We see the return of Jill, but no Roark or Orion as the season two finale arc speeds to its conclusion. This is another episode that makes good use of humor, action and well conceived drama. The “B” plot manages to connect thematically, but has no practical bearing on the main story. Join us once again, after the jump, as we look at Chuck vs The First Kill.
I think this is a dynamite episode from beginning to end. And what an end! Easily one of the best endings of the series; could have been one of the best television endings of all time if it weren’t so diminished by S3. But even in the grand scheme of things, this episode is great entertainment and fun to watch anytime.
The central issue here is trust. Right from the start, Sarah asks Chuck if he trusts her. He does pause for a moment, before affirming that he does. But this issue will be revisited throughout; as Chuck wonders if he can trust Sarah (he now knows how divergent the CIA’s interests are from his own, so where will Sarah line up?). Chuck also wonders about trusting Jill, at least in the needing something from her sense. But Jill is pursuing her own agenda (freedom/escape) and is able to take advantage of what Chuck is after to accomplish her own goals. All while cautioning that Sarah and Casey are the ones not to be trusted. At least on Chuck’s current mission of rescuing his Dad and getting rid of the Intersect, some caution is well founded. But because its Jill the tensions run high.
I think the entertainment value of this episode is sky high. especially the scenes with Bernie the Carnivore and infiltrating the Fulcrum base. It is all both funny and exciting. I love “The Morgan”, Chuck protecting his test answers (on a personality test!), and most of all, the action sequence. Sarah taking on a building full of enemy agents with a brace of pistols is just awesome television. And Casey’s shotgun is hardly far behind. Chuck’s attempted rescue of Mr. Bergey is a great scene in its own right. It highlights what is different and special about Chuck (he will go to some extent to save someone who just tried to kill him), and is funny at the same time. Jill lends a hand, but is clearly shown as conflicted and hesitant to do so. Perhaps its a normal response with her own freedom on the line, but its clear she’s no Sarah!
I like Chuck letting Jill go in the end here too, he keeps his word even when the consequences for himself may be dire. But I’m guessing Chuck only anticipated a possible bill for an expensive missing ring. Not the bunker order that comes down! Which of course is the defining moment of this episode, arc and season. I mentioned back in Broken Heart how Beckman is often reduced to mere plot device, and here we see it again. After just learning a couple weeks ago that Agent Walker has feelings for Chuck that can be “an asset to the Asset” she now decides the same agent is a good candidate to lure Chuck into possibly permanent captivity. And she wonders at why Chuck seems to trust Agent Walker? Well congratulations General Beckman, you’re about to get a tutorial on the subject!
“Take off your watch” is as epic a moment as I’ve ever seen. Last week we spent a fair amount of time going over this event, I suspect we’ll discuss it some more now. My take on it, and I’m sure I’ll end up rephrasing this (for clarity!) a few more times, but of course Sarah is horrified when the order comes down. I think she tried to convince herself as she walked across the parking lot (after apparently changing clothes? Maybe she didn’t want to walk into the Buy More smelling like gun powder? Funny) that this was for Chuck’s own good, for his safety.
But the convincing didn’t go very deep. Sarah knows its wrong, and she knows Chuck will never forgive her for this betrayal of trust. So she stands there looking horribly guilty as Chuck approaches. She tries to do her job, but Chuck broke down her defenses long ago. Nearly the first words out of his mouth and Sarah can’t go through with it. [I would love to see the “Groundhog Day” version of this scene. In a million tries what’s the farthest Sarah ever gets back across the parking lot? Or does she ever even make it out of the store with Chuck in tow? Maybe she gets further in a universe where Chuck has a beard? But I bet Sarah could never deliver Chuck to Castle. The General is about year late for that order to be obeyed.] We get a tense pause, as Sarah apparently double checks camera locations, and then the line comes. WOW! That never gets old! In my own little mind I often imagine Chuck as three different shows. The first show ends with Colonel (or maybe Ring). This moment is the climax of that first show. Of course I already loved the characters and setting, and this is the pay off moment for that whole first series. I was grinning ear to ear.
I should come back to the “B” plot for just a moment. The trust issue plays through here too as Morgan wrestles with trusting Emmett, or not. Perhaps the stakes aren’t as high as the trust issues Chuck is dealing with, but the problem character is far more unsavory. And of course Morgan is burned by trusting the wrong person, while Chuck’s result is quite different. Overall, I think the entertainment value of this sub-plot was quite low, fortunately it doesn’t get much air time.
