The season one arc continues directly from Truth. Chuck continues his attempt to make a more real life for himself, Sarah tries to alternately help and sabotage his efforts, Morgan makes some big changes in his life, and we’re rewarded with a spectacular wrap-up/cliffhanger. Let’s get started with the ninth episode of Chuck season one!
My favorite parts here are all Sarah, and I don’t mean that in the most obvious way. But her alternating attempts to believe in Chuck and help him, while simultaneously wanting to trip him up are the best thing about this episode to me. Starting with her plea not to break up; we can feel her pain through a wonderful performance. She struggles to maintain her professionalism and not lead Chuck on, yet we know its herself she’s fooling, and if she could just come clean the short term problem would be fixed. But she can’t face what that could mean in the big picture; from risking reassignment and possibly even her career, to the possibility of a bunker order for Chuck. So Sarah tries to take the pain on herself, and let Chuck go free. Trying to defend Chuck’s wishes to General Beckman, while Casey needles her. Then crashing in on Chuck’s date at the first excuse. Jumping right to encouraging Chuck and giving him intel on Lou’s flower preferences.
This is one conflicted lady.
I think the most epic and memorable part of the episode is the sequence from Chuck and Sarah’s spat while locked in a trunk together, to an entertaining failed interrogation, to the non-bomb defusing and first real kiss. That not quite 10 minute stretch defines this episode for me. And that is what makes this episode entertaining.
But for now, I’m not going to say much more than that. I do want to emphasize that I don’t dislike this episode. But again, I consider it weak and boring apart from the climax mentioned above. I’m sure I’ll find plenty to say later and in comments. But I believe I am radically out of step with much of the fandom on this one. It’s no fun for any of us for me to go on about an episode I find dull.
Hard to believe Ernie and Dave aren’t on the same page with this one…
Dull, I could see that argument for the first bit of the show, but I just consider too much of it too funny. But Dave has a point. The action is slow to start in this one. There isn’t a single fight or gun pointed at anyone for nearly the first 30 minutes. It is to paraphrase Morgan, when we need to talk about our emotions and stuff. But oh those last ten do pack in quite a lot of show. We do agree on that. But I found plenty of entertainment in those first 30 minutes and a lot of character development that pays off later.
As I mentioned in last week’s post’s comments I see the Lou/Bryce arc as where the show-runners started to first settle into their unique formula. Mostly episodic with a few serialized stories that span the season and a few that span a few episodes. We aren’t quite to their “3 is the magic number” phase, but this is where we see them start to tweak the format that took them to the stratospheric heights they reached creatively in season two.
First thing I want to mention is that this is where Yvonne started to find her stride if you ask me. She plays Sarah playing the jilted girl come to see her boyfriend perfectly. The subtlety and the body language and their shifts show you a master at the top of her craft, both Sarah and Yvonne. Even Chuck, who has gotten pretty used to fakin’ it sees the lines blur when Sarah tearfully begins to “sell it”. Because as Casey delights in pointing out, she got dumped.
Is Sarah conflicted? I think she is becoming so. She can’t help but defend Chuck as a “reasonably charming guy” who doesn’t have any problem attracting women when Beckman acts surprised that the nerd got a girl. Justifying your own feelings by proxy? But what this really is is a part of Sarah’s character that will run through the entire series emerging. She looks at Chuck and sees someone who everyone else sells short due to his past and present life. She sees the man he is becoming more and more as he always finds a way to save the day. Seeing him continually taken for granted, underestimated, and pushed into risky situations he isn’t really equipped to handle brings out another character trait that runs through a lot of the show, her over-protective side. Sarah is doing a bit of overcompensating, but for now we’ll cut her a break. This is after all the first time she got dumped. At least by Chuck. Unfortunately she’ll get a lot more experience on that front in coming years.
Want to see where Sarah really is, and the real start of Yvonne’s mastering that character? There are a few short seconds in the briefing where Sarah reacts to Chuck calling Lou his girlfriend. The way she steals sidelong glances and steels herself, knowing that Beckman is watching, but unable to stop herself from reacting is priceless. At this point most of us hadn’t really learned the importance of reading Sarah, and to be fair this seems to be just the start of Yvonne and TPTB learning to use it.
For Chuck, this week is a continuation of a trend, pushing back against the limits his handlers and the CIA have imposed on him. It’s just in small ways at first, but here we see it in its developing stages. We could say it’s growing pains in the team, but the push-back continues throughout season 2, culminating in a rogue raid on Rourke Industries to get the intersect out of his head. Chuck is still a loyal team member though, and he takes one for the team, more than once. From the RK2 mini-mic oh so cleverly disguised within a fashion crime to having to spend more time talking to his dates ex than his date just to get some intel, to having Sarah blow the date for him, to having to let Lou leave so he can plant the cleverly disguised bug where they’ll get some intel.
