Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Helicopter (1.02)

NBC Synopsis: WHO TO BELIEVE? –As Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) continues to come to grips with his newly adopted life as a spy, tension builds between his recently appointed partners Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and John Casey (Adam Baldwin). When a doctor who seems to have a solution to Chuck’s problem is killed, Casey and Walker turn the blame at one another. Both agents persistently try to convince Chuck that the other one is responsible and now it is up to Chuck to decide which one to trust. Who will he choose?

Chuck This Ranking:  57
Dave’s Rank: Mostly Agree

Full Write-Ups:  Chuck vs The Helicopter (1.02) by Dave, Ernie and Joe

Other Write-Ups: Reader’s Digest Re-Watch: The Intro Arc by Faith


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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45 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Helicopter (1.02)

  1. joe says:

    For all the humor in the show and in the episode, it’s the poignent darkness here, during Bryces Funeral, that sticks with me.

    Another vision of us
    We were the challengers of
    The unknown
    “Be safe” you say
    Whatever the mess you are you mind okay
    That is the custom
    On down

    • resaw says:

      Joe, I’ve always appreciated the way you have highlighted the music on Chuck. This song is without doubt one of my favourites.

      It is fair to say that I enjoyed the comedic elements of Chuck, but it was more often the critical, dramatic moments that have stayed with me. At least one way was the evocative way in which Yvonne’s facial expressions gave us a sense of the depth of feeling buried beneath the surface of the hard as nails Sarah Walker. Another was in Zac’s portrait of Chuck, who, beyond the slapstick, demonstrated to Sarah, Casey and Beckman, a life of compassion lived on behalf of others. He didn’t always get it right and it’s true he had a lot of growing to do, but in the end, I think his growth into a mature man did not alter what we knew from the beginning, that he was a fundamentally good person. (Sorry for the speechifying.)

      • anthropocene says:

        It’s not speechifying if it’s right on, Russ.

      • joe says:

        What Anthro said, Russ.
        Every week there was something so deep in Sarah’s/Yvonne’s facial expressions and something so profound in Chuck’s/Zac’s moral clarity that they forced me to see beyond the comedy and the simple “nerd meets hottie” trope. When I did, I saw a lot of my own experience and the experiences of people I love. The comedy became joy and the romance became real. Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Morgan and the rest became people I wanted to know. Surprisingly, I started to see the same characteristics in people I *do* know. That’s more than “the magic of theater”, you know. That’s a gift.

        I’m not the brightest kid on the block, Russ. I don’t think I would have ever noticed it without the music. It’s that important to me.

        Heh! Now *that’s* speechifying. 😉

      • anthropocene says:

        Speaking of music: I hadn’t noticed before this third or fourth rewatch that “A Question and an Answer” (though maybe it wasn’t titled that yet) was playing when Chuck and Sarah apologized to each other in the Wienerlicious at the end. First time! No viewer at that time could possibly have known how significant that little tune would be….

        Jonas Zarnow was an interesting villain and portrayed as being significant in the development of the Intersect. He was among the bad guys I always thought should have been brought back to battle Chuck again at some point.

  2. garnet says:

    I have to say that given this was the first episode after the pilot, the actors were already “inhabiting” their characters. We also did get confirmation that, although he might make mistakes, Chuck’s heart, or moral compass, was always in the right place. It is interesting to watch this episode now, knowing that Sarah had already been bitten by the love bug at this early stage.

    Every episode left us with questions. Some were about the plot, and some about the making of the show itself. This week’s question… How many takes did it take to get the table trick to work?

    • atcDave says:

      Ah great question! I’m betting Morgan’s try didn’t take too many…

      It is very interesting to think of where Sarah was at this early on. She may have been a little bit; but she sure is a long way from letting it impact her career and life!

      • thinkling says:

        The bitten-ness is largely absent in this episode, b/c Sarah is about to move on. But it shows back up in the last scene, which is another good one.

      • thinkling says:

        But you’re right. She is a long way from letting it impact her career and life.

      • atcDave says:

        I love that last scene, it’s so fun watching Sarah fall for Chuck. And I love that two years later she can admit how early she was falling for him.

