and the “code” Chuck provides is utter non-sense and has nothing to do with how a Harmony remote works!  Don’t worry, I’m not terribly concerned about it.  It actually makes the scene that much funnier for me].

I don’t have much to complain about with this episode. Minor beefs; Casey and Sarah have too much difficulty with too small a group of baddies.  And I would have liked to see them be more effective in reducing their numbers before the “cavalry” arrives. Perhaps budget was an issue even in S1?!  And Chuck takes a little too long to “man up” and go along with this mission; although his hesitation doesn’t seem to cause Casey or Sarah too much concern.  I don’t think Casey expects eager participation from Chuck yet, and Sarah is just as happy to have him stay out of trouble.  There also may be a minor inconsistency on the meeting Jill story; what we saw at the end seems slightly different from what we heard in the Pilot (where it sounded more like a random encounter).  But to be clear, I’m not crying “retcon” here.  This can be made to work, just because Bryce facilitated the meeting doesn’t mean they didn’t accidentally bump heads!

A word about “average”

In a way, I consider Alma Mater another “average” episode.  But just to avoid confusion this time, where Chuck is concerned, average is very good.  But I say average to seperate it from the episodes I think excell (the first three and last two), and from those I think are weaker (Wookie and the four S1 arc episodes).  That gives me five strong episodes, five weaker ones, and three in the middle (“average”).  But the context on all things Chuck, is that I like even the weaker episodes; and average episodes were still the highlight of my television week when they first ran.  I mostly liked every single S1 episode; in fact, S2, which I generally consider even stronger than S1, generated two episodes (Ex, Beefcake) that I like less than any S1 episode.  But even then, only S3 generated any Chuck episodes that I actually dislike (seven of them).  And for the record; S4 generated two (Anniversary, Gobbler) and S5 generated one episode (Curse) that I consider “weak”.

These are all just my opinions.  They will color my comments on each episode at the appropriate time.  Obviously no one ever has to share my opinions, but I make no effort to hide them either.

~ Dave

Joe’s Take – Soft. Like Pudding!

I’d say this is a different kind of episode, Dave. There’s something about those first eight bars of the first song we hear that’s full of energy. You remember; that’s the scene where Devon and his “frat bros.” are tossing a football around the apartment’s fountain, and again on the Stanford campus. I can’t hear those notes without smiling!

And that energy continues in a most unusual way – it’s in Anna’s eye when she suggests that she knows someone who’ll take care of Morgan’s problem – “He’s very reasonable – I’m just sayin'”. This is just fun! Oh yeah, the comedy third of this episode, the Despotic Rule of Harry Tang!, is operating on all cylinders. Hossahs to C.S. Lee for that! “One Remote To Rule Them All!” is still a wonderful reference to LOTR, one that never fails to make me grin.

The adventure part is pretty good too. Chuck is stalked by an Icelandic assassin named Magnus (heh!) who is a terror with a crossbow. That’s not bad!

But I’ll tell you where I really love this episode. It’s in the part where Chuck and Sarah are walking to the library, discussing Bryce and how he betrayed a lot of people. Chuck’s not concerned with Sarah at that moment, with his fake-boyfriend status or with the mission. Right then, he’s really more concerned with his own mission – finding out why he’s in the Intersect. What I see is that this is precisely when Sarah starts to drop her cover.

Sarah: What is it?
Chuck: I don’t know. I mean, I figured this would be tough, but this place… it’s just a lot to take in. You know? I used to have so much fun here, and then …
Sarah: And then?
Chuck: It was the worst day of my life, getting kicked out of here. – having to hear Ellie’s voice when I told her I was coming home, packing up all my stuff, and leaving as Bryce just stood there… said I brought it on myself.
Sarah: Why do you think that Bryce betrayed you?
Chuck: I don’t know. He’s had four years to call and set the record straight, and now that he’s gone… You know what? Forget it. Bryce has betrayed a lot of people. Hasn’t he?
Casey: Hum. Roger that.

That’s not a spy on a mission, but a girlfriend. We’ll see that look again, of course, but when Chuck is giving her “The Bartowski Tour” around campus, it reminds me of nothing so much as the kitchen scene in Suburbs. Sarah is real.

Something important happens when Casey and Sarah are trapped in the lecture hall by Magnus’ men, too. Sarah lies to Casey about the amount of ammo she has left. Why would she do that?

I decided there’s only one reason. She was not going to surrender and she was not going to let Casey surrender until there was no hope left. It wasn’t going to succeed, and she knew that – it was only to buy some time for Chuck. Was this the first time Sarah was ready to sacrifice her life for him? I think so. This comes exactly at the time when Chuck is least concerned with his future with Sarah and most concerned with his own mission, finding out what was on Professor Fleming’s disk.

We’ll see that again, too, especially in S2 at the end of Lethal Weapon.

It’s a swirl of emotions, captured perfectly in the last scene when Chuck and Sarah discover that Bryce didn’t exactly betray him. No, Bryce tried to save him. That doesn’t explain why he later sent Chuck the Intersect and it doesn’t explain (to Sarah) Bryce’s actions in going against his CIA-superior’s orders, but it calls into question everything we thought we knew about Bryce, Sarah and Omaha.

Sarah’s near tears at the revelation for a good reason. Chuck, Sarah and the viewers all found out together that there was something deeper going on, and that Bryce wasn’t one of the bad guys. Sarah has discovered that Chuck was thrown into an impossible situation by something way out of his control. “Unfair!”, she’s saying to herself. I remember the first time I saw that – my jaw dropped.

Finally, I’d like to point out just one more thing. Last week, when I wrote about Chuck vs. The Sandworm, I mentioned that it was the first time Chuck actively sought out and solicited a mission. This time, Beckman comes to Chuck and asks him to be part of this mission, specifically because of his history with Prof. Fleming.

Chuck’s growing as a spy, one step at a time.

– joe

Dave Again

I agree with all of that Joe.  I think there’s a strong “realness” of Sarah in this episode.  It’s not often we see her so unguarded for so long.  I think that’s part of why the emotional hook was so effective on this show; Sarah unguarded is a wonderful thing, and yet we only see it in glimpses until late S3.  We spent most of 2 2/3s seasons waiting for those defenses to come crashing down and it rarely happened.  We always saw just enough to know, that when she finally confessed to falling for Chuck in the first 48 hours she knew him that it was true.  But it took a long time for Chuck to be sure. I think this also plays into why Chuck can later tell her that she isn’t a very good liar.  In spite of her schemes and scams and manipulations, her honest emotions do often leak through.  And for someone who’s actually paying close attention to her, like say, Chuck (!), her lies can be seen through.

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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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85 Responses to Chuck vs The Alma Mater (1.07)

  1. authorguy says:

    Originally one of my favorite episodes from S1. I especially loved the ‘redemption’ of Bryce, that he did what he did to save Chuck, although it opens up a giant can of worms and makes a coherent storyline for his character nearly impossible. It doesn’t help that they kept bringing him back just to undercut the C&S romance, which makes him seem less than friendly. I still enjoy it for the Charah, but the weaknesses are glaring.
    Loved the Bartowski Memorial Tour, but the gunfight was especially weak. I don”t think they shot anyone. The crossbow was weirdly random, but the code phrase was such an early tipoff. Also, what happened to that disappearing library guard, who starts yelling at Chuck about overdue fines but then vanishes when the bad guys show up. And do they honestly expect me to believe that a Guy who remembers 98% of what he sees can’t remember a library call number?
    What do you think happened to that disk? I would have expected Sarah to snap it in two, there in the hall.

    • thinkling says:

      I didn’t really question a lot of that the first time through, but on rewatch I, too, thought how in the world can Casey and Sarah miss all those bad guys. That was a bit much.

      I gave a passing thought to Chuck’s inability to remember the library numbers, but I didn’t care that the guard vanished. The guard was just a dispensable prop. Of course, how many campus security guards do you know that would stick around with the bad guys, just for an overdue library book. I actually thought the librarian’s reaction to collecting the fee was too much much ado about nothing. But mostly that stuff is inconsequential and doesn’t bother me in the bigger scheme of things and the enjoyment of this episode.

