If last week it seemed Chuck had found a way to have it all, the spy world, the normal girlfriend and his friends, family and team around him for support, this week will see it all seemingly slip through his fingers. The team fracturing, the girl gone and eventually Morgan questioning their friendship, though the little bearded troll doesn’t actually appear in this episode. At the same time it does have some progress. Chuck does take a positive step or two, as disastrously as that step is accomplished. There may be dark times ahead for our hero, but in true Chuck style it still manages to do it with heart and laughter. Join me for a look back at Chuck Versus The Fake Name, after the jump.
If Ellie’s fears for the dark path she suspected Chuck to be on (if she only knew) were allayed by discovering his secret girlfriend (much to Morgan’s misfortune) that relief didn’t last long. Now she’s wondering why her once open relationship with Chuck is changing. Chuck is finding, as Sarah undoubtedly once did, that it was easier to shut people out and leave them behind than to maintain the web of lies needed to be a spy. It is the process by which she once crossed over to fully inhabit the spy world with no links to the real world left to anchor her in the everyday lives of people like Chuck. In season 1’s last episode we see Sarah as the outsider looking in, literally and figuratively, into the lives of ordinary people. A big part of her journey in season 2 was finding that she wanted to be on the inside, but couldn’t fully commit due to a damaging past and her duty to protect Chuck, no matter how deep her feelings for Chuck or her longing to live in his world. When she couldn’t bring herself to open up to Chuck and tell him her choice until it was too late she set in motion Chuck’s decision to follow her into her world. As he re-traces her path into that world she re-lives hers. And that disturbs her, because this new softer Sarah who experienced the joys of a real relationship and a family and friends through their “cover” in season 2 now values the very things Chuck is turning his back on, and her loss of those things is highlighted by Chuck’s.
It is this new Sarah who upon seeing Hannah in her place has to flee the very sight. She’s losing herself all over again and losing Chuck at the same time. It is this Sarah who runs to Shaw in a desperate attempt to find a sympathetic ear or a human connection who understands the loss and the heartbreak that Chuck is just starting to sense as he listens to Hannah’s toast.
I’d like to make a toast. You know how, in life, there’s always something that just doesn’t line up? Like, either you’re working at the wrong job or dating the wrong guy, or you’re eating some really bad meal? But right at this second, I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I want to thank all of you for making me feel that way
We see Chuck’s apprehension and discomfort, and while it is a realization that will come in fits and starts and won’t be fully played out until his red test it starts here, with him starting to suspect that something has gone horribly wrong with his life. Things don’t line up.
I suppose the one thing that seems most off to me is that Chuck hasn’t had anything close to his Mauser Moment. The things that Sarah ticks off as proof that Chuck is changing come off as misdemeanors in a felonious world. Yes, Chuck has gotten tougher and more remote, and seems to have lost some of his emotional intuition and empathy, and these are things that would concern Sarah, but he hasn’t done anything that should turn her into an emotional wreck. Yes, Sarah has gotten softer, and now needs an emotional connection with someone in her life at the very time Chuck is least available to support her, but her reaction seems overwrought.
Shaw also comes off a bit creepy again, using Sarah’s vulnerability to turn what starts as a cry for help dealing with emotions she isn’t used to dealing with and can no longer suppress into a weird competition with Chuck to know something about Sarah that he doesn’t, and then it hit me. Shaw is jealous of Chuck and what she feels for him, but will never feel for Shaw. Shaw instigates the romance out of a sense of competition to posses Sarah. I’m sure there are other layers and levels, but it makes sense to me. Shaw is jealous of what Chuck has so he wants to take it. Perhaps the same goes for 3.5 and the Ring intersect. Anyway, Shaw’s taunt and beating of Chuck now makes more sense. Shaw is a crazy MF and loses it when it turns out Chuck found out Sarah’s real name too. Shaw loses it because at the moment it seemed he had something Chuck couldn’t that Chuck was going to ruin it for him. And the more I write about it the more an unbalanced Shaw makes sense. His desire for and pursuit of Sarah comes from a dark place. Jealousy for what Chuck and Sarah have, what he lost when he lost his wife, and a desire to somehow reclaim what he had with his wife through Sarah.
For Sarah this may have been an opportunity to connect and unburden herself, but for Chuck, overhearing Sarah’s doubt and disappointment in the man he’s become throws him into an existential spy crisis. He started this to become a man worthy of Sarah (even if it seems he’s forgotten that at the moment) and she hates the man he’s become. What is he doing with his life?
