These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Themes: If You Love Something Set It Free

Part 1 of 3


A Good As It Gets?

Behind the scenes we at ChuckThis have been talking about the future direction of this blog while we wait for Chuck, The Movie to be made.  Yes, we are eternal optimists.  One of the projects we thought of was exploring some of the themes that run throughout Chuck.  Thinkling got the ball rolling with the first (5!) of hopefully many as we explore how our heroes story is told throughout the run of the show.  I thought I’d start with one of the most prominent parts of the main romance.  Learning to love selflessly.

As did Thinkling, I found a comprehensive post covering the entire series started to get long.  Somewhere around 6,000 words for me and 10,000 for her we decided to break them up and cover a week or so each.  This is part 1 of 3.  I managed to stay under 10,000 words, so I’ll only have three parts.  Parts 2 and 3 will be released Wednesday and Friday, but don’t worry I’ll have something for Tuesday and Thursday as well.

Join me after the jump for part one of a discussion of the heartbreak and joy of our favorite couple on their life’s journey.

If you love something set it free.  If it comes back to you it is yours forever.  If it doesn’t it was never yours.

Some version of that saying has been floating around since before there was an internet, TV, Radio or newspapers, and it has been used as the central conflict in countless romances.  One partner or the other must be free to find themselves before they are ready to love and be loved.  It was prominently on display in the final scenes of Chuck as Sarah found herself on the beach where her journey began.  Chuck also found himself on that beach, as the fully realized man who can love Sarah selflessly enough to let her go if he must, but will continue to love her regardless.

The beach at the end of the series was just the final coda on this part of a romance that had gone on for years, spanning years and continents, ruined lives, bloodshed, …epic, to paraphrase Veronica Mars.  We’d seen other points that could have been seen as a conclusion to Chuck and Sarah’s courtship and the beginning of their real life together, but none of them hit home so thoroughly as the finale that they were finally ready, finally able to just be there for each other with nothing else in the way.  No intersect or mission, just each other and time to be together away from the spy-life and family and every other distraction.

But the finale, while I will return to it, is one conclusion with its own beginning.  I want to look at a few of the others.

In one sense the romance between Chuck and Sarah, genuine as it is throughout, goes through several stages as both Chuck and Sarah grow and mature as individuals.  As they have changed and grown so do their needs and desires change and grow, and sadly, that was often a problem for both of them.  While many reject some of the story lines for various reasons ranging from finding it un-entertaining to outright rejection of the premise, I’ve always accepted that TPTB felt the need to tell their story a certain way, with a certain amount of angst, getting worse at times just as Chuck and Sarah seemed on the verge of moving forward.

It is the fact that moving forward often means making changes and decisions about that bright shiny future you are reaching for, and it may be that you don’t fully understand what it is you are reaching for, or if it will exceed your grasp.

This is where we start with Chuck.  While he is obviously smitten from the start Sarah is someone who exceeds his grasp.

Why wouldn’t you call this girl?

Because I live on planet Earth, Morgan.

That pretty much sums up Chuck’s understanding of the situation until, miraculously Sarah shows up at the Buy More (again) and delivers one of the cheese-iest pick-up lines ever (but she can get away with it).  Aside from the very brief period where Chuck thinks he is actually having the best night of his life he is stuck in that position for much of the first season.  Feeling as if Sarah is unobtainable if not unknowable even as they are pushed together and towards at least the appearance of intimacy puts Chuck in an odd place.  He can become possessive and jealous without the right to be so.  Chuck lashing out to punish Sarah for her past with Bryce in Wookie, or ostensibly for lying to him about it, is the first example of his unwarranted possessiveness.  Even as Sarah starts to show real affection for him and ease his fears Chuck can be quite petulant and petty as we see in the Truth arc.

I understand his reaction in a way.  Sarah keeps getting physically close and affectionate (for the cover) and then to be shut down so thoroughly the night of their first sleepover, then again with the truth serum has to hurt.  His decision to fake break-up can almost seem healthy, but in the aftermath of a kiss in front of a “bomb” Chuck assumes a lot about where he and Sarah stand.  Bryce’s return makes matters worse.

Unleashing the Casey on Bryce and Sarah in his room is not Chuck’s finest moment.  There could be legitimate reasons to be concerned about why your CIA handler is kissing a traitor who kidnapped you earlier that day, but my impression is that those aren’t what’s on Chuck’s mind.

Sarah doesn’t come off so great either, but at least she decides to stay in the end and spare Chuck the feeling of losing another girl to Bryce, but my goodness she does make him pay.

