These Are a Few of Our Favorite Themes: The Intersect (3 of 5)

The Intersect — Part 3 covers the first half of Season 4 with a look at Sarah’s biggest growth spurt … which she will need to help Chuck when the Intersect is taken away.

~ The Crutch Period ~

The Intersect giveth and the Intersect taketh away. I’m sensing a pattern here. Thanks to the Intersect, Chuck has it all. He’s a spy, and he has Sarah. It’s all good …

Until the Intersect takes away his dad … again. This time for good. His father, in typical Orion fashion, leaves him a posthumous computer message, which leads Chuck to his childhood home, with more than a few skeletons in the closet basement. Orion’s Base.

Orion's baseGuess what, son. Spying runs in the family. Dad was a spy. Mom was a spy, and now the Bartowski family legacy falls to Chuck, along with the task to find his mom.

Thanks to Chuck, Sarah has it all. She’s still a spy, plus she has everything a real life can offer. It’s all good. Or it will be, once she figures out what to do with it.

The first part of this period focuses on Sarah’s growth, with Chuck as the understanding Lover, helping her adapt to normal life. So let’s go back and pick up Sarah’s thread.

Remember, she was in love with Chuck, so much so that she was ready to quit the CIA to be with him … and do what? Did it matter? Well, no … and yes. Was Chuck enough? Well, yes … and no. Chuck didn’t have to be a spy, necessarily (except that this is a show about spies), but for them to be equally yoked, he did need a direction for his life, other than Not-the-Buymore. Ultimately, Sarah needed more than Cowboy Chuck. She needed Warrior Chuck, i.e. Chuck with a purpose and a cause bigger than himself.

Furthermore, for Sarah to be whole, she needed someone to show her that she could be both a spy and a real person, so she wouldn’t have to sacrifice one aspect of herself in order for another aspect to grow. Not that she needs to be a spy forever, but she does need to reconcile these two parts of who she is, rather than always having to leave one part behind.

The Intersect catalyzed that through Chuck. Sarah’s growth (throughout the series) follows — and springboards off of — Chuck’s growth … which the Intersect catalyzed and she inspired. It’s a beautiful growth spiral.

Coming home. A real relationship is w-a-y different from a spy relationship. Love and trust in a spy relationship are limited, controlled, and confined to the spy life. Love and trust in a real relationship are invasive, transforming, and all-encompassing. And they cost something.

As far fetched as Suitcase seemed, Sarah’s unpacking crisis always struck me as a fitting representation of the challenge that a real relationship posed for her.

She’d been a con man’s daughter and an agent for so long that she’d had very little opportunity to be herself — or even discover herself — who she was as a person and a woman.

Because of her upbringing and her profession, she had constructed an impenetrable (until Chuck) outer shell to guard her emotions and protect her heart. Sarah hated being vulnerable, so she buried herself and her emotions way down deep, where they wouldn’t hurt her.

S4 unpacking 2As much as Sarah wants this real life, trust doesn’t come easy. Unpacking (in the broader sense) makes her vulnerable, but not unpacking hurts Chuck, so she surrenders to love and chooses to be vulnerable with Chuck. She unpacks: her stuff, her life, her heart, and herself.

From this moment on, Sarah’s growth is nothing less than stunning. It’s a lot of fun to see the growth and also to see her self perception catch up with who she has become with Chuck.

Look, I know that it’s probably taken me longer [to unpack] than a normal girl, but you should know that you’re my home Chuck. You always have been.

A couple of Intersect domino chains — Heather Chandler and Alexandro Goya the Costa Gravan dictator, both connected with Volkoff — run through Chuck and Sarah’s life and give Sarah two more critical epiphanies.

Changes and Constants. A night with Heather Chandler shows Sarah a dim reflection of her pre-Chuck, nothing-but-a-spy self (all spy, putting her childhood talents to better use; no real relationships or attachments, except spy ones) and what her life might have become without him (cold and loveless). The encounter also proves to her with ringing clarity that she has changed.

