Break Up is easily my favorite Bryce episode. Also, easily my favorite episode involving anything like a triangle. Throw in a very funny villain, Chuck and Sarah both sacrificing for each other, and an ending that’s both disappointing and encouraging at the same time; and you have the sort of extraordinary episode that became common for much of season two. After the jump, we’ll discuss Break Up!
Amazing that an episode that seems to end on such a down note for Charah actually remains pretty popular with fans including ‘shippers. Maybe its because we all see the hope and love that lie beneath. It also helps that both Chuck and Sarah come across well; as heroes, and as two people very committed to each other… in a way that is not is not easy to define.
Of course, that is season two in a nutshell. In some ways, Break Up is the end of an introductory arc. The three episodes are all stand alones, but like the season one arc there is an emotional/relational continuity between the episodes here. Chuck and Sarah are a couple in all but name. The break up at the end of this episode changes a great deal and changes nothing at the same time. What it changes is, it pulls things back a step, and guarantees Chuck and Sarah will not be a proper couple for quite some time.
But it actually changes nothing. Chuck and Sarah are still working together every day, and their feelings haven’t changed one bit.
Before I go any further I do want to bring up again my one hang up with this episode. I’ve mentioned it many times before, so this shouldn’t shock anyone. But Bryce visiting Sarah at her apartment and at the Orange Orange is just too stupid to be credible. This is Daniel Shaw type of stupid. Sarah is on long term, deep cover as Chuck’s girlfriend, she is constantly seen by Chuck’s family, friends and co-workers; and Bryce thinks dropping in on her is protecting his cover??!! Bryce is dead. Protecting his cover would involve staying in a hole in the ground. Practically speaking this would involve hiding in Castle and not showing his face anywhere near Chuck or Sarah’s homes or workplaces. And probably hiding his face as he transitions to and from a blacked out van for the mission. This is the sort of stupid plot device that really irks me; it is obviously all about raising tension and uncertainty and has nothing to do with honest story telling. It’s the sort of stupid moment that shatters the believably of the story. This perception is heightened by the wonderful scene that was deleted from this episode. I love Chuck and Sarah’s pizza dinner; I would guess its an alternate to Chuck’s sad return home, although it could conceivably fit after that scene. Perhaps Bryce’s surprise at the hotel would have bothered me far less if the dinner scene had been included, it at least would have felt less manipulative.
Oh well. I still meant what I said about this episode being a very favorite. What stands out? Well I’d start with Chuck’s stunned reaction to Sarah looking, well, stunning in her red dress. Makes me laugh every time. Not really his color… yeah, right. I think Von Hayes birthday bash is one of the more fun events of this sort they ever did on the show. Sarah ripping on Bryce is satisfying and funny, and as I’ve commented before, Von Hayes may be my favorite of the one time only villains. Its tough to be sure (and we did see just see Mr. Colt. Wow did S2 start strong!), but Von Hayes is funny in every scene he has. He’s sort of a high society dweeb nerd, almost Chuck’s evil opposite. He’s funny when he insults Chuck, he’s funny when he’s been living in his Lamborghini, and he’s very funny doing the exchange with Chuck. I recently saw the actor (Steve Valentine) as a psychiatrist on NCIS; it was a serious part, but I found myself snickering the whole time.
Other scenes of note; Sarah in the hospital is awesome. How can you not love Chuck getting the flowers right? And Sarah finally rewards him with encouragement. Also love Devon having Chuck’s back here. Although I wonder how he would react if he ever saw an old photo of Bryce and Chuck at Stanford? And of course Sarah will have many more visually impressive combats over the course of the series; but really, having a concussion, being flat on her back in a hospital bed and taking down a much bigger thug. Really that has to rate as one of her more impressive moments.
I also love Chuck taking the initiative to recover the data from Von Hayes. As mentioned earlier the exchange is one of my favorite funny scenes, but I like Chuck’s initiative and courage throughout.
This is the Chuck I can enjoy and root for. The show suffers when it strays from this version of Chuck (but I’ll save more of that discussion for another time!) and is at its very best when we have Chuck being like this.
In many ways, the main event of this episode is the Chuck/Sarah scene at the fountain. I think this is dynamite on several levels, starting with Chuck sacrificing what he wants for Sarah. He’s shutting down something that hasn’t even gotten started to protect her. Of course its also kind of stupid to have taken advice from Bryce on this matter, and I actually really like the idea of what it would have looked liked to have Chuck and Sarah just continue to grow closer at this point, but Chuck’s kind of clueless sacrifice works here. The scene well performed by Zach, and just stunningly, perfectly performed by Yvonne. This is the magic and chemistry that made Chuck special on full display. We all may suspect that if Sarah had spoken first she wasn’t going to say anything too radical from a relationship angle anyway (I’m thinking something along the lines of “I like you a lot Chuck but we have to be careful not to ever let it get in the way of your safety…”) but I think she was still blindsided by Chuck’s more extreme solution. Steeling themselves to head inside, and of course Sarah’s look back add a lot of punch to this ending. There can be no doubt they both love each other, but we are quite a ways from them figuring out how to make things work.
