These Are a Few of Our Favorite Themes: The Intersect (4 of 5)

Chuck has found his confidence without the Intersect. Sarah wants to marry him. What could possible go wrong?

A more self-assured Chuck moves forward with his life, sans Intersect. He begins physical training like any other spy and focuses his considerable brain power on a magical proposal plan. It’s all good.

Except for one tiny PROBLEM.

S4 leftovers standoffWhen his mother suppressed the Intersect, it touched off a series of events that ultimately put Chuck back in Volkoff’s cross-hairs, so Mom comes back — again — to foil Volkoff’s latest hit on Charles Carmichael. At the end of the day, after the Thanksgiving from hell, Chuck and Sarah aren’t dead, but they’re not exactly safe, either. Volkoff now knows about Mary’s family — all of them — and where to find them. Only Mary and an unsustainable détente are keeping Volkoff at bay.

~ The Tool Period ~

The Intersect stirs. While Chuck was in Thailand trying to hang on to all his little gray cells, you remember Ellie found her dad’s laptop waiting for her in the burgundy Mustang convertible with blue leather seats. She fixed the memory problem, which improved the Intersect’s interface with the brain.

Now that Chuck has resigned himself to being a spy without the Intersect, Orion’s laptop, with the new and improved Intersect on board, finds its way back to him.

I’m ba-ack. Did you miss me?

Another computer. Another choice.


We’ve been here before, but this time it’s different. Or rather, this Chuck is different. The Intersect no longer defines him, which means he’s ready for it in ways that he wasn’t before.

What had been a crutch is now a tool.

Sarah’s test. The Intersect leaves no growth untested. Now it’s Sarah’s turn in fire.

Everything Sarah holds dear Volkoff now holds hostage: Chuck, their future, her new family. Until Volkoff is captured, they are all at risk. So Sarah descends into the world that had made her nothing-but-a-spy to bring back Chuck’s mother, after helping her eliminate Volkoff and his organization.

Gobbler10eThis time Chuck is the one left to wonder if he will lose his lover to the darkness of the spy world: specifically to this mission — the same Intersect vortex that took his mother from him.

The answer is No. The why is that Sarah has changed. She is no longer nothing-but-a-spy with nothing to lose. She has an integration point into a real life. Even though she has to go back to being her old self, she is still anchored in Chuck and, through him, to a normal life. She has something to lose, something to live for, and someone to fight for. That said, it won’t be an easy test. The mission grows long and difficult, and it looks like Sarah may not come home for a while.

Legacy Becomes Destiny. Agent Bartowski is given orders to stand down and let the mission play out. Instead of standing down, Agent Bartowski stands up.

I watched my mom leave us and my dad follow her. I let Sarah go and now Casey. And the whole time I did nothing, while one man [the first Intersect] took everything away from me. Ellie’s right. Bartowskis take care of their family, and right now it’s time I put mine back together again. This was my father’s mission, and I have to finish it.

No longer content just to do the government’s bidding, Chuck steps into his own legacy with a cause of his own.

The Warrior becomes a King.

The Tron poster goes mural — gotta love it. As Chuck works out his plan, he takes up his father’s legacy and makes it his own. He is the Warrior/Lover/King he was meant to be: every bit the charming regular guy, every bit the spy his father was, plus every bit the spy he was trained to be, all combined in a unique, Chuck Charles-Carmichael-Orion-Bartowski package.

The rest of the mission — finding/joining Sarah and his mom, bringing down Volkoff — is quintessential Chuck: smart, bold, brave, with no killing; and it is a fitting a tribute to his father, who passed this legacy to his son.

I was never going to kill you, Alexei. After all, I am my father’s son.

S4 Push Mix Chuck and Sarah fight for their family. They complete his parents’ missions and right a few of the wrongs the Intersect caused. Chuck finishes Mary’s mission to bring down Volkoff, and Sarah finishes Stephen’s mission and her own promise to bring Mary home to her family.

Chuck and Sarah emerge from this mission … galvanized, both individually and as a couple. Chuck finishes his interrupted proposal, and the engagement is a go.

From here, Chuck and Sarah enter a peaceful period. Sarah, no longer on the outside looking in, grows in readiness for her wedding and marriage. Her spy life serves as her training wheels and her context for solving real-life problems. Chuck is settled and confident in the Bartowski/Orion legacy of unconventional heroism and spy craft. It’s all good.

Kathunk … speed bump.

Dueling Intersects. There’s a new Intersect in town … a couple of them, in fact. According to Director Bentley, these Intersects are new and improved. The software has been corrected to compensate for Chuck’s limitations: emotional sensitivity, over-reliance on his partners, and his inability to terminate targets … you know, his human side.