The balance of these first two seasons of Chuck was often delicate. No doubt it is occasionally darker than I prefer. But the lasting impression is how perfectly the action, adventure, drama, romance and humor played off each other. We have two more episodes with this wonderful balance before we come to a more difficult season (that fortunately won’t last! my enthusiasm for the last two seasons of Chuck in some ways exceeds what I felt for this first incarnation). We will talk a lot more about our changing perception of the show in the weeks ahead. But for now, it couldn’t be better.
Are You Wired?
Why, yes! Yes I am. Chuck vs. The First Kill does it to me every time.
There are layers here, which is a ridiculous statement for an episode that is generally colored comical. Know what I mean? The first, aborted Buy More rebellion, played to Twisted Sister’s We Ain’t Gonna Take It, Chuck’s lethal “defensive” move, The Morgan and, of course, his calm, running-gag whine that, yes indeed, he’s wired, are low-brow comedy. They’re also hilarious in a “I’ll make you feel good” sort of way, which is just the way I like it.
That’s the light-weight layer, but it has a lot of stuff to hold. After all, there are at least three or four stories going on at once, each distinct and interesting in their own right, and each one better than the last.
Now, if I were to relate (again) all the details of all the stories in chronological order, I’d probably mess it up, even with the notes I took. I’d also probably bore you. But if you haven’t had a chance to re-watch and would like that kind of synopsis, I invite you to read our review from back in ’09.
There’s not much detail needed for the Buy More story anyway. As it often does, Morgan’s problems with Emmett’s treachery, ending in a wonderful homage to The Godfather, is an echo of Chuck’s plight. Teh funny comes back to us as poignant. The one-episode adventure, Team B invading a Fulcrum recruiting center with the help on Chuck’s first love, Jill Roberts, is one of the best. The more I see of Jordana Brewster, the more I like her!
That story too has it’s perfectly ridiculous moments with Chuck bringing down two bad-guys, Jill’s Uncle Bernie (Ken Davitian as “The Carnivore”) and Fulcrum’s Agent Bill Bergey (Christopher Cousins) with the same lethal maneuver, The Morgan.
But the ridiculous becomes sublime when, in both instances, Jill has to say goodbye to people who care about her.
Even better, we have a battle going on underneath between Sarah and Jill, who after all, did try to kill her one time. The writers aren’t so crass as to have them actually fighting over Chuck, of course. They’re not. Instead, they are both fighting for Chuck’s trust. In Sarah’s case, she thinks Chuck is just too trusting of Jill. In fact, the words “child like naïveté” come to mind.
In Jill’s case, she is convinced Chuck is too trusting of the CIA. But we have to ask both of them: Is Chuck really so naive? I don’t think so! He proves he’s better than that when he stands up to General Beckman.
Chuck: That’s your update? Well, I’m sorry, but that’s a non-update. And you know what? It’s not good enough.
Casey: Watch it, Bartowski. That’s a US general you’re talking to.
Chuck: I’ve spent the last year of my life being tortured dangled off of skyscrapers, bathed is sewage – stop me if I’ve forgotten any other glamorous perks of this job.
I’ve continually done everything that you guys have asked me to do. But once my dad gets kidnapped, all you can say is “sorry?”
It’s not just Beckman, either. Chuck’s not taking anything from official channels at face value any more. But – um, Sarah is “official channels” too, right? For Chuck, Sarah is a much harder to dismiss than a mere general.
Sarah: Okay – I know you don’t trust them. But do you trust me?
That’s a good question. Chuck answers “yeah,” but… doesn’t it seem like he delays his answer a bit too long? – like he’s really thinking about it?
Even in the face of that hesitation, Sarah gives Chuck her strongest assurance I can remember that, yes, she’s really on his side.
Sarah: Good. And I promise you we’re gonna find him.
That’s a real promise, and Sarah really means it. Chuck believes her too, but when push comes to shove, he’s just not sure it’s a promise on which Sarah can deliver. It may not be entirely in her hands, after all, and when it comes down to it, Jill may be in a better position to help than Sarah, regardless of their histories and intentions.
Chuck: Look. I know she tried to kill you, and I’m sorry about that. But she is the best chance I have at rescuing my father. He’s out there somewhere. God only knows what’s happening to him.
Sarah: You have to realize that there are some people you just cannot trust.