I can see Chuck’s point. The government seems determined to keep him from dating. Or at least dating successfully.
Though most fans don’t give them a lot of attention, even the Nerd Herders and Buy Morons get some depth and direction added. Morgan, after being annoyingly resentful of Chuck spending more time with Sarah is now starting to try to fill the void left by Chuck. IT is amusing to watch. He really has no clue about what to do without Chuck to act as an example. It is a bit of a tragic part of Morgan’s character. We eventually learn he was without a father most of his life, making his repeated need for and grasping for a male role model simultaneuosly believable, funny, and in an odd way, endearing. Think of Awesome in Sandworm or Big Mike or Casey later in the series. With Chuck a lot more scarce the little bearded one really is trying to figure out who Morgan is, other than a slacker sidekick (as were the writers I suspect).
Oh yeah, and Jeff is creepy, and Lester overcompensates for his all too evident insecurities when it comes to women. Sarah seeing and capitalizing on this was both hilarious, and smart spy-work. The fact that it undoubtedly upped Chuck’s image in the eyes of the nerds of BuyMoria was just an incidental side effect I’m sure.
Last take, kind of an uncomfortable moment.
The Kiss and the aftermath is a very interesting development. Chuck doesn’t really understand the limits the spy life puts on him and Sarah, and Sarah can’t quite bring herself to vocalize them, but in one of the brilliant parallels Chuck does right, we see it.
It is the source of conflict, largely unacknowledged till next season, but again, we see the seeds laid here.
All in all, for all the slow start and talky parts, one of my 30-ish top twenty episodes.
Joe’s Conflicted Take
You’re sure right about Sarah here, Dave & Ernie. Very conflicted. She’s almost besides herself, turning this way and that way in almost every scene, not quite sure to take the left or the right fork in the road. Except when she’s about to devour Lester, of course. Sarah seems very sure of herself then. 😉
I keeeed, but that’s only because I love the character. When you get right down to it, it’s not a good way to treat Chuck.
Ball of Confusion
I’d like to ask everyone this question, but you have to think back really hard to the first time you saw the episode. Were any of you as confused about Sarah’s true feelings as I, back then? Really, a part of me says I shouldn’t have been that confused, and Chuck should not have been confused either. After all, Sarah really did explain it perfectly clearly to Chuck early on.
Chuck: Can I ask you a question? This whole time, did you ever really like me?
Chuck: Yeah. Let’s try that for the first time since we met. Ha.
Sarah: Chuck, you are everything that I’m looking for. I just can’t look right now.
Chuck: Well, thank you, for being honest. The next time your phone breaks, please take it to the Large Mart.
Sarah is always straight forward, if hard to understand.
When I think about it, Chuck looks as wishy-washy as Sarah at this point (so, maybe you’re right to feel a bit ‘meh’). He annoyingly tells her every chance he gets that his feelings are true and even profound. THEN he immediately falls for Lou, my favorite PLI? Really? Does it really make sense for him to be giving up on this amazing Sarah Walker person right now for the first petite brunette that comes waltzing into the Buy More?
Well, I’m gonna vote yes on that, not only because I love Rachel Bilson. It just makes sense. As much as I had trouble understanding Sarah at this point, I understood Chuck. He’s more conflicted than she is right now, but at least he’s got a good reason. After all, Chuck’s had his life turned upside down and inside out by someone who obviously cares very much about his well being but then tells him outright that she’s just doing her job. This unique person who treats him so well, who obviously cares, also threatens to return to DC at any point he stops listening to her. Sarah is someone who still has feelings for Bryce Larkin even as she calls him a rogue spy. The exciting life she holds out for Chuck is not the safe Buy More; it’s the most dangerous thing he’s ever experienced, for him and for his friends and family. Is he scared? You betcha.
In truth, Chuck can live with all that. As we’ll see in just a bit, Chuck is not a coward even when he is scared. It’s only that this pretend girlfriend/boyfriend stuff is too much.
Chuck’s thinking over the question. The down side of his situation is the emotional turmoil, which is even worse than the effects of being – uh – trapped in a supply closet with Sarah, Chuck has discovered. The upside? Well, like Morgan says, it is Sarah Walker, after all. Chuck is on the fence, emotionally, but his decision is firm about one thing. The cover has to go and Chuck’s going to do his best to make that happen. Despite appearances, there’s nothing wishy-washy about it.
We haven’t mentioned much about the actual story line in this episode, so I’ll briefly fill it in here. Yes, Chuck has made an attempt at ending the cover relationship with Sarah. He finds it too difficult to maintain the façade. What he doesn’t know, and what the fans want to believe, is that Sarah does too. That doesn’t mean they can go their separate ways.