It is but the first example of both of their emotional immaturity coming between them as Chuck settles for a handshake and a dance at the end of Crown Vic rather than the kiss and make up scenario that Sarah seems to want.  She underestimates how much she hurt Chuck and what she needs to do to make it right and he has to rethink how close he wants to be to this woman, his feelings for her aside.  It isn’t the last time Chuck will pull back from Sarah after she wants some temporary distance to reconcile herself with their situation, and it won’t be the last time Sarah finds it in herself to open up to Chuck, at least a little, but a little too late.

As is often the case, events that threaten their ability to remain together, even if they can’t be as together as they want, leads to all of the lies, the rationalizations, the excuses and the fears falling away as the trivialities they are, and on a helipad, with Chuck facing a bunker, Chuck and Sarah come to an understanding.  Chuck is her guy, whatever that means, and Chuck has to let go for Sarah’s sake.  The sentence is never carried out thankfully, and one messy fight later Sarah is outside looking in on the life Chuck seems to offer.

It seems that between the abbreviated season 1 and the magnificent season 2 Chuck and Sarah have reached accommodation of sorts.  They are a couple, just not a normal one.  She is his constant companion and protector and he gives her hope for something more.  But clearly neither of them thinks they’ve arrived at anything like a real relationship.   A more confident Chuck is willing to ask Sarah on a real date, and Sarah coquettishly agrees to go, but a portion of that date is spent thinking of how their time together was coming to an end and what that might mean.

They aren’t hiding their feelings from each other anymore.  Each knows the other has feelings for them after that night on the helipad, but neither is sure what those feelings will mean and what the future holds for them.  The still reluctant spy and his sorta-but-not-really-real girlfriend are still working that out in early season 2.

At this point both Chuck and Sarah are capable of remarkable acts of selflessness, and selfishness, especially when it comes to each other.  That has been the case for a while, but what they are stumbling toward throughout season 2 is something missing in both their lives, and their relationship.  Maturity.

Maturity is not the absence of jealousy or pettiness or selfishness; we’re all human and those things are virtually inescapable.  Maturity is the self-awareness that recognizes those things for what they are, and recognizes the source so we don’t have to act, or react to them.

Chuck and Sarah’s first step toward that maturity was on that helipad.  It is where Sarah first realized, with Chuck’s help, that her impulsive need to save Chuck would have ended badly.  She couldn’t keep him in her life without consequences for her, Chuck, and others.  And it is where Chuck realized, with Sarah’s help that he couldn’t stay in Burbank with his sister forever, and Sarah couldn’t give him the future he desired.

It was one of the great season 2 themes that Chuck entered the Buy More, ready to leave and start a new life, both at the beginning and the end of the season.  In between he is changed in to a very different man.  In the beginning (to the marvelous strains of The Thermals  “Returning To The Fold”) it is as a man recognizing where he is in life and waxing nostalgic on the life he inhabits, but intends to leave behind.  In the end (to the Thermals “Now We Can See”) it is a man whose eyes have been opened, who has overcome adversity and conquered, but fails to understand the consequences of his travails and who he has become because of them.

I’ll continue this slight diversion to clarify something I find vitally important to understanding Chuck and Sarah and what they give to each other and share with each other.

Both crave adventure.  Both crave travel and excitement and seeing the world.  And sharing that with someone they love.  And both have been thwarted because of someone they love.  In Sarah’s case, while she genuinely craved new adventures, it was also a way to be with her dad, yet that was a continual cause of heartbreak and disappointment because of her dad, leaving only the thrill.  With Chuck, as early as Tango, we see that his fantasy realized self was conquering the tech world and racing in the America’s Cup.  This is nicely reinforced in the season 2 opening when he contemplates his intersect-free future.  None of his options involve working in the Buy More.  But absent parents, sibling struggles has made the only stable influence in Chuck’s life extremely risk averse when it comes to Chuck, and it has likewise convinced him of limited horizons.

Throughout season 2 each of our heroes is tempted to return to that baseline life they are outgrowing.  Chuck, offered the chance to return to a normal life void of adventure, at least for a while, in Chuck Versus The Third Dimension (a very under-rated episode) ultimately chooses to return to the adventure.  Sarah, in Chuck Versus The Lethal Weapon, offered the return to international travel and adventure in exotic locations but absent the man she wants to share it with chooses to forgo the adventure and remain with Chuck.

The other thing that both need and give to each other is meaning.  Both need their life to matter, to mean something more than the thrill or the adventure or the next mission.  For Sarah that meaning is an abstraction for a long time, and for Chuck, he lost that meaning and was adrift until Sarah asked him if he was ready to be a hero.

Neither of them realize that to be whole, they both need to find that purpose and someone who matters to them to share that purpose with.

Which leads us to the next portion of Chuck and Sarah’s story, the conclusion of season 2 and the beginning of season 3.  Part 2 goes live Wednesday.