It’s another test. The CIA is about to find out which is better: the GRETAS (the Intersects they had originally hoped for) or Chuck (the Intersect they settled for, but fell well short of their expectations). It’s a test whose time has come. All of Chuck’s growth has brought him to a level of confidence and maturity that make him up to the challenge.

In the Intersect face-off, Chuck and his human qualities win out over the robotic responses of the GRETAS. Vicki’s blind willingness to eliminate targets arms a suitcase nuke. Chuck’s emotional attachment to human beings, as opposed to Rick’s detached calculation of acceptable losses, saves hundreds of thousands of lives. Then Chuck’s reliance on his team, plus his ability to think outside the box Intersect, disarms the nuke. Chuck and Sarah rule … GRETAS drool.

A-Team 100At the end of the test, Chuck proves — yet again — to be the best host for the Intersect, and he remains its keeper. Orion’s laptop finds its way out of CIA custody back to Ellie.

The gift that keeps on giving. And not in a good way. One nemesis begets another — literally. Not long after Chuck puts one Volkoff behind bars, he finds himself in the cross-hairs of another Volkoff. Vivian’s father, the once-mild-mannered-scientist-turned-psycho-arms-dealer, groomed his daughter to take over his evil empire. After some waffling, she does just that, and immediately orders a hit on Chuck. This family has quite a fondness for things that go boom.

The thirty-year Bartowski-Hartley-Volkoff Intersect tragedy has come full circle. The effects of that first domino are mind-numbing. Leaving aside its effects on the world, the toll it takes on these two families is staggering. Two best friends — whose families should have exchanged Christmas gifts and shared holiday dinners and picnics — became enemies. Two children, who might have grown up as friends, grew up as strangers, destined to meet as enemies.

Uninvited guests. Unwanted gifts Chuck and Sarah’s journey has finally led them to the eve of their wedding.

Sarah has come alive to her desire for a normal life of love and belonging and has emerged as a vulnerable, free-spirited woman-in-love, poised to pursue that life with Chuck. It makes us smile and warms us to our toes.

Likewise, Chuck is the man that Sarah has always loved, and something more. Still the regular guy she fell for, he is also the fully fledged hero she always saw in him. It makes us cheer.

It’s all good, until …

Vivian learns the truth about her father and Chuck’s father (or Riley’s twisted version of it) and decides to exact her revenge on Chuck.

Kingdom under siege … on two fronts. Vivian’s plot and the CIA cover-up of Agent X form a perfect storm — a battled ground that will test every aspect of Chuck’s character and growth: his skills, his confidence, his courage, and his love.

He has a plan, and he has the Intersect. He has a chance.

Oops. Change of plans …

In the midst of his battle to save Sarah’s life, there is a seismic shift in the Intersect fault. The first Intersect is removed from Volkoff, and the last Intersect is removed from Chuck, thus stripping Chuck of the two key parts of his plan to save Sarah: Volkoff and the Intersect.

For Rip Van Winterbottom, it’s like none of this ever happened. He awakens from his 30-year Intersect coma, completely unaware of his alter ego and the havoc he wreaked on the world and in the lives of his friends and his … daughter? So now, in addition to his battle to save Sarah, Chuck must help and handle a bewildered and traumatized Hartley.

H: Charles, who’s Vivian?

C: She’s your daughter.

H: [incredulous] My daughter? And she’s your enemy??

C: It’s a long story. Terrible mistakes were made, and now we have to clean them up. Will you help me save Sarah?

H: Yeah. Of course I will.

Reversal of Fortunes. Chuck is in a unique position to reverse some of the effects of the first Intersect and to bring healing to those most affected.

Without his direct involvement in the Intersect, without his growth as a spy, without Sarah, without his stepping into his legacy, and without learning the identity of Agent X … without any one of those things, Chuck couldn’t begin to undo the effects of the first Intersect. [This touches on another of my favorite CHUCK themes: Redemption. A theme for another day.]

In the middle of this perfect Intersect storm, Chuck begins to fix things. The CIA and/or Decker de-intersected Hartley to experiment on him and discard him — to clean their botched operation. But Chuck intervened and rescued Hartley, beginning a Chuck-style clean-up operation that ends in redemption rather than destruction.

In this winner-take-all battle, Chuck demonstrates the resolve and actions of a warrior:

breaches a super-max penitentiary, stands up to Decker, chases down a semi at 250 mph on a motorcycle, kidnaps a federal prisoner, and parachutes out of a plane to save Sarah.