    • thinkling says:

      The unlikeliness of it is what makes it so endearing. Seeing Sarah falling for Chuck draws us to her. The fact that he doesn’t see it draws us to him.

      That mix of strength and vulnerability is so appealing, and not just anyone can pull it off.

      • joe says:

        I just realized, Sarah is the strong one and Chuck the vulnerable one at this point. At the end, they’re both strong. They’re both vulnerable. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that kind of growth in popular television before.

      • thinkling says:

        That’s true, Joe. The thing I love, though, is that the seeds were there from the start. Chuck was vulnerable, but the seeds of strength were visible from the get go. Sarah was obviously ferociously strong, but the vulnerability was simmering below the surface and showed in Sarah’s expressions (thanks to Yvonne).

        That growth that you mentioned is what I love. I love that the show runners let them grow.

  3. thinkling says:

    I wasn’t so fond of Helicopter the first time, but with subsequent viewings, it has become one I like a lot.

    It would be natural for Chuck to have trust issues, and to be caught in the middle between Sarah and Casey’s trust issues, so it was necessary to deal with that. Glad it was resolved so quickly and humorously. By the end a fledgling TeamB is formed.

    We get a glimpse of Sarah’s fierce sense of duty as well as a more honorable side of Casey.

    Casey and Chuck bond over thinking Sarah is the double and then over trying to save her.

    Casey and Sarah bond over being mad at Chuck.

    It struck me for the first time that Chuck was wearing his father’s suit and unknowingly stepping into his father’s world. Maybe that wasn’t planned at all, but it occurred to me.

    Favorites scenes:
    ~ Chuck’s apology and Sarah’s forgiving him.
    ~ Some people want to be heroes. Others have to be asked. So … Chuck, are you ready?
    ~ Yep, we were wrong.
    ~ The dinner party always makes me laugh.

    Odd Details:
    ~ Beckman’s wedding ring: seen twice in Helicopter. I think it appears in one other episode, but I can’t remember which.
    ~ I’ve never understood why Bryce Larkin, from Connecticut, who recently died in DC, is being buried in Burbank. I’m probably not supposed to think about it, but I do.

    • atcDave says:

      It is always funny to me that Chuck would briefly trust Casey over Sarah.

      I really do like this episode. It’s not a “favorite” like many others, but I think its part of this very solid start to the series. I pretty much always watch it right after the Pilot, it just seems right to.

    • anthropocene says:

      Maybe if Bryce’s cover identity as a banker/accountant was based in LA…but the obituary Ellie hands Chuck clearly states that he worked in Washington. Also that he died in an auto accident, even though the headline states the cause was a robbery. It all must’ve been a CIA multiple-misdirection ploy.

      • atcDave says:

        People move. He and his family could have been from Connecticut originally, then moved to LA. Maybe even before College. But to his friends in California he’d always be Bryce from Connecticut.

    • joe says:

      Great pickup, Think! I never noticed that Bryce had little connection to Burbank at this point. Of course, we probably all expect to eventually get filled in on the details when a show is just starting. Sheesh! I’m still waiting for Buckaroo Banzai to tell me about the watermellon!

      (Hint: he never does, but check out some of the comments!)

    • authorguy says:

      It’s because of the Intersect. It bends the Universe around it, so all the bad guys come to Burbank, all the missions are in Burbank, etc.

      • joe says:

        [Joe slaps his forehead] OF COURSE! That explains everything. I just love elegant explanations, Marc! 😉

      • authorguy says:

        I used it before, in nine2five.
        “Casey was right, it’s like reality bends around you.”
        “He didn’t really say that, did he?”
        “No, he just said you gave her a larger pond to swim in, where words like ‘ninja’ and ‘cuddle’ can be used in the same sentence.”

    • aalleess says:

      Bryce was buried in Burbank? Where exactly is that shown?

      • jdmitchell51 says:

        I dont recall that specifically being mentioned myself but do think that to be an assumption as no one had mentioned having to go out of town for anything and Chuck, Sarah, and Casey were all at the funeral. Burbank makes sense as it appears to be the geographical center of the universe.