      I really liked the redemption of Bryce, and I agree that his three curtain calls, just to distract the leading lady, were a bit much. However, I like the fact that it forced her to choose Chuck over Bryce (her former lover and the archetype of love in her life) … not because Bryce was dead, and not because Bryce betrayed her, but because Chuck was the better man, and she loved him. Really loved him. That was a wonderful progression for Sarah, and I think Bryce was the best vehicle to portray it. We got to see her actively choose Chuck over a redeemed Bryce. Nice.

      • atcDave says:

        I also really liked the redemption of Bryce. Especially since it doesn’t particularly make him to be a “nice guy”, just not a bad guy.
        I also like how clearly Sarah chooses Chuck over Bryce, several times. Of all the triangles used on this show, I find Bruce the least troublesome, I completely buy his role, history and place on the show.

      • Dave, I don’t know whether you typed Bruce on purpose, but it reminded me of the Pilot, and I laughed. “You give me crap for being Chuck, and you dated a Bruce?”

      • atcDave says:

        Funny Arthur, that was a typo, but an amusingly appropriate one.

      • resaw says:

        Thinkling, nice indeed. And nicely said as well.

      • I really like Thinkling’s comment, and it got me thinking a little about Sarah’s perspective. By choosing Chuck over Bryce, she’s not really just choosing between men. She’s choosing between the lives she wants to lead. On that beach, she’s choosing between whether she wants to continue her life of mystery and excitement, or give that away (as Chuck no longer has an intersect) for the “real” life she’s never experienced. It’s one of the more eloquent aspects of this show that as much as Chuck contributes to Sarah’s growth as a person, that growth happens both independently from and concurrently with the deepening of their relationship.

      • joe says:

        That’s more than insightful, Arthur. It also provides a bit of continuity between season 1 and what comes later.

        Great comment!

      • atcDave says:

        It also goes right back to Sarah’s comment to Carina, “I’m good here.”

      • Thanks Joe. And I agree, Dave. Watching Sarah grow from the loner who casually likes her new assignment, to the scene on the beach where she chooses her new life over her old – and then to Baby, where she finally realizes she is “not alone,” and her old life doesn’t even have relevance to her current personality.

        To me, the character growth in the four major characters is the joy of the show.

      • thinkling says:

        To me, the character growth in the four major characters is the joy of the show.

        YES!!!!!! Oh my, that is really what I love about Chuck. I also really love the romance, but then again the romance and growth are so intertwined that each would mean less without the other.

    • joe says:

      “[I]t opens up a giant can of worms and makes a coherent storyline for his character nearly impossible.”

      Yeah, that was my first thought too when I saw this episode the first time, Author. I remember that distinctly!

      But I also recall thinking that it was a pretty cool twist, and I wanted to see how they were going to accomplish that nearly impossible feat, and make a coherent story line.

      Man, for being a dead man, Bryce sure had a lot of impact in those early episodes. It’s almost a pity that Bomer was so good in the part, because that talent landed him his own show and gave us…

      Naw. I won’t say it.

  2. resaw says:

    Dave and Joe, I really appreciate your reviews. You share your observations and it allows the rest of us to consider the show as well, agree with you, disagree, or take a scene or development in a different direction.

    Personally, I think that Alma Mater ranks among the best of the Season 1 shows. In fact, of the seven episodes shown thus far, I would probably give this one 2nd place, after the pilot and ahead of Wookiee. I will not (yet) consider later episodes in my ranking….

    What tickles my Chuck fancy is an episode that provides new knowledge of who these characters are, and/or provides memorable emotional scenes. Sometimes, even one scene can provide all that is necessary for me to see that episode as superior. Usually, it involves a few seconds focused on Sarah’s face, as we got here in Chuck’s room while they reviewed Professor Fleming’s recorded conversation with Bryce.

    That dialogue—marvelous stuff by the writers and marvelous acting by Zach and Yvonne. Sarah on the verge of tears, looking at the video and looking at Chuck. Chuck absorbing it all. As you suggest, gentlemen, the unguarded “real” Sarah in these early episodes is a treasure every time we get a glimpse.

    Chuck: “Bryce framed me for cheating to save me. Why didn’t he just tell me that to begin with?”

    Sarah: “He couldn’t. They had already recruited him.”

    Chuck: Well, look, if he had good reason for getting me kicked out, maybe he had a good reason to break into the intersect, too.”

    Sarah: “And maybe he had a good reason for sending it to you.”

    Chuck: “I just wish I could talk to him. It must have tore him up to not be able to tell me.”

    (Sarah’s expression in the hallway.)

    Not to say that this isn’t also a crazy “out there” episode, for all the Buymore-related reasons that Joe states:

    Harry: “I hope you were aiming for the recycling bin, Grimes, now that I’m instituting a new Buymore green program. Tree-hugging is all the rage these days. I plan on exploiting the burgeoning conscience of the American consumer.” (Ominous music in the background!)

    One thing: The show never suggests that Professor Fleming dies, but we never see him in any role afterward. His role would suggest that Chuck would have been relentless in finding out as much as he could from the professor, given the opportunity.

    • jam says:

      For me, Alma Mater is also one of the better episodes of S1. I suppose later Bryce stuff somewhat lessens the impact of this episode, but not too much.

      “One thing: The show never suggests that Professor Fleming dies, but we never see him in any role afterward..”

      Yeah, that’s pretty strange. But he does appear in anthropocene’s excellent post-finale fic!

      • atcDave says:

        I’m glad to find so much love for Alma Mater! It really is a dynamite episode. As I indicated above, my only real knock is that I like several episodes better. But the baseline is so high for this show, I think I’ve happily watched Alma Mater 30+ times!

      • joe says:

        Jam, every time I see Alma Mater, I think about the way Bryce and Sarah interact in The Break-Up. They do “the forbidden dance” together in the ball room, but Sarah’s making it into more of an angry tango.

        Always made me think that there’s more to their relationship than we know. It season 4, I realize that the “something more” was Chuck.

      • anthropocene says:

        Thanks for the kind words, jam! I always wondered why TPTB never brought Professor Fleming back given his connections to the CIA and Bryce.

    • joe says:

      Good analysis, Resaw. This is very much an episode that defines the characters and the situation for us. I suspect (my way of saying that this is an unsupported opinion) that the reason Alma Mater often comes across as middling when we think of S1 is that the episode does little to move Chuck and Sarah forward in their relationship. On the surface, it’s about Chuck’s history.

      But that’s major deceptive. We don’t see it until the last 30 seconds or so, but it’s about Sarah’s history too. And like I tried to get across, now I notice how Sarah is acting differently with Chuck, when she can. I see less of the spy-handler and more of the girlfriend.

      Mostly what this episode does is make me want to watch more Chuck pronto!

  3. Bill says:

    Very good write-ups. Thanks.

    I’ve never really settled on an interpretation of Sarah’s facial expressions in the hallway at the end of this episode. Is it regret about having thought Bryce was a traitor? Fear for Chuck now that she knows Bryce wanted to keep him out of the spy life? Confusion about her feelings for two very different men?

    • atcDave says:

      Bill I think you summed up Sarah’s intense and conflicted look quite well! I think may have felt all those things you mentioned.

    • joe says:

      Yvonne should have a banner under the star on her door that reads “Conflicted R Us!” (with a backwards “R”, of course).

      She’s so good with that.

  4. thinkling says:

    Great review, Dave and Joe. For me, when viewed in the series as a whole, I rank it as average for enjoyment and one of the top episodes for significance. I remember being totally surprised and thrilled with the reveal of the back story and Bryce’s redemption and the whole thing. The back story made the whole series more interesting. As meaningful as it is, though, it’s not an episode that I rewatch a lot. Because of that, I really enjoyed it this time, because it’s been forever since I’ve rewatched it.

    Harry Tang is truly a character we can love to hate. He is like nails on a chalk board every time he is on screen. Agghhh.

    Joe, I had forgotten all about Anna’s outside of the box thinking for the Tang solution. It made me laugh out loud. But the thing that makes it so hilarious is that that kind of solution is no longer outside of Chuck’s box. A few months ago, he would have laughed it off. Now, however, he panics … and asks the only assassin he knows (or rather the one of the two he knows that might actually consider it) if Anna asked him to rub out Tang. Casey’s answer is the best, “No. Do you want me to?” (His trigger finger must be itchy.) After that the Buymore plot was downhill for me, but I loved that much of it.

