We’ve made it to the second season. I think most of us consider this a very special season. As I’ve shared before, this is the season when Chuck went from being my favorite show on the air, to an all time favorite. At this point I mostly re-watch S4 and S5, but S2 will always be special. After a lengthy eight month off season Chuck returns. The Orange Orange and Castle are new (although we won’t see Castle until next week). And this episode is well designed to serve as a (re)introduction to the series; perfect for new viewers and those who just haven’t watched in eight months! So let’s get started with the first episode after the jump.
One of the things we’ll see throughout season two, is really outstanding stuntwork. Going way back to previews before the Pilot, this is one of my favorite parts of this show. And I think season two is the pinnacle. Later seasons will have less budget, and less exciting stunts and effects are often an obvious result (although some effort was still made to ramp up the action on occasion, presumably that means saving the stunt budget for a few big blow outs). But for now we’re entering a golden age.
Not only does the season two premier start with an exciting stunt, but this would earn Chuck its second Emmy for stunts. No doubt the late Michael Clarke Duncan was a big part of what makes this episode so exciting too. A truly imposing villain worthy of Team B.
This episode also gets right to the heart of the show; Chuck and Sarah may still be “just friends” at the start of this episode, but they clearly are close friends. Sarah offers Chuck encouragement and friendly advice, she may be fishing for something more; but the audience, probably just like Chuck and Sarah themselves, can only wonder if that’s true. Continuing the “compromised” discussion from last week, Sarah seems to be letting herself relax some as the assignment is apparently coming to an end. I would guess that she’s kidding herself if she thinks she can actually just move on to another mission, Chuck has already changed her too much. But of course that can only be speculation, and its clearly for the realm of fan fiction to explore how long it would take before Sarah came running “home” to Burbank.
And this leads to something I have to bring up here, and this won’t be the last time this topic comes up. We have a really dynamite deleted scene for this episode (on the disc set) where Sarah confronts Casey about how this mission is going to an end. I will always really wish this had been a part of canon.
Sarah makes a veiled threat to Casey about if she has anything to worry about with him. Apart from the fact it settles the question of what Sarah knew about the kill order (this was a hot topic of discussion before the S2 discs came out. She knew such a mission could possibly end that way, but she thought in this case Chuck was safe) I love the idea Sarah would have run off with Chuck right here if she had known about the order. Of course her own life changing journey with Chuck was still at an early stage; but it seems she already valued him more highly than the job, and would have gone to extraordinary means to protect him. Did we ever doubt that?!
On a more immediate level, this episode is fun in every way. We get re-introduced in a graphic way to Chuck’s home life, and the hazards of living with an engaged couple. We see Chuck starting to disengage from the Buy More; but the “B” plot here is fun anyway, from Chuck’s disturbing job interviews to Morgan’s eccentric method for choosing an assistant manager. Chuck and Morgan’s Call of Duty passion will provide a good bit of color for the background, right up until it becomes an important and amusing plot device. And that is one of the things I like best about both the show and this episode. We see that Chuck is clever and imaginative, and a nerd all the way through.
Did I mention the First Date itself? Yeah I’m a big Charah fan, and this is the sort of scene that can make an episode for me. This episode is so strong it doesn’t need the help. But I sure am glad to see it. To me that became the major hook for this entire show, and unlike extravagant stunt and effects work, it will survive budget cuts just fine. Add in an emotional scene like Sarah thinking she just saw Chuck die (not for the last time!) and this is an awesome episode for ‘shippers.
The ending needs some attention too. It would seem Casey still thinks he could kill Chuck if was ordered to.
I would guess this is true, but I think it would have completely shattered whatever humanity he still had. Once again we get a few “what ifs?” from this scene. Would he have killed Sarah too if she interfered? Or maybe he would have been intentionally slow on the trigger and let her shoot first. Even better, maybe he could have let “slip” what his mission was and let them run. THAT’S an arc I would have liked to see. There’s definitely been some good fan fiction built around these ideas, although not usually drawn from this exact scene. But this sort of speculating is what gives a show life in my mind beyond just sitting down for an episode. When I spend my time imagining different ways of constructing scenes its a good bet a show has completely infected me! I think this idea will come up a few more times during these re-watches, especially during S2 when the possibilities seemed to be everywhere.
