The plot here is clearly more of a stand alone. But the emotional intensity is building in a straight line. Chuck has done this sort of quasi-arc before, and will again. We’ll look at Chuck vs The Broken Heart after the jump.
So where to start? This episode is very intense. As so often happens with Chuck, I think the set up is weak and a real stretch. But the pay-off is just brilliant. I guess you could say this is an episode of extremes for me; some extreme eye rolls and suspension of disbelief required. And then an extremely satisfying resolution.
Let me get my problem out of the way first. This is exactly what I mentioned I would want to get back to last week. The whole set-up hinges on General Beckmen being a plot device. Or a complete world class moron. A moron who would have fit in better on “Get Smart” than Chuck. She goes from telling Chuck last week that she needs him to be a spy because they’ve lost a lot of agents to this war on Fulcrum and Team Bartowski is the only one that has seen significant success, to worrying that they may like each other too much? So she’s going to re-assign one of the two professional agents on the team because there might be some feelings between her and Chuck. Even better, all the “evidence” she has only indicates Chuck has feelings for Agent Walker, nothing the other way around. Given that a big part of Sarah’s job is getting Chuck to do the government’s bidding, and she has so far been completely successful at it, Chuck having affection for her would be considered a good thing, right? Apparently not on Planet Beckmen. Now don’t get me wrong, if the General had even a partially functioning piece of brain in her skull she would know it would be foolish to ask Agent Walker to do anything plainly harmful to Chuck. After all, her agent has worked closely with this asset for 18 months at this point, and been responsible for protecting him physically and emotionally. Only a complete moron would think Agent Walker would be the ideal candidate to say, terminate the asset or lead him to a secure bunker for the rest of his life (but wait! we’ll come back to that in a couple weeks!). But Sarah has done an extraordinary job of keeping Chuck cooperative, happy and healthy. Plus, Agent Walker is loyal to the government (not Fulcrum) and always gets the job done. And did I mention that the General knows Chuck is a sensitive, insecure sort who truly is attached to his handler. And then is the closely related issue of Chuck’s response. I would think, especially given the General’s discussion with him at the end of Predator, that Chuck actually does have enough influence to insist on the team of his choosing. He tried to insist on only working with Sarah to Agent Forrest, but seriously, it shouldn’t be such a hard thing for him to barter his continued cooperation for the team of his choice.
Okay, rant over for now. This episode does require a massive suspension of disbelief to get around to the main story. But oh what a story. What this episode does best it really does extremely well. So many scenes are just extraordinary. And I know I’ve already used that word, but Broken Heart deserves it on several levels. We get several scenes that are either brilliantly funny, or powerful and sweet. From the first visit to the hospital, with Agent Forrest tranquing a nurse’s aid and Chuck and his awkward conversation with Dr. Zamir. Then we have a painfully funny bachelor party overlapping Sarah’s excruciating dismissal. Yvonne’s performance is just perfect, as always.
When he finally gets around to it, Casey standing up for “the best partner he’s ever had” is satisfying too. But I have to say, the highlight of this episode is Chuck in the vault. As Chuck so often does, we get funny and exciting overlapping perfectly. I love the laughing gas gag and Chuck still tricking Zamir into giving up the intelligence.
And I love Sarah managing to save the day in spite of Forrest’s efforts to kill Chuck. And who can resist this scene’s end; “both.” They should have hugged. I know I know. It’s too early, it only would have made things look worse for Sarah, blah, blah, blah. They should have hugged.
The debrief with the General yields great results. Casey stands up for Chuck and Sarah all at once. And Chuck’s appeal is finally heard and Sarah is reinstated. Perfect end. Now I will say, there is an obvious consequence here that I’m very disappointed they never played with. Sarah and Chuck’s feelings for each other clearly make them an excellent team. And in particular, it makes Sarah a great bodyguard for Chuck. But as I mentioned way back in Marlin, Sarah is not truly the government’s agent where this asset is concerned. She can be trusted to always protect him and help him complete missions. But a thinking General would know she shouldn’t be trusted with orders that are clearly not in Chuck’s best interest. When this episode first ran I was very excited for where this might go. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rest of this season, but I sure do wish we had seen Beckman act on her new found knowledge about Agent Walker’s conflicted interests. Broken Heart isn’t the last time we’ll get some awesome drama derived from Beckman’s staggering stupidity.