About Ernie Davis

I was born in 1998, the illegitimate brain child and pen name of a surly and reclusive misanthrope with a penchant for anonymity. My offline alter ego is a convicted bibliophile and causes rampant pognophobia whenever he goes out in public. He wants to be James Lileks when he grows up or Dave Barry if he doesn’t.  His hobbies are mopery, curling and watching and writing about Chuck.  Obsessively.  Really, the dude needs serious help.
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56 Responses to These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Themes: If You Love Something Set It Free

  1. Wilf says:

    Thank you, this has been a really good start to your analysis of the ongoing dynamics of their relationship. As an aside, it always amazes me how well chosen and apposite each and every piece of music in the series has been.

  2. thinkling says:

    Great job, Ernie. S1 really was a see-saw, reactionary turmoil of immaturity for them (circumstances certainly didn’t help any), which reached a crescendo and a semi-resolution in Crown Vic. Though one of my least favorite episodes, I admit it is important for them. Then from the helipad on, as you say, they step onto a new plain in their relationship.

    I like your comparison of 3D and Lethal Weapon as mirror growth points for Chuck and Sarah. I too think 3D is underrated. Personally I liked it. (I think some people didn’t like it because of its somewhat tepid resolution of the end of Santa Claus.) The two episodes are definitely turning points.

    Very nice. Good analysis. Fun read.

    • atcDave says:

      I think its mostly whiney Chuck. Any time you spend most the episode wanting to smack the main character its not a good sign.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well I sometimes take issue with what constitutes “whiney Chuck”. In Crown Vic we’re dealing with a Chuck who was told there was nothing between him and Sarah, but he couldn’t date other people, then got an end-of-the-world kiss that was … I mean really. Then Bryce showed up and Sarah was considering leaving, then she blamed him for the awkwardness when he was quite open and honest with his feelings, then Sarah makes a big point that he has no say whatsoever if she wants to work a mark, even if it means exposing their cover to friends at the marina. Then she wants to kiss and make up. Sorry, but Chuck is merely reacting to the hot mess that is Sarah in that part of season 1.

      If you refer to 3D/Lethal weapon, then Sarah’s one way street on “trust” and Chuck getting fed up with being lied to and handled has to be considered. In both episodes Chuck sees what Sarah does, then lies to him about, and she doesn’t try to give him context. Im the case of Lethal Weapon (remember in Beefcake Chuck saw something very different from the “purely professional” relationship Sarah describes, even as she seeks to put them in increasingly intimate circumstances) she continues the lie, and in 3D she merely steamrolls him and says she can lie to him because she’s protecting him. The two aren’t related. The lie was for her sake, not for his protection. He proved he could accept what she had to do. She failed because she couldn’t tell him the truth about what was at stake and what protecting him required.

      Now granted I see what you are talking about and a bit of this is devil’s advocacy to try and present another way to view things, but I often think “whiney Chuck” means he’s calling Sarah on her BS.

      • atcDave says:

        Chuck has plenty to be annoyed with all those episodes, no doubt Sarah is occasionally exasperating. But 3-D and Beefcake in particular, he crosses a line into acting like a fool and a child.
        It doesn’t really matter to me what the issues are, I can’t watch that behavior. Like a six year old making a scene in a restaurant…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Granted, some of it is cringe inducing, I just put it down to the clash of drama and comedy that was often problematic in Chuck.

      • atcDave says:

        No doubt that balance or imbalance caused serious problems on occasion.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I agree, but found them less serious.

  3. says:

    I quite liked Lethal Weapon. Robert Picardo is a favorite of mine, so I enjoyed his role. The scene with Chuck in his cast following Perseus with his injured leg is pretty funny as well. Definitely a turning point for Chuck and Sarah as well. After the scene at the fountain, I think they both know exactly how they feel about each other, that it would be difficult to be together for real at that moment, but that they want to get there – somehow. I am looking forward to the rest of your write ups this week.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The next part is quite a bit longer and bound to be a bit more controversial. But it was probably the part that was most fun to write. If season 3 makes you queasy I’d say you can skip large portions and I will take no offense.

      • says:

        The controversy seems to generate all the interesting back and forth comments, so bring it on. I liked the last half of Season 3 for the most part. Because I discovered Chuck on Netflix, when I got frustrated by the plot machinations in the first half, I actually went ahead and watched them get together in Other Guy/Honeymooners before going back and filling in the details. So, I don’t think the angst bothered me as much as it did the folks who were watching it live. Still, it is probably not my favorite part of the show.

