No, we’re not missing anything. The episode order was jumbled by NBC, so we’re setting it straight! Suburbs will be up next week, join us this week, as we discuss Best Friend after the jump!
So often with Chuck, it these stand alone episodes that are the strongest. And I think Best Friend follows that pattern nicely. There are no particular ties to ongoing story here, although we do learn a little about Chuck and Morgan’s history as friends. But this does manage to be an episode that finds that ideal balance between action, humor and drama. Even the “B” plot, when we first meet Jeffster manages to do everything right.
I’m not going to do a recap here, that’s never my thing, and really don’t think there’s anything in this episode to criticize either. Right from the start, the stalking/spy mission is funny (and Jeff’s history with the opposite sex!), as is Morgan’s confused self identity as a 49th level Gnome warrior, and Jeff’s question to Capt Awesome, “did you ever have a dream that didn’t come true?” All of this is balanced nicely with good drama like Chuck sacrificing Morgan’s dignity to save his life, and a really excellent discussion between Chuck and Sarah about friendship. Sarah nicely wins the argument by missing the point.
And this all leads to one of my favorite climaxes of the series. We get Sarah fighting Smooth Lau in a car, while Casey rides the roof of the Nerd Herder in pursuit of the ambassador. Just great fun all around, and really a first rate stunt sequence. And of course the real climax of it is Sarah’s tearful look of horror as she thinks Chuck has just died before her eyes. For those keeping score at home, we are only a month or so away form when Sarah will admit to her v-log that she is in love with Chuck, so no doubt she has some awareness of just how fully compromised she is at this point, and this could easily be the event that leads to her self confession. It also leads to a very nice friendship moment for Chuck and Sarah as we listen to Jeffster’s mangling of “Africa”; Sarah lets Chuck offer some encouragement and friendship, of a sort she has little experience with. And I think its precisely these sorts of moments that will give them the strong love they will need to survive the next year or so.
As I said, I’m not the long recap type. And since I have no complaints about this episode I have little else to get into! Please, consider my brevity a good thing!
It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Keep Me Away From You
Well, you know me, Dave. I’m not one to be brief. Nevertheless, you’ve already stated what I felt compelled to point out. This is a strong episode. Moreover, when we saw it for the first time, we all began to realize (with a capital “Duh!”) that this was a strong series.
How good is Chuck? It’s this good. Chuck vs. The Best Friend is not only an episode you should recommend to any casual or first time viewer. I defy you to watch the episode again and not feel your heart race when the nerd-herder blows up and Sarah cringes in horror. I’d bet money that you want to pump your first into the air as Sarah apologizes to Chuck for not being sensitive to what Morgan’s friendship means to him, Chuck accepts the apology perfectly and Jeffster’s music morphs into Toto’s rendition of Africa.
I just know that you can’t watch Chuck and Sarah take each other’s hand, hear his reassurance that someone does care for her and not know that they are more than just friends now. After countless re-watches, that’s still my reaction. It’s that good.
So how can I review an episode with which I want to find no flaws? The humor, especially Casey’s, is spot-on.
Chuck: You know what? I’ve been thinking…
Casey: Stop that!
Casey: You’re like the poster boy for friendly fire!
… are lines that will always make me smile. The action, especially Sarah’s fight in the car with Smooth Lau (Jennifer Jalene) (Hey! Don’t call it a “chick fight!”) while Pop Levi’s Wannamama provides the background music is thrilling. The back story, Anna’s new boyfriend, Jason Wang (Jack Yang), becoming involved with the Chinese Mafia – Triad – and their attempt to assassinate the Chinese ambassador is wonderful for a one-shot threat. Morgan’s dealing with Anna’s romantic threat at the same time is perfect counterpoint.
And, of course, we see the birth of Jeffster. Admit it. It’s even better than Spinal Tap!
His Best Friend’s Dignity
But hold that thought. This episode is about friendship, but there’s more than Chuck’s friendship with Morgan at stake here. Sarah shows surprising insight about relationships herself when she advises Anna at Jack’s auto-show/soiree.
Anna: I like Jason, and, you know, on paper he’s everything Morgan’s not. So that’s good.
Sarah: No, no. That’s bad.
Sarah: Because Morgan’s the guy you keep comparing him to.
On the surface, that’s about Anna and Morgan. However, if we were wondering about the direction of The Romance ™ after The Mauser Incident, then this was a big clue brick. You can partner Sarah with all the Bryce Larkins in the CIA, but Chuck is the one she keeps comparing them to. It’s also a peek into the future, as we shall see in just two weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of good stuff, and it all takes place in the glory of Chuck and Sarah’s cover romance becoming very, very real. That is what makes the episode stand out for me. Not that it’s going to be smooth sailing for them. Not at all. In fact, in the course of this episode Chuck and Sarah have never been so far apart, philosophically.
In one of the very best speeches Chuck ever delivers to the girl he thought he knew, Chuck has to tell her exactly how he feels – not about her and not about Morgan, but about what he thinks is important.