The final scenes of this episode are some very good Chuck and Sarah stuff. And remember, the intel on Chuck’s Dad is another example of where Sarah’s loyalties do lie. Chuck knows it too. Almost as a secondary issue, this end ties this episode back into the finale arc. And I want to emphasize again how truly outstanding I thought the second half of this episode was. Really an excellent example of how much fun this show can be when everything comes together just right. Something less overtly “plot devicey” might have helped with getting the episode started, but I think it works far better when the rough spots are at the beginning than when they’re at the end!
Oh yes. I’ll agree with Dave wholeheartedly about the eyebrow raising set-ups at the beginning of Chuck vs. The Broken Heart. Well, not so much that the General was worried that Sarah was compromised – I mean, everyone, including Beckman, knew that she was. It was only a question of how much was Agent Walker compromised. So the general is actually worried that Walker is sleeping with “the asset?” Doubtful. Maybe she should be worried that Agent Walker has convinced the asset that selling his talents on the open market so that they can run away to sunny Spain or something, might be a viable option? That’s doubtful too. That’s not Sarah. Not yet.
But Noooooooo! They have to do a 49-B, whatever that is. Apparently, it’s got something to do with Cylons. Bring on Tricia Helfer!
Okay. The first time I saw this episode, I was prepared for “teh silly.” And the opening with, first, Chuck being abducted by scary looking, hooded men dressed in black and second, Casey realizing that hosing down the Buy Moron miscreants on a mission was an adequate and appropriate response, confirmed that this was going to be ridiculously silly. So replacing Sarah with a Cylon seemed right in sync.
The mission itself is a one-off. No Fulcrum or Orion here. There’s a terrorist lurking in Burbank by the name of Rashad Ahmad who spends the entire episode in a comatose state, mostly in a hospital room. Nice role, if you can get it. Ahmad is best buds, though, with one Hassan Khalid, who’s hiding out somewhere in the Afghani mountains. Beckman wants to plant a bug into the pacemaker of the heart patient Ahmad so that they can get to Bin Ladin Khalid character. Agent Forrest, the “49-B” sent to evaluate and replace Sarah, and Casey are very much into this kind of op. “I’ve dreamed of finding that guy,” they say in unison. Two minds. Connected, professionally. She’s also there to “evaluate my performance,” says Sarah.
Khalid’s personal physician, Zamir (Shaun Toub), is the guy trying to stand between Team B and their objective.
Did I say, Team B? When Sarah is told to stay in the van, it’s no longer Team B. Much to my surprise, Sarah is the odd man out, not Chuck, and that didn’t make me laugh with the silliness. It wasn’t supposed to. Instead, I found myself watching Sarah’s face as she looked first surprised and then helpless as she was ordered to stay back. That’s a change. Is this the girl we saw threaten Chuck righteously in the second episode of season 1, saying that she’ll take the next plane back to Langley if he doesn’t listen to her?
The first time I saw this episode, I was watching Chuck. I knew that he was crazy about Sarah (his words), and I knew that Sarah was resisting emotional ties for some pretty good reasons. I thought she was the strong one and I thought they were going to walk that tightrope pretty much forever, even if she did “like” the nerd.
There’s more going on, of course, but not all of it is between Chuck and Sarah. The Buy Morons are throwing a bachelor party for Awesome, and for most of them, it’s their first time (yeah, double entendre intended). Devon’s got the key card that will get Casey into the hospital’s secure area, so that he can plant the bug. But it’s around his neck. That’s a good excuse for Agent Forrest to try to get Devon’s shirt off and an even better excuse to cause some little tension between Ellie and Devon weeks before their wedding.
That wasn’t silly at all. In fact, Sarah Lancaster gives one of her best performances, I think, as she goes from trusting Devon to being devastated at his implied dalliance. Things are not going well in the apartment.
Things are not going well for Chuck, either. He’s been stymied in his mission to find Orion, so instead, he puts his energies into finding his dad so that he can be there for Ellie’s wedding. No luck there, either. In joking desperation, he asks Sarah if she can use Castle’s main-frame computer to do the search. Uh, no. It’s that kind of thing that’s gotten Sarah in trouble with Beckman. It’s the kind of thing that could get her fired.
Agent Forrest’s evaluation assures Sarah gets fired anyway.
