The episode that will remain nameless. Now that Quinn has made a mess of things, we get a very dark, very tense show of the series’ penultimate outing.
After the jump, we’ll discuss this not very funny episode.
This episode polls at number 26. My own initial impression was a good but taught episode that set up the finale quite well. On re-watch, I need to rank this far lower. It suffers from a number of shortcomings that now seem even more exaggerated in a full context. I would also have to admit this is the first time I’ve watched this episode without immediately jumping into Goodbye, and I find this experience particularly unpleasant. Perhaps I made it worse by watching it by itself, but I personally rank this episode quite a bit lower than the poll. That is a mostly, but not wholly emotional judgement.
One of the worst elements of the story is the whole idea of Team B breaking into DARPA to destroy the Intersect. This is a clearly criminal act and I really cannot make any peace with Chuck doing it. Or Casey or brain-damaged Sarah going along with it all. They are domestic terrorists and Sarah is right to be at odds with them.
I also find it rather offensive that both Casey and Ellie are so quick to give up on Sarah. Casey is ready to kill her, and Ellie “you can never go too far” Woodcomb tells Chuck that Sarah is gone. Oh brother. Not buying it. This is obvious manipulation to make Chuck look greater for not giving up. But it is ludicrously out of character for both of them. Not to mention, Sarah considers herself a “good” agent, and memory loss or no she should respond to legitimate authority. I don’t want to make too big a thing of that last, as far as I’m concerned it says more about options open to Casey and Beckman than it does about Sarah’s actions. That is, rather than planning ambushes and sniper positions, Beckman could have used her legitimate authority to set Sarah straight on what was true. This should have made little practical difference, the story unfolds quickly and Chuck takes over, but there was truly no reason for the stupid sniper talk.
But ultimately the biggest problem I have is just with the story being told. I’ll get into this more next week in an “Alternatives” thread, but the bottom line is I simply needed to see Sarah have more of a clear success against her memory loss and Quinn’s mind control before Quinn himself gave up the game. That is my preference; but that is what my review is all about. I strongly suspect if we had seen the more plainly joyful ending I was hoping for that this episode would get far higher marks from me. But as it stands, 5.12 is crushed under the weight of the finale story.
Obviously the big issue in this episode is Sarah’s confused loyalties. We’ll save her memory loss for next week’s big issue! This is one of those things I don’t have such huge logical problems with, at least not in the very short period of about a day that this episode plays out in. Sarah knows she has amnesia, she is given a mission, and Chuck’s behavior (especially switching the Intersect glasses) would seem to verify the validity of her briefing. I seriously don’t like this story, but I don’t have major logical problems with Sarah’s behavior. Quinn is a smart and dangerous foe, he keeps chattering in Sarah’s ear to keep her from regaining her balance. I like that she questions Quinn’s directions anyway, and I really like that she belts him after the DARPA bombing.
Again, I strongly suspect I would like this episode far more if Sarah, with Chuck’s help, had overcome Quinn’s brainwashing, and re-established her natural loyalties, more clearly on her own. But as it stands, I’m sort of okay with this end. First of all, I am much more in agreement now with those who claim Sarah had a clear real memory of her carving her name in the door jamb. In fact, I think this is huge. I really wish more had been made of this, I wish we had heard Sarah recognize she had everything all wrong before Quinn showed up and ended the charade. I now believe that she was reaching that conclusion anyway, I previously hadn’t been so sure; but I feel much better about that part of the story now than I did before.
And that moment really sets up the end nicely. I do like Casey delivering the v-log, but given his earlier actions I can’t even come close to calling this a good Casey episode. But Sarah watching her log is beautiful, it is easily the best, strongest moment of this whole episode. And just to be very clear here, this is absolute proof Sarah is lying when she tells Chuck she doesn’t “feel” it. Sarah has felt it since the memory at the door jamb, she felt it when Chuck took a bullet for her, she felt every moment of the v-log. And for those who’ve seen the deleted scenes, there’s a dynamite moment when she removes her rings, that is all about feeling it. I am quite certain we are supposed to know that in the end she is exactly where she was in that last v-log entry we saw. Sarah is in love with Chuck Bartowski and doesn’t know what to do about it. Now is even worse for her than the first time around because she has so little context, I think all she has is knowledge of fact and a verifying emotion. But without her memories she has no idea what to do about it except get revenge on the man who ruined her.
