Balcony kicks off the final arc for the front order of Season Four. This will bring some resolution to the Frost and Volkoff stories, and end with the long anticipated Chuck/Sarah engagement.
After the jump, this week’s discussion.
I think this episode is a little difficult to classify. I remember my initial impression was extremely mixed; I very much enjoyed the main part of the episode. Its a light hearted and fun excuse of a plot that leads up to Chuck popping the question. And there can be no doubt of Sarah’s answer, she’s actually working hard herself to make sure this happens. But the end is alarming, upsetting and not particularly fun.
Yet I think this is an episode that gets much better in the grand scheme of things. Partly because that shocking ending can be seen as the fairly minor delay that it is. Although as an aside, I will mention that this sort of moment is exactly why many viewers are so unwilling to accept an ending that requires drawing inferences. The show spent five years yanking chains and invalidating whatever inferences we wanted to draw. I mean, how could Balcony not end in an engagement? Hold on, they’ll show us. So it is no wonder to me that many viewers demanded visual proof at the end.
But of course that’s getting ahead of ourselves now. The main part of Balcony is the sort of thing I never get tired of. Starting with Chuck trying to launch a grand proposal, while Sarah showing a remarkable lack of perception undermines his every effort. On initial viewing I was more than a little annoyed with Chuck over-planning this. But I found on this tenth (or so) viewing it was much easier to laugh along and enjoy the moment. Chuck getting so nervous, as Sarah accidentally shoots him down in flames, and leaving Morgan with the mess. Very funny sequence.
The mission part of the episode is broken into two segments. Both manage to be a lot of fun. On round one, Team B recovers the chip with such highlights as Chuck ordering around his man-servent John-John, Casey grumbling about the horrors of working in France, Sarah playing drunk (again!) to rescue Casey, and Chuck (and Morgan) in an amusing pursuit of the proper bottle of wine. Really a fun adventure all the way through.
Between missions we get Sarah over-hearing, and then getting involved with the sub-mission. Sarah/Morgan scenes are so often terrific, and this is no exception. We can be sure how Sarah wants things to play out, and that alone makes this a wonderful episode.
Round two is just Chuck and Sarah, Casey happily does not return to France. The mission is almost beside the point. Its the proposal that is the main event here. Sarah is nervous for the first time in her life, and we are treated to an almost perfect story-book sort of moonlit balcony scene. There can be no doubt of how this will end.
Until everything goes nuts. I hesitate to call this a great scene. It is certainly well executed and beautifully acted. Both the arrest and later follow up talk between Chuck and Sarah at castle is another dynamite performance by Yvonne. But I still honestly think they should have finished the proposal here. I see no story telling benefit to doing things in the order they did. This is the sort of story telling decision that primarily undermines my trust in the story teller. Too much tease, not enough delivery. Now that said, it really doesn’t register as such a big to me anymore. The big moment is coming and will be well done when we get there. On this viewing I found myself completely enjoying the episode, shortcomings and all, its still wonderful entertainment.
So a few secondary points to make. This week’s “B” plot was entertaining in places, Lester’s talk about the old country, Canada, was just laugh out loud funny. But in the end, the attempt to woo his bride and another Jeffster performance was not a very good use of screen time. I would have preferred more Charah, less Jeffster. Second, I really liked both Casey and Morgan in this episode. Morgan was great as Chuck’s faithful sidekick, and his talks with Sarah were terrific. Casey stood out in several moments; from getting stuck in traffic, to grumbling about France, to helping get the ring where it needs to go. But Casey’s real moment to shine comes when he lectures Chuck on what really matters. I’d been thinking along such lines from the start of episode anyway, but when we get to “all you need is the girl” I wanted to cheer out loud for Casey.
So I guess my final verdict is, terrific episode. I might have done a few things a little differently, but none of the problems seem all that troubling now with a full series perspective.
I *AM* Somebody Deadly!
And Chuck vs The Balcony is beautiful to see too, Dave. I mean, really, I can tell that the sunset from the Balcony is a matte, and the full moon is unrealistically large and gorgeous and (as Chuck would undoubtedly say) so full. I ARE an astronomer, after all, so I know these things… But the whole package, the Chateau in the Loire Valley, the young lovers that catch Sarah’s (and Chuck’s) attention briefly, the wine tasting party, Jinsana (Pooja Kumar), the atmosphere, even Jonathan, they are all perfect in this episode.
