Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Tango (1.03)

NBC Synopsis: 10/08/2007 (08:00PM – 09:00PM) (Monday) : IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO— Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is finding out that living two separate lives is not going to come easy. After being challenged by his boss at Buy More, Chuck needs the help of his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and the Nerd Herd, to prove that he is up to the task and ready to become assistant manager. Meanwhile, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and John (Adam Baldwin) force Chuck to go undercover for his first real spy mission. It seems that Chuck’s two different lives are learning to Tango, but which one will learn to take the lead?

Chuck This Ranking32
Dave’s Ranking: Quite a bit higher

Full Write-Ups: Chuck vs The Tango (1.03) by Dave and Ernie

Other Write-Ups: Reader’s Digest Re-Watch: The Intro Arc by Faith
Make ’em Laugh: Top Three Comedy Episodes by Ernie, Amy, Joe and Dave
Truth is Spoken Here by Joe


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.
This entry was posted in Re-watch, Season 1. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Episode of the Week: Chuck vs The Tango (1.03)

  1. Ernie Davis says:

    Always a favorite to re-watch. It established the show’s visual and musical style and the montage as a major contributor to those styles.

  2. Wilf says:

    Tango has never been one of my absolute favourites, but I always enjoy it when I watch it. Come to think of it, there are relatively few episodes I don’t enjoy re-watching.

    • joe says:

      Mrs. Joe is convinced I’m crazy the way I re-watch episodes. Or maybe, she’s just convinced I’m getting senile and can’t remember ’em! 😉

  3. atcDave says:

    Well you guys know this is one of my very favorites. Absolutely one of the top three of S1, along with Pilot and Marlin. Depending on the mood I may call this number one. Its sort of prototypical Chuck to me. The first two episodes were set-up, now we see what the show is going to look like for the next two seasons. This may actually be my most watched episode after the Pilot; its hard to be sure, since Honeymooners ran I’ve developed a new cadre of favorite episodes. But Tango was key to me back in 2008/2009 when my Chuck addiction was strongest, and we didn’t have nearly so many episodes to choose from.

  4. resaw says:

    I’m probably saying the obvious here, but what strikes me three episodes in this time around is the evolution of Casey’s status within the team. In the Pilot he was clearly the antagonist. Helicopter was a transitional episode. He and Sarah fight and mistrust each other and try to gain Chuck’s confidence to use against the other, but once Casey admits “we were wrong” (bringing Chuck along for the ride, so to speak, because he cannot be wrong by himself) as he succumbs to the effects of the tranq dart, the shift is made. Finally, in this episode, Casey and Sarah are clearly a team, even if they still have a lot to learn about each other and even though their respective agencies’ agenda are not quite in sync.

    What a remarkable transition they all made over the five years of this series. If Chuck’s hero’s journey was central to the series, the development of the characters of Casey and Sarah was no less significant. Well, I’ve always thought that about Sarah, but seeing Casey again here at the beginning reminded me of his journey, too.

    • atcDave says:

      One of the things that always makes a big impression on me is how much even the secondary characters grew on this show.

  5. anthropocene says:

    When I considered whether to rewatch this episode, I figured: I’m sure I could suffer through it.

  6. Unpacking Chuck says:

    The painting, which is highlighted at the beginning of “Tango” as well as at the auction, is a key controlling metaphor for the introductory arc and beyond that gets overlooked. The canvas (titled “Waterlillies”) presents inverted images (trees and clouded sky) that give the mirror-like surface of the seemingly serene pond a false appearance. The sources of these reflections are pointedly not visible outside the frame. Moreover, the shadows and even the light are murky, with the impressionistic brush strokes leaving the boundaries between objects indistinct.
    All of these elements of the painting figure Chuck’s brave new world. His seemingly serene Burbank existence has been rudely inverted even as he has been flipped into a CIA asset by forces outside his frame of reference. Chuck is also deceived by false appearances. When not confusing an MI6 agent for La Ciudad, he is naively dancing with her. This to say nothing of his misplaced suspicions oh his handlers in the prior episodes.
    In addition, the episode ends with the lines of the asset-handler relationship between Chuck and Sarah blurring, like the brush strokes of the painting, when Sarah admits she could suffer through a kiss with Chuck. Not coincidentally, she does this by the courtyard fountain, home to lily pads throughout the series and recalling those in the painting. In the pilot, they are blooming, a foreshadowing. However, the lines between Chuck’s normal life and spy life are also blurring. This will be made explicit in a later episode when Chuck sees the two “collide” after Ellie gets in the ambulance with the “nuclear freak”. Sarah will call this an “existential spy crisis.”
    Finally, Chuck’s comment to La Ciudad about being more interested in the frame that the painting is significant, because it implies the reframing of his view of himself that will be necessary to embark on his hero’s quest. Sarah notably ends the episode not only acknowledging Chuck’s heroism on the La Ciudad mission, but gets him to reluctantly acknowledge it as well.
    There are even more links between the painting and the introductory arc and the rest of the season, but these suffice to show why the painting was foregrounded and strategically placed in “Tango.” Perhaps the episode should be titled “Chuck vs the Painting.”

  7. noblz says:

    I missed commenting on Helicopter due to stupid job… so here goes

    I always liked Helicopter a lot. Its not one of my 28 top ten episodes, but it was good for me. The angst between Sarah and Casey was OK because the didn’t over-do it. Also, Sarah’s reaction to Chucks helicopter flying escape is the first indication of her desperation about Chuck’s safety. Also maybe the first hint of Sarah’s true feelings for Chuck, hence her strong reaction.