It also needs to be mentioned that this is an extremely good episode for Chuck, apart from the ill-conceived mission. But there is no sign of whiney or buffoonish Chuck here; rather we are treated mostly to smart and creative Chuck who loves his wife fiercely. The scene at the “dream house” is particularly well done for him. Well, apart from saying I think he should have spent a little more time talking with Sarah before he released her (!). But that’s the sort of failing we often see in a time critical 43 minute program. But I love his refusal to hurt Sarah, and willingness to take a bullet for her. Once again, if I were more satisfied with the ultimate conclusion, this is the sort of thing that might have made this a great episode.
I have stated many times that the writing team of Judkins and LeFranc were my favorite on the show. But this easily my least favorite episode of theirs. The illegal DARPA mission, and Casey and Ellie’s behavior all strike me as seriously flawed story elements. But I do put much of what’s wrong on the show runner. I think this episode could have been 1000% better if they’d been allowed to end with Sarah more clearly reconnecting with herself. Unfortunately, the show runner chose to put that moment off to the very end; and show it in a way that left far too many questions and was horribly unsatisfying for entirely too many viewers. And we’ll get into a lot more of that next week.
For next week I want to strongly recommend that everyone get ahold of the extended cut. I don’t know what download source might offer it; but on the discs its hidden under “special features” NOT on the usual episode list. The extended cut is 52 minutes instead of the already slightly longer 45 minute cut that aired. The longer cut does contain some key information that makes a meaningful difference to the end, and it is what we will use as the basis for our finale review.
Well, I’ll name it. Chuck vs. Sarah is not the episode I thought it was. Before I tell you whether I enjoyed it more this time around – or not – though, I’ll tell you right off the bat that I now find the question more than a little unanswerable. In fact, the question makes my brow furrow in the same way the question “Is the moon perceptive?” would. The words make sense and there may be an answer, but any answer tells us very little about the moon the way I understand it.
Let me instead repeat something that I wrote here many years ago now, about the way I see things. For me, the most important thing – not just about television but about the events in my life generally – is not that they are entertaining or enriching. It’s that they affect me somehow and not leave me feeling indifferent. [Picture me doing a teen-age, three-finger “Whatever!”] For good or ill, the importance lays in the impact. Needless to say, Chuck has had its impact on my life.
[Yes, I know many of you are looking for entertainment when you turn on your television and I do too. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t or that it’s in any way an expectation you shouldn’t have. Instead, I’m saying anything that affects me as much as this show has already gone far beyond my expectations for “mere” television. Making me smile seems a small thing by comparison.]
And boy, did this episode have an impact. Just as many of you have already commented, I too found it difficult to re-watch for the first time in two years. I don’t want to remember Sarah as a character not in love with Chuck and I barely want to remember her as someone who would threaten him. I know why, too. Forgive me for repeating this thought, but we barely knew Sarah before Chuck. Before this episode, we only saw that character in Chuck’s flash (in the Pilot), in Phase 3, in Baby and in each case only briefly. It’s just hard to face the reality of who she is.
Casey: What do you remember about me?
Sarah: Your reputation, mostly. Unfriendly, unforgiving… and unquestioning about your orders.
Casey: That’s funny. When we met, people said the same thing about you. Probably why we never got along.
Like it or not, without Chuck, Sarah is indeed unfriendly, unforgiving and someone who robotically follows orders. There’s even a hint of a moral failing buried in the meaning of those words – she doesn’t care that people bleed. That’s simply not the Sarah we saw smiling at Chuck when he squawked “Vicky Vale – Vic, Vic, Vicky Vale” behind the nerd-herd desk. It’s not the Sarah we saw agonize over telling Chuck that she saw no future for them, even under truth serum or the Sarah who wanted to go (romantically) on the run with him. It’s certainly not the wife and aspiring mother she was in S5; those are all characters we love. What we have is Sarah without Chuck.
Oh, there’s one more thing about this Agent Sarah Walker. She lies. This is an woman who believes she could fake intimacy – an entire marriage, in fact – for her mission. Yet there’s a bigger truth revealed in the most powerful line of entire episode and maybe the entire series.
Chuck: Actually, you’re not as good a liar as you think you are.
