The final episode of the Jill arc. We know from the start that Jill is Fulcrum, and its no mystery to Chuck for long. And once again I think Sarah just owns this episode. The “B” plot also shines here, and its integration with the main story is once again perfect. After the jump, we’ll discuss “Chuck vs The Gravitron”.
I’ve said from the start this is my favorite of the triangle arcs, and this ending is particularly strong. I do have to mention I just hate seeing Chuck with Jill, it makes no difference if its “understandable” or not. As I’ve said many times, I was a ‘shipper pretty early on, and I’m really not interested in any screen time for Chuck and the wrong girl. But Chuck does see the error of his ways pretty quickly. I only would have liked this better if Chuck had decided he was in no position to pursue a relationship with Jill when he was in love with someone else, but its pretty obvious the writers of this show never quite shared my vision of romance, and its arguably too early for such a decision anyway.
But there are some things I like a lot about this beginning. In particular; we get a stunning contrast between Jill, the “bad girl” and Sarah, the “good girl”. Jill is a manipulating liar. She may have some lingering affection for Chuck, but she is ultimately self serving and dangerous. Sarah in contrast is sympathetic, patient, self sacrificing and forgiving almost beyond belief. We are starting a stretch here leading up to the climax of “Santa Claus” where we will see a heroic and idealized version of Sarah. Angel imagery will abound. Obviously, this is deliberate to make the shock at the end of 2.11 that much more brutal. But I would consider this very effective story telling. We already know some of her shortcomings, and we will see more of them in the future; but I think in many ways the idealized Sarah Walker of mid-S2 is an enduring legacy of the show. Whatever feelings Sarah may have had about “Chill” in the previous episodes, she completely puts them aside here to be a sympathetic shoulder for Chuck. She isn’t kidding when she says she will protect him from anything.
Chuck does have a few good moments later in the episode; I particularly like his learning the technical details on Castle (and being smart about it even after his plan “A” doesn’t work) and final arrest of Jill.
I also like how Ellie and Morgan are completely in Sarah’s camp. Which leads me to a very satisfying sub-plot. Starting with Ellie’s frantic preparations for an “Awesome” visit. I really like Ellie as Morgan’s fantasy for a moment, but we must suspect this has a lot to do with turkey. Morgan’s dis-invitation and subsequent internment at the Buy More is very funny television. I love all of this; Jeff’s traps and inability to hack the security system; Lester’s lack of familiarity with turkey; Big Mike taking down Leader; Casey as Morgan’s designated replacement; and the whole gang gathered for the holiday. Nice foreshadowing about the DeLorean too, I guess Morgan was doomed the moment it pulled into the install bay, this is a long time dream of his!
My complaints here are few. Apart from not liking Chuck’s involvement with Jill early on (in the entertainment sense of the word; I simply do not find Chuck with the wrong girl to be entertaining); I found “Leader” to be lacking as a villain. I think its primarily a casting failure, I just couldn’t buy this actor as anything other than a dumb thug. Putting glasses on him didn’t really help. Fortunately, Chuck is only rarely about the villains anyway, so this damages little.
And so ends the last arc for a while. Although Chuck always builds on characters and happenings, we won’t start another real arc until Suburbs. The next arc may be epic, and the best longer arc of the series, but I like several of the stand alones we get next even better.
The Death of Innocence
When you’re looking for Fulcrum agents, you never know who you’ll find on the list.
Dave, I agree with just about everything you wrote here. But lemmee tell ya, moreso than the umpteen previous times I saw this episode, I was struck by one thing.
Please let me explain. Chuck and Jill went on a date, in their Stanford years. Braving his fear of heights (and of carnivals 😉 ), Chuck takes Jill up on the Ferris Wheel and has (romantically) bribed the Carney to stop the wheel with them on top. Nice. It’s their first kiss, I take it. It’s sweet, innocent, and a complete lie. What Chuck doesn’t know is that Jill is already in deep with espionage, the CIA, Bryce and Fulcrum.
Sarah’s not so naive. She even gives Chuck a quick seduction lesson. And wasn’t that the greatest non-kiss ever?
Five years later, and they’re up on the Ferris Wheel again. The only difference is that, this time, it’s Jill who has bribed the Carney. Chuck is still as naive as he ever was, even after the kissing instructions.
I guess I’ll disagree here just a little about Patrick Kilpatrick‘s performance as “Leader,” Dave. Even with the glasses, he strikes me as a pretty formidable foe, much in the mold of Steve Austin. In our story he’s about to scare the pants off Chuck in the Gravitron, and like usual, it’s up to Sarah and Casey to save the boy.