For a long time I was exactly like [Heather], and it took me a night in the guts of the building to realize that I’m not anymore … at all … and I don’t want to be.

An impromptu vacation gone wrong ultimately ends with Chuck and Sarah in Costa Grava defusing a nuclear situation.

S4 is the love still there

Chucks words to theGoyas …

Life is full of changes … The question is, no matter what the changes are, is the love still there?

bring Sarah face to face with another realization.

S4 My answer would be yesI love you, Chuck. Nothing’s ever going to change that. And if you ask me for real [to marry you], then my answer would be yes.

Change is an unavoidable constant, especially for a spy and a con-man’s daughter, but now Sarah knows that love is the greater constant … the one that will anchor them through all of life’s changes.

And none to soon, because there are some big changes on the horizon.

The Intersect of Christmas Past. Chuck’s search for his mom eventually puts him in the cross-hairs of Alexei Volkoff — the Intersect that started it all. Of course, nobody knows that at this point, except Mary, who gave up 20 years of her life to keep Volkoff far, far away from her children. She didn’t even want him to know about them.

Busted. When Chuck, a.k.a. Charles Carmichael, gets closer to Volkoff Industries than any other spy, her family is in danger of discovery. So, Mary hatches a scheme to fake his death and get Chuck off Volkoff’s radar.

Fail. Mary gets captured, and Volkoff comes to rescue her, putting her son face to face with Alexei Volkoff.

S4 first fight 2So Mary does a better job the second time. She suppresses the Intersect. Then together with Volkoff, she binds Chuck and Sarah (sneaking Sarah a blade), sets explosives, and blows up Orion’s base. In one act she convincingly fakes Carmichael and Walker’s deaths and destroys any means they might use to find her or Volkoff again. Her only mistake is underestimating her son.

And the Intersect is taken away, forcing our Warrior/Lover through another crucible — a necessary one, but a crucible, nonetheless. The Intersect catalyzed tremendous growth in Chuck’s life. There will be a test. If the Intersect is taken away, will the growth remain? Ultimately whatever depends on the Intersect for its existence isn’t real, because the Intersect can be taken away in a flash.

two weddings 80

Or a non-flash, as the case may be. Thanks Mom.

In a non-flash the Intersect that gave him a vehicle to become a warrior and equipped him to be a spy is gone, leaving him with some vexing questions: Is he still a spy? Still a warrior? Still worthy of the cause he’s undertaken? And most important, is he still good enough for Sarah?

In Chuck’s mind, his identity as a warrior and his worth as a lover are tied to being a spy, which is dependent upon his having the Intersect. To move forward, he must be certain of who he is without the Intersect. The same is true, though perhaps to a lesser degree, for Chuck and Sarah. They need to know, beyond any doubt, who they are without the Intersect. The Intersect brought them together and has always hovered over their relationship. It’s time for their lives to be defined and established without it.

Now, if a warrior needs his armor to be a warrior, then he’s no warrior. He’s a coward, but Chuck Bartowski has never been a coward.

Sarah gets it. She has always known that Chuck is a hero … with or without the Intersect.

Chuck has never gotten it. That’s what this is about, and Sarah is the key.

C: I’ve never been a spy without the Intersect, and I quite like being a spy: doing great things, doing them with you. I want that back.

S: You don’t need the Intersect to do great things. You’re great on your own.

C: But am I a spy?

S: Yes. Yes, but you’re Chuck Bartowski, and you do that all on your own.

Clearly Sarah doesn’t think Chuck needs the Intersect to be great or to do great things… something Chuck still needs to learn.

S4 fodThroughout the ordeal, Chuck shows the true colors of a warrior and does whatever it takes to recover the Intersect (for Sarah, for his team, for the country … and himself) including going along with Agent Crazy-Pants Rye and his PFOD therapy.

Dangling 200 feet above certain death, Chuck realizes that loving Sarah is more important than having the Intersect. What good is a dead Lover? Or a dead Warrior, for that matter. This is not a surrender. It’s a decision to press on, even without the Intersect … like a true warrior.