Chuck and Sarah are joined at the hip now, and even having a new girlfriend like Lou doesn’t remove Chuck from the center of Sarah’s spy life. Lou’s ex is the son of an arms smuggler, and Chuck flashes on that pretty quickly.
Chuck’s blundering doesn’t get him into trouble this time. Sarah’s does. Because she sets up, then interrupts, Chuck’s date, Lou is caught being in contact with her ex and using him to smuggle questionable substances into the country. Chuck is, of course, outraged that the CIA, the NSA and most particularly Sarah, are hot on the case of a girl who’s merely trying to get meats and cheeses past customs in a timely manner. The problem is, there’s a real dangerous item being smuggled too.
Heroes run towards the fire, right? Chuck and Sarah argue full bore even as they run towards the device that’s ominously counting down to zero. Sarah frantically tries to disarm the device.
Sarah: Did you flash?
Chuck: No. Nothing. Come on. Com’mon com’mon, baby. Don’t fail me now!
Sarah: Okay – that’s enough. Run – I’m gonna try to stay and defuse it.
Chuck: No! I’m not leaving you here.
Sarah: Go! That is an order!
Sarah: [pulling a gun on Chuck] I. said. go!
Chuck: On, I see. You’re gonna shoot me to prevent me from being blown up? That’s a great plan!
Sarah: Why are you so stubborn??!!
Chuck: Actually, I consider this a rare moment of courage. I don’t know where it’s coming from, I guess you just bring out the worst in me.
Sarah: And you in me!
5 – 4 – 3 –
Chuck: It was nice knowing you.
– 2 – kiss – 1 – no boom
Sarah: Well, the good news is that we’re still alive. And the bad news is that this is kind of an uncomfortable moment right now.
Chuck: It’s completely comfortable on my end. Just sayin’.
Well, we heard the boom. Sarah grabbed Chuck and planted one on him like we haven’t seen before – their first kiss. For separate reasons, Chuck and Sarah can barely stand to speak of it. I, however, can’t say enough.
You Must Remember This
This past week I happened to see the penultimate episodes of the shows I regularly watch on television. It was the same thing. Rachael Leigh Cook’s Kate Moretti risked everything for Eric McCormack’s Daniel Pierce and then kissed him passionately for the first time in the first season of Perception. Piper Perabo’s Annie Walker dances with and (again) passionately kisses Chris Gorham’s Augie Anderson in Covert Affairs– finally.
This coming week promises more, with Tony and Ziva trapped in an elevator after a bomb explodes at the NCIS headquarters. And of course, we’re all anticipating the season premier of Castle. Kate Becket remembers everything – enuf said. These are all watershed moments that cause the audience to sit up and notice the characters. For us, that first kiss for Chuck and Sarah, done in the deafening silence of the bomb, elevates this episode to unforgettable, if only for that moment.
That first conversation I quoted? Yes, I know. That wasn’t Chuck and Sarah, but Lou and Chuck, respectively. It tells us he understands much more about Sarah Walker than I did up to now.
Lou: Can I ask you a question? This whole time, did you ever really like me?
Lou: Yeah. Let’s try that for the first time since we met. Ha.
Chuck: Lou, you are everything that I’m looking for. I just can’t look right now.
Lou: Well, thank you, for being honest. The next time my phone breaks, I’m going to the Large Mart.
Chuck: Lou? I’m really sorry.
Lou: Don’t be. Secret agent or not, that’s the best kiss I’ve had in a long time.
It was probably Chuck’s best kiss too, up to that point.
We had to sit through the majority of the episode to get set up right, but that explosive kiss was everything, because, even if Sarah is conflicted (and she is) – and even if she fights it more than she already has (and she will) – from that moment on, Chuck is no longer confused about Sarah’s feelings. Now, it’s only a question of what to do about it, if anything.
But like a good-bad late-nite cable TV ad, “Wait! There’s more!!!” Oh, there most certainly is. We briefly get to see the entrance of one of my favorite non-recurring bad-guys, Anthony Ruivivar as Tommy.
And that bomb? An explosion would be less traumatic. Bryce Larkin has returned to really blow up Sarah’s life.
Chuck Firsts in Chuck Versus The Imported Hard Salami
While technically last week, thematically it belongs to this week, Sarah gets dumped by Chuck. I’ll also add first realized OLI.
Chuck “takes off his watch” for the first, but certainly not last time.
I guess we shouldn’t really attempt to deny or save the big one. First for reelz Chuck and Sarah kiss! Squees abound before they are inevitably crushed next episode for the first time.
First “not quite dead” guest star returns.