      • atcDave says:

        We hear that comment quite often, even from viewers who watched the season on order (!). I have no doubt, the fact it took a full year to get from Ring (2.22) to Other Guy (3.13) in real time is a big part of what many of us hold against it.
        I doubt I ever would have liked the arc regardless, but it might not have made me steaming mad if I’d been able to burn through it in a couple days!

        But as Ernie knows, I will not read another long defense of the season. And if I participate in discussion it will mostly be tangential stuff. I said all I needed to in my “Alternatives” and “Overview” posts.

      • thinkling says:

        I watched it straight through, because I didn’t discover Chuck until S3 was already aired. (And like Carol, I watched OG, before 3.1-12). I’ve gotta say, if I had watched it week by week, I don’t know if I would have stuck with it — though I might have returned later after the recovery.

        The LIs (especially/mostly Hannah), and all the contrived devices and trope that were necessary to make them even remotely plausible, were my gripe. Given the complications of Chuck becoming a spy, I could have gone with a temporary setback (say 2 episodes) and then some more time working toward being together, but as it was written … black box, black box.

      • uplink2 says:

        Carrol, in some ways I envy you being able to skip past the misery and know it will be resolved before I had to experience it. But you bring up a very important point. I’ll only speak for myself but damn was I excited at the end of season 2 when the renewal was announced. The back and forth that Ernie so eloquently describes here had set me up brimming with excitement. The idea of waiting till March, at that time, was extremely frustrating but at least we would see what happened next after “Guys, I know Kung Fu.” Plus the, yes I hate this term but its appropriate, game-changing events in Colonel had me teaming with anticipation. I don’t know if you have read my earlier postings but at the time I was one that had never gone to a single online site for Chuck. I didn’t know any spoilers, I didn’t know any of the drama and fallout of the major foot in mouth mistake by Schwartz that was “emotional and traumatic” at Comicon 2009. I never saw what I consider the rather insulting Ali Adler “Love, love” damage control video. I simply watched week to week and the only thing I saw were the promos NBC ran. I couldn’t wait for Jan 10th 2010. But after I saw the screaming neon sign of contrivance that was Pink Slip, I knew I wasn’t going to like what was ahead. We will get into the discussion more tomorrow but it’s analogous to waiting and hoping for that absolutely perfect Christmas present and your parents give you something else, something you hate, and something that doesn’t measure up on any level. And waiting till next Christmas to get that perfect gift finally, tarnishes it in a way that can never fully be cleaned away. So those that have the ability to have that year be compressed into a single day or two days. makes that deep dark hole of disappointment that much shallower and easier to take I imagine.

      • atcDave says:

        Interesting Thinkling, I don’t think I knew you’d watched Other Guy first. Maybe that’s a good way for a lot of viewers to make it through the Misery Arc. You two may be on to something!
        I think I made it through because my investment was so high by the end of S2, and I completely believed it would get better. Actually, week to week, I never believed it would get as bad as it did. It’s why I won’t re-watch so much of it now; I was so disappointed in what I was seeing, and furious at the “entertainment” choices made.

      • thinkling says:

        I think this is my first public confession.

        I now regularly read ahead in Wikipedia, if I start a series that’s been going awhile or is already complete. Like I said, I have a decreasing tolerance for wt/wt, so forewarned is forearmed. Knowing what’s coming makes it easier to watch. It often makes me withhold my investment in the central relationship, though, which means I enjoy the show more on one level but less on another.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think it is entirely reasonable, with so much great TV out there lately, to do a little research on existing shows before you invest a lot.

        That said it is also a lot of fun to find out that a show has really gone far beyond your expectations and gotten under your skin. Enlisted and Brooklyn 99 both did that this past season (and sadly Enlisted won’t be back).

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I do a lot of research before I start any show now. I also have very limited patience with wt/wt; as I’ve said before, I think the trend is to grossly over do it.
        I’m also weary beyond words with all the anti-heroes on screen.
        So I actually think the current state of television is pretty dismal. And geez I feel like a crotchety old man!

        The upshot is, as I’ve said before, I think the current technical standards of television are outstanding. So when I do find a new show I enjoy, I often enjoy it a lot. From Castle to Grimm to Elementary; some of what’s good on television is very good.

      • thinkling says:

        I only have so much emotional energy to invest. With the trend being what it is, I really don’t want to be surprised, because most of the surprises are bad. If I know it’s going to go well, I can enjoy and know I have something to look forward to. If I know where the gotchas are I can insulate myself against them, enjoy the show from a safe cover, and not let the gotchas get me.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I have a bit more tolerance for the serious dramas than some here, and while I agree the anti-hero thing is way overdone I can still enjoy it if done well or with a twist. I don’t mind rooting for a flawed character, anti-hero or not, if you give me a reason to invest.

        At this point Don Draper is trying my patience.