    Dave, great point about that last scene and how it reflected well on everyone. Bryce: Bryce was motivated by true friendship. He was willing to sacrifice the friendship to save the friend. Redemption indeed! Another cost of the secrets and lies of spies. As you say, the merit of his actions is debatable, but his motivation is good. Right along with Chuck and Sarah, we learn so much from this scene. Sarah, though, is the one with the background and knowledge to really understand the implications … more so than Chuck and more so than us.

    Among other things, we learn one of the key truths (if not THE key truth) that the show and its dilemmas revolve around: Chuck is a good person. He’s got too much heart for this kind of work. He’s not an operative. … He won’t survive [in the field]. But Chuck is too promising a recruit. The CIA will never give him up. So Bryce changes (or delays) Chuck’s destiny.

    Chuck sees the truth, gains closure and forgives his friend … at least for getting him kicked out of Stanford. He extends his non-traitor view of Bryce to other things. If he had a good reason for getting me kicked out, maybe ha had a good reason for breaking into the Intersect.

    At this point Sarah has pieced it all together. She is ahead of us in understanding all the ramifications of Chuck’s test scores, Chuck’s significance in all of this, and why Bryce did what Bryce did: And maybe he had a good reason for sending it to you. Bryce sent Chuck the Intersect, because he knew that Chuck had the mental and moral capacity to handle it. So much revealed in such a brief scene.

    Sarah’s hallway emotions are a bit of a mystery, but I can only imagine that she is losing Bryce, the Bryce she knew, all over again. It’s probably mixed with the pain of the realization of the cost of the spy world to Bryce and herself, of course, but they chose that life. But Chuck, a good man, an innocent in the ways of spy? His life was turned upside down because of the spy world … twice. I imagine her resolve to protect him is reinforced.

    Which brings me to Sarah in the episode. Good catch, Joe, about Sarah’s motivations to lie to Casey. Protect Chuck. Buy him time. Of course Chuck was finding a creative solution to the problem. As I watched that scene, I couldn’t help thinking of the end of Bo, where Casey and Sarah were pinned down, and Sarah sacrificed herself to save Chuck. Some things don’t change throughout the series, but the stakes are continually raised. In the end it’s an all or nothing game.

    Dave, I like this version of Sarah as the true friend that we see more and more in S1. It’s the girlfriend I’m-in-love-with-him side that we only see glimpses of, but when we do they are powerful … and so obvious. I do think we see a little of the girlfriend coming through.

    Besides the disc scene at the end, I really love the Stanford scene, before they get down to the spy business they came for. I like watching Sarah participate in real life. She’s having fun again. (And that is always fun for me.) She loves watching Ellie and Devon … the real couple. Their love and light-hearted banter make her smile. As Chuck reminisces, Sarah shows genuine concern. (I love this scene.) Besides concern, Sarah also seems to need further explanation about something that most people would automatically get. Sarah learns a little more about normal life. It hit me on rewatch that Sarah can’t really relate to Chuck’s devastation at disappointing Ellie. Her dad was more likely to be disappointed that she finished Harvard and entered the CIA … that she had turned into an upstanding citizen, instead of the skilled con woman he trained her to be. She learned early to stuff those feelings and regrets, forgetting how powerfully they still affect other people. I think this is when that aspect of Chuck’s life and psyche clicks for her. So, Sarah defaults to the one thing she can relate to, a question she probably asks herself often. Why do you think Bryce betrayed you? If there’s an answer to that question, then maybe she wasn’t a sucker. That’s what her dad drilled into her, as opposed to the values Chuck’s parents and sister drilled into him.

    Casey’s reaction in the background is interesting to watch, too. Though he cares less, he gets it more. One last contrast between Sarah and Casey reacting to Chuck. Sarah wants Chuck to wait outside (can we say compromised). Casey is please when Chuck mans up to the task. Another tension that continues to play out until Subway, when Casey acknowledges that their boy has become a spy.

    As Dave said, even an average Chuck episode is way above average TV.

  5. joe says:

    I had a hard time identifying that tune I referenced – my notes were incorrect.
    The song is Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis.

    Here ya go!

  6. I’ve never really re-watched this episode much; I thought it was kind of boring the first time through. This time, though I was surprised by just how entertaining it was. Harry Tang was amazing in this episode. I usually don’t like when the Buy More scenes are too far removed from Chuck’s quest, but he and Morgan played so well off each other it didn’t matter. And Tom Jones’ handling of his themes just made it all that much better.

    Speaking of which, it was very interesting that the Chuck/Sarah theme started playing in the middle of the Bryce CD, not with those two still on screen. I know it was ultimately a moment they were sharing, but usually they’re both in screen when they start the theme. I don’t know if they’ve ever done something like this. Makes me wonder if the theme was originally intended differently – like for Chuck’s personal moments.

    The main quest, not so great. The show is much worse for Chuck’s moments of neurotic hesitation, whenever they come up, and his refusal to go to Stanford was inane.

    But on the other hand, it’s also part of his journey. Chuck’s still a reluctant hero at this point, and even though he’s been asked to be a hero, he’s still trying to escape it, if not as desperately as in Season 2. That transition is slow coming, but it’s disappointing that he’s only really motivated to go by his curiosity about the intersect. The self-centeredness is understandable in light of his circumstances, but it’s not all that pleasant to watch.

    Season 1 is probably my least favorite, but it’s fun to watch the writers finding the characters while the characters find themselves. We see our first real glimpse of hippie-hating neo-con Casey – which is even better when the jobless hippie turns out to be a CIA agent who saves Casey’s life. Yvonne Strahovski is just so damn talented. She pulls out a new trick every episode. Here, she’s having to grieve for Bryce all over again, as she realizes his story might be more complex than she’d thought, and that she’s never going to see him again. You know – since death is so final, and he’s definitely not coming back to life in the next episode again 🙂

    I understand the criticism of the shootout, but I think it’s a little understandable. The attackers used their cover well, and their objective wasn’t to defeat the room, it was to buy time. They’re shooting around the perimeter to keep the agents in place – and unable to chase Chuck.

    • Also I love that Chuck always, always picks up the phone when Morgan calls. Casey and Sarah are in a gunfight, man!

    • atcDave says:

      I agree about how Chuck’s reluctance is a little disappointing, but I do agree it’s understandable this early on. But overall I do love S1; by my count there’s five episodes I consider among the very best (first three, last two) and none that I consider extremely weak (although I do consider five episodes “weaker”, that’s only a relative term, there was nothing in S1 I disliked). I might consider S1 my fourth favorite, but I think highly of those top four seasons. Maybe like choosing your favorite child… (but then the one season I don’t like is like the neighbor kid who just won’t leave!)

  7. resaw says:

    OK. A question for you Americans. I have no idea about college football in the US. Is that kind of partying on campus, the booths and tables, etc., all part of a typical football game day? I have no problem discounting the likelihood of Icelandic spies using crossbows, but football…. That’s another matter altogether.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah that’s not uncommon Resaw. Especially for a homecoming game (one special home game, usually in October, when alumni traditionally attend). But really, at major campuses, home football games are usually a big excuse for parties and celebration. I work in Ann Arbor, and a home football game will paralyze the city for the day (a city of 110000, and a stadium that seats 105000). We will have banner tow aircraft, blimp, and helicopters in the air, traffic cops at every major intersection, and a Mecca for mass commercialism surrounding the stadium. It’s crazy, lot’s of fun, but crazy.

      • joe says:

        I can’t resist retelling this story.

        Dave knows that I was a grad student in Ann Arbor, and I was there during the height of the Bo Schbeckler years. In (I think in was) ’77, I was on the 14th floor of the Denizen building one Saturday, studying, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Out my window was this huge, massive THING.

        Nearly had a heart attack. It was the Goodyear blimp – Ohio State was in town and the winner of that game was going to the Rose Bowl. I remember that Art Schleister was the OSU quarterback – he later was drafted into the NFL to play for Baltimore where he got into trouble. But he was a great college QB, a cut above the others that year. Near the end of the 4th quarter, he lead a charge down to the Michigan 35 or so, and everyone was thinking that this final drive was going to win the game for Ohio, but Schleister fumbled the ball to a great Michigan defense. The Maize & Blue hung on to win the game.