I feel like I’m living a lie, Ellie. I used to be able to compartmentalize these things, but it’s, like, it’s all the time now. I feel like I’m not me anymore. Maybe things are moving too fast with Hannah,and even though you really like her, it feels dishonest because the truth is that you still have feelings for Sarah. Does that sound about right? See, this is… this is why I don’t come talk to you, Ellie, ’cause you’re half a spy.
I think the intent is that he’s saying you’re half right. His relationship with Hannah is dishonest and unfair. It’s the interpretation that squares best with his breakup with her and still saves the revelation that he’s never going to stop loving Sarah for next week. It’s a bit clumsily done, but it is apace with the season 3 dilemma, simultaneously too subtle on one level while being hit over the head on another. And here is the not so subtle message of Chuck not being able to flash even though the stakes are very real. He doubts himself and why he is doing what he is doing. He’s lost sight of the man Sarah loved to try to be the man he thought she wanted and needed. Another Cole. Another Shaw. He will become so much more than either of them, but for now his doubts, brought about by Sarah’s overheard confession to Shaw, have him wondering what’s left of himself, doubting he can be saved. So he tries to do the right thing, and does it horribly, because while his reasoning was right he did it not to spare Hannah, although that part was present, but to recover that nice guy he still thinks he is, and it isn’t till Hannah reads him the riot act that he realizes he really isn’t a nice guy. He never considered Hannah’s feelings until it’s too late and he’s dumped her in front of her parents the day after he slept with her.
Chuck and Sarah stuff out-of-the-way I’ll say some more of what I loved about this episode. Ellie and Hannah meet, and Chuck gets to see it. The awkwardness was absolutely delicious. Yvonne knocks it out of the park with a conflicted and emotionally adrift Sarah looking for a port in a storm. In the end, though she makes a terrible choice it is because of a realization that she wants something more than the spy-life, she wants something real. Sarah is good at lying to herself, and Shaw is just that, a lie she tells herself because it makes things easier here and now, even if it is doomed from the start. Sarah being ready for something real just as Chuck is his furthest from her is a heartbreaking development, but an understandable one based on how the season was constructed.
I loved Jeff and Lester’s reaction to Chuck the lady-killer and I loved the reprise with Big Mike. Jeff has always been the Buy More’s Number one Charah shipper.
Chuck and Hannah had great chemistry, and while a bit over the top, I thought the PDA was well-played. It showed us something Chuck craved in a relationship that Sarah could never bring herself to give, but will give by the bucket-full on the slowest train in Europe in a few weeks. It’s not sex, it’s the way she looks at and acts with Chuck, like he is the only guy in the world for her and she doesn’t care who knows it. It’s adoration, and admiration and respect is a part of that Sarah, while she feels it and says it hasn’t always shown Chuck through her actions. It was nice to see Chuck get to drink in the utter adoration of a delightful and charming woman. It was painful to see it end.
Chuck reaching out to Ellie as the last bit of solid ground in his crumbling world was a great moment. They really under-used those moments when family mattered like nothing else. It was great to see Ellie sum it up, even if it takes Chuck a while to take in the full implications of her answer.
Overall, an episode that plays a lot better to me on re-watch, but that’s been true of this arc for a while. I don’t know when or why, but at some point something clicked for me and I’m able to enjoy these episodes like never before. The true test will come in a few weeks when we watch the only episode I think I ever disliked, Chuck Versus The American Hero. For now I’m just glad we got this season in its own right in addition to a set up the next two marvelous seasons of my favorite show.
“You had your chance and you blew it.”
What Ernie wrote above is is spot on and hard to improve upon. So, I’ll try to keep this short (which should be surprising for everyone, because I’ve got a lot to say). It comes down to this: I thought Fake Name was going to be the emotional nadir of my re-watch. I thought I was going to semi-skim over this one, mostly because there would be very little good to say about it. I was wrong. I discovered that this episode is wonderful now (much better than the first time through) and even mis-understood. At least, a bit.
The rest here is just exposition, so please let me be expositive!
Ernie’s got it right: Yvonne hit’s it out of the park. Even more to the point, like many episodes of S3 it’s simultaneously too subtle and too obvious. We’re hit over the head with the idea that Chuck is sick at heart with “Living The Lie” (the song we heard first in Angel de la Muerta, when Chuck and Sarah shook hands and “friendzoned” each other) and I can tell you outright that I missed half the point.