      • atcDave says:

        There’s a difference between “flawed” and “villainous”!
        I’m okay with a protagonist with a past, or a particular character flaw. Like Holmes on Elementary. Definitely a quirky/buggy character.
        But when characters either don’t care about doing the right thing, or fail more often than they succeed, I simply loose all interest.

      • thinkling says:

        I agree with that. I would say that past baggage is fine, but they need to be trying to overcome it — or another character motivates them to do so, as in the case of Elementary. That’s very appealing.

        Like you, I totally won’t follow a main character who doesn’t care about what’s right, and if he/she keeps failing at it, well, at some point they come to one too many failures and I lose interest. The line varies depending on other stuff.

      • says:

        Uplink, I sympathize with your disappointment. Season 2 really did have such a great end and setup for the next part of the story. And I must disagree that Chuck and Sarah did not understand their relationship at that point. Maybe they were not completely realistic in all their expectations at that moment. But they both knew they had serious feelings for the other that were reciprocated. It was after I saw Pink Slip that I had to jump ahead. Chuck’s treatment of Sarah seemed so out of character, especially for someone who normally talked about and explained everything he was feeling. And who had loved Sarah for quite a long time.

        And I am glad to know I am not the only one to check out shows before I start them. So many start off well but become so disappointing or ruin the characters in the end. I have also been enjoying Elementary but am wondering where they are taking the characters this season with the change in living arrangements and jobs.

      • atcDave says:

        Carrol I’m also concerned about Elementary! I just hope they don’t turn it into an inappropriate romance. This is one of those shows with an appealing formula, but I have serious concerns about how they might muck it up.

        So many of us agree completely about Chuck’s treatment of Sarah in Pink Slip. It was so out of character and grossly unappealing.

      • thinkling says:

        I’m a bit concerned about the direction of Elementary, too. It’s funny, I’m content for them not to be a romantic couple. I don’t really see them that way, at least not yet. I love the dynamic of their relationship, and I hope they don’t mess it up.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I see Mycroft as that show’s Shaw. Obviously not quite the same, and not at all pulling for a Holmes/Watson romance. But Mycroft mucks up the dynamic between the leads, he’s an interloper.
        I was not enthused by the season finale and am concerned for the direction this season.

  4. CaptMediocre says:

    OK, I can’t disagree with most of that except maybe the maturity angle you’re playing. Which is probably why I can agree with most of this post and will likely disagree vehemently with the next one.

    You see I guess I see them both as mature but in different ways. Chuck is more emotional stable but maybe a naive as to the ways of the world, but being a “nice guy” doesn’t mean he’s immature. Sarah maybe more “worldly” but not really in the real world. They’re emotional and ways of the world opposites. And as a fan that was fun to watch.

    I’ll disagree with you about how much they mature or become less mature in your next post.

    I guess my question would then be, if I can generally agree with you’re comments regarding S1 & S2, how can we be so polar opposite regarding what us to come. (And I know we will be, I don’t even have to read it). I have literally no issues with Lou, Lon Kirk, Jill, Cole, etc, yet I see what is to come as totally harmful to the characters. Is it that the S1 & S2 story was just told better?

    • Ernie Davis says:

      I’d certainly say the season 1/season 2 story was told better than season 3. I will never argue that point. Season 2 they were at the height of their creativity and their resources. In season 3 they lost writers, budget and time, and that certainly impacted the quality of the storytelling, as did the “need” to wrap it up in 13 episodes.

      I would agree that there was a certain complementary maturity to both characters at some level, but there was also a destructive immaturity. Chuck was more emotionally mature, but he wasn’t sensitive enough to see that he was demanding an emotional maturity Sarah was incapable of in season 1. He seems to understand that in season 2. Sarah is worldy in many ways, but absolutely clueless in others in season 1, and she displays a certain arrogance that doesn’t see that, and she is often blinded by a belief that because he is open to her emotionally Chuck will trust and follow blindly, and for Sarah that is somewhat tempered in later seasons, but continues for a long time.

      You should probably consider skipping large parts of the next post, which I will mark, precisely because while I agree, much of what comes does “harm” the characters, it is in the sense that it makes them all to human in their weaknesses. Something I am willing to accept based on what I think it layer the foundation for in later seasons.

      Others disagree, and that’s fine.

    • CaptMediocre says:


      … harmful to the characters, but more importantly so harmful to the relationship that I don ‘t “buy” Chuck and Sarah coming together (although it’s nice that they are) at the exit of Thinkling “black box” of storytelling.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’d just say that my take is that “the relationship” as something either Chuck or Sarah understood the nature of, let alone agreed on the nature of, or was ready for is not something I think was established to the point where it could be damaged. There where characters who longed for something they seemed invested in getting, but in The Ring I think it was pretty well shown that the reality of it and their fantasies weren’t aligning.