        Now *that* was a party! I’ve never seen 105000 people charge a stadium floor before. It’s AWESOME!

      • atcDave says:

        My own random story to add would have to do with getting a ride in a blimp a few years back, truly unique experience. Because of their buoyancy the pilot can point it straight down without gaining speed, they have to drive it right onto the mast. Very interesting.

        I’d also point out that since 9/11 airspace regulations have grown far more restrictive, so typically everyone except the blimp a news crew or two will have to land an hour prior to kick off. So some of the noise and chaos actually let’s up now right before game time. But its still a crazy environment. Typically an all day party, especially when the home team wins.

    • anthropocene says:

      I haven’t had a chance to watch this episode again, so I don’t recall if it was specifically identified as homecoming—but since Stanford and UCLA were Pac-10 (now Pac-12) rivals it would make sense. I’m employed at another (name redacted) Pac-12 school and can emphatically second Dave’s comments. Major universities put on big weekend shows like this (festivals, barbeques, parades, displays of current research activity, balloons, booths, bands, fireworks) in tandem with major games largely for the benefit of visiting alumni and athletic-program boosters, hoping to keep them happy and generous. I’ve spent many a Homecoming Saturday staffing my department’s booth doing fun science activities with kids and parents. Sometimes the game itself is anticlimactic.

    • anthropocene says:

      Perhaps I should also note that “Pac-12” is the Pacific-12 Conference, one of several major US collegiate athletic conferences and the one that includes Stanford and UCLA.

      • joe says:

        In the context of the show, I guess we should also note that both Stanford and UCLA are big football schools with a long standing tradition and rivalry. I haven’t been to either campus, but I have no trouble believing that what we saw was pretty standard for a home-coming game.

        Heh. I was going to mention the hippies being standard too when I started thinking about Casey’s scene with the hippy wanting him to plant a tree. This was the first time I noticed that the hippy was also one of the CIA recruits that Chuck called (“Do you want to come to a toga party?”). Cute.

        There’s always something new to be seen.

      • atcDave says:

        Homecoming was not mentioned in the episode, but it originally ran in early November, so it certainly is a possibility.

        A funny side note, Awesome refers to being sorry that Stanford is such a horrible team, which was true of that “rivalry” for many, many years. But it suddenly ended during the run of Chuck with a resurgence of quality play for Stanford. It would have been funny to get a call back of sorts with Devon whining that the UCLA/Stanford game had become far more challenging since Chuck graduated!

    • anthropocene says:

      Our Homecoming game is tomorrow, and our opponent: UCLA !

  8. resaw says:

    Thanks for all the football info, and stories, guys.

  9. uplink2 says:

    Well for me this episode strikes so much of the difficulty in really grasping much of what the writers were telling us but showing something very different even early on. There is a lot to accept about a redeemed Bryce that is and always has been impossible for me to accept. First, we are told that Bryce framed Chuck for cheating, screwed his girlfriend and then upon his death sent him the Intersect. Here in this episode we are told that he did the first part of it to “protect him” and keep him from the spy life. Starting with the basic concept that Bryce believed he had the right to make decisions about Chuck’s future and take away his freedom of choice without his knowledge is a concept I can never accept. Then when Chuck rightfully asks why he simply didn’t come to him, Sarah says he couldn’t because they had already recruited him. That is BS. It simply isn’t what a best friend does no matter what the circumstances. I forgive Sarah for it because she never had a best friend as we learn quite clearly later on. She has no idea what that means and to her Bryce’s actions of keeping it from Chuck were understandable. A concept I will never agree to.

    I won’t go deep into the fact that Bryce was actually already committing treason by denying the country the best possible talent to defend itself. But he was. Not only does he think he has the right to take away Chuck’s freedom of choice but he also thinks he has the right to make decisions for the government as well. But we are expected to accept his redemption simply because that treason was it to “protect him”.

    But the whole “protecting him” argument falls apart again three episodes later when we learn that Bryce never once tried to check up on Chuck and make sure he was ok. He never bothered to concern himself with the damage his actions caused. If he really was trying to “protect” Chuck, a real friend would have at least used a little of his spy training to clandestinely make sure Chuck was still “protected” and ok. He doesn’t because the consequences of his actions were never a concern to Bryce. He thought he had the right to take Chuck’s freedom of choice away and had no real concern for the destruction he caused his supposed best friend he oh yea, was trying to protect.

    Bryce again those three episodes later tries to take away the only person who really is trying to protect Chuck and keep him from being killed or sent to a bunker, Sarah. Casey protected Chuck but would have terminated him if so asked and gone out for pancakes at this point in the story. But Bryce’s lack of concern for Chuck or the consequences of him taking Sarah away was because well his mission is more important than Chuck and he wants her back by his side, not Chuck’s. That again shows that the idea of ‘protecting’ Chuck is highly flawed. It makes for a much deeper mythology and more interesting story but it was anything but ‘protecting’ his best friend.

    Now we come to the ultimate overturning of the idea of redeeming Bryce and him wanting to ‘protect’ Chuck when he sends Chuck the Intersect in the first place. Not only is he again taking away Chuck’s freedom to choose his own future he is also completely ignoring the collateral damage sending it to him would cause Chuck and everyone around him. Ellie’s, Devon’s, and Morgan’s lives were all threatened by Bryce’s actions. Hell Emmitt was even murdered because of it. Sending Chuck the Intersect is the exact opposite of protecting him. It is a death sentence or at least life in prison. But not only does Bryce do it without remorse he also again wants to take away one of the two people keeping him alive and that sentence from not being enforced. All because well, he is Bryce Larkin and has that right to decide all things for someone of less significance and importance like Chuck Bartowski.

    I understand the deeper back story they were trying to tell us in this episode but unfortunately I never bought it. It was another case of telling me something but showing something completely different. But maybe that was their intent. Bryce Larkin is an important character in this story but I would never characterize him as a good guy. He was a great agent, but a terrible friend whose redemption falls very short for me. Bryce Larkin never did anything to really protect Chuck. It was all a plot device to create the drama and I guess show us Chuck’s incredible ability to forgive but he was never truly redeemed for me. He only finally surrenders his pursuit of Sarah in Ring 1 when it is quite clear to everyone she loves Chuck deeply and tells him she is staying. A true best friend, someone who supposedly cared for Sarah and that wanted redemption and to protect Chuck would have told her to stay in the first place.

    • joe says:

      Wow, Uplink. That’s a lot to process – it’s a complete review all by itself.

      But I’m having trouble recognizing the show I know in what you wrote. I think I understand you’re complaint is mostly about Bryce’s motivation. Is that right? Given his actions, it seems weak to you?

      Well, I can think of two things on that which may make a difference. First, we don’t know it yet, but later (end of S2) we learn that Bryce wasn’t acting alone – he was doing this with Orion. That’s papa Bartowski, who always has Chuck’s best interest at heart, we must assume. I’m pretty sure that the intent of TPTB when they gave us that bit of information was to show us that Bryce too was conflicted between his status as an agent and his loyalty to his friend and roommate. Throughout the show, that’s exactly the kind of conflict with which all the characters wrestle at one point or another (with the possible exceptions Jeff and Lester, and I’m not certain about Jeff! 😉 ).

      Second, I think that, mechanically, the writers always had to give some plausibility to Bryce’s actions, because no matter what, his motivations had to be right there on the line between good and bad. Ambiguous. As part of their story, we were meant to mis-interpret Bryce at the start if only to reinforce the idea that, in the spy world, nothing is as it seems. Nothing can be taken for granted. And after his motives are revealed, we were still supposed to harbor doubts about what we thought we knew.

      As a bonus, it lets us have some doubt about Sarah’s feelings towards Chuck, too, if only a tiny bit.

      I actually enjoyed that aspect a bit, Uplink!