From the beginning I wanted to believe every word that Sarah says, but wanted not to also. Sarah-seducing-her-mark always gave me pause and it certainly seemed to make Chuck wonder about her true feelings. For two seasons we saw this amazing dance around the concept of relationship/fake relationship and all the while I was unsure about what to believe.
So was Chuck. Except that Chuck was much more perceptive and trusting than I. “You’re not as good a liar as you think you are” is quite amazingly correct – Chuck wasn’t fooled as much as I thought either. And if you think about it, his proof came right at the beginning of S3, in the aftermath of Prague. You see, no one gets so angry over a fake relationship as she did. Even Sarah recognizes this.
I want to reconcile the violence in your heart
I want to recognize your beauty’s not just a mask
I want to exorcise the demons from your past
I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart
Undisclosed Desires is not used in the show – it’s one of the songs I consider to be “Chuck adjacent” because it describes Chuck’s dilemma throughout the show.
Dave brings up good points about scenes that seem disappointing at first glance. Why did Casey and Ellie seem to give up on Sarah so quickly? Why did they have to criminally break into DARPA? Why was Quinn so successful brainwashing Sarah? Believe it or not, I think I have answers – at least, partial answers – for your consideration.
On this viewing it felt very much like both Casey and Ellie gave up on Sarah to make a counterpoint to Chuck. He, himself both cries in despair and proves that his wife is gone forever and then, later, desperately tries to save her memory. He’s all over the map and the voices he hears only pull him against the way he wants to struggle. Ellie and Casey give up on Sarah so that Chuck won’t.
The scene in the Intersect room is, despite the criminality, rather wonderful. Sarah’s trip through the hallway blasting through guards and windows immediately recalls Bryce’s as he stole the Intersect. Very cool homage! And the DARPA theft gives Morgan a chance to be Morgan, referencing both Harry Potter and The Fugitive. It’s one of those scenes that allows us some relief from the tension.
Quinn was so successful in convincing Sarah that Chuck was a dangerous spy because Chuck switched the glasses on her, temporarily foiling Quinn’s plans. That action proved to Sarah that Chuck was more than a bumbling nerd-herder and certainly not a trusting husband. Sarah never did trust Quinn and she was looking for reasons to trust Chuck throughout, just as she did for the first four seasons.
I found it devastating when Sarah looks at the Intersect glasses and says “They’re not real,” a mirror-image recall of the end of The Colonel when she told Chuck “It’s real.” Sarah is furious at that moment. Nobody gets so angry at a fake relationship.
All that made me reconsider the episode. What I wanted, like many of you have said, is something that “fixes” Sarah, or, at least, gives Chuck a reason to hope. We didn’t get that. In fact, we got the second powerful line, and perhaps the most painful, in the episode.
Sarah: I – I just wanted to tell you that I believe you. I believe everything that you told me about us.
But, the truth is, Chuck, I don’t feel it. Everything that you told me about us and our story, I just – I don’t feel it.
Could it be true? Yes, it could. That’s exactly who Sarah was five years earlier, someone who, admittedly, was not very good with feelings.
But Sarah was also someone who hid the truth, even from herself. The genius of the mission log is that she finally has a chance to face the Groucho Marx question – who you gonna believe? Quinn or your lyin’ eyes? When Sarah answers the question and decides who to believe, we can tell that immediately she knows the truth. Trusting Chuck from now on will not be a problem. But we have to wonder if she’ll ever “feel it.”
And like I’ve asked many times in this blog, now that she knows the truth, she has to face a very large, very profound question when she looks in the mirror. “Who are you, Sarah Walker.”
The only remaining question is if Sarah will get her memory back. Spoiler – The answer is, we know, not easily and not soon. But we see strong hints that something of a recovery is already happening. Sarah remembers their first “real” kiss, she remembers answering Chuck’s question “Do you love me?” with yes, she remembers the silent proposal and she remembers carving her name in the door frame. But this episode was never supposed to be about Sarah’s recovery.
It was all about her journey.
Gut reaction and first thoughts: First, I’ll be more brief than my usual wordy self, because I’ve already poured my heart out over it (and then some) here, here, and here. Second, this is still a painful episode to watch. For both Zac and Yvonne it was a tour de force episode, no doubt about it (along with part 2), but still … it’s hard to watch, especially because it’s the finale. So, I stand by my original assessment: great episodes — terrible finale.