  4. uplink2 says:

    I’ve often wondered when much of this episode was shot. Schwedak have said that they changed the direction a bit after this episode because though they liked it they didn’t feel the Sarah/Casey confrontation etc and the darker themed version of Sarah was what the audience wanted to see. Helicopter feels much like an extension of the pilot in how it looks and just the tone of the episode and the difference is much larger between Helicopter and Tango. Tango feels more like the show we will get going forward. The graphics changed with Tango as well.

    As they have said there was a lot of stuff edited out of the pilot and it has made me wonder some of Helicopter was shot when they did the pilot. When was Helicopter written and when was it shot is something that has made me curious. The show evolved with Tango, for the better I might add, and it is probably one of the reasons Helicopter never rated very high with me. But I’ve grown to appreciate it more as time went on. But sometimes it does feel like 1.1B and not 1.2.

    • atcDave says:

      I’m sure at least the script was largely written with the Pilot. But I bet it was shot much later. The sets, and new casting of Gen Beckman are all more like the series. So it was surely filmed after the series was picked up by NBC. But it is possible they started production immediately with an already existing script, While Tango represents more of the actual vision for the series.

  5. Wilf says:

    I didn’t rate Helicopter particularly highly at first but I now really like it (and, actually, most other episodes, save those which cannot be named) a lot. I always enjoyed the comedy of the plot as much as anything else (but the budding romance was undoubtedly what kept me watching). This sequence was great …

    Morgan: He tells me his deepest, darkest secrets …
    Ellie: Here’s one – I loathe you
    Chuck: That’s not a secret

    Love it!

    I was sad that the real comedy one-liners almost left altogether towards the end of the show.

    • thinkling says:

      That was a good one, Wilf. I hadn’t really noticed the disappearance. I’ll have to pay more attention. One from S5 that immediately sprang to mind was from Kept Man: I used my seatbelt.

    • atcDave says:

      Perhaps the issue is just that 5.12 and Goodbye aren’t funny?

      Anyway, I really like how a lot of those lines are sort of throw aways. They aren’t a big deal, they aren’t important, but they’re funny if you’re paying attention.

    • Wilf says:

      Yeah Dave, it’s more about 5.12 and 5.13 being too darn serious

  6. JD says:

    I like most everyone else did not rate this episode highly. Although I do consider it to be a very important episode in the initial development of the series. This episode continued laying the foundation and answering some questions while creating other questions. Helicopter gave us crucial character development.

    We know from Chuck versus the Intersect that Chuck did not ask or want this. An opportunity presented itself for him to go back to normal. That opportunity was the possibility that Dr. Zarnow could remove the Intersect from Chuck. We learned how important the Intersect is in that people were willing to kill, kidnap, and torture for it. It could also fetch a high price if sold. Chuck is still deeply concerned for his family and friends.

    We see Sarah as someone you really do not want to have mad at you. Anyone that could impale you from halfway across the room with a corndog stick is someone to be cautious with. Although Schwartz says they did not like the direction she was going, too dark, I think this was necessary to show Sarah was a tough, tenacious, and hardened spy that could take care of herself, and Chuck if needed from his protection standpoint. She had to have the throw down with Casey to earn his respect.

    Likewise with Casey we need to see he wasn’t afraid to challenge Sarah. We also see Casey sees chuck as a thinker when they are trying to figure out where Zarnow has taken Sarah. In trying to talk Chuck down in the helicopter we see Casey to the point and giving direction. This would be like Chuck trying to tell Casey how to play Xbox; it didn’t work.
    The mistrust that was created was also necessary in order to start drawing everyone into a tighter circle. When Zarnow grabs Sarah she calls out for Casey. Both Casey and Chuck realize that their mistrust of Sarah caused her to be abducted. They now have to act together to correct their mistake.

    The other subplots with Morgan, Elle, Awesome, were also informative as to how they would interact and their importance to Chuck. I too enjoyed the Flambé; “No way to treat a woman’s soufflé.”