      • atcDave says:

        I also liked how Bryce was a mixed bag. I’m not sure he was working with Orion yet, I’m still not clear on the sequence of that; but my impression was that Orion came along after and trusted Bryce because he had shown loyalty to Chuck above and beyond the Agency.
        But either way it still leaves Bryce mixed or ambiguous. I think we can safely conclude he never actually did anything with Jill. At least, he never brought it up; and Jill denied it, for whatever that’s worth.
        What Bryce did “for” Chuck could absolutely be considered as protecting him. But it is a unilateral action that removes all control of his future from Chuck. I find it amusing that Orion approves of the action, since Orion is also guilty of the same sort of selfish/ignorant “helping” people; like abandoning his family and later trying to convince Chuck to abandon Sarah. I don’t really care for either characters’ decision making, but I am willing to believe they thought they were doing “the right thing”.
        But that really is hard to reconcile with Bryce sending Chuck the Intersect. I would guess it was a panic move after Bryce knew he wasn’t going to escape with it. Perhaps he thought sending it to Orion’s son was a good idea. Or perhaps it was a pure mistake and he meant to send it to Orion himself (and later, Bryce couldn’t bring himself to admit it was a mistake and gave Chuck the whole “right thing” BS). Certainly if he’d thought it through he would have realized he was likely ruining Chuck’s life even moreso than if he’d allowed him to be recruited in college.
        Allthough it is interesting to note; that in the end, Chuck did always do the right thing with the Intersect, and it actually did more to help Chuck than hurt him.

      • joe says:

        I’m trying to think of an instance where Chuck made a bad decision, and the only one I can come up with, is Prague. Fail! That cost us 11 episodes! 😉

      • uplink2 says:

        Yes the reasons they are telling us for his actions ARE weak to me. And they are weakened even more by what we learn in Nemesis that Bryce made absolutely no attempt to check on the man he was trying to protect. He simply destroys his life, takes away his freedom then simply walks away. And when he comes back he tries to take away the person who actually WAS protecting him. Now we don’t absolutely know when Orion and Bryce started working together and if Orion had anything to do with Stanford or do we? But the idea of Bryce working with Orion only makes this supposed “protecting” of Chuck even more offensive to me. What ‘best friend’ takes the desires of a parent over their friend? Who is his loyalty to? Chuck was an adult and had the right to make his own decisions. Orion gave up the right to be an impact player in Chuck and Ellie’s life when he abandoned them again to supposedly ‘protect’ them. But at least he followed up on them for a while. Bryce never concerned himself at all with the aftermath of his actions in Chuck’s life. That fact alone makes the concept of truly protecting him not work for me. What it does say is that Orion is a rotten father and Bryce a rotten friend.

        I realize that the writers were trying to keep a sense of doubt for both Bryce and Sarah at this time towards Chuck and they continue that throughout the series at least with Bryce till his very end. Bryce’s final appeal to Sarah to come with him shows he always put himself and his needs whether mission related or personal ahead of Chuck. He knew clearly then that they loved each other but was very willing to take the love of Chuck’s life away from him for his needs. He only capitulates when he knows he has lost but never once tries to tell them he is happy for them like a ‘best friend’ would. Now I may agree with Dave that both Bryce and Orion may have thought they were doing the right thing but it leads us to the absurd idea that they both felt they knew better than Chuck what to do with his future. It is a central theme here and leads to much pain in Chuck’s life. They were both telling him he was a failure and couldn’t be trusted to make his own decisions. No wonder Chuck had so many issues with friends and family like that.

      • atcDave says:

        Uplink I do agree with most of that, but in the end it just means Bryce and Orion are severely flawed characters. They both want to do right, but really have no clue about caring for other people beyond their physical safety. Bryce in particular, seems to have a bit of a hero complex; he’s happy to do great things, risk everything, kill or die for his friends. But he can’t be bothered to actually talk honestly or find out what others may need personally or emotionally.
        We actually see some of this in Sarah too, although never as extreme. She actually does take the time to talk to Chuck about his life and feelings; but like Bryce, she’s more comfortable with the grand heroic gestures than she is with a more personal commitment. Of course Sarah grows a lot more over the course of the show than Bryce does in his more limited role.

        Joe I can think of a few other times Chuck made bad decisions; like lying to Sarah about his health concerns late in S3, trying to abandon her in Subway (that REALLY irks me), and running off on a solo mission in Curse. But of course none of those things involve any sort of mis-use of the Intersect. Ethically, Chuck was exactly the right person to carry it.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I guess ultimately your analysis comes down to can a seriously flawed character be forgiven and redeemed with their flaws? I’d say yes but only when they accept responsibility, show remorse and a desire to work on those flaws and deal with them honestly. Of the two the only one that ever comes close to doing that is Orion and much of that comes from the perspective of being a parent. Bryce Larkin never does. Because in fact he doesn’t ever see that what he did or does was wrong. He never accepts responsibility and therefore in my opinion is not worthy of redemption. Good intentions don’t excuse inexcusable behavior. Especially when those good intentions are proven by his lack of follow up to be completely hollow and a lack of remorse and desire to do right by others.

      • atcDave says:

        Ahhhh, I think our sticking point is just over the use of the word redemption. When I used it I was speaking of reputation only. Mainly in Chuck and Sarah’s eyes. His first assumed betrayal has been shown in a more positive light, which leads to the possibility there is far more to his “treason” than previously suspected. Which leads to the possibility (likelihood?) he actually “died” for noble reasons instead of nefarious ones. That does not make him a nice guy, it doesn’t suggest any “change of heart” on Bryce’s part. It only requires a re-interpretation of his past actions. So perhaps his legacy can be, at least partially, redeemed.

        Its sort of like the Winston Churchill quote; “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” Often the “hero” is actuallly a “rough man”. Bryce strikes me as a good example of this. He is not a nice guy, he is willing to do bad things for a good cause.
        I would also put Casey in this same category. At the start, he was willing to do horrible things for the greater good. But in the end morality became more important to him, although sentiment and feeling possibly never mattered very much to him (in 5.12 he was possibly willing to kill Sarah to protect Chuck. Does he believe Chuck would have EVER wanted him to do this? No. Like Bryce, he was wiilling to define right and wrong on his own terms).
        And as I said before, Sarah is guilty of this same thing to a lesser degree. She was long willing to sacrifice anything to “protect” Chuck, even when her actions actually caused him great pain. But again, she did show concern for other’s feelings and wishes, at least more so than Casey or Bryce ever did, and she manages to be a more sympathetic heroic figure than the others.

      • Exactly, Dave. Let’s not forget that Casey was willing to kill Chuck in the beginning of season 2 (by the way, a top ten episode). For all the Bryce criticism, I’m not sure he would’ve taken that order.

      • uplink2 says:

        Arthur, I would agree but up to a point. Isn’t sending Chuck the Intersect in effect a death sentence? Or at the very least life in prison? He had to know that their first instinct would have been to bunker him and once a replacement was up and running, someone like Casey would get the order to kill him. Maybe he would have had trouble with pulling the trigger himself but in effect for Chuck and all those close to him, Bryce Larkin executed the order by proxy.

      • atcDave says:

        Two things Uplink; first, I don’t believe Bryce knew a kill order was a forgone conclusion. After all, Sarah clearly didn’t know (deleted scene indicates she knew it was a possibility, but not a certainty), and even Casey seemed to think there was some chance in arguing the bosses out of it.
        Second, I think sending it to Chuck may have been a move of last resort. We never knew if sending it to Chuck was actually a part of his plan.

        And in the end (2.22, the end for Bryce!) he was ready to reclaim the Intersect from Chuck. I don’t believe Bryce ever saw Chuck as the ultimate solution to the Intersect problem.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I don’t agree. As we learned in the god awful misery arc part of becoming an agent is burning an asset. In many cases that means killing them. He had to know that by sending Chuck the Intersect, at best he would become an asset. He also had to know that Chuck would be viewed as conspiring with him to steal it and as we saw in the pilot, Graham would order him killed if he showed any attempt at running. If it wasn’t for Sarah, Casey takes him to a bunker right from the start.

        The one thing we get from the early story of Bryce is he was a great Agent. Something we never, ever saw from Shaw. They only told us. Bryce, they showed us. But being the great Agent he was he had to know a kill order was a very big possibility when he sent him that email. Casey certainly knew it when Beckman told him he would do what he does best once the new Intersect was online.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, one more thing. If Bryce didn’t intend it to be sent to Chuck explain the use of Zork as the password key? Plus Bryce had not contacted Chuck since Stanford, why would he have Chuck’s email address in his Spy PDA? In my mind Bryce preparing the Intersect download, wrapped in a password folder from Zork meant only one thing. He intended to send it to Chuck right from the beginning. If he intended it for himself or anyone else he would never have used the terrible Troll.