Joe’s Take – Cipher, Cipher, Who’s Got The Cipher?
What an episode! I can’t agree with you more, Dave. Right from the opening scene, First Date starts off as an excellent recap of S1 and introduction to S2. It only takes the cast three lines to re-establish the dramatic essence of Team B.
Casey: [To Luther Colt] Let the geek go!
Sarah: Wait! Not out the window.
Casey: Aren’t we picky.
Heh! Casey is such a pal. There’s no arguing that the stunt work, especially Sarah’s fight scene with Colt, is excellent. The humor, from Chuck’s “I’m blind!!!”, upon seeing Ellie & Awesome in the shower, to Morgan’s deciding who the next assistant manager will be “the ancient way”, to Casey’s “Hey! Did somebody order drive-thru?” continues to hit me right in the funny-bone. And the romance? Sigh.
Chuck: You wanna go on a date sometime? I mean, a date without aliases and spy gear and a mission?
Sarah: Oh, like a real date?
Sarah: Chuck [ahem] I’m still a CIA agent, and there are a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t do that.
Chuck: What do you have to lose? In a week, you’re gonna be undercover in some place like Jakarta in a knife fight with some evildoer. And in that exact moment, you’re gonna wish that you would’ve spent one last night of fun with me.
Sarah: [pausing] Okay.
I couldn’t imagine Sarah turning Chuck down now for a date, and that, my friends, was a turning point.
I finally figured out why. There’s someone missing from this episode. If you haven’t guessed, it’s insecure, whiny Chuck; he’s no where to be seen, thank Heaven. We’ll see that guy again, but now, in his place we have a new Chuck. He’s someone who calls himself Charles Carmichael, but who isn’t playing James Bond or ordering drinks that Chuck doesn’t like while gambling away $100k with one roll of the dice. This time he’s confident, masterful and has a team behind him. Several, actually. Only one of them is imaginary.
Morgan: All right, listen, here are the specs. Are you ready?
Twenty-three infantry troopers, 16 snipers, seven heavy gunners, four demolition experts and enough ammunition to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fifty gamers, one call, all ready for battle.
Chuck is the real deal. At least, he demonstrates he can be. What’s best about this episode and what I continue to love after umpteen viewings is that Sarah realizes it too.
Sarah: Chuck? Can I tell you something?
Chuck Of course!
Sarah: You can do anything. I’ve seen you in action. And I’m not just talking about the bomb-defusing or the diamond-stealing. I mean, anything you wanted, you could have.
That is a most amazing line and Chuck believes her. He can have anything he wants. Sarah’s words had all of us asking silently “Does that include you too, Sarah?”
Maybe. If he wants. For the entire episode Chuck is being asked what he wants and what he wants to do with his life now that it appears he might soon be through with the CIA. His answers do not involve flying the Millennium Falcon, but they do involve seeing the world.
What does he want? It’s pretty clear that Chuck wants to ask Sarah to join him even he’s not sure she’ll say yes. I too like the idea that if she knew Chuck was threatened by the CIA at this point, she would run with him, Dave.
But that is for later.
As it is, Sarah’s answer is important, surely, but it’s more important that he ask her. That is something Chuck would never have done before. Not in The Pilot, certainly.
Chuck’s world is bigger now, bigger than the Buy More. Up to this episode, Chuck has been running scared, wondering if he’s good enough for the world he’s seen with Sarah and Casey. It’s much more dangerous and much more exciting than he had imagined, but ’till now, he’s been insecure. That just changed:
Sarah: You’re not so bad yourself.
Chuck: Please. I’m fantastic.
Sarah: Yeah. You are.
… and Sarah knows it. You can see it in her eyes.
I can’t leave this episode without mentioning the music. First Date starts with one of my favorite Tim Jones themes, for which I have no name. But you’d recognize it by the mid-eastern instrumentation and melody, all done to a rock beat. Then we get Huey Lewis & The News doing Hip To Be Square and later, The Power of Love golden oldies of the highest caliber!
Even better, First Date ends with a musical punch to the gut when Fulcrum destroys the new Intersect, Langston Graham and Chuck’s old life with one huge explosion. The song is The Twist by Frightened Rabbit, and it leaves us set up for the remainder of this amazing season of Chuck.
A lot of fans came on board with Season 2. To me, there’s no mystery about that. First Date started the season with a bang.