Yvonne’s did an amazing job, but she’s not the only great actor here. I’m speaking first about Zac this time, but I must take a moment to praise Tony Sirico (aka, “Paulie Walnuts”), who’s Matty here and Louis Lombardi as Scotty, Matty’s sidekick. The parts may seem a bit nondescript or even generic, but Sirico and Lombardi played two of the least threatening and most comical characters in The Sopranos. For stunt casting, they’re both particularly well chosen to carry on the comedy in an episode without Morgan and with very little Jeff and Lester.
As for Zac, he has to take on the persona of Chuck taking on the persona of Rafe Gruber, as played by Johnny Messner, noted bad guy and bada$$.
He does it “Chuck’s way,” always letting the threat be understated and understood. It’s enough to impress Casey, and it’s enough to impress me, but not in the way you might think.
I always enjoy seeing those moments when Chuck comes into his own, when the character either overcomes or actually uses his natural nerdiness to win the day (and win the girl, of course), as he starts to when first meeting Matty and Scotty in their bar. But it goes beyond that.
Here, Chuck’s ability to assume the identity of the hyper-threatening assassin, Rafe, is eerie. When he’s in danger of being made, Chuck becomes possessed by a different spirit. We can think it’s the new Intersect, the one that Chuck now knows how to control, but it’s not. It’s Chuck. He changes himself completely – but only because Sarah asks him too.
Chuck: Oh my God, Sarah, I’m freaking out right now. I’ve never been so happy to see you in my life.
Sarah: Stop! You’re not you, you’re Rafe. You have to be him in this situation. Think what he would do. Live the lie.
At that moment, Chuck does precisely that – he fights Sarah, even to the point of kicking her through a table. You can say “That’s not Chuck – that’s the Intersect!”, but it amounts to the same thing. All that light comedy we just saw with Jeff and Lester and Matty and Scotty is overwhelmed by something much more important, an amazing transition.
But Chuck kicking Sarah through a table? Sure, that was a calculated thing, done in order to carry on the ruse. But calculated (indeed, Intersect-calculated) deception or not, that’s an even bigger transition for Chuck than the episode’s transition from light and humorous to serious.
Still, all that is not what we remembered about the episode before the re-watch, is it? No, what everyone thinks about when recalling Fake Name is Hannah, Shaw and most importantly, Sam, the 800 lb. gorilla raging around the room. Of these, Hannah is the easiest to discuss.
She’s a PLI, with the emphasis on P. Yes, we see her come out of Chuck’s shower dressed inappropriately for prime time TV and Chuck should have had (almost) nothing to do with her outside the Buy More. But you know, she’s cute, she’s as available as Chuck is, she’s treating him right (especially in the Buy More in this episode) and Chuck really does have almost nothing to do with her except be reflexively attracted to his type of girl…
No, it’s not justifiable in real people, and we expect Chuck to be better than that. But it is understandable in our boy’s emotional make-up. When you get down to it, Hannah really disappears sort of quickly. Even if it seems to have taken forever, Chuck realizes now that, with Hannah, he’s not even close to doing the right thing and as soon as he tries, Poof. She’s gone.
I think I too was misled, the first time, by the scheduling that aired The Mask on Feb. 8 and Fake Name on Mar. 1 of 2010. It was easy to dwell on it longer than did the story.
In the short time that Hannah was Chuck’s love interest, though, she did give us one important truth:
Hannah: No, you’re not a nice guy. We slept together last night, and now you are dumping me.
Chuck: No, it’s not like that.
Hannah: Then how is it? Explain it to me. Look, I have dated a lot of liars before, so I usually know how to spot them. But you? You’re, like, the best I’ve ever seen. I hope that your lies keep you warm at night.
Yeah, Chuck really has changed. He’s been what we call a jerk. The good news is that Hannah just snapped Chuck’s head back ’round and he is on the road to redemption. Yeah, the jerk disappears as quickly as Hannah. It’s one thing I missed the first time that makes this episode so much more enjoyable now.
But if Chuck’s on the right path, not so Sarah. I’ll get to her in a minute, but I need to address Shaw first. The character is a problem – he’s not a good match for Sarah at all.
Yes, Shaw is creepy, and getting creepier by the scene. In fact, the maniacal look in his eyes when he states that Chuck “blew it” with Sarah (this, even after knowing Chuck is trying to save them from Rafe) confirms he has a tenuous hold on sanity already. In fact, Shaw completely loses his cool, and that is great. Shaw as hero and PLI for Sarah is not beloved by the fans. Shaw as insane villain is much more palatable and that’s where he’s headed.