And this is where I’d really like to begin. Sarah is forced out of Castle, and what’s the first thing she does? She commits a treasonous act to help Chuck find his dad. This is not only a transformation for her – I want to say a shocking transformation, because this was the first time, back in the spring of 2009, that I noticed Sarah Walker was no longer Agent Walker.
Oh, there were plenty of signs to be seen before this. But it took me several viewings to realize their importance. There will be times coming in later episodes when Sarah taps deep into the emotional darkness that is Agent Walker, relying on the steel armor she had placed around her heart when we first met her. But when Sarah decides that her last act in Burbank will be to help Chuck find his dad, and again when Sarah realizes that the search succeeded and turns around, she’s crossed some sort of Rubicon. Maybe this is not so silly after all.
Sarah’s still the best, and proves it by solving the mystery of Chuck’s and Ahmad’s whereabouts in a remarkable – and surprisingly realistic – sequence of logical deduction. As if Agent Forrest doesn’t get it, Sarah all but challenges her tormentor to a fight, adding a shoulder-chuck for emphasis. It’s no contest.
Sarah’s not done. Chuck’s locked in a bank vault with the terrorist Zamir, being forced to perform surgery because of a case of mistaken identity. There’s two ways to get in, Forrest’s way (using a bit of nitro, which will probably kill terrorists and “the asset” too) and Sarah’s way (which will require a lot of skill). Casey’s the deciding vote, and he’s known for liking brute force methods. Which will he decide? He gave his answer a bit earlier in the episode.
Casey: Now, Forrest, I was gonna say earlier, I disagree with your assessment.
Forrest: About what?
Casey: Walker. She’s a pro. Not only that, she’s the best damn partner I ever had.
Casey’s transformed at least as much as Sarah, it seems.
Oh, we’re not done being silly. In fact, there’s quite a bit more coming. But it seems so much more gentle now and so much more welcome. In his laughing-gas induced stupor, Zamir becomes pals with Chuck, even advising him to stand his ground with the authorities to get his woman back “Like Hassan Khalid.” And where is that guy? Chuck asks. Why he’s in the Eastern Karakorum caves. Cool. Mission accomplished. Sarah saves the asset by getting the vault door open.
Chuck: Sarah? Is it really you or am I super stoned?
Sarah: Uh, both. Heh!
Beckman takes some convincing, but the contrivance we all found questionable, that spies should not be emotionally involved, is removed. This too is a transformation because now Chuck and Sarah’s future is very much up to them. It is not up to the authorities. You’d think Chuck would jump on that, wouldn’t you?
Broken Heart is full of things I find problematic. Why was Devon’s name on the forms indicating he performed surgery on Ahmad, when he obviously couldn’t? And why wasn’t he in trouble for that? I’m sure nitrous oxide could have been used as an anesthetic in the vault, but would Doctor Zamir really have chosen that in a confined space? And what ever happened to those other terrorists in the vault? They’re there one minute and gone the next without a shot being fired.
But by the time Bon-Iver’s Bloodbank starts playing, I don’t care. Chuck is not concerned about his future with Sarah – he’s not going to worry about a romance that may or may not happen right now, even if it’s with Sarah Walker. That’s too problematical. He’s worried about Ellie and he’s more than angry over what the government has done to his life and the lives of those around him. That’s today.
The song is well chosen. Having the Intersect in his head and being a spy has already cost Chuck too much. All lightheartedness aside, it may demand his very life’s blood.
What we see is that Sarah is not worried about her life at all. She’s only worried about Chuck. Sarah decides that, orders or no, this is about something bigger. And make no mistake, before all this, orders were the biggest thing for Agent Walker. This is not silly, and the mistakes I think I noticed while watching just don’t matter in comparison.
Symbolized by one touch of Sarah’s hand on the back of Chuck’s neck, this change in Sarah transfixed and amazed me the first time and continues to do so every time I see it. At that moment his life’s mission, no matter what that might be, seems to be hers.
Now look at Chuck’s eyes when she touches him.
It’s both disappointment that his father’s not there and a determination – and strength – that his life will go on that I see.
That’s not the nerd who was afraid to go to his own birthday party. No matter what happens from now on, that’s not the guy with the freakishly girlish screams any longer. He now recognizes all the changes that Sarah’s been going through.Of all the people I said were changed before, Chuck is transformed most of all.
But there’s one more thing. “Dad?”