On Sarah’s end of things, she does whatever it takes to keep Chuck safe, including warning everyone about the folly of Rye’s mission. She didn’t lose Chuck to the Intersect and his spy training, and she will not lose him now to a mission without the Intersect.

Of course, there’s something deeper going on with Sarah that’s even less clear to Chuck. Sarah needs Chuck. If Sarah loses Chuck, she loses a part of herself, the real part. If only Chuck knew. As soon as Sarah knows that’s what he needs, she moves heaven and earth to tell him.

When Chuck ends up in the Belgian’s lab with a mad scientist playing with his brain, Sarah cuts a swath of destruction across Thailand to rescue Chuck and finally tell him ever-so-clearly why she can’t lose him.

S4 I'm going to marry you

Chuck, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I don’t care if you have the Intersect or not. Without you I’m nobody. I’m nothing but a spy. Come back to me Chuck. I’m gonna marry you.

Chuck emerges from the crucible without the Intersect, but with something much more valuable: a sense of identity and worth independent from the Intersect. Chuck Bartowski now stands on his own … as a warrior and as a lover.

Go to Part 4


About thinkling

In my [younger] youth, I was a math teacher, basketball coach, and computer programmer. In 1984, we moved to Brazil, where we serve as missionaries. I like to design things and build things, read things and write things. We now live part-time in Brazil, part-time in the US. Love them both. Wife, 37 yrs; mom, 30 yrs. I am blessed.
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33 Responses to These Are a Few of Our Favorite Themes: The Intersect (3 of 5)

  1. Pingback: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Themes: The Intersect (2 of 5) | Chuck This

  2. Theresa says:

    I have to agree these parts where Chuck grows and so does Sarah are the most enjoyable part of this transition. I think the growth was so spectacularly successful that having Sarah regressed in the ending felt so much like a betrayal.

    • thinkling says:

      My favorite parts, too, Theresa! Something I love about CHUCK is how they let the characters grow!

    • joe says:

      I think I saw something last time through, Theresa, that I hadn’t noticed before. In the finale, when Chuck and Sarah are in the the German-Mexican restaurant (just like the one from their first fake/cover date), Chuck starts to whine, almost begging Sarah to remember. But that’s not the Chuck she saw the first time. Then, in the pilot, he started to whine about Jill, then catches himself (Thank you Ellie!) and says…

      But that was a long time ago. And the restraining order was quite specific…

      Sarah can only smile at that, and her next words are I like you, Chuck. We all believed it too.

      This time, Sarah looks at Chuck like she’s begging him to be that guy again. She may not remember the event, but she sure remembers the emotions. Sarah is not the Sarah from five years earlier, emotionally, and like Thinkling writes so eloquently, her growth spiral is not gone. I’ve become convinced that she’s not regressed, like I once thought.

      With that in mind, the beach scene is much, much more satisfying to me.

      • i’m glad somebody notices what i knew on initial viewing of the finale; Sarah’s growth was never gone, if it were she wouldn’t have done so many things i.e going to see Chuck after learning the truth, making genuine apologies to Chuck at various moments. and even in her body language and facial reactions…in fact I’m more convinced then ever that the finale is full of growth for both Chuck and Sarah and I feel sorry for those who can’t see it.

  3. atcDave says:

    Excellent write up of one of my very favorite periods of the show. The explosive growth here, especially Sarah’s, is so satisfying to see.

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    One thing that always struck me about this period is how “international” the show became in portraying Chuck and Sarah having it all.

    In seasons 1 and 2 all of team B’s missions and actions was in California between San Diego and Stanford and no further east than 100 miles east of Barstow.

    Season 3 did get to Paris eventually and featured quick trips to Dubai and Switzerland, but for the most part they stayed in season 2 territory.

    Now think of season 4. Russia (plus Chuck and Morgan’s abbreviated globe trotting), Milan, Costa Gravas, Switzerland, Thailand, Russia a few more times, Morocco, Rio, England, Macau, Russia, Switzerland, Mogadishu, England again, whatever mine Mary was prisoner in, then Russia a few more times before settling back in Burbank for the bulk of season 5. OK, season 5 featured a trip to Prague, a trip to Miami and another to Japan, but for the most part they were a local firm.