        Again, just my take.

      • noblz says:

        Capt Ernie

        I have to go with the Capt here, except it didn’t spoil it for me. I’ll save my specific comments for the next installment. I will say that after TPTB put them in that motel bed, there was no going back without doing something stupid or contrived or both. Our heroes managed both.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I would agree with “both”.

      • thinkling says:

        Ernie, not enough of a relationship to be damaged? I’d say their relationship was very much established, though perhaps not defined. It was characterized by friendship, faith in each other, loyalty to each other, and love for each other. We all saw that. Otherwise, why did we care at all.

        But, since those qualities were there in their relationship, when Sarah asked Chuck to run away, and he said yes, and then left her on the train platform with two tickets, a suitcase, and a shattered heart, I would say that the relationship (of friendship, faith, loyalty, and love) was decidedly damaged. My first comment after Pink Slip: “People just don’t recover from that.”

        I think the fact that the relationship was so undefined (except for the whole agreeing to run away together part), left it more vulnerable. But any way I look at it, there was definitely a relationship, and it suffered nearly fatal damage in PS.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’ll clarify a bit. I’m using relationship as a bona fide we are together as a couple and know it relationship. I can see that the Capt might not have meant it that way but more the way Thinkling describes. At the end of season 2 both characters, while yes, they had a kind of relationship, considered it a temporary thing. They both wanted it to be more but it was so uncertain what part they played in each other’s future to the two of them that both seemed ready to let it end. At that point I have to question how much of an understanding or relationship exists?

        So to me, while yes, there was a lot of longing and some pent up sexual tension released they weren’t in any meaningful sense “together” in a relationship as far as the story goes. Perhaps it was the start of what could have become something, but outside having been a very important part of each other’s lives for a time that was ending there wasn’t any sort of idea that they would move forward together or remain a part of each other’s lives. For that reason when things fell apart in Pink Slip when they tried to make things real I didn’t feel that something that had been established had been taken away from me. Yes, the characters suffered the fallout of the disastrous attempts to fit in to each other’s worlds, and it was heartbreaking to watch, but it was not wholly contrived, in my opinion, that these two could fail disasterously while selfishly trying to find fulfillment by forcing the other to choose them over everything else they’d ever known.

        I’ll be going over a lot of this tomorrow, but again, for those who find it upsetting consider not bothering to read. I see the show a lot different than I did first time around, and while our heroes remain admirable and likable characters in so many wonderful ways I don’t shy away from their flaws, their selfishness or occasional cluelessness.

      • atcDave says:

        As Thinkling suggests, among my issues with Pink Slip is it was the sort of issue I don’t believe a real couple could recover from. So it ruined any believability or plausibility for me for future growth.
        Ring ends in a hopeful sort of place, with both parties ready to sacrifice to be with the other. Obviously it left the potential for misunderstanding and sorting out details; but basically it was a good place.
        Had Pink Slip played out as a comedy of errors, and it took a few weeks for them to sort out details it might have worked. But giving up on each other never could.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I never saw it as giving up on each other. I see it more as they both thought they didn’t measure up, or they missed their chance. Throughout the season I think they both discover they made mistakes, assumed too much, didn’t really know each other due to the weird circumstances of their relationship. In the end they didn’t blame each other for what happened because they both came to see how they were culpable for the way things went.

        Sarah realized she had no right to ask Chuck to give up everything for her given how little she’d let him in to her life and how often she’d pulled back.

        Chuck realized how far Sarah put herself out there and how vulnerable she’d let herself become for his sake.

        Sarah assumed that she could be the center of Chuck’s world merely for the asking and Chuck assumed Sarah would easily move on from someone like him if she decided to be a normal girl again.

      • atcDave says:

        Ernie even if I completely bought that interpretation, its good for a two episode arc, max. I will simply never accept what they did. I have never seen another go from such extremes of very good to very bad as Chuck did.
        When it was good, it was the best thing I’ve ever seen. When it was bad it was unbearable. Only Burn Notice even comes close.

        I’ve quit many shows over the years. But I’ve always a itch from the start “this might not work for me”. Chuck blindsided me. I had so much confidence in them; now I question who I should ever give a second chance…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I’ll admit that the transition from Ring, probably one of the most fun episodes of Chuck ever to Pink Slip was severe, but for me by Angel de la Muerte and Operation Awesome the tone of the show had largely been recovered.

        The quality of the execution however quickly began to suffer.

        And for the record I have no expectation whatsoever that you will buy any part of my interpretation. We look at the show in very different ways.