Chuck: How could you just stand there and make me choose between Morgan’s life and his friendship?
Sarah: That wasn’t going to happen, because Anna vouched for him.
Chuck: You don’t get who he is to me.
Sarah: No, I get it. He’s your best friend.
Chuck: You know, you say that, but I don’t think you have a clue what it means. Look, Sarah. I don’t have parents. I mean, not really. I don’t talk about it, because that’s just the way that things are now. But it wasn’t always this way. Morgan was there the first day that my mom took off. He didn’t say much, because, honestly, what is a fifth-grader supposed to say? But we sat there and split a cherry cheesecake and played “Legend of Zelda” all night long. And my dad, well, that’s a whole other story. But Morgan was there for that too. Morgan is more than just my best friend. He’s my family. Before you got here, and long after you’ve gone, Morgan is my family.
Wow. … and long after you’re gone… I don’t think Sarah was thinking in terms of this – whatever it is – ending, but of course, she must assume it could, someday, whether she wants it to or not. The decision is not altogether hers to be made alone.
Besides, Chuck was right and Sarah knew it. Up to now, she didn’t fully understand how much family means to Chuck and how much his friends are his family. She didn’t understand the importance at all.
But what of her answer?
Sarah: Last night, we failed to learn the contents of the Triad’s container. And now we don’t know what drugs or weapons are floating around the city. And while I appreciate your friendship with Morgan, losing sight of that container endangers many people’s best friends. Not just yours, Chuck.
Sarah’s right too. Chuck doesn’t fully understand what being a hero means, what the sacrifices might be or the sacrifices Sarah’s already made. Never have Chuck and Sarah been so far apart, and never has the split between “normal life” and the spy-life been so wide.
Then she loses Chuck. For one split second, he’s gone forever and the expression on Sarah’s face tells us her real feelings about that, even as the sickening twisting in her gut tells Sarah. Because he sees it, it also tells Chuck that she understands after all.
There are times when one person is bigger and more important than the entire world.
Jeff: Have you ever had a dream that’s never come true?
Devon: Hummm. No.
Jeff: Okay. Have you ever had a best friend with a dream that’s never come true? Lester was scared to sing yesterday, but he has a voice that makes angels cry. Please give Jeffster another chance.
Sigh. Out of the mouths of babes Jeffster…
The herder exploded, and if Chuck had taken just a fraction longer to reappear, Sarah would have cried and I would have suffocated because I had stopped breathing. The timing would have been off. As it was, the timing of Chuck’s reappearance was perfect. Didn’t I say this episode was exceptional? I meant technically, too.
As it is, the explosion is a marker in the Chuck universe. It’s the moment that Sarah admits to herself something important, the thing Casey accused her of earlier. She has feelings for the nerd.
Sarah: I wanted to apologize. I could’ve been more sensitive before about your friendship with Morgan. It’s just — It’s difficult. I don’t really have anyone in my life like that who cares about me.
Chuck: Yeah, you do.
Were you surprised to hear Sarah say this? I was. But on reflection, it’s true. Sarah has been spending her adulthood avoiding having anyone care for her. For their sake as well as for her own, it’s been necessary.
But what to do with the guy who refuses to play that game? It becomes necessary to put something big in the way, for protection.
It’s clear that something big came between Chuck and Sarah the moment she shot Mauser. It was the gulf between their worlds. We asked the questions: Could Chuck accept what Sarah had been forced to do? Could Sarah understand Chuck’s putting his own needs (his family and friends) above the rest of the world? Can either see each other’s point of view without compromising or changing who they are? Once they take each other’s hand, we know the answer is yes. That’s why we come away from this episode smiling, no matter how many times we’ve seen it.
Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?
Right at the end of the episode as the screen fades to black, something unexpected happens. I’m not even sure that it’s “acting”, in the sense that we were supposed to see it. What I’m speaking of is, of course, the look on Sarah’s face as they hold hands and the fade begins. People have often commented on that solemn, unexpected look Yvonne gives, and what might be going on in Sarah’s head at that moment.
To me, it’s always looked like deep concern, or, at least, a look that shows she’s puzzled and perhaps even a little confused. For me, it’s not about the intimate touch or even about Chuck, but it’s about Sarah’s future. She’s thinking something like an exasperated “Oh Lord, what do we do now?” or maybe the sentiment we hear her say in the finale; I think I’m in love and I don’t know what to do about it! That protection I spoke of – as necessary as it is, Sarah realizes she doesn’t want it between her and Chuck now and he’s not deterred anyway.
I have a theory that Yvonne’s look of confused concern wasn’t actually intended at the conception of the story, but just sorta came out, perhaps because Yvonne was so much in character. In reviewing the scenes, someone, most likely Fedak, thought it worked well and decided to keep it, but it was never intended to be a dark and foreboding thing. For me, however, that look speaks volumes, even if the interpretation I give it is totally personal, something spurred on by my own history.
And truth be told, that’s how I relate to nearly everything in Chuck. Starting with this episode, I knew it in my bones, too. From this point on, it was gonna take a lot to keep me away from this show.