Now I do have to mention the “B” plot in this episode. I think this was really one of the funnier Buy More stories of the season. Michael Strahan is pretty perfectly cast as a bully, and I love his willingness to be totally inept. Although lifting Morgan high into the air is impressive, being taken down by a 90 pound woman is laugh out loud funny. As I’ve said before, I think Alex was a better and more likable woman for Morgan, but she could never be as funny as Anna.
Saying It All
My reaction to Bryce’s appearance in Sarah’s room is a bit different than yours, Dave. I’m willing to overlook the obvious (and yes, idiotic) threat to the cover story that his being seen with Sarah represents, but only because of one thing – Bryce looks like Matt Bomer.
Heh! By that, I mean that disarming, boyish smile and roguish demeanor (“No rose for me this time, loverboy?”) is the perfect threat to Chuck and Sarah as a couple, much more of a threat than Daniel Shaw could ever make us believe. I buy it. From the moment he opens the door to the scene where Bryce ties a real bow tie (and Chuck realizes his clip-on ain’t gonna cut it), to the scene in Sarah’s hospital room, where Chuck’s gardenias pale in comparison to Bryce’s garden, Bryce is the winner. Chuck is a loser.
So much is he a loser, that I almost didn’t believe Sarah’s reaction when she tells Chuck straight out where she stands.
Chuck: Bryce Larkin, huh. I guess no matter what it is, I’ll always come in second to that guy.
Sarah: Not always.
I didn’t believe her? No, I did believe her! I just couldn’t believe it! All of a sudden, I realized I was wrong. Sarah wasn’t thinking at all the way I thought she was. Not at all. Those two words, Not always, were a wake-up jolt. Two words, and I had to stop seeing things through Chuck’s eyes and begin to look through hers.
Isn’t that just like Sarah? Now her reaction to Chuck’s dismissal of her “salmon color” dress made sense. Now I understood why she left Bryce and her mission to go after Chuck, who had been kidnapped by the Fulcrum agent. I finally got the import of her brief discussion with Bryce on the dance floor.
Bryce: Any security behind you?
Sarah: [testily and tersely] No.
Bryce: You’re still a great dancer.
Sarah: You’re a little rusty.
Bryce: Will you just let my lead???
Sarah: [with a half-smile] No.
The clues were there for me to see all along that Sarah was about to go all-in, as Ellie would say, for Chuck. Even Devon got it.
Devon: So how do you know Sarah?
Bryce: She’s my ex.
Devon: Based on all the flowers you sent, I’d say you still had feelings for her.
Bryce: It’s complicated.
Devon: I know. She’s dating my soon-to-be brother-in-law, Chuck.
Bryce: [looking surprised] I didn’t know. Sarah said she wanted to tell me something, but then she got hurt. [application of band-aid] Ouch!
Devon: Cut’s pretty deep there.
Bryce: So, um, Chuck and Sarah, is it serious?
Devon: I’m specializing in cardiothoracic medicine. That means there’s one thing in the world I know best: the human heart. Spent enough time with them to see how they are together. See how she looks at him. My professional opinion? She’s in love with Chuck, dude.
Wow. This isn’t Morgan talking, or a very biased Ellie or even a too-silly-for-words Buy Moron with opinions. This is someone with a lot more objectivity. Devon. Is is possible that Chuck and Sarah have found a path to be together?
Let me rephrase that. It is possible. ‘Shippers of the world, rejoice! Chuck and Sarah are converging, and are going to be together very, very soon now!
Of course, there’s one small fly in that ointment; Sarah is not quite able to be an effective spy when it comes to Chuck. Face it. The very next time Bryce talks to Chuck alone, he commits a truth.
Chuck: Gah! What did I say about the entrance???
Bryce: Sorry. We need to talk about Sarah. She had a chance to take the shot back there, and she didn’t. She hesitated and it almost cost us the microchip and your life.
Chuck: I know.
Bryce: What are you gonna do about it?
Chuck: I don’t know, Bryce. You tell me. What am I supposed to do?
Bryce: You’ll do the right thing. You always do. It’s why I sent you the Intersect in the first place.
Man, it’s so hard for me to resist quoting the dialog in these episodes. So often the words are meaningful, inspired, even poetic, especially when they’re coming from the mouth of a confirmed nerd. None more so than the words spoken by Chuck at the end of this episode.
It’s an amazing speech. For a season and a quarter I had watched and empathized with the love-struck dreamer chasing after a chimera – a couple of them, actually – all the while waiting for Sarah to drop the inevitable hammer that smashes his dreams to bits. Who of us has not been there?
But no, it’s not Sarah who realizes that what Chuck wants is impossible. Despite all odds, Sarah is starting to believe that even the dreams she held in secret are possible. It’s Chuck who discovers he must wield the hammer. And make no mistake. Despite the gentleness of the words, despite the care and tenderness with which they are being chosen and despite the obvious love with which they are delivered, Chuck is smashing her dreams as well as his own.
Sarah: You know, someday, when the Intersect is out of your head and you have the life you always wanted, you’ll forget all about me.
Chuck: I seriously doubt that.
Those words said it all. Yet somehow, everyone watching knew then as surely as they knew their own names, that this was not the end of Chuck and Sarah’s romance. There was no way it was over.