Chuck and Sarah have run off the grid together in search of Chuck’s father. Casey is in hot pursuit. And Fulcrum has its own nefarious plans. We’re up to the penultimate episode of season two and we see the return of Chevy Chase as Roark and Scott Bakula as Orion/Stephen Bartowski. Join us after the jump for this week’s discussion!
Almost every poll or survey ever done shows Chuck vs The Colonel as one of the absolute fan favorite episodes. I would easily put it in my top five; really it was my number one until Honeymooners. That’s quite a while! Now in the grand scheme of things I would say my assessment is greatly diminished, massive damage was done here by S3. And no doubt, S4 and S5 were more the show I was always hoping to see. But Colonel remains an excellent episode in its own right, and it continues the S2 trend of getting that balance between action, comedy, romance, drama, tension and release just right.
I normally like to look at both things that worked and things that didn’t work for me when writing these reviews. But I think there is truly nothing for me to criticize on this one. Nearly every moment, every scene is satisfying and fun. Okay, maybe I could say “dump the “B” plot.” Or is it the “C” plot? I mean Morgan at the Buy More! Sad thing is, I thought the Buy More plot was very good in this episode. But the “A” story is so outstanding I can only wish for more of it!
One observation. I love Sarah still trying to convince Chuck this is all about her duty or mission in the beginning. What she’s not mentioning is its her very personal duty to protect Chuck; because she actually just bailed out on her government duty and has made this a rogue mission. She tries to convince Chuck, and likely herself, that this is all about rescuing his father. And no doubt, Sarah is very task oriented, she takes on that mission with enthusiasm. But she’s kidding everyone. This mission is about Sarah deciding she can’t betray Chuck’s trust. And yes, at some level she’s knows that’s because she loves him. She got into this mission because she can’t betray Chuck’s trust, even if she has no idea what else to do. A follow up point has to do with television shortcomings, I wish they were more willing to change the show’s format for an extended period, like half a season of Chuck and Sarah on the run, off the grid together. That would have been fun! But leaving the rest of the cast with nothing to do for half a season is never going to happen.
I do want to touch on the staggering number of things that were so well done in this episode. Some of that is just culminating an outstanding season of television. It was time for Chuck and Sarah to be together; not to say they’re anywhere near being a mature couple, but the time for plausible obstacles has past. Everything about the timing here felt perfect, including Sarah’s last attempt to re-establish her professionalism at the beginning of the episode. And the spooning/hands game was just a beautiful way of showing it. Intensely romantic, yet still safe for the first prime time spot on network TV. We had more sweet and fun Chuck/Sarah scenes in this episode than in the series to date; the chemistry is off the charts and the execution and performances are perfect.
And yet there’s still more to this episode. Devon learning Chuck’s secret almost gets forgotten, and yet it was exciting and fun too. He even got a couple of good hits in on Casey, not bad for a frat boy! Of course learning Chuck’s secret could only be awesome; and then melting down in front of Ellie is laugh out loud funny. Casey gets to shine here too, from nearly killing Devon to going rogue, once properly asked. Add in perfect performances by Chevy Chase and Scott Bakula and we really have an embarrassment of riches. All great stuff.
Chuck vs The Colonel is dynamite all the way from beginning to end; with “it is real” and a return of the hands game finishing things off in a completely satisfying way. Even if the legacy of this episode is undermined by what lies ahead, the episode itself is just terrific entertainment. And Colonel, book-ended with Honeymooners, serves as an indictment of the ill-conceived mess in between. But for now, it can’t be better than this.
No Space Between Them
Last week, we left Chuck&Sarah on the run from the CIA and Casey. I couldn’t resist commenting that this was one of the most romantic things I could think of – almost Shakespearean, to my mind. Now, a week had passed by for the audience, and most assuredly, we were all caught up in it. The promos fed that feeling big-time, and we loved the idea that they were out there, alone together.
Surprisingly, from their point of view, or, at least, the POV of fictional characters, there is hardly any romance. There couldn’t be. Dave, I think I see the opening shaded just a little differently than you. Chuck is concerned first and foremost with the fate of his father. Sarah is running on pure adrenaline, concerned only with protecting Chuck. Rushing through the night – not the week that we had to rush through – romance is probably not the first thing on their minds. There is no time.
Chuck vs. The Colonel opens in the harsh, desert daylight of Barstow, with Chuck&Sarah standing in an abandoned drive-in theater parking lot. The music is menacing and they look tired. That parking lot should be Black Rock, the place where Fulcrum may have taken Stephen. That’s what Chuck’s flash said.