The heart and sacrifice of a lover:

Chuck to Sarah: Baby, I’m going to fix this, and we’re going to get married and be together forever.

GB: Chuck, you realize, if you go against Decker, you’re going against the CIA. You and Sarah will have to disappear, forever. You’ll never see your family again.

C: I’ll do anything I need to do to save Sarah.

He never quits, never stops, and never gives up. Three tasers don’t stop him. When Hartley deserts him, he doesn’t quit. He trades his own means of escape for Sarah’s life. Even facing probable imprisonment and possible death, he doesn’t give up.

And the discernment and leadership of a king:

When face to face with one enemy — no partner, no backup, no plan — he negotiates. With truth and humility, he appeals to the flicker of goodness he believes Vivian still possesses. This is not a moment of weakness or cowardice, but one of strength and courage.

When face to face with his other enemy, there is no negotiation, because Chuck knows that Decker doesn’t possess even a nano-flicker of goodness. With a plan, his team and backup (in the form of 20 heavily-armed, Russian paratroopers), Chuck is prepared for battle. In one of his most cheer-worthy moments, he forces his enemy to retreat and establishes peace for his kingdom.

Chuck to Decker: This is a file that contains all of Project X, the cover-up, and your involvement in all of it. If anything happens to Sarah or my friends or family, this story hits the front page of every paper in the United States. … Now get out of my way.

One battle, many victories: Chuck wins the major victory of saving Sarah, with the residual benefit of liberating the world from a burgeoning second Volkoff empire and liberating Hartley and Vivian from the curse of the Intersect.

Cliffhaner 20Chuck and Sarah enter into their marriage with only each other (sigh) and their family and friends: no missions, no threats, no CIA … and NO Intersect. Bliss. They are free to color outside the lines … plan their life without constraints or government interference. They return from their honeymoon with their kingdom established, their enemies vanquished, and their coffers bulging (one of the happy effects of the reversal of fortunes). They start remodeling the Castle, and there is peace in the realm.

Until …

A not-so-vanquished enemy slithers around Chuck’s ankles, hissing about conspiracies. After taunting our king with murmurings about him never being anything but a pawn, Decker slinks away, leaving a Trojan horse — er, Trojan glasses — inside the Castle.

There’s a new Intersect in town, and it’s … Morgan?


As one might expect, Morgansect presents serious challenges for TeamB. Remember General Beckman’s conversation with Graham, as they watched the surveillance tape of Chuck and Morgan goofing around after Morgan’s tablecloth trick/fiasco?

GB: Our most valuable secrets have been sent to an idiot.

Beckman was soon to be proven wrong, but Graham was spot on …

Graham: Well, at least they weren’t sent to his friend.

Oh boy.

The team launch a training program for Morgansect and do the best they can with the Intersect they have: their “other master spy” who doesn’t quite live up to the hype: heartless, hardly; cruel, never; slices through security like a hot knife through butter, not in this lifetime.

Morgan with the Intersect is challenge enough, but Chuck must also face being a spy, and the head of his own spy company, without it. He’s done it before, but this time it’s different. This time he’s not just a warrior in someone else’s army. He’s the king of his own army, and all of the responsibility rests on him. It’s a challenge he will overcome with Sarah’s help, as she trains him to fight, and dispels his self doubt.

S: We knew this wasn’t gonna be easy, and we didn’t get married because we thought life was easy. We got married so that we could be there for each other when things got tough. So we could work through things together.

C: What about me, though? You and Casey are super spies. Morgan’s the Intersect. Who am I? What’s my job?

S: Chuck, you’re our leader.

Sarah’s promise sets the tone for their relationship and will be the eye of gathering storms.

It’s all good …

Until Morgansect begins to go horribly wrong. It’s déjà vu all over again, and we can’t help wondering if Morgan will be Chuck and Sarah’s Hartley. Whatever this Intersect is … it didn’t come from Beckman, and something sinister’s brewing.

Go to the 5th and final part.


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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18 Responses to These Are a Few of Our Favorite Themes: The Intersect (4 of 5)

  1. Pingback: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Themes: The Intersect (3 of 5) | Chuck This

  2. atcDave says:

    Such a fun and happy period of the story. And so many great episodes to go back and just laugh and enjoy.
    Thanks for this write up!

  3. I’ll be interested to see how you analyze the last season and the finale in relation to this theme and their relationship!

  4. Theresa says:

    This part of the story is where Chuck is intersectless most of the time and It is Chuck’s innate Chuckness which saves the day.