Chuck: Sarah – I already know that. I don’t trust anyone – except for you. And right now, I need you to trust me. Jill is the only way I’m gonna get my dad back.
Trust has to work both ways. If it was possible to take a poll while the show first aired, I would guess that about 50 percent of the viewers were thinking that Sarah was going to let Chuck down at the end. She’s had a bit of a history of doing that, n’est-ce pas?
He never appears in this episode, but Stephen J. Bartowski plays a big roll nevertheless. That’s a layer of storytelling too. It may be that the CIA has sent Team B. on an official mission to get Orion back from Fulcrum. The CIA has it’s reasons. Chuck, though, is on an unofficial mission to save his father regardless of what the CIA tells him to do.
In fact, Chuck doesn’t care about the official mission at all, and Sarah knows it. He is just interested in solving the shell game that Fulcrum is playing with his father. Could it be that, from Sarah’s POV, Chuck may not be trustworthy either? Sure. Casey certainly doesn’t trust him.
And if no one trusts anyone, then how can Team B stay together? The answer is, it can’t.
We should have seen it coming earlier, even before Casey caught Chuck going rogue to save Stephen in Dream Job or earlier still, when Chuck hid Orion’s schematics from Sarah’s view in Predator. As a team, they are falling apart.
Casey : Permission to drop the twerp into a deep dark hole, General.
That’s it. As far as Beckman is concerned, the Human Intersect Project is over and done. Chuck is just too hard to control. I was as surprised and stunned as Casey and Sarah that the end came so quickly. You see, for weeks I’ve been calling Chuck and Sarah boyfriend and girlfriend, because that’s what they were. This time through in my re-watches, they seemed more like a couple than I ever realized before.
Three years ago when the episode first aired their wavering trust gave me pause. Now the whole arc seems even more dramatic and intense for that. They are more intense. Sarah’s reluctance to even say that they were a couple was, then, only a signal that maybe they weren’t quite there yet. Maybe that was exactly what Chuck was thinking too. Now, Sarah’s reticence is something else. It’s a near fatal flaw that caused Chuck to have the same caution I did at exactly the moment when…
Yeah. The moment. The fact is, my sense of timing is all weirded out here. Those last, unforgettable – what is it? Five? – minutes of the episode, from the moment General Beckman makes her decision to “drop Chuck into a deep, dark hole” until, really, the first ten minutes of the next episode, they seem to echo forever in my mind. They go by in an instant that I don’t want to end. [Groundhog’s Day is right, Dave!]
I can’t resist re-playing it a bit. As the general gives her orders to Casey and Sarah, we see Sarah entering the Buy More, smiling a fake smile. She’s been told – ordered – to lie to Chuck and bring him back to Castle. Once there, he will be detained by Casey, who is watching on the monitors and waiting to strike like a cobra.
Sarah: We have good news.
Chuck: Can it wait? – computer emergency…
Sarah: It’s about your father. We found him.
Stephen’s safe – it’s all over and he’s back at Castle, Sarah tells him, and despite his feeble attempt to stay incredulous, Chuck finally believes every word of the lie. That’s too bad, because she’s there to arrest him.
Wrong word. She’s there to betray him (and I’m whispering “No, Sarah! Don’t do it!” at the TV screen). Then, with a sigh, Chuck says something that causes ice and stone to crack.
Chuck: I owe you an apology.
Chuck: I was beginning to think that I couldn’t trust you anymore, Sarah. – that Maybe Jill was right, that the CIA was never gonna let me go, that they would always put their best interests ahead of mine. But not you. You’ve always looked out for me. Thank you.
Sarah seems lost and for one brief moment, hopeless. She looks back one time as if to see her old life running out the door, leaving her. And then, they share a hug, Chuck in relief – because it’s over, and Sarah in desperation combined with steeled resolve – because it’s not. She whispers in his ear and everything is changed. Everything.
Sarah: Take off your watch.
Sarah: Because it’s all a lie.
The turning point we’ve all been waiting for. Chuck did NOT trust the wrong person, like Morgan posited. Nor did he trust too much – not Jill and not Sarah. She was there to betray him, and yes, Chuck had wavered. But for both, that is over.
Now Chuck’s mission is Sarah’s mission, Chuck has a partner and nothing is between them. But the cost is huge. With Casey and the CIA close behind, Chuck&Sarah are on the run. There is nothing more romantic.
Chuck: You’re disobeying orders for me? Committing treason, Sarah. You could go to jail.
Sarah: I know.