Ah! Evidence is spotted that says the parking lot isn’t as abandoned as it first appears. Someone’s been using it for something, but it may have been just kids using it for a party. That’s what Sarah’s professional training says, and Chuck is too tired to argue. They’re back at square one.
The problem, as Sarah points out, is that there’s no going back. Sarah’s AWOL and Chuck’s headed for a cell with 24-hour surveillance if they do. Everything says “Give up.” (except Stephen, who says “TRON – 12AM)”. This he says, despite Roark’s – and Fulcrum’s – threat to kill his son unless he finishes the new Intersect.
And Casey? He’s ordered to bring back The Intersect. After that, he can have his pick of assignments. And oh yeah, he just got a promotion. Congratulations, Colonel Casey. Chuck’s phone call to Ellie tells him all he needs to know about Chuck&Sarah’s whereabouts. This is as we left it last week – thrilling. It’s also equal parts exhausting and frustrating for the characters.
But, um, weren’t we the fans looking for romance? Well, yes, but Chuck and Sarah are both tired. And that dirty little motel room in Barstow doesn’t seem to be the most romantic place. It’s evening now. They walk in and turn on the lights.
Chuck: So, um… as you can see, just the one bed. A little presumptuous. Should I have asked for separate rooms?
Sarah: No, it’s fine. As long as we’re on the lam, I can’t let you out of my sight.
Chuck is always the gentleman; Sarah is always the professional.
They really should be a concerned more with the danger than with the sleeping arrangements, you know. As it turns out, Vincent is outside, asking Roark if he wants them dead.
Roark: No, no, Vincent. I may need them for leverage. When the tests are complete, feel free to use whatever despicable acts of violence that are in your nature. You could eat them, if you want. I don’t care.
Heh! You gotta love Roark. Seldom is someone so evil so much fun!
Sarah coming fresh from her shower is – well, Sarah. We can’t be sure how much time has passed since the drive-in parking lot, but we can be sure that it’s been a long time since they had any sleep. I’m guessing that Sarah’s brain is saying something like “I’m not going to think about anything right now.” – not quite the perfect professional. Chuck’s brain isn’t like that. He sees Sarah looking more enticing than ever before, and he has no idea how to act. Being a perfect gentleman doesn’t seem to be quite right at this moment. He’s not sure it’s quite wrong either.
Chuck: Uh… I’ll sleep on the floor.
Sarah: No, it’s okay.
Chuck: Why are you doing this?
Sarah: Because the floor is gross and I’m not gonna make you sleep on it.
That seems reasonable but they are not in a reasonable situation. Yes, Chuck is a little confused about how he is supposed to act, and more confused about how Sarah sees him. He really doesn’t want to presume. She’s too important to him for that.
But that wasn’t at all what Chuck meant, and Sarah knows it.
Chuck: No, I meant, why are you here, risking everything that you’ve worked so hard for?
Sarah: Because after everything that you’ve done for this country, you deserve to find your father, to get the Intersect out of your head and to have a chance at a normal life.
Chuck: Thank you.
Sarah: You don’t have to thank me. It’s my job to protect you.
All that is true. Everything Sarah says is an honest statement of her heartfelt reasons for wanting to help Chuck. That’s her mission now – to help Chuck in his.
Chuck noticed what she didn’t say, and so did we.
Chuck: And what about when it’s not your job? What happens to us then?
Sarah: One mission at a time, Chuck.
Chuck and Sarah on the run, in the same bed together and obviously caring for each other, if not quite openly, now. But we still didn’t know if or how they would be the couple we wanted them to be. We were still in the midst of our WT/WT quandary. But it was so sweet, the fans were almost resigned to it.
Exhausted. Time for sleep. The morning comes soon enough.
Well, we did say that everything is different now, didn’t we? That meant their relationship most of all. Now, in the morning light, it seemed clear to the fans that Chuck&Sarah were exactly where we wanted them to be. And a good thing too, because the season, and for all we knew, the series, was rapidly coming to an end.
I wrote a couple of thousand words about the rest of the episode. I enjoy thinking about it that much. But instead of relaying my version of the events that everyone knows so well – things like Chuck and Casey throwing verbal spears at each other about how much they don’t care, The Buy Morans saving Chuck&Sarah with their M-80 in the junction box and Awesome stumbling before being awesome for Chuck – I just want to bring a couple of moments to your attention.
There’s one in particular, where Chuck finds a silver lining in a most unexpected place – a detention cell in Castle.
Chuck: For whatever it’s worth, if I have to spend the rest of my days in a dark, windowless room, I can’t think of a better person to spend it with.
Sarah: That’s not really how this works.
Chuck: What? We can’t request a cozy, little, two-bed, two-bath cell?