  5. Ernie Davis says:

    One other fun thing about this period. The production crew of Chuck has always filled the sets with lavish detail, creating a visually rich world for Chuck. Many of these details were ones you’d barely notice, like pictures on a refrigerator or what was on Chuck’s bedside table, unless you took the time to look. Early season 4 is a good time to do this.

    Look at Chuck’s bedroom at the end of Chuck Versus The Anniversary (4.01). It is virtually unchanged in 3 full seasons of the show. It’s the same ratty bedspread, the same table lamps, his “Y: The Last Man” poster still leaning against the wall on his headboard. Sarah has been living there (even if away for an extended period) for close to a year at this point if we take a 9 month anniversary as signifying either them getting together or her moving in. Yet she has made virtually no impression.

    We see in the next episode the reason for that. But here is where the fun begins.

    Whenever an opportunity to get a good look at Chuck’s bedroom arises, like in Chuck Versus The Fear of Death or Chuck Versus Phase 3, take a close look and notice that bedroom changing and evolving. New bed linens, framed photographs have replaced the poster, Sarah is making her mark on the bedroom they share, and we see her style and Chuck’s on the two sides of the room taking shape and eventually starting to blend.

    It’s a fun thing to see happen.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I love that. I’ve always wondered how deliberate it was, or if it was just an enthusiastic property/set manager. Whoever was responsible, it added a lot to the feel of the show!

    • thinkling says:

      Yeah, me too. I hadn’t thought about whose idea it was. (I just assumed Sarah did it)

      It was really fun to watch, first the bedroom, then the apartment. And it was fun to see the things that didn’t change, and the photos that always stayed. Kind of like admitting that it was always real between them, even when they were pretending it was fake.

    • says:

      My husband has worked in the entertainment business off and on, including when we lived in L.A. several years back. I even helped him on one of his independent films. Based on what he has done, I am pretty sure they were very deliberate in what they had on set. The set decoration really reflected the characters as they grew, both separately and together. A lot of fun to watch throughout the series.

    • joe says:

      Hi, Carrol.
      Thinkling, you and Carrol and Dave have brought up something I’ve always sorta missed! That’s so cool! Now I HAVE TO re-watch, if only to pick up on the details buried in Chuck’s bedroom. We’ll call them “The Sarah touches.”

      You wouldn’t think there’d be so much new to see after so many years and so many re-watches. But there are.

      • thinkling says:

        I remember looking for the changes, even talking/speculating about it here. Of course, now I’ll have to look all over again.

  6. noblzNoblz says:


    Good write up. I remember reading somewhere (I forget the exact citation) that Zach said in an interview that Season 4 was all about family and “the domestication of Sarah Walker”.

    For my money, they delivered that and for all the reasons you listed. I just wish they hadn’t messed up S3.0 so badly, there was still plenty of story to tell and there was some good stuff in S4 that a lot of people missed because they had left during the misery arc.

    You were all talking about the decorations in the apartment. Well, how about the reaction of Sarah’s Dad to what he found there? It was a hoot.

    Anyway, again, great job!!

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks, Noble

      The domestication of Sarah Walker, huh? Love it. And really loved S4 … and S5 enjoying the result of the domestication.

      Sarah’s dad’s reaction was a hoot. He was a great character — so much fun — played well off of the rest of the cast, especially CS.

  7. Does anybody know if they mentioned Eve’s maiden name? One of my goals for my next chapter is connecting Quinn’s background and hopefully fixing the plot holes in The Conspiracy Ar c because lets face it they didn’t do a very good job with either of those things…

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t believe we ever got a maiden name in canon.

      • Just one of many issues TPTB flaked on…oh well I’ll just make something up…fixing these things is taking much longer than i’d like and I have no intention of rushing…of course if they’d done their jobs right this wouldn’t be an issue…when the writing was good it was very good but whats poor is downright awful…the misery and conspiracy arcs being the worst of it….

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