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever disliked this episode, but its the nature of Chuck, a very good episode can still rank out middle of the pack.
      I guess to my mind this episode never registered as dark; no doubt if the show had continued in this vein I would feel differently, but I took it as a slightly rocky earning trust phase from the start. And as such it never bothered me.
      Funny how you put that about Casey. He’s so brave and dangerous he’s even willing to challange Sarah. And loose. but hey, at least he’s willing. So he’s brave… and kind of stupid…

      • Christopher says:

        Chuck vs The Helicopter is a nice episode but if you rank the episode as whole. it really offers nothing to the story. One or two scenes does not make up for the battle between the members of TB. Like you I don’t like episodes seeing Chuck and Sarah have huge arguments.

        The scene that stands out is the dinner scene and that’s about it. It also is not very good to come off a successful pilot and show a lackluster of sorts for the second. at this point your still trying to get people to watch. Tango would of been better as an episode two. A stand alone like Helicopter is better suited for what cougars was for the break up. A breather episode I like to call.

        The pilot was major, but nothing really earth shattering, What do you think?

      • atcDave says:

        Well I thought the Pilot was terrific. Its funny we keep hearing so much cynicism or grudging acceptance Helicopter, I really liked it, even the very first time when it was a week between episodes. Ultimately, it ranks at 57 in the poll which I think is a good place for it. Its a middling episode of an outstanding show, which makes it outstanding.

        As I’ve said, I might feel differently if it had come later when Chuck and Sarah had built more of a friendship. In fact, I do start trashing on episodes pretty quickly here if Chuck shows a lack of trust in Sarah. That happens as quickly as Wookiee for me; Chuck should know better by then.
        I think I’m okay with what we have here for two big reasons; I thought the distrust around the dinner table was funny (Especially culminating in the bathroom scene, too funny), and I love the make up scene at the end. Sarah’s big smile shows all is forgiven, and that’s enough for me.

      • thinkling says:

        I agree Dave. By the end all was well, and it made sense to show an adjustment period to build trust (which wouldn’t realistically just automatically be there to start with) and get the team together. Helicopter did that and did it well. Middle of the pack is reasonable, but as you say an average Chuck episode is still above average entertainment.

      • Christopher says:


        I get what your saying, take away the dinner scene there really isn’t much there/ I think shows fail when they don’t keep people interested right away. This is why there is a huge drop in ratings from week one to week three. I agree with those numbers. You still could of build a mistrust in Tango because it was Chuck’s first mission. I agree with you about Wookie though, I have written that I feel at that point in the story Sarah does not need to explain her relationship to Chuck.

        It was better of for him not to know that Bryce was a connection between the two. It would of also made matters worse like it did on the mission. Chuck molped too much in that episode, and it is a pattern. i find it funny how trust is the theme throughout the series. I have question for everyone? Did TB really ever trust each other or did the respect and love for each other shelter that mistrust.

        Quite often the team would work solo, and most of the time it was a stupid reason to go off on their own. The only time I was thrilled was when Chuck manned up in First Kill and took on Fulcrum by himself or Volkoff, but the other times idioso.

        Helicopter for me ranks the same as 3d, broken heart and nemesis. I have mentioned on this site before why I don’t like those episodes.

        There is only one episode I won’t watch ever and its because I feel like I am watching my family break apart and that is 5/12 Helicopter is just as bad but at least I get to see Chuck fly a helicopter

      • oldresorter says:

        I thought Helicopter rewatched better after a long hiatus than I recall in the beginning. One of the reasons I posted that the Pilot should have ended with the shoulder bump, was the post shoulder bump scene(s) in the Pilot would have fit better with the darker themed Helicopter ep.

        An issue the show struggled with from start (The Pilot) to the bitter end on the beach in 5×13, is taking itself too serious and not knowing when to stop pulling on fans chains. Helicopter is one such episode, and its too bad, cause the good in the Helicopter is great.

        Early on this rewatch, a ? in my mind is when did the show stop using Ellie well? Because in these early eps, she is wonderful. I recall later on dreading her scenes.

