I think of this as the start of the final arc for S2. I guess that’s a pretty artificial designation, we could argue that Predator and Broken Heart are still mostly stand alone episodes.
Orion makes his first appearance (but definitely not Scott Bakula!) as does the always professional Vincent (AKA Imhotep) But somehow, it just feels like we’re on a fast ride to the finale now. After the jump, we’ll discuss “Chuck vs The Predator”.
Predator usually scores about middle of the pack for episode popularity. That may say more about the excellence of season two than any shortcomings in this episode. At least speaking for myself, I completely enjoyed this episode. And we can feel the tension ramping up as Chuck has a first near miss with Orion. Things start fun enough, the team is returning from a successful but filthy “plumbing” mission. But some tension starts early too, Chuck has been doing a private search for Orion, and Sarah is a little peeved to find out after he’s found trouble. Perhaps Chuck is practicing the old “easier to get forgiveness…” strategy. Unfortunately (or is it fortunate?), Sarah’s forgiveness is easier to get than some of the other interested parties.
At this point I think I’ll stop trying to do any sort of play by play, its not really my strength anyway. In the best Chuck fashion we have a lot going on here. Orion is fleeing and at war with Fulcrum (and the Ring?). Fulcrum starts snooping around the Buy More again (and Vincent is compiling his shopping list…), Orion contacts Chuck, Beckman goes ballistic, Sarah’s feelings are hurt, and everyone decides to break into the store. I love this part. I think the Buy More heist is the sort of sequence this show does very well.
We get a nearly perfect (and very funny) integration of the “A” and “B” plots. So throw in Emmitt as the new sheriff in town and Jeff wetting himself and we get perfect chaos.
Amazing as it seems, this episode is also the first time Chuck meets Beckman in person. This adds an interesting element to the story as Beckman admits Chuck’s value, and that she needs him to be a spy. That may cause some issues later, but for now its a very exciting moment.
Of course for me as a major Charah ‘shipper, this ending is not quite ideal. Chuck sees Sarah’s fundamental conflict of interest clearly for the first time. He obviously thinks of Sarah as being all powerful and all capable (he even tries appealing to her to over-ride Beckman. Clearly he doesn’t “get” the chain of command!); but here he sees first hand her inter-actions with the General and that her orders are clearly not in his best interest. So how to read that ending? On first viewing I was a little disappointed, but I think I saw it quite differently this time. Sarah is a little insecure here, she may be worried about Chuck going rogue again and/or if her influence over him is slipping. But for Chuck’s part I believe him when he says he trusts her.
However, he did just see her conflict of interest first hand. He may trust her, but he understands the different pressures on her better than he did before. So perhaps he’s not sure how that trust might play out. And for her part, Sarah is right to be worried.
I know this write up was a little jumbled (errr, more jumbled than usual?).
I think that’s largely a reflection of how much was going on here. Some of what was set up here will be discussed in much more detail in the coming weeks (I know at least one big issue from Predator I will be re-examining next week.) And some of that jumble is just a reflection of how excited I was with this episode. And I don’t feel the need to complain about too much…
Conflict of Interest
Dave mentions that this is the start of the final arc of season two, and that’s quite correct. But I must admit, every time I think about Chuck vs. The Predator, I realize that it’s much more pivotal.
Is it the start of something important? Yes, of course. But my mind immediately goes to the end of Lethal Weapon for that start – Chuck’s speech to Sarah at the fountain. You see, that’s where Chuck shows us something – he tells us that he’s not going to let “this thing”, the Intersect, deprive him of his normal life.
Chuck is becoming his own man. Even as I type the words, I realize that the word “normal” isn’t exactly what he’s talking about. Chuck is not going to let the Intersect deprive him of his life, the one he decides to live, whatever that might be. It is he who will make that decision, not the Intersect, not the General Beckman, and not the CIA. We’re told all this again, without words, when Chuck turns over the Tron poster. It’s an act that shows us exactly where his priorities lay now.
Sort of snuck up on us, didn’t it? When did that happen? When did Chuck make that decision? It’s pretty clear that Chuck’s been working on his Tron poster for a while now, even if we didn’t realize it and even if we weren’t told. Well, we did see something coming throughout those episodes that preceded Predator. We could see how Cole influenced Chuck to take charge, if only a bit, by not letting him rely on General Beckman for instructions. We noticed how Chuck was already rebelling even before then, when he hacked the chip in Beefcake. This change in him (and this arc) really has it roots at least as early as that.
In the very first scene of Predator we can see that Sarah has changed too. Instead of patting the boy on the head and saying “Nice job on the plumbing…”, Sarah humorously sides against Casey and with Chuck’s general feeling about their just completed mission, including the idea of burning their jump suits. I second the motion. No more plumbing on future missions.” Then Sarah does something I don’t recall her doing before. She gets Chuck alone and asks him what his plans are. Chuck seems to put her off, [Hey, wait! He put her off? When did that happen???] implying that he intends to do nothing but shower and sleep. With that, Sarah asks if she’ll see him tomorrow.