Sarah’s little prison humor quip and smile tell us, that, yes, this is real, even before she can say those words. Chuck may be the articulate one, but Sarah’s smile speaks volumes. More than anything, these are not the same people we met at Chuck’s birthday party a year and a half earlier. Not even close.
Kill Bill Morgan!
Take all the time you need to recollect and remember the squeees we heard throughout the fandom. Back yet? Good, because Morgan messes things up a bit for them in Barstow. Things are not going so well in Burbank either. Besides the fact that Casey didn’t miss shooting Chuck’s portrait in the head this time, Morgan is fully realizing the extent of Emmett’s treachery in the Buy More. As a bribe to keep the minions in check, he’s being offered “a cuuuuup! Up the corporate ladder.” He’ll be the new assistant manager if he does that. Oh, admit it. Dave is absolutely right. Morgan’s plight is a great tonic to contrast with the trills Chuck, Sarah and Casey are giving us.
Sir, We Have An Issue
And speaking of thrills, Casey is on them. Sarah is back to fully adrenaline-charged CIA agent mode as she clubs Casey with a two-by-four (I think), and does so with impeccable timing, as Vincent and his goons are on them. Chuck and Sarah can’t leave Casey behind! They have too much history.
One often unmentioned aspect of this episode is Adam Baldwin’s portrayal of Casey here. Yes, Chuck and Casey now have history, as do Sarah and Casey. Yet the fans have no trouble believing that Casey is about to betray them both, just like Sarah’s allegiances were question just a week earlier. Who’s side is he on, anyway? Isn’t Casey the one you can always count on to catch Chuck when he falls???
Chuck: Colonel Casey, huh? Now I get it. Now I understand why you would betray your own team.
Casey: [yelling] I would NEVER betray my team! You went AWOL. You betrayed me! Don’t you ever forget that.
Chuck: So sorry, Colonel. But congratulations on that chicken franchise you always wanted.
Casey, bad guy, is redeemed pretty quickly, though, because of the promise he made to Chuck. An airstrike, sent by Beckman, means that Casey hasn’t kept his promise, and we can’t have that. Chuck is outraged!
Chuck: You gave me your word! I thought that would have meant something. I guess I have a lot to learn.
Casey: Yeah, that’s right. You do. You made three crucial mistakes, Bartowski. You didn’t realize you were being trailed for the last half hour, you [looking at Sarah] didn’t bring nearly enough firepower, and you didn’t ask me to join.
Chuck: Wwwaaa? Casey? Would you like to help us rescue my father?
Beautiful! It’s a mystery to me how the very same “Stay in the car, Chuck!” jokes that worked in the pilot episode continue to make me smile. Oh yes, we know from the moment Casey shows us he’s on Chuck’s side that this is going to be a thrilling ending. It has to be, because Stephen has built another Intersect – for Fulcrum this time.
No, he hasn’t. Stephen’s created something else. As the F-16s take care of Fulcrum, the Intersect is removed from Chuck’s head. Huh? Wait a minute. It’s gone? Is that a good thing?
I almost hate to say it, but I think I had mixed feelings about that development.
Casey gets Sarah off the hook with Beckman, and gives her credit for the successful mission.
Casey: Actually, Agent Walker’s the one responsible for the success of the mission. She pretended to go AWOL, used herself and the asset as bait to lure Fulcrum out, to secure their location. She risked her life to preserve the integrity of mission. If anyone deserves a commendation, it’s Walker.
Sarah: Actually, general, I never…
Chuck: …never thought she could be so cold! I mean, I didn’t, certainly. She used me as bait, like Casey just said. I was treated terribly, you know. I mean, she cuffed me, I got chafing on my wrists, I was malnourished. In was… horrific.
The mission is over. Chuck is free to return to – whatever it is he does.
I’m not sure what music is being played at the end, when Sarah appears in a blue gown to attend Ellie’s rehearsal dinner. It’s a gap in my music database. But I do know the song I wish they had chosen.
Well, it seems Ellie still needs to get married, Chuck is still stuck in the Buy More and most importantly, Emmett is still in charge of the Buy Morons. For that one, Morgan must fall on his sword. He quits the store – Morgan out – and leaves like an officer and a gentleman, to go to Hawaii to learn the ancient art of Hibachi. And he takes Anna with him! Now that’s a happily ever after if I ever saw one.
Sarah: So how does it feel?
Chuck: It feels great, actually. – like everything is finally real.
Sarah: It is real.
Did you notice a very small hesitation in his voice when Sarah asks Chuck that question? I did. Chuck may have a few second thoughts himself about losing the Intersect. Well, a very few. Mostly, he’s happy to be normal again. Mostly.
And Roark isn’t quite dead yet.