But something happens next. Jill is taken for “interrogation,” complete with lie detector, and the truth is about to come out. We all know how important The Truth ™ has been to Chuck all along. He just can’t resist knocking on that door. Once Sarah and Casey leave to get “Leader,” Chuck can find more Truth ™ about what happened at Stanford.
And I’m talking about what happened between Jill and Bryce. Finding out has always been Chuck’s mission, after all. You remember, last time I mentioned that, although Bryce might not have been a real “bad guy” when he sent the Intersect to Chuck, his intentions with Chuck’s college girlfriend were still in question. They were certainly uppermost in Chuck’s mind. We were left with one big question: Bryce. Friend or foe?
For that matter, Jill; Friend or foe? Look at what she’s done. She’s already helped Chuck save the day, both with Guy LaFleur’s puzzles and with the virus that Fulcrum unleashed at the conference. She got Chuck out of the hall of mirrors by shooting “Leader.” Every time Chuck was in mortal danger, Jill got him out.
Yes, we saw the look on her face in the motel room, when she learned that Chuck knew about her Fulcrum handler, “Uncle Tobias.” And then, there was “Leader’s” smirking statement “Devious, aren’t we?” when Chuck guesses that Jill actually shot “Leader” in order to get into Castle. Maybe Jill is incredibly devious. We know Chuck has this big blind spot.
But did you notice that in neither case, did we, the viewers, have a direct answer? Jill’s “look” is up for interpretation – it could have been concern that she had been “made”, or it could have been extreme guilt. Jill makes no response to “Leader’s” statement. His word “We” could have meant “Fulcrum”, or merely have been a taunt. The more I see Jill, the more ambiguous her intentions become.
And that ambiguity is quite intentional. We, the audience, have to infer as much as Chuck about Jill’s actions. What we see is almost exactly like what Chuck sees on the lie detector. Jill admits, truthfully, that back then at Stanford, she really did like Chuck. That was real. Did she actually sleep with Bryce? No, she didn’t. That too, is the truth. Maybe Jill really does have Chuck’s best interests at heart.
Oh, there’s one more question Chuck has for Jill. “When this is all over, could we try again?” Her answer, “yes”, is a lie. There’s no future there, Chuck, even if you knock on that particular door. How could there be? She’s Fulcrum.
If you knock, knock, knock
And if you knock, knock, knock
And if you call me I’ll be free
And if you ring for me
Just like Bryce, Jill is a Schrodinger’s cat. She is neither good, nor bad, but some combination of both. We’re not going to know which until she acts.
In the mean time, Sarah and Casey have succeeded in bringing “Leader” to Castle, only to be trapped by Jill’s treachery. Yes, this time, her actions do seem treacherous. At least, they are self-serving. It appears she’ll jump to whatever side she thinks is winning.
I noticed that Sarah’s not confused by Jill at all. For Sarah, it’s black and white, and her job is simple – she still has to protect Chuck, even if it means showing him The Awful Truth ™ about his first love – she used him, even at Stanford, and will use him again.
Is Sarah right? She’s not wrong.
I don’t think Sarah expected what happens next. Chuck, nerd that he is, has actually taken the time to read the Castle manual – the Castle User’s Guide! Who does that??? Not only does Chuck prevent “Leader” from getting to Castle’s computers and getting Fulcrum there, he also frees Sarah and Casey. He saves them.
There’s also one more detail that I don’t think Sarah learns about until after the mission reports are written. Chuck has complete confidence that the Buy More is booby trapped. It’s a Buy Moron Thanksgiving tradition, and he’ll make it work in his favor. It’s also one of those little things that I always find enjoyable in Chuck. It all fits together so nicely!
The fight is not over, though. Jill is also there, and has her chance to shoot at, and maybe kill Sarah. True to her “on the fence” nature, at Chuck’s request, she doesn’t. Is she being shrewd? Playing “a long game” and setting a trap for Chuck to be sprung later? If she is, it doesn’t work. Chuck is not so naive any more, not about how this espionage game is played, and not about her. Chuck arrests Jill, and childhood is over, it seems.
But this is what I saw, Dave. Chuck hasn’t been so naive for a while now. He’s been past that for a long time, and Jill was just a major hurdle for him to get over, a major blind spot.
Sarah’s the one who had been looking through sentimental eyes at someone she thought needed her protection. Maybe he still does, but Sarah just learned that Chuck, while still giving Jill the benefit of the doubt as long as he could, saw through everything. He also knew Castle at least as well as “the professional spies,” if not better. Chuck just had his heart broken, and still accomplished his mission, and the CIA’s. Like he told Jill, Chuck knows complicated.
It’s true; Chuck lost his innocence a while back even when it involves his biggest blind spots. Now, I think it’s Sarah’s turn. She just learned that Chuck doesn’t need a babysitter or a handler, but a partner. For her, that’s a big step.