But is that right? Could Shaw still be a hero, in his mind fighting a rival for his girl, or is he on the verge of losing it when he forces the issue with Chuck? What is Sarah seeing? It’s that very ambiguity that rankled the fans so long in the spring of 2010. But going through the episodes again, it doesn’t rankle nearly so much, if only because we know what’s coming. In fact, the intentional ambiguity starts to look – well, I want to use the words “artful” and well done. Oddly, I recognize it is also too obvious for those of us who were anxious to see this particular PLI gone.
It’s not like TPTB didn’t know what the fans were thinking.
Chuck: [As Rafe] Me and Sam are on-again, off-again, driving everyone in my life a little crazy.
Matty: I hate those “will they or won’t they?” things. Just do it already.
Finally, there’s Sarah. Why on God’s green earth is she attracted at all to Shaw? You may not believe it at this late date, but after this viewing, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s not, and it absolutely makes the episode for me.
How’s that, you say? Did she or did she not confide in Shaw, telling him the biggest secret she has before even considering telling Chuck? Did she or did she not end up knowing waaaayyyy to many details about his room? Did she or did she not have a “couples massage” in Langley VA with the schmuck and let him buy her Tiffany ear rings? [Oh wait. That comes later…] She even brings him Chinese food, for Pete’s sake!
Sure. She’s guilty of all that.
Sarah: [About Chuck] … he’s not like you and me. We are both used to living somebody else’s life.
Shaw: That’s the job.
Sarah: Yeah, but where does the job end? I can barely remember who I am anymore.
Sarah’s more than turned around. She’s been in love (maybe for the first time) and the person she loved has pretty much disappeared. Ernie, I have a slightly different take when you say Chuck hasn’t had a “Mauser moment” yet. I think he has already, and not his last one either.
For me, the Mauser incident was more about Chuck than about Sarah. He started to see her differently. She was no longer an ideal woman, but someone who is forced to compromise. Now it’s Sarah’s turn to perceive Chuck as less than perfect(ly innocent), and it happened already when he burned Manoosh. That may seem less important than shooting an unarmed man, but Sarah’s a old hand in this world, where everything is a lie and no one can be trusted. Chuck, until recently, was new to it. For that reason, when Chuck burned Manoosh, Sarah didn’t take it as hard as Chuck when she killed Mauser. But make no mistake, she was just as disappointed in her love’s actions.
And it’s getting worse. If Sarah wasn’t disappointed before, she is now, because Chuck has become a consummate liar. He lies to Ellie and Morgan, teaches Devon to lie and he lies to Hannah, all because he is a good spy. What is Sarah to do? Sarah gives up.
Remember Sarah telling Shaw that she has a reputation for getting involved with her partners, a pattern that she wants to break? We assumed that meant Bryce and maybe even Cole. Now I ask, does it mean Chuck too? No. Chuck was her asset, her charge. He was different from the others.
Then, sometime around Operation Awesome and First Class, Chuck became her partner. Yes, Sarah has a type, and her type is not “Hero” or “James Bond” at all. It’s not Bryce or Cole – she would not have turned them both down so firmly if it was. She may consider them for a bit, but Sarah’s been turning down her partners all the while and Chuck is slowly disappearing into that same pile of discards.
Like she had said earlier to Casey, Sarah insists to Shaw that Chuck is – was – different, “not like them.” He is – was – not a killer and cares about others and by “them”, Sarah means everyone else she knew, including herself. But ask yourself if Sarah is really like that. Is she a cold-blooded killer who doesn’t care? My answer is no, not since we’ve known her. Not since Chuck.
Sarah says she is trying to remember the person she once was, but we know she used to be a person who sought adventure and adrenaline fueled thrills in exotic places with hard men, a person rather like Carina. Or maybe like Heather Chandler. She was a person who didn’t care about the consequences or costs. That’s not her now. With Chuck, Sarah was someone who was better than that. Now, with Shaw, she can once again forgo having a conscience and the emotions she’s been dealing with for three years – but dealing only with Chuck’s help. Shaw can keep her safe from that burden – and numb – the way her partners always did. Shaw is the safest person she’s ever known. Sarah isn’t attracted to him – the agent needs him to hide behind.
For three years we’ve known Sarah Walker as someone who cares a lot about Chuck, enough to give up everything for him. Who is Sam? I’m starting to think Sam is not just the sweet, precocious child we’ve seen only briefly. Sam is someone who wanted to be an agent of the CIA and maybe someone who wanted a life different from the one she had with her con-man father. Maybe Sam wanted to make a difference and maybe she just wanted a different kind of excitement; we don’t know. She certainly wanted something to change her life. The only thing Langston Graham did was train her to lie better.