I, too, didn’t care for everyone giving up on Sarah so soon. However, I have the same problem, in reverse, in Goodbye. That is, Chuck gives up too easily and gives us, perhaps, the most cringe-worthy line of the series, which we can talk about next week. I only mention it, because it actually starts in v. Sarah: first when he tells her to run and then when he just lets her leave without a word. Now that we know where all this is heading — and why — the writer’s strings are a lot more obvious, and I find myself having to suspend a lot of disbelief. Either of those moments could have turned Sarah and v. Sarah toward a resolution (at least a partial one) of Sarah’s … umm … identity and relationship crises, but it was never to be, because the end game was what it was.
OK, before I go on, I’ll reiterate that I do see the happy in the ending. I am utterly convinced that Chuck and Sarah are OK … better than okay … happy. (By my calendar, their twins just passed 8 months, and CS are running CI and living the life that was foreshadowed throughout S5.) I classify the finale as victorious (but not without cost), reassuring, and hopeful, though not categorically happy (like Cliffhanger) or satisfying (like Push Mix).
Forgotten But Not Gone
The expression we’re familiar with is “Gone but not forgotten.” In the finale, however, Sarah was forgotten, but not gone. Yvonne did an off the charts job of showing us a fragmented and conflicted Sarah Walker Bartowski. What we see is that Sarah Bartowski, while forgotten, was not gone. She kept stirring to life and interfering with the woman Sarah remembered and was trying to be.
How does this Sarah compare to the Sarah we have gotten to know these five years? Well, Sarah came to Burbank after saving a baby, an act that I believe stirred Sarah’s inner girl and her forgotten dreams of a real life in a white house, with a red door, and a white picket fence. Chuck connected with that Sarah — the inner girl who, in relationship with Chuck, grew into the woman we knew and loved as Sarah Bartowski. We know, by her own confession, that she fell for Chuck almost immediately. I have every reason to believe that that Sarah is still in there, and that this Chuck will connect with her and stir the embers of a love that’s still in there. Otherwise … well … why watch!
So, Chuck is once again Sarah’s assignment, but this time she comes to Chuck on very different terms. She’s not observing a nerd. She’s not his handler. She’s tracking a killer, and her behavior is what we’d expect of the Agent Walker we have seen a few times before: the difference being that in the past Agent Walker was always acting to protect Chuck. Not this time. Scary. But the thing is that every time Agent Walker tries to do her duty, Sarah keeps getting in her way.
When Agent Walker goes to spy on Chuck and Ellie, she is pulled up short by their conversation and concern about … her and her cold feet. And it’s deja vu all over again. Her defenses are breached, as Chuck immediately begins to connect with the inner Sarah.
Chuck connects with Sarah again in the white room at DARPA. What mark would EVER have been able to walk up to Agent Walker and gently lower her gun? This stunning connection could have turned everything around, except for two things: Quinn’s explosion that made everyone think that Sarah had tried to kill them and Chuck’s swapping of the glasses that made Sarah think he was exactly what Quinn said he was. Those two unfortunate things led to the sniper snafu, the Ellie debacle, and house fight.
In the house, we see that Sarah can’t be around Chuck without extreme inner conflict (which, with Sarah, invariably leads to external conflict in one form or another). Chuck really gets to Sarah, and Agent Walker has a hard time doing her duty. Just as Agent Walker is about to win the battle, she sees the door frame and has her first clear memory — less than 48 hours after the memory wipe — and Sarah begins to re-emerge.
The v-log sequence is just fantastic. What a great job Yvonne did making me believe that those video clips were five years old. It’s obvious that she is definitely feeling it. She is mourning the loss of a dream without even the memory of it to comfort her. I like Dave’s thought, and I hadn’t really drawn the parallel before: that in the end Sarah is where she was in that last v-log entry we saw — in love with Chuck and no clue as to what to do about it. So she does what she does best. She stows her emotions.
The last scene is heart-wrenching, and yes, I think Sarah’s lying. Of course, she feels it. Even as she says she doesn’t feel it, she’s feeling it. Like Dave said, she now has knowledge and verifying emotions. But she has no context for the emotions and no path back to the life that was stolen from her.
Of course, we know what I believe she finally comes to realize on the beach: that Chuck is the context for her orphaned emotions and the way back to her stolen life.