      • atcDave says:

        I forgot about Zork, you’re right that had to be the plan. But I still disagree strongly about knowing Chuck would be killed. Not all assets are killed! In fact, no target of a Red Test was a former asset; both subjects we know of were corrupt agents. Not that it makes Red Tests any more palatable, the whole idea is revolting, but Chuck is the only asset we know of who was ever subject to a possible kill order. And again, Sarah clearly, explicitly did not know. If we consider Bryce’s experience and security level similar to Sarah’s there is no reason to think he had any expectation of it.
        And given that Bryce gave Chuck an update in 2.03 and referred to Chuck as a “real spy”, I think his expectation was that Chuck would now have a long term relationship with the agency.
        Now as we said elsewhere, this all still makes Bryce horribly manipulative and presumptuous. He is making unilateral decisions for Chuck’s future of the sort we would say no person has the right to make for another. But I reject any idea that Bryce knew he was condemning Chuck in any way. I think you are painting him in way too negative a light.

  10. You’re starting from from a false premise – that Bryce is necessarily a “good guy,” or even a good friend. It’s not a claim that the show ever makes.

    The show frames Bryce as an agent with one overriding characteristic: a deep belief in his own judgement. Think about the first scene of the show: Bryce is betraying the CIA and taking its most important initiative into his own hands. When he hears about Chuck being recruited, he steps in to override the judgment of the department and his own recruiters (presumably). Later, he gets between Chuck and Sarah because he doesn’t like their dynamic. He steps in to save Chuck in the Ring, despite the fact that he is then the more valuable asset. Bryce, above all else, follows his own moral compass, regardless of things like friendship or loyalty. He’s McNulty from the Wire.

    He’s not really a good or bad friend, so much as being a friend to Chuck just isn’t all that high on his priority list. You’re looking at it like Chuck is the only thing in his life. He did what he saw as a favor to his friend, got him out of the spy game, and moved on to his next mission. He didn’t look back, because he was busy doing the spy routine. (And banging Sarah. Can you really blame the guy for being distracted?)

    Also, we need to consider that the Bryce in season 2 isn’t the same person as he was in the flashback in Alma Matter. No more than Chuck, Sarah and Casey were the same people in Season 5 as season 1. That’s a huge part of the theme of the show – that the spy life makes people colder and harder, especially when they’re isolated from the real world.

    When he comes back into Chuck’s life, he tries to fix it for him again. He tries to take Sarah from him because he sees her as a liability – their feelings. Then he does again once he thinks Chuck will no longer need her. He never considers Chuck’s feelings or relationships, because he doesn’t consider them important. The only protection he’s concerned about is the literal kind, and only when it doesn’t conflict with a specific greater need.

    You’re right that the Alma Mater doesn’t redeem Bryce, but that’s because it’s not supposed to. The Alma Mater is about deepening an important character – about adding another layer of complexity to one of the more flawed people in the show. They’re just revealing a new aspect of his character. The guy might have had a reason for betraying Chuck and the CIA, but he did in fact, betray Chuck and the CIA, don’t forget.

    Ultimately, it’s all about Chuck and Sarah. Chuck’s strongest attribute (his ability to uplift the people around him) is shown through how Bryce changes when he and Chuck are split, and from how Sarah changes from being around him (Casey, too). It’s a clear portrayal of the impact he has on others’ lives.

    Sarah is defined by the difference in her and Bryce’s journeys. Bryce chooses his profession and duty over friendship and family, and his last crisis leaves him alone, friendless and dead (all in the same scene). Sarah chooses friendship and family, and in her final crisis (Goodbye), every single character on the show puts their lives and freedom on the line for her, unconditionally.

    • uplink2 says:

      I agree with a great deal of this and I think you clearly show why I have trouble with the concept of redeeming Bryce, it didn’t and it never could. But I will question one statement you made. That Bryce tried to take Sarah from Chuck because of their feelings being a liability. When he comes back in Nemesis, he has no idea about their feelings for each other. His pursuit of Sarah is completely selfish. He believes he needs her and he wants her back in his bed. He gives absolutely no consideration to Sarah or Chuck at that point in time. He never considers Chuck at all because he is basically insignificant to Bryce Larkin’s mission. He even kisses Sarah in Chuck’s own bedroom a pretty sleazy thing to do if he knew Chuck had feelings for Sarah. The redemption of Bryce that some view because he supposedly had good intentions in this episode fails miserably because taking Sarah away from Chuck after Nemesis means at the very least Chuck goes with Longshore to the bunker never to be heard from again. Now their feelings come into play after Breakup because he finally took the time to look because he saw a change in Sarah. But it was never about Chuck even after Breakup.

      So I will agree that Bryce may have had trouble pulling the trigger himself but he was in fact ordering his imprisonment and possible death sentence when he sent him the Intersect. So the idea of ‘protecting Chuck’ is a failure because the first time he has anything to do with Chuck again, he delivers that proxy.

      • joe says:

        Ack! Uplink, I have but a minute, so I can’t comment on everything you’ve said here, but I really disagree with your interpretation of Bryce’s motives.

        The one thing we know about Bryce is that he did love Sarah. He’s a bit of a James Bond (yeah, Sarah’s “type”, for sure), and he’s as self-absorbed as he is charming. But as soon as he says (like he does in The Ring that “It’s a bad day to be me.”, we know that he really did try to win back Sarah for his own, and he knew he had lost out to Chuck. It was a competition in his mind, and he lost.

        … much like Cole had lost out to Chuck earlier.

      • Should have been more clear. I was talking about Breakup, not Nemesis. I’m not sure why Sarah’s removal would mean that, however. The CIA floated replacing Sarah in Season 2, and Casey talked about it casually. There’s no reason the CIA couldn’t “send him another blonde.” Apparently the Christmas catalog is pretty good.

        In your last paragraph, you’re connecting two unrelated issues. Bryce tried to protect Chuck at Stanford. His sending Chuck the intersect was clearly not trying to protect him. These things are not mutually exclusive – especially when you consider that they’re separated by years of non-contact and Bryce’s own personality changes from working life-or-death missions for four years.

      • uplink2 says:

        It was Sarah that kept Chuck from going with Longshore. She wasn’t even supposed to be there. Casey knew she wanted to do it and agreed with her. If Sarah leaves we would most likely get someone like Forrest, after all she was the one from the catalog they did send when they chose to evaluate replacing Sarah. If it was Forrest in Marlin, Chuck is in a hole somewhere.

        Joe, I’m not sure where you are disagreeing with me lol. Bryce wanted Sarah for himself. He wanted Sarah with him no matter what it’s impact had on his only friend, as he told us in this episode, we are supposed to believe he once wanted to protect.

        Arthur I just have trouble with the idea that someone who committed treason and betrayed his best friend destroying his life to supposedly protect him could five years later do something he had to believe could ultimately lead to his imprisonment or possible death. To me one negates the other.

      • uplink2 says:

        Also Arthur, if Bryce was so concerned that feelings were a liability between Chuck and Sarah then why weren’t they a liability between him and Sarah? To me that shows it had nothing to do with that but was an attempt to manipulate Chuck to give her up so he could have her.

      • atcDave says:

        That part I do agree with Uplink, Bryce was willing to play very dirty to get Sarah back; I think that is exactly what he was doing. But he did finally admit he’d lost in the end, and it was so much fun seeing him loose to Chuck three times!

      • See, this was explained ad nauseum on the show. The difference is that Chuck was her asset, not her partner. She had to keep an object distance for evaluation purposes, because she was constantly reporting on his status to her superiors. Whether you agree with the difference, that was the premise.

      • Didn’t see your first post. You’re mixing your arguments. Bryce couldn’t have possibly known about the situation in Marlin, and from his perspective, that probably would have been the right choice anyways. I think that after four years of fighting an insidious organization that could take over the government for five years, Bryce’s attitudes on sacrifice changed. It’s one thing when you’re a college recruit – it’s still all theory. But when you see the most powerful intelligence asset in the world about to fall into enemy hands – an enemy you’ve fought for five years – it might change your views on what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice.