    • thinkling says:

      Actually in S4, Chuck is only without the Intersect for three an a half episodes. He loses it at the end of First Fight and gets it back at the end of Leftovers. However, he seems to need it less and use it less from then on. Like in Push Mix he really only used the Intersect once — to flash on the eyeball. The rest was all just awesome Chuckness. Then he loses it again in the middle of Cliffhanger, and the last half of that is pure awesome.

      I always like it when he relies less on the Intersect.

  5. Noblz says:

    You know what they say…”Less is more”! This is especially true of the Intersect.

  6. joe says:

    Man, I love these write-ups, Thinkling. Somehow, you’ve been saying what I’ve been thinking, but using far better words!

    Chuck’s growth from tool (the Intersect) user to warrior to king – and then to leader – is the very thing that makes S4 stand out as extraordinary. At least, in my estimation it is.

    I’m glad that they did the one-offs in S4, like Aisle of Terror, Muuurder and even A-Team, because they are nice way to pay homage to different genres and let the cast have some fun. But I’m even more glad that the main ideas, like Chuck’s growth, Sarah’s growth and the C&S relationship, weren’t forgotten when they did them.

    One thing that surprised me a little, though, was that they didn’t try to continue or resolve the obvious parallel between Sarah and Mary. I guess they didn’t want it to seem too much like Chuck was doomed to Stephen’s fate. At the same time, they couldn’t quite stay away from that idea (see The Curse in S5), could they?

    • thinkling says:

      Thanks, Joe! They didn’t dwell on the parallels, but I think they did a pretty good job of showing the fate of the parents as a lurking danger that Chuck and Sarah would have to avoid.

      I loved the growth of S4 and the result it produced in S5.

  7. says:

    As much as I wish there had been more seasons of Chuck, I think we can thank the fractured series plans due to the half season orders at a time for the wonderful character development we saw in Seasons 4 to 5 particularly. I am sure you guys have discussed this before, but the mini-arcs in the half seasons really pushed the show and characters forward in a way we might not have seen had they had more time to stretch everything out. I really love Season 2 as well, but I definitely thought they were taking things with the characters and their relationships much more slowly than they did in the last half of the show. They must have felt more comfortable then with stringing out the whole wt/wt part, which draws you in to the drama but did not always allow Chuck and Sarah to resolve some of their issues with each other or individually because they were so focused on just whether or not they would be together. I watch Once Upon a Time with one of my sons, and that show has been doing half season arcs where one will tie up and then the next begin with a gap in between. Somewhat similar to what Chuck was forced to do. I think I like the shorter storytelling time frame in some ways as they can really run with it during each shorter arc. On the other hand, I do agree with Joe that some of the more filler episodes are still quite fun, like A-Team. But they seemed to be able to those even in the midst of the shorter arcs, so it worked out well for Chuck.

    • atcDave says:

      I Definitely agree the show’s bubble status ultimately worked out nicely. It forced resolution and progress in a way that more time might have discouraged. I’ve heard comments from both show runners that solidify that feeling (CF casually mentioning that if they knew they would have five seasons they probably would have drawn out wt/wt longer. Doh! They already went half a season too long…)

    • thinkling says:

      Agreed … the constant bubble was our friend. I, too, like shorter arcs and more story progression and character growth. I loved the character growth and progress of Chuck, and I loved it most when they were together. The thought of any more wt/wt makes me cringe. I would have probably quit, and we wouldn’t have gotten my two favorite seasons.

      S2 was great and in some ways the best season, but nothing beats Chuck and Sarah together, IMO. I have less and less patience for wt/wt and all the contrivance and trope and character damage required to maintain it. I fear this does not bode well for my future TV enjoyment.

      OT rant: The wt/wt formula is so boring and predictable. It detracts from any real steady growth or development in a relationship. It usually involves multiple other LIs, which severely damages the integrity of any relationship the characters have, so by the time the couple get together … who cares any more? I hasten to add that Chuck was not as bad, not by a long shot, as most shows. My biggest complaint wasn’t the mid S3 timing, as much as it was the forced extra round of LIs. The S3 LIs did some damage, but I was still able to maintain my investment in the characters and rejoice when they got together. Chuck and Sarah were so good together, I could pretty much forget the S3 damage. Sorry for the rant. 😉

      • atcDave says:

        Good rant!
        I agree completely the television story telling formula is broken and predictable. Even shows that have no business playing such games do! (Elementary in an odd non-triangle triangle).
        I just don’t understand how writers can not see how much damage they do to their characters with this game. Chuck S3 does still make me very angry, I enjoy the show only by ignoring most of it. Castle upset me less, probably only because my investment was less. What does that say? I can like a show better because I don’t like it as much? Funny.
        And likewise, it doesn’t bode well for my future television enjoyment!

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