This is better! Sarah’s acting very much like she wants Chuck to be comfortable in their relationship and confide in everything. For her, it’s almost, but not quite, like they’re a couple (or at the very least, that she would like to work towards that). What Sarah does for one moment is to get a tiny bit domestic again, like she did in Suburbs. She too has changed in a way we saw once before, in Best Friends. The roots of this arc go deep, indeed.
Everything seems to be getting better for Chuck. It’s been a continuous progression. Did you notice what happened when Jeff, Lester and Morgan send Orion’s predator drone off to destroy the Buy More? Yeah, it’s a hilarious scene. The moment the drone gets diverted to the Beverly Hills Buy More, Chuck takes charge. He knows who would do that, and it’s not Orion. More importantly, Casey and definitely Sarah know that Chuck is on top of the situation. Without questioning it this time, they both trust Chuck professionally (well, Sarah a bit more than Casey, but you know. It’s Casey).
By the evening Chuck is in charge of the mission, too. That’s different. Where Chuck was once the asset, he’s now acting like one of them, a full partner. You can see Sarah treat Chuck as a professional equal when Casey complains about Chuck’s dictum – no guns! “Well, you did put him in charge…”
With Chuck’s new standing, from this point on it looks like his relationship with Sarah will have to be different too.
I’ll pause here for just a moment to contemplate the laughs in the Buy More when Emmett is confronted by, not one but three sets of burglars, all after Orion’s computer. Buy Morons at their finest. And I still rank Arnold Vosloo’s Agent Imhotep Vincent Smith as one of the best villains of the series. And btw, I’ve enjoyed his performances in NCIS, Bones and 24 also. It would be unprofessional of me not to. 😉
Successful mission! Vincent is dead, the Buy More is saved, Chuck has found Orion, and everyone is happy.
NOT! There is conflict everywhere.
I mentioned that Chuck leaves Sarah in the opening scenes – not for sleep, but to search for Orion. In fact, Chuck is conducting a clandestine search, strictly verboten, as Casey, Sarah and General Beckman soon tell him. Chuck keeps on searching until Orion finds him, upsetting Sarah to no end.
Doesn’t he trust her? Of course. He trusts her with his life, Chuck assures her. Yet, why the tension? There’s a reason and I don’t think trust is the issue.
It’s because their relationship is different now. In Sarah’s mind Chuck doesn’t need the baby-sitting (oh, face it, Sarah. He doesn’t need the mothering!) that she used to provide in situations where Ellie couldn’t. It’s not a matter of trust and it isn’t a matter of protection. Chuck is striking out on his own, and Sarah is conflicted about that idea. After all, her orders are to protect him, not help him find Orion (or whatever it is he’s looking for).
Yeah, Chuck is maturing. Our boy is no longer a bumbling nerd-herder even when he looks like one. He certainly does look like one when Vincent rises from the dead in Castle to take Chuck hostage, stumbling into the computer stand. Yet, it’s Sarah who knows better. “Chuck is not a spy, and he knows it.” Sarah tells Beckman. But there he is, providing the clues he needs to give them.
So is Chuck a spy now, or what? Let’s get an unbiased opinion:
Vincent: You’re CIA, right?
Chuck: Sure. Name’s Carmichael.
Vincent: I’ve heard of you. Orion was coming out of the cold for you. That’s excellent work.
Great! Chuck has got his professional recognition! That’s wonderful, except that he’s about to fail in his mission and Vincent is about to kill him. Chuck has got to be feeling a bit conflicted about the praise. After all, he really didn’t want to be a spy.
Chuck wasn’t rebelling against Sarah when he went off on his own, and he wasn’t when he began his search for Orion. Chuck realizes, though, that she may not fully understand what he wants to do with his life and will make mistakes even if she’s trying to help. Chuck knows he still needs Sarah’s help and he knows that Sarah is on his side.
Not so, General Beckman.
We have a contest of wills between Chuck and Beckman – “He’s a spy until I say he isn’t!” Really? I’d say Chuck’s a little conflicted about that idea too.
No, Chuck isn’t rebelling against Sarah when he delays telling her about his search. And Chuck isn’t losing trust in her even when he hides Orion’s schematics behind his back. He knows Sarah has got her own conflict of interest when it comes to the CIA and General Beckman. There is something big and dangerous Sarah can’t ignore – Fulcrum.
Sarah: [Entering through the Morgan door] Hi.
Chuck: She was wrong, you know. I’m not a spy.
Sarah: Look, Beckman is a soldier, and she sees things in black and white. But she is right about one thing. We’re in the middle of a fight with Fulcrum.
Chuck: Yeah, uh, I get that. I do. But this is not my future. This is what I’m doing right now. But I will get my life back.
Sarah: Yeah, of course you will, Chuck. We’re still a good team, right? You still trust us?
Chuck: I trust you. [Chuck hides Orion’s schematics from Sarah’s view] Of course I do.
Sarah: I’m on your side, Chuck.
Chuck: I know.
Yes, Chuck trusts her. He’s just not sure that Sarah can help and remain true to her own duties and responsibilities. After this episode, I wasn’t sure either. It’s an incredible start to the adventure leading to Ellie’s wedding. The freight train is building up speed.