      • atcDave says:

        I liked Angel of Death and Operation Awesome. But that just made the rest of the arc a double dip blindside. The worst of all worlds.

      • thinkling says:

        Sorry to digress a little, but going back to the relationship topic. I get that they weren’t together (as in together-together) to have firm expectations or rights, so I get your statement:

        I didn’t feel that something that had been established had been taken away from me.

        I’m talking inside the story — about what CS lost, not about what fans lost. It’s two different things. There are two areas I quibble — where it feels like you’ve trivialized the loss that was felt by the characters, not just by the fans. (I really try to back off and distinguish between the two.)

        You said:

        Perhaps it was the start of what could have become something, but outside having been a very important part of each other’s lives for a time that was ending there wasn’t any sort of idea that they would move forward together or remain a part of each other’s lives.

        Both losses are addressed. First, it is true that their impending separation had been made clear throughout Ring. Chuck refused to enlist as an analyst, and Sarah took the assignment with Bryce. However at the end both decided they didn’t want it to be that way and made huge leaps to ensure that they could be together. The lack of communication about those decisions and leaps was the first of the many contrivances and trope imposed to keep them apart. So to me, to say that there wasn’t any sort of idea that they would remain a part of each other’s lives isn’t wholly accurate.

        Sarah’s proposal, and Chuck’s acceptance, to run away together solidified that idea that they would be together. I admit that it wasn’t a very good plan, but it was a quasi commitment — however ill-conceived — on their part. (Enter more contrivance and trope in the form no-time-to-communicate at all, either before Chuck left or in Prague.)

        So, an expectation of being together was absolutely taken away from Sarah. Hence her deep hurt and shattered heart. For someone like Sarah, who rarely trusts or puts herself out there for real, this was devastating.

        As for the start of what could have become something, that’s more important than you’re giving it credit. As I said they did have a relationship (albeit not the together-together sort) characterized (as I said) by friendship, faith in each other, loyalty to each other, and love. That relationship was, as you allude to, the foundation of any future relationship they were going to have. Was it fully mature? No. Invincibly strong? No. Capable of sustaining a real relationship? Perhaps not, or not without some real work. But “Prague” all but blew up the foundation, or at the very least, put a serious crack in it.

        That’s why I can’t rationalize Prague as being “not that serious.”

        I know your next installment just came out, but I couldn’t quite let go of this.

        As a footnote. I think it would have been reasonable for them to suffer a set back in the relationship, but I’ll never see the severity of it as anything other than preparing the way for Shannah. TPTB had to rip them apart violently to make another round of LIs plausible. The trouble with that is that if it’s violent enough to make way for plausible LIs, then for some it makes the restoration seem less believable. I’m willing to stuff the misery, believe in the restoration, and just move on; but not without hefty suspension of disbelief to do so.

        I really would have been able to accept a less sever setback that led to going back to the foundation and building (even slowly) of a real relationship, sans LIs.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        “For someone like Sarah, who rarely trusts or puts herself out there for real, this was devastating.”

        And then throw in Sarah “working” Chuck in Final Exam – and a huge amount of work is required to repair this trust between the characters that never happened.

        Without the “foundation” of trust the relationship being weaker, not stronger because of the black box.

      • CaptMediocre says:

        So devastating was the dismantling of whatever the Chuck and Sarah relationship was prior to Pink Slip that without properly repairing the “foundation of trust” that had previously existed between the two, they are in fact now less ready to begin a “real” relationship than they were prior to Pink Slip.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Capt as I’ve mentioned in my posts; Chuck and Sarah did not grow, they regressed over the course of S3. The couple we see emerge in Other Guy seems weaker with less plausible grounds for a healthy relationship than when we left them in Ring.
        I enjoy the remainder of the show by ignoring the Misery Arc. It truly adds nothing of value to these characters and their future.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        My next part is out, but I do want to give a quick reply to Thinkling and for those not inclined to wade into the next part of the post.

        Regarding what Chuck and Sarah lost versus fans, inside the story I think I have stated that Prague was a disaster for them and acknowledged that there was a tremendous loss between them. Chuck even acknowledged it in Final Exam, remarking how things used to be between them, acknowledging that they had changed. But I don’t think that either of them holds any animus towards each other for the way things went in Prague (certainly not Chuck, by the end of Three Words we see that he has fully accepted his responsibility and the consequences of his choice). And Sarah does have a story in season 3. Yes, to an extent she has regressed to pre-Chuck Sarah, or a version of her, at the very beginning of the season, but when Chuck re-enters her life, or she re-enters his, she goes through a re-evaluation of both who she is and who Chuck is and wants to be. While it is slow and occasionally painful she comes to see that she has changed Chuck as much as he changed her, and she can’t hold him back from who he wants to be, despite her fears of what that might mean. It is Sarah coming to the realization that if she truly loves Chuck she has to let him become the man he wants to be. Her story is essentially the theme I highlight in the title of the post. I’ll leave it at that for now. I understand the distaste for the LI’s and the distance between Chuck and Sarah throughout the first part of the season. And while I will say I think I see their reasoning and purposes for going in the direction they went the execution certainly left a lot to be desired and the decision to put Chuck and Sarah together as the final act at the end of the series (season 3.0), while understandable, drew things out a lot longer than the organic nature of the story could easily bear.