        And you might find it difficult to believe, but it’s the premise of the show. After all, it’s Casey’s growth in reverse – just think about the difference in his attitudes in First Date or the Pilot versus Cliffhanger.

        I guess I agree with you about Bryce in general, but I don’t think it’s a fault of the show. Rather, a strength.

        Joe, I don’t think Bryce “loved” Sarah. I think she made a good partner, in many ways, and that was about the extent of it. I mean, really. If you had a work-with-benefits relationship with Yvonne Strahovski, you’d play a little dirty too.

      • joe says:

        Man, I blew it last comment. Told you I was rushing! 😉

        Okay, let me try again. Uplink, you wrote:

        Bryce tried to take Sarah from Chuck because of their feelings being a liability. When he comes back in Nemesis, he has no idea about their feelings for each other. His pursuit of Sarah is completely selfish.

        And that’s a lot of what I was reacting to.

        Now, on the face of it, I can see what you mean. Bryce is a the standard Bomer character, a lovable rogue (like Neil Cafferty) and has no intention of doing anything with Sarah except enjoying himself.

        But what you wrote has a contradiction. If he thinks Chuck & Sarah have feelings that will get her/them killed (his words, IIRC), then he certainly does have an idea about their feelings for each other. He’s also right, and on top of that, Sarah believes it too. Keeping them apart (or, at least, warning Chuck about it) is the proper, professional way to react. So how can his pursuit of Sarah be completely selfish? It’s better than doing nothing.

        Well, it is selfish, of course. Love is like that, and he wants her too. But it’s no more selfish than Chuck’s pursuit of Sarah. He tries to warn Chuck because he sincerely believes it endangers his friend and his former partner. In the end, Bryce makes only the most perfunctory attempts to get Sarah’s attention (like, doing the Lambada) and does little more than hope for the best with her (“Larkin and Walker. Together again”). So what’s left is Bryce working for the success of the mission and helping his friends the best he knows how. It ain’t much, but it isn’t a sign of bad character.

      • uplink2 says:

        Ok first Joe, I think there is a big distinction between Bryce’s actions in Nemesis and those in Breakup. In Nemesis he doesn’t know about their feelings for each other and tries simply to get her to come with him, with a code phrase no less, because well he’s back and he wants her. Chuck is completely irrelevant in that circumstance. But because she doesn’t come and stays with Chuck and by seeing Chuck and her reactions both at the door and in Sarah’s hotel room when Chuck says red isn’t his color, he then realizes that there is a great deal more here between them than he ever thought. In that instance he realizes he might be losing her to Chuck. After seeing her hesitate taking a shot she had taken with him he sets out to get Chuck to fall on his sword and give her up because the only way he believes he can get her back is if Chuck pushes her away. So he manipulates Chuck and plays very dirty to get her back.

        Arthur see I don’t agree with that argument of Partner vs Asset as being the difference in whether their feelings were dangerous for them. The difference is the intensity of those feelings. Do you think that in the same situation if Chuck was her partner she can make that shot? I sincerely doubt that. Do you think that on their mission as the Andersons that if Bryce was her asset and not her partner she can’t? Not a chance. What Bryce saw was that she loved Chuck far more than she ever loved him and he chose to as I said above manipulate Chuck to give her up. Now part of that might be for her safety but mostly it was because he needed to break them up so he could get her back. The difference between Bryce and Chuck was the intensity of those feelings not their position in their professional relationship and Bryce wasn’t above manipulating Chuck to get what he wanted back.

      • You’re ignoring the context. Chuck gets in that position by not watching his surroundings because he’s gloating about a mission he botched in the first place. It’s simply not a situation a peer of Sarah’s, like Bryce, would have gotten himself into. Bryce sees Chuck as incapable of handling his surroundings, in addition to having a protector who just failed at her job because she’s infatuated with him (again, Bryce’s perspective). A generic agent, from Bryce’s limited perspective, would have been a better fit.

        Bryce certainly would have preferred to have Sarah to himself, but he didn’t see himself as betraying Chuck’s safety to get her. I don’t think jealousy ever really came into the picture – Bryce was always arrogant enough to see himself as simply better than Chuck in that way. Even in The Ring, he just assumes Sarah would come back with him.

  11. On an unrelated note, I’m just realizing how much the show leans on Chuck and Sarah in its beginning. Casey, Morgan, Awesome, Ellie and Jeffster have all yet to hit their stride. Can’t wait to talk about the Truth, when Casey finally evolves into the third star.

  12. resaw says:

    A good part of the conversation above reviews the whole of what we know of Bryce from all of seasons 1 and 2. If we limit what we know of Bryce to what we have seen or heard through these first seven episodes, what do we get? In the early sequences, breaking out of the Intersect room, we see a supremely confident spy. Shortly after, we see him killed as a traitor by Casey. In between his escape and his death, he has sent the Intersect to Chuck. It is clearly deliberate (as observed above), as it can only be opened via a password that Chuck would know.

    As we meet Sarah, we become aware that she also feels a sense of personal betrayal, at least in my view, and that underlies the tenacity with which she seeks to “fix” the situation with Chuck. We also learn that she had a personal, intimate relationship with Bryce, and so the betrayal is both against her vocation/nation and against herself personally.

    In a later episode, it is confirmed that Bryce is Chuck’s enemy # 1, having arranged for Chuck getting kicked out of Stanford and in Morgan’s words, “sexing up his girlfriend.” Bryce is a traitor to old friends and new, and a traitor to his country.

    He has, however, paid the ultimate price for his treachery. He is dead. Despite the sense of treachery, Sarah goes to the funeral, standing teary-eyed at a distance from the ceremony. Despite the treachery, I interpret those tears as sadness for the loss, and I don’t really see any anger in her behaviour at that occasion.

    In this most recent episode, when we get to view the flashbacks, our sense of Bryce’s act of treachery against Chuck is deepened. Finally, in the video that we get to watch along with Chuck and Sarah, we see Sarah in tears and Chuck taking it all in. The discussions above question whether we can in any way say that Bryce has been redeemed. To my mind, and this may be more about Chuck than about Bryce, Chuck has forgiven Bryce for what he did in Stanford: “It must have tore him up to not be able to tell me.” Redemption is not something that the “bad person” does. It is an act done on behalf of the bad person. Chuck ascribes a positive motive to Bryce’s actions. Chuck offers the words of redemption on behalf of Bryce. In Sarah’s tears, too, I see someone who is letting go of the betrayal she had experienced and also providing Bryce with a measure of redemption. That’s my view for the moment, anyway….

    • atcDave says:

      I would agree with all of that Resaw. Redemption in this case is never really about Bryce, he did what he did and he’s not apologizing for anything. It’s purely about how he’s seen by Chuck, Sarah, and ultimately, his bosses (and in the main body of the post above, it is clearly never framed in any other context).
      Although I would add, our point on this re-watch will always be “big picture.” So while we always need to remember context at the time, we are taking advantage of our current full series perspective on every episode. I think it helps deal with events of this episode to use that later knowledge that Bryce never did get involved with Jill and that he wasn’t actually dead yet.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      There has been a lot of good discussion about Bryce and his redemption (I think of it more as rehabilitation). But as Resaw says, I think it’s more about Chuck. Making Bryce more sympathetic for his eventual return, making Sarah reconciling with him a possibility, was clearly part of the purpose, but for the show as a whole this is where they re-established one of the main themes we see in the pilot. Unseen forces, and a whole other world he is unaware of are very aware of Chuck and what he represents. Chuck has been involved in the spy world all his life, he just didn’t know it. This is our first glimpse of how an event he thought he understood was in reality something very different, because his eyes hadn’t yet been opened to that other world he had one foot in. There were always Serbian demolitions experts in the Large Mart, and CIA recruiters at Stanford, and spies in his life, he just wasn’t aware. Seeing himself in the intersect sort of re-opens his eyes.