    I liked everything about Tango except…Morgan. This is where Morgan started to be an irritant for me. Not enough to stop watching but definitely a component that could have been toned down. The other main thing is Sarah and Chuck beginning to realize their feelings for each other…

    “Would it be so bad?”
    “I could suffer through it.”
    “Me too.”

    Just too cute.

    • noblz says:

      Of course I meant they didn’t over do it, not the didn’t over do it.

    • atcDave says:

      I agree with all of that Noblz. Although Morgan does often make me laugh, I never would have missed him if he were gone.

    • anthropocene says:

      Morgan could be irritating, but he was an indispensable part of Chuck’s backstory. Ellie took care of Chuck, but Chuck took care of Morgan—fostering the traits of latent leadership and big-heartedness that later endeared him to Sarah.

      • duckman says:

        Morgan didn’t bother me much until I watched s4 and 5. Going back and starting my first rewatch was jarring. I finally saw what others had complained about. Early Morgan really could be annoying!
        I wanna see Anna,Carina,and Alex gang up on him in the movie.

      • resaw says:

        Completely agree, Anthro. One can cringe at some of the things that Morgan did over the course of the series, but when one considers what Chuck said to Sarah in Best Friend, I can’t help but think that the story needed Morgan. It also strikes me as true to life. Our friends and family are not universally likeable all the time and to all other people.

        Here’s the quotation, by the way:
        Chuck: “Look, Sarah, I don’t have parents. I mean, not really. I don’t talk about it because that’s just the way things are now. But it wasn’t always this way. Morgan was there the first day that my mom took off. He didn’t say much because, honestly, what is a fifth grader supposed to say? But we sat there and split a cherry cheesecake and played Legend of Zelda all night long. And my dad, well that’s a whole other story, but Morgan was there for that too. Morgan is more than just my best friend. He’s my family. Before you got here, and long after you’ve gone, Morgan is my family.” (Found on TV Fanatic website)

        Interesting that Chuck could still contemplate the possibility at that stage that Sarah was not around for the long term, and Sarah could still put forth the rational “greater good” government agent in her response to Chuck’s comments. Of course, I believe this was also the episode when Sarah was briefly absolutely heartbroken when she thought that Chuck had been killed. Bloody nose and all, that was one of the clearest unspoken declarations of love at that point in the series (IMO).

      • atcDave says:

        I don’t know if I would quite agree Morgan was “needed”, certainly not that he needed to be as eccentric as he was. But I would agree the friendship is part of what showed us Chuck as a leader and how he was respected right from the start of the show. And of course once we get to Best Friend the collision between friendship and duty plays out nicely. Especially for Sarah who is sort of learning a new concept. I too remember being somewhat disappointed that Chuck was still so sure Sarah would leave; but really, even at that point there’s no good reason for him to think anything else.

        There is no doubt Morgan contributed a lot to the show. But I’ll still say, for my taste, he was over used on occasion, from Pilot to Goodbye.

    • aalleess says:

      I guess I am the only one who got irritated more often by Chuck than Morgan during the 91 episodes.

  8. Sam Carter says:

    Hi, guys, long time no see. Check out this poll results:

    Always interesting to see other points of view.

  9. DKD says:

    (I started my own rewatch a few weeks ago and I do it every Monday evening)

    One of the things I caught is that as Chuck enters the party, we see him get very excited about the hors d’oeuvres and grabs one immediately. This would become a Chuck “thing” as the series goes on. But, I suspect it was put here for the first time as a plot device to give Chuck a reason to go off to the bathroom by himself and spot the false “Ciudad”.

    But, the writers apparently decided to make it a permanent character trait for him.

    • atcDave says:

      Another “first”.
      As a guy, I’d say diving into the food is a pretty natural reaction.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Also notice that Casey is almost always eating in the van on stake-outs. That was a “thing” that Adam Baldwin started on Firefly. He said he never wanted the character to not be doing something to add a sort of restless animal like energy to him. So every time we see Jayne Cobb he’s doing something like eating or sharpening his knife or something. Casey is sort of similar in that regard.

      Remember also that Chuck quarterbacking Casey on which hors d’oeuvre to get in Lethal Weapon.

  10. Joel says:

    This is an important episode in the history of the show. It has a lot going for it – some great jokes, good action scenes, good use of music. It even has Jeff and Lester starting to come into their own as characters. The “forced to kiss you exchange” is cute enough, though it doesn’t really do anything for me.

    Unfortunately Morgan really does bring this down. I mostly like him in S2 and I love him in the later seasons, and even by late S1 I can at least tolerate him. But he’s just the worst here.. I showed this episode to some friends who had never seen Chuck before, and I think Morgan turned them off from ever watching it again. He gets so much screentime just being a pain and screwing things up that it’s not just a small annoyance – it actually seriously hurts the episode.

    I know this will be a minority opinion here: to me, early season 1 (like pre-Alma Mater) feels rough, like they’re still figuring the show out, and is the weakest stretch of the whole series. Though the Pilot is an exception. This is definitely the best of 1.2-1.6 and has some classic moments, but I still like it less than I used to.

    • atcDave says:

      This is actually one of my all time favorite episodes, and Sarah’s little flirting at the end sold me on this being a romance I wanted to see happen.
      I do agree Morgan is pretty odd in these early episodes. But not that odd! I got at least three viewers hooked on the show thanks to this one, including a Nielsen viewer!

      • Joel says:

        Well, I can understand why – like I said, it really has a lot going for it. Having my friend who I wanted to sell on the show comment on “The bearded guy is so unlikable” did bring it down for me some, though.

      • Joel says:

        Now I think the best episode to show someone is either First Date or Best Friend, by the way.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah First Date especially is very strong choice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s