I thought Daniel Zott’s song was Chuck’s theme, and it was. Now I know it’s also Sarah’s.
and if i gave it all way i’d expect something back
i’m never sure that i could tell you where my heart is at
cause every good thing i do is a selfish act
and i’m a hell of a guy
living a hell of a lie
It’s always amazing to me to take one thing and have two (or three people) come away from it with completely different perspectives and insights. Much like Joe, I felt that Fake Name would be my emotional nadir. In the grand scheme of things–namely the arc, my biggest grievance was First Class, followed by Mask. As for Fake Name? Well who has time to dwell when your world was already off kilter from those that came before? Now I’m not so sure.
As this is a rewatch the whole point is to really dig deep, see something in there that you haven’t seen before. I commend Ernie for seeing the parallel in Chuck’s Mauser moment to that of Sarah’s but I vehemently disagree that Sarah overreacted in that his Mauser wasn’t “that bad.” I’ll explain more later. Overall, I tend to agree with Joe; Shaw was unhinged and Hannah served best to illustrate the Chuck that was and the Chuck that is becoming. More on this as well.
First, the stupid stick. If you’re unfamiliar, “stupid stick” is a phrase we use often here that basically explains the dumb thing people do to one another and the ways that they sometimes (okay often) hurt themselves and others. In Fake Name, the stupid stick belonged to Sarah. Caught between the lie, love and the job, she both pushed Chuck into being what she feared most and punished him for doing it. It’s certainly understandable, Sarah is coming off unanchored from Prague and the consequences of losing Chuck’s anchor. More importantly her job as his asset, now handler is to cultivate whatever despicable thing he has to do. When once there was a clear delineation between her job and Chuck, now there’s only the job, for both of them. Coming into the bar to essentially slap him upside the head with what he has to be (ruthless) was just that: her doing her job. The fact that doing her job means that she also screws herself over (emotionally) isn’t seen or felt in the moment but it’s inescapable. Now that she believes that this is what he wants (over her), Sarah essentially sacrifices her own wants for his. Chuck isn’t the only one Living a Lie, Sarah is too (kudos Joe!). For Sarah, the lies had to stop for her “real life” dream to come to fruition, the “real girl” to come out and be free. Unfortunately, Fake Name wasn’t that moment, because as she faced some harsh truths (that she pushed Chuck into becoming what she fears), she continued to lie to herself. Shaw isn’t any different from all the other men she knew, their relationship wouldn’t be any different from every shallow-spy-ish-can’t trust anyone-life she led. Sarah’s stupid stick moment here is that instead of fighting for the man she wanted, she did what she does often which is run.
Chuck’s soul is in a tenuous position in Fake Name. The spy-life seduces, we saw the allure in First Class, we saw the adrenaline from danger in Mask and we saw the despicable in Fake Name. In this I agree once again with Joe: the real low point of this episode wasn’t the name reveal, but Chuck’s actions. In a weird way, ending his relationship with Hannah was both something he had to do but yet the one thing that illustrated best what he is becoming, what he has become. Without Sarah’s name reveal, I don’t think Chuck wakes up to the harsh reality of this path of lies and deception. Without that lost moment (to him) and all its importance, I don’t think Chuck realizes what he has lost (in Sarah), what he has done to her (anchorless). And that is what that moment is, that is the only thing it is–it is not a betrayal, it is not a romantic moment, it’s an emotional nadir to jar Chuck from his reverie. The spy life seduced and Chuck could only have been saved by Sarah. Even without knowing it, Sarah saved Chuck. She did exactly what Chuck said she did later in Goodbye, she fought for him, she saved him. She may not have fought for what she wanted, or their love but unbeknownst to herself, she’s been fighting for him this whole time. She saved him. This is an important distinction because as we see in American Hero and later that Sarah could have only been saved by Chuck (and their love).
Now for the despicable moment, the breakup.
Chuck: I feel like I’m not me anymore.
That line, and that reveal is why I disagree with Ernie, Sarah wasn’t overreacting. She had it right–she was the only one that had it right. Well, Ellie. But Ellie only knows Chuck’s heart, not his mind, not his entire being, only Sarah knows that. Sarah may not have been witness to Chuck’s actions towards Hannah at the end, but it is unimportant because she knows enough. Mauser just confirmed her fears, it didn’t create them. It is not a coincidence that Chuck walked alone at the end, it was symbolism. Chuck was exactly what Hannah said he was, despicable, “the best I’ve ever seen.” But unlike Joe, I don’t think Hannah awakened Chuck to the wrongs he’s done/doing, it was Sarah. She saved him. Now it’s up to Chuck to save her. Stay tuned.