      In addition this episode, where Chuck engages with his past, is the start of Chuck’s personal growth in my opinion. We see him at his apparent lowest point in his life, betrayed by his best friend, his dreams stripped away. In a nice touch, we also see the schism this betrayal has apparently caused among his fraternity brothers, some standing behind Chuck giving him sympathy, others standing behind Bryce, trying to shun him (in sepia-tone no less!). This episode gives us a glimpse of Chuck at his peak, a scholarship student, a straight-A student, and a man so popular and well regarded that even with seemingly incontrovertible evidence against him many many people refuse to believe the worst of him, or to abandon him. Later, once we see that he has reconciled with his past, that he can see his time at Stanford as something worthwhile and his friendship with Bryce as real, the inertia that has held him back seems lifted. Starting next episode we will see Chuck starting to push back against the life he’s now become trapped in by outside forces as opposed to his own inertia.

      I liked this episode a lot more than I remembered upon re-watch. That’s been sort of a theme with me so far.

    • uplink2 says:

      Nicely done Resaw and I agree with a great deal of it. I think sometimes even in real life it is hard to accept someone we care about forgiving someone who has seriously wronged and betrayed them. When you watch it from the outside you don’t feel the need that the forgiving party does. You are right, Chuck needed to somehow forgive Bryce, someone he cared about and invested himself in, in order for him to let go of at least some of the past and move forward. That is what happens here. That being said I don’t think we as the outside observer need to forgive so easily. Chuck and to some extent Sarah needed to do it to move on with their lives especially in light of their belief that he was dead. But as Ernie said the writers needed to have us look at least somewhat more favorably on him so we would see him as a legitimate threat to Chuck and Sarah’s growing relationship. That is in many ways why Bryce worked and Shaw didn’t. Try as they might Shaw never was sympathetic nor was he looked on favorably even with no history of betrayal with Chuck. Nor was he seen as a legitimate threat to C&S. In season 3 the only legitimate threat to the central relationship was from the writers beating C&S over the head with the stupid stick and making us hate them. Shaw and Hannah were irrelevant. Bryce never was irrelevant. We didn’t think Sarah would leave after Nemesis but I don’t think there was ever a more plausible situation where she would. We didn’t want her to leave with Bryce but it was a real possibility. At least Schwedak were smart enough that if Sarah left with Shaw many of us, including me, would have left the show like I almost did after Fake Name.

      But as Dave said I look at these discussions as ways to deepen my understanding of the story by examining it in the larger context we get from watching the entire series. As Ernie said you can sometimes appreciate things more. But there is also the downside of liking some things less. That is especially true of season 3 for me where the more I think about it, the more I hate it. To some degree that is how I feel about Bryce. The more we learn about him and take a look at the entire character the less I like him. Now I love his role in the story and love Bomer in the role but though a great spy, he is not a great man. I think much of my issues we discussed above centered in part by reading Thinkling’s posting about a redeemed Bryce. This part in particular

      Dave, great point about that last scene and how it reflected well on everyone. Bryce: Bryce was motivated by true friendship. He was willing to sacrifice the friendship to save the friend. Redemption indeed! Another cost of the secrets and lies of spies. As you say, the merit of his actions is debatable, but his motivation is good

      I think in the larger picture I can’t disagree more. Those were not the actions of a true friend and though he may have felt his motivation was good at the time, all of his future actions say to me otherwise. It shows an incredibly flawed person who has shown no remorse for his actions and isn’t worthy of redemption IMO. He wasn’t a hero here. He was a self absorbed ego-centric man with a superiority complex. He justified actions in his own head that defy all sense of honor and friendship simply because he thought he had the right to do it and knew best. Chuck and to some degree Sarah may have forgiven Bryce in this episode, but I never will. Especially in light of the fact that none of his future actions have anything to do with protecting Chuck or saving him. In fact they are the exact opposite.

      • thinkling says:

        I agree with much of what you said about Bryce, Uplink. Bryce wasn’t the man Chuck was. But it’s not fair to use the future to interpret the past. I know that we all can analyze Bryce now from the vantage point of 2 seasons. Given that perspective, I agree with a lot of what you said about him.

        I’m with Dave on the whole death sentence thing, though. I don’t believe Bryce thought there would be a kill order against Chuck. He said as much in Ring (I think) … that he knew Sarah would find Chuck and protect him. He said until the end that he was looking out for Chuck. And I think he thought he was. Like I said, well intentioned, but misguided.

        Back to the matter at hand. From the video, we see Bryce doing what he thinks is right to keep his friend out of a life that would destroy him, specifically Project Omaha. (I suspect that whatever PO was, it was worse than having the Intersect and being Casey and Sarah’s asset. Bryce said PO was a military project, something that, like Bryce said, Chuck may well not have survived.) That is the only moment in question, the betrayal that ruined Chuck’s life. Chuck’s learning that Bryce had a reason, a plausibly kind reason, for getting him kicked out helps him forgive and get past wondering why Bryce could ever do such a thing to him. He finally knew and could see it differently. So, I stand by my assessment of that moment. Back before Bryce became a true spy, before he started making spy decisions, he made a friend decision. My friend is a good person. I don’t want project Omaha to destroy him.

        Chuck was finally able to see Bryce as a friend again instead of a traitor, and gave Sarah hope that maybe Bryce didn’t betray his country, either. It’s my understanding he didn’t. Evidently, the CIA didn’t think so either, since he continued in their employ.

        All the stuff about trying to get Sarah back, etc paints him as manipulative and selfish and not a friend. But that all came later, and to my mind doesn’t tarnish what he did at Stanford to keep Chuck out of Project Omaha. I still think that his motivation at Stanford was that of a friend.

        As for sending Chuck the Intersect, Bryce had to have a contingency plan. First, he knew Chuck’s brain could handle it. And to a certain extent, the reason that he tried to keep Chuck out of Project Omaha is the same reason he later sent him the Intersect. Chuck is a good person. Bryce’s own explanation was that Chuck always does the right thing and that’s why he sent him the Intersect.

        I see the flaws. I don’t think Bryce could hold a candle to Chuck. Neither did Sarah, obviously. But I think your view of him is a little darker than that of the Chuckverse people who knew him.

  13. anthropocene says:

    I could not resist mentioning that Stanford’s homecoming game is this upcoming Saturday, 19 October, and the opponent is UCLA.

  14. mr2686 says:

    I hope I purchased the correct blue paint!! Anybody up for a quick game of Gotcha in the Library before the game? 🙂

  15. First Impression says:

    Chuck’s return to Stanford, the site of the worst day of his life, was a real winner for me. I saw that Bryce and Chuck were very good friends, so much so that they became roommates. Bryce looked out for Chuck, introduced him to a girl named Jill and included him in his library hijinks. They were buddies, maybe as close as the brother Chuck never had. It was a friendship that should have lasted forever.

    The hiding place for the intel disk was clever and a nice connection to the past. When Chuck found his name on the list, I found it funny that Casey was saying ‘Click it’ at the same time that Sarah was saying ‘Don’t click it’. Even with their opposite view on some things, Sarah and Casey played well off each other in the auditorium, definitely becoming the partner that the other one needs. Planning to make a run for it Sarah asks, “Are you in?” Casey replies, ” You bet. I hate long goodbyes.” Of course Sarah’s 1 bullet, instead of her claim of a 1/2 mag, did warrant the eye roll from Casey. Meanwhile Chuck was a genius in calling the recruits from the list to save his friends. Or should I still call them handlers?

    Back home, the video of Bryce explaining to their professor how he couldn’t allow Chuck to be recruited was perfect. It shed a whole new light on Bryce and gave Chuck answers to how his best friend seemed to be in his corner. ZL and YS did a bang up job showing Chuck’s and Sarah’s emotions in that scene.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah FI great end scene. I think its still safe to call it a bit of a character flaw that Bryce would take such unilateral action on Chuck’s “behalf”. He’s deciding for Chuck, what life he isn’t cut out for. But it is interesting to see there WAS a reason, and it wasn’t petty or mean spirited.

  16. Christopher says:

    This episode ranks high with me because Bryce has a connection with both Sarah and Chuck and until this point it wasn’t know what side Bryce was on. Sarah was his partner and former girlfriend, who thought had turned, thus the revelation is very important to both characters. It also brings Sarah and Chuck together because of the connection. Sarah’s tears after leaving Chuck’s room was of remorse and sympathy for both men. Just wait though for Charkin there is an even bigger connection soon to come.

  17. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Alma Mater (1.07) | Chuck This

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