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t think I ever didn’t like Ellie, but I would say she was not used well in S4. “Keeping her in the dark” when she already knew was a clumsy story-line.
        I thought it worked better in S5 when she was actually up on what was going on, and could be consulted about Intersect/memory issues.

      • thinkling says:

        Agreed. The Ellie reset was something I really didn’t like. And the way it was done, I especially didn’t like what it did to Chuck and Ellie’s characters. Chuck had grown as a character, and it would have been better to grow his relationship with his sister, rather than resetting it. They could have kept her in the dark about the Intersect and still had some of the same payoff down the road.

        I also think we lost some of that Ellie magic, when they increased Morgan’s screen time. More Morgan meant less Ellie.

      • oldresorter says:

        Dave I think its a matter of degrees. For me, the first half doz eps or so at least (I’ll tell you when I sense she’s slipping away), Ellie is the third best character for me, maybe rivaling Chuck for second.

        I really didn’t like Justin’s Ellie in s3, that’s the cringeworthy part. And s4’s clueless Ellie, that was bad too. Annoying.

        And yes, she got redeemed a bit in S5, but never again elevated to the point that she sort of carried the show’s emotional pacing, like she did early in the show. By pacing, I mean Chuck going back to ellie was the B story in between the spy stuff often. And her banter and relationship with Morgan was how the audience felt about Morgan (good and bad), her affection for Chuck agreed with the audience affection for Chuck, her adversion to the danger was understood by all of us and showed the grounded, moral side of Chuck, and she loved Sarah and essentially seemed confused about the nature of the relationship, as many of us felt.

        Does that explain my pov any better? I think without the backstory of my feelings, it might sound like a slam on Ellie, it really isn’t, she is probably the reason I first watched Chuck, as she was fantastic in everwood.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Thinkling I strongly suspect I would have been very happy with less Morgan, more Ellie the last couple seasons. Actually, that may be true from the Pilot on…

        OR I know a lot of viewers weren’t thrilled with the Justin story for Ellie. I actually mostly liked it, I thought it was perfect justice the way Chuck’s lying, and keeping her in the dark, blew up in his face. I would have liked it even better if it had been rewarded with a better Ellie story for S4 (and of course that complaint starts with Ring II and the whole “quitting ’cause I promised Ellie” silliness).
        I also think certain parts of her story simply had to shrink; as Ellie herself foretells in Sizzling Shrimp, as Sarah assumes a larger role in Chuck’s life, Ellie’s own role must diminish.
        If only that had applied to Morgan too…

  7. Dave

    I think Morgan was similar to Turk on scrubs…even after he was married with kids J.D was always hanging with him; there’s even that great exchange between Carla and J.D in the finale of the original series…Carla:”tell me my husband loves me more than he loves you!? J.D: I can’t promise that.”

    Some friends stay as prominent as they did in high school that’s just how it is.

    • atcDave says:

      That’s never a good thing for a marriage! It shows a lack of growth and maturity in the characters. Not to say such life long friendships aren’t important; but they need to be less so than the romantic pairing or the couple is doomed.
      At the very least, I’m just not interested in that story. It would be like if the only thing you ever talked about your job was the lunch break. It might be a good indicator the job isn’t a good fit…

      • Morgan/Chuck was definitely more toned down then J.D/Turk as time went on but Scrubs was a wacky feel good comedy from go and thus meant to be taken less seriously (though it still had emotional moments) in all aspects I personally found it fantastic!

      • thinkling says:

        To their credit, they did several things to mitigate the situation: Morgan moved out from CS’s place; the lesser Casey/Morgan bromance took off; Morgan and Sarah developed an odd and endearing friendship; and Morgan got a girlfriend. In a very natural way, all of those things put the bromance in a more balanced perspective and allowed CS to be a couple without a third wheel.

  8. On a completely unrelated topic it’s been a very happy few months for my hometown of CLE! First we land Johnny Football, then the RNC and now LBJ is coming back to the Cavs and his hometown of Akron! Who knows maybe the Chuck move will be filmed here if it’s ever made…THAT would be awesome too

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