        Now as sort of a non-sequitur on the tropes employed by Chuck. Chuck is a very self-aware show. They purposely use the obvious TV tropes as a sort of meta-joke about the nature of TV and TV writing. Schwedak are TV nerds and their endless references and homages show that. But they were able to employ the tropes to great effect while by simultaneously using them and mocking them in a self-aware fashion. In essence they would give us a wink and a nod that they knew they were relying on hacky over-used plot devices. The difference is in a lighter hearted season 2 (and season 4) they were able to stick the landing in a way that wasn’t working for them in a more serious season 3. So yes, I am aware of a lot of the tropes, but I think of them not as unintentional, but more as poorly executed.

      • thinkling says:

        I can accept most of that Ernie. I don’t think there was much animus left after the first arc, though I think some hurt remained, along with Sarah’s fears and personal issues. I think the LIs rubbed salt into healing wounds. Even as they let each other go, neither liked it. To me the LIs just really mucked up what could have been a great story that explored more important things between CS and let their relationship grow more organically.

        I do try to understand the show runners logic, but even getting it, I don’t think it was the best way to tell the story. And yeah, the wink and the nod didn’t work for the trope in S3. But I accept the all’s-well end of OG and move on with CS to better times. By S4, I don’t thing there’s any unfinished S3 business between them.

  5. I agree with ernie here…I sensed less of a “love” at the end of of S2 and more, devotion or longing which is why Sarah reacts so harshly in early S3…she’d remembered what it felt like to be normal and started getting desperate to hold on to that feeling….PS was awful no doubt but I didn’t feel betrayed by it, just that it was written poorly…I always felt they could recover and they did.

    • i hope you don’t include the cast in that criticism Dave…and speaking of Burn notice I finished it and frankly I’m amazed you find anything to watch on tv…Chuck S3.0 WAS character assassination Burn Notices final season was not, I thought it was very well done…we see the true perils of being deep undercover and when faced with his most important choice Michael did what I expected…your threshold for “darker content” is much lower than a lot of people I know, which is completely your choice that’s why we’re all different, I draw the line at horror myself and would never watch something like Dexter.

      • atcDave says:

        I find very little to watch on television, I basically dislike modern story telling. My dislike of the final season of Burn Notice was not about “character assassination”, it was about a story that went too dark to be any fun at all. If I hadn’t known it was the final season I would have quit at the season premier. I almost quit anyway, I had my finger on the “delete series” button a couple times that final season.

        And no, I don’t include any cast in my reservations about the Chuck crew. I’m talking entirely about writers. And for now, my decision is that I will not trust JS again. I think he is best suited to writing teen stuff on CW, and not my style.
        CF I’m willing to give a second chance. Although I’ve gone back and forth on that. But as I said way back right after the show ended; much of CF’s taste seems similar to mine. I like his sense of fun and adventure, and like how he blends humor with the story. But I disagree with what he thinks makes a good ending. Of the various finales he delivered in five seasons of Chuck, Cliffhanger is the only one I found completely satisfactory. I think what he considers a good place to end is not what I think is a good place to end.
        But “Forever” looks like my idea of fun. And CF is executive producer, not show runner.
        Matt Miller is the show runner. He is also a Chuck alum, who wrote several of my favorite episodes. He also had a few missteps, but as a staff writer I don’t hold arc decisions against him. I’m willing to give him a chance as show runner.

  6. I agree about JS, he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near Chuck again EVER…I hate to knock the guy but he has no real sense of character/relationship development, which is shocking to me considering he gets paid for what he does… so many fan fics are better than his downright dumb decisions, there’s no excuse for such awful writing…CF had a perfectly suitable idea in them falling in love again but the execution fell short of his goal (not by much) i think he was so focused on the end he forgot about tidying up the middle …i still believe we’ll get a movie but I’m glad we have “forever” and the cast wants to answer the questions left up in the air.

  7. Pingback: These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Themes: If You Love Something Set It Free | Chuck This

  8. Pingback: These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Themes: If You Love Something Set It Free | Chuck This

  9. Pingback: These Are A Few Of Our Favorite Themes: If You Love Something Set It Free | Chuck This

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