Casey: Call me Jonathan again, I’ll break your leg.
Well, maybe not Casey.
You bet it’s the perfect set-up for Chuck’s proposal. It was exactly what the fans were waiting for. Had Chuck gotten out those last few words on the moon-lit balcony and had Sarah stammered out a “Yes!”, just about everyone watching that night would have “died and gone to heaven” and the show would have been complete. Over. Done. Don’t bother coming back, there’s nothing more to see…
Well, sort of. Many of us were indeed hoping to see more Hart To Hart or perhaps Thin Man type episodes, and I was one of them. But no, this is Chuck and even I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to see the end of the nerd-boy chasing the unattainable hot spy just yet. After four seasons/years, sixty-five adventures and several close brushes with death, it couldn’t be over already, could it? It couldn’t be that easy!
Of course not. Chuck has the girl, but that doesn’t mean his life – uh, story – is over yet. Despite Jeffster and Morgan, that’s one of the real-life things built into the show that allow it to transcend farce. Sigh. Difficulties and obstacles will remain. That’s as real as it gets.
Balcony is a special treat, especially for Yvonne and Sarah Walker fans. I had forgotten how many sides of the character we see here. In fact, I barely realized Sarah had so many sides. We have Sarah enjoying a quiet date in the restaurant with Chuck, there’s agent Walker on a mission, there’s Tipsy, Ditzy Sarah in the wine Cellar and there’s “I am somebody deadly!” Walker.
There’s nervous Sarah, afraid that everything isn’t perfect, for Pete’s sake – and for Chuck’s. There’s even a character I think of as “angelic” Sarah, calmly putting the ring box back in Chuck’s pocket so that things can be perfect.
Morgan: Sarah? You just stopped. What’s the matter?
Sarah: I don’t know. I think, for the first time in my life, I’m – nervous.
Morgan: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. You got butterflies. She has butterflies!
That’s completely natural, it’s… Everybody gets butterflies.
Sarah: Morgan, I don’t get butterflies.
Morgan: That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that’s Chuck Bartowski out on that balcony, okay? You know, he is the best friend that I’ve ever had. And listen – I know you aren’t, uh, asking and maybe it’s a little silly, but uh, you have my permission to marry him. He’s all yours, so…
Casey spots the ring box, but Sarah distracts Chuck perfectly —
Sarah: Look at the moon, Chuck!
— to save this perfect proposal.
Chuck: I just… I feel I should be James Bond right now, you know? The guy who is standing on this balcony with you, right now, in this moment…
Sarah: I didn’t fall in love with James Bond. I fell in love with you.
I’ll even praise the bit-players here, like Braeden Marcott as the smug Frenchman.
Chuck: I didn’t wanna have to tell you this, but there is something in your wine there.
Smug Frenchman: Yes. There is something in the wine. Two hundred years of French history! The blood and sweat of my ancestors. The pride of lords and peasants alike.
You, sir, wouldn’t know the difference between this and a glass of “two-buck Chuck!”
Did you know that “Two-Buck Chuck” made Consumer Reports list of best wines under $5 this summer? It did! (Sadly, “Two-Buck Chuck” costs $3 at Trader Joe’s these days.)
I’ll take back what I said about Casey before. Telling Chuck about his proposal in a very unromantic (and very dingy – trust me, I know) Buffalo bus station, that he doesn’t need everything to be perfect, makes him exactly what Chuck needs.
Finally, we see one more Sarah Walker, right at the end. This Sarah seems helpless, maybe even trapped. She’s crying, despondent and also determined to do something that is completely the opposite of self-serving and rational.
Sarah’s going deep under cover to save Chuck’s mother. Even more important, Sarah’s going to try – only try – to make Mary’s mission a success and to turn Frost’s mistakes into victories. Yes, she’s leaving Chuck the same way Mary did 20 years earlier and it may be a fool’s errand. According to Beckman it’s also the only path to redemption and salvation.
Being that selfless is something Sarah Walker has learned from Chuck, the man for whom she will do absolutely anything.